Going On the Account: Following the Herd

I have to admit, I never really got into Twitter.

There were all kinds of reasons to do so, the need to “be part of the conversation,” especially among journalists and politicians. Until now, though, I never really felt I needed to be part of that. Probably the presence of an “orange politician,” for lack of a good term, had something to do with it…

But, the times change, and require new things of us as they do. I’m at a point where I do need to “be part of the conversation,” for a number of reasons. And, as the news can attest, I picked a GREAT time to reach that point…

So, though it’s time to speak up, I’m going to a different place to do so:

@JamesDRyan@mastodon.world

At this point, I don’t have the button for Mastodon set on the contact page, and am trying to work out some of the technical issues, but I’m hoping I can smooth out the kinks as I proceed. If all goes the way hoped, I should be able to share there the way I do on Instagram and Facebook with things thought and said and seen.

O brave new world(s)…

Going On the Account: Hell to Pay (For)…

This is a “Wai’, what?” moment here:

So, I’m doing research tied to an as yet unnamed (and for that matter, extremely nebulous for now) project, when I came across this.

Now, not everyone remembers that as World War I came to a close, the Allied powers sent troops to Russia to take a side in the Russian Revolution. The Allies wanted the Mensheviks to win, thinking that they’d be preferable to a Bolshevik victor taking over the Empire. (Spoilers: The Bolsheviks come out on top, and the U.S.S.R. came into existence, holding a grudge against the West for supporting the other side.)

Because it’s not something that’s in most American history syllabi, at any level, it’s easy to make some assumptions about what went on. You might think that we don’t talk about it because it was a small diversionary force that they tried to keep under the radar. Or maybe that the countries that won “the war to end all wars” were trying to aggressively get back to being at peace, and were ignoring this tiny war the same way they were ignoring the Spanish flu the global influenza outbreak.

Part of these mini-wars were deployments to Siberia as part of the bigger operation. Sure, it’s easy to ask why go somewhere that’s synonymous with empty unused land, if you forget that the Trans-Siberian Railway has to cut through there, linking Moscow to the Pacific. So it’s easy to assume if you’re in the mindset suggested above, that because this is an out-of-the-way place, it was just a few troops put in to try and nudge one side to victory over the other one.

The big discovery, though, was finding online a poster asking the folks back home to buy war stamps (small-scale war bonds for the individual to buy) to support the intervention:

This poster in the collection of the National World War I Museum and Memorial makes it harder to assume that. If this was a small op, an in-and-out intervention like way, way too many other American actions that come to mind, why would they be asking people to buy micro-war bonds to support them? How long did they intend to keep them there? Did they have plans that went beyond… Okay, what were they planning? That might be a better question, actually…

While what happened there doesn’t get as much attention as other American overseas actions, there are places to get more details about what took place. And learning about such actions may be helpful if you’re trying to make sense of it all, like where the beef between Americans and Russians started and why “Bolshevik” is considered an insult.

Which is part of the wider issue out there, about how little we think about history. With so much bad history being thrown around by so-called “Originalists” for the sake of their own ends, it can be hard enough to find perspective about the big historical events we’d learned (I hope) to help make sense of things. Which is why re-studying the history you know is not only a good way to keep you focused against all these distractions, it can lead you to find things you didn’t know before.

And to borrow an old set of sayings about bullets, it’s the stuff you didn’t know before that can kill you…

Going On the Account: If At First…

Memory can be a blessing and a curse. In this instance, maybe both…

For the last few years, my work was ending up more on Facebook than it was here. There were a number of reasons for that, such as ease of use on that platform, not a lot of time for cross-posting in the middle of things, hadn’t been able to give this site the update it needed before now. There were a number of things that got in the way of putting material here that contributed to my laziness my situation.

One of the things about Facebook that you can either love or hate is its “Memories” function, which allows you to see what you were doing on this date in the past. Have pictures taken of you of that party where you hooked up with someone you had to do the walk of shame from afterwards? Yep, there. Said something about a person or piece of work that didn’t age well? Uh-huh, here you go. Pictures with people you loved who are no longer in your life? Sadly, those too.

