Wednesday, December 5, 2018

For Airship and Steampunk Fans

If you take even a casual interest in the history and usage of dirigibles you will inevitably come across cargo loads of information that is oft repeated, and necessarily so as they are rather important tidbits. The dangers of hydrogen, the luxury of smooth sky sailing and the different structure types. But when one wishes to write fiction on such a subject one requires much more of the nitty gritty details with are far more likely to be omitted or simply not casually known.

As I've been studying for the production of my own steampunk, which has been kicking my scrawny tail for some time now, I accidentally came across a site that has swiftly proven to be an invaluable resource for those lesser known details. Ever wanted to know how airships were moored? Kind of a big deal! What about how they were operated and landed? How they calculated their speed? A hundred little pieces of information that I'd been craving for but had up until now found rather evasive has at last been discovered!

You can be sure I will be taking notes and reading this from top to bottom, not just from the desire to write good fiction, but for the sheer craving of remote knowledge. I hope that some of you will find use for it also.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Black Friday/Cyber Monday Book Sale

Yup, it's that time of year again where I shill my shoddy work in hopes of making enough scratch to buy another cup of ramen. My favorite! Okay it's not all that bad, but anytime I try a traditional pitch I feel like a shady used car salesman. I don't wanna be like that. I wanna be up front and honest. Early works are admittedly very rough, and I plan on giving them a face lift in the near future. Later works are actually pretty decent. Last week I sold someone a copy of Kapar's Mark on Sunday. By Saturday he read the whole thing, and that paperback was over three hundred pages long. I'll let that endorsement speak for itself!

So yeah, if you're interested in Weird West, Dinopunk or horror, go ahead and check out my writing. If you like it and think someone else might be interested, please share it. Seriously, it does help. Word of mouth from friends is the best thing for sales. I'll take an endorsement from someone I know and trust over a bland add on Youtube any day.

Anyway, give a look if you're interested, but more importantly have a great Thanksgiving with friends and family, and be safe on Black Friday. Hopefully I myself won't be trampled under the heel of thousands of overeager shoppers. It's my first year working retail, and I'm admittedly nervous with all I've heard of these human stampedes. I'm tempted to defend myself with a high voltage cattle prod, a makeshift shield and a pair of cans of bear spray to hold back the tide. And no, I'm not working at Walmart. I'm at an outdoors and farming place. But I'm trading volume of people for tough as leather farmers, hunters and ranchers. Hopefully I will survive. Anyway, take care everyone!

Latest book, and just as cool as the cover looks.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Headless Horseman Jam

All Hallows Eve is on the horizon, and that calls for ever better music! Now, I grew up with the Disney combo Ichabod and Mister Toad, and like everyone else I fell in love with that wonderful spooky jam about the Headless Horseman from Sleepy Hollow. But this rendition by Thurl Ravencroft is sheer brilliance. He is the absolute king of bass! 

Hope ya'll enjoy! 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

I can't breathe!

I like learning about self defense, and there is some great advice out there, but there's a lot more that don't know what they're doing. And this takes the cake! This makes me laugh until I can't breathe!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Cowboys and Dinosaurs of Shaun Keenan

Friends, I have committed a great sin. I not only found some fabulous art, but I dedicated a fair chunk of my time, money and love into an amazing book with said art which was absolutely worth every cent and hour of time I spent on it. But I didn't speak of it here. I was swept up in the tide of life, and didn't feel the impulse to spread the word. That is my grave sin.

Well, I'm fixing that now. The Cowboy and Dinosaur art of Shaun Keenan is some of the best of this micro-genre that I have ever seen. Take a glimpse of this tiny sample.

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Art by Shaun Keenan

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More by Shaun Keenan

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And one more before I get art diabetes

Just look at that. The rough yet beautifully honed rustic style with hints of the fantastic. It's stylized, but not grossly exaggerated. Nor does it have the super sleek anime vibe that has infected lots of art today. Nope! This is gritty. You can almost feel the trail dust on your tongue. Just the way I like it! And that's just the tip of the iceburg. He did an entire kickstarter for a hardback book chalk full of this theme. Well over two hundred pages. Before I knew what I was doing, my pledge was made and I awaited the day of delivery like an impatient child counting down the minutes to Christmas morning.

Yeah, I effectively regressed and lost all semblance of patience during those long months, eagerly checking my email and mailbox for any word of my expectant delivery. And at last, long after I expected it, I found it! Awaiting me on my apartment table. A humble brown package. Unassuming. So mundane. And yet within was a treasure beyond price! (To me)

I squealed like a young girl, snatched the parcel and ran to my room, eagerly tearing the packaging away and behold! A visual feast for my famished eyes! True, I saw many of these images already online, but to have them in my hands? In solid paper? And signed by the brilliant artist no less? Nirvana. Sheer nirvana. I poured page after page, drinking in the glorious scenery and painstaking detail. My delight was that of a child as my imagination was given physical form. Oh how each had its own soul and story to tell!

Please forgive my gushing, but wow, I don't see this everyday. For one as delighted with prehistoric saurians and the Old West, this felt like a Godsend.

I heartily encourage you all to take a look at his page and his magnificent art! And if you somehow can, grab a copy of the hardback.

Please do yourself a favor and have a look.

Dino Beasts Comic

Well folks, I stumbled across something very... interesting today. I like dinosaurs, and I like pulp adventure. The two have been combined often of course, part of why I like them so much. But I've never actually seen the characters as dinosaurs themselves! It's called Dino Beasts. A bit generic, but not misleading. I admit, seeing anthropomorphic dinosaurs and other critters engaging in an epic journey across a strange and alien land with swords and sabers clashing is a pretty awesome concept and although this comic is new, it seems decent so far.

I've seen a few things somewhat similar, one was a dino mil-scifi and the other was Adventures in Dinosaur City.

Wow, typing that last one out kinda made me feel something akin to shame. So for now I'm just going to pretend this is the first I've seen of this.

Go ahead and give it a look. The art style has some soul to it, and the landscapes are awesome. You can find it for free online here:

Monday, October 15, 2018

Blog pic tips?

Okay, I've been trying my best to ignore this elephant in the room, but the white border on whatever picture I upload on my blog is starting to bother me, and it makes me look like I'm doing a crappy scrapbook. But I'm also tech illiterate. I'm more like a caveman with an antelope femur smacking the keyboard when it comes to software problems, or what have you.

So, for those of you who can digitally tie their shoelaces, any tips for solving this? I'm sure it's something simple, but it is far beyond my ken. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I want my blog to look halfway decent and not like Baby's First Blog.

Thanks in advance!

EV Miniature Coolness

Stumbled across this on FB. Very cool little crafts!

Tiny magic staffs!
Baby Necronomicon!

Table Sets
Desk for Borrowers

I probably can't afford any of this stuff, but man, I can dream. I love this sort of talent and creativity. Check out this creator's stuff here:

Also, no, I wasn't asked to talk about this stuff if any of you are wondering. I just want to spread the word of good stuff. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Diving Into La Brea Tar Pits!?

Now this is something special. The La Brea Tar Pits have long been known for housing all sorts of paleontological goodies, and it's not unreasonable to think that other stuff is in there. It's been around for a good while. All sorts of junk is probably hiding down there. Which of course makes it a convenient spot for folks of less charitable nature to dispose of incriminating evidence. But evidently the Devil's Swimmingpool isn't enough to stop the LAPD from sending someone in with a swimsuit and goggles to try and recover some of that evidence!

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Here we have a brief description from the diver of what it was like down there. He isn't as detailed as I like, but honestly, if I were in his shoes, I wouldn't want to remember any of that. Going into a pit of goo known for having held and killed mammoths and heaven know's what else doesn't inspire confidence. It has to be one of the most claustrophobic things imaginable this side of being crammed into a shotgun press. Whatever they paid this guy, it wasn't enough.

