Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Story

Tell you a story. Several years ago, I used to shop at a small independent bookstore in Atlanta. The place was owned and operated by a pair of elderly sisters. I don't think I ever learned their names. Anyway, I was in the store one Sunday, looking through their fiction section, which was always terribly misfiled for some reason, and the two women were chatting to a customer, someone who had apparently known them for a long time.
"You know when I was a girl I wanted to be an actress," One of the sisters said.
"Oh?" said the customer.
"Yes, and I wanted my screen name to be Lila Beaumont. I always thought that sounded grand."
"Lila Beaumont," the customer repeated. "That is a good screen name."
"But here she is instead," the other sister said.
"Yes, here I am," the first sister said with a shrug.
The conversation turned to other things. I continued browsing, and eventually picked out a book by Dennis Lehane. I think it was 'Gone, Baby, Gone,' but it might have been 'Sacred'. I took it up to the counter and the first sister took the book and rang it up.
As I took my book I said, "Excuse me. I don't mean to be forward, but aren't you Lila Beaumont?"
The woman's eyes widened and then she grinned and said, "Why yes I am!"
"I thought so," I said. "I always loved your movies."
The woman giggled. Probably on the night side of 60 and she actually giggled. She was still grinning as I left the store.
I'm not sure why I suddenly thought of that. Been at least six, seven years. But it suddenly came to me as I was digging through some stuff and you were all here, so I decided to share.Goodnight, Miss Beaumont. Wherever you are.

Pizza

So I decided that as a reward for losing 31 pounds, that I would allow myself to eat a pizza this weekend. I ordered one from Papa John's, their three sausage special. When it arrived I sat and looked at it for a while before digging in. It's been three months since I had anything of that sort.
Anyway, it was tasty, but I guess I was expecting more excitement. Pizza had seemed to be the one food I had truly missed. But no. I enjoyed it, but there was no big "At last! At long last!" kind of feeling.
So I guess I'm used to eating more healthy now. Pizza has ceased to be one of the four major food groups.

A Dream of Flying

I used to have a lot of flying dreams. They've grown more infrequent over the years, but I find I tend to get quality even if I don't get quantity. This morning I had a corker of a flying dream. I was at full flight ability, able to soar, hover, glide, whatever and I put it to good use. I flew down over the interstate and buzzed the roofs of cars, (almost colliding with a semi truck that popped up suddenly) waving at shocked drivers and delighted children. Then I went for altitude, shooting straight up until the world lost most of its details and the edge of the atmosphere loomed. (Next time I'm lucid dreaming, I should try and get into space.) Finally I followed a fast moving freight train for a while and then alighted on the roof of one of the cars. I was still sitting there, watching the world roll by and knowing I could fly away at any moment, when I woke up. Those are the kinds of dreams that give you a good feeling upon waking. Far too few, but always welcome when they come.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Tale of the Scale Part 2

Just in from the gym. Today I weigh 249 pounds. First time I've been under 250 since 1996. I was 252 in 2001 and stayed around there until about two years ago, when my weight began to creep up. When I saw I was in the 280 range, I decided I'd better back the hell off. Anyway, my first major goal for 2007 was to get under 250. I have officially done that in 12 weeks. Goal number two is get down to 235, which I think is a good weight for my 6'2" very broad frame. Should take another six to eight weeks, I'd think. Anyway, I'm a very happy fellow today, seeing the results of a lot of effort.

The Persistence of Characters

This may be one of those things that only a writer will understand. There are characters that won’t go away. Now I’m not one of those writers who go on about how their characters “take on lives of their own and get away from me”. I find that a bit precious and more than a little goofy. I’m the writer. I’m in charge.
No, what I’m talking about are those characters who keep popping to the top of my sub conscious years, sometimes decades after they were created. I was thinking of this the other day when I needed a female sorcerer for a story idea and I decided to use a character named Lura who appeared in some of the fiction I wrote in high school.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. I created a pair of roguish warriors named Glyptko and Arn for a short story called Demon of the Fist, written in the late 1980s. They showed up again a couple of years back when I needed just those sorts of characters for an online text RPG I was playing. Hiya boys. How’ve you been?
Ditto Strom the fencing master and his barbarian pal Herrick, who first appeared in my 2001 short story, The Hand of Semethkar, and who have recently shown up in a novel idea I’m kicking around. (Strom also made an appearance on the text RPG.)
The champ is probably my Conan knock-off, Targo the Savage, created when I was twelve years old. He’s been popping up a lot in my fiction lately, though greatly changed from his original incarnation. The odd thing about this (to me) is that I usually have some vague notion of what these characters have been up to while I haven’t been using them. My mind fills in the blanks for where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing. A sort of retroactive continuity. So I guess in some ways they do have lives of their own, which is darn strange.

