Friday, January 30, 2009

Martial Arts Writers


Genre fiction, such as science fiction, fantasy, espionage, mystery, etc. seems an easy venue for martial arts material. You usually have good guys, bad guys, and a fair amount of activity and contention compared to mainstream writing. A lot of fight scenes, shoot 'em ups, and fast action.

In science fiction and fantasy, there are a fair number of well-known writers who have spent serious time training in martial arts.

I'm not talking here about those who are adept enough at research to fool a reader, nor those who took a few weeks of training at the local dojo or strapped on boxing gloves for a couple rounds when they were at summer camp. Nor ex-military guys who got something in basic training, like Drake, Deitz, and Bunch. They know the gun-stuff and the boots-on-the-ground material, but not so much the hand-to-hand.

Yeah, Sherlock Holmes was a master of Baritsu, the Sandmen had Omnite, and Modesty Blaise had her kick-ass fu. And who can forget Chiun's Sinaju? But those were all arts de l'esprit, made up of mental cloth ...

Offhand, first few writers that come to mind, writing in English, and with apologies to those I missed: Roger Zelazny, Vonda McIntyre and Liz Lynn, who all reached dan-level in aikido. Pat Murphy and Rich Kadrey, Steve Barnes, Dave Smeds, and across the aisle in the thriller section, Barry Eisler's John Rain series. Joe Lansdale, who also writes a lot of horror. Piers Anthony did a martial arts' series in the 70's, when he was still a student of judo. Fritz Leiber was a fencer in his youth.

There are a few fantasy writers whose books I've read who offered martial arts credentials on the inside back cover of the dust jacket, but I confess I can't recall their names at the moment. And a couple who claim to be martial artists about whom I have my doubts, and one in particular with whom I'd love to cross hands ...

And me, of course. I modestly assert than nobody in the English language has written more in their fiction about silat than I -- I was about it before I knew it existed ...

So, who else? If you know of martial artists who are fiction writers -- not from what's in their books, but from a source that talks about their art, put 'em forth. Be interesting to see a list.

Couldn't Pass This One Up, Either ...


Somebody sent me a link to a wiki you get when you google "Steve Perry."

Steve Perry

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The name Steve Perry may refer to any of the following:

Steve Perry (musician), solo artist and the former lead singer of the band Journey
Steve Perry (Oregon musician), lead singer of the Cherry Poppin' Daddies
Steve Perry (author), science fiction author
Stephen Perry, 19th century inventor and businessman (inventor of the rubber band)
Steve Perry, a porn star who also uses the stage name Ben Dover.

There are also a couple more I know about in the public eye -- a book writer out of Philadelphia, and a movie producer.

Common as dirt, us Steves, but ... Ben Dover. You gotta love those porno stage names ... Harry Reems, Johnny Wadd, Long John Silver ...

I Got Your Sign

Poking around on MSU's ASL site -- American Sign Language -- came across this one and had to share it.

You lick the tip of your middle finger and then move it over your head, as if combing down an errant tuft of hair.


video

It's the sign for "homosexual ..."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Hip Bone Connected to de Leg Bone


Got an email query on the bodyweight exercise stuff, thought it worth answering here.

Muscles -- by which I mean here those that are voluntary, striated, and skeletal, as opposed to those smooth and involunatary ones in the internal organs, like the heart and bladder and blood vessels -- work but one way -- they contract, shorten, and by that action, pull on bones and whatnot.

By means of this and some clever levers, you get flexion, extension, rotation, supination, pronation, abduction, adduction, all like that. The reason a chimp is so strong compared to most people is that his leverage is better.

Large skeletal muscles work in pairs -- for every protagonist, there is a antagonist. And some muscles do more than one thing. Take the one little boys default to when somebody says, "Show me your muscle!" the biceps. This is a two-headed thing on the upper arm. If you flex your forearm with your palm up, you can see how that works. If you do it palm down, when you get to ninety degrees, turn your hand so that it is palm up, and you can see that it is also used to supinate the hand.

Sometimes the attachments are tendons, and obvious; sometimes like the muscles of the lips, their origins and insertions are less apparent. Eventually, something somewhere connects to the skeleton. (The "origin" is the more fixed end, the "insertion," the part that tends to move the most. Thus, the biceps originates on the shoulder and inserts on the forearm just below the elbow. The Latin names are jawbreakers:
ORIGIN
Long head:supraglenoid tubercle of scapula. Short head: coracoid process of scapula with coracobrachialis
INSERTION
posterior border of bicipital tuberosity of radius (over bursa) and bicipital aponeurosis to deep fascia and subcutaneous ulna

If you want to know the other Latin names and such, go here.

The triceps, on the back of the humerus, extends the forearm. Generally, flexion is toward the body, and extension away from it. A curl is flexion, a bench-press extension, leastways, of the arm. When the chest comes into it, then you get pectoral flexion, and some shoulder rotation.

All you need to do to work your body is to figure out what motion works a muscle, then the muscle(s) that reverse it.

The easy way is to grab something and move it and see what muscles tighten. Compound exercises, such as squats, work a lot of muscle groups. Isolation exercises, such as sitting in a chair and curling a dumbbell, work fewer groups, though it is almost impossible to completely isolate one muscle, since there are a bunch of them that come into play stabilizing the body. If you stand and do curls with a barbell, the biceps are doing most of the work, but everything from your hands to your shoulders, to the rest of your back, belly, hips, and legs that are keeping up upright also come into play. Sit in a chair, lean back, you remove some of the muscles from the exercise.

One of the reasons the old Six Million Dollar Man was so utterly silly was that Steve Austin had this extremely powerful arm, but it was connected to his not-so-powerful body, and that was the weak link. The arm could pick up a car, but his non-bionic parts couldn't. No writer I knew could watch that show without laughing.

I'm talking about exercise a lot, since my back is still tight enough from my strain and resulting spasm that doing anything really vigorous is still a bad idea ...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Adventures in Hollywood

Adventures in Hollywood



I've never been a big player in La-La-Land. I've had some small experiences there, animation writing for the tube, a few movie scripts that haven't made it to the silver screen, like that. But in the vein of what I think is funny, lemme tell you one of my Hollywood stories ...


The story is true. The names, as they used to say on Dragnet, have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty ...


Some years ago, my then-writing partner and I -- call him Roy -- got a freelance gig to write an episode of a cartoon show, let's say it was Funny Little Critters. At this point, the show is being written and boarded, so it's months away from being on the air.


Eventually, we wound up writing several scripts for the producers and a fine time was had by all.


