Saturday, October 27, 2012

Weird Crime: If at first you don't succeed, sober up before you try again

(photo @ jalopnik.com)

Marco Island, Florida

On October 26 of 2012, 38-year-old Patricia Ann Libby piled her children into her grey Hyundai and departed towards Tommy Barfield Elementary. In addition to dropping her kids off at school, Patricia also planned to talk to the school's administration about accompanying the class on a field trip they were taking that day.

Unfortunately, Patricia had also decided that the best way to go into this meeting was by loosening up with a few drinks first...and driving her children to school while she was drunk.

Though to be fair, going to the principal's 
office as an adult can still be pretty stressful.

When Patricia pulled into the school parking lot at around 8:15 AM, she proceeded to ram her Hyundai into a parked Smart car....which is something that potentially could have happened without alcohol being a factor; Smart cars are hard to see (and look ridiculous enough to inspire unbridled rage in some).

Unfortunately, Patricia then proceeded to back up and collide with the Smart car two more times before deciding that her parking job was satisfactory.

Ignoring the destruction she had just caused, Patricia walked her children into school and proceeded to ask about chaperoning the trip that day. Instead of getting a visitor's pass, however, she was rewarded for her offer of volunteer service with a call to the police.

When officers arrived on the scene, they smelled alcohol on Patricia, who promptly proved their suspicions by failing a field sobriety test multiple times.

Embedded below is a local news report on the matter, complete with interviews during which people courageously state that driving drunk near a school is bad.

Patricia Ann Libby was arrested on charges of driving under the influence, driving under the influence with property damage, neglect of a child, and duty upon damaging an unattended vehicle or other property.

Along with having no regard for low
emission vehicles that look completely absurd.

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter.  

Friday, October 26, 2012

Weird Crime: Giving a kid the boot

Hillsborough County, Florida

On September 28 of 2012, 40-year-old school bus driver Stephanie Wilkerson was finishing her morning route dropping off special needs children to Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary. When she pulled up to the school at approximately 7:40 AM, an 8-year old girl with autism demanded to be let off the bus before it was her turn.

When Wilkerson refused to let her cut the line, the little girl slapped her.

"No! I want to get to class first!"

As a teacher, I can relate and sympathize with a situation like that (and look back on it with hysterical laughter instead of rage). But you have to keep in mind that these are kids with a disability that you're there to help instead of  reacting with the same emotional or physical aggression that they might display. This goes for all employees at a school, including the bus drivers.

Unfortunately, Stephanie's "Crap I will take from disabled kids who don't know any better" limit got tested one time too many. As the girl was getting off the bus, another verbal confrontation ensued between the two.

Once again, this is one of those moments when as an adult and a public school employee, you have to realize that you are dealing with a small child and a person with a mental disability...and to not engage in the same behavior that they are demonstrating towards you.

Stephanie, however, decided instead decided to escalate things a bit by literally kicking the girl off the bus, causing to her fall and fracture her ankle.

Embedded below is a local news report on the matter, complete with expert analysis on the incident by the one of the school's music teachers (who looks like an alternate universe version of Kevin Federline).

The news report also goes on to state that a video of the incident does exist, but the school district is being a giant party pooper and refusing to release it.

Speaking of not being released, Stephanie Wilkinson was arrested yesterday on a charge of aggravated child abuse. She is currently being held without bail.

...or the benefit of the doubt, which flies out
the window once you break an 8-year old's ankle.

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Weird Crime: When you're robbing a bank, good service is hard to find

Syracuse, New York

On October 22, 2012 at approximately 9:00 AM, 28-year old Arthur Bundrage entered an Alliance Bank location with the intent to rob it of $20,000. He walked up to the teller, made his demand, and was flat out rejected.

Showing an impressive amount of persuasive skill and perseverance, Arthur continued to demand that the teller fork over the cash without ever showing a weapon or making a threat. Whether it was out of fear that he might actually be a legitimate threat or pity, the teller finally relented and handed him the money.

When Arthur got back outside the bank, he decided to count his newly acquired riches. He was shocked and angered to discover that the teller had put far less than the $20,000 he'd demanded into the bag that was handed over to him.

Meanwhile, the Syracuse Police Department had been called and arrived at the bank to investigate the robbery. As the officers began conducting their interviews, however, they heard a knock on the front door (due to it being locked after being declared a crime scene).

To their surprise (and likely suppressed laughter), it was Arthur...coming back to the same bank he had just robbed to demand that he be given the rest of the money he had requested.

Arthur Bundrage was arrested without incident and charged with fourth-degree grand larceny. He is currently awaiting trial and according to police, does not have a lawyer.

...or reasonable expectations for customer service.

