Thursday, December 31, 2009

Scratch Another Calendar

So long, 2009. Hello 2010. Hope everyone had a decent Xmas. I just got home from five days in a cabin with some other scruffy old farts for a semi-annual gathering called Tankon. Four out of the five nights I woke up freezing my arms off and as a result have a chest cold. Nevertheless, a good and lazy time was had by all. I read three books, saw about a dozen movies, and wrote one apazine.

Xmas was fine, too.

I just wanted to say Happy New Year to all before it hits midnight here. I'll probably be fast asleep when the new year arrives, and glad of it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Festivus

Happy Festivus to all. May your aluminum pole be bright and your grievances unending.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Remembering John

Each year on this date I take time to remember John Lennon. I listen to his songs, play a few of them on my guitar, and think about how much my own life was enriched because of him and The Beatles. Thank you, John.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Happy Birthday Kristine

My baby turned 19 today. Seems like last week we were playing Minnie Slides and Super Wheeze and I read her stories and nursery rhymes at night. She's blossomed into a bright, talented, lovely young lady and I'm mighty proud of her.

Happy Birthday Uncle Georgie

On this day in 1839 George Armstrong Custer entered the world in New Rumley, Ohio. He went on to become a hero of the Civil War and a legend after his defeat and death at the Little Big Horn in 1876.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Story With No Name, Chapter 18

Arnside washed the trail dust from his hands and face at a watering trough, beat the dirt from his clothes with his hat, and strode into Molly's Cafe with hunger tearing at his belly like cats in a sack.
"I'll have whatever's ready," he told the plump, smiling waitress, "and a pitcher of water, please."
She took one look at his red, chapped skin and peelings lips and hustled off, returning moments later with a large blue ewer and a tin tumbler. Walt filled the tumbler with shaking hands, drank deeply, and sighed.
"Appears like you haven't drunk nothin' in a month of Sundays, mister."
"Feels like it, too, darling. Are you Molly?"
"She's the owner, cook, and my ma. I'm Gretchen. I'll fetch that food now. I hope stew's okay."
Before Walt could answer she scurried away and was back in two shakes with a large bowl of steaming mulligan, napkin and utensils, and basket of bread.
"Anything interesting happen in these parts?" he asked around a mouthful of stew. The juice burned the roof of his mouth but after what he'd been through a little heat was like an old friend.
"Interesting? Our marshal got his head busted and had to get shipped off to a home for the feeble-minded, our undertaker had a bunch of fingers broke, and an old prospector was in earlier swearin' he saw The Magi riding across the desert. Says it means the Second Coming is nigh and we'd all best prepare our souls."
Walt grinned at the girl's recitation and tucked back into his meal. When he finished he left a half dollar on the table, twice what the meal cost, and strode out to find a quiet saloon. A whiskey would satisfy right handsome about now, he allowed.
He took three steps down the boardwalk when the import of the girl's story slammed him like the board that sent Marshal Stryker to the drool academy. He ran back into Molly's and grabbed Gretchen by her shoulders.
"That sourdough, where can I find him?"
"Tell me!"
"Stop it, you're hurting me."
Walt loosened his grip. "Sorry, Gretchen. I need to find that prospector, right away."
She thought for a moment, tongue out. "He has a shack behind the saddle shop. If he ain't there try The Silver Palace saloon."
Arnside raced off.
He found the shack where Gretchen said it would be, but no one answered his knock. Should have tried the saloon first, he chided himself.
Walt stood at the bat wings of The Silver Palace and scanned the room before entering. Wouldn't pay to have some of Zack Roden's men inside. His glance fell on a table at the center of the room where a shabby old cuss was regaling the room with a story, much to their amusement.
"I tell ya', I seen 'em with my own eyes. Long-legged critters with necks long as stovepipes and backs like anthills, just a-lumbering across the sands like they owned the desert. I seen a picture once of the three magi when they come calling on baby Jesus and they was riding the same critters. If that don't prove it, I don't know what does."
"Sure, Gabe, sure. Have another drink. Maybe you'll tell us about seeing the Noah's Ark next."
The crowd burst out laughing. Gabe jumped to his feet and pushed through the men having a laugh at his expense. He nearly plowed Walt Arnside down as he crashed out of the saloon.
"Whoa, there, old timer. What the rush?"
"Dang-blasted fools. Wouldn't know the truth if it crawled up their dumb asses."
Walt laid a comforting arm on old Gabe's shoulder. "Why not tell me your story? I'm the believing kind."
"Can't talk on a dry throat, pardner. Let's mosey up the street and find a joint where we can dip a bill in peace."
With a bottle between them and each man holding a full shot glass, Gabe proposed a toast.
"Here's how."
"Now, about the magi. . ." Arnside prompted.
"Yesterday, I was coming back from digging in the Mohawk Mountains when I seen a passel of riders out in the Yuma Desert. Makes no sense. Nothin' there but sand and snakes. No water for a hundred miles. Even the A-patch go 'round it."
Gabe refilled his glass and continued. "They was maybe six or seven on horses, but the others were ridin' those Bible animals like I seen in the picture. Four of them, they was."
"Was one a woman?"
"Too far to tell, even with my spyglass."
"Any Indians?"
"Nope. Like I said, the A-patch got more sense than to go out there."
"Can you tell me how to find this place, Gabe?"
"Sure. Might as well. The world'll end soon enough anyway."
Armed with a detailed description of how to find the last place Roden, Lola and the others had been spotted--assuming Bourbon allowed them to live--Arnside stepped from the saloon and aimed himself toward the stable.
"You!" a voice cried. "You do this!"
He turned to see Choo How pointing at Walt with his bandaged hand. Behind the Chinaman, a crowd began to grow.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

There's Good News Tonight

As my backache slowly heals I have two things to celebrate tonight.

