All posts by annbaron

Existential Thrillers, by Mike Baron

EXISTENTIAL THRILLERS

An existential thriller is a movie where the protagonist is doomed, and you know it. Outstanding existential thrillers include The Wages of Fear and its American remake, SorcererThe Naked PreyThelma and LouiseEasy RiderThe Wild Bunch, and The Grey, which stars Liam Neeson as an oil company hunter in Alaska whose plane crashes in a howling wilderness. Soon, a pack of wolves are picking off the survivors one by one. Neeson tries to lead is little band to safety but he is no match for the environment and the movie ends with a terrifying confrontation between him and the head wolf.

Tony Scott’s Man On Fire is his masterpiece. Denzel Washington plays a burnt-out, depressed former CIA operative who hires on as a bodyguard to a rich Mexican family. At first, he’s barely hanging on. He tries to commit suicide. But his growing attachment to the little girl he’s guarding brings him out of his slump and gives him a reason to live. When kidnappers snatch her, “Creasy does what he does best,” in his pal Christopher Walken’s words. He goes on the warpath. This is a deeply satisfying thriller that hits all the right notes. It’s a tragedy that Tony Scott took his own life.

Pacing in Comics by Mike Baron

PACING IN COMICS

Many modern comics consist of single images occupying the entire page, or two or three panels switching from one flabbergasted expression to the next, with accompanying internal dialogue or explanations. Jim Shooter recently decried the decompression of the modern comic, by which he meant taking twenty-five pages of story and stretching it out over five issues. I concur with Big Jim. You can tell a lot of story on a page, if there is a lot of story to tell.

If you look at sixties Marvel comics, you will often find six or eight panel pages that advance the story. It’s not all Shakespeare, but there’s an effort to make the story fit the medium. Of course comics are a visual medium, which means they have to serve up exciting art. And who doesn’t love a full-page reveal of something shocking? But too often, that full page image is squandered on a talking head. Unless the talking head is spouting prose akin to Dostoevsky or Mark Twain, it is most often a waste of space. You advance the story in a series of panels that impart the illusion of motion.

This is particularly important in fight scenes, where the reader wants to see the action unfold in a clear and dynamic manner from panel to panel. I’ve enclosed a Steranko Nick Fury page that shows the action unfolding. The page is dynamic. It’s not static. When you come to a full page devoted to Hulk swinging his fist in an arc, with eight sets of feet flying off panel, you have come to a dead end. The page is infinitely malleable. You can offer a single panel, or you can offer a dozen.

Tastes have changed and today’s comic readers have been trained to accept less story in the sake of glorious art. If that’s what you want, God bless! But for anyone familiar with underground comics, and the work of R. Crumb or Gilbert Shelton, you know that you can tell a lot of story on a page. A comic story has a pulse and a beat like a good pop song. Sometimes you have to go for those big images, but if the whole comic consists of nothing but big images, you’re doing something wrong. By pulse and flow, I mean the story should speed up for the big images, but slow down for more intimate scenes that call for dialogue. It should contain a mix of multi-panel pages and few panel pages. The full page image is justified when you first glimpse a world of wonder, or you finally reveal the werewolf. But the rest of the time, you must engage the reader and trick him, her, or it into spending more time on each page. That calls for interesting captions or dialogue which advance the story or reveal character.

You know what I mean.

Mike Baron, Chapter Twelve, “Osceola Has Fallen”

CHAPTER TWELVE “Osceola Has Fallen”

As the artificial lights dimmed and the fairy bats emerged from their dens filling the night air with squeaks, Nexus entered a bubble of elucidation. He tried to keep up on current events but with over three hundred inhabited worlds representing dozens of different species, some of whom communicated via telepathy, high-pitched hums, beams of light, and spectrum far outside human experience, with thousands of competing news platforms, gossip sites, floggers, bloggers, and cloggers broadcasting in eighteen-thousand different languages and systems, it was difficult.

Nexus sat in a free-floating chair that looked like a giant tractor saddle, propped his chin up on his right hand and opened the news flow valves. Tyrone and Fuerzo had built a brain that scanned all channels, collecting stories most relevant, and sequencing them. The process never stopped. The news never stopped. And as always, if it bleeds, it leads. Thus they inserted something optimistic for every tenth story.

Nexus insisted on hearing bad news first. The program top-loaded news about humanity, with an algorithm that selected the others based on familiarity and relevance.

