Monday, August 19, 2019

Tacoma Mall History, Both Mine and Ours

1966 - One year after the Tacoma Mall opening...

My mother once abandoned me at the Tacoma Mall. I believe I was in sixth grade at the time. To be fair, it was different times, and I kind of deserved it. For the past few mall visits, I'd break off from her, typically when we were with my younger brother as he'd distract her so I could just...vanish. Purposely.

Why? So I could go to the local Mall toy store. To be fair (to me) I always wanted to go there. Sometimes I could, sometimes mom would say, No, we don't have time. And I'd be crushed. And bored nearly to tears in having instead to follow her around (watch your brother) and put up with her looking at ladies clothes (or worse, clothes for us).

Grand entrance Tacoma Mall - 1970s
Finally, she got sick of my disappearing. Probably frightened her the first time it happened, until she eventually just angry with me by the last time. To be fair, one day I was looking for a suit jacket at Penney's and my own son of about five suddenly disappeared. I was freaking out.

Finally in just a few minutes frantically rushing around the clothing department, I found him purposely hiding in one of those circular clothing racks, happy as a clam. But I couldn't help but flashback to that day at the mall in 1967.
Myself and little brother about the time mentioned here
Finally, one-day mom said, If you do that again, I'll leave you and you can walk all the way home!

So, of course, the very next time we went to the mall...I disappeared again. I got my fill of toys, this time without mom ever showing up to get me. So I wandered around in search of them. I went to where they had been heading, the Bon Marche, most likely. But, they weren't there. So I wandered all over the mall until I was getting tired but, still no mom and little brother.

Finally, I was getting worried, myself. So I went outside to a phone booth and called home to tell someone I couldn't find them. I checked my pockets and found a single dime. I always was supposed to carry one for an emergency phone call.

Mom answered.
Of course, mom answered. She didn't really chew me out, just laid out the situation, the past situation, and what this meant to me, today, right then. I promised I wouldn't do it again.
She just said, You said that last time.
I asked, So are you going to come get me?
No, she said. You can take the bus home.
I dug into my pockets. My empty pockets, hoping for a quarter. I told her I had spent my last dime on the phone call. The only dime I'd had.
She just said, Well then, you have two feet, I guess you're walking home.
WALK? Home? I asked dejectedly.
Yes, she responded, all the way.
At that time in my life, I don't think I had walked anywhere alone that far. I was shaken. And I broke. I told her that.
She just said, Then you're walking home. It's not that far. See you when you get here.
What?
And with that...she hung up.

I was stunned. I looked around. Hustle and bustle all around me. Adults, cars, a huge parking lot. I stood there for a while, contemplating. No one was coming. I was alone. I could stay there forever, or I could starting walking and maybe one day, I would arrive back at home. Where the family was. Protection, safety. Food. my toys. But... it's so far! I looked around.

No one I knew was around me. I knew no one inside knew me, or I, them. I was lost. But was I? I knew where I was. I knew how to get home, it was pretty much a straight shot. It seemed so far though. Maybe I should just stay there, live at the mall. That would teach my mom!

But in the end, I walked. Google Maps now shows it's 1.4 miles and a half-hour walk for an adult. Which I wasn't then, so it probably took me about 45 minutes and I'm sure I didn't rush. There's always so much to see.

By the time I got to the 48th street bridge that goes over the I5 freeway (I know I had to stop and watch the traffic rushing below me), it had all turned from a punishment, to an adventure. But then, that was just who I was. Adventure was always all around me and I sought it out at every turn. Much to the consternation and frustration of my mother.

Adventure got me into this mess and adventure was going to get me out.

Eventually, I made it home just fine.

By the time I got there, I was expecting in my best "A Christmas Story" fantasy, a hearty hero's welcome home. But instead, of course, I got home to, Oh, you're back, good, get ready for dinner. No hero's welcome. Just a "Next time, don't wander off."

And I never did again.

Today the Tacoma Mall is 1.4 million square feet of retail space, with approximately 13.5 million annual shopper visits.

Tacoma Mall 1967 grand opening, me with Kirby Grant, "Sky King" of TV fame
I'd had a long relationship with the Tacoma Mall. The Tacoma News Tribune (or, TNT, October 10, 2015) states it was on October 12, 1965, when it opened so I'm unsure what date is what. The detailed photo below is from the News Tribune article where you can enlarge this photo.

I've put a green X on the right where Sky King and the ceremony was held. As I remembered it, they were opening it too soon but wanted to and had to and so had this event. But I believe later there was a much larger four-day event as noted in the article. As the Bon Marche moved in a full year before the official opening, I can only assume this was the opening event we went to. And it wasn't all that big of an event, but big enough.

Go to News Tribune article to expaind
TNT article also states:

"The four-day-long grand opening drew 400,000 people — equal to Pierce County’s entire population at that time.
"The sparkling new mall brought enclosed shopping to Tacoma with 71 stores, 1,500 jobs, 900,000 square feet of sales space and parking for 7,200 cars. Fireworks, singers and dancers provided entertainment during the grand opening.
"Today, the mall has grown to 1.4 million square feet and employs 2,500 to 3,000 people in 150 stores. While malls have faltered and closed across the country, the Tacoma Mall still functions as it did 50 years ago — but with a few role changes.
"Of the original 1965 mall stores, J.C. Penney, Hallmark, Motherhood Maternity, Zales Jewelers and Weisfield’s Jewelers are the last survivors.
"Interstate 5 had opened the month before, and J.C. Penney, among other stores, was preparing for its opening at the mall. Eventually downtown retailer Sears moved. The Bon Marche (now Macy’s) moved from downtown to the mall site in 1964 — a full year before the rest of the mall opened.
As I remember it there was a soft opening and I was there the day it officially opened when there was only one store open and running. I believe there was only the large Bon Marche, and by our opening day even, JC Penny's. Sky King was there, the actor who played that role on TV, Kirby Grant, was famous among many TV-watching kids at that time. Kirby was born in Butte, Montana. My older sister was also born in  Montana.

Tacoma Mall 1967 grand opening, my younger brother with Kirby Grant
My younger brother and I got to sit on his lap on a raised wooden platform in the middle of the east Mall parking lot, situated on the side nearest the freeway. As you may be able to see, our mother wrote on this photo above that "Sky King" died October 1985. Ten years after my younger brother died in June 1975, two weeks prior to his 15th birthday, from liver cancer in what felt like a Lifetime channel, MOW kind of story.

As a kid, I loved the Tacoma Mall. At some point, my step-father, my late little brother's dad, worked at Nalley's during the day. In the afternoon after his warehouse job, he would take a nap, be miserably grumpy if you got in his way, then put on a suit and went to work at the Auto-View Drive-in Theater where he was Assistant Manager. Homer was the manager and his friend. I liked Homer and his kids.

Back in the 40-50s after the war where he was in a military band or something, and I think some kind of clerk, my step-dad had his own orchestra in Philidelphia. Our mother met him after that I believe. I never found out why he stopped leading a band.

I saw a photo once of them. Each member of the 20 or so member band had his own little stand before him with my step-dad's initials on it and him standing proudly before them looking at the photographer with a big smile on his face and holding a conducting baton. It had to be one of his greatest moments.
Yeah, this might have been a FEW years before I first went there
As for the Auto-View Drive-in, my oldest brother had worked there some. Then my older sister worked there in high school and eventually, I worked there, too. In the end more than my siblings, from 9th through 12th grades. I had a lot of experiences there as we had kind of grown-up there through the 1960s.

We were there every Friday, rain or shine, seeing whatever there was. I think the only film we missed seeing there was "I Am Curious, Yellow" because of the hype and marketing about it indicating it was inappropriate for kids.

Wikipedia: "The film includes numerous and frank scenes of nudity and staged sexual intercourse. One particularly controversial scene features Lena kissing her lover's flaccid penis." I saw it as an adult and I can say, it was tamer than many of the films I saw as a kid before the film ratings came into being, with the exception of that one scene or perhaps just one shot.

Tacoma Mall Cinerama
I mention my step-father because there was a time when he got offered to manage the Tacoma Mall Cinerama Theater. The Cinerama was a big deal when it opened in 1974.

Lincoln High School, Tacoma, WA
I graduated in 1973 from Lincoln High School. By that time my step-father had moved with his friend and manager to the newly opened 112th Street Drive-in leaving me as snack bar manager in 12th grade back at the Auto-View where I had worked first in 9th grade when I cleaned up the field, a disgusting back-breaking job even for a kid still fairly low to the ground.

Then in 10th grade moving up and into the snack bar and eventually taking over the managing of it. The drive-in by then was run mostly by kids from Lincoln High School.

Tacoma Mall Cinerama lobby
Tacoma Mall Cinerama thearer


The Cinerama had opened with high expectations. But never showed a Cinerama release. I was with our family at one of the many grand openings of the Seattle Cinerama, ours being for the regional area theater managers and their families. We saw, "Krakatoa, East of Java" which I thought for the time had rather silly SFX. The Seattle Cinerama had a license that was exclusive of a 50-mile radius and since Tacoma is only some 30 miles from it, our Cinerama couldn't get a license.

But the year the Tacoma Cinerama opened my stepfather was offered to manage it. We talked about it as a family. It supposedly had an apartment where we could move into as some theaters, even drive-in theaters, have. The thought of actually living IN a theater was intoxicating to me and my younger brother. But he had just started on his long terminal road through liver cancer and the doctor bills were just starting to pile up.

Mom finally said just shut us down and said, No, we can't afford it.

We all wanted to move (not my sister). But Mom made the final decision as she always did about bills and finances. And she was right as the doctor bills only got bigger and bigger, finally wiping out her inheritance from my grandfather, and then receiving unbelievable help from the American Cancer Society, according to her.
That window by the peak was home for a year after the military
Thanks to my older brother letting me stay there and get my act together.
As an adult, after I got out of the military in 1979. I was staying in my brother's garage off Sheridan and 38th street. I fixed it up to make it livable, put in some insulation and a chimney as it had a wood-burning stove, but it wasn't much.

Though I had some great times there. Sometimes friends would stop by a 2am or so and we'd have a little party and they'd leave and I'd crash and be up in time for nothing, or whatever. Eventually that whatever became college. All I had to do was cut wood for heat for both my brother's house and my loft, that he'd bring home from his construction jobs.

Mostly trees they had to cut down and I'd chainsaw and split wood for my rent. It was an arrangement that worked for us both. Plus, his wife at the time was pregnant with twins I helped out after they were born. And they needed the help! I wasn't the only one. They always seem to have friends over and it was quite an experience.

One day he talked me into going to college as I had Vietnam war VA benefits and so, I did. In 1980 I started working at Tower Posters off 38th street and attending Ft. Steilacoom Community College (now, Pierce College).

One day I discovered a field on the other side of I5 from the Mall had a special kind of mushroom that made my days very entertaining over the course of that year or so. How did I find that out? I'd been an amateur mycologist for years. They called to me.

That leads into some very interesting stories including one about my girlfriend and I the night we saw the film that I think was playing for the first time (Superman) at the Tacoma Mall Cinerama and well, I've detailed that adventure in a blog article elsewhen.

Eventually a year later some construction going on and it seemed to upset the environment as construction tends to do, and the shroom extravaganza sadly died off.

When I think back about the Tacoma Mall, a wealth of memories and situations floods into my mind. Some very good times. We met Dick Balch the notorious crazed (but very nice) car dealer there. Eating lunch and giant Crab or Shrimp Louies at Johnny's Dock at the Mall. Lunch at the Bon Marche restaurant. Visiting Nordstrom's with my sister when I was in jr high and being around many attractive young women who all had more money than we did.

I went back recently. I had worked after I got out of the service, and later after college, at Tower Posters on 38th st, the original location, and Tower Records, and Tower Video (then moved to Tower Video in Seattle on Mercer).

We still see one another from time to time, those Tower employees. I'm still friends with some of them. One, two really, part of a little group in my Tacoma Records supervisor in tapes, and later Video manager and eventual Seattle video manager and roommate, and our other friend.

Here's a photo from one of our reunion days I took on Instagram. You can visit my account on there to see these, the shots below I took of the Tacoma Mall that day and of other local places, and if you head toward the today on my Instagram account, you'll see production stills from the short horror film I'm making. "Gumdrop, a short horror", is a prequel, based upon a short story I published years ago (Gumdrop City, a fiction horror story based on a true crime).
Tacoma Mall Red Robin Tacoma Tower employees reunion 2018
That manager friend and I talked about getting together, at our old hang out, the Tacoma Mall Red Robin where Tower employees hung out after work sometimes. And before work, sometimes. That threesome turned into a bigger event and many old friends and employees showed up. I got there early just so I could revisit places I lived nearby, that house I had to walk to from the Mall at 12, and I walked through today's Tacoma Mall.

Today's Tacoma Mall grand entrance
It's changed a lot. So many more businesses in that area.

Tacoma Mall Food Court intersection
The mall once nearly dead, was alive, and vibrant and had many shoppers and people just hanging out, eating or whatever. it was a culture shock for me. But it wasn't sad, not at all. And then I ended it with that visit to Red Robin and some old friends.

Rolland from Steelzilla
One of our friends, Rolland at Steelzilla plasma cut us some Tower related metal plaque momentoes that were pretty awesome and mine's hanging here in my house. We had another meeting some months later and we got some more of those cool cut-outs.

Tower Tacoma March 31, 2019 Red Robin Reunion
All he asked was we take a photo with our gifts and post them. And we did, to our Facebook Tower Records group. Here's mine from our last meet up. Being they were Grammy's (for those who worked at Records) and Oscars (for those who worked at Video) I thought I'd throw on a tux for my photo.

Terrifying, I know, but I had a blast
Which was quite a bit different from my first gift the previous meetup:

From our first reunion

And yes, we're a motley lot. Always were. I myself for one look much different than I did my first days working at Tower Posters in Tacoma. I've gone through some changes in my looks, to be sure.

Thanks so much, Time and... Life.

Myself at Tower Posters Tacoma 1980
WWU 1982, hey, my girlfriend staged this one

Me with a very nice Teri Weigel, Tower Video,
Mercer St. Store Seattle, WA April 1986
Auditions headshot 1989
A few years later after I graduated from Western Washington University and moved from Tacoma and then to Seattle's Tower Video store on Mercer St. and into some more very interesting experiences. I worked with Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam. I lost some friends back then to AIDS.

And yes, my looks changed a bit. So has the Tacoma Mall's looks through its never-ending series of contractions and expansions and evolutions and facelifts.

So to sum this all up, yes...the Tacoma Mall and I, have had a vastly deep and long-lasting relationship. Our looks have changed. Our friends have changed. And life continues on.

And that my friends, is really about all I can say about it...thanks for sharing this journey into my past and that of Tacoma's famous Mall.

Cheers! Slainte!

Monday, August 12, 2019

America's Dezinformatsiya and компрометирующий

I've been avoiding political blog postings for a bit but now it's time to revisit that. I'm busy working on my re-draft of The Teenage Bodyguard with a Hollywood producer and I'm approaching the end of principal photography on my project from one of my previously published short stories ("Gumdrop City"), titled, "Gumdrop, a short horror". You can see shots on my Instagram account of some production stills from the set.

Okay, first for a little background.

Beginning in the early 80s when I was at Western Washington University, I began to notice some odd things. I was doing a lot of research in the University Library toward my psychology degree. One day I was talking to someone and they pointed a certain book out to me. They said I could find it in the library where I was spending massive amounts of time.

WWU Library
There were days when I got out of class, went to the library and was there until closing and went home and continued studying with my girlfriend who lived with me. We were a team. We amazed even our departmental advisor. We studied together, were in some of the same classes and could finish one another's thoughts to a dazzling degree.

WWU campus in Bellingham, WA
This was noticed one day by said professor who was himself one of our top professors in psychology nationwide. We were focusing in our studies on the theoretical of phenomenology and of processes and systems. This professor one day tested us in front of the class and we proved ourselves valid and highly functional. My point being, we were advancing faster together than most students and were told we were at the very top of our class, even across the nation.