Off To Middle Earth


I'll be visiting Middle Earth today, joining the open beta test for the Lord of the Rings Online RPG.
I've been playing another MMORPG called Guild Wars on and off for the last couple of years, so don't worry, I'm not going to get addicted. (For some reason this is the first thing anyone brings up whenever I mention that I play online games. Much like unfounded fears of satanic teachings in Dungeons and Dragons, this seems to be all that the uninitiated know about online games.)
Anyway, unlike other online RPGs that are set in worlds specifically created for the games, this one is set in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. I'll be interested in seeing how the books and movies have been translated in the game. I've heard good reports so far.
I'll be playing a tank. A tank, in the vernacular (it's a doiby!") is a warrior character who can take and dish out a lot of punishment. Not usually the flashiest characters, they're one that most adventuring parties like to have around because they can kill a lot of stuff and make good monster fodder.
I will, of course, be playing alongside my pal Laura, seemingly mild mannered Romance writer, who is secretly rad gamer grrrl. I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rethinking Ernie

In an earlier post, I talked a bit about comic book inker, Ernie Chan. Mostly I talked about how I had never cared for his work. I'm going to have to rethink that. As I've been reading through some of the issues of Savage Sword of Conan that I've purchased recently, I've had the chance to see more of Chan's work on artists other than John Buscema. Buscema I think was the key to my dislike of Chan. Buscema is one of my favorite artists, and I never thought his style merged well with Chan's. Ernie just seemed to put too much scribbling on Busecema's pencil work.
Anyway, the mid run issues of SSoC used a lot of different pencilers, but there's a big chunk that were penciled by Gary Kwapisz, an artist with a more cartoonish style than Buscema. Chan's work on top of Kwapisz's pencils is much smoother than his work on Buscema. There's a lot of nice linework, particularly on trees and rocks and background material. I don't know if Chan just had more leeway with Kwapisz's pencils or if the styles were just a better match. Whatever the reason, there have been times I've had to check the credits to make sure that Chan was the inker on a particular issue. It's that big a difference. So, my apologies, Ernie. You're a better artist than I gave you credit for.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Really Good Friday

We get Good Friday off at my work place. So next week is a 32 hour week. However, as you may recall, my company works 4 nine hour days and 1 four hour day, so I normally have half of every Friday off. It's the major perk of my job. Every Friday at 11:00 AM, I'm out the door.
But, since we have to take eight hours off for the Holiday and we normally only work four hours, they'll be turning us loose at 12:00 noon on Thursday. So next week would be a three and a half day week. But, I might use a couple of hours of vacation and take all of Thursday off, thereby getting myself a four day weekend while using only a half day's worth of vacation. Depends on how busy we are next week. At the worst I still get a day and a half off, but two would be nice. I'll let you know how things turn out.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

How Strong Is Hercules?


Time for a little fanboy rambling. As I mentioned before, I'm enjoying watching the 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys' series on DVD. But being a long time comic book fan I have begun to notice one of those things that always irritates the heck out of fanboy types. Hercules' super powers are inconsistent.
Here's the deal. Herc's strength level, as stated on the show, is roughly that of ten men. We'll assume ten healthy men, so lets say that each man can bench press oh, 200 pounds. So Herc could press a ton. That seems reasonable given the size of boulders, logs, and other large objects Herc has hefted on the show.
But here we hit a snag, and I do mean hit. Pretty much every episode of Hercules has at least one pitched brawl, where Herc fights five to ten guys. During these fights he doesn't seem to be any stronger than anyone else. Oh he sometimes picks opponents up and throws them, but mostly he exchanges punches and kicks. The blows he takes seem to hurt him as much as anyone else, and he sometimes has to hit an attacker more than once to put the guy down. Plus, if Herc has a one on one battle with a main character, even if they're just a plain old human, the son of Zeus often has to work hard to finish the fight. However, in the next scene he may knock a giant down with one blow or uproot a tree for a weapon.
Now of course part of this is the nature of TV drama. Herc can't really be seen to just pummel the hell out of everyone effortlessly or there's not much suspense. I get that. But it gets really noticeable sometimes. In one episode, Herc barely survives a fight with a bunch of mercenaries, only to cause a landslide in a cave by hitting the cave wall with one punch. If he can do that, the mercs would all be dead when he hit them.
Maybe he's holding back when he fights mere mortals? Well, maybe, though that seems unlikely. Someone else's life is usually at stake when Herc steps up to the plate, so it doesn't seem like he would be holding back. I guess the answer to the question, "How Strong Is Hercules?" is, he's just as strong as the writers need him to be on a scene by scene basis.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Push-Up Report

