Friday, June 11, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I liked Michael Nesmith's work with the Monkees, but never really followed his solo output. I'm thinking that may be an oversight on my part. The video for "Cruisin'" is surreal and trippy as all get-out, and the song itself would be right at home on a Frank Zappa record, or maybe covered by Warren Zevon. What more could anyone want?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Ìxtahuele.

Now Playing: Edmundo Ros Playtime in Brazil
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, June 07, 2021

A Moment of Tiki: The Wall Is Lava

Episode 29 of A Moment of Tiki is now live on the YouTubes! This time out I walk viewers through a build of a faux lava accent wall. I spent the bulk of last summer building out this project in the Lagoon, and it was more of a time-consuming than I'd anticipated. Editing all the footage taken over the course of several months proved a challenge unto itself.

Still, this is a vision I had way back when I started this whole crazy home tiki bar build project, drawing on the "transition" motif popular in tiki as well as mid century modern design elements in the stonework. The wall is lava, folks! How very Mid Century Modern of me! This should've been a simple, straightforward project, but finding artificial lava façade in the continental U.S. is far, far more challenging that one would imagine.

Do you find these kinds of tutorials helpful? Interesting? A waste of bandwidth? Let me know what you think! Don't forget to like and subscribe to my channel on YouTube--doing so makes it easier for other viewers to find it!

Now Playing: Josephine Premice Caribe: Josephine Premice Sings Calypso
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Friday, May 14, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

This is a little complicated. Eden Ahbez was a proto-hippie who lived under the big HOLLYWOOD sign in the Los Angeles area in the 1950s. He also wrote songs, including "Nature Boy," which was a hit for Nat King Cole. Ahbez recorded an album of beat poetry and exotica, "Eden's Island." It did not do well, and he subsequently abandoned plans for a follow-up. Thing is, he left behind a lot of unrecorded music when he died. The Swedish exotica group Ìxtahuele has gone through Ahbez's archive and recorded those never-before-heard tracks for the ablum "Dharmaland" to be released later this year. "Mana" is the first finished track they've released, and it sounds outstanding with the haunting vocals of Kadhja Bonet. The video is fascinating as well, considering the male actor has an uncanny resemblance to the late Ahbez. How much of this is due to makeup and how much comes down to a fluke of genetics is irrelevant. This is a fitting tribute to the eccentric composer.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Booker T & the MGs.

Now Playing: Various artists Tres Chic!
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Monday, May 03, 2021

A Moment of Tiki: Hugman's Oasis

I'm not going to lie, folks, I'm excited about this one! In this episode of A Moment of Tiki, we get a first look at Hugman's Oasis, a brand-spanking new tiki bar on San Antonio's famed River Walk. It opens for business Friday, May 7. I, along with Secrets By Miss Lisa, were some of the fortunate guests invited to their soft opening on April 29. They didn't have a full menu and there were still some kinks to be worked out, so I'm holding off on a more formal review for a month or so to allow them to find their groove. But until then, we have this cool sneak peek!

Way back in November of 2018, the San Antonio Heron ran a short story about developer Chris Hill planning to open a tiki bar in the 1890s Witte Building on the San Antonio River Walk. Then in February 2019, they ran another story about the city approving gas-fired tiki torches for the exterior. Wow! Can you imagine how enthused I was? Two years, six months and a global pandemic later, Hugman's Oasis is the first full-fledged tiki space to open in San Antonio since Polynesian Gardens operated in the shadow of the Tower of the Americas during the 1968 HemisFair World's Fair. And it's the first to offer a full menu of tiki cocktails--back in 1968 it was still illegal to serve mixed drinks in Texas! So come along with me for a tour of the space, some interviews and a whole lot of eye candy in episode 28 of A Moment of Tiki:

Now Playing: Axel Stordahl Jasmine and Jade
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Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Has there ever been a more infectious blues instrumental than "Green Onions" by Booker T. and the MGs? I don't think so. Wow, to think this music was initially recorded on the fly as a B side for a track that itself originated as an informal jam...

