Monday, December 8, 2008
It's great to get information and views from all over the world, without leaving the comforts of the old farmhouse.
Since I have always had an interest in astronomy, it would follow that I would also look into astrology. Two of the people that I read are Kathryn Cassidy and Jonathan Cainer.
From their recent posts, it looks like we could have an interesting week ahead!
When it comes to the world of publishing, I've been reading Janet Reid.
She's funny and will not hesitate to figuratively 'put the knife in', if you deserve being skewered for a bonehead comment or other faux pas. That's a social blunder for those of you non-French speakers. She also gives GREAT advice on how to query literary agents.
Which is still on the list of things to do. I will have to revise my agent list now, since I don't know who's working for who this week, after the great publishing industry bloodbath last week.
I'll be going to AgentQuery to get that update info.
It's all out there, you just have to dig it up.
Now, back to my novel rewrite...
Last year, the Writers Guild of America showed how you could strike and not get any real benefits, except the enduring animosity of your Hollywood co-workers.
This year, the Screen Actors Guild has dragged their feet, probably didn't have a script for contract talks. Now they're going to finally call a strike vote, something they should have done BEFORE the contract expired, back in June.
I've been following the fun and games over on Nikki Finke's blog; http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com
My post over there won't win me any friends, but I'm fed up with the lack of action.
Here's the key part of the post:
Get a hint from the workers in Chicago:
I'm all for people getting a good contract, no matter what industry they work in.
You better be brave enough to risk it all to deserve it.
It's not going to be handed to you.
Whining about it won't get the job done.
Monday, December 1, 2008
OK, maybe everything is going into the toilet. How cosmic is that?
First of December, missed a deadline, self-imposed on finishing the "Project X" novel.
Did get the van painted, set a new low temperature record. You're not supposed to be able to spray paint a vehicle in 54F temps. I just did and it's not pretty, but it's shiny and done.
Most of the weekend was dedicated to minor home remodeling. Boring topic, but the new wood stove is snapping and crackling, pumping out heat as I type this.
Other than that, I spent quality time chasing poachers out of the fields.
The winning excuse of the week is, "I'm just out looking for the golf balls we hit into this here soybean field."
Yummy! Nothing like the taste of golf ball flavored tofu!
Now, if the weather will clear and get up around 60, I might just get the pickup truck painted this week.
Then I'm gonna pray for rain, so I can sit inside, roast my toes and work on the novel.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Back in the Spring, I sold an old rototiller to a neighbor. This being the 'Year of the Rototiller', everyone putting in gardens.
She used it, until it spit it's drive pulley, came off while churning the dirt. Then she borrowed her daughter's rototiller, dragged it down from Nashville. Rototilled the rest of the garden, then decided to do another patch.
While starting it, the engine pull rope didn't retract and got snatched up by the rototiller tines. This snapped the starting rope. Now she had two rototillers, neither one of which worked. She called me.
Did I want to trade work, fix the daughter's rototiller and get my old one back?
No, I don't need any more rototillers, that's why I sold two of them this year. Didn't do any good, my father bought more at an auction. We won't go there.
Would I fix the daughter's rototiller? She wanted to take it back to Nashville. I agreed to this on one condition. The rototillers were not coming to the shop. I would fix them at her farm. Last thing I need is more immovable machinery in the shop.
I went out to her farm one morning, took the daughter's rototiller apart, rewound the spring, attached the rope and put it back together. Then the rototiller wouldn't start. Pulled the spark plug, it was fouled. Cleaned it, started the rototiller. We went over to the one she bought from me.
It was too easy. The drive pulley had come off because a small metal 'key' had come out of the drive shaft. The key rides in grooves in the driveshaft and the pulley, which locks them together. I glance at the driveshaft, pick up the pulley and inspect it. No damage to either one. I think I know what I'm looking at.
I figure that I have a 'woodruff key' for the pulley back at the shop and leave. The only ones at the shop are too big. I'm going to town the next day, so I stop at the hardware store and get two woodruff keys. They are half-moon shaped and come in different lengths, but are the same thickness. I check them in the pulley.
That evening, I'm back at her farm, ready to fix the rototiller. When I spin the driveshaft over, so I can put the key in from the top, I realize my mistake. It's got a straight-cut key, not a woodruff key. I needed a 3/16th square piece of steel key stock, not a half-moon key.
I didn't do my research, so I got to pay for it.
It gets better.
I thought I had the right bar stock at the shop. Close, no cigar. I had a piece of 5/32th stock. So, I call the rototiller lady, ask her if she will stop at the hardware store to get the right material. Sure, no problem she tells me. She goes into town almost every day. I've already called the hardware store, to be sure they have the right key stock. They do and everything should be fine.
The next evening I'm back at the rototiller lady's farm, ready to fix this thing after three attempts. She proudly hands me the foot-long bar of metal key stock, little white ID flag flying.
It looks small. I put it in the rototiller pulley. It's way too small. Then I look at the little ID tag. It's 1/8th stock.
She didn't look at the tag when the hardware store lady handed her the key stock.
Which goes back to my previous post about research. If you do it, cross-check it. If you let someone else do it, you still have to check it. Otherwise you both pay for it.
I handed the rototiller lady her pulley, so she can match the key stock with the groove.
At this time, the rototiller still isn't fixed.
You have to have the right key.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Years ago, I would gulp a can of cola, grab a donut or four and head out the door. If I had time, stop by the drive-thru grease pit and get a carbo-load of pancakes and fake maple syrup, throw some slabs of fried pig on the side and voila, fatfest.
Great in the old days of 12-16 hour slogs in the shop. Burn those calories like a raging forest fire. The body changes as does the routine.
When I settled into the more sedentary life of writing, burning brain-cells didn’t seem to overcome too many calories. I began to accumulate insulation, slowly layering it up, under my skin. This slowed me down and allowed it to build up faster.
Life in Europe didn’t help the situation. All that fresh bread, scones, crumpets, Dutch pastries…chocolate in everything else, except the beer. I was on my way to becoming a rotund one.
My return to America on the good ship Queen Elizabeth 2 was the crowning touch. I gained about twelve pounds in ten days. Huge breakfast, walk the decks, read, write, lunch, write, nap, tea-time, walk the deck or read, dinner, movie or catch a couple of the Blues groups (it was a "Blues Cruise", 10 days, 18 acts), evening stroll around the deck, then a midnight snack. You get the picture; I was burning about 137 calories and taking in 9,000.
When I got to Tennessee the scale informed me that I was nearly 190 pounds. Which is way too much for my frame. The move to the farm brought that out in a hurry. Out of shape and overweight a doctor put me on a natural diet. It probably saved my life.
Breakfast now is composed of oatmeal and tea. Boring but healthy. OK, I add a few ingredients to the oatmeal. First in is sliced pears or apples. We have pear trees on the farm and I use them fresh when I can, preserved when out of season and frozen in between. Then I throw some peanut butter into the mix, top with dark chocolate chips and add pecans. There are pecan trees here and this year we had a good crop.
The green tea gets raw honey from the local apiary. I haven't used sugar except in an emergency while away from home. There isn't any in the house.
Sounds like I circumvented the doctor, but I’ve lost the weight that I gained and more. I’m now about ten pounds heavier than when I played football in high school.
In my opinion, half the battle is going back to natural foods and getting away from the processed debris sold as food in many fast-fried places.
It’s your body, fill it up any way you want.
Don’t call me when it breaks down.
I only fix cars.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Why did it take a couple of weeks from the 'moment of enlightenment' to getting back to the novel?
I spent that time doing research, reading and cross-checking information. When writing a techno-thriller, all the elements should be feasible. Suspension of disbelief can only take place when you present a good argument. Too far out and it becomes fantasy or sci-fiction.
Research is something that I love to do. Finding out about places, things and people help me paint a better picture for my audience. Why pay someone to do it for you? First hand knowledge is the best.
If you don't know the subject, don't try to fake it! It's a sure bet that there will be someone out there who will catch you.
Your agent and publisher might not notice. They're counting on you to have done your homework. If it gets past them and into the hands of the public, it could be a different situation.
You don't want to pay that price.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Been gnawing over the ending for the past months, many of them.
A couple of weeks ago, while taking a pecan break during the great house painting escapade of 2008, it struck me. The ending, wrapping up all the elements of my novel, popped into my head as I masticated a pecan. I didn't do a little victory dance, just leaned back against the truck and went, "Whoa, that's it!"
Now I'm rewriting the book, cutting into the 257 pages, slicing the 130,000 plus words, paring it down. Excising fat, leaving meat and bone.
Gotta steal a line here;
"I love it when a plan comes together."*
*("The 'A' Team" TV show)
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
This blog is supposed to reflect the efforts I'm making as a writer. Less than two percent of those efforts make the blog. If I blog about everything, I wouldn't get any farm work done, much less work on my novel or other work.
From my vantage point, here in Cherry Bottom, people seem to reflect a character they admire. They buy and wear clothes like that of their favorite star, politician or sports hero. Even get their hair cut the same way. Until they take the risks and go out there and do the thing, it's all hero worship.
People get obsessed with a book, play, movie, games, you name it. TV and now the Internet gives even more examples of how you can lead or mislead your life.
That's the tough part.
Leading a life you can call your own.
I read other blogs, not as many as I would like, but I try to get an overview of the publishing world. Janet Reid's blog is one of the few that I follow.
