Fight Club

Some people might remember I used to run a site called LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE.

Spending in excess of three years re-watching and ‘writing up’ all 83 episodes of the show, the final post was published in January of this year. It was a project that brought me a lot of joy. It was something I was proud to have done.

Time then to officially ‘grandfather’ the site, meaning, there would be no more active contributions from me but LOST IN SPACE FIRESIDE would continue to live on amidst the vast expanse of the free-floating ethernet.

Nine months later a stranger came knocking at the door. Only this was no polite knock. This was a Gonna huff – gonna puff – gonna bloooooow your house down type of entry. Swat team with battering ram. And those guys don’t pay for damage after they leave.

I somehow ending up going four rounds with this fellow before he finally lost interest and walked away. I don’t like the word ‘troll’ so internet goblin is the term I’ll use to describe the creature who burst through the door on this day.

I’ll let you judge whether I was right to react the way I did. Afterall, the poor guy was only trying to help. Or was he? I mean, Jack the Ripper was only trying to ‘help‘ public awareness of the dangers of late night walking in 1880’s London, wasn’t he? Well, wasn’t he?

Like a lot of fights, when it’s done and dusted with usually both combatants left nursing injuries, you’re often left wondering, “What was THAT about?. This disagreement was over the accuracy of a plot synopsis I wrote nearly four years ago for a Season One episode of LOST IN SPACE. The episode, as with the entire original series, is now more than 50 years old.

The internet goblin (real name: Michael Grant) was intent on taking me to task about a detail included in the plot summary I had written for the episode.

Try keeping a straight face when I tell you this person was do-or-die adamant that the character Dr Smith was evicted from the campsite at the beginning of the episode because he failed to rescue Don and John from the quicksand – NOT as I had implied (not wrote but implied, which is an important distinction I believe not fully grasped by Michael)) because of missing cans of deutronium.

Absolutely no one should bother clicking on the actual post (HERE) that caused all the hoopla in the first place. But on the chance there’s any rigorous fact-checkers out there, then this one’s for you.

I told you it was ridiculous. And now you know just how ridiculous. Anyway, to be clear, I am certainly not above being corrected. I have a wife, teenage daughter and a posse of bosses and supervisors at work who all ensure I get regular practice in receiving feedback and corrections. I also have a collection of supremely knowledgeable twelve-year-olds in my life who ensure it happens on a regular basis as well.

No, the objection came from the unfortunate manner in which it was carried out. A manner lacking the least bit of humility. A manner inflated with ego and swagger. A manner that, in the worst tradition, was emboldened by the anonymity of the internet.

But enough commentary. This is FIGHT CLUB. And that ‘Ding Ding’ that just sounded is most definitely the bell…

Before GLEN writes his LIS synopsis… He should WATCH THE EPISODE from beginning to end and know what he’s talking about… It’s very simple Glen.. Just plug in your bluray or DVD and WATCH IT and then WRITE… Your synopsis always have glaring mistakes… In this synopsis you wrote that Dr. Smith was thrown out of the Jupiter 2 camp because of missing dutronium canisters… WRONG!… He was thrown out for almost letting John and Don die in the quicksand when they fell in and he casually walked away without helping them…

Thanks for the stern lecture Michael – delivered all school teacher-ish like. Seems like you’ve got a bee in your bonnet about something… but I wish you well in any case. It’s all about LOST IN SPACE enjoyment for all of us. Probably better to concentrate on that positive aspect, I reckon.

Couple of things to note here – (1) What you’re reading are the exact, word-for-word transcripts of the exchange between The Goblin and myself. Nothing has been changed, embellished or altered in any way. (2) From the opening round you can see Michael is quite fond of his shouty capitals. Again, nothing altered here. This is exactly how his emails were written and sent.

No… I’m not a teacher… I’m just someone that believes that if someone is lucky enough to have a tv or movie blog that the public read… That they should put in the little bit of time it takes to Get Things Right before they go to print… And if that means having to watch the movie, or tv episode again fresh… Then what’s the big deal? Fans who are all very familiar with the ins and outs of all the tv shows and movies that they are reading about DO RECOGNIZE WHEN MISTAKES ARE MADE IN DISCUSSIONS and wonder : “Why does THIS GUY have a blog? He doesn’t even seem to watch this stuff”…. This is all written to you in a HELPFUL MANNER and I hope you as a writer can take constructive criticism… If not, then you are in the wrong line of work.

The ‘ol ‘constructive criticism’ card, eh? Then I guess you won’t mind being on the receiving end of some yourself Michael – only it won’t come from me in this case. Generally, I steer clear of delivering the euphemistically named ‘constructive criticism’ to anyone other than perhaps children, believing that taking on the role of advising other adults how they might improve themselves or their performance is not an area I wish to stray into. I know not everyone feels the same. I think most people would agree however that if you WERE going to go down that route, you definitely wouldn’t want to do it in a snarky, sarcastic and superior-sounding way while you are a guest in that person’s on-line home. Delivering ‘constructive criticism’, if that’s what it was (am tempted to say it had more the feel of, at least in parts, venom-infused outrage and ‘glass half full’, punchy nitpicking) is an artform – and experience guides us to knowing if that is what’s going to be served up, then it absolutely needs to be done with gentleness, tact and genuine good intention. Thanks also for more snark at the end there with the ‘then you are in the wrong line of work’ suggestion. That one was a bit of a right ‘ol crackup for me. But more ‘constructive criticism’, right? Lets end by saying it’s a plus point to see LOST IN SPACE can still inspire discussion and, dare I say ‘passion’, more than 50 years after it first went to air.

The basic tactic here is to counter boxer-style punches directed my way with Aikido sourced redirections and use-your-opponent’s-own-energy-against-them moves. Engaging but not really engaging, if you will. And in defense of The Goblin’s scurrilous barb about not watching the episodes… wrong! ‘The Great Re-Watch’, as I dubbed it, saw me sit down with pen and notebook in hand, transfixed like a kid-all-over-again for every second of every minute of every episode of the 83 show series.. I could have lifted the plot synopses straight off the internet – they’re most definitely in abundance there – but where would the fun in that have been? To attempt to muddy a person’s credibility like that because you see a plot point differently, well… a Goblin would do something like that, now wouldn’t they?

I reckon The Goblin delivers a correction (and as you’ll see he’s only throwing mere jabs at the moment – the haymakers come later) with a similar air of menace to how Grady the Butler ‘corrected’ his daughters and wife in THE SHINING (1980). In the words of not-so-fine English gentleman Grady, Michael has given me ‘a good talking to’ and the ‘bit more’ is, trust me, still on it’s way.

Classic LIS is very new to many new generation viewers since it plays weekly on the popular national network ME-TV.. and after the success of the reboot LIS on Netflix, many new generation viewers are just now experiencing LIS classic on ME TV every week for the first time… (btw I’ll TELL YOU when I’m being snarky and not constructive) … Ok : NOW I’M GOING TO BE SNARKY : You sound like an old guy who while on a on a public blog can’t stand being corrected… Notice how with all your responses you never admitted my main complaint.. That the reason your blogs have so many mistakes inside the synopsis is because YOU DON’T watch them fresh before you write the synopsis… You seem to write them from memory.. Which is fine for conversation but Not for publication

Bro, this is gold!
The possibilities here are starting to appear downright buttery. If we can just find a way to harness the willful energy of that wanton critical eye of yours, I think you and I can go places together. Truth is, I’ve been on the lookout for a while now for a… how best to describe it… ‘efficiency expert’. Someone – and I picture this ‘leader’ type individual as possibly possessing a strong jawline and dressed in a high-priced suit (or scrubby jeans – doesn’t really matter) – who can effectively shape and mold me and help me reach the true potential I know is inside of me. Are you that person Michael? I couldn’t afford to pay you much – at least at the beginning – but under your tutelage I know I could become more ‘efficient’ and successful in quick time. My earning potential could – and I emphasize ‘could’ quickly rise to match my new found abilities. And then more back to you. Are you starting to see the potential as well?

With a straight face I will say your fault-finding powers are priestly bro (I’ll confess I’ve shared our comment exchanges up till now with a few other sets of eyes and the general consensus is that a person such as you, with your rare abilities, doesn’t come along every day) and I know I’m ready to take the next step to self-empowerment and yes, self-improvement. Who needs Tony Robins when I can have you? Right? Well…right? Please contact me again if you’re prepared to take me on as a client – under your wing, so to speak. My true potential – a mistake-free me, if you will – is waiting to be developed. By you. The deutronium (god, is that even how you spell it?) cans/quicksand debacle will all be a thing of the past. Promise. I know I can be better. And I know you know I can be better too. But a steady hand to guide me is what I need. What I’ve always needed, but up ’till now been maybe afraid to admit to. Whadya say Michael? Will you ‘grant’ (little pun – based on your last name – from me there, but I know I can do better under your guidance) me that wish, take me on and see what magic can happen?

Marks to the Goblin here for being fully present. When he directs me to “Notice how with all your responses you never admitted my main complaint..” he is indeed beginning to see things correctly. Frustrating your opponent – engaging but not engaging – and fighting a battle on your own terms is a tried and true military strategy endorsed by no less than Sun Tzu – author of the seminal THE ART OF WAR. Grinding down one’s adversary seems the way to go in a drawn-out style battle. However, a frustrated opponent is an unpredictable opponent. And the Goblin is about to unleash one last desperate flurry of kicks, punches and elbows – street-fighting style – in his bid for what I’m pretty certain he would view as a ‘victory’.

