Monday, September 30, 2013

The Last Zombie

The first time I ever saw NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD I was bitten as surely by Romero's vision as the characters had been by the zombies stalking them. The concept of the recently dead rising from oblivion to a kind of un-life with an unquenchable desire to kill and eat the was brilliant. Yes, there had been movie and fiction zombies before Romero's seminal film, but never like those! Romero's zombies were a stroke of horror genius. There is a great reason they have had this long life in popular film and fiction.

I had wanted to write zombie novels for years. I had plotted them out in my mind and never proceeded beyond jotting some notes because I figured...who the hell was going to buy a zombie novel? It just wasn't done!

Yes, there had been some zombie novels when I was thinking of the idea, but they were adaptations of the Romero films, or sequels to those films (such as John Russo's excellent RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD which preceded the film of the same name but which was a direct sequel to the events in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD). Finally, a few zombie novels popped up, but they were rare and the only one that did exceptionally well was Phil Nutman's WET WORK.

But I kept fiddling with the concept and eventually decided to write a short story dealing with zombies--"The New Ecology of Death", which I then adapted to comic script format and sold to Stephen R. Bissette's TABOO.

Then, with the appearance of print-on-demand and self-publishing, there was an explosion of zombie novels. Thousands of them. I am not exaggerating--THOUSANDS! So I decided to give it a shot, intentionally avoiding the pitfalls that I had noticed in longer zombie fiction: thinly veiled racism.

To me, zombie fiction was effective because it was classic paranoid fantasy. Along the lines of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS or THE PUPPET MASTERS or I AM LEGEND (from which the idea for NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD bled out). But I'd never looked upon it as a cover for racist ideas and dogma. So, naively, I followed the zombie phenomena and pursued my own zombie novel (THE LIVING END), while trying to make contact with zombie writers and fans while I worked on that book.

And it was with some great shock that I realized that a huge number of zombie fans are right wing gun nuts and racists. And a large portion of the folk writing zombie fiction were right wing gun nuts and racists. It should have occurred to me before reading the comments on zombie fiction chat boards and following links from people posting--so many of which led back to gun-crazies and white supremacist websites. Then, out of curiosity, I decided to look up THE TURNER DIARIES an overtly racist novel. And it was obvious to me that there's not the thickness of a lizard's whisker's difference in that hate speech and most zombie novels.

Reading that racist piece of shit I recognized in it the plots of most of the zombie novels I'd ever seen or read. Instead of killing zombies, the "heroes" of that ignorant, hateful poison kill Jews and black folk and race-traitors. So it was easy to suddenly see why so many right wing extremists were attracted to zombie fiction.

Gun-crazed racists.
I did my best to create zombie stories that--while deeply rooted in the tradition of paranoid fantasy--were not infected with the kind of racism that makes so many zombie novels uncomfortably popular.

The zombie fad seems, at last, to be fading. I hope it has run its course like the zombie disease that features so prominently in most of the books about that particular monster. But I worry about the real monsters who wander among us...the gun-crazed racists who so adore the thousands of poorly-conceived, poorly written, poorly camouflaged racist books.


On to Upper Falls!

After we headed down from Hawksbill Mountain, Andy and I drove over to the trail head to hike to Upper Falls. You can make a 1.5 mile loop hike out of it, but both of us were tuckered out by the time we got there. So Andy opted out completely and I decided to just hike to the top of Upper Falls and skip the loop hike.

Next time I go up there I will do the entire loop, because I missed seeing the main part of the falls which are pretty high and must be spectacular in a time of high water such as the day we were there.

Yup. This must be the place.

Passing by a big old boulder.

This is an old, popular, and well-trod hiking trail.

The stairs leading to the stream crossing (if you're doing the whole loop) and the top of Upper Falls (including the small cascade above the falls).

These are the cascades above the Upper Falls.

There was a group of co-eds from Appalachian State sun-bathing and studying (I saw the textbooks) at the top of the falls, enjoying probably one of the last warm-ish Sundays of the year.

Looks like an inviting rock slide. Don't try it. Leads to a drop promising death.

Then back up the trail, through the rhododendron tunnels, to the parking lot. I told you I'd have to go home!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pry Me From the Summit!

One thing about me when I'm wandering in the wilderness:

Get me to an overlook or an exceptionally nice area to see the vistas...and you practically have to pry me loose with a crowbar.

Once I was up on the summit of Hawksbill, I didn't want to head down. There's something extremely depressing about leaving a mountaintop for me. It's like the beginning of the end. Okay, I know I have to head back to the bottom of the mountain and then I try to dither as long as I possibly can before facing the music.

So it was on the top of Hawksbill. I stayed up there taking hundreds of photos, but at last I had to face facts and begin the trek back to the road and the waiting truck.

About 1800 feet below...the creator of the Gorge--the Linville River.

I don't know what plant produces these bright red berries, but they were pretty so I tried to get a good macro shot of them. I failed. Color is nice, though.

Looking up from one of my photography spots back toward the wind-swept summit of Hawksbill Mountain.

One last look down into the bottom of the Gorge.

Not sure what shrub this is. But this specimen looks very old.

The old, eroded trail leading down from the top.

There really is nothing quite like hiking through a rhododendron tunnel.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

On to Hawksbill!

After we tramped around the Chimneys for a good part of the day, we headed down Forest Service Road 230 to the trailhead to Hawksbill Mountain.

Hawksbill is one of the iconic peaks of Linville Gorge. I often stop at various peaks and overlooks and peer across the gulf at it. And though I've been to the Gorge uncounted times, somehow I've never climbed to the top! I can't explain it. It's one of the higher of the rocky, exposed summits and it just begs to be climbed. Add to this the fact that the trail to the summit is less than one mile in length...and there's really no excuse I could make as to why I'd skipped it in the past. Especially when I've driven past the trailhead many, many times.

So, Sunday was the day to make up for lost opportunities. We drove over to the trail, parked, and began our hike.

I love the National Forest wilderness area signs. Always good for a photo!

The sign for the Hawksbill Trail. Most wilderness areas don't have any kind of manmade structure in them. Sometimes, they make slight exceptions. For Linville, the Forest Service decided to put a substantial footbridge across the Linville River on the Spence Ridge Trail to keep people from trying to wade across the river in high water and getting themselves killed. But recent heavy rain had washed the bridge out.

The trail has very recently been rerouted and rebuilt. The old trail was too eroded and too steep, and so this new one was engineered. They're still not quite finished with the details.

One of the first overlooks affords this view of Grandfather Mountain.

More new trail construction.

Part of the old trail that they kept. Pretty rugged. Pretty steep.

We stopped at this rock to rest before breaking out onto the summit.

Yow! What took me so long to see this place??!!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Scrambling around The Chimneys.

We took the Casita trailer in for servicing today. There's a place north of Charlotte where I take it for minor repairs and general upkeep. We're planning a trip in a few weeks to a new area that we've never visited and there are some problems with the trailer--I haven't been able to get the onboard water pump to work, which has led to trouble with the water heater. Plus some other little things had to be fixed.

And it's back to the trip Andy and I took to the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. Here are some more photos and general thoughts.

One of the more popular areas of the wilderness area is the terrain around The Chimneys. It's popular for a number of reason, including the exposed rock and the easy access from the Table Rock Parking area.

It's easy to find subjects for photos in this part of the Gorge.

Among the most spectacular scenery in the eastern USA. No doubt about it.

The area at the foot of The Chimneys.

If you will look closely, you can see a guy's head just emerging at the edge of the rock on top of this particular summit. This is one spot that I wanted to scramble, but the climbing/scrambling areas were just way too crowded with students and instructors. Next time I go there I'll make sure to go on a weekday.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why Liberals Piss Me Off

One of my more popular blog posts was “Why I Hate Libertarians”. That one pretty much stands as solidly today in my way of thinking as when I wrote it. It really struck a nerve, and brought out the right wing maggots to squirm in the sun where we can all watch them wriggle.

Another group that sickens me to no end are the liberals. Phil Ochs had them pegged when he wrote the song, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal”.

Phil Ochs. Not a liberal.

It’s not that liberals are never helpful in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, they are. In that respect, they’re nothing like Libertarians who are always on the wrong side of the political equation. That said, liberals are almost always as harmful as the right wing scum they often claim to oppose.

My main problem with the liberals is that they are an indispensable tool of the right. The corporate/racist/religious filth who rule us all have the liberals to thank--in large part--for the position of ultimate power they now hold in their greedy fists. For it is the liberal who will forever proclaim that “we all need to get along” and that I “should take the right’s position” under consideration.

Fuck that.

Liberals are the never-ending enablers of the right. The only true way to struggle (and win) against the corporate right is to not give in and to not cooperate in any way whatsoever with the needs and whims of the plutocracy. And this is where the liberals count so heavily for the rich who never give an inch and always take a mile. Thanks to the liberals, the wealthy continue to remain wealthy (and in power) at the expense of everyone else.

When the liberals could actually make a difference, they can always be counted upon to cut and run; to compromise with the financial monsters and the ecological rapists and the ideologically Fascist who control the seats of power. “Take their positions under consideration,” the liberals will always argue when push comes to shove. Because liberals are, at base, notorious cowards. They do not want to see their blood spilled, at all; and they don’t even want to be inconvenienced for a split second.

So, they never fail to fall back before the onslaught of the corporate elite so that we can all live together under the right's elitist thumb.

Enough of that.

As the old saying goes: either lead, follow, or get out of the way. But the liberals always take a fourth way out.

They lie down, belly-up, and keep their cowardly mouths shut.

(Yeah, I'm Sorry about the ad.)

"In every political community there are varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals. An outspoken group on many subjects. Ten degrees to the left of center in good times. Ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally. Here, then, is a lesson in safe logic."--Phil Ochs.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hiking to The Chimneys.

One very cool spot in Linville Gorge are the double peaks called "the Chimneys". Now, there are MANY places in the Appalachian mountains named by the locals "the Chimneys". They're all over the place. Anywhere the locals thought something looked like a chimney or more than one chimney, the name stuck. Hell...I don't even feel like counting them all just in North Carolina.

But the Chimneys in Linville Gorge a very beautiful and are a lot of fun to hike and scramble on. But even though I've been to these peaks several times, I've never climbed all the way to the top. There are any number or routes to the summit--ranging from Class III scrambling to difficult technical climbs. I had climbed about 3/4 of the way to the top in the past, but had never gotten all the way up. I wanted to bag these peaks on this trip and was ready to do so.

But...I didn't get my chance. Because several van-loads of climbing students had arrived and got to the peaks just before we did. Basically, the place was just way too crowded for me to comfortably tackle the route I wanted to use to get to the top. So, bagging the Chimneys will have to wait for next time. I plan to do it on a weekday when there is not likely to be more than a few other hiker/climbers around.

The parking lot. My truck is the third one back in the center line.

One of our first stops, looking back at Tablerock Mountain.

Andy. With a crown of Peregrine falcons.

Looking up at one of the peaks of the Chimneys. There were too many other climbers around for me to scramble to the top.

One of the groups of climbing students (this bunch was from Appalachian State in Boone).

This was the moon as it looked when we walked out the door to head to Linville Gorge.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Gorge! Part One.

My son and I went to the Linville Gorge Wilderness today. I wanted to walk around in the forest and find a little solitude. Great day for seeing the mountains (cool temperatures and clear skies), but a bad day for solitude. Lots of other people were tramping around in the hills. That'll teach me to head up there on a Sunday.

I'll post details about the quick trip as the week progresses.

Looking into the Gorge from near the peaks known as The Chimneys.

American chestnut leaves. The common belief is that the American chestnut is extinct. It isn't, though. Not quite. You can often find them in the southern forests, sometimes fairly tall ones of twenty or even thirty feet. Almost all of these trees are sprouts from still-living root systems that send up shoots from time to time. Unfortunately, the fungal blight that destroyed our American chestnut forests is always waiting to strike, killing such trees before they can get very old. I saw--quite actually--hundreds of American chestnut trees today in the Gorge.

I found one fairly large American chestnut. Standing well over twenty feet. So I walked into the forest to see if it showed signs of the blight. As you can see, it does. The splitting bark is a signature of the deadly disease.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

More Comics

I do collect other comics besides Silver Age Marvels by Kirby and Ditko. Today I landed a super-high grade copy of UNUSUAL TALES #25. Of course the reason I really wanted it is that it has art by Steve Ditko. He did the cover, plus the interior cover story. One exceptional thing about this copy is that it's in immaculate condition. It was sold to me as being in "Fine +" condition. Well, it is better than fine condition. A whole lot better--pretty close to near mint. I'm not into the practice of slabbing comics, but I might have to do that with this particular book.

I don't think Dikto ever really stopped working for Charlton until they went out of business. Even during the times when he was toiling away for Marvel and DC he was still producing creditable work for Charlton, although they paid much lower rates. It's been said he did the work for them because they gave him more editorial latitude. It could be. Hard to say.

I also got an acceptable copy of FANTASTIC FOUR #70. For some reason I had a hard time locating this book.

This is another of the generic villains that Kirby was willing to deliver up to his employers at Marvel. He was going to withhold the best stuff for his own projects from here on in. So instead of something like Doctor Doom or Black Bolt, the readers of the Fantastic Four got the Mad Thinker and one of his androids. In this case, the android was a big, green, faceless galoot. Pretty cool as such constructs go, but not something Goodman and Lee would likely be able to market for tons of money.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kirby Deliberating

It seems obvious to me that after the debacle of Fantastic Four #66-67, when Kirby's story was utterly mangled by his editor, that Kirby had decided to stop handing his employer any more of the treasures from his imagination. I think he was already formulating the ideas and characters that would become his Fourth World concept that he took to DC Comics.

To that end, he still had to make a living and he still had to write and illustrate his flagship titles for Marvel Comics. But he deliberately went about creating good stories without giving the Marvel entity any more major new characters.

So what Kirby did over the last few years he was working on the Fantastic Four series was to either deliver up generic androids and monsters, or to recycle previously introduced co-stars and villains. Thus, we got adventures involving Dr. Doom, the Mad Thinker, the Inhumans, the Silver Surfer, and so on. Good, solid stories, but very few new, bankable characters.

I've always wondered if Lee and Goodman wondered what Kirby was doing. Did they think that he'd just run out of ideas? Or did they suspect that he, like Ditko before him, was getting ready to jump ship?

Who knows? We'd need an honest arbiter to know the answer to that, and no source close to that pair would be likely to show any honesty.

The Fantastic Four take on Doom on his home turf: Latveria!

I still need an issue to complete this story arc, so I'm holding off on reading it until I have it in hand. I read it as a kid, but I want to read it in order before I take a new look at this adventure.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Backpacking Weather

When I'm backpacking I often enjoy the weather, even when it's "bad". Too much rain can become a real drag, but most of the time any kind of weather is just part of the journey. I don't mind the tougher parts to enjoy the solitude that comes with the long walks through the wilderness.

Flash photo of my favorite backpacking tent (MSR Hubba). I suspected it would snow during the night, and it did.

I love waking up in the morning to fresh snow when I'm backpacking.

At another campsite (the night before the one above). First it was lightly raining after I'd got my tent set up. Then the temperature dropped and it began to sleet. Some minutes after that it became all snow. Then it warmed up, the clouds broke, and the sun was out.

Just a short stroll from my tent.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Spider, man!

On Sunday I helped my wife with a party she planned for some of her childhood pals. While I was standing in the driveway I noticed a dot suspended between two power lines. I quickly realized it was a spider and hauled out my telephoto lens.

Yep. It was a spider.

Then I noticed four more who had the same idea; using the parallel electric lines to use as support for webs.

What is that?

Cropped telephoto shot.