Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stupid Criminal of the Week

Unfortunately, this happened locally -- and they ran it on the evening news last week. Go and listen to the 911 call this dork made ...

(The end of the story, is that he did indeed finally get a cop to respond. Just not exactly how he wanted ...)

Busiest Blog Month So Far

Last day of June, and summer is finally getting cranked up here -- supposed to hit ninety tomorrow, and about damned time.

A quick look at the entry list for this month shows fifty-five posts, counting this one, which is almost two a day. Of course, several of these are naught but links elsewhere or YouTube video embeds, but still, such a number does indicate one thing:

I'm obviously not working hard enough.

Normally, bloggery is warm-up, before getting down to Real Work™, i.e., the current book-in-progress -- which, I must hasten to add, isn't really work compared to what most people do to put bread on the table.

Along with Too Much Blog, I have been flitting from project to project. Had a short story idea I dinked with. An old science fiction movie script with Reaves that I did another draft on, because a movie agent indicated he wouldn't be adverse to looking at such a beast. A story pitch for an anthology. A non-fiction how-to-write book based on entries in the blog that I have been touching up. Like that. All work, sort of, but in the way of things, they don't really count. Only the book-in-progress really matters ...

Too, I wonder if I should get back to the Matadors and do the last book in that series. I keep thinking that one of the three novels I've recently done, or am doing, might spark a desire from a publisher for said books, and then sequels, and have been trying to keep the time free, just in case. It would be nice to have a contract instead of working everything on spec. However, since the fish seem only to be nibbling and not biting, I am wondering about the best bait. And maybe even a Matador won't catch anything these days, and I'm not sure I want to know that.

Freelancing tends to be feast or famine. Been some fat times, some lean ones, and some where the wolf was close enough to the door so I could hear him breathing. The recession has hit the publishing industry and a lot of editors are hiding under their desks, for fear that sticking their heads up will result in sudden loppery, and it is hard to blame them; still, I do wish something would break on the sales-front.

Victories are ever so much more fun ...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Aching Heel Blues

Back when I was a runner, thinking I was someday gonna do the Boston Marathon, there were some injuries joggers had to try and avoid: Getting run over was at the top of the list; shin splints, back spasms, sprained ankles, knees and hip problems, and plantar fasciitis.

I was doing five or six miles a day, ten on the weekends, and was largely healthy. I pulled a back muscle once; got run off the road by a drunk coming out of the Federation of Eagles Christmas party -- which resulted in a badly-sprained ankle, but I had good shoes and avoided other foot, knee, or hip injuries, plus the drunk missed me.

I quit running some years back when I moved to Oregon and discovered ice storms, and other than walking the dogs and doing martial arts's forms, (djurus), don't spend a lot of time on my feet on hard surfaces. Even so, I have, somehow in the last couple of weeks, developed in my right foot what I am pretty sure is plantar fasciitis. This is known by a variety of other colorful names, ranging from "dog heel," to "policeman's foot," to "flip-flop disease." We were basically designed to walk on soft earth, and the sidewalk isn't that.

For those of you who slept through the Podiatry 101 lecture in medical school, this condition is an irritation of the -- ahem -- plantar fascia, aka the plantar aponeurosis -- which is the ligamental structure under the foot that supports the arch. In severe cases, you can get a calcaneus (heel) spur that makes things worse.

The differential diagnosis for heel pain is a short one, and the symptom that generally decides it is a horses-not-zebras thing: The heel hurts when you get up, either from sitting for a while or when you first awaken in the morning. It tends to get better after you stretch out a little, but worse if you push things. Given that presentation, the diagnosis is 90% for fasciitis, with a couple of other things, like stress fractures and nerve impingement to be ruled out.

About one person in ten has this at any given time, and it is more common in folks who pound a lot of pavement -- "mailman's foot"" is another name for it.

Everything is all connected down there around the foot bone, and the treatment for mild to moderate plantar fasciitis is pretty much the same for most tendon problems -- rest, ice, compression, elevation. Working the foot and ankle helps, Achilles tendon stretches. Picking up marbles with your toes, calf-raises on a step, like that.

One of the ways to ice it is novel -- freeze a water bottle or use a frozen juice can. Put it on the floor and roll it back and forth under your heel and arch. NSAIDs -- aspirin or ibuprofen -- help. Arch supports, heel cups, good shoes. Apparently New Balance makes walking and running shoes designed to treat this, and I expect I'll be hunting down a pair of them.

Never a dull moment.


POD, or print-on-demand, may or may not be the wave of the future, given Kindles and other e-readers, but if you are curious as to how these Expresso POD machines work, have a look at the vid on the sucker. A bookstore in Vermont, recently featured in a Boston Globe story, calls its machine "Lurch ..."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lazy Summer Afternoon

So, yesterday evening, sun shining, warm, a few hours of yard work done -- mostly bush and tree-trimming -- and we cranked up the grill and barbecued some chicken and whatnot. The wind was blowing, the dogs fed and walked and frisky.

Lot worse ways to spend a late afternoon in June ...

Friday, June 26, 2009

As Long as We are Wandering off into Hippie Nostalgia

Behold, my first column for the late and completely unlamented underground newspaper, The Word, dated June 23, 1971. Even then, I was a social activist -- and funny -- which you can see if you click on the image and enlarge it enough to read the text ...

My official title by the by, was Staff Cartoonist and Resident Cynic, the latter of which I thought a base canard. What, me cynical?

Lay Down ( Candles in the Rain)

As an old hippie, I was -- still am -- a fan of Melanie Safka's music, from "Brand New Key;" to the "Nickel Song," to her version of "Ruby Tuesday;" to, of course, "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)," a song that was written about her experience at -- wait for it ...


Story here.

I wasn't at Woodstock. I'm probably the only guy my age who was a hippie who wasn't, according to all the stories. Must have been fifty, sixty million people there, if every who claimed to be was ...

I did manage the Celebration of Life, at McCrae, on the Atchafalaya River, a couple summers later, and while somewhat smaller in scale -- official records say fifty thousand, my recollection was that there were twice that many -- so I have an idea of the energy such a smaller event can generate. It was hot, wet, mosquitoes everywhere, people drowning, getting run over by cars taking short cuts, and, of course, the music. I was, ostensibly, working for The Word, the local hippie paper for which I was a cartoonist and columnist, and we were delivering food and water in The Word van to the hungry and thirsty. Got us in free, that did. Us, and half the people who didn't bother with the gates ...

Wonder of wonders, somebody had a camera, and lookit, it's on YouTube. (Look, there I am, right there, the stoned guy, standing in line outside the porta-potty ... no, wait, I'm the stoned guy in the mud pit -- no, wait, wait, the stoned guy down by the river ... Well. I'm pretty sure I was there. I think. And no doubt I was stoned.)

"Hey, man, you want to buy a paper? The Word, only a quarter."

"I wish. I'm broke, dude."

"Hey, fuck it, have one for free."

The paper didn't do too well, that issue. There weren't that many porta-potties, and, well ... you know ...

Ah, the good old days ...

Melanie, who like Cher, sang under one name, will always be a part of that old hippie sound.