Ok, end in sight. We’ve made it to the final round. The little snippet above us is one thing, but to mentally prepare oneself for the low blows about to come, a more lengthy revisit back to 1997 and the infamous Holyfield vs Tyson ‘Bite Fight’ may be useful prep.

I suspect you’re between 65 to 70 years old… Probably a MAGA person and overweight with a substandard I.Q. (Don’t let it get you down though because I remember that your leader Trump said often “I LOVE ALL MY UNEDUCATED” and thousands of you stood up in the bleachers and applauded and cheered).

I take it that’s a ‘no’ ?

Looks like the cushioned blows of those dreamy constructive criticism’ days are long behind us now. Admit I had to look up MAGA. The old thing? Well, yeah… old enough to recognize when I’m dealing with someone who appears to have a lot of growing up to do and might also benefit from what could be humorously termed ‘sensitivity training’. Overweight? Egads! If only our headstrong heckler knew how wrong he was on that front. And while I don’t partake in the sport of ‘Trump Bashing’, l’m just as unlikely to label myself a fully fledged fan as well.

The battle between the Goblin and myself stretched across three days. Why did I allow it? After all, I had to manually ‘approve’ each comment prior to it making it’s way onto what was effectively an abandoned internet site.

Amongst other reasons, I was enjoying two weeks holidays and so I had the time. I’ll admit there was a part of me that also relished the verbal sparring.

A sadder admission is, engagement like that, as negative and insult-strewn as it was, had me feeling more alive than the usual wall of silence and indifference that greets pretty much every post – apart from regular offerings from a couple of very loyal and articulate comment-artists. That’s not a complaint, just a statement of fact.

Fellow bloggers can relate, I’m sure.

Anyway, the whole messy dialogue took place on disused grounds. My hope is our gabby Goblin doesn’t try his luck gaining entry to the far more hallowed turf of SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK. Michael Grant, if you’re out there, this door is firmly bolted.

How would Fonzie have handled this? No doubt very differently to how I handled it. Click HERE to unlock the Fonzie way.

Hugs and Kisses

Forty-two years ago a traumatic incident ‘rocked’ my world.

Back in 1980 – the year the Rubik’s Cube debuted – I was 14 years old and a walloping huge KISS fan.

The band toured Australia that year. But I didn’t get to go. Instead, some mates and I had to listen to freckled-faced Joe Cranitch – a boy in our class who would later grow up to wear a police uniform – recite HIS experience of having been front and centre in the fourth row at KISS’S Brisbane concert the previous night.

A bitter pill to swallow, by anyone’s reckoning. The disappointment of missing out on that Brisbane concert, light years ago, left lifelong scars. But apparently time heals all wounds (and wounds all heels) and three nights ago SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK took a massive step forward in righting the wrongs of the past.

Three nights ago, SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK attended the 2022 Brisbane KISS concert.

A KISS concert has always been about much more than just the music; in much same way the Mona Lisa could never be described as just another painting.

KISS live is about staging a full-on, no-holds-barred theatrical ‘show’, in the truest sense of that word. One complete with trench-warfare-like intensity. On Tuesday night the band delivered in spectacular fashion.

Eric Singer’s Eight Minute Drum Solo

As a former band drummer myself, this was always going to be a highlight. And it was. All eight platform-raising minutes of it.

Paul Stanley’s Monologues Between Songs

They were all pretty funny. Especially the one about why the concert had been postponed twice prior to Tuesday night (Covid).

Gene Simmons’ Fire Beathing Act

Knew this one one was coming. Ouch!

Avoiding the $120 T-Shirts at the ‘Merch’ Bars

I’m all for getting carried away in the moment. But not THAT carried away.

The Support Act

Support bands are supposed to be good, but not THAT good. Right? These Led-Zeppelin-ish-sounding Brisbane lads were freakin’ world class.

The Girl at the Candy Bar

That was a looooooooong queue to get a packet of Maltesers and some bottled water. But the young girl serving all by herself down that end of the counter was calm, so poised, so old-skool, understated nice. Getting the chocolates from her in that way was a moment to itself.

THE DEMON

Bloody good theatre! And I do mean BLOODY good.

THE KISS ARMY

KISS fans like to dress up. That’s putting it mildly. There were plenty of whole families – Mum, Dad, and three kids – all rockin’ wigs, facepaint and costume outfits. That’s the KISS way.

Random Sighting

Something pretty random happened on the drive-home after the concert. During the show’s finale, which I’ll get to next, hundreds of Kiss-logo emblazoned, oversized beachballs – each the size of an armchair -were released down onto the crowd from high up in the rafters.

About 15 km away, while driving along my route home at 1am, I spotted a lone figure in the darkness by the side of the road. It was a genuine KISS fan sighting. And what was this person hugging close to his chest to put the final strokes on the weird-random factor? One of those giant beachballs!

