Here’s to Old Frendz



dog_paddlerFifteen years ago I spoke with a person employed in the mental health field. The topic at hand was relationships — despite our best efforts, we probably ended up there because I was dealing with the aftermath of a rather disastrous breakup.

When we discussed our less tempestuous relationships, I remarked that I still kept tabs with a few of my high school and college buddies. When I further added that my three closest ‘best friends’ and I have pal’d around on a weekly basis for the past quarter of century, she blurted out a guffaw of earnest surprise. Her shocked expression told me that the concept of such a long relationship (outside of marriage) was totally alien to her.

I wonder what she would think now – I’ve known these people for 40 years now, and I still hold these three friends close to my heart. So much so, that they are part of my adopted family, and I am part of theirs. I am ‘Uncle Chris’ to at least 5 children that I have zero blood relation to. I have watched these people grow from screaming ankle-biters to smart, sane individuals who I am extremely happy and proud to know. Probably more than most of my actual blood-relations. We still hug whenever we meet, fer cryin’-out-loud.
I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It also is more than a little surprising that they haven’t gotten sick & tired of me after all this time.

Let’s hope this is a living definition of ‘friend’ that Facebook doesn’t dilute or erase.

Image courtesy of


The (Table) Games People Play [updated]


, , , , , , , , , ,

I played Dungeons & Dragons long before it became popular.
I enjoyed hours of Magic until it, too, was gobbled up by a soulless corporation.
My days of playing video games have also come and gone. (Sorry, gang – Xbox, PS4 and their ilk hold no charms for me anymore. My real life computer work is far more entertaining!)

However, I have not lost my affinity for TABLE games.
These table games are not the typical pablum (e.g., Monopoly, Risk, et al.) foisted upon the American public. Rather, I would guess that 99% of the general populace have never heard of any of these games.

I am indeed fortunate that I have a large circle of acquaintances (Yay, OTAKON!) that are consistently introducing me to new table games, a tight circle of friends that enjoy playing them as much as I do (if not more), and that we can get together every couple of weeks to spend an evening enjoying each other’s company over a table of friendly competition.

Below is my list of games and reviews, updated from last year. Please, take a stroll through some of my favorites! As with any opinion, your mileage may vary.
And of course, Christmas will be here before you know it… (Hint, Hint!)

If you have any table games that you are rabid about, please leave a comment and share!

Board Games


Card Games


The Eighth Deadly Sin


, , , , , , ,



If there is a special place in Hell, it’s for the people who do remakes of movies that were done right the first time.

The remake is not inherently bad. If you didn’t see the original, this one could stand reasonably well on its own. However, if you happen to be familiar with the original, this film clearly falls into the “adds nothing new” slush-pile.
As a side note, I am forced to comment that casting a child actor who was a disturbing dead-ringer for the original Carolann (deceased) was as tasteless as this pun.

Nothing shouts “zero creativity” louder than a shot-by-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s original classic. I wonder, who approved this? And can I soon part this particular fool from some more of his money?

The Day the Earth Stood Still
No glitz left un-flashed in this attempt to hide Keanu Reeves’s version of Klaatu. His delivery is more wooden than a Gerry Anderson Supermarionation. Michael Rennie is spinning in his grave.

The original’s chilling vision of globalization using bread & circuses to distract the masses, made all the more so poignant since many of its prognostications have sadly come true, has been transformed into a video game by a remake that is a total waste of celluloid.

The Longest Yard
I am by no means a fan of sports films, so it is high praise indeed when I say the original was perfect – hilarious, exciting and heartfelt in all the right places. Remaking it was pointless. Remaking it with Adam Sandler was just horrific.

Big Trouble in Little China
Coming soon to an overpriced theater near you.
Why, Rock? WHY?
The John Carpenter original is a grand knee-slapping romp combining horror and humor. A rare combo not to be missed. I cringe in anticipation of how much of a custer-fluck the remake will turn out to be.

There are scores, if not hundreds, of films that were followed by disastrous remakes. However, they have not graced (disgraced?) this list, because either: I have not seen both the original and/or the remake and therefore cannot render an opinion; or in my opinion, the original was not that hot to begin with (e.g. Wicker Man, which shows up in many other ‘bad remake’ lists).

What’s your story? Do you have a film that was 5-star worthy, remade into a 1-star schlockfest? Leave a comment, and why you believe the remake stinks – I love to hate bad films.

Original Syn-Thesis


The other day I heard a TED radio talk by K. Ferguson “Embrace the Remix”.  It was not the best entry in the series I’ve heard, but it was quite challenging and thought provoking, which is a plus in my book.

The talk opened with the statement “the last original thing was the Big Bang,” and everything since then has been a remix.  The talk’s examples were wanting, to say the least, in my opinion.