1) The University of Washington Huskies declawed the Washington State University Cougars 30-0 in the Apple Cup.  If I recall correctly, that puts the Huskies ahead 65-31-6 in the 102-year history of the in-state rivalry.

2) Less than five minutes after I sat down at a slot machine at the Emerald Queen Casino I won $153 and change.

Last night I finished my chapter in the round robin western story yclept The Story With No Name. It will be published Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wahl, Let Me Tell Ya', Pilgrim...

      In about 80 minutes it will be Thanksbuddy, so I'd like to take a moment to wish all who read this pathetic blog a happy day and sumptuous feast. Since I can't find either of my Marx pioneers carrying game birds, I'll present a small tableau of two Indian ladies--one with a papoose--preparing dinner. The woman with the papoose and the animal on a spit are by Atlantic, an Italian figure maker. The woman with the bowl, standing, is from Marx.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Favorite TV Show

As part of the blog-world-wide attempt to discuss our favorite TV shows, I'm adding my voice to the chorus. Frankly, Pattinase took my first choice, LEAVE TO BEAVER. But when I thought it over there was another show that was more of a must-see for me in my pre-teen days: GUNSMOKE

I have to qualify that a bit. My favorite GUNSMOKE shows were the episodes with Chester, 1955-1964.  The show lasted an incredible 20 years (1955-1975) although the star, James Arness, was frequently a cameo in many of the later years.

The series took place in Dodge City, Kansas, after the Civil War, and in the days of the trail drives from Texas to the Kansas railheads. Marshall Matt Dillon (Arness), his deputy Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver), Miss Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake), and Doctor Galen "Doc" Adams (Milburn Stone), provided the nexus for the stories. GUNSMOKE, along with THE LIFE AND LEGEND OF WYATT EARP (which premiered the same week), were the first adult TV westerns and portrayed gritty violence absent from shows like THE LONE RANGER and HOPALONG CASSIDY--shows I also loved. I recall one episode in which a gang of killers is running rampant through the countryside wiping out entire farm families and trying to make it look like the work of Indians, including murdering and scalping children. Matt and Chester eventually confront the bad guys and shoot them down like the dogs they were, Chester's shotgun being very effective in the close quarter lead fest. Heady stuff, and it taught me a valuable lesson: no mercy for evil killers.

GUNSMOKE started out as a radio show, with William Conrad as the voice of Matt. The rotund, short Conrad, while a fine actor, wasn't right for the TV version of Matt and the role was offered to John Wayne. The Duke didn't want to do televison and suggested his friend James Arness, a 6'7" actor who'd played supporting parts in a couple of John Wayne movies and was the monster in THE THING. After a slow first season the show picked up steam and was soon number one in the ratings.

Over the years a lot of supporting roles came and went. When Chester left he was replaced by Ken Curtis as Festus Hagen (another guy who'd played parts in Wayne movies, as well as doing a stint in The Sons of the Pioneers). Sam the bartender was played by Glenn Strange, who once portrayed Frankenstein. Burt Reynolds showed up for three seasons as a blacksmith.

Perhaps one of my sentimental favorites was Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty, the owner of the Long Branch Saloon and Matt's paramour. I wasn't interested in girls at that young age, but Miss Kitty stirred something in my child's mind that made me admire her greatly. It's no accident that the female lead in my first book is named Amanda. I was saddened when I learned she died from AIDS contracted from her bi-sexual husband.

For the first six years of its existence GUNSMOKE was a 30-minute show, in glorious black & white. Color came along in the middle sixties. I believe many of the scripts from these 30-minute episodes were cribbed from the radio incarnation. You might remember Matt walking through Boot Hill, his voiceover setting up the premise for that evening's telecast. Or maybe you remember the show's opening of the gunfight, or Matt riding hell for leather across the plains. Since Arness didn't much like horses, that must have been a fun shoot for him. BYW, Matt's horse was named Buck.

Another sharp memory for me was watching the show the two years we lived at Rosewood Lane in Denbigh, Virginia. In order to get the prime seat in the rec room (a converted garage) I'd stake out my spot early. That meant I had to endure my father's weekly viewing of THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW. For this little rock 'n' roller, that was dedication.

PS: Marx made a GUNSMOKE playset with character figures of Matt, Chester, Miss Kitty, and Doc. For some reason it included a mining operation.

Friday, November 20, 2009

They're Out To Get Me

Three--count 'em--three different drivers tried to run into me today. I know most people can't drive for squat, but this was a red letter day for them. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned it being my birthday yesterday. Apparently there's a plot afoot to see that I never have another one.

If you need me for anything else I'll be in my room. In bed. Under the covers.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It Comes But Once a Year.

Happy 39th Birthday to me, again. It's a rotten day for celebrating: stormy, cold, and both my girls are sick. No big plans. Dinner, maybe a trip to the casino.

In lieu of gifts please send a cash donation to The Cap'n Bob Relief Fund c/o this blog.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Happy Vet's Day

Here's a salute from the Cap'n to my brother and sister veterans. Pictured at left is Le, the mascot of my old unit in Viet Nam at Base Camp Bearcat, the 595th Engineer  Company (LE). I remember three distinct things about this old mule: 1) He was mean, 2) He was tethered at the end of a 50' rope and allowed to graze in an abandoned company area across from ours, and 3) He was promoted ahead of me.
He was later sent to Fort Riley, Kansas, and from the photo it seems he was promoted again, to sergeant. If you look closely you can see the Engineer castle insignia on his blanket.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Clay Burnham

Steve Kaye, of Beaverton, Oregon, writes as Clay Burnham. After much seeking I found his third Western from Black Horse, Bloody Montana. (Black Horse Western, 2005, hc.)

