Apr 202015
 

Jeff Cohen

In 1968, when I was a wee lad, Mickey Mantle decided not to play baseball anymore. Since I was indeed a wee lad, and Mantle was my idol of the moment, this was a huge thing. 

Less than two years later, it was announced that the Beatles were disbanding, and would no longer record or perform as a group. And if you thought the Mantle thing was big, this was universe-sized. We were stunned. No Beatles? How was that even possible?

Immediately, in both cases, the speculation began: Who would be the next Mickey Mantle? Who would be the next Beatles? I recall reading an interview with Ringo Starr in Rolling Stone (back when you could trust what they said) where he was asked the question: Who's going to be the next Beatles?

Ringo was diplomatic about it, as ever, and even suggested a few people (I think Elton John was among the names mentioned), but he knew the truth, and pretty much said so:

There is no Next Beatles. There is no Next Mantle.

What there will be is someone who is who they are. Is that too oblique? There's no point in trying to duplicate something that moves you. It can't happen the same way twice. 

There never was a Casablanca II but there was Star Wars. There never was Back With the Wind but there was To Kill a Mockingbird. No new Peanuts but Doonesbury and Calvin and Hobbes. Nobody ever managed to recreate I Love Lucy, but instead we got The Dick Van Dyke Show. Which, I'm sorry, was better.

So when writers try to emulate or piggyback on the enormous success of some phenomenon, when they try to be the next Harry Potter or the next James Patterson or the next Gone Girl, they're asking for trouble. Is is possible to achieve some popular success based on something that has been immensely lucrative before? Certainly. Remember that 50 Shades of Grey allegedly began as Twilight fan fiction.

But can a writer really take something that preceded his/her work and create a new phenomenon? Particularly, one that has the same emotional and societal impact as what came before? It's unlikely, because writing something that isn't what you chose to write, what moved you enough to sit in that chair and type all those words, is a losing proposition.

Instead of a new Mantle, there came (only 30 years later) Derek Jeter. A totally different type of player, but a wonderful one in his own way

Instead of the Next Beatles, we got Elton John and Michael Jackson and Carole King and Fleetwood Mac and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Adele. Depending on your taste, you got NWO or Eminem or Wu Tang Clan or Josh Groban or Justin Bieber, if he's your thing. There is no Next Beatles, but there are people expressing themselves whose work you might take to your heart.

If you're writing, write for yourself first but keep an audience in mind. Don't write something because that's what publishers are looking for now or because some great big huge phenomenon just hit and you think you can change a few details around and make it something new. Write what you would write even if nobody was going to read it. ESPECIALLY write what you'd write if nobody was going to read it.

Writing is an art form, a craft and a job. But before anything else, it's a form of expression. What's the point of expressing someone else's thought, particularly when they've done that already?

There is no Next Beatles. Be you.

Apr 202015
 

WADE MILLER – Calamity Fair. Farrar Straus & Co., hardcover, 1950. Signet #843, paperback, January 1951; Signet #1270; 2nd printing 1956. Harper Perennial, trade paperback, 1993.

   I was prepared to like this one more than I did, even in spite of Chapter One which is essentially a prologue, and as such essentially unnecessary. Sometimes they work, more often they don’t, and this is one in the latter category.

   The PI in this book is Max Thursday, the fourth of six recorded adventures. The scene is San Diego, which is described in enough detail to make the reader (me) feel at home there. The crime: an organized gang of blackmailers. Thursday’s client: Irene Whitney, she says, meeting him in a house which is not hers, and what she wants him to do is get back a stack of gambling IOU’s before her husband finds out.

   And once on the case, that is Thursday’s only concern. Very little of his personal life is brought up. In fact, he may as well have none. He is on the go from page one and does not stop until page 160 of the Signet paperback edition.

   Problems, as I saw them: In the course of events Thursday meets a lot of people, some of them women and most of those are very seductive. Some more than others. Combined with the intense pace throughout the book, it is often difficult to keep them straight, as many of them, those who aren’t killed early on, pop up again later, sometimes quite unexpectedly.

   But what bothered me more is the tenuous way that the primary villain, as he (or she) turns out to be, is brought into the case. Very strange, I thought at the time, and as I finished the book, I thought, even stranger. But how else could he (or she) have been brought into it? I have no answer for that.

