Sunday, June 24, 2018

This week we went to see Think-Red-Hibble-Stew.

We had an inauspicious start. I left my house and office keys locked in the office--of course, I hadn't realized this at the time. I passed my wife on my way home; she was going the opposite direction to pick up daughter after some practice or something. When I arrived at the house, I found it locked. When I couldn't find my keys, that's when I realized that I had removed them from the lock in the office door...and placed them in the pocket of the jacket that I leave at the office, instead of placing them in the pocket of my pants--which I wear home.

So I cooled my heels on the front doorstep and waited for wife's return. It provided me with an opportunity to read my newest download: Pride of The Samuri, Book 1 of the Kusunoki Chronicles. I'll do a more complete review on it later. I'm nearly done with the book now, and IT. IS. EPIC. My review will probably say something like this author may be on of the few whose stuff I enjoy reading more than my own. It's incredible.

Speaking of incredible, or rather The Incredibles II: I've been waiting 14 years to see this movie. I've said that I really don't like superhero movies. They're all explosions and special effects and more explosions. The actors seem to be mere props to be thrown around by other superheros/villains, and explosions, etc. I still believe that. I don't like superhero movies...with one exception: The Incredibles was totally awesome. The original movie had great characters and a clear story unadulterated by social justice genuflection. It also had that cool 60s style movie music that evokes ghosts of James Bond and other over-the-top cinema fare.

(This isn't my favorite of the music, but it will do for illustrative purposes)

 A lot has changed in 14 years. I knew that I would be disappointed with the sequel. I knew that it would fall well short of the magnificence of the original. I knew that they were going to ruin everything with the sequel. I knew the movie would make me wish that they had never made a sequel. I knew that I would leave the theater feeling like a four-year old child whose favorite toy, a peddle car, had been run over because his stupid cousin had pushed and left it under a real car (Yes, I'm still mad about that). So my expectations were low...and yet I hoped.

The movie opened after a 14 year intermission right where the original had left off. The Underminer had just appeared; the family had to leap into action. That led to my first favorite line, "Trampoline me!" I'll let you speculate on the context. The story ran fairly parallel to the original with the difference being that ElastiMom gets the call to elicit illicit superhero arms instead of IncrediDad. Dad has home duty, which elicited another favorite line, "I'm formulating!" Violet and Dash have their own problems, and Jack-Jack is everyone's problem. Eventually, the family has to come together to defeat the evil Screenslaver. The movie makes a relevant and not-so-subtle statement about a modern condition, but doesn't become a nonstop in-your-face freight train hauling the audience to the Peoples Republic of Social Justice According To [Insert Pet Cause Name/Supporters Here].

There was, however, a train, or monorail, or levitating train or something like that. Of course, there were also a motorcycle, a super cool car, a neat boat, and other assorted nifty-do things.  All the old voices were back and nailing it. My favorite surprise was the voice of Bob Odenkirk as Winston Deaver. Better Call Saul is one of my favorite Vidangel treats.

The family oriented message of the movie remains strong. The animation is fantastic. The music is great. Did I like it? Well...we got to the theater late (see the story above about being locked out of the house) and had to sit near the front of the theater at entry level; the kid to my right kept going out and coming back with popcorn in a bag and/or bags of chips to rattle; people kept coming in late and walking in front of me, and getting up during the movie and walking in front of me going in and out; and some genius in front of me had brought her four-year old to the theater with those shoes that have flashing lights in them that activate every time the kid's feet touch the floor (and that kid was walking back and forth a lot); and not once did I seriously contemplate the bashing of heads against armrests, the breaking of teeth on seatbacks, nor even the uttering of colorful-but-true-and-hurtful words with sufficient vitrolic verve and venom to slay the entire families of the obliviously rude cretins for seven generations--and it wasn't just because I'm a nice person, which I am, mostly. It was, to state the obvious, incredible. I highly recommend it as the best movie I've seen in theaters so far this year; Two thumbs up; Five stars--and nearly as good as the original.

I do have a review of L'Amour's Passin Through to do, and an update to the status of Smoke in paperback. The short answer for both is: They're coming soon--just not as soon as I had hoped.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"When I was a boy I had a dream about all the things I'd like to be...When I was a boy I had a dream..."
"When I was a Boy" from the album Alone in The Universe -- Jeff Lynne's ELO.