Thankfully, I don’t have many of those. There’s very little that I posted that I’d die of embarrassment of if it came back up. I’d still get maudlin if pics of those I miss came up, but presumably most people would.

One thing that surprised me, though, was a few opinion pieces I shared on this date, both of which for whatever reason are still relevant issues, even with all that’s gone on before then. Some matters never die, and are so continually active that something from a century ago can still qualify as a hot take.

For example, this statement about “cancel culture” from 2021, which managed to tie in with education practices today…

So, there’s a lot of talk about “cancel culture,” stating the horror that things are being taken away from folks.

Forget the idea that maybe some of these things being taken away have gone well beyond their shelf life, like that container of leftovers in the back of your fridge that you probably should have thrown out months ago; let’s assume that these “cancelled” items still have a place, beyond just being a “good bad idea.”

Notice who some of the folks are who seem especially anxious to claim that it’s an attack on what they believe is their heritage, a heritage they have supported through their champions at the top of the ticket every four years.

Champions such as the last one they had, who put into office a Secretary of Education who removed the protections of students the Obama Administration had implemented, while at the same time backing off on prosecuting fly-by-night “schools” that took student’s money yet left them uneducated.

Champions like George W. Bush, who during his administration championed the No Child Left Behind Act, which tied funding to schools that measured their performance based on basic skills tests, tests that were so important that most schools cut from the curricula everything but test prep.

Champions like Ronald Reagan, who wanted to eliminate the Department of Education and instead focused on such critical education issues as whether prayer was allowed in the classroom.

After about forty years of these “champions” having had a hand in American education policy, we were likely to end up where we are today, with a generation that could not bring nuance to an observation, capable only of binary reaction, such reactions serving the “cancelled” badly as their time on stage counts down to the end.

An outcome that some might appreciate more, had the education policies above not prevented them from learning about the law of unintended consequences…

Or, this piece from 2020, which discussed everyone being scarred of COVID-19, but still works about how we relate to it today, along with other things to be terrified of…

I wasn’t going to go into this, but the way things are going, it’s probably better to share:

Everyone is freaking out about our state of emergency right now. There’s been a lot of stress, a lot of panic, people losing their f’n’ minds over this. It’s making people go to a dark place that makes them say and even do things that would not have happened had there not been this stress. You’ve probably seen this the last time you went to the store, so examples would be superfluous.


I can fully relate. Years ago, as the Cold War entered into its last stages, I was making that trip down the dark spiral myself. If you don’t remember it, it was not a lot of fun: There were too many strategic weapons held on both sides, both of whose leaders were not anyone you’d put at the top of the list to trust with these toys. I kept abreast with the latest information, thinking that at least knowing what was driving me on would be better than being entirely in the dark. To this day, I can still give you throw weights for the SS-20 and Minuteman if asked.


(And keep in mind, this was trying to learn everything that was knowable at the time. If you get a chance, look up “Abel Archer 83” and ask, how comfortable would you be if at the time you’d known more about this…)


One of the side effects of dealing with this sense of dread, unfortunately, was that fear was being supplanted by depression. What was the point, I thought, of a life that either out of stupidity or carelessness would have ended in no more than 90 minutes? And if somehow I wasn’t a casualty of the first strike, what would be the point of fighting with the roaches for food? When Khrushchev’s quote about how in such a time the living would envy the dead kept playing in the background, it didn’t make me good company at what few parties would still invite me to attend.


It took years to get out of that. Well, that and the end of the Cold War itself; had we still had this going on, who knows if I would ever get out. But as I climbed out, I started to regret not having as many good associations with that time of my life as I should have. It took more time after that to make up for it, in terms of getting to a place where I felt I had actually lived.


The point of all this rambling is, yes, these times are scary, and keeping ahead of this by staying informed is recommended. But please, save a little piece of yourself. If too much of your attention and awareness gets overwhelmed, the damage can be crippling, long lasting, and take far too long to correct. Take some time to do something that allows you to relax; a good book, a decent album, a favorite game you can play (even a solo game, maybe especially one such considering the times), anything you can do to avoid burnout and being overwhelmed.

