Patagonia

You know what I’ve always hated about this sort of thing? The lack of sensation. You’re flying through the empty void of space…and, yes, mister smarty-pants, I know that space isn’t ‘technically’ empty. There’s radiation, fine particles of space dust and ice, black matter or dark matter or whatever the hell they’re calling it these days, so I get it, but it’s practically empty. Anyway, you’ve jumped or been pushed or shot out of a tube (as in this particular case) and are nothing more than a projectile. An incredibly accurate one, as there’s no wind or gravity to alter your trajectory, so you’d best hope that whoever programmed the aiming and firing solution knew what the hell they were doing.

But, so, anyway…there’s no friction, no wind whipping past, no sound except the constant huff of your own breath and the occasional bit of communication in your helmet. “200 meters. Almost there.” Motia’s steady voice kept me from puking or shitting my suit or both. The Patagonia was coming up fast, and the whole thing was surreal and deceptive. She had no external lights on her hull, which was some dark steelskin anyway. That meant that just the slightest outlines and edges were going to be visible until we got closer. The faint glint of starlight tracing the edges of the massive derelict was all we had to gauge not only the girth of the thing, but how fast we were approaching it.

“100 meters. 75.” Damn, we were moving.

I hate this stuff, but Ray fuckin’ loves it. Of course he was the first one to the hull. The ship grew until it filled most of my vision, but it was still so dark that I had that terrifying sensation of trying to find a doorway in a pitch-black haunted house, your hand just out there in the void, flailing around until it touches something, then you nearly scream, before your synapses relay the information that what you came in contact with was, in fact, drywall, and not, as your primitive brain stem initially guessed, a monster with rows of serrated teeth. That’s what was going through my mind right before I got confirmation of Ray’s touchdown.

“Oh, yeah, you big black bitch! I’ma walk all over you and not even take my shoes off!”

“Ray, you’re almost there. Don’t forget—“

“I’ma seriously fuck up your carpet and drag my ass across you like a dog with ringworm!”

“RAY! Inertial recoil, NOW!”

“Oh, shit, watch! Cannonball time, suckaz!”

“Don’t ball up, god damn it!”

Then I felt, more than heard, the soft thud of Ray’s suit deploying his IDAR system, which stood for Inertial Dampening Anti-Recoil. We’d copied it from some old alien weapons, and it was a pretty crafty bit of reverse-engineering. It was currently saving Ray’s life, but if the fool didn’t plane out, there was a good chance he’d still skip off the hull and careen into the far reaches of space. But Ray lived for the rush, so there was no telling how it was going to go. We hadn’t lost him yet, but we all sort of knew that it was a matter of time, even though I felt that his end would somehow involve a flaming broadsword, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and about a thousand pounds of TNT. Skipping off a derelict spacecraft just wasn’t his style.

Shit, I hadn’t even been paying attention. Motia was chirping in my ear.

“Any time now, dude. You ain’t Ray. You need to stick this.”

POP POP POP POP POP went my suit as the IDAR rig did its thing, followed by the PUFF-UFF-UF-FFF and all of a sudden the big ship in front of me didn’t seem to be growing as quickly, and then there was a soft clanking noise…and that was it.

“Okay, you’re there. Bolt on, please.”

The whole trip is surreal, because, again, you have no sensation of speed. All of a sudden you’re just there. Without the IDAR system, I’m not sure how we would have done it, except maybe with bulky thrusters…but those would require fuel, along with a fine-tuned and well-timed deployment. Way above my abilities. No matter what, though, I was eager to use the “bolt poker” (really sort of like an old pneumatic nail gun, only this beauty fired rivet bolts into the skin of the craft, one, two, then I was able to attach my lanyard, double-secured, to insure that I wouldn’t float off. I mean, I was still anchored to an abandoned space ship. We were still careening through space. Without my suit, I’d suffocate, freeze, and be burned by cosmic radiation. We were still a million miles from Earth (our Earth!) But in that moment, I felt as secure as I was ever likely to. So weird, the things one gets accustomed to whilst jaunting through multiple universes and star systems.

“All accounted for?” Motia was doing a headcount.

“Brubaker here.”

“Phillips, present.”

“Here!” I offered. “But I think you forgot to assign homework.”

“You know I’m ready, guys. Let’s do this!” I looked over at Ray and he had wrapped his lanyard around the gloves of his suit, tightly. He proceeded to extend his body out in a straight, perpendicular line, away from the hull. “Look! I’m Atlas! Or one of those old gods, you know? Like, if you looked from like, over there…and you were upside-down, it looks like I’m lifting this fuckin’ ship! Like Superman with a semi truck! WOOOO!!!”

“That’s great, Ray. So, what next?” Motia had a video screen on the inner part of her suit’s left arm. It gave her readouts on all the team members’ status; oxygen, energy, etc. She checked it and pursed her lips.

“Whelp, once Bru-meister cracks this bad boy, we slip in and make our way to the bridge. My guess is they don’t know we’re coming.”

“Wait…’they?’ Who is ‘they?” I sputtered.

“Well, I don’t know ‘em personally, but hell, figure about fifteen crew?”

“Ray! Are you fucking serious?” Motia stared at him, gape-mouthed and incredulous.

“Yeah, but, you know…surprise, motherfuckers! We’re here!” Ray laughed.

“This was supposed to be a derelict vessel! Abandoned! Ours for the taking! That’s how you described it! ‘Ours for the goddam taking!”

“Yeah, and we’re gonna take it! If it was empty, I’d have said ‘ours for the finding’ or some shit. Taking. That’s what we’re doing. I thought it was pretty clear.”

“Fuck.”

“Shit.”

“Fucking shit.” The rest of the crew expressed their exasperation. But we all knew that there was nothing else to do except cut open a hole, hope it wasn’t right in the middle of their rec room or whatever, glide in, and make our way through the cabins until we either killed, subdued, or captured all the occupants, then seize the ship and its contents. I really hoped there wasn’t any more killing. I had grown sick and tired of it. I guess that meant that my soul was still there, somewhere. Some guys just get numb to killing. It’s like they almost do it absent-mindedly, like a toddler picking his nose and wiping it on the couch. I just got sick of it, like I got sick of baloney when I was young and poor.

“Whelp, here we are. Brubaker, if you would be so kind as to create an entrance into this not-quite-abandoned space vehicle, we’d be much obliged.” Motia looked at her readout again. Her face told me she was doing calculations in her head. She must’ve come to a satisfactory conclusion to whatever problem she was working on, internally, because I noticed her nod, slightly, like she was telling herself. ‘Okay. We’re good.’

Brubaker began his cut. Again, it was disorienting to see the laser torch, but not hear it. Not hear the hull being sliced open. The good news was that nobody else would hear it either, hopefully…but the atmosphere inside the Patagonia, if life support was still operational, would conduct a lot more noise. Nothing we could do except wait.

I looked over at Ray. He was now ‘laying’ on the external hull with one arm drawn up under his head like a pillow, his legs casually crossed at the ankles. I heard his sigh in my headset.

“Guys…whatcha all thinking about?” he asked dreamily as he stared at the stars

“Murder.” Motia, through grinding teeth.

I noticed a dark shape float away from my vantage point, and realized it was the rectangular chunk of hull cut away by Bru’s torch.

“We’re in” he said, quietly, like he was already worried that the crew would hear us.

“Okay, let’s go.” Motia was first through the breach. I was so very relieved it hadn’t been Ray.

