Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Never Meet Your Heroes...

... or in this case, follow them on Twitter.

You may have heard the adage before - "Never meet your heroes." The reason for that is because you learn how human they are and you witness their strengths as well as foibles  first hand, and sometimes that can be quite disheartening.

Such is the case with Stephen King. 

I wouldn't call him my hero, but I've enjoyed his fiction since I was a teenager, and have always thought it'd be nice to meet him someday. So when I signed up for Twitter, I began following his account.

I've now decided I have to stop. I can't stand to listen to him whine anymore.

I understand that he didn't support Trump. He's even said more than a few times that because of the Watergate scandal he refuses to vote Republican ever again. Hey, I'm cool with that. The man has his personal political beliefs, and whether I agree with his beliefs or not, those beliefs don't keep me from enjoying his work.

But in the lead up to the November 2016 election and in these months following, his Twitter posts have been predominately political, wholly anti-Trump, and have lacked any sort of intelligent thought.

Don't get me wrong. I follow plenty of anti-Trump people, and probably the same number of pro-Trump people. Unlike many of my "open-minded" friends who immediately block anyone who doesn't believe exactly like they do, I read both sides of any issue/debate.

Unfortunately, though, King constantly posts whiny little quips that completely lack any sort of depth, wit, or thought. I honestly expected him to...well, be a better writer. His tweets are simplistic rehashes of items we've all seen on the news multiple times. If he only posted them once in a while, that'd be fine. But he posts multiple times per day - I sometimes wonder if he's even writing fiction any more, seems like all his time is spent on Twitter now like a teenage girl who can't stop giving updates while at the shopping mall.

My plan is simple. I'll mute his feed for a while, give him a few months to emotionally recover, and then check back in. If he's still going on and on, then I'll stop following him. I'll continue to read his fiction, and I'm sure that King being King, like in the past, he'll get in a political jab or two. But that's okay, I have faith he'll temper his comments for the sake of his fiction.

I still like the guy, just can't follow him on Twitter.

I'm just one guy among his thousands of followers and loyal re-tweeters, I doubt he'll even notice I'm gone.

Until Next Time....
Tweetly Yours,
Michael 
 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Okay, So It Was't Exactly a Banner Year...

Well, usually these types of posts are written during the last week of a year. But me... Hey, I got busy, so I'm a little late on this topic. Plus, my Year In Reading isn't much to brag about this year.

I fell way short of my short story goal, even let my subscription to the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction expire for a while in an effort to get out from under the rising stack of issues I haven't read yet. The number of novels I finished this year is nothing to boast about, although I did manage to read more classic novels than modern novels, including a reread of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein," one of my favorites of all time, and squeezed in my annual reread of Dicken's "A Christmas Carol."

I did read a number of Information Technology books, articles, and essays in an effort to keep up with the industry that pays my bills. Then on a personal level, I kept my head buried in a lot of cookbooks and woodworking books. I lived through a total top-to-bottom bathroom remodel, and adopted an Olde English Bulldog (named Zeus by the previous owner, which sort of brought to my attention that the past three out of four animals I've owned have been named after mythological figures, and five out of the last five pets have been named from fictional characters -- I'm sensing a theme here).

The blogs continue on, not regularly, but enough to let folks know I'm still alive. I tweet at least once per day from at least one of my accounts, but for all purposes have practically sworn off Facebook completely - the last time I logged on to that bit social media was pre-November election, I just couldn't stand the bitterness and hatred BOTH sides were throwing at each other. All I learned from that was how hypocritical both sides can be - each thinking of themselves as "open minded" when in fact, neither of them are.

Other than those little tidbits of news, life for me has remained pretty normal - the novel continues, the poetry continues, and I've brought my book hoarding pretty much under control.

So that's it -- the Year 2016 in Review.

Until Next Time...
If you have a bit of scrap wood around you're wanting to find a project for, I've linked in two videos on how to build your own Tardis. (If you have to ask what the Tardis is, you're reading the wrong blog). The first one is more instructional by a by a man in Oakland, and the second one is by a nerdy English woman who enjoys poking fun at herself.