Oh, and the story of that original jam recording and how "Green Onions" went from an afterthought in the recording studio to a massive hit in the span of just one week is nothing short of astonishing. Give it a listen:

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Electric Light Orchestra.

Now Playing: Skip Heller Luau-O-Milo
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Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A Moment of Tiki: Cocktail and Mai Kai

Wow! I've really been lapse in sharing new episodes of A Moment of Tiki here. For that, I apologize. Let's right this listing ship a little with a couple of those backlogged episodes from earlier in the year.

First up is episode 23: Hot Buttered Rum. Having an outdoor tiki bar is great--except when it gets cold. Believe it or not, even though our Central Texas winters are generally mild compared to the Midwest, once that mercury dips down to the bottom half of the thermometer it's no fun sitting outside sipping icy cocktails. What's a tikiphile to do? Simple: Make hot buttered rum! All the effort goes into preparing the hot buttered rum batter ahead of time. Once that's finished, the cocktail's a snap!

Next is Episode 24: Save the Mai Kai! The Mai-Kai, that high holy place of tiki culture, is in trouble. After suffering catastrophic damage to the kitchen in October of 2020, the owners planned to repair, rebuild and reopen. But nothing is ever simple, and complications quickly escalated the price for restoring the Polynesian palace to its fully functioning glory. The situation has grown serious enough that the family has retained a firm to seek outside investors or, gasp, buyers for the property. In this episode of A MOMENT OF TIKI, I go over what is publicly known at this time about the Mai Kai's future, why this place is so special and why it needs to be saved. I also review Tim "Swanky" Glazner's book, Mai Kai: History and Mystery of the Iconic Tiki Restaurant, which is the best and most lavish history of that place ever published. Trust me, it's a keeper.

I wrap up with a rare bonus episode: Snow Day!? On February 15, we here in Central Texas experienced single-digit temperatures and more than 6" of snow. This was the coldest weather, and the most snowfall, experience by your humble host since 1973 (if you're doing the math, I was 3 years old at the time). Unlike most of Central Texas' rare snowfall events, it didn't immediately melt away the following day. No, temperatures stayed below 20F and the snow stuck, and stuck, and stuck some more. I ventured out to document the aberration, because who would believe stories of a tiki bar buried in the snow otherwise?

Don't forget to subscribe and leave a comment letting me know your thoughts!

Now Playing: Esquivel Merry X-mas from the Space-Age Bachelor Pad
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Friday, April 23, 2021

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Happy birthday Dolph!

On this date in 1923, Dolph Briscoe, who would go on to become the 41st governor of Texas, was born. He would've been 98 today. Briscoe, a long-time Uvalde rancher, is generally remembered fondly from his terms as governor for being a decent guy. But his administration did earn some dubious distinctions. Briscoe was the last Texas governor to serve a two-year term and the first to serve a four-year term. He undermined two efforts to rewrite Texas' abysmal constitution (which remains a trainwreck to this day). Briscoe once appointed a dead man to the State Health Advisory Commission, and if what I've heard is true, called a press conference in the aftermath to reassure the press and public that he hadn't lost his grip on sanity.

But what most people remember him for--and which doesn't appear in most official biographies--is that he was the governor who ordered the closure of the infamous Chicken Ranch brothel in La Grange. Ironically, Briscoe had no actual legal authority to order the Chicken Ranch (or any other brothel, for that matter) closed. But he did, hoping nobody would call his bluff. Fayette County Jim Flournoy certainly knew the governor had no authority to do so, but acquiesced to Briscoe and effectively ended a surreal two-week media circus that captured the attention of Texas as well as the rest of the country.

Governor Briscoe died June 27, 2010, after ignoring my interview requests for the better part of a year. Happy birthday, Dolph!

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

Now Playing: Electric Light Orchestra Secret Messages
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Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Just when you were getting comfortable with my ye-ye kick, along comes a curve ball to shake things up. "Rockaria!" has long been one of my favorite songs by Electric Light Orchestra, second only, perhaps, to their orchestral version of "Roll Over Beethoven." Clearly, these two are cut from the same cloth. So imagine my delight to discover the existence of a 70s-era music video for the song. It's not terribly sophisticated as far as cinematography and direction goes, but it's still pretty loopy, regardless. And I must confess, even separated by all the intervening years, I'm still a bit terrified of Jeff Lynne's hair.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Gillian Hills.

Now Playing: Electric Light Orchestra Eldorado
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Friday, April 16, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Continuing my exploration of ye-ye pop, here's Gillian Hills with "Zou Bisou Bisou." It is pretty much the definition of an earworm. Those of you who are fans of Mad Men may recognize it as memorably performed by the second Mrs. Draper.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Françoise Hardy.

Now Playing: Tikiyaki Orchestra Stereoexotique
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Friday, April 09, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Reverting to my ye-ye fixation for a moment, here we have the unparalleled Françoise Hardy with "Comment Te Dire Adieu." It's got a great groove and I love the Herb Alpert-style brass that adds just the right amount of easy listening cool to the song.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Whitehorse.

Now Playing: Jack de Mello Steel Guitar Magic
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Friday, April 02, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Whitehors has new music out, which is always cause for celebration. The video for their first single, "I Wanna Make Promises (That I Can't Keep)," contains the most creative use of water balloons in a music video that I've ever seen.

Not only that, they've also got a fun making-of featurette as well:

Previously on Friday Night Videos... France Gall.

Now Playing: Robert Drasnin Voodoo II
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Friday, March 26, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Ye-ye pop was a thing in 1960s France, sort of the Gallic answer to the British invasion happening in the state. I've been kinda hooked on it for the past few weeks, so I might as well share the love. Here's France Gall with her pernicious little earworm, "Laisse Tomber Les Filles."

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Easybeats.

Now Playing: Yma Sumac Mambo!
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Friday, March 05, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Is it odd that, here we are on Friday, after a long week, and I have the Easybeats' "Friday On My Mind" on my mind?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Te Vaka.

Now Playing: Robert Drasnin Voodoo II
Chicken Ranch Central

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Miss Edna (1928-2012)

On this date in 2012, Edna Milton Chadwell, better known as Miss Edna, passed away at the age of 84 in Phoenix, Arizona, where she'd lived a life of quiet anonymity since the early 1980s. Her final days were tragic. The previous October (or September--my memory is imprecise) she was involved in a car wreck that left her hospitalized with an array of injuries. From what I understand, her memory was affected, and her brain stopped converting short-term memory into long. In practical terms, it meant somebody could introduce themselves and begin a conversation with her, but five minutes later she'd have no recollection. Over the previous three years I feel I've gotten to know her as much as any person alive today who wasn't related to her. She enthusiastically supported my book project and graciously invited my wife and myself into her home for hours of interviews.

Throughout the six-plus years it took to research, write and publish Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse, there was no bigger supporter of mine than Miss Edna. As I've said elsewhere, my biggest regret is that she did not live to see the finished product. I can't say for certain what she'd have thought of it, but others who were close to the Chicken Ranch have given me the thumbs up, so I like to think Miss Edna would've approved (while giving me an earful about what I got wrong).

Let me share something about her that didn't make it into the book. When I first met Miss Edna, she asked where I was from. I answered that I was originally from Columbus. Miss Edna paused a moment, then said, "Twenty-two miles." Then she asked my wife where she was from. Bastrop, Lisa answered. Miss Edna paused again, then said, "Thirty-six miles." Almost four decades removed from her life in La Grange, Miss Edna still remembered those details that would've mattered to her prospective out-of-town customers. I'll wager we could've sat there for hours, tossing out town names like Brenham, Hallettsville, Bryan, etc. and she'd have come up with the distance between them and La Grange like there was nothing to it. I have long felt that a fascinating glimpse into her character.

Inside the Texas Chicken Ranch: The Definitive Account of the Best Little Whorehouse is available from both Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. It's also available as an ebook in the following formats: Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

Now Playing: Sugarland The Incredible Machine
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Friday, February 12, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

So here we are, staring down the barrel at a full week of the coldest weather South-Central Texas has faced in a decade. North Texas iced over yesterday and the result was a 100-plus car pileup on Interstate 35 in Forth Worth that killed six people. Monday it's getting down to 9F here in New Braunfels, which is cold enough to theoretically kill every tropical plant I have growing with the exception of my dwarf palmettos. I've covered my bananas and citrus and pulled the potted plants into the garage, and I don't think it'll be super-cold long enough to do lasting damage to my palm trees, but still. I tolerate August in Texas so that I may wear shorts comfortably in January. I dislike cold weather intensely. With that in mind, is it any wonder I eventually found my way to tiki? Check out this song, "Lakalaka," by the Polynesian-fusion band Te Vaka. That's what I'm talking about. I think all of us could use some of this sunny beach energy about now. I know I certainly do!

And if you dig that video, they've also go a fun making-of featurette you can enjoy as well:

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Little River Band.

Now Playing: Prince The Hits & the B-Sides
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Friday, February 05, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I've never paid a whole lot of attention to Little River Band, although I've been aware of them for as long as I've listened to music other than country. I even remember their ill-fated rebranding as "LRB." Yeah, that didn't take. Regardless, their 1977 hit "Help Is On Its Way" is a darn good song. I'm not sure why I've been thinking about it recently, but I have been, so that's why I'm sharing it with you now.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Rod Stewart.

Now Playing: Melissa Etheridge Unplugged & More
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Monday, February 01, 2021

Chicken Ranch anniversary: Happy birthday Aunt Jessie!

On this date in 1885, Fay Stewart was born in Waco. She would've been 136 years old today. Stewart would later adopt the alias of Jessie Williams and operate a small brothel in Austin's Guy Town district before moving to La Grange in 1913. In 1915, she bought 11 acres of land outside of city limits and opened what would eventually become known as the Chicken Ranch. Known locally as Aunt Jessie, she ran the brothel until selling it to Edna Milton in 1961.

Fay Stewart’s parents came from Georgia, moving to Waco well before she was born. The family lived for years on Franklin Street. While it is entirely possible that Stewart learned the ropes of prostitution in Waco's infamous Two Street vice district, there’s scant evidence she was successful enough to own her own brothel there.

Curiously enough, despite the fact Aunt Jessie spent nearly three decades in La Grange and was as well-known a civic benefactor as anyone in Fayette County, I have found no photographs of her. Zero. Nada. Which is strange, since I know photos of her exist somewhere. So in lieu of Aunt Jessie's photo, we'll have to settle from the 1958 edition of the La Grange phone book. Think that cover art is coincidental? Or was someone with the Yellow Pages making a not-so-subtle joke? In any event, here's to Aunt Jessie, the woman who turned a number of shoddy prostitution operations into the brothel remembered today as the Chicken Ranch.

Now Playing: Combustible Edison I, Swinger
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, January 29, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

During my freshman year of high school, back when I was first learning there was more than just "both kinds" of music (country and western) Rod Stewart's song "Infatuation" became something of an unwanted earworm of mine. I didn't know Stewart's history, mind you, beyond the fact that he'd done some disco stuff, which I didn't like. Now, of course, I love his Small Faces work, along with pre-disco stuff like the ubiquitous "Maggie May." I'm still not a huge fan of "Infatuation," but that video is so very, very 80s. I can imagine the coke-infused pitch session for the video: "So, you're stalking a gangster's moll, see? Binoculars and cameras. It's like that French film, Blow Up, real artsy. Only you're a peeping Tom and she's half-naked most of the time." Yeah, it doesn't get much more 80s than that.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Moody Blues.

