Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Lion and the Lamb

Ballou and Layla

Well, not quite there, but here's an encouraging sign.

For Those of You Who Want It in Treeware

Okay, so just for fun, I went to and did a POD version of Master of Pamor. If I cut my profit down from five bucks to three, I can sell it at $12.99. Be interesting to see if I get any hits on it at two and a half times as much. (And that's not counting the six and half bucks for shipping ...)

Here's where you can get it: Master of Pamor

Printed: 209 pages, 8.5" x 11", perfect binding, white interior paper (50# weight), black and white interior ink, white exterior paper (100# weight), full-color exterior ink.


A fantasy novel of martial arts and magic, set in 1850’s Java. Rated "R," for sex and violence.

But I'm telling you, buy the PDF and print it out yourself, put it in one of those plastic covers with a clamp down the edge, you save money and have a cleaner product. Five bucks the PDF; buck and half worth of paper; maybe a dollar or two worth of ink for your printer. Two bucks for the cover. Call it twelve dollars, total. Take less than an hour to print.

The on-demand book is $12.99, postage just over $6.50, and the layout is readable but not as nice as a PDF using twelve point Georgia font.

I'm just sayin'.

What a Book Should Look Like

First year I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I did most of my Christmas shopping at Powell's Books, which is one of the largest bookstores in the country, if not the world. A city block these days, though it was a bit smaller then. If you are ever in Portland, Oregon, you owe it to yourself to go to Powell's. You can get a map at the door. You'll need it. You can wander -- and wonder -- around for days in a psychedelic book-fog ...

One of the presents I bought on general principles -- then decided to keep for myself -- was an illustrated version of Shakespeare's comedies. Two volumes in one, this was Knight's Pictorial Edition, The Works of William Shakespeare: Comedies, from P.F. Collier, New York, 1889.

This is what a book should look like. Seven-and-a-half, by ten-and-three-quarters, by two inches thick. The boards are leather-bound and scuffed after a hundred and twenty years. The edges of the pages are finished in what looks like gold leaf, and the title is impressed with something gold-colored that hasn't tarnished in all that time. 446 pp, lavishly illustrated with rich, grayscale engravings. The pictures on the play headings are small, and there are stand-alone illustrations throughout, each of which is covered by a sheet of onionskin to protect it. The print is biblically-small, but readable, and it contains fourteen plays, from Two Gentlemen of Verona, to The Tempest.

Thirty years ago, it wasn't a collector's item, and I paid five dollars for it. (It's been three decades, and gasoline that cost ninety-five cents is now going for three bucks, but selling PDFs for the same as I paid for this book seems almost like robbery, comparatively-speaking.)

Another aside: At a rummage/book sale ten years or so ago, I came across a leather-bound edition of The Glorious Koran, with side-by-side text in English and Arabic. Beautiful book, and another steal -- I think they wanted three dollars for it. I snatched it up and headed for the check-out. The man behind me in line looked at the book. Are you a follower of Islam? he asked. No, I said. He was Muslim, he said, and the way he looked at the book I held was so reverent that I knew he wanted it. I had a paperback version of the Koran at home, and this one wouldn't mean nearly as much to me as it would him, so I gave it to him. You should have seen his face light up. My good deed for that day.

Content and presentation are different things, of course, but in this Shakespeare book, you get both.

When somebody develops an e-reader that sails within a parsec of the experience of holding and reading this volume by ole Bill, then they will, by gawd, have made something really special.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's the Little Things ...

I am fortunate in that I have access to a world-class martial arts' teacher, Maha Guru Stevan Plinck. Fourteen or so years I've been privileged to study with him, and he just keeps evolving so I have to run to keep up. I'm not getting any younger, nor faster ...

If you are involved in the silat community in the U.S., you know how well-thought-of and respected Guru Plinck is. If not, you can take my word for it.

Here's one of those little things that can give you an indication:

As a senior student in the class, I make it a point whenever we get newbies to work with them. Yeah, I don't get to play as much with the more advanced stuff being shown when I do this, but I feel as if it is part of my dues. A newbie needs to be working out with somebody who knows the stuff well enough to make it easier to learn, and however inept I might be, I do have a little bit of skill in this arena.

One hand up, one hand down. Pass it along.

Most recent class, we had a newbie, a first-timer. A young woman, about to go off into the Marines, and Guru Plinck wanted to offer her a chance to maybe learn a couple things, and get a a few good workouts before she headed to basic training.

He has a fondness for people in the military. He was a green-hat medic when he was in the service. We have some Special Forces guys who cycle by when they are in town, and he makes it a point to show them close-quarters stuff they might have need for where they are going.

So I paired up with the new student and went over stuff that most of us don't even think about, we've been doing it so long: How to make a fist. How to strike without hurting yourself. The principles of hard-to-soft, soft-to-hard -- where to punch versus where to use an open hand. Relaxing, using your elbows to cover your ribs, not locking out a punch or kick, all like that. People coming from other arts know all this; newbies need to hear what a boxer's fracture is, and how to avoid it.

I showed her our first djuru.

She was an enthusiastic student. Class went fine, she did very well for a newbie -- no bad habits to overcome -- and I felt useful.

After class, as the students headed for their cars, Guru Plinck pulled me aside to thank me for helping out with the new girl. He appreciated it, he said.

This was not the first time he's done this. Virtually every time I've moved over to work with a newbie, Guru has noticed, and thanked me afterward.

I think it shows both awareness and great class. And is a measure of his attitude toward his students.

Always a new lesson for me to learn.

People Get Ready, There's a Train a'Comin'

The ebook train hasn't pulled all the way into the station yet, but it is coming and not far away. Five years ago, the ebook share was less than 1% of the market. Now, it's at 6-8%. In five more years, I expect it will be considerably more; I've heard estimates from 30-60%.

The express carrying iPods rolled in and out in a hurry, and while I don't think book readers are going to take over the market as fast or as much as MP3 players did -- music draws more listeners than books do readers -- ebooks are going to change things.

Already traditional book stores are having troubles. A lot of the big chains have cut inventory, both in terms of titles and copies carried. Returns are up. Little stores are selling used books if they want to stay alive.

Traditional publishers are now competing with anybody who has a computer and a desire to see a book in print or online. True, the New York houses are the acme of the market now, in terms of production, advances, and distribution. But just as YouTube and MySpace have created musical stars and new video directors, it won't be long before somebody creates an ebook that hits it big, bypassing the traditional publishers.

Mostly, they still serve as filters -- at least there is a basic level of professional stuff. Anybody who can upload his or her own stuff without the chops probably won't do very well at it.

I like treeware and expect I will always prefer reading paper books to electronic ones, and I'm not alone. But there is a generation that doesn't care, or would rather read on their laptops or iPhones. They are jacked in. They are younger, and eventually, the market will cater to them. Paper books aren't going away, but the business won't be the same ten years from now.

When the etrain leaves the station, I don't want to be standing on the platform waving bye-bye. I'm getting my ticket now.

