Tuesday, March 31, 2009

New Steel


Above: Chuck Pippin's kerambit, top; Steve Rollert's "Boxcutter" prototype, middle;
Jeff Crowner's Mini-korambit, closest to watchband


Mini


Sheathed


Look at the welting

So check out the Jeff Crowner mini-kerambit (korambit).

I think maybe the "mini" designation is relative -- see how it compares to a Chuck Pippin kerambit and Steve Rollert's prototype for his "boxcutter" kerambit.

It's a beast -- a quarter-inch thick -- pre 1980's 5160 chromium-steel, Jeff says. The cutting edge is a hair over an inch-and-a-half long, chisel-ground, sharped on the concave curve only, though he will sharpen both edges if you want, and it feels very solid in one's hand. I think you'd be hard pressed to break it unless you were maybe trying to chip granite. It weighs about seven ounces. Looks to me like multiple tempers on the blade, too.

Handle is black Micarta, and the tooled leather sheath is as sturdy as the knife.

This is a silat blade, made by a silat player, and Jeff joins my list of knifemakers who truly know how to work steel.

Rotor Rooter Cam



So, today, the initial consultation for Steve's upcoming gastroenterological adventure: Where no man has gone before ...

As it happened, there is an ongoing research project studying people about to have their first colonoscopy, and I was asked to participate.

My part involves giving some blood, then, some years down the line, the white-coat folk will do a comparison and contrast with other donors of vampire wine, referenced against the result of their exams. I'm not quite sure how it works, but it would seem that they will look to see which of the blood donors had abnormalities during the spelunking, and if there are some kinds of correlations.

If, say, a thousand people had some unusual findings during the exam, and some significant number of them had some oddity of the hemoglobin-ery, then it might be possible to devise a screen for colo-rectal cancer with a blood test instead of cranking up the snake-cam.

I'm all for helping science, so I gave up a few tubes of blood. And even better, they are going to pay me fifty bucks for my participation.

First time I ever came out of a doctor's office as a patient with more money than when I went in.

Of course, the looming adventure, ah, still looms ...

Home Improvement Project

Wrong Way


You'll have to click on the photo and enlarge it to see all five of them, but check out the newly-painted arrows in the parking lot across from my son's office in Portland. Interesting traffic flow pattern ...

For Those of You Into Hardware



Check out the new Ruger LCR (Light Carry Revolver). 13.5 ounces, unloaded, .38 Special. You can get it with Crimson Trace Lasergrips™, or plain Hogue overmolded.

Not a gun you'd want to shoot a lot with hot +P ammo, but it would ride lightly on a belt or in a pocket or purse.

Cool looking, hey?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sneak Peek


Fight scene from Bristlecone ...

#

Hull said, “So, you want to dance a little?”

Marlow shrugged. “I might remember how, a little.”

“Sensitivity drill to start?”

Marlow nodded. “Sure.”

The two men stepped toward each other, right feet leading. Hull raised his left hand and held it next to his ear, palm facing toward him; his right hand he held palm up, fingers pointed toward Marlow. He lowered the back of his right hand lightly onto Marlow’s left shoulder as he bent his knees and dropped his weight.

Marlow mirrored his pose.

Hull’s hand on the other man’s shoulder touched Marlow’s left wrist lightly, as Marlow’s did his own left wrist. He closed his eyes.

The exercise was simple. Using your hands and wrists, you were supposed to try and feel the other player’s center, and then, using only the lightest of touches, and holding your own center, disrupt his balance.

It was deceptively simple, the drill. It was not a test of strength but of sensitivity, and the ability to relax and re-direct the pressure so that you could stay steady. The core of Hull’s art was the cultivation of this skill -- to keep one’s balance and take another's was the key to winning the fight. Position was king, all else came second.

You had to know how to find your own center first. Then, you had to be able to find that of an opponent and -- subtly -- take it.

It had been eleven years since Hull and Marlow had done the drill. Marlow had been his best student, but only his his mid-thirties then, and true mastery of a martial art needed time.

It also needed practice.

Hull felt the shift as they searched for what they wanted, and even though he had been Marlow’s teacher, had taught him much of what he knew, time had not stood still.

His circles had gotten smaller, but so had Marlow’s.

Hull had retired, and while he practiced his art every day, and worked out against Khadra a couple of times a week, and she was good, that was not the same as doing what Marlow did -- teaching and honing his edges against a variety of students, all sizes, shapes, and levels of ability.

Hull had maybe lost a few steps, he knew that. Age and relative inactivity, but he had kept most of what he had.

Marlow had gotten better.

The tiny pressures came, shifted, faded, returned, and while Hull hadn’t been beaten at this game in most of the time he had been at The Department, he was not winning this match.

He was barely holding his own.

There was a moment when Marlow pressed and turned his hand the smallest bit, and Hull felt his balance starting to go. He shifted and recovered, but he knew:

Marlow, had he not backed off, would have taken him.

Hull opened his eyes and came out of his stance.

Marlow looked at him.

“That’s good,” Hull said. He nodded, a slow military bow.

Marlow nodded in return. He knew, too.

“I think we’re done,” Hull said.

“You sure?”

“Aren't you?”

Marlow didn't say anything. Yeah. He was sure.

#
Khadra stepped out of the shower, toweling her hair, as Hull entered their apartment.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey.”

“What?”

“What ‘What?’”

“Somebody shot your dog?”

She knew him too well, he realized. That she could tell from one word, without even looking at him.

“Marlow and I did the sensitivity drill.”

Now she looked at him. “Really?” She wasn’t asking if what he’d said was so, but about the result, and he knew it.

“Yeah.”

“Huh. Well. We’re not getting any younger, are we?”

“Apparently not.”

“Isn’t that how it’s supposed to go? Don’t you want your student to be better than you?”

“Yes.”

“But ... ?”

