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Florida's Grapefruit League

Western Florida is hopping this time of year, when hundreds of thousands of baseball fans make the annual pilgrimage to sunnier climes. Every other SUV last week in the parking lot outside of Joker Marchant stadium had Michigan plates. 

We've seen the Orioles in Jupiter, the Astros in Kissimmee, and we've been to Tigertown these past two springs. Marchant Stadium, the country's oldest minor league park (1966), is a fantastic venue. Great sight lines, intimate feel, a sunny berm, and some good cold beer and great food. 

Lakeland is a great city. It's got a fantastic downtown, some great gardens and picturesque buildings, and a nice vibe around the stadium. Spring Training and the Grapefruit League is just one more reason why we have it really good here in Florida.


Crafting a Community Identity

In the realm of science fiction, the city represents the pinnacle of technical prowess. We watch films like Metropolis (1927) and Blade Runner (1982) and bear witness to these labyrinths of concrete skyscrapers while a backdrop of pounding, humming industrial machinery executes the work of the system. It's the kind of busy, monotonous, disconnected "utopia" that might have inspired George Tooker to paint this little dandy:

Portland, Oregon, doesn't fall into those traps, though. Portland's motto: The City that Works. That's a clever little turn of phrase, evoking both its blue-collar roots in the shipping industry and its non-traditional approach to urban planning. In the 1970s, visionary Oregon Governor Tom McCall asked that all Oregon cities draw an urban-growth boundary around their periphery. This allowed farms and other agricultural concerns to maintain some autonomy, while also requiring cities to plan development carefully. Portland was sprawling at the time, and McCall's edict led to a Renaissance in the downtown core. A beautiful public park was built along the river. Neighborhoods reinvented themselves. Portland grew cautiously, designing a city that is pedestrian and biker-friendly. Even though this message recently was ordered to be removed, it's an apt visual metaphor for my hometown:

I love Jacksonville, Florida. It's been an awesome place for us, and it's exciting to see how the near future will shape up. We love it for the beaches, fishing, golf, camping, and climate. The people are friendly and the town is growing quickly. There's a ton of great food here, and many of the elements that made Portland so livable (arts and entertainment, chief among them) are evident in our city. Take a look at the city that Jaguars' owner Shad Kahn envisions for our future. While nothing is set in stone on how quickly this may come to pass, Kahn is energetic and he gets results. I expect that this will, in large part, take place, bringing that final element into the identity that Jacksonville sorely needs: the downtown core.

As Kahn loves to say to the local media when it comes to breaking news, stay tuned!


Cold on the Mountain

All they wanted was a vacation to the Grand Canyon. Instead, they found themselves on a collision course with a terrible, timeless darkness.

Welcome to Adrienne, home to history’s worst serial killers and mass murderers. Nestled in an isolated meadow high in the Sierra Nevada, Adrienne is sort of like a cosmic lint trap. It collects the universe’s negative energy—all of our blackest human impulses—before purging that darkness back into the world in a yearly lottery. From Hitler to Bin Laden…Bundy to Gacy, Adrienne is the way station for dark energy that doesn’t just pass on—it passes through.

When Phil Benson decides to take an unmarked detour over the mountain, he drives his family into the mouth of madness, where they are forced to join a captive labor pool with little hope for freedom. Escape is pointless and time stretches out into eternity, with every new day the same as the last.

Sometimes, it’s better just to skip the shortcut.

With echoes of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” Stephen King’s Needful Things, and Blake Crouch’s Pines series, Cold on the Mountain treads the boundary between horror and supernatural suspense.

Purchase a digital copy for your preferred reading experience:

Thanks for your support, and I hope the novel provides an entertaining escape!


Observations on Horror...

I enjoyed Tusk (2014) quite a bit. First off, it's bizarro stuff. The lunacy at the center of the film, coupled with the sharp writing and silly exchanges between the film's American and Canadian counterparts, makes this a guilty pleasure for me. 

