Thursday, July 22, 2021

Also Sprach Zarathustra

 



If Samuel L. Jackson had played the character Dave in the movie 2001, can you imagine how that conversation would have gone with Hal? 


I can hear that dialog, truly I can:


“I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t do — ”


“Don’t tell me what you can’t fuckin’ do, mothefucker, I said, Open the goddamned motherfuckin’ door right fuckinnow or I will kick your motherfuckin’ ass to kingdom come! You hear me, you motherfuckin’ Play Station?!”


“Uh … opening the door now, Dave.”


‘You goddamned right about that!”






Monday, July 19, 2021

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting


A comment on a FB thread about cherry-picking martial arts techniques brought this up.


People want to get a neato move they can plug into what they know, and while that is possible, it usually doesn’t work that way.


Handing you the steering wheel without the car isn’t useful if you need to drive somewhere.


Went to a seminar once that featured some world-class teachers offering SE Asian arts — mostly silat, some kali and escrima. Easy to see how similar these are when compared to, say, Japanese or African styles. 


Similar SE Asian roots, but not the same.


You have to go with an open mind, but the more training you have in a system, the harder it is to accept something that goes against your training.


Not that it is necessarily bad, but that it doesn’t mesh with what you know, you won’t be able to integrate it into what you have, even if you agree with its efficacy.


Teacher shows you a thing, It runs contrary to what you have, You won’t voice it, to be polite, but you will think it: Dude, if I try that against my guys, it will get me killed.


Maestro from this kali style shows you some stick stuff. Hold it like this, and swing it thus.


Cool.


Done, moving on.


Next guy, from a different kali style arrives, and you step up with your stick. He looks at you as though you have turned into an upright pig. No, no, no! you don’t hold the stick *there!* Hold it this way!


Yes, Guro.


Third guy starts his session. And you know where this is going, right?


This is one reason why cherry-picking similar styles is a problem. The Maestro’s grip works because of the rest of what that style does; the Guro is doing something different, for which his grip is more appropriate. Third guy, same-same.


None of them is how your teacher offers it.


A style will have underlying laws, principles, and what you do adheres to these, else there is no consistent system. Not a question as to whether it is good or bad, but that there will be a more-efficient or less-efficient way to move, and the goal is more.









Thursday, July 15, 2021

Good Company

These days, I frequently order things online, and recently I had such a pleasant experience I want to mention it.

I found some funky vitamins I wanted to try, sold by a company in Vancouver, B.C., Vivid Wellness. 


https://vividwellness.ca


They specialize in health and beauty products, alternative medicines, CBD, cannabis, tinctures, teas, extracts, that kinda stuff.


(Legal here; in some places, maybe not, I am not encouraging you to break local laws.)


So I ordered the capsules. Time passed, they didn’t show up when they were supposed to. Make a long story short, the post office got lost on the way to my house.


Sent an email to the company, and they were on it. Tracked the package, offered to refund my money, ship a replacement, and if somehow both packages showed up? I could keep them both.


Pleasant people, and they stayed on it, reshipped the stuff, and added in a little freebie and an apologetic note, which arrived shortly thereafter.


I ordered some other things, and they remembered who I was, and thanked me for giving them another chance, even though the problem had not been their fault.


I was delighted with their actions and attitude.  Not trying to sell you any particular thing here, just pointing out that my experience with these folks was as good as it gets. 


I hope they prosper, and in this day and age, such service and attention to detail is outright refreshing, so I expect they will do well based on that alone.




Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Jockery


My most serious gym-rat days were the year I turned forty. Had a decent home gym, free weights, multi-station machine, rower, stair-stepper, mini-trampoline. 


Logged in every set and rep.


Came to realize that a full-body workout every other day was over-training. Twice a week was the new reality.


I had an exercise I did on the chin/pull-up bar that worked my arms and lats pretty good — drop-rep sets.


Started with ten reps, palms facing away. Dismounted, went and did some leg stuff, returned to the bar, did nine reps. Went to do some upper body push-stuff, bench presses, back, eight reps.


And so on, until the last set, one rep. Over the course of thirty minutes or so, fifty-five total.


Haven’t done that in a while.


Lot of records in the pull-up, chin-up world. For instance, over a twenty-four-hour period, we are talking about 7600 reps. 