Space engulfed him as he looked down at a scene of unimaginable devastation, a land torn asunder so that it looked like crenelated charcoal, with shreds of trees and buildings scattered to the horizon, smoke rising everywhere, the pathetic screams of the injured issuing up, emergency vehicles flitting across the landscape like carrion flies.

“The scene is grim on Portlandia, which was impacted seventeen hours ago by a rogue meteorite,” a woman said. “The death count is in the thousands and is expected to rise through the night as rescuers work frantically to free those trapped in fallen housing. The meteor came out of nowhere. People had less than an hour to prepare. There are theories circulating that this is the work of terrorists using telekinetic powers. This is Nipsy Conniption for Galactic Tactic. We’ll be right back, but first a word from our sponsors.”

A grotesque clown spazzed across the stage to the dulcet lyrics of “Home Again, Naturally.”

“DO YOU SUFFER FROM DIARRHEA?”

Nexus switched to the next story.

LOST DOG RETURNS HOME 212 YEARS LATER.

He switched to the next story.

PARADIGM PROCLAIMS FOR PROGRESS.

He switched to the next story.

THRILL KILLERS STRIKE AGAIN.

The view showed a New York walk-up as it followed the stairs, first at a forty-five degree angle, then in spiral patterns, through the labyrinthine maze of a Manhattan apartment complex. The view zeroed in on an open apartment door, lit with red light from within, with a uniformed NYCPD standing at the entrance as two techs emerged carrying a body bag on a stretcher.

“The so-called Thrill Killers have struck, claiming the lives of a family of five here in the Soho Neighborhood.”

The view changed to two murky characters, obviously wearing body distortion hardware, as they entered the building. Nexus froze the image, lowered his visor but could derive no characteristics. They appeared as gray noise on a broken vid, emitting an irritating high-frequency hum.

“Police believe the Thrill Killers may be involved in up to nineteen homicides here in New York. They have nothing to do on except that there are two, and they appear to be the same size and share similar characteristics. If you have any information…”

Nineteen homicides? Chump change. He switched to another story.

THREE HEADED ALIEN ABDUCTS FIVE HEADED ALIEN.

The bubble evaporated, leaving him sitting in his office with Sundra standing in front of him.

“Din-din, Chico. She said. “Din-din.”

Inspiration by Mike Baron

INSPIRATION

I was inspired to write by John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee novels. You could call it pulp, or detective fiction. Like jazz and comics, it is a uniquely American invention. Edgar Allen Poe invented the detective story with his character C. Auguste Dupin in The Murders In the Rue Morgue. Poe wrote the rules. (1) The detective story must play fair. (2) The detective story must be readable.

There are several types of detective stories including the cozy and the locked room. The cozy usually involves an eccentric British woman sitting in her drawing room drawing conclusions. Frequently, her cat solves the crime. Sometimes it involves a fat armchair detective, such as Nero Wolfe. Every Nero Wolfe story contains at least one good recipe.

The locked room mystery is self-explanatory. How did the killer get into and out of the locked room to commit the murder?

That’s not the type of fiction I write. I try to write in MacDonald’s shadow, a rueful, realistic, sometimes brutal account that stares evil in the face. No one was able to touch the pulse of evil like MacDonald. His bad guys are stunningly realistic. My goal is to grab the reader by the throat and drag him, her, or it into the narrative so forcefully they forget they are reading a book.

I do this with a combination of characterization and action. Readers want someone with whom they can identify, or as Raymond Chandler put it, “But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”

He’s not always a nice guy. He can be a real wise ass, like Philip Marlowe or Spenser. Or he can be tightly self-contained, like Dan Simmons’ Joe Kurtz. My character, reformed motorcycle hoodlum Josh Pratt, is of the latter. When he was young, he spouted off a lot. But after a stint in prison, he’s learned humility and the value of holding his tongue.

While some of the stories involve motorcycle clubs, others delve into rock and roll. The list of rockers who ride bikes include Neal Pert, Billy Idol, Billy Duffy, Bruce Springsteen and many others. A lot of bikers work as roadies. Few other jobs allow them the freedom of their lifestyle. Thus it’s only natural that in Not Fade Away, the third Bad Road Rising novel, Josh Pratt takes a journey into the past, to discover the truth about legendary rocker Wes Magnum whose song “Marissa” has been co-opted by an insurance company. The real Marissa, the mother of his child, claims Wes gave the song to her. Josh’s journey takes him from the mansions of Bel Air to a marijuana grow op in the mountains of Colorado, and finally a confrontation with an insane, almost supernaturally deadly serial killer.

