Monday, February 27, 2006

Shows are better in captive environment

When you're bored, television just seems better somehow.

I can remember watching the Dean Martin Western "Five Card Stud" once upon a time while we were visiting relatives. My mom was caught up with talking to her sister she hadn't seen in a while, and I was far away from my stuff.

Crooning cowboy
Dean as a cowboy tracking down killers was far more entertaining than I probably would have found him any other time.

I think the same was true once of an episode of "The Rookies" on another visit to relatives.

I thought of that tonight at the gym while watching the free pilot episode of the new Dick Wolf series, "Conviction," from iTunes.

Viewing with conviction
I can't keep up with all the versions of "Law and Order," but "Conviction" was free and it got me through the tedium of exercise on stationary bikes and tread mills. At least while working out, I found it pretty interesting and entertaining. I got as mad at Stephanie March's call on the prosecution of a drug dealer as her fellow deputy D.A. did.

It wasn't nearly as bad as the review I read in "Entertainment Weekly" or "TV Guide," can't remember which.

Would it be as entertaining in my living room? That's a good question, and one whose answer I may never know.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Advance Buzz - Joseph Finder - Killer Instinct Reviewed

(Kind of a special entry. I was privileged to receive an advance review copy of a new thriller from Joseph Finder. Watch for it May 16.)
Corporate sales can be war. Sales directors bully. Clients double cross. Co-workers backstab. It’s all in a day’s work for those workaday warriors who must accept rejection as a cost of doing business and continue to ride on a “smile and a shoeshine,” as Arthur Miller once had a character say.

Joseph Finder, whose novel High Crimes became the movie with Morgan Freeman, captures that world beautifully and a bit ironically in his new corporate thriller, Killer Instinct, due in stores May 16. It’s a perfect companion to his previous page turner, Company Man.

In both books, the corporate drama and intrigue become as engaging and fascinating as the building menace and conflict between hero and antagonist.

A call for meat eaters
The protagonist in this story is Jason Steadman, a sales executive for a major electronics company that’s coping with Japanese ownership and a competitive marketplace for its large-screen, plasma TVs.

Jason’s boss is one of those macho middle managers who values “meat eaters,” strong willed and driven employees. Easy-going guys don’t earn his respect. Jason, he believes, lacks the killer instinct of the title.

That’s unfortunate because Jason has a wife with a background of privilege who’s under employed by an arts organization. He’d like to climb a few rungs on the corporate ladder to help regain the lifestyle to which she was once accustomed.

A bit docilely, perhaps with a little willing suspension of his ability to see evil, Jason finds help from Kurt Semko, late and dishonorably discharged from U.S. Special Forces.

Bad luck for bad guys
Jason helps Kurt land a job in his company’s security department. Soon mysterious misfortunes befall Jason’s rivals. Cars break down, appointments are missed and Jason’s fortunes improve even as Kurt puts him on a Special Forces training program that helps him improve stamina and drop pounds. All of it plays out against in counterpoint to military-themed business self-help books Jason reads, by the way, adding irony and subtext.

As he did with office furniture manufacturing in Company Man, Finder blends the double crosses and sneaky corporate politics of the electronics industry into a compelling and deceptively intricate narrative. It’s so engaging it could make the book a fine read without the added, simmering menace of Kurt.

Coping with dirty deeds
Coupled, the parallel plotlines weave a relentless thriller plot with constant twists and tension as Jason is forced to unravel dirty deeds by his superiors and cope with the dangers his friend represents when confronted.

Psychological thriller fans may wish for a little more exploration of Kurt and his motivation. That’s not this book’s focus. It’s a study of Jason, his moral compass and his role in a cutthroat culture that’s in a war zone as hot as some real ones.
Killer Instinct should be on your Amazon wish list now if you’re a suspense fan. If you toil in the corporate wars, you’ll find vicarious thrills as Jason outwits those treating him as a pawn.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Staying Alive

For the fun of it, I decided to enter the poster contest for Stay Alive, a teen horror film that looks not bad in the trailer. It involves gamers who become immersed in a computer RPG with a Victorian setting. When their characters die in the game, well you can see the tag line.

Kind of like the designers on "Project Runway" might leave a few strands of thread dangling from a seam, I have a rough edge here or there. So you see why I'm primarily a writer.

The hand is mine
The hook and manacles are from the offical entry packet. I got the computer monitor from Stock X Change, and used some blood spatter brushes for Photoshop that I picked up somewhere back down the line.

