Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Bridge Too Far


Two of my absolute all-time favorite sixties rock songs are 1) Hey, Jude and 2) Bridge Over Troubled Water, the latter of which is sometimes referred to as the American version of the former. Jude came out in August of 1968; Bridge, early in 1970. Best-sellers, award-winners, and the music I came of age listening to, so what's not to like?


They took the three-minute AM pop-radio format and tossed it: 7:11 for Jude, 4:55 for Bridge.


I can play Hey, Jude on the guitar. And after running it through different arrangements, decided that the key of A was best for my voice in its current incarnation, so that's how I sing it.


Once upon a time, I had a half-assed version of Bridge, but the original was, I believe E, (that is, three-flats, according to the handy-dandy Circle of Fifths.) Which is not a fun key for guitarists of my stripe (nor any stripe short of serious jazz guys, far as I can tell. It was written as a piano tune, and for the longest time when Paul and Artie sang it in public, they would fly Larry Knechtel, their session guy who played the piano on the recording, in to do just that one number. Must be nice.) 


I learned the song after a fashion, playing it with  D-shapes and capoing up one to get that E-flatI managed to get something I could sing ... well, save for about half the high notes Artie could reach and I couldn't get to without sounding like a girl-on-helium screaming in a monster movie.


Hearing my voice crack was not pleasant, and the song fell out of my repertoire.


So I was digging in the songbook and came across it again, and realized that if I–duh–just played it in D without the capo, that half-step down was just low enough that I could hit the high notes, so I'm brushing up on it again. (And leaving out those F-diminished and, especially, suspended-B chords. Take away that third and replace it with a fourth in the Bsus, and it doesn't sound right in this song, better, I think, to skip on to the B-minor. Before, I had trouble playing those chords; now that I can, I don't like how they sound. My arrangement, so I don't have to; not like Simon is going to be listening and shaking his head.)


Sail on, Silver Girl ...

A Long Delayed Verse in the Song of Fire and Ice ...


Just a heads-up for Railroad Martin fans: A Dance with Dragons hits the racks–and one assumes, the internet ebook charts–on July 12th. 


As it happens, I have a copy, but pushing a thousand pages, I probably won't get done reading it before the pub date ...

Barefootin'


I'd pretty much wrapped up my discussion of barefoot running a while back, ending on an it-works-for-some-but-not-for-me coda. 


Saw this in today's Oregonian, and thought I'd stir the embers a little ...


As part of the story, a local foot doctor was interviewed, and he allowed as how he measured the popularity of barefoot running by the number of patients in his waiting room ...


Yep, it can be beneficial. But it can also be harmful. 


Something to consider before you shed your shoes and hit the track.


Me, I believe that this is like a lot of other exercise waves that have washed ashore. When it recedes–and it will–there will be a hardcore group that stays with it, but there will also be a lot of folks who tried it and found it less than satisfactory.


Like I did. 

Return to the Planet of Fried!

I realize it's only been just under two weeks since we did shrimp, and we try to keep Big Fried to once a month or longer, but catfish was on sale at New Seasons.


And there's really only one way to cook catfish ...


Cut into chunks and milk/egg-wash:



Bread with white flour, corn meal, spices:



Fry in a deep pot at high heat until crispy:



Drain excess oil:


Serve with bread, salad, your choice of sides:


Fall asleep early ...



Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Oops ...


Apparently, one of Seattle's finest, uh forgot he laid his black rifle on the trunk of a patrol car and went off and left it.


Passersby spotted it and flagged down bike officers to point this out, and in this day where everybody has a camera, somebody got a picture.


Want to bet some LEO will need a proctologist's visit real soon?


Hey, Curly, where is the assault rifle?


Assault rifle? I thought you had it, Moe. 


No, I don't have it, you had it.


Maybe Larry took it ... ?


Whoowhoowhoowhoooooo!


The story is that an officer was in the police garage cleaning out his car, and laid the weapon on the truck of a second unit as he was doing so. He got distracted, and a second officer came out, got into that unit, and drove off, hardware still perched on the trunk. And the rifle stayed there until he parked and got out, never noticing it.


My. Maybe two guys get visits to the proctologist?


According to the story, this is not a violation of law, but it is of policy: 


Rule 231, subsection A) Do not leave your assault rifle on the trunk of another unit while cleaning up ...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Marty Greenberg



Martin H. Greenberg 
1941-2011

Marty Greenberg, sometimes called the King of Anthologies, has passed away, after a long illness. There was nobody in the field of science fiction who came within a parsec of the quality and quantity of books he put together and edited. 

He was a professor, and later a dean, at the U of W in Green Bay, who eventually became best friends with Isaac Asimov. He came up with and edited all manner of books, SF&F, mysteries, more than 2500 titles, published in 33 languages. Go look, and be impressed.

Everybody who was anybody in our field worked with Marty sooner or later, and he was ever the gentleman and scholar, always trying to get the best deals for his people.

He wasn't a writer, but he was a great story-teller, and I remember a lunch in Portland a few years back that had me in stitches. A smart man.

I first worked with him on the Nimoy book, Primortals, then later on the Asimov-inspired Ibots novel, Time Was (written by Gary Braunbeck.)

I also had the odd story in one or the other of the anthologies, but mostly, I was involved in the ten-book series, Tom Clancy's Net Force. Marty and his guys at Tekno Books took excellent care of me during all of of these ventures, a class-act across the board.

Marty was always looking for a new project, he had more balls in the air than a platoon of jugglers on speed, and now and then, he'd give me a call and pitch one at me. Even once he grew deathly ill with a terrible attack of pancreatitis and was in the hospital, he called with a new idea. 

His wife Rosalind and his team, including Larry Segriff and John Helfers, will continue to run the company, but Marty will be missed. 

Adios, Marty. 

Germline


I have a fondness for military science fiction, having dabbled in it a time or three myself, and my guy at Powell's, Peter, will now and then spot an example he thinks I might enjoy and hold it for me. Thus, Germline, by T.C. McCarthy, an advance copy of an Orbit paperback I've just finished reading.


Billed as The Subterrene War #1, which is a clue there will be more, in case you miss the preview of the next one in the back, it's a near-future novel that deals with a war ostensibly over rare metals, between America and Russia.


McCarthy, whose background seems fascinatingly-diverse, and who did a tour as a CIA analyst, offers up what for me is a conundrum: For a first novel, it's well-written and most evocative, grit and grime, worth a starred review at Publisher's Weekly. 


On the other hand, the points he wants to make seem to be 1) War is hell. 2) War is really hell. 3) No, I mean it, war is really, really, hell. 4) Even after the war is over and if you survive? it's still hell.


Okay. I get it. 


There is a market for the blood and puke and exploded-body-parts-flying kind of war novel, crotch-rot and scaly skin and suits dumping pee and turds on the floor hither and yon, and if you are looking for that, this book is for you. 


The protagonist, one Oscar Wendell, a reporter for Stars and Stripes, is a mostly-washed up junkie still thinking he's going to win a Pulitzer when he manages to get posted to the tunnels on the front. He loses that notion pretty quick, as he endures–and that's the word I want–a series of progressively uglier and grubbier episodic adventures demonstrating how awful it is to live in a combat suit for weeks at a time in a place where you can be vaporized at any second.


Where madness and combat fatigue are the norm rather than the exception, the mood ranges from depressed to manic in the space of a couple heartbeats. It don't mean nothing. Any of it ... And you know pretty quickly not to get attached to anybody, because chances are good they'll be dead real soon.


Yeah, yeah, I know that's how real war is. Not about honor, nor glory, and most of us who have written about it even without having experienced it, have pointed that out. 


Slaughtering people on a battlefield isn't pretty. It's not Star Wars bloodless, nor should it necessarily be depicted that way; on the other hand, past a point, piling it on doesn't make the story better. And that's what you want, isn't it? A better story? 


The germline aspect comes from the clones–all women on the U.S. side, men on the Russian side–who have been bottle-bred as cannon fodder, trained, infused with a hokey dogma, and whose shelf-life is about the same as the replicants in Bladerunner. Disposable people, and most of them happy to be wiped if they survive past their expiration date. (After which, if not killed, they begin to rot, much like a combination of frostbite and gangrene ...)


It's not giving too much away to say that McCarthy must have really liked Bladerunner, because there are echoes of it throughout. 


This kind of book raises more questions than it answers, and the biggest one for me was, How did we get to a place that can't be more than a few decades away where we could breed clone combat slaves and happily send them off to die? That's a pretty big leap, and McCarthy doesn't speak to it in this book. He might do in the next, where it seems the protagonist is going to be one of the genetics, aka betties.


There's an aspect of technology in being able to do such medical things that seems to make the notion of grunts on a line shooting at each other seem archiac. (If you can teleport living humans through time and space, ala Star Trek, do you really need photon torpedoes and phaser cannons? Materialize any odd bit of junk you have laying around inside the hull of an enemy ship, and you get a nifty nuclear explosion, no two objects being able to occupy the same time and space and all. 


If you can create from scratch a cup of Earl Gray tea, cup and all, from energy? Jeez, that makes the rest of the Enterprise a Model-T by comparison. The ship needs to be way cooler, to deserve that cup of tea.)


If I can create humans from scratch, I can certainly create some nifty viruses and bacteria that will cook enemies like a giant Fourth of July barbecue, wanna bet? And if I don't, why not? I can come up with reasons, but I'd rather the writer did that.


So a mixed review. I like the guy's ability to write. I don't much like the level of ick he offers in this book. It's depressing, and worse, the ending doesn't work for me. It feels tacked-on, and it needed more.


Still, I thought it was worth reading, and I'll look to see what he does next, but this a qualified, and not a rave, review.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Blues and Brews


Just got back from the Blues and Brews Festival in Stevenson, WA, in the Gorge.

Beautiful venue, great weather, terrific bands, and outstanding beer. My wife and I and the dogs parked in the campground next to the lake, and had a fine ole time. 


The event, which has apparently been going on for eighteen years under various names, is held at the Skamania County Fairgrounds, within walking distance of Stevenson, and probably five or six hundred people hung out at the busiest part of Saturday's sessions.


The local cheerleaders handed out water and sunblock. The football team sold T-shirts, as did the science club, to raise money for a wind generator on the school's roof. No dogs allowed inside the venue on Saturday, but you could throw a rock from the back gate and hit the nearest RV and there were places to walk pups until they got tired.


Lot of goose poop to avoid, too. 


Our favorite group was called The Knuckleheads. They did great delta blues. Only songs by dead guys, they announced up front, and they had a groove deep enough to swallow a Mack truck.


Two rules for the band, they said when my wife went looking for CDs after their set: 1) They never rehearse and 2) It's never the same line-up twice.


No CDs ...







Fronting this time was Curtis Salgadao, who is one helluva singer and blues harp player. You get a chance to hear him, go. 




 Naturally, we bought enough tokens to get a fair sample of the beers and wines, and the craft brewers had some mighty fine stuff. Best of it for me was Walking Man's Walking Stick Stout, which was about the color of expresso and as good as it could possibly be.


Only drawback were the mosquitoes who came out after it got dark, once the wind died down. Fortunately we had skeeter dope in the camper, though I always forget to to spray my head, and with short hair, they go for the scalp. Baseball caps are good.



 Got the T-shirt, too. Couldn't have had a better time, though it was noise after the bands shut down Saturday night. Lot of happy drunks in the campground, but no fights. When I got up in the morning to walk the dogs, I was the only person out. Not early risers, blues festival fans, apparently ...












Thursday, June 23, 2011

Guns or Butter


So the Prez has offered up his plan for troop drawdown in Afghanistan and, of course, nobody is happy with it. 


D's think it's not enough; R's think it's too much. 


I understand his dilemma, but I find myself wondering how a guy who ran as an anti-war candidat,e and who was going to restore the lost civil liberties grabbed by the Patriot Act can get reëlected.


How do you play politics as usual and make it look like something else? War Powers Act isn't applicable to Libya because there aren't any hostilities there? Really? 


I didn't expect Obama to get the economy fixed in any kind of hurry, that was too big a bear to take down with the peashooter he has; still, the choice of guns or butter is always with us. People are asking the question, and rightly so: How can we afford to build bridges in Afghanistan but not in New Jersey? With our infrastructure falling apart and a hundred and twenty billion dollars a year going into this generation's unwinnable Vietnam, how can we justify that?  


My answer? We can't. Empires have tried over and over to win wars in Afghanistan, and they've all failed. Yet somehow, that horrible disfiguring disease looks better on us.


Has nobody in the government ever read any history? 


I think Edwin Starr's lament about war: Good, God, y'all, what is it good for? is much more appropriate than the Battle Hymn of the Republic. War needs to be the last tool in the box we reach for, reserved for that point when nothing else will do the job. Mostly, it's been among the first. We don't get to claim we are a civilized species until we slow down that fast draw and think about it first. 


Guns or butter. Bush made that choice for us, and Obama got stuck with it, but he knew it was going to be  his problem when he went after the job. Taking down bin Laden isn't enough. I don't envy Obama's tightrope walk, but that was in the job description when he signed on. 



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Keep Portland Weird



If you've seen Portlandia, or you live around here, you get it that Portland considers itself unique. Look no farther than Voodoo Donuts. Can't get the Nyquil or the Pepto anymore, but the Cock-and-Balls is still available. It looks like what it says, and is filled with white cream ...


Or you can check out the naked bike ride held every year. Several thousand folks get naked or mostly so and bike through the streets of the city, cops fore and aft. 


Imagine yourself on a cross-country trip with the kids driving into the city one evening, looking for a B.K. or Mickey D's and you come around the corner and see this parade ...

It's Not Easy Being Green


Went and saw Gray Lensmen–uh, I mean, Green Lantern–last night. (Hardcore science fiction fans will get the joke ...)


It was fun, I'd give it a C-minus. 


So far this summer, the latest X-men entry is the clear winner, for character stuff alone. 


GL has a lot of flash, space-opera sensibilities, and nice enough EFX. We opted for the 2D version; aside from Avatar, I haven't seen anything in 3D since that was worth the extra ticket cost. Cameron got it right, nobody else has. 


My biggest gripe would be that old notion that the audience is too slow on the uptake to get it, so we have to have the upfront once-upon-a-time voice-over explaining the history and backstory they think we need. Better that was spent on character development, of which there isn't quite enough. 


We don't need the set-up. The reboot X-men movie just jumped right into the middle of the story, and GL could have done the same thing. It would have been better. 


The story, such that it is, is fine; the villain tragic and sufficiently creepy, and the supporting actors way over-qualifed for their roles. Tim Robbins? Angela Bassett? A waste of talent, what they are given to do. 


Mark Strong does a nice turn with Sinestro.


Best piece of hardware is not the suit, which is pretty cool, nor the ring, nor the lamp, but a doohickey in the lab that looks like a roller coaster loop with a single car going round and round for no reason of which I could conceive. Funny. 


What sells the movie is whether or not the lead is likable, and Ryan Reynolds, who buffed up for the role, is that. The chemistry between him and Blake Lively (as Carol Ferris) is okay, if not all that hot. 


Listen to the soundtrack, and you'll now and then get a sting that sounds a lot like the fanfare music in the first Chris Reeve Superman movie. No doubt in my mind this was deliberate. 


When the major villain shows up, the fight sequence is over pretty fast, and every beat in it is predicable.


There's a teaser during the credits that won't surprise anybody who waits to see it, and t sets up the sequel, if the numbers are there to pay for it. 


Hey. It's a summer movie, buy the popcorn, turn the brain input knob down to low, enjoy the ride.


Come on, Cowboys and Aliens ...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Entropy


So the toilet in the back bathroom has been getting decrepit: First it was the flapper getting stuck open, requiring the classic jiggle-the-handle adjustment. Then I noticed a stain on the floor behind it and found that one of the bolts holding the tank to the bowl had rusted enough so that fiddling with it with my fingers broke it right off.


What kind of dweeb uses a steel bolt under the water inside a toilet tank? How much more would a brass or zinc one have cost?


The other innards were on their last legs, too. Float arm was cruddy, water-valve tower grody, seals looking scummy. Time to fix it.


So, off to Home Depot to get a replacement kit. 


I am not handy, but I can, with dogged patience, attack a job that somebody who has a clue can manage in fifteen or twenty minutes, and manage to do it in, say, an hour.


The kit comes with everything one needs, and the instructions, in English and Spanish, are comprehensible. It's not rocket science, all you have to do is unscrew the old crap and replace it with the new crap, and the high-end kit runs $19.95. I considered the ten buck cheapie. Probably it would last as long, it all being plastic, but what the heck, live large. The brass tank bolts were the selling point. Would have run six bucks extra to get those and the rubber washers with the cheapie, so it wasn't that much of a deal. 


So:


Water off, old tatty towel in the tank to soak up the last of it, unscrew this and that. Take the tank outside, puzzle over the instructions, remove the old parts, put the new ones in.


I've done this before a couple times, but once every ten or twelve years doesn't give you much in the way of familiarity, plus the hardware changes each time. Don't have one of those little floats on a rod anymore, the shut-off float is on the inflow-valve tower. Kind of elegant, actually, though the old brass-everything would last eighty years, and the new stuff considerably less.


Had to trim the overflow tube. Apparently it was not designed for the tiny-tank model I have and code says the tube has to be lower than the inflow value, and no way that was gonna happen. A pox upon the man responsible for taking away our full-size toilet tanks. You have to import those from Canada these days, where they still know how much water it takes to do the job. And it's stupid, because you always have to flush the damned itty bitty tank twice if there is any serious business in the bowl, and where is the savings in that? 


Oh, well. Got it all done, flushed it, and it worked. All a man can ask for.


That, and not waking up in the middle of the night and finding the bedroom floor ankle-deep in water because I forgot to tighten something enough ...

Fire and Rain



I have a penchant for rock biographies, especially those detailing the lives of the bands I listened to when I was coming-of-age in the sixties. Dunno how many I've read, but a shelf's worth, at least. Probably four or five on the Beatles alone. If there was a major rock group in that era and somebody has done a biography or autobiography on them, I've probably read it. 


Like Rashomon, the classic samurai movie that shows how different people view the same event, dueling bios can be most interesting and entertaining. Here's how McCartney saw a particular happening go down; over there, George Harrison's memory; what Lennon saw and said; how Ringo recalls it; what Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Patty Boyd, George Martin or Billy Preston pulled up from their recollections of the same moment. 


Objectivity is hard to determine at a far remove, and all the subjective snapshots are just that, subjective, but sometimes, with enough views from enough different angles, you can get a more complete picture. Always fascinating to me to hear how time and space alters personal reality. You remember that night in Soho when the cops showed up? Yeah, but it was in Paddington and it was in the afternoon. No, it was near the power station early in the morning, and ...


I'm currently reading David Browne's book, Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the Lost Story of 1970.


Something of a mouthful, the title, and the story isn't particularly lost, but a good read so far–I'm about two-thirds of the way through. Much of it covers familiar territory, in that I've read other biographies about a lot of what he's detailing, but it does the same Rashomon-like shift, and it also covers some groups about which I haven't read much. It centers around the year 1970, which was pivotal in the rock 'n' roll scene–the year the Beatles broke up, and it crosscuts among the groups CSN&Y, Simon and Garfunkel, and the rise of James Taylor, all of whom were also heading into break ups, or, in Taylor's case breaking down.


That VH1 Behind the Music arc, which is a cliché now, wasn't so well-publicized back in the day. In all these bios, the sex-drugs-rock 'n' roll aspects pop up, of course, even then fans knew all about those; what I didn't get as much as a dewy-eyed lad were the monster egos that wracked and ruined so many groups, and how bad things really were behind closed doors.


This part has all come out in the wash, and sometimes it's really dirty laundry. Here we were, listening to these wonderful harmonies, these moving, touching songs, and the singers and players who were smiling on stage were at each other's throats in the dressing room.


Or stabbing each other in the back, to hear them tell it.


