The City that Sold a School to a Casino

When the tornado hit Springfield in 2001, the Howard Street School was damaged beyond use. The city, being broke, couldn’t afford to fix it up. The same thing happened to the South End Community Center. Without the money to repair either, the buildings have just been languishing.

Until now! Yesterday the Springfield City Council voted unanimously to sell the properties to MGM, the company that’s all set to build a casino downtown.

This comes as little surprise, as the City Council, lacking any other ideas, can’t get the casino here fast enough. I’m sure they saw this as a win-win deal: they get some cash and get the properties on the tax rolls, MGM gets land, and Springfield gets to be “The City that Sold a School to a Casino”. Nothing to be ashamed of there!

Our newspaper, the Springfield Republican, also loves the casino, or at least the ad revenue from it. The paper will happily announce the latest step along the way to the pot o’ gold even as they report on the failures of nearby casinos in Connecticut and Atlantic City. Despite the fact that the market is saturated right now, and that’s before new ones open up in Massachusetts and New York, they’re convinced that somehow this casino will be different, and will bring in tourism and money from all over the area.

The Republican does have some letters to the editor that are anti casino, but these voices are drowned out by the comments from folks who have been promised hope, jobs, and cash for the city. As one pro-casino commenter puts it, the people who support the casino “are also not in favor of having the lifestyle views of zealots – who reside in the anti-casino movement – rammed down their throats.” The party line seems to be that the only ones against the casino are puritan moral scolds who think gambling is a sin. And apparently them not wanting a giant eyesore, crime magnet, money vacuum, and traffic obstacle in the city counts as “ramming it down the throats” of those who…simply…want this thing.

I hope they’re right, because if the casino doesn’t solve all our problems, this is the only plan we have. Even we who oppose MGM have to hope that a casino can will do what a school and a community center couldn’t.

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Space Cabbie by Kyle Starks

I met Kyle Starks at Heroes Con last year, where I bought a copy of his graphic novel, The Legend of Ricky Thunder. It was a lot of fun, and he was a cool guy, so I knew I wanted a Space Cabby from him.

Luckily, he had a Kickstarter coming up in which one of the pledge levels included a sketch! Get the new Kyle Starks book and a sketch? How can I say no! The book was Sexcastle and it is incredible. Honestly, one of the best comics I’ve read this year, and in some time in general. I plan on talking about it at length pretty soon.

I got the digital version of Sexcastle, but today the analog version arrived, along with my other rewards, one of which was Kyle’s Space Cabby sketch.

Oh man, LOOK AT THAT.

I love it! Thank you so much!

You can see more of Kyle’s comics at his website and his Tumblr. And seriously, grab Sexcastle. It’s really good.

Are YOU an artist who would like to draw Space Cabby for me? Please let me know!

(Here’s the Space Cabby Gallery!)

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I Had That! #23: Doctor Who Target Novelizations

When I first got into Doctor Who in 1981, it wasn’t a terrible time to be a fan. Though merchandise was thin on the ground, it was starting to come in. Unlike fans even a few years earlier, you didn’t have to just piece together a fandom more or less on your own.

One of the huge aids to fandom then were the novelizations of episodes published by Target in the UK. Previously, the only books to make it over here were the Pinnacle Books adaptations of ten of the episodes, with their sometimes-odd cover art and a foreword by Harlan Ellison, who even then was pretty much just bile with a typewriter.

The Target books were essential because this was before you could have nearly every extant episode at your fingertips. For American fans, this was largely the only way to experience many First- and Second-Doctor stories (and Third Doctor for me, as my local station wasn’t showing those.) Largely penned by a small stable of writers who were also writers for the show, such as Terrance Dicks, Malcolm Hulke, they weren’t so much “novelizations” as scripts with “he said” added to them, but they were inexpensive, collectable, and you could plow through one pretty quickly.

I bought them like candy, and they’re pretty much the reason I never read much “real”, “classic” science fiction. You can even see in the photo above that I had a special slipcover I got at some convention which would fit over the books (whether a story was ten episodes or two, the novels were always around the same page count, so nearly every book had the same dimensions.) This was actually my second such cover, as I wore out the first one.

During this time I worked at a used book/comic store called “The Book End”. The owners, Jim Mulé and Jan Luke, ordered whatever Doctor Who merchandise they could (I don’t remember either of them being big fans, but the stuff sold) and this is where I got the bulk of my Target books. Jim also ran the New Orleans sci-fi convention Vul-Con and my co-worker (and fellow Who fan) Allen and I convinced him to try and get Terrance Dicks to be the guest of honor for the 1982 con, which he did. Meeting him was a huge thrill for me.

Going by this list, I bought the Target books until mid-84, which was also about the time that my interest in the show itself waned. Many years later, though, I would always look for them in used book stores in an attempt to fill in the gaps in my collection. But there were so many and I couldn’t remember what I did and didn’t have, and most importantly, they didn’t show up used that often, so I still don’t have a complete collection. Not that I’d know what to do with such a thing if I did have it.

During the interregnum, when there were no new stories to be novelized, there were two lines of Doctor Who books available. The “New Adventures” were continuing on from the end of the series, featuring new companions and the Seventh Doctor, who was trapped in the role forever, I guess. There were also the “Missing Adventures” which were stories designed to be slotted in between existing stories, featuring past Doctors and companions. I tried both of these lines and wasn’t really wowed by them. They didn’t read like Doctor Who stories, even the ones that were sequels to existing ones.

When did I get it? Between 1981 and 1984, with a few bought several years after that.

Do I still have it? I do. They’re in a box in the attic, the fate of most such “collections”.

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This Delicious Week


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House Blend

Written by me, drawn by the incomparable Calamity Jon Morris!

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I Had That! #22: Qonto

(For today’s “I Had That”, I’m reposting part of a blog post from two years ago today which is perfect for this feature.)

Not long ago, during a busy work day, I posted this picture:

I wanted to say more about it then, but I just didn’t have time. I’ll tell you about it now.

It’s a little (about 2″ tall) robot toy I bought when I was a kid. It’s die-cast except for the head and arms, and it has little wheels on the bottom. The head and arms are articulated. I got it at Barker’s, which was a department store on Jefferson Highway at Folse street, and is now a Winn-Dixie. It was called “Qonto” and I knew nothing about it other than it looked cool. They had a bigger one with all sorts of features which I coveted but never got. I’ve lost or gotten rid of a lot of toys over the years, but I still have Qonto. It wasn’t until a while back that I decided to look up what the heck he was.

Here’s what I’ve found out. In 1978 Japan answered the call of Star Wars with its own space opera, Message From Space (the cast includes Sonny Chiba, Vic Morrow, and, according to IMDB, Chris Isaak.) I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it, though it did get a US release. It was spun off into a Japanese TV series called Message from Space: Galactic Wars. It’s there that the robot “Tonto” makes its appearance. Bandai created toys and brought the robot to the US, renaming him “Qonto” for obvious reasons.

Qonto featured heavily into my playtime once I got him. He’s scaled pretty well with Kenner Star Wars figures and became a sidekick to my Doctor Who analogue character.

When did I get it? I’m not sure. Sources list these as coming out in 1978, which seems about right.

Do I still have it? Yep! That’s mine in the photo.

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Protect Your Identity With This One Simple Life Hack

The other day I was watching an episode of The X-Files in which a dead guy came back to life in another man’s body. When he tried to tell his wife who he was, she didn’t believe him. I laughed, because this is a problem I will never have.

See, after watching some Buffy, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and other nerd shows, we have a system. A code phrase that only we know. If one of us is ever rejuvenated, aged, Freaky Fridayed, mind-swapped with a gorilla or dog, regenerated, cloned (technical definition), time-traveled, or so forth, we can instantly prove our identity to the other by saying this code phrase.

It also works the other way. In case of android duplicate, imperfect double, shape-shifting mutant/alien, Doppelganger, high-quality rubber face mask, illusion, and other situations it can be used to expose the fraud right away.

I’m surprised more couples don’t have such a code phrase. Every one I’ve talked to acted like this was new to them, but in how many TV and movie situations would it have solved the problem in an instant? Why wouldn’t you do it?

It’s not perfect. We don’t know enough about parallel dimensions to know if the code phrase is unique to this one. In some cases of body duplication memories may be preserved. It’s possible that one could be hypnotized against one’s will and still be able to access the code phrase. Clones are a big mess I’m not even prepared to deal with. Even with those limitations, I think the system is solid enough to recommend.

Don’t waste any time! You never know when an errant wish or malevolent gris-gris will put you in this situation! Talk to your partner and develop a top secret code phrase right now! Make it unusual so that it’s not easily guessed, but don’t make it too elaborate or you’ll have trouble scratching it into the dirt when you’re in your bear form.

Maybe you’ll never use it. Maybe you won’t be one of the statistics. But isn’t it better to have some kind of protection to keep from being an X-File yourself?

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