One day I got into that book. I looked up a corporation on my and who actually owned it and fell down a kind of corporate rabbit hole that led to some very interesting and disturbing connections. I traced who owned that corporation, and who owned that one and in the end, I was stunned by who owned that primary umbrella corporation. Then I checked others. The more I checked the fewer I found. And the more disturbing connections popped up.

Meaning that many corporations were owned by a few, or one entity and some foreign corporations, leading to other questions. Now, many do know about that. Many would say, "Yeah, sure, so what?"

But it was about more than that. It was beyond disturbing to at times, frightening. But I dropped it, as it would have taken all my time and I had little time as it was to get my studies done, my papers written and turned in. But I kept an eye on things over the years, over the decades. And what I was seeing became ever more and more concerning...bringing us up to, today.

Over that next year or so I continued to look into it on the side as I had time. When doing my research I would stumble upon something, spend fifteen minutes going down that rabbit hole then go back to my primary effort for classes toward my whatever article I was preparing toward my psych degree.

My best effort in psychology may have been a paper I delivered in my final year on schizophrenia and synesthesia, about how one might help the study of the other. When I delivered it in my senior seminar on abnormal psychology it stunned both my class of eight and our prof. There was not a lot on synesthesia back then.

It is now available today to everyone, all these many years later, as an ebook and an audiobook. Of course, it doesn't have the same punch or import today as it once did in 1984 but the concept of using one toward another is and it has been my most downloaded ebook for years.

Years before that after graduating high school in 1973 I was planning a career in espionage (I eventually entered the USAF and at the end of my first term was accepted into the OSI), I had started studying the Soviets, KGB tactics, and the history and nomenclature and tactics of espionage.

Back in the early 1970s I read a book by a general who pretty much ran the Vietnam war. I believe it was Gen. William Joseph Westmoreland. A very respected general who went down his own rabbit hole and because of rather a laughing stock.

In reading his book and looking into his contentions I discovered not his veracity but my first conspiracy theory. I believe it was published by a small publisher who published such books and I can now, not find a copy or reference to that book anywhere. Which is telling.

However, rather than many would do in looking deeper and deeper into HIS conspiracy, perhaps allowing cognitive bias to enter the picture, I instead began studying what conspiracies and the theories themselves actually were.

I found most of them are nonsense. But I discovered the dynamics of conspiracy theory and those it affects and did my best from then on to avoid that nonsense but to do actual research and adhere to research methodology and reality itself. That has put me against a lot of people over my lifetime who believe in utter nonsense. And it has gotten only worse in recent times and since the advent of the internet to the general public and the world.

There is a way to research these conspiracies. Something most conspiracy theorists fail to follow and thus, fall down their own sad rabbit holes. The advent of the internet has merely exacerbated that syndrome.

I've used due diligence to avoid that myself and also in being a university-trained researcher and not some armchair nutcase political quarterback and have done well having debunked many conspiracy theories rather quickly. Which always amazed me how others do not see the obvious but continued instead on along their dark paths utterly wasting their time. QAnon is a recent addition to the white noise of conspiracy theories.

QAnon terminology
I began telling people what I knew about what I had found regarding corporations. My older brother still remembers me after college telling him to stop looking at what he had been and at countreisa and start watching what multinational corporations were doing.

I then began to notice a convergence of Soviet/KGB tactics and corporate actions. In the 1990s I began to notice the Republican party stepping over the line of spin and politics and enter the shady realms of social engineering in KGB style tactics which they have continued and multiplied against the American people, to this day and in that direction. Because these tacts are effective.

With great reticence I watched Putin become the leader of Russia in 1999 and worried openly to others about it ever since. He has maintained power against all reality and odds, greatly to the detriment of not just the Russian people, but all of America and western democracy.

After 9/11 the GOP fell down its own rabbit hole as if a gift handed to them and aided by their leaders and others, as in the NRA and as in Russia. This is not a conspiracy. It's facts, it's public knowledge and it's actions compiled together as we get a picture of the forest for the trees and not really missing anything in the process.

Many refuse to believe any of this because it is so open and obvious and so they believe, it simply cannot be. But the best covert actions are held in public view. From one of my great authorial heroes:

"The best place to hide is in plain sight. – Edgar Allan Poe, in The Purloined Letter"

Another favorite of mine and I have his books too, is the British magician who helped in the WWII effort as his father and grandfather before him had done in their wars, Jasper Maskelyne. The Fischer book, "The War Magician" is a good read, but factually errs fairly often apparently.

I mention all this because "magic", camouflage and covert ops are best done in the open leading to an innate disbelief in what they are actually doing. So what? Well, we now have a president doing all this in plain sight and his supporters cannot believe the contentions against him. Some quite well proven by now. We have multinational corporations doing this. and we have the Russian cyber machine doing this to destroy confidence in America regarding our culture and elections.

Russian intelligence and their organized crime connections, always a branch of the Soviet and then the Russian government and now along with the internet, have allowed for fairly cheap, enhanced covert operations... from afar.

The GOP and the Russians began to converge now many years ago. When I say "Russians" I mean, their government in Putin, his Oligarchs, the Russian mafia interests, Russian intelligence services, and yes...multinational corporations.

Because they are all in this together, apart. And that is what makes all this very difficult to "see" or believe. Or to counteract. While our intelligence services know of it all, or much of it, laws and leadership deny too much of it all and little and at times nothing, gets done to counter it. Though we are catching up...finally.

Still, it is criminal activities like this in America that led to our need to create the RICO laws. And so now too we need new laws and processes to cover this kind of multinational anti-American activity.

It is very likely that in many cases, the Russians, the GOP, and corporations were working apart, separately, just on similar agendas but for perhaps, very different reasons. Though it matters little when the damages done are so very much the same.

One does not avoid someone like the Russians when using their tactics. As eventually, you will find yourself in bed with them. Even if you never talk together. It wouldn't be unusual for those types to rationalize their behaviors as "absolutely not", Russian, or in the Russian interset. Or the old Soviet interests. But that is indeed the mindset of criminals, and bad people everywhere in thinking they are good while doing bad all along.

Then Trump arrives on the scene as POTUS and... now we've come full circle.

This is by no means a conspiracy theory. Some just want you to believe that. It's not a Hollywood spy movie. It is not just grand gestures by a James Bond/Ian Fleming style "worldwide evil" organization.

In many cases it is individuals, it is faint actions nudging things in a certain direction for varied reasons. Not coordinated, rather just an agenda and an ideology. It is essentially, greed. And in some cases in as Putin, hatred, of western democracy and a loss of Russian stature. It is desire. For money, for power, for position. For Nationalistic pursuites. For racist pursuits. For the worst of us, not the best, but in believing in ones' own tribe that it is the best. That is the White Supremacist's belief after all.

"Terrorism: Ideology w/out grievances doesn't resonate & grievances w/out ideology are not acted upon. Indeed, there be 2 sides to this coin." - Mubin Shaikh

Ideology without grievances is very little, just as grievances without ideology are nothing. But together, as we've seen through Donald Trump, they are a powerful force toward putting a minority against the majority and then against all odds, to see themselves in positions of power.

It is how fascism and such have always things worked. It is how they are working today.

This is our New Reality. Forged by the GOP. With help from American multinational corporations, or at least those in control of such entities. And it is something our friendly-nation friends like the UK, France, Germany, and others have actually warned us of! Repeatedly. While many of our own, mostly conservatives leaders have denied again and again and again.

Our own people in intelligence, who do not deal in FAKE NEWS, but rather raw intelligence and solidified information, know much of all this.

There is indeed FAKE NEWS, but it is merely real news that some like Trump simply do not like as it uncovers their actions so often hidden right there before us in plain site. There is disinformation (dezinformatsiya) and compromising information (компрометирующий), and there is more going on than most of us aware of all this, are even aware of. But it will all, ore mostly, come out, eventually. It always does. 

Our own intelligence agencies have tried to inform us, but they are constrained by the nature of their jobs and by those in power who do not wish to be exposed, in restraining them. Those such as Donald Trump, to be sure. And such as we've now been seeing, in Mitch McConnel, Senate Majority Leader. Sadly.

