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The Halloween Chihuahua Says:  The Halloween Chihuahua Says: "Happy Valentine's Day!"

I've almost caught up to the current holiday season!




 
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Friend and fellow-writer Vic Milan has been co-hosting a monthly 1950's film festival at Gail and my house this winter.  We show three movies dealing with a similar theme, such as (in past months)  Creatures (Mostly) From the Sea, BIG Bugs, and this month (tomorrow) Alien Invasions (Part 1).  It takes a hardy soul to make it through all three, usually two well (or fairly well) done efforts, and then a third craptacular epic after all our critical processes have been suspended (or beaten into submission) by the end of the evening.  To introduce the viewers, not all of whom have seen these, to the evening's films, I write up quick and dirty movie notes.  They are hardly exhaustive, but are, I hope, entertaining and informative.  The following notes are for the movies we'll be seeing tommorow:  EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS, THE TROLLENBERG TERROR (known to the less-sophisticated American audience as THE CRAWLING EYE), and, finally, THE INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN.

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Welcome to the Movie Notes for the February 2008 session of the Milan and Millers 1950's SF Film Festival. The theme for this month is Alien Invasions. There were so many alien invasions in the 1950's (and so many of them were documented on film) that I’m considering bringing back this theme for another month as well. But for now we’ll content ourselves with EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, THE CRAWLING EYE, and INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN.

First up is 1956's EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS, which is probably the only science fiction movie of the 1950's based on a non-fiction book. The source material for this movie came from Major Donald Keyhoe’s 1953 volume Flying Saucers From Outer Space. I believe I read this book while I was in the fourth grade (no, not in 1953), but at this late date I couldn’t swear as to whether it was actual non fiction, or more in the speculative fiction line. Still, the author was in the military, and they wouldn’t lie to us, would they?

This film comes in at an underrated 6.2 in the IMDB poll, which makes it rather under-appreciated in my opinion, which would peg it at an 8. The acting is believable, the tone is almost documentary at times, and the special effects (by good old Ray Harryhausen) are at the same time understated and realistic. There’s very little to gripe at in this film, so the mediocre rating mystifies me a bit. Of course, it is in black and white.

The director was Fred Sears, who helmed over fifty movies, most of them westerns. His one other genre piece was THE GIANT CLAW, which might someday make this festival as the comic relief final feature if we ever revisit the Giant Creature theme. The writer was the acclaimed Curt Siodmak, who wrote over 65 screenplays, many of them genre classics (or, at least fondly remembered) including HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, SON OF DRACULA, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (great movie!), FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN, and, of course the original THE WOLFMAN ("Even a man who is pure at heart and says his prayers at night," etc.). Siodmak also appeared as an actor in the silent classic METROPOLIS. George Worthing Yates (who penned one of the BIG BUG classics we saw, EARTH VS THE SPIDER) also contributed to the screenplay. I’m not exactly sure what, but perhaps he came up with the film’s title. Hmm. EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS. EARTH VS THE SPIDER. I do see certain similarities.

The acting is at least competent and solid. Hugh Marlowe plays Dr. Russell Marvin (the scientist). His other genre effort was THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, another Alien Invasion movie, but of a totally different sort. Joan Taylor plays his secretary-love interest. She was also seen in 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH. Morris Ankrum played the General, as he also did in THE GIANT CLAW and THE BEGINNING OF THE END, arguably the worst BIG BUG movie of all time. The aliens were played by a bunch of guys in stiff suits. For once, they prove vulnerable to a well-placed bullet.

EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS clocks in at 83 minutes.

 Our next film is THE CRAWLING EYE, also known under its somewhat more understated title as THE TROLLENBERG TERROR. This 1958 movie is British and comes in at a vastly under-appreciated 4.0 in the IMDB poll. Allowing even for a bit of nostalgic favoritism on my part, I would give it an 8 for its originality and a couple of authentically chilling scenes. Though, yes, I know...crawling eyes. ..Still, I absolutely loved it as a kid and revisit it frequently.

