One Month At A Time

October Films! “The Devil’s Candy”

I’ve got a bit of a backlog of movies to report on. There’s been some time to watch spooky stuff, but not much time to write about it.

“The Devil’s Candy” is a film that has come up a couple of times on Facebook. A few of my Facebook pals have spoken highly of it. So, sure, I decided to give it a try.

Released in 2015, the film stars Ethan Embry, an actor I remember from the 90s films “Can’t Hardly Wait,” “That Thing You Do,” and “Empire Records.”

He was also in “Dutch.”

I remember him as kind of a wide-eyed, sort of goofy, but generally likeable character actor, but I lost track of him somewhere around 2000, where he moved on to more serious stuff.

With the stringy blond hair, ragged beard and tattoos, Embry is barely recognizable as the approaching middle-age metal-head father and painter, Jesse Hellman, in “The Devil’s Candy,” though his character has some of the same earnestness that you see in his earlier work.

The story revolves around Jesse, his wife and daughter moving into an old house with a bad history. The previous owners died –apparently by accident, everyone in the film believes (though we know different).

It’s a nice house and “Gee, wouldn’t it be a shame to let the place go to waste just because of a couple of dead people?”

This all seems like stupid horror film logic, but then again, I’ve been through the whole home buying process. When you’re looking for some place half decent that’s in your budget, you’re willing to put up with a lot.

I’d be OK with some dead people just to have some better windows. Cultists could definitely have tried to call up C’thulhu at some point, if it would have knocked a hundred bucks a month off my mortgage.

It beats renting.

Boiled down, the thread of “Hard Candy” follows bad things are happening, a reluctant serial killer serves the devil, loiters around the family home, which used to belong to his parents.

The cops know about the serial killer, of course, but seem to figure that it was just a phase, something he did when he was a kid, but he’s fine now, except for creeping everyone out.

Then things get worse. People die. There is some teen angst and Mom isn’t a huge fan of heavy metal music for some reason, though she’s married to a guy who looks he’s a roadie for Slayer.

How does that even happen?

“The Devil’s Candy” is fun, but it is also a mess. There’s a vein of demon possession or demonic influence that may be connected to the house, to Pruitt Taylor Vince’s tortured serial killer character or even to Jesse, but then there’s the issue with the painting Embry’s character is working on.

Is it prophesy, a warning, a love letter from hell?

Who can say? Maybe all three. Maybe something else.

And what’s the deal with the art dealer (played by an uncredited F. Murray Abraham) named Belial, who shows up to maybe tempt Jesse?

Thanks to a good long time spent playing “Dungeons and Dragons,” I know the name Belial belongs to a Duke of Hell. So all the hours spent reading the “Monster Manual II” during high school weren’t wasted.

Abraham is there, he pours a couple of drinks, and splits without accomplishing a lot, except maybe saying again that the devil is involved with Jesse on a very personal level.

It has to be the name, Jesse Hellman. He’s Hell’s man, get it?

Anyway, the ending almost feels like something out of a Kirk Cameron film. I wasn’t satisfied with it and felt like it was a cop out.

As I said, “The Devil’s Candy” is fun, but not particularly smart. The acting is good, even if the story could have used some fine tuning.

You can find “The Devil’s Candy” on Netflix.

Spartan Race –People of Target

I was at Target, picking out a fitness tracker to help me keep up with my mileage, when I spotted Travis and Hannah, a couple both sporting Spartan Race t-shirts.

This was reason enough to amble over and say, “Hi. I couldn’t help but notice your t-shirts. So, you’ve done a Spartan Race?”

The couple looked at each other. I don’t think I was the first person to walk up to them to ask.

We talked for probably 10 minutes. Last year, they’d run a couple of Spartan Races, but had also done Tough Mudder races (A different brand of obstacle race). Both looked like they were in ok shape, but didn’t look like the people I keep seeing in Spartan Race promotions.

It’s looking more and more like they hired a few models or actors, which is fine. Not everybody is photogenic. Doing all the crunches in the world can’t fix it if you look like a velociraptor.