What I Did Last Summer

Everything. I did everything last summer. Want to know why I haven’t touched this blog in forever? Because I was doing everything.

Let’s rewind a bit. I began the summer chugging along professionally in a pretty sweet gig as copywriter/digital content specialist for Asher Agency. To sum that position up: I would come up with ideas for commercial campaigns. TV, radio, digital, print, whatever mediums we were going to use, and then the message or thought behind said concept. From there, I’d work with the other creative team members to shape it up into something that made sense and looked great, and we’d produce it. I’d cast actors, guide the graphic artists, write the actual “copy” or words (spoken by actors or printed on billboards, etc.), get it all produced, and then we’d throw it all out there into the world. The process is truly a satisfying experience, watching your ideas come to life, even if only for thirty seconds at a time or on a clickable strip of banner on someone’s website.

I must’ve been fairly decent at this, because I started getting nibbles. People inquiring as to my future plans. Recruiters asking “Hey, how happy are you at Asher?” Finally, an old compatriot called me up and basically offered me his job as creative director. He described the position to me thusly: “you’ll come up with ideas for commercial campaigns. TV, radio, digital, print, whatever mediums we were going to use, and then the message or thought behind it. From there, you’ll work with the other creative team members to shape it up into something that made sense and looked great, and we’ll produce it. Cast actors, guide the graphic artists, write the actual “copy” and then throw ‘it all out there into the world.”

Huh. So, of course I took it. A corner office with windows? A bunch of new business cards? Hells yes. So I took a new position doing pretty much what I did at Asher, only with more perks and a nifty title. So that was cool.

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Plus, I mean…a place to hang an old Robert August promo flyer (autographed!) and prop my Scottish claymore against a vintage photo of Fred Toenges?! SIGN MY ASS UP!!

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

 

My wife and I also decided to sell our house. We had lived, with our two boys (Simon is 12, Rhys is almost 9) in a nice, old (built in 1920) home in the Oakdale Neighborhood in Ft. Wayne. Tree-lined streets, gorgeous old houses…and very narrow, busy streets. No back yard to speak of. Or front yard, for that matter. In other words, charming as all hell but not conducive to bike riding or football tossing or anything else that growing young men want to engage in. So, when the market heated up, Heidi and I jumped at the chance, trading the urban pulse of the ’07 for the serene spaciousness of the ’15. It was a long, hectic process, selling the old house. Folks can be very particular and selective, even in a sellers’ market. It was stressful, especially since we purchased our new (current) home before we’d sold the old one. But in the end we persevered, chalking up another adventure on the Watson Family history. (An adventure that yielded a three-car garage and the chance to hang hockey equipment up without carting it all to the basement after every practice or game.)

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Basically from this…

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…to this.

BUT YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT!

 

Actually, that’s not accurate. The “next” part. That’s not how this timeline played out. Sorry. I strive for realism, and that’s…that’s misleading. Clickbait nonsense. No, this is actually something that’s been simmering along for a while now, but in addition to my role(s) at a couple of different ad agencies this year, I had the opportunity to write for a fun, exciting new enterprise. The minds at Bound Publishing have come up with a mobile-specific reader, and are releasing serialized stories on it. One of the cool features of the Bound app (learn more here or find them in the iTunes store) is the ability to expand on the story via sourcebook entries, diary passages, bits of propaganda, etc. from the story universe. If you’ve ever seen the Star Wars sourcebook or any of the supplemental Lord of the Rings or Song of Ice and Fire materials, imagine being able to have those open to cross-reference whilst reading the novels or watching the movies. “Oh! The model that Luke is playing with is an actual Incom T-16…and later, during the Death Star briefing, he talks about bulls-eyeing womp rats in it! I always wondered what the T-16 looked like!” Well, the Bound platform is like that, with all sorts of artwork and specific expanded entries, and I was asked to write the sourcebook materials for a science fiction space epic called Purgatorio. Go get the app and download it and let me know what you think. It’s been a great experience, and the Bound guys have given me all sorts of latitude. It’s been pleasant and rewarding, in a very different way than the advertising life.

http://www.getbound.io

A mobile-based work of expanded fiction, based on a mobile-based FPS game. Welcome to the future, kids.

So a very full summer now gives way to a hectic fall, because, as many of you know, we’re at the cusp of hockey season. And I live with a hockey family. Both kids play, Heidi is a team manager for one kid’s team, treasurer for the other, and I coach the boys and play in my own ASHL beer league every Sunday. From now until April. And it’s awesome. And we wouldn’t change this life for anything. Which leads me to my other big news…

 

WHICH WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL NEXT TIME!!

 

Seriously, I can’t talk about it, but it’s pretty rad. Talk to you later.

Ray & The Warthog

This is why I never take things for granted.

This time last week, I’d thought my life was pretty rough. My main point of misery centered on the contents of my tobacco pouch. The supply had dwindled, and what remained was dry, crumbling, and tasteless. My papers weren’t much better, being pages ripped from an old Bible I’d found in Silver City. Guess that’s karma. When you’re reduced to smoking Bible pages, maybe it’s time to rethink your life choices.

But oh, how things change. I’m getting some much-needed perspective. Cowered in a dry creek bed watching that damned A-10 circle back around, my cigarette-rolling prospects are the furthest thing from my mind.

If only Motia were here.

“I’ll send help. I promise,” she’d yelled over her shoulder. “Besides, it’s Earth. What’s the worst that could happen?”

Oh, it’s Earth, all right. One of ‘em. But it’s not just the where, as I’ve discovered in our travels. No, it’s the when. And seeing as how there’s an A-10 Warthog trying to raze the mining town about half a mile away (and, by virtue of proximity, me) I’m guessing I’m not the only person here that’s outside their original timeline.

It’s the damnedest thing, though. Seeing that flying anachronism, I think of the old Native American legend of the Thunderbird. Suddenly, shit makes sense. The Winnebago thought of the thunderbird as an omen of military victory. If you had a vision of one of the loud, lightning-hurling raptors, you were destined to become a great warrior. As I listen to the “BRRRR-R-R-R-R” of that thirty-mil and the throaty roar of the turbines as the thing flies low enough to send up a rooster-tail of dust and debris, I can imagine that the only way your run-of-the-mill War Chief in the 1800’s aboriginal population could even conceive of something like this would be through some sort of induced state.

And yet, here it is. No way this is a coincidence.

Footsteps, coming fast, crunching the dirt and rocks. I spin, the Navy revolver in my hand…and immediately aim it to the ground.

“Fuckin’ what is up, man!?”

Ray. It’s goddam Ray, here. Now. This is who Motia sent to help. And as he throws himself to the ground next to me, he reaches over my prone body to smother me in a huge hug.

“Good to see you, man! Sounds like there’s a lot going on. This looks interesting, no doubt. Dude, check this shit out…”

He pulls back, away from me, into a sitting position. I notice his garb for the first time. Ray’s pale blonde hair, the color if the inside of a banana peel, is back in a ponytail. His face and arms tanned so deeply that it’s hard to make out the detail in his tattoo sleeves. He wears what I can only call a pirate shirt…not the puffy, frilly, Captain Hook kind, but the roughspun beige linen sort with an open neck and billowy sleeves (which he’s rolled and pushed up over his elbows.)

“I shit you not, I’m first mate on a fuckin’ sloop of war! Check it!”

He turns his right arm over to show me a large swath of puckered, pink skin which runs from just over his wrist to about an inch below the crook of his arm.

