Today's topic is the last place you traveled to and why.
Here's a spider at White Sands, NM.
We try to take a family trip every year. Three years ago it was a Christmas trip with my son to Tucson to visit his son (our grandson.) Two years ago was a trip to Oklahoma to visit my brother and family, then to Kansas to visit my wife's brother and family.
Last year's trip was to Ruidoso, NM, White Sands National Park and the Very Large Array or VLA.
Wife and kids have lived in NM all their lives, and I've lived here most of my life and they had never been to Ruidoso. I went through it once while in college on the trip back from Silver City where we had a track meet.
On the trip down we went through Carrizozo. Just before you get to the town there's a valley that is a frozen river of lava. It's called the Valley of Fire. It's quite a sight.
We've been to White Sands a number of times and it's a great place to visit.
Here's a souvenir. It's raw gypsum in it's crystalline form. The rain and wind over time turn it into the white sand that comprises the dunes.
It was our first time and I think only time to visit the VLA. Not much to speak of there. It's a large assortment of electronic dishes that acts as a space telescope with radio waves. There's a reason it's in the middle of nowhere. All three of the places are within a hundred mile radius.
We were planning on a trip to the Grand Canyon this year, but that's on hold for now.
Today's topic is books that are linked to specific memories/moments to your life.
One book is alone in my memory. It's not a great book, but it is funny in places. The memory is the context in which I heard it being read.
It was labor day 1961. My grandparents owned a cabin in Beulah, CO. It was a forty-five minute drive from Pueblo. We drove up on Friday night and planned on going to Lake Isabel on Saturday to fish and relax.
The cabin had two rooms. The front room was lined on the front wall and side wall with books. Most of them Reader's Digest Condensed books. There were also decades of National Geographic. At the back of the room was a sink and wood burning stove. The back room was the bedroom with a double bed. The back door led to an outhouse. The highway ran alongside the cabin and curved around in front of it. There was three acres of land and a small stream on the other side of the cabin.
Saturday morning Mom woke up and started to make a fire in the stove. She filled the cabin with smoke. Dad got up and wondered what she was doing and got the stove working properly.
Mom told dad to look outside. There was seven inches of snow on the ground. We were not going fishing.
They hoped it was a flash storm and it would be melted off by noon. We brought plenty of food so we ate breakfast and Dad picked out a book that they would read aloud. My brother was eleven and I was nine. This was a time we both have never forgotten.
The book was Pioneer Go Home. It's about a family of hillbillies traveling on a new highway and they break down.
Somehow they got on the road before it was officially opened and when government officials come along insisted they leave. Pa is a stubborn man and doesn't like being pushed around and decides he's going to homestead the land where they've set up camp.
There were numerous funny parts in the book and I remember Mom having trouble reading a couple of places because she was laughing.
By noon the cabin ran out of wood for the stove and Dad went out to get more. He came back with some lumps of coal. In a couple of hours those were used up and we went home. Mom finished the book right about the time we pulled up to the house.
If it hadn't snowed and we went fishing, it would have been just one of many times we went to Lake Isabel. I would have never heard of the book.
Ten years later I was watching an Elvis movie on TV. Follow That Dream. Guess what, it was Pioneer Go Home, made into a movie. Somehow when Elvis goes into the bank and tries to get a loan, it wasn't as funny as in the book.
This week is the movie or book I go to for a pick me up.
There are two movies I go to to destress. The first is The Fifth Element. Click here for a previous post describing why it is the greatest escape movie of all time.
Berthold Gambrel also posted a review of the movie.
The second movie is Friendly Persuasion. Click here and here for two previous posts on how it's a movie I remember watching at a drive-in when I was eight years old and have enjoyed it all my life.
For an in-depth understanding of this marvelous movie, unfortunately only seen sporadically on AMC and Tuner Classic Movies. Click here.
This was posted today on my Facebook page. I decided what David Gerrold said was so important that I copied it and am posting it here. Very much a word to all bloggers and reviewers.
David Gerrold is the author of numerous books, movie screenplays and Teleplays. His most notable is Star Trek's The Trouble with Tribbles.
Back in the Cretaceous days of my misspent youth, I read the
review columns in the magazines. In those days, reviewers included Theodore
Sturgeon, James Blish, Thomas Easton, Damon Knight, and others who had proven
their way around a short story, a novella, and even the occasional novel. So
reading the review columns was not only an insight into whether or not a story
worked, it was also an opportunity to discover insights about writing from
Ahh, those were the days.