This just in. I can do 43 push-ups in a minute now. That's three above military specs for men over 40. Take that with you.

Return of an Old Favorite


Wandering around Borders this morning I spotted a new release of one of my favorite movies. Ridley Scott's The Duelists is set in the era of Napoleonic wars. One of Napoleon's soldiers (Harvey Keitel) takes offense at a very slight incident with another soldier (Keith Carradine) setting off a series of duels that occur over a period of almost three decades. Keitel's obsession simply won't let the matter go. Duels with foils, sabers, and pistols ensue. The saber duel is one of the most brutally realistic fight scenes I've ever seen, and if you know me, that's saying something.
Beyond the fighting though is an absolutely beuatiful film, filled with Ridley Scott's patented stylistic flourishes. The movie seems to exist in a world made up of early Victorian era French and British paintings. This is a new wide screen digitally enhanced release of the film with many extras, and Borders has it on sale for 12.99.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Savage Sampler


Wings in the Night, the fourth volume in Wildside Press's Weird Works of Robert E. Howard may very well be the best possible sampler of Howard's work. I mean, if I wanted to give someone a book that would get them right into the world of Robert E. Howard, this would be it. It contains the first Conan story, The Phoenix on the Sword, plus two other Conan tales, including one of my top five, The Tower of the Elephant. It also has a very strong Solomon Kane entry, the titular Wings in the Night, and the story that many Howard Scholars consider to be Howard's absolute best, Worms of the Earth, featuring Pictish hero, Bran Mak Morn. Now this is mostly a matter of coincidence, because Wildside is reprinting Howard's stories in the order that they were originally published by Weird Tales magazine. These are the stories as they chronologically appeared (in 1932-1933). Still, one could hardly ask for a better group in one place. Highly recommended.

The Scouring of the Shower

Thursday, while I was at the grocery store, I picked up a new mop and some extra cleaning supplies. Figured the apartment was due for a major cleaning. I keep the place clean. I vacuum. I dust. I clean the bathrooms. But occasionally you just have to get down and scrub the place really really clean. Spring Cleaning, as it were. I decided that NEXT weekend would be the weekend. I'd just go ahead and get the stuff and be ready this weekend.
So anyway, the job I was dreading the most was the complete scrub down of the bathtub. I planned to get in there with a sponge and a bottle of Clorox and rid the world of soap scum. Get in all the corners and under the rails. So I'm standing in the bathroom this morning, thinking, geez, next week I'll have to do the cleaning and all, and I suddenly think, what the hey, I'll just go ahead and do it. So I did. Next week I will sweep and dust and mop, which won't be nearly as unpleasant now that the worse job is over.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hyperborea

This is a double call back post. See earlier posts on Clark Ashton Smith and The Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. I mentioned a few posts back how much I enjoyed a recent collection of CAS's short stories. My favorite story in the book was The Tale of Satampra Zeiros, one of Smith's stories about Hyperborea. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I decided that while I was waiting for the next volume of CAS stories from Nightshade books, I would order an old paperback collection of the Hyperborea stories, originally published in 1971 by Ballantine, with notes and an introduction by Lin Carter. So I get another volume in the BAF series, a new essay by Lin Carter, and a bunch of short stories by Clark Ashton Smith. Heck, it's a triple call back post! Life is good.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Chaykin and the Gray Mouser