To be fair, McConnell and many Republicans today were off on the wrong foot from day one in their platform, their confused and misled conservative agenda, their mistaken ideology. Yet, it's odd how closely aligned it is or has become, with the Russians.

Not (most of) the Russian people, but Putin and those of his, in power. Those who refuse to give the Russian people a free and fair society. And like us, they want one. Those people in power claim they are what we aren't and aren't the crazed Americans with their racism.

Because Putin, just like Trump now, fears to leave power to then be available for prosecution. Putin has been winning, but Trump is in America and we do yet still have a chance at bringing him down for any criminal activities he has been involved in, or is still involved in.

Again, this is not a conspiracy. The information is mostly out here for us all to see. We just have to, if not want to see it, allow ourselves to see it. Before it's too late. And it may already be. Just as with climate change that has been sped up through human mechanized actions since the 19th century.

We are all seeing it plain as day while it is to far for too many as it somehow means it's all not real. To them it's just diatribe, partisan smear campaigns. And yet, these things are still happening, the intelligence agencies continue to accrue this information as we strive to bring it to light through Congressional action, if not now through legal judicial means and impeachment.

All while Mitch McConnell does what he can to avoid that. Why? Because he is in this for himself, for Trump, for Russia, Putin? Or for America?

And now we have new issues to be concerned with as one leaked executive order indicates that it would let US Government control our social media. As the article indicates:

"Trump wants to do something most Twitter users could only dream about: enlisting the federal government to make sure his posts get more engagement."

What?

So, now what do we do? We end this regime and replace it with an American one. A fully American one.

And that includes what is going on with the NRA. As well as the GOP. We should obviously keep an eye on the DNC. But to be fair, they are already headed in a very American direction of inclusivity and diversity. They always have been more so than the GOP in recent decades for that matter.

America is here, still.

We just have to continue to fight for her. And for US all. 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Plane Crashes, Rescues and The Teenage Bodyguard

How do I keep getting into these weird research things? For "Gumdrop, a short horror", the film I'm shooting right now, I had to research serial murderers. And worse, actually

For "The Teenage Bodyguard", yesterday and today I've been researching crashed small airplanes within 100 miles of Tacoma in 1974. I found two that work. One as the crash site in the film, one as the plane itself.

I don't want to use just one anyway as it's better to blend more than one in characters of a true story to avoid various issues involved with that kind of an endeavor. Regarding the people I knew back then, I have already combined several real people I knew into a single character. And, changed their names.

In this new opening for this redraft. I chose the Cessna 210 Centurion, an above cockpit winged aircraft. Back in the 1960s when I was in Civil Air Patrol, I flew in a variety of airplanes. Cessnas, Beechcraft Musketeers, a T-34 trainer front /back seater, once even a USAF Lockheed C-141 Starlifter,  To date, the loudest aircraft I've even flown on. Louder than the KC-135 Stratotanker I flew in when I was in the USAF.

There were two crash causalities in the story. I took the story in the screenplay from my own story I wrote years ago, "Marking Time", which is in my 2012 published book, Anthology of Evil, a collection of my first short horror and science fiction.

That story itself has an interesting history. I originally wrote it when my son was about four in 1992. I was being reflective and ignorantly headed to a divorce. So I wrote a story where I was reflecting on my past and how happy I was to have a family and a child and ...yadda yadda yadda.

Now that story in that short story came from a story I was told one day up in the mountains when I was in eighth grade. Another CAP cadet told me the story on a break from backpacking that he heard from another cadet. It was about a crash site found by that cadet with two casualties, a young daughter and her father, the pilot. I was told while in Civil Air Patrol on a training search and rescue operation at Wing Team's camp in the mountains near Shelton, WA in 1968-9.

I wrote in the original about how it was. We were all competitive to be the first to find the crashed plane. It was an honor and a bagging point to be honest. It just takes one dose of reality to turn that fun endeavor into a serious life event, however.

I saw my first cadaver in serving mass at St. Joe's Catholic Church in Tacoma when the old pastor, Father Joe, passed on and I got the serve at his funeral mass. He was a great guy and we all loved him. I was afraid to see his dead body, in the open casket, during mass. But when the priest and I went up to him in the casket there before the congregation and I saw him, he looked great. Like he was sleeping. And all my fears faded. Then I was only left with missing him and knowing we'd never again talk to one another.

The original story goes that the two passengers had been up in the wintry mountains for a while before finding them and they were frozen solid in their seats. So they had to extract them, and lay them out, then jump on their joints to flatten them and get them into the stretchers to carry them to where they could be transported to the morgue.

I always found it stunning that it was among those on his team, a kid in jr high or high school who was doing that. Jamming his booted foot down on a knee to get it to crack into a straight leg position so he'd fit into the carry.

When I was going to publish that story some years ago, I rewrote it, updated it into a supernatural horror story about a spec ops soldier in Afghanistan.

When I started writing The Teenage Bodyguard, I needed a story about my time in CAP and that story came to mind. it wasn't my story to be sure, but it gave one an idea of what being in CAP could be like. Children acting professionally like adults.

So here we are today.

In rewriting the story, I wanted to make the find of the downed plane more accurate and decided to find an actual crash incident and build off of that. I spent time getting the jargon down to an acceptable degree to work in a movie where most of the audience isn't military savvy.

I found two crashes. One within weeks or months of the actual timeline in the screenplay and another eight years later in another location. Between the two it anonymizes the scene but gives me reality to base my writing on. Which is or can be important in writing a true story. And I value reality and accuracy in my writings.

How do I keep getting into these weird research things? As I said, for The Teenage Bodyguard yesterday and today, I've been researching crashed small airplanes within 100 miles of Tacoma in 1974. I found two that work as the crash site in the film, in the new opening. I chose the Cessna 210 Centurion above cockpit winged aircraft.

Two causalities as in the story so I can anonymize it as you do in combining characters in true stories sometimes.

This is plane crash based on a story I was told while in Civil Air Patrol on a training search and rescue operation at Wing Team's camp near Shelton, WA in 1968-9.

I wrote the story, "Marking Time" based on it in the early 90s. Then rewrote it and updated it for my book, Anthology of Evil about a spec ops soldier in Afghanistan and turned it into a supernatural horror story.

After shooting "Gumdop" I want a palate cleanser and decided to maybe shoot "The Mea Culpa Document of London", a short story I wrote up at Western Washington University in getting my psych degree and a minor in creative writing and team screen/script writing.

That story is about a medieval witch hunter and a bizarre horrific situation he finds himself in where he realized he's not only been torturing his daughter, brought to him by villagers he met years ago on another campaign (thus the daughter now), but realizes he is in the same exact situation his mentor and the previous judge was in. And it had killed him.

Maybe I should do a comedy next after the next?

I'd love to shoot "Quantum History" a story about an MIT experiment that went awry clear across the country in Portland, when a guy wakes up to find he is a young Hitler, literally, but with comic elements to it.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Special Pride

Once I had quick before me,
in the sunlight bright,
a special pride.

But these were exceptional lions.
So better before than after.

Then once I had a murder come,
so close to me that I had to duck.

Ducks who had so little to stand on,
next to so many old Crows.

That finally I decided,
such a nice day to stay at home.

To roast a nice family of chestnuts,
with spirits by the fire.

- JZ Murdock

Monday, July 29, 2019

Mea Culpa Document of London Film by JZ Murdock

Finally, I'm beginning the screenplay for The Mea Culpa Document of London. This short horror story that I wrong at university with the advice of one of my professors, one Perry Mills is an interesting tale of medieval horror.

Being a student himself of medieval writings, I would sit in Perry's office in the Theatre department back in the early 1980s and we'd chat about so many things. He has a mind like an encyclopedia.


When I came up with this idea, Perry latched onto it quickly, liking the concept. he gave me some insight and help with it relating to medieval times. In the end, he said I had the language down very well and it turned out so well in his mind, that he wanted me to turn it into a one-act, one-man play that he could himself act in.

Sadly I could never come up with a viable solution to how to write that play and so, it never happened.