The record for the most pull-ups without dismounting from the bar is held by Jan KareŇ° (Czech Republic) who did 238 pull-ups in 34 minutes on 18 November 2017 in  Hergetova Cihelna, Czech Republic. Wide grip, bouncy, but still.


He was allowed to “rest” by hanging by one arm from time to time …


Female record for pull-ups in one minute? 


Thirty-four, held by a fitness model/trainer Rupa Kshatriya Hulet. Yeah, her form is maybe not the best, a wide-grip and bouncy, but thirty-four in a minute? 


On a good day, I might gut out a set of fourteen reps total, and the last couple would be a real strain and real slow …







Tuesday, July 13, 2021

La Musica, La Musica!

 WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2008


Heavy Movie Music


In discussing The Day the Earth Stood Still and Bernard Herrmann's wonderful orchestral theme, I was reminded of two other musical pieces that create vivid images for me.


The first is The Emperor's Ming's Theme, from the old Flash Gordon movie serial. It was from Franz Liszt's Les Preludes, and whenever Ming the Merciless showed up, the band cranked, particularly the last section.


I can hear it now.


And the other is, of course, Vader's Theme, sometimes called The Imperial March, by John Williams. I can't help but think he was trying to evoke the same sense of dark majesty.


Then, just to screw with your head, there are these:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%2750s_progression


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I–V–vi–IV_progression


And the mash-up:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFpryVMgni0


Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Not So Right Stuff

 



Slept late, because the dream was so interesting I wanted to see where it was going.


Scientists somehow came up with what was essentially a magic number. If you used this number when you called somebody, the ensuing conversation would be perfectly clear, not just soundwise, but contentwise — there would be no misunderstanding. Both parties would get it, completely, total, perfect clarity. 


There was some worry that this might not be a good idea, because maybe you didn’t want that level of truth, but they did it anyhow.


Amazing enough in the context, but wait! there is more!


I was allowed to test it, and the scientists arranged a call for me — to George Harrison. Didn’t even have to use a device, merely thinking of the person you wanted to call did the trick.


Hey, George. How’s it going?


We had a fascinating conversation, George and I, despite the fact he has been dead for almost twenty years. None of which conversation I can recall in detail, but the connection was the incredible thing.


Then, I went and got a Cherry Slurpee, and was irritated that, because it was too liquid-y, I had to wait for it to freeze properly. I mean, I could talk to George Harrison, but the 7-Eleven couldn’t get the slurpee right?


Woke up from that to watch a billionaire play with his new toy, based on tried-and-true technology older than I am. Listened to CNN and CNBC’s announcers gush and bubble as if this was the most exciting new thing since the wheel.


Gosh, wow, gee! Holy science fiction, Batman!


I am a space wonk. I got up as a kid to watch the first NASA launches, Shepard, Glenn, the moon missions, and I was impressed then.


Dueling billionaires? A rocket glider?


Chuck Yeager broke the level-flight sound barrier in the Bell X-1, launched from a B-29, in 1947. That was, according to the wiki, the 50th flight of the little rocket plane.


1947. 


50th flight.


New right stuff, Sir Billionaire Ricky? With the shameless self-promotion and commercial in your victory speech? Spaceport in the New Mexico desert. Without enough water to flush the toilets? Tarantulas ambling across the tarmac? Quarter million bucks for a ride, up and down, home for dinner and bragging rights?


What you do today, Rodney?


Oh, well, I flew into space, got my astronaut wings, then zipped home in the new Gulfstream. How’s the veal? Cook wanted to try a new recipe …


Not as impressed as I was watching Alan Shepard in 1961 as the first American in space, and him walking in the moon in 1971.


Oh, the magic number?


6805. 


Your mileage may vary …

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Chop Socky


So, the martial art that I practice is usually referred to simply as “silat,” but it has a longer and more specific name:


Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera Plinck.


While you might at first glance think this is something served with peanut sauce, each word has a different connection to what it is we mean when we point at it.


Let me break it down for you:


“Pukulan,” whose Malay/Indonesian root is almost certainly “pukul,” means “hit.” Word also can mean to “beat,” or  “beating.”


So for our purposes, Pukulan generally means striking, and more with a fist or something held in the hand.