“I was figuring maybe I had a few more years before he got there.”

“What, you were thinking ninety? A hundred?”

“About that.” He smiled.

“You want a hug?”

“I don’t need your pity.”

She laughed. “Day that happens, I’m gone, Hull.”

He chuckled. “Well. In that case, I’m up for a hug.

“Me being naked right here in front of you, you better be up for more than that.”

Hull smiled. The way to a man’s heart was not just through his stomach.

“Come on, we can give the guys working the monitors something to look at.”

“I might could manage that.”

“I could call Marlow,” she said. Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.

That made him laugh aloud. Her, too.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Secret to Losing Weight Revealed


Now and then, Steve Barnes cranks up a discussion on his blog on fitness.

It always amazes me how many people come out of the woodwork armed with tons of rationalizations as to why being way overweight is okay, and how it's not their fault anyhow.

Okay, so here's the deal: I'm going to save you all that money on the latest, hottest diet book. If you want to lose weight, slim down, so you are happy to see a picture of yourself in a bathing suit, here are the four methods that don't require amputation:

1. Eat less.

2. Exercise more.

3. Do both 1. & 2.

4. Photoshop.

That's it, period. All the stuff about hormones excuses three out of a hundred, and only partially so. The good calories versus bad ones theory doesn't excuse anybody -- it's a simple equation. Eat more than you burn, you gain. Eat less, you lose. It's basic chemistry and physics, folks, not magic.

It's not easy, it takes discipline, but those are the secrets to doing it.

Any questions?

Day of the Lepus

A somewhat unusual martial art:

Cotton tail-fu, Texas style -- courtesy of my Aunt Barbara:

video

Friday, March 27, 2009

He is Tramping Out the Vintage ..


... where the grapes of wrath are stored ...

The recession has come to call at Steve's house. Book business is slow -- editors fired, lines condensed or eliminated, and nobody is pounding down the doors to throw money at me, alas.

My wife, who works for the Port of Portland, has, along with all the other non-union employees, been given a choice between unpaid furlough, or a pay cut -- same difference -- spread out over the next year and half. No raises, no bonuses, no new hires, and folks going to get riffed.

Still, we are better off than a lot of folks; at least my wife still has a job, and eventually, I'll sell another book. Probably ...

I'd love to blame all this on the Bush administration, but it goes back farther than him, and includes Bill the Willie and George the Elder, though Shrub certainly could have helped head it off at the pass and didn't. War, it seems, isn't always good for the economy.

Of course, given all the "experts" who didn't see it coming, it's hard to blame Former Occupant, since his name and "expert" don't belong in the same galaxy together. But he had people, supposedly.

Everybody better be rooting for Obama to help get us out of the quagmire. Anybody who wants to see him fail for political reasons, given the tenor of the times, is, in my opinion, an idiot; which, as we all know, is one step below imbecile, and two below moron ...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

There Are No Republican Folk Singers!

Wednesday, Incorporated, circa 1966.
I was nothing if not pretentious 
with my three chords and hand-painted 
T-shirt, guitar case, and briefcase ...

When I was a dewy-eyed teen, I didn't want to be a rock singer, I wanted to be a folk singer.

Well, no, strike that -- I wanted to be what I thought a folk singer was, as exemplified by the pop groups who were covering folk songs in the late 1950's and early 1960's, such as the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary. I didn't know from real folk singers -- HUAC had laid low the Weavers; Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger were years in my future, and the folk revival of Greenwich Village was far away and no how making it onto the local radio.

PP&M, were the faces of folk where I lived -- two bearded guys and a skinny long-haired blonde. The beatnik era had mostly faded, but still hung on in a few coffee houses, and putting on a black turtleneck shirt and spouting poetry while playing bongo drums had become a staple of comedy bits in movies and on the tube; still, the Beats were a draw for the young and restless. I can remember going to such places, cigarette smoke so thick you couldn't see the poets, and thinking how cool it was.

PP&M were an attempt to make a folk super-group, by their manager, Albert Grossman. He gathered up the three, changed Noel Stookey's name to "Paul," because he liked the sound better, and rehearsed the hell out of them in a bunch of old standards given a pop lilt. It was two guitars and the uncredited fourth member of the trio, the bass player, of which there were several -- Dick Knise was the first, I think -- and sicced them on the world in 1961.

They took off like a rocket.

They had one #1 single in their career, and only a few other songs that made it into the top ten, but their albums sold steadily and well, staying on the charts for years, and they were quite the hot trio in their time. Everybody knew who they were. They were in every piece of film footage about the civil rights movement and the anti-war rallies -- King's I-have-a-dream speech? Right there.

Grossman also managed a kid named Bobby Zimmerman, who used the stage name Bob Dylan, and Grossman took several of his songs and gave them to PP&M. First Dylan song I heard was "Blowin' in the Wind," then "Don't Think Twice," both which sounded a lot better from PP&M than they did from Bob. Bob is a brilliant writer. As a singer ... Bob is a brilliant writer ...

PP&M eventually got around to writing their own material, and those songs are among their best-remembered: Puff the Magic Dragon (Yarrow, with Leonard Lipton); The Great Mandala, by Yarrow; The Wedding Song, by Stookey, for Yarrow's marriage. I Dig Rock and Roll Music, by Stookey, and Jim Mason.

Their sole #1 hit was Leaving on a Jet Plane, by John Denver.

It was probably about 1966 that PP&M came to LSU, where I was a student. I really wanted to see them, and not just from the stands, so early that morning, I went to the cow palace where they were going to do their concert that evening. This was Louisiana State University & Agricultural and Mechanical College, and the venue for the show was in the same building used to hold livestock shows and rodeos ...

In those days, security was not as good as it is now, and I got to the place before anybody started watching the doors. I wandered around as if I belonged there, started helping the roadies set stuff up, and nobody said anything to me. Roadies assumed I was with the college crew, and the college crew figured I was a roadie. The end result of which was that I got to be back stage before the concert cranked, and somehow managed to find my way into the dressing room where PP&M were tuning up. Noel sent me and another kid out to get them some soft drinks -- the days of a fully-stocked dressing room as part of the contract were in the future -- and we did. Tipped us each a buck, and I kept that one for years until times got really lean.

I remember little of that meeting, being a star-struck fanboy. I did realize while looking at their gear that Stookey's guitar case was easily worth three or four times what I had paid for my guitar, it being hand-tooled leather and custom made. The guitar, a classical, was probably more spendy than what my parents paid for their house ...

My wife and I saw them years later on a reunion tour, and that's where the title of this entry comes from. Somebody asked them about Republican folk singers ...

Fifteen years or so ago, before the internet was so encompassing, I heard that Stookey was into computers and I tracked him down via some BBS and exchanged a couple of emails with him. Thanked him for being an inspiration, and got a nice response. I expect he had heard it before.

I saw the trio on PBS during pledge eon last week. They have gone bald -- two of the three, anyhow -- and gotten heftier -- Mary is twice the woman she was -- but they still have the musical and vocal chops.

Pictures from the Dawn of Time


In my mother's kitchen, Greenwell Springs, Louisiana, 1965
(Note the healthy tan ...)


Panama City Beach, 1965
(Note the beautiful girlfriend)


Hollywood, California, 1967
(We were out shooting pictures and saw this guy on stilts, so we stopped the car.
Note the gasoline prices to the right -- those numbers are in cents ...)


Why am I posting these? Got an obnoxious email from somebody -- I won't say who, but you know those little pins women wear to keep their hair in place? that's how he pronounces his name.

The email had a picture of somebody with my name, but it wasn't me. And to prove it, pictures from that era, which was just past the Pleiocene ...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Trek-ery

Several promos up on the official movie site -- you, uh, did know there was going to be another Star Trek movie, focusing on the original crew as youngsters, right?

I dunno how good it'll be, but it looks really cool to judge from the trailers, which you can find on the Official Site.

Old Tech




Back in the day, when beer came crimp-capped in bottles or steel cans, opening these vessels was not as easy as twisting off a cap or pulling a tab. There were special tools designed for these chores, and it wasn't long before they came to be called "church keys." Ostensibly, this was because the bottle-opener versions had the look of the big ole spring-lock ornate keys used to open church doors.

Ostensibly.

I've never bought into that one. It seems more reasonable to me that serious beer drinkers were entering into communion with their beverages, and opening a brew was like, well, going to church.

The first novel I ever sold, The Tularemia Gambit, was sparked by a picture in National Geographic Magazine, of a bar in Birdsville, Queensland, Australia.

In the middle of nowhere, Birdsville is a loooong way from town. For years, they'd just toss the steel cans out back of the pub, and there was quite the pile after forty or fifty years. I knew I had to set some kind of story there, and did.

Twist-off caps and aluminum cans worth recycling have made church keys relics.

Something lost, something gained, but things never stay the same.

Who Are Those Guys?


Tragedy has come to mean pretty much any event that involves great suffering or distress, but the original meaning from the Greek plays involves the downfall of the protagonist due to a defect in his character.

Usually, it's the protag's own fault.

So when HMS Titanic sinks, it's tragic because the builder and captain were arrogantly certain the ship was unsinkable. Oops ...

At first glance, it seems that Oedipus gets the crappy end of the stick when he fulfills the prophecy of killing his father and then sleeping with his mother. He doesn't know who they are and since they knew the prophesy that he was gonna do it, they tried to get rid of him, but delegated the job because they didn't want to do it, which was a fatal mistake.

However, it is Oedipus's pride that causes him to off his old man -- in what is the first recorded case of road rage -- and his defeat of the Sphinx because he is all-too-clever that gets him into his mother's bed. And it's not just the gimp who comes to a tragic end, self-blinded and exiled, so do his father and mother. If they had all been better people, they would have avoided the dire consequences. Pretty much their own damn fault.

My favorite tragedy is the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, brilliantly written by William Goldman, and brought to life by Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Katherine Ross, directed by George Roy Hill. There are several lines from the movie I have used over the years, ranging from "Rules? In a knife fight?!" to "I'm better when I move." Goldman has a way with words, the man does. That one picture would endear him to me for life, but he wrote a bunch of others, ranging from All the President's Men, to Marathon Man, to, of course, The Princess Bride ...

Butch and Sundance are anachronisms, men who have outlived their time. Civilization has caught up with them, they have run out of places that allow their kind of bad guys, and there is only one way the movie can possibly end. You can see that going in, from the very first scene, and it's sad, but predestined. They can't change -- if they could have, they would have already done so, and by the time we get to the final shootout in South America, there's no hope. Etta has gone home, because the only thing she wouldn't do, she told Sundance, was watch him die, and everybody knows it is coming.

How many men? the commandant asks the soldier seeking help. Cuantos hombres?

Dos.

Dos?!

Banditos Yankees ...

Ah ...

The last scene in the movie is a freeze-frame, in that instant between Butch and the Kid charging from cover, wounded, but still game, and the fusillade of gunfire erupting from the Bolivian army. That was pure genius, that shot, because it offered the tiniest bit of hope. Maybe they survived.

We all knew they didn't -- though there is a story that Sundance did, managed to get home, and live to a ripe old age, not dying until the mid-1930's, and we were, as Flatnose Curry said to Butch after the knife fight, rootin' for him ...

Tragic figures, Butch and Sundance. Likable, but it was their own damn fault ...


Timing



Today's lesson in irony:

At the Battle of Bull Run, during the War Between the States, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard took over the house of Wilmer McLean, who lived next to the river, as his HQ. McLean was too old to join either side.

