Friday, July 30, 2010

The Man Who Never Missed - The Continuing Story

So, once again, we have sold an option for The Man Who Never Missed. I've lost count as to how many times this has happened since the book was published (two days shy of twenty-five years, as I write this). Eight? Ten times?

Nobody has been able to get it to the silver screen or onto the tube yet, but maybe this round ...

I'm not complaining. The fee for options isn't huge, but it's like found money. A producer is renting the rights for a few months, and if s/he manages to get it made and out, I'll make a nice piece of change. If not, it reverts to me., and maybe somebody else will come along and want to try again ...

The new producer seems to be sharp, a nice guy, and with some dealings in LaLaLand, including some time as above-the-line onscreen talent. Who knows? This could be the one. It's a nice fantasy with which to entertain one's self, much like what you'd do if you won the lottery.

I'm not, you will notice, going shopping for a yacht or heavy bling based on this.

Memento Mori

Supposedly the most rich and famous of the Roman generals would sometimes have a slave who was to be their memento mori -- a reminder of death. When the general was feeling puffed up about his victory and enjoying all the accolades during a victory march, it was the slave's job to step up and remind his master that while he was striding in high cotton now, he was going to die like everybody else, and to keep that in mind.

It was an attempt to put life in perspective.

Not a job I'd want, telling the guy who owned me he was gonna die whenever he got cocky. I suspect here was always an element of killing the messenger of bad news going on ...

The crowd is cheering, you are top of the world, and your slave leans in and says, "Hey, don't forget, you are gonna die, man."

You might be tempted to smite the fellow right then and there.

One of the reasons that people kept skulls on their desks, another reminder.


Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know
not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment,
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen?
Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let
her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
come; make her laugh at that.

But in our society, we tend to gloss over such things, and now and then, a reminder of the Big Sleep can help you remember what is important and what isn't. You can spend your life sweating the small stuff, and it's like the old saw: How many people on their death bed say they wish they'd spent more time at the office?

Life is short. You get to be dead a long time.

In a discussion of such things on Rory's blog -- link in the sidebar down and to the right -- I was reminded of the Hearse Song, one of those nasty little children's ditties we sang as kids without really understanding what it meant. Every version I've heard is slightly different but most of them start with something like:

Did you ever think when a hearse goes by, you might be the next one to die?

Goes gruesomely on from there, and the last verse of the version I recall is:

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout/
they eat your eyes, they eat your nose, they eat the jelly between your toes/
they spread it on a piece of bread -- and that's what happens after you're dead.

Done to the tune of "Spooks on Parade," with a chorus of dead, dead, dead, dead/dead, dead, dead, dead/ sung in the background over the verses ...

There. Now that I've brightened your morning, have a nice day. Make the most of each moment.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thor Trailer

Thew Boy

Back when I was willing to take on all kinds of writing work because they were offering and I didn't want to let anything pass, I took on a couple of Conan novels. I enjoyed doing them, but after the second, I was done.

Or so I thought.

Then my wife's company was the victim of a hostile takeover by a corporate raider, who broke the company apart and sold off the assets, during which she was let go. She decided to try consulting for a time, and actually did okay at it, but money was tight going in, and when the Conan folks offered more work, I grabbed it, signing up for three more books.

Halfway through the fourth of five, I think, I was having a bit of trouble with the thee-thou-thither and punctilious use of "shall" and "will," of the prose, and in a fit of semi-hysteria, I penned a short story, "Conan Takes a Hike," which poked fun at Howard's creation. 'Twas a story that, for legal reasons, could never see print, but which I read aloud at conventions now and then. Basically, Conan tossed his sword aside, disgusted with all the slaying and gore. He wanted to go off to the country and get into bee-keeping with Sherlock Holmes, maybe finish up his Ph.D at Oxford, but alas, it was not to be ...

The five novels were:
Um. Anyway, I was reminded of thew-boy during a discussion on anti-Semitism on another site I frequent.

