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What’s your superpower? July 25, 2011

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If you could choose one superpower to have, which would it be? Invincibility? The power of flight? Invisibility? Tomorrow’s newspaper today? (h/t to my Dad) Something else?

I’ve always had a desire for one in particular, and I’m not even sure it could be called a superpower. I used to call it “a key that fits every door,” but nowadays keys are often not enough. Now I just refer to it as “total access.” The ability to enter any space, room, or building I wanted. Not just that but also permission or clearance to be there, where people either wouldn’t notice that I was there, or they would see me and think “he’s okay to be here.”

As I’ve mentioned before, I have an insatiable curiosity. I’d use my superpower to find out things that I’ve always wondered about. I’d go into places that, as a rule, are not open to the general public. Places like the basement of the Smithsonian. Or the archives of the Library of Congress. Or the NORAD command bunker under Cheyenne Mountain. Or maybe the bunker complex underneath the White House. Or not get kicked out by George C. Scott: “You can’t let him in here! He’ll see the Big Board!”

Are you detecting a theme here? One of my favorite movies is National Treasure, with Nicholas Cage. I’m not really any kind of conspiracy theorist, but I do believe there’s a more-or-less hidden history of the US, and I’m fascinated by that kind of thing. Not hidden because of any malevolent intent, but unrevealed because it’s just too trivial, or of no important relevance to modern society. For example, I want to find out once and for all, what is the meaning of the symbology on our US currency?

Or here’s a biggie: Area 51. Fact or fiction? Or, there’s a site in Dallas that has the urban myth of being a nuclear missile launch site. Is it true? It’s on my list. (For Dallasites, it’s the wide space on I-20 just south of Mountain Creek Lake.)

I want to explore the hidden workings of Disney World. Go behind the scenes of Hoover Dam. Have an evening to myself at the telescope on Mauna Kea. I want to watch the fireworks over Manhattan from a private office on the top floor of the Empire State Building. See a space launch from close up.

Would I use my superpower for the greater good? Perhaps, after or during the fulfillment of my inquisitiveness. I’m not really the crusader-type, but certainly if it was within my ability to deflect harm from a large number of people, I would. I don’t know how that would happen, though. I’d have to find some bad people planning sinister things, and think of a way to thwart them. Publicity of their nefarious designs would probably be my first choice, in keeping with my philosophy of “knowledge is power.”

What’s your choice?

On Beauty July 25, 2011

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I firmly believe that happiness is something that is made, not just something that happens. It’s there, to be sure, but one has to look for it, manufacture it, find it sometimes in the smallest places. And when I find it, I like to share it with others.

One of the ways I create happiness, for myself and for others, is to seek constantly for beauty. And like happiness, beauty is found in so many things, and places, and events. It’s found in a finely turned phrase, or a particular arrangement of musical notes, or the line of a cloud. It can be found when form and function combine to produce perfect grace.

And such is the case when I consider my cat. Lithe, soft, powerful, sharp of claw and lethal of fang. So domesticated, and yet so close to the wild. I marvel at the engineering of evolution, to have produced such a predatory perfection, all parts flowing together to perform a single function. As I play with her, she redefines the meaning of total focus: all senses alert, eartips quivering with restrained energy, eyes ablaze. Her talons curve out unconsciously to still her prey (my finger!), the fearsome, brilliant white daggers of her fangs to deliver the coup de grâce. And as I stroke her, her eyes half-closed in bliss, she begins to rumble, a buzzing pleasure that permeates her body and radiates all around her.

Fiercely independent, she unapologetically tolerates nothing that isn’t on her terms, and that is part of her endearing qualities. To know that she would thrive perfectly well without me, yet chooses to be at my side, makes hers a special companionship. And there’s that thrill of the always-present predatory nature – as a wit once observed, “A cat is the only pet that, if she were but half my size, would eat me.” And all the while, again unapologetically and on her terms – it’s what she’s designed for. And she executes that function with perfect grace and beauty.


I like horses too.

A Case of Conscience July 18, 2011

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I was completely derailed by this novel, James Blish’s 1959 winner of the Hugo Award. In an attempt to get the train back on the track and running again, I’m essentially going to skip over this one.

Oh yes, I read the book. Three or four times, in fact. And

completely

failed to understand it.

There is a major religious component to this novel, and being unfamiliar with this subject matter, I strongly disagreed with nearly every premise set forth in it. The major one of these, and I think the main point of the novel, was that morality cannot exist without God. Not so, not so! My own experiences have shown me otherwise. Morality can be defined by a single sentence: Do no harm to others. And my belief is that one does not necessarily need the presence of God to have this principle of morality. It’s a corollary of the Golden Rule: Do unto others, etc. I do not exist in a religious framework, but that does not make me immoral.

Please don’t take this as criticism of  the beliefs of others, I’m just trying to explain, in my limited way, why I have had such trouble with this novel. I understand that others have other views and I respect that, just as I expect others to respect the fact that my views may differ. Does not make me wrong, does not make you wrong. What’s the carmaker’s slogan, “your mileage may vary?”

I tried so very hard to come at this novel with an open mind, but there are just some concepts which my analytical scientist’s mind cannot accept.

Perhaps I just didn’t get it. And that, in my opinion, may make me unqualified to have anything to say about this novel.

And to suit action to word, that is all I have to say about this one. I’m sorry to have to post a “throwaway” entry, but I’m desperate to get this project moving again in a positive direction. It’s been a horrific struggle with this book, but I’ll be back soon, with a bang!

Bond-o-philia May 22, 2011

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I must admit here that I’ve been reading “off the menu,” a book not on the Hugo list. I just finished a book by Grant Callin, A Lion on Tharthee, which is a follow-up to his novel Saturnalia. I read Saturnalia some time ago; it was a light entertaining read, with a 2001: A Space Odyssey-like theme: An alien artifact is discovered on one of Saturn’s moons, which turns out to be a clue pointing to another artifact deep in Saturn’s atmosphere, which turns out to be yet another clue pointing to an alien spacecraft parked in a cometary orbit somewhere out in the Oort Cloud, said spacecraft being transportation to the alien homeworld.

While prowling the stacks, I saw Callin’s name and grabbed the book, not knowing and not really caring what the book was about. Such is the power of good work where I find it, whether on the pages, on film, or on vinyl (well, CD, now.) Where Saturnalia ended with the unraveling of the final clues and the locating of the alien spacecraft, A Lion on Tharthee revolved around the preparation for and the voyage to the alien homeworld, where they meet a most interesting species. The main character in both novels is Kurious Whitedimple, a former archaeology professor turned hot pilot and space adventurer. I know, I know, very Indiana Jones, but Callin writes some very good characters and he has a solid background in the hard sciences so he knows what he’s talking about. Of particular note is his detailed knowledge of the Saturnian system, vividly portrayed in his first novel Saturnalia. In this latest novel, when he meets what later turns out to be his love interest, a biological sciences professor named Kari Nunguesser, he observes, “You have a ridiculous name, Dr. Nunguesser.” Ha! As if he’s one to talk.

Anyways, a recent stream-of-consciousness led me to James Bond and all his works: music, movies, actors, characters. Call me juvenile, but I absolutely adore the entire James Bond phenomenon; at one point I had every single one of the movies, and someday will again. I even once owned a replica of the famous James Bond gun, the Walther PPK. (A real working handgun, not a fake or a model.) Each movie is somewhat of a reflection of the time in which it was made.  Consider the 1962 Dr. No, where Bond is slapping women around, or the leisure suit with bell-bottom slacks of the disco-era For Your Eyes Only. I decided to Rate The Bonds; mainly to see what you all think. You’re invited to critique (politely, please!), add or subtract, or give your own lists.

