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Category: Musings

I pontificate.

ChatGPT declares Alvin Baylor Lives is a must-read!

I asked ChatGPT to write a book review of my novel Alvin Baylor Lives!  Why pay for Kirkus when our our new AI friend can read the existing Amazon, Audible and GoodReads reviews and synthesize it’s own version of the consensus opinion.

ChatGPT - a screenshot of the review


This AI book review is as thoughtful as a gaggle of humans.

Alvin Baylor Lives!” is a captivating novel that tells the story of a young man named
Alvin Baylor who is faced with numerous challenges as he navigates through life. The
author does a fantastic job of creating an emotional and thought-provoking tale that
will leave a lasting impact on the reader.

One of the standout features of the book is the vivid character development of Alvin.
He is portrayed as a relatable and flawed individual who experiences a range of
emotions throughout the story. The reader is able to see Alvin grow and mature as he
learns to overcome his personal obstacles and become a better person.

The writing style of the author is both engaging and atmospheric, making it easy for
the reader to become fully immersed in the world of the novel. The use of descriptive
language and sensory detail brings the setting and characters to life, making the story
feel real and tangible.

The themes explored in “Alvin Baylor Lives!” are both universal and timeless. Issues
such as identity, family, love, and loss are explored in a way that is both honest and
raw. The author does not shy away from tackling difficult subjects and the result is a
story that is both heart-wrenching and uplifting.

In conclusion, “Alvin Baylor Lives!” is a must-read for anyone who loves well-written
and emotionally charged fiction. The story will stay with the reader long after they
have turned the final page and will leave them wanting more. I would highly
recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a captivating and thought-
provoking read.

E-Sports Will Take Everyone’s Lunch Money

If you read Alvin Baylor Lives! you know I have a soft spot for video-gaming. I believe e-sports is a behemoth that is primed to outgross every other form of entertainment. I had the pleasure of spectating some matches at the Blizzard Arena in LA for the last day of the Heroes of the Storm Western Conference and I had a blast.

What’s the Blizzard Arena?

The arena itself is built into the old Tonight Show stage at what used to be NBC studios. When the unfunny Jimmy took NBC Studiosover the show and left for NY, the space was vacated. It is now the Blizzard Arena. A place for games-maker Blizzard to showcase their latest and greatest games in public competition. Hardly an arena – it’s more of a large theater where the teams play, color commentary of the game is spoken and a giant jib arm pans overhead for dynamic shots of the players. The crowd was young – under forty, and most were staring at multiple screens – eyes flitted from the giant LCD to tiny phone displays in their hands. I’d say a third of the spectators were playing a cell-phone game while they watched the competition. Take note, these folks could later be playing the game itself, if the games-makers get savvy.

I however, kept my attention divided between the game and technical crews. I enjoyed watching the IT support run around to keep the gaming setups working. This is admittedly a personal fixation as I used to do tech support for film studios. I consider it professional courtesy to see a tech guy run. It comes from working in environments where systems can be billed at $1000+ an hour. I also got to watch the broadcast crew yawn as they operated the camera jib. But I digress. It was easy to park, get in, get out and it was cheap! I got free tickets (thanks Gary), but they’re only $10-15 and there’s not a bad seat in the house. Plus clean bathrooms. Parents – drop your kids off and leave them all day! If nothing else, it’s a brilliant way to group babysit.

But Can You Follow the Action?

Heroes of the StormHOTS (Heroes of the Storm) is another MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), but it’s got the Blizzard polish. I sat down a few days before the tournament and got myself immersed in the game. Basically, it’s a 5-on-5 team battle for control of a map. Destroy the enemy’s keep and you win. It’s surprisingly fun and I appreciated the way the class mechanics are modeled on World of Warcraft. It was easy to learn the attack rotations based on that experience. It was more enjoyable than League of Legends (a different MOBA) for this basic familiarity. That being said, I dislike over-head views and mouse-click movement controls. I prefer to be in the action. WOW’s arenas had close-up tactical combat and I wish it could be wrapped into the HOTS experience. There’s no reason why a graphics engine couldn’t take us down into the fight – oh wait. The game is free. My guess is they don’t want to spend on development for complex graphics and controls. They want a free game to run on any crap computer. Oh, well. In short, it’s a fun game if you have friends and free time to study the classes and builds. Think of it like fantasy chess – with a colorful cast of animated characters and environments standing in for the pieces and game board.

If You Build It, They will Come.

I also dragged my special lady-friend along to the event. She had no idea what was going on, but seemed to enjoy the theatrics and said she could better understand Alvin Baylor Lives. I took that as evidence that it was impactful – even to someone who would dismiss the notion of watching people play video games for money. It’s certainly a dorkfest and HOTS is a hard game to follow, but I see potential. One day soon, some company is going to get smart and design a game specifically around spectating. When that happens e-sports will break out. Imagine a massively-mutliplayer battleground where home players can get in on the action? Maybe someone from the crowd gets to move from their cell phone to playing on stage? All ages and genders are welcome. Got a disability? Try a different controller. Even Grandma can play. E-sports is going to eat up game shows, sports events and the lottery to become the 800-pound gorilla of entertainment. I’ve attached a video below of the trophy ceremony. It’ll give you a view of the stadium environment as well as the “pomp and circumstance.” Team Dignitas of the EU took the trophy. Good for those kids.

You can read more about it here –

Happy Friday – May 25th 2018

Hey folks,

I thought I ‘d try a weekly update post.

First up – GDPR – This site is now GDPR compliant. That’s what that banner is about at the bottom. Here’s the privacy page for those of you who want to protect yourself from victimization at the hands of my cookies.

Alvin Baylor Lives!

Alvin Baylor Lives! Cover sketch
Alvin Baylor Lives! Cover sketch by Roger Betka.

I got my edited manuscript back. It’s time to review changes and notes. I’ve got one scene to polish up and add to the book and it has occurred to me that my page count has already changed significantly. This will lead to a change in the spine width of the paperback. The final artwork is not done yet so I’m hoping this is an easy adjustment. I had already anticipated differing specs from multiple POD vendors, but did not expect formatting to add 30 pages! Live and learn. The final cover sketch before painting is posted above.

Kill Night

I’ve got a rough outline for my next novel about urban terror. The first act has been plotted in detail. I hope to finish the rest up and get to typing next week. I will be juggling the start of this project with the completion of ABL. This book will not be sci-fi. It’s sort of Death Wish meets Street Trash. I intend it to be stunningly low brow, yet intelligent. We’ll see how that plan works out.

Black Panther review


I watched this again last night. I wrote a review that I never shared because it felt like shouting in a crowded room. Anyway, two thumbs up from me. Everything I liked the first time, I liked better the second and everything I disliked stopped bothering me. I have one critique – the fight scenes look like spaghetti. When you have a hero who fights with his fists – you use a stuntman for the action, not cgi. Where Avengers: Infinty War fails, this film shines and vice-versa. This was the brains of Marvel’s Phase 3 and I think it will become a classic. If you have super-hero™ fatigue this is the anti-dote.

Cobra Kai review

William Zabka in Cobra Kai

I was pretty impressed by the first two episodes of YouTube’s Karate Kid relaunch. It’s got great characters despite a low budget production value. It seems Johnny Lawrence is the protagonist this time out. I can’t wait for YouTube:Red to fail so I can watch all the episodes. Just like with CBS’ Star Trek: Discovery – I’m not subbing to any damn app.

Steve Ditko

Mr. A by Steve Ditko

I continue to track down new and old Ditko comic books. I’m fascinated by Mr. A, his objectivist philosophy hero. Stunningly original work. I haven’t seen anyone be this brave with their beliefs since 1960’s underground comix.

That’s all I got for now. May you all have a lovely memorial day free from the strictures of employment or mourning.







Ditko Lives!

Steve Ditko is alive and working in 2018.

If that name doesn’t ring a bell – he’s the trippy artist/writer behind Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, The Creeper, Hawk & Dove, Captain Atom, Speedball, The Question, yadda, yadda. He’s one of the greats.

Ditko self-portrait
Ditko’s self-portrait.

I’ve been bored with mainstream comics for a while now. I feel like a music geek who’s favorite band has gone mainstream. Super-Heroes™ rule the box office and the culture. If you think it’s reaching critical mass, just wait until all these little kids grow up.

But I digress into present tense.

So, I’m in search of new fertile territory, someplace that’s not been overrun yet. I’m on youtube. It shows me only the worst parts of my psyche reflected in algorithms and zeitgeist schadenfreude, but I make a break for it. I start searching for comic book vids. Not the angry ones they want to show me – where comic pros and fans bicker over sales and diversity, but the ones that share knowledge. I come across a BBC documentary from 2007 about Steve Ditko. It’s excellent (and pirated). Halfway through comes the shocker –  Ditko, one of the great comic book masters, is still alive and working out of a small New York City office. He’s friendly, but won’t appear on camera.

I pivot to the internet and do some research and he’s still working in 2018. His next book comes out in June. He’s gone all J.D. Salinger, except he still sells his work – quietly. I have my enticing new itch to scratch.

My inner geek feels better now.


******Update – Sadly, Steve Ditko passed away on June 29th, 2018. I was able to sign-up for his last Kickstarter Campaign and even recieved an emailed update from him on the 22nd. So sad. I’m glad I “rediscovered” him before his passing. He was one of the true Comic Book masters.

Release the Kraken – Spotify’s Hate Content Policy is Corporate Groupthink

Did you know that Vincent Van Gogh was a creeper who cut off his ear and sent it to a girl? We should seriously stop exhibiting his art.

That was sarcasm. I’m against the push to demonize individuals for their indiscretions. I think it should be done in a court of law, not as a form of public shaming. I am clearly not in the majority.

You think you’re woke? I say you’re asleep.

Every sub-divison of American culture now has a movement to peddle their “truth” at the expense of someone else’s virtue. Soon we’ll all be prisoners of algorithmic groupthink. The scanners will flag your words and naturally understand your intent. That was sarcasm again.

Check out Spotify’s new policy. How noble of them to protect us. Just remember your dollars now equal their values.

Spotify – Hate Content & Hateful Content Policy

Freedom of speech will become like the right to bear arms – of questionable utility.

The repugnant political divide in this country and the ceaseless march of identity politics under the guise of equality is taking us to the end of functional free speech. The U.S. Constitution will hold, but the new Silicon Valley masters of communication will make sure we all share their corporate values if we want to eat or earn a living.

From Twitter to Spotify – perception of your character will define your access to contemporary technology. The quality of your efforts is of no importance to the new vanguard. Obedience to moral groupthink is what the future requires. Who’s morality? That depends on what’s being peddled and who’s shouting loudest.

Tribalism is Great Marketing.

In a prior post I mentioned digital goods as a way to expand economic markets for capitalism. This is the other route – politicization and personal identity tied to a Corporate brand. It’s gonna be HUGE! I can’t wait to drink the Conservative Cola and Liberal Lemon-aide.

The Final Nail in Reality’s Coffin?

Here’s a link to a thoughtful read about the future of virtual goods and how blockchain is allowing a market to develop within game worlds. As soon as common API’s are in use by game developers, you’ll see players “owning” their loot.

I believe this is the new market that capitalism has been searching for. We either go virtual or we get off the planet. We need new markets for the expansion of the economy or the poor will eat the rich and we’ll have to start the civilization game over again. This way we can keep an underclass who only own or rent digital goods. Blockchain and common API’s are the dominos that need to fall before we’re living in Ready Player One’s Oasis.



“Alvin Baylor Lives!” is now with my editor. Thank you to everyone who pestered me with incredulous comments, like “You still working on that book?” It’s the casual indifference of your expectations that egged me on. This lunatic is out the asylum. You’re all on notice. Time for a drink!

Even the Oscars Don’t Care Who Wins Best Picture.

The 2017 Oscars were a reality show farce. They celebrate Hollywood relevance at a time when it no longer exists. There were no stars in last night’s audience. Instead, what’s left of the elite performed on stage for the new more diverse cast. The Rock was the first out because he’s the last actor alive who can open a movie. The producers need people at home to watch so they brought out someone we like. Someone who will never win an award. As Jimmy Kimmel put it, “A former wrestler … is now the highest paid actor in the world. Which really kind of puts this whole thing into perspective.

The theatrical market is dominated by Marvel and Star Wars. Everything released under those brands earns a billion dollars because they represent the pinnacle of escapism. That’s what movies are to most people. The films honored at the Oscar’s are not about escapism. Some might praise them instead as art, but newsflash – every movie is art. Even Doctor Strange informs the human condition. That’s what storytelling does. The only relevant category last night was best animated feature because it’s the only category where the films received large viewership. It’s time to break these awards into genre’s. Give out a best comedy Oscar. Give one for drama, one for science-fiction. Let’s celebrate all movies and not one town’s point of view on the importance of diversity.

I give praise to Jimmy Kimmel for his hosting and for the lightness of the show. It was fun to watch, but the simple fact remains – nobody saw the movies being honored. The Oscars are growing less relevant every year. The show played like a reaction to how out of touch the films were with popular tastes. They dropped candy from the ceiling and bussed in a bunch of tourists to mingle with the front row. If Faye Dunaway had not read the wrong winner for Best Picture there would be half the media coverage today. It’s time for the Academy to honor the diversity of movies rather than a political point of view. We get that shit everyday in every place we look. We go to the movies for escapism.

© 2024 by Maximilian Gray