Sunday, May 31, 2009

Soon Day: Shape of Posts to Come

Just a short note. Spent Saturday and Sunday with my Mom in town. Took her to the beach this morning and she and I went to see Star trek this afternoon. Saturday and again tonight, we watched the Lost in Austen series (Deb, Jes and we two), as I scanned a hundred old photos of and by (or collected by) my grandfather Joseph Walter Massey Sr., including photos of Amelia Earhart's plane on her first attempt to circumnavigate the globe, after it pancaked on the tarmac at the Pearl Harbor navy base. Here's a look:

I'll post a link to all these pics tomorrow, after I create a photo bucket for them.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Through Day: Where the Future Begins


A long time ago, in a lifetime far, far away ...

I have memories of watching Star Trek on TV in a little woodframe house in Century, Florida. Not specific episodes, although I seem to recall watching this one from behind a pillow or a couch cushion. Mom would sometimes pop Jiffy Pop, and we'd watch Trek and then Wild Wild West on Friday nights. Later (in those dark years when no local channel showed Trek in afternoon reruns), when we were on vacation trips I'd search the local channels for Trek and sometimes give up a chance to hit the hotel swimming pool just to catch another showing of whatever they were playing that day. I remember watching this episode in a motel in Georgia or possibly South Carolina in the early 1970s. (I think that one chick may have kick-started puberty for me. If you hit the link, then you know the one.)

So forgive me if the original crew is "mine." My friend S. Brady claims the Next Gen crew. Loves that show, he does, and rightfully so. Some very good TV therein. Says he's only seen one or two of the original crew episodes all the way through. I forgive him his lack of culture, and I offer up all this preamble just for context.

Because, I have to say, these new actors in the new Trek movie do a heckuva job bringing the old characters to life in a new way, and yet remain very true to the essence of the originals. Karl Urban is channeling DeForest Kelley, not doing an impersonation, just hitting all the right notes. And Chris Pine does not ever look or sound like William Shatner, but he has the swagger and the determination of Kirk down pat. All the others, too. Every one of them, with the possible exception of Simon Pegg, whose Scotty is just a little too Shawn of the Dead sometimes.

Yes, there are glaring logic, continuity and science problems with this new film, and no, there's not much of a deep philosophical core to it. It doesn't preach about race relations or protest war or explore the concept of God, which is what the original crew did on a regular basis. But it does reintroduce a whole new generation to these iconic heroes, gives them great character moments, allows them to grow. It thrills with action and adventure presented like no Trek before it (and this is coming from someone who liked ST2 the best). It creates a sense of peril, which has been missing from the movies (despite ST2, or perhaps because of it) as anything can happen to these people: Time has been altered, and no one (cough - Spock's mom - cough) is safe from the ravages of a compelling storyline.

I give Star Trek my highest recommendation. Uber fans like me will appreciate all the references to the past exploits and previous incarnations of the franchise. Casual viewers may find a new favorite summer popcorn flick. And even those who never thought they'd like a Trek movie will be surprised by this.

It is a reboot, and a prequel and a sequel all rolled together. It's a coming-of-age story and a revenge story and a hero's journey and a tale of friendship and sacrifice. It's funny, and exciting and touching -- sometimes all in the same scene. In other films, trying to accomplish so many things at once would be overwhelming to the director and leave audiences either confused or irritate. In this case, it works, and I think because no matter what else is happening, the focus remains on the characters. That's what made the original show survive so long: not just the optimistic view of the future and the imaginative plots, but the people we rode into space alongside. Particularly the lead trio of heart, mind and hand (that's a reference to this movie, in case you haven't seen it), exploring what it means to be a good person and to do remarkable things to make the universe a better place.

And 40 years from now, some new hotshot director will assemble a new cast to reboot Star Trek once again into whatever media people are enjoying in that era. Because the universe is infinite, and there are at least that many stories to be told about these characters, as they are reborn or reincarnated into new (if somehow strangely familiar) settings.

I'd love to be around to see it happen.

Peace and long life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Comics Day: Star Trek edition

Two picks for this fine Wodan's day, both based on the continuing voyages of everybody's favorite crew.