They told me:

  1. They like the Tough Mudder races better.

“It’s more of a community,” Hanna said. “People will help you, if you need them, too. It’s about everyone getting across the finish line.”

2. Spartan Races have better swag.

“You get a better head band and it’s a good t-shirt,” Travis said.

3. The mile markers at Spartan Races might become scarce.

Hannah told me, “We stopped seeing them after a while and when you’d ask the volunteers, ‘How much farther? They’d always say, just another couple of miles.”

And the miles just rolled on.

4. Bring water, snacks and mustard.

I didn’t know this, but, apparently, you can wear a Camelback water bottle and take race refreshments with you –like Gatorade chews, Gu packs and even Cliff bars. This was also not apparent in the photos I’d seen of races.

I knew about Gu packs –they’re basically sugar and electolytes, sometimes with caffeine and protein. Long distance runners, cyclists and triathletes use them. I’d seen Gatorade chews at the grocery store and I eat Cliff Bars regularly (My fave is the Peanut Butter crunch).

Mustard was new, but Travis said, “Yeah, you see empty mustard packs all over the place. People will carry them.”

“Uh, why?” I asked. Eating mustard straight out of the packet seemed gross.

“It helps with cramps,” Travis said.

According to a couple of websites, yeah, that’s what it does. Mustard contains properties which will help prevent or ease cramps in the case of dehydration.

5. They believed I could handle the race.

“I’m not much of a runner,” Travis said. “But that’s not all that important.”

You never run that far, he explained. There is always another obstacle to get to. The obstacles are the thing, not the distance.

His wife didn’t entirely agree.

“Some of the obstacles are the running,” she said. “You might run straight up a mountain for a mile and a half.”

But it could be done –as long as I paced myself and kept my head.

“You can do this,” she said. “And there’s beer afterwards. It’s the best beer you’ve ever had.”

Spartan Race training

spartan

It was a weird way to spend my birthday.

June 18 (contrary to what Facebook says) I turned 47 and went over to the University of Charleston for a Spartan Race workout.

My race is coming up August 26 (now, just two months away) and I’m getting nervous about it. So far, I’ve read two books on the subject, but only have a general idea of what to expect, based largely on a few stories from very, very fit people who’ve attended a few of them.

So, I went because I wanted to see what kind of exercises would help and also see what kind of people do Spartan Races.

I learned a little –how to do a proper Spartan burpee, for example. I also saw people who will probably ace the West Virginia race in August. They seemed superhumanly fit, like the kind of people who wear spandex and fight crime on the cover of comic books.

But I also saw some people like me –not in terrible shape, but not really ready to run 15 miles while climbing walls, jumping over hot coals or crawling under barbed wire.

It was one of the most vigorous 90 minutes I think I’ve put myself through. I drank three bottles of water while on UC’s lawn overlooking the river and had a fourth one in the car.

I figure I got my money’s worth for the class. Ten bucks netted me a t-shirt, four bottles of water and about 10 Cliff bars.

I also met a woman with MS who told me she’d done six Trifectas –that’s when you do a sprint, a super and a beast race within a year or so.

The beast is usually a 13-15 mile race. She said she did a beast in New Jersey last year and with her illness, it took her 13 hours to complete, but she finished.

“A lot of people got a DNF –a Did Not Finish,” she said. “I didn’t quit.”

I took a lot of encouragement from that.

If she can do it in 13 hours, I can do it in 13 hours.

But I hope I can get it done a little faster than that, get home and maybe watch a lot of Netflix while eating my weight in Fritos.

This is the dream.

I didn’t do much in the way of exercise for the week following my birthday. I slacked off and focused on my upcoming show at The Comedy Zone, but I’m back at it today. I did a bunch of new exercises that are supposed to help me get ready and I’m going to do a better¬† job of watching what I eat.

Tomorrow, I’m going to try to run/walk five miles before work. There’s no way that’s not going to suck. Tomorrow’s post will be all about the bellyaching.

 

Back in Black –so to speak

Sorry about not updating the blog since February…

It’s a little funny, but bloggers have a habit of dropping out –unless they’re specifically paid to maintain a blog.