We should all watch for the immediate danger so as to keep ourselves safe, but what’s the damn point if we have nothing left to save afterwards…?

Maybe Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr had it right all along, which is a double-edged sword. We never really get out of or away from these troubles, though with enough exposure we could build up an immunity.

I’m not a big fan of the idea of history being able to repeat itself, but I do agree with whoever came up with it* that it can rhyme, or at least have the same beat. Maybe with that in mind, we can work on our dance to make it easier to do…

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* Don’t start giving me notes about how it was Mark Twain who said that. Apparently he didn’t, despite what others have said.

Besides, I’d rather go with an attributable source that may have been a bit more hopeful as they used the term…

Going On the Account: I Don’t Like Knowing That I Know Nothing

He that would live in peace & at ease, must not speak all he knows or judge all he sees.

  • Benjamin Franklyn, Poor Richard’s Almanac

I should warn everyone here that there will be spoilers in the article.

Well, not specific spoilers; more spoilers in the aggregate as a general concept…

If you follow any fandoms, there will be times when you’re anticipating what comes next in a franchise. Who’s going to be the next Doctor when the show starts a new series; who is going to appear in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness; there are likely examples beyond these that follow through the following steps:

  1. A project is announced, generally a continuation of a favorite story and/or using beloved characters from the audience’s past
  2. The promotion of the project begins, with all kinds of hints as to what to expect to build up anticipation and desire to see the project
  3. The potential audience starts exchanging rumors and speculations as to what’s going to be in the project
  4. The project premiers and there are indeed surprises
  5. There’s a split in the potential audience between those who want to be surprised and those who need to know what the surprise is before going to see it themselves
  6. Finger-pointing and name-calling ensue between the two groups in 5, above
  7. The surprises become general knowledge in time for the cycle to begin again for the next project in the series, as described in 1, above

The whole “Spoilers” argument is almost as old as the first examples of our modern means of storytelling. There were people who would haunt the wharfs of New York, asking sailors from England if Dora had died yet. Years later, the film The Bat in 1926 asked patrons not to spoil the end of the film:

And these are just the ones we remember today; there were probably plenty of twists in stories forgotten long ago where revealing them had led to hurt feelings, arguments, fist-fights, divorce, manslaughter, international incidents, what-have-you…

And to be frank, there are times when a little foreknowledge can be a good thing.

Now, before I go on: Yes, there are good reasons to live by a version of omerta when it comes to what’s in a work. Mysteries where you know who did it can be hard to enjoy, unless Peter Falk is handling the case. Having something pop up you didn’t expect can be thrilling, if it’s something that doesn’t take you entirely out of it (i.e., the big surprise in Rise of the Planet of the Apes versus the sudden turn in Rat Pfink a Boo Boo).

Playing advocatus diaboli here is a much easier task than you’d assume. There’s of course the traditional argument in favor of keeping your mouth shut, that such works that depend on the surprise need to be funded somehow, which can easily be dispensed with: If it’s such a good piece, it should be able to withstand being revealed ahead of time. Anything that can’t stand on its own without the big surprise is like a jump scare video: If that’s all ya got, don’t bother me with this, because annoying me ain’t the way to win me over to be your audience.

Beyond that, there’s the whole access ecosystem issue: You like something enough to follow it, but you can’t see it for yourself. There’s the expectation that if you want to know what everyone is (refusing to) talk about (without chastisement), you just have to go see it yourself. There’s a whole cliquish division that spreads between fans as an “us” versus “them” delineation gets imposed on the group at large, which at a time when we’re trying to stop such behavior seems at best counter-productive.

Is paying the piper really worth it if in the process the paying audience turns on the rest of the crowd?

Beyond that, there’s also the issue of ability to join. Many of the arguments in favor of going to see the piece for yourself came about during times when whether you could do so was a simple, binary “yes-or-no” option. Does Dora die? Buy a copy at the bookstore, the 19th Century version of Kindle Vella. So what happens in The Bat? It only costs a nickel to see what takes place.

Since then, though, not everything is as accessible as that. The costs of going to a film or buying a first edition book have skyrocketed, comparable to then. With a nickel in 1923 worth eighty-two cents as I write this, compared to the average price of a movie ticket in the US being $9.16 (as of 2019), it’s easy to see how he division between the “seen its” and “want to knows” came about thanks to factors beyond the audience’s control.

The above doesn’t take into account some unexpected additional costs. This observation got prompted by more than a few folk talking about how they wish they didn’t have spoilers revealed ahead of time when they went to see Spider-Man: No Way Home. The spoiler situation was especially divisive between the folks who wanted to know everything without going versus the ones who went to the theaters to see it for themselves.

Right in the middle of the Omicron Variant flare-up.

Is it fair to blame the movie for a spike in infections that threw off efforts to return to (what passes for) normal? Can we blame it for contributing to 100,000 deaths in the US? At the very least, the optics ain’t good here.

Maybe it’s past time we stop using our having gotten to see it before others, as an excuse to claim being better than others. Maybe the person who wants to know without going to see it isn’t trying to ruin it for anyone, but is unable to enjoy it themselves otherwise. Claiming that your enjoyment of something depends on keeping information out of circulation needs to be re-thought, until such a time when we’re all healthier, both physically and economically.

With that in mind, I have a few revelations to share:

  1. He was home the whole time.
  2. They don’t prevent the mountain from blowing up and killing everyone.
  3. He was talking about something from his childhood.
  4. He was just pretending to be crippled.
  5. He slept with the villain responsible for the diabolical plot.
  6. Everyone thought it was the butler, but he proved them all wrong.
  7. The second of the three likely solutions works the best.

As for what these spoilers are for…

Well, okay, I’m holding a few cards close to my chest. Maybe you’re reading this and still haven’t been convinced that you can freely talk about what takes place in a work. Maybe you want these answers, but only for something you specifically want to know about, and don’t need the rest of them right off.

Otherwise, if you read the above revelations and have questions, which as I promised are not specific spoilers…

Well, to an extent, at least, somewhat…

In any event, I encourage you to get out there and look for where these came from. Which is one way to use spoilers for everyone’s benefit: Not as a conversation ender, but a starting point to discuss something that someone may not have seen yet, or maybe hadn’t thought about in while.

So, yes there are spoilers, but from where? Do you know…?

Going On the Account: I Only Give You My Situation…

(You can see what’s taken place before this section in this post from my Facebook page)

I was in my home rehearsing for the gig that I and the rest of the band have for tomorrow. We’re actually on the main stage this year, after years of practice under the staircase next to the lobby, showcasing our work. You should come by and hear us.

So, I’m at the keyboard, and suddenly this small yellow… something formed in the air and plopped on the keys, producing a sustained E-major chord. After I stopped being startled, I picked it up, and it started talking to me in my head:

“Hmmm,” I ‘heard’ it say, “you’ll do nicely,” and the next thing I knew, I felt my mind turn off and my body going limp, like I was floating downstream, like driftwood on green seas under a blue sky.

And when I woke up, there was me. Or more precisely, he was me as you see me done up now. I was he as he was he and he was me and I was all together confused.

“Excellent,” he said aloud, lips moving and all, as he looked me over. “You could pass for the original.”

I wanted to say, “But I am the original,” for, reasons.

To find out what happens to our hero, the British Invasion Fan, you should read the story “You Never Give Me Your Money,” which can be found in the book THE FANS ARE BURIED TALES.

Currently being funded on Kickstarter, the anthology will be published by Crazy 8 Press, and is edited by Peter David and Kathleen O’Shea David. In addition to the above story, there’s also works in the book from the likes of Keith DeCandido, Ian Randal Stock, Robert Greenberger, Jo Duffy, John Peel, Martin A. Perez, Michael Jan Friedman, Ben Vincent, Aaron Rosenberg, and Peter himself, amidst a cadre of talent.

Whatever fandom you follow, with your support of the Kickstarter campaign, a splendid time is guaranteed for all…

Going On the Account: If You Ever Want to Hear from Me Again…

So, if you visit this site regularly, then

(a) Thank you, and

(b) You probably wonder why I don’t have anything in the “Other Appearances” tag lately.

Part of that is because one of the anthologies I’m in needs a little help from you.

This is a collection I’ve been accepted in, but long story short, the publisher was unable to launch the book as planned thanks to COVID, and the editor (the talented Peter David) is currently in the hospital. In order for this book to go to press, they went to Kickstarter to get this to the printer.You know Peter David, right? Author of KNIGHT LIFE, ARTFUL, HOWLING MAD, and probably a bunch of other books you like? Surely you must have read some of the comic books he wrote, such as THE INCREDIBLE HULK and SPIDER-MAN, haven’t you?

And if you’re fans of some of the following, they all have a piece in the work that’s worth a read:

Aaron Rosenberg

Robert Greenberger

Michael Jan Friedman

Mary Fan

Jo Duffy

Rigel Ailur

Ian Randal Strock

Patrick Storck

Susan Hillwig

Brenda Huettner

Robert Jeschonek

C.J. Espinoza

Paige Daniels

D.M. Rasch

Eugene Ramos

Steve Nagy

Ian Harac

Rande Goodwin

Martin A. Perez

John Trumbull

Christopher J. Valin and Steve Beaulieu

John J. X. Cihon

“Uncle” Wes Nicholson

Raphael Sutton

Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Susan Stanelow Olesen

R.P. Steeves

Keith R. A. DeCandido

Isaac Sher

Denise Sutton

Andy Allard

Glen Cadigan

John Peel

James Ryan (yeah, me!)

Josh Pritchett

Steven L. Rosenhaus

Bev Vincent

Surely for *their* sake to see this in print (and your own, as hey, more good stuff from them for your bookshelf), you owe it to click and chip in.

Yes, *you* can keep this book from an ignoble fate; this anthology has plenty of good stories in it that is worth your support.

Here is where you can go to the Kickstarter.

And if this gets off the ground and into your hands, there may well be more goodies to add to that page…

Going On the Account: Why You Might Not Do That (Even If You’d Otherwise Do Anything for Love…)

Composite image from individual shots via Getty

This morning, there was a death in the Culture Wars.

Okay, more like a death that got caught up in the Culture Wars: We heard Meat Loaf passed away the day before, which led to a lot of fond recollections about Bat Out of Hell and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Then, we find out Meat Loaf was an anti-vaxxer whose stands on vaccination contributed to his death, which made a lot of folks with fond recollections suddenly do a double-take. He’s quoted as saying about not taking precautions, “If I die, I die, but I’m not going to be controlled.” Which, well, mission accomplished, I guess…

His timing was certainly interesting. There’d been a bit of chatter of late about whether to support an artist you don’t agree with, whether someone who you can’t abide for their opinions or stands should ever be enjoyed by the audience. Just days before, Joss Whedon spoke up to try and get ahead of his own maleficence doing in his legacy, with… limited success, to put it mildly. (It didn’t help that Gita Jackson at Vice puts his career in perspective a few days earlier in a way that will allow the reader to cite other reasons for putting your Buffy and Firefly merch into a corner of the room you don’t go to that often…)

That these two came up in the same week is not really a quick hot take, just more the latest round of an ongoing issue: Art we like from people we can’t. There are way, way too many examples that can be cited, like Harvey Weinstein, Richard Wagner, Marion Zimmer Bradley, J. K. Rowling, et cetera. And the problem is, you start finding more than one radioactive apple in the cellar, suddenly there’s no good fruit left, as the questions as to what’s acceptable when asked will always lead to more such questions like that. Once you ask why this one’s issues make them persona non grata while that one’s don’t, getting into an endless IF-THEN loop, your ability to find something to enjoy is badly compromised.

Case in point: I’d been a fan of the Mamas and the Papas for years. Their harmonies were some of the best that came out of the Sixties scene, not quite the complex arrangements that Brian Wilson gave the Beach Boys, but definitely a few strata above their peers. Doing a deep dive into their catalog was always a pleasure, finding pieces that were a surprise if all you knew where the usual numbers in heavy rotation:

So imagine the hurt upon hearing Mackenzie Phillips’ account. Listening to the music after this, that was difficult. For me, the whole question of “cancelling” came up as far back as 2009. It’s something I’ve lived with it for some time, with each new revelation popping up yet one more step on a long jagged trail.

And after all this time, how to approach the next revelation still requires a moment to take a breath. It’s hard when you’ve been a fan and embraced a creator, and you have to consider their output in a whole new way, and it’s never going to get easier.

And after so long wrestling with the question, the best way forward I can find is to ask yourself a question that gets asked a lot among lawyers in all fields:

Cui bono?

The question in Latin, “Who benefits?” is worth considering as you look at what makes up your personal canon, your list of what you feel worth engaging with going forward. The whole ‘separating the artist from the art’ ideal obviously asks you if you benefit from having that work in your life still, but there’s another component, which is how we share and appreciate modern (boy-do-I-hate-the-term) “intellectual property.”

In such a setting, there’s usually a payment requested for the work. Buying a ticket at the movies or subscribing to an online service, paying a fee to download something, maybe buying a product from that artist’s sponsor as they’re hoping that because you love this work, that you can share some of that love with them. There is an economic component to such works, one where the creator may or may not be able to see some payment for what they do.

In a case like that, one question that may help is, “Will my enjoying this work give the person I don’t like any money for it?” That question tends to clarify a lot of internal conflict.

If you think your engaging with a work will reward someone for actions they shouldn’t be, then don’t spend the money on them. If on the other hand the artist won’t see any money from how you enjoy that work, it makes it a lot simpler to separate creator from creation.

If you’re not sure if your money will find that artist one way or another, I highly recommend getting a sense of the workings of the industry where that person’s work is. I’ve always asked that of anyone who reads or watches or listens, as you will always benefit from a sense of context. (One big caveat here: Don’t use this as an excuse to pirate someone’s work, please.)

And if you don’t like how mercenary it is to consider a price tag when you want art, well, that’s a discussion about a whole different set of bad behaviors that go to the core of this whole mess…

Going On the Account: She Knows If You’ve Been Bad or Good…

So, this was passed around on social, with Anna Rose getting the credit for bringing this point up:

Which, yeah, when you put it that way, makes The Santa Clause an entirely different movie.

And, as noted when it was passed around, raises questions about the previous Mrs. Clause, and what she does if Santa’s… “recast,” let’s say…

There’s another possibility, though, putting the focus elsewhere:

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The real power is Mrs. Clause, a name we settle on because her original name was lost years ago.

She’s way older than everyone on Earth, maybe older than every living thing on Earth, with more power than a supernova at her fingertips.

As she’s not sure about these humans that are on this world. There are times when we’re only one dark thought crossing her mind away from the end of everything we know.

But, rather than taking out all of humanity, and possibly everything within seven parsecs of Earth, she tests us: She picks a consort, someone who is required to sort the wheat from the chafe, the nice from the naughty. If there are more who are deserving than not, then another year passes, and humanity is safe because her consort showed her that the majority are worth letting them live out their lives, which to her are like mayflies to us. Should there not be enough good people, though, then…

And the consort? On the one hand, she gifts him well with a mere trinket, the smallest of her energies and abilities (around the world instantly, immortality, omniscience) and possibly companionship if she feels she needs something to pass the time. In return, he does her bidding, and otherwise is at her side in a dimension that one needs to find the gate to at the North Pole to enter her realm.

