Saturday, November 30, 2019

November Words of Wisdom

There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the means of achieving the same ultimate end: communism proposes to enslave men by force, socialism - by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide. --Ayn Rand

We, the American people, are not each other's enemies. The enemies are those people behind the curtain jerking everybody's chains and trying to divide us up by age, by race, by income. --Dr. Ben Carson

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story. --Terry Pratchett

Listen to the whisper of your soul, the universe and your faith, not the whining taunts or demands of random people. --Brendon Burchard

I like joy. I want to be joyous. I want to smile and I want to make people laugh. I LOVE to laugh. It's the only way to live. --Doris Day

Whatever you're working on, finish it. Commit the time. Ideas are actually the easy part of writing, and it happens to all of us - we get 10,000 or 20,000 words into a book and then have a great idea for something else...Almost every great idea can wait. What matters is that you finish the story or novel you're writing now.  --Joseph Finder

It's not that conservatives don't care. We do. We just have different answers than liberals do. It's a difference of the mind, not the heart. --Tom Selleck

Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours. --Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged)

High performers cultivate joy by how they think, what they focus on, and how they engage in and reflect on their days. It's a choice. --Brendon Burchard

Self-control is strength. Calmness is mastery. You have to get to a point where your mood doesn't shift based on the insignificant actions of someone else. Don't allow others to control the direction of your life. Don't allow your emotions to overpower your intelligence. --Unknown

Every writer...has certain special loves, certain special hang-ups. In my case, it's a hunger to be young again. A desperate hunger to go back to where it all began. I think you'll see this as a running thread through all the things that I write. --Rod Serling

The PC Police are shooting first and asking questions later. --A.J. Benza

Believe in your ability to figure things out. With enough time, effort, and discipline, you will learn and grow and achieve. You will bring your art and mission and dreams to fruition. Trust in yourself. --Brendon Burchard

Friday, November 29, 2019

Recent reading: "The Heirs of Anthony Boucher"

The Heirs of Anthony Boucher by Marvin Lachman

Subtitled "A History of Mystery Fandom" this is much more than the retrospective on the annual mystery convention Bouchercon and its namesake, writer, editor and critic Anthony Boucher. It is a history of the fandom, beginning in 1967 with early fanzines and get-togethers long before the internet made online communities possible. In fact, the first Bouchercon doesn't appear until Chapter 6.

What follows is an incredibly comprehensive of what appears to be every fanzine, magazine, and convention that followed (including Malice Domestic, Left Coast Crime, New England Crime Bake, CrimeFest, and ThrillerFest) as witnessed by someone who was an extremely active participant in their history. Lachman wrote and participated in numerous fan publications and conventions and as such is able to bear witness to this rich history.

Originally published in 2005, winner of the 2006 Anthony Award in the Critical/Non-Fiction category, and updated in 2018, the book includes recaps of every Bouchercon up to last year's in St. Petersburg. I attended my fourth Bouchercon in Dallas recently and was blown away by how much of the fan emphasis I've missed. As someone who approached it not only as a fan but as an aspiring author, this was an aspect of the history I was ignorant of but now have a better appreciation of. Bouchercon 2020 (Sacramento) had a table at Dallas and a very nice lady there encouraged me to volunteer next year. I had declined to do so in the past because I was there for the panels and didn't want to miss out on them. But after that conversation I had pretty much decided it was time to give back and help out. After reading this book, it's definitely decided. This is a community I want to be a more active part of. I don't think I realized how fan driven the organization of these conventions are, despite the enormous undertaking in staging these events. I have a much better appreciation for it now.

One of the things I found funny was reading about Bouchercon 2013, which took place in Albany, NY. On Wednesday in Dallas we shared a lunch table with a couple of lovely ladies, one of whom was Molly Weston, editor of Sisters in Crime's newsletter, and the subject of Albany came up. She proceeded to tell us it was pretty much a disaster. Lachman confirms that in his recap. He quotes writer Lee Goldberg as describing it as "the worst location and the most poorly organized Bouchercon I've been to." But bad Bouchercons are few and far between. Dallas - both the convention and the hotel/location - were awesome.

Lachman also touched on how, as the internet came into being, attendees began blogging and documenting their Bouchercon experiences online. It made me realize I used to do much more comprehensive recaps of the panels I have attended at past events, and I think I need to start doing that again.

Bouchercon began in a bar. Writing about its origins in the 1991 Bouchercon program, Len and June Moffatt recalled that in a bar, at the close of a July 1969 science fiction convention they were reminiscing with Bruce Pelz about Anthony Boucher and his enthusiasm for both science fiction and mysteries. Pelz said, "I wonder if it is time to put on a mystery convention." There had never been one. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

"For civilization to survive, it must remain civilized."

