Category Archives: Silly stuff

JFF: Underappreciated Songs about Spaceflight

If you thought off the top of you head, it would be easy to come up with a fistful of songs about spaceflight in sixty seconds. This is the list after you’ve exhausted “Rocket Man,”, “Space Oddity”, “Flash Gordon”, and “Starman”.

Beep, Beep, by Louis Prima

In 1957, everyone was crazy about space, including the guy who brought you “Just a Gigolo”.

Space Truckin’, by Deep Purple

Heavy metal space excursion by the folks that brought you “Smoke on the Water.” It should be used for wake up calls on the ISS, but they don’t.

Space is the Place, by Sun Ra

The eccentric genius of the Jazz world, Sun Ra claimed to be a visitor from Saturn. Evidently the planet is very much like Ancient Egypt and filled with funk. This is a segment taken from the Sun Ra movie.

Watcher of the Skies, by Genesis

WTF, Peter Gabriel?

Mr. Spaceman, by The Byrds

Doubling down on the classic rock space shenanigans, this is a cover of a Dylan song. Big fun as TV producers first discover blue-screen sets.

Mothership Connection, Parliament

The inventors of Cosmic Funk and frequent starship landings at concerts and Muppet movies, Parliament made it fun to be alienated.

Calling Occupants of Interstellar Craft, by Klaatu

At first believed to be the Beatles incognito, Klaatu was a bunch of Canadians that named their band after a robot space cop. This song can stick in your head for weeks.

Across the Universe, by The Beatles

A psychedelic voyage through the Cosmos with the originals.

39, by Queen

A tale of space exploration and time dilation, the lead on this track is taken by Brian May who eventually became a scientist on the Pluto probe project. Double spacey.

Humans from Earth, by T-bone Burnett

If you had enough of cosmic optimism, “Humans from Earth” is perfect as the cynical sales pitch of Terran colonists bringing progress and Manifest Destiny whether the natives want it or not.

Major Tom, by Peter Schiller

The unofficial sequel to Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, Schilling’s cosmic synthpop single captures the tension of the countdown and the spacey dilemma of the marooned astronaut. The chorus is a dangerous earworm.

 

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Books Among the Vikings

This weekend is the Ashville Viking Fest, a celebration of living history and re-enactors. Everything from Vikings to medieval jousters and Landsknechts will be represented. I will be there selling books, especially The Ren Faire at the End of the World. Many of the real (?) characters that inspired characters in my books will be there.

And they’ll have weapons.

This should be fun

 

http://www.ashvillevikingfest.com/enter.htm

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The Gleisser-Matulich Obtusity Scale, v. 0.9

My literary wing-man, Sheldon Gleisser, felt compelled to create a scaled for the obtusity of movies after seeing Annihilation. Not that it was a bad movie, but even if you had read the book which shared a title and few other points with it, you still had no idea what was going on when the credits rolled. It may have been artistic, but it was definitely obtuse. Perhaps not as mind-numbingly obtuse as 2001, but way more than the Andromeda Strain that made sure to explain the scientific process through-out and wrapped up with a voice-over. Voice-overs are Kryptonite for obtuse movies.

So, sitting down at the local B&N with hot beverages, we hammered out a ten point scaled for Movie Obtusity: The Gleisser-Matulich Obtusity Scale, or GMO. You really don’t want this GMO in your popcorn.

In considering if a movie is Obtuse, there are three primary factors we looked at. The first is Accessibility. If the film is set in a milieu that is recognizable to the audience, like a contemporary drama or  frequently seen historical era like the Western or WWII, the audience will be able to grasp the context without too much effort. A thriller set in Pre-Columbian Central America without English dialogue risks being Obtuse.

The second factor is Plot Clarity. If everything on the screen does not need explanation, or is explained in grueling detail, the film is not Obtuse. If the hero of the film moves from a vehicle in space to a prolonged special-effects sequence to a French Provincial bedroom, this is Obtuse.

The final consideration is Interior Logic. If every single event in a film comes from a previously seen event and extends to the next event, it is a least less Obtuse. If the teenage hero is haunted by the dead man in the rabbit suit he will accidentally kill in the third reel, not so much.

So here is the initial version of the Gleisser-Matulich Obtusity Scale. Feel free to suggest additions or changes of point value. Just, please don’t be obtuse about it.

Level 1: Where the Hero is always right & no-body thinks too much.

The Andromeda Strain

any Steve Reeves gladiator movie

most John Wayne movies

Level 2: Well, That’s Something New.

