Author Archive: Eric Fritzius

Owner/operator of Mister Herman's Publishing Company and Mister Herman's Production Company, Ltd. Author of A Consternation of Monsters, available in print, ebook, and audiobook formats.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Nick Bell Model Paper TARDIS (Paper TARDISes series)

For many years as a youth into young adulthood, I was both a camper and staff member at Summer Scholars Onstage, a theatre camp at Mississippi State University in which a group of junior high and high school students write a three act musical comedy (or three one act musical comedies) in the space of one week and then co-star in that musical at the end of the three week camp. I took some years off, from 1998 to 2007, and came back as an act leader and, eventually, the writers camp script coordinator. It’s consistently one of the more stressful things I ever do in terms of the workload and the deadline, but also one of the most satisfying in terms of getting to see pure creativity at work on the part of the kids in both the writers and production camp aspects. They get it done every year and I sometimes get to be there to help suggest stitching for any small tears in the narrative fabric. (There are not that many. And for every suggestion I make, the camper writers almost always come up with something way better.)

As part of camp, during the third week we have a tradition called Secret Pal. (It’s like Secret Santa, only in July.) Campers and staff draw one another’s names from a hat and are then tasked with giving the person they drew some little gift or card each day, which they either bought or made. It’s just sort of a nice daily pick-me-up during the energy-sapping third week rolling into production.

In 2013, or so, my secret pal had my number in terms of an ideal gift. Not only did they learn of my obsession with TARDISes (maybe from spying one in my room on the staff hall or maybe from the many TARDIS t-shirts that I sported), but they made, with their very own hands, a paper TARDIS which they gifted to me on the sly by leaving it for me in the camp office. I actually spied through the office door as I came around the corner, recognized what it was, and instantly knew who that paper TARDIS was meant for.

Making a TARDIS of any sort is always a tricky prospect. While the basic shape and features are fairly consistent (except when they’re not–I’m lookin’ at you Patrick Troughton TARDIS with the door sign on the wrong door), there are loads of details to take into account and only the most foolhardy soul would attempt it without a visual reference. I don’t know if mine was made with one or not, but it’s impressive either way. A rectangular box made of thin cardboard, akin to cereal box packing, the TARDIS has individual windows applied, also cut out of cardboard, and pasted onto the surface. And on its roof was affixed a lamp, also in cardboard. Most other details are drawn on in ink. It’s not a small thing, either, coming pretty close to the same scale as the Electronic Flight Control TARDIS, which was the very TARDIS I’d brought with me to camp.

If the title of this post didn’t already spoil it, at the end of camp, my secret pal revealed themselves to be none other than my fellow staff member and friend Nick Bell. Nick’s one of the nicer guys I know and was among the first campers I was privileged to work with upon my return to Summer Scholars, some years earlier. His TARDIS remains a treasured member of my TARDIS collection to this day.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Doctor Who Salt & Pepper Shaker TARDIS and Dalek set (the NYC TARDISes)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

In 2014, my wife, my in-laws, as well as my sister-in-law and her husband, took an April trip to New York City to see the sights. Only a couple of us had been there before (I twice previously) so it was a fun time to see one of the world’s great cities and get to do touristy stuff, see some Broadway shows, and eat good food. One of the other things I wanted to do while there was to visit at least one of the world’s great comic book shops, because this was an experience I had missed out on during my two previous visits. And there was one I knew I had to visit, because of the high likelihood of it having a wide selection of TARDISes.

Back in July of 1986, during my first visit to NYC as a kid, my dad, sister and I were just traveling through on our way back to Mississippi from a trip we’d made to Maine. We arrived, mid-afternoon. Dad had already asked me what I wanted to do while we were in the Big Apple and I’d said I wanted to visit a comic shop. I’d had scant little experience with comic shops of any sort, but knew that they existed in the world. I figured a New York City comic shop would be the ultimate version of one. Only, I had done no research in advance (how could you as a kid in 1986, really?) and was left guessing as to how to find one. Did we start our search by looking one up in the phone book? No. Didn’t occur to us. Instead, we consulted the advertising section of Ambush Bug #1, which I had brought with me on the trip. It featured a tiny yellow ad for an outfit called Centor Comics, located at 122 E. 42 Street. Sounded like a comic shop.

Dad drove us there, we found parking, and then discovered the address was located somewhere within a high rise office building, (which Google Maps now indicates is called the Chanin Building, I think) located next door to the Chrysler Building. Kids in tow, Dad ventured inside, consulted an office directory for Centor Comics, and we soon found ourselves riding an elevator up more stories than I’d ever climbed before. We shared the elevator with a middle-aged guy. When we reached the floor we were looking for, the guy got out too and we went our separate ways. It took us a little bit to find our way around the hallways of the floor until we reached the door of Centor Comics. It was not a comic book store. It was an office, complete with pebbled glass door. We knocked and who should open it but the guy we’d ridden up with in the elevator. Turned out, he was not associated with Centor Comics, itself, but shared the office space with the guy who was. It was a very tiny office and looked to consist of a single room and, I assume, a bathroom. He explained that Centaur Comics was not a retail outlet at all, but a mail-order business. He invited us in and opened up a file cabinet drawer to reveal a row of comic books neatly bagged with backing boards. I had no idea that people stored their comics in filing cabinets. I’d never even seen a bag or a backing board in my life. I also had no idea what comic book I might want to buy, should they have it, and since this wasn’t the guy’s business anyway Dad decided, wisely, that it was time for us to move on.

Back in the car, we regrouped and decided that if Centor Comics had not worked out, maybe we needed to just go to the source of my favorite books and head to DC Comics headquarters. We already knew where it was, because its 666 5th Avenue address was printed in every DC book, including my Ambush Bug issue. Surely they would have comics, right? If nothing else, I might get to meet my hero Keith Giffen, creator of Ambush Bug. Unfortunately, we were in town on July 4, 1986, which was not only the 4th of July celebrations but also one of the days of the three day Liberty Weekend celebration marking the 100th birthday of the Statue of Liberty (still covered in scaffolding from its then ongoing restoration). And when we arrived at the DC Offices, located another elevator ride up another tall building, we found them closed for the holiday. I was still able to look through a window in their office door, where I could see a dummy of Clark Kent seated in their reception area, reading a copy of the Daily Planet. It was disappointing, sure, but still cool.

I was out of ideas after that, so we decided to try visiting the Empire State Building.

Here’s where it gets officially weird.

After we pulled out of our parking space near 666 5th Avenue, and turned onto 5th Ave itself, we suddenly found that our red 1976 Chevy Nova was the only car on the street for as far as the eye could see. We headed south west, curious as to how we’d suddenly found ourselves in a seemingly deserted Manhattan. It was exceptionally weird and very Twilight Zoney. Then, suddenly, there were flashing lights and sirens and three long black limousines filled with guys in dark glasses, flanked by at least a half dozen motorcycle cops, went flying by us in the other lane. The guys in dark glasses all turned and looked over their glasses at us with odd expressions on their faces. Then, just as quickly as they had arrived, they had passed us and had vanished into the distance.

When we reached the Empire State Building and parked again, Dad found a cop and asked him what had just happened to us. It seems that the entirety of 5th Avenue had been blocked off so that President Reagan’s motorcade could make the trip south to lower Manhattan, where the Statue of Liberty celebrations were soon to begin. We had managed to slip through the secret service’s security efforts entirely by accident. They’d blocked off 5th avenue and all of the cross streets to traffic, but had no control over cars that had already been parked on the street within that secure corridor. Somebody probably got fired because of us.

With such a disappointing lack of a NYC comic shop experience already under my belt, I was determined in 2014 to remedy this. I did my research well in advance and had a target in mind: Forbidden Planet. It’s one of the world’s most famous names in nerd shops, with the original London FP location being at the top of the planet’s nerd shop heap and land of Doctor Who merchandise. My bet was that FBNYC would have a pretty wide selection themselves, and in that I was not wrong. Just about any recent release of the Character Options toys and the Eaglemoss figurines were all on display there, save for the Eaglemoss TARDIS, which had sadly sold out. They had a couple of other TARDISes I decided to go home with, though.

The first of these was part of a two-piece set of official Doctor Who porcelain salt & pepper shakers. The set includes a porcelain TARDIS and a porcelain Dalek. Being porcelain, the TARDIS has little in the way of hard corners. Everything is smooth and rounded and glazed. But it’s a high quality product, with nice-looking print on the door and roof signs, and enough highlighting and lowlighting in the paint work for the panels that it gives the whole piece better visual definition. It’s clearly modeled after the Eccleston/Tennant TARDISes. A very satisfying piece. The Dalek is similarly glazed and smooth, with a stumpier than usual eye stalk, but respectable plunger and gun arms. There’s not much in the way of paint detailing beyond a bit of gray on the arms and stalk and on each of the two lights on its head, which are pointy and look kind of like devil horns. I have a mind to repaint it, just to add some more detail. I mean, really, in how many stories were the Daleks jet black? Rarely, and when they were it was usually with silver or gold Dalek-bumps.

Looking at my new set of salt & pepper shakers, I had to wonder, though, which one was intended to be the salt shaker and which the pepper? There was no labeling whatsoever. Then it hit me: for the entirety of their existence, Daleks have been described as looking like angry pepper-pots. Of course the Dalek was the pepper shaker. To quote one of my comedian heroes, Jimmy Pardo, “That’s a nice piece of business.”

I’ve yet to put salt or pepper in either.

I give the Shaker TARDIS four TARDi.

As to the second TARDIS I purchased, we’ll have to wait for a future post for that reveal, but even then I won’t be able to say much about it for reasons that may be obvious to those who have seen the episode in which that particular TARDIS featured.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Corgi Tom Baker Die-Cast TARDIS & K-9 Set (the White Whale TARDISes)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

I cannot say for sure where I first saw the Corgi Tom Baker Die-Cast TARDIS & K-9 set. Likely, it was one of the products for sale on WHONA.com, in the early oughts. I expect they’ve stocked it several times over the years. It was among a number of Doctor Who toys that the Corgi Company produced round about 2004, with many Doctor Who villains and characters represented. Tom Baker, however, is the only Doctor they seem to have included in the line, appearing in three different versions, all clad in his burgundy outfit from his final two seasons. They produced a free-standing 4th Doctor figurine, clutching his hat to his head; a 4th Doctor driving his car Bessie (a bit odd, as the only story in which the 4th Doctor drives Bessie is his first story, Robot, and in which he is not clad in his burgundy outfit at all; and the piece I now own, the Tom Baker clad in burgundy outfit peeking out of that door of the TARDIS. The set I bought came with a die cast K-9, which is wildly not to scale with the Doctor or the TARDIS, but whatever.

As with the above anachronistic costuming on some of the figures chosen, there’s just a lot about this particular set that also leads me to believe the Corgi crew were not necessarily knowledgeable about the show, but were just in it for the cash. Their dedication to a quality product led them to produce a TARDIS of a satisfying likeness to the actual prop, really only cutting corners with the roof lamp, which is just a cylindrical chunk of silver reminiscent of a LEGO stud, with little hint that it is supposed to be a lamp at all. But the overall shape is great. Where Corgi’s inattention to details from the show fall short, though, is that they have the miniature Tom Baker peeking out of the left-hand door of the TARDIS. By and large, in the classic and current series, if only one of the doors of the TARDIS is open, it Can't... open doors... any further. Phone... too... big.is the right-hand door. Part of the reason for this, I suspect, is that the left hand door contains the telephone cabinet, which sits behind that door and collides with the interior wall of the TARDIS prop when opened. And I only think this because all of my toy TARDi with opening doors, and a phone installed behind the left door, have that issue. (Okay, I just checked and this is not entirely accurate. Of the three TARDISes I own that have working phone panel doors, only one of them really has this problem–the 7th Doctor TARDIS, which has an actual box behind the door in which a replica vintage phone sits (see photo). The box keeps the overall police box door from opening more than a little bit. The other two with working phone doors (the 9th/10th Flight Control TARDIS and the first 11th Flight Control TARDIS) have phones that hang from the backside of the door, instead of within a box, and take up less room, allowing for fully opening police box doors. (Incidentally, while we’re complaining about anachronistic and inaccurate toys, please note the mid-to-late period Tom Baker console I added to the 7th Doctor’s TARDIS.)

The Corgi K-9 diecast toy I have about as many complaints about. While Corgi got the general body shape right, there are some inaccuracies to be found. The most obvious one is that it has no ears. The head shape itself is very nice for such a small figure, but instead of the antenna ears of the actual K-9 prop, this one just has a blobby triangleish thing on top of its head, sort of like an ear unibrow. If viewed from the side, at just the right angle, it kind of implies the presence of ears and gives it the right silhouette. Looking at it from head-on, though, it looks like someone gave K-9 a pillbox hat. Other oddities include a raised section between its front “legs,” instead of a depression similar to that of its lower sides and back. There’s no hint of a tag, there is an implied collar painted the same metallic silver as the body. And the body has the name “K-9” written on both sides of the toy, instead of just the right side, with a TV screen on the left, as would have been more accurate to the prop. My guess, Corgi was given production stills to work from that only showed the prop from the K-9 side and they just assumed it was on both. (It’s a cynical view, I know, but it’s precisely what happened with many of the Dapol toys, which, as I’ve written about before, led to things like a five-sided TARDIS console, a Davros with two arms, a green K-9, and a Tom Baker with no scarf.)

Still, I’m not going to fault the Corgi TARDIS for the weaknesses of the Corgi K-9. It’s a great-looking piece, which I had wanted for years, so I grant it a full 3.5 TARDi.

Recipe for Irrational Ire

You could key my car and I’d be super pissed.

You could open-mouthed cough near me in the same aisle of Walmart and I might very well throw a box of toothpaste at your head.

You could hurt my loved ones and, in my pain and rage, I would become an avenging angel of destruction, dedicating my existence to ending your existence, Chucky Bronson-style.

However, all of those forms of anger are faint and distant glimmers compared to the white hot supernova of fury that instantaneously floods my being each and every time I catch my earbud wire on the drawer knob by the kitchen sink.

You have no idea.

(The perils of allowing your wireless earbuds to run out of juice before you’ve had your coffee.)

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Classic 1980 Tom Baker TARDIS Tin Bank (The White Whale TARDISes)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

As I’ve previously written, I came to my fandom of Doctor Who in the summer of 1980, in small town Mississippi, where I felt like I existed in something of a Doctor Who fandom vacuum. In the years before the internet, the ability to research a television show, let alone one from a foreign land, was kind of limited. At the time, having seen only a handful of Tom Baker stories, I had no idea how long the show had even been on the air. I had no idea that there had been other Doctors before Baker, or, indeed, a 5th Doctor impending. I had no idea that there were novelizations of episodes in the world, or that books about the show itself had also been published. I’d never even heard of a Dalek, cause I had missed “Genesis of the Daleks” during its initial PBS run. My first ever episode to see was mid-way through “Revenge of the Cybermen,” the story falling immediately after “Genesis of the Daleks”. I was a babe in the Whoniverse woods, trapped in the deep south, where we only got the show at all by the grace of the God of Public Television and a long-handled spoon. But I was definitely hungry for more.

Being in the 4th grade during my initial viewing, I longed for Doctor Who toys, yet, again, had no clue that such things already existed elsewhere in the world. It would be years yet before I learned of the Denys Fisher TARDIS of the 1970s and years yet before the Dapol TARDIS toy was produced. Yet I would have given anything at that age to have my own TARDIS toy. Which was why, a few years on, I was shocked the first time I caught sight of a Doctor Who Tom Baker Tardis Tin Bank. These were first produced by the Avon company in 1980 as fairly simple metal lidded boxes of a rectangular TARDIS-like shape, with a printed TARDIS exterior featuring an illustrated open door with Tom Baker himself standing in it. There was no three dimensional lamp on top, but just an embossed metal lid with a circular raised section painted as if light were pouring from beneath the rounded blue disc. (I expect it’s meant to be thought of as the TARDIS roof as seen from directly above.) By no means was this a toy TARDIS, but for a kid who was easily able to use his imagination to transform his Dad’s girlfriend’s cream-colored muffler into a full-length Doctor Who scarf in his head, it wasn’t a far stretch at all that I might yet be able to use such a tin as a toy, I thought.

Now, you’d think for such a powerful memory of wanting one of these, I’d be able to remember exactly where I first saw one. Not… as… such.

Part of me wonders if I first saw one at the house of some acquaintances of my dad’s, whose older son introduced me to the concept of the Doctor Who Target novelizations. That would have had to have been around 1982, or so, that I first saw the tin, and I think we visited those folks around then. However, if he’d owned such a tin, he certainly didn’t let me lay hands on it. Instead, I suspect that the tin might have been something I first spotted in a comic book store–possibly among the first two such stores I’d ever visited, both of which were within a block of one another, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and both of which are no more. The more likely shop I might have seen it in was called Injun John’s, which was a newsstand/comic shop/tobacconist/porno mag emporium. I can still remember the smell of the place, which was always a heady blend of tobacco and newsprint. Asgard Comics was more of a traditional comic book store. I bought my first two issues of Marvel’s run on Doctor Who there.

Or, perhaps I saw the TARDIS tin at Memphis Comics and Records, which was another shop I would frequently convince Dad to take me to, on the way to see my grandparents in Missouri. Or maybe at any of the handful of comic stores I visited while on summer time road trips. (Though not, I should add, at the very first comic shop I attempted to visit in New York City–a story for a future entry.)

Wherever it was that I spotted one, it was in person and was distant enough that I couldn’t get my mitts on it. (I can recall seeing the first issues of Watchmen there in 1986, so why can’t I pin down the tin? It’s maddening!)

Years later, while visiting my friend Matthew Jameson, who lived in Huntsville, AL, I spied another similar tin. This time it was owned by Matthew’s father, and was not a Tom Baker tin, but a Peter Davison 5th Doctor tin bank. This tin Mr. Jameson let me examine up close. It looked the same as the Baker tin, but with Peter painted in the doorway instead. (Fun fact: Peter Davison is the only Doctor Who actor I’ve met in person, so far, and whose hand I have shook. And the entire time I was doing so, all my brain would spit out was “That’s #&%!ing Doctor Who!”) I was not nearly as enchanted with the fact that Peter Davison was on the tin, but it was still a TARDIS. By that time I was in high school, so seeking a toy TARDIS was not yet back on my radar of things a boy my age should be doing. I’d have to wait until I was well into my 30s for that desire to kick back into gear. And soon after it did, I made the mental note that one day I wanted to own such a classic TARDIS tin like I’d wanted as a child, preferably with my boy Tom on it. However, I found in my ebay searching that such tins had become rare as the old ones rusted away and got recycled. As such, it became one of my White Whale TARDISes. I occasionally would still look for them on ebay, but they tended to go for dozens of dollars more than I really wanted to pay for a metal box. I bided my time.

Back in May of last year, I finally located one in an ebay auction. For some reason, it was only listed for $19.98, or, at least, that was the price I paid as the winning bidder. I worried that perhaps this was some sort of knock-off TARDIS tin, due to its cheapness. Perhaps there was something wrong with it. But I paid my money and took my chances.

When it arrived, it was somehow smaller than my memory of the ones I had seen previously. Of course, I was relatively smaller at the time I saw them, too. However, I’ve looked up several listings for similar tins and the measurements match those of the one I have. And if it is still somehow counterfeit, the counterfeiters did a fine job of aging it, for there was rust to be found around the edges of the inside. A little elbow grease cleaned it right up. It looks like a true 1980s-era item. I also don’t really care if it is of more recent manufacture. It’s awesome and now has a proud place on my office bookshelf. I give it four TARDi.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Siege Mode TARDIS (3D Printed TARDISes)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

Today’s TARDIS Collector’s Corner features one of the more unique TARDISes in my collection, which is also, as of this writing, the most recent. It’s also one I had a pretty heavy hand in the final appearance of, though none in its basic construction. As you may have guessed from the title, I’m talkin’ bout the Siege Mode TARDIS, which first appeared in the Peter Capaldi Story “Flatline,” as written by Jamie Mathieson, and as mentioned in last week’s Big Chief Mini TARDIS accessory.

In addition to being one of my favorite Capaldi stories in general, “Flatline” introduced a number of cool concepts into the show’s mythos. Not only did we have a group of new (and as-yet-to-reappear) villains which the Doctor names “the Boneless,” which are two-dimensional creatures capable of killing human beings by turning them into graffiti, we also get to see the effect such creatures have on a multi-dimensional device such as the TARDIS. As the story progresses, we see the notoriously bigger-on-the-inside TARDIS become progressively smaller on the outside due to the presence of the Boneless. At first it shrinks to maybe a quarter of its normal size, forcing the Doctor and Clara to crawl through cabinet-sized doors to exit. Then, with Clara on the outside and the Doctor returned inside, the TARDIS exterior continues to shrink until it’s no bigger than an Electronic Flight Control TARDIS version of itself. In this form, Clara is able to carry it around in her purse, talking to the Doctor’s face through its door. As the TARDIS continues to react to the presence of the Boneless, it eventually enters an altogether different form called Siege Mode, becoming a 6″x6″ cube with Gallifreyan designs etched into its surface. In Siege Mode, nothing can penetrate the TARDIS’s exterior, but the Doctor is also trapped within it, life-support dropping to non-existent levels. (I will say, as gargantuan as the TARDIS is on the inside, the idea that the Doctor would ever run out of oxygen seems pretty silly unless it was all somehow vented–which we weren’t shone. This comes up in multiple other stories as well, so apparently it’s a real design flaw. I blame Omega.)

I loved “Flatline” as well as Jamie Matthieson’s other stories during the series. When word came down that Stephen Moffatt was leaving as showrunning, Matthieson had my vote to become the new guy. Even if he never does, though, he set up a storyline or two which have yet to be paid off, so perhaps one day he’ll return to at least write those episodes.

While I enjoyed the Siege Mode in the show, I kind of forgot it existed. It’s way less exciting than just the mini-TARDIS form on the show, and I was way more fascinated by the Boneless themselves, whose physical appearance became one of the more unique and terrifying villain forms we’ve seen in the history of Doctor Who.

Big Chief Studios included a tiny Siege Mode TARDIS with their Peter Capaldi figure-release, alongside the mini-TARDIS from last week. I only realized this fairly recently. No, it wasn’t until RubberToe Replicas released a Siege Mode TARDIS replica that I even remembered that the TARDIS had another form in recent years. As with all of RubberToe’s other replicas, this looked to be a very nice, high-quality item and was to scale with the original prop. Unfortunately, it was also more hundreds of dollars than I cared to pay for one, so I didn’t buy it.

A little more affordable was Titans Collectibles Siege Mode TARDIS, released as part of their line of randomly packaged stumpy little vinyl Who-related figurines. I believe, however, it was intentionally made a rare item in that line, probably having no more than one or two per display box, if that. It looked nice, but was not exactly to scale with the original prop, so even when I found them for sale on ebay, they just weren’t as attractive. No, I’d already had the to scale RubberToe version and no other felt like it would do.

My happy-medium solution, which I’m rather pleased with, was to buy a 3D printed Siege Mode TARDIS blank, from a seller in England. It arrived and was pretty sweet just in unpainted form to begin with. That it could be customized, though, meant it was a cube of potential.

As with many 3D prints, you could clearly see the print lines in the surface of the model, but I knew that going in. Some minor sanding and layers of paint help to lessen this quite a bit, though does not remove them entirely. I knew I could sand them down flat, but then I would lose all the detail of the sculpt itself.

After priming, I began experimenting with spray paint effects. I gave it a layer of a dark metallic grayish black as a base, then used a round candle lid to mask off the circular sections, one at a time, in order to give the corners a dusting of a brighter metallic blue spray. After that I switched to hand painting with brushes and metallic paint pens, coloring in various areas of each side to give it more visual appeal. Each face of the cube is unique, though similar in elements to the others, usually with smaller circles of varying size orbiting a central circle, with lines both straight and curved cutting through these areas as well.

I decided right away that I would not even bother trying to match the appearance of the original Siege Mode TARDIS from “Flatline”–which was, frankly, pretty plain Jane. Instead, I would freely add color and non-screen-accurate details as I saw fit. And while most of the colors can be found within the TARDIS’s usual color scheme, not all of them do. There are shades of green and yellow and mauve incorporated simply because those colors were available in the paint pen set I bought. In many ways, it kind of thematically reflects the opening credits of Capaldi’s era, with the swirling clockwork and spherical shapes orbiting on circular trajectories.

My wife even got into the act. Seeing that some of the silver on one of the rings was a little faded (likely from having been set down while still wet) she took one of my silver metallic pens and went over it. Then she started in on the other colors as well. So this wound up being a whole family affair. I even had to borrow some paint from my mother-in-law, so she’s got some stake too.

I like my Siege Mode TARDIS far better than the show version. I give it four TARDi.

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: Big Chief Mini 12th Doctor TARDIS accessory (The Shotglass TARDIS series)

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

I’ve written here before about some of the White Whales of my TARDIS collection, chief among them being any of the Big Chief Studios TARDISes. Big Chief Studios is a toy company known for manufacturing larger to-scale figures of a number of different properties, Doctor Who being a major licensee. Their 1:6 scale figures are designed to be the ultimate fan version of any given character, with fully articulated limbs, painstakingly perfect likenesses, tailored clothing, multiple hands for multiple poses, and accessories that clearly have had a lot of thought put into them. They also run around $250 retail, sell out very quickly, and then become extravagantly priced on the secondary market. I own none of them, nor do I have plans to unless I just spotted a really cheap one somewhere.

Their figures are impressive. Their TARDISes are also no exception to the high-quality standards, and are far more expensive, running around $460 ‘merican. They are massive, cast in resin stone, and basically have all of the same light and sound features of the 10th Doctor Flight Control TARDIS (which, as I’ve mentioned, is my favorite TARDIS toy ever) and then even more features piled on top of those. Things like a removable roof allowing for interior TARDIS backgrounds to be swapped out, so that different TARDIS control rooms may be displayed, (important for the 11th and 12th Doctor eras, which had multiple control rooms and variations on the décor within those).

Unfortunately, the $450 average retail price tag, which jumps far higher in secondary markets, is just more than I can really justify spending on a toy. (Actually, I could rationalize such a purchase just fine. It’s my wife who would definitely have something else to say about it.) I mean, I recently saw a really nice-looking full-size old school TARDIS replica on sale for $550, which also had working lights. It looked amazing and far better than most home-made TARDIS props turn out. If i was going to spend that kind of money, it had better be for a TARDIS I can step inside, right? (And if I didn’t live on the other side of the continent from its location, and have no practical place to put it, I would have had a hard time not buying it–though don’t think I didn’t start looking up shipping companies all the same.)

While $100 cheaper, the Big Chief TARDIS even at 1:6 scale would still take up a massive chunk of real-estate in my office that might otherwise be devoted to, say, a pickle bucket. (BTW, I already have a pickle bucket in my office. I use it as my recycle bin, but it is, in fact, a prop from a play I wrote.)

Just watch this video of the Big Chief Studios 1/6 scale 11th Doctor TARDIS and you’ll see what I mean.

While this entry might be the closest I ever come to writing a personal review of any of the 1:6 scale Big Chief Studios TARDISes, it is fortunately not the only review I can write of a Big Chief Studios TARDIS that I own. As I mentioned, the Big Chief Doctor Who figures always come equipped with very thoughtfully chosen accessories. The Peter Capaldi 12th Doctor figure, for instance, comes with quite a few extras many of which are in-jokes and props from the show. He has: two sonic screwdrivers (the green one he inherited from Smith, not the blue light one he later adopted, with one version closed and one open) a few extra hands, a rubber glove, a spoon, the psychic paper, a pocket watch, a jelly baby case with little mini-jelly babies inside. He also comes with two mini TARDi both of which came from one of my favorite Capaldi stories, “Flatline.” One is the cube-like Siege Mode TARDIS, which the TARDIS went into after an assault from beings from another dimension which were wrecking havoc on its dimensional stabilizers, causing its exterior to shrink in size; and the other is one of the miniaturized versions of said shrunken TARDIS that Clara had to carry around in her purse and which the Doctor later had to drag around from the inside by reaching his hand through the tiny doors, Thing from Addams Family-style. If you’ve not seen the story, it’s wonderful and inventive and I wish someone would give Jamie Mathieson more to do on that show.

I happened to spot one of these mini-purse TARDi accessories for sale, loose, on ebay and snatched it up. I can’t recall what I paid for it and my ebay history doesn’t go back that far, which is disappointing, but I seem to recall getting a good deal on it. (No surprise, though, of the last ten purchases ebay displays, three of them were TARDISes and five others Doctor Who-related. I may have a problem.)

The Big Chief mini-TARDIS is every bit as cool as you would hope a tiny TARDIS would be in terms of its look. If you get a magnifying glass, you can probably even read the letters on the door sign. Where this one goes above and beyond, in order to match the details of its appearance in “Flatline,” is to have opening doors which can reveal a variety of backgrounds. These are printed on thin cardboard strips that can be switched in and out via a slot in the base of the TARDIS. One is the standard TARDIS control room; one is a closeup of the face of the Peter Capaldi toy, so it can peer through the doors from within, and one is a medium shot of the Capaldi toy reaching its arm toward the POV, with a hole in the center of the picture into which one of the extra hands can be inserted to show the Doctor reaching through the doors, as he does in the story. Like I said, Big Chief puts a lot of thought into these things. This toy could have been far less cool than it is and no one would ever have complained. Thankfully, Big Chief wouldn’t settle for a lesser TARDIS.

If I had one complaint about it, the doors are a little difficult to get closed again once they are open. Not so much when there are no backgrounds within, but that thin cardboard background is enough to make the doors stick open. The door space is so small that getting a finger in there to close them manually is also difficult. And while you could use a tool to get one door closed, the other would still be open. The best method I’ve found for getting them shut is to lightly whack the face of the TARDIS on a table, knocking the doors into closed position. Also, the strips themselves are kind of tricky to get in and out. They are a tight fit within the slot provided, are difficult to remove without tweezers, and, once in place, sit just outside of the slot itself, destabilizing the base and causing the TARDIS to sit at an angle. Still not enough to get me to drop it in the ratings, though, especially since it’s probably the only Big Chief TARDIS that I’ll ever own. Five TARDi all the way.

The TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The TARDIS Bookends by Underground Toys

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

This particular set of TARDIS bookends is not necessarily a Christmas-themed one. However, I received mine as a gift for Christmas, a few years ago, so I tend to associate it there. No better time to talk about it. I have my niece Catherine (a.k.a. “K.T.”) to thank for this set. I loved it immediately, as I’d been eyeballing the set whenever I’d see it in a store, but I had never pulled the trigger on the purchase because the sets tended to be in the $50 + range. K.T. had been a fan of the show during the David Tennant era and she wound up re-watching many of those episodes and on into the Matt Smith era while she lived with us for a couple of years. So she knows of my love of TARDISes of old. (In fact, I think she still has one of my TARDISes–a fish tank ornament I offered for use in her fish tank but which she instead just put on her shelf, much as I’d been doing. If these bookends were a replacement for that one, though, I’ll take it!)

These bookends were released by Underground Toys, the manufacturer of any number of other fantastic Doctor Who products, so you know out of the gate you’re in safe hands with folks who know the topic. Unlike some bookends where you have two identical sculpts on each end, this set splits the TARDIS in twain, perhaps as it passes through the other-dimensional barrier posed by your books. In my case, it’s even better because I use the bookends to hold up my classic Doctor Who novelizations, and a few more modern ones as well.

The bookends are presented with the TARDIS door side up at an angle, against a starfield backdrop. The right half has the top of the TA`RDIS popping out with plenty of room below to add some other toy for display, such as K-9, as I’ve shown, or even another TARDIS. But the windows look great, framed in white with the distinctive dark panels of the Smith era.

The left half is mostly taken up with the lower half of the TARDIS, so there’s not much room to display anything there. (It’s also a dickens to dust.) It looks just like the plain side of the TARDIS until you look at it from above, where you can see the details of the door, including door sign and ambulance badge.

Now, it would certainly be a terrible thing if I’d been given a TARDIS for Christmas by a loved one and then spent a bunch of time talking shit about it here. But as this is a review, of a sort, so I feel like I have to talk a tiny bit of shit, but just a smidge (smudge?).

If I had a complaint about the craftsmanship of this piece, it’s that the lower half of the face of the TARDIS on my particular set (as seen in the above photo) seems to be a little warped in its molding. One might chalk this up to the warping of time and space which the TARDIS experiences in the show, but I’m pretty sure its just that someone at Underground removed it from the mold before it was fully set. Whatever the case, I don’t care. In fact, the first time I even noticed this flaw was in looking at the above photo while writing this. You certainly can’t see it looking straight on at the bookends, so what does it matter? I dig these a lot. I give them a solid 4 TARDi.

Merry ChristmaHanaKwanzika to all!

The Runaways Giveaway

The RunawaysMy friend Brenda Barnes Clark is currently running a free ebook promotion for her new middle-grade novel The Runaways: A Billie Rose Tackett Horse Adventure. It’s a historical adventure story set in West Virginia and starring a character of Melungeon descent. Brenda would love it if you’d give it a read and submit a review of it to Amazon.

Billie Rose Tackett, an 11-year-old girl in 1946 West Virginia, can speak to horses. It’s kind of a think-speak, but she can speak to them all the same. She knows this, because of a pony named Penny, who has run away from the local county fair, asks Billie for her help. How will Billie prove Penny did not belong to the fair, or to the terrible pony ride keeper?

How can she prove Penny told her this when no one in their right mind would believe that a horse can speak? She knows she can’t and they have no other choice but to run away.

In her quest to save Penny, Billie and Penny show amazing courage and tenacity to overcome seemingly impossible, life-threatening situations. In this fast-paced adventure story, Billie grows in confidence as she deals with prejudice, disability, bullying, family loss, compassion, and forgiveness while doing whatever it takes to save the runaway pony.

#westvirginia #horses #horsebooks #middlegrade #freeebook

Get your free copy today at… https://amzn.to/3GYeJEv

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: the String Light TARDISes

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

Continuing the holiday season for TARDIS collecting, I can finally detail 10 of the TARDISes in my collection in the form of a set of TARDIS string lights.

Manufactured by the Carlisle Company of Carson City NV, and licensed by the BBC, but purchased from the late and lamented ThinkGeek.com, these string lights are from the Matt Smith era of the program, complete with bright blue paint job and the return of the St. John’s Ambulance Company badge on the door. They are well-sculpted with a decent wood grain, though not one that’s especially to scale with how grain would look on a full-sized TARDIS. Better than most, though, I’d say.

When illuminated, the light from within does tend to bleed through the surface of the blue-plastic instead of just from the windows and roof lamp. In point of fact, the roof lamps don’t glow at all, as that’s where the wires connect.

Now some folks would say that, with this item being a single unit, it should only count as one TARDIS in my collection. I am not one of those people, though, and count it as 10, since there are 10 individual TARDISes present and accounted for. Yep. That’s how I roll. One purchase increased my already sizeable TARDIS collection by 10. That’s some festive holiday efficiency for your ass.

As far as string lights go, these are fine. There are only 10 of them, so you’re either going to have to string them on a very small tree (as I did using my grandmother’s antique artificial tree in the image above) or you’re going to need more lights. Like many string lights, these will connect to other sets, be they TARDISes or other types of lights. Maybe you could mix and match with Dalek string lights. However, if you just want some atmospheric TARDIS lights to hang from the end of a bookshelf (which is where mine usually live) then they’re great. I give ’em 3.5 TARDi.

More recently, another company, Rabbit Tanaka, has picked up the license to make TARDIS string lights. (Rabbit Tanaka also manufactured the TARDIS night light from a few years ago, which I also own but have not yet reviewed here, though I suspect it will be startlingly similar to the string lights review.) I do not yet own a set of the RT lights, but they look half-way decent, if a little bit plain. They look to be modeled after the Eccleston/Tennant TARDIS, though with a uniform blue color rather than their dingier paint-job. Gone is the ambulance badge, but the white door sign is retained. From the pictures I can see online, they also do not appear to have any wood grain elements. I might get a string of them eventually, just to help fill out my other 10. (And to add another 10 TARDISes to my collection number, natch.)

In the meantime, I present my Nerd Tree for 2021…

My Nerd Tree

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Hallmark Keepsakes TARDIS and Tom Baker Ornaments

(An ongoing writing project in which I catalog and quantify my extensive TARDIS collection. Find previous entries HERE.) 

There have been loads and loads of Doctor Who Christmas ornaments on the market across the show’s nigh on 60 year existence. A number of them have even been TARDISes, of which I’ve detailed a couple that I already own here and here. However, I’m always up for another version of the TARDIS and this year has brought a fantastic one.

Let me talk first about a couple that I don’t own by a company that doesn’t always get their ornaments right. The Kurt Adler Company has made a number of Doctor Who ornaments few varieties, including the glass TARDIS ornament that I own and like quite a bit and the other plastic TARDIS ornament, which is okay. However, their more recent attempts just don’t appeal much to me. The Kurt Adler Doctor Who Tardis With Wreath Light-up Christmas Ornament, for instance, I don’t care about at all. It looks quite a bit like the plastic TARDIS ornament they released a few years ago, but with added snow sculpting to the exterior and roof. There’s also a wreath on the door and it lights up. However, the wreath’s positioning made it difficult for them to get the St. John’s Ambulance badge decal set into the center of its usual door panel, so they had to skew it toward the top. Design flaw. The phone door decal, at least in the pictures I’ve seen, is also a bit off square, which leads me to believe most of them must be. (I’ve seen other photos on different Amazon listings that seem closer to center, but quality control is not likely great. When the company releasing the product can’t be bothered to photograph a good one, why would I want it?)

However, the real crime in the Kurt Adler Doctor Who ornament department is their Tom Baker figural ornament. I really REALLY wanted to like this ornament, because Baker is my favorite Doctor of all time. And I can see what they were going for with it, but it just… misses… all of the targets. I mean, look at him. He looks like a hippie. Sure, Tom’s Doctor was always very bohemian, which is a cousin of the hippie, but you never saw the man wearing blue jean bell bottoms. Maybe it’s just that they chose to paint his pants blue, a color he never wore in a trouser, but those cuffs are just unforgiveable. And the waistcoat he wears, while not dissimilar to ones he might have worn on the show, is in a pattern I don’t think is at all screen accurate, not to mention his kerchief is the wrong color. He’s also a lot skinnier than the man he’s modeled from, and the likeness is far from exact. His coat, while a similar color to his first season coat, is not the right cut to match it, but is also not long enough to match his latter day burgundy coat. And the scarf… The colors are a bit off, which I can forgive, but its length is about half of what it should be for a Baker style scarf. It’s like the sculptor was working from a verbal description of what Tom Baker looked like with no photo references at all. It’s like the Bizarro 4th Doctor. I’ve been tempted to buy it when I’ve seen it online, sometimes even very cheap, but I just cannot pull the trigger on such a janky Baker. (And, by the way, The Janky Bakers is the name of my Bread tribute band.)

UPDATE 12-11-21: Okaaaaay. I have to issue a slight correction to the above paragraph here based on some new information I’ve found. While I still maintain the Janky Baker Kurt Adler Ornament above is still the Bizzaro Tom Baker, there’s a method to its madness I was unaware of. I would lay dollars to doughnuts that this ornament did use photo reference because I happened upon said photo reference. While looking for pictures of Tom Baker’s actual screen-worn scarf, I stumbled upon the image at right. It shows a veeeeery similar outfit and pose for Mr. Baker, clearly taken from an early season of the show. He’s not clad in bluejeans, but his cuffs are Super 70s ™ enough to appear to be bell bottoms. If anything, the ornament’s cuffs are more modest than the real pants. Coat color’s still wrong but is the right cut. The waistcoat isn’t too bad and has the same stripe pattern, albeit in a plaid instead of just the stripes. He has the same red tie and is holding his hat (also wrong color) in the same fashion. Scarf remains too short, but I suspect that the real baker probably had a loop of it hanging down his back. Or maybe they just had a stunt scarf for photo shoot days. The facial likeness is still off compared to the photo, but now that I see the photo they used, it’s not as far off as I’d thought. They capture elements of his expression, but the whole doesn’t reflect the likeness of the real guy. The hair sculpt doesn’t help. You can see what they were working from. I take back some of my ire at Kurt Adler’s work on this.

Let’s turn our attention away from Kurt Adler and to a company known world wide for their ornament quality. This year, Hallmark has added some Doctor Who items to their 2021 Keepsake Ornaments collection. One of these is a classic series TARDIS, which looks very much like it could have been from the Pertwee/Baker era. It’s a beauty, with the flat roof, the muted bluish green paintjob, the dark door sign, and everything. The sculpt is fantastic as well. And then, with the press of a button, the ornament lights up, both at the roof lamp and within, and alternately plays either the TARDIS materialization sound effect (nice) or the theme music from David Tennant’s run on the show (huhruhh?). Yeah, it’s kind of mystifying that Hallmark chose a more modern, though now 15 year-old theme, after clearly expending so much effort to get the details of the piece so correct otherwise. I feel like I sort of have to knock a TARDi point off for this, which would otherwise be a five TARDi piece.

However, where Hallmark in no way dropped the ball for me is with their version of a Tom Baker ornament. If the Kurt Adler was the Bizzaro Universe Baker, this one’s the full on Superman. There he is, all curls and teeth like he looked in his first season, clad in his signature coat, vest, pants, and hat. It’s just like they sculpted it from a publicity still. In fact, I think they may have, though I have to say that the likeness in the face sculpt looks more like a Dave Gibbons drawing of a Tom Baker publicity photo than an exact match for Baker’s actual face. Which is probably an easier thing to sculpt. A small quibble I might have, which I’ve seen others complain of online, is the scarf. While longer than Kurt Adler’s, it’s still not to scale with the actual scarf from the show. At least not without another couple of loops around his neck. And the tassels for it are not accurate, as the original scarf had multi-colored tassels using the same yarn colors as in the scarf itself, whereas these are solid. (Even the Janky Baker got that part right.) I’m also told that the color order in the weave of the scarf is not screen-accurate, but I’m not going to quibble about that. It looks very similar to the scarf my mother-in-law knitted for me, nigh on 20 years ago, and I think they did a pretty good job on the ornament version.

They also look great on my tree.

Merry Christmas!

TARDIS Collector’s Corner: The Return

It’s been a good little while since I penned a new entry in my TARDIS Collector’s Corner series of posts. Which is odd, because I’d been having fun writing them. As of the most recent entry, from 2018, I’d not even covered half of the TARDISes I own. Since then, I’ve managed to add several new ones to the collection, including some fairly rare ones, some of which have become new favorites.

It’s therefore time to resume the series, which I hope to continue on a semi-weekly basis until I run out of material.

Tune in tomorrow for the first in the returning series in which I not only detail two of my favorite new Christmas-themed Doctor Who products, but also talk shit about a couple of others.

Actual Conversations Heard Following Actual Colonoscopies #1 (a.k.a. TMI Theatre 3000)

NURSE– (shaking my shoulder) Eric? Eric? We’re all done now. Your procedure’s finished.

ME– (Blinking) Really? Wow. That didn’t seem like–

MY BUTT– *FAAAAAAAAAAAAAART!!!!*

ME– Ohhhh… my lord. I am SO sorry!

NURSE– Not a problem. We hear it all the time.

While I was mortified to have involuntarily released such an assvacuation in front of far more strangers than you’d normally care to (a few of which were, fortunately, still yet-to-be-awakened following their own procedures), it was understandable. Part of the colonoscopy process is to pump your guts full of air to help give the scope a better view of the interior of said guts and to give the surgeon room to snake seven feet of it through them. It was but the first of many such ventings to follow. Including one, 20 minutes later, in the restroom of Olive Garden, where I thought I was totally alone and therefore free to let fly, only to hear the voice of some poor soul who’d quietly slipped into the room cry, “Daaaayuuum!” mid-way through my effort. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the presence of mind to scream, “Don’t fart-shame me, dude, I just had a colonoscopy!”

BTW: To my fellow humans who may be due for a colonoscopy and dreading it, mine was really easy and not worth stressing over. The worst part is the prep, where you have to get rid of the contents of your guts by drinking half a gallon of Miralax-laced Gatorade a pint at a time. It’s not pleasant, but it’s doable. My part of the procedure was basically to get nekkid, save for an ill-fitting gown, then answer the same ten questions asked by five different people, then take the best nap ever. As for my results, I am told my colon is immaculate, they didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, and it was so clean you could eat off it.

See ya again in 10 years, colon!

In the Midst: A COVID-19 eBook Anthology

In The Midst: A COVID-19 AnthologyIn mid 2020, my friend Sandy Tritt put out a call for submissions to a Covid-19 anthology she was putting together. As the August deadline approached, I remember wishing that I had something to send her, before remembering that I had actually written something on the topic, way waaaay back, what seemed like years and years before, in April of 2020.

I’m sure there are writers who used their downtime during the 2020 pandemic and lockdown to get a lot of writing done. I am not one of them. Now, Lord knows I have enough stories in-progress that I could have tackled finishing a few of them or even started something new in 2020. But I just couldn’t summon much interest in creative output for pretty much the whole year. A lot of this can be chalked up to just not feeling any love for the craft due to Covid-19, but there were larger factors at play in my life that actually outweighed even a global pandemic for me. The pandemic definitely didn’t help, though.

While I live in West Virginia, I spent most of the first half of 2020 in Mississippi, helping my parents while my dad recovered from spinal surgery. I was supposed to be there for five weeks. It turned into five months. Most of my writing for those months came in the form of Facebook posts and texts updating family and friends on our situation there. I wasn’t entirely without creative output, though. I did manage to write, revise and complete a 10 minute theatrical monologue which was then workshopped, revised more times, workshopped again, and subsequently published in an anthology of Covid-19 writing. As per usual, I had to have a deadline to make me complete it.

The monologue–some might argue short play, due to its formatting–in question was written in response to a March 2020 challenge issued by Jason A.Young, of Clarksburg’s Vintage Theatre Company. Jason challenged a number of West Virginia playwright types to write monologues documenting the pandemic experience in West Virginia. As I explained to Jason at the time, I wasn’t having a WV pandemic experience because I was in Mississippi. While I couldn’t really comment on what was going on back in home, I could definitely shed some light on what was happening to me and my family in my home town of Starkville.

For me and my parents, Covid-19 was only the icing on the already difficult cake that started our year. While my father’s surgery in mid-February had been a success in terms of ridding him of the agony he’d been in for months, due to a pinched nerve, it had not entirely been the instant cure we’d hoped for. He came out of surgery barely able to walk due to months of using his legs incorrectly in order to avoid pain. He then wound up doing nine weeks of in-patient rehab at a nursing home facility while I split my time between hanging out with him in his room there and being at home to take care of my step-mother, Myra.

Part way into his rehab experience, Mississippi had its first case of Covid-19 and Dad’s facility went on full lockdown. This meant I couldn’t get inside to see him because they were trying like hell to keep Covid-19 out. We could then only communicate with Dad by phone, Facebook video, and by me standing outside of his ground-floor window and talking to him phone to phone.

By the time Jason issued the challenge to write a monologue, I had a few things to say about the pandemic experience. The monologue I wrote, entitled “Fish Bowl,” depicts one side of a cell phone conversation between a father and son looking at each other through the glass of a nursing home room window. It was inspired by the many such conversations I had with my dad through the window of his room during those weeks. And while much of the conversation is fictional, much of it is true. It also quite accurately depicts the way I came to learn that there had been an outbreak of Covid-19 in his facility during one such conversation.

I turned in the monologue to Jason in April 2020. He passed it along to a very talented local actor from his troop named Sean Marko, who made both audio and, later, video readings of it as a kind of online workshop. It helped the revision process immensely to hear how the words sounded and where my tendency toward super long sentences caused train wrecks in the execution. Being back in the collaborative process of theatre again felt great, especially after weeks of avoiding any such output, viewing it as a distraction to my many responsibilities at hand.

Months later, I did another couple of polishes on “Fish Bowl” and submitted it to Sandy for her anthology. She said it made her cry, which I guess is as good a review as a writer is likely to get. She accepted it and it was published as part of In the Midst: A COVID-19 Anthology in November, 2020.

I guess this is a long way to go to say, “Fish Bowl,” has just been published again in the brand new ebook edition of In the Midst: A Covid-19 Anthology. Unlike the print editions, where readers needed to chose between black and white and a pricier full-color version, though, the much cheaper ebook is in full color.

There’s a lot more tale to tell about my time in Mississippi, both comedic and tragic. I’m now considering the best format in which to tell it.

Website Repairs and Podcast Reduxes

A few long time friends and/or followers of this page might have noticed a couple of changes to this site over the years. I’m not just talking about the semi-once-a-decade sprucing up I do on the visuals (it is a nigh on 25 year old site, after all), or the shifting sands of content; no, I’m talking about the name of the site itself. Oh, it’s always been called Mister Herman’s Home Page–or, at least, phonetically it has–but the actual URL address has danced about when it comes to spelling.

For the first few years of its life, Mister Herman’s Home Page lived in the personal directory of whatever ISP would have me. The site initially served as a repository for funny Top Ten lists that I and my friends had written, in-joke-laced humor pieces, funny graphics I’d made, and more in-joke-laced recipes inspired by the things I used to cook and actually eat during college. Gradually, though, I began to add my writing to the mix, from early short stories, some of which made it into A Consternation of Monsters, to my signature non-fiction Horribly True Tales. The site began to fill out.

Trouble was, whenever I’d move to a new town and get a new internet provider, I’d have to move it all and the web address would change once again, as would my email address. After my 5th ISP change in so many years, though, I decided to bite the bullet and just get the site a permanent address. I bought the URL MisterHerman.com and pointed it to whatever ISP I was using at` the time. And I recall, at the time, debating whether to buy MrHerman.com as well, to avoid confusion, but decided to lean in to the full spelling that I preferred. And, not long after, I set up permanent hosting for the site via an official GoDaddy hosting account. Gone were the days of having to move the site with each new ISP.

Years passed and I decided owning MrHerman.com would be good after all. Alas, someone had beat me to it and set up their own web design service with that shingle. This was annoying, because I’d posted enough writing and told enough people the name of my site that I didn’t want folks to be waylaid on the way there by some Fake Shemp Mr. Herman. (And, let’s be clear, I’m fully aware that I’m the Fake Shemp Mister Herman and the site should really be owned by Pee Wee Herman himself. And if he’d ever like to have it, I’m quite open to discussing it and would cut him a fair price due to all the entertainment he’s given me over the years.) Instead, I just kept tabs on the Fake Shemp Herman. After a handful of years the name became available again and this time I didn’t dawdle in buying it.

More years passed, I wrote a book, and decided to spruce up my page to help market it and myself. I switched to WordPress, which I thought would be the uncomplicated, intuitive, and user-friendly solution to my web design needs. (Ahhh hah ha ha hah ha hah ha hah hah hah ha hah hah ha ha hah ha hah ha hah hah hah ha hah hah ha ha hah ha hah ha hah hah hah ha hah hah ha ha hah ha hah ha hah hah ha ha hah ha hah ha hah hah hah ha hah hah ha ha hah ha hah ha hah hah hah ha hah hahhhhh!) While setting up the new hot site, though, I pointed MrHerman.com to it, allowing MisterHerman.com to remain in its previous form until I was ready to go live. When I did, I just let MrHerman.com become the official new URL for the site, with MisterHerman as its redirecting shadow.

Part of my book promotion involved recording adaptations of a few of its stories as a podcast called the Consternation of Monsters Podcast. Still later, I did the whole thing as an audiobook, but I tend to prefer the podcast versions of the stories, which are not always straight-up word for word readings, but can branch out into stageplays, radioplays, and sound-effects-laden efforts. I spent a lot of time trying to get them right, as well as keeping up with the RSS feed for it so that people could listen to it from whatever podcast app they cared to use.

One day, a year or so ago, GoDaddy called to let me know they were going to be discontinuing the use of the server I was on and needed to migrate me to a new one. They suggested upgrading to CPanel hosting, which would offer me all the features I’d had before and more. Sure thing, I told them. Sign me up. They then said the would set up the new site for me and I could migrate my old site to it over the course of three months they were kind enough to give me, so the old site didn’t have to immediately go away. I told them to just use MisterHerman.com as the name of the new site, and I’d keep the old site as MrHerman until I could get it moved (just like last time, in reverse).

Now, I don’t know if you have ever tried to migrate one WP site to another location, but it’s devilishly tricky. And while there are a number of WordPress plugins that claim they do the migration for you, none of them actually work–or, at least, none of the half dozen I tried did. I really REALLY didn’t want to have to go through every page of code and change every listed addresses from Mr to Mister, though. Then GoDaddy told me that for a mere ten sawbucks–that’s a crisp $100, to you and me–they’d do the migration for me. Sounded like money well spent. I signed right up and within a couple of weeks the site had been moved. I checked a sampling of pages to make sure everything was still there and it seemed to be.

I should have checked more pages. The ones I checked were good, so I, sadly, trusted it all was.

That was months ago.

Recently, I happened to notice that my Consternation of Monsters Podcast was no longer working properly in my podcast aggregator app. I hadn’t looked at it for months–since the last new episode I’d done in 2018, really. But I saw a red triangle with an exclamation point on the show graphic and knew something was amiss. What do you suppose I discovered? Oh, just that while my site had been successfully moved and most of the MRs had been changed to MISTERs, a number–and not a small number–of them had not. In particular, the file of the podcast feed itself was choked with MRs. I can understand GoDaddy not checking such a file, which was not a part of WordPress to begin with, but quite a few links within the site itself, which was WordPress, referred back to the old MrHerman addresses. More horribly true still, I soon discovered that all of my Horribly True Tales stories were listed with the old addresses on their table of contents pages. It seems that while each individual page was switched from MR to MISTER, any page with in-house links to pages on the site did not have any alterations made to its code in this regard.

Super long story short, I’ve been doing some site work this to restore the podcast and its feed to their former glory, as well as all the other broken links on the site. (If you happen to one, how bout drop me a line about it at efritzius AT gmail DOT com).

After much code-work and testing, the podcast is back up and its episodes restored. You can find them all at the main Consternation of Monsters Podcast page, as well as links to blog entries about the stories adapted themselves.

And I can reveal there will soon be news about new episodes in the new year.

Actual Conversations Heard from my Patio #86

SETTING: My patio, where I’m sitting as the wife emerges from our nearby workshop/outbuilding, a.k.a. “The Shop.”

THE WIFE– Hey, Poo, I got a request for you.
ME– Yeah?
THE WIFE– I’m gonna need you to not keep your grandfather’s bullwhip coiled up on the floor of the shop… right behind the door… right where I have to stand to turn on the light… looking an awful lot like a coiled up snake.
ME– Mm. Yeah, I saw that and thought it might be a problem. But I didn’t do it on purpose.
THE WIFE– Uh huh.
ME– I’d had the whip hanging above the door, wrapped around its wooden handle, but it fell, then got pushed behind the door the next time someone opened it.
THE WIFE– Falling on me from above the door would have been way worse.
ME– Yeah. Gotcha.

Actual Conversations Heard at My House #234

SETTING: My house, as my wife is seated in front of the TV, flipping through the viewing choices on Amazon Prime while me and the mother-in-law look on. I spy one of the choices as she flips past it, a movie with a poster that features a closeup of a brightly lit shot of the face of actor Florence Pugh, with pretty flowers in her hair, screaming in anguish.

ME– You should watch Midsommar.

THE WIFE– Really?

ME– Yeah.

(There is a pause as the wife scrolls back to it and starts to read the description.)

THE MOTHER-IN-LAW– What’s Midsommar?

ME– Ohhh… just an incredibly unsettling horror movie set entirely in bright sunlight.

THE WIFE– I don’t want to see that! Why would you tell me to watch that?

ME– I was gonna stop you.

THE WIFE– Yeah, right.

ME– I didn’t think you’d watch it to begin with. I figured you hear the evil mirth in my voice and know better.

THE WIFE– Uh huh.

(Long pause)

ME– You should watch Hereditary.

Now Available

To the Bones, by Valerie Nieman is a supernatural horror thriller set in a town where the river flows orange and the founding—and controlling—family is rumored to “strip a man to the bones.” Darrick MacBrehon, a government auditor, wakes among the dead. Bloodied and disoriented from a gaping head wound, the man who staggers out of the mine crack in Redbird, West Virginia, is much more powerful—and dangerous—than the one thrown in. Hard-as-nails Lourana Taylor works as a sweepstakes operator and spends her time searching for any clues that might lead to her missing daughter. Could this stranger’s tale of a pit of bones be connected? Along the way, the bonds of love and friendship are tested, and bodies pile up on both sides.

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“The Talkin’, Ayyyym offended, If that IS your Real Name, End of an Era, Friiiiiitz Call Blues” (a.k.a. “Actual Telephone Calls Heard at My House over the Course of a 15 Year Period #332”)

When I worked as a morning drive radio DJ, back in the ’90s, frequently we would get calls from people who wished to complain about something they heard on the radio which had offended them.  Trouble was, with very few exceptions, the thing they heard that had offended them had been said by an on-air personality on a completely different radio station than the one I was employed by.  Yep, whenever John Boy and Billy said something saucier than most decent folks cared to hear, the O-ffended of Northeast Mississippi had no other recourse than to open the phone book, pick a radio station at random, and then call me or my morning show partner to lecture us about something we’d not even said.  We called these the “Ayyyym offended” calls, since they always began with that phrase.

For the past 15 years, my wife and I have experienced a different but still related telephonic behavior in what we’ve come to refer to as the “Friiiiiitz” calls. 

Way back, around 2006, our land line rang at 3 a.m., waking us up.  Since 3 a.m. is outside the normal hours of telephone conversations, we naturally expected the call to be from a relative bearing tragic news.  I braced myself for the worst as I answered the phone.

ME—Hello?

(noise…  noise… labored breathing)

ME— Hello?

(noise…  noise…)

FEMALE CALLER— Friiiiitz?

ME— I’m sorry, what?

CALLER— Is this Friiiiitz?

ME— Um, this is Eric Fritzius.

(labored breathing)

CALLER— Is this Friiitz… from Fritz’s Pharmacyyyyy?

ME— No, I’m afraid it’s not.  My name is Eric Fritzius.

(noise… noise… labored breathing)

CALLER— You’re not… Friiitz?

ME— No. 

(noise… noise… labored breathing)

CALLER— Do you have… Fritz’s number?

ME— Uh, no.  I’m sorry, I don’t.

(labored breathing)

CALLER— I need… to call… Friiiitz.  I’m having…  an emergency.

ME— Uhh…   (Looks to my wife, who, at the time, was a medical resident and who presumably might be of help)  She says she’s having an emergency?

WIFE—(firmly and distinctly) Tell. Her. To call. 9.1.1. Or go. To the E.R. 

ME— Ma’am.  I’m sorry, but if you’re having a medical emergency, you need to call 911 or go to the emergency room.

(noise… noise… labored breathing)

CALLER— I caiiint dooo thaaaat.

(*CLICK*)

That was the first of at least a dozen such hour-of-the-wolf “Friiiiitz” calls we have since received.  I’m pretty sure that same lady has been responsible for many of these calls, but a few other folks have called as well.  Folks who have experienced what they have deemed to be a medical emergency, at 3 a.m.; folks who then decided to phone up, not their doctor or otherwise a trained emergency medical professional, but instead their favorite pharmacist, Fritz, because that makes a metric ton of sense; folks who then opened their white pages to F, at 3 a.m., located a last name that shares five letters with the name Fritz—which, it should be noted, is not actually the real Fritz’s last name to begin with, as “Fritz” is a nickname the real Fritz uses in place of his real first name—and then these folks blindly phone said number in the assumption that they’ll reach the Fritz they want. And every time—every single time—no matter if it’s the original lady caller or some other rando, when told we are not the Fritz they’re looking for, these folks always ask if we have Fritz’s number.  Because all Fritzes know one another, I guess? 

No, we most certainly do not have Fritz’s number. We have gone to great lengths not to have Fritz’s number—and by “great lengths,” I mean we have never bothered to check if Fritz’s number is actually listed. And our reason for this willful ignorance is because if we were to look up Fritz’s number then we would have Fritz’s number, and the fact that we would still not be willing to give his home number out, at 3 a.m., to people who should be calling 911 in the first place, would mean we would feel extra guilty for willingly withholding said information should they die from the medical emergency they refused to call the proper medical assistance to assist with.  Instead, we have always been polite when such calls come in, but always advise the callers that in genuine medical emergencies the only number they need to phone is, in point of fact, 911. With great frequency, the reply to this suggestion is the declaration: “I caiiint dooo thaaaat.” So far none of the callers have elaborated as to why they can’t. 

In 2008, we relocated from Greenbrier County to Mercer County.  There are no Fritz’s Pharmacy locations in Mercer County, though, so our “Friiiiiitz” calls came to an end, and the only 3 a.m. calls we occasionally received were medical emergencies involving patients in the hospital for whom my doctor wife was genuinely responsible.

In 2012, we moved back to Greenbrier County, got a brand new land line phone number, listed it in the phone book, and waited in anticipation.  Sure enough within the first two months, right on time at 3 a.m., the phone rang.

ME— Hello?

(noise…  noise… labored breathing)

FEMALE CALLER— Friiiiitz?

ME— No.  No, this is not Fritz.  This is the Fritzius residence.  We are not related to Fritz from Fritz’s Pharmacy.

(noise…  noise…)

FEMALE CALLER— This is not Friiiitz?

ME— No, it is not. 

(3… 2… 1…)

CALLER— Do you have– ?

ME— No, we do not have Fritz’s number. Again, we are not related to Fritz. Our name only shares five letters with his name.

(Okay, we’re not ALWAYS polite.)

CALLER— I need… to call… Fritz.  I’m having… an emergency.

ME— Then you need to call 911 or go to the emergency room.

(3… 2… 1…)

CALLER— I caaaiiint do thaaaat.

(*CLICK*)

In the years since our return, these calls have continued, albeit not often.  Most have been from folks other than the usual lady.  Some have even occurred during actual daylight hours.  We still have not had Fritz’s number.

At least…

…until today.

While writing this, and after 15 years of steadfastly avoiding the task, I finally looked up Fritz’s home number.  Turns out, it’s been right there in the phone book the entire time, listed under Fritz’s very own name. However, the callers would still have been unable to determine which number was truly his even if they had known his actual last name, because “Fritz” was smart enough not to have his phone number listed under his nickname either.  Instead “Fritz” used his real first name, which also starts with F but is also not Fritz.  In other words, the real Fritz doesn’t want these calls any more than us Fake Shemp Fritzes do. 

And the reason why I finally looked up Fritz’s number? Only because the days of the 3 a.m. Friiiiitz calls are now probably at an end.  You see, the real Fritz recently sold his chain of pharmacies to CVS, and will no longer be dispensing meds under that name. I figured it was finally safe not only to have a look at his number but to tell this story. 

It’s the end of an era for sure, but I am astounded that with all the hullabaloo of Fritz transferring his customers’ pharmaceutical records to CVS, we’ve not received even one “Friiiiitz” call about it.

Might go so far as to say, “Ayyyyy’m offended.”

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