Were it not for multi-track recorders, some of the best and most popular music of the 60's peace-and-love generation would never have been produced. John lays down his track on Monday, Paul comes in on Tuesday, Ringo and George are there Wednesday, and it all sounds so harmonious when it gets blended together it's hard to believe they were to the can't-stand-each-other stage. 


Sometimes this had been going on for years, as in the case of Simon and Garfunkel, who met and started singing together as pre-pube children and were at it off and on for fifteen years when this story takes place. 


And maybe it is the clash of wills and the hard rows that give the music something extra; Fleetwood Mac's best stuff came about when they were all in great personal disarray. Eagles? Jeez, you can feel the hate ooze from them when you see them interviewed, and one of their most recent tours was called The Hell Freezes Over tour. Harrison's best love long was about his wife; Clapton's best love songs were about his best friend George's wife, too. Brian Wilson led the Beach Boys through their heyday while falling into a dire mental fugue that took him decades to climb out of.


Hard to sing the blues right if you ain't got no troubles ...


Mm. Anyway, this book has another aspect, in that it is the first one I've read on my iPad. So far, while it's not as organic as paper, it is an enjoyable experience. Depending on whether I use the airplane mode or not, I can get somewhere around 8-10 hours using the tablet as a reader. Enough to do a lot of that.


In other news, today is the first day of summer, and it appears that we will hit eighty degrees F. here for but the second time this year. Rest of the country is burning up, some of literally, down in the Southwest, and we can hardly complain that we've had balmy days and a lot of drizzle–second-wettest spring on record since they started keeping records here. When I look at it being a hundred degrees and thunderstormy down in Louisiana and it only got to seventy-two here yesterday, that doesn't sound so bad ...

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Five - Robert McCammon


Robert McCammon's latest novel, The Five, is about the final tour of a rock 'n' roll band, and it is not an easy set of gigs. Murder and mayhem and a supernatural horror besets The Five, and their stops on the "knife and gun" circuit of venues are hard, but train-wreck-can't-look-away fascinating. 


I don't think McCammon is a musician, I didn't hear that dime drop, but he obviously loves music and has done his research. The list of bands he thanks at the end runs two-and-a-half pages.


Stephen King offers a cover quote and calls it McCammon's best novel ever, and it is. 


McCammon, whose Boy's Life won the Bram Stoker and World Fantasy awards in the early 1990's, has a dozen other well-received F&SF and horror books to his credit. He stopped writing novels couple years after Boy's Life, and the reason he gives is that his publishers were trying to keep him in the the horror slot when he wanted to try something different. 


I get the in-between-the-lines sense he told them to fuck-off-and-die. I know the feeling.


This is different, and a great read, and it's from a small press, which makes me wonder. Maybe he didn't want to go back to Big Pub. Maybe he did, but they didn't want it. If the latter is the case, they missed a bet. 


The book is long, and my only cavil with it is that people are apt to find it talky in places. McCammon has something he wants to say, and he says it, and sometimes, the soapbox being dragged into place interrupts the flow. But the characterization is rich, the milieu fascinating, and the book is about something, so what he wants to say is worth hearing. 


There's the surly lead guitarist,  pissed-off at the world. There are the hippie-chick earth-mother with a golden voice and writing chops; the bassist who has played everywhere and who has the groove; the keyboardist who can strip the instrument down and fix it blindfolded ; the jock lesbian drummer whose solos blow the roof off; the burned-out road manager. They all have hard rows to hoe and this isn't something you are going to see as a network TV movie of the week, it would be a hard R-rating for language and violence.


You do get a great sense of who these people are, where they came from, why they are there, and the trials they face and changes they undergo are harsh and enlightening. 


Thanks to Tom Dupree for pointing me at this one. 


Four-and-three-quarter stars out of five. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Adventures in iPaddery


Tucked away in a back page in the sport's section of today's paper, a brief item: Brian Gordon, just moved up to the big show as a NY Yankee, played his first game. 


Wearing a glove made entirely from artificial material. No leather in it at all.


Scott Carpenter, the creator of the glove, watched, more than a little pleased.


I'm not a baseball fan, but I grew up when it was a big sport and I watched and played, and the idea of a non-leather glove must be causing heart attacks among the traditionalists.


I understand. I prefer my handguns to be made from steel, not Tupperware. I like leather holsters over Kydex.


I can go with the iPad for a book reader because the experience is similar enough for me: I advance the pages almost as if the book was paper, and they even appear to turn that way in iBooks. I still prefer the organic version, but at least the ebook is doable.


A novel is a simple item. You open it and read the pages. They are sequential, finish one, go on to the next, nothing difficult about it. Someday, embedded videos or links will doubtless be all the rage in the fiction we read, but for now, I don't need that. Words on a page, and they look pretty good on an iPad. 


The New Yorker Magazine looks fine on the iPad, too, and the layout is clean and intuitive. Another winner, and I can get it five or six days sooner than the hardcopy takes to reach my mailbox. 


However, even though I can get online the entire newspaper I read daily, the way it is laid out electronically doesn't do it for me. I thought, well, if I can read the paper on my computer or iPad, that'll save me four hundred bucks a year, more than enough to pay for the AT&T connection for the iPad, I can download it anywhere I can get a phone sig. Such a deal.



I tried reading The Oregonian the last couple of mornings in two forms, side-by-side: the paper, and on the iPad, and doing such a comparison, the iPad comes up a far distant second. Why? 


Because a newspaper is more complicated than a novel. 


Open a broadsheet newspaper, you have a bunch of choices. You let your gaze shift, pick out a story that catches your attention, read it, then look up or down for the next item. Done, you turn the page, and there is that holistic choice again. An overview at a glance, holographically laid out.


Not so on a computer or iPad. You see a list of titles, and you drill down for specifics, and if you are looking for something specific, you can plug that in and find it, but sometimes, you don't know what you are looking for, and eNews doesn't give it to you.


Case in point. A woman I know had a piece done on her Studebaker, at a local informal drive-in for classic and antique cars held in Aloha. I happened to see her picture when I was separating out the paper's sections. No way I would have drilled down to find that on the electronic paper, and even when I went looking for it, I couldn't find it without having to use her name. The path to it wasn't one I'd have found, and even using her name and then backwalking it was a pain in the ass. 


I can go through the newspaper in thirty or forty minutes and if not read every item, at least have seen them. On the electronic version, I suspect it would take several hours, if not days, to click on links and scan them, and part of that is because they keep the previous stories online, so you aren't looking at just today's news, but also yesterday's and even last week's.


Yeah, you can get the headlines easily enough. A short item about the first non-leather baseball glove in the majors? You won't see that unless you already know it's there and go looking to find it. 


Not a magic bullet, computers. Still things they are gonna miss for a while.


Now, if I had one of those CSI/Hawaii Five-O table top computers that would allow me to throw up a full sheet of a newspaper? That would be something. Of course, what it would cost would buy newspapers for a long time, and I can use the papers to drain my fried shrimp and to start the log in the fireplace burning ...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Cookie!

The youngest grandson had a birthday party recently, and as good grandparents, we went out and bought him some toys. One of them was a Cookie Monster with a bunch of Play-Doh and little molds to make treats for the blue monster. If you have ever seen Sesame Street, you know how Cookie Monster talks and how he chows down on cookies.


We didn't know how the toy worked because it was packaged like Fort Knox, requiring a chainsaw to open the plastic, and when we finally got it out and on the table, we were greatly amused. You open CM's mouth, and feed him, and ...


See for yourself ...


video

Centurions


Back in the mid-1980's, my collaborator Reaves dragged me kicking and screaming into writing animation for the tube. I was a book guy, not interested in television, but he convinced me it would be 1) Fun 2) Interesting and 3) Lucrative, and on balance, it turned out he was right.


I took the big metal bird to L.A. and went with Reaves into a meeting with a bunch of other writers, a cattle-call wherein we were given the bible and basic information at Ruby-Spears, for a syndicated show called Centurions.