EYE was originally a BBC serial that ran for five or six consecutive Saturdays a year or two prior to its reincarnation as a feature film. Several of the actors from the serial reprise their roles for the film version. I would love to see the original version, but the only reference I’ve read about it stated casually that the tapes were wiped (and apparently reused). Pity.

Most of the talent associated with the film is British. It was directed by Quentin Lawrence, who was mostly a tv director. Peter Key wrote the original BBC version and well-known Hammer screenplay writer Jimmy Sangster (DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS and THE MUMMY, among numerous others) did the film version.

They probably stuck in Forrest Tucker (U.N. investigator Alan Brooks) to make the film more appealing (like the title change) for the American release. Tucker, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Sgt. O’Rourke in 65 episodes of the mid-1960's television show F-TROOP (personally, I loved character actor Edward Everett Horton effort on the show as the Indian medicine man Screaming Chicken, or something equally implausible). Tucker does some good work in this, even if he does simply cover his face with his hands when he’s supposed to do heavy emoting. The other British actors are excellent. Laurence Payne (Phillip Trescott) was a BBC actor who played Sexton Blake for 50 episodes in a long-running series, and has also appeared on multiple episodes of DR. WHO. He was also in the original BBC serial. Jennifer Jayne (Sarah Pilgrim) was a long-time BBC actress. Warren Mitchell (Dr. Crevett) who plays a somewhat elderly and completely eccentric scientist, is still working today in British television. Janet Monroe (who played the psychic Anne Pilgrim) grew up on BBC television and moved on to Disney movies. When she tried to assay adult roles she was less successful and died at the young age of 38 in 1972. Look also for Andrew Faulds, who does a really fine and creepy supporting turn as the mountain climber Brett. He turned to politics and served 30 years in Parliament as a strong anti-racist Labour politician.

In the beginning train sequence, keep your eyes on the newspaper Forrest Tucker is reading.

THE CRAWLING EYE comes in at 84 minutes.

 Our final film for the evening is the truly craptacular INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN. This 1957 film is inexplicably rated higher on the IMDB poll than THE CRAWLING EYE at 4.6. A modicum of moderately successful comic relief (especially the dialog of the ad man turned military guy who has to cover the whole thing up) gives it a 4 on my personal scale.

There’s probably only one person you’ve ever heard of associated with the film. We’ll get to him a little later on.

Edward Cahn was the director. He helmed an incredible 131 movies (since 1931), most of them western programmers. His genre work included the tolerable IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE, and the somewhat-less tolerable CREATURE WITH THE ATOMIC BRAIN. He also directed the immortal DRAGSTRIP GIRL, whose impact on this feature is discussed below. The screenplay was based on a story by Paul Fairman, who, as I've said elsewhere, is possibly the worst widely published (87 stories in my database, though that total is incomplete and likely to remain so because he hid under a vast array of pseudonyms) science fiction writer of all time. (Oddly, enough, I discovered while researching these notes that the one story of his that I thought was truly excellent "Some Day They May Give Us Guns," was also turned into a teleplay for one of the 1950's anthology television shows.) The screenplay for INVASION was written by Robert Gurney, who really didn’t have much of a film career.

Cahn, fresh from his triumph of DRAGSTRIP GIRL, brought most of his previous cinematic effort’s cast with him for Invasion, including Steven Terrell and Gloria Castillo, who play the teen couple who encounter the aliens and can get no one in authority to believe their story. Two somewhat older drifters played by Frank Gorshin (the one guy associated with this movie that you have heard of) and Lyn Osborn, who, unfortunately, bears an uncanny to a young Garrison Keillor, become involved in the thin plot which relies over-heavily on drunk cows. Gorshin, who had also been in DRAGSTRIP GIRL, was active in television as late as 2005, and is perhaps best remembered for playing the Riddler in eleven episodes of the mid-1960's tv show BATMAN. Terrell and Castillo also had fairly long television careers. Osborn, sadly, passed away in 1958 following brain surgery. He had played Cadet Happy on the Space Patrol radio show from 1951-1955 for 156 episodes.

Every now and then while researching these films, you run into something that makes you go, huh, interesting. My huh, interesting moment for this one was Raymond Hatton, who plays the old coot, Farmer Larkin. This guy had 401 credits in the IMDB as an actor, maybe more than any I’ve ever seen, ranging from 1909 (1909!) to 1967. Many were bits roles, though from 1941 to 1946 he made 28 westerns (28!) as Johnny Mack Brown’s sidekick. 28! I still can’t get over that. I would love to read his reminiscences. He seems as if he was a hard-working stiff who loved the movies and stuck with it for what must have been year after rather lean year. I’d like to, respectfully, dedicate this evening’s viewing to his memory.

Another thing I learned while researching this film. I always figured that this movie was done as a quick rip-off of THE BLOB, the vastly superior Steve McQueen odd-alien-invades-the-earth-and-the-kids-have-to-do-something-about-it-because-the-adults-are-too-frigging-dense-to-believe-them movie. Turns out that it actually predates THE BLOB by like a year and a half. So maybe it does deserve a 4, at least.

INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN clocks in at a too-long 69 minutes. It would have made a somewhat more entertaining episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE at twenty-six or so minutes.

 

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It was with great shock and sadness that I learned today of the passing of John Stewart , a brilliant singer-songwriter and (if there was any justice whatsoever in this world) American Icon, of a brain aneurysm.  He was one of the great influences on me during my younger days, continuing down to today.  I fear that I could not do him justice, so have linked to the obituary on his fan site.  Please  read for details.

http://www.chillywinds.com/


John Stewart was something rare in this world of worthless celebrity hacks.  He was a sincere artist who worked from the heart and the soul.  He never stopped working, writing, and performing, and in that, at least, he leaves a record to be admired and copied.  I'm afraid that, again, any words of mine would be insufficient to express the sense of loss this leaves me with, so I'll use some words of his, from a song he co-wrote with John Phillips:

If you’re feeling lonely.
If you’re feeling low.
Remember that I loved you
More than you will ever know
Out where them chilly winds don’t blow. 


We have lost another great one.

John Jos. Miller
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 I'm so far behind that I'm commenting on Halloween, when it's almost Christmas, but that's okay because nothing much has happened in between those two days.

As I've said elsewhere, the Wild Card RPG has taken over my life, but that dominance is about to end.  I'm almost done with the manuscript, having passed the five hundred page mark.  You know, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I'm not about to break down my payment into an hourly rate.  It'd be far too depressing.

Anyway, back to the Halloween Chihuahua.

Friends of ours who live in Bernalillo, which is a small town about twenty miles north of Albuquerque, Patricia Rogers and Scott Denney, throw a Halloween party every other year.  They do it every other year because it takes them about two years to plan, execute, and then recover from each party.  This year they had an Egyptian theme, and it was really great.  They got museum quality hieroglyphic stencils from somewhere, and decorated the walls of their living room as if it were a chamber tomb (on rolls of paper, not the walls themselves).  They carved dozens of pumpkins with Egyptian, as well as traditional Halloween motifs.  They put all kinds of banners around the the outside of the house, as well as a couple of vignettes, like a throne, an excavation complete with mummy and lab table, etc.  Very elaborate and very well done.

Their house, I should add, is an old adobe hacienda on a county highway, more than a hundred yards off the road, with only one other dwelling nearby, a small house that used to be the bunkhouse for the cowboys who worked on the ranch.  They had the door to the living room open because it was a warm night, and the room was crowded.  About 11:30 a small dog walked in the room, looked around, and disappeared under the sofa.  After about thirty seconds, she suddenly reappeared, jumped up on my lap (there were at least thirty people in the room), and stayed there the rest of the night.

