Albacon Afternoon

AlbaconAlbacon (one of our favorite cons) has been postponed due to Corona Virus.  But do not despair!   The nice folks who run Albacon are hosting Albacon Afternoon this Sunday from 1:00 to 3:00 pm.  Doyle and I will do a reading, and maybe a bit of discussion.

Alas, the Ice Cream Social will have to be on an individual at-home basis, so lay in some ice cream and toppings, and come to the Zoom-based mini-con.

The Schedule:

  • 1:00 pm Steve Miller and Sharon Lee
  • 2:00 pm Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald

Register for Albacon Afternoon.

Sunday, August 30, 1:00-3:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time.


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Another Movie: Midsommar

Since we were talking about movies, here’s another I saw recently:

Midsommar, written and directed by Ari Aster.  I’d previously commented on another of his movies, Hereditary.

My review of Midsommar:

A group of young adults are too stupid to live.

They don’t.

The end.

This was a tedious, over-long, incoherent remake of 1973’s The Wicker Man with Christopher Lee. Go see that film instead. (NOTE: Avoid, as you would a case of mumps, the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man with Nicholas Cage.)

I see that Midsommar (like Hereditary before it) got all kinds of glowing reviews. I guess I’m just not the audience for Ari Aster’s films. The only way I’ll watch another of his offerings is if I’m playing The Movie Game by the strict rules.


Go to a multiplex in time for the very first showing of the day.  Buy a ticket for the next movie showing that you haven’t already seen.  When it gets out, go back to the ticket booth and buy a ticket for the next movie showing that you haven’t already seen.  Repeat until the end of the last screening of the day.  See the very next movie even if the poster, the trailers, and everything else about the film screams “I’m gonna hate this movie.”

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My New Favorite Movie

A while back I had some computer problems.  As in Black Screen of Death computer problems.  As in Called-MicroSoft and the Level-One-tech-couldn’t-help-me problems.  So that is how I wound up on the phone with a Level Two tech, a nice young man who lives in Mumbai.  The process took quite a while, what with downloading and installing stuff.  And during all this we talked on the phone.

The conversations went hither and yon, with us showing each other pictures of our home towns (he’s from up north, in the mountains where there’s snow, but there are no jobs up there, which is why he’s in the city).  And we talked about films.  His first James Bond film was with Pierce Brosnan in the role, but we agreed that Sean Connery is the iconic Bond.  And … he mentioned his favorite movie.  Since I love movies, I had to go find it, and that is how I came to see Baahubali 2: The Conclusion.

I hunted down a copy, which wasn’t particularly hard because it’s available on all the usual streaming services.  I saw it as a Hindi dub with English subs (which also taught me that “jungle” is a Hindi loan-word in English).  This was a less than ideal way to see the picture, though, because Baahubali in whole is a complicated set of interlocking flashbacks.  You can think of Baahubali 2 as having a five-act structure, of which Baahubai 1: The Beginning is the fourth act.   Which means that, if you haven’t already seen Part 1, when the last act arrives you’ll be wondering who these people are, what they’re doing, and what’s up.

I make a habit of refraining from reading any reviews of movies I plan to see until after I’ve seen ’em, so I arrive fresh and unspoiled.  After seeing the films I read reviews to compare my reaction to other folks’.  In this case, I read things where reviewers compared Baahubali to a cross between The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur, and calling it India’s Lord of the Rings.   To which I say, yeah, it’s like that.  Another reviewer said that Part 1 is lyrical, while Part 2 is operatic.  Which again, I say, is right on.

The whole  show (the length of two double-features back-to-back) has everything: a vile usurper, a lost heir, true love, loyalty, treason, vast battles between good guys who are really good and bad guys who are really bad, prophecies, faith, a young lady made entirely out of butterflies, a bobsled, a spider god what is a spider god and a swan boat what is a swan boat. Speaking of which, did I mention that it’s all-singing, all-dancing? Everyone is also super-good-looking.

I don’t have the cultural background to even begin to understand or even notice all the references and levels of Stuff that’re going on in this picture.  But I know that there are depths here.

Our hero, Baahubali, is the kind of guy who travels with his own personal weather system.  The wind blows his hair back from his face even indoors, when no one else is being affected, nor are silken hangings moved, nor candle flames disturbed.  He also really rocks a turban. Mere physics doesn’t bother him.  Momentum is not conserved.  The geography makes no sense.  Time and distance are flexible things. Historicity is on the level of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.  No matter. Just go with it.