Actors

  1. Sean Connery. Forever and always, the One True Bond. Interestingly, when Ian Fleming first screened Mr. Connery in Dr. No, he was said to have exclaimed, “Dreadful, simply dreadful.”
  2. Pierce Brosnan. After Roger Moore’s exit, I hoped that he would be chosen, but his contractual obligations prevented that. When he did finally get there, it was everything I expected. Tough, urbane, sophisticated, gritty. And my favorite chase scene in all the Bonds, the opening sequence boat chase in The World Is Not Enough.
  3. Roger Moore. Perhaps the most firmly entrenched of all the Bonds, he certainly spent more time in the role than any other, and defined a generation’s concept of James Bond.
  4. George Lazenby. While he only made one Bond movie, I think he was an excellent successor to Connery, even if he was a “Strine.” When approached to do another Bond movie, he declined, saying that he didn’t think the Bond franchise had much of a future. Pete Best, anybody?
  5. Daniel Craig. I’ve only seen Casino Royale, but I like what I see; a return to Ian Fleming’s original concept of Bond, a heartless cold-blooded operator, not someone you’d like to hang out with, unless he had your back. Owner of one of the most unique chase scenes, the footrace through the construction zone. Excellent stuntwork, there.
  6. Timothy Dalton. Whatever. A place-holder, until Brosnan arrived on the scene.

Movies

I’m not going to try to list them all here, just hit a few highlights. Favorite is not synonymous with best. Which am I listing? You decide.

  1. From Russia With Love. Filmed in the thick of the Cold War, this may be the only Bond film that doesn’t feature a megalomaniac bent on taking over the entire world for his own evil purposes. Based on the theft of a coding machine from the Russians, you could imagine that this kind of thing actually occurred in the early and mid-Sixties.
  2. Goldfinger. How could you not love this movie? With Pussy Galore, the iconic Aston Martin DB6, and perhaps the greatest line delivered by a villain in all of Bond-dom: “I suppose you expect me to talk now?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”
  3. You Only Live Twice. A serious, wistful movie, made even more so by the superb musical score, full of Oriental mystique.
  4. Diamonds Are Forever. Precious gems, Las Vegas, a stunning redhead, and a moon buggy chase. And the great Shirley Bassey with the title song. Campy, yes, but so much fun.
  5. Dr. No. I have to throw this one in here because it’s the first one, and we meet the supremely young Sean Connery uttering the immortal introduction, “Bond. James Bond.”
  6. For Your Eyes Only. This one and the next one are separated by only a few microns. I list this one first because of the beautiful Carole Bouquet and the brilliant theme song by Sheena Easton.
  7. The Spy Who Loved Me. This one and the one before are, in my opinion, the two best Roger Moore Bond films. By this time Moore had firmly established his interpretation of James Bond, with the witty quips, the double entendres, and his invincibility at seducing any woman he laid his eyes upon.
  8. Die Another Day. A side of Bond I had not seen before, with his own people shunning him, and he must prove both to himself and to his organization that he remains trustworthy.

Villains

  1. Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Bond’s perennial nemesis, he appears in no fewer than six movies.
  2. Auric Goldfinger. This is a bad man, in it for nobody but himself. Not to mention the greatest bad-guy line ever, see above.
  3. Jaws. A human wrecking ball, destructive and indestructible. Emerges from any calamity, calmy brushing off his jacket and straightening his tie.

Title Music

These first three are easy.

  1. Diamonds Are Forever.
  2. Moonraker.
  3. Goldfinger. The only performer to be selected for more than one Bond title song, Shirley Bassey has three. What an amazing voice she has, powerful and effortless.
  4. For Your Eyes Only. Sheena Easton is the only performer to be seen in the opening credits singing the title song. A beautiful song by a beautiful lady.
  5. Nobody Does it Better. By Carly Simon, another performer with a powerful effortless performance.
  6. The World is Not Enough. A sweeping, orchestral theme, full of grandeur, by a band named – Garbage.
  7. Goldeneye. Sung by Tina Turner, it has something which seems to have gone away in later Bond themes – the inclusion of the James Bond  four-note leitmotif.
  8. Live and Let Die. This song, by Paul McCartney, was so popular that it got regular play on the rock stations at the time.

I think I could make another list or two, but I’ll stop here. I look forward to reading your input.

Fahrenheit 451 May 15, 2011

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I think everybody’s at least heard of this novel, Ray Bradbury’s 1954 winner of the Hugo Award. If not, it’s the story of Guy Montag, a fireman in the not-too-distant future. But in this future, firemen don’t fight fires, they start them. Specifically, they burn books, which are illegal in this future. (I would be a Class One outlaw in this future.)

This novel shares a slightly similar theme to A Canticle for Liebowitz, in that there’s a small group of people trying to preserve the knowledge of a forgotten past. But in this case, it came about through a natural occurrence of events. Mr. Bradbury’s vision of how this future comes to pass is chillingly prophetic, and for that I give him large credit.

Wait a minute. I just thought about that phrase, “how this future comes to pass.” Something wrong with that structure. Oh well, never mind.

As I was saying, Bradbury’s foresight is made more striking by the fact that, at the time this was written, television had only been around for a few years. In the novel, television has gradually taken over the attention and the minds of the people. Books are feared and hated not only because of the knowledge that they contain, but also because of the questions they raise in readers. And society slowly evolved,  helped along by the mass media exploitation of this trend, to the point that the images on the screen were all that mattered to many. Those in power controlled the images, and thereby controlled society.

And now take a look at today’s society, where everything is Flash, and Now, and What’s The Hot Thing Today? Feed my senses, not my mind.  Things and people of substance and thought are scorned and ridiculed, to some degree or another. This is the author’s prophecy come true. Long-time readers of science fiction will have seen this for themselves when they tried to share their passion with others not of like mind. S-F was for a long time a “fringe” genre. It’s only in the last few years that it’s starting to shake off this mantle, but there are still many who, knowing very little about it, tend to regard not only this field scornfully but also intellectual pursuit in general. As one bit of evidence of this, consider the term “nerd,” derogatorily applied to someone who was generally more well-read than others and therefore more intelligent, and importantly more capable of critical thought.

And I fear the trend is growing because we are now in the second and third generation of this phenomenon, and parents are raising children in this atmosphere, not knowing the value in books, and learnedness. I’ll always remember the words of the late Ann Landers who said, “Those who do not read are no better off than those who cannot read.”

In reviewing my own words here, I realize that this novel resonates with me because in ways it’s a diatribe against anti-intellectualism, of which we see so many symptoms today. This thought is bolstered by the author’s own afterword, in which he relates a few anecdotes concerning the attempted editing of his work by otherwise well-meaning individuals, in order to make his work more palatable by a larger audience. In other words, a “dumbing-down” of his message. Television is full of this; it’s called “lowest common denominator” programming, a concept created by Fred Silverman, former head of CBS in the sixties and seventies.

A Canticle for Liebowitz, Pt. II May 7, 2011

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Whew, this novel is a handful, and a headful.

I’d like to clarify something. In my previous post, I talked about how (in the novel) Man lost all his knowledge and technology, as if it were a naturally occurring event. After re-reading the book, I realized that the loss came about through purpose. The angry mobs turned on those responsible for the destruction, and soon enough didn’t even stop there.

…records and sacred books were burned, refugees were summarily seized and hanged or burned. The Simplification had ceased to have plan or purpose soon after it began, and became an insane frenzy of mass murder and destruction such as can occur only when the last traces of social order are gone. The madness was transmitted to the children, taught as they were – not merely to forget – but to hate, and surges of mob fury recurred sporadically even through the fourth generation after the Deluge. By then, the fury was directed not against the learned, for there were none, but against the merely literate.

This Simplification so thoroughly eradicated the basis of any culture that there was no seed remaining from which to sprout a reemergence of it. Instead, after four or five generations, a new culture arose, but one based on darkness and ignorance, and thus the pattern was set. Nevertheless, the monks patiently guarded the caches of knowledge, even though they themselves did not understand it, and assigned to the Memorabilia the status of Holy Relics, effectively guaranteeing their preservation.

The novel chronicles the long slow climb back from ignorance and superstition, in 600-year chunks, and by the end of the story Man has regained a partial understanding of the Memorabilia and from that some of his former technological achievement. But unfortunately, after all the evil that was done, it seems that Man remains imperfect, and has not really learned his lesson. The book ends on a note of Doom, but also with a thread of Hope.

In closing, I urge you to get this book and read it. It’s not a quick and easy read, but it’s a rich and satisfying novel in so many ways. Chances are that when you’ve read it, you will be glad that you did. It’s one of those that, when you finish and set it down, will sit back and say, “Whew!” Be prepared to learn some Latin, but again, I can’t find much if anything to disagree with those who regard this as the greatest science fiction novel ever written. It is epic, in the original sense of the word.

Over and out. Be well.

Lurking in the stacks May 1, 2011

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I went on another successful book-diving expedition yesterday, and picked up another six novels on my Hugo list. I discovered a mistake in my source, so it turns out that I overlooked a book that’s readily available, Farenheit 451. That one will be next. I still haven’t found the one I want most: The first Hugo winner in 1953, Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man. Also, surprisingly enough, Heinlein’s Double Star is proving to be difficult to find. Curses, I really wanted to tackle this project in chrono order, but I’m not positioned to order anything online at this time. Sigh.

Funny thing is, since the Hugo Awards started in ’53, they omit the Golden Age of Science Fiction: late ’30′s though the early ’50′s. Robert Heinlein earned his bread and potatoes there, as did John Campbell, Isaac Asimov, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Ray Bradbury, James Blish, and others. Many, many great novels came from that time. Down the road, I’ll devote some space (pun unintentional) to that era.

I found an excellent little independent bookstore, Paperbacks Plus. It has a selection to rival most Half Price Books stores. For those of you in the Dallas area, they have two locations: Downtown Mesquite and East Dallas, near the intersection of Skillman and Live Oak. That’s the one I visited. They also have a web presence, check out their site here. And of course, there’s the Half Price Books flagship store, about a mile east of Northpark Mall. That place is huge, it’s worth the drive from anywhere in the Metroplex. Unless, of course, you live in Burleson or something.

One of my video cards bit the dust yesterday. It started making a loud grinding noise, fan-associated, and then the noise stopped. Shortly thereafter, the system shut down and wouldn’t power back on until I removed the offending item. Now I have to limp along on a single video card with a mere 1.5GB of memory. Oh, the humanity! I partially disassembled it and did a little reconditioning on it; I’m going to plug it back in and see if my efforts paid off.

I saw on somebody else’s site that he was in the process of listing all the books he’s read. It made me think – for a moment – about the feasibility of listing all the books I own, much less have read. My gosh, what a monumental task that would be. I might do that later, say, when I’m retired and have nothing else to do. I made a rough estimate earlier today and came up with around 300 books, give or take, and it’s not getting smaller. I can tell you about some of the authors of which I have a high volume of books, and some of my favorite authors that haven’t necessarily put out a lot of novels.

Robert A. Heinlein, of course. David Drake, who writes some excellent military s-f. Larry Niven, need I say more. I have everything that Anne McCaffrey wrote about the Dragonriders of Pern, an astonishing baker’s dozen or more novels. Piers Anthony, a man who has produced an incredible volume of work and yet does not have, to my knowledge, a Hugo award. I wouldn’t call him my favorite author but to my surprise, I may have more books by him than by any other author. Go figure. A.A. Attanasio, my favorite off-the-beaten-track author. C.J. Cherryh – ah, C.J., my favorite female author, and namesake of my furry ferocious four-footed feline. J.R.R Tolkien, including a lesser-known book which I strongly recommend to everybody that wants to know more about Lord of the Rings: The Silmarillion. It tells of the beginning of the Elves, and their war with Morgoth, to whom Sauron was just an apprentice. Let me see, a sprinkling of Arthur C. Clarke and the Good Doctor Asimov. The complete works of Shakespeare in a hardcover boxed set, which I may never read but at least I have it. Got it on sale, it was too good a buy to pass up. A couple by Mark Twain, talk about a radical. The two oldest pieces of fiction known to mankind, Homer’s Iliad and The Odyssey, and that book we all had to read in high school, Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, and yes I have read those. It’s hard to see all the titles because I have books stacked on top of books stacked in front of books stacked on top of books – I need a new bookcase! My poor bookcase is about 4X overloaded.

