Tag Archives: Alien visitors

Two against the flood-tide!

So Wednesday morning, I turned on the kitchen-sink tap to wash my hands, and the water was hot. Really hot. Scalding hot. Hotter than normal. A quick online search revealed that this was bad — either the thermostat on our hot water tank was broken or the valves were busted, forcing steam into the water. I called and made a plumbing appointment for Thursday morning, then shut off the breaker (they recommended it).

Thursday morning, no plumber. Turned out that like the previous plumber we tried, the office hadn’t informed the plumber about the appointment. Unlike the previous plumber, he got out there late afternoon, shut off the water, diagnosed the problem, and replaced the tank (it was 18 years old which for a hot-water tank is old). There was quite a bit of flooding before he shut the water down, but nothing that should be a serious problem (unlike for the Avengers).

I also went down to our dentist Tuesday morning and they were late too. Because they never are, I hadn’t brought a book, and didn’t feel like starting anything I had on my phone. Rather than wait an hour, I headed home. An annoying waste of time, but our dentist is good enough I’ll put up with it.

Despite those distractions, it was a productive week. I did my last Leaf and Veterans Network articles for the month, then plunged into a mix of viewing for Alien Visitors and rewriting Undead Sexist Cliches. I’d planned to do the writing on Alien Visitors but the various distractions made it harder to focus, and going over Undead Sexist Cliches was easier. I’ve now finished editing through Chapter Five.

I tried another new time-management trick this week. I spend the last 90 minutes of the day going through email and blogging, but those tasks often ooze into the writing part of the day. So I set myself a pure writing week of 27.5 hours, specifically excluding any email or blogging. That upped my efficiency some, I think. And I didn’t feel guilty about blogging time.

Oh, and my social life is getting back to normal. Last weekend, my writer’s group (and some associates) had a party at one member’s house. It felt sooooo good to see people in the flesh instead of just over Zoom. We’re still not able to meet in person, but my Shut Up and Write group (Monday nights) will do a mix of live-action and Zoom meetings — first live one’s Monday.

On that note, have a great weekend, y’all.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, rights to image remain with current holder.

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My One Simple Scheduling Trick is actually working pretty well

Not that my new system made my week go smooth, but no question it’s helping me get perspective on what I should be doing. Much as I want to work on Undead Sexist Cliches, I’ve used up the time for the month and need to do a lot of work on Alien Visitors. So that’s what I shall do next week.

This week? Well, this was entirely Leaf and Veterans Network stuff (my story on VA home loans came out this week). Money assignments, alas, always take priority. And unfortunately I was bogged down by all the chaos from last week. I wound up working a little Saturday and Sunday to get extra Leafs done; with TYG’s friend visiting, that wound up taking much more time than it should have. And working on the weekend left me wiped the rest of the week so everything took longer than it should have. Including my Atomic Junkshop post on how pandemic reality once again tops fiction. Seriously, would anyone write a story where we use a lottery and offers of free beer to convince people to vaccinate against a deadly disease? And if someone did, it would be a comedy.

Between TYG’s friend (he stayed through Tuesday), taking the dogs to the groomer and my checkup yesterday, my time was further constrained. I didn’t even get to give blood yet, which was (and is) one of my priorities once the vaccine took effect. Next week, for sure! It’s in the schedule now. I didn’t even exercise as much as usual. However the doctor says I’m doing really well: cholesterol not great (it rarely is) but compared to a year ago I’ve lost weight and my blood pressure’s down. I celebrated, as usual, by spending today scarfing everything (I’m health! My body can take it!). Back to normal tomorrow.

So that’s it. Not an exciting week, though for me a profitable one. And I did sell one copy of Atlas Shagged. I made 26 cents (it was the ebook) but I still appreciate whoever took a chance on me.

To wrap up with, here’s a cover by James Bama — only it’s not the cover that grabs my attention as that thuddingly literal title. Not that thuddingly literal can’t work (e.g., Snakes on a Plane, I Married a Monster From Outer Space), but “Tyrant and Slave-Girl on Planet Venus” really doesn’t sing.#SFWApro. All rights to images remain with current holders.


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Jennings, a Genius and television: books read

JENNINGS AND DARBISHIRE by Anthony Buckeridge wraps up that omnibus volume TYG bought me, as Jennings and Darby’s efforts to launch a Form Three newspaper leads to stuffing a parcel of fish up the chimney, wandering on the Sussex moors in the dead of night, trying to master algebra, eating way too many donuts and learning the dark secrets of Mr. Wilkins’ past. While I don’t feel the urge to seek out any more of the series just now, this was a fun one to wrap up with.

EVIL GENIUS by Catherine Jinks is a bizarrely engaging twist on that popular figure of Y/A and younger fiction, the Precocious Kid Too Smart To Fit In. The perpetually frustrated, outcast Cadel discovers he inherited his brains from his supervillain father, who then enrolls Cadel at the equivalent of Evil Hogwarts to train him into a master criminal. This is a lot of fun, though it runs out of steam at the end — the action packed climax doesn’t fit the rest of the book, and Cadel spends much of it acted upon rather than acting.

I read WELCOME TO THE DREAMHOUSE: Popular Media and the Postwar Suburbs by Lynn Spigel primarily because her chapter on paranormal sitcoms such as Mork and Mindy is relevant to Alien Visitors. Spigel’s thesis, which my friend Ross had told me about, is that the sitcoms subvert the cliches about suburban life much the way an ethnic family might have done in the 1950s — The Addams Family, for example, shows that while the Addams are unfailingly friendly and helpful to the neighbors, their utter nonconformity makes them outcasts.

Despite Spigel’s academic writing style, the rest of the book proved interesting too. Spigel discusses how TV was initially presented as a way to stay home with the family while seeing the world, the influence on family dynamics, the use of sitcom images as a version of historical reality, and The Truman Show‘s take on suburban domesticity as a trap.

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Na-nu, Na-nu!

In 1978, Robin Williams was a wildly anarchic improv comic. Then came Mork and Mindy. The show made Williams a star, and having just finished rewatching the first season, it’s easy to see why.

The concept — alien visitor tries to make sense of life on Earth with the help of Mindy (Pam Dawber) sounded like a rehash of My Favorite Martian, which had Ray Walston as the ET moving in with reporter Bill Bixby. Williams made Mork much much more. His manic, hyper-energetic delivery (I’m not surprised to read he was a heavy cocaine user around this time) makes even mildly weird lines sound bizarre. And many of his antics are several times weirder: falling in love with a mannequin or going around the bend when Mindy’s frenemy Susan (Morgan Fairchild) tries to seduce him. The episode where he lets go of his repressed emotions and becomes an impulsive whirlwind has to be seen to be believed. Not that all the episodes were that crazy: one where Mork and Bickley (Tom Poston) go to a singles bar could have been done on almost any show with two single male characters.

Dawber is competent as Mindy, but suffers from being straight man to Williams’ scene stealing. They do work well together, though, giving Mork a warmth he might not otherwise have. The supporting cast includes Mindy’s long-suffering father (Conrad Janis) and Exidor (Robert Donner), a street-corner prophet who makes Mork look almost normal. In one episode, Mork adopts a caterpillar as a pet; Exidor declares it’s the reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln (“Does that look like a face that would tolerate slavery?”).

It may be significant that where Walston’s Martin seems like a nice, avuncular guy to hang with, Mork would be a lot harder to endure for long. Alf, the 1980s’ contribution to this kind of sitcom, was even more annoying and the My Favorite Martian movie made Martin as irritating as Mork, without any of the warmth.

The show ended the first season as a solid hit, but the producers then tampered with success, changing the supporting cast and (I’m going by critical reviews here, as I missed most of that season) making Mork increasingly mundane. Third season attempted to fix this, first by acknowledging the problem: by the first episode of S3, Mork has completely assimilated and become mundane. It takes an “eggorcism” (eggs play a big role on Mork’s home planet, Ork) to restore him to his goofy self. Fourth season, they tried to keep things going with that old reliable, a wedding: Mork and Mindy finally marry, then they have a baby. But as Orkans start out physically adult and age backwards (that way kids get some respect and everyone thinks seniors are cute) the baby — Mork gets pregnant and delivers Jonathan Winters as the baby. This produced some fun episodes, but it didn’t save the series. Though obviously Williams’ career didn’t suffer any.

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I think I overdosed on freedom

So Tuesday my second vaccination took full effect. This is way cool: we made it through a pandemic without catching it and now we can resume something approaching normal life. After a year feeling as imperiled as Mr. Miracle —— it’s a real relief. I’m happy and grateful. Still, the need to do multiple things we’d been putting off did not make for a productive week. While my top goals for Freedom were to visit my comic book store and go out to eat, neither one actually happened — the Musts took priority.

Housekeepers came in Thursday. This was a “must” because we had a friend of TYG’s arriving for a mutual friend’s funeral today. The alternative to getting the cleaners in ASAP was to do it ourselves, which we weren’t looking forward to. And we wouldn’t have been as good either; anybody who thinks housecleaning isn’t skilled labor is kidding themselves. Of course them cleaning didn’t require much effort on my part, but it was distracting, especially dealing with the dogs, who freaked out.

Then we had the plumber coming in to snake the drains. We scheduled an appointment for Wednesday a week in advance. 9 AM rolled around, plumber didn’t show. Office said he’d be by 2 PM. Didn’t show. The plumber finally called, said he hadn’t been given any sort of appointment for us. I found an alternative plumber who showed up the next day and got the job done. Pricey, but satisfactory. However, it all chipped into work time. You know how it goes — it’s 8:45 AM, plumber’s going to be there, no point in starting anything …

Friday I had to take the car in for annual inspection, oil change and general maintenance. Not cheap either, but necessary. But again, distracting. In between all that, I went to the library, got a haircut (photos next week) and went shopping in a grocery store. That was a lot of fun — convenient or not, online ordering doesn’t do it for me. Hell, the store’s close enough that shopping IRL may be more convenient than all the typing and clicking. Plus it had some stuff TYG wanted that wasn’t available online. Plus cold stuff is still nice and cold when I get it home.

In the midst of all that I still got some work done. Partly because I wisely treated Sunday as a regular work day, which proved the right decision. Even so, I’ll need to do some Leaf articles over the weekend. My tax tips for veterans article came out. I finished redrafting Chapter Seven of Undead Sexist Cliches though I still have to rearrange all the footnotes. I rewrote the alien pregnancy chapter of Alien Visitors and got some good feedback from the writers group. And I posted about the early, less-remembered Adam Warlock series at Atomic Junkshop.

So a good, if hectic week.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain to current holder.


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The murderous alien clowns were the pick of the week

KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988) is a one-joke film but the joke works. A necking couple spots a shooting star landing nearby (while I haven’t kept track, this and having something weird briefly appear on radar are staple opening setups). Next thing you know, ET clowns are cocooning the locals with candy-cotton guns, tracking them with balloon-animal bloodhounds, feeding people to shadow puppets, or jumping out of a clown car that you wouldn’t think they could all fit inside. Can the town survive? I got particular pleasure out of one conversation where the characters try to make sense of this (“Maybe they were ancient astronauts and that’s why we have the idea of clowns in our culture.”). Doesn’t give me any deep inside for Alien Visitors but still enjoyable low-budget fun.“I don’t believe in UFOs, but if they exist, we’re inside one.”

K-PAX (2002) aims higher and falls very far short. Kevin Spacey is Prot, the self-proclaimed ET visitor locked up in an asylum where Jeff Bridges tries to restore him to sanity. But Bridges can’t help noticing his patient is rehabilitating the other patients much better than conventional therapy — and while it’s impossible, you don’t suppose he could really be telling the truth, do you? This mix of psychological drama and SF doesn’t work as either, and feels cobbled together from bits of better movies (Fisher King and Equus come to mind). Spacey, as usual, delivers his lines with a Smartest Guy In The Room air, and it doesn’t work here (if he were more frustrated or more — well, anything — there’d be a more interesting conflict). “I have arrived, so my travels are over for the time being.”

COLOSSAL (2016) has an interesting concept (though not one that qualifies for Alien Visitors) but unsatisfying execution. After drunken party girl Anne Hathaway’s boyfriend breaks up with her, she returns to her home town and meets up with her old boyfriend. When a monster goes rampaging through Seoul, Hathaway realizes it’s acting out her inner frustrations; worse, her ex discovers how to do the same trick and threatens to go on a rampage if Hathaway crosses him (“I will crush an entire suburb!”). There’s definitely a good movie buried in this, but it doesn’t come to the surface. It’s also disturbing that the movie seems to care less about the hundreds of dead Koreans than about Hathaway’s personal growth arc. “Who gets a tattoo that says ‘I’m sorry, this won’t happen again.’”

Guillermo del Toro’s THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017) is another one that doesn’t fit the book, though it’s a much superior film. A mute cleaning woman at an early 1960s government lab discovers they’ve captured the Gill Man from Creature from the Black Lagoon and are subjecting him to cruel experiments, plus outright cruelty. Slowly she bonds with the creature, then sets out to help him escape. Despite some jarring brutality in spots, this is very good, particularly in its evocation of 1962. “That’s the password — ‘And the eagle takes the prey.’”

The 2002 SyFy miniseries TAKEN evokes quite a few eras, starting in WW II when a fighter squadron is harassed by foo lights (though they don’t use the term), then following various families across the decades as they’re abducted by ETs and spied on by the government (though one of the families is part of the goverment UFO Watch program). I was initially unimpressed by this but found it picked up near the end; in fairness, that may reflect I wasn’t a little more relaxed for the ending episodes.

The secret behind it all turns out to be that aliens are experimenting in hopes of understanding emotions (“You have so much that we’ve lost.”). The culmination of their work is the human/ET hybrid Allie (Dakota Fanning) who has powers far beyond the aliens. This made me realize how often this happens, for example with super-powered Elizabeth in V. So stuff was learned, even if it was a slog to get there. “Right son — there were no monsters in my generation.”

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Oh, that’s why I don’t work much in the evenings any more

I tried last night because we’re dog-sitting for Lily and Tito this afternoon so I wanted to make up for the inevitable lost time. Here’s photos of the winsome twosome, in case you were wondering (Lily’s on top)It did not go well, though I did get my next Atomic Junk Shop post up. Plushie loses it and starts barking his head off about once every five minutes. Wisp comes in, begs for food, then goes out again. I could just go isolate myself in my office, but the trouble is I like hanging out with our pets. I don’t want to isolate myself. But if I try that again, I definitely will go that route.

That aside, work went well this week. I finished our taxes, discovering we owe in a little (bad!) but at least they’re done. I’ll check them over again to make certain I figured things right, but I doubt I’ll discover a major error that gets us a refund. Oh, well.

I finished editing Chapter Six of Undead Sexist Cliches and made a final read through of Chapter Four. The latter went slower than I wanted — I had more cleaning up than I expected. I got some Veterans Network articles written (here’s one on art therapy for trauma, and one on military trivia). I did a lot of viewing for Alien Visitors but not much writing. I must compensate for that next week.

My new approach of breaking down my day and assigning a set number of units to different projects went … okay, I guess. I seem to be running out of Undead Sexist Cliches units, but we’ll see how it goes the rest of the month.

This weekend I will probably work Sunday. That’s not typical, but I have a lot to do this week once I become fully vaccinated on Tuesday. Best to make up the time in advance. I’ll be back next Friday to report how it went.


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An oddly lazy weekend

Lately my weekends haven’t been lazy, or not as lazy as I’d like. As we have to take the dogs to their rehab appointment at least once a week, I’ve been compensating for that by watching Alien Visitors movies on the weekend. But this weekend, after rushing to get all my Leaf and Veterans Network stuff done, and finish the golem article, I just decided to crash. And did.

So I watched some Hitchcock, read quite a bit, cooked dinner, made what’s called a cottage loaf —— and no, that’s not two bagels on top of each other, it’s one loaf — and watched some TV. Plus petting dogs, Wisp, using the stationary bike and snuggling with TYG some.

Now that the golem piece is done (subject to edits) I imagine I’ll get back into weekend movie viewing, but it was a really good break.


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On working for free

So the golem article is done and off. Which has me thinking about Harlan Ellison’s advice that you should always work for pay, because this piece was a freebie.

Generally speaking, I’m down with Ellison’s argument: this is a business, someone, somewhere is making money off your work, so you should too. But I make exceptions. One is fiction. If I can’t sell a story to a magazine that pays decently, I’ll sell it to one that pays poorly. If I can’t do that I’ll sell it to the free ones (of course, sometimes even they turn it down). Unlike Ellison, fiction isn’t where I make my money. I’d sooner have my story published and readable somewhere that’s free than go unpublished — though as I mentioned last year, I’m thinking of just self-publishing them instead, even given that won’t be massively lucrative either.

That said, even doing something for free or token payment costs me in time and effort, often in spending on research materials. So I try to keep the amount of time manageable, but that doesn’t always work. I’d figured the golem article would be a light, simple one to work on, but it turned out to be way more effort than I’d anticipated. Had I known that in advance, I might not have jumped in. My McFarland movie books don’t generate much in the way of $/hour revenue either. However writing about stuff like this is a lot of fun, so I’m willing to go for it (admittedly I sometimes regret it when I’m pressed for time and half-wiped out).  Ditto blogging at Atomic Junk Shop (where my latest, on Dc’s Bat Lash, just appeared at the link).

Undead Sexist Cliches was supposed to be a much simpler, snarkier book, but it changed as I started working on it. Footnoting alone was a ton of work. I have no idea if it will generate any sales. But it’s a cause I believe in, so why not?

And at this point in my life, I don’t feel concentrating on fiction would make it a cash cow.

That said, after Alien Visitors is done in the fall, I think I’m going to concentrate on fiction (excluding time spent on Leaf, Veteran Network and other clients who pay). I’ve only got so many years left, I might as well devote them to what’s the most fun, even if it isn’t profitable fun. As I’ve said before, if I think of writing as a demanding, time-consuming hobby, I don’t worry so much about the bottom line.

It would be nice if my fiction were selling so well that “is it a paying market?”and “why am I doing this for free when I could be selling a novel?” were pertinent questions. But it isn’t. So what the hey.

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Not many aliens in movies this week

But that will be rectified soon.

THUNDER FORCE (2021) is a pleasant superhero spoof set in a world where superpowers only manifest in people with evil traits. Super-genius Octavia Spencer hopes to change that and turn herself into the world’s first superhero, but when former high-school buddy Melissa McCarthy stumbles into the experiment, they wind up splitting the powers (super-strength for McCarthy, invisibility for Spencer). Can they stop a corrupt metahuman politician from taking over the city with his henchmen (including a deadpan Jason Bateman as a man-crab)? Feels like the two leads could use more chemistry, but it was fun; TYG, who isn’t a superhero fan, admitted she enjoyed it. “I guess the deep dive into Bevari-Sutton genetic structures was too much for us to take.”

THE THREE LIVES OF THOMASINA (1964) was the first film I recall seeing on the Wonderful World of Disney TV show, though I came in a little late (right as Thomasina arrives in the realm of Bast). The eponymous cat narrates how she went from being the pet of motherless moppet Karen Dotrice (who was good enough in this to be cast in Mary Poppins) and gruff father Patrick McGoohan. When the cat is injured, McGoohan declares she’s too sick to save, alienating his daughter; Thomasina, meanwhile, survives and winds up as the pet of “mad witch” Susan Hampshire. This is just as charming as I remember, though the Evil Roma stereotypes are a minus.Shows not all Disney in this era was The Cat From Outer Space. “Jamie can play MACKINTOSH’S LAMENT on the pipes with only nine mistakes!”

I didn’t care for DISTRICT 9 (2009) when I saw it in the theater and it still strikes me as gratuitously gory. Rewatching for Alien Visitors, though, I found it works better, if only as an example of how our perception of alien immigrants and refugees has shifted. In It Came From Outer Space they just need some tolerance while they repair their ship. In The Coneheads, people accept ETs Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtin despite their weirdness. District 9 feels like an immigrant film for the Trump era, even given it was five years earlier and South African to boot. The alien survivors of a shipwreck are hemmed into a shantytown, preyed on and exploited and in response to protests, they’re being forced to evacuate to a new shantytown. The protagonist is a human bureaucrat pushing the relocation project until a freak accident turns him half-man, half-ET. Can’t say I love it, but worth seeing again.“He became the most valuable business artifact on Earth.”

I honestly can’t remember what prompted me to put NO TIME FOR COMEDY (1940) on my Amazon wish list, but I did and my friend Ross ordered it, so I watched it last weekend. Jimmy Stewart plays a small-town hick turned playwright who arrives in the Big Apple to fix his play’s problem third act (as the trailer acknowledges, this is very much Mr. Smith Goes to Broadway). Almost immediately he and leading lady Rosalind Russell fall for each other, which leads to marriage and a Broadway hit. A few years later, though, Stewart falls under the influence of would-be muse Genevieve Tobin; will she turn him from lively comedy to somber tragedy? And what about her husband, gruff stockbroker Charles Ruggles. I found this a nice, relaxing bit of fun. “You can read less enthusiasm into an invitation than any actress I know.”

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