Friday, September 25, 2015

Climb a Tree ...

Knew a guy once was a consummate liar. A master of mendacity; a primo prevaricator; a man, who, in the words of the old saying, would climb a tree to tell a lie rather than stay on the ground and tell the truth. If his lips were moving, he was lying ...

Why? As nearly as I could tell, it was always to make himself look better. He wanted people to like him, and he wanted them to admire him. So he never told a tale but that he was the hero of the story, and his heart was always pure, his motives righteous, and his actions justifiable.

Caught a fish? Why, it has huge, would have been a record, seriously! except that his stupid brother dropped it and it got away!

Or that gorgeous woman? They were going to get together and roll around breaking furniture, but her boyfriend found out and threatened to kill himself, and she couldn't let that happen. But she wanted him.

He showed up once looking like something the cat dragged in, all scuffed and bruised.

Jeez, what happened to you?

Well, I was doing a favor for a friend, hush-hush, not entirely above board, can't tell you any more, and I went to this bar and started asking some questions. Stepped on the wrong toes. Got jumped by three guys. Managed to hold my my own and give better than I got, but I took a few hits.

Wow. That's heavy, dude.

And he shrugged and said, Hey, life in the big city, man ...

Through an odd quirk, I later found out what really happened: He was on a motorcycle, hit a wet patch on the road and put the bike down ...

Could have been a funny story, spun right, but that would have made him look less than completely adept, so he didn't go that route.

Once upon a time, I thought he would have made a great fiction writer, but as I got into doing that, I realized I was wrong. Sure, we make stuff up and lie like a warehouse full of Persian rugs, but the good lies always have truth in them, and the great lies are almost always completely true. He couldn't seem to get there.

Eventually, we tuned him out. He had to find others who didn't know his game, until they caught on, then he had to move along.

I wonder sometimes what happened to him. Dead? In jail? Or, the CEO of a major corporation?

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Eye Candy?

Having been pressed into service to pick up one of the grandsons from high school this week, I had occasion to be parked in my car in the lot when a comely young woman who, by the nature of where we were, had to be in her mid-to-possibly-late teens, walked in front of me.

She was wearing tan tights, and it looked to be as if they had been air-brushed on.

Not to be considered a dirty-old-man staring at a teenager young enough to be my granddaughter, I could not help but notice that she wore nothing under the tights, and such was the thinness of the material that I could not help but notice she had, um ... how to say this? ... ah, golf-greened the lawn. Actually, scalped it right down to the ground.

As it were.

I didn't seek this out, she walked in front of me.

I am as happy as the next man to look at an attractive woman passing by, and nor am I tights-shaming anybody, but I had to wonder: What was she thinking? Did she not have a mirror? Was she an exhibitionist?

Black yoga pants, maybe. Tan tights?

And how is it that the school here in suburban Oregon allowed her to dress thus? Had she been wearing a skirt or shorts or even a long shirt over them earlier? 

My daughter, when she was in high school, wanted to wear her pajamas to school, which was for a few days that year, all the rage. We said no. So she put her clothes on over her PJ's and once at school, shucked the outer layer. We found out later ...

Um. I guess the point here is that things sure have changed since I was a teenager. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, and on some days, I'm not sure which is which ...

Saturday, September 05, 2015

It's Not the Heat ...

Because low humidity can cause damage to wooden musical instruments, and because we had an especially hot and dry summer, and winter heating tends to dry things out, too, I humidify my guitar and ukes. 

What this consists of is usually an old pill bottle with a rolled up sponge in it, with holes punched in the top and bottom of the bottle. You soak the sponge, shake out the excess water, dry it off, and plunk in into your instrument case. The moisture slowly permeates the case and keeps the humidity in the 40-60% range, which is, theoretically, ideal. 

Such devices are good, but require frequent attention. A good partner with these is a small hygrometer, which tells you what the humidity is inside the case.

There is a commercial version, made by Oasis (see the images) which has in it water-absorbing beads. You fill it with water and cap it, and the moisture seeps through the osmotic material of which the thing is made. 

This device is hooked to the strings and put inside the instrument, the notion being that the body needs the treatment more than the neck or headstock, it being thinner and more prone to cracking if it dries out.

So I got one of these to see how well it worked, and it keeps things going for a week or two without needing a refill, which is much longer than the pill-bottle system.

As you can see from the picture, the device isn't large, about the side of short , fat, cigar.

You open the case, remove the humidifier, play, then put it back.

Most recent excursion to The Lehrer, at the open acoustic jam, I got there, got a beer, unshipped the uke, and in the doing of that, dislodged the humidifier without noticing, whereupon it fell into the bottom of the uke.

