Category Archives: 2014

Unfinished business

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

Most of you probably know that going into a new year with unfinished business is a risky proposition.  There’s no telling what sort of karmic baggage it will carry into your next year to harry you.  But sometimes it just can’t be avoided.

In my case it’s a couple of obvious items.  One being Orphans in the Sky, copyright 1941, Robert Heinlein.  I found it listed in the Johnson County, Kansas, Library and only managed to get it yesterday.  I put in into the que for reading, but unless I get cracking I won’t finish it before midnight.  I’ve only got a chapter to go.  But Heinlein isn’t the only iron in the fire.

A reader here recommended A Pirate of Exquisite Mind, by Diana and Michael Preston.  I only got it from the library the same day as the Heinlein tome, so I’ve been alternating between the two.  The Preston book is biography of William Dampier, who discovered earlier than anyone else that being a scientist and a pirate weren’t mutually exclusive.

I’ll be a while polishing off the Dampier tome, even if I manage to croak the Heinlein before the world slouches into next year.

And as for the Orphans in the Sky, I’ll confess it rattles me somewhat.   One of my favorite all time science fiction books was Starship, by Brian Aldiss.  I’ve read it at least half-dozen times over the years.  The Heinlein book reminded me of it so when I discovered the library doesn’t have it and it’s not available InterLibrary loan I checked Amazon.  And surprised myself by finding a review I wrote about it in 2004:

See this image

Starship Paperback – December 1, 1969

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful

By Jack Purcell on May 8, 2004

Format: Paperback

This book was written long before most readers of this review were born. Maybe that’s the reason this great work of science fiction lies dormant and almost forgotten. The book is absorbing, fires the imagination, is both believable and original. I don’t believe, of all the thousands of books of science fiction I’ve read over half a century, I’ve ever read one similar to this (and few better).
The basic story involves a starship the size of a small city on a voyage lasting hundreds of years. Many generations prior to the time of this plot a cataclysmic event and internal disruptions caused the crew to break into factions and isolate themselves. Thereafter the population forgot itself, what it was, and struggled to survive and understand, by the time of this plot, in a strange world.
If you’d like to discover a ‘new’ old one you’ll treasure and read many times through your life this is a good shot at finding one, while it can still be obtained. Take good care of it.
5.0 out of 5 stars
As good as Aldiss ever got. And it beats Heinlen’s Orphans of the Sky, December 30, 2014
This review is from: Starship (Paperback)
My review of this in 2004 didn’t mention the plot similarity to the 1941 Robert Heinlein tome, Orphans of the Sky. I’ve just finished re-reading the Heinlein book and it gave me a thirst to re-read the Aldiss. I’m searching my books-in-tow for it, but I’ve already checked the library system and haven’t located it. Might have to fork out $1.48 for a used copy of this classic.
I haven’t ordered Starship because I want to check whatever books of mine Jeanne has in her basement, but I might yet have to fork out $1.48 plus shipping and snag a used copy from Amazon.
Reason for my studied lack of haste:
I got the urge to re-read the late Philip Jose Farmer’s series, Riverworld one more time this lifetime.  Put them on hold [Jeanne’s library account] at the library.  Jeanne saw it and tossed all five books down in front of me.  Mine.  The originals from when Farmer first published them in the 1970s.  From her basement.
I have vivid recollections of waiting with baited breath for next sequels on these.  So there they are, more unfinished business trying to anchor me here in 2014.
Old Jules

Post Christmas sunshine

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

There’s something new on the Universal Love front to begin pondering:  Hydrox and Shiva-the-cow-cat appear to be slouching into some sort of hanky panky.  They’ve been observed lying side-by-side on Jeanne’s bed.

These cats have known one another for more than a decade and never a kind word has passed between them.  Hydrox surprised me last year when he began licking the face and inside the ears of Tabby whenever she got aggressive, but Tabby was an entirely different matter.  What Shiva’s always wanted was to be left strictly alone by other cats.

Until now.  She’s the one jumping on the bed as the party of the second part, not the first.

Also, sometime around 2 am Christmas Eve I heard cat racing noises, sat up in bed and saw Hydrox run from Jeanne’s bedroom into the kitchen.  With Shiva in hot pursuit.  I shook my head and wiped my eyes in time to see Shiva race out of the kitchen closely pursued by Hydrox, back past Jeanne’s Christmas tree into her bedroom.

I’m convinced they’re teetering on the brink of a Christian Era.

And meanwhile Wavy Gravy Duff, managing editor over at Veterans Today did a wordy Christmas post bragging of his past life without being too obviously obnoxious nor untruthful.  For that matter, aside from Jonas Alexis there were no Jew baiting/hating articles during the Christmas truce.

g duff 2

wavy gravy

g duff

Soooooooo if we’re not teetering on the brink of a Christian era I think we’d better all start digging bomb shelters.

Old Jules

Miss World 1967 visits the troops

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this morning.

Bob Hope used to do those USO shows every year.  In fact Al Jolson died in the aftermath of returning from a USO show in Korea.  Fact is, any Christmas entertainment that includes John Wayne jokes and nasty jibes at draft dodgers burning their draft cards is probably worth a rerun anytime anyone is singing songs about Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men.

Ms. Welch, at least, is about reality, which every USO show should include a taste of.

As an aside, a lot of you probably didn’t know Clint Eastwood’s real identity was Andy Williams.  Here he is singing something I thought of as a favorite in 1963.

No Christmas is complete without Clint Eastwood singing Old Bilbao Moon.

Here’s wishing everyone a merry little war.

Old Jules

 

 

 

 

Don’t Give Me No Plastic Saddle! Let Me Feel That Leather When I Ride

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

Some few, some happy few, some band of brothers of you mightn’t have thought about this song in a while.  Which seems a shame.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about this morning.  I actually wanted to tell you about the time I spent half a day poking around the town lots along the highway in Canyon City, Colorado looking for evidence of a long-burned out diner.  Ian Tyson recorded the song in the 1960s and when I found myself in southwestern Colorado I couldn’t resist.

But I didn’t find the ruins of that diner and Jeanne, midway through writing this, advised me I wrote about searching for those ruins on here sometime before.

So there I was, riding a plastic saddle of a blog entry as a consequence of having a mind that functions too much it its own image when it comes to thinking up anecdotes to reflect on.

Hells bells.  I could tell you about the young man who lives next door to Jeanne and his difficulties finding a job, but nevermind that.  He’s a fine young man with a lot of experience as an automotive mechanic, but he has some brain disorder causing him to need an extremely expensive medication so he can think in straight lines.  When he doesn’t get it his thoughts go everywhere.

$300-$400 per month the damned stuff costs and he doesn’t have medical insurance.  So he quit taking it January and by March Mazda was deciding they didn’t need him anymore going to get the same wrench fifteen times and forgetting what he was after.

So from then until now he’s been looking for another job without measurable success, though he does a little security work filling in, and  the night it snowed he drove a bobcat around clearing a parking lot.

But for any job of a regular nature nobody’s calling him back.  Even though he worked eleven years for Mazda never a hitch.

So, when he’s not filling in applications for jobs he turns on this giant TV screen and loads up a game the likes of which I’ve never seen nor imagined.  I is an authentic appearing urban environment with a lot of authentic appearing men in combat gear stalking one another around shooting one another and otherwise dealing misery.  I’m guessing it’s a lot more seductive than working down at AutoZone selling auto parts.

Brent’s the man’s name and he’s taken to visiting me some, killing time.  He told me about two documentary movies about Afghanistan he’s seen recently:

Restrepo 2010 R 93 minutes.  Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington embed themselves with the Second Platoon in Afghanistan, chronicling the men’s work, fear and brotherhood

Korengal 2014 R 84 minutes.  This follow-up to the Oscar-nominated documentary “Restrepo” delves into the experience of war and how it impacts those on the front lines.

I don’t have much interest in the US military adventures anywhere but he sparked my interest and I watched them.  Glad I did because it revealed something I hadn’t thought seriously about.

Those honest-to-goodness US soldiers stationed in the hottest combat zone in Afghanistan being followed constantly with cameras and recorders throughout their tour loved war!  During firefights they whooped and cheered when they thought they killed someone.  And between firefights they pined for someone to shoot at.

When they’d almost served out their tour the cameraman asked them, “What are you going to miss most about Afghanistan?”

A surprising number answered, “Shooting people.”

Under questioning it was clear none of those troops thought they were doing anything patriotic.  They’d been filtered from the US population to find people who’d hooha their way out into the killing fields and love every minute of it.

So when the young guy neighbor said he regretted he couldn’t join because of his daughters and his medical condition it went a long way to explain that game he loves playing on his television.  A plastic saddle.

One of the GIs gave an interesting reply though, on one of those documentaries.

“I’m going to have to go home and live with what I’ve done.  I think God hates me.  God didn’t intend people to do what we do here.

“I hate it when people say ‘you did what you had to do.  I didn’t have to do anything.  I didn’t have to kill anyone.  I didn’t have to join the Army.  I chose all that and now I have to live with it.”

With vets offing themselves at a rate of one per hour the guy might be a worthy object for study by the people who worry about such matters.  It ain’t a plastic saddle he’s riding back to the Home of the Brave.

Old Jules

 

The futility of pessimism

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

I swan, every time I get feeling low and remorseful, which I mostly don’t, I just can’t hold onto it.  Slips right between my fingers the way a broken egg gets away from a person.  Doesn’t even leave any particles of eggshell hanging around to try to pick away so’s to save the goo.

What I’m saying is I could get used to this.  Something awful.  Here I am, snow outside, me inside.  Jeanne never lets it get below 63 degrees F here in the house, which isn’t something I’ve experienced since sometime before Y2K.  And I’m having to count calories instead of just counting miniscule particles of sodium.

Heck, when I checked into the hospital here almost a year ago I weighed in at 145 lbs, and didn’t have an ounce of body fat.  Fasting before medical tests was agony.  And here I am at 190 pounds, being careful not to gain any more.  I figure I’m around 10 pounds heavier than is ideal for me.  But I’ll take it off gradually, or it will rot off if I croak.

I’m cooking a lot of salt-free stovetop bread, both for bun-type [hamburger-like] or somewhat cake-like.  Or pizza-like.  And no sodium or low sodium isn’t cramping my style one bit.  I can whip out curry fish, curry chicken, ginger beef, sauteed mushrooms, and more kinds of siamin than anyone ever heard of using mung-bean vermicelli and no sodium chicken or beef broth.

Jeanne found some extremely low-sodium Swiss cheese and I’ll confess I almost found myself wallowing in ecstacy with the first, pizza, then omelet that resulted soon thereafter.

Whip over to the double-sink with hot and cold running water, spang wash all the dirties quicker than I can tell about it.  Sheeze.

Here I am gazing out the window, Otis Redding playing on the gramaphone, Hydrox snoring on his wool old-man army blanket.  Shiva the cow cat nosing around finding things of interest under Jeanne’s Christmas tree, curling up on the ‘tree skirt’ [an item I never knew existed].

So here I am trying to work up a good pessimism but it escapes me.  Got an old Frederick Pohl novel [Far Shore of Time] about a third read.  Finished a pretty good biography of Captain Woodes Rogers, a surprisingly scholarly piece of work by David Cordingly.  Pirate Hunter of the Caribbean.  Thinking of passing it on to one of Jeanne’s sons, it’s so fun reading.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not falling into any pit of joy, getting snagged up by the trap of hope.  I’m just muddling along grateful as hell it’s so warm in here, watching it snow.

Old Jules

Something time forgot

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

Back in the 1960s browsing around book stores a person used to find 33 1/3 LP records of poets reading their own poetry.  I bought several and always enjoyed listening to Robert Frost, TS Eliot, Archibald MacLeish and several others.  Those poor old LPs were awfully scratchy and beat up by the time cassette tapes came along and I converted those I could.

But toward the end of LP-days along came Rod McKuen and I suppose made everyone a bit shy about admitting they listened to poetry.  I’m telling you now I listened to part of a Rod McKuen LP once, so shoot me for a dumbass.

Anyway somewhere back there my tapes ran away with a fancy machine designed to play them and it’s been a long time since I’ve heard Frost, MacLeish, Penn Warren, or TS Eliot, among others.  Missed it considerable.

But here in my dotage in Olathe, KS, there’s a lady who works at the County Library who was once an English Major.  She takes delight in getting me whatever the library has on almost anything.  I’ve consumed books on low sodium cooking, for instance, and am currently reading some new Terry Pratchett.

