Flash Fiction of the day, The Pedestrian, by Ray Bradbury

“You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”
― Ray Bradbury

Walkway on the levee, New Orleans

From my old online journal The Daily Epiphany – Friday, May 25, 2001

Tres Rios

As the evening wore on, I slipped off for a walk. The still, hot, day was cooling off quickly into comfortable spring dusk. The blue sky was decorated with clusters of cumulus clouds smeared out like paint-by-numbers oils in the air. The rivers were noisy with thousands of click-croaking frogs, out for the evening. I couldn’t see them, of course, but I could imagine their throats bulging out like balloons as they sang their little songs. The walk along the three rivers was pleasant, at a level below the main park where all the thousands of recreational vehicles were invisible. Only a few tent campers were down there, with their campfires poring out sweet wood smoke – they had the best spots in the park.

And today’s flash fiction – The Pedestrian, by Ray Bradbury

UFO

“The simplest truth about man is that he is a very strange being; almost in the sense of being a stranger on the earth. In all sobriety, he has much more of the external appearance of one bringing alien habits from another land than of a mere growth of this one.

He cannot sleep in his own skin; he cannot trust his own instincts. He is at once a creator moving miraculous hands and fingers and a kind of cripple. He is wrapped in artificial bandages called clothes; he is propped on artificial crutches called furniture. His mind has the same doubtful liberties and the same wild limitations. Alone among the animals, he is shaken with the beautiful madness called laughter; as if he had caught sight of some secret in the very shape of the universe hidden from the universe itself. Alone among the animals he feels the need of averting his thought from the root realities of his own bodily being; of hiding them as in the presence of some higher possibility which creates the mystery of shame.”
― G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

Abandoned Saucer House, Texas

The world is full of rabbit holes. Let your discipline and vigilance slip for one second and you will fall down one – not to return for a long, long time.

That happened to me today, as it does on many days. I am too curious.

The YouTube algorithm served up a suggestion for me. It was called “Purple Wigs.” I could not resist.

What the hell was that! I had to find out. I started to research.

These were scenes from the moon base from a 1970 British Science Fiction television show called UFO. It was produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson – their first live-action series. Up to this time they had done the beloved Supermarionation shows I remember (and loved) from my youth like Supercar or Thunderbirds.

The actress at the beginning of the clip is Gabrielle Drake, the sister of the wonderful and doomed Nick Drake and has fought to promote his music after his untimely death.

The show had a troubled production history and only ran for one season of 26 episodes. A few years later it became popular in the states (I was out of the country at that time and never saw it) which prompted them to get together for a second season. That too, was filled with difficulties and was ultimately scrapped. But the sets, scripts, and many of the actors were reworked into an entirely new show, called Space:1999 (starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain) – a quirky show ahead of its time – which I had discovered back in the day and loved.

So down and down the rabbit hole. I looked it up on Justwatch.com and realized that I could stream the show (with ads) on Freevee and my Amazon Prime subscription. So I sat down and watched the first episode.

And I really liked it. They used the same special effects team as they did on the Supermarionation shows and the planes (love the SST) and spaceships look like the Thunderbirds. It is more adult, however – for example people die in bloody violent ways onscreen – and there is a strong sexual element. It is terribly dated in its treatment of women, of course – even though the women are given important positions in SHADO – the secret organization to protect earth against the alien attacks – there is a lot of gratuitous flirting and… well the costumes. Of course, I know I shouldn’t, but I’m so tired of… well… now… I actually enjoyed watching all the misogyny – and the men were treated badly too. Enough of that.

Oh, and the music. It is full of cheesy 70’s space cocktail jazz. I was glad to find the soundtrack on Spotify. I have favorited it – we’ll see how long until I tire of it.

Another rabbit hole. You tell me… a waste of time or one of those odd puzzles that make life worthwhile. Or maybe both. And oh, those costumes. Purple wigs? Purple wigs!

Shindig!

“Even so, there were times I saw freshness and beauty. I could smell the air, and I really loved rock ‘n’ roll. Tears were warm, and girls were beautiful, like dreams. I liked movie theaters, the darkness and intimacy, and I liked the deep, sad summer nights.”
― Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

There was live music at the start.

Today, when I came home from work, instead of doing something useful and trying to make this world a better place I sat down and watched (for no reason) a bunch of old episodes of Shindig! on Youtube.

I’m old enough to actually remember the show, I think. Let’s see… the show aired from September, 1964 to January, 1966 so I was seven, eight and almost nine. I guess that’s old enough to remember, but not enough to understand. I remember Shindig!‘s folk-oriented predecessor Hootenanny too – though barely.

What I really remember, and really didn’t understand, were the Shindig! dancers.