THE BONKERS AMAZING FINALE

Every show needs a grand finale and this one had one of the trophy-winning grandest. More fireworks and ear-piercing explosions went off in that last five minutes than a lifetimes worth of rugged SAS training courses.

Guitar smashing, platform risers, 20-foot-high flame stacks, confetti cannons by the dozen and hundreds of frenetic lazers. This had it all. Nothing – absolutely nothing – was saved in the tank.

No one could have asked for more.

And to round things off, there’s this… Someone with a lot of time on their hands and a lot of skill has put together this morphing video, charting the evolution of KISS.

Something tells me SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK doesn’t have too many genuine KISS fans as readers, so I don’t expect this’ll get a lot of views but hey… if you’re gonna pay tribute you may as well go all out. Right?

Happy days indeed! For HAPPY DAYS of a different kind, click HERE.

Favorite Films of the 1990’s

When the swarm of literally tens of thousands of films nesting inside a dedicated movie buff’s head reaches critical mass and the buzz becomes too busy to ignore, there’s but one thing to do – compile a top 100 list.

This ‘hive’ will be organized according to time period – nominating ten loved films from each of the decades from the 1940’s through to the 2010’s. That will total eighty films. Twenty selections will be included each for the 1970’s and 80’s – ‘my‘ decades – rounding out the list to 100 titles.

The 1990’s was the decade that ushered in the all-transforming digital revolution. It comprehensively laid the platform for the life we live today. The birth of the World Wide Web and the roll-out of fiber optic cables brought sweeping changes to societies across the globe. The first web browser went on-line in 1993. Pagers were initially popular but ultimately were superseded by mobile phones by the early-2000s.

The Human Genome project formally launched in 1990. (It was declared complete on April 2003. Level “Complete Genome” was achieved in May 2021). Construction started in 1998 on the International Space Station.

Culturally, the nineties saw a rise in the awareness of multiculturalism compared to the 1980’s, as well as the advance of alternative media. In 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of diseases. In 1997 J.K. Rowling introduced the world to what would go on to become the best-selling book series in the history of literature, HARRY POTTER.

Politically, the dissolution of the Soviet Union occurred in 1991, with multiple Soviet Socialist Republics declaring independence from the USSR. 1991 also saw the outbreak of the Gulf War, after Iraq invaded Kuwait. A coalition force led by the United States drove the Iraqi army from Kuwait in just four days. Also of note, the United Kingdom handed sovereignty of Hong Kong to China on July 1st, 1997.

Academy Award winners for Best Picture during this decade were –

Here it is then… my list of 10 Favorite Movies from the 1990’s. Googles on. Swimsuit fitted. It’s time to dive in.

Every frame of these movies a feast!

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Be sure to click on next time when… SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK will report ‘live’ from the upcoming Brisbane KISS concert.

GET HAPPY HERE

Vacation Time

Most people wouldn’t be able to name the perpetrators of the most recent mass shooting in the U.S. or act of terrorism on the international stage. Yet the name Charles Manson lingers more than half a century after his crimes.

MANSON FAMILY VACATION is a 2015 film which I watched on Netflix a few days ago.

It tells the story of two polar-opposite brothers: one a lost soul who has a fascination with the 1960’s Manson murders – the other a straight-laced lawyer who is nothing short of repulsed by his brother’s interest in the cult leader.

The Manson-enamored brother, named Conrad, is insistent on emphasizing the perceived positive aspects of the cult guru – his environmental activism, love of animals, his ‘helping’ of kids who’d been kicked out of their homes and of course Manson’s music.

He’s also ready to tell anyone who’ll listen how Manson was not present during the nights of the murders in August 1969 and so his conviction for those crimes is doubtful at best.

But his responsible legal-eagle brother, Nick, is having none of it. In one exchange between the two that takes place in a bar, Conrad observes, “I knew you would freak out if I raised the topic of Manson”; to which Nick replies, “Dude, EVERYONE freaks out when you raise the topic of Manson”.

In another scene, bearded Conrad becomes giddy with excitement when he meets a guy who shows him where Manson’s family bus now lays rusting and abandoned in the desert. When he’s invited to sit in Charlie’s seat behind the wheel, it’s a moment of pure euphoria for the free-spirited black sheep of the family.


With his shaggy haircut and bushy beard, the actor (Linas Phillips) taking on the role of the ultimate Manson fan even looks a bit like Manson, a connection that becomes more relevant as the movie goes on.

It’s rare that anything associated with Charles Manson can put a smile on your face but this character study with elements of both buddy film and road movie does just that. It’s no easy thing merging dark comedy and a brother re-bonding story but in this case the filmmakers manage to pull it off.

For anyone new to the whole mad Manson saga, this video might help bring you up to speed…

GET YOUR TWO SCOOPS OF HD HERE

Book Quiz Time!