    Although he makes a point of not carrying a gun, at least in this book, Max Thursday is a tough guy through and through, tough and tenacious. He’s also rather smart at putting two and two together, too, though when I got four, Thursday sometimes got five. Or in other words, he was slightly ahead of me for much of the way.

   All in all, though, I’d rather a book read that way than the other way around. Not quite as good as I expected, but still good.

 Posted by at 2:43 am
Apr 192015
 



http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/

Ken Levine:

Here's another example: I grew up in Woodland Hills, a suburb of the San Fernando Valley. About ten years ago I’m watching a rerun of an old ‘50s action/crime show called HIGHWAY PATROL. This starred Broderick Crawford, an overweight middle-aged balding alcoholic as the head of the CHP. (Imagine getting that guy through network casting today? Now the same part would be played by Elizabeth Mitchell.) 



Quick side note: Crawford really was an alcoholic. In fact, he had so many DUI’s that his drivers’ license had been permanently revoked. This caused a big problem because how can the head of the Highway Patrol not be able to drive? So a concession was reached. Crawford was allowed to drive but only when the camera was running. So the director would yell “Action!”, Crawford would drive the car, the director would yell “Cut! Let’s go again!”, and Crawford would have to exit the vehicle so a crew member could drive the car back to the original spot.

Anyway, I’m watching this show (probably on cable channel 863) and Crawford is driving down a street. Suddenly I recognize a storefront. Neider’s Auto Body. Holy shit! It hits me – he’s driving down Ventura Blvd., right where I used to live! I, of course, hadn’t seen that street in a million years. But it all came flooding back to me. He passed Dillaway Realty. I knew instantly what he would pass next – the Pool Supply store, then the Gulf gas station, the freeway underpass, and Love’s BBQ. 

Sure enough the tracking shot continued. There was the Pool Supply place, there was the Gulf station, and then… what the fuck!? There was no freeway underpass. This must’ve been filmed a year before the freeway was erected. 

I can’t tell you how absolutely weird that was. Truly, like being in a time machine. 

And that was just one example. The Bob Hope movie, BACHELOR IN PARADISE was filmed in my neighborhood. The tract house he lived in was the same model as mine. (The interior was different though. Ours didn’t have Lana Turner.) There were scenes in the Woodlake Bowl where I once sprained my thumb! Landmarks popped up throughout the whole movie. 



And this was not a rare occurrence.  I was very excited one afternoon to come out of the Woodland Hills library and see that they were filming a scene from THE FBI there. Efrem Zimbelist Jr.(who had his license) pulled his car to a stop right in front. And there, in the shot, for all to see, was the back fin of my Mercury Comet! The night it aired I actually invited friends over.

This is one of the perks of living in a company town. Seeing old neighborhoods and places long since turned into Costcos.  It's a real blast from the past. And it makes up for the horrible downside.

For every nostalgic wistful moment I’ve had, there are an equal or greater number of moments when I’ve been really pissed because traffic is snarled due to location filming of some fucking idiotic movie or TV show. Streets are blocked off.  Temporary "No Parking" signs are everywhere.  Equipment trucks and cable as far as the eye can see.  Giant lights blind you at night.  “Why can’t they film this goddamn thing in Pittsburgh”?! I’ve been known to yell.

But then I see Neider's Auto Body and realize I'm the luckiest guy in the world.  


This was a re-post from many many years ago. How many of you even remember it?
Apr 192015
 

Jessy Randall

No one had requested Colorado College's copy of the first edition of The Book of Mormon in at least fifteen years, but that all changed last month. First one request, then another, and then eighty Mormon visitors in one day, broken up into four groups in order not to overcrowd the reading room.

The Book of Mormon, the foundational text of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was first published in Palmyra, NY in 1830. 5000 copies were printed, of which at least 144 are currently in libraries. Joseph Smith’s text has been reprinted hundreds of times and translated into many languages and alphabets, including Brigham Young’s Deseret alphabet (one of several alphabets developed to simplify spelling in the 19th century, including one invented by Melvil Dewey, yes, he of the card catalog system).

book-of-mormon-deseret-alphabet-1

Book values change with the times, and the monetary value of this book has increased exponentially. According to library records, Colorado College purchased our copy for $250 in 1962. It was one of the first purchases made using the Hulbert Fund, honoring Archer Butler Hulbert, CC professor and scholar of the American West. The book is now worth approximately $100,000. Our copy, however, is not for sale.

