Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Resolutions

Three, this year. I do believe if I can make at least 25 percent progress in each of them, my life will radically transform for the better twelve months from now. Without going into the details, here they are:

(1) Improve physical health. The goal is ENERGY! It’s been a long, long, long time since I’ve had a surplus of it.

(2) Improve mental outlook. I really, really want to THRIVE each and every day, not just SURVIVE each and every day.

(3) Resume that elusive writing career. This daily blog is mere TACTICAL writing. I need to resume the much more satisfying and potentially rewarding STRATEGIC writing.

Well, hope you have resolutions to, and I wish you the best of luck with them.

Have a happy, safe, healthy
New Year’s Eve!!!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Hopper Best-Ofs !

Category: Best Fiction

Venus (2000), by Ben Bova

I (almost) literally could not put it down, reading it at every opportunity possible, every free moment over the action-packed span of a few days. And over every objection I could think of ...

Detailed for the SF buff, here.

Honorable mention:

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831), by Victor Hugo

If you ever visit Paris, you must read this book while you are there. I can't decide which propelled the experience into a higher level, reading the book while being in the City of Lights, or being in that wonderful city while reading the book. A fine distinction, I'll grant, but one that can only make sense to you truly if you find yourself in similar circumstances.

My humble yet excited review, here.

Category: Best Non-Fiction

The Longest Day (1959), by Cornelius Ryan

Summer of 2012 for me will forever be linked to the Second World War. A half-dozen books, World War Two in Color, a bunch of documentary DVDs from the library. Verily the greatest generation fighting the greatest evil in modern times. Ryan is a great war writer; this book brought those lethal hours and days unexpectedly to life for me.

Coupled with a review of one of his other, not-as-successful works, here.

Honarable mention:

The historical fiction of Jeff Shaara (1996-2006)

Yeah, I've read about him on the Internet, and he seems to divide people into two groups: those who love him and those who hate him. Me, not being an exacting historian, I find myself in the first group. His novels helped me to flesh out history and bring it painfully, emotionally, excitingly to life.

Hard to rank them, but I read Gods and Generals, The Last Full Measure, and The Rising Tide in the spring and summer.

Category: Best Short Story

"The Bicentenniel Man" (1976), by Isaac Asimov

A beautiful, tearful story from a master of Science Fiction. Absolutely wonderful, a forgotten gem from my youth.

Reviewed here.

Category: Worst Read

"Heart of Darkness" (1899) by Joseph Conrad

Just. Don't. Get. It. Read it back in 1989 or so, didn't get it then. Read some Harold Bloom commentary. Still didn't get it. Read the Cliff Notes. Ditto. Re-read it again back in April. What a waste of time. It must be me.

Review, for the curious, here.

Category: Best Movie

Hmmm. Hard to tell, nothing comes to mind, and I see quickly scanning my movie reviews at the Hopper that none really stood out like Limitless from last year. Scratching my head for ten minutes didn't call anything outstanding to mind, either. If I had to choose (and I feel I must), I'll say that I liked a bunch of westerns from TCM. Two in particular: Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957), starring Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, and The Big Country (1958), starring Gregory Peck and Charlton Heston. Oh, and as far as modern film goes, I liked Resident Evil: Afterlife, watched with my buddy at his home theater in prelude to seeing Resident Evil: Retribution at the movies last fall. My cinematic tastes run the full gamet.

Category: Worst Movie

Bigfoot (2012), "starring" Danny Bonaduce and Barry Williams.

A colossal waste of time. In fact, the biggest waste of two hours I threw away all year. It'd be better if I spent those two hours dead stinkin' drunk. Or staring at a wall in a vegetative state. Or reading one of those Obama autobiographies. Or reading Entertainment Weekly on the crapper. Or playing freecell on the laptop. Or reading some a bunch of lit grad student dissertations on "Heart of Darkness." Or - you get the idea. It was a truly bad rotten flick.

Review, for masochists, here.

Category: Best Hopper Phase

The Audio CD / Book in Conjunction

On a whim I decided to re-read Tolkien, though this time listening to it on audio CD as I followed along in the book. An odd, intriguing experience. Took me three solid months. Followed up by reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand in the same fashion.

The Tolkien Audio experience detailed, here.


The Civil War histories, part 2, February - April, October
The World War II histories - June - September
The Shroud of Turin exploration - January
The Jeff Shaara historical fictions - April - June, August

Category: Best Song

Oh! Can't forget this one! Though 2012 was not a musical year for me (don't think I even purchased any music CDs in the past twelve months), I'm going to have to say, based on stuff I've been listening to online and through the backlog of old CDs, the Song of 2012 would have to be ...

(drum roll)

En Bateau, by Claude Debussy

Betcha didn't see that coming!

Only cuz I find the melody a perfect combination of playfulness, freedom from care, and a certain degree of haunting nostalgia.