I had planned a reframe of Fallen Angel (1945). Directed by Otto Preminger. Starring Alice Faye, Dana Andrews, and Linda Darnell. However, I was seized by a strange melancholy (it came from behind the refrigerator and glommed onto me with manifold tentacles of misty, many-hued memory). When that happens, Alone in The Universe has a few songs to help channel that feeling to the surface. The Time album, also from ELO, makes for a good chaser. The latter is good for a meander down memory lane to a time when I wore a younger man's clothes (yeah, I stole part of that phrase from Billy Joel's "Piano Man"--which also holds some special memories of younger days that I may noted in a previous post).

Instead of the reframe, I'm just including a few of the many great screenshots I took, and adding a sprinkling of musical quotes and commentary. 

Otto Preminger had a gift for lighting great shots; the light and shadow play upon Linda Darnell's features like a beautiful sunrise upon the chrome and paint of a 1955 Thunderbird (and I mean that in a good way--not insinuating she looks "tired," has a few miles on her, or has her top down).

"I'm so glad I found you. I just wanna be around you. All my life."
"All My Life" from the album Alone in The Universe -- Jeff Lynne's ELO

I think she was looking for the Heidi audition.

"Alone in the universe. All alone in the universe. That's how it feels when you are gone..."
"Alone in The Universe" from the album Alone in The Universe -- Jeff Lynne's ELO.

"With its ivory towers and plastic flowers, I wish I was back in 1981. I wonder. Yes, I wonder. Is this the way life's meant to be?"
"The Way Life's Meant to Be" from the album Time -- ELO.

"I believe things are going wrong, and the night goes on and on. All your dreams have flown away, and the sun won't shine today."
 "The Way Life's Meant to Be" from the album Time -- ELO

This shot looks like he has just found a girl's head and is wondering if it would look better on the mantle or the shelf. 

"You should be so happy. You should be so glad. So why are you so lonely, you 21st century man?"
"21st Century Man" from the album Time -- ELO.

"Many places I have been. Many sorrows I have seen. But I don't regret, nor will I forget, all who took that road with me."
"The Last Goodbye" from The Hobbit album -- Billy Boyd.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A sky painted in watercolor gray looked down upon me with all the joy of a boy who had lost his favorite toy. It was threatening to cry. I knew that I had only a limited amount of that currency issued to each of on a daily basis to complete the daunting, but not overwhelming tasks before me. In fact, I would say the tasks were merely whelming, definitely not overly so.

It was like this, see. Last Saturday the mower went on strike again. It had had some complaint about needing a new starter motor. I had immediately broken off negotiations...and ordered a new starter motor. The local apothecary of parts had said that they would have to order it. I had decided that I could do that on my own. So I did.

Saturday, I returned to negotiations with the new starter motor in hand. I made a blood-free presentation. It went so efficiently that my wife couldn't believe that I finished as soon as I had. The biggest problem had been a set of bolts on the engine cover were masquerading as 10 mm but which were in in fact 3/8 inch; those guys had taken the 10 mm at first, but when things got tough, they just shrugged their shoulders and refused to tighten up. I brought out the 3/8 and showed them who was boss, but good, see.

Overcome by the sheer brilliance of my proposal, the mower accepted it immediately by roaring into action. I still needed to battle the two weeks worth of wild jungle growth that is my lawn before the sky let loose with its tears. My yard is like The Ponderosa meets The High Chaparral--if the former were covered in lush grass and the latter boasted thistles and morning glory in lieu of cactus and chaparral, and had a gopher.

Although I had neither Hoss, Little Joe, Buck, nor even Blue to aid me, I rode into battle on the Craftsman war machine determined to conquer or die do as much as I could before the rain came. The yard knew that resistance was futile, but resist it did. Fortunately, it used the Mahatma Gandhi method--its resistance was entirely passive. Unlike the British, I had no conscience to whisper against the wholesale massacre of the little green grassy fakirs. It was slow going, but I maintained the massacre at the best possible speed with no remorse whatsoever.

Finally, the gray sky finally couldn't hold its water any longer. It began with a light sprinkle like the first tears of sadness welling up and trickling down childish cheeks. I continued the massacre unmoved. Gradually, the tears increased until great gouts of tears fell as the sky sobbed uncontrollably. I was over half finished with the task. Moved by moisture rather than remorse at my murderous mayhem, I relented while the storm passed.

When the sky had stopped its whining, I let the turf dry a while while I whiled away the time at other things, including making sure a couple of my books were now on sale at Barnes & Noble for the Nook.

Finding Jack is now available at B&N for Nook.

Justice in Season is now available at B&N for Nook.