In Buffalo Hump, Josh hires on as security for a charismatic Sioux blues musician whose decision to play the opening of a new casino splits the tribe in two. Half the tribe welcomes the jobs and opportunity, while the other half decries the incursion of vice and increasing dependency. Both sides ride motorcycles.

Not Fade Away: http://a.co/d/fUx0pXm

Buffalo Hump will be released in February.

Bat Fan vs Fat Ban by Mike Baron

BAT FAN V. FAT BAN

By Mike Baron

This was it. Ragnarok, Armageddon, and Doomsday rolled into one. This was the premier of Batman: The Killer Croc’s Revenge, the latest installment in the greatest movie franchise of all time. Christian Bale as Batman. Gary Oldman as Chief Gordon. Lindsay Lohan as Rachel Dawes. And Sean Penn as Killer Croc.

Wayne Callard stood in line with 1500 other Bat Fans waiting for the Cinegrande Cineplex to open its doors. Wayne had been waiting in line for nineteen hours. He’d camped out on the sidewalk the previous night, swathing his bulk in two double-sized down-filled sleeping bags on a foam mattress. Wayne was five feet seven and weighed 350 lbs. He’d been born Cicero Wayne Callard.

“Man,” said Manny Ramirez standing next to Wayne and blowing on his hands, “I hope they open the doors soon! I could use a tube steak!” Manny wore Bat sneakers and a Batpack.

“Haven’t you heard?” Wayne said. “They pulled all the hot dogs. The fat content was too high.”

Manny regarded Wayne dubiously. “You’re shittin’ me.”

“No sir. The mayor signed the executive order yesterday. He doubled the food tax on all fast food items and mandated the removal of such items as hot dogs, French fries, jalapeno poppers, and deep fried cheese curds.”

“You gotta be shittin’ me!” Manny wailed. “What kind of dumb fuck would do that?”

“An overreaching municipal, state, and federal government that seeks to control all aspects of our lives and treat us like children.”

“I been thinkin’ about that hot dog all night! It’s the only thing that kept me going!”

“Hang, bro,” Wayne said. “I got you covered.”

A shout. A huzzah rose up the line. They had opened the doors. It was ten-thirty in the morning. Excitement was palpable among the faithful, overwhelmingly comprised of adolescent boys with a few sullen adults shepherding their cubs and hapless girlfriends in tow.

Two security guards met them at the door. “Please deposit all liquids, foods, and recording devices here. Sir, would you mind opening your coat?”

Wayne dutifully spread wide his bulky pea coat revealing a round mound covered with a nicely pilled argyle sweater that had belonged to his grandfather. The guard looked away and waved him through.

“Sir, would you mind opening your backpack?” the guard said to Manny.

Manny slipped it off and flipped open the lid. “It’s a Batpack.”

Tickets were nine dollars for the eleven o’clock matinee, twelve dollars for shows after noon. Wayne got his ticket and waited for Manny in the lobby where the snack counter was doing a brisk business in popcorn made with sunflower oil and available with virgin olive oil, tofu on a stick, and fruit smoothies.

Manny entered the lobby. “Ahmina get a Coke and some buttered popcorn, okay?”

“There is no buttered popcorn. It’s available with sunflower oil and olive oil.”

Manny’s jaw crushed a toe. He looked toward the refreshment counters which resembled festival seating at a Who concert. He resigned himself to water. Wayne took off at flank speed. It was imperative to GET YOUR SEATS FIRST and fish for food second. By the time Wayne and Manny gained the theater, the plum rows eight through twelve were taken with sniveling, squirming, texting, snarfing boys and men in a state of perpetual shiftiness emitting a low rumble of conversation punctuated by invective.

Wayne took the third seat in the 13th row except it was labeled the 14th to avoid the onus of superstition. Manny sat on the aisle. The big screen showed a ruddy, cheerful Santa Claus in coitus with a reindeer, guzzling Coke and shouting, “Shake, it Prancer, you hot bitch!” It was a Very Special Christmas.

During the trailer for Punisher IV, Marvel 0, a flat top and his date, who look4ed like Betty from Betty & Veronica, entered the aisle causing Manny to swing his legs to the side. Wayne had to stand and even then it was like squeezing by a mattress stuck in the doorway.

“Do you smell McDonald’s” Betty whispered to her date.

“Shhh!” Wayne shushed. Dude gave him the stink eye but Wayne ignored him. The troublesome couple sat three seats away. They watched a trailer for Zits, the new Will Ferrell comedy in which he plays a child/man forced to grow up when he takes over the family summer camp. They watched a trailer for Grits, the new Adam Sandler comedy in which he plays a child/man forced to grow up when he takes over the family plantation. They watched a trailer for Pits, the new Ben Stiller comedy about black holes.

Finally, after ads for plastic surgery and whole grain crust chicken and sun-dried tomato pizza, the lights lowered and the feature began. Manny stared at the screen in fascination until the smell of a Big Mac got his attention. Wayne nudged him and passed over a Big Mac.

“What? How?” Manny said, pleased and delighted.

Wayne reached down and pulled a portion of his belly away from himself like a lid. “Prosthetic belly,” he whispered. “Costume store. Got the Big Macs last night in Jersey. Kept ‘em warm with body heat.”

“Shhhh!” Betty shushed harshly.

I know what you’re thinkin’, Wayne thought to himself. In all the confusion, did he pull out two burgers, or three? The question you’ve got to ask yourself, lady, is do you feel lucky?

Batman had a utility belt. Wayne had a prosthetic belly.

Wayne and Manny ate their burgers. Dude immediately in front of Wayne turned in his seat. He had a buzz cut and a ring in one ear and through his nose. “Dude, like that burger you’re eating is totally horrendous. Take it outside, why don’tcha?”

Other young men swiveled to see the object of wrath. Wayne deftly tucked the rest of the Big Mac into his cavernous maw, chewed and swallowed. Reaching into an inside pocket of his pea coat he withdrew a canned Coke, popped the lid and drank copiously. He belched like the Mother of All Bullfrogs. He rolled it out like a black furry carpet. It just kept on rolling. The belch caromed off the ceiling frieze and tumbled ‘round the room.

Onscreen, Batman foiled an attempt by the Punisher to crash his movie.

Buzz Cut jabbed a finger at Wayne. “Why don’t you get up off your fat ass and go sit somewhere else?”

“Yeah!” said his sidekick, Li’l BC.

With a sigh Wayne heaved himself to his feet and motioned for Manny to do likewise. He had not come to rumble with Nazis. He had come to see the movie. He and Manny moved further upslope until they found two seats in the narrow aisle next to the wall.

Onscreen, terrorists had taken over Gotham Tower and were jamming all radio, internet, and short wave transmissions. In the theater, a gang of twenty-something boys sitting behind Wayne and Manny had seized control of the 18th row and jammed transmissions from the screen by hooting, making noises, and throwing Junior Mints.

A Junior Mint bounced off the back of Wayne’s basketball-sized head. Wayne slowly swiveled with a steely glare. The obstreperous ones studiously watched the screen on which Bruce Wayne was fending off Poison Ivy’s attentions.

Another Junior Mint sailed past. Giggles emanated from the 18th row. Wayne didn’t bother to turn and look. With a sigh of resignation, he gripped his arm rests and heaved himself from his seat. My city bleeds, he thought. He ponderously made his way up the aisle toward the 18th row.

“Oh oh,” they joked. “Look out now, here he comes!”

“Beware the Fat Fury!”

Wayne wondered if the benighted ones were even familiar with Herbie Popnecker. Without looking at them Wayne reached the 19th row and turned in. He sat behind what he took to be the ringleader, a dude in an Oakland hoodie, pants down his ass and BKs on the back of the seats in front of him as if he weren’t the issue of wealthy white mandarins on the Upper West Side.

“You smell something?” the White Negro said.

“Yeah,” said one of his minions. “Something stinks.”

The White Negro turned to confront Wayne, whose knees were up against the back of the seat. “Whassup, you fat faggot? Why don’tcha move your bulk somewhere else, know what I’m sayin’?”

Wayne reached into his belly prosthetic and brought forth a halogen flashlight and a water pistol filled with dog urine. “Please turn around and enjoy the movie for which you paid nine dollars.”

Onscreen, Batman confronted a crazed Killer Croc in the act of planting a bomb.

Offscreen, the White Negro said, “Or what? You gonna make me?”

Wayne turned the flashlight on the White Negro’s face. He squirted dog urine on the White Negro’s shirt.

“There,” Wayne said. “Now you have a smell to complain about.”

The White Negro heaved himself over the back of his seat and attacked Wayne with both hands, delivering blow after blow to Wayne’s prosthetic belly. The White Negro’s fist penetrated several of the twelve thumbtacks Wayne and pushed through the front of his sweater. Stinking of dog urine, the White Negro stared in horror at his bleeding fists.

The manager, a pale young man with a ponytail, came up the stairs with his own flashlight which he shined on the whole sorry scene. He sniffed. “Okay, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you all to leave. Your ticket money will be refunded out front in the lobby. Let’s go.”

The White Negro turned on him in wounded innocence. “But we didn’t do anything! This fat fuck started messing with us!”

Wayne remained seated. “They threw Junior Mints at the back of my head. I’m sure a police search will reveal the Mints.”

“What’s that smell?” the manager said.

“Smells like dog piss,” one of the minions said. He had the makings of a fine detective.

“All right, that’s it,” said the manager with newly found authority. “Out of here right now or I’ll stop the film, turn up the lights and call the cops.”

There was some grumbling but when two more ushers appeared with flashlights on the landing below the White Negro resignedly got to his feet and led his minions out the door. “It sucks anyway.”

The manager turned his flashlight on Wayne. Wayne turned his flashlight on the manager. “You too,” the manager said.

“Moi?” Wayne said. “I have troubled no one. I have thrown Junior Mints at no one. I merely seek to watch the movie which is ruined for me now, ruined I say because of incessant interruptions and the obstreperous and contumacious nature of your clientele.”

“Let’s go,” the manager said. “You can get a refund in the lobby.”

Wayne rose with dignity. “Fine,” he said and waddled down the stairs, pausing only to glance at Manny, who dutifully joined him. The two lads soon found themselves nine dollars richer individually and out on the street.

“Now what do we do?” Manny said.

Gazing at a poster for The Bourne Natural Killers, Wayne deduced their next move. “Come on. We’ll make our own movie. We’ll shoot it on my phone.”

Disco by Mike Baron

DISCO

I write grim stuff. No getting around it. My Bad Road Rising series, featuring reformed motorcycle hoodlum Josh Pratt, is rife with beat-downs, murders, and foul language. My wife Ann doesn’t read novels. She’s only seen three movies in her whole life, and two of them were The Sound Of Music, which she saw twice.

One day she said, “Why don’t you write something I can read?”

We love our dogs. Many dog lovers love their dogs so much they want to do books about them. Some do. My local Barnes & Noble features hundreds of titles devoted to individual dogs.

I started tossing discs to my dog Lucy in Wisconsin. Lucy was a big mutt of unknown provenance, but she grabbed big air when she snatched the disc. We call them discs because Frisbee is a copyrighted name of the Wham-O Corporation, and we don’t always use Frisbees. Because of Lucy, I became interested in the Skyhoundz World Championship and the Frisbee Dog World Championship, also known as the Ashley Whippet Invitational.

Both competitions feature the “freestyle,” in which human and dog do a routine set to music involving somersaults, aerial jumps and fancy throws. The other major event is the distance throw, which currently stands at 402 feet.

The story grew in my mind of a boy from a broken family, whose mother moves from town to town looking for a stable situation, and how he adopts a mongrel pup and learns, by accident, that the pup has an affinity for snatching discs out of the air. It took me twenty years to get around to writing it. Ann’s suggestion that I write something she could read did the trick.

Liberty Island will release Disco at the end of November.

Mike Baron’s DISCO is such an unexpected delight – it’s a story with both heart and warmth that also pulls no punches, and is, simply, a pleasure to read.” – James A. Owen, author Of HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS

How to change a tire by Mike Baron

HOW TO CHANGE A TIRE

I ain’t the handiest guy in the world, but I know how to change a tire. A lot of new cars don’t come with a spare. If you get a flat, you’re shit outta luck. Better have one of those plug-in tire repair kits so you can hobble to the next service station. I also know how to drive a stick shift. Growing up on the flat eastern plains of South Dakota, my friends and I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel, so much so, that we would routinely “borrow” our parents’ cars late at night to get the hang of it.

It was a car culture. My best friend’s dad always had copies of Road & Track and Car And Driver in his clinic office. He was a successful doctor who also owned several hot cars including a Ferrari, which he let me drive once.

