Irish Proverb: The full man does not understand the wants of the hungry.

For the letter “C” I considered watching C.H.U.D. (which I’ve never seen) or Chopping Mall (which I’ve seen a hundred times), but as I thumbed through my horror DVDs I realized I haven’t watched the original Child’s Play in probably a decade and I was curious to see how the film stands up today.

For half a century, the horror genre was represented by a small handful of iconic characters: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolfman, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. With the rise of the slasher genre, my generation’s four-pack of bad boys became Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and the baddest doll of them all, Chucky from 1988’s Child’s Play.

Child’s Play opens with Detective Mike Norris in hot pursuit of two criminals, Eddie Caputo and Charles Lee Ray. After Caputo ditches his partner in crime, Ray and Norris duck into a nearby toy store while exchanging gunfire. Ray, mortally wounded in the exchange, quickly performs a black magic chant and transfers his soul into a nearby Good Guy doll, giving birth to both the film’s villain and an entire franchise.

Through somewhat questionable logic Chucky climbs back into his Good Guy packaging, ends up in a hobo’s shopping cart, and allows himself to be sold to one Karen Barclay. Karen unknowingly purchases the possessed doll as a birthday present for her six-year-old son, Andy.

Once inside the Barclay’s home Chucky wastes little time in driving a hammer into his first victim’s head, Karen’s friend (and Andy’s babysitter) Maggie. While Andy puts two and two together pretty quickly, he (logically) has a tough time convincing the adults around him (his mother and Detective Norris) that Chucky is alive.

The film briefly toys with the audience in making us think that Andy might possibly be the killer, but it’s abandoned pretty quickly as we begin to see Chucky walk and talk on his own. After disposing of Caputo (his former partner who abandoned him), Chucky is wounded in another altercation with Detective Norris. Chucky’s then visits his former Voodoo teacher, Dr. Death, who explains to him (and us) that his (Charles Lee Ray’s) soul will soon be stuck in the Chucky doll forever unless he can transfer his soul into the first person he revealed his true identity to. That, of course, turns out to be six-year-old Andy.

This is turning out to be one crappy birthday.

Like most horror villains, it turns out Chucky has a weakness; his heart. And I don’t mean emotionally, I mean literally, you have to shoot him in the heart. (If you just had a visual of a human heart and circulatory system somehow developing inside this plastic doll, you’re overthinking the film.) The visual of a burnt and partly dismembered Chucky fighting to the end* mirrors Sarah Connnor’s final showdown with the T-800 in 1984’s Terminator, and like that film, the protagonists here are forced to stop what appears to be an unstoppable force.

(*There are six movies in the franchise; Chucky’s “end” is somewhat relative.)

Prior to the release of the sequel, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened after this film ended. Maggie’s death has been ruled a homicide (she did take a hammer to the face), and two detectives will have to explain back at the station why they pumped a burnt up doll full of bullets inside an apartment building.

The film’s special effects are surprisingly good. The change is readily apparent each time Chucky changes from a puppet to a guy in a costume, but the doll as a practical effect works. While some part of this is due to the special effects crew, a big part is due to the wonderful voice work of Brad Dourif, who completely sells his performances, both as Charles Lee Ray and Chucky.

Like Freddy Krueger, somewhere along the way Chucky lost his edge and began delivering more snarky one-liners than stabbings in later sequels. In the beginning though, Chucky was downright evil although not particularly prolific in his killing. Child’s Play delivers a total of six deaths, two of which are Charles Lee Ray’s and Chucky’s!

While Child’s Play delivers a few jumpy moments, it’s hard to be scared by the film at this point. More scary, I think, is the thought of experiencing something with no rational explanation. In the film’s sequel we learn that that Karen Barclay ended up in a mental institution, and why shouldn’t she? Nobody will ever believe her story, despite the fact she knows it is true. It’s a life-changing and permanent paradigm-shifting event that would probably drive any of us mad.

(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)


Similar Posts:

I love the awkward juxtaposition of setting a horror film during the Christmas holiday season. Black Christmas uses this to its advantage by creating several awkward and haunting moments. There’s a scene in the film where a sorority girl is being murdered upstairs while children sing carols downstairs at the front door. It’s disturbing and uncomfortable to watch, which is what makes horror movies great.