Think you know your book covers, eh?

Maybe you do.

But do you know these?

The old-skool mechanical whirring that’s beginning to fill your ears is the sound of the quantum engines of our in-house time machine kicking into gear to hurl you backwards over the last 100 years of literature.

That’s literature, as opposed to books. Yeah right. Whatever.

One cover from each of the decades over the last century is yours for the viewing, along with three possible answers. Your job is to pick which title belongs to which cover. Answers at the bottom.

Good luck. You got this. Some of them at least!

THE VANISHING HALF by Brit Bennett

THE MIRROR AND THE LIGHT by Hilary Mantel

ClOUD CUCKOO LAND by Anthony Doerr

FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen

THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt

AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Adichie

CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell

THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold

LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel

HOLES by Louis Sachar

JURASSIC PARK by Michael Crichton

THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver

THE BFG by Roald Dahl

THE POLAR EXPRESS by Chris Van Allsburg

WE’RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT by Michael Rosen

THE LORAX by Dr. Seuss

THE LIVING END by Stanley Elkin

WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Dune by Frank Herbert

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

BREAKFAST AT TIFFANYS by Truman Capote

FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury

ON THE BEACH by Nevil Shute

NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR by George Orwell

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith

THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers

THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck

BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley

MARY POPPINS by P.L. Travers

THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

WINNIE THE POOH by A.A. Milne

THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES by Agatha Christie

And for those of us who didn’t do so well, can I guess what you’re now thinking?

74-YEAR-OLD SOMERTON MAN MYSTERY SOLVED!

UNRAVEL THE FULL MYSTERY HERE

NOW LET’S SOLVE THE JONBENET RAMSEY CASE!

The Rest is History

History is a story with the most interesting characters and plotlines ever brought to mind.

History satisfies that desire to ‘know’. History is neat, packaged and explained. People like that.

History delivers insights and thrills in a narrative with ten twenty thirty forty a hundred times the sting of mere fiction because you know it actually happened. Most of it anyway.

While looking back with hindsight and making sense of things from afar, history is a chance for the average mortal to gain the wisdom of a god.

Current events are super interesting as well, I’ll grant you that. But history is like the prequels – that in a number of ways, are actually better than the original.

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So – ready to travel back in time? There won’t be any swirling lights or tunnels. No Tardis’s or DeLoreans. What there will be is photos. Really, really interesting photos. Come see…

A five year old Peruvian girl named Lina Medina gave birth to a 6 pound (2.7kg) baby boy she named Gerado (after the doctor who delivered him) becoming the youngest mother in the world.

The identity of the father was never revealed, though her own father was taken into custody on suspicions he might have caused the pregnancy. He was later released as there was a lack of evidence.

Baby Geraldo grew up healthy, although he passed away aged 40 from bone marrow disease. Lina herself is now aged 88.

Charles Schultz, the creator of the original ‘Peanuts’ comic strip, thought it was important his youthful characters were brought to life by actual child voices.

And while we’re at it, may as well throw in the adult voice behind ‘Snoopy’ as well…

Harley Davidson created a mobile booking cage back in the 1920’s. Officers were able to detain and imprison unlawful citizens and then shuttle them around as they went. The motorcycle was called the ‘Black Maria’. What the prisoner and police officer conversed about en-route is anyone’s guess.

Future ‘Queen of Crime’ novelist Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976) served as a nurse during WWI. She is pictured here in Torquay, England.

What the? No bones about it, this is next level eerie. Haven’t seen anything around like this today. Kind of glad I haven’t.

Long before audiobooks, digital libraries or streaming services there were mobile libraries. This one is pictured in London. For the pricely sum of 2 cents a week, you could rent a book from one of these book back shelves. Chiropractors were rumored to take a particular interest in the business.

Alice Elizabeth Doherty was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota U.S.A in 1887. She lived until the age of 46 with the rare condition known as hypertrichosis lanuginosa. Alice was exhibited by her parents as a sideshow attraction from as early as the age of two.

We now use alarm clocks and mobile phones to get us up in the morning, but people needed to be on time for work before these devices were created. “Knocker-Uppers” walked about with long sticks, knocking on bedroom windows to ensure their company’s worker’s got out of bed on time.

They received a few extra pennies if they remained at the window, persistently knocking until they were sure the person was up and ready to start their day.

The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake left a visible gap all along the San Andreas Fault line, which apparently can still be seen today.

Check out a young Sly Stallone at 1 min 25secs and a young Donald Trump at 1 min 27secs.

If you think your job is boring, check this out. Back in the 1920’s a new service was started to keep people up to date with the times. Time operators had to announce the time every 15 seconds. Later, recordings took over and the service was… timed out.

Frank Lentini was born in Italy in 1889 with three legs and four feet. The genetic rarity is known as being born with a parasitic twin. This is when twins begin to develop during a pregnancy but do not separate. Frank joined Ringling Brothers Circus as a sideshow entertainer. Everyone has to earn a living.

It looks like a bike a superhero might ride. Ok, maybe not the color but definitely everything else – art deco style curves included. Fast forward 77 years and ‘Back to the Future’ style, you get this –

If any of this may have whet your appetite to take a leisurely cruise aboard the SS Nostalgia, hosted by your Captain Arthur Fonzarelli, then I guess you’d better click HERE.

They Call it Puppy Love

Pets? I’ve had a few.

Goldfish. Budgies. Guinea pigs. Even had a goose named ‘Waddles’ for a while.

Recently, the stars aligned so perfectly their luminous night sky memo could barely be ignored. It was time to bring new life into the realm. Not just any life but one born in a fur tuxedo and full of velvety mischief. Cute on a whole new level, in other words. And with hedgehog paws to boot!

This… ladies and gentlemen… is ‘Teddy’.

I’ll admit I’ve partaken of the odd bit of tut-tutting in the past, aimed at bloggers who go on – all Facebooklike – about their pets. Possibly you know the type I mean.

These well-intentioned, overly-smitten urban campers insist on regularly treating their readers to out-of-focus, ho-hum couch ‘n kitchen shots of their adored truffles – with the requisite accompanying ‘hilarious’ tales – with all the gushing enthusiasm of a tabloid journalist spilling forth the latest thread-bare Kadashians scoop.

Did somebody say ‘gushing’ ? Yes they did.

So what’s my excuse?

Well, there’s two, actually. First is, this is a once-off. Really. You won’t hear about ‘Teddy’ again. Not for some time at least. Possibly not until Disney make a sequel to its 2008 canine movie BOLT. And who knows when, if ever, that’ll be. (Ok, I could have said a sequel to TURNER & HOOCH but would anyone besides myself and Tom Hanks know what I was talking about?)

Second, this is no ordinary dog. No ordinary puppy. This is TEDDY. The one and only. (Ok, he may have come from a litter of 13 but like a little doggy snowflake, there’s still just the one ‘Teddy’. Right?)

If you knew of the circumstances that were behind the decision to welcome him into our home – as a few people do – you’d understand – in a ‘circle of life’ kind of way, why he’s so special. That’s a story for another day.

OPERATION PUPPY HUNT kicked off, like 9 out of 10 things seem to these days, with a Google search. Many Google searches, in fact. We wanted a child-friendly breed of dog that didn’t shed hair. Cavoodles tick both those applicant boxes.

Next it was off to a number of pet shops. We eventually linked up with a private reputable breeder – a friend of a friend. It was a long drive from our house and when we eventually returned home empty handed one weekend after somehow getting lost (GPS didn’t count on multi road closures encircling the residence we were aiming for) we wondered if the whole thing wasn’t meant to be.

Encouraged not to give up by some very supportive folk at my work place, we tried again a fortnight later. This time we landed smack bang in the middle of puppy heaven. The one we would eventually name ‘Teddy’ was definitely the shy guy of the litter. But we liked that.

Driving home with him squirreled away in his back seat basinet reminded me so much of the day, twelve years ago, we brought home our daughter from hospital. On both those occasions my driving assumed an extra edge of precaution – several, actually – like I was an armored car security guard delivering a kings-ransom payroll.

In the car on the journey home we tossed around names. A lot of names. And not just in English. Maybe not quite to the hilarity of this scene from BEETHOVEN (1992) but for certain more fulfilling than the usual game of road-trip ‘I spy’.

Boiling that overblown brainstorming session down to just four names, we were left to family-vote on – ‘FLAPJACK’ – (I kid you not) – the Top Gun 2 inspired ‘MAVERICK’ – slightly posh and butler-ish sounding ‘BENTLY’ and of course what turned out to be the eventual pageant winner – ‘TEDDY’.

A friend asked me if we’d named the newest addition to our family after NRL footballer James ‘Teddy’ Tedesco. I replied, “Actually, I was thinking a little more presidential.

Life has got that much more cuddly and interesting now thanks to the Ted factor. With a 5 star heart-tugging (not to mention emotionally manipulative) head-tilt and a tail that spins like a Cessna Skyhawk’s propeller, joy is ours for the taking.

I can’t start my day now without my two scoops of Teddy. As a matter of fact, he insists on it.

But there’s work involved. To say I and everyone else in my household are on a learning curve re puppy behavior would be playing understating love ladders with the truth.

