Another Military Anniversary: The K-Bar Knife


Red, Yellow, and White Tulips reaching for the sky
Tulips are my favorite spring flowers. I love looking at them when it’s very sunny out and they are spread out to catch some rays.

Spring is still trying to kick winter out.  We were sunny and gloriously warm yesterday and sunny today, but windy and cold.  But I’ve been able to do some tulip sight-seeing.  I think they’re probably only a couple days away from passing the torch to the next batch of flowers.

This week has another anniversary: The KA-Bar, which is a military knife.   This is like an all-purpose knife.  When you look at the link, skip over the first picture, which is a bit disturbing.

When I was in Desert Storm, I was one of the few in my unit to be issued one, or one that was like a KA-Bar.  The knife came with a whetstone, which it needed.  It dulled cutting through air!

I worked on fuel point, filling up the convoys that came in, and issued POL–Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricant (it’s been so many years that I had to think about what stood for).

Knives are useful things.  I used to have a Swiss Army knife like MacGyver (the 1990s version, not this remake, which has none of the charm or fun).  I was surprised at how many uses I had for it.  Of course now it’s hard to carry a knife anywhere, even it’s small and for everyday use.  People are so afraid that someone will do something something bad with it.  In Washington, DC, we have to go through metal detectors to get into the museums, and bags are subject to searches.

Things have changed a lot from when a knife was just a tool we used every day.

Hollywood, Remakes, and Maybe the Reality


Last week, the new Lost in Space TV series premiered on Netflix.  Lost in Space was one of Irwin Allen’s TV shows, though I never liked it much. It seemed like all the bad things about Irwin Allen converged into one place.  But I tuned in any way.

Didn’t stay long.

I want to see new ideas.  We have all this fantastic change, and so incredibly fast, and yet, Hollywood is pulling stories from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.  Lost in Space was fifty years ago.  Even The Brady Bunch, another remake was over forty years ago.

And I’ve heard it said–and said it myself–that Hollywood is lacking creativity.

But is it an actual creativity problem or is it something else.

Problem #1 is that they are allowing money to make all the decisions.  The same thing is happening in the publishing industry, and it makes them risk-averse.  They’ll look at a TV show like Lost in Space or Star Trek and see how popular it’s been and then look at something really new and different…and want to go the safe route.  Safe means it will probably make some money.  New and different means it might fail.

And it also means that despite the number of films and TV coming out, not a lot of it will have the staying power of some of these old shows they’re trying to imitate.

Hollywood’s been doing this for decades.  If another studio came out with a blockbuster, everyone rushed into to do the same type of movie, hoping for that blockbuster.

So why are they focusing on all these old TV shows and movies?

I think that’s where the second problem comes in.

I grew up in Los Angeles. I read Variety at the college library.  Even studied film.  That Hollywood is not the same one today.   Today’s has shot so far out of the boundaries of really pretty much everything that they’ve lost touch with audiences.  They want a show like Star Trek that people talk about fifty years from now, and yet they don’t know how to do it.

They’ve lost that skill.

I used to work with someone who would try to game the marketing in his fiction by picking the right word, as if happy would be more marketable than glad.  The problem is that doesn’t work.

And they’re really stuck.  Getting involved in public opinions has not helped their cause because it alienates too much of the audience.  Trying to trigger the nostalgia doesn’t work if they don’t understand what people liked in that old film (especially given they tend to say “we’re going to improve it”).  Finally, simply shooting for the visuals to get one part of the audience forgets that people want to see good stories.

Something new please, Hollywood.

 

Star Trek and the Marine Corps


Orange kitten perched on a tree branch, green in the background
We’re not as green as the background yet. The flowering trees are just blooming and the maples are letting loose…soon. Now if it would stop snowing!

I’m in the process of using cycling writing throughout my nearly finished book, Cursed Planet.  In the past, it’s been a pretty routine thing.  Clean up typos and sentences that I thought made sense that now have me scratching my head trying to figure out what I was trying to do.  Or removing what I call stubs–something that my creative side brought into the story and then, like a cat, got bored with it and abandoned it.

