Saturday, January 31, 2015

Vaya Con Dios, Enero

Estoy enfermo.

I am sick.  Something in my throat, making me cough, which hurts, and somehow making me light-headed and achy.  Stumbling from room to room in the house by myself (the girls are wife-driven to basketball games, playdates, errands, etc.) as if pounded flat on the head with one of them circus-bell mallets.  Trying to read, trying to lay and watch teevee, but nothing is satisfying.  Hungry, but when I eat I feel icky.  Ick.

I’m kinda glad January is over.  Definitely my least-favorite month: it’s cold, it’s long, there’s snow, there’s cabin fever if yer stuck inside, wind-chill factors if you have to go out to travel.  Work always panics this time of year so there’s the justify-your-job aspect of capitalism I’ve grown to hate.  It’s a blah month.

But it’s not all bad here at Chez Hopper.  The wife is bringing in the dough and receiving major career satisfaction props with her new position at her new company.  Patch is rocking the b-ball court.  Little One, it seems, is too, now that we’ve got her in the proper league with the proper coaching.  Me, I put the brakes on my reading and as a result, my literary life is much more fulfilling, so far.

A couple of book reviews and two weird philosophic observations I read recently (one on Spinoza, one on Heidegger) that I am at a loss to put into words but feel I must.  The philosophic observations, that is.  The book review’ll be here in a few days.  Other than that, not much on deck as I’m kind of in a limbo-of-sorts as to what I want to do next.  This is a much more pressing limbo as the generic, life-wide-and-life-long limbo I’ve been in.  When these sorts of things happen (1992, 1997, 2005), I find that things happen to me once I take that first step.  Ever happen to you?  Well, just gotta figure out what that first step is.  Specifically, that is.

So – go with God, January of 2015.  You were good in that you were fast, and because you were fast, the better parts of the year are closer round the corner.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Personal Memoirs of the Personal Memoirs of US Grant

A memory popped into my mind driving to work today.  A little over three years ago I read a Civil War history book on a whim.  A dozen or so more books followed over two years, then I moved on to the history of World War II, followed by World War I.  I like immersing myself in something I know little or nothing about, and the histories of America’s wars fall into this category.

Anyway, I remember borrowing the audiobook of The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant from the library.  I’d listen to it commuting to work, but the memory that stuck out was what I’d do on Friday nights.  I’d get off of work, grab one of those juice smoothie things from the grocery store, and listen to the CD book in my car, in cold, wet weather like this, vicariously reliving General Grant’s experiences.  I did this frequently during the six or so weeks it took to get through the book, and it was quite a relaxing, refreshing experience.  Should’ve had a shot of whiskey and smoke a cigar during these listening sessions in honor of the man whose life I was studying, but, hey, I got a family and I’m trying to stay healthy.

I have a funny memory of the audiobook, too.  During those six weeks, my trusty Impala broke down with one of its many coolant leaks, and the extended warranty company paid for a rental car.  When the job was done, the rental company picked up the car from me a few days later – and immediately afterward I realized I left one of the Grant CDs in the car.  So the next day I drove on over to the rental place and had the twenty-something Hispanic girl behind the counter rummage through their lost and found.  She wanted to know what CD she should look for.  I told her, “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.”  She raised an eyebrow at me, and I said, no kidding:

“It’s what all the kids are listening to nowadays.”

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Still Life With Skull

Stared at this painting for three hours today.

In four forty-five minute increments.

Dunno, just kept coming back to it.

At least, it seemed more important than all the credits and debits I was juggling on my schedules at work.


Perhaps something is trying to tell me something.


Necessary = Doable

“It was necessary, and the necessary was always possible.”

Out of the Silent Planet, chapter 13, by C. S. Lewis

Nice, refreshing words of inspiration found in an old friend I’m revisiting, Lewis’s first book of his Space Trilogy, published nigh on seventy-seven years ago …

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


I wanna be a HENRY! 

Don’t know what that is?  Haven’t heard the term before?  It’s an easy acronym:

High Earner, Not Rich Yet.

I guess you can say I already am a NRY (or is it “an NRY”?)  It’s just that first part that’ll need a tad bit more work. 

But don’t you wanna be a HENRY, too?!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Were We Supposed to Get Snow Yesterday?

Well, that was a bust.

What a fearful people we’ve become! 

I laugh at those “in charge” of our schools and our state, local and federal governments.  You are fools and cowards. 

That off my chest, I can begin the main body of this post.

The Great Nor’Easter of 2015 dumped … a great grand total of three inches of snow on my town yesterday.  Those three inches brought my town – and the entire northern part of the state, from what I can tell – to a screaming halt, closed down schools for a day and a half, forced us to park our third car on our front lawn, and made me lose a full day of work (I had to burn a personal day to make up the income). 

I am sick of the schools pre-emptively shutting down thirty-six hours before a storm comes into town.  The possibility of a storm.

I am sick of the media herding the more frightened among us, contagious in their fear like the 28 Days Later virus, driving them panicking into the stores for bread and milk, into the gas stations to fuel up the cars, and out of the stores that drive the engines of our economy.  Shame on you all in the media.

The only positive, the only plus, for me and my family, was that I was able to spend yesterday afternoon camped out on the living room floor with my girls, among pillows and blankets, watching Sci Fi movies (The Thing from Another World), chuckle-worthy teevee shows (America’s Funniest Home Videos), and Patch cartoons (Uncle Grandpa).  I was also able to read about 40 pages of my book and soak in the tub with some Epsom salts to sooth my aching, pre-storm-shovelin’ muscles.  The wife, fortunately, was able to telecommute, so she could stay at home to watch the girls, since the dolts who run the school system in our town still kept the schools closed while they cleared the three inches off the streets, sidewalks, and parking lots.

I know they’re so, so, so terrified of Buffalo 2014.  You know, where those expert weatherpersons predicted a foot and seven feet actually arrived.  Every time now when I dismiss a news report I’m going to hear “Buffalo! Buffalo! Buffalo!”  Heck, this morning the wife and I saw that dimwit Cuomo on the tube going “Buffalo! Buffalo! Buffalo!”  So, no, I don’t believe the Great Not Nor’Easter of 2015 will change anything.

It was a mixed blessing, though.  Only half the people showed up at work today, and in the relative quiet I was able to catch up on a few projects.  Back to the grind tomorrow though.

Please: Do not get caught up with the hype with this snow nonsense.  People survive and thrive – and have survived and thrived for centuries – in the northern Midwest, in Canada, in Scandinavia and Siberia – with the threat of snowstorms greater than three inches in a single fall.  Have some common sense (always keep adequate food and emergency supplies on hand), and faith in God, yourself, and your fellow man (unless he’s a government bureaucrat), and we’ll all do fine.

At least the girls had a fun day off.  Here’s a closeup of a snowman they built in the backyard, which they’re calling Jabba the Hut:

Monday, January 26, 2015


Well, spent the day so far preparing for the Great Nor’Easter To Be of 2015.  An annual event, we here in northern NJ usually get two feet of snow dumped on us at least once a season.  Grim weathermen have consulted the orbs and issued the warnings last night; carrier pigeons have been sent out; klaxons have blared and fiery pyres have been ignited:  Be Ware, Mortal Man of the Tri-State Area!  Get your loaves of bread and your half-gallons of hormone-free milk from the grocery stores, for a Storme is coming your way, and the roads may be out of service for a day.

They’re predicting 12-20 inches of snow in the next 24 hours.

Got the text alert that schools would be closing today at 12:45, a full five hours before the first snowflakes were forecasted to fall.  Being a trooper, and needing the dough, I went in to work at 6:30 this morning since I would be the parent picking up our little ones.  Which I did, then, after feeding them some piping hot soup coupled with rolls and cups of orange juice, I began to secure the homestead from Mother Nature.

I parked both cars as close together as possible, as close to the garage in our one-lane driveway.  The wife has her new (used) company car, and we haven’t sold the Impala yet, so we’re a three-car two-driver family.  Unfortunately, the police don’t like that, as the young cop woke me early Saturday to move the newest car off the street after our latest snowfall so the DPW trucks could motor by.  So, I’m going to have her park the SUV straddling the sidewalk – one set of wheels on our yard, the other set between the sidewalk and the curb.  We’ll see how that goes, and if it’ll be marooned there until sometime the end of March when the thaw moves out.

Then I climbed up on the garage and shoveled all four icy inches of Saturday snow off it.  The surface area is about 450 square feet, and all that ice and snow gets pretty heavy.  Wouldn’t want that collapsing on me, would we?  I’ll be up there again tomorrow morning, scooping off that 12-20 inches of snow, and, incidentally, trying not to fall the twenty feet off it myself.

Widened the previously shoveled walkways, driveways, and sideways, paying attention to get up any loose chunks of ice.  Salted the whole thing.  Then trudged into the backyard to clean off the deck furniture.  Again, all this will be repeated tomorrow morning, with the possible addition of later tonight and tomorrow afternoon.

So – the Hopper household is ready!  Bring it, O Great Nor’Easter To Be of 2015!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Change of Pace

I’ve decided to do something a little different in 2015.  I want to read every book I read cover-to-cover, twice.

2014 was a whirlwind year for me.  I read for relaxation and escape, but last year I read so voraciously I found I was rarely experiencing either.  Sixty books – one every six days – I sped through.  Not all was fluff (Socrates Meets Kant by Peter Kreeft, A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton, Everything and More by David Foster Wallace).  Some were thick tomes (11/22/63 by Stephen King, an anthology of Lovecraft’s works).  Many were classics (All Quiet on the Western Front, Billy Budd, Watership Down, The Iliad).  Trouble is, if I didn’t compulsively record everything I read, I would’ve forgotten half of everything I’ve read.

And that’s not something I’m comfortable with.

I want everything I read to become a part of me.  I want to absorb the good, worthy things I invest time with, even the “fluff” I use to escape the stresses and tensions of modern 21st-century life.

Hence, everything I read I will read twice. 

This is to side-step the urge I get, half-way through a book, to start a new one.  Plus, everything that passes my eyes and traverses the optic nerve to my brain will make the trip twice, reinforcing everything I learn and vicariously experience.

That’s something I want.

This time last year I had already read three books and a half-dozen short stories.  Since New Year’s Day of this year, I’m halfway through my second book.  (Though the first one I’ve read twice).  So it’s a bit slower, and definitely more focused, than my reading was a year ago.

A change of pace.  I like that.

Friday, January 23, 2015

US Politics in a Nutshell

Democrats = Sauron
Republicans = Saruman

There.  Now 2 percent of the population understands the truth.

Maybe I’ll write-in “Eonwë” on November 8, 2016.

And to make it even more clearer for another 0.0035 percent, a quote from Chesterton:

“The business of liberals is to go on making mistakes.  The business of conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.”

Guys, you only get one mulligan, and you just used it up!
Yer on notice!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

American Holocaust

What feelings does today’s anniversary stir up in you?  Sadness?  Anger?  Satisfaction?  Boredom?

To be honest, for half my life it bored me.  Mostly because, as a single man, it wasn’t exactly on my radar.  And also because our culture has a “pro-choice” tilt to it, when it even bothers to shine a light at the abortion dilemma.  Just check to see if your nightly news station of choice has more than a perfunctory mention of the large-scale marches in Washington today.  Pope John Paul II did not call ours a “culture of death” for no reason.

In my mid-twenties I had a strong conversion – really, a re-version – back to my Catholic faith.  It followed directly on the heels of cleaning up my act hedonism-wise and reading through the Bible, cover-to-cover, February to April of 1992.  Afterwards, the abortion problem in this country began to disturb me.  Still, though, aside from changing my voting to Republican (I know, I know …), I did nothing about it because it did not really affect me.

This sharply changed sometime in the spring of 2004.

I saw, on a sonogram printout, the spine of my walnut-sized daughter, growing in my wife’s womb.

Then it hit me like it never had before.  This is a life.  A human life.  And abortion is not only wrong, it is an evil, repugnant crime. 

Since then, whenever we’ve had a few spare coins, we’ve donated to pro-life causes.  A microscopic drop in a vast sea, but every little bit helps.  The wife and I make sure our children are raised pro-life, and each January 22 I look forward to the day, a few years in the future, I can take my oldest (and soon after, our youngest), and attend the March for Life down in DC in person.

May God bring an end to this shameful blot on this country.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Heaven and Earth

Blessed are the dead
Who die in the Lord!
And though the waters be o’er earth outspread,
Yet, as his word,
Be the decree adored!
He gave me life – he taketh but
The breath which is his own:
And though these eyes should be for ever shut.
Nor longer this weak voice before his throne
Be heard in supplicating tone,
Still blessèd be the Lord,
For what is past,
For that which is:
For all are his,
From first to last –
Time – space – eternity – life – death –
The vast known and immeasurable unknown.
He made and can unmake;
And shall I, for a little gasp of breath,
Blaspheme and groan?
No; let me die, as I have lived, in faith,
Nor quiver, though the universe may quake!

- “Heaven and Earth: A Mystery” (1821) by George Gordon Lord Byron, lines 1148-1169

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Warning

Well-heeded and worthy,
from one of my literary masters:

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture.
Just get people to stop reading them.”

– Ray Bradbury

Does the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, etc, etc, etc, count?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Am I a Pessimist

To strongly believe the prediction below will come to pass?

“I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.  His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.”

- Francis Cardinal George

I had heard the first part of the quote before and have repeated it to others in conversation.  But I was not aware of the second half.  Bravo, Cardinal George, spot on.  Perhaps I am, ultimately, an optimist.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


I think this is the authentic sign and seal
of Godship; that it ever waxes glad,
And more glad, until gladness blossoms, bursts
into a rage to suffer for mankind.

- Robert Browing, Balaustion’s Adventure

As found quoted in Bishop Sheen’s Life of Christ, page 126 (beginning of Chapter 9) of my softcover edition.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Let's Go to the Hop II

Well, life moves in cycles.  Circle of life and all that stuff.  A couple of years ago it was Little One’s first trip to the school’s sock hop.  Now, it’s Patchie’s turn.  And it turns out she had a blast.  Little One tagged along to show her younger sister the ropes.  A good time was had by all – here are some action shots of the First Grade Sock Hop:

Oh, yeah, and she won first place for Best Dressed Girl, earning a free slice of pizza at lunch next Friday.

Books Waiting to Challenge Me

Speaking of the Lens Grinder, here are, off the top of my head, a half-dozen philosophy books I would absolutely love to read, to notate, to study, to digest, to be able to sit back and experience some orgasmic degree percentage of satori:

Ethics, by Spinoza

Being and Time, by Heidegger

Critique of Practical Reason, by Kant

Monadology, by Leibniz

The World as Will and Representation, by Schopenhauer

Being and Nothingness, by Sartre

Should have been a philosophy major in college.  But then again, I need to be in a certain mood for this kinda stuff, and I haven’t found the on/off switch for it and, at the mid-point of life, probably never will.

(I actually have the first five lying about somewhere in the stacks of books in the basement.  Maybe I’ll pick one up and read a first chapter – or first page – or first sentence, as the case may be – this weekend, if only to exercise my brain embattled from a week of pointless meaningless stress …)

Friday, January 16, 2015


Thinking about inserting a very important secondary character, known as the Lens Carver, into a novel I am outlining.  Then, I got to thinking, “Four hundred years ago, they didn’t carve lenses, did they?  Didn’t they grind them or something?”  (Note: the only crafty things I can do with my hands are type and play the guitar, so I need to research things like this.)

I like “The Lens Carver” so much better than “The Lens Grinder.”  In fact, every time I hear the word “grinder” I think of those legendary bardsmen from my high school days, Judas Priest …

Grinder! … Look-ing for meat!
Grinder! … Wants you to eat!

(Note 2: I am not making fun of Judas Priest.  I still love them, but you gotta approach them with a certain mindset …)

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Would I rather work for the next year doing what I normally do and getting paid what I normally get paid, or get the same amount of money in one up front lump sum to spend one minute in the ring with Mike Tyson (even at his current age and in-shape status)?

I say put me in the ring with Tyson and get it over with.  Figure I would spend the next six months recuperating, and that’d leave me with six months of freedom!

Cue Aretha Franklin: “Freedom! … Freedom! … Freedom!!!”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

10 Places I'd Rather Be ...

Than where I currently am …

My church in Paris, Notre Dame de l’Assomption de Paris

Any air-conditioned cabin on the shore of Lake George, New York

The Auberge du Soleil, in Napa Valley, California

The bathtub in my bachelor pad of 8 years (1992-2000)

A corner cubicle at the Library of Science and Medicine, Rutgers University, Busch Campus

My private office in the car wash building, 1998-99

The Subtle Hint rehearsal studio, Steve’s garage, 1990-92 (Les Paul in hand)

The Chanel mountainside villa in Puerto Rico, overlooking the Atlantic ocean

Under an umbrella on my deck on a hot July day – a good book in one hand, a frosty beer in the other, and classic rock songs booming from the radio

My bed, sound asleep!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


So so so much stress this week at work.  Can’t hardly catch my breath, let alone think, and when I get home all my brain wants to do is detox from the noise and the rush and the pressure to get this done, solve that problem, do this for that, get that done for this, etc etc etc.

All this to say that I, er, have nothing really to say.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  I have stuff to say, but lack the drive to translate my thoughts from ether to skull to finger to keyboard to Bill Gates thing to blog. 

I will try my darnedest to put up something interestin’ tomorrow – No!  As Yoda says, there ain’t no try, so I will do! 

See ya tomorrow.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Littlest Snake Plissken

I woke up at 4 am this morning to go to the bathroom, and caught the glow of the teevee on in the downstairs living room.  I crept down and spotted my ten-year-old, Little One, wrapped in a blanket on the couch watching cartoons.

“Can’t sleep?” I asked.

“No,” she said in a quiet voice.

I thought a moment.  “Wanna watch the rest of Escape from New York?”

I DVR’d the famous 1981 John Carpenter flick – starring Kurt Russell as the immortal Snake Plissken – a few days ago and wrestled whether ten was the appropriate age to introduce my daughter to this classic piece of sci fi cinema that is part of the long chain of media that created the warped artist known as her dad. 

Though the wife strongly was against it, on Friday evening I decided to watch the first twenty minutes with my little one to test it out, after we had finished watching another classic, 1954’s Them!  She handled it like a champ, cracking some downright funny jokes and pulling off a real mean Snake Plissken impression.

She brightened at my suggestion: “Okay!”

So at 4:15 am on Sunday morning, pitch black and below freezing outside, we laid some pillows and blankets on the floor and watched the last hour-and-a-half of Escape from New York.  Ah, memories!

One of the iconic lines in the movie is the dialogue between Snake and Houk, the man who drives the hard bargain to force Snake into the prison city of New York to retrieve the President of the United States.  “Call me Snake,” Snake says, in the coolest, baddest whisper-snarl you’ve ever heard.  At the end of the flick, after Snake screws back Houk, he leaves with a “Call me Plissken.”

At lunchtime earlier today, as I was picking up my deli order, I turned and said, “Let’s go, Little One.”

“Call me Hamster Luvr 999,” she said in a menacing whisper.  “And that’s Luvr spelled L-U-V-R …”

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Decisions, decisions

Not sure what I should read next …

These are the three books that’ve been jostling each other on deck since early December –

The Concise History of the Crusades, by Thomas F. Madden

The Life of Christ, by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

The Shadow of the Torturer, by Gene Wolfe

All worthy, all desperate to be read.

I think my preferences run 45 percent for one, 40 percent for another, and just 15 percent for the underdog.  Just not sure which one gets the 5 percent edge in the decision.

Ah, well. 

First world problem, I guess.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Jimmy Page

I’ve had a lot of pseudo-gurus throughout my life, and Jimmy Page, the guitarist, founding-member, and creative force behind the legendary band Led Zeppelin was probably one of the bigger ones, particularly for the handful of years around the mid-80s.  Zeppelin was a band I absolutely loved.  I collected all their releases on cassette tapes.  I taped rare live shows off the radio.  I listened to the bootlegged Destroyer album.  I read The Hammer of the Gods cover-to-cover a half-dozen times; it was the Bible for me and the other guitar player in my band at that time.  I had my first kiss while listening to “Dazed and Confused” from the live album The Song Remains the Same

I only saw him perform live once, sometime between the fall of 1984 and the summer of 1985, when he fronted the less-than-stellar The Firm.  Songs were good but unrecollectable.  However, he did do his trademark 20-minute guitar solo violin bow thingie in a dry-ice fog boxed in by revolving green laser beams.  Cool, so very cool …

Anyway, Mr. Page turns 71 years old today.  Who’da thunk it?  That got me thinking of doing the impossible: could I list my top ten favorite Led Zeppelin songs of all time?  At the end of a very stressful work week, with the news of the day filled with murder and mayhem, especially oversees in my beloved Paris, I thought this would be a great exercise this afternoon.

(Note: this really is an impossible task.  But I’ll give it a shot.)

How about …

In no particular order …

Heartbreaker *

Celebration Day *

Dazed and Confused *

The Ocean *

No Quarter *

That’s the Way

In the Evening


The Battle of Evermore

All My Love

Yeah, I know “Carouselambra” and “All My Love” are (maybe) too heavily-keyboard-laden and thus John Paul Jonesian, but, hey, I like the songs.  And I like what Page does on them.

Honorable Mentions:

Houses of the Holy *
Out on the Tiles *
Darlene *
Nobody’s Fault But Mine *
Custard Pie *
What Is and What Should Never Be *
The Wanton Song
The Rover *
The Rain Song
Tangerine *
Dancing Days
The Immigrant Song *
Bron-Y-Aur Stomp
Poor Tom
and Hats Off to Harper *

* = I have played these on the trusty six-string at least once in the past six months.

Here’s an old post entitled “Old Man Still Got It” showing, well, Jimmy still has it.

And this “Celebration Day,” live at Madison Square Garden in 1973, something that resounded with me, and still does, over thirty-years after first hearing it:

Vive le Page!  Vive le Page!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Stupidist

Whilst eating my lunch and surfing the web at work, I stumbled across a comment on a blog post which contained the sentence:

“That’s the stupidist thing you’ve ever written!”

How lovely the irony!

I find so much delight in this that I am officially coining a new word:

Stupidist = a student of stupidity.

No, not just a student.  A connoisseur of stupidity.  More than a stupidity buff, a devotee to the stupid arts, a gourmet, a bon vivant of all things stupid – but a veritable expert on the anti-intelligent, a virtuoso of idiocy.

The Stupidist.

But the thing is, by its a priori nature, by definition, a Stupidist can not be stupid himself.  Hence, the author of that unfortunately fortuitous comment cannot be labeled a Stupidist.

Just stupid.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

So very, very sad ...

I am at a loss for words

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


“Kingdoms and provinces are melancholy, cities and families, all creatures, vegetable, sensible, and rational – that all sorts, sects, ages, conditions, are out of tune … For indeed, who is not a fool, melancholy, mad?”

One day Ima gonna sit down and read Robert Burton’s million-page 1621 treatise The Anatomy of Melancholy.  Not that I’m melancholy-by-nature, per se, no more so than the average person, though perhaps melancholia knocks on my door a tad more frequently (whether I answer that knock is, well, dependent on more things than I care to go into in this post).  No, simply for the pure challenge of it.  (I have a bookmark on my Google chrome “most difficult reads”, and two or three of the frequent guests upon those lists are sitting on the bookshelf behind me.)

I remember taking the book out from one of the local libraries, their sheer heft of it, the ancient-icity of its pages (the book looked as if it was bound in the 1640s).  Admired the thousands of its pages, the type, the italics, the Latin poetry, page upon page upon page, and I knew this was something I had to conquer, to overcome, to master in a way no one else has, with the possible exception of Burton himself.

Never did read more than a dozen or so pages.

But it is not a challenge for right now, or for the foreseeable future.  Perhaps never in this too-short lifetime, but a bibliophile can dream, can’t he?

Monday, January 5, 2015

NFL Playoffs

After watching the NFL playoff games this past weekend, I noticed that every single team I wanted to win, lost.

So, in light of this discovery, here are my predictions for next week’s games:

The Patriots will destroy the Ravens

The Colts will destroy the Broncos

The Cowboys will destroy the Packers

The Seahawks will squeak past the Panthers

Sunday, January 4, 2015

It's Always Something!

So now the clothes dryer won’t dry clothes.  It runs on gas.  When you put a load in and turn it on, you hear a click and then the gas is fired up into the thing and 40 minutes later your clothes are dry.

This is not now happening.

I religiously clean the lint trap, so that’s not it.  The gas is working ’cause we got heat in the house and the stove works. I crawled under the deck in the mud and muck to check the exhaust vent, and that was clear.  The only thing I can’t do is remove the tube from the back of the dryer to make sure that’s not blocked because I don’t have the tool for it.  Might have to go over to my buddy’s house to borrow it, though.

I told my wife, who needs to have her laundry done because she’s flying out to Pittsburgh for a week for her new job, what the scoop was.  She wasn’t happy.  Neither am I.  “It’s always something,” I said in disgust.  “No it isn’t,” she said, maybe to cheer me up.

But, going chronologically backwards over the past five months, we’ve needed furnace maintenance with the prospect of being told we need to start saving for a new one this summer; the water pump in the Impala to be replaced because its leaking was causing the car to overheat; the igniter to be replaced in the kitchen stove because, well, the stove just wasn’t working; the upstairs toilet to be professionally plunged to remove a clog that was causing water to leak into the kitchen downstairs; a new roof finally put on the house, a few years overdue, for both cosmetic and leak prevention measures.

Something every month.  I’m at wits end.  I just want thirty days where nothing breaks, where nothing has to be done or something worse will happen, thirty days where my bank account can just rest and catch its breath.

Okay.  Rant off.  Back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Interview

Last night, me, the wife, and a couple of our friends did our patriotic duty:  We watched Seth Rogan and James Franco in The Interview.

It was actually better than I thought’d be.  I knew it’d be crude, crass, and over-the-top, but, man, was it crude, crass and over-the-top.  For once Seth played the more restrained and respectable characters.  James Franco was so completely insane and out of left field that I have a new-found respect for him as a capital-A second-syllable-stressed Ac-tor.  And the man who played Kim Jong Un was surprisingly sympathetic, bringing both a childlike innocence and a maniacal malignancy to an unsuspectingly complex character.  You find it baffling to feel so much sympathy for a monster, and by the end of the flick, I did.

I never laughed so hard so many times in a movie in a long time, probably not since the original Hangover movie or I Love You Man or some such chucklefest.  The rapid-fire repartee with all the comfortable weirdness between Rogen and Franco made me comment that these two must have spent an incredible amount of time together in altered states of consciousness.  In fact, and I’ll probably regret this, it reminded me of those good ol’ days back in the late-80s and early-90s, where me and my small circle of friends abused our bodies to unbelievable levels and had our own hilarious – at least to ourselves – catalog of in-jokes and put-downs.  Not least of all, the slapstick elements alone made the flick worth seeing.  The Interview is an instance where the movie is much, much, much funnier than the trailer.  Because they can’t legally show the funniest stuff on national teevee.

Now Go See It!

It’s your patriotic duty as a citizen of the Free World!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Book Review: Space Vulture

© 2008 by Gary K. Wolf and John J. Myers

Did I like it?  Yes.  Was it meaningful, earth-shattering in any way, profound?  Nah.  But it was interesting, exciting in places, more-than-occasionally funny, populated with unique characters.  A page-turner that drew you in.  Most importantly, it did what it set out to do: revisit and pay homage to a subgenre of Science Fiction called the Space Opera.

Space Opera is kinda like a soap opera set in outer space.  Your typical one is chock full o’ galactic empires good and evil, aliens, princesses, swashbucklers, ray guns, rockets, robots, action, adventure, romance, and melodrama.  If the movie Star Wars comes immediately to mind, give yourself a hundred points.  George Lucas, unable to secure the rights to Flash Gordon, went and wrote his own space opera and it rejuvenated the genre.

The best definition for it I’ve read is from Brian Aldiss: “the good old stuff.”

Me, I came of age as a science fiction fanatic in the mid-to-late-70s, cutting my teeth more on “hard SF” tales and the “New Wave” of the 60s where science fiction became a tool to mind experiment and noodle with time-honored social conventions.  However …

While not personally not a huge fan of the space opera subgenre, I read my share as a kid, beginning with Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Princess of Mars and a bunch of its sequels.  His Pirates of Venus endlessly fascinated me sometime around 1978 or 79 – I recall taking the book wherever I went, including the high-school football games my father coached, reading it under the bleachers.  As mentioned, the movie Star Wars, as well as the original run of the teevee show Battlestar Galactica and its late-70s competitor Buck Rogers riveted me.  I even watched some Flash Gordon reruns with my dad one day one spring at my grandmother’s house.

A few years ago, on a whim, I picked up an entry in the E.E. “Doc” Smith “Lensman” series.  It didn’t exactly take me, but I hacked my way through it.  When the basement flooded back in ’09, my aunt saw the carcass of the book floating in the bilge and bought me a new copy.  Which I will re-read again one day.

And so I came to Space Vulture.

On first glance, this book seems custom written for me.  Its co-authors, friends since childhood, are Gary K. Wolf and John Myers.  Gary K. Wolf is of Killerbowl, A Generation Removed, and The Resurrectionist fame, and a genuine icon of my childhood – each of those three books fascinated and undoubtedly influenced me to no end.  Oh, and he also made his fortune writing a little book about a cartoon character named Roger Rabbit.  John J. Myers is the Catholic Archbishop of Newark, and the thought of reading a science fiction book written by a Catholic Archbishop intrigued me the moment I heard about it.  So I bought it one day at B&N and a few weeks ago finally got around to reading it.

Space Vulture was deliberately written to evoke the space operas the two authors devoured as children in the 1940s out in Illinois.  All the elements are there: dastardly villain Space Vulture, dashing Space Patrolman Victor Corsaire, the damsel-in-distress (updated to 21st-century testosterone-laden lady) who would die to save her two young boys, a shady criminal who has a novel-long change of heart, some of the most delightfully disgusting alien species I’ve ever read about, hand-to-hand combat, blasters firing away showdowns, sneaky escapes, terrible tortures, slave worlds, farm worlds, deserted archaeological worlds stalked by mechanical guardians, space ships and escape pods, and a robot named Can Head, who should have lasted longer than the first chapter.

Space Vulture and Vic Corsaire are two of the most hammiest villain-and-hero combos I’ve ever read about, but, you know, it works!  They came to life right off the page, despite the whole ridiculousness of the thing, and I could really envision this as an updated Flash-Gordon-with-CGI if anyone was ever daring enough to put this on the big or small screen.  I would read more, and was pleased to see that the authors set up the possibility of a sequel at novel’s end, with our titular menace inexplicably disappearing from the inescapable prison world of Purgatory.

Grade: A –

I’m passing it along to my 11-year-old godson next time I see him.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Solemnity of Mary

We had a low-key affair watching the ball drop last night.  Just me, the Mrs., and the little ones.  (Our usual New Years Eve partners in crime were going to a party at their neighbors house and we felt it weird to crash it.)  Mrs. Hopper made a delicious lasagna from scratch.  The girls got into PJs and brought pillows and blankets down to the living room.  We watched a whole bunch of year-in-review stuff, then switched to Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Years Eve.  Patch lasted until 10:30, Little One made it to midnight.  We all had either champagne or sparkling raspberry soda. 

Today is a Holy Day of Obligation here in my neck of the woods, the Solemnity of Mary.  I dutifully got up at 7, showered, got dressed in the quiet house, put on my heavy jacket to protect against the 19 degree weather.  There was some confusion as to mass time – the bulletin from last Sunday said 8 am, the church website said 9 am.  I figured to go in early just to be safe.

I was wrong, as was two or three dozen other churchgoers.  Oh, and I was the youngest one of ’em all.  We stood outside locked church doors, wondering what to do, not wanting to admit that we all were probably an hour early for mass.  Ever been a round a flock of enraged seniors?  I half expected them to knock down a nearby telephone pool and ram the church doors.  Finally a woman from the parish office came by to tell us it was decided yesterday to change mass to 9 am, so that more people could make it.  An indignant old man next to me cried out, “Says who!”

I thought I could read in my car for the ensuing 45 minutes but it was too cold.  So I went home and chatted with the wakening family.  Once the real mass was done, I came home again and we all had a major breakfast: eggs, bacon, biscuits, OJ.  The girls did their arts and crafts, we watched some teevee shows, I paid some bills followed by a hot bath reading a book on the Crusades.  I’m typing this up waiting to eat reheated leftover lasagna, perhaps the greatest food ever to spring from the mind of man.

Happy New Years Day, all!