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12/11/2016 - Pitching in Elevators is Hard
For those that aren't in the know, I've written a screenplay. There you have it, so no more complaints about not knowing.
To be honest I've written several, but I am only pitching one at the moment. Why not the others? Well, for one, this one is a romantic comedy, so I think it stands a better chance then my sci-fi ones, and two, I think it's really funny and we all need funny in today's climate, yes?
But pitching it is hard! I'm no salesman. I'm the typical writer who likes to remain behind the curtains and not be exposed to the sunlight, so to try and sell someone besides my wife in the virtues of my work (especially in person) is really difficult for me, and having to do so within a 10 minute time slot really puts the pressure on. Not only do you have to have a good idea, but you must express it succinctly down to the last sentence in order to keep the execs' attention. AND...I've learned that since this is a comedy, I am supposed to throw comedic elements into the pitch as well. Ugh!
Anyway, yesterday I had the chance to pitch my rom-com to industry execs in two separate pitch sessions for two different companies via Skype. The first one went really well. He said it sounded like a "strong concept" and he wants to read the full script (sometimes they only ask for the first 10 pages), so I'm excited about that. *Fingers Crossed* The second session was not as forthcoming in her response. I didn't receive any request for more, nor did I get a "pass." I get that not everyone will like it, so we'll wait and see about that one. Hopefully I'll hear back one way or the other.
It's very exciting either way. These elevator pitches have taken me out of my comfort zone if nothing else. Practice makes perfect as they say, as I get to pitch again to another exec this week.
Updates to follow, I'm sure.
Update 12/13 - I just rec'd an email confirmation from the first pitch and I wanted to share it with you. "Here is your report from [redacted]. Please see attached document for how to proceed. Requested: FULL SCRIPT Comments: Seems like a high concept idea, excited to check it out."
Update 12/16 - I rec'd another email regarding my second pitch. It was a PASS. But hey, I'm batting fifty-percent, and that isn't too bad. Third pitch is this Sunday.
Update 12/21 - I rec'd responses back from my two pitches this past Sunday. Yes, I ended up ;with two more and not just the one, for a total of four so far. Anyway, one was a PASS, saying how my pitch was intelligent and my comps were good, but comedies are tough for them. Hmmm? Then why did you ask to hear some comedy pitches? The fourth response came in as a request for a REVISED PITCH. They were hooked instantly with my logline but needed clarity in the development of the relationship between my two characters in a written pitch. I just sent it off tonight, explaining that she was correct; that I had left that aspect out of my pitch due to time constraints, so I explained it the best I could, and I made sure to thank her for the second chance.
I have to remind myself that I have zero experience in this sort of thing, so I'm taking it all in stride no matter what happens.
12/4/2016 - A New Tattoo
I got a new tattoo today. As you can see, it's of my daughter's birth footprint. She's almost 8 now, and you may ask what took me so long? My response is, "I don't know." I really don't have an excuse other than I didn't have a respectable place to go to. And then my wife got a tattoo; a rainbow heart on her left shoulder, and she went to a place where she knows the owner because his daughter is friends with ours. I didn't get the connection before I made my appointment, but I'm glad to finally have it done. It's my third.
11/28/2016 - Thanksgiving, a Happy Birthday, and My Alien CPAP Machine
I’ve been wearing my CPAP machine for nine months now and I hate it. I hate struggling with it every night; the leaks, the straps, the tether of the hose, the squishing of my face. It feels like the facehugger from the movie Alien. It’s like I’m the host, you know? It’s keeping me alive just so it can feed off me.
Anyway, I am thankful for the technology if it truly is saving my life.
To give thanks. Giving thanks. Thanksgiving. How was that for a segue?
This weekend was Thanksgiving and I am very thankful for my wife, my kids, my family, my extended family, my friends, my relative good health (minus the facehugger), and my furry family. I’m lucky to have lived my life thus far and am grateful for it.
Today is my mother’s 90th birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom. Yesterday we celebrated at the Old Saybrook Point Inn along the shoreline in Connecticut. My brother and his wife had reserved the wine room there, where we had the gourmet brunch and desserts, followed by birthday cake. There were 11 of us, including my mom’s childhood friend. My eldest brother and his wife weren’t there as he has retired to the UK. My brother, the Expat. Missed you, bro. I made my mom cry by giving her a copy of Future Dark before its release, due out Dec 13, because it’s dedicated to her. Hopefully, they were tears of joy. I think they were.
A rather hodgepodge blog this week, but that’s what happens sometimes.
11/20/2016 - 3 Dog Night and a Skunk
Meet Bernie, the latest edition to our family.
He is 6 months old and supposedly a Dachshund Chihuahua mix. He is a rescue, weighs 10 lbs, and we are told he could gain another 10 lbs. That’s a BIG Chihuahua!
So, we’re now up to 3 dogs; big, medium, and small, all rescues, and 1 cat. Bernie fits right in with a great personality.
My wife named him Bernie after Bernie Sanders, but I like to call him Bernie Chesterfield, because he looks like a Chester. Of course, all the girls have begun calling him Bernie B, Bernie Baby, Little B, and the like. So far only the girls have heard him bark. I’ve heard him whine a little, but no barks. He’s very quiet, which hopefully will last into his adult years. Our other dogs are quiet (for the most part), so perhaps he’ll learn from them.
Although I was skeptical about having a third dog, let alone a puppy, I am very happy he is living with us. He’s so cute and playful! And he appears to be very smart—I’ll let you know how the training goes—and he loves to snuggle.
Now for the skunk portion. This happened this Tuesday night and may be a repeat for those on the facebook, but let me tell you about it...
I went to let the dogs out for their last pee before bedtime. I let Hiro out first, then turned around to grab the leash for our new little guy only to see him peeing on the runner not three feet from the back door. I scold him, the new little guy, and our third nervous nelly ran upstairs to avoid the yelling. So I put the leash on Bernie, put him outside with the handle left inside the door so he can't wander off, and go back upstairs for Dolce. When I finally get her out of doors it smells to God's heaven of skunk. Oh crap. I pull Bernie and Dolce back in doors, grab a flashlight, and go looking for Hiro because he's not coming to my calls. The yard is fenced in but we do have a strip of trees/bushes along the back. And there's the dog, rubbing his face in the wet grass, and when we make it to the back door I realize I don't want to let him in because he stinks bad. I quickly dart inside and grab his leash but he's gone within that one second window, only this time I can hear him yelping. I run to the back "woods" to find him attacking the skunk. He won't let go, but he's still yelping. I can see the skunk has got a hold of him by the lip. So I pick up a stick, and Hiro runs off toward the house with the skunk in tow. By the time he reaches the back of the house, Jeannine came to the back door and quickly closed it. I whacked the skunk with the stick. Hiro let go. The skunk let go, but he's in a bad way that he's not moving, so I pulled Hiro away from it. Jeannine comes out and holds him while I dispose of our menace; first by shooting it in the head, then putting it in a garbage bag. Trash day is in the morning. We washed Hiro outside; hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, Dawn dishwashing liquid, water, baby powder. He doesn't seem worse for wear, meaning the skunk didn't cut him. I'll have a better look tomorrow in the daylight, but I think the skunk only clamped on without any piercing. Good thing Hiro's rabies shots are up to date. The house doesn't smell too bad, but that may only be because our noses have acclimated. Phew! And P U! What a night.
11/13/2016 - The Office of the President
I don’t have to like the President of the United States as a person or any of their political agendas if they happen to differ from my own, but I will still respect the position regardless of who sits in the White House.
I didn’t vote for the current President-Elect, but I will not be among those who are violently protesting his win. #NotMyPresident is a ridiculous notion and burning the flag should be met with felonious charges. He has won and now we must deal with it come January 20, moving forward with grace and dignity until his term ends or until the possibility of impeachment.
I don’t believe in his values or the way he conducts himself, but the Electoral College* has voted him into office and I need to abide by our political means.
I realize both sides are upset. Families are divided. Minorities are being wrongfully persecuted. Lifelong friendships are in turmoil. I live in a country divided.
This must be how it felt for those who remember JFK’s and Johnson’s 1960s era, with the Civil Rights movement trying to take hold across our country.
There has to be a better way to get through this though I haven’t an answer. Even as I write this I am conflicted within, but I will not resort to name calling or worse. Violence begets violence, hatred begets hatred, but gathering in a group hug won’t help either (can you sing, Kumbaya, my friends?). I am saddened by the daily news just as much as I was saddened by Trump’s victory, but I must not give in to it. I must rise above all of it.
I must respect the Office of the President.
I will continue to hope that the people in power will do right by us. I must not give up hope.
I will not give up hope.
*On a side note: I do think the Electoral College needs a good looking at and changed if need be to better represent the popular vote, and yes, I would feel the same if the election results were reversed. I’ve felt this way for many years, in fact, since before Al Gore lost by popular vote. But that is for another conversation.
**And for those who say they will defend the Constitution with their dying breath? Well, that’s what Amendments are for ... So we don't get stuck with past ideas. We must always look to make things better. To improve ourselves. To allow growth. Change is hard, but without it we'd still be living in caves.
***On a side side note: here is a site that lists 10 ways to cope with the election results ... Click here.
10/30/2016 - My Goodreads Author Page
I recently claimed my author page on Goodreads and they immediately hounded me to answer a handful of questions. I’ve decided to share my response here with you.
Q: Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
A: As the third installment in the James Sutherland Chronicles, Future Dark, I knew I needed to take my characters somewhere new for my readers: to the future. I had been leading up to this in the first two books, and in Future Dark, the future was once bright; a Utopia for mankind with no disease, hunger, or poverty. Until a group calling themselves T-MEEP (Time Manipulation Equals Earth’s Progress) finally got their way and changed the past and, due to the Butterfly Effect, the entire planet is now under the controlling flag of the Roman Empire and Emperor Vosima.
Q: How do you get inspired to write?
A: Inspired? I wouldn’t call it that. I sometimes get an idea for a story, and after mulling it over, if it remains strong enough and I’m still interested in it then I’ll write it down. Sometimes I’ll create an outline where a story can die right there because it wasn’t strong enough. Sometimes a story is so strong it flows out and takes a life of its own without an outline. Maybe the question should be, “Where do your stories come from?” Well, I often like to ask myself, “What if?” What if society had grown fat and lazy and the bicycle was reinvented to great acclaim? What if zombies were real and a Ranger squad hotline was formed to protect people from them? What if time travel were real, to when would you travel? I think you get the point. Take one idea, mix it with another, stick it in the incubator, and see if it grows. For my first book, A Legend in Time, the princess of the lake commits suicide in order to save her tribe. I asked myself, “Why did she have to die so tragically? What if I could go back in time to find out? What If I was the cause of her demise?”
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I’ve got a lot of pans in the fire right now. At this moment in time … I am editing Future Dark (release date coming soon), I have 2 screenplays that I’m peddling, and I have a completed outline for a new book, These United Nations, which I will begin writing soon (I actually have the first chapter complete and you will be able to read it at the end of Future Dark).
Q: What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
A: Keep writing. It doesn’t matter what it is; a poem, a blog, a diary, short and long stories, whatever it takes to keep pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. Start with one word and end with several. Hone your craft. Write, rewrite, and rewrite again. Read too, this is just as important.
Q: What’s the best thing about being a writer?
A: Getting the stories out of my head is always the best feeling. Sometimes they will rattle their cage bars for years before they’re released. Also, an equal feeling of satisfaction is during an “AHA!” moment. As I am writing there are times when characters fall prey to certain situations that I had not planned for and they turn out to be the best moments for them.
Q: How do you deal with writer’s block?
A: Writer’s block? Is that a commune of writers living and working in a square city tenement somewhere? I’m kidding, of course. I know what it is, but I’ve never experienced it. Sure, there have been times when I’ve asked myself what do I want to do with a character; how do I get him or her from Point A to Point B? During these times, I get up, move away from my screen, and do something else while I think of an answer. Sometimes I’ll even sleep on it, or let it go for a week before coming back to it, but I’ve never sat there staring at a blank page. Ideas don’t come from nothing. Go for a walk. Play with your kid(s). Enjoy life. Don’t fret over that blank page. And while you’re doing these other things, in the back of your mind ask, “What if?”
If you’ve got questions for me, you may visit my Goodreads Author page here. While you’re there you can give me a follow and kindly rate my books.
10/23/2016 - Video Game Child
Atari released Pong in 1973 and I was one of the first to have it. I was 9 years old, so I guess you could say I grew up in the advent of home video console games.
From there, the coin-operated arcade games took off, with Asteroids, and Space Invaders beings among favorites. I remember playing these in a bowling alley my dad would take me to.
By the time I reached high school, games with identifiable characters and alternate platforms were on the rise; games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong were in every arcade. In 1980, Pac-Man sold 96,000 stand-up units in the United States. I previously blogged about my first paying job at the Middletown Moviehouse and how my boss and I would have competitions playing Pac-Man. I got paid to play!