Can be heard here.

All right - 2013 - Bring it on!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Snowbound, Sorta

Keeping with their frantic, frenetic compulsion to panic us easily-frightened sheep, the Weather Men have us all believing the entire northeast corner of the US will be snowed in this weekend. So I head out early to get some snowbound reading, in my never-ending hunt to recreate the perfect snowbound reading day (winter 2002, when it was just the wife and I, and I read an entire book on the Apollo space program).

Actually, allow me to back up a bit. I woke up at 3:15 that morning, tossed and turned, surrendered to some heartburn (gotta cut out the turkey lunch meat and bread ... and, uh, the beer). Went downstairs to the office for five hours and went through bills at a glacial pace whilst watching The Day of the Triffids on youtube. Good times.

Little One had another little one sleeping over with her, so they and Patch were watching some Disney movie in the morning. I did the errands myself, including a library run to the most forbidding biblioteca in the county: er, the County Library. Ya gotta pay for a parking space there, and it's as close to urban as we get out here. Yet went I did, and scored a handful of intriguing tomes.

Then we went to my nephew's birthday party out in the sticks just as the snow was starting to come down. In reality it was hail, and there was no accumulation until we got to my brother's house about 25 miles north-northwest of us. There was pizza. There was cake. There was a lot of snow on the ground when we left. Took us over an hour to get home, and, let me tell you, it was scary. The Impala nearly failed us, swish-tailing and struggling up and down the icy, steep, winding hills that "the sticks" are known for. A plow almost plowed us off the road. It was a stressful, nerve-wracking trip home, but once I got home, I was happy.

What'd I get? What'd I get?

Okay, I'll tell you:

The Mammoth Encyclopedia of the Unsolved, by Colin Wilson. What a treasure for a crypto-para-ab-normal enthusiast as me! Plus, history's mysteries stuff. Leonard Nimoy would have an orgasm reading this book! (Ugh, sorry about that ...) And Wilson wrote one of my all-time favorite horror/SF novels, The Mind Parasites.

The Science of James Bond, by Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg. I'm a moderate Bond fan, but I love the way the authors take down some of the more, mm, fanciful aspects of the Bond movies / novels. Favorite chapter titled, "Some Thoughts About Secret Bases." As a potential Bond villain, this supplied a lot of practical information for me.

Strange Brains and Genius, by Clifford Pickover. Thumbed through it and it looked quite fanciful, chock-full of potential weirdity trivia that I need to pack into this blog more often. Read other books by Pickover, and he's always an interesting read.

Two books on religion, subject for another post early in the new year.

And a somewhat too-cerebral book entitled Many Futures, Many Worlds, a collection of essays on SF. And by "somewhat too-cerebral" I refer to hoity-toity literati who tend to drain the fun out of a subject (though one essay is written by Gary K. Wolf, author of my all-time favorite SF novel from my youth, Killerbowl). I'm really reading it to compile a list of short stories and novels I have not read yet but should. Halfway through, and that list includes -

"Nightfall", by Isaac Asimov (never read that classic)
"The New Reality" by Charles Harness
"First Contact" by Murray Leinster
Creatures of Light and Darkness, by Roger Zelazny
"Moxon's Master," by Ambrose Bierce
"The Lion of Comarre" by Arthur C. Clarke
"Scanners Live in Vain," by Cordwainer Smith (see comment for "Nightfall")
The Lost World, by Arthur Conan Doyle

So much to be read, so little time.

Anyway, while the girls were outside playing in the snow, my wife hands me the latest Entertainment Weekly to read. We've been getting this magazine for years; I think one of my wife's friends got a subscription for us one Christmas and it just keeps going. I always throw away renewal notices and bills, but the damn issues keep coming, week after week after week.

Well, this issue was the Best Of / Worst Of of movies, teevee shows, music and books, of 2012. I agreed with perhaps 75% of their assessments, of the movies, shows, music and books I was familiar with. Which was about a quarter to a third of what they reviewed. I am in agreement with the oft-voiced about that the culture is a cesspool, and I try to spend as little precious time as possible in it. I am truly sorry for the "culture" my children will inherent and, ugh, swim in. After reading this issue, my main take away point was - to get on the Best Of list you'd better be either gay or a liberal or both. But at least a liberal. Sigh.

Well, off to share a burrito and watch some TCM with the wife once the children are in bed.

My Best Of / Worst Of lists for tomorrow's post ...

Friday, December 28, 2012


Why is the ability to “multi-task” considered a virtue?

In my twenty-plus years of experience, multi-tasking short-changes everyone involved. Nothing gets one’s full attention: certainly, almost by definition, none of the multiple tasks engaged in near simultaneity. Because each task is not given full and undivided attention. Or it’s given such attention for however brief the period of time attention is focused on it before the interruption begins. And once the interruption is over, or once the interruption that interrupts the prior interruption is over, once attention returns to the original task, some degree of energy and will is needed to re-engage that original task.

It is the expenditure of the sum mental total of all these joules of “some degree of energy and will” that I find completely exhausting.

My job is predicated on accuracy. That accuracy affects – intimately so – over a hundred and sixty employees as well as the three owners of my company. Three other entities touch the data before and after it reaches me: the employee, his manager, and a third party outside company. (And sometimes other entities, too, if state agencies or the courts get involved.) I must maintain focus on the task in front of me, in essence, the accurate processing of this data. Or, if too many mistakes are made, I will soon be out of a job.

I get that I have to answer the phone if it rings. I get that if a manager runs in needing a fire put out, I have to help. I get that. I do that. But I have a low-tolerance for distraction and interruption, a threshold that I usually tactfully and tactically avoid but for every now and then. And every now and then, it don’t rain; it pours.

Don’t give me work where “multi-tasking” is considered an essential inherent factor in the process. Give me something to concentrate on, and I will do it better than 99 percent of the people out there, who’ve never honed such a skill due to all the time wasted managing interruption and distraction.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thoughts in Solitude

My thoughts arise and fade in solitude,

The verse that would invest them melts away

Like moonlight in the heaven of spreading day:

How beautiful they were, how firm they stood,

Flecking the starry sky like woven pearl!

- Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1817

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Yule Tidings

The Hoppers had a great Christmas. That’s it. Bottom line.

Our presents were watching the delight on the girls’ faces as they opened up gifts they truly wanted. Really helps now that they are at the age where they can write wish lists to Santa. Princess laptop, makeup case, purse, yo-yo, silly putty, Bug Out (a jenga-like game), a trio of dolls, and plenty of clothes for Patch. A whole city of Lego Friends, Yahtzee, Sorry game cards, Battleship, two sets of earrings, a life-size doll, and plenty of clothes for Little One. Disney and Pixar DVDs for the both of them.

Got the wife some comfy form-fitting slippers, an iTunes card, a gift card to the local jewelry store, and a bracelet (which she pretty much bought and gave to me, saying, “Wrap this and put it under the tree”). She got me pants, a shirt and tie for work, much-needed socks and undies. Ah, married life.

My in-laws also got me a $25 gift card to B&N. That in itself is a post, for a later date.

I had to work until about 3 pm on Christmas Eve. Then I drove straight up north to my brother’s house, and had lobster and filet minon (our annual splurge) with my family, his, and my parents. Then, opening of gifts for the little ones. My parents also got the wife and I a huge tome / DVD on the Louvre, one of the centerpieces to our trip to Paris seven months ago. That, too, may be a post, once I get through the several-hundred-pages.

Next day, Christmas, was l-a-z-y and luxorious! Nothing like staying in your pjs until late afternoon in the middle of the week (as long as you’re employed, that is). The girls actually got up at 2:30 am, but I put an immediate stop to that. Then they rose around 6:30, and let us sleep until 7:30. Do I have two angels or saints-in-training, or what? An hour of present-opening followed, then I made us all eggs for breakfast. I went upstairs and listened to a bit of Atlas Shrugged on the CD player (I know, I know … a major blog post forthcoming on all that). Which segued nicely into a two-hour nap.

Got up and watched a televised Christmas mass with the family, in lieu of the logistical acrobatics involved with getting the troops to the parish next town over. Not sure whether I need to confess this or not. Anyway, soon after, we all showered and went over to our friends’ house, about two towns south. Had a couple of mixed drinks and reveled in some side-splitting hilarity while the kids all OD’d on sweets and another round of present-opening.

And it was all over too fast. Got up this morning at 6, showered, made myself a sandwich, and got to work by 8 while the girls were all a-stirring. Then an hour drive home (I’m only twelve miles away to get to work) due to the first snow storm of the season.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day

Wrap up to follow, after I have some time to digest ... (and sleep!)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas 2012!

From my family to yours …

Have a







Christmas Eve


Christmas Day!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Punctuation Placing

How important is the placing of a simple, little, unobtrustive, inconspicuous symbol of punctuation?


A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman, without her, man is nothing.

Which sentence is correct?

Well, perhaps I need restate that question. What is the author’s intent? Two very, very different meanings can arise, all dependent on where that comma is placed.

Just something the writer / editor / perfectionist in me found quite interesting.

[From the interesting book, Will Power: How to Act Shakespeare in 21 Days, by John Basil. This book also inspired me to re-take-on the Bard again, in the next couple of days.]

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Where I Have Gone Before

All right, it’s a bad play on the catchphrase, “Where no man has gone before,” made famous by James T. Kirk. Not very witty, either, but it applies to this book I’ve been reading a few minutes here and a few minutes there: The Making of Star Trek, by Stephen Whitfield.

Way, way, back, when Star Trek was just beginning syndication and we had just wrapped up the moon landings, wee little Hopper stepped up into the Bookmobile visiting my school and bought Mr. Whitfield’s book. That (and a hot-off-the-presses Logan’s Run) was my first real book I bought, to the best of my knowledge, and I picked it up primarily for that picture of the Enterprise on the cover and the two sets of picture series within it. Over the course of a year or so it was a constant companion. I never read it through start to finish (it was probably a bit above my reading level at this point), but I studied those photos intensely and read just about every Gene Roddenberry memo reproduced within its pages.

Well, something like 35 years intervened and a gazillion people, events, experiences, interests, classes, jobs, books, movies, and a gazillion other miscellaneous came into and out of my life.

The Making of Star Trek was stored away in the deep part of one’s brain where long-term but never-retrieved memories are sentenced to life imprisonment in solitary confinement.

Until a few months ago when, surfing through my online used book store’s archives, it found me again and asked to be freed.

I bought it. Now I’m reading it.

Yes, it’s light, it’s fluff, it’s a lot of stuff I’ve read or heard in other places now that Shatner and Nimoy are firmly in their 80s. But you know what? I’ve been reading Ayn Rand for six weeks. Before that it was a few books on the Civil War, and before that it was a few on World War II. I deserve something light and fluffy, don’t I?

Now, I’m not a Trekkie. True, I’ve seen every episode and every movie of the original series. Later series, not so much. Maybe a quarter of the Next Generation, a dozen of Deep Space Nine, one of Voyager and none of that retro Trek show, forgot its name. But the original series was part of my youth, and it influenced me in many ways growing up. Heck, my first novel, unfinished at 80 pages and written at age 11, Star Rats, is fifty percent Star Wars and fifty percent Star Trek, only with cats and mice. Some episodes scared the living C-R-A-P out of me (“Devil in the Dark”), some filled me with wonder (“The City on the Edge of Forever”), some made me want to be a writer (cf, all the first and second season episodes and half the third). Some, with all them scantily-clad 1960s babes, well, you can imagine what that did to my pre-adolescent mind.

I’m also a useless trivia buff. The book is filled with lots of behind-the-scenes back-story stuff that satisfies that buff in me.

What were some names considered for Kirk before they settled on Kirk?

[January, Flagg, Drake, Christopher, Thorpe, Richard, Patrick, Raintree (!), Boone, Hudson, Timber (!), Hamilton, Hannibal, Neville, and North]

How many starships are there in Star Fleet? What were their names?

[12 – Enterprise, Essex, Excalibur, Lexington, Yorktown, Endeavor, Eagle, Constellation, Hornet, Wasp, Lafayette, Saratoga]

What common kitchen item became McCoy’s medical instruments?

[salt shakers]

What critter kept Shatner from filming the first episode – but third aired – for three full days?

[A wasp stung him on the eyelid on set]

What is the most interesting Vulcan name ever considered?

[Spxyx, in my humble opinion. Also, Spork]

And on and on and on.

Bottom line: half-way through it and the perfect antidote to the Randian angst I’ve been wallowing in – due to a pre-election promise to myself – since November 12. Ergo, I cast off any guilt or shame from immersing myself in this book!

(Maybe in 2013 I convince the wife to watch the series in season episodic order if I borrow them from the library. Hey, you never know …)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pre-Holiday Madness

Yeah, blogging’s been quite light of late. Just like you, I’ve been inundated on all fronts this past week’s build-up to Christmas. Is it not weird to have Christmas on a Tuesday? Kinda throws everything off, schedule-wise, no?

Work’s been crazy, girls’ schedules been crazy, wife’s schedule crazier than usual. Family coming in, going out, more coming in. Gotta be here, there, now here, now there. Holiday parties, last-minute gifts. Insanity.

Doesn’t help that I’ve stopped the exercising and eating healthy that I did for about a week a few weeks ago. Doesn’t help even more so that my beer and wine consumption has increased. Probably because of all the garbage I put in my body to make it through the week, I’m now on a screwy schedule of sleep that alternates three and four hour nights with eight hour nights where I can’t get out of bed.

And my down time is usually spent either in bed or curled up in my reading nook, trying to finish up Atlas Shrugged before the end of the year (ain’t gonna happen). Oh, that and eating Christmas cookies.

Sick of politics and pop culture, I no longer listen to talk radio on the way to and from work. Instead, been listening to sports talk, especially since – even though I am not a Jets fan – the whole Sanchez-Tebow-Ryan debacle has taken New York by storm. Finally, a bunch of guys who seem to have it worse than I seem to. Yeah, they’re all millionaires to varying degrees, and that makes me wonder – how much coin does it take to make that much public humiliation go down easier? Maybe more than they’re paid, I think.

Anyway, please continue to stop by. I seem to have a regular cadre of visitors numbering anywhere from 15 to 30 on a daily basis, though I have no idea why. I’d like to post some fun stop this next week and the new year. Fun, like the stuff I wrote when I was outta work – weirdities of all stripes, science fiction-ish musings, funny little anecdotes, and, of course, all things Book.

Tomorrow: Trek!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Old Man Still Got It

Comments, but none necessary.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hobbit

Okay, I saw Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit last night, and only one word echoed through my mind for all those 136 minutes:

Not AWESOME. Not COOL. Not even, WOW.

No. The reverberating word was, “why?”

Of course, I know. You do, too. The Lord of the Rings made gazillions of dollars. Ergo, The Hobbit.

Or, as I have seen in print elsewhere, The Lord of the Rings VI: The Prequel, Part I.

All the preliminary reports about the movie are true. Specifically, the one mentioning “killing the goose that laid the golden egg,”, but also “milking a dead cow” and “beating a dead horse,” or some amalgamation of the three. Believe me, I had a terribly difficult time keeping the image of pony-tailed, goatee’d, sockless “suits” (is that an 80s image, or do “suits” still look like that?) rubbing their hands in glee, dollar signs for pupils, salivating over further profits engendered from lowest-common-denominatoring Tolkien to the unwashed masses.

Yeah, there were a few things I liked. Three, actually: 1) As always in these movies, the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. The colors, the lush details, the new 3-d effect that had me completely oblivious to obvious 3-d. Middle-earth truly comes to life. Parts I liked in particular: the Shire, the Mirkwood, Dol Guldor, Erebor in the distance. 2) Bilbo was well-cast; in fact, he’s probably the best non-computer generated thing about the flick. 3) The wargs and the Necromancer were neat.

That being said, that was it.

Everything else, in retrospect, I hated. In retrospect, because, during the movie, I inadvertently pushed these complaints aside to enjoy the show.

But let’s address that in the final paragraph, okay? Here’s what I, Tolkien fan extraordinaire, found utterly abhorrent about The Hobbit:

* Stretching the handful of chase scenes in the book into non-stop unceasing rollercoaster rides (and not in a good sense). I’m thinking the painfully endless chase in the goblin lair. All it adds up to is sacrificing story, theme, and plot – to allegedly purposeful but ultimately pointless motion.

* Adding whole sequences (were those rock/cliff monsters in the original work?)

* Shoving Lord of the Rings character into the movie, i.e., Elrond, Galadriel, Saruman, even Radagast, who did not appear in The Hobbit, and have no business being there.

* As I’ve said in my Rings reviews, ORCS JUST ARE NOT [yawn] SCARY IN THESE MOVIES!

* A sleigh pulled by bunny rabbits? Really?? Bunnies?!?

* None of the dwarves – NONE! – appear as Tolkien envisioned them. Especially Thorin and Balin. No, they all have the be-braided faux-scuzzy authenticity of Hollywood central casting, complete with fake-looking prosthetic noses and bald domes.

And I do agree with the oft-opined sentiment that while Jackson can film a battle scene or a chase scene, can frame a confrontation or conversation in an utterly beautiful backdrop, he somehow misses the essence of Tolkien. Tone-deaf to the heart of the material. A missing of the mark, as “sin” is often referred as in its original meaning.

All this now out in the open, I must confess that I did enjoy The Hobbit, as long as I wasn’t consciously thinking about it. Isn’t that often the case with so many movies Hollywood makes nowadays? However, I was glancing at my watch every now and then, beginning around the 90-minute mark, and I began playing a game in my mind: is this the scene that the movie will end on? … no … is THIS the scene that the movie will end on? … no … etc, etc, etc, for the next 46 minutes.

Grade: B.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Answer in the Form of a Question, Please

* Laying awake in the dark, staring at the ceiling

* Balancing checkbook on Quicken

* Watching In Search of the Mary Celeste and In Search of Jimmy Hoffa on youtube

* Listening to 15 pages of Atlas Shrugged on audio CD

* Watching the classic "Dragon's Domain" episode of Space: 1999 for the first time in 35 years

* Chowing down on a bowl of Smart Start




What did Hopper do from 12:30 am to 5 am today?





Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Managers Meeting

Hopper’s three essential rules for the ideal Managers Meeting:

(1) Meetings should be held once a week on the same day and be 30-45 minutes in length (no longer! – this entails disciplined moderation by the owner or GM);

(2) The agenda should be (only!) how to improve business by solving department problems, from each manager’s point of view;

(3) There should never be any public reprimanding or belittling of any manager during the Manager Meeting.

Not sayin’ if my company follows these rules. Not sayin’ one way or the other. This splitting headache I have forbids me from writing any further. Now, for a hot compress and a glass of wine …

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cobra Attack!

Read about this online earlier today and I thought it pretty neat. Kinda like the law of unintended consequences marries human nature and has a baby.

Apparently, when the Brits ruled India, deaths due to cobra attacks were so frequent that the imperial power felt it necessary to do something. So Parliament – or whatever English body governed India; it may even have been some enterprising magistrate – passed a law creating a bounty to be paid out for every dead cobra brought to the authorities.

At first, death by cobra bite declined because, well, the cobra population declined.

However, industrious – being stricken with poverty tends to make some industrious – Indians began to breed cobras just to collect the bounties.

When the British government caught on, they stopped their pay-outs.

So what did the Indians then do to their worthless legless pets? They let them go into the wild.

And the snake bite mortality rate went right back up, and may have possibly surpassed the original figures.

Whether true or apocryphal (and the article I read it in assured me it was grounded in historical fact), I can’t shake the sense that something like this will metaphorically descend upon our country before the next four years is out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

An Ayn Rand Christmas Carol

Sung to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” –

(note: some lines will have to be sung incredibly fast to fit with the meter, but, hey, Atlas Shrugged is a gigantic book!)

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me

Twelve looters looting

Eleven miners mining

Ten moochers mooching

Nine metallurgists smelting

Eight central planners planning

Seven Galts a-galting

Six regulators regulating

Five Nietzschean Super-Men! (and Women!)

Four brand new metals

Three transcontinental trains

Two unfaithful spouses

And a stack of cash earned by the sale of a valued commodity created due to the ingenuity of a single-minded industrialist with absolutely no sanction given to moochers and looters!

Merry Christmas, you Immovable Movers!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Goo-Type Egg

Some of the most enjoyable times in my life are when Little One and I spend a quiet Saturday afternoon watching a science fiction flick. She’s only eight, so I have to go easy on her, and that means, more often than not, a kinder, gentler monster movie from the 50s or 40s. We began this little mini-tradition two years ago, and watch a DVD or a DVR’d movie together every couple of months. So far we’ve watched, in an order that escapes me, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, Jason and the Argonauts, The Wolfman, Frankenstein, Rodan, Godzilla, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Last Saturday I felt it proper to introduce her to another Harryhausen tour-de-force: Twenty Million Miles to Earth.

This is the black-and-white one where the American spaceship returns from Venus, crashing in the Mediterranean. Two astronauts are rescued, one of whom dies immediately after warning about the metal canister. Which is immediately found by “Pepe” on the shores of an island off Sicily. The canister contains a gelatinous semi-transparent mass about the size of a man’s arm, which Pepe immediately sells to a local zoologist for money to buy a cowboy hat. Immediately after (actually, later than night, but I like typing “immediately”), the mass cracks open and a baby Ymir emerges – a half-lizard, half-humanoid manimal that looks not unlike that old guy who has the motorcycle show on the Discovery channel show.

The zoologist’s beautiful daughter – an “almost” doctor – nurses one of the astronauts back to health. The astronaut – “Bob,” who’s the spitting image of Steve Martin – begins a hunt through the Italian countryside to find the ever-growing Ymir. Indeed, the stop-motion critter grows from the size of one of Little One’s Barbie dolls to the height of my two-story Cape Cod. The hunt concludes with the army blasting the poor, homesick creature – and half the Coliseum – to kingdom come. That’ll teach it to want to survive after being abducted off its home world before birth!

So – what did Little One think of this, one of the greatest films from my youth?

“Eh, it was okay.”

Incredulously, she was rooting againt the Ymir from almost the start. Well, actually, ever since the Ymir kills a dog about twenty minutes in (it was done in self-defense, mind you). Then, later on, the Ymir actually kills an elephant in battle – which nearly turned on her waterworks. But later on, getting dinner that night, we reminisced about the film, and the image that immediately came to her mind was that gelatinous, semi-transparent mass – the “goo-type egg,” as she called it.

I love it: Goo-Type Egg. If I was still in a band, that’d be the name of the instrumental off the latest CD.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Insomnia Diaries, Chapter 371

I thought I did a good thing last night. After watching a really neat TCM movie (to be blogged about in the near future), I ate a cookie and drank some milk, did my teeth hygiene stuff, and hit the sheets a little after eleven.

And woke up at 12:30.

Tossed and turned for a half-hour, and judging by my wife’s breathing, figured I’d wake her up if this continued. So I crept downstairs and spread out on the couch with a nice, comfy, warm comforter wrapped about me.

No luck.

Finally decided to thrown in the towel and heading down to the basement to the writing office. This was around 1:30. The writing desk also doubles as the financial desk, and currently it is in a state of absolute chaos. So I decided to make some use of the red-eye and organize my desk: bills, receipts, print-outs from the wife, stuff that should be tossed, et cetera.

While I did this, I hit some very entertaining spots on the internet.

Yeah, I check the gmail, facebook, some news websites, big hollywood, blah blah blah. I have a particular soft spot for a website called cryptomundo and I spent a good thirty minutes going back through its archives. All sorts of cryptid goodiness.

The I switched over to youtube and watched a whole bunch of In Search Of episodes. You know, the Leonard Nimoy series in the 70s that scared the living heck outta me as a kid. I began watching the Amityville Horror episode, but then got a bit too spooked as 3:15 am was approaching and I thought I could imagine glowing eyes looking in the basement windows at me.

I watched two episodes of misguided misfortunates, Michael Rockefeller and Bishop Pike. Michael was the son of the future VP and multigazillionaire Nelson Rockefeller, a kinda kid I envy: all the money in the world yet he pursues his own, individual calling. In this case, anthropology. He disappeared while studying a primitive tribe in New Guinea. The show explores several possibilities of his demise: drowning, shark or crocodile attack, or – headhunters. Bishop Pike was an uber-liberal mess of an Episcopalian priest who died in the Israeli deserts after following a bad map. His foolishness at several points (not staying with the car as his much fitter wife went for help, having only a bottle of soda to drink in 140-degree heat) made him a forerunner of the Darwin Awards. But I’m curious – legend has it that PKD wrote an SF book about the good bishop.

Then I turned to lighter Nimoyan fare: Jack the Ripper. I seem to remember this one from my youth. It’s nasty – the world’s first serial killer, a taunter of police and never caught. It held my interest to the point where I put aside the bills, receipts, and pointless ephemera from my financial life.

Nearing 4:30, I concluded this morning’s insomniac episodes with a visit to Patrick Madrid’s blog, and this priest’s sermon in particular. Please, don’t click on it, and don’t watch it. At least, not if you don’t want your world-view changed.

Okay. I’m reading some Atlas Shrugged in a few minutes, then off to bed to catch up on my sleep debt.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


An electrifying, thunderous, momentous Rush song very prominent in my late-80s renaissance as a guitar player. Deceptively simple – simply deceptive – inspirational and awe-inspiring, with some of Neil Peart’s most vivid lyrics “Countdown” has that extra quality all electrifying, thunderous, and momentous songs have – the ability to draw out powerful emotions from the listener.

At least it does in my case.

Me and my drummer, between bands c. 1989, must’ve played this song a minimum of a hundred-fifty times.

My only bone with the video is the footage of the Space Shuttle. Why not the mighty Apollo rockets? Yeah, I know the shuttle was big in 1982, when the video was made. But it doesn’t quite capture the excitement of the song, I think, if I must be extremely discerning. And I must. The shuttle, for instance, is only a little over 180 feet in height, while the Saturn rockets that launched men to the moon doubled that size. And those Saturn rockets did put men on the moon, 240,000 miles distant, while the shuttle rockets put … men and women into low earth orbit a couple hundred miles above.

[But this is only a small complaint. The song – and video – are awesome!]

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dad Abuse

How ’bout this little tidbit of dialogue between me and my eight-year-old daughter last night, off-loading her and her sister out of the Impala in front of the Shop N Save for some last minute “cookies for school.” I’m more than a little frustrated, having to constantly get their attention and keep them focused on whatever task is at hand. Oh, and more than a fair share of chop-busting, as you will see:

ME: Keep it up, girls – the jail is just across the street.

LITTLE ONE: Were you ever in jail?

ME: (in the spookiest, scariest, Snake Plissken voice I can conjure up) Yeahhhhhhh … I rotted away in a prison cell fer ten years … fer killin’ a man in cold blood …

LITTLE ONE: Uh, Dad, you might want to pull up your pants a little. I can see your underwear.

Okay, for the record, my pants were just fine. I do know how to keep myself presentable out in public. What she saw was my white button-up dress shirt when I bent over and my brown fall jacket rode up a bit.

Anyway, you see what I have to put up with, day in and day out?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


The wife and I ventured out to the movies last weekend, something we don’t normally do because, well, we have children … and babysitting’s expensive ... and so’s the movies …

Well, anyway, we wanted to see Lincoln. But as we were spending the holiday weekend with my parents out in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania, where it’s at least a half-hour drive to get to anything, Lincoln wasn’t playing at the nearest movie theater. So we saw the next best thing: Skyfall.

What did Hopper think?


- Still not convinced of Daniel Craig as James Bond. Perhaps this is due to watching countless reruns with Sean Connery as 007 on teevee as a kid or watching Roger Moore as Bond in the movies in the 70s. Craig is of a more Bourne-ian mold, and we all acknowledge that Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne revolutionized the spy flick a decade ago.

- Javier Bardem as the bad guy, Silva, is way underused, undervalued, and underappreciated, by the screenplay. Surely here’s a man capable of playing a megalomaniacal villain! But all he wants is simple revenge. Revenge through an intricate plot of split-second timed events and Rube Goldberg logistics. All to put a bullet in someone’s brain.

- Liked Bond’s backstory, as revealed in the final third of the movie, when he, M, and a figure from his past await the villain’s henchmen in a home for wayward youth Bond spent his, er, youth in. An old, abandoned mansion in the dreary, rain-soaked fields called Skyfall.

- Absolutely loved Bardem’s reason for revenge: being given up by M, and forced to endure the aftereffects of an ineffective cyanide pill and years of Chinese torture. Lots of channeling of Hannibal Lecter here, as well as Heath Ledger’s Joker in a later scene (where he’s in disguise as a policeman).

- Needs more gadgets! Needs more science fiction!

- Liked the youthful Q. At first didn’t, but his verbal sparring with Bond eventually won me over, as well as the scenes where he’s dueling in cyberspace with Silva.

- But didn’t like how Silva suddenly became a member of the top 5 terrorist hackers on the planet. I thought he was a field agent? A field agent who lost his mind? A field agent bent on cold-blooded revenge?

- Liked the komodo dragon kill. Komodo dragons are nasty, dangerous creatures, but for some reason, Hollywood never uses them. Kudos for the komodo! I anxiously await the komodo dragon / slasher / genetic mutation movie franchise!

- Heard on another website that there’s a preponderance of Catholic symbolism in the flick. Not sure about that, or how deliberate it was, but you can note the following: a Judas-like betrayal, a resurrection, Bond emerging from the waters (twice) a la baptism, “priest holes” in Skyfall mansion, the conclusion set in the small Catholic church. Interesting …

- My favorite poem is quoted by M during the (British equivalent of) Senate hearings – “Ulysses”, by Tennyson. Those final few lines are among the greatest, most transcendent, lines in the English language, a tribute to all that’s great in Man’s soul.

- Only once have I ever drank a glass of whisky with a scorpion on the back of my hand. The movie makes it appear as if this is a common thing to do in beach bars.

- At the very end, in new M’s office, as Bond thumbs the dossier on the desk – I would have had him open it to the picture of a bald nasty and the word “Blofeld” typed somewhere on the data sheet. Blofeld! Bring him back, badder than ever! Of course, the next movie doesn’t have to have Ernst as a bad guy, but since everything else in the final scenes are “retro” or “throw back,” why not update on old villain?

Verdict: The movie moved, never dragged, though I wished it was meatier, grander, greater. Badder, in a good way.

Grade: B.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tomorrow's Dream

Sick, achy, tired. No energy to dive into a meatier topic. So –

A great tune from my younger years. High school. Listening to it driving a Ford Bronco en route to Wisconsin while the rest of my family slept in the early morning hours in Ohio. My friend turned me on to Ozzy and Black Sabbath in the mid-eighties, and the Gibson SG and Marshall cabinet soon followed …

[By the way, I just figured out the easiest way to play this song: modulate it up a full step. The C chord slow triplet returning motif (followed by G-Bb-A G-Bb-A G-Bb-A-G) should be done on the D chord and open A string. Since I tune my guitar down a full step, this works out perfectly.]

Sunday, December 2, 2012


My wife spent all day yesterday working on her review. Her self-review. It’s a couple of pages long, it addresses all her accomplishments over the past twelve months, it details her areas for improvement in the coming year. She forwards it to her bosses, who meet with her and arbitrate on the size of her bonus she’ll get the first week of March.

Anyway, I’m downstairs throwing a pile of laundry into the machine when she calls out, “What’s another word for opportunity?”

“I don’t know. Challenge.”

“Used it. Used opportunity and challenge too many times. I need a word to use in place of problem, and I can’t use that.”

I think for a minute. “How about this:

An item of bullsh*t that I have to somehow overcome to earn enough money to pay my bills.”

She shoots that down immediately, but I’m intensely satisfied with the real-world translation of the BusinessSpeak word opportunity.

Ah, BusinessSpeak! Where every reaches out to touch base and would love to discuss that further and there are no problems, only challenges and opportunities.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What being a Hopper is like

Ye hasten to the grave! What seek ye there,
Ye restless thoughts and busy purposes
Of the idle brain, which the world’s livery wear?
Oh thou quick heart which pantest to possess
All that pale Expectation feigneth fair!
Thou vainly curious mind which wouldest guess
When thou didst come, and whither thou must go,
And allt hatnever yet was known would know –
Oh, whither hasten ye, that thus ye press,
With such swift feet life’s green and pleasant path,
Seeking, alike from happiness and woe,
A refuge in the cavern of gray death?
O heart, and mind, and thoughts! what thing do you
Hope to inherit in the grave below?

[Sonnet, by Shelley, c. 1820]