Hats off to Sergeant David Mascerenas of the LAPD!

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Fly

Gosh I love binging old horror movies. Almost seventy years ago movies were a fresh frontier of storytelling, rife with new and radical ideas. They left their stamp on culture like nothing else ever could. Certain lines, shots or actions are universally known. Even if you don't know what movie it's from, you know the bit.

Which brings us to The Fly, with the infamous line, delivered with that eerie high pitched voice, "Help me! Help meee!"

Don't worry, the place is clean! Otherwise I wouldn't even be bringing it up. So if you haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself. And hey, even if you don't like horror, you've still got Vincent Price in here to add some class.

Monday, October 8, 2018

How to break your Dungeon Master

Few things can frustrate a Dungeon Master more than when he or she knows you're very intelligent, but you choose not to actually use said intelligence. Don't get me wrong, it's wise to not upset your DM or your party, since it's remarkably easy to fix a problem player by virtue of falling rocks if he's unimaginative, or far worse if he has a good imagination. But now and then if the DM is giving you a hard time, there is much you can do to cause chaos, and the best part is, it doesn't even have to be in game!

Case in point, my last session. Everyone knows I'm smarter than I sometimes let on. But I need to cut loose now and then during D&D and actually feel the sensation of joy in the void that is my life. I'm afraid I'm a bit of a sadist when it comes to playing the idiot, which I am remarkably skilled at.

We hit a minor lull in the session, and I sit for a time with patience, but it swiftly runs out and I need to devise some means of staving off boredom. I glance up at the wall and narrow my eyes at something suspiciously.

"That clock is really slow," I murmur thoughtfully.

"It's about 9:30," my party member next to me informs me.

"Oh, I know. But that clock, up there. It's way behind. Just look." I gesture up at the wall. All heads swivel where I point, no doubt confused since there wasn't a clock there.

"Cowboy, that's the thermostat!" the DM declares, sanity straining like over-taut piano wires.

"Oh, that explains it!" I cackle gleefully.

He and fellow party members all simultaneously facepalm in delicious despair for what felt like a full minute, not daring to look upon me whilst I sit there smiling impishly.

"Why do you hurt me?" the DM asks, his tone betraying his utter despair.

Now, lest you think I was out of line, I paid dearly for this sanity insubordination. Fun fact, being the scrawny wood elf in water combat and getting into a wrestling match with a shambling mound does not build confidence. It only makes you wonder how fast you can print off a new character sheet.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

An Empty House Full of Adventure

This might sound profoundly strange to anyone reading this, but one of my happiest memories in my entire life took place in an almost completely empty house. No couches. No beds. No nightstands. No bookshelves. Nada. All we really had there was a working refrigerator and washing machine. Probably a dryer too, but that's besides the point. Now, you'll be wondering, and quite reasonably so, why a month or two in a place like this would spawn such fondness in my memory.

Well, it was moving time for my family. We were moving from our old house to our new house, and during that time we rented this small, quaint place with thick brown carpet that could swallow a quarter, you know the kind I mean, and I vaguely recall dark walls. Almost everything we owned was stowed away in cardboard boxes inside of moving trucks. The only things we managed to have with us there was a TV, a VHS player and some sleeping bags. But instead of it being a boring and vacant place, for my childish mind it was an open canvas. There was no school for us, so it was our small budding family in this little place. But that's really all we needed.

My parents had purchased all three Indiana Jones movies and a few toy plastic pistols, I distinctly remember them being a German Luger and classic 1911 fittingly enough, and that alone was to fire the imaginations of my brother and myself. See, without any furniture, there was almost nothing for us to worry about breaking in any of the rooms. So we ran back and forth, shouting, mimicking gun noises and stabbing our pistols at each other, then rocking as imaginary bullets tore through us, gagging as we fell to the ground. Sometimes we'd team up and take down entire platoons of enemy bad guys! Poor little brother, his body count rarely exceeded fifty in a single engagement. I had to do all the heavy lifting!

Good old Indy! Square jawed, charismatic, charming, armed with his hissing whip, pistol, knuckles of cast iron and most importantly, his hat, he was everything I wanted to be as a sprog. Getting into fights with bad guys, escaping dangerous traps, going to exotic locations and finding epic treasures. All perfect things for a young boy! Although it wasn't until I got older that I understood how women fit into the daydreams. Perhaps it was for the best that I was blissfully ignorant of what happened off the screen in those stories!

Night and day we would binge watch these and other movies while gorging on junk food. And my mom, dad and little sister were always around too. I can't recall too well, but I don't believe my dad had work at that time. Maybe he did, but it didn't feel like he had to go off to work. So he was with us there too. He and mom would spend time together peacefully, telling us to quiet down a little if we were killing too many Nazi's and to share our guns and stuff of that nature. In our defense, even back then we were American to our core and preferred the 1911 to the Luger. The latter was a clunky weapon with a poor trigger. Then again, maybe Matel hadn't polished the plastic squirt gun trigger correctly.

Nevertheless, it was amazingly peaceful having everyone around together, camping out in the living room together. I recall this also being the first time I was exposed to caffeine. That special stuff that keeps you from sleeping now matter how tired you are. Poor kid though I was! I didn't realize the sodas I was chugging like a child dying of thirst would curse me that night with the inability to get even a single wink! Insomnia in a can, truly!

Ahhhh but the joys didn't stop there! When my brother and I winded ourselves from constant combat, my mom introduced us to those quaint movies that women love so much, musicals. My dad was the outdoorsman and iron worker in the clan and taught my brother and I how to be tough and self reliant, but my mom kindled in me the love of softer and finer things in life, higher culture in the form of nuanced songs, music, dance choreography and romance. Honestly, even now my occasional craving for a decent musical movie is the result of her sowing the seeds during that small period. That was the first time I watched Singing In The Rain with the hilarious high pitched voice of the villainess, Lina L'Amont. The voices being knocked out of sync for the premier of the new sound picture in the movie forever burned itself into my memory and I suspect greatly influenced my sense of humor.

Ahhh and what's more, one of my favorite movies of all time, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was introduced to me in that fine little den! Laying on my stomach so I was level with the screen, my mom drew me in with the big fist fight at the barn raising. What a glorious battle! Big red-headed men in colorful shirts trading blows with loud pops against all the stuffy bad guys in the black and brown shirts, bashing in walls and cracking beams as if they were made of balsa wood! What great men they were! Taking on three times their number and triumphing brilliantly! So great was their prowess in fisticuffs that they literally broke down the barn they had almost finished raising!

Well, that's what she used to lure me in. As an adult I can far better appreciate the other aspects of the movie besides strong men bashing each other in the face. Those seven fellas had voices that made angels weep with envy and choreography that leaves me spellbound. Truly a classic that I cherish watching even now. If I watch it at night with the lights low and tune out all the other extravagances I've surrounded myself with, I feel myself being pulled back to that empty little house and those fun evenings.

The Sound of Music never quite rubbed off on me though. Not sure why, but my mom could never get me to drink the Kool Aid on that one.

There were a hundred smaller adventures in that little place. My memory is terribly fuzzy about it now, which makes me sad, but the warmth and joy of that time is still with me. Good movies, fun with family, eating popsicles for all meals like a barbarian, all rolled up into the course of maybe a month. Only a drop in the pond for even my comparatively short life, but it's one of the sweetest memories I have. I miss those simple times. But I'm glad I got to enjoy it then and remember it now. Hopefully, with some luck and effort, I can relive it with some kids of my own. All I need is a small place, some movies, a few family members and imagination.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Halloween Monster Movie Madness!

October is one of my favorite months for the sole reason that it gives me the perfect excuse to binge watch creature features, from the corny 50's black and white classics like The Black Scorpion and Creature From The Black Lagoon to the awesome 80's epics with horrifying makeup and effects that even now make people recoil in disgust.