I’ve been a blogger off and on for over 10 years and I’ve gone through hiatuses, but the boss said, “Get back to blogging or you should just give up the site.”

Maybe he thinks we should do a blog about pet pictures. That could be fun.

The main thing that’s brought me back to blogging is that a lot is happening –or is about to happen and it felt like using a blog regularly was a good idea.

I just won’t be able to get as much in otherwise.

The Spartan Race is coming up in August. I have made little sustained progress, though I have lost a couple of pounds.

As of Sunday, I will be starting a grueling, new exercise plan and diet (Yay, journalism), which I’ll be reporting on.

I hope this works. Race time is getting closer.

spartan

Also, next month (SPOILER), I’m taking on traveling the state of West Virginia. The idea is to hit 55 counties within roughly 30 days. Actually, it will be 55 counties in less than 30 days –more like 55 counties in roughly 12 days. That’s about all I can do and still have even the barest hope of maintaining the other parts of my job.

I’m getting this information out a little early because I could use some help on this one.

I need places to maybe visit, possibly places to stay for the night.

So, if you want to help, chime in here with suggestions (including where these places might be found) or send me an email at lynch@wvgazettemail.com.

 

Celtic Movies #2: Rob Roy

Through the month of February, I’m studying (celebrating) all things Celtic (mostly, Scottish) and have been watching films related to Scotland (sort of).

My second film was “Rob Roy” with Qui-Gon Ginn and that lady who escaped from off the set of “American Horror Story.”

rob-royReleased in 1995 (near the same time as “Braveheart”), the film was more mining of Scottish history, this time about Rob Roy MacGregor, who gets tangled up in debt over some cows and Tim Roth in drag, which was totally cool in the 1700s.

It even wastes the usually very decent John Hurt (Still awesome in “Alien” and as Caligula in “I, Claudius”), who tends to elevate whatever crap thing he’s signed on for (Does anyone remember “King Ralph?”)

Ugh…I hated this movie.

To me, it was like the worst parts of “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and something the BBC abandoned to spend on “Dr. Who” episodes instead.

Lord, this thing dragged and within 30 minutes, I wasn’t particularly interested in what happened to the MacGregors, Lord Montrose, Archibald Cunningham or the whole of Scotland –though I did see the point of those weird sashes that come with some kilts (SPOILER: They can be used as a kind of snuggie).

Based on material gleaned from Wikipedia, “Rob Roy” was a much more true-to-history tale than “Braveheart,” but that’s not saying much. Episodes of “Quantum Leap” were more truthful to history, even if you forgot about the invisible guy in the bad suits wandering around.

quantum72
I’ve seen the future and it works…

 

For me, the only bright spot was the hope that after Roth and Eric Stolz, a few more actors from “Pulp Fiction” to show up, waving swords and promising to go medieval and someone’s butt, but alas no John Travolta and no Samuel L. Jackson.

samuel-l-jackson
There really isn’t a movie, Samuel Jackson doesn’t improve.

Anyway, I muscled through “Rob Roy” for another hour, but realized it wasn’t getting any better. So, I quit and watched an episode of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” which has nothing to do with Scotland, though I suspect Neil Patrick Harris has probably vacationed there.

Back to the library for me.

February: Spartan Training

I did my first bit of running in preparation for the Spartan Race this week. On the advise of my father, a retired cross country and track coach, I decided to run on gentle terrain as opposed to pavement.

I’m currently around 235 pounds, which is heavy for any runner on two legs.

The weight is going to have to come way down if I want to survive even just the training –and the sooner, the better, really.

I’m adjusting my diet as best I can –for me, this mostly means laying off the bread, veggie burgers and Fritos.

are-fritos-vegan
My love for these corn chips cannot be overstated.

For my first day of training, I opted to run on the soccer field at the YMCA in Charleston. With it being winter and a Sunday, no one was using it. The sky was bright, but it was was a little cold. Even the clutch of surly teenagers I saw blowing off their afternoon by swearing at each other and making out with their girlfriends stayed close to the building rather than sneak off to the relative seclusion of the practice field.

ymca-field
A nice, dull place for a run. Perfect and flat.