Having graduated high school in 1982, video games were everywhere. According to Wikipedia … “Revenues generated by coin-operated video games jumped from $308 million in 1978 to $968 million in 1979 to $2.8 billion in 1980. According to trade publication Play Meter, by July 1982, total coin-op collections peaked at $8.9 billion, of which $7.7 billion came from video games. Meanwhile, the number of arcades more than doubled between July 1981 and July 1983 from over 10,000 to just over 25,000.”
But, by the end of 1983, the video game crash came due to the flooding of inferior arcade games and the rise of home computers. Since I didn’t have a computer, I never got into playing games via that media though some of my friends did.
Then along came Nintendo! The NES was da’ bomb! with games like Tetris and my personal favorite, The Legend of Zelda. I played these games for hours on end, and even subscribed to Nintendo Power Magazine for a while.
And then I got married. For the first time. No, my divorce was not caused by the cliché of my playing video games, she was never a video game widow. I mention it though because this is when I almost stopped playing them. I was too “grown up” for them, yet not too old to give them up completely.
I still play games today. I was into the Wii for a while, but now my girls are the ones who use it entirely. The games I play today are apps on my phone or tablet. I like Angry Birds Friends, Two Dots, Words With Friends, and Pokémon GO among others. I hear Nintendo is finally breaking ground into the apps business and Super Mario Run will be out soon. My inner child looks forward to that.
10/16/2016 - Major Brownie Points
Two years ago this past August my wife and I took a trip to Alaska. It was a trip of a lifetime, but I’m not here to tell you about that; if you want to read about it, you may do so at this link: Off the Beaten Path. No, this week’s blog is about how I earned some major brownie points with my wife.
You see, while in Alaska and staying in the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, we were shopping across the street in all the touristy shops when we found ourselves in a little unassuming art gallery. It wasn’t much of a place, just a trailer with a wooden porch and overhang built to the side of it. Quaint is a good word for it. Inside, my wife saw a piece that she hemmed and hawed over, ultimately deciding not to get it.
Well, two years later, it still bugged her that she didn’t buy it (especially now since she repainted our brown accent wall and added a bunch of turquoise pieces to go with it).
So I decided to try and track it down for her. But how?
First I tried to Google the gallery by area. Not knowing the name gave me quite a few hits but none of them looked right (especially the lesbian site). Then I went into Google Maps where I thought I might be able to see it, but the map view only showed the larger stores and no art gallery. I even tried using street view, hoping for a glimpse of a sign with a name on it, but again, I saw no trailer with a wooden front porch. I thought, maybe the street view was taken before the gallery planted roots. Or maybe they had closed or moved. Or maybe (and this was more likely) I wasn’t recalling exactly where the trailer was.
I ended up phoning the Denali Lodge. “Hi. I’m calling long distance from Connecticut and I’m hoping you can help me. I’m looking for the name and number of an art gallery directly across the street from you. I hope it’s still there. It’s in a trailer with wooden steps leading up to it.” The man at the front desk placed me on hold, mind you I did tell him it was long distance, and he came back five minutes later. I don’t know if he quickly ran across the street or just looked out the window, but he came back with Karibu Gallery & Gifts.
I dialed the number he gave me and crossed my fingers hoping it was the same place. I explained to the woman who answered that I was there two years ago and was looking for a picture or painting of glacier ice on glass. Jenni said she had some pieces like that and offered to take snapshots of them to send me via text. She sent me three, and wouldn’t you know it, the first one was exactly the piece my wife and I had seen. I called Jenni back, ordered it, and she told me, “You’re in luck too, because I close for the season this coming Monday.”
Jenni texted me on Wednesday to say that it had shipped and the FedEx package showed up on my doorstep Saturday morning. Excited, I said to Jeannine, “Wait until you see this!” I opened the cardboard shipping box and handed her the wrapped piece of glass, telling my wife to be gentle with it. She had no idea what it was. This wasn’t for a birthday, nor was it Christmas, but as a “just because” and when Jeannine finally got it open, her eyes lit up with great surprise and pleasure.
So thanks to the guy at the Denali Lodge, sorry I didn’t catch your name. And thanks to Jenni, the owner at Karibu. You both helped me earn some major brownie points.
Here’s the 10x10 piece titled, Turquoise Glass.
10/9/2016 - Up-Close Seal Encounter
My daughter and I were riding in the car when we heard Radio104.1 WMRQ say that they were giving away a “Swim with a Beluga Whale” prize from Mystic Aquarium (yes, the title of this blog is about seals, but be patient, we’ll get there).
We were excited about the possibility of being in the water with a whale, so I went online to the station’s website and entered the drawing. “Keep your fingers crossed,” I told her. Well, my inquisitive daughter kept asking me over the next couple of days when would we know the results, so I went back online and discovered that we had to be present at a bar in order to be eligible to win. We hadn’t missed the drawing, but my daughter is only 7 yrs old and isn’t allowed inside a bar. I thought that was the end of it and I chalked it up to a missed opportunity.
But, you know what? I’m not one to give up. So on the day of the drawing I decided to go anyway and I took her with me for the experience of trying something new even when the outcome isn’t known.
Luckily, the bar had an outside patio where we were allowed to sit and be considered present and accounted for. We filled out another entry form, two each in fact, and while we were eating dinner outside they held the drawing in the bar.
We didn’t win.
Some other dude on the patio did. His name was Francesco and while he was inside to claim the prize I spoke to my daughter about the importance of trying. She responded, “That’s okay. I can still put it on my Christmas list. Maybe Santa will bring it to me.” She’s a good kid and took the disappointment well.
Francesco came back to his seat saying that his wife was going to love it. But ten minutes later as we were finishing our dinner he approached our table and said that he would like to give the prize to my daughter. What!?! The Radio104.1 personality, Fisch, bought Francesco a beer and I arranged through the waitress to pay for his dinner. I don’t know what made him change his mind, but thanks again, Francesco. What a nice guy you are!
My daughter was grinning from ear to ear and I made sure she thanked him multiple times. During the ride home she was commoved and beside herself with joy.
When we got home, however, I read the fine print of the Mystic Aquarium pamphlet and it said you had to be 5 feet tall to participate in the beluga whale encounter. You should have seen the letdown on her face when I told her she couldn’t do it because she was too short (at a little over 4 feet tall). Damn! The tears were about to flow, so I quickly read the rest of the brochure aloud and when I reached the up-close seal encounter everything became right with the universe again.
“Seals are so cute!” she exclaimed.
We ended up meeting Pearl (this is her below). The encounter lasted 40 minutes and my daughter and I absolutely loved it.
There were also two other seals in the pool with Pearl. They were Victoria (Tori, for short) and Coral, who was the smallest of the three. Well, Tori kept trying to steal the show, because while our handler was showing us everything about Pearl, Tori kept sliding out of the water on her belly right over to us. It was quite comical. At one point, Tori’s handler had to step in between her and us. I think Tori was sweet on my little girl.
We were able to give Pearl two commands: Open and Hide. Open told her to show us her teeth with a wide open mouth just like in the picture and Hide was having her place her flipper over her eye like she was shy. We got to touch Pearl twice; once on her belly and once on her back (Disclaimer: never approach animals in the wild. Pearl was a trained seal who could still bite). Her fur was slick to the touch, not slimy, just wet and soft. She danced. She retrieved. She slobbered brown drool down her chin from the fish she ate (and she ate a lot of fish as each command was rewarded with a sizeable chunk of herring). And as we were leaving, Pearl waved goodbye to us.
My daughter and I had a great time at Mystic Aquarium and I hope the memory of meeting Pearl lasts her a lifetime. I also hope she remembers the kindness of strangers and she pays it forward someday.
10/2/2016 - An Egg-cellant Idea
Do you shudder when you see a spider? Does the idea of them crawling on you while you’re sleeping keep you awake at night? Or maybe you’re just tired of having to clean cobwebs from the high corners of your ceiling?
I am the spider killer in my house. As a Dad, this is my job, and I wear the badge proudly. I don’t have arachnophobia, and we’re not inundated with spiders in the house, but the other night my wife had to suck one up with the vacuum because it was huge. I didn’t get to see it, but let’s face it: big spiders are creepy. So, I went online and decided to buy an ostrich egg.
“What?” you may ask. Yup, you read that right, that is egg-actly what I did, I purchased an ostrich egg to repel spiders.
It’s a green solution and here’s how it works: a single ostrich egg is placed in a mesh net or decorative basket and hung from the ceiling where the air can circulate around it. The egg naturally releases an odor into the air that repels spiders, but is safe and undetectable to humans.
Imagine my surprise. Spiders can smell!
I first heard about this egg-traordinary story at work where they have thousands of square feet of manufacturing space, which is ripe for spiders to make their homes in. In an effort to keep the cost down from having to clean away the cobwebs, they decided to use ostrich eggs. It appears that this technique has been used for centuries in Turkish mosques to repel spiders, because the odor from a full ostrich egg can keep spiders away for 100 years in an area measuring up to 1,200 square feet.
So I’ve decided to give the egg-ceptional idea a try.
My only concern with this egg-periment is that spiders are good for keeping the population of other insects down. Does this mean that the amount of bugs will increase in my house once I hang the egg and the spiders leave? If the one egg is only good for 1,200 square feet and I place it upstairs, will the downstairs become a spider haven?
I may end up having to buy another egg for downstairs but we’ll see if the first one works, er, first.
If you decide to do the same thing as me, be careful where you buy from. Some sites charge an egg-tremely large amount with just as much for shipping. One place wanted $100 per egg. Egg-tortion, I say! I did some research online and found an ostrich farm which sells eggs pretty cheaply. I was egg-static to find them and I hesitate at telling who they are for fear they’ll raise their prices if they knew there was a demand, but if you PM me, I’ll egg-pedite an response.
Sorry for all the egg-cessive egg jokes, but imagine my egg-citement!
Ostrich Egg Part II
The ostrich egg arrived in the mail this past Wednesday and I was surprised at how heavy the package was. I was also amazed at how big the egg was once I opened the box and carefully unburdened it from its paper and bubblewrap cocoon. It’s HUGE.
Having never seen one before, I was intrigued to find the surface not smooth; it’s dimpled, similar to a golf ball or like stitching in a volleyball.
A funny story here, well, it’s funny to me anyway. When I had ordered it online, the web page only allowed me to buy one at a time and I wanted two (one is for a friend who is having a living nightmare with giant spiders (that’s not funny)). I rec’d an email from the ostrich ranch asking if I intended to buy two or did I accidently click the button twice? It’s your web page, dude. You should know that the BUY button, which brings you through the process of using PayPal to purchase a singular egg. So, yes, I wanted two. So, he emails me back saying that he will discount the shipping cost since he will be sending the two in one shipment. Great, I responded. Thanks so much.
And here’s the funny part: Then I rec’d another email a couple of days later, and I quote, “I apologize for the delay but will need to refund your orders. Unfortunately, I can’t control the hen’s laying and they have stopped due to the colder weather. I do have one egg from yesterday but that is all and I don’t expect any more for the next few days, again, sorry for the cancellation.”
Colder weather? Now I don’t pretend to know anything about ostriches and their laying practices, other than their nests are called Dump Nests and can hold up to sixty eggs, but do the pregnant ostriches decide to just hold the egg inside of them until it gets warm again? BTW, the ranch is in Arizona, so how cold could it get? Maybe at night, I suppose, but if the ostriches are that sensitive, wouldn’t they lay them in the heat of day? Or maybe he meant their copulation. I would think they would do it more often in the cold just to keep warm. Funny birds.
Anyway, I responded, “Please send me the one that you have and the second when it comes.” To which he said, “Thank you for understanding.”
I’ve gotten the first, so spiders begone!, but have not heard anything back about the second. Will I ever see it? Only time (and the weather in Arizona, apparently) will tell.
9/25/2016 - We’re All Pink on the Inside
With all the increased sadness in the news of senseless killings and other misconduct, I thought it would be nice to gather up a few quotes to remind us that WE'RE ALL WE'VE GOT. We need to take care of each other and this planet, our only home. Enjoy. Peace. Love. All colors matter.