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated 56 years ago today. Having recently visited The Sixth Floor Museum, this year's anniversary feels like it has more than the usual impact.

Plaque looking out at the site of Kennedy's assassination on Elm Street in Dallas.

Thanks to Shadow & Substance on Facebook for linking to this post: "More Than a Man Has Died": Serling on Kennedy's Death. According to The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling's daughter Anne, it was written by her father on his letterhead and she found it in his papers. This is the first paragraph; the whole thing is definitely worth a visit and a read:

More than a man has died. More than a gallant young President has been put to death. More than a high office of a land has been assaulted. What is to be mourned now is an ideal. What has been assassinated is a faith in ourselves. What has been murdered now is a belief in our own decency, our capacity to love, our sense of order and logic and civilized decorum.

One of the lines in the letter is particularly striking to me, especially as I check out the news these days (online, it's unwatchable on TV) or watch video clips of people behaving like thugs to others who don't march in lockstep with their beliefs: "For civilization to survive, it must remain civilized." It's not remaining civilized.

When you visit The Sixth Floor Museum it's hard not to wonder how different America would be if those bullets hadn't been fired that day, if Kennedy had completed his trip to Dallas and eventually been re-elected. If Robert Kennedy had followed his brother as a two-term President. That would take us through 1976. That means no President Lyndon Johnson, no President Richard Nixon, no President Gerald Ford. From what I know about the Kennedys, Ted was never Presidential material, but you could go further and imagine him as a two-term President if he'd managed to stay out of trouble, which was never going to happen. But I do think both Jack and Bobby were high-caliber and high-character men, at least in their service to their country. Maybe it's a writer thing, but it's hard not to at least wonder how different things might be today if an assassin's bullet hadn't robbed us of this one man (and later of his brother).

One of the things I heard recently (I can't remember now if it was on the museum's audio tour or elsewhere) was a comment on the enduring Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories. The speaker indicated that he felt one reason the theories continue to this day is that people have a hard time wrapping their heads around the idea that someone as inconsequential as Lee Harvey Oswald could be responsible for killing someone as consequential as President Kennedy. I would add ditto RFK and his assassin. I thought it was an interesting point. One guy changed history in just a few seconds. One guy did all that. It is tough to take. More than a man died that day, indeed.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Wowza. Looks like we're finally getting some rain in the Southland.

Been a long time since stuff like this popped up on the forecast:

That's a lot of weather. Looks like we're going to have a rainy Thanksgiving.

Drive carefully, Angelenos!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The sincerest form of flattery?

These idiots apparently didn't realize Breaking Bad was only supposed to be a TV show: Chemistry Professors Arrested in Meth Probe.

This quote from one of the idiots busted is kind of creepy:

In a 2014 interview with the Oracle, a campus site, Rowland said he was a fan of Breaking Bad. The TV series was about a chemistry teacher, Walter White, who gets a former student to help him make and sell meth. "It was spot on and accurate when it came to the science, and, it has gotten a younger, newer generation interested in chemistry," Rowland said. "I feel like it was a wonderful recruiting tool."

"Recruiting tool". Guys, Walter White/Heisenberg was not supposed to be a role model. Just sayin'.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Customer Service Fail: American Airlines edition

I don't even know where to start with this. Maybe I should try it as a timeline.

12/25/18: The Brother and I are working our way through our first Christmas without Mom. One of the topics of conversation that comes up is my 2019 writers conferences plan and I mention Bouchercon in Dallas in late October/early November. He decides he'd love to see Dallas so he registers for Bouchercon, books his hotel room, and I book our flight on American Airlines, which I've been using since I started going to conferences in 2012 and have previously been happy with.

To recap: December 2018, I book our flight for the following October. I have us flying out early morning Tuesday 10/29 and coming back Sunday morning. I figure this gives me about a day and a half to do a little site-seeing before the panels start on Thursday.

Now, let's jump to Monday, October 28, 2019.
8am: I get the email from American Airlines to check-in online, which I do. I print out our boarding passes.

Later that day, around 4pm, I put poor Sophie into the cat carrier and head to the vet's office. The neighbor that I'd hope could feed her while I was gone couldn't do it, so Sophie had to be boarded for the first time in her life. And since they're closed Sunday, I can't even pick her up when I get home. I have to wait until Monday, meaning another $32.

I get Sophie to the vet around 4:30 and get home around 5pm. That's when everything started going to shit.

It turned out that as I was turning Sophie over to her new babysitter, American Airlines sent me this:

The gist:

One of these things is not like the other.

So, ten months after I plan this trip, I'm suddenly arriving in the evening instead of early afternoon, I'm not getting there until dinnertime. I figure by the time we deplane, get our luggage, and get to the hotel (about 20 miles from the airport) it will be at least 7:30pm. So there goes the first afternoon and evening of our trip.

So many things pissed me off about this:
  • The loss of one day of my trip. If they'd given us more notice, maybe we could have changed our departure day to Monday.
  • Speaking of more notice, how about that last minute change? Would it have killed them to give us a decent amount of notice? The only other earlier options made available to us weren't non-stops and therefore would take longer to get there, making us late arriving anyway. 
  • When I called, I was told they had cancelled a bunch of flights that day out of Burbank, but they couldn't tell me why or why we were getting such late notice.
  • One of the problems seems to be Burbank itself - there were plenty of flights out of LAX. I got really spoiled living so close to that airport for so many years. But The Brother didn't want to drive to LAX on a weekday - it's a shitty drive. With more notice, we could have booked a hotel over there the night before and used the hotel shuttle to LAX.
  • And speaking of late notice, if that email had arrived even a half hour earlier, I could have kept Sophie home for another night, saving her that stress and me another $32.
  • And just to add insult to injury, our 1:08pm flight left about a half hour late.
And I was right - we arrived at the hotel right about 7:30pm and we were exhausted. The Brother had a headache that carried over into Wednesday, so we didn't get much accomplished that day.

I haven't traveled in over a year, so I don't know if American's been going downhill or what. As I mentioned, I've been happy with them in the past, but this clusterfuck was a game changer. It couldn't have been handled worse. We booked this almost a year ago. They had all that time to make changes that we could have adjusted to. To do it at the last possible minute - literally 15-1/2 hours before we're supposed to be taking off - is just shitty customer service and not a good harbinger for future experiences.

Add to the fact that I just hate flying and there was enough turbulence to make this a really miserable flight, I'm really reconsidering future travel. I can drive to Left Coast Crime next March in San Diego, and next year's Bouchercon in Sacramento is just a short Southwest flight away. The Brother and I will definitely make a trip out of it when Bouchercon hits New Orleans in 2021. That one may have to go to Delta, maybe give them a chance to earn some customer loyalty.

Luckily, Thursday, this showed up in my inbox. That was the good news:

First of all, why send this when our trip wasn't even close to over? I wasn't about to give them a reason to fuck up our return trip. And putting a deadline on it? Dicks. And just to put the perfect capper on it, I got busy after returning home and didn't make the deadline. Needless to say I got pissed off and took to Twitter:

This was their anemic reply:

Yeah, thanks.

Friday, November 15, 2019

"The Twilight Zone" on the big screen? Yes please.

The Brother and I got to see six episodes of The Twilight Zone at our local movie theater last night. Also included was an excellent documentary on Rod Serling.

The description of the program from the Fathom Events website:

The Twilight Zone: A 60th Anniversary Celebration will combine digitally restored versions of six quintessential episodes with an all-new documentary short titled "Remembering Rod Serling" about the life, imagination and creativity of creator Serling, whose thought-provoking anthology series continues to mesmerize fans.

Walking Distance: Martin Sloane, a VP of an ad agency, stops his car at a gas station when he realizes he is 1.5 miles away from Homewood, the town he grew up in.He decides to walk there and finds that he has returned to the past. Season 1 episode 5 – aired 10.30.59

Time Enough at Last: Henry Bemis loves to read but he can find neither the time nor the place to enjoy his pastime. After sneaking down the vault in the bank's basement to read and emerges to find the world destroyed. He sees a great deal of reading time ahead of him. Except for one small unintended event. Season 1 episode 8 – aired 11.20.59

The Invaders: An old woman who lives alone in a ramshackle farmhouse comes face to face with alien invaders, however, the nature of the invaders is not immediately obvious. Season 2 episode 15 – aired 1.27.61

To Serve Man: Michael Chambers recounts recent events on Earth after the arrival of an alien space craft. Chambers attempts to decrypt a book the aliens left behind. The book's title seems benign - but it's not what they think. Season 3 episode 24 – aired 3.02.1962

Eye of the Beholder: Janet Tyler is in hospital having undergone treatment to make her look normal. Her bandages will soon come off, all that to say that truth is in the eye of the beholder. Season 2 episode 6 – aired 11.11.60

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street: After an unexplained occurrence happens to the residents on Maple Street, a series of events causes paranoia and pandemonium to set in, and the neighbors on Maple Street to turn against each other. Season 1 episode 22 – aired 3.4.60

There were a couple of not-so-great issues. One was that the theater was apparently having problems downloading the program, which was supposed to begin at 7pm. At about 7:25 someone from the theater finally announced they were having technical issues but would begin in a couple of minutes. More than a couple of minutes later we were finally underway. To their credit, they did compensate us by handing out free passes as we left the screening.

The other issue is that I was kind of shocked how muted the audience was. I expected a lot more raucous enthusiasm from TZ fans. I was also annoyed by how many people were coming and going from the theater during the program. It was rude and distracting.

On the bright side, despite their age and being made for 1960's era TV screens, the episodes looked fantastic on the big screen. Props to whoever is responsible for that transfer.

The documentary Remembering Rod Serling started out looking like it was going to be nothing more than an ad for the 2019 CBS All Access reboot, as most of the talking heads early on were producers from that show, but once they got into interviews with Serling's daughter Jodi, family friends, and several of his former Ithaca College students, things really got interesting. There was footage I've never seen of Serling discussing writing in depth that was illuminating not only for the craft aspect, but also an incredibly revealing look at what drove Serling to write the things he wrote. I have a feeling I'm going to be spending most of today going down the internet rabbit hole checking out Serling interviews.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The "Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself" stuff is never gonna get old

I'm one of those people who believe filthy rotten pedophile and general all-around piece of shit Jeffrey Epstein had too much dirt on a lot of powerful people who would prefer not to have said dirt exposed to the world, and so he had to die, and not by his own hand. Too bad. I would loved to have seen that dirty laundry aired. I love it when bad people who do bad things get their comeuppance. And I don't care how rich, powerful or important they are. They're not exempt from the same laws - both common human decency and criminal laws - that govern the rest of us. Well, they shouldn't be.

Apparently I'm not alone in believing Epstein didn't off himself because the internets have been going crazy lately with "Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself" memes and references. This ain't going away any time soon.

Here are just a few I've come across in the past few days. Enjoy!

This next one was a gif that I couldn't figure out how to embed, so I just did screenshots:

A brewery in Clovis, California got into the act:

The Epstein meme meets A Christmas Story:

The Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra part just kills me. And on that note - although I know I'm going to be seeing a lot more of this meme - I'm wrapping up this post.

Update 11/14/19: I knew there would be more I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

This sight: I miss it

I miss everything about it.

Monday, November 11, 2019


To everyone who has served or is serving, thank you for putting it all on the line for our freedom. You are the best of the best.

Images snicked from the internets over the years. If you see your work here, let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Old Red Museum in Dallas

A week ago this minute I was on a plane heading back from Dallas. That went fast.

Just a few blocks from The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is the Old Red Museum, so named because of its beautiful red brick structure.

Originally built as a county courthouse, it's a huge, ornate building that The Brother and I promptly fell in love with. We could see the clock tower from our rooms at the Hyatt. When it was outgrown and replaced with a new courthouse, it was renovated and became a historically designated building. It is now home to a huge exhibit of Dallas County historical artifacts.

The self-tour is broken up into four sections for the time periods of: Prehistory - 1873, 1874 - 1917, 1918 - 1945, and 1946 - 2007. Each section begins with a brief video giving background on the time period, then you can go around and check out the artifacts from that period.

They have some amazing stuff. Check it out:

1857 grocery ledger:

Morphine kit that could be used to administer painkillers to soldiers...or put down horses in the battlefield:

George "Spanky" McFarland of Our Gang/The Little Rascals was a Dallas native. They have his little checkerboard britches!

The gun in the middle belonged to Clyde Barrow:

Actual Klan outfit. Pretty creepy:

No joke - the first frozen margarita machine was invented in Dallas:

Dallas native Mariano Martinez was inspired by Slurpee machines he saw at 7-11 stores. This isn't even the original - that one was snapped up by The Smithsonian.

Hats off to the museum for having Tom Landry's trademark fedora:

And J.R. Ewing's Stetson:

The museum also has some Kennedy assassination artifacts. The handcuffs worn by Lee Harvey Oswald when he was shot by Jack Ruby:

And a "doodle" made by Ruby while he was in jail for the shooting:

The Brother and I loved this staircase. I got Bradbury Building vibes from it:

The pictures here are only a small sample of what you see in this museum. They've done a great job of cataloging the history of the area. Adult admission is only $10 (less for seniors, students, and kids) and well worth it.