Picked up the Darkhorse Comics collection of the Howard Chaykin/Mike Mignola adaptations of Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories. In case I never mentioned it, Fritz Leiber is my absolute favorite fantasy writer. Much as I love Robert E. Howard's work, Leiber is the better writer in my opinion, better being a highly subjective and situational term of course.
Anyway, Chaykin waxes nostalgic in his introduction to the adaptations, originally done as a series of comics for Marvel several years back, and he somehow manages to get most of his facts wrong.
Chaykin says, "We've all read the stories about these two wonderful characters-how Leiber read them in another writers work-sad to say I forgot whose-and simply absconded with them, adapting them and remaking them to his needs, using himself as a model for Fafhrd and making his dear friend, noted science fiction writer and editor Stanley G. Weinbaum, the basis for the Gray Mouser."
As my pal Chris would say, "Well...no."
The writer whom Chaykin can't recall was Harry Otto Fischer. He was indeed a dear friend of Leiber's and he created the characters of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser in a letter to Leiber in 1934. Leiber then wrote his own letter, embellishing on Fisher's idea and giving more substance to the characters. Chaykin is right that Leiber based Fafhrd on himself, after Fischer did so first, but it's Fischer who is the Mouser, not Weinbaum. And, Leiber wrote the first actual fiction featuring the pair of heroes all by himself, begun in 1935 but not completed and published until 1947 as Adept's Gambit. In fact Fischer's only real contribution of prose to the saga is the first 10,000 words of the short novel. The Lords of Quarmall. He began and abandoned the story and Leiber picked it up 25 years later and completed it. Hardly a case of Leiber "simply absconding with them." All of my information comes from Leiber himself in his 1963 essay, Fafhrd and Me, reprinted in The Second Book of Fritz Leiber, a DAW book, published in 1975. Guess Howard didn't read that one...

An Unexpected Afternoon

They are experiencing computer difficulties at my work place today and basically, if the computers aren't working, my job as AutoCad draftsman is pretty much dead in the water. Computer was down when I got there and showed no signs of being up any time soon, so I decided to just take a half day and enjoy the weather. I've been out and about and now I'm home with all the windows open and the ceiling fan whirling.
It is early spring and the sky is that sharp shade of blue that you only get in the first weeks of March, and full of high banks of drifting clouds. I wish I had a digital camera because the dogwoods are in full bloom, and you have never seen anything like dogwood trees in Georgia unless you have been here. Small white and pink petals that fall in showers when the wind stirs the trees, like something from a Japanese woodcut. Were I the writer that my friends Laura and Beth are, I would tell you just how beautiful it is today. You'll just have to take my ham handed description for what its worth.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Closing the Conan Gap


If you read my earlier post, Big Box O Conan, you know that I recently purchased 81 issues of Savage Sword of Conan. Today I got 20 more consecutive issues at EBay (110-129) for a ridiculously low price. Since I still had issues 1-60, that brings me to a total of 161 issues out of 235, leaving 74 issues to go. Funny thing is, the 81 issues I bought earlier started with issue 131. So now I need a copy of issue 130 to have 110-211 consecutively. The hunt goes on.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Visible Proof

Well I'm back from buying new blue jeans yet again. This is a milestone though. As of today I am now wearing the smallest pants I've worn in over a decade. Time travel wise my waist is down to about the year 1994. Don't know what my weight is. Less than 257. I only weigh every couple of weeks and always on the same scale at the gym. Maybe next Friday. Or the next. I find it doesn't help to obsess about it and weigh every couple of days. Anyway, another goal reached. Go me.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Reading Report

First book for this weekend was a re-read of Robert B. Parker's Sudden Mischief. The plot was a bit thin, even for Parker, but the dialog was as snappy as ever and there were plenty of action scenes. Next up is Water Sleeps, one of Glen Cook's Black Company novels. The Black Company is basically a fantasy take on the Viet Nam war. Follows a group of soldiers, kind of like Sgt Rock's Easy Company, as they fight various wars in a Tolkien-ish fantasy world. Dark books that don't usually end well, but very well written. Cook is something of a maverick in the fantasy genre, steadfastly writing his own kind of books in a field that encourages conformity.
Also reading selected short stories from two volumes of The Best American Mystery Stories that Whitney bought for me at the Marietta Library book sale. Thanks, Whitney!

First Person Singular

Since it says I'm a writer over there in my profile, thought I'd talk a bit about writing. Last couple of years I've been struggling with viewpoint, also known as pov. (point of view) There are two povs that are used for most fiction. Third person and first person. There are seemingly endless variations on these two. First person multiple, close third, omniscient third, etc, etc.
What it boils down to though, in its most basic form is that in third you speak of someone else doing something, (He ran. She said.) and in first you speak as if you did something. (I ran. I said.)
Now I have almost always preferred first person, both in reading and in writing. I blame Edgar Rice Burroughs's immortal hero, John Carter of Mars and Raymond Chandler's prototypical private eye, Philip Marlowe. Burroughs and Chandler are probably my biggest influences in terms of my early writing.
Now keep in mind, I have no real problem reading books written in third person. Some of my absolute favorite stories and novels are in third. Conan is. Fritz Lieber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories are. Most of Michael Moorcock's Elric. All 24 Tarzan novels. No problem.
BUT writing in third is just no fun for me at all. I can do it. I've taught myself to do it over the years because I needed to be able to use third for various projects. Given my druthers, though, I'd write everything in first person. So why have I been struggling?
Because there are one or two stories I wanted to write that really need a third person pov. Usually this happens when I need more than one viewpoint character. The story needs to jump around from location to location. Show the hero. Show the villains. Show the female lead or some supporting characters. Bleh. Just makes me crazy. I like to pick a viewpoint and stay with it. But still I try.
Also, having always been sort of an intuitive writer, and one who writes most comfortably in his own voice, I have trouble writing from the pov of characters who are vastly dissimilar to me. I think of writers like actors. Some actors can play almost any sort of character. I always think of David Warner. He was a chillingly convincing Jack the Ripper in Time after Time, and yet he's possibly my favorite Bob Cratchit in the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol. That guy can act. Dustin Hoffman comes to mind too. Can play just about any kind of character and make you believe it. Some writers are like that. They can enter the pov of any character and make it work. Hero, villain, man, woman. Whatever. George R. R. Martin. Ruth Rendell. Laura Kinsale.
Other actors are like John Wayne. No matter what movie he's in, he's pretty much always John Wayne. I think that's me sometimes. When I get too far from my own thought patterns, I get lost. Now this doesn't mean I can only write from the pov of a 45 year old southern guy. It just means the pov character has to have s similar outlook to mine. I do best with positive attitude heroes. Also helps if they're thinking men of action. Whenever I try to write a rogue like Conan, I just get lost. Kind of ironic, considering how much I like that character.
However, I can easily write that sort of character from the outside. I wrote a 'hero' who makes Conan look like a proper gentleman in my stalled novel, Some Dark God. But he wasn't the pov character. There was a first person narrator who was much more my sort of guy. A barbarian with a Watson.
Finally. my biggest problem with third is I just don't 'feel' it. To get that sort of gut level, gone into hell and come back to tell about it voice I almost have to be writing it in first person. So why not just write everything that way? Because i don't give up easy. Heh.
Anyway, those are my thoughts on writing this morning. I haven't solved anything, but I've stated the issue.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Day That Was

So anyway, here's how the day off finally went. I ended up going over to Barnes & Noble rather than to a used bookstore. I picked up an anthology of short mysteries and an Ed Gorman western novel. Did I ever mention that I occasionally read Westerns? Probably not. It's one of those few and far between things. Ed Gorman writes crime fiction as well. In fact Gorman's Westerns tend to be plotted much like his private eye books. That's true of Loren D. Estleman and Bill Pronzini too. Both those guys have PI series and western series.
Other than that I've pretty much just chilled as planned. I read some comics and finished a book I was reading. I did write three pages of fiction. I surfed the Internet and watched the Extras on the Doctor Who DVD. And I enjoyed having the windows open and the ceiling fan going. All and all it was the kind of day off I wanted. Can't beat that.