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Top 10 Zombie Short Films

If you are looking for zombie films to watch this Halloween season, there are plenty to chose from. A quick search on Youtube or Netflix will yield a cornucopia of undead abominations chasing humans across a (usually) post apocalyptic landscape.

In making this list, however, I began to realize just how bad many of the short film entries to the zombie genre were. For some reason, people seemed to equate "hordes of undead" with "excuse for low production values" and "having no plot."

Fortunately, there are some filmmakers out there who took the (arguably overused) plot device of a zombie pandemic and turned it into a first class viewing experience.

The following is RamblingBeachCat.com's Top 10 Zombie Short Films. There are few things, however, that you should take note of before diving into this list like a delicious, healthy human brain:

-There will be some NSFW language due to the fact that people tend to get scared and swear a lot while being chased by the undead.

-There will be a fair amount of gore, since zombies tend to eat people.

-Each movie has a brief plot summary and a description about why it's great. There will be minimal spoilers, but you should watch the films first if you really want to get the full effect.

And now let's begin with a touching story about a woman coming to terms with her new life...by hacking away at the undead...

10. Home

A woman tries to survive on her own in the wilderness against the physical and mental destruction that results from a zombie apocalypse.

Why it's worth watching
Director Cameron McCulloch sets the tone for this one perfectly without any dialogue, instead relying on some beautiful cinematography and excellent acting from Jamie McDowell.

At the point that our main character puts on her wedding dress, we are fully aware of just how emotionally and mentally traumatized she is in this new world. The extent of her break down, however, is revealed with an ending that completely flips the usual "survivor kills loved one who turned into a zombie" trope into something completely surprising and tragic.

9. Left 4 Dead: Impulse 76

In this excellent fan film based off of the popular Left 4 Dead video game franchise, we find a representation of the game's characters trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. 

Why it's worth watching
I cheated by adding this one, which was originally on my Top 10 Summer Action Short Films list. But it was too good not to include here, as well.

The special effects (aside from some "cloudy" blood splatters) are fantastic. The sound editing and zombie makeup is also far better than you will find on almost any fan film.

We also get to see a staple of zombie video game franchises: A variety of looks and killing abilities for the undead minions.

Director Adrian Picardi transitions seamlessly from tension filled survival movie to knock down/drag out action flick. The cast does an excellent job in the opening scenes of using their brief dialogue to display the group's different personalities and general dysfunction. The ending goes a little over the top with all the guest stars/cameos, but it's still a lot of fun to watch.

8. Too Late

A man rushes home and begins frantically tending to wounds on his body before it's too late...but not for what you might think.

Why it's worth watching
I generally stayed away from most of the comedic zombie films for a couple reasons:

1. It's going to be hard to find one that even comes close to Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland.
2. Most of the ones I did find were absolutely terrible.

But director Rani Naamani, who typically is found doing some great animation work for Dreamworks, was able to quickly establish a real sense of dread...which he then expertly blows up with a hilarious twist.

 7. Dead Rain

One well armed soldier fights his way to an extraction point through an urban area that is densely populated by the undead.

Why it's worth watching
If you can forgive some terrible raindrop effects, the rest of the film is incredibly well shot, edited, and produced. Director Tom Pykett does a great job juxtaposing action scenes with the personal memories of the main character.

The climatic moment where our hero must decide between taking his own life or continuing to fight is surprisingly powerful considering that we've only known him for a little over seven minutes.

6. Plague

A Latvian gun trafficker tries to leave his dark past behind, only to discover that something much worse has followed him to his new life.

Why it's worth watching
I typically get a little annoyed/angry with the zombie films that...well...don't really show a lot of zombie action. This film by director Matt Simpson, however, gets a pass for a few reasons.

1. The protagonist, played by Joseph Avery, is very interesting.
2. The film is extremely well shot/edited.
3. The horror of "Grandma Zombie" more than makes up for the general lack of undead.

The end result is a haunting look at what the fallout of a zombie apocalypse would feel like for someone that doesn't get to play the hero or the victim in need of saving.

5. Zombies and Cigarettes

A kid working at the mall is trying any way he can to impress the girl of his dreams. His chance will come, but in a way that he never expected (Spoiler alert: It's zombies).

Why it's worth watching
Director Rafa Martinez strikes a perfect balance of action, horror, and comedy that makes this one a lot of fun to watch. From the claustrophobic opening outbreak in the mall (that tips its hat to George Romero) to the hard luck ending that every guy can sympathize with, this one has all the fun and excitement of Zombieland packed into a little under 15 minutes.

4. Spoiler

The zombie apocalypse finally happened and humans prevailed. But our way of life has been forever changed...and with good reason: The threat of infection still exists.

Why it's worth watching
Visual effects guru Daniel Thron wrote and directed this little gem, which looks better than most big budget Hollywood features.