Annually Yours,
Michael

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Just How Many Humbugs Are There

I'm finishing up my yearly reread of Dickens's "A Christmas Carol." I could post a little something about it and its staying power in our culture, but thousands of people before me have done it and said it better than I can.

Instead, I thought I'd do what I do best - Make an Irrelevant List.

Since I love the book so much and many of the adaptations, I thought I'd give a stab at listing all the movie and television movie versions with the actor or actress who played the part of Scrooge. I won't list the many television cartoon or sitcom recreations because that'd make this list too long.

So here, in chronological order, is a list of "A Christmas Carol" adaptations:

Scrooge (1901) -cast list unknown
A Christmas Carol (1908) - Thomas Ricketts
A Christmas Carol (1910) - Marc McDermott
Scrooge (1913) - Sir Seymour Hicks and retitled Old Scrooge for its U.S. release in 1926.
A Christmas Carol (1914) - Charles Rock
The Right to Be Happy (1916) - Rupert Julian
A Christmas Carol (1923) Russell Thorndike
Old Scrooge (1926) - Sir Seymour Hicks
Scrooge (1928) - Bransby Williams
Scrooge (1935) - Sir Seymour Hicks
A Christmas Carol (1938) - Reginald Owen
Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (1951) - Alastair Sim
Scrooge (1970) - Albert Finney
Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983) - Scrooge McDuck
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) - Michael Caine
A Christmas Carol (1997) - Tim Curry
A Christmas Carol (1999) - Patrick Stewart
Christmas Carol: The Movie (2001) -voice: Simon Callow
A Christmas Carol (2009) - computer animated with Jim Carrey

Again, this list doesn't encompass the dozens of random cartoon versions that exist, and doesn't include the hundreds of foreign language versions of the book.

Whenever discussing movie version of this classic tale, the question always comes up: Who is the best Scrooge?

The Boss and I only slightly disagree. To her, Alister Sim is the best, closely followed by Michael Caine, and nearly all movie critics agree with her. Personally, I switch the two, Caine followed by Sim. If you haven't watched Caine in the Muppet version, you should give it a try. Honestly, Caine does a wonderful job as Scrooge, but doesn't get the full credit he deserves because it's a Muppet version. The good movie critics, thankfully, give him his due.

So since this is the end of this entry, log off your computer, snuggle in, and either read the book or watch the movie. Slow down, enjoy the Season, and keep Christmas in your heart the whole year long.

Until Next Time...
If I need to convince you, then maybe this movie trailer will help. 
Spiritly Yours,
Michael 

Monday, November 21, 2016

A Must-Read for Science Fiction and Horror Fans

I've been reading some more non-fiction lately than usual - a lot of technical stuff for work, and a lot of food stuff for my foodblog. I did manage to squeeze in a Star Trek novel, and I do manage to hammer out a little more on the fantasy novel everyday, but since March or so, my brain and time have been occupied with things other than keeping you folks on the edge of your seat.

My last published entry dealt with Moby Dick (1851), an American classic. This entry, though, will deal with a European classic that straddled the shifting literary trend from Gothic fiction to the slowly building age of Romantic literature. You know it as "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley. Technically, it's "Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus," but that's usually something only us real geeks know.

It's a brilliant novel which explores themes of the general nature of mankind, morality, compassion, vengeance, and revenge. It's nothing like the Universal monster movies that everyone knows; it lacks the iconic character of Igor, who was created strictly for the movies, and Victor Frankenstein is not a doctor. In addition, there is even an entire section where the unnamed "monster" tells his side of the story.  


At first, Shelley published it anonymously in 1818 to only fair reviews. A few years later, the reprints included her name, which caused a small handful of critics to argue whether a woman could have written it, and another small handful of critics who said the novel's few flaws were directly because a woman wrote it.

