Man, the phishing spam I get! Check this out:

We would like to inform you that your device sent in for service has been placed in line to go to one of our technichians. Once the service has been completed and your device is ready to ship back to you, you will receive a notification email giving you the tracking information on your package. Please allow 24 hours before using your tracking number.

It's uterly tyipicle, isn't it? Mispellings. Technichians is a new one; that sounds like something in your bloodstream that gives you Force Powers, but only works on machines. You can tell it's written by some Bulgarian spam artist, too: we would like to inform you that your device that was the thing sent to the place for a service has been - wait for it - placed in line. To go where? To the Technichians. Which, now that I think of it, sounds like an alien race in 30s pulp sci-fi.

Not that I'd know. I only know what I know from the magazines I've seen, and they only interest me for the cover art and the letters to the editors. Silly 30s stories about galactic empires and cruel leaders and ray-guns - please. (Side note - watched Ep VII again the other night; I think I liked it even more.) But the ongoing Dork Pulp site has given me new respect for the founders of sci-fi; when you think of it, they took Verne's scientific-fiction ideas and threw them into the deep reaches, no doubt encouraged by the scientific discoveries of the era (a NEW PLANET) and the cultural shift towards elevating the technocrats as our new overlords. Benevolent overlords, of course.

When researching an author for an upcoming page (I googled him) I came across his wikipedia bio, and it had some covers for magazines that had his work. A good account of how things changed.The early years, the 30s:

Always with the reigning robots. And then there's SPACE WAR, hurrah:

In space, no one can hear you say "why are the ships aerodynamic, again? Remind me."

Twenty years on after that crude robot carrying away the damsel:


The last one is a style that feels like it's from my time - and you can't help but see Scotty at the controls, can you?

Anyway, I'm sure one of those magazines featured the Attack of the Technichians, a pitiless race that used their superior machines to conquer the stars, until they thought "now what was the point of that? They're just hot gas balls." It was up to Stack Masterman and his Interplanetary Raiders to stage a desperate, last-chance attack on their Calculating Brain, which controlled everything, and was conveniently located on a planet, and never backed up. Well, they had some files here and there, but they lost at least a year's worth of pictures.

Shouldn't the Enterprise have been backing up its data constantly? Why send a signal buoy or probe with mission records and Captain's Commendations for the members of the crew who had not crapped their pants during the encounter with the Gross Disgusting Thing, but gripped the sides of their consoles while the ship was buffeted about? Assuming a constant uplink with Starfleet via subspace, and amplifying stations spaced throughout Federation territory, they should have been backing up constantly. But we didn't think about it at the time, because we didn't know about data redundancy. Good thing, dramatically: if the Enterprise had been constantly tethered to a central command and control authority, you wouldn't have the sense of being waaaay out there. That was the problem with all subsequent iterations: when they were someplace unexplored, never before seen, mysterious and dangerous, you never got the feeling they were alone. In the original series, they were alone.

Back to the email:

Once the service has been completed and your device is ready to ship back to you, you will receive a notification email giving you the tracking information on your package.

The "service." Which is what? The "device." Which is what? This is obviously intended to make me think oh, right, that device I was having serviced. I'd better click on this link to get my tracking number, and then you're at a page that says PLEASE TO ENTER CREDET INFORMATION FOR THE NUMBER THAT IS YOURS, and after you do, up comes a page offering Mexican Viagra. Hey, they have my number, might as well shop! This all looks legit.

Here's the kicker: after I read the email and wondered how it got through the spam filters, I thought - hey, I do have a device. Being serviced. A while ago the zoom lens on my Nikon stopped working. Oh, it would zoom, but everything was dark. I googled the problem, and it turned out they had a massive failure with this lens, and would fix it for free. I sent it in two days ago. It's in the line!

Great. But. This is the second Japanese camera to go teats-up in two years; I had a shirt-pocket point-and-shoot I liked a lot, because you slid the lens cover down and it woke up and took excellent pictures. But then a fuzzy grey spot started appearing in all the pictures, and I tossed it. With regret. I don't like relying on my phone for pictures - it's a good camera, but it's a FARGIN' PHONE. The point-and-shoot had some tremendous in-camera filters too, unlike anything I could get with my 437 photo-manipulation apps, but it also had the weep-inducing interface that forced you to act like Col. Klink when you powered it up. DIIIISmissed DIIIISmissed. No I don't want this no I don't want that. Only by shocking it into duty - sliding the lens cover down, pushing the button - could I take a picture without going through FARGIN' MENUS.

We liked menus, at first. All these wonderful options! Now they're an annoyance. I want to do the one thing I do all the time, so just do it please. We are surrounded on every side by helpful robots, and what we want to shout most of the time is this: GET OUT OF THE WAY.

There's an idea for some pulpy comic stories. MAGNUS, MENU FIGHTER.

I only know about that comic because my Grandma bought it. Seriously. She would go into town to the drug store and buy comics for her grandsons, something to read when they came over. Quite possibly they were intended for me, because my cousins lived in a house about 40 yards from her place. She never bought Marvel. She bought Gold Key. Magnus was cool but there was something wrong about him being a Robot Fighter. Weren't they supposed to be our servants and friends?

