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Mind Over Matter

moom pitchers

I got to thinking about movies the other day (I do that a lot), and about the market for sequels and remakes. Most films don’t require a remake. Citizen Kane comes to mind, as does The Day the Earth Stood Still (although that didn’t keep ‘em from re-doing it … and failing miserably).

Sequels are bit different. A few movies--like Iron Man, the Mad Max films, and the Lethal Weapon franchise--beg for one, while others such as White Heat, Casablanca, and Red River are perfect in their singularity (yes, I know that’s an astronomical term; I’m stealing it anyway).

And then there are the sequels that simply tick me off (I’m talking to YOU, Alien franchise). For me there are only two Alien films: the first one, and Aliens.

The third installment ragged me off to no end. I simply didn’t buy the fact that Newt and Hicks (and poor old Bishop) were killed of for no earthly (hah!) reason, so in my universe I changed it. Ripley made it back to Earth, she and Hicks got married, and they adopted Newt.

Oh yeah, they’re both instructors at Starfleet Academy (I said this is my universe!), and Bishop the android is their wisecracking next-door neighbor.

And Vicki from Small Wonder is Newt’s best pal.

So there. Read More 
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ugly clothes

I’m a child of the sixties/seventies (graduated HS in 1970), but it takes stuff like looking through my old annual to remind me of how utterly ridiculous the fashion sense (?) was in that benighted decade. Now that I’m an old dude past sixty, I wonder if when I’m eighty I’ll likewise look at pictures of current clothing with equal horror.

I’m going to say yes, but qualify it with the fact that some of what today’s flaming youth is sporting is downright hilarious. To wit, the blue jeans with the shortened legs, hung low so the wearer’s underwear-wrapped bony hinder is paramount.

I see these sideways-hatted lads waddling penguin-like down the street, and two thoughts come to mind. One, I hope these kids never have to suddenly run–-say, from a cop–-because they wouldn’t get two steps before doing a faceplant on the sidewalk. And two, for all their up yours, tough guy posturing, they look very much like the old “Stringbean” character from Hee Haw. Read More 

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Okra: Nature's Snot Locker

Years ago when we lived in the sticks we grew our own veggies, including okra. While admittedly it's an acquired taste (the slime inside will eventually cook out), if you let the pods get no bigger than the first joint of your thumb they can add a tasty texture to soups and stews.

One summer around mid-July we had a bumper crop, and I mentioned to our two young sons that okra will get longer and more wood-like as the season goes on, soon reaching the point they become inedible. At that both my boys got the idea of letting one little okra go, just to see how long it would get.

Summer waxed and waned, and we harvested everything in that garden ... except for that mutant hell-pod. And did it change? Beyond belief. Each day it became more distended and grotesque, until I half-expected a terrified Kevin McCarthy to come up screaming and pounding on our car windows, "You're next!!"

Came October, and a couple days before a predicted killing frost, by mutual agreement we cut the thing at last. By then it was two feet long, as thick as a bratwurst, and covered with spines and knots.

We dried it, and the kids used it as a sword. Read More 
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Voting time again? Oh, NOES!

Well, mid-year elections will be upon us in a few months, with the victors popping champagne corks while the losers eye high bridges. Lock your vaults and hide your daughters.
This time out it seems every politician, known and unknown, from both sides of the aisle is throwing his or her hat into the ring. Or since hats are passe, "forming exploratory committees." You know. Like a colonoscopy.

The run-up to these things is political Darwinism at its most elemental. "Dog eat dog" is too bland a phrase; "slash and burn" says it more plainly. And brother, does it seem to take forever, this time we're soon to enter. If farming season lasted as long we'd be harvesting green beans the size of dugout canoes. What we Americans put ourselves through every few years puts me in mind of a childhood memory.

When I was a boy my family would sometimes take Sunday drives. Long Sunday drives. Endless, bleak, soul-killing, waiting-for-Godot Sunday drives. There we'd be, my dad behind the wheel of our Ford Galaxy (Clark Kent hat tilted at a rakish angle), with my mom beside him. In the back seat were my little brother and yours truly.

Along about the eighteenth hour (or so it seemed) of the drive, my brother and I would grow bored, although "bored" doesn't really say it; that's like calling the firebombing of Dresden a "warmish day." Anyway, Scott would casually throw his leg over mine. I'd toss it back. He'd do it again with a bit more force. I'd toss it back. He'd stick his tongue out at me. I'd look back and pretend to eat boogers. He'd pinch me. I'd slug him. And so on.

