Assorted links about writing and other creative fields.

What intimacy coordinators do.

It’s common to mock Very Special Episodes of TV shows but they have an effect on viewers.

Although largely, forgotten, W.B. Yeats’ sisters Elizabeth and Lily helped shape Ireland’s sense of national identity. The Porter Sisters, once titans of historical fiction, were likewise written out of literary history.

“As a legitimised vigilante, the bounty hunter as a character can sit in a kind of Lagrange point between the pull of the heroic individualist and the pull of authoritarian imposition of order.” — Camestros Felapton on the appeal of bounty hunter characters.

A 1953 ruling on the limits of parody using copyrighted material obviously didn’t kill parody, but it’s still interesting.

More recently, the Onion filed an amicus brief in a parody case.There’s a legend that Wonder Woman’s one-time mentor I Ching got his name from an error. It isn’t true.

How do we define Native American art? Who gets to make the call?

Ex-President Man-Baby has threatened to sue the Pulitzer Prize Board for awarding prizes to exposes about him. The board is unimpressed.

The ongoing decline of print newspapers’ comics sections.

Heck, an entire newspaper vanished from the Internet a few years ago. Or, as noted at the link, powerful people got it removed.

For some music lovers, Spotify is a flop.

“The problem is not so much the act of appropriation in and of itself, for what is a writer’s job but to imagine the lives of others … the problem is the system that limits who gets to do the imagining.”

“There is something about sex and sexuality that threatens to strip away the context of performance even as it strips the clothes off of performers”

“We dabble a little bit in the ‘90s—which sadly was such an awful decade for music. You have to cherry pick the songs because we don’t want to play a bunch of sappy ballads and we don’t want to play a lot of rap.” — from an article on why oldies stations don’t play 1990s music much.

Yes, recipes still matter.

Diversity comes to The Nutcracker.

One Journey band member wants a fellow ex-member to stop playing their songs at Trump rallies.

An AI-created comic does not qualify for copyright. The US Copyright Office that might change someday.

How do you define panettone and who gets to decide?

The history of unobtanium.

Gerry Conway admires the difficulty of creating a simple image.

Hollywood still keeps trying to adapt unfilmable books.The Vampires Everywhere comic-book in Lost Boys never existed —  but the publisher that produced it did.

Den of Geek strongly objects to the Ian Fleming Estate’s plan to rewrite offensive elements in the Bond books. A wheelchair-user says even if you change the language, you can’t eliminate Fleming’s attitude toward the disabled.

#SFWApro. Wonder Woman cover by Mike Sekowsky, rights to images remain with current holders.

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Bad, bad, bad, bad girls, they make me feel so … uncomfortable?

After watching Mary Reilly, I’d planned to stop watching Jekyll and Hyde-related material unless I go ahead with a film reference book on them. Anything I watch now I’d have to rewatch when I write the book and a lot of films such as Horror High, barely bear watching once. However when I discovered the Tubi streaming service, which I get free through Amazon Prime, has Fantasy Island, I succumbed to the temptation to watch a couple of Stevenson-based episodes (though one is very much an edge case).

Fantasy Island was an anthology show starring Ricardo Montalban as Roark, the enigmatic owner of a fabulous Pacific island vacation resort, with Hervé Villechaize as his right hand, Tattoo. In addition to every possible amenity — gambling casinos, sports, wilderness areas, pools to lounge around — Roark’s special service was catering to guest’s fantasies (my apologies if y’all already know all this). These range from the mundane (a guy wants to live in a version of Three’s Company, rooming with two beautiful women for a week) to the unconventional (a woman wants to fake her death and attend her own funeral) to the paranormal, as in the two here. Various episodes revealed Roark himself is centuries old and possesses considerable supernatural power.

In the first episode (each episode included two plots, but I won’t bother with the other one here), prim, uptight psychologist Dr. Griffin (Rosemary Forsyth) arrives on the island with her sister Jennifer (Maureen McCormack). Griffin works at a halfway house and can’t understand why the girls keep returning to their old, self-destructive lives and bad, dangerous boyfriends. She has the same problem with her sister, whose petty-crook boyfriend Ross (Don Stroud) has made the trip with them.

Roark reveals that Jekyll and Hyde was based on a real case involving Stevenson’s friend Dr. Lanyon (a supporting character in the book) and that he has Lanyon’s formula here. Drinking it turns Griffin into sexy, wild Lila — no makeup as in the Fredric March version, just letting her hair down and putting on a slinky dress.

Lila easily seduces Ross but instead of dumping Ross, Jennifer wants to imitate the bad girl to keep her man. Then it turns out Ross taped his night with Griffin and he threatens to show it to Jennifer, making her realize who Lila really is. Griffin slips into her Lila dress but lacks the oomph her other self put into it; when she tells Ross about the potion he makes her take a much larger dose than safe, resulting in her turning into an ugly harridan who tries to kill him.

Roark intervenes before Griffin becomes a killer. He then tells her her actions sprang from hating men; she admits that her first husband was an abusive brute leading her to reject love and become an emotionally cold figure. Now she realizes the key to dealing with her patients is caring about them; she applies the same warmth to Jennifer and they leave on a happy note.

If the producers thought of Mary Ann and Miss Sophisticate as a Jekyll/Hyde story I doubt they’d have run it a few episodes later (presumably they saw it as an Evil Ventriloquist’s Dummy story, something films have been doing since 1945’s Dead of Night). However it does feel like it deserves a mention.

Annette Funicello plays Mary Ann, “the world’s most famous ventriloquist” thanks to her puppet Valerie, a shameless gold-digging sexpot (“You don’t marry men for money, silly, you divorce them for money.”). Her fiancé George (Don Galloway) wants to marry her, but as she tells Roark, she’s afraid the Valerie side of her personality is clouding her judgment. For one weekend she wants to expel that part of her personality so that she can, as she sees it, think clearly about what she wants. Roark tells Mary Ann that to do that he’ll have to bring her puppet to life. When he does, Valerie (Maren Jensen) reveals she has zero interest in being repressed again once the weekend ends.

Mary Ann’s initial happiness at being free ends when Valerie bangs her knee on a table and Mary Ann feels it (because Valerie is part of her). Valerie takes great glee in hurting herself, then seduces George (it’s implied he’s reacting to her, unconsciously, as part of his fiancee), forcing Mary Ann to feel every second of it (she and George have not slept together). Valerie puts on a ventriloquist show in an empty room with Mary Ann as her submissive puppet; Roark appears and encourages Mary Ann to fight back. The Good Girl fights the Bad Girl and turns her back into a dummy, then burns it. Free of her dark side, she tells Tattoo she’s marrying George and apparently giving up show business.

Watching the two stories confirms my thinking that where male Hydes are sometimes monsters and usually brutes, female Hydes tend to be sexy. Given the amount of discomfort our society has with female sexuality, that makes a certain amount of sense — a lot of women have to repress their urges and conform — but it also feels like a male fantasy (under every prim librarian there’s a sex volcano ready to burn its way out!). Women repress anger too, but I haven’t seen that as much — though of course, there aren’t that many female Hydes to study.

Both these stories seems uncomfortable with the idea Mary Ann or Griffin might have a bad-girl sexual self lurking inside them. There’s no suggestion Griffin enjoys her Lila persona the way Jekyll enjoyed becoming Hyde; despite what Mary Ann says, she shows no sign of being tempted to walk on the wild side or marry someone with more money than George. The logical ending, to me, would be Mary Ann embracing and attaining balance with her wild side, the way Kirk does with his counterpart in Star Trek: The Enemy Within. Instead, the implication is she’s purged her Valerie side completely and is better off for it. I didn’t think that worked when I first saw it and my view hasn’t changed.

#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.


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Republicans say they’re protecting children. But they lie a lot

“The consequences are already playing out in Columbus, Ohio, where a child with measles was able to wander around a mall before showing symptoms in November, potentially spreading the highly contagious disease. The state legislature in 2021 had stripped the city health commissioner’s ability to order someone suspected of having an infectious disease to quarantine.” — from a WaPo story about how Republicans, shrieking FREEDOM, have justified gutting public health powers. It’s an unholy alliance of sincere anti-vax sentiment, blind loyalty to God-King Trump, and greed (right-wing attorney Mat Staver begging for money to fight evil vaccine mandates). Or Ron DeSantis wanting anti-vax votes.

For years Republicans have insisted that they’re the party that cares about children. Protects children. They have more children that liberals so they care about the future more; J.D. Vance has suggested parents should get extra votes for their children because having children means you’re invested in this country. They’re banning drag shows to protect children from groomers! Purging school libraries to protect children’s innocence!

It’s the logic by which Oklahoma State Rep. Warren Hamilton thinks aborting ectopic pregnancies is bad: it doesn’t matter if the fetus can’t survive and the mother has serious health risks, it’s a baby — you can’t kill it!

Yet somehow, when it comes to protect them from serious illness, they’re on the side of Plague.

Or consider Lauren Boebert. Her son is about to become an unwed father at 17, but according to her, that proves conservative values are awesome: “‘Teen moms’ rates are higher in rural conservative areas, because they understand the preciousness of a life that it’s about to be born,” and don’t get abortions. Birth control and better sex ed would cut the teen birth rate and the abortion rate but they hate those things. Of course, this is the party that resists any attempt to ban child marriages so what do I expect?

Having kids grow up in a healthy environment is good for them too, but Republicans don’t support that.

And unsurprisingly, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed a bill making it easier to use child labor. Teaching poor kids their place and reducing the pressure to pay workers more — a win-win (if you’re a shitty human being). She’s part of a trend (supported, the article notes by some Democrats) and in at least one state they’re considering immunizing employers from liability, even in cases of negligence.

They protect kids the same way they support cops and the military — when it advances their political agenda. Otherwise, children (other than their own) are just lumps of flesh to them.

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Thor, Avengers, Hellboy and love: comic book collections read.

MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THOR Volumes 3 (which I don’t think I’ve reviewed and four) show Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at their storytelling best (way better than the previous volume). We have the first one-on-one battle between Thor and the Hulk, then things slide into what’s almost one continuous story for several years. The Trial of the Gods leads into Thor’s first encounter with the Absorbing Man, then the Destroyer, which leads into a battle with Hercules, all spectacularly rendered by Kirby. It’s not all perfect — there’s a totally ridiculous plotline involving a reporter kidnapping Jane Foster. Overall, though, this is great stuff, assuming Silver Age Marvel falls into your wheelhouse.

AVENGERS: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (The Ultimate Collection) by Joe Casey and Scott Kolins takes a very different look behind the scenes of the Avengers’ Silver Age adventures. In the first of the two series we see Tony Stark struggling to get government support for the team while Captain America deals with the 21st century and then to his PTSD reaction to Zemo, the man who killed Cap’s partner Bucky (or so it seemed at the time). This runs from the team’s beginning to the replacement by Cap’s “Kookie Quartet” of Cap, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. The second series covers only a few issues, from the debut of the Vision to right after the wedding of Hank and Jan, but it’s a surprisingly fertile field (I’ve written about the wedding myself). However the subplot exploring Black Panther’s decision to work as an inner-city teacher is much weaker and why would a Wakandan assassin call himself Death Tiger (there are no African tigers)? Overall, well worth the reading and better than Casey’s retelling of the team’s origin.

HELLBOY: Return of Effie Kolb by Mike Mignola and various collaborators is a collection of standalone Hellboy stories. The title one is a sequel to the classic The Crooked Man but my favorite is the weird, eerie Long Night at Goloska Station which includes the phrase “The devil came to my village disguised as a goat.”

E.C. COMICS ARCHIVES: Modern Love by various creators is a poor shadow of their classic horror stuff (though most of that doesn’t work for me either). There’s some interesting stuff like a woman working as a dime-a-dance hostess to support her mother (it segues into a crime story, something else E.C. was big on) but others are stock and a few are cringeworthy. In one, a guy tricks a girl into staying overnight with him at a hotel (separate rooms, no attempt at anything), knowing it will destroy her reputation and her engagement, leaving him free to swoop in. Yes, he gets the girl. I didn’t finish this one.

#SFWApro. Covers by Jack Kirby (top) and John Buscema (bottom).


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Another year older and while not deeper in debt …

… some cash clients would be nice. As I’ve said before, being in a two-income family means the wolf is not at our door despite my various business/finance writing gigs drying up. But I’d still feel better the more I can contribute to covering our expenses. Plus I don’t spend much on myself when money’s not coming in and I like spending money on myself.

(In case you haven’t guessed this, it’s not my usual Saturday movie-review post).

That said, the last year has been a good one. Professionally I self-published Questionable Minds; McFarland published The Aliens Are Us; and both The Savage Year and Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates came out late last year. And while focusing on fiction the past three months hasn’t been lucrative, I do enjoy it.

Away from my computer, things are going well too. I’m still in good health, which I appreciate more with every year that goes by. I’m not at the “I’m just grateful I made it through another year” point — I still expect better than that low bar — but I am pleased when it happens. The dogs are in good health too; Plushie, as the older pup, has a few health issues but we’ve been able to manage them. TYG is much happier since changing jobs which makes me happier and our practice of weekend dates has worked out well too.

As far as I know I have not lived before so I’ve no idea what getting older is going to be like. Anything could hit any of us at any time but I’m a little more chill about that than when I was younger. Onward and upward!

Funny, my birthday posts (mostly on other blogs and websites than this one) used to be a lot deeper with a lot more soul-searching. But since meeting, and then marrying TYG, I’m a lot less stressed about the future. And for that matter the present.

#SFWApro. Covers by Curt Swan (t) and J. Winslow Mortimer


Filed under Personal

In a sense, this week was inevitable

As I’ve written before, things such as workweeks have a tendency to average out — just by random fluctuation a string of good writing weeks will be balanced out by a bad one. Which was this week.

I knew today would be a non-starter because I’m spending it doing stuff with TYG, but I’d planned to make the most of the other four days. Monday I got maybe 2,000 words done on Let No Man Put Asunder; however I think much of it will need reworking before I go on.

Tuesday I put in some work on a short story and its showing progress.

Wednesday the cats came in and snuggled with me for around an hour (as in this older photo).That’s very cool, and Snowdrop even stayed in when I closed the door. However it left me no time for exercise or stretch before the dogs woke up which left me feeling off. After breakfast, I wound up squished between Wisp in the lap and Trixie next to her, both demanding petting and erasing my personal space — and my mind just balked. I got some blogging done, and a little research reading but no writing (blogging, when I’m point, does not count against writing time).Thursday my focus didn’t come back up. It’s partly my old devil of knowing I’m not going to work a full week so why bother to put in any work at all? I did get some stuff done, but low priority, low-intensity stuff, research for my planned Jekyll and Hyde and Doc Savage reference books. Writing would have been better.

Like I said, the law of averages says not every week is going to be stellar. This one wasn’t. But I did get $16 bucks for some of my books from Draft2Digital sales (thank you, whoever you are!). And over at Atomic Junk Shop I published some thoughts on what makes the Bronze Age of comics distinctive and a couple of Silver Age stories that just stuck with me.


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Filed under Personal, Short Stories, Story Problems, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals

Cats hanging out in our dining room

When Wisp and Snowdrop explore, they seem to like the dining room. We use it primarily to store stuff and the dogs don’t spend much time there so perhaps it smells like peace and safety?Plus it’s a more defensible fortress than any space we have in the living room.


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Conform to Party doctrine or you become non-citizen, comrade!

Several years back, someone described the 21st century right-wing as the radical left of the 1960s: better to burn it all down than live in a world that doesn’t conform to their ideals! While I think there’s truth to that, I also think they’re very close to our old enemy, the USSR. Back during the Cold War, the Soviet Union expected everyone to tie the line and accept Communist Party doctrine. Businesses. Schools. Parents, who must bring up their children to conform. That sums up the modern right-wing.

In Texas, for example, if your bar hosts a drag show — politically incorrect under current party doctrine — you’ll pay higher taxes.

The Georgia state government wants tighter control over prosecutors, such as the one investigating Trump.

Florida isn’t the only state trying to stamp out non-Republican thought in schools.

Florida Man also wants to block removing Confederate monuments because history! Given the bill requires the state sign off on any placques or signs providing historical context, I suspect statements like “The Confederate Army killed more American soldiers than any foreign foe in our nation’s history” will not conform to party orthodoxy.

