1971: Descendant of Beowulf

(I had to simplify things for the title to  this last peek at my upcoming book – I had so many friends, cousins and sons that I had to resort to sketching wiring diagrams before typing up the titles) 

It was a commercial made up of clones with Robert Redford’s doppelganger putting his best Sundance moves on Katherine Ross’ twin sister while a sound-alike band sang a jingle set to the tune of Santana’s “Evil Ways”:

You got a smoke that’s something else Win-chester.

A whole new taste and straight your way.

It’s something else Win-chester”.

Cigarette advertising on television was officially banned as of January 1,1971 but the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company was pushing the issue with Winchester – a small cigarette-sized cigar that used a loophole in the new law to continue their on-air promotion of tobacco products. It was a maneuver that would become more common as we got deeper into the “Me Decade” of the 1970’s, a narcissistic side-step of accepted norms in an effort to increase profits.

Other developments in 1971 included:

  • Broadcast standards for language and subject matter were pushed further with the premiere of Norman Lear’s groundbreaking comedy/social commentary All In the Family.
  • Resistance to the Vietnam conflict increased to a 60% disapproval rating and triggered bombings in the US Capitol with the unauthorized release of the Pentagon Papers, a government document that revealed that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied about the conduct and progress of the war.
  • The Uniform Holiday act put all federal holidays on Monday.
  • To the delight of young people all over the country the age to both vote AND drink was lowered from 21 to 18.

Events for the state of Alaska likewise ranged from the monumental to the trivial:

  • In December President Nixon signed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act into law.
  • Nuclear testing continued at Amchitka Island out at the end of the Aleutian chain.
  • Public television finally arrived in the state with the establishment of KUTV channel 9 at the University of Alaska campus in Fairbanks.
  • …and a new shop building was opened at Kenai Central High School located across the parking lot to the south of the main building. In line with the trend at the time toward vocational education the new complex included an auto shop, a carpentry shop, a drafting classroom, and a student supply store.

1970: Or Classmate of Brother of Friend of Son of Beowulf Junior

(carrying on with excerpts from my next book)

Can they do this?

Can they legally print a picture like this?

It was the LIFE magazine retrospective covering the previous decade and the image in question had been taken during the height of craziness surrounding the Democratic National Convention the previous year and in the middle of the crowd it depicted a shirtless young man “flipping off” the photographer/viewer. It was a photo that captured the essence of the times and while it seems a fairly tame image for current standards that conflict between content and reaction was a perfect metaphor for the era as the media had us all convinced that the freight train of societal change was threatening to derail at any time.

It definitely looked like things were changing, with some changes definitely on the plus side:

  • Earth Day was established on April 22d of that year.
  • The voting age was lowered from 21 to 18.
  • The federal government put an end to commercial whaling.
  • OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) was signed into law.
  • We got Monday Night Football!

…while other changes were not all that great:

  • Both superpowers continued with above-ground nuclear tests with one of the main sites being (gulp) – the Aleutian Islands.
  • The space program stumbled with Apollo 13’s near disaster.
  • Militant groups including the SDS and the Weatherman Bomb were setting off explosions in cities and universities.
  • The invasion of Cambodia dramatically broadened the scope of the war in Southeast Asia.
  • At Kent State in Ohio, National Guard troops opened fire on student protestors with fatal results.

As for the Peninsula; without the influx of fire-fighting money like we had the previous summer, 1970 seemed economically stagnant – at least for young people. The school district was able to scrape together enough money for the high school to insure that the cafeteria where we’d been eating sack lunches for the past year was finally going to have a functioning kitchen, but other cost-cutting measures threatening to severely curtail operations and activities.

It was in response to a vote on proposed school appropriations that the four-page broadsheet dubbed “The Peninsula Clarion” started appearing in everyone’s mailbox. No one knew who was publishing it, but it was obvious that whoever they were, they really, really, really did not want the school bond to pass.

Fireball XL5 Re-boot: Ray Pistol

ray pistolRedesigning a cherished entertainment property is never an easy thing. You have to exercise your own creative abilities and instincts while taking into consideration input from editors, art directors and fans – and quite often people who want no changes at all. It’s a situation that proves the adage “Too many cooks spoil the broth” but there are times when lightening strikes in the same place twice. The recent Thunderbirds Are Go CGI series did a great job of subtly updating the look of International Rescue while extending props of the Derek Meddings, Mike Trim and the original design crew – and I always thought Rick Sternbach did a good job of extrapolating technology changes in the Star Trek Universe with Star Trek: The Next Generation.

As the project is purely personal my task has been little easier with my Fireball XL5 reboot – I’m the only cook stirring the spoon. Granted to some extent I have a responsibility to fandom in general and I would never do anything to besmirch the memory of Sir Gerry but for the most part I get my way.

…which is why Steve Zodiac’s redesigned pistol bear a slight resemblance to Napoleon Solo’s UNCLE special. Actually, I’ve always like the look of a pistol with an attached stock and I have more than one example of the concept hanging on my wall. I don’t know if it is just a case of looking totally butch or my fascination with clunky technology but adding stocks to a Mauser C95 or a Colt Nay .36 have made both pistols just look cool though I’m not totally convinced it adds any utility ( firing a black powder pistol that close to my face is an experience I’m not in a rush to repeat)

The original pistol design was so bland that I have no doubt it was a last minute “clear-out-the-bits-box” special but when I decided the baby-rattle flash-suppressor had to go I added hemispherical details to keep a little design continuity. I also beefed up the size and mass of the weapon to avoid an Austin Powers moment determining if “size mattered”

pistol clip 2

 

Fireball Junior Re-work

2020-05-01 Fireball Junior Rework

While wading my way though my XL5 reboot it has come to me that with all the attention Fireball Junior gets during the series would need it a separate drawing, especially when the nose area in the main ship rendering didn’t work out as well as wanted. If you’ll check the drawing on my XL5 reboot page you’ll see that I went for NASA-style inset windows much like those on the Space:1999 Eagles but at length I’ve concluded that they would give a claustrophobic feel to  the control cabin,

…so I compromised between the old and the new, using a bug-like look similar to that on the Navy’s A-6 Intruder

Blades without cuts….

Kristi Yamaguchi CPSGrowing up in the testosterone-soaked Arctic is should be no surprise that my taste in sports runs towards football, hockey, racquetball and shooting…

…but my secret vice?

FIGURE SKATING!

The surest ticket to a beat-down at recess at Woodland Park Elementary was ownership of a pair of figure skates even though without toe picks very few guys knew how effectively start and stop on hockey blades. My family’s compromise was to go skating after it got dark at night, which blessedly came early in Yankee corner of the Great White North.

Truth be told I liked to watch skating much more than I like skating myself – along with other “gliding” sports like swimming, cycling and hang-gliding the smooth rhythmic passage of a skater was a beautiful thing to behold, especially when set to music and when I discovered Kristi Yamaguchi in the 1990s there were times when I’d be moved to tears by such beauty in motion.

When I jumped into cut-paper sculpts twenty years ago I was first drawn to comic heroes as my subject matter, partially because of the nostalgia involved but I was equally motivated by the colorful costumes and athletic poses. It wasn’t long before I picked up on those same elements in professional athletics,  and with my affinity for figure skating it wasn’t long before Ms. Yamaguchi showed up on my desk…

1969 – or Brother of Friend of Son of Beowulf Junior

Continuing with the preview of my next book I am sharing the introduction of Chapter 1969:

There began to be an odd type of symmetry in current events:

 Spring brought a smile to young men all over the nation as President Nixon initiated “Vietnamization” of the conflict in Southeast Asia. Christmas brought mixed emotions to those same young men as the government replaced the draft with a Draft lottery eliminating deferments and spreading conscription on a more equitable basis across economic classes

  • New York teams managed to book-end the year by the Jets winning the Super Bowl and the Mets “losing last place” in the World Series
  • In July the crew of Apollo 11 rocketed to the Moon over the same weekend that Senator Kennedy dove back under the water three times to rescue Mary Jo Kopechne.
  • The following month the brutal murder of actress Sharon Tate & friends at the direction of Charles Manson in August came close to overwhelming three days of “fun and music” at Woodstock barely a week later

 Even if there hadn’t have been 250,000 people marching on Washington DC it was obvious that Dissatisfaction with the Vietnam conflict was continuing to build…which made Richard Nixon’s secret plan to pull the nation out of the conflict a major factor in his electoral victory over Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace in his election to president the previous fall.

 Local developments included:

  • A late-winter freak build-up of ice in the lower Kenai river caused flooding in lower-lying areas of Soldotna
  • The same dry conditions created Swanson River Kalifornsky beach road and several smaller fires along the highway to Anchorage. For the entire summer There was a yellow cast to the sunlight, and everyone smelled like bacon.
  • The Don’t Make Waves Committee (later Greenpeace) began protesting of nuclear testing in the Aleutian Islands
  • …and according to her account Hilary Clinton spent the summer in a fish cannery in Valdex

·       

 

 

Friend of Son of Beowulf Junior

Paper, pencils and dice were the only accessories used in the first roleplaying games I experienced many years ago, so it was a big deal when 25mm miniatures arrived to aid in visualizing game events. Scarcity and a wide range in quality made us loath to retire characters when called to do during play, and one friend dealt with the situation by renaming and reusing his favorite figure. His prize 25mm figure started out as “Beowulf” only to become “Beowulf Junior” after one particularly lethal gaming session only go be reincarnated as “Son of Beowulf Junior” and eventually “Friend of The Son of Beowulf Junior” shortly before I graduated and moved away from that area and gaming.

I’m in a similar situation as we start to ramp up for the second book. The existence of other books with titles that play off the Midnight Sun / Midnight Son pun prompts me to rule out a simple “Midnight Son 2” title for the second book in the series but for now that will be the working title for the second volume in the series which will cover high school from 1968 to 1971. I had originally planned the Kickstarter for that book to happen next month (May 2020) but the uncertainty brought on by the Covid 19/Corona Virus pandemic is requiring an extra measure of flexibility in planning, but I did want to give you all a heads-up, hence this post today.

While Midnight Son 2 covers a short time span it will actually be a longer book, reflecting the added complexity in life brought on as we approach adulthood. Some of that added length will also come about by the inclusion of section headings for each individual year, bringing into context the increased influence of current events in my life – especially during the turbulent times of the late 1960s/70s. What follows is the intro for the first section:

1968

 I turned off the television and just sat for a couple of minutes, my mind still spinning from rapid-fire dialog and chaotic change in scenes. I had just witnessed a fifteen-year-old boy’s dream come true – 58 minutes of social and political satire interspersed with counter-culture graffiti and sexual innuendo. It was Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, and while I initially hated it for replacing the Man from UNCLE it was a perfect introduction to the 1960s, or rather that period from 1968 to 1972 which had all the social characteristics of “The Summer of Love” that comes to mind when most people think of the “The Sixties”. It seemed like we were all witnessing the birth of a new exciting world, but all the same it was an unnerving time to be a teenager.

  •  The TET offensive simultaneously terrified and angered an American public already unhappy with the lack of progress and increasing body count of the Vietnam war in general.
  • Every newscast had a segment on riots somewhere in the Lower 48. Whether sparked by unrest over the Vietnam War or the glacial progress of civil rights, riots seemed to be happening everywhere with collective turbulence culminating in the organized chaos of the 1968 Democratic Convention.
  • Hints of a thaw between the East and the West disappeared when Warsaw Pact tanks rumbled over the Prague Spring movement in Czechoslovakia.
  • It seemed like everyone was getting shot. For a while I’d lived with the assumption that President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 was enough to shock some collective sense into the nation but then Dr. Martin Luther King was gunned down in April followed by Robert F. Kennedy two months later.

 On the other hand:

  •  Manned Apollo missions commenced with Apollo’s circumnavigation of the moon making a nice Christmas present.
  • …we were all very pleased but a little confused when the Beatles released the White Album at Christmas time.

 For me 1968 started out in much the same way as previous years – trying to stay warm while waiting six months for first-run movies to finally hit the local theaters. Our governor Wally Hickel was drafted by President Richard Nixon to serve as Secretary of the Interior and Ted Stevens was appointed to the Senate after Bob Bartlett died during heart surgery. The first mall in Anchorage opened up at the intersection of the Seward Highway and Northern Lights Boulevard, a third television station (KHAR channel 13) began broadcasting and a two inch column at the bottom of the front page of the Daily News casually announced that maybe – just maybe – there was oil to be tapped on the North Slope.

I’d spent most of the school year just surviving and the summer of 1968 looked to be a pleasant change of pace. I had grown an inch or two in height while losing an inch or two from my waistline and gaining some coordination in the process. One of the biggest changes involved what I listened to each day – during the summer I bought a very basic record player and while the sound quality was marginally better than a Kenner Close-N-Play it allowed me to explore music beyond the scope of the 2:45 standards coming over my AM clock-radio. From this point on songs became “time-stamped” to what was going on in life.

…and to reflect THAT very fundamental change in my life each chapter in this volume will be annotated with the song or album that was my favorite at the time, which will again bring some added insight to what was going on during that period.

More Musings From A Would-be Bat

When my sleep cycle gets inverted like this it can often be a week or more before it gets corrected and it becomes easy to slip into depression. I mean it’s already a challenge dealing with the double-barreled contradictory stress of “social distancing” vs. “shelter in place “ without the additional isolation brought on by my inverted rest patterns…

…but then I got to thinking: if I have to adopt the Dracula model of rest and activity I’m in the best situation to do so. I have a comfy bed, good snacks to gnosh (when I AM awake) and my Beautiful Saxon Princess will make sure there are no splinters in my coffin and all the wooden stakes are safely packed away.

Nocturnal Soundtrack

It was a sound that brought tears to my eyes.

After tossing and turning for most of the night I struck my colors and made a hasty retreat to the studio with the faint hope that my Beautiful Saxon Princess would get some decent rest once I was gone. I curled up on the old loveseat next to my desk and fired up my MP3 player (yes, they still exist) hoping the companionship of my old musical friends would take the edge off the physical and emotional discomforts depriving me of sleep.

That relief came but not through the music but rather through the sound of the room itself. Without the background accompaniment of CD player, computer, room fans and my grandson’s Hot Wheels re-enactments of NASCAR events my studio manifests a very subtle soundtrack of its own: wind rustling through the trees, the low almost inaudible rumble-hum of the clothes dryer and the moan of the wind through power and phone lines. It’s beautiful sound that I very rarely hear now, a sound that would lull to sleep every night I spent in my attic loft back in Sterling…

…and for just a few minutes I was free of the pain and anxiety that I joust with nightly as I near my sixty-seventh birthday…

Before you start…

sean's comic…let me warn you that you’ll never guess which Traveller supplement this illustration appeared in or which unpublished Metagaming project it was intended to be used in (but was subsequently “eighty-sixed” when Howard  left the company.) I wasn’t art for the program book of some convention that named me as Artist Guest of Honor and it wasn’t a self-promotional portfolio piece I came up with during a slow week…because it’s NOT my work .

It was drawn by my son Sean during a middle school art class.

Proper dad-ship rests on the idea that a father does everything in his power to launch his kids successfully in life and Sean when started high school he was manifesting all the skills and knowledge necessary for a creative career not just equal to but surpassing mine. I’m not kidding – his drawing skills at sixteen were better than mine were at thirty, but when he started college he knew that as much as he loved art he needed an income more stable than art could provide. After spending twenty-five years watching me battle with the vagaries of a freelancer’s life he chose the path that I often wish I’d taken and kept creativity as an avocation instead of a vocation, a hobby to help alleviate stress rather than creating it.

…and he still manages to routinely add to an already impressive body of work.