Robert E. Howard, Conan's daddy, was raised, and lived in, small towns in Texas. A mama's boy whose mother had TB and was dying from it most of his life, Howard was thirty when his mother went into a coma from which she was not expected to recover. Depressed, he went out to his car, pulled a borrowed. .380 Colt pistol from the glove box, and shot himself in the head.

A product of his time and that place, Howard was sexist, racist, and anti-semitic. You can see this in his writing -- there are references to hook-noses and darkies here and there, "swamp niggers," and the like, including in some of the Conan stories. There are exceptions, and he seemed to be becoming less bigoted as he aged, but there are plenty of examples of his views, which were considered normal for the times. Ah, the bad old days ...

I used to use the term "thew-boy" when I talked about Conan. Fun to see who got the joke and who didn't ...

Hey, Sir Paul

Happened to catch a PBS special last night, Performance at the White House, wherein Sir Paul McCartney was awarded the Library of Congress's Gershwin Award. (The Gershwin Bros, a couple of piano-playing composers, gave us songs like "I Got Rhythm," "Embraceable You," and the scores, "An American in Paris," "Rhapsody in Blue, " and "Porgy and Bess," among others.)

McCartney doesn't really need any prizes at this stage of his career, though he was pleased to win this one. If he'd only ever written just the one song "Yesterday," his place in pop music history would be assured. ("Yesterday" has been covered by more performers than any other song. Even Bob Dylan, who reportedly hated it, did a version that he eventually decided to keep to himself.)

Paul's got a few pounds socked away, and no trouble getting a gig if he wants, plus a couple hundred other hit songs upon which he earns royalties.

The show took the form of a book-end performance by McCartney and his band, with the centerpiece, tributes of his songs by Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Herbie Hancock, Faith Hill, Jack White, Corinne Bailey Rae, Dave Grohl, the Jonas Brothers, and a classical Chinese pianist named Lang Lang.

Jerry Seinfeld showed up and did a few minutes, and had fun with some Beatle lyrics.

I was amused at the notion that whatever royalties Sir Paul still owned of the songs done on the show, he was getting paid for each performance.

McCartney sang "Michelle," with the President and First Lady sitting in the front row a few feet away.

I once caught a musical performance at the White House by somebody when George Bush the Younger was President. Bush sat there smiling vacantly, watching.

Last night, Obama sang along, and appeared to know the words of every song. He and the First Lady held hands. And when the last song of the evening arrived -- what else but "Hey, Jude," and the performers all dutifully trooped up on stage to sing along, the Obamas, daughters and all, went up there, too. And they all kept time ...

I have a long history with this particular song -- going back to the sixties when it first came out, then seeing it done on The Smothers Brothers Show, and hearing Paul sing it a couple times in concerts I attended. It is my all-time favorite Beatle song, with "Let it Be," "Yesterday," "Blackbird," and "In my Life," not far behind. All of those were performed last night, save the last, which is mostly a Lennon song.

(If you want a counterpoint to my rave about the Beatles and Sir Paul, check out Randy Newman's song, "I'm Dead (But I Don't Know It)," concerning rockers who never retire, but should ...)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Got a link to a site by Jim Pinkoski, which features art by John Berkey.

Berkey, a long-time illustrator in various fields, passed away a couple years back, and one of the things for which he was known were his ultra-cool chrome vehicles, spaceships to giant trucks. He could also draw human faces as cleanly and sharp so as to seem almost photographs.

Get a chance, drop by Pinkoski's site and check it out.


Finally managed to get Bristlecone up as a Kindle title on Dunno why it took as long as it did, but those of you who might want to get it there, well, here you go.

It's been selling okay on Smashwords, and made it to the Apple Bookstore; maybe this will help me peddle a few more copies. Never know. Brad and Angelina might come calling, it's right up their alley. In twenty or thirty years, they'll be perfect for the movie version ...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

John Callahan

Portland cartoonist John Callahan, known for his wicked, nasty, and totally non-PC humor, has died, after a long bout of complications from surgery.

A traffic accident when he was driving drunk at twenty-one put Callahan in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic for the rest of his days, and despite that, he had a long career as a cartoonist, sometime-songwriter and singer, and moviemaker.

