Works of fiction appearing here are © 2011-2018 by Jack H. Tyler, and are not to be assumed to lie in the public domain.
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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Kung Fu

"Moon above water.  Sit in solitude."

          The time has come, the walrus said, to speak of many things.  In this case, I am going to come clean about my personal belief system.  I identify myself as a Taoist to myself and to anyone who asks, though someone who has spent time in a temple under the tutelage of masters might consider me a poor substitute.  I began my journey in about 1970.  I can't fix an exact date because it was gradually being assimilated.  You see, my young adulthood coincided with the Bruce Lee era, and that of all the martial arts movies that imitated him, and I found myself led to dojos of varying qualities to join the ranks of the legendary badasses.
          That was my intention from the beginning.  I was small and shy as a kid, and was bullied probably more than most, though not as bad as some I witnessed. but from my first encounter with judo back before my navy days, I set out to become someone you'd be very sorry for messing with.
          Having no money, and no caregivers who ever let me do anything from Cub Scouts to Little League, my first martial arts instructors were professional wrestlers, especially the bad guys, gents like Freddie Blassie, Mr. Moto, and the Iron Sheik.  They may have been putting on a show, but when you jump off the top of a parked car and land with your knees in a bully's guts, their view of you as a target begins to change.  That was all I ever wanted.
          Then came my naval service, from 1965-69, and being stationed at a couple of shore installations, I had money and time, and began to get some training from local gyms.  I got out in late 1969 and moved back home, initially until I could find a job and get on my feet.  But great-grandma broke her hip and became an invalid, and for the next four years of my life I became one of her caregivers.  Her daughter moved back in and we shared the duties.  I walked the neighbors' dogs and did light maintenance on the local Little League field for pocket change, and spent that pocket change on training at the All-Japan Karate Federation learning the arts from a 35th generation samurai.
          This guy was the real deal, and incorporated into the training were helpful concepts like Do without doing, The value of the cup lies in its emptiness, and similar concepts that helped my mind realize that it was a valuable part of the process.  It wasn't enough to be able to kick, punch, or throw, your mind needed to be philosophically involved in order for you to be truly effective.
          I had at last found an instructor who wasn't teaching his students just for the money.  These concepts were my first introduction to Oriental mysticism, and I was fascinated!  All this time, I had been concentrating on becoming the most dangerous S.O.B. in the valley, and he was opening my eyes to the much greater world behind it.  Of course, he wasn't a religious teacher, I had had a more or less typical Western upbringing, and in any case, he was teaching me how to fight, nothing more.  I probably would have just caught the edge of it and never gotten deep into the religious parts, but by the most incredible stroke of serendipity, ABC Television added to its fall lineup an Eastern Western called Kung Fu.  Yes, the series starring David Carradine.
           The series came under much ridicule in later years, and was featured in derogatory memes and other forms of artistic dismissal, and a good portion of this may be that Carradine himself spoke of it in very derogatory terms, but without that show to bring fullness to those lessons I was getting in my combat training, I would be very much less a man than I am today.  Carradine described the series concept as "You have this huge problem that is threatening to ruin your life.  You have no idea how to solve it, but then this bum wanders down out of hills and takes care of it for you."  That's a paraphrase of a statement he made on the DVD commentaries, and I'm sad for him that he wasn't in a position to "get" what he was doing, but I was.
          I have heard throughout my life that Carradine was trained as a dancer, and as such, the fight scenes in Kung Fu were just so much choreography for him.  Many of his contemporary actors could have produced better fight scenes, and it's well known that Bruce Lee was considered for the role, but the thing that Carrdine nailed perfectly was the incredible serenity of this peaceful warrior who was complete within himself.  The flashbacks to his life of training in the temple were always the meat of the show to me, and I later learned that most of them were designed directly around passages from the Tao teh Ching, the original and most sacred text of Taoism.  It was fascinating to me to see how this man who could kill you with barely a move came to be the way he was, and seriously, can anyone imagine Bruce Lee being calm enough to play even one of those temple scenes?  By the way, did you know that David Carradine's real name was John, that he changed it to avoid confusion with his actor father, and that throughout his youth, he was known as Jack?  I like that.  In a very real sense, I have been striving to "be" Kwai Chang Caine my entire adult life.
          That amounts to about 45 years of my life, and I flatter myself that I have a pretty good handle on it.  I read extensively, and meditate when I feel the need.  I have a wide collection of the literature, but as an American, the only film media I have access to is Kung Fu.  Christians have a thousand movies to watch, I have this, and I watch it regularly.  Even though I can quote entire passages of dialogue, that isn't the point; most Christians I know can quote vast portions of the Bible, but they still read it.
          Regular readers will have noted that I quote frequently from the works of Deng Ming-Dao.  He is a contemporary Taoist who has written a number of texts on the religion, including two of my favorites, Everyday Tao, and 365 Tao, from which the above quote is taken.  It speaks of the perfection of stillness, and the futility of actively trying to achieve it; the act of trying destroys it.  To reach those moments of sublime peace, one must empty the mind and relax the body completely.  They are rare, but oh so beautiful.
          This seems a worthy offering for a Sunday.  Most religions seek to achieve peace, and this is one way to do it.  Most religions also set aside days for contemplation, and my largely Christian audience recognizes Sunday as that day, so here is my gift to you, my Christian friends, peace and a means to seek it.  I hope you find it useful.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Inbound to Reality in 3... 2... 1...

 "Washing at dawn:  Rinse away dreams.
Protect the gods within, and clarify the inner spirit."

                                                                                 ~ DENG MING-DAO

           I have been conflicted about this writing business for a year or more.  My friends have graciously put up with my fits and starts, even the folks at, where my conflicted feelings came to a head last week, hoping, I assume, that I would find the muse and continue the adventures.  Sadly, that hasn't happened, and reconciliation with that cantankerous creature drifts farther away every day.
          I can write articles about the abstract concepts of the craft or the characters, plots, and situations in my old books, but when I get out all my materials and try to produce new copy, be it outlining or words on the page, it fades into the background cacophony of things that are of much greater interest to me.  Those things include the constantly developing strategy for my ongoing XCOM campaign, what to do with my postage-stamp yard come spring, or what old movies Mama and I might want to cuddle up in front of...  Anything but writing!
          The facts are these:  I have a trilogy in print, and a short story that proved of sufficient quality for an editor to include it in his anthology.  Whatever shadowy point I set out to prove when I began my quest for publication has been made, and I feel no further pressure nor even the slightest urge to continue on that path.  I have been wasting hours a day pretending to be a writer, and that needs to stop; it stops here.  I'm sorry.  It looks like "Me" isn't coming back.
          In the future, this will be my blog.  Forget, forget WordPress, forget FaceBook even.  This will be the face I present to the world.  Will it be profound?  Absolutely not!  I'm not that person.  Over the years I have been masquerading as a "Perfessional Awther," I have made a number of friends.  Hopefully they well see fit to maintain those friendships with my post-writing persona, and this will provide an open door for those friendships, and maybe even some new ones.
          The last question to be answered, then, is what will appear here if not writing-related content?  Hard to say.  I might do a spread on my garden, visit a historic site, post new recipes I've come up with, or make a funny beagle video, I just don't know.  I'll endeavor to make it regular, and I'll certainly try to keep it interesting, but I'm not going to burden myself with planning.  As some of my writing friends say, I'll be flying by the seat of my pants!  I hope it goes well.

~ Jack

Monday, February 5, 2018

Dear Me...

"All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery."
                                   ~ GEORGE ORWELL

          Vain, certainly; lazy, probably.  But I seriously believe I am the most giving person you could ever hope to meet.  Just check my activities for confirmation.  I spend at least as much time trying to help new writers find their groove as I do working on my own projects.  Vain?  Of course!  If I wasn't vain, would I keep posting to this blog that hardly anyone reads?  Lazy?  I have to cop to that, as if I wasn't lazy, I'd have my nose to the grindstone every day, producing usable copy.  Instead, I spend half my writing time blubbering about not being a writer anymore.
          And that brings me to a specific activity called Dear Me.  Each year during December, runs a contest that challenges you to write a letter to yourself as a writer.  It can be motivational, congratulatory, commiserating, anything you want it to be.  The theme, I guess, is what would you say to yourself if you were someone else?  I don't participate in contests (my muse isn't a trained circus monkey that performs tricks on demand), but I wrote one of these letters, from the heart to the brain, as it were, and it has really snapped me out of the doldrums.  I read it first thing when I sit down to write each morning, and then launch into projects with a clear head and a sharp focus.  It has worked so well that I recommend it to anyone who is having difficulty getting started on any project.  This is what I wrote:
 Dear Me,

          What is it that you think you're doing?  We joined WdC a year ago this month, and we came in like a house afire!  We had no sooner stepped in the door than we were setting up forums, starting a blog, forming a group, heck, we even posted a novel.  That novel, that blog, and our port itself were quickly nominated for Quill Awards.  But then something happened to you, something bad.
          I remember when, too.  It was August, five months ago, that you suddenly lost all interest in writing.  After six decades of putting words on the page, I can understand you being tired, but what did you replace it with?  Video games and shoot-em-up television?  Where's the reward in that?  What does that get you besides a few more dead brain cells?
          Me, you need to snap out of it.  I'm lost without you.  We've always been right there on the same page together, partners in crime, explorers of the unknown, two best friends making up new ways to tackle the fantasy that is life, but I can't do this alone.  It hurt me when you turned our group over to another member because you didn't plan to be here after our renewal date.  It cut me to the bone when you closed one of our forums because people weren't lining up to use it.  The pain was almost too much to bear when you asked Kittiara to remove our Quill nominations.  Even now, when you talk about reducing our membership to basic, the level that will barely keep the one remaining forum open, and that only for the handful of people who have begun to use it, I lie inside and cry.  What about the award we give every month?  Will that go, too?  How will the dozen fine people who have received it feel when their icons are replaced with the dreaded "Invalid Item" notice?  This isn't you, Me.
          Are you confused by all the different directions you could take?  Beyond the Rails is crying out for that fourth book.  I'm sure our friends in the crew are sad about the way we left them.  I am, too.  We could dust them off and get them back into the air.  Or, we could start the Darklighters spinoff we set up at the end of that third book.  Those two hooligans would be a blast to follow!  We could come home for a while, and lay down the rest of Stingaree.  Just imagine the fun of a steampunk adventure set right in our own home town, with famous personages as minor characters, and that book is halfway finished already!  Or maybe you're steampunked out.  That's understandable after three books.  How about that exploration of horror that we talked about?  Possession of Blood was well-received.  It could use some company in your port.  I think I see the problem; you have so many directions to explore that it's overwhelming you.  But we need to do something.  If you can't decide, we could set up a poll, and go with what our readers would most like to see.  Yeah, there's an idea!  I know how you dislike making decisions, so let those who would read our work make it for you.
          I miss you, Me, more than words can say.  Ironic, isn't it, for a wordsmith to be lost for words, but I am.  I love being a writer, Me.  I always have, and I want to keep being a writer, but I spoke the truth, I can't do it alone.
          When are you coming home, Me?  I'll wait patiently for as long as I can, but I hope it isn't too long.  We'll turn seventy in the fall, and we no longer have the luxury of time to waste.  I need you, and you need me.  We're at our best when we're together, soaring through fantastic worlds of our own creation.  Come back, Me, and let's do what we've always been best at.  I'll be here waiting when you're ready.

Missing you more than I can say,
~ Me
          To bring the story full-circle, I have returned to Stingaree as my primary project.  That story is simply too rich, layered, and dare I say fun to toss it on the scrap heap and move on.  My secondary project will be a follow-on story to the horror tale, Possession of Blood.  To support my new-found exploration of horror, I have joined The Dark Society,'s premiere horror group.  Keep your eye on this space.  To quote Dr. Betruger, "Great things are going to happen here, you just wait and see!"
          I've been down in the dumps for too long, and I don't like it.  The future looks bright, and I intend to keep it that way.  I apologize to all of you for dragging you through my personal doldrums, and I promise to bend every effort to not doing it ever again.  I'm treating this past weekend as a fresh start.  The ol' blimp is leaving the dock and setting course for the far horizon.  Join me, friends, on a journey to the real final frontier; the length and breadth of the imagination!

Read well, and write better,
~ Jack "Blimprider" Tyler

Monday, January 29, 2018

At the Corner of Loose End and No Way

          As reported last week, my muse's local seems to be on strike, and he's out walking the picket line (and hopefully gathering new stories for us to tell).  I'm still conflicted about writing, though I am penciling in outline material on both Beyond the Rails IV and the Darklighters spinoff I set up in Book III.  I don't know which, if either, might take off, or if anything ever will again, but while I wait, I'd like to present some material I put together for my blog yesterday.  It was fun to assemble, and as I don't really have anything else to show for a week's rest, I'd like to share it with a few more folks here.
          We've heard a lot over the past week or so about budget battles, government shutdowns, and the trillions and trillions of dollars being thrown around like we're talking about some kid's allowance.  Most people in the modern world have some idea of what a billion dollars is (if you don't, it's about 10% of an aircraft carrier), but a trillion dollars...  We might be talking about the distance to the center of the galaxy for all that means to the average citizen, so I decided to do a bit of research and basic arithmetic, and see what a trillion might be compared to.  Buckle up, you're going to love this!
          If Jesus had sued the Romans over his treatment at their hands, and the courts of the day had awarded him a billion shekels (or whatever they used back then) to be paid at the rate of one million per day, it would have taken them two-and-a-half years to finish paying him.  If he had been awarded a trillion shekels, to be paid at the rate of one million per day, they would be paying him until the year 2739.  Pretty amazing, huh?  But I'm not finished yet, not by a long shot.
          Let's say you won the SuperLotto or a settlement for $1,000,000, and it's going to be handed to you in crisp new $1,000 bills, crisp and new so they lay close together with no air spaces making the stack fatter.  How tall do you think that stack will be?  If you guessed 6½ inches, we have a winner!  If you win a billion dollars, you'd better bring a full-size pickup, because that stack will come in at 550 feet, about the same height as the Washington Monument.  A trillion dollars?  Ninety-five miles high.  The International Space Station will have an excellent view of the tallest structure on earth as it comes over.
          One more?  All right.  I particularly enjoy this one.  Approximately one billion seconds ago, John F. Kennedy was having his famous series of presidential debates with Richard Nixon; one trillion seconds ago, man was discovering fire.
          Okay, that was fun!  That's all I have for you this week, so take it with you and dazzle your friends while I try to sort out whether I'm still a writer, and what I'm going to do with this blog if I'm not.  You may have just gotten a sample, as I look to make it a Museum of the Weird.  At least the name goes with anything, right?
          Play nice, look out for one another, and get out there and live life like you mean it!

~ Jack

Monday, January 22, 2018

Okay, Now What?

         "The best-laid plans of mice and men are about equal."

~ PARODY OF OLD SAYING, possibly MAD Magazine...

         There's another old saying I just made up that goes, "You don't choose writing; writing chooses you."  If that is true, and I believe it is, then it must be possible for writing to abandon you and move on in search of fresh new voices.  I am convinced that that is what has happened to me, leaving me with 60 years of experience, and not the slightest interest in writing another word.  After careful consideration of my likely future, I have decided to spend my writing time encouraging those fresh new voices to reach their full potential.  This will take the form of reviews, and an occasional blog post discussing concepts and issues that have crossed my radar.  I never thought this would be the final destination, but then, who among us can predict his own fate? 

          Thus did I post on my blog, Riding the Blimp, yesterday, because after all my big talk and big plans of the last couple of weeks, the "muse," whatever the hell that is, has deserted me again.  The candle of interest keeps flickering, and the periods when I can't write are constantly becoming longer and deeper.  I can only assume that it's going to get worse until the periods when I can write no longer exist at all.  Rather than torture myself and the few followers I have left with promises of great things to come, I've closed the public window to my works in progress.  There may still be times when I want to write, and the love of writing may return in full, but until it does, I'll be a supporter of the next wave; after all, leaving out my formative years, I had three decades to make my mark, and after those thirty years, there might be thirty people who know who I am.  Time to welcome the next crop of talented new voices to the field.
          That just leaves the question of what I'm going to do with this blog.  Photos?  Anecdotes?  Recipes?  Confrontational political rants?  Yeah, you know me better than that, but, speaking of butchered old sayings, here's a thought to take with you in these difficult times:  A penny saved is a government oversight!
          Play nice, look out for one another, and live life like you mean it.  I'll see you around the web!

~ Jack