Saturday, January 31, 2009

What's That Raccoon Doing in PetSmart?

Believe it or not, those words came out of my mouth last night.

As I would later find out (by reading the sign near the bottom of the cage), I was staring at a chinchilla. It appeared to be a cross between a rabbit, mouse, and a squirrel, with more hair than all three combined. Apparently, chinchillas have as much as 50 hairs per follicle to our 1 hair per follicle.

This was quite a revelation for me, because I thought I'd seen all manner of house pet in my thirty years: dogs, cats, snakes, mice, turtles, newts and other lizard-type things, birds, tigers, etc. Thanks to a little wikipedia research, I discovered that chinchillas are rodents; are nocturnal but adaptable to daytime living; lack the ability to sweat; and if frightened, they spray urine at their would-be assailant. A friend of my mine did that using a water gun once, but that's a different story...

Oh, and they take what are called dust bathes, where they roll around in a special kind of pumice (domesticated) or the dust of volcanic rocks (wild), to clean themselves. Because of their overabundance of hair (which is resistant to fleas), they shouldn't get wet.

No joke, but the one I saw last night was able to leap four feet into the air without a running start. I shouldn't say that, because the 76ers might try to sign it.

It would have been great to bring it home, but our German Shorthaired Pointer would have probably scared it to death.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Preditors & Editors Being Sued

The title of the post says it all. Preditors & Editors is being sued, my guess would be for libel.

If you've never tried to find an agent or a publisher to submit fiction to, you probably don't know what P&E is. Basically, it's a website that lists tons of agents and book publishers, among many other things. It's a great resource, because P&E isn't shy about telling you if an agent is a suspected scam-artist, or if that new publisher that just offered you a deal on your book engages in some questionable business practices.

P&E relies upon user feedback in making its recommendations, but I believe they also do their own independent research in many cases.

The only thing that surprises me is it took this long for P&E to be sued. That's both a good thing and a bad thing for them. On the one hand, they're being sued. But on the other, it means they're starting to get noticed and they're being taken seriously enough for their opinion to matter.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

David Lean Knew How To Make A Movie

Sir David Lean is my favorite director of all time. The guy knew how to shoot a film and make it BIG. He wasn't afraid, like a lot of directors seem to be nowadays, to make a movie "cinematic" and demand that his audience be intelligent.

We watched A Passage to India last night. It was one of those movies I wanted to see but kept pushing off, because of its lukewarm critical reception. Good, but not great, seemed to be what everybody said about the film. Almost an afterthought in Lean's oeuvre.

And for the first hour or so, I was in agreement. APTI, despite the typical Lean flourishes of loads of extras, exotic locales, and theatrical dialogue, came off as a very "modest" film in the early-going. That's probably more a result of the source material (the novel by E.M. Forster is excellent by the way), than anything Lean was doing, but still, the film felt big while the story felt small.

But slowly, inexorably, the story caught up to the film. APTI became less about images and dynamic moments, though Lean's handiwork is marvelous throughout, and more about emotion. Thematically, APTI constantly asks somewhat rhetorically "Are we able to connect with other human beings?" and alternatively answers the question, retracts its answer, subverts the answer and the retraction, and ultimately leaves it up to us to decide. It was the perfect way to present Forster's famous, succinct command: "Only connect," while showing us just how simple and yet difficult that can be. In Forster's mind, it is only through relationships that we are able to grow, that we are able to see our own strengths and shortcomings, and that are we able to become better people.

Read the book, see the movie. Or, see the movie, read the book. Each is wonderful enough not to spoil the other. APTI is not Lean's best, but it's a close second to Lawrence of Arabia and The Bridge on the River Kwai so long as you're not waiting for sweeping battles and epic journeys across time and country. APTI just might be Lean's most personal work, though I have to qualify that by saying I have not seen much of his pre-Bridge films, including Great Expectations.

Monday, January 26, 2009

If You're Up 59-0 At The Half, It's Time To Lay Off The Full-Court Press

Texans are tough. Especially the women.

In Texas, The Covenant School's women's basketball team scored 100 points more than the opposing team from Dallas Academy in a recent game.

Can you guess how many points Dallas Academy scored?


I'm not making this up.

Final score: 100-0.

The score at half-time was 59-0, and I'm not quite sure when they stopped, but the winning team continued to full court press and bomb threes well into the rout.