He used to get a lot of hate mail from handicapped people until they realized he was making as much fun of himself as anybody.

Adíos, John.

Music Vids - Part Three - Harp Blues

Never seen nor heard anybody do it this way before. Way cool:

Music Vids - Part Two - Canon

And, of course, never hurts to revisit Pachelbel, and the greatest piece of music ever written. (Yeah, I have posted the Pachelbel Rant here, at least twice, and it's really funny, I loved it, but it's still the greatest piece of music ever written.)

Or on this instrument:

Like a little island, mon?

Classical Gas - Music Vids Part One

Mason Williams -- the original. He was a writer for the Smothers Brothers when they had him on, back in the sixties:

Tommy Emmanuel, one of the best guitarists in the world:

And just for fun, Glenda on the harp:

Monday, July 26, 2010

Had to Post This Image

Had to put this image up just so I could say the name. You ready?

Boobie Fett ...

(From Kat Brandt)

The Aliens Have Landed

A brief discourse on appearances: What you think you see isn't always what you get.

When I was a boy, there came a strange occurrence one fine summer evening. Residents of a neighborhood not far from where we lived heard an eerie whistling noise, described variously as the sound of a falling bomb, a sound-effect from a monster movie, and the scream of a demented banshee. This was followed by something impacting the ground in somebody's front yard hard enough to shake nearby houses, splash grass and dirt every which way, as if they were liquid, resulting in a small, but deep, crater in the lawn.

Oh, my -- it's the Martians!

Well, probably nobody really believed that except the truly paranoid mid-1950's woo-woos, but it certainly it did seem as if a meteorite had impacted. Somebody called the fire department, the police showed up, and eventually, somebody with a shovel started digging.

What they found was a hand-sized mangled chunk of steel, obviously man-made (or maybe alien-made!), and for a few hours, this was cause for much wonder. No aircraft were reported in the area at the time, and there weren't a lot of Sputniks and Explorers in orbit.

It was a puzzler.

Until somebody at The Plant -- a generic term for the huge petrochemical complex on the Mississippi River in North Baton Rouge -- made the connection: A large turbine had blown apart, fortunately not injuring anybody. Such was the force of the failure that it lofted a piece of the shattered rotor high enough into the air to come screaming down a couple miles away.

In the days before instant communication, nobody thought to link the two together; outside The Plant, nobody even knew about the turbine.. So it was a simple, if didn't-happen-ever-day explanation. A machine exploded, and a piece of the resulting shrapnel went a lot farther than anybody expected.

Not to say that the little green men haven't dropped round in their saucers for visits, but there are all manner of man-made and natural phenomena that explain most of these sightings, from weird forms of lightning, to the piezoelectric effect from large masses of grinding rock, to swamp gas, clouds, mirages, and ice crystals.

Not even to mention hysteria.

If you see a strange light in the sky, maybe the first conclusion you leap to ought not to be that it's ET come for Reese's pieces ...

People sometimes see what they want to see. If there's a UFO sighting, very often there will arise a rash of subsequent sightings. Maybe that means the BEM's are out in force. Or maybe the elements of suggestions and mass consciousness just fill in the blanks. Hey, you heard that Larry saw a flying saucer? Yeah -- hey, I saw it, too ...

Heard a hunting story at a gathering I attended recently, a variation of one I'd heard several times before. Local guy took his teenage sons turkey hunting. One of them shot another hunter because he thought he was a turkey.

Two-foot-tall bird, feathers, versus a six-foot-tall human. Hardly seems likely to mistake one for the other, does it? But it happens every hunting season that somebody thinks a guy wearing an orange vest and hat is everything from a deer to a turkey to a squirrel, and cooks off a round.

Say, son, where did you think that squirrel got that day-glo orange hat and rifle?

One of the first things you learn when you take to the woods with a firearm is if you aren't sure of the target, you don't shoot. But there have been instances where the shooter was willing to swear on a stack of bibles he saw an animal and not a human, and was stunned when he realized what he had done.

As Count Macabre used to say, better pay attention out there ...

Copyright Changes

Apparently, it is now legal to jailbreak your iPhone.

You can also break DVD security protections to copy and embed short clips for non-commercial educational or critical purposes, if you are a student or reviewer.

But here's the good one: you can bypass a dongle if it no longer works or can't be replaced.

I was doing pretty good until I got to that one, then it sounded like an old Chuck Berry song.

Baby, won't you play with my dongle ... ?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saber Rattling

The North Koreans are talking smack again, something they do every time they get nervous. If the U.S. and its running dog lackey South Korea hold the naval exercises they plan, the North says, then Pyongyang will unlimber their (three) nukes and declare war upon the Imperialists, and woe to them for awakening the sleeping tiger!

I think I saw a picture of Hillary Clinton yawning when she heard this.

This has worked for them in the past, the saber-rattlings and shrill threats, so it's no surprise that they are at it again; if you are a puffer fish, you puff up when you sense danger, but you have to wonder about the sanity of those in charge in that benighted land. Yes, the United States is pretty busy in the ongoing-war department these days, but don't the North Koreans have a clue as to what will happen if they actually throw one of their nukes at a U.S. warship?

Does nobody remember what happened to Saddam's WWI-era troop lines when the U.S. stomped into Iraq? Airplanes? Smart bombs?

Tactical nukes, if necessary?

Can't anybody understand the term "radioactive crater where North Korea used to be" in that part of the world? Or maybe just "radioactive crater where the secure Presidental bunker used to be?"

It's talk, of course, it allows them to seem brave (and reeealllly stupid) in the giant's face. Still, if they ever actually do something, it could be reeeallly bad for them ...

Police Misadventures in London

Lest you think that the only misadventures by police take place solely in America, look at this video from the G20 demonstrations in London, April, '09.

The gist is, a newspaper vendor, Ian Tomlinson, on his way home from work and moving through the crowded sidewalk, his hands in his pockets, was hit by one of the Metro squad on the leg with an expandable baton, then shoved face-down onto the concrete.

He sat up, got to his feet, and moved on, only to collapse later and die.

At first, his death was thought a heart attack -- he was in poor health -- until the video surfaced, which you can see here. Along with the timeline of events, here.

The police rationale was that somebody started throwing bottles at them and they decided to move Tomlinson along. What it looks like is that they decided to whack the guy closest to them, who was walking away but not fast enough to suit them, his back turned to the attack, his hands in his pockets. If anybody sees a threat in this guy's demeanor, point it out -- I can't see it.

When the video became public, the officer (Simon Harwood) was suspended, but after a lengthy investigation, which included a botched autopsy and conflicting medical results, the crown declined to prosecute, deeming the chances of a conviction were nil. (The first autopsy said it was a heart attack, the second, internal bleeding secondary to the assault. The pathologist who did the first one was removed from office, as this was only one of several he screwed up.)

Look at the video and decide for yourself. I see armed assault that resulted in manslaughter. Guy was struck, knocked to the ground, and moments later, was dead.

Thanks to Spikybill for the heads-up on this one.

Friday, July 23, 2010

High Tech from the East

Behold, the Indian prototype for Sakshat, a somewhat obscene-in-English-sounding name that means, I gather, "Before your eyes."

From "The device was unveiled by India’s Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal. It is expected to become available in India next year targeting students. To begin with it will cost $30 and be manufactured elsewhere, but the aim is to get the price down to $10 and have all manufacturing done in India.

The device itself has a 10″ touchscreen 2GB of RAM, a USB port, and Wi-Fi built-in. It runs a Linux-based OS and bundled software includes OpenOffice, a PDF reader, web browser, media player, and video conferencing app. Power will partially come from solar panels mounted to the case."

Watch out, Apple -- Shiva is coming up behind you ...

Daniel Schorr

Daniel Schorr

Daniel Schorr, "The Great Abrasive," has died, at age 93. He was a correspondent on the news when I was growing up, and he pissed off a lot of people, making it onto Nixon's enemies list during the Watergate Era. He was on CBS, then CNN, and in the mid-eighties, migrated to NPR, where his commentary was usually pointed enough to skewer a lot of pompous gasbags.

