If There’s a Hyphen is There a Lowphen?


What I love is the exactness of the English language. And how precise it is. Or is it now rigorous it is. Or narrow. All synonyms of precise.

I write about this after I did a word count on an article I wrote recently, using my home word processor. I found that it didn’t match a similar word processor I use elsewhere. So, I decided to test this on some free online word counting software on the ‘net. Guess what? No one matched.

What accounts for the difference? Are they dropping ‘a’, or perhaps ‘the’? Or maybe there’s something weird with hyphenated words.

Reminds me of back in the 70s when digital watches were catching on. I went to school with a bunch of techies who all bought nice and shiny digital watches, then would sit around synchronizing them so they all had the exact time. Because if it’s digital, it has to be accurate, right?

I’ll bet I can’t find any two pieces of equipment in my house that have the same time.

Another thing I noticed the other day. My wife and I were talking about all the various rules for hyphens. Yes, we’re those kind of people – writers. We can have entire fascinating conversations about hyphens. Well, interesting to us, at least.

We all went hyphen happy back when I was in grade school (quick aside – why did we call elementary school grade school? We had grades in all our school levels. Just curious) when we first learned to write and needed to continue a word from the end of one line to the beginning of the next. I remember we’d chop a word at the nearest syllable right when it almost bumped against the edge of the paper. Then, we’d squeak in a hyphen and continue the word on the next line. Don’t know if they’re still teaching that or not. But when I looked up hyphens on the ‘net, I didn’t see that listed as a technique.

But other than that, the various and sundry rules for applying hyphens seems just a little on the random side. Take a look at the example of a car that is thirty years old. First off, you should be doing regular maintenance on your car if it’s thirty years old, but I’m figuring that if you have it and it runs, then you’re already doing that, so let’s move on. The thirty years old describes your car, and when I say that my car is thirty years old I don’t need hyphens because the thirty years old comes after the car. But if I say that I have a thirty-year-old car, then I’m supposed to hyphenate (in public, no less!). Now why the two cases should be different, I don’t know, other than that the Committee for Proliferating English Confusion met one day, and they’d all just eaten a bad lunch and were grumpy when they voted, so they said, “Hey, let’s make compound adjectives that are in front of the noun hyphenated, and the ones that come after, we’ll make non-hyphenated. Just ‘cause we can.”

And I say if they’re keeping adjectives in a compound, anyway, they need to set them free.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Like, Groovy, Daddio…


I have come to the well, but the well is dry. There are words rattling around down there, I can hear ‘em, but they are few. So, what do I do? I look around my work area at all the flotsam and jetsam scattered about. That usually generates tons of ideas.

First off, I just randomly tossed out the words ‘flotsam’ and ‘jetsam’ without truly knowing what they mean. Oh, I have a general idea, but nothing nailed down. So, here we go a-lookin’. And, yes, the online edition of Merriam-Webster has, as one of the definitions of flotsam – “miscellaneous or unimportant material”. Yeah, that works. Definitely have some of that on my desk.

Now, on to jetsam, and no, it’s not the last name of the cartoon family from the future. Once again, ol’ reliable M-W says, “goods thrown overboard to lighten a ship in distress; especially : such goods when washed ashore”. Well, the stuff I have on my desk wouldn’t necessarily be jetsam. Now, my desk at home, that’s a different matter. It could certainly be classified as a ship in distress. But overall, my stuff is more flotsam-y than jetsam-y. And now that I think about it, that would make a great idea for a cartoon show (hand-drawn, of course). The Adventures of Flotsam and Jetsam. I just now looked them up, and they were the henchmen (hench-eels?) of Ursula in The Little Mermaid.

Anyway, back to the show. Some of the flotsam on my desk are reprints of cards from the 60s of a bunch of characters called Weird-ohs. They’ve been around as long as I can remember, the creation of artist Bill Campbell. Mr. Campbell worked for the Hawk Model Company, and came up with a series of lovably horrible characters. Hawk sold these characters as plastic model kits, and as bubble-gum cards. I had at least one of the model kits when I was a kid, but I probably never got any of them assembled, and if I did, I know I never painted any. I had completion issues, something that occasionally plagues my writing today.