“If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?” ~William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act III Scene I
“For small creatures such as we, the vastness [of space] is bearable only through love.” ~Carl Sagan
“To become a true global citizen, one must abandon all notions of 'otherness' and instead embrace 'togetherness'. The world is no longer white, black, yellow and brown.” ~Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun
“The human race is filled with passion and lust. And to coin terms like heterosexuality, homosexuality, or even bisexuality makes no sense to me. You are human. You love who you love. You fuck who you fuck. That should be enough—no labels. No stigmas. Nothing. Just be to be.” ~Krista Ritchie, Kiss the Sky
“There spoke the race!" he said; "always ready to claim what it hasn't got, and mistake its ounce of brass filings for a ton of gold-dust. You have a mongrel perception of humor, nothing more; a multitude of you possess that. This multitude see the comic side of a thousand low-grade and trivial things—broad incongruities, mainly; grotesqueries, absurdities, evokers of the horse-laugh. The ten thousand high-grade comicalities which exist in the world are sealed from their dull vision. Will a day come when the race will detect the funniness of these juvenilities and laugh at them—and by laughing at them destroy them? For your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century; but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. You are always fussing and fighting with your other weapons. Do you ever use that one? No; you leave it lying rusting. As a race, do you ever use it at all? No; you lack sense and the courage.” ~Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger
“The saddest part of the human race is we’re obsessed with this idea of ‘us and them,’ which is really a no-win situation, whether it’s racial, cultural, religious or political.” ~Dave Matthews
“We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race.” ~Kofi Annan
“Only until all human beings begin to recognize themselves as human beings will prejudice be gone forever. People ask me what race I am, but there is no such thing as race. I just answer: "I’m a member of the human race.” ~Amelia Boynton Robinson
“Man is now able to fly through the air like a bird, he is able to swim under the sea like a fish, and he is able to burrow beneath the ground like a mole. Now if only he could walk the earth like a man, this would be paradise.” ~Tommy Douglas
“I am who I am and you are who you are, but there is no difference between us. I am not better than you and you are not better than me. We are all pink on the inside.” ~Jonathan Westbrook
9/18/2016 - 50 Years of Star Trek
This September 8th marked the 50th anniversary of the greatest television sci-fi show, Star Trek, when it aired in 1966.
To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to list my Top 50 Star Trek crew members, so here goes…
50. Dr. Katherine Pulaski (TNG)
49. Neelix (VOY)
48. Captain Benjamin Sisko (DS9)
47. Chief Miles O’Brien (DS9)
46. Ensign Wesley Crusher (TNG)
45. Ensign Travis Mayweather (ENT)
44. Lt. Ezri Dax (DS9)
43. Ensign Harry Kim (VOY)
42. Dr. Mark Piper (TOS)
41. Lt. Malcolm Reed (ENT)
40. Lt. B’Elanna Torres (VOY)
39. Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker III (ENT)
38. Quark (DS9)
37. Dr. Elizabeth Dehner (TOS)
36. Lt. Commander Gary Mitchell (TOS)
35. Kes (VOY)
34. Number One (TOS)
33. Ensign Ro Laren (TNG)
32. Yeoman Janice Rand (TOS)
31. Lt. Ilia (TMP)
30. Lt. Commander Tasha Yar (TNG)
29. Lt. Tom Paris (VOY)
28. Dr. Julian Bashir (DS9)
27. Constable Odo (DS9)
26. Commander Chakotay (VOY)
25. Captain Katherine Janeway (VOY)
24. Commander William Riker (TNG)
23. Nurse Christine Chapel (TOS)
21. Captain Christopher Pike (TOS)
20. Lt. Saavik (TWK)
19. Chief Medical Officer Phlox (ENT)
18. Commander Pavel Chekov (TOS)
17. Commander Nyota Uhura (TOS)
16. Counselor Deanna Troi (TNG)
15. Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (TNG)
14. Dr. Beverly Crusher (TNG)
13. Captain Jonathan Archer (ENT)
12. Lt. Commander Jadzia Dax (DS9)
11. Seven of Nine (VOY)
10. Lt. Hikaru Sulu (TOS)
9. Colonel Kira Nerys (DS9)
8. Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (TOS)
7. Commander T’Pol (ENT)
6. Lt. Commander Worf (TNG)
5. Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (TOS)
4. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (TNG)
3. Lt. Commander Data (TNG)
2. Mister Spock (TOS)
1. Captain James T. Kirk (TOS)
TOS: The Original Series (1966-1969)
TAS: The Animated Series (1973-1974)
TMP: The Motion Picture (1979)
TWK: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
TNG: The Next Generation (1987-1994)
DS9: Deep Space Nine (1993-1999)
ENT: Enterprise (2001-2005)
The entire Star Trek universe isn’t listed here. I’ve left out some, including the last three movies set in the Kelvin timeline. It’s not that I dislike the movies not mentioned here; it’s just that there are no characters from them listed.
There have been 5 television series and 13 movies, with plans for a new series Star Trek Discovery coming in May 2017, which supposedly takes place ten years before Kirk and crew, and the ship, the USS Discovery, will be captained by a female set in the prime timeline. I look forward to seeing it.
50 years and more! May the franchise Live Long and Prosper!
9/12/2016 - My Time Aboard The Starship Enterprise
Have you ever watched an original series episode of Star Trek and wished you could visit the set of the Starship Enterprise? To step onto the transporter pad? To walk down her corridors? To visit McCoy’s sickbay and Scotty’s engineering? To sit in Captain Kirk’s chair?
Well now you can.
An almost exact replica of the Desilu Sound Stage from the late 1960s has been built in Ticonderoga, NY, and is now open to the public for touring.
It was a 3-1/2 hour drive from Connecticut to upper state New York, mostly highway until the last half an hour or so, where we drove up and down the mountain roads surrounding Lake George. I’ve heard of Lake George but had never been there and it’s bigger than I imagined with lots of resorts and campgrounds along its shores.
I was accompanied by a friend, Andy Hauser, and by the time we got there we decided to have lunch before taking the 40 minute tour. We ate at an unassuming diner where everyone in the place knew each other (except for us, they didn’t know us) and the service was super slow even though there was less than a dozen people inside. With antique bicycles hanging from the ceiling, the place reminded me of Mayberry, and I half expected a gunless sheriff to walk in and order a slice of apple pie made fresh that morning.
Anyway, after lunch, Andy and I walked across the street to another unassuming building for the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour.
We were led into the place by its owner, James Crawley, who is an Elvis impersonator, and who has also been playing the part of James T. Kirk in his continuing fan films and building these sets along the way. He has doing this for the last fifteen years. He gave us the history of Desilu Studios, of how Lucille Ball greenlit the show (twice), and how he wanted to take us back to the 1960s by opening his doors to the public for the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek. We entered thru the behind-the-scenes string and pulley system of the “automated doors” and into the corridor of the U.S.S. Enterprise. I have to tell you from this point forward I couldn’t stop smiling.
Our first highlight was the transporter room.
After being beamed aboard we walked down the “endless” corridor, where when standing at one end of it you can’t see the other end, to enter sickbay.
From sickbay, we went to the briefing room. This is also where Spock was placed on trial for mutiny for stealing the Enterprise to bring his first captain back to Talos IV.
Next we entered the captain’s quarters. Ladies. Try to contain yourselves. The tribble on top of the pile was actually in the series as well as the golden case on the shelf.
Engineering seemed a lot smaller in person than it does on the tube.
And then we walked onto the bridge! Even though James Crawley set us loose by saying we could sit in the captain’s chair, we all stood there soaking it in, afraid to disturb the awesomeness of it with our presence. Andy said, “It was like a church, where we weren’t sure if it was okay to go into the altar.” Eventually we did.
The “40 minute” tour ended up being just shy of an hour and fifteen minutes and it was totally worth the $25.00 admission fee. The attention to detail was incredible. The animated art work was fantastic. I even wore a red shirt and survived to tell about it.
If you want to share in this experience yourself, you may buy your tickets at Star Trek Tour. I highly recommend it.
9/2/2016 - Housekeeping
Busy, busy, busy! That’s what I’ve been.
You have my apologies for having taken so long in making a blog post. I’ve really failed in my attempt to write one once a week, but what a summer it’s been.
Since my last blog...
I was on vacation for two weeks, when I worked on editing my latest book, Future Dark - Book Three of the James Sutherland Chronicles, the first week. I haven’t finished that laborious task but I’m still on track to a fall release.
I went to see Star Trek Beyond. This was by far the best out of the last three. Simon Pegg (Writer/Scotty) and Justin Lin (director) did a great job in portraying the TOS characters as they should be. Well, closer anyway. I feel with this release, on Star Trek’s 5oth Anniversary, that the franchise is alive and well. It was iffy with the first two “reboot” movies, especially with Into Darkness, but Beyond brought Trek back for me. Not only is it a great adventure flick, but the characters had meaning. Though the interaction between the characters was a return to the fun and spirit of the old Trek, I just wish Chris Pine’s Kirk to be a little bit more like William Shatner’s Kirk. I want this new Kirk to captain his crew by the seat of his pants, to bluff his way out of trouble, and to be able to physically beat his enemies in hand-to-hand combat and to do it without grunting and moaning the whole way through. But all in all, Beyond was a joy to watch and the other characters were spot on, even if Scotty had more screen time than he usually does.
The second week we went to Ogunquit, ME. My wife and I haven’t been back there in five years, so we were overdue. I love walking the Marginal Way; a paved walkway along the coast line from the main Ogunquit Beach access point to a little more than a mile away south at Perkins Cove. It is the only paved, public shoreline footpath in New England where you can catch sweeping panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Along its length are 40 memorial benches making it easy to stop and take in the sights, and there are plenty of spots where you can venture off the path and get down to the water’s edge. My daughter and I also love the Perkins Cove Candies store, where we stocked up on chocolates, caramels, and other delicious sweets, like Bit-O-Honey. YUM. And, of course, the seafood is sold there in abundance. As many a tourist has said before, we also like to “eat lots of lobster!”
I’m not really a beach person. I do like walking on it, and I did so aplenty, but to just lay there for hours is not for me. So what did I do? With pen and spiral pad, a chair and an umbrella, I started writing my fifth book. Yes, you’ve heard it here first, folks. I finished my outline several weeks ago, and I used this time on the beach while the girls enjoyed the surf along with floating down the Ogunquit River to start it. Although it is not part of the James Sutherland Chronicles per say, it is related. Think of it as a spin-off.
My wife and I hosted a couple of Pool Party & Fireside Chat parties to round off the end of summer. Great fun and a lot of recovery time was had.
And just this past weekend, I drove up to Ticonderoga, NY, to see the Starship Enterprise, which will be the subject of my next blog, which should put me back on my self-imposed weekly schedule. In the meantime, here is a sneak preview.
7/24/2016 - Pokémon GO
Perhaps you’ve heard this in the news, but the latest craze to sweep the nation, nay, the world, is a game called Pokémon GO; an app based on the original Pokémon card trading game of the 90s and the more recent video game.
Pokémon GO is a free-to-play location based augmented reality game. It was released in July 2016 for IOS and Android devices, and has instantly become the most used app, beating out the popular dating site Tinder and the social app Twitter for daily use.
Instead of collecting playing cards, the app allows users to capture virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who animatedly appear on the screen of your device through your camera as though it were in the real world. I've turned my camera off to save on my battery and the creatures appear on a generic background. The app also uses GPS to track your movements as the game is based on walking around to find Pokémon, Poké-Stops, and Gyms.
Although it’s free-to-play, there are in-app purchases of additional gameplay items that may or may not give you a leg up on other players. Certainly, if you choose to purchase items, you will advance faster in the game than those who don’t but you still have to walk about to find creatures and/or hatch their eggs.
It didn’t take long after its release (one week) for my kids to want to play it, and so, like a good parent, I downloaded it first to check it out. And I must confess that it is fun to play.
The addictive properties of searching for and capturing different types of creatures is a great way to go for a walk (I’ve already put in some miles I ordinarily wouldn’t have). The ability to then “Power Up” the CP (Combat Points) of each creature and to “Evolve” them into other more advanced stages, all the while gaining XP (Experience Points) so that your avatar gains levels and you begin to catch more exotic creatures is engaging as well as competitive (the competition begins when you enter Gyms and battle other people’s creatures with your own).
Medical professionals have given the game praise for getting people out of doors and potentially improving their health, but the game has also attracted some controversy due to reports of accidents, public nuisance issues, and luring people into compromising situations, like into dark alleys to be robbed.
I’ve seen handfuls of people out there playing. I even spoke to one woman, older than myself, who admitted she was trying to catch up to her 20-something year old son’s level.
As a family, it’s one thing more I can bond over with my girls. As the only male in the house I’ll take these moments whenever I can get them.
7/17/2016 - The Legend of Tarzan – A Review
I was more than a little disappointed in this 2016 version by director David Yates, starring Alexander Skarsgard as Tarzan and Margot Robbie as Jane.
Premise: It’s been ten years since Tarzan, also known as John Clayton III, left Africa to live in England with his wife, Jane, but he is drawn back there due to the danger brought to the Congo by King Leopold of Belgium. A treacherous envoy of the king, Leon Rom, plans to capture Tarzan and deliver him to an old enemy in exchange for diamonds. When Jane gets captured instead, Rom uses her as bait to draw Tarzan deep into the jungle.
Sounds okay, right? On paper, I’m sure it did. On the big screen, though? Not so much. I was excited to see the Lord of the Apes on the big screen again, but alas, if only the Lord of the Apes had shown up.
The number 1 issue for me: the makers of this film tried to humanize Tarzan.
There is a reason he is a legend, but in this version he is a bit wimpy. Example: when he returns to Africa and has to fight his ape brother, he loses. For me, that is not who Tarzan is. Even in the flashback scenes he was just a member of the brood and never THE King of the Jungle. Where is the romance of being able to rule over mighty beasts if not in tales of Tarzan?
Manohla Dargis of The New York Times gave praise, “…the filmmakers have given Tarzan a thoughtful, imperfect makeover.” Um, no thank you.
