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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Farpoint, Day 0

I am at Farpoint again this year because I like it. Intimate it is, cozy, demonstrated by the reading I did to an audience of exactly one. Hey, that’s one more than I had last year.

I got there at about 3,and did my usual set up:

right next to the usual guy:

That’s Tj O’Connor, who’s real happy to be here. He’s sitting with his back to me:

That’s just dangerous.

Some other pre-opening action in the vendor area:

Yes, that’s Klingon Deadpool doing some early shopping.

It was snowing and about 5 degrees outside but there was a surprisingly active crowd, except for my reading. I had gourmet mac-and-cheese at the Meet-and-Greet, and went to a seminar hosted by Greg Wilson about speculative fiction business changes.

So, so far, not bad. We’ll see how Day One is.

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Downturn Abbey

This is the last season of Downton Abbey.

Thank God.

It has had, in my opinion, five seasons too many. The first season was bloody perfect, just perfect. I loved it. I’m a fin de siècle kind of guy because of the excellent manners, decorum, restrained behavior, even proper dress of that era. Heck, if we were serious about creating a more cordial society today, we’d consider bringing all that back. Men should wear suits for everything, even digging ditches; we’d all get along better. At least we’d look better.

And the Crawley’s were the perfect embodiment of those times: elegant and sophisticated and imbued with an aristocratic sense of noblesse oblige. But, they were also ferocious defenders of rigid class lines and stultifying customs and traditions that ensured their own primacy while keeping Daisy and Bates down.

And they’re doomed.

The storm clouds are gathering, and they do not know it. We do. We know what’s coming. Their world will disappear in blood and fire, in a manner they never expected. And it will not come back. So the way Season 1 ended, with the tides of that destruction rising off camera, was perfect. The men enlisted, stiff upper lip and all that. The women created the homefront, just close your eyes and think of England. And a world passes. Downton Abbey should have passed in the same way, with inevitability, not with a friggin’ cricket mallet across the knees.

Because that is exactly what the next five seasons were, a severe beating of the audience.  Julian Fellowes, hearing all the swoons of various trust-fund babies and people who actually go on Viking river cruises, rode the tide of sighs all the way to the bank. He gave them what they wanted: impossible romances, more murders in one household than is usually found in a small city, more deaths by deus ex machina, and one death that completely obviates everything that happened in the first two seasons, bringing us all back to square one.

Oy.

And now, this season, so treacly and sticky that viewers are in danger of developing diabetes. Everything is being set up for the most wonderful and sweeping Happily Ever Afters ever conceived. More Lords Sticks-Up-Butts are presented as matrimonial matches than you can shake a butt stick at, and there’s even a Jughead for Daisy. Former Fenians come home with precious child in tow and declares this den of English kaniggits is family. A hard-working farmer and his wife who did the Crawley’s a huge favor are summarily dismissed because, because, well, we gotta do something for Daisy’s father-in-law! And Barrow is going to get away with everything.

Oy.

No doubt, the last show will be a swoon of almost mortal consequences. And Viking river cruises will have a banner year.

So, then, why am I still watching?

Because Dame Maggie Smith has the best lines.

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Heil-bronx

My German family lives mostly in Heilbronn, which is an industrial city about 40 miles from Stuttgart. Some of the family lives in Schwaigern (in which there are no restaurants), but they’re outliers. Heilbronn’s the family seat.

Heilbronn’s a somewhat different place, fairly cantankerous and disputatious towards its fellow Germans. The residents became known as pirates for their habit of traversing up the Neckar to local towns like Mannheim and stealing ship cargoes. During the 1848 revolution, the army garrison sided with the revolutionaries, several of them ending up in America to fight mits Sigle. Helibronn disliked the Nazis and tried to kill Hitler (or someone that looked like him) when he visited the place. Despite that, the locals put up a ferocious resistance when the US 100th Division tried to take the city at the end of WW2.  Heilbronners are known as “knife-stabbers,” whatever the German slang for that is. It’s the Bronx of Germany, a bit of a rough place. My roots, people.

But it has its charms, like the Kilian Church above towering over the the Xmas market:

where I got some real German food:

which, incidentally, is hard to do. Usually you have to go to America to get German food. Yes, that’s gluwein, Yes, it’s good, knock-you-on-your-ass good.

Heilbronn is a place of chickens:

chicken ladies:

and conscripted labor:

Hmm. No wonder them chickens is happy:

It’s pretty in places:

grim in others, like here, where the casualties of the December  fire-bombing were buried:

The Neckar:

about two blocks from the house, which is the white one in this photo:

This is a coal plant on the north side of the city:

To the south out of view is a nuclear power plant. Think you’re gonna shut these down?

Uh uh. This is Heilbronx, bud.

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Back in the US…

…of A, after 17 days in Germany, about 2 days in Denmark, and around 30 feet away from Switzerland.

Gracie was glad to see us.

Where the hell have you been?

Everywhere, man. Like Heilbronn:

Ludwigsburg:

and Nuremburg:

among others.

So much to show you that I can’t do it in one post. More to follow.

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