Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Manned is Forbidden



Did you know the Moon was once staffed? True. I read it on Wikipedia.

Ah, Wikipedia. Encyclopedia to the masses, and, unfortunately, fastened firmly and mercilessly to the rock of political correctness. Years ago I noted their abhorrence of the word “manned,” as in, for example, a “manned” spacecraft. Back then they called it “human-crewed.”

Doubtless embarrassed by the intense awkward ugliness of that artificially-created adjective, a search was called for a new alternative to the evil vileness of the misogynistic word “manned.” Hordes of feminists and social justice warriors bent to the task, and soon it was found:

STAFFED

Exhibit A, bottom paragraph (click on image to enlarge it):





Love it! LOL, as the kids say (do they still say that?) Try reading that last paragraph imagining a bell sounding every time you read the word “staffed.” Or better yet, an air horn, for all its clumsiness.

O Political Correctness! Will it be you that binds me in my elder days in chains and hauls me to the executioner’s block, or are you reserving your venom for my children or my children’s children?


Monday, December 11, 2017

Sheer Lyrical Beauty



“As I think of them going up and down before those schoolroom windows – the Doctor reading with his complacent smile, an occasional flourish of the manuscript, or grave motion of his head; and Mr. Dick listening, enchained by interest, with his poor wits calmly wandering, God knows where, upon the wings of hard words – I think of it as one of the pleasantest things, in a quiet way, that I have ever seen. I feel as if they might go walking to and fro for ever, and the world might somehow be the better for it – as if a thousand things it makes a noise about were not one-half so good for it, or me.”

- David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens, chapter 17


My third-favorite bit of writing in Dickens’s magnum opus, just finished today, thirty-seven days spent in mid-19th century London with a cast of unforgettable characters.

My second-most-touching scene, too long to reproduce here, occurs two chapters previous, when David realizes what Mr. Wickfield’s one motive in life is.

And the best scene, for me, in the book, the best written, and though only a page it wouldn’t make sense out of context, occurs in chapter 30, when Mr. Barkis goes “out with the tide.”

Those in the know will know the sheer lyrical beauty of these little instances of literary emotion, in a book populated with them.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Kemp's Jig



Anonymous composition.

Nice piece of music I’ve been digging this past week:





Need to figure it out on the six string at home …


Friday, December 8, 2017

"Epic!" says Tetus



“The philosopher’s school, ye men, is a surgery: you ought not to go out of it pleased, but pained.


“For you are not in sound health when you enter; but one has dislocated his shoulder, another has an abscess, another a fistula, another is suffering from a headache. Do I then sit and utter to you small thoughts and witty sayings that you may praise me and go away, one with his shoulder just as it was when he entered, another with his head still aching, another with his fistula, and another with his abscess?


“Is it for this, then, that young men shall quit home, and leave their parents and their friends, and relatives and property, that they may say to you, ‘Wonderful!’ as you utter your witty sayings? Did Socrates do this, did Zeno, did Cleanthes?”


- Epictetus, Discourses, Book 3, Chapter 23.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Magnums and Melchizedeks


I’ve been drinking a glass of red wine every night the past week for medical reasons – for medical reasons! – and decided to do a little research into the whole wine thing. Back 15, 20 years ago, when engaged to the Mrs., we drank a lot of wine – for medical reasons! No, just kidding. We drank a lot of wine because we were young, carefree, and had money to spend. We ate out a lot, at nice establishments, and it just went with the turf. We kept a log of the wines we drank, our personal ratings of them, had our favorites. For our honeymoon, we spent a week in Napa Valley touring a dozen vineyards and wineries.

Now I’ve been drinking reds for a few days now, and picked up a book on the subject. Immediately, as always, I am drawn towards the esoterica. With a fascination I haven’t had since I discovered the word hogshead, I learned how bottles of wine – the actual bottles, mind you, not what’s in them – are classified.

For some reason, the dominant theme seems to be Biblical Babylonian.

Let me explain.

Your average bottle of wine is 750 ml. That’s about a fifth of a gallon or four-fifths of a quart (I’m visually comparing the bottle of wine to cartons of milk here). Or a little more than three cups. An eighth more, to be precise.

How many glasses can one get out of the standard bottle of wine? Depends. Four to six. A single drink bottle, the little bottles called piccolos, contain 187.5 ml, so there’s four of them in a standard bottle. When the wife and I split a bottle, we each usually take slightly smaller portions, about two-and-a-half glasses each. Six equal glasses of wine from a bottle seems a little amateurish to me.

Anyway, the standard bottle of wine is 750 ml, or 75 percent of a liter. I learned there’s a name for each increase in size, and, interestingly enough, the system of nomenclature revolves around either Biblical or Babylonian names. Names of kings and emperors and the like.

A Magnum holds 2 standard bottles of wine in one, or 1.5 liters.

A Jeroboam is 4 bottles. 3 liters.

A Rehoboam is 6 bottles. 4.5 liters.

Jeroboam and Rehoboam are found in the Old Testament. Jeroboam was the first king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Rehoboam first king of the Southern Kingdom of Judea.

At my current rate of consumption, I’ll go through a Rehoboam and a Magnum of wine a month.

Or slightly less than a Methusaleh. A Methusaleh is 8 bottles of wine, or 6 liters. I used to drink a Methuselah of Diet Coke a month, but I don’t do it anymore now. For medical reasons.

A Methusaleh is also sometimes referred to as an Imperial.

How far up the scale can we go? Oh, far. We can go far. For instance:

A Salmanazar contains 12 standard bottles of wine, or 9 liters of the good grape juice. He was an Assyrian King.

A Belshazzar contains 16 standard bottles of wine, or 12 liters. He was a Babylonian ruler.

A Nebuchadnezzar contains 20 standard bottles of wine, or 15 liters. He was a more famous Babylonian ruler.

The next size up has two names, either a Melchior (one of the traditional three wise men) or a Solomon (King of Israel, David’s son). They hold 24 standard bottles of wine, or 18 liters.
See the pattern? Every new label is an increase in 4 bottles and 3 liters.

Here’s where things break down a bit. A Sovereign is 35 bottles, which comes to 26.25 liters.

Then we return to normal. Well, normal for incredibly thirsty individuals. A Goliath is 36 standard bottles, or 27 liters. Finally, a Melchizedek – or a Midas – I can’t decide which I like better – is 40 standard bottles, or 30 liters of wine. Melchizedek was the King of Salem found in Genesis chapter 14, and Midas is that guy from Greek mythology whose touch turns objects to gold.



SCENE: local liquor store in a small, suburban northern New Jersey town

CLERK: Hey Hopper! Another Melchizedek of Sam Adams?

HOPPER: No thanks! I’m a piccolo-of-wine-a-day guy from now on – for medical reasons!



Note and Public Service Announcement: For those of you wondering, the medical reason is not entirely in jest; it’s real. I’ve been diagnosed with hypertension. “The Silent Killer” – high blood pressure. Drinking a glass of red wine a day lowers it. So does cutting back on salt, processed foods, and Diet Coke, as well as increasing fruits and vegetables, exercising 30 minutes a day, and eating a square of high-percentage cocoa dark chocolate. All of which I’ve done on a daily basis. To date I’ve lost six pounds and feel a hundred times better than two weeks ago.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Literary Swanson



“I hate metaphors. That’s why my favorite book is Moby Dick. No frou-frou symbolism. Just a good, simple tale about a man who hates an animal.”

Ron Swanson






Wednesday, November 29, 2017

T-Day Weekend Wrap Up



Yet another “my favorite holiday” has come and gone, with tachyonic speed. I’m sad, but, paradoxically, not sad.

Sad because I truly relish Thanksgiving, for a variety of reasons. We all head out of town to visit my parents in the Pennsylvanian woodland for 96 hours. I get plenty of relaxation, read a lot, buy a couple of books, eat like a king, do fun things with the little ones, watch some good movies, and even get some work done.

Let’s break that down, shall we, so you can see what I mean.


plenty of relaxation … With the exception of one night (due to Thanksgiving indigestion, no doubt), I caught up on my sleep deficit. Probably averaged 8 hours a night, as opposed to 6. Enjoyed some vivid, awesome dreams, too. I was exiled to the fold-out living room couch due to allegedly snoring, but the bed, blankets, and pillows were extremely comfy.

read a lot … Put away just shy of 150 pages of Dickens’s Copperfield, almost to the half-way point of the 920-page magnum opus. Read a couple chapters more about World War I and some Tolkien stuff, too.