Ohhhhhh yeah, I've got all the classics lined up! Some days I'll do originals and remakes side by side, like the 50's The Thing From Another World and immediately after watch John Carpenter's The Thing remake. Very very different movies based on the same source material, but both stand wonderfully as their own thing. John Carpenter's version is the best, of course, but still, the original is darned fun too! Then of course there is the 50's Invasion of the Body Snatchers which was my first taste of paranoia as a child, and the later remake with Donald Sutherland and the chilling performances and effects. I wish I had both versions of The Fly on hand, but man, I'm not sure if even now I can truly handle the Kronenburg version. Definitely not for the faint of heart.

Jaws, Tremors, Them, Arachnophobia, The Blob, Army of Darkness, Ghostbusters, Poltergeist and plenty of others.

Ohhhh ho ho ho yes! I'm going to do my darndest to enjoy plenty of cheesy and horrifying flicks with junk food and soda, and in between those I will be reading HP Lovecraft to candlelight while listening to spooky music.

Bring on the fear for October everyone! Also, if you have any of your own suggestions for 70's and 80's horror movies feel free to make suggestions. I know there are still some epics hidden away that I haven't come across yet.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Appeal of the Western

Let's face it, the classic tale of frontier justice in the Wild West is one of the most iconic images of the United States and is forever branded in our culture and historical identity. There's simply no way around it. Although the cowboy concept is not unique to us, we immortalized it in our earliest films in silent black and white, and yet even now the idea remains popular. We've seen it a thousand times. A corrupt cattle baron or land grabber uses his hired muscle to force good folk off of their lands despite their genuine protests, his hired toughs killing when they refuse and more than likely the mayor and sheriff are in his pocket. A handful of resilient trail toughs however stand up to his iron fist and take on a force far larger, and usually inspire the cowed citizens to join them and restore justice.

This is as cliche as love at first sight, slaying a dragon and ending with a big explosion. And yet the idea still appeals worldwide. Why?

When you break it down, it's rather simple. What land and people haven't had to deal with oppressive lords and barons, taking all they own and trampling them like cobblestones beneath their feet? In the breast of many dwelt the desire to fight back, to overthrow the oppressor and restore justice and equality. But they lacked the spirit and weapons to do so. Often such people tried, and just as often were cut down by superior skill at arms. But not always so. Every now and then someone rallied average good folk to cut down the evil ones. It wasn't always a happily ever after, but it still served to show that courage and resolution was capable of toppling the once mighty.

Today oppression still exists. Almost anyone in the world can watch a Western, understand the problem, and sympathize with the average folk and the steely-eyed hero standing firm for what they believe in and fighting back. The language might change, the land, the skin color, the weapons, but the story is almost exactly the same the world over. It's a powerful story that resonates across everyone. We all want to be the square-jawed hero rallying the townsfolk behind us, and many want to be the townsfolk following his example.

The western movies and books allow people to live vicariously through their adventures. It gives a voice and example to those who wish to enjoy freedom from tyranny and bandits, those often being one and the same. More than anyone else in history, America has embraced the idea of a few men standing up against many and winning. And we've done it. In World War One Alvin York singly rushed an entire German company armed with multiple machine gun positions, killed a score of men and captured the rest, over a hundred men, all by himself, armed with naught but a single Colt 1911 and a standard issue bolt action rifle. Nor was he alone in that exploit. I've read it mentioned by many vets in multiple wars that a single American soldier vanquishing a score of enemies by his lonesome.

All across the Old West the lawless flourished and forced the lawful to stand up and fight back, often viciously.

The Arizona Rangers scarcely ever had more than twenty men to patrol the entire state, and yet they did so, capturing, killing or driving away hundreds if not thousands of outlaws. The Minutemen of the East were called on time and again at a moment's notice to drive off or pursue hostile bands of Indians attacking a remote settlement, sometimes only a small group able to arrive in time to fight. And yet for every story of these we hear, there are probably twenty more we haven't heard simply because they were never reported. Countless homesteaders fought their own small wars that were so commonplace they almost seemed routine.

While the movies are certainly romanticized to a degree, such events were only too real and too common. But the heart still rings true, and it rings in the hearts of countless others who yearn for the bringing of true justice. That is the appeal of the classic western.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Early Halloween Spookiness

Okay, I was going to wait for October to start my descent into deliciously macabre scary stories, but I can't restrain myself!

I was poking around and recalled the old movie The Beast With Five Fingers, with the awesome Peter Lorre. On a whim I typed it up on Youtube and found the audio book version. But of course! All good movies are based off of books!

I'm only a portion through, but I'm absolutely delighted with it. It's the classic strange opening you get in old English tales, and it won't fail to grab your interest should you desire some classic horror. Take a look and expect more to come!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Plain Good Singing

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is one of my all time favorite first person shooters, and it'll take a devil of an effort for anyone to knock it from that spot. Something tells me it ain't gonna happen. On it's own it's one of the most pulse pounding, adrenaline pumping, nerve straining games I've ever touched, it's got solid story, and as icing on the cake it has one of the most hauntingly beautiful renditions of the haunting song Oh Death I've ever heard. Don't believe me? Take a listen. You won't regret it.

That is to say, unless you're afraid of Death.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Thing 36 Year Anniversery

I'm literally a day late on this one, but yesterday was the 36th anniversary of one of the greatest horror films of all time, and one of my personal all time favorites, John Carpenter's immortal The Thing, based off of the 30's novella Who Goes There?

Although a devastating failure when first released, savaged by critics and a major loss at the box office, it's since grown a devoted and well earned cult following. And it's no short wonder why. The movie is the pinnacle of cinematic paranoia mixed with visceral horror, and no other has truly rivaled it. The sheer craft is astonishing and it holds up wonderfully.

So what better way to celebrate this anniversary than by having a little humor and fun? I hereby present one of the greatest songs to tease the auditory system, The Thing The Musical! Da da dee daaaa!

Sorry for no vid box, but Blogger is being a jerk and won't let me find it, even though it's literally the first thing that pops up in a normal youtube search. I don't understand computers sometimes.

But anyway, enjoy the song, and enjoy the horror of The Thing!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Tales on the Ranch part 2

Whelp, more tales from the ranch! Got a few other funny ones.


Luck is not something that always favors me. In fact I suspect that Fate takes sadistic glee in picking on me in particular. I've noticed that the weather only likes to be bad when I'm walking to or from work. One example in particular: I was called up to help a kindly old person load something into their vehicle. I of course happily skip up to the front desk and await my task, always willing to serve our delightful customers. I happen to glance outside, and notice that the air is a bit... off. Sky is blotted out, and its not quite raining, but its not quite snowing either.

Come to think of it, neither rain nor snow tend to bounce off of asphalt. Only thing that does tend to do that is, well, hail. Ohhhhh yeah. I lean against the frame of the door, lips pursed, doing a wonderful impression of Blackadder: Back and Forth, muttering in the most sardonic voice imaginable: "Interesting..."

Customer gets into vehicle, ready for stuff to be loaded in, and I take off in the slashing hail as if I'm storming the beach at Normandy. From the first step I was pelted with chunks of ice the size of peas, which had an uncanny knack for hitting me directly on the tips of my ears. Bugger. I hustle, throw fifty pound bags of sodding salt into the back of their vehicle, wish them a happy day amidst Nature's shrapnel, and haul arse back into the shelter of the store, shaking fragments of ice from my vest and hair. 

Not a minute later however the hail stopped entirely. Had the customer waited but three minutes, we'd have been spared the withering assault. But, I sort of known it would stop when I came back inside. After all, why waste precious hail on people who aren't me?


Another trick of Fate was thrown at me one day when a customer needed one particular item. I of course look all over the area it's supposed to be, and it's not to be found. Because of course. I apologize, feeling most disappointed that I couldn't find what she wanted, when she comments that the minute she walks away, that is of course when I will find it. I paused aghast at the wisdom of her words and swiftly formed a plan of action!