With time, as we all know, it has become a classics novel in its own right, and can be credited with being one of the earliest science fiction as horror stories. The story is compelling, enough so that it's difficult to put down at times, and the language is quite beautiful throughout despite the novel's themes and mood. As an example, I thought I might include a few of the more thoughtful quotes below:
  
When Victor Frankenstein realizes that he's become obsessed with creating life from inanimate flesh:
"If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind." 

The point in the narrative when the unnamed creation decides to turn to evil to punish mankind for its sins:
"For the first time the feelings of revenge and hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to control them, but allowing myself to be borne away by the stream I bent my mind towards injury and death."

And another line spoken by the unnamed creation:
"Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind when it has once seized on it like a lichen on the rock."  

Finally, I've decided to include this last quote as well, solely because the Mel Brooks comedy "Young Frankenstein" included it when Frederick Frankenstein read from his grandfather's private library, and I'm a geek who is always on the look out for little bits of trivia like this:
"After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter."

 Overall, it's a short novel per se, and one that's well worth reading, especially if you've only ever seen movie versions. I've read it multiple times now and I'm always discovering and rediscovering numerous wonderful parts. If you take the time to give it a spin, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Until Next Time...
Victorly Yours,
Michael   

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Moby Dick - The Milestone

I must confess. This blogger, when nothing more a young, easily distracted bundle of college party energy, didn't always read all the books he was assigned to read. Yes, yes. There were books I simply either didn't read or only read the absolute bare minimum to pass the test. I skipped parts, read summaries, listened to others talk about the reading assignments, took good notes while in class, but didn't completely read a few of the actual books themselves.

Moby Dick was one of those books.

Assigned in American Literature class when I was a student at SIU-Carbondale, I don't recall how I performed on that test, but I ended the semester with a good grade, so I assume I must not have done too bad.

I never forgot Moby Dick though. What I did pick up from that class made me vow to read it at some point when I didn't have the stress of a classroom deadline and could approach it from a leisurely perspective. I liked the cover art of this particular printing, and it had many of the underlining and side notes I had scribbled in it from class.


Years passed. And passed. And passed.


It never left my sight. Always sitting there on the shelf, reminding me of the promise I made. It even manage to survived The Great Book Loss of the late 1990s when I accidentally donated the wrong box of books and lost some of my favorites. Recently, I took it down from the shelf, really gave it a good thoughtful examination, then began reading.

I'm glad I did, and I'm particularly glad I waited until I was an adult to do it. I fully believe that my reading now gave me more fulfillment than it would have then, and I also believe that I enjoyed this first reading at this age more than my classmates did from long ago. In fact, I'm convinced that if I had actually read this cover to cover when it was assigned to me, I would have hated this novel much like I learned to hate other great authors because of being forced to read them before I may have matured enough to fully appreciate their work.

It is a wonderful book, deserving of nearly all of the accolaids it receives, and I can understand why some people cite this as their favorite novel. It's a complex and deep work that honestly deserves multiple reads to fully grasp all the symbolism and philosophical elements it contains.With that being said, though, it is long and at times extremely slow narrative. I found myself thinking, "Oh let's get on with it," more than a few times, and sometimes, Melville's efforts to accurately portray every aspect of a whaler's life is more than is really necessary to make his point. I understand that a whaling voyage was mostly monotonous stretches of time broken up by unexpected and intense moments of action, but that didn't make this any easier to bear.

I have no doubt that I will randomly pick this up from time to time and reread some of my favorite parts, or even seek out quotes and sections for use in my other writing endeavors. I also have no doubt that I will one day reread it after I catch up on the ton of other books I need to knock off my list. But I can also guarantee that it'll be years and years from now - my brain simply needs the vacation.

Until Next Time...
Ishmaelly Yours,
Michael   

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Further Proof that Hollywood Execs Have No Soul

The man isn't even dead a month, and Hollywood has started the machinations to reboot Labyrinth (1986).

Oh yeah, you read that right. They're even casting about for the new Goblin King. Not that David Bowie could have played the part if he was still alive, but doing it so soon after his death just reeks of insensitivity. Of course, Hollywood is in the business to make money, and cashing in on Bowie's cult hit is not beneath them.