Long story short, yes, we now have our very own Halloween Chihuahua.  Skippyjon (named after the cat in a series of children's books who pretends to be a Chihuahua) weighs seven pounds, about half ouf of smallest cat and a twelfth our largest dog.  We did what we could to find her owner, including putting an ad in the paper, etc, but came up empty.  Our best guess is that she witnessed a murder and went into the witness protection program of her own, or, more sadly prosaic, was probably dumped by Pat and Scott's house by people who no longer wanted her.  (It's happened before; that's how they got their dog.)

Skippyjon, or, more familiarly, Skipito, moved in just like she'd always lived her.  The cats were kind of nonplussed, the big dogs, I think, figure she's a cat.  She sleeps under the covers and wears a sweater for walks.  She has pj's, but takes them off because she doesn't like to wear them.  She likes to ride in the car and, though (thank god) is not a yappy little dog, she is a good watchdog, though her bark is kind of shrill.  She's another mouth to feed, but thankfully a small mouth.  She's about a year old.

This is it, though.  No more animals.  I swear.

I was going to post a photo of me and the Halloween Chihuahua, but Gail seems to have put them someplace, and it'll have to wait until she comes home from work.  In any case, I just wanted to take this opportunity, before Christmas, to wish everyone a happy holiday season and offer my hopes for a great year.  To thank everyone who's read and commented on ths journal.  To promise (again) to be a little better about communicating here.  I enjoy touching base here with everyone.  I know I say that I can't find the time, but, really, it doesn't take very much time.  I think that, like having a Chihuahua, it's just something that I have to get used to.

Happy Holidays to everyone!

My Best Wishes,

John Jos. Miller
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 I know I've been neglecting this journal latle;y, but all I've been lately is working and dieting.  Neither of which are very exciting.  I thought I'd duck in quickly and post this, for lovers of movie theme music every where.  It's great!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3gp7B8WC4Q


John
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Well, I survived Bubconicon, including the traditional Bucco de Beppo Saturday Night dinner in the Pope Room.  It wasn't quite as rowdy as the year Gardner Dozois attended, but still, a good time was had by all.  I must say that I liked John Paul II's statue peering out at us from the little plastic box in the middle of the table much better than Ratzenberger's -- apologizes to the Pope if I spelled that wrong  -- who has a bit of a nosferatu look about him.) I stayed up to five a.m. only once and only bought a couple of magazines and two books in the dealer's room, so our wallet survived as well.  (Though one of the magazines was the extremely rare Weird Tales winter 1985 issue.  Most collectors don't even realize there was a winter 1985 issue.  Thanks to Gordon Garb for allowing me to cross off the number one magazine on my want list.)  As prophesied,  I read my INSIDE STRAIGHT wild card story to an audience of three, only one member of which was related to me.  But I knew the other two.

Back on the wild cards bulletin board (http://www.captaincomics.us/forums/index.php?board=35.0) I started a thread a while ago about the Green Ronin Wild Card RPG, and as part of the thread had been posting some wild card trivia questions (stuff even I didn't know before I started going through the books again), offering, in the Marvel tradition, some old-fashioned no-prizes for first one to come up the answers to these really obscure questions (eg, What was the name of Tachyon's chaffeur?)  Well, at the con this weekend I may have found an actual prize suitable for the contest winner, but I don't want to say anything specific until we have it totally nailed down.  Needless to say, most of you guys don't need another copy of the books, you have the comics, most of you even have the GURPS modules, so this is something rather unique.  I should be able to make a definitive announcement in a couple of days.

I have been also wrestling with the problem of timing in sending out these questions, since some of you live in time zones where you're sleeping when I usually post these questions, and I have decided that the fair thing is actually to accept ALL correct answers posted within 72 hours of the question being posted, with the first correct answer getting bonus points.  Since I am changing the rules mid-stream, I'm afraid that we're going to have to start all over again, with Osterhase's two correct answers being now in the way of a warm-up for the contest.  I'm looking, now, at a contest that is ten questions long.  All of the trivia will come from the books, not any of the ancillary publications.  Good luck to everyone.

