Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When the Aliens Invade

It turns out that National Geographic took a survey and “Two-Thirds of Americans Think Barack Obama Is Better Suited to Handle an Alien Invasion Than Mitt Romney”.  Check out a brief synopsis right here:  I’m not sure which is more telling; the idea that National Geographic came up with the poll in the first place (for a new TV show) or that the demographic for the TV show can actually vote in a presidential election. 

According to Space Ref’s article and ultimately National Geographic’s statistics, “In regards to national security, nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans think Barack Obama would be better suited than fellow presidential candidate Mitt Romney to handle an alien invasion. In fact, more than two in three (68%) women say that Obama would be more adept at dealing with an alien invasion than Romney, vs. 61 percent of men. And more younger citizens, ages 18 to 64 years, than those aged 65+ (68% vs. 50%) think Romney would not be as well-suited as Obama to handle an alien invasion.”

Far be it from me, Gentle Reader, your humble servant, to tell you how to vote but it looks like when the chips are down President Obama is the MAN.  Our President took out Osama Bin Laden.  That’s a fact.  Now I ask you, what are marauding alien hoards next to that? 

In an unrelated survey, 78% of those polled thought Romney was better fit to be a greeter at Wal-Mart than handling an Alien Invasion as Commander-In-Chief. 

Not that I wish to influence how you vote in any way.

Photo from Space Ref with a little "Nasawatch" thrown in.   

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Wind Through the Keyhole

I am a fan of Stephen King’s, Dark Tower series.  In total there were seven books that wove their way through Mid-World that mark Roland Deschain’s, the last Gunslinger from the line of Eld, journey from Gilead to the shadow of the Dark Tower following that man in black across the desert.  Along the way he and his Ka-tet (posse, so to speak) have many epic adventures and most recently, Sai King brought the Ka-tet back together for a story that fits right between “Wizard and Glass” (book IV) and “Wolves of the Calla” (book V). 

I am not going to spoil anything save to say that if you have enjoyed the epic that the Dark Tower really is then this needs to move to the top of your reading list.  This is not ‘retirement’ King; this is King using his powers at full throttle, and it is a great read.  He “has not forgotten the face of his father.”  King uses some wonderful devices here with a trinity of nesting stories that introduce some new legends that will have you begging for more.  Also, if you are rusty with your Low and High Speech from the other seven novels, don’t fret; it will all come back to you Thankee Sai.

“The world has moved on” but fortunately Roland’s Ka-tet has returned for another round in the chamber.  I can only hope that Sai King has other tales waiting to be told along the path of the Beam.  Ye know as well as I, Gunslinger, “There will be water if God wills it.”

You will be well-met to pick it up and read it.  Do so before the Throckens dance before the moonlight and the Starkblast hits.  You won’t be disappointed.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Ray Bradbury SPEAKS

I love stories.  I love experiencing them in all their various forms and radiant glory.  I love to write them too.  Some of those are more glorious than others but that’s ok.  It’s ok because a man by the name of Ray Bradbury told me so.  Now I have never met the man but he spoke to me.  I feel as though I know him.  How can I say this?  I know him through his writing.  I am not alone in this sentiment.  His grandson, when asked about his grandfather confirmed this suspicion when he said in a piece by Meredith Woerner from io9, “His legacy lives on in his monumental body of books, film, television and theater, but more importantly, in the minds and hearts of anyone who read him, because to read him was to know him. He was the biggest kid I know.” (Please see: for the full article.)

I fell in love with stories because of Ray Bradbury and his sphere of influence over the world of fiction & literature.  So I read Bradbury, Verne, Burroughs, Clarke, Howard and I knew that, in some fashion, I wanted to write; to tell stories.  Then George Lucas came along with a little movie called, “Star Wars” and my fate was sealed.  I knew I wanted to tell stories and, like Bradbury, I wanted to see the world through eyes of wonder.  As he said in one of the finest books on writing that I have had the good fortune to read, Zen in the Art of Writing, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”  If you want to hear Ray Bradbury talk to you too, become a better writer, and wish to sample his Dandelion Wine then I couldn’t recommend this book any higher. 

But how could such audacity be sustained?  Well, Ray spoke to me again with the Bradbury Challenge (see:  I found a quote from him about writing short stories that went something like this, “…You defy yourself to write 52 bad short stories in a row – and it’s impossible. Somewhere along the line you’re gonna write a good one.” This statement started me to thinking. What a great idea; 52 short stories – a years worth of stories! As Ray said himself, “…they cant’ be all bad.”  I completed my Bradbury Challenge with a combination of short stories and several scripts that I was writing at the time.  Could that be considered an incomplete since they weren’t all short stories?  Well, perhaps in some circles but not in my book.  I was writing, following the craft, and, I might add, in the footsteps of one of my HEROES, Mr. Ray Bradbury.  And in all honesty if you want to learn how to write effectively you go to the Masters of the craft, read them and read what they have to say on the discipline.  I go to the legends.  Ray Bradbury is at the top of my list.  Some literary heroes and legends cast a large shadow.  I have other writers that have spoken to me, King, Gaiman, Moore are among some of my favorites but Bradbury spoke to them as well…


Here is what President Obama had to say about his passing, “For many Americans, the news of Ray Bradbury's death immediately brought to mind images from his work, imprinted in our minds, often from a young age.  His gift for storytelling reshaped our culture and expanded our world.  But Ray also understood that our imaginations could be used as a tool for better understanding, a vehicle for change, and an expression of our most cherished values.  There is no doubt that Ray will continue to inspire many more generations with his writing, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”  You can read Morgan Little’s piece from the L.A. Times right here:,0,1846140.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fmostviewed+%28L.A.+Times+-+Most+Viewed+Stories%29&utm_content=Google+International

Poets, writers, and historians with far more talent than I will be able to eulogize Ray Bradbury far better than your humble servant, so I will take solace in reading the man and listening to him speak to me.  I encourage you to do the same.   

Ray Bradbury once said, “Joy is the grace we say to God.”  Amen.

Godspeed, Sir.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Chaplin, Cohen and the Joy of Honesty

I saw, ‘The Dictator’ this weekend.  I loved it.  Your results may vary depending on your perspective; your worldview, so to speak, Gentle Reader.  If you like to laugh then you will enjoy the experience.  If you are to preoccupied by the forged chains that bind you with what is acceptable to find humor in and what is not then you may find fault with the film.  That’s fine as long as you realize that is why them invented different flavors of ice cream ~ you may like the vanilla but the next person just may like the Cherry Garcia.

I’m in the, enjoy the Cherry Garcia, camp. 

Mel Brooks is quoted as saying, “Political correctness is the death of humor.”  He was right.  Shakespeare wrote two basic types of fools / jesters, the natural and the licensed.  A natural fool couldn’t help himself from being the brunt of the joke or ridicules of the court while a licensed fool was given permission to make observations to masters and mistresses of the court itself for the sake of amusement.  A proper jester can be honest.  There is truth in humor, tragedy too and a licensed fool has the ability, intelligence, and decree to do just that - find the truth in humor.  Isaac Asimov is quoted as saying, “That, of course, is the great secret of the successful fool – that he is no fool at all.”

Sacha Baron Cohen is no fool but he is, certainly, successful at what he does.  You may be familiar with, “Borat”, “Ali-G”, or his “Bruno” characters.  His latest creation, “General Aladeen”, the leader of Wadiya, is a welcome addition to his stable.  Over the top?  No doubt.  Blissfully so.  However, what struck me most was Aladeen’s speech about democracy near the end of the film.  It reminded me of another Licensed Fool, Charlie Chaplin, and his performance in the film, “The Great Dictator” (1940).

Here is Chaplin's speech from that film.  I encourage you to click and listen and to track down a copy.  It is simply timeless and brilliant.   

Wikipedia has this to say about the role of the fool in literature, “In literature, the jester is symbolic of common sense and of honesty, notably in King Lear, the court jester is a character used for insight and advice on the part of the monarch, taking advantage of his license to mock and speak freely to dispense frank observations and highlight the folly of his monarch. This presents a clashing irony as a "greater" man could dispense the same advice and find himself being detained in the dungeons or even executed. Only as the lowliest member of the court can the jester be the monarch's most useful adviser.” 

There is a crushing need for Licensed Fools today.  Common sense is simply not that common.  I am very pleased that Sacha Baron Cohen is here to do what he does.  So, find a baby sitter (this is not one for the kids), go to the theater, enjoy yourself (I hope you like the ice-cream), and listen closely to General Aladeen’s speech.  Chaplin & Cohen should be heeded.

It turns out there is a lot of truth in humor.