Friday, September 30, 2016

Last Night This Morning

The Great Communicator 5000!
After sleeping with someone in the bed for literally years and years, I don’t sleep well alone.  But I especially don’t sleep well when:

  • My 4-year-old is up at 11 PM for his nightly scream
  • One of my homestay students is up at 1:47 AM with the front door open and tons of lights on for “reasons”
  • My 9-year-old is up at 5:30 AM asking me to sign his homework

So yeah, I’m a bit cranky.  Do you want to ask me that again?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

You'll Never Believe What Shocking Thing Trump Said!

Get me some of those facts!
If you were confused by last night’s presidential debate, it’s probably because you didn’t know there are two Donald Trumps.

This isn’t really new as far as politics go.  The Right and the Left have always had to appeal to their base voters during the primaries to beat out the other candidates—leaning heavier progressive or conservative in order to do so.  Once the nomination is clinched, the question is only how well they can pivot back toward the middle and secure enough swing votes needed to win.

The trick here is keeping your distance but not looking like you’re keeping your distance.  You have to campaign casual.

But there’s nothing casual about Trump, which is why he’s effectively split in two, contradicting himself, and saying he didn’t say things when anyone paying even remote attention knows he did say those things.  You can call up Sean Hannity and ask him.

For everyone else, I suggest you employ the following memes.  When Trump says something you agree with:

When Trump says something you don’t agree with:

Following that all should be well.  He is, after all, the best.

Friday, September 23, 2016

M&Ms, Skittles and Poison

Exactly where are you "importing" these M&Ms?
There has been a lot of reverse analysis on these Skittles/M&Ms analogies, and generally I enjoy them.  Overall, I think they miss several points.  The first, of course, is a hasty generalization fallacy.  These memes are citing 1% or 10% or sometimes even 20% as “poisoned” for which, of course, there is no substance of support.  It’s also reflective a general xenophobia that has pervaded thinking for some time, but which has very little basis in reality.  Further, if we’re to believe these memes, then the incidence of “poison” would be immediately obvious from the start, and practically pervasive given that we’re now five years into the Syrian conflict.

But the real response here is we’re not talking about poison pills, we’re talking about 13.5 million human beings.

Fathers, mothers, children and innocents who have fled the violence of their country and are in need of assistance.  They didn’t want to leave.  Most of them would never have left in the first place.  Would youwant to leave your home?  They had no other choice because their government is more interested in maintaining power throughcampaigns of indiscriminate violence than it is in taking care of its people.  More than that, though, any nation that believes itself to uphold moral integrity and human rights, any nation that claims to be Christian and based on Christ-like ideals, any nation that wants to be "great again" should be willing to do everything in its power to prove to the world that we act in the same way as we chant our beliefs from political stages and preach from our pulpits.

Or, to put it more simply, we have nothing to fear from Skittles, M&Ms or stupid analogies but fear itself.  That’s exactly what these memes are designed to generate.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wasatch Springs Plunge

Yes, of the whole state of Utah!
Years ago, my father was in interior demolition and construction.  I don’t remember a lot of construction, but as a young child, I do remember the demolition—especially since I got to “help” on some of the sites.  This was probably meant to keep me busy, and focus some of my extra energy, but I always found it really interesting.  My parents probably remember me complaining about it, but they’re wrong.

Like the time I removed the molding from shelves at the back of a shoe store.  For whatever reason, there was a treasure-trove of pens and pencils hidden behind that molding, and I was allowed to keep whatever I found!  Later, fairies came and took the pens and pencils back to their evil lairs, but that’s just the nature of fairies.  There’s no accounting for them.

One particular site that my father worked on which I remember reasonably well was the Children’s Museum of Utah.  The site for this was an old hot springs spa in North Salt Lake called the Wasatch Springs Plunge.  I recently discovered that the Children’s Museum (at least this one) moved to the Gateway center in downtown Salt Lake City in 2006.  But from 1983 to 2003, the museum was housed at the old Wasatch Springs. 

This is especially memorable to me for two reasons.  First, I had just read about the Giant’s Causeway in some book with illustrations of the hexagonal basalt columns created by volcanic heat.  Second, I stood at the bottom of one of the old pools which had small hexagonal tiles.  I equated the two and thought that the hot springs had, somehow, been shaped in the same way as the Giant’s Causeway.  The regular, uniform shape didn’t throw me for a moment.  Many of the tiles had been popped, and I was allowed to collect them.