It compared George Lucas’ Star Wars to the works of Kurosawa (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and several others).  I found that part of the argument weak (but not flawed) on several levels: 1) the influences he used as anecdotal proof were due to the art director and costume designer, not Lucas; 2) he totally ignored Joseph Campbells’ work (more on that later), whereby the entire Star Wars story is a retelling of the millenia-old “orphan with a destiny comes of age” story arc.

Ferguson’s other body of examples circled around Bob Dylan. His body of work was considered groundbreaking at the time, but an analysis of his music shows that he cribbed from folk music – e.g. deep dark Appalachia.  Ferguson then proceeded to torpedo his own argument by fessing up that such behavior was the norm in those days – it was expected and encouraged that folk songs copy from each other.
Not only does he kick out one of the legs of his own argument, be he ignores the fact that sometime somewhere somewhen – SOMEBODY came up with the strictures of music not observable in nature (meter, harmony, the math behind the music).

I was struck by the coincidence on that very day I had read from Stephen King’s “On Writing” that original ideas aren’t original, they are the result of two existing ideas colliding in your head.  The writer has to always be ready to capture it.  Two points to Team Ferguson.

However, I noticed that the body of Ferguson’s talk focused on the arts – movies, music, fashion, etc.  Not once did he venture into the more scientific fields.  I would love to hear how he explains away the earth-shaking advances in history made there.  Take heliocentrism, general relativity or quantum mechanics – not only were they arguably original, they went against the grain of accepted thought. What did they crib from, pray tell?

The talk ended with me chortling to myself over Joseph Campbell, who said that there are no original stories – that all stories boil down to seven archetypes.  Guess that means that Ferguson’s hypothesis isn’t all that original either.

Any commentary, controversy, chatter, contradiction, criticism?
But please, only original comments! *snicker*

Missing (Because of) In Action


Sorry I haven’t blogged in soooo long.  I’ve been slaving away since December 2015 on GLVWG’s 2016 Anthology. It’s had its ups and downs, periods of work, hard work, hectic work, sheer panic, and ANGST GONE MAD. On the other hand, the occasional kind word from the contributors, on whose pieces I’ve been editor, goes a long way to keep me calm and motivated.


Oops – there’s the phone again. Gotta go. Coming up for air later this month I hope!

I Write Like… Who?!


, , ,

A fellow author described his recent humorous experience with the writing analysis website “I Write Like”.  Now that I have a novel and a short story out in the world, with two more short stories available soon, I thought I’d give the software a spin.


Its results were a mixed bag.

Work I Wrote Like…
Pindlebryth – Chapter 1 Dan Brown
– Chapter 2 David Foster Wallace
– Chapter 3 Margaret Atwood
– Chapter 4 Arthur C. Clarke
– Chapter 5 H.P. Lovecraft
-Chapter 6 Anne Rice
– Chapter 7 H.P. Lovecraft
– Chapter 8 L. Frank Baum
– Chapter 9 Dan Brown
– Epilogue Arthur C. Clarke
Eight Jane Austen
That Which Was Lost (March ’16) Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
The Origin of Specious (Jan ’16) Arthur C. Clarke

IWL nailed it when comparing my style to Lovecraft, Clarke and Vonnegut. This should not surprise anyone, as these three were my favorite authors during the first half of my life. It follows, therefore, that they should have the largest affect on my writing style.
What I find curious is that the software compared me to other authors, of whose work I’ve read very little. The most surprising result was IWL comparing my style to that of Jane Austen. I’ve read nothing of hers (yet) — but it might explain why one reader who is an Austen-ophile is gaga over Pindlebryth.

Being the ex-software-QA guy, it was only natural that I question how accurate these results really are. Running with a suggestion from one of my editors,* I tested the software by feeding it a couple of public domain texts. The software passed the comparison test three out of four times – only flubbing it with a Jules Verne short story, by declaring “You write like Daniel Defoe.”  Hmmm… not that far off base, so overall I give the software a solid “B” passing grade.

Just for grins and giggles, I’ll continue to run any future published work through the IWL mill.

* I hang my head in shame, that my editor thought of this before I did. As the QA guy, this should have been bloody obvious to me.

Thanks! Give In? No thanks.


It’s the month when we celebrate Christmas!

Oh, sorry!  No, that’s what stores have wanted us to believe since the week before Halloween.

This is the month when traditionally we reflect on the blessings and good things that have come our way.  Who am I to buck tradition?  Besides, countless studies — along with just plain sage wisdom and basic common sense — tells us that if you concentrate on the good, you’ll tend to be happier and just a more pleasant person all around.
I certainly have observed the opposite, which only proves the point. Haven’t you ever noticed that you tend to gravitate away from people who constantly bitch?  I know I sure do!  Those people who revel in righteous indignation about every social ill in the world, from their neighbor’s dog to the latest political boondoggle (that the other party is obviously responsible for), are simply the type of person that I prefer to keep at 10-foot-pole (or greater) length.