So Sad

Michael Jackson

Musical Mastery

I dunno if you are a fan of this kind of music or not, but behold Stephane Grappelli -- who used to play with Django Reinhardt -- and Julian Bream, classical guitarist extraordinaire:

More Knifery

Above: The Weasel, inspired by Terry "The Weasel" Trahan. The sheath includes rare earth magnets to hold the knife securely in place. Canvas micarta scales.

Skighter, for Mike Blackgrave, stock removal mostly done by Ian Robbins, Chuck's forging partner. Design by Blackgrave, ebony handle.

Dad Pick, done with Chuck's father. Amboyna burl handle.

So, Chuck Pippin sent me some pictures of what he's been up to, bladewise, of late. Here are a few.

Guess I'm gonna have to buy a lottery ticket ...

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Latest from Jeff Crowner's forge: Traditional kerambit, with a cable-damascus blade, copper ferrule, Paduk handle, leather sheath.

Does nice work, doesn't he? No, it' s not mine. I have to sell another book before I can afford any more knives. Sad, isn't it?

Haven't seen anything of late from Chuck or Mushtaq -- you could send me a link if you have new blades for sale, guys.

Speaking of Music

PBS ran a two-hour special last night, The Music Instinct: Science and Song, hosted by Bobby McFerrin and Daniel Levitin -- the latter of whom wrote the book, This is Your Brain on Music, which I reviewed here a while back.

If you like pop-science and music and you missed this one, check it out on the PBS site or watch for it to be repeated. It covers everything from voice, to instruments, to Snowball, the Dancing Cockatoo ...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another Bit of Music

I know I've posted Jake doing this on the uke before, but have a listen to Jake and Tommy together:

Anybody Got a Match?

'Cause after I hear and see somebody like Juber play, I might as well burn my guitar ...

Facebook & Twitter

Okay, so as not to seem completely 19th century, a while back, I joined both Facebook and Twitter. Last I heard, if Facebook was a country, it would be the sixth largest in the world, and since I wrote a bunch of material concerning an online community called "CyberNation," a while back, I felt as if it was reasonable that I should see how the real deal worked. (This was the same series where, if you look, you can see where I invented the iPhone, though I didn't call it that.)

I have to say, I liked my version of the online community better. (Though the iPhone beats the Virgil ...)

I don't know how many friends I have on Facebook, but there are some great people on my list. Smart, funny, talented. And what I find most amazing about some of those smart, funny, and talented people, is how ... banal they come across.

Like listening to the Nixon tapes. This man was the President and supposedly a bright fellow, but if you listen to him talking to his supposedly-bright advisers, you wouldn't know it.

Do I really care -- does anybody care? -- about how which Star Trek actors they would be? About what they had for breakfast? Or the IQ test, which if you have the brains God gave a gray goat, you can see is based entirely on how fast you can answer the questions? How do such things inform or enrich their lives? Bad enough they spend way too much time doing 'em, must they compound it by telling us about it?

That's what blogs are for, right? I can hold forth at length about such mundane things.

True, there are posts that have substance -- links to videos I enjoy -- at least two of the posters to my blog are into aerial dances, with ropes and rings and like that, and that is fascinating to watch. And some writers have links to their blogs, which are interesting to read. And there are some old friends who have been out of touch who've popped up, and it is great to re-connect and see how they have gotten on in the world, but ...

Of course, I'm not much on small talk at parties either, so probably that's just me.

As for Twitter ...

I don't think I've actually posted anything there, though I apparently have followers. What, I wonder, are they following when they send me notes telling me this? Steve's ghost, I guess.

Though I have had some fun coming up with neologistic verb forms, based on the anglo-saxon tenses for defecate: As in, "Did you tweet?" "Yes, I twat ..."

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Scene Martial Artists Might Enjoy

Hull stepped out of the shower, dried himself, and started for the motel's bedroom.

As he stepped, he caught sight of something in the closet door mirror facing the bathroom --

There was a man with a knife outside the door, an armspan away, and the knife drew Hull’s attention as if it were the only light in an endless darkness.

Fuck -- !

One of Hull’s own knives was on the bathroom sink behind him, next to his back-up gun but --

Hull froze. It was as if he had been suddenly drenched in liquid nitrogen.

He ... couldn’t ... move ...

Time stretched ...

It wasn’t until after Vietnam, where he’d been in half a dozen fire fights, where he’d escaped being shot, blown up, or incinerated that Hull had any real inkling of how humans were wired to deal with sudden, deadly, unexpected violence.

The Department had brought in a doctor, from, of all places, Mississippi. Hull was from Texas and he could do Southern, but this guy had an accent so thick you could nail it to a wall as a honeysuckle trellis. The doctor, nameless at The D, was a shrink, and he lectured in tandem with Van, The D’s close-combat instructor:

“People, y’all got three responses to all of a sudden lookin’ death in the eye: You will run, you will fight, or you will freeze. Those are part of a syndrome called ‘Tachypsychia,’ and it includes a buncha things -- subjective shifts in space and time and how you see and hear and feel things. You tend to get tunnel vision, hearing fades, and everything not absolutely necessary to survival in that moment gets shut down. It’s how the monkey programming works, and while my sainted mama would have a conniption if she heard me say it, when it comes to it, we are all just big, hairless monkeys, and forgive me, Jesus.

“If the danger is a rock rollin’ down a hill at you, you’ll probably run. Man grabs you round the neck, you might struggle and fight. If it’s a big ole tiger” -- this last word was pronounced “tahh-gurr” -- “probably you’ll freeze. That’s ‘cause instinctively you know that a predator’s gaze is attracted to motion -- you being a predator yourself -- so like when rabbit sees a fox, it goes dead still, on the notion that maybe the fox won’t see it.

“You don’t get a choice which one you will do, it’s way past thinkin’, and it won’t always be the same one. But which one your body chooses for you might get you kilt.

“Man with a knife comin’ in, he already sees you, and if you freeze, he gits you. In that case, runnin’ is better than freezing -- or fightin’, unless you are like ole Van here and you can knock his dick in the dirt.”

Everybody laughed at that, and the doctor smiled.

“So, you don’t get to pick which reaction will pop up, but once it does, you can change it -- if you work on it.

“You can sneak up on an armed sentry and -- 'less you get buck fever -- you can grab him, cut his throat, and hold him quiet until he bleeds out. At least that’s what Van will try and teach y’all. But that’s intent. Your conscious mind is running the show. Tachypsychia, also called Fight-or-flight Syndrome, it’s all in the hindbrain. Thing that lives there in the dark cave is the reptile part of everybody. It keeps the basic systems running, breathing, heartbeat, and all it wants to do is stay alive. It will do anything it can to manage that, but it’s not very smart -- and sometimes, it chooses wrong.

“You have to be able to get past that, in a big ole hurry. Van here has been working on that. Van?”

Van, a short, compact black man built like a pocket version of Hercules, said, “Man jumps out at you with a knife from nowhere and you freeze, you scream. Loud as you can, whatever sound you want. You want to blow his ears off, shatter glass, take down the three little pigs’s house. You want them to look up from breakfast in De-troit and go, ‘What was that?’”

Somebody behind Hull said, “Scream?”

The doctor said, “Yessum. Screaming is primal -- every culture ever went to war had guys running down a hill hollering as they went.