The only thing that could end the fun was my dad with his eyes still on the road screaming obscenities while flailing his arm over the back of the seat, hoping to nail one of us, or both. My mom would laugh behind her hand, but I still saw it.

That's kind of like what election season is reminiscent of. Yeah. Read More 
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marketing minefield

When I was nine, one of the Kentucky State Fair sideshow exhibits was called “The Pygmy King and the Deadly Serpents.” The poster outside the tent … well, you can imagine. It was probably done by the same Fletcher Hanks-esque artist (look him up; you’ll be stunned at his story) who did most of the lurid displays at carnivals across the country. Anyway I begged, wheedled, and generally pestered my folks all afternoon until they finally relented and we went in.

Once inside, instead of dim lights and slithering danger a-plenty, what we found was a bored African-American little person sitting on a wooden stool while he puffed away on a foul brown stogie. As far as the "deadly serpents," he was surrounded by what appeared to be a dozen non-venomous black and king snakes drooping on top of each in such midday summer torpor it was like they’d been shot.

That’s when I first realized the first of life’s hard lessons: many (if not most) things are not what they’re advertised to be.

So it is with marketing. There are a lot firms out there who’ll promise you the moon and the asteroid belt … for a fee, of course. A lot of times what you'll get is a handful of dust, and not the lunar kind.

Caveat emptor. Read More 
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Here there be dragons

For my maiden voyage blog, I'm going to address something near and dear to me: scam houses and shady agents. First, though, here is a true and incontrovertible fact: unless someone is already a household name (and maybe not even then), publishers won't come looking for a writer. They don't need to. They already have more on their plates "than they can say grace over," as my Granny used to say.

No, getting an "offer" from a slick talking, pay-to-play yard-ape--especially if it's unsolicited-- is worse than useless, because many times it's worded in such a way as to play on a writer's vanity. "Your prose is superb," the mustache-twirling Oil Can Harry crows. "Priceless. Golden. Why waste time with other houses? We'll put you on the fast track to publication."

Why indeed? At the end of the experience the scribe so taken will find the only thing "fast-tracked" is the emptying of their wallet and the shame of being rooked.

A second good indicator is the placing of Google ads. Right now I type this, on another site are two side-by-side come-ons from the worst scammers in the business. One's a supposed "publisher" (actually a reverse-vanity printer who charges on the back end, and offers a contract on literally everything they receive before close of business on a given day). The other's an erstwhile "agent" who's continuing to post his slow winking come-hithers even as the Florida attorney general is squaring him up in her sights. That's indicative of a man in possession of steel balls, utter cluelessness, or hubris on a breathtaking scale.

However you want to put it, these guys deserve a go-around. A big go-around. A serious writer deserves better than a short road to oblivion. "Here there be dragons," and all that. Read More 
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SF lover?

For a great piece of proto-SF, download a copy of The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster. Written a hundred years before the invention of teh intertoobz, it perfectly limns a society so introverted its inhabitants can only interact with each other over television screens. And then it tells what happens when ,... well, when the machine stops. Chilling. Read More 
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ponder this

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act out their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."--T.E. Lawrence, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom Read More 
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On the other hand, 60s TV wasn't so bad... least in retrospect. The other day I was thinking about shows I used to watch as a teenager in the 60s, and thought of The FBI. Every week as theme music swelled, the voice-over guy would intone, “A Quinn Martin Production.”

As I recall, Mr. Martin produced a whole lot of 60’s shows, including two of my faves: The Fugitive (“No, my name ISN’T Kimble-Hank-Kimble, it’s Richard Kimble! I’m a doctor, not a county agent!”)and The Invaders (“Say, what’s wrong with your little finger? Why’s it bent like that?”). Good times… Read More 
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the dangers of TV

Apropos of nothing, my wife and I were watching the local news one night when the main camera at the studio croaked, just as dead as Julius Caesar. It was a tense (for the station), but funny (for the viewers) ninety or so seconds until they got the auxiliary camera powered up. You just never know what's going to happen on live TV.

Which brings me to this: I was a broadcasting major, and wa-a-a-ay back in the day I ran camera for a KET series on Kentucky law enforcement.

So first day of the shoot we had this state trooper captain who looked like Paul Bunyon’s bigger and less humorous brother sitting there, droning on about last year’s highway fatality stats when blam, a fill light exploded, showering him with molten quartz. Thankfully he was wearing his Smokey hat, and so most of the hellish stuff missed his skin (it did burn some deep holes in his uniform, though).

Needless to say, he was Not Amused.

All that to say, I hope my TV appearances--when I get them--go off smoothly. *G* Read More 
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