Category Archives: Commentary

You Say “Oscar”, We Say “No, Sir”… For now…


It’s a beautiful morning in the South Carolina Lowcountry! The coffee is hot and the pets are already sleeping on the couch, or bed, or across the laptop keyboard…
So we saw the reminders on TV today that tonight is the Oscars! Yay! All the stars are going to be in their best tuxedos, custom evening gowns, and slipping in inane comments about how a Republican president will destroy the economy (as if Democrats had nothing to do with our $19 trillion dollar national debt, thank you President Obama for doubling our national debt in just seven years) or how women are not paid the same as men in Hollywood or other such crap. (Hey, we’d love to make Jennifer Lawrence’ salary just once!)
Frankly, the Oscars stopped being entertaining after Johnny Carson stopped hosting, and we stopped watching when stars started getting political and partisan in their acceptance speeches. Frankly, of the eight movies nominated for best picture we’ve seen NONE of them, and only plan to watch one on BluRay (The Martian) for certain and possibly a second (Mad Max: Road Fury) if we’re in need for a lot of cinematic destruction, viewing neither of which will be influenced by an Oscar win.
No, friends, we will spend Oscar Sunday the same as we do any Sunday: drinking coffee, watching the news and then recorded TV shows on the DVR, doing some writing and editing, going to church (Cyndi in the morning, Jack in the evening), and hoping our aching joints will cooperate today (thank you, higher barometric pressure!). Of course, if one of our books gets made into a movie and then gets an Oscar nod then we’ll start watching again…


Leonard Nimoy: My Tribute

One year ago today the world lost a great scifi icon: Leonard Nimoy. I got to meet him once at a convention back in 2004 and the memories of that day remain as fresh as if they were yesterday.

He was introduced to a standing-room-only crowd of fans, which went to its feet when he came on stage to give him a standing ovation, which lasted quite a while! It was simply a pleasure to listen to him as he talked about his new passion at the time, which was his photography and publishing a new book of black-and-white pictures. He spoke so much like Spock: calm, assuring, and inviting. It became the recurring joke of his presentation during question-and-answer when fan after fan asked him when he would appear as Spock again, and he repeated the same answer calmly and politely, “I’m retired.” It became a running joke as the crowd laughed every time it was asked, and I remember just shaking my head and thinking, “That’s why some people think Trekkers are idiots!” We’re really not, I promise! The whole time, however, he truly sounded like he was the family’s favorite uncle with endless stories to tell new family members…

When came the autograph line, I was on the front row with my wife, and our tickets only allowed one autograph per person, and I had two items I really wanted signed. When it was my turn I presented a one-of-a-kind picture: I was superimposed, in appropriate uniform, into a Wrath Of Khan picture of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, and he signed his autograph over Spock. (I digress for only a moment to state that a year earlier William Shatner signed over Kirk’s image!) My wife presented my Hallmark Spock Christmas Ornament, and he signed the back of Spock’s chair. He commented over both items, “Quite unique and logical,” with that famous raised-eyebrow expression.

I bought a studio photo opportunity of us with him. When it was our turn he waved us to join him, shook both our hands warmly, wrapped his arms around both of us like we were family, and squeezed us in close just like that favorite uncle would! When we were finished he shook our hands again and wished us well…

Over the last quarter century I have been amassing the Hallmark Star Trek Ornaments and have a Christmas tree dedicated to just those ornaments, many of which have been signed by Star Trek stars. In tribute to Mr. Nimoy, this past Christmas I put his autographed Spock ornament in a bell jar beside that tree.

Star Trek fans, even scifi fans in general, show their respect to all these shows by putting on and attending these conventions. The stars, in turn, return that respect with their wonderfully engaging appearances at these conventions. And when he said his good-bye at the conclusion of his presentation, he raised his right hand in the Vulcan salute and wished everyone to “Live Long and Prosper”.

He did.

I’m doing my best to follow his example…




We must confess that the Major League Baseball’s “Lick and Wipe” rule has baffled us since it was imposed a few years ago (better known as Rule No. 8.02 to be specific).  Being confounded about what we thought was just a “bad habit” and concerned that no one was carrying around bottles of Germ-X….we ventured on a quest for an answer.

Mike Pelfrey has a propensity for licking his hand more than any pitcher in baseball. During one game, it was noted he licked his hand a total of 89 times! Wonder what his mom thought about that.

Let us preface all this by saying that we’ve been avid baseball fans since the early 80’s, going back to the good old days of the Atlanta Braves when Bobby Cox was still around and Skip Caray actually narrated the games….nothing wrong with Fredi Gonzalez and Chip Caray mind you…fondly remembering how it used to be. Though a Braves fan through and through, we can’t help remembering Darryl Strawberry (played for both the New York Mets and New York Yankees), with his 6-foot-6 frame, his controversial behavior and one of the most awesome sluggers there ever was. Our curiosity about the rules and regulations abound.

Cyndi noted that in all the years that she sat on the bench watching her kids play T-Ball and Little League Ball, never once was there a discussion about a Lick and Wipe issue; nor a Spit Ball Issue. Perhaps the coaches talked about it with the little guys and discouraged it, but bleacher moms never heard tell of such a thing.

So, with all that in mind Cyndi decided to ask a few men friends their opinion on the rule.

Man #1:  Stated “I dunno, guess it helps ’em throw the ball better”

Man #2:  Stated “Oh, it’s a new thing, you gotta lick your fingers, to get a better grip on the ball, but you gotta wipe the spit on your shirt or the ump will call a balk on you”

Man #3:  Stated “Yeah, they do it just to tick off the umpires”

With all that manly knowledge floating around, something still didn’t sit well within. Jack reached out to the Internet for some realistic information.  Laughable now, but when he did a search on the “Lick and Wipe Rule” he instantly realized his mistake as he was bombarded with Internet porno sites advising who, what, when, where and how to lick and wipe…in great detail. Fearing the worst, thinking the Internet Police or FBI would surely show up at the door, he I closed down the browser and turned the computer over to Cyndi!

Thinking “smart” is always better than just “thinking.”  We next did a search on Major League Baseball rules…there we go.  Rule No 8.02.  For any of you who always wanted to know but were afraid to ask, we share with you (in layman’s terms) the rules for Like and Wipe, or spit ball, or whatever substance must not be used on the baseball!…

It seems the pitcher may not, for any reason “expectorate” (spit, slobber or otherwise drool) on the baseball. Nor may he apply any foreign substance to the ball, rub the ball on his clothing or within the pitchers glove, nor deface or alter the ball by any means. We also learned that the pitcher may not bring his pitching hand up to his mouth or lips while within an 18 foot circle surrounding the pitching rubber (pitching rubber?…oh, what we call the base on the mound).  BUT…if it’s exceptionally cold out during the game, and if it’s agreed by both managers, the umpire may allow the pitcher to “blow” on his pitching hand throughout the game. If the umpire catches the pitcher doing any of the above, he may penalize the pitcher by calling a ball (not a balk fellas); he may give the pitcher a warning; or he may actually eject him from the game and suspend him from up to 10 full games! Wow! The rules do have more “whys,” “wherefores,” and “thou shalt not’s,” but this is the down and dirty of it. Just think if we had this many rules at work…or at home?  You get caught drooling at home…and YOU’RE OUTTA HERE! 

Apparently Cyndi’s three purveyors of wisdom DID have a good point about the whole thing. Having sticky fingers does indeed provide a better grip on the ball, providing the pitcher with a greater ability to throw harder, stronger and more accurately. Therefore, the rules were altered a few years ago allowing pitchers to actually lick their fingers, though they must be off the plate, and they must wipe their fingers on their uniform, hat, etc.  We still think Germ-X should be involved.

It’s interesting to note that these particular rules came about in 1920 when Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians took a spitball to the temple from the Yankee’s Carl Mays. Sadly he died from his injuries. In those days, no one wore batting helmets, and whatever substance Mays was using on the ball discolored it and made it more difficult for Chapman to see. That’s why MLB instituted the rules banning foreign substances on baseballs and a requirement that umpires must change out the ball whenever it gets dirty. Which also explains why a team can go through 80 baseballs in a game!

So, there ya go!  Baseball’s Lick and Wipe rules to live by.  By the way, we’re debating if we should go back to some of those “other” websites for a quick sneak-peak.  Don’t tell anyone!

“Live Long and Prosper”


“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few… or the one…”

This is just one of several memorable lines attributed to Commander Spock, First Officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, in the now-immortal series “Star Trek” (before you start berating me about accuracy, he was the captain in rank and position on the Enterprise when he first uttered those words). Yes, of course, the exact words were actually written by screenwriters or even added by the producer of “Star Trek 2- The Wrath of Khan”, but it was the performance of Leonard Nimoy, the actor who brought Spock to life, who made the words iconic even thirty-plus years after the movie played in theatres.

Mr. Nimoy left us last Friday, February 28, to boldly pass into the Final Frontier that awaits us all. I, and my wife, had opportunity to see him at a convention in 2004 as he spoke before a standing-room-only gathering of Star Trek fans. He happily answered questions from my fellow Trekkies about anything, but I was most amused by the few fans who give us genuine ones a bad name; they kept asking him about his next role and, worse, the next time we would be Spock onscreen again. He politely answered that question each time, “I’m retired.” His days (then) were occupied with his photography hobby. It became laughable each time he was repeatedly asked that question, and he took it in stride with never a moment of frustration.

We signed up for a professional photo with him, and we waited our turn at the scheduled time with a combination of patience (like Spock) and excitement (like true geeks). By now we had already been to a few Star Trek conventions and had already gotten into the groove of what to do at these events, and how the stars acted and reacted with their fans. Many stars were content to just be in the picture, just like Santa Claus is part of the background for children’s Christmas pictures; others were more personable… but when it was our turn Mr. Nimoy first shook our hands warmly, thanked us for coming to see him, and took us in his arms like we were family and held us tightly close for the picture. It was the most memorable picture we ever took at a convention, although my picture with Julie Caitlin Brown of Babylon 5 was definitely and unquestionably second high (and that is another story for another day).

Back to the legend that was Leonard Nimoy, and his immortal portrayal of the hybrid alien Spock. I watched the original series in first-run, and then never missed it after school when it aired in syndication. In high school and college I watched it whenever possible on TV. Then when home video recording came into being I recorded Star Trek, and then started buying the video tapes of Star Trek, and finally the DVDs and today Blu-ray. It was Spock’s continual study of a situation and logically seeing through the wrong answers before arriving at the correct one that became my core motivation in life, although I had an occasionally bad recurring occurrence of making mistakes in my own life before finding the correct answers at some point and to some degree. But at his character’s core there was a single truth that continues to bear fruit today, and will long into the future after we are all long-gone: logic will always win out.

Sadly, Mr. Nimoy, along with DeForest Kelley (“Bones”) and James Doohan (“Scotty”), didn’t make it to the 50th anniversary of the first airing of the first episode of Star Trek on TV (September 8, 1966), although he did make it to the 50th anniversary of the filming of the first pilot, “The Cage” (Jeffrey Hunter played Captain Christopher Pike), which was later broken up to be part of the two-part Star Trek episode “The Menagerie”. NBC rejected this episode in 1965 as being “too cerebral” and ordered an unprecedented second pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before” starring William Shatner as Captain Kirk. The character of Spock was the only one to survive the first pilot to the second… and a legend was born.

This weekend I have enjoyed watching some other programs Leonard Nimoy starred in before and after Star Trek. He was a terrific actor in all his various roles; I remember following him as he starred in Mission: Impossible for a couple seasons simply because he was in Star Trek.

But he was best-known as Spock, and he happily embraced his legacy. His demeanor at conventions was much like that of Spock: calm and serene and, yes, logical.

In the autograph line I took two items: a picture of me added into a promo photo of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy from Star Trek: The Experience, and I had already gotten William Shatner to sign it the year before; the second was the 1998 Hallmark Spock Christmas ornament. I handed that ornament to him, and he commented, “It was very logical that someone would bring one of these,” then happily signed the back of the ornament. It will be a little sad to hang that ornament on the tree this Christmas season.

It was very logical to be sad this weekend, but also this weekend was to remember the warmness and passion that was the incredible and unforgettable Leonard Nimoy. Live Long and Prosper… and Peace and Long Life…


Jack Gannon & Cyndi Williams-Barnier



A couple of years ago, I came across an article about alligator hunting in South Carolina. Did ya’ll realize that there was such a thing as gator huntin’ season in S.C.? No? Neither…did…I!!!!

I swanny I just can’t keep up. We have deer season, shrimp season, allergy season, oyster season, rattlesnake roundup season, mosquito season, gnat season, the inevitable love-bug season; a virtual plethora of “seasons” here in S.C. But I DID NOT KNOW we had an alligator hunting season! How did that slip by me? Maybe I was concentrating on turkey hunting season! Lots-o-turkey’s ’round here you know.

When I learned of the Alligator Hunting Season, I was compelled to go to the Department of Natural Resources website and check out this thing and review the rules and regulations, not that I’ll be out in a boat searching for gators mind you, but rather I was intrigued by the enigmatic nature of the whole thing (for us southerners, that means “strange”).

According to the DNR website, the state was divided into four ‘Alligator Management Units.’ Who would’ve known?

Unit 1 is the southern coastal section
Unit 2 is the middle coastal section
Unit 3 is the midlands section
Unit 4 is the Pee Dee section. In looking at the map, it seems there should be a Unit 5 for the upper NW part of S.C.; however it’s listed as “No Season.” Perhaps the alligators boycotted that part of S.C. and refused to travel that far north. Maybe they fear the prospect of being called a ‘Yankee Gator’ venturing north bound.

It seems 300 permits and tags were issued per unit and apparently it’s a no-no to hunt outside the unit you’ve been assigned to. It didn’t say what they would do to you if you crossed the “border” but I’m shakin’ in my boots! The site told us that gator hunting season opened in September, darn I missed it, and follows suit for about a month to October. We get a whole month to chase our golf course loving friends. BUT, we must keep in mind that hunters will be selected by a RANDOM COMPUTER DRAWING, which leads me to question, is there really that many people out there lining up to hunt gators? Successful applicants will be issued a permit and one (1) tag that allow them to harvest one (1) alligator in the designated Alligator Management Unit (henceforth the AMU).

Applicants will be allowed to hunt in only one AMU per season, and can apply for any number of the four AMU’s, including all units. Apparently selecting the same unit more than once does not increase our odds of being selected for that unit. This is making my head hurt. If successful, we will be selected for one unit only. Oh, and if we’re not successful and our name is not randomly drawn, we do get the booby prize of accumulating something called “preference points”, oh happy day. Keep in mind now, we may not sell or trade our preference points for waterfowl or deer permits. Oh yeah, I forgot about waterfowl hunting season; those darned ducks.

I also learned that gators must be 4 feet or greater in length (gotta remember to bring along that measuring tape), secured and brought to shore in public waters or alongside the boat before being ‘dispatched’. Dispatched? Is this a polite way of saying ‘killed?’ Further, we may not dispatch any of our toothy fellows if they are swimming freely in the water or basking on the bank in the sunlight. What else would they be doing anyway? Further, we cannot bait them in any way by use of baited hooks, set hooks or poles. How then are we to catch these critters so we may “dispatch” them I ask?

I also discovered that I could not use my rifle to ‘dispatch’ them, darn again, but may ONLY use a handgun or bang stick. What the heck is a bang stick? I’ve never owned a bang stick that I know of; wouldn’t know one if I fell over it; it sounds cruel and unusual in my opinion; but I think I might like to have one anyway.

What really gets me is the cost factor involved in gator hunting. There seems to be a $10 non-refundable application fee involved, and a whopping $100 alligator hunting permit fee! For $110 I’M ONLY ALLOWED TO GET ONE GATOR PER PERMIT, WOW! I’m allowed to pay my fees on line, thank goodness, or I would have to drive several hours to one of four different cities in S.C. to stand in line at the DNR office to pay my fees. (I wonder if their lines are as bad as the DMV’s?) I agonize at the thought of buying the fuel and oil for the boat, the cost of our food and drinks for the day, and coolers full of ice that must be purchased to keep our guy “fresh” on the way home from our unit, whichever one we’ve been assigned to? Oh, did I mention, if you’re not from ‘round here, you gotta pay an out-of-state fee (mysteriously the amount was not mentioned) on top of the other fees to get your permit? What’s up with that?

Once I have permit in hand, I can take off for the gator hunt. It was good to find out that others may assist me, the “permitee” in the gator hunt, because I really hate hunting all by my lonesome. However, all my friends must also be licensed S.C. hunters as well, each spending $110 to come along for the fun. Grab the cooler guys, we’re goin’ gator huntin’!

Now, once I’ve secured my gator alongside my boat (by whatever unknown means I’ve caught him) and brought him to the shore and “dispatched” him with my bang stick (still don’t know what that is!), I will be allowed to KEEP my alligator. I guess I can grind him up into gator burgers or fry up some po-gator chips for football season.

But, I will NOT be allowed to sell my gator to anyone for any reason (say it isn’t so). Specifically, the ‘meat, hide or any of his parts’ so says the law.

The confusing news about this whole program is, the money collected is used to support the Alligator Management Program activities, and for the CONSERVATION of the American Alligator in S.C.
Conservation? They’re tell’in us to go ahead and kill off this cold blooded dinosaur, which has been around for millions of years, so that we may further preserve his existence. Huh? Now I’m really confused. My headache’s getting worse.

OMG, and there’s even more! If you hunt the WMA (Wildlife Management Area), one must pay a fee of $500 for that one gator; or $800 if you’re not from ‘round here…if you’re randomly selected from that same ‘ole computer that is.

In conclusion, maybe I’ll be more prepared for gator hunt’in season some other year. I’ll have my money and accoutrements ready, round up my buddies so I won’t have to hunt alone, find that bang stick thing (they probably have them on Amazon), and pray that the DNR computer will randomly pick me so I may travel speedily to my designated alligator management unit! Gettin’ the prize home will be my most difficult task thereafter. Oh, gotta get a big freezer from Wal-Mart or Lowes! Forgot about that.

Take a gander at the DNR site sometime, there’s even more fun rules on there. They may have changed however, because this whole journey into monopolizing on gators seems like a croc! I’m puttin’ away my bang stick and going to bed! Nite, ya’ll.

J&C Wordsmiths, LLC – Authors Jack Gannon & Cyndi Williams-Barnier

Southern Comfort In The Shade Of The Old Oak Tree

Happenstance. Yep, the best word to describe our book signings. It started with a long-lost dream of writing books together, which in true southern fashion only took 33 years to actually happen—imagine if we really took our time! Regardless, thanks to the current era of self-publishing we created a book within one year in our new career. Pay attention, friends, this is where Happenstance took over our lives and careers…

Happenstance is the short way of saying “being in the right place at the right time”, and works every time if one pays attention. At our debut book signing we met the owner of Short Story America, Tim Johnston, who invited us to do another book signing at his first annual Short Story America Festival a month later, right here in Beaufort! We happily said yes!

Attending the evening reception on the first day of the Festival, we were introduced to the president of the annual Beaufort International Film Festival, Ron Tucker. He’d gotten word about us, and was anxious to meet us. At that reception, out of the blue, he invited us to write a screenplay of our debut novel, “Murder In Twos and Threes”, to submit for competition in the next film festival. Twenty-nine days to get it done, yikes! We’d never written a screenplay… but, we studied, wrote it and got it in on time! No, we didn’t win…

As self-published authors, we had to sell ourselves to get book signings. One such venue was at a local vineyard, September Oaks. We did one signing alone, then were asked if we knew of other authors who could join in—after some emails and phone calls our “Novel” Wine Tasting and Literary Festival was born! Happenstance yet again—the owner was so pleased with the quickly-assembled event that he invited us back for a second year!

The local manager of the S.C. Tourism Commission happened to notice us from all the social networking about our festival, and invited us to be part of Lowcountry Tourism Week. She asked if we knew other local authors to take part, which we did, thanks to our own Festival. With the success of Tourism Week’s author days, during which we served as a knowledgeable welcoming committee to visitors, we were invited to set up every week (any time we wanted) on the grounds to welcome visitors, and sell our books… costing us nothing except time and gas. They let us store our tent/tables/chairs in their employee break room—and even better, Tourism Week allowed us to meet Virginia Lori Jennings, PDMI author… that’s how we found our new home with PDMI!

So, in conclusion of our story, it was by Happenstance we met an anthology publisher at our book debut—and today have a regular free venue to sell our books, plus our fellow PDMI authors’ works, to a fresh round of interstate travelers each day. We learned the history of the grounds, worked up a welcome speech to greet visitors, and make sales to people from across the country and even a few from the other side of the Atlantic, and place a business card in the hands of hundreds of visitors!

Ah, to sell books in the comfort of the shade from centuries-old live oaks on the grounds a 19th-century plantation… all we need now are some mint juleps!

Just remember: wherever you are, you may meet someone important, although you may not know it at the time… because meeting the right person at the right time just might happen to move you on to bigger and better in short order.

Happenstance… works every time…


Why Won’t Walter Edgar Call Us Back?

We’ve tried; we really have… so why won’t Walter call us back? As Maude always said, “God will get you for this, Walter,” if you don’t call us…

We listen to you all the time (well, at least for the two years we’ve been published authors), and when we heard you interview new authors we submitted ourselves to be interviewed. Jack had brown hair, and Cyndi had a short bob-cut… now his hair is almost snow white and Cyndi’s pulling hers out. We’re being very patient, Walter, but come on already!

The more we listened, the more we learned it’s not just the newbies who get on his show. Anyone heard of Pat Conroy? He’s not a newbie… nor is Steven Naifeh, or Benjamin Dunlap or Jonathan Green. Now if we told you who they all were you wouldn’t go to Google to look them up, and Google would go out of business, so go Google them and keep a Google tech employed, okay?

Well, we know that Walter is a big history buff, and even though our first works are not about history (nor do we write in the buff, just to make that clear!) and we’re not yet renowned (or even reverbed for that matter!) we do want the chance to talk with you and tell you and your listeners all about us! Not that we really like to talk about ourselves, but we need to promote ourselves on a $0 budget (right now we are corporals in our own army, and we hope to promote ourselves to sergeants sometime soon, with your help). We do live in historic Beaufort By The Sea Twenty-Three Miles From Yemassee, but we don’t write about history. Should that make any difference? If you talk with us we will make history! And hopefully some more book sales!

After all, we have stories about good versus evil. What’s a better topic than that? Our villains kill people, our heroes catch the villains. The story is how the heroes catch the villains! And we have developed a villain who will constantly befuddle our heroes book after book. Where would Batman be without The Joker? Or Bugs Bunny without Elmer Fudd? Or even George Burns without Gracie Allen? We don’t spend our entire stories about the heroes being heroes, or the villains being villainous the entire time… we explore their lives before they become the heroes and villains in combat! Sounds much like a marriage, doesn’t it?

We could do you proud, Walter. Hey Aaron Patterson, while we haven’t written anything about President Obama specifically (although we allude to a president who uses a teleprompter to talk) to get us on YouTube, we are having a meeting with Bigfoot in the fourth book in our series… or are we? We’re not really telling, so maybe we shouldn’t have said anything about that. But then, we are trying to tease our upcoming stories…

Well, if you don’t want us, perhaps Michael Dresser will have us. His website does after all say “Click here to be a guest on our show”. We’ve been clicking, we’re ready to be guesting!!!

We seem to be making a name for ourselves without Walter and Michael tho (or would that be “names for ourselves”, hard to keep our tenses correct as we are two authors but one author team… wow) but it would be nice to be picked up by one of the big name hosts to give us a few minutes of fame (doesn’t even have to be 15 minutes, just enough time to plug our book titles, please!). It’s been very challenging as self-published authors to get word out about us…

Oh, wait, that’s right… we have a publisher now! Hey, Walter, Michael, Aaron! We got a publisher without you! Wanna have us on now so we can share our secret with all your listeners and viewers?

What’s that? Okay fine, we’ll leave a message. Meantime, we gotta go set up for our weekly book signings at Frampton Plantation, South Carolina I-95 Exit 33. We did it without ya, guys! But we’ll still talk with you any time! Please call us… and leave a message…

Jack and Cyndi
(Or if there will be a harassment lawsuit our names are Barack and Michelle)