Billy Jack

El Dorado

Star Wars

Level  3: Yeah, I Guess That Makes Sense

Gojira

The Legend of Hell House

The Towering Inferno

Level 4: Whatever…

Robocop

Unforgiven

The Poseidon Adventure

Level 5: Here be Anti-Heroes & Ambivalence

Kong: Skull Island

any of the Clint Eastwood Man with No Name films

Pacific Rim

Level 6: I’ll Watch This Again Later

Star Trek: the Motion Picture

Tron: Legacy

Excalibur

Level 7:  I Think This Might Be Bad

Alien

Monsters

The Shape of Water

The Manchurian Candidate

Starship Troopers

Level 8:  Everything You Know is Wrong

The Matrix

Annihilation

Buckaroo Banzai.

Level 9: Would Someone Care to Explain This?

The Innocents

The Others

Inception

The Sender

The Cell

Level 10: WTF Did I Just Watch?

Shutter Island

Shin Godzilla

Mother!

Jodorowski’s Magic Mountain

Zardoz

2001

 

 

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Floor Show, No Extra Charge.

My blog was taken over by a stranger, a crazy man, who thought that this might be a place for serious social intercourse without lubrication. That individual has been captured and locked away in a basement room in Omelas.

You won’t be hearing from him soon.

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The Matulich clan, like most families, has its own series of family in-jokes and schtick. When two or more of us spend time together, it’s the return of vaudeville.

#

An inanimate object falls to the floor, for whatever reason:

“It was depressed.”

Since every member of the family is under treatment for depression, or should be, this shouldn’t be a recurring gag. But, Hell, we all take our meds or engage in art therapy, it can take care of itself, too. Besides, we’re always there to pick the object back up.

#

“C’est la vie.”

“LA VEE.”

“Thank you.”

#

The ultimate press conference gotcha moment, usually performed by two to amplify the weirdness:

“Senator, how long have you been ripping the nipples off baby ducks?”

“Baby ducks don’t have nipples.”

“YOU GOT THEM ALL?”

#

Thank you, thank you! We’ll be here all week. Remember to tip your wait staff, and then return them to their original upright position.

 

 

 

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JFF: Top 10 Mad Scientist Songs

Long ago, I used to write little life-improvement tips from Dr. Thelonius Calico, the folksy homespun super-villain. Imagine a cross between Dr. No and Martha Stewart. I’ve put that project in a secure bunker in the back of my mind for the time being, but I do love me a bit of Mad Science. Just for fun, I did a little research to get my Top Ten Mad Scientist songs. It includes a little bit of everything from Hip-Hop to Metal to novelty.

The criteria for the list are purely subjective: musical quality, expression of the Mad Science theme, and how likely I am to jump out a window when it comes on my iPad. If you don’t like something here, draw up your own list.

10: Mad Professor, Insane Clown Posse

This has to be included for completeness sake, though I am not a Hip-Hop fan; this comes very near my “Jump Out the Window” barrier. WARNING: the language and mean spirited screaming take all the fun out being a mad/evil scientist. Also, Juggalos.

10: Monster Mash, Bobby Pickett

My earliest exposure to Musical Mad Science, twice as fun when you see the singer’s mimicry of Boris Karloff as he lip-synchs his own song.

8: Dr. Stein, Helloween

Heavy metal vivisection and experimentation. What’s not to love?

7: Building the Perfect Beast, Don Henley

This is an odd one that perfectly expresses the Mad Science theme, even to the point of having its own Secret Hide-out. This song was never released as a single, though it is the namesake of the album, and there are no videos available on line. You can at least get it on iTunes.

Building the Perfect Beast
The power of reason, the top of the heap
We’re the ones who can kill the things we
Don’t eat
Sharper than a serpent’s tongue
Tighter than a bongo drum
Quicker than a one-night stand
Slicker than a mambo band
And now the day is come
Soon he will be released
Glory hallelujah!
We’re building the perfect beast
(building, building, etc..)
It’s olympus this time- olympus or bust
For we have met the enemy -and he is us
And now the day is come
Soon he will be released
Glory hallelujah!
We’re building the perfect beast
(building, building)
Ever since we crawled out of the ocean
And stood upright on the land
There are some things that we just don’t
Understand:
Relieve all pain and suffering
And lift us out of the dark
Turn us all into methuselah-
But where

7: Sweet Transvestite, Rocky Horror Picture Show

Though there’s not a lot of Mad Science in it until the end, this is a cultural touchstone for all those who would dare where God did not intend for men to go.

6: Frankenstein, Edgar Winters

Classic Rock Mad Science by musicians that look like characters from Michael Moorcock. This is the looooooong version.

5: What’s He Building in There, Tom Waits

Creepy, unnerving and poetic. More people should know this one.

4: She Blinded Me with Science, Thomas Dolby

The ’80s seemed made for Mad Science with its atmosphere of greed, technology, sex, and greed. This is one of the two from that era that made my list.

