i bounce back, at least a little

Not a stellar week, but more productive than last week. I still didn’t have the presence of mind to focus on fiction so I returned to my Undead Sexist Cliches book. I got about 11,000 added words done. That felt good. And I got my Leaf articles done for the week.

And that was about it. Added dog care used up some of the time. So did a trip for a car check-up (unnecessary as it turned out; things were fine). And Tuesday, both pups freaked out because the gutter cleaners came and that meant STRANGER DANGER! HE”S MAKING NOISES! HE HAS A LADDER! DADDY, DO SOMETHING! That kind of thing makes it really hard to work.

I did, however, finish my first post at Atomic Junkshop in a while, dealing with what comic books on DC’s Earth-One were like.

Plus I seem to have maxed out my body’s insomnia tolerance. I still wake up early, but my naps have been getting a lot longer.

However, we’ll be doing some fun stuff this weekend, and I’m confident next week will see some real improvement.

Below, a symbolic photo of a flour arising amidst winter’s detritus Deep, aren’t I?

#SFWapro. Photo is mine, please credit me if you use it. Comic book panel by Carmine Infantino with Joe Kubert inks, all rights remain to current holder.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Personal, The Dog Ate My Homework, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book, Writing

Me, the early years

So during last year’s visit to Florida, I acquired my baby book from among Mum’s leftovers (stored in my sister’s bedroom). As it was my birthday Monday, I thought I’d share fascinating insights into my past.

I was born at 10:46 PM, weighing seven pounds, 5.5 ounces and stretching a magnificent 21 inches long (that’s actually a third of my height now). I had blond hair and blue eyes, which changed to brown and hazel within a few years.

I started liking nursery rhymes at six months old and subsequently became a fan of that classic novel, The Dog Goes Woof.

At six months I had no interest in TV except commercials. By a year old, I was hooked.

Foodwise I loved milk, bananas and Farley’s Rusks. “Rusk” was actually my first word, to which I soon added “butter,” car” and “Teddy.” By a year old I was eating everything I could, which surprises me — my earliest memories are of me as a picky eater.

I got vaccinated against whooping cough, polio and smallpox (take that anti-vaxxers!). I did come down with diptheria at 11 months, which TYG boggles at — she’s never heard of anyone she knows having diptheria.

At six months I got around by rolling. At nine months I crept, at ten months I started walking.

#SFWApro. Any rights to the cover image remain with the current holder.

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Judging Tucker Carlson by things he says? That’s outrageous!

So as I linked to recently, alt.right-curious Tucker Carlson (who thinks its bad when women out-earn men and that women buying men dinner is disgusting) told a radio host that women like being ordered “do what you’re told” and that a statutory rapist whose willing to marry his victim shouldn’t be treated as a crook (“arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old and a 27-year-old is not the same as pulling a stranger off the street and raping her”). Given his continued sexist views (he also believes men are the oppressed sex in America) his defense that “if you want to know what I think, you can watch” lacks a little something. Right-wingers, however, have an explanation: his words are irrelevant because liberals used research to unearth his quotes! How dare they look up things Carlson said in the past! It’s like a Jedi mind trick, or that time they stole Kevin D. Williamson’s career! Liberals destroy everything! While I doubt Carlson will go down, he is at least hurting.

In other news:

It’s way too early to place bets on 2020, at least for me. I hate the fact that running for president has already started. And there’s absolutely no predicting anything at this point. Okay, I think it’ s a safe bet that if Trump doesn’t die or get impeached (and he’s not getting impeached), he’s the Republican candidate in 2020 but beyond that? But I do think there’s some truth to the argument that the media will gush over Trump a lot and that this will help him. It wouldn’t be the first time media gush has shaped the election. And we’ll also get silly commentary like this.

Anti-Islam bigot John Guandalo says it doesn’t violate the First Amendment to ban Muslims from government because Islam is not a religion. Fox News’ Jeanine Piro claims Ihlan Omar follows sharia which is unconstitutional so she can’t be in Congress. And other people think allowing her to walk around being Muslim means we’ve forgotten 9/11. I’m sure if we start showing posters with prominent white conservatives and ask why we’ve forgotten Oklahoma City, they’ll agree it’s just the same, right?

Trump can’t stand to admit to even a tiny mistake.

Why people shout racist abuse.

Reagan signed MLK Day into law, but he wasn’t a fan of King, and implied King brought it on himself by encouraging people to break the law.

Professional liar Dinesh D’Souza struggles to prove the left inspired Hitler’s genocidal views.

Oh, the horror! “Every email announcement the Federalist Society sent out met a snarky, vitriolic response by progressive students.”

Right-winger Tony Perkins demands the feds regulate PayPal because it’s too left-wing.

A feminist guide to raising boys.

The far-right in Europe isn’t very different in its sexist views from the Muslim far-right.

Why Facebook moderators supposed to moderate crazy political posts start to believe them instead. And people targeted by conspiracy theories find their lives become nightmares.

Will self-driving cars have a harder time spotting black pedestrians than white?

Successful people are often shocked when someone points out they had luck (including being born rich, born white, not growing up in an abusive home) as well as talent.

Let’s end on an upnote: two boys starting a feminist club in their all-male school.


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Doctor Who’s Horror Era: Fourth Doctor, Second Season

One of the reasons so many Doctor Who fans remember the Fourth Doctor’s era fondly is seasons like this one. S13 was quite unlike anything I’d seen before, borrowing plot elements from classic SF and even more from horror, a trend that runs through Image of the Fendahl a couple of seasons later. It’s surprisingly grim at times: A character in Seeds of Doom dies in a giant composting machine (not as funny as it sounds). In Pyramids of Mars the Doctor shows Sarah what the present will look like if they give up fighting the alien Sutekh and just go home: a dead, lifeless Earth of ash and dust (one of the series’ best scenes).

The series kicks off with Terror of the Zygons, a well-exected Invasion of the Bodysnatchers thriller. The alien Zygons are scheming in the vicinity of Loch Ness; said scheme involves replacing humans with Zygon infiltrators. That’s a stock set-up (it could as easily have been The Faceless Ones from the Hartnell era) but it’s effectively executed, and the Zygons are bizarre-looking enough to be memorable.

Planet of Evil surprised me because I’d confused it with Leela’s debut (coming up next season), Face of Evil. The Doctor and Sarah (and having them off on their own away from UNIT and Harry shows what a good team they were) arrive on Zeta Minor, the planet at the far edge of the universe (the jungle sets are surprisingly effective). Unfortunately it’s actually on the border of this universe and an anti-matter one; a mining expedition tampering with anti-matter rocks is unleashing very unpleasant consequences and a lot of deaths. Where Zygons was an alien invasion story, this one is pure SF horror, much of it taking place in small spaces.

Pyramids of Mars is a classic. Returning from Zeta Minor, the TARDIS lands at UNIT HQ back when it was a mansion. Scarman, the Egyptologist who owns it is now under the spell of Sutekh, the alien Osirian who provided the Egyptians with the model for Set. Scarman is working to free his master (an army of robot mummies helps), at which point Sutekh will destroy Earth and as much of the rest of the universe as he can find ( “Where I tread, I leave nothing but dust and darkness — I find that good.”). As noted above, we get to see what happens if the Doctor doesn’t win, and it looks very much as if he won’t.

The Android Invasion is another alien infiltrator story, though that doesn’t become obvious immediately. The Doctor and Sarah return to Earth but the village they arrive seems a little off, and a little sinister. It turns out to be a mock-up rehearsing alien androids to pass as human, with the real invasion to follow.  This one works better than it could have, but it has some big flaws (why does the deadly virus intended to wipe out humanity only kill one person?).

Back to horror with The Brain of Morbius; the Doctor and Sarah land on a creepy planet, seek shelter from a storm in an isolated mansion and discover Solon (Philip Madoc), a mad scientist cast out from the scientific community for his transplant experiments. What they’ve also found, though they don’t know it yet, is the Time Lord Morbius, now reduced to a brain in a life-support tank as the Frankensteinian Solon prepares him a body from the planet’s occasional visitors. It’s effective and spooky but suffers badly from disability cliches, and peters out at the end (it’s a classic horror finish, but it didn’t quite work for me).

We wrap up with Seeds of Doom, in which scientists discover the eponymous pods of the alien Krynoid, a sentient plant that devours animal life. And wouldn’t you know it, the pods fall into the hands of Chase, a millionaire botanist who’s way more interested in studying the ET plant than worrying about whether it will end all animal life on Earth. Tony Beckley as Chase is a delight, managing to make even his rants about bonsai (the sadistic practice of mutilating innocent plants for human pleasure!) sound natural; when he sides with the Krynoid against humanity, it’s not at all surprising. The rest of the guest cast works just as well. The only drawback is that again, the ending is flat, with UNIT defeating the Krynoid through brute force rather than any sort of cleverness (a Doctor Who story needs a better end than blowing shit up real good).

It was a real pleasure to watch this season again. #SFWApro, all rights to image remain with current holder.

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Doc Savage: Lester Dent gets credit, and explains why pulps are shrinking

THE DERELICT OF SKULL SHOAL is a Doc Savage landmark of sorts. Due to an editorial screw-up it’s the only novel in the series where Lester Dent is named as the author. It’s also the first time Doc, after more than a year of complaints about being stuck on the home front, gets into the shooting war.

We open on a Merchant Marine vessel shipping cargo through a stretch of water where several ships have recently vanished. Doc and Monk are undercover as seamen; as the story opens, Doc hears a dog howl somewhere in the middle of the ocean. Next second, the ship is apparently torpedoed and evacuated. Doc gets hit behind and wakes up on the empty ship. While not concussed, the damage is enough he can barely move, and operates at maybe a third of his usual capacity.

It turns out the ship hasn’t been hit; it’s a scheme to get the crew off so pirates can loot it. Led by a former Hollywood producer, they have a flamboyant skull and crossbones flag; the villain is so amusing, I wish they’d had a longer novel to give him more space. Doc, Monk and Trigger, a female Naval agent, wander around the ship trying to figure out what’s going on before they end up on Skull Shoal, where the captured ships are all grounded, stripped and abandoned.

It’s one of the better stories that have Doc operating at the level of an ordinary, though very tough, character. Though the jungle tribesmen who happen to be stranded on Skull Shoal feel squeezed into the story very awkwardly to provide an extra thrill.

By contrast, THE WHISKER OF HERCULES is more of a pre-war Doc novel in style. We start with pretty Lee Mayland trying to reach Doc to warn him about her brother getting mixed up in something criminal. Something that relates to Hercules. The bad guys try to stop her, Monk and Ham step in to rescue her. When Doc and his crew swoop in to capture the bad guys someone who seems to flicker in and out of existence keeps appearing and slugging them with superhuman strength.

As if that wasn’t weird enough when they catch up with the guy, he’s dead, and apparently aged in just a few minutes. Yes, it’s another wonder-working McGuffin, in this case providing superhuman speed (which I guessed early on); the strength is simply the result of smashing into things at a faster-than-the-eye-can-see velocity. The crooks plan to exploit it with one big robbery; Doc is determined to stop them.

Doc’s back in his pre-war mode and we see more gadgetry than we have in a while, including a gas created by Monk (who’s once again an electrical expert rather than just chemistry) that bursts into flame if anyone fires a gun into the vapors. It’s not a great novel, but it’s solid.

THE THREE DEVILS starts out spooky enough as Doc and the gang land at a small Canadian town in the woodlands to find it apparently abandoned. And the person who called them there is dead. And the the radio station has been smashed by what appears to be a giant bear. Oh, and someone’s sabotaged their plane so they can’t fly away.

The dead guy was a friend of Ham who believed something sinister was going on in the area. Pulp mills, as we learn mid-book, are vital to the war effort because of all the different uses for cellulose (the narrative also explain the resultant paper shortage is why Doc Savage Magazine has shrunkin size). Only attacks by Black Tuesday, a legendary demon bear (the name is the closest translation of the native name) are driving people off and shutting down the mills. This is partly rationalized by almost everyone in this area being native peoples or mixed race, so they’re Superstitious Natives at heart.

And once again, the bad guys imply Doc Savage is behind it all, and the authorities buy it. To make it worse, three mounties get killed and the crooks get Renny and Monk’s fingerprints on the weapons.

And here we encounter a problem Will Murray discussed in Writings in Bronze: the murder never actually happens. The mounties were found dead at the end of one chapter, but the pages were lost in the editing process As a result, the references to the deaths come out of the blue.

This is a competent but unmemorable adventure, but I do like the villains’ long-range planning: the Nazis sent deep-cover agents into the area twenty years earlier to begin stirring up rumors and fears of the devil bear that are now paying off. It’s an interesting touch … though it’s hard to believe the Third Reich was sending spies into Canada in 1924!

#SFWApro. All rights to covers remain with current holders. Art by Modest Stein

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Why what we say matters

So last year I posted on FB about “Apartment Patty,” the white woman who harassed a black man coming into the apartment building where they both lived and demanding he prove he was a tenant. For which her employer canned her. One of my FB friends, a right-winger who believes companies can fire anyone at any time for any reason, nevertheless declared this was bad, bad, bad! Thought policing! And if we penalize people for being racist, then they’ll hide their racism (I’m guessing he’d say the same for sexism, Islamophobia and homophobia, especially as he’s sexist and Islamophobic). Then people won’t know to avoid them!

First off, this is a dumbass argument in this context. The guy was entering his apartment building when the woman harassed him; how’s he supposed to avoid that? Time his comings and goings so they don’t meet? Move?

Second, I suspect that if the victims of this kind of bigotry have to choose between a)people openly harassing them or calling them for being in public while black and b)having to live with the possibility that people around them are racist but hiding it, they’d pick B. Ditto women being asked to choose between getting cat-called and groped vs. merely knowing some men around them might want to do it.

And third, stuff like this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. As I’ve written before, people take their cues from what they see other people do and get away with. One post from England said that soccer fans yell abuse at black players because they know it’ll be supported by some and ignored by the rest: “There are plenty of people around you in the crowd who will listen to you roar abuse and who’ll still share a drink and a joke with you at half-time and after the match.”

Or consider the recent New Zealand shooter, who declared his admiration for Donald Trump as a white champion. He also admired Norwegian terrorist Andre Brevik. Incels likewise idealize misogynist shooter Elliott Rodgers. Anti-Muslim bigots are, of course, loudly denouncing the attacks even though they don’t sound that different (“Islam is the ‘religion of peace’ in the same way that rape is snuggling,” — Matt Barber) or claim similar attacks could happen here because, liberals!

If people see they can be racist shits and not suffer consequences, some of them will indeed give in to the impulse to be racist shits (“Somewhere, in a newsroom or a living room, there are countless others with the same bile in them as you, slightly more confident today than they were yesterday” in the words of the soccer link). Ditto how they treat gays, women, Muslims, Jews, trans people, etc., etc. to infinity. Some because they are racist shits. Some because they had a crappy day and they want to lash out at someone. Some because it just feels good if they can push someone, anyone around and see they’ve delivered a shot of pain. If there’s no consequences, why not?

If they see there are consequences, maybe they stay quiet. That’s not only better for the victims, it reduces the incentive for others to be jerks. Not being a jerk is not as good as being an actual decent person, but it’s an improvement. That’s why I’m glad a black Detroit man is suing three women for harassment-by-cop; it’s both what they deserve (assuming they’re guilty, which I don’t have much doubt about) and a disincentive to others.

Ignoring these kinds of behaviors will not bring about a post-racial world. Pushing back and condemning them might bring us a little closer. That was part of the point of Gillette’s toxic masculinity ad — that just smiling and saying “boys will be boys” sends the message their behavior is OK, even if it isn’t.


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Happy birthday to me, and to my blog!

Sixty one years today. My goodness. And I continue to be lucky that my health concerns have been minor and not life-threatening or seriously disabling. That’s not something all my friends can say.

This looks to be a quiet birthday. I’d intended to do something special, but with TYG’s crazy schedule that’s not really practical, so it’ll just be a quiet dinner out, FB birthday wishes and gifts. But we have several unrelated social activities coming up this month so I’ll still be having fun. And there’s always next year (or so one can hope).

I realized earlier this year that I started this WordPress blog 10 years ago. It was actually my third shot at blogging. First came a personal blog on LiveJournal, but my blogging community there dried up as everyone found Facebook could provide the same sort of connections. Overlapping with LJ came a writing blog on MySpace, which lasted until MySpace stopped doing blogs and erased all the content. Even before that, I’d started cross-posting at WordPress; MySpace had the obvious disadvantage that only members could read it. Great for friend networks, not so good for promoting my writing.

While I didn’t know it at the time, 2009 was a transitional year. I’d been dating TYG long-distance for about six months when I started at WordPress and it looked like we were in it for the long haul. I loved my reporting job, but the company”s cheapness was making my finances less and less workable. I was working on my third film-reference book for McFarland (Screen Enemies of the American Way) and selling short stories occasionally.

A year later I was engaged, living in Durham, and starting as a full-time freelancer. Now we’re married, own a house, and share our lives with Plushie, Trixie and (sort of) Wisp. While I miss my Ft. Walton Beach friends, life is definitely better.

I suppose my biggest regret, in hindsight, is that the fiction-writing side of my life hasn’t improved as much as I’d like. I still sell stories, but I hoped that in a decade I’d be selling to bigger (and better paying) markets. Or selling more frequently and faster; it still takes repeated submissions to multiple markets before any of my short stories finally sell. Southern Discomfort isn’t drawing any instant agent attention; I don’t know it will do any better with publishers. Not that I expected to be a JK Rowling-class household name, but I hoped I’d see some improvement over a decade.

But I am paying my share of the bills with my writing and I do get to stay home with Plushie and Trixie all day, even if they do sometimes drive me crazy (as I write this Plushie is loudly demanding I Do Something about Wisp sunning herself on the porch). And even if the stories don’t sell, they do get written, and I wrote them. And that’s cool.

#SFWApro. Action cover by Curt Swan, all rights to both images remain with current holder.




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Milk, Amazons, videogames and more: books and graphic novels

DC/YOUNG ANIMAL: Milk Wars by multiple writers and artists was a crossover event between Gerard Way’s Young Animals imprint and the mainstream DC universe. A sinister corporation is purging Earth’s reality, turning Superman into a milkman, Batman into an affable preacher and Wonder Woman into Wonder Mom; can the Doom Patrol, Mother Panic and other imprint characters save the day? This was fun but as the one section drawing on a character I didn’t know fell flat (Shade, the Changing Woman, thanks for asking), I’m not sure it would work for anyone who doesn’t know them. And the meta-commentary about how corporate culture blands out original ideas didn’t entirely work — you can make the case for Wonder Woman, but Batman’s been getting darker and crazier year after year, not blander and nicer.

WONDER WOMAN: Amazons Attacked by James Robinson and Stephen Segovia was better than Robinson’s first WW TPB, but it’s still a long way from being enjoyable, let alone good. The plot has Jason and Diana adjusting to their new relationship while Grail and Darkseid make their bid to take over Earth. But Jason, Grail and the New 52 Darkseid are all dull and the story didn’t do anything to improve things.

LEVEL UP by Gene Luen Yuang and Thien Pham is an oddball story about a Chinese-American kid, Dennis, whose nose-to-the-grindstone approach to life (how else can he fulfill his parents’ dream of becoming a doctor) falters when he discovers video games; then four angels appear to keep nudging him along the path of absolute dedication. As one reader said, Yuang comes off as embracing the cliche that nobody who plays videogames can hold down a normal job; that aside, this isn’t entirely successful but I did find it entertaining.

THE BATMAN FILMOGRAPHY Second Edition by Mark S. Reinhart is a detailed look at the plots, production values and backstage conflicts of all the Batman movies from the 1943 Batman serial through Dark Knight Rises, as well as covering the comics, TV series, direct-to-video films and Bats’ appearances in Superman’s radio show (my friend Ross helped Reinhart with that). I skimmed a lot of this because I don’t need a detailed break down of the film plots, but Reinhart still does an excellent job detailing the creative decisions that blessed or broke the franchise (Tim Burton getting a free hand to make Batman Returns led to a much darker, grosser film than Warner Brothers wanted, for instance).

DELINQUENT DAUGHTERS: Protecting and Policing Adolescent Female Sexuality in the United States, 1885-1920 by Mary E. Odem covers some of the same material as Trials of Nina McCall and Bad Girls but does it better. At the end of the 19th century, women reformers began pushing to raise the age of consent, which was ten in most states, to sixteen or eighteen to protect girls from predators (one fear men expressed at the time was that underage girls would seduce them, then cry rape to blackmail them. The more things change …). Odem then looks at how this played out in the legal system (more inclined to slap guys on the wrist and punish the women), parents (many of whom saw the new laws as a way to restrain their daughters’ independence), across class lines (middle-class reformers equated working class working moms, let alone working daughters, with Bad Parenting) and the girls themselves (neither as innocent as the reformers thought or the cheap tramps the legal system imagined). A good book that catches the ambiguity and complexity of how this stuff worked out in practice.

#SFWApro. Cover by Pham, all rights remain with current holder.

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Satan, the British Empire, a strange plane flight and Galileo: movies, TV and a play

The original BEDAZZLED (1967) stars Dudley Moore as a short-order cook desperately in love with waitress Eleanor Bron to the point he sells his soul to Satan (Peter Cook, Moore’s colleague in Beyond the Fringe) in return for seven wishes he can use to make her his. Moore’s Stanley makes a much better schlub than Brendan Fraser in the remake, and Peter Cook’s Satan is just awesome — no Miltonian grandeur here, as he himself admits his role in God’s design forces him to engage in petty, spiteful stunts, and he’s blithely willing to stab Stanley in the back. I also like that Bron is quite average-looking, which it makes it feel more like love than just looks. Then again, Stanley’s comfortable with having his dream girl mindwiped and personality changed with the multiple wishes, which is creepier than I found it first run; there’s also an amazingly gratuitous rape joke mid movie. I still like the film a lot, but YMMV. “What rotten sins I’ve got working for me — I suppose it’s the wages.”

Reading David Cannadine’s Ornamentalism prompted me to watch ISLAND IN THE SUN (1957) in which the island colony’s British administrators and white planter ruling class struggle to adapt to a black majority that wants a seat at the table (it’s interesting that even with the Empire in decline, the issue is representation in the island parliament rather than independence). The politics, however, takes a back seat to the colorful Caribbean settings and the soap opera plots, most of which involve race mingling: Can salesclerk Dorothy Dandridge and a white author forge a lasting love? Will black activist Harry Belafonte succumb to wealthy Joan Fontaine? Can planter’s kids Joan Collins and James Mason deal with learning they’re Tragic Mulattoes? I have an odd fondness for this kind of 1950s soaper, but I wouldn’t say it was any good — and I could have done without Mason’s casual spousal rape (which is promptly forgotten about as it’s no big deal). Michael Rennie plays a womanizing veteran. “Have you ever heard of a book called Crime and Punishment?”

I didn’t realize MANIFEST wrapped up its season with sixteen episodes or I’d have reviewed it sooner. The premise is that Flight 828 disappeared five years ago, then miraculously showed up, with no awareness of the time gap. What happened? What are the mysterious “callings” guiding them to help others? Can they pick up their lives when everyone they knew has moved on? And what is the government’s interest in 828?

This works best dealing with the personal drama (the cast is good) and the mystery, less well on the government conspiracy and not at all on the crazy “Xers” who want to kill them all as muties or witches or something. While the payoff may not be worth it, I do hope the show returns. “Right, why wouldn’t I look for them using a crayon drawing?”

Playmakers Theatre did a spectacular job staging Bertold Brecht’s LIFE OF GALILEO and the cast was certainly solid. Unfortunately the play has nothing to say about freedom of thought or Religion vs. Reason that I haven’t heard a hundred times before, and I know how Galileo’s struggle with the church turns out so this really did nothing for us. “To hell with the pearl — I want a healthy oyster!”

#SFWApro. All rights to image remain with current holder.

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I went out there a nobody, I came back a star with low testosterone!

As I said this morning, this week was a mess.

TYG’s schedule exploded, so I was busy with lots of extra dog care, starting on the weekend. As a result it was next to impossible to get much done: any time I’d start to concentrate, there’d be dogs. And even when they were lying quietly in my lap, the accumulated extra time was wearing me down. I’ve had this experience before; after a certain point I just feel my personal space is eroded and my brain clogs up. So while I got some Leaf articles done, that was about it (to make it clear, no blame attaches to TYG. She’d much sooner walk the dogs in the morning than have me do it, but it just wasn’t an option. Not her fault).

So let’s talk about Wednesday and my return to acting for the first time since I arrived in Durham (I also finished my federal taxes, but that’s not as cool).

Walking the dogs, I’ve met a lot of people in the neighborhood. One of them, Gwen, the owner of a shih tsu rescue dog (too abused to be friendly to other dogs, alas), works for Web MD. Via MedScape that company puts up training videos for doctors, where they get to see scripted doctor/patient interactions. Gwen mentioned last month that they were working on a video for English MDs and were having trouble finding a middle-aged English man to play the role. And here I was, and I’d mentioned I used to do theater, so—?

I said sure! And after paperwork, and talking with one of WebMD’s people by email, I showed up at their Durham office Wednesday to play The Man With Low Testosterone. Actually, that’s only alluded to in passing; most of the conversation in the script they sent me focused on symptoms and life situations. As “Gilbert” I have Type II diabetes and some urination problems (antibiotics helped with that). I also can’t seem to get it up. And I have a younger girlfriend so I’m scared I won’t be satisfactory when we get to the bedroom. The script ends after I detail all this and the doctor reassures me I’m perfectly normal.

The office/studio was in a fancy big office building off Miami, conveniently close to my home. It looked almost like a TV set, somehow: lots of people writing or working at desks, sandwiches available for lunch (including vegetarian happily), and the studio. Both the director and the woman playing the doctor were Brits too. I talked with the director about how I figured on playing the part (comfortable, pleased with progress on my urinary issues, embarrassed and awkward when we reached the sex talk). He approved. I got made up, took a seat on the set and did my acting with face and some hand movements. And voice, of course. The lines were on a teleprompter so I didn’t have to worry about getting them right; my biggest challenge was looking as if I were actually making eye contact with the doctor when she spoke.

They’d set aside two hours for the gig, but we wrapped up in 40 minutes. Other than a couple of instructions (pausing in a couple of spots) the director was pleased with my reading so it was just a matter of getting two or three takes they could pick from. Then we were done. And I even get paid!

Getting done so early, I went to the blood bank to donate, but they were booked up with an hour of appointments when I arrived there. I ran some errands instead, including getting a haircut. And I discovered chai tea at the local coffee/tea shop is not the same as their chai latte, and considerably less satisfying.

It was a fun day in an otherwise frustrating week. But the pups are still adorable, so that’s something.

#SFWApro. Image is mine.

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