Classic Car Sightseeing at the Kennedy Center


Last weekend, I went to see the opera, Barber of Seville, at the Kennedy Center.  If the title’s not familiar, you’ve probably heard some of the music:

“Fieguro!  Fieguro!”

It was a fun production.  The title character helped a count who had fallen in love with a woman from afar.  The problem was that she was ward to a doctor who wanted to marry her for the money.  It was a comedy, and the actor who played the doctor did a lot of comedic stunt work.

During the intermission, I wandered outside and got an extra treat: Classic cars were on display.

Front view of a metallic blue 1964 Chevy Impala
1964 Chevy Impala

This is a car that makes me feel old.  When I was growing up, the first car that I remember that we had was a 1964 Chevy.  It was white and had what we called the “seat monster.”  The hooks holding the backseat in place broke, so when my father stopped suddenly, the seat slid forward. Needless to say, when my best friend and I were riding in the back, we squealed with fun terror at the monster.

The car got stolen from a parking lot and used in a holdup.  The police found it, so it hung around until we got the first of two Volkswagen buses (pumpkin and chocolate).

 

1957 Light olive green Chevrolet with fins
1957 Chevrolet

I was a fan of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The submarine Seaview and the Flying Sub both had fins inspired by cars like this.

 

A black Chrysler with wings
Yes, those are wings on that Chrysler

There wasn’t a placard for this car, so I have no idea why it has wings.  Can you imagine driving your car and taking off like a plane?  Speed Racer had some elements of that, and later on with Knight Rider, with both their jumps.

It was a lot of fun checking these out.  DC doesn’t have the kind of culture for these types of cars, so I don’t see anything like this very often.

***

STORY UPDATE:  Progress is slower than I want–I’m guessing it will be 60 days.  Part of it is that it’s a new genre in novel form for me, but also the historical aspect is very different for me.  Some of the things that it’s made me think about:

Milk used to be delivered to your house in glass bottles by a milk man.

People did not lock their doors.  We always did in Los Angeles, so I found very strange that my grandparents in San Francisco and later Morro Bay never did.

And a look at a place that was built in 1946, called The Pink Motel.  There are a lot of great photos to look it.  The hotel is closed to people staying there, but it’s been used in a lot of films.

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?

The Evolution of Space Opera


When I was growing up, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea aired at 4:00 on KTLA, and then Star Trek followed it.  We also had Lost in Space. I also had this big yellow book of the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century comic strips.

All of these started with the pulp magazines in the 1930s, which introduced space opera.  They paved their way for the shows above.  But Star Trek did something different:

Another popular sci-fi show with a strong space opera flavor to emerge during the Swinging Decade sought to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. Star Trek differed from the fare that came before as it coupled the action-orientated characteristics that were commonplace within the genre with philosophical, thought-provoking themes. For a brand of science fiction that was introduced to pop culture discourse as “hacky, grinding, stinking, outworn spaceship yarn,” Star Trek proved that this type of accessible entertainment could contain substance as well as pure entertainment.

In “The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction,” Westfahl notes that Star Trek was the first on-screen space opera to successfully combine the classic pulp adventure elements with “Ruritarian” themes. The Ruritarian space opera is distinguished by sophisticated characteristics which often entail romance sub-plots and solar systems governed by their own political establishments. In these stories, alien lifeforms tend to be three-dimensional and driven by their own personal motives — such as greed, thievery, etc.

There’s a lot of interesting history that starts with the pulp and how it goes not only into our reading of books, but also TV and movies.  We move so fast forward that we sometimes forget how things originated and what we can learn from it.

Read the rest at Film School Rejects: https://filmschoolrejects.com/adventure-awaits-brief-history-space-opera/#ixzz51Rioo5Ri

Dick Van Dyke Christmas Song


Dick Van Dyke has wonderful charm in this fun video.  I remember watching him in reruns of the Dick Van Dyke Show.  It’s hard to believe he is 92.