I would apologize again, assure her we had no such items, and we would both walk away, pretending to be downcast, and surely we would then find the object of our mission!

"Whelp, so sorry ma'am, but it looks like we don't have it! Yyyyyyup, such a shame!" I moaned piteously as I strutted away, keeping a wary eye out to see if Fate was watching us. And, sure enough, I found precisely what it was she had been seeking! I cackled with glee and looked about for said customer, imagining how delighted she would be upon our plan working. I did indeed find her, but found the item was too large. She needed a smaller one. Aha! I could do that!

Flush with confidence at our first shot of success, I ran back and found a more fitting model, but was soon confounded once again as Fate had one last trick in store for me. I had found the item, but the customer was nowhere to be found! I searched up and down every isle, looking like an officer pursuing a fugitive, moving at a brisk walk that was almost a run, eyes searching like a hawk for a mouse. But alas, she had gone! Fate had won yet again!


Working behind the gun counter is easily the best spot in the store. Customers ask to see our dazzling selection of fun guns, and I, attempting not to drool, happily fetch whatever they ask to see and expound upon their virtues. For a gun nut myself, working at the gun counter is like a recovering drug addict working at a pharmacy. One particular day I was feeling rather proud of myself. I'd managed to sell a woman and her two sons on some packages of tannerite. For those of you who aren't gun savvy, tannerite consists of small plastic containers filled with little white balls. It's a mild explosive. You shoot it, and it goes boom. Awful fun stuff when popping off rounds in the desert.

They had been suspicious of the seemingly insignificant half-pound jars we had, unsure they would give a satisfying boom, but I insisted that they would work, and that if they wanted, they could buy some of the melons we happened to be selling near the cash register. A simple bit of knife work and they could insert the half-pound blocks of tannerite inside and kablam! They'd have a gorgeous recreation of the money shot from Scanners at an affordable price. 

Image result for scanners head explosion
Scanners, best head explosion ever
They thought this was a delightful idea and happily purchased the tannerite. Later, I walked up to the cashiers to see if they'd taken my advice about the watermelons to heart.

"Say, did a woman come through here with a pair of melons not long ago?" I inquired innocently.

My female coworker quirked a brow and a coy half smile. "You're asking if a woman came through here with a pair of melons...?"

Suddenly I flushed as I realized my poor wording. "That's not what I meant and you know it!" I declared indignantly, but was unable to keep an idiotic grin off of my face. 

I was however gratified to learn that they had indeed bought some watermelons, and I can only assume had a glorious fun time turning them into pink craters. Yay!


Usually once a week I get the same question while working at the gun counter: What handgun and cartridge should one use for bear? Quick note to those living in areas without grizzly bears: When out hiking in the northern country or fishing, you run the distinct risk of attracting the negative attention of a half-ton beast capable of ripping you many new orifices known as brown bears, or grizzlies. Now, they don't go around spending their spare time mauling every hiker and fisherman they come across, but they are more common than one might think and you only need one misunderstanding to end up with a scar makeover and a whopping hospital bill. Skin grafting isn't cheap you know.

Attacks aren't terribly common, but they happen enough that you don't want to go about unarmed up here. Most mountain men were considered green until they'd gotten at least bitten by a griz. The problem however lies in the fact that bears don't die all that easily, and if one takes a disliking to you being within the same state, the spray probably won't deter it and neither will most bullets. Sticking one with a common deer cartridge like the 270 Remington is a good way to make it mad, but not kill it. But most folks don't have the desire to tote a beefy 45-70 rifle, and instead wish for a more portable handgun.

For context, the infamous 44 magnum is considered underpowered for brown bears by most. So you can imagine my reaction when most folks are packing calibers far less substantial. 

One day a customer was asking to look at some Hornady 357 mag cartridges and asked how they performed. I told him that they work dandy in defense of two legged critters and most four legged ones, provided they were within a few hundred pounds. He then said he was looking for something to use in case of bears, and the biggest handgun he had was a 357 revolver.

"Well, I'm assuming it holds six rounds?"

"Well, good news. These will work just fine. When the first five don't work on the bear, you've got one left for yourself."

Perhaps not the most helpful advice, but it was accurate!


A word of advice to those of you who ask to see pistols at your local gun retailer: When checking out the piece of machinery, keep an eye where that muzzle is pointed. Yes, they guys there check to make sure they aren't loaded, but it's good practice to always ensure that the bore is pointed in a safe direction just in case something goes wrong. Accidents happen even to those who are careful.

Speaking personally, I get about three or four heart attacks per day working at the gun counter, on account of seeing a yawning gun barrel pass over my face and chest repeatedly as I try to limbo out of the way. But those waving the gun don't notice, being far too engrossed looking over the gun to see me re-enacting the bullet dodging scenes from The Matrix in real time. Lets face it, once you've seen what even a pencil-bore gun can do, you don't want it pointing at your face, unloaded or not. But usually I keep my mouth shut, since management tends to frown on its employees slapping guns out of careless customers' hands and yelling at them.

So I humbly ask all of you wonderful consumers, please keep a close eye on that pea-shooter when you're at the gun shop, and make sure it's not pointing directly between the eyes of the nice clerk behind the counter who is now wondering if their life insurance bill is paid up.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Early Stop-Motion Treasures

We all know Ray Harryhausen's fantastic works with dinosaurs and buxom cavewomen, or the voyages of Sinbad the Sailor, or monsters destroying grand cities, but he cut his teeth on more humble but still most impressive fairy tales. And I discovered that they have been uploaded onto Youtube!

I've only just recently found them, but I've no doubt that they are animated treasures that I and you can enjoy. Watch and have fun!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Independence Day!

Image result for kentucky long rifle

The year 1776, when a little upstart cluster of colonies stood up to a mighty empire and told them to sod off with their laws, and embraced freedom amidst the thrusts of bayonets and the rattle of musketry. A year that will long be remembered, and still celebrated today as the birth of the greatest and most free nation that ever existed in Earth's history.

America might not be perfect, but it still has the most freedoms and the most opportunity, and I'm proud to live here and call myself an American.

Happy Independence Day everyone! Have fun with flint and powder, and of course tons of fireworks!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Who We Truly Are

I've learned a lot in my short time on this earth. Mine has been a life of hardship. One battle after another. Too many times have I felt myself on the verge of breaking. And yet it is in times of distress, when we are at our lowest point and most vulnerable that the core of who we are is revealed. When our layers of personality are flayed under the knives of cruel life, we reveal who we truly are as people.

While trials are never enjoyable while we go through them, they none the less teach us our most valuable lessons. When you feel that you are at your breaking point, when you are at your worst, when the world is collapsing around you, look into a mirror and you will behold your true self.

What Kind of Heart

What kind of heart is it that feels those of others?

What kind of heart feels the pain of others and yet cannot cure it?

What kind of heart is bereft of selfishness and yet gives all it has?

What kind of heart is able to give all and yet take nothing?

What kind of heart always thinks of others and neglects itself?

What kind of heart breaks and never puts itself back together?

What kind of heart is unable to deliver pain and yet receive it so easily?

What kind of heart refuses that which it most desires?

What kind of heart dwells in the breast of those precious few who care naught for themselves?

What kind of heart always bleeds but never dies?

What kind of heart is so barren and callused yet bears the soft glow of hope?

What kind of heart can remain noble in the face of pain, adversity and desire?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Retro Firefly

I was browsing a popular social networking site, and after sifting through lots of stuff that normally goes in one ear and out the other, I stumbled across something which rocked my frigging world.

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Firefly 50's Style from

Okay, I have a weakness for cheesy low budget 50's and 60's scifi and retro stuff, and an absolute love affair for the show Firefly. So when I saw this... my brain stopped working for a few seconds. All of it is perfect.

Enjoy folks!

