6/10th of a Second
At 11:21 a.m. on November 24, 1963, two days after Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy, a Dallas nightclub owner named Jack Ruby shot Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Police Department, killing him.
At the time, the basement area was filled with journalists - photographers, radio and TV reporters, reporters. It was caught on live television, such as it was, and you can view it on YouTube today, if you're so inclined. Watch closely, it happens quickly.
The photograph here was taken by Robert Jackson, a photographer with the Dallas Times Herald. For this photograph, he won the Pulitzer Prize.
Another similar photograph, shot 6/10ths of a second later by Jack Bears, a photographer with the Dallas Morning News, did not win the Pulitzer.
Here is the footnote on this from Vincent Bugliosi's book, "Four Days in November: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy":
"Beers's daughter said that this six-tenths of a second bothered her late father to the day he died, her father feeling he had been cheated by fate. He had a 'depression that went untreated' and it was 'all due to that picture.' Bitter and despondent, Beers died of a heart attack in 1975 at the age of fifty-one."
I think this is a rather brutal illustration of the role luck plays in life. There are hard-working, successful people who totally discount luck. I don't like to give luck much credit. But the fact is, being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing ... sometimes it's just luck.
You work hard, you develop your skills, you do all the things. Chances are, you'll be some kind of successful. But that lightning bolt? The one that catapults you to ... wherever? Might just be the difference between 6/10s of a second.
P.S. I don't like this photograph very much. It's a real-life photograph of a murder. Lee Harvey Oswald was a sad, pathetic, mentally-ill man who was killed by another pathetic, mentally-ill man. Both of them, in their pathetic, screwed-up heads, thought they were going to be heroes for their actions.
And you know that 6/10ths of a second? Here's the thing. Ruby didn't plan to be there. They were moving Oswald to the jail. Ruby woke up late, got a call from one of his strippers asking for an advance against her paycheck because he'd closed his clubs for a couple days due to JFK's death. So he went to the Western Union, wired her $25, then drove toward his club in Dallas, passed the Dallas PD where he'd been hanging out for the last day or two, parked, left his dog in the car, walked down a ramp into the basement just as they were bringing Oswald out and probably only a second or two before the "paddy wagon" would have either blocked Ruby's way or carted Oswald away. On impulse he pulled the gun he was carrying, darted forward and shot Oswald. You could argue that Ruby got lucky or Oswald got unlucky, but either way, it was pretty narrow timing any way you look at it.
100 Great Rock Tunes
I'm going to start organizing my 100 Greatest Rock Tunes. You are encouraged to make suggestions and discuss those suggested. Here are 9 to prime to the pump: Bruce Springsteen - born to Run, Bruce Springsteen, Thunder Road; Bob Seeger - Turn the Page; Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody; The Beatles - Hey Jude (not necessarily my favorite, but a classic, I might actually prefer Paperback Writer); The Beatles - While My Guitar Gently Weeps (my favorite); The Who - Love, Reign o'er Me; The Who - You Better you Bet; The Police - Synchronicity.
On Facebook I've already been offered:
10. Elton John - Someone Saved My Life Tonight (I'm not so sure about this one, actually)
11. Billy Joel - Piano Man (hard to argue, but I'm not sure it's my favorite)
12. Billy Joel - A New York State of Mind
13. Billy Joel - Downeaster Alexa
What I've Been Reading
The Human Division #10: This Must Be The Place by John Scalzi
Continuing on with his serialized novel.
A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin
The second book in the massive, epic - y'know, really, really long - fantasy series better known by the name A Game Of Thrones, although the book series is A Song of Fire and Ice (or Ice and Fire, I don't remember and am too lazy to go look at). I loved it. Swore I'd take a year off from the series now that I've read something like 1900 pages of the series, but now know I'll read the third book in a couple months. So, yeah...
Suspect by Robert Crais
A standalone thriller by the author of the Elvis Cole novels. This one features a cop who gets shot to pieces who comes back training for the Police Dog corp, teamed up with a former Marine dog that got shot up (and her trainer/partner died in the shooting). I'd give it a B+/A-. It's really, really good, but I had a sense toward the end that the crime being investigated itself seemed slightly overdone - the characters, on the other hand, were great.
The Human Division #11: A Problem of Proportion by John Scalzi
The Human Division #12: The Gentle Art of Cracking Heads by John Scalzi
Almost to the end
Poe by Robert Gregory Browne & Brett Battles
A thriller featuring an international bounty hunter, Alexandra Poe, who is convinced to work for an international security agency that claims to have a lead on her missing father, a former intelligence agent who disappeared. To do so, she needs to go undercover in a Ukrainian prison, which, you know, sounds like a bad idea. And it is. I loved this book and really look forward to their next book featuring her.
The Human Division #13: Earth Below, Sky Above by John Scalzi
The final episode, making it a fairly episodic novel. I loved it, and really enjoyed this final segment. Some readers have bitched that it didn't wrap up everything, but Scalzi's already announced the next book in the series, and I'm quite happy at the thought of visiting some of these characters in future novels. I highly recommend The Human Division.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling
Second-to-last book in the series.
London Twist by Barry Eisler
A novella featuring Israeli agent Delilah (formerly a lover of John Rain), who is sent into London undercover to try to and get access to a Muslim woman's laptop computer - the woman's brother, they're told, is a terrorist planning a chemical weapons attack. The woman is an activist opposed to U.S. drone attacks and Delilah finds herself drawn to the woman's intelligence, passion and beauty. Really enjoyed this.
Two Graves by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Another Pendergast novel. I confess, I struggled significantly with this and almost quit reading it in the middle. I love these guys' books separately and together, but some of the Pendergast novels have left me cold. By the time I got to the end I liked it, but man, I struggled in the middle.
MONSTER SEEKER 2: RISE OF THE PHOENIX KING
April 8, 2013
Yes, my son, Ian Michael Terry, wrote his first novel. I primarily acted as editor. It was a sequel to my book, MONSTER SEEKER
. Here's the description and first chapter.
The book is available as an e-book on Amazon
and god knows where else.
Welcome to the
Monster Seeker Academy, where…
During battle a
professor bursts into flames!
A crazy Russian
professor is his replacement!
Seven Dark Seeker
psychopaths are on the loose!
An evil god from
The Beyond has risen!
It’s all in a
day’s work for a Monster Seeker.
Monster Seeker Dan O’Malley is sent on a mission to recruit vampires to the
Academy’s side for the upcoming war. With the emergence of the Dark Seekers and
the Phoenix King, this task turns into a much harder endeavor and Dan may have
more than he can handle.
But he might just
pull it off with his best friends, Ike the ghost, Jessie the vampire, and the
Seek Twins, whose enthusiasm for mayhem more than makes up for their total lack
of fighting skills.
possibly go wrong?
Oh yeah. An
Emergency Zombie Apocalypse Situation.
Hold onto your
seats, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
Early Morning Wake-Up Battle
Nothing makes a Monster
Seeker run faster than a fire-breathing goblin wearing Halo: Reach boxer shorts.
Now, just to drive you
mad, let’s start at the beginning of the day when everything was going down to
Hades. I know you wanted to hear about the goblin in Halo: Reach boxer shorts, but I have to tell you about the invasion
first. Both are really good stories. The goblin story is a little more fun, but
the invasion is what made myself, Jessie, and the Seek twins go chasing after
The invasion started everything.
It was 5:57 in the
morning and my roommate, Ike, was snoring louder than ever. I was woken up by
Billy Borq flushing the toilet, which we had repeatedly told him not to do. A
demon had wedged himself in the S-bend and screamed as many swear words in as
many languages as he could until the flushing was done. This very moment I
believe the language was French. Or Swahili.
I felt a strong zap in
the magical aura that surrounded me. Apparently so did Ike, because he stopped
snoring and looked at the nightstand where our magical Post-It notes were
sitting. Written on both was, “BATTLE STATIONS. THE ACADEMY IS UNDER ATTACK.”
We both leapt out of
bed faster than I thought possible. Billy Borq and Jordan “Sparks” McGee bolted
out of their rooms, meeting Ike and I in the hallway along with four of our
commons mates. There were four guys to a suite and eight guys to a common room.
I wasn’t really friends with the other four, but I was best
friends with Ike. And since I shared the same bathroom with Billy and Sparks, I
was naturally friends with them, even though when we told Billy to not flush
the toilet because there’s a demon stuck in the S-Bend, he did it anyway. Billy
liked to hear the demon swear.
Billy was a Vert, a
werewolf to be exact. A Vert is a monster that has become a Seeker. Their form
sometimes alters as well, because most werewolves can’t control their
transformation. Billy can.
Professor Sevitra, the Monster Seeker Academy Head Mistress,
locked Billy in the dungeons during his full-moon transformations, the ones he
couldn’t control. Otherwise, he could change into a wolf or half-wolf at will.
Sparks, on the other
hand, was a young recruit. He’d only been around for about two months. Like
most Monster Seekers, he was mature for his age, strong-willed, and more than a
little weird. That comes from discovering that monsters are real. Most kids
that believe in monsters under the bed or in the closet half-believe they’re
not real. Monster Seekers, we wish they weren’t.
That plays with your head.
We quickly learned that Sparks was really good at transformation
spells. He turned me into a frog on his first day. It took Professors Sevitra
and Noonen two hours to change me back. Everybody called him Sparks because he
liked shooting sparks into the air at random, usually into his friends’ faces.
He quickly learned that blasting me in the face with sparks, especially after
the frog incident, was not a good idea. Ike and I dangled him upside down from
the Academy’s central tower for an entire night. Professor Diego thought it was
hilarious. Professor Sevitra did not.
The eight of us raced
to the armory where we took weapons and armor. All the students were in various
stages of undress. I hoped the attackers weren’t. It would be easier to kill a
monster if it wasn’t naked. (No comment about the goblin wearing Halo: Reach boxer shorts).
I threw leather armor
over my chest, grabbed my personal bo staff, the one with etch marks from all
the battles I’ve had over the last two years, and wrapped a three-bladed whip
sword around my waist. Ike simply grabbed two sais, short little pitch fork
things. Jessie came up next to me, wearing her black shirt and black jeans. Ike
and I both wondered how she was able to change clothes so fast before battles.
She was a Vert as well, a vampire. She was my best friend, along with Ike. She
didn’t need armor or a weapon. She was a weapon.
“Ready?” she asked,
looking at me, but implying Ike as well.
I nodded. “Let’s kick
some monster butt.”
We raced to the front
doors, ready to stop the monsters from breaking down the walls of the Academy,
my home. Jessie and Ike were ahead of me when Professor Diego appeared and
pulled me aside.
“What?” I demanded, as
students in armor flowed around us.
Diego smiled at me.
“Professor Sevitra and I are going to take Shadrach down, permanently.”
“Good, but why are you
telling me this now?”
“Fred LaRue has been
guarding Shadrach on every battle. You deal with him.”
Fred LaRue, called the
Freak, had betrayed the Academy for Shadrach. Shadrach was a dark wizard who
also happened to be Professor Sevitra’s twin brother. Shadrach had promised the
Freak power beyond his dreams, and he fell for it.
I was going to take the Freak down. He nearly got me killed on
my very first quest. And he’d tried to kill me a dozen times over the last two
years. It was payback time.
Professor Diego pushed
open the huge double doors of the Academy. A swarm of demons rushed us from
across the green lawn of the Academy. Professor Diego, in boots, jeans, and his
leather duster, raised his broadsword. “Charge!”
I swung my bo staff,
smacking seven little demons into the air. I’d gotten more proficient with the
staff since I was twelve, but sometimes I still treated it like a really big
And speaking of
baseball bats, little Joe Seek and his twin brother Jeral went charging into
the middle of the battle, baseball bats as their weapons. They had no clue what
was going on. They’d arrived about four days ago, but the constant battles
didn’t seem to faze them much.
“Dan, behind you!” Ike
I swung around and
slammed my bo staff into an ogre. The wood snapped in half on contact with the
monster. I held half of my broken staff, amazed that it had snapped so easily.
bellowed the ogre, which was about ten-feet-tall with a little bony head that
looked like a potato. Its skin was greenish-gray and was covered with warts and
what looked like algae. It carried a club the size of a stop sign.
I leapt forward and
shoved the broken staff down the ogre’s mouth. The ogre burst into grey dust as
I killed it. There was a loud thud as something behind me stepped forward. I
was starting to wish I had grabbed more weapons than just the bo staff and whip
sword. Facing me was a giant red troll, as stupid looking and smelly as any
“Uh-oh.” I uncoiled the
whip sword from my waist. “Hello, big bubba.”
I checked the dark
skies for signs of Shadrach, but didn’t see him. Supposedly Shadrach’s second
dragon had been killed. I doubted he would ride into battle without one.
I was about to attack
the troll when red lightning blasted it to smithereens. A red and blue
explosion lit up the battlefield. I clenched my teeth when I saw the Freak
standing behind it. His broadsword was drawn and he was grinning like Santa
Claus had just given him everything he’d ever wished for. I think he was the
one who had blasted the troll for me.
A Game of Thrones - Strangled by Your POV Choices
March 21, 2013
I recently finished reading the 2nd book in George RR Martin's SONG OF FIRE AND ICE series, better known as A GAME OF THRONES. The book, in case that wasn't confusing enough, was A CLASH OF KINGS. Unlike the first book (A GAME OF THRONES), where I watched the first season of the HBO TV series, this time I read the book first before jumping in last night on the first episode of season 2, which mostly lines up with A CLASH OF KINGS.
I mentioned before that Martin's got a lot of points of view. Within those chapters, labeled with the POV character's name, he doesn't wander from that character's POV. I applaud that, actually. It's a series that already has about 15 main characters and seemingly a literal cast of thousands. I'll be reading some passage that lists 20 characters and their family histories and think, "I hope I'm not supposed to be tracking all of these names."
Anyway, an interesting thing happens in the book that rather fiercely becomes obvious in the TV series. Sometimes having limited POVs can cause dramatic problems.
Case in point. In the book, Tyrion, the dwarf and, in this book at least, the Hand of the King (sort of chief of staff, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security and head of the FBI all rolled into one), is questioning some people about a knight who broke into a brothel, found a specific whore and her baby, and stabbed the baby to death right then and there.
Tyrion has questions, but we never see this scene. The reason we never see this scene, the way Martin structures this book, is no one in that scene is a POV character. As horrible as it is, we never actually see it. (And to me it lacks a certain power because of what exactly is going on there - the Queen Regent and her psycho son King Joffrey, are having all of the former king's bastard children hunted down and killed - is more alluded to rather than overt).
So in the first episode of season 2, we get King Joffrey (who in the book is 13 and in the show probably 15 or 16 going on a Terrible 2) talking to his mother, the Queen Regent (Cersei), about the rumor going around that his actual parents are her and her twin brother (Jaimie), which is actually true. (And neither of them are POV characters in A CLASH OF KINGS, although Cersei was in A GAME OF THRONES, the book). And it's him that sends the knights and King's Guard out hunting down the now-dead King Baratheon's bastards and having them killed. And in the TV show we get the scene in the brothel, and we also get scenes of several other bastards being killed (none of which were in the book), leading up to them basically torturing a metalsmith about the location of one of them, who, if not a major character, is in the company of a major POV character, Arya Stark.
This happens a number of times in just the first episode of the TV show. Where things that were talked about in the book are actually SHOWN. Which is good, because in a visual medium like TV or movies, having characters talk about dramatic things that happened doesn't work very well. And honestly, I'm not sure it works that well in books, either.
On the other hand, there's plenty, plenty, and more a-plenty of dramatic things going on in A CLASH OF KINGS, and since it's already 969 pages long, not counting appendices, I wouldn't ever encourage George RR Martin to ADD to what he's writing.
But I think it's a great example of problems writers face when choosing their POV characters.