Mike Baron, The Survey

THE SURVEY

Every company is desperate for positive feedback. Every company employs some firm to conduct surveys on its behalf.

Use SurveyMonkey to drive your business forward by using our free online survey tool to capture the voices and opinions of the people who matter most to you.

School district issuing surveys to complete picture about home, classroom, technology use.

Online surveys are part of the broader family of self-administered surveys (Internet, by post, etc.), as opposed to administered surveys (face to face, telephone). By taking the time to give your opinion, you are providing input for the development of a product or service. In fact, the quality of an online survey depends on the reliability of the information you provide.

The information collected from surveys reaches clients, but will always conceal individual identity. Survey results are aggregated by combining responses with those provided by other participants who have also completed the online survey. This data is stored in a database that can be analyzed by clients, but personal data will never be revealed, sold or traded without your permission.

My own experience is that they are intrusive and irritating. Automatic calls are the most irritating, as they do not work on your schedule. A prerecorded voice says, “Your feedback is important to us. Please take a few minutes to answer this survey about your recent experience with Veeblefetzer Orthodontics.”

But it’s not a few minutes. They phrase the questions so that the can provide neat statistics to their employer. There is seldom room for personal experience. “On a scale of one to ten, one being least satisfactory, ten being most satisfactory…”

And the questions go on and on. I usually hang up after five minutes. Online surveys are nearly as irritating. Don’t we get enough spam? In days of yore, businesses knew they were on the right track by repeat customers and personal testimonials. I’m happy to give a personal testimonial. I write glowing reviews for the Better Business Bureau. But this survey business is out of hand. I went through McDonald’s the other day and by the time I got to the second window, the survey was waiting.

New Music, Mike Baron

NEW MUSIC

Mark Roebuck, the driving force behind the power pop band The Deal, whose only album is from Not Lame, and rotsa ruck finding it, releases his second Roebuck CD, Kingdom of Mustang. Roebuck has a unique melodic sense, laden with pastoral bridges and hooks. Like Marshall Crenshaw, Michael Brown or John San Juan of the Hushdrops, his songs are instantly identifiable and contain a generosity of spirit, even sans lyrics. But the lyrics are feckin’ bril. “Sister Sledgehammer” showcases his elegant chords, deft guitar, exquisite bridge. “Brand New Day” is a homage to Buddy Holly. You can hear Holly singing it, while “Undone” is something Tim Buckley would have proudly claimed with its sweet and rueful shoulda, coulda, woulda lyrics. Mark rocks too. He is Brian Wilson’s soul brother.

Chris Richards is a made member of the Michigan Mafia, which includes Keith Klingensmith, Andy Reed, Donnie Brown, and Nick Piunti. They constitute a power pop powerhouse that just keeps releasing one great record after another, and Peaks and Valleys is no exception with its Red Kross power chords and embarrassment of guitar riches. They expertly massage major/minor chord changes on “Just Another Season.” Every song is filled with jewel-like guitar riffs tickling the occipital lobe with laser precision. I hear a little Byrds in “Wrapped In A Riddle’s” jangle, and again in “The End of Me.” Unstoppable and irresistible.

David Myhr of the Merrymakers second album, Lucky Day, is as sunny and hook-laden as his first, melodic pop in the vein of The Cyrcle, We Five, and The Cowsills, with Beatlesque dazzle. “Negative Friend” bounces along with McCartneyesque effervescence. “Room To Grow” has a bridge right out of a sixties TV theme or fifties musical, which is to say, a massive, unforgettable hook. The title track swoons in on a bent chord with a bittersweet melody like the sun peeking through clouds. A blast of west coast sunshine from Sweden.

Astral Drive, a prog rock love letter to seventies, is reminiscent of Todd Rundgren’s Something/Anything, and “Hello It’s Me” in particular. Crank it to eleven. This isn’t just Rundgren on steroids. It’s Rundgren on acid and steroids, a swirling, psychedelic, wall of sound time machine. “Summer of ‘76” will make millennials wish they’d been born earlier. The title track is epic and symphonic prog rock. “Child of the Universe” has a swelling space chord that expands to fill the room.

Ron Bonfiglio’s Trouble Again is an instant classic, trailing more hooks than The Deadliest Catch. Bonfigli, who is musical director of Wilson Phillips, is part of Wanderlust, the seminal nineties power pop group that also includes Scott Sax. Trouble Again scores on every song with superb dynamics and lethal hooks.
“Passenger Seat,” the opening track, is a giddy juggernaut of Springsteen ower chords, Raspberry refrains, and Jellyfish orchestration. I could say the same for every song. There are traces of the Shazam in “Love Over Hurt, and “Astral Drive” in the key-driven “Gone.” “Mr. No One” has an Explorers Club vibe and perhaps the greatest hook over. Best thing I’ve heard this year.

Updated News from Mike Baron

A man goes to the zoo. There’s only one animal, a dog. It’s a Shi-Tzu. Greetings, my friends! This is my first newsletter! Finishing Unfortunate Son, the 7th Josh Pratt novel in the Bad Road Rising series. Biker is the first.

They are grim, my friends. Dripping with viscera, yet filled with hilarity and quiet moments of contemplation and tender romance.

Dark Horse is preparing a raft of new Nexus for next year. But be warned, my friends! My partner Steve Rude published these, and as publisher, he changed my every word! I can only hope the new material I sent him survives intact. For an explanation, see the documentary, Rude Dude. Oogle it!

My friends, those clamoring for Badger apparel can find it here: https://badgerapparel.cottontoptees.com/

I’m working on a Buddy McGill comic with visionary artist Fer Calvi. Who is Buddy McGill? He’s a super party animal and his name is Buddy McGill! With a case of Sudz and some brand new duds, he’ll give you something you can feel!

I have finished a new Badger story in which he enters the Iditarod. There is also a giant cockroach!

Shortly we will begin a crowdfunder to turn my novel Sons of Bitches into a graphic novel. A young woman puts out her own Muhammad comic. Hilarity ensues.

I’m working on The Snot-Nosed Punk of Yore, a bold reimagining of the life of Shakespeare as a differently-abled lesbian of color!

As always, if you wish to be removed from this list, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your existence. Feel free to fire back.

 

Testing Black Belt, Mike Baron

Notes for Testing Black Belts, Summer 2018

Combinations:

Main thoughts for combinations are to make sure your strikes are complete and clear. Combinations need to flow in order to be useful, but don’t go so fast that we can’t tell what kind of kicks you are throwing.

Kicks need to fold and retract. (3rd degrees are weakest at this.)

Point foot on round kicks.

If a combination says “double side kick” it is meant to have both kicks middle height, not lo-hi. It will say “lo-hi” if that is the intention. (3rd degree #6a has double side kick)

Pay attention to when you are supposed to step back, usually on a #2 combo with a step back spin hook kick or spin backfist.

Know when to step and when to skip, and when NOT to.

2nd degrees #2a slide side kick is different from a skip kick.

(Take corrections to heart, but don’t hurt yourselves trying to do something that doesn’t work for your body!)

One-steps: Samar be more aware of your distance, you tend to be too far away. Will, sometimes your kicks were not clear. Looked like you were doing round kicks for #2.

Everyone, just be aware of proper distance to make the techniques work optimally.

Same for Grab defenses. Know when to step in or step back to make your defenses work better (esp 1st degrees)

Know what things work for you, and consider who your partner is, in how you do some things (careful with the take-downs)

Knife defense: Control that knife hand! Don’t forget to use your strikes.

Club defense: Mostly good, find ways to get inside the swing.

Ground defense and choke defense: Keep good awareness, to recognize things early so you can defend it early.

Sticks: On 11-count form, be sure to complete moves. #7 thrust sometimes gets lost.

3rd degrees: On hi-forehand, hi-backhand, hi-forehand/sombrada drill, be sure you show the change of distance.

Targets: Hand targets—make sure 1 and 2 punches extend; target-holders be careful not to meet the puncher’s punch so much that they can’t extend.

For all of the targets work, be sure you listen carefully to the instructions. Sometimes people were doing the wrong drill or wrong techniques. Be sure to hold the targets properly for your partner. The test is on holding as well as on the striking. Be a good partner.

