Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And the Winner is ...

Philip Jose Farmer.

After a bit of thought, I settled on PJF for my literary experiment. Now, I have no discipline to read a single author for a year straight. Even one as noble as Shakespeare (that hop lasted eight plays over three months). But my goal is for the first six months of 2013, to read this dude.

I’ve read a couple of his books over the years. The Lovers, perfect in its short length, had an M. Night Shamylan twist that literally gave me goosebumps. The Stone God Awakens and The Wind Whales of Ishmael created rich and vastly detailed worlds that overcame standard run-flee-fight-rinse-repeat plots. Dayworld led me through a world where you only get to live one day out of the week – and how much thematic potential is there in the simple feat of saying “screw you!” to that system and avoiding the Man as you journey through an entire week. (Though I think the plot involved a hunt for a killer who lived on random days – it was a long time ago I read this.) Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, not completed, made me doubt what was fiction and what was fact … if anything was, or is, in this “literary biography.”

But what forced the decision was the fact that I have never read a single word of the man’s two acclaimed series: Riverworld and the World of Tiers. Riverworld consists of a half-dozen novels written over a twelve-year period. There are also several compilations of short stories that take place in this universe. The World of Tiers is also a six-book series, only composed over a 28-year period. That’s about a million words (not counting the short stories), some of which are award-winning and award-nominated, all of which are worshipped in the SF nerd-geek pantheon.

I am very curious about this buzz.

I am also curious how this author will affect my own science fiction writing.

Especially since Farmer is noted for blending fiction with reality, literary characters with real-life historical figures, treating make-believe as history and, maybe, vice versa.

So, that’s the plan: January 1, 2013 to June 30, 2013.

Then, maybe I’ll explore the runner-up, Zelazny.

After, of course, penning a story where me and PJF travel to, say, oh, the Saturnian satellite Titan in an alternate universe to rescue a Space Princess and free Ulysses S. Grant, Pythagoras, and Victor Frankenstein from the Titanians’ icy time prison …

Monday, July 30, 2012

Off-Broadway Debut

And I don’t just mean Off-Broadway. I mean Off-Off-Off-Off-Off-Broadway.

Little One starred in her first play this past Friday – The Wizard of Oz at her day care / summer camp. And I do mean “starred” – she was the Wicked Witch of the West. Let me tell you something, and this is not just some proud papa talking: there were three big laughs from the audience, and she got the two loudest!

We knew about this for about three weeks now. Little One is very busy at camp. First thing in the morning is a 45-minute tennis lesson, and that’s followed by a 45-minute swim lesson at the town pool. She gets back to the day care center for lunch, and then the children work on the play, be it painting backdrops, making costumes, or rehearsing their lines.

Two weekends ago I even rented The Wizard of Oz from an adjacent town’s library so my daughter could do some “research.” Unbeknownst to me it cost a dollar to borrow a DVD from this library, and since I live a cash-less lifestyle (thank you, Mr. President), I had to use all my powers (good looks and charms apparently) to enable the librarian to let us have it. Then, lounging in the AC, we watched the movie, and to my amazement, Little One began quoting lines along with the Wicked Witch!

Before I knew it, Friday was here. Not a trace of stage fright or pre-show jitters from Little One. Well, she did have a fear they’d forget her at the tennis courts, as the play was slated to begin at 10 am. I made sure the front desk was aware of this when I dropped her off. Then, I went home, changed into my work clothes (I was going in to work a little bit late), got the video camera, went to the store for a single pink rose, and was one of the first parents to arrive, garnering a front-row seat. (The wife had a store tour with her boss and couldn’t get out of it, alas.)

The show lasted about a half-hour. It was really just a few scenes from Oz, performed by the second graders, with songs sung by a chorus of first graders interspersed. The children, all in costume, all read their lines monotonously, except for my daughter and the girl who played the Cowardly Lion (she got the other big laugh of the day). The bwa-ha-ha-ha! cackle of the Witch when she makes her first entrance came out of Little One with much gusto to the delight of the audience. And then, her “I’m melting!” scene, so heartfelt and so filled with anguish, became another audience favorite.

Needless to say, I was super proud of her.

I gave her the flower afterwards, as she basked in the post-show applause.

Bravo! May you have many more successes on stage throughout a long life, Little One!

(And I think Santa will be bringing you something by Eugene O’Neill or Tennessee Williams or – Willie Shakespeare!)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Patch Gets a New Mommy

Sort of.

Now that little Patch has come of age (she'll be four in six weeks), I have to alternate with the girls on Errand Saturday. Yesterday was Patch's turn, and we hit all the usual suspects: post office, recycling center, dry cleaners, library, B&N, pizzeria.

On the way back from the library we pass my eyeglass store. On the side of my eyeglass store is a huge billboard of a babe wearing glasses, pearly whites smiling a come-hither look.

"Daddy," Patch says as we drive pass, "did you see the lady?"

"The lady on the side of the building?"


"Yes I did. I bought my eyeglasses there."

A few moments go by and Patch remarks, "Daddy, imagine if you were married to her." (Again, she's three-and-seven-eighths years old.)

I smile and look at her in the rear-view mirror. "I can't be married to her, my dear. I'm married to mommy."

"Daddy," she says, scrunching up her face in exasperation, "I said, imagine !"

What do you say to that? For once, I kept my mouth shut and just laughed.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Life Intrudes

... on the Hopper.

I am in the middle of so many things at the moment. The day job is keeping me extremely busy. The children's lives are really flowing full-swing and taking up our time (birthday parties, plays, play dates). I'm equally divided in my reading - an intense interest in WW2 (in the current form of Ryan's A Bridge Too Far) as well as a quite enjoyable revisit to Middle-earth via audio CD. And of course, things to see and do with the wife. I find very little time to actually write of late, and when I do find the time, all those snippets of ideas that previously inhabited my head during the week vanish like my take-home pay Saturday morning.

Trying to find time to see the Batman movie (and review it). My to-do list nearly reaches the moon. I'm swinging wildly in my dietary habits - and so is my energy levels. My motivation peaks and ebbs (that there itself is a blog post why).

But, dear reader, don't think that I haven't been thinking. On the horizon, the following topics shall grace these pages -

Little One's Off-Broadway Debut
What I Learn About The Last Good War
Surfer Guy Self-Motivation
Lady Manganese
What Hopper's Plucking on the Gee-tar
This Dude At Work Lies Right to My Face (and Worse)
Patch Gets a New Mommy

and more!

So, I promise to peck-peck-peck away at the laptop on the dining room table tomorrow afternoon while the rest of the ladies are watching the Olympics. Mayhap I can bang out a couple of posts and schedule them to update at regular intervals. Mayhap I can write something witty about this annoying word "mayhap" I've just used three times in this paragraph.

Well, check back tomorrow. See ya then.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Question of Priorities

Last night we settled in to watch Hell's Kitchen on the DVR - yup, Hell's Kitchen. It's a guilty pleasure of mine, guiltier every season (I've been watching for six so far), and after every show I still feel the need to take a shower. Earlier in the evening I noticed Valkyrie - the Tom Fooz movization of the Nazi plot to assassinate Hitler - is on the History 2 channel. (Side note: at least one channel with "history" in its name actually shows programs that are, uh, like historical.)

I didn't notice that the wife had also pre-recorded ... Dallas. The reboot series.


The way our DVR works is that you can watch anything while you're recording something else. But if you choose to record two things at once, well, your S out of luck. You gots to watch one or the other of the two things yer recordin', and cain't watch no nother channel.

We realize this just as we're settling in.

Question: What did we do?

You have to put yourself in my shoes. The shoes I'm wearing as I'm facing the glare of my wife.  Realize first that pre-empting Dallas the reboot series is out of the question. So ... did we watch Valkyrie or stop it recording to watch Hell's Kitchen?

Ai Dios Mio!

I erased the Tom Fooz movie, rationalizing that I'll pick it up over the weekend at the library. And we watched Gordon Ramsey berate and belittle a group of incompetent and immature wannabe cooks for an hour like some German sergeant on the Russian front.

Does that qualify as reverse gauge symmetrical synchronicity?

Perhaps as an extreme sub-corollary anti-propositional preposition?


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Here Comes the Rain

A telescope of what I was listening to this evening, July 25th, 8:45 pm or so, twenty-one years ago. Though I probably had more alcohol, nicotine, and who-knows-what-else flowing through my capillaries at this point in the evening.

You Don't Exist

(Re-discovered this on my laptop's hard drive dating back to October 21, 2011. Don't know where I found it or who created it, but darn it, it still makes me laugh out loud to this day.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I've been listening to The Lord of the Rings on CD this past month and I'm nearing the end of the Fellowship. I'll have plenty of thoughts on the experience when I'm done (I guess in another two months, at the rate I'm pacing through it), but I just want to say one thing:

Spoken English, English English, is music to the ear.

Want an example?

Take the word evening.

The way I say, the way everyone I know says it, the way I've heard it all my life, is this way:

EEV-ning. Two syllables, accent on the first.

The way the British narrator of The Lord of the Rings CD says it, though, is magical. Listen:

ee-ven-ing. Three syllables, all subtly un-accented.

Say the word even. Now say it adding the suffix -ing. ee-ven-ing.

Almost as if it was a verb. I can image two medieval peasants working at a bench, fashioning some sort of spear or arrow. To be most effective, all the arrows or spears need to be the same length. So what the two of them do is even them all up. They are evening.

That's how my narrator speaks the much more common word for the noun gloaming.

And to me, it's sublime!

Monday, July 23, 2012

What if Shakespeare Wrote ...

A year or so ago I posted, here, a video of comedian Jim Breuer doing a bit about the hard rock band AC/DC doing “The Hokey Pokey.”

Well, a couple of days ago this came to my attention: What if Shakespeare wrote “The Hokey Pokey”? Sure, it’s old, it’s been circulating on the Internet forever, but man, I have to say, this verily made me laugh out loud.

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke.
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from heaven’s yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke – banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, ’tis what it’s all about.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Wuz on Deck

For those keeping track at home …

The Rising Tide, by Jeff Shaara

The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes

Exodus, by Leon Uris

Seven Days in May, by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey III

Hearts in Conflict, by Curt Anders

(and to keep me from hopping to the left or right …)

That should bring me to October or so. After that, I think it’s a giant all-Science Fiction blitz to finish out the year.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Colorado Theater Shootings

This is not the time to speak of politics.

Neither side in the United States, right or left, advocates murder.

This is not the time to speak of gun control.

Banning guns would not have kept the killer from killing.

Allowing citizens to carry would not have been a guarantee to save any lives.

This is the time to pray for the victims and their families and friends.

For the deceased, may they be at peace in the arms of the Lord.

For the injured, may they swiftly and painlessly as possible recover.

For the friends and relatives, may they have some measure of comfort, sooner rather than later.

For our society, may we soberly reflect on these events and not over- or under-react.

Lord, grant these intentions in the Name of Your Merciful Son. Amen.

This is also a time to talk about the mentally ill.

If you see anything suspicious, hear anything suspicious, feel anything suspicious, report it to some authority.

If you know someone who is troubled, speak with authorities.

There is no guarantee against random acts of violence in our violence-saturated society.

Being proactive yields the best chance of success.

Be purposeful where you sit.

Be aware of your surroundings.

Be aware of those around you.

Know how to react when everything falls apart.

And pray, pray, pray, pray, pray.

Every day.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gallows Humor

D-Day, June 6, 1944, Gold Beach, one of the five assaulted by Allied Forces with the goal of liberating France from German occupation:

“Boat after boat got hung up on the obstacles. Of the sixteen landing craft carrying the 47th Royal Marine commandos in to Gold Beach, four boats were lost, eleven were damaged and beached and only one made it back to the parent ship. Sergeant Donald Gardner of the 47th and his men were dumped into the water about fifty yards from shore. They lost all of their equipment and had to swim in under machine-gun fire. As they struggled in the water, Gardner heard someone say, “Perhaps we’re intruding, this seems to be a private beach.”

- from The Longest Day, “The Day”, chapter 2, by Cornelius Ryan

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yearlong Read-a-thon

Here’s a crazy thought I’ve been entertaining. Once I get all this war stuff out of my system (“war stuff” meaning this weird sudden fascination with literature pertaining to the Civil War and WW2), hopefully by the end of this year, why not spend a full year reading only one author. How would that influence me as a writer? As a thinker? As a creative force (albeit a poor and unpublished one)? As a man who sticks to a plan and sees it through?

I must admit the idea is tantalizing. Especially since it would cut down on this insane tendency to hop back and forth between authors and subjects, fiction and nonfiction, that at times – lots of times – drives me batty. (Hence that last sentence in the preceding paragraph.)

Here’s the fun part: Who would I select?

Well, obviously, if you’re going to spend a year reading one author reading as much as I do, you’ll be reading 25 to 50 works. So, first off, the author needs to be prolific. There has to be a bountiful fountain to sip from.

Next, the author needs to be someone you enjoy reading. Otherwise, the whole exercise becomes a study of sado-masochism.

Third, and perhaps most important, the author needs to be someone who can offer you something. Why spend 250+ hours doing something if you’re not going to learn from it? Life goes round but once, so let’s not waste a minute of it. Or at least not 250+ hours of it.

So …

I’m a niche reader, dozens of niches. Still, my first and foremost love is science fiction. So it would also have to be in that genre.

Science fiction … prolific… enjoyment … example …

The first writer that popped into my mind was the obvious choice. Asimov.

Buttttttttttttt … I just read two of his works, and although he’s written something like (I’m guessing) a hundred fiction novels, I’ve read the top ten or twelve, going way back to my youngling days. So, let’s put him aside for a moment.

Since I’m digging the hard SF lately, Arthur Clarke also bubbled to the cerebral surface. And although I respect him immensely and give him all sorts of kudos, I never experienced joy reading his stuff. Arthur, meet Isaac.

Heinlein. I’ve read my share of him, too, and he is also prolific, but I never really bonded with his adult stuff. Great writer, just slightly out of alignment with me. Rob, play nice with Arthur and Isaac awhile.

What about PKD? Well, I went through a Phil K. Dick phase about six years ago. Read Ubik, The Man in the High Castle, VALIS, an anthology of his short stories, a biography of the man. Read Time Out of Joint last year. So though he’s the SF-author-du jour these past decade (at least in Hollywood), I’m a little PKD’d out. Again, props and all.

Thinking back over my reading history, I come up with five authors that fit the above criteria and that appeal to me for this one-year-read-a-thon –

Brian Aldiss

Philip Jose Farmer

Frederik Pohl

Robert Silverberg

Roger Zelazny

All have their pros and cons. I’ve read a bunch of Silverberg and Zelazny off and on over the past couple of years. Currently really digging Roger, but I’m itching to read Rob’s Lord Valentine’s Castle (and finishing it, this time). I like Farmer but sometimes you drown in detail reading him, no matter how slim the work may be. Aldiss’s short stories electrified me as a kid, but I’ve never read any longer works of his (other than the pulpy paperback, Moreau’s Other Island). Pohl is great and awesome but intimidating in that reading him makes me despair of ever writing anything of greatness.

Oh, dilemma of dilemmas! What to do … what to do …

Acquisition Transition

The company I work for just bought another, smaller company in the same industry, and I will be playing a pretty large role in bringing the “new” employees on board. Now, we’re only talking two dozen employees (the new acquisition is only about a tenth of the size of my company), but so many aspects of this transition are still up in the air and will probably come down to the last minute that I will be very, very busy and frantic over the next couple of weeks. Which is good, I suppose, since busy = money in terms of overtime, and that helps keep Hopper’s six million creditors at bay.

It’s interesting to watch the demeanor of the two dozen employees we’re giving the opportunity to join our company: all negative. Fear, distrust, pessimism, lawyer-ly “gotchas!” when they fine-comb-brush the employment packets, outright belligerence (“what will my pay plan be!” “we might have to work skeleton shifts on holidays?”). Mostly normal, I suppose, having lived through the nightmare of New Management at my long-time place of employment, right around the time I started this blog, having felt many of the same things in spite of myself. In my office, now, I often bring this up and encourage patience and understanding as best as my lowly station can, but, man, is this front of negativity we’re facing such an incredibly draining obstacle.

I have the fortune to work for owners who are very forward-thinking, very much into the self-improvement and motivation game. It has filtered down into management and some of the employees, to greater or lesser extents. I’d estimate the morale here is 70 percent positive, as compared to about 15 percent for that other place I worked (once New Management really got rolling). The prevailing thought around here is that by our acquiring the smaller company, those employees have a great opportunity to make lots of money. We’re going to expand, drum up business, and get that place cranking the way it hasn’t in a long, long time. Complacency, self-serving side scams, and who-knows-what-else probably result in more than a little of that negativity front, unfortunately.

But fortunately for them, that’s all going away. And I recognize and understand that that’s something very easy for me to say, sitting where I’m sitting. But I also sat in their shoes, too, and it stunk.

Monday, July 16, 2012


© 2000 by Ben Bova

Like the turning of the tides, the cycles of seasons, or the rhythmic wobblings of the moon, sooner or later, inevitably, I return to my roots. I begin jonesing for some hard science fiction.

As a youngling, I got it from Asimov and Clark. Now, older and wiser, at least on paper, I get it from Crichton and, most recently, Clement. So a few weeks back, feeling that recurring urge, I plucked Venus by Ben Bova off the shelf and burned through it in four days.

A more magnified prelude, however, is required.

I first came across Bova late in my reading life (though I knew the name from the anthologies that speckled the SF wall in my childhood library). Sometime in the mid-90s I read his Mars. I enjoyed it, overall, but there were bits and pieces that nagged at me, little things that bugged me, stuff that made the whole read a chore instead of a pleasure. When I say I “enjoyed” it, I mean, it was a good novel, and had many good payoffs, especially from a hard science fiction angle. But the literary aspect, particularly the characters, made me want to hold a grudge against what could have been a great instead of a good book.

Well, I held that grudge for almost twenty years. Until Venus.

These books are part of Bova’s “Grand Tour” series. Each book has some aspect with the exploration or colonization of the solar system. Began sometime in the mid-80s, he’s still going strong over 25 years later. I find this premise intriguing. Ever since fourth grade I wondered tremendously about those other eight planets that circle the Sun.

The story takes place a little less than a century hence. Society more advanced than what I expected (space travel is the norm, rather than the exception it is today, and was with his novel Mars). There’s not much to summarize since it’s pretty straightforward, and therein lies one of its strengths. The plot’s fired quickly off like a pinball machine. The unwanted son of a business tycoon has to put together a mission to retrieve his dead brother’s remains from the hellish surface of Venus and win ten billion of dad’s dollars – or be cut off completely. There’s dad’s business rival out to beat the unwanted son. There are crew members with mixed motivations. And in the journey to that dead brother’s body everything goes wrong.

This is where Bova excels – the hard science and the pressure situation. You’ll learn a lot about Venus (at least our current understanding of the sister world, c. 2000), and whenever the author throws something speculative in, well, you can rest assured that that will become a plot point to add to the dramatic tension down the road. And the novel overflows with dramatic tension. No one is safe – characters you’d bet you’d be reading about in the final chapter die gruesome Venusian deaths. There’s at least an even dozen twists and turns, most of which you’ll never see coming, though to be honest, I chastise myself for not spotting them pages before they pounced upon me. But, man, do those cliffhangers keep those pages turning.

His Achilles heel, at least to my line of thinking, are the characters. I don’t like them, not in Mars and especially not in Venus. The main antagonist, the billionaire dad, was cartoonishly mustache-twirlingly evil. The protagonist was so wimpy and milque-toast-ish as to be completely unappealing, even after his predictable growth of character towards the novel’s end. Women with way too much testosterone. Yet while not likeable and mainly two-dimensional, they are still somehow a hundred percent believable. Perhaps it’s a function of the pressure cookers Bova relentlessly chucks them into that generates the sympathy I found for these people.

Another pebble in my shoe is the liberal tone of the novel: man-made global warning a given, common sense politics are those of the Green Party, just to name the two biggest offenders to stick with me.

Anyway, the bottom line is that the man writes convincing, engaging, suspenseful hard science fiction. And that washes away any nitpicking I can do with characters or background ideas.

Grade: A-minus.

I bought Bova’s 1972 non-Grand Tour novel, As on a Darkling Plain, and I might pick up Jupiter, Saturn, Titan, or Mercury, whichever the gods throw first in my path.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Unexplained Mysteries ...

Here’s the current book I’m thumbing through while grilling or watching teevee or waiting for the wife outside Starbucks –

It is awesome! It is the perfect book for me! A page-turner, a gold mine of interesting tidbits that now actually mean something to me as I know a little bit about the war the Greatest Generation fought. I can envision a handful of posts from this reading alone.

I told my wife about it. I said, “I will read anything as long as the title starts with three words: unexplained mysteries of. I’ve read unexplained mysteries of history. Unexplained mysteries of the universe. Unexplained mysteries of the 20th century. Unexplained mysteries of the paranormal. Heck, I’d even read Unexplained Mysteries of the Fashion Industry if you put it in front of me.”

Good reading in the very, very near future …

Saturday, July 14, 2012


“O Lord, Thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget Thee, do not Thou forget me …”

- Prayer attributed to Sir Jacob Astley at the battle of Edgehill in England in 1642, as recorded in The Longest Day, by Cornelius Ryan.

Late blog today due to:

Paying bills

Balancing checkbook

One load of laundry

Post Office

Recycling Center

Barnes & Noble

Two libraries

Two parks

Lunch at the best pizzeria in town

Essential two-hour afternoon nap

Playing video game with eldest daughter

Watering the lawn

Setting up the sprinkler in backyard for little ones

Getting little ones showered and hair blow-dried

Putting them down

Didn’t someone say that weekends were for Rest & Recovery? Was that guru Steven Covey or Jim Loehr? Anyone? Anyone?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Lore Office

Living in northern New Jersey, I’m exposed to a lot of New York accents on the AM airwaves. Now, although I am about to poke fun at a sub-dialect of New Yorker, “Lawn-Guyland-ese,” by no means do I think my own North Jersey accent is to any degree Shakespearean by comparison.

Anyway, I’m listening to talk radio the other day picking up my children from day care when a commercial for some law office comes on. It sounds purely and simply to my ears as “Lore Office.” This immediately got my brain thinking off on a tangent as I drove down the street, negotiated traffic, parked, and picked up the little ones.

Lore Office.

As in, “Hey, I need some info on the Elder Edda, and fast, buddy! Can ya help me?”

“Sure, sit down. Fill out this paperwork and we’ll have all your lore needs satisfied in no time.”

“What about pre-colonial Native American tribal legends?”

“Pre- or Post-, not a problem.”

“My brother-in-law’s cousin has contractual dispute with his business partner over who has greater powers: Ares or Thor – ”

“Our firm specializes in both Greek and Norse Mythology.”

“Do you bill by the hour?”

“We bill by the epoch.”

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rewrites Make The World A Better Place

Tolkien originally named Frodo … Bingo.

Aragorn’s nom de guerre, Strider, was first conceived as … Trotter.

Frodo’s friend, Meriadoc Brandybuck, a.k.a. Merry, narrowly avoided the literary disaster of entering the pantheon as …. Marmaduke.

Always, always, always re-write.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Don’t know why I thought about this today … but one of the most surprisingly witty things I ever heard said was –

Twenty-plus years ago, my singer was booking my band at a club somewhere in Jersey City or Newark. Our pre-Grunge post-hair-band band was called “Subtle Hint.” Since we were just starting out and were nobodies, we basically had to do all the legwork for our shows. But we did have to book the club a week or two in advance so we’d have stage time.

Anyway, making the call, the “promoter” – the old, drugged-out dude responsible for booking bands at the club – asked my friend the name of our band.

“Subtle Hint.”

“Any dots over the U?” *

Without missing a beat my singer says, “Just a dot over the I.”

And I, across the room and not really paying attention, doubled over in laughter.

* As in Motley Crüe

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Box of Worms

Patch had a dream last night a little after midnight; a nightmare that she was being chased by a ghost. The wife got out of bed and attended to that. I rolled over and fell into deep REM sleep.

Had many dreams, but one struck me in particular, enough so that I remembered it this morning and told all the girls about it.

Me and Little One belonged to the Science Experiment of the Month Club. One month we worked (in my little workshop – imagine that! – must be a holdover of my Mr. Fixit moment yesterday!) on a Chemistry Experiment of the Month, one month we worked on a Electricity Experiment of the Month. There were other experiments, too, just not as vividly set in my post-dream mind though.

What was the take-away from the dream was this: in every single Experiment of the Month, there was a box of worms! No matter what the month’s theme was, the company shipped me and Little One a box of worms! I remember reading the instructions, month after month, and realizing that this box of worms had nothing to do with the experiment. It baffled us completely what we were supposed to do with our box of worms.

Well, the ladies all had a good chuckle at the breakfast table this morning about that. My wife thought that was an excellent business opportunity – the Science Experiment of the Month! Get on it, she said.

Well, I don’t know about the economic feasibility of such a club, but my most perplexing business decision is –

Do I include the box of worms as a Free Starter Gift, or do I try to figure out what the heck is supposed to be done with them month after month after month?

Monday, July 9, 2012


My wife thinks the Apocalypse is on hand.


I went to Home Depot, bought a $5 part, and fixed our broken toilet!

I blogged about the gauntlet my upstairs bathroom made me run, here. All by itself it seemed to suddenly work properly. I washed my hands of it (note: those hands were basically clean, as I basically did nothing to it) and moved on.

Then it began its sadistic tauntings once more, about two weeks ago.

Finally I had enough. Well, actually, the wife had enough. She threatened to call the plumber. Me, visualizing that $150 bill already, pleaded with her to postpone her threat one more day. I’d go to Home Depot and buy a new part to replace the one I think was way past its prime.

The part was the flapper, and it keeps the water in the tank of the toilet, and lets it out when you flush the darn thing. My flapper was probably older than my marriage. It certainly was a lot lumpier, moldier, and warped than I feel. Like a down-and-out refugee from Gamblers Anonymous suddenly at the hottest table in Caeser’s, I let it all roll on the purchase of this new rubber stopper thingie.

And it worked! (note: I think. I won’t actually proclaim victory – this post excepted – until a couple of days go by and I don’t hear that darn terlet acting up again.)

So now I’m celebrating tonight. The wife is cooking me dinner. I may have control of the remote after the kiddies go to bed. Who knows – I may even get a good night’s sleep ...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Seven-Year-Old Teenager

Driving in the car earlier today with Little One –

Me: So, the Giants’ll be playing the Jets in preseason next month. Are they going to win?

Her: Duh.

Me: Are the Giants going to have a winning season this year?

Her: Duh.

Me: Are they going to make the playoffs?

Her: Duh.

Me: Are they going to win the Superbowl?

Her: Duh. They were in it last year!

The years 2017-2025 will sure be interesting ones here at Casa Hopper. Hopefully more interesting-funny as opposed to interesting-frustrating.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Alien Invasion!

Okay, I just watched a mediocre alien invasion flick this afternoon. Which I may or may not review in the next couple of days; haven’t quite decided. Anyway, it got me thinking of my favorite alien invasion flicks.

Here’s just a plain old list of my said faves. It’s more an insight into the inner working of The Hopper than an exhaustive and pseudo-persuassive article positing all the strong points of the featured films. So take it for what it’s worth.

In rough order, my top ten, strictly off the top of my head, are as follows:

10. Lifeforce

9. Independence Day

8. Mars Attacks!

7. Species

6. Dark City

5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

4. The Thing (1982)

3. War of the Worlds (2005)

2. Earth vs. the Flying Saucers

1. Signs

Keep watching the skies!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Founders Weren't All-Wise

What do you get when you take a religion’s holy book and remove all the










You get the Jefferson Bible, a cut-n-paste creation by Thomas Jefferson wherein the founder excluded all mentions of the supernatural acts of Jesus and various other events he felt were embellished by the gospel writers. No miracles, Resurrection, angels, genealogy, prophecy, or mention of the Trinity in this “bible.” Though in fairness to Jefferson, he did not intend for its publication, and thought it best used as an introduction to Jesus' ethics for Indian instruction (as well as his own self-study).

Don’t know why this popped into my head today; maybe thinking and reading about the birth of our country this past Independence Day. I’ve come across reference to the Jefferson Bible various and numerous times in my reading life, but have felt absolutely no desire to investigate it any further.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Weird ’N Funny

Or funny ’n weird.

Don’t know why exactly, but this picture had me laughing out loud this morning and smiling all day.

Courtesy of comixed.memebase.com (caveat emptor – I can’t vouch for the website; haven’t checked it out …)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Military Presidents

Since I’ve been reading a lot of war literature these past ten months (Civil War, Mexican War, World War II, a bit of World War I), I thought it might be interesting this 4th of July to find out which of our presidents served in uniform.

Of the 43 men who attained the Oval Office (Grover Cleveland is counted as both the 22nd and 24th President, the only man to have two non-consecutive terms), how many do you think served in our military?


My first uneducated guess was probably about a quarter. Maybe a little more. At least twelve, maybe as much as fifteen. Off the top of my head I could name the obvious ones: George Washington, Dwight Eisenhower, Zachary Taylor (he was obvious from my Mexican War reading). And I knew a slew had some military experience, like Bush Sr, Kennedy, Lincoln. That’s six. So I upped it two, two-and-a-half times.

How did I do?


Of the 43 men who became President of the United States, 31 served in the military. That’s 72 percent. A lot more than my maximum guess of 35 percent.

Want a ranking? Okay.

We’ve had three Generals of the Army become President –

George Washington
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Ulysses S. Grant

They’re followed by five Major Generals –

Andrew Jackson
William Harrison
Zachary Taylor
Rutherford B. Hayes
James Garfield (hey, he also came up with a proof for the Pythagorean theorem!)

Next comes four Brigadier Generals –

Franklin Pierce
Andrew Johnson
Chester Arthur
Benjamin Harrison

Five Colonels –

Thomas Jefferson
James Madison
James Polk
Theodore Roosevelt
Harry S Truman

Two Commanders in the Navy –

Lyndon B. Johnson
Richard Nixon

Four Majors / Lieutenant Commanders –

James Monroe
William McKinley
Gerald Ford
Millard Fillmore

Three Captains –

John Tyler
Abraham Lincoln
Ronald Reagan

Two Lieutenants and two First Lieutenants –

John F. Kennedy
Jimmy Carter
George H. Bush
George W. Bush

And, finally, one private –

James Buchanan

Isn’t that interesting? I had no idea. This Fourth of July, let’s remember to thank them all for their service to this wonderful, great country of ours!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Photo ID

Random Political Thought of the Day:

Things You Need to Show Photo ID For:

* Buying alcohol
* Buying cigarettes
* Renting a car
* Purchasing a firearm
* Applying for a job
* Having medical tests done
* Being randomly stopped at night by a law enforcement officer
* Withdrawing money at your bank
* Boarding an airplane
* Applying for a passport to travel to another country
* Checking into a hotel room
* Obtaining a mortgage (or)
* Renting an apartment
* Buying foreign currency
* Having certain prescriptions filled in certain states
* Getting a marriage license
* Getting a hunting or fishing license
* Registering at an Emergency Room
* Making an expensive credit card purchase
* Attending a book signing by Michelle Obama


* Applying for a library card!

One Thing That You’d Think You Need a Photo ID For But Really Don’t:

* Voting

Something doesn’t make sense here …

Monday, July 2, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Hey, I liked it. And the most surprised person to hear that is, well, me.

Going in I was a little worried. I might be tossing money in the gutter. Wouldn’t this make a better rental, part of my brain accused, or better yet, a freebie from the local library? But something about Abe Lincoln twirling a bloodied axe like a set of nun-chucks, beheading the undead Matrix-style, said to my very core

This will either be the greatest movie ever made or it will be worse than any abomination surfacing from the cesspool that is the Syfy channel.

Well, in actuality it was neither, though it was much, much more closer to the former than the latter.

I won’t go into the story because it doesn’t really matter. We could nitpick details of the flick; it’s flawed in that regard. It’s also flawed, to my line of thinking, relying on the tired cliché of the screeching-hissing-slimy-fanged vampires you see in every single vampire movie. Yawn.

But the genius of it all is, obviously, setting the tale during Abraham Lincoln’s lifetime.

For me there we two dynamics working here, two dynamics that just were not at odds with each other or, say, 180 degrees apart. These two dynamics were completely foreign to each other – like two distinct different languages like Mandarin Chinese and ancient ecclesiastical Latin. No – even that doesn’t come close to what I’m trying to say. These two things are completely incompatible because they have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Like womyn’s feminist poetry and Riemannian Zeta function analysis.

First there is the lush, plush, vivid and exciting glimpse into America as a young country, from roughly 1820 to 1865. Now I’m not certain what liberties were taken, but I forgive them all. The cabin in the woods, the river docks, young Springfield – all the way to the Mississippi at New Orleans and the battlefields of Gettysburg – all were gloriously filmed and looked wonderful in 3D. A runaway train whizzing through forest and mountain passes and over rickety wooden trellises took my breath away. In that regard, Abraham Lincoln is a festival for the eye.

Second, the fight scenes – and there were plenty, probably close to twenty of varying lengths and numbers of combatants. These struck me as utterly bizarre. Not uncomfortably so, because I am a connoisseur of the bizarre. To see Abraham Lincoln, the Father of our country, twisting in the air, slo-mo, like Neo in The Matrix, hacking down legions of undead bloodsuckers … well, I’m still shaking my head, and I still don’t know what to make of it all. So out of place, yet, perhaps, perhaps it just works. I don’t know. Verdict is still out. But the fact I can’t out-and-out dismiss is means it must count for something.

Being the amateur Civil War scholar I am (hey, I read eleven books about the conflict over the past year!), I have to admit to being kinda concerned whether an un-suppressible part of me would view the whole thing as sacrilegious. Blasphemy. Post-Modern hipness urinating on yet another cultural icon in its unquenchable quest for complete and utter moral desolation. And though, yes, 21st century attitudes judge the 19th century characters all throughout the tale, no, I did not find it overbearingly blasphemous. In fact, I think I detected an air of respect and pride on behalf of the filmmakers towards the titular character.

Bottom line: I had a lot of fun watching this flick. (And I generally hate vampire movies.)

Grade: A-minus.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Bigfoot (2012)

When will I learn? When will I ever learn?

Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, expect anything of quality on the Syfy channel.

Well, not that I was expecting quality. Entertainment, I guess, even if of the cheesiest of varieties.

But this movie, Bigfoot, with Greg Brady and that annoying Patridge Family kid, this movie just plain stunk.

And the horror of it all is – I stayed up last night and watched the whole thing!

Now, I enjoy me a bad movie. Back in the 90s I was a huge fan of Mike Nelson and his robot pals, for those of you in the know. Indeed a lot of bad movies, from my youth and even my adulthood, are very near and dear to my heart. But this movie …

- Nothing made sense
- Nobody acted like normal human beings would
- Bigfoot was not sasquatch, it was a King Kong-sized p’d-off head-bitin’ velociraptor
- The CGI was T E R R I B L E !!!

Yeah, I know it may have been made tongue-in-cheek, campiest of campy. But as I watched it, I didn’t think so. I thought I detected some smirky self-deprecating humor from Greg’s droopy face, but if I did, it was only the briefest of flashes. He should have done a Mr. Furley-grinning-at-the-camera!

To accurately sum up this movie I feel forced to use a word I never like to bring out here on the Hopper.

Bigfoot sucked.

However, the good Lord allows evil that good may come of it. I learned a very, valuable lesson. Yes I did. I learned that life is too precious, too valuable, every day and hour and minute, and that even every second squandered is a second we will never have again.

That’s my lesson from Bigfoot.

I hope you forgive my brevity. I had to write this quickly. I’m heading off now with my buddy to the theaters to see Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.