buy a couple of books … Not truly inspired, but I did pick up a hardcover copy of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama Revealed. Never read that one, but the other Rama books intrigued me deeply in the 90s. My review of Rama is here, incidentally. The other book I bought was a potentially-schlocky The List of Seven, an occult murder mystery that blends fictional with historical figures in London around the time of the Jack the Ripper slayings.

eat like a king … Oh, man did I ever. Thursday Thanksgiving is a given, but – chicken pot pies, homemade cookies, grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken wings, Yuengling beer, turkey stew, shrimp appetizers, eggs and cheese and bacon and taylor ham and …

do fun things with the little ones … Two hours in the indoor pool at the rec center with Patch; shooting a couple games of Horse with Little One; teaching her how to play Chess; a game of Scrabble on the living room floor with both of them; hurling a gigantic inflatable medicine ball thingie to each other in the driveway.

watch some good moviesChristmas Vacation on Thanksgiving night, a tradition; Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, another newer tradition; Blades of Glory, mainly to show Little One the zany antics of Will Ferrell and the “Iron Lotus.”

even got some work done … Did some studying and got some pre-tax-season work done in my company’s intranet portal in the early morning hours, as well as doing a pair of solo walks for four miles. Plus helped Little One study for her confirmation class.


We also did the Santa breakfast thing (maybe for the last time if you know what I mean), taking photos of the little ones in the Christmas dresses in front of the club’s giant fireplace. And the wife shaved my neck beard, leaving my “no-shave November” scruff in place on the face.

Only thing I didn’t get to do, that I wanted, was attend Latin Mass in town a half-hour away.

Oh, and this was an NFL-free weekend. The parents did watch some college ball Saturday, but we all kept our boycott intact. Normally we’d have the games on Thanksgiving Day in the background, and people would shuffle in and out of the living room to watch. And Sunday afternoon would be long and lazy watching the early and late afternoon games. Not this year.

Why am I sad? Well, now it’s officially Spendmas (see here). The pressure is on to spend, spend, spend for the perfect gifts for the way-too-many people in my ever-expanding group of acquaintances. Along with that is the push to get all the preparatory tax stuff done (though in fairness this, my second, year I am in a much better place than last year). Unpleasant end-of-year tasks at the main job, plus packing everything 2017 away. It’s busy to no end – Christmas concerts, basketball practices kick in full force, a second vacation to Hilton Head in three weeks. I’m already tired.

Why am I not so sad? Well, I got a lot of good reads on the near horizon. Plus our house is being sided! Long an eyesore from flaking paint, we bit the bullet and are having the vinyl siding put up. The house will look nice and will actually be warmer, saving me $ on energy bills this winter. We’re also getting a new front door, replacing the old drafty one and the rickety glass outer door. The resale value will go up and I’ll actually be able to look at my abode with pride.


Thanksgiving! I am thankful for all the above! Looking forward to next year!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Liberation




One evening a monk approached the Patriarch Jianzhi Sengcan. “Master,” he said, “show me the way of liberation.”

Master Sengcan asked, “Who binds you?”

“No one binds me,” the monk answered.

Jianzhi Sengcan said, “Then why do you seek liberation?”



Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ypres


A week or two ago I was listening to someone speak and heard mentioned that all the civilizational ills that currently befall us can be traced back to World War I. Everything – modernism, socialism, communism, totalitarianism, post-modernism, you name it. If it’s having a detrimental effect on society today, you can rest assured it found its birth in the Great War of 1914-1918.

Interesting, I thought. This I’ll have to check out.

So I’ve been casually reading up on the First World War. Not a big burning desire, just want to fill some gaps, especially after learning how big those gaps of knowledge are. Among the numerous potholes of null information I’ve manifested is the city of Ypres. I’ve heard of it in passing, and how it played a role in WWI. No – I’ve read it. I’ve never heard the word “Ypres” spoken, so I had absolutely no idea how to say it.

Not to go into too much detail (since I don’t know even “much” detail), the Belgian city of Ypres was the sight of two major battles. German forces decided to outflank French fortresses aligned north-south against their border by sweeping over them through Belgium, violating the smaller county’s neutrality. This brought Belgium’s ally, Britain, into the conflict. The German war machine stopped at Ypres, surrounding it on three sides. The British and French forces held the city (the “Ypres salient”) and attacked the German lines just beyond, over and over and over again, during the course of two battles. The use of poison gas sparked the beginning of the Second Battle of Ypres.