3: Weird Science, Oingo Boingo

Our second helping of ’80s Mad Science Rock from the man who would become the sound of Tim Burton.

2: Experiment IV, Kate Bush

Not the best quality of a beautiful song, but the video does include an appearance by Dr. House. Maybe this is where he got that addiction to painkillers?

1: Nemesis, Shriekback

The Greatest Mad Science of All Time, if nothing else for rhyming “nemesis” and “parthogenesis”. That, and a little recreational refining the juices of the dying.

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Sweet dreams

It is no secret that I have been battling depression for the last few decades. It hasn’t really been a battle so much as a game of tag on the slick footing of my cerebral cortex. My doctors have given me a wide range of pharmaceuticals of varying levels of effectiveness, with a plethora of entertaining side effects. The latest set that my wife and I have had to deal with is vivid dreams.

As a horror writer, I’m not bothered by nightmares. I have them, but I just consider it working while I sleep. The problem with some of the latest drugs is that they weaken the failsafe mechanisms that normally would keep the sleeping body from taking orders from the dreaming mind.

The first time we noticed that problem, I had been escaping from bad guys with flamethrowers. An innocent bystander had been ignited and my dream self was smothering the fire. Kit awoke to me slapping out the imaginary flames on her thighs and buttocks. Neither one of us enjoyed that.

I’ve switched to different medications and the acting out in my sleep has diminished. I will still have some physical movements and vocalizations, but Kit just wakes me up gently, usually asking what I was doing at that moment. I blearily try to sum up the plot without too many gory details. Recently, she interrupted me as I was repeatedly punching a serial killer in the face through the service window of a food truck. No spouses or innocent bystanders were injured, fortunately.

When subconscious is pretty much filled with bizarre and violent creatures. REM state lets them act out scenarios that make my most over-the-top writing seem like a four-year-old’s tea party. There is no way I can stop them, and I don’t really want to, but I figured I could inflict some control over them.

One night, I decided I was going to try for sweet dreams. I didn’t concentrate on specific details, just the phrase “sweet dreams”.

In my dream, I flew to a warehouse on the Ohio State Campus, because I can usually fly in my dreams. Once I’d cleared the low-hanging power lines and branches, I came upon the architecture schools Home of the Future. It was white and blocky, with a definite Minecraft look to it. On careful inspection, I discovered everything was made of sugar cubes. These weren’t the tiny half-inch sugar lumps I was used to, but solid, hefty things four to six inches to a side. As I checked the warehouse shelves behind the home, I found any possible shape of compressed sugar a home contractor might need, including sugar toilets and sugar light bulbs.

My wife reports that I did not thrash or moan with this, or wake her in the middle of the night. I will most likely try this again, carefully choosing my focus. “Sweet dreams” worked out just fine, but who knows what eldritch horrors could be inspired by “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams”?

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There is no punchline

We are just days away from the release of “Ren Faire at the End of the World”, the third book of my Arcanum Faire trilogy. It will be November 28th for the trade paperback edition and November 21st for the ebook. Dread Central will be hosting a cover reveal on their site between now and then. This link will be live as of 11/16/17 at 09:30 PT:

http://www.dreadcentral.com/?p=260529

Until the 28th, I have a little taste of the opening of RFEW to pique your interest. As always, watch the bushes and keep a shovel handy at all times.

 

THE THREE LURKERS

A paparazzi, an OSHA inspector, and a Vatican priest hunkered down behind the bushes outside Camp Arcanum.

Unfortunately, there is no punchline to this story, Jeff Lazarro thought as he knelt in the ice-cold mud. Ms. Snowden, the disgraced OSHA inspector with a face like a weasel sucking a lemon, squatted just behind him. Her pale wool coat matched her short platinum blonde hair, which fortunately blended into the drifts of snow behind them. Monsignor Valcarcel, on Jeff’s other side, wore a navy pea coat over his black priest’s cassock. Only the white tab of the rugged old man’s color and his ruddy nose gave him away as anything other than a tree stump.

All Jeff wanted was some nice juicy pictures. With the trifecta of Sex, Suicide, and Satanism following Jeremiah Stone’s death, demand had pushed prices into the stratosphere. Marc Sindri had cost Jeff his next boat payment when he had caught Jeff and erased the card that held a few dozen images of a New Year’s Day co-ed fistfight just outside these three Airstream trailers

Snowden’s mission in life was to prove that either monsters were real and lurking on the grounds of the renaissance faire or that Sindri had rigged the whole thing as a prank to scuttle her workplace inspection. Sometimes, she speculated that he had maybe hired the monsters. Also, she wanted her clipboard back.

The priest, when he spoke, warned of a threat to souls of all involved in black magic and New Age heresy at this renaissance faire. Having Valcarcel tag along gave Jeff the same guilty feeling he got after admitting to his dentist he’d forgotten to floss, but their resources together were far better than lurking in separate bushes…

Valcarcel took a sip of his fortified coffee and pulled down a branch to get a clear view of the old barn, gravel track, and trailers that made up Camp Arcanum.

“You know,” the old priest muttered, “I would give my left nut to know what’s going on in that trailer right now.”

Jeff didn’t know what use a celibate priest might have for his testicles, but his feelings were pretty much the same.

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In my Car after IT

For those not familiar with it, there is a charity event known as Red Nose Day. It is to raise money for sick children through comedy. On that day this year, one drug store had a bin of red rubber clown noses one could buy. I laid down my dollar for sick children everywhere and stuck the red rubber nose on the edge of the passenger side visor in my HHR.

Sunday, I took my son to see IT. (Sorry Sheldon, he couldn’t wait.) After two-plus hours of jump scares, music stings, and creepy atmospherics, I got back into my car to go home.

In the dark parking lot.

Alone.

I reached up to open the sunroof and let in a little cool air. That’s when I noticed the red rubber clown nose peeping out from the space between visor and roof.

My first thought was: “Oh my, how did that get there?”

I followed up with “Surely Pennywise couldn’t squeeze himself int a space that small.”

Which is why transdimensional psychic vampire clowns don’t hunt old farts like me. Not enough excess emotional energy to let out a shriek of terror when appropriate.

 

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Poem full of wind

There was a time I would go down to Bernie’s Bagel every day. I would nurse a single cup of coffee for hours and write poetry on the back of the paper place mats. I have not indulged in that kind of Bohemian lifestyle for a long time, but I did write a poem today.

Take it for what it’s worth:

 

If a breeze

murmurs through the trees,

does a cross wind

simply grumble?

 

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Various People Looking Dumb at the Worthington Farmer’s Market.

A nice older woman speaking to the owner of a obviously mixed breed dog.

“So what kind of dog is he?”

“Brown.”

#

The author walks into a coffee house/art gallery the size of a supply closet. The name is redacted out of a sense of fair play. It sits directly off of the main drag of charming Downtown Worthington, a spot the pentagenarian passes twice a week. The pleasantly vague man with the black hat and the mustache says:

“So, you’re new here!”

“No,” says the very young cafeinnista, “we’ve been open a year and a half.”

The man with the black hat is feeling more vague and less pleasant.

#

The author dissembles by examining the art work on the walls: paisleys and polkadots painted on plywood planks. Rothko has nothing to worry about here. Considering how long he has been dead, Rothko has nothing to worry about.

Hoping to redeem some of his lost coolness in the eyes of totally uncaring strangers, the author orders a coffee. Not the usual ‘Murican coffee that he drinks night and day, that comes from a can you can use to store fishing weights afterwards. No, he orders something he’s never tried before, something experimental and cool that won’t make him look like somebody’s disreputable uncle who’s wandered off before morning medication.

It sounded like “Marquisdesado”.

As the caffeinista falls to her task with the focus and energy others might mistake for hatred of all Mankind, the author pays at the iPad and looks over the snacks left to snag the attention of customers that must wait while the Ritual of the Coffee is performed with stainless steel spoons, chalices, and foam. There are cupcakes in sealed plastic containers. Each treat is covered with hand-piped polychrome flowers and leaves, all very pretty and realistic. Almost a shame to eat them.

The day-glo orange labels on the  containers read: Mom’s Vintage Treats.

“Vintage,” says the vague man in a hat. “Does that mean they’re all really old?”

“No,” says the check-out person, “they’re just… just…”

“Vintage style?” the author suggests.

“Yeah. Yeah, inspired by vintage snacks.”

“So, they’re only supposed to taste really old?”

The checkout person stops talking.

#

“Marquisdesado up!” the caffeinista calls out as if the customer is not less than two meters away. Everything in this establishment is less than two meters away.

The vague man in the hat and mustache takes up his paper to-go cup, noting that he has received doses of Nyquil in larger cups. He politely thanks one and all and leaves while he is still allowed. He suspects there is a crawlspace filled with uncool customers below his feet.

The author waits until he is down the sidewalk and out of the line of sight before he takes his first sip. He has never been a member of frou-frou coffee society, and this will probably not be his membership ticket.

Marquisdesado tastes like burnt insoles and leaves the author with the same emotional hangover as binge-watching nun porn. If it hadn’t cost nearly as much as a pound of generic coffee, he would have thrown it out.

Instead, he continues to sip the bitter draft until it is gone and can harm nobody else. His nipples feel like they are slowly turning inside out.

#

The author wrote an entire blog post referring to himself in the third person. He wound up looking pretentious and dumb.

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