Thursday, November 29, 2007

The next exciting book in The Candy Bar Adventures series is here - March of the Evil Mard!

Though it took me a year longer than I had originally planned, my second book in The Candy Bar Adventures series is now available - March of the Evil Mard!!!! This book picks right up where The Battle of Caramel Castle left off, and I gotta say, you're going to be in for one twisting, turning, wild literary ride!

Initially, my new book will only be available through Lulu.com, but within the next few weeks or so, it should start showing up on the major sites such as Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, etc.

FYI: You can buy my first book through those sites now...just sayin'.


From the Back Cover of March of the Evil Mard:

The Candy Bar Adventures continue...

The "Battle of Caramel Castle" has ended, but a bigger battle is brewing!

While Carmelot rebuild Caramel Castle and mend fresh wounds, Zangela and Zongel return to Yumchewz to find that old wounds are about to reopen. Perhaps no greater wound will be suffered though than by our Hero Squad (Hersh, Mick, and Snick) when a sweet, mysterious confection enters their lives.

Meanwhile, Mard's unquenchable desire to be the richest, most famous, and most admired, will lead to a creation that could devastate the entire candy world - the Cookie Cutter!

New adventures will begin for all - and all will be shook to their candy core!

Our Hero Squad march toward an unseen danger...a danger formed from within.

Zangela and Zongel march toward hope...a hope wrought from despair.

And naive masses from every land in the candy world march toward a shared fate...a fate "cut" from a "common" mold.

The march toward a new battle has begun - deception, jealousy, and greed will lead the way...

MARCH OF THE EVIL MARD


Head on over to www.thecandybaradventures.com to find out more - read chapter previews, character profiles, even do a little colorin' and jigsaw puzzlin'! You can even read the original stories I wrote over 20 years ago as a kid - the stories which inspired this new The Candy Bar Adventures series.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

I need me a "slow clap" for my everyday achievements...

For some reason, I got to thinking about one of the greatest, cheezy, movie cliches of all time - the "slow clap". You know, it usually happens at the very end of the movie after the underdog has overcome all of his/her adversities to reign triumphant over all of the doubters and haters.

The locale of this shining moment usually involves a generic gathering place (school hallway, school cafeteria, school gymnasium, school sports field, school drama stage, school...yard, school...well, hell, you get the idea) where the new hero is usually surrounded by a huge crowd of people - the same crowd who never believed in him/her.

Next, the feel-good speech of the year(!) is delivered by either the new hero or the one person who always believed in the new hero. As the sentimental music begins, the speech usually retraces the new hero's just completed arduous journey, pointing out the misgivings of the doubters and haters along the way; add a dash of self-introspection by the new hero him/herself; a dollop of moral righteousness; shake well with a few tear drops as the music swells to an inspirational crescendo; and then - you'll hear it - *clap*...*clap*...*clap*-*clap* (builds a little more) *clap*-*clap**clap**clap* (builds even more!) *Clap**CLap**CLAp**CLAP-CLAP-CLAP-CLAP* (until its a full-blown orgasmic) - *APPLAUSE!* "YEAH!!!!!"

Someone else must have felt the same love for the "slow clap" as I do, so much in fact, they created this great compilation clip.

*cue inspirational music*

A clip nobody thought could or should be compiled.

A clip, still awkward and small when it was first being compiled, was laughed at and mocked by all the compilation clips featuring the superstars of sports.

A clip rejected by all the compilation clips featuring hot bikini models.

Well, I tell you what popular, strong, and beautiful compilation clips, this compilation clip learned a lot about itself and the whole world of compilation clips...

*Play that John Tesh-esque inspirational tune loud!*

Every little clip is special in its own way, and when those clips are assembled with just such a belief, it can be as popular, strong, and beautiful as any other clip compilation out there!

*clap*...*clap*...*clap*-*clap*-*clap*..."YEAH!"



But ya know, there are times when I'd love to have a "slow clap" waiting for me after hurdling life's little obstacles.

Example A:

As Marty Schottenheimer knows, "taking the Browns all the way to the Super Bowl" isn't always an easy task (well, impossible actually if you're poor Marty...but I digress). So, after trying Three or Four times to drop the Deuce, I'd love to hear a little appreciation for my efforts.

I'll set the scene...Toilet flushes; looking down humbly, I emerge victorious from the "room of doom" wiping a bead of sweat from my brow; I look up; a crowd has gathered in my hallway; I shriek like a little girl (I mean, c'mon, there's a crowd of strangers in my hallway!); they look at me like I'm a Superstar; and then...

*clap*....*clap*...*clap*...."YEAH!"

Example B:

I am not a morning person! The alarm clock is my mortal enemy. With the advent of the "Snooze" button, however, the alarm clock and I were able to broker a fragile truce. Rarely have I ever been able to awaken early in the morning without looking to that magical button of procrastination for a few more moments of restful grace. So, when I do awaken on the inaugural buzz, I'd love to hear a little appreciation for my efforts.

I'll set the scene...5AM (in reality, about 10 'til 5 because I purposely set my clock ahead 10 minutes to avoid being late...yeah, I'm clever). I'm sleeping cozily under my blanky, dreaming sweet dreams of a hot chick who actually doesn't point and laugh, who doesn't make the universal sign for "P.U." with her hand and nose, and who doesn't get physically nauseous when I look in her direction in contemplation of starting a conversation with her (yeah, dreams are great!) - when I hear - the dreaded "EH-EH-EH-EH!" of the alarm clock! (Side Note: Have you ever noticed that the buzz of an alarm clock sounds eerily similar to Fran Dresher's laugh? Coincidence? Meh, probably.)

Anyway, I spring out of bed without the help of the "Grand Snooze-bah" and voila! - a crowd is gathered at my bedside! I shriek like a little girl (again, crowd of strangers in my bedroom - freaky!); look to see if there are any hot chicks in the crowd - yes, but they give the "P.U." sign - the rest look at me like I'm a Superstar; and then...

*clap*....*clap*...*clap*...."YEAH!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Question: Is there a better TV intro. than this one? Answer: No

Grand TV intro's. They're an endangered species nowadays. Maybe a quick flash of the actors/actresses names, the creator's name, title (sometimes), maybe even a licensed song. But I remember a time, a time as a young boy in the late 70's and early-mid 80's when just about every TV show had a full blown intro. with original music and everything. A little 30 - 90 second "welcome back" every week just for Me, the TV viewer.

I wax nostalgic at this time, because, well, it's easier than waxing my truck! (*Pause for uncontrollable laughter*....mmmkay, then). But seriously folks, I wax nostalgic because I realize just how lucky I was to grow up during a time of such great craftsmanship.

No better craftsmanship was displayed than what those gifted editing masterminds forged into the greatest TV intro, ever - The Six Million Dollar Man.

That dang thing just gets cooler and cooler as the years go by! Everytime I see it, I want to drop everything that I'm doing and watch a full episode right then and there. But then I realize - it's not the 70's anymore...and the dang show has yet to come out on Region 1 DVD. Sure, the folks over in Europe get to watch all The Six Million Dollar Man they want on their fancy-Euro Region 2 DVD's, but I, a tax-paying, law-abiding American, cannot yet re-live the exploits of one Steve Austin! Where is the justice in that?...where, I ask you, where?!

I mean, I still have my Steve Austin doll - er - action figure with red jumpsuit! And, yeah, I'll admit it, I still like to look through the little Bionic Eye peephole on the back of his head while making the Bionic Eye's Bionic Magnifying sound! Yeah - I'm still that cool!....and, um, yeah, I'm still that single...*ahem*.

Anyhoo, while I'm on topic, coming in a close 2nd on my "Great TV Show Intro's" list is the one for a little cartoon known as - Battle of the Planets! Between this epic opening and the one for the original (and still superior) Battlestar Galactica, I was able to satisfy my Star Wars pangs during 1978 - a year in which my little 4-year old mind could not yet fathom such great inventions as: Cable TV, VCR's, DVD's, and high-speed Internet, in which I could watch all the Star Wars I could handle.

There are many more great TV intro's I could rave about, from the 70s' Starsky and Hutch, Emergency!, CHiPs, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Charlie's Angels, Fantasy Island, Happy Days, Three's Company, Eight is Enough, Dallas, Buck Rogers; transitioning into the 80s' Dukes of Hazzard, Diff'rent Strokes, Facts of Life, Silver Spoons, A-Team, The Greatest American Hero, MacGyver, Cheers, Family Ties, Growing Pains, etc.

But there's one show that stands out above the rest in this "Best of the Rest" lot...a show that set sail in the 70's and finally docked after many hot-to-trot voyages in the 80's - yes, I think you're expecting them, because - "...they're expecting youuuuuuuu" - The Love Boat!

I mean, c'mon! You get a classic, cheesy theme song (is there a better karaoke song for people who can't sing? - no, because how can you make the song any worse?), and perhaps one of the greatest moments in TV history - the coolest bartender ever, Isaac, whipping out the "six shooters"! Hell yeah! The dual "six shooter" quick-draw is still in my personal repertoire - see a hot chick? "six shooters"; see one of your buds in the pub? "six shooters"; knock over an old grumpy waiter with your cool Euro friends, yet earning a smile from the old gruff at the end? "six-sh-" well, actually, that's a "Mentos Moment", but anyway...

Bring back the lost art of the full-fledged TV intro. Like silence, they're golden...and I'd like to grab me a nugget.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Diorama: Silverchair Gold from 2002


I tell ya, nothing more timely than a 2007 review on a 2002 album!

As I eagerly anticipate the upcoming release of Silverchair's first album in 5 years (titled Young Modern), I thought I might take a step back and share my thoughts on what I think is not only their best album, but one of the best albums by any group...Ev-ah! <--Hey, how 'bout that wacky spelling of the word "ever"...yeah, I'm still pretty hip.

After three albums of ever-evolving music, Silverchair mixed together everything great about those first three albums, added a heaping dollop of 1970's Queen-esque grandiose, and created an ever-fresh batch of ear candy. (As a matter of fact, I listened to the whole album (for the ba-jillionth time) this very morning on my trusty ol' iPod...which pretty much inspired me to write this post...but I digress (have you noticed that digressing forces you to use a lot of parentheses and ellipses?)...hmmm).

Seriously, not only did they add a heaping dollop of Queen-esque goodness, I think they channeled the creative spirit of Freddie Mercury himself from the afterlife. Ya know, you hear a lot of rock bands say stuff like "yeah, we're spending extra time in the studio to do something really special and ambitious...a lot like those old Queen albums" when they try to make an album that's creative and different from the norm...BUT, what usually happens is that they cut one or two tracks that sound like cheesy Bohemian Rhapsody ripoffs, and totally miss the mark on what made the Queen-sound so unique.

The studio pairing of Van Dyke Parks with Silverchair for Diorama created musical brilliance not heard since Roy Thomas Baker paired up with Queen to make their gems in the '70s. The elaborate orchestrations, vocal harmonies mixed in perfect unison with melodic music, and occasional crunching guitar riff, truly makes sweet music to one's ear. However, if you only know Silverchair from their 1995 grunge-rockin' debut album, Frogstomp, you may or may not be pleasantly surprised - as the first track on Diorama is not like anything heard on that album...

Track 1: Across the Night - The opening track let's you know right away that this is not like any of the other Silverchair albums. Lead-singer, Daniel John's vocals on this song are fantastic - especially when the song changes pace near the end - as the sweeping orchestration crescendos, John's vocals match and exceed the musical backing in such an impressive way, you'll fight the urge to give your music player a standing ovation upon conclusion.
Rating: Brilliant!

Track 2: The Greatest View - The brilliance continues in this track, as they very subtly throw everything but the kitchen sink into this song (I swear I hear banjo before the second chorus...no cowbell though). Great vocals belt out uplifting lyrics while crunching guitar softly underlines this musical concoction, as it patiently waits to roar to the forefront in the form of a kickass riff (one which Jimmy Page would even be envious of) each time after the chorus.
Rating: Brilliant!

Track 3: Without You - Guitars rage in the background, mixing with a thundering drumbeat in the foreground, to create a sonic thunderstorm that envelops what is really just your standard radio fare power ballad, but it's still a great song. Once again, vocals are great with a few changes of pace thrown in for good measure.
Rating: Excellent

Track 4: World Upon Your Shoulders - If there is one "meh" song on this album, it would be this one (in my opinion). It's not a bad song mind you (it even has a bit of Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here-sounding guitar diddlin') , but when compared to every other incredible track on this album, it just seems a little vanilla. There is a neat little musical and vocal interlude in the middle of the song that adds a little spice though.
Rating: Good

Track 5: One Way Mule - If there's a song on this album that even comes close to mirroring the hard rockin' grunge sound of their debut album, it would be this track. However, even this rockin' tune has some great harmonies and melodic sophistication to it.
Rating: Excellent

Track 6: Tuna in the Brine - Ah man, this is THE ONE!!! This is Silverchair's Bohemian Rhapsody (although it might actually pair closer with March of the Black Queen) and Stairway to Heaven all rolled into one. If I were to make a Top 10 list of my all-time favorite songs, this one would be in the top 5! This song is a perfectly orchestrated wall of sound - emotional vocals, perfect harmonies, and just a fantastic sweeping scope!
Rating: Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant x 100!!! (yeah, I kinda like this song)

Track 7: Too Much of Not Enough - Fantastic rocker that sounds like it could be the lovechild of The Greatest View and One Way Mule. The matching bassline and guitar riff leading into the chorus frickin' rocks!
Rating: Brilliant!

Track 8: Luv Your Life - A sweeping, symphonic ballad - yet with acoustic undertones - is this one. Classic lyrical moment - "I don't pay for sanity, but sanity don't come cheap". If you don't find yourself singing, or at least humming, along to this one then you just don't appreciate good music. This song sounds like a late-era Beach Boys and Beatles conglomeration (the Van Dyke Parks influence perhaps?).
Rating: Brilliant!

Track 9: Lever - Straight-ahead rocker that reminds me a little of their song, The Door, off their 2nd album - Freak Show. The guitar riff throughout the song sounds like lightning bolts - lightning bolts shooting out of Emperor Palpatine's hands at the end of Return of the Jedi!
Rating: Excellent

Track 10: My Favourite Thing - Another ballad-esque song...again, outstanding vocals and harmonies. I wouldn't say this song is "my favourite thing" (ahhhhh!...yeah...that was clever), but it is a damn fine thing!
Rating: Excellent

Track 11: After All These Years - Now, this song is a straight-ahead mellow ballad - however, it too features the great symphonic orchestrations like the rest of the album. It's one of those songs that makes you feel like you should be sitting and reflecting on your life...can't say that I actually have, but ya know, I'm just saying that's what it makes you feel like.
Rating: Brilliant!

Simply, one of the greatest albums I've ever heard. It will make you thankful for having two functional ears.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Candy Bar Adventures: The Battle of Caramel Castle, receives some great compliments from a Writer's Digest Awards panel judge

Received a cool piece of mail yesterday...Last year I had entered The Battle of Caramel Castle in Writer's Digest's 14th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards. Well, I had already found out that I hadn't won in the category I had entered or the Overall award, so I took it like any "good sport" would and dejectedly mumbled - "I bet they didn't even read my dang book! How could I have not won anything?!"

Turns out though my book did get read and judged, as not only did I receive my Certificate for participating in the Awards competition (Yeah, I know - whoop-dee-do!), but I was also sent the Judge's Score/Commentary Sheet. Upon reading said Commentary Sheet, I instantly swelled with pride as the judge's comments really gave me a nice shot of confidence! Read the scanned image below:

So, basically if it wasn't for my rather plain cover design (and I'm sure my somewhat lame artwork on the back) I might have won a dang award! Ah, oh well - I just care about the quality of my writing and story-telling, and it seems I really did quite well! I know my cover design and art skills are below par, but the writing is what matters most to me, and I have to admit, it felt really good to read such complimentary remarks.

And you know, I think I may just take that judge's advice and start submitting my book (and the next one when I have it finished) to the major publishers. Perhaps they could team me up with a professional cover designer and pump a little promotional clout into these books - then who knows? - maybe The Candy Bar Adventures series could finally hit the big time!

Though a poor cover (packaging) prevented my book from possibly winning an award, it just goes to show - You can't judge a book by its cover!!!!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Memo to MLS: Beckham signing alone won't make league a success

Ok, judging by the title it probably seems as if I'm about to start bashing the sport of soccer. On the contrary, I'm a big fan of the sport...so much so in fact, I've even caught myself calling it football instead of soccer (the international folks would be proud). I would love to see MLS become a huge, long-standing success.

The problem is that although Beckham coming to MLS will definitely bring some great publicity to the league, it's just one small step forward in the overall scheme of things. You see, MLS will only have the spotlight temporarily. Beckham's first game with the L.A. Galaxy won't be until August (hopefully he won't get injured in the meantime), and while his first game definitely will capture the spotlight, unless he starts scoring hat-tricks every game, the spotlight will fade very quickly (in America anyway). The number one reason?...the almighty NFL will be gearing up for their regular season opener as September begins, and "that other football" will soon revert back to the shadows.

If MLS think that the signing of Beckham alone will automatically have a NASCAR-esque effect on its popularity, they're sadly mistaken. They need to use this temporary spotlight wisely and kickoff revolutionary changes for their league and the sport of soccer in America!

In my opinion, MLS needs improvement on three fronts: Marketing, Infrastructure, and League Dynamics. I'm only going to detail some Marketing ideas, otherwise this will be the longest blog post in history.

Reader's Digest format for the other two:
Infrastructure = soccer specific stadiums for all teams; build up NCAA soccer programs so that they rival football and basketball - high profile college stars going to MLS will keep interest in MLS (similar to football and basketball)
League Dynamics = expanding MLS to enough cities (maybe 30 or so) so that two divisions of 15 teams could be created and conducted similar to other soccer leagues around the world (see English Premiership & English Championship)that feature relegation and promotion between the two divisions - i.e. the regular season needs to mean something; join with Mexican and South American leagues to create Cup competitions similar to those in Europe. (UPDATE: 1-14-07...Found out about a Superliga tournament between MLS and Mexican teams this July - ok, MLS, good start...but we need our own Champions League type tournament as well.)

Marketing MLS and soccer correctly to the American audience would benefit the sport more than 20 Beckham signings ever could. Soccer in America is widely seen as a sport for kids. If grown men are playing it, they are seen as wimpy sissy-men. Now, this is not my personal view as, like I stated earlier, I'm a big fan of the sport. However, I do prefer watching the English Premier League because it's more gritty, intense, and here's the big factor - diving is seen as dishonorable.

The average American male does not want to be thought of as weak or dishonorable, so as such, we do not even want to be associated with anything that is weak or dishonorable (unless of course women think those things are cool and thus would increase our chances of getting laid). When most American males think of soccer (those who don't follow the sport), they think of some foreigner (sad, but true) falling to the ground as if he's been shot though he's hardly been touched (aka diving), writhing around on the ground in "pain" for what seems like an eternity, only to pop back onto the field a few moments later as if nothing happened. That type of display is both weak and dishonorable in the eyes of the American male - and more importantly - the American male sportsfan.

Also, the average American male does not like a "prettyboy" - "prettyboys" get all the hot chicks while either looking or doing things that aren't entirely masculine (I think you know what I mean by that) - which gives the average male 2 big reasons not to like them. Though anyone who has watched soccer from around the world knows that the majority of soccer players do not look or act like "prettyboys" - poll the average American male sportsfan and he will more than likely tell you otherwise. Signing Beckham, perhaps the ultimate "prettyboy" in the eyes of many American male sportsfans, will definitely NOT help to squash that stigma. Chicks will dig him of course, but screaming teeny-bopper girls will not turn the MLS into a respected and hugely successful sports league. However, market MLS players in a way so that they come across just as cool, tough, and brave as top NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB players and NASCAR drivers - the "prettyboy" stigma will largely disappear.

Additionally, when most American sportsfans think of soccer they think of scores that end 0-0, 1-0, 1-1. Games that end in a tie are a bad enough concept to deal with, but 0-0?! Why would the American viewer sit and watch (or pay hard earned money to go see) something that will most likely not feature much scoring, if any, and/or result with no winner and no loser?

Soccer is a sport that is largely not respected and/or not understood (and to some extent each being the cause of the other). Fix those two things, and soccer could rise like Nascar has in recent years; like the NBA did in the early 80's; and like the NFL (yes, even the NFL wasn't always "Mr. Popular") did in the early 70's. Baseball is pretty much the only sport that has always been rather consistent - long called "America's Pastime" its history is rooted as deep here as soccer is in the rest of the world.

Because of this, MLS will need to create a new public image for their league and soccer. Soccer players need to be presented as noble warriors who won't fall to the ground and whimper at the slightest touch like a 3-year old who doesn't want to take a nap; MLS players will fight and claw their way on the field of battle as they march toward the ultimate goal - a, um, GOAL!!! They will fight on though in pain, though bleeding, though tired - they will battle for the pride of their club and the city that club represents. They play as honorable men, playing to become champions!

If marketed correctly, the average male sportsfan will come to respect the players and the sport, even if the score ends 0-0 (well, ok, a 0-0 scoreline is still a tough proposition to sell).

Presentation and atmosphere could help overcome the above scoreline problem though. NFL games in America have a similar crowd atmosphere as soccer does in the rest of the world - it's one big rockin' party where most people also understand and appreciate the game. People need some reason to go to the game - they need a reason to be excited (this is where Beckham will initially help); people watching at home will have to feel this excitement as well - this is where smart presentation comes into play.

One of the biggest gripes about soccer (as a sport, players not factored) in America is that it is slow and boring. Well, people griped about baseball being slow and NASCAR being boring, but FOX Sports helped to change that with quick-cut editing, unique camera angles, numerous replays, and other flash. MLS should try a little of this to see if it will change the "slow and boring" perception, as well as enhance the excitment of the stadium atmosphere.

I've got some other Marketing ideas, but I'm too damn tired of writing right now so I'll just leave with this - signing Beckham was an exciting first step, but it has to be seen within MLS as just that - a first step. Create a league that is competitive at a high-level comparable to Europe and South America; infuse what is considered a foreign sport with classic American ideals and philosophies to make it feel more American; players that are widely known and respected and well-paid in line with the other major league sports...then "primetime" players will be more likely to come from all over the world to play in the MLS (and more importantly, young American males will aspire to become MLS stars in the same numbers as the other major sports).

Who knows, someday even MLS Fantasy leagues could compete in popularity with NFL Fantasy leagues - that's when you'll really know soccer and MLS have succeeded in America!

Thursday, January 4, 2007

My first post for you - a Haiku (hey, that rhymed!)

I'm not a poet by any means, but after purchasing a 72-slice pack of Hormel fully-cooked microwaveable bacon at the local Sam's Club, I had to express my joy in a way befitting it's hearty, hickory-smoked, heart-clogging greatness. (Extra tidbit - cooks in 20 seconds! Oh yes!)

A Haiku is all that will do (hey, that rhymed again! Neat!)

As Def Leppard wails
"You're Bringin' on the Heartbreak"
My chest feels tight - gasp!


I love you bacon.