Face-time is important in the Biz. So I go down there, since I was living in Oregon, and Roy and I go out to lunch with the story editor and his assistant. They'd be, let's say, Sammy J, and Gary. We go to a nice upscale burger place, called The Good Earth, a SoCal chain. Burgers, bean sprouts, whole-wheat buns, like that.

The waitress, an attractive young woman in her early twenties, comes to take our order.


Now there is a thing you may not know, but in Hollywood, there are folks in the Biz who, for reasons I can only guess at, feel the need to impress service people with how important they are: These guys will go into a 7-Eleven store, usually in pairs, and comment loudly to each other about their latest deal, dropping actor's names like rose petals at a formal wedding, and for some reason, lacing their monologues liberally with profanity: "Yeah, I got this piece of shit dramady to do for Disney, they think maybe Brad and Angelina to star, but the fucking director is a motherfucker ..."


I think this bespeaks a basic and deep insecurity, that you need approbation from the minimum-wage 7-Eleven clerk, but that seems to be part of what Hollywood runs on ...


Anyway, back at the Good Earth, Gary decides that he is going to impress the hell out of the waitress, and so he says to her, "Do you know who this is?" and points at his boss.


"No, should I?"


"This is Sammy J! He is the story editor for Funny Little Critters, the new animated show!"


Which, you recall, isn't on the air yet. And, in the Hollywood pantheon, animation impresses nobody anyhow. Cartoons? Plus, writers don't impress anybody even more. Think of your three favorite movies -- can you name the writers of them? I didn't think so ...


And the waitress says, "Huh. And who are you? One of the funny little critters?"


In Hollywood, they do love a snappy comeback. Roy, Sammy J, and I all grin and chuckle. Point for the waitress.


Gary, being very high on the insecure-list, turns red and fumes, but doesn't say anything.


So she takes our orders and then asks what we want to drink. Gary decides that if he can't impress her, he can, by God, put her in her place. So he says, in a snotty voice, "I'll have water. And keep it coming." Every time he takes a sip, he expects her to hurry over and top off his glass, and by saying this, he is letting her know who the boss is.


(My opinion is that guys who do such things to waiters and waitresses are, not to put too fine a point on it, pricks.)


The waitress doesn't say anything, though. She leaves.


We chat about the show, and a couple minutes later, the busboy shows up with our drinks.


Roy gets iced tea, Sammy J, some kind of juice, I have a Coke. And the busboy puts six full glasses of water down in front of Gary ...


As you might imagine, this is cause for more mirth. Roy, Sammy J, and I cackle, and Gary shades right through red into purple. Score another point for the waitress, but -- wait!


A second busboy shows up. He's carrying a five-gallon plastic bucket full of water, with a slice of lemon on the rim, and he sets this down on the table in front of Gary.


The rest of us are now on the floor, trying to find our asses, which we have all laughed off.


Eventually the waitress returns with our orders. Smiles sweetly. "Anything else I can get you? More water, sir?"


Game, set, and match for the waitress.


This time after we stopped howling, Sammy J takes a business card from his wallet. "You do any writing?" he asks her. "Come by and see me ..."


Now, I don't know if she ever followed up; I'd like to think that she did and is now a big-name scriptwriter making big bucks; but what this story illustrates to me is the culture that it the media-biz down in LaLaLand, which is to say, passing weird. Larry McMurtry says that going to Hollywood is like going to a town of very powerful two-year-olds, and it's true. They aren't like thee and me down there ...


Going Extinct




Woke up this morning to an inch or so of snow on the ground I didn't know was in the offing. What happens when you turn the news off before the weather report.

I did watch le tube long enough to see an interview on PBS, pro and con, about the new legislation coming out of the Obama Administration -- don't you just love not-hearing "the Bush Administration? -- regarding the auto industry.

Basically, the new and improved fed is going to hold the automakers' s feet to the fire if they want any kind of bailout.

The pro admin guy gave the change-or-die position. The anti-guy, who ran an online car 'zine, pissed and moaned, parroting the auto industry position: Aw, gee, all this gotta-get-good-mileage and pollution stuff is gonna cost money! We can't afford it! Cars are going to shrink, turn into plastic cans on wheels, death-machines! This is not what Americans want!

Detroit, in its heart, is still sure that Americans want eight-cylinder, three-hundred-horsepower, six passenger sedans, and all these other itty bitty cars are a passing fad.

I got your dinosaurs right here. These are the guys who went hats-in-hand to D.C. to beg for money -- wearing five-thousand-dollar suits and delivered by limo from their private jets.

When the taxman comes to your door, it's not a good idea to answer his knock in your best Armani.

I feel for the workers who have lost, and are going to lose their jobs everywhere, and I know the automobile manufacturers in the U.S., are particularly hard-hit. It's a bad situation.

I feel no sympathy whatsoever for the Big Three. Yeah, there is a recession, but they brought it upon themselves.

There has never been a safety innovation that the public needed in its rolling iron that Detroit offered freely. The government had to put a gun to their heads to make seat belts standard. Ditto air bags. Crash tests? Whatever for? We don't want the public to know that if they hit a squirrel in the road that will total the vehicle and probably kill them -- and not the squirrel.

The Big Three blew a gasket when they had to report mpg for their vehicles. They had seizures when made to add anti-pollution equipment. The idea of building smaller cars that get better gas mileage is still looked upon as heresy of the highest order. Detroit offered things as options, but they were so sure they had their finger on the pulse of the public -- people want these big and powerful cars, they do, they do! that they laughed at those funny little German bugs and Japanese roller skates pretending to be real cars right up to the time that the VWs and Toyotas zipped by and blew the doors off Detroit's dinosaurs.

There's a reason Tundra trucks are selling better than Dodges or Fords or Chevys, and it's not because they are cheap.

First car I ever owned with a seat belt was a 1967 VW Beetle. Lap-only, and many times it kept my head from putting a concave dent in the roof when I rolled over a curb chasing guys as a private eye. I learned to wear my seat belt when I got that car, used, late in 1969, and I don't leave my driveway without buckling up.

How could Ford, Chrysler, and GM not see it was coming? Why didn't they have the vision to notice the meteors were falling and it was time to get their collective ass into a cave?

They made Mr. Magoo look like Nostradamus.

Yes, the government has to bail them out, because of the impact their failure would have as it ripples through an already crippled economy. But dragging them kicking and screaming into the 21st Century? Fine by me. If ever companies deserved to be nationalized, they are them.

