So, I helped write Jurassic World’s official cookbook.

“Hold on to your butts.” I’ve been busy.

In and around the various other writing projects with which I’ve been involved over the past 18 months or so is this little slice of fun. Back in the spring of 2020, I was contacted by one of my editors at Insight Editions, with whom I’ve worked on — among other things — a handful of Star Trek projects over the past several years. Still, I was surprised when they came calling about something that wasn’t Star Trek.

Hey. Don’t look at me like that. Star Trek and I agreed I could see other franchises every so often.

Anyway, one of my awesome editors at Insight reached out to me waaaaaaaay back in March 2020 (yes, that March 2020, when the entire world was just being sent home to sit in its room and think about what it did), asking if I’d be interested in tackling this project with them. What did I end up doing?

Jurassic World: The Official Cookbook
Written by Dayton Ward – Recipes by Elena Craig

Cookbooks tying into various film and TV properties are pretty hot, right now, and Insight Editions has created several of them in recent years. According to my aforementioned editor back in March 2020, this book was envisioned as an “in-universe” souvenir; something you might find in a gift shop at the “actual” theme park as depicted in the 2015 film Jurassic World.

To that end, they hired Elena Craig, veteran recipe developer and food stylist who’s been doing her thing for about as long as I’ve been doing my thing. She’s already performed similar feats for Insight’s cookbooks devoted to Deadpool and Gilmore Girls. For this one she went all-out, creating 50 recipes for dishes, snacks, cocktails, and other goodies designed to evoke the sort of cuisine to be found by visitors to the park.

You know, when the guests aren’t being chased and eaten by the local wildlife and stuff.

Anyway, all of the recipes are awesome. It was tremendous fun working with her and the crew at Insight to pull this book together. For me, it was obviously something of a departure from the writing I’m used to doing…but not completely out of my wheelhouse, either. According to my esteemed editor who approached me about the project, they were looking for “an author who can write in a strong in-world voice,” and my previous work on the Vulcan and Klingon travel guides had apparently gone a long way toward demonstrating I could pull off that sort of thing.

For this project, I was asked to provide what they described as “flavor text.” Basically, everything that wasn’t going to be a recipe or other information related to the preparation of the tasty dishes to be offered within the book’s pages. What that meant was I was given a tremendous amount of latitude to mine the Jurassic Park/Jurassic World mythos. That meant writing about the theme park’s various areas and activities, excerpts from “field guides” about the different dinosaurs, and even bits of history about the Isla Nublar and the surrounding region as well as the backstory of John Hammond and his dream of creating the original Jurassic Park which eventually leads to the development of Jurassic World.

It didn’t hurt that I was a fan of the films, so it wasn’t as though I was going in cold. In addition to the materials I was given about the various dinosaurs depicted or referenced in the five movies (and even a bit of info from next year’s Jurassic World: Dominion), I ended up digging into the films themselves as well as the Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous animated series (albeit much less of that than the movies). I even managed a few callbacks to Michael Crichton’s original Jurassic Park novel, which I hadn’t read since before the first movie came out in 1993. You’ll have to go hunting for those references on your own, as I’m offering no spoilers here.

Most of the writing was done during the late summer of 2020, but COVID played havoc with editorial and production schedules, mostly in the form of Jurassic World: Dominion‘s theatrical release being pushed back an entire year. Obviously the intention was always to position the book to take advantage of the film’s hype and marketing push, and so here we are.

Jurassic World: The Official Cookbook will be published by Insight Editions on April 19, 2022. Given that gift shops on Isla Nublar are…uh…”undergoing renovations,” it’s been decided the book will be made available through brick-n-mortar and online booksellers. I had a lot of fun working on this one and trust me when I tell you Elena’s recipes will send you into a cooking fit.

“Lunch finds a way.”

Happy 70th Anniversary, “Superman and the Mole Men!”

