Monday, April 30, 2007

The Final Four

I'm only short four issues of Savage Sword of Conan now. They're on the way to Cliff as we speak. Could arrive today. I know everyone is waiting with baited breath for me to complete the collection, so I'll let you know when they're here.

Return to Drenus

About three years ago I wrote a short story called Dead in Drenus. It came about because I was reading an article about the original Dungeons and Dragons game and the writer explained how the standard D&D adventure played out. An adventuring party would be gathered to face some menace, usually with the promise of a reward. I wondered what would happen if the party returned and the people who had offered the reward didn't actually have the money. I figured someone would get killed. The idea intrigued me because A. I thought it would be fun to write a mystery story with elves, dwarves, and haflings as suspects, and B. I also thought it would be fun to begin a story where most stories of that type ended, after the menace had been defeated and the heroes returned home.
I wrote the story and was pretty happy with how it turned out. Unfortunately, only a week or two after I finished it, my computer hard drive crashed. I hadn't gotten around to backing that story up, so I lost it. End of story, both figuratively and literally.
I've thought about that story from time to time and wished I could re-read it but I figured that wasn't going to happen. Then, this weekend, I was cleaning out a box of old files and clippings and what should I discover at the bottom of the box, but two hard copy chunks of Drenus. It wasn't the entire story, but it was most of it, missing only about three pages. These were copies I'd printed out for editing. They were covered with red ink, and crossed out paragraphs. Still it was most of the story, so I sat right down and read it.
It still holds up. Coming back to it after this long I was able to read it almost as if I hadn't been the writer. I enjoyed it, which isn't often the case on re-reading old prose. The mystery holds up and there were a couple of bits of clever dialogue that actually made me grin as I sometimes do at the fiction of others. Wish I had those missing three pages, but hey, what can you do? It was still a nice surprise to be able to return to Drenus.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Random Thoughts

Well I broke down and had to buy new Dockers this weekend, and those things are not cheap, let me tell ya. Thus it was another famous 'no entertainment money' weekend. No early morning Borders run. No wandering through Movie Stop for discounted Xena DVDs. A lot of reading. A lot of sorting of Savage Sword of Conan comics, and a lot of mindless net surfing.
It's always hard when Sunday night rolls around and I feel like I spent the weekend without accomplishing anything. Makes me feel like life is passing me by. Not much I can do right now. But I'm down to four months now until all my debts are paid. I'll have a lot more walking around money after August. Just have to stay the course until then.
I didn't do much writing this weekend but I thought a lot about it and did some research for a couple of new projects. More about that later. Basically I'm pretty much abandoning any fiction I had in progress. I'm a little tired of most of my old ideas. I'll be rethinking my writing career, I think. Closing some doors and opening some others. I'm in one of those periods where I can feel change coming, but it's still down the road, and I can't make it get here any faster. All I can do is be ready. I am an apostle of the possible.
Friday I was sitting outside at the Starbuck's on Barrett parkway. I was sort of reading and sort of watching people and sort of daydreaming. Anyway, this car pulls up and a very elderly couple get out. Old enough that I wondered if they should really still be allowed to drive. Like that.
Anyway, they walk slowly across the parking lot to Starbucks, and when they reach the curb, the old man takes the lady's arm and helps her get up the curb to the sidewalk. Slightly proceeding her, he gets to the door and opens it, holding it until she is stepping through. He steps behind her and rests his hand on the small of her back, still holding the door until she's inside, still guarding her. Still.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Losing Interest...

