Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy

The last book I re-read was accidental. Re-reading Robert Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy was intentional. My enjoyment of it this time was probably greater than the first time. I don’t remember liking it that much when I read it back during college, but I really enjoyed this one.

Citizen of the Galaxy is the story of Thorby, a young slave purchased by a beggar on some far off planet because no one else would bid on him. The beggar, Baslim, takes Thorby in and treats him like his son. He teaches him the lowly job of “begging,” (an official job on their world) and of doing so with integrity. One thing Thorby comes to learn is that Baslim has a mad hatred for slavery. It’s his life’s passion and work to destroy it.

As Thorby grows, Baslim teaches him foreign languages and other really cool non-traditional-beggar stuff. He also gives him specific instructions on what to do if anything should ever happen to him.

CitizenofthegalaxyOf course, something does happen to him and suddenly Thorby is off to space. He ultimately learns Baslim was a high ranking officer in Earth’s military and thought he knew Thorby’s lineage. >Spoiler < Turns out, he did, and Thorby is actually the kidnapped son of a rich family from Earth. Thorby, equally hates slavery and sets out to use his newfound riches and power to put an end to it. And that’s where the book ends.

CotG is a whirlwind adventure from the seedy underbelly of the homeless, to a commune-style community of space-faring traders, to the ritzy life of the affluent on earth. Thorby’s frustration is that many on earth refuse to believe slavery is an issue, even though he clearly was one for several years.

Heinlein’s writing, like always, is easy to read and takes you fully into the world around Thorby. And while my old creative writing college professor might call it genre fiction, I liked it better than most of the li-fi I’ve read. It is what it is.

My final note is on the cover. I often don’t scan the covers of the stuff I’ve read—it’s so easy to find it elsewhere and of the same version that I read. But I can’t find the cover to the version I own…and it’s just a paperback, so I don’t think it’s that valuable…it was just odd.

If you’ve got this one sitting on your shelf, pick it up again and read it. It’s fast. It’s fun.

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AT&T irritates me

Before I dive in to my tirade, I should tell you up front that—in general—I like AT&T. I used their long distance service back during the calling card days, have had cell service with them, and even now have my internet with them.

And yet, with all of that, they still bombard me continually with advertising. I wish they’d give me a credit for all the money they spend advertising just to ME. In fact, I really wish that was an option on my statements; It would cut my monthly bills in half.

But you know, I get that big companies like that have to advertise. I get it…and in general, I don’t even care. But let me just give you an example of the waste in money from AT&T. In a recent week, on a single day I got mail, a phone call and even a knock on the door sales visit. Granted the personal knock on the door is rare, but it’s about the third one since the family moved to Florida.

The problem is two-fold: 1)we’re in 2015. We live in the most technologically advanced period in our history (is that statement EVER not true? Think about it for a minute). I can send an email and in less than 60 seconds, it can be read on the other side of the globe! Computers are so powerful now, they could easily spit out a list to their sales force so they’d know: hey! Roland Mann is already a customer. Spend time and energy trying to get someone NEW.

2)they’re mostly trying to sell me AT&T television, which I will never buy (they didn’t read my earlier blog, did they?)—or at least I won’t until I can choose channels and not “packages.”

I tell you no lie when I tell you I get a minimum of one mailer per week. Think about that: I get 52 pieces of mail per year trying to get me to buy a service I don’t have and will never have. I’ve told them as much both live (on those rare personal sales visits) and on the phone. If you add in the periodic phone calls I get, that’s a lot of time and effort spent on one person, who is already an AT&T customer anyway.

The wife says I shouldn’t mess with them when they call, but I always do. They tend to ask me if the deal they’re offering is a good one. I tell them it sounds that way and then they try to get me to order. Which I refuse. They want to remind me what a great deal it is, to which I again agree…but still refuse. It isn’t unusual they get frustrated and hang up.

The mail I can throw away (and do, filling up landfills in New Jersey somewhere! Thanks AT&T!), but the doorbells and phones I answer.

And it just irritates me every time!

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Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

I haven’t blogged about any of my reading here lately, so I figure I’ll go ahead and post something. I’ve recently been in a re-reading mode and have just finished Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. I’ll admit to you that I re-read this one on accident. I meant to pick up and read Diamond Age, which I have not read before. However, I grabbed the wrong book and didn’t really notice it until I was about 50 pages deep. The problem was, I couldn’t remember how the book ended, so I just kept reading.

And while I liked Snow Crash, I absolutely hate the ending. Hated it the second time around, too.

SnowcrashThe story is about Hiro Protagonist, a pizza delivery boy in the real world and a hacker in the virtual world. In this world, though, the real and the virtual are tied closely together. Hiro delivers pizza for a mobster who is impressed with his pizza delivery skills, but then also needs him to work in the virtual world for the mob. The big threat of the book is the drug Snow Crash. It targets hackers. One look at the “drug,” which is actually data, and the user is off his rocker and effectively in a coma.