Rafe McDonough is lost in a Montana blizzard and close to freezing when he comes across the corpse of a man who'd been shot and left on the trail. Since Rafe doesn't have warm clothing and the corpse does, Rafe helps himself to the unfortunate's thick coat and warm hat, thus saving his own life. Later, when Rafe finds a town, he's mistaken for the dead man because of the telltale attire, a situation which causes quite a stir among the locals. Even when they realize he's not the murdered man, his refusal to depart with the noteworthy duds creates serious trouble. He takes it upon himself to discover why people are so afraid of the dead man, and who left the body out in the snow. Also, he finds a letter on the corpse addressed to Clara, whom none of the locals know, and Rafe wants to locate her because it seems like the right thing to do.

In addition to the mystery of the dead man, Rafe has to decide which of the two women who show interest in him to pick--the gal who runs the restaurant or the lady rancher who seems to hire men who twirl sixguns instead of ropes. There's also a crazy coot roaming the hills and the question of why some people are so interested in what seems to be worthless property. Burnham keeps the action flowing and fleshes out the characters fully in the scant 160 pages he's allowed. His prose flows effortlessly and evokes the spirit of the Old West. He handles action or romance with equal skill. It would be nice if an American publisher would pick up the Clay Burnham books so more of his countrymen could enjoy his work.

Black Horse creates a handsome package, too. Their covers are reminiscent of classic pulp work. Instead of loose dust wrappers, the covers are attached and laminated. Check 'em out.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Looking for something to read on your Kindle? My first book, Love, Death and the Toyman, is now on Kindle via Amazon and can be downloaded (if that's how it works) for a mere $3.00. Such a deal. Such a chance for me to monetize.

As I type this the Phillies are losing to NY in the fourth game of the World Series. Horrors!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Belated Notice

I'm mortified. On Monday the 26th my number one daughter turned 20. I had to work a 12-hour shift that day and we celebrated over the weekend, and I didn't do any blogging that night, so I forgot to mention it. I feel awful. So Happy Birthday Stephanie with all my love.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vive la France

From USA Today: "A Paris court convicted the Church of Scientology of fraud and fined it more than $900,000, but it stopped short of banning the group's activities."

     Good for France. It's a shame the spineless courts in this country can't do something to stem the outrageous behavior of that horrid cult.

On another topic, today marks 33 years of selfless service for Uncle Sam. If you want to know the secret of my longevity it's simple: I pace myself.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

World Series Chat

I didn't post my World Series hopes/predictions sooner but so far it's following my wishes. I wanted the Phillies to win and they did, rather handily to my surprise. I want the Yankees to beat the hated Angels, then I want the Phillies to win it all. Time will tell, and I'll be watching.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Super Circus

     The Marx Super Circus playset was based on the TV show of the same name. Marx also released the set as The Big Top, perhaps without the character figures. Super Circus ran on ABC-TV Sunday afternoons from 1949-1955. It featured real circus acts presented by ringmaster Claude Kirschner and his leggy assistant Mary Hartline. The three clowns in this set are (l-r) Scampy (Sandy Dobritsch), Cliffy (Clifford Soubier), and Nicky (Nicky Francis). The show originated in Chicago but later moved to New York.
     The Marx Playset is a beatifully-crafted set, with a huge tin litho big top and another tin litho sideshow. The sideshow features a snake charmer, Siamese twins, fat lady, sword swallower, hula girl, Mr. & Mrs. Tom Thumb, and barker. The big top features the usual circus acts--lion tamer, trapeze artists, tightrope walker, clowns, elephants, horses, and so on. There are also patrons and a nice set of figures showing a cop catching a kid peeking under the canvas. Once set up it's a large and impressive array.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Reading Habits

This has been wending its way around a number of blogs. My turn.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack:

No. I might have a bottle of caffiene-free Diet Pepsi around, but when I'm reading I'm too engrossed to eat.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?

People who mark up books should be drawn and quartered. I don't do it. If I want to make a note I write on my bookmark.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?

As the previous answer suggests, I use bookmarks. I have a lot of real bookmarks, but I tend to use a folded Post-It note or a business card.

Fiction, nonfiction, or both?

Mostly fiction. I might read three nonfiction books a year unless there are spate of them on a pet subject that catch my eye all at once.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere?

End of chapter unless I'm reading in bed and fall asleep in the middle of a chapter, or I'm reading at work and have to stop to do something job related.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

Once in a while. I can usually extrapolate its meaning from the context of the story.

What are you currently reading?

Oddly enough, a nonfiction book called The Doolittle Raid, by Carroll V. Glines. A couple of months ago I had the honor of meeting three surviving members of The Doolittle Raid, which inspired me to read more about it. I bought three books, and have already finished Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, by Capt. Ted Lawson. I'm also reading The Dead Man's Brother, by Roger Zelazny, and Bluefeather Fellini in the Sacred Realm, by Max Evans.

What is the last book you bought?

I just got back from the store and picked up Utah Outlaws, by Jon Sharpe--#336 in The Trailsman series--and .45-Caliber Firebrand, by Peter Brandvold.

Are you the type of person that reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one?

I prefer one, but I can manage two. Usually one at work and one at home. I have three going now because one didn't grab me that much and I keep going back to it bit by bit.

Do you have a favorite time/place to read?

No. I try to get in a little reading at bedtime, but otherwise I grab the time when I can.

Do you prefer series books or stand alones?

Series, but I'll read stand alones.

Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?

I'm always glad to recommend Raymond Chandler. I'd add Bill Pronzini, Max Allan Collins, Bill Crider, James Reasoner, Robert B. Parker, Ed Gorman, Loren Estleman, Richard S. Wheeler, and about fifty others. A newcomer named Lisa Black is damn good, too.

How do you organize your books?(by genre, title, author’s last name, etc.)

Organize? Hahahahaha! The Collyer Brothers were better organized.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I've spent much of the past two days getting this new computer up and running. Much of that time was devoted to getting the darn thing to hook up with the router downstairs. I've just finished installing the printer/scanner/ fax, and that was another hair-pulling treat. With luck I'm over the worst of the problems and can get back to some more entertaining blogging. I still need to give Robert Horton and Ward Bond eyeballs, and I have some other Marx character figures to show you.

Today also marks the end of a ten-day hiatus from work. Getting up early will be hard, come morning.

Classes start today for my two college girls. I wish them luck and good grades. 

I've been reading a lot of Trailsman books lately. These are entertaining, well-written, breezy stories about Skye Fargo, a leather-clad stud who travels the Old West busting baddies and bedding babes. Just the ticket if you don't want to get bogged down with dense, ponderous tomes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

One Moment, Please

I've been trying to get my new computer set up and as feared I'm having trouble getting the darn thing to pick up the router signal, so I can't get on line with it. Two trips to my server's HQ netted me nothing, but they have been very helpful. Tomorrow I'm taking the tower, which is about the size of the UN building, to Net Venture's shop and see what they can do. The problem seems to be that the unit is so new they don't have any references for it. I'm using Kristine's computer for now, but it doesn't have all my bookmarks and handy widgets. I don't even know if this will post.

I can use the computer for other things, f course. I've watched a movie, listened to music, worked on my OWLHOOT zine, and played a lot of games. I haven't played chess in decades, but I regularly beat the computer. Obviously it wa not programmed by Mr. Spock.

Went to the casino today and bet 75 cents on a slot machine spin. I had five Scatters pop up and won $150. Hee-Haw!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sunrise, Sunset

This morning we drove the baby to Seattle, where she will start college. What an empty home this is now. Seems like only last week she was starting pre-school. Here are photos of Kristine at 22 months and 18 years. Where did the time go?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Story With No Name, Part 8

There's a round robin story wending its way through various blogs and I foolishly agreed to take a turn. You can see the other seven parts by looking at Dave Lewis's excellent blog: Here's my shot:

Marshal Heck Stryker grunted.

“I’ll get rich charging folks four bits a head to watch you hang.”

“Chicken feed,” Walt said. “I’m talking about millions in Spanish gold. You’ll live like the Duke of Prussia.”


Arnside sighed. “No matter. What matters is I can find that treasure ship. Throw in with me and you share the bounty.”

Stryker screwed his face into a contemplative mask, which made him look dumber than usual.

“If you’re worried about Zack Roden,” Walt said, “we can sneak away tonight. By the time he learns we’re gone he’ll be picking breakfast from his teeth. Besides, he won’t know where we’re headed.”

Stryker smiled like a bullfrog who’d speared a fly. “It’s a deal, but heed me. I’ll tote your gun. If you even think about crossing me I’ll sink you with your own lead.”

“Done. Now, loose me from this stink hole.”

Stryker led Walt to the rear of Choo How’s Mortuary, cutting through back alleys in order not to be seen. They entered the unlocked rear entrance. Choo was in the room where he built caskets, laughing .

“Evening, Choo,” the burly marshal said.

Choo jumped up. The laughter ceased. An expression of wide-eyed shock replaced his normally inscrutable countenance. Choo quickly pasted on a smile and kowtowed to the occidentals.

“Ah, marshal, you scare Choo.”

Walt stepped forward. “Where’s the body of Silas Bartlett. He was killed in the attack on the train, burned up pretty bad.”

Choo’s smile widened. “Poor man. Back side all black. Front not so bad.”

“Where’s is he?” Stryker demanded.

Choo indicated a plank coffin, nothing like the opulence Bartlett enjoyed in life. Stryker and Arnside pried the lid off. Bartlett was sunk deeply into rough batting obviously arranged to hide charred flesh. He wore a broadcloth suit, white shirt with celluloid collar, and red vest. Shined boots covered his feet.

Stryker rifled Bartlett’s pockets. Nothing.

“Where’s his goods, Choo?”

Choo fetched a small wooden box.

Walt went through this. Empty wallet, turnip watch, insignificant papers.

“Something wrong?” Stryker asked.

“There’s no map.”

Stryker turned on Choo. “Well, Chinaman?”

“Choo no see.”

Stryker grabbed Choo’s left hand and bent the pinkie finger back. A sharp snap brought an agonized scream from the smaller man.

“The map?”

Give Choo credit, he didn’t surrender the map easily. Stryker broke three of Choo’s fingers and a thumb first.

Outside, Stryker and Arnside made their way to the livery stable. The dead drunk hostler was deaf to the sounds of the men saddling their horses.

“We’ll tie the horses behind the jail. I got supplies in there I keep handy,” Stryker said.

Ten minutes later, with a sack of provisions tied to Walt’s saddle, Stryker turned to his new partner and smiled his ugly smile. “No use waiting,” he said. “Time to dissolve the partnership.”

Walt looked at the .44 aimed at his gut. “Knew you’d show your colors, just didn’t expect it so soon. Go ahead and shoot. Wake Roden.”

Stryker held the revolver steady as he slid a Green River knife from a sheath on his belt.

“Reckon this’ll take you out quieter.”

He took a step towards Walt. The leering lawman’s advance stopped when he heard a wet splat. Then he felt what caused it. His knees buckled and a moment later he was face down in the dust.

Walt looked at the marshal’s recumbent form, then beyond it. There stood Lola, a length of lumber in her hands dripping goo.

“Okay, cowboy, let’s ride.”

Walt gathered Stryker’s weapons and mounted up. Lola climbed aboard Stryker’s horse.

“Like you said, lady, let’s ride.”

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Here"s the cover for my next book, due out next March. Start saving your dimes.