PS If you haven't watched Firefly yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. You won't regret it, unless you're allergic to good writing and fun. 

Happy Birthday Ray Harryhausen!

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Stop Motion Titan
I just now learned that today is the birthday of one of the greatest special effects experts who ever lived, the patron saint of stop motion, Ray Harryhausen!

You youngsters may not have heard of him, but he made some of the most amazing movies that ever graced the silver screen. Using his hands and imagination he brought monsters to life and shocked audiences across the world. His name has become synonymous with excitement, adventure, strangeness and imagination!

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The Cyclops, 7th Voyage of Sinbad
The patience he exhibited in the excruciatingly slow and time consuming stop motion process was nothing short of superhuman. The popular Disney cartoon Gravity Falls even made a joke about this.

Ray's work spanned fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood to dinosaur colossi, strange alien beings to creatures of fantasy. Few other men have such a diverse resume, and even fewer have made so many movies that are so iconic.

He was self taught in the art of stop motion. Inspired like the rest of the world by the amazing film King Kong in 1933, the effects done by the amazing Willis O'Brian, he sought to pave his own path and did so with the help of his mom and dad, practicing in his house with limited resources. And yet he succeeded in his endeavor far beyond what most people ever hope. As time went on he got involved in full-scale movies and soon became not only a special effects genius, but a creative writer and movie maker in his own right.

Many of his ideas defied genre, like the legendary Valley of Gwangi, one of my personal favorites. And yes, much of my own work was inspired by him!

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Valley of Gwangi, 1961

In fact, he indirectly helped spawn one of the greatest movie monsters of all time, none other than Godzilla! His classic The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, helped usher in the delightful craze of monster movies of the 50's which became a hallmark of the era. A producer at Toho films, Tomoyuki Tanaka, saw the American film and was spellbound, and determined to make something similar. In fact, his original working title was Big Monster From 20,000 Miles Beneath The Sea! Easy to see the influence there! The movie, which would be re-titled Gojira, would far outstrip The Beast in the long run, becoming one of the most iconic movies and monsters in cinematic history, but the seed of inspiration was still there.

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The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms

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Talos The Man of Bronze, Jason and the Argonauts

The genius even dabbled in classic works and fantasy such as Greek mythology with Clash of the Titans and Jason and the Argonauts or the Arab tales of Sinbad the Sailor.

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The Skeletons, Jason and the Argonauts
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Kali, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

As if this weren't enough already, he was a very accomplished artist with pen and pencil. Recently many grand pictures have arisen that truly show his skill in hand drawing.

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Concept art of The Cyclops in 7th Voyage of Sinbad
A man could go on for hours about Ray's innumerable great works. Special effects legend, artist, director, creative producer, husband, father, and more, he paved the way for future film makers and artists like no other. The man is nothing short of a legend, and even now he is one of my personal heroes.

We are forever grateful to you Ray, and we will miss you, but we will always have your amazing creations. Happy Birthday Ray Harryhausen!

Thursday, June 28, 2018


I don't believe in those shows about chasing ghosts. I don't believe in seances that let you speak with the dead. I don't believe that the spirits of those past linger on in our earthly domain.

Nevertheless, I believe in ghosts.

Each of us is haunted by something. It might be a dark part of us we prefer to think isn't there. It might be a seemingly insurmountable obstacle in life. Or it might be a deed in our past that follows us like our own shadow. Our own ghosts are very real. But some have more than others.

Mine aren't the most numerous or the most difficult, but they are always present, lurking in my footsteps and following me wherever I go. For a time I might lose them and forget they exist, but always they come back.

The ghost that I fear the most? Paradoxically, it is both being alone and being with someone. So long have I dealt with loneliness that I am used to it, or so it seems. I'm terrified of it, yet it's what I know. I've grown accustomed to listening to myself. To taking care of my own needs. I've learned to stand mostly on my own with minimal help. Yet still, no matter how much I fight, I feel the yearning to extend my heart to some distant young lady with a kindred spirit.

Somehow romantic love seems intangible to me, something tantalizingly possible yet always beyond my reach. I see it everywhere. On TV, at work, at church, everywhere I look there are happy couples. Not all end happily, true, but many are. It's something I so desperately desire, and yet seemingly can't have. I confess that I sometimes fear that my heart or mind are broken, that something in me is inherently non-functional that prevents me from forming a romantic bond.

I've tried. Oh how I've tried. I've met some amazing women. Yet it never quite works out. I've felt myself grow callous to trying to meet new people. A barrier has built itself up around me. And yet my ghost continues to follow me.

I'm young. In body I'm still a young man, but I look younger that I actually am. And yet in mind and spirit I'm so much older. In a few scant years I've covered what most people take more than a decade to go through. I've had to. I had to grow up fast. It was the only way I was able to survive. So while I may still be a comparatively young man, I've aged far beyond how people should.

And yet, in spite of this disappointment and even cynical edge, I yet retain hope. Someday, heaven willing, I will find a young lady who will be everything that I need, that I can give my entire self to. I don't know when, where or how I will meet her, but I hope that it comes soon.

The good thing about ghosts is that sometimes they drive you towards good things.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Thoughts on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

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Sequel Goodness

Whelp! Got back from Jurassic World 2 yesterday, and had a lot of fun. I decided to sleep on my opinion for awhile. I've noticed that my opinion often changes after my initial thoughts and have time to really think about it. Taking time to really digest a movie helps in my opinion.

My initial thoughts are that this movie is very different, but positive. On its face you might compare it to The Lost World in that there are comically evil bad guys kidnapping dinosaurs and taking them off of the island for profit, but it veers so far from that line that it's actually pretty fascinating. It almost feels like an 80's movie in how far it goes with over the top awesomeness.

What also strikes me is the breakneck pace of the movie. The first Jurassic World was extremely well paced. I felt that it took its time, slowed things down when it needed too, but always felt like it was building and ramping up over the course of the story with the most epic of the action taking place at the very end. Fallen Kingdom I thought peaked early. Wow, wrong! It started off pretty intense and kept it going throughout the entire flick. There are parts where action isn't happening, yes, but that tension is always there. You won't be bored during this movie. Almost all the action takes place within twenty four hours. It feels super tight though. The editing is fantastic and trims away all of the fat.

It's actually kind of an anomaly in that it doesn't feel its length at all. It clocks in at two hours and ten minutes, which is long, but it doesn't feel long. It feels so trim and sleek without wasting any time. Efficiency. I love it! It's not like the Transformers movies where it's an exercise in mental endurance. I've actually found myself groaning at my TV "Just end!" in the last one that I saw. Sweet Odin that thing was long, felt long, and just refused to keep things relevant to the story. People sometimes want fun dumb movies, and this movie fulfills that desire wonderfully. It's not smart, but it's done very well. You just need to sit back and enjoy the awesome.

Actually, I noticed several times throughout the first act that I was clenching my hands. I was feeling enough tension to trip my fight or flight instincts! That's saying a lot. Now, this movie isn't as smart as the first one. Jurassic World sprinkles ideas and themes throughout its running time, spicing the action with enough intellectual stimulation to make you think even outside the movie. That's very pleasant for me, and it doesn't sound boring or stupid. This one has a little dusting of that, but in reality it's more on the periphery rather than the primary focus. But I find that okay. It's not a repeat of what we've seen before. In fact, I'd say this one is the most removed out of any JP movie thus far. It gets us off the sodding island and dealing with awesome stuff elsewhere.

Although I admit later on it switches from an epic trek through ruins and a blasting volcano into a frigging James Bond movie, and then a horror movie. I kid you not! I almost felt like it was a different movie when we're in a dark room filled with evil Russians, Japanese and Chinese investors and even Texan oil barons bidding on kidnapped dinosaurs in an evil auction. It was so stupid and strange that I frigging loved it. See what I mean by seeming like a James Bond movie?