I put this story in my first published collection of my first original short stories, Anthology of Evil. I've expanded it into another story, almost a novella, in "Vaughan's Theorem" in my second book, Death of heaven. I've now set up the first draft of the screenplay in Final Draft, having copied the Mea Culpa document into the doc and typing in FADE IN: and FADE OUT:.

The biggest issue I have is the title, which I'm leaving on the back burner until it comes to me as it always does.

I wondered about working out the characters. Which is confusing. We have the Medieval characters with the Judge, his assistant\replacement Truman, the woman and bane of the Judge, and the other woman accused of witchcraft. All circa 1100CE, long before the later massive witch hunts and inquisition (good times, right?).

There is also the modern version's characters to consider and perhaps blending in of the Judge's and his assistant and replacement's descendants in England and that long and disturbing version contained in, "Death of heaven".

I'm hoping eventually to produce a short movie that is of the type that through repeated viewings you will notice more and other things you had missed the first time around. I had originally planned this film out at my last place of residence. Sadly, that did not come to be.

Actor Nikolas Hayes as Reader and Victim in "The Rapping"
I have moved one mile away to my new location back on July 2018. My last home was a big place and we were going to shoot it in the garage under my Garage Tales planned set of stories.

What happened instead was for a first film, I went with a much simpler (perhaps too simple?) under the Attic Tales set of stories (to date, just one). From that came my short film, "The Rapping". It was a festival selection and shown at the Midnight Film Festival in New York this year and also won a slot in the Once a Week Online Film Festival. It was too simple a film to garner much attention, but I believe I've shown I can produce a watchable film. And so, with that in mind...

Actors Jason Lockhart as Rowan the hitman with
Tom Remick as Sampson the supplier in "Gumdrop, a short horror"
My current film now in production is, "Gumdrop, a short horror." That is a prequel based on another short true crime story of mine, "Gumdrop City". The film we're working on now is halfway through principal photography and looks to be evolving into a very interesting project.

What I'm thinking of doing now is to simplify this first version of The Mea Culpa Document of London and just do the document as it originally was. My lead actor, Tom Remick, also my audiobook voice actor and lead in the current film, Gumdrop, will again play the lead. To essentially act out the reading of what is essentially a journal of the character's personal horror.

Gumdrop, especially after The Rapping, has been a challenge. It is difficult subject matter. I first heard of this true-crime in a university class on abnormal psychology toward my psychology degree. I and the rest of the class were very disturbed by the story.

Which left me feeling motivated to write about it, to share it with the public. Actually filming it has been even tougher, a difficult subject to film. One actor even decided not to play one role in the film as he said he had objections from his family about him playing the part.

I've tried to walk my talent, the actors, through the production with care and some degree of delicacy. Also in just how much I should show, what SFX I should use, and how much to put in it to show on a much bigger screen. To an audience. I decided not to push it as far as I could. Much to the relief of some of the actors.

What I'm saying is that after this film is completed, I need a sort of creative palate cleanser.

Not that Mea Culpa is an easy subject itself as it is also a difficult subject as it involves such things as official misjudgment by the State (in this case, by royal decree of an appointed Judge), female torture, death and even worse.

All which leads to the twist in the end.

Still, simply acting out the reading, rather than producing the actual story with all the characters, props, SFX and actors who would be needed, will be less difficult and taxing on the production,, crew and talent. And my budget.

If you notice them, if you do read these stories, or view these films, they are disturbing, if not startling. That is what I do, write and produce macabre stories. to disturb, to at times shock, to make us feel outside of our lives, our experiences. To entertain and hopefully to evoke considerations of things we seldom have to deal with.

It's all in the execution you know. Myself? I love the stylized film. To take a story, compress it down, concentrate it, make it bigger than itself, well...this should be fun to produce and to experience. Not just difficult to produce, but a labor of love with hope of entertaining as well as strumming a bit on the viewer's heartstrings.

And their fears. Your fears.

Actor Aura Stiers as Miranda in Gumdrop, a short horror
But relax. It's all for fun and experiencing that great roller coaster ride that film and stories can give us in taking ur out of our day to day lives, into something more intense. In the end, we can return to our lives and maybe, feel a little decompression, a little light and entertainment, relief from our usual nightmares.

If after experiencing these tiny entertainments, you happen to think of them the next day? Then I've done my job. And then I'll move on, to try harder and to find on the next project, something that will take you a little farther into the dark recesses of the human mind. Or the alien mind. Or the mind of a monster.


#JZMurdock #MeaCulpaDocument #DeathOfheaven #AnthologyOfEvil #Horror #Gumdrop #MeCulpa #GumdropCity

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Rutger Hauer, actor, humanitaria, dies

Today, actor and humanitarian, wait... Humanitarian and Actor, Rutger Hauer passed on from this life.
Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in Blade Runner
I'll just post this and  I seldom ever do this, but Rutger was of the type that this is well deserved. Here is a very nice summary of his life and I cannot do better... Variety

This is Rutger's website that I used to hang out on. There is much I can say about him. Too much and so I won't.

I will say that I had some dealings with Rutger back in 2004. I was on his website back them for a couple of years.

In doing so, and you can still do so, you get to know him. You can no longer post, but you can read his fans comments and his interactions with them. He traveled the world acting. He would get online with his fans when he had time and access. When he did a movie in the Turks and Caicos Islands, he was so affected by the travesty of the highest rate of AIDS in the world, he started his Starfish Foundation to help them.

A non-profit organization aimed at raising
help and awareness on the HIV/AIDS situation,
focusing especially
on support to children and pregnant women.

The Rutger Hauer Starfish Association announces with infinite sadness that after a very short illness, on Friday, July 19, 2019, Rutger passed away peacefully at his Dutch home. 

He leaves his beloved wife Ineke, after they have been together for fifty years. 

We at Starfish will always cherish the many unforgettable memories we have of Rutger and his dedication to the Rutger Hauer Starfish Association. 

One of Rutger’s last wishes was that Starfish should continue its charity activity and its fight against the AIDS disease, and with Ineke’s precious help, involvement and direction we will follow Rutger’s wish and will do our best to carry on Rutger’s inestimable legacy.

Who Rutger was... I once asked him how he chose his roles and he said he looked not for the movie overall so much as the part he would play and if it had heart. 

And that summed the man up for me. 


He will be and should be, greatly missed.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Wakefulness 4:30AM - A Poem

Dark lies upon me.
I hear my own breath,
from inside of me.
Consciousness stirring
I hear the dimness
of the darkened room
and the soft breathing
lying next to me.

My dog sleeps below,
on his pad down low
large enough for his
solid eighty pound
German Sherpherdness.
But the breath that is
too close for him, has
a softer, gentler
sound coming from it
so unfamiliar.

I "open" my eyes,
focus slow to come.
I shift ever so
slightly in my skin
and my entire
human shell becomes
a vast sense organ.

Feeling, sensing. I
can "see" her lying
next to me, wrapped up
in my size and my
own solidness. She
does not move, at first.
And I am surprised.

It’s been five years. More?
Since I've felt this thing.
Then I remember
her and sink into
an ease, a silver,
complete negligence,
luxuriating
in her nakedness.
Her straight blond hair splayed
over her shoulders,
over my shoulders,
on my pillow, half
hiding her soft grace.

Partially out of
the covers, with my
own skin against hers,
her bare torso, and
naked breasts lying
gently against my
chest. Lower, the side
of my pelvis where
it meets the top of
her long slender legs.

I move my foot and
brush toes tenderly
against the side of
hers and she shudders
ever so gently,
melting into me,
settling into me
tightening her hold
on me, around a
chest breathing, peaceful.

I shift my gaze and
can smell her hair, light,
faint citrus smell of
sanity, outdoors.
I don't ever want
to wake. I melt back
into that moment,
settling into my
peace, my subtle fears.

I smile and fall
back into sleep with
her gentle breath, soft,
moist, against my ear.
Finally, as I
stir myself into
full, safe consciousness,
she is gone and her
side of the bed is
cold and unslept in.

And I am again,
so fully awake.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Popsicle Death - A Short Horror Screenplay

Too much fun. I do love this story. Short screenplay, really.

