Friday, October 23, 2020

MST3K: From Hell It Came


Another day, another bad movie courtesy of yours truly, Clayton Forrester. Morning, men! Today Frank and I bring you 1957's From Hell It Came. That was a banner year for turkeys, wasn't it? Just another nominee for the list of all-time clunkers! Like countless others, it relies on the radiation hysteria of the time, which all began with 1954's Godzilla. At least this monster isn't obsessed with Japanese skyscrapers and power lines. 

An Island prince is falsely accused of murder by a witch doctor who resents his friendship with American researchers (he'll regret it!). The prince gets a knife to the heart and is ritually buried in a tree trunk. Ironically, island lore speaks of a walking tree known as the Tbonga. Anyway, men, it's off to the theater with you to see how much you can take!

Lights and sirens drive Joel and his robot pals--Crow and Tom T Robot--to the space station's theater. 

During the course of the film, scientists discover a mysterious tree stump growing near the swamp, and take it to the lab for study.

Joel  Yep, that's perfectly normal. Who'd be afraid of a tree with a monster face lying on a table? Just another freak of nature you'd confidently turn your back on.

Crow  Freak with a capital F.

The Tbonga escapes and kills the witch doctor, among others.

Tom  That's right, lady--keep the toes stylishly pointed all the way to the swamp!

Crow  The guy is slower than Frank's mental process. How is he catching all these people? Why aren't the village kids throwing rocks and having a ball?

The Tbonga blends in with other trees to await the next victim. Presently, one of the women scientists wanders by.

Joel  Here we go. Turn your back on a tree with a face like that--knowing there's a monster on the loose. 

The Tbonga seizes her and heads for the swamp. The men arrive and set her free, having decided the only way to kill it is to drive the knife in its chest all the way in. The only safe way of doing that is to shoot the hilt.

Crow  Oh sure--just stand there while he shoots. And be sure there's quicksand behind you!

Mortally hit, the Tbonga falls into the swamp and sinks out of sight.

Tom  And the world is once again safe from walking trees!

Joel  Ever notice how there are no more big budget flops? They're character driven stories buried under tons of special effects. 

Crow   Keep it down. You want Clayton to know we have a secret satellite link to Hollywood? Besides, what's wrong with super hero flicks?

Joel  Says the guy whose fantasy woman is Wilma Flintstone.

Crow  Her animatronic version, wise guy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Duel at Viggenheim (2)


Odkeitl's camp maintained infuriating indifference to the upcoming fight, one which could cost them a sorceress. It's already decided by the fates, Okdeitl decreed. Nor did Dan feel any better watching Hulda train. She did so with men, using a man's sword. Valkris, though a competent swordswoman, had to concede strength and endurance. She even chose a shorter and lighter blade.

Dan sauntered down to where the jovial Kettil, second in command, supervised the refloating of their ship. It had been sunk to drown rats. Ed and Pete were clowning with Odkeitl's brother, Ejulf.

"Cool," Ed said. "Add a Y to that, and it's the same word as ours."

Dan put an arm confidentially about both. "Why is it when exploring another language, we go straight for the bad words? I guess you didn't notice Valkris caught part of that."

"Well, crap." Ed craned his neck to see her carrying water pails.

"Not to worry," Dan assured. "She's arranged a little Norse lesson for us, maybe to teach some nice words."

"Boogity," Pete enthused. "We don't mind holdin' hands with her all day."

When the appointed time came at noon, the trio sat on a log facing a grassy mound about three feet tall. It was mounted by four-year-old Vasdis, who carried a short list with businesslike purpose. 

"I don't believe it," Pete said. "She did it to us again."

Each was obliged to repeat ek heiti (your name here). When it was Ed's turn, he said, "Ek heitr Ed."

Vasdis had balled fists on hips. "Nei, nei, Ed. . . .!" 

Pete tapped his thigh. "Don't get her mad, homey."

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Near dusk, the fighters squared off around a central fire that threw sparks high into surrounding trees. The usual taunts ensued, though Valkris only saw the need for a single one. The fight began in earnest, the kang and ping of blows drawing shouts from either camp. Valkris conserved energy and made no risky moves, which suited Hulda, who could go the distance. As the duel wore on, Valkris showed the strain of fending off the vigorous blows.

Dan couldn't hold back. "She'll be killed!" He started to rise.

Odkeitl put the back of his hand to Dan's chest. "It could happen."

All seemed lost when Valkris was forced to one knee. Hulda delivered an overhead meant to end it. Valkris raised her left forearm to somehow stop the blade. She took advantage of the momentary surprise to lash out with a spinning cut to the neck. 

"We call foul!" cried Hjorvald. "Only armor could stop the blow, and we agreed to none!"

Odkeitl strode forth as Valkris removed the forearm bracer. It was indeed part of her black mission armor. "Valkris wore only one, while Hulda had two--of metal that could also stop a blow."

"Don't forget," Kettil added. "We gave you everything you wanted. An impossible fight and a chance to kill her!"