She also posts over at "Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room".
Buying books is always an experience. I've been surprised at what I've found in old bookstores, usually something that I never would have thought of buying until I stumbled upon it.
That's been changed, with the advent of online book sales. I'm glad that there are ways for people to buy books over the Internet. I've bought and sold books that way myself. It's a new marketplace.
It made me realize that there are too many opportunities in this day and age for people to benefit from the work done by another, without compensation. There are plenty of examples of pirating in the film and music business. Books aren't immune.
When it comes to e-books and tracking their sales, how do you do inventory? Who knows the exact number of downloads?
I've been stonewalled when I ask these questions, either on the phone, letter or by email. The lone writer gets no respect from the company, big or small.
It's one of the reasons that I am looking for an agent for my work.
Let them fight those battles,
earn their keep.
I've got an empty page to fill,
words to go,
before I sleep.
(I couldn't resist....)
Some people hate the rain, I don't mind it. It gives me the excuse to stay inside and work on my writing. Which is how I would rather make my living, rather than be in the shop or doing farm work. It's getting harder for the average person to make ends meet. The flea market is disastrous right now, the scrap metal market is even worse.
An example. Three months ago, automobile scrap metal was at $14 dollars per hundred pounds. Now it's at $1 dollar per hundred pounds. For those of you who only pay attention to Wall St. and the stock market, that's like the Dow Jones dropping from 14,000 to 1,000.
When I hear the big boys whine about how tough it is in the markets, I shake my head. They have no clue.
Everyone is talking about change.
That's the one thing that's constant in life.
It probably will be what you don't expect.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I love to paint. Something about putting a new gloss on something old, bringing it back to life or giving it a different look.
When it comes to house painting, I could care less. I’ve been here for more than six years now and the office/living room still hasn’t been painted. It’s still got primer in places and the door frames are stripped to bare wood, all work done by a previous tenant. I’ve had other projects, so it can wait. When I moved in, it was a rush situation, so the painting was put off. On top of that, I don’t like to think about, much less move all the ‘office furniture’ to paint the room. All those books and magazines…
The house that I’m painting up the road, that’s another deal. A necessary evil. Money to pay the bills. Painting the exterior of a house isn’t any fun either, climbing up and down ladders, scraping peeled, dead paint until my hands are scuffed and raw. It has to be done before the weather changes and it’s too cold and wet.
What I like to do is custom paint work. Flame jobs, stripes, two or three tone colors. Something that knocks your eyes out when it rolls down the road. If it’s on top of custom bodywork, so much the better. Then you have an original piece of work. Rolling sculpture.
I’ve got a van and a truck, both in primer, ready to be final sanded, taped up and sprayed. That’s what I would rather be doing right now.
Putting a paint job on a vehicle has always be a time consuming process, but when done, it’s a shiny testimony to your skill.
It’s those chores of necessity that get in the way.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I was talking to Camo-man, watching the strollers surge from table to table. When they get to his ammo, knives, targets and military surplus stuff, they either speed up or slow down to eyeball the goods.
Movement in the parking lot caught my eye and I turned from the table and looked over to see a family of four, one of the children down on his knees in the gravel parking lot. At first, I thought that he might have fallen and was hurt. Then I realized that he was scratching the dirt around a rock.
I walked over, the amateur geologist in me curious about his actions. People have told me that I have rocks in my head, but I really have them scattered around the house. Everything from crystals to volcanic slag, beach rocks and fossils. An amber pyramid, cut from petrified tree sap, sits on my desk, next to other rocks and minerals. I usually bring something back from every trip I’ve ever taken. It’s a lifelong affliction.
The father of the child looked up as I approached.
“Everything all right?” I asked.
“Yeah, he’s found something.”
The boy, about 11 or 12 was excited, “I just looked down and saw it! Right there in that rock.”
He’s pointing at a dark brown rock about five inches long and four wide. I stoop down and look closely at it. A dark, raised ridge runs diagonally across it, ending in a wider, flattened section. I run my fingers over the rock, shake my head in wonder.
“It’s a snake fossil! I don’t believe it! Probably been here for years, people driving and walking over the top of it. How did you notice it?”
The kid shrugged, “I just looked down and saw it.”
His father shakes his head, “Who knows how big that rock is.”
They had been digging around it with their fingers and house keys. My truck was parked about fifteen feet away, I turned and headed towards it.
“Let me see if I’ve got something.” I rummaged through the tie-down straps, rope and other farm necessities in the area behind the truck seat before I realized that I would have to unload the mess to get to my tire tool. Backing out of the truck, I went over to Camo-man.
“You got a shovel or something I could…?” his look of disbelief stopped me short.
“Just what is it that you’re doing?” His look wasn’t encouraging, as the thought flashed through my mind that I was digging up someone’s parking lot. I shook my head.
“Nothing, the kid’s found a fossil, I need a pry bar or something.” I turned to the young couple next to Camo-man. They’ve been trying to sell t-shirts for the past month. “Hey, you wouldn’t have a shovel or a pry bar would you?”
I get the ‘are you crazy’ look from the blonde in the pink hot pants, while her boyfriend looks blank for a minute, then dives into his truck and comes out with a small nail-puller pry bar. “Will this work?”
I grab it, it’s brand new, look over at him, “Yeah, if you don’t mind me digging up a rock with it.”
“Go ahead, you can’t hurt it.”
The family is staring across the parking lot at me. Waving the pry bar, I dodge back from a car creeping through the lot. The driver and passengers surprised to see a scruffy man waving a pry bar around, like he’s about to put it through their windshield. The car accelerates past me. I cross over to the fossil family.
“This will do the trick.” I turn the sharp, flat chisel-edge down, lean on the curved prying section and lever into the dirt around the rock. It embedded, years of rain, cars and people stepping on it have sunk it into the parking lot.
Scribing around the edge, dirt flakes away, smaller pebbles break loose and roll off. I work the pry bar down into the gravel, finally getting under a section of the rock. It comes up out of the ground with smaller rocks still clinging to it.
I peer closely at it, turn it over, looking for other fossils in it. There isn’t any visible, but the rock needs to be washed off to really know. The kid hovers next to me, as if I’m going to steal his treasure.
I hand it to him, “Great eye! That’s a real find, a complete snake, except for his head.” I point out the indentation where the head should be, the only part that’s been broken out of the fossil.
The kid’s ecstatic, he’s about to jump out of his skin. Show it to his folks. His mother and father are beaming. I turn back to the kid.
“Hey, do me a favor. Take it over and show those guys.” I point towards the young couple and Camo-man. “They let me use the pry bar, so you should at least show them what you found.”
The kid nods, eager to show off his prize. We stroll over to the tables and everyone looks at the snake fossil.
People shake their heads in wonder, disbelief, and some, with a touch of contempt.
After all, it’s just an old snake, stuck in a rock for the past 50,000 years or so. Who cares?
I guess you had to be there.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Life on the farm is unlike anywhere else. Sure, things are pretty much set to a natural cycle, but events and routines are changed more often than in any other work situation.
I get up around 5-6AM and sometimes don't go to bed until after midnight. In between, I'll work on equipment, take care of the animals (not many, as we're not running livestock), deal with unexpected events (neighbor's animals getting loose, etc.), maintain the property...just plain hard work.
Then, if I'm not too tired, work on my writing.
That's been the summer schedule.
With winter approaching, I try to write in the early morning, then do farm work until dark, which is now around 5PM here.
I usually write out a blog post, then review it. Still make mistakes, but that's part of getting it done.
Looked over my "Project X" calendar, found that I hadn't done any writing/rewriting on it for a couple of months. Which doesn't mean that I stopped doing research on it. Trying to 'forget' it, so I have a fresh perspective when I come back to it. I won't snooze on this one any longer. Events in the world are catching up to it's premise and I have to get it out to an agent or publisher.
It's the query emails that eat up time and really frustrate me. Haven't done any in a long time and they are the necessary evil of the literary world.
Like any writer, I hate getting the rejections.
One day though, I'll get the reply I want to see, maybe more than one.
That will be the validation of my efforts.
Someone else understands my work.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Past couple of blog posts I've hammered out, trying to get back on a daily schedule. When I reviewed what I had written, couldn't believe the number of errors, misspellings, we won't go into the the grammatical structure. I have an excuse for my twisted writing style.
Since I've been educated in various places, North, South, Europe and America, I have been exposed to different languages structures. German isn't written like English and French has it's own way of construction. Nederlands (Dutch) sounds like German, but 'vrouw' and 'frau' both mean 'wife' yet they aren't spelled the same but sound similar to a foreign ear. Throw in regional dialects and their special connotations, you can come up with a strange brew of languages.
Sure, it's a cheesy excuse, but it's mine.
Language laws are made to be broken.
I do it all the time.
As long as you get the idea out there.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
I look at the phone, a name I don’t know. Is it some local meth-head, trying to score? Another drunken wrong number, looking for their love? A phone call I don’t want to answer, with a person telling me that someone I know is hurt or dying and I need to rush to a hospital?
Thoughts that pour through my mind, a jumbled cascade as I stare at the unknown name on my phone with the strange number. The answering machine kicks in, they don’t drop off, but start to leave a message.
“Hello, Mr. Thomas, I know it not a good time of night to call and get up with you….”