So I’m doing what I usually do when I want to learn about a topic. I read. HEREHEREHEREHERE and by golly, even HERE. And as is fairly well known around these parts, I’m not above including the odd cartoon as a source of wisdom either…

Sometimes going old skool helps too –

Oh, with all this chatter, I almost forgot to show you this…

Yep, that’s him! You might say ‘ol Teddy is coming on in leaps and bounds. Below is him again, in the slightly more artsy ‘reflective surfaces’ French Cinema version –

And since this site likes to think of itself as having at least some vague links to all things literary, here’s a curated list, for no other reason than it looks kind of attractively ‘shop-like’ when placed together, of some great doggy novels and non-fiction

Thought we’d finished? Can’t do that without these two musical ‘Teddy’ dedications.

The first one, below, has been placed at the end of this post since I’m pretty sure had it gone at the beginning, a sizeable portion of the readership of this blog would have pulled up stumps and ceased reading in protest. Something I usually like to avoid, if possible.

For a smidgen of context. bear in mind SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK has made no secret of it’s life-long like of the band KISS. Their September Brisbane concert is marked on the calendar in yellow highlighter. Teddy, this song, which oddly I regularly have belting out at the gym at 5am, is for you.

For everyone else… I simply ask you to draw on all your reserves of stamina and will-power to endure this slab of 80’s-fashion-emblazed buffoonary up to (and, and for the very brave, including) the first chorus. That kicks in around the 45 second mark. Make it to there and you’re welcome to hit the kill switch for all you’re worth anytime after.

And the second? No need for caution or disclosures this time ’round. Betting you’re gonna puppy love it…

That P.S was from Teddy. This P.S. is from me. Happy Days are here again. Check it out HERE.

Letter from the Time Machine

Eudora Welty (1909 – 2001) was an American novelist and short story author. She stood atop of the absolute highest peaks in the world of fiction writing.

Her novel THE OPTIMIST’S DAUGHTER won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. Welty was the first living author to have her works published in the prestigious Library of America series. Among a long, long list of accolades, she was also awarded the Rea Award for the Short Story for her lifetime contributions to the American short story.

Heavyweight writing territory to be sure. You or I may not have heard of her before, but mega-successful writers can’t all be Shakespeares, Hemmingways and Chopper Reads in the name recognition department, now can they?

If there was any doubt about Eudora Welty’s status as a literary icon, the house where she lived in Jackson, Mississippi is designated as a National Historic Landmark. Gadzooks, it’s even open to the public as a house museum for the literary tourists of this world.

But well before all that future success, there was naturally a time when Eudora Welty was just like any of the tens-of thousands of other aspiring, unknown writers. That meant the daily/weekly chore of sending out her material in the blind hope that someone, somewhere might show some interest.

In March 1933, in an attempt to secure some writing work, 23-year-old Eudora sent this impossibly charming letter to the offices of The New Yorker magazine and gently laid her cards on the table.

It’s difficult to imagine a more endearingly written introduction to one’s talents and for that reason it’s both a surprise and disappointment to learn that her perfectly formed plea fell on deaf ears, initially at least. Thankfully, The New Yorker later rectified their error and Welty went on to write numerous pieces for the publication.

Here is Ms Welty’s spankingly amusing and completely fetching query letter, written in March 1933 –

March 15, 1933

Gentlemen, I suppose you’d be more interested in even a sleight-o’-hand trick than you’d be in an application for a position with your magazine, but as usual you can’t have the thing you want most.

I am 23 years old, six weeks on the loose in N.Y. However, I was a New Yorker for a whole year in 1930-31 while attending advertising classes in Columbia’s School of Business. Actually I am a southerner, from Mississippi, the nation’s most backward state. Ramifications include Walter H. Page, who, unluckily for me, is no longer connected with Doubleday-Page, which is no longer Doubleday-Page, even. I have a B.A. (’29) from the University of Wisconsin, where I majored in English without a care in the world.

For the last eighteen months I was languishing in my own office in a radio station in Jackson, Miss., writing continuities, dramas, mule feed advertisements, Santa Claus talks, and life insurance playlets; now I have given that up.

As to what I might do for you — I have seen an untoward amount of picture galleries and 15¢ movies lately, and could review them with my old prosperous detachment, I think; in fact, I recently coined a general word for Matisse’s pictures after seeing his latest at the Marie Harriman: concubineapple. That shows you how my mind works — quick, and away from the point. I read simply voraciously, and can drum up an opinion afterwards.

Since I have bought an India print, and a large number of phonograph records from a Mr. Nussbaum who picks them up, and a Cezanne Bathers one inch long (that shows you I read e. e. cummings I hope), I am anxious to have an apartment, not to mention a small portable phonograph.

How I would like to work for you! A little paragraph each morning — a little paragraph each night, if you can’t hire me from daylight to dark, although I would work like a slave. I can also draw like Mr. Thurber, in case he goes off the deep end. I have studied flower painting.

