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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Artwork by Micah Birchfield

The Red Menace close-up
Two drawings of the Red Menace from Micah Birchfield, who has done the main cover art for the last two Red Menace books and both Crag Banyon Mystery covers.

Red Menace

Twelve Days of Christmas

For the love of God, enough already with the "funny" versions of The Twelve Days of Christmas. They are NEVER funny. (Bob and Doug McKenzie excepted.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm glad the brain trust in Washington banned incandescent bulbs. I was sick of using light bulbs that were inexpensive, efficient, long-lived, brighter and didn't give me mercury poisoning. I'm looking forward to a darker, costlier, more toxic future. We need Washington to do more things. C'mon, people! More things! More things! More things!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bond. Remington Bond.

A friend used to insist that the James Bond movies starring Remington Steele weren't as horrible as I knew they must be. I stumbled across the beginning of one a number of years ago, so I decided to give it a shot. Remington Bond was mincing around on top of a dam and wound up bungee jumping down the face of the dam, bungeeing upside-down into an open-air toilet stall where a Russian was sitting on the pot. Forget the whole creepy Larry Craig aspect of the scene and forget that the outdoor dam-toilet only existed because a snickering hack screenwriter stuck it out there as a ridiculous setup. Upside-down in the outdoor toilet and face-to-face with a crapping Russian, Remington Bond quipped something like, "Mind if I drop in?" I certainly did. I shut off the TV. Five minutes with Roger Moore, Jr. was five minutes too long.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Who could've guessed that sort of nasty stuff from an adult male who hung around kids making baby talk with his hand jammed up a puppet's rear end? If only there had been some sign...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Goofball Review of Goofball Star Trek Episode "Spectre of the Gun"

At the beginning of this week's Star Trek, the Enterprise is forced to slam on the brakes and leave skid marks across half the solar system when some kid's kite flies out in the spaceway right in front of them.  It's apparently pretty windy up there in the inky blackness of eternity, because every time the Enterprise tries to back up and drive around it, the kite rolls right back in front of the ship.  Damn space kids, why aren't you in school?

Kirk has been ordered into the neighborhood by Starfleet to make contact with a hostile race of xenophobes called the Milkmen, and he's afraid to run over the kite because it's one of those expensive box jobbers and the Milkmen might make him pay for a new one and it's not like he's pulling down bigshot commodore money.

The box kite glows like one of Timothy Leary's hippie daydreams and tells Kirk to get lost.  The Milkmen are washing their hair and aren't interested in Starfleet's vacuum cleaners or encyclopedias.  Kirk says nuts to that and flies right on past the kite, because the best way to ingratiate oneself to a species of xenophobic maniacs is to invade their space and send an armed landing party to their planet. (Frankly, I wish we'd have tried that ourselves in North Korea in our way-off distant Earth past of five years ago when we still had prestige and a military.)

On the planet someone has set the fog machine to Universal Monster Classics and Kirk and his pals are confronted by a giant snake mask with glowing eyes left over from Planet Halloween.  The snake head mask quite reasonably tells Kirk that he shouldn't be there, so Kirk pulls a gun and waves it around to show the Halloween mask who's boss of this here planet, see?

The Halloween snake mask gets mad when Kirk threatens to pop a sci-fi cap in its rattle, and it sends Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, Chekov, Sneezy, Grumpy and Dopey to Planet Western.  Yes, that's right.  Planet Western.  God help me.

We learn that the telepathic Milkmen can read minds and somehow learned that William Shatner's Canadian ancestors pioneered the American frontier.  Did I already say God help me?

The buildings in the Western town consist of fake fronts with no side walls and with pictures and clocks hanging in the unrealistic red backdrop sky.  There's some dialogue that tries to explain why the sets are incomplete, but for some reason Spock doesn't mention that in season three the show's budget clearly was slashed from the ten bucks a week from the first two seasons and reduced to whatever they could find under the sofa cushions in producer Gene Rubberbabybuggybumper's office.  Two buttons, a couple of pencil stubs and a roach clip don't buy as many far-out futuristic sets as they used to.

The weird music they played on I Love Lucy when the screen got all wavy at the start of a flashback sequence plays in the background all over Planet Western. The sound department evidently cared pretty much equally as the set department, and instead of varying the music decided to just pop Theremin's Greatest Hits in the eight-track and wander out to the commissary to watch Ben Cartwright eat a tuna fish sandwich.

Scotty can't believe they're on Planet Cowboy.  Because, you know, Planet Indian from a couple of weeks ago made sooooooooo much more sense.

Kirk realizes they're meant to play out the gunfight at the OK Corral.  He meets the Earps, who have brought along their terrible false mustaches to scare Kirk. Kirk tries to be friends by offering them a gallon of the mustache glue he and Chekov use for their wigs, but the Earps are about as interested in what he's peddling as the Milkmen were at the start of the episode.

McCoy meets Doc Holiday all by himself and tries to curry favor by complimenting him on how real his terrible false mustache looks, and I start to wonder that if these Milkmen are such great geniuses at reaching into someone's mind and creating a false reality from the thoughts they find therein, why they can't come up with four real walls and mustaches that don't look like they've been chopped off a horse's rear end and stuck in place with a smear of maple syrup.

Speaking of horse's rear ends, Chekov romances an imaginary bar floozy and Wyatt Earp shoots him when Chekov valiantly stands up to defend the honor of the figment of his imagination.

Bones says Chekov is dead, but there's not much suspense since Chekov has to survive to say "nuclear wessels" years later in the movie where they pick up two whales in California that aren't Scotty and Uhura.

I suddenly realize that if only the costume department had given Kirk a cowboy hat to cover his bald head like Ron Howard, he probably would have been able to leave his wig back in his trailer that week.

Bones, Spock, and Scotty build a bomb out of a can of beans, but it doesn't blow up. They don't realize that for that to happen you have to eat them first.

Wyatt Earp straps on his gun and glues down his mustache for the big fight.

Oh, I got a cowboy on my boots, honey!
I got a cowboy on my boots, babe!
Oh, I got a cowboy on my boots,
An' I'm-a smokin' and-a spettin' my cheroots, Starfleet baby mine!
Hey, do you realize that Bones looks pretty much as old in the 1960s TV show as he did in the movies twenty years later, so he either looked good for 110 or lousy for ninety?

Someone turns the wind machine on high and the air is suddenly full of flying leaves and mustaches.  The only thing holding my interest at this point is wondering if Shatner's wig will fly out the window, through Mission Impossible's front door and land on Martin Landau's wig.

Spock feels up Kirk's, McCoy's and Scotty's faces so that the Earp boys' bullets pass right through them.  Who cares that it makes no sense, it's flying kick time!

Kirk beats up Wyatt and pulls off his mustache but doesn't shoot him, and all of sudden everybody's back on the bridge of the Enterprise and Chekov lives!  Outside, the glowing box kite explodes and the Halloween snake mask Milkman says that he was just a little upset before when he tried to kill everybody with dream cowboys because he had a roast burning in the oven and his wife was out gallivanting with the girls again, and that of course his planet would be delighted to buy some brushes and fine Avon products from the United Federation of Planets, he just needs a minute to slip into something sexy.

As the Enterprise flies off for Planet Milkmen, Kirk tells Spock that man overcame his instinct for violins, so I guess that means there aren't any orchestras in the future but if that's the case how does he explain Jerry Goldsmith, huh?  Or maybe I didn't hear him quite right.  Whatever.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Goofball Review of Goofball Star Trek Episode "Is There In Truth No Beauty?"

I once saw a low-budget horror movie where a guy kept his monstrous midget Siamese twin troll brother locked in a box from which he'd escape and sneak around the neighborhood gruesomely killing people.  This week's Star Trek was a little like that only nowhere near as artfully plotted and executed.

The Enterprise Taxi Service, Inc. of the Greater Milky Way and Points West is flagged down at the curb outside a ritzy hotel planet by a woman who needs the crew to schlepp her and her suitcase to the airport.  And step on it, young man, I'm in a hurry.

Inside the little suitcase she's stashed away the Medusan ambassador, a creature so hideous to behold that one spring of his latches drives a human as insane as Margot Kidder hiding in the bushes.  So I'm guessing the Medusan ambassador has kind of the effect that seeing Rosie O'Donnell has on me, if 900 pounds of solid crap could fit in a ten pound American Tourister carryon.

Spock, being only half-human, is allowed to peep in the box provided he wears a pair of elderly James Garner's giant ski goggle sunglasses.  Somehow a red lens on the camera turns the whole room red and makes Gorgons not crazy-inducing, which is nice.  Frankly, I wish they had a behind-the-scenes making-of documentary for this episode, because I'd love to know exactly how the clever technicians in the special effects department figured out how to hold that piece of see-through red plastic in front of the camera, but maybe some TV magic should just be left to the imagination.

The lady with the Rosie O'Donnell mini-monster in her toolbox luggage has brought along a guy named Larry who wants to make out with her and later Scotty wears a dress to supper.

The lady doesn't want to make out with Larry because she likes Rosie O'Donnell in the suitcase --  even though he's just a bunch of flashing green lights, so what would their kids look like? -- so Larry goes to shoot Rosie O'Donnell who, as you recall from earlier in this sentence, is just a bunch of flashing green lights.  So Larry thinks he can shoot flashing light.  You know, just like you can shoot the light coming from the sun with a gun.  I think Larry is kind of nuts already.

Even though he has no arms, somehow the Rosie O'Donnell monster opens his suitcase lid just in time and Larry beholds Rosie's hideous visage.  Larry shows us he's gone nuts by jumping around the suitcase's room like Pee-Wee Herman when he first gets up in the morning in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.

Larry runs down to engineering and makes the ship fly so fast that it flies clear off the script and lands in the groovy kaleidoscopic opening to Family Affair, which I hated but which I got stuck seeing the opening credits to sometimes because my sister was bigger than me.

Once he's stranded them in the Family Affair credits, Larry dies of bad acting.  If that's fatal on the Enterprise now, Shatner and Sulu better run down to sickbay for immunizations, pronto!

Rosie O'Donnell in the suitcase is an expert at navigation, naturally, so Spock decides to mind-meld with it in order to help the ship escape from the cheesy 1960s sitcom opening.  Kirk decides to do his part by distracting the box's chick friend who is in love with the inside of her suitcase by sexually harassing her in the back of the ship.

While Spock goes to the suitcase's bedroom, Kirk takes the woman down to the room where they keep the leftover flowers from some of William Shatner's weddings. 

Kirk woos the lady with all the subtlety of Teddy Kennedy chasing a terrified waitress around a restaurant table with his pants down around his ankles.  The lady suddenly senses that Spock is trying to swipe her luggage upstairs.  Didn't I mention she was psychic?  That's okay, though, because the script forgot to mention that she's blind until now, too, so she can see without sight the beauty of the glowing green vomit light show that is the ghastly Rosie O'Donnell midget hidden inside her carryon bag.  If only the Star Trek writers had tried to convey some diabolically clever observations about our shallow human perception of true beauty, this episode would have had a whole other layer of meaning beyond ugly monsters hiding in your luggage and Kirk's attempted date rape in the Enterprise's flower shop.

I have something so hideous, so terrifyingly ugly in this box that it makes Cher look like...okay, bad example.  But, mister, it ain't pretty.

The suitcase is brought to the bridge and put behind a shield so Rosie O'Donnell can change into a bikini without driving everyone as nuts as whoever wrote this episode.  Spock goes behind the shield wearing his giant James Garner sunglasses and comes out laughing.  At first I'm afraid that he's gone bad-acting crazy like poor Larry, but then I realize that Leonard Nimoy is just as crummy an actor as Shatner always was, he just lucked out that his character didn't require him to act outside of one dimension every week.

Spock is now possessed by the hideous luggage monster who, remember, is conveniently a whiz at navigation, and together they manage to back the Enterprise out of the parking space in Family Affair's opening credits and get them back onto the highway and into this week's Star Trek episode.  I begin to think maybe they'd have been better off hanging out with Brian Keith and his live-in boyfriend, that fat English butler with the beard.

Once the Enterprise is safe, Spock goes back behind the shield to slip into something more comfortable, and Sulu realizes too late that Spock has left James Garner's giant red sunglasses on the navigation console.  Spock gets a full-on look at Rosie O'Donnell in all her ghastliness and he catches the worst case of bad acting on Star Trek since Kirk danced around hugging himself dressed as an Indian in that episode where he had amnesia and thought he was Tonto.

The psychic lady is the only one who can cure crazy Spock because she's got amazing psychic abilities that somehow also can cure people -- with, apparently, the exception of people named "Larry" -- but she's jealous of Spock for looking in her luggage and seeing her dirty underwear and that old busted-open tube of traveling toothpaste she never cleaned up properly.  Kirk decides the best way to get her to save his pal is the "shake, yell at and insult" method, which is the same method he employs with the stewards down in the galley to ensure that his creamed corn isn't laced with spit.