I pick up the phone. He’s apologizing for the late hour, couldn’t sleep, had to call me. I ask what I can do for him. It’s an old carny, who goes by the name of ‘Tom’. His real name is Gordon, but he’s called Tom. Something about shirts he wore when he first joined the carnival. Which leads to the first of more than a couple of stories that I’ll hear over the next hour.
When I met Gordon, three weeks ago, he was at the local flea market. I was running a table, trying to sell some of my accumulated goods, a polite way of saying I was trying to get rid of some of my junk. It also gives me an excuse to get off the farm, check out what the local folks are doing and maybe, if I’m lucky, make a couple of dollars.
You never know who is going to show up. My neighbors have wandered up, surprised to see me sitting there, clothes, exercise equipment, copies of my self-published book arrayed across the weathered wooden table.
An author I know from the defunct local writer’s group, shocked that I was mixed in among the rabble. People who pick over things, some just to see what you have, others are truly interested. Snooping and sniffing for a bargain.
A man stops, looks at some of the blue jeans for sale. He’s wearing a shirt with a fiberglass company logo, so I ask if he works for them. “Nope, just have the shirt. I’ve done fiberglass work for years, built those waterpark slides all over the country. Do roofing now.”
I nod, “Yeah, I done a bit of ‘glass work myself, mainly cars, a few boats.”
We talk fiberglass for a few minutes. He picks up a copy of my book, looks over at me.
“Wrote that just after I got back from Europe. People don’t really know the difference between working here and over there. Too many think that it’s all socialism over there. They have more rights than we do and don’t lose their benefits if the company fires them or gets bought up by another company. We bail out the companies and mistreat the people who do all the work.”
He nods and says, “Yeah, you have to work for yourself. Then you can set the price.”
We talk about work, life in general and that topic of disgust, how the economy went to hell. He looks my book over, reads the back cover, “I’ve got someone you should meet. You got a minute?”
“How’s that? I mean, there’s no one here to watch this…” My hand sweeps across the table, turning my dross into gold.
“There’s a guy here, wants someone to write a book about his life. He needs a writer. I was just talking to him about it. He’s right up the way here.”
I’m taken aback. There’s not too many people who you would expect to want a book written about them working at a flea market. Most people here would like to forget about their lives and just make the rent, buy some food and keep the electric on in the old homestead. I look over at Camo-Man, who’s daughter is here helping him.
“Hey, can she watch my table for a couple minutes? I’ll be right back.”
Camo-Man nods and his daughter comes over. She watched me set up and I’ve got prices posted on everything.
“I’ll split the profit with you on anything that you sell. OK?”
“Good, I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
We take off through the throng and dodge our way towards the center of the flea market. Along the way, he’s nodding, waving, saying “Hello” to people. He stops one portly man, makes a snide comment to him, most of which I miss, then moves on through the crowd. He turns to me, “That’s the sheriff, always good to know the sheriff.”
I nod in agreement, “Just as long as he’s not serving a warrant.” We trudge on and suddenly he stops in front of a pork skin stand.
Pork skins are a country delicacy which are self-descriptive, yet indescribable. The first time I threw the pellets into a vat of boiling oil, I knew I could never eat them. Later that day, after finishing off the first bag, I got two more bags to take home with me. They were like eating bacon-lite, not quite as greasy, great with beer. I ate them constantly for about seven months and haven’t touched them now for over fifteen years. After all, deep fried pig skins are still pig skins. Good for footballs, not my stomach.
In front of me is a long-haired man, a snowy beard dappled with black, short, energetic, hands waving about as he explains something to a woman’s he talking to. The crowd surges around us, islands in the middle of the stream.
The fiberglass man grabs Tom the carny’s arm, “He’s a writer,” pointing at me.
Tom nods, “Yeah? I’ve got a writer, school teacher down in Selmer, gonna write my book.”
I think, ‘Wonderful, that’s the end of that…time to go back to the table.’ Still, I’m not about to leave without throwing in my two cents. “That’s great! Are you working on it now?”
He shakes his head, “She hasn’t had time, been teaching school.”
I nod, thinking, ‘Yeah, I’ll bet…what’s a good excuse for me?’. Before I can say anything, he’s off and running, veering through stories, piling decades together, not quite in sequence.
It was the story about the unknown dead guy that got me. Man who had worked for him for six months, running the ‘duck pond’. A game that has rubber ducks floating in it, numbers on the bottom. Put a dollar in the man’s hand, pick up a duck, see what prize you won.
Tom the carny had called him “Quack Quack”, since he didn’t know his real name. Lots of people, on the run, making a living, just getting from one place to another, no names, pay in cash, gone in the morning. Carnies don’t ask any questions, just as long as you pull your weight. Otherwise you can hit the road, the carnival doesn’t need any freeloaders.
They had set up for the weekend. The carny told me that he had left with his girlfriend, spent the day at the lake, swimming and picnicking. Got back late. In the morning he goes to check on Quack Quack and finds him dead on his cot, lying in the back of a game trailer.
Now, over thirty years later, the carny wants to find out Quack Quack’s real name and contact his family, tell them where he’s buried. That and write a book, except for one problem.
He doesn’t know how to write.
When I wrote the title to the previous post, it bothered me, but I was in a hurry and published it. Since it wasn't in my dictionary, I finally checked it tonight and found out that I had it wrong.
It stands corrected and I learned something.
All these years, I had been spelling it wrong, as in the second example, besides the fact that I left out the 'u', as in the first example in the title above, when I wrote the previous blog post.
I can only offer the lowly excuse that I never took Latin in school.
Now back to our regularly scheduled misadventures.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Plenty to write about, but work and a bout with the flu have slowed me down.
Until now. I'm much better, thanks and the posts that are in the review process are going to be up this weekend. Don't place any bets on it.
Since tomorrow's a new month, I'll start my monthly writing log with entries for my "Project X" novel and at least one blog post.
There, it's in print and in public, so I'll have to do it!
On my 01 Wage Slave blog, I'm going to start with employee tactics. Those basics to cover yourself, in case, make that WHEN, you're 'laid off'. Check out the link below:
Since the election is winding down, I'll do a couple of more posts on the faux election, what it means and how people like Ted Stevens can be convicted and still elected. Yes, I expect him to be re-elected.
Have a happy and safe Halloween.
Watch out for the ghost dog in my yard.
His bite is worse than his bark, since he doesn't bark.
Fair warning, as posted.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Frankfurt's Buchmesse (Book Fair) has come and gone, the Surrey Writers Conference is this week. I've been to one, but not the other. Planned on going to Surrey this year, but it's not to be. I'll write a post about Frankfurt. It's an event that every writer should plan on attending at least once in their life.
I'm painting a house, instead of the van and truck that have been 'on the schedule' for the past month. Finally delivered the welding truck to it's old/new owner. He's probably glad to have it back, I'm glad to have it out of the barn. It sat here for over two years after he bought it.
The welding truck escapade interfered with my going to the flea market for the past two weeks. I'll have to check in with the folks down there and see how the real economy is doing.
We should get some rain in the next couple of days. That will give me the time to get my writing caught up. I also have to get back to sending out queries to agents.
I would make a list of everything that I need to do, but it would take all day!
Monday, October 13, 2008
I was going to write a post, but had to put in some posts today. The fence post type of post.
This being rather mundane, back-breaking type labor, but necessary to keep animals in and predators out. It was an unscheduled task, as I was already working on cleaning the shop.
Shop cleaning is perpetual, especially when I am trying to paint a vehicle. Nothing like dust, spiderwebs, dog hair or other detritus embedding itself in new shiny paint. Doesn't add to the luster.
My father, swooping down from the far hills of town, descended on the farm mid-afternoon. He was early, usually he doesn't show up until about an hour before dark, then wants to work until the bats come out.
His penchant for secrecy doesn't allow for me to be informed beforehand as to the 'job of the day'. There are only about eighty-four things that need to be done, but with the posts and other fencing materials lying out by the road, the sight of undone work might have spurred this event.
Without further ado, the tractor was equipped with the post-hole digger, and post-haste, we went to drill the earth. For those of you who have never enjoyed such endeavors, allow me to relieve your angst. The immense thrill of churning dirt with an over-powered drill bit cannot be understated. The real excitement comes from dodging the tractor as it's being maneuvered into place. It's too easy for someone to back over you, when the tires are taller than you are.
The usual planning went into this project. Which translates as; 'it was planned as we went'. After the sixth post, I was informed that we were not 'aiming' the line of posts in the proper direction. My mistake was to think that we would place the posts across the property, in a straight line. As it turns out, they are now curved, to match the road. What was I thinking?
Equally spaced they are not. Why measure the distance, divide by the number of posts and do layout with a chalk line? Let's not confuse the issue with planning. Just get 'er done!
Rather than bring on more tears from your overworked eyes, I'll rest the matter now.
The posts are in, this post is done. We even finished before the bats came out.
I'll have to go back and level them off with a chainsaw though.
The heights are a bit uneven.
There isn't more than five inches of difference between most of them, except those at the gate.
Which are about a foot different in height.
Not bad for government work.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Do not confuse this with the current state of confusion regarding the unstated panic, fed by the fear of worldwide markets. A market cannot bite you, except in the wallet.
Remember, it's all paper money.
Unless of course, you're using plastic.
Normal posting will resume when everything returns to normal.