“Screaming does some useful things -- it warns the tribe there’s trouble; it can stun an attacking animal or human into a momentary freeze of its own; it opens the floodgates to a slew of hormones, including epinepherine -- adrenaline -- which is a powerful stimulant. Makes you stronger, faster, deadens pain, all kinds of things you might need if you are being chased by a cave bear or a Mack truck.”

The doctor continued: “And as Van has discovered, it breaks the trance. You need to recognize that you are frozen -- that’s hard, because your mind might have frozen along with your body, and you might feel warm and comfortable and like you just got up from a nice nap, or had a couple-three beers. But it’s a lie, and you have to figure that out PDQ. So, it’s scream and move, those two go together.”

Somebody else asked, “What if your attacker has a buddy? Won’t yelling tell him where you are?”

“That’d be tactical stuff. Van?”

“If the guy with the knife gets it planted in your aorta, he could have the fuckin’ Chinese army behind him and it won’t matter to you. Take care of him first, then worry about somebody else. You will have the training to deal with an incoming knife. I’m not saying you won’t get cut, because if you stand and play with a knife fighter who knows his ass from his elbow, you surely will get cut -- anybody tells you anything else is trying to sell you something. It might be you dodge and haul ass, or it might be you go in and take a cut to get control of the knife, but that is going to depend on the situation. You won’t know until you get there what the best thing is gonna be ...”

Maybe half a second had passed, but a lot can happen in a half second when time slows down --

Hull screamed. It was a gutteral, throat-rasping, loud “Ahhh!” the noise you make when you see a monster in a dream, and it galvinized him into motion. He stepped in as the knifer, a tall, heavyset man with hair so black it had to be dyed, lunged with the knife, going for the stab to the belly --

Limited to his hands and naked, Hull turned, put his right shoulder on a line with the attacker’s sternum and chopped down, one-two! his left hand a back-up and monitor, his right a hammer fist, like a man trying to break a stack of concrete blocks. He didn’t think about his target, he just covered his line, from head to groin, and such was the power of his strike that he felt the man’s radius break under his fist.

Breaking an outstretched arm is usually a pretty good disarm, but Black Hair was tough; he held onto the knife, even though he yelled in pain at the impact, which knocked his arm down, and he’d already started to retract his weapon --

Hull caught the man’s wrist with his right hand, the elbow with his left, pulled left and pushed in right, clearing the elbow from the body and shoving the knife toward the attacker. Holding on with all he had, he crossed his hands in front of his body waist-high, using the gripped elbow and wrist for leverage that twisted the man’s shoulder. Black Hair still held onto the knife, but the edge slashed across his own belly and it was sharp -- it cut deep, sliced right through the shirt and skin and muscle --

Hull reversed his motion again, angled the blade’s point slightly, and buried it in the man side, just above his right kidney --

Now the attacker let go of the knife --

Too late now --

Hull brought his left arm up, slammed the forearm into Black Hair’s face at the same moment he hooked his right foot behind the man’s right ankle. Black Hair fell backward, and Hull kept his instep latched to the falling man’s ankle so he couldn’t step out of it --

He hit the floor, hard, and Hull was ready with the follow-up stomp, square on Black Hair’s nose.

The front kick to the man’s temple was probably overkill, but better safe than sorry.

Hull spun away, looking for other targets, but if there had been any, they were gone now.

He looked down, noticed the back of his left forearm was cut, blood running down his arm and dripping off his elbow. It was going to take six or eight stitches to close the wound, and he hadn’t even noticed when he’d been sliced.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Sternwheeler, The Columbia Gorge

Cascade Locks, Oregon

Just got back from a couple of days at a campground on the Columbia, in the Gorge. Rained all day Friday, but was cloudy and cool Saturday, and this morning.

Camping has evolved considerably at my house. Back in the day, I thought nothing of putting everything I needed for three or four days into a pack, shouldering a pack-frame, and hiking five or ten miles into the wilderness. Tent, sleeping bag, cook kit, food, water, latrine trenching shovel, hatchet, all that. Hike into the woods, find a clearing -- or make one -- pitch the tent, trench it, dig a latrine, put a ground cloth down, roll the sleeping bag out, make a campfire. Coat myself liberally with 6-12 insect repellent to keep from being bled dry, and good to go.

In winter camping, I'd leave a pot of water simmering on the coals, sometimes waking up to find the fire out and the water frozen solid.

Ah, the good old days ...

We progressed to larger tents when I got married and we had kids, and didn't hike in, but parked closer. Some places wouldn't allow fires, so we got a Coleman stove. Stopped trenching and digging latrines -- they don't like that these days on public lands -- but the experience was similar.

Twenty-five or so years ago, the very earth everywhere somehow got harder, and I allowed as how an air mattress or a foam pad was no longer a luxury, but a necessity. I remember one particularly cold and uncomfortable night in Snowville as I lay freezing on ground that felt like concrete when a screech owl landed on the roof of the fire station behind which we had rolled out our sleeping bags. It made a sound like somebody dropped a bowling ball on the metal.

Then the bird screamed, and if I hadn't known before, I surely knew then where its name came from ...

I decided that was going to be my last bag-only on the ground experience if I could help it.

After we moved out here, we took the kids out tent-camping. Wound up in a park that allowed RV's. Pitched our tent, and a big Winnebago pulled in next to us. Nine o'clock, we were playing cards by the light of a Coleman lantern and running out of things to do, since it was dark.

Screen door slammed open on the Winnebago, a little girl leaned out, and yelled, loudly: "Mary! Dallas is on!"

I shook my head. What kind of pantywaist, sissy camping is that? Sitting in a motorhome, plugged into electricity, water, and sewer, watching television? Jeez-Louise! Why bother?

Well, fast-forward a few years, and it's the kind of camping we do. Yeah, yeah, I know, but there is something wonderful about tooling down that hot stretch of I-5 outside Redding, California, in your camper when it's a hundred and eight degrees outside and saying, "Honey, while you're up, would you get me a Haagen Dazs bar ... ?"

Okay, so I'm a pansy, but when the rain is coming down steadily all day, lying on that dry and comfortable couch in the RV, reading and listening to wind and watery fingers tap against the fiberglass roof? Well, it has a certain appeal. Got a toilet and a shower, too.

Civilization ain't all bad ...

Friday, June 19, 2009


Adonis was one of the Greek fertility gods, associated with the seasons and rebirth, and supposedly so handsome that when he died -- killed by a boar sicced on him by another god he pissed off -- women everywhere lamented loudly and rent their garments in their grief.

Years ago, my collaborator Reaves was hanging out with another writer we know. This fellow, who in his youth was apparently quite the handsome fellow, had blond hair he wore long and was apparently striking, a seventies Greg Allman look. (I didn't meet him until he had, um, aged somewhat, and was less of a traffic-stopper.)

So Reaves tells the story about how he and -- call him Byron -- were somewhere in L.A. and this drop-dead gorgeous young woman crosses the street to accost them. She stands in front of Byron dewy-eyed and drop-jawed and says, "Oh. You are beautiful!"

After she leaves, floating off, one assumes, on a cloud of lust and awe, Reaves turns to Bryon and gives him A Look.

"Happens all the time," Bryon says, shrugging it off.

You can imagine Reaves's reaction to this.

How must it feel to be that physically attractive?