Now Playing: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Last DJ
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, January 22, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

I've been on a Moody Blues kick of late, so that spills over here. "Question" is a fascinating, hard-driving song straight out of the late 60s. I love that guitar work, which borders on flamenco.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... John Fogerty.

Now Playing: The Moody Blues Time Traveller
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Friday, January 15, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

The legendary John Fogerty is back with with new music. The sound of "Weeping in the Promised Land" isn't what one would expect from him, but I think is apropos of our times.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Michael Nesmith.

Now Playing: Gene Rains Lotus Land
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Thursday, January 14, 2021

The story, it is done

Last night I finished the long-overdue rewrite of "Where the Rubber Meets the Road," as short story I wrote more than a decade ago. I specifically wrote it for a Turkey City writers workshop in October of 2009, finishing the first draft a mere day before. Little did I know that my fiction writing would soon be completely upended by my work on the infamous Chicken Ranch book. Little did I know at the time that this would prove to be the last Turkey City I'd attend (I may do so again in the future, but in the intervening years I've attended not a one). Since 2009, I've completed only three pieces of short fiction--the super-short "Mother of Spirits," which appeared in the The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, "A Life Less Illustrated," which has been rejected hither and yon, and "It Gazes Back," a collaboration with Don Webb completed just a couple of weeks ago that has yet to find a home.

I wrapped the rewrite up with a thousand words last night, which is good production by my standards. The original draft was 9,000 words long, and after I chopped off the ending and stripped out several scenes in the rewrite, the final version clocked in at... 9,000 words. It seems old habits die hard. Everything I write tends to lock into a certain length, no matter how much I trim, and that does not seem to have changed. The interval between when I first wrote this story and now is a bit unnerving. I was starting to publish regularly up to 2009, and after that, my sales dropped off a cliff. Following the publication of the Chicken Ranch book, I honestly felt like I'd forgotten how to write fiction. I put in a strong push with Sailing Venus a couple of years ago and produced some good stuff, but when I hit a rough patch in the narrative, the wheels fell off. I'm hoping that with "It Gazes Back" and "Where the Rubber Meets the Road" that I've knocked the rust off and gotten back into the habit of writing. I'd like to think I've regained a rhythm, as the words are coming less sluggishly than they did a month ago. We shall see once I pull up Sailing Venus and attempt to get it back on track. I'm getting too old to wait around on "someday" to arrive. If I ever want to have a writing career that amounts to anything, I have to get that novel done, sooner rather than later.

But that's for tonight and the nights that follow. At the moment, I'm happy to bask in the freshly-minted story happily heading off to face various editors' slings and arrows. It'd been so long since I last looked at it that I'd forgotten much beyond the overall plot, and am happy to report that of the unfamiliar words I read, many of them are good. It's nice to get that affirmation, even if it's weirdly self-serving. And it allows me to do something I haven't done in a long time, share a writing excerpt:

As Lupe's eyes adjusted to the deepening shadow, she saw flits of movement in the cave mouth--bats circling just inside. A hawk swooped overhead, perching atop one of the dead hackberries. Movement around the sinkhole caught her eye. A raccoon ambled up here. A ringtail slipped through the rocks there. Several feral cats paced back and forth atop boulders near the cave entrance, heads up, tails curling.

The first bats came out in pairs and triplets, circling the sinkhole once, twice before disappearing over the trees. Suddenly, as if a hidden switch was flipped, they all came. A river of bats disgorged from the cave, their beating wings sounding like a torrential downpour. The feral cats leapt into the flight, snatching bats out of the air. The hawk swooped in, caught one in its talons and veered off. From the rocks along the edge of the cave, snakes struck, taking down bats with surgical efficiency.

None of it made a dent in their numbers. On and on the colony came, a million bats, two million. An impossible number, more than could possibly be contained in a hundred caves. A tornado of bats swirled out of the sinkhole, an undulating stream vanishing into the pink sky.

"Now I understand why you got those tattoos," Manny whispered at last. "Is it like you remembered?"