While Florida’s current leadership talks about how they want to give power to parents, that doesn’t apply to parents who support their trans kids. Even if the custodial parent doesn’t live in Florida. Small wonder: right-wing misogynist Matt Walsh says having a trans kid is a fate worse than death — though as you’ll see at the link, he claims there’s no such thing as trans kids so obviously he didn’t mean what he said! Of course this just shows how the right is recycling old anti-gay propaganda (one Christian book described its author losing one kid to a fatal drunk-driving incident, another to the “homosexual lifestyle”) now that they’ve lost the fight for public opinion on that one.

Texas Rep. Bryan Slaton wants to give a tax break to families — provided they’re not gay, neither partner has ever been divorced, and they didn’t have the kids before tying the knot. Slaton also wants a referendum on secession. At least that would get rid of Ted Cruz as a senator …

Missouri wants to ban any sort of LGBTQ education in K-12.

The FBI and Justice Department have investigated Trump, the right wing Messiah — so Matt Gaetz wants to defund law enforcement at the federal level.

Utah will probably ban abortion clinics, forcing all abortions to take place in hospitals.

Republican Iowa State Rep. Brad Sherman (no relation as far as I know) insists banning gay marriage doesn’t take away anyone’s rights — gays can still call their disgusting abomination a marriage if they want, so what’s the problem?

As Paul Campos says, a basic assumption of right-wing ideology is that their beliefs are not ideology: “Right wingers are against indoctrinating children, but they are very much in favor of forcing schools to teach children that America is God’s extra special favorite country, because that’s not indoctrination, that’s just a plain Biblical truth … A more general point here is that anybody who complains about indoctrinating children is talking nonsense, because up to a certain age educating children and indoctrinating them is simply the same thing. So arguing, for example, that schools shouldn’t indoctrinate children is oxymoronic. The question is always and everywhere which doctrines they will be taught, and again the key right wing belief is that authoritarian ethno-nationalism, with an infusion of balsamic Christianity, isn’t a set of doctrines, but rather an unquestionable collection of shared truths, that together make America the Greatest Country in the World.”

See also Vaclav Havel on the power of dissent.


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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches

SVB Bank: Too big to fail?

Back in the 2008 financial crisis, the US propped up a number of banks and financial firms that would otherwise have gone under. They were “too big to fail,” so large their collapse would do unacceptable damage, even if their bad judgment brought it on themselves. Critics said that gave the same companies a free hand to act without consequences — the government wasn’t going to let them fail, right?

And now we have Silicon Valley’s SVB collapse and the government’s promise to cover deposits way above the $250,000 federal bank insurance limit: “On a call with reporters, a Treasury official emphasized that the federal intervention would not bring SVB or Signature back to life, as the enormously controversial bank bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis had done for banks that were close to failing. Their executives would not retain their jobs. These new safeguards were aimed at protecting people and businesses who had made a reasonable decision to put their money into an accredited and regulated bank — not investors who bought risky securities.”

What reasonable? Everyone who has that kind of money should know they were putting in more than the limit; the idea they should get insurance anyway doesn’t work for me.

Republicans are screaming, inevitably, that the bank died because it was too woke, because they always scream that. Possible insider trading by bank management might have been a bigger issue, or the bank pushing for looser regulations. Fox News’ Jesse Watters claims SVB collapsed because of Pride Month. And here’s a goody the Wall Street Journal saying it’s because SVB didn’t have an all-white board.

The bank did a lot of business with venture capitalists and unsurprisingly venture capitalists were furious the government might not reimburse depositors. That includes (as noted at the link), a number of VCers who talk a lot about moral hazard and the dangers of things like student-loan forgiveness, but suddenly want the welfare state to prop up their industry.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think SVB is an outlier. We have a right-wing business group opposing tighter rail regulations in the wake of the Ohio disasters. Florida insurers have dealt with massive payouts in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian by rewriting damage assessments: ” “In one claim reviewed by The Post, a nearly $500,000 damage estimate on a house with a mostly tarped roof was reduced to about $13,000. In another, the desk adjusters blamed roof storm damage on past wear and tear, meaning it would not be covered.”

That the rot in American business is widespread does not, however, mean it’s excusable anywhere.

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Filed under economics, Politics

Uncredited but interesting cover art.

This one looks a lot like Powers’ work.

Next, a novel repackaged to tie in with a movie adaptation.This one became a Barbara Stanwyck film.Is it just me or should that women’s nipples be popping out of that top?

This one’s chilling, I think.I like this cover too.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.

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