Fanzine reviewers were another realm entirely. Some were
brilliant, some were methodical, and some were ... problematic. Let's leave it
Today, we have the blogosphere, the commentariat, and the
various special-interest sites that encourage comment threads ...
As I have said elsewhere, there are only three questions a
reviewer needs to answer:
1) What was the author trying to do?
2) How well did he do it?
3) Was it worth doing in the first place?
That's it. Example: 1) In "Starship Troopers"
Robert A. Heinlein demonstrates the obligation of the individual to the society
in which he lives. If you benefit from that society, you have a corresponding
responsibility to serve it. Heinlein uses an alien threat as the mechanism for
a young man's journey through the military, but the meat of the story are the
lessons he learns along the way. 2) Heinlein writes with military precision,
moving the story forward at a machine-gun pace. He makes his points directly,
without subtlety, but also without being obnoxious about them. It is one of his
better-written tales. 3) Heinlein wrote this book as a reaction to what he saw
as excessive liberal beliefs. This is his answer to the disarmament and peace
movements. As unpopular as military fiction might be to those who dream of a
world without war, Heinlein uses an alien war to make a point that is
well-worth considering: What is the responsibility of the individual to the
hive? What is the responsibility of the individual to the community? Worth
Now, that's a review that touches all three points. And it
provides enough information for the reader to decide whether or not they want
to read the book.
A critic is different than a reviewer -- this is something
some amateur reviewers miss, they think they are also critics.
The job of the critic is to analyze from a meta-position.
Although some reviewers have pointed to "Starship
Troopers" as a justification for Fascism, it isn't. It's an unsubtle
glorification of the military. Because Heinlein writes so well, he makes war
look fun--we do not see the shattered bodies of young men, we do not see the
bloody amputations and the post-traumatic stress disorder, not in this book.
Yes, there are deaths, but they are kept offstage. What is more disturbing, however,
is that Heinlein has stacked the deck. (Again.) By putting his hero into a war
against mindless alien insects, he justifies the extinction of that whole
species. It's either them or us. There's no middle ground. It would be a lot
harder to make the same point if the enemies were human beings — just like us.
Now, having prefaced the rest of this rant with some
examples, here's the point I set out to make.
Too many amateur reviewers think they are critis. Worse than
that, too many amateur reviewers seem to be operating with a fundamental
disrespect for the subject at hand. Or, let me say it another way — too many
amateur reviewers are operating from a presumed superiority to the author, as
if every book put before them must be judged — not evaluated as a reading
experience, but judged within the context of the reviewer's own specific
cultural agenda, biases, perceptions, beliefs, prejudices, and political
Now, let me dial that back a notch. It is not unfair for a
black reviewer to discuss how an author has dealt with racial issues. It is not
unfair for a person who is LGBTQ+ to analyze how an author has dealt with
LGBTQ+ issues. It is not unfair for female reviewers to examine the implied
misogyny in a work, nor is it unfair for disabled reviewers to discuss the
various tropes in stories about disability. If one has a vested interest in how
one's cultura identity is portrayed in popular entertainments, it's fair to
point this out. It's also fair to indicate that. (Example: "As a gay man,
I found The Boys In The Band a well-produced but depressing exercise, when it
first came out and again on subsequent rewatchings.")
But just as it is important for the reviewer to treat the
work with respect (or don't review it at all), it is equally important for the
critic to discuss the ambition of the work without using it as a platform for
the critic's agenda or for an ad hominem attack on the author. The responsible
critic separates the author from the work, because criticism, constructive or
otherwise, is always about the work.
This is not to say that Lovecraft, Rowling, Card, and others
should be immune to public examination — but that's a different conversation
than the discussion of the work. Those are two separate discussions and should
not be confabulated — unless, of course, one is specifically examining how an
author's personal views show up in the work, but my experience with that
particular brand of literary analysis suggests that can be a foolish endeavor,
especially when one cherry-picks the works to prove a philosophical point.
I've been fortunate enough to know a great many authors
whose works informed my childhood and shaped my adolescence, and who were role
models for great genre writing — I have learned to admire most, I have also
learned to recognize the enormous chasm that exists between every author and
what finally shows up on the printed page.
For instance, as much as I loved Theodore Sturgeon's lyrical
writing, as much as I admired him as a brilliant mentor, as much as I sat in awe
when he delivered his great speeches, "Ask The Next Question" and
"I Won't Have It," as much as he is well-regarded as a literary giant
— my personal experience with the man, Ted, was tainted by several of his
less-admirable behaviors. (I am not alone in that.)