The television is grainy and not very well preserved. But the music! I hate to sound like the old man shouting to get off of his lawn – but that stuff was so much better than what we have to listen to today.

So much better.

The Spaghetti Harvest

“Welcome to Hell. Here’s your accordion.”
― Gary Larson, The Complete Far Side, 1980–1994

Eric Mancini Mural Dallas, Texas

One of the odd, but very clear, memories of my early childhood was seeing a short documentary on television (black and white, of course) about the spaghetti harvest. I remember seeing the European women gathering the strands and stacking them in baskets for packaging and shipment.

Today I came across it again online. It was produced in Great Britain in 1957, the year I was born – so obviously I saw a re-run. There were some other satires… (I seem to remember a family at a beach consisting of large rocks – they were uncomfortable trying to sit on them, though the narrator waxed poetic about the beauty and comfort of the beach) but who knows why I saw it.

At any rate, enough horror in the real world, so enjoy the bucolic splendor of the Spaghetti Harvest, and thank God those Spaghetti Weevils are under control.

The Best Commercial

“The ultimate concept car will move so fast, even at rest, as to be invisible.”
― J.G. Ballard

(click to enlarge) Invasion car show Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

I’m sure you’ve seen the Christmas Chevrolet commercial, probably seen it many times.

But you need to watch the entire four minute version for the full effect.

I’m so amazed that a car company has come out with such a wonderful, heart-rending, unwoke piece of work – it’s exactly what we needed. It’s even a reminder of how wonderful cars used to be and what they used to mean to people.

Battlestar Galactica Through the Years

“To live meaningful lives we must die, and not return. The one human flaw that you spend your lifetimes distressing over mortality, it’s the one thing that makes you whole.”
—- Number Six, Battlestar Galactica

(click to enlarge) Mural, Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

I’ve been looking for things to watch on my television that I can put on while I ride my spin bike. Something loud and entertaining, something with some quality but not too much, something to make the time go by. I think I’ll re-watch Battlestar Galactica – the 2004 series. It’s streaming on TUBI – for free, with commercials.

I’ve seen it before. A couple of years after it came out, I binge watched it on NETFLIX.

This was when NETFLIX was cool – when they would send you disks in the mail. Your membership would get you three disks and I would order the next three episodes. There was a thrill when those red envelopes appeared in the mailbox and a sense of closure when you sealed them and sent them back.

It was a great way to binge-watch a series. There was a rhythm… three episodes a week or so. It kept you from staying up all night streaming show after show – yet you didn’t have to wait very long either. It was the best.

Now, I watched the original, hokey TV show too. It had its own rhythm – one episode every Sunday night. 1978 – the year I was out of college. I was working in a small city in central Kansas and didn’t really know anybody. I rented the top floor of an old house.

It had been used as a rooming house over the years and my apartment had two bathrooms. One small one had a stand-up shower, which I used every morning. But the other bathroom had a huge, cast-iron, claw-footed bathtub. I used it like an early hot tub.

I had a small black and white television. I’d prop it on the toilet tank, cook a frozen pizza, and fill the tub with hot water. I’d watch Battlestar Galactica from the tub and eat pizza, manipulating the tiny taps with my toes to keep the water hot.

I know it’s hard to believe, but there was a lot of hype about that show. It was only a couple years after Star Wars and space opera special effects were all the rage – even on a tiny black and white portable tube set. It didn’t take long for the gloss to wear off, especially once it became obvious that they were re-using all the special effects shots over and over.

Still, it was a ritual. I’m not sure how many weeks I kept my bath-pizza-television habit going, but it was not the worst time.

What I learned this week, March 12, 2021

(click to enlarge)
Book With Wings
Anselm Kiefer
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

7 Fiction Books That Change The Way You Think


TV

Why Channel 37 Doesn’t Exist (And What It Has to Do With Aliens)


23 Signs You’re Secretly a Narcissist Masquerading as a Sensitive Introvert

I took the test. I’m not. Not even close.


Graffiti in Deep Ellum. This warrior is nothing if not well-muscled… plus he is carrying off his prize of war.

Resistance training: here’s why it’s so effective for weight loss

Weight lifting, also known as resistance training, has been practised for centuries as a way of building muscular strength. Research shows that resistance training, whether done via body weight, resistance bands or machines, dumbbells or free weights, not only helps us build strength, but also improves muscle size and can help counteract age-related muscle loss.

More recently it’s become popular among those looking to lose weight. While exercises such as running and cycling are indeed effective for reducing body fat, these activities can simultaneously decrease muscle size, leading to weaker muscles and greater perceived weight loss, as muscle is more dense than fat. But unlike endurance exercises, evidence shows resistance training not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength.