Whatever that is.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Here's my comment, don't know if CNN will post it:
More 'Ivory Tower' ignorance. Sure, all of his statements about government action/inaction are correct. The problem is that when people aren't working, they aren't paying taxes. The 'New Deal' had to create jobs before this country started to pull out of the Great Depression. You can 'create' all the credit, etc. you want, without work, you don't have product. People have to eat, have a roof over their heads and contribute to the country through their job before any of the banks, etc.really matter. All markets are based on product, not credit or paper!
Further thoughts on the situation;
It all comes back to tangible assets.
You don't acquire 'tangible assets' without work of some kind or being able to pay for them. Every market is based on either goods, property or a commodity. Goods (cars, boats, appliances, clothes, etc.), property (houses, buildings, real estate, etc.) and commodities (grain, livestock, minerals, etc.) have value dependent on demand. When demand is down, the value goes down.
Credit is based on the repayment ability of the person, company or government. It's determined by a risk factor. Good risk, then good credit. Bad risk, bad credit rating and then your 'perceived' value drops.
The current economic crisis is being solved by giving to the banks money that's going to be hard to produce, unless it's printed by the government. This will cause inflation, as it will take more money to buy any product, regardless of it's value. The government should be spending money on job creation, which produces taxes and spending on goods, commodities and housing.
This economic crisis isn't over by a long shot, it's just the beginning of the end game for many institutions.
Hang on! The roller coaster ride is about to get rough!
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Yes, I'm angry about this 'bailout'!
Welcome to the roller -coaster ride of Wall St. No suicides, homicides or bailouts allowed. Please keep your hands and feet inside the car, sticking your neck out is optional. Just as long as it’s not mine.
Remember, that it’s all about your perception of ‘credit‘. None of the ‘money’ on Wall Street is real, it’s all paper tiger trash. All tangible assets will still be there tomorrow. Your house and city won’t disappear overnight.
This ‘financial meltdown’ is being done to keep you from real issues; lost jobs, wage, health care, and pension erosion, immigration and the wars on drugs and terror. All of which have contributed to this credit, mortgage and bank dilemma.
The root causes of this crisis is deregulation by the government.
There is a simple solution to this problem. It’s listed below and will pay for itself.
1) Immediate levy of an 80% tax on all incomes over 10 million per year.
Tax rate to adjust down to 30% per $100,000. These rates to be in effect for the next four years. If you made big bucks, you should pay big bucks, no exceptions.
EXAMPLE: Rush Limbaugh will have to ‘get by’ on about $27 million from the $105 million that he’s paid. Either amount is ‘lottery’ money to the average American.
Big actors will ‘take home’ 4 million out of their usual 20 million movie salary. Tough, but they’ll survive. Sell a yacht or an extra house. Taxes were higher than this in the 1950’s for millionaires.
2) Immediate 10% reduction on all government contracts. No exceptions. ‘No-bid’ contracts to be reviewed for revision and imposition of limitations.
3) Immediate 10% reduction on all elected officials salaries in the government (Executive, House of Representatives and the Senate) Since they can’t do their jobs, they deserve a pay cut.
They’re lucky we can’t fire them outright.
4) Immediate yearly bonus cap for ALL employees, agents, managers or officers of companies, not to exceed 10% of annual salary. No adjustments or exclusions. This to include shares of stock or any other investment instrument.
5) Price gouging fine of 25%, minimum, on all excess profits from market manipulation for any ‘vital necessity’; such as: energy (oil, gas, propane, coal, electricity, etc.), food, health care and products, and clothing. A temporary price cap to be put into place as penalty for a 3-6 month period.
6) 90 Day moratorium on mortgage rates, to be extended as needed, on a monthly basis. This will allow the market to stabilize over the winter, which is a slow time for sales.
7) Minimum 50% equity share in every business that requests assistance from the government. Government to be first to recover investment when asset is liquidated or there is a return on profits.
8) Immediate freeze on stock market. Declare a ‘stock market holiday’ until 6 October for legislation to be enacted, based on proposed actions listed above.
IF no action is taken on a fair and comprehensive restructuring of the financial system, then:
ALL AMERICANS SHOULD STAY HOME ON 7 OCTOBER 2008 TO REMIND THE COMPANIES AND THE GOVERNMENT WHO REALLY RUNS THIS COUNTRY!
IT’S ‘WE THE PEOPLE’!
October 7, 2008, is the 243rd anniversary of the Stamp Act Congress. One of the first attempts to insure the rights of citizens of America. Look it up, read about it, learn our history.
TAKE ACTION TODAY; CALL, EMAIL OR WRITE CONGRESS!
We trust in our government to manage our money and provide for our security. When they don’t, we the people must assert our rights to demand proper service.
The proposal above is not perfect, nor complete. It’s an outline of what needs to be done, without putting the entire burden on the average American.
NO BAILOUT for UPPER CLASS SWINDLERS!
Please forward this email to all your friends!
30 September 2008 Thomas L. Segerson
Friday, September 26, 2008
Big players, moguls, movie stars who have gone astray.
When she picks on a person who's just trying to do her job, it's over the line for me.
See what you think. Check out her blog:
In case she doesn't post my comment, it's included here:
Dear Hollywood and Nikki Finke,
Thanks for this important and earthshaking post.
All the major players, liars and thieves out there and you pick on this poor, young soul. A person just trying to do her job in the best way possible.
I would like to see a public apology by you Nikki Finke to Michelle. A private one would be in order also, but I don't expect miracles from you.
I'm sure your 'insiders' could easily get you in touch with her. Take her to lunch. Do the right thing.
Life is difficult enough, without you beating up on someone like this.
Try to be inclusive, this exclusive club of Hollywood is only being self-defeating by supporting this sort of thing.
Those of us in the 'fly-over states' are not as dumb as you think.
When you celebrate the New Year, try to remember the reasons we all need to work harder at understanding each other.
You ain't helping the problem.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
The past week has been full of non-events, but lots of work. My father's building a new house, instead of remodeling one....so I'm digging out all the lumber and building materials on the farm for this new project. He's a tough one, works most people right into the ground, even at his age.
I just spent the past two days welding up the trailer that he almost destroyed hauling concrete block. It's a good thing that he's got more than one trailer. I'm usually fixing one, while he's out bending the usable one.
I'd rather be working on one of the car projects, like my '65 Baja Bug. Plan on doing a blog on doing 'downhome' custom work. How you too, can have a custom ride, without the big expense of taking it to the local bodyshop.
One of my monthly projects is sending out the bill to my former company, O'Neil & Associates, Inc. of Dayton, Ohio. We parted ways over seven years ago and they still haven't paid the court judgment. Have tried to get a lawyer to take this case, but not too many of them are interested in a court judgment from the Netherlands.
It's one of the reasons that I started a new blog.
I'll be reviewing work conditions, the loss of benefits and healthcare, any issues related to the workplace. Too many people put their faith in their companies, only to find out that the company is only going to wear you out, then throw you out.
Didn't get to the flea market this past week. With all the flack about the Big Bailout on Wall St. I didn't think that too many people would be there. Saved the gas and the time. Maybe this weekend....
It's been a wild rollercoaster ride and it's not over yet...keep your seatbelt fastened until the ride comes to a halt.
You may be paying for everybody on the ride, please have exact change ready.
Cash only, we don't take no credit.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I was standing at camo-man’s table. We were discussing bicycle parts, what they were worth, is there going to be a market for them. Gasoline being five dollars a gallon.
An old man, hunched over with his arms wrapped around a ‘squirrel cage’ fan unit shuffled up to the table. He eased the unit down, put his hand on top of it.
“See you got yourself one of them.” pointed at the older unit that camo-man was using to keep himself and his wife cool in the sweltering heat.
“Yep, lot better than some box fan. What you want for it?”
“Like to get $25 dollars, it cost a lot more…brand new…lookit them wires, ain’t never been hooked up.”
Camo-man is looking the unit over. It’s as clean as the day it came off the factory line. “What voltage is it?”
“She’s 220, that’s why I can’t use her. Cost too much to put 220 in the house. Man wants $150 just to hook it up.”
Camo-man nodded, “Yep, mine’s 110, use it anywhere. Don’t really need it, but I might be able to use it for my wood-burning stove. You take ten for it?”
The old man shook his head, he was anxious. The unit probably cost at least $150 dollars new. I’ve had to work on more than one of them myself. The old man looks at me, “You interested?”
I shook my head, “We’ve got about eight of them on a shelf down in the barn.”
His eyes were full of doubt, “Yeah…?”
“My old man remodels houses, keeps everything. I’ve got rid of all the old heating units, took ‘em to the scrap yard in the past year, kept the fans. Almost always they’re still good. Never know when you might need one.” He nods, knowing that I’m out of the game.
Turning to camo-man, “You think you can go twenty on her?”
Camo-man looks over at his wife, she’s not committing or commenting, poker face. This is her man’s deal, she can berate him in private. He shakes his head, “I’ll give you ten for it, know it’s worth more, but I’ve got to be able to turn around and sell it if I can’t use it.”
The old man looks down, shakes his head, “How about a TV, got a nice one, over in the car. Take $45 for it and throw in this here fan.”
“Naw, we’ve just about stopped watching TV. Nothing to see on it.”
The old man looks over at me.
I lean up against a metal support pole, shaking my head, “Stopped watching TV four years ago, gave my set away to a neighbor about three months ago.”
The clouds are closing up, blocking the light, shadows meld into a gray pall over the market.