Some numbers:

Traditional publishers will give an advance against royalties, and then a rate -- at my level -- of 8-10% for a paperback book. The math is easy: Eight buck book, I might get eighty cents a copy sold, against my royalty. For the sake of argument and to keep the arithmetic simple, say I get a thousand-dollar advance. The paperback title has to sell 1250 copies for me to earn that advance, after which I start making eighty cents each. Twice a year thereafter, long as it is in print, I should get a royalty statement and a check.

Kindle's royalty rate is 35%. For a five dollar book, I therefore get $1.75. Twice as much plus as paper, on a title that costs 62% as much. 571 copies to get the $1000. They start paying after three months.

On my blog, a PDF for $5, the royalty rate is 100%. To get the thousand, only 200 copies. Payment comes before I email the book.

POD -- print on demand -- my costs for a book are about twice what I'm charging, a few cents less, and then the book has to be printed and shipped. An ebook gets there faster, no postage, and once done, almost no cost to me.

Granted, if I am suddenly overwhelmed with orders on my blog, I'll probably have to hire somebody to fill them. Not that I am ever likely to get that many orders this route. At the moment, however, it takes me about a minute. I click on the customer's email address, and send him an email with the PDF attached. I have enough bandwidth from my server to do that all day every day.

Neither Kindle nor my blog offer me a royalty up front. And the numbers of sales via them aren't anywhere near what I get on my paper books, even as a midlister. However, those numbers are probably going to get bigger as we roll along. Just as the music industry had to come to terms with the net, so are the book companies.

Ebook readers are still expensive and clunky. But there have been a couple million downloads of the Apple iPhone reader app, and readers will get cheaper. When you can get one for $99, which is less than the cost of four hardback books, watch. They won't be able to make them fast enough.

Barnes & Noble is about to jump into the fray with their own reader. Apple continues to lie about theirs, but don't believe them, one is in the works. Kindle has a million units out; Sony claims twice that. There are ten million iPhones out there. The Chinese are cranking up their factories.

Beat a better path and the world will build a door to your mousetrap ...

I'm not great at predicting the future, but you don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows ...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Master of Pamor

A few years back, filled with enthusiasm with for pentjak silat and having done a lot of incidental research for my own education, I decided to write a novel, set in Java in the 1800's. I also wanted to put a little magic into it.

Unfortunately, the novel seemed to have too much history for fantasy readers and too much fantasy for historical readers. At least that's what my agent determined.

Books that cannot be neatly slotted into a distinct category are hard to sell. Where does it go on the rack? is the question the sales folk ask, and if you don't have a clean answer, where it goes is sometimes ... nowhere.

I liked the book, as of course I would, and the few readers who saw it seemed to enjoy it, but it was not to be. To be commercial, I need to cut either the magic or the history, make it alternate world, or somesuch, and I had no desire to do so -- this was the book I wanted to write, and did.
So that was that.

Ah, but that was before I became an e-publisher ...

So, I am going to go through the ms, clean it up, reformat it, and offer it as an e-book. Here, as a PDF, and on as a novel for the Kindle. Five bucks -- which seems to be a good number. I could do the $4.99 business, but if that penny difference matters to anybody, or they think not rounding it off makes it more appealing somehow, they probably aren't the kind of readers for whom I am looking anyhow ...

Stay tuned ...

And I am back. Book is mostly done, and I'll be toodling over to to put it up soon as I run through it one more time. You'll notice, if I was able to do it again, a new PayPal button over there to the right, with the book listed. I have to say, it still reads well to my completely subjective view. Enough so that I'm willing to guarantee it: If you plunk down your five bucks and get the PDF and you don't think it was worth it when you are done, I'll refund your money.

Advice for Writers in the Electronic Age

Came across this, courtesy of editor John Douglas. Worth a look.

Good Bye Teddy

Edward M. Kennedy

Last of the brothers is gone.

You might not have agreed with his politics, but for those of us who grew up in the sixties, the Kennedy family is woven through our history -- John, Bobby, Teddy; Jackie, Caroline, John-John.

The family had its share of grief -- money doesn't buy everything. Teddy's shot at the presidency faded after Chappaquiddick, and rightly so, but he spent the rest of his life making up for it.

Adios, Ted.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Silat Wars

Long ago and far away, a writer at a science fiction convention stepped onto the hotel's elevator and beheld an attractive young woman who was, ah ... well-endowed in ... um ... chest development.

He made what he thought was a witty and suggestive remark. She smiled and replied, playing along.

They left the elevator on the floor whereupon his room was located.

And, as the woman tells it, ten minutes after they met, she was under him.

How you view such an encounter bespeaks your experience. For somebody who came of age in the sixties as a hippie, pre-AIDs, then the couple might have been considered adventurous and sexually liberated, and more power to them.

Somebody born in the late 1890's might have viewed this couple as a trull and a roué, and been convinced they would burn in Hell for fornication.

Most folks around today would probably be somewhere between in their views. It's all a matter of perspective.

(Just to complete the tale: The elevator couple hit it off. And no, I wasn't the guy. Eventually, they moved in together. Eventually, got married. Eventually, divorced. Sometimes, the stories don't end happily ever after. Sometimes, they do; keep reading.)

Eight or ten years back, I was engaged in what was sometimes hot and heavy email and public web page debate on the pros and cons of our martial art and its associated branches. I didn't start the discussion, but merely responded to what I perceived as mud-slinging by folks in some of those other branches. Since I was by then a few years deep in an art that doesn't much care for backing up, I moved in. Bring it, dude. Let's see what you got.

There were several arguments, but the crux of the central one was that one of these, ahem, other branches allowed as how what we in our little conclave practiced was essentially "silat lite." It was okay -- for what it was, of course, they said condescendingly -- but our teacher hadn't really gotten the whole enchilada in his training, only a few beans and a bit of cheese and lettuce that fell onto the floor. Whereas the teacher of the other branch had the whole meal -- beans and rice and tacos and tamales, right down to the fresh guacamole and chips, the entire spicy feast. (Probably I shoulda used Indonesian food for this metaphor, but what the heck.)

Not that they were offering my teacher any personal disrespect, they were quick to point out. They liked him, he was a nice guy. Which was good, since they one and all knew he could kick their asses seven ways from Sunday if they stepped across a line.

My teacher just shrugged it off. Who cares? he said. I'm comfortable with my skills. The truth eventually comes out.

He didn't need defending. I, on the other hand, needed to defend him.

Most of my discussions took place with ranked teachers -- gurus -- and now and then, with the head honcho of this branch himself. There were three or four with whom I fought the keyboard wars, giving, I thought, much better than I got. They were, though I never put it quite this way, full of shit to their hair lines, I was sure.

They had knowledge that we, they said, simply did not have. I asked for evidence and got none. Instead, they shook their heads at my stupidity for not accepting their comments at face value. Their teacher had told them, was I calling him a liar?

Well, not in so many words ...

Not exactly ...

Why, yes -- yes, I am.

