Agent to the Stars

This was the first book written by John Scalzi I ever read. He was a relative unknown at the time, but he would not remain so for long. I was so charmed by it, I’ve been a fan ever since.

This book is funny, clever, witty. The characters are oddly believable even though the story is totally wacky. Or is it?

Michelle Beck — former cheerleader and box office hot ticket is Hollywood agent Tom Stein’s biggest client. Until Tom meets extraterrestrials who hire Tom to represent them. The Yherajk believe their best hope for a peaceful first contact between their race and humanity is via the movies. Even out in space, they know they need a great agent to make it in Hollywood … and they’ve decided Tom is it.

“Agent to the Stars” stands out as one of the most memorable science fictions books I’ve read in the last decade. Which is saying a lot since I read a great deal of fantasy and science fiction. From my first reading, it has been in my top five favorite sci fi audiobooks and in the perhaps dozen science fiction books I’ve read more than once.

One of the mast interesting things about Scalzi is his ability to write in a wide variety of styles. He can be serious, funny, or both. He can be wild and crazy, or highly technical and he makes it work. I know of no one else writing in this genre who works harder or produces more quality science fiction.

Read it. If you like sci fi, humor, and wit — or just appreciate well-written fiction, it will not disappoint you. Agent to the Stars is available on Kindle,, and as a paperback.


This was originally going to be about sequels and remakes to movies and TV shows. Somewhere along the line, it changed. Now, it’s about predictable, boring, and repetitive material for what is supposed to be a new television season.

We are having trouble finding stuff to watch. It isn’t merely that the shows are trite, poorly written, badly acted, and trivial. They also give you that “Deja vu all over again” feeling. I swear they are using old scripts from other shows and just change a few names.

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How predictable are they? Garry and I always know “who done it” before anyone has done anything. We know who done it because it’s always the biggest name guest star of the week. If, by some bizarre accident, we miss the opening credits, we can guess who done it before we know what was done because he or she looks guilty. Or it’s that same actor who always plays the bad guy.


TV shows cast the same dozen or so actors over and over again — in the same roles. There are the scary looking guys who play evil drug dealers and gang leaders (or both). The older guys who play spies gone bad. The other ones who are inevitably cops gone to the dark side. There are the women whack jobs and sultry bad girls. Regardless, you know the moment they appear on-screen that whatever happened, it was his/her/their fault. They done it.

And oh the clichés.

“No one was supposed to get hurt.”

“He was turning his life around.”

“Everybody loved her/him.”

“I had no choice.”

And the ever-popular “Stay in the car.”

This season’s “Castle” had a problem. Stana Katic, who plays Kate Beckett (love interest, now precinct captain), wasn’t available for the season opener. She was still busy making a movie.

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So they had to write around her character. According to, the producers and writers saw this as a creative opportunity to find a way to make the show work without her.

What did they do? What was their “creative solution?” They went back — again — to the tired, old story line of Kate and her obsession with Senator Bracken (now in prison for life). Because creativity, in TV land, means doing same thing they’ve done countless times before.

Another one. Just like the other one.

Apparently we are too stupid to understand a plot we haven’t seen at least a dozen times. We might get befuddled by all that originality.

Ratings were, unsurprisingly, significantly lower than in previous years.


NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans also came up with tepid season openers. New Orleans was particularly bad. I actually thought the show was running longer than usual. It was that dull.

According to the powers that be who run the networks and control programming, anyone below the age of 18 or over the age of 45 doesn’t count. They do not care whether or not we watch their shows. We do not exist.

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I finally realized the actual problem. It’s not that Garry and I are too old to enjoy the newness, uniqueness, and cleverness of the new shows — or that we won’t buy the sponsor’s products. It’s that the “new” shows are not new and certainly not clever.

What is being presented as “new” are tired old stories with different people playing the same roles. Same scripts, sometimes word for word. Totally predictable plots, endlessly repeated. Of course they don’t care about our opinion. They know what we are going to say.

This stuff is crap. Boring. Stupid. Mindless. Dumb. Crap.


It doesn’t have to be that way. It shouldn’t be. Both Amazon and Netflix, as well as other cable outlets are doing some really good stuff that appeals to every age group. The trick? Good stories, good acting. Intelligent scripts.

Maybe the whiny networks should stop complaining about how the mean old competition is stealing their viewers and try giving viewers something to watch. They could steal us back!

Isn’t that a great idea? Huh? Isn’t it?


I was still a kid, working at the college radio station in Hempstead, New York. I was a little older than the other kids, because I was recently back from my short stint in the Marine Corps. I don’t remember who provided my entrée for that interview, but I remember the night. How could I forget?

As a kid, I listened to big band vocalist Sinatra on “78” records. He was special even then. By the early 60’s, Sinatra was an entertainment institution. Music, movies, television and the subject of myriad publications which alluded to political and criminal intrigue.

How many romantic evenings have all of us had — candles, cocktails and Sinatra playing? He was a legend, America’s most iconic celebrity.


Heady stuff for a young reporter invited to one of Sinatra’s hangouts. The story was about Jilly Rizzo. He ran a famous night spot in New York. “Jilly’s Saloon” (everybody just called it Jilly’s). It catered to lots of celebrities, but most notably Frank Sinatra and his “rat pack”. My primary focus that night was Jilly himself. We did a low-key chat about his club. Jilly did the talking. About his youth, how hard he worked to make his club a success. I let him talk, which he appreciated. He was fascinating. A real life Damon Runyon character.

The interview wrapped. I figured my night was over. Wrong. Jilly kept referring to me as “Kid”. As I prepared to leave with my engineer, Jilly tugged at my sleeve and motioned for me to follow him.

“Kid”, he said in his raspy voice, “I want you to meet some pals”. Jilly led me to a table filled with lots of cigarette smoke, profanity and laughter. I was a little nervous.

I had cause to be nervous. I made eye contact, my brain began to register and I began to smile blankly. Sinatra, Dino, Sammy, Joey Bishop and other familiar faces looked at me. My brain kept shifting gears. Apparently Jilly had introduced me as “Kid”, a newbie who was okay. That turned out to be my access card.

I realized I had a big glass of scotch in my hand. Frank Sinatra was talking to me, a big glass of scotch in his hand, a cigarette dangling from his mouth. I think I still had a glazed smile on my face.

“So, Kid”, he asked, “What the hell do you do that makes Jilly like you?”

I told him I had been listening to Jilly and found his back story fascinating. I told Sinatra I enjoyed listening rather than talking. It was easier, I volunteered. “You’re on radio and you like to listen rather than talk?”, he asked.

“Yes”, I said. I just stared at him.

He stared back, then said, “Kid, you’re okay”.


I slid into some questions about his childhood, about his weight, the difference between his singing and his conversational voice. Sinatra was off and running. The anecdotes had little to do with celebrity and lots to do with the guy behind the legend. I kept listening.

He noticed the tape recorder wasn’t running. Puzzled. I said this was social time. He looked even more puzzled, then shook his head and smiled. Sinatra said he wasn’t used to such treatment. I smiled. An easier smile.

I talked a little about my hearing problems, diction problems. My determination to get things right. Now Sinatra was listening. He said he too had diction problems during regular conversation which he tried to cover up with sarcasm and bluster. I realized he was leaning in as if to confide with me. I also noticed the other celebs had backed away, giving Sinatra privacy.

The conversation continued for another half hour, maybe 45 minutes. Jilly kept checking to make sure our drinks were fresh. I knew other people were staring at us. I figured they were wondering who the hell was this kid chatting up Sinatra. Actually, we were talking about music and radio. I told him about how I loved doing tight segues blending solo vocals, chorals, and instrumentals. He began giving me tips about how to segue some of his music. In a couple of cases, I was already doing it. He loved it.

We talked a little about sports. I told him I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and Duke Snider was my favorite player.

Sinatra said Joe DiMaggio and the Yanks were his favorites. I gave him a look and he smiled. Casey Stengel was our peace broker. Earlier that year, I’d spent time with Casey who was managing the fledgling New York Mets. Sinatra laughed at my recollection of conversation with Casey.

“Diction”, we both said and laughed.

Jilly Rizzo finally broke up the chat saying Sinatra was needed elsewhere. Sinatra grumbled, gave me a card and said there would be another time. There would be. Another story for another day.




Okay, so we don’t have a piece of ocean. We’ve got plenty of river. It’s wet. Lake, ocean, what’s the difference, right?


Uxbridge, a small town in south central Massachusetts, has no Navy or Marine presence. No Naval station or training camp. No docks, no seaport. And we don’t have a forensics lab, but we can build one. It may take a while. We do have a jail. All it needs is a little cleanup.

uxbridge jail

With Mark Harmon’s unexpected retirement, Garry’s lifelong ambition to be a star has arrived. In his new role of NCIS team leader, the pace will be a little slower, but Garry’s wry humor will quickly win the hearts and minds of fans throughout the world.

Garry at River Bend

I shall play the role of the crusty old medical examiner. My bad back, heart, and hips make me an unlikely choice for a field agent, but the dead don’t run fast. All the medical knowledge I’ve gleaned from being sick for years will come in handy when I have to use those twenty syllable medical terms.


I’ll cast my best friend as a very special agent. I’m pretty sure if she were to get the Gibb’s back-of-the-head slap, she’d hit him back and he’d know he’d been hit. Hands off, big fella.

My granddaughter will run the lab. Though she knows nothing about forensics, she’s a quick learner. Besides, she’ll love the Goth costumes and she has plenty of tattoos.

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Finally, there’s the mandatory geek agent. I’ll give that to my son because he knows his way around a computer and he likes to fix stuff anyhow. He will fit right in as he explains exactly how things should work and whatever you did wrong to screw up the machine.

See you next week, same time, same station.


Daily Prompt: Groupthink 

by michelle w. on February 2, 2014

Photographers, artists, poets: show us a GROUP.

I didn’t think I could do better than my original post on this prompt, so here it is again. Not all acts bear repeating. This is one of them.

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Nothing I can think of more represents “group think” in a positive way than does an orchestra and choir. Here, people coöperate, play their parts in a carefully arranged order. Anyone who plays or sings out-of-order will ruin the harmony, destroy the beauty of the whole. For me, a concert represents human society at its finest.

Working together, all focussed on the success of the group without regard for individual attention. Anyone who has ever worked in a troupe of performers, whether it be dance, music, song or drama understands that coöperation, coördination and putting the welfare of the group ahead of individual achievement is tantamount to success … and how great it feels when it all comes together.

Group think doesn’t necessarily mean the loss of ones individuality, but can mean the subordination of ones talent to create something far greater than any individual could do alone. Let there be music!

Often considered the most beautiful melody ever written — there’s to my mind a good deal of competition in this category, but it is wonderful — this is the finale to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, “Ode to Joy.” Orchestra and chorus, together to make a truly joyous noise!


We were on Fireside, WMEX in Quincy, Massachusetts. Hosted by Jim Callahan and his beautiful (in every way) wife, producer, and co-host Nancy, we had a great time. Lots of laughter. Garry had the opportunity to tell a whole bunch of his celebrity anecdotes to a new audience and he sparkled, as always.

Again, he heard the familiar refrain: “You should write a book!”

He really should.

All the pictures were taken with the Pentax Q7 and (mostly) the f2.8 5-15mm “standard” zoom.


See on Scoop.itBooks, Writing, and Reviews

This site hosts the original broadcasts of the cult radio comedy show “A Half Hour Radio Show,” syndicated around the US in the early 1990’s.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

When I was in college, I worked at the radio station. The people I met there included two husbands and almost all the people I call friends today. Sometimes, I was part of this show. I wrote some stuff, did voices on and bits. Hung around, heckled, made suggestions, joined in when another body was needed.

It was the biggest hit our little college station ever had. We were young, silly, and frequently stoned. Since then, the show’s producer, Tom Curley,  has put it through, many iterations, refined and rewrote it. After all these years, it’s still funny. You don’t waste funny.

Welcome to my fondest remembered past, the audio time capsule of my youth. From when the world and I were young …

The Show Must Go On

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