Took a digital image of my own hand against a mirror and cobbled it all together. The background, which doesn't show up well here is a techno-texture of glowing lines. Matrix-style stuff in red.

The most fun since glowing text
It's the most fun I've had in Photoshop since mid week when I dropped my friend Wayne Allen Sallee's face into a frame of a screen capture of the herioglyphic clock on "Lost." I put a scan from his business card in the slot that never got filled in before Locke re-entered "the numbers."

Wayne said it made his week. It's nice when secondary skills can do that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

G.I. Joe as Doc Savage Sometime in the '70s

I found some of my G.I. Joe photo efforts from back in the day. I'm afraid the scan is about as sharp as I could get it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I had a Kodak Instamatic, and the drug store printed on a non-glossy paper. This is actually a later era of Joe photography for me.

I did some early shots with fox holes and sandbags using a couple of Joes with molded hair probably when I was six or seven. These were probably taken toward the end of the time I played with G.I. Joes, and this cast was assembled with help from friends.

Doc and the fabulous five
As Doc Savage fans will notice it's an attempt to re-create the scene on the back of the Bantam paperbacks using action figures.

G.I. Joe with his tattered fatigue shirt is Doc Savage. The shot also stars:
  • A G.I. Joe with a Captain Action head as Ham the attorney.
  • The G.I. Joe sea adventurer as Johnny the archaeologist.
  • An early Joe with lifelike hair as Renny the two-fisted engineer, wearing the sea adventurer's clothes it appears.
  • Johnny West as Long Tom the electrician.
  • Big Jim as Monk the chemist.
Ham's sword cane is a sawed off chopstick painted black. It's more visible in this action scene:

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The box of 64

Once upon a time, Christine helped plan a women's seminar featuring a relationship speaker. He noted different people have different ranges of emotion and empathy.

He used crayon anaologies. Some people get a box of primary colors. Everything is red, blue and green. Others get 64 crayons- not just red, blue and green but salmon, cerulean and asparagus as well as dandelion and burnt sienna.

Did ya ever notice?
The people who experience life in red, blue and green, or even just black and white, think those blessed or cursed with a range of wider emotional hues are somehow the ones lacking something?

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Wounded King

Monty--the senior male cat in our household that's now full of cats (4)--has had a rough week. The vet called it a fever of unknown origin.

Mon has lived with us since 1998 when Christine saw his picture in the newspaper - one of those Pet of the Week shots from the pound. He's always seemed invincible, so it's been tough watching him suffer through an illness.

King of the Cats
In Shadowland, Peter Straub's myth-rich novel of magic and mystery, I was introduced to legend of the King of the Cats.

The core element of the story seems to suggest that the average household tabby might have a richer-than-suspected background.

To tell it briefly: A man recounts to his housemate that he witnessed a funeral procession of felines with a tiny cat coffin decorated with royal markings.

Upon hearing the news, their cat, seated on the hearth, announces: "That means I'm now king o' the cats," and shoots up the chimney to claim his post.

Fancifully, since we don't know Mon's heritage, I've always held he is a king in exile awaiting restoration of his throne. House of Orange, don't you know?

Sofa throne
In the interim my sofa fills in. Other than an occasional tussle with young upstart Oliver--which he strangely loses in spite of an age and weight advantage--he presides over everything in kingly fashion. (Speaking of tussles with welterweight Oliver, I think that may have pinpointed the fever's origin, though the vet couldn't find evidence of an abscess.)

With the fever, his eyes grew sunken; he was listless and stopped eating. It made me conscious of his mortality. At age 8 or so, I’ve expected to have him around a while, and to date the biggest challenge to that expectation has been the struggle to diet him down from door stop poundage.

When a heavy round of antibiotics didn't have an impact I started to grow worried. I was relieved the vet had tricks up his sleeve that I couldn't find on the Internet. It's a real source of gloom and doom when you Google "fever" and "cat" and get past the Ted Nugent and Pantera references. (Rest in peace Dime Bag Darrell.)

Two consecutive afternoon vet visits for I.V. treatments finally broke the fever, and he started eating again last night, though we were armed with a syringe and nutrient goop if that hadn't been the case.

It was cause for celebration. His sidekick and court jester, Ash, cut capers. Even Oliver the Usurper took a moment to lick his head.