Then it turns into a horror movie as our heroes run around in a huge Wayne Manor-esque mansion with a monster-saur chasing them, for the most part unarmed. It's hair-raising when they're creeping through a private fossil collection in the dark as a storm is raging outside, knowing that somewhere else in there is a psychotic dino sniffing around for them. Everything is already dinosaur shaped in there, and you know it could be hiding anywhere. The tension is built up beautifully. It's one of those movies where you feel like you could be there and try to figure out how you would deal with it. That's good immersion. And the kills scored against bad guys and bad dinos are positively glorious. The coup de grace to the indoraptor made me want to jump out of my chair, fists thrust into the air and cheer!

So yeah, it's like getting three awesome movies in one, and its not an absolute mess. It has some flaws, but the movie is so engrossing and fast that you don't notice them unless you're a weirdo like me. I did find myself wondering "Wait, rich man didn't know they were updating the hidden lab in his own house? He's got like ten staff members down there doing evil science and stuff. It's hard to hide that!" or "Wait, they just shipped the dinos straight there from the island? How did they get past customs?"

So you can nitpick, but its just so fun that it's honestly hard to complain. There is one thing that actively bothered me, but I won't discuss it cuz of spoilers, but it regards the kid of the movie. It comes and goes so quickly that we had no real chance to digest it or understand it, so I don't know if it was epic or dumb. It was very much like "Wait, whiskey tango foxtr-(Explosions)"

I confess at one point I almost burst out laughing. Baddies are shooting at Blue, who tears them multiple new ones, and one baddie accidentally shoots tanks of flammable gas, which Blue realizes is going to blow and runs away just as it explodes. I honestly thought of the live action Grinch movie where Jim Carrie runs from that tiny car in an over the top action beat.

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Real Scene from JW2

So, other than that, not much really sticks out to me as being horribly wrong. I'm sure other things will pop out to me later, and even more after I watch it again on DVD, but for now it just really stands out to me as a wonderfully cinematic movie with great shots, great action and really fun ideas. Only bad thing I can think of is that Claire is unnaturally beautiful in this movie.

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Too gorgeous. Not listening to dialogue. Will figure out plot later.
Then again, Owen presents a similar problem.

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Too gorgeous. Not listening to dialogue. Will figure out plot later.
What was I talking about again? Oh, yeah, dinosaur stuff. Yeah, I like this movie. It's a solid sequel. But most importantly, it finally shatters the JP status quo. Dinosaurs are finally set loose on the world at large. Will they begin to breed? Establish small colonies? Spread? They're moving around outside of the island, and now free to move wherever they please. This sets up future movies beautifully. No more being stuck on the stupid island, yay! Risky? Oh yeah. But like the dinosaurs, the creative freedom for this franchise is now free of its cage and allowed to try new paths.

Let's hope the next one is as good!

Edit: Wait! Okay I found a flaw that I just now realized needs to be mentioned. There's no Barry in this movie! Oh, right, I'm the only one who cared about him in the first one. Yeah, the black guy who spoke French and actually survived the incident. I dunno why, but for some reason he resonated with me and I wanted him back. Sigh. Well, if that's the biggest complaint I can think of, that's saying something.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Book Discount Sale!

Hey all! In honor of today's release of Jurassic World 2, which I've been awaiting like a petulant child, I'm discounting all of my humble books! My first two are being knocked down to free, and the others chopped down to even less than before. This goes on from today through next week, so get them while you can!

I hope you all enjoy! Now let's all jump down to the theater and see if JW2 lives up to the hype!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Simple Joys of Life

I miss the childish days of imagination and wonder. Often we hear that a certain child has an overactive imagination, but they say it as if its a bad thing. What greater gift can a child have than imagination? Well, maybe obedience, but let's be realistic here. I miss letting my mind wander to completely strange and nonsensical realms. The world felt huge and ripe for exploration. A simple stick could be whatever you wanted it to be. A rifle, a sword, a magic wand, anything!

But then we grow up and imagination fades as we grow older and develop new interests like cars and the opposite gender which seems to grow more interesting by the day. More and more our minds are concentrated on what we can touch and we focus on responsibility. Phbbbbbt!

I prefer once in awhile feeling like a kid again. Popping in a black and white monster movie is a great way to do that. As a kid I eagerly awaited Halloween, because I knew that in October all the scary movies came on. And with those came the cheesy B-movies of the 50's. With today's effects its easy to brush these old movies off as quaint and poor in quality. But I still find something magical about them.

A few years ago I was babysitting my youngest brother and sister. This was also when Tivo was still a thing and hadn't been bypassed by Netflix. Lo and behold I managed to record The Black Scorpion! Giant scary scorpions menacing the Mexican countryside with stop motion goodness and silly props drooling like dogs! My little brother and sister watched, spellbound by the effects, wondering what would happen next, flinching at the distant roars of the monsters and cuddling close to me. It was wonderful!

But it didn't fade from their minds immediately after watching. And in this day of ADD kids, that's saying something. The heart of the whole household were warmed as the two went into the kitchen, took out the oven mitts which vaguely resembled scorpion pincers, and then chased each other back and forth with childish roars and imitated the banging of guns. What beautiful imagination and joy they took in such simple things! That dirty oven mitts could resemble monstrous claws!

Sigh. I love those moments. I wish there were more of them. Every now and then, at a special moment, I feel myself as a wee kid again, and the entire world is an adventure.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Tales on the Ranch

I love my new job at Cal Ranch. I enjoy the work, it's honest, my co-workers are great, and most of the customers are patient and kind. But like any job you have your moments that are... interesting. In fact, here are some brief little anecdotes that a few of you might find amusing.


Me: (Sees customer leaning against her cart near an isle, idly staring and hops over) Hello ma'am! How are you today? Can I help you find anything? =D (Voice is insufferably chipper)

Customer: Oh, thank you, no. I'm just waiting for my husband to finish with what he's looking for. (Tolerant smile)

Me: (Without a seconds hesitation and with perfectly straight face) Oh! Cattle prods are right over there ma'am! (Points)


Me: (Sees co-workers on feed isle peering under metal rack) What's going on?

Co-worker 1: Just saw a mouse.

Co-worker 2: Yeah, he's been running around here for awhile.

Me: Oh, him. His name is Ralph. He rides a motorcycle. (Straight face)

Co-worker 1 and 2: (Collapse with laughter)


Me: Howdy sir, what can I do for you?

Customer: Howdy, I'm looking for some chain. Need something awful strong.

Me: What for?

Customer: Dog. He tore his cable.

Me: He tore the steel cable? (Blink blink)

Customer: Yep. That kind right there. (Nudges coil of cable rated for 250 pounds with boot tip) Twisted it and yanked until it snapped. Only half grown too.

Me: ... I see. How about this chain here? Rated for 500 pounds. 

Customer: Looks nice, but I still don't think it'll work. He pulled my truck when it was in neutral.

Me: (Now picturing The Beast from The Sandlot and considering more drastic measures) Huh. Okay. Let's jump straight to the big stuff. How does this look? (Hefts length of chain rated for 800 pounds with links as thick as my thumb)

Customer: (Skeptical look) Hmmm... Might work, might work. Just afraid the f***er will break that too. Don't want to have to come back and buy more chain.


Me: Hello sir, help you with anything?

Customer: Sure, yeah, you got any wasp traps?

Me: Sure do! 

Customer: Great. It'd be nice if you had a gun for them though.

Me: ... (Dark smile crosses my lips and I thank the Armory Gods of Valhalla for this opportunity) We do.

Customer: (Pauses and looks at at me carefully, surely thinking I mis-spoke) What was that?

Me: We do. A gun for flying insects. Called the Bug Salt Blaster. Meant for splatting them right out of the air. (Practically salivating)

Customer: (Infected by my enthusiasm and a similar gleam enters his eye) I'd like to take a look at this.