And sometimes, a consort needs to be replaced. Like all parts and tools, wear and tear take their toll, and a replacement must be found from time to time. Sometimes it’s subtle, say a lure placed surreptitiously on the consort in the event an (inevitable) accident occurs, getting the position filled right away. Maybe someone of renown draws her attention, or someone brave/foolish enough to wander through the dimension gate shows up, and the way we’d switch out a bulb because it’s better to do that now rather than sit in the dark or any time, a new consort comes.

And what does the consort think of this? Well, do we ask our tools when they think of their lot…?

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Which, yeah: Why is it when we look at Santa and occasionally bring up his wife, she’s essentially an afterthought? What if we’re looking at the wrong character in this story…?

Going On the Account: Everyone’s Weaving It, Coming On Strong All the Time

So, what happens after you finish creating your work?

I mean, beyond waiting for the check to clear…

So, you got yourself something you created. A story or novel you wrote. A song you composed. A film you finished. A business deal that leaves all parties happy.

(Hey, according to Andy Warhol, that last one counts…)

It’s out there, it’s free, or at least as free as your copyrights and executed agreements can allow it to be. You have something you can point to, something you can show the world to say, “Yes, I was here, and this is something I did.”

And…?

I mean, is that all you can expect, that and for the check to clear…?

Is art just one ego trip? Are we actually giving anyone anything when we finish and display our work?

You’re probably expecting some platitude about how anything we create can inspire others and give them something that can be a part of their lives. You might be expecting something about how a creator’s efforts can inspire other creations, making the world all the better.

And yes, that’s being said here, but with verified observations!

MMRTLNC1959.jpg

In 1959, Robert Sheckley released his first novel, Immortality, Inc. Long story short, it’s a novel about someone from 1958 who gets their brain uploaded into a new body in 2110. Yes, it’s expensive, so yes, there are haves-and-have-nots dynamics to unpack, a subject that’s popped up now and again in genre that’s, well…

The novel became a classic, one that ultimately gets adapted in the UK for the series Out of the Unknown. I can’t speak to how good a job they did, as this was a victim of the Great BBC Tape Purges. We mostly hear about lost episodes of Doctor Who, or early appearances of the Beatles, being lost to time when we review probably the most infamous content retention policy ever devised by any network, so a show with a more limited audience is likely to just disappear without a trace.

Or at least not be recalled again until much later, in a roundabout manner…

In the first episode of Get Back, covering the early days of 1969 and a project that would give us the film Let It Be, we watch George Harrison describe what he watched on the telly the night before, describing bits and pieces of the episode of Out of the Unknown that aired on BBC. He mentions what he was watching to give the background on where his head was when he composed the song he brought in to show the band, a piece called “I Me Mine

So from that, we have a clear path from a novel to a TV show to a song. We may not always have the DNA of pieces so neatly labeled like this, but it shows us what happens when someone creates a work, that it doesn’t just stop there. It can touch the audience and maybe even spark a whole new work, something unexpected and wholly apart from the original that won’t touch off a copyright claim, which is probably better discussed in another piece.

(Yes, there was also Freejack, which was based off the novel, which brings in Mick Jagger to the overall story, but there’s more than enough connections for one blog post here…)

The point is, yes, you have more reasons to share what you create than just because you want to see your name out there.

That, and waiting for the damn check to arrive…

Going On the Account: No, That’s *Not* What That Means!

As of this writing, we now have two weeks to go before Thanksgiving in the US, which means we’re six weeks into advertising for Christmas.

Which, okay, the way things have gone as of late, between supply chain issues and the spike in prices therefrom, maybe we do need a little Christmas now. A little something cheerful, even if we do tend to veer away from the reason we have the day celebrated (with a few notable exceptions).

But this year, we’ve got two egregious examples of drawing the wrong lessons from the story.

Not the one you’re thinking about…

"A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens and illustrated by John Leech.

By now, everyone must have had some contact with A Christmas Carrol by Charles Dickens. A few movie adaptations, at least, including ones with Alastair Sim, or Albert Finney, or George C. Scott, or Patrick Stewart, or the Muppets.

It’s worth reading the original. Copies can be downloaded here, and the whole text is online for ease of reading. At the very least, having a quick summary on hand is an option.