Instead of having our protagonist chased by zombies, he instead has to help make the hard decisions in a time where containment is much more of a concern than basic survival.

The fact that this film also focuses on a more personal story rather than running from hordes of undead adds a different (and refreshingly tense) dynamic.

3. Project S.E.R.A.

A woman wakes up in an abandoned warehouse as armed soldiers torture her father with an experimental biological weapon.

Why it's worth watching
Aside from the incredibly high production values and beautiful cinematography, this film by Benjamin Howdeshell produces another example of a more personal zombie story that doesn't rely on swarms of pursing zombies to create tension and excitement.

Unlike the last example, however, the lone zombie in this film is very much a part of the action as well as the drama. And as gut wrenching as it is to watch a noble character (played by Dennis Keiffer) turn into a savage killing machine, the movie's final twist will make you wish that this was a full length feature...or that there will someday be a sequel.

It also doesn't hurt to have a great looking actress (that can also act) like Julia Voth as your lead.

2. Dark Times

(From the video description because it's a perfect summary) It's Christmas time in Tallahassee, and the employees of the Blue Skies Nuclear Power plant are gearing up for the best holiday party ever. However, after a reactor meltdown, and total evacuation, they'll soon find out that the woods this year aren't exactly filled with holiday cheer.

Why it's worth watching
While the point of view camera is very effective (along with the transitioning view from human to zombie), one of the coolest things about this movie is the foreshadowing of its unbelievable ending.

From the start, we notice that something must be going on besides a "simple" zombie apocalypse. Helicopters are shown firing at something that is clearly not at ground level. The zombies keep reacting and moving towards something that is somehow able to take their single minded focus off of the hunt for human flesh.

When the end does come, Peter Horn and Jared Marshall deliver in a way that is immensely satisfying while still leaving us with a desire to see what comes next.

1. Charlie Bit My Finger

The hit viral video of the same name gets reimagined with a horror twist as Charlie tries to defend his family from a horde of undead...and eventually, from himself.

Why it's worth watching
Director Jeff Chan was commissioned by the 2011 World Wide Short Film Festival to make a promo utilizing the popularity of the viral video showing a baby biting his brother's finger. The end result is one of the most viscerally terrifying short zombie films you will ever see.

Shot in a POV style like the last entry (and proving that people's vision does in fact shade into a red tint when they are infected), this film creates more scares, desperation, and drama in less than 90 seconds than most films could ever hope to achieve in 90 minutes.

And that's it folks. I hope that you enjoyed the films on this list and that they provided something to tide you over while we all wait for Lori to get killed on The Walking Dead. If I missed any that you feel should have been on here, please leave them in the comments section below.

And if you are a filmmaker that made one of the awful movies
I left off the list, feel free to plead your case...or threaten to eat my brains.

For more scary short films, check out RamblingBeach.com's Top 10 Scary Short Films list

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter. 

Weird Crime: Don't underestimate yourself

Naples, Florida

On October 17, 2012, 24-year-old Donald Kollecker had been enjoying a night of drinking at a local watering hole named Pelican Larry's. After deciding (incorrectly) that he was sober enough to drive, Kollecker figured he should make a late night stop at a nearby 7-Eleven.

At approximately 1:45 AM, Kollecker also decided that turn lanes were for losers and hopped the median on U.S. 41 to enter the store's parking lot. Two nearby women did not appreciate his reckless driving and let him know about it. Kollecker, who's bravery was still fortified by copious amounts of alcohol, got out of his truck and shoved both of them. When one of the women's cell phones hit the ground, he made sure that they didn't think about messing with him again by stomping on the phone so hard that it broke.

Having established himself as quite the badass, Kollecker then attempted to enter the 7-Eleven...but was thwarted by a curb, which caused him to trip and fall flat on his face. Not one to suffer fools lightly, Kollecker showed the curb what was up by picking up the store's doormat and hurling it into the parking lot.

It's not a meme or a joke...it's a way of living life on the edge.

Around this time, the police showed up to find out why some idiot was attacking women and doormats outside a convenience store. When they asked Kollecker to take a field sobriety test, he refused, stating that he did not wish to be "embarrassed or humiliated"....

...which he must have only been worried about in front of the 7-Eleven. While being tested at the Naples Jail Center for intoxication, he told police that he needed to use the restroom. When they they replied that he would have to finish the test first, Kollecker responded by saying "it's too late" and urinating in his chair and on the floor.

If he hadn't "embarrassed or humiliated" himself before, the process was surely complete by now. After failing three breath tests (and numerous Darwin trials), Donald Kollecker was arrested and booked on charges of DUI, resisting arrested, disorderly conduct, and criminal mischief.

"No stage fright when peeing in front of others"
was the last shred of manhood he could rightfully call his own.

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Weird Crime: You can leave your hat on.

(photo @ villagehatshop)

Stuart, Florida

On October 13 of 2012, police were called by a store owner who stated that a naked man had tried to enter his establishment. When an officer arrived on the scene, he found that the claim was not entirely accurate.

For starters, the man in question, 53-year-old David Parlier, was not completely in the nude. He was, in fact, wearing a hat...and a large amount of his own feces due to the fact that he had recently defecated on himself.

When the officer asked Parlier why he was naked (except for a hat), wandering around a commercial parking lot, and trying to open random car doors, he replied that his friends had "set him up."

 "Dude...let's get him naked...make him poop himself...AND WEAR A HAT!"

Once again, a hat tip must go to Will Greenlee and his Off The Beat crime report, which is one of the only news sites that links to the actual police reports...

...but I have to ask, Mr. Greenlee, why did you feel the need clarify this for your article:

"A hat is a covering for the head that can be worn for decoration, protection, ceremonial or other reasons."

You're better than that, Will....or you're just trolling...which if that's the case, I applaud your fine efforts, good sir.

But I digress...Parlier was given a garbage bag to cover himself up with and charged with misdemeanor exposure of sexual organs.

...and before you ask, none of the available reports stated 
what type of hat he was wearing. That mystery is killing me, too.

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Weird Crime: Man arrested for punching Darth Vader's wife

In 1999, Mark Nokes of Wallsall, England was incredibly excited about the imminent release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Like the rest of us, Mark had no idea just how terrible that movie would be...but that didn't stop him from legally changing his name to Darth Vader.

His wife, Suzanne, also took her husband's last name of Vader because...well, seriously, who wouldn't do that? If you're going to be married to the Dark Lord, you might as well receive all the benefits that come along with it. Can you imagine being called up for dinner reservations...or for your turn at the DMV?

But I digress...this all leads us to 13 years later, when a rogue Jedi named Ikbale Hare (c'mon, that even sounds like a Mon Calamari name) became convinced that Mr. Vader was using the dark side of the force to seduce his own wife, Kelly Campbell (definitely a human).

The two men began fighting, but before any light sabers could be unsheathed, Mrs. Vader stepped in the middle of the two to try and stop a physical altercation from occurring. Unfortunately for her, Ikbale had already committed himself to throwing a punch...which landed squarely on Mrs. Vader's face.

"Heavens to Betsy!"

The resulting melee was recorded in what may be one of the most incredible sounding police reports of all time. One excerpt, which was reprinted in the Birmingham Mail, reads in part: 

"There was a scuffle involving the two men and Mrs Vader tried to get between them...The defendant struck her but, there is evidence that, in fact, he had been trying to hit Darth Vader. Hare then picked up a brick and he threw sand into the face of Darth Vader, whose wife was so worried about him getting further involved in the dispute that she locked him in their house."

Hare ran off and hid for two days before being caught and arrested. He was charged with (and pleaded guilty to) possessing a bladed article (knife, not a light saber), assault, and disorderly behavior. 

He will be required to complete 200 hours of community service and be placed under strict supervision for 18 months.

Considering whose wife he punched, I'd say Mr. Hare got off pretty light.

Just ask the late Admiral Ozzel what
happens when Mr. Vader dispenses justice himself.

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter.

In Memory of Winston

Sorry to interrupt the Weird Crime/Halloween festivities for a bit, but our family suffered a terrible loss last night. This post is mostly for me to work through my feelings about it, but I hope you are also able to enjoy it or find some comfort for your own pet losses, as well.

A little over four years ago, my wife, Karen, decided that she had to have a chocolate lab of her own. After a lot of back and forth (and securing an agreement from her not to rename him 'Choco Taco'), she adopted one from a rescue group named Winston.

From the start, things did not go smoothly. Karen and I weren't married (or even engaged) at the time, so I was sitting at home in my apartment when I got a frantic call from her stating "Nicky, please come over here. We just brought Winston home and Skylar's being a butthole."

Apparently, our two female labs, Skylar and Lucy, did not appreciate this male interloper that had been brought into the house. They glared, snarled, and refused to get within 10 feet of him. 

"What part of 'No Boys Allowed' did Mommy not understand?"

When I arrived, however, I found a very friendly dog that wasn't quite sure where he was...or why his presence was causing such a commotion. I petted his giant chocolate lab head and told him that he was a good boy. Winston smiled and firmly placed his paw on my leg. From that point on I knew we'd be best friends.

Karen, on the other hand, wasn't sure what to think. She had been told that she was getting a 3-year-old lab, but Winston was clearly older than that. He was also incredibly well behaved and friendly...and seemed very homesick. The first few nights in the house, he just laid by the door and waited for his last family to come and get him. 

