Monday, December 15, 2008


Hello. This blog will be on hiatus until Jan 1, 2009.

Basically, we have too much on our collective plates at the moment. The newborn’s hearing may be a problem. The Little One’s never-quite-healed chest congestion is acting up, as well as her new sassy four-year-old attitude. My wife’s work is in turmoil as the dual effects of a bad Christmas economy and visits by bosses and bosses’ bosses multiply her stress levels exponentially. My day job continues at the same level of vomit-inducing wretchedness. A couple of writing projects I’ve promised myself and others to get done by the New Year never seem to get out of the planning stages. We’re in the midst of that intricate metaphysical tar pit of refinancing a house that never really gets cleaned as we move boxes and boxes of crap from one room to the next. Errands and chores and Christmas shopping and –

You get the idea.

I’m facing a very real crisis of confidence right now, on top of things. My physical health, never really good over the past three years, is dipping more than a bit into problem territory. My mental outlook is following closely behind. There’s only just so much an amount of constant, never-ending stress and fatigue, one crisis after the other, that a healthy body can take, and I think I’ve crossed that line. Long ago.

This blog was created back in March as a means of getting me back into a habit of daily writing. I think it’s accomplished that objective. This is my 270th posting. But now it’s just another to-do on the giant To-Do list, another source of stress as I have no time after work to write until late at night, when I have no energy, and must resort to stealth writing during the frantic work day. It’s really a lose-lose proposition as the quality of my writing suffers and falls below a level I feel is acceptable for public consumption.

Hopefully at the end of the next two-and-a-half weeks you’ll find me re-energized, re-focused, and bursting with interesting ideas. But right now, I need to take a small vacation. To recharge, to reinvest in myself, and to rethink my life and my lifestyle.

Have a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Eulogy for a Bad Man

He was not missed.

Indeed, there was much laughter in the back rows at his wake, now that he was no longer there to enforce a grim obedience. We felt lightened, free, emboldened though our future was anything but certain. But of this we were sure: he was gone, and would never be a matter of any importance or of any consequence whatsoever in our lives again.

We mentioned all the crazy things that happened; crazy, now, yeah-we-can-say-that-now, but heart-sickening during the times that they happened. The late nights, the early mornings, the unscheduled conferences, the chewing-outs, the pressures to do the wrong things. Was he born mean, or did he just become that way? That was another topic we were divided on, with the majority of us, however, affirming that it really didn’t matter one way or the other. He was now gone, forever.

How much time and energy he wasted, or caused to be wasted, we realized, at the bar after the funeral, how much pain and distress he caused scratching out a couple of decades of life. Was it all worth it? Perhaps, one of us wondered aloud, perhaps there were charities we were unaware of, some fellow human being or beings, somewhere, anywhere, that benefited from his love – His love? No, his money (on that point we all agreed). But none could name any names or point to any persons.

We laughed now that the routine memorial service washed away into the past. No more wondering what he thought, mimicking how he stood, how he walked, how he talked. No more predicting the sourly unpredictable. No more sleepless nights agonizing over t’s that might not have been crossed nor of lower-case j’s that might have escaped dotting. No more. No more. Oh, it feels so good to say those two words. We held drinks up in the air: beers, whiskies, flutes of champagne, and chanted the new mantra of freedom: No more.

There was a lot of money to be divided up, after the firesale, after the circling sharks. Always was in situations like these. But we all knew who’d get most of the slices of pie: the lawyers. None of us thought we’d factor into any of that, and on that account we ultimately were right. But it didn’t matter. A couple of months, a couple of years: at the end, we all were doing all right doing something else. Our little business venture faded into that wing of the cerebrum reserved for faded memories. The mental and psychic wounds healed, mostly from inattention now that we’d moved on.

In the end, no one missed him. At least, no one we knew. Whether that in itself was to be pitied or not, we could not tell. In any event, we soon stopped thinking about it, and about him.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ten Thoughts on Thinking

Because I can.

Life consists of what a man is thinking about all day. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts. – John Locke

The hero is the one with ideas. – Jack Welch

An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an invasion of ideas. – Victor Hugo

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. – Leo Tolstoy

Learning to write is learning to think. You don’t know anything clearly unless you can state it in writing. – S. I. Hayakawa

You have to think anyway, so why not think big? – Donald Trump

To be able to concentrate for a considerable time is essential to difficult achievement. – Bertrand Russell

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. – Pablo Picasso

Whatever things are true … noble … just … pure … lovely … and are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; think on these things. – St. Paul

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Question Posed to a Zen Master

“Zen Master, is there life after death?”

“I don’t know.”

“But you’re a Zen Master!!!”

“Yes, but not a dead one.”

Great joke from a guy whose blog I read daily until he decided to end it and do something else.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Some movies just shouldn’t be remade. I think most of us movie buffs can agree on that, no? I mean, why would anyone bother remaking Citizen Kane, or Casablanca, or Gone With the Wind? Look what happened to remakes of Hitchcock films: Dial M for Murder and Psycho, for example. Bland at best.

Science fiction is a bit different, though. Some movies are remade well, in my opinion, and I can cite as examples Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), The Thing (1982), The Blob (1988), and the recent I Am Legend (2007). This works well for science fiction because, well, as technology advances and improves, so does special effects. And special effects can make or break even the best written of films. Special effects can even substitute for writing, to greater or lesser degrees.

It’s the writing, however, that worries me.

Case in point: the remake of The Manchurian Candidate. When a Hollywood writer has an axe to grind, when he writes from an undisguised opinionated slant, he’s going to offend huge segments of his audience. Also, more often than not, the quality of writing will suffer. I mean, come on, making big business the bogeyman is so … done to death.

That’s why The Day The Earth Stood Still is scaring me. The original is like holy scripture to me. So was its companion that year, 1951, The Thing From Another World, but that was remade well. Perhaps even better than the original. But this Keanu Reeves film has the makings of a train wreck. Global Warming. Oh dear. I’m sensing rational critics will have a field day deconstructing this movie’s ideas. So will I, I think. If it’s as bad as I’m sensing, I won’t see it in the theaters, but I will rent it in about six months or so, and review it here.

But the few glimpses of the updated Gort we see in the trailer really, really look cool:

Also slated for release next year: Remakes of The Birds, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Escape From New York. Superiority, or sacrilege? We’ll see, but I’m not hopeful. Oh the humanity!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Of Tolkien and the Bible

When I was twelve or thirteen, something odd but not entirely uncommon for boys that age happened to me. I read The Hobbit and the three books of The Lord of the Rings. It helped me through a very rough patch in my life, and I have very fond memories of the time.

I read of Bilbo meeting his dwarf companions while up in a tree. I was enraptured as Frodo and his friends eluded the Nazgul while in a rowboat as my dad taught my brother to fish. Galadriel and the elves nourished the fellowship as I sat in my dad’s parked red Volare: on the front seat, the back seat, the fender, the hood, the roof. The tower of Isengard fell to the Ents while I perched on log at the stock car races. Shelob chased and overcame poor Frodo while I read terrified under my dining room table. I followed the apocalyptic battle at Minis Tirith to the light of my grandmother’s washing machine.

It probably took me to six to eight months to read the works. I had to finish them by the start of school that fall, my freshman year at high school, because there’d be an essay required on it. Which I aced. But the odd thing happened in the year or so afterward.

I became absolutely and completely fascinated with everything Tolkien. I was like a hungry convert to a new religion. I had to find out the history. What of the First and Second Ages, those tantalizing hints placed liberally throughout the texts? I soon set upon my first reading of The Silmarillion. But while that prologue answered many of my questions, it left many more unsolved. So, I set upon a voyage of discovery. I researched the lands, their histories, the maps, the linguistics (easily Tolkien’s genius and his inspiration). I traced genealogies. I studied the names of the fortresses, the mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers, the cities.

One major theme interested me to no end: the problem of Evil, and how we deal with it. The Lord of the Rings himself, Sauron, fascinated me. His minions, obvious ones, such as the Nazgul, Orcs, Trolls, other nasties, haunted forests, and the more subtle forms of his malice: the lure of power, the poison of pride. As a counterbalance, the wizards, the Istari, fascinated me, too, especially this tidbit: five were sent to Middle Earth, yet only three are named in the LotR – Gandalf, Saruman, and Radagast the Brown. Why? Who were the other two? Where were they sent? Why was each wizard given a color, and what was its significance? And were they really – angels?

I devoured those Tolkien companions and encyclopedias. Literally, I would sit on the couch while the family watched TV or a movie, and I’d spend two hours leafing through it, stream-of-consciousness, searching for clues to old questions, and learning more and more about this fantasy world. It became a huge chunk of my life.

Then, near the end of my sophomore year, the compulsion stopped. It was replaced by music, which consumed me for a long, long time. Still does, but not quite as ravenously.

This has been on my mind lately because of, well, see that thing to the left, there? Current Reads? Currently, I’m reading The Day Christ Died by Jim Bishop. Full review to follow in the near future, but suffice it to say that, since I picked it up a few weeks back (I got distracted but returned to it a week-and-a-half ago) I have been pulled towards Biblical history, with much passion similar to the way I was pulled towards Tolkien’s world over twenty-five years ago.

Bishop’s book details quite nicely the day-to-day life of a Jew in Jerusalem around 30 AD. What do I mean by ‘quite nicely’? Only that it paints an extremely vivid picture of the dress, homes, occupations, interrelationships, beliefs, and social strata of the people who lived at this time. I think I have a highly active imagination, but I always had trouble making scripture come alive. This book is helping, a lot. Fills in the blanks. Lays down the lines that allows my imagination to color the picture, so to speak.

And one consequence is that I now have a raging interest in the history and archaeology of those times. Much like my quest to know all the inner workings of the Tolkien universe, now I must know everything about, oh, the Middle East region from about 4000 BC to AD 70.

For instance, I’ve been reading the past couple of nights about some of the Kings of Israel and Judah, that probably 99% of Christians have never read or heard. Stuff that would rival the debaucheries of imperial Rome. Stuff that would make an interesting blog post down the road. Stuff that I think were taught to pre-teen and teen boys could possibly and perversely result in an increase in vocations. Or at least greater Bible literacy in today’s comparatively illiterate world.

Fortunately, my Bible at home has an extensive introduction – nearly a hundred pages – consisting of chronology, maps, kingly lineages, historical articles, etc, etc, etc. So I’ve been going through that, and I got a fat encyclopedic book from the library that goes through the bible book by book and points out interesting miscellanea from this type of angle. I thumb through it while the wife feeds the baby and we’re channel surfing and / or relaxing after the Little One’s put to bed at 8. Makes for a relaxing evening; it’s what floats my boat.

More to follow, from a weird trivia perspective …

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Read this quite gripping account of a survivor from the Mumbai Islamic terrorist attacks. It forced me to think about a couple of disturbing things.

First off, put yourself in that man’s place. Can you think of anything more horrible, more terrible, than to be a civilian thrown into a paramilitary situation as this? I never use that old phrase, “There but for the grace of God …” but I think it’s more than appropriate for use here. I realize just how much God protects us and cares for us simply by not having these seeming random acts of violence touch the majority of our lives. Would I be as clear-headed as that man in that situation? Would I even know the first thing to do to save myself? What if my family was with me, stranded, isolated, helpless, waiting in a hotel room and not knowing whether the approaching footsteps were those of a policeman or an Islamofascist thug?

Couple this with the rash of school and workplace shootings over the past ten years or so. Think about your desk at work. If you heard “firecrackers popping” just outside the hall, will you allow yourself to freeze, or will you promise yourself, right now as you read this, to take action first and foremost, and worry about the possibility of looking silly later. For instance: Is there an escape route (preferably more than one) you can take? A failsafe place you could hide? Something / anything you can use to defend yourself with? Think seriously about this, and find answers to these questions. Remember: No job, none, is worth sacrificing your life over. I know firemen who always plan an escape route whenever they sleep in a new hotel room, or even enter a new building for a meeting or party. I knew a man who never sat with his back to a door. Prepared planning or paranoia?

Consider yourselves on notice from this moment on. Going down a dark street alone at night? Fine, but what would you do if someone came at you? Approaching your car by yourself in a parking garage? Make sure there’s no one waiting for you in the back seat. Sitting down for a meal at a nice restaurant? Note the exits. Read that stupid little cartoon pamphlet about airplane evacuation as you’re waiting to taxi onto the runway.

This is not, and in no way should be construed as, an invitation to a life of fear. No. Absolutely not. Quite the contrary, in fact. This is an invitation to be prepared. To be always entertaining silent thought exercises in your mind. To grow confident, secure in the knowledge that if there’s smoke, or an explosion, or a scream, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done, and do it.

To never be a victim, never again. Or at the very least go down fighting hard.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Brain Freeze

Brain frozen … fatigue too overpowering … must do next thing on the list …

Hope to carve out an hour or so tonight to write. Said hour must be child-free, wife-free, television-free, telephone-free, alcohol-free, bills-and-finances-free, dirty-laundry-free, worry-free. Is such freedom possible this side of Paradise? Who knows? I’ve heard it is. Indeed, I think I experienced it, once, about twelve or thirteen years ago, but was too stupid to realize what it was. Went out and done gone ruined it, I think I did, buried that jewel in a field, drew a map and promptly misplaced it.

Oh well. I’d spend a half-hour today attempting to write something witty or pithy, rueful or bold, but I have too much paperwork on my desk. Feel like that Dutch boy, plugging all those leaks with his fat little fingers. This due, that due, handle this, handle that. Nothing in writing, mind you, only verbal commands to do this, do that. Trainers coming in tomorrow as we’re switching payroll systems, for the second time in as many years. Possible pointless seminar I’ll be sent to Thursday. Two potential bullets I have to find a way to duck. Dodging supervisors, who only want to burden and never lighten the load.

Brain frozen … fatigue overpowering … must find solution …

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Lovers

(c) 1952, by Philip Jose Farmer

Pity poor, unfortunate Hal Yarrow. He’s had the terrible misfortune to be born a thousand years in the future, after the Apocalyptic Wars, in a society so rigid and claustrophobic it would make the gulag archipelago as relaxing as a weekend at Club Med. Indoctrinated and monitored from birth by something known as the "Sturch", Hal thoroughly and completely adores Sigmen, the big-brotherish founder of his culture, and loves his meaningful life.

Well, not exactly.

It begins with his marriage. Like a wedding band that’s too tight, the severe restrictions began to itch maddeningly and unbearably for our friend. The prearranged marriage, the prescribed mating rituals, the dissatisfactions and disappointments. After a while, Hal just doesn’t care anymore. A joat - a "jack of all trades" – in the linguistics field, he’s given the opportunity to be involved with an interstellar expedition to a newly-discovered world. He accepts; his death is faked (Sigmen never makes mistakes, so there’s no such thing as divorce), and he’s on a new world by page forty.

After befriending a native "wog", "Fobo," and accompanying him to some nearby ruins, Hal encounters Jeanette, a human descendent of the survivors of a marooned starship a couple of generations ago, originating from France a few years after the Apocalyptic Wars. She’s been in hiding; it seems that the wogs had trapped her for study and held her against her will until she escaped. Terrible and dangerous predators dwell in the forests at night, and Jeanette spent a great deal of time in pure survival mode. Hal is instantly smitten with her, and soon begins breaking rules, little and big and bigger, in order to nurture and protect her.

First he illicitly passes some morality tests for a greater rank within the expedition. Then, he requisitions an apartment among the wogs as he is studying their language and must be among them to master it. Since Jeanette turns out to have quite the thirst for booze, and alcohol is strictly forbidden by Sigmen, Hal must make overtures with Fobo about obtaining alcohol for his paramour. His "guardian angel," a man responsible for monitoring and passing judgment on Hal’s daily activities, grows suspicious, and after a confrontation, Hal allows, through inaction, the man to die quite horribly. Things have now progressed beyond the point of no return.

Hal and Jeanette have become lovers. Hal’s world is absolutely turned upside down; perhaps it is the forbiddenness of the affair, perhaps it is the physical excitement that comes purely from the freedom of exploration. Whatever, Hal thinks only of how he can win survival and keep Jeanette. The fact that the humans are preparing biological warfare to eliminate the wogs and take over their planet holds no moral qualms for him. His only world is the woman.

I thought I knew where Farmer was taking this story; I couldn’t have been more wrong. Well, in a way I was right: Hal does grow more and more disenchanted with his society, but I was anticipating with Jeanette as his inspiration he himself may thwart his fellow explorer’s nefarious secret offensive. But no. It turns out I did not go far enough in my speculation.


One morning Hal arrives at the apartment and is horrified to see Jeanette unresponsive. Her skin has calcified; she is dying. When Hal confesses that she should be better since he was weaning her off the liquor, she freaks, then loses consciousness. Hal seeks out Fobo for help, coincidentally at the same time the expedition’s leader, on to Hal’s rulebreaking, sends men to arrest him. At that moment, the wogs perform a Bushian first-strike and disable the Earthmen, having long surmised their wicked plan. Hal is spared, being Fobo’s friend, and then the truth comes out about Jeanette.

She is not human. She is a lalitha, a mimetic parasite.

Once impregnant, she must die. The alcohol, it turns out, is kind of a birth control for her. So Hal, in a misguided attempt to cure her of what he thinks is alcoholism, lets her go fertile, and therefore causes her death.

But she will live on, in her spawn, which will have Hal’s features.


An excellent hook! What I love most reading these classic SF books – the unexpected thrill, the dawning realization of what the author’s driving at, a twist that makes you put the book down in utter amazement. Farmer is a master at creating alien life, both horrid and wonderful, and I should have seen this coming. But I didn’t, and that’s why I have to heartily recommend this book.

Grade: A-.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bogus Dog

[A fastly-written stream-of-consciousness sleep deprivation exercise ...]

Not tonight, Lord, I thought, pounding my hand against the sheet rock wall. Plaster flecked onto my red leather jacket - my red leather jacket, man! - and all I could think was, not tonight Lord.

Tonight of all nights! Damnit, man! The apartment had been turned upside down. Thrashed and trashed. Nothing was in its rightful place. Clothes, garbage, food all strewn across the floors. My priceless collection of Hummels had been smashed. Boy, someone was gonna pay for this. But I didn't care about that. No, all I could think about was the fact that this had to happen tonight.


And where was the key? That was the important part. Eff the hummels, screw my collection of double-breasted beige-and-brown corduroy suits, forget Leonisa the hybrid Siamese-Turkish longhair cat. The key. Oh man, how much sorrow was going to enter into the world because I couldn't find the key.

The question was: Was it stolen, or was it somewhere buried beneath this inferno of chaos, my overturned apartment. Time was not my friend, not that it ever was, but now it was downright dirty rotten mean and nasty toward me. I picked up this, picked up that, what's under this scarf? how 'bout this ottoman? Wait! check under this Smithsonian magazine ... no, tonight was a bad night. A bad luck night, because I couldn't find the key and it was now approaching twenty to midnight.

I had two choices, I realized. I could try to fake my way through it, or I could try to get the spare. I turned and looked at the Elvis clock in the kitchen, pelvis swinging left then right, tick-tock tick-tock, think-think think-think. Quarter to twelve. Not much time. Joanne would have my balls if I didn't show up with the key.

Could I fake it? Wouldn't have even thought of if I didn't find myself in this situation. Joanne was some mean-ass b**** all right, and I mean mean to the bone. Don't want to eff with her. No sir. But on reflection, I stood up straight. I did tell her off that one time, that time with Pascual. And though she did give me "The Stare" I stared that b**** down good.

But in the end I decided I couldn't fake it. Better to try to get the spare. Pamela would have the spare. But Pamela was in jail.

Jail, or Joanne. I sat on the pile of S that was my life's possessions on the balcony of my righteous apartment. Tendrils of marijuana wafted up to me. Absently I took a big swig off the Spaaten forty ounce I brought out of the fridge for comfort. I looked at my arm, my left lower arm, where the G-clef quarter-inch raised scar lay. Case decided. I got up, put on my best cap, grabbed my wraparound shades, my pack of Merit 100s and headed out the door.

I skipped down the spiral staircase towards the parking lot, taking the steps two or three at time. Trotted / ran / jogged / sauntered up to the Green Machine, yeah man, that's my wheels, my AMC Gremlin 480 V6. The Ladykiller, I christened her, had painted on the fire-lime green hood in that flowy scripted writing: The Ladykiller. Yes friends, I am the Man with the ladies.

Well, all ladies except Joanne. But Joanne couldn't exactly one-hundred-percent be categorized as a lady.

Joanne is a man. Well, a woman that became a man. And was in the process of becoming a woman again. (Head shaking sadly). You see, it's a long sorry tale of cheap doctors, cheap promises, and expensive lawyers. Oh, and Joanne is also a made member of the Antonetti mafia family in Albuquerque.

The key muthafukka! I slap myself (I am prone to extended periods of reflection where my physical body happens to do nothing except drool and fart), slap the keys into the ignition of the Ladykiller and I'm on the main drag in a few minutes. The key!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The keyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

My funky clock says its 11:52. The blinking dot in the upper right corner means its PM. So does the fact that the sun set five hours ago. Okay. No problem for I am cool. I can find a way out of this proverbial crazy-S S-hole I suddenly find myself in. Through no main fault of my own, I might add. Thank you. Thank you very much.

I vaguely notice the exits of the beltway zip by. The Georgia Road exit sees me, smiles seductively, then panics as I show no sign of decelerating, so she (it?) reaches out and slaps me across the face, and I take it. Five minutes later, lesson learned, I make a left onto Excelsior Road. Midnight comes and goes, and I am on the street that leads up to the Montgomery County Municipal Jail.

The Ladykiller pulls in to the free 30 minutes parking lot and finds a spot on the far side of this correctional facility. I let the engine idle a while while I pause to collect my thoughts. I smoke a long cool Merit, taking extra care to let the smoke exhale in rings out my flaming nostrils. I am a god of the cigarette I realize, and sadly note that there's not much in the way of remuneration in that line of work.

A plan, I think, that's what I need. Then I think of this: a man, a plan, a canal: panama! Think about it.

I do, and I waste twenty minutes. The clock on the dash of my bodacious car now whispers twelve thirty two to me, serenely, post-orgasmically, long black tongues all the way to my ear drums. Time is getting late, the left, rational side of my brain realizes, then realizes, in a somewhat paranoid fashion, that it is not quite sure it trusts that other hemisphere. You know. The right one. That one.

But I digress. I also waste time. So I take my keys out of the ignition lock (I have the coolest key chain - some day remind me to describe it to you) and I open the door and stretch my long Carl Lewis long distance runner legs out into the parking lot. I saunter over to the trunk, making sure to keep my good side, that is, the side without all that scar tissue, to the cameras that I know are aimed at me from the Montgomery County Municipal Lockup.

A chill massages my spine as I pop open the trunk. G*ddamn October air! Why can't I lose the key in the middle of July, when an all-out urban assault would be so much more comfortable in mid-70 degree temps! Well, anyway, I pop open the trunk and see with glee what lay inside ......

Friday, December 5, 2008

Top 25 SF Movies

Saw this link on a blog I frequent, and was instantly intrigued:

Top 25 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time

Spending about fifteen minutes in between notarizing this and signing that, answering this call and handing out this Fedex, I came up with my own impromptu list of the Top 25. However, my list should be qualified not as the “Greatest” but more like “My Favorite Bestest,” though I’m sure there’s some overlap.

Here’s my list in no order except as they came to me, again, I stress, off the top of my head with no cheating.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers
This Island Earth

Star Wars
Close Encounters
The Empire Strikes Back
The Return of the Jedi
The Blob

The Matrix
Star Trek: First Contact
Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan
War of the Worlds (1953)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1957)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Godzilla (1951)
Godzilla vs. King Kong
The Thing (1951)
The Thing (1982)

Escape from New York
It Came from Beneath the Sea
The Road Warrior
Jurassic Park

Now, let’s see how I did.

10 on my list were on their top 25. But, 7 of my top-10 agreed with their top-10. What does this say? That after a pretty much indisputable ten or so flicks things can get pretty subjective. I’m scratching my head over some of their later picks. I mean, Galaxy Quest? Good movie, yes, and funny, too, but top 25 of all time? Tron? 12 Monkeys? Brazil? These are part of the Top 25 Sci-Fi Movies of All Time?

My biggest head-slapping faux pas was leaving off the Terminator movies. Yes, they definitively belong on any sane fan’s list. Both of them, though I’m more than a little partial to T2. And I’d include Predator in there, somewhere, too. I’d probably put T2 and Predator on my list and take off the first Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie and It Came from Beneath the Sea. Both were childhood favorites, but I think they’d both respectfully relinquish their place on my list to Arnold’s two flicks.

Well, that was interesting. Now, back to work. Where’d my stapler go?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sick Day

I've been battling a chest infection for nine days now. Coughing, mucus, periodic dizziness, fatigue. Nothing seems to help. Eating right, plenty of fluids, plenty of bed rest, laying off the alcohol over the weekend. I think I'm on the upswing, when suddenly my symptoms worsen. The only bright spot is that I don't seem to have infected my family.

They sent me home from work today.

Wow. That's never happened to me. I felt so incredibly guilty (thank you mom!). But I finished my pressing tasks and headed out the door by 10:30. I surrendered and went to the pharmacy and bought Robitussin syrup. Took some when I got home; it seemed to alleviate my cough (my sides actually ache and my throat is bloody raw from a week-and-a-half of throat-clearing involuntary coughing). Wife left for work, after ordering me to do no work (but the backyard still needs raking!).

I got into sweats and an old t-shirt, made myself some manhattan clam chowder, watched the best parts of Borat on DVD. I took a long, hot bath, and finished reading The Lovers. I'll review it tomorrow - it's worth it. Then, I decided to lay down for a little bit and wound up sleeping two hours. I never used to be able to nap during the day, but the older I get, the more my body seems in favor of it. I'm starting to enjoy that weird half-asleep feeling of panic when you come out of delta and are not sure what time it is, who you are, why you're sleeping or what you should be doing. That happened twenty minutes ago.

I do feel better. Hopefully this will lead to better productivity, but, yes, I know, my body's telling me to take better care of it.

Message received.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cor Cordium

by Algernon Charles Swinburne

O heart of hearts, the chalice of love's fire,
__Hid round with flowers and all the bounty of bloom;
____O wonderful and perfect heart, for whom
The lyrist liberty made life a lyre;
O heavenly heart, at whose most dear desire
__Dead love, living and singing, cleft his tomb,
__And with him risen and regent in death's room
All day thy choral pulses rang full choir;
O heart whose beating blood was running song,
__O sole thing sweeter than thine own songs were,
____Help us for thy free love's sake to be free,
True for thy truth's sake, for thy strength's sake strong,
__Till very liberty make clean and fair
____The nursing earth as the sepulchral sea.

Poem that’s always fascinated me, though I don’t think I truly understand it. Yes, I know what Swinburne is saying, per se, but I haven’t mastered it in a sense of internalizing it. Does that make sense? I didn’t think so. I don’t think I even know what I’m trying to say. Other than that it is a beautiful poem. Other-worldly, almost beyond what mankind is capable. What images, what alliteration, what a celebration of visions! It’s even aesthetically pleasing to the eye simply looking at it printed on the page. A poem to be memorized.

“Cor Cordium” is the inscription on Percy Bysshe Shelley’s tomb. An interesting myth (allegedly Shelley told his friends but I do not know whether he committed it in writing in any letter) is that Shelley met his doppleganger. His twin. He met the creature (creature? man?) in Italy. It silently pointed to the sea, to the Mediterranean. A few months later, just before his 30th birthday, Shelley was to drown upon those waters in a boating accident.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Flat-out Stupidity

Back in those carefree 80s, my old pal Rich commented on a couple of celebrities forced to declare bankruptcy after tumbling from the heights of having it all. “Just give me a million dollars,” he finished. “I promise I won’t lose it. Not a cent.”

Well, maybe yes, maybe no. Sometimes it isn’t up to you, Ricardo, as we’re seeing in today’s economic climate. As I’ve been seeing monitoring my 401k account. But I agree with the gist of his remark. How can you lose it all? How can you throw it all away?

I just finished reading a newspaper article on Plaxico Burress’ current legal problems. I shake my head. What’s wrong with people like him? They have it all, often just handed to them, and they just don’t care. They think the rules don’t apply to them. Or perhaps they’re just too damn stupid to be entrusted with all the money and glory we give to them.

Do you know how much a million dollars is? Really? It’s $2,739.73 a day. A DAY! That’s a monthly mortgage payment where I live. In a couple days I could pay off all my credit card debt. One day would take care of my annual heating and electric bill. And the New York Giants reward this dope with a renegotiated contract worth $35,000,000 over 5 years. True, Burress was responsible for the game-winning TD in last years’ Super Bowl. True, despite an ankle injury, he was still the Giants’ top receiver last year. True, he’s routinely double-covered and still makes big plays. I don’t begrudge the man his money; I think he’s earned it.

It’s his flat-out stupidity that I can’t wrap my brain around.

I mean, $35 million! Let’s be simplistic in our calculations and break it down to $7 million a year. That’s equivalent to receiving $19,178.11 a day. A DAY! I’d fall on my knees and weep with joy to see that much of an increase over the course of a year. So that’s what this guy Burress is making, and all he can do is … everything he can do to see that he loses it all. Domestic disturbance calls. Restraining orders taken out against him. Failing to report police incidents to the NFL per league rules. Faking an injury. Carrying a loaded, unregistered weapon across state line and firing it in a crowded club where alcohol is present. Shooting himself in the thigh (instead of, thank God, an innocent bystander in the head or some such). Trying as best he can to get treatment while skirting laws requiring the reporting of gunshot wounds. I guess Plaxico doesn’t really value that daily 19 grand he’s earning. Maybe he thinks the money will always be there. Who knows?

I don’t know him, obviously, so don’t take this mini-rant as some sort of personal attack. What I’m trying to fathom is why anyone would act in this way when they’re making this much money. I mean, really, why?

I can’t come up with an answer, other than stupidity. Short-sightedness, instant gratification, hedonistic tendencies, peer pressure, who knows what else, but it all falls under the blanket term “stupidity.”

I think I’m with Rich on this one. Just give it to me. I won’t do anything bad. I promise.

Monday, December 1, 2008


If you go over to Cryptomundo and peruse some of the posts, particularly ones detailing videos or pictures that claim to be those of a certain massive, hairy nomadic missing link located primarily in the Pacific Northwest but allegedly seen in every state of the US and every province in Canada, you can’t help, when scanning comments, to stumble upon the term “blobsquatch.”

What is a “blobsquatch?” I think it’s obvious; if you’re clever you’ve already figured it out. But consider this: what isn’t it? It isn’t anything that can be described as:

Clear, concise, well-defined, obvious, apparent, evident, straightforward, unambiguous.

If your photo of the covert critter cannot be utilized as a visual aid in the dictionary definition for any of those previous adjectives, you’ve a blobsquatch on your hands. Practically, if I have to study a photo for longer than, say, ten seconds, or watch a video at least three or four times before I think I know what the mystery monster is supposed to be, I’m looking at a blobsquatch.

Besides, “blobsquatch” just happens to belong to that exclusive, underpopulated and awesome set of really cool words.

I thought for a while about posting some examples of blobsquatch (blobsquatches? blobsquatchi?) but decided against it. If you’re really as sad as I am and this interests you intensely, go to Cryptomundo and knock yerself out. But damned if I can help it, I just can’t get the word out of my mind.


Let’s play with some antonyms, here, for that list above of what it ain’t. In other words, what it is. How about: vague, obscure, unintelligible, ambiguous, indistinct. Works for me. What else is vague, obscure, unintelligible, ambiguous, indistinct? Hmmmm. Oh, I know!

Most of us are, some of the time. Some of us are, most of the time. I think I fall in the latter category. Shall I try to be more specific? More clear and well-defined, straightforward and unambiguous? Okay, I’ll try.

I think it has something to do with authenticity. The way those darned existentialists spoke of it. Capital-A, sometimes italicized. Sartre and Heidegger come to mind, but my sieve’s very leaky when it comes to philosophy; could be a couple other of those continental thinkers. From a religious perspective, Kierkegaard may have wrote about the problem of authenticity, or rather, the problem of living authentically. Basically, I believe they’re saying that when you fail to live your life with the full knowledge of [responsibility for your existence / death / God / whatever angle the particular philosopher is playing], you are living “unauthentically.” In essence, you is a blobsquatch, undefined, standing for nothing concrete. You’re not that city on a hill; you’re not that candle on the nightstand.

When you settle for less than you can be. When you decide not to speak out. When you file your dream away in that creaky metal drawer labeled “tomorrow.” When you drink or smoke or take drugs, or waste hours and hours in front of the electronic brainwashing time-and-money thief we call a television set. When you work at a job you despise because it pays the bills. When you stay inside because it’s raining out. When you do X because you’ve always done X and everyone you’ve know has always done X even though you’d really like to do Y. When you never spend some time alone, alone with your thoughts, and find out just what the hell you think is worth dying for.

You’re a blobsquatch.

And so am I.

Oh the humanity!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holiday Book Score

Yeah, yeah, I know, you're gonna throw in my face my promise not to buy any new (used) books until I've made a dent in the eighty or so sitting on my Unfulfilled Promises Slash Unrealized Potential shelf. And yes, you're right. But my weaker self must protest: I have to strike when the strikin's good! Many of these books I want to read are out of print, and need seeking out when the stars somehow align and opportunity's right for seeking out.

A while back I made a list of ... oh ... about 215 SF paperbacks I want to read over the course of my life. Good ones, classics, and tales long lost from memory that I read as a child. Stuff I could learn from, seriously, and become a better writer. Stuff that I can enjoy, that will allow me to fully enter a newer, wondrous world and leave this less-than-satisfying one, temporarily, behind. Not entirely dishonorable reasons, I think. I also think this world's a better place for such books as these having been written.

So, a big opportunity stared me in the face on Friday. Me and my stepfather (who's turned into quite a voracious reader now that he's settled into retirement) checked out not one but two used books stores in some nearby hamlets where my folks live in northeast PA. (Any by 'nearby', we're talking 45 minutes by car over winding, wooded roadways.) I remembered my list when packing on Wednesday, and with the wife and kids in tow, we hit the bookstores.

I scored three great books off the list. Shall I describe them? Oh, why not?

* The Lovers by Philip Jose Farmer. Don't know exactly what this is about, apart from the obvious I can imagine, but I've heard and read that this is an excellent (and short) novel. I've read two other books by the author, both of which (Dayworld and The Wind Whales of Ishmael) were highly imaginative and readable, if somewhat ultimately unsatisfying. I'm currently reading this one, so I'll review it later in the week.

* Time Out of Joint by Philip K. Dick. Gotta admit, the guy is good. Went through a PKD kick this time of year around 2003, reading a bio of the author as well as the novels Ubik, The Man in the High Castle, VALIS, and an anthology of short stories. Weird, paranoid, imaginative. Works better on a 'meta-level' than as run-of-the-mill SF, if you know what I mean. I'm not sure I do, but some of his stuff is really, really good and some is merely okay. Next on deck.

* Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison. Ellison's somewhat of a blowhard, in my limited experience, having only written one truly great work (the novella A Boy and His Dog). I've tried other anthologies of his short story work and it's not quite my cup of tea. But this anthology is so famous, or infamous, in SF circles that I had to seek it out. Over 30 stories, a Who's Who of 1960s science fiction, it is said that this anthology revolutionized the genre. I hope to get to it after the PKD paperback, and blog on the exceptional stories as I read them.

Not a bad score, for a couple of hole-in-the-wall backwater bookstores, eh? Such bookstores are more often than not the best secret little places to find the most valuable little treasures.

The Littlest One's Baptism II

Just wanted to share the best photo of my daughter's Christening with any and all who might be interested:

She looks angelic, doesn't she? I hope that purity and innocence stays with her an extra long time. (Spoken in an awed and proud father's voice...)

Saturday, November 29, 2008


I am terribly heart-sickened and disgusted by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai over the past two days. Such evil, evil men in this world. I would almost label such men, men who hide behind ski masks and automatic weapons, demonic. I would also call them sub-human. Satanic.

My heart bleeds for the father and daughter from Virginia killed in the hotel attacks. Someone mentioned that they themselves belonged to some "kooky cult" but all I know about them (which isn't much) is that they were into meditation. Which I am, in a certain fashion. They traveled to India to enhance their spirituality. Is that worthy of a death sentence? I can only shake my head, and can't help thinking about the relationship I have with my daughter and how it might evolve over the next ten years.

What sickens me most is the knee-jerk moral relativism that we often see here. There is something called "Manning's Corollary" to Godwin's Law. It states that:

In any online conversation about an incident of violence perpetrated by adherents of Islamic fundamentalism, the conversation will inevitably devolve into claims that Christians commit the same type and degree of violent acts, regardless of how demonstrably false that is; further, the claim will be made that past historical violence involving Christians means that present-day Christians are morally incapable of denouncing current violence involving Muslims.

and was formulated by Erin Manning, a co-blogger with Rod Dreher over at Crunchy Con. If you feel masochistic, take a look at this thread here.

Am I to be tarred-and-feathered by stating the bleedin' obvious: Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is most likely the greatest violent threat we currently face throughout the world. Not the IRA. Not the Buddhist Japanese cult that poisoned their subway system a decade ago. Not rednecks or "Christian" militia or neo-Nazis. Islamic fundamentalists, all of whom are Muslims. Not all Muslims are terrorists, obviously, but all Islamic fundamentalist terrorists are Muslims. I hope that Obama has the courage to enact the appropriate measures to continue to keep us safe over the next four years the way that George Bush, like him or hate him, has.

Two prayers:

Jesus, rightful Advocate of peace, Elegant Champion of reconciliation, Your victories echo harmoniously. You taught me the way towards peace, my assurance of congenial oneness. Teach me to carry the torch of peace, That it may reside within my heart and radiate in my surroundings. Through the Grace of Your power, transform the world into a Heaven. You are the only hope of mankind: You are the most gracious Peace Maker!


Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host - by the Divine Power of God - cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.


Friday, November 28, 2008

My Thanksgiving Story

It happened a couple of years ago. I was stuck in New York City, Wednesday afternoon before T-day, plane ticket burning a hole in my shirt pocket as the client agonized over our project as if he was deciphering the DaVinci code (good luck with that). The ticks of my watch grew steadily louder and louder as beads of sweat formed around my hairline. My colleague, obviously in the same anxious state as me, made eye contact with me, then glanced down to his watch. I shrugged, ever so slightly, eyes widening in learned helplessness.

Then, out on the Manhattan streets. The crowds, the rush, the bloodletting over scarce taxis, like lions stalking 'lopes on the tundra. The vision of my plane refueling, deicing, taking on passengers, churned my stomach while I fought for walking space on a busy Park Avenue. Oh! A cab, emptying out right in front of me! I hailed the driver, began loading my bags in - and was knocked down by a fat oaf with a massive suitcase. The cab sped away -

But somehow I made it to JFK. Then, coincidences of all coincidences, that same fat oaf sits down right across from me. I flash a sour look his way. "I know you!" he said, all smiles. "I know you. I never forget a face."

"You stole my cab," I said, surly but politely.



"Hey, I'm sorry." He thinks a moment. "Let me make it up to you. Can I buy you a hot dog?"

"No, thanks."

"A beer?"

"Thanks, no."



"Cheese sandwich?"




"How 'bout a pretzel?"








Actually, I'm not Neal Page, though I'm closer in temperament to him than Del Griffith. The above nightmare was taken from one of my all-time favorite comedies, and perhaps the greatest Thanksgiving film of all time, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Although my family has a tradition of watching Christmas Vacation after Thanksgiving dinner, as a way of priming ourselves for the yule season. Another side-splitting classic.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

In the Saucer Nest

AP, Port Huckettstown, FL, Mar 8 - Independent investigations regarding the recent discoveries of several "saucer nests" located just south of Horseshoe Laguna have concluded, says James T. MacPherson, director of Cypress Laboratories. The interpretation of the study's conclusions, however, are open to apparently heated discussion.

The investigation began as a joint venture between Cypress Laboratories and the University of Southern Florida-Macadam at the behest of the United States Air Force in an attempt to calm public fears of a "UFO invasion." Such fears began after a rash of sightings beginning in late January and ending in mid-February. Over 200 visual reports, combining with several radar sightings, flooded local authorities during those weeks, necessitating the involvement of the Air Force. At least three witnesses claimed to have photographs of the mysterious objects, and one claimed to have film.

On January 25 at approximately 8:30 pm, three reports came in to the Port Huckettstown police department within minutes of each other. All three reports detailed a "luminous disk-like object approximately a hundred feet in diameter." A "bubble-like protuberance" was reported on top of the "craft", which "glowed with a soft purplish light from underneath." Several cruisers were dispatched to the neighborhood in question and an immediate high-speed chase of the object began, lasting twenty-five minutes, circling about Jeffers County. Eventually the UFO was lost over Horseshoe Lagoon, a thick 800-square mile marsh inaccessible by automobile.

The next night over two-dozen sightings of what appears to be the same or similar craft(s) flooded not only the Port Huckettstown PD but also those of adjoining Caxton and Medina PDs. The Air Force was contacted but declined any investigation or comment on the matter. Activity within the lagoon increased, as residents and workers in the area reported more incidents over the next ten days. In total, over 120 reports came in during the twelve day period.

This prompted Dr. Morris J. Suptine of the University of Southern Florida-Macadam to send a team into the lagoon in hopes of making contact or at least capturing on film the mysterious object on high-speed film. The expedition set out with six men and was prepared to spend one week in the wilderness. During this week-long period, sightings continued unabated, yielding just under 200 complete reported incidents and two more photographs. Dr. Suptine's expedition, however, yielded no incidents nor photographs or film, despite reports from residents living on the outskirts of the lagoon.

Until the last day of the expedition.

Suptine's team came across several "saucer nests", over a dozen areas circular in size ranging from thirty feet in diameter upwards to one hundred twenty. Vegetation had been flattened in a clockwise pattern, most but not all taking on a brownish coloration. Areas of vegetation surrounding the "nests" appeared to have been clipped off evenly, as if taken for sampling. The team collected over one hundred photographs of the sight and some of the compressed and non-compressed vegetation as well as soil and water samples to take back for testing.

At the behest of NICAP, in agreement with the Air Force, testing would be jointly done between the University and Cypress Laboratories. High priority was ordered, hence the initial and somewhat controversial results.

Reports of more sightings trickled in over the next week, although at a slower rate, ending on February 16. 202 sightings in total were reported, seventeen from members of law enforcement.

"Initial test results indicate a high level of radiation," said James T. MacPherson, director of Cypress Laboratories. "Normal vegetation for this area yields one to three clicks; samples brought back by Dr. Suptine's team came in at close to a hundred clicks per second." Other findings estimated that the vegetation was crushed by objects weighing perhaps thirty tons. High levels of deuterium were found in surrounding waters. But the most controversial of the findings was determined by microscopic inspection of the plants themselves: apparently, the heat, pressure, or radiation, or perhaps some combination of the three or something else entirely, changed the DNA of the vegetation. "What we see here," MacPherson explained in his Mar 7 press conference, "is advanced mutation of a kind we've never seen before. We're thinking about a million years' evolution overnight."

More teams of scientists from both national and international universities, as well as a military-funded party, are planning on-sight expeditions over the spring and summer. "Bring 'em on!" said Horace B. Finmore, owner and operator of Hor's Hot Dog stand on Route 31 just outside of Horseshoe Lagoon. "You show me a scientist's badge and you get yerself a free hot dog!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Miscellania II

Tried uploading a couple of nice photos of my daughter’s christening but was having trouble with my two PCs and home and the one at my work. Will try later in the week on another PC …

Very much under the weather – functional but kinda outta it. Kept waking up last night with a dry mouth and a tight throat. I don’t like taking medication because I don’t want to pull a Heath Ledger (I used to take 4 different meds for my heart but now I just take a heavy dose of aspirin, some Omega 3 tablets, and a vitamin C, so I’m just being a little tongue-in-cheek here). However, help is on the way.

I am taking off Friday for a long mini-vacation with my family at my parent’s house in Pennsylvania. It should be long, restful, relaxing, the proper place to recuperate from what ails ya and get a new lease on life. My stepdad’s found a new used book store that I’m dying to patronize. And I hope to make significant dents in my reading backlog: Aquinas, a cheap-but-oh-so-good SF paperback, more pomo philosophy (ugh), some weird physics stuff, some weirder UFO goosebump-raising nonsense.

Anyway, a happy and blessed Dia de Pavo in advance, but I should be posting on a daily basis over the next couple a days …

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Littlest One Baptised

This past weekend was a whirlwind of activity for us, culminating in the christening of our youngest, now a little over two months old. Lots of preparation involved: naming and getting the assent of the godparents, scheduling with the church to get the priest we wanted, booking a hall, catering it, sending out invitations and collecting RSVPs, buying non-catered items such as water, juice boxes, and beer, decorating the hall with balloons and tablecloths and such, cleaning our house top-to-bottom, getting everyone’s laundry done, meticulously tracking all our income and expenses to stay within budget. (“Staying within budget” in this case means simply spending less than we did for our first one’s baptism, when we had significantly more disposable income.)

Ah, and now it’s over! But it was a good time, I think, for all involved.

It was a bone-chilling cold November, much, much colder than normal over the weekend. Windy and below-freezing. We huddled at the dining room table Friday night, radiators hissing and clanging, formulating the game plan. I would do the bills afterwards, then Saturday morning take the Little One with me on errands: Post Office, bank, dry cleaners, library, liquor store, and grab a couple of slices of pizza for lunch. When I got back, C headed out to get her list done: decorations, cake, tying up all the loose ends we could remember. I fed the children and put them down for naps. Then, around 4, we all loaded up in my wife’s company car (the first time all four of us were in one vehicle together) and drove down to the airport to pick up Nana. The flight was delayed but ultimately uneventful, and we detoured back home for a quick feeding and then out to Macaroni Grill for dinner for the adults. We returned around 10; Nana gave me a quick haircut, then my wife dropped her off at her hotel a few miles up the road.

Sunday early morning came very, very quick. Lots of last-minute rushing around, and you know how that goes: lots of things discovered that still needed to be done! I was delegated to take Nana at 8 am to the hall to decorate, then I drove back, showered, fed the Littlest One while my wife and oldest got the cake to the hall. We all met at the church at 10:15 for the baptism mass. Everyone we invited was there, and we nervously waited to see if our little Howler would stay true to her reputation.

But she didn’t! She was absolutely wonderful, absolutely delightful! She even smiled during the ceremony, and tolerated the oil and water. Once we saw the upside-down U, portent of firestorms to come, on her pretty little face, but she must have been fascinated with Father. The christening went without a hitch, and she was hoisted up in the air by our priest to the applause of the congregation. The sermon was funny, witty, entertaining as always. Photos afterward went smoothly and quickly with the slight exception of my oldest being a little fragile emotionally at having to stand and smile over and over when all she wanted to do was run up and down the aisles with her cousins.

We all caravanned over to the hall for two hours of brunch. The mimosas flowed! The children ran, fell, cried, laughed. We chatted with people we haven’t seen in a long time. My father-in-law gave an impromptu speech, prompting my wife to say a few words, too. The cleanup flew by with so many hands helping. A couple of our guests went back to our house for a couple of hours to relax and socialize, and watch both our local football teams kick some you-know-what. Nana took the Little One to the store and brought back some rotisserie chicken for dinner, then took the Little One back to her hotel for a special sleepover. My wife and I watched the video of the baptism on our flatscreen TV, then watched some video of our oldest, when she was just a newborn and a new toddler.

All in all, it was a great day.

Pictures to follow later tonight.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Dumb Ox

Finished reading G. K. Chesterton’s meditation on Thomas Aquinas, The Dumb Ox, and I have to say I’m left somewhat disappointed. I first read Chesterton around 2002 or 2003, a collection of essays whose title I forget, and was very impressed, right from the very first paragraph. Yes, he has a meandering way of making a point, and the sentences tend to run on, but that’s a stylistic quibble that probably reflects more on our contemporary culture’s attention deficit addiction than early-20th century verbosity. I tried to get through Orthodoxy and the Everlasting Man, but just couldn’t for some reason I can quite put my finger on. I did read his meditation on St. Francis and found it enjoyable though regrettably forgettable. I decided to read the slim book on Aquinas because, well, it is slim and I figured it would provide some good background info on the philosopher.

Hmmmm. Yes and no. The book is about a hundred-fifty pages, not that many words to the page. There is no discussion of Thomas’ theology and very, very little of his philosophy. The actual details of his life could be condensed from the book to a five page article and not suffer. What does the remaining 145 pages focus on?

That’s easy. Chesterton’s opinion of Aquinas. How humble he was, how intelligent he was, how pious he was, how unshakable his philosophy is, how he parried his opponent’s mental machinations against his great works defending the faith. A surprising number of words is spent decrying the state of civilization c. 1935 as compared to Thomas’ medieval world (an opinion I happen to agree with, but it felt out of place in this work). All well and good, but somewhat misleading when you realize that the a good majority of readers will pick this book with the same intentions I had: an overview of the life and work of a unique man.

So I feel I have to review two books here. As far as an overview of the life and work of a unique man, well, the book fails here. But it’s not really the intention of the author. Probably more likely due to the way the book is marketed. If you are interested in Chesterton’s insightful and well-read opinions on the man and his times contrasted with Chesterton’s contemporaries and their times, this is the book for you. It is engrossing if you allow for that.

So, it seems I’m 0-for-2 when it comes to a simple life of Aquinas.

Just as a side note, I’ve read somewhere that if you took all of Chesterton’s published works over the course of his professional lifetime, it averages to an output of something like 4,000 words a day. Let me repeat that: 4,000 words a day! And that’s not first-draft writing, either, but published words! When I was heavily focused writing my two novels, my goal was 5,000 words a week, about 1,000 words a day, and that was for mistake-laden embarrassingly cloudy first-draft writing. But 4,000 perfect words a day. That prodigious output alone is enough to rank Chesterton as an incredible writer.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

November 22, 1963

Forty-five years ago today President John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas.

What happened that Friday afternoon? Over 450 books have been written on the events of that day and those leading up to it. The bottom line is: we don’t know for sure, nor can we ever be certain of everything (or anything). Witness’s memories are notoriously unreliable; most of the primary participants are dead; evidence has been lost; investigations, particularly those of an immediate and on-the-scene nature, were botched; and there were countless conspiracies to cover personal and institutional behinds, so to speak. Chances are one hundred percent positive we will never know the full truth.

For many, many years I was convinced that something fishy went down that day in Dealey Plaza. I mean, there was just too much of an abundance of weirdness. To mention just a few items: Oswald’s silencing/murder by Jack Ruby; the fact that no written transcripts were produced from Oswald’s extensive interrogations; the limousine Kennedy was murdered in was flown back to Washington and cleaned and washed down; Kennedy’s body was illegally brought to Bethesda Naval Hospital for an autopsy done by doctors who were not forensic specialists at the behest of nameless military personnel; the whole "magic bullet" nonsense; Oswald’s crazy past (including a defection to the Soviet Union and nonchalant return a year or two later); the possibility of doctored photos of Oswald with the assassination weapon, the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle; the difficulty of a moving, receding target for someone of alleged poor marksmanship abilities; a man holding an open umbrella in mild, clear weather as the motorcade passes by; a third of the witnesses swearing shots were fired from the grassy knoll; strange hobos arrested but let go without any records of their identities or questioning kept; various ballistical and witness anomalies concerning Oswald and the murder of Officer Tippit approximately a half-hour after Kennedy is killed; the misplacement of the President’s brain (vital in determining bullet trajectories).

And that’s just to name a few off the top of my head.

Oliver Stone’s movie JFK really pulled me in and made me desirous to read up on the subject. The more I read, though, the more I realized that Stone was being somewhat hysterical, histrionic, and exaggerative. But there were definite, legitimate anomalies to the case. Books could be written about any one of those aforementioned weirdities and have. Add to it the fact that Kennedy had so many enemies, so many people and factions that wanted him dead or out of the way, and were in the capable position to do so if they truly wanted to do. The CIA, the Mafia, the Cubans, right-wing societies and wealthy individuals, members of his own political party. Heck, I even read a book where it was heavily insinuated that Richard Nixon may have played a role. But someone had to pull the trigger, be it Oswald, Oswald and others, or others with Oswald framed, and this points to where it all hinged for me.

The Zapruder film.

That was what convinced me. Frame 313, the head shot, the kill shot. I’ve seen it a hundred times, and it sickens each and every time. Kennedy’s still struggling with the throat wound, hands about his neck, leaning over towards his wife, when he’s hit. The front of the head explodes; bone fires straight up in the air; blood and brain matter in a pink mist fires up and backwards as the limousine accelerates.

It seemed certain and doubtless to me that a bullet was fired directly from Kennedy’s right and front, the area of the stone wall, the fence at the trainyards, and the grassy knoll. That implied a conspiracy, for there had to be at least two shooters.

But then I saw a special on television last week which proved to my satisfaction that what the eye sees, in this case, is not necessarily true.

The History Channel showed a documentary recently (last week - I forgot the name of the show and a quick search of their website was fruitless), where, to the greatest extent possible, the exact physical situations of the assassination were duplicated. The weapon, the bullets, the angles, the wind velocity, the limousine. A hi-tech company developed plastic skulls which replicated flesh, bone, and brain matter in terms of density and mass and other physical variables. Such skulls were placed upon metallic "spinal cords" and set in proper positions within the limousine. The marksman fired, and the results were analyzed, then compared with the Zapruder film.

The physicist Luis Alvarez, I believe, proposed that the explosion we see in frame 313 of the film is indeed the result of a rear-entry head wound. He bases his claim on the fluid dynamics, for lack of a better term, of brain matter when a bullet enters the skull. What we see in the explosion is not so much a bullet entering (though that is exactly what it appears to be via common sense) but the high-speed ejection of brain matter via Newton’s third law.

The tests from the documentary seem to prove this out.

I also read a book on the incident written by Mark Fuhrman, A Simple Act of Murder. Let’s leave the entirety of OJ out of this for this post. Fuhrman’s angle is to simply reconstruct the crime based only – ONLY – on the physical, provable evidence, as if he was presenting this to a judge. Slowly, he builds up a case, step by step, from the micro to the macro, finally focusing on Lee Harvey Oswald as the culprit. Fuhrman discredits the whole "magic bullet" slight-of-hand manufactured by a young Arlen Specter and reorders the sequence of the bullets fired and places much attention on a strange indentation in the front top center of the limousine’s front windshield. Still, it proves the implausibility of a grassy knoll shooter, and, by extension, a conspiracy.

The documentary and this book have made me come around full tilt, I suppose. But I’m still willing to be convinced otherwise, and relish tales of macabre conspiratorial goings-on. Odds that JFK was killed from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository: 97%. Odds that Lee Harvey Oswald was the shooter: 87%. Odds that there was a conspiracy: hmmmmmm. How about … 25%? Yeah, I know, something about the numbers just doesn’t add up. But I still say to you, documentary and Fuhrman book notwithstanding, something about November 22, 1963 doesn’t add up, either.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Son of the Gorilla Man

Ah the summers of my youth! Specifically, summer 1978. It was hot, dry drought of a season. I recall those days displaying my faux-football jerseys on my chubby physique with pride. My tube socks ended way up near the knees. My shorts with the cool white stripes on the side told everyone I was an athlete. And every day that summer, for six weeks, after a breakfast of Honeycombs I walked a couple of blocks down to the town high school for a couple of hours of Art School.

Art School was awesome. Each week was a different module, a different area of art we’d all explore (there’d by anywhere from twenty to fifty kids each year; I went for about five or six years). Drawing, painting, sculpture and pottery, tie-dye (it was the 70s), wood and metalworking, photography, and –


Hands down the most exciting part of the summer for me and my friends. First, the teachers would screen all the previous years’ movies for us kids. Then we’d be paired in groups of a half-dozen, and sent out on the football field or down the empty school corridors (empty except for the one class with the unfortunate summer-schoolers) or in a shaded tree grove to brainstorm ideas. After fine-tuning concepts with a teacher, we’d go with him to the prop room, get some quick instruction on how to run the super-8 camera, and were sent out on our way.

One movie that stuck in our mind after that screening was The Gorilla Man. A student somehow transformed into a gorilla and went on a killing rampage in the high school that previous year. Oh well. But … for some reason Jaws II was huge with us little kids that summer. So much so that a rival group started filming Paws, a nasty featurette about a psychopathic pair of disembodied gloves that go on a murder spree. But it was me who came up with the idea of a sequel to the abominable ape, beginning with the title, Son of the Gorilla Man.

We made it up as we went along. Two days’ of filming commenced on a Tuesday. There’s a thunderstorm, and our innocent protagonist is transformed between lightning flashes into the gorilla man’s son. How he’s related to the original, I don’t know or remember. But the bloodshedding begins!

I had one reluctant scene about halfway through the movie. And for some reason, it didn’t involve the son of the gorilla man. I was waiting for a bus, minding my own business, when suddenly and shockingly I’m attacked and brutally strangled by a fake spider. Through the magic of stop-motion photography the critter crawls up my arm and goes for my throat. It was a quick scene, a quick shoot, and I think my method acting holds up well.

By Thursday filming wrapped up (the movie probably ran ten minutes) and we began the audio phase. I remember being embarrassed having to fake scream during my cinematic demise. However, more importantly, none of us with our high-pitched pipes could get the ape’s grunting down. After much begging and cajoling our beloved art teacher gave in and put voice to the monster. Think of Mongo from Blazing Saddles going “Uh! Uh! Uh!” in a simian manner and you have the creature’s misunderstood wailings down.

Friday all the students screened their films, in a Cannes-like setting. I do not remember whether the applause for our motion picture was standing or sitting, or whether hats and programmes were tossed in the air to chants of “Bravo!” I can confirm that no vegetables were thrown at the screen.

Next summer my friend Ivor obtained a super-8 camera and, obviously aware of my art school film work, recruited me to help him out with a project. Ivor had set up a three-by-four foot mock model setup of a snowy World War II-era German countryside. My jaw dropped as I spied the entrenched fortifications, the little army men all in proper position, the tanks slowly tinkering their way up a cleared road, conflict awaiting the first firing of a weapon. We spent hours moving each and every piece minutely, microscopically, even, hitting the camera for a couple of clicks, and repeating the process over and over. For the climax we had the last remaining tank blast the last holdout holed up in the central tower of the German fort. I remember stuffing wads of toilet paper inconspicuously in and around that poor plastic soldier’s hideout. A flick of a lighter, then – ACTION! It was the only live scene in our movie, and, sadly, I don’t think it came off as well as you’d think from my description.

We still had some film left over, so we took a couple of GI Joe dolls outside and filmed them stop-action climbing trees, tables, etc. Then, I had another idea. I spotted Ivor’s rabbit cage, and something just clicked. We stuffed grass inside the uniforms of the action figures and placed them up to the wire mesh and let the camera roll. I can only imagine the sheer terror, the screams of utter horror that escapes these brave fighting men as the giant rabbit maws came down upon them, chewing mercilessly and savaging their bodies apart.

And thus in a triumph of glory ends my career as a filmmaker.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Imaginal Realm

Have we’ve been lied to? Lied to for so long we accept the lie as truth?

What am I talking about?

There’s an interesting proposition I’ve read recently that strangely popped up in two different books I’m reading. (Synchronicity of this type happens to me often; I really should just sit down one day and try to figure out why.) It’s the theory of the Imaginal Realm. I’ve read about a man named Kenneth Ring who’s written about it, but doing a simple web search I see that it’s been talked about for a long time now by many men, as far back as Carl Jung and perhaps earlier.

Lift your right hand up and study it closely. See the groves of your fingertips. Rub your fingers slowly together and focus on that touching sensation. Put your hand up to your lips: is it hot or cold? Bring your hand to your ear and snap your fingers.

Is this real? What you just did with your hand – is that reality?

Seemingly and somewhat shockingly against all common sense, many respectable thinkers would say, simply: “No.”

What do they mean by this?

The first thing to be familiar with is the concept of “reality” and “hyperreality.” A “reality” is your experience. I am not convinced whether or not there is one underlying or true reality; I would like to think so, that this reality is basically the playing field God has set up for us to experience our personal realities. Perhaps I am a product of our relativistic times; I don’t know. But I find it useful when thinking about such subjects to acknowledge that there are different levels of realities that we can move in and out of any time.

For example, imagine yourself as the last person on earth. Society has collapsed; you are scavenging through the field for food. Your days consists of finding subsistence and shelter. At night you sit by a campfire and look at the stars, alone with your thoughts. This is probably as close to basic reality, I think, as you can get without … applying yourself, let’s say.

Society. That creates another reality. Consider the web of interconnected relationships we have; consider the interactions between members of that web. Is that not another form of reality? Suppose someone quite close to you dies. Coldly analyzing this, is it not as if a major hub of that network has been removed? The web of interconnected relationships is split apart, and has to reconnect. This is the trauma of grieving. This is why some people say their world has been shattered when someone significant passes on.

Hyperreality is that reality that is created for us and by us. For various reasons and purposes. There is the political hyperreality, created and designed to maximize power and control. There is the economic hyperreality, created and designed to maximize profit. Political hyperreality puts a gun to your head and takes money out of your wallet. Economic hyperreality convinces you to open your wallet yourself and hand the money over. Television itself creates a hyperreality, used by both the political hyperreality and the economic hyperreality, furiously striving amorally for power, control, and profit. Cynical? Perhaps. But is this model true? Who knows?

Now lets move down out of the hyperrealities to the social realities, and then to the basic reality of survival mode. Is there anything deeper?

Yes. The Imaginal Realm.

See yourself again as that post-apocalyptic scavenger, laying your shaggy head down next to a warm fire, the summer constellations like jewels above your head. Your thoughts are wandering, your breath is deepening, your eyes are closing. Then – you dream.

Is our world of dreams a world of reality?

Some say yes. Ancient cultures placed a heavier emphasis on dreams than waking reality. This is part of the Imaginal Realm.

Or consider this: a man sitting at meditation, his body relaxed, undisturbed, forgotten; his very thoughts gradually fading, until a mind clear as an unmoving pool of water materializes. What does this man experience?

The Imaginal Realm.

Do you know what convinced me of the reality of this magical place? This mystical and mysterious realm that is completely foreign and strange to the post-modern American mind? It’s very easy. I visited that place just now, as I was creating this post.

I sit at the keyboard; there can be music around me or even people talking, it does not matter. I stare at the computer screen, and begin typing. Habitually I start out slowly, but then I enter the Imaginal Realm. The screen before me disappears. The music I’m listening to, the endless and meaningless idle chatter of others about me, it all fades. I enter a trance-like state (even for a few seconds at a time) and I am a conduit for the ideas that end up on the electronic page. I am a bridge from this Imaginal Realm to whatever level of hyperreality you are at right now as you read this.

I have been there and it truly is indescribable. The Imaginal Realm exists.

Oh, and turn of the TV, cancel your magazine subscriptions (a magazine is just a bunch of printed ads stapled together) and stop talking politics. Be more real.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Things that do not bother me

Being snowed in on the weekend

Overdue library books

Traffic after work

Taking a cold shower

Shoveling snow

Doing laundry

Local politics

Debugging a PC

Changing diapers

Packing for a trip

Living without a TV

Washing dishes

The existence of other belief systems

Seeing a bad movie in the theaters



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tribute to Leroy

The best word to describe him was regal, though other words come to mind: august, glorious, majestic, noble, proud, resplendent. Whether sunning himself on a shelf or strutting through his domain, he knew well how to carry himself. His tail a tall splendid plume as he marched from bedroom to dining room to kitchen to feast on his tender vittles, his soft pink foot pads tapping lightly on the linoleum, his mezzo-sopranic meows echoing through the empty house he guarded with his life. His name was Leroy, a white Turkish longhair cat with a couple of large brown spots, and he was our pet.

Born in that turbulent period of time we now refer to as the “early-70s,” he was subsequently abandoned into the violent grinder of the streets. His brother, Knickerbocker, had lost the tip of his tail in some unimaginable nightmare skirmish, but our pet found his way into our arms unscathed. In very short order he took an extreme liking to domestication. There was no hair brush, no nugget of soft table food, no paper bag worth exploring that he said “no” to. In fact, the only thing he did say “no” to was a bath.

One time he accidentally dipped his paw in his water dish; my brother and I hauled him room to room, his soggy limb dangling, resigned to such an ignominious fate, as we searched in dire panic for our mother. We found her, mourned that Leroy’s paw was wet, and she said, simply, “Just put him down.” Another time, during the hot Northern Jersey summer, we decided that Leroy should enjoy the freedom of the outdoors. Our pre-adolescent minds deduced that the best way to do this would be on a leash, like our neighbor’s dog was walked with. So we secured a loop of string around his neck, cut off about twenty feet of length, and took him outside. No, the cat’s neck didn’t snap, but it was the one and only time I saw a running feline do a backwards somersault.

As the years – and his belly – grew, he still retained regality, though perhaps of a type somewhat more “queenly” than “kingly.” By stages, he became more and more gentle, soft, then timid, arguably sissified, perhaps muliebral, possibly epicene. Perched atop his favorite window sill, keeping tabs on the birds who dared trespass on his lands, his girth swelling to fill the entire ledge, our cat ruled the apartment with the combined wisdom of the Old Testament deity and the goddess Gaia.

But I refute this alleged effeminacy in our pet! That cat could throw down with the best of them. He was brave and loyal to a fault. Never one to ignore the promise of an open door and a distracted human, he would swish out – I mean, rocket out – and sometimes disappear for days at a time. Those nights were unbearable; if you listened closely, you could hear the piercing, blood-curdling howls between the thunderclaps as felines did battle in our yard. Front legs declawed, Leroy needed a new tactic to defend his turf, and by gum that cat came up with one! He would fall on his back and kick out with his strong, chunky hindlegs, claws honed razor sharp from … well, they were sharp. Anxious and excited, my brother and I would scavenge the perimeter of our backyard early those following mornings, collecting tufts of white fur strewn about like an explosion in a cotton ball factory.

As we entered our teenage years, Leroy inevitably found himself in the crosshairs of those parties that happened not too infrequently when our parents were away for the weekend. Sometimes he made it through with only a blue magic marker moustache; sometimes he survived on toilet bowl water as we poured Zambuca in his dish to “get Leroy drunk”; most times he hid in secret places only he knew about. Perhaps a younger cat could have hung with us during those crazy 80s, but age was making its mark in his expanding torso and loss of grace. Once I assured everyone at a party that cats always land on their feet when dropped; sadly, this was not the case with the old sport.

College beckoned, and I saw less and less of my aging friend. Then, the inevitable. Leroy’s corpulence drastically disappeared; over a shockingly few months he grew thin, then emaciated. He lost command of his bowels, and we knew it was time. In some bizarre right of passage, I felt it my duty to take him to the vet that one last time. But I was not quite a man, yet, if by being manly one means suppressing all one’s feelings. That hard, cold November day we clawed at the frozen ground to put our friend in his taped-up cardboard coffin a foot or so under, next to his brother Knick, who passed away a few years earlier.

Images still – and always will – float through my mind every now and then of Leroy. How you would be playing cards on the floor and he’d nonchalantly walk over them, and pass gas as he passed. How we decided to “take Leroy for a Sunday drive” and the cat, terrified, crawled under the driver’s seat and released his bladder. How every Thanksgiving, which we assumed was his birthday ’cause that’s when we got him, I would brush him fifty or a hundred times, to his purring ecstatic delight. How we’d throw a paper bag under the Christmas tree, because if caught in the right mood he could spend a good chunk of time exploring it. The time when, as a young cat, he bit my brother, and my brother, as a young toddler, bit him back. The time when, also a young cat with young cat’s reflexes, he sniffed the corner of an end table. My mother kicked it, accidentally, and that cat leaped backwards lightning quick you’d think he heard a can of tuna being opened in the kitchen.

He was regal, though other words come to mind: august, glorious, majestic, noble, proud, resplendent. He was our pet, a great pet. Leroy was my friend.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Sorry ... so busy, so under-the-gun, so short-handed time- and money-wise. Pressures mounting and redlining. I have so much between these here ears that I want to get out on the electronic page but obligations and demands are keeping me from putting butt to chair in front of keyboard. Will try harder tonight to carve out an hour to write an entry or two.

In the meantime, let me acknowledge that I'm not a praying man. Perhaps that's my problem. Like most men, I suppose, I see it as a kind of weakness. Rather torture myself reading Scholastic philosphy than get down on my knees. That being said, this kinda sums up my perils of the moment:

Prayer For Courage

Dear God, give me courage, for perhaps I lack it more than anything else.
I need courage before men against their threats and against their seductions.
I need courage to bear unkindness, mockery, contradiction.
I need courage to fight against the devil, against terrors and troubles, temptations, attractions, darkness and false lights, against tears, depression, and above all fear.
I need Your help, dear God.
Strengthen me with Your love and Your grace.
Console me with Your blessed Presence and grant me the courage to persevere until I am with You forever in heaven.

Busy week ahead but some interesting, lighter posts on the way.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Been skimming through a book on the alien abduction phenomena, written through the eyes of a skeptical journalist, and came across something downright creepy:

... He tells of a female patient of his who, at four years old, had developed a phobia about her dolls: she thought they "moved at night."

Wow. This weirdly hit home as I have a four-year-old daughter. And it immediately brought to mind something that happened a couple of weeks ago. While looking for my daughter's nebulizer, I poked my head into the space between her window and the headboard of her bed, and was greeted with this sight:

Spooky. Eerie. Creepy. I think I froze for a split second; you know the feeling. It's "Bella," a life-size ballerina doll my mother bought my daughter a couple of Christmas' ago. But it sure scared the heck outta me that night.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


[A pleasant little ditty I wrote many, many years ago...]

We first saw your world aeons ago, but waited 50 million years, when you came down from the trees, to walk amongst you.

Such a beautiful pearl of a planet, girdled with white clouds, quite opposite in temperament from her tempestuous twin sister and her barren, cold cousin. Such beauty entranced us, as we are a race of pure and radiant beauty ourselves. Our desire enflamed, we fixed you firmly in mind. Our hunger burned, and we set about to make our acquaintance with you.

Now you know us not, though you do indeed know us, deep down, unaware of this fact. Today you sit there: conceited, egocentric, thinking yourselves to be impervious, thinking yourself to be alone in this vast Is. Which makes you all the more enticing, and all the more disgusting.

At first you knew us well, back in those days on the hot tundra. There were men among you, great men by your standards, who spotted us for what we were; men who taught you to fight back against us. Several sprung up seemingly all at once, vastly separated in areas of your globe. This caused us some consternation. A conspiracy? How could such a thing happen?

And we thrilled at the first opportunity for true sport. Though it grieved us, though it pained us, we took care of them, in time, swiftly.

You were simple prey at first. Almost not worth it. In your primordial stage, being little more than apes, we hunted you and you succumbed to us quite readily. You even did most of the work yourselves. But it was a bittersweet victory, and became very tiring very quickly. It was time for a new strategy.

We learned to vanish from your sight. In fact, we soon became quite adept at this, to the point where you ceased to remember us. That was the first part of our plan, and it was accomplished in a surprisingly short amount of time.

The second part was more ingenious. We became part of you. How easy to live with the enemy when they enemy - is you.

How it was done would take too long to cypher to your still-volving brains. But we entered into a trust with you, a noncommunicated pact, to the point where you felt you needed us - No! you felt you couldn't survive without us. Your very existence depended upon us. You accepted us as your own.

How could we have done such a thing?

You had no choice in the matter.

For we are the Eaters of Souls, the Devourers of Worlds. We roam the skies, make the galaxies our highways. What we are exactly would be difficult to explain. Think of a vastness, a cloud, so to speak, of consciousness. Still, but that limits us. We are not limitless, but have boundaries; however, those boundaries are far beyond what you can comprehend.

There is more than just the physical level of existence, the level of matter-energy equivalence. Go up a level in existence, if you can even imagine that. Actually, you all will, each and every one of you, at one point in your individual existences. But that is our exclusive domain. Whirlpools and eddies of the higher zone, we expand and engulf.

At this higher level of existence you become ... food, to us, although that analogy doesn't hold one hundred percent. It is more like a symbiotic relationship, but even that does not explain it fully. You create tendrils in our world, and such architecture sustains us and enables us to evolve.

The problem occurs when we attach to such structures. It is a push-and-pull, backward-and-forward struggle at this meeting place between both our worlds. You do indeed have more power than you are possibly aware of. In fact, we are almost at your mercy, should all illusions dissolve and camouflage tear away. But in this dance, this struggle for feeding, sometimes we get too greedy, and the host dies and is drawn towards us, where it is useless. Sometimes, mostly through a quirk in the structure, manifested as a form of discipline in your world, we cannot stay attached too long, or we can, but the connection is not strong enough to feed upon.

Sometimes our feeding is too much for the host. We become the unwitting masters of the host, and it causes the host to enter a frenzy of destruction. It is a delicate balance, this feeding of ours, a thing which still has not been mastered by as great an entity as the Ravage of the Mind.

But our mission is nearly complete. We have grown fat on your species, and have become stronger than we were for all our time in the Andromeda system, or the Tarantula system, or the Capiocan system, or the Orion system, or the - ad infinitum.

We shall leave our children with you, our spawn, to grow and take over our worlds-upon-your worlds. They will be young and not-as-wise. They will be hungry. They will not be as merciful as we have been.

- But why are you telling me this?

You must spread the message: tell all your companions that We Are Preparing to Move On. And when that rapture happens ...

Who are you? Who shall I say is speaking unto me?

For I am known as Remorse, and that is why I am speaking to you now. I will surely be thrown into the voidless for what I have told you, only to be replaced with something even more unimaginably horrible.

- What can be done?

There was a man who went among us, speaking against us in words even you mules could understand. He taught and fought against us, and he almost succeeded in his mission.

We had him nailed to a cross.

But if you listen to his words ...