In Black Christmas, a sorority is under attack by a mysterious and creepy killer (“Billy”) who taunts the sisters with obscene, threatening, and occasionally unintelligible phone calls. With a body count of seven the film is often referred to as the first slasher film, but it doesn’t feel like one. The film’s pace is slow (like, 1970s-horror slow) and spends more time building tension than spilling blood. In fact, of those seven murders, one takes place within the first five minutes and four take place in the last five, with roughly an hour and a half between killings for viewers to ponder “who is the killer” and, more importantly, “who’s gonna get it next?”

I’m about to spoil the ending to a 40-year-old movie in the next paragraph. You have been warned.

The twist is that the calls are coming from inside the house. Black Christmas, released five years before When a Stranger Calls, appears to be the first full-length movie to use this gimmick, based on the urban legend that dates back to the 1960s. Here, the gimmick is milked for all its worth with police listening in on a remote handset as a phone linesman rushes down rows of clickity mechanical switches, manually searching for the one that will reveal where the calls are originating from.

Unlike modern horror films in which writers, directors, and perhaps audiences need to know more about the killer’s background, vintage horror wasn’t always that way. While Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween dedicated much of the film to Michael Myers’ childhood, the original attempted to do the opposite by stripping all personality away from the killer (even simply referring to him as “The Shape”). And while the 2006 remake of Black Christmas apparently delves into the killer’s background, the original does not; in fact, other than his hands in a few POV shots and one creepy shot of his eyeball, we don’t see the killer at all. We don’t know his motivation, his background, or his mindset. We don’t know why Billy has ended up in the attic of a sorority house, why he is making crank phone calls in different voices, or why he is killing these young ladies. All we know is that he is, and in this film, it’s enough. And part of that is what makes the film scary — that you could get killed by a random guy who decides to move into your attic and barrage you with crank phone calls for no reason other than the fact that he’s crazy.

Plot wise, my biggest problem with Black Christmas was with the shoddy police work. Our killer’s first victim ends up with a plastic bag wrapped around her head and placed in a rocking chair next to a window in the attic. We (the audience) can clearly see her from the street — why can’t the police? And why didn’t they search the attic? I also didn’t understand how Billy could yell into the phone repeatedly during his calls and yet no one inside the house could hear his voice coming from the attic. Unless you can’t hear someone yelling in your attic, in which case attics just got a lot scarier.

Black Christmas was rated R for violence and language, although today I suspect the violence would barely get it a PG-13 rating. The language however is strong — occasionally, shockingly so.

The influence Black Christmas had on films like Halloween and Friday the 13th and countless others is obvious and undeniable. While not without its flaws, it’s obvious that this film set the bar for (and perhaps invented) the genre.

(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)


Similar Posts:

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, released in 1975, left more than blood and several bad sequels in its wake. The idea of hiding a practically unstoppable killing machine from the audience as it snacks its way through a long list of extras before meeting its demise inspired dozens of copycat films. Some of these copycats like Orca: The Killer Whale (1977) and Great White (1981) also took place in the water, while others took place in new locations like the forest (1976’s Grizzly) or outer space (1979’s Alien). 1980’s Alligator took the action to the sewers, the streets, and a wedding party.

In the first 30 seconds of Alligator we see a trainer at an alligator farm tourist trap get attacked and almost killed while performing in front of a live audience. A young girl named Marisa Kendall witnesses the attack and for some reason is inspired by it to get her own baby pet alligator. The following morning her belligerent father takes the alligator and flushes it down the toilet, sending it down into the depths of the Chicago sewer system. (While Wikipedia states that the movie takes place in Chicago, it was filmed in Los Angeles and there are hints that the movie takes place in Missouri.)

Later in the film we learn from the famous herpetologist Dr. Marissa Kendall (yes — the same person that originally owned the alligator) that alligators in captivity don’t typically grow to full size, and one living in the sewer would be even smaller than that. Unless of course the alligator was feasting on the carcasses of dead animals which were being injected with growth hormones by an unscrupulous medical company and tossed into the sewer. If that were to happen, you might just end up with a “30 to 40 foot long alligator” with an insatiable appetite… FOR BLOOD.