Forms:

General: Full preparations; retract kicks. Stances. Timing hands with feet. Focus on the techniques. Be self-aware, self-correcting. Always aim for better.

Bal Sae – counts 6,7,8 be sure to twist body and make both arms move fully.

Sang Kee – Timing of the yell on #1 is when you step back and R arm drops down to block. Remember all of the other yells (esp. both on #9 and #11). Head height stays low when changing from horse stance to back stance (#17-18). Count 22 is open downward block in back stance. Then shift to front stance.

Koryo 1 – count 6 is single knife hand block (L hand pulled back by hip), and #7 is reverse punch, staying in back stance. Dbl outward block #11 is in front stance. Knife hand blocks #1 and #14 are with both hands open

Koryo 2 – remember the sequence. Some of you had occasions when you left out parts. Double outward block #13 is in front stance, #15 is in back stance.

Kan Ku Dai – try to cross all of the knife-hand preparations; yells are on #9, #25, & #40

Ge Baek – mountain blocks are palms-facing-in; niner block is a square position; yells on #1, #14, #18, #30

Under-belt forms: Knife-hand blocks with fist on chest in KM forms except KM Oh Dan; PA Sah Dan line toward the back in 3 double-attacks and a knee; PA Yi Dan remember to do full prep for sideward punch counts 3 & 6.

Weapons Forms:

Full motions—one arm is straight in all strikes with bo. Be clean on vertical line, horizontal line, diagonal line Universal bo – Be sure the diagonal strikes when you are on your knee actually go out diagonally.

Universal kamas – Be aware of where the chambered hand is. Be sure that both arms move when doing forward cut in back stance and backward cut in front stance. Keep clean stances. The front stances tend to get short and sloppy.

Specials – Looks like we have a nice variety of performances. Keep practicing, get comfortable with facing the audience, explaining something about your choice, and moving smoothly through whatever it is that you are doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Abject Squalor by Mike Baron

ABJECT SQUALOR

My late wife chose the house in which we live. When we moved in, the front and back yards were perfect, watered regularly by an underground, automated watering system. If you want to have a lawn in Colorado, this is what you do. Because most of Colorado is a desert. And the rest is mountains. Yet everyone has a lawn. And the city’s lawns are the most glorious of all, because they don’t care how much they spend. Many a time I’ve driven past city water sprinklers during a heavy rain storm as they direct their stream to the middle of the road. I once notified the Parks Department that their sprinklers were falling on asphalt. Nothing has changed.

The West is all about the water, who owns it, who controls it. Now you might think nobody owns the water. You would be wrong. Certain land rights carry water rights, grandfathered from the days of the Conestoga wagon, if the land contains a stream or river. Some states (not Colorado) have outlawed the collection of rain water in barrels.

Lawns are reasonable for the Upper Midwest and the South, where rain falls steadily. They make little sense in a desert. You want to solve Los Angeles’ water problem? Tell all those stars to stop watering their lawns. And build some more dams!

But their problems are not my problems. My problems are the dogs.

Enter Freddie. One day I heard Freddie laughing and barking in the back yard. He was tearing up the underground watering system. Not a nip here and there, no. He ripped up entire sections and chewed them to suet. The other dogs. Soon there was nothing left of my backyard watering system. I could do what I do in the front yard, which has its own problems. Drag the sprinklers out twice a week and water.

Then came the rabbits. Their urine destroyed the front lawn, and if the front lawn isn’t nice, the home owners’ association sends a SWAT squad. I carefully scraped up the dead spots, applied gypsum, seed, and covered it with fresh topsoil. It rained for three days straight. I watered every day for a week. The result? A desultory handful of blades. I am waiting. I am watching. And when the time is right, I shall try again. Not for me the terraforming and chemicals of the modern professional lawn grower! No. If I can’t raise it itself, it doesn’t deserve to live.

A Post Literate Society by Mike Baron

A POST LITERATE SOCIETY

Remember Borders and B. Dalton’s? They were chain bookstores that are no longer with us. Barnes & Noble struggles to survive, slashing book inventory, turning more and more floor space over to toys, collectibles, DVDs, and games. New DVDs cost anywhere from twenty to fifty dollars. While there are fans who are happy to pay that amount to see a new movie, I’m not one of them. Anyone with internet access can order those films from Amazon, a lot cheaper. Amazon is the elephant in the room, and it’s sucking up all the oxygen. It’s past time for the Justice Department to investigate them for unfair labor practices, but while Amazon must bear the muich of the onus for declining book stores, they are not solely at fault.