I was, I thought, mostly reasonable and using good debate tactics. Diligent in putting forth what I thought was my case. I confess that I sometimes saw myself as Horatius at the Bridge, beset by Kool Aid-drinking heathen rabble. I expect they saw me as an ignorant fool heretic who Had Not Seen the Light of True Silat™

Mostly, we kept it civil. Now and then, an invitation to cross hands was issued; mostly, I confess again, by me. Oh, yeah? Come show me! Nobody did, which was just as well. I was not a guru, merely a lowly, creaky, old student. They won, how big a deal was that? They were supposed to win, they were gurus coming from what they were asserting was a superior art. How could they lose?

I won? Cranky, old man, mostly mouth? Not so good for their side in that case. (And yeah, I was aware of that dynamic at the time. Always helps if you can put your opponent into a no-win situation.)

Fast forward a few years: My teacher had been right. The truth started to out. This other branch of our art began to fall apart. Nearly all of the gurus had either been kicked out, or left on their own in disgust, because, it seemed, that what they were being told and taught didn't, ah, jibe with reality. They had bought into a story and, lo and behold, it was something of a fairy tale, much of it made up from whole cloth, and as real as the cow jumping over the moon.

That had to hurt. I felt sorry for these guys. They had been loyal, and it had gotten them kicked in the teeth.

Being disillusioned by a teacher for whom you feel respect, admiration, even adoration, can be painful in the extreme. Being tossed out like yesterday's fish bones wrapped in greasy newspaper is an unpleasant experience -- especially when it was no fault of your own and unjustified.

This was a ugly period in this branch of the art's history, and when the mud settled, all of the most senior students had been booted or had boogied, including the designated lineage holder and a handful of gurus with ten or fifteen years experience.

Several of these former teachers and I have had some long discussions, online, by phone, and in person since they split the sheets with their old teacher. And, not amazingly, much of what I thought and said years earlier was closer to the mark than not, they now say. A couple of these men have become what I consider friends, and the songs they sing now don't sound anything like the ones they used to sing.

Perspective means a lot. It is one thing to be on the inside looking out; another to be on the outside looking in. Or, as Valentine Michael Smith was wont to say, sometimes things get grokked in the fullness of time ...

Note: Don't mention names in the lettercol, if you send any comments. Most of us in the art already know about whom we are talking, and if you don't, it won't help if you see the names ...

Kid Zeppelin

Worst Album Covers

To go with the video, check these out:

Worst Album Covers ...

I Used to Like This Song ...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Here's a Big Surprise

The king of pop used drugs!

I'm shocked! Shocked!

The Cat Turns Around

Layla bathes Ballou

Jude and Layla have a closer look.

I have had enough bath, thank you.

Counter-attack -- flee -- !

So, Ballou the kitten, just over three pounds, is being allowed to roam the house a bit more.

(Crap! Sorry, I had to erase a few garbled characters there, as kitty just leaped up onto my keyboard, by way of my bare leg. Ow.)

Layla, at ten times the cat's weight, and Jude, at fifteen or sixteen times that, have had mixed reactions to the menagerie addition.

As far as Jude is concerned, the chief appeal of the critter is that there's a new, albeit smaller, food source to raid.

Open the door to the washroom where the cat gets fed, the cat bolts and Layla is right behind him, in full herding-mode.

Jude runs straight for the kitty's bowl. Cat? What cat? Who cares?

Layla wants to chase the kitty and give him a major tongue bath. Which she does ... or did.

Until the cat discovered that if he turns and runs toward the dogs, they will fall all over themselves to get out of his way.

Whoa! This is not prey behavior! Look out! It's after us! Run!

Pretty funny. They chase him, he chases them. Amusing no end to see the cat in the hall outside my office and both dogs in with me, watching him cautiously. Careful. It's loaded. It could go off at any second ...

Never a dull moment.

Constitutional Rights

I'm pretty much a fan of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, i.e. the first ten amendments to the document.

Like the 1st and 2nd. Don't think about the 3rd much. 4th is good, 5th-10th, all good.

But my long-standing support of the 2nd, which, if you have been visiting Uranus for a couple hundred years, is the right-to-bear-arms thingee, doesn't brook agreement with the loons who have shown up strapped outside President Obama's town halls in places that allow open carry.

Yeah, yeah, law-abiding citizens and all that, and the gun you see is easier to defend against than the one you don't, but -- think about it. If I was running the Secret Service and determined to keep Renegade alive on my watch, anybody who showed up strapped should be feeling an itchy spot between his shoulder blades as long as he was within five miles of the President.

You know, that itchy spot where the crosshairs of the scope on the .408 Shey-Tac sniper rifle aimed by somebody who can plug a nickel at a thousand meters are, ah, lined up ... ?

You don't figure that a man with a piece on his hip, who is not an LEO of some sort, standing within range of a sitting President, and who develops a sudden urge to scratch himself on the thigh next to his hogleg isn't likely to be pushing up daisies if he does it quickly?

Stupid. Really, really, stupid. They don't serve anybody with such actions, least of all sane gun owners who don't want to be grouped with the loons.

An In Joke

If you aren't a student of our particular martial art, Silat Sera, these vids won't mean anything to you. If you are, put down any liquid you might be holding -- I'm not gonna buy you a new keyboard. You have been warned.

Don't you love the mechanics of this first vid? If you push directly along a line whereupon both feet are planted, that will be against a strong stance. If you direct your force downward -- as is obviously being done here -- that just roots the stance even more.

If you change the push so that it is upward, and slightly angled against the line, and apply more force, as is being done after the student's arm is lowered, you take the weight off the lead foot, and against somebody holding themselves rigid, it's relatively easy to move them, even if they don't help.

Whether the student being demonstrated upon raises or lowers his arm has nothing to do with anything, least as far as physics and biomechanics are concerned, this is to say, zip, zero, nil, nada, bupkis.

Unless, of course, he is holding onto Wonder Woman's invisible ship's hawser when his arm is outstretched.

You have to be careful putting this stuff up where people can see what is really going on.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In The Woogle-Woogle Sea: A Book for Children

Years ago, when my first grandson was a toddler, I wrote and illustrated a short book for him. I always wanted to do something with it, but it was a long way from my usual markets and I tucked the thing away in a drawer.

Now, thanks to the miracle of scanners, PDFs, and PayPal, I can do something with it.

And have.

My artistic abilities are small -- see the sample pages -- but it was a lot of fun to write and draw. Five bucks. Less than lunch at Mickey D's. Click on the PayPal button and behold the adventures of Zach the Shrimp, and Harold the Fish as Big as a Whale, In the Woogle-Woogle Sea ...

Note: The file for this book is big -- 23 megabytes -- and Comcast apparently chokes on anything bigger than 15 megs, so I'm having to send it via one of those transfer-big-files sites. Seems to work fine, though it adds one more step to the process. I send it thus, they send an email to the recipient, and s/he downloads it from there. Another speed bump in the information highway.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Lastest Guilty TV Pleasure

Okay, so Warehouse 13 is a yawner; Eureka has gotten to be by-the-the-numbers, same arc every episode; and I needed another guilty pleasure. Having cancelled my premium channels, Entourage is out, and what I've come up with is Royal Pains.