This suited me fine. I didn’t really want a lot of company and I expected my first outing to be kind of sad. The last thing my ego needed was a group of 15-year-olds laughing at me.

I got enough of that when I was 15.

While dodging deer poop (the Y has the same problem I have at my house), I managed to put in 12 laps or around 30 minutes of exercise. I ran the first two laps then alternated between walking and running laps.

I’m not a hundred percent sure how long all of that was, but at a guess, probably somewhere between a mile and a mile and a half.

I wheezed like a two pack a day smoker and threw up at my car when I finished for the day, but it happened. I started.

I came back for a second run Monday morning, after my usual workout inside the Y. I did about eight laps on the practice field, but ran about 2/3. I’d have done more, but I was starting to feel weak.

Breakfast had been a vegan protein shake and some coffee a couple of hours before.

My plan is to just do this over and over for a while –run laps around the soccer field and then eventually work up to another course. Maybe in a few weeks, I’ll try running along the river.

Some friends have suggested I should find a trainer or join Crossfit, but there really isn’t a budget for that and it’s probably too soon.

What I can do now is get my running up to speed –shoot for steady gains. There’s no point really thinking about how I’m going to jump over fiery pits, dodge vampire bats or crawl under barbed wire if I can’t physically handle 12 to 14 miles of just running.

Besides, the hope is that the years of strength training will count for something. It’s a hope. I have a long way to go.

spartan

February: Secret Stuff

When I started the second season of “One Month at a Time” I felt like I needed an a new theme (that’s the whole fighting thing, which isn’t just fighting with your fists) and I wanted to do a couple of things that might actually take longer than a month.

The idea for my first planned big challenge/adventure sort of showed up while I was looking at stuff related to my February project (for those of you who haven’t guessed, I’m studying up on all things Celtic) I found the Celtic Calling’s Kilt Run. I thought, “Well, that sounds like a bad idea and not something I want to do. I should totally do that.”

This is how my process works more times than not.

Yes, this is a little self-destructive.

Anyway, while considering how best to proceed with a 5K race (I don’t really run), I got my first big project –and it’s going to be a lot to learn about. Hoo-boy and I have a long way to go.

I could be all coy and try to tease this, but jeez… nobody is really reading this blog anyway. So, it’s like a confessional thing.

In August, I will be participating in the Spartan Run at Summit Bechtel Reserve.

spartan

The plan is for me to run the Super Beast race, which is described as 12 to 14 miles and involves a bunch of obstacles.

This may end badly.
I don’t really jump. This may end badly.

I’m registered, insured and committed to doing this.

What I am not is ready to compete. I’m in no kind of physical shape to do this race. After my mini-triathlon training in July, I slacked off the running, swimming and biking. My season was done, but in order to do this I’ve got to get into crazy shape.

So, this is my big project for the next six months.

barbed-wire
I have never considered crawling through barbed wire as recreational.

One of my big projects, anyway.

First off, let me say that I’m not a huge fan of flavored beers.

Flavored beers taste like a marketing ploy aimed at rich sorority girls and shandys are like the Arnies of the beer world (An Arnie is a half lemonade and half iced tea. Recently passed golfing legend Arnold Palmer drank them so often, people started calling the drink by his name.

Still, I wasn’t paying for Lienenkugal’s Harvest Patch Shandy and it seemed like a good start to this month’s “One Month at a Time” side project: pairing beers with horror films.

First up, “The Witch.”¬†

the witch

IMDb describes it as “A family in 1630s New England is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft, black magic and possession.”

The set up is a Puritan family leaves town after they have falling out with the local church authorities over some interpretation of the New Testament.

I missed what they were arguing over, but given the time period, it could have been over punctuation.

The family moves out on their own, where they establish a poor farm, struggle to feed themselves and somehow attract the attention of the local witch who then tirelessly works to destroy them.

On its face, “The Witch” is like a lot of similar films set during the Salem Witch Trials era. Christians in the new world are under siege by what they perceive to be diabolical forces. In many of these films, the villain turns out to be the Christians themselves, who are just thick-headed jerks or whatever.

This one goes in an entirely different direction.