A lot of young folks ain’t readin’. Just ain’t readin’. Weren’t raised that way. Video games have taken a huge bite out of the comics market, and anyone who’s conversant with modern video games can see why. They are designed with a great deal more thought and characterization than most comics. They’re the other elephant in the room. It doesn’t help that many comics are unreadable, but so what? Many movies are unwatchable. Gryphon’s, a prominent local comic shop, advertises games and comics. They carry the Big Two, a selection of second tier publishers, and will special order whatever, but many titles don’t make the cut. Gryphon’s can’t afford to pay for inventory that doesn’t move.
Humans gotta innovate. Technology marches on. The internet is a mixed bag. It enables us to reach millions, research anything, send manuscripts without the mail, but it has a coarsening effect on communications, of what we say and how we conduct ourselves. I once posted Lady Gaga had killed it in reference to her singing the national anthem, and within ten posts it was “FUCK YOU!” and “NO! FUCK YOU!”
The there’s “HOW R U?” “ROLF!” “C U BIATCH.”

Words intended as ironic are interpreted as dismissive or offensive. Facebook encourages bold declarations of virtue often accompanied by vulgar language, gratuitous insults, and death wishes.

This collapse of manners is partly due to the collapse of literacy. In Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury posed a future in which the only printed periodicals consisted of pictures only. We may have reached that point.

Mad Pop Science by Mike Baron

MAD POP SCIENCE

It’s been a long time since I built a model car. It’s taking a long time. In my salad days I was an avid builder and won several trophies. I was in a variety store looking at a plastic ray gun one day and I thought I could turn that into a hot rod. Why? I don’t know. I’ve always loved hot rods and customs. My favorites are the wild customs, the bubble tops, the Beatnik Bandit, Silhouette, and Intruder. Ed Roth, Dean Jeffries, Daryl Starbird. Crazy shit with double engines, mismatched wheels, and elegant, originalbody work.

Fifties and sixties customs that wore too much body putty, like aging actresses with too much makeup, were called lead sleds. If you build a four thousand pound vehicle that only carries two people, you’ve failed. It lacks elegance. A custom should be graceful in form and movement.

I see very few radical customs these days, and they seldom hit the cover of the few remaining model car magazines. The emphasis is on low riders, rat rods, and trucks. Having grown up in the era of the elegant custom, I never cottoned to rat rods, vehicles designed to look as decrepit as possible, rusting,
cancerous suffering from leprosy.

I love power pop. The bands I love the most, like the Beatles, Jellyfish, or XTC, employ what Icall mad pop science. Instead of the hoary but beloved three chord progression, usually one, four, five, as found in much of the Rolling Stones or Chuck Berry, mad pop science uses unexpected chords and harmonies in elegant ways. The music is always surprising, but always makes sense, in the way that the end of a great story should come as both a complete surprise, and perfectly natural.

This is what I seek in music and models.

 

The Corner Pocket by Mike Baron

THE CORNER POCKET

Mike Baron

I was a fat and cowardly child. Growing up in South Dakota, I feared everything from the boys in the locker room to big dogs. I bullied and was bullied. It’s a mystery to me how I managed to hang on to some of my childhood friends, but here we are, fifty years later, tighter than ever.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, I moved to Boston to work on weekly “alternative” papers. I ended up in a basement apartment in Brighton, a half block from the Ja Shin Do Academy, a storefront karate school. Every day on my way to the MTA, I passed that school. I would stare through the mist-covered windows at students moving around the hardwood floor, hearing their thumps and kiais. Like most young men, I was fascinated by karate. One day I said fuck it, and went inside to talk to the teacher Andy Bauman. Andy acquired his black belt while stationed in Korea. He could punch through a wall.

I trained at the Ja Shin Do Academy under Andy, Joe Demusz, and Jane West. It was very traditional, very hard. I can’t believe some of the things we did. Thousand kick night was a regular event, as was picking up a teammate in a fireman’s carry and running around the park.