Reportedly TriStar Cinema is working with The Jim Henson Company and will be employing one of the co-writers of Guardians of the Galaxy. Any more details are not available and probably subject to change, but the rumor mill says everyone involved is excited about pursuing this.

The original was the last film Jim Henson directed. Monty Python's Terry Jones was the principle writer, and George Lucas was the executive producer. Despite the film’s current popularity and recognition as one of the greatest films from Bowie's movie career, initially it bombed at the box office and didn't earn the following it has now until it was released on video and cable.

What this means is that there will be a whole new slew of fans who will enjoy that universe of imagination and visionary wonder that Henson created, and maybe some of those fans will do themselves a favor and venture back to view the original. But for those of us who loved Bowie, he will always be the One True Goblin King, knowing deep in our hearts that the new one is an impostor  - or a wannabe at best.

Until Next Time...
Disgustedly Yours,
Michael

Friday, January 15, 2016

Shannara Surprise and Shock

Honestly, they caught me off guard.

I haven't watched MTV since.... well, let's just say a generation or so, and I haven't kept up with their broadcasting habits. I never expected this, but as I was innocently searching for something else, I was nearly knocked out of my chair when I stumbled upon this:

MTV has pushed the two hour pilot of The Elfstones of Shannara to YouTube!!

I KNOW!!! How great is this?

Something I thought I was going to have to wait until they released on DVD/BluRay, I inexplicably found on YouTube. Oh yeah, I'm definitely going to make The Boss sit down and watch this one with me. Of course, that screws up my whole idea of rereading the book before watching the adaptation, but dang it, now that it's out there, I can't NOT watch it.

Seriously? Could you?

I thought not.

So in case you didn't know, I had to share. I'm still going to reread the book this spring, and everyone one should, but don't let this opportunity pass. Watch it now before MTV comes to its senses and removes it.

Until Next Time...
Surprisingly Yours,
Michael

Monday, January 11, 2016

Don't Forget About His Film Career

With the passing of David Bowie this weekend, many news outlets are focusing on his music career and how much he influenced countless number of current musicians over his four decade career. I admit I have a handful of Bowie CDs I love, and in particular one of which I received from The Boss for my birthday a few years back and then played so relentlessly I think she came to regret buying it for me.

But many don't realize the influence and contribution he had on the fantasy genre book publishing business through his movie career. Many modern female authors of fantastic fiction credit the Jim Henson movie Labyrinth (1986) with directly turning them on to fantasy stories, especially fiction, as a way of recapturing that magical feeling of fairy tales and folk stories that they had had as young girls but had lost as they became teens. After watching that movie with Bowie as the evil Jareth the Goblin King and future Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Connelly as the young teenage girl who wishes her baby brother away, these young future authors began to not only seek out other fantasy stories, but began to write them as well.

His role as the Goblin King wasn't his only venture into the world of acting, though. To the previous generation, he was most famous for The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), and I particularly loved his brief and uncredited cameo as "The Shark" in the movie Yellowbeard (1983). That short fifteen-second scene alone is worth YouTube'ing if you get the chance. He also starred in the television series The Hunger (1999) and did numerous other cameos and voice-overs in cartoons and video games.

Be sure to take a moment to pay tribute to this man who was much more than a musician; he was an actor, painter, and writer.

Until Next Time...
Fame-ously Yours,
Michael


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Step On Up for an 80s Revival

I never start out the year with a solid reading plan. I usually have a few books in mind I'd like to finish before the end of the year, but that's about as close as I get to any sort of plan. This is usually because my mood determines what book I'll pick next more than anything else.

As mentioned in the previous post, I'm currently reading the Changewind series (1987- 1988, and 1996) from Jack L. Chalker due to all the weirdness that came about its rediscovery. And I do plan to throw in Saberhagen's Swords trilogy (1983-1984) this summer. There is also a reread of The Elfstones of Shannara (1982) I wanted to read before the series began airing, but considering that it starts this evening, the goal has changed to rereading it before the television series comes to a close. I also like to reread at least one book of Tolkien's each year - The Simarillion is on tap this year. Wanna guess when I first read that book?