This is on the USA Network, basic cable, and concerns a dedicated and skilled New York ER doctor, just call him "Hank," who is fired because he lets an old rich guy die while he's busy saving a young poor one. His fiance dumps him, and he sits in his apartment amidst old pizza boxes, drepressed, until his ne'er-do-well brother, a CPA, drags him out of NYC for a getaway to the Hamptons. While at a party thrown by a local billionaire, a rich girl gets ill, and the local concierge doctor is about to kill her because he misdiagnosed her as an OD.

Hank steps in, saves the girl, and becomes, after some pro-forma reluctance, the newest concierge doc for folks rich enough to afford house calls, even if they have to send a private helicopter to fetch him.

There is a young Indian woman PA who shows up with a fully-equipped Hummer full of medical gear. A reclusive billionaire with some kind of dire secret, that includes having a giant shark in a tank in his basement. Rich kids with absent parents who, if they wreck Daddy's Ferrari while he is out of town, just buy a new one -- ole Dad'll never know the difference.

Behold, HankMed™ and a stranger in a strange land ...

Hank is, of course, the soul of propriety, and the most principled man for a thousand miles in any direction. He treats the poor people for free, and makes time for them. He suffers his freeloading brother, at least partially because their father deserted them as boys and he feels responsible for him. This is the guy you want for your doctor. He cares.

Hank falls for the local hospital director, there are oddball rich folks demanding his attention, from wanting breast implants repaired in a hurry to freak illnesses they catch from their dogs. And any time anybody is in medical need, Hank has more tricks in his bag than McGyver.

He can use anything at hand to fix almost anything that happens. Last week's episode, he directed his PA long distance, via computer, in how to use fish hooks and line and pulleys to stabilize a collapsed lung suffered by the captain of a wooden sailing yacht, who was hit by a falling sail accidentally released by an on-the-run-from-the-law-for-stock-market-crimes billionaire's seasick mistress ...

Yeah, okay, it is a soap opera and silly out the wazoo. But it's fun silly. The characters are engaging. The billionaire is enigmatic, and as soap operas go, it's got all the tropes -- a not-quite-ex-husband shows up to screw with Hank's love interest. The PA's parents doesn't know what she does for a living and have arranged to marry her to a nice, rich Indian man who lives in London. The dweeb brother Evan is bespelled by all the money and women and cars, and venal, but with a thin streak of good. And Hank is just the nicest guy you'll ever want to meet.

Guilty pleasure, but at least it's not fattening.

Friday, August 21, 2009


The long awaited movie from Jim Cameron, Avatar, opening in -- theoretically -- December.
Check out the trailer here.

If you can't figure out the premise from the title and the trailer, you don't read this sci fi stuff much ...

The One True Path™

There's a place where silat folks sometimes go to hang out on the web, Silat.TV. There are a bunch of clubhouses there where you can chat and visit with people in your branch, though they are open to anybody who wants to join.

Mostly, I've opted out of the silat wars, i.e., wherein we argue over tempest-in-a-teapot stuff about who has what lineage and whose old man can whip who else's old man. Now and then, though ...

Recently, we were chatting about what little and absolutely unverifiable history we have heard about our particular version, when a young man strolls in and allows that what we are doing is essentially naught but a pale shadow of what he's doing, and if we want to see the Real Silat™, why, we should come see him.

Half my age, this fellow, and having discovered the Real Silat™, full of himself and wanting to convert the heathen.

For a brief time a few years back, he trained in our style and a couple of its variants. Not enough to become adept at it, but he did drop by. I've met the guy, and he was likable enough. At the time ...

Only now, he has moved on, and now having found The Truth™ has returned to show us the error of our ways.

Got to love the arrogance of youth. Here's somebody who came to our house and proceeded to tell us that he knows way more about such things than we do, and in language that is insulting and obnoxious. Especially since some of us -- here I am -- have T-shirts older than he is ...

So, I politely -- at first, anyway -- allowed that I disagreed and explained my position.

Like talking to the wall. Only not as responsive.

One exchange led to another, and my politeness became somewhat less, my comments more pointed. If, I finally said, what you have is so superior, please, drop by and demonstrate that to me. I'll be happy to acknowledge your art's better qualities, but you have to show me. Personally.

This was not an invitation to a death-match, you understand, and not the kind of thing I would have thrown out willy-nilly to anybody. There are people out there who can tie me in a surgeon's knot without raising their heartbeats. My art isn't The One True Path™, it's just one that works for me. Yeah, I like it, and yeah , I think it's pretty good, else I wouldn't be bothering with it; however, against a guy with a twelve-gauge shotgun seven meters away, I wouldn't bet on me -- none of my moves work real well in that situation. There are a lot of other places where I got nothing. Chinese army comes over the hill, I'm toast. Old, slow, not as strong as once I was, I work with what I have.

I could allow this come-show-me comment to this know-in-all fellow because I have seen him move. In person, and later, after he had been exposed to the Real Silat™, I saw the videos that he kindly put up on YouTube to demonstrate what he knew.

There is a phrase: Vidi et scio. If my rusty Latin serves, that means, "I saw, and I know." I was, um, less than bowled over. There are people who, when you see them move, you go, Oh, wow! because their balance and flow are skills right there and obvious. Not so this guy. Yeah, he's got some skill. But what he's claiming, essentially, that what he's doing is intrinsically better than what I'm doing? Ain't but one way to convince me of that.

So, I never actually said, "You know, you are full of shit." in those words. But that's what I meant.

The moderator of the group finally had enough and bounced the young fellow out, to not much distress, far as I can tell.

Will he learn? Maybe. Maybe not. Might be the hard way if he does ...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Passing Parade

You speak, so the old saw about teaching goes, to a passing parade. You can offer something up, but if you wait a few minutes, somebody new will be arriving, and you can say the same thing over again -- it'll be new to them. (When I first started going to science fiction conventions, I marveled at how knowledgeable the writers on the panels were -- they had all the answers! Later, I realized that was because they had heard all the questions many times before. Whole comedy routines have been worked up to answer the question, "Where do you get your ideas?")

As a writer, I've tried to be of the one-hand-up-one-hand-down philosophy. Reach up for help with one, offer it with the other. Now and again, I get requests from newbies, and if they are well-framed, and if I have the time, I usually try and do what I can to help 'em gain a step or two up the mountain. Part of the dues I feel I should pay.

Got an email a few days ago from a writer whose first novel is about to be published by a small press. Already to the copy-edited stage, and would I be interested in taking a look to the end of offering a cover quote that might help sell a few more copies?

Sure. Send it along.

So I read the book. It's a fantasy, lot of violent action, not a bad story. But I couldn't give the guy a quote, even though I usually can find something good, if somewhat qualified, to say about a professional-level novel.

This one had too many clunks in it on the writing side -- I kept getting stopped short, and in the end, I couldn't in good conscience offer a quote because it wasn't a professional-class work. "Not the absolute worst thing I have ever read." isn't going to be very useful on a cover.

If the book had indeed been edited, the editor ought to be charged with malpractice.

And the problems -- here the passing parade thing -- were things to which I have spoken here extensively: Said-bookisms, Swifties (adverb poisoning) and too many story-slowing -ing verb forms. What is that, past continuous tense? Progressive? Grammar is not my strength ...