One day a lanky young man came in, went up the makiwara screwed to the wall, and punched it, breaking his hand. He never returned.

When I returned to Madison in ‘77, I resumed training at Choi’s Karate, under Jim Henry. Jim was a charmless thug, but he knew his stuff. I trained with Vince O’Hern, founder and publisher of Isthmus, Madison’s “alternative” weekly, for which I was music editor. Amazingly, Isthmus is still with us, following the collapse of ninety per cent of the alternative weeklies in the country, due mostly to the rise of the internet. I was about to test for black belt when Choi’s went belly-up. Vince and I continued to train together, sometimes at the UW Natatorium or at Lathrop Hall. Lathrop was a beautiful old brick building with a pool in the basement. It’s gone now, like so much of the classic campus, replaced by an ugly building.

I let training slide for years, working out in the basement of my house in Fitchburg. I designed, built the house, and paid it off. It had an in-ground pool. But I made bad choices and ended up losing it and moving to Colorado.

But before then, I found a group of fighters training in the basement of a community center under John Fehling, who’d trained with Danny Inosanto. It was my first exposure to stick fighting. Not that I love stick fighting! Who needs it? It was interesting.

I picked up my first comic in South Dakota, Uncle Scrooge. At UW, some friends turned me onto Steranko and Neal Adams. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I couldn’t believe people could draw like that. I was hooked.

I lived in Boston when the first Master of Kung Fu came out. I bought multiple copies. It was only twenty-five cents. Steve Englehart wrote and Jim Starlin drew it. Doug Moench Gulacy took over. It took Gulacy a few issues to find his stride, but when he did, it was explosive. He took Steranko one step further. But even then, looking at the beautiful drawing of Shan-Chi throwing a flying sidekick. I sensed something wasn’t right. We didn’t see any fighting.

When Hulk waves his fist and five thugs fly off-panel head first, we don’t really see what happened. We get the comic book rush and understand the story. But it’s not like looking at a real fight.

These comics, Master of Kung Fu, Richard Dragon, Iron Fist, purportedly about martial arts, had very little. Only Denny O’Neil, who created Richard Dragon, understood something of the fighting arts. I wanted to show martial arts in a comic like a Jackie Chan film. I wanted to see the techniques unfold so that we understand how Shang-Chi ends up on his back. Comics are no competition to film. Film has many advantages including sound, controlling the pace, and choreographers who understand that the audience wants to see the kung fu. Those magnificent, highly choreographed fights you see in Enter the Dragon, Drunken Master, or Ip Man aren’t realistic, in the sense that the brawl in Treasure of the Sierra Madre is. But they are masterful action entertainment and you know you are seeing real kung fu, even if every move is carefully choreographed. Jackie Chan routinely shot scenes hundreds of times to get one perfect take. Comics only need to draw it correctly from panel to panel.

Comics have one big advantage. They can legitimize story material that would be laughed off any sound stage. You will believe a man can fly.

I was working at an insurance agency when one day I got a call from a friend who was an editor at an “alternative” newspaper that erupted due to a union dispute. “There’s some guy down here trying to sell us his drawings,” he said, “and he draws just like you.”

I met Steve Rude on the steps of the Student Union. Until then, I’d been trying to draw. I met the Dude on summer afternoon, he opened his portfolio there on the veranda, and I stopped drawing. Once Capital City picked up Nexus, I proposed a comic about a Druid wizard, cuz that’s what Jeff Butler wanted to draw. Milton Griepp said, “Give us a costumed crime-fighter.”

Why would anyone put on a costume and fight crime? They’d have to be crazy. Thus was Badger born, and the forum in which to showcase martial arts. I urge anyone wishing to understand what I mean to get Badger #9, “Hot August Night,” and look at the fight scene between Badger and Cobra Crisp. Using some photo ref, as well as my childish drawings, Bill Reinhold nailed it. I choreographed every fight scene, usually by drawing it out by hand.

I wrote Kato for Now, first with Brent Anderson, then with Val Mayerik. Val is an accomplished martial artist as well as one of the finest painters of his generation. Go to www.valmayerik.com. We took pains with Bruce Lee to make the fights not just realistic, but in keeping with The Little Dragon’s philosophy.