A Day Off

Things have been a little crazy at work for the last few weeks and I've worked a ton of overtime. This week things finally calmed down a bit so I decided to take a day off. The way things fell out it had to be today or Thursday. It's supposed to rain Thursday so I decided if I wanted to enjoy the spring weather it would have to be today. I stayed in bed until 7:00, which for me is sleeping in. Then I got up and scrambled some egg beaters and ate them with organic oatmeal and some sliced turkey. Disgustingly healthy and protein packed.
So what do I plan to do? No plan at all. I might go to a used bookstore. I might have sushi for lunch. I might sit around and read comic books all day. Might even write a little fiction. Just whatever comes to mind. The idea is to chill. To relax. To Chillax.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Weekend Movies

I took a break from the Hercules:The Legendary Journeys Marathon this weekend to watch a few other DVDs. Finished up the last two episodes of the second season of the new Doctor Who series. The finale was heart wrenching in a way that I never would have equated with the old series, but the writers on the new version have really done their job in making the characters into people that you care about.
Also watched Kill Bill parts one and two. It may surprise some of you, knowing of my fondness for action movies and Quentin Tarentino's directing, that I hadn't already seen these two films, but I can answer that in two words. Uma Thurman. I don't find her attractive and I don't think she can act. Since I knew she'd be in practically every scene, I wasn't too interested in seeing Kill Bill.
But, I read an interesting article about the movies and their use of 1970s exploitation films as grist for their plots, so I decided what they hey. I ended up enjoying them, though I still wasn't taken with Uma. But hey, Sonny Chiba is in part one. And David Carradine is Bill. And there are some great nods of the hat to Kung Fu movies, samurai films, and even anime. It's a pop culture fest to be sure. Anyway, I bought em cheaper than I can rent them, so I'll probably watch em again at some point.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Tarzan and Me


I mentioned in another post that I'd get around to talking about Tarzan. Today's the day. Now if your knowledge of Tarzan comes primarily from the movies, you don't know zip about Tarzan. Have a look at the beautiful Russ Manning Sunday newspaper strip over there to the left. That's Tarzan. That's what he looks like inside my head. Speaks perfect English. No "Me Tarzan" stuff.
See, Tarzan and me go back to before I was even born. I've been aware of him longer than any other fictional character, I think. My mom absolutely loved Tarzan and in the early 1960s she was reading her way through the 24 recently reprinted Tarzan novels. Yeah, 24. Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a ton of them.
Anyway, my mom bought the whole set of Bantam paperbacks, She had read some of the novels in hardback that had belonged to her grandmother, so she had been a Tarzan fan most of her life. About this same time, Gold Key Comics Company, which had taken over the publishing rights to the Tarzan property from Dell comics, was starting a series of adaptations of the novels with art by Russ Manning. Mom began buying these as well. By the time I was born, in 1962, mom had all the Tarzan books and was buying the Tarzan comic every month.
The comic is important because that's my first exposure to Tarzan. I began flipping through those comics before I could read, staring at the images and wondering what the people were saying. I remember that I would make up my own stories to go with the pictures. May have had an influence on my becoming a story teller. Who knows. Over the years, as my reading skills developed, I would return again and again to those comics, and I read them so many times that I can still tell you most of the plots to this day.
Now I saw the movies too. The 12 Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films were rerun constantly on Television when I was a kid. This caused me a little confusion. The movie Tarzan spoke like Tonto (or Frankenstein) and he lived in a tree house and had a brunette wife and a son named Boy. MY Tarzan spoke not only English but French as well. He lived on an estate in Africa and in a manor house in England. His wife was a blonde and his son's name was Jack in England and Korak in the language of the great apes.
Luckily, at about the time I was four years old, new Tarzan movies starring Jock Mahoney and Mike Henry started showing up at the theaters, featuring a Tarzan who was fluent in English. Mike Henry's version, in a nod to the then wildly popular James Bond films, even wore a three piece suit in one movie before shifting to the standard loincloth in the second reel. Plus NBC started a new Tarzan TV series, starring Ron Ely as an articulate and intelligent Tarzan.
All of these versions of Tarzan became merged in my mind, but they never dislodged the mental picture I had of the ape man which was still the Russ Manning version. I started reading mom's Tarzan novels when I was about nine and pretty quickly read all of them. I spent a lot of time in the woods pretending I WAS Tarzan, running around in ragged cut off jeans and annoying the neighbors with my rendition of the Weissmuller yell. When I was 10 my dad gave me a hunting knife and a 50 ft coil of rope so that I could really get the Tarzan thing down. They remain my favorite toys I ever received. In a side note, I had a burglary at my old renter house and someone stole my knife collection, which included the small hunting knife dad had given me. That was the only knife out of close to 200 that I really felt bad about losing. A couple of years ago on my birthday, dad presented me with a new knife and a new coil of rope. That' a father right there, folks. The new knife rests in the desk drawer to my right. I keep it handy in case sheeta the panther or numa the lion should come calling.
Speaking of sheeta and numa, Tarzan's creator created a language that the great apes spoke. Tar is white and zan is skin in the mangani language. Mangani is what the great apes call themselves. Oh and in case you saw the Disney Tarzan cartoon, which I really liked, Tarzan was raised by apes, not gorillas. I used to be pretty fluent in mangani (see the 2006 post, Lord of the Aisles) but I've gotten a bit rusty.
As you can see, Tarzan has been a fixture of my life for as long as I can remember and even before. In fact, on the insides of the covers of mom's Tarzan paperbacks, written in blue ballpoint pen by my then 22 year old mother, are the words, "property of Doug and Charles Rutledge." Doug (my older brother) never was very interested in Tarzan so he lost out. Those paperbacks reside now on the book shelf in my bedroom. Mom gave them to me when I was about twenty, along with her comics. The comics are here too, some of the very few that I kept. I've added to mom's original collection over the years, turning her fifty or so comics into about 300. Though I'll part with many things, those don't go. Other interests wax and wane and other characters push to the front of my consciousness, but Tarzan is always there, stalking the shadowed jungle trails in the back of my mind.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Tale of the Scale

