Saturday, December 03, 2016

No Crow for Me, Thanks.

Holy crap. I can't wait to get all of my computer stuff set up in the new office space I have in Huntersville. Then I can get back to a regular writing schedule and return to posting on my blog.

I am hoping to have the new writing space set up and dedicated in a few days.

Until then, I just wanted to post some musings on writing.


In the past--and for very good reasons--I have been extremely critical of the self-publishing game. I had sworn never to do it again after my brief flirtation with following along those lines. (I did self-publish one novel and quickly withdrew it until I could sell it legitimately.)

But then, over the past year or so, editorial doors have chambered closed to me, mainly over the fact that I am often politically vocal. And my politics are not popular, especially among the liberal self-described "Social Justice Warriors", among whom are many anthologists, editors, even some publishers who all refuse to consider my work out of hand. They won't even look at my manuscripts or respond to queries, not even from my agent.

Thus, I had begun to lean toward eating some crow and move into the self-publishing field.

However, after discussing the scene with some of my good friends who do self-publish, I decided against it. The market is just way too crowded. And not crowded with good writing, but with the inept and hollow shit that is indicative of the scene. Added to the task of producing work, you also have to commission cover art, format the manuscripts for publication, employ a professional editor/proofreader, and advertise. If you want to do it right you have to spend a fair amount of money. And then you have to struggle to try to get your work noticed over the vast flood of literary turds that dominate self-published novels.

Therefore, I opted not to self-publish. A couple of my friends who do publish their own books encouraged me, but the word I got from most of them is that it's almost a lost cause and that few of them can make any money at it. Yeah, your work is published...but alongside crappy tomes about woman-on-lizard bestiality and racist gun-porn parading as zombie fiction.

No, thanks.

I'll continue to try to find traditional publishers. It will be hard to do and I'll have to seek out some honest editors who aren't blinded by crazed politics.

Otherwise, I'll just write and be unpublished. And for now I won't be eating any crow.

"Git some! Git some!"

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Morons I Have Seen

I once saw a clueless tourist walk up to a bull bison in Yellowstone. The bison was lying down in the dust. Massive, one-ton beast. The tourist walked up to the furry critter and leaned back against the bison's spine so that his equally stupid wife could snap a photo.
Unfortunately, the bison took it all in stride and did not squash the two morons into paste. But it could have (and probably should have) been otherwise.

Bull bison. I took this from a great distance. Keep your distance, people.

I once saw an idiot tourist in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park walk up to a bear and begin to toss it slices of bread, one slice at a time. After a few tosses the bear realized the freaking moron had a whole bag of bread and was just doling it out like a greedy asshole. So the bear charged. To, you know, get the whole bag. The moron tourist had his tiny toddler daughter beside him. When the bear charged he ran. Just left his tiny girl there, alone. Fortunately for them all, he dropped the bag of bread and so the bear veered aside at the last possible second and did not trample the toddler. (It had no interest at all in the girl, only the bag of bread.)

Black bear I encountered while hiking in Douthat State Park in Virginia. I took this from a great distance as the fleeing bear turned to make sure I wasn't following him. Keep your distance, people.

A few years back I hiked into the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. It was on a Saturday so that wilderness was packed to the gills with humans, many of them having set up tents. This wilderness does not allow fires (signs posted at all trailheads), and being a wilderness, all plants and trees are protected. As I hiked along the air was filled with firesmoke. Every campsite had a campfire. In addition, I saw people with axes chopping not just dead, dry timber, but actively felling living trees. I even saw some of these scumbags chopping down living rhododendron.

There are few things less likely to burn in your campfire than the wood of a living rhododendron. Don't cut them down.

We don't have anywhere near enough rangers (a classic case of politicians trying to starve our parks and wilderness areas into extinction); but I also cannot imagine being a National Park ranger and having to put up with so many idiots.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Campground Review: Hurricane, Jefferson National Forest, Virginia.

Carole and I have used a LOT of National Forest campgrounds in our years. Both when we tent-camped and after we got our Casita travel trailer. We have had almost uniformly wonderful experiences using the campgrounds in our National Forests, but some of them stand out above the others.

While not our all-time favorite campground, Hurricane--located in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area--is easily in the top three. What it might lack in some of the things some people expect in a campground, it more than makes up for in others.

As luck would have it, we were able to grab our favorite spot in the campground (#19). All of the sites have paved surfaces for your vehicles. We were able to back into our site with our truck and had much space to spare. There are no hookups (neither water, nor electric), so if you want to use electric appliances you'll have to have a generator. Also, fill up your onboard water tanks at home, or use a water spigot at the campground. These minor drawbacks (for some, not for us) are made up for in the campground's isolation from paved roads and subsequent lack of traffic and the peacefulness of the forested surroundings.

The campground has two bathhouses with flush toilets and warm water showers. But there is no dump station. Just a couple of miles down the road from Hurricane is Raccoon Branch Campground, another National Forest facility. It does have a dump station and it is open to campers at Hurricane.

We like this campground so much for many reasons. But at the top of our list is that it is very, very quiet. There is no noise from passing autos because the only nearby roads are gravel Forest Service roads and not heavily used. The forest is deep and lush, classic Southern Cove Hardwood. Plenty of trees of an amazing variety and lots of flowering plants in spring and summer.

There is no shortage of things to do here. I love to hike and there are hundreds of miles of amazing trails. You can access the Appalachian Trail from the campground. One can drive to Damascus and bike the Virginia Creeper Trail, which I very highly recommend. Start at the Whitetop Station and you can bike pretty much all downhill to Damascus. A very inexpensive and gorgeous way to spend part of a day. Grayson Highlands State Park is nearby, and the trails there make you feel more like you're hiking in Montana than in Virginia. Seriously. I have shown photos I've take above Massie Gap to people and they think I took them in the Rocky Mountains.

To our way of thinking, Hurricane Campground is one of the best options in the southeastern USA for camping. Trails. Quiet. Solitude. Waterfalls. Wildlife. Deep forests. What the heck else do you need?

Entrance to Hurricane Campground.

Our site was level. All we had to do was park and use the tongue jack. Level as could be!

Carole is always in charge of the campfire. She does about half of her cooking over the fire.

Unlimited firewood was provided free of charge by the campground hosts! They did this on their own. They had permission to cut up and split downed trees. Then the hosts would pile it up in a huge stack near the center of the campground. Take all you want!

Our favorite site: #19. Streamside.

Bathhouse with shower.

I didn't see much wildlife on this trip, but I did get this photo of a grouse.

A hike I took to bag a 4,500-foot peak. I got lost. This was actually taken after I'd gotten lost.

Monday, November 07, 2016


I might be eating some crow. Details Thursday. Maybe, if I have some free time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Color Coming In.

We picked up our travel trailer from the RV service center in Terrell, NC. They did quite a lot of repair work that needed to be done, including replacing the power converter that was wiped out by the lightning strike on our last camping trip.

Arriving back at home, I noticed that the leaf changes are starting to hit home in the neighborhood. So I took a couple of photos. One of the house across the street, and one of a small dogwood in the back yard. Dogwoods are among the first trees to start changing color in the Fall.

So far, it doesn't feel like Autumn, at all. Temperatures are in the mid to high 80s. They say that this past September broke yet another record for heat. Alas.

Picking up the Casita from Terrell Camping Center.

Back home where she belongs! (Well, when we're not camping.)

The neighbor's house across the street. Color coming in!

Little dogwood at the edge of the parking lot.

Spider on the window! Yikes!

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Fall colors are on the way. Looking forward to seeing them. Until then, here are various Autumn colors I have photographed from a wide variety of locations. (And, yes, we have a camping trip scheduled in the midst of the color change in the mountains.)

Stone Mountain State Park, NC.

Stone Mountain SP, NC.

Stone Mountain SP, NC.

Charlotte, NC.

Charlotte, NC.

Kumbrabow State Park, WV.

Kumbabow, WV.

Seneca Rock, WV.

Seneca Rock, WV.

San Juan Mountains, CO.

San Juan Mountains, CO.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Rock Climbing.

Now and again I'll consider taking a class and learning some light rock climbing. Sometimes I'll look up on the walls and see someone making their way to the top of a cliff face and it seems like something I might want to try. And then I think of Mr. Gravity and come to my senses.

So I'll continue to hike and occasionally I'll do some light scrambling...maybe top out at what they term "Class IV". But nothing more serious than that.