Alligator stars Robert Forster as officer David Madison. When random body parts begin showing up in waste management plants, officer Madison is convinced there’s a serial killer on the loose. Madison has a hard time convincing anyone to go check the sewers with him after the untimely death of his last partner, but eventually he persuades rookie officer Jim Kelly to join him, which leads to the untimely death of a new partner. Madison wakes up in the hospital, but neither Chief Clark nor sleazy reporter Thomas Kemp believe his story of a giant alligator. When Kemp decides to brave the sewers to see what he can find, he too joins Officer Kelly in the belly of the beast (literally), but not before snapping a few photos and leaving his camera behind. After the film is developed, Madison is vindicated and the hunt is on.

The comparisons to Jaws are unavoidable. A Jaws-like tune is played as we see the alligator (from a POV shot) stalking his victims. Apparently the filmmakers also had problems with their mechanical alligator. The mechanical stand in is used for shots where the gator chomps on his victims. Other times, a regular-sized alligator makes his way through miniature streets at night. The pre-CGI special effects may not seem that special today, but I found them to be a treat. Despite the lack of computer-aided special effects, there’s no lack of fire. I counted two car explosions, one boat explosion, and one alligator explosion.

After the arrival of big-game hunter Colonel Brock, I couldn’t help but notice how similar Lake Placid was to this film. Colonel Brock is played completely over the top. He’s not around long enough to dislike for too long. The first time Brock meets the alligator is also his last.

Eventually the alligator gets so big and so hungry and he literally busts up through a sidewalk and onto city streets, and that’s where the real fun begins. Along with Brock, the alligator gobbles up lots of innocent bystanders and at least one kid in a swimming pool. Eventually he ends up at the wedding party where he eats the mayor and several other socialites. In the end it’s up to Officer Madison to redeem himself and lead the alligator back down the sewers where the two of them must face off one last time, man to gator.

I don’t know that Alligator made me jump, but it did make me laugh. After discovering a few limbs floating in the sewage treatment plant, Madison comments that if he finds any more he’s “going to open a spare parts shop.” Later, after finding a dismembered arm, he notes they’ll need a small casket.

The film was written by John Sayles, who had just churned out Piranha two years prior, and directed by Lewis Teague, who also directed Cujo and Cat’s Eye. The film did well enough to warrant a sequel (Alligator 2), which bombed. Roger Ebert gave the original one star and suggested people flush the film itself down the sewer.

While not scary or particularly gory by today’s standards. Alligator is a fun romp through the sewers with a reptile whose only crime is that of being hungry.

(This review is a part of my month-long October 2014 A-Z Horror Reviews.)


Similar Posts:

Every year for the past ten years (at least) I’ve talked about watching 31 horror movies in October (one a night). Every year I come up with a reason not to do it. I can’t come up with a reason not to do it this year, so I’m going to try it.

To add a twist to things, for the first 26 days of October I’ll be working my way through the alphabet. If you have movie suggestions you can leave them here or on Facebook — no guarantees, but I’ll consider them. I’m not sure what I’ll do for the last five days of the months, but it’ll be REALLY SCARY.

Now it’s time for me to get back to a horror movie that starts with the letter A!

EDIT: You can find all of this month’s horror reviews by clicking this link!


Similar Posts:

I spent quite a bit of last week contacting literary agents in hope of finding one interested in representing our new book Gastric Steps. Here’s how that went.

I suppose first I should explain why I would want or need to connect with a literary agent in the first place. If you want to have your book published by a real publishing company (as opposed to self-publishing), you pretty much need to have an agent. I self-published both Commodork and Invading Spaces and while I don’t regret the decision, I feel like Gastric Steps appeals to a wider audience than those books did.

Agents serve many purposes, like helping you make your book more marketable and giving you advice, but the primary purpose they serve is negotiating a deal for you with a publishing house. For this they get a percentage of the deal — and that’s a good system because they then have a vested interest in getting you the best deal possible. So you get some money, they get some money, the publishing house kills some trees… everybody’s happy.

Believe it or not, writing a book is the easy part. The hard part is finding an agent interested in helping you get it published. Finding agents is simple enough: you can either use the current Guide to Literary Agents or you can use Google.

After finding a huge list of agents, your first goal will be to rule most of them out. Based on a list of conventional genres, Gastric Steps is a non-fiction health memoir. With that, I limited my search to agents who represent authors of non-fiction books, and ones interested in both memoirs and health-related titles.