The yankees shelled the place, and McLean, overwhelmed with the worry about his family, figured there would be more fighting in the area, so he packed up and moved away to escape.

He relocated to Appomattox Courthouse, where, in April of 1865, Lee's surrender to Grant took place.

In Wilmer's house ...

Said McLean: "The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor."

You can run, but you can't hide.

On August 6th, 1945, Tsutomu Yamaguchi was on a business trip to Hiroshima when the first ever atomic bomb used in warfare fell out of the sky upon the city. Yamaguchi was burned and spent the night in the ruined town, then decided he had to go home.

He lived in Nagasaki.

He got there just in time to be beneath the second atomic bomb ever used in warfare.

One might consider Yamaguchi unlucky; however he survived both attacks, and at ninety-three is still alive today.

Irony.

Your Day Isn't So Bad ...


Check out this link: Komodo Dragons.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just in Case You Missed This One ...

Gotta love this guy.

Useless Fact of the Day


The composer, John Phillip Sousa, the March King, leader of the Marine Band, and top of the hit parade from the late 1800's into the 1920's had an interesting quirk.

Not just a band leader and creator of such rousing marches as "The Stars and Stripes Forever," Souza was a novelist, a world-class trapshooter, and a horseman of some renown, as well as a Freemason. He had perfect pitch, and while he favored the violin, could play all the wind instruments in the band, as well as, apparently, most of the brass.

The sousaphone, a bigger version of the tuba that you can wear, was named after him.

According to the story, once he was successful, the man wore white kid gloves whenever he went out in public -- and to make sure they were spotless, he never wore the same pair of gloves twice. At the end of the day, the ones he peeled off were given away or tossed out, and he would don a new pair the next day. Bought them by the gross.

I'm not sure what that means, but I found it interesting ...

Voice

This isn't everybody's cup of tea, but if you have the ear for it, you can hear some fascinating under- and overtones in the voices of the monks as they chant.

Then listen to one guy from Tuva intone three or four notes at the same time, in traditional throat-singing ...




Not as Funny as the Sword, but ...

Just as interesting to see how a demo can go wrong:




Monday, March 23, 2009

Quality Steel

I don't remember if I put this up here before, but if I did, I don't see it. It's worth revisiting. You want to be sure to get the right item number for your order -- this is the wall-hanger you want to reach for when the bad guy kicks in your front door ...


video

Thrilling Wonder Stories!


Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 2, Spring, '09, is either out, or about to be -- I just got a couple of author copies in the mail.

Reaves and I wrote a piece a while back, "Manifest Destiny," in which we play with some old space opera tropes, including something the Hero never, ever does to the Beautiful Woman who is part of his crew.

Winston Engle bought the piece for TWS, a wonderful olio consisting of classic stories -- such as Frederic Brown's "Arena," which was bastardized for a Star Trek episode of the same name; Richard Matheson's "F ---" and a couple of others, some new stuff, and assorted articles and reviews, and even a comic strip.

This is the Star Trek issue -- stories mostly done by Trek writers.

Michael wrote for Trek and I never did, but since I'm S.D. Perry's father, they -- ah -- grandfathered me in. Plus I did have a line in the Star Trek: World Enough and Time episode, the shooting and production of which is detailed by Crystal Ann Taylor in this issue of TWS, said show being webcast, directed by Marc Scott Zicree and co-written with Michael Reaves, by the by.

You should go to the site and buy ten or twelve copies. Not that we'll ever see a penny in royalties, given our cut, but it's a fun book for folks who grew up reading or watching space opera. Give them as gifts -- Christmas is coming ...

Bob


Bob -- from "body opponent bag," is a martial arts training dummy. Bob comes in various versions, Cotten has the basic model in his garage, and it's more fun to thump than a plain old punching bag.

I was thinking that if you could use the latest tech, like self-healing plastic, you could make ole Bob into a pretty good multiple-use knife dummy. (Using encapsulated liquid tricyclic, like diolefin, and some kind of catalyst for quick hardening. Cut the "flesh," the capsules rupture, and fill in the gap, if it isn't too big.)

So I stuck a scene into the current book-in-progress, Bristlecone, just for fun.

Obviously there would be drawbacks and it would be passing spendy to build Bob this way, but I have a black-bag government agency with deep pockets and money is no problem.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

This Would Be a Lot Funnier ...

... if it weren't for Mick and the Stones ....


video

Friday, March 20, 2009

Okay, a Little Biz Here

So, as I did with my writing entries, I went through and collected most of the martial arts entries, plus a couple things from elsewhere, and blended them all together into a book:

But What if I Did This!?

Musings on Martial Arts by a
Long-Time Student of things
mano a mano ...

by

Steve Perry

A hundred and fifty pages, seventy-some odd essays, 42,000 words, what the subtitle says above. If you are a long-time blog reader, you've already seen these. And you could go back through the archives and dig 'em out, but for five bucks, it's not worth the effort, trust me.

Here's the deal: Click on the PayPal button, send them the cost of lunch at McDonald's, and I'll send a PDF to you.

Yes, money is tight, times are perilous, but five dollars won't break you, and I'm certainly not going to get rich off a deal like this anyhow. But I am interested in seeing if this e-book thing is worth pursuing. At some point, my novels might wind up on Kindle or other e-formats, I might sell some that are out-of-print or maybe even unsold, directly onto the web, and I thought this would be an interesting way to dip my toe in the matrix ...


Yoga


Long ago and far away, my wife and I took a class in yoga, as part of meditation training. Basic stuff, utilizing the postures, or asanas. While I was doing the meditation practice, I also did the poses, and even after I quit the mantra sitting, I kept up with the daily practice of the physical. I had a short and simple routine and I worked it into my martial arts warm-up.

At some point, I stopped doing yoga. I just drifted away, the time necessary more than anything. I had enough flexibility to do whatever martial art I was studying, so I didn't miss the slow stretches. I though full range-of-motion weightlifting and the art warm-ups were enough.