There were times when it wasn't as much fun, nor really interesting, but the money, which, by the by, is considered chump-change in LaLaLand, where animation is the salt mines of TV, was good for how much work you had to do. Scripts ranged from a couple thousand bucks on the bottom, up to three or four, sometimes more for 22-minutes–half hour show, with eight minutes for commercials. Once you got into the flow, it took all of two or three days to do one. There were a few I did in one day, and a couple-three or four grand for one afternoon in front of the word processor was more than I could make doing honest work ...


Over the course of the next few years, when there were toons popping up everywhere, I wrote a couple score of 'em for different shows, mostly with Reaves, sometimes with others or on my own.


I lived up here, Reaves and I collaborated on the Centurions scripts via MCI Mail and by snailmailing floppy disks.


I wrote several with the show's story editor, Ted Pedersen. 


And I actually sent them in electronically, which, in 1986, was a big deal. Pedersen was a techno-geek, and he set up a BBS for delivery. This was before the web, and when email ran at speeds of 300 baud–about as fast as I am typing this ...


You kids today don't know how good you've got it. You have more memory in your cell phone than all of us who wrote for that show had in all our computers combined. 


That first meeting was hilarious. They had mock-ups of the toys, kind of like G.I. Joe, in their spiffy sci fi costumes, with guns, and helicopter attachments and the like. Jake, Ace, and Max were the heroes. The funny sidekick was a female orangutan, Lucy, and there was a professor and a girl, and assorted nasty villains. When the super-suits were beamed onto our heroes, they would say "Power Extreme!" and there'd be EFX and all.


Essentially a half-hour ad for the toys, they moved fast and didn't stop to think. Once, trying to be clever, I offered a reason why a couple of guys in spacesuits tromping around on the moon could hear a rocket landing. Radio interference with the coms, some kind of standing EMP. I was proud of that. Wow, one of my suited guys said, listen to how loud that is!


Naturally, it was amended: "Yeah, and it would be a lot louder if we didn't have these helmets on!"


I wanted to scream. Science was never big on these shows, even though the story editor promised us it would be, the first sample script I saw had fifty-foot tall mummies running around shooting blue death rays from their eyes. Science ...


Um. Anyway, the meeting:


There we were, grown-ups, listening as the showrunners, babbled on about which way Jake's chest-mounted Gatling gun rotated. This was not amusing, this was a matter of gravity, serious stuff here. Nothing funny about it, thank you.


Come again, was that clockwise on Jake's cannon? Thanks, I'll make a note of that ...


It was funny, and I'm not now, nor have I ever been known for controlling my laughter. 


I sat across from another writer, Michael Cassutt, who went on to bigger and better things in live TV, and he was doing that thing my little brother used to do at the supper table when my father was irritated at us, trying to make me laugh. He didn't have far to go to achieve that.


If I laughed at supper as a kid when I was told to sit still and be quiet, I was gonna get whacked; and if I laughed at that TV meeting, I wasn't gonna get the work, and having been tempted by the Hollywood Satan, I wanted that money. I had to look away and bite my lip. 


It is a fond memory. 


Um. All of this leads to a less-happy time. The story editor, Ted Pedersen, had been working in television since the mid-seventies, and had a host of credits, from Space Academy to the Bionic Woman to Flash Gordon to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles–the list goes on and on, scores of episodes on three dozen shows.


He liked Reaves and by extension, me, and he favored us with work. I think I had a hand in ten episodes over the series's run.


Eventually, the show ended, and we all went our separate ways. As one does, you lose track of folks you don't try to keep up with.


And tragedy befell Ted Pedersen. 


I am hazy on the details, it has been years, but what I recall is that he was in New York City when a bus hit him. It might have jumped a curb, I seem to remember that. He very nearly died, and his recovery was slow and never complete. There was a settlement, and in recent years, Ted lived in an assisted living facility in Seattle, where he grew up, and continued writing, including a book on the history of the area.


His health was never good after the accident. A couple years back, he sent me DVDs of the show, and a year or so ago, we exchanged a couple of emails. He was in the VA hospital, not doing well, secondary to chemotherapy and radiation, mostly. I wished him well, and didn't hear back. 


According to Mark Zicree, Ted has passed away. I don't have any details other than that. 


Adios, Ted.