Another criteria used to limit my search was whether or not the agent accepted submissions via e-mail. Some only accept submissions through snail mail and require a SASE if you want a response. I’m much more digitally-grounded and ruled those out, looking instead for ones who accept submissions via e-mail. Most agents that accept e-mail submissions state that they don’t contact authors whose works are rejected. Instead they post a time limit (“if we’re interested, we’ll contact you in 4-6 weeks”) and if you don’t hear anything by then, you can assume they’re not interested.

Based on all of those factors I narrowed my list to five potential agents.

The next step involves checking the agent’s website and carefully reading their submission requirements and guidelines. While all five of the ones I submitted to were similar, all of them had slightly different requirements and I suspect following the rules to the letter is a “test” — in fact, some of the agents’ websites state up front that submissions missing materials or sent in the wrong format will be discarded.

Some of the agents requested query letters while others require full proposals.

Query letters are formal letters asking agents if they might be interested in representing your book. For the most part they consist of three parts: a hook, a description of your book, and an author bio. They should fit on a single page. Here’s a link to 23 examples.

Proposals are much larger letters. This page says that you should include the following information in a proposal: Overview, Marketing , Promotion, Competing Books, About the Author, List of Chapters, Chapter-by-Chapter Summary, and Sample Chapters. This is your one shot to convince a potential agent that your book will be successful and that they should want to represent it, so the more detailed the proposal is, the better.

For what it’s worth, none of the five agents I submitted to asked for the exact same things. One asked for a query letter, one asked for a proposal, one asked for a query letter and a proposal, one asked for a query letter and a proposal in a different format, and the last one had their own e-mail submission form. Based off of that experience I split my submission application into modular parts and used them to create what each agent was specifically looking for. Unfortunately these minor differences in submission formats prevents any attempts at further streamlining this process.

The next step appears to be… wait. Based on my records, the soonest any of the potential agents might respond might be in two weeks, with most of them requesting “up to a month” to review submissions. And again, if my work is rejected, they have already told me they won’t respond. I’ll let these five proposals expire before sending out another five or ten.

I’m not really sure how many times I should send the book out before deciding to self-publish it. Ten? Twenty? Fifty? I’m not sure. With an almost finished product in hand I am ready to get it out the door and the legacy publishing world simply doesn’t work that quickly. For now, I’ll wait and see what happens.


Similar Posts:

A friend of mine tagged me with the following challenge on Facebook:

10 games that will always stay with you. Rules: Don’t take more then a few minutes. Don’t think too hard. They don’t have to be great works of the gaming industry, just games that have affected you in a positive way. Then tag 10 friends including me so I can see your list.

If you know me you know simply making a list isn’t enough, so I added some additional information and links to videos. Although many of these games appeared on many different platforms, I included the ones that my memories were most closely associated with. I also extended my list to 12 games, and you’re lucky I didn’t make it 50. Without further adieu…

01. Wizardry / Bard’s Tale (Apple II/C64)

Wizardry was one of the first dungeon crawlers to be released for home computers, and the first one I ever played for the Apple II. According to Wikipedia it was the first color dungeon crawler and the first true party-based Dungeons and Dragons-style game. Released in 1981, this was one of the first games I can remember my dad and I playing at the same time. He would play at night and make maps of the game’s dungeons on graph paper, maps I would use the next day to advance further in the game.

Just a few years later, my buddy Jeff and I would spend an entire summer playing Bard’s Tale in largely the same fashion. Although the graphics were slightly better, the gameplay of Bard’s Tale is largely identical to Wizardry. RPGs in the 80s got too large to keep my interest, but I greatly enjoyed (and miss) this era of dungeon roaming.

02. Lode Runner (Apple II)

The recent passing of Doug Smith has this game on my mind. Lode Runner was an early platform game with just enough tricks to keep it interesting. The goal was to collect all of the packages from each level while avoiding the “bunglings.” The game’s original gimmick came in the digging of holes, which could be used to bury your opponents or dig your way out of trouble. The original game only came with 50 levels, but there were sequels and also a level editor that allowed you to easily create your own levels. Lode Runner was fun in 1984 and it’s still fun in 2014, and I still play it occasionally.