Stupid fuckers.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Crooked Magic


So, the original anthology Crime Spells, edited by Marty Greenberg and Loren Coleman, is on the racks. It's a collection of stories about magic and crime, and there's a short piece by Yours Truly that anchors the final relay leg of the book, entitled "She's Not There."

I never was much of a short story writer, though I gave it a serious try when I first started in the biz. Until I began writing novels, I cranked shorts out, one a week or so, and most of those are holding down a shelf in the storage room. I was selling maybe one in four or five at my best, and the work needed to do them could, I figured, be better put elsewhere. A short story was worth a couple chapters in a book, so I mostly stopped doing them.

Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch shamed me into writing a few for their hardback zine, Pulphouse, and since most of them were wild hairs but sold anyway, I was pleased.

Now and then, I get asked to contribute to an original anthology, and so that's pretty much my short story output these days.

I had fun doing this one.

The Ten Thousand Paths


Every day, you get up, and there are myriad choices to be made. 

One of my choices is: Which project do I start next?

The doorstop fantasy is on hold until the market either crashes entirely or comes back, so whether we do a sequel or not is out in the future somewhere. (If the money isn't better than what we have been offered so far, it's going to be a one-book deal, we get that far.)

The most recent novel about the spiritual warrior Kane, is cleaned up enough to show to my agent, but I'll want to see what kind of response it gets before I start on another in that universe. (And thanks again to the readers who offered input on that one.)

A potential work-for-hire project seems to have stalled -- I haven't heard back on it, and while no news is sometimes good news, in such cases, it usually isn't.

The Indy book is waiting on final approval, and if that doesn't require more rewrites from me, off the table until it comes out. If it sells like ice water in Hades, might be another one of those in the offing, but that's eight months away, minimum. 

It's not as if I don't have a laundry list of possible projects. I could write about my retired old man spy and his deadly wife. I could do the final book in the Matador series. There's a tea-cozy mystery idea, The Cardigan Corgi Kill I've got percolating. Or I could always do a vampire romance novel. My most recent foray into vampire tales was a long-ago short story whose punchline was "Kevlar!" but everybody and her kid sister is writing and selling those today, it has become its own genre. Bed-hopping and boinking among the undead and were-whatevers. "Oh, Count! Your ... hand is so cold!"

I could try and turn the Kane book into a movie script or a comic book miniseries. I could do a a how-to-write book, most of which is probably buried in the blog over the last few years. I could hunt down some more tie-in work.

So many choices ...

Growing Old Gracefully


Sly and the Body Stone

Behold what you can do if you have a bunch of money, plenty of time to work out, access to Human Growth Hormone and whatever anabolic steroids you want.

Guy is older than I am ...

The picture  is a promo for The Expendables, written, directed, and staring Stallone,  and if rumors can be believed, co-starring Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, and Randy Couture, along with Mickey Rourke and Forest Whittaker. Supposed to start shooting in March, for a 2010 release.

I can't imagine it will rock the teenage boy market off its feet but a whole lotta guys my age will be lining up to see it ...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Meanwhile, Back in the Lumbar Region ...

100% of us will die someday, unless somebody comes up with a science fiction cure. Only slightly fewer of us will suffer back problems. We obviously didn't think about that when we decided to stand up on our hind legs. (Or our Creator made three mistakes -- the other two being mosquitoes and Teamsters ...)

Bobbe got his MRI done and to nobody's surprise, has a ruptured disc low in his LS spine. Armed with this diagnosis, he should be able to get surgery, having gotten by the Catch-22 that kept him from the diagnostic test. His story of how arcane the process has been is scary. Suffice it to say that if you have health insurance, best you keep it paid up, and if not, consider getting some, even if you have to scrimp elsewhere to afford a high deductible. The insurance card gets you in the door. Without it, the process can be awful. 

My son-in-law is home day before yesterday from the hospital, post-op his discectomy. He walked around with a cane, doped to eyeballs and in major pain for months because his medical insurance wanted to try PT first before they spent the money on an MRI. When they finally realized the treatment wasn't going to work, they did the test, and lo, a ruptured spinal disc, which also surprised no one. Worse, because he had a fair amount of scar tissue involved, microsurgery wasn't enough to do the trick. 

Insurance companies are all too often pennywise, but pound foolish. What is cheap in the short run might cost a lot more later.  Somehow, they never seem to catch on to that.

Yeah, yeah, the conservative treatment first, because a lot of minor disc problems do resolve on their on that way, but if it is long-standing and obviously more serious a problem, there is no reason to allow a patient to suffer. 

Offhand, I know half a dozen other people who have had the same back malaise. Some suffered for months, even years, with severe pain, numbness or tingling in the legs, the inability to put on their pants and socks without lying down on a bed.  

The U.S. medical system ranks 37th in the world. And people fall between the cracks of the system every day because we don't have universal health care. That is a shame. Richest nation on Earth ought to do better than that. When people die because they can't afford treatment, there is something terribly wrong. If we can afford wars, we can afford to pay for Granny's meds so she doesn't have to go to Canada or Mexico or simply do without. 

Early this week, I  strained my own low back.  I don't think I blew out a spacer so I can't bitch too much; still, it hurts enough so that picking up a shoe requires a full, and carefully-done, squat, and even so, if I tilt port or starbard whilst doing it, I get the two-by-four with a nail-sticking-out-of-it whack across my lower back. If you have felt this, you know what it is. If you haven't, you might be one of the fortunate 15% or so who never has back problems. You won the lottery and you should feel blessed. 

Yesterday, trying to hurry it up, I used one of those rolling-up-and- down-the-back massage pads you can sit on, and let it run too long. I also pushed a few stretches a bit too far, the result of which is that this morning, it hurts worse than it did the day before. Clever, hey?

Normally one of those people who does well physically, I've had a shoulder, knee, and now my back giving me grief in the last year. Doesn't whoever is in charge realize that this isn't supposed to happen to me? Don't they know that I'm supposed to be healthy, fit, and save for a few wrinkles, immune the ravages of time until I fall over dead at the age of a hundred and nine?

(For some reason the story of Muhammad Ali, the boxer, on an airliner comes to mind. The flight attendant passed by him. "Sir, you need to buckle your seatbelt," she said. Ali said, "Superman don't need no seatbelt!" To which she responded, "Yeah, and Superman don't need no airplane, either.")

So, it's off to the hot tub and one of those little pills they gave me for my knee that I never needed, and a lot less activity today. 