Funny how things sneak up on us. I just noticed, like in the last couple of weeks, that I have more or less stopped reading contemporary fantasy fiction. Over the last couple of years, and especially in 2006, I stopped buying books by the few modern fantasy writers I liked. Raymond Feist, Bob Salvatore, Steven Brust, Glen Cook. I'd even passed on the last several books by the late David Gemmell, the man who had brought me back to the fantasy fold. In fact, I think the only current fantasy novel that I've read so far this year was David Weber's Oath of Swords. (And I didn't like the sequel, by the way, so probably won't be reading the third book in the series.)
Looking at my shelves now, I can only see a couple of fantasy books that are not in some way connected to either Robert E. Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs. (I'm including the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith in the Howard related volumes.) Basically if it's not connected to Weird Tales or Tarzan it's pretty much gone.
As I said, this sort of sneaked up on me. I had been growing more and more dissatisfied with the current state of fantasy over the last couple of years. Too many Tolkien knock offs and too many vampire books. Neither are my cup of tea. The authors mentioned above, Feist, Gemmell, etc, all write action oriented books in fantasy settings, which is what I was looking for, but even those have ceased to hold my interest. I can't give any definite reasons why but I can hazard a few guesses.
First, my reading has made a major shift toward non-fiction over the last four of five years. I read more non-fiction than fiction these days. mostly history, biography and literary studies. Second, I've been reading a lot of historical fiction which has a lot of the same stuff I wanted from fantasy (swords, battles, exotic lands, more swords). Third, I have returned to reading old fashioned sword & sorcery more than high fantasy and almost no one is writing S&S these days. If I want the pure stuff I have to go back and read older books. Fourth, my interests seems to have swung back to crime fiction in terms of escapism reading. Not whodunits, which I've also lost my taste for, but hard boiled stuff. I've been reading that stuff forever but lately it seems to have pushed back to the front of my mind.
In some ways it almost seems that I have swung back toward realism in general. Less fantastic fiction. Less contrived mystery plots. Lots of true stories. Anyway, next time I'm culling books, I suspect the few remaining non Sword & Sorcery fantasy books I have left will go the way of so much of my old collection.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Never Ending Hunt

I spend a considerable amount of time looking for books. Browsing new and use bookstores. Searching online. Talking to people who read a lot and looking for recommendations. When you read as much as I do, you have to be constantly replenishing the 'to be read' pile. That pile is a little small at the moment and it makes me nervous. A friend of mine once compared me to a shark, the way that they have to keep swimming or they'll die. He said I was that way about books. I had to be constantly looking for new books or I'd go under. There are days I think that's not far from the truth.
Thing is, even though it seems to most folks that I'll read just about anything, the truth is that I'm actually kind of picky. I dislike more stuff than I like. I'm pretty much a believer in Sturgeon's Law, that 95% of everything is crap. You really have to dig to get that 5% that's the good stuff. So I read and I re-read and I look for more books.
I'm in a slow spot just now. Most of my favorite authors have books in the pipeline. Robert B. Parker has a Sunny Randall book due soon and a Spenser novel set for the fall. Andrew Vachss has a new Burke novel, also due in autumn. Michael Moorcock has a new collection on the way, and some interesting non fiction as well. I'm a couple of Jonathan Kellerman books behind, but his are somewhat hit or miss. I know of at least two short story collections I need to pick up, but that's not quite the same as reading novels. Can't really get lost in a short story.
Non fiction wise, I have exhausted my obsession with Vikings. I need some new historical period to study. I don't choose those, though. They choose me. Something will turn up. History is a big place.
But in the meantime I am searching, and keeping an eye on the dwindling 'to be read' pile.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Coffee, Kittens, and Conrad

Sunday I meet Trish for brunch at the Marietta Diner in Smyrna. The diner is a huge place, which serves equally huge portions of food. I have a ham and cheese omelet with grits and wheat toast. I don’t really care for wheat bread, but it fits my meal plan so there ya go. Its actually second breakfast for me. I’ve been up for five hours and I ate organic raisin bran earlier.
Amid the clatter of cutlery and the muffled roar of a hundred breakfast conversations, Trish and I catch up. Her schedule, as she approaches graduation for her master’s degree, has become fairly hectic, so it’s been a while since we’ve had a long chat.
She is ready for school to be done. I am ready to be out of debt. She has been to Florida to visit friends. I need a vacation. She is wondering what her next step will be in her career. I am still considering getting a teachers certificate for Auto Cad. The conversation ebbs and flows around the events of our lives. We drink a lot of coffee.
When we are done we head back to Trish’s place so I can meet her new kitten, Bruce. Trish’s other cat, Amelia, had gotten used to having company while a cat owning friend of Trish’s was staying with her for several months. With friend and friend’s cat gone, Amelia was apparently lonely. So Trish went to the Atlanta Humane Society and adopted a kitten.
Bruce is a shorthaired cat, with that sort of fur that is so dark a shade of gray that it seems to be blue. He has large, expressive eyes. He insists on getting right in my face immediately, climbing my chest as I sit on the couch, purring full out and bumping his nose into mine.
He dashes about, chasing the impressive assortment of toys that Trish has bought for him. Amelia looks on, bemused. She is reportedly happier to have a companion again, if somewhat taken aback by Bruce’s boundless energy.
A couple of hours later I take my leave of Trish and her cats. Window down I cruise up old highway 41 under a breathtakingly blue sky. It is a beautiful day, not yet too hot, with a stiff breeze. Recent rains have cleared a lot of the pollen away and the air is clear. I stop at the Marietta Book Nook and browse for a while. I don’t find any fantasy or mystery books, but I end up getting a copy of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a paperback of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Sharer/Heart of Darkness, and a handful of quarter a piece, junk comic books.
I finish the day watching Hercules and reading Savage Sword of Conan.
As Sundays go, I’ve had worse.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Reading Report

