I can in no way vouch for the veracity of this, but the big names – included Christopher Lloyd – enlisted for this video make it pretty cool anyway. And really, who hasn’t wanted a hoverboard like the one Marty McFly had in Back to the Future Part 2?
So for now let’s just pretend this is entirely real and we can all soon zip around popping hover-ollies in front of those dorks and their “futuristic” Segways.
As a lover of early ’90s alternative rock, it’s practically illegal for me to NOT like Liz Phair.
Oh, Liz, with your girl-I-would-date looks and WAY-out-of-my-league fantastically filthy mind, you charmed me to no end with your ability to wield a guitar and sweet-talk into the microphone with a voice built for power-pop, all while looking … well … like that. *Sigh*
The Oscar nominations were announced yesterday, and along with my annual bout of angst over having seen very few of the nominated films, I was delighted to see that Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, made the cut as a nominee for best song. Continue reading → Have a Happy, ‘Happy’ Funky Friday
Hi, yes … that fateful day has arrived. Today I turn 45.
Given the new realities of the lifespan of healthy humans (and the fact that genetics are working in my favor here), unless I do something (else) monumentally stupid, I fully intend to live at least until the age of 90.
That puts me squarely at the doorstep of midlife. Half my life down, half yet to go.
For lots of folks (particularly men), this is a time of re-evaluation. To paraphrase Edna Mode in The Incredibles, men this age are often … unstable.
Well, hopefully no more unstable than on any other day. I won’t be going out shopping for a red Porsche Boxter convertible in which I’ll install a significantly younger woman. I married a significantly younger woman, and if there’s any toodling around in exotic sports cars to be done, it will most certainly be done with her.
And any instability anyone might notice was, honestly, probably there already. Folks working with a full deck rarely go into writing for a living, and they certainly don’t become newspaper reporters or novelists.
So, there’s that.
What I do have, however, is a pretty decent sense of accomplishment. I noted in this space not long ago that Stan Lee, dean of Marvel Comics and the creator of most of its characters, didn’t create cornerstone superhero Spider Man until he after he turned 40. Stan is now 90 years old, which means he’s spent the last 50 years not as Stan Lee, but as STAN-friggin’-LEE!!!, who still runs a media empire, hosts a TV show or two and maintains a busy schedule of sci-fi and comic book convention appearances.
That carries a lot of weight with me because I admire late bloomers. I never aspired to be one of those pain-in-the-ass writers who busts out of the gate at 25 with a Pulitzer Prize-winner (mainly because what those sort of writers produce is usually self-absorbed, whiny crap, but that’s another blog posting).
As someone who got carded for booze up until his 32nd birthday and took 20 years to write his first book, I realized it might take me a while to grow into this whole novelist thing. But once I managed to give birth to that 300+ page baby at the (entirely appropriate, given my genre) age of 42, there’s been no looking back. If I never write anything again, I can rest assured knowing that I have added my own little piece of original creativity to the universe.
And there are other, perhaps more significant, accomplishments, too. I have amazing friends, cultivated over decades, who remain the sort of people I can talk now exactly the way we did when we were in high school or our early jobs. They provide me with a constant source of encouragement and inspiration and I am in awe of a great many of them every day. I can only hope I send back to them just a fraction of the love, support and laughter they send my way.
And most importantly, I have an amazing family – a beautiful wife who supports me with warmth, patience and love through all the ups and downs of this writing life and frequently jumps in to help with a needed dose of reality, and two spectacularly smart, funny and kindhearted children who are always proud to tell their friends and teachers that their daddy is a writer.
But wait a minute. Let’s put the brakes on the sentimentality. Weren’t you promised presents?
Indeed you were.
Without you, the readers, my family and friends would still be with me, my work would still get done and my book – and those I still hope to write – would still be out there. But without readers, a book is only words on a page.
Once you – a stranger – pick it up and begin that first chapter, you become a willing participant in a reality that another has created. It’s like telepathy in a way. I’m putting my thoughts into your head, and in the midst of the trance-state we call “reading,” those thoughts are manifested in your own mind as an alternate reality. Other than unconditional love, I believe it’s the closest thing to magic any of us will ever really experience.
So as my gift to you, starting today I’m offering the Kindle version of Immaculate Deception free for three days through Amazon, in the hope that if you enjoyed it, you’ll be inclined to let others know that they can, as well – and with minimum risk. Other than individually shaking your hands or giving you big, wet kisses, it’s the best I can do.
Really, thank you ever so much. And here’s to another 45 years.
Some of you might actually be old enough to remember making good, old-fashioned mix tapes (if you do you’ll know the significance of the picture above).
Maybe. But since I have no way to track the demographics of this blog other than by geography, for all I know every one of you could be 8-year-olds sneaking a peek behind your third-grade teacher’s back.