Apparently he didn't suffer fools gladly, and let them know when they got to that point, high, wide, and repeatedly.

He was the last of Edward R. Murrow's news team to go, and he worked right up until the end.

Ninety-three is a pretty good run.

Adíos, Mr. Schorr

More Comic Stuff

Just to show you how things evolve, twixt writing and drawing in a comic, an example:

Here again, page 4 of SOTE:E, the second issue, as I wrote it:


(4 Panels)

Page 4, panel 1: Large panel, maybe half the page. Guri, flashback scene, stands amidst the sprawl of half a dozen men and aliens, a very dramatic angle, fists clenched, splashed with blood. The downed are all her handiwork.





(Note: panels #2, #3 & #4 should be about the same size and all still in flashback mode.)

Page 4, panel 2: This one shows XIZOR, before his death in Shadows. Cruel smile. Sketchy b.g., if any.

Page 4, panel 3: A four-shot: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and LANDO CALRISSIAN. Again, b.g. not important.

After some discussion, we decided to make this into one panel, called a "splash page," or sometimes just "splash." It incorporates the characters and settings more dramatically. I don't recall if it was the artist or my editor who suggested it, but I liked the idea.

To show you what it looks like, first the inked drawing -- I don't have the pencils -- then the colored version. Credits here: I wrote it, Ron Randall pencilled it; Tom Simmons was the inker. Steve Dutro was the letterer; Dave Nestelle did the colors. Scott Tice designed the book, and Duncan Fegredo was the cover artist for this issue. The editor was Bob Cooper, and Mike Richardson, the publisher. Special Thanks went to Lucy Autrey Wilson and Allan Kausch, at Lucas Licensing.

Comics are very much a team effort, though sometimes one person will do several things -- I know writers who draw their own, and sometime ink or color, too.

Adventures in Comic Book Land

(Christopher Moeller, cover art)

Came across a posting on a site I frequent wherein somebody was lamenting the fact he'd just read a comic book and seemed disappointed by how few words were on some of the pages. I offered that a good writer working in that medium should be able to mostly tell the story in pictures, and that if s/he was able to tell a good story, there might be pages wherein there would be no dialog and minimal captions, SFX, etc.

To see how I did it, I dug up an old script for one of the Shadows miniseries I did for Dark Horse many moons ago. The format is off because of how it posts on the blog, but the layout of how I did it -- copied, I recall, from how Neil Gaiman's scripts were formatted -- shows the general way a writer scripts a comic. Here are four pages. Note how little dialog and few captions there are.

Shadows of the Empire: Evolution Dark Horse

A five-issue miniseries: Feb.-June, ‘98:

1) After the Fall

2) The Journey of a Thousand Light Years

3) Dark Fires of a Black Sun

4) Metamorphosis

5) Reincarnation



(5 panels)

Page 1, panel 1: One of two top-tier panels, exterior from space, long shot of the tropical planet Murninkam, (as seen in Issue #1, page 21, panel 4: A lot of green, with several large oceans.)




Page 1, panel 2: Top-tier, medium angle on Murninkam, close enough to see a lot of jungle greenery, maybe the curve of the planet, some atmosphere. Moving in closer toward orbit.



Page 1, panel 3: Large panel, middle of the page. Here is Spinda Caveel’s laboratory/palace. This should should be vaguely Middle Eastern, (or maybe looking something like the Kremlin) a central phallic tower with a minaret or somesuch, smaller outbuildings in the same style around the base. White marble or the local equivalent. A high-angle, far enough away to see it rising from a cleared spot on a tropical island situated in a large lake or perhaps a small sea. Might be some floating mats of seaweed, bright sun glistening from the buildings and water. Not a place you can sneak up on easily. And even if you could, you couldn’t get past the FORCE FIELD that shimmers around it . . .




Page 1, panel 4: Bottom tier, left part the page. Sitting or leaning against a wall, the twin Pikkell SISTERS, (Issue #1, page 21, panel 3, wearing the same sexy clothes) ZAN and ZU. The impress ion here is of two well-fed cats, lazy, sleepy, but not far from being able to snap awake and take your head off. They both look offstage to the right at:

Page 1, panel 5: Bottom tier, right part of the page. The droid DOC (Issue #1, page 21, panels 1&2,) stands on his base looking at SPINDA CAVEEL. Caveel is human or human-stock, big, stout, thick hair, wearing the Star Wars equivalent of a lab coat and a wicked smile. (Think John Goodman.) He stares at Doc.






(2 Panels)

Page 2, panel 1: Full page. Interior, Caveel’s main lab. High-tech bio-gear lining the walls, on tables, etc. In the f.g. are Zan, Zu , Doc and Caveel; in the b.g., along with all the biotech stuff, a number of DROID blanks, i.e., bodies that are as yet unanimated, kind of like empty slates, waiting to be imprinted. Can either be hung from the walls or lined up on a long table, inside clear, coffin-like biocabinets. (These blanks need to be military-looking, i.e., large and macho.)

FX: hummmmmmmm

Page 2, panel 2: Insert, lower right, two-shot, big enough to show most of Doc and Caveel.







(4 Panels)

Page 3, panel 1: Smallish, exterior Guri’s ship, The Stinger, moves through space.

Page 3, panel 2: Medium panel, interior Guri’s ship, medium flangle on Guri. She’s in tights, as seen at the end of Issue #1. Cool, blond, deadpan emotionless.





Page 3, panel 3: Medium panel, close up, Guri’s face. Cool. Cold. Icy.


Page 3, panel 4: Large panel, Guri in the low f.g., flashback sequence behind and above her. (Whatever style we used to show flashbacks before.) A montage: Guri faces LUKE SKYWALKER in Xizor’s castle, Luke holds his light saber at the ready. Another image, Guri, seated in a hotel room, PRINCESS LEIA seated across from her, CHEWBACCA off to one side, watching the two. And another image, XIZOR stands next to Guri, his long-nailed hand on her shoulder.


BE SHORT . . .


(4 Panels)

Page 4, panel 1: Large panel, maybe half the page. Guri, flashback scene, stands amidst the sprawl of half a dozen men and aliens, a very dramatic angle, fists clenched, splashed with blood. The downed are all her handiwork.





(Note: panels #2, #3 & #4 should be about the same size and all still in flashback mode.)

Page 4, panel 2: This one shows XIZOR, before his death in Shadows. Cruel smile. Sketchy b.g., if any.

Page 4, panel 3: A four-shot: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and LANDO CALRISSIAN. Again, b.g. not important.

Page 4, panel 4: Interior Thrumble’s Cantina, MASSAD THRUMBLE seated at his private table across from the BIMBO from Issue #1 (Page 19, panel 2), both of them looking up at somebody who has approached their table but is OOV.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


In the pantheon of celebrity, I am a minor and dim star you need a telescope to find. I've written some stuff, signed some autographs, given the odd speech here and there, and am happy with the level of recognition I have achieved. I don't want to be recognized in a restaurant bathroom and asked to sign something whilst I am taking a leak. I have met famous folk who've had that experience, and whatever privacy we still have is lost, if you are well-known by sight in our society. Be like living in an eternal fishbowl. No, thanks. (One of the good things about being a writer is that you can be famous and unknown. Outside of Stephen King and maybe Tom Clancy, most writers walk about unrecognized almost everywhere. Like being a radio personality who won't do TV -- you are safe until you open your mouth.)

When I speak of celebrities, I refer to those who have done something for which they have earned fame, rather than just somebody who is famous for being famous -- and you can fill in your own empty suit or full-bra in that category.

But even with my tiny light, I have learned one of the best of all celeb perks is that you get to be part of people's lives. You, by virtue of your art, mean something to them, sometimes a lot.

If you were terribly depressed and read a book, saw a movie, or heard a song that caused you to brighten up and want to keep going, you probably feel kindly toward whoever was responsible.

If you have a happy, loving marriage and you associate the music they played at your wedding with that, (or with getting laid the first time, or the birth of your child), then that music and the person who played or sang it might resonate with you your entire life.

