Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Winter of Our Discontent

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that loured upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths,
Our bruisèd arms hung up for monuments,
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged War hath smoothed his wrinkled front,
And now, instead of mounting barbèd steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks
Nor made to court an amorous looking glass;
I, that am rudely stamped, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling Nature,
Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity.
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determinèd to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

Richard III, Act I, scene I, lines 1-31

[Read by myself in the uppermost bleachers at my daughter’s final basketball game of the season, during only those periods of time she sat resting on the bench.  They won, 19-10, and finished the season 7-9.  Richard of Gloucester, the speaker of the above citing lines, would go on to murder his way to the throne of England, and end his life ingloriously on the battlefield.]

Always Worth Remembering

When there’s no light at the end of the tunnel:

Let nothing disturb you;

Nothing frighten you.

All things are passing.

God never changes.

Patience obtains all things.

Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God.

God alone suffices.

– Prayer of St. Teresa of Avila

Stressful times at work … justify-your-job … cut expenses mercilessly … no overtime, no bonuses, no vacation payouts … but still bills and expenses and a schedule packed too tight that there’s hardly room to breathe …

Thank God the wife has stepped up …

Today: errands with the little ones, a basketball game, and a Star Trek marathon in honor of Leonard Nimoy.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

Argh!  My heart is broken!

I grew up watching Leonard Nimoy.  To this day I still DVR Trek to watch with the girls (we just viewed “Arena” two days ago) and youtube the In Search Of clips when I can’t sleep (as detailed in yesterday’s post).  I always identified more with Spock than Kirk, and Leonard’s voice mesmerized me as I explored Sasquatch, the Shroud of Turin, the Oak Island Mystery, the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, and a whole host of other paranormal and history’s-mysteries In Search Of stuff.  I recall watching the first Star Trek movie in an un-air conditioned house one sweltering July and being absolutely, one-hundred-percent fascinated with it.  Saw most of the other Trek movies – featuring the original cast – in the movie theaters as a teen and young adult.

Just a few weeks ago I watched an online interview where Leonard discussed his COPD and his smoking habit which led to it.  Though I don’t know when it was filmed my gut tells me it was fairly recent.  Hopefully his warnings will be heeded. 

The girls and I also watched Them! ­– the classic 1954 precursor of the big-bug wave of sci-fi flicks – just a few weeks back.  If you don’t blink you can actually get a quick glimpse of a young Leonard Nimoy as an army sergeant handing a sheet of paper to a secretary at the military base headquarters.  What disguises him is that he’s smiling.  How odd that is.  Makes me recall as a youngster watching the masterful, frightful remake of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers and being so off-put by seeing Nimoy’s pearly whites that it quite literally freaked me out.

Anyway – Live Long and Prosper, Mr. Spock!

“I am, and always will be, your friend” …

Thursday, February 26, 2015


The wife is overnighting in a Long Island hotel, participating in a two-day training event for her relatively new job.  Me, I’m stretched out in my own bed, satisfied at having tucked the girls in with lights out at 8:30.  I watch a bit of O’Reilly, surf the web on the iPad, and wait until 9 when I sneak out into the hallway.  The absolute silence indicates both little ones firmly in slumberland, and I continue my tip-toe downstairs.

I tidy up the kitchen and reward myself with an ice cream sandwich.  Then I head downstairs to the writing desk, shuffle papers about, watch a video or two online.  I climb back up two flights and take a hot bath, reading 20 or 25 pages of Sheen’s Life of Christ.  I get out, towel off, throw on my sweats, make the rounds of the house again, turn off all the lights, satisfy my OCD that the faucets aren’t running and the outlets aren’t burning.  Then I head upstairs to bed, reading C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra for a half-hour.

At 11:15, I switch off my bedside table lamp.

At 2:15, I wake up to go to the bathroom.  I return to bed and that dreaded, never-far-away, crushing feeling immediately overcomes me: insomnia.

I know – I just know, feel it in my bones as they say – that I will not be sleeping anymore this night.  I give it the old college try, toss and turn for 45 minutes, re-tucking and flipping pillows, taking sips of water, saying affirmations, visualizing something peaceful, deep breathing.  No.  Nothing.  I am wide awake.  Adrenaline is flowing through me.  Not surging, as if I was going down one of them waterslides at Great Wolf Lodge.  No, just a quiet steady flow of adrenaline, much like I picture water running from the faucet in the downstairs half-bath.

No doubt about it.  By 3 am, I realize I am awake.

So I do what I always do when I get insomnia: I head down two sets of stairs to the writing desk, power up the PC, watch In Search Of videos on youtube, and play Freecell.  I do this for fifteen or twenty minutes until guilt becomes overbearing.  I should make productive use of this time.  I open up a week’s worth of bills, stack them neatly on one side of the desk, and fill up the trashcan with junk mail and other nonessential timewasters.  (Note: Freecell is an essential timewaster.)

The boiler creaks and groans, the mice run about in the ceiling panels two feet above me, the dark and snowy front yard peers in at me from shoulder-high windows.  I’m comfortable but tired.  Wish I had an OFF BUTTON on my back, one I can press and be out for a pleasant, rejuvenating eight hours.  But no, I sit in the semi-dark basement watching Sasquatch videos and wondering where exactly my life is going.

Then I hear some ominous sounds: thump thump.  Thump.  Thump thump thump.  I know instantly what those sounds are.  It’s Patch.  Light-sleeping, nightmare-prone, afraid-of-the-dark Patch.  She’s looking for me, and in a minute she’s slowly somnambulating down the stairs to the basement.  “Hi Daddy,” she says and plops into the chair at my wife’s desk a few feet away.  “I was thinking about reading with you.”

I realize immediately I need to put an end, quick, to this madness.

“No, sweetie,” I say, getting up and receiving a full-force Disappointed Six-Year-Old Look.  “I’m tired, and you need sleep.  We have two-and-a-half hours until we need to get up.  Let’s go upstairs and back to bed.”

That takes another ten or fifteen minutes.  Amazing how slow a child can move when she doesn’t want to do something.  Finally Patch is in bed – after grousing about me turning off the hall light – and then I’m back in my bed, covers up to my neck, body slightly turned to the right, eyeing the clock on the DVR seven or eight feet away.  4:20.  The battle resumes.  For me, not Patch.  She’s out thirty seconds after I turn out the light.

And my resumed battle is quickly lost.  I give up by 4:45.  This time I reach for the remote and channel surf.  Watch the end of Groundhog Day and nearly a full thirty minutes of Alaska Marshals.  Faint blue light diffused off the snow begins to creep in through my curtain-free windows.  This is getting extremely ridiculous.  I have a busy, busy day tomorrow and don’t know how I’ll get through it on three hours sleep. 

Still, I toss and turn and flip and flop.  The last time I remember looking at the DVR was 5:50something. 

My cell phone alarm goes off at 6:30.  Turns out I got thirty minutes of deep, dreamless sleep.  That means no REM, but is that good or not?  Dunno.  I roll over, perfectly warm and comfortable and then insomnia plays it’s cruelest joke: I realize that I could sleep for six hours right now.  Six, sixteen, six hundred … makes no difference.  It wouldn’t even take any effort.  I could just doze off and …

Twenty minutes have gone by.  I bolt out of bed.  Need to get the girls fed, dressed, packed, and I need to shower, shave, dress myself, drive them to school and get to work.  No time to lose, and I already feel like I’m two hours behind the morning rush.

Is it any wonder I still regularly – and embarrassingly – fantasize about the greatest night’s sleep I ever had, on the giant, most perfect bed in the entire world, the one I slept in at the Hôtel de Crillon in Paris, nearly three years ago?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Okay, so I had Little One at work all day, sick with a fever / nausea bug.  We picked up Patch at aftercare and scooted on over to B&N to use a Christmas gift card and score some reads.  Little One picked up a Rick Riordan Greek-mythology-meets-the-modern-teen paperback and Patch got a Newberry Award winning book she read earlier this year in school.

Me, I got this:

Now, I don’t know much about Harry Harrison.  I think I read one of his books a few years back and that was it.  Never read him – to the best of my recollection – as a kid.  I did, however, read a book about a Planet of Death, and really, really, really would like to revisit it, so maybe, maybe, maybe this is it.  The novels are from the early 60s, so they could very well have had prominent places in the 1970s library of my youth.

Or maybe I’m confusing this memory with Silverberg’s Planet of Death.

Dunno.  All’s I do know is that I’m jonesing to read a good science fiction tale, the sooner the better.  Read a couple back in December, but somehow that seems like many, many moons ago …

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Birdman Redux

No, not that Birdman.

I’m talking about the 1962 Burt Lancaster flick I watched a few years ago.  Actually, about the post I wrote on it.  Specifically, what I’d do with 30 years in Solitary.  And I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately (Hopper’s automatic reset under stress is to wistfully wonder what it’d be like to be a hermit.)

So I decided to repost it now because I like it so much.  In fact, it should be linked under the “Best Ofs” over on the left of the page.

* * * * *

I must admit one thought dominated my mind after watching the Birdman movie a few days ago.  What would I do if I was sentenced to spend the rest of my life in solitary confinement?

Unlike a lot of people I know, my wife especially, the thought does not scare me.  It is not a version of my personal, private hell.  My personal, private hell would be me condemned to a lifetime of cocktail party mingling where I was severely evaluated on every performance, perhaps to determine how much food or water or sleep I would get afterwards.  Uck, I’m shuddering already.

The Birdman’s plight appeals to the inner monk in me, I suppose.  The follow-up question is, what would I do with a whole life’s time in a ten-by-ten foot cell?

No doubt it would be something intellectual.  I’m not well-known or regarded around these parts as hands-on.  Even given 3,360 hours (seven months awake in solitary) I don’t think I’d be able to transform a wood crate into a birdcage.  But that’s just me.

I often gripe in these electronic pages how I wish I had more time for this and that.  How I’d like to re-read this, or study that.  Well, this mental exercise puts you on the spot.  What would you do with all that time? 

How much time we talking about?  You’re awake 16 hours a day (the 17th, say, is for exercise).  Let’s subtract an hour a day for eating, washing, etc.  That’s 15 hours a day, or 5,475 hours a year.

Remember my post on the Rule of 10,000?  In solitary confinement, you’d master any given subject, on average, in about 22 months.

(Say, Lawrence was in the desert for 22 months.  Coincidence?)

The Birdman worked with his little winged friends, I’m guesstimating, about thirty years.  That’s 164,250 hours, or almost 16 and a half 10,000-hour periods.  No wonder he became the foremost authority on the planet concerning canaries.

Me, I guess from an actuarial standpoint I’ll be around for another forty-five years.  246,375 hours, or 24 and a half 10,000-hour periods.

What would I master?

Hmmmm.  It would be tough.  If you think about it, Birdman was really the anti-Hopper.  In the time he took from finding little sparrowling to writing his Encyclopedia of Bird Diseases, I would probably read two thousand SF paperbacks and two thousand hardcover books covering a thousand various topics.  That’s a real diffusion of focus, and that’s the curse of Hopperhood.

So, allow me a year – that’s 5,475 hours, remember – to overcome Hopperism. 

After that, I’d consider this list …

1. Reconcile quantum physics with general relativity

2. Solve the Riemann hypothesis predicting the distribution of prime numbers

3. Master Aquinian philosophy and theology and apply it to today’s society

4. Completely map out the human consciousness a la Husserl and his phenomenology

5. Memorize the Catholic Bible verse-by-verse and understand it spiritually, metaphysically, historically, anthropologically, symbolically, and as literature

6. As a corollary to #5, master Latin, ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic

7. Compose a dozen symphonies synthesizing the ideas and motifs of Sibelius, Dvorak, Brahms, and Wagner (good luck with that!) and striving beyond them

8. Study the art and science of English poetry – Shakespeare, Donne, Byron, Keats, Shelly, Tennyson, Browning, et al, and after at least a decade, try my own hand at it

But instead of all that, I’d probably just

1. Write a hundred science fiction novels.  One of ’em has to be publishable!

Heck, after 246,000 hours of writing, one of ’em better be the next Moby Dick!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Great Wolf 2015

Some pics …

Bottom line(s):

1. Patch’s courage, strength, and dexterity increased more than the three inches and ten pounds she grew this past year

2. Little One’s now a cool, seasoned professional on all the rides, slides, and pools

3. Bunk beds are really, really, really awesome if you’re a little one

Now, no more vacation for the Hopper family until the 4th of July week, when I will be taking the first official family trip down to Hilton Head in five years!  Work hard, save harder!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Vacation in Miniature

Alright, me and the family are heading out this weekend to Great Wolf Lodge, ninety minutes out in Pennsylvania.  We’re already on the road if you’re reading this Saturday morning.  I’m looking forward to a 48-hour escape (or 36-hour, whatever the exact number may be, I don’t care) from the house, the snow, the sub-Arctic winds, work, bills, chores and errands.

Great Wolf is a huge indoor waterslide park.  For 48 hours (or 36), we’ll basically be transported from Iceland to the Bahamas, climate-wise, except for when I, as the designated porter, have to shuffle over-packed bags from our room to the Honda parked two miles out in the lot.  But that I don’t mind.  We brought snacks and budgeted for wraps and Saturday night pizzas.  Stopped at the library yesterday for the girls to stock up on books for the car ride and for the early morning hours.  My eclectic take were a couple of books on biblical geography, an analysis of Shakespeare’s tragedies, and the history of the New York Mets.

I intend to go toe-to-toe with the little ones on the slides, rafts, whirlpools and whatnot.  Hopefully I won’t get stuck in a tube, as my midsection has increased a bit since last year.  But most of all, despite eight hours of eight-year-old fun, I’m hoping to get a little rest.  Though the four of us share a room with two large beds, those beds are comfortable.

So … no post tomorrow, but regularly scheduled programming will recommence on Monday.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Hopper Cinema 101

I really, really, really enjoy watching movies with my two daughters, ages 10 and 6.  We stretch out on the floor among pillows, blankets, and bowls of popcorn and have watched everything from Barbie movies to Mel Gibson’s Signs.  Obviously, Patch, my six-year-old, was not involved with Signs, as she suffers from the occasional nightmare, but she did make it through half of 2014’s Godzilla.  Though she still remarks, “Remember, Daddy, when that lady died in the smoke?” (it was actually a nuclear reactor meltdown).

Over the past few years we’ve done a lot of the Universal monster movies, started on the Abbott and Costello ones, seen more than a few Tojo Godzilla flicks, watched some classic sci fi (Them!, The Thing from Another World), done the Ray Harryhausen movies several times, seen Charlton Heston battle monkeys in the Apes movies.  These I consider their monster movie education.  Cinema 101, with fangs.  Stuff I ate up as a kid, to the point of actually buying books about the movies I’ve watched. 

Recently, though, I’ve been thinking about themes.  Themes in regards to groupings of movies.  We’ve had a very pleasant experience  as a family watching the first and third Indiana Jones movies.  (Not so sure about putting the second and fourth into rotation, though.)  So what other movie themes can I come up with?

My first thought was the completely age-inappropriate Alien franchise.  Since I won’t even let the girls watch The Blob, these movies will have to wait until they are at least in Middle School, when I first watched them.  The wife bought me the Alien four-pack on DVD one Christmas, so I will have them awaiting on deck.