I resumed the mayhem at the earliest opportunity because the crybaby heavens still had that gray look of sadness that threatened to break into a fit of weeping at any time. In fact, the weeping began before I had finished mowing. I carried on the labor of slaughtering the herbaceous army arrayed against me and my war machine in spite of the heavens' lament. I finished wet and weary, but triumphant over the foe.

Of course, my murderous work was yet incomplete. There remained a gopher to confront. I didn't want to face that saber-toothed menace without backup. When the sky had finished its bawling, I took a small boy to use for bait help me set the trap. He likes to carry the shovel. In a matter of moments we had laid a cunning trap for the clawed ruiner of turf--which sounds like a good name for a literary character: Claude Roowener of Turf, Earl of Clay.

This morning I checked the trap. Claude will ruin no more turf.

Don't forget, Smoke is on sale on Amazon, but the sale ends the 12th. After that, you'll have to part with at least $2.99 to peruse the pages of that work which is destined (or not) to become the literary gem of the century.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Quick Countdown. Only a few hours left to purchase this gem at $2.99. Starting tomorrow, and for only a few days, it will be on sale for $0.99. Get it now at $2.99 while you still can. Or get it tomorrow for only $0.99. It's a win-win. Pick your price. Limited time only. Get the book. Post a review.

Smoke, by Stanley Wheeler, a tale of lipstick and lead, romance and mystery told from inside the head of the impromptu detective (mostly), with a little help from his favorite authors.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Speaking of book covers, I've redone the cover to Justice in Season. I'm not certain that I'm pleased with it. The background may be too busy. I needed to change it as the old cover didn't fit the Kindle cover dimensions; it looked odd, out of place, and amateurish (now it only suffers from the latter distinction, or maybe still all three but just in a different way). Here's the new cover:

Yes, I used the same template that I used for Smoke. If you like something, keep it--or as I say, glom* onto it and never let it go. I also made a similar cover for the sequel, Justice Resurgent. I may decide to change it before I'm done writing the sequel, so I won't post the preview of that one yet.

I finished two Louis L'Amour books recently. The Broken Gun, and The Mountain Valley War. Rather than a straight review, I'll do a little compare and contrast. TBG is a shorter, quicker read. TMVW is longer (yes, that's redundant). I chose TMVW based on the fact that it is set in Idaho. Unfortunately, it didn't seem uniquely Idaho enough to me. Aside from some place names, it might've been Utah or Nevada, but that's a minor complaint.

TBG isn't really a western; it is set in Arizona in the 1960's. A writer, whose life experience is much like L'Amour's, is lured to a remote ranch by folks who don't care for what his research might reveal about the legal title to their ranch. It has a bit of a noir flavor. By the end of the book, I was hearing the protagonist speak in the voice of Humphrey Bogart.

TMVW uses a classic western morality tale template: An evil land baron (or "King," in this case) attempts to persuade the legitimate small farmers and ranchers to sell out cheaply; his methods include cutting off their supplies, and late night visits to deliver house warming gifts of lead and fire. One of those small farmers is a man going by an alias to hide the fact that he is an all-around western renaissance man, being extremely talented with his fists as well as his Colts. He wants to settle down, perhaps with the woman who followed him from Texas and who runs a gambling palace. Our hero's sense of justice and future plans don't mesh well with the land-grabbers new planning and zoning code--what with that new comprehensive plan zoning him into a new zip code or restricting him to a three by six plot in the dirt-view estates. Naturally, the hero manages to make heroic journeys, win heroic fights, and dispense heroic justice and mercy.

I preferred TBG. Both stories boasted heroes who performed difficult feats to outwit and outfight their enemies. In TMVW the hero had lots of help, although he was often left to succeed by dint** of his own fists and pistols. The writer in TBG didn't have any open allies, but he acquired some key aid to help him triumph. Both also featured shooting, horses, fighting, murder, and climbing--not necessarily in that order.

Next time I hope to use more pictures like this:

from the movie Fallen Angel. The film is loaded with great black and white shots--in fact, they all are, black and white that is. The story isn't bad, and the acting is pretty good. I'll probably do a reframe with the pictures since I won't remember the story well enough to do a recap and review. Which reminds me that I need to do another Combat! episode soon.

*That's for you--you know who I mean. It's from the Scottish "glaum," in case you're interested. It originally meant "to steal" or "to seize." It also has come to mean "to adhere to" or "to grab." Its first known use was in 1907.

**Also for you--you still know who I mean--because I know you'll ask. The phrase "by dint of" means "by means or use of." Dint comes from the Old English "Dynt" and was first used in writing sometime before the 12th century.