The Adventures of Gracie the Wander Cat: No Rest for the Weary

I don’t know what the deal is, but that Krauss guy is messed up right now:

to the point it’s cramping my style. Used to leap onto his stomach and settle in for a nap, but now, the guy screams and throws me across the room. How rude. This is about the best I can hope for:

which is not going to work. So lately, I’ve had to settle for alternatives:

all of which have their merits. But, tell ya, nothing beats a warm stomach or chest.

Krauss, ya gotta sleep sometime.

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Bath Bath

Since my summer is pretty much shot down, what with three months of recovery to go through, thought I’d load up some photos from the trip to Germany earlier in the year.

This is Baden Baden

which got its start as an R&R spot for Roman soldiers stationed nearby at Marseilles. All those hot springs, ya know. It pretty much stayed an R&R spot over the next several centuries, finding itself in competition with lots of other Badens that sprang up throughout Germany. To make sure you went to the original, they changed their name to Baden Baden, so there.

Beautiful place, chock full of spas and hotels and a casino and the requisite ruins:

It was Christmas Eve and, naturally, there was a Christmas market ongoing:

where we bought nougat cakes from this French guy:

The Kaiser liked to hang out here:

Jethro Tull??? Damn, can’t go, I’ll be back in the States:

Baden Baden is purt near France, something I discovered when my German GPS decided to exact a little Axis revenge by directing me in the completely opposite direction I needed to go. First clue was a sign that said “Bienvenue a Alsace-Lorraine.” Oopsy. So, turn around and began a comedy of stopping at every little German gas station in every little German village deep in werewolf mountains where hump-backed proprietors could only point in a general direction when I queried, “Heilbronn?” and merrily careening through moonlit S-curves and sheer drops until I finally stumbled across Schwaigern, where my nephew Steffan:

lives, and I knew my way back. Didn’t stop because there are no restaurants in Schwaigern and everyone was at the house waiting on us for Christmas Eve dinner, anyway.

Inconsiderate Americans.

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Rub Some Dirt on It

 

I’m a guy. I’m not a particularly tough one, but I’ve had moments. Now, my brother, he’s a tough guy. Drives bulldozers and cranes and cement trucks, and once built an urban water filtration system with a paper clip and a discarded feather. I stand in awe. Both of us, though, in our relative toughness, have the same “walk it off, rub some dirt on it” attitude towards injury and pain. You get hurt, meh. You get the flu, meh. Get your butt to work.

And that’s how I ended up with double bypass surgery two Monday’s ago.

What, because, like a tough guy, I ignored symptoms until I was flopping around on the ground? Uh uh, it was actually through a series of fortunate events.

As the three or four of you who read this blog know, I haven’t had the best of Springs. I caught a respiratory virus at the front of April that whipped my ass, went away, then came back a week later to whip my ass some more. Man. Fevers and head-stuff and exhausted every friggin’ day until finally, finally, the last part of May, all that remained of it was a miserable, hacking cough. I didn’t do a blasted thing that whole time but get up, go to work, sleep.

One morning I dropped off my car for service and then walked a mile to work. When I got there, I had this little ache in my chest. Sheesh, I am soooo out of shape. Gotta get back into it. I resumed my morning exercise routine and, each time I got off the bike, had a little chest ache that went away after a bit. And when I walked up the hill at work, same little achy chest that went away after a bit. Sheesh, I am soooo out of shape. A few more weeks on the bike, and I’ll be back to pre-virus conditions.

And then my sister-in-law called and said my brother was back in the hospital for a second heart stent.

Now, my brother―Piney MacGyver― had a massive heart attack a while back; flatlined, he did, for about a minute before they defibb’d him back to this realm. Which pissed him off. “It was so peaceful,” he told me.

“No bright lights or angels or, in your case, furnaces?” I asked.

“Nope. Just peace.” Turns out he had some artery blockage and they installed a stent. A year later, here he is, getting another stent.

I called him and said, “Dude, rub some dirt on it.”

“Anything for a day off.”

“Cool. So what made you go check?” And then he spoke these fateful words:

“I had a little ache in my chest.”

Hmm. If that’s enough to get Piney MacGyver off to the ER, perhaps I should…

Naah.

So, got off the bike Wednesday morning and had a little ache in my chest. This time, though, it didn’t go away, not even by the time I finished work that afternoon, so I said to my wife these fateful words:

“I think I need to go get checked.”

A stress test and catheter later, the doc said, “Dude, you need a double bypass.” Seems I had a blockage at a spot called the Widow’s Peak, which gives you an idea of how serious this was.

“No stents?” I asked.

“Nah,” doc said, “that’s for wussies. We’re going big or going home here.” A dose of Fentanyl later…and here I am, veins transferred, nifty scar on my chest, and another twenty or so birthdays added to the agenda.

And I get to call my brother a wussy.

 

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Team Cap

 

Of course. I’m an American. So’s Cap. We both believe that:

(a) the individual is more important than the group;

(b) the natural law trumps the statutory; and

(c) government, even at its most wonderful, is evil.

That being said, the way Captain America: Civil War starts out, I’m kinda in Tony Stark’s camp. See, it’s a good idea to have some type of independent body keeping an eye on powerful, semi-autonomous organizations that tend to the imperial. We used to have one here in the US called Congress but it’s now more interested in sharing imperial power than protecting us peasants. Doesn’t negate the idea, though, especially when the powerful, semi-autonomous organization is capable of overthrowing small―and not-so-small―countries, the way the Avengers can.

So, I was a bit put-off by Cap’s initial opposition to the Accords. Being the good soldier, he knows full well that civilian control of military forces is de rigueur. Yes, that was S.H.I.E.L.D’s job, and, yes, they’re gone, but the principle remains and it’s a matter of Cap expanding his definitions a bit. His balk seemed contrived, just a way to move the plot along. And I think that’s a failure of the script.

See, the real issue isn’t rogue superhero groups running about willy nilly saving mankind from certain annihilation. Not at all. It’s authoritarian centralized governmental structures using rogue superhero groups to make us peasants toe the line. That’s actually the issue in the original Civil War comic series on which this movie is based. If Cap had more clearly expressed it, then the choice would have been more stark (no pun intended). Do you believe in freedom, or do you believe in control?

And, yes, granted, Cap raises a protest about government agendas, but it’s weakly done and passes right on by, mostly because these are post-modernist times and people are choosing government agendas and centralized control over personal autonomy. We want Daddy Government to give us a job, a car, money, an X Box, our own doctor and hospital, six month’s vacation, free movies, a PhD, and a personal police force to beat up anyone we don’t like. So what’s Cap’s problem here?

It’s generational.

See, Cap comes from the Generation of Common Sense. It’s a dying generation, fairly well discredited, but its members tend to quick and decisive action based on the now discredited sense of right and wrong and good and evil. You’re sitting around Avenger’s HQ when you hear about this guy Crossbones

who’s going to steal a zombie apocalypse virus and release the Saviours so, suit up, let’s go…at least, that’s what members of the CS generation would say. There’s just no time to send an application up through the Screening Committee of the UN’s Branch of Weird Threats for staffing and discussion. Crossbones is going in six hours. UN approval is going to take six months. And, even then, there’s a greater than 50% chance that the UN’d say, “Disapproved. Resubmit in 90 days for final disapproval.”

So, go. Stop Crossbones.

And get blamed for it.

The UN is all mad because there’s a bit of collateral damage when the Avenger’s respond to the Chitari and Loki and Ultron and all the other apocalyptic-sized world conquerors’ attempts to conquer the world.  Same way the police get blamed nowadays when they arrest drug dealers. So, monitor the police and the Avengers and criticize them for trying to stop genocide. If the Avengers would just stop showing up, if the police would just stop responding, then all crime would end and Thanos would say, “Oh, sorry to bother you, carry on.”

Have we lost our collective friggin’ minds?

Yeah, we have.

Because the world is now devoid of even a sliver of Common Sense; it is now mediocre, envious, and small-minded. Nothing is anyone’s fault. You are now what you look like, not what you believe. And someone has to approve.

Someone.

Which is the single biggest change to American life in my memory. It used to be that we could do anything we wanted as long as there was no law against it. Now, we can’t do anything unless somebody says we can. Permits for lemonade stands, people. Permits. For lemonade stands.

So a distressingly large percentage of people hear the Cap and Tony argument and go, gee, Cap, you’re being like a bitter clinger or something. I mean, gosh. People could get hurt. Yeah, Crossbones will get the vial of terror virus but at least the Wakandans would be okay. Just let the UN do their job…

Suit up, Cap, I’m coming with you.

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Lose 5 Pounds!

…on the too-sick-to-eat-anything diet.

Man. There I was minding my own business, when this virus walked up and sledgehammered me. Left me feeling like this:

I couldn’t make it to Ravencon last weekend because of it. I couldn’t make it out of bed. Second time in less than a month this thing got me. Persistent little bugger.

Anyways, it has really thrown me off schedule and I’m just now getting back to it. Got some re-editing and fixin’ of manuscripts to do, and covers to tweak.

After my nap.

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It. Is. Finished. Part Deux.

I said The Ship Finding God was done. It is. Or, was. And now is. For reals.

I did the first set of edits, then sent the draft off to Angela Souders, who is a ghost hunter and author and a very cool person whose opinion I trust. She sent me back a couple of pages worth of changes, over half of which I accepted and edited accordingly, and then I told her I was going to change the ending and she promised to send ghosts to haunt me if I did, so, no. Then I put together a style sheet and fixed some things. I sent the whole kit and caboodle off to EJ Knapp for formatting and now, and now…

Now.

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Not that Ludwig

I have a bunch of photos from the trip to Germany back in December, like these from Ludwigsburg Palace, which is about 30 miles…or kilometers or whatever the hell it is…south…or east or whatever the hell it is…of Heilbronn.

Nice place.

Winchester Film Club is everywhere.

The palace was built by Eberhard Louis, Duke of Wurttemberg, who was quite the character. He built the palace and the surrounding town as a place to stash his mistress, that is, until it looked like he was going to lose everything because he had no legitimate heir so he dumped the mistress and ran back to his wife but died of a heart attack before wifey could produce said heir, so lost everything, anyway. Oh well.

The town:

 

 

The place was a bit packed because of the Christmas market:

replete with street performers…

and the only other Eagles fans in Germany:

Stuff to buy:

Them Germans.

The palace…

Wow. Eberhard had visited Louis XIV and decided to build his house along the same lines. Sure did:

Think that’s something? Wait until you see inside:

Man.

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19 Movies in Three and a Half Days

 

This weekend I am recovering from last weekend, which was Lost Weekend V, a film festival put on by the Winchester Film Club at the Winchester Alamo. It is the fifth such film festival that Andy Gyurisin, Force of Nature, promoted, and third such festival that I have stupidly sat through because it is stupefying. That’s me up there, after about movie number twelve or so. But, made it through, seeing nineteen of the offerings:

1. The Lobster: when a movie has a rather absurd premise―if you do not find a mate in forty-five days, you are turned into an animal of your choice―then it must proceed to an appropriately absurd conclusion. But, this one did not. It just…stopped. And there was no tie-in between anything in the movie and the rather startling mule-murder opening scene, which killed this one for me. Mule and all.  Two stars.

2. The Vanished Elephant: this Peruvian movie had me on the edge of my seat quite intrigued and wondering what in the blue blazes was going on until…I found out what in the blue blazes was going on. Really? That’s what this was about? Oh, dude. Someone needs to be slapped around for this. Two stars.

3. MacBeth: c’mon, it’s Macbeth. With Magneto. And lots of sword play. But…but…some of your favorite lines are missing, no pricking’s of thumbs or boils and troubles, and that was not cool. Also, there’s a lot of dead time in Macbeth (no pun intended). Reaaaally slooooow. Yeah, yeah, heresy, but even Shakespeare had his down moments. Three stars.

4. 45 Years: Talk. About. Reaaaally. Slow. A body frozen for sixty years and a wife getting all militant about something that happened ten years before she met her husband…seems like this’d be a good ‘un, huh? No. Not. At. All. And there are some things that simply should never be filmed. I’m sure Tom Courtenay was a stud in his time, but it is well past his time. I’m still having nightmares. One star.

5. Wild Tales: Holee. Crap! Best wedding scene ever. Ever. Five stars.

6. Nina Forever. This horror movie couldn’t decide if it was a porno or a slasher film, so you get double portions of both. Think ménage a corpse, and an uninvited corpse at that. Bit disturbing with a somewhat annoying end, but, hey, porno and slasher, what’s not to like? Three stars.

7. Men and Chicken. The Scandinavians are a crazy lot, just crazy. Last year, they gave us The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, which was just nuts. Now, we get this Danish movie, which has the wackiest bunch of characters since Money Python’s Holy Grail. If you’ve ever had the urge to beat someone with a stuffed animal, you’re in for a treat. Five stars.

8. Boy and the World. Oy. Another pretentious animated film made by Third World revolutionaries decrying Capitalism and All Its Horrors. You know, “capitalism,” a horrible economic system that has created the computers and programs and graphics and technology that Third World revolutionaries use to make films decrying its horrors? One star.

9. A Tale of Tales: Wowzer. A real kick-butt fairy tale with three separate stories going on at the same time that sort of twine together towards the end, but not quite. Still, amazing. With a human Dobby. Five stars.

10. An Honest Liar. Outstanding documentary about The Amazing Randi, with a reveal in it that was supposed to be shocking but, meh. I think Randi did yeoman’s work exposing the frauds out there. Yeah. I’m looking at you, Uri Geller. Five stars.

11. Sea Fog. Whoa. Knock you on your ass intense, this one is. Which seems to be par for Korean movies. What’s going on over there? Five stars.

12. Louder than Bombs. First world self-absorbed people desperate to Feel Genuine so they create a lot of self-induced Problems in order to Feel Genuine. Probably what life is like on the Upper West Side, which explains a lot. All female cast. One star.

13. Monster Hunt. Speaking of what’s going on in Asian countries…China, what the hell? This film, up until about two weeks ago, was the number one movie there. It is so juvenile that I assumed it was targeted to eight-year-olds. But there are no eight-year-olds in China, so, huh? China’s population is in desperate need of quality entertainment. We need to start beaming Netflix to them. One star.

14. Victoria. Another “whoa!” Talk about a chance meeting that goes completely off the rails…this starts out slowly, but just wait, just wait. Five stars.

15. Youth. I friggin’ loved this movie. It is my favorite of the weekend. First, it’s Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel. You could have just followed them around with a camera and had a great movie. Imagine a sterling screenplay along with it. And the one minute or so of the most beautiful woman in the universe reclining naked in a spa is just cherry on top. Five stars.

16. Mustang. I friggin’ loved this movie. It is my favorite of the weekend, and is the best reason I’ve seen so far for strapping on armour plate and going on a Crusade. Five stars.

17. Men go to Battle. I didn’t think it was possible, but someone made a boring Civil War movie. Oh, wait, sorry…Cold Mountain. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, keeps your interest, but it’s a character study more than anything. Unfortunately, the characters aren’t the most scintillating. Three stars.

18. Carol. My test for gay movies is this: replace the couple with a straight couple, and go from there. In this case…pedestrian. Standard. Seen it a million times. Move on. But I guess because it’s set in those horribly oppressive ‘fifties in which all of us lost our souls or something, then This Is Compelling. I really don’t know why leftists have such a hard-on for the fifties. Relax, guys, you won. And Cate Blanchett would make any woman turn gay so, really, what are you doing here, Hollywood? Two stars.

19. Liza the Fox Fairy. Outstanding, more Scandinavian silliness except this is Hungarian and it’s like…you know…oh, fucking hell. Death as a 1960’s Japanese teen idol. Cool. Five stars.

And there was some kind of fifteen-second or so book ad between some of the movies. Yeah. There was.

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Los Chermans

I did not know I had a German family until a few years ago…well, as a present and ongoing fact, I mean. I was adopted as a baby and raised ‘Murican, and supposed there were family members back in my native land but that was there and I was here and it was mostly academic…until my previously unknown sister contacted me out of the blue in 2011. Since then, I’ve been to see them three times, and we are in weekly contact and it is…wonderful. Because I can see a lot of who I am over there.

This is Rita, the previously unknown sister:

She is an unmitigated hoot. Even on Skype, we get to giggling over silly stuff and I have no doubt that, t’were we raised together, mayhem would have ensued. At least another invasion of Poland.

These are her chickens:

I raised chickens as a kid. We have an affinity for chicken-raising. Genetic.

This is her husband, Knute:

He speaks no English. The only German I know is: Wo ist der Post? So we go to the Post Office together a lot.

Her kids:

Kai, Lea, and Steffan. That Kai is a wildman.

My brother, Glenn, in his cabinet shop :

Look at this place. Look at what he can do:

Man. He’s like my other brother Darrel…er, Ralph,

who can build water systems and houses with a bent paper clip and a discarded pigeon feather. Me? I do not get the relationship between hammers and nails. Genetics, again, in that the mechanical ones bypassed me completely.

Mother (with some mother):

sundry other relatives, you know, nephews, in-laws, etc., etc., present…:

and past:

Aunts, uncles, grandparents, great-grandparents, and the Wehrmacht.

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Farpoint, the sequel

Today was the first full day of Farpoint. And it was…slow.

Real slow.

Okay, well, that’s a picture taken before it opened but, tell ya, it didn’t feel much busier throughout the day. It seemed like attendees were studiously avoiding us, averting their eyes, even. I mean, wouldn’t you want to buy books from these guys:

wouldn’t you, huh? I mean, we’re nice.

Security:

Bippity, boppity, boo:

Not your grand-dad’s Alice:

Exactly how cold is it outside?

I use the Force, not a light saber:

I use a light saber, not the Force:

Space cadets:

Since books sales were pretty dismal, I decided to test drive this:

It’s a Tesla.  A Tesla. All electric. All cool. It can reach 150 mph. One hundred friggin’ fifty miles per hour.

The interior is all movie screen:

The keys stay in your pocket. As you approach the car, the handles fold out. You get in. The keys stay in your pocket. You put your foot on the brake, it starts. You put it in drive. You get on the interstate and you’re doing 60. “Say, test drive sales guy, do you mind if I punch it a bit? No?” So, press the pedal. With no lag nor winding up of engine, and in about two seconds, I am doing 94. “Woooooo-hooooo!!!” my reaction. Press a switch and the car drives itself, staying in lane at 94 mph and maintaining distance while you answer the phone or listen to Slacker Radio. Want to change lanes? No problem, put the blinker on, it changes lanes and speed and following distance until you’re done tuning the radio and get back to driving. It will even back itself out of a parking spot.

I have got to get me one of these.

 

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