Mural
Deep Ellum
Dallas, Texas

What Is Space?

It’s not what you think.


Downtown Square, McKinney, Texas

Phone call anxiety: why so many of us have it, and how to get over it

I hate talking on the phone… always have. I thought I was the only one.


Sailboats on White Rock Lake, Dallas, TX

Goblin Death Cult Practices Dark Arts on Shores of White Rock Lake

Bad Day at Black Rock

You killed Komoko, Smith, and sooner or later you’re gonna go up for it. Not because you killed him, because I think in a town like this, you can get away with it. But because you didn’t have guts enough to do it alone. You put your trust in guys like this – and Hector here – not the most dependable of God’s creatures. And one of these days, they’re gonna catch on that you’re playin’ ’em for a sap. And then what are ya gonna do? Peel ’em off, one by one? And in the meantime, one of ’em’s gonna crack and when they do, you’re gonna go down – but hard. ‘Cause they got somethin’ on ya, Smith. Something to use when the goin’ gets tough. And it’s gettin’ tougher every minute.

—-Bad Day at Black Rock

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955 Poster)

Does everybody nowdays do this “television hierarchy” thing? TVs used to be a major purchase – only a little less expensive than a car – and would last for years. I remember my grandfather had one of the first remote control televisions. It had a little handheld box with tuning forks in it. You would mash a button and it would hit a fork, sending out an ultrasonic sound, and the TV would hear it. Volume up and down, channel up and down, TV off, and mute. He used the mute the most – hated listening to commercials. He used to want a TV with a coin slot in the back so he could pay for shows instead of watching commercials. This wasn’t so long ago – I remember this shit. The modern galaxy of entertainment with streaming and all would blow his mind.

But back to what I was saying…. Televisions are now so inexpensive and the technology is leaping ahead, we are buying new TVs every year. And there is a hierarchy. The newest, biggest one goes into the living room, the next biggest and newest goes in the bedroom, and the third – the smallest and oldest (yet still only two years old and pretty damn big and good) goes in my office in front of my exercise bike.

So I was hooking up that TV and adding all the proper streaming services and wanted to test The Criterion Channel (my favorite) – so I shot through the menu fast and random and selected Bad Day at Black Rock – for no real reason, just as a test.

It turned out to be crackerjack and I ended up watching the whole thing.

Bad Day at Black Rock stars Spencer Tracy as a mysterious on-armed man getting off a train at a town so isolated and forlorn the train doesn’t even stop there unless it’s a special request. Black Rock seems to have only nine people or so left, and only one of them is a woman (though that woman is a young Anne Francis – which counts for a lot. I remember her from Forbidden Planet – so I guess she has experience in being the only woman in a forlorn spot). Spencer Tracy is on a mysterious mission and the townsfolk have a terrible, mysterious secret, and I won’t do any spoilers.

The film is billed as a Western and it is set in the West, right after WWII, but it is more of a Noir Thriller. Though it does have the Western theme of good guys and bad guys and the plot requires every one to choose their sides and work up the courage to stick.

Everybody is in this movie. I mentioned Spencer Tracy and Anne Francis… plus Robert Ryan, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan, Lee Marvin, and Ernest Borgnine. Tracy was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the role but lost out to Ernest Borgnine, also in this film, for his role in Marty.

The first shots of the movie are of a train hurtling across a vast, empty desert. The original plan was for a shot of the train moving fast, directly at the camera. But it was too dangerous to fly a helicopter in front of an approaching train. The stunt pilot had the solution. He filmed the train as it backed away. Then they reversed and sped up the film – for the perfect opening shot.

Bad Day at Black Rock, opening shot

Short Story Of the Day (flash fiction) – Chase Scene by Bill Chance

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
― Groucho Marx

Design District
Dallas, Texas


 

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#80) Getting closer! What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Chase Scene

Albert had a critical – the monthly operations schedule planning – meeting coming up. He checked his clock and realized there wasn’t enough time to start on any new task. There was enough time to walk down to the break room for a little bag of Cool Ranch Doritos corn chips to put in a desk drawer and enjoy after the meeting. He was sure he would need them.

Down at the break room there was a big clot of folks gathered around the television mounted high on the wall. Albert couldn’t help his curiosity and joined the group. The TV was on a local news channel and everyone was watching a high-speed police chase. The view was from an overhead news chopper and was amazingly clear. The cops were trying to run down a blue compact car, which was speeding through the city.

“What’s up?” he asked Jerry from accounting.

“Bank robbers,” he said. “It’s been going on for a while. They started out on the Interstate and now they’re in the neighborhoods, Springvale, I think.”

Albert lived in Springvale. He pushed his way closer and stared at the screen, trying to recognize the location. It was so hard – everything went by so fast and it was tough to figure out from the unusual viewpoint of an overhead helicopter.

Suddenly a huge, garish, orange and yellow sign went by. Albert realized that was outside of Juanita’s Tacos y Mas – a Mexican restaurant he and his family ate at all the time. You could not miss that gaudy logo.

“That’s only a couple blocks from my house,” said Albert. Nobody responded.

The car roared into a busy intersection and was T-boned by a pickup coming from the side. Everyone around the TV let out a gasp. The car spun and then, to everyone’s surprise, sped off down the intersecting cross road. Its side was clearly caved in and smoke was pouring from under the hood, but it didn’t stop.

“This won’t last much longer,” said Jerry from accounting.

At the first opening, the car veered right and took off down a residential street. The police cruisers were close behind.

“That’s my block,” said Albert, getting nervous. He knew his kids were at school and his wife at work so he wasn’t worried about them. But it was an invasion of his quiet bucolic suburban neighborhood by evil, unpredictable, outside forces.

The chase wound through the narrow twisting streets. Two police cruisers must have gone around because suddenly, they boxed the blue car in. It turned sharply into a U-shaped driveway which cradled a large, brick mailbox.

That was Albert’s front yard. His family used the alley in back but he had always dreamed of having a front driveway that could fill up with cars when they would entertain. Growing up, he had seen wealthy people with driveways like that. It took him five years to save up enough money to have the concrete poured. At the same time, he hired a bricklayer to make a big permanent mailbox. “A statement,” he said.

The crowd around the TV was getting excited. It was about to go down. Albert didn’t want to say that the scene was at his own house. He felt embarrassed, somehow.

Police cars swerved into both ends of the driveway, trapping the car, which slid to a stop. Despite the damage both doors flew open and the driver took off running across Albert’s lawn with the police in pursuit. He was relieved when they entered his neighbor’s yard and disappeared off screen.

The passenger remained crouched down behind the opened, dented car door. A circle of police began closing in. There was a small puff of smoke from the car and then the police opened fire. Nobody could hear anything but it was obvious by how everyone was moving that many shots were being fired.

There were yells of horror and amazement in the break room as the man went down, sprawled out at the base of Albert’s custom mailbox. It isn’t every day they were able to see someone killed on live television.

Albert stood transfixed, horrified.

“Well, that was something,” said Jerry from accounting. Nobody really knew where Albert lived and nobody recognized his house. Everyone began to disperse and head back to their desks.

Albert didn’t know what to do. Should he go home? There would be cops, news crews, and excited neighbors. Would they all want to talk to him? What would he say? He didn’t know how to deal with all that.

And there was his meeting. It was important. He would have to confess, “I’m sorry but I have to go, someone was killed in my front yard.” Then he’d have to admit he was slacking off in the break room watching the television. It was all so messy, so complicated.

So Albert went to the monthly operations schedule planning meeting and sat there like nothing had happened. He decided to go home at his usual time and wondered if there would be a bloodstain on his driveway or bullet craters in his brick. He was shaken and sweating, but tried to pay attention to the PowerPoint Presentations.

Near the end of the meeting, he realized he had forgotten to buy his bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

 

 

Short Story Of the Day, Gratuitous by Bill Chance

“Sammy wanted to change channels. He wanted to see something silly and funny. He didn’t want to have to think as hard as this was requiring.”

—-Bill Chance, Gratuitous

Playdays, by Harriet Whitney Frishmuth, A Woman’s Garden, Dallas, Texas

I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.

I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.

Here’s another one for today (#10). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.

Thanks for reading.


Gratuitous

With the COVID lockdown Sammy was watching way, way too much television. He became uninterested in what he was watching too. Whatever was on, was on.

He found himself staring at an interview with a famous actress. There were ferns on the set. The interview was odd because it attempted to be highbrow – asking questions related to the events of the day (insane as they are), the price of fame, and the philosophies of the motion picture business.

Sammy wanted to change channels. He wanted to see something silly and funny. He didn’t want to have to think as hard as this was requiring.

He was feeling the buttons on the remote, getting ready to switch, when the interviewer asked a question that made his eyebrows raise.

“What is your position on nudity in the projects your are working on? Or in the world of film in general?”

“Well, I suppose that if it in service of the plot or character of the work, then it is OK,” the actress said.

“So if it isn’t… if it is gratuitous, you are opposed.”

“Oh no, no. If it is gratuitous, so much the better. That’s like a little bit extra. We all like a little bit extra.”

Sammy switched to Netflix, moved the cursor sideways until it was posed over the little magnifying glass. Using the arrow keys he began to clumsily type in the actress’ name.

“Let’s see if she’s got anything on here,” he said to himself.