Burning the Middle Ground by L Andrew Cooper A Battle for Control

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Written by L Andrew Cooper and published by Blackwyrm Publishing, Burning Middle Ground is a supernatural cum horror cum occult novel. Featuring a religious zealot that will make you think immediately of that Westboro bunch, the book disturbs as much as it scares.

The book’s prologue deals with the murder/suicide of and entire family sans one, Brian. After the events on this tragic and horrible day, Brian doesn’t speak for an entire year. When he is released out into the community and he decides to move into his old house, feelings are mixed in the tiny burg.

The story is about small town USA and it’s a town split by two very different Christian factors. Investigative internet reporter Ronald Glassner goes to the small town of Kenning, Georgia to cover Brian’s return and besides fall for one of the local sheriff’s deputies, he gets caught up in a battle of wills between two churches. One of which is practising a religion older than Christianity and it’s very powerful.

Once Ronald arrives in the small town, strange things begin to happen. Animals run wild, impossible events become common place and people are acting very weird.

All the characters in Cooper’s book are likeable. I felt like I could identify with each and every one and they did a brilliant job of not just representing the denizens of the southern hemisphere of America, but they also had enough quirks and foibles to seem real.

Ronald has the acerbic wit and a sort of radar that helps him to sense when things are not right. He also tends to joke too much when he is stressed. As the third person narrator of the story he is charming, funny, scared and sensible.

The books main “bogey-man” Deacon Jake Warren is an outsider who has made Kenning his home and base of operation. He soon enlists the aid of Reverend Michael Cox a local “fire and brimstone, eye for an eye” man of the cloth. Soon Cox’s wife and the local sheriff are part of his plans for Kenning as well.

In the opposite camp you have Jeanne Harper who runs a church that practices a more peaceful and loving religion she counts, among her flock, Brian and his girl friend Melanie and a small handful of locals who don’t like what Rev Cox preaches. Especially as it was one of his sermons that appeared to have set off the stream of events at the beginning of the book.

With imagery that would not look out of place in a Stephen King or Peter Straub book, Cooper has created a world that, despite its nightmarish aspect, is very cinematic and easy to picture in your mind as you encounter it. I became quite attached to all the main characters and as they struggle to the conclusion of this story, I felt bad when bad things happened to them.

This is obviously the beginning of what promises to be a brilliant series and I cannot wait to see what Mr Cooper has in store for the survivors of Kenning.

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A Bittersweet Life (2005)

One of my absolute favourite Jee-Woon Kim films. Starring one of my favourite actors Byung-hun-Lee. Here is the link to the trailer.

*I do apologise for the poor sound quality of the video, an experiment with recording equipment that didn’t work.*

Smoking Ears and Screaming Teeth by Trevor Norton: Eccentric Experimentation

The title of this vastly informative and entertaining book comes from a “self” experiment towards the end of the book. The experimenter in question was testing decompression rates and a rapid ascension caused “one of his filled teeth to emit a high-pitched scream and explode because of air pockets that couldn’t vent fast enough.” The first part of the title; smoking ears also comes from this experiment and the end result was a pin hole in each ear enabling the recipient to blow smoke rings through his ears.

Author Trevor Norton takes us through an amusing and incredible journey through the trials and tribulations of the inventors, experimenters, scientists, doctors and (perhaps) the mentally unstable in their quest for knowledge and a cure for most of mankind’s ailments or a solution to what seemed to be insurmountable problems. Written with a sort of wry humour, these antidotes (pun intended) are a testament to the men and women who put their own safety last while searching for answers.

Norton even includes a couple of chapters that do not deal with medicine, health or science. He has dedicated several chapters to advances in warfare, deep sea diving, discovery of predatory animals of the sea, air travel and breaking the sound barrier.

Some of the names you encounter in this book, while not exactly household names, are fairly well-known to most people. The Curie’s, Chuck Yeager, and Louis Pasteur to name but a few; but the book concentrates mainly on those unknown and “unsung” heroes who have helped their fellow-man by unselfishly (and quite often fatally) experimenting on themselves to advance the knowledge of science and medicine; even researching dietary requirements and what non-domestic animals were good to eat.

These pioneers and rebels thought nothing of exposing themselves to various diseases via means that were nauseating at best and dangerous at worst. The fact that a lot of these self-experimenters came close to death and a good portion of these heroes did; but they also paid the ultimate price for their discoveries. Some like the Curie’s who, pretty much everyone knows, died because of their research into radiation; these “high-profile” visionaries are fairly well-known for their ultimate sacrifice for humanity. Others died unknown and forgotten by but a few of their colleagues and families.

The vast majority of the book details the men and women (but mostly men) who worked their entire lives to advance medicine and surgery. Norton’s use of humour helps to tone down some of the more unsavoury aspects of the lengths that these people were prepared to take. On more than one occasion I felt myself gagging only to have that reflex effortlessly segue into chuckling laughter.

Most importantly, the book sets the stage not just for the participants and their eccentricities but the politics, egos, jealousies and competition for recognition in their peer groups.

Trevor Norton deserves every ounce of praise he’s received in reference to his story telling skills. Not only is he erudite and entertaining but he obviously spends a great deal of time and care on his research. At the end of the book he has a bibliography for each and every chapter in the book.

Even if you have no real interest in the people who risked everything to find out answers, the intelligent and humorous way that Norton describes their individual stories is worth the price of admission alone.

Since I am interested in these types of stories, I’m giving the book a full 5 stars out of 5. And after discovering Mr Trevor Norton, I’ll be checking his other books out as well.

Author Trevor Norton.

By the Power of Quorn

I kind of feel like He-Man at the moment; not super strong with a magic sword or a giant tiger dressed in armour to ride around, but I do feel pretty damn powerful. Like the cartoon’s opening, I can envisage myself raising a packet of some Quorn product over my head and yelling, “By the power of Quorn!”

I cannot envisage any of the rest of the opening montage applying here, but what the heck, the first part is good enough. Because I feel like I owe a lot to my present state of health to this “fake” meat product that has become a part of my everyday diet. It’s allowed me to eat healthily and to avoid fats; fats that would have been counteracting all that surgery and would have been like pouring salt on a wound.

I am lighter than I’ve been in years. My weight at the moment wringing wet is under 165 pounds or 11 stone 7 pounds. My average weight for the last ten years hovered around the 14 stone mark (or 196 pounds) considering that I’m not tall (I’m roughly 5’9 ½”) I was a hefty fellow. My waist has dropped from 34 inches (plus) down to around 32. I am not exercising too much at the moment; to be honest I’m slightly afraid to push myself too much until my second visit with my surgeon.

But everyday my energy level is rising and I can now scamper to the Metro and back and rather than trundle up the stairs, I can trot. My back has improved quite a lot, although I still have to take the pain medication that I am no doubt rapidly becoming immune to. In a nutshell though, my physical health is great!

I feel good! *cue James Brown music here*

Besides I can always tell when I am feeling better or getting more energy. The signs are apparently the same whether it’s recovering from a standard illness, like the flu for example, or recovering from ass-kicking surgery and a heart attack. The minute I start feeling more like the “old” me, I get fidgety. I start to whittle (another word for fidgety but more on the verbal and mental side of things) and think of a million physical things that I should be doing.

For example; I will fret and whittle if I have not gone for at least one longish walk throughout the day. My eager and energetic mind will start to worry and an inner dialogue will start:

“How do you expect to keep getting better if you don’t exercise every day? You should have walked through the cold and the snow down to the Metro and back…at least twice. The weather’s not going to hurt you, ya big baby.”

“Well, I did go shopping to the big Tesco and I walked all over it very quickly and I trotted up and down the stairs at least twice.”

“Not good enough! If you want to keep improving you need to stretch yourself. You know that! Now quit looking longingly at your bed and run up and down the stairs a few times…NOW!

When I’m feeling better after an illness I have this drill sergeant appear in my head who harangues me until I start doing more than I am willing to. I do listen to him, a little, because I know that deep down I am doing better. The knowledge that I could walk through the snow and cold down to the Metro and back, twice makes me feel more powerful and fitter than I felt the last week. I can even envisage myself jogging once spring decides to show up.

But until that time, I’ll listen to my drill sergeant alter-ego or subconscious or whatever you want to call it, with a grain of salt. Because I feel like He-Man and “by the power of Quorn” I’ll continue to eat and lose weight healthily and I’ll dance down the road of further recovery.

Now if you will all excuse me, it’s time for my nap.

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Cue Fireworks…

200 Followers!


Congratulations on getting 200 total follows on MikesFilmTalk.

Your current tally is 203.

After my not so brilliant day yesterday, things could only get better and they did. What is most impressive (to me anyway) is that things got better on the same day. Just when I’d grabbed my metaphorical bootstraps, pulled and nothing happened; I got two bits of fabulous news.

Firstly, it looks like I won’t have to starve to death, at least not this year, as some of my financial woes have been sorted. I’d love to tell you how  but I cannot. Suffice to say the “fix” as it were has nothing to do with illegal activities such as robbing a bank or selling addictive substances.

Secondly, I broke the 200 follower barrier last night. It is amazing that something so not related to my main issues could have improved my mood so much. My heart did a long and energetic Snoopy dance and my mind set off copious amounts of fireworks.

The human brain is an odd sort of duck. It is pretty damn resilient. It’s function, beyond that of the body’s Central Processing Unit (CPU), is to help us cope with certain emotions and it enables us to “switch hit” through every day (and not so every day) problems.

When I came home yesterday I was really down. I mean right at the very bottom of the darkest well in existence. But the human brain that I call mine started to immediately function as a pep squad; cheerleaders with pom-pom’s waving and doing handstands.

After I’d written my first draft blog post about yesterday’s events I already felt better. I felt good enough that I pretty much “canned” the first post and I re-wrote it. Talking things through with my daughter Meg also went a long way to improving my disposition. I wasn’t quite ready to do cartwheels of joy just yet, but damned if I wasn’t almost cheery.

After washing the dishes, I made a cup of coffee and went into the front room. I checked my emails and the other windows I had open and I realised that I had another follower or two. I immediately went into the fist pumping show of joy accompanied by my internalized Snoopy dance.

I woke up this morning, back aching and brain on temporary hold, came downstairs and put a load of laundry on and made my first coffee of the day. Switching on the computer I saw that I was still over the 200 mark and despite the firm lecturing I gave myself the night before about not writing about this so soon after my “bragging” 40,000 break-through post; I sat down and started typing.

I am now sitting in my living room. I’ve hung the laundry up to dry, finished my first cup of coffee and I’m looking out the window at a beautiful snow-covered sunshiny day. The confusion and hopeless feeling from yesterday is a million miles away and I am back on the optimism train in the first class section. *It looks like I didn’t need to dodge the train at all, I just had to grab hold of it and “hop” a ride.*

I am also sitting here thinking about that 4th draft copy of my ancient screenplay upstairs lying on the desk. I’m thinking that while I have all this enthusiasm, optimism, and vigour I’d better take a look at it and start again.

But first I’ll have another cup of coffee and enjoy the fireworks a bit more.