This Tarzan was inconsistent too. When he goes up against a tribe Chieftain, Tarzan should have easily defeated him, especially when he was shown earlier throwing men through the walls of a train’s boxcar. It didn’t make sense.
Issue number 2: Jane showed more emotion and toughness than Tarzan. Skarsgard is a very good actor, I liked him a lot in Tru Blood, but he didn’t show any range here. Where were Tarzan’s animal instincts? His barring of teeth? His growls? His primal rage?
Again, the humanizing of Tarzan does not work for me. When he is John Clayton, by all means show his softer side, but when he is Tarzan I needed him to transform to become Burroughs’ Ape-Man.
Not to mention the lack of communication he has with the animals. In this rendition, they make Tarzan out to be a mimicker of jungle sounds rather than being able to speak with his animal friends.
Issue number 3: the CGI was lacking. For example, when he runs across the collapsing rooftop he just doesn’t look like a real person. There were other spots too, but they didn’t stick out enough to remember; only I do recall being distracted by them. Also, the logistics were off in parts too. Like the time he is swinging on a vine faster than a train going 40 mph and he’s swinging back and forth along the length of the train knocking guards off the top of it—the vine would have been a mile long for him to do that, and given that hypothetical length, Tarzan would have run aground before even reaching the train, because trees don’t grow a mile high.
Issue number 4: Samuel Jackson’s character was pointless, other than as comic relief.
Issue number 5: the flashbacks were painfully slow and broke up the pace of the movie. Maybe the filmmakers thought it necessary to show a new audience his origin story, but every time that they cut back to when he was a child, I sighed, wanting to get back to the main story.
No, this Tarzan was portrayed as nothing like the one I read about in the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels. If I had to give it a star rating, I would give it 2-1/2 out of 5, as only half of the movie was entertaining. I can see why it’s getting mixed reviews and I’m glad I saw it on a $5 Tuesday instead of paying full price.
7/10/2016 - ConnectiCon 2016
This was my second year of going to ConnectiCon. It was basically the same as last year with its many artisans and dealers, all sorts of people in cosplay (that's dressing up as characters from TV shows, movies, video games, comic books, and anime, etc.), and those who admire them.
What draws people in every year, besides the fact that you get to try out your costume 4 months ahead of Halloween, is the star appeal. This year there was Tom Kenny (the voice of SpongeBob, he was very popular), the artists of Cyanide & Happiness, more than enough anime artists, Linda Larkin (voice of Jasmine), Sean Astin (Samwise from Lord of the Rings), and John Rhys-Davies (Sal from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Gimli from Lord of the Rings).
The draw for me this year was Michael Dorn, Nana Visitor, and Walter Koenig, all from the Star Trek universe, in case you don't know.
Mr. Dorn is about my height, which is 6’-1". That was my first impression of him. I wasn't disappointed, just surprised, because he looks so much taller than everyone else as Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I asked him how the prospects looked for the Captain Worf series he's been pushing for and he said there wasn't. He told me, "There was early interest in the idea, but there isn't any longer. It's dead." That's too bad. I think I would have enjoyed a series like that. I asked what he had been doing recently. He said he just wrapped on a movie, but he didn't tell me the name of it.
Oh my goodness! As soon as I approached her, she had the most friendliest smile. And fellas, she is even more attractive in person. She was a hot ticket as Kira Nerys on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but in person, she made me feel like a nervous schoolboy. When I asked her if I should call her, Miss, Ms., or Mrs., because it's best to be polite (I called Mr. Dorn, Sir), she told me to call her Nana. So friendly! She is married and Visitor is her maiden/stage name, so she said that she "had never thought about it before." Nana was so genuine and nice that I offered to give her a copy of my book, but she told me that wasn't necessary - she would buy a copy. I hope she does and likes it. It would be a small gift from me to her as a thank you if she did.
Mr. Koenig was a no show. I don't know why, nor will I ever, as there were conflicting reports. He was supposed to be there on Saturday at 11AM. At around noon, they announced he was delayed and would be there at 1PM. So, I wandered the aisles and found John Rhys-Davies (more about him below). At around 2-ish, there was hope as a special, cushiony, black swivel chair was delivered to his booth; we had heard there had been an incident Friday night and that Walter had hurt his back. Shortly after that, it was announced that Mr. Koenig would not be attending at all on Saturday, and there was no guarantee that he would be there on Sunday. Well, Sunday morning I woke up telling myself that if I didn't go and he was there, I would regret it. So I went back to the con Sunday morning only to find his appearance had been cancelled altogether. Although I am disappointed that I didn't get to see Commander Chekov in person, I hope Mr. Koenig is alright.
I hadn't gone to see Mr. Davies, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to meet him. He was very personable, and reminded me a lot of Tony Todd, whom I had met last year and still tell everyone about. Mr. Davies made it a point of asking me what it is that I do. Probably he's grown tired of or just doesn't like speaking about himself, but when I told him he genuinely took an interest. We talked about my books and how getting my screenplays produced was turning out to be more of a difficult task. He did tell me he had a small article published once, but quickly changed the subject to his daughter who has had a much bigger article printed. When I told him, "Our children should do better than us," our conversation turned into how proud we are of our kids. Both of us, chatting away about our daughters. I loved it. Mr. Davies was a very pleasant gentleman, and I'm a better person to have met him.
Again, going to these two cons has been a great experience; meeting George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Tony Todd, Nana Visitor, and John Rhys-Davies; getting to speak with them, to learn from them, to find out that they're just like you and me, is really exceptional.
Out of the thousands that role through the Connecticut Convention Center for the weekend, these actors made me feel special for being me. Even though I flew solo to both of these events I didn't feel alone while I was there. I suppose everyone who goes, does so to feel a part of something bigger than themselves, myself included, and these celebrities help us do that.
Thank you Nana (Ms. Visitor) and Mr. Davies. Thank you for being you.
6/26/2016 - Happy Father's Day
I missed writing a blog last week, and for that, you have my apologies. But it was Father's Day and I was busy.
This year's Father's Day seemed to be centered around food. I was taken out to breakfast, then Sweet Frog for lunch (more for my daughter's really good report card, though I do enjoy it), and finally Chowder Pot IV for dinner, where I satiated my want of steamers and lobster. We also asked my wife's mom and dad to join us and we all had a nice dinner. It was a great day.
This was the second year without my dad being with us. It gets a little bit easier not seeing him as each year passes, but I still miss him. Traditionally, we used to have dock day for Father's Day, where all of his children and maybe a grand child or two would converge at his cottage on Lake Pocotopaug to put in his dock. Afterward, we would sit on the porch, overlooking our wonderful task done, eat lunch, and give him his presents. Traditionally, it was always golf passes for four rounds, and he would take his three boys out on the links. "Golfing with my three sons," he used to say proudly.
This year, my daughter and I went swimming in our pool. We've been swimming in it almost every day this summer, so I doubt she will have separate memories of doing it on Father's Day specifically. I don't know. I would like her to remember doing something unique on Father's Day. I don't like asking for things, but perhaps I should come up with something for us to do. Maybe when she's older she and I could play golf together.
6/12/2016 - Before & After
A tourist attraction photo becomes a fairy tale scene.
I love the odd jobs I get sometimes.
Recently, an acquaintance of mine went to Germany and, among other things, he and his wife visited the above castle. He told me that while they were walking through the woods (no automobiles allowed) they came upon an opening in the trees to behold a fairy tale-like scene.
But as they were setting up their camera to take a picture, other tourists walked ahead of them and spoiled the shot.
This acquaintance, having known some of my other work, asked if I could remove the six people, and the result is seen on the right. I also enhanced the upper half of the castle and the sky, and I think it came out nice. Not too bad for being a hack, anyway.
I can see it being a book cover, can’t you? What would the title be?
6/5/2016 - Let Go My Leggo?
“I’m so hungry I could eat a horse, baby,” Clifford Knight said to his wife seated beside him.
Lataya clicked off Judge Judy and turned to her husband on the couch. “Ima hear you, daddy, but we outta food. How does Royal Buffet sound?”
“Damn girl, now you’re talking. They got the best crab legs in town. I’ll race you to the car.”
The robust couple drove their way to the buffet restaurant as fast as they could, their mouths salivating over thoughts of endless meatloaf, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, prime rib, and the succulent Alaskan King Crab legs. The line wasn’t too long leading into the place, but the couple’s stomachs were roaring like the King and Queen of the Lion Pride, and Clifford was on the verge of getting HANGRY.
“Ooo, daddy, just smell all those wonderful foods.”
“I can’t hardly wait, baby. Whatchyou gonna get first?”
“Ima gonna start with some chicken wings and pan-fried dumplings. You?”
“The crab legs, of course!”
“Oh yeah! Ima hear you, daddy. Ima save those ‘til last, for right before dessert.”
Clifford and Lataya exchange an excited kiss just before being showed to their table. The waitress took their drink orders and then set them free to forage. As stated, Lataya roamed the food stations in search of fried delicacies, and Clifford made a beeline to where the crab legs were supposed to be.
But when he got to the station, the large stainless steel bin was empty except for some remnants of pink shell and beads of water. Clifford looked up to see a young punk, leaving the station, his plate piled high with steaming crab legs.
MANCHESTER — Police said two people were arrested after a fight over crab legs in a buffet line. The fight happened Saturday at around 8 p.m. at the Royal Buffet at 410 West Middle Turnpike, according to police.
A situation escalated into a physical altercation, during which a 21-year-old man suffered a cut lip and broken front tooth after being punched in the face. His mother used pepper spray on his assailant in an attempt to keep her son from being assaulted further and wasn’t facing any charges because it was self-defense.
Clifford Knight, 46, and Lataya Knight, 38, were arrested. Clifford Knight is facing third-degree assault and disorderly conduct. Lataya Knight is charged with disorderly conduct and threatening.
Lataya Knight was released on $2,500 bail and was given a court date of Thursday, April 14. Clifford Knight was released on $5,000 bail and was also given a court date of Thursday, April 14.
The Manchester Fire Department responded to vent the restaurant and the Health Department closed it down to check out the air, due to the use of pepper spray. ~Fox61News
Clifford and Lataya Knight
You can’t make this stuff up. Well, I did for the first half as I couldn’t help but think what may have led up to the alleged altercation. And yes, this happened right here in Connecticut. Seriously. What’s next? Gun fights over barbeque spare ribs?
5/30/2016 - What If There Were No Need For Money?
Captain Jean-Luc Picard said in Star Trek: First Contact, “The economics of the future are somewhat different. You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century. The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force of our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.”
It’s an ideal philosophy, yes? But how do we get humanity into not wanting to acquire wealth, when we all seem to want it so badly.
Personally, I want a roof over my head, which costs money. I want food on the table, which costs money. I want to wear clothes, and play with my gadgets, and go on vacations, and … well, the list goes on and on.
So, in the fictional world of Star Trek, how did they do it?
First they had World War III that nearly wiped out humanity with nuclear weapons. And then they had first contact with an alien species when they landed here on Earth, which really united mankind by knowing that they weren’t alone. But what made the acquisition of wealth an obsolete wont?
IMO, I think it was the invention of the replicator.
What was the replicator? The fictional device could create anything from nothing. On the show, it was mostly a way to create food and/or drinks from scratch, “Earl Grey. Hot,” Picard would order, and the replicator would fabricate the request within seconds.
Given that technology, anything should be available at a command, from a cup of tea to a prefab house and all at the cost of … zilch. That’s great!
But here’s the rub: where did the materials to make these things come from? I’ve never heard a good explanation for this. Could it be dark matter? We’re just discovering dark matter now (for reals) and it seems to be all around us in abundance.
Take today’s replicators … the 3D printers. We have the ability to make an edible piece of pizza using a 3D printer seemingly from scratch. It’s incredible. But the materials to make the slice of pizza are still tangible and must be loaded into the printer first, like a toner cartridge, and the material (and the printer) costs money.
3D printing is great, but if we really want to get to the point where everything is free, and we can begin working to better ourselves and humanity, we have to be able to replicate things from nothing. When will that future arrive? Probably not in my lifetime, but it’s fun to think about.
It’s either that or we all give up our worldly possessions and become Buddhists monks.
5/22/2016 - Budweiser Wants to Change Its Name to America
Budweiser, an American-style pale lager, once owned and operated by Anheuser-Busch, was sold to a Belgium company back in 2008. Since then, the sale revenue of the Budweiser brand in the U.S. declined considerably. In an effort to regain enthusiasm in the beer, the maker of Stella Artois and Beck’s wants to rename their foamy quaff to America.
This summer, Belgium brewers, InBev, want to make Budweiser the “King of Beers” again. And they think they can do so with “Indivisible Since 1776” and “Land of the Free” and “Home of the Brave” and “Liberty and Justice for All” printed on the label.
It’s hard to imagine a more patriotic label, especially for a brand that’s technically no longer American. And that is what has the interwebs in an uproar. “Talk about false-advertising.” “I think I may create a new brand of kitty litter and name it Belgium.” “If I hate it, does that mean I hate America?”