But, that’s not what I want to write about now.

What I want to ponder is, how does one pronounce “Ypres”?

Well, at work the other day (and thus having no access to Youtube, or speakers for that matter), I did a bit of googling. And I found out that the word is somewhat open to interpretation.

In a Monty Python sketch, we’re assured it’s pronounced

EEP.

Yep. Eep.

British troops back then were a little wittier. They called the city

WIPERS.

Ha. Y-prs. I like that; fits with my sense of humor.

In actuality, it’s pronounced halfway between

EEP-PRuh

and

EEP-PRAY

Almost as if you’re going to go full “EEP-PRAY” but stop short as soon as you starting on the “AY” part.

Those of you, unlike me, who’ve taken French will have this down. Us other troglodytes may find it a bit harder.

I’m firmly in the EEP-PRuh camp, at least in my head, when I’m reading my World War I book.

Carry on.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Malcolm Young


1953-2017

This was not completely unexpected. Malcolm’s health deteriorated sharply about three years ago. His premature battles with dementia forced him to leave AC/DC back in 2014, leaving his nephew to fill in for him. But I don’t think anybody suspected the end to come so soon.

He was not a flamboyant guy on stage, but he wrote half the music with his brother Angus and was said to be the “brains” behind the band. I took a cue from him when I played in bands 1986-96, echoing that similar to Malcolm Young, my job as rhythm guitarist was to write half the songs and make all the other guys on stage sound good. It was a good lesson, well learned.

Along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and, later, Rush, AC/DC was a main influence on me in my early teenage years, especially when I plugged in my electric guitar the first couple hundred times. To this day I can probably play from memory 40 or 50 AC/DC songs, all riffs from the fingertips of Malcolm. The most phenomenal thing about them is that, though they’re not exotic chords in obscure time signatures, they all stand the test of time. It’s not embarrassing to listen to an AC/DC song from forty years ago. In fact, give me any random hard rock CD released in 2017, and I can guarantee you can find a riff or two that could’ve been found on one of Malcolm’s home demo tapes.

Difficult to pick a song to tribute the man with. He was a shadowy figure, ceding the spotlight almost entirely to his younger brother. But this song, “Gone Shootin’” has been in my mind all day today. I like the rhythmic interplay between Malcolm and Angus, particularly in the outro around the 4 minute mark:




Rest in peace, Mr. Young. You may not have led the squeakiest, cleanest of lives, but the music you created made millions of us feel awesome and will live on for, well, as long as people strum electric guitars. And that has to count for something.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Greatest Year in Cinema



So 1977 had Star Wars, Close Encounters and Smokey and the Bandit.

So 1979 had Alien, Mad Max, The Amityville Horror and the first Star Trek movie.

I say that 1978 is The Greatest Year in Cinema. If you were 10 going on 11, like I was, had a bunch of weird crazy friends, like I had, and had these movies piped into your house via that newfangled cable TV thing, like they were at mine, I offer up:


Capricorn One

Damien: Omen II

Dawn of the Dead

Halloween

Gray Lady Down

The Fury

Force 10 from Navarone

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Convoy

Hooper

Jaws 2

Superman

Laserblast

The Medusa Touch

Good Guys Wear Black

The Manitou

Magic

Coma

Piranha

The Swarm

Watership Down

… aaaaaaaaand …

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes


From the creepy to the cool to the campy, it’s all there. I’m lucky to have been around back then, for all those hours and hours and hours of fun. Often confusing and sometimes downright puzzling, but in the end, when all is said and done as they say, just good ol’ fun.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Les Preludes


Franz Liszt was a long-lived Jimi Hendrix of the 19th century, a virtuoso of the piano instead of the six-string. Tinkling them ivory bones he made the ladies swoon and the men all want to be him. Then, as he lived past age 27, that temporal speedbump that proved too much for our Hendrix to handle, he matured as a composer. Nothing groundbreaking and genre-bending as, say, a Beethoven, Wagner and a Mahler, but he wrote for the masses. And the masses loved him.

Disappointed and disenchanted after six or seven years listening solely to grunge, I needed to cleanse the palate. Alice in Chains will do that to you. So I opted for as radical a shift as possible, not just 180 degrees, but 180 degrees into another spatial dimension. From the late-90s to somewhere in the mid-2000s, all I listened to was Classical Music. Capital C, capital M.

One of the first pieces of music to hook me was Liszt’s Les Preludes. Here, take a listen, and see if it grabs you, too.




Now, for the longest time, I had a hankering to play the main theme, the “Grand Theme” or “Majestic Theme” as it’s sometimes called, from Les Preludes with a full, modern, rock band. That’s the part you can hear at 2:33 and repeating at 14:54 in the above video. Don’t you think that would be neat? I’ve heard bands play Wagner, like Ride of the Valkyries, or Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King (The Who did that, I believe), but I always thought this would be the tune to play.

Well, I heard Les Preludes at work a few days ago so I googled the music. Surprisingly difficult to find. But find it I did. At least, the chords for the Grand Theme. They are:


C – F!
F – Bb!
G – C!
Ab – F – C!
Ab – F – C!


But that didn’t sound quite right on my acoustic guitar. So I shifted everything down a step-and-a-half, and this resulted:


A – D!
D – G!
E – A!
F – D – A!
F – D – A!


Sounds awesome. Look at me, I still have goose bumps writing this.

Next: figure out the melodic runs up and down over the above mentioned chords …


To Be Continued …

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tolkien and Dickens


So, adult me discovered about fifteen years ago that I really enjoy reading Charles Dickens. A thousand years ago, back in high school, my class was assigned A Tale of Two Cities to read but I, either through laziness or indifference, decided to wing it and only read the Cliff Notes the night before the test. Think I got something like a B, but the incident rested heavily on my heart for many years. So much so that I decided it would be a good way to equilibrialize the karmic multiverse to finally read the book cover-to-cover on my daily train commutes into NYC.

I did, and relished it so much I may have actually kicked myself for faking it twenty years prior.

Recently I started reading a Dickens story every Thanksgiving. I did the Pickwick Papers, Great Expectations, and now I’m about a quarter through David Copperfield. I enjoy this new tradition of mine immensely.

Now, just a few nights ago I read the following passage and thought immediately of J.R.R. Tolkien. See if you can figure out why:


“Oh, what do you want?” grinned this old man, in a fierce, monotonous whine. “Oh, my eyes and limbs, what do you want? Oh, my lungs and liver, what do you want? Oh, goroo, goroo!”

I was so much dismayed by these words, and particularly by the repetition of the last unknown one, which was a kind of rattle in his throat, that I could make no answer; hereupon the old man, still holding me by the hair, repeated –

“Oh, what do you want? Oh, my eyes and limbs, what do you want? Oh, goroo!” – which he screwed out of himself with an energy that made his eyes start in his head.

“I wanted to know,” I said, trembling, “if you would buy a jacket.”

“Oh, let’s see the jacket!” cried the old man. “Oh, my heart on fire, show the jacket to us! Oh, my eyes and limbs, bring the jacket out!”


That’s right. Gollum.


Oh, goroo, goroo!

… a kind of rattle in his throat …

“show the jacket to us!”


I wonder: did a young Tolkien read David Copperfield (published in 1850) as a lad and did this scene subconsciously imprint itself upon his wondrously imaginative mind, till years and years later the poor pitiable creature once called Smeagol drew itself out upon the printed page, 87 years later in The Hobbit?

An interesting piece of literary archaeology, no?


N.B. Above scene occurs near the beginning of Chapter XIII, where young David decides to flee his degrading employment at Murdstone and Grinby’s to travel uplands to throw himself upon the mercy of his never-seen miserly spinster Aunt. David is all of ten years old.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

What We Need; What I Need



“If He is what He claimed to be, a Savior, a Redeemer, then we have a virile Christ and a leader worth following in these terrible times; One Who will step into the breach of death, crushing sin, gloom and despair; a leader to Whom we can make totalitarian sacrifice without losing, but gaining freedom, and Whom we can love even unto death. We need a Christ today Who will make cords and drive the buyers and sellers from our new temples; Who will blast the unfruitful fig trees; Who will talk of crosses and sacrifices and Whose voice will be like the voice of a raging sea. But He will not allow us to pick and choose among His words, discarding the hard ones, and accepting the ones that please our fancy. We need a Christ Who will restore moral indignation, Who will make us hate evil with a passionate intensity, and love goodness to a point where we can drink death like water.”

- from The Life of Christ, by the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, chapter 2.