Went to the gym this morning for a thrilling weightlifting session. Chest and biceps. Always fun. Hopped onto the scale before I started and found that I now weight 257 pounds. That's down from 280 pounds as of January 1st. So call it 23 pounds lost. I'm very pleased with that.
I have to lose eight more pounds to hit my first major goal which was to weight under 250 pounds. That should take me until about the end of March or the second week of April. After an initial drop of about five pounds right when I started, I'm losing between a pound and a half and two pounds a week, which is a nice, steady rate. Go me.
54 degrees out there this morning, folks, with a high expected in the mid 60s. It's spring, I think.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Time Travel Through Weight Loss

If you're tired of me talking about my weight loss regimen, skip this post. Sorry, but that's where my mind is these days. It takes some not inconsiderable effort to stay with the program so I think about it a lot. Meal plans, grocery lists, restaurant strategies, and work out schedules take up a lot of my time.
And speaking of time, it's weird how losing a lot of weight almost seems to reverse age, at least outwardly. I catch glimpses of my reflection and think, "Hey, I used to look like that." Six inches or so off your waistline makes a major difference. Size wise I'm at about 1998 right now and shooting for 1992.
Another interesting bit of info. My pal Trish, who is in the Air Force Reserves, informs me that military men over the age of 40 are expected to be able to do 40 push ups in one minute. I normally do 100 push ups every day, but I hadn't timed myself. Gave it a shot and I was able to knock out 36 good pushups in a minute. I am training now to get 41. Figure I might as well beat the military specs.

Big Box O Conan



When I got to Dr. No's last night I found that the 81 issues of Savage Sword of Conan that I'd won on EBay had arrived. (I have all my packages shipped to Dr. No's because it's much easier than picking them up at the post office.) I was very pleased of course, because I'd been anxiously awaiting their arrival. So now I have a massive stack of Conan comics to read through.
However, it made it a little hard to leave and come to work this morning. Remember when you were a kid and you'd get toys from Santa on Christmas morning, but then your parents would drag you off for lunch at your grandparents house and you'd have to leave your new toys, barely played with, there on the floor? That was me this morning, casting a wistful glance at the big box o comics as left the apartment.
Heck, I might have taken a day off, but we have one guy out sick and my manager has to go visit a customer today, which would leave the engineering department woefully understaffed, so being a dependable sort, I made myself come on in. But I can hear the siren song of those comics here at my desk even now...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Swords and Sensibility


The picture that accompanies this post was originally done to make Beth laugh. The laughter of Beth is a thing to be sought. But I had fun with it because I love Jane Austen. This surprises many people who are acquainted with my other hobbies. Somehow they can't seem to reconcile my love of British Literature with my love of pulp action.