Monday, September 07, 2009

An Experiment

These are lead copies of the Marx Flint McCullough and Major Seth Adams figures from the Wagon Train playset, painted by YHOS. If you look closely you can see that I left the eyes unfinished. That's because I bought some eye decals way back when I did this but never applied them. We shall see how they work out when I apply them and run the new, improved figures Real Soon Now.
Wagon Train aired from Sep 1957 to Sep 1965; on NBC until 1962, and ABC the remaining three years. In my mind the best years were the ones that featured Maj. Adams (Ward Bond) and McCullough (Robert Horton). Bond died in 1961 and was replaced by John McIntire, Horton left in 1962 and both Scott Miller and Robert Fuller took over his scouting chores. Regulars who remained throughout the series were Frank McGrath as Charlie Wooster the cook, and Terry Wilson as Bill Hawks.
One of the show's execs was Gene Roddenberry. When he went to pitch a new s-f show to producers, Star Trek, he called it "Wagon Train in space."
The first time I noticed an appaloosa horse was the one Horton rode on Wagon Train. I thought it was the strangest horse I ever saw. Years later, when I became acquainted with appies, I knew for certain they are strange. It seems every one of them has some quirk or another. I've grown to like their looks, though.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Dale X 2 and a Bullet

And now, here on our stage...Dale Evans and Bullet. The Dale on the left is Marx's 54mm figure. The one on the right is Dale in 60mm. Bullet is made to go with the 60mm pose. There were a number of Roy and/or Dale Marx playsets. I owned a Roy Rogers Rodeo set, which was the first Marx playset I ever had (and I can't recall having any character figures in it). According to one source there were two Roy Rogers Double R Bar Ranch sets, one RR Mineral City set, three RR Ranch sets, four RR Rodeo sets, five RR Rodeo Ranch sets, and four RR Western Town sets. Roy and Dale (and Pat Brady at times) showed up in more Marx playsets than any other celebrities. Personally, I think the 60mm Dale looks pretty saucy.

El Zorro

We saw the other five character figures from the Zorro playset, now we have El Zorro himself. Since he's mounted on a black horse it must be Tornado. In the show he also rode a white horse named Phantom. Zorro, of course, was played by Guy Williams. Like most kids of that time I watched the show faithfully and was badly disappointed when it was canceled. Many years later, when I learned that the cancellation was due to a dispute between Disney and ABC, I was irate.

More Zorro Figures

On the left is El Commandante ( Captain Monastario, played by Britt Lomand) and on the right Sergeant Garcia (played by Disney stalwart Henry Calvin).
Zorro aired from Oct 1957 to Sep 1959 on ABC at 8 o'clock. One of the best marketing tie-ins, after the playset, was the Zorro sword. A piece of chalk could be inserted into the tip so the kids could carve a Z with their blades. I had a Zorro board game. If I'd had a sword I would have put my eye out.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The de la Vega Household

From Louis Marx & Co comes this set of character figures from their Zorro playset, based on the Disney TV show. From left to right we have Bernardo, Don Diego, and Don Alejandro de la Vega. I have a partial set. My tin litho hacienda is missing the plastic stairs and patio, and I don't have the cuartel. Next up: El Commandante and Sgt. Garcia.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

New Heading

How do you like the new heading? Thanks to Dave "Evan" Lewis for creating it. It'll probably rotate with a Western-themed one as the months go by.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Yo, Rinty!

Toymaker Louis Marx & Co. made a lot of Fort Apache playsets, issuing one annually for 20 years. One of the best was the Rin Tin Tin Fort Apache playset. I got one for Christmas around 1958. It contained 60mm figures as opposed to the usual 54mm in other Western sets, and some of the poses were outstanding. Also included were characters from the TV show The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, 1954-1959.
The show featured an orphan, Rusty B. Company (Lee Aaker) and his German shepherd, Rin Tin Tin, both of whom had been adopted as mascots for B Troop, Fort Apache. Despite the fact that the real Fort Apache didn't have stockade walls or a totem pole and that the Indians in the set didn't look like Apaches, it was still a swell playset.

Pictured are the character figures from the set (l-r): Lt. Rip Masters (James Brown), Rinty, and Rusty. No, not the King of Soul James Brown. In some areas of the country Rusty was released without the rifle. I always thought Marx missed the boat by omitting Sgt. Biff O'Hara as a character figure, but I suppose they couldn't get them all. The other regular on the series was Trooper Boone, played by Rand Brooks.

Rinty was portrayed by three different dogs over the course of the show, two of which were descendants of the original Rin Tin Tin, whose movie career was launched in 1922.

More trivia: Lee Aaker was one of the campers in the original Spin & Marty series. The same dog figure was used as Roy Rogers' pet, Bullet, in the Roy Rogers playsets.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wyatt Earp in 54mm

I'm horning in on Dave Lewis's idea of running pictures of Marx playset character figures. I'm even stealing his first presentation, Wyatt Earp. But I'm carrying it one step further. The unpainted photo is Dave's, showing Wyatt as he was created about half a century ago. The second is a lead casting of Wyatt made from the same figure and painted by yours truly. Dave reports the Earp figure's value at $40. I think it might be twice that but with collector markets you never know.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Forgot to mention the two biggest buzz words at WWC: platform and monetize.

Today is the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. I left New York before it happened, but I probably wouldn't have gone anyway. I remember the first time I saw the movie, however. I brought Anne M and wore my flower-print pants, which I still have. Waist size 29". The theater complex was next to the Winchester Mystery House in California. I was blown away by the performances, especially Joe Cocker, The Who, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash. And Country Joe and the Fish, and Ten Years After, and Sha Na Na, and Jimi Hendrix, and Richie Havens, and all the others. Even Joan Baez and her bullshit tribute to David, the guy she later divorced.


