Archive | August, 2020

“Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit”

31 Aug

In conversation, I’m often quick witted, but I’m not very original. So it’s rather expected that I quote someone else about quotes. I use quotes all the time, and some are so good, they stick with me. These are the maxims I live by.

Anyway, it’s time you knew what the heck I meant when I keep repeating them. A maxim (not the magazine) is a short statement conveying a simple truth. I’ve got about 5 to 8 I use on a regular basis. Now if you’re wondering if they can truly be that profound if you can’t remember how many you have, I’ll just say that life changes, and some are more important than others.

Obscure movies are a great source of quotes… well, obscure to most people. It’s always fun to throw out “I’m a reasonable guy, but I’ve just seen some pretty unreasonable things.” (Big Trouble in Little China) Of course, sometimes it’s things that don’t really count as quotes. I personally like “Okay, I get that. What’s this?” That’s actually from the Blues Brothers and is part of a longer conversation introducing what we think of as the Bluesmobile.

Jake: What’s this?

Elwood: What?

Jake: This car. This stupid car! Where’s the Cadillac? (beat) The Caddy! Where’s the Caddy?

Elwood: The what?

Jake: The Cadillac we used to have. The Bluesmobile!

Elwood: I traded it.

Jake (with disbelief): You traded the Bluesmobile for this?

Elwood: No, for a microphone.

Jake: A microphone? (beat) Okay I can see that. What’s this?

I still wish I could pick up the phone like the villain does in The Long Kiss Goodnight and say, “Who the f@#* is this?!” In fact, the entire film is hard to quote because of the profanity… well, in most company, anyway. I do get away with “Son of a bitch’s got to pay,” also from Big Trouble in Little China, but more often spout out “Six-demon bag, sensational!”

So what are your favorite movie quotes? Let me know in the comments below!

Mortality is God’s Greatest Gift

30 Aug

If have learned nothing from books and movies about immortality, it’s that you don’t want it. Not for the obvious reasons, but for one simple one: the older you get, you realize it’s the same s#*$, different decade.

Have you ever noticed that most immortal stories make sure they conveniently never have children? This is not by accident. Otherwise, you have to explain to your grandkids why you still look twenty-something. The answer is make-up (thank you, Lazarus Long), but eventually your kids go away, and as I’ve seen recently, most great-grandkids don’t wanna hang out with their elderly relatives. This can be terribly, terribly depressing.

They did reference this in one of the later Anne Rice novels, where one of the vampires had kids before she was turned, and then followed her kids’ lives in exhaustive genealogies. Supposedly it kept her sane all those centuries.

“All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.”

Starting with the Battlestar Galactica reference, it doesn’t take much for me to look at previous presidential campaigns and see, “Oh yeah, they’re still proclaiming the same crap they did the last two election cycles. Why do we think they’ll actually do it this time?!” Never believe that this is the most important election of our lifetime because it’s not. How do I know? They said that in every election I’ve ever seen.

Only if you’re young can you get excited enough to think this is the change we’re waiting for or we can make America great.

Santayana predates Churchill saying it by several decades. What I’m always amazed by is how we often learn the wrong lesson from history. For example, we were convinced that the Soviet Union and its allies were out to conquer the world, and that if we did appeasement like Chamberlain did back in 1935, then we’d have World War III. We failed to take locals desires for independence into account, so what was a desire for self-recognition by the Viet Minh was turned into a fight against communism… so we get the Vietnam war.

We so often get it wrong. For example, the original V for Vendetta comic book was a complaint against the excesses of the Thatcher administration in Great Britain. Think about that – they were saying Margaret Thatcher was the new Hitler. 40 years ago. Think how wrong that was. Thatcher was Thatcher, Trump is Trump, Biden is Biden. It’s important as citizens to criticize our government, to fight against policies which we oppose, but recognize them for what they are. Not angels or demons, just men.

This is why I do not fear death. Not by COVID, or the Sweet Meteor of Death, or by getting run over in the street. I don’t embrace it–don’t get me wrong–but there are far worse things than death. Like seeing the next generation think they’re going to change the world and actually screwing up the few things I enjoyed.

But I could just be getting cranky as I get older. Am I off track here? Let me know in the comments section below!

In Memoriam – H. Paul Honsinger

29 Aug

What do you do when the story ends? So often, you get invested in someone’s universe and then you find out they will never finish it. So I wish to introduce you to and honor the great H. Paul Honsinger, a great sci-fi author who I never got a chance to meet.

He was a retired attorney, but also sold cars, counselled wayward youth, and did many things in his checkered career. After he retired, he decided to pursue writing, and created a great character named Max Rochambeau. Of course, when you grow up in Louisiana, you meet a lot of coon-asses (Cajuns).

The Man of War series is a great series of books. If you’re a fan of Patrick O’Brien, you will recognize the origins very clearly – he took the captain / doctor concept that the Master and Commander series and translated it into Outer Space. It’s a great space opera and you really enjoy the crew and the story of them fighting against impossible odds.

Now certainly I didn’t agree with all his artistic choices. For example, he built the universe so that women weren’t serving – he explained it well, but I think it certainly detracted from the story. However, as my father-in-law said, “If you don’t like my story, write your own!” So once you accept the limitations of the universe, it’s a great ride.

The sad truth is that he lived in northern Arizona near Las Vegas and actually attended conventions in Phoenix… but I decided to skip the one he attended. Now I won’t get the chance to thank him and tell him how much I loved his work.

Which author do you wish you had met? Let me know in the comments below!

Blame it on the Bossa Nova

28 Aug

I stopped listening to the news in the morning. I have no need to be angry this early–that can wait until the afternoon–so I switched to listening to sports talk when I need mental stimulation without consequence. However, if I have to do something creative, I’ve found a new outlet – an endless stream of elevator music.

The correct term is “light jazz” or “bossa nova,” Brazilian jazz music, but I can’t shake the feeling that it’s still elevator music… you know, back when elevators still had music. Something light and inoffensive that will relax your riders while they spend the next 5-10 minutes in an enclosed space with strangers. I should hate this stuff. And yet, I flick it on every morning.

There’s a channel called Relax Cafe Music on YouTube that the creator just alternates the same self-created light jazz stream daily, and although the notes change, it’s still the same relaxing pap that I don’t have to think about and fills up the background. If I want something I can recognize, you can turn to Dr SaxLove for sexy sax jazz covers of pop hits.

I should hate this. It’s mindless. It has no redeeming value. And yet it’s soothing. It’s like taking the placebo: you know it’s not a real drug, but you feel better taking it anyway. I guess I drink decaf coffee for the same reason. I don’t need the caffeine, I just want the comfort of a hot beverage. (That’s the most controversial thing I’ve said in a while.) 🙂

The trick, I think, is that it has no words. I listen to EDM when I’m writing stories because it pumps me up and I’m not distracted by the words. Once you include words into the mix, then that throws off what you’re trying to write.

Am I the only one? Are you secretly embarrassed by something you listen to? Let me know in the comments below!

The Vanishing Family Physician

27 Aug

When I fill out medical forms, they always ask, “Who is your physician?” And the answer is “I don’t have one.” Today, the idea of having a personal physician who consults and follows up on your treatment is dated and laughable. Having worked in healthcare, I now understand why.

In fact, I see my chiropractor more than I ever see an MD. Maybe I’m just healthier than most, but the last family physician I saw was two years ago… and that was in some snooty-fruity holistic practice which could have been family practice and could have been something else. And I certainly didn’t see the same person twice – in fact, the guy I initially met retired the next year.

So what you have are not personal physicians, but networks. Maybe if I had a chronic condition, this would be important for me to check in with them on a regular basis, but a physical once a year? Why bother? I can go to urgent care and get that done… and get it done now. Family practices are like an outpatient facility; you need an appointment and you usually have to wait for two weeks for the next opening. Why do I need to wait that long? And then, because the medical profession is so specialized, I’ll need a referral to a specialist. Again, I can get the referral at urgent care.

The reason why this bugged me was because of a radio ad I heard that says, “You can keep your same physician even if you switch networks!” Well, that might have meant something before my family practice became a group. As mentioned before, I rarely see the same physician twice. Oh, I go to the same building, and they have all my same records, but it’s never the same person. Maybe it’s important to keep that same facility, because transferring files from one health system to the next is not an exact science yet. (Trust me, that’s what I did for a living.)

Who are all these people behind me?

The reason for this change is simple: litigation. If you’re a single doctor out in a small town… oh, let’s say Morrison, Illinois… your malpractice insurance is going to cost X. You’re going to get sued. It’s like riding a motorcycle; it’s not if you’re going to have an accident, but when. So if I can get a couple more doctors to share the cost with me, that’s X divided by the doctors in my practice. And hey, that means we can rotate the appointments, rotate who’s on call on the weekends, and I can have a regular life!

However, having a joint practice is still a pain in the butt, since you have to keep track of rent, utilities, paperwork from the state… who needs this? Meanwhile, Pleasant Sounding Health Network wants to buy my practice and have me work for them. They’ll take care of the business end… all I have to do is do what I love… which is practice medicine. Why wouldn’t I want that?!

So the personal physician has disappeared… at least for me. Am I off-base? Did I forget an important clue in my rant? Tell me in the comments below!

Pyramids Don’t Roll!

26 Aug

In the early days of the Internet (~1995), there was a massive bulletin board called UseNet. It looked more like Reddit than forums today and it was all in text, but it had the same effect. However, someone brilliantly came up with a forum called the “Best of UseNet”… and these were gold!

Because let’s face it, even back then, no one really wanted to sort through the thousands of forums to find the piece of gold in the trash. However, since the Internet has proven the “infinite number of monkeys can produce Shakespeare” principle, by the same nature, if you found an incredibly funny post, you could copy it to the Best of UseNet forum and share it with the rest of the world. This made for frequent checks by a young Marcus.

So one of those stories that stuck with me was originally on the Babylon 5 forum (which JMS actually commented to while the show was happening) where one people goes on a rant when someone else makes a mistake about how gravity works: “When an orbiting ships are borrowing gravity from the earth’s rotation…”

This led to this man running with this idea. “My God! The entire Big Wheel industry must be shut down YESTERDAY!” Which led into a Babylon 5 digression. “Why do you think the Minbari are so hooked on that “tri” thing? Simple – pyramids… don’t… roll!”

I liked that phrase so much I used it in the first chapter of Fatebane. Let’s face it, I’m not that original…

Then there was the guy who was thinking of “pimping out his ride,” unfortunately, his ride was a rusty VW bug. So he thought of the most outlandish things he could do with it. “So yeah, I can paint it rainbow colors and get a personalized license plate called DETHBUG.” But the brilliant part was the idea of putting a megaphone with yellow and green lights (perfectly legal for a civilian) on the top of this monstrosity. So when he got to a stop light, he could turn it on, flash the lights, and call out “Citizen! It is legal to turn left at a red light!”

“Well, if the guy with the megaphone says it’s all right…” the folks in front of him would say and drive off. And as he concludes, “And I get to my destination 15 seconds faster!” 🙂

Gee, I miss that. Sure, you can have friends send you stuff, and memes on Facebook, but it’s not as much as fun as this long-form gems. But I can’t be the only one – what’s some of your favorite early Internet stories? Tell me them in the comments below!

Trapped with a Filmmaker

25 Aug

So while my wife was helping her mom transition out of the hospital to home life, the kids went with her to hang out with their cousins. However, their aunt likes to make films, so it didn’t take long for them to be drawn into one of Aunt Elea’s projects…

The result is Snack Shorts which are three short films. It’s actually the same script done three different ways, but it shows you what you can do with five bored kids, some time, and an empty Goldfish box.

So she’s exploiting my kids and I get an associate producer credit. That’s okay – my kids exploit me all the time. 🙂 Actually, my son really wants to be an actor, and with the COVID taking out all of his acting opportunities, he really appreciated the chance to perform.

In return, I got a very nice video, they get some great memories, and I need to share the love with everyone else. Any good kid exploitation stories to share? Tell me in the comments below!

The Empty Vessel of Anticipation

24 Aug

Imagine a film so bad that the lead actor had every copy destroyed before it could be released. This actually happened in 1972… and now I discovered it’ll be released in 2024.

The film is called “The Day the Clown Cried,” the actor was Jerry Lewis, and the plot revolves around a clown in the Holocaust. Yeah… That’s all I know and it already sounds really bad. Apparently one copy was held by the Library of Congress and the copyright runs out in four years… So the ban ends.

What I know from the Star Wars prequels is that the longer you wait for something, the more disappointed you’ll be when it actually comes out. There is no way this film is as bad as I’m expecting. Besides, I’ve seen this plot before – it’s called Jacob the Liar with Robin Williams and… It’s got its moments, but it’s still trying to make an upbeat film about the Holocaust!

If there’s more than… let’s say 10 years from the previous film, there’s so much build up for a film that it can’t possibly match your expectations. The Zorro film comes to mind.

Of course, you can transfer this to many things in life – there are so many empty vessels that we pour our expectations and hopes into and find them… well, empty. It’s part of our modern outlook on life. I’m not a great fan of watching bad films, so as much as I’ve heard about this Jerry Lewis film, I’m probably not going to watch it.

Am I alone in this? Is there a better example you can come up with? Let me know if the comments section below!

Arbitrary and Capricious

23 Aug

Recently I learned you can say the “F” word on the radio in Canada. Well, French-speaking Canada… and English-speaking after 8 pm… which got me thinking that many laws are pretty silly or rarely enforced. So… why do we keep writing them?

Easy answer: someone really wanted that law. One would think that it’s because of a specific incident, but often… no! It’s often in anticipation of an event. Unfortunately, it’s almost never in anticipation of a coming disaster or important issue, but rather something really, really minor. I’m not gonna bash Canadian law when there’s such good examples here in the United States! There’s a great Twitter feed for this called A Crime a Day, where the guy likes to comb through the US Federal Code and find obscure federal laws to break. Sometimes he has to stretch the crime to fit the code, but it’s still enlightening.