In some ways the two are connected. Though I'd always been a fan of Charles Dickens, since I first read David Copperfield back in grade school, my real interest in all things British can be directly traced to my obsession with Sherlock Holmes. When I started seriously reading Conan Doyle that led to reading Bram Stoker, which led to Rudyard Kipling, which led to Sir Walter Scott, which led to Jane Austen. That's why I encourage parents to let their kids read comic books and pulp literature. You never know where it will lead.

My favorite Austen book is Pride and Prejudice. The BBC television version is my favorite Austen adaptation, though I'm also very fond of the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility. What is it I like so much about Austen? It's the language to a large degree. That circumlocutory way of speaking, which is something I also like about much Victorian fiction. But Austen also has wit and amazingly snappy dialog. I also find the character of Mr. Darcy to be noble in the same way that some of my favorite tough guys are noble. He's going to do what he has to do no matter what it costs him, in the name of love and honor. And Austen's heroines have their own nobility as they face life under the constraints of a society often hostile to strong women.

Now of course, had Conan actually been at the ball, he'd have knocked Darcy to the floor for his bad manners and made all the women swoon. Then he'd have probably gotten drunk and started a brawl. He's Conan. That's what he does.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Eldritch Dark


When I picked up 'The End of the Story: The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith' on Wednesday night, I originally intended to read the short stories over a long period of time. Most authors short works don't hold up when too many are read back to back. However, after reading one story I found that it led to another and another, and now I've read a dozen or so and I'm not inclined to stop. They are that compelling.
Smith has long been the member of the trio of Weird Tales authors that I've neglected. Obviously Robert E. Howard is at the top of my list and I have always enjoyed the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Smith's work is harder to classify than that of the other two men. Most of Lovecraft's more popular work is horror and Howard, of course, is the father of sword and sorcery.
Smith's work borders on both, but is neither. Oh there are horrors. The first story in the book, The Abominations of Yondo, drops you feet first right into a nightmare landscape and the fog shrouded terrors of the city of Malneant linger long after the book is closed. And stories such as The Tale of Satampra Zeiros, with its abandoned, jungle choked, marble city may even have inspired some of Howard's Conan yarns such as the Devil in Iron of the uncompleted Halls of the Dead.
But Smith's writing is more along the lines of Lord Dunsany, though with much more bite. It is possibly the most dreamlike writing I've encountered, and I don't mean that in a good way. Not dreamy, but disturbing as only dreams can be. Smith's prose is lush and his imagery dark. Highly recommended.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Family Gathering

I'll be out for a steak dinner tonight with my mom and dad, my brother, his wife, and my two nephews. We are celebrating a passel of achievements. My dad has spent the last several months studying to not only reactivate his real estate license, but to get licensed as a real estate appraiser as well. He passed his test this week and has his shiny new license. Go dad.
My sister in law passed a test too this week, in the insurance business, and now she has certification that will bring her higher pay and more opportunities. Go sis in law.
And me? I got my yearly review at work and was rated outstanding and given a very nice raise. Go me.
So anyway, we're all going out tonight to Longhorn Steakhouse, where I will have a rib-eye steak, a big salad with low fat dressing and perhaps some steamed vegetables. I've lost right at 18 pounds now, so I don't want to break my regime, even for a celebration. Speaking of which, I seriously need to buy a new belt.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Under a Gibbous Moon

Noted fantasist and horror writer H.P. Lovecraft was inordinately fond of the word gibbous. His stories constantly took place "under a gibbous moon." Gibbous means not quite full, so a gibbous moon is one that is large and round, though not completely a full moon. Still it is an evocative and creepy word. (H.P.s favorite word for creepy or eerie was eldritch, another nifty sounding word.)
Anyway, old H.P. would have loved the sky this morning. We had thunderstorms last night and there was still a lot of cloud cover this morning. Thus I drove in to work under a haloed, gibbous moon, half hidden by dark tendrils of clouds, which circled the moon like the tentacles of some nameless thing from the outer dark. I could practically here the gibbering and slavering...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Another strange dream this morning. A worn down train station in the middle of nowhere. A girl with a broken smile. Quiet conversation in the shadows and endless, unbroken plains beyond dust streaked windows. Makes for a melancholy morning, reminding me of a poem, half remembered from long ago, and the voice of one long gone.