Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

“The scary part,” Chewie said…

…is that I'm standing on Han's shoulders!"


(No, not really.)Photo taken just prior to 3 p.m. For the record, most of the snowfall has come since this morning: Even around 7 a.m., both hands of the galactically-recognized Giant Vintage Chewie Scale were still above the snow, although his right one had an icicle hanging from it.

Snow's still falling, so there might be another measurement or two to come. Meanwhile, I'm going to check out a meteorite that hit near here. Won't take long.

January 28, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Fiction, Film, geek, Ohio, Travel | Leave a comment

SnowChewie 2: Wookiee Boogaloo

Given the Impending DoomSnow that's supposed to whump down on us tonight & tomorrow, I present the "before" shot of the galactically-recognized Giant Vintage Chewie Scale, taken at about 6:45 p.m., just after the snow was starting to come down in North Canton:

As of 8:45 or so, the snow had kind of changed to fine ice, so there's not much registering on Chewie. He'll be out there all night though, so we'll check him in the morning.

January 27, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Fiction, geek, Ohio, Weblogs | Leave a comment

Old school, new friends, & monsters

My daughter and I had an absolute blast spending Sunday hanging out at the Akron-Canton Comic Con, talking up old-school Star Wars and "Collect All 21" to everybody who stopped by the table. (I'd actually brought my beat-up original 21 figures and set them up, and it was fun to see the reaction from both kids who recognized the characters and their parents who'd played with their own Star Wars guys a few decades back.)

We had the pleasure of being assigned the table next to the truly hilarious and fun Andy Hopp, and I wound up trading a copy of my book for one of his way-cool sketchbook collections. He signed it for Kelsey and, in a moment that took me back to watching Aaron draw on the attendance pads in church when we were kids, personalized it with an on-the-spot "monsterization" sketch.

Five eyes and cone-head aside, the hoodie sweatshirt, chewing gum and glasses are nicely accurate touches.

January 26, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, geek, Ohio, Travel, writing | Leave a comment

Sunday. Comics. (See what I did there?)

Just a quick reminder that I'll be setting up shop with some copies of "Collect All 21!" tomorrow (Sunday, Jan. 25) at the Akron-Canton Comic Con, once again courtesy of Jeff Harper productions. Seriously, these are great occasions to hang out and curl up with some pop culture, comic and sci-fi on a wintry afternoon, so if you're in the area, swing by! My musically-talented buddy Stratos will be there, too, and I haven't seen him since the Buckeye con; and my daughter will be spending the day with me since Jenn works, so I'm looking forward to spending some good geek-out time with her.

Speaking of good father-daughter bonding, we just got back from a round at Laser Quest in which we totally teamed up and managed to tag 19 of the other 21 players at least once. Having someone to watch your back when the beams start flying makes everything that much more fun, even if you do spend what seems an inordinate amount of time eluding a gaggle of fifth-grade-or-so boys whose sole strategy was to surround us in a cluster and stand within Cheeto-breath range even after they're stunned, just waiting for their resurrection so they could tag us again. I will say this, though: Their annoying tactic made my later vengeance, courtesy of a well-placed wall mirror, that much sweeter. Old age and treachery, y'know…

January 24, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, Fiction, geek, Ohio, Travel, writing | Leave a comment

On the train to Desert Moon.

Twice a week, I pick my daughter up from gymnastics practice, along with one of her best friends, whom we drop off at her house on our way home for dinner.

These two have been best friends since preschool, and they’re now middle-school sixth-graders. (I’ve always thought it’s kind of neat that my kid is in the same schools I attended, while her friend is in the same neighboring school district that Aaron lived in when we were friends growing up.)

Lately, they’ve taken to singing that Jason Mraz song “I’m Yours.” It’s priceless, especially because they only sing about a minute and a half – after they’ve maxed out someone’s cell-phone recording capabilities, they giggle and stop and either watch it or record it again.

But I also hear my daughter listening to it at home. And to that Taylor Swift song about the fairytale ending or something. And to the Twilight soundtrack.

And it takes me back to a sort of sad, hidden time when you may have talked about girls, but God
knows if you were a glasses-wearing nerd like me you mostly didn’t talk to girls, and that meant songs that other kids slow-danced to at those after-school dances just made you go all moon-eyed and self-pitying when you were by yourself. Bryan Adams’ “Heaven” did this particularly well, even though it did wind up attached to a fleeting, glorious exception to the rule. Journey, “Faithfully.” Phil Collins, “Against All Odds.” You get the picture. Glorious cheese balladry that will always have a place on my throwback playlist.

For some reason, though, my daughter’s occasional taste for wistful music takes me back most specifically to Dennis DeYoung’s “Desert Moon.” (This actually came out in fall 1984, so I would’ve been 13 at the time, closing in on 14 and in eighth grade. That made me actually about a year and a half older than my daughter is now. I’m not sure if that’s comforting or not.)

Anyway, Desert Moon is vintage Dennis at his purest, with its piano and its pining and momentous-yet-all-too-brief passings in and out of life, and good God did that somehow hit home with a junior-high moony-eyed wannabe writer. I remember obsessively trying to catch it on the radio so I could record it onto one of the blank tapes I picked up in three-packs for a couple bucks at the Hartville Flea Market. When I succeeded, I listened to it over and over and over in my room on our family’s boom box. I think it was the first generation-specific song of its type that I really got caught up in.

I apparently didn’t hide this too well, because for my birthday that year, along with Huey Lewis and the News’ Sports on cassette, my parents surprised me with Desert Moon, even though I had never mentioned it at all. (Go ahead, mock the music. It was the ’80s and I hadn’t yet been introduced to New Order or the Pet Shop Boys. Those are for another time anyway.)

It was a bizarre bridge of an era, getting lost in these songs about love and forever and loss and heartache, and still being just a kid praying that nobody would find out who I liked and hoping not to get my ear flicked in study hall.

Seeing my own child entering those years is a heart-wrenching of a different sort.

I’m not entirely certain I’m ready for it. As Dennis sang, “Moments pass, and time moves on…”

January 19, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, geek, Music, Ohio, writing | Leave a comment

Writing: By the Numbers

I've been wondering lately just how much writing I do.

Too many days, when I'm going to sleep, I think, "Man, I didn't get the writing done that I wanted do," and I feel pretty lame. Or I come home from work (where I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to actually earn a paycheck for writing) and while I may have a head full of ideas and a pile of scribbled notes for inspiration, the last thing I want to do is sit down in front of the computer and write more.

It's always been a difficult balancing act for me, partially because while the work writing is what supports me and my family, the personal writing requires much more passion and energy and dedication, and that can be difficult to rustle up when it's barely – and do I ever mean barely – a source of income.

Anyway, like I said: I wondered just how much writing I did in 2008, word-count wise, so I thought I'd try and find out. (There's obviously a fair amount of ballparking here, and honestly, I kind of hope I've guessed low in a couple places. Not that anyone's likely to figure-check me. But if you do, let me know what you come up with. Also, you need less free time.)

I started with my at-work total, collecting the stories that wound up in weekly print editions last year and getting a figure just under 75,000 words. I'm figuring that's a bit low because I know for sure that at least one mid-length story that ran in print didn't show up in the archive I searched to get this word count. There may be others.

Next, I'm guessing roughly 12,000 total words for my at-work blog, figuring at least 10 entries per month at a minimum of 100 words each.

Finally, there are my online-only at-work stories. These present the biggest question mark, since they range from sidebar pieces to very short bits based largely on press releases. I'll figure 5,000 words total, though I could be way off in either direction.

Now for the stuff I did at home on my own time:

This blog, Cornfield Meet, got about 33,000 words added to it last year.

Over at Field's Edge, I wrote another 13,000 in blog entries and features, which includes four pieces which eventually became chapters in "Collect All 21!"

For "Collect All 21!" itself, besides those chapters, I added 13,500 more words in the form of the introduction, the short Proofs of Purchase bits, and a few wholly new chapters.

There's also another big question mark: I keep a hardbound 8×10 journal, in which I filled 84 pages in 2008. However, when I have a lot of stuff to write about, or when I'm thinking faster than I can write with a pen, or when I've already written something for the blog that I also feel belongs in the journal, I'll just print the results (usually 10-point type, single-spaced) and then paste these pages into the journal. I'd bet 85-90% of those 84 pages were filled this way, although a fair amount of that is writing that didn't appear anywhere else. There's also a good bit of handwritten stuff, too, exclusive to the journal. What I'm saying is this: I've pretty much got no clue on this one, so let's guess low again and say that there are 5,000 words in there that I didn't write or copy anyplace else.

So, give or take: 92,000 words at work and 64,500 words at home for a grand total of 156,500 words. The equivalent of about three shortish books or two mid-length novels. That's kind of cool to think.

Still, I'm really going to try and make the effort this year to more regularly sit down with those stacks of notes here at home and get those ideas out of my head. (That's 649 down for 2009. Bring on the next 99,351.)

January 18, 2009 Posted by | Books, Current Affairs, Fiction, geek, Ohio, Weblogs, writing | Leave a comment

The All Valley Karate Tournament Eternal Champion

Look, I love The Karate Kid. Can't help it. I'm a child of the '80s, and a celebrator of all its cheese pop wonder, and Daniel LaRusso delivering the Crane Kick to that dickhead Johnny Lawrence is right up there with Vader heaving the Emperor down into the Death Star's core. Part of it's the association with the era, of course: I don't remember if I saw The Karate Kid in the movie theater, but I can say that after we videotaped it off Showtime, my little brothers and I probably had it memorized within a week. I was 13 when the movie came out – Holy Crap, it's 25 years old this summer! – and smack in the middle of All Things Socially Awkward.

Within the past year, I introduced my daughter to the movie, and over this past weekend, I recorded it and was watching the very end when she came home from a friend's house and said (to my delight), "Aw, man! Can we re-start it?" So we fixed lunch and did just that.

And something of this movie's genius became apparent as it unfolded. I almost couldn't believe it as it was happening, and frankly, it's so subtle that the only reason I did notice was that I had just watched the whole thing. And just to make sure, I grabbed a pen and paper – because I've got no qualms about going full-on movie-geek when it comes to '80s flicks – I took some notes and checked it again tonight.

Our story begins in Newark, New Jersey – we know because it says so onscreen – where we get a wide shot of a family driving off in their station wagon to a chorus of goodbyes from friends and family.

And, following the title card, a classic cross-country montage set to the bold strains of a Bill Conti score. You get fields and a windmill, cacti and desert, mesas and winding highways. And just to make absolutely sure the plot hasn't escaped you yet, Daniel's mom breaks into "California, here we come…" (This is where we also find out that Daniel's not cool with the whole moving thing, because his mouthy response is, "I don't like the song, ma.")

Along the way, outside a kitschy motel, we get to see mother and sun push-starting their car. It's clear at this point that there's no dad, and that the LaRussos are a working-class family.

Palm trees at the establishing shot of the apartment = Bingo. We're here. Now things really start moving.

On the way in, Daniel throws an amateurish karate kick into a closed gate, knocking down the kid he doesn't see on the other side. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Mr. Freddy Fernandez, first friend to the New Kid in Town. From the ensuing conversation, we get: a) Daniel knows a little karate, b) Daniel's mom has moved them across the U.S. for a new job, and c) an invitation to an "Adios, summer" beach party so the New Kid can meet Other Pals.

Catching up to his mom in the apartment, Daniel discovers the busted water faucet and is sent to talk to the Maintenance Guy Who's Around Here Somewhere. Thus we meet the Enigmatic Man of Few Words – "After after." – and Impending Father Figure Mr. Miyagi, who's doing the whole "try to catch the fly with chopsticks" routine. (Fooooooreshadooooooow!)

Cut to the next day's beach party – soundtrack tune: "(Bop Bop) On the Beach) by The Flirts & Jan and Dean" -where we're treated to Daniel in a rousing game of soccer with Freddy and Friends. And – what's thiiiis? There are GIRLS nearby! Well, Daniel, of course, has no choice but to show off a few juggling skills in front of The One Who's Been Making Eye Contact. Almost – but, thankfully, not quite – lost in the ruckus as the guys get the game going again, is this exchange: "Who's that blonde?" "She's from the Hills. She's rich." (See what they did there? Masterful.)

Now there's a dissolve to dusk and a cookout campfire, which means our soundtrack switches over to an appropriate '80s slow-dance song, "(It Takes) Two to Tango" by Paul Davis. Daniel and The Blonde are baited into a clumsy intro by their respective cliques. Surprise – they hit it off spectacularly. Must be the music.

But no! Now there's an Abrupt Interruption From The Dunes Above as the fittingly-edgy riffs of "The Ride" by Matches play during our introduction to The Bullies. They ride motorbikes! They drink beer! And one of them is The Blonde's Ex-Boyfriend, although, as we are told in short order, she's the one that did the breaking up.

Naturally, these guys ride into the midst of the party so Ex-Boyfriend and Head Bully Johnny Lawrence can pick a fight with The Blonde. Daniel intervenes, Mr. Lawrence shoves him to the sand, and everything we need to know about The Karate Kid has fallen into place just. Like. That.


I shit you not. Twelve minutes.

That's less time than it takes to watch the original Thriller video, and the filmmakers have handled every major character introduction, clearly sown the seeds of every situational conflict, taken us across the country and played us three songs and one traveling score.

That was yesterday morning. Now I'm upstairs writing this, and my kid's downstairs, and I can hear the soft musical accompaniment to Daniel-san's deck-sanding and fence-painting, and I couldn't be happier than if I'd just caught a fly with my chopsticks.

January 12, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, Television | 4 Comments

Rrrrrrwwwwowwwwgr! (Translation: You call THIS a snowfall?!? Puh-leaze.)

Backyard snowfall as of 9:45 a.m. EST, 1/10/09,  Lake Twp., Stark County Ohio…

… as measured on the galactically-recognized Giant Vintage Chewie Scale.

January 10, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, geek, Ohio | Leave a comment

In Which I Offer Many Thanks for Kindness and Nice Words

There are a few very kind reviews of "Collect All 21!" on its Amazon page that give me gut butterflies because they make me feel like I've accomplished a big part of what I wanted to do. Check it out:

"Over the years, I'd forgotten so much from my youth…until I read
'Collect All 21!' and it dislodged those memories free from wherever
they were tucked away in my mind."

– Troy L.

Similarly, Todd Merrick wrote this:

"He places us in his often personal and heartfelt situations and unleashes one's own feelings back to the saga."

By way of disclaimer, Troy's an acquaintance through OSWCC, and I see him at a couple times a year, but I didn't bribe, cajole or threaten him to write that, I swear. (Here's his whole review.) And Todd is a friend of Adam's who I last saw more than a decade ago. But their reactions mean an awful lot since personally, I'm a nostalgic nutcase and I love rediscovering bits and pieces of my past and reawakening sleeping memories. (No surprise there to anyone who's known me for more than about 12 minutes, I suppose.)

Then there's this one:

The memories he has of that period in his life are brought back to life
and told in detail. His childhood friends, the local movie theatre, the
toy stores, … – they are all there, and at times it's like the reader
is there with him. … this is the story of how it was to be a kid in the
late seventies/early eighties and how it felt to be sucked into the
world that George Lucas created.

– Guy van Gompel
This one blew me away, too. I don't know Guy other than he's a fellow reader/participant on the Rebelscum forums, and we'd never had any dealings or conversations until he ordered a copy of the book. The kicker is that he's from Belgium, and I can hardly wrap my head around the notion that these recollections of growing up in a pretty unremarkable small corner of Ohio can strike a common chord across an ocean in a place I've never seen.

Finally, I got more support from way-cool artist and "Star Wars Kids" contributing illustrator Glen Mullaly (who also co-founded the "Growing Up Star Wars" Flickr group) who said it was "quite a feat compiling all those recollections into one project. Good job."

Buckets and buckets, then, of continued gratitude to everyone who's reading, supporting and sharing my little book with fellow Star Wars fans and former children of the 1980s. You all rock maginificently and The Force Will Be With You. Always.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, Weblogs | Leave a comment


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