There’s some others, but it’s almost time for Firefly, so I’m outta here.

Felis Catus… April 30, 2011

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…is your taxonomic nomenclature; an endothermic quadruped, carnivorous by nature…

Sorry.

This is about el gato negro, une chat noir… my little black kitty. She’s a Halloween cat, born on the last day of October. All black except for a small white patch on her chest, shorthair, with the most brilliant green eyes. I think she may be the Devil’s Feline. I’m training her to ride on my shoulder, like a witch’s familiar. She’s a wild child, totally fearless even towards me. Some evidence of that can be seen in her photo in one of my previous posts where she’s hanging out in a tree. Literally.

You know how most pet owners will say, especially about dogs, “He won’t bite”? I have to warn people that, yes, she does bite. I named her C.J., after my favorite female author.

When I get home from work, I leave the front door open so she can roll around in the grass, while I do some minor chores: washing up, doing the morning dishes, prepping the coffeepot for tomorrow, etc. A couple of months ago while I was doing that, I heard a commotion; a medium to large dog barking right outside the door. When I rushed to the door, I was greeted with the sight of a young woman holding her mastiff-type dog, straining at the leash, while my little C.J. was advancing to the attack: stiff-legged, back arched, ears laid back, tail and fur fluffed out to maximum, in full DefCon 4 mode, crab-walking towards the dog. Nevermind the 10 to 1 size disadvantage, this dog must perish! I stood there for a moment in surprise and admiration of this tableau, then the young lady nervously blurted out, “I don’t think I can control him.” I then stepped in and scooped up my cat and carried her to safety. As I said, totally fearless. I lavishly praised her for doing such a magnificent job, to which she fully agreed.

The other day, same scenario: door open, her in the grass, me in the kitchen. Just as I walked out front to check on her, a squirrel came around the corner, within about four feet of her. Bam! Squirrel lights the afterburners, cat showing redshift, approaching 0.6 C. Down the street in a split second, and the only reason the squirrel survived is that it was a slightly better tree climber than she is. What does she think she is, a dog? I was laughing, but at the same time concerned, because if she would have mixed it up with the rodent, she stood a chance of getting rabies. And then all squirrels would have to die. Not just one hundred squirrels, or one thousand, but all squirrels…everywhere.

All she does is bite; nevertheless, she’s a good kitty, and I wouldn’t trade her in for a mule or a more fuel-efficient car.

A Canticle for Liebowitz, Pt. I April 26, 2011

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The Earth, 600 years after the unthinkable has happened. Total nuclear war has wiped out civilization, and what is left of mankind struggles to rebuild a world. All of Man’s previous works have perished, and little is left of the knowledge that once was. In the Utah desert, a small group of monks zealously preserves the ancient Memorabilia of a nearly forgotten era, striving to bring enlightenment to the new Dark Ages, shepherds of the long slow climb back to civilization. The story begins with Brother Francis who, with the guidance of a mysterious wanderer, stumbles upon the hidden shrine of Fallout Shelter, where he finds the Holy Relics of St. Liebowitz: the Blessed Blueprint and the Sacred Shopping List.

Some say that 1961′s Hugo winner A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. is the greatest science fiction novel ever written, and I can’t find much to argue with about that. I’m on my second read-through, and I dare say that I could read it a couple of more times and still get something new out of it each time. It’s a rich and complex novel, made somewhat more challenging by the liberal use of Vaticanesque Latin throughout. Those phrases were interesting enough and seemed to be important enough to the story to make me pause and look them up on Google.

Liebowitz was a pre-disaster engineer who was, unknown to our characters, one of the scientists that created the nuclear weapons which devastated the planet. The story is told from a religious standpoint, but it’s not grim and serious, nor does it try to beat you over the head with excessive proselytizing. In fact it has a humorous and practical element throughout. Did you notice the irony? That the man who contributed to so much destruction is now canonized by the characters, unaware of his role in the catastrophe. The characters are warm and real, each in their own way trying to solve Man’s problems in purely pragmatic ways. Myself having no experience in matters of religion, I found this to be mildly surprising and also endearing. Others more knowledgeable in this subject might not be surprised by that. See? Reading is learning. “The mind opens, and wisdom creeps in.” This is why I do it.

The story comes in three parts, each separated by 600 years, providing snapshots of the progress of the small abbey, built on the site of the Shrine of Fallout Shelter, in bringing civilization back to Mankind. It’s an enclave of humanity and scholarship in the midst of the brutal wilderness that once was the United States.

There’s a fascinating passage in the second part, when the Abbot climbs the nearby mountain to meet with his old friend, the hermit Jew Benjamin, who is half-mad from his solitude and sometimes believes he is several thousand years old. That is not necessarily denied in the story, and it is also hinted that he is the last of the Jews. The two friends have an interesting discussion, touching on the nature of their faiths, and how they differ from each other, and the burden to be carried because of that faith. And again, I think it accrues to the skill of the author that it’s not a dry and pontificating essay, but that while it’s deeply profound it yet manages to be funny, with plenty of jibes and barbs cast both ways between the two:

“I hear you’ve been throwing rocks at the novices who come hereabouts for their Lenten fast in the desert. Can this be true?” He eyed the hermit with mock reproof.

“Only pebbles.”

“Miserable old pretzel!”

“Now, now, Paulo. One of them once mistook me for a distant relative of mine – name of Liebowitz.”

I’m a little more than halfway through the book, so I’m going to go finish it and report back with a final summary when I’m done. Till then, be well.

Mundane Musings April 24, 2011

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Excuse the delay in posting, this next book I’m (re-) reading is a handful. It’s an intense read and I can manage only a few pages at a time. It’s one of those that I like and appreciate more the second time around. (ought to be really good the third time…)

I went out this weekend and got a couple more books on my list, The Fountains of Paradise and Ender’s Game. Only 38 more to go. I also picked up something by an author that I like, Solis by A.A. Attanasio. I’ve read his Radix tetrad and a couple of others, including his interesting take on the Arthurian legend. My sole provider for books is Half-Price Books, they have several locations in the vicinity. Maybe I could get a sponsorship…. But I think some of these books are going to be virtually impossible to get there, I might have to turn to (gasp!) Amazon.

I’m looking forward to the new series Falling Skies. Anything with Spielberg’s name on it usually turns out to be excellent. On the subject of TV shows, I still kick myself everytime I think about Battlestar Galactica. I didn’t watch the show until the last five or so episodes, and thought to myself, “Hey, this show is pretty good. Too bad I missed it.” And I’m surprised that there haven’t been any reruns. I know, I know, I should go buy the DVD. But I’m not the DVD sort. I mean, I owned Serenity for three years before I finally got around to watching it, and then only because I saw bits and pieces of it on TV and remembered that I had it.

Meanwhile, mark the date of June 28 2011. It’s the scheduled liftoff of the final Space Shuttle mission, and what appears to be the end of America’s manned space program, almost fifty years to the day after it began. A dark day indeed. It fills me with great sadness that apparently very few people are interested in the almost limitless resources and opportunities that await mankind beyond Earth’s orbit. I find the “wheel in the sky” space station scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey to be somewhat prophetic, but for reasons of melancholy. We could have that today, and more, if only there was a will to make it happen. Too many people complain to their congressmen and senators about “all that money being wasted” on the space program, without stopping to think about all the benefits which that research and exploration has brought about. Let me here state for the record that the entire Moon program, Mercury through Apollo, cost 5¢ per citizen. If you’re here, you’re probably aware of at least some of these benefits, but I invite you to Google “space spinoffs” to find out even more of these things. The list is too extensive to go into here.

Sorry, I’m climbing down off my soapbox now.

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