Here, examples:

"Stepping over the body, Harold rasped pensively to Maude, 'Oh, drat.'"

"Nodding her head in agreement, Maude croaked dispiritedly, 'I hear that.'"

See how those lines just lie there, like a couple of harpooned walruses?

A rule of thumb for active dialog is this: Use "said" whenever you need attribution. Yes, it's boring. It's supposed to be boring. To disappear. Anything else should be considered as one might consider using ghost peppers -- just a dab in a big pot, it adds flavor. More than a little bit ruins the dish for most people. Ditto adverbs, and the -ing verb forms, too.

Simple past tense is ever so much cleaner and more muscular: "She nodded." "He stepped."

You do not want to call attention to your dialog by having people hiss, spit, stammer, moan, bristle, chide, wince, laugh derisively, smack their foreheads jokingly, or anything else like it with any frequency.

A lot of newbie writers make these mistakes, because nobody has ever taught them otherwise.

Yoo hoo! Listen up: Do not do this!

This writer replied graciously, allowed as how it was useful criticism, and he would apply it in his future efforts. Nice to hear that, and I allowed as how I would take another look at his stuff if he did.

There are some lessons you have to learn to get by. They can be easy or they can be hard, but learn them you must ...

Silat Video

The gurus, L. to R.: Cliff, Jonny, Ari, Stevan, Bud, Louis, Narin, Bob.

A year ago, plus a couple-three days, Maha Guru Plinck had a weekend workshop in Las Vegas. It was pretty much confined to people who had some experience with Silat Sera, though there were worlds of additional experience to go with that. Largely put together by Guru Mike Roberto, it was as good a time as I've ever had at such an event. Nice, air-conditioned ballroom in the casino/hotel, while it was 107 F. outside in the hot Nevada sunshine.

Guy Bowring, of Resonant Video Productions, had a couple of cameras going, and has gotten around to offering the videos that resulted. There are three disks, available only as a set, just over four hours of stuff. Some of the material involves recognition of various gurus and like that, but there are some very interesting demonstrations by the gurus. People who were there will probably want these as keepsakes and memory joggers -- though the embarrassing stuff is left out, far as I can tell, which is too bad.

People who weren't there but who have an interest in Silat Sera as practiced by Maha Guru Plinck and some of his gurus and other teachers might find the material interesting. There's a lot going on at the same time, it gets busy and noisy -- especially when sticks are clashing -- but you can pretty much hear everything that is center stage.

For fifty bucks, plus five dollars shipping, it's a good deal.

Guy's web page is still under construction, but you can query him about orders here:

resonant dot video at gmail dot com

The Post Awful

So I had to go to the post office today. They tried to deliver a signature-needed package yesterday morning and I wasn't here.

Well, actually, I was here. In my office, at my computer, at the time listed on the notice left in the box, hearing aids in. The front doorbell did not ring, neither did the dogs carry on as they are wont to do when somebody comes to call. To be fair, the carrier could have stopped at the front gate, and maybe the wireless bell wasn't working, but whatever the reason, I had to go and fetch my package.

Like most Americans, there are two places I avoid whenever possible: The DMV and the United States Post Office.

I arrived, there was a line -- there is always a line at the post office -- and fortunately, I didn't have a clocking ticking. Five windows, but only two clerks working them.

The guy at the front of the line apparently had a postal problem so complex that it took both clerks fifteen minutes (by their wall clock) to solve it.. This guy seemed to have trouble figuring out how to fill out a form. The clerk kept trying to educate him in the ways of the government bureaucracy, when all he needed to do was say, "Put the check mark right there, because that's where it has to go."

While the fourteen -- no, sixteen, no -- twenty-two of us waited. Like standing in line behind some dweeb at McDonalds who looks blankly at the server and says, "What do you recommend?" Christ Jesus man, it's McDonald's, not Commander's Palace! Get a Big Mac and fries and get out of the way!

There must be a section of Hell that involves standing in lines all day every day, and when you get to the front, the window closes ...

People wonder why the USPS is losing money. I don't wonder at all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Warts and All

Verruca vulgaris, the common wart, is caused by a papilloma virus, of which there are many, though most warts come from types 1, 2, or 3. (There are other kinds of warts, and I won't offer them up here, too much information.)

Common warts, unlike the genital ones, are generally harmless, more a cosmetic nuisance, though sometimes they pop up in places that interfere with some activity, especially on the hands.

As a teenager, I was afflicted with the suckers, and spent several unpleasant sessions at assorted doctors's offices having them cut or burned off my hands or feet; and later, frozen with dabs of liquid nitrogen. (You can now buy stuff over the counter that will ice the little beasts, small and expensive aerosol cans of what is essentially ether, that produce pretty low temperature, albeit not as cold as liquid N. Freezing is the current preferred method by the medical establishment. Dry ice will do, as well.

The wart-off liquids you get that are room temp are acids, as are the plasters, they don't work as well, and they are more apt to scar.)

Freezing the wart and bit of surrounding tissue is a lot like frostbite. You get a blister, the affected tissue essentially dies, and is sloughed off, and usually the wart goes with it.

This does not get rid of the virus in your system. Like herpes, once you have it, you tend to have it forever, and it might be six months or sixteen years, but another wart can pop up.

Folk medicine has a lot of treatment methods. I've always like the swinging-a-dead-cat-over- your-head-at-midnight-in-the-graveyard version from Tom Sawyer, though I suspect its efficacy is slim.

Rubbing the little lumps with the inside of a banana skin supposedly works. So too, garlic, dandelion juice, vitamin C, raw potato, even hypnosis.

And duct tape. (Actually, any kind of tape. I think the popular theory is that keeping the wart covered somehow "suffocates" it. You have to change the tape frequently because it tends to fall off. I suspect that dabbing the wart with super-glue or nail polish might achieve the same effect, though the mechanism here isn't nailed down -- I don't think air has anything to do with it. The most reasonable theory is that keeping it covered somehow stimulates the immune system. Since warts sometimes disappear spontaneously without treatment, this could be the answer.

All of which is to say that I have, after some years of being wart-free, developed a small one on my left thumb, near the distal joint, palmar side. Last time I had one, I used one of the OTC freezers and after the blister dried up, the wart was gone. I still have some of that compound somewhere, but just to see, I decided to try the tape route first. I'm using bits of stretchy, waterproof band-aids, and after a few days, somewhat to my amazement, the thing is already smaller. I'm going to give it two weeks -- or it goes away -- whichever comes first.

If it works, great. While it takes longer, it's cheap and painless. If it doesn't work, I can zap it with the cold stuff, but that does sting a bit, and makes fretting the guitar a little trickier with a blister right there.

Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

For Hardcore Martial Arts Folk

In case you aren't already a reader of Rory Miller's blog, you can get there from here -- he's been in my link list since I cranked up my blog. Always worth stopping by.

Mr. Miller's overseas contract as a civilian doing things about which we don't talk is about to wind down, and he is considering the idea of maybe teaching for money.

He and I go round all the time -- not in an ugly way, but in spirited discourse -- but from all accounts, from everybody, Rory knows stuff most of the rest of us simply don't -- we've never had the exposure.

