Speak of the Devil: The Summer Wind Came Blowing In

You know nothing snow, Jon. 

Speak of the Devil: The Summer Wind Came Blowing In: The summer solstice is nearly upon us, which of course means we`re going to soon be on the march towards winter. I have an image blog for ...

Poetry Redux: I tackle poetry ... and get slammed

I stumbled across this column from way back in 2011 (Note that I use my wife's maiden name) after reading some poems on a writer's site. I thought, "Hey--I can rhyme!" And then I decided to repost it, mostly because it's summer, and I have an editing job, and I can't be online much. And also because I'm curious for your reaction. Okay, so I can rhyme ... but am I any good?

I tackle poetry -- and get slammed


            My fiancĂ©e is taking a poetry class this year, so I, being a writer, decided to take a crack at writing poetry myself.

            Why didn’t someone stop me?

            Thank goodness I’m better at prose. Thank goodness Emily is better at poetry, or she’d be scoring a big fat goose egg, which rhymes with … I don’t know, something.

            My understanding has always been that poetry is writing that’s short and structured and rhymes, while prose just rambles on, the way I do. However, it turns out that poetry doesn’t always rhyme, and some poems have gone on to book lengths. There are, in fact, many dozens of types of poetry, from Haiku to Jintishi. I thought Jintishi was a condition related to too much drinking, but no.

I myself have written several: There’s my Summer Sonnet, which managed to rhyme “sunblock” with “wet sock” (you have to read the whole thing, it makes sense in context). That was the first part of a trilogy that ended with “Winter Depression Elegy”. Then there’s my most famous work of all, “Ode to Odious Odors”, a salute to sweat.

It was only after I realized poems didn’t have to rhyme that I completed my ultimate work: “Rhymes With Orange”. I expected to replace Arthur F. Mapes as Indiana’s poet laureate, but got into trouble when my application poem rhymed “laureate” with “lariat”. As I hadn’t bothered with something that actually made logical sense, my choice left the Indiana Arts Commission hanging.

 By the way, the current Indiana State Poet Laureate is Imma Eaton Krapf; I used Mapes’ name because he lived here in Noble County. By the end of this century Noble County will be known as a writer’s paradise, home of Mapes, Stratton-Porter, Hunter, and Emily Stroud. (Don’t worry Emily; it’s not necessarily in that order).

As part of striving toward famous authorhood (You’ve heard of Authorhood; he stole books from the rich and gave them to the poor), and in an attempt to be a well-rounded writer, I thought I’d take another stab at writing poetry, despite the begging and pleading of both colleagues and fans.

As it happens, I’ve been discussing with writer friends the issue of which is better: e-books or good old fashioned paper books. Poetry should deal with the challenges of life, right? Well, you’re not going to see me at a poetry slam, screaming about drug abuse while sipping five dollar coffee, but I know the sick feeling of pulling a paperback out of the bathtub water. So here, from a writer’s standpoint, is my salute to modern technology:

I thought that I would never see
a book that didn’t kill a tree.
With pages scented paper sweet;
Appetizing termite meat.

No foliage falls for greater cause
then giving pleasure when we pause
to take it easy, and get lost
in stories great, at discount cost.

A too hot day in summertime
is good enough excuse to climb
into a room, all air conditioned,
assuming readership position.

And winter’s even better, yet
to put aside a day, all set
to ignore the crappy cold and snow
for Kipling, King, or maybe Poe.

But oh, the times will change, they say,
if you’ve the means with which to pay,
and wonders come, by hook or crook
electronically – such as e-book.

What a great way to read a story!
Romance, Sci-fi, or something gory.
The e-book holds a million tomes
that otherwise you’d leave at home.

Much less space used! The paper saved!
No more do printing presses slave
to murder trees and spray out ink:
To get a book, just hit a link

On a little screen, electronic
that can bring your reading tonic
and sooth the soul that needs that book
on Kindle, iPad, or the Nook.

It’s so much better, wouldn’t you say?
Your whole library’s there, all day.
No bending covers – doing that
would break an e-reader’s back.

No new book smell. No bookmark need.
No buying something new to read
from that little bookstore down the block;
they’re out of business. Closed and locked.

No comfort in those overflowing
shelves of print, the joy of knowing
no death of any circuitry
nor slowly dying battery

will keep you from enjoying it
in dull lines, or a bathroom visit.
E-books? They’ll come along, apace.
As new things will, they’ll have their place.

If people read, no matter how
it makes this planet great, somehow.
But print will stay, for fools like me,
who know it’s worth replanting trees.

"Later it might be a book, but right now it's the bathroom."

Movie Review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

As all fourteen of my regular readers know, I'm easily entertained. Butterflies, flowers, dumb eighties sitcoms, there's a good chance I'll sit through them all as long as they're not Kardashian-type "reality" TV shows.

So yes, I was entertained by Solo: A Star Wars Story, and would definitely watch it again. But I'm also not dumb (shut up, I'm not), and I know when a movie has serious flaws.

Even when I can't figure out what they are.

"Who's the girl? Does Leia know about this?"

Let's face it, as soon as you heard the name of this movie you knew what it would be about. Sure enough, we get an origin story, with Alden Ehrenreich playing a young Han Solo trapped on his home world, which seems entirely taken over by spaceship building industries. (On a related note, the Star Wars universe is even worse than other science fiction ventures in having a world be just a region. A desert world, a snow world, a city world ... don't any of these planets have other continents? How does an entire world have just one climate?)

Han is a small time crook who, even back then, should never be told the odds, and he just wants to get off-planet with his girlfriend (!) and become a pilot. But things go horribly wrong, and now he's sworn to return after joining the first organization that will give him the pilot training he needs. Not his first bad decision, and not his last.

Although there are surprises along the way, the rest of the story pretty much hits the beats we expect: Han makes friends with a big walking carpet, meets a certain charming swindler who owns a certain ship, gets a gun, learns not to trust anyone, gets first shot at the Kessel Run, so on, so forth ...

It is fun seeing the way some of our beloved conventions about Han come about, and there are indeed some surprises along the way. And a few big surprises. (One of my favorites was finding out just how the Millennium Falcon ended up with such a superior navigation computer.) Yes, "fun" fits--it was fun, and I'll happily sit down to watch it again.

"Chewie, change the light bulbs!"

But Solo: A Star Wars Story just didn't ... gel. For one thing, the movie seemed too dark. I don't mean in tone--I mean it literally seemed dark for long portions of the film--maybe it was the theater where I saw it. The effects and score were good, but not great, which also covers the plot and just about everything else. Alden Ehrenreich did a credible job, but do you want to be the guy who follows Harrison Ford? Me neither.

The rest of the cast did well, especially Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, and Donald Glover, who, despite what others have said, made a great Lando Calrissian. We also get Paul Bettany, who's provides us a fun villain in Dryden Vos.

"If this doesn't work out, I'm thinking of playing Indiana Jones."

I suspect if it had been made independent of a franchise, Solo: A Star Wars Story would be considered good space opera. But it wasn't, and as Star Wars movies go it seems weak ... not to mention a whole movie should have been devoted to Han and Chewie forming a friendship, rather than a few scenes.

My Score:

Entertainment Value: 3 out of 4 M&Ms. Great action sequences, good cast, missing the heart that made the early Star Wars movies so great. Hardcore Star Wars fans have devolved into a mutual hatred society, so I might have liked it more because I'm more of a casual fan.

Oscar Potential: 1 out of 4 M&Ms. Ain't gonna happen.

McCray Manufacturing Fire Reveals History

If you're in northeast Indiana, you probably heard of the fire at the old McCray factory in Kendallville, which took half a day to control and came closer than most people realize to taking out part of the city's historic downtown. The fire burned so hot that it was actually visible on local weather radars, and eighteen fire departments were called in to fight it. (For you big city folk, that would be about five alarms.) Over the course of the night, they extinguished two other roof fires and patrolled downwind as sparks and flying brands dropped over the whole city.

I guess what I'm saying is, it was a big fire. Here's the Noble County Sheriff Department drone video from the day after:


And here's a report on the fire from the Fort Wayne TV station, WPTA21 (That's the same station that interviewed me twice after book releases):


And here's the Kendallville News-Sun article on it:


 The building was huge--much bigger than you could tell from driving down Main street--and mostly out of use for some years. That's too bad, too, because it was once a large part of the Kendallville economy, and manufactured refrigerators that went out across the world. Donations from the McCray family led to, among many other things, the local Lakeside Hospital being named after them, until it eventually became Parkview Noble Hospital. So, the company was obviously successful and influential for many years. All because of ... meat.

I got to thinking about it after the fire, and remembered the building was represented in our book Images of America: Albion and Noble County. Just for fun, instead of finding the photo I actually took a picture of the book page itself:

You can buy this book at www.markrhunter.com, or on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Albion-Noble-County-Images-America-ebook/dp/B014I412XW, because: always be selling.

As you can see from the caption, the McCrays were simply selling their meat and poultry products, and got so successful at it that they were having trouble keeping their products fresh. So ... why not just invent a refrigerator of their own? They did that, getting a patent in 1882, and in 1890 founded the McCray Refrigeration Co. The result was over 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

McCray was for decades the biggest manufacturer of commercial refrigerators, anywhere, and its jobs supported a third of Kendallville's population. Founder Elmer McCray's daughter married an heir to the Coca-Cola fortune, and when Elmer McCray died in 1938 his body had a police escort, with thousands attending his funeral.

All gone, now. Although ... not quite. To this day, you can still buy a Howard-McCray commercial refrigerator.

Movie Review: Deadpool 2

"After surviving a near fatal bovine attack, a disfigured cafeteria chef (Wade Wilson) struggles to fulfill his dream of becoming Mayberry's hottest bartender while also learning to cope with his lost sense of taste." -- Twentieth Century Fox

And there you have it. And, just in case you don't already know you're diving into a comic book movie turned surreal and sideways, in the opening scene the main character complains about the main character of an entirely different comic book movie stealing the idea of the original Deadpool's R rating. While showing a model of a dramatic scene from the other movie.

Deadpool: Tell me they got that in slow-motion...

At the opening of Deadpool 2 our hero (Ryan Reynolds) has everything: A loving girlfriend, a  successful life as a freelance crime fighter/assassin/wiseguy, and the ability to heal from the most severe of injuries. Obviously he'll fall hard, and in short order superhero Colossus rescues him from the debris of his life (literally and figuratively) and tries to make Deadpool an X-Men trainee.

It doesn't work. What pulls Deadpool out of his funk is a foul-mouthed teenage mutant hunted by the time traveling killer Cable (played by Josh Brolin, who was also Avengers villain Thanos.) To protect the flame-throwing kid from Cable, Deadpool assembles his own team of superheroes, who he nicknames X-Force.

Cable: Who are you?
Deadpool: I'm Batman.

It's all very regular superhero-ish. Or it would be, except this is the Deadpool word, where everything goes sideways with hilarious results. To some extent the Deadpool films can be compared to Mel Brooks movies: crude, politically incorrect, and always winking at the audience--sometimes literally. No one-liner is out of bounds, no sight gag too vulgar, no convention above being poked fun at. At one point I quite literally fell out of my chair.

Oddly enough, there were also a few scenes that hit you in the feels, which may be the most unexpected thing about Deadpool 2. There's an actual story there, with personal tragedy on more than one side, and once or twice it's even treated seriously. Not by Deadpool himself, of course. There are also huge chunks of graphic violence, again sometimes literally chunks, cursing, and general hard R-ratedness of the type that would have brought an X when I was a kid. It's not for the little ones.

The new breakout character could be Zazie Beetz's Domino, whose mutant superpower is ... luck. This leads to a funny sequence in which Deadpool insists luck is neither a power nor cinematic, while Domino proves him very wrong on both parts. I also liked the introduction of Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna), who's relentlessly friendly and cheerful, but also more than she seems.

Deadpool: Luck isn't a superpower. And it isn't cinematic!
Domino: Yes, it is.
Deadpool: I'm gonna meet you in the middle and say no.

My rating:

Entertainment value: 4 M&Ms, the good green ones. This kind of funny is not for everyone, for sure--but it made me giggle helplessly and roll around in my chair.

Oscar Potential: 1 M&M. Yeah, the Academy isn't going to touch this one.

Join us for the annual Albion Fire Department fish and tenderloin fry

If you should be near Albion during the Chain O’ Lakes Festival (it's always the first full week of June), don’t forget to drop in on the fish and tenderloin fry at the fire station Wednesday, June 6th. This has been an ongoing annual tradition for many decades, and the proceeds go to equipment and training for the Albion Fire Department.

It’s from 5-7:30 p.m., with a price of $10 for adults and $7 for children under 12, and it’s darned good food for a good cause. I should know, having eaten it almost every year for over three and a half decades. The firehouse is on the east side of town on, not unexpectedly, Fire Station Drive.

Most likely I'll be breading fish earlier in the afternoon, and won't make it to the fish fry itself, which is the way my schedule's worked out the last few years. But while you're there ask someone for a copy of Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights, the Albion Fire Department's history book, which goes for just $9.95. Come on, you know you want to donate that extra nickle. Proceeds for the sale of that book also go to the fire department. If all goes well, this fall I'll start working on another book involving the AFD.

This book. Ten bucks--less as an e-book, but then the cool photos aren't as cool.

Look behind us. That's the fish fry, where Emily and I first introduced Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights.

Donations to the department get us all sorts of stuff, much of which helps keep us alive.