There is no telling where I may apply, if you turn me down; I realize this will not phase you, but consider my other alternative: the U of N.C. offers for $12.00 to let me dance in Vachel Lindsay’s Congo. I congo on. I rest my case, repeating that I am a hard worker.

Truly yours,

Meanwhile, over in HAPPY DAYS land…

TRUE CRIME BUFFS ‘R US

True Crime and I go back.

Like, waaaaay back.

If I had to pinpoint the moment my fascination with all things murder (can I be that blunt?) started, I’d point to one windy and fateful day back in August 1980.

I say ‘fateful’ because the original plan for that day was to meet a mate at the train station for a trip to the Brisbane Ekka. With him a no-show, instead I took myself off to the nearby news agency and, like a kid in a candy shop, (used to visit a few of those as well!) spent every dollar I had in my wallet on comics, books, magazines and no-doubt whatever other readerly type paraphernalia caught my eye at the time.

Among the swag purchased that day, in what would turn out to be the most memorable impulse literary splurge of my life, was the true-crime classic HELTER SKELTER. To this day, it stands alone as the best – the very best – most entirely fascinating book I’ve ever read.

But if I really think back, Charlie Manson alone was probably not actually the ‘thing’ (pardon that expression) that kicked off my whole ‘life of true-crime’ fascination.

See, from about the age of 12, for reasons I still can’t completely fathom (and probably don’t wish to), I was a voracious, and I mean VORACIOUS reader of those old skool TRUE DETECTIVE type magazines – that these days can be routinely found on public libraries shelves.

So why exactly do some people – present company included – catch the true crime bug?

The head-peepers (psychologists) of this world would tell us those reasons include –

Because evil fascinates us.

Because we can’t look away from a “trainwreck.”

Because we’re glad we’re not the victim.

Because we’re glad we’re not the perpetrator.

Because we like playing armchair detective.

Because it gives us an adrenaline rush.

Because we like to be scared … in a controlled way.

Because the storytelling is good—and comforting (crime doesn’t pay)

American author and illustrator Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell is another person with a love of true crime. So much so she’s written a book about it.

MURDER BOOK was published late last year. It’s been written in graphic novel style, with comic illustrations on every page. For such a heavy topic, it’s quite the ‘fun’ read. Here’s a little sample –

The author cites 2017 as one of the real boom years for true crime shows. That was the year, according to her, when such programs began to exponentially expand at a rapid rate across tv screens and podcasts to reach the saturation point of today.

Her own pedigree for an interest in true crime appears pretty healthy

Campbell cites the 2007 David Fincher – directed movie ZODIAC as the starting point for her true crime odyssey.

In cartoon format, (loony toons’ if you will) the book discusses True Crime movies, television series and podcasts. Along the way some of the more renowned TC cases are unpacked or get a mention, including –

For the record, as a true crime kindred spirit, I will mention my three most recent Netflix watches –

And to complete the uncensored personal horror show, my three most recent TC reads –

For anyone interested in finding out more about the writer/illustrator Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell you can go HERE or HERE.

Well, that was all pretty heavy, wasn’t it? For something far, far lighter, go HERE.

Top Twenty Favorite Films of the 1980’s

When the swarm of literally tens of thousands of films nesting inside a dedicated movie buff’s head reaches critical mass and the buzz becomes too busy to ignore, there’s but one thing to do – compile a top 100 list.

This ‘hive’ will be organized according to time period – nominating ten loved films from each of the decades from the 1940’s through to the 2010’s. That will total eighty films. Twenty selections will be included each for the 1970’s and 80’s – ‘my‘ decades – rounding out the list to 100 titles.

Ladies of Broadway Celebrate Ladies of the 80s | Feinstein's/54 Below

The 1980’s saw major socioeconomic advancement and a worldwide move towards laissez-faire capitalism. The direction and what might be termed ‘ambitions’ of the decade became synonymous with a quote from the 1987 movie WALL STREET. Michael Douglas’s corporate banker character Gordon Gecko declares in a speech “Greed – for lack of a better word – is good”.

The 1980s was also an era of tremendous population growth around the world, surpassing even the 1970s and 1990s, thus arguably being the largest in human history. Political upheavals included the assassination deaths of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (1981), Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (1984) and Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme (1986).

Technology-wise, the first genetically modified crops (tobacco plants) were grown in China in 1988. After years of animal experimentation since 1985, the first genetic modification of 10 adult human beings – known as ‘gene tagging’ – took place in May 1989. And the first ‘designer babies‘, a pair of female twins, were created in a laboratory in late 1989 and born in July 1990.

Academy Award winners for Best Picture during this decade were –

And here are my twenty favorite films from this period –

Every frame of every one of these movies a feast!

P.s. Wanna see another person’s ‘Favorite Films of the 80’s’ list? Click HERE

Before the 80’s there was the 70’s. And in the 70’s there was HAPPY DAYS