Somebody kicks in my door looking for trouble, I'm going to have to shoot them. Be their own fault for picking the wrong house on the wrong day ...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Politics as Usual


So, while the national scene has a bright-and-shining moment as Barack Obama becomes President and immediately starts to kick ass and take names, the local politics offers a kick in the nuts. Local, as in Portland, a city in which I am not living, but of which I reside in a bedroom community thereof.

Sam Adams, the first openly-gay man to be elected mayor of a big city in the U.S. and who just took office, is about to become yesterday's road kill. Worse, he ran over himself. Worse still, every time he tries to explain, he winds up rolling a radial over his own foot again.

The story is this: A while back, whilst he was in the throes of running for the office, Sam got into a relationship with a much younger man. Nothing serious, just sex. They went their separate ways, no harm, no foul.

That Sam is gay is not a problem. Voters knew this when they elected him.

However, the much younger man under discussion was on the legal fence, age-wise when the two men met, and the mayor, feeling that nobody would believe him if he said they'd waited until the boy turned eighteen to commence their carnal carnival, denied that any such thing had ever happened. I was a mentor. We were just friends. How dare you say such a thing!

Told the kid to keep mum and deny all, too.

Getting irate and righteous looks really lame if it turns out you were lying. Which Sam now admits he was. The local muckraking paper, Willamette Week, responsible for bringing down the shining reputation of a former governor who, when he was mayor, nailed a fourteen-year-old girl, had enough to run a story, and when Sam found out, he knew the jig was up and came clean.

A public apology while under the gun sounds more than a little hollow. If he really meant it, maybe he should have fessed up after he was elected, and when he could put a good spin on it.

So there's the cover up. Even if the lad had been of legal age -- which Sam says was the case -- then Sam's actions were, not to put too fine a point on it, ill-considered. They have come back to bite him.

(If the kid hadn't crossed the rubicon into legal adulthood, then that's much worse, because that's criminal. And there is an investigation cranking up to see. Might be difficult to prove, if there's no -- ah -- dripping gun to be found. If they do, Sam is really screwed.)

A sad situation, in that Sam is a bright fellow, politically experienced, and until now, adept. Turned being gay into a virtue and not a vice. Only now, he probably won't survive the heat. And it is his own damn fault.

On a personal note, some years ago, I had a chance to see how Sam operated. He was Vera Katz's campaign manager when she ran for mayor of Portland, a couple mayors back. My wife was a fund raiser for her campaign, which Vera, then Speaker of the Oregon House, won handily. Now and again, I'd be down at campaign headquarters with the mostly-volunteer staff, putting direct mail literature into envelopes and other grinding chores, and I had, on a couple of occasions, a chance to see Sam speak and behave in ways that I found, um, less than inspiring. I saw him lose his temper and scream at a volunteer -- happened to be me -- and heard him ask workers to do something that, while not illegal, wasn't entirely kosher.

If you are nice guy and you make a mistake, you have a lot of people willing to stand in your corner. If you aren't so nice, some of the people around you are going to be laughing up their sleeves if you stumble, and rooting for you to fall.

Karma always comes round. Now and then, it does so in the current incarnation ...

The Superior Weapon


My collaborator sent me a link to a video I found interesting. In my mind, it's staged -- these days, who can tell for sure? -- but the moral of the story is valid either way. You can watch it for yourself, here. It runs on a little long, but there's a nice payoff.

For those of you who don't want to bother, here's the gist: A couple of rednecks in a pick-up truck get behind a guy and his girl in a BMW convertible. They have a camera going, and do a running commentary on assholes who own BMW's. (That's redundant, right? "Asshole in a BMW?")

Um. Anyway, obviously bored and with nothing to do, the dimwits follow the guy, tailgating him, and the guy speeds up and tries to get away. The chase goes on, they pull up at a stop, words are exchanged, the anglo-saxonisms get bandied about. The BMW driver takes off. Gets out of the city onto a country road, one that the truck guys know is a dead-end.

They get to the cul-de-sac, and the truck guys are pissed. They stop. Get out. The driver has a baseball bat in the back of the truck under a tarp. He collects it, and it looks as if the BMW or the driver or both are in for a pounding ...

Then the BWM guy comes up with a handgun. He gets his girl to collect the camera and the truck keys, says he'll leave the keys at the end of the road, but that he is keeping the camera.
The video concludes with a greeting to the two yahoos about enjoying his new camera ...

As I said, it's surely staged -- too many little things don't quite ring true. Supposedly they are Texans, but they say "eh?" at the end of every other sentence. And it's a bit too pat. It's the kind of thing you'd like to believe, but like a lot of urban legends, it clunks hollow.

But the moral is clear: When you don't know who you might be dealing with, a stupid move might be fatal ...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Lessons in Sociological Psychology

Eight or ten years ago, if some nut leaped up waving a knife during the commercial flight you were on and allowed as how he was hijacking the plane to Cuba, the conventional wisdom was to sit tight and do nothing. Eventually, the plane would land somewhere, the loon would try to negotiate something with somebody on the ground, and if they couldn't come to terms, The Unit would show up, spike his ass, and most, if not all, of the passengers would walk away unharmed. Most of the time.

9/11 changed that. Those terrorists flatly ruined the business of jet hijacking for fun and profit. Haven't seen one in the U.S. since, have we?

The conventional wisdom was found wanting. Men who would sit quietly and wait for the authorities to deal with the situation to avoid maybe being slashed bloody realized that if the choice might be between facing a man with a boxcutter or slamming into a skyscraper at three hundred miles an hour, that was a no-brainer.

What gives a man or three or five men with short knives control over a couple hundred people not armed that way is fear. The best knife-fighter who ever lived can't beat a group of terrified passengers throwing everything at him that isn't nailed down. Imagine twenty briefcases, ten laptops, fifty iPods, shoes, bookbags, carry-0ns, empty booze bottlets, flying at you from all directions at the same time. That boxcutter going to stop them? Or the stampeding herd behind them?

The passengers will roll over him like the tide does a sand castle. A long slash can be stitched up. And even if you get wounded fatally but manage to take the guy down, at least all those men, women, and children who survive to land will remember you forever. Going gently into that good night is not high on my list, nor, I suspect, is it going to be something a hijacker can depend on ever again.

People are going to go down swinging. I think that hearkens back to a less-civilized age, and maybe it's not such a bad thing. I might go to hell, pal, but you are going to be holding the door open for me when I get there ...

The reason the old western sheriff can hold off the lynch mob with his double-barreled coach gun is not that he can take them all, it's that nobody wants to be first to eat the buckshot and somebody will be. But if he is planning on herding every body into a cell and then setting the place on fire? Different game.