“Cannonball burn. Know this: cannonballs are fuckin’ hot, son. This one nearly took my fuckin’ arm, and wiped this one dude out right at the knee, no joke. Dude stood there for like a microsecond, and then ‘fump!’ Over he goes. Unreal, dude. Oh, and—“

“RAY!” I shouted, louder than I intended.

“Right. Gotcha. Thunderbolt. Please explain.”

Thunderbolt. Or more accurately, Thunderbolt II. Damn, I’d forgotten. That was the official designation of the A-10. At least, in our timeline. In our universe. Ray seemed to read my thoughts, as he sometimes did.

“This is some real Dark Tower shit, my friend. Fuckin’ score.”

“That’s one way to put it. But the fact remains, that flying hunk of death is sort of in our way.”

Ray stares, and his hand absently tugs and strokes the tuft of corn silk on his chin.

Here’s the thing about Ray: he is fucking brilliant. Some people forget that. They lose sight of the fact that the guy could build an entire computer server and IT network from scratch, or that he’d spent two years in a Shaolin monastery or that his so-called “Superposition Drive Theory” was being seriously discussed (in an alternate timeline, anyway) as a viable means of interstellar, faster-than-light travel…an expression that he abhorred, because “You’re not traveling anywhere. You’re already there, you just aren’t aware of it!”

The other thing about Ray is that he’s totally nuts.

Well, that’s not completely accurate, either. He’s just…an unstable molecule. He’s chaos incarnate. When you scrap with him, the scary part isn’t his muscles or his training or anything, but the completely unpredictable, wild nature of his aggression. He and I scrapped once doing a thing on some damn world chasing down some quarry of Motia’s or whatever. It was a frustrating trip, and the trail had gone cold. We spent the night, all of us, drinking a whole crap-ton of this godawful booze punch we’d come across, and things got ugly. Everyone was cussing and punching, just pissed at everything out of general frustration and exhaustion. It bloomed into a full-on brawl, every creature for itself. Ray had thrown a good left cross at my head, one that I narrowly avoided. I countered by kicking him in the sternum. He grabbed my ankle and then did the unexpected. He could’ve twisted my leg, could’ve thrown me, could have done a lot of things, but what he did was to slam his forehead into the meat of my thigh. Hard. Yes, the fucker head-butted my leg. And that sounds crazy, and maybe even ineffective, but shit…imagine someone throwing a bowling ball, hard, and having it impact about three inches above your knee. My entire limb went numb. In all honesty, I couldn’t even stand on it when I came-to the next morning. The black, bone-deep bruise lasted weeks. It was horrible. Of course, when Ray saw it, he just laughed. Laughed and laughed. He cried tears of mirth and squeaked out “Oh, dude! Oh, shit! That’s why my neck hurts so bad! I tried to snap your leg with my skull, dude!”

Then a few days later, he’d saved my ass when we were ambushed by some Skinnies. That’s just Ray.

So he looks across the stretch of sand and rock and dust, through the waves of heat distortion rippling and blurring the horizon. And he concludes “That is definitely a jet airplane.”

Yes, it sure as fuck is.

“So, here’s the thing about jet airplanes. They need fuel. Lots of it, I’d imagine. So, this fucker is either hooked up with an alternate power source, which seems unlikely, the way it sounds and smells. Can you smell it? That oily, diesel-and alcohol smell? It’s on the wind. I think it’s him. It’s Mr. Buzzy. Or he’s got a refinery or some stash of fuel nearby. Not sure the range on these guys, but it’s gotta be finite.”

I stare at Ray for a second, then back to the grey-green terror swooping low again, strafing whatever it’s trying to kill in the town.

“Ammo, too…” I murmur. “Can’t have inexhaustible rounds, right? And it’s surely shooting projectiles. Those aren’t beam weapons.”

“Correct. So, ol’ boy there has a stash somewhere, hoss. I say we got find it and maybe end up getting us a flying machine. Dude, can you imagine? Ima take it back to my crew, back in the Caribbean.” Ray begins to cackle. “They will literally shit themselves, no doubt. CAW! CAW! DEATH CROW! CLEAR THE FUCKIN’ DECK!”

One thing at a time. It’s going to be dusk soon. And this strange quarry is going to fly off in one direction or another, I’m guessing. And we’ll track it somehow. And we’ll take it out somehow. And then I’ll double back to the mining camp and continue my quest. Maybe finally link up with Motia again. Jesus. Motia, the Indians, and now Ray. If we can just keep this crew together, we might just have a shot. We might just get things sorted.

And then, just maybe…maybe I can go home.

 

 

 

 

Shallow Grave

I was choking in my sleep, suddenly, and it scared me upright out of my slumber. It was terrifying, the feeling of dust or sand caking the back of my mouth. I coughed and retched, bile following phlegm up and out before I even knew what was happening.

And what the fuck actually was happening? My mind fumbled the last fleeting images in its cache. I remember shovels of dirt being thrown on me, a tarp of some sort being pulled back…later? Faces around me…Motia’s voice “Deader’n a doornail. Go ahead. Give him a kick.” Sharp pain, which felt all too recent…I felt the ribs on my left side: bruised and tender, the sensation wrapping around my back towards my spine. What the hell was going on?

“You need to shake off the dust! HA! Really is dust all over! And no shower for days, I think!” The instantly recognizable voice of Pappu, the Walker Between. That was what they called him here.

Here. Yes. I remembered. We were back in our Prime, but still a few long, hard galaxies away from actual home. Still, it felt nice being somewhere familiar, somewhere where the laws of physics acted like they had when I was a kid. My mind threw a bunch of images at me at once, and the way they stuck didn’t make me very happy at all.

I remembered Pappu grabbing my head in both hands, forcing me to stare right into his eyes as he held his own face inches from my own. “No! You look at ol’ Pap! No thinking yet! Here it comes and be strongly!” A flash of light accompanied by pain. A shallow grave. Drifting in and out of consciousness. The gasp of children witnessing something shocking or awe-inspiring. A name. A face. Bool. We had come here for Bool.

“Well, good morning, sleepy-head.” I turned to see Motia striding my way and nearly bobbled the canteen she tossed at me.

“Did you…did you zap me?” I asked as I unscrewed the cap. It’s amazing the things you never really appreciate until they’re scarce. I’d never realized that water had a smell until my travels with Motia. Sure. The sea has a scent, and so does stagnant, murky swampland, but just regular, clean, clear water smells so damned good when you’ve been without it. I guzzled, almost choking again, but pushed past it to quench the arid landscape of my dirty throat.

“Easy there, turbo,” she muttered as she lit a cigarette.

“What the hell? Tobacco?” I shot at her between gulps.

“Can’t get a vape in this word for nothin’. Besides, I think mine’s dead.”

“Fair enough. So, did you zap me, or what? I’m a bit foggy, what with apparently being shoved in a shallow grave by you and this scrawny brown fucker.” I nodded Pappu’s way. He smiled and waved back.

“Of course I did. It was your idea, dipshit.”

I paused. The canteen was almost empty anyway. I stared at her, waiting for clarification.

“You had to be dead. Bool has to believe you’re dead. So we made you dead. Mostly. Let the neighborhood kids come look at your corpse. They thought it was pretty rad, seeing a dead guy up close and all.”

“I make several good trade for to see you! Better than movies to kids!” Pappu nodded proudly.

A notion struck me just then.

