On Fuel Pumps and Being a Manly Man

There are certain things that men are just supposed to know… things that I simply don’t.

At least that’s how it feels, especially if one lives in a rural area like I do. There are a lot of men about who know an awful lot about cars and how to fix them.

I am not a guy like that. I can fix your computer. I can swap out a hard drive, I can figure out why your e-mail isn’t working. I can help you convert your photos to jpegs so that you can send them to your Aunt Iris in Melbourne.

But I can’t tell you anything about a fuel pump except that it makes it very difficult to make your car go if it’s not working properly. The mechanic will tell you “Just hit it a couple a’ times with a wrench while you’re starting the car. That’ll help.” Which sound good except that I couldn’t tell you where it was in order to hit it with a wrench, providing I was able to dig one out of the little cardboard box where I keep my tools.

Okay, I might be in danger of loosing my “man” car with this post, but let me just say that I have successfully replaced a kitchen faucet and unblocked a drain with a snake. I have replaced the bulbs in headlights and tail lights and I can jump start your car if you need a boost.

I’m a smart man. But hanging out with a couple of mechanically inclined men can make a guy like me feel like a special kind of stupid.My wife’s friend’s boyfriend Jim and her son Thomas are great guys, though. They walked me through where the fuel pump is, showed me how to tap it with a hammer just right. They also told me that I wouldn’t have to drop the gas tank in order to get it out. Then they told me some funny stories about guys who dropped the gas tank and didn’t disconnect the ground wire first. “‘Course the tank’s still got fuel in it which makes it heavy. You unhook it, it drops and your ground wire’s done.” they laughed.

Heh. Yeah. Good thing I don’t have to do that.

The moral of this story is that I only have to pay about $100 for a new fuel pump and swapping it out will be easy. Easy for Jim and Thomas, that is. Not so much for non-mechanical Jack here. I can write you an exciting story about a guy who needs a new fuel pump but I’m afraid when it comes to actually installing the new one I’m not much help.

Unfortunately replacing the pump will have to go on hold for about a week. I have a daughter who is getting married and we’re going to be busy maxing out our credit cards for the next week. We needed to rent a car for that anyway so the old Chrysler’s going to sit, sad and forlorn until we can get around to it.

So, if you’re on Amazon and you’re looking for something to read, please think about old non-mechanical Jack and buy one of his books or stories for your kindle. It won’t cost you ore that $5 and it will help me out immensely when I am stony broke next week and unable to drive anywhere.

You can just click on any of the titles that look interesting to the right of this post, or visit my amazon.com page and make your selection. Science fiction or fantasy, if you like ’em, I got ’em. It’s a win-win. You get an exciting book to read on your Kindle and I get to keep driving around and putting food on the table.

AFI’s List of 400 Movies

AFI List of Movies

http://www.listchallenges.com/afi-400-greatest-films

There’s a list going around on Facebook at the moment. It is a list of all the nominees for the American Film Institute’s 100 Years… 100 Movies. A list of of 400 movies in total.

The question asked on Facebook is: “How many of these have you seen?”

I love movies. I studied film in University. But when I took this test my score was an appalling 237 out of 400. I thought I was a bit of an expert on movies, but this list made me feel like a big old poser.

And there’s films on this list that I should have seen. They’re not all that hard to track down and many of them were released in theaters in the years that I was regularly attending movies. I just didn’t bother.

Some of them are obscure and would have been very hard to track down in the pre-internet era, but with the resources available online a lot of these films should not be difficult at all to track down. Yet, still I have not bothered.

Is it the time commitment? Is sitting down for two hours to watch a film going to give me less time for more important things? Like… I don’t know… writing blog posts or perusing lists of things on Facebook?

Anyway, I feel like a bit of a lazy know-nothing now with a result like this. There’s 163 movies that I should watch now. How hard would that be? How difficult would it be to find a spare 326 hours to complete the list?

I can do that! Sure I can! As long as I stay focused and don’t get distracted…

Oh, but look… there’s another list on Facebook! Let me just check that out first!

Ant-Man

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I’ve been meaning to say this for a while now.

I know that the movie has been in theaters for a while… so long, in fact, that it has probably already left many theaters. However, if you are a fan of the Marvel Movies… and you’ve seen the disappointing reviews of the Fantastic Four… and you haven’t seen Ant-Man…

Well… just go and see it, because as far as I was concerned Ant-Man was perfect.

That’s all. Enjoy the rest of your day.

I’m the biggest geek…

I’m such a big sci-fi geek.

My daughter is getting married in a couple of weeks. It’s a very exciting time, of course, but today I’ve got some down time and I’m scrolling through some of my favorite sites and I stumble across this video clip.

It’s from the original Doctor Who series. The Doctor, played by William Hartnell, the first actor to play the character, says goodbye to his granddaughter Susan.

I know this clip. I’ve seen it many times but watching it just now… well… it really got me right in the feels, you know?

However, I might just incorporate some of what the Doctor says in my speech to the bride and groom. If only I could actually give it from the TARDIS control room.

I never knew these were a thing…

Wedding Bubbles

You see these things? I bought a hundred and twenty of them yesterday. My daughter wanted them.

So what are these things?

My daughter is getting married at the end of this month and the place where her wedding is being held doesn’t like people throwing rice or confetti. It’s too much work to clean up afterwards and wedding parties rarely stick around to clean up after themselves. So what’s the alternative?

Bubbles! Wedding guest now blow bubbles instead of throwing rice or confetti. An apparently it’s a common enough thing that companies market tiny bottles of bubble soap specifically for weddings. The kind that I got hold eight bottles per package. I bought 15 packages.

120 little tiny bubble soap bottles. I had no idea that this was even a thing until I picked them up yesterday.

And it just so happens that the local store that sells them just happened to get a double order a couple of days ago, much more than they usually get. So when my wife called asking about them they had just enough for our needs.

So it was meant to be. Now we just have to decorate them so they look pretty and match the wedding’s color scheme.

Next item to get: little hanging baskets. What are those? I have no idea. But I’ll find out and then buy a whole bunch of them.

Vampirella: Character or Commodity?

(This is a cross post with the AMAZING STORIES MAGAZINE website where I blog as MD Jackson)

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gonzalez6ftposterPoor Vampirella.

You look at her and you think that she’s free to do what she wants, that she is in charge of her own destiny. The truth is, she is merely a commodity, bought and sold like so much chattel. She is a slave dancing to the whims of her cruel master, who, at this time, is Dynamite Entertainment.

Like a slave from bygone times she has had several owners throughout her miserable life. She has been bought, used up and then sold off to the next buyer.

But it’s not just her alone. All fictional characters are owned by somebody and most of the ones that everyone knows about have likely been bought and sold at least once. They are properties of their creators or their publishing or other entertainment companies and will be until they get so old that they get to enjoy a kind of retirement when they finally slip into the green pasture known as Public Domain.

It was September of 1969, just after the “Summer of Love”. Flower children everywhere were basking in the warm glow of the apex of the hippie era, blissfully unaware of the harsh cold winter that was about to come upon them. It was a time of great upheaval and social change and Forrest J. Ackerman thought: “Hey! We need a sexy vampire woman!”

vampi_trina_robbinsInspired by Jean-Claude Forest’s science fiction heroine Barbarella, who had been made into a film the year before by Roger Vadim, starring his then wife Jane Fonda, Forrest J. Ackerman and James Warren of Warren Publishing came up with the idea of a “vampire-ella” as a counterpoint to the ghoulish male presenters of Warren’s comic magazines Eerie and Creepy.

Ackerman and Warren took the idea to artist Trina Robbins who came up with the general look and a costume which would suggest a vampire’s usual attire but be kind of bathing suit-like to show off Vampirella’s physical attributes.

They took this idea to a rising star in the art world, a powerhouse of an artist named Frank Frazetta. Robbins described the outfit and Frazetta provided the first illustration of the character. Frazetta’s interpretation of Vampirella from Trina Robbin’s description gave her more of some things and less of others… like clothing.

frazetta_vampirella69sep“His original cover art of Vampirella looked a lot like my idea,” Trina Robbins said. “but her costume shrunk.”

With each issue the men drawing the sexy heroine seemed to find ways to make the costume smaller to show off more of Vampirella’s other assets. “By now it doesn’t bear any resemblance to what I designed.” Robbins says.

Vampirella began life as a slightly tacky bit of titillation used to introduce the real horror stories in the early issues of the magazine that bore her name. Eventually, though she grew into a strong character in her own right with her own entourage of supporting cast – both heroes and villains. As time passed the focus was less and less on the traditional horror story and more on the Vampirella story, which quickly established itself as the lead story and the cover page subject.

Jim Warren had the good sense to recognize real artistic talent and many of the top writers and artists in comic book history were published in Vampirella. The one artist who stood out head and shoulders over the rest and who’s art defined Vampirella for decades to come was José “Pepe” Gonzalez, a talented artist originally from Barcelona, Spain.

barbaraleigh-fjaThe magazine was a big success and it ran for 112 issues, finally ending its run in 1983 with the demise of Warren Publishing. After a period in limbo Harris Comics bought the Vampirella title and launched her back into the spotlight.

Their first foray was a “continuation” of the Warren magazine format with issue #113, which had limited success. As such, it is one of the most sought after and rare Vampirella comics. Having tested the water, Harris then produced a range of comics, trade paperbacks, and magazines as well as various peripheral items such as statues and trading cards.

After a steady decline in sales Harris Publishing decided that the Vampirella character was no longer a viable concern. In 2010 Vampirella was sold to Dynamite Entertainment. Dynamite kicked off a new look Vampirella with a monthly series in November 2010.

talisa-soto-2In her time as a comic book icon Vampirella has been drawn by many artists and portrayed by a multitude of models and other pin-up girls. Hammer films tried to turn the property into a movie in 1976. Plans were to have Peter Cushing and John Gielgud in supporting roles to Barbara Legh’s Vampirella. Sadly the project fell through as did Hammer Films shortly afterward.

Vampirella eventually did make it into the movies, albeit not in such a big way. Roger Corman produced a direct-to-video Vampirella in 1996. The film was done on the cheap and it looks it (Vampirella’s outfit looks like an off-the-rack plastic Halloween costume). Former Bond Girl Talisa Soto was cast as Vampirella, despite not having quite the same… assets.

Poor Vampirella. She has been bought and sold, exploited by men, forced to wear a skimpy, barely-there costume, had her origin story changed several times, had her memories stolen, altered and returned to her, and still she goes on working for her cruel masters, providing cheap titillation for the fanboy masses.

When will her suffering end? Will she ever reach the promised land of the Public Domain?

Okay, maybe I’ve pushed the slave metaphor a bit too far. Maybe I’m trying too hard to make some sort of salient and profound point in order to turn this post into something more than just an excuse to show pictures of Vampirella. Then again, Ralph Waldo Emerson said that beauty is it’s own excuse for being. Maybe we can say the same about Vampirella?

Or maybe I’ll just be quiet and you can look at the pictures.

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McDonald’s Minions: A Trick of the Ear

Sometimes we hear what we want to.

Recently McDonald’s came out with a line of toys for their Happy Meals based on the upcoming movie MINIONS.

You know the minions, right? Those little yellow capsule shaped critters that speak a nonsense language that has been dubbed “minionese” Well, the little toy in the Happy Meal speaks some of these nonsense phrases when you tap it on the butt and a lot of people think that one of the phrases sounds an awful lot like the little critter is saying “what the fuck?” Videos are being posted on youtube with parents tapping the little toys’ butts and making it say phrases until it gets to the one that sounds offensive. “That’s not a phrase that kids should be hearing from a toy,” they intone reproachfully. “Seriously, McDonald’s?” they scold.

What the fuck?

Seriously, parents? Do you honestly think that a huge mega-corporation like McDonald’s would do that? Deliberately distribute a toy that utters profane phrases in an attempt to corrupt the youth of America?

Seriously, people?

McDonald’s is a corporation whose dominance of the fast food market is not the sure thing it once was. They have been scrambling in the past few years to combat their image as a major contributor to the nation’s obesity and heart disease problems. They have enough trouble trying to justify the huge amounts of crappy food they sell to impressionable youths around the world.

The last thing they need is a scandal involving a cursing toy.

But people hear what they want to hear. Or, more accurately, people hear what they are used to hearing. If a minion toy says a phrase with an inflection that sounds like another sentence with the same inflection we hear the sentence we are most used to hearing. Recently Taylor Swift released a song called Blank Space. In it she had a lyric about having a long list of ex-lovers.

Well, most people don’t have a long list of ex-lovers, so they tried to interpret the lyrics based on their day-to-day experiences. Thus “I’ve got a long list of ex-lovers” in their minds was transmuted to “Gotta love those Starbuck’s lovers”

What the fuck?

Like a trick of the eye, this is a trick of the ear. We hear what makes most sense to us. After all, who doesn’t love a Starbuck’s lover?

When my kids were young my daughter had a toy bat from the animated movie Anastasia. The bat spoke with a Peter Lorre type accent and it said a handful of different phrases from the film including one that we couldn’t quite make out. It sounded like the Peter Lorre bat was telling us to “…buy some tequila.”

Once we saw the film we realized that what it was actually saying was: “Stress… it’s a killer!”. Which doesn’t make much sense on its own but in the context of the film made some sort of sense (kind of). It’s funny what a bad recording can turn itself into in the fertile mind.

It’s like that classic song from the early sixties by the Kingsmen. Louie, Louie, the song made famous by the movie Animal House, had lyrics that were barely intelligible. The Kingsmen’s lead singer, Jack Ely, slurred his way through the infamous rhythm and blues song in one take.. The unintelligible lyrics l;ed to speculation that it was done intentionally to cover up the profanity laden lyrics that graphically described the sexual congress of a sailor and his lady. The song became so notorious even the FBI had some agents investigating it to see if it was, in fact, lewd and depraved.

Even J. Edgar’s finest had to finally admit that the lyrics were unintelligible gibberish.

But people heard what they wanted to hear. Kids wanted to believe that these raucous singers were singing about things that were forbidden, playing into their narratives of raging hormones. For their parents it played into their narrative of the rock and roll music phenomenon being a danger to their pure and chaste children. They found it easy to believe that it was a menace, deliberately corrupting America’s youth.

That’s probably why today’s parents believe that McDonald’s minion toys are teaching their kids to speak profanity. It’s happening, after all. Children all over North America are offering up expletives that would make sailors blush. Parents have to blame somebody (not themselves, of course, they are blameless victims!) so why not an evil corporate giant who is easily made the villain because of the way that their fast food outlets made them and their kids fat.

Never mind about personal choice. Never mind about taking responsibility for one’s own actions or eating habits, or, now, their lack of vigilance when it comes to uttering profanity in front of their darling offspring. No! Blame the villain! Blame corporate culture for filling our kids ears with hateful profanity!

Yeah, that’s the ticket!

What the fuck?