In our system, the striking is connected to distance and footwork that will allow the blow to land. 


“Pentjak Silat” -- also spelled "pencak," with the "c" now taking the "tj" sound, for reasons having to do with Dutch colonialism and Indonesian nationalism -- is a fighting art from Southeast Asia, mostly Malaysia and Indonesia.


“Pentjak silat” means "the motions of fighting." And generally, are blade- and weapons-based.


“Pentjak” refers more to the form it takes, “silat,” to fighting per se. And it's a fairly new term. A hundred years ago, that wasn't what it was called. Just as Native Americans called themselves by their tribes -- Sioux, or Apache, for instance, and then subdivided those names into others -- Lakota or Chiricahua or Mescalero -- and there were no "Indians," thus did the Malaysians and Indonesians name their local arts.


Lot of them, too, every village had its own styles and teachers.


“Sera” (and in some branches, a “K” has been added to the end, “Serak,” but which ‘k’ is silent) refers to the creator of the art, reputedly one Bapak (an honorific) Sera, a word that has several meanings, depending on spelling and accent. It can mean "hoarse." It also means "owl," and thus "wise," and with the accent on the first syllable, it means to "confuse," or to "scatter confusion," and thus "to decoy" or "deceive." It is also a shade of red.


Pick one, nobody knows for sure. Or maybe they all apply: The creator was a wily, sneaky, tricky, hoarse, red-haired guy.


Sera came from West Java, and there are a lot of antecedent arts and incredible origin stories we’ll skip over for now.


There is much contention about the founder, his senior students, where the lineage went, and who learned what from whom, when, and where. That’s a long and unresolvable fight for another day.


Oral history is sometimes not worth the paper upon which it wasn’t written.


The final word in the title is “Plinck,” the family name of the Dutch-Indonesian-American senior teacher from whom I have learned what little I know of the system.


He didn’t ask for that inclusion; I took it upon myself to add it about a decade ago, to differentiate from branches of our art taught by other teachers.


There are similarities, but what we do isn’t what they do, and I didn’t want people looking at those teachers and thinking we are the same.


I also took it upon myself at the same time to add an honorific to the designation “Guru,” (which means “teacher,”) that being “Maha,” or “great.”


So, the name means, loosely interpreted: 


“The hitting, fighting, martial art from Indonesia created by Bapak Sera, as taught by (Maha Guru Stevan) Plinck.”


Just so you know.







Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men …?

 


A thread about this on a friend’s page. Rather than inflict it on his feed, I will offer a link here.


I can remember hearing The Shadow on the radio as a child, before we got a TV in the early 1950s, and I have fuzzy, but fond, memories of that.


Didn’t discover the books until twenty-years later, liked those, too.


My problems with the 1994 Baldwin Shadow movie were chiefly two: Looked good, but they didn’t play it straight, instead went for camp — all those winks at the audience killed it for me.


The second is personal, having to do with a time when I was collaborating on a comic book movie script that went into turnaround. The would-be director of that script had done a movie I loved, Highlander, but also did The Shadow. In a studio meeting, said director said something my collaborator and I thought so inane it lowered my opinion of him somewhat.


Collaborator and I looked at each other.


He didn‘t just say that, did he? Really?


Had the movie gone forward, I could foresee problems …

 

If ever I write my autobiography, what the director said will be the subtitle of the section on my adventures in LaLaLand.

 

Welcome to Hollywood, dudes …

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Hurray for Hollywood! Sorta …


From time to time, I get some interest in the rights to do other media based on my novels. Generally, this goes to TV or screen rights, sometimes a game or graphic novel, like that.

How it works is, a producer (or, more often, a would-be producer, more on that in a bit) approaches with an offer for an option on a work.


An option here, meaning the rights to do, say, a movie, are rented for a specific period, usually six months or a year. During this time, the producer tries to raise money for the project. If that happens, the option turns into a sale, with more money for the work, usually tied to a percentage of the production costs going to the writer. 


On a big-budget movie, this is winning the lottery. Say, for instance, somebody has a hundred million to spend on a moving picture, and your agent gets you three percent, you can see how that would make your day better.


This is not, alas, how it usually goes. Usually, the option runs its course, the producer couldn’t interest the money-folk in ponying up, the rights revert, and Bob’s your uncle.