“Did you let them kick me?” I glared at Motia, who glanced around at anything but my gaze. “Pappu?”

His smile melted like Paula Deen’s breakfast. Guilt replaced it.

“Not for free, no!”

“Got a good price, did ya?”

He nodded.

“Well, hey, that’s something at least, huh?”

Pappu laughed and clapped his bony hands together like he’d just seen Robin Williams in a sold-out 1980’s concert (and who knows, maybe he just had). Motia walked closer and offered me a drag of her smoke. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d had a cigarette, but knew it was a generous offer; no telling what she’d done or paid for a cigarette out here in the middle of whatever galactic cluster we were in. I took a modest drag. I sighed. Motia tried to assuage my self-pity.

“Every one of those little rugrats will tell everyone they know that they saw you dead, covered in a tarp, eyes rolled back in your skull. When asked, they’ll talk of how they kicked you…hard…”

“Oh, for a certainty.”

“…and how you didn’t move. Didn’t flinch. You’re a corpse, pal. And you can be gods damned sure our pal has heard the news.”

“You’re sure Bool’s here?”

“Yep. Our Navajo tracked him here, otherwise we’d have bypassed this system.”

“Shit.”

“Yep.”

“Well, let’s go get ‘im.”

Motia smiled wickedly, inhaled one last puff of tobacco, regarding the smoldering butt with a wistfulness she rarely displayed. I recognized it for what it was: homesickness. No way of knowing how many years had passed back home, or even if we still had a home to go to. Tobacco, clean water, safety…all in short supply these last few months.

She tossed the remnants to the dirt and ground it out with her boot heel. Motia removed her revolver from the flythsteeg holster, flipped the cylinder open, saw that it was fully loaded (she’d known it was, of course, but checked it periodically anyhow) snapped it back closed, and re-holstered her piece.

“After you!” She grinned.

Pappu was at my side, arriving there in his creepily silent way. He handed me my canvas pack, which I shouldered. It felt lighter than it had in a long time. Most of our provisions were gone. The pack hung rather slack, but I could feel the weight of our prize, the treasure we’d picked up on our last adventure, pulling the battered tan fabric down. It was a reassuring mass, telling me that maybe, just maybe, this whole damned thing was almost over.

I looked around, getting my bearings. I remembered which way this planet rotated in relation to its blue giant (it boggled my mind how huge that thing was, knowing how far away we really were from it, and yet how much of the sky it still took up) and headed what we’d call “east” back home. I stopped after a few steps, turned and called out to our Indian companion.

“Papuulu! You coming or what?”

He had crouched down near what had recently been my shallow grave, but stood when I hollered.

“I found the neatest bug!” He squealed.

“Outstanding. We’re heading this way, buddy.”

The tall, ancient figure shuffled hurriedly after us, nearly losing one of his garish plastic flip-flops in the process.

Motia snorted.

I tried unsuccessfully not to smile.

Motia’s most recent appearance in this blog was last June. You can read it here.

 

Waiting With Motia.

“What’s with the yellow glasses?” I was curious. Motia didn’t wear specs as a general rule, but she was sporting these sporty little numbers with sleek, black frames and yellow-tinted lenses.

“Glare, stupid.” She spat. Her head didn’t turn my way in the slightest. She kept staring out the glassless window, and I knew her eyes were sweeping the horizon and everything between it and us. Looking for nothing in particular except maybe movement. A shadow flitting between cacti or from gorse to sage. It was still that pre-dawn dusk, and I couldn’t imagine what sort of glare she was talkin’ about, since the world was shades of purple, slowly in places becoming more periwinkle and rose.

“Where’s that goddam Indian?” she muttered, taking a bite from her protein bar. All we’d had to live on since Outworld, it seemed. Oat-and-nut bars with some sort of grain, like maybe quinoa, baked into crumbly rectangles. Them and stale water. How the hell does water go stale? Maybe that’s not the way to describe it, but that’s the word that pops into my head when I think about those aluminum cylinders with the thick rims and screw-off caps that never seemed to want to screw back on correctly.

And then her gun was in her hand. It always happened so fast. One minute she’d be talking and laughing, snorting out her nose with mirth, and then BAM! Her face went blank, like someone had hit a reset button and you noticed her pistol was up and ready, the action pulled back so everyone knew it was ‘go time.’ And if you didn’t know that, you were sure to have it explained to you with a sudden explosion of gunshots and smoke and the sound of tables crashing onto their sides for cover and sometimes the sounds of yells or screams that were always someone else’s. Motia didn’t yell. She just went to work. Thanks the gods, too, because she’d already saved my bacon more times than I could count.

This time she stood there, looking at nothing. Listening. And then I heard it, too. The baritone rumble and crackle of a V-twin engine and motorcycle tires on a dirt and gravel road. This was good news or bad, because whoever was riding our way didn’t give a good godsdamn who knew they were coming.

The engine stopped. We waited. The sun was on its way up now, and the big front window to the old, long-abandoned deli now opened upon a stunning landscape of gold, brown, and red with a high, clear, hard blue canopy. I listened for footsteps in the dirt and heard nothing. But Motia did. She gave me the time-tested “Shh” motion with a finger to her pursed lips and slid noiselessly to the side entrance. Her tactical position was such that the door’d hide her if it swung open. I stood there like an idiot before her angry eye told me to make myself scarce. But I was too late to move. There was nowhere to go. Then I heard it…a voice that sounded as warm as good whisky and yet thin as smoke whispered “Moe-TEE-yaaa…”

I surprised myself just then. My pistol had found its way to the sweaty palm of my right hand and was in the process of coming up, up slowly, it seemed, too slow, agonizingly slow…in reality it couldn’t have been more than half a second, but I knew it wasn’t fast enough. Not in this reality or any other. Didn’t matter anyway, as Motia’s arm knocked my hand skyward, my aim towards the grimy, grease-covered ceiling tiles and away from the tall, thin, brown-skinned man that stood just on the other side of the open storefront window.

“For FUCK’S SAKE, Pappu. You’re the only human in ten worlds that can do that!” Motia had already holstered her sidearm and was wiping perspiration from her brow. Pappu laughed his crazy old man laugh. I say ‘old man’ but let’s be honest, nobody knows how many centuries Pappu (or Papuulu or Papunu or P-Smoke or any number of names people have given him) has stalked the universes, most recently astride his vintage Indian motorbike which was, I suspect, chosen to be deliberately ironic. From what I’d observed, Pappu was always maintaining at least a dozen inside jokes (which often ended up being part of some elaborate long con he was running) but it was hard to tell. The fact that his best pal and confidante was an old Navajo called Sicheii (I say ‘called’ rather than ‘named’ because no one except maybe Pap knew his real name) added to his love of deliberate puns. Seriously, two “Indians” running around on Indians. I guess that shit’s hilarious if you’re an ancient mystic or something.

“But I let you hear me! Look, I’m even wearing sandals!” He lifted a bony leg that could’ve passed for a mangrove branch to display what looked like a brand new multi-colored rubber flip-flop, one that could’ve easily been purchased (or stolen) from any Dollar General.

“Jesus, Pappu. Trim your toenails. That shit’s nasty,” Motia chided as she helped him step over the sill into our makeshift redoubt.

“Jesus doesn’t care of man’s old toenails. You should see his! Like black scales! No, he care uh-uh no. But enough foot language. You come with me now.”

And just as soon as he had both feet on the dirty grey-green floor, he stepped nimbly back out the window and into the desert. Motia sighed.

“Whelp, I guess that’s why we drug our asses out here, huh?” And she smiled. I hadn’t seen that in a while. It was really, really nice. White and bright and confident, like she knew everything was going to be okay.

“You’re the boss,” I replied, checking that my pistol was secured in its holster. Then I followed the others, over the sill that still bore a few crumbled pebbles of old greenish-blue safety glass, into the dust and growing daylight of the Big Empty.

Saying Goodbye With a Crappy Movie

You can’t go home again. It’s a tired expression, but damn it if Netflix doesn’t bring it into relevance with alarming regularity. Case in point:

Something sad but hopeful happened a few weeks back. The world lost the great Leonard Nimoy. He was many things, a poet, director, artist, singer (well, okay) but his most enduring legacy will be the character he developed and perfected, the incredible Mr. Spock. (Spock lives, forever and ever.)

Although perhaps he COULD make up his Vulcan mind...

Although perhaps he COULD make up his Vulcan mind…

So there I was, sad that he was gone, but overjoyed for the human race that the man existed at all, and boy had he lived a great life. Nimoy exemplified The American Dream: the son of Jewish immigrants rises to Hollywood immortality. But I was still selfishly sad. I needed closure. To say my goodbye, it would have been easy to just pull up Wrath of Khan, for obvious reasons. Instead, I decided to go back and feel, as Carol Marcus would say “Young, as when the world was new.” I ran to Netflix and watched a flick I hadn’t seen in its entirety for well over twenty years. The original 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I remembered it being one of my least favorite episodes of the series, and I also remembered having a bit of buyer’s remorse after seeing the film in the cinema with my mom and brother. We’d had the option of seeing Disney’s The Black Hole and opted for Trek instead. Keep in mind that we kids had already been blown away by Star Wars two summers previous, so it was going to take an awful lot to impress us. I think my brother might have dozed off during STTMP. Maybe it was me. I’m sure someone was snoring. Fast-forward to many years later and Star Trek the Motion Picture’s appearance on one of the cable movie channels. I watched it with a more discerning eye, a little more seasoned. I remember thinking that it wasn’t terrible, but still not great. Plus, I really appreciated the late Persis Khambatta. Mmmm-hmmmm!

"Stand back, Jim. I'm not sure how big this thing gets."

“Stand back, Jim. I’m not sure how big this thing gets.”

So that brings us to now. I hadn’t seen the film all the way through since that cable experience in my early-20’s. I sat through the entire thing on my couch, and…wow, is it bad. I mean, really bad. I’ve heard (but not yet researched) that the original plan was to make a revamped Star Trek television series, but after Star Wars made such mad dough, suddenly every studio wanted a big space epic. As a result, what should’ve been maybe a one-hour TV pilot became over two-hours of…well…mainly the bridge of the Enterprise.

You could literally re-enact 97% of the movie with this one playset.

You could literally re-enact 97% of the movie with this one playset.

Seriously, there’s a long (TOO long) exterior shot as Scotty and Kirk fly out to the newly-overhauled and refitted NCC-1701 and it’s nice, for about forty-five seconds.  Then it’s “Oooo, there’s the old gal! She looks so silvery! And look! They’ve added 1957 Bel Air wings to ‘er!” Afterwards, it’s mainly the bridge and a few corridor shots. And for some reason (perhaps to distance it from the primer-colored uniforms of the original series) they opted for a de-saturated color palette. Everything is grey or shades of flesh-colored fabric. It’s really quite bad. The only saving grace is the incredibly sharp grey-and-white dress uniform that Admiral Kirk wears in his early scenes.

All the poon.  James T. Kirk got ALL the poon.  In the galaxy.  All of it.  There ain't none left.

All the poon. James T. Kirk got ALL the poon. In the galaxy. All of it. There ain’t none left.

Those uni’s were sharp enough to get re-cast in the J.J. Abrams reboots. Classy duds. Especially compared to Kirk’s weird, too-snug, short-sleeved white tunic that looks like it belongs on Mr. Clean or a tropical cabana boy. Bizarre.

"My God, Jim!  He just used the same photo twice in the same blog!"

“My God, Jim! He just used the same photo twice in the same blog!”

But the stuff that really looks cheap are the matte paintings. Gods be good, but I’d swear most of them looked like they’d been borrowed from Forbidden Planet. Don’t get me wrong: Forbidden Planet is one of the all-time great science-fiction films and one of my personal favorites…but Jesus, man. We’d just seen Tatooine and the Death Star. You can’t come at us with eight-color acrylic industrial landscapes and expect us to take you seriously.

Seriously, is this like a Colorforms playset?

Seriously, is this like a Colorforms playset?

But for all the lackluster elements to the damned flick, it did boast a huge check mark in the plus column: that wonderful score, repurposed years later for Star Trek: The Next Generation. A word about that Jerry Goldsmith composition. It really is at its best when they use the largo version, slowed a bit, a more rolling pace. It’s actually a movement entitled “The Enterprise.” It sounds nautical. Grand. Somewhat melancholy. Lovely. (It gets really familiar around 1:37)

Even though TRUE Star Trek fans know that THIS is what we think of when we think of Star Trek movies…James Horner’s brilliant and enduring Wrath of Khan stuff.

Then again, Michael Giacchino’s “Enterprising Young Men” has been also been a smashing success…

(Not to self:  do an entire blog about sci-fi musical scores.)

I guess in closing I’d say that it’s sort of a miracle, to me, that the studio even decided to go ahead with a sequel. It really was a make-or break proposition. When you think about it, STTMP was one of the earliest examples of a Hollywood reboot. New ship, new uniforms, new Klingons, new score. Consider that the production budget was (according to Box Office Mojo) around $35 million dollars. Joss Whedon’s Serenity had a budget of $39 million, and Star Trek Into Darkness cost $185 million…but adjusted for inflation, that first Trek would’ve had a budget of over $112 million dollars. Sort of right in the middle of the big sci-fi epic production costs. So when it earned just shy of twelve million dollars (less than half the cost to produce) on opening weekend, well…I imagine that some folks at Paramount likely shit their collective pants. The good news is that the film went on to earn $85 million, so the studio ended up doubling their money and then some. Thus was a franchise born. And now, here we are 36 years later, in the midst of another cinematic reboot. New cast, new ship, new Klingons.

A new Spock.

You really can’t go home again…but that’s fine. Because its so much fun to wonder what’s out there…thattaway…

The Unified Space Epic Theory

What if, true believers, what if?  What if instead of the lackluster Alien sequels that we were saddled with (beginning with Alien3) we got a more Starship Troopers-style invasion pic? Just imagine a full-on war, here on Earth: Colonial Marines in grand, pitched, shoot-em-up battles with hordes of xenomophs. It would’ve been quite a spectacle, and would’ve looked sickeningly gorgeous in CG. Those big piles of zombies in World War Z? Imagine thousands of leaping, skittering aliens; tails thrashing, secondary mandibles biting, and now and then one gets blown to bits and soldiers get showered with acid. The utter chaos of it all, the thrill, the terror, the underlying message about the futility of war…it could’ve been great. Would humanity survive? Or would the alien menace simply overwhelm the stalwart armies of mankind? A pity that we’ll never get to see how such a dramatic and potentially tragic conclusion would’ve played out.

 

Unless we already have.