My wife stayed with it, hit and miss, and took classes in several styles. Like silat, there are all kinds of of yoga systems, and even the basic physical version has myriad variations -- Hatha, Iyengar, Bikram, Power, the list goes on and on.

A couple times, my wife dragged me along to a class, but I wasn't enthused. I like to say I was like the Sundance Kid -- I was better when I moved. In yoga, the breathing is also important, but they tend to breathe in when a martial artist breathes out, and vice-versa, and I had trouble reconciling the two.

Eventually, my wife found, as I did silat, a system that called to her. It's kind of woo-woo, but the teachers are good, and the way is gentle. She liked it enough to want to do and maybe even teach it, so she began taking an instructor's course, which she has been doing for most of the last year.

She is now at the student-teaching phase, and since I am an available dummy ...

I quickly discovered that while I can do djurus just fine, the flexibility I had when I was doing yoga regularly is gone. Tightest in the hamstrings and low back, but even my upper back and shoulders are stiff compared to what they once were. I can recall doing poses easily that I can't even get within a parsec of now. It was quite a shock to realize how stiff I had become.

Practitioners of this kind of yoga believe, among other things, that the key to physical being is a healthy spine, and it's not about how far you can stretch things, but about the mindset and flow, the proper form and attitude.

I've resolved to add the stuff back into my workout again, to regain the flexibility -- as much of it as I can -- and maybe avoid some of the injuries I've had in recent years. I've always thought that gymnasts and dancers had a good balance of strength and flexibility, and since silat is certainly a martial dance, better I work on keeping my instrument bendable instead of brittle.

Sometimes, it is good to be the oak tree. Sometimes, it is better to be the willow ...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Truth Waits for Eyes Unclouded by Longing

One of the first things that I learned in journalism school was that any account in a newspaper of any noteworthy event was never going to be told exactly as it happened. That truth, regardless of how objective a journalist might try to be, was apt to be as flexible as a stadium full of world-class gymnasts. Nature of the beast.

Having been in the field, and having been interviewed and having seen how many times a reporter flat got it wrong -- sometimes even with a bio I'd give them written in third-person to make sure they got it right -- I take most reportage with a barrel or two of salt.

That said, there is an interesting case being litigated in Portland now, a federal lawsuit involving a woman bicyclist and the local police department.

The woman, whose legal name is apparently "Freedom Child," contends that the police violated her civil rights. (With a name like hers, you might not be blamed for thinking she's a flake, but I'm not going too far down that road. Flake or not, she's a citizen and has rights -- it' s not a crime to have a strange name.)

The mostly-agreed facts of the case are these: Child was on her way home from work one evening, about five and a half years ago. She took the bus, then got off and rode most of the last three blocks on her bicycle.

The bike had lights, but she hadn't turned them on. As she drew near her house, a brown car (an unmarked police car) pulled up next to her, and the men in it started asking questions -- without identifying themselves. By this point, Child was off the bike and walking it. She kept going. The two men in the car kept talking, she kept going, and they stopped the car as she got home, alighted, and followed her onto her porch.

Now, these were cops, and in uniform, and once they stepped from the car, anybody with eyes could see that.

From here on the story diverges.

The police allow as how they then identified themselves and wanted to discuss her riding without lights. They say they had their car's roof rack flashing, though neighbors say they didn't -- and, it turns out, the unmarked unit didn't have roof lights.

Child alleges that they chased her to her house, grabbed her by the hair and hauled her off to jail. She likens them to Nazis.

The police admit to a "very quick tug" on her hair, to get her to comply.

Neighbors heard Child screaming and called 9/11, and were told it was being handled.

Child was charged with a bicycle light infraction and interfering with an officer in the performance of his duty. Not, apparently, resisting arrest. The interfering charge was dropped. But she was booked -- mug-shots and prints.

The woman is now fifty-seven, and not a fan of the police, which her name might tell you. For years, she tried to get somebody from the city to address this, and nothing was done. And technically, the police were probably in legal compliance, but ...

When you read a story like this, you might think, "Well, it was some loon of an old hippie got feisty with the local patrol and deserved what happened to her."

Or, you might wonder, "What the hell were these two cops thinking?"

I mean, first thing leaps to my mind is, Don't the police have anything better to do than arrest somebody for a bicycle light citation? They couldn't have given her a ticket once they saw her license? (Which they did, see her license, so they knew where she lived and who she was.)

In Portland, if you get caught smoking dope in the public square, you get a ticket. We hardly have room in the system for car thieves and crack dealers, but apparently hauling in a no-light-on-her-bike rider is cool?

The jury is still out deliberating last time I checked, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them rule in favor of the woman. Whatever the two LEO's did, it was a dumb call to bust the woman, and dumber still not to ID themselves first thing off the bat. Unmarked car, at night, a woman alone? This kind of stuff always has the potential to come back and haunt you. And who it will cost if the jury agrees with Freedom Child is the citizens of the city who will have to pay the bill.

Bad call by the local boys in blue. 

(This just in: The jury found in favor of the police. I do believe they dodged a bullet ...)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sly Sweats

Getting in shape for his new movie, The Expendables, Sly Stallone.

So, you think maybe he has a little help from the pharmaceutical companies, hey ... ?

Sci-Fi



The term "sci-fi," is usually attributed to Forrest J. Ackerman. Forry, aka 4E, and "The Ackermonster," was a long time fan of fantasy and science fiction, a member of First Fandom, and a publisher, writer, and collector of science fiction movie memorabilia. By the time he died, he had a museuem of stuff in his house, including some pretty famous props ranging from King Kong to one of the Gort suits from The Day the Earth Stood Still.

"Sci-fi" the term thus had an honorable genesis. However ...

