The Story of the Lawson Family


Criminal, one of my favorite podcasts, did a recent episode on the 1929 Lawson family murders in Stokes County, NC.

Like many others of the era, the Lawson murders became the subject of a murder ballad, originally by the Carolina Buddies, and later covered by the Stanley Brothers.

They didn’t mention it on the podcast, but it turns out there was a documentary made about the murders.  I haven’t seen it, but the Amazon reviews, while few in number, seem reasonably positive.

Movie Review: Ex_Machina


This morning, while on the treadmill, I watched Ex_Machina. Here’s my quick review.

Title: Ex Machina
Director: Alex Garland
Genre: Sci-Fi

Why I Watched It:
It’s science fiction.  I love science fiction.

Interesting Fact:
It has similar plot elements to the (original) Star Trek Episode “Requiem for Methuselah.”

I wasn’t sure about this movie based on the reviews I read, but this is an excellent movie. I loved everything about it.  It’s great, topical science fiction, with a great story and some fine acting.

Best Thing About It:
Lots, but I’ll pick the actress that played Kyoto.

Worst Thing About It:
I can’t think of anything bad about it.

Rating: ★★★★★

Rotten Tomatos

Movie Review: Mad Max: Fury Road


I recently watched Mad Max: Fury Road on the treadmill.  Here’s my quick review.

Title: Mad Max: Fury Road
Director: George Miller
Genre: Sci-Fi

Why I Watched It:
I love post-apocalyptic science fiction, and the original Mad Max was pretty good.

Interesting Fact:
The filmmakers paid a lot of attention to the tools and weapons used by the actors.  With one giant exception, I thought the repurposing was nicely done.

I had really high hopes after reading some great reviews (it’s 98% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, for crying out loud), but this is the rare movie that has over-the-top action scenes and is still sort of boring.  For much of it, I felt like I was watching someone play a video game.  The last 30 minutes are better.

Best Thing About It:
Little bits of realism (art, repurposing whatever’s at hand) mixed in with the madness.

Worst Thing About It:
The guitar and guitarist standing on front of that car.

Rating: ★★

Rotten Tomatoes

Book Review: Cold Black Earth

A few weeks ago, my never-ending search for new authors led me to Sam Reaves’ new book, Cold Black Earth.  Here’s my quick review.

Author: Sam Reaves
Title: Cold Black Earth
Genre: Mystery/Thriller (rural setting)

Interesting Fact:
I bought this book because the cover looks like rural fiction (recall my beloved South of the Big Four), but it’s actually a mystery/thriller set in rural Illinois.

It’s a mystery/thriller about a series of murders in and around an Illinois farming town. Most of the characters are farmers or the children of farmers, so the surroundings and much of the lifestyle elements are right in my wheelhouse. Add in a very realistic and scary depiction of some seemingly connected murders and a potential loss-of-farmland motive, and you’ve got a page turner.  I really liked it.

Purchase Links:


Here’s Why I Refuse to Consider Social Media a News Source


I’ve said for years that newspapers and magazines are obsolete media.  By the time it’s in a paper form, I either already know about it or don’t care about it.  I’m not kidding, the combination of caring about news and then getting it from a newspaper the next day seems like a logical disconnect Evel Knievel couldn’t jump over on a rocket bike.  I find the evening television news to be only slightly less untimely.

But that doesn’t mean I’m ready to get my news from social media.  The screen capture above, just taken from my Facebook page, explains why, perfectly.

The fact that some football player’s new tattoo is in a list (of 2 items) with the increasing tension in the Middle East tells me that what I thought was only the funniest movie ever made may also have been an accurate prediction of things to come.

If you want to know where I do get my news, there are three primary sources:

1. Rancho DeNada Times, the real time news aggregation page I created years ago.  I can quickly scan the headlines and see if there is anything I want to know about.

2. My RSS feeds, via Feedly.  I subscribe to Google News, The Atlantic, and NPR.

3.  NPR audio, via XM radio if I’m driving or via my Amazon Echo if I’m at home.

If there’s something major happening, I’ll tune into CNN via the internet or on my TV, but that’s a rare occasion.

American culture is celebrity-obsessed, serially focused on the media created drama-of-the week, and attention deficient.  As such, it’s important to decide where you get your news from.  Otherwise, your experience may start to look like this: