Wednesday, February 27, 2013

This Just In

The World Horror Convention is going to be held in Portland, OR, next year (2014). No specifics on the hotel or dates yet, but the Guest of Honor is going to be Nancy Holder, a delightful writer with whom I have corresponded for years and never had a chance to meet. Much looking forward to that. 

In related news, my daughter's new novel, The Summer Man, one of those spooky kinda books, from Books, in both epub and paper, will be out May 7th, you can pre-order it now, and if you hold onto it, maybe get it autographed at the WHC next year ...

Women with the Blues

Here's information on an upcoming concert at the Alberta Rose Theater in Portland, OR, Friday, March 22nd, 2013. 

One of the featured performers is our voice teacher, Anne Weiss. We have seen or heard three of the four women and they all have pipes and chops out the wazoo.

Might check it out if you are in the neighborhood. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Signing - The Ramal Extraction

Oh, yeah, Peter reminded me, I need to mention this: I'll be doing a signing for Ramal this coming Friday, that's March 1st, 2013 at Powell's Books, in the Cedar Hills Mall, in Beaverton, at 7 p.m. 

If you are in the neighborhood, drop by ...


Now and again, one does something foolish. Yesterday, while cleaning up in the kitchen, I opened the trash bin's lid to discover it was full. Now, the thing to do in this situation is to remove the bin bag and haul it outside to the garbage can, put in a new bag, and go on about one's business.

Naturally, I didn't do that. I shoved it down a bit to save myself a trip. 

On the face of it, that doesn't sound all that foolish, Steve. Pray, go on.

We separate out a lot of recycling stuff, glass paper, but not cat food cans. There was one such empty container under the top layer of goop in the kitchen's bin. 

With a nice, sharp-edged peel-up lid right next to it.

You see where this is going, right?

I yelled a bad word for feces several times. Wife came running, dogs fled for the back door.

Nice clean cuts on both the index finger and thumb of my right hand. Not major slices, no sutures necessary, but it makes playing guitar or uke a bit more difficult.

Finger was middle joint, so I got a pass there, and the cut on the thumb was off to one side, but that bandage wasn't going to hold up very well when strumming, given how it had to be positioned. So I super-glued that cut shut and custom-scissored a bandage to be thin and used that. Works okay.

But lesson learned: When the trash bag is full, dump it ...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Uke Hunt

There is a great ukulele site, Ukulele Hunt, all kinds of good stuff. The heading is abbreviated to "Uke Hunt."

Here's a fun thing for you: Tool on over to the mall, stand in the food court, and in a loud voice, say that name "Uke Hunt," and watch for the reactions ...


Now and then, one of those should-be-simple-on-the-face-of-it things goes a little sideways, and you look around, wondering where the Candid Camera is hiding ... ?

We have a free-standing gas stove/electric oven we put in about what? sixteen, eighteen years ago? Major brand, high quality, the first gas stove we had since Louisiana, and happy we have been with it.

Well, save that the clock/temperature module, which is an LCD display, has gradually faded to the point where you can't really read either. Not a big deal insofar as the operation of the oven–we know the default setting is 350ยบ F. and each tap of the increase-heat button kicks it up five degrees, so we can figure out how to get to which temp we need. Still, it's a nagging irritation, and as we move into fixing up the house–make that Fixing Up the House–it seemed like a simple thing to get the appliance guy out to fix it, right?

Got the local repair folk listed on the company's website, people we bought the thing from, gave 'em a call. Told them what the problem was, arranged a window, and there we were.

Guy came out. What's the problem? 

Just like I told the dispatcher. Needs a new module.

Gotcha. So he cranked up his laptop and went looking for the part.

Why, I wondered, didn't he do that before he came out? So as to, you know, bring the part with him and replace it?

As it turned out, the answer was moot: He couldn't find a replacement. The company stopped making 'em, and even though the average stove/oven might well last twenty-five years, they don't stock stuff after about ten.

So he made some calls and then offered this:

Well, nobody seems to have what we need. If we send the front unit in, they will take a look at it, see if they can rewire it or whatever, and that will run $234. But, here's the catch ...

If they can't fix it, too bad. Still costs you $234, yea or nay. Plus the cost of this service call, which is $75 ...

So, I said, eyebrows arched in incredulity, let me see if I have this straight: We will have a disassembled stove for however long it takes to go to and fro from wherever, I'm into it for three hundred bucks minimum, and they might not be able to fix it?

Well, yeah.

Word, lemme see, what's the word I'm looking for here ... ? Oh, yeah. 


Would you do that? I asked the repair guy?

Hem. Haw. 

Well, he said, maybe I can find something in a warehouse somewhere or somesuch. Let me check around and I'll call you back in a couple of days ...

Right. Uh huh.

So, I'm going to wait to hear from the guy and if there is something reasonable in the offing, no harm, no foul. If, however, this three hundred buck lottery ticket is the option? I'll be back here, naming names. And sending letters to the range and repair companies ...

Never a dull moment. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Toy

So, the new uke got here. Sounds waaay better than the old one. Got a hardfoam case, tuner, extra strings. Spent too much of my work day playing with it, got sore fingers, but it's a fun toy.

Once I get a handle on the barre chords, I'll tackle Jake Shimabukuro's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

I mean, how hard could it be?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


One of the things you learn once you buy a house is that entropy does indeed rule. And, to keep it at bay, you have to buy new things to replace the old things that die or do without. 

The roof will eventually leak, the fence'll rot and fall over, the storms will drop big pieces of tree into the yard, or on top of your house. The rugs go threadbare, the floors crack and buckle, everything needs to be repainted. And on and on. If you are a stay-at-home spouse, or retired, or out of work, your home can become your full-time job, twixt the yard work and upkeep on the structure(s) themselves. Not even to mention cleaning the place.

So it is that we have come to the replacing of our furnace.

Not that we live in an ice box, we have fairly mild winters, being in a valley and all, but the temperature does drop below freezing, and the basic winter day in this part of Oregon is forty degrees F. and raining, which is a tad chillier than we like it inside.

The furnace that was here when we moved in was twenty-odd years old and about 50% efficient. We got inside storm windows, which cut our heating costs–we use natural gas–but it was still spendy. Plus when the gas company guy came out to inspect it, he found a crack and allowed as how explosions, fire, and death might be in our immediate future.

Hmm. Maybe we don't want that.

So we bought a new furnace. That one was 80% efficient, which cut heating costs immediately, and though it took several years, it paid for itself in savings. (And the first time we cranked the sucker, twenty-odd years worth of dust and dead bug parts blew from the registers, several of which were bent enough so they howled like werewolves. We cleaned the ducts, replaced the grills, and went on our way, feeling much warmer.) 

Fast forward two and a half decades ...

A couple years back, the furnace's igniter went out. Back in the old days, forced-air gas furnaces had pilot lights, i.e., small flames that lit the main burners when the thermostat said they should. Kitchen stoves had those, too. Alas, those were deemed too dangerous, because now and then they blew out, but the gas kept flowing, and that could result in a build up of gas, and subsequent explosions, fire, and death, which nobody really wanted. So those were phased out and replaced with electronic igniters. On the one hand, they were safer. On the other, if they went out, you couldn't relight the furnace manually. 

You can relight the stove manually, which is good when the power goes out; at least you can cook, even if the furnace won't work, being the blower motors are electric. 

The furnace igniter, which looks kind of like a soldering iron's tip, doesn't like dust, and an itty bit on it will short the sucker dead. The blower motor runs constantly, but the air is cold. 

After the third igniter in a couple years, we started thinking the time was drawing nigh that we consider an upgrade. Like an old car, you can keep replacing parts, but it will nickel and dime you to distraction. Yeah, that part is under warranty, but when it's twenty-nine degrees F. out there and the furnace craps out, it sometimes takes a while for the repair guy to put you on the list. It's winter camping until the furnace guy gets there. 

Then our thermostat died. We got a spiffy new one, and it is great, but ... a couple weeks back, we waked up to a cold house. The circuit had kicked off. The thermostat was telling the furnace, "Furnace! Turn on!" and the furnace kept saying, "Fuck you! You can't make me!"

All it took was a switch toggle to get it working again, but it happened again a few days later, and we began to see the writing on the wall. 

We figured we'd wait until next season, winter being almost over, but we got one of those rebate offers that would save us seven hundred bucks or so on a new furnace, so...

So, a new furnace is in the offing. New one will be somewhere around 95% efficient, quieter, better motors, la, la, la, and, in theory, should outlast us. It should, it will cost us enough. And it will eventually earn back its cost in savings, too, after four or five years. In theory. 

The roof is getting long in the tooth, and that's the next project, because rain falling on our heads inside isn't okay; after that, the back fence, the floors, cabinets, the list is long, and then it starts over ...

Fortunately, we are about to pay the mortgage off and the money we were shelling out for that can then be put into home improvement, and maybe we'll even get some tax benefits, but I am here to tell you if you are considering buying a house, something will always need replacing, and if not at the moment, soon. Word. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lock and Load

The battle for hearts and minds in regard to gun control rages. Sometimes it's the little things that jump out at you. Last night, I was channel surfing and came across Shooting USA's coverage of this years Shot Show™, in Las Vegas. I confess that I sometimes watch gun night on The Outdoor Channel. Shooting shows mostly lean to the right, though I skip the seriously Ted Nugent stuff. Always interesting to see what new products are out there in the way of boomware: Guns, ammo, grips, holsters, magazines, bags, clothes, scopes, the show offers 'em up.

Of course you don't need to be a cynic to notice that the sponsor's products are front and center. If Hogue and Crimson Trace back a segment, you can book it that the boys on the floor will hold up their sponsors latest toys and wax enthusiastic. Hardly unexpected–I've worked for animated shows that were essentially one long commercial for the kiddies Christmas stocking: Did you miss Chuck Norris's Karate Kommandos Korvette, with Disk Action Shooter™ ... ? I've even done product placement in books on some of the work-for-hire projects

But back to the Shot Show™:

One thing I noticed right off. There are a whole bunch of new AR rifle platforms for sale, from big-bore .308, to a convertor you can use to practice with .177 air. And the name has changed. 

A cynic might say that the gun makers looked up and saw a huge market among those worried these things are going to be made illegal. 

Here is a fact: Every time anybody in government mumbles the words "Gun control," sales of guns and ammo go through the roof. Every time. Ammo shelves clear out, people stand in line to get into gun shows. 

The gun industry should mint a gold medal and and give it to President Obama, because he's made them more money than Wayne LaPierre has. Seriously. 

For everybody on that side of the gun control issue, the AR, the civilian version of the military's combat rifles–M-16, M-4, etc.–is an assault rifle. For everybody on the other side of that stance? There is not a whiff of anything that connects them to the Army or Marines now. 

Now? They are known as Modern Sporting Rifles.  

Every time one of the three hosts held one of these up, and they did it a lot, that was how they referred to them. Modern Sporting Rifles. 

Notice the spin? 

Just like "pro-choice," or "pro-life," are terms meant to convey to somebody that one's side of the debate is the the more benign and reasonable one, we field "assault" and "sporting." 

Both sides of the gun debate have bought a carload of lipstick for this pig. And Porky's make-up is transparently obvious no matter who applies it.

What's in a name? A rose would smell just as sweet by a different handle, right? Well, yeah, but if you called a rose"vulture vomit," probably fewer people would be growing, them or stopping to smell them.

Hey, Larry, nice vulture-vomit bush in the front yard there ...

Glaser Safety Slugs™ are probably more defendable in court than Heart Shredders™ even if they are ballistically identical. Black Talon™ ammo one day turned into Ranger SXT. (And the joke was, SXT stood for "same eXact Thing.) Cut somebody's carotids with a Death Ripper Tactical knife, that just sounds ever so much worse than if you use a Girl Scout Pocket Knife, even though the guy is just as dead ...

This debate over hardware is, much like other deeply-held beliefs, driven by the far left and right. The crazier and smaller the group, the louder it tends to be, and that about-to-fall-off-the edge polarization leaves, as often as not, the middle in a place that makes it hard to get comfortable, since the middle pisses off both yea and nay. 

The if-then options: 

A) If we let them take our Modern Sporting Rifles™, then next thing you know, they'll come for Grampa's .22 squirrel gun!

B) If you own a gun, then somebody is going to break in and steal it and murder a busload of children with it!

Really? Those are the only choices? 

The problem I see, as I have said here before, is that the left wing loons and the right wing nuts don't speak for most of us. And we have to decide what's best for us and stand on it, rather then allowing ourselves to be herded like sheep by either side. 

If you think that "responsible gun owner" is an oxymoron, or your T-shirt says "Pry my thirty round magazine from my cold dead fingers," you don't speak for me. Nor for most people who live where I live. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Oldies Getting Younger

My in-car radio stations, aside from OBP, of course, include a classical station, an adult hits, and an oldies station. The oldies station for years has played "The top hits of the 50's, 60's, and 70's!"

Yesterday while listening to this station, I heard something I don't recall from any of those eras, and afterward, the new ad: "The tops hits of the 60's, 70's, and 80's!"

Aside from them assuming all the folks who liked the fifties stuff are dead, I have to wonder? How many hits were there in the eighties? I mean, really ...

Grump. Grump.

Valentine's Day Card

We went out for lunch earlier this week for our Valentine's Day date, the wife and I, but we usually give each other a card, too. For years, I have done mine by hand. More thoughtful, cheaper, and something you can do at the last minute.

This year, since it wasn't raining, I took a piece of pink chalk and drew hearts on the sidewalk and driveway leading to my wife's car. (The dogs are just window dressing ...)

Thursday, February 14, 2013


The old, above; 
The new, below.

Couple-three years back, we were at a charity function, and put in a bid on a cheap ukulele and wound up with it. I was kinda curious, since that was the first instrument I had a chance to fool with, back in the 7th grade Music-Art-Speech cycle in junior high.

I piddled with the thing for a while, stuck in on a shelf, then went back to my guitar.

Recently, it came to me that I needed to have a second instrument with which I could get frustrated, so I picked up the uke again. There are guys who can make you cry they play these so well. If you haven't seen it, check out Jake Shimabukuro's rendition of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," on YouTube. Or James Hill's "Billie Jean," in which he plays three different parts at the same time, lead, chords, and percussion. Jaw-droppers, both of these guys.

Mine doesn't sound awful with good strings, but let's face it, it's only one step up from a toy. If I plan to spend any time plucking away, I need something better.

And a tad bigger, too.

Ukuleles come in several configurations, the most common of which is the soprano, which I have, and which is the smallest. Short fretboard, mine only has a dozen frets, and itty-bitty spaces. My hands aren't huge, but when you are used to the two-and-a-quarter inch wide at the nut classical guitar fretboard, it makes for cramps going to something that tiny.

They make what they call a concert version, whose fretboard and bodies are a bit longer and wider. There is a tenor model, and a baritone, plus a bass thingee, too, and the boxes and boards get bigger still on those.

A good ukulele will set you back between and thousand and two thousand bucks. A really good one can run a whole lot more. The most expensive and best-known custom-made exotic-wood ukes come from Hawaii. The company who made Jake Shimabukuro's tenor put out a limited-run signature model for him a while back. A hundred instruments, fifty-five hundred dollars each, and they sold out fast. If you want one? Expect to pay close to twice that for it used, and more for a lower number.

Me, I don't have ten grand for a ukulele, but there are folks who pay that.

Most production ukes are made in China or Indonesia, many of them shipped to the U.S. where they are set-up and finished by local luthiers. There is one enterprising maker in Indiana who offers the slogan, "Not all great ukuleles are made in Hawaii." The company name is "Mainland," and you might be forgiven for assuming from that slogan that theirs are made in the U.S. Nope, though they are set-up and finished here. In this instance, "Mainland" seems to refer more to China, where they are produced.

Funny, although online research has it that this company makes a pretty good entry-level product.

You can get a decent production model entry-level uke for a couple-three hundred bucks, which isn't a patch on the custom jobs, but which is still waaay better than the one I have.

So I decided to upgrade ...

I've ordered a Mainland Concert model, no frills nor frippery, but which seems to have a good tone, and which gets reviewed well, even when compared to similar instruments costing several times as much. Solid mahogany (as opposed to plywood), slot-head with geared tuners, fourteen frets to the body, nineteen overall. Comes with Aquila strings, too.

At the very least, I can learn how to play basic blues on it, and maybe do some fingerpicking that's not too complex. Stay tuned. Pun intended ...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dead Aim - Joe Lansdale

So, the simple review: Joe Lansdale has a new novella (that's a short novel) out, Dead Aim

It's Hap and Leonard.

Which, if you are a Lansdale fan, is all you need to know. If you aren't a fan, you should be. 
Hap and Leonard, an East Texas redneck and a gay black guy, respectively, are constantly getting into trouble, and this outing is no different, all axe-handles and boomware and bodies, and what they see isn't what they get. 

With Hap and Leonard, the road is never straight and easy for them to get where they need to go. 

Lansdale is an absolute pro when he sets pen to paper, he's written everything from horror to mysteries to animation for TV, and far as I can tell, has never written a bad paragraph. He's also something like fifty years deep in martial arts, which doesn't hurt when he crafts a fight scene. 

The original novella was from Subterranean Press and the collector's version is sold out, but you can get an epub version from

You should. 

If the work has a problem, it's that it's too short. It' s lean and mean, but you don't get that experience of hunkering down and spending quality time with Hap and Leonard, which is always a fun thing.

If you go looking for it, link Lansdale's name to it–there are at least two other novels with the same title, including a fine one by Thomas Perry (no relation.)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Writing for Money

The Brass Ring (photo by Audrey Lawson)

Got asked about work-for-hire, in connection with writing scripts and/or shared universe tie-ins. Why one would do it, given the hassles?

Lot of reasons, from money, to getting to play with an icon you like, to bumping up interest in your own stuff. Writing for a living as a freelancer is an iffy business. For beginners, making a sale is the brass ring*, but once you grab that, the merry-go-round is still moving, and you have to figure out a way to stay on it as it stops and starts. 

Earlier in my career if I was offered work and the money was okay and it was remotely possible that I could get the project done, I always took the job. Because there is a stage where you worry that if you turn anything down, you won't get any more offers, the tap will turn off, end of career.

Later, I got to a place where I would weigh the alternatives. How hard and how quickly was it going to be necessary to do the job? And now and then, I'd weigh those and it wasn't going to be worth my time to take the offer, so I would reluctantly turn it down. Low money, short turnaround, other work in the pipeline? Sorry, can't do it. 

Then I moved along, and the offers didn't come as often, but some of them were potentially very lucrative. And I found myself considering the money and effort versus the time–sometimes the money was really, really good, but I could tell by the interactions with the folks who'd sign the checks that it was going to be a ballbuster. That wading neck-deep through a lake of bubbling feces required a whole lot of incentive, and I was less and less inclined to do so. Life isn't getting longer.

Yeah, if I work on my own novel that will go straight to epub, I won't make any money, relatively speaking; on the other hand, I will enjoy the experience ever so much more, and that counts for more than it once did.

It's always a matter of putting it on the scale when you do work-for-hire, in somebody else's universe. It's their toy, they get the final word, you know that going in, so you decide based on what you most need. Sometimes, I most needed the money. Working in somebody else's universe got me the name-change, from "Steve Perry," to "New York Times Bestselling Author Steve Perry." Not only good for swelling the ego, but a direct connection to the wallet. That on the cover sells books. 

Sometimes, I most needed the feeling of nobody looking over my shoulder.

Usually when I work with somebody offering editorial suggestions, be they actual editors or simply those who control the property, I look at these suggestions through a simple heuristic: 1) If it will make the story better and I can see it? I'll probably do it. 2) If it doesn't make the story better, but also doesn't make it worse? I'll probably do it. 3) If it makes the story worse? I will resist doing it as much as I can. 

Sometimes, due to the nature of being a hired gun, you have to go with 3). You don't have a choice, it's their way or the highway. If such becomes intolerable, then best you don't put yourself in the position where you have to take that option.

I'm getting there a lot more often than I used to get there ...

* Brass Rings, in this context, were dispensed from a device next to a carousel. As you went by, you reached out, sometimes having to lean dangerously, to grab a ring. Most of the rings were, in the classic dispensers, of iron. If the one you grabbed was brass, it entitled you to a prize, usually a free ride. You don't see these much any more, and that's mostly a liability issue. Lean too far and fall off, back in the day, you'd pick yourself up, laugh, and climb back onto the ride. Now, you'd sue everybody from the ride maker to the operator to the guy sweeping the parking lot. 

When I was a kid, there was a guy came to town with a big truck full of mules, a dozen of them. He'd set up a big corral in an empty field, saddle the mules, and you could climb on on and ride it around in a big circle, something like a buck for fifteen minutes. The other, riderless mules ran along. If you were hare-brained like I was, you could jump from mule to mule, since they tended to clump together as they walked and ran around in a big loop. I never fell off, but if I had, the chances of me getting trampled were pretty good. The operator, when he saw us, would yell, "Hey, don't do that!" but we did anyway, and he didn't toss us out.

Can you even imagine somebody offering that kind of experience today?

Friday, February 08, 2013

Shoot Out Update / Bad Week for LEOs

I spoke about a shoot-out in Forest Grove recently. An update, and a correction:

First, the officer who was arrested was not a Forest Grove LEO, but from Hillsboro PD. He lives in Forest Grove, and I mixed that up. He has since resigned, and is being held on umpty-dump charges of attempted murder and other felonies.

I was interested in the number of rounds fired, since the shooting involved eleven officers from at least three departments, and apparently all of the responders and the suspect cut loose, necessitating administrative leave for ten, and arrest for the eleventh.

The exact expended round count isn't in, but the estimates went from fifty to closer to a hundred, and maybe seventy rounds is a ballpark figure.

Seventy rounds, one shrapnel hit to a deputy's hand, and one minor wound to the suspect.

But: There's a good reason they weren't hitting each other. That's because they couldn't see each other. Apparently the arrested man, Timothy Cannon, started shooting through the walls and floors. That sparked return fire, also through the walls and floor.

Somebody must have missed the class on being sure of your target before you pull the trigger. The term is, I believe, "spray and pray."

Cannon's wife and child, who had locked themselves in a room to get away from him, weren't hit, but that wasn't because the team knew where they were and didn't shoot in that direction. It was pure luck.

Cannon, who was on several antidepressants, had been on a week-long drinking binge, and alcohol and downers don't really play well together. That explains a lot about his actions.

The ten LEOs riddling the house into a colander? I'm guessing that will spark some serious discussions at the cop shop. 

It hasn't been a good week for police around the country. The manhunt in Los Angeles for Christoper Dorner, the ex-cop who shot three LEOs and probably another couple, went south when officers with twitchy trigger fingers shot two women in Torrance delivering newspapers, apparently for the crime of driving a pick-up truck the same color as the suspect's. Non-fatally, but look for the lawsuit on that one.

There was a second shooting in Torrance at another not-the-right blue truck at a different location, but those officers didn't hit anybody, so maybe not being able to shoot straight is not always a bad thing.

I can understand being nervous when an ex-military, ex-LEO goes bonkers, offers a vendetta against police, and starts down that road. Last I heard, they'd found his burned-out truck near Big Bear, but hadn't tracked him down yet. Probably means that if you own a blue pickup in SoCal, it's okay for you to drive it again. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Another One Bites the Dust

I have been involved the last few months with a spec screen project. I can't get specific about it, signed an NDA and all, but I can say it has just ... gone away. 

Actually, I shooed it away. I didn't really want to, but I had one of those come-to-realize moments, and there I was.

Basically, I met with a budding  producer who had a treatment for a movie, and, he said, some interest in it, but he needed a script. I liked the material, it was intriguing and interesting, right up my alley, and I was willing to take a shot. The notion was, he thought he could sell it, and we'd both make out pretty well if that happened.

Yes, it's all smoke-and-mirrors down in LaLaLand, and I've hiked along this road before, so I didn't have any great expectations; still, it's like playing the Lottery–can't win if you don't buy a ticket, so I started cranking. 

Because the project was near and dear to his heart, he wanted to stay in the creative loop and I thought that wasn't a bad idea. You normally don't want anybody looking over your shoulder, but sometimes, it is better to find out before you get too far on the trek and realize you've taken the wrong route. Been there.

I wrote and sent a few pages. Got back a lot of notes. Addressed them,  yea and nay, went on. Sent more pages, got more notes. Same-same. And like Luke in the Millennium Falcon, I started to get a bad feeling about it ...

Far into the draft, I sent another chunk along, and got a long set of notes that finally gave me the sigh-and-headshake-realization: Nothing I wanted to do was going to be what he wanted. Because he had a vision of what it was going to look like, some favorite darlings–quite a few of them–and he wouldn't let me kill any of 'em off. 

No, that's crucial! Got to keep that in!

Wait, wait, that over there? That's crucial, too! Can't lose it.

Hang on a second, those sequences? Gotta keep 'em in, it all falls apart without 'em! In fact, why don't we go back and pump that up, make it longer?

Why not? Because you can't stuff ten pounds of rice in a two-pound package, I said. 

Here's the problem, I realized. He didn't understand that to keep all this stuff in would make the script 250 pp long, and nobody would read it. He said he did, but he really didn't. A studio would look at the manuscript, heft it, and toss it. Yeah, if he was Jim Cameron, they'd snatch it up, but he isn't. (Whatever you think of Cameron and his work, he has, um, a track record: The #1 and #2 highest-grossing movies of all time. If he wanted to do the Chicago Phone Book as his next project, investors would beat each other to death with sacks of money to get a chance to invest in it.)

Some of the darlings with which I was dealing didn't make sense; the don't move the story forward, and can't be shown or explained in dialog that wouldn't run for several pages. You can't, I said, do that. A studio won't stand for it, and if they did, viewers wouldn't come to see it. 

Could I give him what he wanted? Sure. But I wouldn't, because in good conscience, I'd be wasting everybody's time, and frankly, I wouldn't want my name on the title page of a script that just stood there and gobble-gobbled.

I liked this guy. He is smart, well-educated, knew what he wanted, and we got along great personally. The core idea is great. But the movie he had in his head wouldn't work on the screen, and wouldn't get that far anyhow. Even if he wrote it himself, and had the screenwriting chops to pull off a decent script, it still wouldn't be the movie in his head. I learned that one a long time ago: what I put on the page was never as good as what I saw in my mind's eye. How it works.

I saw it coming. I tried to soldier on, hoping it wouldn't go the way I thought it would, but it did. More often than not, if you get a bad feeling about something, you should listen to it.

Sometimes, you have to cut your losses and move along. 

Not the droids either of us were looking for ...

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Rant is Due

For Christmas, my wife and I gave ourself tickets to go see the comedian Lewis Black; which we did on Saturday. Black does angry-old-man, his routine is a rant that puts him on the edge of a breakdown whereupon he sometimes starts to look like Donald Duck in a rage. Guy is smart, does great word-play and current events, and hits a lot of nerves.

He had what sounded like a cold, and his energy was a little low, but he was funny. Goes places that are controversial, and tells it like he sees it. Had a guy open for him who did similar material, but whose act didn't do much for me.

Dennis Miller used to be a great ranter, he was sharp, and nailed a lot of what is wrong in American society, but after 9/11, he moved into right-wing territory where I couldn't follow. Sometimes comedians do this, there's a before-and-after with them. George Carlin, one of the funniest stand-up guys ever, made a shift, and went from–I thought–really funny to really bitter. There was a period where we got brilliant word play about the airlines–coming to a "complete stop," for instance–to screaming about fucking golf courses. Really funny stuff is always right on the edge, and hair too far, it stops being funny. Go figure.

Anyway, Black skewered a host of targets, ranging from medicine to the Bible to politics to guns, and it was an entertaining hour and a half. 

He had some zingers, and one of my favorites was on gun control. Paraphrasing here: Our do-nothing Congress hasn't done shit in twelve years! And you really think they are going to be able to take away anybody's guns ... ?

Much more fun than this year's Super Bowl, which we always watch. We aren't big football fans, we got into the event because we knew a field goal kicker for our college team, and then stayed for the commercials. We usually pick a team to root for based on the color of their uniforms, or some bit of business on the pre-game show. This year, we were for San Francisco. We have family there, plus it was west coast versus east. It looked like a rout, but the 49ers came back and made it close; plus there was the power outage, which has already given rise to a plethora of jokes.

There were a few cute commercials–the car salesman trying to up the drama of buying a car who gave a wolf puppy to a couple to hold, was fun. As was the Oreo commercial in the library, and the tear-jerkers about farmers and the Budweiser Clydesdale, but by and large, they were disappointing. I mean, if you are gonna spend almost four million bucks on a thirty-second spot, it needs to be one that people will remember, and this year's crop was mostly "Meh."

For my money, nobody has come close to the 1984 intro to the Macintosh computer yet, save maybe Mean Joe Green for Coke. (And I must have missed the pay-off for this year's Coke spot wherein camel jockeys, cowboys, and showgirls in a bus are chasing a mirage in the desert. Did I just go pee at the wrong time, or was it lost in the power outage?) 

Ah, well. We ate chips, drank beer, had pie, and a quiet afternoon at home. What's not to like?

Friday, February 01, 2013

No Real Men™ Here ...

Sun came out here today, and that can only mean one thing in Oregon in the winter:

Yard work.

The fall and winter storms brought down a fair number of tree branches into Steve's yard, some of them as big around as my upper arm and too much for my hand clipper's jaws. So I hied myself on over t'Home Depot and bought a little chainsaw. 

Now, a Real Man™ would simply have broken those arm-thick branches over his knee and crushed the chunks into sawdust with his bare hands.

A slightly less masculine fellow would have gotten out the chopping block and done them into wood stove-sized chunks with his axe. I probably would have tried that, but my chopping block somehow disappeared. Trying to chop thick branches on the ground? Bad idea.

So, pantywaist that I am, I went for the saw. And not only that, an electric saw.

Once upon a time, I had a better brand and model, but I gave it away to my brother-in-law, who needed it more. Then I had another one, but it went somewhere and I can't recall where. Given that I use these things maybe once every other year, and on nothing of any real size, plus all my trees are trimmed out as high as I can reach, I figured the Homelite 16" was as much as I needed and then some. Eighty bucks. Cheaper than hiring somebody to come and do it for me, and it might last through another round, maybe two. Not the top-of-the-line tool, but I'm not planning on going into the lumberjack trade.

An hour and a half of this, dodging dog poo, and I was done. (A helpful hint: remember to tighten the chain now and then or you'll have to take the sucker apart and put it back on when it pops off.) I had a nice row of kindling and small firewood, mostly fir, some oak, and a bit of alder. 

Now I need room in the green recycle bin for all the green parts I snipped and left piled up behind the garden boxes, and that chore will be done. Twas but a dent in the yard work, but at least that much ...

House of the Risin' Sun

House of the Rising Sun B&B, New Orleans

Got a note on the previous music post, the "Don't-request-these-songs" sign. Mark mentioned "House of the Rising Sun," and I thought this might be interesting for folks who didn't know it ...

I do a little instrumental on my guitar I call "Guitar Clerk's Bane, 1969," a short montage of "Smoke on the Water, Stairway to Heaven, House of the Risin' Sun, Classical Gas," and "Blackbird."  That's the geezer rock version.

"House of the Risin' Sun," the original of which supposedly dates to the sixteenth century, was the first arpeggio piece I learned, (Hilton Valentine's A-minor-version for the Animals.) I and ten million other wanna-be guitarists learned it, and it was a standard for beginning guitarist for years. Still see it on karaoke machines in bars all over the land.  

Those of you who don't know what an arpeggio is, it's a chord whereupon the individual notes are picked one at a time in an ascending or descending (or both) sequence.

Look at the wiki for HotRS and see how many people have done various version of it. First recorded one dates from the 1930's, and artists like Roy Acuff, Josh White, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Glenn Yarbrough, Dave Van Ronk, the Weavers, Joan Baez, Frankie Lane, Miriam Makeba, and Bob Dylan all did versions before the Animals made it a #1 hit in 1964.

Dylan stopped playing it after the Animals' version because people though he was ripping off the Animals; apparently this amused Van Ronk, since Dylan ripped him off and got it recorded first, so Van Ronk was accused of swiping it from Dylan ...

And the beat goes on ...