I'm glad I didn't have to give up a friend, though I'm sure somewhere a royal feline pretender still quakes a bit.

And Mon's next-in-line of succession probably hated the news that traveled on the wind: “Long live the king.”

(Re-edited 3:30 p.m. 2/11)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Yo Joe!

I've received a lot of nice notes from G.I. Joe enthusiasts since my mention of the G.I. Joe photo stories. It's opened the door for considerable nostalgia for me and also pointed me to some really interesting sites- a. b. etc.

I've Googled G.I. Joe in the past, but it's been a while. I remember finding mainly some interesting collector sites. There's much more in the blogosphere and across the web now - tons of great picture stories, I've learned, and lots more.

A Who Slide
In my review blog, irregular reviews, I recently suggested sort of jokingly, that it would be fun to fill the wait until the new Dr. Who debutes on The Sci Fi Channel by making a personal iPod slide show using the BBC's bounty of Dr. Who images provided as mobile phone wallpaper.

It would be great as well to see some of the G.I. Joe photostories turned into slide shows ready for import into a photo or video iPod. I know I could right click images and make my own, but I'd love to find some already prepared if they're out there.

If somebody's already doing that, please point me in the direction.

If not as my Adventure Team Commander might say: "I've got a tough assigment for you."

Somebody start a Yo!dcast.

I suspect, "The Adventure Team has the situation under control."

(Pictured above are a couple of my Joes who posed for a quick digital snapshot.)

Sunday, February 05, 2006

G.I. Joe stories

When I was a kid, Hasbro had a G.I. Joe club with a membership magazine and a certificate and other cool stuff related to the G.I. Joe toy series, I think even a set of dog tags.

They also encouraged you to send in pictures of your G.I. Joe adventures. I lived next to a vacant lot for a long time, so I snapped a lot of pics with the Kodak instamatic I got one Christmas.

There was a wide ditch where water tended to pool after rains, a great place to simulate a shoreline. The lot had other terrain that simulated other backgrounds. I liked to dig fox holes. My mom and dad didn't care much for that. My photos usually starred the G.I. Joe air adventurer because he had blond hair like I did in those days. I didn't have a beard then, though.

Taking it to new levels
I had no idea--though I should have imagined--that there was a G.I. Joe fan base today that had taken photo stories to a whole new level. But I discovered the intriguing levels fans are accomplishing when I listened to Podshock's latest Dr. Who podcast. (More on that here.)

Photo series creator Sean Huxter is interviewed rather extensively about his Dr. Who stories starring a Buzz Aldrin G.I. Joe against some elaborate back drops. It's really incredible what he manages.

Nerd fan stuff? Not at all if you consider that it comes from the heart, and his Remembrance featuring an old man's (Starring a Special Issue General Lee G.I. Joe) return to his Newfoundland home is truly touching.

For more interesting G.I. Joe work, visit here.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

On a Cloudy Day

Cloudy Day 1
Cloudy Day 1,
originally uploaded by willysid.
I did not quite capture the cloud formations behind my office the way I'd hoped in this photo.

I tried several variations in composition but I don't think any quite revaled the full expanse. From the set, I like this vertical best.

A few others included a bit more of the winter trees with some streetlights still glowing and I kind of liked that.

I was proudest of myself because I had my camera handy when I drove into the parking lot yesterday, so I was able to at least take a few quick snaps.

Usually I don't slow down long enough.

And no, it was rainy but these didn't form into anything that blew our building away.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Day the Music Died

Today is literally the day the music died: Feb. 3, 1959 was the day The Winter Dance Party came to an end with the crash of a flight that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.

I listened to Don McClean's chronicle American Pie many times as a kid before I came to appreciate the rock-and-roll history it portrayed.

Its sad high school imagry and mentions of poets dreaming and the like appealed to me first, especially since the initial recording I made from the radio--and listened to repeatedly--was missing several early lines.

Since "American Pie" and "MacArthur Park" used to be the songs of choice for DJs needing a bathroom break because of their extended length, even missing a few lines, my tape had plenty of song left - several rounds of the chorus and many of the richest allusions.

Only after many listens did I start to learn it referred to Buddy Holly and his lost companions. I had to age a little more to fully appreciate their impact and what McClean was really singing about.

My iPod On-the-Go Playlist today:

American Pie
Chantilly Lace
Peggy Sue

"And they were singin' bye, bye..."
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