I played the whole session without knowing it. At the end, when I was packing up, I realized what had happened.

So much for mindfulness ... 

Though I have to say, it didn't seem to hurt the sound too much.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Protest Music

Back in the day, when I first started learning how to play guitar, fifty-some years ago, there was a subset of folk music called “protest music.” Redundant, the term, since folk music has always had a thick vein of that particular ore running through it, but there you go.

Most of those at the time were anti-war songs. 

Soon as I had three major and one minor chord, I started writing protest songs. This was in my pre-hippie days, circa 1966, right about the time I got married. Anti-war, but also anti-hypocrisy.

Here’s the first one I did. Bear in mind I was nineteen, and soooo earnest, me planning on being the next Dylan and all …

Gather ‘round all you Christians and God-fearing men/
Gather ‘round all you righteous who never do sin/
Come hear me my good folks from near and from far/
Come hear me you hypocrites who pray … and make war.

Ah, you say that they kill for evil and might/
And so you must kill them for goodness and right/
But when dust has settled, it still must be said/
All the losers on both sides are still … just as dead.

You go to your churches and pray for the Reds/
Then you go out and you cut off their heads/
You know God is with you and you’ll surely win/
All you pious damned hypocrites … and God-fearing men.

Gather ‘round all you Christians and God-fearing men/
Gather ‘round all you righteous who never do sin/
Come hear me my good folks from near and from far/
Come hear me you hypocrites who pray … and make war.

The more things change, the more they stay the same …

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Moving On - SFWA

Somewhen about 1977 or so, I joined the writer's organization, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, SFWA. Thirty-eight years ago, and at the time, fairly big deal for me.

The qualifications were, you have to have sold a novel, or two short stories, to an approved, paying market, which back then, meant on of the big publishing houses in NYC, or one of the three or four American SF magazines still alive.

Later, the organization tried to expand its reach to include the rest of the world and add in "fantasy," and the acronym changed, but it didn't really stick. SFWA, pronounced "siff-wah," and there we were.

This joining marked me as a professional writer in my chosen field, and I remember getting the letter from Mildred Downey "Bubbles" Broxon, one of the SFWA officers, telling me I had been accepted as a member, and being absolutely thrilled.

Over the years, there was a lot of wrangling in the organization, this issue or that, and the house magazines, one public, one for members only, carried a lot of back and forth which at times got heated and nasty.

Being a member didn't really get you anything at the street level. The officers worked to improve contracts, they put out how-to stuff, listed markets (which were usually closed by the time the Bulletin or the Forum arrived) and did this and that. Not really a toothless tiger when it came to dealing with publishers for member grievances, but not much past a house cat tom. 

Mostly, it was a boys club, and there were a thousand or fewer members who, at various conventions, would go the sponsored hotel suite to drink beer and grouse about the biz.

Now, the numbers are up and somewhat diversified, though it's still mostly boys who read the stuff ...

Back when there was a perceived problem with George Lucas and Star Wars novelizations and royalties, SFWA, via one of its overzealous officers, actually cost me work. To make a long story short, they included me in the list of people who wanted to face off with Lucasfilm after I had expressly told them not to do so because I absolutely did not want to do that. 

(A faction of SFWA was unhappy about the lack of royalties being offered for novelizations, even though the flat-fee being paid was the highest in the field at the time.)

Suffice it to say, they didn't exactly bring George Lucas to his knees, and there was some fallout when it was done.

One doesn't bandy the term "blacklist" about carelessly, but a bunch of us SFWA members who had been writing for Star Wars doing novelizations and comics and games and such quite successfully all of a sudden weren't getting our calls or emails returned, and that seemed awfully coincidental. My first effort there was way up the NY Times Bestseller list, and I was, I thought, one of their fair-haired writers, but several years elapsed before I was allowed back into the fold. Some of the SFWA'n's never made it back at all.

Well, the responsible party for that is no longer with us, and I won't speak ill of the dead, at least not by name ...

Um. Anyway, each year, I got a guide, a list of the other members, addresses, email, agents active in the field, and that was pretty much what my dues bought me. I never volunteered for office, didn't go to the meetings, and the house organ 'zines were pretty much my only contact with the organization.

Still, I ponied up the dues each summer and stuck around. Some writers I know quit in high dudgeon, rejoined later, then quit again. Lot of 'em in the field have left, or never been members in the first place, and it didn't seem to hurt their sales.

All of which is to say, when the bill arrived this time, I looked at it, and decided that paying ninety bucks a year to be able to say I am a member of SFWA? Not worth it. Outside of that initial rush of being on the list of working pro writers, I'm not sure it was ever really worth it, but I hung in there. Until now. 

Adíos, SFWA.  Mystery Writers of America? You might be next ...