HAZMAT-RETRO HALL of FAME (LOVABLY UNDERRATED CELEBRITIES): Titian-Haired Temptress Tina Louise

Tina Louise Still Lovely in Her SEVENTIES!

Tina Louise Still Lovely in Her SEVENTIES!

Tina Louise in Her Salad-Days

Tina Louise in Her Salad-Days

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF FAME (LOVABLY UNDERRATED CELEBRITIES) by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S FORTUNATE HONOREE: TINA LOUISE (Actress, Singer, Author, Model, Humanitarian, Rival of Ockham’s Razor as Philosophical/Existential “Debate”)

PEDESTAL-WORTHY LEGACY: “Ginger” on TV’s excruciatingly immortal Gilligan’s Island; “Charmaine Wimpiris,” one of the original Stepford Wives; “Griselda” in God’s Little Acre; J.R. Ewing’s ill-fated secretary, “Julie,” on the original Dallas series; It’s Time for Tina album of scintillating pop standards; NYC Public School System literacy volunteer; Full 50% of the Universe’s Now-Permanent “Ginger or MaryAnn?” Conundrum!

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: SST:Death Flight and Evils of the Night — two worthy contenders for “So Bad It’s Hilarious” film-making DIM-MORTALITY. We forgive Tina thoroughly for these atrocities — it was probably a “transitional time” in her oeuvre.

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Red-headed bombshell/pin-up girl and musical-variety actress who tantalized audiences in the 1950s and early 1960s with a series of breakout roles and projects that eventually could not compete with her immortality-securing stint as “Ginger” the Hollywood vixen “castaway” on Gilligan’s Island. Louise’s role on the 3-season fluff-series made her a household name (and the fantasy-girl of millions of males) during the program’s initial run, but almost 50 years of worldwide syndication has made Tina Louise a certifiable legend. The “Ginger” role also, unfortunately, pigeon-holed her stardom, despite an actually impressive list of dramatic/comedic gigs underscoring this beauty’s versatility as a performer. She has worked with some of cinema’s finest directors (Altman, Rossellini) and starred alongside some of its most sought-after leading men (Johny Depp, Howard Keel, Jackie Gleason, Robert Ryan) while carving-out a “constantly-working” career that none of her fellow castaways could really match in terms of diversity or longevity. Lately, Louise has distinguished herself as an author of children’s books, a dedicated literacy volunteer, and is in fact the mother of well-known humorist/writer Caprice Crane. Louise’s 1957 It’s Time for Tina album of pop standards has been reissued several times to warm reviews and enthusiastic reception by fans on both sides of the Atlantic. Moreover, Tina still looks chic and lovely (and she’s gotta be close to –ahem– 80?). We are firmly “Team Ginger” here at the HazMat.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “Wahine wiki huki luki nu, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.” (“Ginger” on Gilligan’s Island)

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: Tina Louise scooped up a Golden Globe trophy in 1957 as Best New Star for her well-received performance in the classic God’s Little Acre. She studied at the Actor’s Studio with the likes of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, and is a lifetime member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In the late 1990s, Tina was voted the No.2 “Most Iconic Sex Symbol in TV History” by TVLand viewers (just behind Heather Locklear). Take THAT, MaryAnn, with your coconut cream pies and pigtails!

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Tina lives and works in New York City, happily ensconced on the island of Manhattan, attending film premiers and fashion events. She spends a few days each week volunteering as a literacy advocate and is reportedly writing her autobiography. We can’t wait — this lady has seen it all in Hollywood and she’s seen it up at the sharp end.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: You’ve all experienced Tina’s sexy juju on Gilligan’s Island, but here’s a gander at one of her other iconic, signature roles: Charmaine Wimperis on 1975’s legendary The Stepford Wives.