 

What if the post-alien fate of humanity has already been told via two different sci-fi television series and a classic film? I will now present to you a tale which I believe to be a completely plausible multi-level saga. Follow along. Be patient, because this shit gets good. Good and deep, just like shit gets sometimes. Yeah. Okay. I didn’t need to actually type that. Okay. Good. Moving on.

 

Our story begins on Earth. Either Ellen Ripley or another one of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation drones manages to deliver a few viable xenomorphs to our fair planet. And as they do, the damned things get loose. They run amok and cause a great deal of trouble for the humans that are still here on this rock.

Like, SERIOUS trouble.

Like, SERIOUS trouble.

 

Still here?” Did you read that correctly? Yes. Yes, you did. This brings us to our first Easter egg. You may have heard the fan theory about how the Weyland-Yutani corporation (the Alien franchise) exists in the same world as the Tyrell Corporation (Blade Runner.) Most of it is simply fanboy conjecture, but then Ridley Scott chimes in and basically confirms in an interview that the heads of those two mega-companies did indeed know one another. Interesting.

 

Okay, sorry. Focus. In Blade Runner, most people with the means to do so have gone “off world.” Those that remain on our spent husk of a planet deal with smog, pollution, constant drizzle and greyscale everything. Now, notice we never see much of Earth in any of the Alien movies? Ripley lives in what might be tenement housing, or even a block of company-made dormitories. Maybe the world outside is the same bleak cityscape whose streets guys like Deckard patrol. Of course, we humans aren’t the only sentient beings that inhabit future-Earth. There are the skin-jobs. Replicants made by the Tyrell Corporation, and equally-lifelike synthetics produced by Weyland-Yutani.

 

Still with me? Okay.

 

So, the aliens go nuts and are on the verge of wiping out what’s left of humanity, or at least the shreds still clinging to our turd of a planet. So the rest of the humans take off. Get out of Dodge. Split. And who do they leave behind?

 

The robots. Replicants. Artificial persons.

I don't...oh, jesus.  Did I miss the last shuttle off-world?  Fuck.

I don’t…oh, jesus. Did I miss the last shuttle off-world? Fuck.

 

Those thinking machines of various mechanical and genetically engineered construction stave off the aliens until the rest of us can get off-world. Just maybe everyone is getting off-world because of the alien invasion. Whatever the case, the plan is to let the aliens run out of human hosts and die, so that mankind can return and resume our civilization. (Think WALL-E only much darker.) Only it doesn’t work out that way. The bio-mechanical xenomorphs, as we’ve seen in the sequels, can adapt to whatever host organisms are present in any given environment. Perhaps even bio-engineered skin-jobs. Eventually, the aliens are just too numerous. The replicants are faced with one final option: take off and nuke the site from orbit. And by “site” I mean THE WHOLE DAMNED PLANET.

 

I’d imagine it would come down to some sort of group decision, maybe a cadre of inner-circle synthetics who finally made the call. And what if one of them was modeled after the son of corporation founder and head genius Eldon Tyrell? Maybe he has a similar name. And maybe over the centuries that followed mankind’s exodus, the spelling of the last name changed (much like Shawn, Sean, or Shaun. Emory and Emery. The various Mac and Mc spellings of Scots and Irish surnames.)

 

Yes, Eldon Tyrell’s legacy is Galen Tyrol. One of The Five. The Five sentient mechanical beings who at one point were more human than human, even capable of sexual reproduction. The Five that nuked our planet in order to finally destroy the alien menace.

But you've gotta admit: kick-ass shirt, you gods-damned toaster!

But you’ve gotta admit: kick-ass shirt, you gods-damned toaster!

 

And what of humanity? Of course, most ended up living on Kobol or Caprica. But another group, the REAL “lost tribe” found their way to another system (or systems.) There, as on Earth, the monolithic corporations seized power. There, like on Earth, the rich were able to live life flush with the latest technology. Others, not so much.

 

In fact, some folks keep using the old tech of Earth That Was. For example, this anti-aircraft gun…made by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.

See that logo?  Top center? Keep in mind, this is Mal Reynolds' gun from the battle of Serenity Valley.

See that logo? Top center? Keep in mind, this is Mal Reynolds’ gun from the battle of Serenity Valley.

 

All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.

 

ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE:

 

There’s a very Asian feel to Deckard’s Blade Runner city. Much like the preponderance of Chinese influence in the world of Firefly. And when Anders becomes the “hybrid” in BSG, the walls show cascading symbols that seem to be either Chinese or Japanese in nature. And maybe Kara Thrace isn’t painting the Eye of Jupiter in this piece…

Sidebar: she is NEVER getting her deposit back.

Sidebar: she is NEVER getting her deposit back.

…but rather this…

 

 

That's Chinese for FRAKKIN' TOASTERS!!

That’s Chinese for FRAKKIN’ TOASTERS!!

 

 

Kara Thrace.  No power in the ‘Verse can stop her. And finally…FINALLY…while there are several toy spaceships that make an appearance during a shadow-puppet theater show in the Firefly episode “Heart of Gold” (like, is that the Enterprise at the top?) the circled ship could be a Colonial Viper, yes?

Also pictured: at least one of your mom's dildos.  ZING!

Also pictured: at least one of your mom’s dildos. ZING!

 

 

Okay, maybe a stretch. However, in the original Battlestar Galactica re-imagined mini-series, the following ship does a fly-by outside the doctor’s window there in Caprica City. Huh. Wouldja look at that?

 

 

Or, again...one of your mom's dildos.

Or, again…one of your mom’s dildos.

 

IN CONCLUSION:

 

There will be folks that pick this apart and do some sort of timeline reckoning and poke numerous holes in my theory. Fine. It’s just silly fan stuff, and that’s one of the wonderful things about the sci-fi community; the endless debates and comparisons. Bottom line: it’s all good. Literally. There are some wonderful stories and grand mythology out there. Dig in and enjoy ‘em all. And expand upon them! This sort of conversation could go on forever! Was the Predator that came to earth in the near-future Los Angeles here to hunt Aliens? Were they already present? Perhaps they actually began life here on Earth! Bio-engineered by Weyland-Yutani and shipped off-world to incubate on another planet, another system, far enough away to pose no danger to mankind.

Pictured: deleted scene from Alien VS Predator

Pictured: deleted scene from Alien VS Predator

Was the rainy, grey nature of our planet in Blade Runner the result of some last-ditch effort to terraform our own homeworld after it was ruined by pollution and greenhouse emissions? Is that why it looks so much like Acheron/LV426? Constant drizzle and gloom? In an alternate timeline, did a synthetic (sorry, artificial person) begin Star Fleet, because Commander Data? Is Earth an offshoot (lost colony) from some race in Star Wars? And did THESE GUYS…

Very good.  Now turn to your right.

Very good. Now turn to your right.

Inspire THIS GUY?!?!

HOORAY, TOASTERS!

HOORAY, TOASTERS!

This has all happened before, this will all happen again. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

 

 

My head hurts. G’night, all.

 

 

 

 

 

String Theory, Gun Control, and How it All Really Doesn’t Matter

Well, now that right there is a title.  Ain’t it grand? On Facebook I solicited ideas for blog subjects, and my buddy and occasional teammate and verbal sparring-partner Luke gave me that one.  I thought it pretty much summed everything up, so here we are!