In my case, I have had some of my stuff optioned a dozen times, gotten the small money, without getting the green light.


Some of the would-be producers worked hard at it; some not so much.


Hollywood is the land of sunshine up your sarong and blue, blue, bootstrap skies. The Biz runs on hustle, and you need that to get to the intersection, much less the green light.


However …


The dividing line between the serious hustler and the Tijuana haggler is simple: If you are willing to pay for an option, presumably with your own money? I will listen to your pitch.


If you are seeking a free option for a year, in the hope you can wheel and deal and make something happen and we all get rich?


No. You haven’t put anything at risk, and if you can’t get something going, all it costs you is your time. And ties up the work for however long.


I confess that earlier in my career, I allowed myself to get hustled thus. Guys who could talk the talk, promise the moon, drop names hither and yon? I let myself be convinced. Visions of sugar plums danced in my head, and that’s what they use: 


Oh, yeah, Brad and Leo and Scarlett would loove to do this! Spielberg!  Scorsese! Let’s make it happen!


Not any more. Whatever value my stuff might have, the only way you get to play with it is to cross my palm with silver, I will send your note to my agent, and we’ll see, but if Brad and Leo and Scarlett are hot for it? If Steve or Marty are ready to sign on?


Tell ‘em to gimme a call, hey?


Manage that. you are a player.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Not Funny, Dude

Humor is one of the most subjective of concepts. That which will make one man laugh hysterically can make another cry; a knee-slapper can be a heart-breaker. 

I won’t bore you with the classic Mel Brooks definition of what is tragic and what is comedic — nor should there be a race to see who can post it first, thank you — but ceilings being floors, oxen being gored, yadda, yadda, yadda.


What I find more fascinating is how many people seem to think that they are funny, hilariously so, when there is absolutely no evidence for that belief.


Early in his career, so the story he tells goes, Eddie Murphy was taken to task by Bill Cosby for his blue humor. 


Murphy called up Richard Pryor to complain.


Pryor said, Was it funny? Did they laugh?


Well, yes,


Then tell Bill I said to to have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up …


(Nor is lost on Murphy where he is and where Cosby is these days — Eddie stayed home to raise his kids, and “America’s Dad”is in the Big House …)


How do you know the most boring professor you ever had has just told a joke? He stops talking, looks up from his lecture notes, blinks, and waits. You can’t remember what he said, but you know you are supposed to laugh …


All to often, I will be perusing a thread online, and poster after poster, who thought the comments were too long, so they didn’t bother to read ‘em, will repeat the same-lame-not-at-all-funny comment as though it is the best of Dorothy Parker.


Some people just need to be kept away from the microphone.


Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Iron




Went to the weight room today, first time in fifteen months.


Not as if I have been a complete slug the whole pandemic, but I know I have lost some strength.


Dunno how much, that’s because I didn’t let my ego overrule my brain — a hard-learned took-a-long-damn-time lesson — so I didn’t go near my previous poundages. 40-50% max on most exercises, save for lat pull-downs, and that’s because chin-ups were things I did frequently while homebound. Even there, I stayed under bodyweight.


I mentioned the protocols — appointment-only, maximum of eight  people in the weight room, windows and doors open, social distance, antiseptic wipes to the machines before and after each station. Could go maskless if you had proof of Covid vaccination, we put our cards on file, though my wife and I wore our N95s anyhow.


Two older guys working out when we got there, two women arrived about the time we were about to leave.


It wasn’t that hard, so I suspect I might not have become quite as decrepit as I feared, but it will take a few months to get back to where I was, if I can.

Older you get, the slower that happens.


I was never the strongest guy in the gym, and that by design; the iron is not forgiving; push it too heavy or fast, you will pay for it. Bench-pressing a Volvo is not worth the risk.


Careful as I have tried to be, I have tweaked or pulled this and that over the decades, and had to work around it. I wanted to be in for the long haul — staying fit and strong is the goal, being able to do what I need to do, picking up the dogs, taking the trash out, opening jars. Need does not equal want.


The journey of a thousand miles restart …





 

Friday, June 11, 2021

Jam

 


So, we had a couple of buddies over to lunch, and after some boiled shrimp and beer and hummus, we sat down to play music together.