As for uncle and aunt and cousins living close, that must have made my Grandparents happy. Their son took over the farm. He built a house close to the family home. Grandma and Grandpa got to see their grandkids grow up right across the road, and I'm talking about a gravel path (crunchcrunchcrunch) on the other side of a copse of trees, not something on the other side of a symbolically busy thoroughfare. From the dining room window, Grandma could see her son's house.

And it was modern! A suburban Rambler plopped down in the Harwood soil. I spent every Sunday there, and it was formative in ways I'll never know completely. The woods by the river, with abandoned rusting implements; the wheat field right outside my cousins' front door; the contrast between the old farmhouse and my uncle's modern home; the woods to the east where we camped out; the sentinel stand of windbreak evergreens; the chaotic panic of the chicken coop. As always, on Sunday, after the visit and dinner, waving goodbye to Grandpa, standing in the kitchen window. That's it on the left.


I never thought what he did after we'd left.

He probably turned on the TV and sat down in his big chair and popped a Grain Belt and fired up the last Old Gold of the day, and dozed off during the weather. To this day I find it almost ridiculous to think that's he's dead.

Why, I see him right there, waving. Sometimes it's goodbye. Sometimes it's hello.

Anyway, my lens should be fixed by the end of June. Technichians are on it.



Click was a tabloid picture mag - brash and snappy. They ran a feature detailing everything women shouldn't do on a date. We continue:

There's not a single thing she's done right, and it just gets worse. Can't she tell how he's reacting? Is she so clueless, so deaf to social signals that she cannot see how her tics and manerisms and delusions are making him bored with the shallow sadness of her existence?

Well, I was with them right up to the second sentence. It's one thing to natter about your interests, but it's another to sit there wide-eyed while the conversation consists entirely of the trouble they're having at the warehouse getting a good quality wood for the pallets. How about a little of both? Just a thought.

Then again, they're spot on here: turn off the waterworks, sister.

It's a long ways from this to the Seventies man who wept at every conspicuous opportunity, but we'll get there.






As you may know - and really, congrats if you do - in-between the fun serials we do their opposite, which is Western serials. You have to love Westerns without reservation (sorry; unintentional) to be interested in these, because there's only so much they can do. No rockets, no ray guns, no Moon people, no secret weapons. The number of cliffhangers is limited - over the cliff, barn on fire, stampede, and a few I've forgotten. I've just no interest in them, but in order to provide some space and relieve you from the burden of caring about what's happening, we're going to take a quick run through . . .

See him? In the lower corner? ACTUAL ZORRO GHOST!




We're in the excitingly named town of . . .



Wikipedia: "Ghost of Zorro is a 1949 Republic Movie serial. It uses substantial stock footage from earlier serials, including Son of Zorro and Daredevils of the West."

Plot: "It's 1865 and the telegraph is heading west." Indeed it is.

More cribbing from Wikipedia:

George Crane, wanting to keep law and order out of his territory, is out to stop the construction. One of the main engineers on the job is Ken Mason, the grandson of the original Zorro. As Crane hires his men to stop the work, Mason finds himself in the legendary role his ancestor originated.

Ken Mason is a milquetoast, by the way, and everyone thinks "no way he'll be helpful in a tight spot. It's not as if he was the son of the son of Zorro or something. That would be helpful, but what are the chances?"

So when the Spunky Beautiful Single Cowgirl what aims to get those telegraph wires through no matter what goes out with her father and Ken Zorro III, the local bad guys decide to ambush them. And by bad guy I mean . . .



Yes, it's serial standby Roy Barcroft, our old friend from the moon. And elsewhere. (Our hero, BTW, is Clayton Moore, who was the bad guy in the last serial we did.)

Right away, Barcroft - who plays Hank Kilgore here - arranges for the Indians to ambush Zorro III and Spunky Cowgirl and her pa. Zorro runs away. "Figures," they say. Well:


That's all it took to make the Injuns run away. A bugle.. Ken Mason-Zorro has proved himself to Spunky Cowgirl, though, and shows he's aware of the perils out on the plains. Hah! He ain't seen nothing yet.

Eventually Zorro #3 goes to the Abandoned Mine Cave, where his old friend Moccasin is waiting. His grandfather served with the Original Zorro, and took care of Firebrand, the horse. Turns out Moccasin has a horse in the cave named Firebrand. Everyone's someone's grandson. It's all coming together.

"So, do I wait a few hours? Until tonight? Tomorrow, noon? Any idea? Annnnd he's gone."

Well, the Indians show up and surround the wagons and ride around until half of them are shot and a few settlers have died with balletic grace, and then Zorro shows up. He struggles with a guy who decided that it's smarter to walk into a tent marked EXPLOSIVES with a huge torch than set the thing on fire. And so:



Crap! And the first episode, too! Next week: FUNERAL OF GHOST OF ZORRO


Oh, er, ahem:

Some more Ice Capades below, if you wish. See you around!



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