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~I have written a new series of contemporary fantasy/horror books about a cynical 2,000 year-old sorcerer stranded among mortals and forced to feel sympathy for humans when a nasty goddess plans a mass-extermination. You know … one of those “everyday” occurrences. My warlock’s name is Rowan Blaize, the books are the kind that adults (and even young adults) will find fiendishly delicious in that mythical Star Wars-y universal Good vs. Evil sense (with some twists, I admit) and you can buy them here, at Amazon, in Kindle or paperback format, a mere click away. Enjoy, and let me know what you think. I care. – Jonathan Kieran

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL of LAME (LOVABLY BAD CINEMA): Goo-Lovin’ Giants … In their Own Village!

vggiant

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME (LOVABLY BAD CINEMA)

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: VILLAGE OF THE GIANTS (1965)

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Director: Bert Gordon with “Stars”: Beau Bridges, Tommy Kirk, Joy Harmon, Johnny Crawford, Ron Howard, Robert Random, Toni Basil, Vicki London, and other Assorted Aces of Awfulness

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Based (more loosely than a herd of rabid, wailing cows attempting to convincingly dance the Virginia Reel) upon H.G. Well’s novel, Food of the Gods, this colossal 1960s drive-in stinker tells the story of several wayward teenagers who gobble a mysterious (and ominously named) substance called “Goo”, transform into 30-ft. tall, adenoidal and acne-scarred versions of themselves, and proceed to wreak sweaty, giant-teenybopper havoc upon a God-fearing California town (it was still the 1960s, hence the combination of God-fearing + California). The film’s primary theme/purpose (aside from an attempt to illustrate the dynamic of teens getting the ultimate chance to rebel against “evil adults”) is, basically … humongous female breasts and the notion that humongous female breasts can be made exponentially larger simply with the addition of a goo-like substance. Clearly, Village of the Giants was ahead-of-its-time — practically oracular.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “I was big enough before!” (Joy Harmon, as “Merrie,” after she notices her new, unwieldy wrecking ball-sized ta-tas)

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: This film is considered a front-runner on many reputable “Worst Film in History” lists, but one cannot argue with the caliber of certain cast-members who would go on to genuine greatness. Beau Bridges and Ron Howard (who guest-stars straight out of his Opie-era days as the pint-sized Goo-inventing “Genius”) are the obvious big names hopefully scarred forever by shame because of Village of the Giants, but (once reduced to normal buxom dimensions) Joy Harmon went on to littler and better things, and most people remember the fabulous Toni Basil from her “Oh Mickey, What a Pity” chart-topping days. The movie has a special resonance for me because I actually got to know one of its hot-mama “giants” — the lovely Vicki London, who played Georgette. Today, Vicki has a wonderfully humorous attitude about her Bad Film Immortality, and went on to become one of California’s most successful realtors, as well as a motivational speaker, jewelry designer, and “transitional therapist.” She lives (under her real name) in the SF Bay Area and makes the most magnificent lamb chops you could ever hope to sink your teeth into. Va-Va-Va-VOOM!

LAMENTABLE LEGACY: This magnificently awful film was supposedly spoofed by the legends of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but no one seems to have reissued the original episode. That is lamentable. Truly.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Beau Bridges was last seen (at least by me) in drag in a hilarious episode of The Closer. Ron Howard dog-paddles in pools of Hollywood glitter and freshly minted $100 bills. We know about Vicki’s lamb chops. They all survived the disaster, apparently.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: From the opening “mud-dance” super-classic scene to guest-musicians “The Beau Brummels,” you MUST behold the BADNESS to respect it and believe it.

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~I have written a new series of contemporary fantasy/horror books about a cynical 2,000 year-old sorcerer stranded among mortals and forced to feel sympathy for humans when a nasty goddess plans a mass-extermination. You know … one of those “everyday” occurrences. My warlock’s name is Rowan Blaize, the books are the kind that adults (and even young adults) will find fiendishly delicious in that mythical Star Wars-y universal Good vs. Evil sense (with some twists, I admit) and you can buy them here, at Amazon, in Kindle or paperback format, a mere click away. Enjoy, and let me know what you think. I care. – Jonathan Kieran

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME (LOVABLY BAD TV): Bionic Babe Rules Globe! ~by Jonathan Kieran

fembot dollsas dolljamie's housejamie dolls
*Two days of madness and drama. (Or was it five?) Nevertheless, back we arrive in the realm of cultural detoxification with a few modifications. Namely, I am introducing a new feature, a little more razzle to flesh-out the dazzle. A variation on the usual crap, basically. Without further ado …

HAZMAT-RETRO HALL OF LAME (LOVABLY BAD TV)

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: THE BIONIC WOMAN (1976-1977, ABC) (1977-1978, NBC)

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Lindsay Wagner as “Jaime Sommers”; Richard Anderson as “Oscar Goldman”; Martin E. Brooks as “Rudy Wells”

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Cultural Greatness was apparently incomplete with a mere Six Million Dollar Man and therefore required a more expensive robot-woman with probably the most fabulous lady-hair in television history (too bad for you, Aniston) who could also defeat Bigfoot in hand-to-hand combat and outrun her own damn Bionic Dog. Gay children around the world were elated –and summarily doomed– by the introduction of the Begging-to-Launch-a-Name-Calling-Stigma “fembots” in Season Two.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “If that’s Shalon, she certainly has big feet. Oh no!”

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS: Lindsay Wagner snagged an Emmy Award as Best Actress in 1977 for her performance in the dual-role “Deadly Ringer” episodes wherein she played Jaime Sommers and trashy-wench imposter Lisa Galloway. (Insufferable footage, but skip to the 6:10 moment to see Lindsay get her Emmy). Wagner also was immortalized in action-figure (DOLL!) form, complete with multiple outfits, sweet “carriage house” living accommodations, and pretty decent plastic boobies. Studies are not conclusive, but experts believe the Bionic Woman doll enabled most gay boy-children to actually survive the 1970s.

LAMENTABLE LEGACY: Open to question. However, 9 out of 10 Disgruntled Mothers of 1970s Gay Boy-Children surveyed say: “The Bionic Woman made my boy gay and that bitch is the reason I don’t have grandchildren. I tell you what.”

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Wagner went on to become the “Queen of Miniseries TV” in the 1980s (Scruples, Princess Daisy, etc.) and starred in a string of somewhat ill-advised “Bionic Reunion” programs in the late-80s and early 1990s. These days she guides people towards the exact “Sleepnumbers” they never knew they possessed or needed and babbles a fair streak of garden-variety New Age gobbeldygook. But we love Lindsay Wagner almost as much as we love Jesus and we will BUY her funky beds and we will pay her to give us some hot meditation tips.

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Any time you can get the immortal Sandy Duncan to guest-star on your show and the episode features a cast of character-names like “Nedlick”, “Dallet”, “Apploy,” and “Faler” you know you have bitten into the rich, delicious nougaty center of Badness. The lavender jumpsuits, pot-bellies, and ascots favored by the aliens are positively Smithsonian. “Attack, Sasquatch … Attack!”

Pop HazMat Alert: PETA Weeps Over Abused Pool-Shark from Van Nuys … Kmart Circles Wagons

sharkyvan nuys

HAZMAT HEADLINE DU JOUR: Humane Group Probing Death of Shark in Kmart Commercial Shoot

CULTURAL TOXICITY QUOTIENT: 9. 5 (Near-Catastrophic. Target would have handled this with so much more dignity.]

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Despite frenzied attempts at revivification via oxygen and shots of adrenaline, a 5-ft. white-tipped shark died of likely humiliation after spending an undetermined amount of time in a “small above-ground pool” in a Van Nuys, California backyard, being subsequently flown from Los Angeles to New York, and placed in a pool full of manic, cannonballing humans for the purpose of filming a Kmart television advertisement, which many wildlife experts consider to be the ultimate insult in the entire animal kingdom, probably. PETA representatives are slashing their forearms in angst with bats’ teeth and currently investigating the case of shark-abuse. “Whistleblowers” are involved. The late shark’s booking agency, Critters of Cinema, has refused comment due to confidentiality agreements. The shark’s identity has not yet been revealed pending notification of next-of-kin by officials.

EXISTENTIAL RAMIFICATIONS: Anything forced to spend time in a shallow, above-ground backyard pool in Van Nuys, California, is probably not destined to survive long upon the earth. Let this be a lesson to sharks, shark-handlers and aspiring Kmart TV-commercial starlets and underwear models everywhere. Team PETA.

TAKE-AWAY QUOTE: “We were there. We did not allow any people in the pool with the shark.” (Karen Rosa, senior adviser to the Kmart film and television unit)

THERAPEUTIC CINEMA: Jaws: The Revenge (1987) starring Lorraine Gary and, of course, Michael Caine.

MUSICAL REHAB: “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys

DETOX DINNER: IMITATION Shark-Fin Soup Recipe

FURTHER READING: Martha Stewart’s Kmart Trash

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~I have written a new series of contemporary fantasy/horror books about a cynical 2,000 year-old sorcerer stranded among mortals and forced to feel sympathy for humans when a nasty goddess plans a mass-extermination. You know … one of those “everyday” occurrences. My warlock’s name is Rowan Blaize, the books are the kind that adults (and even young adults) will find fiendishly delicious in that mythical Star Wars-y universal Good vs. Evil sense (with some twists, I admit) and you can buy them here, at Amazon, in Kindle or paperback format, a mere click away. Enjoy, and let me know what you think. I care. – Jonathan Kieran

Pop HazMat Alert: Don’t Make the Roach Ride in Coach!

Team-Cockroach

HAZMAT HEADLINE DU JOUR: Greyhound Bus Forced to Pull Over After Cockroaches Complain About Infestation of Humans*

CULTURAL TOXICITY QUOTIENT: 7.5 [Considerable. The cockroaches were not at all pleased with the quality of Greyhound’s human clientele and were worried about the spread of potential diseases, to say nothing of rather questionable moral standards.]

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: A Greyhound bus en route from Atlantic City to New York was forced to pull over in Park Republic when cockroaches complained to the driver about the exceptionally repulsive nature of that morning’s human passengers, likening the group of forty-eight people to an “infestation”. The bus driver assessed the situation, agreed thoroughly with the disgruntled insects, and phoned headquarters. Greyhound immediately sent a second bus to pick up the 9,672 cockroaches, who continued their travel into New York under what one roach described as “much more pleasant and satisfactory conditions.”

EXISTENTIAL RAMIFICATIONS: Sociologists and officials from the CDC may wish to work in tandem with state and federal boards, devoting their energies to exploring alternative modes of transportation if cockroaches are indeed finding it increasingly difficult to tolerate the presence of human travelers. Something has got to be done.

TAKE-AWAY QUOTE: “I honestly felt bad for them. Poor damn bugs. I mean, we get some mangy lookin’ characters on our routes pretty much all the time. Driver like me gets used to it, ya know? But this bunch today was above and beyond the call of duty. Hoo wee. Maybe I’ve gotten too desensitized over the years or something, ‘cuz even I had to agree when them cockroaches complained. I’ve never had this happen before. Never. I’m thinking it’s time to get that job with Carnival Cruise my wife keeps nagging me to look into. Then again, I hear the roaches won’t even take that line anymore. What’s the world comin’ to? Can you answer me that?” (Ralph Cramden, driver)

THERAPEUTIC CINEMA: Bug Buster (1998) starring Randy Quaid and Katherine Heigl

MUSICAL REHAB: We Will Survive (The Cockroach Song) by Stuck in Detention

DETOX DINNER: Jamaican Stir-Fried “Couch-Cushion Prawns”

FURTHER READING: Are Humans Parasites?

*Clearly I’m in a cynical mood about the human race today, friends. That is not typically the case. The Greyhound bus headline, however, was begging for a twisted satirical treatment. For the real story (which wasn’t much of a story) click the headline link. Photo via pudkearns.blogspot.com

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~I have written a new series of contemporary fantasy/horror books about a cynical 2,000 year-old sorcerer stranded among mortals and forced to feel sympathy for humans when a nasty goddess plans a mass-extermination. You know … one of those “everyday” occurrences. My warlock’s name is Rowan Blaize, the books are the kind that adults (and even young adults) will find fiendishly delicious in that mythical Star Wars-y universal Good vs. Evil sense (with some twists, I admit) and you can buy them here, at Amazon, in Kindle or paperback format, a mere click away. Enjoy, and let me know what you think. I care. – Jonathan Kieran

Pop HazMat Alert: Famous Old Maneating Reptile Dies in Philippines (Not Imelda Marcos)

lolong caught

HAZMAT HEADLINE DU JOUR: World’s Largest Saltwater Crocodile in Captivity Dies in the Philippines

CULTURAL TOXICITY QUOTIENT: 7 [Reports indicate that the recently deceased tourist-attraction will be stuffed, shellacked, and replaced with two more animals destined to be taunted with stones, coins, and loogies until they, too, will themselves to perish after years in bleak captivity.]

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: “Lolong,” a 20ft. saltwater crocodile reputed to be world’s largest in captivity, finally got sick of eating malnourished ditch-rats on command while grinning for hordes of sweaty tourists and perished in the Philippine town of Agusan del Sur. Estimated to be over 50 years-old and weighing-in at 2,000 pounds, Lolong’s belly was observed to swell with a telltale “death bloat”, as if having swallowed a diseased platypus or perhaps even one of the lesser Kardashians — hairy, deformed-looking mammals likewise known for the potency of their venom and the ability to cause immediate gastrointestinal distress at a mere glance. Gargantuan croc subsequently flipped-over to drown in the throes of its own misery, not to mention its dismally fetid and shallow pool. Veterinarians summoned to no avail. Defibrillators and ancient Philippine remedy of “submersion in lukewarm water” prove useless. Nation in mourning.

EXISTENTIAL RAMIFICATIONS: Unfortunately, residents of the town of Agusan del Sur were genuinely heartbroken at the loss of their captive croc, which had revitalized the community as a tourist attraction and source of civic pride. Their previous source of vitality and civic pride remains unclear at this time. On the bright side (for villagers) two newer and relatively sizable saltwater crocodiles are being transported to Lolong’s former Palace of Reptilian Splendor (i.e. dank concrete sluice) and it appears that the population of Agusan del Sur shall not crumble in a landslide of economic ruin, after all. It should be noted that Lolong was captured in 2009 after a child was killed and a fisherman went missing. Thus, when shedding tears for Lolong, let them be … crocodile tears. Circles of life often assume oblong shapes.

TAKE-AWAY QUOTE: “I’ve come to love that crocodile.” (Mayor Edwin Elord)

THERAPEUTIC CINEMA: Lake Placid (1999) starring Mariska Hargitay and Betty White

MUSICAL REHAB: Imelda Marcos, ousted Dictatrix of the Philippines (who owned several pairs of shoes fashioned from the skin of Lolong’s ancestors), sings in honor of her favorite leftover dinosaur, husand Ferdinand. Bellissima.

DETOX DINNER: Barbecued Crocodile Steaks with Asian Flavors (Check your exotic food-supply market for Asians. BUY LOCAL!)

FURTHER READING: The Australian Database of Known Crocodile Attacks

(photo courtesy of AFP)

Pop HazMat Alert: American Birds Migrating (For Their Very Lives) to North Korea?

rodman midget

HAZMAT HEADLINE DU JOUR: North Korean Film Claims Americans Eat Snow, Live in Tents, Shoot Children

CULTURAL TOXICITY QUOTIENT:6.5 = Significant, particularly if North Koreans derived this intelligence from Dennis Rodman (see photo above).

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: North Korea, a nation with an infrastructure held together by masticated wads of Kleenex, several rolls of used Saran wrap and three tattered old Air Jordan shoestrings, is allegedly producing propaganda films suggesting that the United States has reached levels of dystopian ruin on a par with The Walking Dead. Aforementioned cinematic efforts also insinuate that our coffee-products are inferior, bird-life doesn’t stand a chance of survival in America and that Republicans actually exist in the state of Oregon.

EXISTENTIAL RAMIFICATIONS: No ramifications, because the North Korean film-makers have the gotten the facts entirely wrong. Americans eat children, shoot at tents and live in snow. (I mean, hello?)

TAKE-AWAY QUOTE: “You’ll see there are no birds. They have been eaten by the people who live in these tents and corridors.”

THERAPEUTIC CINEMA: Combover: The Movie (2005) … This one’s for you, Kim Jong Two

MUSICAL REHAB: “Excellent Horse-Like Lady” by North Korean pop star Hyon-Song-Wol

DETOX DINNER: “Mom, can we have BOSINTANG tonight?!”

FURTHER READING: Escaping North Korea by Mike Kim

(photo courtesy of BET.com)

Pop HazMat Alert: Don’t “Pet the Dolphin”!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

HAZMAT HEADLINE DU JOUR: 3 Killer Commando Dolphins from Ukraine on the Loose

CULTURAL TOXICITY QUOTIENT: 2 & 1/2. Negligible, particularly if killer dolphins are armed with mines and speeding toward infamous Carnival Cruise ship, Triumph, AKA “Fabled Floating City of Fecalopolis.” Potential for positive cultural contribution significant.

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Lovable sea-mammals, approachable in New Age “swim-with-the-dolphins” pseudo-spiritual encounters, can likewise be trained to disembowel humans with Blades of Slashing Death affixed to snouts. Occasionally, these echolocating Agents of Assassination escape frigid Ukrainian waters and probably head to Florida.

EXISTENTIAL RAMIFICATIONS: Miami vacations spoiled by great crimson pools of human chum.

TAKE-AWAY QUOTE: “The dolphins are highly trained, intelligent and can strike anywhere.” (Told ya)

THERAPEUTIC CINEMA: The Day of the Dolphin (1973) starring George C. Scott

MUSICAL REHAB: Theme song from TV’s immortal Flipper series. Suggested lyric changes that may cycle intrusively through your mind for the remainder of the week: “They call him Flipper, Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning. No one, you see, kills swifter than he … And you know Flipper lives in a world full of wonder, to slash your guts under, under the sea.” SING IT.

DETOX DINNER: Extra-cheesy casserole made with Bumblebee (“dolphin-safe”) tuna. Don’t forget the peas.

FURTHER READING: 6 Facts You Never Knew About Dolphins.

Brightbourne Media is hosting a special promotion on all three of the Rowan Blaize books in my Enchanted Heritage Chronicles Series. In fact, all three books are FREE for download to your AmazonKindle from now until March 15. Click on the links below to investigate and, no, there are no marauding dolphins featured in any of the books. There may, however, be a few magical bull-alligators and a bit of blood, here and there.

Rowan Blaize: Book One of the Enchanted Heritage Chronicles

Rowan Blaize and the Hand of Djin Rummy: Enchanted Heritage Chronicles Book II

Rowan Blaize and the Starbane Exile: Enchanted Heritage Chronicles Book III

Pop HazMat Alert: A Foreshock for Something Larger

disaster babe

HAZMAT HEADLINE DU JOUR: “So-Cal Quake Could be Foreshock for Something Larger”

CULTURAL TOXICITY QUOTIENT: 1.5 (Negligible: 8 out of 10 scientists surveyed now believe cataclysms are “restorative experiences”.)

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: The “Big One” is imminent, at least in the geological perspective of time, no matter how many minor jolts pester airheaded Californians on a daily basis.

EXISTENTIAL RAMIFICATIONS: Widespread death, destruction, and anarchy with nuances of cannibalism and potentially troublesome episodes of zombification, particularly in West Hollywood. This is to be followed by an eventual boom in the construction industry resulting in reversal of California’s already catastrophic unemployment woes. Fiscal solvency, however, is never to be envisioned. It will always be California.

TAKE-AWAY QUOTE: “Was in my car at a stoplight in Chula Vista and felt it.” (Mollie Nunn)

THERAPEUTIC CINEMA: The Road (2009) w/ Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall

MUSICAL REHAB: Jeanette MacDonald, San Francisco

DETOX DINNER: Rice-a-Roni Apocalypse-Style! (Add chicken if barrel-fire is at all possible.*)

FURTHER READING: The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry

* Substitute chicken with neighbors’ pet if chickens are scarce and neighbors are deceased and/or unarmed. Seared Shih-Tzu adds an especially satisyfing texture in juxtaposition to spices contained in sauce-packet.

Let’s Just Add to the Stress-Heap, Shall We? GRAPHIC NOVEL IN-THE-WORKS

Annoying Image OneAs if I wasn’t grumpy enough due to concerns about the upcoming book-trailer and audiobook adaptations of my Rowan Blaize series (recently launched by the lovely Brightbourne folk), to say nothing of the fourth installment arriving in October, but the decision has pretty much been made to begin work on a full-scale graphic novel adaptation of Book One. Okay: I’d like very much to go to sleep now and wake up in about a year. Or two.

It’s not that the idea for a graphic novel adaptation comes as some sort of surprise; the possibility has been on the table from the very beginning. There is little question that the epic narrative verse format of Book One lends itself deliciously to a graphic novel rendering, and I have always been excited by the notion of one day seeing a treatment of such scope for my determined wizard and his coterie of fabulous confreres. Rowan’s various adventures and perils and bizarre acquaintances in Book One deserve that kind of “life,” but I always figured that someone else would do the artwork for such a massive project, seeing as I accomplished the fun-but-backbreaking task of lavishly illustrating the current edition of the book.

A collaborator is not in the cards, however. At least, not in this particular hand. In some ways I am now figuring that this might be for the best. As it is still very early in the introduction of the Rowan Blaize character to the reading public, perhaps it is wisest for the preservation of the story’s authentic spirit if I tackle the monumental exposition of illuminating the entire manuscript on my own.

We shall soon see, because work begins in a few days. To be honest, I am excited. I got that “inner flicker” when the go-ahead was given. (It could have been last night’s lentil salad, to be honest.) The whole thing is probably going to flatten me, but the vision I’m getting is considerably awe-inspiring, and that is a good sign. A very good sign indeed. I’ll keep everyone posted while I still have fingers to type with. Before they become scabbed and festering stumps due to endless nights of meticulous craftsmanship at the drafting table.

At least I got to get outside on a fabulous California coastal afternoon and play some tennis today. That’s me in the photo. Too bad I won’t get to do that again for a year.

Nobody’s Byzness but the Turks’ : Norwich Proves Human History Looks Ghastlier When Condensed

norwich Byz

Oh, the humanity! Oh, the inhumanity! Oh, the beheadings, pillagings, assassinations, blindings, intrigues, tonsurings, tongue-splittings, nose-slicings, banishments, castrations, buggerings, fornications, tonsurings, infanticides, icon-smashings, and war, war, war, war, WAR. And you get all of that even before the First Crusade is launched.

I didn’t have the time or the stomach for all three volumes of John Julius Norwich’s acclaimed history of Byzantium. I like to hand-pick my Emperors and Empresses (like a fiendish little imperial court conspirator) and buy door-stopping tomes written specifically about those favorites. I have studied a considerable amount of Byzantine history in my day but in light of a few upcoming projects thought that an especially taut “refresher” compendium was in order and, with a click of Amazon Prime, Norwich’s A Short History of Byzantium was in bed with me, right next to the cat and directly underneath the icon of Theotokos Hodegetria, who should have blushed at the things leaping from those pages below her mystical gaze, things that were very much part-and-parcel of her past, seeing as she was paraded around the walls of Constantinople often enough in times of crisis. Of course, we do not hold her responsible for any of it.

