Sunday, October 30, 2005
The Curse of FREE BOOKS.
There’s a used bookstore in my town that is stuffed to the rafters with material. The overflow ends up in cardboard boxes outside the store. I can’t walk by without checking through the latest free offerings. It’s a curse.
I know I shouldn’t be complaining about getting something for free. I would be upset if the FREE BOOKS box disappeared. But like the proverbial lunch, free books can have conditions attached.
My apartment is stuffed to the rafters with tomes. I don’t need any more. I have too many now. So many that it’s easy to lose one title among the printed matter maelstrom that dominates my small dwelling. The other day I wanted to consult a HTML book for a bit of code I needed. Couldn’t find it. After I gave up and didn’t need the book, it decided to suddenly appear.
And here’s another damning aspect of the curse: a plethora of books but no surfeit of time to read even a fraction of them.
Usually a book by a marginal author –- one who succeeded in getting published and attracting some readers –- ends up in the castoffs, making room for the popular stuff like King or Koontz that remains safe inside the bookstore, out of the elements. Even if the planet blows up, there are so many copies of King and Koontz titles floating around, omnipresent like cockroaches, that their work will survive, all thanks to the law of averages, not the law of intrinsic worth.
But what really bugs me is that after all these years I’ve never had a story or book published, never made it even to the margin.
Those damn, depressing FREE BOOKS.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Modern Age Meets Middle Earth.
Here’s the latest simplistically stylish illustration by Ginger Snap. She didn’t provide any explanation, leaving it up to the viewer to make an interpretation. To me this is how gray aliens abduct hobbits. Morph the flying saucer into a tree with a magical entrance and the trap is set. (I wonder if Gandalf could kick ET butt? Now there’s a question to provoke an argument among some nerds...)
Friday, October 21, 2005
That was the theme the other afternoon when I tuned in WWCR on the SW band and heard another radio preacher going on about death and destruction. You could hear papers rustling around on his desk as he sorted through the latest batch of bad news. Earthquakes! Floods! Fires! Hurricanes! If something terrible was going on in the world, this end-times preacher had to mention it.
I didn’t listen to the entire program but caught the last segment. The preacher was ranting on about God’s judgment, kept raking through his clippings, but after a while he was running out of new material to frighten his audience.
Too bad he didn’t include an article about the help that people provide when Earthquakes! Floods! Fires! and Hurricanes! strike. Not one story about a Good Samaritan digging someone out from the rubble or bringing a victim stranded on a roof to safety in a boat.
But that preacher ain’t talking about that kind of God.
Saturday, October 15, 2005
While doing some research on the Web I came across a letter column, Mom Time, from the magazine, Today’s Christian Woman, dealing with a mother who was concerned her son was too fascinated by aliens and UFOs. In her letter entitled “Lost in Space,” the mother expressed great concern, wondering if her son’s interest with UFOs was healthy, even though it was a “boy thing.”
The columnist, Lisa Welchel, indicated that such an interest could be harmful, citing a quote from a Christian book that stated science fiction could be a substitute religion, as evinced by attending a Star Trek convention. Then Welchel wrote:
“The Bible says, "For by him [Jesus] all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him" (Colossians 1:16). Satan is aware of the fact that "the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Psalm 19:1). The Devil realizes man will be drawn to explore the skies, even if only in his imagination. But he also knows the Creator behind the creation, so he had to come up with a plan to divert and distract. Enter UFOs, space aliens, extraterrestrials, and anything else that draws our attention away from worshiping God, the logical response to gazing upon his infinite wonders.”
The columnist advised buying the boy a telescope to explore the heavens with God as his guide, stressing the science over the fiction.
I wonder how this columnist would react if aliens land some day and declare that they’re atheists. Or, even worse, that Jesus was one of them, an ET prankster.
Of course, that’s a SF concept. But that’s the value of SF: it can prepare you to think about the unthinkable.
[Source: http://www.christianitytoday.com/tcw/2005/005/2.22.html -- Today's Christian Woman, September/October 2005]
Tapping into that youthful sense of wonder.
That’s the source of inspiration for artist Ginger Snap. Sometimes she likes to imagine UFOs, aliens, and similar unusual concepts with a young mind’s-eye. She graduated with a Master of Fine Art and found herself burnt out with art, especially with creating it. "I felt overeducated, overcritical," she explains. "I found I had lost the love for art that I had in my younger years." For now she is putting aside her MFA experience, concentrating on reconnecting to her childhood creativity. "Art can be fun," she says. "There is more to it than Technique."
Friday, October 14, 2005
At least on shortwave radio. Just surf your way through the SW frequencies and you’re bound to hear this radio preacher, 24/7. I listened to a bit of his program the other night. I used to listen religiously but grew tired of the same old end-time ranting.
Ensconced in his commune in Walterboro, South Carolina, Ol’ BS finds it hard to keep the outside world at bay while preaching as the Last Day Prophet. Legal problems have dogged him. Back in May 2002 his name was in the news: the local authorities accused him of improper relations with underage ewes in his flock. He was able to reach a deal through plea-bargaining, after spending a couple of months in jail. Since then he has plead guilty in another case for improperly touching a couple of his ewe and more recently he faced a civil suit by stray sheep claiming they were sheared and wanted their money back.
In regards to the fondling incident, BS defended himself in The Post and Courier newspaper (Charleston, SC) by saying that the whole case was overblown because outsiders didn’t understand his religious community. [Religious commune leader pleads guilty in fondling case (December 1, 2004) By Andy Paras]
When I listened to his broadcast recently, Ol’ BS explained that he plead guilty because they were going to find him guilty anyway.
If you’re unfamiliar with Brother R.G. Stair, he’s one of the voices on domestic shortwave radio who fall into the category of Christian conspiracy alarmists. BS will tell you that it’s all a great mega-conspiracy —- the Freemasons, the Vatican, the Illuminati –- they are pulling the strings in the background, enslaving the world. Even to the point, apparently from his POV, that they can rig any jury they want.
[Sources: http://www.rickross.com/groups/rgstair.html ;
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Put your UFO encounter on the map.
Seen a flying saucer lately? You can file a report online at http://www.nuforc.org/index.html . And afterwards it will pop up on a map at http://www.ufomaps.com/ . The location of the sighting will be indicated by a domed flying saucer with a smiley face. Click on a saucer and a pop-up word balloon will appear with brief details. Click again and you can read the full report as filed at NUFORC (National UFO Reporting Center). Of course, there are a few bugs with the UFO map, especially when you have too many saucers hovering over the same general area on the map. But the wizards behind this service say there are working on this problem and others. My spot check revealed reports that ranged from Shaftsbury, Vermont to Venice, Florida to Gilbert, Arizona to Tacoma, Washington.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
If you’re looking for a solid answer, you’ll be disappointed after reading Alien Agenda: Investigating the Extraterrestrial Presence Among Us (1997). Marrs is described as an “award-winning journalist” on the back cover. I don’t know if he won a Pulitzer, but I’ll say one thing for him: he can write a ripping good anecdote.
His book is loaded with evidence –- of the anecdotal kind. He covers major incidents in UFO history, contending that The Powers That Be In The Shadows are hiding the truth from us. At times –- probably because of his journalistic background – Marrs will present some wild explanation and then back off a bit with a qualifying statement something like “No one can really say if this theory is correct, but it could provide an answer.”
Or a bit of far out speculation is followed by a qualifying statement intended to lead the reader to draw a specific conclusion. For example, at one point Marrs is talking about strange sightings of what some purport to be intelligently constructed buildings on the lunar surface. On pages 23-24 he states (emphasis added): “If these structures are pyramids and if they do match the layout of the Egyptian pyramids, they might connect to the pyramid-shaped structures photographed by a Viking probe of Mars in 1976.”
With that last statement, an uncritical or inattentive reader would think Marrs made this statement: “There are Egyptian pyramids on the moon, just like the ones on Mars, made by aliens.” But he didn’t say that –- thanks to the use of key qualifiers “if” and “might.”
On the topic of ancient astronauts, i.e. aliens who visited mankind in the past, Marrs asks this question (page 61): “Does any tangible proof exist today to support the idea of high technology in the distant past?”
His conclusion (emphasis added): “The answer would seem to be a clear ‘yes’ after considering some of the world’s known mysteries.” A clear “yes” precludes any qualifying phrases such as “would seem to be.” If the answer is clearly true, it’s apparent, no conditions attached.
With his use of qualifiers, Marrs suffers from “seemyness” at certain points in his book. Obviously, as a writer, he’s over-qualified.
Monday, October 10, 2005
I’ve read a lot of comic books over the years –- approximately 1.2 googol’s worth –- so it takes a lot to catch my attention, especially with artwork from the golden age of comics, the 1930s-1940s. Nowadays I don’t read that many comics, mostly because the majority feature super-people running around in tight underwear with the same plots being recycled ad nauseam.
Also, prices have jumped on the “floppies,” as today’s kids call them. A 10 cent comic now has less pages and can set you back for around four bucks or more.
While poking around a secondhand shop that was going out of business, I came across some older comics for half-a-buck each, including one that reprinted a “classic” comic from the 1940s: More Fun No. 101, the Millennium Edition from DC Comics. The lead story, “Formula for Doom,” features a Robin Hood knock-off of Batman, the Green Arrow. GA has a kid partner named Speedy –-- a knock-off of Bats’ buddy, Robin –- and he gets around town in his Batmobile – oops, I mean his Arrowcar.
While the story is typical of the time, I found the art to be –- wild. At first glance Del Bourgo’s work on this story looks unprofessional; but after a second glance, you realize he’s pulling off some clever stuff appropriate for a superhero fantasy story.
Ever catch reruns of the campy Batman TV series from the 1960s? Remember how some of the scenes were shot with a pronounced tilt, the floor slanting at such a degree that you expected the people to slide away? The director was obviously inspired by comic book artists like Del Bourgo.
In one panel GA and Speedy are racing through the city in the Arrowcar, following up on a lead. The perspective is flat and cock-eyed. The elements in the scene –- the Arrowcar, buildings in the background, fire hydrant in the foreground –- look like cut-outs slammed down at random. The skyline runs straight across the top of the panel but the Arrowcar at mid-point is slanted down at a steep angle, the street ignoring the skyline. The hydrant in the foreground is also tilted but perpendicular to the Arrowcar as if ready to fly up and punch its way through GA’s yellow vehicle. A shadowy streak runs along the car, a glint over the front wheel forming an eye. The Arrowcar is outlined with splashes of gray and black.
Other panels also feature “acute perspective.” In one scene Green Arrow fires over the heads of the bad guys, his arrow trailing a cord as it embeds itself in the top of a bookcase in the background. The bad guys laugh, not realizing that GA didn’t miss. With the cord in hand, GA pulls on his “arrowline” and the bookcase topples, hardcover tomes hitting GA’s enemies with purple bursts.
This last action is summed up in one panel, GA’s gloved hand in the foreground, pulling the arrowline. The cord is severely foreshortened, compressed, running at a steep angle to the arrow stuck in the top of the bookcase. Even with the flattened perspective, Del Bourgo manages to fit in a couple of the bad guys between GA’s hand and the falling bookcase, complete with books bashing in their heads. To add to the crazy tilting, the bookcase falls crookedly, parallel with GA’s arm instead of straight forward.
I can’t draw an acceptable stick man, but I am a decent photographer. I look at that panel and wonder, “How the hell would I set up a shot like that? Wide angle lens? Telephoto?” Of course, a comic book artist has greater license than a photographer. At the same time to pull off something like that takes real talent.
And it becomes more impressive when you consider artists like Del Bourgo were working for peanuts, banging out work as quickly as possible.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Scattering seeds in another place hoping that something will germinate.
I've been zining for over ten years, staring with a snail mail version, then an email one, and finally a webzine. It's always been a money loser. Obviously I'm not writing for profit; what I do appreciate is feedback on my efforts.
My zine, the Ray X X-Rayer, takes a look at the Uncommon and the Unusual. Of course, there's the common unusual -- UFOs, paranormal events, conspiracy theories -- topiX I've been covering in X-R. But there are other offbeat topiX that intrigue me so I'm not always focused on flying saucers or the Illuminati.
My goal with this blog is to cover uncommon subjects with short articles that may be included in my zine, revised and expanded if needed. I do struggle with writer's block so don't expect me to blog here on a regular basis. I write when I can -- and when I really have something to say.
For more info on my zine, please check out www.xrayer.com .