After a little while, Winston began to grow more and more accustomed to his new surroundings. After a couple of days, Skylar had decided that instead of hating him, she loved Winston dearly. She would even cuddle next to him and lick his face whenever they passed each other. Lucy, on the other hand, was still not at all happy about having a new brother.

For starters, it meant that attention from her beloved mommy, daddy, and Skylar were being diverted to someone other than her. Add in the fact that Winston seemed to enjoy tennis balls, squeak toys, and bones, and you had all the ingredients for some pretty intense conflict.

"These....These are mine!"

Fortunately for the girls (and for me and Karen), Winston had absolutely no alpha instincts in him whatsoever. Lucy and Skylar set down some pretty basic ground rules:

1. Winston does not play with tennis balls (squeak toys are fine).
2. Winston does not drink out of the toilet.
3. Winston is not allowed in the kitchen.

Winston gladly followed these guidelines in exchange for love and affection from the other dogs. Lucy finally broke, constantly shoving her face into his with the full knowledge that he would kiss her for as long as she desired.

One rule he could not follow, however, was the one about bones. All three of the dogs loved to chew them (and bury them, dig them up, and bring them into the house), but Winston felt that he deserved to have all of the bones he found for himself.

One day I noticed that the big boy was surrounded by every bone that was in the house (or had previously been under the back yard). When I tried to approach him and take back a couple for the other dogs, Winston snapped at me for the first (and one of the only times) ever.

I instantly went Cesar Milan on his ass, flipping him over, looking him straight in the eye, and calmly but firmly saying "No." Winston got up, put his head down, and slunk away into the bedroom. 

About half an hour later, he came back out with a bone, walked up to me, dropped it at my feet, and gave me the most pitiful/adorable look that I have ever seen.

"Sorry about that, Daddy..."

Karen and I were once again amazed at how sweet this dog was...which made us also wonder why someone had given him up to a shelter where he eventually would have been euthanized.

At least he didn't seem homesick anymore; he had moved from the front door to the garage door, then to the bedroom door, and eventually in the bedroom cuddled up next to Skylar every night. Still, we wondered what caused his other family to give up him.

A few weeks later, we had our answer: A lump on Winston's foot turned out to be cancerous. Right before giving him up, his former family had it biopsied at the same time they found out that they were moving. While I don't fault anyone for making an incredibly hard financial decision for the good of their family, I won't deny also feeling very angry that they were fine with him potentially spending his last few months alive alone and in a cage.

We had the surgery to remove the lump (and one of his toes), which was successful. Unfortunately, the veterinary care service we used (and do not use anymore) did not give us pain medication that would work for a dog his size...and refused to change the order.

For the next few weeks, Karen sat at home and fed Winston by hand while he cried and whimpered as he recovered from losing one of his toes. Two things resulted from this painful recuperation period:

1. Winston got really fat.
2. Winston also became a complete and total momma's boy.

Meanwhile, Lucy lurked in the background, plotting his demise.

He constantly followed Karen around the house and even cried when she wasn't paying him what he felt was an adequate level of attention. As we began walking him to get his weight back to normal levels, however, we discovered that Winston's strong feelings for his mommy wasn't just a result of his love for one particular person. It turned out that our chunky chocolate lab was also quite the ladies man.

While Winston was friendly to everyone, his reactions to men and women were totally different. While guys would simply get a tail wag and a lean against the leg, women would get a full on crotch sniffing. If they were wearing a dress, Winston had absolutely no qualms about stick his entire head underneath for a good whiff.

Unlike the reaction a human doing this would elicit, Winston's very forward advances somehow endeared himself to every female that he met. They would gush about how sweet and cute he was, never once mentioning his creepy obsession with their reproductive organs.

Winston and Marilyn Monroe
would have gotten along famously.

He also loved kids (but not in a creepy way). When our friends Mark and Mel brought their baby to our house once, Winston had to be kept away from him because his constant licking was causing their son to develop a rash on his head.

This love of women (especially in dresses or short shorts) and little children made Halloween Winston's favorite holiday. Every time the doorbell rang he ran to the door, knowing that adorable costumed kids or girls in skanky outfits awaited him.

Winston is the only one who would
ever consider this outfit to be appropriate. 

For the next few years, Winston's presence in our home was a source of love, companionship, and unintentional comedy.

-Skylar had a best friend that treated her like the queen she already knew she was.

-Lucy had a little brother she could pick on (she liked to hide his toys all over the house), but that still thought of her as a rock star...and would kiss her at any time on demand.

-Karen had a chocolate lab that also thought she was the greatest thing in the world.

-And I had another guy in the house to help even the odds against the three girls....and that I could blame farts on...and that I could talk to. 