(Uh, for the regular crowd of guys who drop round here, don't bother to start clearing your throats and raising your hands. I've met many of you, seen pictures or vids of others, and while you don't have visages that would necessarily stop clocks or terrify small children, neither do you you have looks that would cause gorgeous women to stop in their tracks to stare in open-eyed wonder, either. Unless you are Fabio, posting under a screen-nom ...)

In some ways, such beauty would be an obvious advantage. Good-looking people tend to get better jobs, invited to social functions, past the rope at exclusive clubs. On the other hand, if you are so handsome that people will have you to their parties just to spruce up the decor, that might stunt your growth, personality-wise. If all you have to do is stand there and be eye-candy, you don't have to bother to be smart, funny, or educated. (This applies to women, too, of course.)

If you are past handsome and ranging into pretty, that might not be something that gains you male camaraderie. (Or, if you are hetero, it might be something that gets you male attention you'd rather not have.)

If, like most of us, you have looks that don't repel, but also don't cause people to cross the road to get a better view, then you have to develop some other resources to get along. I've never been a showstopper, but I always felt that once somebody got to know me, I could charm them or make them laugh, and that goes a long way to add to one's attractiveness.

A lot of women love men who can make them laugh.

Of course, there are always the bad boys, who might not have Greek-god looks, but who have about them that sense of danger that attracts. And different people find other things attractive. See a short, wide, bald guy of fifty with a tall, leggy woman of thirty, and you wonder what it is she sees in him. Could be a lot of things -- wit, compassion, humor, some unseen physical attribute, even something as simple as a lot of money.

Some of these attributes you can keep long after your physical beauty fades. As it happened, Bryon was funny, smart, literate, and a good writer. That's hardly fair.

Women have more of a problem with this than men, at least from what I know of it, but it would make for an interesting character study in a story to have an ordinary-joe be transformed into somebody with movie-star looks in an instant, and see how he deals with the results -- a kind of reverse Black Like Me, or Fat Like Me ...

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Recently, I was asked if I was interested in submitting a story for an anthology. This was to be under the auspices of the runners of a large, multimedia speculative-fiction universe.

I am deliberately keeping the identity secret and being vague about the particulars; even though I haven't signed an NDA -- that's non-disclosure-agreement -- I may wind up working in the universe, and no point in disqualifying myself by being a blabbermouth.

To continue:

Now, for those of you who don't know what the term "bible" means when spoken of in shared-universe work -- movies, TV, game, comics, books, et al -- it has nothing to do with the Holy Writ, but with the generic meaning of "book."

Say, for instance you want to write episodes of an animated TV show. If you are deemed worthy of consideration as one of their writers, they will be willing to send you a sample script and a copy of their bible. The script shows you the length, layout, formatting and tone of the writing they want. The bible gives you background information about the setting, characters, and kind of stories they want, as well as backstory, and the taboos -- those things about which you may not write. It might include pictures or drawings, and in animation, almost always does.

Certain things will be detailed as off-limits -- could be connected to language or adult situations, and the bible might offer that the episodes are to be rated G, or maybe hard PG, or soft PG-13. Things a writer needs to know to establish the level of prose. "Motherfucker!" doesn't play well in G-rated kidvid ...

In the bible, character behavior will be defined, sometimes loosely, sometimes more exactly: Batman can punch people out, but he never tortures anybody. Or Conan can wave his sword around a lot, but he never cuts anybody with it. Chuck never runs.

Fight scenes might, for instance, involve a lot of aikido, but no karate -- i.e., you can throw somebody through the air to land mostly-unhurt on a couch, but you can't smash anybody's nose so that blood spurts, and like that.

Some eras of a character's history might be excluded -- the ages between fifteen and twenty, for example, because later on, they are planning on doing a Young Hero series, and they want to reserve those years. You can write before and after, but not during the prohibited period.

Book houses, game makers, series movie producers, comic books franchises, all may have a bible for their universes. Some are quite detailed, some only a few pages, it depends.

You by now should get the general idea.

So, I was asked if I wanted to pitch a story, and I said, Sure. Send me a bible and I'll come up with something.

Well, actually, no, we can't do that. You have to give us an idea of what you have in mind before we are allowed to send you a bible.

Say what?

Shrug. That's the deal.

Okay, fine.

So I pitched an idea, couple three lines, called a "springboard" in the biz.


Um, well, that's fine, but, uh we, uh, can't send you a bible with just that. You, uh, need to flesh it out more. A graph or two.

Ah. I am assuming this bible they won't send me has the taboos in it?

Yes, it would.

Well, if I don't know what the taboos are, can you not see that such a lack of knowledge might have me spinning my wheels? If, say, you don't want any stories in which the Hero has Moments of Doubt, and I give him a couple, then I'd be wasting my time, right?

That if you want me to bake you a pizza, but there are ingredients to which you are allergic, that it might behoove you to tell me what they are, so I don't include them?

Uh, well, yes, I can see the, but ... that's the deal.

Okay. Here's my deal. I'm willing to risk a couple of paragraphs, using what I can find out about the universe online at my friendly neighborhood Wikipedia. Of course, once I have done that research, chances are I probably won't need the fucking bible, except, of course, as how it tells me that I wasted my time because I stepped in a big pile of taboo ...

The guy with whom I am dealing has his hands tied -- he's down the food chain only a link above me, and he doesn't understand it, either, but there it is.

They aren't like thee and me in the high levels of corporate media-land, nosirree ...

Once, I took on a novelization of an animated movie. Got the script, the bible, and a couple of model sheets, but for the most part, had no idea what anybody or anything was gonna look like in the finished picture. Kind of hard to describe a setting about which you have no clue.

The animation was mostly done, so I did the reasonable thing and said, Can you send me a video of what you have, so I can get the look right? I'll watch it, then send it back.

A video, mailed from LaLaLand to Steve's house. In this case, I had signed an NDA, agreeing not to talk about the particulars of the project, I work for them, so no problem, right?

Wrong. They wouldn't send it to me. It was apparently too hush-hush, secret, don't ask, don't tell, eyes-only, need-to-know.

If you don't want the tie-in to be an utter piece of shit, I need to know.

Yes, we can see that.

What, I said, you think I'm gonna go out on the streets of Beaverton and hawk copies on the corner? Getcha unfinished animated videos here! Step right up !

I'm a working pro, I've been involved in half a dozen major universes, doing TV, books, comics, game tie-ins, all like that, I've never spilled the beans before and it would be professional suicide to do so now. Why would you think I would?

Nope, sorry, no can do. But -- tell you what -- we'll fly you down, put you up in a hotel, send a car to pick you up and ferry you to the studio, and show you the rough cut.

One marvels at the thought process involved here. Ten bucks postage and you get the DVD back in a week, versus airfare, hotel room, a limo driver, plus the time of an assistant and an IATSE union projectionist to screen the movie for me?

I mean, I'm no accountant or anything, but it seems, you know, like your way would cost a lot more.

So I flew to L.A., checked into a nice hotel, was picked up the next morning and driven to the studio. With the assistant, but otherwise alone in a screening room that would seat a hundred, I watched the rough-cut of the film and took notes. We said our good-byes, the assistant and I. The limo drove me back to the hotel, I checked out, caught a cab to LAX, and flew home.

They really don't think the way thee and I do. Really ...

Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting


Your dog-fu is no good!
Had to share these two ...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New Addition to the Family

My daughter got a new puppy. Half American Eskimo and half-Daschund -- they call them "Doxymoes."

