Monday, July 31, 2017

Raining Ruperts

The British and Americans dropped hundreds of these over northern France during D-Day. They were nicknamed “Ruperts” and were also known as paradummies instead of paratroopers. Their purpose was twofold: to intimidate the enemy, at least initially, into thinking greater numbers of paratroopers were invading from the skies, and to shift enemy defenses away from where the actual live paratroopers would be coming down.

One of many deceptive strategies put in place for the D-Day invasion ...

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Second World War, Revisited

The Americans had long advocated confronting the main German armies as soon as possible, a muscle-bound pugnacity decried as “iron-mongering” by British strategists, whose preference for reducing the enemy gradually by attacking the Axis periphery had led to eighteen months of Mediterranean fighting. Now, as the great hour approached, the arena would shift north, and the British and Americans would monger iron together …

The narrow vulpine face was among the empire’s most recognizable, a visage to be gawked at in Claridge’s or huzzahed on the Strand. But before General Bernard L. Montgomery could utter a syllable, a sharp rap sounded. The rap grew bolder; a Snowdrop flung open the Model Room door, and in swaggered Lieutenant General George S. Patton, Jr., a ruddy, truculent American Mars, newly outfitted by those Savile Row artisans in bespoke overcoat, bespoke trousers, and bespoke boots. Never reluctant to stage an entrance, Patton had swept through London in a huge black Packard, bedizened with three-star insignia and sporting dual Greyhound bus horns. Ignoring Montgomery’s scowl, he found his bench in the second row and sat down, eager to take part in a war he condemned, without conviction, as “goddamned son-of-bitchery.”

- The Guns at Last Light, by Rick Atkinson, pages 6-7

Great writing!

Well, seeing Dunkirk a couple of days ago has rekindled an interest in World War II. Back in the summer of 2012, I think, I picked up a couple of used histories of the conflict and read through them, amazed at the scope of the war and how little I, allegedly educated in global events, really knew about it. It fascinated me and I burned through a half-dozen books on the subject that summer.

In the years since, I probably have read a book a year on WWII, me being much more interested in the US Civil War when my thoughts turn in a belligerent direction. Now, as the quotes above reveal, I just started reading Rick Atkinson’s third book in his World War II – European theater trilogy. His books are thick with detail, flush with the personalities, with an unfortunate thread of tragedy that runs through those vicious couple of years three-quarters of a century ago and rends the heart. Great stuff, which I’m returning to after half a decade.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mount Trumpmore

I am neither a Trump supporter nor detractor – well, I support some of the things he's doing about as much as I enjoy pointing out some of his shortcomings – but I found this picture laugh-out-loud funny:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hopper at the Movies

So the little ones are at my mother’s for the week and the cinema bug bit me and the Mrs. We don’t get out to see many flicks together due to the outrageous expense of babysitters nowadays, so as a result she goes with her friends and I go with mine when there’s a movie out that interests either one of us. BC – before children – we’d probably see ten or twelve films a year out in the movie theaters. Now, the last one I think we saw together was 2013’s Gravity. Hmmm. There had to have been something more recent, right? Right?

Well, last night we saw not one but two flicks. The first was Dunkirk. Here’s what I thought:


The action was brutally realistic – terrifying in its unexpected violence – without slipping into gratuitous gore.

It was by and large historically accurate (at least per my WW2 readings a few years back).

It glorified noble ideals – sacrifice, duty, optimism, and – hope. The “stiff upper lip” portrayed by the boat captain and his sons.

I found it interesting that the word “German” was barely mentioned and no individual German solders – except blurry images at film’s end – were shown.

It was short for a Christopher Nolan film – 1 hour 47 minutes.


I didn’t get a sense of the immensity of the evacuation. At one point a commanding officer mentions 400,000 men on the beach. At most I think I saw a thousand or two. I think a CGI shot or two of the vastness of the defeated army would have been beneficial.

Don’t like – and never did – Nolan’s playing with timelines. I felt it added unnecessary confusion to a tale that would best be told linearly.

Grade: A-minus. I’d be okay if it won Best Picture, especially if all the other nine contenders were social justice droppings.

Then, Mrs. Hopper literally dragged me into another theater to see Wonder Woman. I have no problem viewing it a few months from now when it comes out On Demand, but she insisted I experience it on the big screen.


I liked Gal Gadot. Perfect for the role.

I liked the character of Wonder Woman – straightforward, idealistic, fearless, an underlying sweet naiveté, all without guile, pretense, or cynicism.

Retro cool that they took a chance setting the movie during the First World War.

Again, no gratuitous gore.

No moral conundrums the hero (or heroine) flunks (i.e., the rebooted Superman “forced” to break General Zod’s neck).


The revealed villain at the end. Ridiculous.

The overdone fight sequence at the end. Typical comic book movie overdriven, headache-inducing noise and effects. Also, kinda hokey.

The multicultural posse Steve recruits for the final mission.

Grade: A-minus. And I’d even see it again, ’cuz we missed the first fifteen minutes, Diana’s childhood on the island.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Hopper with his Les Paul

... from the vault ...

July 21, 1991
Escapades, Jersey City, NJ

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Book Review: Tom O'Bedlam

© 1985 by Robert Silverberg

A confession of ignorance: at first, I thought Tom O’Bedlam a terrible name for a novel (and I thought the cover somewhat lacking, too). But the premise as iterated on the back cover intrigued me. I bought it a few years ago, before my current Silverbergian infatuation, and it rode the On-Deck Circle for many, many moons. I finally picked it up a week ago, and, like usual when it comes to this writer, I couldn’t put it down, reading as much as a hundred pages in two sittings.

Why ignorance? Well, my original intuition felt this post-apocalyptic novel’s title must mean society has devolved into a medieval mindset, and “O’Bedlam” meant “Of” the town / city / nation-state of “Bedlam.” Not so. The term does indeed date back to the medieval period, and it is a generic term referring either to an itinerant beggar or someone pretending to be an itinerant beggar.

Like Edgar, in King Lear. Which I read a year and a half ago!

Anyway, the eponymous Tom in this book is indeed an itinerant beggar, wandering aimlessly through a post-nuclear America. The coasts remain fairly intact, despite mass migration from the heartland after the “dustings” – radioactive clouds dropped upon crops by the enemy in a decades-ago conflict. Nothing lives in these regions, and on the borders roam scavengers, bandits, and worse. But society still functions well enough near the oceans that, for example, nestled in the forests of Northern California is a retreat house for those suffering psychiatric problems.

This book takes a form I enjoy very much: groups of characters isolated from each other, each with their own issues, concerns, and problems, slowly being funneled together at a climax that will involve all of them. We have a group of patients and doctors at the aforementioned retreat house. We have Tom. We have the gang of killers Tom falls in with. And we also have a failed anthropology student and his miserable wife drawn in to an apocalyptic – there’s that word again – cult numbering in the tens of thousands slowly marching up from Mexico with the goal of reaching the North Pole to welcome the “New Gods.”

Aside from the individualized day-to-day conflicts these groups face in semi-modern rebuilding 2103 AD, something very strange begins to happen. It starts with Tom – dreams of distant worlds, lush green worlds, worlds with multiple suns in the skies, then dreams of the inhabitants of these worlds, “eye” creatures, “crystalline” creatures, horned giants and flying ethereal things. It starts with Tom but soon every character in the book – and presumably every human being alive on the planet – has these dreams, every night, and then intruding visions during the day as the dreams become more and more personalized …

What does it all mean? What is Tom’s role in all this? – and he definitely plays a significant part. Is he a mere conduit for or the creator of these visions? Will the earth and mankind find redemption or condemnation through Tom?


Well, I liked it. Any book that’s a page turner is by default an A. But does Tom O’Bedlam reach that rarified stratosphere of A-plus-ness?

Uh, while a great read, one I enjoyed thoroughly, I can’t quite give it an A+. A strong and solid A, yes. A+, no. The only reason why not is the only fault I can find in the book: I found the ending too rushed. Way, way, too rushed. I can understand the fact that Silverberg is trying to convey the craziness of the Last Times. To a certain extent, the ending chapters work towards that. I can understand authorially not explaining the meaning of every detail, indeed, the very answers to the Why? questions I asked three paragraphs ago. My peeve was not knowing the fate of a good half-dozen characters, characters who to a pretty decent extent I empathized with. The paperback clocks in at 374 pages. At that length, why not extend it to 400 to fully flesh out the ending?

Well, far be it for me to judge the decisions of a writer as good as Silverberg. Seriously; I feel I’m nit-picking. The book is a solid A and falls somewhere in the middle of the pack of novels I’ve read from him (now up to fourteen or fifteen, I reckon).

Next on deck: I think I’ll tackle one of Silverberg’s later novels, one I read about twenty years ago, The Face of the Waters. Tonally I think that’ll be a lot like Tom O’Bedlam, and perhaps I’ll do a mashup of the two once I’m done with the re-read.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Suppress the Jesuits

That’s the first thing Pope Hopper would do.

Starting with the number one Jesuit out there. And I’m not talking about the Superior General of the Order.

St. Ignatius Loyola and St. Francis Xavier – what must they be thinking!

(I’m currently thumbing through The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church by Malachi Martin, so perhaps more grumblings later on …)

Saturday, July 15, 2017


So … in my experiences, observations, and readings over the past four or five years, I have come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is failing in the mission given to it by Jesus Christ: Go and make disciples of all nations. I think the Church has gotten too world-friendly, a conspirator with the world instead of a challenge to it. I have serious doubts it would even be recognized today by any saint up to the 20th century, let alone the original Apostles and the Fathers of the Church.

It’s easy to say things went wrong at Vatican II. Indeed, according to what I’ve learned, things did seriously derail in that 1962-65 council. The mass changed in the entirety of its character. The Church’s mission veered from making disciples of all nations to ecumenism – “all paths to God are worthy and true.” Priests changed, churches changed, the liturgy changed, the music changed, the art changed. And not, in my opinion, for the better.

But the fault lies deeper than Vatican II. Earlier, also. The fault began with a heresy called “Modernism,” and the Church wrote its first defense against it in the Papal encyclical Pascendi of 1907. The word itself was first coined in 1769 (Modernism having been conceived during the “humanism” of the 1700s and later birthed through the French Revolution), but wasn’t used with frequency until the 1880s.

What exactly is Modernism?

Some consider the term too vague, but let me first explain what it isn’t. It is not a condemnation of everything modern. The Church doesn’t do that. Nor is every project of reform to be decried as Modernist. It is not anti-Science, nor anti-State.

Here are some phrases that might shed some light on what Modernism is:

- An exaggerated love for what is modern

- An infatuation with modern ideas

- The “abuse of what is modern”

- The “tendency to innovation”

Some more strident definitions:

- “The ambition to eliminate God from all social life”

- “Liberalism of every degree and shade”

Sound familiar?

And this crap has been around for over a century!

Modernism is actually an umbrella term, a term that encompasses many ideas, each of which may be applied or held to varying degrees.

Some more generalized components of Modernism:

- A spirit of complete emancipation, a weakening of ecclesiastical authority

- The elevation and unshackling of science

- The idea that the state should never be hampered by religious authority

- The primacy of private conscience over doctrine or dogma

- A spirit of movement and change, a sweeping form of evolution that abhors anything fixed and stationary (see: Francis, Pope)

- A spirit of reconciliation, through feelings of the heart, of all beliefs, even nonbelief as atheism

A philosophical definition of Modernism:

- “The critique of our supernatural knowledge according to the false postulates of contemporary philosophy”

Is this starting to make sense?

Let’s be a bit more blunt here.

The goal of Modernism is nothing short than a radical transformation of human thought regarding God, man, the world, and life and afterlife. It does this through a “perversion” of dogma – supernatural knowledge, in other words – the truths of the Faith revealed in the words and teachings of Christ.

A Modernist views such dogma as the work of man in time adapted to humanity’s varying needs. A Christian may be a modernist and, if so, he seeks to bring his Church into harmony with the times.

Again, sound familiar?

True Catholics see dogma as supernatural and mysterious, divinely given to us by God. Faith is an act of the intellect made under the conscious power of the will. By this true Catholics hold firmly to what God has revealed and what the Church has discerned disciples of Christ to believe.

The Modernist errs when he considers the only necessary source to be private consciousness as opposed to divinely revealed dogma. Many also reject miracles – the miraculous – and prophecy as signs of God’s action in our world.

Hmmm …. Private consciousness … Conscience … again, sound familiar, in light of the Francis papacy?

The way to combat Modernism, once it is recognized – if ­it is recognized – is to isolate the element of truth from the error. Every error contains an element of truth. Once the truth is isolated, expanded, and extolled, then the framework of error can be dismantled.

But first the error must be acknowledged.

So ... that’s Modernism in 700 words. I still don’t have a full grasp on it; something like this is a subject for a book that I haven’t found yet. But I think I can recognize it when I see it. So can many others. Remember, Modernism was first officially acknowledged by the Vatican in 1907. 55 years later it infected the council at Vatican II. To what degree can be debated; indeed is, among sedevacantists and traditionalists like the SSPX. As can the effects of Modernism in the post-V2 Church. I have no doubt I am a member of a Modernist Church that bears only a passing resemblance to the Church of 1907. I need more information though, and will continue reading, studying, observing. This whole Modernism thing is something I am currently trying to understand, and probably will be working on it for a long while now.

Note: most of the material for this post was gleaned from the article “Modernism” in the 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Slow Week Busy Week Phantom Week

What’s Hopper been up to this week? Why no posts?

To be honest, I don’t really know.

Been fighting a chest cold all week, this now being the third week since I first caught it. I’m almost over it, but it still leaves me tired and achy at about 85% normal capacity. When I’m physically out of sorts I find it difficult to write. I tend to do my favorite escapist things. Primarily read books.

I’m 180 pages into Robert Silverberg’s Tom O’Bedlam, nearing the halfway point. Couldn’t put it down Sunday, and read it 30-45 minutes a night. Also, in my continuing quest to make sense out of my religion, I’ve watched a couple of lengthy videos on Sedavacantism and read about half a book on Orthodox Christianity. Also read a piece of Aquinas, but he tends to give me a headache – fault all mine, of course, not his.

Watched one of the least-demanded remakes of all-time, 2015’s Poltergeist, with Little One, on Tuesday. First 30 minutes were legitimately creepy and had some great jump-scares (Little One nearly punched me in the face inadvertently during one). But the final 55 minutes just plain stunk. Keep thinking to myself: Why? Why bother with this exercise, Hollywood? Oh, yeah, right – $.

Followed up Poltergeist with a mediocre All-Star Game. Went for a long walk one other night. Did grocery shopping. Stuff like that. Necessary, time consuming, and thoroughly unmemorable.

Made the mistake of mentioning to my bosses at work that I have some free time every non-payroll week. Ach! Now I’ve been given three hefty responsibilities that have stressed me out and eaten into my “catch-up” time. The payroll week is an overloaded one and the non-payroll week I used to use to catch up on housekeeping, etc. Now I have two full days of new stuff. I bear it with a smile though, since none of the three jobs are permanent (covering for someone on leave and helping another department with a short-term project). Plus I’ve been there officially a year now, with a review coming, so this might add a few percentages to Hopper’s earning power.

Also, the district manager from my tax side gig reached out to me earlier today with a project. I have phone time scheduled with him for Monday, so that’s exciting.

Speaking of making sense of religion from a few paragraphs back, I did do some research on this phenomenon called “Modernism” that many – myself included – feel have infected the Church. Have a whole page of notes I plan on writing up tomorrow sometime to post tomorrow evening. Check back for that, if that sort of thing interests you.

So that’s kinda sorta why posting has been rare around here. Kinda. Sorta.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Black Cloud

Made an executive decision at the park today. 82 pages into the 190-page 1957 science fiction paperback by Fred Hoyle, The Black Cloud, I put it down.


Well, and I hate to write this, but the first 43% of the novel was possibly the most boring 43% of any science fiction novel I have ever read. And that’s saying something. I enjoyed the quirky creativity Hoyle’s October the First is Too Late (reviewed here, here) and the man as a physicist was a wonderfully iconoclastic thinker. But this book is, to me, something of a misfire.

I was fascinated with the first ten or fifteen pages. In detailed, 1950s-era astronomical research only zero-point-zero-zero-zero-three percent of readers, like myself, would enjoy, a black cloud is discovered out in the Orion patch of sky, accelerating exactly towards the Sun and will arrive in sixteen months. What will happen? Will the cloud endarken the sun, causing a month-long plummet in temperatures, destroying most plant and animal life on earth? Will whatever it’s made of increase the temperature of the rays from the Sun? Is it somehow intelligent, this cloud, as the book cover seems to hint at but isn’t brought up in the first 82 pages?

Half of me wants to find out. But the other half realizes I have about a hundred other paperbacks down in the basement that might be a more rewarding read. The second half wins out this time.

Because none of these questions are answered or even addressed at any length. Instead we have, basically, page after page after page of scientists meeting with other scientists, meeting with government officials, government officials meeting with other government officials, then meeting back with scientists. 65 pages of this!

Sir Frederick Hoyle, forgive me. There are other worlds to conquer …

PS. If you allow me to pat myself on the back, I still think the title of this May 2010 blog post, “Black Hoyle Sun”, is one of my best creations. It’s an interesting post I wrote about that October the First book at about a hundred pages in, and it’s right here if yer interested.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Book Review: The Children of Húrin

© 2007 by J.R.R. Tolkien

Thoughts on a re-reading of J.R.R. Tolkien’s (through his son Christopher’s editorship) The Children of Húrin:

I first read this un-epic-length tale (226 pages if you disregard the lengthy prologues, appendices and glossary) seven years ago, a foray back then into Tolkienna after nearly 25 years. I reviewed it here, though I haven’t re-read that review prior to writing this post.

This time around the book took me 4-5 hours spread over 7 days, which felt quicker than it did before. Perhaps it’s because of my re-familiarization with the great works of the Professor. Since 2007 I’ve read The Lord of the Rings three times, The Silmarillion (on which Children of Húrin is most akin to) twice, and The Hobbit once. In addition to a half-dozen or more books about Tolkien and Middle-earth. So the second time around the territory was much, much more recognizable.

I also realized that The Children of Húrin is best read as a capital-T Tragedy. Do not expect a happy, fairy tale ending. There are no heroes here. It’s purposefully dark. This time around I kept that in my forebrain and had a much more enjoyable experience with the text. I imagined, as the pages turned, a story scratched out by Shakespeare, scored by Wagner, on a black, bleak stage. Turin, clad in swirling greys of leather and steel, fighting a writhing dragon presence in the smoke machine mist, as all around him fall by or because of him. And because of this, I like it just as well if not better than seven years ago, though I don’t recall how much I liked or disliked it back then.

But though it’s a tragedy, it doesn’t have to be painful to read. The second go-round I found myself, as always, reveling in the setting and the time of Edenic First Age Middle-earth. This is something that can’t really be explained, only experienced. You either get it, or you don’t.

And, unfortunately, I’ve also realized, thanks primarily to George R. R. Martin, and, to a lesser extent, Hollywood, I’m somewhat more desensitized to sexual and violent tragic elements in a fantasy setting than I was back in 2010. Yes, a few hundred deaths in the Game of Thrones novels (about 6,000 pages self-subjected, or roughly three times Tolkien’s literary output) will do that. Now that’s tragic!

So, to cap off this mini-review, I have to say I rather enjoyed the Húrin experience. I’ll re-read again, perhaps in another seven years.

Grade: B-plus / A-minus.



I just re-read my old review of The Children of Húrin from August of 2010. Bittersweet, was the tone that registered with me. I noted the “tragedy” aspect of the story, and graded it a solid-B. So I guess I enjoyed it a tad bit more this time through. Also, I must have read Silmarillion before revisiting Húrin; have to check the reading logs on that.

The question to me is, is The Chuldren of Húrin Tolkien’s least respected work, and if so, is this because it is the newest, or is it because it is deservedly so? Will its reputation grow with the years, as it seems to have with me? My hunch is yes. I’ll have to schedule a re-read sometime around the summer of 2024 to test this out …

Monday, July 3, 2017

Math Humor

If Twitter existed back then

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Astronomy Humor

If Twitter existed back then

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Physics Humor

If Twitter existed back then ...