Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy - Peace and Long Life

A couple of minutes ago I got a mysterious text from my cousin.

"The ship out of danger?"

Most people would be puzzled by this (or maybe they wouldn't, since most people text a lot more than I do; perhaps they'd just think it had auto-corrected wrong, or like the texts I sometimes get from Marshal Latham that are actually intended for his wife, that it was a mistake), but I'm a Lieutenant Commander in Geekdom, and I instantly got the reference.  At the end of WRATH OF KHAN, Spock's first question to Kirk is that.

I was to text back, "Yes, Spock, you saved us all."  But before I could respond, my cousin texted:

"Long live Spock."

And I pondered that for a moment, trying to figure out if my cousin was at home, watching "Star Trek," or if . . .

And then I knew.

Turns out Leonard Nimoy died today, at the age of eighty-three.  He had been ill for a while now, suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (which he claimed was due to years of smoking).  He was taken to a Los Angeles hospital earlier this week, but allowed to die at home.  Despite the title of his first autobiography, he will forever be remembered as Mister Spock.

But he WILL be remembered.  I can't think of a more iconic actor to represent geekhood, and the millions of people "Star Trek," and specifically Spock touched, influenced, and inspired.

I met Nimoy several times, starting in 2000, and he was always serious, calm, and classy.  I highly doubt anyone will remember me that way.  I actually got to work with him once (on an Aleve commercial I got booked on because I fit their casting call for "dumpy, geeky, unattractive men").  Did you see the ad?  He is at a Sci-Fi convention (not specifically, a "Trek" show, so as to be license-free and way cheaper) and his arthritis is acting up, and he's worried he won't be able to do the Spock salute to his fans.  But he takes, like, eleven Aleves, and sure enough . . .

He was also on "Fringe," and hosted "In Search Of," and voiced Galvatron in TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE, and did a season of "Mission: Impossible," and directed THREE MEN & A BABY, and recorded that awful "Ballad of Bilbo Baggins" song, and was in the excellent remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.  But few are talking about that right now.  Why does Mister Spock mean so much to people?  Why did I pause and start blogging almost as soon as I  got that text?  Why was I so moved to hear Zachary Quinto's tribute to him, where he said, "I will miss you every day.  May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."?

I don't know, exactly.  That's probably an essay in and of itself.  It could be that Spock represents the ideal alien--a benevolent, wise, cultured alien--of an optimistic future.  It could be that he speaks to those who feel like outcasts, who feel they stand alone, even among a crowd of people.  It could be that he exemplifies Smart People, who are educated and understand math and science and have brilliant minds, especially in a society that devalues that sort of thing.  It could be that he is always so extremely competent and smarter, stronger, older, and more respectable than James Kirk, and yet it is Kirk who always get to score with hot mini-skirted women.

But maybe it was Spock's humanity that made us love him.  He kept emotion and humor and passion bottled up deep inside, but it would occasionally come out, much to our delight.  My fondest Spock moment is in my fondest "Star Trek," the second movie.  In WRATH OF KHAN, bombarded by a fatal dose of radiation, he says, "Do not grieve.  It is logical.  The needs of the many outweigh . . ." "The needs of the few."  "Or the one."  I particularly love the moment right before that where Spock, blinded  and dying, pauses to straighten his uniform top before addressing Admiral Kirk.  "I am," he says, "and always shall be . . . your friend."

In his book, Star Trek Movie Memories, William Shatner talks about the Paramount test screenings of that film, before they added "Remember" and the coda on the Genesis world.  He describes the fans weeping in stunned abandon at the death of Mister Spock, prompting reshoots to put at least the POSSIBILITY of Spock's return in there.  I wish I could see the movie that way, just once.  It couldn't possibly make WRATH OF KHAN any better, but it would feel so very different.

But now he really IS gone.  And he lived a long, long time (well, eighty-three seems old to me), ask me again in twenty years--though you may have to do so via ouija board--and I may have changed my mind), but it's still sad when somebody admirable, famous, and/or great passes away.

This is a photo I took the last time I saw him, at San Diego Comic Con.  We spoke briefly about the reboot movie (I asked him if it surprised him that it made so much money, and why, he supposed, it had done so well) and even though there was a line (and he had been doing it for forty years), he was patient and friendly.

My cousin gave me a copy of "These Are the Voyages" recently, a three-volume examination of the making of the original "Trek" series, and I found it (and the other two books) fascinating, for lack of a less-Spocklike word.  I became much more fixated on "Star Trek" and its lore this year, and my appreciation for (and frustration on behalf of) the Original Series only grew.  So, the death of Spock came at a pivotal moment for me, with it on my mind and heart.

Midway through writing this post, my cousin asked if I wanted to go to lunch, and we got together and spoke of Spock and "Star Trek," and though I'm sure it was baffling and/or irritating for the diners around us, I quite enjoyed our conversation.*  I hope many, many other fans like me took some time to remember Leonard Nimoy today, and the contribution to our psyches and entertainments and passions.

Here is an image from my favorite episode of "Star Trek," "Amok Time:"
You may recall that as the episode when Spock undergoes the Pon Farr, the burning of the blood when a Vulcan must mate . . .  or die.  Spock defies Starfleet orders (and those of his captain), taking the ship to his homeworld to meet his would-be mate (who desires another man), and coldly pits her paramour Spock against Captain Kirk in order to win her affections.  Unable to control himself, it appears Spock has murdered Kirk, and must go back to the Enterprise, where he will resign his commission and submit to being court-martialed.  The Vulcan leader, T'Pau, gives him the standard farewell greeting ("Live long and prosper"), to which Spock says, "I shall do neither, for I have killed my captain and my friend."

But when Spock returns to the ship, he discovers that Doctor McCoy gave Kirk an injection that would make him only appear to be dead.  At this revelation, Spock expresses a rare moment of happiness at the discovery that his friend, Jim, is still alive.

Well, there you go (I have to head to work now, having already made myself late).  Leonard Nimoy.  He has been, and always shall be, our friend.

Rish Tiberius Outfield

*I came up with a concept for another Abramsverse STAR TREK movie, in which the Enterprise encounters a doorway into the Mirror Universe, where the Romulan Nero never disrupted the timeline, and not only does the planet Vulcan still exist (albeit as a subjugated nation of the Terran Empire), but Christopher Pike is still alive and captain of the I.S.S Enterprise.  I know you can write and sell some fanfiction on Amazon nowadays, and I wonder if it would be worth it to try.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rish Performs "Older Wiser Time Traveler" on Far-fetched Fables

If you're like me, then you often pick your nose, even when you have a handkerchief nearby.  Also if you're like me, you really enjoy time travel stories. 

I got to narrate one recently for the Far-fetched Fables podcast.  It's a short story about two time travelers having a conversation.  It's called "Older Wiser Time Traveler," by M. Bennardo.

Here's the link:

Podcasts are cool.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rish Performs "Dead Money" by Dean Wesley Smith available on Audible

I have been able to produce audio versions of several pieces by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (with one more on the way soon), and I may have impressed (or at least pleased) her agent, because she offered me a book my Rusch's husband, Dean Wesley Smith.

"Dead Money" is a Mystery/Action-Adventure novel about a professional Poker player whose estranged father, also a professional Poker player, dies under mysterious circumstances, and discovers a conspiracy and cover-up that goes all the way to the highest levels . . . nearly all elements of which also play Poker.  Someone is murdering gamblers for various keys they possess, but what do those keys unlock, and who would take such deadly steps to obtain them?

Unlike most of the productions I've done, virtually every character in this book was American, so I couldn't cheat and come up with an easy-to-remember accented voice I could keep going back to.  What's more, the killer has dialogue early on, but his identity is kept from us (the readers), so I kept worrying that he would turn out to be someone I'd already developed a voice for, and then I'd either have to go back and re-record, or "cheat" by having the killer and his secret identity have two different voices.  Do I overthink these things?

Dean Wesley Smith writes a blog full of advice for would-be writers that has been extraordinarily useful to both me and my cohort B.D. Anklevich.  The man is very opinionated, but a lot of what he says there motivates me to put out my work, so it's kind of nice to return the favor, so to speak.

Here is a link to the audiobook.  Check it out, if ye like.

Rish "Dead Monkey" Outfield

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Welcome Home, Wallcrawler

I'd really like to take a few minutes and write up my feelings on the news that Spider-man is going to be handled by Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios instead of by Sony (who will still distribute).  Maybe tonight after work.  Maybe it'd just take forever.

After being saddened/frustrated/angered by Sony's treatment of Marvel's flagship character (especially in last year's misfire), I am pleased to hear this news, and look forward to Spidey's interaction with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Better late than never.

I’ve heard it suggested that Peter Parker be retired and that they use the new(ish) Miles Morales version from Ultimate Spider-man.  The biggest reason for this seems to be that Morales will make the universe more diverse and less (crusty old) whitebread.  Another reason—one that I can get behind a little bit more—is that Morales is fresh, and young, and simply more fun than the Peter Parker we’ve seen lose countless loved ones and weighed down with fifty years of guilt.  But a reason I could understand would be that Morales has no baggage, has relatively little backstory and continuity to balance, is a somewhat-blank slate that could be put into any scenario without a segment of the viewing public saying, “Wait, that’s not how Spider-man would react in this situation.”

But Morales ain't Spider-man.  No more than Guy Gardner is the Green Lantern or Damien Wayne is Robin or Henry Cavill is Superman.  Pete Parker is the guy.  Always will be.

However, Peter Parker has been around long enough that there are different interpretations as to who he is.  You can find people who love Spider-man disagreeing on the basic core of who the character is (which, of course, we have recently seen with both Batman and Superman, the other two Big Three of superheroes).  Is Spider-man a jokester, running his mouth and quipping every minute of every fight?  Is he a morose, emo-teen slogging along in the rain, even on a sunny day?  Is he a manchild, unable to be in a committed relationship because his true love is fighting crime?  Is he a true adult who is shackled with responsibilities, and tries his best to get to all of them, even if it costs him pleasure and health?  Is he the mere shell of a man, haunted by past mistakes so much that he roams the night, looking for fights, even when he’s asleep?  Is he a geek, a nerd, a science dork who is awkward in social situations, and is better off alone?  Along those same lines, is he a brilliant inventor with a beautiful mind the likes of Tony Stark or Reed Richards?  Is he a handsome ladies man, who is able to romance fashion models, secretaries, party girls, science babes, and busty catburglars?  Is he a mama’s boy who is more concerned with his ailing aunt that he’ll sacrifice anything (ANYTHING) to make sure she’s okay?  Is he a team player who thrives when surrounded by other heroes, who look on him as comic relief . . . or as a defacto leader?  Is he a representation of the best qualities humankind shares, enabling us to see a glimpse of who we are in him, and who we could someday be, maybe?

Of course, he’s all of those things.  Including stuff I left out, like a clone and a powerhouse and a loner and a survivor and a photographer and a teacher and an insecure loser.

To me, he’s a lot of things too.  Including my hero.  I went to a panel at a convention last week, called “Why Spider-man Is Amazing,” and I wasn’t at all satisfied sitting in the audience.  I wanted to be on that panel, talking about the whys and the hows.  My only contribution to the panel was getting up there and asking the question of why Spider-man works so well in the comics, but they can’t seem to get him right in the movies.  There was no satisfactory answer to that (although I may have answered it in the above paragraph, listing a couple of wildly differing interpretations of the character), but seeing Spidey come into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and be handled by a bunch of people sitting around talking about who Peter Parker is and what they’d most like to do with him rather than how many toys they can sell and figuring out a way to jam in as many villains as possible, just as long as they don’t have to use those villains looks or origins (not to mention fixing the many things “wrong” with Spider-man himself) . . . well, that’s certainly a good place to start.

I have to recognize that, despite my passion and love, I’m not Spider-man’s biggest fan.*  But I’m up there.  I think of him as a real person, as a friend.  And believe me, the man deserves better than AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2.  He deserves to be handled by somebody who loves him.

Brian Michael Bendis is a comic book writer who gets a lot of grief from the fans nowadays.  But he wrote over a hundred issues in a row (which, I believe, only Stan Lee accomplished previously), and seemed to “get” Spider-man.  It was his writing that re-energized my excitement about Spider-man as a character, especially when he joined the Avengers in New Avengers #1.  Suddenly, I saw Peter be both endearingly dorky and admirably heroic, often within a couple pages of each other.  He encouraged Tony Stark to roll his eyes and caused Steve Rogers to shake his hand.  After more than twenty years of reading his comic books, I saw Spider-man become part of a team, and somehow it felt like he always belonged in one.  This is something that could only happen if Spidey is part of the Marvel Universe (something they have free reign to do in the cartoons, to the delight of my nephews, and probably yours as well), and I look forward to seeing him interact with all sorts of folks, some of which we haven’t even been introduced to yet.

This probably also means that J. Jonah Jameson will be part of the Cinematic Universe, and that makes me happy too.

Rish “Spider-fan” Outfield

*At the aforementioned convention I went to with Big, I looked around at how dedicated people were to their favorite things, dressing up in elaborate costumes, spending thousands, getting tattoos of the Bat-symbol on their very scrotums, and began bemoaning the fact that there’s nothing that I love more than anybody else does, no character that I am the world’s biggest fan of.   There are people who love “Firefly” or “Star Wars” or horror films or Spielberg or Pepsi or Butters on “South Park” or Disney animated musicals or Stephen King or Soundwave from “The Transformers” or Sting or chili dogs or writing or Wendy Jo Sperber, or maybe even the Dunesteef more than I do.  And that made me sad.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Poltergeist 1.2: The Line Must Be Drawn Here

A couple of years ago, Hollywood announced they were going to remake POINT BREAK, the early Nineties Kathryn Bigelow/James Cameron flick with Keanu and Swayze, and I just shrugged.  My friend Ian, however, sent me an angry, disgusted email announcing the creative bankruptcy of the studios and that this was the worst example of how long the industry has sunk.

I didn't really get that.  POINT BREAK was never a game-changer for me.  It was never a movie I loved--or even liked.  In fact, the only reason I don't dismiss PB as a 90's Action turd like Steven Seagal made is because it's featured so lovingly in HOT FUZZ, an excellent film I do love.

But today, I watched this:

I guess we've finally found my POINT BREAK.

I've had many conversations about movie remakes, and a rule of thumb was, you can't go right by remaking Hitchcock, and nobody will remake Spielberg, not while he's still alive and a filmmaking powerhouse.

Well, they remade DIAL M FOR MURDER, remade REAR WINDOW, and worst of all, remade PSYCHO (in the most baffling manner conceivable).  None were well-received, and those kind of shenanigans dried up.

But here we are, with a remake of POLTERGEIST.  And wow, look at how updated and modern they've made that trailer!  The woman parapsychologist/ghost whisperer is now a man!  Physical effects have been replaced by cutting edge CG!  The trailer builds to a refreshing cacophony of unrelenting shrieks and booms!  The daughter's name has been updated from Carol Anne to Madison!  Yay!

Disgusting?  I think so.

But hey, I love POLTERGEIST.  Love it from the opening shot (of the television) to the final one (of the television).  It's a movie from my formative years that intrigued and scared me when I was too young to understand all its nuances, and still intrigues and scares me now.

There's so much I love about that flick: how the mom says watching static is bad for her daughter and changes it to a violent movie, "The tree, it knows I live here," all the Star Wars stuff on Robbie's walls, "Can we get a goldfish now?", Zelda Friggin' Rubinstein, the maggoty chicken leg, "What do you have, a thousand watt bulb in there?", how utterly worthless the older sister is, the Mr. Rogers versus football scene, "This house has many hearts," the Jerry Goldsmith children's chorus music, "Why not?  We've done it before," the clown doll, "Now, we never spank the children!", the countdown of the lightning to find out if it's getting closer or farther away, "The TV people," the swimming pool skeletons, the kitchen floor skating, and a scene that I think about all the time--when the parapsychologist talks excitedly about a toy car that moved three feet over several hours, and then they show him the kids' room.

And hey, I know what you're saying: that new movie looks good.  The whole building-a-house-on-a-cemetery plot is as old hat as Vaudeville.  The first movie was just a rip-off of that "Twilight Zone" episode anyway.  Craig T. Nelson is nobody's hero.  The Eighties are too dated.  Hey, Sam Rockwell!  That shot with the hand inside the TV screen is pretty boss.  The original wasn't all that great or scary.  Carol Anne is a shitty name.  Men are underserved in film, and female parts should arbitrarily be substituted with men.  Horror movies are all the same and shouldn't be viewed with any respect.  Steven Spielberg didn't direct POLTERGEIST, it was Tobe Hooper.

Yeah, well.  They say Millennials won't see movies that are older than they are.  But maybe we don' expect any better from them.  I say, let's give them the chance.  One day, they'll see a movie from 1993, or 1981, or hell, 1939, and be impressed by it.  Or maybe they won't, I dunno.  I know they never will if it's not placed in front of them, though.  After all, if somebody says, "Why would you see THE OMEN starring a bunch of people you've never heard of, when you can see it starring Julia Stiles?" I suppose it's no contest. 

Okay, bad example.

I grew up in the era after Spielberg and Lucas "destroyed" the artistic medium of film.  They rose to such prominence not because they were hacks or appealing to the lowest common denominator, but because the work they did spoke to my generation, resonated with kids on the playground, echo in the minds of now-adult children.  Movies were all aimed at teens after JAWS and STAR WARS, with spectacle and special effects overshadowing deep storylines or attempts at creating art.  And the movies today, it seems to me, aren't much, much worse, now aimed only at the stupidest of teens, with cookie-cutter plots and unoriginal effects overshadowing the slightest bit of character or story.

Truth is--the ugly truth--I'm getting old.  I've gone from being too young to be allowed to see the first movie, to being old enough to have kids who could drive themselves to see the remake.  I've seen a lot, become cynical, and I require a lot out of my entertainment.  Movies aren't made for me anymore, and Hollywood probably views me with the same kind of grudging disappointment as a ladies man views the contented lesbian couple that moves in next door.

And these remakes are never about restarting the franchise, fans of the original wanting to revisit something they love, breathing new life into a once-viable IP.  It's about doing a one-and-done single remake film capitalizing on nostalgia and curiosity, and wringing the last drops of revenue out of a film classic/beloved film only to forget it immediately afterward, which is how they movies themselves are often received.

As a great man once said, the line must be drawn here.  In the same way I refuse to see another Superman film by the people who made MAN OF STEEL, I have to commit not to see this remake of POLTERGEIST.*  I didn't go see the remakes of EVIL DEAD, ROBOCOP, THE THING, or A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (all movies I'm less fond of than POLTERGEIST), and I doubt I'll really be missing out.  I can let young people go to this movie, and hope somebody at MGM springs for a insanely-overdue special edition of the 1982 original.

Alright, now I will waste my time worrying about something more important . . . like Disney's plans to reboot RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.

Rish Outfield the Grouch

*And of course it's a remake.  These fucking things can never just be sequels anymore.  No, it would be too difficult to hire a pretty blonde to play the adult Carol Anne Freeling, who has children of her own, and has all but gotten over the fact that, years ago, a bunch of ghosts became quite fond of her a trio of different times, and now, in 2015, they don't want her anymore . . . but want her children.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

...Sharing Your Writing Is Also Hard

The other day, I happened to turn on "The Wonder Years," which is one of my all-time favorite shows.  It was from the first season (episode five or six), where Kevin tries to build up the courage to call that really gorgeous chick in his first period class.  And wow, the memories came flooding in.  I've never fought a guy to the death, or walked on a tightrope stretched between two buildings, or done open-heart surgery on a loved one using only chopsticks and an "ALF" button, but one of the five hardest challenges I've ever faced was doing that whole girl-calling thing.  I used to berate myself (for cowardice) so mercilessly it would have, ironically, have made my own father proud, and remember that moment when I absolutely . . . could . . . not . . . speak when I heard her voice on the other end of the phone.

And I wasn't, what, three years old, like it seems Kevin Arnold is in that episode. 

Calling her up was no picnic, and when I finally managed it (wasn't on the first try, either), there wasn't a timeless Classic Rock tune playing and a fade to black.  Sometimes I wonder what went wrong with my own wonder years.