The world established by Stephenson is pretty interesting, too. The story is set on the west coast and small political blocks are in power. The cool thing about them is that many of the blocks are corporate in nature. The US still exists, but in limited areas here. It’s very much a corporate dystopia, and it’s very interesting.

Hiro is also an expert with a sword—both in the real world and the virtual. Thus the book has its share of sword fights and virtual head’s cut off.

My biggest problem, as I said, was with the end. The story reaches a nice climax…and then just kind of putters out. You finish with the expectation that there should be about ten more pages…but they don’t exist.

All this said, I still want to give Diamond Age a read…and will.

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I don’t watch “television,” but I might…

I don’t have cable…Nor do I have satellite. And I haven’t had it for over a decade. That surprises some people. But truthfully, I don’t miss it at all, and I miss it less and less. But I think we’re about to see changes—and that is kind of exciting.

Okay, how did I get to no cable? Well, thanks for asking. Lemme tell you.

For those of you who remember the 2000 elections, they were pretty nasty. Now I’m sure all of the … ahem … wiser readers of my blog might remember previous elections being just as nasty as that one, but to my memory, that was the worst one. And while there was certainly nastiness on both sides, part of my problem was that every time I turned on the television, someone of self-importance was condemning everything that I held dear (or at least that I believed) and applying all sorts of nasty labels to me.

Now, having grown up a white dude in Mississippi, I’m accustomed to the labels (my most asked question when I moved from Mississippi to California? “So, you hate black people? Are you in the Klan?” I kid you not) but I started noticing the attitudes and labeling started to spill over into my personal and some professional relationships. I couldn’t get away from it

Additionally, as a fairly new parent at the time, I was repulsed by all the advertising we were forced to sit through while watching cartoons and football games. It became such we didn’t really want to watch programs with the kids and the kids were such a huge part of our life. I actually blogged at greater lengths about this once before. It’s here if you want to go see what I said then.

But we turned it off and just didn’t turn it back on.

But I think what I really wanted to get at here is that I’m excited because I think the way television content is delivered is changing. I’ve always said to the salesfolks trying to convince me I need cable is that I’d talk to them if I could pick my channels. They always remind me that I can pick my “package,” but that’s not what I want to do. I want the History Channel, not the 400 channels that run infomercials. You can give me the ad channels for free if you like, but don’t put them in a package. Give me a checklist with a cost per channel per month, and then I’d consider getting television again.

I watched every college football game that I wanted to this last season. I watched many of them on European websites—which I’m sure the cable providers here don’t like. I’d even PAY ESPN to subscribe to their channels. But I’m not going to pay Comcast (or whoever) a subscription fee to get all the other channels I don’t want JUST to get ESPN. And since ESPN won’t take my money, I have to watch them on international websites.

But HBO offering their service to subscribers on the internet is a game-changer. Oh, I don’t know that I’ll subscribe to HBO, but I think it’s a great thing and that many other channels will follow. Yes, I’d consider subscribing to the History Channel for a reasonable fee if they would offer that via the internet. They don’t yet…but I think that time is coming.

Yay for all of us!


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The Old is…Published: The SadoMannequin

SadoCoversmallOne of the interesting things about creating as a writer is that projects are dead…until they’re not. The one I’ll tell you about today is one of those.

Available now (that’s a hint to you to go click on the link and purchase a copy!) is THE SADOMANNEQUIN. Now, don’t let the sexy image fool you, it’s NOT an “adult” comic. In fact, the story is a very Twilight-Zone kind of story. In a nutshell, a new security guard starts his job at a warehouse and is warned to stay out of the warehouse. Of course, weird things happen and he discovers the moonlight brings mannequins to life. Of course, he’s a dude so he doesn’t just choose any mannequins. He was, after all, warned!

The story is not an original one by me but an adaptation of the short film SadoMannequin by the now defunct PopGunProductions. PopGun was Jim Torres and Corey Hannah, two guys that I met while we were living in Florence, Alabama. The weird thing was Corey was working at the also-now-defunct Blockbuster Video when I first met him. Then, when I met PopGun thanks to Terry Pace, I put two-and-two together (and y’all know that’s tough for me to do).

After I saw some of their work, I immediately saw the talent of the two filmmakers and when they mentioned comic adaptation, I jumped all over it. They were already talking about feature length films and making it relevant to the local area and I was all about that.

Time is too far removed for me to remember the exact details, but my recollection is that they had someone who was about to invest in them, and part of what they were going to do with that money was print the comics. The idea was, of course, to package the comics with a DVD to get some bonus material. There was also to be a short story by a young writer named Mark (something—I can’t remember his last name now). Truthfully, I don’t recall whether Mark ever completed the story or not, but I printed an Ashcan version in 2001—it’s a real collector’s item now!


This is a still from the film

But for some reason the money never materialized and the book sat finished but only existing in ashcan format. It stayed in my files until recently the realization came to me that with advances in technology and the whole digital revolution, there was nothing stopping me from getting this to press.

So that’s how it happened.

The story is adapted by me with pencils by Kris Hsieh (who’s now a lawyer with his own firm!), inks by Chuck Bordell, letters by Mike Belcher with the cover (the art you see) by Dave Roberts colored by Shawn Murphy (who I have no idea where he is now).

Go buy it. Digital or print! It’s a fun read.

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The pros and cons of digital comics

Some time back I was asked to write my thoughts on the pros and cons of digital comics…this is it.

One of the things I should certainly point out up front is that regardless of whether any of us like them or not, digital comics—in some delivery method or another—are here to stay. I’ll confess that I was resistant to the idea at first. Oh, I love it from a production standpoint; it’s so much easier dealing with digital files than having to mail paper pages back and forth, risking loss in the mail (rarely happens, but it’s still a reality) or (more likely) damage in transit. But I was resistant as a reader because there’s nothing like holding the paper in your hands and flipping it—taking it with you anywhere. And when I first purchased a kindle, that didn’t do much for my feelings. The kindle screen was about 8 inches and I couldn’t read the words when looking at the entire page. I had to zoom in to read them. It was more trouble than it was worth.

However, that changed last year when I got a tablet with a screen—wouldn’t you know it—the exact same size as a comic page. Truthfully, it made all the difference in the world for me. I can still “zoom” in if I want to get a closer look at some of the art (and I almost always do), but I can take the page as a whole—as it was meant to be.

And thus we get into some of the actual pros and cons.

Pros: they should be cheaper (they’re not—but they will eventually get that way) than their paper counterparts because the paper and shipping costs are seriously reduced. Sure there are costs associated with producing the digital file, but nothing compared to the paper versions.

They are easily storable. Any old-time collector can tell you: those comic boxes take up a lot of space.

They’re readily available. As I’ve said here before, when I was a kid, I had to search and search and search to find back issues that I wanted. Today, just find it digitally and there it is!

The art reproduction is truer to what the artist has intended that printing on paper will allow. It’ll almost never be perfect to the artists—they’re a persnickety bunch. But the digital versions come pretty close.

They’re more widely available than the paper versions because distribution generally amounts to the question of internet connection.

If you lose your personal property in a fire, you can usually just download the file again.

Cons: you can’t get creators to sign your digital devise. Well, I guess they could, but then you couldn’t read anything else.

The “collectability” of them becomes a moot point. It’s a digital file and can be reproduced any number of times. There are only so many copies in existence of Detective Comics #1.

Unless you have the actual digital file, you don’t have access to the copy unless you subscribe to the service.

Often the delivery method can be very small, forcing you to have to use the two-fingered zoom on your phone or tablet.

The single biggest con (at this time) is the money. Piracy is a substantial issue and people who steal the content are slowly destroying the format without really realizing it. What comics needs is an “itunes” to step in and help. Comixology might be that, but it’s still too early to tell. So many comics are given away for free on the internet, or they are priced too high (same as the paper versions) and readers opt for the paper. I think once this issue is addressed, I think we’ll see a real revolution in comics.

What do you think? What would you add to the pro or con list?


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College Football is Changing

Y’know, I’m very much a fan of college football. Not so much a pro football fan. Part of that probably has to do that there weren’t a lot of pro football teams around where I grew up. In Mississippi, our choices were pretty much the New Orleans Ain’ts or the Atlanta Falcons. There were a handful of Dallas Cowboy fans probably because of their dominance on television. This was also before the Titans came to Tennessee.

The regular season is a lot of fun, but the bowl season is also a lot of fun. The SEC put 12 of the 14 schools into bowls. Generally, I pull for the SEC school to win. And while I hear all of the complaints that ESPN is biased toward the SEC, it’s all about the money. SEC schools just generate more money as a whole conference.

But I’m not sure that I buy that entire bias argument. Just listening to Brent Musberger during the Miss. State game, he mentioned the LSU and Ole Miss losses and said the SEC was “reeling.”


So, the SEC starts 4-3, with 5 games left to play and the conference is “reeling?” The conference finished 7-5, which isn’t shabby.

Another problem I’ve had with all the ESPN broadcasts thus far is the sound (I’ll stay away from the commentating—I didn’t even know who the commentators were for the Arkansas game). I get that they want us to hear the sounds from the stadium; the cheering, the pads, and band, but they crank that up so loud that I can’t make out what the commentators are saying. Of course, maybe that was the point. Who really wants to hear Brent Mushburger anyway? So just turn up the noise so we can’t understand him.

One change college football has seen is the hurry up offense. In general, I don’t mind it. Not the style I enjoy watching, but it is what it is. What I don’t like, though, is how technology has taken some of the “chess match” out of the game. With an offensive coordinator in the press box, he can see the defense as the offense comes to the line. He doesn’t like the call so the entire team looks over to the sideline as the he radios down a new play…and they switch to that one. Yeah, no, I don’t like that. It ceases to become about the players and about how quickly the coordinator in the press box can call a new play. I say let the quarterback change the play at the line of scrimmage if he doesn’t like it. That’ll get us smarter quarterbacks.


It seems to take so long to get here when it’s over…then it goes by SO quickly.

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