I don't know who to feel sorrier for, the team that scored 100 points or the team that scored 0 points. And what was Covenant's coach thinking?

The Covenant School has since requested its win be turned into a forfeit.


The Covenant School has since fired the coach responsible for the massacre. Special thanks to Jenna for spotting the story this morning ;)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Pleasant Return to John D. MacDonald

During my formative years, i.e. when I had no money of my own, I had to find a way to satiate my quickly-forming literary addiction. My Dad, an avid reader in his own right, had amassed a vast collection of fiction, most of it falling into the suspense, thriller, and/or crime genres. So naturally, all I had to do when I was ready for a new book or author was venture upstairs and dig one off the shelves.

It was thus that I introduced myself to John D. MacDonald, most famous for his 21-novel Travis McGee series. Between the ages of twelve and fourteen, I devoured whatever MacDonald novel I could find in the house, and when I exhausted the supply, I moved on to a different author.

Fast forward seventeen years. Thanks to Adrian McKinty and Peter Rozovsky's fantastic blog, Detectives Beyond Borders, my interest in literate crime fiction was very recently renewed, and ever since I've been looking for good books to read in the genre.

I don't know how I remembered MacDonald, but somehow, the appropriate reaction in the appropriate synapse sparked the appropriate memory recall, and so I went to Barnes & Noble with gift card in hand, excited to reintroduce myself to John D.

I picked out two of his novels, One Fearful Yellow Eye and The Deep Blue Good-By, and just finished the former. Both feature MacDonald's most well-known protagonist, Travis McGee.

OFYE was both a good read and a very interesting experience. About twenty pages in, I recognized a few passages and realized I had already read it but didn't remember how it all turned out. MacDonald's stories are lean and move quickly, mostly thanks to a lot of dialogue. Maybe I was still feeling his literary influence, albeit subconsciously, when I was writing The Unearthed, which my editor tells me is dialogue-heavy.

The book was filled with sexual innuendo, and everyone, of course, wanted to sleep with the hero; but even more startling was the fact that everyone aside from the protagonist had some kind of unhealthy sexual past affecting their current lives. This was all a bit too much in pushing the boundaries of verisimilitude, and looking back now, I can't believe Dad let me read this book when I was twelve years old. (Wink, wink: Thanks, Dad)

What impressed me most about MacDonald's writing was, however, the style itself. It was literary, yet virile. A man's man telling a man's story with flashes of brilliance throughout, that caught the eye but never pulled me out of the story:

"Maybe we all mete out to ourselves our little rewards and punishments according to our very private and unique systems of guilt and self-esteem...So when you skip the cream pie and pass up the chocolate shake and deny yourself the home fried, you begin to think that, by God, you have a right to the Cherries Jubilee."

It was with some trepidation that I had returned to MacDonald, I'll admit. The years have not been kind to many of the things I enjoyed as a youth, as I suppose is true for everybody. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much I still enjoyed MacDonald, even though my artistic sensibilities have changed quite a lot since then.

Note: MacDonald wrote 78 novels, one of which was the basis for both versions of Cape Fear.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I'm Prepared To Get LOST Tonight

LOST returns tonight to ABC. I think the recap starts at 8:00 PM EST. Let's hope it's not another pop-up video summary of all that's happened. After that, the season premiere starts at 9:00 PM EST.

I'm pretty excited for a couple of resaons. First, it's LOST. Enough said, right? Second, I've avoided anything and everything LOST for the past seven months since the last season ended. I've seen exactly zero teasers or previews on TV, and I've stayed away from any internet sites and podcasts that might contain information about it.

I'm going into this one blind, and that's the only way to watch a good show or a good movie as far as I'm concerned.

Anybody else looking forward to this? And please, if you're going to post, no mentioning of what you might have seen in a trailer, online, etc. about this upcoming season. Or I'll have to kill you. We can discuss everything about the premiere tomorrow to our hearts' contents.

PS: How many of you think LOST is supposed to be an acronym?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lyrical Press Launches New Web Site

For those of you who don't know, or who have been consciously ignoring my attempts at shameless self-promotion, Lyrical Press is releasing my paranormal thriller, The Unearthed, on March 2, 2009 electronically.

Lyrical has just launched a new web site, and all vested interests aside (yeah, right), it looks pretty good.

Lyrical Press is a relatively young publishing house that offers stories from all genres, but specializes in erotica, romance, and paranormal fiction. Side Bar: The Unearthed is a paranormal thriller and does not in any way qualify as erotic or romantic. Unless by romantic you mean idealistic or heroic, in which case it still probably doesn't. Or unless you're into some really weird sexual stuff, it doesn't qualify as erotica either. As they say, kinky is when you use a feather; weird is when use the whole bird.

Lyrical is primarily an e-publisher, but certain select titles over 70,000 words do become available as Print-On-Demand if their sales merit it. (Pregnant pause)

If you get a moment, check out Lyrical's new site.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Pitfalls of Video-Gaming

Over the last few days, I was considering writing a review of the latest in the Guitar Hero series: Guitar Hero World Tour. It's a good game, even though it's more like Rock Band than Guitar Hero. Some of the songs on there aren't to my tastes, so I'm not in the least interested in perfecting my performance of them. But the same goes for everybody else that will play the game. The new finger-tapping is a good feature. I also like how the Career track is less linear than before. If there is a song, or a group of songs, you're not that into, you can in some instances skip them and go to the next set list. That's a nice feature, because no matter how into music you are, you're not going to like every random song some game developers picked for you to play. Finally, the song selection offers a nice mix of music from the last forty years.

I have some suggestions for the next installment:

Less songs featuring arpeggio. They're not fun to play. Think of songs with good riffs and blistering solos.

If you like the Guitar Hero series in general, you'll like this one.

Okay, with that out of the way, back to business. When I was researching for the post I didn't end up writing, i.e. reading the back of the Guitar Hero World Tour cover, I remembered that Activision co-produced the game. They brought us a little game called Pitfall!.

Twenty-seven years ago, Pitfall! was the game to play. If you owned an Atari, you owned Pitfall!. Probably in an attempt to cash in on the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Activision developed this game as a jungle adventure, in which our hero "Pitfall Harry" ran screen-to-screen in an attempt to collect all the treasures within a certain time period. Death waited for Harry on every screen in the form of snakes, scorpions, crocodiles, fire, tar pits, quicksand, rolling logs, and water. Yes, water. Harry was quite physically fit, adept at vine-swinging and jumping onto crocodiles, but he apparently never went to the pool at the Y while he was a member. Michael Phelps he was not.

To think that video games have gone from Pitfall! to Guitar Hero for as long as I've been alive is mind-blowing and a bit scary. Games like Pitfall! were designed as escapist fun. As a kid, I remember playing it and then going out into the backyard and running around like I was Pitfall Harry.

Nowadays, though, I don't think video games have the same effect. It seems like gamers would rather learn how to beat the expert level of Guitar Hero than learn how to play a guitar. When I was a wee lad, I couldn't travel to the jungles of South America, chase after treasure, and avoid death at every turn, so living those dreams vicariously (and safely) through Pitfall! made all the sense in the world. If I was a kid today and remotely interested in music, I think I would have begged and begged my parents for a guitar and some lessons rather than a video game.

On the other hand, video games are getting better in that they require players to be more active. I read somewhere that the Wii is a favorite among retirees, and some studies have shown its benefits in physical rehabilitation. People my age, who grew up on video games, are now purchasing the Wii Fit game as a way to exercise.

So there you have it. Video games can be bad and can be good, and they've changed a lot through twenty-seven years. I'll bet none of you knew that already.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Oh boy. Yesterday, Number Six passed away. Today, it was Khan.

Ricardo Montalban is one of the reasons why Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was such a great flick. He and Shatner played off each other very well. Much of Khan's more memorable dialogue is pulled straight out of the mouth of Captain Ahab from Moby Dick.

There's been a lot of debate as to whether Mr. Montalban was wearing a prosthetic over his chest to make himself look jacked in the role. I don't know what the truth is, but apparently, he was a physical fitness nut so I wouldn't be surprised if that was all him.

They say these things happen in threes, but I'd hate to see another cool, old school actor go.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Love of Language (More Blogs I Follow)

Many of you have figured out by now that Nate Green and I are pretty good friends. We go back longer than I care to admit. Nate's just started his own blog, 500 Words on Words, an exploration into all things language.

So far, Nate's already unleashed his first diatribe (of probably many), this one against the ridiculous, incorrect usage of the nominative case in a situation calling for the objective. I won't spoil it, but go check out his blog when you get a chance. You're in for a treat.

Just think: if you become a regular reader of his and Seana Graham's writings, your vocabulary will improve and you'll make fewer grammatical errors. Everybody wins.

Aside from being a language connoisseur, Nate plays the bagpipes, writes novels, and of course home brews.

Monday, January 12, 2009

My First Home Brew

God may have rested on the 7th day, but from now on, I'll be spending a lot of my 7th days brewing beer.

Yesterday was "my first step into a much larger world." A world where one doesn't necessarily have to go to the pub, corner deli, beer distributor, or state store to purchase beer. In this world, all things are possible, including making your own brew.

Nate Green, who's been home-brewing for a number of years, showed me the ropes yesterday. Brewing seems to be a combination of art and science, and as a neophyte, a lot more art in my case. We steeped grains, waited, made wort, put in the malt, waited till it came to a boil, dropped some hops, waited, dropped some more hops, put in the yeast, cold-broke the wort, and finally, poured the concoction into the fermenter, a.k.a. the plastic bucket I had bought six hours prior. Quite a lot of steps, but all in all, not that difficult. As you can see, it's a lot of waiting, but we passed the time shooting the breeze, and oh, drinking.

Home brewers rank up there with the Masons in terms of brotherhood and secrecy. As good a friend as Nate is, he was a bit reluctant to bring me into the club. But apparently the background check was clean, and begrudgingly, he allowed the profane (me) to enter the temple. After a tasting of the first batch, Nate will determine if I'm worthy enough to continue, at which point he'll show me the secret handshake.

Want to start brewing? Aside from the obvious (stainless steel pot, fermenters, thermometers, etc.), here's what you need:

1) Somebody that knows what the hell they're doing. For me, that was Nate, renaissance man extraordinaire.

2) Beer to drink. It's an unwritten rule and part of the "ritual," to use Mason-speak, that you have to drink beer while you brew. And be prepared. Getting the wort ready to ferment takes a few hours, so you'll be drinking over an extended period of time. You have to bring your A game. And related to that--

3) Have pop-off bottles ready. You can reuse commercial bottles for your brew, but they must be pop-offs. Better that they're brown bottles too, because brown lets in less light than green. (Wort/beer is photosensitive, but not as bad as I am at the beach without a shirt on.)

4) Time. Most of brewing is waiting, but as long as you have something to drink and somebody to rap with, it's time well-spent.

Funny anecdote:

Knowing that I would eventually need pop-off bottles, Nate and I stopped at the beer distributor in the hopes of finding a beer that a) we could drink while brewing, b) came in a brown bottle, and c) used a pop-off cap.

"Do you know which beers are pop-offs?" I asked Nate.

"Can't think of any off the top of my head. But most of them aren't," he said.

No joke, but we started our own Quixotic quest by wandering the aisles and looking at the cardboard cases to see if we could determine whether the bottles were pop-off.

I asked Nate, "Can you tell if any of these are pop-offs?"

"About as much as I can tell if they're twist-offs. Maybe we should look inside."

So we took to furtively opening the cases or reaching through the hand-holds to feel the bottle caps.

"Do you have any idea?"

"No," Nate said, chuckling.

Realizing how ridiculous we were being, we tried to figure out what beers would most likely be pop-offs.

We hovered around the specialty beers for awhile, assuming this was our best bet. We tried using the Force, but to no avail. Obi-Wan would be so ashamed. Dejected, I was about to purchase _______ (EDIT: removed to protect the innocent) but stopped when I saw it was $37 a case. I'm a man that loves his beer, but even that's a bit steep for me.

Very discouraged and now wearied, I decided to just buy anything we could drink and worry about finding the elusive perfect bottle in the future, but, to both our lucks, my eye caught a case of Amstel Light. I know, I know. It's light beer for sure, but it does taste good. I couldn't remember if it was pop-off, so shamefacedly, I carried it to the counter and asked the cashier if it was.

"Just try to open one up," he said.

So we could have just asked the whole time.

But we made out well: decent beer stored in brown bottles with pop-off caps. In our defense, we are men, which means we're programmed to exhaust all other options before we resort to asking anyone for help. We can't help it.

Hopefully, in about four or five weeks, I should have a nice red ale. If not, the Masons will kill me and throw my body into the Potomac.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How Had I Never Heard of Jonestown?

Last night, the wife and I watched Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple, a documentary shown as part of PBS's American Experience series. Jonestown is one of those pieces of recent history that I had never heard of until Jenna put it in our NetFlix queue. How this tragedy slipped through the cracks for me, I have no idea.

If you're like I was, and don't know anything about Jonestown or the Peoples Temple, go here. Briefly, Jim Jones founded The Peoples Temple in the 1950s, preached Apostolic Socialism, worked to integrate racially-divided communities, and ultimately, moved his flock to "Jonestown," Guyana, where his members lived in more or less a commune before their mass suicide on November 18, 1978. I believe this is where the term "drink the Kool-Aid" comes from.

On the whole, the documentary was very affecting but left me wanting more. The filmmakers built a narrative entirely out of survivor interviews, tape recordings, and old footage of Jones and his followers. There was no voiceover narration to fill in the gaps and tie the loosely-stringed series of events together. I think that would have helped. I couldn't tell if the documentary assumed a certain baseline understanding of Jonestown, which I didn't have, or if the filmmakers just left too much out of the story. Its runtime was less than 90 minutes. After seeing the film and reading more online, it could have easily been double that, or even a miniseries. More than once I said to myself, "wait a minute...why wasn't this mentioned before?" One moment, you're watching Jones preach, and the next moment, one of the survivors is relating an anecdote about how Jones "propositioned" him.

Later in the film, after Jones is about to be investigated in San Francisco, he suddenly moves his congregation to Jonestown. Interesting, yes. But prior to this, the film hadn't said much of anything about Guyana. Obviously, Jones had been planning this contingency--but why Guyana? And how did he purchase the land? And how did he get the Guyanese government to allow him to come there? And what were his plans? And how did he get these people to move there? Even more obscure is the motivations behind the suicide itself. Prior to the mass suicide, did Jones preach about how they should be prepared to do something like this? If you're feeling really morbid, you can listen to the "death tape". Fair warning, I only listened to about ten minutes before I had to turn it off.

Where the film lacks in details it more than compensates for in pathos. The survivor interviews personalize the tragedy to a degree that no voiceover work could ever achieve. The recordings, especially the images toward the end of the film, leave an indelible impression. What's most frightening to me is that in the archival footage, so many members of the Peoples Temple appear to be genuinely happy, even during their waning days in Guyana. On the whole, it's an intriguing piece of non-fiction, even though it left out a lot of the details. Watch at your own risk.

Some more facts, pulled from wikipedia:
-909 members of the Peoples Temple died on November 18, 1978
-Constituted the largest single loss of civilian life in a non-natural disaster until September 11, 2001
-During the airstrip shootings earlier that day, Congressman Leo Ryan was killed, becoming the first Congressman ever murdered in the line of duty

Friday, January 9, 2009

You Too Can Improve Your Vocabulary (More Blogs I Follow)

Confessions of Ignorance is another gem of a blog. Its author, Seana Graham, took to heart what your English professors constantly harped on--if you don't know what a word means when you encounter it, look it up.

Seana is a bookseller in Santa Cruz, California and quite the prolific blogger. Not only does she manage four of her own blogs, but she is a frequent contributor to other blogs.

Some of her recent vocabularic explorations are: shibboleth, infamy, scintilla, paean, and synecdoche. Confessions always makes for interesting reading, because often when I think I know a word, I find out I don't quite have it. It's a shock to the literary system when you take the time to look up a familiar word and realize that you haven't always used it correctly.

Also, Seana's blog has reinforced the cold, hard truth that deriving meaning by "context" doesn't work all the time. It's no substitute for cracking the Webster's.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Blogs I Follow: Detectives Beyond Borders

For anyone interested in expanding their literary horizons--and aren't we all--I highly recommend Peter Rozovsky's blog, Detectives Beyond Borders.

Detectives Beyond Borders is about crime fiction that is written by non-American authors and/or set in non-American locales. Peter is a copy editor working in Philadelphia, and his blog is always informative, articulate, and just plain fun. Well-read and opinionated, Peter always has something interesting to say. Recently, he made the case for involving literature in crime fiction discussions and vice versa here, when he discussed Hamlet of all things.

Even if you don't get to read as much crime fiction as you'd want (like me), Peter's blog is still thought-provoking. As an added bonus, if you live in the Philadelphia area, Peter often schedules "Noirs at the Bar," which usually feature authors and where fellow crime fiction readers meet to talk creative shop and imbibe.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Live Chat on Monday, January 12th!

My good friend and fellow author, Rita Vetere, is hosting another Live Author Chat on her website Monday night at 8:00 PM EST. On the docket are Sean Cummings and Grayson Reyes-Cole, and of course Rita herself.

The last chat (featuring yours truly) was a barrel of laughs. This time out, you can win a $20 gift card to Lyrical Press's online bookstore. You should stop by, i.e. log on, if you're free. If you're not free, then you should blow off whatever plans you have and join the fun.

Remember, it's one week from tonight!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Other Guys That Turned 30 And Lived

For some reason, I can't shake this nagging feeling that I'm going to die before the day's end. When I woke up an hour ago this morning, I was no longer in my twenties. Up to and including yesterday, I had suffered from the delusion that I had "just graduated" from college. In reality, that rather anticlimactic event occurred seven-and-a-half years ago.

The United States government ensures me that there are in fact many people over 30. According to data pulled from the Census of 2000, 56 million men and women were aged 55 or older at that time. Still, though, I'm not buying it. We all know that number do not lie. We also know they don't necessarily tell the truth. And let's not forget that those numbers have been given to us by the government.

Many scientists believe there is evidence that man's maximum life span is between 115 and 120 years. The case of Jeanne Clement is promising--a French woman that lived to 122 years, 164 days. Again, we run into the statistics problem, and the fact that Clement was a woman. Unless I undergo some surgery, I will be shedding this mortal coil as a man.

Nothing beats anecdotal evidence. (Just ask Christopher Hitchens.) I personally have met at least three other guys that surpassed 30:

1) My Dad. But for God's sake the man ingests upwards of forty vitamins a day. If that's what it takes, I don't know if I can do it.
2) My friend and fellow author, Nate Green. Nate has only been 30 for 5 days though, so the jury's still out.
3) Michael York. As it turns out, Logan's Run is a true story.

So there you have it. The best evidence that men can live beyond the age of 30 comes to us via a campy sci-fi film from 1976. That's good enough for me.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Rod Serling: The Coolest Guy Ever?

Happy Belated Birthday to Rod Serling, the creative genius that brought us The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. Serling was born on December 25, 1924 and died much, much too young on June 28, 1975.

Thanks to the Sci-Fi channel, I watched approximately 15 hours of The Twilight Zone on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Each time an episode ended, the wife and I would ask each other if we wanted to watch something else. "Yeah," was always the response, but as soon as the voiceover and instantly recognizable music came on, we were sucked in for another thirty minutes of genius.

We caught several of the classics: Burgess Meredith breaking his glasses amid a pile of rubble and books after the apocalypse; William Shatner squaring off against the "man" on the wing of the plane; Telly Savalas getting bested by a freaky doll.

Combining a tremendous work ethic and sheer bravado, Serling took the world of television by storm. He wrote 70 scripts that were produced as television shows BEFORE he even began TTZ. When he wearied of seeing his stories neutered, anesthesized, and toned down, he had two choices: continue playing the game or create his own show where he had complete control. It wasn't a tough decision for him.

Here's why I think Serling is so cool:

1) Prolific doesn't begin to describe his output as a writer. Of the 156 Twilight Zone episodes, he wrote 92 of them. And he had a hand in many of those he didn't write. It's no wonder that he didn't attempt to rejuvenate the show after its third cancellation. He had to have been burned out by then.

Speaking of prolific, did I mention he wrote screenplays during this time period as well? Little stories like The Planet of the Apes and Seven Days in May.

2) Serling is probably the first (and only?) TV writer to become a trademark. He provided each episode's introduction, prologue, and epilogue. As Gore Vidal said of W. Somerset Maugham, it's impossible to ignore Serling because he "was so there." While many might claim Serling's omnipresence in TTZ smacks of self-indulgence, authorial intrusion, and commercialism, I believe just the opposite--it's a testament to his artistic integrity. He created the show because he wanted to tell HIS stories; he appeared on the show because he wanted the audience to know they were HIS stories; and he provided the bookends to each episode as a way to further put his own thematic touches on the story. In doing so, no less than his reputation was at stake.

3) Iconoclastic. I finally looked this word up the other day, and Serling's picture was next to it in the dictionary. I'm just kidding, but it probably should be. Intelligent, articulate, and bold, Serling's writing forced audiences to face some tough issues. And even though the show is 50 years old, we don't have to watch it as a piece of history. We can watch it because it's still relevant.