After seeing the new Star Trek movie (my promised "review" is still to come -- hopefully you would have seen it by then anyway), I picked up a graphic novel that collected the single issues of a "prequel" series called "Countdown." It takes place in the Star Trek "Prime" universe and tells of the tragedy that befell Romulus, how Nero went mad for revenge, and how Spock fell into a black hole and wound up in the past. It also quite smoothly incorporates our favorite Next Gen characters -- Ambassador Jean Luc Picard, stationed at Vulcan; Captain Data of the U.S.S. Enterprise-E; General Worf of the Klingon fleet; and engineer Geordi LaForge, who has constructed a new kind of starship he calls the "Jellyfish." The characters speak in their distinctive voices and this adventure is up to the high standards you'd expect of them. Well written, based on a story by the fellows who wrote the new film, it explains some of the lingering questions that the movie simply could not slow down long enough to address. Highly recommended if you like Trek:

And then, quite by accident, as I was wandering the Ross' store while my wife and kids shopped for summer clothes, I ran across this:

Star Trek: The Key Collection, Vol. 3

Not that you'd have any reason to know this, but Gold Key Comics printed Star Trek adventures in the early 1970s. I had a couple of these, in my original adolescent phase, and I've picked up a few more when I've run across them. I have had Volume 1 of this series, which collects several issues of the original run, for nearly 20 years. I picked up Volume 2 a few years ago in a yard sale, and apparently the collections have recently been republished to make some bucks off the new movie. Now to find the other seven volumes or so ...

This is not what you'd consider art, however. The stories are simplistic, the art is primitive, although some of it has a great Gray Morrow look. At least they've recolored it so that Kirk's uniform shirt is golden instead of bright green (as it was in the originals). The artists saw very few reference photos before these books were made, as the ship interiors and equipment often looks quite different from the show, and that's just a symptom of how little the books tried to respect the source material. Still, a great example of its time, and it carries a load of nostalgia for me. I recall getting an issue of this series when I was very little, spending a weekend in Pensacola with Aunt Beth and Uncle Eric when he was flying planes off the Lexington. Uncle Joe was there for the summer, I think, and we went to a little convenience store near their cottage and someone bought the comic for me. I don't have it any more; I seem to recall cutting out the characters and pasting them on cardboard to make stand-up paper dolls, as my grandmother had taught me to do. But I think I remember the story that was in that issue, and I'm pretty sure it's the Cosmic Cavemen story in this third volume.

Finally, I also have picked up the novelization of the new movie, written by the very talented and prolific Alan Dean Foster (who I must admit I first became aware of because he adapted the Trek animated series episodes to novels in the mid-70s, and who has an amazing and interactive personal website.) Just as I hoped, Foster explains even more of the background in the film, the stuff that didn't sit right on second thought, and includes scenes that were scripted and shot, then cut to keep the pace up. It adds so much to the story, making even seemingly throw-away scenes carry greater weight. Like, the old car that meets a bad end (which you've probably seen in the trailer, so I don't feel like it's a spoiler): little Jim stole it to go joy riding because his stepfather was going to sell it; it had belonged to his dad. That kid he passes on the road is his older brother, George Samuel Kirk, who has just run away from home, and all of this builds up in young Jim, prompting him to go a little bit nuts for the first time in his life (up to then, he was the straight-A student sort). So, yeah. If you liked the movie -- and why wouldn't you? -- you should read the book. It expands the experience.

Hope all this makes up for days of absence. And I hope tomorrow to finally tell you about the movie, so go see it and we'll talk.


Saturday, May 23, 2009


Had an overnight visit Friday night from Debra's sister and her family. They spent the day at yardsales and shopping, had Coram's for lunch. Busy couple of days, what with all the painting of Nathan's room Thursday and Friday. Maybe do some family stuff tomorrow. (Nathan is housesitting for the Raders, who are playing in Orlando this weekend, and Jessi has gone from one gathering of friends to another.) Earlier tonight, Debra and I went to Sonic for shakes, then drove into a new subdivision and looked at the model houses just for fun, then stopped by the cemetery. We thought about the past and talked about the future.

Today's Word(s): Empty Nest Syndrome.

Today's Pick: "All Good Things"

Bought in hardback at Good Will today. Novel based on finale of The Next Generation, written by a favorite comic writer from back in the day.

All Good Things ... Must Come to an End.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Getting in Tunesday

Been listening a lot recently to a new "listener-supported" radio station, 88.3 FM, "The Way." I have it streaming as I'm writing this. They play what we used to call "contemporary" Christian music, but they have it mixed in with other artists that might be considered more "secular" like The Fray. It's positive messages, inspirational, and just what I needed. Give it a listen.

On the subject of music: Today I rewrote my recent entry about Bowie for use in the Entertainer, which reminded me of a promise I made to post my interview with River Jordan. So there.

River's first novel was the story of a woman going home to settle some hanging threads in her life. It's got a jukebox soundtrack. It was called: The Gin Girl and it's Today's Pick.

Today's Word: Fray.

Say G'night, Fray.


Monday, May 18, 2009

(I Don't Like) Mondays

... Tell me why?

...And yet, it's the first time in a while that I've had the time to sit down and write here, despite thinking I had so very much to say.