But there was an interesting article on Star Trek and how the new Marines Corps Commandant is a fan.

It’s a long ways from what it was when I was growing up, but a good, evolving change.

When I was growing up, fandom was just starting snowball.  Star Trek was in reruns on KTLA (first Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea at 4:00 and Star Trek at 5:00).

We had a gym uniform for PT in school, white shirt, blue shorts.  Some of the other students wrote on the back of their shirts their favorite sports teams.  I did Star Trek.  No one made fun of the sports team, but they did of me.  There was one boy who openly sneered and said Little Rascals was so much better than Star Trek. (Little Rascals was also running on KTLA at the time.  I’d watched it, but I never thought it was particularly good.  I think it was more of a nostalgia thing for the adults who had grown up watching it).

Even my guitar teacher got in on it.  Since this was L.A., it wasn’t hard to run into people who worked in the film industry. Her son had worked on the set of the show.  Did she tell me how they filmed the show?  Did she tell me what it was like for him to work with the various stars?   Did she gossip about the stars?

No!  She told me the sets were fake.

Of course I knew they were fake.  Phhtt!

But it was like all this space stuff was just toooooo fake and really I shouldn’t bother.

Star Trek cons were just starting to really get popular then, too.  I attended several of the ones called Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Conventions (I believe these are what is now Comic-Con, but don’t hold me to that).  I remember walking to the hotel where my first con was held, and there was this man costumed as a a Klingon.  Just…wow!

Qapla’!

And reporters would show up at these cons, too, evidently told by their editors to get a story to fill an empty space in the newspapers.  The disdain the reporters had for the cons was pretty evident.  They would look at all the average people standing in line, and home in on either the little boy costumed as Spock or the craziest looking adult fan,  dressed sloppily, and festooned with buttons.

Then the picture would appear in the newspaper, identifying us as Trekkies with the implication that Star Trek was for children or crazy people.

Now it’s gotten a lot of respectability over the last fifty years since it premiered.   Now a Marine senior leader is a fan.

How cool is that?

And for your viewing pleasure, a mashup of MacGyver and Star Trek The Next Generation.

Behind the Scenes: Star Trek’s Khan as a Viking?


Pirate looks out telescope
Ahoy! Spaceship off the port bow!

One of the things I always liked to read is the behind the scenes of a TV show.  Reading about how a show is made is fascinating.  Sometimes it’s easy to wonder how shows come together at all, and yet some of the greatest chaos turns into something spectacular.

Like Star Trek’s “Space Seed” episode, which starred Ricardo Montalban.  And it seems like just about everything has been written about Star Trek.  Those sites that say “10 Things You Never Knew About Star Trek” are always things I know already.  But this Me-TV article had one I didn’t know.

The first was that the now legendary character Khan was originally going to be a space pirate!  Though space pirate sounds kind of cool (at least the fictional ones), it certainly doesn’t fit the actor.  Stellar writing, stellar directing, and stellar acting made this into a classic episode.

While a script can be really good, bad direction or bad acting can botch the whole thing up.  But Ricardo Montalban brought a delicious evilness to the role that makes it memorable even today.

 

 

Why The Orville is my SF Fix


When I was growing up, I hit the TV Guide every week to find out what science fiction shows were airing this week.  Then, it was digest-sized and had very short summaries of the shows.  I had to look up one word “ensues” because the description for the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea episode “Nightmare” used it.  I still don’t have a clue why that particular word was used for that particular episode.

And when the big season premiere issue came up, it was a big event, because I was checking out what new SF shows were premiering.  Most of them didn’t last long.  But there were shows like:

  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.  Gil Gerard was in that one as title character
  • Battlestar Galactica.  The original with Lorne Green.
  • The  Bionic Woman.  Spy/tennis star Jamie Sommers becomes essentially a superhero through technology.

There’s been other SF shows throughout the years, like Star Trek The Next Generation and Xena, Warrior Princess, but it’s been a while that I’ve found one I wanted to stick with. Most of them have been getting darker and darker.  Especially since I was able to shake lose some of that dark I got from Desert Storm, I can’t even watch Xena any more.  It’s too dark for me now.