This weekend I've been reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Kothar and the Wizard Slayer by Gardner Fox, a book on U.S. Army hand to hand combat, assorted short stories from several anthologies, and various comic books. I am nothing if not eclectic in my reading tastes.

The Beguiling

Barry Windsor Smith, the original artist on Marvel Comics Conan the Barbarian, has a put up a complete short comics story at his website. 'The Beguiling' is an interesting little tale of knightly romance and the supernatural, beautifully illustrated. The story originally appeared in Marvel's magazine Epic Illustrated back in 1982. In many ways it reminds me of one of my favorite poems, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, by John Keats, which I have always thought would make a great basis for a sword & sorcery story. Check it out.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Almost There

Well, theoretically all the issues of Savage Sword of Conan that I need to complete the run are in the mail, heading my way. Barring any unforeseen occurrences I should have the entire series soon. I've been slowly reading my way through the stacks of comic magazines as they've arrived. I've noted a couple of things that I'll probably expand upon later. Briefly, I've noticed that Michael Fleischer wrote far too many issues after the departure of Roy Thomas around issue 60.
Fleischer didn't seem to 'get' Conan and did a lot of very super hero-ish stuff, attempting to add continuing super villains and such. Not all of his stories are bad, but many are. He was fortunate to have John Buscema pencilling a lot of his issues though, so the art saves a lot of the weaker stories.
Chuck Dixon comes in around issue 100 and does a much better job. Dixon seemed to like the frontier type Conan adventures, setting most of his stories around the time of the Robert E. Howard tale, 'Beyond the Black River.' His stories are full of mercenaries, savage tribes of Picts, and snow covered wide open spaces. Overall I like Dixon's work on Conan. he did seem to understand the character and his Conan is closer to REH's work. Dixon also tended to base most of the sorcery in his stories on Lovecraftian themes, so there's a lot of that old time Weird Tales feel to many of the issues. There are some stand out issues art wise as the series progresses and I'll talk more about that later. Anyway, once all 235 issues are here, I'll let you know.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Best Left Forgotten

After my glowing review of Robert Crais' The Watchman, I thought perhaps I'd been a bit too hard on him for his last couple of books. Sometimes I start a book and I'm just not in the mood for that particular kind of book and can return to it later and enjoy it just fine. With that in mind I picked up a used paperback of The Forgotten Man, the Elvis Cole novel that precedes The Watchman, and read about half of it.
No, I was right the first time. It's not good at all. heh.

Darwin Award Candidates

There are children in the apartment swimming pool. Despite the fact that the pool has not been opened for the summer yet and there are signs every three feet that read Pool Closed. Despite the fact that the pool has not been cleaned since last fall. Despite the fact that there is an oily yellow film of pollen, dead leaves, dead insects, and Crom knows what else covering the entire surface of the pool. There are children in the pool. Ah, humanity.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Department of Lost Barbarians 3