For both girls I’d have to keep it light.  I definitely would like to explore the Hammer films.  These are the colorized and Anglicized versions of those Universal monsters, and they all feature Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  Me and Little One watched one or two (the Mummy and Frankenstein ones), but I’d like to see more and I think Patch could handle them.  That’d be fun.

Other films would be more Japanese monsters, though Little One is getting a bit long in the tooth for them.  However, her education must be complete.  Patch would definitely dig the Gamera movies, and both would be served well seeing the ones with Ghidora (a.k.a. Monster X), Mothra, and the mechanical counterparts to Godzilla and Kong.

Hitchcock is something I’d like to explore with Little One.  I have a five-pack of his works, too.  We could definitely see one of my favorites, Rear Window, though I think she’d appreciate more the semi-apocalyptic The BirdsPsycho would definitely wait until Middle School or later.

There are a lot of classic 50s sci fi I could and should watch with both girls: The Day the Earth Stood Still, This Island Earth, Forbidden Planet, War of the Worlds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Sure, my daughters are desensitized by today’s cinematic technology, but a good story – and all these movies are good stories – does not rely on gimmicks to draw the viewer in.

Little One has expressed interest in Jaws – and the Jaws franchise – but as she is a beach lover I would not want to ruin that.  No, we won’t be watching that Spielberg flick.  But Poltergeist might be another story.  That was a good one, and I saw it in the movies back when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school.

We already did the Star Wars original trilogy, and I refuse to put the second trio on this list.  Similarly, we watched Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, and the girls liked it, but I don’t see following up with the other movies.  As far as Star Trek: The Original Series, the girls liked the one episode I played for them; I might watch another one with them (I think they’d enjoy “Arena,” where Kirk fights the lizard Gorn in hand-to-hand combat, which I got on the DVR).  Another franchise I won’t venture into is Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, at least not until they girls read the books themselves.  I don’t want Jackson’s vision to dominate in their little minds over Tolkien’s.

What else?  Let’s see … Exploring the 007 / James Bond movies might be fun if they’ll hold the girls’ interest.  More Vincent Price flicks is also a frequent request I get from them.  We did the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, but I’d like to test drive the Tim Burton Batman ones with them.  Possible 2001 and its sequel, 2010.  Maybe Dune.  Maybe Westworld and its sequel Futureworld.  Probably Chuck Heston’s Omega Man, maybe his Soylent Green.  Definitely the Terminator ones, when they’re a wee bit older, and the Predator ones, when they’re a wee bit older than that.  For extra credit we can go to the library and start borrowing X-Files DVDs, season by season.

And we’ll continue to watch more Barbie, Disney, and Pixar movies, and all those direct-to-DVD flicks with cute puppies and kittens and talking mice. 

Heaven, For Me

Heaven, for me.

I have all the time in eternity to read all these, and all these books are books I’ve always wanted to read.  No need for sleep or rest, only if I wish a change to reset and revitalize my mind for further literary investigations.

This would be Heaven for me.  And this picture, being earthly and temporal, a picture made by human hand of a library made by human hand, is only a sub-exponential fraction of its infinitely more majestic celestial reality …

Thursday, February 19, 2015


After receiving our Lenten ashes at Mass last night:

PATCH (age 6):  Daddy!  I didn’t cry when the priest put the ashes on my forehead!

ME: Yes, I saw that you didn’t.  You’re getting to be a big girl now.

PATCH:  It doesn’t bother me anymore.

ME:  Well, it really shouldn’t.

PATCH: Yes.  Now I don’t mind having them put a dead body on me.

ME: Uh … what?

Then it dawned on me.  Last year Patch got all freaked out over receiving her ashes – cried, whined, couldn’t wait to wash them off – because she thought the ashes were from a cremated body!

ME: (laughing) No, sweetie.  Those aren’t ashes from a dead body.  They burn last year’s palms, you know, the long leafy thingies they hand out on Palm Sunday.  They burn those, and those are the ashes that they put on your forehead.

Oh, kids.  Though we never seem to believe it, there’s often a reason behind their unreasonableness.  Will I, as an adult, ever figure that out, before my two little ones become adults themselves?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

True Essence

Per Archbishop Sheen, in his Life of Christ, chapter 11:

“The unthinking often say the Sermon on the Mount constitutes the ‘essence of Christianity.’ ” 

And his genius lies in spelling out the proper rebuke for such unthinking thoughts, which, if I may be so bold as to attempt to condense and paraphrase:

The true essence of Christianity lies not in the Sermon on the Mount but the Sermon on Golgotha.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

American Apathy

Never, ever, ever in a million years would I expect myself to agree with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.  Well, I guess that’s why they came up with the phrase “never say never.”  Because I read, earlier today on a conservative website, what Mr. Matthews said about the latest (well, no longer latest; 24 hours has gone by) atrocity in the Middle East.  And I agree completely with it:

Liberal cable news host Chris Matthews called out American apathy in the wake of the latest Islamic State massacre, saying the United States is being “morally humiliated” by the terrorists.

Islamists associated with the Islamic State murdered 21 innocent Egyptian Christians in Libya on February 15, filming their mass beheading and posting the video online. The Egyptian government responded the following day, with warplanes striking targets in Libyan cities controlled by the Islamic State.

Often skeptical of American intervention, on Monday night Matthews expressed his desire that the latest atrocity not go unpunished. “Can we do nothing?” the MSNBC host asked. ”Can we just look at the pictures, ask what’s for supper? What’s on TV tonight? What’s the weather like tomorrow morning? And go on with our lives warding off the knowledge that these people are being killed in demonstration against us?”

“I know, we all know we need a plan,” Matthews continued. “We need a route that takes us to a destroyed ISIS, because the alternative is too sick, too un-American, too un-human. We can’t see people killed like this in our face and simply flip to the sports page or the financial news or what’s at the movies or who’s going to win the Oscars and act like America, our country, is not being morally humiliated.”

“Because it is, with the lives of at least some of these people, who must, in their last minutes, have to be wondering if there’s any chance the people in the United States could be coming to their rescue,” he said. “Because that’s how we were taught that we conduct ourselves. We don’t leave people behind.”

Monday, February 16, 2015

La Corona

Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise,        
Weaved in my lone devout melancholy,  
Thou which of good hast, yea, art treasury,        
All changing unchanged Ancient of days.           
But do not with a vile crown of frail bays                   
Reward my Muse’s white sincerity;       
But what Thy thorny crown gain’d, that give me,
A crown of glory, which doth flower always.     
The ends crown our works, but Thou crown’st our ends, 
For at our ends begins our endless rest.          
The first last end, now zealously possess’d,        
With a strong sober thirst my soul attends.         
’Tis time that heart and voice be lifted high;       
Salvation to all that will is nigh.

– John Donne, “La Corona,” c. 1633

This is the first of about a dozen poems grouped together in his “Divine Poems.”  I must admit to knowing very little about John Donne, his poetry, or how it’s classified.  I did pull a book of his off the library shelves two weeks ago and only last night got around to skimming it.  This poem is the first to catch my eye; the remaining dozen or so take up five or six pages.  Not much quantity-wise, but a near infinitude quality-wise.  “La Corona” – the Crown – took me a full twenty minutes to get through, to understand, to absorb, as best a padawan like me can, and I still think I short-changed both it and myself. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1

With a young Evgeny Kissin on the ivories.

This floored me.  I actually stayed up to nearly 1 am last night watching this five times.

Friday, February 13, 2015

My Presidents Day Weekend Goal

It’s President’s Day weekend.  There are no basketball games, no basketball practices, no Sunday School.  The wife has three deserved days off and I have my normal Saturday and Sunday.  Our goal this weekend?


The wife has worked 60+ hours each of the past two weeks in New York City.  That entails waking anywhere between 4:30 and 6 in the morning, depending on what time she’s due in, and staying as late as 8, 9, or 10 pm.  So she’s legitimately exhausted. 

Me, I’ve been the primary caretaker for the two little ones, a job I am completely not built for, but I try my best.  Unfortunately, there’ve been a lot of extracurricular activities in the past two weeks: six basketball games, four practices, trips to the grocery store, dropping off Little One at the school talent show (she was in the audience, not on stage), two bouts of snow shoveling.  All that in addition to feeding them, getting them showered, checking homework, and getting them to bed at a decent hour.  Those tasks were unpleasant, but some were pleasant: two trips to the library (Patch: Dad, I need to eat more words!), three trips to various pizzerias in my town.

Currently working on my second go-through with Archbishop Sheen’s Life of Christ and Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God.  With all this busy work, though, haven’t been practicing much.  Nor reading.  Hopefully this weekend, in addition to sleep, I can steal away to a secret location and put away a hundred or so pages.  Perelandra and That Hideous Strength came by post this week, and I can’t wait to delve into them.

But Sleep and Reading may have to take a back seat this weekend: Each little one will have a play date and we’re celebrating a belated birthday with my dad-in-law, so the house Must Be Thoroughly Cleaned Top to Bottom!  Truth be told, keeping a spotless abode has not been on my priority list these past ten or twelve days, so a lot needs to be done.  Hopefully I can get a start tonight before the Mrs. gets home, because once she starts cracking the cleaning whip, I tend to disappear.

Finally, as a service to You this President’s Day, may I recommend the best book I’ve read (actually, listened to on audio CD), twice:

Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief (2008), by James McPherson.

The best – and most enjoyable – book I’ve read about probably my favorite President.  Really brought out the tribulation, the frustration and the psychological angst this man went through, day in and day out over the course of four long, tragedy-filled years, to keep the great vision of a United States together.  It made me truly realize why in his famous final portrait, taken two months before his assassination at age 56, he looks at least two decades older.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


Sometimes intense interest does not translate into talent.  For example, I love languages, despite only able to speak one.  Yes, four years of high school and college Spanish has given me the lifelong ability to translate simple sentences, but if we were in Spain and you asked me to order lunch or ask directions, I’d be at a complete loss.

Undoubtedly my love for languages enkindled my overwhelming fascination with Tolkien (or vice versa), the undisputed master of the Created Speak.  To this day I enjoy perusing the extensive philological appendices Professor Tolkien included in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, and could easily spend an hour following numerous trails of words with nary a tick of the clock noticed.

But my fascination peaks with the Bible.  I have a Latin Bible and a French New Testament.  The Latin Bible I could struggle through and get the gist of a passage, provided I recognized the context.  French is just unknowable to me since I do not have an inner affinity for speaking the Gallic tongue.  (I bought the bible française to help me bone up for my trip to Paris three years ago, on the small chance that I might blossom into a transplanted Frenchman.  I didn’t work.)

The Bible was written in Hebrew and Aramaic (the Old Testament) and Greek (the New Testament).  The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the original Hebrew / Aramaic Old Testament, and Saint Jerome’s Vulgate is the fourth-century Latin translation of the entire Bible.  About a thousand years later the Bible sprouted up and branched out along the Linguistic Tree, and now there are – I’ve read – almost 2,300 translations of the Good Book.  Wonder if Klingon and Sindarin are among them …

All that being said, I am at heart a trivia buff.  One recent piece of trivia to pull at me was: How many Aramaic words remain in untranslated form in the Bible?

In the New Testament, it appears there are five Aramaic phrases:

Abba – “Father” (used by Jesus in numerous places)

Talitha Cumi – “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41)

Ephphatha – “Be opened” (Mark 7:34)

Marana tha – “Our Lord, Come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22)

Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)

In the Old Testament, it seems that Aramaic pops up in four spots –

Two short passages – Genesis 31:47 and Jeremiah 10:11

And two much longer ones – Daniel 2:4 to 7:8 and Ezra 4:8 to 6:18, 7:12-26

I find stuff like this endlessly fascinating …


9 out of 10 Cats Agree

Little One needs to start reading The Hobbit, like, now!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Blobby Things

Ever since I was a wee young lad of seven or eight I’ve been afraid of blobby things.  Naturally enough, it started when I watched, unsupervised, The Blob on my grandparents furniture-sized black-and-white teevee.  Made it up to the point where the old tramp poked the blob nucleus in the meteor, only to have the damnable thing slither up the branch and latch onto his hand.  The agonizing howling from the old timer haunted me for years and years and years.


That followed with Son of the Blob, watched this time with my father, who, truth be told, really wasn’t that good at picking out appropriate movies to watch together (cases in point: seeing Hot Dog: The Movie and Scarface in the theaters).  Anyway, the scene of the bowling alley repair dude, trapped in the bowling alley machinery, getting his lower half digested, well, that did it for me.  Icing on the cake, and all.

Even my beloved Star Trek could not resist the blob.  The “Devil in the Dark,” the episode with the Horta monster, was blobbish enough to enter my nightmares at that stage of my life, roughly ten years of age.

So I stayed away from blobby thing movies.  In the interim, I began a Stephen King phase and recall being particularly bloodcurdlingly chilled by two of his blobby tales: “Gray Matter” from 1978’s Night Shift, and “The Raft” from 1985’s Skeleton Crew.  I was able to enjoy and even revel in the Kingian horror of it all, possibly because there were no visuals.

That mistake was rectified upon seeing Creepshow 2 in the movies with my buddies.  It was a trio of tales based on stories by Stephen King.  The second of which was based on “The Raft.”  I was actually physically and mentally horrified and petrified during that half hour of my life.  Good thing in the dark none of my friends could tell.

Then, I read Dean R. Koontz’s Phantoms.  Splendid book, excellent mystery.  Which resolves itself into an evil blobby thing.  Again, because of the lack of visuals, I was able to completely lose myself in the novel.  (Phantoms was my second Koontz novel; in two or three years I wound up devouring fifteen more.)

Ben Affleck and – gasp! – Peter O’Toole had the misfortune to appear in the mid-90s movie version of Phantoms.  This lacked the punch of “The Raft” segment from Creepshow 2, and, being a fairly reasonable and responsible adult by this time, it had just about none of the residual Blob and/or Son of Blob effect on me.  Either that or it was just a crappy flick.

I keep reading of a Blob reboot in various stages of production.  With today’s CGI effects, animatronic blood and gore effects, and Hollywood’s general no-holds-barred attitude towards hideously and mercilessly killing off people onscreen, I will not be seeing it.  Heck, I could only bring myself to watch the 1988 remake on regular teevee, with all of the real gruesomeness edited out.  (And, man, was that one heck of a gruesome movie.)

Despite all this, blobs have fascinated me over the years.  In my ultra-geek Dungeons and Dragons phase thirty-some years ago, I always stashed gelatinous cubes in my evil underground labyrinths.  I recall being equally repulsed and fascinated with the slime line of toys that came out in the late-70s, early-80s.  One of the first stories I wrote was about a blobby creature from the sea that had morphed into a faceless, identity-less man washed up on the beach.  I remember an aunt telling me about a blob movie she saw as a kid, and nagging her ceaselessly to wrench more and more details about it (and those details she did recall were sick!).  To this day I still try to find that movie on IMDB or Wiki, but haven’t succeeded yet.  And most of all, the greatest comic book from my youth, the one I read a hundred times in our fourth grade class, featured futuristic astronauts on a immanently dying world fighting off a monstrous blob.

So … why does the blob creep me out more than any monster I’ve ever seen on the big screen?

That’s easy.

You can’t hide from the blob!  It’ll crawl under the bedroom door, and covers are ineffective against it!

Out of the Silent Planet notes

Mostly a guilty pleasure for me, so I have a pretty-much-permanent place for them, but also perhaps for you, if you are interested in C.S. Lewis’s masterpiece of Christian science fiction, Out of the Silent Planet

22 chapters + a postscript
153 pages in my 1996 Scribner paperback edition

Human characters
Dr. Elwin Ransom
Harry, young assistant to Weston and Devine (brief)
Harry’s mother (brief)
Lewis himself, unnamed

Malacandra – Mars
Perelandra – Venus
Thulcandra – Earth
Glundandra – Jupiter

Malcandrian animals – silver eels, giraffe-like herd animals
Hnakra (pl. Hnéraki) – barracuda-sharks

3 intelligent species on Malacandra:
Hross (pl. hrossa, hressni)
Sorn (pl. séroni)

Handra – earth, dirt, ground
Handramit – valley
Harandra – mountain
Honodraskrud – pinkish weed
Thulc – silent
Hnau – sentient, embodied being
“bent” – bad / evil / wrong
Arbol hru – Sun’s blood (gold)
? – Star’s milk (silver?)
Hnakra-punt (pl. hnakrapunti) – Hnakra slayer

Malacandra ruled by Oyarsa, who lives in Meldilorn
Sentient, non-embodied beings – Eldil (pl. Eldila)

Maleldil the Young – Christ-like figure
The Old One – lives with Maleldil the Young

Hrossa names
Hyoi – hross who finds Ransom
Hnohra – older hross who teaches Ransom the language
Hrikki – name of a young hressni
Whin – Hyoi’s friend and boat-mate
Hleri – Hyoi’s wife
Hyahi – Hyoi’s brother

Sorn names
Augray – main Sorn who teaches Ransom

Pfifltriggi names
Kanakaberaka – main Pfifltriggi who speaks with Ransom

And the miscellaneous 12th century Platonist, Bernardus Silvestris

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Monsters, She Called Us


She being Patch, age six, who is now going through a phase where pigs are the cutest, cuddliest, most awesomest animals to walk the earth.  Or maybe it’s guinea pigs, which she desperately wants but owing to their rather strong odor will never reside in our house.  Either one, pigs are adorable to her.

Then she found out there was bacon in the pasta-with-parma-rosa dish my wife made for us Sunday night.

“No!” she cried as her sister gleefully chowed down on a particularly crunchy morsel.

Patch is still trying to wrap her mind around the fact that bacon, ham, and pork all come from the same animal, a pig.  The quizzical look of unsure horror that graces her face rivals the time I told her that technically she, too, was a “mammal.”

So as Little One asked to have the slivers of bacon her younger sister was quarantining to the side of her dinner plate, Patch could only help but cry out, “Monsters!  You’re all monsters!”

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sound of an Atomic Bomb Test

Saw this today on a couple of the websites I visit and thought it was pretty neat.  Always have to remember that sound travels exponentially slower than light, so a good thirty-five seconds elapses between the first flash of detonation and the bang.  Still, it still makes me jump every time I hear it.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Words Change Over Time

“I hope we have done right, Oyarsa,” it said.  “But we do not know.  We dipped his head in the cold water seven times, but the seventh time something fell off it.  We had thought it was the top of his head, but now we saw it was a covering made of the skin of some other creature.  Then some said we had done your will with seven dips, and others said not.  In the end we dipped it seven times more.  We hope that was right.  The creature talked a lot between the dips, and most between the second seven, but we could not understand it.”

“You have done very well, Hnoo,” said Oyarsa.  “Stand away that I may see it, for now I will speak to it.”

The guards fells away on each side.  Weston’s usually pale face, under the bracing influence of the cold water, had assumed the colour of a ripe tomato, and his hair, which had naturally not been cut since he reached Malacandra, was plastered in straight, lank masses across his forehead.  A good deal of water was still dripping over his nose and ear.  His expression – unfortunately wasted on an audience ignorant of terrestrial physiognomy – was that of a brave man suffering in a great cause, and rather eager than reluctant to face the worst or even to provoke it.  In explanation of his conduct it is only fair to remember that he had already that morning endured all the terrors of an expected martyrdom and all the anticlimax of fourteen compulsory cold douches.

- Out of the Silent Planet, chapter 20, by C.S. Lewis

I dunno whether it’s the immature twelve-year-old still in me or the pseudo-erudite amateur wordsmith, but, man, that final sentence still makes me chuckle out loud, every time I read it. 

Clive Staples, you the master! 

Friday, February 6, 2015

News Fast

Ah, I need to go on a news fast this weekend!

Nothing but bad news, man, nothing but bad news.  Now, I know that’s the goal of your basic news organization, to frighten the herd so they keep coming back for more, so the news organization can then sell more beer and shampoo, as it’s often put on the Internet.  I know that, I get that.  But being the super fantastic greatest living writer of science fiction and fantasy who has never been published – each word in that should be capitalized but I’m too lazy to go back and do it – I have, shall we say, a somewhat overactive imagination.  And when it’s fed nothing but garbage, and evil garbage at that, well, the fruits are neither pleasant nor healthy nor fun.

I mean, after all we’ve seen and heard, on websites and teevee, after all we’ve digested of the talking heads on this side and that side, regarding all the turbulence in the world so far this week – no, this year – I honestly think those in the oligarchy that rules over us are in either one of two modes.