That was a lesson learned. Sometimes, you have to take responsibility for yourself -- the authorities aren't going to get there in time.

If you are at home at night and you hear somebody thumping around in the other room who isn't supposed to be there, conventional wisdom says, shut the door, call the police, and keep an eye and your gun trained on the door until help arrives.

But -- if you have a small child in a bedroom down the hall, you aren't going to do that, are you?
No parent I know would. You will be going to collect your kid, and any advice to the contrary simply isn't going to play. And even people who don't have little ones at home might find themselves toodling down the hall, pump shotgun in hand.

Sometimes, a man -- or a woman -- has gotta do what they gotta do ...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Educated Eye



In a discussion of teaching, it came to me to bespeak that how you demonstrate a thing, especially a physical motion, needs to be slowed down considerably for a newbie to comprehend it.

On the fact of this, it would seem a no-brainer -- if you can't see what somebody did, it's not a good teaching moment -- unless you are trying to teach them that if you move really fast, it's hard to see what somebody did ...

One of the sports under discussion was fencing, and I allowed as how that was a good example. At the Olympic-class levels, you have two fencers facing off. There comes a blur, the helmet lamps light up, and the expert announcer starts babbling on: "Wow! Did you see that?! That attaque au fer, ballestra, and liement were perfect! And the battement just not in time!"

No, I didn't see any of that, thank you, I saw exactly what I first said: A blur, some lights showing both guys got touched, and that was it.

It takes an educated viewer to see what happens with fencing experts moving full-out. I have forty-odd years of experience leaping at, or being leaped at by people, barehanded, with sticks, knives, and even swords, sometimes more than person coming in at a time, but even so, the specifics of epee or foil or saber fencing are not what I am used to seeing and it tends to look pretty much the same to me. Lunge wildly, and then cheer ...

First, I'd need to know what each of those moves looked like in slow motion. Then sped up a bit, and then enough times at full speed that I developed the eye to follow them. I believe that's how it works for most people. You might be one of those eagle-eyed guys who gets it first time, but if so, you will be the exception and not the rule.

Often in our martial practice, once things get rolling fast, I can't even tell you what I did in an exchange, much less exactly what somebody else did. Fun to watch the video tape later and get surprised -- Huh. Look at that ...

You don't start out teaching a newbie speed and power first -- not if you want them to have a grasp of basics upon which advanced concepts must be built.

For us, in our art, position is first. You learn the move in what we consider the right way to do it, then gradually, you speed it up and add power. We believe that trying to do it too fast and too hard without the foundation of correct motion leads to sloppy execution. Do it fast enough, maybe nobody notices you are doing it wrong, and you cheat yourself more than you do anybody else.

Lot of the MMA folks disagree -- they call this "dead training," and allow that you should practice at full speed and power from the git-go.

For us, once you understand the "right" way to do a move, then you advance. Like practicing with an empty gun to get the grip, sight picture, and trigger control, before going to live fire. If you don't have a good grasp of those things, you are going to be wasting a lot of ammo. If you are off-balance, the amount of power and speed you can load into a punch will be less than if you aren't falling down when you try it.

The hand isn't quicker than the eye, but the brain has to have the knowledge to interpret what the camera delivers.

Forty Five

So, a technical riddle:

Joe Biden was sworn is as Vice President a short time before Obama. George Bush's term expired during the interim (along with Dick Cheney's), so for a minute or two, Biden was legally the acting President. I wonder if that counts enough to make him number forty-four and Barack forty-five ... ?

Obama delivered a good speech. Not going to erase the memories of Lincoln's second, FDR's "fear itself" or JFK's inaugural orations, but a fine call to the nation, along with a couple of backhanded slaps at the outgoing administration's riding rough-shod over the Constitution. 

A page has turned, folks. The long national nightmare might not be over, but things are looking up. Not just a great day to be an American, but a great day to be human ...

Monday, January 19, 2009

No Matter What Shape

Like everybody else who walks upright, I have had my problems with low back strain over the years. I have worked to avoid it, building up my muscular strength, not only in the LS area, but the abs, obliques, and hips. Learned to lift from a squat and not bent over. I usually pay attention. And yet, now and again, I manage to pull something. 

Like today. Out raking leaves, and I went to move my wife's exercise machine back into the house from under the eaves. It's one of those walker things that you stand on and replicate the motion of cross-country skiing upon. Not all that heavy, and I moved it by bending my knees and lifting straight up. But: As I cleared the front doorway, I extended my arm out, away from my body, and Achieved the Bad Angle. Thing weighs, I dunno, sixty or eighty pounds, and had I kept the weight next to my torso, no problem, but opening the door with one hand and lifting the machine up and pushing it through with the other hand?

Bad move.

There's the instant catch, the stab of pain, and the sudden inability to bend over from the waist and come back up without climbing your own leg with your hands ...

Not that awful -- I've done it much worse -- but it allows me to feel great sympathy for folks who are walking around -- or lying around -- with blown out L-4 and L-5 disks ...

Hello, ibuprofen!

Jew Jitsu


Okay, this one struck me funny ...

History in the Making


Photo by Doug Mills, The New York Times

That's one of those important-sounding phrases that doesn't really mean much, "history in the making." We make history every day. Tomorrow, however, there will be a new chapter in the textbooks, as America inaugurates its first-ever black President, and a man who doesn't have anywhere the same amount of age-baggage as U.S. Presidents usually carry. Almost a Gen-X'er; certainly post-Baby Boomer. The prior Presidents were all much older than I was when they took office, save for the two most recent, who were only slightly so.

Obama is only a few years older than my son.

Part of the festivities included a concert in his honor. Out in the cold on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C., a host of well-known actors and musicians came out to honor the event. HBO showed it to anybody who wanted to watch, no charge, and my wife and I sat and took it in. It was, in a word, stirring.

Rap stars, country singers, rockers, opera singers, and wonder of wonders, when the camera was turned upon the President Elect you saw him smiling, singing along, and actually keeping time with the music.

Is that amazing, or what?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Manuscript Readers Update Redux

Well, as it turns out, I won't have to wait a couple of weeks to see how the comments are coming along. As of today, about two-thirds of the folks to whom I shipped ms copies have reported in -- and a couple more who aren't finished yet offered their impressions of what they have read so far. That's a pretty quick turnaround, albeit was a short novel.

So. In the interests of disclosure, here's the almost-final progress report on the ms-in-progress, Champion of the Dead. What follows is not a general lesson in how to do a rewrite, but the way that I approached the second draft on this particular novel. Next time, it might be altogether different. One goes with the flow, and you never step in the same river twice ...

