Star Spangled Memories

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Photo: DT Krippene

Photo: DT Krippene

Fourth of July will always be the bandstand of summer for me.   Men burn meat over an open fire, beer flows like the Mississippi in spring, pools slosh with white caps, hotdogs become an endangered species, ice cream puddles in vats, and fireworks cloud the sky with enough phosphoric haze to create its own weather pattern.  Doesn’t get any better than that.

Memorable fourths fill a dozen photo albums in our family.  The kids spent most of their summers at grandpa’s place, where the mossy scent of lake water and drone of motorboats still bring a smile.  Grandpa used to start July 4 by lighting a string of black cat firecrackers by our bedroom window.  Clothing for the day had to include red, white and blue.  Children vied for the honor of carrying the flag in the annual parade between the houses, all to John Phillip Sousa blasting from the house of a retired neighbor.  The parade ended at a flagpole, where the kids recited the Pledge of Allegiance and gave thanks to the men and women of the armed forces who help us keep the freedoms we enjoy.

July 4 Popsicle Grin

The rest of the day passed in a melee of games, swimming, popsicle grins, and tube riding (which can be scary as hell when grandpa was driving).  We’d give in to demands for sparklers long before the sun slipped below the horizon because the resulting acrid fog helped keep the mosquitoes at bay.  Later, we gave out empty mason jars so kids could terrorize the fireflies.  Most summers, we pooled our money to obtain fireworks for the annual beachside display.   We could get a lot of bang for our buck in those days.  Today it costs the equivalent of a fancy restaurant for mostly cardboard and sparkler dust, but it’s still worth it.

Things are quieter these days, now that the kids have flown the coop.  The lake house is long gone.  No big plans for us, other than to chill on the patio with a glass of wine and reminisce of holidays past to the buzz of katydids in the trees.

Photo: AJ Krippene

Photo: AJ Krippene

Here’s wishing you a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July.  Go make some star-spangled memories of your own, and don’t forget to burn some meat.

 

If you like this post, show the love by liking it back, and feel free to share your favorite July 4 memory in the comment section.

 

“Originally posted July 2013.”

My Big, Fat Mediaphile Life

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From: Bicubic - DepositPhotos.com

From: Bicubic – DepositPhotos.com

Are you a media-phile?  I’ll bet you are and don’t even know it.  What’s a “mediaphile”? Someone who has the same excitement for pop culture media as a bibliophile has for books.  No, it’s not just TV stuff like America Has Talent or Game of Thrones, it’s all the “screen” time we spend on TVs, smart phones, audio streaming, gaming, and social media, which may or may not include the aforementioned programs.

When I read James Poniewozik’s, The Paradox of Television’s New Golden Age, and You Don’t Have Time to Watch it; (Time Magazine, The View, June 22, 2015), it had me pause for introspection.  Am I a mediaphile?  I mean, sure, I do social media, check emails on my smart phone, chill out with a few tunes and stare at nothing, watch a little TV at night. The suffix phile, seems rather extreme, like foodophiles, Potterphiles, or spermophiles (okay you pottyminded-philes, it’s not what you think; see below).  Mediaphile conjures visions of attending weekly Media Anonymous intervention meetings.  Hi, my name is DT. I’m a mediaphile. Of which fellow participants somberly greet, Hi DT, followed by a reminder to turn off our smart phones.  Sidebar questions like Have you seen the last three episodes American Horror Story, are greatly discouraged.

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No Turn on Red – Futuristic Traffic

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Gilles Tran © 1993-2009 www.oyonale.com

Gilles Tran © 1993-2009 http://www.oyonale.com

In a city of the future, what is your vision of vehicular transit?  Do you see yourself straddling a flying scooter on the way to school, catching a taxi driven by Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element, or something more realistic, like networked hover vehicles seen in the movie Minority Report?

On my near-term bucket list is to see the movie, TOMORROWLAND.  The original Disney Epcot version left an indelible print on a much younger me, adding fuel to my infatuation with science fiction. I’d ride Space Ship Earth several times in one day, then lie awake at night, dreaming of a future city where robots, jetpacks, and commuting to space was the norm. To me, flying cars characterized a futuristic metropolis.

As I matured, something that came late in life (some would argue I’ve yet to achieve it), a sciences education and many years toiling in the real world, clouded my childhood acceptance of some futuristic tenets.  I hit the stoplight of plausible reality recently, while writing a scene involving city traffic like the kind depicted above. I needed a little inspiration, and browsed the many concept art sites I frequent for ideas.

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Went Off the Grid … Again.

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From: DepositPhotos.com

From: DepositPhotos.com

Two years ago, I went off-the-grid to Central America and for awhile, folks didn’t hear from me.  About the same time last year, I went to Nevada (see Going Off the Grid for a Human Touch), and got caught up in the wonder of my newborn grandson. Well, I’ve done it again and gone off-the-grid for a few weeks in Mexico. Like my adventure in Central America, local cell service existed if you could speak Spanish. Internet is spotty but available … in-between frequent brownouts. My cell phone didn’t have international access and I chose not to rent one locally (because I’m cheap and who would I call in Mexico). When I did find a working Wi-Fi signal, my laptop had issues speaking the same digital lingo. It might have been the dozen rum drinks I had trying to make it work, but I decided the purpose of my visit was to regale in the splendor of unspoiled sandy beaches and turquoise waters (I took that right off the tourist brochure).

A few days passed before withdrawal symptoms set in. Fingers twitched involuntarily, as if searching for something to type. Fitful nights, separated from emergency calls in case something happened to my daughter or if my house burned down. What about all the unanswered email? Will social media followers drop me? Did Tyrion Lannister survive his harrowing boat journey with the scheming eunuch?

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Not Going Anywhere Soon

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Astronaut in the tunnels

Lurii-DepositPhotos.com

Ah yes, we science fiction writers dream of interstellar travel and meeting otherworldly aliens.  Imagine the excitement of a young lad watching Walter Cronkite broadcast Apollo 11’s moon landing. I must have visited the Disney Futureworld’s, Spaceship Earth a dozen times. Can’t tell you how many times as a tyke, I dreamed my real parents were due to pick me up from the star system Yucantgetthrfromhere. As an adult, it’s depressing when we have to face the real possibility, humans can’t get there from here.

The World is Not Enough, a WSJ book review by best selling sci-fi author, John Gribbin summarized a mostly positive outtake of Chris Impey’s new book, Beyond: Our Future in Space, which claims human wanderlust will eventually draw mankind to the limitless unknown. I especially like the book cover; a fully suited astronaut entering an elevator. Going up, sir?

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Science and the Naysayers

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From: DepositPhoto.com - prometeus

From: DepositPhoto.com – prometeus

I finally got around to reading the March issue of National Geographic, The War on Science, which examines why reasonable people doubt science.  For us science fiction geeks, them is fighting words (metaphorically of course, I can’t run as fast as I used to).  I’m one of those guys who thinks we should have clean fusion energy by now, and able to plan the next vacation at Playa-del-Mars. Why is water shortage even an issue anymore?  Sigh. Never thought I’d actually see members of my fellow humanity view technical advancement as a bunch of mad scientists out to destroy the world.

Neil deGrasse Tyson recently tweeted “If I were ever abducted by aliens, the first thing I’d ask is whether they came from a planet where people also deny science.”

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To Be Human, Or Not To Be

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Robot in Love - Rudy Faber

Robot in Love – Rudy Faber

Love and Artificial Intelligence

I’m working on a scene in my new book and stuck on how emotionally self-aware a robot should be. Artificial intelligence, or A.I., in science fiction go hand-in-hand, like romance titles do with ripped bodices and men with hairless chests. Which brings me to a question … can artificial intelligence ever achieve the emotional rollercoaster that defines who we are as humans?   You know, that thing called love, the craziness that alters behavior, evokes euphoria, obsession, distortion of reality, personality changes, and risk taking (loosely defined as doing really stupid shit because we can’t think straight).  Can anyone actually associate the word intelligence with love?

A.I. can be many things; a voice on a computer or command module, mechanical production, or prosthetic arm with a mind of its own, but it’s more fun to create A.I. in our own image, give them a humanistic physique so we dream about indentured servants who won’t bitch about workloads, or get a headache when daddy’s feeling frisky.

Could you love an artificial human … real love … beyond a mind-in-the-gutter play toy that knows where all the right tickle points are? For that to be possible, our robot friend will need to reciprocate with an emotional range that isn’t easily coded in algorithms, because true love … defies common sense. Continue reading

Your Shirt Just Ratted You Out

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From: Whitenoise - Depositphotos.com

From: Whitenoise – Depositphotos.com

Thinking back at all the science fiction I’ve read over the years, real-time biomedical telemetry is rarely a major theme in the story line.  Dr. Leonard McCoy of Star Trek fame pioneered scanning tools with computer assisted diagnostic tech, all so he can report:     He’s dead, Jim.

Sure, a few stories touched on “vitals” monitoring.    He’s still dead, Jim.   

Intelligent pills have already hit the test market, ready and able to snitch on you from the inside. Now, scientists have developed textiles that can monitor and transmit wearer’s biomedical info (Sparkonit, December 2014).  If you thought privacy was an issue with smart phones, wait until the healthcare industry starts insisting on textiles with biomedical remote telemetry.

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Love and the Fickle Finger of Fate

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Our Lucky Numbers - @agsandrew via Depostphotos.com

Our Lucky Numbers – @agsandrew via Depostphotos.com

It’s no secret that romance writers love imagining how fate throws two people together.  It’s a big part of the RWA canon.  Protag should meet love interest by chapter two and must have a satisfying ending.  Killing the love interest, like Downton Abby does with regularity, is frowned upon (but forgiven if you’re … Downton Abby).   It is not a new formula. Twentieth-century movies formatted the process for decades with “guy meets girl, guy loses girl, guy gets girl“.  Joke as I may about RWA’s blueprint, all I know about writing romantic entanglements came from published authors of romance novels, nurtured by the RWA.  They know a thing or two about love. I belong to the RWA. There – I just outed myself (but wisely waited until after the Super Bowl).

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Eating – A Humanizer in Stories Ancient and New

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From: Wikipedia-Charlie Chaplin, The Gold Rush

From: Wikipedia-Charlie Chaplin, The Gold Rush

 

Those of you who keep up with me, might have noticed I occasionally blog about food and eating, especially if it’s weird, or has futuristic nuances. If you’re interested in past articles, I pasted the links below.

A recent National Geographic article, The Joy of Food, piqued my interest with the opening quote:

“What is it about eating that brings us closer together?”

I’d like modify it to reflect a writer’s view of it.

What is it about eating that enhances a story?

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