03. Gauntlet (Arcade)

The first arcade games were one-player only. Then there were two-player games that required the players to take turns. Then came two-player head-to-head games. Gauntlet may have been the first four player game I ever played in an arcade, and unlike most games at that time, the goal of Gauntlet was for players to work together. Sure, occasionally Warrior would shoot Elf in the back while Wizard stole the food, but ultimately gamers learned they could get deeper into the dungeon (and more bang for their buck) by working together.

I have many wonderful memories of playing Gauntlet with my friends. Because of this, Gauntlet II was one of the first arcade games I purchased when I began collecting arcade games.

04. Dragon’s Lair (Arcade)

I will never forget the first time I saw Dragon’s Lair in an arcade. If you were there in the 80s, I doubt you have forgotten it either. Seemingly overnight we went from blips and bloops to actually controlling a cartoon. It was awesome! It was incredible! It was… not that much fun. And it was hard to play. Several laserdisc games (including Dragon’s Lair II and Space Ace) came and went over the next few years. Ultimately they did not change the gaming industry in the way they had hoped to, but it was still pretty awesome. The takeaway from Dragon’s Lair ultimately was that graphics aren’t everything; gameplay is king.

05. Doom II (PC)

While I had experimented with playing games online with other human beings, Doom II was the first game I ever played against other people on a local area network (LAN). I actually learned how to network computers together just so we could play Doom II. The graphics in the video below make me cringe a bit, but back them the gloomy dungeons and atmospheric sound effects set the tone for an amazing game. It took what worked from Doom (and Wolfenstein 3D before that), added multiplayer, and delivered an unforgettable gaming experience. Doom II was so good that the gaming industry has been applying new coats of paint to the concept and re-releasing it for 20 years now.

06. Donkey Kong (Arcade)

Donkey Kong is a light-hearted game starring a pre-Mario Mario in which he climbs ladders, jumps barrels, and saves his girlfriend level after level. It’s simple… or is it? Once you start to learn how to “control” the barrels, how to control where fireballs appear from and how to run up your score thanks to several glitches, it becomes and entirely different game. Adding to the pressure is the game’s infamous “kill screen,” a point where Mario dies for no apparent reason and the game ends. Suddenly the goal switches from “how high can you go?” to how many points can you score before the game crashes. For someone who doesn’t play a lot of Donkey Kong, a respectable score is in the 20-30k range. My high score is just over 100k. The current world’s record is 1.2 million. If you have a couple of hours, you can watch a recording of it below. Donkey Kong is an example of a seemingly simple game that is still revealing secrets 30 years after its release.

07. Paradroid (C64)

This game captured my interest back in the mid-80s and I still enjoy it today. In Paradroid you control a floating helmet and your job is to take over other robots by challenging them to a game of electronic switches which… eh, it makes more sense when you play it, I guess. This game has been ported to a few other machines including the Amiga and Windows, but the C64 original is still my favorite. There’s no other game like it.

08. 720 (Arcade)

In the futuristic Skate City, one must learn to “Skate or Die” and do it quickly. There are so many great things about this game: the boom box mounted to the top of the cabinet, the one-of-a-kind joystick, the awesome music, killer bees, exciting levels and challenging competitions. If you were into skateboarding in the 80s, this was the game to play.

I fell in love with this game in the 80s. When I began collecting arcade machines in the 90s, I put this on the top of my “must have” list. It took me fifteen years to track one down, but I finally found one. It’s still out in my garage today, calling me.

09. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

If I had a dime for ever minute — heck, every hour I spent playing Super Mario Bros. 3, I would be a rich man. Jeff, Andy and I played this game for so many hours that we could navigate some of the levels with our eyes closed. One of the greatest platform games of all time.

10. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (PlayStation)

THPS2 did what no other game had done for me; it accurately portrayed skateboarding. I lost myself in this game for months, chaining together huge combos and pushing the points on every level to the max. There have been several sequels, but none of them captured my attention the way this one did. For years I owned two PlayStations and one had this game in it at all times.

In addition to gameplay, THPS2 had an incredible soundtrack, a new concept in games back then. It’s so good that I still have it on my phone today.