I spent last weekend in Portland at the Willamette Writer's Conference. Thanks to the machinations of Dave "Evan" Lewis, noted short story writer, I was able to finesse a job in the Pitch Practice room, helping people fine tune their pitches. These people would later pitch their book/screenplay/TV show to an agent. They paid $20 for a 10-minute session with an agent and most of them didn't know what a pitch was. I heard lots of synopses, many of which were very skillfully and carefully prepared, but not many true pitches. It was my job to advise them of the difference. I wasn't paid.

Among the more memorable people I saw were: Debbie, who wrote a Hollywood tell-all about her days working parties dressed as Snow White and other characters; Marni, a 19-year-old writer; Chandara, an adorable 23-year-old with a mystery movie based on the characters in Alice in Wonderland; and Amy, who wrote a young adult fantasy. In fact, a lot of people wanted to pitch YA fantasies, no doubt hoping the Harry Potter lightning would strike twice. Three times if you count the scar on his forehead. There was Bradford, whose YA fantasy was 55,000 words too long and a very obvious Harry Potter knockoff. Blythe, Cindy, and John also had books in this vein.

I heard only one I thought was a dud. A woman pitched an HBO series about Catholic school girls (yeah, that part sounds okay), but had no real continuity and spent more time telling about budgets and camera techniques than the idea.

I attended five panels, nearly falling asleep in four of them. Not because I was bored, just tired. They were uniformly well-done and I enjoyed them. The subjects were promotion (parts one and two), creating characters, 101 Tips to Make Your Novel More Publishable (excellent handout), and one about grammar and usage (another good handout).

I had to pay $27/day for food--breakfast and lunch. It wasn't bad, but I could have eaten a lot better on that money elsewhere. Not that I'm complaiming. It was a good conference and I had fun as a pitch helper. A number of people thanked me later for my advice and it was good to hear that they'd crossed their first hurtle to publication--when an agent asks for more.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Little Bit of Evan

Portland's Dave Lewis, who writes as Evan Lewis, just sold a short story to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. It's slated to appear in the Feb 2010 issue. Way to go, Ev.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Cost of Inoffensiveness

I was shopping yesterday and thought I should get a new deodorant as mine is running low. I use a stick type. The first thing I noticed was that all the deodorants were more expensive than when I bought my last one. So I started checking the unit price--in this case the cost-per-pound of each brand. I was astonished to see that the cheapest one was over $14/lb and one was over $100/lb. Meat is cheaper. You can buy a human being for less. This puts me on the horns of a dilemma. Should I eat fine steaks served by a gorgeous slave girl or slather some hexachlorophene in my armpits every morning?

Oh, and I decided to wait for a sale on B.O. juice since I still have some left. That'll give me time to cogitate on the matter.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July Continues

July 15. Happy Birthday to my older
sister, Wendy.

July 18. We kick off the rodeo at work. Not a western rodeo, but a competition between aircraft, crews, and ground equipment. Included was a crew from "Isreal," according to whoever made up the map of C-130 parking spots.

July 23. As part of the rodeo three survivors of the famous Doolittle Raid (see the movie 30 Seconds Over Tokyo if that name means nothing to you) were in attendance. I was thrilled to death to see these brave men and sneaked away for a few minutes to get an autograph. The card on this pages gives an historical and graphic outline of the raid. If you can't read the names they're R.E. Cole, Tom Griffin, and Ed Saylor.

July 18-today and beyond. Hot as hell and busy. Still getting rid of materiel other bases left behind.

July 24. Paid off second mortgage.

July 25. No hot water. Cool bath is not fun even in this weather. On same day installed faucet in the kitchen sink at my older girl's house. Took me hours to get over the vertigo I suffer from working on things above me--physically, not skill level.

July 25. Went to used book store to buy 30 Seconds Over Tokyo, On the Road, and The Day of the Locust. Used up so many brain cells remembering who wrote the latter I forgot 30 Seconds.

July 26. Got scalped at the casino. Linda won.

July 27. Plumber fixes water heater. Two thermostats and heating elements. Tells me what a great unit I have. Yeah, that's why it didn't last 10 years. Good-bye $608.93.

Three days left in the month. I hope the M's remember how to play baseball and the weather cools off. If I wanted this kind of misery I'd live in Arizona.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tough Jim Gaston

Tough Jim Gaston, alias Brian Trainer, recently returned from Europe, where he played before the crowned heads of many nations. Well, heads of some type. Tough Jim is a dynamite guitarist who plays lead for top Northwest underground group The Moops as well as Portland band Rock Residue. He just had heart surgery and we here at Chez Cap'n wish him a full and speedy recovery.

The Moops: (l-r) Cap'n Bob Napier, Dave Lewis,
Tough Jim Gaston.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Opie's Pals

Yesterday I saw an early episode of The Andy Griffith Show. A group of Opie's friends were featured and among the gang were Rusty Stevens and Keith Thibidouix (which might be misspelled). If the names mean nothing to you, note that Rusty played Larry Mondello on Leave It to Beaver and Keith was Little Ricky on I Love Lucy.

I love catching moments like this.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

I saw a sign today by a guard shack: "Audio does not work on speaker."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Back From the Woods

I've just spent five days in a cabin below Mt. Rainier with some kindred souls being lazy, gluttonous, and hermetic. A fine time was had by all. The occasion is called Tankon and, but for the odd behavior of one fellow, was much like all the others. I finished a book that was way longer than necessary called The Big Horn Legacy, worked on a couple of apa zines, and watched some DVDs. Among the more enjoyable ones were Charlie Chan in Paris and Blue, White, and Perfect, a Mike Shayne movie with Lloyd Nolan. Also enjoyable, and with better budgets, were a British series abou H.G. Wells and another British show about which I have no recollection. We also saw a documentary about Harlan Ellison and a couple of the guys saw Flower Drum Song. We started to see For Your Consideration but stopped before the halfway point. The mood just wasn't right.