I think the kit I had was of Freddy Flameout, a whacked-out throttle jockey trying to pilot a distressed jet. I’ll post a pic of Freddy at the top of my post. All the Weird-ohs were a bilious green hue and had bloodshot eyes, pointy teeth, and just generally looked bizarre. Sort of way out, man. Ya dig? A few other characters were – Drag Hag, Leaky Boat Louie, and Kooky Klancy. Check out this site for more info, cats.


‘til next time…Adios.

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There’s Darkness in this City

Wow, not sure if any of my readers watch Gotham, but it’s taken a turn or two I didn’t see coming. It’s one of the best shows out there, superhero or otherwise. Well-written storylines, great characters, and more than a usual dose of insanity. Last night’s episode, in particular, titled “Red Hood”, which riffs on the Red Hood gang of recent years in the comic book. The sequences with the Red Hood gang are the only lighter moments in a dark episode.

One quick aside. I don’t think I’ll call it a superhero show. Perhaps it’s a show about a superhero’s origins. But it’s really a tightly-written drama with a developing cast of characters. Ain’t no superheroes or supervillains. There’s a lot of crazy going on in the show. Quirks. I don’t even want to use the term ‘alternate world’ or ‘alternate reality’. It’s a work of fiction, and it follows certain rules. No one has superpowers, there’s no cape, or anything like that. Just a wonderful batch of whack jobs

All the characters are solid, and the actors feel as though they’ve worked together for years. I especially love the evolving relationship between Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) and Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue). Like so much else of Gotham, all is not what it first appears. Bullock’s character, for instance, we’re convinced, as was the rookie Gordon, must be on the take, corrupt, and definitely not a good guy. Well, things aren’t so black-and-white, and neither is Harvey. Sure, he bends and stretches the law to fit his needs, but he really is a white knight (dark knight, perhaps?) who’s working the best he can in a corrupt system. We peel back the layers every so often, and a little more is revealed. Gordon’s losing some of his ‘shiny new penny’ qualities and discovering that if he’s going to make any kind of change in Gotham, he needs to study Gotham’s own peculiarly-slanted rule book. And the best place to learn that from is his partner, Bullock.

The entire cast does a great job. One of my personal favorites, especially since he’s been overlooked over the years in the comic, is Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s guardian, butler, and closest friend. And mentor. Mentor with a capital ‘M’. Played with heart and grit, like an edgier version of Obi-Wan Kenobi, by Sean Pertwee, this Alfred has a mysterious past that was shown to us a little more last night. I felt from the beginning of the series that this Alfred was not a man to be trifled with, and the more we see him, the more I’m convinced I was correct in my assessment of him. Sean gives a helluva lot of character to Alfred. But beside the tough guy aspect, we see him as a man who loves young Bruce as a father loves a son. And we see that we will do anything to protect him.

Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) continues to survive episode to episode, and just when I think she’s about to meet her demise, she does something unexpected in order to survive. That’s certainly the case last night. I didn’t think she’d make it out of an impossible situation, but her solution to the problem was…different. Made me think of the Kobayashi Maru test from Star Trek, the classic no-win situation. Her solution was not what I thought she would do.

There’s also the unusual bonding between Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova) and Barbara Kean (Erin Richards). Selina (who eventually becomes Catwoman) and Ivy Pepper (eventually, Poison Ivy, played by Clare Foley) are both crashing at Barbara’s place as Babs heads down a dark path. After the break-up of Jim Gordon and Barbara, Barbara’s mental state seems in question, and she’s setting herself up as a sort-of mentor to Selina. This mentor-ship made me think of the Miss Havisham/Estella relationship from Great Expectations, which I’m reading right now.

If you love a good, gothic story, check out Gotham. But watch the shadows. No telling who’s in there waiting.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Our House Has Vampire Teeth


It’s true. The photo above shows it. Or, I have seen so much snow that my brain has turned into the semi-slush we have outside now. Good thing is, the temp is above freezing after several single digit days, and a couple of negatives thrown in. So, by comparison, when I walked outside while ago to feed the birds, it felt positively mild. One interesting note — Barrow, Alaska was 4 above zero the other day. We were minus 7. Time to move to Barrow.

Good thing is, the snow’s kept me inside with time to write. Let’s check with my incomprehensible research staff to see what other writers have to say about whether a Wintry Wonderland makes them more or less productive, or just has them watching whatever happens to be on the black flat panel.

Let’s check in with Carl Reiner first, see what he says about snow — “A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”

Pretty good, Carl. Now, from Maya Angelou — “Nature has no mercy at all. Nature says, ‘I’m going to snow. If you have on a bikini and no snowshoes, that’s tough. I am going to snow anyway’.”

I just saw we have another winter storm warning, and our friends at The Weather Channel have existed in a continual state of excitement and glee. They love stuff like this. And if it’s not happening for them, they’ll manufacture it for us. This particular storm’s name is Pandora, continuing with their love for naming all things weather. I think one was also name Octavius that romped through the other day.

Here’s something I wonder about. Do vampires in winter have ice teeth?

Moving on, randomly, I looked at one of our many, here recently, BIG, BOLD, newspaper headlines. From Wednesday’s paper, it read “WHITE-KNUCKLING IT” in that humongous font we all know from over the years. There’s a photo of an all-snow street, the parked cars covered with the white stuff. But what I thought about, is how headlines like these over the years marked our history. I my lifetime, we’ve had “KENNEDY SLAIN ON DALLAS STREET”, “MEN WALK ON MOON”, and “KING ELVIS DEAD”. Good or ill, these mark points in our history, a snapshot of a moment or moments.

Okay, moving on for now. Got some editing work to do. Afore I leave, though, here’s a word I just discovered in “The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms”. Apologue. It’s another word for a fable, usually a beast fable.

Also, before I go, tonight’s movie on Svengoolie, on MeTV, is an old sci-fi favorite of mine, The Monolith Monsters. Big space rocks that crash stuff and turn you into stone if you touch ‘em. Fun.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Do We All Fret the Edit?


Here we are at the blank page again, you and I. I’ve been in the deep, editing my magazine article, running around amongst the minutiae, and I needed to come up for some air, let the words flow wild and free.

Normally, as I’m sure you folks know, there’s nearly a direct channel from my neurons to the electrons you seen on your screen. But when I dive into the editing zone, and really start hearing the words as I’m reading them to myself, hearing the beat of them, and how the words connect to form sentence, words link to form paragraphs,and paragraphs to form a (hopefully) coherent whole, I get lost in the, “Okay, does it sound better this way, or should I flip them around like so? Nooo…that’s not it…” And so on.

So, it feels good to bust through the fence and run with the wind full in my face.

Okay, enough poetry. On with the show.

Or, something else that happens to me is I’ll move and cut and slash and prune until I’m back to where I started. Well, okay, perhaps not exactly back to the same place, but you know what I mean.

Either that or you’ll edit the heck out of something, only to find that after all that careful chopping, you’ve misspelled something ridiculously simple, like ‘the’. You get snow-blind after a while, which seems appropriate sitting here with nearly a foot of snow.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Joseph Heller — “Every writer I know has trouble writing.”

How true.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Space Valkyries in the Sky


I didn’t know tanks could fly


Continuing from yesterday’s post, one of the many things Iron Sky pokes fun at is technology. Impressive as their lunar base is, what with their ability to mine Helium-3 from the moon and manufacture everything they need, it’s still room-sized computers, mechanical relays, and vacuum tubes they’re using. And, yes, there is such a thing as Helium-3, and supposedly there are large deposits on the moon. Hats off to the research folks on Iron Sky’s crew.

The lunar Nazis roll around on the moon on modified motorcycles, and they’re still outfitted in the WWII uniforms and helmets, but with what look like gas masks adapted for breathing in the airless environment.

There is a lot of bluff and bluster from the male moon Nazis. Best I recall, Sky only had one adult female, Julia Dietze as Renate Richter, wife-to-be of Wolfgang Kortzfleisch, who is plotting to become the next Fuhrer in the Fourth Reich. Renate also teaches the youth of the new order, and, raised as she was in a pure Aryan society, she feels their way is the only way, but her desire is to bring peace and love back to Earth, but in a friendly dictatorial style. Everyone will get along, and people of Earth will thank her.

There are so many sub-plots I only become aware of them as I’m writing this. Gonna need another viewing, I can see that.

Our young crop of filmmakers really captured the look and feel of a 1940’s-style industrial world on the moon, and as the movie’s title suggests, all the equipment and spaceships have a heavy, iron look and feel. Even the engines have that old, clunky internal combustion sound.

It’s a whole comedy of errors as the Space Nazis, under the mistaken notion that we’re planning an attack, send their fleet earthward. And their space armada is priceless. I want to reveal it, but I can’t that’s part of the fun, watching the ludicrous surprises around every plot turn. Just remember it’s completely non-PC.

I will say that Madam Pres places her second-in-command, Vivian Wagner (Peta Sergeant), in charge of our attack fleet, we get our own Space Valkyrie. It really heads into the Dr. Strangelove direction, with a Mel Brooks twist.

I predict a long career for our director, Timo Vuorensola, and the rest of his crew. Back in ’05, he directed a Star Trek parody titled Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning. With characters like Emperor Pirk, Commander Dwarf, and Lieutenant Swagger, I feel it will be as riotously satirical as Iron Sky.

‘til next time…Adios.

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Dirigibles from Space


Got to say, we saw several things we never thought we’d see in Iron Sky. A buddy of mine and I finally got around to watching it on a Saturday afternoon, about 10 months after I got the DVD for my birthday. Well, it was worth the wait.

As my friend said, “It was one of the oddest movies I’ve seen in a long time.” Yup, I have to agree. Also one of the most fun. And good. And it does have a couple of messages, but they don’t bludgeon us with them. The messages are delivered with a whacked-out, wonderful sense of humor.

I’d heard about this film, what I like to refer to as Nazis from Space, two or three years ago, and knew right off I had to see it. It’s a film that’s had a blitzkrieg of mystery and controversy surrounding it, so of course it came up on my radar.

Warning! Bad pun alert! This is a Public Service Announcement! Because of the nature of the film, there will be a plethora of absolutely horrible puns hurtling your way. You have been warned.

We decided it was mix of everything from Star Wars to Star Trek to Dr. Strangelove to just about anything by Robert Rodriguez, especially the Machete films. Also toss in some Bugs Bunny just for the sake of it. It’s also one of the most expertly-crafted special effects films I’ve seen in a while. And these folks did it on a fraction of what Hollywood would’ve done it for. But did it appear at any theaters near me? Nope.

Okay, so, we start things rolling with a moon landing, 2018, a couple of astronauts exploring, when one sees something…unbelievable. This part reminded me of the film First Men in the Moon, except instead of finding a handwritten note on the moon, along with the Union Jack, one of our astronauts discovers a massive lunar base in the shape of a giant swastika. Yep, moon Nazis. And, as we soon find out in back-story as our attractive Nazi heroine teaches her class of kiddos, they headed to the dark side of the moon back in ’45, set up camp, and have been there ever since, waiting for the perfect time to head back earthward and do the Fourth Reich.

They kill the first astronaut but take the other one hostage, and figure the astronauts were part of an advance invasion fleet from Earth, so now would be the perfect time to go spacefaring.

But back to our astronaut they just took hostage. They remove his helmet to reveal…Da Da DAH! An African-American man. Oh, did I forget to mention that Iron Sky is absolutely full of wonderful non-political correctness? Like back to the days of Saturday Night Live irreverence, where nothing is sacred?

Brought to us by director Timo Vuorensola, and written by he and Michael Kalesniko, it’s a multi-national effort — Finnish, German, Australian, and NYC — and it pokes fun at pretty much the entire planet. It’s the George Carlin of science fiction. One of the things I love about it is that they gave us a female president. And, let’s call her Sandra Padowski. Her outfits always consist of a red top and black skirt, and there’re stuffed animals all throughout the Oval Office. And, she’s itching to be a first-term Pres with a war under her belt. So, when she hears about Space Nazis, it’s time to load the ol’ moose rifle.

I’ll continue my rattling on tomorrow. Gotham’s starting in a few, and I’ve got to watch it live.

‘til next time…Adios.

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