Adventures Around The Web November 4-10, 2017


It was unnaturally warm in Philadelphia last week. For Veteran’s Day, we’re getting cold and blustery. Down into the 20s.  The fall colors are finally coming in, but largely pretty washed out.  Not the vibrant ones that are so pretty.

10 Ways Posture Affects Productivity (and How to Improve Both)

Writing can be pretty sedentary, so it’s important to not park in the chair for hours on end and never get up and move around.

From pom-poms to combat boots: Miller joined Army in high school

Ah ha!  A story about a woman Desert Storm veteran.  But scroll all the way to the bottom for a slideshow about more women veterans.

SimilarWeb

Got this one from the BookBay conference.  You can plug in another writer’s site and see what kind of traffic they’re getting.

Google Speech Recognition

Also from the conference, if you want to try dictating stories.  Being handy too if you wanted to give your hands a break.

Daylight Saving: The Movie Trailer

This is hilarious! Last year, I showed up at the farmer’s market an hour too early.  This year, I worried about missing my train (which showed up late).  From Piper Bayard.

 

Adventures Around the Web Octber 21-26


This week, the colder temperatures marched in, and then bounced around.  Pretty typical for DC, but it’s hard when your sinuses are going, “I’m not happy”…

Lulu the dog flunked out of CIA bomb-sniffer school because she just didn’t care

Spy dog fails classes at CIA!  Lots of very cute dog pictures for Friday.  Labs have a gentleness about them that’s just fun to look at.  Link courtesy of Day Al-Mohamed.

Serialized television has become a disease

I’ve of mixed feelings about serialization.  Early on, I did think it gave shows a continuity they desperately needed.  On the show Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, it was like the writers hit a reset button each time they wrote a new episode.  If aliens invaded the ship, it was treated as if it was the first time, even when it wasn’t.  Characters come into our lives and become something more, just like in books.  But serialization does not allow episodes to stand out.  What if the serialization for the year is poor?

Adding Tags in OneNote

This one’s a software tool I’ve been using for my research library.  I was on Evernote, but I switched over over because I don’t need extra software to confuse things.  I already had OneNote as part of the 365 subscription–why pay for a second program?  I know Scrivener had notes for projects, but I always thought research notes should be available for reuse. That’s a little hard if it’s done by project.  I also heard someone say that OneNote doesn’t have tagging.  I don’t use it myself, but the link explains to to tag.  And a photo of my research library …

A screenshot of my index pages showing headers for Ocean Liners and links underneath.

 

 

More Adventures at the Book Sale


This week’s book sale was the big one at the library.  They have one in October and another in April.

The sale itself is located on a floor in the garage.  It’s a permanent fixture in the garage, but closed off behind a gate except when there’s a sale.  The sale was advertised as having 75,000 books!

The books:

  1. Close to Shore: A True Story of Terror in an Age of Innocence (it’s about shark attacks)
  2. Drilling Through Time: 75 Years with California’s Division of Oil and Gas
  3. Espionage: The Greatest Spy Operations of the 20th Century
  4. The Island of the Colorblind (about a place where everyone is colorblind)
  5. The Man Behind the Magic: The Story of Walt Disney
  6. Law and Order: The Unofficial Companion
  7. Looking for a Ship: U.S. Merchant Marine
  8. My Secret Life as a CIA assassin
  9. The Raging Sea: The Powerful Account of the Worst Tsunami in U.S. History
  10. Plot
  11. Shirley Jones: A Memoir
  12. Star Trek Memories
  13. Star Trek Movie Memories

I had to be creative about where to look for these books.  Military was where I found the spy books, though I don’t think they have anything to do with military.  I found the California one in the science section.  Plot showed up in the Performing Arts.

The one that caught my attention the most was the Law and Order book.  It’s just got the first 10 seasons of the show.  But in scanning through it, the book made me realize why I like the show. It’s a lot like Star Trek, and also The Orville  It presents stories that don’t always have easy answers, and often have a lot of differing opinions.  It’s entertaining and makes you think a little.