It should be no surprise that summer is my least favorite season. Despite the years I’ve spent in Tennessee I am still an Alaskan boy at heart with climate preferences like those of a golden retriever – I’m happiest when it’s no warmer than forty degrees and my feet are wet. I’m also one of a very small group of people whose autoimmune disease symptoms became more painful when the weather gets warmer….which means that as summer heats up I feel progressively worse – when July rolls around my days involve a lot of just laying around reading and trying to mentally “will” autumn to appear in August.
Despite my penchant for speculative subject matter in my art my taste in reading material is fairly mundane. Currently on my Kindle you’ll find the following books:
- Confederates in the Attic
- The Year 1000
- The Mound Builder Myth
- The Color of Law
- Empires of the Sky
- Drums Along the Khyber
Most of these books are historical works, but sprinkled among the titles from times past you will find books about spoons, specifically spoon theory – an idea that has very little to do with silverware and everything to do with communicating the challenges and discomfort brought about by the daily battle with autoimmune diseases. It’s a wonderful concept brought about by Christine Miserando and you can read about it at length at http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com.
Spoons are markers used in allocating/assessing how much you can get done in a day despite the dramatically reduced energy level and equally elevated pain levels that come with autoimmune problems like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or in my case anklysosing spondylitis. You start out the day with a dozen spoons, and every action – and I mean EVERY action will cost you one or more spoons. The allocation of twelve is purely arbitrary but I found I was able to calibrate my spoon expenditures rather quickly. Getting out of bed costs one spoon, getting dressed is another one, climbing stairs takes two spoons and going to church takes three…so it’s not hard to see how you can run out of spoons rather quickly.
I’m barely scratching the surface of this marvelous communications tool and I highly recommend you check out Ms. Miserando’s website and read her ideas first hand.
I haven’t been writing much lately – on top of the pandemic I’ve been struggling with serious mobility issues, the combination leaving me with an ill-defined feeling of dread similar to that brought on by those ominous usually-written-a-minor-key passages in a movie’s soundtrack that precedes something really scary…
..,but amidst all this ominous foreboding we had a wonderful respite in the form of my daughter’s wedding. It was a very small and informal event, with just enough structure and content to launch a young family into this journey called life.
Living with an autoimmune disease like ankylosing spondylitis has meant living with chronic pain and impaired mobility, but I was surprised, yea alarmed when the muscles in my hand and forearm started to uncontrollably spasm and twist into a claw-like flex. Dark thoughts of tetanus came to mind and at one less-than-lucid moment I wondered if I’d become mind-controlled by the Skeksis from Dark Crystal but good sense returned and I began to research for a solution to my manual woes. It turns out that the flexing and arching and “owwing” is a real thing – it’s known as a carpal spasm and can be brought on by overwork and/or the lack of sufficient calcium or magnesium in my diet. By limiting my time at the drawing board and knocking back an extra yogurt each day I’ve been able to curtail the attacks to a large extent.
…which is just as well.
Since my childhood there has been a dramatic increase in the use of hand gestures as part of human communication far beyond the sign language between cowboy and Commanche that I witnessed each week on television. Simple movements such as an index finger drawn sharply across a larynx (“killed”) or a hand cupped to an ear (“listening”) have been joined by American Sign Language for use by the deaf, gang signs adopted into general street use, and other communicative gestures borrowed from sports and military. The use of nonverbal communication has increased to the point that it is no longer safe to just idly wave your hands. For example while coming to grips with these carpal spasms I have:
- Been slapped by a deaf lady for signing an indecent proposal
- Accidentally called out a gang member
- …and I may have inadvertently flipped off ET
The one time I did try to respond to communicating via hand signals it turned out that the lady in question was just trying to dry her nail polish…which is why despite years of conditioning via the military I now walk about with my hands in my pockets.
(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.
(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.
Redesigning 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”
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
Growing 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?
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…
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
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:
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.