Book of Mormon purchase

200,000 Visitors

 Carter Brown  Comments Off
Apr 192015
 
Today was a milestone.

200,000th visitor

Now something to entertain

My Darling Is Deadpan

A practical jokers invitation to murder
But when he's the corpse
One dame could die laughing


Printing History
Written by Alan G Yates (1923-1985)


Bonus Cover
 

Printing History
   Horwitz Publications, Inc
Numbered Series #15 (1956)
 Reprint By Demand Series #3 (1958)
 Posted by at 11:09 pm

The new Fiction River: Risk Takers

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Apr 192015
 
SUNDAY, APRIL 19, 2015







Edited by Dean Wesley Smith
Money, business, sports, love: All involve risk—and skill. The skilled authors in this volume masterfully exhibit both. Buckle in while a locomotive engineer uses magic in a race to avoid extinction, a game developer must outmaneuver an alien for Earth’s fate, and an exterminator risks everything to go after some really big rats. Crossing genre lines through science fiction, fantasy, mystery, historical, and mainstream, these adrenaline-pumping stories about taking risks offer nothing but reward.
Fiction River: Fantastic Detectives is a great choice for anyone who loves it when genres are swirled together. It’s nominally more heavily influenced by mystery conventions and tropes, but the science fiction and fantasy elements in it are almost as strong.”
—Long and Short Reviews on Fiction River: Fantastic Detectives
Table of Contents
“Play the Man” by Dan C. Duval
“The F Factor” by Chrissy Wissler
“No Free Lunch” by Anthea Sharp
“Winning the Ocean Pearl” by T. D. Edge
“China Moll” by Cindie Geddes
“A Tale of Good Whiskey, Bad Coffee, and One Devious Woman” by Annie Reed
“Bucking the Tiger” by John Helfers & Kerrie Hughes
“The Messiah Business” by Robert T. Jeschonek
“Muggins Rules” by Russ Crossley
“Cost and Conscience” by Christy Fifield
“Side Baiting” by Phaedra Weldon
“Gambler’s Fallacy” by Brigid Collins
“The Man Who Decided” by Dean Wesley Smith
“Rats” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“Driving the Line” by Dan C. Duval
“Side Bet” by Lee Allred


Apr 192015
 
Reviewed by MIKE TOONEY:


SHERLOCK, JR. Buster Keaton Productions, 1924, 45 minutes. Buster Keaton, Kathryn McGuire, Joe Keaton, Erwin Connelly, Ward Crane. Writers: Clyde Bruckman, Jean C. Havez, Joe Mitchell. Director: Buster Keaton.

   For silent film aficionados Charlie Chaplin is the ne plus ultra of comedians. Certainly Chaplin had a wide emotional range which he was able to exploit at every turn; with him, slapstick humor and pathos — if not bathos — could be only a few frames apart. There is no denying Charlie Chaplin’s talent.

   For this silent film enthusiast, however, Buster Keaton is still my favorite comedian of the era. No knock against Chaplin, but there is something irreducibly American about Keaton, especially in his boundless enthusiasm and unquenchable energy in accomplishing his goals. If a situation seemed hopeless, Keaton would simply redouble his efforts and win out in the end — no defeatism for Buster. For him, the most intractable problems would always involve women in some way — and thus has it ever been with men.

   Buster Keaton didn’t have that wide emotional range that Chaplin possessed, but he didn’t really need it. In fact, he eschewed facial emotions, leading to his nickname “The Great Stone Face.” Keeping a dead pan regardless of the situation, Buster was still able to convey exactly what he should be feeling at any given moment. Now that’s talent!