The lady saves Spock who for some reason at the end of the show is wearing an ugly medal with a megaphone glued on it on a giant chain around his neck.  Spock and the lady talk about the medal like I'm supposed to know what the crap they're talking about but I have no idea what they're talking about.  Spock is wearing James Garner's sunglasses again as he beams the lady and her Rosie O'Donnell luggage monster off the ship to Planet LAX. 

It's a good thing Spock remembered to wear his giant sunglasses, because Kirk is standing next to him in the room watching the whole thing without wearing a pair of protective red sunglasses, so Spock will need to be in top form once Kirk, as has been established multiple times throughout the episode, goes crazy and dies in a couple of minutes and Spock is forced to take command of the ship.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reviews -- We Love Them

Thanks to Randy Johnson of Not the Baseball Pitcher for his review of Devil May Care.

Goofball Review of Goofball Star Trek Episode "And the Children Shall Lead"

On this week's Star Trek, the Enterprise crew lands on Planet Anorexia, where emaciated husks of sci-fi plots shuffle like zombie runway models; an inhumane TV world in which poor withered plots aren't left to die merciful deaths behind the nearest Styrofoam rock, but are instead dragged to their bloody feet and padded up to sixty minutes, minus Clapper commercials.

Kirk, Spock and Bones beam down to Planet Truckasaurus on which a scientific expedition was studying the environmental effects of gray spray paint and a couple of truckloads of pool sand on a Paramount sound stage.  The men and women are all dressed in the multicolored jumpsuits that are so popular in the far-off distant future as well as with retro Sixties James Bond henchmen.  I wonder given the difficulties their wardrobe choice presents if they even bother with bathrooms up in outer space and down in volcano lairs or if everybody just gives up and goes straight for the Depends.

The science crew are all dead and have been arranged around the unrealistic set to look like Jonestown, if those cult people were wearing jumpsuits and were up in space.  For some reason there is something that looks like the blackened and smoking ruins of an old stereo system in the middle of the carnage, and I think that maybe they were listening to Led Zeppelin and got too close to the stage.  Will mankind ever learn that Zeppelin rocks?

The only survivors of the expedition are a bunch of ugly kids in 19th century ladies bathing costumes.  One of them is Felix Unger's daughter.

An interesting 23rd Century sociological fact is revealed: in the future, kids have two parents each.  Take that, current inner city 80 to 90% out-of-wedlock birthrates!

The children are taken aboard the Enterprise where the homely nurse who got her job because she was married to the homely producer feeds them pudding, and I catch Bones taking a quick glance at William Shatner's toupee.  No fooling.

When the kids are alone they utter a magical incantation that summons an alien who looks like the fat, green ghost of Thomas Jefferson but wearing the giant blancmange costume from the science fiction episode Monty Python where giant blancmanges played tennis.  Blancmange Thomas Jefferson says he's the kids' friend, but I don't like the way he tries to lure them into the back of his ghostly van with promises of Snickers and Wii.  It's a good thing they're full of pudding, and he goes away.

The ugliest kid is a creepy ginger wearing the most bizarre of all the 19th century bathing costumes.  He goes up on the bridge and discovers that Kirk and Spock are watching TV and are about to make a startling discovery on the colored plastic casino chip recordings they brought up from the planet.  The ugly ginger kid makes an emphatic rude hand gesture and the Enterprise's TV reception goes out.  There is no explanation at any point during the entire program of how the rude hand gesture that is repeatedly employed has given the ugly kid the ability to knock the tinfoil off the Enterprise's rabbit ears or how, moments later, it can be used to hypnotize Sulu into flying off to Planet Disneyland. 

Frankly, I'm less interested in the explanation for the magic rude hand gesture than I am in the security crewman extra who's hanging around in the background staring straight at the ugly ginger kid the whole time but who doesn't think anything's odd when the TV goes out as soon as the ugly ginger kid makes the rude hand gesture or how Sulu flagrantly disobeys orders and takes off from the planet after the ugly ginger kid makes the exact same rude hand gesture moments later.  For a minute I think that these red shirt security guys are the biggest morons in law enforcement, but then I think of the cops here in town like the one who ran naked through the nursing home or the one who shot another one in a blind panic and got a medal for it and I realize maybe this red shirt isn't so incompetent or unlike real-life after all.

"Yes, captain, I do not dispute that they rock.  However, it was illogical to invite Great White to perform at the annual Starfleet WACs and WAVES rave."

Kirk and the others figure out that there were space pirates or something at some point on Planet Truckasaurus and even though they have been dead for a long time they vowed to return someday.  Yaaarg, me hearties!  Or something ridiculous like that.  Who knows?  God help me, I thought Planet Gangster was stupid.

Down in engineering, a different kid makes a different rude hand gesture.  Hey, kid.  Up yours with bells on.

Kirk goes to the bridge and the ugly kids chant and Blancmange Thomas Jefferson shows up.  The kids make a rude hand gesture that makes Uhura look old, but not as scary as she was when she actually was old in the movie where she did the naked fan dance.  For some reason she's got a mirror glued to her console.  I guess it's because she's a girl, and you know how hard it is to pry them away from the mirror even in outer space, am I right fellas? 

The kids also make a rude hand gesture that makes Sulu see cartoon knives from a Bugs Bunny cartoon flying at the ship.  Seeing cartoon knives scares Sulu into being a worse actor than usual.

It seems to me that Kirk and Spock have had reason as well as ample opportunity to isolate these kids or at least to punch them in their smug little kissers, especially when the evil Blancmange Thomas Jefferson shows up, but instead Kirk just stands around and watches until the little brats rude hand-gesture into submission every bridge crew member one-by-one.

Spock gets rude hand-gestured into disobeying Kirk's orders, but manages to fight off the hypnosis somehow.  Kirk gets rude hand-gestured into acting like a sissy and nearly Frenches Spock in the elevator.  The terror of almost kissing Leonard Nimoy snaps him out of it, and Kirk butches back up again, more or less.

On the bridge, the ugly ginger kid in the 19th century ladies bathing costume is in Kirk's seat.  Felix Unger's daughter is there too.  Kirk picks them up and rattles them around a little, but a less ridiculous plot doesn't fall out. 

Kirk has Spock play a casino chip of the chant the kids sang earlier to summon the blancmange pirate ghost man.  Dogs know the difference between sounds coming from TV and those in real life, but the super-intelligent alien Thomas Jefferson Blancmange ghost comes a-runnin' like I used to as a kid when the Stooges were on.  Maybe his hearing was damaged when the science crew's stereo blew up way back at that rockin' Led Zeppelin show at the beginning of the episode.

Kirk says he's going to show the kids what the blancmange truly looks like.  He plays a casino chip of them and their parents playing space volleyball on the planet with the gray spray paint and the pool sand next to a giant wart.  It looks like the wart is the only structure on the planet, and if everyone was piling in there to sleep at night I wonder if the kids might not be better off in the back of the van of the glowing green pervert who taught them the magic rude hand gestures.   

The glowing green blancmange-man wants to fly the ship to some planet that has lots of people on it who he can hypnotize so he can take over Planet Poland or something.  I don't know, and I haven't really cared for fifty minutes.  All I know is that for a dead member of an extinct alien race who's been locked on an isolated, uninhabited planet for eons, he sure knows his way around the modern-day galaxy.

The kids cry and it gives Thomas Jefferson acne.  Then they cry some more and gives him Elephant Man.  Then they cry some more and it gives him Wicked Witch, and he melts away.

Bones shows up and I wonder: where the hell has Bones been?

Kirk orders the ship off to Starbase Something.  He felt kind of bad earlier in the episode when he beamed two crewmen into outer space and killed them when he thought they were still orbiting Planet Truckasaurus, but he doesn't seem too worried about the landing party he's abandoned back on the planet to which the green ghost of fat Blancmange Thomas Jefferson Pirate is probably heading back right now, and pretty mad I'd imagine, ye scurvy Starfleet knaves!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Thanks to "doctorwholittle," Jamie Ashby, for his great Amazon review of The Red Menace #2, Drowning In Red Ink. Thanks to George R. Johnson for his equally great Amazon review of Devil May Care, P.I. Crag Banyon's second adventure. And a final special thanks to "Tractor45" for getting the review ball rolling with the very first Amazon review of my brand-new Red Menace #3, Red the Riot Act.

These things matter. I appreciate them. I mean, I'm not weeping tears of joy like Sally Field or anything, but I DO appreciate them.
I just hope that Disney maintains the integrity of all the racist stereotype characters George Lucas came up with for those wonderful prequels. And, of course, more Ewoks!