Along the way, and partially because the "mundanes," i.e., those who weren't science fiction fans, coƶped the term and began mis-using it, it came to mean something different to hardcore fans of the genre.

"Sci-fi," when used among the propellor beanie set, means bad science fiction movies, ala Godzilla or Mothra or the first Star Trek movie ...

Everybody in the field knows this. The more profane among us play with it. I once had vanity plates put on my Volvo that said "Sci Fi," just to tweak folks. And it is also fun to use the other term that fans detest, "skiffy," when in an iconoclastic mood.

I bring this up for two reasons: First, I don't care if folks call it sci-fi, because I know the ones who don't know any better don't mean anything by it. Second, if you use the term in the presence of somebody who visibly winces when s/he hears you say it, that's the reason. For them, you call it ess-eff, or speculative fiction -- spec-fic sounds like a disease, don't it? -- or just science fiction. Sci-fi rings their bell.

Long ago and far away, the producer of the first Star Wars movie journeyed to Miami, to the World Science Fiction Convention, to accept a special award for the picture. During his acceptance speech, he used the term "sci-fi," and was roundly booed for it. He didn't know any better. He had an excuse.

The fans? They were just boors, no excuses for them ...

Egoboo


Egoboo: A term from science fiction fandom, short for "ego boost."

Here's my latest: At the writing gig last weekend, during a break, I passed around my book credit sheet for those who were curious as to the titles I'd had published. A lot of folks don't remember the writer's name when they read a novel, mostly they remember the characters or the story. I was that way until I got into the biz myself and made the effort, in case I ran into the writer somewhere.

So one of the students comes over and says: "When I got out of college and started trying to learn how to write, I went to Powell's (a monster-large book store in Portland) to the sci-fi section and asked them to recommend a book I could use to study well-done fight scenes. I remember the book, but until just now, I didn't realize it was one that you wrote ..."

You know, it didn't hurt my feelings at all to hear that.

Slice and Dice




So, we have been continuing to concentrate our silat practice on the short blade -- short here being sheath or folding knife-length and not Bowie knives or swords, which get utilized differently. We are not yet refined in the techniques; however, we are beginning to develop a flow, albeit a somewhat ragged one.

The core of the upper body motions are in the techniques which give our art the first part of its name -- Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera Plinck.

For those who don't know what this is, the closest visual image I can offer is that these are motions that look something like the driving wheel of a locomotive. The eccentric rod attached to the wheel is not centered on the axle, so there is a piston-like effect as it moves. In pukulan, the motion of the arm is similar; however, it can be quickly reversed, or canted from vertical to horizontal or in between.

We use practice knives so as not to fill up the local hospital's ER, and several of us utilize a chef-grade silicone spatula, which is much kinder to the player on the receiving end than a standard hard-plastic traning knife. Against those, one tends to develop a nice set of small bruises after each session, on the forearm behind the knife hand, and on the torso ...

One also learns very quickly that against somebody several inches taller and with a longer reach, like say, Edwin, who I believe can touch the ground with his knuckles whilst standing on a box without bending his knees or his hips, that staying outside and clashing blades gets you stuck no matter which grip he uses. (Edward, aka "Orang," must have relatives in Borneo or Sumatra who still live in trees. And he likes one of those long black training blades, about which I spoke earlier. And did I mention that he started silat when he was knee-high to a grasshopper and that he loves knives?)

Running away or going in are the options in such a case; if you can't do the former, you need to do the latter or you get to be long-pig tartar ...

Never a dull moment.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

One More I Had to Share

Apparently, a promo for the AvP movie from New Zealand. Thanks to Michael Reaves for sending me this one. 

The most recent AvP movie would have been much more interesting if it had gone this way instead of the way it went ...

And Cut ... That's a Wrap, People!

Did my second and final session with the photographer for the calendar shoot today. The overall project is supposed to be done by May, and on sale some time in the summer, for 2010. I've seen the rough images for about half of the models -- we none of us are going to be stepping onto the Mr. or Ms. Olympia stage based on our physical perfection -- but the photographer has done a great job thus far.

Tougher than it looks, being a male model. I had to stand there in a dynamic pose for a couple minutes at a time while the photographer shot. Naturally, the stance he liked the most was the most awkward to hold. Been too long since my kendo class, I don't remember the name, but the basic postion is both hands held overhead and to the side, right hand in front, left to the rear, and the edge -- if it had been a real sword -- up, point angled slightly down. Looks kind of like doing a twisted chin-up, one hand palm facing away, the other palm facing toward me.

This was complicated because I had to use a left lead to position my leg to maintain modesty and our PG-rating. Back heel was up, and I was lower and wider than a normal upright kendo stance. Plus I had to torque slightly, make sure my head was framed between my arms, and get a facial profile while not showing anything else that wasn't supposed to show. Yoga was helpful here, and this was in no way a legitimate sword fighting position ...

Then I'd relax, he'd move the lights, change the angle or filters on them, we'd re-set, and do it again. Did this eight or ten times, six or eight shots each time. Electronic camera onto a flashmem card and into the computer where eventually one will be selected and then subjected to the wonders of Photoshop™. Gonna have a big shiny moon, an alien landscape, and the monster the photographer came up with is perfect -- horned and fire-breathing with many sharp teeth ...

I ran into Larry Brooks at the writing seminar in Eugene -- another of the calendar boys -- and we laughed about the whole notion. His session was in the Pacific Ocean surf, and mine was in a heated studio, with a nice robe to put on between set-ups. I came out way ahead on that deal.

This is all to benefit the Oregon Writers Colony , a house on the coast wherein writers can go and work in a quiet environment, and an organization that does good things for writers in general, with workshops, seminars, and other literary events. (You'll notice if you go and visit Bobbe's blog that even he has a link to their main site -- though he might take it down now that he knows.)

I'll put up a link to the calendar when it becomes available.