“I think eighty is fast enough, Mike.”

Doctor Delaney also had a Mercedes 300 and a humongous Dodge with a hemi.

I love shifting the gears, matching revs on downshifts, feeling the engine hit its torque curve. It’s a joy to feel part of the mechanical apparatus that moves you through the countryside, and the joy is greater when you ride a motorcycle, because instead of being sealed off from the land in an enclosed steel cage, you are part of the countryside.

I love the smell of gas.

These days, most cars have automatic transmissions, rear view cameras, devices that correct the steering if you nod off and fail to notice you’re about to rear end a semi. People refer to manual transmissions as millennial anti-theft devices, and there’s some truth there. A lot of kids are leery of driving and in no hurry to get their licenses, partly because of stupid propaganda demonizing internal combustion engines. All progress comes at a price. The internal combustion engine has been one of the greatest boons to mankind since the invention of the wheel. For every person who dies in a car crash, a thousand have been transported swiftly and safely to hospital emergency rooms for everything from pregnancy to heart attacks. Fresh water and medicine travel to disaster areas via internal combustion engines.

Those who want us to emulate Europe with mass transit don’t understand what makes America unique. Part of it is freedom. The freedom to hop on your bike, or into your car, and go wherever the hell you please. America is a huge country with vast distances, especially out here in the West. Mass transit works great in dense urban areas, not so much in the West.

Today’s risk-adverse yoot are not buying motorcycles. Scary! There used to be numerous monthly general purpose motorcycle magazines. Now there are two quarterlies, Motorcyclist and Cycle World, and neither has anything of interest. Motorcycle manufacturers don’t vomit forth dozens of new models each year as they did in the past.

But like the horse and comic books, motorcycles will never disappear because they have their enthusiasts. I hope they will make a comeback.

To change a flat tire, you loosen the lug nuts before you apply the jack. Jack the wheel off the ground, replace it, gently screw in the lug nuts, then lower the car back to the ground. Once it is on its full weight, you tighten the lug nuts.

Weasel Words by Mike Baron

WEASEL WORDS

In the never-ending battle to obscure or ameliorate whatever it is they want to say, certain parties have infected the English language with weasel words. When my dog Freddie was dying from heat stroke, the veterinarian at CSU said the test results were very “concerning.” He said it over and over again. I wanted to strangle him. If Freddie was dying, why didn’t he just say so?

Some find words empowering. I find the word empowering debilitating. Don’t trot out those dictionary definitions! I’m warning you, do not do it! But I must. I feel empowered. To empower: “authorize, entitle, permit, allow, license, sanction, warrant, commission, delegate, qualify, equip.” Well how empowering can it be if another party has to do it for you? I’ll do it myself without your help, thank you very much.
But is my empowerment sustainable? What does sustainable mean?

The ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed. Environmental Science. the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance: The committee is developing sustainability standards for products that use energy.

“To be sustained.” There’s that passive tense again, blithely ignorant of Newton’s Laws of Physics. The first law of thermodynamics, also known as Law of Conservation of energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. In other words, energy cannot be created or destroyed. Are electric cars sustainable? From where does the energy come? Could it come from coal-burning power plants? Perhaps it comes from nuclear power plants. We all know that nuclear power plants lead to world-wide disaster and death, except for those nuclear power plants that power most of France.

The US has 99 nuclear power reactors in 30 states, operated by 30 differenT power companies, and in 2017 they produced 805 TWh. Since 2001 these plants have achieved an average apacity factor of over 90%, generating up to 807 TWh per year and accounting for about 20% of total electricity generated.
Is it sustainable? You be the judge.

I love Judge Judy. Whenever a litigant says, “Basically,” Judge Judy interrupts.
“NO BASICALLY. Just tell me what happened.”
The word basically needs to go the way of the dodo.

Likewise “literally.” When you use the word “literally,” you sound like a fool.
And “undocumented immigrants.” And the word “optics.” One day the media rose up as one and decided that the “optics” would replace appearances. They think it makes them sound smart. Optics means, “The scientific study of sight and the behavior of light, or the properties of transmission and deflection of other forms of radiation.”
When I watch a show on On Demand, they warn me that “fast forward and other functionality may not be available.” Functionality? What the fuck? What’s wrong with functions? And “may not be available?” It’s never available. Like those car ads that say, “available 800 horsepower engine.” That means you gots to pay extra.

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.