If you haven't finished reading it and don't want to know, consider this the

SPOILER ALERT:

Don't go any farther. Things will be revealed. If you have finished reading the ms, you may continue.

First, the two criteria again:

1) Did I tell the story I wanted to tell?

2) Did I tell it well?

Start with the first one: Yep, pretty much it was tale I had in mind. It started with the idea of wanting to do something with The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

The character of Sam Kane as spiritual warrior developed next. (And certainly if Zelazny fans didn't get a clue from Sam's name, they must have seen the Amber and Lord of Light signposts along the way, not to mention the thank you in the acknowledgments. I'm a stone Zelazny fan. He was the man. It shows here.

But, to be fair, I didn't swipe all that much from Roger, but from the same source material he swiped his from, so I don't feel too guilty about that. He stood much taller than I, Roger did, but he perched on the shoulders of a few giants, too ...

(I was tempted to put a horrendous pun in somewhere, ala "The fit hit the Shan," but thus far, I have resisted that. Thus far.)

The plot set-up was something I got from Hitchcock. Guy gets in the middle of something a lot bigger than he is, and runs around trying to keep from getting squashed. Cary Grant, in North by Northwest, was kinda-sorta my model for Kane in that regard. He stands up at the wrong time, and wham! off on an adventure.

The notion of Tinzen was part of it from the git-go, as was the last scene in the novel, which I wrote before I got more than a couple of chapters in. I revised it slightly to add a tweak, but that was early, too. One of the twists might be a surprise -- though there is a strongly-implied hint a couple people said they got -- and it was a gift to romantics.

I like happy endings. So sue me.

All my books have a love story at their heart. The only things really worth writing about are love and death. If you didn't smile and feel good when you read the last chapter, then you aren't a romantic. The other bit, I laid in, and gave at least three clues to it earlier, so if you missed that one, it's your fault.

What I tell you three times must be true.

It being the story I wanted to tell, I am keeping Tinzen as is. Two readers thought he might be overkill. Most readers liked the idea, a couple really liked it. I felt that I could stretch the notion a bit, and I wanted to do so. I flat-out love the idea of him eating Frosted Flakes and watching cooking shows on TV.

I'm not a Buddhist, but I have a statue of one in my courtyard ...

Stories in which Sam goes into the bardo farther afield and onto other adventures are for another book, or books, if I get to 'em. Chang is still out there. As is the Window of the Gods. The horror of vegetarianism, too. And the rewrite will have more hints that Sam isn't done yet, if you needed any more.

The gods in this book are less god-like than traditionally so; I did that on purpose, and I'm not the first, since every major religion has done pretty much the same thing ...

Now, the part where readers offer the most help -- how well did I do it?

Most readers allowed as how they liked it. Some a lot, some less so, but nobody came back and said they thought it would stink on ice, and I was glad about that. Couple folks thought it was as good as anything I've done.

Part of the challenge for me was to do the book from a single viewpoint. I haven't written a novel that way in a long time and I was pleased that I mostly pulled it off. It's Kane's story.

When I got to the end of the first draft, there were several things I felt needed to be dealt with further. 1) The ending was rushed. 2) Some of the exposition sequences were too long and too static. 3) I needed to have Kane work harder to solve the mystery.

Several readers mentioned some, or all of these, and thus pass the Apprentice Editor Test. You know who you are. Those three things get the most attention up front.

After that, there were a lot of smaller clunks that readers pointed out that I'm going to adjust. They range from a wonder why I'm using Bahasa terms for a Tibetan art -- already fixed -- to comments on the weapons, computers, guitar stuff, and what readers considered loose ends. And one big typo, where I misplaced a decimal and made somebody really, really, drunk.

Just FYI, the crewcut boxer was left unexplained on purpose, as were the four guys in the G.I. Joe's lot. And who Kane is that gets him all the help and why. If you do more than one book about a character, you have to pay each one off, but you get a larger arc to play with, and you can leave a few threads dangling.

Anybody ever see Hitchcock's The Birds? Remember the central question in that movie? Yeah. And ole Hitch never addressed it at all. I walked out of the theater not having a clue, and also being wary of the pigeons I saw. I still remember that last scene, more than forty-five years ago, and my sense of wonder at what had just happened. I like my readers to work a little, too, figure stuff out on their own.

Lotta martial artists don't like guns, and some of those who read the story don't want to read about 'em, they want to see more on the knives. And see Kane learn how to sword fight.

Computer porn: Most of my geeks liked what I did, but every one of them had a slightly different way of doing it. Some of that I'll add. If you are a gun guy, you might sit still for the hardware lessons, and if you are a computer guy, you might get off on the encryption stuff, but general readers won't do either nearly as much, so there will be less boomware and very little more computer material than is already there.

When Kane goes to the range, that five pages gets cut to three, and that more show and less tell. A few places where I -- and some others -- thought things dragged, I trimmed a pound or two to make them run faster. I think there might be two scenes left that run more than four or five pp, and I think both are necessary pay-offs. (The longest one will be a visual flashback in the movie version when Hollywood comes pounding on my door.)

Couple guitar players liked the music scenes, nobody else seemed too distressed by those, and it goes to Kane's character, so probably much of that will stay in, though those will get a haircut, too.

It's a fine line I'm walking here between too much information and not enough. If there is any question, my opinion counts more. Goes with having the name on the cover and no franchise to whom I must answer. Can't please everybody, so ...

Kane and Rosie's relationship will get a little spit and polish. I'll lay in some small hints that it's coming. (Deadly danger turns some people on, and that was enough excuse for me to show some more stuff about Kane and his internal conflicts. Danger sex is hot.)

Some plot points, such as why the computer was still at Oliver's, I'll address, if a bit ambiguously. The whole book was about Kane trying to figure out what the fuck was going on, and he never did get it all. Didn't need to get it all.

Kane will have to work a bit harder, he'll maybe lose a couple set-tos, get thumped, and I'll lay in why he put up with all of Tinzen's you-aren't-ready-to-know-yet crap. Other bits here and there that readers pointed out that deserve attention and with which I agree. Should add up to another twenty or thirty pages scattered throughout, though the cuts will offset some of that. Whatever it takes.

Thanks, again, everybody. I do appreciate the help.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Long Ago and Far Away

So, digging around in some old paper files, I came across a copy of this check. Dated 20 March 1974, and it marks what was for me an auspicious day.