There are actually a couple of geek milestones being observed today. Getting more notice among my friends and colleagues is the 58th anniversary of the initial airing of “An Unearthly Child,” the first-ever episode of the long-running BBC television series Doctor Who, broadcast on November 23, 1963 and starring William Hartnell as the first of what is now thirteen (and counting!) “official” incarnations of the venerable time-travelling Doctor…plus one more if you count John Hurt’s self-exiled “War Doctor,” and another one if we consider Jo Martin’s “Fugitive Doctor.” Oh, and plus yet another one if you count Peter Cushing’s outings in a pair of theatrical releases).

And I do count all of those.

Meanwhile, I’m going to back you up several more years to this day in 1951, which brought with it the premiere in theaters of Superman and the Mole Men. Already a staple of comics and radio by this point as well as the movie serials starring Kirk Alyn, this “full-length” feature film introduced audiences to actor George Reeves as the Man of Steel and paved the way for a whole new era of Superman stories.

Though serving as something of a trial run for the weekly Adventures of Superman television series which would premiere the following year, Superman and the Mole Men features very few of the trappings which ultimately would become commonplace on the show. George Reeves as Clark Kent/Superman and Phyllis Coates as reporter Lois Lane are the only familiar characters.

The iconic series opening sequence is absent, of course, as is anything resembling the equally memorable theme music. A brief bit at the beginning introduces us to Superman, including a shot of Reeves in costume and standing before a waving American flag which would end up being used in the TV show’s opening. That’s all the exposition we get, though, before we’re hip deep into the “action” as the story unfolds, taking place at an oil field on the outskirts of a small town called Silby. There, the “world’s deepest oil well” has broken through to the subterranean world of the “Mole Men,” who naturally come up to have a look around and see who’s been partying with the music cranked up too loud.

Kent and Lane, sent by the Daily Planet to cover the event of the well having reached its milestone depth, get caught up in the craziness as the local townspeople freak out over the presence of the Mole Men in their midst. They’re organizing with torches and pitchforks to hunt down the little guys, and only Superman can stand in their way. Duhn duhn DUH!!!!!

(Trivia: some of the behind-the-scenes goings-on from this movie and even some filming sequences were recreated in 2006’s Hollywoodland, the pseudo-historical retelling of the investigation into George Reeves’ death in 1959.)

As a standalone film, Superman and the Mole Men really isn’t all that great. It was produced on a very low budget, which is pretty evident in just about everything from the obvious back-lot exteriors to very little in the way of flying or other “super stunts.” Still, its nostalgic value comes from being Reeves’ first turn in the cape and tights, a role which he would make his own in the years to come. However, there’s still a bit to enjoy here. First, I love, love, love black and white TV and movies, and this flick does look pretty darned good.

Next, this movie, like the first two seasons of the ensuing television series (also filmed in B&W), was played straight and aimed at an adult audience, rather than harboring any of the near-camp/kid-friendly tone which would become more prevalent beginning with the series’ third season. Despite the story’s subject matter, there’s still a feel of great old-school mystery/crime drama at work here. The focus is more on Clark Kent (with Lois Lane’s able assistance) delving into the mystery, only to switch to his Superman persona when circumstances require it. That approach would continue into the first year of the series, only to have the balance shift a little more toward “tights and flights” with each successive season.

Phyllis Coates, the actress who portrays Lois Lane in the film, would reprise the role in the TV series’ first season. When she was unavailable to continue with the second season, Noel Neill replaced her, returning to the role she had first performed in the Kirk Alyn Superman serials. Though Neill is the Lois Lane people think of most often when considering George Reeves’ Superman, I’ve always preferred Coates’ take on the character. Of course, it would’ve been nice if they’d given either actress more to do than be the damsel in distress for Superman to rescue.

Superman and the Mole Men would be cut in half to serve as the two-part episode “The Unknown People” to finish out the TV show’s first season, though the original version is included as a special feature on the first-season DVD set. I’d only ever seen the story in its two-part format before picking up the set, so being able to watch the theatrical version was something of a treat.

Although Christopher Reeve’s portrayal of the Man of Steel is the definitive screen Superman for me, George Reeves and the Adventures of Superman series are a couple of those fondly remembered bits from my childhood, as the show ran regularly in syndication when I was growing up. After all, he’s the one I portrayed when I tied a towel around my neck and took a leap over a tall building down the stairs in my house.