While I was away Kristine went to nurse camp at a local hospital and Stephanie figured out a math problem that had been needling her. Linda went to the funeral of an old friend's father.

Now, back to my regularly scheduled life. Bwaaah!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Stratus Symbol

I just got back from a car dealership where my older daughter, Stephanie, got a 2000 Dodge Stratus. It's red. Driver's of Washington State, you've been warned.

Wow, a Leave It to Beaver marathon for July 4th. And the Mariner's beat Boston again. Life is good.

On the way home from the dealership I stopped at Office Depot. My printer needed paper. I found what I wanted and it ran $7.29 a ream (500 sheets). Expensive, but not as bad as a lot of the other brands they had. But wait, they had a three pack of the same paper for, for $24.99. Hold it! If I buy three loose packs at $7.29 each I pay $21.87. That's $3.12 less. What does all the extra cost cover, the box and strapping tape? See my earlier post about the pricing on the taco and enchilada dinners. Who figures these prices out? Someone who reads the results of math testing in schools?

Happy 4th. Try not to be a statistic this weekend.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Slan in Seattle

I belong to three Amateur Press Alliances/Associations, or apas. One is Slan-Apa. Last night I drove to Seattle to join four other Slans and the wife of one to meet a visiting Slan from Florida. After a hilarious drive to the hotel thanks to a difference of opinion between the driver and his wife over the easiest way to get there, we met the visting Slan at the hotel's bar. Hours of happy chatting and a little happy hour eating and drinking wiled the night away. I don't get out much, so this was a great chance for me to do a bit of socializing. Thanks all, for the company.

The names have been omitted to protect the innocent.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Taste of Tacoma

I attended the abovementioned event yesterday. On the way in to Point Defiance Park I was given a little container of hummus and a wooden spoon. I took a couple of bites of hummus later on. Ptui!
For my taste I had a sample of Indian chicken-on-a-stick. That's East Indian. Not bad. For my meal I had a Korean dish. Chicken, rice, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Not bad, but not worth the $7.00 they--and everyone else in an obvious conspiracy--charged for a dish. On stage was a Fleetwood Mac tribute band. Not bad but for two minor things--the girl was no Stevie Nicks and the lead guy was no Lindsay Buckingham. It might have been better if they'd amped up the vocals. I'm also wondering if FM needs a tribute band at this time.
A walk through the games section appalled me. Three bucks to throw one dull dart at one leather-clad balloon to win a prize full of diseased Asian stuffing that retails for 17 cents. I passed on the games. I'm not a fan of rides, either, so I didn't even consider them. The main attraction was the pretty girls in summer clothes.
My mother-in-law lives a block from the park entrance and my young daughter set up a cold drink stand at the corner. I sat with her and her boyfriend for most of the afternoon, watching the passing parade and laughing at some of the clowns in their silly outfits. Do teenage boys have any concept of how assinine they appear? Guess not, or they wouldn't look that way.
To my amazement, bottled water outsold soda by about ten-to-one. I've always been nonplussed about people paying for water, and it amazes me that they'd prefer it over Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, or Sprite. And they all cost the same.

I feel bad about letting June 25 go by without my usual mention of Custer's Last Stand. But yes, it was that day in 1876 that Uncle Georgie and about 260 men of the 7th Cavalry were slain by Sioux, Cheyenne, and some other tribes' warriors. To correct a couple of misconceptions about the engagement: The 7th Cavalry was not wiped out. The regiment's strength was about 1250 officers and men. The number of men in the battle was close to 750, so only about a third of the combatants died in the fight. The faction with Custer was wiped out, true, but the Reno-Benteen factions dug in and held out until June 26, when relief appeared and the Indians retreated. Next, it wasn't a massacre. The men died in battle (okay, the wounded were slaughtered, but we're not supposed to mention that).

Next up: Fourth of July. We'll see how the anti-firecracker ordinance plays here in the City of Destiny, alias Wired City.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

We'll Remember Always, Graduation Day

Last week Kristine (left) graduated high school, with honors. We're busting with pride. My other girl, Stephanie (right), finished her term at TCC with an A in both of her classes. More pride. Kristine will start at the University of Washington in September. Steph will stay at TCC and plans to transfer to the UW when she gets her AA.

Last month I completed the editing on The Toyman Rides Again, which is slated to come out next March. My editor did a good job with the technical parts of the manuscript, but was oddly timid about the use of brand names.

I quit taking guitar lessons at the end of May. My only reason is to decrease expenses now that I have a couple of college girls bleeding me white. Not that I'm complaining. I want these kids to get all the advantages in life they can.

I'm now on Facebook. I'm not sure I understand the need for it, but I don't want to be a Luddite.

I saw the latest Star Trek movie. The plot, characters, and acting were fine but the asinine MTV effects that permeated every action scene and some of the non-action scenes drove me up a wall. Thumbs down just for that.

I just finished Sue Grafton's T is for Trespass, a story of identity theft and a totally amoral woman who passes herself off as a nurse to loot an old neighbor man's estate. Protagonist Kinsey Millhone also handles a couple of smaller cases--finding an auto accident witness and serving eviction papers on deadbeat renters. Kinsey has new wheels; a tough Mustang to replace her trademark VW, lost last time out. I thought on one occasion she went about finding someone in a roundabout way instead of the more direct and simple one (one which she employed later on, btw). In other words, a spot of padding. There were a couple of coincidences that I noticed with a humph and they made me wonder if I would have dismissed them as inconsequential if I'd seen them in a book by a different writer. And by different I mean one who wasn't making an advance of millions. That got me to thinking if it was fair to expect a writer who makes huge advances to write a flawless book while showing forgiveness to one who makes a pittance, like me. Or should every book be judged equally?

