Monday, March 30, 2015

Ruegger, Minton Others Salute Liz Holtzman

Artist Liz Holtzman, who passed away last August from cancer, was honored yesterday for her life and work. I knew Liz from Warner Bros. back in the day. She was a talented artist with a sly sense of humor. As attested by family and friends, her presence, as well as her contributions to art, animation and music, will be missed.
Tom Minton and I. (Photo: Tom Ruegger)

R. to L.: Grant Moran, Bob Goodman, Audu Paden (standing), Tom Ruegger, Bob Goodman's wife, myself.   (Photo: A Nice Man,)
Speaking of contributions, here is one of my favorite Liz Holtzman directing efforts from Animaniacs.

h/t: wakkofrankie's channel

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

TVIT with Mindy Sterling

Powerful podcasting signals fill the air.

That Voice Over Improv Thing is back again with actress Mindy Sterling, Austin Powers film regular. What form of improvisational comedy mayhem will be unleashed? Ah, but that is up to you—the audience—for upon your suggestions will the players play. A chat window will be open on the TVIT website for you to engage.
Paul Rugg Will Be Present

Of course he will, along with regulars such as Roger Eschbacher, man and author, and the rest of the cast working under the able direction of Deanna Oliver. Podcasting tonight March 25 at 8:00 PM Pacific Time. Listen and absorb mirth.

Image: Ideabank Marketing

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

TV Animation Blues

The Grindstone

And softcover book blues and marketing copy blues. After months of underemployment, I've been barraged with assignments from multiple sources for the last forty days. Seven day work weeks, deadline after deadline. Marketing pays quickly. TV Animation pays on geological time. eBooks don't pay much after you cycle through family and friends.

50ZG softcover books were ordered by a client who fronted money to cover costs. But the deadline from zero to a one-hundred and seventy-four page manuscript is razor thin with no room for error.

My wife sits in our living room now cursing up a storm as she attempts to check the design on the book. We decided to tack on the first chapter of The Dunwich Diversity Seminar, my next tome coming out in eBook and softcover in time for Halloween. It's the Lovecraftian story of a monstrous cult seeking to unleash horrid creatures from another dimension and the only one who can save the Earth is a grad student party girl.

Now I've wasted time writing a complaining blog post. Back in.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Prices Slashed for 50ZG

Snag a copy of Fifty Shades of Zane Grey this Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning and save 76%. Yes, it's March Mayhem here and I must use or lose my Kindle Countdown, so why not now? I'm giving away this arch satire of 'Fifty Shades' for ninety-nine cents. That's under a buck for an eye-brow quirking eBook parody of E.L. James set in the wild west. You don't need to know the original story and you don't need a Kindle. Clever Amazon offers a simple downloadable app that'll allow you to read the romantic frontier tales of innocent bumbling Anna Ironhead on your laptop, phone or tablet.

Kindle Countdown Savings

This Kindle Countdown discount continues all week through March 27. Here's the breakdown:

Fri. March 20 8:00 AM Pacific Time to Sun. March 21 1:00 PM 
Save 76% as you pay only .99. That's less than a dollar for a parody powerhouse guaranteed to put a smile on your unbitten lips.

Sun. March 22 1:00 PM to Wed. March 24 6:00 PM
You still save 51% and pay only $1.99. That's two bucks for an eBook taking the lumber to head-cocking, and bag out tea. 

Wed. March 24 6:00 PM to Fri. March 27 midnight 
You're still in line for a bargain. Save 26%, paying a mere $2.99. That's three bucks for a tale proving that love can be painful, especially if wearing a mule harness.

Softcover Book Coming Soon

Old school books are still king. If you prefer the feel of durable paper in your hands as you read of the romance between a railroad tycoon and a hapless dishwasher, then stand by for the softcover book release coming Friday, April 3. For more information, keep an eye on this blog, the 50ZG page, or drop me a line at

Thank you and enjoy yourself this weekend in such manner as you find suitable. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Noble Artist

Jamie Noble will grace the cover of your book with artwork. Fine decent 2D art. Most people do judge a book by it's cover and that's why it's vital to have the right image. Give his website a look.
Artist: Jamie Noble

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Salute

In honor of my Irish family, I present a cut from a 33 rpm album—an old thing played on a machine producing music—that must've been worn down to 45 rpm single—a smaller old thing—from all the times it was played in my house. Happy St. Patrick's Day and here are Carmel Quinn and Arthur Godfrey with a jaunty tune from way back in the day:

h/t: #CarmelQuinn

Monday, March 16, 2015

King Bach Captures Denzel

If you think Denzel Washington is an 'ok' 'all right' actor, then you're at the right spot as comic King Bach satirizes Washington in Flight. Just when you think the video has peaked, they up the ante. Very funny.

h/t: BatcherlorsPadTv 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Smokin' Hot Chicago Marathon 2007

In honor of tomorrow's LA Marathon and the record temperatures slated to vex runners, I repost once more my account of a hot, humid marathon where the water stations ran dry and the course was closed. Let's hope such a doom does not befall the City of Angels. All the best to participants, especially the San Gabriel Valley Marathon Team in Training. You guys are champions of a most noble variety.

First reposted October 8, 2013 as Chicago Marathon 2007 where I said that six years earlier, I had run  my third marathon in Chicago. Or, at least, I had attempted such a feat.

Here's my  initial 2007 race report originally posted under the heading Sweat Home Chicago.

All three entries are pretty much the same. Note: "TNT" stands for Team in Training.

Marathon number three continued my tradition of only running marathons with temperature extremes. At dawn it was an overcast, humid 75 degrees and climbing. My niece dropped me off near the lake-front start line around 7:00 AM. I checked my gear, loosened up with T'ai Chi, then stood in a tightly-packed brick of humanity waiting for the 8:00 gun. As the overcast dissolved into popcorn-shaped clouds, the sun rose above Lake Michigan. It felt like a furnace door opening.

Because of crowd size, it took me 20 minutes to cross the mat.

Interesting Stat:

The Chicago Marathon sold out all 45,000 spots back in April.

But only 35,867 passed the start line Sunday morning. That means 9,133 people figured out it was too stinking hot to run.

Lots of TNT runners from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, New York City and even Louisiana.

The field was so packed it was tough to interval. Those who intervaled clashed with those who viewed the far right of the course as a passing lane. My goal was a 4 hour and 40 minute marathon. I aimed to interval four minutes running/ and one walking up to the half-marathon mark, then see how I felt.

Leaving Grant Park, the course turned onto LaSalle Street just past Mile 2 and headed north. No water at the first stop — they'd run out. There was a mob around the folding tables, shaking gallon water jugs to get the last drops. The surrounding street was littered with flattened Gatorade and Hinkley water cups from the preceding runners. (Wet, flat plastic cups are like ice. You had to watch your footing.) People were highly pissed — especially those without water belts. (I'd brought mine.) One runner had a bottle of Gatorade. He took a sip, passed it back to me. I took a sip and passed it on to another runner. This no-water business boded ill.

Running for several miles on LaSalle, you'd get an occasional breeze through the tall buildings. I'd take off my visor and savor the cool air. Then out into Lincoln Park where the water stations remained a problem. Runners were surging across the street to the first one they saw. Sometimes there was only Gatorade. Other times, volunteers couldn't keep up with demand and runners served themsevles. Whenever possible, I grabbed two cups, drinking one and dumping the other over my head. (In today's Chicago Tribune, the race director blamed runners for the water shortages, citing those who took two cups.)

Around mile eight, I saw an old white-haired runner drift off course and ask a spectator if he could sit in his lawn chair. (The guy helped him down.) By now, sirens whooped all over the city as ambulances rushed the first heat casualties to the hospital.

The heat was getting to me. For the moment, I slowed but kept the same interval. But as we turned west onto Adams, the shade disappeared. No tall buildings, no leafy tree-lined streets with brick apartments. I passed a medical tent and it was full: runners on cots and others holding ice bags to their heads. Past the half-way point, I started tossing out goals like a passenger on a sinking boat dumping freight. Dropping to a 3:1 run/walk, I slowed pace even more. After frying my brain in Honolulu two years ago, I listened to my body and if it said walk more, I did.

We doubled-back east on Jackson and finally found a little shade. Turning south on Halsted to mile 17, I was mostly walking. I'd pick a point and run to it, or run half a mile, or choose a runner going about my speed and tag along. I took another salt tablet, but skipped goo as it made me retch.

Somewhere around mile 18, the cops bull-horned that the race had been cancelled. No finishing times would be official. Please walk. There was a great deal of confusion. By now, the city had opened up fire hydrants and fire trucks stood at certain intersections hosing down the crowd. (Not to mention ordinary Chicago citizens with garden hoses doing the same.) Finally, in the Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen, around mile 19 it sunk into the vast majority of runners that the 2007 Chicago Marathon was toast — just like them. Some runners dropped out at the nearest medical tent where they'd be bussed back to the start line. Some ran on. A nasty rumor surfaced that we wouldn't get medals. This put me into a black mood.

Come what may, I was determined to finish. Because my legs hurt, I ran 1:1 off and on to around mile 22, then walked to mile 26. Along with many others, I ran the final .02 because there were cameras present. 24,933 runners crossed the finish line.

And they did give out medals.

I finished in 5 hours, 48 minutes and 23 seconds. Check the Comments of my previous post where Jeff Carroll has listed my unofficial splits.

One man died and over 300 were hospitalized for heat injuries.

The people lining the route were great. Many offered water or ice cubes, staying on to cheer in the heat long after the race was called.

As for the "other" race — the front end of the marathon where people actually had a chance to win — Kenyan Patrick Ivuti beat Moroccan Jaouad Gharib by .05 of a second. (2:11:11) The top woman's finisher, Ethiopian Berhane Adere edged Roumanian Adriana Pertea in the homstretch. Pertea thought she had the race knocked, and eased off, waving to the crowd as she neared the finish. Adere poured on the coal to catch and pass Pertea for the win. (2:33:49.)

Given my injuries since April, I couldn't think of a better race to cancel. But if I'd been a TNTer who'd fund-raised and trained for this moment, or a runner eager to pr, I'd be supremely miffed at Sunday's outcome. For over a week, I'd been tracking the temperature. I knew it would be hot and humid. Hence, the race organizers did also. I find it hard to believe they couldn't increase the amount of water stations, change the start time to earlier, or better prepare for the heat onslaught they knew was coming. The Honolulu Marathon faces these conditions every year. No one could pick up a phone?

In any case: mission accomplished. After 30 years, I finally finished the Chicago Marathon.

Thanks to Ryan, Raul, Jeff and K for the emails. I'm walking around fine after sleeping eleven hours last night.

As for now, I'm not looking at any marathons before next fall in Pasadena. But don't tell anyone I'm entering.

They'll kick me out to avoid extreme weather.

(All photos courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Killer Conan Podcast


The Barbarian recalled in an epic seven hours of podcasting, courtesy of The Projection Booth. Explore all aspects of the world's favorite Cimmerian, from the Robert E. Howard short stories to John Milius, to sword and sorcery in general.   Sup upon music and a wealth of video clips. But the steaming raw meat of the thing will be host Mike White's commentary, aided by fellow podcasters El Goro and John Hadley.

As aficionados may observe, I have chosen a Frank Frazetta art piece that once graced the paperback cover of Howard's re released Conan canon many years ago. (That's quite a sentence.) I remarked on Frank here.

So flex your thews and enjoy this multimedia feast. But know you must supply your own lamenting women.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Do You Hate 50 Shades?

My '50 Shades' satire punches the lights out of E.L. James' clunky, cliched prose as well as mocking her homage to rich stalkers. Set in the old west, Fifty Shades of Zane Grey lampoons the blockbuster  trilogy that led to a blockbuster movie telling the tale of a lip-biting young woman who battles a bad case of murmuring, a railroad tycoon who wants to beat her, and an Inner Canadian Goose pecking at the inside of her head at the most inappropriate times.


You've expressed your outrage via Amazon reviews. You've scratched your head in bewilderment at friends dashing off to see the film. You've threatened your own daughters with a phoneless future if they even think of reading James' turgid prose—basically Twilight fan fic: substitute rich guy for vampire and you got Fifty Shades. (Except there's no Indian werewolves, but there is a sap who loves the main chick and gives new meaning to dorky unrequited love.)


Your moment has arrived to read the one parody that dares mock the 50 Shades colossus for only $3.99. And starting next week you can enjoy the laughs and save 76% off the eBook price. No Kindle, no problem. Amazon WANTS you to buy my book and will provide you with an easy-to-install app that allows reading on your computer, laptop, Apple Watch, whatevs. Lo, the time of savings draws near:

Starting Fri. March 20 8:00 AM Pacific Time to
Sun. March 21 1:00 PM pay only .99. That's less than a dollar for a parody powerhouse guaranteed to put a smile on your unbitten lips.

Sun. March 22 1:00 PM to
Wed. March 24 6:00 PM save 51% and pay only $1.99. That's two bucks for an eBook taking the lumber to head-cocking, and bag out tea. 

Wed. March 24 6:00 PM to
Fri. March 27 midnight you still save 26%, paying a mere $2.99. That's three bucks for a tale proving that love is not easy, especially when you end up wearing a mule harness. 

Mark your calendar. Even if you don't take advantage of this amazing discount, mark your calendar anyway. It's fun and beefs up your fine motor skills. 

Join the growing tide of Anti 50 Shaders. Read Fifty Shades of Zane Grey and bask in the satisfaction that you were right and all those who loved the book were higher than old hippies in Colorado. 

Have fun!  

Saturday, March 07, 2015

50ZG eBook Promo

Despite no interest from Hollywood, Fifty Shades of Zane Grey will be advertised tonight on the silver screen. Only one silver screen and it's in Barrington, Illinois. But from the smallest of cells life multiplied and flourished upon the Earth. Many thanks to Tim O'Connor, owner of The Catlow Movie Theater and an old high school chum. Tim crafted a nifty 15 second promo that he'll show before tonight's feature. It's almost like a film debut, except there's no movie. But haggling over details gets us nowhere. Here's what the promo will look like.

Friday, March 06, 2015

T.C. Boyle Aces Award

Author T. Coraghessian Boyle stands to snag a Los Angeles Times Book Award. According to USC:

"Boyle, writer in residence and distinguished professor emeritus of English at the USC Dornslife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, will receive the Robert Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement. His books include The Woman, Drop City, The Tortilla Curtain, East is East, and The Road to Wellville. 

Read more here. 

Boyle was my creative writing mentor at USC. Four times a semester one of your short stories would be selected for review and discussion by the class.

How T.C. Boyle Ran a Class

As an author, you had to sit there and take-it, Boyle's reasoning being that you wouldn't be hanging around a magazine or book editor's office explaining what you meant. The piece stood on it's own merits. If it didn't have any, it fell. With a wit drier than a Santa Ana wind, he would moderate the discussions, limit the undergrad snark, and try and draw out from the class what he discerned as the story's strong and weak points. Post-discussion, you would receive Boyle's written critique on the back of your pages as well as a letter grade. Spelling and punctuation counted. This was pre-texting, so university students could still spell—most of them. 

Boyle's Picks and World's End

When we weren't writing or reading other classmate stories, we read the fiction Boyle assigned. Not his own, though many of us went out and bought Budding Prospects or Greasy Lake. He introduced us to authors such as Raymond Carver and Flannery O'Connor. Carver's short story "Cathedral" still resonates as does O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find."At the time, Boyle was doing research for World's End and would tell us after class of visiting amputee wards. At the time, it seemed pretty gruesome. But when you read the book, you can see how his research lends itself to the story.

The Killing Fields and T.C. Boyle 

I was to see plenty of amputees fifteen years later when I traveled to Cambodia for a project with Warner Bros., the State Department, and USAID. (An adventure I will write about eventually.) My companions and I visited a killing field outside of Phnom Penh. Around 15,000 people were killed there by the communist Khmer Rouge in the 1970s: shot, strangled, buried alive, or with their heads sawed off on the serrated branches of sugar palms. There are bones embedded in trees, bones baked into the ground. Around this former orchard, there are mass graves still to be exhumed. And in case you haven't absorbed enough genocide, there is a stupa—Buddhist shrine—containing five thousand skulls. That was a fairly depressing tour, more darkly numbing than visiting the U.S. Postal Museum. Naturally, the killing fields had their own gift shop. You could buy old Khmer Rouge currency, a selection of Red Stars and a small number of books. 

One of those books was World's End—in German. 

I thought, 'you gotta be kidding me,' but then figured why not Boyle? I laughed and wished I could tell him. I think he would've dug a most surreal moment. 

In any case, his class was my favorite, the high point of my scholastic week. I congratulate Professor Boyle on his latest award and wish him well on the next book. And remember to look alive in the Third World—Boyle is everywhere. 

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

So long, Jeff Carroll

2006 San Diego Marathon. Jeff is the burly guy looking to camera. 

Ten years ago during my Team in Training running days, I met Jeff Carroll. Jeff was around my age, a painting contractor, college athlete—soccer, then he became a place kicker for some football team  here in California— married with teenage sons, and a big Notre Dame fan. His sister was also present on that San Gabriel Marathon Team, raising money to fight leukemia and lymphoma while training to finish 26.2 miles.

That fall, Jeff was putting in the miles for the Phoenix Marathon, while I was gearing up to run Honolulu. In spring, he'd already notched the LA Marathon and was a distance running veteran, with lots of sound advice for rookies like me. (Jeff taught me to carry plastic leaf bags on long runs as a poor man's raincoat, as well as a handy disposable warm-up jacket for races.)

He was a grounded guy, down-to-earth—families will do that for you. We shared long runs talking about home equity and our jobs and the aches and pains of middle age. Completing our races, we reupped for another round with TNT, signing up for the San Diego Marathon. I was determined to better my Honolulu time. Jeff advised me not to push it, but I knew better. I hurt my knee, recovered, then broke a bone in my foot. No marathon for me that year. 

I can't remember if Jeff signed up for the fall 2006 marathon team. (I did and trained for the 2007 Phoenix Marathon.) But he used to read this blog and would stop by every now and then with a remark or a word of congratulations when I set some pr. We eventually fell out of touch. 

Today I learned Jeff died from cancer.

While we were never super close, I can't help but feel diminished. Jeff was good guy, steady, loved by his family. I would have liked to see him stack up another decade or two, but that's the way things roll. No guarantees. Still, Jeff seemed to have wrung a great deal out of the years that he had.

So good-bye, teammate. May God welcome you into the Great Beyond where there's no such thing as  a sore IT band and the water stations serve beer and it doesn't hurt your time. 

Photo: Mark McQuaid

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Review: Quartered Safe Out Here

Quartered Safe Out Here: A Harrowing Tale of World War IIQuartered Safe Out Here: A Harrowing Tale of World War II by George MacDonald Fraser
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Author Fraser served in the English forces toward the end of the Second World War, fighting in Burma with an infantry outfit. His recollections of battle, hardship, his mates and the Japanese enemy are vividly rendered, as you might expect from a lifelong journalist and author of the Flashman series. Fraser is delightfully non-P.C., holding no regrets for his service, seeking no self-pity, and believing in the justice of his cause.

And while this is a quick, insightful read on a little-known aspect of World War II, my only quarrel is with the author's ear. He accurately depicts the words and phrases of his North Country comrades. But in this case, accuracy clashes with readability as the mangled vowels and consonants slow down the flow and occasionally jar you off the page.

That aside, an interesting non-fiction look at a forlorn corner of the war that was no less deadly for it's obscurity.

View all my reviews

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