Class Portrait

When NSCC kicked me to the curb last summer my Beautiful Saxon Princess told me that the only thing that had  changed was  the size of my classes. –  before I had anywhere from  25 to 30 students but now I just have one – my grandson Jayden.

I couldn’t agree more. Jayden is just the latest in a succession of kids growing up in my studio. We had a great day in the studio today learning about sculpture and sculpting tools and as  we were finishing up BSP decided to take pictures.

Initial shot

TheGuys2

Attitude Adjustment

TheGuys1

Final version….

TheGuys3

 

Tremors and Dial-tones

Nostalgia rather than fear was the overriding emotion in our home during the March 1964 Earthquake. As we had been living in that howling wilderness otherwise known as Spenard for less than two years we styled ourselves as  temporarily  transplanted Californians rather than locals so the first few tremors brought on smiles and “Hey – just like back home” rather than any expressions of fear. It wasn’t until we lost our television signal (and the closing scenes of the “Invasion” episode of  ‘Fireball XL5)  that I began to feel  any emotional distress.

However things were a little different during today’s quake– I was chatting on the phone with my sister Heather when she stopped for a moment then said: “Oh boy…earthquake!See the hanging lamps? – they’re bouncing all over the place.”

Intestinal Stukas  started churning my insides as I nervously glanced around my own living room,  but I was puzzled to find all our lamps perfectly motionless.

Suddenly the proverbial  lightbulb flashed on  and I made a conclusion of my own:

  • Heather wasn’t asking me to look at the lamps, she was talking to my nephew Zack.
  • My hanging lamps weren’t bouncing around because Heather, Zack and the quake – were 4135 miles away in Sterling Alaska.

For my dad aviation was the best yardstick for measuring the march of progress – he was born into a world with biplanes and lived to see television broadcasts of regular shuttle service to  the International Space Station. For me it’s been phones: 55 years ago a call from Tennessee to Alaska would have been made only under the most dire circumstances, taken the help of at least three operators and would be made using a device that could not be owned by an individual – it  had to be  leased from the phone company.

I’m still getting used to it.

I Wish I’d Written That (Part 2)

As promised listed below are the sources for the quotes listed in my 19 NOV 2018 post:

“Gentlemen, we’ve got a date with destiny, and it looks like she’s ordered the lobster” by Neil Cuthbert and Bob Burden in  the 1999 movie Mystery Men

“Mists soft and transparent as excuses flapped across pastures the color of crap-table felt” P.J. O’Rourke from the chapter on Paraguay in his 1992 book Give War A Chance.

“She had that mistreated and neglected look, like an encyclopedia that had been owned by stupid people”. A pre-Dragnet Jack Webb from the radio show Pat Novak for Hire

“I’m not saying it’s been too windy, but there’s a witch’s feet sticking out from under the house and everything’s in color: by Steve Pritzker in the “A Dark and Stormy Night” episode of the TV series Silver Spoons

“He’s so (expletive deleted) dense – this morning after formation I caught him sitting in the cab of his deuce-and-a-half  trying to read an M&M”  informal job performance evaluation submitted by 2LT David Ralph Deitrick  during JRX BRIM FROST 1981

2018: I Wish I’d Written That.

It takes a certain level of hubris to “live out loud”1 as a columnist or blogger – you have to have a fair amount of confidence in your ability to crunch words in an effective and entertaining way.  I do a pretty fair job, but there are times when I’m taken down a notch or two –  humbling moments that involve me coming up against a passage in someone else’s work that just so FREAKING GOOD it knocks me back on my literary fourth-point-of-contact

…passages like the following:

  1. “Gentlemen, we’ve got a date with destiny, and it looks like she’s ordered the lobster
  2. “Mists soft and transparent as excuses flapped across pastures the color of crap-table felt”
  3. “She had that mistreated and neglected look, like an encyclopedia that had been owned by stupid people”.
  4. “I’m not saying it’s been too windy, but there’s a witch’s feet sticking out from under the house and everything’s in color:
  5. “He’s so dense – this morning after formation I caught  him sitting  in the cab of his deuce-and-a-half  trying to read an M&M”

Recognize any of them?

I’ll share the sources in a day or two.

 


 

A phrase shamelessly horked from superstar columnist Anna Quindlen.

The Real Problem with Telemarketing

There’s been a disturbing trend developing in the telephone solicitations I’ve been getting lately. No, I’m not getting unduly large numbers of calls nor have I had anyone make any threats – I’m getting mostly robo-calls – recorded messages, a practice that is purportedly does away with the restrictions of do-not-call registry  but has also taken away one of my favorite sources of entertainment.