Then The Orville with Seth McFarlane showed up last year.  I saw the commercials and was cautious, because the humor was kind of, well, dumb.  But from all my time enjoying Hollywood TV shows, I know one thing is always true:

Pilots tend to be horrible.

The writers haven’t settled into the show yet or figured out what they want to do.  They’ve written this single episode for the purpose of selling a series to the men with the money.

The actors also haven’t really gotten into the characters yet.  If you’ve ever attended a theater performance, it’s best to see it near the end.  The actors will have refined their roles.

And then I tuned in.  Humor was still awkward.  But the show had something I hadn’t seen for a while.

It was bright.

It was hopeful.

Whoa.

I didn’t realize I’d been missing something hopeful until I had it. We’ve had way too much dark, way too many anti-hero characters, and way too many unhappy endings.

The show has its critics.  A lot of people seem to want it to be a comedy or a drama, so when it blends the two, they don’t know what it is.

But, even with only 13 episodes, it had some very thought provoking episodes, especially towards the end of the season.  Yet, they also stayed on lighter end with the humor, so thoughtful didn’t become dark.

And they treated the women characters as characters, not eye candy.  The women are dressed in the same uniforms as the men, fitted both both genders.  The women also have had some important roles, and even some story lines.  I particularly like the doctor, and at least she had normal kids–not the super-intelligent ones SF shows tend to have (Star Trek The Next Generation, SeaQuest DSV).

But I’m in withdrawal!  The show is not going to premiere until 2019.  It’s for a good reason–more time for the scripts, and also because of the special effects requirements.  Robert Picardo is coming back again (yay!), and they will be adding two new cast members.  Check out the news about the show over on TV Guide.

If you saw The Orville, what did you think of it?

Filling the bucket of learning


This video popped across my feed yesterday, courtesy of Me-TV. Disco was at its height when I was growing up, and I remember hearing this song over the radio.  I like the visuals in this one better than the Night Fever one in the link.

I can’t sing.  At all.  I was so bad at rhythm that the Army tried to kick me out twice for my marching.  When we were marching off to war with the press watching, the acting first shirt put me at the end of the formation so I wouldn’t embarrass him.

So when I watch a video like the one above, it amazes me that one of these singers could replicate this song now.

Even as a writer, I wouldn’t be able to replicate something I wrote a year ago.  I could redraft the story, but it would come out different.  I would hope it would come out as something better.

Because I’m always learning something new.

I’ve been reading a book called The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy.  It’s part of the Personal MBA, which is reading a list of books to have the basics of business.  I’ve read Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog! and I didn’t care much for the book.   Partially because it seems like his goal is to jam as much into the day as possible (a problem with a lot of time management books).  But also, I think, because he focused heavily on emotions to make the sale.

I’m an INTP on the Myers-Brigg scale.  Means I like logical and analytical.  Emotional appeals can work, but I’ll be a skeptic first.  If someone is trying to sell a workshop, I’ll scroll past all the “shouting” to find out the price first.

This book though…it had something in it that caught my attention.  It said that learning was like a bucket of water. You have to constantly fill up the bucket because it doesn’t stay full, or continue learning.

Little girl on beach filling up bucket with sand.

Which reminded me of a writer that I used to love.  She first came out with awesome book in the 1990s.   It was a series. The main character was different than any I’d seen before, and it was a woman character.  In an action role!  She had a team of interesting characters surrounding her.  I just took a workshop on Teams in Fiction, and it identified one of the reasons I really liked this series.

So ever time I went into B. Dalton’s, I checked the shelves for this writer to see if there was a new one out.  When I found one, I snatched it up, took it home and read it in a day, then reread it.  I would happily still be reading this writer today.

If something hadn’t changed.

The writer became a best seller and stopped filling her bucket.

It happened by about book five.  I just knew at the time that the books weren’t quite as good.  I still bought the books for a while, thinking they would get better.  But the other team members I liked disappeared. They were replaced with a collection of characters who filled space but weren’t a team.

So I stopped buying the books, since I could use the money for books I was enjoying and wanted to keep.  I still read the books, but I checked them out from the library.  I was always disappointed and finally decided they weren’t worth my time to read.

But I occasionally picked up one, hoping for that old magic.  In the last one, it looks like the writer must be having a decline of sales because she circled back around to the roots that started the series and tried to replicate it.

And failed.

She’s been writing for 20+ years and should have been able to turn out a much better book than that first one I read.  But her bucket was empty.  She’d stopped learning long ago, and no longer has those tools.

But learning means not just grabbing the next book and reading it, but finding resources that actually push the skills.  The bucket should always be overflowing.

I’m in the process of learning about subplots, and as from above, selling.  What are you learning today?

I’m in a new Story Bundle called Short Flights (of the Imagination). My story is from my GALCOM Universe series, called Watcher Ghost. But I wanted to share the image of all the stories in the bundle so you can pre-order it and get lots of great speculative fiction stories (like we really don’t have all that much to read :).

Short Flights (of the Imagination)

Mansplaining to Women Veterans


Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a post on Facebook that’s gotten pretty interesting, and a lot of comments.  It’s on mansplaining.

Mansplaining is when a man with lesser experience, or even no knowledge lectures to a woman who has that experience. It implies that she is ignorant because of her gender.  Pretty much it’s: “You don’t know what you’re talking about and I do because I’m a guy.”

Even if he has no clue what he’s talking about.

That happened on Absolute Write. I was answering a writer’s question about the military, and mentioned that most military people don’t use profanity non-stop the way Hollywood depicts it.

It’s one of those things that depends on the type of unit, the rank of the people and even the people themselves.  I know the all male military ones do use more because they have trouble interacting around women soldiers.  And I’ve been in an “adult” unit where the culture was no profanity.  In my truck driver unit, there were some people who used none at all, some who used it sometimes, and ones who got themselves into trouble because they couldn’t turn it off.

It also depends on the book itself and who the readers are.  If you’re writing a romance with a military character, there is no way that you want any profanity landing in that book.  But a military thriller…yeah, some would be appropriate and expected by the audience.  Military science fiction, too.

Male writer who had never been in the military trots onto the board and explains that I was wrong.  That any military character would not be realistically depicted with out the non-stop profanity.

Really?  He told this to a veteran?

The feel of the military in a story isn’t INSERT PROFANITY HERE.  It starts with understanding the difference between the officers and enlisted, and what the rank structure means in relation to your characters.  Without that, profanity’s not going to help.

With the dam bursting over MeToo, there’s been a lot of articles about the women veteran’s experience.  I remember one where the various organizations like Veterans of Foreign Wars were complaining about membership being low, and women commented that they did not feel welcome.  Many of them said things like they were treated like a veteran’s wife, not as a veteran.

The men promptly jumped in and explained that none of the women knew what they were talking about.  Their local chapter wasn’t like that at all, so we were all just plain mistaken.  And besides, they lectured, if we thought the system was broken, we should join and fix it.

Really?

Not every man does mansplaining.

The problem is that the women veterans struggle to have their voices heard because there are those that are busy trying to drown it out.  We need to do better.

 

 

Halloween Adventures


I’ve been working on a short story for an anthology call that’s closing tomorrow, but I had time for a quick walk around the neighborhood to have a look at the Halloween decorations.  These are some of the pretty cool ones.  Enjoy!

This is a ghost over a garden entrance. It’ll be pretty spooky at night with all the shadows from the garden.

Ghost over a garden entrance

I found Stonehenge!  It’s down the street!

Stonehenge for Halloween

Heeelllppp meee!

Two half buried skeletons on a lawn, gravestones behind them.

Clearly waiting for public transportation.

Skeleton laying on a bench with cobwebs all over it.

Only in Washington DC…  Note the bottles of booze (which I did not see when I took the picture).

Skeleton with a couple of bottles of booze next to a sign about politics

Adventures Around the Web August 26-September 1, 2017


It’s been an unbelievably crazy week.  Even though I’m nowhere near Hurricane Harvey in Texas, I’ve had to help people at work who are there.  Everything is very chaotic, because the situation is so chaotic.

Erin Kelly and Kevin Green

Crews Cut Steel for the Next Aircraft Carrier Enterprise

The Navy is building a new aircraft carrier.  Enterprise, of course, has special meaning, because of Star Trek.  I remember when NASA renamed the space shuttle Enterprise after a write-in campaign.  It was pretty cool.  This will be the ninth Navy ship named Enterprise.  The first one was in 1775.  Ships named Enterprise have a long history!

**Note if you watch the video and you start getting music halfway through, scroll down and turn off the second video.  It’s set to autoplay.  Most annoying!

Lakshmi Gandi on NPR

History of Snake Oil Salesman

I had to look this up for my GALCOM story.  Pretty interesting site on the history of snake oil salesman.  Most of my knowledge came, unfortunately, from old Westerns like The Big Valley, where the snake oil salesman was conning people into buying fake medicine.  I had no idea the origins were with the Chinese and that it really did work.  Very interesting that the oil had the Omega 3 acids that we need for healing inflammation.

Geert Weggen on Bored Panda

Squirrel Game of Thrones

Virginia has a love-hate relationship with squirrels (mostly hate, actually).  But this is silly and fun.  Who thought a squirrel could ride a dragon?

Christopher Luu on Refinery 29

A Gender Swapped Lord of the Flies Remake Nobody Asked for is Coming

I’m all for getting better roles for women in film–not just “girlfriend of the hero” that’s pretty common.  But gender-swapping like this is ridiculous.  It speaks volumes about the risk adverse problems in Hollywood.  It’s apparently easier to remake a film and swap out the genders then it is to create new material that uses men and women better.

Venable Dance

Word Motivates Change.  Your World Be Motivated

Very powerful video on hope, habits, and how to change the world.  From Roberta Viler.

Adventures Around the Web August 12-18, 2017


Fall is continuing into Washington DC.  Last week, I saw the first fall squash at the farmer’s market.  I’ll be visiting an end of summer tradition, the local county fare, today, and I decided to take the day off for the eclipse, in case everyone goes nuts.  In DC, you never know . These are the same people who, when a single drop of a sprinkle hits their windshield, goes into full panic mode.

The Military Yearbook Project

USA Military Platoon and Personal Photos

This site takes the concept of a school yearbook and puts up the group photos from Basic Training.  Some great history here.  One of the earliest photos is 1934!.  Mine’s not on here, but I would have been Fort Dix, 1989.  From Tracy Jordan, Desert Storm veteran.

K. Gitter on Do You Remember?

These Vintage Photos Show the History of the Supermarket

Shopping for food has changed quite a bit over the years.  I found it fascinating to see that in the early days, it was a series of small shops specializing in produce or fish, not a general store of everything.  I also remember in Los Angeles the grocery store, Mrs. Gooch’s, which was also a precursor to Whole Foods and got bought out when they started growing.

Joanna Penn on Creative Penn

Writing Christian Fiction and Success Over a Long Career with Jerry Jenkins

(Link Corrected) Under the process question, he describes how he cycles through his writing to get a clean first draft.  He calls it revising, but it is a form of cycling.  I used to call it revising when I write, but that leads to thinking it’s actual revision, which isn’t, so I’ve just called it moving around in the story.

Harvey Stanbrough

Why Do You Write?

This is an interesting look at the different categories of people coming into writing and all their reasons.  When I first got on the internet and joined up with writing communities, I ran afoul of what I call hobby/lottery writers–people who wanted to write a best seller so they could quit their day job.  I thought everyone was like me–wanting to write full time, always wanting to improve as a writer.  It ended up being the reason I dropped off writing communities, because they were also the same people passing around a lot of bad information.

Melissa Ragsdale on Bustle

7 Things People Who Use Bookmarks Will Never Understand About People Who Dog Ear Books

Waves!  Yes, I dog ear my books.  Don’t know why. Just always have.  Might be that, being an INTP, it’s easier than tracking down a bookmark.  If I had one.  The writer of this might be able to find free bookmarks, but I usually don’t see that many around.

And since I mentioned dog ears, here’s a dog doing a Marilyn Monroe imitation.

https://giphy.com/embed/l98iCrT6lEQDK

via GIPHY