Me: Gladly! (Leads him over to traps and the glorious Salt Blaster) Shoots a shotgun charge of salt. Pneumatic pressure design, like a BB gun or Nerf gun. Just pour in the salt, charge the handle, and you can exterminate flying critters out to ten feet! (Hefts the weapon as if it's a classic Holland and Holland double rifle)

Customer: (Grinning eagerly and imagining the heads of horse flies and hornets mounted above the fireplace) I'll take it!


Manager Radio: Hey EC? You there?

Me: (Picks up radio) Sure thing boss, whatcha need?

Manager Radio: Grab your jacket and come outside to the compound. I got a job for you.

Me: (Remembers its still winter with snow and bitter cold) Ummm... Shhhkkkkk! Can't hear- Shkkkkkk! Too much static- Sssshkkkkk! So noisy-Shhhkkkk! Can't come outside- Shhhhkkkkkk! 


Me: (Internally) Having a guy weighing 140 pounds lift a bale of barbed wire weighing 80 pounds isn't a good idea... (Takes deep breath, crouches in best stable stance possible, grabs hold of wire handle and lifts towards customer's tail-gate) Almost... There! (Feels something tug on inner pant leg, but is too busy trying to to burst a blood vessel to notice) Got it! (Looks down and sees a barb gutted my pant leg like a deer) ... Crap. 


Me: (At the gun counter helping customer) Yep, yep, the 22 and 17 are both great varmint cartridges.

Child of Customer: (Confused look on innocent face) What's a... a varmint?

Me: Any animal with hair that isn't a pet.

Customer: (Starts to object, then nods in agreement) Yep, pretty much. 

That looks familiar...

Image of : Hiller Model 1031-A-1 Flying Platform
Credit to Smithsonian

This is the Hiller 1031 Flying Platform, a fascinating contraption invented in the 50's. It sadly never took off (Hahaha) due to inherent limitations in the design. Meant for soldiers, they couldn't lean over to fire at lower targets as the shift in weight would tip the thing over. Attempts were made to develop a bigger one but it never worked out. So while most interesting and fun, I'd certainly want one, it turned out to be a dead end.

Except as I looked at this, I realized I'd seen it somewhere before...

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Jonny Quest intro clip

Ah ha! Caught you Hanna Barbera! Stealing retiring military secrets and giving them to secret organizations for their dastardly schemes!
I honestly don't know if the animators were inspired from this real machine, or if they came up with it on their own by accident. But either way I love how life has these quirks. By the way, if you haven't, watch old Jonny Quest. It's hysterical and imaginative. The 90's one was propaganda and the CG doesn't hold up.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Fallout 76 Announced

Permit me to squeal like a little girl in delight at the announcement of the next installment to the Fallout franchise, Fallout 76. Full disclosure, I'm a shameless slavish lover of Fallout. It's my all time favorite game series. I can't overstate my love for the setting. I want to have it's children. Get the picture? Good.

Now, I don't know much about the trailer. I don't know what the story is, when it's coming out, what will happen or... well, anything at all really, except its in Vault 76. Good enough for me! Now I will work extra shifts to hoarde money until such time as I can throw it all at Bethesda and promptly lose around two weeks of my life in an unblinking waking coma that is my in depth gaming mode, in which all other physical activities are kept to a bare minimum as I lose myself in an immersive world with androgynous body builders and retro 50's culture.

It's a good time to be alive.

Monday, May 14, 2018

My Abusive Relationship With Tremors

Okay folks, ranting time. I honestly didn't want to talk about it, but I'm somehow feeling drunk without a drop of alcohol in me, so let's do this.

Tremors is one of my favorite movies of all time. I grew up with the movie. It came out the same year I was born. When I first watched it as a tyke it scared the daylights out of me. For two weeks I didn't put my feet on the ground of I could help it. And heaven help me I loved it. I've watched it hundreds of times. I can recite the entire movie from memory. Every line, every shot, every sound, absolutely everything is burned into my memory. It became a family favorite. Anytime it was on everyone would rush to tell me. It captured my imagination. It fascinated me endlessly. Even now it's as close to a perfect movie as you can get.

And, like any thing that has a dedicated cult following, soulless producers have sought to turn my passion against me to siphon money out of my wallet. See, a movie with such a dedicated following was destined for sequels. Tremors 2: Aftershocks is a very worthy sequel. I really like it. It has some of the absolute best buildup and spooky atmosphere I've seen in any horror movie. Tremors 3: Back to Perfection was dumb, but had a good soundtrack and actually makes me laugh. Tremors 4: The Legend Begins was a genuinely interesting prequel with some fun twists and really good storytelling. Tremors The Series was doomed to failure with a tiny budget and a fundamentally limited area for writing. You couldn't make a show out of it. But bless it's heart, it tried. While the effects and stuff were dumb, I really did enjoy the writing.

Then came Tremors 5. I didn't want to watch it. I was afraid. I knew it wouldn't be good. I knew there would be pain. But I had to watch it. At this point in the series it was banking purely on the good will of the previous movies. But it was worse beyond all my expectations. After I first saw it, I started typing up a scathing review here, but got burned out on it then forgot. Well, forgot might be the wrong term.

Okay, to be truly honest, I think my brain deliberately made me forget. A suppressed memory. Now, most people only think they have such things. Most times they don't. I don't like to claim that I do. But I genuinely think that this movie was so bad that my subconscious buried it so I wouldn't have to deal with the emotional fallout. Anytime it came back up it would somehow just kinda fade from my mind. Normally things that make me upset I dwell on so I can mentally punch them into bloody paste. It's only things that truly leave an emotional scar on me, like a breakup or a loved one dying, that my brain shifts away from my waking mind.

It's one of the few movies that actually hurt me. I know that sounds silly. Trust me, I do. But... I really loved this series. And to see it go from such heights to this was like a punch in the guts. Worse, I get the feeling that whoever directed this movie hated Tremors, hated what it stood for, and hated everyone that liked it. Never before have I felt quite like this towards a movie. It felt like it loathed me personally as a fan, and it wanted to do everything in its power to hurt me for it.

I can never actually review it. I'd have to watch the movie again. And I don't want to go through that pain again. I could write a novella on everything wrong with that movie.

It's easily one of the movies I hate the most. But now a sixth one has come out. It still seems to be doing everything wrong. And yet I will probably see it. My love for the series, even with this brutal emotional kick to the shins, is too great.

At this point, it's not a healthy relationship. It's not the series doing what it can to entertain me and be awesome, and me in turn loving it and giving it my money. It's now leaching off of my former good will. I get the feeling that soon this new one will be pounding at my door and demanding to know where the cigarettes are. It's going to rip my manly blouse open, scream in my face for being an unfaithful wench, and yet for all my loathing and terror, I will look back on our early days of frolicking through Horror Lane and keep coming back with the faint hope that I'll find that movie has come back to me.

I had this same media co-dependency before with Alien vs Predator. But it seems like I went from one bad media relationship to another.

I'm now going to say something I never thought I'd say: Please stop making Tremors movies. I want this pain to stop. Just let it die. Let Michael Gross, Kevin Bacon and all the other actors get on with their lives. If Gross is trapped in some sort of contractual obligation, find the mercy in your hearts to let him out of it.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Pine Leaf: Heroine of the Crow Nation

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Crow Warrior
If one were to compile a list of all the great warriors of the various Native American tribes, the list would likely stretch out to the hundred yard line at a rifle range. Each group had their heroes who earned their titles and prestige through daring and skill that many civilized men find to be within the realm of the fantastic. And yet many of these men existed and their deeds were indeed real.

The Crow Nation was never short on their heroes. But a much lesser known fighter, but one of their best, was not a man but one of their women! Her name was Pine Leaf, or Bar-chee-am-pe in Crow tongue. She was not like most women, bound in marriage to do her husband's bidding at every beck and call with no ambitions of her own. On the contrary, she was a singular anomaly, boasting one of the most heroic hearts of the frontier.

Her memory is preserved only through the glowing accounts of the autobiographical book by Jim Beckwourth when he lived among the Crow. Although even at this time he had multiple wives with them, none elicited the sensations of admiration, respect and love that Pine Leaf did.

In his own words he describes her thus: "For an Indian, she possessed great intellectual powers. She was endowed with extraordinary muscular strength, with the activity of a cat and the speed of the antelope. Her features were pleasing, and her form symmetrical. She had lost a brother in the attack on our village before mentioned- a great brave, and her twin brother. He was a fine specimen of the race of red men, and bade fair to rise to distinction; but he was struck down in his strength, and Pine Leaf was left to avenge his death. She was at that time twelve years of age, and she solemnly vowed that she would never marry until she had killed a hundred of the enemy with her own hand. Whenever a war-party started, Pine Leaf was the first to volunteer to accompany them. Her presence among them caused much amusement to the old veterans' but if she lacked physical strength, she always rode the fleetest horses, and none of the warriors could outstrip her. All admired her for her ambition, and as she advanced in years, many of the braves grew anxious for the speedy accomplishment of her vow."

"She had chosen my party to serve in, and when I engaged in the fiercest struggles, no one was more promptly at my side than file young heroine. She seemed incapable of fear; and when she arrived at womanhood, she could fire a gun without flinching, and use the Indian weapons with as great dexterity as the most accomplished warrior. I began to feel more than a common attachment toward her. Her intelligence charmed me, and her modest and becoming demeanor singled her out from her sex."

Truly, this is glowing praise from a man who was revered later on as one of the greatest of the mountain men and became a leading chief of the Crows, a man who's life was never short of adventure or bravery. One can absolutely feel the unvarnished admiration he and everyone else felt for her, and it's not surprising that he sought for her to be one of his wives.

Here we find that she was not only wise in warfare, but in games of the heart as well. After much coaxing Pine Leaf agreed to marry him when the pine needles turned yellow. Jim not unreasonably thought that this meant autumn and carried on his way, no doubt eagerly awaiting the coming season. A time after this though it occurred to him that evergreen needles don't change color with the seasons! Upon mentioning this to her she only smiled, laughed, and set another strange condition upon which to marry him.

Even with this coquettish drama taking place his desire for her grew. But juxtaposing this was frequent and bloody warfare. Always Pine Leaf was near the fore and in the thickest fighting. In one battle with the Black Feet things went poorly. Many braves and even some accompanying white trappers were killed. It looked as if the end were upon them, and what was worse, it was in the dead of winter. As Jim put it: "This was my Russian campaign."

Yet they survived, but not without a great deal of loss. In fact, in this battle Pine Leaf was reduced to having only eight fingers. She lost a knuckle from a pinky finger from a Black Foot bullet on her right hand. The other on her left hand she had amputated as a sign of mourning when her brother was killed. It was the custom among the Crow women to amputate a finger upon the death of a husband or brother.

On another excursion fate had directed Jim away from his Crow family for several years. It wasn't without reason that they assumed him dead, as was rather common at that time along the frontier, killed from frost or foe. When he returned all were naturally overjoyed, nor was Pine Leaf an exception. And yet when he was gone her fiery flame never wavered. Upon his return Jim learned that she had believed him dead, but was only biding her time trying to discover which rival tribe had killed her friend so that she might avenge him. Perhaps it was a blessing to all of those other tribes that Jim had simply gone missing. One can only imagine how many scalps she collected over the death of her brother alone.

This all sounds very centered upon Jim's relationship with Pine Leaf, but it must be remembered that all we know of her comes from his writings, so it is only natural that much of it would be from his own accounts and perspective.

The last mention of her came through most unfortunate circumstances. Jim Beckwourth was still in the employ of a trapping company and at last decided to take his leave of his Crow companions and traveled to Saint Louis. Then, for reasons beyond my ken, another group of trappers fell in with the Crows and told them that the President and others were angry with Jim because of his befriending of the tribe, and murdered him as punishment. Evidently they thought this was a most splendid joke and took joy at their horror. It was a wonder that the group wasn't slaughtered on the spot. It may easily be imagined that this did not put the tribe in a good mood. Their beloved friend, family member and chief murdered on account of being kind to them? In spite of all he had done to keep the peace between them? This boded poorly for every white man between the Crows and the Atlantic.

They set on the warpath and were ready to scalp any white man they came across and sought to start with a trapping outpost which just happened to have some of Jim's friends present inside. After a strong showing they managed to stall for time and come to an agreement: Give them a chance to prove that Jim was still alive by sending a messenger to bring him back. If he didn't arrive, the Crows could kill them all. A rather steep bargain, but it was the only one the trappers had available. And sure enough, Jim returned, much disgruntled by the whole affair, although glad that no one had been killed during his swift return.

The Crows were delighted to learn that he was alive, but were soon downcast by his depressed behavior. Nor is it any wonder. He must have felt that he had only turned his back for a week before war broke out. He had done all he could to prevent conflict and yet at the first provocation, albeit quite understandable, they were moved to aggression. Perhaps Jim felt that he was a sort of prisoner, always having to hold others in check to prevent needless slaughter. He desired to return to civilization and marry a woman there who he sought to support through his trapping. The Crows desired him to stay and continue leading them. And it is here that Pine Leaf sought to save both groups by sacrificing that which she valued the most: Her independence.

The words she used to conclude her long and wonderfully storied career were many, but here are among the strongest: "I said I would kill one hundred foes before I married any living man. I have more than kept my word, as our great chief and medicine men can tell you. As my arm increased in strength, the enemy learned to fear me. I have accomplished the task I set before me; henceforward I leave the war-paths of my people; I have fought my last battle, and hurled my last lance; I am a warrior no more."

"I am about to sacrifice what I have always chosen to preserve- my liberty. The back of my steed has been my lodge and my home. On his back, armed with my lance and battle-axe, I knew no fear. The medicine chief, when fighting by my side, has displayed a noble courage and a lofty spirit, and he won from my heart, what no other warrior has ever won, the promise to marry him when my vow was fulfilled. He has done much for our people; he has fought their enemies, and spilled his blood for them. When I shall become his wife, I shall be fond and faithful to him. My heart feels pure before the Great Spirit and the sun. When I shall no more on the war-path, obey the voice of the Medicine Calf, and you will grow stronger and stronger; we shall continue and a happy people, and he will leave us no more. I have done." 

What brave words and sacrifice from one who had for so long been a warrior of repute and independence! The woman who had tread the path of the warrior gave up what she loved most to preserve her people and attach one of its leaders to them. What gallantry and selflessness! Indeed, the two were shortly thereafter wed together. But sadly, her sacrifice was in vain. Difficulties with the American Fur Company made returning for business a financial impossibility. What was more Jim Beckwourth had exhausted himself of the life he had led. There was never truly peace. Only breaks between warfare with other tribes. Always he and others had to watch over their horses to prevent them from being stolen by the thousands. Always they were careful when traveling, for at any moment they might run into hereditary enemies and receive an arrow, tomahawk or bullet. There was never truly rest.

And so he went a different path, and left his much sought after and worthy bride adrift after only five weeks of being married. He confirms that thereafter he never saw her again. Although this event took place well over a century ago, my heart aches at this sad and inconclusive ending to the splendid legend and warrior Pine Leaf. What must she have felt when she realized that her love wasn't to ever return? How many months or years did she wait? Did she regret her decision to give up on being a warrior, to effectively live as a widow? To be left after he had fought so hard to win her heart?

It pains the soul to think of this, but it does nothing to tarnish the heroine's reputation. Whatever end she truly met, her life and deeds have lived on. I consider myself richer for knowing her story, and I hope that all of you who have read this feel the same.

For Pine Leaf: Heroine of the Crow!