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This last full week of August promises to resemble summer to some degree, but that would be divination, I suppose, as ­I’m writing this a full week earlier. “Promises”; this reminds me of a blurb on a Raymond Chandler novel that may have been from Chandler himself  or, if not, it was certainly meant to sound like him — and it did: “Southern California, where the sun makes a promise it breaks every night.” Pretty good, ­it’s up there with a classic Chandlerism from Farewell, My Lovely: “He had a face like a collapsed ­lung.”

My time is rarely my own these days, so I make the most of it with the fictions of others that I put on like a suit of clothes worn only for an hour or two a day. At the moment ­I’m living in Kingdoms of the Wall by Robert Silverberg, a majestic and mythopoeic vision of life on what could only be a Jovian planet where everything is on a scale hundreds of times larger than that of Earth. ­I’ve written about Silverberg here in the past, and for anyone still unprejudiced by the objectionable term “sci-fi” and who leans toward the rubric of ”Speculative Fiction,” you would likely find this ­writer’s stuff (written since 1970 or so) ­gratifying.

It is improbable that I will be commenting on, much less participating in, any kind of weekend nightlife for the immediate future — not that I was ever much good at it anyway. I reckon I could be relied upon for descriptions of the play of sporadic headlights on my ceiling at 4 a.m., though it hardly seems fertile ground for lively writing. The same could be said for any accounts of my distracted and pointless navel-gazing at that time of night, though it would, of course, enrich your life, ­I’m sure. Example: ­“I’m past the halfway point of my 60th year. How did I allow this to happen, and why ­wasn’t I consulted about this two weeks ago when I was 35? ­Don’t let this happen to ­you.”

A two-word phrase has crept into common usage lately: “Real quick.” I first heard this in hospitals as in, “The doctor will be in to talk to you. He just has to do this quadruple bypass real quick.” Now it is everywhere, as in, “I’m almost ready for lunch, let me just build this nuclear power plant real quick.” Or how about, “Ready for Monday ­morning?”

“Yeah, let me just do this weekend real ­quick.”

It is now up there with “No worries” and “At the end of the ­day.”

I just received an email from Thailand. It was from Ken Minahan, a guitarist I played with in two different bands from 1968 to 1971. He sent some pictures as well, one of them of our ’68–’69 group Faith (when Blind Faith came out we decided to drop it in favor of It ­Doesn’t Matter, known in the Tri-State areas of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa as IDM). The photo is a good one, far better than I remembered: we look like Buffalo Springfield meets Traffic, and everyone except me looks like a fairly serious musician. We were, actually, ­it’s just that I remember the photographer told me to “look up toward the ceiling.” I did, and the result was I look like some effeminate flake composing a sensitive poem entitled “Crimson Is My Wisket.” Thanks, Kenny. That was fun. I see ­you’re called “Snowman” in Thailand. I get it, you kind of look like one. Just kidding. You look good, you look ­good.

My professional careers since the age of 15 have been musician, writer, and bartender (with several unprofitable side trips as a bookseller), so I ­don’t see how I could have developed such bad habits. Still, there it is. Much to ­undo.

Speaking of which, this trip through rehab seems to be clicking on previously clickless points along the way. Certain scales, as it were, have fallen from my eyes, and I can now see how heretofore unfathomable screwups came about. Not all of them but some of them; more, it is said, will be revealed. Still, I think ­I’m right about certain episodes I may have nailed. The strongest evidence of this is the feeling of thorough discomfort when I think of those periods preceding the horror. I may not be entirely clear here. Feel free to sue ­me.

I feel like ­I’m struggling NOT to channel Andy Rooney. ­He’s probably not even dead, for all I know, still… “Did you ever notice how movies suck in the summer? None of them have Andy Griffith in them. And by the way, where is the Matlock: The Movie we were promised?” Turn to the ads in the Movie Review and Guide section and tell me ­it’s not slim ­pickings.

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Comments

David Dodd Aug. 18, 2010 @ 2:11 p.m.

You know the history. People used to write very compelling short stories because there was a great audience to read them, and plenty of magazines paid enough money for a writer to support his family simply by being a part of this lovely cycle.

Then someone invented television.

Television was a silly idea then, just as it remains silly now, but no one had time nor inclination to read short stories in magazines anymore. The writers of short stories - at least some of them - turned to writing novels. And thus was born another wonderful age, and they made movies from these novels so that one could see someone else's vision of what one had once read, on a giant screen with a large audience. Suddenly, or rather not nearly slowly enough, the people making the movies decided they didn't need the novels after all, and scripts from original screenplays would do just fine.

Some of those movies were great.

But here is what happened next: The people making movies then decided that they didn't even need good material to make a movie anymore, that anyone could write a screenplay with a green Crayola or a tube of bright-red lipstick. Anything would work. And when that held, they did more of the same. That's when I mostly stopped watching movies.

Novelists, at least good novelists, became obsolete almost immediately. Instead, people who once liked to watch movies based on a script or a novel, decided to take things into their own hands. Publishers took note. The formula novel, otherwise known as genre, was born. It was a recipe, really, take a young lady with no personality or character, add a vampire and a werewolf and distant parents and turn them loose. Another recipe: Take the cutest young bookworm of a boy that you can imagine, add some friends, and make them go to sorcery school. Add British accents, stir vigorously. Presto.

The success of this formula had the wonderful science fiction writers so scared they changed the name of science fiction to speculative fiction, hoping to dignify their craft in some way.

The scary thing is that perhaps, in some way that he can't quite articulate, Andy Rooney has a point.

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EricBlair Aug. 18, 2010 @ 10 p.m.

Dear John: you must post photographs of the crew in "Faith."

I remember the Buddy Guy story, though you tell it better than it happened, I suspect.

What's next? The "Guy in the Tertiary Stages of Stevie Ray Vaughn Syndrome with a Stunt Chest" story?

Those were the days.

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EricBlair Aug. 18, 2010 @ 10:02 p.m.

Oh, and reading RFG's comment, I was reminded of what you used to tell me about the television industry, Mr. Brizzolara.

"I got three words for ya: Cops...with hats!"

That was the pitch session.

Is it any wonder that extraterrestrials don't visit us? The Galactic Good Taste Police have reviewed our transmissions and interdicted us.

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thestoryteller Aug. 22, 2010 @ 12:55 a.m.

I used to be a big fan of Linda Purl. I wonder what ever happened to her.

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charts Sept. 27, 2010 @ 10:14 a.m.

You guys played some good music back then and experimented with a variety of sounds. You certainly were as good or better than many of the midwest breakout bands.

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