Stone Mountain, North Carolina. Said to be one of the easiest places around to learn rock climbing.

Joshua Tree National Park, California. Where I did some rock scrambling and boulder climbing in 2010.

Saturday, September 03, 2016


I have noticed, that everyone says that they would be this guy:

But in reality, everyone who says that would actually be one of these guys:

Why? Because they wouldn't want to be this guy:

Or one of these guys:

Frankly, they would, in fact, want to be one of these guys.

Because when you get right down to it, most of us are just a bunch of Good Germans.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Phil Ochs is Gone.

Phil Ochs is gone.
Now, there...there was a brave man.

But he's gone now.
The darkness got him.
The bad guys got him.
The ignorance and hatred and want and greed.
All that took him down.

I still listen to his songs.
And I still hear his voice.
At the conclusion of many of those tunes...
you can hear the applause.

But he's still gone.
And the applause has faded into dusty memories.

Worse than that, though:
All of those hands that produced that applause,
all of those people willing to listen,
to hear the truth...

They're all gone, too.
One way or another...
they're all of them gone.

Phil Ochs.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hiatus? What hiatus?

Whoa. For those loyal readers who stop here to see what's up, my apologies. I have been ill off and on and haven't been able to post. Also, my computer modem was on the fritz. I had to use my cell phone and tablet to access the Internet and those are not, of course, conducive to posting material on this blog.

For today, just some images as place holders. I'll have some decent content online here in a day or so.

As everyone knows who heard my whining last year, the horrible fires in Glacier National Park in August of 2015 chased away most of the wildlife. This was one of only two bears I saw in the Park while I was there. This one was in Many Glacier and was VERY far away. Just a classic black phase black bear. He was, however, quite healthy and was already putting on fat for the winter ahead.

This is Big Spring in Missouri. One of the largest freshwater springs in North America. From a trip in 2008.

I took this one a couple of years back. When I was a kid gazing up at the Moon in expectation of the impending Apollo 11 Mission, I would have killed to have had a camera capable of this kind of image. Now you can buy a camera that can do this for $50 on Ebay.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Spider in a Falcon

Here's a true story that's been with me for over 50 years:
My favorite car my parents ever owned was a Ford Falcon. Just a great car. The thing I liked most was that it had a bright red leather interior. Could have been faux leather...I don't recall. But just this brilliant crimson interior. One day we were riding along and I was sitting in the back passenger seat looking out the window. Somehow, I noticed a movement at my left elbow and I looked down. In the leather upholstery was a tiny hole and inside that tiny hole I could see a spider...a black, black, black, black spider of the most amazing obsidian hue. In retrospect, it was probably a black widow. But the spider kept coming to the edge of the little hole and peering out, it's gleaming legs barely visible.
Then it hit me. Sometimes (this was the days before every car had factory-air as a given) flies would settle beyond the back seat and hunker down between the glass and the leather. I looked. Sure enough there was a big, fat fly back there. I caught the lazy bastard without killing it and...just out of curiosity...I offered it to the spider. Just held it up there at the entrance to the tiny hole.
Those bitch-ass spider legs REACHED out faster than light and grabbed that fucking fly! Took that sumbitch right on back there into the shadows.
Next day, I rode along once more and the first thing I did was catch a damned fly in the back window. Once again...I offered it up to the spider. Same reaction. SNAG!
I felt like I was doing a good deed. Also...and this was the neatest part...I had a pet spider! How freaking cool was that?
This went on almost every day for about two weeks. One day I caught a fly and placed it at the hole. Nothin'. I pushed the fly in a little closer. No reaction. I realized the spider was gone. Kaput. Fled the scene of the crime.
Not long after that my dad hit a whitetail buck while driving the Falcon at about 75mph on the Interstate. They got the car home somehow. I remember seeing the car in the back yard, the grill mashed in, the hood partially buckled, deer hair and deer blood all the frack over the damned thing. I'm not sure how they got it back to Decatur, but the insurance folk totaled it out and that was the end of the Ford Falcon. I never did get to see if any tiny black spiders hatched out of that tiny spider's den in the red leather upholstery.

Not the model my parents owned (theirs wasn't a convertible), but that was the interior color, by Jove.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Three of a Perfect Pair.

Recent video uploads of a 2013 trip to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.

Our site at Grindstone Campground at Mount Rogers National Recreation Area.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Sometimes I have really weird, brief, vivid dreams. All of my writer pals like to talk about their dreams. I rarely do, but from time to time they're so bright in my mind when I awaken I scribble down my impressions.

Last night's dream. Very brief.

I dreamed a guy I knew died. I went to his house. I don't know why, because his death really didn't mean all that much to me. Finding myself in the kitchen I looked across the room and his wife was standing at the sink, her back to me. She was wearing this brilliant cobalt blue dress. I walked up to her and smacked her on the ass and said, "How's it goin', old woman?"

Then I woke up.

I woke up before this could happen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Good Old Linville Gorge

One place where I sometimes visit to escape from the city is the Linville Gorge Wilderness. There are days when I can even get away from crowds there. But you have to visit it on days when the weather is unpleasant and when it's not on a holiday. Being one of the most easily accessible wilderness areas in North Carolina with some of the most spectacular scenery on the east coast makes it a very popular destination with everyone from casual sightseers to hard-core backpackers and rock climbers.

One September day my son and I headed over there to do some day-hiking. We hit the Chimneys, look around Table Rock and then headed over to Hawksbill Mountain. For some reason, after all of my previous visits to the Gorge, I had never climbed Hawksbill. I would always have other destinations in mind and just never got around to bagging that peak. But on that day Andy and I marked that one off the list.

Finally, we drove past a trailhead to a well known waterfall to take a look. Then, as always, we had to head back home.

Andy at The Chimneys, looking back at Table Rock.

The day condensed into a few minutes of videos and photos.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

My Favorite War Movies.

I have read a lot of war history in my life. Everything from the battles of ancient empires pre-dating the Romans, to modern conflicts in the 21st Century. I've also seen a lot of movies about war. Again, older films that feature battles with men wearing primitive armor and slashing at one another with bronze weapons, to films featuring up-to-date GPS guided missiles and massive tanks with computerized targeting systems. (I won't mention films that carry robots and time machines, or dragons and magic. Those would be science fiction or fantasy films. Not part of the topic of today's blog.)

I'm not exactly sure why I watch war films. I'm not a soldier and I'm not particularly attracted to the subject of warfare as far as nationalism and conflict is concerned. I suppose I am interested because, as a writer, warfare is the very essence of story: personalities, conflict, and a linear progression.

For that reason there have been a number of great war movies that have inspired me at one level or another, or for a combination of reasons. Here, then, is a list of my five favorite war movies.

1: "Come and See". This a late Soviet film (1985) directed by Elem Klimov, written by Klimov and Alex Adamovich, and starring Alexi Kravchenko and Olga Mironova. The movie takes place over the course of an indeterminate amount of time but which stands in for the years during which the Soviet Union was initially overwhelmed by Nazi forces before finally wearing them down and turning the tables on their Fascist enemies.

The action seems to be within the borders of Belorussia which was victim to some of the most horrific of the racist atrocities of World War II. "Come and See" serves as a microcosm of the entire conflict between the Aryan occupiers out to exterminate the Slavic natives. The film is so monstrously effective as a tool of patriotic fervor that I found myself wanting to go out and kill Germans after I'd seen it. I'm not sure if this is the reaction Klimov was hoping for, but it's what I felt. This is, easily, the best war film I have ever seen.

Monsters walked the Earth.

2: "Fires on the Plain". This 1959 black and white Japanese film centers on the closing days of World War II from the point of view of an ill Imperial Japanese soldier in the Phillipines as the Americans are closing in. It was directed by Kon Ichikawa and was written by Natto Wada and based on a novel by Shohei Ooka. The movie stars Eiji Funokosha as the lost and wandering Japanese soldier.

Funokosha portrays a lowly Private Tamura who is suffering from tuberculosis and of no worth to his outfit. He is ordered to a hospital that does not wish to house him. He is further ordered to commit suicide if he cannot find shelter there. Twice refused sanctuary at the makeshift hospital he decides not to kill himself and instead marches out in the hopes of meeting up with a naval force that will hopefully rescue the starving, ill-equipped Japanese forces and return them to Japan.

Of course there are no Imperial Navy ships to rescue anyone and the tightening noose of American forces slowly closes in on all of the Japanese soldiers trying to make their ways to the coast and the ships which are never coming to remove them. The scenes of savagery and violence and despair that Tamura encounters are the very breath of horror and depression. And, strangely, in the midst of it all Ichikawa finds a way to instill a few moments of mirth along the way.

I first saw this movie when I was a child...on Public Television. Although the horrific imagery stayed with me all of my life, I did not see the movie again until recently. It's a solid second place on my list. (This 1959 film was remade for some reason in 2014. As with most remakes...why did they bother?)

Funokosha as Pvt. Tamura.

3: "Attack" is a 1956 film directed by Robert Aldrich, adapted for screen by James Poe from a play by Norman Brooks. The cast is about as good as it gets for this period of American films when it comes to character actors. The star of the film is Jack Palance who plays the battle-hardened Lieutenant Joe Costa. He obeys his orders and excels at killing Nazis, but is tired of being forced to risk his men to the whims of his drunken, cowardly commanding officer, Capt. Cooney played by Eddie Albert.

The play on which the screenplay is based is heavy-handed in its anti-war stance, but effective nonetheless. It doesn't hurt that all of the acting in the movie is about as good as it can be under the direction of Robert Aldrich in one of his best moments as a director. And even with great actors like Lee Marvin as a cynical major, Richard Jaekel, Buddy Ebsen, William Smithers, Robert Strauss and others, Palance stands out. His portrayal of the killing machine US Lieutenant focuses the story in such a way that makes the whole film far more memorable than the script likely deserves.

One thing that I was impressed by was that the 1954 play seems to presage the phenomenon of American enlisted men "fragging" their officers during the war in Vietnam. Either this kind of thing happened in the Second World War and served as fodder for Norman Brooks, or it was a brilliant bit of prescience on the writer's part.

Palance as Lt. Costa.

4: "Patton". I speak to very few people who have not seen "Patton" at least once. George C. Scott dominates the color scenery in this movie like few actors are ever able to do in any film in their career. I hope he kissed Franklin Schaffer's ass for allowing him to chew the scenery to brilliant effect in this intensely watchable scream of propaganda. Just as "Attack" was an anti-war yarn, "Patton" is a big-foot monstrosity of pro-war bullshit, yelling the so-called honor of warfare from the highest peak and promoting a total bastard of a man as some kind of wondrous hero with flaws that are so sweet they bleed gold. As a kid I bought every second of it, and as an adult I still cannot make myself turn from the screen when I walk into a room and seeing it playing on a TV screen. It's that effective a film and that fine a performance from Scott as the bloody bastard, Patton. Karl Malden does a pretty good job (as Omar Bradley) of trying to make one forget that the star of the movie is George C. Scott, but his skill is so subdued and so human that he doesn't stand a chance against a cad like Patton.

Try to watch this movie once in your life and never again. It would be a difficult task.

Propaganda. About as good as it gets.

5: "Kagemusha" by Akira Kurasawa and starring Tatsuya Nakadai. This film about 16th Century Japanese intrigue and violence between warlords variously battling to unify Japan, or to keep it as independent feudal states is another of my favorites. As a Kurosawa film it is eye-popping in its visual beauty. But swimming about on the surface with these images of vibrant color is a tremendous story of intrigue, connivance, ingenuity, and the accidents that most humans have come to call "fate".

Nakadai plays a dual role here. Both the brilliant tactician warlord Takeda Shingen, and the lowly Kagemusha of the title. The genius of war, Shingen, is shot and mortally wounded by a clever sniper using an arquebus. Before the great lord can die, his retainers recruit a lookalike to stand in for the warlord and Kagemusha must not only look the part, but be trained to act as a brave leader would at the head of his armies.

This film combines hope and fatalism in a unique way and one does not know how the chips will fall until the final minutes of the story feed out. Expertly helmed at the peak of Kurosawa's power as a director and cinematographer, the tale is also unique and powerful under his hand.

Tatsuya Nakadei as Kagemusha.

Friday, August 05, 2016


We just reserved a spot at one of our favorite campgrounds. Late Fall. We haven't been back there in quite some time. In fact, not since we had our old white Nissan Frontier. We're really looking forward to getting back there. In fact, we even got the same campsite we had the last time were stayed there! Woo-HOO!

Carole and our reliable Casita the first time we went there.

Plenty of trails, plenty of waterfalls.

Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel.