Feds shoot down child’s helium balloon at state fair

Junction City, Texas, February 12, 2023, Star-Gazer News Service–A squadron of F-22 Raptors used twenty AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles to bring down an errant blue helium balloon that slipped through the fingertips of twelve-year-old Jack Daniels who had just won the balloon at the state fair’s shooting gallery.

The balloon was bobbing and turning on wind gusts that had carried it to an estimated altitude of some 500 feet which, according to an Air Force spokesperson posed a threat to drones flown by local hobbyists.

No drones were damaged during the encounter nor was there any damage on the ground other than the farm equipment tent where leading manufacturers had an estimated $700,000 worth of tractors, combines, ploughs, and harrows on display.

At press time, there was conflicting testimony about whether or not any of the missiles carried nuclear payloads. Several witnesses who may or may not have been sober insisted that there was a mushroom cloud above the space where the Ferris wheel once stood.

According to General Bat Masterson, “We have an open order from our superiors in Washington, D.C to shoot down anything without a valid transponder signal or registration number, or is simply acting weird.”

Spokesmen were quick to point out that those who were killed on the Ferris wheel, if any, were heroes.

The balloon, which was recovered by Texas Rangers, is being analyzed for anything that might matter.

According to pollsters, those attending the fair “enjoyed the show.”

Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter


do you remember where you were on that sad day in 1959?

We tend to remember where we were when we heard the bad news:

  1. Pearl Harbor
  2. Kennedy Assassination
  3. 9/11 Attacks

I wasn’t born yet when Pearl Harbor was attacked, but I definitely know where I was when I first heard about the other two. We seem to be built that way, considering where we were as almost important to us as the bad news.

So yes, I know where I was in 1959 when the breaking network news carried the story of two Native Americans from opposing tribes who drowned when they jumped into a raging river to be together because their love was as big as the sky. I was with my high school band marching in the Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival parade.

“The Big Bopper” (Jiles Perry Richardson) wrote the song, but he decided it didn’t fit his rockabilly style, so he gave it to Johnny Preston who recorded it after “the music died” in a February 3, 1959 plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa cornfield at 1:00 a.m. CST that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Richardson. The news was seemingly ubiquitous, though I don’t know where I was when I heard first this tragic story. How some people ended up on the plane and others didn’t was, many thought, a twisted example of fate.

So much time has passed, that more people probably know where they were the first time they heard Don McLean’s 1971 song “American Pie” which coined the phrase “when the music died.” The song, at 8 and 1/2 minutes in length, was about the longest one any of us remembered hearing on the radio. I was in a hospital bed in Illinois with mono when the song came out and, frankly, thought I was hallucinating.

As for “Running Bear,” I doubt many people remember his love for Little White Dove these days. The odd thing for me is that I remember the song from the beginning rather than after it appeared in the 1994 Steve Martin movie “A Simple Twist of Fate,” though, that title seems to sum up everything else here.


How writers cope with ‘interesting times’

The daily news is out of control. Whether one keeps up online or on TV, there is little there except alternating tragedies: the pandemic, of course; the mess in Afghanistan; riots and hate crimes; the storm in the northweast; the immigration problems along the U.S./Mexican border; polarized politics complete with lies and coverups.

Writer Illustrations and Clipart. 560,558 Writer royalty free  illustrations, and drawings available to search from thousands of stock  vector EPS clip art graphic designers.Many writers cope with the continuing uproar by writing. In her latest Funds for Writers newletter, author Hope Clark said writing is cathartic for her. That is, it tends to purge negative emotions and, in doing so, creates a new attitude–or, let us say, a better or more hopeful attitude.

Writing, of course, changes one’s focus from the worst of reality to the task of stringing words together, to the subject matter of the work, or the locations and characters in the story. Whether the work is fiction or nonfiction, it usually involves research that’s a change of pace from the news. Writing takes us away, but it’s not like burying one’s head in the sand and becoming ignorant or uncaring about the issues.

Some people get away from it all by going to vacation, spending a day on the lake, camping or hiking in the mountains, or catching up on household chores. Some people repaint their houses every time there’s a national crisis. Others weed the garden.

And writers (often, but not always) spend their time in imaginary places of their own creation. It’s not always easy. As Hope Clark said, “If writing is a part of you, you crave and yearn to write. If you struggle with it, all the more reason to sit down and do it. If you write ten words in an hour, you do so. Chances are that prying those words loose might let the waters flow. Maybe only trickle, but the point is you are moving forward with getting words, any words, any amount of words, on the page.”

We aren’t writing to change the world but to stay sane in the world as it is.


Losing the News – Local News in Peril

As local news outlets are gutted and shuttered, reporters laid off, publication schedules cut, and resources tightened across the country, Losing the News: The Decimation of Local News and the Search for Solutions sounds the alarm about the existential threat facing local watchdog journalism and proposes big-picture solutions for its revitalization.

Source: Losing the News – PEN America

This important report shows how news coverage of local issues in local newspapers is being lost: “Most Americans do not yet realize that their local news sources are on the brink of collapse and only a small minority pay for local news.”

“Local” is–obviously–where we live, and as we lose local watch-dog reporting and coverage of on-going issues, we are entering a paradoxical situation where we know more about what’s going in Washington, D. C., and other major cities than we do in the towns where we live.

Why does local journalism matter and what must we do to save it? If this subject resonates with you, click on the link above to see the report and its conclusions. As a former college journalism instructor, you have my gratitude if you read and share this report.



Las Vegas – those we mourn

Our mourning does not begin and end with the dead. It includes the injured, the relatives of the dead and injured, their friends, their co-workers, and the others attending the concert. It includes the first responders and those at the hospitals where the dead and injured we carried. The list has no end.

Here are the dead whose names we know at this point:

Wikipedia map.

Hannah Ahlers, Murrieta, Calif.
Heather Alvarado, 35, Cedar City, Utah
Neysa Tonks, 46, Las Vegas, Nev.
Thomas Day Jr., 54, Corona, Calif.
Melissa Ramirez, 26, Los Angeles, Calif.
Jack Beaton, 54, Bakersfield, Calif.
Christiana Duarte, 22, Redondo Beach, Calif.
Denise Burditus, 50, Martinsburg, W.Va.
Dorene Anderson, 49, Anchorage, Alaska
Adrian Murfitt, 35, Anchorage, Alaska
Lisa Patterson, Lomita, Calif.
Jennifer Irvine, 42, San Diego, Calif.
John Phippen, 56, Santa Clarita, Calif.
Michelle Vo, 32, Los Angeles
Charleston Hartfield, 34, Henderson, Nev.
Rocio Guillen Rocha, 40, Eastvale, Calif.
Jenny Parks, 35, Palmdale, Calif.
Angie Gomez, 20, Riverside, Calif.
Jordan McIldoon, 23, Maple Ridge, Canada
Bailey Schweitzer, 20, Bakersfield, Calif.
Christopher Roybal, 28, Corona, Calif.
Stacee Etcheber, 50, Novato, Calif.
Carrie Barnette, 34, Riverside, Calif.
Susan Smith, 53, Simi Valley, Calif.
Jessica Klymchuk, 34, Canada.
Rhonda LeRocque, 42, Tewksbury, Ma.
Quinton Robbins, 20, Henderson, Nev.
Dana Gardner, 52, Grand Terrace, Calif.
Sonny Melton, 29, Big Sandy, Tenn.
Lisa Romero-Muniz, 48, Gallup, N.M.
Sandy Casey, 35, California
Rachael Parker, 33, Manhattan Beach, Calif.

The murderer is also dead, but I won’t sully the names of the innocent by including the guilty.

We’re slowly hearing information about the dead in addition to their names: their lives, their jobs, their photographs. We’re also hearing stories about those who helped and saved others in the middle of this tragedy.  There were many heroes. We may never know the names of all of the dead and injured, the first responders and hospital personnel, or the heroes on the scene who pulled people out of harm’s way.

Journalists and others who keep records will call this the worst shooting in the United States. Others will discuss prospective gun control legislation and concert security measures. This is probably necessary as long as we don’t forget those who died, those who were injured, and those who tried to help them. The real tragedy is what happened at ground zero, and those who were in that place are those we mourn.


See the CNN In Memoriam Page for updates.

Microsoft to update your brain due to atomic clock hacking incident

Washington, D. C., January 1, 2017 (hacked time), Star-Gazer News Service – After the National Security Information discovered that Kim Jong-un ordered the Supreme Hacking Department of North Korea’s administration to hack into and disrupt the Unites State’s atomic clock, President Obama had a new problem:

To be puctual, or not to be punctual, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the land to suffer skewed time
With it’s Slings and Arrows of undestined misfortune,
Or to take Arms against a malware sea of code,
And by opposing, obliterate it, to say we now awake
To end the Heart-Ache of sleep in our hexed abode
And hope the replacement era suits us better for goodness’ sake.

North Korean hacked time at the fictional present moment.
North Korean hacked time at the fictional present moment.

According to 98.6% of the federal government’s panel of scientists, most Americans believe today is January 1, 2017 because the North Korean malware introduced a stream of malicious leap seconds into the heart of the atomic clock so that ever since the dog days of August, time has moved “faster than theoretically possible.”

“Among other things,” said Temporal Control Officer (TPO) Erwin Schrödinger, “birds and bees are ‘doing it’ more often than usual, work days are longer and weekends are shorter, and most of what’s happened in the last four months never happened.”

Press secretary James “Jay” Carney said that the administration has decided to “let the temporal cat out of the temporal box” and “take arms against the malware sea of code.”

According to Schrödinger, most Americans will suffer no ill effects from an over-night reprogramming of their brains via software contributed by Microsoft.

Actual time

“While you sleep, perchance to dream,” said Carney, “your brain will be taken back to August 11th and will be re-set so as to allow the entire nation to move ahead in harmony with time as the good Lord has defined it, ordered it, and calculated it. Most people will suffer no ill effects and will wake up tomorrow as though nothing has happened. Quite frankly, nothing has happened since the lethargic and indolent dog days, so for most people it will be business as usual even though a few people may have to reboot their sex lives and other coping mechanisms several times to get back on track.”

Concerned about the ethics of violating Star Trek’s temporal prime directive and voiding four months of seemingly real activity, the administration erred on the side of caution by taking no action in spite of the fact it was informed of the hack while it was happening. Some government philosophers said that if we got a “do over,” the same things would happen because they were destined to happen. Others said that “tweaks in the updates’ reprogramming code would keep people from doing the wrong things they did and the result would be a better world.

The decision was finally made when Obama asked if reprogramming the clock and the brains of the populace would bring back Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.

“We told him it would,” said Schrödinger, “even though everything that may have happened since August 11th is neither true nor not true until we reprogram ourselves the new truth is set free–or isn’t.”

“Make it so,” the President said.

–Story by Jock Stewart, Special Investigative Reporter

You might just win a Kindle Fire Tablet if you sign up for my publisher’s newsletter

tjlogoThomas-Jacob Publishing is starting a newsletter to help its adoring readers keep up with upcoming books and events. Since this is my publisher, I hope the readers are adoring. I’m proud of our catalogue, featuring books by:

  • Malcolm Campbell
  • Melinda Clayton
  • Tracy Franklin
  • Michael Franklin
  • Robert Hays
  • Smoky Zeidel.

Okay, moving onto the Kindle Fire Tablet. Click on the graphic below to go to the newsletter signup page. Just a few fields to fill out and then you’re done.

The first place winner of the tablet and the two second place winners of a free paperback from Thomas-Jacob’s list will be selected in a random drawing August 17th.


Good luck in the drawing!



Feds close cat boot camp

from the archives;

Albino County, October 20, 2009–Drill Instructor Boots Anderson slips quietly into barracks #3724 five minutes before Reveille on a cool Texas morning. The humidity is 68%, the pressure is 30.05 inches, the dew point is 56 degrees, and the 100 felines at the Albino County Rat Army Boot Camp are blissfully sleeping in the calm before the storm.

Anderson scowls at the mess, the random hairballs, the shredded up bunks, the tipped over litter boxes, the complete lack of military grade standards of cleanliness and ambiance, “as though a tornado hit the freaking place during the long hours between taps and dawn,” he muses poetically.

catsAnd then it hits. Anderson slings the open, CinchSak (R) 39-gallon lawn and leaf bag of empty cat food cans against the wall. Two hundred eyes pop open, one hundred pairs of ears go back, growls, snarls echo throughout the austere structure. Manx cats comprise company 816, so the denizens can’t turn tail and run, opting for caterwauling instead, the kind that makes Anderson’s skin crawl as though he’s covered in fire ants, the nasty buggers.

“Atten-HUH,” bellows Anderson, though it does little good. He hates himself when he resorts to trickery, but the corps demands it or Manx Company is not going to be wearing cat’s pajamas on graduation day. So, he puts a smile in his voice when he utters the disgusting words, “Food Time! Would my pretty little kitties like an itty bitty ditty bad of treats?”

The cats assemble smartly in the long center aisle between the rows of bunks. Their bearing is is straight and true like those perfectly posed goddess-style cats in art from ancient Egypt.

“So you’re not a lost cause after all, you lousy, good-for-nothing curs, you miserable excuses for ratters, you sloppy-as-dogs critters, you alleyway varmints. You Siamese.” He adds that for good measure, knowing it’s a low thing to say to a Manx.

At this moment (05:25 central), the emergency doors at the far end of the building are kicked open and the Feds, damn their lousy timing, crash into the room with assault rifles, mace, snarling dogs straining on leashes, and enough spotlights to make the cats’ eyes look like his chaotic collection of old marbles before his brother lost them to Dexter Smith in the school yard before the cat got his tongue.

“General Mark Sirius, Homeland Security SWAT Tsar,” shouts the dog-eared fat officer who rolls into the room like like a basset on a acid.

“Are you serious?” yells Anderson.

“If you don’t believe me, read my name tag, you wussie cat lover. We’re shutting down this operation until we sort through the litter and totally understand what kind of shit you people are into in this county.”

“Do you have a warrant?”