Summer is peak beer drinking time, and InBev hope the uniqueness of their marketing will be enough to draw American beer drinkers back into the fold.
I don’t care for Bud or Bud Light, but I do like to drink more beer during the hot days of summer while relaxing poolside. Budweiser and many other beers brands have been using summer time to release special cans to commemorate the season. This tactic is nothing new. Only this time, instead of the look of the iconic can or bottle labels, it’s a name change, which is a big deal for some.
If you’re a Bud drinker, you’ll probably continue drinking Bud, er, America this summer. If not, then this shouldn’t be a big deal for you. Regardless, the change will only be in effect until November 2016.
So drink up, America.
See what I did there? Very good marketing indeed. I’ll probably buy one just for the nuance. “Hey, remember that time back in 2016 we drank that America(n) beer?”
5/15/2016 - Self-Promotion: The Most Ugliest Hyphenated Word in the English Language
Confession #1: I’m not a salesman.
Confession #2: I don’t care to toot my own horn.
For me, self-promotion is fraught with awkward moments, all of which make me feel like I’m a good time girl at the Red Onion Saloon in Skagway, Alaska during the height of the Alaska-Yukon gold rush. “Hey Joe, you want to read a good story? Yes? Then, oh honey, buy my books, because they’re guaranteed to satisfy.”
Nothing brings me more angst than the thought of soliciting book sales from high school friends on Facebook or Twitter. Moreover, trolling the interwebs for reading groups in my genre in search of new readers is the utmost, biggest waste of time there can be, not to mention a little creepy.
Whenever I post a link to my books, I wonder if I will lose followers instead of gaining new ones, especially when the posts don’t get shared or retweeted. I feel like self-promoting is degrading, because if my work is good enough it should gain its own traction by word of mouth and the readers will come. Am I right? Perhaps I’m over-optimistic.
Anyhow, I was recently asked, “How come you don’t blog about your own writing?” This wonderful person, who said they really liked my books (thank you again), wrote to tell me they thought it would be interesting to know how I came up with my ideas and, perhaps, to share the “struggles” I went through during my writing process.
I responded, saying that she could find most of her answers in the ‘From the Author’ section in the back of my books and that I would feel weird posting those pages as blogs. I can’t define the line which separates the two, but even as I write this post, I am uncomfortable with subject matter.
So that’s why my blogs usually don’t have anything to do with my books. Aside from having some fun with interviews of my main characters, I figure if you like reading my posts perhaps you’ll like reading my books too, or vice versa, plus it gives me an outlet to Keep Writing! something other than what’s in my books.
If nothing else, I like to think that I remain humble through it all, and I only ask that if you have read my books, and liked them, to give them a positive review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.
I may be too proud to toot my own horn, but I’m not too proud to beg.
5/8/2016 - The Physics of One-Length Golf Clubs
I’m not a professional golfer, but I play one on TV. I’m kidding, of course. I play in a summer golf league, where once a week I set out to infuriate myself over the menial task of hitting a little white ball several hundreds of yards over and over again until I get it into a little hole set into the ground.
The joy of golf: the better you play the more fun it is.
I’ve been playing golf since I was a youngster, still a hack at best let me tell you, mostly playing with friends and family, and this is my 7th year in a league. And, after 40 some odd years of playing, this is the first time that I’ve heard of the single length golf club.
Traditional golf clubs are different lengths depending on the distance of the shot and the pitch of the club face. What this means is your posture may be different with each club used; standing differently and swinging differently with each shot, so it’s no wonder my game sucks!
The one-length golf club makes perfect sense to me. It’s all about physics and making the same swing every time. Instead of adjusting your approach to the ball with traditional clubs, you stand in the same place and take the same swing every time with a one-length club and let it do the work for you.
Image courtesy of www.1irongolf.com
One-length clubs have been around since 1986, but they’ve never caught on. They weren’t widely known about until Bryson deChambeau’s amateur victories in 2015 that people began to take notice. Like I said, this past week was the first I heard of them.
So why don’t more people play with them? Supply in demand. The big companies haven’t latched on, and the only reason I can see is the club lengths would have to be custom made to fit each player depending on their height. A shaft length made for a 5’-2” tall person would not be ideal for my 6’-1” frame.
To have a custom set made for me by the too few companies that make the one-length clubs would be twice to three times more expensive than what traditional clubs cost and about a 6 week wait. I fail to see why it would be more expensive though. One length means less work cutting material once you've gotten the correct length, yes?
Anyway, I would love to try them. Maybe my game would improve to just above hack level and that would be worth it.
5/1/2016 - What If Gravity Didn’t Weigh Us Down?
If gravity didn’t weigh us down, would we be able to walk in leaps like John Carter of Mars? Or jump the tallest buildings in a single bound (before he could fly*) like Superman?
If our gravity were slightly less, would we experience lesser lower-back problems? Would our vertebrae not get compressed? Would we grow taller? Would our feet not become flat with age?
Gravity can hurt. You feel it every time you pick up something heavy. But, on the flip side, lack of gravity can hurt too. Without gravity, your muscles would atrophy, because the body would perceive it doesn’t need to use them.
With the constant pull of the Earth, our muscles, especially those in our legs and spinal column, must constantly fight gravity to maintain our posture. If not in use, muscle mass can vanish at a rate as high as 5% a week.
Bones without gravity is more extreme. In space, bone density can atrophy at a rate of 1% a month up to 40-60% and is much harder to get back. Astronauts, who have been in space for a long length of time, sometimes need to be carried on a stretcher upon their return to Earth.
Our blood is affected by gravity too. Blood pools in our feet when we stand, but in space, the head-to-toe ratio disappears and blood pressure equalizes throughout the body. That’s why astronauts can look different; their faces look fuller and their legs look thinner than when they’re on Earth. But, because of the equalization, the body thinks it is making too much blood, so it cuts back its production. Astronauts can lose up to 22% of their blood volume, which affects the heart; it too will atrophy because it has less blood to pump.
Gravity provides a resistive force that maintains muscles and bones. So be thankful the next time you feel the center of the Earth weighing down on you. Give a smile, because it’s actually healthy for you.
And if your desire is to take a six-month journey to Mars, be prepared to exercise the whole way there.
*When Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster created Superman in 1933, their first iteration of him couldn’t fly, but could leap in bounds because of his super strength. It wasn’t until 1940, when Superman began appearing in cartoons, which became too expensive to keep animating the Man-of-Steel jumping over buildings, so the request came in to DC Comics asking if they could make him fly.
4/24/2016 - The Death of a Prince
Prince splashed onto the scene with his first album For You in 1978, but I hadn’t heard of him yet. I suspect a lot of people hadn’t since the album didn’t do very well.
It wasn’t until his second album, self-titled Prince, that I was introduced to the Purple One, with songs “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” and “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” But even then he was pretty obscure. Then came Dirty Mind in 1980, and it blew me away.
His genre-defying sexual lyrics captured my young sixteen-year-old mind and I’ve been a fan ever since. And then, lots of people came to know him when he released 1999. “Little Red Corvette” and “1999” were all over the airways. And then came Purple Rain, undeniably Prince’s most popular album, subsequently followed by the film of the same name in 1984.
And then “Darling Nikki,” off of Purple Rain, earned him the attention of Tippor Gore, which is why we now have “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” labels on some of our more R-rated music today.
And then … and then … and then … the list keeps going and going. The man was prolific. He was a genius in my book.
He wrote all of his own music. He played mostly all of his own instruments (in the studio). He won 7 Grammy’s and an Oscar. He wrote more songs than The Beatles, and not just for himself, but for other well-known performers. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2007, he played the Super Bowl half-time show, which was phenomenal.
I had a falling out with his music for a little while when he formed the Next Power Generation. I didn’t care for the style as it had more of a rap and hip-hop flavor. Then he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol to get out of his contract with Warner Brothers, but several years later he bounced back by returning to his rock roots with 3121. “Black Sweat” is one of my all-time favorite songs.
His music was his passion, and he made others passionate with his music.
I can’t believe he’s gone. It’s simply shocking. Prince Rogers Nelson died on April 21, 2016, and he was truly a King in the music world.
This has not been a good year for singer/song writers. RIP #Prince #Frey #Bowie #White #Haggard The 80s are crashing around us.
I never meant 2 cause you any sorrow
I never meant 2 cause you any pain
I only wanted 2 one time see you laughing
I only wanted 2 see you laughing in the purple rain
Purple rain Purple rain
Purple rain Purple rain
Purple rain Purple rain
I only wanted 2 see you bathing in the purple rain
I never wanted 2 be your weekend lover
I only wanted 2 be some kind of friend
Baby I could never steal you from another
It´s such a shame our friendship had 2 end
Purple rain Purple rain
Purple rain Purple rain
Purple rain Purple rain
I only wanted 2 see you underneath the purple rain
Honey I know, I know, I know times are changing
It´s time we all reach out 4 something new
That means you 2
you say you want a leader
But you can´t seem 2 make up your mind
I think you better close it
And let me guide you 2 the purple rain
Purple rain Purple rain
Purple rain Purple rain
If you know what I´m singing about up here
C´mon raise your hand
Purple rain Purple rain
I only want 2 see you, only want 2 see you
In the purple rain
4/17/2016 - That Time I Went to Greece and Egypt
Seventeen years ago, in 1999, my mom and I went on a trip to the Mediterranean; first to Greece for 2-1/2 days and then to Egypt for 9. My mom had always wanted to see Egypt, so when we heard of a trip being offered through the Manchester Community College in Manchester, CT, we signed up.
We were supposed to go a year earlier in 1998, but a German tourist bus had gotten bombed in Egypt. So, we used the insurance on the trip to postpone it until the following year.
The flight to Greece took 9 hours, and we stayed at a hotel right in Athens where you could see the Acropolis. We didn’t visit it until the following full day. Instead, we went to Delphi and it was an all day excursion. The scenery was amazing. It’s no wonder the Greeks thought it was the land of the Gods. My mom had a hard time walking up to the top of Delphi and I felt bad for her, but I took lots of pictures for her. The next day we had a city tour of Athens (Athena), which included a church ceremony and the Acropolis. Such history!
That's me at the Acropolis
We then flew to Cairo, where we stayed at the Ramses Hilton, a 5 star hotel right on the banks of the Nile. I had a few beers in the Windows of the World lounge located at the very top floor overlooking the whole city. The next day we visited the Museum of Antiquities, the Muhammed Ali mosque, and the Great Pyramids of Giza. I even got to go inside the second largest one, called Cephron. We also stopped at an Oriental Handmade Carpet School, where they make silk rugs. I bought a small one that had a pharaoh depicted in it. We found out where the phrase “magic carpet” comes from; when you spin a silk rug around they change color. The Egyptians take their tourism very seriously. At the airport there were armed guards with machine guns and we had a plain clothes policeman with us on the bus.
My mom at the Great Pyramids at Giza
After an hour plane ride, we found ourselves in Luxor, where we boarded our cruise ship, the Nile Admiral. Once settled into our cabin, we went on a tour of the Karnac and Luxor temples. These made me feel very small, as did the pyramids. Karnac was in a James Bond movie with Roger Moore. The next day we sailed over to the west bank for a visit to the Valley of the Kings, where King Tut’s tomb was discovered. We saw the Valley of the Queens too and made a stop at the Colossi of Memnon. From Luxor, we cruise up the Nile, which is actually in a southern direction, to Edfu. That night, our ship was “attacked” by vendors trying to sell their wares to passengers. “Pretty lady, you buy from me, huh?” I had had my share of vendors from the places we had already visited. They’re everywhere! So when we were besieged, I stayed off to the side and watched from the privacy of my room, for a while, eventually caving in to a perfect pitch, but as I tried to bargain with the man, he said, “You crazy man!”
In the morning we went to Komombo temple and then sailed to Aswan, the lowest province of Egypt. There, we went and saw Abu Simbel. This was the temple the authorities took down because the Aswan dam was going to flood it, so they numbered everything and assembled it somewhere else. Amazing! We took a Faluka ride (a sail boat ride) on the Nile. We saw hawks and egrets and black/grey crows. There were water buffalo, donkeys and camels, but I didn’t see any crocodiles. We continued on to see the high dam and the temple of Isis on Philae Island. Our sailing up the Nile took five days.
Upon returning to Cairo, we stayed overnight at the Nile Hilton, before catching our flight home.
Since this was being offered by the college, this was a group trip. There were 29 of us. Our guide in Egypt was named Ezzat and he was wonderful. Ezzat was a great guy, a Muslim, and he was going through their Romadon, which is a religious fasting ritual. They don’t eat, drink, smoke, argue, or partake in any pleasures during the day until after 5:30PM for an entire month. I don’t know how Ezzat put up with all of us annoying Americans during this time. He had the most patience I think I’ve ever seen in a person.
Group photo at Abu Simbel. Mom and I are top row, third and fourth from the left.
I was very happy to be able to share this trip with my mom. It certainly was a trip of a lifetime that I will never forget.
4/10/2016 - Could the End of Eyeglasses Be Near?