The old alderman made his decision. "The fight is judged fair."

"Nei!" Hjorvald lunged at an apparently unprepared Odkeitl and payed the price. 

Dan came slowly to his feet. "Now I get it. There's no greater concession you could have made. They won't challenge you again. . . ."

"As you say." Odkeitl cleaned his blade. "A foolish waste of a fine swordswoman." 

An emboldened Dan made his play, offering the translator stone at his neck for Valkris to touch, which established communication in English. All she can do is say no to a dark realms mission. 

Dan showed her a comic book about her days with Team Falco, who discovered the Outworld. Things went well until the last page. She muttered something in Norse, the connection lost, and cast the book aside. Kettil and his perpetual grin took her place.

Dan watched the sorceress go. "Eight words she's ever said to me, and now I've upset her."

"Not your fault." Kettil scanned the offending page. "This shows her time in the black arts, the secret of her power. Those were not happy times."

"Wonderful." Dan headed for his expectant team.

Ed rose from a boulder. "Well, boss, do we get her for a little trek to the dark realms?"

"She isn't the only top-flight sorceress around." Dan looked pointedly at his former academy teacher Rabelus. "That's right--your granddaughter."

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Duel at Viggenheim


Five members of Team Dan squinted against grit blown up by departing Red Claw dragons. Tall trees bowed under the fan of great wings that blotted the sun. The flight from the Red Claw base at Ghoul River left them with reddened noses and cold-bleary vision. From a hillock, they surveyed a forested island lost in the vast wilderness of the Blight. Only Vikings were crazy enough to build a settlement here. Smoke from cook fires rose from higher ground that overlooked a number of dragon-prow longships, accompanied by the ever-present echo of wood chopping. 

"I don't see Rabelus," said the bro Pete. Their former mentor, master of Eolca's academy, had called the mission.

Zena, the Red Sorceress, shared a smug grin with blonde wizardress Bonnie. "You guys are really looking for Valkris. You can put your eyes back in your heads. She doesn't need us as escorts."

"Then why did Rabelus drag us from our cozy villa?" Ed blew a stream from either nostril. 

Dan traipsed gingerly downhill through tall marsh grass, swatting at midges. "Cool it, men. We've always fantasized about doing the dark realms, which we can't do without the world's greatest sorceress." 

"Over there!" Bonnie called out.

A mass of dark clouds roiled up over a glade. With a loud snap, an electric bolt scorched  a man's backside, sending him in headlong flight toward the river. A chorus of raucous laughter added insult.

The spell caster came in view: a blonde girl of about four, wearing a brown dress, thumbs to middle fingers in a summoning gesture. 

"Boogity," Pete said. "They're teachin' 'em young these days."

Bonnie took his arm to point out an approaching delegation. "No child learns magic that young. There's Rabelus--we'll ask him what's going on."

White-bearded Rabelus wore his academy robe of royal blue. With him was a red-bearded giant and a woman with pale, pulled-back hair, who scooped up the child.

"This is Ejulf," Rabelus began, "brother of the clan leader Odkeitl, and Valkris you already know."

"Not as well as we thought." Dan pushed at his glasses.

"Ah yes--this is her daughter Vasdis," Rabelus clarified. "Her man was killed a-Viking against the Cymoors." 

Ejulf delivered a backslap to Pete that would have sent dentures flying if he had any. "Vasdis will someday be great sorceress like her ma. Har har!" 

No one had recognized the sorceress in a domestic role, wearing gray instead of black. She still disdained the translator stone. You spoke with her only if you spoke Norse.

Rabelus lead the way to camp. "Something of great import happens here today in this gathering of clans. Eolca is extremely interested in the outcome. Odkeitl is pitted against another jarl called Hjorvald, who plans to invade eastern Nordland."

"That's a hot one," Ed said. "Valkris could sink their fleet with a sneeze."

"Which is the purpose of the duel." Rabelus faced Dan squarely. "We need outside observers. Odkeitl can't act without being the aggressor, and he's tired of Hjorvald just waiting for his chance."

"So the jarls duel," Zena surmised.

Rabelus shook his head. "Don't discount Viking politics. If Hjorvald wins, he still has Valkris to content with. That's why he and Odkeitl won't be the combatants."

"Then who will?" Bonnie asked with dread certainty.

"Valkris and a woman named Hulda. Their side stipulates no magic; Odkeitl stipulates no armor."

None of the Dans could make their mouths work.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Creativity Challenges

 Image for post

Happy Sunday!

While coronavirus and country woes are going on with the upcoming election and critical things facing our freedom,  you can always count on our blog for your creativity and professional questions in your field that you prefer.  Maybe you are looking for a nich and just trying us out.  Look around.  Check out the first few articles.  Maybe you're just passing through.

Many times we are right where we're supposed to be  Today's times are challenging indeed, but many artists and writers are still making beautiful pieces and working through the tough times.  How is your quarantine going by the way?