Niall of the Far Travels is one of at least four barbarian swordsmen created by the prolific Gardner Fox. Oddly enough I just found out about his existence this weekend, though I've owned his only paperback appearance for many years. Falls out like this.
Back in the early 1970s Lin Carter was editing a yearly anthology for DAW books called The Year's Best Fantasy. Lin would pull short stories from all over the map and bring them together. I'd collected them primarily because four of the six volumes contain short stories featuring Lin's own barbarian hero, Thongor of Lemuria. Lin was never shy about anthologizing his own work.
Anyway, there's tons of other cool stories in these volumes by folks like Karl Edward Wagner, L. Sprague DeCamp, Tanith Lee, Fritz Lieber, and yes, in volume #3, Gardner F. Fox.
I've covered Fox's contributions to the comic book industry and mentioned his two better know Conan clones Kothar and Kyrik in an earlier post. Niall is cut from the same cloth as the other two. In fact he's pretty much Kothar under a different name, but Niall never made into a novel of his own. He appeared in ten short stories, all of them save one originally published in TSR's The Dragon magazine. The one that Lin Carter reprinted was Shadow of a Demon from the Dragon #5, August 1976.
I stumbled across it while researching a completely different second banana sword & sorcery hero who will appear soon here at the DoLB. I was reading the table of contents and saw Fox's name and suddenly wondered if this was a short about Kothar or Kyrik. Finding that it was a character named Niall, whom I'd never heard of, I first sat down and read the story, then jumped on line to see if Niall had made any other appearances.
The story was a lot of fun, as Niall encounters a woman who isn't what she appears to be, and then finds himself pitted against a dangerous mage who can summon demons to do his bidding. It's a fast moving story with Fox's usual strong plotting and clean prose. Fox has that sort of style which seems artless at first glance but becomes more impressive as you read if simply for the clear and direct way he tells a story. The guy was pro, and if he seldom turned any particularly fine bits of phrase, he never the less knew how to get a reader's attention and hold it. No small skill.
Anyway, I did like the story a lot and have done a bit of preliminary searching for the other Niall stories. One is in the mail heading my way even as we speak. The others may take a bit of digging since they appeared in various of the first 55 issues of The Dragon. But hey, I'm almost caught up with Savage Sword of Conan. I need a new quest...

Weekend Update

The low profile weekend worked out pretty well. I only made one brief public appearance, early on Saturday. I didn't get all my research done for my articles, but I did pull all the necessary comics, magazines, etc, so that's moving along. Let's see, what else did I do?
I lucked out at Movie Stop again and got the first season of Xena for cheap-like. Watched several episodes of that during the weekend. I had just finished up season two of Hercules, so I decided I'd watch a season of Xena before proceeding to season three of Herc. I have an idea for a possible short story based on that dream I had with Xena in it, so I need to do a little research there too. (Besides, Xena's a lot more fun to 'research' than Hercules. ahem.)
Speaking of DVDs, Cliff gave me the first season of the Rockford Files and is loaning me the first season of 24, so I may have to throw all that into the Herc/Xena mix. Thanks Cliff!
I picked up five more issues of Savage Sword of Conan on EBay, bringing the number I need to complete the series run down to 11. Getting darn close.
I discovered a new character for my Department of Lost Barbarians. More on him later.
Read several comic books.
That's about it. Hardly my most thrilling blog entry, but there you go.

Friday, April 13, 2007

L.A. Requiem

Robert Crais fell off my Hardback List. That's the list of authors whose books I buy as soon as they come out. The list grows shorter every year. I started reading Crais all the way back in 1987 with his first book, The Monkey's Raincoat. Raincoat was a fairly straightforward private eye novel. I liked it enough to pick up Crais's next half dozen or so books in hardback, but then the next couple disappointed me and the last one I bought in hardback, the aptly titled, The last Detective, I didn't even finish. I checked out the following two books from the library and didn't make it through those either. Basically I figured Crais and me were done.
But...a month or two back I learned that his newest novel would feature Joe Pike. Pike, is to Crais's primary series hero Elvis Cole, what Hawk is to Spenser and what Max the Silent is to Andrew Vachss' Burke. He is the sidekick who will do what the hero won't. He'll kill with no apologies and never look back. Throughout the long running Elvis Cole series, Pike has been the back up man to end all back up men.
Pike's a mercenary. A man so bad that he has red arrows tattooed on his shoulders pointing forward to remind him to never back down and never back off. Pike is a dangerous man.
When I read that Crais was going to write an entire novel featuring Pike as the primary hero, I wondered if he could pull it off. Part of what made Pike work as a character was his mysterious nature. You were never seeing Pike from the inside, but rather as others saw him. I thought that perhaps using him as viewpoint character would strip away his mystique. I was curious, so I finally broke down and bought the book in hardback today.
I'm here to tell you, Crais pulled it off. The Watchman kicks ass and takes names. I read the book in two sittings, pausing only to cook and eat dinner. The suspense starts on page one and holds right until the end. I wonder if an editor told Crais he needed to get back to his roots or if maybe just using Pike as protagonist gave Crais a second wind. Whatever the reason, I'm really glad I bought The Watchman. Joe Pike rules.

