A Superman “mystery?”

I don’t typically advertise when I’m away on vacation, preferring instead to surprise readers after I’m back and let you know that HEY! I was on vacation last week.

So, HEY! I was on vacation last week.

It was an epic road trip in which Clan Ward joined forces with two other families with whom we’ve become good friends since our move to Ward Manor 2.0 in 2014. Our kids all go to the same schools, participate in the neighborhood swim team and other local activities, and my wife along with one of the other wives actually works for the third wife, so we find ourselves together in all sorts of weather and circumstances. 😀

This time, it was a 2,100-or so mile excursion: first to Nashville, Tennessee, where we spent mine and Michi’s 28th anniversary and St. Patrick’s Day. Followed by a jaunt to Destin, Florida for a few days lounging on the beach, checking out local sites, and eating all manner of things plundered from the ocean that was RIGHT THERE. The last couple of days were spent in Hot Springs, Arkansas at the historic Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa, located right in the heart of the action directly across the street from Hot Springs National Park, Bathhouse Row, and all sorts of local coolness.

This past Saturday afternoon, as Michi and the girls were availing themselves of the hotel’s embedded Starbucks cafe when the barista started making small talk, which brings us to the reason for this latest blog posting and its title. As she prepared the girls’ triple latte double caff whatevers, the barista pointed to a building across the street and casually mentioned that, “They used it for the Daily Planet building in the old Superman TV series.”

Continue reading “A Superman “mystery?””

Happy 30th Anniversary, Midnight Run!

Monday: Escape with their lives from New York.
Tuesday: Impersonate F.B.I. agents in Chicago.
Wednesday: Steal plane in New Mexico.

Thursday: Almost kill each other by accident.
Friday: Almost kill each other on purpose.

What happens when an ex-cop turned bounty hunter is sent to find an accountant who embezzled millions from the mob, and who’s now being hunted by mobsters as well as the FBI as he tries to get his fugitive from New York to L.A. before the accountant’s bail bond defaults?

Comedy gold, that’s what.

After a string of dramatic turns including the previous year’s The Untouchables, Robert De Niro goes totally against type as he shifts gears for this comedy-action fest. He plays Jack Walsh, a bounty hunter sent to retrieve federal fugitive Jonathan “the Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin) after he jumps bail. Mardukas has millions in mob money stashed somewhere, and Jimmy Serrano, the guy from whom he took it, wants that shit back. Meanwhile, the FBI’s got their own case building against Serrano, and they want Mardukas as a material witness. Walsh doesn’t give a damn about any of that, as he just wants to get the Duke back to L.A. and the bail bondsman who’s going to pay him $100,000 for the job.

Released on July 20th, 1988 – mere days after Bruce Willis’ breakout hit Die Hard – Midnight Run is basically “The Odd Couple on the lam,” as well as a bit of a salute to the classic Bob Hope/Bing Crosby “Road” pictures of the 1940s and early 50s. De Niro and Grodin play off each other to absolutely epic effect, their efforts supported by stellar performances from the likes of Yaphet Kotto as FBI Agent Alonzo Mosley, Dennis Farina as Jimmy Serrano, John Ashton as Walsh’s rival bounty hunter, Marvin Dorfler, and ever-reliable Joe Pantoliano as skeevy bail bondsman Eddie Moscone.

Director Martin Brest, who two years earlier had given us the first – and still the best – Beverly Hills Cop, manages to strike a pretty decent balance of action, humor and quiet character moments throughout the film, while Danny Elfman provides a rollicking musical score to wrap around the whole thing. It’s not a perfect movie, and there are a couple of places where the “guys who hate each other eventually become friends” trope starts to wear thin, but De Niro and Grodin’s chemistry is more than enough to elevate the material and cement Midnight Run as one of my all-time favorite “buddy flicks.”

Thirty years after its original release, I still laugh out loud at the rapid-fire dialogue from De Niro and Grodin to say nothing of the rest of the cast. I’ve been known to hold up my end of entire conversations with quotes from this flick.

Trivia: Did you know there were three made-for-TV sequels in 1994, made as part of Universal’s “Action Pack” TV-movies? I’ve never seen them…and I’m not sure I want to. I mean, “Action Pack” gave us stuff like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and TekWar, but they also gave us Team Knight Rider and sequels to Smokey and the Bandit. So, you know…tread carefully.

There’s been talk of De Niro and Grodin teaming up for a proper sequel to the original film, but the last news I heard about this was a couple of years ago now. I’d be in line for it if such a project ever came to fruition.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll be spinning this one up tonight.

“See ya in the next life, Jack.”

Talking with TrekCore about the Klingon Travel Guide!

What happens when you spend 20-30 minutes spewing stream-of-consciousness blathering into a phone, pausing for the occasional breath while the person on the other end recovers from that maelstrom and attempts to ask another question?

Sometimes, it ends up printed as an interview somewhere.