The devil is very much at work on this small family and there’s no real explanation for why, other than “just ’cause.” There is no logical reason why Satan is interested in this particular family and nearly as disturbing there’s no help on the way. God is in his heaven and can’t be bothered to lift a finger to help a (possibly) slightly misguided but devout farmer, his wife and their five innocent children. No heroic, young preacher stops in to save them with a glowing cross or just the right prayer. Angels don’t turn up wielding a flaming sword.

The family is effortlessly crushed under the hoof of something far beyond their understanding.

It was kind of fascinating to watch a horror film so relentlessly bleak and pessimistic.

In some ways, “The Witch” reminded me of something like “Jaws,” where the people are warned not to leave the safety of the beach because there’s this giant shark trolling out there in the ocean somewhere, which will eat them if it gets the chance. Everybody shrugs it off, of course. They know better, go for a swim and, predictably, are eaten.

The Beer: Lienenkugal’s Harvest Patch Sandy

pumpkinbeer

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m not a huge fan of flavored beers –and this one is no exception. It has a rich, pumpkin flavor, which would be perfect if it was Thanksgiving and you just didn’t feel like dunking your pumpkin pie into a frosty mug of Coors Light while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I don’t know. Maybe this is for the all girls in yoga pants to sip on when they get bored of their gas station grade Pumpkin Spice Latte.

I wasn’t impressed, but I finished the bottle.

I liked “The Witch,” and the Lienenkugal’s Harvest Patch Sandy technically paired well with the movie. Both were thought-provoking and had an unexpected flavor, but, were each, in their own way, kind of depressing.

 

Triathlon: Gu!

With the upcoming race, the subject of eating has come up.

While my race isn’t all that long compared to an Iron Man, it’s long enough. It’s been suggested that it wouldn’t hurt to have something between the bicycle portion and the running race (only a dork eats in the pool).

The problem is: I can’t eat and run.

I’ve tried, but even a piece of toast is too heavy for my stomach. It becomes something that restricts my breathing and makes running longer than 200 yards next to impossible.

So, I don’t eat, but with the swimming, biking and running, there’s a good chance I could “bonk,” become light-headed and groggy, which isn’t good either.

Probably, if I was a lighter American and not wildly overweight, I could handle a short sprint triathlon with nothing more than a mineral water and a stick of gum, but I’m an ox.

So, I began looking into things I could take along –and discovered GU.

GU is basically a flavored sugar gel that also contains amino acids and probably caffeine.

allgu

I hit up the Cycle Shop in Kanawha City and bought three different types to try out. The idea was that I could give them each a shot and then hopefully have one or two to choose from on race day.

First, the good news: They’re all vegan, including the maple bacon.

Second, the bad news: There’s a reason they come in opaque packages. You don’t want to look at this stuff.

On the charitable side, it looks a little like shampoo. On the uncharitable side, just don’t look at it.

gu1

Of the three, the peanut butter tasted the best. It tasted a little like some kind of peanut candy, but it contains no caffeine.

Also, I couldn’t tell if it improved or assisted my performance since I wasn’t actually training, but typing in the newsroom. I did like the flavor, however. It was yummy.

gu2

The maple bacon was a novelty. I haven’t actually tasted bacon since December, and Andrew at the bicycle shop sort of warned me about this one. He said, “If you can think of it as like wine tasting. It’s very up front with the maple and then the bacon is at the end.”

I didn’t taste a lot of bacon.

And after a short while, I felt vaguely angry. That could have been the 20 mg of caffeine talking, but that’s barely half a cup of coffee.

I wasn’t overly impressed.

gu3

The Tri-Berry was highly recommended. My triathlon mentors seemed to like it, but it tasted like candy with a vague chemical aftertaste –sort of like Runts, maybe.

Unlike the maple bacon, it didn’t fill me with hate.

That was a bonus.

So, I figure I’ll bring along the peanut butter and the Tri-Berry, in case I need a bigger pick me up than just some sugar and peanut goodness.

If I do something like this again, I’ll look into some of the other flavors –you know, after I get a better bike.

Here’s another blog post from June’s unplugged experience.

 

Lynch list2