Just a few songs, and I was a bit rusty — first time playing live with these guys for fourteen months. 


We tried doing it online, but it wasn’t the same. That face-to-face energy matters.


I was always impressed that groups who had grown to hate each other — Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Eagles — managed to lay down separate tracks at different times to produce some terrific albums. I wondered if they had been together in a studio and enjoying it, how that would have affected the result?


Back in the early recording days, a group would often stand or sit in front of a mike, do one take that went straight onto a cylinder, and that was it.


Magic synergy, when it worked.


I have missed it. 


It was a joy, the jam.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

You’re My Favorite

 



Writers sometimes get asked the question: Which of your books is your favorite?


Some writers offer one up; some — include me mostly  here — will be less forthcoming and default to the books-are-like-children response: Hey, that is like asking which kid is my favorite child.


There are people who have favorite children, but don’t include me in that one, thank you.


Still, truth be told, there are books you like more than others after you have written fifty or sixty of them. Sometimes, in tie-ins, you have less to work with than others; now and again, a protagonist will tickle your fancy and be more fun to put through their paces.


You try to never phone it in, you give each tale as much as you can, but it’s the nature of the endeavor. If you are having fun, it shows.


Writers aren’t always the best judges of their own work. Books I thought were just okay sometimes sold like ice water in Hell; some I loved drew naught but shrugs.


Go figure. 


If you ask me which anthology of short stories I have written is my favorite? That I can say — Gatekeeper in Hell: The Collected Roy the Demon Stories.


Since it is the only such collection I have done, that’s easy …


These tales about Roy are as wild hairs as they get for me, and that is saying something. They are xxx-rated for sex, violence, and language; they are profane; they are, to my warped mind, hilarious. 


Not to everyone’s taste, Roy and the demons and angels who populate Heaven and Hell, and, in fact, not to most readers’ taste. (I read one aloud at a convention once, and when I was done, the silence was deafening. Few things more subjective than humor.)


But nearly all of the stories were written in a state of Flow, unfettered, raucous, just plain fun to do. I just stepped onto the roller coaster and went along for the ride, it was as if someone else had written them.


Would that everything I create came this easy.


Now, this is the place where I should tell you to buy the ebook, but truth is, most of my readers aren’t apt to like this one. So probably better you should save your money.


(If you want to check the short collection out, only nine stories, don’t say I didn’t warn you …)


Friday, June 04, 2021

Way Too Much Pad Thai















 

iOS Blues

 


Speak ill if you will of Apple’s iOS system, iPhone and iPad and all, but when it comes to using a song for a ringtone?


They would really have to go some to make it any harder to do. 


The choices are 1) bad, 2) worse, and 3) awful. 


You can try what used to be iTunes but isn’t that now; you can screw around with Garageband; you can download one of ninety-seven-thousand apps that are supposed to make it easy as peasy, but instead send you into swirling Langmuir eddies where you will drown trying to escape.


After two hours of following dead-ends, helpful advice from the web, installing, and then trashing, four apps, updating my iOS, and more fruitless snipe hunting, I managed to somehow get a new ringtone installed on my iPhone. 


Not sure I could do it again. Nor am I inclined to try.


All just so that when my phone rings, it will be Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Weights Awaiting


So, the pandemic storm isn’t over. 


However, the weather is, at least in some areas, improving.


My wife and I, most of our family and friends, have taken the vaccines. No absolute guarantees, we will still be masked in places, but the winds have diminished, the seas are less choppy.


We were, when the plague blew in, already battened down, recovering from a serious medical malady that unexpectedly swamped us, and the pandemic just added to that.


My excuse to eat and drink too much, to exercise too little, and to keep my head down and stay home all the time, needs to change. 


Health is not just about avoiding  one disease.


Back to life: Diet and exercise. Going for more frequent walks, eating fewer cookies, ease off on the beer. Lift this. tote that, play music, re-engage. In the long run, all flesh is grass, but a healthy and fit life is better no matter how long you get to ride the ride.


The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, it starts where you are, not where you wish you were.


We need it, the dogs need it, it is time.


Your mileage may vary, of course, but while it might not be a complete Johnny Nash lyric, it is close enough for me: “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone …”


Of course, seeing it, and doing it aren’t the same, but I gotta start somewhere.