Happy Anniversary, Superman and the Mole Men!

Your Moment of TrekZen*.

Misadventures In Merchandizing, episode #3,962,175:

What’s wrong with this picture, amirite?

The above panel is from Passage to Moauv, a Star Trek tale written in 1975 for Power Records, which at the time was producing stories tying into various comic book characters and other entertainment properties. The stories were originally developed for vinyl records (latter cassette tapes) and this was one of three such tales originally issued on a larger 33-rpm LP record. The story itself has the disinction of being written by notable science fiction author and all-around media tie-in king Alan Dean Foster, who also wrote the accompanying stories, In Vito Veritas and The Crier In Emptiness.

Front and back covers for the original 12″ LP record sleeve.

Later in 1975, the story was re-issued on its own smaller 45-rpm record, this time accompanied by a comic-like adaptation of the script drawn by artist Russ Heath and inked/colored by Dick Giordano & Neal Adams (yes, you read those names right. THAT Dick Giordano and THAT Neal Adams), along with a cover by Adams. Of course, it’s with the comics companion that they got themselves intro trouble. I mean…..

Anyway…….

1970s Star Trek merch. Sometimes, you just have to roll with it.

(* = with acknowledgments–and apologies–to The Daily Show)

Veterans Day.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, 1915

Erin-PoppyField
(Artwork: Erin Ward)

Happy 246th Birthday, Marines!

On November 1st, 1921, John A. Lejeune, 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps, directed that a reminder of the honorable service of the Corps be published by every command, to all Marines throughout the globe, on the birthday of the Corps. Since that day, Marines have continued to distinguish themselves on many battlefields and foreign shores, in war and peace. On this birthday of the Corps, therefore, in compliance with the will of the 13th Commandant, Article 38, United States Marine Corps Manual, Edition of 1921, is republished as follows:

On November 10, 1775, a Corps of Marines was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Since that date many thousand men have borne the name Marine. In memory of them it is fitting that we who are Marines should commemorate the birthday of our Corps by calling to mind the glories of its long and illustrious history.

The record of our Corps is one which will bear comparison with that of the most famous military organizations in the world’s history. During 90 of the 146 years of its existence the Marine Corps has been in action against the Nation’s foes. From the Battle of Trenton to the Argonne, Marines have won foremost honors in war, and in the long era of tranquility at home, generation after generation of Marines have grown gray in war in both hemispheres, and in every corner of the seven seas that our country and its citizens might enjoy peace and security.

In every battle and skirmish since the birth of our Corps, Marines have acquitted themselves with the greatest distinction, winning new honors on each occasion until the term “Marine” has come to signify all that is highest in military efficiency and soldierly virtue.

This high name of distinction and soldierly repute we who are Marines today have received from those who preceded us in the Corps. With it we also received from them the eternal spirit which has animated our Corps from generation to generation and has been the distinguishing mark of the Marines in every age. So long as that spirit continues to flourish, Marines will be found equal to every emergency in the future as they have been in the past, and the men of our Nation will regard us as worthy successors to the long line of illustrious men who have served as ‘Soldiers of the Sea’ since the founding of the Corps.

— from The Marine Officer’s Guide

———

Today marks the 100th anniversary of General Lejeune’s original birthday message, which to this day is read aloud each year at Marine Corps celebrations around the globe. I’ve even had the privilege of doing this myself, at a birthday ball or two.

Happy Birthday, Marines. Semper Fi!

October writing wrap-up.

Yo, 2021. Wanna pump the brakes a bit?

If 2020 felt like time slowing to a crawl, 2021 has been like the deal in Interstellar where spending an hour on that one planet makes seven years pass out here on Earth. Where the hell has this year gone?

In addition to reading, reviewing, and writing about various things for the consulting gig, there’s still freelance writing on my plate. October was probably the last “quiet month” I’ll have for a while, with things now kicking into gear on a couple of fronts. Sleep is overrated, amirite?