Something the ad folks working on these products should have done before these got shot…

This, for example: Marley is visiting Ebenezer to show him the past, the present, and the future, a future where the electric car is a definite improvement over a horse-drawn hansom or the current gas-powered car.

Which… Wha’? The whole point of Ebenezer seeing the past, present, and future is to encourage him to be a better person, but here our Ebenezer is under no obligation to do better. Are we assuming that our protagonist is someone who doesn’t need to consider their past, and can ignore everything they did in their life because there’s a reward for it?

And considering our habits created a need for an electric car, don’t we need to be mindful of what led us there so that we don’t continue to make more mistakes? If ol’ Ebenezer here gets handed a new car and can’t take into account how the power grid needs to change to allow for plug-ins, then he really didn’t learn anything, did he?

(Please refrain from “electric car net zero” jokes; they weren’t that funny the first few times…)

Speaking of failing to learn, we get the above spot from Peloton, where Scrooge snarls at carolers before someone (with a few bucks and no sense) gifts him their bike. We then watch as he uses the product and finds himself healthier and happier (while the instrumental for Danny Elfman’s “What’s This?” plays in the background, because… Okay, I don’t know either…).

Scrooge may be happier and healthier, but there’s nothing to say he’s a better person. There are too many people, likely at least one of them you know personally, who are fit and together and yet still are f’n’ G-d a-holes; the only happy outcome suggested by the spot is that he stays inside on the bike for the rest of his life and is no longer anyone else’s problem.

(Considering Peloton has had issues with their commercial campaigns before, this is probably an improvement compared to that…)

Yes, the original source material is 179 years old as of this writing, but getting a worse mangling in a bad game of telephone than the other tales the holiday is based on, which have been around for far longer, seems at best really sloppy. That the main point in a story about self-reflection making someone a better person would get hurled to the curb without slowing the car down be lost in so cavalier a fashion is at best a misunderstanding, and at worst appropriation for nefarious commercial purposes.

It may be too late to save the original meaning of Christmas, but can’t we at least try to save the original meaning of A Christmas Carol…?

Going On the Account: Does This Add Up…?

You may have run across this meme out on social media concerning Terry Prachett’s writing habits:

This testimonial is made by someone who discovered “The Prachett Principle,” which is an established statement Sir Terry is on record as having made. So, whether he did it or not is not in question.

Why ask if he did say it? Because we live in a universe where people are willing to say anything, because there are too many people willing to believe anything. With truth a more precious commodity than gold or plutonium, and harder to produce than social justice, just about everything needs to be asked of it, “U fr real…?”

Sadly, that’s where we are, the end result of people trying to mine the information superhighway to keep people on a narrow lane where what they want is for them to believe in absurdities as part of their overall plan. So as a result, it’s now part of the process going forward:

  1. Read a statement
  2. Verify that statement

So, at least we know Prachett said that.

But, did that actually happen?

To that end, that’s easy to verify: Do the math:

Now, 400 words per day over the course of a year (365.25 days, to take into account a leap year) = 146,100 words.

Assuming he kept this schedule from 1971, when he published his first book, The Carpet People, through 2014, when his health issues made it impossible to attend a Discworld convention, that comes to 43 years, which give us = 6,282,300 words.

Assuming that we look at novels where he was the sole author that average (rough guess) about 73,000 words apiece, that gives us about, oh, 86 novels.

When we try and come up with a rough examination of all of Sir Terry’s output (trying to hold aside collaborations, dramatizations, and adjacent tie-in materials), this figure holds up well. If anything, a back of the envelope count shows us being well below that, and with some room to allow for variances (a longer book here, a collaboration where he built on previously written materials there).

Is it worth it, spending time that could be used elsewise to challenge a heartfelt statement that honors a beloved writer?

Yes, it is; even if what we find is indeed quite true, the fact that it’s verified makes it all the more precious. And better to go through the process and be able to treasure those found than to just let it slide along with the sludge.

Melius est semper ut reprehendo…