“Warrant, why would I need a warrant when I’ve got guns, dogs, mace and the Patriot Act backing me up? Stand down, I say, for Mark Sirius is sitting in the cat bird seat today.”

“It’s a little late for that, General, the cats bugged out when you busted in,” says Anderson.

“What the hell?” Sirius doesn’t look like a cute doggy in the window now. “How did they manage that?”

“Training, General, plus they got those little cat feet; they slipped out like fog.”

“Cats or no cats, we’re shutting you down. For one thing, it just ain’t right, even in Texas. I know what you’re thinking, Anderson. You’re thinking all we do at Homeland Security is make life difficult for honest, everyday people. Not by a long shot. We’ve been studying cats, from cat dancing to catamounts to catacombs.”

“So what,” says Anderson, grinning like a Cheshire cat that’s starting to fade into the woodwork.

“I’ll tell you what, mister smiley face, you organize cats, you gotta a catastrophe. You think you can control them, but you can’t. You whistle and they keep on disobeying your commands, telling secrets, spying, sneaking in under the radar. That’s just anarchy, the kind of cat’s cradle trap our enemies are waiting for us to get our fat paws stuck in while our pants are down.”

Sirius is stoked like a cat on a hot tin roof, but he’s not wagging his tail now because Anderson has faded away into the Texas morning, a morning when the winds are gusting to 23 mph, a morning when the old general should head to the dog house early and hang his head while his masters tell him Sirius is a bad puppy for not putting all those cats in a great big hat and bringing in for questioning.

Anderson laughs from a nearby tree. Once the FEDs leave, it will be back to business as usual. All he has to do is open a can of tuna and the troops will pass in review, soon, if not smartly, the sorry flea-bitten strays.


Publishers Weekly Leads Petition Drive to End Cuba Book Embargo

Cubans and Americans haven’t had much access to each other’s literature for fifty years. Even though relations are becoming more normalized between the two countries, the overall embargo remains in place.

PWlogoPersonally, I don’t think an embargo on consumer products ever made sense, much less now.

According to the Publishers Weekly article A Letter from PW on the Cuba Book Embargo, “The Cuban people’s desire, and need, for American books was evident during the February U.S. publishing mission to Cuba, organized by PW and Combined Book Exhibit, in close cooperation with Cuban government officials.”

Click on the link in the paragraph above to see why PW thinks the embargo should be lifted. Or, if you already believe it should be lifted, you can read the petition here.

The embargo can only be lifted through Congressional action.




Briefly Noted: ‘I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings’

“A young and plucky eastern girl moves to the Wild West to be swept off her feet by a handsome and muscular cowboy: it’s the stereotypical plot of countless romance novels set in Montana.” – Montana Historical Society Press

We’ve all seen wedding stories like this in movies, novels and television shows. Some of those stories might even be real. However, historian Martha Kohl, a fifteen-year specialist at the the Montana Historical Society in Helena, found that the reality of Montana weddings over a 150-year period was every bit as romantic and absorbing as the fiction.

If you live in or near Helena, you can meet the author and enjoy the society’s new exhibit “And the Bride Wore…Montana Weddings, 1900-1960” on January 10th, between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at the MHS headquarters at 225 North Roberts.

IdoFrom the Publisher:

Through engaging stories of romance, insightful analysis, and historic intriguing photographs, I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings provides an intimate and surprising look at an important tradition. I Do journeys through the last 150 years of Montana history, from the 1860s gold rush to the internet age, to reveal the lives of ordinary people, from Finnish homesteaders, Chinese restaurateurs, and Métis fiddlers to struggling miners, Blackfeet students, and Jewish merchants.

About the Exhibit:

MHSlogoThe Montana Historical Society’s newest temporary exhibit, will examine how history has shaped weddings—and particularly wedding fashion—during the first half of the twentieth century. Sixteen delightful and diverse dresses will be on display, including a hand-stitched dress made of white lace and yellow silk ribbon (worn in Butte in 1907), a Crow elk-tooth dress (worn in Lodge Grass in 1945), and a ballerina-style white dress of synthetic satin, lace and tulle (worn in Hardin in 1957). An opening reception will be held January 10, 2013, from 6:30-8:00. The opening will feature a wedding dress fashion show, a 1950s style cake and punch reception, a book signing by Martha Kohl, author of I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings, and Slovenian wedding dance music. Don’t miss the fun! Viewers will be asked to participate in the exhibit by voting for their favorite ensemble and trying their hand at an old-fashioned Singer treadle sewing machine. The dresses will remain on exhibit through November 2013.

The exhibit is listed on line here with contact information and other details.


A long-time member of the Montana Historical Society, Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels partially set in Glacier National Park, including “The Sun Singer,” “Sarabande,” and the upcoming new adventure, “The Seeker.” Watch the trailer.