Her boys came up with a long and amusing series of names, but they'll call him "Eddie ..."

Mind Over Matter

Over on Dojo Rat's blog, he opened a thread about woo-woo martial arts. I spoke to it, and mentioned Yellow Bamboo, a "martial arts" group centered in Bali. They allow as how they can knock attackers ass over tea-kettle using their version of the Force.

Apparently this organization was started by a dot.com millionaire who retired to pursue his hobby, surfing. Radical, dude ...

Seems to work pretty well on their students, they fall like bowling pins when the masters wave their hands. And how cool would it be to be able to do that?

A couple guys from Australia weren't too impressed with the claims that kept popping up on martial arts BBS, and thus opted for a vacation to Bali, to take the YB guys up on their offer.

There were some conditions -- dietary, and a mindset the attackers were supposed to take. The demo was set up on the beach.

They made a video of the results.

There are three passes by the Aussies at the YB players. See for yourself how it went:

(Turn the sound down a bit, it's kinda loud.)

Got to love the little dog, hey ... ?

Letterman Recants

So, David Letterman has apologized, and Sarah Palin has accepted it, on behalf of her daughters.

In case you missed it, a quick synopsis: During a recent opening monologue -- these are usually full of humor not known for its taste, nor its beauty -- Letterman cracked wise about Sarah Palin's daughter's attendance at a Yankee's baseball game, allowing as she was knocked up by A-Rod.

Unfortunately for him, he didn't know that the daughter who'd attended the game with her mother was not Bristol, the eighteen-year-old unwed mother of Sarah's grandchild, but Willow, who is but fourteen.

Oops. What a difference four years makes.

In some cultures, as soon as an adolescent clears puberty, s/he is considered an adult, as least for purposes of sexual activity, with the big-enough-old-enough philosophy holding sway.

Not in this culture. Though there are plenty of fourteen-year-old girls who look considerably older -- "jailbait" is the term -- they are still children under the law -- even in Mississippi -- and protected as such. Sex with children is not funny in these parts.

Which is as it should be. Big enough is not old enough. A fifteen-year-old boy who is paying court to a girl his age, yeah, that's not something about which people are going to go ballistic. A fifty-year-old hitting on a teenager? Slides right past dirty-old-man and into immoral, illegal, and pedophilia. We aren't those countries where the nine-year-olds can be forced to marry men old enough to be their grandfathers.

Letterman apologized for this gaff, kinda, but it didn't sound sincere, and so he tried it again.

Comedians consider almost everything fair game, and that's not likely to change. Dave isn't compulsory, however, and the remote is right there ...

In politics, the children should not be dragged into the spotlight, in a decent world, they should be off-limits. And some politicians have sense enough to try and keep their kids out of the public's greedy gaze. The Clintons tried. Even George Bush tried, give him credit for that.

Sarah Palin, however, has been waving her kids at the media like a sideshow barker's come-on and using them to keep herself in the public eye. I feel sorry for the children.

I don't feel sorry for Governor Palin, however. She knew that stove was hot when she touched it, and I have no sympathy for her crying over blistered fingers. Sarah knew her daughter was pregnant when she accepted McCain's offer, and she knew full well that the press would be on that situation like white on rice. Did it anyway, and that's another demerit in her book, far as I am concerned. If she was so concerned with protecting her children, she could have declined to run. She didn't, and that by itself would have been enough for me to vote for a green two-by-four before I cast a ballot in her direction. Although there were soooo many more reasons higher up the list ...

It's a parent's job to protect the kids, and I always liked Harry Truman's reaction to a bad review in The Washington Post of his daughter Margaret's singing:

“I have never met you,” Truman wrote to the critic, “but if I do you’ll need a new nose and plenty of beefsteak and perhaps a supporter below.”

Give-'em-hell-Harry. Gotta love it.

Palin, alas, is still running, her eyes on a distant prize. As I mentioned elsewhere, if she was running any harder, she'd take every track and field event in the next Olympics.

It's a shame she's using her children to do it.

It's hard to take the moral high ground when you are down in a pit ...

Old Steel

So I was digging around in one of the knife drawers looking for my sandalwood oil, and I came across this. It's an old Emerson, an early CQC, chisel-grind, tanto-point, glass-epoxy handle, probably 154CM. My son passed it on to me, and when I got it, it had been, I think, a car-trunk carry and was crudded up pretty good. I cleaned it, and used it for a tool-belt carry. I dunno how old it is, but I've had it for at least a dozen years.

The blade is just under three-and-a-half inches long -- apparently, they make a mini-version that's a little under that now, for places where they allow the shorter length.

The overall size is enough to get a good grip on the handle, which most short-bladed pocket knives don't allow. Kind of like screwdrivers -- smaller the blade, the shorter the handle, and while you might not want to over-torque a screw, having a handle you can grip is a decided plus for a knife.

This old beast feels very solid, and works well for odd chores around the house when I need a knife.

(Editor's Note: Although it's faint, I think I can see a Benchmade butterfly logo on the blade, so this might be the licensed copy 970-STB they made, too.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Never Ending Cement Pour

So, as long as the concrete guy was here, and since my wife wanted to make the back patio bigger to have room for a table, chairs, and the grill, we had him add a surround that added four feet on both width and length.

I think we're done now. I hope.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Trash Talk

So, summer is officially not here yet, just under a week away, but local schools are in recess, and some of the kids not glued to computer screens are out and about.

Whilst walking the dogs a bit earlier, I came across a small gathering of small ones. Two girls and a boy, pre-pubes, maybe nine or ten, could be eleven, were at the duck pond -- which is really just a wide spot in Johnson Creek. A fourth child, a girl, same age, arrived and while I wasn't paying that much attention, apparently there was some disagreement as to which direction the group was going to motivate itself. The trio apparently wanted to go hang out at -- of all places -- the local primary school, from whence they have just been freed, go figure. The third girl wasn't down with that and they went their separate ways.

The trio's path paralleled mine, across the street. After they had walked maybe fifty yards, the third girl yelled at them:

"You suck, Kristin!"

To which one of the girls -- presumably Kristin -- yelled back, "I know I do!"

Third Girl: "You suck monkey balls!"

Kristin: "Huh?"

I just thought I'd throw that out, given my post last week on how times have changed, with regard to how safe children are on the streets today versus how safe they were back in my day.

Some things don't seem to change ...

Summer. Gotta love it.

Fawlty Towers

Prunella Scales, John Cleese, Connie Booth and Andrew Sachs.
(Sybil, Basil, Polly, Manuel)

I might have mentioned it before, but if not, I am a stone fan of Fawlty Towers, the British sit-com from the 1970's. That, and Ab Fab, another Brit-com, both of which feature characters who are rotten to the core and hilarious as a result.

In American television, there must be redemption. No matter how bad the bad boys or girls are, deep down, they have a streak of goodness that they keep mostly hidden, but that will eventually out. Murphy Brown only seemed to be a hard-hearted bitch -- she really wasn't.

Basil Fawlty, on the other hand, was a total rotter. Ditto Edina and Patsy (Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, from Absolutely Fabulous.)

When they tried to do an American version of Fawlty Towers, with John Laroquette, starring as Royal Payne, who ran the Payne Inn, the show went belly up after a few episodes, and rightly so.
It wasn't funny, and they had to give him a glimmer of goodness down under all that nastiness.

