November writing wrap-up.

And here we are: December 2018.

I honestly don’t know where the rest of the year went. The first half was a blur, and the next few months after that also moved pretty fast, but now we’re here and while there are still some things going on, they’re proceeding at something resembling a sane pace for the first time all year. Weird.

While there’s (unfortunately) not very many changes to report on the writing front, I may have some interesting news to share as we get closer to the new year. Right now, it’s a case of my shuffling pieces around the game board and waiting for the okay to talk about certain things. All I can do until some of that shakes loose is just keep on keepin’ on. So, here’s the November rundown:

Continue reading “November writing wrap-up.”

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The Shield series ended 10 years ago today, and I’m ready to watch it all over again.

Holy crap. Really?

Yep. Tonight marks 10 years since the finale to one of my all-time favorite TV shows knocked me on my butt: The Shield.

For those who don’t know (and what the hell is THAT about?), The Shield was a police drama which ran for seven seasons on FX. Created by Shawn Ryan (The Unit, Timeless, the rebooted S.W.A.T.), it starred Michael Chiklis as police detective Vic Mackey. A corrupt cop who didn’t start out that way, Mackey did everything with an attitude of “the ends justify the means,” which led him from being effective if not orthodox toward the dark side, and we get to watch his high swan dive toward oblivion as his actions destroy or assist in destroying pretty much everything and everyone around him.

The Shield was absolutely stuffed to overflowing with all manner of riveting performances delivered by talented actors. Filling out Mackey’s strike team were Walton Goggins, Kenny Johnson, and David Rees Snell, all of whom were rock solid in their respective roles. The rest of the main cast – Benito Martinez, CCH Pounder, Jay Karnes, Catherine Dent, Cathy Cahlin Ryan, and Michael Jace – was just as stellar.

Likewise, a number of familiar faces and up-and-comers provided strong supporting turns in recurring or guest star roles: Forest Whitaker, Glenn Close, Reed Diamond, Anthony Anderson, Laurie Holden, and Michael Pena to name just a few from a very long list. The series was filmed in a very immersive, “you are right there in the shit” style, with handheld cameras looking over characters’ shoulders, around corners, through doorways or over the hoods of cars…whatever made it feel like you the viewer were embedded with Mackey and the gang. Way, way more often than not, the writing was tight and gripping, and I quit counting the number of times I sat there watching an episode and thinking, “Daaaaaaaaaaaayum. They really went there?”

When the series premiered, I watched it with curiosity because I’ve always been a Chiklis fan and the strength of the main cast was enough to make me give the show a look. Even before the first hour was up, I was adding it to my TiVo recording schedule (remember those?) but then we get to the episode’s last scene and it just smacks you right in the mouth. From that instant, I knew I was in for the long haul. If you’ve not seen it, I won’t even hint at a spoiler. Just watch the first episode. Trust me.

Vic Mackey is a role Chiklis seemed born to play, and despite the indefensible deeds he committed as the series progressed–many of which he and his “strike team” of fellow detectives were able to pull off without being caught–part of us still wondered if he might get away with it all in the end. We watched with horrified fascination as Mackey and his team kept finding ways to compartmentalize and justify their actions while still holding on to lingering shreds of morality and decency as they pursue criminals. Then, as everything inevitably started to come apart, we wondered if Mackey and the others might somehow pull off an unlikely miracle and escape unscathed.

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If you watched the show, you know he didn’t get away “clean,” and his team fared rather worse than he did. With his professional and personal life crumbling around him, Mackey goes to the feds and cuts a deal. He secures employment with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency as well as a plea bargain which grants him immunity from all his past sins. In exchange, he must offer up a full confession of everything he and the strike team have ever done, as well as secure the bust of a major drug dealer.

The scene in the series’ penultimate episode, in which Mackey offers this confession is perhaps my very favorite in the series’ entire run. It’s all Chiklis for nearly a full minute of deafening silence as we watch him gather his thoughts and collect himself before starting to lay it all out, with I.C.E. agent Olivia Murray growing increasingly horrified with every passing second. For whatever the hell my opinion is worth, this single scene should’ve been enough to nab Chiklis an Emmy. That he wasn’t even nominated the year this originally aired is a fucking crime.

(And remember, we haven’t even gotten to the finale, at this point.)

I.C.E., now properly horrified at everything for which they’ve just given Mackey a free pass, force him to serve out his 3-year employment contract by manning a desk, writing endless, boring reports. Any failure to abide by the conditions of his agreement nullifies his immunity deal, and he can then be prosecuted for his past crimes. For a man used to all-but unlimited power as the leader of an elite police unit, this is a fate worse than death for Mackey, made all the worse by his status as a complete outcast from his former police department and the disappearance of his wife and kids into the federal Witness Protection Program. The final scene of The Shield, which takes place after his first day of work at I.C.E., very heavily implies that Mackey might not be keen on keeping up his end of the bargain for the ensuing three years….

And scene.