With that in mind, here’s the October rundown:

Continue reading “October writing wrap-up.”

November 1st, 1921: Liberty Memorial

Many of you who frequent this space or follow my antics on Facebook, Twitter, and (more infrequently) Instagram have likely seen me posting pics and such from the National World War I Museum and Memorial here in Kansas City. For the past four years, I’ve served as a volunteer there, acting as a guest-facing representative while greeting and interacting with visitors to the museum and the Liberty Memorial tower. It has been tremendous fun, giving back in this way to the community I’ve called home for nearly 30 years.

Part of being a good volunteer for the museum is being able to discuss its history, going all the way back to the very beginning. I hold my own well enough, but I can’t hold a candle to some of our volunteers who can hold your attention all day if you let them. Soon after the Great War’s conclusion, with the armistice taking effect on November 11, 1918, prominent Kansas City leaders and other interested parties formed the Liberty Memorial Association, with a goal of establishing a permanent monument to those who’d served in the war, including more than 400 men and women from the Kansas City area. A fundraising effort was launched, collecting more than 2.5 million dollars in just ten days (about $35 milllion in today’s dollars). With these initial monies established, a plan for constructing a lasting memorial began to take shape.

On November 1st, 1921 — one hundred years ago, today — more than 100,000 people gathered at Union Station and the low, sloping hill just south of the station to dedicate the site which would serve as the new monument’s home. The occasion was marked with the attendance of the five supreme commanders of the Allied Forces during the war: Admiral David Beatty of the United Kingdom, General Armando Diaz of Italy, Marshall Ferdinand Foch of France, General Baron Jacques of Belgium, and General John Pershing of the United States. It was the first time the five men had ever gathered in one place.

General Jacques, General Diaz, Marshal Foch, General Pershing, and Admiral Beatty, November 1st, 1921.

Liberty Memorial was officially dedicated on November 11th, 1926, eight years to the day after the armistice that ended World War I. At the time, the site consisted of a courtyard atop which sits Liberty Tower and two buildings flanking the monument which served as the museum, with the Assyrian sphinxes standing vigil. Following years of deterioration, funds were raised in 2004 to repair the monument and expand the existing museum facilities. This was the same year the United States Congress designated the facility as the nation’s official museum dedicated to the First World War.

In September 2006, a brand-new museum constructed beneath Liberty Tower opened to the public. That same month, the memorial was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 2014, Congress came calling again, officially designating the site as the National World War I Museum and Memorial. Its mission statement:

“The National WWI Museum and Memorial is America’s museum dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community.”

Despite its location in America’s heartland, the museum is not solely focused on America’s World War I experience. Instead, it’s devoted to memorializing and preserving the history of the entire conflict, from its beginnings in July 1914 – three years before the United States entered the war – through its official conclusion in the summer of 1919 and the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. It houses a catalog of artifacts from the war that is unrivaled in its extent and diversity, and due to space limitations only a fraction of the total collection is visible to the public at any one time.

For the past several years, the museum staff has created a number of programs to commemorate the 100th anniversary of various observances about the Great War and its aftermath. I suspect we’ll be seeing a new slate of efforts to celebrate one of Kansas City’s foremost landmarks as we march toward its own centennial. I’m excited to see what our staff will come up with.

Meanwhile, whether you’re a local or just visiting one of these days, I hope you’ll find time to visit the nation’s official museum and memorial dedicated to the men and women who served and perished in the Great War.

Listen to the 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast!

It’s Halloween Eve, everybody!

On this evening 83 years ago, Orson Welles and the cast of CBS radio seriesThe Mercury Theater on the Air set out to present a new episode of their weekly program. For this latest installment, the 17th of the still fairly new program, Welles and his company of actors performed an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ seminal science fiction novel from 1898, The War of the Worlds.

Perform they did…to such a successful degree that a whole bunch of people listening to the show that night apparently lost their minds, certain in the knowledge that Earth was being invaded by aliens from Mars.

Awkward.

Updating Wells’ story so that the action takes place the “present day” of that night in 1938, Welles along with writer Howard Koch also moved the events from Victorian London to Grover Mill, New Jersey. The adaptation presented The War of the Worlds as a series of radio news broadcasts pretending to interrupt other “regular” programming. Many of those who missed the announcement at the start of the show or Welles’ remarks at the end of the broadcast actually thought they were hearing real news interruptions reporting disturbances in and around Grovers Mill, along with frightening descriptions of the otherworldly machines and the destruction they were wreaking as they advanced across the countryside.

Accounts vary as the effectiveness of the unintended ruse as well as public reaction, but we know CBS received a number of phone calls both from private citizens as well as police asking what Welles and his group were smoking thinking to pull such a crazy stunt. There was also speculation that newspapers–dealing with drops in revenue as more people tuned into radio programs to get their news–may even have exaggerated the reports of panic as a means of “punching back” against radio as a credible news source, particularly if they allowed such irresponsible decisions as allowing fictional programs to “masquerade” as news.

The broadcast long ago earned its place in pop culture. It remains remains a staple of Halloween programming on radio stations to this day. Schools and radio stations often perform their own versions of the play, and it has been officially updated/remade on at least two separate occasions, including one performance by L.A. Theatre Works and featuring Leonard Nimoy, John DeLancie and a host of other actors from the different Star Trek series.The original broadcast has been referenced and parodied or provided story springboards in numerous films, television series, books and comics, and the events of the invasion at Grovers Mill even were included into the backstory of the War of the Worlds television series, itself a sequel to the 1953 film.

In 1988 as part of the the program’s 50th anniversary celebration, AT&T video newsmagazine Directions interviewed surviving telephone operators from across the United States who were working that evening, and dealt with the huge influx of calls from terrified listeners. Decades before cell phones or even 911, operators were the first point of contact for those seeking emergency assistance. Needless to say, those folks had an interesting evening. Check out an archived version of the video at the AT&T Archives: “Operators Help Save the World from Martians.”

Meanwhile, you can listen to the original broadcast available for free by visiting this link on YouTube:

Freedom Forum: “War of the Worlds 1938 Radio Broadcast”

Have a listen. Just remember….it’s not real.

At least, that’s what they want you to think.

October 23, 1983. Semper Fi.

In early 1983, the 24th Marine Amphibious Unit was deployed from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to Beirut, Lebanon. They were sent as part of the peacekeeping force originally inserted the previous year into the conflict raging there between Christian and Muslim factions.

On the morning of October 23, 1983, 38 years ago today, an explosives-laden truck driven by a suicide bomber destroyed the headquarters building of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, killing 241 Marines, Sailors, and Soldiers and wounding more than 100 others. Minutes later, a second truck drove into a barracks building housing French peacekeeping forces and detonated, killing 58 French paratroopers and wounding 15 others.

The bombing resulted in the highest single-day death toll for the Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II, and the costliest day for U.S. military forces since the first day of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War. The harsh lessons imparted on that fateful Sunday morning in 1983 resonate today. They remain relevant even as American military personnel continue to stand in harm’s way around the world.

The following poem is cast in bronze at the official national Beirut Memorial near Camp Lejeune:

THE OTHER WALL

It does not stand in Washington
By others of its kind
In prominence and dignity
With mission clearly defined.

It does not list the men who died
That tyranny should cease
But speaks in silent eloquence
Of those who came in peace.

This Other Wall is solemn white
And cut in simple lines
And it nestles in the splendor
Of the Carolina pines.

And on this wall there are the names
Of men who once had gone
In friendship’s name offer aid
To Beirut, Lebanon.

They did not go as conquerors
To bring a nation down
Or for honor or for glory
Or for praises or renown.

When they landed on that foreign shore
Their only thought in mind
Was the safety of its people
And the good of all mankind.

Though they offered only friendship
And freedom’s holy breath
They were met with scorn and mockery
And violence and death.

So the story of their glory
Is not the battles fought
But of their love for freedom
Which was so dearly bought.

And their Wall shall stand forever
So long as freedom shines
On the splendor and the glory
Of the Carolina pines.

— Robert A. Gannon