That was the case last week when I spoke to Rich Schepis, who walked into the fire burning hot inside the lion’s mouth long enough to talk to me for TrekCore.com about my recently released tome, Hidden Universe Travel Guides – Star Trek: The Klingon Empire.

HUTG Klingon Lifestyle (Twitter)

Rich is a patient, understanding sort, and he was able to pull apart the verbal hairball I hacked his way, and turn my yammering into something intelligible. I hope they pay him pretty well, over there.

Have a read, if you’re so inclined:

TrekCore.com – INTERVIEW: Dayton Ward’s Guide to the KLINGON EMPIRE

Many thanks to Rich and the gang at TrekCore for putting up with my shenanigans.

In related news, I found out this morning that the Vulcan Travel Guide is included as one of the juicy items in the second edition of the “ThinkGeek Capsule,” which is ThinkGeek’s super cool version of a LootCrate subscription box. So, if you were looking for a reason to pick up that book AND something snazzy to subscribe to on a regular basis, well then BOOM! Two birds with one stone, and all that.

Geek.com – Let’s Look Inside ThinkGeek Capsule #2

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Neat, amirite?

 

 

March writing wrap-up.

all-the-wordsAaaaaaaaaaaand just, like that, 2017 is 25% in the books.

It’s like the damned year can’t wait to throw my ass over the cliff and into the waiting embrace of my looming 50th birthday.

Shit.

March’s big news was that I got started on the new novel project, about which I am currently allowed to say nothing. At the same time, I’m working to finish an outline for another book, about which I’m also permitted to share precisely nada. A few other things are percolating on different fronts, as well. Hey! The life of a freelancer is in large part about planning the next few moves on the board.

(Note to editors: Will write for money. Or food. Or vodka.)

Continue reading “March writing wrap-up.”

“Ten for Ward” #17 at StarTrek.com: The Secret Stories Behind 10 Star Trek Puzzles

It’s been more than a year since my last contribution to StarTrek.com, and I’m absolutely certain this latest piece will explain why that’s the case.

stpuzzle-dustyabel50thThe family and I have recently been flirting with jigsaw puzzles. Our coffee table currently is covered with the 1,000 scattered pieces of just such a puzzle, which depicts the theater poster for the classic science fiction film, Forbidden Planet. Once that’s done, we’ll be turning our attention to the 3,000-piece monstrosity that is artist Dusty Abell‘s glorious celebration of Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary.

Buying this thing started me thinking about other Star Trek puzzles, particularly those from when I was a kid. Now with children of my own, I’ve occasionally re-acquired a certain book, toy, or other doo-dad from my youth to share with them, and among the earlier purchases were old Trek jigsaw puzzles. Most of them were fairly simple – 150 to 300 pieces – that we could assemble together, especially when they were younger and just starting to figure out those kinds of things. A few of those old puzzles still make me smile with their goofy charm.

And then, as can happen when I sleep too little and drink perhaps a bit too much, my imagination starts to wander and I begin to conjure stories to go with the wacky scenes being depicted in some of these things. For example, what the hell is going on here?

stpuzzle-planetklingon

Little too much “Animated” or “Gold Key Comic” Star Trekkyness for you? Okay, what about this one?

stpuzzle-hgtoys-forcefieldcapture

I know, right?

Find out the “secret,” insomnia fueled back story behind these puzzles and eight others, with my latest Ten for Ward installment:

StarTrek.com: Dayton Ward’s Secret Stories for 10 Star Trek Jigsaw Puzzles

And if this ends up being my final column for the site, now you know why.

TV crossover musings (and missed opportunities?).

WARNING: This is an example of a rambling blog post that someone writes when they’re killing time waiting for something else to happen. If you’re fast enough, you still can escape with your lives.

Still here? All righty, then. Beware: All kinds of TV nerdity looms ahead. Apologies in advance.

Today, while out to my local Target in search of a few odds and ends as well as something for lunch, I wandered past the store’s media section and spied a few copies of the NCIS: The Tenth Season DVD set. I was reminded that as we head into the final days of August, season premieres are coming soon and so the previous season’s shows are starting to hit the various home video/on-demand viewing formats.

NCIS_title

I’ve been a fan of NCIS since it was a two-part backdoor pilot episode of JAG, a series which was humming along on its own eighth season when its creator, Donald P. Bellisario, decided it was time to make up another TV show. The dude’s been rather successful in that regard over the years, you know. His name on a series has been a staple of television going back to the 70s, after all. As for this newest attempt, I’d already been a fan of Mark Harmon for years, but he’d dropped off my radar for a time until he did a guest stint for a handful of episodes of The West Wing during that show’s third season. To hear the story, it was that role which brought him to Bellisario’s attention and made the producer decide to cast him as the star of his new series. Lucky us, as it’s ten years later and I can’t imagine the show working with anyone but Harmon as NCIS agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

To be honest, a lot of what makes NCIS work isn’t the stories (though it has its fair share of good ones), but instead the characters and the cast of actors who portray them. Their chemistry is some of the best of any ensemble show, and seems to be the major reason the series not only has survived for ten seasons (getting ready for #11), but also has been a ratings king for most of that time. Indeed, NCIS is one of those rare shows that started out with modest ratings and then continued to increase its viewership with each successive season.

