(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.
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.
There’s a lot going on with:
- preparing the manuscript for e-book formats
- lining up publishers
- evaluating freight options
…. so this will be a rather abbreviated update…
As it looks now the e-book will go out on Monday the 4th November 2019 with printed books following in the mail by mid-December. This of course assumes that there is no extinction-event level asteroid-impact on the Yucatan Peninsula nor any opening of a massive interdimensional rift sending us all back to the Middle Ages.
In the meantime we’re still hammering out logistics and composing surveys that will come out next week. As we compile this information please bear in mind that I am new to KickStarter –which means there is a chance for a wrong key stroke or click on the wrong space.
…so if there are any doubts about correct contact information please get ahold of us right away!
(…AKA the latest update to the Midnight Son KickStarter Campaign)
If you’ve ever experienced a hurricane you know that halfway through the storm there’s an oddly quiet period when the winds die down and everything seems eerily calm. Unfortunately you are experiencing passage of the eye of the hurricane, a pivot point around which the storm spins and a period of near-normal conditions that will disappear as the hurricane continues to move.
We’re at a point like that now – the tumult of the pledge portion of the campaign is over and it seems like nothing is happening while all the accounting and number-crunching is going on but soon the pace will pick up again after accounts are settled and fulfillment begins. Fortunately I am a little more mobile (love those cortisone shots) and I have a great resource in my friend and Traveller guru March Miller who is providing invaluable advice/service in coordinating with printers and planning the logistics required for fulfillment.
It’s all on track and on schedule – and even though “on track” and “on schedule” are words rarely associated with hurricanes they fit perfectly in this situation.
One of the best classes in my graduate school experience was a design class taught in the theater department. In that class I learned:
- The importance of color and lighting in creating a mood
- How costuming can aid immensely in establishing a character
- The importance of conducting good research prior the actual design process
When designing for a historical production our instructor would insist on primary sources in our research – for example when designing for Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano d’Bergerac we were to find photos of drawings or paintings from the Baroque period rather than copying imagery from motion pictures. I thought it was an unnecessary step – until I actually compared pictures from the 17th century with 20th century designs and discovered multiple anachronisms and wide use of ahistorical color in the later work.
I’m finding a similar situation in the way people look back at the 1960s and 70s. In 2019 there are a lot less of us who actually lived through those times which leaves production of material about the era to much younger people who don’t always consult “primary sources”. The other day I viewed a YouTube presentation about “ten things people don’t know about the 1960s” and of the ten only three of the items were valid observations. I got the impression that the other seven “things” came after the writer spent an afternoon binge-watching Mad Men and it had me wondering if did something similar when looking back to the 1920s as a high school student.
That’s another reason why I wrote Midnight Son and its upcoming sequel. I’m doing my best to capture the essence of those times and pass the information on to younger generations who would otherwise assume that all men of that day overwhelmingly preferred Twiggy to Raquel Welch…which was definitely not the case.
The campaign is definitely starting to wind down and I want to thank you all for the tremendous support you’ve shown this past month. It’s made a lot of difference to me – as all of this has been going on I have also been dealing with a tear in the meniscus of my right knee and the hustle & bustle of the campaign has been very therapeutic for me.
It looks like pledges have leveled off a bit but that’s to be expected at this point in time. We’re not quite halfway through the campaign and I know several people (most of them family members!) that still intend on making pledges so there are still good things to come.
You may have noticed that whenever the dollar amount reaches an odd number it will shortly round up to the next five-increment (as in 122 mysteriously becoming 125). Well, I’m here to tell you that we have a superhero in our midst, a would-be X-man named 5ive whose mutant power it to transform numerical totals to the afore-mentioned five-increment. He’s registered under his secret identity’s name but out of respect for his privacy I’m using his code-name.
…and I’m also sharing an image of him out of my sketch-book.
Thanks again for your support. If you haven’t done so already please share the Midnight Son link with your friends and family.
“We’re not your classic heroes. We’re not the favorites. We’re the other guys – the ones nobody bets on!”
The quote above is a line from the 1999 superhero comedy Mystery Men, a film which tells the story of the Shoveller, Mr. Furious and other lesser superheroes with unimpressive powers who are called on to save the day. It also happens to be one of my favorite films that I rank above other metahuman fare such as Tim Burton’s 1989 version of Batman and Paramount’s 2011 action flick Captain America: The First Avenger. I prefer Mystery Men because I can more readily relate to the everyday nature of the group, because it’s everyday people that I am interested in.
In my life I’ve seen a noticeable change in the quality of life and social mobility which has morphed our society into a very uncomfortable pyramid where the people at the top made a LOT more than the people at the bottom – or even the middle. I’ve heard countless debates over how that situation came about, but at the end of the day I’m pulling for the little guys; the people that do the actual work. It’s because of that preference that (in the words of my fellow paratrooper John Taylor) “I speak to the common man”. I’d much rather read about a lineman than a quarterback, a sergeant instead of a general and a paramedic over a surgeon.
I think there’s something special about stories from everyone’s life and that the “special” has as much to do with the way the story as the story itself. Midnight Son is basically a collection of vignettes from the life of a lonely boy coping with the vagaries of childhood set against changing locales and living conditions – it’s only through the addition of pacing, description, and a sense of both humor and drama that changes “What I Did at Summer Camp” to “Billy and the Bear”. It is my hope that as you read my stories you’ll think about your own experiences in the same way.
I always thought actress Marilu Henner to be something special, but prior to December 19th 2010 my opinion had more to do with her role as Elaine in late Seventies sitcom TAXI, but on the episode of 60 Minutes that night Ms. Henner revealed that she had hyperthymesia or total recall memory and can remember details from every day of her life. That announcement had me sit up and notice because my memory is fairly close to that level of recall – it may not be total comprehensive details of every single day that come to mind but I can come pretty close when I stop and concentrate.
I call it my razor/laser memory and it’s a trait that runs in my mother’s family, through my sisters and me, and on to my children. Like most talents can have either a positive or negative factor in life: It’s endearing that my younger sister can still remember the army card that I swiped from her hand that made it possible for me to win our marathon RISK game on the evening of March 22d 1970, but when that razor/laser prevents a person from “forgiving and forgetting” it can be quite devastating.
Unfortunately the “rememberee” that gets a false impression or skewed perception is in for real trouble because those mistaken memories can just as persistent as was the case when I spent fifty years trying to correct my mother’s take on a cheating incident I was accused of in sixth grade. Faulty perceptions are a major hazard because a person’s frame of reference can change so many times, especially in youth and adolescence and with family members as individualistic as mine total agreement on past events is a rare thing.
…so what does this have to do with my writing? I was in my mid-forties before I learned that not everyone had the same pretty-close-to-total recall when I happened to speak about a sketchy incident from school that an old friend had thought (hoped?) to be forgotten. Fortunately the vast majority of people that I share these memories respond in positive manner in much the same manner they’d react if I’d pulled out a photo album, especially when I stress that what I remember was influenced by my perceptions at the time.
Writing was the next logical step – I’ve always been a fan of what they now call “non-fiction creative writing” as penned by the likes of Tom Bodett, Bob Green, Garrison Keillor and Jean Shephard and I was an early fan of observational comics like Robert Klein and Dave Steinberg so it is no surprise that I took this path when I started seriously word-crunching again.
(more to follow)