Camo-man looks the old man in the eye, “I’ll tell you what, give you fifteen for it, but that’s all I can go.”
The old man looks defeated. He knows he’s dealing with his last chance. It might be the only money he makes today. He studies the table, then looks up, “OK, I’ll take it.”
Camo-man pulls out his book of a wallet, drawing out the tattered bills. He hands them across the table to the old man. Camo-man’s wife, behind him, looks with disgust at his back.
I clap Camo-man on the shoulder, “Catch you later, need to get back to the farm.”
He nods, “See you next week?”
“Yeah, tomorrow’s gonna be nothing but rain. I’ll get those bike parts together for you. Take it easy.”
I trudge over to my beat-up old truck. Slide behind the wheel.
Ten cents on the dollar. Is that all things are worth?
It could be worse.
We could all be using hand fans again.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
A farm has a magnetic ability. It attracts things. The various barns and buildings down here have accumulations of items that would boggle your mind. Everything from antique wooden crutches to an old fire department ambulance. The usual and unusual farm debris.
Game plan was to get some of the various 'collections' together and take them to the flea market Saturday. Sell what I could, talk with some of the other folks and drive home with an empty truck and a pocket full of cash. Call it 'Spring Cleaning, the Late Version'.
Hurricane Ike kicked into Texas, sending water and economic shock waves throughout the country. I was late getting to the flea market, but I could tell when I pulled in that it was not going to be a good day. The place was empty.
I made the rounds, talking to various vendors. People who sell livestock, used clothes, old books, everyone a specialist. The usually crowded aisles were quiet, no throngs of people, just scattered clumps of families wandering around the tables.
The frumpy woman selling used clothes shook her head. Nothing good about the day. I asked her if there was any particular sizes that she was looking for, what was selling. There's something depressing, end-of-the-line about used clothes. She wants more men's work clothes, in my size. I shook my head, told her that I wore my clothes out, then used the remains for cleaning car parts and farm equipment.
One of the livestock vendors cruised by on his electric cart, paused for a moment. He gave me that, "Where you been?" look. The semi-disgusted one. There are a couple of old animal cages sitting in the barn. I need to fix a hinge on one, put a brace on the other, been meaning to do it for a couple of months. He gets first crack at buying them. After he whirred off down the path, I excused myself. A late start and more people to catch up with.
Need any bicycle parts? There are probably 2,000 pounds of new and used stuff out in the barn. Almost all of it is thirty years old.
I stopped and talked with one of the old men who used to fix and repair bikes. Now he and his wife sell used toys and some bikes in their indoor booth. He didn't have any bikes today. Told me that he was getting out of the business. Too much work for too little profit.
I showed him the bike parts that I brought with me. Good stuff, but he had no use for them. Asked about the man who rented the next stall over. He also kept a few bikes for sale.
The old guy shook his head, "Closed down, going to fix bikes at home and try to sell them from his garage." He pulled out his wallet, gave me the guy's card.
He had another old man in his booth, who spoke up and told me about a guy who was now getting into fixing bikes, just down the road a few miles. Got his info, thanked the man, excused myself again and headed out the door. This was getting grim.
Went over to the tool man. New and used stuff, everything you need for the home or shop. I had three coils of used air hose. He had no use for them, but another vendor who was talking to him wanted to see what they looked like. Took him over to the truck, he inspected the air hose and we negotiated the sale. After we agreed on the price, he fumbled his wallet from his bib overalls, pinched out the bill and handed it to me. We did the "Thanks...I appreciate it. See you later." exchange as is common amongst country folks. He scooped the coils of rubber hose up and walked away.
It had been over three hours and I looked down at the ten dollar bill in my hand. With the dollar that I got from the used clothing lady for a pair of kids boots that I sold her, I had made $11 dollars. You could say that it wasn't worth loading the truck, much less spending the time and gas to make the trip. I got in the truck and drove over to see the camo-man.
He sells surplus military stuff. Knives, targets, old ammo cans. Friendly guy, everyone knows him. They stop by to shoot the breeze, catch up on the latest flea market gossip. Everyone talks about the weather, the usual farmer stuff. Now with the elections, add in the spice of politics.
Politics are pretty much a sore subject, with the economy doing its swan dive. Hurricane Ike was giving us some high winds, also pushing up gas prices. As the day wore down, prices keep moving up. Rumor? Fact? Fear? A man from Alabama told me that he had seen $5.99 per gallon at a station. Another just in from town said that it was up to $5.11 at one of the discount stations. There were no happy campers.
The forecast for the rest of the night was rain, high winds and possible tornadoes. We turned eyes toward the sky when gusts would knock things over on the sale tables. Spooky weather, odd clouds.
The lady across the aisle was selling DVDs and music CDs. I looked over her wares and made my big purchase of the day. Since there's no TV in the house, I watch a lot of movies. An old classic caught my eye, "The Last Time I Saw Paris". Something about it stuck in my head. I looked up and down the table, came back to it. Old movie, 1954, Elizabeth Taylor, Donna Reed, Van Johnson, Roger Moore, Eva Gabor, Walter Pigeon, a cast of great actors...shrink-wrapped in the world's smallest cardboard cover. All for a quarter, that's right, 25 cents American.
I asked the lady if the price was correct. She didn't know, it was her friend's DVD, but it looked right to her. You could tell by the 'period' in front of the 25. I dug a couple of dimes and five pennies out of my pocket, handed it to her and went back over to the camo-man's table with my new treasure.
We discussed bicycle parts. He's into riding now, trying to lose weight. I left a couple of new bike seats and other parts with him. Just to see if he could move them. Never hurts to expand the inventory.
There was nothing else to do. The only traffic was from other vendors, trying to sell their wares in a last ditch effort to make a few bucks, pay for the gas it took to drive to the market.
I headed for the house. It looked like rain and the mood was more down than up.
A tropical depression, an economic depression and general social depression.
The three together don't make for a wild weekend.
One thing about being on the bottom.
You can only go up from here.
People get caught up in issues, causes, current events, most of the time without having the slightest chance of being able to impact these situations. I'm guilty of this more than most people. Other people go on about their lives, I try to 'help', only to step into the deep manure.
Just spent the past couple of days sniping back and forth with a SAG supporter. I think that's what they are, they have one of those anonymous blog poster names.
End result, I'll go back to spending more time on my novel and blogs.
The SAG people will learn the hard way about contract negotiations in this day and age. That's how I did it. Fell on my face more than a few times, didn't enjoy the pain.
It's one of the reasons that I wrote "Going Dutch, Trials of a Wage Slave". Wanted to point out my errors in life, give people a few laughs and hopefully, keep them from making my mistakes.
People don't mind the laughs, but lessons? They usually have to learn those on their own.
Hitting the pavement can hurt. Hard on the face, too.
Bring your own band-aids.
Friday, September 12, 2008
This one will focus on my book, “Going Dutch, Trials of a Wage Slave”.
It will be a couple of days before I launch. Working out the blog name, deciding the layout and contents, etc.
Have been raising hell on Nikki Finke’s blog:
The SAG/AMPTP thing is nothing short of a fiasco. Time to shut Hollywood down until the people who do the work get paid for their efforts.
This country has been allowed to sink into a wage slave mentality. Too many people think that they don't have any say in their work conditions. They are too scared to speak out, afraid to lose their jobs.
Instead, they are slowing losing everything, while they are holding onto a job that could be gone tomorrow.
Those who aren't brave enough to fight for their rights usually have none.
Irony is one of nature’s strong points. We’re about to get hammered by a storm named “Ike” and we really need an Ike, as in Eisenhower-type president right now.
You don’t hear anyone talk about him. Probably too honest for most of our current political types to mention.
After all, he warned us of the potential problems with various situations in the world and within our country. I have mentioned in a previous post, his book “Mandate for Change” should be required reading. Catchy title, huh? Almost like a political slogan.
I’ll start my review of the book in the next couple of postings. Expect it to last for a couple of weeks. The parallels with our problems today will shock you.
Then there's that storm out there.
I'm afraid it's going to shock this nation, in more ways than one.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Which will mean more time to write. I don't like doing outside work in the rain, if it can be avoided. I thought I would be outside today, but rain came in, so I'm sorting through my paperwork, getting the house changed over for the cold season, all those things I hate to do.
The rain is leftovers from Hurricane Gustav. It's been pretty funny down here, listening to people try and pronounce 'Gustav'. It doesn't translate well to print, so I'll just leave it to your imagination. Bounce the syllables around a bit, try it with a drawl, slur on it, make it into a couple or even three syllables. Fun, huh!
I've never said that the boredom factor was low, but sometimes you have to make your own entertainment.
Try watching how people react to a sudden rain shower. Most frown, pout, get angry, especially if they don't have a raincoat or umbrella. Very few people smile at it, unless they're a farmer or gardener, needing some water on the crops.
Without the rain, there are no rainbows.
Enjoy them after your local shower.
Monday, September 1, 2008
A couple of old items on the agenda, which I WILL take care of in the coming month.
The "You Wanna Be In Movies" Series will get wrapped up. Trying to break down the overly long post that is the one day of shooting on the feature film set. It was a long day, so it's a really long post.