I’m sure my parents thought I was nuts, but I kept them like some kind of found treasure for many years.  I don’t know exactly what happened to them, but I have my guess that those fairies that infested our house probably took them away.

Either way, I came across an article today on the Wasatch Springs Plunge, which provided a thumbnail sketch of the building and site history.  It was a nice trip.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Books Worth Your Bucks

I’ll be participating in the “Books Worth Your Bucks” blog tour.  The focus is on sharing indie authors and books, those who are making the grade on their own efforts, and some traditionally published authors and books as well.

If I'd known that I could get so many great books, for free, just from becoming a published author, I would have tried to do it years and years ago.  Of course, dwelling in darkness and obscurity certainly has its upside.  I'm not certain what that upside is, but I'm told it's there.

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Canada Twitter Profile

The following is the actual profile of someone who followed me on Twitter and PMd me to “Please follow back.” 

Hello Guys, i am associated with a business for many years in the Canada. Contact me for any finance and loans related queries.

Loans?  Finance!?  Sign me up!

The last time a McCandless received an offer like this from "the Canada" my grandfather was taken for about $70k.  But, like the song says, "Oh, the Canada, we're associated with 'a business' for many years!"

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Amazing Last McCandless Moving Adventure

BOOM—goes the tire!
Over the years, my father has had some amazing “adventures” when travelling or moving.  One story will illustrate this better than explaining all the “adventures” I went through just this past weekend while trying to help move my parents from Las Vegas, across the Mojave Desert to Southern California.  This is a trip that included an overheated ’56 Chevy 6400, an overnight stay in Baker, California

It was easily over 104 F (40 C) when I had to call AAA.  I was a little over 10 miles out from the Baker, which sits at the bottom of a desert valley and boasts the world’s tallestthermometer.  Baker is also the gateway to Death Valley, so yeah, it’s hot.  Damn, damn hot.  I’d blown one of four trailer tires and I saw that a second tire had lost all its tread—the steel wires gleamed silver in the midday sun.  The AAA guy was filling out the paperwork, and taking down my name when he stopped me:

“Are you,” he started to ask, then hesitated.  “Are you related to—”

Now, it’s important here to note that I thought he was going to ask if I was related to Bob McCandless.  Not because my father is world or region famous, but rather because my family, and specifically my dad, can drive from Southern California, through Nevada and up to Salt Lake City, Utah (and beyond) and tell a story about how he broke down, and subsequently fixed and/or was towed, from almost every desolate and deserted off-ramp to nowhere.

The "Bob" in his natural environment.
So, when the AAA guy hesitated over my name, I thought for certain he’d had a run-in with my father.  Those are reasonably memorable, even for just the day-to-day kind of thing, let alone the “adventures” which include losing two tires and two spares within the space of a half-mile (yes, that happened).  That my dad, at 76+ is still walking around with all his original limbs, is a testament to a) how tough he is (John Wayne-tough) and b) how capable he's been at managing these kinds of crises.

I haven’t picked up all my dad’s tips and tricks, and in a lot of ways I don’t want to.  Dad has the capacity to absorb hardship and suffering—like lying under a two-ton truck in 100 degree-plus heat for four hours to remove, repair and replace a punctured oil pan (yes, that happened)—that I simply have no desire to endure.  I can do it, but I have to complain about it.  I much prefer to all in the experts, pay them for their time, and go on my merry.  Or better still, pay extra for vehicles and equipment so that I don’t have to repair it at all.

But not Dad.  There wasn’t an old piece of rusting equipment that he couldn’t get up and running with a 9/16th wrench, a pair of pliers and his pocket knife.

But the AAA guy wasn’t going to ask if I was related to Bob McCandless.

“—McCandless International?” he finished.  That’s a big, commercial truck dealer.

I’m not related to them.  Nope.

But I am related to Bob McCandless.  He's my dad.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Book Trailer and Title Announcement!

The wonderfully talented and incredibly patient Elizabeth Abel pulled together the following trailer for the Flames of Perdition series.  This includes a little bonus, as the title of the next book appears in the trailer.

Please enjoy, like, share, tweet, forward, and whatnot (especially the whatnot).

What did you think?

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


The truth is . . . somewhere?
From the first page of vON kRAEMER’s unexpected novella, THE HOAG: Lost In Moments Collected Beyond Yesterday the reader is taken to a world so distant and yet so familiar that emersion is a simple matter of going along with the flow.  That’s easy to do, as the style is as fluid as it is filled with complexity that almost, but never quite, self-explains.

vON kRAEMER builds a world and a universe from a concept of intergalactic aliens, the titular Hoag, who are billions of years old, completely alien (more plant than animal) and communicate in a way that is, to put it mildly, unrelatable.  Fortunately, the reader views all this through the eyes of Soo Lingg in a future that may be as imperfect as it is perfect.  Soo is seemingly getting ready for a double date when he is confronted by Ambassador Truk (as in “big as a”).  He is aided in his understanding (as are all the Earth inhabitants) by Server, an AI of vast proportions, unknown capabilities and mysterious background.  At the same time, the reader is introduced to a style of futuristic speech that is reminiscent of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange which can be figured out as mostly in context—TruthTruth.

Of course, the THE HOAG isn’t so simple as will Soo Lingg make his date or not?  As Soo learns about the biology, society and history of the Hoag, he also learns about his own planet and species history.  There might be something more sinister going on.

vON kRAEMER does an impressive balancing act, creating a universe and an alien species within a believable future all told through the eyes of a character who is both familiar and yet years beyond our own future.  As the novella draws to a fascinating conclusion, readers may find themselves wanting more of everything.  It’s the perfect place to be.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Suicide Squad—Rant and Spoilers

Don't you "puddin'" me!

No, seriously.  I’m not going to discuss Suicide Squad without sharing major, major, huge plot spoilers.  Pretty much every single one.  If you’re looking for a review to decide whether or not to see the movie . . . well, this one will certainly help, but you may want to look elsewhere.  I just have to rant to get this movie out of my head and express my disappointment.

So there.  I was disappointed.  You can take that to bank.

Caveat: I enjoyed the film and could probably watch it again. But I didn't love it, and I wouldn't really recommend it. There are some shining moments that were fun. The pacing was just enough that when I started to get bored it picked up and kept me reasonably interested. Some of the lines were terrible exposition, not even remotely reasonable even in a Hollywood action film. This was an ensemble character-based movie that doesn't know the meaning of the word "ensemble".  If you want to see Suicide Squad done right, rent or buy Batman: Assault on Arkham.

Alright, instead of going through the wet, hot mess of a plot, it will be easier to run through the list of characters which will quickly reveal the core problems:

Killer Croc—Why was he even in this? I mean, aside from being . . . well, somewhat big-looking and with reasonably great make-up (though his head seemed proportionally bigger than his body). Couldn't they use some camera trickery to make him appear 7 to 8 feet tall? He seemed slightly shorter than Deadshot. He mostly growls semi-intelligible lines, and the one place where he could have actually stood out—underwater—he does nothing but swim and then climbs back into the group. Maybe there's a cut scene where he fights some underwater dudes, saves the SEAL team and retrieves the explosive? Dunno.

Deadshot—Will Smith embraced his inner Will Smith, smarting off, but even then
Defining "hella cool" for a new generation.
some of his lines were such gibberish. It felt like they were using him for exposition that wasn't actually required because he was the biggest star in the film. I loved his backstory, which is pretty standard Will Smith fare, but par for the course in this movie. He's supposed to bring the entire team together, but he . . . doesn't. There's no point at which he is able to bond with really anyone which makes the entire idea of a "team" wholly contrived.

El Diablo—Despite being the most interesting, he also has very limited screen time and the strangest motivation at the end, talking about not losing his "new family" which they totally weren't. There was so little bonding, even evil villain-bonding, that I had no idea where he got the idea he had a new "family" that he needed to protect or that they would protect him.  Still, his final form was hella awesome.

Boomerang—This guy was the worst addition to the team. It was obvious that he was going to be used to prove the explosives in the team’s necks were real, ala Escape from New York, but other than that, he had very little in the way of expressed skills that couldn't be had from hiring a circus knife-thrower or letting the SEAL team be an actual SEAL team. The one time he's handy is his surveillance boomerang . . . which, umm, the government would have like eighteen different kinds of surveillance already on the ground, over the city, etc. He has a great scene toward the end when Flag breaks the phone, says they're free to go and he does! Awesome. Perfect for the character that "doesn't play well with others". Then, they ruined it.  For “reasons” he shows back up for the big throwdown with Enchantress and her Brother but does . . . what? I'm not sure.

Harley Quinn—I guess she's the breakout of the movie. She fights and gives reasons to include Jerod Leto's version of the Joker. But that's about it. She doesn't tear the team apart or bring it together. She says she’s crazy and a bad guy, but does very little to prove this.  She's just, well, there. She's great eye-candy, and I appreciate that she kicks a lot of ass, but there's nothing overly special about her that couldn't have been accomplished by any well-trained soldier. That said, I liked the Joker in this, he had great motivation for everything he does, and his sanity/insanity was fun.  He has one goal, and he doesn’t care who he has to kill, threaten, maim, kill or kill to accomplish it.

Her superpower is being Viola Davis.
Waller—Viola Davis is a complete and utterly believable badass with no superpowers whatsoever who is still a wholly scary character and possibly the most rounded in a movie that isn’t supposed to be about her. Contrasted with the insanity of the Joker, Waller is frightening. The Joker is motivated by his passion for Harley.  Waller is “fighting the good fight” for “national security”.  I loved every scene with her in it, even when silliness was going on around her, or she was spouting off some of the silliness herself. "They weren't cleared for this!" she says after she offs her entire communication team.  Errr, what? Still, cold-blooded ruthlessness which keeps the team in check is pretty believable, and liquidating an office of support staff goes a long way to proving her sincerity. I didn't need a reason for her to still be alive when she should have been dead. She's just that tough. I buy it!

Flag—Uggh. I so wanted to like him. Yet, his tactical skills are exactly as good as his leadership skills—non-existent. Research, people. Bring in an expert. There has to be a ba-jillion (I made that up) former military who could have made this guy really cool.  But at no time does he step up, apply his skills, give a grand speech or anything else that justifies his presence.  I guess there were two whole SEAL teams under his command, but they're so much lame cannon-fodder. Flag doesn't even do the love-appeal to Enchantress to bring her back or distract her or anything. He's just sad and sad through the whole film.

Katana—She has a katana. Hence her name. Her katana may or may not be scary. It captures souls. Are they tortured or add to her power or . . . anything? Dunno. She's a badass with a katana, which is nice I guess.

Which brings us to the “plot” of this mess—Enchantress and her Brother. Her Brother (I
The only character who actually makes sense is the insane one.
don't believe he was named) is scarily cool. She, on the other hand, is all over the place. Is she killing everyone?  Is she turning us all into an army of eyeball-things?  Is she going to make us worship her?  Meh. Doesn't matter. I don't see why her Iranian-binder trip puts away any opposition arguments for the big brass. Seems like that would make her even more of a risk. There's no proof that she's tamed, and in fact, every reason to believe she's not because, well, obviously she's not. She's not scary and her "machine" is a total MacGuffin. Great light show, and while she's "working" on it, she appeared to actually be dancing. But what was it going to do? Does she actually have to defend it in the final fight scene? Seems like once it was in motion, whatever it was going to do couldn't really be stopped by anyone who was left at that point. She could have just zapped off to Tahiti (it's a magical place) and game over. I was also deeply annoyed that we're explicitly told modern ordinance doesn't work against them . . . until it does. Apparently, demolition charges are made of magic explosives or fairy dust or something. The fight with El Diablo is hella cool, and would have made a great reveal for the character if I hadn't been so confused by his sudden motivation.

There seemed to be a movie within this movie that maybe is better explained by another movie. The motivations are horrible or non-existent, when there are so many opportunities for simple explanations. "Dude, we have explosives in our necks so let's go kick some ass and become a hella-cool crime-fighting team!" Hand-wave that away, but give me something.  There was nothing so special about the team that couldn't have been otherwise accomplished by non-explosives-in-the-body soldiers kicking ass and taking names as we've seen in so many other films.  There's some supernatural stuff, but that wasn't the team's goal.  There's the machine what does it do? Why should I care?  Why should anyone care.

The answer is you shouldn't.  See the movie if you want to.  It's fun.  But do not try to think at all while watching it.  You'll be as disappointed as I was.