Saturday, December 8, 2012

The War to Prove...

One of the great fighters of all time will be lacing up the gloves to meet his arch enemy, an inferior fighter who inexplicably reaches the apex of his skills when facing the modern equivalent of Tamerlane...Manny Pacquiao. Though not afflicted with the physical maladies that weighed heavy upon the twelfth century universal conqueror, Manny Pacquiao is every bit the Asian hero and looks this evening to finally thwart his longtime enemy, the noble challenger Juan Manuel Marquez.

They will fight at a catch-weight of 143 lbs. and it is expected that this fourth fight between the two combatants will finally end the popular enmity that has brewed between these magnificent boxers. This isn't the same melodramatic frame-up as Achilles and Hector; no, there will be no gods to intervene tonight. This confrontation will pit the counter-puncher against the aggressor, the Black Mamba versus the Mongoose, and the battle will likely reflect the history that led these two fighters back to each other.

Marquez is a classic counter puncher who relies heavily upon the aggression of his opponent. he is not savvy enough nor physically apt to take the fight to any top tier combatant. However, he is uniquely possessed of the counter punchers gift of timing and power. He is a proud warrior of Mexican heritage who relies on his mind as much as his volatile emotion. Though hammered in the past from pillar to post by Floyd Mayweather Jr., a fighter whose physical abilities are outside the ken of normal man, he is yet as dangerous as the cobra, the Mamba, a snake who waits for the perfect moment of weakness to strike. He is a world class fighter, a champion, whose heart cannot be questioned and it is because he is so dangerous that this fight, the fourth in a trilogy (yes, I know it means three) to finally prove who is the best, is the draw it is. Mayweather may be acknowledged king but these two are the people's champions and to his eternal regret shall he hear their names called in earnest fervor.

Pacquiao is like the equatorial tempests of the east, building slowly before spilling over the shore as an angry god filled with spite and malice. Only this god is a representative of the people - a martyr of sorts who places himself in harms way in an effort to spare the common man from the arduous and painful journey of his fistic betters. In the ring Manny Pacquiao is a tropical Typhoon - punching fists, whirlwind movement, and an inexorable ability to keep coming forward in the best Howardian Iron Man tradition ...always moving forward and cognizant of the social burden he carries as an Asian champion in a western man sport.

My prediction is based on what I've seen and what I know of both boxers. Manny is prepossessed in his duties as a member of the Philippine House of Representatives and pulled in too many directions. Yet, he is the better fighter while Marquez is the better boxer. This fight will come down to desire - who has the desire to stand and fight, to contest yet again the dregs of honor and notoriety, and the simple will to win that will be required of the victor in this fight.

As such, it is apparent that I admire both fighters and it with some reticence and indecision that I declare Manny Pacquaio the victor by 11th round TKO. I have seen Marquez do amazing things but his desire to finally prove that he is the best will undo him and lure him from his counter punching shell. He will seek to annihilate his foe and open himself up to the power-punching dynamism that Manny is known for. There is not a man at this weight who can long endure Pacquiao's fists nor his undeniable will to win.

Manny Pacquaio TKO 11th round in exciting fashion.

Monday, August 6, 2012

80s Sword and Sorcery

I have been following an interesting Facebook thread over at the Robert E. Howard Readers Group. It seems that the group's founder(s), as well as a good portion of the members, have become increasingly irked by a cadre of a boisterous fan-boys whose posts are frequently seen as childish, snotty, and frequently off-subject. They have been accused (rightly so) of repeatedly straying away from the subject of Robert E. Howard, an offense normally not damning in itself but when coupled with name-calling, strident personal challenges, the implied threat of violence and even thinly disguised plagiarism-for-profit scams...well, I think we can all agree that some changes are in order.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah; like I said, I've been following those posts with a certain indignant tolerance and all the while asking myself 'why?' I'm not exactly a model of self restraint when it comes to emotional volatility. I've dropped the gloves (much to my embarrassment) for lesser indignities than the verbal vomit these goofs are spewing. What was different this time and why the sudden tolerance; am I getting wiser and more tolerant as I age? Unlikely...

Thankfully, I didn't give in to frustration and leave the group - instead, I read a follow up thread started by Jeff Shanks and realized the answer was right in front of me all along and it had surprisingly little to do with Robert E. Howard, my friend's gripes, nor the moose-drooling blowhards that had been ruining the normally enjoyable back and forth chatter between Robert E. Howard fans. Here's what Jeff said that helped grease the wheels inside my punch-drunk brain; "Okay, why don't we put all the pastiche nonsense and bad 80's S&S behind us and get back to talking about Robert E. Howard."

That's it! Bad 80s Sword and Sorcery fiction. It wasn't so much that they were talking about 80s S&S it was that the aforementioned goofs were doing so both outside of the desired conversational direction/subject (Howard) and from a woefully ignorant and misinformed point of view. The reason I had waded through the crap wasn't tolerance after all. Thank goodness I'm not going soft after all. No, the reason was all that talk of "bad" 80s S&S had me fondly recalling my misspent youth which had been spent as often as not with my nose parked in one of those books.

Anyhow, this blog entry isn't about the goofs, it's about the 80s S&S references and how those references inadvertently roused in me a desire to revisit some of those 80s novels and short story collections. Amazingly, I have managed to successfully retain many of those old books in storage and can with a little physical effort muscle those old boxes out from under the dust and cobwebs and back into the light of day once more.

What a generic term - 80s Sword and Sorcery -  but to a guy who's teen years really were defined by the 80s, that descriptive is really just an umbrella term for "books with covers that featured heroic swordsmen, scantily clad women, and some kind of menace." This could be historical fiction, heroic fantasy, adventure, horror, D&D style adventures, reprints of old stories, epic fantasy and pastiche. Also, 80s S&S includes more than that work published, literally, in the 80s; it manages to thematically and creatively pierce the early 90s as well before giving way to new genres like steampunk that would come to characterize the death of rock and the birth of grunge. Heck, it might be argued that it covers stories that you first read in the 80s but had been published years or even decades before. At least that's how I see it.

So, in anything but the spirit of those now infamous goofs over at The Robert E. Howard Reader's Group, I will slowly revisit those stories over the coming months here at the Punch-Drunk Bard blog. Here's hoping that my stroll down memory lane will only reinforce how I feel about these stories and novels.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wladimir Klitschko KO Thompson in 6

Champion Wladimir Klitschko (58-3 51 KOs) battered challenger Tony Thompson (36-3 24 KOs) into submission via a 6th round mercy stoppage to retain his WBO/IBO/WBA/IBF belts.

It wasn't long ago that I declared that greatness in boxing was as much a product of "quality of opposition as it is by records or championship belts." After having watched the Waldimir Klitschko/Tony Thompson tilt - and witnessing the utter lack of interest stateside in this fight - I can't help but feel vindicated. Thompson (36-3 24 KOs), is a 40 year old slugger best known for already having lost to Klitschko by 11th round TKO in 2008. Thompson is a game, solid, heavyweight with several quality wins on his resume and, despite an obvious skill set that placed him front and center (yet again) as the mandatory challenger, he was completely outclassed by Dr. Steelhammer. Folks, this wasn't a close fight; it was a clinical vivisection.
Despite the obvious mismatch, the challenger's advanced age, and the predictable result I felt compelled to dig a little deeper into the latest championship victory of a man whose record and title run would demand instant inclusion into the 'greatest ever' debate. I watched a replay of the fight and came away thinking that Wladimir might be unjustly judged by the complete LACK of a suitable challenger to his dominance. Is it really his fault that there is no Frazier to his Ali? Are his obvious physical advantages to be held against him? How would he have fared against the dominant heavies of other eras?

The answers to these questions are not easy to come by - especially if you are an American longing for the days when Americans dominated what was for over a hundred years the most glamorous designation in the sporting world - world's heavyweight champion. Or maybe they are easily answered if you call Europe home. After all, Americans have dominated the division for the better part of a 130 years and perhaps, for them, this is just the cyclical nature of sport finally laying hold of boxing's premier title.

To those boxing historians out there, sure, I am aware of the Freckled Wonder (Fitzsimmons), the diminutive Canadian, Tommy Burns, the misunderstood Max Schmeling, the brief reigns of  the Amblin' Alp (Primo Carnera) and Johansson with his "Hammer of Thor" punch, nor the few other alphabet soup Euro "champions" of the 80s and 90s - - nor have I forgotten the British phenom, Lennox Lewis. What I am trying to say is that while I know there have been European exceptions the rule has been that American's have held, for the most part, the heavyweight belt since the bare-knuckled days of the great John L.

That dominance has held mostly true until the Klitschkos stalked upon the scene in the early 2000s. At last count their records are a combined 102-5 with 91 KOs and of those 5 losses two of them came on injuries where the elder Klitschko (Vitali) was winning easily. Dominance of this sort is almost unheard of in the annals of heavyweight boxing - and forget for a moment that we are talking about brothers sharing the significant titles with the same level of dominance as other past champions.

It's easy to forget that they have met every significant contender of their era - aside from themselves, a result of a promise to their mother that they would never fight each other - and with only one exception (the controversial stoppage of Vitali by Lewis in 2003) the brothers have won every significant fight and avenged each rare loss with a magnificence that would have garnered acclaim the level that Ali or Frazier enjoy to this day.

is their dominance simply a byproduct of a "weak" heavyweight division? To be honest, I had thought so until their dominance reached a Holmes like level. What else can they do but meet, and beat, the best the division can muster? A close examination of the recent Klitschko/Thompson fight reveals several things to the patient observer. Wladimir Klitschko moves better than any heavyweight of his size ever. His chin remains suspect but I maintain it no longer matters when your opponent cannot solve your jab, your cross, your movement nor your hook. Wald is possessed of one of the best jabs I have seen since Larry Holmes, another lonely and forgotten champion who deserves more recognition than he has been offered. It is like a pile-driving piston moving at Mach 4. It is beautiful. It is perfect. There is only one heavyweight who can lay claim to an equal or better jab in all the annals of recorded boxing and that is Larry Holmes. His straight right is eclipsed in modern effectiveness only by his own brother , Vitali, and is usually delivered behind that wonderful jab which, together, have wreaked havoc upon 58 victims. He moves with the speed and grace of a man 30 pounds lighter without taking unnecessary punishment.

Wladimir has learned from his setbacks rather than wallow in defiance of the obvious. He has weaknesses and he has learned from them: witness the Lamont Brewster debacle where Brewster played the part of an aggressive Joe Frazier, or the Purity result where he clearly ran out of steam against a game opponent despite the manhandling he had administered for 10 rounds, or even the punishment he endured at the hands of the heavy hitting South African,Corrie Sanders. He could have thrown in the towel, swallowed as accurate the unfair "great white hope" ridicule he faced in the wake of each of these losses but instead he learned from each of these setbacks and became a better fighter each time. What is there not to like, to respect, about that kind of dedication to the sport we love so much?

Some of you will read this and shake your collective heads at my perceived idiocy. I can hear your objections even now; "Can't you see that Ali would dance his way to an easy late round KO over the flat footed Russian" or that "Tyson would murder this guy with his speed" or that "Louis would take the measure of this pretender in less than 6!" A favorite of mine is the constant lament that "The heavyweight division is so weak that I could dominate" or, the 'brothers' wouldn't even have cracked the top 15 in any decade leading up to this one. Riiight...let's hear what Thompson had to say about Wlad's perceived lack of talent: "I just think that we’re (America) so used to dominating the heavy part of the sport, that we just found reasons to, you know, put the contenders down, and not give the Klitschkos full credit." I trust his judgment considering he had only lost to one other opponent in his 20 years as a professional boxer.

As I said, I watched this fight and many others and can honestly say that Wladimir is a deserving, talented champion who could stand toe to toe with the greats of most eras.

Round 1: 10-9 Thompson
The challenger landed the only meaningful blow of the 1st round and used an effective jab to force Klitschko to simply follow Thompson around the ring. A tactical round for both fighters.

Round 2: 10-9 Klitschko
The champion began to dictate distance in this round. He pushed the pace and his straight right landed effectively throughout. Thompson's jab continues to land. A somewhat sloppy round.

Round 3: 10- 9 Klitschko
Thompson continues to use an effective jab but it is clear he has nothing else to capture the Russian's attention. The end of the round finds Klitschko hunting the game Thompson around the ring. I wouldn't argue much if you gave Thompson the round but Klitschko was the aggressor and he landed 4 good body shots and several jabs and Thompson didn't offer much.

Round 4 : 10-9 Klitschko
Not much action other than what Klitschko initiated. Thompson landed a hard jab which was answered by a much harder right hand by Klitschko. Klitschko is overly careful in this round but one senses this is about to end.

Round 5: Klitschko 10-8
Klitschko starts to use his jab to establish range and it clearly affects Thompson. Klitschko has lulled his opponent into a false sense of security. Using the jab, Klitschko sets up a powerful straight right that Thompson never sees (thanks to the stiff jab) and the challenger kisses the canvas.

Round 6: Klitschko wins via TKO
Thompson never recovers from the big right hand in the 5th and the referee saves his 40 year old body and brain from severe damage. Klitschko was beginning to shows flashes of his actual speed and it is too much for Thompson who appears able to go on but stumbles slightly when asked to move forward after the 2n knockdown and it is probably a life saving decision on the ref's part.

This fight is typical Wladimir: slow start, feel your opponent out, make them miss and begin to measure them against an ever increasing output. Nothing fancy, noting rash, just sound technique and amazing power. Even glancing blows cause these professionals to seize up in shock upon partial impact. It only gets worse as the rounds go on and his confidence grows along with his desire for a KO. My only gripe is that he could have gone to the body at any point in this fight and ended it even earlier.

Yes, Thompson was 40 years old but he was the mandatory challenger and no one else seems capable of lasting more than a few rounds against Wladimir. Thompson hadn't lost since his first meeting with Klitschko. No one else was calling him out and demanding a match. No one else is even remotely on par with these two men. They are all waiting for these two brothers, Wladimir in particular, to retire so they have a shot at the title because as long as these two stick around there simply is no one even remotely capable, outside of a lucky punch, to defeat these two guys.

Say what you will, they did all that they could as boxers and they continue to dominate their era like no one else has before. Champions of the ages or simply of the age?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New Friends and No Sleep - Howard Days 2012

This past weekend folks from around the world came to Cross Plains, Texas, for the annual celebration of the world's greatest pulpster - Robert E. Howard. For those in the know, this two day event is something of a literary pilgrimage that offers fans of Robert E. Howard and his work an opportunity to connect in a uniquely personal way with their favorite author. It's the equivalent of a spiritual journey that no true Howard fan should miss if they can help it.

And it's not easy getting to Cross Plains, Texas. It lies somewhere near the geographical center of the state and requires that one keep a sharp eye out as you travel from the more civilized ports of call lest you miss it. Hours from Dallas and the better part of an hour from the interstate, it pokes its sleepy small-town head over forgotten oil derricks and rolling wheat fields so suddenly you're apt to mistake it for a simple crossroads gas stop.

But, for those fans that braved the elements, dared torrential downpours and dodged hail the size of hockey pucks it was a welcome site. And did they come! From the Scottish Highlands to the hills of Hollywood the Howard Faithful were treated to a heaping helping of Texas hospitality by the good folks from Project Pride who host the annual gathering.

I had intended on writing a full-fledged trip report as I have done in year's past for the retired Cimmerian magazine and my REHupa mag, Iron Legions. But this year the mood of the event had lulled me into a contented, laid back, Howard fan-geek state. The atmosphere wasn't so much electric as it was satisfying. I mean that in the best possible way. I spent far more time this year enjoying the little things that make Howard Days so special for so many fans. I only had one panel to worry about and even that turned out to be a low key appeal to fans to open themselves up to the merits of the boxing stories. As usual, Fists at the Icehouse went over well with the large crowd that gathered to see "a fight at the Icehouse!" Howard scholar (and Venarium winner) Jeff Shanks and I played cornermen to Mark Finn's foghorn bellerin' rendition of Costigan as he sauntered to and fro, dancing lightly as he regaled the crowd with Howard lore. To satisfy the jeering throng, I tried to get ol' Finn to step up to the scratch line but he knew there was no money it and after a few feints and shuffle steps, he promptly turned out the lights and left the fans wanting more! Finn's a regular Tex Rickard for sure. The Icehouse is for the three of us an actual alter - a real battleground that Howard sparred in - and to be able to step upon and absorb the ambiance is nothing short of special. Good times.

And that's what this Howard Days was all about, really - good times. I finally got to meet Stygian winner Keith Taylor but wished I had had more time to speak with him. He reads this here blog so I know we can make a lengthier conversation happen some day. Congrats to him- he does a bang up job on all things Howard related. If you are a follower of his blog you no doubt read that some goofy fan almost made him late for the award ceremony. That'd be me. I just wanted to talk with him for a few minutes and what was supposed to be a few words stretched quickly into a few minutes. Sorry Keith!

As I said, good times. I was tired the whole weekend and yet I still found myself engaged in conversations late into the Texas night with old friends and new. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Seth Humble, Brad Ellison, Mark Caroll and his wife, Jennifer Baughman. Wow! Not only were they huge Howard fans but they were great people. There were many other new faces this year and almost all of them were interested in learning more about Howard's boxing stories. Hell yeah! I got to watch Mark Caroll GM a motley crew thru an RPG game adventure that was epic. Finn, Harron, and others were a sweaty, deflated mess after Mark was done with them.

I also got to spend some quality time with some of my best Howard Days buds - the Quijas Brothers - Dominic and Eli, and their sons Joseph and Isaiah. They've been coming since about 2006 and they are passionate about Robert E. Howard. I am serious; these guys know their stuff and live it. I feel young and full of energy when I am around these guys and it was nothing but good times hanging with them. Speaking of young fans, I was pleasantly surprised to see a young man (name escapes me?) reciting Howard poetry at the Howard poetry slam hosted by Barbara Barrett. I know Joseph wanted to get up there but he must have been in slack-jawed awe after having witnessed the inimitable Tim Arney bellow "Drunk! Drunk! Drunk!" while nearly vaulting over Ed Chaczyk and the Wyrd Sisters in a kind of apoplectic poetic ecstasy.

That reminds me of some more good times I had all weekend with the old guard. Howard giants like Dennis McHaney, Paul Sammon, Tim Arney, Gary Romeo, Todd Woods, and Jeff Shanks hung out and talked with me, Aurelia, Ben Friberg, Al Harron, Jim Barron and Ed Chaczyk. We were all like bees jumping from one flower to the next, gathering up the Howard news at each table and soaking our brains in it. Ah, good times.

I would be remiss if I did not give an extra shout out to Dennis, Todd, Ed, Tim and Al...the only things that could have made our late night gab fests any cooler than they already were would have been to have Charles Gramlich and Tom Foster show up about midnight and say, "I heard there was a party in Cross Plains! Let's talk Robert E. Howard!"

I could go on and on but I'm just rambling, collecting bits and pieces of a great weekend and trying to assemble them like some giant jigsaw puzzle. I know how good it will look when I am finished but I'd rather not be rushed just yet. I think I'll just fit a few pieces together here and there until the next Howard Days rolls around. I sure as heck have enough memories to get me there.

To the good folks of the Middleton Ranch I salute you - the dinner was fabulous, the sunset serene and the Caddo Peak climb an adventure. Thanks to everyone involved. And can you believe!!! I haven't even mentioned the biggest news - for me - of the weekend: Howard Payne University has donated the original Robert E. Howard library (made famous by Rusty Burke's Howard Bookshelf over at REHupa) to the Howard House and Project Pride! What a thrill it was to see those books, with inscriptions to Bob, sitting in a case for all the Howard faithful to ogle over. With each passing year the Howard Home becomes more a living monument to the memory of Robert E. Howard than I dared dream possible. Perhaps it is time we call it a shrine?!

If I missed anyone - I am sorry. I slept a little more than 5 total hours during the weekend and as I drove back home to Albuquerque it was all I could do to keep my eyes open. No doubt after I have a chance to truly reflect on the event I will remember you as the days go by.

See you all next year!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Johnny Tapia 1967-2012

Sadly, another boxing great has cast aside his mortal coil and moved forever from our sight. My wife told me the news this morning that Johnny Tapia has passed away. I spent some time reading the many articles and wishing there were something I could add, something I could argue as they assessed a life cut short by violence, drugs and despair. For once, there isn't much I can add. They got it right when they declared it a miracle he had made it this far in life such were the troubles he faced outside the ring.

His mother was brutally raped and murdered in front of him when he was 8 years old. Told his father had been murdered before he was born only to learn 43 years later that he was alive after all. He grew up alone, angry, and filled with a kind of despondent rage that helped make him the boxer he would later become. He once described himself "as a pitbull...raised to fight to the death." He seemed to live his life as a series of challenges he hoped he'd lose. Drugs, gangs, violence and his own destructive tendencies - these were the real life opponents Tapia fought time and time again. A far cry from the ring where he reigned supreme.

Johnny Tapia was the poster boy for dichotomy. He was an addict and champion; an uncaring fiend one minute and an earnest and loving friend the next; he had a gregarious personality that seemed content only when walking that fine line between exuberant life and the melancholy depths of despair and death. His inner demons really were too much to overcome. His upbringing was just too horrifying to forget. He was a champion in the ring and a troubled soul outside it. The two halves of his life were never meant to reconcile one with the other - sadly, I feel that he has finally found the sweet release from life that he seemed always grasping for.

His achievements in the ring were glorious. His skills as a boxer were legendary. His life, however, will seem in retrospect the cold dregs of a tortured soul as it failed in miserable fashion to provide him with even the semblance of security and love he so desperately needed.

I wish I had had the opportunity to know this man or to have at least had his confidence as I suspect he had much to say about the subject of life. I do not know how I would have felt about him as he was notoriously volatile and prone to wild swings of emotion. However, as a fan of the sport he was certainly worthy of our respect as a ring warrior of the highest order, a giant little man who thrilled sporting fans the world over. Not having had the privilege of knowing him personally, I choose to remember him this way - arms raised above his head in victory, an infectious smile upon his scarred face. The smile always seemed so genuine, as if he were for a few moments released from the private hell of the rest of his life.

Rest in peace Johnny Tapia

30 KOs
3 Division Champion

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A New Perspective

I am sorry that I hadn't thought about this blog the past month but so much has gone on that I wonder how I could have made time for it. A quick rundown might make even the bravest of men quake in wife has had two operations in as many weeks, my uncle was killed, a doctor damaged a nerve in my foot, my daughter has three deadly food allergies, and I am in the process of completing a cultural heritage program while simultaneously beginning my masters education in history. Add to that my children and writing for Howard related projects and I can honestly tell you that I've been busy.

My last post was about my uncle's homicide and while I do not regret my initial reaction I must accept that it certainly didn't make for "good" reading. In retrospect, perhaps this wasn't the best place to report on his avoidable demise. If, however, you are wondering what has happened since my last post I am happy to report that my family has sought legal counsel and is moving forward to extract justice for his unwarranted murder.

As far as my family problems there seems to be a silver lining to my wife's pain. For three weeks, I hobbled around on my bad feet and attempted to be both daddy and mommy to my three children. This proved to be both difficult and rewarding. When my son Max was born it was clear that he and I would be bonded in a way that every father and son should be. When my twin daughters were born I was happy but detached. I was working, going to school and in the middle of a relocation that left me and the girls with little "daddy" time. These past weeks represented an opportunity to be a father to them in the same way I was for Max. It's amazing how much we can learn about ourselves in times of crisis, both big and small. We are all better for this time together, closer and in a kind of harmony that I had not believed possible. I am becoming as close to my girls as I have always been with my son and I like it. A lot.

So, forgive me my emotional roller-coaster. It's been a hard year for the grub. Thank God for my family and friends for helping me through all of this.

My next post will focus on one of my favorite series, written by John Maddox Roberts, entitled the Stormland series. This is without a doubt the best pentalogy I have ever read. I pulled all 5 volumes off of my shelf and will review each one in the coming months. I' also have some Robert E. Howard news to post in the coming weeks.

So, while it may seem business as usual - it is, but with a sad  salute to what we all endure in our lives. To my uncle Eugene Benedict Gruber, I am going to miss you dearly. There's so much about life that we cannot control but as he would say, "Hell's Bells, Chris! Tell me something that I don't know - wouldja?"

Friday, April 13, 2012

Eugene Gruber - My Uncle or "Don't Even Act Like You Might Resist"

I had no idea you were in this kind of trouble, Gene. If I had known I would have helped like I've done in the past, kept you from this ridiculous end at the hands of those butchers. You've always let me know when you were in too deep for your own good and I've always come for you - why not this time? Why didn't you or anyone else let me know what was happening? Where you were? All I knew from my dad was that you were in County lock up for a few months. Gene - why didn't you let me know it was serious?

This post is not a eulogy or a remembrance - that will come later. Right now, I am partly numb with shock and shaking with rage over the tragic death/murder of my uncle. I am posting a video that shows my uncle receiving a broken neck from corrections officials as well as the accompanying Chicago Tribune article that recounts his last months on earth as a result of their barbaric brutality.

If you are one of the "brave" men on this video - please...visit me, man to man, and we will sort out our differences, I promise.

Both the video and the article can be found here:

Of course, there are at least a dozen other articles that you could find with a simple search.

The death of a former Lake County jail inmate paralyzed after an altercation with a corrections officer has been ruled a homicide by the Cook County medical examiner’s office, prompting the state’s attorney’s office to call for a special prosecutor to investigate the case, officials said Tuesday.

Eugene Gruber, 51, of Grayslake, died March 3 from pneumonia which resulted from paraplegia following spine injuries suffered in an altercation, according to his death certificate.

“In light of the medical examiner’s findings, the state’s attorney’s office is going to be requesting the appointment of a special prosecutor to review the investigation and whether or not there should be any charges,” said Christen Bishop, chief of special investigations for the Lake County office.

Before Gruber’s death, Lake County prosecutors determined there were no grounds for criminal charges against staff members involved. The legal definition of “homicide” is broadly defined as the killing of one human being by another but does not necessarily mean the act was criminal.

James Sotos, an attorney representing the sheriff’s office, said the homicide ruling does not suggest any wrongdoing by jail employees.

“There’s nothing in this report that in any way is intended to suggest any kind of wrongdoing, culpability or liability, and it would be a disservice to interpret it that way,” Sotos said. “The finding of homicide means only that the cause of death is attributable to someone else’s act. So beyond that, it doesn’t really add anything to what is already known.”

Gruber died at Chicago rehabilitation hospital about four months after being injured during a brief incarceration.

Jail staff members described Gruber as drunk and combative when he was brought in on Oct. 31 after a disorderly conduct and trespassing arrest. Guards pepper-sprayed Gruber and then used a neck-twisting “take-down” measure while struggling to change his clothes, according to the state's attorney's report.

Over the next 24 hours, Gruber complained that he couldn't move his legs and was carried around, sometimes with his legs dragging, as guards tried to take his mug shot. He was not taken to the hospital until the next day, when his condition deteriorated.

Once at Vista Medical Center East, doctors determined Gruber suffered paralysis from a broken neck and performed two surgeries, records show. He was undergoing rehabilitation and being weaned off a ventilator before he died, his family’s lawyer has said.

Gruber's sister, Eileen Siwula, has filed a federal lawsuit against numerous jail officials and employees of Correct Care Solutions, the jail's health care provider. A Correct Care nurse was fired in part for reportedly failing to assess Gruber properly.

Correctional officers did not initially document the physical altercation with Gruber in their required daily reports, according to the state’s attorney’s report.

“You look at the numbers of officers who were there and they can’t control one drunk?” said Charles Gruber, Eugene’s cousin, who is also a former police chief. The homicide ruling came as no surprise, he said.

Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran has said that he is reviewing the incident to see whether it was handled in accordance with department policies.

Gruber's death is the second tied to the jail since January, when inmate Lyvita Gomes, 52, who had shown signs of mental illness, died after a 15-day hunger strike.

Curran announced last Friday that he intended to spend a week in jail as a “show of faith” in his corrections personnel. But on Monday, he canceled the plan at his lawyer’s request, Sotos said.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It's been some time since my last update. In that time I've been writing fiction, rehabilitating a nerve injury, and transcribing personal letters to Word documents. Mark Finn, my fellow Howardian junkie, has let loose with the Howard low-down over at his blog:

The fiction is a smattering of work that covers several genres and includes more than one type of media. I'm continuting to chronicle the adventures of Main 'Mwi, the half Miami scout that first debuted in the anthology dedicated to Robert E. Howard, called Dreams in the Fire. I've received a good deal of positive feedback regarding this character and the story, Dead River Revenge. The creative well for this character is very deep and I can't imagine running out of ideas for this historical-weird series. Yeah, I know, you want to know what the hell an historical-weird tale is? It's exactly what it sounds like; a crossroads of history and the weird pulp tale.

The second piece of fiction I've been working on is meant for the comic book format. The title (tentative) is Myth-Hunter and it records the adventure of the paranormal investiagtor, Alexander Dagda. He's a cross between Robert E. Howard's hard-boiled detective Steve Harrison and Dylan Dog (the Italian comic or even the Dark Horse version.) Look, I know this particular road has been traveled before but I think there have been many alleys left undiscovered. I like what I have written and I certainly like the world I have placed Dagda in. It's a concotion of all the pagan, literary, and historically unidentiafiable myths I've always been fascinated with. I'm an historian and I like to think that I create a believable sense of the arcane that has been missing from much of this genres recent represetatives. Besides, who doesn't like Lovecraftian allusions tempered with real world occult mysteries? This adventure has it all; modern Druids, Cthulian possibilities, Howardesque action and a frantic pace that that allows me to really dig deep without becoming boring.
FYI - I'm looking for an illustrator!

That's all for now.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Howard Boxing Volume Update

It's been awhile since my last post and for that I apologize. It's just that I've got so many darned things going on that I sometimes lose track of time and, invariably, something suffers. As you all know, I've been working hard on producing the four volume "Complete Boxing Stories" collection with fellow Howard scholars Mark Finn and Patrice Louinet. Well buckos, some very interesting developments have taken place that may affect our project. Don't panic! Let's just say that things have gotten very interesting of late - and it's all positive. Keep your eyes peeled for the next update

Monday, February 13, 2012

Volume Two - Almost There!

Good news Howard fans! Volume two of the complete boxing stories of Robert E. Howard is nearing the finish line. Volume two is full of surprises and there are several that will knock your socks off. I'm sorry, I can't give too much away but with Patrice and Mark handling the essays and introductions for this volume I am certain you won't be disappointed. More news coming soon ...yes, that means volume three is on my radar!
This is NOT the cover of the boxing project volumes.
It's the cover of the book I edited (Boxing Stories - Robert E. Howard) 
for Bison Books, beautifully crafted by master artist Gary Gianni.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Robert E. Howard

Happy Birthday, Robert E. Howard

It was 106 years ago, on January 22nd, that Robert E. Howard was born. It would be another 23 years before he would create the most profitable character during his short lifetime - Sailor Steve Costigan and his sidekick Mike the bulldog - and several more years before Conan would sweep through the pages of Weird Tales and into the minds and hearts of millions.

I know that I speak for all Robert E. Howard fans when I say that our lives, and indeed the world itself, would be far less interesting without his imaginative genius.

Long live the memory of America's greatest fantasist - Robert E. Howard (1906-1936)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Complete Boxing Fiction and Verse: Volume One - In the Can

Good news, folks! Volume One of the highly anticipated Robert E. Howard boxing stories project is in the can. Patrice Louinet, Mark Finn and I have been working diligently to bring you the complete boxing stories in one definitive, handsome, must-have set. In fact, we are already working on Volume Two and I cannot wait to see these books on my shelf.

This set will include every known scrap of boxing related fiction and poetry produced by Pulp era author, Robert E. Howard. It will be a must for Howard collectors and completists as well as scholars and critics eager to get the inside scoop on this aspect of the Texas author's ouevre.

I don't want to get ahead of myself so I'll keep you posted with more details as we near publishing.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Glenn Lord, Howardian Herald 1931-2011

Glenn Lord, Director Emeritus of the Robert E. Howard Foundation, husband and father of two, died on December, 31st, 2011. Who is he and why should you care? I could try to quantify the man's work, his life, his impact upon the small but growing community of Robert E. Howard fans but I wonder if that would suffice; if it would paint a clear enough picture. Perhaps...

...I could say that Glenn was instrumental in shepherding Robert E. Howard's work back into publication, that he was responsible for hunting down nearly all of the lost transcripts that still existed years after the author's untimely demise, or that he was unrelenting in his search for information about an author that had almost faded from the literary scene. I could say that his promotional efforts paved the way for many Howard critics and fans by making ALL of the author's work available to the masses in easy to afford paperbacks as literary agent for Howard's literary estate. I could recite the compositional narratives that he produced in support of his life's passion, I could list his written promotion of the author Robert E. Howard beginning with his first essays and ending with his work as Director Emeritus of an organization that exists solely due to the efforts of two people: Robert E. Howard, the author whose work is valued by so many, and Glenn, the man who tracked it down and safeguarded it against the twin dangers of  Time and Indifference. I could say that he was also a true fan, interested not only in the commercially viable Conan stories but also in the lesser known works that help the rest of us to revel in the full depth and sophistication of an unparalleled imagination. I could say that he was an adventurer whose vision and dedication helped preserve a unique history that continues to shine long after he has passed. I could say that he was supremely dedicated to preserving the legacy of a long dead author the world had almost forgotten about as I recount the many miles, months and years he drove from town to town, spoke with countless people, and tallied for the rest of us the three dimensional life of Robert E. Howard.

I could say all that and more and not have gained an inch on the measuring stick of his life and importance to those of us who knew him. I knew Glenn, though I cannot say I knew him half as well as I would have liked. We maintained a correspondence for a short time in 2004-2005 as I prepared the volume of Robert E. Howard's boxing stories. He was always gracious in sharing his knowledge and eager to hear what new insights had been gleaned of Howard's work. I was lucky enough to meet him several times over the past decade and found him to be congenial, down to earth, and full of humor. I had never wanted to bother him but it was Leo Grin and Paul Herman at a Howard days celebration who finally convinced me that he would love to chat for a spell. It turned out that he was very interested in my ideas concerning the boxing stuff and we spent at least a little time together at each subsequent Howard Days discussing Howard and life in general. He was likeable, affable and a gentleman. I liked him very much.

My favorite memory was his praise of the Boxing Stories volume I put together for Bison Books (University of Nebraska Press.) We had scaled Caddo Peak with a group of folks and, due to the pervasive heat, I had asked if he was alright. "It's hot" he replied. We had reached the top and the sun was beating down fiercely when he shook off my offer of help as we covered the last few feet to the top. When we got to the top, he paused for a while and then said, "You know, that Boxing book you produced...that was well done." I stammered a 'thank you' before moving with him toward the center of the peak. Together we stared at the scene that was unfolding below. Beautiful fields, hills in the distance, and the Middleton Ranch below us as the sun began to descend across the sky. I made very little small talk. I have never wanted to be a pest - but he asked for my help several times on the way down but, in truth, he really didn't need it despite his age. "Thanks, Chris" were his last words to me in this life. He was always the star of any Howard get together and was never truly alone for very long. So many fans - all wanting to shake the hands of the man that saved a literary treasure from destruction. I never wanted to intrude. Now, I wish I had been more insistent.

Now, as I sit here and realize that what I've just written is woefully inadequate as a remembrance I can take solace in the fact that there are others far more capable of writing a worthy 'thank you' to a man and icon the likes of Glenn Lord. Dennis McHaney scolded some of us who lamented the loss of Glenn, and it's timing, as a harbinger of doom and gloom for the new year by insisting that it was a sad, capstone event for the past year and that we ought to look forward with renewed hope with Glenn's example as a guide. I think he is spot on.

Nevertheless, I just want to make one thing clear - thank you, Glenn Lord, for making my time on earth, through your tireless efforts of  Howard preservation and publication, better. I am better for having read the work of Robert E. Howard - thanks to you; I am better for having glimpsed the kind of drive necessary to see projects thru - thanks to you; I am better for your having taken the time and effort so long ago to preserve the work of a legend - it appears even legends require help to preserve a worthy legacy from those best equipped to deliver the goods so to speak. You had the goods my friend, in spades if I do say so myself, and my life is literally better for your influence.

Thank you Glenn Lord and may you always Rest in Peace.