    Sherlock, Jr. is one of Keaton’s best efforts. In it he plays a film projector operator whose dreams mirror his real-life anxieties, so you shouldn’t think that the movie is simply a shallow comedy. As Dan Callahan writes:

    “With Sherlock Jr, he [Keaton] came up with a haunting little meditation on movies and dreams. Projectionist Buster falls asleep at the controls and dreams that he can enter the film he is unreeling. With a series of ingenious visual effects, Keaton gives us a perfect demonstration of what it would be like to climb up onto a screen and become a part of the movie we are watching. It’s an unforgettable scene. Without self-consciousness, Keaton brings home the wondrousness of the medium itself, submerging himself in the ocean of its superb and liquid unreality. When he steps onto the screen, he fulfills something in all of us.”

   It is within this framework of fantasy that Buster acts out some of his most inventive visual gags — falling in and out of the dream world of the film-within-a-film, pretending to be the suave supersleuth (more like James Bond, in fact) who nearly gets it from an explosive billiard ball, diving through a window in a tuxedo and coming up from the ground inside a woman’s dress, diving headfirst yet again through — yes, through — another human being, an exquisitely-timed descent hanging from a railroad crossing gate into a moving car (if you can, run that sequence in slow motion), a gag involving Buster all alone on a bicycle’s handle bars approaching a train that’s just about to pass a trestle, and another stunt in which he falls from a moving train (and during which, he learned years later, he actually broke his neck). It seems that one of Buster’s favorite gag props was trains; he also used them to good effect in The General.

   No two ways about it: Buster Keaton was a comic film genius.

 Posted by at 6:54 pm

The new Fiction River: Risk Takers

 Uncategorized  Comments Off
Apr 192015
 


Edited by Dean Wesley Smith
Money, business, sports, love: All involve risk—and skill. The skilled authors in this volume masterfully exhibit both. Buckle in while a locomotive engineer uses magic in a race to avoid extinction, a game developer must outmaneuver an alien for Earth’s fate, and an exterminator risks everything to go after some really big rats. Crossing genre lines through science fiction, fantasy, mystery, historical, and mainstream, these adrenaline-pumping stories about taking risks offer nothing but reward.
Fiction River: Fantastic Detectives is a great choice for anyone who loves it when genres are swirled together. It’s nominally more heavily influenced by mystery conventions and tropes, but the science fiction and fantasy elements in it are almost as strong.”
—Long and Short Reviews on Fiction River: Fantastic Detectives
Table of Contents
“Play the Man” by Dan C. Duval
“The F Factor” by Chrissy Wissler
“No Free Lunch” by Anthea Sharp
“Winning the Ocean Pearl” by T. D. Edge
“China Moll” by Cindie Geddes
“A Tale of Good Whiskey, Bad Coffee, and One Devious Woman” by Annie Reed
“Bucking the Tiger” by John Helfers & Kerrie Hughes
“The Messiah Business” by Robert T. Jeschonek
“Muggins Rules” by Russ Crossley
“Cost and Conscience” by Christy Fifield
“Side Baiting” by Phaedra Weldon
“Gambler’s Fallacy” by Brigid Collins
“The Man Who Decided” by Dean Wesley Smith
“Rats” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“Driving the Line” by Dan C. Duval
“Side Bet” by Lee Allred


Apr 192015
 
Paperback 871: Ace Double D-393 (1st ptg / PBO)

Titles: Dictators Die Hard / Evil is the Night
Authors: Robert A. Levey / John Creighton
Cover artists: Uncredited / Uncredited

Estimated value: $25-30

AceD393A
Best things about this cover:

  • Dictators Die Hard—Stenographers Spank Harder!
  • Dictators Die Hard—You're Looking At My Chest, Aren't You?
  • I love the composition of this cover. Logically, this must depict two different scenes, but I like the idea of her staring down the gunman. "Oh, am I distracting you?" "I hope you're man enough to make the shot." "You *better* not be pointing that thing at me." "Hurry up so we can go riding, you tiresome lout!"
  • She borrowed her ascot from a foppish squirrel.


AceD393B
Best things about this other cover:

  • Jenga!
  • I hate to think where that thing's been.
  • "I'm thinking of calling my book 'Tender is the Night'" "That title's taken." "Hmmm…."


Page 123~

I stared at McMahon, and Hibbs scowled at me. Nobody said anything. It was an uncomfortable moment. 

This took 9th place in Yakima County's "Write Like Raymond Carver Day" competition.

~RP

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