Throw in the frequent Kevin Smith collaborator Michael Parks, who is pitch perfect as Howard Howe, and Justin Long, whose turn in Jeepers Creepers is still one of my favorite recent horror performances, and you have a positively lovely way to spend ninety minutes. 

It's strange to see Haley Joel Osment in this role. Watch the film and you'll see what I mean. He's great--don't get me wrong. It's just...well, just watch it. 

I thought this weekend's bleak episode of The Walking Dead ("Them") was really well done. I have read a lot of negativity about it, but I think it was just what the show needed, and at the right time. With the back-to-back deaths of Beth and Tyreese, the show needed to step back and show the minutia of the survivors' plight. Look, I love character development. Like Stephen King says, character is king (he, he). I like longish films (I really enjoy that 120-minute slot) because we get to see more of the moment-to-moment experiences that color our attachment to these people. 

This show has done a really fine job of filling these characters with life while still keeping the action at full throttle. It's tricky, to be sure, and they are to be commended that, from time to time, they can step back and let us live a little in this universe as opposed to moving on to the next abandoned building...


Cold on the Mountain

Grab an advance reader copy of my new novel Cold on the Mountain!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Cold on the Mountain by Daniel Powell

Cold on the Mountain

by Daniel Powell

Giveaway ends February 15, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win


Dark Mountain

I was really interested in Dark Mountain (2013), right up until the third act lost its rhythm a little bit. There's some interesting film-making here, in addition to a small (but capable) cast that has believable chemistry on camera.

The real star here is the Superstition Mountains in Arizona. The repetition of dirt and rocks (Paul has a memorable freak-out moment about those same rocks and dirt late in the film) is dizzying, and there's a delicious aura of menace as the trio moves deeper into the mystic unknown.

The search for the Lost Dutchman Mine is a nice piece of Western lore, and one that made me look deeper into the film's central plot carrot. There is definitely a lot of documented unhappiness up in those hills, and some of that sorrow and madness comes across nicely in this found-footage piece.

Sure, it doesn't quite pay off the investment in those final scenes, but I really think it's much better than the unforgiving appraisals I've noticed online. I'll definitely look for more by Tara Anaise, and Howard, Simpson, and Stehlin delivered fine performances in this low-budget thriller.


A Few Thoughts on American Sniper

I'd like to go see American Sniper (2015). I love Clint Eastwood's films, and I'm interested to see Bradley Cooper's acting chops. The Oscar buzz is, of course, another aspect that piques my interest.

It's a curious film, one that is smashing box office records while igniting what has been described in The Washington Times as a new round of culture wars. 

Biopics are, by definition, designed to portray true events. AFI has an interesting piece on the genre (though dealing with James Brown and not Chris Kyle). I went to AS's official Web site, looking for the studio's own phrasing on how they're labeling the film. Is it a true biopic, or did the writers and producers cherry pick the events for Hollywood? Did they dramatize some details while leaving others out? If so, then calling it a biopic might be a stretch. 

Perhaps as a testament to the film's interest, the site wouldn't load. 

War films are tricky. Perhaps more than any other genre, these films inspire discussion and shape our collective understanding of the pivotal moments of our era. In that way, they bear the greatest informative scrutiny for their care in how they depict conflict--in how they mediate death and destruction in the light of winning and losing. 

It's a tough task, to be sure.

Kyle lived an extraordinary life in a very volatile period in human history. He wrote about his experiences in his memoir, and we can contrast that book with the findings advanced in such studies as the 9/11 Commission Report in order to get a fuller picture of what happened in Iraq and how our soldiers were forced to deal with combat. 

As is the case with most of these contentious political debates, there's probably multiple truth values embedded in this discussion, and it's on each of us to make sense of the material for ourselves. I hope to see the film soon, and I'm looking at it for both entertainment and contextual purposes. A film can be entertaining, by the way, without traipsing into the realm of propaganda.