I'll post the first official question question here.  If you're interested in the contest, please check the appropriate topic (Green Ronin wild card RPG) in the message board mentioned above.

What pet name has Gus Wenninger given his favorite food?

John Jos. Miller
__________________________________________________________________________
Currently reading: You mean, besides all the wild card books?

Currently writing: The complete history of the wild card universe. Fortunately it is contained in only seventeen original volumes.

In the Publishers Pipeline: Graphic adaptation of George R.R. Martin's "In the House of the Worm" for Avatar Comics. "Wakes the Lion" for INSIDE STRAIGHT. "Mortality's Strong Hand" for BUSTED FLUSH.

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Friend and fellow NM writer Steve Stirling lent me his copy of the "Call of Cthulhu" movie the other day, and, although this might be an inappropriate word to use in connection with the dread Cthulhu, it was quite charming.

The black and white, forty seven minute (if I remember correctly) silent film took the filmakers two years to produce, and obviously was a labor of love.  The acting is excellent, the sets are mostly terrific (especially the R'yleh set), and, most importantly, the screenplay is very faithful to the original both in spirit and in letter.

I highly recommend it to any H.P. Lovecraft fans out there, which I have been since reading "The Rats in the Wall" in middle school lo these many years ago.

It will certainly NOT be coming to your cineplex anytime soon, but it is well worth seeking out.


John Jos. Miller
__________________________________________________________________________
Currently reading: You mean, besides all the wild card books?

Currently writing: The complete history of the wild card universe. Fortunately it is contained in only seventeen original volumes.

In the Publishers Pipeline: Graphic adaptation of George R.R. Martin's "In the House of the Worm" for Avatar Comics. "Wakes the Lion" for INSIDE STRAIGHT. "Mortality's Strong Hand" for BUSTED FLUSH.
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...written by yours truly.

We've been sitting on this for awhile because Green Ronin wanted to make the announcement at GenCon, and I have been officially cleared to release it via the various tubes of the various internets.

Here is the official press release:

GREEN RONIN TO PUBLISH WILD CARDS RPG LINE
 
Industry Leader to do RPG Adaptation of Classic Shared World Anthologies
 
August 16, 2007--SEATTLE, WA: Green Ronin Publishing has reached an agreement with New York Times bestselling author George R.R. Martin to license the Wild Cards series of shared world anthologies. Green Ronin will publish a line of Wild Cards roleplaying game books next year for its Mutants & Masterminds RPG. The first of these books, the Wild Cards Campaign Setting by series author John Jos. Miller, will debut next August at Gen Con 2008.
 
The Wild Card series began in 1987, developing out of an ongoing superhero roleplaying campaign run by Martin and eventually spanning 17 volumes. Contributing authors include Roger Zelazny, Lewis Shiner, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Walter Jon Williams, John Jos. Miller, and Martin himself. Tor will be bringing the series back this January with Inside Straight, the first in a new generation of Wild Cards novels.
 
"The world of Wild Cards is a perfect match for our Mutants & Masterminds game," said Green Ronin President Chris Pramas. "With Inside Straight starting a new chapter in the Wild Cards saga, it seemed the perfect time to bring the property back to its roots in roleplaying games."
 
"This feels like coming home again!" said George R.R. Martin. "Long-time fans of the Wild Cards books will remember that the series grew out of a role-playing game, way back when, so it's nice to returning to that world, after far too long an absence. I hope that our fans will have as much fun gaming with the Wild Cards characters as we have had writing about them these past twenty years. And we couldn't hope for a better partner. Green Ronin does beautiful books, and their Mutants & Masterminds system should be a great fit for Wild Cards. With John Jos. Miller -- creator of Carnifex, Yeoman, Wraith, Father Squid, and many more -- writing the new campaign setting book, it's sure to be complete, accurate, and faithful to the mosaics, a must-have for every fan of the series, even those who do not game."
 
Green Ronin has already done successful RPG adaptations of literary properties like Thieves' World and the Black Company. Earlier this year the company announced that it had licensed Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books. "I said then that 2008 would be a great year for fans of George R.R. Martin's work and I meant it," added Pramas.
 
About Wild Cards
 
The alien virus arrived on Earth just after World War II -- and the world was never the same. For those who become infected, there are two results: death, or transformation. And depending on the recipient, death is sometimes the preferable outcome. Only one in a hundred become superhuman "aces" as a side effect of the virus; the rest are turned into horrible, grotesque "jokers." It's a strange and wonderful, terrible and terrifying world where anything can happen. A world that, in a twist of fate, could lie just outside your door. A world of Wild Cards.
 
About George R.R. Martin
 
George R.R. Martin sold his first story in 1971 and has been writing professionally ever since. He has written fantasy, horror, and science fiction, and for his sins spent ten years in Hollywood as a writer/producer, working on Twilight Zone, Beauty and the Beast, and various feature films and television pilots that were never made. In the mid 90s he returned to prose, his first love, and began work on his epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. He has been in the Seven Kingdoms ever since. Whenever he's allowed to leave, he returns to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he lives with the lovely Parris and two cats named Augustus and Caligula who think they run the place.
 
About Green Ronin Publishing
 
Green Ronin Publishing is a Seattle-based company known for its dedication to quality books and games. Founded in 2000, Green Ronin has won more awards for excellence and innovation than any other game company in the new millennium, and took home the coveted ENnie Award for Best Publisher an unprecedented three years running. With great licenses like Thieves' World and the Black Company, groundbreaking games like Mutants & Masterminds and Blue Rose, and a roster of top flight designers and illustrators, Green Ronin Publishing is a leading light in the hobby game industry.
 
Green Ronin Media Contact
Nicole Lindroos
nicole [at] greenronin.com


Needless to say, we're quite pleased with this development.  I've been hard at work on the first volume and have written about 50,000 words of a projected 200,000 or so.  These will be meaty volumes suitable not only for gamers, but as encyclopedias for anyone who wants to know virtually anything about the wild card universe.

This, of course, is the "secret" referrred to in my tag-line, so I guess I'll have to write a new one.

Thanks to all the fans out there for your continued support during the years.  I appreciate it greatly.

John Jos. Miller
__________________________________________________________________________
Currently reading:  You mean, besides all the wild card books?

Currently writing:  The complete history of the wild card universe. Fortunately it is contained in only seventeen original volumes.

In the Publishers Pipeline:  Graphic ada[tation of  George R.R. Martins' "In the House of the Worm" for Avatar Comics.  "Wakes the Lion" for INSIDE STRAIGHT.  "Mortality's Strong Hand" for BUSTED FLUSH.
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It's been a nice afternoon in Albuquerque, temperature in the low eighties, lowered even further by a half hour steady soaking rain.  After the rain stopped I worked on the landscaping, planting a Rose of Sharon, a Butterfly Bush, and transplanting three Russsian Sages from the front to back yard.  They should survive.   Not even I should be able to kill them.

Now back to the top ten songs on my iPod.

5. "Lily of the West" Mark Knopfler (The Chieftains anthology album LONG BLACK VEIL, 1995)

Now that I've gained my liberty a-rovin' I will go
I’ll ramble through old Ireland and travel Scotland o'er
Though she thought to swear my life away she still disturbs my rest,
I still must style her, Molly O', the lily of the west.

This is just a damn perfect song, musically and lyrically, a stand out piece on a damn near perfect album that anyone who likes folk music should check out. I really can’t praise Knopfler’s traditional work highly enough. I liked DIRE STRAITS as much as anybody, but this stuff is just great.

4. "A Case of You" K.D. Laing (from Hymns of the 49th Parallel, 2004)

I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I’m frightened by the devil
But I’m drawn to those ones that aint
I remember the time that you told me, you said
Love is touching souls
Well surely you’ve touched mine
Part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time

One of the finest love songs ever written by Joni Mitchell (or anyone else for that matter). There’s several great versions. I’ve got a couple on my ipod (Diana Krall is very good, too), but this is my favorite. Great song to write to.

3. "So Fare Ye Well" The Highwaymen (Best of the Highwaymen, 1992)

Where the canons are loudly roaring
And the bullets by showers fall
And the drums and pipes are beating
To drown the wounded man’s call
Stand steady by your captain
When rounds of grape shot fly
Trust in God your Saviour
But keep you powder dry.

Not the country supergroup of the 1990s, but the original folk group of the 1960s, best known for their hit "Michael Row the Boat Ashore." Which was also a very nice song. The Highwaymen had a short career, but produced some terrific songs, several of which have made their way to my ipod. This one is a driving, banjo-dominated tune that’s great to write action scenes to.

2. "Ourselves to Know" Warren Zevon (LIFE’LL KILL YA, 2005)

We left Constantinople in a thousand ninety-nine
To restore the one True Cross was in this heart of mine
To bring it to Jerusalem and then sail home to Rhodes
We took that holy ride ourselves to know
We took that holy ride ourselves to know
Everyone got famous, everyone got rich
Everyone went off the rails and ended in the ditch
We had to take that long, hard road to see where it would go
Yeah, we took that holy ride ourselves to know
We took that holy ride ourselves to know
Now if you make a pilgrimage I hope you find your grail
Be loyal to the ones you leave with even if you fail
Be chivalrous to strangers you meet along the road
As you take that holy ride yourselves to know
You take that holy ride yourselves to know

What can you say about the only rock song I’ve ever heard written about the Crusades? Of course, Warren Zevon wrote it. Of course, it’s great. Of course, it’s deeply sad and ironic when you realize that he wrote it while knowing he was dying of a rare form of cancer, and it appeared on his last album, LIFE’LL KILL YA. And in fifteen lines he managed to write a guide to life better than most religious books hundreds of pages long. Sleep well, Warren.

1. "All the Roadrunning" Mark Knopfler and Emmy Lou Harris (All the Roadrunning, 2006)

 A million miles of vagabond sky
Clocked up above the clouds
I'm still your man for the roaming
For as long as there's roamin' allowed

There'll be a rider
And there'll be a wall
As long as the dreamer remains

And if it's all for nothing
All the roadrunning's
Been in vain

Don’t tell Gail, but I fell in love with Emmy Lou Harris back around 1975 when I got her ELITE HOTEL album. The ashes still glow a little. I came to Mark Knopfler a little later. Their collaborative tour and album produced a number of of great cuts, but, damn, a song about the carny? Please, somebody tell me what traditional song the melody was taken from. It’s driving me nuts. Another great song to write to. The rhythm is just perfect for typing.

 John Jos. Miller
*****************************************************
Now Reading: After taking out a few minutes to read HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, I'm now back to Susan Cooper's THE DARK IS RISING sequence (Currently on:  THE GREY KING)

Now Writing: It's a secret until the official announcement at the end of August.

In the Publisher's Pipeline: A graphic adaptation of George R.R. Martin's "In the House of the Worm" for Avatar Comics. But "Mortality's Strong Hand" is also knocking at the door.

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I like to make lists.  Favorite books.  Major league autographs I need for my collection.  Popes who committed felonies.  Most strikeouts by a  New York Mets pitcher.  (For those interested, Tom Seaver leads the list with 2541;  the highest ranking active pitcher is Tom Glavine in 19th with 485.)  I thought it might be interesting to share what might be called my favorite songs:  the top most played on my iPod, and it's easy, because my iPod keeps track of it all for me.

I'm not a technophobe, but I don't have much use for many recent innovations.  Yes, I do use a computer (though my last novel got lost, through no fault of mine) and I realize that cellphones can be handy (though I don't have one), and I don't play computer games.  But I love my iPod.  Thanks again, Parris!

Here"s 10-6 on my most played list.  Rest to follow when I find the time.

10. "Santy Anno/Coal Tattoo" John Stewart and Buffy Ford: John Stewart and Darwin’s Army (1999)

And I’ve been a coal miner all of my life,
Laying down track in the hole.
Got a back like an ironwood bent by the wind, 
Blood veins blue as the coal.

John Stewart is one of America’s great neglected songwriters, though he had his share of fame as a long-time member of the Kingston Trio. Buffy Ford, who was asked to be the vocalist for Jefferson Airplane before Grace Slick joined the group, is his wife. This is a beautifully blended duet of the traditional sea shanty "Santy Anno" and "Coal Tattoo," written by Billy Ed Wheeler, the greatest coal mining song ever. Buffy Ford’s voice is still sweet. Stewart’s is gruff with age, but well-suited to this tough, uncomplaining song about the life of a coal miner.

9. "Song for a Winter’s Night" Quartette Beautiful: A Tribute to Gordon Lightfoot (2003)

The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are liftin'
The morning light steals across my windowpane
Where webs of snow are driftin'

If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
Upon this winter night with you
And to be once again with with you

Quartette is four Canadian women singers/songwriters, including the fabulous Slyvia Tyson, who was once part of the great Canadian folk duo of the 1960's-1970's Ian and Slyvia. This is a beautifully lush arrangement with four beautifully lush voices of an unabashedly romantic Lightfoot ballad. The winter imagery is quite powerful for someone, like me, who grew up in snowy country.

8. "Rainy Night In Georgia" Brook Benton (1970)

Hoverin' by my suitcase, tryin' to find a
Warm place to spend the night
Heavy rain fallin', seems
I hear your voice callin' "It's all right."
A rainy night in Georgia,a rainy night in Georgia
It seems like it's rainin' all over the world
I feel like it's rainin' all over the world

An authentic rarity – a pop blues song with soul. "Rainy Night in Georgia" was written by Tony Joe White in 1962, and was a hit for Brook Benton in 1970. His semi-sweet, semi-rough voice is perfect for this melancholy ballad.

7. "Abraham, Martin, and John" Dion (1968)

Anybody here seen my old friend Bobby?
Can you tell me where he's gone? 
I thought I saw him walkin' up over the hill, 
With Abraham, Martin and John.

Something rarer than a pop song with soul – a pop song that is an explicit political statement. This song was written by Dick Holler (who also penned the immortal "Snoopy Versus the Red Baron") and recorded by Dion in 1968 upon his comeback from heroin addiction. It made it to number four on the pop charts.

6. W*O*L*D* Harry Chapin: Anthology (1974)

I am the morning DJ on W*O*L*D
Playing all the hits for you wherever you may be
The bright good-morning voice who's heard but never seen
Feeling all of forty-five going on fifteen

The drinking I did on my last big gig made my voice go low
They said that they liked the younger sound when they let me go
So I drifted on down to Tulsa, Oklahoma to do me a late night talk show
Now I worked my way back home again, via Boise, Idhao
That's how this business goes

Another character study masquerading as a pop song by the wonderful Harry Chapin – another great like Steve Goodman, Townes van Zandt, and Richard Farina who died way, way too young. The juxtaposition of age in a youth-oriented society strikes harder and harder as I work my own way through the calendar. Besides that, it’s just a great song, though it only made it to number 36 on the pop charts. Considering the subject matter, I guess that’s something of a miracle.

John Jos. Miller
*****************************************************
Now Reading: After taking out a few minutes to read HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS, I"m now back to Susan Cooper's THE DARK IS RISING sequence (Currently on:  GREENWITCH)

Now Writing: It's a secret until the official announcement at the end of August.

In the Publisher's Pipeline: A graphic adaptation of George R.R. Martin's "In the House of the Worm" for Avatar Comics. But "Mortality's Strong Hand" is also knocking at the door.

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