Low Profile

I intend for this to be a low profile weekend. That means I'll be doing writerly stuff. Got a couple of articles I need to work on for Alter Ego magazine concerning sword & sorcery in comic books. Also have a lot of reading I want to do. Might even attempt a little fiction, though that hasn't gone well the last couple of weekends. I haven't been in the best of moods the last few days, so I'm hoping to shrug the doldrums off by finding a lot of stuff to occupy my mind. I tend to be in a better mood when I have a bunch of plates in the air. As my mother has often observed, "A bored Charles is a dangerous Charles."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Black Light Fever

A while back, my pal Lanny was talking about the old Marvel black light posters from the 1970s. Here's the one I had. It is, not surprisingly, Conan.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Downsized Again

As much as it pains me to buy new clothing when my current clothing hasn't even begun to get old, I'm going to have to break down and buy new pants again. My Dockers are just too big and I can't cinch my belt in anymore without looking like a complete goof, so I guess it's back to Sears where Dockers are cheap and often on sale. My blue jeans are already a size smaller, but they too are getting loose. Oh well. There are certainly worse problems to have.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Out of the Past

Over at her blog, Beth was talking about ordering a book that she read as a kid and wondering if it would still be any good. I think it was Neil Gaiman who noted that returning to a book from childhood can be a journey fraught with peril. Sometimes they are just as wonderful as you remember them and other times they just suck.
I find that most of the books that I read as a child and that I can still re-read as an adult are, not surprisingly, books that were not written strictly for children. Much of my early reading consisted of reprints from the pulps of the 1930s, though at the time I didn't know that. That list would include Doc Savage, Tarzan, Conan, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, John Carter of Mars, etc. All of these are characters I still like to revisit, though I have to be in just the right mood to read Doc Savage these days.
I started reading adult level books when I was nine or so, and don't really recall too many of the young adult books I read. The one series that I did try to revisit not too long ago was Alfred Hitchcock's Three Investigators. This was a series that I absolutely loved. Brought a couple at a flea market and found them utterly unreadable.
Other series that I recall recall fondly are the Encyclopedia Brown stories and a group of science based books about a character called Danny Dunn. I remember one in particular, which involved Danny and his friends being accidentally miniaturized. Years later, I wondered if the writers of the movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids had also read Danny Dunn and the Smallifying Machine. I haven't attempted to revisit Danny, though I've seen the books from time to time on Ebay. I suspect he would fall into the same category as the Three Investigators.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Conan Central

Well, the issues of Savage Sword of Conan that Cliff ordered arrived via Fed-Ex yesterday. Cliff called me when he got them and I met him over at Dr. No's. In addition to issues 212 to 235, Cliff was kind enough to supply me with 17 other issues, bringing the total I need to complete the collection to around 20 comics.
I have them stacked all over living room floor from where I was organizing them into numerical order. It looks like Conan Central here at the Rutledge apartment this morning. Last night I was sitting among them, sorting and looking at the covers and grinning to myself as only a comics fan can. I am easily entertained, what can I say? The cool thing is, there are well over a hundred issues that I never owned and thus have never read. More fan boy fun to come. heh.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

One for My Gamer Friends

This almost made me spit my coffee out...


I picked up the Vin Diesel film Triple X a while back. (Four bucks at Movie Stop) Finally got around to watching it yesterday. I'd become a fan of Vin's after seeing him as Riddick in the movie Pitch Black and then the follow up Chronicles of Riddick. Chronicles is the best Conan film anyone's made. Trust me. Substitute sorcery for spaceships and it's a Conan film. I'd really like to see Vin play Conan. He would, of course, need a lot more hair.
Anyway, Triple X is a very enjoyable action spy film with lots of cool stunts and fights. Diesel turns in a solid performance and manages to bring a surprising amount of charm to his character. A good bit of humanity too. There's one scene where the very much non-professional secret agent is absolutely horrified at an act of mass murder.
I didn't like the female lead much. She had that starved runway model/heroin addict look that I don't really care for and her attempts at being pouty would have worked a lot better if she had actually had lips to speak of, but that's a minor quibble. I wasn't there for the romance.
Anyway, Glad I bought this one. Definitely watch it again.

Now With More Turkey

Cooked a big breakfast this morning. Scrambled Egg Beaters, turkey sausage, and organic oatmeal. Someone had recommended that I try the turkey sausage, so I bought it yesterday and cooked it up this morning. It meets the Charles criteria for being added to my eating plan. It's low calorie, low fat, high protein, and tasty. Welcome to the club, turkey sausage.
Another new addition is Jell-O brand Devils Food fat free pudding. Mmmmm...chocolaty.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Pizza for Xena

The other day my mom asked me what I was going to do when I ran out of Hercules episodes. I told her I'd start buying seasons of Xena. Well I'm a long way from running out of Hercules shows, but I found season six of Xena on sale for $19.95 yesterday so I went ahead and bought it. That's not even a buck an episode.
Now I don't plan on watching the series out of order so I was just going to put the DVDs away until I've finished with Herc and picked up earlier Seasons of Xena, but there was one episode that I knew was in season six that I wanted to watch.
Goes like this. Back in 2001, the USA Network was showing Hercules and Xena back to back on weeknights. I came in one evening and turned on the TV just in time to catch the last five minutes of Xena. There were Xena and Gabrielle, standing in what looked like a contemporary junk yard, being menaced by a villain in...a Camaro? I was completely confused, not having really watched the show regularly for the last couple of years. Was Xena time traveling? Anyway, I changed channels, figuring I'd catch the episode in rerun, but I never did.
So when I got home from Movie Stop yesterday, I dug out the discs and looked over the various episode titles. 'Send in the Clones' looked likely to my keen deductive skills, so I popped that one in. Sure enough, the episode takes place in 2001 New York where one of Xena's old foes, the Amazon Alti, has tricked three geeky fans of the Xena: Warrior Princess show into helping her clone Xena and Gabrielle. Much silliness ensues as Xena and Gabrielle meet the 21st century. Probably my favorite moment is when the fans are showing Xena episodes of the TV series and asking her what she thinks. Through a mouth full of pizza she says, "I like the one playing me. She's kinda sexy."

PS. Just to show that my subconscious hates me, I ended up having a dream this morning in which for some unknown reason, Xena and I were breaking into a house in an Atlanta suburb. Villains were up to something, though I can't remember what. Anyway, five thugs rush into the room. Xena brandishes her sword and says, "I'll handle this. I say, "No, no. You're my guest." Then I proceed to mop up the floor with the thugs. Xena compliments me on my technique.
Now why couldn't I have had a dream where I was wrestling Xena? Oh no. Couldn't have that. We have to be fighting bad guys. Stupid subconscious....

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Radio Songs

Something Cliff said over at his blog about never being a huge fan of the band The Doors, but gaining appreciation for them, made me think of a similar thing that had happened to me with at least two bands. REM and The Rolling Stones. These are two bands that I originally didn't like much, but over the years have come to really like. I'll use REM to explain since that is freshest in my memory.
I can remember being vaguely aware of REM in the late 1980s. I heard Radio Free Europe and It's the End of the World as we know it, and several other of their early songs on the radio and wasn't overly impressed. I saw them on MTV and thought the lead singer rather pretentious. (That hasn't changed actually.)
Then, about 1991 they came out with the album Out of Time, which included the song Losing My Religion. I kind of liked that one. So then I would say, "I don't like REM but I do like this one song."
Over the next couple of years I added another couple of songs to the list. Everybody Hurts. Man on the Moon. I'd find myself singing them as I drove, always a good sign. So then I had to say, "I'm not a huge REM fan, but they do have a few songs I like."
Then about 2001, and here my memory fails me, because I can't recall exactly why, I picked up a couple of REM CDs one day. Probably on a whim. I do that. The albums were Eponymous and Automatic for the People. The latter contained two of the songs mentioned above and the former was a collection of many of the band's earlier hits. Oddly enough, it was the songs on Eponymous, many of which I had formerly ignored on the radio, which finally pushed me over into being a fan.
My favorite REM song? South Central Rain. Something about the lyrics, I think. It's kind of a haunting song, and there are a couple of lines that would make great story titles. I also ended up really likeing Driver 8 and The One I Love. So anyway, now I have lots of REM CDs and listen to them frequently.
And the Stones? Pretty much the same. It started with, "I don't like the Rolling Stones but I do like this one song..."

Monday, April 02, 2007

With a Little Help From My Friend

I had hit a snag in my crusade to get a full run of Savage Sword of Conan. The problem was, the issues I was having the most trouble locating were the last 24, issues 212 through 235. The problem with the later issues is they had lower print runs. SSoC was running out of steam toward the late 1990s and the book simply wasn't selling as well, so Marvel printed fewer copies. Jump ahead a decade though and that means the poorer selling copies are the hardest to find.
Someone put up a large group of Savage Sword on Ebay last weekend. 166 issues. Unfortunately I only needed 24 of those 166 and by the time I saw the auction, the magazines had already gone out of my price range.
Enter my pal Cliff, who decided he would bid on the auction, figuring to pass issues 212-235 on to me and put the other 142 issues out for sale at his Comic Book store, Dr. No's. He won the bid, so soon I'll have the hardest to come by issues. Once again, Cliff comes through. Thanks, man. You're a stand up guy and a heck of a friend.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Home for the Most Part

This was another of those weekends where my entertainment budget was pretty much shot by real world expenses, so I've been home for the most part. I had, as you may recall, planned to play Lord of the Rings on line a good bit this weekend, but it appears my current Internet connection speed is a bit too slow to handle the game. I can get in but it lags something terrible. I've been meaning to get a faster connection for a while now, so I went ahead and emailed Bellsouth to upgrade me to the Extreme DSL. Hopefully that will do the trick.
I also haven't been in much of a reading mood this weekend. Shocking, I know, but that does happen from time to time. I will tear through a few dozen books and then come up for air. This weekend most of the reading I've done has been back issues of Savage Sword of Conan, and not really too many of those. I started the time travel novel Outlander, but decided after about 100 pages that it wasn't my cuppa tea. Sorry, Gabaldon fans.
I have watched a lot of Hercules this weekend. Watched four of the five original Herc TV movies that preceded the regular series. It's kind of interesting to note that Lucy Lawless, who would go on to play Xena, appears as a totally different character in the first film, Hercules and the Amazon Women, and that Rene O'Connor, who would later play Xena's sidekick Gabrielle, plays the female romantic lead in the second movie. Other series regulars who show up in the first two films are Michael Hurst as Iolaus, and Robert Trebor, who would have a continuing roll as Salmoneus in the series but plays a slave who simply doesn't want to be free in Hercules and the Lost Kingdom.
Another weird bit of casting is Roma Downey, best known for the sappy series Touched by an Angel, as the queen of the Amazons. I much prefer her as an amazon. Yowza.

The Other Hercules

Sunday morning, circa 1965-67. I can't sleep even then. Just like this morning, I'm up and the rest of the world is still asleep. But back then I was only three or four. I had learned not to wake everyone else in the house. I would get myself a pop tart, usually cinnamon, creep into the living room and turn on the massive television that took up one corner of the living room. I'd sit close, with the volume on low and turn the channel dial until I found some cartoons. One of the local channels seemed to show a lot of random cartoons. A lot of Popeye. Some strange Warner Brothers stuff. The occasional Terry Toons. And they would show the Mighty Hercules.
He looked sort of like Superman. Black hair and square jaw. He fought monsters and bad guys. He had super strength, and a magic ring that could temporarily make him even stronger. He had a centaur named Newt for a sidekick and a girlfriend named Helena. Newt had a really annoying high pitched voice. "Herc! Herc! Helena's hurt!"
And Herc had a theme song. Oh, that theme song.

Hercules, hero of song and story.
Hercules, winner of ancient glory.
Fighting for the right,
Fighting with his might,
With the strength of ten, ordinary men.

Hercules, people are safe when near him.
Hercules, only the evil fear him.
Softness in his eyes,
Iron in his thighs,
Virtue in his heart,
Fire in every part,
Of the Mighty Hercules.

Not sure what 'iron in his thighs' meant, but that, along with 'Fire in every part' makes me suspect that Helena was a very happy girl. Anyway, the oddest thing when I remember this cartoon is, I could never figure out exactly how Hercules fit into the bible. I went to Sunday School. I went to vacation Bible School. In all the pictures they showed me, everyone dressed kind of like the cast of Hercules. Lots of robes and funny hats. The show was on on Sunday mornings before the broadcasts of various church services began. Obviously Hercules had to be in the bible. I suspected that he and Sampson were buddies. Probably watched football together. Years later, when I learned that Hercules belonged with a different religion, I was terribly disappointed. But for a couple of years there, I thought of Hercules as a member of the gang that included Moses, David, Jonah, and Sampson. Kids.