What made Basil work is that he had no goodness down deep.

While doing a post on another site, I remembered something I found fascinating when I first saw it.

Fawlty Towers was written by John Cleese and Connie Booth, who were married at the time. The stress of the show, and Cleese's perfectionist's nature regarding it, apparently contributed greatly to the breakdown of their marriage, which ended in divorce after the show's first season. Though they worked together on the second season, the experience apparently put Booth off comedy. Eventually, she left acting altogether and became a psychotherapist. For thirty years, she has refused interviews about the show, and only recently posed for pictures with the rest of the cast.

Those of you who are Monty Python fans will remember Booth as Michael Palin's "best girl," in the infamous "The Lumber Jack Song" skit ...

Friday, June 12, 2009


So, my son and I went to see Terminator 4, aka Salvation.

Let's face it, the first one of these was a B-movie plot that only took off because Cameron knows how to make science fiction work, and because it was the role Ahnahl was born to play.

(Said plot was admittedly swiped from Harlan Ellison, by the way, and the threat-of-lawsuit proved it. Cameron, when asked where he got the idea for the Terminator, allowed as how he had taken it from a couple of old episodes of The Outer Limits. When Ellison, who wrote those episodes, "Soldier," and "Demon with a Glass Hand," got wind of this and called to ask about it, he was essentially told to fuck off. Never a good idea with Harlan, who is a delightful fellow, unless you try and piss on him. He unshipped the lawyers, and the production company was quick to settle, money and a screen credit -- because it was easy to see which way that judicial wind would blow.)

T2 was better across the board. It was worth seeing just for watching Sarah Connor do chin-ups -- and the Guvernator crack funny. It started out with a gag that would end most action movies, and played all the way to the end. Great popcorn film. I put Linda Hamilton's picture up, but alas, she's not in this installment.

T3? Let's be kind and just say it sucked.

T4 also sucked -- and has more holes in it than Blackburn Lancashire. The most fun I got out of it was trying to figure out which scene it might have been that Bale went ballistic in while they were filming. There were so many I almost went ballistic in -- skirting the edge of hysterical laughter.

There are some nice EFX, give it that. Especially one late in the movie, with a CGI version of Schwarzenegger that is dead-on, but that's not a spoiler -- because you want to save your ten bucks and wait for it come out on cable.

I can almost hear the producers sitting in a big conference room over their bottles of Evian water. Plot? We don't need no steenkin' plot! We'll just blow up a shitload of robots and aircraft and riderless motorcycles, and nobody will notice that none of it makes any sense whatsoever.

There are six writers listed, though only a couple get credits, and the script was so totally re-written even while the filming was going on that Alan Dean Foster, who did the novelization, decided to rewrite the book because the script he was given had almost nothing to do with the movie ...

If all you want is mindless action, have at it. But, really, check your brain at the door, otherwise you'll find yourself sniggering in scenes that are supposed to be scary and dramatic ...

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Killer Condiment

Here's a news item, speaking to what I'd call eye-for-a-toenail justice -- and poor choice of weapons:

"KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City man has been sentenced to 33 years in prison for killing a man during a melee that erupted when someone threw a bottle of hot sauce.

The Kansas City Star reports that 29-year-old Jarvis T. Williams was sentenced Thursday for his convictions on second-degree murder, three counts of assault and four counts of armed criminal action.

Prosecutors claim he fired more than 20 rounds from an assault rifle into a car in October 2005, killing 22-year-old Gary Scott and wounding three others.

Prosecutors said the victim had thrown a bottle of hot sauce at a woman's car, angering Williams.

They had requested a life sentence. Williams' public defender did not immediately return a call seeking comment."

Rule of Thumb: A bottle of hot sauce is, generally speaking, probably not as good a weapon as an AK-47 ...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Just When You Thought It was Safe to Mow the Lawn ...

Read this one ...

Old Short Story

“What the Dormouse Said”

Peter Morrison and Leon Hendricks were drinking eighty-buck-a-bottle brut champagne in Morrison’s hot tub around midnight when something punched a hole in the sky over Beaverton.

The night was cold, but the heat rising from the water was enough to keep their ears from being nipped by December’s frosty teeth. Morrison was trying to get Hendricks to feed him some insider information on the new microbrewery offering, hoping to get in on the ground floor. Hendricks was still half a bottle away from giving it up. Even over the Grateful Dead playing the Casey Jones cocaine song, they heard a sound kind of like a pencil poking through a sheet of Saran Wrap stretched over a bowl.

A real big pencil and a sheet of Saran Wrap maybe the size of, well, the midnight sky.

Both men looked up.

A bright, actinic, kind of . . . Maxfield Parrish light shined through the hole in the sky . After a second, a giant taloned finger poked through the hole, worried the sky fabric until it ripped a little more. Then a couple more fingers stretched the tear, until a whole hand made it halfway through. The hand, also a golden color, but more like pure, burnished 24-karat gold, pushed, and the sky gave way like soggy cardboard in a big, three-cornered tear. Made a hell of a racket.

Behind the space-time rent, a bald, golden gnome peered through the hole. It had big, purple eyes and an idiot grin. It only took a second for the thing to enlarge the hole enough to leap through.

Morrison figured the gnome must have been at least a couple hundred feet tall, though there wasn’t really anything to judge it against up there.

The golden idiot fell. Before it disappeared from view behind the fir trees in the side yard they could see that it was naked—and most assuredly male.

After a moment, the ground shook. Water sloshed out of the hot tub. Morrison grabbed the champagne bottle and Hendricks quickly moved the CD player so it wouldn’t get soaked. Five or six seconds later, there came a terrible ka-boom! as the sound of the creature landing arrived.

“Now, there’s something you don’t see every day,” Morrison observed.

“Sounded like it must have come down right in the middle of town,” Hendricks said, “judging from how long it took the noise to get here. Eleven hundred feet a second, isn’t it?”

Morrison nodded. “About a mile, I’d guess. More champagne?”

Hendricks extended his glass. “Please.”

“Good champagne,” Hendricks said, after sipping the bubbly.

“Come on, tell me about the microbrewery. You know you want to.”

There was a fair amount of noise, not at all usual for midnight in Beaverton, Oregon. They rolled up the sidewalks at nine and even the Safeway wasn’t open all night. Whitebread Republicans tended to keep it down, usually. But here was all this crunching, explosions, sirens and the like.

“You don’t suppose that had anything to do with Sam Sewall, do you?” Hendricks said. He waved. The hole in the sky was closing up. Another few seconds and you’d never be able to tell it had been there. “You know, that business about him painting his house blue and it turning back to yellow overnight?”

Sewall lived three houses down. Nice fella. Also hated the neighborhood association, which made him aces in Morrison’s book. Morrison took another goodly sip of his own wine. “No, I don’t think so. Sewall’s wife is a witch, and he forgot to ask her if he could paint the place.”

“Ah. Never a good idea to take the missus for granted.”


Next door, the outside floodlights went on and Mr. Arlo McCartney, fifty and bald as an egg, ran from his house into the back yard, screaming. He wore a red flannel nightshirt.

Morrison raised his eyebrows.

“Perhaps we should go in?” Hendricks ventured.

