FlashCast, Episode 9 Part 3 “Spring”

The new FlashCast is online, available for free from iTunes here, and on Spreaker.com. The theme word was “spring.” If you want to hear my dulcet tones reading one of my own stories, FlashCast is the only place that’s happening, aside from mike night at Canal Place here in town, where a bunch from the local writer’s group will be doing group readings now and then. We did our first one last Thursday and it went rather well. For FlashCast it’s:

“Predator’s Fortune,” by Richard Parks

“Give Me a Break,” by Peggy Scarano,

“All the Lonely People,” by Sally Madison.

Spring seems a bit far away right now. It’s -8F as I write this with about two feet of snow surrounding and on top of the car. I’ve dug a path to it and with luck will get enough snow cleared to get it free by tomorrow, as I have appointments to keep. Technically it only snowed about a foot, but we’ve had high winds during and after the snowfall, so the drifts are the real problem. Next year I think I may have to “spring” for a real snowblower. Sciatica and shoveling snow don’t mix very well.

I’ve finally gotten a little traction on the new project, though I’m still uncertain as to whether it’s going to be a novel or novella. That’s one problem with being a pantser instead of a plotter—you’re never completely (or even slightly) in control. When it works, and it usually does, it’s the best. When it crashes and burns, it tends to do so spectacularly.

Taking Sides

For all of my voting life, I’ve been a registered Independent, because I’ve always had problems with both parties (and don’t even mention the Greens; that’s another can of worms entirely). While I’ve usually leaned toward the Democrats, I’ve voted for Republicans a few times in my life. The old, idealistic, “best person for the job” approach.

That doesn’t work anymore, if indeed it ever did. While trying to get coherent policy out of the Democrats is worse than herding cats, the Republicans had other problems—the few at the top made decisions, and everyone else fell in line. So it didn’t really matter who the “best person for the job” was. With a few very rare and sporadic exceptions, they vote and support what they’re told. Then in the wake of the Voting Rights Act, the GOP learned that it was easy to stir up support by dog-whistle and relatively subtle racism and religious bigotry. These days it isn’t even subtle any more. Rep. Steve King asks “When did white nationalism become offensive?” and mostly what you hear on the GOP side are platitudes and crickets. If there are any actual consequences I’ll be amazed.

And then there’s the “President.” If I have to say more than that, you’re not paying attention.

Regardless, last week I changed my voter registration to Democrat. At least that way I can vote in the primaries. We need not just more Democrats, but better ones. I think they’re out there; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shows there are at least some. I’m hoping for more like her, with actual fresh ideas and the passion to get something done. Maybe it’s impossible, but the thing about impossible is that history is full of “impossibles” which suddenly weren’t.

A guy can dream.

I recognize that by taking sides I may lose some readers. Actions have consequences, and I get that. Sorry to see you go. Not at all sorry for why. For those who are left, next week I promise to get back to writing matters. I may even talk about the current project.

Muddling Along on New Year’s Eve

People complain about years, and I’m tempted myself. The problem is most things we complain about have nothing to do with the year. It’s just another way to shift blame to something outside and beyond our control. We’ve got to stop doing that.

Don’t get me wrong. 2018 has been a rocky year, for reasons anyone paying attention already knows: the effects of climate change, a political system not so much rudderless as corrupt and anti-democratic and reveling in the fact, the rise of fascism (again) across the globe, and bigotry running rampant. Yet all that has nothing to do with the year. That’s just what we’ve agreed to call one of earth’s orbital periods.

The problem isn’t the year. Not last year or even(shudder) the one before.  The problem is people, and I’m one of those. Maybe we can all do better, but right now it’s my blog and I’m talking about me. I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions because that never works with me. Instead I’m going to concentrate on what I would like to do in the new year, and by that I do not mean obligations. I mean things that would really help my attitude and perhaps make me, as a person, more pleasant to be around.

I’ve written a good deal this year. I haven’t written nearly as much as I can and would like to. I haven’t written nearly enough about the things I want to write about.  As always, it will require a shuffling of priorities to make that happen. I’m going to try.

I’ve read a fair bit this year. I would like to read more. There are a lot of good books out now by people whose work I enjoy and admire. I’d like to make room for them, because a writer who doesn’t read isn’t a writer at all, or at least not an interesting one. Reading isn’t water but it does help to refill the well. More like seeding the clouds and catching the rain.

So I’ll say good-bye to 2018 with no insults, nothing derogatory at all. It was a year. Good things did happen along with the bad. 2019 might be better or worse, but either way, it’s on us.

Happy New Year!

An Accident, I Swear

I have managed to break my glasses, a feat I had not attained since childhood. Dropped? Of course. Scratched? Absolutely. Had a screw loose? In glasses and in life, both. But broken? Nope.

It was way too easy when I was a kid, and it was probably only the support of our extended family that kept my mother from going bankrupt keeping me in eyeware. I think my most notable achievement was breaking a new pair of glasses the same bloody day I got them. All by accident, of course. Get hit in the head with a basketball, shoot out a lens with a BB gun (you’ll shoot your eye out! Nope. Just the lens), face plant in a game of touch football. As I said, easy.

Not so much when you’re an alleged adult. Now it takes more effort. Last Tuesday I had returned from physical therapy, which is another whole story. Sciatica. I has it. Didn’t even know what sciatica was, other than a reference in Harlan Ellison’s classic, “Working With the Little People.” Hoo, boy. Now I know why Charlie the Gremlin was so damn grumpy, but I digress. Hobbled up the steps toward the back patio, tripped and did a faceplant into the concrete. As to the damage to my face, let’s just say it left a mark. Or three. More importantly, I did a number on my glasses.

So now I’m typing this supported only by the vision my genetics and a bad case of measles left me. My new glasses are on order. Maybe when they get here I’ll be able to see clearly again. Which would be nice, since I don’t think I’ve ever seen all that clearly before now.

Hey, a guy can dream.

It’s a Seasonal Thing

Not quite late, exactly, though this is going up a little later in the day than I usually try to manage. Couldn’t be helped. As you all know, it’s now December, approaching—for those who celebrate, and even for many who don’t—Christmas. It’s hard to avoid at least and impossible at most. Those of us caught up in the orbit of the Yule Season have certain…obligations, shall we say, that go along with the annual celebration. Some of them are familial. A few are even spiritual. For some of us, however, they are more of a ritual.

It was time to re-watch “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” Well, it was either that or “Santa Claus vs the Devil.”

Sure, you could take the easy way out and go for “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” but as far as I’m concerned that particular holiday joy is more in the line of collateral damage. It’s something you often end up doing or being done to, willing or no. Seasonal films like “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” usually require a little more effort. They’re not that hard to find, with the right streaming service, but as a rule you do have to look. And you have to know to look, which to me places them in an entirely separate category.

For one thing, they’re really bad.

As films, that is. As cultural artifacts? Priceless. The sheer cluelessness of  “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” is so absolute that it transcends into a sort of pure and beguiling innocence. You can’t find that just anywhere. And after repeated viewings, I still find new things. For instance, for a while I had it my head that one of the Martians was played by Jamie Farr, even though I knew the time frame was too early. Only later, when I bothered to check, I found that it was actually an actor named Al Nesor. Quite a resemblance, though.

And yes, I know it doesn’t take that long to watch “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” Only after watching it we stumbled across “RiffTrax: The MST3K Reunion.”

That took a while.

Worth it.