Communion Of Dreams

“A rollicking good time!!!”

… said no one ever about Communion of Dreams. Oh, it’s got a buttload of positive reviews, but it’s a ‘serious’ book in the sense of being about Big Questions of Humanity’s Role in the Universe and all that . And, truth be told, so is St. Cybi’s Well (at least I hope so).

But as I’m starting to see the prospect of finishing SCW sometime in the next months, and perhaps because I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, I’m kinda in the mood to write something which isn’t Oh So Serious. Something light, fun, perhaps even popular. (Gawds, what a concept.) Maybe something like The Princess Bride, but recast in feudal Japan. Or Star Wars redone as the Western it is at heart.

And speaking of which, guess what I found:

Bob A. Ford

The typical wild west bounty hunter who sells his services to bring in anyone with a price on their head.   His quiet demeanor and lighting reflexes makes him one of the most dangerous men on the prairie.

There’s a whole series of these set in different periods/worlds, and they’re all completely delightful.

And we need more delight in our lives. All of us.

So, something to think about.


Jim Downey

Oh, PS: thanks to one and all who downloaded CoD during the weekend promotion. Not huge numbers, but not bad: about 550 downloads around the world. Interestingly, the Amazon portal in Germany was the second-highest number of downloads (second to the US, of course), with a couple dozen. First time that’s happened, and that’s a bigger total for there than ever before to the best of my recollection. No idea why.

Sometimes, people impress the hell out of me.
January 21, 2012, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Art, Augmented Reality, George Lucas, Humor, movies, Science Fiction, Society, Star Wars, YouTube

I can be a bit of a curmudgeon. A grump. A misanthrope. Anyone who’s read my blog for a while knows this.

But sometimes, people impress the hell out of me. Oh, I’m not talking about the sorts of things that cause a lump in your throat. You know, self-sacrifice . . . being kind to strangers . . . saving a defenseless animal . . . that kind of thing. No, I’m talking about how people can be remarkably creative and intelligent. Like this:

Yeah, it’s two hours long. You don’t have to watch it all at once. Just look at it in bits and pieces. It’s OK, because you know the story, and the thing was *designed* to be sampled:

In 2009, thousands of Internet users were asked to remake “Star Wars: A New Hope” into a fan film, 15 seconds at a time. Contributors were allowed to recreate scenes from Star Wars however they wanted. Within just a few months SWU grew into a wild success. The creativity that poured into the project was unimaginable.

Just watching the amazing approaches that different people took to telling each slice of the story is pretty mind-blowing. Everything from bad acting with pretty good mock-ups of the scenes, to sock puppets, to incredible animation, to re-interpretations using animals, and on and on. It’s really damned impressive.

And of course, so is the brilliance behind the idea, and seeing it to completion.

Yeah, sometimes people impress the hell out of me. I’ve been laughing my ass off watching this thing.

Jim Downey

“These are not the droids you’re looking for.”
September 29, 2011, 9:39 am
Filed under: BoingBoing, Civil Rights, Constitution, Failure, Government, Society, Star Wars

Via BB, an interesting news item:

Couple in shock after drug raid

ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) – A massive drug raid in Roswell last week targeted dozens of people at homes across the city.

But one of those homes didn’t have what police were looking for, and their unexpected visit left the people inside shaken and upset.

* * *

She said her husband opened the door to multiple officers in raid gear with guns drawn.

“We were completely shocked, upset,” she continued. “I was panicked because I’ve never had anything like this happen to us before, never.”

She said the officers demanded to come inside her home.

“And my husband asked, ‘Do you have a warrant? Who are you looking for?’ and they said, ‘Gerald Sentell,'” Parker said. “We don’t even know this person.”

OK, at this point, what usually happens in these situations is the DEA or other law enforcement agency comes in, ‘secures’ the house (including putting occupants on the ground, perhaps with handcuffs or suchlike, and if there are any dogs…), does their search and any apologies or reparations for damage to the house comes later after a big public outcry.

What happened this time?

Parker said she and her husband were wary of cooperating because they weren’t sure what was going on.

When asked if she thought the officers could have been imposters, Parker replied, “Yes. That’s very much what we thought, and that’s why my husband said no, you’re not coming in this house without a warrant.”

The DEA spokesperson said the agents left when they were denied entry by the couple.

* * *

The DEA said all of the officers involved in the raid were following procedure and did nothing wrong.


This both delights me, and outrages/frightens me.

I mean, I’m glad that Mr. Parker seems to have Jedi mind-control powers (not to mention the presence of mind to ask for a warrant under these circumstances) and so avoided going through the additional trauma usually inflicted on citizens in this situation. Seriously – that’s great. His door is still on the hinges, no shots were fired, the DEA actually respected his constitutional rights. Wonderful!

But the “following procedure” statement outrages me. So the DEA procedure is to conduct these raids without a warrant?


Think about that.

Then think about the fact that this probably comes as a surprise. I know it did to me. No, not that the DEA raid was conducted without a warrant (I call that stupid, but not terribly surprising). What’s surprising is that they didn’t just go ahead and conduct the raid, anyway, once they were there, under the pretense that one of the agents “smelled something” or “thought he saw drug paraphernalia” or some other excuse. Because that’s the usual script in these cases.

Yeah, it’s surprising that the DEA actually respected the 4th Amendment.

That should scare the hell out of you.

Jim Downey

It’s probably . . .
March 10, 2010, 1:47 pm
Filed under: Health, Humor, movies, Star Wars

. . . just due to lack of oxygen thanks to this touch of pneumonia I’m fighting (I mentioned that I was prone to it, remember?) but last night as I sat down to watch a movie, an odd thought crossed my mind: what if you gave Star Wars the ‘Chicken Run’ treatment?

Nick Park, feel free to send me the check for this brilliant idea directly.

Jim Downey

Slices of Vega$
January 28, 2010, 2:35 pm
Filed under: Humor, Society, Star Trek, Star Wars, Travel

I decided not to do formal ‘travelogues’ for my recent trip out to Las Vegas for the SHOT Show, but instead do a series of small vignettes, over the course of the next couple of weeks.

Jim D.


It rained.

It rained more in four days than it rained for all of 2009.

And of course, I was there for it.

* * * * * * *

Well, it’s a good thing that you basically don’t have to go outside when in Vegas. Ever. And that the rain doesn’t present problems for such festivities as taking a gondola ride at the Venetian. Like the Miss America Pageant contestants did.

And I was there for it.

No, seriously. And it was seriously weird.

Me, Jim K, and John E were having some top-notch pizza and a couple of beers at Postrio there in the strangeness that is St. Mark’s Square. When all of a sudden there was some pomp & circumstance happening around us. Of the sort that involves scant clothing on plastic women and men wearing tuxes. One of my dining companions mentioned that he thought the Miss America Pageant was being held the next week, and this must be some kind of preliminary event.

It was. The line of women wandered through the ‘outdoor’ restaurant, just a couple of paces from our table.

I looked up, saw what was going on, then turned my attention back to the pizza. At least that was real.

* * * * * * *

Did you know that there is a Star Trek slot machine game?

And a Star Wars one?

Also ones for Indiana Jones, the Wizard of Oz, and dozens of television shows?

I didn’t. I thought slot machines were all those classic things with just three spinning wheels that contain numbers or symbols.

What a rube from flyover country.

But one morning before I left, I dutifully went over to one machine, donated a $10 bill to it, and played twice.

Oh, sure, I could have gotten a thousand plays at a “penny machine”.

But two hits from that adrenaline pump were quite enough, thank you.

* * * * * * *

My traveling companion needed to get some additional cash the morning we left.

The ATM there on the floor of the casino just gave $100.00 bills.

Tells you all you need to know about the casino business.

Jim Downey

That’s what I get for going to Mos Eisley.

I had business over on the MU campus early in the week – needed to check something out at the bookstore.

So, of course, the next day I started coming down with some viral infection.

Yesterday I had a previously scheduled appointment with my doctor, just a follow-up for my blood pressure treatment. When she came into the exam room, she asked how I was doing. I told her I had to go over to campus, so of course I now had whatever hideous plague was making the rounds. She nodded knowingly, said “oh, yeah, and there’s a *lot* of stuff going around over there.”

Anyway, the bp remains under control. And I likely have some mild variation of H1N1. But I did share it with my good lady wife. Not exactly the 22nd anniversary present I had in mind. Oh well.

Things, however, continue. Now through Chapter 10 of Communion of Dreams on the revisions, and have trimmed over 16,000 words from the text. Also about 3/4 of the way through my editing of my content for the care-giving book. Downloads of CoD continue, and we’re now past 18,500 of those. And of course the BBTI project keeps plugging along, with again more than 100k hits in September, bringing us to over one & a third million hits total since we launched the site 10 months ago. I am behind a bit on my conservation work, but not horribly so.

So, I suppose a mild case of flu isn’t much to complain about. But still . . .

Expect to hear from me when you do.

Jim Downey

July 4, 2008, 10:35 am
Filed under: Humor, MetaFilter, movies, Science Fiction, Star Wars, Uncategorized, YouTube

Watch the whole thing:


Jim Downey

(Via MeFi).

I’ve mentioned . . .
June 29, 2008, 9:56 am
Filed under: Comics, Darths & Droids, Preparedness, Star Wars, Survival, Violence

. . . Darths & Droids previously, and particularly want to point to today’s strip.  Why?  Because of the commentary:

You can tell inexperienced roleplayers from experienced ones quite easily. Put them in a room that might contain traps or lurking monsters.

The inexperienced players will check behind the furniture, under the rugs, around the walls, etc, etc. The experienced players will check the ceiling. All the worst things are concealed on the ceiling. Really experienced players will have a 10-foot pole handy, specifically to poke and prod the ceiling, just to make sure it doesn’t have any lurking monsters, collapsing sections, more lurking monsters, cunningly concealed deathtraps, even more lurking monsters, rusty spikes that might drop on you if you so much as breathe, and, of course, yet more lurking monsters.

And you can tell veteran adventurers in most fantasy worlds by the way they keep glancing up every few seconds.

Or veteran veterans, for that matter.  Or anyone who pays attention to the surroundings.  It’s called ‘situational awareness.’

Jim Downey

Extraordinary, indeed.

This is a review written for the Columbia Tribune, as drafted. If and when they use it, I will link and/or copy the finished version here.

– Jim


Pulp writers – those hacks who churn out Science Fiction and Fantasy, Horror and Westerns – have rarely received much in the way of respect from the academic community.

So it is remarkable that among the William Peden Short Story Collection at the University of Missouri – Columbia there is just such an author. An author who was one of Dr. Peden’s students, and who grew to become a friend, corresponding with Dr. Peden for more than thirty years. That author is Richard Matheson.

Dr. Peden developed the Creative Writing Program at MU. He established the University of Missouri Press. He was the co-founder of the Missouri Review, which still bestows an annual fiction prize in his name. He was widely respected as a scholar of writing, and as an author in his own right. And he said this about a young Richard Matheson, writing a friend who was a publisher:

“A former student of mine [is] going to call you within the next few days and I think you might be interested in talking with the boy . . . The chap’s name is Richard Matheson and I really believe he has possibly an extraordinary future ahead of him.”

I would not have known this were it not for The Richard Matheson Companion (ISBN-13: 9781887368964, available from major booksellers). And it wouldn’t be in there except through the efforts of another Columbian, Paul Stuve, who is one of the editors of that book. It turns out that Stuve has one of the most complete collections of Matheson’s work in the world.

I contacted Stuve and asked him what got him interested in Richard Matheson.

“The first time I knew I was a Matheson fan was in high school, but the fact is I was a fan long before that. Through his Twilight Zone episodes mostly, and then Duel, and even the dreadful Omega Man (which was adapted, very badly, from Matheson’s modern-day vampire novel “I Am Legengd). But the first time I connected a name with the work was while watching The Legend of Hell House on TV with my dad one night. I promptly set about trying to find the book, and in the process I discovered who he was. I’ve been collecting him ever since.”

And how did he get involved in the Matheson Companion?

“When Matthew Bradley (whom I knew from another project) was asked to assist Stanley Wiater with the Companion, I volunteered to help with the detailed bibliographies and filmographies that were going to need to be compiled. I have a nearly complete collection of all the first published appearances of Matheson’s writings (and the limited editions, and the, well, it goes on and on…), and it seemed like it would be a fun task. As the project wore on, I became more and more involved (the lists themselves are nearly 200 pages long), and during the process I was made an associate editor, and finally a full editor.

What was the most rewarding part of the project, for you?

“For me, the real coup of the project was when I wandered over to the MU library
one day to see if I could turn up anything that Matheson wrote while he was a
student here in the late 1940s. I was expecting perhaps a letter or brief item
in the student newspaper, but I wound up discovering a file folder of nearly 30
years of correspondence between Matheson and William Peden, his advanced writing
professor at Mizzou.”

Some of those letters are reproduced in The Richard Matheson Companion, the most comprehensive collection of information about this versatile author, which also contains reflections and tributes by those who knew and worked with him, along with a previously unpublished novella by Matheson. It is a phenomenal resource. As co-editors Stanley Wiater and Matthew R. Bradley write in the Introduction to the book:

“Matheson is one of the most acclaimed and influential fantasists of our time. He and his work have won the Hugo, Edgar Allen Poe, Golden Spur and Christopher Awards, plus multiple World Fantasy (“Howard”), Bram Stoker, and Writers Guild of America Awards, including Lifetime Achievement awards from the World Horror and World Fantasy Conventions.

Yet, quite amazingly we think, there has never been a legitimate biography of the man, or a writer’s companion to his work. It is the latter that we have striven to create – the last word on the millions of words produced by Richard Matheson in a career that has already gone beyond the helf-century mark, with no signs of ending anytime soon.”

The recognition of Matheson’s contribution to the literature and popular culture of the second half of the 20th century will only grow with time. He was an inspiration to the likes of Stephen King, Chris Carter, and George A. Romero. It may yet be a while before he becomes of ‘scholarly interest’, but it was already clear to Dr. William Peden over fifty years ago that Matheson was a writer who was worthy of consideration and respect.

Jim Downey

To get your Monday started off right.

You may recall the 2001 effort to get people to register their religion as “Jedi”. Like some of the other silliness at the turn of the century, it was mostly harmless.

Well, it seems that earlier this year a couple of brothers in Wales decided to take it a step further:

Force strong for new Jedi church

Two Star Wars-loving brothers planning a Jedi church hope it will be much nearer than a galaxy far, far away.

Barney and Daniel Jones want fellow devotees to be able to join them close to their home on Anglesey.

Barney, 26 – or Master Jonba Hehol – and Daniel, 21 – Master Morda Hehol – head the UK Church of the Jedi, in honour of the film’s good knights.

And you gotta give the guys credit – they know how to keep their name in the news:

Anglesey Jedi Church announces plans for Moon colony

AN ORDER of Holyhead Jedis has begun steps to colonise the moon.

The UK Church of the Jedi, run by brothers Daniel and Barney Jones, of Holyhead, are setting up a micro nation on the moon.

They have bought a plot of land on the moon and the order plan to have a capital city and appoint worthy Jedi to positions such as Head of Galactic Affairs and Country Ambassador.

Alas, with notoriety also comes occasional tragedy:

Star Wars comes to Holyhead as Darth Vader strikes back in Jedi’s back garden

A Star Wars fan got closer to his idols than he would perhaps have liked when he was attacked in his garden by Darth Vader.

Jedi Master Jonba Hehol – known to family and friends as Barney Jones, 36, of Holyhead – was giving a TV interview in his back garden for a documentary when a man, dressed in a black bin-bag and wearing Darth Vader’s trademark shiny black helmet, leapt over his garden fence.

Wielding a metal crutch – his lightsaber presumably being in for repairs – the Sith Lord proceeded to lay about his opponent, whose Jedi powers proved inadequate for the task of defending himself.

After besting Master Hehol in single combat, Vader, who The Sun reports was under the influence of alcohol, went on to assault the camera crew and a hairdresser.

It’s always something.

Jim Downey

(Via MeFi.  Cross posted to UTI.)