Celebrities in the arts hear this all the time: "Man, I was feeling low, but I went to your concert and all of a sudden, I felt way better." Or, "My wife and I saw your movie on our first date, and that was what cranked it up, because we both loved you in it."

I never met Ernest Gold, the composer who did movie and TV music, but I hummed aloud his theme from Exodus to help my wife synchronize her Lamaze breathing when my son was born. I might get senile and forget that, but until that happens, I will remember that tune and smile every time I hear it.

Hey, Jude, and Bridge Over Troubled Water are at the top of my sixties soundtrack. So many memories cycle around those two.

Doesn't matter if your memories are connected to music that maybe didn't stand the test of time, or that gets crapped on by folks who found nothing to like in it. It's your memory, and fuck 'em. (Though if it's disco or eighties hair bands, I feel for you.)

My own experience with this is worth a warm glow when I think of it. I've had people who got into the martial art I study tell me they read it about it in a book I wrote, went looking for it, and began training, based on what I had to say about it. Tickles me.

James Colburn's first starring role as Derek Flint inspired me to pack up and move to the west coast to study martial arts in 1966, when I realized the karate I was getting locally wasn't going to be enough. Harry Harrison's Deathworld and Planet of the Damned made me want to write space opera. John Irving's Hotel New Hampshire had a scene with a police car prowling like a shark that showed me the power of a metaphor used well. I loved and hated him for it -- loved, because it was so good. Hated, because after I read it, I could never write it myself.

John Locke's essays on education stunned me with the power of the written word. Nobody in the English language save Mark Twain can even come close enough to touch him for my money.

Twain's essay on Fenimore Cooper showed me what dead-dry humor was. I've read it dozens of times and I still laugh out loud every time I revisit it. It's just flat-out funny.

Harlan Ellison tells a story about a fan approaching him at a con for an autograph. My memory of the exact detail is hazy, but the essence of it was: The guy is huge, hairy, smelly, obese, wearing a Let-the-Wookiee-Win T-shirt, and not in the least appealing. "Oh, Mr. Ellison, your work has changed my life!" the fan said. To which Harlan allows that he thought: "Oh, my God, what have I done? What were you before ... ?"

It's a perk, being able to touch the lives of people you've never met, and probably won't meet, especially when that effect is on the good side of the ledger. It truly is.

Basic Knife Notions

Maha Guru Plinck taught a knife seminar a while back in Colorado, and Resonant Video was onhand, and put together a short vid.

Just under half an hour, it touches on subjects that students of the blade might find interesting.


• Introduction
• Gripping the Knife
• 4 Quadrants of Attack
• Reverse Grip Defense vs Common Grip
• Check, don't Block a Knife
• Positioning your Feet for Knife Fighting
• Reverse Grip Defense vs Common Grip #2
• How to use Checking in Knife Training
• "Give and Take" Drill
• Ending the "Give and Take" Drill with Takedown
• Countering within the "Give and Take" Drill
• Drill Progression: "I Win, You Win"
• Options for Interrupting the Drill
• Hand Transfers Within the Drill
• Reverse Grip Structure
• Flowing with "Give and Take" Drill
• Options for Closing the Gap with Knives
• Knife Elements & Ranges

Running Time: 29 mins

Now, this isn't going to turn you into a knifefighter. And it is really basic material; however, if you are curious about Sera, this offers an introduction to some of the building blocks.

You can get it here.

Blade is Defeated

The vampires couldn't beat Blade, but the feds did.

Wesley Snipes is looking at a three-year sentence for tax problems
, and he's close to being sent to the joint.

The feds like high-profile cases as examples when they can win one, which tends to be infrequently. For every Martha Stewart, there are a lot of rich folks with good lawyers who skate completely or cut deals to avoid going to the big house.

Snipes did beat the fraud and conspiracy charges, but got nailed on three failure-to-file-returns, which are misdemeanors, but worth a maximum of a year each. The appeals court just upheld the three-year sentence. Unless Snipes' lawyers have an ace up their sleeve, he's got a room in the graybar hotel in his future.