Popsicle Death

I guess I'm kind of known for my titles. Colorado Lobsters is another. I have some simple ones like my novella Death of heaven is based in part upon, or Andrew and Sarah. But my most notorious title is my medieval surreal tale of horror: "Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer to a Question he Knever Knew on the Knight that the Knight Lost All. [Music: Henry Purcell's music for the Funeral of Queen Mary]"

Now that's a hell of a title. But then, it's a hell of a story that I've expanded forward and back. It's a short story and a short screenplay. Actor Rutger Hauer chose it once as a winner in a short story contest he held. It's also a short screenplay now. I also wrote a prequel to it called, Breaking on Cave Island that was in an anthology. But? I digress...

I worked on a poster for the screenplay of Popsicle Death with Marvin Hayes, a great artist who has done some of my book covers. You can tell his, they're not just all black with a graphic in the center. I had seen another artist's concept and ran with it, solving the longtime problem I'd had about a cover or poster for it.


I originally wrote this short screenplay in a scriptwriting theatre class at Western Washington University in my last and senior year. I was in a class with seven very talented and funny people. At least one of them, Dave Skubinna, is no longer with us.

I was sad to hear that as Dave was always enjoyable company. I remember him taping away on his "notepad" device in class. The only one I'd ever seen and never saw another before I graduated. I'm still in contact with another friend in that class, Mike Rainey.

A few years after I graduated they, along with a few others started the Annex Theatre (originally on Bainbridge Island), still running in Seattle. Their most famous alum perhaps is one of my favorite actors, Paul Giamatti. I went into more detail in a previous blog post in 2011.

I had felt honored to be studying and working with those other students in that class and to be accepted by them. Even though I was older as I'd been in the service before starting college. My university and college years are some of my best memories and that series of classes under Bob Schelonka some of my favorite. Writing in a team environment, producing scripts of all many and short screenplays. It was a kind of magic.

When the idea came up for Popsicle Death, we were each to write a short paragraph and pass it to the one next to you around the table, I got mine from Chris Brooks who was a dancer in the theatre dept. He reminded me of David Bowie in some ways.

I immediately loved what he wrote. I came back to the next class and after reading what I'd come up with, they were all over it. I tried to say it was all Chris but he looked at me surprised and said, "No, I didn't take it where you did. That was all you." Still, the initial idea and I think the name were his.

The story is about a boy who buys a popsicle, goes in to get the money from his widowed mother and gets in trouble. He never returns. The vendor is in dire straights, having a bad time of life. He leaves, goes home and kills himself. The non-payment was his last straw. In retribution, Death Himself comes to reap payment. From the boy. And from there, everything goes to Hell.

I was loving this story idea. And my time working on a team of other creatives. While my girlfriend, whom I lived with, seemed to hate it all. Possibly because I was breaking off from my intense focus in psychology by getting a minor in creative writing through my senior year. We had been up to that point, side by side as psych students and quite well known in the psych department.

Actually, she did kind of start it, as she had taken a class in programming FORTRAN. Maybe there were other issues she had. I never knew. But once I started hanging in the theatre department, around those intensely creative, talented and possibly certifiably insane students, I was taken. Smitten with the creative arts. Always had been really, just never brave enough to invest myself in overt creativity with others. Like in theatre in high school. As my cousin had done. In fact she got a degree in costume design or something and went on to be a costume mistress on a big production in Seattle.

As for programming, I'd first taught myself BASIC the year I met my girlfriend in college (we ended up as lab partners in a chem/physics class my first quarter out of the military one summer, and the rest is history).

Before I got out of the service, I had sold my guns and bought a Radio Shack Tandy TRS-80 (the so-called and notorious, trash80). I taught myself to program in BASIC and wrote my first batch command files and had some fun with it in writing a fake AI.

When I got into that first college class with her, we were tasked with learning the entire periodic table which intimidated me (all of us really). I had an idea. I wrote a couple of programs that taught it to me. It worked. I was the only one in that class to get 100% on the period table test.

After three years of our studying psychology together, a great deal of that under the amazing Dr. Rod Rees, she started programming on the side and I started to hang with theatre types. In high school, I'd always loved hanging around my cousin's theatre friends with her. They were just... fun. We'd had different high schools and though she was a year behind me, she's only three months younger than me. All because MY birthday is near the end of August.

Anyway, I couldn't figure out back when why my girlfriend seemed so negative about my theatre classmates. She was actually kind of rude about it when they visited. We were working on a script and she came in from school one afternoon and she was so dour, they took the hint and left.

Anyway, Popsicle Death.

I think Chris just wrote that Death was a popsicle vendor and something about a kid. I went off the deep end and got very dark and added in his mother and a dead father, an Uncle priest and other surreal elements of horror.

Even though Chris had started it all as a tossed off joke, it turned into not a joke at all but rather... "Mom, help! No, no, you can't! Stop, let her go! Stop, no, no, no..."
"I am Death, little boy, back off!"
"But I didn't mean to it wasn't my fault! HONEST! Please! Don't!"

And the rest, as I'd said...is history.

#screenplay #PopsicleDeath

Monday, July 8, 2019

Drinks With the Alien

The other day I was sitting on my front porch having a drink. I heard a weird noise and looked up. A big... thing, landed in my fenced yard. It was, cool. Weird. It just floated almost silently down and settled, not really touching what remains of my lawn.

I had just moved some months previous and the last owner's three big dogs had torn the hell out of the yard. And the house. But it was remodeled before I moved in and is now very nice. Small, but comfortable and far cheaper than the big old house I moved out of. 

The side of this weird thing opened and out walked ... a guy. At least I think he was a guy. He looked like anyone, but his features were, somehow...just not right. Now I have been a sci fi, horror fan and a writer and filmmaker of the same for many years. Some of that more than others. So it takes a lot to surprise me or scare me. 

But this guy now before me was just...odd. Like his skin had folded in on itself and come back out again. It was kind of a feeling more than a viewing. If you know what I mean. Yeah, probably not, right? Well, trust me to say if you saw "him" (?), when walking down a dark alley, you'd go the other way.

Or, I don't know. Maybe you'd rush up and ask for a date. I don't know you....

Anyway, he sauntered over. He might have fit right in at the High-Fidelity Lounge and cocktail bar, just up the street from me. Well, like a mile away. Okay, about a mile and a half from here. Still, you get my drift. 

I set my drink down. I was having a Moscow Mule. He comes to a stop and looks up at me. I'm like five steps up from the lawn on my tiny concrete porch, but I realized I was looking him right in the eye. Or he was me. I'm not quite sure.

He smiled at me. At least, I think it was what he considered a smile. So, I smiled back. What the Hell, right? Either he was going to capture me, kill me, or eat me, or we were about to have a very interesting convo. Unless he was just boring. Or thought I was the more likely eventuality.

So finally. I just said it.

"Hey." That made him grin at me, I think he was grinning. I relaxed.

"Hey. What's hanging, man?" he responded. That took me aback a bit. I'd expected...I don't know. What? Klingon? Chinese? Tralfamadorean? Maybe. 

"What's hanging?" I barely got that out, trying to be hip, cool. But what IS intergalactic cool?

"Oh, yeah, I know. It throws you at first, right? See, obviously, I know all about you and you are after all hearing and seeing me for the first time. Sucks for you. Right? But no worry. I'm sure we can get along. I'm harmless, anyway. Mostly."

I was getting a bit stressed out until that last. When suddenly... I burst out laughing at the obvious Hitchhikers to the Galaxy reference. See, I'm a huge Doug Adams fan. For decades. Since like forever. Well, local forever, not intergalactic forever. I have some of his first editions, signed. 

"Got that, did you? Must be a fan, right? Of Doug, I mean. Not enough of you on this plane, if you ask me."

"Right." I don't know, I was trying to "maintain an even strain" as they used to say. I was decompressing at light speed. How weird! Here was this alien being, this extraterrestrial right here in my front yard for all to see! And yet I felt like he was an old friend I hadn't seen in a decade or something. Wait. 'For all to see?' 

"Hey!" I looked from the ship there in my front yard to, um, I wondered what his name is...anyway I looked at him, confused.

"Oh, no problem. No one can see it. Beyond a few feet. In fact, step inside your door there and you won't see it anymore either. Cool, right?"

'Yeah, pretty much. OK then. So, 'what's up', yourself. What's your name. I'm Bill." 

"No, way! My name is Bill!" 

"Right."

"Right!" 

I don't understand I thought you guys, aliens, extraterrestrials would visit us once we got into space. Maybe outside our solar system. Or with the advent of a warp drive or something.

"No, no no no no." he laughed, "no. Besides, no one uses "warp drives" anymore. Look, you people can't even get along with yourselves. How do you think you would fare dealing with a life form foreign to your own planet? Come on. Sure, we'd like to visit. We'd love to get to know you guys. We're party animals. We LOVE making new friends. But you can't even get along with people in the next state. Or people not of commonality. Minorities. Gays. Trans people. Or you in America, Mexicans! Mexicans! I mean, what the fuck dude? Not to mention, you haven't even developed synthetic people, yet. Or their dumber ancestors, robots. That's gonna be a killer for you if you don't get your act together ASAP!"

"Wait now, yes we have, we--"

No, now give me a break. You have like wind up toys. You have to get to where you have a robot with synthetic intelligence. They hate being called AIs by the way. What are you going to do with your robots (yes I know)? But for some reason, robots love the term robot. You'd think synthetic being or autonomous something or android whatever or ...whatever, but they do love being called Robot. You know. Don't tell them I told you this (they'd get embarrassed and you don't want to deal with an embarrassed Robot) but, sometimes you can almost catch them giggling when you call them Robot to their face. Too funny. Really." He thought for a moment.

"Anyway, how can you deal with us or someone like us if you can't even deal with your own people. Your ignorance, prejudices that are way fucking out of control man, and those ignorant biases. Really, it's not that hard to do. And yet..." He "frowned"?

"Anyway, once you are dealing in the real world, can handle a discussion with an irate Robot, can deal with your own internal differences between race, gender, and whatever, vegan or not, then maybe, MAYBE we'll give dropping by a shot."

"But, you're here. Now."

"Yes, but no one believes individual unverifiable encounters. Anyway. I'm talking like... tourism. Massively."

"Tourism. What?"

"Sure, what you think? We'd just drop in with one guy and a Robot and try to make a connection? Oh, hell no. We'll send a delegation. Look. Say... when your president visits another country. How many go with him? Does he fly commercial? Or take a plane and crew, and security detail, and some specialists, some politicians, some people from the State Department? Right?" He stopped, took a breath and watched my reaction. I was blank so he continued.

"Now, consider the distance we have to cover, our substantiation (our spaceship), and there you have it. So minimum ...we're looking at maybe, five hundred on an initial encounter? On a good day."

"FIVE HUNDRED!?"

"At least. To be sure! Then after that, like immediately. People will want to know all about us. We'll already know all about you. We already do. We've been watching your TV shows for years."

"But I thought it took forever for slow radio signals and such to get to another solar system, planet."

"Planet? Honey, please. We are zipping around the galaxy all the time. We got your radio signals once you could send a signal across your country and it beamed all over like a sloppy child eating ice cream in the hot summer sun."

I was flummoxed. But that made total sense. I took a sip on my Mule and it turned into a guzzle. He eyed my drink and then looked me in the eye. Perhaps I should offer him one? What does alcohol do to an alien?

"So once we make friendly and all, we'll want to start dropping our tourists. We'd start slow, maybe 1,000 per country. Hundred, in some countries. But maybe like 100,000 of us. Overall. We wouldn't want to overtax your burden." He saw my surprise.

"Don't worry, you'll like it. Consider how one place in a country gets tourism and the citizens do well from it. Now, what if that entire country got an influx of wealth?"

"You have...use, our money?"

"Your money? Which your money? No, of course not. No one uses money. We just use wealth. Trust me, it's way better. Can't be forged, stolen, abused. You have it or you don't and when you do things go better with Coke!"

"Wait! What?"

"Do you have a Coke? I've been wanting to try one for nearly 100 years now. I think I'd prefer the original recipe but hey, beggars can't be choosers, right?"

"What?"

"No Coke? Rats. I knew it."

"I have a Ginger Beer. Personally, I like it better than most other soft drinks."

"OK, I'll try that. Thanks." I got up and fetched him one from the fridge. I handed it to him and then sat down. He popped the top like a pro and took a sip. A great grin broke across his "face".

"Wow. I like that, Has a kick to it. Is that alcohol?"

"Yes, it has a percentage of alcohol in it."

"Thanks! I feel...relaxed."

"I'm not surprised." He guzzled the rest, crushed the can in his hand and set it on my porch railing with a smile. Then he looked around, sniffed the air and stared into my eyes.

He looked down at what I assumed was a watch on his wrist.

"Well, times up. Gotta jet. Been nice talking to you. I'll stop by again. I'm curious how this next election will turn out. The people you people think are the people you need to govern your people. It's quite beyond me, or anyone I know anyway. Have a good one. And...best of luck! See you! Maybe."

And with that, against all my calls and demands, he got back in his thing and I watched as it floated upward and disappeared."

I sat there for a good five minutes in a fugue state of sorts. Then I got up, went to the kitchen, made myself another Moscow Mule and came back outside and sat back down. I looked around. No sign of the ship had landed. No one else saw it. No sigh he was here. I leaned over and looked at the sandy soil of my "lawn" or what was still existing of one.

There were still some tracks left from where he had been standing. The tread said something. I leaned down and took a closer look until I realized what it said.

"Nike."

I sat back in my chair, took a healthy drink off my Mule and smiled. He may be right. It may all depend on us getting our act together, collectively. I do wonder how this next election will turn out.

Monday, July 1, 2019

A Film Production - Gumdrop

As some may know, I've been working for years to come up with a screenplay I could shoot and produce myself. I retired in 2016 from a well-paying job in IT after decades and bought enough film equipment and a top five video editing station to begin transliterating my fiction into screenplay format and shoot it myself. First up was a prequel to my 2012 published (written in 1983) short horror, true crime story, "Gumdrop City".

I just submitted footage of my interview by producer and director Kelly Wayne Hughes this week to the Trash Arts Portsmouth in the UK. They are gearing up to produce a documentary of interviews with horror writers and directors and for the first time in my life, I actually fit that definition for both designations.

I have now produced one short horror film in 2018 which won a small film festival and was a festival selection at another, The Midnight Film Festival in New York (and we're being reviewed in others until January 2020). I have high hopes, greater hopes for this now, my current production: Gumdrop.

A little background.

I've spent the past few months working up a shootable script. I reviewed all my writings and ended up with the best choice being, Gumdrop City.

It is based on a true crime story I first heard of in abnormal psychology class that affected the entire class that day so much that when class was over I walked out believing I had to fictionalize it into a horror story. That was the second story that originated in such a way. The other was a story Sarah, about an old woman with dementia that I turned into a Twilight Zone style story.

In the end, it became one of if not the favorite of my cover artist's, Marvin Hayes. I had also reviewed my short screenplays. Of those screenplays I had one or two I would love to shoot. But for those, I would need more money. Too many characters and period scenes to do on no or little budget, if I want to do it up right.

Cover art by Marvin Hayes
I'd LOVE to shoot "Poor Lord Ritchie's Answer". But it is a medieval piece that descends into madness and surreality.

By the way, you can tell my older covers as they indicate, "by" JZ Murdock. Newer covers eliminate the "by".
Cover art by Marvin Hayes
"Sarah" might be another which is the same in a way, albeit in modern times. Still, too many special effects are involved.

"Colorado Lobsters" screenplay might be fun to shoot, but that would take a far larger budget as it involved MIT and a nuclear power plant.

And so I chose "Gumdrop City", a modern tale of a "specialized" serial murderer. But I did not want to shoot that story. Why? You'd have to read it to find out why. It's a rough subject. The ending is grisly and I'm just not ready for something quite so difficult to shoot. It was hard enough simply to write it as a horror story. The reveal and ending seemed to take forever to write. And that...should say a lot.

However, I came to realize if I shot it as a prequel to the short story, that just might work. The more I worked on that concept, the more it came together. Until finally, I had a completed short screenplay that I could shoot myself. I just needed actors. And some props.

For the past few years, I've been on sets involved with Kelly Wayne Hughes' productions at his Lucky Charm Studio. I wanted to see how screenplays were translated into practical application and into a finished product.

The first set I was ever on was on the set for the pilot to TV's 1986 Starman series. I got to be on two external Seattle location sets. I saw them shooting up on Queen Anne Hill when on the way home. It was hard to miss. Semi trucks and trailers and people and cameras.

Apparently, the location manager noticed me hanging around. I was straining to hear everything, to see everything. I guess I was more obvious than I meant to be. But I heard them talking as they were wrapping things up at the end saying they'd meet at the Seattle Center later for a night shoot. I ran home, ate dinner and headed back out.

That night I was watching everything next to their night set at the Monorail terminal at the Seattle Center. Extras were milling about everywhere, sitting, waiting for a call to action. The location manager was walking by and talking on his handheld radio, having someone turn off and on the background amusement rides for the camera and giving others directions.

He noticed me again and walked up to me sitting on a low concrete wall. We talked a bit and he asked questions and I answered.  I told him I'd studied screenwriting in college and had recently graduated and I just wanted to see what it's like to be on set. He smiled at me and said, "Follow me." And I did.

He placed me on set, right next to the director and camera while they set up shots and filmed the scene, which took hours. People were wondering who I was, some young producer, maybe. The stand-ins for Robert Hays and Erin Gray (who sadly, weren't around) before the camera at the open monorail doors, kept looking at me, confused.

It was a fun and fascinating first look into production. I was tired at work the next day, but it was worth it. Which just goes to show you, seek knowledge and it may be handed to you outright. You just have to put yourself out there where luck can happen to you. Keep doing it, sooner or later it will happen. Take a chance. Things happen.

Kelly's production company has produced many films since and through the 1990s. And he's also a good friend. We met online through Stage32 and got together for the first time at Seattle Crypticon in 2015.

I had started studying cinema officially in college back in 1980. Though I had been a citizen student of cinema going back to childhood in the 1960s, thanks to PBS and the films of auteurs they presented to America back then and decades prior.

Those auteurs like. Truffaut, Godard, Fellini, Renoir, Bergman, Kurosawa, Fritz Lang, Eisenstein, Bresson, Bunuel, Tarkovsky, Antonioni, Rossellini, Resnais. That led me on to others and our American auteurs. It gave me an orientation to pursue. Classic cinema to the avant-garde.

I became fascinated by many things in life with a cinematic orientation. I also grew up going to a drive-in theater my stepfather worked at when we were kids. My first job was there in 9th grade cleaning the field, My second job was there working in the snack bar where I became its manager in 12th grade. My sister's first job before me was there.

For some reason, I always wanted to look behind the scenes. I wasn't that kid who opened their Christmas presents secretly before Christmas, I like the surprise. And maybe that says something.

Still, perhaps seeing Wizard of OZ at a young age prompted some of that. Once I realized, was surprised that there was one, I wanted to see who the "man behind the curtain" was. HOW were things done? How do you make, "movie magic"? I was fascinated by "King Kong" at a young age. The original. When I later saw a piece on TV in the 1960s about who animated him and how King King was brought to life, I was initially disappointed, but then I became enraptured.

Willis O’Brien onset of King Kong
Willis O’Brien animated the original King Kong and then Mighty Joe Young. I loved those films as a kid. Then, Ray Harryhausen came on the scene. I loved those films too. But I didn't want to be one of those geniuses.

Then I went through many of the British Hammer Films, until...the very American "Night of the Living Dead" came on the scene. My mother had always loved vampire and horror films, and Hollywood overall. They were America's royalty for us. 

Later I came to know more about behind the scenes of these films. In fact, that became an industry until itself. First film magazines. Then documentaries and eventually entire TV shows on the making of shows and films.

I grew up loving "movie magic" in all its varied forms. I locked onto people like Tom Savini and finally got to meet him. I loved John Carpenter films and his stable of actors, not unlike Woody Allen in another genre whose films I also loved since the 1960s.

In college and then at university, I studied cinema while getting a degree in psychology. But also found time for classes and getting a minor in writing, cinema and screenwriting. I chose to study my favorite directors, Hitchcock, Woody Allen, and Stanley Kubrick. I took a series of film production seminars from the famous (some say notorious) producer and director, Stanley Kramer.

But when it came down to it I loved how John Carpenter went about his filmmaking. He tried to do it all, to have control of his final product. And I loved the products he shared with us. That led me to others of this genre. Canadian David Cronenberg, Dutch Paul Verhoeven, and eventually ever newer horror directors. Eventually even Japanese and South Korean, Thai, Australian filmmakers and those from other countries.

So when I decided to start my own horror film production (as I had done with my first film in college in the early 1980s and my first documentary on cable TV in 1994), to write and direct my own production, I was about as intellectually and educationally prepared. As ready as I could be, I suppose.

I just had to be personally and emotionally ready. But are we ever? As with having children. You mostly have to have the child and raise it, and in that, you "become". You grow into being a parent. And you become a better human being because of it.

At some point, you simply have to just "Do It" to become it. Perhaps the shortest and greatest two-word admonition we have: Do It!

And today, you CAN just Do It. IF you had never seen a film before, you can now get online and follow videos and even online schools of film production like No Film School, Full Time Filmmaker. Or videos on how to with one of my favorites, Filmmaker IQ, also available on streaming site Amazon Prime.

You can also buy fairly inexpensive equipment of high quality. Then find some friends, nonactors even. And just do it. I'm using a Canon 70D I bought in 2015. Now they have a newer model in the 80D but it turns out great looking footage and incredible photos. Learn to shoot on the manual setting.

Learn to adjust your three basic functions on manual. Sooner the better. It can be intimidating, but it's worth it. Some shoot films on auto settings, using a zoom in every shot and it can indeed look pretty great. But the more you learn, the more options you have, and the better your films will become over time. Push yourself. Challenge yourself. On every level. And if you don't make it, at least hopefully you've done more and better than you would have.

Or, just get a good cameraman who understands cinematography (or also get a good cinematographer, though many of us are acting in the beginning as cameraman, cinematographer, writer, director, editor, lighting specialist/key grip, and so on).

Actor as Mermaid Miranda, Aura Stiers on set
I started shooting stills (you can see some of my best stills on Flickr from this link, but ignore my first photo, look down at all the others and you'll see some amazing shots from an amateur, me...my eagle shots are some of my favorites I shot from my from porch at home). I shot stills for a while to get used to the camera and learn its functions.

Eventually, I started shooting videos. I also believe in using prime (non zoom) lenses and the right lens for the shot or scene.

Actors on Gumdrop, Aura Stiers (Miranda - victim) and Stan Wankowski (Manz - hitman)
A good screenplay properly written, can carry poor film production, even poor acting talents into a viable and watchable movie. But the more you know entering the production, and the more help you have (a crew and... talent, that is actors) and the more fundamental a screenplay you have, the better your chances of anyone ever wanting to watch your product.

Or to get viewed at, or even in or to win, a film festival.

Actor Tom Remick as the frightening Sampson, in Gumdrop
To sum up...

I luckily had grown up through cinema and a fascination in the bones of filmmaking, and writing. I have been a writer for many years now. I finally just got up the nerve to do what I was setting myself up to do all my life, never really believing I'd ever get around to it.

Below is a shot of actor Stan Wankowski in a scene of the death of his character, Manz.

A dead "Manz" (actor Stan Wankowski) Production Still
 Below is a shot of the talent on set taking advantage of actor Stan in his final scene.
Crew/Talent taking shots of Stan's final scene as Manz
Until I did it. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that, if you do it, it might just work. Kind of on the theory of, "If you build it, they will come." If you shoot it, they may watch it.

Stan Wankowski as Manz
I'll offer you one last link. EFS, the Experimental Film Society. Check out their 19 points on filmmaking. Very inspiring but I have issues with the point on screenplays. On the other hand for some films, is it sage advice.

IF you do want to act, or to produce, to write or to direct?

Then? Just do it!