If you are the kind of player who wants to get how-to from somebody who has actually seen the elephant -- or in Miller's case, herd and herds of the suckers -- you might drop him a note and express interest. Maybe if enough people do that, he would make himself available and not sky off back to the desert sands again.

I'm sure his wife would appreciate that. And it would make getting together for coffee now and then a lot easier.

Check out the relevant post, here.

Another one on the way, too, but not for a little while.

Odds and Ends

Summer has dropped round again, after a few cloudy and cool days. Eighty-five yesterday, supposed to hit ninety-five today, maybe a hundred tomorrow.

In the make-hay-while-the-sun-shines mode, I yesterday afternoon cleaned out the roof's gutters. I hadn't intended to do that, I was just going to use the leaf blower to clear some of the pine and fir straw from the shingles, but once I was on the ladder, I noticed that there was four inches of stuff in the gutters. It is much more pleasant -- strike that -- less unpleasant to clean it out when the litter is nice and dry and toasty, as opposed to slimy-gunky wet.

Even with Mr. Leaf Blower assisting, cleaning out gutters around my house is not at the top of my fun-things-to-do list, but it needs to be done, and so it was. Probably will do it again just before fall monsoons begin at the end of October.

On a genuinely more pleasant note, I picked another small bag of plums on the dog walk. There is an Asian Plum tree behind the drugstore, (those little bitty ones not much bigger than cherries) that bears a lot of fruit that nobody seems to want. My lovely bride, who sometimes gets out her Mason jars and canning gear and makes things, discovered that she can make a pepper jelly using these that is, in a word, delicious. Tart, sweet, and just a smidge of heat.

She uses apples instead of commercial pectin for a thickener, and it works well.

It is trick to get the percentage of peppers right -- hard to tell how hot they are, since they vary so much. Usually jalapeño is enough, sometimes poblano, and the fruit tends to cool out the fire, but this makes an excellent spread by itself, and tasty adjunct to a sandwich or open-faced burger.

These can be frozen whole and used later, since they will be cooked, and freshness is not an issue. Ditto blackberries, some of which last weekend we also picked. The plums are about done, but the blackberries are still coming in, and we'll get more of them.

In the middle of the winter, a cup or two of blackberries used for a pie, or black-iron-skillet cake -- what we call a "wheat-thing" -- can really be a taste of summer. And the blackberry liquor, made with brandy and vodka, is outstanding, too ...

The First Cut is the Deepest

Over on Dojo Rat's blog, there is a revisitation to the old martial arts expect-to-get-cut-in-a-knife-fight argument. I thought my comment there was worth repeating and expanding a bit here.

Briefly, for those of you not up on the discussion, there are two basic stands:

1) In a knife attack, you will get cut.

2) In a knife attack, you might get cut, but telling you that you will is defeatist, and should be avoided.

I am not an expert; however, after some training, my side of the fence is 1). Especially if you are barehanded against a blade.

Bare against a blade, absolutely the last resort.

I think the notion that you can skate in a knife attack is way more dangerous than the one that says you'll get cut. If you stay -- a thing to be avoided if at all possible -- and engage with somebody waving sharp steel up close and personal? Bad idea. Bad.

Sure, people have walked away from an incoming blade without a scratch. Hell, I have done so; I 'm one-for-one. But it was a freak incident, my attacker was probably stoned to the gills, and I was lucky. This is not how the smart money bets.

Understanding that you might and probably will take a slice -- but that you must keep going even if you do -- is not defeatist, it is teaching you a survival characteristic. If you can't run, you damn sure can't quit until the guy coming at you with the knife quits.

Martial arts aren't a magical amulet that wards off everything incoming. You need to know how to keep going if you catch a hard hit. You aren't bulletproof.

If you accept that you will be tagged by a blade and can live with the liquid nitrogen burn and the sudden blood flow from a gaping wound, you are worlds better off than if you think you are some action movie hero who can do a clean disarm -- and then suddenly discover you are wrong.

We don't think it is wise to train only for best-case scenario. If you get it, good, take it and thank your lucky stars. If you don't, best you have some idea of what the devil to do instead.

Yeah, you might get a stoner who knows nothing about blades and gives you a freebie. And you might get the International Kali, Silat, & Arnis Champion who can fillet like the catfish chef at Ralph and Kakoo's on Friday night. You won't know which it is until you get there. The expert isn't going to give you a real line, and while you are trying to cover what you think he's offering, he'll be sticking or slicing you somewhere else.

What are your chances of running into this fellow? Probably not very high. Then again, you have to assume the guy knows how to use his weapon. And if he does, and if you are bare, and if you are an expert in hand-to-hand, you might win, but consider this: If the guy facing you is as good as you are unarmed, if he has that level of skill, and you put a knife in his hand? How well do you like your chances?

Put my money on you? That's a P.T. Barnum kind of bet.

One itty-bitty shot to your carotid artery with the tip of a blade, no power necessary, and you are in the countdown for the pine box.

Our art is based on the blade, and we've spent a fair amount of time over the last year concentrating on it. Of course, the drills aren't "real," in the sense that you aren't going to use them in toto. The flow stuff isn't going to continue for three, four, ten passes, it is just to get used to dancing around and seeing incoming from various angles. Training isn't reality, but it's what we have to work with.

The reality is that a sharp, steel blade is way harder to deal with than a rubber training knife. And that being the case, if I can tag you routinely with the latter -- and unless you are way better than I am, I'm fairly confident I'll able to do that if you want to stand and play fisticuffs against it -- then I'd really rather be me than you.

(You can get much further with a kind word and a knife than you can with a kind word alone ...)

After having spent this time dancing about, my conclusion is that I don't want to get into a knife fight, no way, no how, no thank you.

But if such a thing comes to pass, I'd much rather be the guy with the knife.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dynamite With a Laser Beam


So, I have a Twitter account, I may have mentioned, but I don't, ah, tweet. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and after a cursory inspection, decided I had better ways to spend my time than listening to people talk about breakfast -- or telling them about mine.
(Coffee, black.)

But having a name and account gets you some interesting traffic. I just got one from somebody who wants to "follow" me. This consists of a query: "Gosh ... where have all the guys with brains gone?" along with a message URL, and a little picture of what appears to be a shapely young woman's butt clad in scanties, and -- are those handcuffs holding her hands behind her back ... ?

Oh, my.

Oh, yeah, that's right, I forgot. The real reason the internet was created was not to save us from nuclear armageddon, but as a better way to deliver pornography ...

Gotta love how the world's oldest profession adapts to the technology of the day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Holy Grail of Glasses

Here they are -- the glasses that allow you to focus from your wristwatch to Neptune with a simple sliding control on the bridge.

Somebody is working on an automatic version, but these are gonna be something for folks who need bi- or trifocals; who wear one pair of glasses at the computer and a different pair for reading or driving.

Of course, they cost about nine hundred bucks and they only come in round ...

Busy Day; Cat's Got a Pronoun

Visited with the youngest grandson this morning. Took the critters to the vet for vaccine updates, and found out that what we suspected is so -- kitty is a tom. At least for another six months, anyhow.