And, if I may be as bold to add, One Who will obliterate the Church of Nice and the nests of vipers who make their lair within it.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Book Review: A Voyage to Arcturus





© 1920 by David Lindsay


Note 1: This “review” will fail to do this book justice.

Note 2: But I just gotta write something about it.


Imagine you’re a visitor from another world who just woke up in the Sahara desert, vaguely aware that you’re here to chase something called Yeshua. Is Yeshua a Christ-like figure, the Creator of all, or merely a good and holy man? Or, perhaps, something entirely unexpected? Over the next four days you’ll have conversations and encounters with a hippie, a sadist, a fisherman, a musician, and a half-dozen propounders of various worldviews: a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Taoist, and some pagan Greek philosophy types. All of whom have opinions on this being. Oh, and two-thirds of the people you chat with will die, half of them directly at your hands. But just before you die (your death had been prophesied early in your arrival), or maybe just after, the riddle of existence is solved for you. Maybe.

Now, flip it. The protagonist of A Voyage to Arcturus, a blank slate named Maskull, wakes up on Tormance, the sole planet encircling a double-star system 35 light-years away. With him you’ll travel this strange world (often with strange new appendages to your body that can do strange new things) to converse with prophets and madmen, men and women, a complete third sexed being, and, perhaps, something akin to Yeshua in the prior paragraph. Although in Arcturus he’s known by such names as Surtur, Shaping, Crystalman, Faceny. Why is Maskull brought to this world? What is beyond the veil concealing existence? What is the meaning of life?

This somewhat obscure recipe for Lindsay’s “science fiction” novel should be flavored, I think, with my experience of it. First off, it’s weird. Really, really weird. And talky. Which is a good thing for a book like this. It’s an idea book, but it’s also a visual one. While reading it, the images most often flooding my brain were of the 1973 animated French flick, La Planete Sauvage (Fantastic Planet). If you’re unfamiliar with this movie, or want some examples of the imagery, do a Google image search of the movie, or just click here.

The novel’s philosophic and meta-religious themes also brought to mind the colorful art prevalent in Hindu mythology. Multiple-armed deities seemed akin to the appendages and arms and third eyes Maskull sometimes grows and sometimes loses as he traverses the deserts and forests of Tormance. Color is an essential feature here, as sand is red, water is bright green, skins are ever-changing tone poems and we’re even introduced to two new hues, jale and ulfire. All this completely alienizes this place of pilgrimage.

I finished A Voyage to Arcturus eight days ago and haven’t found a way to write about it. Normally I drool in anticipation reviewing something I’ve just read, sometimes starting an hour or two after turning the final page. But not this one. I practically re-read it over the weekend, taking notes, compiling a timeline, a glossary, and a road-map of Maskull’s travels. The only thing left is to document and genome-type the major gist of the book: the multivariabled beliefs these aliens hold, often to the death. I think yet another careful re-reading to analyze this aspect is necessary before adding it in my little guidebook to Arcturus. Then, I’ll do a separate post on all that.

I first read A Voyage to Arcturus exactly ten years ago, Halloween of 2007. I did not review it back then (it predated this blog) nor did I “grade” it the way I “grade” my reads over the past seven or eight years. But it immediately struck me as something different. Something weird. And to me, that’s something good. I filed it away as something to re-read at some future point. This second read was much more involving and I enjoyed it twice as much, despite finishing it in half the time.

Question: Should you read this book, this super-secret century-old cult phenomenon, this ‘major “underground” novel of the 20th century’ as Wikipedia calls it?

Yes, if –


[   ]  You’re not a stickler for the “science” in “science fiction”

[   ]  Different religions and philosophies fascinate you

[   ]  Your top-ten all-time reads contain shocking unforeseen revelations in the final pages

[   ]  You have a good working relationship with allegory and metaphor

[   ]  Loose-ends and knots-left-knotted won’t keep you up at night

[   ]  The question “What is Reality?” is something you ponder three or four times a week


If you checked at least 5 boxes, then go online, purchase a paperback (it’s a respectable but easy 280 pages), and trod the sands where Maskull lived, loved, questioned, killed, and died. What’s holding you back?

Grade: A+


Note 3: David Lindsay (1876-1945) died from an infected tooth, though he was injured in World War II bombing, the first bombing of the city he lived in. For the longest time, either based on misinformation or misinterpretation, I’ve gone around telling people that he was the first man killed in World War I. Obviously, based on the publication date of this book, that’s wrong (unless it was published posthumously, which it wasn’t). Mea culpa.

Note 4: A Voyage to Arcturus, like so, so many great works of literature, was not a success when it was first published. It only sold 600 copies on its first run, and Lindsay found it difficult to get his later work in print.

Note 5: Both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien read and were intrigued by the work. It is, in fact, said to be the inspiration for Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy (of which I loved the first two books but despised the third).

Note 6: Only for the initiated! In 1971 the book was filmed, I believe, by college students, and was the first film to be funded by the NEA. It can be found on youtube – but do not watch it until you’ve at least read the book once, preferably twice. While the dialogue is taken almost verbatim from the book, the acting is tremendously, epically, bad and prototypically 70s. It will turn you off to the book forever if this is your first contact with A Voyage to Arcturus.



Forthcoming: Hopper’s detailed guidebook to A Voyage to Arcturus …

Monday, November 6, 2017

Iron Man


Came across this today doing some miscellaneous reading and it completely surprised me. I always thought I had a basic knowledge of overall science (enough, say, to win 4 out of the 5 boxes in a column on Jeopardy!), but I had absolutely no idea that


C738H1166FeN203O208S2


the chemical makeup of a molecule of Hemoglobin, consists of 2,318 atoms!

That’s right. There are 2,318 atoms of six different types in a single molecule of hemoglobin. Hydrogen is the most, followed by Carbon, then Oxygen and Nitrogen, just two atoms of Sulfur, and, finally, a sole single atom of Iron. (The chemical symbol for Iron is “Fe”, from the Latin word ferrum.)

Yet without that one atom of Iron, it would be impossible for hemoglobin to transport oxygen to your cells. Life would not be possible. You would die.

Amazing, isn’t it?

I shoulda been a scientist. I love stuff like this.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Why Can't Daylight Savings


Happen every weekend?

I am so refreshed – really needed that extra hour of sleep. I am sure you are, too. So, why can’t we do this every weekend?

Unless I’m not quite awake yet, I think it can be done. In order to do it, though, we’d have to shorten the amount of time a second measures. Here, let me explain.

There are 168 hours in a week. For a weekly daylight savings to occur, we’d need to have 169 hours, so we can get an extra hour of sleep every Saturday night / Sunday morning.

Every second would then need to be 168/169th in duration, so we could squeeze in that extra hour over the week that we could take back in precious, delicious sleep over the weekend.

168/169 = 99.408 percent as long.

So we’d have to shorten every second by 0.592 percent. Hardly noticeable.

I say let’s do it! Parents, are you with me? Someone start a petition!


Or am I still asleep, sleep posting ….

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Inquiring Minds Want to Know



What’s on deck, Hopper?

Well, I try to post something every other day or so, but usually I’m not successful. It’s mostly due to busy-ness sapping energy. Not physical energy, but mental energy. Not proud of it, but since this blog generates no income whatsoever to me, I have to focus my batteries on things that do. The day job, the upcoming seasonal night job, and the little ones, which I watch because the wife does the NYC / travel thing on her path to vice-presidency in her company.

The big thing, of course, was Halloween. I did not dress up, though a bunch of people at my work did. The 65-year-old guy in the office across the hall from mine dressed as Skeletor. I got to work early so I could enjoy an extended lunch hour watching Patch at her grammar school parade. The second-to-last parade, as she’s a third through fourth grade already. Then I got out early to pick up some pizzas, wolf them down with the girls and their friends at our house, and then do four hours of trick or treating in two separate towns!

Truth be told, I only helped chaperone for the first three hours. The bloody stumps previously called my feet sidelined me for the rest of the night, so the wife volunteered for the final run in the near-darkness of the eight o’clock hour. I soaked my carcass in a hot bath and finished the insanely odd duck A Voyage to Arcturus. A delicious and extended review of the 1920 cult novel is anticipated sometime this weekend.

Yesterday I spent 90 minutes at the town high school for their Open House. Little One will be, yes, hard to fathom, a high school student in ten months. Where did that little thing whose diaper I changed a few hundred times, who looked up to me from three feet away, holding her hand upwards, as we walked into the grocery store, who sat on the couch eating apple sauce and raisins, watching cartoons with me before afternoon kindergarten, where did she go? Oh well, that’s all for another post, if I have the fortitude …

Anyway, we’re in good hands with my town’s school and the people who run it. It’s a very good school system and she’ll have a great chance to get into the college of her choice, if that’s her path. Half the night was devoted to an overnight trip the 8th-grade class is taking to Washington DC in May. About the only disconcerting thing I spotted was during the high school principal’s slideshow. On a list of all the clubs offered was the inevitable LBGQT-alphabet nonsense. It was depressing; I guess I can’t shield Little One from the noise out there anymore. (Not that she really needs me to.)

Today I left work early to get Patch to girl scouts, pick up Little One after theater club (she paints sets), hit the sports store to get Patch sized for basketball uniforms, get us all a bite to eat, then drive Patch to basketball practice followed by travel soccer practice. Man, it gets exhausting.

Also failed an incredibly difficult tax test a few night’s back. The IRS requires us return preparers to complete 18 hours of training every year before November 30 – 13 hours federal tax topics, 3 hours tax update, and 2 hours ethics. Training can be in a class, with a virtual instructor, or online. I prefer the online ones, because I can stop them whenever I want and I can pause them to take notes. This class in question was my second-to-last, and was probably more advanced for me in my current spot in the food chain. I was shocked to fail with a 63. So the next day I printed out my notes, studied for 45 minutes with Bach’s Goldberg Variations in the ear buds, and retook the test. I aced it, I am proud to say. (Little One, if you’re reading this, trade in the Ed Sheeran for Bach when you study – trust me and an army of neuroscientists – it works!)

So, as an answer to the title question, I dunno. Other than that extended book review of the Lindsay book, I’m not sure what’ll be upcoming here.

But I’ll think of something …


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Some Halloween pics –



Little One, age 13, as a black cat



Patch, age 9, as an old grandma



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Some personal weirdities reposted from 2010 –


Did I ever see a ghost?

No. But I had a friend who had a friend who lived with a friendly one.

Did I ever see anything inexplicable?

Well, I saw some 
strange lights in the sky when I was twelve years old. Once I saw Bigfoot walk past my window and completely froze up, overdosing on adrenaline. But seconds later I realized it was only my mother taking out the trash.

Did I ever hear anything unexplainable?

Another time, laying in the dark of my room, pretending to be asleep, I heard one of my 
dresser drawers being pulled out. A few times there were frightening night-time bangings on the window of the small bedroom me and my brother shared. But that turned out to only be my father sadistically pretending to be Santa checking up on us.

Any recurring weirdities?

Yes. I usually wake up within a few minutes of 3:15 am every night. Remember The Amityville Horror? George Lutz would always wake up at that time in the morning to go outside to check the boathouse. There’s tradition (or urban myth) that 3 am is the devil’s hour, being completely opposite of the time of the day Christ was crucified, redeeming us all. How that quarter-past-the-hour came to be, I don’t know. But I’ll usually wake up between 3:10 and 3:20 every night. Must have something to do with those 90-minute REM cycles.

Did I ever feel anything otherworldly?

Yes. This one’s serious. One night I was sleeping downstairs on the couch (my pregnant wife commandeered the upstairs bed) and I woke at 3:15 (natch). I went to the bathroom but as I rounded the bend I sensed something … not exactly demonic, not exactly a presence, even … but something in the corner of my children’s playroom. Hard to put into words, but I do believe I felt something that night. Haven’t since, which is a good sign. Possibly I was still partially asleep.

What were some of the Halloween urban legends of my youth?

We lived a block away from “the Woods”. There were lots of strange, wonderful, and spooky things in those woods. I can immediately recall a story – don’t know if there’s any truth in it – that circulated a lot when I was in grammar school. Seems there was this big cardboard box found in the woods, and whaddya think was in it? … Body parts! Dismembered limbs and such, part of a torso … but no head! I heard that delightful tale every year, year after year, more so during late October.

Any brushes with disaster?

On vacation with the family at Lake George, li’l ol’ ten-year-old me was playing on the dock by the boathouse. Oh look! I remember thinking, someone’s left a big black hairy rubber spider right there on the deck! I think I’ll go over, reach down and pick it up! Ahhhhh! It moves! … I’ve been scarred ever since.

Any encounters with bats?

No.

Black cats?

I like cats.

Witches?

Maybe. I think, based on hints dropped over a two-year period, that mother of one of my ex-girlfriends may have been a witch. I may have been under a spell for a four-year period, too, but that’s pure speculation.