As for me, a few of the things I’m thankful for:cancer_free_ninjaI’m cancer-free:
While going through that gauntlet was no picnic, I am now what society calls a ‘survivor.’  Though it is essentially correct, I still don’t feel quite comfortable with that epithet.  However, I think the whole year-long ordeal has instilled in me a perspective that tends to focus me on the good in what time left I have in this mortal coil.


My long history of working in fields that I love:
Bell Labs was a hoot!  Drop me into an environment where daily tasks exercise my physics, math, computer and engineering muscles?  Like a pig in swill!
Now that I’m pursuing a vocation in writing, despite the fact I am not successful by society’s measure?  Just as happy!  Don’t get me wrong — there is drudgery in both fields.  But when you love what you do, it just doesn’t matter. And the high points are incredible.  I cannot be thankful enough for that.


Family & Friends:
I have seen some dysfunctional families that would put soap operas to shame.  I am ever so thankful that my family has none of those less-than-endearing scream-at-the-top-of-your-lungs qualities.  And as for friends, I have a circle of friends that I have kept close for almost four decades.  And these are the friends that I can depend upon in life-or-death situations — because we’ve already gone through it.
In my salad days, I was enamored of the saying attributed to Tom Waits:
 Champagne for my real friends,
 Real pain for my sham friends.
But I think I prefer this one over it now:
 Friends help you.
 Good friends help you move.
 True friends help you move bodies.


My furry companions:
Those of you who know me, are familiar with NixNutz*, a dog I had adopted from a local shelter. Cute as a button, he only had three legs, due to a nasty run-in with a pack of street dogs when he was abandoned in Bethlehem. Though we know it is simply the nature of animals not to complain, since they have no conception of self-pity, NixNutz’s example of “deal with it and get on with life” was nevertheless a daily inspiration for me. He left us last July, and I still miss him terribly. Not to worry — a new rescue is in the works!

Believe me, I could go on and on about my faith and the miracles — daily ones, simple ones, and even a few grandiose ones — that I’ve experienced. But I have to get back to the work that I love!

* NixNutz – a Pennsylvania Dutch term, literally translated as ‘of no use’, it is a term of endearment used by parents when their children misbehave.  A word my Dad often used for me!

Those Expletive Exclamation Points!



Modern critique-circle editors constantly hammer me on using “too many exclamation points!” while struggling to say such advice in their calmest non-exclamatory voice.  I surmise this to be a modern preference.  But is it good writing?


I am currently reading Joyce Carol Oates’ collection of “American Gothic Tales,” most recently re-acquainting myself with Poe’s “The Black Cat.”  What did I find?
Fifteen exclamation points in all!  Three in one paragraph!
“Heaven Forbid!” I can almost hear my reviewers shudder.
I wonder if these modern editors would dare take Poe and editor Oates to task over the perceived glut of exclamations?

How would these modern editors handle a heated argument?  A knock-down drag-out name-calling fest?  The presidential election debates?
I just find it quite silly to insist on a writing style that propounds:
“Help. He’s cutting my arm off.  Aiiieeee.  It hurts,” he screamed.
As for myself, I think I can live with the maxim of one exclamation point per scene.
But one per story (which is a common demand)?  I am not convinced.

I will continue to keep an eye out for this as I read more, especially as I compare older versus newer horror/suspense/mystery classics.  Afterwards, I’ll append my findings to this entry, or revisit later in a new post.

Let’s Give the Man a Hand!

I tore my bicep tendon 2 weeks ago. Here’s a few things I’ve learned during my ongoing enforced stay-cation in a sling:

Things difficult to do 1-handed
Turn pages in a paper book
Blow your nose

Things very difficult to do without your dominant hand
Anything involving any activity normally performed in the bathroom
Eat (I’ve lost 8 lbs. so far!)
Type more than 10 minutes

Things nearly impossible to do 1-handed
Slice vegetables

Things I won’t even attempt without my dominant hand
Write Checks

Back again soon!

New Toys!


, , , ,

I feel like a kid on Christmas! I hooked up my brand spankin’ new HP laptop, Blue Yeti pro mike and Sennheiser SD202 headphones, loaded Audacity onto the PC and took it for a spin.  One of the easiest things to put together, I am happy and relieved to report.  Whaddya know, for the first time in my decades-long experience with computers, plug-and-play actually worked out of the box!

new_toysA portable recording studio as easy as you please.  And with Sony SoundForge on my workhorse desktop, I can finally get to work on my audiobook(s), and contract out work for others.