Then went to see G.I. Joe with my son and his two older boys. If there was a summer movie they didn't swipe from, I must have missed it. Star Wars, Predator, Terminator, Firefox, Thunderball, every other kung-fu movie ever made. I kept expecting to hear the theme from Titanic playing in the b.g.

Had to turn the hearing aids off -- lot of stuff blowing up real good -- and real loud.

Silly, brainless, and if anybody who plunks down their money goes expecting Flaubert? They are not playing with with all their marbles. Not a date movie, though there is some kissing. Three, I think, not counting flashbacks, and one is instantly fatal ...

Three twists, all of which you can hear coming from the other side of a armored locked door, but I won't give those away, just in case you might want to see them for yourself.

Characters about as deep as a saucer, but hey, you go to watch things blow up real good -- copters, planes, people, the Eiffel Tower ....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Unpublished William Gibson Short Story

I mentioned this a while back -- once upon a time, long ago, Bill Gibson and I used to hang out a little. We went a few times to Damon & Katie's mini-Milford's in Eugene, with John Shirley and Jay Rothbell, and for a couple years, Bill and I exchanged letters, cartoons, critiqued each other's stuff, like that. He turned down my suggestion to call "Johnny Mneumonic" "Mneumonic Johnny," 'cause he didn't like the way it scanned. He did take my suggestion that Neuromancer needed some sex. He was a very funny guy, droll, and a pretty good cartoonist, too.

In 1980, we wrote a story together. The piece, entitled "Killer," was pretty good, but it got bounced a couple times and the reasons now seem incredibly funny: One was, the main character was an assassin, and thus nobody would feel any connection or sympathy for him ... ?

My, have times have changed.

Bill, not used to such rejections as I was -- my stuff bounced around like a trainload of super balls gone off a trestle -- his usually got bought first place he sent it -- decided he didn't want to keep it circulating. He had three or four other stories he was working on, plus a novel, it wasn't a priority.

So my copy went into a drawer and that was that. Eventually, we drifted into our own currents and I haven't talked to Bill in years. I poked around a while back trying to find him, to open up a bottle of home-brewed nostalgia, but he keeps a low profile, and it wasn't worth the effort it would take to track him down. Probably doesn't talk to guys like me these days anyhow ...

Gibson, one of the fathers of cyberpunk SF, went on to literary acclaim, while I became a moderately-successful space opera writer.

Because the story "Killer," belongs to us both equally, I can't sell the publication rights without Bill's okay. I'm not sure either of us would want that -- we've both gotten a little better since we wrote it -- but as an historical curio, I can sell my paper copy, which is a faded Xerox. I'm still trying to decide whether I should put it up on eBay.

Someday, maybe our mail back-and-forth in the early days of his career long before the internet -- we both wrote on typewriters, you younger folks can look that word up -- might be of some use to a Gibson biographer, because somebody will probably want to write that sooner or later. Still have those letters out in boxes in the storeroom somewhere ...

Les Paul

The man who invented the solid-body electric guitar passed away, at 94. Pretty good run, and he was still playing in public once a week or so until recently, with big-name rock stars dropping by to watch or sit in.

I'm a nylon-string acoustic guy, but blues and rock wouldn't be here without electric guitars. Paul's eventually were produced under the Gibson brand, and a lot of folks like Fenders better, but he's the guy who wired up a board with strings and plugged it in.

Adios, Les.

Writer's Responsibility

Over on Steve Barnes's blog, the question of an artist's responsibilities came up. I posted a note, and decided that it was worth repeating here.

One I've wrestled with:

Broadcast Standards and Practices -- BS&P -- at the TV networks, keeps an eye on what you can or cannot say in a script. Goes back to the old Hayes Code days, and mostly comes down to sexual references, for live action.

Clever writers get around this -- Barnes has a funny story about Baywatch when he was writing for them ...

BS&P keeps a closer watch on kidvid, on the notion that what is called imitable behavior needs to be monitored. If you have a character wrapping a rope around his neck and jumping off the couch in your Saturday morning toon, it will be cut from your script. Nobody wants to see children trying that at home. Guns, knives, broken glass, mixing household chemicals, swiping Dad's scotch, babies in peril, stuff like this tends to be a big no-no. (The cartoon embedded in the movie Who Killed Roger Rabbit? was done to break all those taboos, a kind of in-joke by the writers. I recall seeing a drawing posted on the wall at the animation studio that did Batman of The Joker falling through a shattered window with a naked Harley Quinn, holding a knife and a bottle of booze, and I think there was a gun in there, too. By Bruce Timm, I think, though I might be wrong.)

Cartoon Conan can have a sword and he can smack people with the flat of it on the arse, but he isn't going to cut anybody. Most of the martial arts look like aikido, and involve throwing people, who almost always land on a mattress, pile of cardboard boxes, or a haystack without needles, so nobody gets hurt.

Blowing up robots is okay, because most kids don't have sentient bots, nor rayguns with which to shoot them.

In one episode of Batman: The Animated Show, I had Bats go up against a ninja, who used a shuriken (that little star-shaped throwing knife, if you don't know the term). They wouldn't run the episode in the U.K. because of that.

You have to take note of such things when you write for some media.

If you know how to smuggle a gun onto a plane through the metal detectors, you can write that into your novel. If you know how to easily defeat most police body armor, you can do that, too, but you have to consider how you'll feel if somebody uses your method because they read it in your book, and hijacks the jets, or mows down half the Mayberry Sheriff's Department .

I recall a sniper incident some years ago. Guy shot and killed several people from an office building rooftop. Cops rushed him, he offed himself, and in his backpack, along with a lot of ammo, they found a book about a guy who had been a sniper some years before in New Orleans, with the how-to passages underlined.

How would you like to have written that one?

I once read a pretty good book that offered, in some detail, how to shut down the L.A. freeway system. Same writer did another one showing how you could make an atomic bomb. I wouldn't have done either of those. People sometimes think I did -- the writer has a similar name.

This gets tricky, where you draw that line.

It's not your responsibility if you sell somebody a bread knife and they use it to murder half a daycare -- unless you had some idea they were planning on using the knife for something other than bread.

But as a writer, you don't know your audience, and there are a lot of loons out there ...

Food for thought.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Your Papers, Please ...

My sometime-collaborator Reaves has, as I believe I have mentioned, Parkinson's Disease. He's had it for more than a decade, and after a couple of brain surgeries, is still around. It has slowed him down, and one of the more unfortunate side-effects is that it has mostly robbed him of his voice. He can form the words. He has a roof-of-the-mouth appliance that looks kind of like an orthodontic retainer that helps, but he doesn't have the air for volume. Much of the time, his voice is less than a whisper.

So he's looking around for things that will help, and found that the devices cancer patients who have had vocal cords removed, or laryngotomies might work. These voice prosthetics create vibrations that allow a kind of robotic voice. Not something you'd choose if you had a better option, but certainly preferable to not being able to speak at all.

One company he found, Louder, the ElectroLarynx Company, has a slogan that both he and I found passing hilarious -- and they even trademarked it:

"We have ways of making you talk™ ..."

You have to love guys with a sense of humor like that.