My education into the ways of the blogosphere continue. It's a good thing for the Internet that people can make anonymous comments. If they couldn't, about 80-90% of all blogs would dry up and blow away. Anon commentators remind me of hecklers in a crowd. Always wanting to shout out some usually worthless dreck, but hey, not brave enough to get up on the stage and give their name. Don't even begin to lecture me about 'freedom of speech'. The people who believed in it were brave enough to sign their names to the document, when doing so could have meant their death. Yes, this could mean another blog.
The summer is officially over. Getting the farm ready for winter. Which seems to be coming on rapidly this year. An early winter would not be any surprise, but I would like to have a fall season for once. The past few years fall has lasted about two days and then the cold weather slammed down. That's relative of course. I don't have to deal with three feet of snow any more and when we get three inches of snow on the roads...they close the schools! All of you in the Great White North can go ahead and laugh now.
If you are one of the few people who read this blog, I can report that the pear tree was loaded with fruit this year. Some of the biggest pears I've ever seen. So far, I've got about a dozen five gallon buckets of pears off the tree. It was well worth getting up at 4AM to light a fire and keep the tree from icing up during a late freeze. Pear preserves are already on the shelf, right next to the red plum preserves. Need to get some apple trees planted down here. Pecans will be next, they're starting to fall.
Work, an appropriate topic for the day, considering that it's "Labor Day" in the U.S.A. The irony of which is that only rich people or those who have vacation days usually get to take the day off. OK, I know, most businesses are closed and everyone is having a barbecue, congratulating themselves on having a job.
One thing about national holidays in Europe which the US needs to look into copying. When they have a national holiday, they usually close everything. You can't go to the grocery store, mall, etc. Some restaurants will be open, but that's about it. Unfortunately, the trend has been for Europe to copy us. So now they are trying to work everyone, every day of the week, all year long. So much for enjoying life! Take some time out from the greed.
I will be spending more time on my writing in the coming months. It's not easy, but it certainly is much less stress and strain on my body.
During my life, I played hard, got the lumps, scars, broken bones and aches to prove it. All that fun comes with a bill. Which is not covered by medical insurance.
You can't appreciate pleasure, until you've tasted pain. Whether in your body or brain.
It's a comparison thing.
Not avoidable in life. See your doctor, if pain persists.
He'll write you a prescription.
Take as directed.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I know people out there who are some of the finest human beings on the planet. They have helped me, given me guidance on my work, gone out of their way for me.
It's my hope that they will understand my comments. I'm not trying to be rude or too angry. None of this is personal, although I've made comments about the actions of some of the people involved in the current SAG/AFTRA/AMPTP situation that won't win any awards. So be it.
You probably have done it. Told someone you love how messed up they are. You do it because you care. You want them to see the error of their ways.
The difficult part is finding the diplomatic path to take.
Sometimes I have a difficult time restraining myself in making comments.
Usually, I write out what I'm thinking, look it over, edit it, then put it out to the world.
Even then, it might not come out as proper and polite as it could. Then again, there's nothing like a poke in the nose to get your attention.
Right now, Hollywood is looking at another record-breaking year for the box office. Some of the folks out on the coast are convinced this is due to their great writing, acting, movie-making, etc.
Very few of them will be correct in that self-congratulatory mode.
If the economy weren't in such sorry shape, there might be a vastly different report card for the movie business.
Hollywood made money during the Great Depression. Now, during the Great Recession, they're doing it all over again.
Too bad they think it's because of their movies.
If gasoline were cheaper, more people would be on vacation and doing things outside.
As it is, it's cheaper to take the family or your friend to the movies than it is to feed your face or do almost anything else.
Wake up Hollywood, you're not the center of the universe, except in your own fantasy.
So, please settle the contract talks with SAG.
Write and produce some quality movies.
I love you Hollywood. America loves you. The world loves you.
Now, please get your act together and get the show back on the road.
Did some damage to an old injury during the scrap yard run mentioned a couple of posts ago. Kept working around the farm, thinking that it would get better. Instead, I had to take some time off to heal.
While I was in the house, I finished reading President Eisenhower's book, "Mandate for Change". There are a few topics which I will need to research before I comment further on his book. I will say this, too much of what he warned about then, has been ignored now and we are going to pay for it.
Have also spent time on doing research for one of my books. Too many authors sit down and write something, without doing the background work necessary to creating a solid base from which to build their work. It's the other side of writing that I like, the reading of other authors.
Too bad that it doesn't appear to be work to most people.
They think that I'm just goofing off.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Friday, August 15, 2008
After the work I have put in on the dozen screenplays, two novels, one memoir and countless other works, why do I continue to do something that hasn’t really paid yet? I love it!
I’m also a photographer, although you won’t find any of my work posted here. Started at the age of 10, went on to shoot for the high school yearbook and newspaper, shot my first film in high school. That’s film, not video. Later I volunteered as a cameraman at a public access TV station.
Along the way, teachers suggested that I get acting experience. I’ve been on the sets of independent and feature films, both here and in Europe. Sometimes as an observer, others as a background extra. It’s helped me gain perspective and respect for what an actor has to go through to do their job.
For a few years, I was the film commissioner in Dayton, Ohio. It was a great experience and gave me a good look at the political and social games involved in the film industry.
Now I write and shoot videos, work on my multi-volume novel and try to keep all my toys running. Then, there's all the farm work. Never a dull moment on the farm.
All I need now is an agent to promote my stuff.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Monday was a day that can only be described as beyond hectic. Checked the Internet, ran all over the farm, loaded the dump truck, took it to the scrap yard. Which is 60 miles round trip in a 30 year old truck that rides like a bucking bronco. Believe me, I don't need to go to the gym to get a workout.
For those of you who have never enjoyed a trip to a scrap yard... I can only tell you that it's not worth writing about, but I will.
It used to be pretty boring, drive up, weigh in, dump the scrap, weigh out. Now, it's drive up, "Ve vill see your papers!", show ID to the scale operator, who runs it through the computer. Then drive over to get inspected by the Scrap Yard Inspector; "Where did you get the scrap? What city? Have you and the scrap been separated since you loaded it on the truck? Was anyone seen to approach the scrap? Has anyone offered you scrap today?" I explain that I have a scrap-sniffing dog on the farm and that he has raised his leg in approval, giving his mark of acceptance. It's that stain on the right rear tire.
Mr. Serious Scrap Yard Inspector will not tolerate ANY jocularity or attempts thereof. "Where did you get the truck, what year is it, make and model?" I answer all the pertinent questions. He notes that there are a couple of tires still on the rusty bicycles, mixed in with about 2,000 pounds of clean steel. "I don't like to pay for plastic or rubber tires, next time, cut the tires off." I resist the urge to snap off a "Jawhol, mein fuhrer!" and just nod at him. Give a clown a clipboard and you'll have a full-fledged tyrant by the end of the week. I hope he hasn't seen that "Patton" movie.
After I dumped the scrap, it's back to the interrogation area, uh, scales and office, where I'm weighed out, then get to sign ze papers and give my thumb print to the nice lady. I've been through less security at a major airport. Who knew that junk was a high security item?
Dump trucks ride even worse when they are unloaded, it's their heavy-duty springs. It's kinda like being thrown around by one of those angry rodeo bulls, but it doesn't stop after 8 seconds. I've got the bruises to prove it.
Hard to admit, but I would rather go to the scrap yard than go grocery shopping. Which was next on my list. After a shower to get that manly fragrance of 'Eau du Junk' off my body, it was into the big town. I usually buzz-saw through the grocery. Little old ladies see me bearing down on them and run their carts into neatly stacked boxes of crackers, trying to get out of my way. Busted cardboard and crumbs everywhere.
This attracts the grocery cops, you know, those old geezers who wander from aisle to aisle, looking lost, minutely inspecting jars of phlegm oil and buttered Yak hooves. All the while giving me sidelong glances through their tri-focals.
Just to raise their blood pressure, I'll shove something back on the shelf, take off and whip around a corner on two wheels, with only one hand on the cart. That always gets them foaming at the mouth. By the time they get their Dr. Scholl's in gear, I'm two aisles away.
Once I've accumulated the essentials of life; beer, chips and dog food, I head for the checkout. Where it's ID time again. I think some of these people do this so that they know where all the beer is hidden in the county. I would like to think that the single women are doing it to follow me home, but that's just a fantasy.
Back at my humble abode, I take a break. Pop in a one dollar DVD. A Roger Corman classic, "The Fast and The Furious". Lots of old sports cars being raced on country roads without rollbars. Ralph Nader would have a heart attack. After studying this classic, it's back to work, on my writing this time.
About 1 AM, I head for the sack. Plan on grabbing about a four hour nap, get up, watch the meteor shower, breakfast, do some work until it gets too hot, then nap, do some writing, etc.
I'm dreaming, it's one of those strange dreams, more disjointed than usual, plus I've never noticed it before, but there's a smell.
Now, I've had dreams where people spoke French. Which my high school French teacher told us was a sign that we were learning the language. Which made sense, since I was living in a French-speaking country at the time. I couldn't understand them in the dreams either. I have dreams in color and they have strange sequences of events. The smell thing is new...it gets to be overpowering.
That's when I wake up and realize that it smells like skunk. Now, if I had the air-conditioner running, it might not have been too bad. The windows were all open and a couple of fans were moving the air around in the house. What they were doing is sucking the stench into the house and blowing it right at me. I jumped up, got dressed, grabbed my small, 18 "D" cell flashlight and ran outside.