I’ve worn glasses since I was seven years old, but new technology could make them obsolete. Contact lenses too.
If you wear either of these, you know how much of a burden they sometimes can be. However, your eyesight could be in for a huge boost. If they make it to market, the Ocumetics Bionic Lens promises to enhance eyesight to a level that's 3x better than 20/20; our normal vision standard.
Invented by an optometrist in Canada, these are permanent lenses. Developed by Gareth Webb, the painless procedure takes less than 10 minutes (a lot like cataract surgery). And the lenses won't degrade over time so you'll never have a problem with cataracts or failing vision no matter how long you live.
Straight out of science fiction, there’s a tiny digital camera built into the lens, which is powered by the body. The camera can focus from close range to far away objects faster than a blink of an eye; faster than the human eye can focus. "This is vision enhancement that the world has never seen before," Webb told CBC News. "If you can just barely see the clock at 10 feet, when you get the Bionic Lens you can see the clock at 30 feet away."
The patent is expected to be available as soon as 2017, as long as clinical trials go as planned. The trials are set to begin now on animals and blind human beings.
Webb believes the new lens will revolutionize eye care as we know it, according to Business Insider.
My doctor says I’m not a viable candidate for Laser Corrective surgery, but rest assured, if Ocumetics Bionic Lens technology makes it to market and is covered by insurance (or even a reasonable expense without insurance) then I will be asking again.
I would love to live the rest of my life as a cyborg, and not be dependent on glasses.
4/3/2016 - Writing For Podcasts
If you’ve ever listened to one, you know podcasts are audio only. And if it happens to be storytelling you’re listening to, you absorb the ambient sounds infused with dialog to create a clear picture of what is going on in the story by using your imagination. I have discussed this very thing in another blog back in September of last year, titled, My Favorite Podcasts.
Well, I recently came across a posting on facebook about an open call for writers of a podcast called The Truth. I’ve listened to a couple of their shows and they’re entertaining. You should give them a try when you have an extra half an hour or so.
Anyway, I never really thought about what it takes to write for audio only. It must be very similar to screenwriting, except you mustn’t give any visuals in your text unless the character is describing it. On the flipside, this is a no-no in the world of novel writing because the general rule is Show, Don’t Tell.
So what would it be like to write for audio? I decided to give it a try. Similar to my dad when he wrote a skit for me and my friend to record when we were little, I created a “show” and wanted to share the beginning of it with you. Enjoy and please let me know what you think of it.
[Rain on pavement, an occasional car horn in street traffic, and a bicycle’s pedals churning. Heavy breathing is mixed in with the rhythm of its tires splashing through puddles.]
Bill: I rode my bike ten blocks after my shift was over to our favorite coffee bar where my girlfriend was waiting for me. When it comes to Jessica, I always seem to be late, but that’s because she’s always early.
[The bike stops. A door opens and closes and the sound of rain stops. The din of the restaurant is unmistakable with the murmur of people talking, flatware on plates, and glassware clinking.]
Jessica: Over here, Bill.
Bill: Hi. Sorry I’m late.
Jessica: You’re right on time. And soaked.
Bill: To the bone.
Jessica: We should get you home and into a warm bath.
Bill: Is that an invitation?
Jessica: Now Bill.
Bill: Jess and I haven’t had sex yet. For someone who likes to be early, she wants us to wait, and we’ve been waiting for just over a month.
Jessica: You know how I feel about that.
Bill: I know that you want us to get to know each other better, which is fine. I’m not trying to rush you. You’re worth waiting for.
Jessica: I want to show you something I think you’ll like.
Bill: Jess picked up her phone, face side down, from the table. She slid through the passcode screen with a swipe of her finger as dramatic as a conductor of an orchestra. Once the browser was opened, she flashed her pearly whites and handed her phone to me. On it showed a picture of a log cabin with dark weathered wood, aged, with jagged, broken windows. Some of the panes were missing glass altogether. The front door sat ajar, its dark interior like a gap between its two front teeth. The cabin sat among evergreen trees, with the greenest grass I’ve ever seen surrounding it, alone, rustic, a hideaway from the rest of the world. I looked up to see Jessica’s beaming face.
Jessica: Go ahead. Click on it.
Bill: I was excited to see what she was so excited about. Clicking on the picture brought me to a web site called Welcome to Wanestown Wyoming at wanestown dot com. The same picture of the derelict log cabin was front and center for the first few seconds, then the image scrolled left revealing more of the town with several of the same type of cabins plus a couple of larger buildings that looked like an old western saloon and a general store next to each other. The third picture showed a rundown room, with peeling paper on the walls, faded from a faraway time. There was enough sunlight coming in through the empty windows to scare away the shadows, and two chairs sat at a square table, the only occupants were some mismatched cups and saucers and a wood stove tucked away in the corner. I read the tag line, “U.S. Government will pay you to relocate to this once booming gold miner’s town.” I looked back to Jess, confused.
Jessica: We should do it.
Bill: What? This? You want to move to Wanestown?
Jessica: Don’t you remember? We talked about it on our second date; both of us wanting out of this city, getting away from the rat race, the congestion, the pollution.
Bill: I was intrigued, so I turned back to the web page. It read, “Welcome to Wyoming’s most preserved ghost town. There was a time, a hundred years ago when Wanestown was thriving with gold miners and their families, working hard to carve out a history in the heart of Wyoming. In the 1890s, some 1,000 people called Wanestown their home. Now you can too, for however long you wish.” I asked Jess, Are you kidding me?
Jessica: Nope. Not kidding.
Bill: I … I can’t do this. I can’t just up and leave. Truth was, I could, and she knew it.
Jessica: Look, we can go there for the summer, that’s all. We’ll work on restoring the town, show tourists around, sell souvenirs. We’ll live off the land, and the government will pay us. It also says they’ll cover the cost of our apartments. Two months, just you and me. It’ll be like band camp.
Bill: I don’t know, Jess. The last time I went camping I was fourteen.
Jessica: The way I see it, there’s no better way for us to get to know each other.
Bill: She winked at me. Just then our waiter came to the table.
Waiter: Hi there. What can I get for you two today?
Bill: We gave Oscar our order, only this time I said, “And make it to go.”
[Jessica’s giggle merges with the sound of a jetliner taking off.]
Bill: We left two weeks later. We had filled out our applications online and we were accepted right away. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management sent us both checks, our rent paid in full for two months. My landlord was ecstatic. In his eighteen years of being a slumlord, he had never seen such a thing. He told me he would keep an eye on the place for me. I told him not to sublet it, the sneaky snake that he is, I wouldn’t put it past him. You’re probably wondering what we did about our jobs, well, I quit mine. Route carriers are a dime a dozen in the big city. My bike and another job would be waiting for me when I returned. Jessica, on the other hand, she’s a teacher, so she was already out for the summer.
Maloney: It’s primitive, to say the least.
Bill: That’s Ranger Maloney; a jovial fellow in brown khakis and wide-brimmed hat. He’s in charge of the state park, which Waynestown is a part of. He drove us up the mountain to Waynestown and told us more about the place on the way.
Maloney: The town grew rapidly in the mid-nineteenth century following the discovery of gold in the area. People had come from all around to lay claims on the land in hope of becoming rich. But, by the 1920s, the mines had run dry and the boom went bust.
Jessica: The website said that there are a lot of tourists that come through.
Maloney: Yes, ma’am. Wanestown is all but empty, the only people who spend any time there are the tourists. And the caretakers, of course, which is you two.
Bill: Wait. It’s just us? We’re the only ones taking care of the whole town?
Maloney: Oh, um, didn’t the Bureau tell you? They should have. Oh my, that’s unfortunate. Well, not to worry, the work’s light and the two months will fly by in no time. I promise.
Bill: What happened to the last caretakers?
Maloney: Well, all I can say about that is I guess Waynestown is too remote for most people. In fact, while we’re on the subject, let me pull over at this scenic stop so you can use your phones for the last time.
Jessica: The last time?
Maloney: There’s no electricity in Waynestown, ma’am, so no Wi-Fi. And there’s hardly any reception in the mountains to make it worth using, but there are trails to explore, artifacts to inspect. Caretakers are really left to their own devices after the tourists are gone. The job comes with certain perks; a furnished cabin and the freedom from modern amenities like running water and social media. No distractions from the outside world. It’s for people who love the outdoors and want to give back. Caretakers give tours, sell souvenirs, and help out with site maintenance. But listen to me going on and on like a mountain lion with its tail in a trap. I’m sure you knew all of this before deciding to come out here, right?
Bill: Once Ranger Maloney pulled over and Jess and I were out of the car to check our email for the last time, I said to Jess, I don’t think this is for us. We should have the Ranger drive us back to the airport.
Jessica: Come on, Bill. This’ll be fun. I brought us a deck of cards.
Bill: Cards? She knows I don’t like playing cards. What have I gotten myself into? It took us another twenty minutes driving up the mountain.
Maloney: Here you are, folks. Cabin one is right in front of us, your home away from home. Inside you’ll find your caretaker booklets with all your instructions. The underground pantry is fully stocked and locked to keep the bears out. There’s fresh linen in the closet, and I’ll be by every Friday afternoon to check in on you. That’s three days from now. If you need me before then, I’m an hour’s hike away, straight down the mountain. Just follow the road. Good luck!
[A car door shuts and tires on gravel fades away. The deafening silence is broken by the distant screech of an eagle.]
Bill: I’ve never felt so alone.
Jessica: Oh my God! Bill? Isn’t this perfect? This is perfect. It’s like our own Eden.
Bill: I wanted to say, Except Adam and Eve were naked, but even with that benefit, things didn’t work out so well for them, so I didn’t. Instead I said, with a sarcastic smile, Perfect. This is just perfect.
What do you think? It’s obviously not finished, but where do you think the story is headed? Why is Bill so willing to follow Jessica anywhere? Does Jessica know more than she’s telling? Find out next time on Waynestown, the series.
3/27/2016 - I Hate Car Shopping
I didn't realize today of all days was going to be Easter when I came up with this week's blog, but I think Jesus will forgive, as he would have hated car shopping too.
Hate is a strong word and I don’t use it often, but I HATE car shopping. I hate the whole process; from driving on to a dealer’s lot right up until the time I drive off of it.
This time was no different. This time was actually worse because I didn’t know what kind of car I wanted. Well, I knew I wanted a compact SUV, but I didn’t know which one. In this class, the choices for me were the Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, or the Honda CR-V. I did my research and looked at them all online, the Build-Your-Own car websites gave me a rough estimate on how much each model was going to cost, but to get down to brass taxes the best way to find out what you’re actually dealing with is to go to the dealership.
Having to deal with car salesmen (and women) is what nightmares are made of. They’re like vultures circling overhead waiting to pick flesh off your bones.
I went to Nissan first. As soon as I pulled in, there were three buzzards flapping around me trying to peck away at my bank account. I was so annoyed I didn’t bother taking the Juke for a test drive, and I escaped unscathed. I did receive a couple of follow-up phone calls though, “We sure want to do business with you,” translated to, “Is there any meat on this bone?” I get it; everyone wants to make a buck, but back off buzzards!
Next came Mazda, but I couldn’t get away as easily. I got pulled in to the “Let’s play with the numbers” for an hour but the CX-5 was still out of my price range. The guy was very nice, but I got away without a test drive or having to commit to anything. I told him I was still shopping, which I was, and I did email him later out of respect saying thanks for taking the time with me, but I decided to go with a different car. His response was something about Mazda having a better resale value, peck, peck, peck. Delete.
Many of you might say that leasing would be the way to go. It may be a cheaper monthly payment, but at the end of the lease you haven’t any equity to show for it. It’s kind of like renting to own. Yes, you have the option to buy at that end of the lease, but that’s like buying a used car that’s at least 3 years-old. My advice, if you’re planning to buy at the end of a lease, bite the bullet and finance from the beginning. Like I did.
I ended up buying this…
It’s a 2016 Honda HR-V.
The HR-V is smaller than the CR-V, but it was in my budget. And the vulture I dealt with was nice too. The one thing that almost made me walk away from the deal was the “supposed” finance rate. The vulture wasn’t going to tell me he had other lenders at lower rates than Honda. I had to ask about a certain credit union rate. “Oh yeah!” he perked up. “We can do that! We work with them all the time!” My asking ended up saving me more than half in interest. This buzzard was trained to offer only the Honda finance rate. Bogus, buzzard, bogus! IMO, if you want to sell a car, do it by giving the buyer all the options available.
Anyway, I’ve been a Toyota diver since 1997, but this time around I wasn’t interested in any of their models. They have the RAV4, but again, I knew it was out of my price range. I did go to them asking what they could do to keep me driving in a Toyota, but their buzzard came up with nothing except for a used one with 39,000 miles on it, and it was still more than the HR-V. I really like the older RAV4s, the smaller ones with the tire on the back, but they don’t make those any more.
So now I’m a Honda owner.
I picked up the HR-V this past Tuesday evening. It has a rear back-up camera, a right side blind spot camera, Bluetooth technology for hands free phone use, keyless entry and engine start, moon roof, heated mirrors, and heated seats. It’s the EX model, but I got it for the LX (base model) price because it has 12,000 miles on it. I haven’t bought used since I could afford not to, but this deal was really good and I couldn’t pass it up. I think I lucked out on this one; sometimes it comes down to doing your homework, sticking to your guns, not extending yourself beyond your means, and, in this case, having things fall in your lap.
I think the biggest adjustment to this new car so far is the keyless entry and engine start. I still want to reach into my pocket or to the steering column for the keys.
My daughter ran into a surprise as well.
“I can’t get out,” my youngest announced through the window. She got “trapped” in the back seat after our first ride together in the new car. None of us knew about the child-proof locks on the rear doors, which act like a cop car where you can’t open the doors from the inside (not to worry, we didn’t leave her in there overnight). The next day, in daylight, I found a teeny, tiny switch on each door to turn this feature off.
Barring no more surprises, it’s just a matter of getting used to the larger size. It drives great and I’m very happy with my decision.
I still hate car shopping though.
3/20/2016 - ROOM, a novel by Emma Donoghue
Jack is a typical 5-year old. He plays games with his mother, makes friends with characters on TV, and reads books. But, unlike any other typical 5-year old, Jack has only lived in one room, sharing the tiny space with his Ma, Plant, Rug, and Bed. A nighttime visitor, known only as Old Nick, comes calling most nights, but only to see Ma and to make Bed creak. Jack sleeps in Wardrobe when Old Nick visits. Room is the whole world to Jack, as he was born there, but for his mother it is a prison after having been kidnapped by Old Nick seven years ago. When their world finally expands beyond their four walls, Ma and Jack must learn to adjust to the newness of everything and to let go of Room.
As told in the voice of Jack, Room is a book you will want to read in one sitting. From the very beginning, you will want to know why Jack and his mother are living there. Is she filled with OCD and loathing the outside world? Is she placing her fears on her son and forcing him to stay in the room with her? Who is the stranger that visits them?
When the answers come trickling in through the eyes of Jack, Donoghue leads us to even more questions. Is there hope for the mother and son? Will they escape? How will they cope if and when they do?
I was completely enthralled by this book. Sometimes the voice of Jack sounded older than five, and other times less, but I hope this was intentional and that Donoghue portrayed the young boy just as he would be when learning all you know from one person.
Room is unlike anything I’ve read before. Despite its disturbing premise, it remains a page turner. I gave it 4 stars. I would have given it a 5 but I felt the ending was a little lackluster, but I won’t spoil it for you here.
I highly recommend this book.
3/13/2016 - Endless Farts
Today was my daughter's birthday party, a week late. We hosted a cousin and seven other friends with their parents at the local bowling alley. There was pizza and soda, and we made Frozen themed cupcakes. The girls and one boy (he doesn't know how lucky he is) played one string of bowling each. After receiving some very thoughtful presents, we went into the arcade where you can gain points to redeem for prizes.
She got some white plastic vampire teeth for 10 points, 3 Laffy Taffy's for 45 points, a pop-up (a half-circle piece of rubber when turned inside out on a flat surface will pop-up taller than she is) for 50 points, and a Whoopee Cushion for 250.
She loves the Whoopee Cushion. But get this...the thing is self-inflating! That's so cool!
I don't know how long it's been since they began designing them this way, but when I was a kid it was a tiresome job getting the flappy rubber opening to open in order to blow the cushion up every time. Not any more. Now you can make endless farting noises without any of the work or spittle. And there has been. Endless farting noises, I mean.
I look forward to getting pranked by her. She'll try hard and she'll get me eventually. She can be sneaky that way, but in case you haven't noticed, I love her anyway.
3/6/2016 - Happy 7th Birthday!
I spoil the crap out of my daughter on her birthday.
The first thing I do is wait until she falls asleep the night before and I blow up a bunch of balloons and place them in her bed for her to wake up to. She has asked for this since the first time I’ve done it, which was when she turned three, and even though it’s no longer a surprise, who wouldn’t want to wake up to balloons on their birthday? So, the tradition continues and she loves it!
Of course she doesn’t have to go to school if it’s a school day. That’s a given. And we make a whole day of it; a daddy/daughter day.
It’s her choice of where to eat for the day. So, she and I go out to a local diner for breakfast, Sweet Frog (frozen yogurt) for lunch, and then the family goes to Red Robin for dinner.
She and I also do one special thing during the day. Last year it was an afternoon at the Lutz Children’s Museum in Manchester, CT. This year we went and saw the movie Zootopia. We both found it very entertaining. She really liked the lead female character, Judy Hopps, a rural bunny who wants to become a big-city police officer. I thought the movie overall was lackluster in the humor department, but the scene in the DMV with the sloths was an absolute riot.
In past years, that would be it. But this year I added something new. We went to the Time Machine, also in Manchester, where I wanted to let her choose her present from me.
She chose a yo-yo.
Yeah, I have to say that the factory building turned toy and hobby store was not as impressive as I remembered it being. We ended up going to Toys-R-Us where she got a Glo-Wubble, which is an "un-poppable" ball that inflates up to 3 feet around like a big bubble and glows in the dark.
My daughter has never used a yo-yo before. I'm not sure how she got it in her head to want one, but I tried to show her the best I could once we got home. She ended up getting it to kind of climb back up the string but catching it has eluded her so far. She stopped after it hit her in the eye. Poor girl.
Then, I tried blowing up the damn wubble! I couldn't figure it out. The darn thing would only get to about a foot around and then no larger. I figured the little air compressor that came with it either wasn't strong enough or the four D cell batteries were too old. I had just about given up. I even went so far to put it all back in the box. I felt bad. I felt like both of the gifts were a major bust, so when we got home from dinner I ended up blowing up the huge ball using only my lung power. It took forever because I'm old, but she likes it and that's the only thing that matters.
She said she had a great birthday. I hope she did. As her dad, I want her to have fun on her day, and I’m glad to be a big part of it. My only hope is that when I'm gone, she'll look back on ALL of her birthdays and I'll be able to make her smile.
Happy 7th Birthday Sweetheart!
3/3/2016 - Is it a Consumer’s Right to Put Down a Creative’s Work?
I posted an opinion on Twitter the other day in response to a Tweet by Amy Boggs @notjustanyboggs, which she had written, “One reader’s one-star is another reader’s BEST BOOK EVER. So be kind to yourself, writers. Don’t read all reviews.”
I had responded, “People are welcome to do so, but as my momma always said, ‘If you don’t have anything nice to say…’”
I mean, unless you’re a professional in the field of criticism (you get paid to be a critic) then I don’t think you (or I) should leave low-star reviews on works of art; be it a novel, movie, painting, or anything else that is considered subjective to the viewer/reader.
You didn’t like it. That’s fine. But there’s no need to make yourself feel better by putting the author/artist down.
Well, imagine the uproar. I had several people in the Twitter World put their two cents into the conversation, claiming that it is a consumer’s right to protect other people from spending their money on what they consider to be inferior in quality. I agree. If you purchased a DVD that didn’t play once you stuck it into your player, then by all means, let people know about it. If you purchased a locking system for your outside gate, and after the first rain storm it rusted beyond use, then yes, warn other people about not wasting their money.
But, because you didn’t like the style of writing by an author or the genre or even the story itself, or you didn’t like the portrayal of a character by an actor in a movie, or didn’t like a piece of art once you hung it on your wall, shouldn’t mean you should rate it badly for the whole world to see.
Mark Twain possibly said it best when speaking of critics...
I believe that the trade of critic, in literature, music, and the drama, is the most degraded of all trades, and that it has no real value; certainly no large value...however, let it go. It is the will of God that we must have critics, and missionaries, and congressmen, and humorists, and we must bear the burden.
~ Mark Twain's Autobiography
One mustn't criticize other people on grounds where he can't stand perpendicular himself.
~ Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
People will always have their opinions, but in today’s electronic world, where I think it is too easy to hide behind the screen and berate someone else’s work just because you didn’t agree with it, I say don’t do it. If you didn’t like that piece of creative work, chalk it up to a mistake and keep your finger off the mouse. Someone else may love it, and you shouldn’t spoil it for them, or discourage the author.
2/28/2016 - Happy Leap Day!
Tomorrow, Monday, February 29 is Leap Day, which makes this year, 2016, a Leap Year.
A normal, or common, year has 365 days in it and a leap year has 366 days, with the extra intercalary day always falling on February 29. A leap year occurs every four years to help synchronize the calendar year with the solar year (the length of time it takes the earth to complete its orbit about the sun), which is about 365¼ days.
The name "leap year," also known as a bissextile year, comes from the fact that the Gregorian calendar normally advances one day of the week from one year to the next, the day of the week in a leap year will advance two days (from March onwards) due to the extra day added at the end of February (thus "leaping over" one of the days in the week). For example, Christmas fell on Tuesday in 2001, Wednesday in 2002, and Thursday in 2003 but then "leapt" over Friday to fall on a Saturday in 2004.
So, every four years we have an extra day, and I'm surprised there aren't more superstitions about this day than there are for Friday the 13th. So, I went in search on the interwebs to find some:
- In Ireland and Britain, it is a tradition that women may propose marriage only in leap years.
- A 1288 law by Queen Margaret of Scotland required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man; compensation was deemed to be a pair of leather gloves, a single rose, £1 and a kiss.
- In Finland, the tradition is that if a man refuses a woman's proposal on leap day, he should buy her the fabrics for a skirt.
- In Greece, marriage in a leap year is considered unlucky.
- In the United States, February 29 is often referred to as "Sadie Hawkins Day" signifying a gender role reversal.
- A person born on February 29 may be called a "leapling" or a "leaper."
- In Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance, Frederic the pirate apprentice discovers that he is bound to serve the pirates until his 21st birthday (that is, when he turns 84 years old), rather than until his 21st year, because he was a leapling.
- Leap day is also St. Oswald’s Day, named after the archbishop of York who died on February 29, 992. His memorial is celebrated on February 29 during leap years and on February 28 during common years.
- On February 29, 1692 the first warrants were issued in the Salem witchcraft trials in Massachusetts.
Well, I don't know how accurate these are as you can't believe everything you read on the Internet, but these were the most interesting for me. I hope you enjoyed them and have a Happy Leap Day!
2/21/2016 - My CPAP Machine – For Her?
I’m not one to write about my own frailties, but I’ve got them just like everyone else does.
My latest ailment? I’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition where your airway gets constricted during sleep and you stop breathing.
My wife has been asking me for years to get a sleep study done because of my chronic snoring, but I had refused going to a sleep center having had a bad experience at one 20 years ago. But, through the advancements of science, I was recently able to wear a device in the comfort of my own bed. The device, consisting of a belt around my chest, a nostril tube, and an oxygen reader on my finger tip, registered my apnea as a moderate level of 27 (30 and over is considered severe), which translates to my not breathing 118 times within 7-1/2 hours of sleep. No wonder I’m so tired!
So, I’ve been prescribed a CPAP machine.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is a common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. It includes a small machine (a glorified air compressor) that supplies constant and steady air pressure through a hose hooked up to a face mask.
The constant pressure helps to keep your airway open.
I started wearing mine this past Tuesday. The first night I wore it for only 4-1/2 hours, but the second night was much better at 7-1/2 hours. How do I know? The machine told me. In fact, it sends my breathing and sleeping info to a website which I can log into and see my nightly results up to 2 weeks, which is pretty cool.
My machine is called AirSense 10 AutoSet for Her. “For HER.”
The PA who prescribed it to me suggested, “Think of it as a machine that will make your wife happy.” Ha! Whatever, right? I don’t care what it’s called as long as it works. And so far, so good, according to my readouts.
“As you start to see the benefits in your life, you’ll never look back.” I sure hope they’re right, for her and for me.
2/14/2016 - Middletown Moviehouse
My first job was at the Middletown Moviehouse in Middletown, CT, after I had turned 16 in 1980.
I was hired at the movie house by Reggie DuBois. And let me say right now that he was the best boss I’ve ever had. He hired me as an usher, and I would tear tickets for our two theaters, direct lines if we were going to sell out, shovel the entrance and exits in winter, change the marquee every Thursday, help people find seats, clean the lobby between shows, occasionally quiet people down or kick them out, and clean up people’s garbage after each show.
I loved it.
After high school and sometime into my college years, I graduated from usher to assistant manager, and I received my projectionist license so I could run the projectors. I had to take a test with the State of Connecticut because the film was so flammable it was a safety concern to the public. The lamps inside the projectors were super bright and would get very hot, so hot in fact that the projectors had ducts leading up and out through the roof. If the film jammed, the heat of the lamp would burn right through it (a cool thing to witness on the big screen).
I only worked reel projectors, whereas the bigger houses had platter projectors—the movie was built as one large reel which would lay flat on a platter. Platter reels were cool though because you didn’t have to rewind them like the reel-to-reel films.
Examples of the larger reels made from the smaller reels [inside the orange shipping containers] and the reel-to-reel projectors.
After hours on Thursday nights were the best. Thursday night was when I, with my projectionist hat on, would build the new movies for showings on Friday. Back then, movies would be shipped out to theaters in 12” octagonal metal cases with an average of eight little reels of film in them, depending on the length of the movie. A projectionist would have to splice the smaller reels together into larger reels for the projectors. Nowadays it’s digital, but back then building those reels into a full movie would take about a half an hour. Anyway, the best part about having keys to the place was when after I finished building the movie, I would run them for myself (or with friends) before the general public got to see them. I would sit in the theater and put my feet up like I owned the place.
I mentioned Reggie, my boss. He was a cool guy and we were friends. He and I would have Pac-Man wars. Having memorized patterns on the stand-up arcade game, he and I would have battles for the highest score. After a week, we would unplug the machine and start over. There was a way that we could bang on the front of the coin return and have it register credits, so we could play for free.
“Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever slept?” At the Moviehouse, of course. There were times, usually during snow storms, when I would stay in the movie house overnight; drinking, eating popcorn, having sex with my girlfriend, and sleeping on the office floor.
There are lots of memories of this job that make me smile, like the time I broke a big glass globe while changing a light bulb, or when I dropped a gallon-sized bottle of Riunite and it smashed on impact and left a huge stain on the carpet, or when I threw out a drunk and called the cops on him because he was peeing against the curtain below one of our screens, or when Reggie and I drove into NYC on a denim jacket run (he had a side job selling leather and denim work), or when I had to give customers their money back because I couldn’t get Dune to focus correctly on the screen (the copy we received was at fault, not me), and last but not least, it was a lot of fun flirting with all the concession counter girls.
I thought that that would have been my career, but the place got sold, and to my demise the new owners cleaned house, as they had their own employees to fill the positions. So, I went to work for Showcase Cinemas 1-2-3 in Newington, but it just wasn’t the same. There were a few people (one in particular) who were nice to me, but I never felt like I fit in.
The Middletown Moviehouse closed down years ago, as the big houses forced the independents to go out of business. I want to say this was in the mid-1990s. Someone recently told me there’s a laundry-mat there now, which is sad to me.
I’ve been trying to find a picture of the place, for nostalgia, but to no avail. I can’t believe I don’t have one stashed away somewhere. So here’s my challenge … the first person who can get to me a photo of the front of the Middletown Moviehouse while it was in business, I will give you a free copy of any one of my books. Are you up to the challenge?
2/7/2016 - Chinese Food
You may think with a title like Chinese Food this blog entry would be a review of a special meal I had eaten recently, but no, this is not about that. This blog is about the memories that arise whenever I eat American Chinese Food.
It’s funny how some foods (or smells) can bring back memories.
Whenever I eat the food of Chinese persuasion, it reminds me of the first time I can recall having eaten it. I was 16 and worked at the Middletown Moviehouse as an usher (my first real job), and I would at times, along with other coworkers, order dinner from the Chinese restaurant next door, called Debbie Wong, or as we used to lovingly call it, Debbie’s Wong. Usually on the weekends, as soon as the 7 o’clock showings started I would take orders and walk over to retrieve them. Everyone in the restaurant got to know me and we were all on a first name basis. And as I recall, they had the best pork fried rice I’ve ever had.
Like most independently owned movie houses, the Middletown Moviehouse closed down long ago. In my next blog I’ll share with you all about my hijinks there.
Today, the fam and I eat take-out at Panda Palace or eat-in at Oriental Café, both located in Vernon. Recently, we had gotten take-out, and again, my thoughts turned toward Debbie’s Wong and the movie house. But this time my memories didn’t stop there. This time, for whatever reason, I also thought of other memorable Chinese restaurants too.
In Meriden (where I lived on the wrong side of the tracks for a stint), I used to order from a place on Broad Street when I could afford it, but I can’t remember its name. I will never forget them though because on their yellow and red fluorescent street sign it read, “We Delivery.” I’m not trying to make fun of the grammar, but somehow it made the food seem more authentic.
During my 6 years of working in Windsor and being pretty much stuck in an office at “my” drafting table, bringing in a bagged lunch every day got boring. So once a week, Myrna (a little Jewish bookkeeper who was a pleasure to work with; she was always so cheerful) and I would get our lunch at the China Sea restaurant on Poquonock Avenue. This is where I first started eating Chicken with Garlic Sauce, which is now my “go to” menu choice.
After my short-lived first marriage, I lived alone in East Hartford and used to get my Friday night meals at Pearl Garden in Manchester, right next to Blockbuster. Every Friday, I would rent two movies on VHS (eventually succumbing to DVD) and chow down while watching them in my apartment (eventually succumbing to owning my own house). My movie watching habit is directly tied to my times working in theaters and seeing all the movies for free. And just like my single life; Blockbuster and Pearl Garden are also long gone.
And those were my most memorable Chinese restaurants. As you’ve read, it’s not just the food they served, but the memories that come along with them.
What are your favorite Chinese restaurants? Is it the food that keeps you going to them, or the memories associated with them?
1/24/2016 - An Interview With My 6 Year Old
I saw the following floating around on facebook ... "Without ANY prompting, ask your child the following questions. It's a great way to see what they think." The posting also wanted to know my kid's name and age, which I will comply only in part by telling you my daughter is a month shy of turning 7.
What is my name?
What is something I always say to you?
"You're a piggy."
(I'm uncertain why she thinks this as I've only said it less than a half a dozen times. I thought for sure it would be, "Oh yeah," or "Get into bed," or "Stop whining," or a bunch of others.)
What makes me happy?
What makes me sad?
"Whining. When I'm whiny."
How do I make you laugh?
What was I like as a child?
"I don't know."
How old am I?
How tall am I?
(I'm 6'-1" in real life. My daughter likes to say, "In real life" a lot. I like that she thinks I'm super tall though.)
What is my favorite thing to do?
(There seems to be a lot of napping and tickling going on in my house, both of which may be true from an almost 7 year old's opinion.)
What do I do when you're not around?
"Write on your computer."
What am I really good at?
What is something I'm not good at?
"Getting tickled because you're not ticklish."
(This is also true, except for my feet. My feet are very ticklish, but I foil anybody's plans of tickling me because I like it. I actually ask her sometimes to tickle my feet and she won't do it. I've gone so far as to pay her to rub/tickle my feet, but she's only done it twice. Rotten kid. "Rotten kid" is also something I say a lot, with love.)
What do I do for a job?
(Apparently this is something she only sees at home. I'll have to show her my illustrations from my day job, ha!)
What is my favorite food?
(When I order pizza I do get sausage on it, this is true, but I wouldn't say it's my favorite food. So I asked her what my second favorite food is and she still didn't get. My favorite food is Peanut M&Ms.)
What do you enjoy doing with me?
"Playing Candyland together."
(A family that plays together, stays together.)
1/24/2016 - Don’t You Eat That [Yellow] Snow
What’s that? It’s something white and it’s falling from the sky. It’s been so long since we’ve seen it. What’s it called? Oh yeah, it’s snow!
Quick! Get out there. Go play in it before it disappears completely from Global Warming, but before you dive in head first with your mouth wide open you may want to think twice about it.
People who are inclined to eat snow usually point out that they are very careful to have chosen the whitest, most clean, most undisturbed spots to scoop from or (what could be more fun than this) to try to catch it with their tongues before it hits the ground.
Any kid (adults too, who are still kids at heart) who has had the pleasure of being outside when it snows has done so with their tongues sticking out, at least once. It’s a natural thing to do.
But, according to a study published in Environmental Science last month, by researchers at McGill University, it suggests that freshly fallen snowflakes contain more than just crystallized water; they also found heavy traces of car exhaust, coal soot, and dirt mixed in. In other words: pollution. The study concludes that if you are forced to eat snow for survival that you should boil it first, let it cool, and then drink it.
So, should we stop eating snow?
For me, unless it’s yellow, I’m not going to stop eating it. And I’m not going to stop my kids from eating it either. Hey, I think of it this way: we all eat a pound of dirt in our lifetime, so catching a snowflake on your tongue or taking a bite of it while having fun in the snow isn’t going to kill you.
1/17/2016 - In Remembrance of David Bowie
Never Let Me Down was the seventh studio album by David Bowie, released in April, 1987, and in support of the album, he went out on the road with The Glass Spider Tour.
I had the pleasure of seeing him perform during that tour when he came to Connecticut during the summer of ’87. I went with my then girlfriend, who was a big fan of his. She knew all of his early glam stuff, whereas I only knew his more popular songs that played on the radio, like Space Oddity, Let’s Dance, Young Americans, Fame, Changes, Under Pressure with Queen, Blue Jean, and Heroes. Even now, I’m unsure if some of these songs came after 1987. Forgive me my error if some are.
Anyway, the show was phenomenal. Bowie spoke to us, giving introductions and a little history to his music. He played old and new songs (mostly his popular ones) with a big surprise to the audience when he introduced Peter Frampton, playing lead guitar.
According to wikipedia, The Glass Spider Tour was the “biggest, most theatrical and most elaborate tour he had undertaken in his career.” “In 2010, the tour was named one of the top concert tour designs of all time.”
After all these years I still have the concert program, the cover of it is seen to the left.
He released a new album, his last, Blackstar, to critical acclaim on January 8. On the eve of turning 70, he still sounded great. Some are saying that Lazarus is his saying goodbye. To me, there are many lyrics on the album which can be construed as foreboding messages, but in true Bowie form, we never would have guessed it had he not died.
David Bowie, born David Robert Jones, died Sunday January 10, just two days after the album’s release. He was 69 when he passed after an 18 month battle with cancer. He will be missed as his musical career inspired many and he entertained many more.
He is probably best known for his song Space Oddity, a story about a fictional astronaut, Major Tom, riding his capsule all alone in outer space when something goes wrong and he is lost. The song was released just 5 days prior to the Apollo 11 mission, which would become the first manned moon landing another 5 days later.
My favorite Bowie songs are Golden Years, and China Girl.
Goodbye David Bowie, aka Ziggy Stardust, aka Thin White Duke. Indeed, “The stars look very different today.”
1/10/2016 - M.F. & Friends
Back in my high school days, I used to draw these characters. There was Mr. Frottier, the ring leader (an experimental rubber ball come to life (frottier is French for rubber)), his best pal, Paco (a former pirate’s parrot), Bleep, an insect (a laid-back dude who will do anything just for the thrill of it), and The Macho Brothers; Stan, Dan, and Tan, who caused as much trouble amongst themselves as they did solving them for others.
It didn’t take long for all of them to have sophomoric adventures against foes like Mr. Anus and his loads, a foul mouthed Compton (mostly a mouth), Hair (a hairball with eyes and a mouth), and a bunch of other weekly enemies, which after more than 30 years the names of them escape me.
But, as sophomoric as they were, these were my very first stories. An embarrassment now, but they were funny at the time.
So this week’s blog is a message to my friends who used to ask to see more. And that message is Thank You. Were they silly drawings? Yes. Were they silly stories? Yes. Did they promote drinking and pot smoking? Yes (not that I did either of those things ;o) ). But you knew it was a passion of mine to create and your encouragement inspired me to keep going as a creative (along with other art work, of course).
And while I’m here, I need to send out a special thank you to Scott Lange for his first version of Bleep. He drew the original dude, then called Mr. Bleep, in my first comic book. I continued to use him in my stories with Scott’s permission. And to John Stekl, thank you for the inspiration behind many of the enemies during our four years in school.
Even though M.F. & Friends never went anywhere beyond the ghostly halls of Middletown High, hopefully this piece of nostalgia brings back fond memories for you too.
1/3/2016 - Trying New Things
“Just try it,” I say.
“I don't want to,” she says.
“I don't like it.”
“How do you know you don't like it if you've never tried it?”
And so it goes, every time some new food is introduced.
My daughter would live on chicken tenders and French fries with ketchup, Honeynut Cheerios, chocolate, and Sweet Frog (a frozen yogurt establishment), if given the chance. My wife and I have at least gotten her into the habit of taking a "no thank you" portion and trying a taste of something before she poo-poos it, but rarely will she say that she likes whatever the new thing is. Except for shrimp and stuffing. She tried shrimp twice over the holidays and said she liked it, and stuffing tonight, so there's hope.
I know I’m not the first parent to go through this. And she'll eventually succumb. But when? When! When will she say, "Ooo, this looks delicious!" and dive right in? After four years of sticking her nose in the air, give or take (she's six now, almost seven), it's infuriating. Don’t you like this? Don’t you like that? What about lasagna? What about green bean casserole? What about ice cream?
“No. No. No. No. Yes!”
"Ice cream doesn't count as a vegetable," I tell her.
She looks back at me; eyes unmoving. So, we give her vitamins to compensate.
I say it's exasperating, but I exaggerate a bit. I know she'll grow out of it, but better habits now mean a better attitude toward trying other new things in the future, and not just food.
She's a lot like me, I guess. But as parents, we all want our kids to be better than us, yes? I'm not afraid to try new food, so long as it's cooked, it's the other new things I'm leery of. If only she and I knew what we are missing.