Not Pretty, But

Twelve or thirteen years ago, my silat teacher Guru Stevan Plinck, did a video for Paladin Press: Pukulan Pentjak Silat: The Devastating Fighting Art of Bukti Negara-Serak.

The shoot would have been about the time I started training with Guru Plinck, and I heard about it, but had no part in it.

Paladin eventually put it out. It sold moderately well, and was an introduction to Silat Sera's daughter art, Bukti Negara. This was an abbreviated system developed and used as a way to offer entry-level material to Americans, since the senior teacher in the U.S. had a closed-door system for Sera(k). Bukti was designed for old people, cripples, and Americans, so the saying went ...

You can still get the vid on, here.

In those days, if you weren't Indonesian or Dutch-Indo and male, you couldn't study Sera(k) under my teacher's teacher, Pendekar Paul de Thouars. Still can't, if you are a woman.

Bukti was a stripped-down, stand-up, fairly-stiff version of the more complex mother art, had fewer parts, didn't get into weapons, and was, when I began studying it, considered a screening system. This is to say that, if you completed the curriculum, and demonstrated proper respect and attitude along the way, you might be allowed to get past the American handicap and allowed to study the parent art of Sera(k).

That "k," at the end is pretty much silent, and the source of all manner of debate. I don't use it any more when I talk about what we do in our branch.

Um. Anyway, the video was a basic primer, pretty cut-and-dried and by-the-numbers stuff. Bukti teachers eventually added more material, the style evolved, and moved on, and while not yet Sera(k), doesn't seem to be what it once was.

My teacher, who was instrumental in developing this stuff, also moved on, and no longer teaches Bukti, only Sera.

The attached video is the opening few seconds of the Bukti vid, which, as you can see, isn't something that would translate very well to the silver screen for an action movie fight scene. Not pretty, doesn't look like he's really doing very much. It looks fake.

Guru said, I'll walk down the alley, you four come at me as you will, let's see what happens, okay?

Nobody was moving at full speed and power and he knew they were there and going to jump him. It was but a demo; however, it was unrehearsed, it was the first take, and what you see is what happened, save for the kick at the end, which was cut in because Paladin wanted a kick in it.

I have talked to a couple of the guys who were in the demo, and they allowed as how the floor of that alley was not at all soft, and the little namby-pamby throws Guru Plinck was doing felt a lot more effective than they looked ...

Check it out:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cell Phone Karma

And if you haven't see this one yet ...

Kitty Update - Cat Ballou

Dogs have mostly stopped barking at the kitty -- Layla wants to bathe Ballou, and licks furiously when she gets the chance. Cat just purrs unless it gets too much, then runs away.
Then everybody chases everybody ...

Got a scratching post, better grade of kitty-litter, and off to the vet later this week to see what's what -- and maybe we can find out which pronoun to start using for kitty ...

While we were gone this weekend doing the silat seminar, our alarm system apparently went haywire. Apparently things weren't quite back to normal after the electrician's visit. Neighbors heard the horn blaring, cops came out, we had a raft of calls from the alarm monitoring service on our landline message machine and cell phone message center. None of which we knew about, because where we were, there was no cell phone reception, nor wi fi, so we only found out when we got home and the neighbors came over to report. Nice to know it works, and that the neighbors are watching out for us.

Gonna cost us, though. The first false-alarm is free; after that, you pay a fine ...

Must have been traumatic for the kitty, all those goings-on.

We will be having this addressed today by our electrician.

Never, I say, a dull moment. Never.

Silat Sera in the Sun and Sand

At the campground

Break for a breather

Early and not tired yet

Stretching in the sand

Water break in the shade

The view from the flat

Got home last evening from a silat seminar up near Mount St. Helens. For those of you who vaguely recognize the name, St. Helens is an active volcano up here that, after steaming and spitting up ice chunks, let go with a blast in 1980 that pulverized the top of the mountain and spewed it into the atmosphere, sent a pyroclastic flow down the valley, killed fifty-seven people with that and the stone wind, and turned hundreds of square miles of beautiful timberland into a desolate wasteland. Trees, houses, rivers, lakes, blasted, flattened, and buried in minutes.

We watched the first eruption -- there were others -- from the parking lot at Trojan, a thing that has amused me to tell of it since. There we were, my family and I, parked in the lot of an operating nuclear power plant, watching a volcano erupt across the river ...

Nearly thirty years later, much of the area has come back, but the ash is still very deep in spots, and when we say "ash" here, we aren't taking about the stuff in your barbeque pit after you grill, but something that is much more like fine sand.

A small group of us, fifteen or so -- and five dogs -- met at a campground near a park on the Toutle River. Most of us got there Friday evening, set up tents or parked our campers. Drank some beer, visited. Big Jason brought some twenty-year-old bourbon you wouldn't believe how good it was. Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve. Smooth as silk. I just tasted it, didn't really drink any ...)

A few other students showed up Saturday early, whereupon we drank coffee, then headed for the workout area.

It was a bit of a hike to get to the site, slogging through sand the whole way, and I was warmed up nicely by the time we made it.

Saturday was cloudy and cool, perfect for working out, and the flats above the bank of the river, a lovely spot. The sand pretty much covered everything from the water to the trees, and made moving around hard. This stuff is almost like aquarium sand -- it doesn't pack at all when dry, you just keep sinking, and there are rocks and sticks buried under it.

The bees, mostly hornets, actually, were bad, but only one guy got stung, on the leg. He dabbed the wound with some cortisone cream and went on, no trouble.

Even with the cloud cover, most of us got too much sun. You tend to forget that you can cook on an overcast day. Sunday, old sol decided to peek out mid-morning, and it is amazing how fast the sand can heat up to foot-burning temperature. Six inches down, it is cool, so you walk and burrow your feet as you move ...

Sunday, we sprayed ourselves with Coppertone Sport, donned hats. Some of us were clever enough to leave our shirts on, and we trained until mid-afternoon, with breaks for lunch. Did legwork, groundwork, djurus, played with empty-hand combinations, and danced with knives. If lurching around in the calf-deep sand can be called dancing ...

At the end of the first session, somebody asked Big Jason how he felt. Like I've been beaten with meat hammers, he said. It was not a session aimed at the couch-potato crowd.

Saturday night, most of the crew went to Rodney's dad's place, not far away, and barbecued a big salmon, drank beer, and watched a MMA championship fight on the big-screen pay-per-view. (This was apparently so exciting that Irene fell asleep watching it.) Since I had Dianne and the dogs with me, I passed on that, had a quiet evening in the camper, and only once had to jump out of my chair with a leg cramp.

I slept like I'd been hit in the head with a big rock.

The Sunday session was cut a couple hours short -- the sun hammered us pretty good as it burned off the cloud cover, and a couple of people had to be made to go sit in the shade because they were swaying dangerously.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine."

"How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Um ... ? Twelve ... ?"

"You aren't fine, you are on the edge of heat-stroke and graying out. Go sit, drink water, pour some over your head."

"Oh. Okay, then."

But nobody passed out, broke anything, tossed their cookies, nor fell and couldn't get up. It wasn't Las Vegas, but a great time was had by all.