Baahubali (a guy who knows how to make an entrance) is one of those force-of-nature characters.  Such that I think about what would happen if he wandered into other movies.

Baahubali vs. Captain America:  It’s a tie, unless it ends with a dance-off, in which case Baahubali wins.

Baahubali vs. The Seven Samurai:  The seven samurai notice that, while Baahubali isn’t Japanese, he nevertheless has the samurai spirit.  They nod to him.  Baahubali notices that the seven samurai are all following their dharma.  He nods back to them.  The bandits, however, are bang in trouble.

Baahubali in Ghostbusters:

Gozer the Gozarian: Are you a god?

Baahubali (actual line from movie): I already told you.  I’m Shiva.

What can I say?  Good movie.  Check it out.

(For people interested in trivia, my previous favorite movie was Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and before that it was The Devils.)

Posted in fantasy, history, movie | 1 Comment

Maine Champagne

Believe it or not, the great state of Maine has a local cocktail.

MUG I learned this recipe from my good friend paramedic Jerry O’Neil of Northstar Ambulance in Rangeley, Maine.  (Strangeley is also the home of the Wilhelm Reich Museum.  Make of that what you will.)

The official cocktail of Maine is the Burnt Trailer, and it depends on Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy.  Allen’s “Brewed in Lewiston, Aged on the Truck” Coffee Flavored Brandy at one point occupied four of the top  ten slots on Maine’s best-selling alcohol list, one for each size bottle that they make.  Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy is actually made in Somerville, Massachusetts, but its best market is Maine.  It’s hard to find outside of New England.

MOXIEThe other ingredient of a Burnt Trailer is Moxie.   As in, “What do you call a six-pack of Moxie?”  “A life-time supply.”  Actually, no, Moxie is a soft drink that requires moxie to drink.   At one time Moxie was America’s best-selling and most popular soft drink.  That lasted right up to the moment that a second soft drink went on the market. Like Allen’s, it takes a very determined lad to imbibe it.

Nowadays you generally find Moxie only in New England.  Think of it as a bridge from the modern world to the days of patent medicines.

There’s a Moxie Festival every year in Lisbon, Maine.

So, to the Burnt Trailer recipe.

Fill a pint glass half-full with ice cubes.  Add one shot of Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy.  Fill the rest of the way with Moxie.  Sip!  Enjoy!  Find out why it’s called a Burnt Trailer!

Note: There are other drinks you can make with Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy.  The one with a  name I can use in polite company is the Sombrero, which is Allen’s half-and-half with milk or half-and-half.  (That same concoction has another, far less polite, name.)  The variant of the Burnt Trailer made with Allen’s and Diet Moxie (yes, there is such a thing) has a name that is … also impolite.  The Allen’s web page has a list of drinks with wonderful, polite names.  No one, so far as I know, drinks them.

Don’t try to make this with Tia Maria or Kahlúa.  Those wimpy things are only 40 proof, unlike Allen’s (60 proof).  They also taste good.   So, Allen’s or nothing!  And don’t use Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, or any of those weakness-promoting unhealthy drinks — Moxie is the stuff (it has a druggist on the label so you know it’s good for what ails you) that keeps backwoodsmen back in the woods.

Anyway, I made a Burnt Trailer.   I tasted it.  “Distinctive!” I said.    Doyle tried a sip.  “Yech!” she commented.

I finished it.  That left me with half a bottle of Moxie.  So what could I do?  I made another.



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Altered States

A nice review over at
Altered States of the Union Cover

Story I’d Like Expanded Into a Novel: “Gertrude of Wyoming” by Debra Doyle & James D. Macdonald. This action-packed spy thriller had all the intrigue of a Bond story, but Gertrude had no need to supplement her awesomeness with hi-tech toys. I fell in love with this character AND the world she inhabits, and I’d love to know more about both.

A few notes about the story: Gertrude of Wyoming is itself a reference to a very popular narrative poem, Gertrude of Wyoming; A Pennsylvania Tale by Thomas Campbell, written in 1809.  It celebrates a now-obscure event in the Pennamite-Yankee War, a now-obscure war fought between Pennsylvania and Connecticut over the ownership of the Wyoming Valley in what is now northeastern Pennsylvania (a major source of coal).  That war ran on-and-off from 1769 through 1784.  The root cause of the war was that King Charles II had granted the same land to both colonies, and it had major economic value.  (The poem was so popular at the time that the present US state of Wyoming was named for it.)

Anyway, in our story, the way the war resolved was with the Wyoming valley becoming its own state.  At the same time, the Indian Stream Republic (an independent country on the border between the USA  and Canada which now forms the town of Pittsburg, New Hampshire, which existed from 1832 to 1835) retained its independence and functioned as a kind of Switzerland in the Americas, where various governments could carry out informal actions.  In this case, it’s the Republic of Germany trying to steal the transistor secrets (WWI and WWII never having taken place and there being no atomic bomb).  The last major historical change is that the USA continued under the Articles of Confederation rather than switching over to the Constitution that we now know and love, so America is a set of loosely aligned countries, each with its own money, border controls, and so on. The time when the story is placed is the early 1960s.

The rest of the political geography of North America is taken from Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, specifically from his story “The Repairer of Reputations,” which I suppose puts it somewhere in the Cthulhu mythos, or at least among its sources and analogs.

The first draft of our “Gertrude of Wyoming” story was quite a bit longer and contained more subplots and nefarious doings.  The feel I was going for was a Cold War thriller; A Funeral in Berlin, The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, etc. of which I read far too many in high school.

The exclusive period for this story is long over, so one of these days I’ll likely republish it myself (easier than finding a reprint market).


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COVID Near You

Modeled on Flu Near You, this is a crowd-sourcing site for COVID-19 infections.  Sponsored by Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, it seems like a good idea.  The more people who participate the more useful it will be.!/

Posted in Emergency Prep, Medicine | 1 Comment

Book Sale

Uo the Airy Mountain

Werewolves! Fairies! Science!

There’s a sale going on over at Smashwords, and all of the reprinted backlist that we have there is 75% off (that takes a bunch of ’em all the way down to free).

Now through March 7th. Complete your collection!


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Puppet Theater Magic Contest 2020

Best of Boston Magic Contest

Wednesday, February 12 at the Puppet Showplace Theater
32 Station St
Brookline, MA 02445

Contest starts at 7:30 pm

The Contest

Assembly Nine’s traditional Best of Boston Magic Contest takes place on Wednesday, February 12. The contest is open to any and all magicians wishing to compete.

It is a “people’s choice” contest, in that the judges are everyone who attends, be they compeers, guest magicians, or non-magician guests.

Each member and contestant can bring along a few friends or family members to enjoy the contest and vote for their favorite performers. There is no entrance fee.

Contestants are limited to a maximum of twelve minutes’ time.

First, second, and third place trophies will be awarded; handsome loving cups.

Last-minute contestants will be accepted at the door. Whether as a judge or a performer, let’s all do our part to advance the Art of Magic, and have some mystification and fun at the same time.

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Vermont Winter RenFaire 2020

Historia Mundi Naturalis, Pliny

So there you are in Vermont this weekend, and it’s cold, a nor’easter coming in, and you feel the need to do something evil.  Come do something Medieval at the Vermont Winter RenFaire.  I’ll be there, doing magic.  You know you want to be amazed. I’ll be doing walk-around from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, with platform shows every day; 2:00 pm Saturday and 2:30 pm Sunday.

Champlain Valley Exposition Center (105 Pearl St, Essex Junction, VT).  February 1/2 2020, doors open at 10:00 am.  Kids under six free.  Good time guaranteed.


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On the Variability of Symbols

This is also why, in your writing, you want to be careful of invoking songs, poetry, or music: the same piece may mean something very different for your readers than it does for you.

Dr. Doyle's Blog

It’s always dangerous to assume that the meaning another person attaches to a word or a picture or a gesture is the same one that you do.

Consider, for example, the hand sign made by folding down the middle two fingers of one hand while leaving the index finger and little finger extended. Depending on who and where you are, this can mean, variously:

  • I worship Satan.
  • I like heavy metal rock music.
  • Your spouse is cheating on you, ha ha!
  • Bad luck, go away!
  • I am from Texas and am a big fan of the University of Texas Longhorns football team. Shorter version: “Hook ’em, Horns!”

With regard to the last one, there was much confused commentary (outside of Texas, anyhow) about the well-attended and televised funeral service of proud and much-loved Texan Lady Bird Johnson, where the choir and congregation sang the UT fight song “The Eyes of…

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