I know. You can hardly wait ...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Music


Just a heads-up for fans of fine wooden instruments -- the annual show at Marylhurst College, with assorted guitars, violins, violas, basses, and flutes and stuff will be held at the end of April.

Information on where and when and so forth here.

You get, for the price of admission, to see the exhibits, and to listen to mini-concerts during which the makers have various players show off their toys. Some world-class musicians do this, playing world-class instruments, and you can watch as many of them as you like, for four hours or so each day.

Teaching R Us

So I spent the weekend in Eugene, sort of, as part of a three-teacher rotation doing a writing seminar for Triple Tree Publishing. The event was hosted by Rick Ramsey and his lovely wife, and I had a fine ole time blathering to the class about how-not-to-write for my session. Rick, the publisher, is also a writer, and went to great effort to take care of the writers who taught -- Larry Brooks, Eric Witchey, and me.

Because my daughter's birthday was on Saturday and I didn't have anything scheduled for classes, I drove down to Eugene Thursday, then home Friday night, then back to Eugene for an eight a.m. class on Sunday -- which ran until five p.m. Time I got home and had dinner and made it to bed, it had been an eighteen hour day -- starting at four a.m. Harder than it used to be. 

And that stretch of I-5 between Portland and Eugene is not the most exciting and scenic of drives. Rained all the way there Sunday morning, which, with a good wind, cuts about five miles per gallon off your gas mileage, did you know?

A very sharp class, six women, two men, and since I was third in the teaching rotation, a lot of what I was offering they had already heard -- twice. One exercise in writing dialog they nailed amazingly well -- several of the students were easily at a professional-writing level already.

My aunt sent me this video, and while it has nothing to do  with writing, I thought I'd throw it in ...


video

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I'm Ready for my Close-Up

So, I had my first session with the photographer for an upcoming calendar to raise money for a local writing group. This is one of those things featuring local writers showing some skin -- rated G or PG, of course -- wherein we allow ourselves to be put into silly poses, sans clothing, for the benefit of a worthy cause.

Me, I'm the sci fi guy, and not to give too much away, will probably be waving a light saber under the light of a full moon at a bug-eyed monster. 

I dunno if the alien will be dressed or not ...

What I learned from this was that a big warehouse studio, on what was one of the coldest March days ever here locally, takes a while to heat up even with the heater blasting away, and that I should bring a warm robe next time to avoid the Blue Acorn Effect.

The things we do for our art ...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Steel


Hey, drop by Terry's blog and check out his review on a new mini-kerambit made by Jeff Crowner.

Nice-looking toy.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Check This Out


Go have a look here for what's happening in wearable information gear. Reaves sent me this one, and it's pretty impressive, even if not in production yet. It's only a matter of time. 

Those MIT kids are sharper than a boxcar full of thumbtacks, they are. 

The vid is a little slow during the intro, just a woman onstage talking, but it's worth watching for the gosh-wow factor once it gets rolling -- real Minority Report stuff here ...

New Book Idea



Never been much on writing non-fiction, though I have done the odd article or book review from time to time. Over the last few years, I've certainly posted a shitload of it here, though, and waste not, want not ...

As I warned potential readers when I started down the road to blog hell, I figured that, aside from allowing me to warm up my fingers before real work, there might eventually be enough material here to prove useful, and ... I do believe that might have happened.

To wit: I have gone through the pages, culled what I think is about a book's worth of essays on or about the subject of writing, which I am pitching to my agent thusly:

No Man But a Blockhead:

Personal Essays Ranging from How-to-Write, to Humor,

to Fond and
Not-so-Fond Memories of the Biz

From a Long-Time Toiler in the Fields of Genre.


About sixty-eight thousand words, total, including a trio of short pieces of fiction, and even a brief stand-up comedy routine I wrote, hoping to get it to the late Richard Jeni before the silly bastard killed himself.

'Twould be my intent to have my agent take this to one of the New York publishing houses and sell it. Of course, markets being what they are in general, and worse since the -- ah -- We don't call it a "Depression!" -- days George and the boys left behind, that might not happen. We'll see.

If not, I believe I shall offer it up as an e-book. Most of it has appeared here before, so long-time readers will have already seen it. Been touched up a bit hither and yon, and a couple of pieces added. I can stick up a PayPal button, and cast my bread upon the waters ...

There is some useful stuff here, I do believe, at least as useful as in some other how-t0-write books I've seen.

I was happy to offer it for free originally, but bundling it all up and putting it together into a kind of flow ought to be worth a little something. Certainly one can hardly become rich from such a project, but it's nice to feel useful. And the overhead costs are very low.

True, free is a very good price, but even if you knew the names of the various essays and wanted to go back through the archives and dig them out, that would take a lot more work than whatever I might ask for a PDF of the entire collection, probably talking dinner at McDonald's for two -- and one of 'em ain't hungry.

Not to mention that the selected pieces aren't there any more, anyhow ...

Monday, March 09, 2009

Be Afraid ...


This one from one of the silat guys in Scandinavia . Click on the image and read the stats.

DIAL UP VADER'S THEME





And I would be remiss if under the third picture, I didn't quote Princess Leia upon her first meeting with Luke Skywalker ...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Stormtrooper


So, my daughter-in-law has taken the baby and gone to visit her folks in England. My wife arranged for us to meet my son and the two older boys yesterday for lunch at a noodle place close to Powell's Books in Beaverton.

My wife had a yoga class yesterday morning, so I drove over to meet them. We sat down, perused the menus, and suddenly I became aware that there was a phalanx of Imperial Stormtroopers standing next to the table.

Well. My people, so I stood and smiled and shook hands. Must be something going on at the book store they didn't tell me about, I figured. Then I saw Peter the science fiction guy from Powell's standing there; and my son, who had been showing off his new (old) camera he had gotten from eBay, and my wife were grinning at me ...

Uh oh ... an ambush ...

Well, as it turned out, I have been made an honorary member of the 501st Legion -- the Cloud City Garrison, which included a laser-cut plaque, a rank badge -- I'm a Commander, just above Captain -- a shoulder patch, pin, and even a temporary tattoo ...

Pictures were taken, we all sat down to eat -- after those in armor went and changed -- you'll notice you never see stormtroopers sitting down for lunch -- and a fine time was had by all.

Leastways, I had a fine time.

My wife, son, and grandsons were inordinately pleased with themselves that they had put one over on me by luring me to the secret ceremony. Have to wonder what the other patrons of the place thought when they looked up to see uniformed and armored stormtroopers filing into the restaurant ...

I'll post some more pictures when my son passes them along.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Friday, March 06, 2009

Oh, the Shark has Pretty Teeth, Dear/


As is appropriate for a knife-based martial art, we have been spending most of our in-class training lately playing with blades. And such play has given me an appreciation not only for why steel beats flesh, but for the manner in which my teacher offers instruction.

He is of the crawl-stand-walk-run school. Such a method is slower than jumping right into the hundred-meter dash, but acknowledges the reality that most of us can't go from crawl to sprint without interim stages.

To wit: We've spent a couple of months learning simple defenses against incoming knives using our own knives. These are broad, uncomplicated motions that can be grouped under the heading of "Oh, shit!" moves. Knife comes, you parry or block using the pukulan aspect of our art (short, circular, both hands), stab in return, and get the hell out of the way. You learn about distance, and get used to seeing a rubber version of a blade coming at you from different angles.

How you hold the blade matters more for distance and what you want to do, and there are a lot of variations, but we have been playing with only two: Ice pick and saber. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

The attacks are broad and obvious at this stage, easy to see coming. They progress from single, to double, to multiple, from slow, to medium, to fast. They are real lines, but not real attacks. And what we are doing in response is baby-level and not really utilizing much Sera.

Later, the attacks narrow, became less easily-seen loops obviously high or low, to more efficient thrusts, and more in line with the way a real attack would likely happen -- quick, multiple stabs or cuts, much less retraction. (Very little power is needed with a sharp and pointed blade to cut flesh. Anybody who has ever sliced him- or herself in the kitchen or shop knows this. You don't need to pull your hand back as if getting ready to heave the shot or swing a baseball bat. Sharp steel cuts everything softer it touches. And you have to assume that an attacker with a knife knows what he is doing -- that's the safer bet. If you are wrong, then it costs nothing. The other way maybe gets you gutted.)

Most recently, we have started to incorporate more real Sera into the responses -- which includes attitude, closing, and finishing moves.

Eventually, what we will learn, if we continue to progress, will be going in against the knife, which on the face of it is very scary, but which, if I understand it, is actually safer if you know how than just backing up.

But you can't get from crawl to Olympic sprint without learning how to stand, walk, and run.
Showing an advanced move, even a simple one, before you are really ready to understand how and why it works is the wrong way to understand it.

Last class, Guru showed us a simple block and counter-attack -- so simple it was hard to believe -- that worked because it used attitude -- I will stab you. But, as simple as it was, without all the previous training, it would have hard to see how and why it worked.

Against a trained knifer, by the way, running away is the safest action. Bad guy can't stick what isn't there. Knife-fighting is a last ditch, can't leave because of setting or family kind of thing, and done only to achieve that goal, to get away. We don't reach over and cut their throats after they are down. Ethically, morally, and legally, that's a no-no. You are only allowed to do what is necessary to stop an attack, nothing more. No coup de grace.

From what I have learned so far, I realize that going against somebody who has any skill with a blade is going to get me cut. If the danger isn't sufficient to warrant spending some quality time in the ER being stitched up even if I prevail, then it isn't enough to engage in the bout. It really does need to get to that life-or-death, serious-crippling-injury situation to bring out the deadly force response, knowing that it is gonna cost my own blood.

If you can't truthfully tell a jury of your peers that you were in fear of your life, or that of your spouse or child or tottering granny, then pulling the gun is not the way to go. If you aren't willing to be blooded, dancing with knives isn't, either.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

It's Alive!

So, I had routine physical exam at my doctor's this morning. That most fun experience whereupon you put on one of those backless shortie night gowns and get poked and prodded and tapped with the little rubber hammer, and then that delightful portion of which I will not speak save to say that KY Jelly is involved ...

Apparently everything is more or less in working order.

I had blood drawn, got a couple of vaccines -- been twelve years since my last tetanus injection -- and the latest vaccine for old folks, against shingles. I was ready to pass on that one until I read the stat sheet which allowed that, if you had chicken pox, which pretty much everybody my age has, and you live to be eighty-five, your chances are fifty-fifty you'll develop shingles; one out of two people, not such good odds. Shingles is a particularly nasty ailment and very painful, so I'd rather not.

That was the easy part. The nether-cam exam still looms in my future, but that's at least a month or six weeks out. First I have to go talk to the gastroenterologist and be instructed in the way to drink enough liquid laxative to evacuate an entire football stadium ...

Better than the option, but ... ick ...

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I Bless the Rains Down in Africa ...

My StatCounter has a neat feature, in which IP addresses are put on a map I can access. The locations are not precise enough to go and find somebody's house -- my server shows up as several miles away from where I live -- but usually you can get that close.

Except that people who know how to rascal such things can apparently show a server where none exists. Every so often, I get a hit from a spot in the Atlantic Ocean smack on the Equator, a few hundred kilometers west of Gabon and south of Ghana.

There is, far as I can tell, nothing there but water.

There are a couple of tiny islands closer to Gabon, farther east -- Sao Tome and Principe, and south and west of them, a tinier spot, Annobon, but nothing relatively close to where the push-pin is.

So, either somebody is pulling my leg, or their server is way far away from the nearest possible land mass ...