I have sleep apnea and have had it for about 30 years. I've had a CPAP machine for maybe 15 years, but except for a short time when I first got it I've rarely used it. But I started using it in April and the result was so startling I have been using it nearly every night ever since. If you don't have apnea here's what you're missing: You never experience deep REM sleep during the night. Loose tissue at the back of your throat clogs your breathing tube, causing thunderous snoring. You have to breathe harder and harder, your heart has to work harder, and once in a while your breathing stops completely. You don't know it, but you wake up dozens or even hundreds of times a night. You wake up groggy and stay that way all day. The mind functions poorly, and in my case I think it made me grumpier than normal. Now, using the CPAP machine, I feel alert and rested all day, even a little smarter. If my bad back would quit bothering me I'd be like a new man.
Anyway, if you are a world-class snorer I suggest you get checked out. Sleep apnea can be a killer, and at best make you a walking zombie. This applies to men and women, although it's more common in men.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Some Good News

No sooner did I post my gripe about Ticketmaster than I got a phone call informing me that my other daughter has been awarded a $1500 scholarship from the Masonic Lodge. I'm not a member, either. Hooo-eeee!

Those wonderful people at Ticketmaster

My older daughter wanted a ticket to see a band called Mindless Self Indulgence. The ticket cost $22. Unfortunately, the only way to buy a ticket was through Ticketmaster. I've used them before, always with reluctance and distaste, but these days their outrageous costs seem to have gone from bad to criminal. By the time I was finished paying all their fees ($8.00+ "convenience fee," $5.00+ "service fee"), charges and taxes the ticket ran $38.58. If I had purchased their $6.00 ticket insurance the total would have been more than twice the cost of the ticket. I felt like I had borrowed money from a Mafia loan shark by the time the dust had settled. Is it any wonder they're called Ticket Bastards?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Linda

My wife hit a birthday milestone today. I won't say how old, but she's now eligible for Social Security, or would be if she could afford to quit working. We'd planned to go to the new casino by Snoqualmie Falls, east of Seattle, but--would you believe it?--we had snow overnight and she decided to stay closer to home. Yet, we didn't want to go to The Emerald Queen, our usual casino destination. So we compromised and went to the Muckleshoot Casino in Auburn, just a short drive north and east. One of the big attractions of the Muckleshoot is their huge non-smoking area. The one at the Queen is the size of a three-car garage. So we gambled, hit the lunch buffet, and gambled a little more. I won a tad over $60. Linda lost, but not much (though to hear her tell it she'll be impoverished for life). Then it was home and the opening of some presents.

I can't think of any other news of late. I've read books by Rex Stout, Charles Portis, Peter Brandvolt, Elmer Kelton, Richard S. Wheeler, and Jory Sherman in recent weeks. All of them good, a couple of them fine.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Save Your Pennies

Yep, save those pennies and cash in those aluminum cans. You'll need them for the release of THE TOYMAN RIDES AGAIN in March 2010. I was afraid that with the economy the way it is my book might get canceled, but it's hanging in.

Interesting day today. A very elderly man from down the other side of our cul-de-sac came to my house in his walker, almost forced his way inside, and started telling me something. Unfortunately, he speaks only Russian. Fortunately, I have a nephew-in-law with a Ukranian e-bride and, with judicious use of a phone in speaker mode, was able to learn that "bandits were in his house" and I should call the police. I checked the house, which was empty (as best I could tell without walking in), and called the cops as asked. They arrived 30-40 minutes later and took the old gent away, after again using the services of my family translator.
Only one thing bothered me. The cop made a couple of notes on his memo pad. He asked me my name, which I gave him. Then he asked me my age. What in the name of Nimitz does that have to do with anything? I refused.

As this was going on a couple of other neighbors gathered outside and the guy next door told me someone stole his company truck as he went into a store to buy his morning coffee. He even walked past the thief coming out as he was going in. The kicker is he'd left the keys in the ignition and the engine running. He's an electrician and there were a lot of tools and parts in the truck that he'll likely never see again. I just hope he doesn't get canned for his lapse of judgment.

What did I do during the inauguration? Sat on the flightline in a pea soup fog freezing my tail off. That's a memory I'll take to the grave.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Book Cover

Here's the cover of the book I mentioned on my last blog. I like its pulpy look.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Happy Bleeping New Year

I'm starting 2009 with the flu. That's what I get for taking a flu shot this year.

I spent the time between Xmas and New Year's in Oregon, visiting with friends. One day they marched me to 500 Goodwill stores, book stores, and a couple of cheap eateries in the cold and rain, which probably helped lay me low. Nevertheless, I had a very good time and it was fun to talk of fannish things to kindred spirits.

One book I found in Portland is called Sex and Rockets, by John Carter (not of Mars). It tells the story of Marvel W. Parsons, alias John Parsons, alias Jack Parsons. As John Parsons he was a brilliant chemist who co-founded the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and invented the JATO system for aircraft (jet-assisted takeoff). His inventions are still used by NASA today.

As Jack Parsons he was a disciple of Aleister Crowley (The Great Beast) and practiced arcane rituals and black magick in his large L.A. home. My interest in Parsons is linked to the latter discipline, in that one of the kooks he brought into his life back then was L. Ron Hubbard, one of the biggest flim-flammers of history. About all Parsons got from his relationship with Hubbard was a business partnership in which LRH put up $1,800 and Parsons put up $20,000. Soon after Hubbard absconded with ten grand and Parsons' girlfriend. It was possible that this period of his life taught Hubbard how to practice mind control, use gobbledygook argot, and run scams on the trusting and naive, a skill he would put to effective use a short time later with his Dianetics/Scientology scam.

I wish there had been more about the Hubbard/Parsons relationship in this book, and less of the incantations and spells, but it is interesting for what it is--the life of a brilliant but confused and foolish man.

This is a new book and can be purchased at you local book dealer's or on line.