Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Escaping a Room

Over the Thanksgiving holiday we all hung out with my uncle and his family. After throwing around a few riddles, including the two cat-centric mathematical ones recently seen on this blog, my 17-year-old cousin tossed this one out:

A man escapes from a room. It has four walls, a roof, and a mirror, but no windows or doors. How did he escape?

Now, he outright admitted the solution was kinda dumb, in the sense that you’ll groan when you hear the solution. Though that’s diplomatic; his mother said the answer is, I quote, “stupid.” Anyway, I did groan when he told me (for neither me nor my wife could figure it out).

The next day I got to wonderin’ about it. Could I come up with, say, fifty different valid answers to that riddle? Valid, of course, being a somewhat variable adjective. So, here is my list of potential answers to my cousin’s riddle. His answer, the true “answer”, follows at the end.

1. The room is a hexagon, and he walks out the space where the fifth wall isn’t.

2. The roof is sloping and he’s able to escape through those triangular spaces above the opposing walls.

3. There is soft dirt – “loam” as they say – instead of a floor so he is able to tunnel out with his hands.

4. The man is able to access a higher dimension to escape.

5. Through quantum tunneling on a macro scale, he is able to transport himself outside of the room.

6. He is a ghost. Ghosts can float through walls.

7. Like the superhero Flash, he is able to accelerate his molecular structure so fast he vibrates through the walls.

8. The man somehow has a tool from a vastly futuristic society which is able to warp spacetime so he can simply walk out of the room, now twisted like a Mobius strip.

9. He breaks the mirror and cuts through the walls with a sharp shard of glass.

10. Like Peter in Acts 12:6-10, the man is rescued by angels.

11. Like Enoch in Genesis 5:22-29, he is of particularly heroic piety and is “translated” out of this world and into heaven, not having to suffer death.

12. Like Ulysses Singing Bear, the protagonist of Philip Jose Farmer’s novel The Stone God Awakens, the man becomes petrified, outlasts the room by millions of years, is somehow revived, and thus escapes his prison.

13. The man has the ability to time travel backwards, and chooses the time immediately before the construction of his doorless, windowless room. He walks away.

14. Conversely, the man has the ability to time travel forward. Like H. G. Wells’ time traveler in the movie by the same name, he watches as walls of his prison fall down, most likely the result of war, probably in the not-too-distant future.

15. The man is abducted by aliens, by the Greys, who have the uncanny ability to move through solid walls with their victims at will.

16. He is a master of the Dark Arts, and can astrally project his body outside the room.

17. He reads really, really, really good books, and thus “no physical room can imprison his mind.”

18. Or maybe he commits suicide, and finds escape that way. (Though he might wind up in a much worse place.)

19. A wizard casts a “soul migration” spell and our man now finds himself inhabiting the body of a golem a thousand miles away.

20. Scotty beams him up (and out of the room) at the command of James T. Kirk.

21. A giant boy unwraps a giant box and pulls the man out of the room (Twilight Zone!)

22. There’s a smoke detector in the room. The man sets it off, MacGuyver-like, and judo chops the firemen who burst through the door. Then he escapes.

23. The man disappears in an eerie greenish glow, a la the Philadelphia Experiment.

24. He wakes up in a cozy, warm bed. “Ah, it was all just a dream …”

25. Or, as a corollary, the man is awakened in a slimy pod by Morpheus and crew – and realizes the “room” was in the Matrix

26. There’s an explosion and the man is thrown to the ground. When the smoke clears, Arnold, Stallone, Van Damme, Segal, the Rock, Wesley Snipes, Jet Li, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jason Statham, and Sigourney Weaver materialize, and rescue the poor guy.

27. The man dies in the room, fifty-seven lonely years later. His bones are put on display in a museum two-hundred-six years after that. Four-hundred-and-twenty-two years after that, scientists are able to retrieve viable DNA from the marrow and are soon able to grow cells. A hundred-sixteen years later, the man is cloned. Eight centuries after his death, a duplicate of the man is now in a lab, “escaped” from that room. But is it the same man?

28. Our trapped man is actually a seventh-degree Tibetan shaman, and after sitting perfectly still for seven months is able to telekinetically crumble down the walls of the room. Then he floats out.

29. Similarly, the man is an accomplished Indian fakir, able to slow his heartbeat, brain waves, and general metabolism down to an unobservable crawl. After some time passes, his cruel imprisoners think he’s dead, and remove the body. Then the fakir pops back to life and pulls a crouching tiger hidden dragon on his hapless captors.

30. The man dismantles the mirror, polishes it, focuses it, and is able to use it like a laser to polarize the light from that single dangling incandescent bulb to burn a hole through the wall.

31. Or he uses his rock hammer and tunnels out a hole behind the mirror over the course of thirty years, much like Andy in The Shawshank Redemption.

32. A disembodied voice shouts “Cut!” and suddenly a half-dozen men appear and dismantle the room, a cheap Hollywood set. The man goes to his trailer to prepare for an interview later with Ryan Seacrest on E!.

33. The man is a liberal and the ACLU gets him sprung in less than 24 hours. Later, the man settles with the builders of the room for a hefty sum.

34. The man isn’t a man at all, but a composite being made up of billions and billions of nanobots. These are micron-sized robotic entities. So he seemingly “melts,” and escapes through the teeny-tiny gaps in the plaster and wood and concrete of the walls.

35. His room is not to be escaped from, but to be endured, for he is there to be purified and refined. He is in Purgatory. Heaven is only a second or a millennia away.

36. The room is actually part of a massive AI supercomputer responsible for imprisoning the man. Our hapless fellow, though, is not so helpless. Craftily, he informs the computer that “I never tell the truth, and I am lying now,” he escapes when the computer, and by extension, the room, self-destructs and collapses.

37. The man is imprisoned in a room in Japan. The room, or dojo, is constructed of tissue-like paper. The man tears a hole and slips out into the night. Whether he’s then hunted down by ninjas is the subject of another riddle.

38. The man is actually Frank Sinatra in The Manchurian Candidate. His communist Chinese captors let him escape, so he can make his way back to the US and find himself in the middle of an assassination plot of a presidential candidate.

39. Let’s think about the physical room itself, shall we? It’s not explicitly stated that the roof touches the wall, the wall touches the floor, or even that the walls touch each other. So, the man squeezes out through an opening in the room.

40. The man is actually Dave Gilmour, and once he finishes the chords of “The Trial” the wall falls to pieces all around him. Then the crowd hoots and hollers like crazy, demanding encore after encore.

41. Twenty-four hours go by. A policeman enters, says, “Okay, son, you’re detoxed now. You have a court date in three weeks. Don’t let us catch you outside again doing drugs. It’ll fry your brain.” The man then leaves the room, noticing for the first time that it was white and padded.

42. The man is illusionist and magician Chriss Angel, and he just mind-freaked us by escaping from the room without any of us figuring out just how the heck he did it.

43. Perhaps we need to look at that word “room” in a metaphorical sense. Maybe it stands for the “body,” and the lack of doors or windows symbolizes our inhibited sensations of true material reality. In that case, all I can suggest is that the man seriously meditate and live a life of extreme asceticism a la the Desert Fathers to “escape the room.”

44. Then again, perhaps the “room” stands for planet Earth, cradle of mankind. How do we escape? By pursuing, of course, a privatized, incentivized program of space exploration beyond terrestrial orbit.

45. The “man” is a mummy, a sarcophagus, the ancient dried remains of a Pharoah. Two or three thousand years later, Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter crack the seal and the “man” escapes, this time to a room in a museum in Britain.

46. Maybe the “man” is an semi-intelligent killer whale, an orca, and the room is the “tank” or “bay” he’s confined in. He escapes by befriending a young boy and later jumping over some large rocks to seek freedom in the sea. Oh, wait …

47. The room is actually made of glass. Like Bugs Bunny entrapped by that dopey giant, the man pulls out his Acme Glass Cutter, cuts out a silhouette of himself, and escapes.

48. The man decides to take a bite of the McDonalds meal he just happens to have, and Mayor Bloomberg and that dude who made the documentary SuperSize Me bust in – in the nick of time! – before all those triglycerides and saturated fats can get into his bloodstream.

49. The room I’m in happens to have a vent screwed into the bottom of the wall. I’m looking at it now. So why can’t this room have one? Then the man just has to get the grating off and shimmy his way out to freedom.

50. Ah! The whole setup – a man trying to escape from a windowless, doorless room – is a vision! The man’s having a vision of something terrible that’s going to happen to him in the future. In that case, heck, just realizing it is a big step towards not winding up imprisoned in a windowless, doorless room. Don’t go out on that date with the crazy chick. Don’t vacation in Phoenix or Mexico City, the kidnapping capitals of the world. That kinda stuff.


The man left through the open door frame. The room had no door, but all rooms have a framed-out doorway! Right! Right?


Monday, November 29, 2010

Play-by-Play Thanksgiving

1. Me, the wife, Little One, and Patch spent 100 hours at my parent’s spacious home in the peaceful PA woods.

2. Thanksgiving dinner was, as always, delicious and filling. My favorite: sweet potatoes. Crazy and loud afternoon with my brother’s family driving over. Little One and her little cousin got in trouble by spilling deer feed all over the garage floor.

3. Enjoyed satisfying Jets and Giants wins, plus a win by Chicago over Philly as a bonus.

4. Watched the young’uns have an awesome time with their grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. They truly are little performers, little extroverts-in-training, high-kicking like Rockettes and singing, running, flipping, somersaulting, laughing, and giggling all through the house.

5. Very proud of my oldest daughter, who read Sammy the Seal and Dinosaur Hunter with me for her November book report. Included were sentences describing three scenes from each book accompanied by very cute drawings of seals and triceratops bones.

6. Read 80 pages of Ben-Hur, and 220 pages of Hobbits, Elves, and Wizards, an appreciative literary analysis of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings by a professor who genuinely loves the work.

7. Also read one of my long short stories, “The Minnicks”, up in the loft. Quite satisfying and better than I remembered, if you forgive me the self-pat on the back.

8. A great Friday afternoon with my hilarious uncle and his family stopping by; listened to Young Padowan play his guitar for us. (Plus, I got to play it, too, which was fun.)

9. Group-viewed the classic Christmas Vacation, easily the best holiday-themed comedy ever made. A family tradition to watch it right after Thanksgiving, dating back to the early 90s. We pretty much can quote the darn thing line-by-line.

10. Little One and Patch got to see Santa at Papa’s golf club buffet. We snapped some pretty good digital pics, plus some of them in front of the Christmas tree. Captured this year’s card photo.

11. I drove home by myself Saturday night. Fed Indigo the Fish. Hibernated for 9 hours (still fighting a slight cold). Did my Eucharistic Minister duties Sunday morning, then motored back over to PA for Sunday afternoon and evening. Listened to a bunch of informative and inspiring books-on-CD in the process.

12. Got my hair buzzed short. And I mean short. But you’ve read about that already.

13. Scored a pair of awesome SF paperbacks from my outta-state used book store: Cycle of Fire (1957) by Hal Clement and Flandry of Terra (1957-61) by Poul Anderson. Read classic novella “The Game of Glory” from the latter novel one afternoon.

14. Laughed with my honey watching a half-dozen Big Bang Theory Season 3 episodes. It’s our current favorite show on the tube.

Overall, Thanksgiving for us is the best four-day sequence of the year. Can’t wait for next year.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Three Men and a Stairway

I just finished Book I of Ben Hur, the 1880 novel of which the famous Chuck Heston movie is based. The 432-page paperback version I’m reading has eight such Books. Book I deals with the birth of Christ as experienced from the peripheral players, such as the magi, the shepherds, Herod, anonymous Jewish folk in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and, of course, Joseph and Mary.

Two points I found interesting.

First, the three magi, or wise men, Caspar (called Gaspar in the novel), Melchior, and Balthasar. Now, they are never mentioned by name in the Bible. Nor is their number fixed on three. Tradition has given us their number and names, and, by extension, their places of origin. In Ben Hur we learn that Balthasar is from Egypt, Gaspar from Greece, and Melchior from India.

Upon their palaver after meeting in the desert west and south of Jerusalem, guided by the Holy Spirit, Balthasar expounds on their place in a historical context. After the Deluge, the three sons of Noah repopulated the earth. The lineage of the oldest, Shem, account for the peoples of the far, far east. The second son, Japheth, had descendants who repopulated Turkey, Greece, and lands to the north, presumably Europe. The youngest, Ham, has a lineage of descendants in Africa.

Thus, the dispersion of peoples after the Flood by Noah’s three sons is represented by the three magi:

Shem = Melchior = India

Japheth = Caspar = Greece

Ham = Balthasar = Africa

Second, the Star of Bethlehem. As the shepherds are resting their flocks in the cool night, they see a new star overhead. But its not a star, or at least a star in its familiar sense, for it does not seem to be a fixed, distant twinkling object. It seems to be over a distinct spot on the earth, a near spot. Something like a geosynchronous satellite, only instead of being 26,000-some-odd miles above, it’s only a bright beacon a mile or so up, in my 21st-century imagination.

But to the mind of a shepherd in the year 6 (or 4) BC, it appeared as Jacob’s ladder, the stairway to heaven seen by Jacob in Genesis 28. The mystical vision of the patriarch where angels traversed up and down a ladder or stairway, from the earth to heaven. Try thinking of that next time you hear the Star of Bethlehem mentioned during the mass readings and homilies this month.

Interesting, no?

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I’m still over at my parent’s house in the woodlands of PA. I’m stuffy, tired, sleep-deprived, and still bloated from Thanksgiving. Yesterday morning, cold and rainy, my stepfather took me to his barber’s down in town. Town is a 30 minute drive from their house.

For the past year my wife has been cutting my hair. I like it, but I don’t think she has confidence in herself. Or maybe she finds it too tedious. Anyway, it’s saved us over $300 by my reckoning. That’s some great penny-pinching.

Before that I had a succession of chicks cut my hair. The last time a man touched my hair was probably Mickey the Barber, an old Italian gentleman who buzz-cut me when I was six or seven. So it was with a little trepidation that I sat in the chair desperately waiting to get my hippie hairdo shorn off.

Also, it may have been a tactical error to walk into the barbershop wearing a Giants cap. This is Eagles turf. As I walked through the door, every man in the shop turned and looked me over. Good thing Philly spanked the Giants last week, or I might have left the barber chair looking like Cletus the Escaped Psychiatric Ward practiced his shearing on half my head.

I now have the shortest haircut I’ve ever had in at least thirty years. I’m happy with it.

So what do I look like now?

All right. See this guy?

Take the length, softness, and grain of his fur, and put it on this guy’s head:

And that’s me. That’s LE, Recovering Hopper, Unemployed Bookkeeper to the Stars, Unpublished Author of Philosophic-Theologic-Scienterrific Fiction novels.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Night of the Dragonstar

© 1985 by David F. Bischoff and Thomas F. Monteleone

I picked this and Guardian up from a local book shop to get a sense of the writings of SF author Thomas F. Monteleone. Way back in college I read a bunch of his short stories that really stuck with me over the years; I’ve read nothing else of his since. So it was with eager anticipation and the sneaking suspicion of a potential Guilty Pleasure that I plucked Night of the Dragonstar off the bookshelves for a reading.

Verdict: OK. Exactly what I thought it would be.

[minor spoilers ...]

Fairly early in the novel one thought popped up in my mind, and I think it essentially encapsulates what the story’s all about: Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama II meets Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. (Even though it was published five or so years before the Crichton novel hit the stands.)

That being said, it was a Guilty Pleasure. As my wife rephrased for me, “not high art, but entertainment.” That nails it, I think. I’m a very visual reader, so towards the end of the novel I was thinking that this would make an excellent Syfy channel movie. That also nails it, I think.

It’s a sequel, so there’s a lot of background that the authors have to fill in as the story progresses. It’s also probably the second installment in a series, as determined by the wide-open unresolved ending. I haven’t checked. We’re told a lot of what happened in the first novel mostly in a “press conference” setting, which worked, and in some chunks of exposition here and there, usually as a character is ruminating about his or her sexual and relationship dilemmas. There, not so much, but it had to be done, I suppose.

Apparently, an alien spaceship is discovered approaching Earth and is brought into orbit. The Rama-like object is a cylinder 320 km in length and 65 km in diameter. Inside, bizarrely enough, is a Mesozoic preserve, populated with the foliage and fauna of that era, along with, well, dinosaurs. Triceratops, stegosauri, T Rexes, an allosaurus and a brontosaurus here and there, even those little chicken-like critters that did in the old man in Jurassic Park. Piece by piece we discover that the first teams investigating the object, labeled the “Dragonstar”, met with failure of Crichtonic proportions.

But that’s all been solved by this novel. Indeed, there are science outposts on and in the Dragonstar. We are cooperating with a semi-intelligent lizard species called the Saurians. Things are going so well that one haughty Colonel decides to film a documentary within the artifact and flies all sorts of dignitaries and fish-outta-water soon-to-be victims up to participate.

The back cover tells us that – quite suddenly and unexpectedly – the Saurians go mad and embark on a feeding frenzy. Simultaneously, the Dragonstar arms itself with some type of force shield and seals itself with the couple-hundred humans trapped inside with the hungry dinosaurs. And while all this is hitting the fan, the ships engines come to life, propelling the ship out of Earth orbit to – who knows where?

This happens about halfway in. The remainder details how the survivors survive, regroup and respond to this unfortunate series of events. It ends abruptly with none of the great questions answered. But at least two major characters don’t make it through alive, which is enough to keep the reader on his toes.

Truth be told, I was expecting a more bloodthirsty novel, based on what little I’ve read of Monteleone. I mean, Jurassic Park was almost a horror novel in the gruesome deaths foisted upon the main characters for their sins of pride. Hubris plays a big role in this book, too, so there’s justification in the couple of deaths by dinosaur fang. However, it was remarkably subdued, almost as if the authors were going for a G rating. Which is okay, I’m not gonna pout over being shorted on gore, but I thought the horror aspect could have been played up much more to the novel’s success.

Overall it was an interesting concept that’s not as juvenile as one might first think. Is the artifact a seeding vessel or is it a species retrieval probe? Conceivably, could not the human race construct such vessels five or ten thousand years hence, to travel the star lanes, automated robotic ships containing labs and DNA and whatnot, both seeding humanity on suitable alien worlds as well as bringing back whatever life it might find? If not five or ten thousand years, then certainly at twenty-five or fifty thousand, no?

Interesting …

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Feliz Dia de Pavo

Don’t plan on spending much time on the PC today. We’re all up at my folks’ spacious, warm, comfy and cozy house out in the boonies for a relaxing four-day mini get-away-from-it-all. I just woke up from a 2-hour nap; I’m fighting a mild bug of some sorts with Dayquil.

What I do plan on doing, today, is:

Stuffing myself silly with turkey, potaters, carrots, cranberry sauce, and, well, stuffing.

But not so much that I don’t have any room left for pumpkin pie.

Or my daughter’s home-made cookies.

I want to make some serious in-roads into Ben-Hur.

And journey the by-ways of Tolkien’s Middle-earth, care of some literary analysis by one Professor Michael Stanton.

Of course, we’ll all be watching the Macy’s parade, currently in progress.

And I’m waiting in anticipation to watch the day’s football games, particularly the J-E-T-S later tonight.

But what I’m most thankful for, today, is a requiem from changing diapers!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Brooklyn Cat Races

My aunt’s Brooklyn brownstone has four floors. She has two cats, Butch and Spaz, who eat their Tender Vittles on the first floor. After chow, how many times can Butch race up to the second floor and back in the time it takes Spaz to motor up to the fourth floor and back? Assume they both run at the same speed with their bellies stuffed full of tuna leavin’s. See if you can do this in your head, without paper and pencil.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The UFO Incident

You can find anything on the Internet. Anything. I’m not going to go into whether this is a blessing or a curse (I lean slightly toward the latter view), but man am I happy we got us them interwebs.

I found something I never thought I’d see again.

First, some background.

The scene: One chilly November night, maybe fifteen years ago. My bachelor pad, ah, my unique, cozy, cocoon of character, my solitary abode after a full day of dealing with … people. True, it had no working heaters, so it was cold. But it was mine, so to speak. It was cheap, low-maintenance, and I had all I ever wanted in a domicile: a place for my books, a big teevee with a VCR, a massive desk to support my computer, a comfy tub to bathe in, a cavernous storage room for my dirty laundry and recyclables.

I remember I had the whole night stretched out in front of me. I had a six pack of Busch and a pack of Marlboro Lights with exactly six cigarettes left. One to enjoy with each beer. Okay. I found myself standing in my tiny kitchenette, leaning through the open window over the bar that worked as my table, watching the big teevee on wheels in the living room. Over the course of the night I consumed my beer and my butts in this position as I watched a pair of movies.

Simple, if somewhat misguided, pleasures.

The latter movie was The UFO Incident. This 70s gem was actually a teevee movie starring Estelle Parsons and James Earl Jones as Betty and Barney Hill. In September of 1961, the Hills claimed to have been accosted by a flying saucer while driving on a highway through the mountains of New Hampshire. Initially they had no memory of their encounter, but after nightmares and day-time flashbacks became too traumatic, they sought professional psychiatric help. Under hypnosis, the “true” story of their ordeal came to light.

They are the first (American) widely-known case of alien abduction.

I was glued to the set as Barney’s nightmares drove him to the edge of insanity. I was riveted during the spooky flashback scenes. I was creeped out by how realistic it all seemed to gullible ol’ me – despite the inherent cheesiness of the thing.

It may sound weird, crazy, or downright sad, but I am hard-pressed to retrieve memories of a better time I had all by my lonesome. I’m a loner; I like being alone; I’m comfortable with it. And this night one point five decades ago, a lot of things aligned to make it wonderful. No health problems, no money problems, no demands on my time, a nice buzz without getting trashed, and some weird, crazy, and downright eerie stuff on the tube to completely draw me in.

Again, simple, if somewhat misguided, pleasures.

As the years went by, I found myself thinking about The UFO Incident every now and then, maybe a couple times a year. I searched for the DVD, in stores and online, only to be saddened to learn it was never released in that format. So, I relegated it to the “Someday” file, sadly.

Then I found it – on youtube. Some dude posted it in ten nine-minute segments. Joy of joys! I have found you, UFO Incident! And though I cannot enjoy you under the same circumstances, I can enjoy you nonetheless. Yesterday, unable to sleep at 4:00 am, I tiptoed downstairs and watched the first three segments on my PC. I was immediately rewarded with a juicy glimpse of creepiness as the Hills are driving, passing a car with a flat on the road, and Betty hallucinates the stranded passengers are the Greys! Spooooooo-key!

So, you can find anything on the Internet. It could be a good thing (reunited with a long-lost memory) or it could be a bad thing (a tremendous waste of 90 minutes of precious life). Google at your own risk!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dates of Creation

I was thumbing through a pop-sci book on all things “universe”, and came across a couple of figures I found interesting. Of course, the dates from a faith-based point of view are presented with a smug smirk, but I post them here in a spirit of ecumenical “what if?” as in, “what if?” someone thinking along the edges of Philip K. Dick was right?

c. 13.5 billion years ago – Big Bang, date commonly accepted by the contemporary scientific community as the creation of the universe.

c. 4.6 billion years ago – Date commonly accepted by the contemporary scientific community as the formation of the planet Earth.

5508 BC – Year of Creation per the Eastern Orthodox Church (date adopted seventh century AD).

5490 BC – Year of Creation per early Syrian Christians.

4004 BC – Year of Creation as reckoned by Irish priest James Ussher in 1650 AD.

3760 BC – Year of Creation per the Hebrew calendar c. fifteenth century AD.

I like to think that the universe was created the second before I wrote this … or this … or this … or – … and everything that came before has been programmed into my mind – rather, my brain, floating in a vat on an alien starship in the transvoid tween the Milky Way and Andromeda.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Golden Age

He spotted a painting of a familiar cover – a book he head read in the eighth grade called The Scaling of the Xedrin. He had never forgotten the wonderful intricacies of the plot or the ingenious aliens Neville had dreamed up for that one.

“You know, I remember reading this one when I was twelve years old,” Phineas said, pointing to the painting.

“Ah yes, the golden age,” Neville cried.

“What’s that?”

Neville chuckled. “The golden age of science fiction.”

“Oh, you mean back in the nineteen forties?” asked Kemp.

“No, dear fellow. The golden age of science fiction is twelve. That’s the time when most of us discover it, and that’s when it’s best for us, right?”

- From Night of the Dragonstar, pg. 59, by Thomas F. Monteleone

* * *

Nice sentiment, very apt. Read it elsewhere by other authors, so the observation’s not unique to Monteleone. Nevertheless, it is true. I myself was absolutely fascinated with SF around that age, as I’ve written about many places here on this blog. I reveled in Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, Bradbury, Wolf, Goulart, Silverberg, and a dozen others during that year, and the ones immediately before and after it, in the closing years of the 1970s.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Notes from a Dream

Found on a scrap of paper in a desk drawer:

4:30 am, 11-19-1997 …

… Driving to K and B’s place – their suggestion I constantly take different routes to make my brain grow

… Escaping with the Elven girl by jumping down the thousand-foot slide – and her tossing $$$ to distract our pursuers

… Huge nacho cheese chips falling from the skies

… Dr. Beverly Crusher (!!!)

… Me and some guy crawling under a bug-infested porch to find lost poker chips

… Christopher Lloyd chasing Winona Ryder with blood in his eyes and an axe in his hands

… Two men, “Thomas” and “Skipper”, going back to their childhood orphanage. They are bitter, unhappy. They drink. Thomas is a heavy, nasty drinker. Skipper’s bitter over his grand-piano-playing dream that will never become reality … because he has a hook at the end of his right arm!

* * *

LE: What the hell was I drinking that night? And what was I watching before I passed out???

Friday, November 19, 2010

Obama Budget Cuts

I like videos like this. They’re witty, informative, enlightening – and suddenly you’re ticked off! This one in particular I like, because it highlights the notion that I’ve long held: They think we are stupid. Sadly, for the most part, they are right. Though stupid is kinda harsh; better terms would be: distracted, disinterested, naïvely-trusting, overly-stimulated, exhausted, uninformed. Nah, they think we’re stupid.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wilson Quote

From my current read, The Philosopher’s Stone, by Colin Wilson:

On the boat I had a brief attack of dysentery; but even this turned out to be enlightening. I woke up in the night feelings sick, and lay awake, trying to fight it off. The smallness of the cabin, the warmth, the sound of the man in the next cabin tossing in his bunk – all these intensified the sickness. Then I heard the sound of steps outside my door – a sailor or officer on duty, since he was wearing shoes. A few minutes later, I heard low voices that sounded as if they were arguing. My door was opposite a flight of stairs; they stopped under the stairs and continued the argument. One of them kept saying: ‘Don’t raise your voice,’ and the other said: ‘I don’t see why not. It’s none of your bloody business anyway …’ I gathered that one of them had been in the cabin of a female passenger, and the other had caught him coming out. After a few minutes, they went upstairs, still arguing in low voices. Then I noticed that my interest in their quarrel had made the sickness subside. I had stopped thinking about myself – and the sickness had vanished … I recalled a line of Shaw’s: ‘Minding your own business is like minding your own body – it’s the quickest way to make yourself sick.’ Why should it be? Why should thinking about yourself increase the sickness, and thinking about something else diminish it?

(... LE scratching chin, petting beard …)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Death Begins in Your Colon

Wow. Imagine my surprise at seeing this subject line in my inbox a few days back.

I had to open it.

Now, I won’t bore you with details – I mean, rather, disgust you with details.

Save for one. I just can’t help myself.

Apparently, in “many, many autopsies” of Joe Average Citizen, the colon seems to be 80 percent full of compacted, old fecal waste. This tends to leak into the bloodstream, washing toxins throughout your body, increasing the incidence of disease as well as severely hampering the body’s natural ability to eliminate.

You know, I’ve heard stuff like this before. Read a few books … mostly in 2008, when I went on a holistic healing kick (lotta good that did me) … that routinely expounded on this problem, usually in chapters dealing with detoxification, fasting and whatnot. I tend to believe it, though I am far from being an expert or even an informed interested party. I can’t see how regular fasting, increasing fiber intake via an increase in fruits and vegetables, spacing out meals, and drinking 64-plus ounces of water, can hurt.

But, regarding this particular email, I draw the line at colon cleansing, thank you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Guitar Work VI

a.k.a. “What’s LE now playing?”

The guitar I currently play is a no-frills Fender acoustic six-string, made in Korea. My stepfather got it for me, quite out of the blue, one Christmas – a very touching gesture, as I had been guitar-less for a handful of years due to theft.

Anyway, I keep the acoustic in a strategic location: first floor dining room northwest corner. Why is this strategic? Simple. It’s lies in the exact center of my house. Below is the laundry room and the writing office, above are the bedrooms. Connecting are the living room and the kitchen; the living room has a door that leads out to the front yard; the kitchen leads to the deck out in the backyard.

So, I pass the guitar spot about 3,417 times a week.

When I do, it inadvertently calls out to me, siren-style,

LE, LE, pick me up and play me …

And I succumb to the temptation.

* * * * *

What have I been playing lately?

1. “Get It Hot” (AC/DC)

I can play most of Highway to Hell, which was quite an eye-opening album (actually, a cassette tape) for Young LE to experience oh so many of those years ago. But that bluesy fill that you hear sixteen times over the two verses and choruses in this two-minute ditty always eluded me. Now that I know it’s basically just H-Os and P-Os on the DGB strings (chords: D, B-E-B-E-B) I can’t stop playing the damn thing. But I like it. A good example of beauty in simplicity.

2. “The Hook” (Blues Traveler)

Four was a CD I listened to constantly the summer of 97, I think, and for some reason I have no memory of ever plugging in my Les Paul and playing to it. Thirteen years past its due date, here’s me, fiddling around with some chords up the neck of my acoustic, and – hey! That sounds like “The Hook”! I drop everything down a whole step due to the shortness of the acoustic’s neck, and it’s a pleasing thing to my ear.

3. “The Wind Cries Mary” (Jimi Hendrix)

Absolutely love playing this. Once you know the chords it’s fun to just throw every type of fill in differing positions all up and down the neck. C – Bb – F three times, then G to Bb, then that ascending Eb-E-F thing alternating with the bluesy Db-Eb-F thing. Good times!

4. “Gimme Shelter” (The Rolling Stones)

I like plucking those intro notes based on the C# – B – A progression. I also drop the low E string down to C#. Other than those two minor points of happiness, it’s a kinda dull song; not sure how it’s gotten so symbolic and representational, especially since I wasn’t around for Viet Nam. Hearing it lately in those Call of Duty video game commercials, though, gives me some inkling what the song meant four decades ago.

5. Peter and the Wolf, “Peter’s theme” (Serge Prokofiev)

My daughter’s class is working on this piece in Music – they even have words to each of the character’s themes. Inspired me to pull out a long-lost children’s CD and playing Prokofiev’s work for the girls. So naturally I had to pluck along on the guitar, and now I play this through the house like some overweight Pied Piper. That’s how fun this twenty-note-or-so melody is.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cats! Cats! Cats!

A square room has a cat in each corner. Directly in front of each cat sit three other cats. Additionally, there is a cat at the end of each corner cat’s tail.

What is the total number of cats in the room?

Sunday, November 14, 2010



The hand of Christ has snatched us from a wheat field; the sower squeezes the handful of wheat in his wounded palm. The blood of Christ bathes the seed, soaking it. Then the Lord tosses the wheat to the winds, so that in dying it becomes life and in sinking into the ground it multiplies itself.

from “The Christian Vocation” by St. Josemaría Escrivá


Saturday, November 13, 2010


Henryk Gorecki died yesterday after a long illness.

Who is Henryk Gorecki?

He was one of Poland’s premier classical composers. A great thing about being into classical music is that it is virtually inexhaustible. Once you’ve listened to and assessed the hundreds of works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Copland, Debussey, Grieg, Sibelius, Dvorak, Liszt, Brahms, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Strauss, Schubert, Handel, Vivaldi, Ravel, Prokofiev, Mahler, etc, etc, etc, there are even more, lesser known composers to explore. I hesitate to call them “tier 2” composers, because, as in the case of Gorecki, their work is often incomprehensible in its ability to send chills up your spine. That’s how good it is, and you wonder, how come these men are not better known?

Some of the more obscure artists I’ve explored with satisfaction are: Jarre, Ives, Poulenc, Khachaturian, Faure, Glass, Satie, Janacek, Rodrigo, MacDowell, Kodaly, and Rautavaara. The problem is that there are not many of their recordings out there to sample. I like to test drive them by borrowing them from local libraries; if any work takes up residence in my head, I put it on a list to buy, usually at B&N.

A few weeks ago I read about Gorecki writing one of the most “Catholic” pieces of music ever – his Symphony No. 3, “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.” It was composed in 1976, and there is really only one major recording, done in 1992, which actually charted well and sold over a million copies. I picked it up based on the review of the piece I read, and it is extremely moving. In three movements, it depicts the loss between a mother and son, particularly due to violence such as war. The first movement details Mary’s sorrow at the Cross.

I’m listening to it right now as I write these words. Of course, I recommend it for any serious music fan who wishes to expand his range and receptivity.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Immortal

By Roger Zelazny, © 1966

What a pleasant surprise this book was!

Put simply, I was an actual part of the novel. I was there. I met the characters, I struggled with them in their tribulations, the fantastic, the gritty edge-of-your-seat brushes with nasty death, the intrigue. Though this world is not one where I’d like permanent residence, it was welcome escape for a couple of hours.

I can’t stress deeply enough how alive, how original these characters are. The novel is best described, I think, as a melange of travelogue, espionage, and apocalyptic dystopia. A colorful group of men, women, and aliens come together to visit “hot sites” in a post-nuclear-holocaust earth, with the fate of our fallen world in the balance somehow. In this regard it reminded me a bit of Gordon Eklund’s The Grayspace Beast. But Zelazny’s ensemble: Conrad Nimikos, mad scientist George and his wife Ellen, Diane or Red Wig, Hasan the assassin, Phil the poet, Don Dos Santos *, and, of course, blue-skinned Cort Myshtigo, alien from the world orbiting Vega: they leapt off the page at me, lounging fat in my mushroom-colored catcher’s mitt of a sofa, seized my hand and brought me forward to Earth’s future.

The writing is filled with genuinely witty repartee, smart and sarcastic without being sour, funny when unexpected and deep when you’re getting ready to run or fight for your life. The whole thing flowed for me, Csíkszentmihályi-style, and I fell into the story. We begin with an antihero – Conrad, this immortal – at a cocktail party, and shortly we’re knee-deep in the Zelaznian menagerie. The body of the novel concerns various vignettes on the atom-ravaged Earth: a voodoo ceremony, a trip to the pyramids, back to fragmented Greece which may or may not be the Greece of Homer and Hesiod. Rivalries and friendships form and break, twist this way and that, as factions in this octet debate whether or not the alien needs to be killed to protect the future of the Earth – and just what information is this hated Cort here to scoop up?

Excerpts that pleased me to no end:

She moved like a huge rubber doll, not without grace, stepping to the monotonous thunder of Papa Joe’s drumming. After a time this sound filled everything – my head, the earth, the air – like maybe the whale’s heartbeat seemed to half-digested Jonah. I watched the dancers. And I watched those who watched the dancers.

* * *

Hasan, though, came beside me while I was standing there, staring out over the suddenly swollen and muddy Nile. We stood together for a time and then he said, “Your woman is gone and your heart is heavy. Words will not lighten the weight, and what is written is written. But let it also be put down that I grieve with you.” Then we stood there awhile longer and he walked away.

* * *

Ellen is pregnant again, all delicate and big-waisted, and won’t talk to anybody but George. George wants to try some fancy embryosurgery, now, before it’s too late, and make his next kid a water-breather as well as an air-breather, because of all that great big virgin frontier down underneath the ocean, where his descendants can pioneer, and him be father to a new race and write an interesting book on the subject, and all that. Ellen is not too hot on the idea, though, so I have a hunch the oceans will remain virgin a little longer.

Plus the book has one of the best twist endings in the final handful of pages and one of the best closing couplets I have ever read.

Grade: A-plus, easy.

This Immortal is the novel version of the serialized novel And Call Me Conrad, which won the SF Hugo Award in 1965 (it tied with Frank Herbert’s Dune).

N.B. This is the fourth Zelazny book I’ve read, going back to when I was a pre-teen. The ones under my belt are: To Die in Italbar, Lord of Light, Damnation Alley, and, now, This Immortal. I read Italbar as a kid and re-read it around 1990; I read Lord of Light working the late-night help desk shift for Marriott a decade ago. Both are due for a re-read. Damnation Alley is the workable and definitely better-half of the cheesy 1970s movie of the same name. I also read the superb novella “The Doors of His Eyes, the Lamps of His Mouths” in a bathtub in Maryland. The Guns of Avalon sits on the shelf behind me, awaiting reading.

* What a great name! You know that Dos Equis guy, “the most interesting man in the world”? I don’t know his name, but I know a guy named Don Dos Santos would come as close to the Interesting Man as one could get.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Worst Books I Ever Read

Over the years I started many a crappy book. But these five (six) have the sad distinction of having been read cover to cover. All totaled, probably a hundred or so hours of my life that can never, ever, ever be recovered.

5. The Beast, by A. E. van Vogt

If you lined up all the SF books I’ve read (maybe 200, I’d guess), from the very, very best on down, eventually you’d come across that 200th book. And in this case, it’s The Beast, by SF master author of the golden age, A. E. van Vogt. This book has turned me off from exploring any other further books by this writer. I think it’s a novel cobbled together from a bunch of serialized novellas, but nothing added up in the final count. I kept waiting for it to get better, and it just never did. So call it the worst of the best.

4. Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth

Read this disgusting book as a result of high school peer pressure. Pure angsty garbage (accent on the second syllable).

3. No One Here Gets Out Alive, by Danny Sugarman

Not a bad book per se. But it had a tremendously wicked effect on me as a young lad of eighteen or so. Now I recognize Jim Morrison as an overrated poet and drunken second-rate singer. But back then I worshipped him and as a result, became a devoted hedonist for at least the next six or seven years, until I returned to college after dropping out. Set me back two decades, I think.

2. The Philosophy of History and The History of Philosophy, by Hegel

A pure intellectual exercise in literary masochism. Oh, and one I’ll never partake in again. A complete waste of time. Reading Hegel is like reading the transcription of a three-hundred hour conversation between two ex-professors in a lunatic assylum in a language you are struggling to master to keep your grade-point average above three-point-five or so. Like sleepwalking, I’d read five or ten pages without actually remembering a single word of them. Lots of anecdotal stuff about Romans and Greeks and “Orientals,” if I’m not mistaken, meaning the Jews, I guess. Very little made sense. A bad writer even in his native German, translated Hegel is, at its most simplest, one of the best insomnia antidotes known to man.

If you click on the “Philosophy” Category to the right and go back to this blog’s earliest entries, you can read of a young, wide-eyed LE’s first excited glimpses into German Idealism. (Which lasted about twenty minutes … )

1. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

The worst of the worst. Exponentially worse than the factorial of the previous four books. Forced to read it for a college class, a “Modern Fiction” lit class which also had the distinction of being taught by the most gloriously liberal of all the professors I’ve ever studied under. This book was agonizing to get through. So much so that it almost derailed my deep, abiding love of the printed word. A story that made no sense. Unlikable characters. Incomprehensible dialect. Morrison subscribes to the dictum, “never use five words where five hundred will do.” Her style, mercifully, has not been imprinted on my memory. However, there is a site out there on them internets which deconstructs her writing if you want to hunt around a bit. I won’t; I’ve already wasted twenty-five or thirty hours of sweet, precious life on this overrated piece of crap masquerading as high art.

* * *

Wow. I didn’t know I had that in me. What a cathartic experience ... I feel lots better now, thanks.

Back to some book loving tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


I’m not a big buff of the whole Titanic disaster. I know the basic details, seen a couple of documentaries over the years, saw the two very good black-and-white 50s flicks of the ill-fated ship. I also suffered through that fifteen-hour James Cameron-Leonardo DiCaprio film on an early date with my now-wife. When killing some time in a library while the Little One was in a Daisy scout meeting, I browsed through one of those big picture books on the discovery of the vessel.

Couple of points.

First, the thing that always gets me – always – whenever watching or reading about the Titanic disaster, is the lifeboat issue. There were over 2,200 passengers on board the vessel. The lifeboat capacity was only 1,178. Can you believe that? Who in their right mind and with good conscience could ever be satisfied with that (I’m referring to the ship’s owners, designers, and builders). How much time in Purgatory can satisfy such a decision? And the book informed me that, according to British Board of Trade regulations of the day, the Titanic only needed lifeboat space for 962, a calculation arrived at per her tonnage. It boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

I’m also always struck by the stoic courage and heroism of many of the men, most accepting their fate as the lifeboats filled with “women and children first.” Among these men are the captain of the vessel, Edward J. Smith, as well as financier John Jacob Astor and Macy’s founder Isidor Straus. Not so notable may have been the behavior of J. Bruce Ismay, Chairman of the Board of the White Star Line. After helping some women and children into lifeboats, he suddenly found himself at their side in relative safety.

But who of us can ever be sure how we will react in such extreme circumstances?

A third item about the tragedy never fails to sadden me. Many of the lifeboats were cast off partially full. The first boat lowered left with only 28 aboard, despite having a capacity of 65. One with a capacity of 40 left with only 12 aboard, 7 of which were crew. Most of these partially-full lifeboats also failed to return to pick up the dying in the icy, 31-degree water.

A pair of dates to memorize, if only to amaze friends during Trivial Pursuit:

Date of the disaster: April 14-15, 1912. The ship struck the iceberg at 11:40 at night on the 14th; by 2:20 am of the 15th, 2 hours and 40 minutes later, she sinks beneath the waves.

Date of the discovery of the wreckage: September 1, 1985. The Titanic spent 73 years hidden at the bottom of the cold Atlantic waters, 13,000 feet below the surface.

Should you ever be near one of those average, run-of-the-mill paper clips and a tape measure (happens to me all the time), you can envision this. The paperclip represents the length of the Titanic. Place it on a table, then pull out 21 and a half inches from the tape measure, straight up over the paperclip. That’s the approximate to-scale depth where the vessel lies, though in fact it split into two major sections.

In this scale, the debris field is approximately triangular with the bow at its apex. The height of this triangle is about five to five-and-a-half ship lengths with a base width of about two ship lengths.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What's Wrong With Space


Ready for a brief quiz, child of the Space Age? Okay.

Quick –

1. Name one current, active-duty astronaut.

2. Name the three remaining space shuttles.

3. Have you ever seen a picture of the International Space Station? (Y / N)

4. How much of the ISS is completed, as of November 2010?

( _ ) 50 %

( _ ) 80 %

( _ ) 90 %

( _ ) it is finished.

5. Name at least three countries partnering with the US with the ISS.

6a. The United States has a working project to send astronauts to Mars (T / F).

6b. The United States has a working project to send astronauts back to the Moon (T / F).

7. Between 1968 and 1972, 24 men have traveled beyond Earth orbit. In the 38 years since, how many humans have done so?

8. NASA’s view towards private and privatizing exploration into space is best described as

( _ ) enthusiastic

( _ ) officially neutral but generally supportive

( _ ) derisive

9. The youngest man to walk on the Moon is now 75 years old (T / F).

10. Name two current non-manned NASA missions. Okay, name one.

(partial source: Lost in Space by Greg Klerkx)

Monday, November 8, 2010


I watched Splice with my buddy a couple of days ago. Originally, when the flick came out, I wasn’t too keen on it. But after reading some reviews (and, I must admit, a strong desire to get out of my house), I decided to check it out.

You know what? It’s not that bad. As a matter of fact, it’s good.

Why?It’s weird, first and foremost. With immediate hindsight, I realized it’s a pretty decent and effective mixture of equal parts science fiction, horror, and suspense. Yes, it has it’s faults, some pretty glaring. But me and my friend chuckled out loud and made fun of them as we caught them. If you can forgive the movie its weaknesses, it’s a great film.

Hmm. Let’s see if I can summarize the plot in a single sentence that wouldn’t be red-flagged by a grammar school grammarian as “run-on.” How ’bout:


Geneticist Adrien Brody and his significant other go behind their employers’ backs to illegally to bring a new genetically modified human-hybrid creature to maturity resulting in unforeseen moral dilemmas, catastrophe, mayhem, and death.


Pretty good summation, I’d say.

Strong points:

The special effects, particularly the CGI, were satisfyingly convincing. That goes a long way with me. The critter mannerisms, behavioral patterns, biological development – all creepily authentic. There’s a great plot twist at the end that was nicely foreshadowed midway through – see if you can pick it up. I didn’t, so I give the filmmakers props for that. Finally, and boy do I hate to say this, but I liked Adrien Brody in this flick.

The not-so-strong points:

Primarily Brody’s chick. She suffers from a chronic case of horror movie dumbth. Every decision she makes – and she wears the pants in their relationship – every single one is ethically wrong and usually leads deeper and deeper down the path of no return. Think she’s responsible for at least three or four character deaths.

Splice also has the distinction of containing one of the most weirdest scenes I have ever seen (now a list of that would make a good blog post). Those of you who have seen it know what I’m talking about; for those who haven’t, suffice it to say it involves Brody and the hybrid doing a Patrick Swayze-Demi Moore Ghost imitation. The expression on my face during was probably reminiscent of Butthead watching a Kip Winger video.

But if I had to come up with some sort of ratio of good to bad, it’d probably be along the lines of 90 / 10 or 80 / 20. I liked it more than my friend did, but we both came to the conclusion that Splice is more Species and Alien than The Thing and Aliens.

I’ma gonna be generous, and give it an A-minus. I enjoyed it.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Pair of Fives

Top 5 Operas

1. Turandot (Puccini)
2. Das Rheingold (Wagner)
3. Russalka (Dvorak)
4. (tie) Falstaff / Rigoletto (Verdi)
5. Mefistofele (Boito)

Top 5 Metal Tunes

1. Sea of Tranquility (Galactic Cowboys)
2. (tie) Peace Sells / A Tout Le Monde (Megadeth)
3. (tie) One / Fade to Black (Metallica)
4. Bottom (Tool)
5. Meantime (Helmet)

Honorable mention: Number of the Beast (Iron Maiden)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pre-Tween Music


DADDY: So, what are your favorite musical bands?

LITTLE ONE (age 6): The Beatles! No, wait! The Eagles! No, the Beatles! (pause) I like them both!

DADDY: Okay. How ’bout you, Patch?

PATCH (age 2): (after much face-scrunching thought) I like – the Beagles!

N.B. At least the oldest didn’t mention the Beebs. I think I have a few more years of innocence with her … three or four hopefully, two or three most likely …

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bube Tube

Those of you who know me or who’ve read this blog with some regularity should be aware of the derision I hurl the way of television. I think it’s universally agreed that the majority of teevee programming is, well, to be kind, non-beneficial. At the very best most of it’s wasteful; at the very worst, it’s downright harmful morally, psychologically, and spiritually.

That being said, the amount of time I spend in front of the tube, recently calculated, is disturbing.

There are a handful of must-see teevee shows I watch, usually recorded on the DVR, throughout the week. Those and two guilty pleasures tally to six hours a week. Add to that two, maybe three football games, and I’m up to about fourteen hours. Toss in two movies a week and the total rises to seventeen hours. I watch about an hour (conservatively) of teevee news a day, and I DVR maybe one or two History’s Mysteries or Sciency-type stuff. Now I’m approaching the 25-hour per week mark.

As you can see, it all adds up. I encourage you to take a moment and consider your own viewing habits.

If we assume I average just under 7 hours of sleep a night, I have 120 hours a week to consciously live, to get everything done I want to do and have to do, to experience life. Teevee watching, that primarily passive zombie-like trance that’s so addictive, accounts for 21 percent of my waking life. If I can expect to live to, oh, let’s say 84 years of age, I will have spent 12 and a third straight, solid years in front of the tube. That’s something like 109,200 hours, depending on what you do with decimals in your calculation.

Normally it takes me about four hours to get through an SF paperback. Triple or quadruple that for a good, classic novel like Seven Pillars or Silence or Kim. But let’s say it takes me 40 hours to get through a book. No, make it 80. That figure of 109,200 hours of lifetime teevee watching thus translates into 1,365 books that could have been read instead.

Good Lord! And I don’t consider myself a heavy teevee watcher – at least until now.

But not all my viewing is bad. I mean, it’s not like I’m gonna watch 109,200 hours of Jersey Shore or Jackass. I try to watch things that are either entertaining or informative. But doesn’t everybody say that, when asked? What’s the cost / benefit analysis of watching UFO Hunters? MonsterQuest? Fox News? The New York Giants and Jets?

Perhaps I’m being too hard on myself.

Perhaps not.

Anyway, the original intent behind this post was to suggest …

The best-written show on teevee today –


The funniest show on teevee today –

The Big Bang Theory.

Most fascinating character on a teevee show –

Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory.

My two guilty pleasures –

Hell’s Kitchen and The Apprentice.

Best random roll of the dice –

Saturday Night Live or History’s Mysteries (tie).

Most show deserving to come back from hiatus –

Parks and Recreation.

Most consistently funny show of the decade –

The Office.

Best police procedural –

The Mentalist.

Worst trend in teevee production today –

ADD editing. Renders shows like UFO Hunters unwatchable.

Best technological innovation I use –

DVR. Fast-forward past the commercials and watch an hour show in 44 minutes.

Hey, if I just watched the bube tube from the DVR alone, that’d save me 3.29 years over the course of my life! (That’s a lot of commercial watching …)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Soccer Day

Here are some pics from a Little One soccer game, taken the third Saturday in October. Her team’s Orange Crush, and she’s the cute little blond bundle of energy in the center of each picture.

Waiting for the ball to drop …

Once more into the breach!

Follow the ball!!!

Hi Mom! Hi Dad!

Fighting for it in a sea of green!

A game well played!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Results


Well, it went about as good as it could, according to my lensing.

As I write this, the Dems hold the Senate, 49 to 46, with 3 seats still up in the air.

The House is firmly in the GOP’s power, 239 to 183, with 13 seats undecided.

The Republicans won a seeming majority of governorships (don’t have the exact number handy). A lot of states moving forward. Interestingly, New York chooses to go 2008.

Read about the “California Conundrum” on National Review Online last night. Since California elected Brown to helm her troubled economy (and kept Barbara Boxer, ma’am), we can expect the Golden State to float trial balloons for a federal bailout after their economy completely collapses (I give it eighteen to twenty months). The conundrum is that this House is not likely to be to interested in any state bailouts any time soon.

Pot initiative in CA failed, too. That’s a good thing.

Yes, I am ideological. I am conservative. But this election for me, like most of the electorate, from what I’ve heard and read in the past day, is all about the economy. It now appears that the aggressive Obama-Reid-Pelosi anti-business agenda is checked. (We still have a 60-day gauntlet yet to run.) Hopefully, business will loosen its grip on all that cash we keep hearing its hoarding. Maybe hire someone here and there. I have a list of a hundred businesses specific to my industry that I’m going to mass-mail with resumes and letters of introduction. Also have a few contacts in need of contacting. So maybe in light of these election results, a little bit of luck will now be in my corner.

All right – I’m sick of politics. I’ll listen to Rush and Medved today for some interpretation and a bit of gloating. Also want to hear Obama’s response to all this. But after today, I got a lot of more important stuff to attend to.

A few nights back I read something really eye-opening: an alternative to Creationism and secular Science’s standard theory of cosmic evolution. I need to re-read it to fully understand it, but I think a post about it will come by in a day or two.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Voter's Thoughts


I do not believe President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the members of my local Democratic party can solve our current economic crisis. Whether they lack the knowledge or the will is not a fruitful discussion. Nor is how much they may have contributed to the problem. Suffice it to say simply that they just can’t solve it, because they haven’t, two years into their ascendancy.

I do not believe additional government spending will stoke the fires of our stalled economic engine. Taking on even greater national debt and / or raising taxes to fund this spending will not spur economic growth.

I do not believe the government can create a single, lasting job.

I do not believe the government should bail out failing corporations, no matter how “big.”

I believe the best way to economic prosperity is to:

1. Cut government spending at all levels, no matter how small or large the cut, no matter how small or large the program. (Start with defunding NPR.)

2. Keep tax rates for all American citizens and businesses at the same rate as the past couple of years (in other words, do not allow the Bush tax cuts to expire December 31st). An even bolder proposition would be to lower them for everyone. Letting us keep more of our earned income allows us to spend, save, and invest more money in the economy.

3. Promise no more new, Big Government initiatives like Obamacare. Kill Cap and Trade, VAT proposals, Amnesty, even large social reprogramming. At least until 2013. Business needs stability – or at least a clear vision of the future – to survive and thrive. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it?

I believe we need the “rich”, however that is defined (and it’s not anyone making $250,000 – I think half a mill is a good starting point). I believe the aphorism, “I never got a job from a poor person.” I, like most Americans, want to be “rich” someday. Don’t you? What’s wrong with that? Do you think charitable donations will go up or down as more people begin to make more money?

Life is not fair. Life is a separation into the haves and the have-nots. But the solution is not to take from the haves at the point of a gun to re-distribute to the have-nots. (Believe me, I understand the urge behind this; I’ve flirted with it recently. The richest guy I ever personally knew happens to be the greatest grade-A jerk I’ve ever known, ever, and he treated me like dirt.)

The solution is to make the path easier for the have-nots to become haves.

Government must get out of the way in this process. Everyone must have the chance to succeed economically; government punishing the successful to subsidize the unsuccessful is not the solution. Remember, government is not and never has been part of the American Dream. For those who may have forgotten, the American Dream is the implementation and selling with rolled-up sleeves of a unique idea that creates value for others.

I am a great illustration of this. I am on the economic dole solely to keep a roof over my family’s heads. I do not want further hand-outs; I want a job. Further, I want someone to tell me they’ll buy my stories and not reject them because “no one’s buying in the SF market right now.”

I want to be hired by a company that sees me as an asset, as someone who will bring exciting and tangible benefits with him. Right now, too many companies are viewing me – and millions others like me – as a potential liability with a whole slew of government-mandated baggage attached.

I believe only one of the two political parties will make it easier for us to solve this economic stagnation (and that party only by default). That is the party I will be voting for today, straight down the line.

If you question any one of these assumptions of mine, please, please, respond. I encourage debate; I want to be convinced. Convince me if you think I am wrong.

Otherwise, I defy you to vote Obama-Reid-Pelosi-Democratic today in good conscience.

Currently, thirty-one people visit this blog on a daily basis on average. Why not spend a minute – just a minute – and leave a comment, anonymous or not, telling me how you voted.

More discussion on this topic tomorrow.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Five Million Years to Earth


Watched the Hammer SF movie Five Million Years to Earth (1967) last night. Surprisingly, for me, I had never seen the movie, save for the last five minutes or so. The vision of the “demonic” Martian (that’s a strange juxtaposition of two words, no?) at the film’s climax interested me since I first saw it a dozen or so years ago. TCM aired the movie a few days back, so I DVR’d it for Halloween Eve (pardon the redundancy) viewing.

Per Bob Osborne at TCM, the movie is “thinking man’s science fiction.” I agree, in that it’s more like the SF novels I read than yer average sci-fi flick. There’s speculation, a new theory of the evolution of man, a Big Unknown, inter-character conflict, conflict with the Man, and a series of ever-increasing-in-creepiness creepiness. I liked it; it held my attention.

They’re digging this subway station somewhere in England when the workers come across a skull. No, wait, more like a dozen skulls. Oh, and somehow it’s discovered that they’re five million years old, far older than any other previous proto-humanoid bone. So Science commandeers the dig and soon a pipe-like thing is partially unearthed.

This calls in the military. Specifically, the bomb squad, on the assumption that it’s an unexploded V2 rocket. This brings into conflict our hero, Professor Quatermass, with Colonel Breen. The Professor makes a series of deductions based on the eerie happenings, coming to the conclusion that the pipe-like thing is a spaceship from Mars, trapped on Earth when something went wrong during a mission to seed earth with their mutated hominids. Ergo, we evolved with more than a little tinkering from the cold-blooded insect Lords of Mars. Breen is of the staunch opinion the whole thing’s a propaganda fake from Nazi Germany 25 years prior.

The whole conflict between the two made me think of an imagined argument between Jim Marrs and Philip J. Klass, for those of you in the know.

Anyway, the ship begins to effect the local British populace psychicly, or telekineticly, somehow, making them behave like the vicious grasshopper Martians. Finally, it manifests itself as a giant glowing pure-energy visage of a Martian, replete with symbolic demonic horns. Something happens, a scientist sacrifices his life for the Greater Good, and all is well, but things will never be the same.

While not the greatest hundred minutes of life spent, I liked it. I did, I did. While some of the ideas were hokey and went a wee bit too far, it doesn’t insult your intelligence. Credit to the actors, I suppose. So, I’d watch it again, maybe pick it up if I saw it at the bargain bin in a local DVD shop. A-minus.