One Saturday, a buddy of mind asked me if I wanted to go with him to a meeting of the Society for Creative Anachronism. What-the-hell, I said, why not? I went, took my camera, and shot some pictures -- before they threw me out for not wearing a costume. (At the time, I figured I could have taken any of the fighters I saw, if they'd let me come as a samurai and use a spear or a sword. That was a long time ago and their skills were less than impressive.)

Um. Anyway, I went home, ran off a proof sheet, whipped out some prose, and sent it off to the Sunday Advocate. They liked it, I sent in the film, they ran the article a couple weeks later in the magazine section, and bam! just like that, I was a professional writer, at the advanced age of twenty-four.

I had written a column and done cartoons for the local underground hippie press before then, but I didn't get paid for that.

It was another four years before I sold any fiction, though I did manage a few more articles for the newspaper and a couple of medical and knife magazines along the way.

Big Brother is Watching You


Ever play with a program called Google Earth? It's a freebie you can download, and it's basically a series of maps of the entire world. Included is a satellite view, sharper in big cities than out in the country, and in some places, there is a street view, which can be downright spooky. If you live in a city on a well-traveled street, plug your address in, and what you get is as detailed as a photograph you'd shoot from the street, done with a so-so camera.

Now, of course, anybody can legally drive down your street and take pictures of the outside of your house -- there's no invasion of privacy involved unless they come peek in your window.
But it is somewhat disconcerting if you can find this picture of your house from any computer on the planet. A great tool for stalkers.

I had the program on my old computer and didn't port it to the new one. I wanted to look up an address today and thought, what-the-hell, I'll re-install it. And just for fun, I plugged in the street and number of a friend and activated the street view. Sure enough, the image came up.
Showed his house, his daughter standing in the front yard, and him, inside their garage -- door was up, so it was "public."

It gives one pause, it does.

I know there are millions of cameras out there -- supposedly more cameras than people in London, for example -- and that anything you do in public might be captured as a photo or video, but it is, as Darth Vader said ... disturbing.

My hot tub is under the tree canopy out back and you can't see it from above, but if it wasn't, I could flash you from thousands of miles away.

Welcome to the future ...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Floating Goddess Pendant


Just for grins, a size comparison of the Bob Hergert scrimshaw of the floating goddess pendant I used in the posting two before this one.

Guy works under a stereoscopic microscope. Is that fine detail work, or what?

Times, They are a' Changin'


I saw George Bush's press conference last night, his final one as President. To me, he sounded combative and whiney, and when asked about his mistakes, couldn't come up with any more substantive than he shouldn't have put up that victory banner on the aircraft carrier, because it "sent the wrong message," and that he should have waited on social security reform.

Absolutely didn't think that Iraq was an error, that U.S. prestige around the world was in the toilet, along with the economy, and more than two out of three Americans believed he had done a crappy job.

Not a lot of bright lights in the sea of darkness that was Bush the Younger's administration. 

There's an old Irish saying about being happy to see the back of a man. Works for me. 

Monday, January 12, 2009

Once More into the Bardo ...


The first batch of feedback has arrived from my readers, half a dozen thus far, and already a few bells have gone off. Some, I expected, because they echoed my own thoughts -- stuff I knew I needed to fix. Others called to attention things I hadn't thought about much, and some of those are already being incorporated. (Rather than wait for every report to come in, I am rewriting on the fly, plugging things in that I know need to be done regardless of what else shows up on my doorstep. My method of doing this is to address the material in a stand-alone scene, which I will later meld into the manuscript where it needs to go, with some revisions to smooth the edges and all. One joy of a computer file is that you can cut-and-paste, way better than a having to completely redraft stuff as in the old typewriter days. When those are done and entered, another pass to repair and polish things and then it's off to my agent.)

I won't get too specific yet with what I'm hearing in the private emails, I'll wait and offer a posting later that explains those, what makes sense, and what doesn't. But be assured that I have read all the input so far with as open a mind as I can manage, and that I'm considering all the opinions.

Given the number, I will bundle them up here rather than try to respond to each reader by email.

Having been in a book club, and a few writing workshops over the years, I've learned that no two people read the same novel. That what turns one reader off will sometimes be what delights another; that if you scratch five experts and ask them a question, you are as apt to get five different responses as you are unity. It's always interesting to see what works for some and doesn't for others.

Gun, guitar, knife, and computer porn are all being evaluated and reconsidered. Amusing to see, when you have an audience of martial artists and computer geeks, what revs their engines ...

Stand by ...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Manuscript Readers Update


I think maybe I've drained my pool of potential readers if this book ever sees print -- if I'd sent hard copy to all those who've expressed interest, I'd have to sell my car to afford the repro costs. Thank goodness for the computer-generated electronic file.

In a couple-three weeks, once I have enough comments, I'll do a post indicating what worked and didn't work for most folks, and I'll use that input on the next draft.

My primary focus, as always, comes down to two criteria:

1) Did I tell the story I wanted to tell?
2) Did I tell it well?

My notion at the moment is that I'm close on the first -- I do need a bit more to get there. I'd like to think I'm close on the second, but that's why I'm asking for comments. Objectivity is wonderful, but seldom enjoyed by a writer editing his own stuff. In my case, regarding objectivity, read: Never. And I am suspicious of folks who claim they can look at what they wrote with an objective eye.

I listen for the "Aha, yes!" bell to ring when I hear a critique. If I hear it, that always gets addressed. If I don't, I look at numbers. If nine out of ten people hate something I wrote and I don't, maybe they are all out of step and I'm not, but that's not something I can dismiss out of hand. (I still might decide to do it my way anyhow, but there will be a closer examination to see can I justify it.)

I'm not sure when my deadline input is, but pretty much if you haven't gotten around to it in a month or six weeks, it'll miss the boat. It's my intent to have this ms to my agent by the end of February; there are other books I need to get to, and I'm not getting any younger.

So many books. So little time ...

Addendum: The number of folks who volunteered to read and comment on the ms rocketed up faster than I expected, and in the interests of not overwhelming my tired old eyes, I'm going to shut down the list before the focus group turns into a general audience. I just sent the last one out. Thanks, everybody. The balcony is now closed ...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Another Day, Another Novel


Those of you who are regular readers of Blog de Perry know that I have been working on an urban fantasy, working title of which is Champion of the Dead. I posted a short scene from it earlier, in which Our Young Hero finds his martial arts Master.

Well. I have gotten through a first draft on the book. It is lean and it is also still pretty rough -- I haven't gone back to smooth out the prose, no rewrites, not done nearly enough to run the spell-checker. However, the skinny version of the story is there. Before I send it to the weight room to pump some iron -- it needs another ten thousand words of muscle, I figure -- I wouldn't mind hearing from more objective folk as to where it should bulk up or stay thin.

Here's the deal: I am looking for a few good first readers. What I need from them is a quick hit on the manuscript. "Quick" is a relative term. I don't need it tomorrow, but within a few weeks to a month would be helpful.

What works, what doesn't work, what a reader would like to see more of, or less off; what they love or hate. The usual.

If you have the time and inclination, and IF YOU NORMALLY READ THIS KIND OF STUFF, lemme know if you are interested. (I capped that phrase because if you don't know what an urban fantasy is, you aren't going to know the tropes well enough to be much help. You don't have to be a writer, but you do need to read in the genre.)

What you get for this is your name in the acknowledgments and a chance to see the early version of book before the rest of the world. And my thanks, of course.

I can send the file in one of several formats: Pages, PDF, Word, or .RTF. I'd rather not send a plain text file because that strips out all the underlines and formatting that show where I want italics, plus any non-text thingees, like the Tibetan word that is a .jpg.

If you are interested, email me, or post a note here and leave an email address and a preferred format, and I'll send you a copy.

(As an FYI for those of you who read the doorstop fantasy Reaves and I did, a couple things: First, this book is going to be half that long. We did send the Dreadnaught out into the seas of submission, and a few editors were interested, but we didn't much like the offers our agent got, so we pulled it. We expect it will find a home and see print some day, but the current economic storm has blown through the book industry, too, and we'd rather just batten down the hatches and wait it out.)

ADDENDUM: I put this in the comments column, but not everybody bothers with those, so ...

This is a rough draft -- odd commas, typos, like that, don't worry about. I know the ms is full of those, there are doubled words, and some awkward phrases. I will be making at least two more passes through the book before it goes to my agent, and maybe another one after she reads it.

What I'm looking for isn't copy editing, but story things you like or didn't like that I can address on the next draft. (If the book sells, I get a copy editor as part of the deal. And I'm not writing for Mrs. Cowsar's English IV class, so my appreciation of grammar is looser -- you might see some split infinitives and sentences ending in prepositions and em-dashes and ellipses in funny places. Most of the time, those are on purpose.)

ADDENDUM THE SECOND: The number of folks who volunteered to read and comment on the ms rocketed up faster than I expected, and in the interests of not overwhelming my tired old eyes, I'm going to shut down the list before the focus group turns into a general audience. I just sent the last one out. Thanks, everybody.

The balcony is now closed ...


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Another One Under the Knife

Those of you who are regular visitors here know I sometimes have a fun back-and-forth with Bobbe (pronounced "Bobby") Edmonds, a silat/kali teacher/writer who lives in Washington state.

Recently, the Kid blew out a low lumbar disk, and is apparently either about to have,  or just had, surgery to deal with it, since meds weren't doing the trick.

I wish him well, and ask that if you are a believer in such things, that you offer prayer, good energy, or whatever focus you can for his speedy and full recovery. 

Monday, January 05, 2009

On Being a Fossil

If I needed a reminder that I haven't kept up with today's music, hereunder the proof -- the top ten songs downloaded from the net in 2008:

Rank Song Artist
1 Low Flo Rida Featuring T-Pain
2 Bleeding Love Leona Lewis
3 Lollipop Lil Wayne Featuring Static Major
4 I Kissed a Girl Katy Perry
5 Viva La Vida Coldplay
6 Love Song Sara Bareilles
7 Apologize Timbaland Featuring OneRepublic
8 No Air Jordin Sparks Duet With Chris Brown
9 Disturbia Rihanna
10 4 Minutes Madonna Featuring Justin Timberlake

Source: Nielsen

Not only didn't I download any of these, I cannot claim to have even heard of most of the artists, much less heard these songs. Yeah, I know who Madonna and Timberlake are; Coldplay, and because we have the last name and she's being flacked for the Grammy Awards, Katy Perry.

Even heard of Lil Wayne, but there was a time when I knew all the artists and songs that graced the top forty, and if I didn't know all the words to each, could fake it well enough to sing along.

Move over, T-Rex ...

Sunday, January 04, 2009

More On Violence

If you haven't read Rory Miller's Meditations on Violence -- reviewed by Yours Truly here last summer, then you should -- martial artist or not.

Miller, who is off in the Middle East now doing things he knows how to do, was interviewed for a podcast by Dr. Kevin Keough in a lengthy session here.

It is worth a listen, especially if you ever visit Rory's blog. It rambles a bit, but there is a lot of good stuff in it.

Friday, January 02, 2009

More Bad Weather/Donald Westlake


Donald E. Westlake
1934-2008

Got another dusting of snow last night, rain, some wind. A couple big branches didn't like the wet snow and snapped off the pine tree to the east side of the house and landed on the roof. Enough cushioning from the foliage that they didn't break through the shakes. Took about forty minutes to get them chopped up and down -- filled the yard debris bin and have another two or three times that much left next to the fence.

I woke up about three a.m. suddenly, and I figure that must have been what did it.

Still have a bit of slushy snow covering the yard, but it won't stick long -- more rain coming to wash it away, and flood watches in effect across the area.

Never a dull moment.

#

In the world of literature, Donald Westlake passed away Wednesday. He wrote under a bunch of pen names, and created a couple of most endearing characters, Dortmunder and Parker. Under the nom de plume Richard Stark, the Parker books pretty much defined the modern anti-hero. Parker, a thief, was the essential bad-ass if you got crosswise with him.

Couple dozen of Westlake's novels made it to the big screen, with Lee Marvin first doing Parker, then Mel Gibson.

I always liked his work. Rest in Peace, Don.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year


Another one come and gone, and now, the proverbial clean slate.

Local paper's editorial today muses about whether George Bush is the worst President ever. They make a case that there might have been a couple along the way who were worse. Buchanan, say, and Andrew Johnson, just before and after Lincoln -- one who allowed the War Between the States to fester, and the other who vetoed Civil Rights legislation after the worst conflict in American history ended.

Hardly a legacy for Bush to be proud of, is it? Making it into the Worst Three ...

But there's a new hand at the tiller, and maybe the ship of state might be steered onto a better course. Time will tell, but even if Obama aimed it at an iceberg and tried to hit it, I don't think he could screw things up as bad as Bush did.

For all who drop round here, and those who don't, my best wishes for a safe, prosperous, and happy new year. Every day, the ten thousand paths loom; I hope your choices put you on the one that is right for you.