As I understand it, Snipes made thirty-eight million dollars during that three-year period. He got hooked up with one of those you-don't-gotta-pay-taxes organizations and liked what they were telling him. Big mistake, compounded by trying to collect a big refund on taxes he had paid but that was based on, um, less than forthright information.

The deal goes something like this: Dude, you don't have to pay taxes, don't have to file returns, it's voluntary. They won't come after you, and even if they should, all you have to do is say you got bad tax advice and blame your tax guys. Pay a fine, you are gold.

Alas, the IRS holds the taxpayer responsible even if he makes an honest mistake based on what they tell him if he asks -- "I called the IRS, they told me to do this, I did, and now they want blood!" -- this happens all the time. In Snipes' case, the feds felt he was trying to pull a fast one, and while they couldn't make the fraud and conspiracy stuff stick, they could ramp up the sentence on the stuff they could get him on.

Is there an element of racism here? I don't know. But it's hard to feel sorry for somebody who made thirty-eight million dollars and decided he didn't have to give Uncle his cut. I don't like paying my taxes, either, but I do it. Cost of living in the republic.


The Italian contingent is supposed to be a Guru Plinck's this week for silat. Guru has small groups of dedicated students around the world -- the Finns/Swedes, and the group in Italy usually manage to get over this way every year or two, and it's always fun to train with them. Nice guys, one and all.

And since the weather has finally warmed up and gotten a bit drier, we have moved outside, to Guru's front yard and the sand pit. This is good and bad: The sand has gotten seeded over a long wet winter and spring, and sports patches of grass; the record damp and cool spring has also produced a bumper crop of mosquitoes.

God, the old joke goes, made two mistakes: Mosquitoes and Teamsters. I've known some decent teamsters, but I never met a mosquito I liked.

Some of the guys in class are trying the fabric softener dryer sheet remedy as a repellent, though Snopes allows that anything less than DEET is a waste of time. Citronella and Pic coils work -- if you are in the smoke. Zappers are inefficient, spraying insecticide kills all the useful bugs along with the skeeters. Better to stay inside behind the screens, but if you can't, either DEET or some of the aromatic oils -- Eucalyptus, for example -- work, if not as long.

As a fair-skinned lad, if there was a female mosquito -- it's the females that bite people -- within a hundred miles, it would find me. And Louisiana mosquitoes, if you went into the woods hunting or camping? Punch through your wallet. Carry off small dogs and children. Make the back of your shirt into a bear's pelt, they were so thick ...

Once civilians could buy the stuff, starting in 1957, I put 6-12 on in the summers every time I ventured outside of my neighborhood after dark. Didn't have to do it there because the big DDT trucks would roll up and down our streets every so often, putting out a dense white fog that slew bugs every which way. We liked to ride behind the truck on our bikes, the spray so thick we couldn't see each other. I mean, the Government wouldn't do anything that was harmful, right ... ?

Yeah, DEET is bad for you. So is malaria, yellow fever, West Nile Virus. Pick your poison ...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Couple Classical Guitar Pieces I Enjoyed Hearing

The Future Slouches In ...

Saw this in today's paper -- sold more ebooks in the last three months for its Kindle (and other devices that use the software, like iPhones and iPods and such) than it did hardcover books.

Treeware isn't dead, nor do I see it dying any time soon, but the trend toward e-readers is showing a definite rise. And the numbers -- if a hardcover costs $26 and you can get the same content for $14.99 in about a minute from anywhere with wiFi or a phone sig, people can consider the convenience and do the math. Order the hardback, wait three or four days, $26, plus shipping. Run to Costco, get it for $15, plus the drive. Order it online, get it right now, and be able to carry it and a couple thousand others around in my backpack.


I haven't gotten an iPad yet, though it's on my list. But I have downloaded Kindle books to my iPod. Not the ideal choice for a reader, the tiny screen, but since it's on my belt when I'm out, I can sit and read anywhere I have an idle moment.

And oddly enough, the massive sell-through of Apple's iPad -- three million since they came out -- apparently hasn't hurt the Kindle's sales, which have also increased, albeit not as much as hoped. They did drop the price to $189, which certainly helped.

Stand by: The future is lurking just around the corner ...