Friday, August 29, 2014

Deliciously Devilish

My screensaver rolls through images from my "My Pictures" folder, and today I came home to this picture of Sylvia in Timmins in 2011. Oooooo!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Cyborg Quartet

Thanks to the wonderful world of online shopping, I now possess all four of Martin Caidin's Cyborg novels: Cyborg, Operation Nuke, High Crystal and the imaginatively-titled Cyborg IV, which is also #6 in the Six Million Dollar Man series of novels. Say what?? Yes, it's confusing, but at the same time Caidin was writing his Cyborg novels, other authors were penning adaptations of the television show adapted from the original book. The non-Caidin titles were cycled in with the canonical Caidin works, which is why you have the odd situation above. 

In any event, I've already read the first three and I'm looking forward to Cyborg IV, definitely the most elusive and expensive of these long-out-of-print pulp confections. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Scenes from an Unfinished Novel

August accepted the proffered debit keypad through the window and started tapping out his PIN, speaking the numbers out loud: "8...3....2...8...0," he said, while at the same moment Duggan was twitching with exasperation, beating his fists into his knees.

"August! Shee-sus - you don't - you can't - you've gotta stop doing that! You're gonna get ripped off!"

"Doing what?" August said, distracted by the bag of take-out being shoved into his face by a sullen minimum-wage slave. He drove forward with one hand on the steering wheel, the other tossing their dinner into Duggan's lap. Hot grease seared Duggan's bare thighs, and he hissed with renewed irritation.

*  *  *

Once seated, Carl slipped the agreed-upon propeller beanie onto his head as Marilyn giggled. He flicked it experimentally, and the propeller twirled lazily.

"Not until we start moving!" Marilyn admonished.

"Right, right."

They paid scant attention as the flight attendants dutifully explained the safety features of their aircraft. Light rain spotted the tarmac as the airport slid slowly by the window, until at last the engines rumbled in earnest. Carl started to spin his propeller beanie as if it were the motive force, flicking it faster and faster as the plane picked up speed. Marilyn giggled as the man in the aisle seat glanced over, barely raising an eyebrow.

It was only a twenty minute flight, and Carl had bet that he could keep it up the entire flight. But then they hit a patch of turbulence, and Carl, like everyone else, dropped what he was doing and clung to the armrests for dear life as the plane suddenly dropped thousands of feet, then lurched upward again like a mad carnival ride. It went on for several minutes, and every square inch of flesh in the cabin began to run clammy with cold sweat.

Carl recognized the opportunity he'd been waiting for. Marilyn looked up, shaking her head in mute approbation: DON'T, her eyes said in big capital letters.

But he couldn't help himself. As the plane dove earthward once more, negative gravities pulling everyone several inches free of their seats, Carl flung his arms toward the deadly skies and shouted:

"WHEEEEEEEE!"

Despite her terror, Marilyn doubled over laughing. "OH NO," she thought as she lost control of her bladder, soaking her seat, and within seconds, the cabin floor. Tears spilled from her eyes as she struggled to control herself, face turning purple. Carl, too, began to laugh, first to recognize his new bride's predicament, clutching his belly uproariously as the plane levelled off.

And then - disaster.

*   *   *

Edsel Naes, master of Thai Kwon Don't, knew he faced a deadly foe. The shotgun-wielding maniac was green - not green as in inexperienced, but green. His hair was green. His clothing was green. His skin was green. It was like fighting, Naes thought, a board game token.

Green Shotgun bellowed a queer falsetto challenge, raising his shotgun over his head in one fist, brandishing it in the Campbellian manner. "THIS IS MY - "

But he never finished, for Naes, taking advantage of the presence of a nearby ice cream stand, nabbed a fresh pistachio cone from an astonished meat inspector and jammed the cone, cream-first, into Green Shotgun's open mouth.

The villain's scream was a little death. It was an instant ice cream headache of such shocking suddenness that the man's teeth-nerves froze within his suddenly-brittle incisors. His green teeth turned white with cold as he recoiled, dropping his shotgun, spitting out the delicious but deadly confection.

"Now do you scream for ice cream?" taunted Naes before punching his foe in the forehead, his NAES rings leaving the distinctive, bloody SEAN imprint that was his grotesque calling card. "Now that's what I call an ice cream headache!"

*   *   *

"You really think I can sell this?" my agent said.

"Surely you've seen worse..?" I ventured with a sheepish grin.

The manuscript pages fluttered to earth, tossed from a tenth-floor window. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Acceptable Spider-Man 2

A couple of years ago I nearly fell asleep watching The Amazing Spider-Man. Considering my disappointment with that film and this year's inexplicable critical hit Guardians of the Galaxy, I went into The Amazing Spider-Man 2 this weekend with very low expectations. And I found myself pleasantly surprised. Despite numerous flaws, this sequel has the one factor that allows me to forgive a multitude of sins: it's sincere, and its heart is in the right place.

As the film opens, Peter Parker and his girlfriend Gwen Stacy are about to graduate from high school. Gwen delivers a rousing valedictory speech, but Peter, off fighting crime as Spider-Man, misses it, though he does manage to get to the graduation ceremony just in time to snatch his diploma.

Unfortunately for their relationship, Peter is still haunted by the death of Gwen's father, killed in the first film and appearing here as a spectre of Peter's tortured soul, urging him to protect Gwen by breaking up with her...and he does, reluctantly, for a time.

Meanwhile the film's pair of villains, Electro and the Green Goblin, spend some time building their flimsy backstories and their reasons for hating Spider-Man. Their hackneyed motivations really drag the film down, but Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone (Peter and Gwen) rescue the proceedings with their consistent kindness and humanity. Spider-Man is actually seen rescuing innocent bystanders on several occasions, and even attempts to negotiate with villains before resorting to violence - the sort of thing I was hoping to see in Man of Steel. He's also a great mentor for a bullied kid. This is the reason why super-hero stories have resonated for nearly 90 years, and it's a shame that more super-hero films screw up this very simple formula.

The Peter/Gwen romance is central to this story, and it's surprisingly warm and poignant - I found it a completely believable teenage relationship, despite the fantasy elements. And the film's climax actually does a good job of encapsulating, summarizing and bringing closure to the movie's central themes without it seeming too obvious.

While by no means a great film, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 deserves credit for its warmth, humanity, performances (villains aside) and some convincing action set-pieces.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Rodent, Run

Faster than a speeding bullet? No, but faster than my shutter speed or reflexes could handle.