No, this isn't a Son of Sam situation; Winston was about the most talkative dog you will ever meet. Whenever someone would pet him, he would begin growling and wagging his tail. His large size made it sound a bit menacing at first, but Karen and I soon realized that he just enjoyed being vocal.

Most of it probably just
translated to "GIVE ME MORE KIBBLE!"

He was a little a bit "special" (it took us a while to convince him that the dog living in our fireplace was just his reflection), but what he lacked in brains, Winston more than made up for with love and affection for everyone in the house.

That's why about a month ago when we noticed part of his skull going flat, we jokingly said that what little brain matter he had was caving in. Still, we knew it was something that we needed to have checked out.

Unfortunately, the news from the vet was not good; Winston had a very aggressive tumor that was eating away at his skull. We had three options:

1. Have him put to sleep in the next few days (No).
2. Blast him with chemo therapy, which would make him feel terrible (Hell No).
3. Have the tumor surgically removed...which was a 50/50 shot and would have him lose the part of his face that was on the verge of being gone anyway.

Grudgingly (and with a lot of heartache and tears), we decided to try the surgery in the hopes that the cancer had not spread to other parts of his body.

When I came to see him after the surgery, I was shocked to see part of his face gone...and even more shocked that even with this new physical deformity, Winston was still spitting mad game like you wouldn't believe. All the female vet techs (and a few of the female dogs) had completely fallen in love with the big boy by the time we took him home.

Real studs don't need to wear masks

Over the next couple of weeks, Winston's fur grew back in and he started to look and act like he was getting back to normal. He was starting to chew his bones and play with his squeak toys again...and he was getting angry that we weren't letting him go outside as much while his stitches were still in.

Winston was having some trouble keeping his balance, but he was also on pain killers, missing an eye, and had always been a bit of a spaz. We figured that this was just part of the recovery process. Then one day, he wasn't able to stand up on his own. I left school and rushed him over to the emergency care center.

Thankfully, the vet was able to get him to stand and walk again using a sling (the first thing he did, of course, was try to sniff the crotches of the female vet techs).

Meanwhile, X-rays showed that his hips were in really bad shape. Apparently it had never been an issue before because he was in really good shape (from his massive weight loss program that started a few years ago). This allowed him to to compensate and easily overcome it.

Now, however, the invasive surgery had taken enough out of him that he was finally reacting to some long existing arthritis...or more tumors were forming in his body and pushing down on his hips and spine.

The vet gave us some anti-inflammatory medicine and told us to wait a few days. If things got better, than we could easily treat this and Winston would be back to chasing after squirrels and running up to kids playing in the street so that he could kiss them. If not, then it probably meant something much worse...and that our only options for treatment would make his last days alive completely miserable.

Our greatest fears were realized when Winston's condition began to take a real turn for the worse late last week. By Monday, he couldn't even stand up in one place on his own, even when we helped him.

Winston would cry and yelp with frustration over the fact that he couldn't stand up to greet us or go drink water whenever he wanted. He constantly looked miserable and embarrassed that he had to be propped up and assisted everywhere he went. 

He wasn't in pain yet (we could move his legs and press on him anywhere without any trouble), but we knew it wouldn't be long until he began feeling that, too. On October 16, 2012, Karen and I made one of the toughest, most gut wrenching decisions possible and said goodbye to our little man.

I'm so sorry, Winston. I did everything I could to try and help you, but it just wasn't enough. Everyone keeps telling me we did the right thing by ending your suffering, but I still hate myself right now and can't stop crying or feeling like I'm going to throw up.

I'm sorry I had that surgery done and put you through so much during the last month of your life. I'm not sure your mommy and I could have gone through with putting you to sleep while you looked and acted almost completely normal/healthy, but I still hate what you had to go through during these last few weeks. It was a 50/50 shot at a full recovery and we came out on the wrong side of it. I hope you understand and forgive me (and I know you would, probably with a nose to the face, a big sloppy kiss, and a content sounding grumble).

We're going to miss you so much, Winston. Lucy is trying to pretend like everything is fine, but she's been moping around the house all day and sleeping on your bed. Last time you came home from the vet was one of the happiest states I've seen her in. Now both her and Skylar don't understand why we came back from the vet this time without you; to be honest, I'm still having trouble with that one myself.

I usually love Halloween, but I'm not sure I can do it this year. There are going to be so many times and things that remind me of you and that will make your absence that much harder to bear. I'm still finding toys and bones of yours that Lucy had hid and it breaks my heart all over again.

Thank you for being so wonderful to your mommy. She had really wanted a happy-go-lucky chocolate lab boy that would love her dearly and that's exactly what you were for her.

Thank you for letting us become your new family. I know that had to be hard, but from Day 1 you showed all of us (even Lucy) nothing but love and affection. You always made everyone you met happy, but we got to have you every day. That's a lot of joy we're going to miss, but also yearsworth of happiness that you blessed our lives with.

Rest In Peace, big boy.

...and try to pace yourself on sniffing 
angel crotches up there in Heaven.

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Top 10 Scary Short Films

It's almost Halloween, which means it's that time of year again when you desperately search through your Netflix queue for anything scary that you haven't seen yet...and that doesn't look terrible.

Unfortunately, the search for a good scary movie can often lead to hours of your life being wasted on bad acting, horrible dialogue, incoherent plots, and awful remakes. Fortunately, there is some really fantastic work being done with scary short films that give you all of the best parts of a good horror flick (dread, fear, and something to keep you up at night) without all the other stuff.

RamblingBeachCat.com has slogged through hours of short movies (that mostly piddle around for a few minutes and then try to redeem themselves with a jump scare) to bring you the top ten scary short films you can watch online right now. Besides needing to be good, here was some of the criteria for making the list:

-It actually needs to be a "short film." When a movie is set up to be a short feature, the audience goes in with certain expectations of efficiency and a quick resolution. Once it starts to drag over half an hour, my A.D.D. medicine struggles to fend off the unicorns that gallop majestically through my mind.

-No zombie flicks. Zombies aren't scary, but they are awesome...and they're getting their own short film top ten list later this month.

-The original Saw short film is a great one, but it was not included on this list due to the fact that it's pretty much completely transcended into a major movie franchise...and because Lions Gate Entertainment is constantly taking it down. It really is a great flick though, and if you can find it online, you should definitely check it out.

Each movie has a brief plot summary and a description about why it's great. There will be minimal spoilers, but you should watch the films first if you really want to get the full scare effect.

Since I'm a giant pansy, there is also a helpful guide at the end of each entry warning you about each film's moment that is most likely to cause you to empty your bowels.

Fair warning: There is some gore (though not nearly as much as you would expect for a list like this) and a lot of swearing (since people tend to cuss a lot when they are really scared or badly injured).

And now let's start things off with a little bed time story...

10. Bedfellows

A woman receives a phone call in the middle of the night. It's a pretty standard horror movie set up...except that this time, things don't follow the normal script.

Why it's great
This is one of three entries from director Drew Daywalt, and for good reason; the guy knows how to quickly and efficiently build suspense and terror. While some of his work may rely a bit too heavily jump scares, this one is able to do a couple of really unique things that most short horror films are not:

-It gives a surprise twist that you really don't see coming. The whole "call in the middle of the night" plot device is pretty standard stuff. When the voice on the end of the line is a familiar one, however, our minds instantly jump right along with the main character's to the question of who or what is laying in bed next to her.

-It sets up the jump scare so that you know exactly when it's going to happen...and it is able to scare the crap out of you. The clock ticking louder and louder is also a nice touch.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
Easy answer is 1:30, but 1:15 (when we first get a look at what is under the covers) might very well be worse.

9. There Are Monsters

A couple starts their day by noticing a strange little girl wandering around in their backyard. From there, things get progressively more strange and sinister. Is it all in their heads...or is something evil really lurking in their small Canadian town?

Why it's great
This one may be a bit light on the scares, but it makes up for atmosphere and suspense. Aside from the obvious portions of the movie where you are waiting for something to jump out at the main characters, the dinner party scene has a great current of unresolved paranoia and fear.

While the guests laugh and speculate on the strange behavior that they have observed that day, the maddening (and very unsettling) elephant in the room remains: "What happened to the woman after her husband left?"

Director Jay Dahl continues to draw out the tension just enough so that you start to feel comfortable...and then brings you back to this world's unsettling new reality.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
3:04...not just for the cheap jump scare, but also due to the fact that unattended children are terrifying.

8. The Hunt

A small town in Kentucky is being terrorized by an evil creature. The sheriff has rounded up a volunteer group of hunters to find whatever it is and put it down. One of them has a video camera (of course), which he takes along to document their expedition and what they find.

Why it's great
Surprisingly, this was the only "found footage" style film to make the list. Oh don't get me wrong; there were plenty to chose from, but most of them were terrible.

This one, however, makes use of some excellent production value, particularly in the sound department. When the priest asks God to help the hunters find this "evil thing"...and then you hear it roar from the woods...you know that he just made a very gross understatement.

'A Good Sized Productions' has produced a number of projects, but this is still one of their best.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
10:15 when everything starts hitting the fan...and that blood curdling scream starts up again.

7. The Closet

In our second entry from Drew Daywalt, two (incredibly attractive) daughters have decided to surprise their mom for her birthday...by hiding in her closet and jumping out at her with festive noise makers. While this idea was already a pretty bad one to begin with, one of the girls is even more apprehensive about it due to the fact that their mother doesn't like people going into her room.