As I’ve written earlier I like to mess with telemarketers, and in the last couple of months I’ve come up with a response or two that definitely fluster an unwanted caller:

  • I will answer with “Caller Number Six – you’re on the air!” then follow up with a unanswerable contest question and a promise for a case of Turtle Wax and a copy of the home-version of “our game”.
  • When I get the caller’s name I’ll respond with “ Dude! Is that you? How are you doing? I don’t think I’ve heard from you since graduation!” , ask him if he still spends all his money at strip clubs and start pressing him to repay an old debt.
  • (My favorite) “Vector Control Office, Department 71. This is not a secure line. Colonel Taylor speaking”, then no matter what they answer I’ll come back with “HOW DID YOU GET THIS NUMBER! Do not leave your location. Our personnel will be there momentarily!”.

I’ve gotten great responses with all three of this but it’s no fun when I pick up the phone and the first thing I hear is the whirr of a recording.

I’ve yet to figure out a way to scare a machine.

Jayden and The Map

Here’s something you can do the next time you become overly impressed with your own brain-power:

Explain maps to a five-year old.

In these times of smart phones and GPS navigation few people refer to “a graphic depiction of a portion of the earth’s surface” (as the field manual used to put it) but  I am one of those hold-outs for which actual paper maps figure prominently in trip planning.  However when I had my Rand McNally out the other day my grandson Jayden became very interested. It probably was the novelty of the large format, spiral binding and informational color scheme that caught his eye, but when I gave him the aforementioned field-manual definition of the word map he really lit up.

Mind you, Jayden’s  grown up in an artistic household so the idea of an image representing something else is a concept he already has a handle on….but when he tumbled to the idea that the pictures (maps) conveyed additional  information the questions started shooting out like a Uzi on full automatic. Some of the issues were easy to resolve –  like when we located Clarksville on the map, and found where his cousins his cousins live, but then the questions became both more esoteric and detailed:

  • Why are there broken clocks on the map?
  • If maps show Clarksville from high above us are the map-makers in Heaven with Grandma June?
  • If Clarksville is colored red on the map then why is our house yellow?

…and many, many more.

It was one of the very few times ADHD worked to my advantage; while I was stumbling for answers he had already moved on ( and through) four other topics.

Staying Grounded

I spent a good portion of the 1970s working as a roustabout for Chevron USA out at the Swanson River Oil Field on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. T.H. Auldridge was the gang foreman, and I give him as much credit as any other human being for anything I may have become or accomplished in my life. He fought across Europe as a tank destroyer commander during WWII, and despite the lack of a college education or any sort of management training, he was one of the best leaders and smartest men I have ever known.

He was Texas-born & bred and as such was prone to uttering “colorful” observations on life, most of which are not printable in this particular forum. Of the ones that were printable my favorite was “The next time you think you’re a big deal just try to give an order to another man’s dog”,

I’ve had that principle reinforced in my life countless times in every field of endeavor I have worked in – especially in my creative work. During all the years I worked as a freelance illustrator I took pride in my work, especially my 100+ game covers and the conceptual designs  I did for BattleTech, Traveller and most recently the Gun Kingdom books written by R. Scott Taylor. I look at those images as my signature work, but do you know what my most heavily published, wide-spread work is?

Kid’s Puzzles.

From 1998 to 2008 Lori and I created linework for a series of kid’s puzzles published by Patch Products. We would create black & white line images that in-house artists would scan/shade/color via Photoshop for use in puzzles sold through Wal-Mart.

Patch2008PondBW0006

That’s right – those 11”X17” kid’s puzzles that are bundled and shrink-wrapped eight-to-a-package? The ones displayed on the end-caps of the toy aisles.

Those.

That means that years from now when the gophers are bringing me the mail I won’t be remembered for BattleTech, or Star Trek licensed work or the fine art I create – I will be memorialized by insects, dinosaurs and cars.

…and as much as I’d like to think that my writing will make more of an impact that my art, I am jolted back to reality whenever I check stats on this page. It’s not the stories from my youth, the commentaries on music or reflections on life that get the most attention.  The single post that gets the most views – the one piece of writing that has been seen the most by people around the world.

Cardboard Batmobile.

2018: Monday Morning Mystery

Two of my favorite television programs are NBC’s mid-1970s Ellery Queen series starring Jim Hutton and BBC’s Poirot starring David Suchet. While they vary in tone a bit they are both mystery shows that hold the solution to the very end of the program and presented when all of the suspects have been gathered together. It’s fascinating to see these two characters  combine attention to detail, careful observation, and logical thinking to solve very baffling mysteries.  I’d like to think that I’d do likewise in their place…and I had an just such an opportunity to do so today.

Lack of air-conditioning means that I spend little time in my shop during the summer months, my time out there consisting of quick trips to do the laundry or fetch a tool. It was while I was doing the latter this morning that I was met with my own mystery. In line with my borderline OCD I keep my work area neat and my tools carefully stowed (though I  have not gone so far as to draw silhouettes in each tool’s specific spot). That’s why I was dismayed to see my primary work bench totally cluttered and both tools and hardware scattered on adjacent work spaces as well. While it’s true that my warm-weather speed-runs to the shop can result in a little clutter, it’s never in the chaotic state I found it today.

A bit mystified, I started putting tools up, then I stopped, looked again and solved the mystery – and the solution can be found in this photo:

shop after Jayden

Star Trek: Generation X

Re-run Saturday: The controversy surrounding Star Trek: Discovery has made this post as pertinent as ever. Even back in the fall of 1987 I had to wonder why Gene Roddenberry and company just didn’t start over with a new series/clean slate, but I’ve since learned that licensing issues are at the heart of the problem. Creators don’t want to be constrained by canon but they want to capitalize on the built-in appeal of the original series. Something-something about having your cake and eating it too.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

 

(This doesn’t have nearly the bite it did when I first wrote it almost 20 years ago. It was a little harder to get material “out there” in 1995 than it is now and while every editor that read it liked it, they were all too leery of Paramount’s legal department top publish it, notwithstanding the court’s support for fair use via parody/satire.)

 

Reporter #1

Paramount Studios announced that it has taken the unprecedented step of re-filming its most recent Star Trek feature film in a form more marketable to a particular target audience.

 

Renamed Star Trek: Generation X, the film was repackaged in response to lagging sales in licensed Star Trek properties among consumers in the 19-28 year-old age bracket. Recently, our reporters visited the set and spoke with Executive Producer Rick Vermin.

 

(Cut to movie set)

 

Interviewer #1

Mr. Vermin, there has…

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Music: To Our Children’s Children’s Children

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL_c1_kaI1Zf8ZXffqfNq6ibQqhW78fEqn

(I love progressive rock. The music of the Alan Parsons Project, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and the Moody Blues all strike a resonant chord in my heart and listening to their music brings peace and directs my thinking to grand and cosmic topics. Unfortunately some of those wonderful songs are “time-stamped” with less than grand events and listening them brings on memories of what was going on in my life  when I first heard them, cosmic or not)

It was the latter part of November 1970 and well into that part of the Alaskan year when our days seemed more like life on the Moon than life on Earth. Only five degrees latitude separated us from Eternal Night and with only six hours of true sunlight each day SAD (Seasonal Adjustive Disorder) was a very real battle for people like my dad or my older sister –  but not for me.

Why was I so blessed?

  • Maybe it was because I’d spent the last eight years growing up in photonic-starved environment.
  • Maybe it was because I spent most of my waking hours as a student indoors focused on reading books.
  • Maybe it was the distraction music and television provided.

Whatever the case, darkness was no curse for me. It also helped that I had mentally tacked the two hours of morning and evening twilight onto our officially allotted daylight; twilight that would paint everything with a magenta/orange glow as magical as anything found in fantasy or science-fiction. For that matter daily living in a sub-Arctic winter wasn’t that much different from what I saw on 2001: A Space Odyssey: We bundled up in parkas and warm clothing marginally less complicated than space suits and went about our business in harsh conditions under the stars. Alaskans would make great astronauts.

Perhaps that’s why a Moody Blues theme album based on space travel hit appealed so strongly to me. Released in late 1969,  To Our Children’s Children’s Children was written and produced as a reaction to the Apollo 11 moon landing – with  generous portions of childhood memories and psychedelia as additional ingredients. I’d purchased the record at the suggestion of my friend Bachelorette #21  and soon found that playing it on my stereo wasn’t just a matter of listening – it involved interpreting and deconstructing the music and sometimes just basking in the glory of resonating synthesizers and haunting vocals.

Blasting, billowing, bursting forth

With the power of ten billion butterfly sneezes

Man, with his flaming pyre

Has conquered the wayward breezes

Whispered class-room discussions about the album led to a Friday date with B2 and as I started out that evening the album was still resonating in my head. I was definitely working on an outer space vibe  –  snowflakes caught in the headlights’ glare could easily be mistaken for stars and planets zipping past as the Enterprise traveled at warp-speed.

…but while totally stoked about both the album and the evening’s activities I was a little jittery – not because of the young lady in question but rather the location of her home just off the end of North Kenai road. I’d be putting 150 hard-to-explain miles on the odometer that night, so  it wasn’t the date but rather getting my cover story right that was launching intestinal Stukas. I took a deep breath and drove on, confident that I had planned for every contingency.

Our destination was a cinematic nerd-fest currently showing at the KAMBE theater, a double-feature including the Italian action flick Danger: Diabolik and a nondescript science fiction film entitled Project X. We were able to watch the entire first film, but Time was wearing Adidas that night and we had to leave half-way through Project X2. The snowfall had picked up a bit while we’d been watching the shows but the extra travel time brought on by the worsening weather allowed us to pick up our on-going medium-to-deep discussion about To Our Children’s Children’s Children,  and when we kissed on her doorstep I all but floated over the deepening snow out to the Maverick, elated on several levels but mostly relieved that the night was going to work out.

Oh you’d like it

Gliding around get your feet off the ground

Oh you’d like it

Do as you please with so much ease

CHA-THUNK!

The Hand of Fate abruptly pulled the cosmic tone-arm across the 33 1/3 record of my life as I ran the car into a snowbank while  backing out of the driveway. Twenty minutes of feverish digging and shoving got the Maverick out of the ditch and back on the road but in the process I lost the left brake lens cover and wasted another ten minutes searching for it before giving up and driving off.  As I turned onto North Kenai road I glanced at my wristwatch I could see that I had only forty-five minutes to curfew, but if I drove just a little faster I could get home on time. As I loosened my death-grip on the steering wheel and shook some of the tension out of my shoulders I mentally skipped to the next song.

Gazing past the planets

Looking for total view

I’ve been lying here for hours

You gotta make the journey

Out and in

Out and in

BA-WOO-WOO-WOO

All I could see in the rear-view mirrors were flashing red lights, so I immediately pulled over and started digging through parka and trousers for my wallet. An Alaska State Trooper materialized  at the side of the car and as I rolled the window down I wondered if Smoky the Bear trooper hats were designed to scare the hell out of people or if terror was just a fringe benefit.

“Going a little fast for conditions weren’t you son? Let me see your license please”

He looked at my license, bit his lower lip then said: ”Are you June Deitrick’s boy?”

“Yes sir”  I replied, silently adding “ …and if you’re friends with my folks I am so screwed”

He sighed: “You’re in trouble enough without a ticket. Get home as safe and soon as you can”.

A gypsy of a strange and distant time

Travelling in panic all direction blind

Aching for the warmth of a burning sun

Freezing in the emptiness of where he’d come from

Although I managed to get home without getting stopped by a second trooper unexpectedly cruising the highway close to home my internal dive-bombers had renewed their attack by the time I pulled into the driveway. Expecting the worst I was surprised when Mom didn’t go ballistic over the broken curfew. I explained in my half-truthful manner that I was late because I took a friend home, a friend “who I didn’t want to identify”.  Mom assumed the person in question was a football buddy too “— faced” to navigate but for some reason she only grounded me for the next week.

I never thought I’d get to be a million

I never thought I’d get to be the thing

That all his other children see

…Look at me.

By the time I climbed up to my loft and collapsed on my bunk the internal Stukas had all landed and I was able to relax. I cued up the album and let the music wash the stress away – as I’ve written before alcohol had little effect on me and I moved in the wrong social circles to get involved with weed so music was my drug by default, especially brand-new progressive rock albums.

Watching and waiting

For a friend to play with

Why have I been alone so long

Mole he is burrowing his way to the sunlight

He knows there’s some there so strong

…then with a start I remembered the missing brake light cover.

August 1971

Our legendary midnight summer sun had just edged under the horizon but there was still plenty of light in the sky as I dropped B2 off after our end-of-the-summer-headed-for-college date. As I backed the Maverick out of her driveway two thoughts came to mind:

  • Her home and surroundings looked totally different when not buried in three feet of snow.
  • The Maverick’s red plastic brake-light lens cover was sitting smartly on the side of the road as if it had been just dropped there…

__________________________________________________________________________

  1. See 1971: “…then Dave turned 16 and discovered girls”
  2. See Project X Amazon Review