Sensing some common ground here?

Me too, which also got me thinking about other books I loved during that time, especially The Winds of Altair (1983) and Orion (1984) by Ben Bova (which, by the way, garnered some teasing while I was in school because of the unusual cover art), and Hubbard's Battlefield Earth (1982).

Yeah, that's a lot of 80s science fiction and fantasy for one year, some rereads, some not. But I also have a few classic literature books I'd like to include, and I've promised myself to read more non-fiction. I like to keep up on modern literary novels as well, so I have to throw two or three of them on the pile. Plus I want to keep to my goal of reading 52 short stories in one year because not only do I enjoy the short form, I want to continue to promote the form both in this blog and in other areas.

None of that includes a promised reread of "The First of Heaven" so I can refresh my memory of the Wheel of Time series before tackling the Brandon Sanderson books sometime in the next year or two. I originally read this series as each book was published over the course of the past fifteen years, but got behind around book ten, and I don't trust my memory with everything that's happened from the early and middle books, which means a reread is practically required.

Phew! I've got my year cut out for me.

But all that 80s stuff is also infused with the launch of Comet Television in my local market. In case you've never heard of it, it's a new science fiction channel that is currently showing a lot of cheesy science fiction films, including a ton of 80s films. If I'm not careful, I really will accidently slip back in time, and my younger self ain't going to be too encouraged when he sees how I've aged (or how he will age, whichever).

All that means is that it's time for me to logon and put a few more pages underneath my belt this evening - I've got a lot of 80s reading ahead of me. Wish me luck!

Until Next Time...
Radically Yours,
Michael


P.S. Having no idea where my brain patterns have been focused lately, The Boss coincidently enough pulled up some old episodes of ALF that we've been rewatching on Hulu. "Now...where's that cat Lucky hiding?"

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Adventures with Misplaced Books

Tell me if this has ever happened to you...

You pick up the first book of some trilogy. You're cruisin' along and at least 150 pages deep when you suddenly lose it. Who knows? Maybe it fell into some blackhole or a magician whisked it away to an ethereal place between realities. Doesn't matter. It's gone and you can't find it anywhere. You know better than to go out and buy a new copy, because the moment you return from the bookstore it'll reemerge and be sitting in the middle of your dining room table smiling at you mockingly, as if to say, "Hi, I've been sitting here the whole time." And while you spend your spare time looking around for the blasted thing, you move onto other books, eventually forgetting about that lost novel. One day a memory of it is triggered though, and you realize it's been twenty years and nine home moves since you've thought about it. You decide to buy it and try again, only to learn it's been out of print for the past ten years. Aaarrggghh!

That's happened to you, right? Right? No?

Sadly, that's happened to me twice.

When the Changewinds Blow by Jack L. Chalker and The First Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen both fell victim to this bad luck, although it's been so long ago, I don't remember which one got lost first.

Hey, don't blame me! I'm not responsible for the actions of some rogue wizard or errant blackhole, I'm just your average scifi/fantasy junkie.

Now here comes the weird part:
At a local library-sponsored bookfair in the recent past, not only did I run across the complete Changewinds trilogy, I also found the entire Books of Swords trilogy and its sequel, Book of Lost Swords trilogy. But wait! It gets stranger... Both trilogies had two copies of the first book!


Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Yep, even though I live over 100 miles away from where they went missing, I'd be willing to bet that those extra copies of the first books were my original copies, whisked there through some wibbly wobbly timey wimey thing eagerly awaiting my arrival to reclaim them as their rightful owner. So in the middle of this gigantic book fair I'm totally geeking out at this point, and quickly throw all eleven books into my bag (Yes, eleven. I bought both copies of the first books - I'm not taking any chances).

Since my "To Read" pile is a queue that is about two years long, I'm just now getting around to reading the first book of the Changewinds series, and maybe this summer I'll start the Swords trilogies. But either way, I'll let you know when I complete them, and if anything "sideways" happens, trust me, I'll let you know.

Until Next Time...
Wobbly Yours,
Michael