How my memory Short Circuit-ed: Forgetting the Short Circuit films

short circuit, eighties, movies, film, criticism, michael McKeanI always had fond memories of the Short Circuit films. It turns out those memories were almost entirely false.

That’s not a statement about the quality of the films — I will get into that later. It’s that nearly everything I remember about the two films is false.

I was old enough to have watched the films when they came out on video after their theatrical releases (on good old fashioned VHS!) and after watching them I did my darnedest to try and construct my own Johnny Five out of spare junk in my parents’ junk drawer. (Remarkable, I never did assemble anything remotely resembling a robot, despite hours of trying.)

I recently popped on the movie and was immediately lost. My memory of the movie was so faded that watching Short Circuit was like watching an almost entirely different film. A couple of days later, convinced that the film I associated with short circuit was actually Short Circuit 2, I was equally flumoxed to discover that that also was completely new to me.

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Trope Schmope: A defense of science fiction

imagesTwo posts today gave me some food for thought, but since one touched a nerve, one that I’ve been nursing for some time, I’m going to write about that one.

In The Guardian, Jennifer Weiner writes that critics rarely write about the books that people are actually reading. I’m not sure that’s 100 percent true — I’ve seen many different kinds of books reviewed that are also popular — it’s probably more true that they rarely recommend them.

But that being said, I took greater offense to a rebuttal in the Huffington Post (I know, HuffPo, but stick with me). Claire Fallon, in her post, “Critics Don’t Exist to Flatter Your Taste” she rebuts the claims that critics purposefully distance themselves from anything popular, even backtracking from works they once approved because they’ve since become popular.

I’m not spending a lot of time on that because I generally don’t care about critics. What does need some picking apart is the following: “Critics focus on what we deem literary fiction — for the purposes of this piece, fiction that doesn’t conform to the tropes or formulas of specific genres, and that generally aims to be artful or experimental in its prose and structure. On the other side, traditionally, are genres: romance, sci-fi, fantasy, crime, mystery.”

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What Robocop means in a post-Ferguson world

robocop, 80s, sci-fi, Robocop was a favorite amongst us on the school yard when I was a child during the 1980s. We all spent our class time drawing Robocop’s helmet, his gun, the spiked data jack that came out of his fist. Trying to imitate that cool gun-twirly thing.

But another thing occurred to me watching the film last night. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen the actual rated R cut, since I was a kid when I last saw it and only watched the TV edit.

From a writing standpoint, it’s fascinating. It reminds me of the concise writing/editing style 1980s writers employed (something I think screenwriters are returning to). Little time is spent on exposition, just enough so that we care about Murphy before he’s killed and turned into Robocop. A side note – I forgot about Murphy’s partner, Lewis: sexy and tough. And how about our introduction to her, where she takes out the crook wreaking havoc at the precinct and thwarting other’s attempts to subdue him? We catch a little more of that toughness at the end but I think Lewis could have been explored a little more.

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Law and Disorder

Most people who land in Marathon County
jail have a mental illness, but rarely get the treatment they need

CP Cover 052115 4C-page-001While doing rounds at the Marathon County Jail recently, a corrections officer passed the cell of someone she’d been keeping an eye on. He’d been listed as suicidal, so was checking to make sure he was OK.

Her instincts were right. The corrections officer found the man hanging by his neck underneath his bed, using the frame to hold his weight. Luckily, the man had fallen in such a way that his arms supported him, and the corrections officer was able to save his life.

This incident was far from rare in the Marathon County jail. Another inmate had slit his wrists, and he, too, was found in time to save.

It took at least two months to get one fellow, who believed he was an FBI agent sent to eradicate Nazis, sent instead to a state mental health institution.

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Human Trafficking

It happens here and The Women’s Community is helping police target those behind the scenes of prostitution
CP Cover 092415 4C-page-001On a cold day this past February, a woman wearing a white coat and grey pants waited on a corner in Weston for Everest Metro Police to arrive and pick her up. Temperatures were frigid, but not as chilling as the experience she described to police.

Just moments prior, she had escaped from a man who had planned to sell her to six men, according to police reports. Their payment was to be a large amount of methamphetamines (meth) in exchange for raping her. The would-be pimp, who picked her up a few days earlier at a hotel in Hudson, allegedly told the men he didn’t care what they did with her afterward because nobody knew her or cared who she was. Police say he had plied her with drugs and told her not to inform anyone she was in Wausau.

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A reminder from a real artist


Alexander Landerman works on a mural in downtown Stevens Point.

“I work as much as I can every single day.”

The journalist in me struggled with writing that, because you never, ever, ever, ever, EVER lede with a quote. Ever.

But I did. I recently sat down with Stevens Point artist Alexander Landerman. I’m writing a story for my newspaper, City Pages, about his painting a mural in Stevens Point, and on his work in general. Landerman always impressed me because from his sophomore year in college he was already supporting himself as an artist.

I asked him what the key to that success was. After all, most artists struggle, right? And while he’s not rolling in the dough, he has basically been supporting himself through his work since college.

The above quote is what he told me.

I’ve been thinking about those words lately. As you know, I wrote a post some time back about why writing every day is bullshit. I got a mix of reactions, from “hell yeah” to “you suck.” It was a reaction to advice I kept seeing everywhere; that you could only be successful if you never let a day pass without putting words on a page.

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The Sand Runner is out – sci-fi with a strong female lead

the sand runner, ebook, indie publishing, scifi, ultrarunning, running fiction, running, rock climbing, It seems like it takes forever, but my short story, The Sand Runner, is finally out!

Here’s the excerpt from Amazon:

On the distant planet of Baando, a war rages between the United Alliance and the Veraqui, a ruthless race with a supreme hatred for humans, for the strategic stronghold in the war. Because of technology dampening fields, war is a primitive affair on Baando — no guns, no lasers, no advanced communication. Gina is a member of the UA’s elite Sand Runner program – a group of ultra-running scouts who can traverse the sands of Baando to check on enemy locations and deliver messages in a world that’s devoid of most technology. When Gina discovers a group of Veraqui has a prototype that could dissipate the dampening fields, giving the Veraqui a huge advantage, she’ll need to muster all of her training to deliver that crucial information to her superiors without getting caught by the Veraqui – a fate worse than mere death.

I think not only is this the piece I’m most proud of, but I think it has the most universal appeal. It’s inspired by my many endurance athlete friends, as well as my own experience in distance running and rock climbing.

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