Ten years later, I still consider The Shield‘s series finale one of the best endings to any show, ever. The entire series is unfailingly rewatchable, which is good since it’s about to be released on Blu-ray in December (hint, for anyone holiday shopping for me.). With the new fad of reviving older shows, one has to ask if a return to the world of The Shield might be in the cards. Series creator Shawn Ryan is on record as saying he’s happy with where things ended, but he’s not opposed to reopening that box provided he can come up with something that makes the effort worthwhile. While I totally respect his position with leaving things be, if he ever does decide to scratch that itch, I will totally be there.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for something that’s not at all your typical “cop show,” then I cannot recommend The Shield highly enough.

Your Moment of TrekZen* – Classic Thanksgiving Edition!

We shall all sing songs of the Great Turkey Leg, on our way to the Stove O’ Kor.

Klingon Turkeys

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Here’s hoping you enjoy a restful holiday in the company of family and friends. For those unable to do so – service members, cops, firefighters, EMT’s and lots of other fine people answering a higher calling which precludes them from taking the day off – we thank you for your service and wish you a safe return home. And let’s not forget those who for whatever reason might be alone today, or who might need a helping hand.

(* = inspired by the “Your Moment of Zen” segments from The Daily Show)

Happy 40th Anniversary to the Star Wars Holiday Special!

In the annals of television history, there have been those rare occasions when something has been conceived, developed, produced, and aired without anyone along the way thinking better of the whole thing. KISS Meets the Phantom of the ParkSupertrain. Cop Rock. Legends of the Superheroes. That Lebron James thing. Galactica 1980. The Tuesday Night Book Club. You get the idea.

No such list is complete without the Star Wars Holiday Special on it, if not capping it.

Sorry, fellow Star Wars fans. We have to own this one.

It was on Friday, November 17, 1978 that this singular entry in the Star Wars mythos premiered to audiences tuning into CBS that evening. For those of us who saw Star Wars first-run in theaters, this was a highly anticipated moment. I begged and pleaded for my parents to let me watch it on “the big TV” in the living room rather than the dinky one they let me have in my bedroom. There I was, lying on the living room floor, all of 11 years old, while my mother read a book and my father managed to avoid voicing his contempt at all things space-y or science fiction-y, ready to behold an all-new adventure from that galaxy far, far away….

In hindsight, weed would’ve helped.

Following the events of the original Star Wars film (yeah, yeah. “Episode IV: New Hope“), Han Solo and Chewbacca are cruising back to Chewie’s home planet so he can be with his family to celebrate “Life Day,” but they’re being chased by the Galactic Empire who of course is still pissed about that whole Death Star thing and is hunting anyone connected to the Rebel Alliance.

Sounds good, right?

One has to wonder what would have happened if social media had existed on the evening of November 17, 1978, with millions of Star Wars fans live-tweeting or posting reaction videos on YouTube. I think it’s a safe bet that the entire internet would’ve melted to slag before this thing’s first commercial break. Part Star Wars and part variety show, it succeeds at being neither, yet does so in a manner from which it’s impossible to look away. It is a glorious dumpster fire, if in fact one can use such a term in a complimentary fashion.

As it unspools to our ever-increasing horror, we catch up with pretty much everyone who survived the events of the first film, and we also meet a few new characters. Some, like Boba Fett – introduced as he is in a kind of Heavy Metal -like diversion into animation for reasons that I firmly believe are firmly rooted in mood-altering substances – would go on to make numerous appearances and contributions to Star Wars lore. Others, like Bea Arthur’s Ackmena (a personal favorite) and Harvey Korman’s Krelman, are perhaps best left in the trash compactor of Star Wars history. We do get to see Chewie’s home planet and his family, though even that can’t escape ridicule thanks to the names given to Chewie’s father and son: Itchy and Lumpy.

They’re Wookiees, 1970s TV execs. Not dwarves.

The decision to make it a sort of variety show/musical hybrid means calling upon a literal all-star cast of entertainers of the day. Along with the aforementioned Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll, and the band Jefferson Starship are on hand trying to lend an air of dignity and much-needed humor to the proceedings. The music segments are like acid trips (or antacid trips, as the case may be) and watching Korman struggle to find the funny in the material he’s given is painful. Only Bea Arthur comes out relatively unscathed, because Bea Arthur could do no wrong (Fight me). If the entire thing had been delivered with the same tone and sensibility – and maybe add some Muppets or strippers or something – those of us who watched it during its original broadcast would likely still have scars, but they might not be so deep and lingering.

And yet, I admit to having something of a soft spot for it. When I was 11 and Star Wars was everywhere and everything, as I read the monthly comic from Marvel or the novelization or Splinter of the Mind’s Eye over and over again, this helped scratch the Star Wars itch, even in an admittedly inept way.

Derided by critics and fans alike, the Star Wars Holiday Special has nevertheless achieved a weird flavor of cult-like status. How they convinced the main Star Wars cast to participate in this has to rank as one of the most epic cocktail party “They had embarrassing photos of me” stories ever. It was never broadcast after its single airing and has never been officially released on home video in any format. You can find links to it here and there, though, and to be the best April Fool’s gag ever would be for the whole thing to receive a total remastering for 4K Blu-ray.

George Lucas has fervently denied having any connection to its production, and cast members like Harrison Ford insist they’ve never seen it. Carrie Fisher, in her usual style, seemed to take the whole thing in stride, joking in an interview with The New York Times that she made Lucas give her a copy of the special so that she could have something to play at parties when she wanted everyone to leave. Damn, I miss her.

For better or worse, the Star Wars Holiday Special is a thing that exists, and it’s now 40 years old. I’m gonna go and cry in my blue milk, now.

Happy Life Day, Wookiees!

Bucs Blog! 2018 Season, Week 10.

You know I can’t quit you, Tampa, but damn.

Redskins 16 – Bucs 3

Dubious records and honors have been a part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ DNA pretty much from the jump. I mean, I was there in their inaugural season when they went 0-14, then the for second season when they lost the first twelve games before finally securing the first-ever victory. I watched, year after year, as the Bucs became the longest-running team in NFL history to never return a kickoff for a touchdown. In 2010, they received the honor of being the only team to have all their home games blacked out in the Tampa market due to low ticket sales. The team’s 40+ year history is filled with all sorts of amusing (and irritating) anecdotes of this sort.

With yesterday’s game against the Washington Redskins, the Bucs added another stat to their books: First NFL team in history to accumulate 500 or more yards of total offense while scoring 3 or fewer points. Yes, NFL statisticians have way too much fun cataloging oddball facts like this. One would think we’d all like to forget these sorts of things and just wallow in yet another loss. Reading such an infonugget while still stinging from the latest defeat is like jamming an entire salt lick into a sucking chest wound. I mean, you’d think with that kind of moving around, you’d at least stumble into the end zone at least once, right? Even by accident?

Ah, nope.

Instead, five separate visits to Washington’s red zone yielded four turnovers and those precious three points Tampa managed to collect. Of those 500 yards we’re talking about, Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for over 400 of them. With no touchdown passes. With two interceptions. Add two lost fumbles to the mix, and a defense who for the sixth consecutive game failed to create a turnover, and you start to see the recipe for not winning coming together.

All of this, from the league’s #1 passing offense.

Shit.

The loss, Tampa’s third in a row, drops the Bucs to 3-6 and still in the NFC South Division’s basement. New Orleans kept on keeping on yesterday, winning their eighth straight game while both Carolina and Atlanta lost.Next up? The Bucs are on the road to take on the New York Giants, who are having an even worse year than Tampa. I’m guessing this won’t be the “game of the week” or the matchup NBC decides they want to flex into the primetime spotlight next Sunday.

As the Bucs continue treading water with cement blocks tied to their feet, the post-season picture is already starting to take shape. Incredibly, given the turmoil currently embroiling the NFC, Tampa’s still in the hunt, at least on paper. However, the Bucs need to get their act together, and pretty damned fast, if they plan to do anything but watch football on TV in January.

Bucs life. Grr. Argh.

Veterans Day.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the ending of the First World War, which raged across Europe for more than four years and ultimately resulted in forty million military personnel and civilians dead or wounded. Key leaders of the Allied Powers and Germany reached an agreement to end the fighting at 5:00am on the morning of November 11th, 1918 in Paris. The resulting armistice went into effect at 11:00am (“the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”), at which time the weapons of war finally fell silent.

We remember.

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 243rd 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

usmc-colors

Happy Birthday, Marines! 243 years old today. Semper Fi!

Talking Trek and Eating Brains on the Super Geeks Podcast!

And once again, I’m babbling.

I’m babbling, and somebody decided it’d be cool to record said babbling and offer it up for later listening to an unsuspecting populace. This time, I sit down with hosts George Silsby, Carlos Pedraza, “Chelle,” and Sunseahl Silverfall for an all-new episode of their Super Geeks podcast.

While we spend a few minutes talking about my writing – specifically, the experience of writing Drastic Measures, my Star Trek: Discovery novel – the conversation does end up bouncing around to talking about the show itself, the recently announced and still-forthcoming “Picard” series and “Lower Decks” animated series, the pros and cons of streaming services, and assorted topics that seem to pop up as we move merrily along.

The episode clocks in at an hour and fifty minutes, but it sure seemed to fly by. Have a listen, if you’re of a mind to do so:

Super Geeks, Season 2 Episode 13: “Dayton Ward Ate Our Brains!”

Many thanks to George, Carlos, Chelle, and Sun for inviting me to hang with them for a bit. They’ve invited me back to talk about whatever at some future date, so maybe our paths will cross again one day soon!

October writing wrap-up.

Yeah, yeah. I’m a few days late with this, but I had a good reason.

Actually, nah. I didn’t. Just was busy doing catch-up stuff after turning in the novel manuscript. This was one of the items on that list, so where we are!

The big story, writing-wise, was the novel (see below). With that done, I treated myself to a little breather last week, but now I’m starting to get organized and turn my attention to whatever’s next on my writing agenda. With that in mind, here’s the October rundown:

Continue reading “October writing wrap-up.”