Finished both books during this time and currently homeschooling because numbers keep fluctuating and see what happens in the next nine weeks.    Recently our son finally had his ear surgery, tubes put in.  Six months ago it was postponed due to the pandemic and he might have had an ear infection that he didn't communicate to us he was uncomfortable or in pain.  The ENT put in one tube as the otheer eardrum had ruptured during the time so prayers his eardrum heals fully.  If not there maybe another surgery to patch it up etc. As a domestic engineer with two degrees, I have a natural instinct to multitask.   However, burning the nightly oil to write or tend to my illustrations for the book can be equally exhausting so getting enough sleep is crucial to function the next day. 

How do you keep going with the creativity process during this time?  I made up my mind to stop reading up rehashes of the news on global/ national issues as it disrupts the creative process.  

I recall Julia Cameron's  Consistent creativity requires a system. There’s a bit of up-front work putting the system in place, but once it’s there, it proceeds naturally. Julia Cameron likens the creative process to a radio — with a transmission and a receiver. You must gather enough “inputs” (receiver) so that you can continually broadcast your creativity (transmission). You can also think of this process like refilling a well so that it’s always full when you need to draw from it every day. To put it simply we are all creative in our own way. Somehow you just did it. You sketch, you draw, you wrote out an idea.

So many tips from great writers. Journaling or freewriting really clears the mental static so you can zero in on the significant areas of your story or just a self discovery process. Vestibular input. If you have a yoga ball, lay your back on it and have your head hang close to the floor. Rock back and forth for five minutes. This gets the blood flow to the brain for cognitive function. I watched our son, four get this in his therapies and decided to give this a try. Whoa it really helps and the cognitive flow goes and goes... If you don't have a yoga ball, get one. They are under $20 at Amazon.

Go for a walk. We all need a change of scenery so with the weather and colorful fall foliage, get out and let your sensory input take it all in Recharge, rejuvenate, reset. A lot of times I will gather in visual details through my walk or just shut my mind down totally to enjoy the view.

On a final note, if you are stuck in a creativity route, keep in mind this is temporary. Have a mini notebook and just write down new ideas that come to mind, or list dialogue that you hear daily. I tend to use social media as my lab or social gatherings and so forth. Anything said goes in the notebook that I think one of my characters would say. If you are still stuck, give yourself permission to take a break for a day or so as needed. You deserve it.

The Right Word in the Right Place


Illustration: "The Poor Poet" by Carl Spitzweg. Aren't we all?

Consider the first three words in "Soldiers went across the field." What kind of soldiers? Regiment size is much larger that a squad; sappers are specialists; cavalry is mounted. 'Went' becomes 'slogged' when the ground is wet, and 'waded' if it's flooded. 'Splashed' connotes a hasty crossing, where 'swept' is the action of a victorious army. 'Across' is less precise than 'through', with its implication of obstacles. 'Past' hints at avoidance. Up or down shows directional angle. 

Look at each word in a sentence. Typically you'll improve (a better word is 'hone') it one word at a time. Choose those that home in on culture, detail, occupation, mood, and defining action. The right word can replace an entire sentence or two of explanation. 

Punctuation also plays a role. "He swept the coins unsorted into the tiller." No commas needed. But:

"He swept the coins, unsorted, into the tiller." A slight emphasis is applied.

"He raked the coins unsorted into the tiller." Much is said by 'raked' with its implication of haste and anger. Strong emphasis on 'unsorted' suggests he's been goaded, as if he's not supposed to notice a particular coin for plot reasons. 

Verbs 'Ratcheted' vs 'pulled'. The former indicates gears, chains, a clanking sound, men and machines, and a housing, such as a drawbridge turret. 'Lambasted' vs 'thrashed'. The former is seldom used, which makes it a refreshing alternative. 'Sneak' vs 'skulked'. The latter doesn't require continuous movement. It suggests skill, stealth, and sinister intent, with erratic moves of opportunity. But 'sneak' will do if all you need is to move a character toward a goal quickly. 

Nouns When it comes to saddles, cinch is more authentic than strap (or 'tighten' if cinch is a verb). Use the relevant part of a device or weapon for realism without getting carried away. I once read a book with the help of a dictionary, constantly having to look up the parts of a suit of armor. Another author used the bewildering variety of sail on a man-o-war. He might have a midshipman explain a term to a landlubber, without being as obvious as the old describe-himself-in-a-mirror ploy. 

Adjectives 'Upside' the head has a subculture feel. The perpetrator isn't all that moral or educated. 'Sans' lends sophistication to a narrator lacking from its counterpart 'without'. This is why poetic characters are so much fun. The right modifier can sharpen a word like 'malevolence'. Coy malevolence portrays an evil sorceress with a playful nature. By comparing the italics with the explanation, you get an idea how to reduce word count, which provides more valuable stage time for your hero. 

Let's summarize with our original sentence. "Sappers skulked through the field." Some of them lie in wait; some pause for sabotage; the rest do rear guard or scout ahead. The right word sets off a cascade of motion, sound, and visuals for your reader.