"No. Better."
For those of you with morbid curiosities, here are two blog entries I made back in 2009 that are directly related to this story. A time capsule, indeed:

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Happiness is Turkey City in the rear-view mirror

Now Playing: Martin Denny Forbidden Island
Chicken Ranch Central

Monday, January 11, 2021

Return to writing

I've not posted about writing much lately because, well, I haven't written much lately. After building up a good head of steam on the Venus book, I ran into a plot snarl and set it aside for a short break that's going on two years now. That's not writer's block, I hasten to add. That's me developing a psychological aversion to writing and coming up with excuses to avoid it. I'm sure other writers out there recognize the symptoms, if not the severity. Back in June, an author I admire suggested a short fiction collaboration. Of course, I accepted. They provided the opening to the story, and I, after some false starts and wobbly shaking off the rust motions, provided a middle section to which they carried across the finish line. The result was fine... but we were both underwhelmed with the result. Thus began on-again, off-again revisions which were finally completed at the end of December, resulting in a finished piece that's not only different from what we started with but, at least to my thinking, much more interesting.

The key thing here is that this collaboration broke me out of my self-imposed writing abstinence. It was only a day or so later that I turned my attention to a short story I'd written a decade before, that had been workshopped but then put aside. Alas, it too me several days to track down the workshop critiques, as they'd not been filed were I'd long thought them filed. But found them I did. Here are some thoughts on that story I'm currently revising:

It was run through the Turkey City writers workshop in 2009, just as I was getting consumed by the Chicken Ranch book. I thought I'd put it away as-is, but going through it I've found some significant post-Turkey City revisions. To the extent that the original draft does not exist on my computer anymore. I normally hang on to earlier drafts, so this is odd.

The revised version is significantly shorter than the original, which is good, considering I had about 10 pages of ending that was tacked on because I had no idea how to end it.

The story's more than a decade old, and although I remember the concept clearly, individual scenes and specific details are wholly new to me. As in, I have no memory of ever writing them. That's happened to me before, but it's still startling. What's more, significant passage have me going, "Damn, that's good. Where'd that come from?" Which is certainly better than the alternative. The fact that my detachment from the material makes these observations somewhat objective on my part is encouraging.

My earlier revisions stopped short of the problematic ending. So, no magic get out of plot jail free card for me.

Turkey City participants, in general, are very smart and much better at seeing what I'm trying to do with a story than I am.

My revisions are going very slowly, which corresponds with my overall writing speed in recent years. But part of it comes from my trying to address various valid critique points whilst tightening the narrative overall. I think the revisions significantly improve the efficiency of the narrative, even though the revision process is anything but efficient.

One nice thing about this story is that, apart from some very broad elements, it's not been done before. At least, not that I'm aware of. At my age, with only a dozen published story credits, it's become painfully apparent that I'm not the next Silverberg or Ellison. I've got to make what remaining stories I can wring out of this increasingly inefficient gray matter count.

I may be able to finish this one up with another couple evenings of work. I would be happy with that. Then it's off to F&SF. It feels like a F&SF story to me, and that's a market I've never even come close to selling to. A sale there would mark an excellent start to 2021 and my return to writing after too long a fallow period.

Now Playing: Les Baxter African Jazz
Chicken Ranch Central

Friday, January 08, 2021

Friday Night Videos

Friday Night Videos

Well, we had a run of 5 straight days where 2021 wasn't as awful as 2020, and then Wednesday happened. Now we've also got a cold front hitting Texas with winter freeze warnings and the potential for ice storms throughout the weekend. Joy. How about something fun as a distraction? Michael Nesmith, he of Monkees fame, had a long and interesting career after leaving that group. He's often credited with inventing the concept video (as opposed to the more common performance clips) which enabled the rise of MTV (which, trust me, used to actually play music videos). The song is "Rio" and the video is trippy and way ahead of its time. Or of its time. Whichever. The tropical vibes are certainly appreciated.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Conan & Basic Cable.

Now Playing: Robert Drasnin Voodoo III
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