Category Archives: Breaking News
I work in the darkness. I am a radiologist and in order to view the diagnostic images on my monitors, I must keep the room dark. I am surrounded continually by shadows. It is my world.
For the past few months, those shadows have slowly, inexorably moved into my world outside of work. They have slowly and quietly slipped along the floor and the walls and the ceiling with cold tendrils of blackness. The shadows have embraced me.
When I am strong; when I am attentive to the moving of God in my life, my mind, and my soul; when I pay attention to that still, small Voice; when I am seated at the foot of the cross the Light presses back the shadows. But, when I am weak; when I am troubled; when my attention is captured by the immediate and the urgent instead of the important I am distracted. I fail to look over my shoulder at the creeping darkness. I take my eyes off the Source of Life for my every breath.
2018 was supposed to be a better year.
So far, I am struggling with some serious health issues. But, God is in control and all will work out.
I’ve been busy lately with teaching “Everyday Questions” with Mark Riser at Brookwood Baptist Church. It is a small group session on how to have meaningful conversations with anyone questioning the truthfulness of the Christian faith. Also, I am presenting “What Does It Mean to Be a Human Being” this Wednesday night at 6 PM for James Patterson’s class at First Methodist Church. This exploration of the question is very important. Are we just here by chance? Or, are we made in the image of God? And, why should that be important. I will also be giving this same talk in May at our RTB Chapter meeting the third Tuesday at 630 PM.
I am working on three books to hopefully release later this year:
The 9th Demon: Crosstime
The Homecoming Tree — A novelization of my 2005 play about Shreveport at the beginning of World War II.
The Tall Tree — A semi autobiographical story based on the year of 1968 and the events that changed America.
Also, Mark Sutton and I are tentatively working on a new book.
I must admit I was shocked at several of the turning points in the story that I never saw coming. I mean, really, that whole thing about the parents?
And, I did not want HER to like HIM at all! And yet, there was a growing attraction there I never saw coming. Really! Can’t she see his dark side will always win out over his good side?
And, abandoning the training as a Jedi to save your friends? That can never turn out well.
I wanted to scream at the screen! I wanted to rant and rave in protest. This is NOT how I would have written the story. In fact, I had written MY version of the movie in the months and months since the previous movie and I would never have done this. A different director from the first movie had taken this train down a dark and dank tunnel and taken the wrong track!
It’s been three years since we lost Robin Williams and here is the post I shared on this day three years ago:
Granny Wendy: So… your adventures are over.
Peter Banning: Oh, no. To live… to live would be an awfully big adventure.
It was January, 1992 and I was lost and alone in Los Angeles. In looking for the hospital hosting my radiology meeting I had somehow ended up in East L.A. a most unsavory and dangerous place. In the days before GPS, I had to rely on a map and somewhere I had made a wrong turn. I said a silent prayer for safety and slowly made my way through the prostitutes and drug dealers converging on my vehicle. God was with me that day and I made it safely out of that area of the city and found my destination. At the end of the meeting that evening, I hit the interstate and headed back toward my hotel on the grounds of Disneyland. There, I would be safe and protected from the harsh world of reality I left behind. There, I would find magic. And, I desperately needed some magic in my life.
I was born on my father’s 41st birthday. I was an “oops” baby. My mother was 37 at the time and had already raised a family. My brother was 18 years older than me. My older sister was 15 years older than me. And, my younger sister was only ten years older than me. But, my parents were convinced they were done building their family. My mother was convinced she was going through the “change in life”. In a way, she was!
My father would have been 103 years old on June 13th. He almost made it. He passed away at the age of 98 after a fall from his scooter. He fell asleep waiting for someone he was concerned about. He wanted to escort her out to her car and see that she made it safely. Concerned about her safety and not his own, he fell asleep and tumbled off his scooter. A week later he was dead from swelling of the brain from what is called “the walking dead” syndrome of brain trauma.
I just ordered my proof copy of “Death By Darwin”. Soon, you will be able to get your hands on my next book. By December 15th, the ebook will be available and hopefully, the printed version. More on that soon.
But, today, I want to focus on what took place on this day 75 years ago. Yes, December 7 1941 is a day that will live in “infamy”. In 2005 our drama group at Brookwood Baptist Church performed my last written play, “The Homecoming Tree”. The play was set in the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas 1941. I based the story on my parents’ experiences living in Shreveport, Louisiana during World War II. The play has a very special place in my heart and I have rewritten it over the past 11 years. I am now working on the conversion of the play to a novel.
My hopes are to see the play performed again in its new form and also to possibly add musical numbers to the play. But, for now, I am settling for finishing up the novel. Today, in the honor of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the brave men and women who died that day and the Generation that took upon themselves to defeat the greatest evil in modern history I want to post an excerpt from my upcoming book, “The Homecoming Tree”.
Luke Lee and I are working on the final layout of the novel and the cover for my next novel, “Death By Darwin”. For those interested in this upcoming novel, here is an excerpt from the book. Jonathan Steel has been retained by an attorney, Ruth Martinez, to help defend an innocent man convicted of killing his boss. In this scene Steel has met with Detective Lunella Jones and is being escorted to the Evidence lockup.
She fell silent and tapped the desk with her fingernails. “Well, Mr. Jonathan Steel, let’s get you to the evidence room.” Jones led me through the hallways of the police station to a remote room. A window covered with thick wire separated me from a large room filled with shelves. Jones spoke with the man behind the wire and then motioned me forward. His name tag read, “Juan Destillo, F.B. I. Crime Technician.”
“Juan is on loan from the feds. He’ll give you thirty minutes, Mr. Steel. See you later.” She walked away and Juan studied me like I was some insect trapped in amber. He was a slight man with unruly, dark hair and eyes that glowed with the menial power he had been given. Read the rest of this entry
My father was obsessed with television sets. During the football season, he would have three televisions going at the same time and be listening to a game on his transistor radio. This was long before cable when we could get only three channels way out in the sticks of Blanchard, Louisiana. In 1965, he did something unthinkable. You’ve got to understand our financial situation back then. My mother had a job — not a common thing to have both parents working in 1965. She drove a school bus and my father worked at the post office. We weren’t rich at all. We lived in the country and raised most of our food in my father’s garden. To give you an idea of how poor we were, one year I wanted the newest toy sensation, Creepy Crawlers. You purchased the box and it it was a small “oven” that heated up metal molds with shapes of various insects. The set came with gooey plastic in a bottle you could squirt into the molds in various color combinations. Then, you put the molds in the oven and pressed the timer. In minutes, the opaque colorful liquid would harden into a translucent rubbery substance. You peeled your creepy crawlers out of the mold and you had instant vermin!
I wanted this for Christmas so bad. My mother and father pooled some money and bought me an expansion pack instead. Four molds and three bottles of goo. But, no oven! The expansion pack was much cheaper than the whole box. So, here I was on Christmas morning holding my little metal molds over the fire in the fireplace to make my creepy crawlers. Over and over, the things would catch on fire! It’s a wonder I didn’t suffer third degree burns!
Back to 1965. My father came home from Sears and Roebuck store with a huge cardboard box in the back of his old green truck. Much to my mother’s dismay, he had spent a pot load of money on something new. Something big! He and my brother loaded the box into the living room and my father revealed a huge console television. But, it wasn’t just any huge television (Only 24 inches screen — a baby compared to today’s monsters) it was a COLOR television!
Over the next few months I was stunned and amazed at the color images that flickered across the screen. Not all shows were in color. Certainly, Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color was! My favorite show at the time was still in black and white — Lost in Space. I was a science fiction fanatic and couldn’t wait each week to hear those famous words uttered by the robot, “Danger, Will Robinson!”
In the late summer of 1966, one of my mother’s new TV Guides arrived in the mail. For her, it was a little bit of Hollywood glamour in the red clay and pine hills of northern Louisiana. She loved to do the crossword puzzle which featured the names of famous movie and television stars. This TV Guide carried the image of two men dressed in gold and blue tunics with the title of a new show underneath. “Star Trek”. Star Trek? What was this? A new science fiction show in color! I read about the show set on the starship Enterprise with its leader, Captain Kirk and his alien first Officer Mr. Spock. Mr. Spock? Wasn’t that a famous children’s doctor?
On a cool September night, September 8, 1966 at the age of 11 I had finished my supper and was settling down on our couch in front of new color television. My mother and father were off doing something around the house. I guess I’m fortunate there were no Westerns on that night or I would have never seen this new show. The screen came to life with vibrant color — reds and golds and blues and exotic planet sets that blew my mind. I watched as this doctor, “Bones” McCoy showed up in coruscating sparks of light along with his Captain Kirk on a lonely planet to meet his long lost girlfriend who had married an extraterrestrial archeologist. The opening of the show was so ordinary and yet so exotic as if it was perfectly normal for someone to “beam” down from a starship onto the surface of an alien planet. There were no silly sayings or rambling robots. This was pure drama, straight to the heart of real characters. In later years, this paradigm shift would be responsible for me leaving behind the childish comic books of DC for the more mature comes of Marvel. I was enthralled, gripped, captured by the story that unfolded before me. The red shirt ensign getting the life sucked out of him by the beautiful woman who was Dr. McCoy’s love. How could SHE be a monster? She looked so normal and so beautiful! And, then the big reveal. At the end of the show when McCoy’s girlfriend is killing his Captain and we see the thing for what it really was! Oh my! I ran and hid behind the couch. I was traumatized but captivated. I could not believe my eyes. This was the most amazing show in the history of shows!
“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. It’s five mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man has gone before!” Then that fantastic fanfare with the warbling vocals almost alien in tone. To this day, it gives me a thrill.
I never missed an episode of Star Trek. I wrote a letter to stop its cancellation. Dr. McCoy would become my role model when I decided to become a doctor. I can say that my life was deeply affected by Star Trek. The three main characters for me represented the three aspects of our personality. Mr. Spock was the cold, calculating intellect, the superego. Captain Kirk was the visceral, go from the gut leaders the id; and Bones was the humanity, the heart that brought the two extremes together. My love for science grew out of Star Trek. My desire to be “just a plain old country doctor” came out of my love for the character of Dr. McCoy.
In 2008, I had the pleasure of meeting Leonard Nimoy at Book Expo America. I snapped a picture of him but did not have the privilege of getting a picture with him, but I did shake his hand and thank him for the character of Spock that so shaped and influenced my life. I missed out on seeing William Shatner during that trip and unfortunately, DeForest Kelley who played Dr. McCoy had passed away a few years before.
Fifty years have come and gone. I’ve sat through every movie, every animated episode, every spin off. In 1996, I took my son, Sean, to Pasadena California for the 30 year celebration of Star Trek and met many of the stars of Next Generation and Voyager. He dressed in a Star Trek costume that year.
So, to honor Star Trek and its fifty year anniversary, I spent a lot of money and went to Dallas FanExpo in June to meet William Shatner. What a pleasure and a joy to actually meet Captain James Tiberius Kirk. Here is the photo I had made with Willam Shatner and notice the tee shirt I’m wearing.
Here’s to another 50 years of “boldly going where no man has gone before!”
A day at Dallas FanExpo is like a day on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy crossed with any Marvel or DC movie and a lot of comic book characters thrown in. Thank goodness the Dallas Convention Center is as large as the Death Star. It can hold us all!
Friday was a day to remember; a moment frozen in wonder and excitement; a day we will never forget! Sarah Sutton cosplayed (that means dressed up in a costume and pretended to be a character for those of you still living in the 20th century) River Song; Casey cosplayed the Eleventh Doctor; and I WAS the War Doctor. If you don’t know those characters then the rest of this post may not mean as much. All three are from our favorite television experience, Doctor Who.
We spent from noon to 2 PM getting ready to go into the huge, and I really mean ginormous, exhibit hall. With forethought and careful planning, I had brought my father’s scooter with us. Let’s just say by 3 PM I had run the battery down going back and forth from one end of the hall to the other getting in line to exchange tickets and picking up special event tickets. Thankfully, I had purchased a VIP pass to the convention and was able to go to the front of every line. Money well spent. Not to mention getting to hang out in the VIP lounge in the peace and quiet away from the crowd any time of the day with snacks and water provided.
After procuring a large, and by that I mean it really was bigger on the inside, Star Trek themed bag, we went on a short shopping spree and then back to the Lounge to catch our breath. Next, photo op with Freema Agyeman, who portrayed Martha Jones, the Tenth Doctor’s companion after Rose Tyler. Silly me, thinking she might recognize me as the War Doctor, an incarnation of the Doctor coming after she left the show, I said, “I don’t believe we’ve worked together.” She gave me a puzzled look and replied. “I don’t think so.” Snap, flash, move on!
Our big event for the evening was the “Evening with Doctor Who”. I purchased Gold Tickets for Casey and me. For Sarah, a silver ticket, but not to worry. Shhhh! We saved her a seat on the second row and she got to sit with the Golden Ticket people! Just don’t tell anyone at the convention.
This was the most anticipated event of the day! And, man, we were NOT disappointed. We had seen Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman, and Michelle Gomez from a distance earlier that day as they arrived for autograph sessions. It was surreal seeing them in real life. Very surreal. Now, here we were not 20 feet away from the stage as they were introduced. And, true to her character, Michelle came out wearing a set of cat ears! Yes, furry cat ears.
Jenna came out second wearing an ensemble that would have worked for any of her appearances on the show. Capaldi appeared wearing a dark gray blazer over dark slacks and a dark gray tee shirt with the Texas Star on it (black, of course — the man does like his dark colors).
The next hour and fifteen minutes were filled with laughter and tears and was just the most delightful evening in my memory. These people were so kind and grateful to the fans and so open and accommodating to questions. No pretentious. No arrogance. Very humble and grateful.
The questions were legion and I’ll try and give some of them justice. Let’s see. If Missy could pick any room in the TARDIS to design, it would be a huge, black leather Gucci purse filled with tea and biscuits (that’s cookies for us Yanks). Her favorite villain of all time? Well, she said, not me, Hillary Clinton. Her most awkward moment? During Dark Water, having to kiss the Doctor while holding Clara’s hand! AWKWARD!
Jenna’s favorite Doctor (besides Peter) David Tennant. Her favorite episode was the Snowmen because it was so much like a fairy tale with the spiral staircase and the TARDIS in the clouds.
Peter’s favorite villain, Dracula. Specifically, Gary Oldman’s Dracula. Whose idea was it to play the guitar? His. Whose idea was it to come in on a tank? I think it was his. Whose idea were the sonic sunglasses? Moffat’s. He said toy companies all over the world groaned when he put on the sonic sunglasses but “Ray-Ban sent me a whole pile of them.” And, he said he would wear sunglasses any time of the day or night.
At one little boy’s request, he did the voice of the Daleks in a terrifying and lengthy monologue. It was awesome. They start shooting in two weeks! His favorite doctors were the first four — the classic Doctors and the dark clothing he prefers as the Doctor were based on One and Two. Although, he acknowledged, “the only reason they wore black and white is because the show was on a black and white television”. But, he went on to praise all of the actors who portrayed the Doctor, some of whom were given poor scripts and little money and he credits their acting skills with making the best of a bad situation and keeping Doctor Who alive for so long. He really was so gracious and thankful for the entire enterprise.
When asked how they felt about fan created media, Capaldi praised it saying it informed them of what the fans expected and wanted out of Doctor Who and made everyone in the business realize how special Doctor Who is to the world. Jenna mentioned the title sequence from series 9 coming from a fan. And, there was so much more.
After the session, Casey and I were whisked away to a photo op. She told Jenna how inspiring her portrayal of Clara had been. I walked straight up to Capaldi and said, “I’m looking for the Doctor” a line from “The Day of the Doctor”. Michelle Gomez said, “He’s right there.” and pointed to Capaldi. Capaldi took my hand, shook it and said, “Wonderful wardrobe.” Jenna tapped me on the shoulder and said, “We’ve met.” Then we posed for the photo. Snap, flash, move on!
Later, at the autograph session Casey thanked Jenna again for being an inspiration to her and to her friend, Sierra. I told Michelle, “You must be so tired.” She smiled, “Honey, we love it. We’ll sleep next week.” I told Peter Capaldi, “Thank you for coming. We love the Doctor here in America. And, you have made the show so special.” He smiled at me and said, “I just wish we had more time. It’s too short, too short.” Move on!
What a fantastic day! And, Saturday, we meet Arthur Darville, also known as Rory and, of course, the Time Master, Captain Rip Hunter.
They call him the Shat!
I am in Dallas at FanExpo, a massive comic con with over 50000 attendees. Thursday night I had the opportunity to spend an “intimate evening” with William Shatner. I decided to bite the bullet and purchase a ticket to this special event for my upcoming birthday. I’ll soon be 61! 61!!!
But after listening to William Shatner for an hour, who at the age of 85, is more active than I could imagine, I’ve decided 61 is very, very young!
This year is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and to celebrate that milestone, William Shatner is appearing at this event. I lined up about an hour before the event with about 15 other people. We entered a good sized conference room and there were eight couches in two rows along the front of the room with about six rows of folding chairs behind them. I got the last couch seat.
We were soon informed we would all line up and trek, get it, trek, down the convention center to the photo area for our photo op with William Shatner. After this, we would return to our room and our seats and he would come and speak to us for about 45 minutes then sign autographs. Ordinarily, a photo op is $100 and an autograph $100 so the evening was a bargain!
I was wearing a shirt with a picture of the original Dr. McCoy and the quote, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor not a . . .” Followed by four choices. When I finally walked into the photo booth, I was amazed at how good he looks for a man of 85. He appeared very healthy. He smiled at me and liked my tee shirt. I paused, had my photo snapped and then was whisked out of the booth.
He arrived in the room after the photo op and instead of sitting in the appointed chair, hitched himself up on the table on which he would be signing autographs. He immediately talked about how he had never been invited to a typical “Hollywood” party with a rowdy bunch of “naked women”. He said he preferred an intimate get together such as ours and would like to answer a few questions.
The first question was about how he and Leonard Nimoy met. He talked about Nimoy and their first work together on the Man from UNCLE and how he had no recollection. Then, he talked about working with Nimoy on Star Trek. He went on to discuss how deeply he missed Leonard Nimoy, his best friend. He talked about the day Nimoy died on a Friday and his funeral would be on Sunday morning. He said he was committed to a Red Cross event in Boston and would have to decide what to do. He then went on to talk about how quickly people are forgotten and how the pain from loss fades over time. But, Leonard Nimoy would not be forgotten. And, he talked about how Leonard would understand the importance of doing something that would make the world a better place such as helping to raise millions of dollars for Red Cross.
Another question led him into a long discussion of the difference between Star Wars and Star Trek. Story. Characters. He talked about how Star Wars was a “ride” and Star Trek was more story and character development. He then talked about story originating from a bunch of us “sitting around a campfire talking about how one of them stabbed a dinosaur in the eye” and Story was born. He then said in 10000 years we will be talking about UFOs and how we will tell the story of being probed “by a purple alien and having its baby”.
He was then asked if J. J. Abrams offered him a role in the original Star Trek reboot. He said he met with J. J. and read the script and it “was awful”. I realized he had given him another script other than the one that was shot. He told J. J. he would only be interested in a role if it “made an impact on the story and wasn’t just a cameo”. When he found out Leonard Nimoy was in the movie he called him and told him “Your realize that you are old and when you go back in time, you will still be old!”
He then talked more about Star Trek versus Star Wars and said that the first seven movies he was in made about $100 million and cost about $30 million to produce. And then, the next generation movies were supposed to make more money and they didn’t. I think where he was headed with this discussion was the idea that Star Trek works better as a television show because it can concentrate on story and character development. Star Wars is “a ride” and J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek movies were “rides”.
The last question was “Do you regret not taking a role you were offered.” He then talked about his past four weeks. He traveled all over the world doing various events and appearances and I don’t know how a man his age could do this! It was incredible. He ended up by talking about flying to Dallas Wednesday night for this event. He said he has had the opportunity to make a difference in the world like “ripples going out and coming back” and he wouldn’t trade any of that for a big movie role.
He said he has his immediate family in Los Angeles and has everyone over for Sunday dinner so he couldn’t be happier or healthier. He talked about feeling the pressure of time and how quickly life can be gone but he wanted to continue to live and make a difference as long as his health would let him.
A few short notes of some things he said. He talked about his appearance on the original Twilight Zone and the “little furry monster” on the wing. He talked about how in the “old days” in Hollywood a movie would have 10000 extras. How did you feed them? All those people “today are computer generated”. He mentioned his horse riding events and how he was a top championship horse rider and his events for charity raises lots of money.
He told an amusing story about flying to Dallas and having a bad cough. He was sitting beside “a little Asian girl” who had no idea he was Captain Kirk because she probably only knows Chris Pine and she thought “I might be dying”. At this point, he started coughing quite a bit and waxed profound about phlegm. “You’ll never forget tonight. See how intimate we are. We can talk about my phlegm.”
We then lined up and he signed and personalized autographs. I had a Star Trek Manga that came out in 2008 with a collectible poster of the illustrated version of the original cast. He signed it for me and once again said he liked my tee shirt.
I packed up my stuff and walked back to the room through a misting rain. Tomorrow, Doctor Who!!!!