Harvey Silvergate wrote a book (I believe he’s quoting a judge) that points out that the average American breaks three laws a day. Why? Because no one… not even the lawyers, know what all the laws are. So here’s the frightening fact: You can be arrested and charged with a crime at any time for the normal things you do everyday. I’m grateful to live in a country where I don’t fear the police (and if you’re American, considering how many protesters are currently not shot, you don’t either) but as tensions get higher, that’s getting less and less certain.

I can go on many paths here, but my basic libertarian bent is “the more laws, the less justice.” Cicero said that two thousand years ago at a time when laws were literally carved into stone. However, it didn’t mean what we mean we say “carved into stone.” The law was still changeable; old laws that were unpopular with the current politics were chiseled off the Twelve Tablets (as their law was called). The reason you carved it into stone was so that everyone could see it in public, they could read the law, and no one could be in ignorance of what it said.

Penn Gillette is fond of saying, “Could this be solved with more freedom?” Even though I disagree with him on many things, I think the answer is usually “Yes.” We need to seriously cut down the number of laws that are on the books in this country, this state, this county, and the city. Often legislators put forward a bill just to get their name recognized… because that’s the only way to get reelected.

This happens with bills I’m even in favor of, such as my own Arizona senator (Krysten Sinema) passing The Legion Act which expanded terms of historical federal service. This allowed veterans of US Armed Forces who previously served in peacetime to be considered having served in times of “federal service” (not always a direct wartime) so that they can join veterans’ organizations which have that as a requirement. As a member of the Sons of the American Legion, I know at least two people directly this has helped.

But no one asked the obvious question – “Um, couldn’t these organizations have simply changed their own membership rules to let them in?” Of course they could! The Legion, the VFW, the Jewish War Vets, the Scottish American Military Society, et al… they all knew this was an issue! They could have fixed it a LONG time ago. Instead, they allowed folks who flunked out of boot camp to be full members, but people who served four years to not be, just because of when they served.

In the end, I fear most laws are “arbitrary and capricious,” (the legal term) and they are only applied when those in power want to make a statement. If we simplify the law, and give judges latitude to make decisions based on the situation (with proper appeals and checks when they don’t), we will have a more just society.

Of course, I could be wrong. Cicero was a terrible consul in the Roman Republic. What do you think? Tell me in the comments below!

BTW, if you want to know everything about swearing on the radio in Canada, a blogger did a great job of explaining it here.

From Platitude to Profound

22 Aug

I recently came across a saying that made me think, “Wow – that’s so profound,” but then 10 minutes later made me think, “Wow – that’s so sappy! How could that be profound?” So I wonder, what makes something have staying power in my head?

When I was much younger, I was introduced to a wonderful serious cartoon show on MTV’s Liquid Television called The Maxx. If you haven’t seen it before, do… but only watch it in 15 minute chunks, because otherwise, it’s so g-d depressing. But in one of the scenes, Sarah, the teenage girl has a moment where:

And then just as I go to leave, the weirdest thing pops into my head. This poster in my mom’s room. One of the those sickening, sticky sweet, big eyed kids message posters, you know the kind, I think it goes something like “and the day came when the risk to remain closed in a bud became more painful then the risk it took to blossom”. Ugh, so this poster thing keeps popping into me head and I’m staring at the horse and he’s staring back and nothing’s happening. And this bad poem keeps running over and over in head. It won’t stop. And suddenly I feel tears running down my–oh god, I know what you’re thinking. Oh how sweet, the big eyed kid poem is making her cry. And it’s not that. And I’m thinking please please please god please don’t let my spirit animal talk to me through a hypoglycemic poster. Letting something this profound be conveyed in words this trite. Please don’t let the horse speak to me this way. But it was too late because I had heard it and I could never go back again.

Turns out that the quote is from Anais Nin, but I love that line – Letting something this profound be conveyed in words this trite – because sometimes the things that stick with us are really… really stupid.

So perhaps the transition from meme to platitude (overused saying) to maxim (those quotes that you use all the time) is just when it hits you. For example, “There’s word for losing a parent, we call them orphans. There is no word for losing a child. That’s how painful it is.” At first, this sounded so cool I wrote it down. I’ve known friends who’ve lost children and it hurt and I still have a visceral reaction when I read that line, but since I’ve only lost children through miscarriages, it doesn’t have the same effect. Sure, it hurt, but not as much as someone who actually lived with a baby or a child for a longer time.

I’ll spend some time working on my favorite maxims in future posts, but for now, am I off base? When does a saying become a platitude to you? Let me know in the comments below!

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