This one:

Or this one:

Don’t know which is more depressing.

So I’m going to take a break.  Spend time with my girls.  Watch Raiders of the Lost Ark with the little ones (wife, you’re invited, too!).  Read my Fulton Sheen and C.S. Lewis.  Re-read, rather.  Look forward to starting Milton.  Take a breath of fresh air, even if it is only 15 degrees Fahrenheit out there.  Pray, pray, pray.  Go to mass and maybe even Confession.  Trust in God and, yes, trust in my fellow man.

Oh, and I think I’m going to begin re-reading one of the two novels I wrote.  That should perk up my spirits.  The wife thinks it’s time to self-publish and, truth be told, I’m starting to think the same way.  But that’s a few months and a great deal of work away, and updates will follow.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Technically I Lied

About reading one book twice then moving on.

I still intend on reading every book this year twice (in fact, I’ve already read two twice this year so far).  But I still am going to be reading two books at a time.  A bibliophile needs variety in his life, you know.

So I just finished reading C. S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet over the weekend and am now half-way through the re-read.  What a great book!  I had read it twenty or twenty-five years ago and was only so-so about it, but my spiritual maturity was, well, startlingly immature at that time.  I also had thought that I’d read the entirety of Lewis’s Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength) at the time, but the more I investigate the less sure I am of that feat.

I browsed a local library with a big used book sale annex as well as my local B&N, but neither had neither of the two remaining novels in the trilogy.  I went online today but my reliable used book internet site was schizoid (perhaps it just doesn’t like the Chrome on my work PC).  Maybe tonight at home I’ll again try to order them online, because I need to know how this ends.

Ever get that feeling?

In the meantime, I think I will read through John Milton’s Paradise Lost next.  Have it as part of the Great Books collection, and made a stilted, stunted effort ten or twelve years ago without success.  The time feels right, right now, that is, so I will give it a go once Silent Planet’s second go-through has been gone through.  And, of course, a review will follow (of both Lewis’s book and Milton’s epic poem, if I may be so bold as to “review” such great literary works; perhaps some “thoughts on x” might be a better label).

Oh, and I just finished Fulton Sheen’s Life of Christ, begun on January 10.  Roughly four weeks.  Plus another four weeks for the re-read, which will put me smack in the heart of Lent.  And for my Lenten reading – well, I have that all picked out, and will let you know when I get there.  Please, no holding of breaths; it, too, will be a spiritual work, one that I last visited when Little One was a newborn.

Read well!  Read good!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Love of God

From this morning's reading:

"In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another."

- 1 John 4:10-11

*  *  *  *  *

I can't get the Jordanian pilot out of my mind these past two days.

Would that I had a fraction of his courage in my moment of testing.

I will say a Rosary tomorrow for the repose of his soul.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Celestial Musings

… He wondered how he could ever have thought of planets, even of the Earth, as islands of life and reality floating in a deadly void.  Now, with a certainty which never after deserted him, he saw the planets – the ‘earths’ he called them in his thought – as mere holes or gaps in the living heaven – excluded and rejected wastes of heavy matter and murky air, formed not by addition to, but by subtraction from, the surrounding brightness.  And yet, he thought, beyond the solar system the brightness ends.  Is that the real void, the real death?  Unless … he groped for the idea … unless visible light is also a hole or gap, a mere diminution of something else.  Something that is to bright unchanging heaven as heaven is to the dark, heavy earths …

- Out of the Silent Planet, by C. S. Lewis, chapter 6.

Man, do I love this book!  Lewis’s cosmography strikes me as one that deserves to be teased out, explored and examined.  Perhaps I will set this thought aside for one of those days when the Block hits me and I am at a loss for a topic to write about.  Yes, that sounds like a nifty little idea.

I absolutely love Lewis’s explanation of the cosmos through the lens of a tangible spirituality.  Plus, that notion of light as a hole or gap reminded me of a little post I did a few years ago as an atom as a hole inside a hole through a hole.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl 49

Don’t have a real dog in this fight – except … we’re not big Patriots fans in this house.  Actually, being Giants fans, we’re used to beating up on the Pats in the big game, on the rare occasion we do get there.  Anyway, I’m tepidly rooting for the Seahawks.  More importantly, I got some good numbers in the office pool, so hopefully we can win a little coin to buy some groceries and gas and pay the bills and all. Maybe even go out to dinner.

I think I’m about 50/50 in Super Bowl predictions here on the Hopper (pure chance, go figure!), so I will go on record as stating:

Seahawks 31, Patriots 24.

but I’ll also accept

Seahawks 41, Patriots 34

or even

Seahawks 51, Patriots 44

(Note: you probably guessed my best numbers are 1 for Seattle and 4 for New England.)

Anyway, still recovering from my cold.  Got the throat blessed at my church today.  We’re also going to take the girls sledding this afternoon, though my participation will only be to stand on the top of the hill and cheer them on, letting the Dayquil do it’s work.  Later we’ll come home, crank up the heat, throw some laundry on, and watch the pre-game shows eating all the semi-healthy Whole Foods snacks the wife bought yesterday.

Should be a fun day.