As the girls peer out from behind the closet door, however, they realize that their birthday surprise is nothing compared to what their mom has been hiding...and what she has in store for them.

Why it's great
You know something is coming involving the mom, but it's still pretty unsettling when that something turns out to actually be the mom. Plus, if you stay through the credits, the voice you hear will haunt your dreams.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
When Hot Chick #2 drops the noise maker at 2:12 (which I greatly appreciated since it covered up my own girly sounding yelp).

6. The Descendant

Two hitmen are on their way to a job (and have very different tastes in music). When they arrive and find out the target is a kid, one of them isn't sure they should go through with it.

Since this is a scary movie list and a child was just added into the mix, you can probably guess where things go from here.

Why it's great
Director Robert Glickert takes a pretty conventional "possessed child" story and dresses it up with some great story framing. Top notch cinematography and some pretty good acting also help to make this look like a Hollywood feature...and the ending is incredibly chilling. 

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
At 7:30, it becomes abundantly clear that this kid didn't take his medication that day.

5. Red Balloon

Julie is baby sitting for an odd little girl named Dorothy. When Dorothy continually gets scared and screams instead of going to sleep, Julie begins to wonder if maybe something really is lurking in the house (Spoiler alert: There is.)

Why it's great
Since this is a scary film, we know something's in the house. What we're totally not prepared for, however, is how we find out about it.

Combine that with some excellent camera work/cinematography and original scored music, and you've got a world class production from directors Alexis Wajsbrot and Damien Mace that is expertly crafted into 13 minutes of pure terror.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
6:01 is the easy choice, but 7:49 (when that rabbit starts moving) got to me even worse for some reason.

4. Gramma

This episode from the 1980's incarnation of 'The Twilight Zone' is based on the Stephen King short story of the same name.

When an 11-year-old boy named George is left at home alone with his ailing grandmother, he assures his mother that he is not scared of her like when he was little (and that he can look after her if she needs anything).

But there's always been something very "off" about Gramma and the things that happen when she's around...and George is about to find out way. 

Why it's great
One of the reasons Stephen King's stories never seem to translate very well to the screen is that they are lacking the psychological or unspoken parts of the story (or they are just very poorly executed).

While this version may differ a bit from King's original tale, writer Harlan Ellison and director Bradford May are able to capture much of the terror and that George feels along with the the essence of a dark, incomplete back story.

From the Lovecraftian references to Gramma's terrifying voice, this is one of the scariest (and best) Twilight Zone episodes from any era.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
17:56--Worst. Family Reunion. Ever.

3. Doppelganger

A woman leaving work receives a mysterious call from her husband. He frantically warns her not to go home...and not to believe what she sees if he's there.

Why it's great
Drew Daywalt ratchets up the suspense to a fantastic degree in this one. It also has a great twist ending that leaves you asking questions, but is careful not to come out of left field so much that it doesn't make sense.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
No jump scares to be had here; just pure and slow building dread.

2. Mama

When two little girls realize that their mama has returned home for a visit, it's not going to be a happy reunion.

Why it's great
Even though this fantastic short by the brother/sister team of Andres Muschietti and Barbra Muschietti is set to be released as a full length feature next year, I'm not sure if it can do justice to the scares generated here in just under three minutes.

From the completely unnatural and terrifying movements of 'Mama' (and her hair) to the film's horrifying conclusion, this is one short film that you definitely shouldn't watch before going to bed 

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
1:57 will definitely start the contractions, but 2:22 will take care of the birth (if it hasn't happened already).

1. He Dies At The End

A man working alone in his office hears a strange noise. He then notices a request on his computer asking if he wants to know how he will die. Like a total moron, he clicks it.

Why it's great
Damian McCarthy is able to use a minimal amount of space, sound effects, and music to create about as much dread and terror as humanly possible. As the questions being asked of the main character get progressively more intrusive and the film's inevitable conclusion draws closer, we know something terrible will happen...we just don't have any idea what it will be inside of this mundane office setting.

When the end does come, it's absolutely ridiculous. But we've been wound up so tightly by that point that a release of fear is almost the only emotion possible.

The reactions I've observed from people that I've show this film to fall into two distinct categories.

1. The ones that completely crap their pants in fear (I'm in this group).

2. The ones that scream "THAT WAS STUPID!" while gasping for breath and/or picking themselves up off the floor.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
The end.

And there you have it, folks. Hope this makes for some good Halloween season viewing when you're lying awake at night and hear a strange noise outside.

If you feel I missed any...or are one of the inevitable tools that will proclaim "THOSE ALL SUCKED NOTHING SCARES ME, BRO!"...then please leave a comment below. I'd definitely like to see more (when I don't have to work the next morning).

Sweet dreams.

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter.