Sunday, November 30, 2014

November Wrap-Up

Not an ungood month, by any stretch of the imagination. 

Began it by finishing up an Arthur C. Clarke anthology of fun SF short stories.  Revisited JFK via Stephen King (major nostalgia factors for both).  Polished off a trio of classics (Jekyll and Hyde, Billy Budd, All Quiet on the Western Front).  Did some pro-Church research on the Crusades by reading a book on the subject and skimming two others.

Family-wise, the girls finished their soccer seasons on high notes with strong finishes for final games.  Patch a future potential warrior on offense; Little One solidifying her status as a clutch goalie.  The latter also began basketball practices – and I mean, rigorous, hard-core practices – by being the least yelled-at by her coaches, and the town team began the season with a 1-2 record in the local county tournament, though they could very well have finished 2-1.

There was the whole to-do with the election, the Thanksgiving holiday, lots of politics in the news re: amnesty, the Ferguson verdict, blah blah blah.  Me and Little One served once at our parish, there was a beautiful ceremony for one of the priest’s fortieth anniversary.  There was also the death of Squeak, beloved hamster and family member since Christmas 2013.  And, of course, lots of snow between lots of leaf raking.

December looks to be shaping up pretty well for us.  We’ll see; I need to wait a week or so for a post explaining possible developments.  But I’m optimistic, which in itself is saying something, especially if you recall some of my posts from earlier in the month.

Anyway – see ya, November!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Patch with Santa

At brunch this morning at the club my parents belong to:

... I want an Ever After High doll, a Geronimo Stilton book, some new dresses for school, a white fox ... 

Friday, November 28, 2014

Values? Values??

Why do we actively and energetically fight obesity but not promiscuity?

Why do we actively and energetically fight tobacco smoking but not marijuana smoking?

Why one and not the other?

Now, anyone can manipulate statistics to reach any desired number, but surely the costs are comparable?  (And in the smoking case, proportionally comparable.)  And not just economic costs, but costs such as premature deaths and more subjective costs such as lower quality of life.

So why do we fight against one and nod-nod wink-wink (or even actively promote) the other?

Oh.  It all comes down to our values.

More precisely, the values of the segments of the population that truly have power in our American society.

I.e., the “Man.”

[Note: This is not your 50s, 60s, and even 70s “Man” …]

Chance in the Cage

The front is a cage in which we must await fearfully whatever may happen.  We lie under the network of arching shells and live in a suspense of uncertainty.  Over us Chance hovers.  If a shot comes, we can duck, that is all; we neither know nor can determine where it will fall.

It is this Chance that makes us indifferent.  A few months ago I was sitting in a dug-out playing skat; after a while I stood up and went to visit some friends in another dug-out.  On my return nothing more was to be seen of the first one, it had been blown to pieces by a direct hit.  I went back to the second and arrived just in time to lend a hand digging it out.  In the interval it had been buried.

It is just as much a matter of chance that I am still alive as that I might have been hit.  In a bomb-proof dug-out I may be smashed to atoms and in the open may survive ten hours’ bombardment unscathed.  No soldier outlives a thousand chances.  But every soldier believes in Chance and trusts his luck.

- All Quite on the Western Front (1928), by Erich Maria Remarque, chapter 6.


Thursday, November 27, 2014


Gratitude = Happiness x Wonder

Paraphrase of a quote by G. K. Chesterton

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, after a hectic day of travelling through the nor’easter yesterday, we finally arrived at my parent’s house last night for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Two-and-a-half hours of white-knuckled driving through the slush and snow and sleet and wind got us the 75 miles into Pennsylvania to our destination.  Well, my knuckles where white (and a Rosary nearly squeezed apart) in the driver’s seat of the Honda Pilot.  The wife drove through like an expert and got us there, passing a half-dozen stranded off-road vehicles (including a broken down snow plow) and getting us to the Last Homely House in the West by seven o’clock last night.

Earlier in the day we lost power at my work after a truck slid off the road in front of the building and took down a power line pole.  Traffic was shut down on the highway that ran past us, and my heart sank as I realized I might be trapped at my place of business and I only half-kidded that I’d be spending Thanksgiving with the people I work with eight-plus hours a day five days a week.  I wanted to be outta there by 2:30 and thanks to the efficiency of the local police, who literally turned traffic around on the highway, we all were “evacuated” by 2:15.

After a warm meal of lasagna at the Pennsylvania house, I warmed my cold, weary, stressed out bones in a hot tub.  Read fifty pages of All Quiet on the Western Front, and started a project of which I will reveal in a week’s time as long as I can stick with it.  (Can you guess what it is?  Hint: I’m officially starting the day after Thanksgiving…).  Went to bed around 11 and slept the sleep of the dead – there is nary a sound at all in the woods where my parent’s house stands – for nine hours, until my human alarm clocks, my six- and ten-year-old, woke me listening to their heavy footfalls and cries of joy through the ceiling above me.

Today the wife is making pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce; my mom is making the turkey and all its accessories.  The girls are playing with their Frozen dolls somewhere in the house.  I am planning on reading half of All Quiet and relaxing without guilt.  Then we’ll all watch the Macy’s parade on the tube.  My brother and his family are due up around twelve or one, and we’ll have Thanksgiving “dinner” around three I guess.  Then the football games, laughing, more eating, general merriment.  I’ll sneak off at some point for some more reading.  In the evening we’ll watch something Christmas-y.  The girls are split – the youngest wants to watch Elf and the oldest White Christmas.  I have a feeling the latter will prevail (wife has the deciding vote).

Tomorrow I’ll be getting up around five, showering, dressing, and borrowing my parent’s Rav4 to drive down south to work Friday.  Have to stop at my house to feed the fish and set the DVR to tape some movies, as well as get myself a pair of sweatpants (forgot to pack ‘’em).  Then, back to the Last Homely House in the West for a weekend of fun and relaxation.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Spectrum of Sanity

Or “Snaity,” as I originally mistyped it:

Who in the rainbow can show the line where the violet tint ends and the orange tint begins?  Distinctly we see the difference of the colors, but when exactly does the one first blendingly enter into the other?  So with sanity and insanity. 

- “Billy Budd,” chapter 27, by Herman Melville

Note: This post is in no way meant to be construed as autobiographical.  Just a neat turn of phrase and image I found intriguing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

5 – 17

Is the combined record of New York’s two professional football teams.  That’s a winning percentage just a bit short of 23 percent.  Ugh.

It’s also a bit short of my August predictions, too.  My admittedly nonprofessional crystal ball saw the Giants finishing at 7-9 and the Jets 5-11.  At their current caliber of performance one team will be 4-12 and the other 3-13.

Now I’m not a huge football fan.  I do enjoy watching the games on Sunday, from a ritualistic point of view.  The family gets back from Church, the house is stocked with snacks, the girls do their own thing, I get into my sweats, grab some books to thumb through, sit down in my favorite one-man couch, remote in hand, and watch six hours of the games in high-def.  I don’t live or die for the game or the teams (I’m a Giants fan, by the way), but I do demand a winning season from the G-men and at least competition from the Jets (my late father’s team).

Now watching football isn’t that much fun anymore. 

It’s a long way from a decade ago.  Back then I pal’d around with a huuuuge football fanatic, a guy whose perfect Sunday involved downing a few pitchers of cheap but effective beer, smoking a pack of cigarettes, watching a dozen TV screens and the tattooed bartendresses at his local sports bar.  Of course he dragged me there often, like every week, me kicking and screaming, because I hate all that.  [Insert smiley emoticon.]  Back then I was living down in Maryland and I drank gallons and smoked bales of tobacco watching Jim Fassell coach Kerry Collins to that Super Bowl blowout.  The traveling circus traveled north to New Jersey in the early 0-0s, but with the buying of the house and the birthing of the child, my sports bar days calmed down to middle-aged me plumped down in an easy chair with a book in hand.

Can the Giants finish the 2014 season 4-1?  Can the Jets go one game over five hundred by December 28?  If so, my predictions will be accurate.  If not, which seems more likely, it appears cynical me was just a tad bit optimistic reading that Inside Sports magazine three months ago.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Parler Anglais

Tough, stressful day, but I did manage to crack myself up, and cause myself to chuckle aloud a few more times during the day.

The wife called and told me about a particular incident that happened to her and I made a joke.  I am not at liberty to describe the set-up but here is the punch-line:

“Though he spoke with an incredibly thick French accent, he could not speak a word of French.”

I found that sentence delectably incredibly funny.

Maybe I’m losing it (Correction: I have lost it.) but it gave me about three minutes’ mirth in a rough day.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

In Search Of ... Bigfoot?

Woke up at 3:30 this morning and found myself unable to get back to sleep.  So, like I often do, I tiptoe down into my basement writing office, flick on the PC, and hit the usual sites.

Now, call me a nerd if you must, but I prefer to chalk it up to nostalgia.  I always, invariably, sooner or later, during my nocturnal insomniac dazes, hit the plethora of In Search Of videos posted on Youtube.  My subconscious mind must find something very soothing in Leonard Nimoy’s voice, something very comfortable and familiar with the paranormal and histories/mysteries subject matter of the 70s documentary show, because on a good early early morning web surf, I will watch anywhere from two or three to a dozen or more episodes.  Though adult me finds a good deal of the subject matter hokey and implausible (such as Bigfoot), little kid me ate this stuff up nonstop.

Oh, and while I start out doing something productive while half-listening half-watching the videos, like balancing the old check book, I also invariably, sooner or later, open up FreeCell and play about fifty games.

Then I go upstairs when everyone wakes and, if it’s a weekend, sleep for two late-morning hours, like I did this morning.

However, this morning I also watched the Ancient Mysteries show on Bigfoot.  This particular episode truly gives me the chills.  The background music is haunting and hair-raising, subtly eerie and definitely spooky.  I am constantly looking up to see if any red eyes are peering in through the basement windows at me.  Very chilling, but very, very addicting. 

The show originally aired in 1994, I believe, and I remember actually taping it on VHS way back then.  Usually watched it when I stumbled back home late late at night in a drunken stupor.  Seriously.  Though those days are behind me, as well as my VHS recorder, I still watch the Youtube video of that show two or three times a year.

Here it is.  I heartily recommend you bookmark it for the next time you have insomnia.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Parallels Separated by a Millennium

Interesting parallels between the First Crusade (1096-1099 AD) and World War I, as well as the Afghan and Iraqi wars of the 21st century …

“It was not until the upper-class sons of Europe were slaughtered in the trenches during World War I that Europe suffered the loss of a generation of leaders equal to that which took place during the First Crusade.  Those who marched east were among the best and the brightest of their time.  When they died, the responsibilities for managing many estates and dealing with many important concerns fell upon widows and minor sons, and on those who failed to serve, just as it did in England, France, and Germany in the 1920s … Indeed, when Europe began to sour on crusading, it appears that it was not the families who had given the most who had lost heart; rather, it was families who had never sent a crusader who opposed continuing to pay the taxes required to sustain the crusader kingdoms.”

God’s Battalions (2009), by Rodney Stark, page 139.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Top Ten Stephen King Reads

Dunno if I posted this anywhere on the blog these past couple of years, but thinking about it now, here are my personal top ten King works, for what it’s worth:

1. It (1986)
2. The Tommyknockers (1987)


As for the next eight, how ’bout

3. The Stand (1978)
4. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (1982)

Those’re pretty much undisputed, too.

Then I’d add these three short story anthologies, in this order.  Some of his short stories are very, very horrifying, and they can be, in a sense, almost better than his novels.

5. Night Shift (1978)
6. Different Seasons (1982)
7. Skeleton Crew  (1985)

As far as the secret identity / Richard Bachman books go, I really liked

8. The Long Walk (1979)

A book I really, really enjoyed as a kid (and I’d love to re-read), is

9. The Talisman (1984, written with Peter Straub)

And finally, I very much enjoyed King’s exegesis on all things horror-media-related, the superb nonfiction

10. Danse Macabre (1981)

Hmmm, maybe I’ll search out #9 at the used book store this weekend.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: 11/22/63

© 2012 by Stephen King

Stephen King introduced me to the modern adult thriller / horror novel.  And he did so with a vengeance. 

It must have been the summer of 1983, I think.  My family would vacation at a cabin near Lake George, a beautiful, serene, semi-isolated yet popular wooded area in upstate New York.  That summer I spotted a gnarled copy of Cujo staring menacingly at me from one of the shelves in that cabin.  After a brief hesitation, I cornered it and wound up reading the entire thing so blazingly fast that bear with the ranger hat knocked on the window and ordered me to slow down.  Remember pausing for ten minutes, deliciously sick over the whole Red Razberry Zinger thing in the novel, then diving wholeheartedly back in. 

Next school year I made friends with a new kid who was a King fanatic.  He fed me novels, one after the other, and senior year I ate ’em up: The Stand, The Dead Zone, Carrie, Night Shift, The Shining, the Bachman books.  A lull when I went to my trio of colleges, then I put away a half-dozen or more.  My taste in horror expanded to Dean R. Koontz and John Saul for some healthy competition.  Then, sometime in the mid-90s, after reading Gerald’s Game, I think, my love for the master collapsed.

Maybe it was personal literary growth, maybe it was just a change of reading direction, maybe it was dissatisfaction or over-familiarity with the King formula.  I dunno.  Wife got me Dreamcatcher, and, though it was as swiftly readable as ever, left me wanting a bit at the end.  Read a few stories from Everything’s Eventual as well as his nonfiction On Writing, but that’s about it in the past fifteen years.

But enough about me and my King-reader credentials.  What did I think about 11/22/63?

Well, knowing my interest in the JFK thing, my stepfather picked up the book for me a few months ago.  I put it on top of the pile on the book case behind me, awaiting my annual JFK-themed November read.  I cracked it two Sundays ago and that familiar whirlwind Evelyn-Wood-ish speedreading took over.  Couldn’t put it down, despite work-, financial-, spousal-, and child-rearing-responsibilities.  Took me ten days, and for me to race through 850 pages in ten days with how my life is packed – and trust me, I’m not bragging about having a packed life – for me to maintain an 85 page/day velocity, even book-lover me, is astounding.

It was a great, fun, fast-paced read.  I’m glad I read it. 

That being said, let’s dissect it a bit, okay?

If you had the opportunity to travel back in time and had the opportunity to save President Kennedy at admittedly difficult sacrifice – would you do it?

Jake Epperly eventually decides to.  The mild-mannered dancing high school English teacher enters the twilight zone when an acquaintance who owns a fast food joint just so happens to discover a mysterious portal into the past in a far corner of a basement storage closet.  The weird little tear in time and space deposits the traveler into 1958.  Same geographic point, only some fifty-plus years back into America’s history.

The owner, an older fellow named Al, initially makes travels into the past only to buy cheap meat for his business.  He notes an alcoholic hobo with a Yellow Card tucked in his Hat right next to the portal on the 1958 side, and makes an ominous point to tell Jake that this guy has some heretofore unknown significance.  But Al makes a discovery: no matter how long you stay in the past, only two minutes transpire in 2012.  On Al’s final visit he spends five years there, and when he returns he has unfortunately succumbed to incurable lung cancer.  (How does he support himself in the past?  Easy – he bets on World Series and boxing matches he knows the outcome to, something Jake will be forced to do with some nerve-wracking consequences.) 

During that final trip Al becomes obsessed with stopping Oswald.  He spies on him, tails him, researches him, compiles a thick notebook on all his movements and associates.  The only thing that stops him from taking Lee Harvey out is – he needs to be more sure the assassin was acting alone.  If he was a patsy like he claimed on national TV, Al would be killing him in cold blood.  And if he was part of a conspiracy, well, perhaps taking Lee out way before 11/22/63 would still not keep Kennedy alive.  So he needs to be more sure.  Not a hundred percent, mind you, but ninety-five to ninety-eight.

That’s where Jake comes in. 

Persuaded by a dying man and his own ideals and hang-ups, Jake steps back into 1958 for the long haul.  Hundreds of pages of the middle section of the book detail the life Jake – now George – makes for himself, how he bides the vast segments of time he’s not stalking Oswald by resuming his teaching, falling in love, making a difference among the youth and population of a small Texas town.  This new real life begins to interfere with his ulterior objective, plans are thwarted, and – you knew this – Jake is stumbling up those Texas School Book Depository steps to thwart those three bullets …

And when he returns to 2012, he finds a whole lot has changed, and none for the better …

Solid B.  Not his best, not his worst.

There was a lot I didn’t like. A lot of that bugged me during the reading and not just reflecting upon the tale after I finished it.  First and foremost, it was way too long.  The 850-page novel could survive intact with 200-250 pages of bloat trimmed.  Every character “Christ!”s and “Jesus!”s at least once every coupla pages, and King’s anti-Christian bias seeps through every now and then in the writing (thankfully not as much as in some of his earlier works).  Though I like the beginning revisit of the town of Derry (from It), the big middle chunk in Jodie, Texas, was a tad bit more hokey than I could swallow (the high school play, his mentor’s death, the “meet cute” which King/George even mentions as such, for example).  The payoff I expected towards the end, the purpose of the Yellow Card Man, could have been fleshed out a bit more; as it was I felt cheated by it a bit.  I could forgive the too-little info about his “job”, but the “alcoholism” part seemed a bit sped over cuz it didn’t make too much sense.  King’s liberal bias seeps through too, every now and then (every character a Democrat, Obama and Hillary doing “about as well as could be expected,” … George Wallace the president who nukes Vietnam?!?!).  And the philosopher in me would have like to see more interior rumination or explicit conversations on the immorality of murder / ends justify the means dilemma Jake must face.

That all being said, the book had a bit more plusses going for it.

Yeah, it was the blistering page-turner that King books are to me, and most of the reading English population it seems.  All well and good, and man does he know how to write a suspenseful scene.  The books contains more than a handful, and on most of the ten days I read it I stayed up past my bedtime to find out how George was going to escape this or that.  King does a fine job reimaging the late 50s and early 60s for me, and – the best part of the novel – I absolutely loved the characterizations he brought to Oswald (having George refer to him somewhat disdainfully as “Ozzie”) and his suffering wife, Marina, who he paints with such a poignant brush you really feel sorry for her and forgive her future activities.  Oswald’s mysterious “friend,” George de Mohrenschildt, completely and splendorously came to four-dimensional life, and Jake’s encounter with him was, for me, the highlight of the novel. 

And though I felt the post-denouement ending somewhat of a let-down (like a third-rate science fiction novel), the final two or three pages were so sweet / bittersweet that it actually still brings goosebumps to my arms, even as I type this.

Grade: B.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Strolling Along ...

… and enjoying the memories …

… of Book City

[N.B.: Hopper’s review of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 on deck for tomorrow.]

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Prelude to an Interlude

I have a couple of competing Number 1 Priorities at the moment, so I may take a day or two (or three) to sort things out.  If that’s even possible, which means “I hope it is” but also “I don’t see how it can come about.”

So in lieu of an offering blending varying degrees of wit and stupidity, I offer a post-heavy-lidded glimpse to the Mr. Rogers-like land where I spend my slumbering hours –

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mental Munchies










Can you guess what I am reading next?

Hint: I am a glutton for punishment.

Hint 2: In this person’s most famous work, he wrote of five ways to commit gluttony.  If food = mental activity, I am guilty, then, of ways one, two, four, and five.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Martial Psalm

Blessed be the Lord, my rock
who trains my arms for battle,
who prepares my hands for war.

He is my love, my fortress;
He is my stronghold, my savior,
my shield, my place of refuge.
He brings peoples under my rule.

Reach down from heaven and save me;
draw me out from the mighty waters,
from the hands of alien foes
whose mouths are filled with lies,
whose hands are raised in perjury.

To you, O God, will I sing a new song;
I will play on the ten-stringed harp.

… and an evocative hymn

Christ’s living lamp shall brightly burn,
and to our earthly city
forgotten beauty shall return,
and purity, and pity.
To give the oppressed their right
the church of Christ shall fight,
and though the years seem long,
God is our strength and song,
and God is our salvation.

(From the November 11th readings in Magnificat, which for some reason really resonated with me …)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hard Times

by Dickens, and Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, were the two books I picked up at one of the local library during my weekly errands with the girls.  For a grand total of $1.00.  Both will give me somewhere around twenty-four hours of escapist entertainment, of the riches kind: the classics.  Can’t wait to get to them.  Maybe in December.

Three-quarters through with 11/22/63, Stephen King’s take on time-travel meets the Kennedy assassination.  Lots of good, lots of bad.  Can’t wait to write that review.  All the best of King and all the worst, what I enjoyed most and what finally turned me off, are present in this work.  I was a veritable King junkie from 1983 to about 1995 or so.  Since then I’ve read one of his works (Dreamcatcher), and most of that on the cross-country flight to my honeymoon destination in Napa Valley in 2001.

This JFK revisit also made me pick out the Jesse Ventura book on the subject.  Yes, I have no shame.  And, no, I still remain firmly convinced in the Lone Gunman position, thank you Gerald Posner and Vincent Bugliosi.  But Ventura’s bat-sh*t über-conspiratorial position reminds me of my youthful idiot phase in the early-90s when Oliver Stone indoctrinated me into the don’t-trust-anyone-over-30 phase of 60s and 70s idiocy, priming me up for an admittedly creepy yet fascinating dozen book tour of the whole 11/22/63 thing.  And I like nostalgia.

Anyway, busy morning with the girls’ final soccer games of the season in unseasonably cold weather.  Both had losing seasons, both had coaches with a lot of heart.  Now we’re turning the house upside down in a cleaning frenzy, as Little One has two of her friends coming over in two hours for a sleepover.  Welcome to the tween-light zone, Hopper.

Some much-needed relaxation, maybe, possibly, tomorrow, in the afternoon, after I serve at my church at noon.  Possibly.  Maybe.

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Goal This Weekend

Is 2,000 interesting words, composed right here

at the Writing Desk of my mind, where I go for Dream-time.

Results to follow …

Thursday, November 13, 2014

I'm on a Rudderless Ship

… and I don’t know how to swim.

That’s the feeling I can’t shake of late (late = last ten years, give or take a decade).  Watching the news, paying the bills, shuffling papers at work, praying in the pews.  Feels like I’m marking time.  Oh, I know I’m not.  I have probably the most important job in the world – raising two young ladies and keeping a successful marriage successful – and I know I’ll be rewarded for it, provided I do my best at it, when I find myself at the light at the end of that tunnel.

But that still doesn’t shake the … drifting … feeling.

I’m going to chalk it up to “Dark Night of the Soul” syndrome.  Which reminds me, one day I should buy and read Dark Night of the Soul.  But – shockingly enough – I’m starting to even get dissatisfied with reading.  At least my current reading … or not finding something to read that fire’s me up.  I have an oppressive image of a clock winding down, a weight on my chest (no, it’s not my heart acting up), a balance sheet out of balance.  An image that creeps into my internal teleprompter when I’m trying to hide from life in the pages of whatever book I’m currently traversing.  Maybe it’s the much vaunted midlife crisis, has to be, but I don’t even have the spare money to buy an electric guitar, much less a Corvette convertible.

I state this as a partial excuse for not blogging much of late.  Also, way too busy at work, with a couple of hours of stressful overtime already.  Plus, I’ve been super-absorbed in Stephen King’s JFK assassination book, reading nearly 75 pages a night once everyone’s abed and asleep.  Extracurricularly, we got the overlap of the girls soccer practices and soccer games, though that’s winding down after this weekend, with Little One’s basketball practices and games starting up, so I never quite know where I’m going to be on any given night, and for a creature of habit like me, that’s a little stressful and unnerving in itself.

But …

There are posts on the horizon, half-formed and blobulous in my mind.

Something about the Fathers of the Church.

Something about various weirdities I’ve been pursuing.

Something about possible resolutions to the whole rudderless theme I’ve written about above.

Something about a desire to read new stuff: old stuff.

And something about Stephen King’s book, and a review when I finish it.

All on the horizon, if I can but coax them closer …

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Experiencing Technical Difficulties

… between my ears.  A touch under the weather, drowning in stress at work, a tsunami of non-blog-related ephemera awash in my mind, yadda yadda yadda.

Hopefully something of interest tomorrow …

Sunday, November 9, 2014

RIP Squeak


Much sadness in the Hopper household today.  My daughter’s beloved pet Chinese dwarf hamster, Squeak, passed away.  That little fuzzball was cute, happy, friendly, always dispensing “Squeakie kisses” indiscriminately to anyone brave enough to put his or her face to those whiskers.  She was absolutely adored by Little One, and will truly be missed.  We buried her in the backyard, wrapped in the tearful, heartfelt note my daughter wrote to the “love of her life.”  She and Patch then set stones in a smily face above her tiny grave.

Rest in peace, little hammie, and thank you for the joy you brought my little girls.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Missed My Calling

I’d be the third guy from the left …

Friday, November 7, 2014

What's with AC/DC?

From the trivial to the tragic to the insane:

First, a year or so ago, I learned that Brian Johnson no longer wrote the lyrics to the songs he sings with AC/DC.  Now, we all know it ain’t Shakespeare.  Lyrics in a typical AC/DC tune I wouldn’t want either of my daughters to hear until they were in their thirties, and me no where to be found while they were hearing ’em. But to me, a fan since high school in the mid-80s (quite devout my senior year and summer), I always liked the nod-nod-wink-wink intentionally low-brow tavern humor about them.  You got the sense, listening to an AC/DC song, that you were with your buddies drinking pitchers of beer and shooting pool and having a grand old time on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

So to find out that Johnson hasn’t had any interest in “composing” lyrics for the past couple of albums was a minor disappointment to me.

Then, last summer, news outlets were reporting that Malcolm Young, founding member of the band and older brother to Angus, was retiring from the band due to a mysterious illness.   Malcolm, who really was the “sound” behind AC/DC (Angus was the “show”, though he himself has carved out a unique role in rock music as a guitar soloist).  And from what I’ve read, the brains behind the band, too.  Then it was leaked that he’s suffering from early onset dementia (I think he’s like 60).  How very tragic.

Finally, news yesterday that their founding/latest drummer, Phil Rudd, is being charged by the authorities with trying to hire a hitman to kill two men.  Now, I don’t know the details and I don’t think I want to, but … who does this?  You’re part of a multi-million dollar enterprise – even if just only on the payroll and maybe not holding a piece of the action – you still have to be seeing some significant cash flow.  Additionally, you’re getting up there in years, you have a lifetime to look back upon and reflect on … and you’re trying to hire men to kill someone for you?  Insanity!  The drugs they found at his New Zealand home kinda put it in perspective.  Still, though – insane!

So the band that was Summer 1985 for me, the band that taught me to play guitar, the band who inspired me to buy a 1969 Gibson SG, the band whose every cassette/album/CD they put out from 1974 to 1990 I bought, the band I saw twice in the 80s with all my friends ...

What’s up with AC/DC?

Thursday, November 6, 2014


A few years back when I was re-reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time, I studied a book which pointed out the numerous examples of Christian symbolism that proliferate throughout the novel if you but look with open eyes.  I blogged about it, here

Last night I was listening / reading the Akallabêth, one of the two twenty-page codas to The Silmarillion, and I found another instance all on my own.  The Akallabêth is basically Tolkien’s take on the Atlantis myth, the island of which he calls Númenórë, and it fits right in to the history of Middle-earth.  Four paragraphs in I came upon a sentence which features Eonwë, a Maiar (angel) known as the herald of Manwë.  Though not God Himself (in Tolkien’s world), Manwë is a sort of demi-god, like the Greek Olympians, the most powerful of this subset of beings.  Eonwë is the greatest of the Maiar, a St. Michael the Archangel.

“Eonwë came among them and taught them [the Númenóreans]; and they were given wisdom and power and life more enduring than any others of mortal race have possessed.”


My first discovery of a Christ-like reference in Tolkien! 

Consider me well-pleased, and on the hunt for more …

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Save the Pond! Addendum

Well, it passed.

By a margin of 58 to 42 percent, the bleeding hearts approved a property tax raise to dredge a pond somewhere in my town.

I blame sappy feel-goodism, heiroglyphic legalese in the voting booth and a plethora of lawn signs hypnotizing the minds of low-information voters like flashing neon holographic banner ads.

Oh well.  Overall, quite a good night for conservatives, so I can’t complain.

* * * * *


Came across this during my web meanderings today.  Kinda like the message behind it.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Save the Pond!

Well, just got back from casting my ballot at the school gym.  Voted for the most conservative candidates, straight on down the line.

I also voted “NO” on all the public questions.

There were three of them, and one received a fair amount of publicity around here.

It seems some group wants to renovate a local pond (where it is, I’m not really sure, but it’s “local”).  Alas, that will cost money.  And the easiest, bestest way to get money is to raise taxes.

A brochure was sent out about two weeks ago to prime our sympathies for the pond.  Two photos were placed on the gigantic postcard.  At the top was an idyllic, serene wildlife scene of Plato’s most perfect pond ever.  Below it was a post-Apocalyptic wasteland with man-sized mosquitoes hovering about very menacingly.

Save the pond!  The choice is ours!

The other side of the postcard assured voters that most households would see a monthly $8-$16 increase in property taxes over two years to fund the pond project.  So, assuming my house is an average of the average, that’d be $12 x 12 months x 2 years, or a total of $288 to create the most perfect pond ever.  Surely even I can afford that, right?

I’m not convinced.  First, I doubt that initial figure.  Just like cereal box serving sizes, “average” ain’t “average.”  According to my annual property tax assessment, I appear to live in a mansion.  So, instead of the $8-$16 range, I’m taking the high figure and doubling it: $32 a month.  And since government never does anything efficiently and on time (at least since the construction of the George Washington Bridge, over 80 years ago), I’m conservatively doubling the time frame to redo the pond.  So now my formula is $32 x 12 months x 4 years, or $1,536.  That’s a 533% increase in what the postcard says, and I think it’s realistic.

But that’s still not why I vote “NO” on these sorts of things.

I vote “NO” because once a tax is in place, it never goes away.  NEVER GOES AWAY.  It’s not phased out; it’s simply reassigned.  Well, now that the pond is renovated, surely we need to keep the tax in place for “maintenance.”  And if that doesn’t justify keeping it, then it will be for “much needed expansion.”  Or even for other pressing “future pond projects.”  It will never end once it’s created.

Go raise the funds privately, and set up a brick donor wall somewhere on the shore.  That’s the free market, private enterprise solution.  And that will work, because that’s efficient.

Back to Rome, Yet Again

“We should recall that the early Fathers especially were born into a culture that was beginning its moral decline, that the Roman Empire had all but abandoned the institutions of marriage and family, that divorce was common, as were abortion and contraception, that active homosexuality had become a norm for urban pagans, that euthanasia and suicide were unhappy endings to many life stories.  You might call it a culture of death.”

- The Fathers of the Church, by Mike Aquilina, 3rd edition, pg. 53.

Reading this book may just give me hope.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A List

I am sorry.  I have had a vicious case of the block all day.

So, in lieu of a post of a varying degree of potential interest to you, I am going to simply list the next dozen fiction books I would like to read, provided nothing else hops up in the way, as seen from me turning my head 180 degrees (and my body 90 degrees) around to look at the book shelf.

In no particular order –

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Billy Budd by Herman Melville
The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper
Weaveworld by Clive Barker
Seven Days in May by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II
Exodus by Leon Uris
Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
Men of Mathematics by Eric T. Bell
The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas
The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov
Lust for Life by Irving Stone

And there you have it!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Daylight Thoughts

Ah, so good to get that extra hour of sleep this time of year.  And I spent it in deep slumber.  Went to bed last night around 11 and woke up at 6, for the illogical amount of 8 hours sleep.  Good, refreshing.

Made a reading decision yesterday.  I’m two-thirds finished with The Silmarillion, just about done with the Silmarillion part of The Silmarillion, so that leaves the “Akallabeth,” Tolkien’s Atlantis analog, and a small section dealing with the Rings and the Third Age.  Should finish it all in about a week or ten days at the leisurely pace I’m reading / listening to it.  What fiction with Hopper read for the balance of November?

Traditionally, for the last decade or so, November has meant JFK for me.  I got into all the assassination literature around 2003 / 2004, read about twenty or twenty-five books about it.  The result?  Went from a probably believer to just about a confirmed skeptic (regarding a conspiracy, that is).  I was at the library the other day and browsed the JFK section and was uninterested in reading anything.  Then I remembered – my stepdad bought Stephen King’s 11/22/63 for me a while ago, and it’s been sitting on the shelf for a few months.  That’s what I’ll be reading.  See how time travel and horror mixes with the whole affair.

For nonfiction, I started The Fathers of the Church by Mike Aquilina.  This hefty, readable tome focuses on the hundred or so men (and a few women) known as the Church Fathers, who guided the early Church much as a father guides his family, with strength, love, authority, even a bit of righteous anger when necessary.  Tells about the lives of these diverse men, who range from cranky and cantankerous to serene and studious, from Popes and nobles to farmhands and hermits.  Also features lots of their original writings.  About thirty pages in so far, and still very interested.

Halloween was incredible this year.  Never seen the girls work so hard – over four hundred pieces of candy hauled in, stored in three huge bowls now sitting out of reach atop our wine glass cabinet.  They worked hard, I must admit, and the whole soccer regimen yesterday, especially in the cold, the wet, the rain, the mud, was grinding on us all.  Then, yesterday, we hosted one of Little One’s friends over on a play date, and they did nails, played cards, and watched a spooky Disney movie.  Very cute and fun.

More later …