Recapping some of the time that has passed:

Sunday: Star Trek. Saw it at the Grand in PCB. Wonderful movie. Full review yet to come, but my friend Brady has had some fun with it. Click here and here and here.

Monday: Bay High School Chorus final spring concert with Jessi. (Video to be posted soon.)

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: I can't say I recall.

Friday: Went to see "Oliver!" at the Kaleidoscope Theatre. Check out this video I did behind the scenes:

Saturday: Yard sales. Bought volume 2 of Justice by Alex Ross:

As well as a big plastic koi pond and some filters and pumps.

Sunday: Beach time with the fam. Yellow flags = good waves. Then dug a hole for Debra's new koi pond (though I still say it's more like a little goldfish pool.)

Today's Word: Ephemera.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Tunesday: Ground Control to Major Tom

It should have been obvious to me who and what I would write about on Tunesday. So why did it take so long for me to bring up the subject of my all-time favorite singer/songwriter/concept artist?

It's like that old saying about the forest and the trees, I guess.

I first heard David Bowie on a little cassette tape recorder. He had appeared live on one TV show or another in the early 1970s, and my Uncle Joe had recorded him singing Space Oddity. Pretty much, I was hooked. Not by the flash of his showmanship - I had no image in my head to go with this. Just by the song. And in the end, that's what it's supposed to be about, right.

Today's Pick:

A few years later, I'm earning money cutting grass for neighbors and relatives. I bought a push mower "on time" from the Western Auto store in Flomaton, Ala., paid for it with my work money, then did the same to get myself an 8-track player ("dual monophonic sound"!). Joe gave me a few tapes of his, among them the Space Oddity album, which I wore out in the next year or so.

If you ever listened to 8-tracks, you'll recall how albums were often broken into four segments, with a moment of silence and a click cutting at least two songs (the middle section of what would have been sides A and B on a vinyl disc) in two. It took me years in the post-8-tracks era to stop having this odd moment of anticipation when I listened to a couple of these songs on CD or even vinyl. I can't now recall which songs got bisected. One of the blessings of age, I suppose.

I now own just about everything the man released in some format or other (just no 8-tracks any more).

For all that above, though, I think I've failed to "review" this artist. To tell you why you should give him a listen. I'm not sure I can. It would be like trying to explain what music is to aliens who have no ears.

Space Oddity, and the other songs on that album, captured my imagination before I even knew what "folk" or early "glam rock" was. The voice and poetry, the vivid imagery, the rawness of something I didn't yet comprehend but nonetheless was intrigued by.

One of the few things I can play on the guitar is the chord progression in Ziggy Stardust.

I took Space Oddity to my high school one day, to play on a turntable on the stage in the lunchroom while I painted backdrops I had designed for the Miss Centurion beauty pageant. People asked me who that was. No one my age in Century, Florida, had heard of the man, despite "Changes" and "Golden Years" and "Young Americans" all getting airplay on the Pensacola rock stations. Despite his duet with Freddy Mercury on "Under Pressure." They thought the music was pretty strange, and it probably solidified for some of them my own place as an outsider ... dare I say an oddity.

Two springs later, the biggest hits on the radio were "Let's Dance," "China Girl" and "Modern Love." Everyone thought they had discovered him.

They were wrong. My Uncle Joe discovered him.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Free day

OK, two blogs tonight. FREE STUFF:

Tori Amos has a new album coming out, and she's offering free downloads of a song from the album as a "Mother's Day" present. Here's a video for the single:

Go here for a free download of the song in mp3 format (you'll have to sign up for an email newsletter, but you don't have to give them the cell phone number they ask for).


First Day

First Friday in downtown Panama City is usually a good time. Tonight, it was really extremely better than that. I strolled the crowd, saying hello to friends and acquaintances, bumped into our neighbors, and had a good chat with Jayson Kretzer and his wife Heather at the McKenzie Park fountain as I checked out the Festival of the Arts "preview" night. Then north again and upstairs to the Gallery Above and its opening reception for the "Light" show:

Spent part of the evening prepping for a yard sale. That's right: Head over to 707 Gabriel Street in the morning and check out the books, comics, CDs, DVDs, VHS, toys, magazines, various electronics, home decor, tools and other things we've filled the tables in the garage with.

Today's Word: Divest.

Tomorrow's Word: Haggle.

Also tomorrow: Free Comicbook Day. All over the country. Go to your local comic shop and pick up something for absolutely free. In addition, lots of shops are having local costumers come out and play superhero for the day. Check out this video from last year's event at Arena Comics:

If i can get away from the yard sale for an hour tomorrow, that's where I'll be. (Jayson said he'll be there doing sketches.) Check the site above for a list of participating shops and what sorts of titles they may have available.