“And have McCartney see us dangling our naked pendulums in the cold night air? I think not.”

A dinosaur ran out of McCartney’s house, leaning forward tail extended behind it like a rudder, teeth clacking as it snapped its jaws shut. It looked around. Spied McCartney.

McCartney screamed and ducked behind the metal tool shed, then slid in between the shed and the wooden good-neighbor fence.

The dinosaur, about as tall as a pro basketball player—if you didn’t count the tail—scrabbled at the edge of the shed, but couldn’t reach McCartney.

Score one for the bald guy.

“Help! Help! Somebody help!”

“Velocioraptor?” Henderson wondered aloud.

“Nah, T. rex.”

“Awfully small, isn’t it? I thought tyrannosaurs were bigger than that.”

“Well, sure, usually. But look at the shape of the head. And the tiny forelegs, that’s the giveaway. Maybe it’s a dwarf. Or a midget.”


Frustrated at not being able to get to its prey, the dinosaur bleated. It sounded like a giant sheep.

“Spielberg sure got that part wrong,” Morrison said. He sipped at his champagne.

“Help! Morrison! Call the police! Call the SPCA! Call the goddamned Marines!”

The dinosaur took a deep breath and blew it at McCartney. The breath came out as a burst of bright red-orange flame.

“Urk—!” McCartney began.

Then he was reduced to a burnt out cinder the size of a small toaster. Smoke rose from the little mound of ash. The air was filled with the smell of McDonald’s at noon. You want fries with that Big Mac?

“Looks like both you and Spielberg were wrong,” Hendricks observed. “It’s not a Tyrannosaurus, it’s a dragon.”

The creature turned, looked at the two in the hot tub, shook its head, then went back into McCartney’s house.

“McCartney’s not married, is he?” Hendricks asked.


“Well, if it’s not Mrs. McCartney, then it is definitely a dragon.”

“I sit corrected,” Morrison said. He sighed. “But I am getting wrinkled. Maybe we should go inside.”

“Well, let’s finish the bottle first, shall we?”

“You are going to tell me about the stock offering for that beer place?”

“Since you’re twisting my arm, okay.”

“Now you’re talking.” Morrison waved at the CD player. “Put something else on, would you? I don’t want to listen to Jerry and the boys wander around in minor chord-land for thirty minutes.”

“Sure. Stones? Beatles?”

“How about the Jefferson Airplane? That seems appropriate, doesn’t it?”

Hendricks grinned. “It does, doesn’t it?”

“PETER MORRISON!” came a thunderous voice from Heaven.

“That would be . . . God?” Hendricks said.

“Be my guess,” Morrison said. “Hey, God, how’s it going?”


“Hey, I can’t complain. Got the tub, my best friend who is going to help me make some money, really good French champagne.”


“Thanks for dropping by,” Morrison said. He raised his glass in a silent toast.

“Been a long time since I talked to God,” Hendricks said. “Back in ‘70, ‘71. Most of the time, I wound up in the bathroom talking to my penis.”

Morrison smiled. “Ah, yes, I’ve had a conversation or two with Mr. Johnson myself.”

“Short conversations, no doubt,” Hendricks said.

“Speak for yourself, pal. Mine weinerschnitzel plumps when he heats up, just like those hot dogs on TV. Gets longer, too. Real long.”

“Do tell. And is this water cold?”

“Internal heat, my man, internal heat.”

Grace Slick’s all-too-wise buttery voice floated from the speakers mounted on the outside wall of Morrison’s house, wrapped itself around the two men like the arms of a lover. Sang of pills that made you change your size. Sang of rabbits. Sang of psychedelic sights and sounds most people never knew. But places that were out there, all the same.

A pterodactyl soared overhead, and the spotlights picked it out. Ack-ack guns fired, hit the flying creature. It spiraled down and left a trail of smoke and flame. Crashed into a house across the street.

“That Richards’ place it hit?”

“So it appears. But—who can say?”

Both men laughed.

“About finished with that wine?”

“Last sip.”

“Here, I’ll get the towels.”

Both men stood. Glanced surreptitiously at each other. Not bad shape for ex-hippies in their late forties, they both figured. All things considered.

As a throbbing orange and green . . . something settled onto the house behind his and melted everything into a swirling widdershins puddle, Morrison said, “You know, I always knew the sixties would come in handy some day.”

Hendricks smiled, raised his hand, and gave Morrison the peace sign.

They went inside.


(Originally published in F&SF, Vol. 92 , Issue 1, January, 1997.)

Cat Cam

There's a family in Seattle that put a small camera around the neck of their cat and turned it loose around the house and yard a year or so ago, and have become locally-famous for the notion and pictures on their blog.

When our children were growing up, we had cats -- got the first one before my son was born, actually: Shitty Kitty, named because, as we were driving home from getting her, she sat upon my wife's pregnant lap as I drove. Halfway to our apartment, the cat had diarrhea. My wife ended up holding her out of the window as we tooled down the freeway at speed scat spraying along the side of the car, and the situation was not helped by my hysterical laughter and pounding on the steering wheel.

"Steve! Stop laughing! Help me!"

I had tears streaming I was roaring so hard. You had to be there ...

Over the years we have had many cats. My preference for domestic animal company runs to dogs, which are considerably more interactive -- and yes, smarter -- but I like cats. A cat can defend itself against a small child who wants to grab it by the leg or tail -- a quick bat with a clawed paw, or a leap onto something higher than the toddler can reach, end of problem. A puppy? Not so much.

We had a cat that would fetch a ball, Jerry, as well as any dog we ever had would do the trick.

We usually got the cats in pairs: Franny and Zooey; Blackberry and Sunflower; Spot and Stripe. One would either run off or get run over or suffer some other quick end.

Our best cat, Ashes, was a single; though we eventually got her a kitten, Floozy. Got her a puppy, too, Travis. She hated them both. Ashes was part Siamese, and liked to talk; Floozy (Felicia), her kitten, was a silent kitty, until one weekend she got herself up a tree and learned how to call for help. Sixty feet up a Doug fir, and I went up to fetch her.

Ashes used to bring us presents. Once, while we were living out near the end of Olympic Peninsula, we had a big vacant field across the street from us. Ashes began hunting there, and bringing us presents. She'd meow at the front door, we'd open it, and then there'd be a little dead critter on the stoop. First, she collected a shrew. Then a vole. Then mice. A mole. Gopher. Then a rabbit -- albeit a small one -- moving up in size ...

As a writer, I made the leap. That nasty little red-haired boy who liked to ride his bike past while screaming at the top of his lungs? He got dragged onto a doorstep in horror story I wrote, titled "Ashes ..."

Ashes made it to almost twenty years. At the end, she would walk up to the dog food bowl and shoulder Cady and Scout aside. The dogs, German Shepherds ten times her size, would move over and then whine at us. Help! The cat is eating my food! Help!

Stripe was almost twenty-one when he died. Both he and Ashes were inside/outside cats, so to live that long is, if not rare, a good run.

Currently we are sans cat, and apparently the grapevine hasn't gotten the word out, because none have shown up at the gate, looking to be fed and taken in. Only a matter of time, though.

And no, I don't want one of your kittens, thank you ...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Flacking the Book

Okay, it's been a while since I ran an ad for the Martial Arts book, But What if I Did This!? which is for sale for five bucks on this very site, via PayPal. Just click the button.