It’s freakin’ weird, yo.

(Shameless Whine: I really, really wanted somebody to land a tie-in license for NCIS novels. I’d have been on that like bacon on…well…anything. I’m pretty sure I could pull off writing Gibbs and the gang, by golly. Alas, it seems never to be.)

Interestingly, and with a few minor exceptions very early on, NCIS blazed its own trail after spinning out of JAG, avoiding any high-profile crossover episodes with its parent series. That was probably for the best, as the two shows are different enough in tone that they really didn’t need to prop up each other. Of course, I’d already been lamenting what I thought was an opportunity that Bellisario missed, by not having JAG need to investigate a case in Hawaii and perhaps requiring the assistance of former Navy SEAL and (retired?) private investigator Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV. It seemed to be a no-brainer, what with Magnum, P.I. also being a Bellisario-created series, right?

Oh, well.

Later, I thought NCIS might try it at some point, but then one episode had Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo refer to Magnum as a TV character and series. NOOOO!!!!!! 

Dang it. So close….

Magnum_P_I_

Of course, my Magnum crossover fetish goes back to the early days of that series. Magnum, P.I. premiered on CBS the season after the original Hawaii Five-O wrapped after twelve years filming on location in the Aloha State. With a full production studio located there, CBS was looking to make use of those facilities so BOOM! Along comes Thomas Magnum. That show made the occasional reference to McGarrett and “Five-O” during its early seasons, but such nods and hat-tips faded as the series went along.

(Squirrel: In one interview I remember reading years ago, author Tom Clancy–at one time, at least–was involved in preliminary discussions to team up Magnum and his Jack Ryan character in some sort of TV project. That never happened, but I remember being stoked by it.)

NCIS cruised merrily along for several years–never granting my wish of some kind of Gibbs/Magnum teamup–before birthing its own spin-off, NCIS: Los Angeles, with a younger, hipper cast doing things their own way out on the left coast. While there were a few early crossovers between the two shows, the newer series has, like its predecessor, seemed content to go its own way.

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Meanwhile, elsewhere on the Eyeball Network, McGarrett and his gang got rebooted with an all-new version of Hawaii Five-0. No sooner did I hear about that show than I started conjuring the possibility of this new crew needing to avail themselves of that aforementioned former Navy SEAL and (retired?) private investigator. Of course, Tom Selleck was still working for CBS, heading up a new show of his own, Blue Bloods, as well as showing up in the occasional Jesse Stone TV movie. Still, a dude can dream, right? McGarrett and Danno yanking Magnum off a fishing boat and out of retirement for some big case?

SOMEBODY MAKE THIS HAPPEN, RIGHT?

Then, Hawaii Five-0 did a crossover with NCIS: Los Angeles, effectively nullifying that idea, since–as we’ve already established–Magnum is a fictional character in the JAG/NCIS/NCIS:LA-iverse.

Curses! Foiled again.

I mean, it could still happen, of course. It’s TV, so anything’s possible, but you and me and the nerds among us would know all along that such an occurrence–should it come to pass–would be a canon violation, and we just can’t be havin’ any of that shit. Nuh-uh. No way. No how.

Damn.

Still, for TV geeks like us, pondering this sort of thing is fun…even if I did just spend more time and energy on the notion than might be considered healthy.

Of course, I suppose a crossover can’t really be a crossover unless it features the quintessential crossover character, amiright? You know who I’m talking about….

JohnMunch (Click me to learn the Truth.)

Yep. Munch on that.

SciFi Face-Off!

It’s Kirk vs Picard. Because WHY NOT?

H.E. ELLIS

Today I have decided to pay homage to the late, great Gene Roddenberry on what would have been his 93rd birthday by conducting an interview I believe he might have enjoyed. Now I ask you, what better way to pay tribute to one of the greatest contributors to the SciFi genre than to have a face-off of Starship Captains? Ladies and gentlemen I give you…

JAMES T. KIRK    VS    JEAN-LUC PICARD

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For Those of You Who Were Waiting For Me to Say Something About Anthony Weiner and/or Bob Filner

Yeah. What Scalzi said.

Whatever

It’s simple: They’re both idiots. Weiner needs to quit his mayoral race; Filner needs to resign his mayoral position.

I suspect some people might have thought I wasn’t commenting on them here because they are both Democrats. But, guys, come on. One, I’m not a Democrat, as I have to remind people ad infinitum. Two, stupidity is non-partisan, and sexual harassment is odious whether you have an (R) or a (D) or any other letter after your name on the news chyron.

In the case of Weiner: you know, if sexting is consensual, whatever. I don’t especially care if people Snapchat their junk to each other. Not my thing, but fine. But Weiner should have figured out from the last time that this was the sort of activity that people didn’t want out of their politicians. That he didn’t — or that he couldn’t stop himself despite the damage…

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