Q-Ball popped into my head. A stick fighting pool hustler. Some people say, “If he’s Q-Ball, why isn’t he bald?” Wait. Q-Ball is on a journey of discovery. We have big surprises and epic fights.

The friends you meet in martial arts are true friends. Www.karatewestinc.com

Q-Ball, New Comic Book by Mike Baron

Q-Ball

When Bruce Lee burst on the scene, I was ready. I started taking karate and haunting the local newsstand for the next issue of Master of Kung Fu. Paul Gulacy’s art ripped off the top of my head. At long last someone had picked up the gauntlet thrown by Steranko. That was the most amazing art I’d ever seen. But even then, I knew right away the martial arts weren’t right. They were just poses copied from movie stills. I wanted to see the technique as it unfolded. Comics are a visual medium. There’s no reason they can’t do that.

I got my chance with Badger, which appeared in 1983, and reached a peak in Badger #9, “Hot August Night,” with Bill Reinhold’s unbelievable depiction of the fight between Badger and Cobra Crisp.

I worked with Brent Anderson and Val Mayerik on Kato, and Val and I worked on the Bruce Lee comic. An accomplished martial artist, Val’s fight drawings were spot on. Next year you’ll see his latest Badger.

I wanted to do a balls-to-the-wall martial arts comic. I saw Barry McClain’s work and rung him up. Not only is Barry one of the most exciting new artists to break into comics, he’s the hardest working man in the biz. Can’t say for sure, but I think he pencils several pages a day.

Barry was up for it. I liked the name Q-Ball.

Detroit homeboy Curtis Ball joined the Merchant Marine and ended up managing a warehouse in Manila. Curtis wanted only two things out of life: to see the world and study Kali/Escrima. But when a pack of tuxedoed sharks muscle their way into his warehouse, Curtis learns the hard way that it’s not always smart to mind your own business.
The spooks are looking for Donna Wing, a beautiful Chinese blogger, forced to flee due to her exposes of human rights abuse. Now Curtis and Donna are on the run—from the Chinese government, the tongs, and a group of international cutthroats who will stop at nothing to stop them from reaching the United States and spilling their guts.
Sometimes you have to spill some guts to spill your guts.

I go through back issues of Black Belt and Kung Fu looking for photo how-tos, which show six to eight pictures on a page of a technique as it actually happens. In slomo. That’s what we want to do with the comic, break down the techniques so you can study every move and see how it works.

Of course this is a comic, and as Chuck Dixon puts it, comics are opera. So expect big gestures and the occasional anatomical impossibility. Trust us. We know kung fu.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2053015196/q-ball-1-martial-arts-thriller-by-baron-and-mcclai?ref=thanks_share

 

Star Wars VS Star Trek

STAR WARS VS. STAR TREK

Years ago, I adapted Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire for Dark Horse, an easy job due to Tim’s clarity. I parlayed this into a visit to Skywalker Ranch, with my late wife. I’d visited Skywalker once before with Brent Anderson. Skywalker Ranch contains myriad beautiful buildings in a sylvan setting in Marin County. The main building is Victorian, with exquisite workmanship. The underside of the spiral staircase in the library was fitted with polished slats of Brazilian rosewood, so perfect and intricate it resembled a snake’s belly. The cafeteria food beggared most restaurants.

Lucas came out the main door and Brent cautioned us about approaching him.

Years later, I was back to meet with the Skywalker editor in charge of licensing comics, a woman whose name I forget. She bade us enter her office and we chatted.

“I have a theory,” I said. “Star Trek represents the liberal view of space, while Star Wars represents the conservative view.”

That’s as far as I got.

“I’M LIBERAL!” the editor declared. “WE’RE ALL LIBERAL!”

Our visit ended soon after.

I meant nothing sinister. The reason I said that was because Star Trek went out of its way to be inclusive and non-judgmental, while Star Wars featured a hierarchy on both sides. On the Empire’s side, you had the emperor, followed by the darths, followed by military commanders all the way down to the peons. On the rebel side, you had Princess Leia, a royal person, benevolently ruling her loyal subjects.