But, of course, it does matter.  Not going to delve too much into a discussion about the multiverse, but here’s the thing about time/space: it’s constant and already there.  Imagine a map of the United States, and straight railroad line from New Jersey to California.  The railway itself is time, carrying us towards some future destination.  We see the landscape pass by and that how we perceive or measure time.  But here’s the thing:  just because we leave New Jersey behind (and for good reason.  I KEED!) doesn’t mean it ceases to exist.  It’s still right there, but our train is going full steam ahead.  All the States we pass though are like days, weeks, years that we’ve traveled through.  They still exist, right where we left ’em.  The trick is getting the train to stop and backing ‘er up.  Is it possible? I think so.  But in order to do that you must lay down some new tracks and leave the old railway behind.  And when you do that, you’ve just created another new set of possibilities.  This happens anyway, every time you make a choice.  Every time you decide to go back to sleep instead of getting up, order Dr. Pepper instead of Coke, watch the rerun of The Jeffersons instead of going for a walk.  There’s an alternate timeline where you kissed your high school crush at that dance instead of chickening out.  And in that reality, you ended up getting married to your crush and having two kids before seeing your marriage fall apart and within that reality there’s also one where you reconcile and end up being married for 60 years and seeing your grandkids go to college.  And one where you murder your true love.  Damn.  Thanks, Luke…you’ve just brought everyone down.  Asshole.  I love you.  (Even though this section really didn’t deal with string theory or gun control.)

He looks so cute when he's all victorious and stuff.

He looks so cute when he’s all victorious and stuff.

Okay, next we have Joe Schultz (whose own idea to crowd-source his blog was the inspiration for this one.)  He says to write about the band Rush.  Dude…did you even read the last paragraph?  Tell me that wasn’t basically the blog version of “Freewill?”  Or maybe “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” since the ORIGINAL story concept had Snow Dog losing.  Plus, By-Tor shows up  in “Caress of Steel” and kills the Necromancer so that the three travelers can escape, which means he’s the hero of the story. See, who knows if he would’ve made that sort of decision if he hadn’t been literally taught a lesson by the defeat at the hands of Snow Dog?

I swear to God, this is one of the top-8 images for "By-Tor" on Google.

I swear to God, this is one of the top-8 images for “By-Tor” on Google.

Jesus, this thing is turning out to be a lot geekier than I had planned.  Okay, how about we hear from a lady?  Kellie wants my thoughts on crispy bacon v. chewy bacon.  Dude.  I don’t know what chewy bacon is all about because I won’t eat the filthy motherfucker.  That shit better not even make it to my plate less’n you wanna feel my PIMP HAND.  (I am 100% legit, folks.  No brag.  Just fact.)

Who the hell would ever even try to market "chewy bacon?"  Makes no goddam sense.

Who the hell would ever even try to market “chewy bacon?” Makes no goddam sense.

Brandin’s question is whether “liking” your own status is the same as laughing at your own joke.  It is.  It totally is, and Joe Schultz does it ALL. THE. TIME.  Then again, Joe needs me to explain to him when things are funny.  True story.

This is actually Joe's profile picture.

This is actually Joe’s profile picture.

USMC and Royal Marine air-traffic controller and all-around officer and gentleman Rob (true story: he’s so bad-ass that he’s actually commanded Marines for two different COUNTRIES.  You’ll never be that awesome, so don’t even try) wants to ponder “Crazy dreams about having to pee because your body is trying to wake you up to go before you wet the bed.” This would really be a good question for Dream Analyst Lauri Loewenberg.  It’s hard for me to really speak about with any sort of experience, because I usually just pass out and wake up in a pool of my own piss and blood. Often, upon awakening, I discover that I’m clutching what seems to be some sort of scalp or pelt.  Weird.

Uh-oh!  Gotta go potty!

Uh-oh! Gotta go potty!

I also had some more musical suggestions, so I’ll cover them all at once.  Joseph (not Joe Schultz) said to write about how excited I am for the Social Distortion show at Piere’s in Ft. Wayne on June 29th.  Extremely.  I’ve seen them before, but to have a legendary band like that playing in our backyard is so wonderful.  Darryl suggested that I wrote about the differences in various styles of Heavy Metal.  The problem is, I’m really not a big “metal” fan.  I prefer punk.  Or Rush.  Plus, as a guy who’s never really followed the genre, I don’t know whether some things I like actually are considered “metal.”  Five Finger Death Punch certainly seems like metal to me, but is a lot more enjoyable than much of what Drew Cage plays on Bear Metal every Saturday at 10m on 98.9 the Bear and online at 989thebear.com!  Sure, there are several bands I can get behind…old-school stuff like Slayer and cheeseball stuff like Manowar…Atreyu seems pretty rad for a more modern band…but, yeah.  That’s pretty much it.

This.  This I know.

This. This I know.

Honorable mentions:  2-ply v. 3-ply toilet paper (see also:  crispy bacon v. chewy bacon), my friends Nick and Shannon getting married, how much fun I had at the last FWDG bout, how I resist the societal pressure to “grow up” and act like a 42-year-old, and the Boston bombings.  Some of these things make me happy, others make me sad, and (other than the toilet paper thing) all deserve more time/space/respect than I can afford at this point.  So, go enjoy the weather and we’ll catch up later, mmmkay?  Thanks!

Clutter.

Many years ago, my brother and I used to “jam” in my mom’s basement.  I’d riff some Barre chord punk riffs on my reverse-headstock Aria Pro II, my brother would pluck away on his Fender bass.  We weren’t any good, of course, but that didn’t matter.  It was therapeutic.  Now and then, our buddy Danny would join us. Danny lived up the street and was essentially another brother.  One day we discussed getting an actual punk band together, and what we should call it.  The winning entry, in my opinion, was Danny’s suggestion of “Clutter.”  He said it represented the disorder of our music and the varying styles we would surely incorporate into our live shows and albums.  I thought it was wonderful.  But, as you can’t download our music on iTunes and I’m writing a blog in my spare time instead of banging groupies and dodging rehab, “Clutter” the band never took off.    But that name is still a good one, so I’m using it for this catch-as-catch-can blog entry.  Thanks, Danny!

First up: This…

D'awww!  Some Indonesian kid made his own Mushroomhead band member!

D’awww! Some Indonesian kid made his own Mushroomhead band member!

That right there is a little voodoo keychain guy that my Sweet Baby got me on one of her travels because she knows I miss surfing.  She’s a good ol’ gal, that wife of mine.  Anyway, the other day I noticed something horrifying.  Apparently, my little surf guy was a proud member of Hitler’s Waffen SS.  Take a look at the board…

Gott in himmel!

Gott in himmel!

Sure, it’s probably supposed to be a lightning bolt, like the legendary Lightning Bolt surfboards surfed by the likes of Gerry Lopez at places like Pipe.  Probably.  Or maybe this is supposed to be a promotional piece for “Surf Nazis Must Die.”  Either way, I’ll betcha green money that some little Indonesian kid fucked this shit all up.

Speaking of things I didn’t notice at first…the other night was a windy, blustery, snowy one in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  I sat alone in my loft and fired up the ol’ Netflix, choosing (for the 346th time, I believe) John Carpenter’s amazing, classic, incredible 1982 sci-fi thriller “The Thing.”  (Trust me, there really is no better dead-of-winter movie.  None.)  Anyhow, my friend and fellow blogger Blake (The Beard Gospel, Poptopia Madness, reviewer for Nerdspan, etc.) pointed this particular Easter egg out to me, so I waited eagerly for the last few moments of this film to see it for myself, and…I’ll be goddammed.  I’ve been watching this movie for over thirty years now and never caught it.  Peep this…

“Okay,” you say. “What’s the big deal?”  Here’s the big deal: SPOILER ALERT!!  SCROLL TO THE NEXT BIT IF YOU DON”T WANT TO HAVE A THIRTY-YEAR-OLD MOVIE THAT YOU SHOULD’VE ALREADY SEEN RUINED FOR YOU!!