You don't want to run outside at night in the country without a good flashlight. Mine is about the size of a baseball bat and weighs a little less than a nice, heavy lead pipe. You can use it to drive a golf ball a quarter of a mile. It's got a beam on it that's good for signalling UFOs and at close distances will fry bacon or blind a bat. Handy, but not overkill.
Unfortunately, it's pretty much useless against a skunk. Who can spray you from a distance, then take off for the creek. While you smell like, well, skunk piss. There is no cologne equivalent. It makes "Eau du Junk" smell like a bracing, manly fragrance.
I was lucky, the skunk had hosed down my dogs and taken off. The dogs wanted me to appreciate their new-found odor, but I declined and headed for my truck. Might as well kick back and watch the meteor shower. It was almost 4AM anyway. All that stardust, flaming across the sky. I was so tired, I didn't think to make a wish.
Even so, the Perseid meteor shower was pretty good this year. I didn't get to use the method that I wrote about earlier, due to lack of time. Still, it was a good show from the truck interior. Just before the false dawn, I nodded off, woke up after about an hour and went into the house. Which still stunk of skunk.
I turned the fans around, so they would blow the aroma outside. Then I wandered back out to the dogs. Who looked at me, as if I didn't know what I was doing.
They were right.
I went back into the house and got their breakfast. Mine could wait.
There's something about skunk that just kills the taste buds, much less the desire to eat.
Now that's an idea!
The skunk diet.
Also good for keeping you wide awake.
Not sold in stores.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
At this time I'm reading "Mandate for Change" by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. My copy is the Signet edition, which is the paperback version. Doubleday & Company, Inc. printed the hardcover version. Copyright 1963, this copy is a first edition, printed in 1965. This book covers the first four years of his presidency and the events leading up to his running for office.
This book should be required reading for all Americans who want to vote this year. It should be taught in all high schools. President Eisenhower reviews his political career, starting from after World War II.
He explains how he came to chose a political party, since he had been apolitical while serving in the military. His coverage of the important diplomatic, economic, scientific and political issues of the time still ring true today. We are still grappling with the problems of Korea, China, Russia, atomic power, the economy and worldwide warfare. At home, we can't seem to agree on anything and almost nothing is getting done by our government.
What strikes me about this book is President Eisenhower's commitment to not only America, but to the image it projects in the rest of the world. His concern about being strong, but compassionate in his dealings with other countries.
I'll get specific in later postings. At this point, all I will say is that he doesn't sound like any current Republican.
Friday, August 8, 2008
For those of us who are fortunate enough to live out in the country, it's an opportunity to watch a great light show. You can still see some of them from town, but tall buildings and light scatter will lower the number of meteors that will be visible to you.
Look Northeast, anytime after midnight. You'll see meteors all night, up until dawn. The best days this year will be around the 12th of August. Just before dawn on the 12th is supposed to be the best time.
I'll probably park the pickup truck out in the field, put a 4x8 foot piece of plywood in it and block it up at an angle. Put down a layer of foam (or an air mattress), then toss a sleeping bag on top of it. This keeps me off the ground (which will get damp and cold, even in the summer) and it's much more comfortable than lying in a lawn chair. Bring along your favorite refreshing beverage and settle back. This can easily turn into an all night thing, but it's worth it!
Just remember that any fires, lights, etc. will ruin your night vision and cut down on your ability to see the meteors.
A few years back, there were numerous fireballs that came in. When they exploded they cast shadows! An impressive sight in the middle of the night.
If you can talk your favorite squeeze into doing this, it just might be a 'night to remember'!
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Got up this morning and my arm let know that it was taking the day off. Nothing like an old injury to throw the day/week schedule out of whack.
Just spent the past two hours writing what I thought would be the final chapter? Episode? For the "You Wanna Be In Movies" series.
It's at 1800 words and a bit too long for a blog post. Especially since I'm only half-way through the day we spent on the movie set.
At this rate, I could break it down and make it into a TV series.
OK, maybe not a good idea, considering.
IF I work 22 hours each day, for the rest of the week, I'll be caught up to the first of the month.
Then I'll only be 9 days behind on my work.
Friday, August 1, 2008
Invest in death.
That's right, you can't lose. It's always a money-making proposition. No matter what form you choose. Let's look at your options!
A perennial favorite! Thousands of years of excellent return on investment. Billions dead prove that this can't be beat for overall cost-effective management. Ask a politician, military leader or defense contractor today about investment opportunities!
Can't bring yourself to face the real deal? That's OK! We can pretend, just like kids playing 'grownup'. Books, TV, movies, video games, you name it, we got it! Death in a thousand ways, performed in slow motion, multi-angle, digitally enhanced, anywhere on earth or in space. There's no limit!
It's the next best thing to warfare! Plot, plan, execute your strategy. Win at all costs! Drugs? Cheating? It's all expected, as long as it's not detected by the 'officials'. Pay-offs not included.
That's right, the one most people never consider. That slow, excruciating crush of fiscal collapse. Watching as every last penny is squeezed to keep a roof overhead and food in the mouth. As seen on TV!
Conspicuous consumption? Can't get enough of it? You gotta have something to put in them landfills! Why worry about killing off the planet, you won't be around to clean up the mess anyway! Leave it for the next generation, the lazy slackers!
That's just the tip of the iceberg! Ask the people on the "Titanic" about that!
It's the one thing that everyone has to deal with, so let's make money on it!
It's not funny, but it sure is final!
Give your money to someone else today.
After all, you can't take it with you!
Against the backdrop of the inane world that is usually bantered about on the blogs, why not slap some people back to reality?
I've been reading about paparazzi, stupid politicians (all of them), lazy union members, thieving businesses, you name it, the blogs are full of it.
So, what's being done?
Nothing more than a lot of posturing and mouthing. Not too much action, as in real world, down in the dirt, get it done.
That would take work and commitment.
Too many want to shirk and get paid.
No matter how bad things are, just smile.
Knowing that it's worse somewhere else, for someone else.
Think about it.
Yeah, I know. You're too busy. Got other things on your mind. Important stuff. Like what color to paint the kitchen or which new video game to buy.
It'll be around before you know it. Most of you won't see it coming. The majority will be horrified to think about it, much less plan for it.You really should think about it. Put it into perspective. Give yourself a chance to reflect on what you've done. More importantly, what you've blown off and NOT done.
Depending on your life, you'll get warnings. Some won't get as many as others. You might not get any warning at all. Those little incidents, where you barely escape having your life end.
Kind of like slicing an apple, the knife close enough to take off your fingertip, but just at the right distance to cut the apple into wedges.
A friend sitting next to you gets killed in a car wreck and you walk away with a couple of minor scratches. One of those close calls, where the breath of death tickles your neck, but extinguishes another life.
You live long enough, you'll know what I'm talking about.
You see enough death, you'll know what I mean.
It will make you question how people can continue to be arrogant and ignorant about the current situation in the world.
How people can discount the lives of people they don't know, because they aren't the same as them. Too many people devalue others, not knowing that they then devalue themselves. We all do it to a certain degree.
You want to scare someone? Laugh at them when they threaten you. It upsets their perception of being empowered. It will bother them that you show no fear.
When you face your final moment, then you will find out just how much truth was in your life.
A false life ends in fear.
Your time will come. Don't rush it. Keep going down the road, even after you've taken a wrong turn and had to backtrack. We all do it.
When you come to the end of your road, you'll want to be able to look back down the track and laugh at the great ride that you had.
It's all about being true to yourself.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
The past few weeks have blown by, like they weren't anything more than leaves in the wind.
Since the heat is now stratospheric, I'll be spending more time at the keyboard. I can only work a couple of hours, maybe four at the most, in the early morning. Then it's too hot and humid, with the heat index easily over 100F. I've seen air temperatures over 103F, in the shop, in the shade. Yes, I know that it's hotter in the desert. Here, it's the humidity that can kill you.
I've been expecting an earthquake down here, but LA got one before us. Glad to hear that it wasn't serious. You know what they say about earthquakes.
It's usually really hot before one hits.
We had one in Ohio about thirty years ago, a very mild one. I would rather not repeat the experience, thanks.
Back to the novel for me.
Friday, July 11, 2008
The faster I go, the closer the towering wall of snow draws to me.
Have a couple of more posts to do on the "You Wanna Be In Movies" series. but who's making movies right now? Only the independents. Most of Hollywood is shut down due to the SAG/AMPTP fiasco.
Plenty of work to do on the farm. It's only hot as hell with humidity approaching sauna levels. Work for about an hour and I'm soaking wet. Great way to lose weigh.
Still, I love it! Think of all those hours I could be sitting in traffic out in LA or riding the subway and NOT writing...rather be writing than riding. Especially with the speed limits we have.
If we go back to 55MPH, I'm gonna have to fix my old VW Baja Bug. It's got a top speed of about 85MPH and it takes all day to get there.
I'll be back yet this week.
If I can stay away from Nikki Finke's blog.
24 JULY 2017
In yet another advance for creatives planet-wide, after years of ‘New Media’ study, the AMPTP announced their last, best, final ultimatum to the Creatives Guilds Alliance. The CGA, composed of reps from the WGA, SAG, IASTE, DGA and AFTRA, were gifted at the confab with a 55 gallon drum of Kentucky jelly, to be liberally shared among the members.
