SUPER BOWL SUPER BOWL SUPER BOWL

Every year, millions of dollars in promotion is spent advertising and promoting what you can buy and do on the day of the THE BIG GAME.

This is because the NFL has convinced all of Business and Industry that owning the copyright to the phrase "The Super Bowl" means the NFL has the power to designate who can utter those magical words.

Nearly every year at this time, Ars Technica points out this is a load of hooey. As the article points out, the point of trademark law is make certain someone doesn't try to pass off a fake or knockoff as something that has been trademarked. It has nothing to do with permission to refer to it. Click on the image if you'd like to to read the full article.

In the meantime, let's test this theory out...

"I'm going to shovel all this snow off the driveway so I can head out and buy some snacks before I watch THE SUPER BOWL. When THE SUPER BOWL comes on, I enjoy the commercials about as much as I do watching THE SUPER BOWL itself. At halftime of THE SUPER BOWL, I'll watch Katy Perry sing and maybe show her boobs. After THE SUPER BOWL, NBC will try to convince me to stay up and watch a show they think will get a big audience because I'm too lazy to change the channel after THE SUPER BOWL."

Your move, NFL.

Don't Buy My Book!

At least, not from Booksthatsell.

The eagle-eyed Adam J. Whitlach was prowling eBay recently and discovered a signed copy of his first novel, "The Weller," was being offered at the ego-boosting price of $75.

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The only problem was, the book was "flat-signed," i.e. just the author's signature, not inscribed to a person. And Adam inscribes all of his signed books.

He poked around a little, and soon discovered a similar listing for Traveler, as well as Sadistic Shorts, an Mbedzi anthology that includes my story, "The Audition." Like Adam, I have flat-signed only a very few books, and it is rather unlikely any of them have made it to Booksthatsell's New York office. My name is also spelled "Greene" in a couple of places in the listing.

Questions to the seller have gone unanswered, but unless a party unknown has been haunting our local book signings, and then selling our books to this outfit, it's a scam.

And a pretty stupid one at that. The Internet must be running out of cons if people are reduced to offering books by unknown authors at inflated prices.

As much as I wish my signature on a book quintupled its value, I am more than happy to send you a signed copy from my website. At no extra charge, of course.

And, while you're at it, you should do the same for Adam. "The Weller," along with his new one, "War of the Worlds: Goliath," are both great reads.

Refresh, Damn you!

Have you ever linked a blog post to Facebook, then gone back and made some corrections, only to have the original text keep showing up?

It's because Facebook caches a copy of the page the first time you post it.

Here is how to make Facebook refresh its cached copy, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net:

  1. Go to Facebook's Developer Debugger: https://developers.facebook.com/tools/debug)
  2. Enter the URL of the web page in question and hit the “debug” button. You may see some error messages, but if you cursor down the page, you should see a box with the updated information.
  3. Go back to your status update and share the URL.

If you'd like to read the full article, it's here: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/blog/tutorials/facebook-web-page-preview-showing-old-content/

The Keyboard That Cried Wolf

So, about a month ago, the Bluetooth Keyboard on my work iMac announced its batteries were low. 

I checked it and discovered it was sitting at 18%. I held off changing them out, thinking I could probably get another day or two out of the current set.

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As you can see, today's reading, a FULL MONTH LATER shows I still have 14%. 

Despite this, every morning I get a stern warning that my keyboard batteries are low and I must change them immediately or dire consequences will resul

  

Just kidding. At this rate, I won't actually need new batteries until February. If only my phone battery lasted so long.

Hey Chip, You're Welcome!

The Mannheim Steamroller is bringing its Christmas show to Cedar Rapids again this year. And it's special, because 2014 is the thirtieth anniversary of the release of "Christmas," their first holiday album, and one that completely changed how people listened to Christmas music.

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And it's all thanks to me.

That's right. Because I was the first person to play Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas album on the radio.

Yep. To the best of my knowledge, at least, the old WMT-FM was the first station anywhere to put that record on the air.

And if you were around Cedar Rapids back then, you heard that music pretty much before anyone else in the world. Even (I think) before a lot of the people in Omaha, where the group got started.

I was familiar with the Mannheim Steamroller from their Fresh Aire series of albums, which founder Chip Davis, at one time a high school orchestra teacher, had originally conceived as a way to mix rock and roll rhythms with classical forms to make orchestral music more accessible to his students.

Heck, I actually go back even farther than that. I saw the "Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant Band," the name Davis and his Steamroller compatriots played under when they were C.W. McCall's backup band. Yes, that's the Mannheim Steamroller playing behind the Seventies anthem, "Convoy."

Anyway, we were so taken with "Christmas" at 96 1/12 FM that we went a little nuts. I think we played every tune on the album. WMT-AM, at that time also a music station, got into the act as well.

Months later, I chatted with a rep from American Gramophone, the Mannheim Steamroller's record label, who confided to me that their statistics showed an unusually high concentration of album sales in Cedar Rapids. I told her I knew why.

And of course, the album's success in Cedar Rapids was what catapulted it into pop culture, changing holiday music forever, and giving Chip Davis a pretty nice retirement nest egg.

OK, maybe that's pushing it. But I can tell you, we were first. So whether he knows it or not, when Chip plays Cedar Rapids, he's coming back to the place where it all started.

A Fresh Experience with an Old Friend

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To say that Roger Zelazny's Amber books were an influence on me is an understatement on the order of saying that Kim Kardashian is a little proud of her butt.

"Nine Princes in Amber" was published in 1970. I stumbled on it soon after, in 1973 or 1974, and have returned to it about every two years ever since.  

Which means I've read the series something on the order of twenty times. It is the single greatest influence on "Traveler," both in its sardonic, first-person narrative style, and overall theme. Trav's mental process of moving between reality streams is a direct descendant of Corwin's hellrides through Shadow. 

Wikipedia tells me that the original First Edition from Doubleday, pictured above, is quite rare. I don't know for sure if that is the edition I checked out from the Council Bluffs Public Library, but I do remember the cover as being navy blue, so it's possible.

A rare stumble by the great artist Boris Vallejo. Everyone knows Corwin's colors are black and silver. Geez.

A rare stumble by the great artist Boris Vallejo. Everyone knows Corwin's colors are black and silver. Geez.

But the collected set of all five of the "Corwin Cycle" of Amber stories in the two volumes with the incredibly stupid cover is the one that I have read again and again, to the point that I wore out the dust jackets and am seriously considering picking up backup copies.

When the third book in the series, "Sign of the Unicorn," was serialized in Galaxy magazine, it even got me into trouble with my mom. An installment arrived at the same time as her brother, on a rare visit from the West Coast.

I was way too distracted to hold up my end of the conversation.

The one and only cosplay in my entire life? You guessed it. Corwin of Amber, complete with a silver rose clasp on my cloak.

Unfortunately, the second cycle of stories, featuring Corwin's son Merlin, aren't nearly as strong. The last two in particular get pretty weird.

And let's not even talk about the estate-authorized prequels, written after Zelazny's death. All that's missing is Jar-Jar.

If these books were written today, they would be classified as Urban Fantasy, but at the time were classified as "New Wave Fantasy." Which come to think of it, is a pretty apt description of the trippy nature of the later volumes.

I turned my son Alex on to the series pretty much as soon as he graduated from picture books, and thoroughly indoctrinated him.

I've been away from them for a few years, but Alex checked out the audio books and recommended I take a listen.

It's like reading them for the first time all over again.

The narrator, Alessandro Juliani, best known as Felix Gaeta on Battlestar Galactica, is fabulous. I had no idea he could do so many different voices. He gives each of the nine princes their own identity, and captures Corwin perfectly.

The only downside is paying full price for each book. All five hardly add up to even one Game of Thrones!

This is great for Audible. For me, not so much. But I will consider it an investment in their ongoing effort to record classic sci-fi.

I often say that one of the nice things about getting older is that you can re-read your favorite books again and again, blissfully surprised by the plot twists you've forgotten.

Coming back to an old favorite as an audio book is almost the same thing.

Seven Lines From My WIP

I was tagged by the great AR Miller to share seven lines from my next book. I in turn tagged the other Writing Lads, Lennox Randon and Rob Cline to do the same.

This is from "Prisoner," the sequel to "Traveler".

* * *

     The space had been furnished, after a fashion. There was a bed, and the lamp casting the light sat on a box up on its end to make a nightstand. On the bed, sat Sophie Patel and Ella Day.

     The girls looked at me as I came into the light.

     “Hi,” I said. “My name is Trav.”

     The girls’ eyes grew wide. Sophie grabbed Ella, pushing her protectively behind her. The younger girl shrieked in terror.

     “Girls, it’s OK,” I said. “I’m a police officer.”

     “Help!” screamed Sophie. “It’s him! He’s here! Help us!”

* * *

OK, that was nine lines. Sue me.

Nerdgasm

For most of my life, I have been a closet nerd, quietly reading my books and watching my shows, thinking that I was pretty much the only one who pondered weighty topics like "When Obi-Wan told Luke he didn't remember owning a droid, why didn't Artoo start beeping 'WTF, old man? How about all those times I saved your bony ass?'"

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But as the Internet got rolling, I realized there were entire quadrants of the web totally devoted to the same geeky stuff I liked.

The Lurkers Guide,  Marvel A-Z, Gateworld.net, the Banzai Institute. Some were corporate sites set up to promote a company's Sci-Fi properties, but others were lovingly maintained by individuals who loved this stuff as much as me.

OK, more than me, since they spent thousands of hours, not to mention dollars, maintaining their sites.

But these days, maybe because I'm a contrarian, I'd much rather hang with real people than in forums or chatrooms. Which I got to do this past weekend at ICON, Iowa's first (and best) Sci Fi and Fantasy convention, which was this past weekend in Cedar Rapids.

At ICON, I often find myself in large groups where not a single person answers the question "Who's your Doctor?" with the name of their physician.

Getting to sit on a panel with writers like Jim C. Hines and have dinner with artist Lar Desouza (not to mention meeting his alter ego, Sailor Bacon), is just icing on the cake.

Unlike big conventions like Comic-Con, which emphasize movie and TV stars, ICON remains mainly about writers, and year after year, attracts some of the genre's best, led by ICON founder and UI Writer's Workshop grad, Joe Haldeman, who has won many Hugo awards.

A perfect atmosphere for someone now out of the closet, not only as a nerdy Sci-FI fan, but as a nerdy Sci-Fi WRITER. 

 

Day 2 IPhone 6+ Impressions

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It's been 24 hours since the iPhone 6+ arrived, and my feelings are mixed. 

It's a beautiful phone, and surprisingly lightweight for its gargantuan size. I swear it's twice as big as my iPhone 5. 

The Big Guy's first outing was to function as a Keynote remote at a presentation I was giving. The big screen showed my presenter notes in what appeared to be 14-point type, a treat for my aging eyes.

I do a fair amount of speaking onstage, and this device should be far easier to handle and less obtrusive than an iPad, and even better than the Nexus 7 that has been my go-to handheld teleprompter.  

The screen is gorgeous, and I can imagine the phone largely taking the place of the iPad for on-the-couch IMDB-ing. It's not that much smaller than my Kindle, and definitely easier to hold for reading than a full-size tablet.

But one-handng the phone feels perilous. It's top-heavy and if I'm activating the Touch ID (which is awesome, by the way), and not steadying the phone with my other hand, I'm worried it's going to flip right out of my palm. I haven't gone for a jog with it yet, and I worry that the pockets in my running gear aren't deep enough to hold it securely.

It may be time to resurrect the fanny pack. 

As for Bendgate, that's just Internet noise. Anything will bend if you put enough pressure on it. The phone is plenty sturdy. 

But talking on it? It feels like I"m holding a Big Chief tablet to my head.

Of course, the big advantage to the 6+ is the superior camera, but I haven't really tested ithat yet. 

Bottom line is, the phone is great when I'm stationary, but when I'm in motion, dropping it is a constant worry.

On the other hand, if that keeps me from texting while walking, maybe I'll bump into things less.