Rarely do I find myself reluctant to parade around the walls of a history book to the bitter end — particularly when the subject involves so many things of great interest to me — but Norwich’s condensation of Byzantium’s story, while handy and certainly written at-a-clip, made for grim and reluctant reading these past few weeks. Perhaps I was simply in one of my uber-cynical moods, given the pervasive degeneration of human civilization today, as attested … well, as attested anywhere one might care to glance. Perhaps I did not want to be reminded that the Cradle of Christianity was infested with bedbugs and that the Baby was, very nearly, thrown out with the proverbial bath-water. Now that I come to think about it, I conclude that my distaste for Norwich’s account is probably rooted in one discouraging realization: human societies never learn from their mistakes and are doomed to repeat their atrocities century after century after century. Rise and fall and Rise and Fall on loop, if you will.

To be certain, it’s not exactly as if I have been unaware of these realities heretofore. I guess I did not want to be reminded of them in such acute fashion, not this week, not via Norwich’s slightly hypnotic “Let’s have a cigar and a Madeira in the drawing-room and chat about it, shall we?” prose. After the umpteenth Emperor whose name was some derivation of ‘Constantine’ had had his nose shorn off and his tongue ripped out, and after yet another scheming Empress and her screaming daughters had been shaved and shipped to a nunnery on some bleak island, I started to think that there might just be something redemptive about these Kardashian maidens with whom all the world seems smitten.

Then I snapped out of that nonsense, washed my entire brain clean with some Tolkien, and got back to steeling my nerves for the imminent Nebraska-sized asteroid.

Buy Norwich’s A Short History of Byzantium because you deserve to feel better about your own beleaguered era or because Downton Abbey has made you go far too soft around the midsection. Buy it because you deserve likewise to know how the West was really won and what’s going to happen next. Pick up a copy of Rowan Blaize while you’re at it. Wizards make everything better … until there’s nothing left to be made better.

Dunkin’ Donuts So Freakin’ Stale that Customer Needs Axe to Chop Through Glaze

duh donutMy dear grandfather (God rest his soul) loved nothing more than being surrounded by buxom-if-blowsy waitresses with names like “Lurlene” and “Brenda-Bob” in that creme-filled cholesterol-boosting wonderland known as Dunkin’ Donuts. During visits to my grandparents’ Florida retirement home, I opted to humor old Gramp, especially after his third heart attack, and tag along to attend his version of High Mass every Sunday afternoon, where the acrid smell of watery, metallic-tasting coffee mingled in an almost mystical symbiosis with the grunts of truckers as they wolfed-down heaps of Pure Corn Syrup-Glazed NUTRITION! Gramp enjoyed the Dunkin’ Donuts atmosphere and ambience while I enjoyed the fact that he wanted to include me on these relatively pointless Old Man Expeditions. As I recall, the donuts were not bad, even if they were served-up on Sunday mornings by haggard women still reeling from Saturday night’s Jim Beam and Bacardi Extravaganzas — women who could heat the coffee pots with nothing more than the searing flame-breath of their leftover halitosis in the event of a power-failure. Dunkin’s products had nothing on Crispy Creme’s delectables, as I would discover not long after moving to California, but it was not a grievous cultural shock. It was not as jolting as, say, the discovery of In & Out Burger after a lifetime of believing that Wendy’s was the apex of bun-clad beef-patty mastication. That’s when one really begins to harbor a resentment toward various childhood deprivations. Anyhow, Dunkin’ Donuts were edible treats and even a debilitated fellow like Gramp could crumble one up after drooling over it for a minute, or dipping it in his industrial strength paint-peeling java, which always steamed from cups that appeared to be made of toilet bowl ceramic. Gramp never, ever needed to take sharp objects to his donuts. Not to my knowledge. Not like this disillusioned but resourceful consumer of indelibly American baked goods.

I guess they just don’t mass-produce mediocrity like they used to. Maybe that’s an encouraging sign.