So lately when I got hankering to find some MP3 recordings converted from those mentioned naturally she was my database.  The bad news is a lot of it is still in libraries somewhere on vinyl, never converted even to tape.  You can find my favorite MacLeish on Amazon on LP for $4.77 used, but nothing even on tape.  Or you can get it Interlibrary loan from NY Public Library on LP.

Anyway I got Frost converted from CD to MP3, along with an assortment of other CD anthologies and spang sent them back to the library, ordering more.  And today I’ve got another stack  she brought home last night.  TS Eliot and The Spoken Arts Treasury Volume 1 [6 CD] of a large variety of poets reading their own poetry if they were still alive when recording devices were invented.

I also have a 2 CD set of the Mills Brothers, 1931-1968 I’ll be converting to MP3.  Truly looking forward to hearing it.

But the technology is moving so fast by the time I get them on MP3 probably something will come along assuring they’ll be lost to history some other way.  Heck, there aren’t enough people interested in Archibald MacLeish, Carl Sandburg, to justify someone commercially to preserve them.  Not anyone after cassette tapes came along.

Ezra Pound spent the years of his life after WWII in confined exile because he got so enthusiastic about Italian fascism, entirely because Il Duce supported the arts.

If poor old Ezry had recorded all those endless cantos he penned from 1945 until he died I suppose it would be one hell of a treasury to convert to MP3.  I’m probably the only person on the planet who wouldn’t listen to it.

Old Jules

Brain Drain: Charley Whitman’s brain is missing!

Most of you won’t remember Charley Whitman’s shooting spree off the Texas Tower.  And most of you also won’t remember Kinky Friedman’s song about it.

Hells bells, most of you aren’t going to be impressed the ex-Marine, ex-Eagle Scout’s brain is wandering around somewhere unaccounted for.    We’re not talking about Dr. Wossname, Frankenscense here.  These are the times that clone men’s souls if we don’t keep close track of where they get off to.

Leave it to the University of Texas to lose the only brain with any historical significance ever to set foot on the damned campus:

About 100 brains missing from University of Texas

Associated Press
6 hrs ago
The University of Texas at Austin is missing about 100 brains — about half of the specimens the university had in a collection of brains preserved in jars of formaldehyde. © Nick Koudis/Getty The University of Texas at Austin is missing about 100 brains — about half of the specimens the university had in a collection of brains preserved in jars of formaldehyde. The University of Texas at Austin is missing about 100 brains — about half of the specimens the university had in a collection of brains preserved in jars of formaldehyde.

One of the missing brains is believed to have belonged to clock tower sniper Charles Whitman.

“We think somebody may have taken the brains, but we don’t know at all for sure,” psychology Professor Tim Schallert, co-curator of the collection, told the Austin American-Statesman (http://bit.ly/11R7vym ).

His co-curator, psychology Professor Lawrence Cormack, said, “It’s entirely possible word got around among undergraduates and people started swiping them for living rooms or Halloween pranks.”

The Austin State Hospital had transferred the brains to the university about 28 years ago under a “temporary possession” agreement. Schallert said his psychology lab had room for only 100 brains, so the rest were moved to the basement of the university’s Animal Resources Center.

“They are no longer in the basement,” Cormack said.

The university said in a statement that it will investigate “the circumstances surrounding this collection since it came here nearly 30 years ago” and that it’s “committed to treating the brain specimens with respect.” It says the remaining brain specimens on campus are used “as a teaching tool and carefully curated by faculty.”

The university’s agreement with the hospital required the school to remove any data that might identify the person from whom the brain came. However, Schallert said Whitman’s brain likely was part of the collection.

“It would make sense it would be in this group. We can’t find that brain,” he said.

Whitman’s 1966 rampage at the University of Texas killed 16 people, including his mother and wife.

The 100 remaining brains at the school have been moved to the Norman Hackerman Building, where they are being scanned with high-resolution resonance imaging equipment, Cormack said.

“These MRI images will be both useful teaching and research tools. It keeps the brains intact,” he told the newspaper.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/about-100-brains-missing-from-university-of-texas/ar-BBggiWW?ocid=ansnewsap11

A brain, though, is a terrible thing to waste.  Hopefully someone out there will make better use of this one than the last two owners.

Old Jules

 

 

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