11. Impossible Mission (C64)

“Another visitor. Stay a while… staaaay forever!” This was one of the first (if not the first) game I ever saw for the Commodore 64, and what an introduction to the machine it was. Puzzles aside, the speech samples and smooth animation was enough to capture a kid’s imagination, and it did. For years I didn’t know what the goal of this game was and it really didn’t matter. We had fun running around, avoiding the robots and the “killer black ball” and couldn’t have cared less about “winning.” When it came to graphics and sound, this game set the Commodore 64 apart from the competition very early on.

12. Rogue (DOS)

Ever heard of a “rogue-like” game? This is where the term came from. Originally designed for mainframes, Rogue made its way to home computers in its original, ASCII format. The combat was rudimentary (you just ran into creatures to attack them) but the game offered a ton of things to discover, from magic scrolls and rings to cursed items. The game’s maps are randomly generated every game and items are randomly placed, so every game is different. You’ll need patience and skill to make it all the way through the dungeon, but you’ll also need a bit of luck; since all items are randomly placed, that includes food. Occasionally, through no fault of your own, you will die of starvation.

Rogue taught me three things: sometimes success depends on luck, a good game doesn’t need good graphics, and sometimes life isn’t fair.


Similar Posts:

I have a folder on my computer called “Ideas for Books” that contains… well, ideas for books in it. Some of the books are fiction and some are non-fiction. Some of the files contain little more than a couple of sentences with a general idea about a book; some of the others have complete outlines, and a few have entire chapters written. I jump back and forth between the various books until one really grabs my interest. Then I write as much and as fast as I can on it before something else grabs my attention and drags me away.

A year ago in that folder I created a text file called “the Lapband family,” and in it I wrote, “document our experience with lapband surgery.” That file containing six words has sat on my computer for over a year. I mentioned the idea to Susan this year on September 1st. Two weeks later, between the two of us we had written 40,000 words.

I renamed the book Gastric Steps (He Said/She Said). “Gastric Steps” is obviously a play on the phrase “drastic steps,” which weight loss surgery certain is. The “He Said/She Said” aspect of the book is pretty interesting. Normally when I write a book the first thing I do is create a list of chapters and then fill them with stories. With this book, both Susan and I each wrote a chapter about each topic. She wrote a chapter about growing up overweight and so did I. Each of us wrote a chapter about gaining weight while working at fast food restaurants. Both of us wrote about our experiences with gastric band surgery — the before, during, and after. And as hard as it was, each of us wrote a chapter called “Why am I still fat?” where we discuss the obvious question many people are thinking.

I self-published both of my previous books, Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie (2006) and Invading Spaces: A Beginner’s Guide to Arcade Games (2008), a decision I stand behind today. The target audience for those books was too narrow for traditional publishing venues. Both books continue to sell modestly, the paperback editions less so than the electronic versions.

Gastric Steps, however, has a much larger audience. There are currently 127 million overweight adult Americans. 60 million of those people are classified as obese, and 9 million of those are morbidly obese. Millions of overweight Americans consider bariatric surgery, whether it’s gastric bypass, gastric band (Lap-Band), or another type. Because of that, I am currently sending query letters and proposals to agents. Ultimately if it doesn’t work out then I will consider self-publishing this book too, but I really feel like the message contained within this book needs to get out.

Without going into all the details, I believe that there are three distinct audiences for this book: people who are considering bariatric/weight loss surgery, those who have already had the surgery, and medical professionals associated with the surgery. I believe each of these groups would benefit from reading this book.

I know most of you come to RobOHara.com to read about technology and video games and old computers and my family, not about weight loss surgery. Because of that, here’s what I have done. I have set up another blog at GastricSteps.com, where Susan and I will be talking about weight loss, diet, exercise, and the book. I’ll be posting updates over there at least twice a week (on Tuesdays and Thursdays) and maybe more. If anything exciting updates happen in regards to the book being published then of course I’ll share that information here, but I’m not going to turn this website into a weight loss site.

If you want to find out more about the book and follow both our journey to getting it published and our journey toward health, check out GastricSteps.com. I’ve also set up a Facebook Page and a Twitter account for the project, so you can like or follow those if you want to be notified when new blog entries go live. Finally, the site will also have an e-mail mailing list for notifications if you prefer receiving them that way.

Life is crazy right now. Susan’s trying to build a Futuro UFO House and I’m trying to sell a book on top of everything else we have going on. If there’s a way to live other than hectic, I don’t know what it is.