But another thing that, as you well know, has been hard for me (even now, as a constantly-getting-fatter adult), is sharing my writing with others, putting my work out there for all to see and/or mock, and though I am better than I used to be, I'm still a long ways off from the "Hey, kid, buy my book and improve your life!" types I see at conventions or on Facebook.

But I'm still trying. 

Case in point: here's me sharing what I've been working on in my lil writing notebook (which is now 96% full and it'll be time to start on another one).

         Ben Parks was doing alright for himself.  He was an eleven year old kid in a new town--Trueno, Arizona--and yet, he was happier than he could remember, although he had a vague memory of his mother singing to him before she died, and how beautiful she'd been.  He had his own room--in Mrs. Aubrey's boarding house, right next to the feed store--he had friends--namely Donald Murtry, the sheriff's boy and Lizard Ortiz, who also went to his school.  And school, so strict according to the other students, with half-blind Widow Hoverson ruling over the children like a jailer in a military fort, it was actually a lot more lenient and friendly than the orphanage where he'd grown up, where absolutely no dissension or freedom was tolerated.  He had money—exactly how much money only he and the sheriff knew, some in the bank, some at the sheriff’s office, and some in his little room, which he never had to share with between four and nine other boys, getting sick when they got sick, always hearing and feeling and smelling them.

No, he was doing pretty darn good.  He had been living in Trueno for five weeks now,a nd sometimes he would awaken, pre-dawn light seeping into his window, and not remember where he was or what he was doing there.  A handful of townfolk knew he had been the boy sidekick to the famous Lean Rider, who was a legend in this and most Southwestern towns.  As far as most were concerned, the Rider had been called away on a mission for the government, something so dangerous he couldn’t allow a child to tag along.  A couple of folks in Trueno, like Addison McGinty, the mayor’s son, thought that Benny had washed out, he had displeased the Rider so much as to have been abandoned in Trueno, while the Rider went off in search of someone better.

And what was Benny to say to that? That “You’ll see, when the Rider comes back to town, scooping me up to continue my training, to continue sharing his adventures out there in the American frontier?”  Because Jerome Cook, the famous gunslinging hero, was never coming back to this—or any—little town.  He was buried out in the wilderness, about two miles to the east, with only a simple wooden marker with JCLR carved into it.  The grave had been dug, mostly, by a little boy with a constant stream of tears on his cheeks, and the town’s sheriff, Andy Murtry, the only other person in Arizona who knew the Rider’s true fate.
I figured that, if I put this up in a public forum (I considered doing it on Facebook, and still might), that people might hold me accountable to finish the damn thing, and maybe--just maybe--somebody would express interest in a sequel to "Birth of a Sidekick," since I know more than just me and my uncle liked that story.*
So, there it is.  I got an idea one night to do a follow-up to that story, where we meet Jerome Cook's old love interest (one of them, anyway), and Ben acquires at least one more useful skill.   Part of me worried that, if I put up the excerpt, that would mean I couldn't just abandon the story partway through (as I am wont to do), but that I would face Japanese-culture-level shame if I couldn't manage to finish the damn thing.  But maybe that sort of pressure is good, in a way, if it means I work a little harder to get through story problems, apathy, and my tendency to get easily distracted.  Hopefully this is a good story too.
Though, truth be told, even having posted this, I would rather share my "three witches erotica story" in front of a first grade class being taught by my own mother than have to call what's-her-name and try to let her know how much I like her.  Which reminds me: I ought to type that up.  And see if I can find some cover art, maybe with green boobies on it.
Rish "Oddly-Proportioned Rider" Outfield
P.S.  This:

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Rish Outcast 19: The Key Collector

This was an episode that was recorded a long time ago (I know, I know, they all are), and it was supposed to go up before Christmas.  But what the heck, there's not time like the president, right?

This one presents a recent short called "The Key Collector.  I entered a contest where you had to write a story based on a photo of a bank of keys on a wall.  They were not hotel keys, we were told, so I wrote this story.  Needless to say, I was not the winner.

To download the episode, right click HERE and save to your dee-vice.