With the contract due to run out on 31 July 2017, AMPTP spokesdevil Santa Spawn commented, "This is a back-breaking opportunity for these unworthy creatives. In the darkness of our hearts we have decided to give up our claims on all of their children, only demanding their first-born. Further, we will now increase their already bountiful rations to include bread with the recycled sewer water we now provide them.
Asked for comments, at their idyllic island retreat on Alcatraz, a lone dissenter demanded to ask a question. He was immediately shot and run through the Ferti-Loamer machine.
When questioned, Santa Spawn admitted the incident, "It’s sad, but we must keep the creatives isolated from society, rather than chance that they infect the loyal, orderly, working drones. After all, once they reach 27, 28 years old, they’re over the hill and really only good for plant food. A bit acidic though, I might add."
A creatives bystander, shook his head and remarked, "He knew better, they told us they would review the New Media provisions back in 2008. Don’t people realize this stuff takes time?"
Santa Spawn smiled and slapped him on the back, "Sheeply, you’re great! We’re still working on that DVD formula from back in the ‘80s and hope to have it figured out by the next contract."
Rumors that Santa Spawn danced off singing "My North Pole Is Gonna Be In Your South Hole" could not be confirmed.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Get some hours on the computer, writing. Unending work up at the shop, too many projects to list. Try to keep up with cutting the grass, which is growing like crazy, due to the heat and all the rain.
I've been sending writing work out to different agents, production companies and whoever else I think might be interested. Doing the hardest job of being a writer, self-promotion. Which can seem to take forever. Then there's this blog.
The SAG/AFTRA/AMPTP dust-up has grabbed my attention. If you have read my book and I honestly don't expect anyone to claim that they have, you would know that I've got more than a little background in the union/labor contract/negotiating arena.
Nikki Finke writes a blog on all the Biz news in Hollywood; http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com
She does a great job. It doesn't mean that I always agree with her. The fun part is reading comments by other people who follow her work. Sometimes, I have to shake my head. Ignorance and arrogance is not confined to the sticks.
My comments probably don't win me any friends, but my experience is that if you expect people to meet your needs and don't do anything to oversee their actions, you can bet on them NOT doing everything as you expect it.
Allow me to qualify that statement. In a group situation, you usually have a common goal. There will be discord, but majority rule usually determines the direction of the group. Which still doesn't mean that the head man or the group assigned to do the bargaining are going to deliver your contract like a hot pizza. In thirty minutes and just the way you ordered it. It will be a committee pizza.
As an individual, if you hire someone to represent you in a negotiation, whether it's a lawyer or an agent, then you have more direct input. You're paying the bill and if you don't get what you're paying for, you should either fire the representative or demand to know why they have not done the job. Maybe both, if they get paid and still don't deliver. Be polite and try not to rant when you terminate the contract.
After all these years, I can't believe that people still think that if they let things go, without making any effort to advance their agenda, it doesn't matter who represents you, those people are somehow going to do what's in YOUR best interest. They are only going to listen to the people who bend their ear.
You better be ready, willing and able to stand up for yourself. Or be ready to get shipped down the river.
Start building that life raft now.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
It would be great, if someone had a plan to end the mess that's going on in Hollywood, but...
In my humble opinion, SAG is not using it's members to get the word out. I don't know what individual SAG members are doing to build up support from the marketplace, otherwise known as the TV and Film audience. It's pretty obvious that major stars haven't done too much, if they have, it's not showing up on major media coverage.
AMPTP is doing the least work with the most results. I read their press release and it's a very good job of placing all the issues and the resulting slowdown in movie production on other people. We all know that the good-hearted people running the studios and corporations would never do anything to crush the employees.
Maybe I'm being too polite about all of this, but I can't get into rant mode.
If you are dumb enough to believe everything that is advertised, then you're probably still waiting for E.T. to come back and visit.
Wanna buy a bridge?
Sunday, June 29, 2008
If you do good work and make the right connections, one day you can see your dream up on the big screen.
The big problem will be getting everyone to buy into what you are trying to accomplish.
Get a few people who want to throw a wrench in the works and you'll have a train wreck.
The evolving SAG/AFTRA/AMPTP contract situation is better than any reality TV show.
If you're reading any of the Hollywood blogs, you can get a whiff of the action that's taking place in Tinseltown. Like watching a bad movie or, if you're involved in that mess, living a nightmare.
It's eaten up a lot of my spare time, so I haven't posted here in a few days.
Will be doing an update later today.
I'll be commenting on the above mentioned contract situation.
Please Hollywood, get it together and go back to making movies.
Right now, it's back to the farm work.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
SAG and AFTRA are cutting each other's throat, trying to leverage power with AMPTP.
After the WGA strike, this could be the worst thing that happens this year. If it comes to another strike, then expect things to get very nasty.
Like we need more problems in this country.
Take away the 'bread and circuses' and what will be the results?
I don't even want to speculate.
Time to buy some more books.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Security had gone from minimal to maximum overnight. Police cars in the street, stopping everyone. I was checked in, told to park the car in a gravel lot about 300 yards from the set, pulled into the lot and directed to a specific spot by another security guard. Who then told me how to walk down to the set. With an implied, "Don't make any sudden moves, boy, we're watching you." You guys ever work at the airport?
It was frantic ant city on the set. A catering truck parked at the big tent, white-aproned workers unloading hot food and cold drinks. All this activity to make something that never happened appear to be real. Let's not get existential here.
I squeezed into the main tent, dodging crew and caterers to sign in, given another list of instructions, rules and regulations of the movie set. Speed read the laws of the land, while eyeing the food goodies laid out on the nearby tables. The crew was going at it, piling up plates of food and getting hot coffee, tea or chilled caffeine for the morning buzz. My stomach reminded me of my granola in a bag and lukewarm, non-iced tea breakfast at the motel.
I looked back at the fine print of the 'background extras' regulations. There it was, in all it's font and glory, sub-paragraph v, section 9: "The background extras shall starve and watch the cast and crew gorge themselves at the feast tables. There shall be no whining, sniveling or pandering for food. Groveling or other obtuse acts will be treated with disdain. Violators will be flogged and hounded from the set." Thus spake the rulebook.
I noticed that the politician had already worked the crowd and was standing next to one of the tables, trying to balance enough food to feed a third world country on one plate, while filling up a gallon coffee mug with the other. He spotted me watching him, so he YELLED; "Hey dude, come on over and get some of this, it's great!"
Looking around, I noticed that I was the only person in the area, he wasn't talking to the sea of chairs around me. You ever try to duck under one of those folding tables? Those damn extension arms that hold the legs up will hit you in the face every time. Nice welt though, with the imprint, "Made Somewhere Else" emblazoned on my face.
David, the generator man, train expert and Model T driver strode into the tent. He noticed me and came over to the table, "Hey, get something to eat. That's what it's there for. You're gonna have a long day and who knows when we'll stop for lunch."
My protests about the fine print were met with a shake of his head, "Forget it, this cast is so small, it doesn't make any difference. If we had about 400 people here, like we will next week, then they would enforce it. Come on."
He pivoted and headed towards the tables. I looked around at the rest of the background extras, none of whom had budged, more fine-print readers. They watched me closely, waiting to see if lightening would strike or I would be just dragged from the tent. I hadn't seen this much food in one place since coming over on the cruise ship from the old country.
As I loaded up my plate with food that is only available to movie stars, royalty and CEOs, I almost felt guilty. Almost doesn't count for shit. After all this little excursion was costing me money. It wasn't going to put anything into my bank account. In that respect, I figured that I could eat like a pig. The only problem was that I was too nervous and backed off, just eating stuff that wouldn't turn over in the old stomach. Heavy on the fruits, rolls and donuts, tea, a breakfast burrito, no hot sauce.
I had never had a burrito for breakfast, due to my long-standing strike against fast food restaurants and their contrived menus. Halfway through the burrito, I decided that it was a plot to upset the delicate balance of my stomach. Which is renown for it's cast iron ability to withstand rotgut tequila at 8AM, without the benefit of food. A real good reason to never start drinking, much less make it a lifelong habit.
When you wake up with a hangover, you want to do something to make it go away. Aspirin is so boring, just have another drink. After a few years, you'll wake up one day and go, "Damn, am I already 30? or am I 40?" Your entire youth will have passed you by in a blur. If you live that long.
The volume level in the tent flattened as the tension rose suddenly, people nodding towards one corner, some craning their necks to see.The Star had arrived and was doing the greeting the troops thing.
OK, we're fine with that. I respect the man. Got a screenplay parked in my briefcase, sitting right next to me. Come on over here....yes, he's moving this way. NO! Wait...damn, he goes back out the door? flap? opening? of the tent and into the cool, foggy morning.
This gets my hopes up, maybe the female lead will show up in the next few minutes. I ask around the table if anyone has seen her. I didn't come down to see The Star. I just want him to buy my screenplay or the rights to my book. Hire me to do rewrites.
Now, the leading lady, that's a different story. You can never appreciate the true beauty of a woman until you see her face to face. Even if she's about to slap you for that last comment.
So, where was she?
"She's not here." David informed me, between bites into his breakfast.
"What! What the hell are you talking about?" My feelings of betrayal were obvious.
"She's not here, he's the only one, besides a couple of others that came down from the other location."
"I didn't come down here to see a bunch of guys!" I grumbled.
"Yeah, well, that's how it is," he deadpanned, taking a sip of coffee to wash down his sausage biscuit.
Great, how are you supposed to charm a woman when you can't even meet her?