WWW: GastricSteps.com
Twitter: Twitter.com/GastricSteps
Facebook: Facebook.com/GastricSteps


Similar Posts:

Summary: My wife is bringing back the Futuro House and needs your support on Kickstarter to make it happen.

My interest in Futuro homes began a few years ago when my friend Steve W. was driving through the backwoods of Texas and ran across this:

Kickstarter Link: New Futuro House

We didn’t know it at the time, but Steve had unknowingly stumbled across one of the approximately 100 original Futuro Homes, of which less then 20 exist in the United States.

The Futuro House was designed by Matt Suuronen in Finland in the 1960s. The prefabricated homes were made of a combination of fiberglass and plastic and measured 13′ high and 26′ in diameter. The Futuro had many selling points. The prefabricated homes could be shipped anywhere and assembled on site in 48 hours. Their size, shape, and unique metal stands made them idea for ski or hunting lodges. The interior of the Futuro is highly configurable with movable partitions. Its many windows offer terrific views, and the small but comfortable space inside is easy to heat and cool.

According to Wikipedia, fewer than 100 Futuro Homes were built. “The oil crisis of 1973 tripled gasoline prices and made manufacture of plastic extremely expensive,” according to the site. Additionally, several cities and neighborhoods banned Futuro homes based on their appearance. It seems the world was not ready for a UFO-shaped home of the future.

We think the world is now ready for a UFO-shaped home of the future.


Me standing in front of a Futuro Home in Illinois (2012)

My wife and I would like to own a Futuro home, and we’ve found a lot of other people who say they would, too. Unfortunately, the “homes of tomorrow” built in the late 60s and early 70s aren’t doing so well today. Some of the plastics used are now degrading. Additionally, building codes today are (thankfully) more stringent than they were 45 years ago.

My wife has launched a Kickstarter Project in hopes of bringing back the Futuro Home. The goal of her Kickstarter is to end up with a new, prototype Futuro home. Building this requires several major hurdles, none of which are cheap. Some of the hurdles include:

  • Reverse engineering a Futuro to get its exact specifications and measurements
  • Updating the Futuro’s structure to ensure that it meets the strictest modern home-building standards
  • Work with modern architects to ensure the most durable, maintainable and cost-efficient materials are used
  • Create blueprints and make them available
  • Based off of those blueprints, create molds
  • Design assembly instructions
  • …and finally…

  • Build a complete proof-of-concept Futuro House
  • My wife is an expert project manager and has several certifications saying so. She is also an expert with budgets, and has already started contacting architects, engineers, mold fabricators, and other professionals essential to bringing back the Futuro Home. Her goal of raising $45,000 is essentially exactly what it will take to bring back the Futuro Home.

    Susan has added some neat and affordable rewards to her Kickstarter, things like 3D-Printed Futuro Homes and numbered prints. There are also some high end rewards: for $500 you can attend the the prototype assembly party here in Oklahoma, for example.

    When and if this Kickstarter succeeds and we are able to complete production of the first new Futuro Home, we will be able to begin construction on new homes. Again, there are currently less than 20 Futuro homes in the United States, most of which are abandoned. It would cost you more to purchase an original Futuro home and repair it than it will to buy a new one. I truly hope Susan’s Kickstarter succeeds — one because I’d love to see Future Homes make a comeback, and two, because I’m pretty sure the prototype is going in my backyard. I can’t wait to sit in a UFO-shaped home and play Space Invaders all night long!

    Susan and I have already registered NewFuturoHouse.com and plan to document every step along the way of this exciting process.

    Thanks to Simon from TheFuturoHouse.com for allowing us to use his pictures on our Kickstarter page and in Susan’s Kickstarter video.

    Kickstarter Link: New Futuro House


    Similar Posts:

    In the spring of 1995 the band Tesla rolled into Oklahoma City. Most bands lumped together under the “hair metal” umbrella fought to separate themselves from that label, and Tesla was no exception. Even though the band was named after the Nikola Tesla, that did little to set them apart from the pack. Tesla had a few hits in the 80s and 90s and are best remembered for “Love Song” and their cover version of “Signs.”

    Tesla was in town to play a show at the Diamond Ballroom. The Diamond is where bands who can’t sell sell out the larger local venues play. Tesla was in town supporting their fourth album, Bust a Nut, an album with no radio singles. Still, there were plenty of people familiar with their earlier work who were willing to come out and see the band perform live.

    To drum up interest for the show, Tesla held an autograph signing at the Best Buy where I was working at the time. Prior to that we had held a few other music-related events, like midnight CD release parties for The Eagles and Van Halen, but this was the first time I can remember actually having a band live in the store.

    Toward the rear of the store we set up tables for the members of Tesla to sit at. Customers were encouraged to buy a Tesla CD for the band to autograph, but I’m pretty sure they would sign anything anyone brought. From the outside the life of a rock star seems pretty glamorous, but when you’re working an event like this it seems like anything but. The tables were in the back of the store because the band was hiding in the brown goods warehouse — a big concrete room full of broken electronics waiting to be put on pallets and sent back — until it was time for Tesla to “arrive.”

    While I knew people would line up for autographs, I had no idea how many people would show up and how many gifts they would bring. Before long the table began filling up with flowers and stuffed animals. It seemed like every girl who came through the line had something to give the band. For their part the band was very polite and accepted every one. My task quickly became carrying all of these gifts back into the warehouse and keeping the table clean and clear.

    I don’t remember how long the band was there — maybe an hour, I’m guessing — but soon it was time for them to leave. The band stood up, waved goodbye to their remaining fans, and made their escape back into the warehouse.

    I assumed my next task would be loading all of those teddy bears, stuffed animals and flowers into the band’s van, but that wasn’t the case. “Take that stuff home to your girlfriends,” the band told us. “We can’t take all that on tour with us!” After shaking hands with the band and watching them drive away, those of us remaining in the warehouse divvied up the loot into piles. That night all of our girlfriends got gifts of flowers and teddy bears and pillows that had been intended for Tesla.

    While everybody has good days and bad days, I remember the members of Tesla being extremely friendly and professional during their brief visit to Best Buy. Meeting them was one of the more exciting things that happened while I worked there.


    Similar Posts:

    I don’t remember what I ate last night before bed, but whatever it was, I need to eat more of it. Last night I had a bizarre dream.

    Last night I dreamed that Eddie Van Halen was having a meet and greet in the back of a restaurant in Florida. MTV had held a contest where people had to submit their dream vacation and in my entry I said I wanted to go on a cruise with Eddie Van Halen to Fiji and that I would write and blog about our adventures. MTV was announcing the winner at the meet and greet and you had to be present to win, so Susan, the kids and I had driven to Florida.

    When we got to Florida, outside the restaurant was a place named Alice’s Whorehouse. Susan and I thought it would be funny to take the kids in there and pretend like we thought it was an Alice in Wonderland-themed restaurant. We took the kids inside and played dumb while a naked manager came out and nervously tried to explain to us that this was not an Alice in Wonderland-themed restaurant, but instead a whorehouse. For some reason we found this hilarious.

    Then we went next door to the meet and greet. Eddie Van Halen was at a table in the back of the restaurant with two small kids. No one else was around so I sat down and we just started chatting. I told him I had entered the contest and he asked me about writing and playing the guitar.

    While we were chatting, Valerie Bertinelli (Eddie Van Halen’s ex-wife in real life) arrived with bags of groceries. Eddie introduced me to her and she said, “Oh, I have something for you!” She handed me a piece of paper that looked like a map and said it was a puzzle. When I looked at it, the paper said to “connect the x’s” and there were two x’s, one on Florida and the other on Fiji. I got pretty excited and figured they were telling me I had won the contest. Then Valerie told me that they loved the idea so much that she and Eddie Van Halen were going on the cruise alone without me. Bummer.

    I got up to leave the table and was greeted by a robot guy? He was wearing a trenchcoat and a hat and had a shiny, smooth piece of metal for a face with no features. He told me he was a truther-bot and that he wanted to show me something. We went to the corner of the room and he showed me that the walls and floor didn’t fit together exactly right. Where they didn’t line up you could see white light shining through. He told me it was because this was a dream and that in dreams the buildings are never put together exactly right.

    Right after that, I woke up. The first thing I did was check the corner of my bedroom to make sure no light was leaking in from outside. Whew.


    Similar Posts: