Monthly Archives: October 2011



Not having the autumn around can be tough. The leaves don’t really change in Texas, nor does the weather (except for an errant haboob every now and then). But I know that the fall has truly arrived when Rocktober starts. What is Rocktober? Great question!

Rocktober is an annual tradition where my wife and I watch as many quality scary movies as possible during the month of October. And it rocks!

Now, this isn’t a competition. We have a list of movies we try to get through, but it doesn’t always work. Stuff happens. Deadlines, grading, the Community Halloween episode–if we don’t get to all the films, there’s always next year (or, for some, next month–The Orphanage is always good).

So what do you need? Only three things.

1) Nighttime. The Birds and Scream should be the only scary movies you should watch during the day. The rest of the year you have plenty of time for other movies. Make time for Rocktober.

2) Apple cider. If you can, find a great recipe (start with real cider, not that apple juice they market as cider at the grocery store), and let that beast simmer in the crockpot. If you need a recipe, here’s the one we use:

• 8 cups apple cider

• 1/4 – 1/2 cup of brown sugar

• 6 inches of stick cinnamon

• 1 tsp whole allspice

• 1 tsp. whole cloves

Put the dry materials in a spice bag, and enjoy.

3) The movies. For all of you who want to play along at home, here is the list of films. Unfortunately, I do draw the line at some films. For example, I like having zombies represented on the list (Night of the Living Dead), but I don’t want to spend the entire month on them (especially those that *technically* aren’t true zombie movies, such as 28 Days Later). As for pretty much everything else, it’s just a matter of preference. Add or take away what you wish.

I would, however, like to mention three specific movies that you might want to be sure to include. You don’t need me to tell you that Halloween is a masterpiece, or that The Thing is one of the greatest horror films of all time. And by now I’m sure you know of my unmatched adoration for The Descent (you should–I talked about it here…and here too). But here are three that you might have overlooked:

Trick ‘R’ Treat: This one was actually not even released in theaters, but it should be a permanent addition to your Halloween line-up. I actually watch it the day before Halloween (both the day and the movie). It’s a series of four stories, all taking place on Halloween. It’s dark, but has dark humor. It’s very aware of its audience, but doesn’t mug for the camera. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, but has some genuinely scary moments. Oh, and it features (among others) Anna Paquin and Brian Cox. Show your friends–you’ll look like a genius.

Night of the Demon:  It’s strange that when I talk about horror classics, I tend to forget about everything pre-1978. Night of the Demon was released in 1957 and it stars Dana Andrews as a scientist who debunks the supernatural, but is faced with a series of mysterious deaths (think the premise of The Reaping but without the heavy-handed religious message. And the horrible ending. And the awful pacing. On second thought, don’t think of The Reaping.). The plot might not sound like anything impressive, but the acting and the atmosphere make for a truly unsettling film (without any gore).

House of Wax: Yes, the original is a classic, but I am more and more impressed by the remake each time I watch it. Yes, I am aware that the critics do not feel the same way I do. But here’s my take: House of Wax is the complete opposite of the modern horror film because it starts off horribly but gets better and better. I realize that the film was basically a vehicle to see Paris Hilton killed off, but after the first 20 minutes of what can laughably be called character development, the plot really takes off and there are some great scenes. Rocktober is a 31 day event–you’ve got time.

Here is the list, in no particular order. Enjoy.

– Halloween
– Trick R Treat
– Friday the 13th
– The Shining
– Nightmare on Elm Street

– The Ring
– Isolation
– The Orphanage
– Severance
– Vacancy
– Blair Witch Project
– Poltergeist
– House of Wax
– The Changeling
– The Thing
– The Orphan
– Let Me In
– Behind the Mask
– The Mist
– Dog Soldiers
– Last Winter
– Psycho
– Paranormal Activity
– Shrooms
– Night of the Living Dead
– Night of the Demon
– The Omen

Trick R Treat
Friday the 13th
The Shining
Nightmare on Elm Street
The Ring
The Orphanage
Blair Witch Project
House of Wax
The Changeling
The Thing
The Orphan
Let Me In
Behind the Mask
The Mist
Dog Soldiers
Last Winter
Paranormal Activity
Paranormal Activity II
Dawn of the Dead
Night of the Demon
The Omen
Fred Eyes

Right Red Fred

It’s been a rough week for animals.

What started off as an entertaining story about escaped exotic animals in my home state quickly turned tragic as many had to be killed. Thanks to the magic of the Facebook feed, pictures I would like to have ignored (tigers, bears, and a slew of other dead animals laid out on the very farm where they had escaped) popped up. Roughly 2/3 of the animals who escaped were killed. My friend Seth posted that there are about 1500 Bengal tigers left in the world, and 18 of them were with some crazy guy in Ohio.

The whole thing reminded me of a Cracked article I read about animals trying to escape from zoos–kind of entertaining, but you had to be saddened by the fact that they just wanted out.

Shortly after that, one of my high school acquaintances posted something pretty horrible–a picture of stacked dead pets in the back of an animal shelter. The picture ambushed me, but it was my own fault that I read the description of the entire process. My wife Claire worked for animal services for awhile, so it’s not like I think they all go to a big farm or anything like that. Still, it’s depressing as hell.

It’s especially tough right now. Depending on where you look, millions of dogs and cats are euthanized each year, and it’s even worse now given the state of the economy. People give up their animals because they can’t afford to keep them, or else they move somewhere and, instead of turning their animals over to a shelter (where there’s about a 90% chance the dog or cat will be put down), they simply leave the pets behind. I can only imagine how horrifying and puzzling that must be for an animal.

Depressing, yeah?

Well, remember that dopey but endearing poem about the starfish that grade school teachers tend to have on posters and sweatshirts? You know, “I made a difference in that one?” Well, that’s what I cling to. We rescue more animals than we should in this house, but it’s mostly been cats. Well, this week we scored another minor victory.

For a few weeks, my wife and I have seen a red boxer-mix running around the neighborhood–a beautiful pup, but skin and bones, and skittish to boot. We put food out for him, but he disappeared for awhile and we thought he had gotten picked up. But, this week we saw him again. After we made sure he would have a home somewhere (we can’t have a dog with all of these cats, plus we rent and our wonderful landlords already made exceptions for the felines), Claire lured him into the backyard.

He was trying desperately to get out of the fence, and was very standoff-ish…for about 30 minutes. He then attempted to lick our faces off. He was so happy. The plan was to keep him in the sunroom, but it was supposed to get down to almost freezing (in Lubbock!) overnight. So we cordoned off the cats in the other room, and the dog (we named him Right Red Fred, or just Fred for short) hung out in the living room. Again, so so so so so affectionate–he curled up on the ottoman and always wanted to lay half of his body on us so he could put his head in our laps.

We only had him for a night. The next day, Claire tracked down a person who had expressed interest, and we met up with the woman at a park. It turns out the woman has rescued dogs before and she was great with Fred. He was scared at first, but warmed to her quickly. We said a goodbye that was much sadder than either of us imagined, and with that, Fred walked obediently with the woman to her car. As I type this, he’s living indoors north of Lubbock, playing with kids, with plenty of happiness, warmth, and safety.

As he was walking away with his new owner, he did stop after about a hundred yards and looked back, just for a moment. He then continued walking obediently, distracted only by the runners jogging by.

I guess we made a difference in that one.