But I’ll assume that if some of you might not be able to remember making a mix tape, you’re at least old enough to be familiar with the concept.
Let me be clear – we’re talking about a mix TAPE here. Not a burned CD. Not an iPod or online playlist.
It’s a tape. That you mix. Yourself.
If you’ve never done this, here’s a short tutorial, compliments of one Mr. Cusack.
Yes, there are indeed rules – rules that you can only learn by doing exactly what John is doing in that clip, which is sitting in front of a stereo system with stacks of records and tapes and CDs and hand selecting the songs you are going to painstakingly record onto a compact cassette of magnetic tape over the course of several hours.
It is an act of artistic devotion. An expression of love. A declaration to the universe and every person that ever rummages through your music collection that this – THIS – is what you believe is music that deserves to be listened to over and over again.
But actual mix tapes were beautiful for one very important reason: whether intended or not, they became artifacts of specific times, places and emotions.
Want to know what songs you compiled to accompany that last minute road trip to the beach the summer before college? There it is, sitting in a long-overlooked box, in its sturdy plastic case, the ball-point lettering on the song list long faded.
Want to know what songs you put together for that desperate first love? Ha! Too bad! Chances are you can’t (unless you married your first love) because you gave it to her as a token of your deep affection and she either threw it away in disgust over your cheating/boring/politically untenable nature or has treasured it always as a symbol of something dear and true she once had.
How about the mix for that Michael Bey-scale epic kegger your junior year? Ha! That’s lost, too, purloined by a friend or random guest who lifted it from the stereo after everyone else had passed out or retired to a corner or their room for less musical (but more rhythmic) activities. But somewhere that person might still have that tape.
And even if it ends up in a landfill, when the aliens come to excavate a dead Earth thousands of years from now, Flmbrg, commander of the interstellar expedition, might dig it up and consider it on par with the cryptic cave paintings of Neanderthals.
And in essence, that’s what a real mix tape is – something that serves as a musical complement to something in life, whether it’s a love affair, break up, an epic party or just … hell, I don’t know, Monday morning.
Those of us who are artists have lots of aunts and uncles to thank for what we do.
I tend to claim anyone who’s had a measurable effect on my creative life that way. It provides what might be a false intimacy, but it accurately reflects the way I feel about those writers, filmmakers, musicians and visual artists who have given me some inspiration and/or motivation along the way.
The man pictured above is one of them. His name is Ray Harryhausen, and he is generally regarded as the greatest stop-motion animators to ever have his work committed to film. If you’re not into the movie (particularly fantasy and science fiction) version of inside baseball, you probably don’t recognize him or his name, but you’ll surely recognize his work.
That’s from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, which came out in 1973. It was one of the first movies I clearly remember seeing in a theater. And I even remember which theater, because it was one of only two in my hometown of Camden, S.C. Judging by my memory and the movie’s year of release, I was probably five years old and accompanied by, of all people, my mom (thanks, mom!)
Talk about shock and awe. I remember being stunned by the special effects, then even more stunned when, as an older kid, I learned how they were achieved – small models where moved a tiny fraction, then the movie camera shot a frame.
That process was repeated thousands of times until, when run at regular speed, the film gave the illusion of the model actually moving on its own.
Ray Harryhausen died last week at 92, and left an enduring legacy of inspiration that hundreds of other behind-the-scenes film folks should envy. Guys like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg – no slouches in the special effects movie department, cite Uncle Ray and his work as major inspirations.
And really, who couldn’t be inspired? I’m one of the gazillions of kids who even tried to reproduce Harryhausen’s work in our own small fashion. After getting a Super 8 movie camera as a Christmas gift when I was 10 or 11, I quickly went to work creating stop-motion movies of my own with Lego astronauts and cardboard backdrops painted black, hole-punched and back-lit to represent the inky void of space.
For a long time now, computer generated images (CGI) has taken the place of stop-motion animation in rendering fantastic monsters on the big screen, for better or worse. And I’m sure new generations of computer animation and effects efforts are being inspired with each new summer blockbuster or superhero spectacle.
But I can distinctly trace back to Harryhausen a couple of traits that worked for me later in life and, specifically, as a writer.
If you’ve ever actually tried to do stop-motion animation, the thing it perhaps requires most of all is patience. Creating 30 seconds of screen time can take days in the studio, so there’s really no way to rush. Rushing, in fact, would equal disaster. As a result, through my own little Lego efforts, I learned to take it slow and do it right.
There also is a certain amount of obsessive compulsive disorder that goes into being the kind of perfectionist that works in such a slow medium. I’m not sure if that was built into my psyche or developed later, but having a little OCD never hurt a newspaper copy editor, either.