Every couple-three months, for at least a while, I am going to flack it here again. Depending on how successful it is, I might put more material up in PDF versions. (I just recently learned how to offer things on Amazon.com that can be sold and downloaded to their reader, the Kindle, and there might be something there, too. I'd rather let my agent and publishers deal with such things, but I don't want to be too much the luddite. The times, they are a'changin ...)

Um. So, for the martial arts book, here's the intro, so that anybody who is interested will know what s/he is in for if they go for it:

Two score and four years ago, as I write this, I donned my first pair of angry white pajamas and walked onto a floor in a martial arts class. That was the first step on a long and winding road that was to become the core of my being -- I can’t recall a month since when I wasn’t engaged either in study or practice of some form of martial art. Even when I was a hippie, the dances were there. The practice has informed the way that I look at the world, and has, at least once, allowed me to keep breathing the communal air when it might have gone otherwise. Martial arts are a big part of what I do, and as long as I can physically continue the practice, will keep doing.

Over the decades, I trained in seven or eight different systems. Some I became passing adept at, some not so much -- arts from Okinawa, Japan, China, and combinations thereof, finally arriving at my current art, which is Indonesian.

I claim no expertise in any of these; nor is this a how-to book from which you will learn how to clean out the local biker bar without mussing your hair. However, after more than forty years dancing martial dances, I have some experiences and opinions, and I hereby offer them up. What I do, how I think and feel about it, and why.

Most of these musings came from my blog. A few from elsewhere. Most of the essays concern the current art, Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera Plinck. There are some hits on other things.

Maybe you’ll learn something you didn’t know. Maybe you’ll be able to relate some of what I picked up along the way to the art that you do. Maybe not. Almost certainly if you read this book, you will have some martial context into which you can place it -- the market for such things is exceedingly small outside players of various forms of mayhem.

I hope it will be entertaining.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Time Marches On

When I was a lad, lo, these many years ago, we rode our bicycles everywhere, when the weather permitted. (Of course we rode velocipedes, but still ...)

At seven, I first took my little Huffy to school. When I was nine, I got a big bike -- an "English Racer," that had three speeds and cable hand brakes. With the seat all the way up, I couldn't reach the pedal at the bottom of the stroke, so I either had to stand on the pedals, or shove hard enough so I could catch it on the inertial upswing. I had to straddle the cross bar when I came to a stop, and even then, it was on tip-toes if I want to keep the bike from falling over. I learned how to wiggle the front wheel a little at a stop to keep the bike balanced so I wouldn't have to put my feet down.

In the summers, my friends and I rode everywhere, and while the distances seem longer in memory than they actually were when I look at the map, we did cover some ground. Rode to the the local swimming pool before it was closed to prevent racial integration, about two miles round trip. A little longer than that to the Dalton Theater, for the quadruple horror movies on Saturdays. We were five miles from downtown, and ten from LSU, and we routinely made those trips a few times each summer.

Little boys, little girls, all of us pedaling all over hell and gone, and nobody thought twice about it. Don't take candy from strangers, that was pretty much our only warning against pedophiles.

It's a measure of how much things have changed to note that this morning, while walking my dogs, I came across three little girls riding their bicycles down by the duck pond. I guess the oldest might have been nine or ten, the others, a year, maybe two younger. My first reaction was to look around and wonder where the adult was -- what were these children doing out by themselves? Yeah, it's a safe and quiet neighborhood, with -- new and improved! -- sidewalks and all, but ...

A lot of things have gotten better in our world from the days when I was a tow-head, but not everything.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Secrets of the Martial Arts

Years ago, deep in the fetid swamps of far Louisiana, I learned one of the most esoteric and secret of all martial art forms, Hung Too Low, from the closed-door Tai Chi Chuan system, Long Wang.

I have kept it secret all these years, for obvious reasons, but now I feel the time has come to share it with the world.

Use it wisely.

Step Back and Repulse Monkey While Eating Fried Chicken

Long Wang Tai Chi, part 2

Hernia at Sea Bottom

Long Wang Tai Chi, part 3

Carry Dynamite to Tiger's Mouth

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Dark Lords of the Sith

Bobbe Vader, L. and the Evil Emperor.

Smartest guy in the picture? R2D2's big brother -- H20-T, there in the background ...

Reality Theory

Back in the early seventies, when the hippies were cross-fading into yuppies, and we were trying to figure out what to do with our newly-expanded consciousnesses, we came across a book by Robert S. de Ropp (1913-1987), a British academic who was interested in spiritual elevation. He was attracted at times to teachers like Madame Ouspensky and Gurdjieff, and though he moved beyond them, got into psychology, and ran with other freethinking seekers, there are elements of the earlier philosophies in his work.

He wrote several books, before, in 1987, he died in a kayak accident.

The Master Game was de Ropp's look at life through his version of game-theory, viz the various roles that people elect (or are forced) to play, and he broke them up into low, neutral, and high categories.

The names are fun:

Hog in Trough. Cock on Dunghill. The Moloch Game. The Householder Game. The Art, Science, Religion, and Master games.

De Ropp offered that the Master Game was the highest expression; that those who could play that were at the peak of the pyramid. This was full consciousness, awakened and realized, and only a relative handful of people would ever get there.

The person who can play the Master Game can play all the others. And if you are on a higher plane, you can dial it down -- but lower players can't play above their level. Thus it becomes your responsibility, if you are a master gamer, to a) figure out where they are, and, b) if you want to communicate with them, go to their level, because they can't come to yours.

And that at whatever level you achieve, you will likely spend some time searching for equals.

It's an interesting notion. And so far as I have been able to tell, true enough.

The reason I believe that I got the book was because, during a discussion with a woman who was running way above me in the realm of spirituality, she talked about games people play. And I allowed as how I didn't do that, I was just plain me. Whereupon she smiled and said, "Ah, yes. The 'just-plain-me' game ..."

No, no! I said, frustrated that she thought I was like those other game-players. But she was right, sort of -- I was and I wasn't. And game-playing didn't have to mean ill-intentioned or fakery, it just was where you were.

All of which brings us to the notion of reality, and my theory about that:

We all make our own reality.

Sure, there is a consensus version that most of us buy into -- trains, planes, automobiles, sun, moon, oceans, and kangaroos -- but every version is, in the end, highly individualized, insofar as what we believe deep in our hearts. And what we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.

It's all self-generated fantasy, to some degree. No matter how clear you think your vision is, what you see is what you elect to see, and like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, that choice affects your reality. Bounce a photon off it, it changes speed, direction, shape or something else.

When I was in nursing school, training our psyche rotation in the bug house called Jackson -- Louisiana's version of the Cuckoo's Nest -- there was a guy who saw a table the rest of us didn't see. He never once ran into it while I was there, he always walked around it. He saw it. He knew it was there. Yeah, we thought he was looney tunes, but it was real for him, as real as anything the rest of us saw. He was crazy.

Or maybe we were all just blind. Maybe our matter didn't resonate the same way in his universe.

One man's floor can be another man's ceiling. It depends on where you are standing.

"My fantasy is better than your fantasy." gets thrown out a lot, we all do it, certainly I do. But maybe, "My fantasy works for me." is a better way of looking at it. We are all our own masters of Maya, and the ones with the strongest visions might run it all ...