The big deal is that Childs is The Thing, although technically he could be one of several “Things.”  Did they all get blown up?  Maybe.  MacReady was able to escape, so what if that final creature-combo that looked like a Super Mario Dragon Plant mixed with the worst sort of Greyhound rescue ever at Red Lobster didn’t include Blair?  Or Garry? Nauls?

Back to the point. How do I know that Childs is the creature?  We can’t see his breath.  MacReady’s is steaming and swirling with every word, encircling his head with clouds of cheap scotch-scented respiration.  Childs is in within three feet of MacReady, and yet…nothing.  Nary a wisp. He’s not a real human. He’s waiting to either freeze again so that when the rescue crew comes to the research station, they cart his remains back to the mainland where he will thaw and get into an amazing street fight with Rowdy Roddy Piper over whether or not to put on glasses that let him see (ironically) the alien invaders as they really are…or he straight up kills MacReady and assumes his identity.  (Although my money is on Mac.)

kurt

Remember, when you mess with Mac, you also mess with Snake and Jack. Just fair warning, pard…

Next subject:  Burn Notice.  Yeah, I know. I’m late to the party.  The wife and I basically started watching it this last fall because Netflix.  Boy, is it good.  I don’t know what I expected.  Maybe I figured it’d be a revamped Silk Stalkings or that stupid syndicated show wherein Hulk Hogan drove a powerboat around the Florida panhandle or whatever.
"Terry?"  Really?  Also: there are three discs in this box.  Three.  how...how did this come to pass?!

Terry? Terry?!? Okay. What if all this time, the Hulkster was really just Terry Bradshaw with a paste-on Fu-Manchu?!? It would make so much sense…

Anyway, it struck me the other day why I enjoyed it so much (Burn Notice, not that “Terry” Hogan crap.)  The writing is decent, the locale is spectacular (seriously, as long as there is a Miami, there will be crime dramas and such) but it’s really the cast.  Man, what a cast.  It reminds me of Firefly, in that it’s the grand total of all the pieces…that’s what makes this thing shine.  Change one character…say, the mom from Everybody Loves Raymond instead of Sharon Gless…or Tom Selleck as Sam…and the whole thing falls apart.  Sure, characters come and go, and it took about a season before everything gelled so perfectly, but imagine Bruce Boxleitner playing Jayne Cobb.  “Did that almost happen?!?” you shocked fanboys scream, to which I simply whisper back “No.”
Ladies and gentlemen, the Hero of Canton!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Hero of Canton!

But here’s my semi-legitimate fear:  I really hope this show doesn’t end up being like LOST or something.  Seriously, consider this theory that I just came up with:  what if Michael didn’t actually get burned in the pilot episode.  What if he got SHOT?  What if the whole show is either in his mind or in actual purgatory?  That would explain why he has trouble leaving, why he’s surrounded with the only people he’s ever really cared about, and why he’s compelled to help others.  He’s trying to earn his way NOT back into the service of the CIA, but into heaven.  It’s very possible that in the final episode of the series, Michael sacrifices himself for someone else and the show ends with him standing in a bright, white light as the voice of Morgan Freeman welcomes him home.  Or even better, Sam Axe is actually wither God or THE DEVIL!!! Does that make a lick of sense?  No. But tell me it wouldn’t fuck with some heads.
Thanks for reading, all.

Living in the FUTURE!!

I love old-timey stuff.  Jesus, sometimes it seems like that’s all I friggin WRITE ABOUT. But I’m also a dreamer and sci-fi addict, so my eyes are always on the horizon.  I love it here.  And by “here” I mean, of course, the future. I like the fact that I have access to all the old-timey stuff (I made chainmail once.  True story.  I also own an M-1 Garand which was manufactured in the spring of 1943.  I looked it up) and still get to play Skate 3 with my kids on the ol’ Xbox 360.  It really is the best of both worlds.  Yessir, no doubt about it: this is the best time that’s ever been.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is the future.

Because perfectly sane men spend months twisting and cutting metal links for a costume they’ll wear once.

“BULLSHIT!” you scream at the cold, unfeeling monitor.  “AIN’T NO FLYING CARS!!”  An excellent point, and the one that everyone uses when they wish to express displeasure at the quality of life in these modern times.  And my counter-argument is that there will never be cities full of flying cars.  Never.  Films like “Metropolis” and “Fifth Element” aren’t going to happen.  They aren’t.  Why?  Because technology is going to make flying cars obsolete.  Remember when Doc Brown tells Marty that where they’re going they “don’t need roads?”  In the coming century (yes, it will happen within a hundred years) you won’t even need cars.  Instantaneous transportation is going to change everything. How do I know?

It’s already been done.  (Kind of.)

This article from Scientific American is already four years old, and a decent Google search will bring up more recent experiments, surely.  But the gist is this: scientists were trying to see if entangled particles could communicate faster-than-light.  Under our current physics model, this is impossible.  However, when they created two entangled photons and separated them by about eleven miles, they proved (again) that entanglement is fucking spooky.  When they’d tweak one particle, the other responded instantaneously. With our primitive measuring capabilities, they weren’t able to prove that this sort of communication is infinitely fast.  They were able to measure that at the very least, data transfer was happening at 10,000 times the speed of light.

Let me say that shit again: TEN THOUSAND TIMES THE SPEED OF FUCKING LIGHT!!

The applications right now are obviously limited.  But it’s safe to assume that someone will one day soon build a pair of transmitters that include entangled particles.  When one is switched on and off in a pattern like, say, Morse code or Binary, the other gets it immediately.  No lag.  No waves traveling through the air, no bouncing off satellites.  A guy in China knows what’s happening in Nevada at the exact second it happens.  And like our own communication systems that have gone from telegraphs to telephones to radios to Skype and Wi-Fi, you can imagine that this is just the beginning.  And even better; entanglement theory is part of the grander, broader world of quantum mechanics.  Mark my words: we’re on the verge of figuring out how to actually either fold time-space what we’d call “Warp Drive” style propulsion (which is kind of a misnomer, since you’re not actually propelling anything…you’re moving space-time, not the object itself) or a “transporter” of sorts.  Build a bubble of entanglement or probability (or whatever spooky shit they call it) here and another one somewhere very far away.  You step into one, you come out in the other.  Seriously.  This is going to happen.  And most of the world has no idea how close we actually are.  It’s moving beyond theory now, into actual applied science.  This proximity to amazing breakthroughs literally give me goosebumps.  We live in the future, but our grandkids are going to live in the FUTURE!!!

I’d like to say that I photoshopped this. I’d like to, but I can’t. Because this shit is real.

Louis C.K. points out that right now, at this time in Human History, everything is awesome.  And it is.  He also points out that nobody is happy.  His assertion is that we take so much for granted.  We don’t appreciate things like the miracle of flight.  he has some valid points.  But if you think you’re spoiled now, just wait until you can have a real-time holographic conversation with your pal who’s going to school at the Martian Colony…or step into a terminal in New York and step out in Berlin in less than a microsecond.  It’s sort of staggering, but it’s coming.

And I can’t wait.