Another evening drive, without the exultant emotions of the previous night. Mostly because I was doing it again, and partly because I was listening to a new album by some old guys I won’t name, because you’ll laugh. I laughed at them in the 80s, until I started to get what they were doing. But they started being boring a few years ago, alas, and the new album has fewer hooks than a cruelty-free fisherman’s supply store. It’s a double album. It’s as if they know they’ve run out of ideas and are truly determined to prove it.

Of course, no, that’s not the intention. But all the reviews from big fans are . . . muted, shall we say. It’s an odd thing, but not uncommon. The audience can tell that the muse has decamped; why can’t the artists?

Probably for the same reason I’ll be pumping it out long after it’s apparent to everyone that whatever drew them to the site was enfeebled long ago.

I was heading out tonight because:

I got a new phone. It’s the same as the old. I recall when a “new phone” was a thing of delight and interest, and I’m talking about the old heavy ones whose receivers you could use as a murder weapon. (Never read or heard a story where this was the case. The perfect ubiquitous convenient blunt instrument, and people always use a bookend. Because one always knows in advance how heavy it is, right?) I actually bought a phone before this was common, and took it from apartment to apartment. In college I hacked the wires so I could hook it up in our dorm, making our three-occupant unit the only one with two phones. This was . . . like Sultan of Brunei stuff, back then.

Now getting a land-line phone is a chore, because they’re all ugly. They have horrible interfaces. My iPhone is much better, but as I mentioned, it had wifi issues, so I swapped it out. On the way out of the Apple store I stopped at Penneys.

Sorry: JCP.

Sorry, Penneys; they’re going back to the old name. That whole unpleasantness with the makeover and the new pricing structure? Never happened. Everything in the store had been repriced, and nothing made any sense. The ties were $30, but they were 30% off. Today! Also forever. The shirts were 50% off, but did the price on the tag reflect that, or was the price actually half-off the clearance price? I had to ask the guy to tote it all up to know what I’d paid.

But hey: I got a good deal. Thirty percent off! I tried to engage the clerk with some conversation about the repricing, how it must have been a lot of work to go through everything again, but he had no interest in talking and seemed allergic to eye contact. It’s as if the entire company is demoralized from top to bottom, going through the motions, walking through the graveyard, not even bothering to whistle anymore.

The clerk’s walkie-talkie crackled, and a voice asked “do we have any children’s Keds?”

No, I said under my breath.

“No,” said the reply on the speaker.

There you go. And by that I mean, there everyone goes, elsewhere.



I've been turning your payments for Tiny Lies into material for the site. Today I got a package that really seemed to go a bit overboard in the packaging department. Your six seconds of unpackaging:



It's all very nice and secure, but man, it's just a matchbook. I'd hate to order an egg from this guy.




Here's the challenge: what's the redeeming element? Let us begin.


Theee's a reason for this today. Trust me. First, the spaceship:


Doesn't quite have the convincing detail we associate with the era, does it? It's made of old model rocket parts, spraypainted, and stuck on a pole. Yes, it's bad post-Star Wars sci-fi, and it's the worst big movie the genre produced. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, prepare yourself.



Some people like John Barry's score, but it's as much a pastiche as the rest of the thing. You get the idea, don't you? Pew pew and and evil count with a horrible planet-sized weapon and a galaxy at war and pew pew pew and lightsabers, even. But it has something Star Wars didn't have:



Hamina hamina (coff) The ship's thermostat was stuck on 87, I guess. That's Carol Munro.



She plays Han Solo. More or less. Yes, she's a pirate! Wanted by the law, adept at all the piratical ways. Her partner in Empire-avoidance:





He's a strange fellow with a deep tan and great powers. Obi-Luke Gortner. The entire decade of the 70s summed up in Marjoe, I believe.

He's mystical and groovy. He'll need all his light-sabrery power to get past the evil Count Vaderpants:




Helping the universe to unite once more under the Pittsburg Steelers logo, Christopher Plummer, whose acting skills are employed to mask his mortification.



What more could the movie possibly need? Whatever it needs is supplied in full with a third-act injection of Pure Hoff:



There's a robot named Elle who's male, and speaks in a Southern accent, because he's like C3P-0 except not British and totally all about the ladies. Note who does his voice:



The name stood out for me, because I grew up watching TV in the 70s. He was on many shows - and did two different Star Trek series. Judd Hamilton, who played the body but not the voice of the robot, was British, making him the poor man's David Prowse, I suppose. His brother was the Hamilton of "Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds," a one-hit o-needer group that had the song "Don't Pull Your Love Out on me Baby."


No, that's not the redeeming element. CAROL MUNRO is the redeeming element, except that's not the whole story. She was in another bad movie that had something that lifted it above the usual 70s dreck. Remember that herky-jerky robot in the Starcrash trailer? This thing?

Compare and contrast that lousy stop-motion animation with this.


Yes, that's the other redeeming element: the terrifying genius of Ray Harryhousen, who died this week. His creatures scared the hell out of me when I saw them on Saturday afternoon TV - earlier movies, but same characteristic: immobile faces on alarmingly fluid creatures.

One more thing. That ship that began the entry?



At the end of the fly-by we see its name.



He was a science-fiction writer remembered for this. Seems he's one of those guys who peered into the future and saw . . . that internet thing we love so much. (Goes to a sound file: Dimension X's version of "A Logic Named Joe."


Not that anyone’s clamoring for an update, but I’ve finally cracked the problem with “Autumn Solitaire,” the next novel. I was halfway through the revision when I realized that the implausibility of the set-up and first six chapters was simply fatal, and the opening sequence - as much as I loved it - had to go. Last night I was writing the new first chapter, which clocks in at a hefty 4800 words now, and a character / plot device I’d been missing all along just walked down the sidewalk out of nowhere. Now motivations are clear and the big mystery of what happened in the back room of the Casablanca are known to me.

Part of the problem, I think, was writing so much without knowing who had done what. Sometimes you find out. Sometimes you don’t. In the case of “Graveyard Special,” everything was known from the start. Likewise “Morocco Alley,” which had one simple overall trick, and will probably end up being the best book in the series. Anyway, I’m back in the groove, and should be finished by the end of the summer. Later than I expected, but there will be another little cheap book in the meantime.

I’d best get to it, then, shouldn’t I? Off. Have a fine day - and don’t miss tomorrow’s Odds and Ends, which really a regular feature now because it has a logo and everything. There’s also a Minneapolis update, and of course Lint: the Institute of Official Cheer’s Tumblr, and the Work Blog. You’ll know when the latter is updated when I post a link on Facebook or Google Plus - the buttons below will help you bookmark those sites for your internet pleasure.

A Mpls update today, in case the menu below still bedevils some. I love this building; it's one of the forgotten recent skyscrapers. NOTE: will fix the Paypal thing tomorow. As ever, I appreciate your patronage.



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