I could say a similar thing about Harlan Ellison. As much as
I admired and loved him like the big brother I always wanted — over time, I
learned to see how his personal passion informed his writing. He was
magnificent, ground-breaking, remarkable, and one of the people who set the
standard of excellence. I also learned to see how his personal passion animated
him as a man, sometimes in admirable ways, and sometimes in ways that were ...
problematic. (I am not alone in that.)
The job of the reviewer, the job of the critic, especially
those who are primarily readers and have much less experience pushing,
dragging, contriving, staggering a story from page one to page last — that job
is to be a fair reporter. Where I do take issue with any reviewer or critic,
especially the amaterus, is their implied authority to sit in judgment not only
of the work, but of the author as well.
I admit, I have some bias in this.
If a reviewer/critic wants to point out where a story
doesn't work, where I might have stumbled, I can learn something from that.
But if that same blogger also points out what a flawed human
being I am — i already know that, you don't have to tell me, but when that
essay is published online, the intention is no longer about examining the work
in question, it's about impeaching the credibility of the author. It becomes a
personal attack with the intention of hurting the author's reputation. (I
believe that if an author wants to hurt their reputation, they can do it
themselves — and I can name three living authors who have done enormous damage
to their reputations by making assertions that are ignorant, malicious, and
polarizing. There are probably many others.)
The job of the reviewer/critic is to take their enthusiasm
for the genre and treat their subjects with respect, if not affection.
But as I said above, I'm biased. Your mileage may vary.
Today is my life in pictures. Here goes:
This is the day Mom brought me home from the hospital in Cherry Point NC. My brother is there too.
This is my brother and me in front of the Record Music Company, owned by my maternal grandparents in Pueblo, CO around 1960. Discount stores killed it.
This is me running the mile in high school.
My crowning achievement. State Champion in the mile 1972.
Picture of me running for Wayland Baptist College, winning the mile, at this point I was behind an Australian runner at the Texhoma Conference championship. 1974
My family in 1990.
Sign announcing my book signing in Cottonwood mall Easter weekend in 2007. My baby Optimus: Praetorian Guard there for all to see.
My family today with three grandchildren. It really grew.
Way back in 2011 when I discovered the joys of e-publishing on Smashwords and Amazon I wrote a short story about the Quiver Full movement. Those in the moral mafia who spurn birth control and try to have as many children as possible.
I posted it on Amazon and they require that the story be at least .99.
Miriam is a young woman who's been home schooled and earned a degree online. Her brother needs her to get a job to help his household financially. He's not found her a husband and their family is growing adding to the quivers of the believers of children for God.
Helmut finds a woman with genius level mathematical skills at a job fair. His publishing company is trying to expand and he needs new blood to help it grown. With her skills he thinks he found a gold mine, but her Puritanical upbringing might not be suitable for the work environment. He knows it's going to be a race between whether he will corrupt her, or she will convert him.
I include in it some R rated sexual material and it was listed as erotica since it isn't suited for school age.
For some strange reason Amazon priced the book at 0. or free. There were 500 downloads the first day, 722 the second day, 68 the third day and around 40 the fourth day. Only three copies paid.
Over 1200 copies and I pocketed less than two bucks. I got one review, the reader was upset there wasn't any erotica in it. The sales stopped.
It is the most heavily downloaded of all my e-books. Wish that even at .35 per download went into my pocket. It reached the top 50 for erotic literature on Amazon. It's adult not porno.
If you want to know the the "Think Tank" is you'll have to read the story.
This was before Kindle Direct Publishing and unlimited. It was also the golden age of more readers and fewer writers, not the case today.
I've edited it and revised it and re-released it. Bright shiny new cover, even.
Today's challenge is favorite poems, short stories or novellas.
The Iliad, by Homer
The Odyssey by Homer
Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Elliot.
Minever Cheevy by Edward Arlington Robinson
When Lilacs Last at my Doorstep Bloomed by Walt Whitman
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
Old Possums Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Elliot
Prometheus Unbound by Percy Bysshe Shelly
Inferno by Dante Alighieri (skip the other two)
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Anything and everything of E. E. Cummins.
Six Blind Men of Hindustan by John Godfrey Saxe
I've never seen a purple Cow
and I hope I never do, but
I'll tell you one thing
I'd rather see one,
than be one.
A Reprieved Reformation by O Henry
Gift of the Magi by O Henry
I Robot, all in the anthology by Isaac Asimov
Whimper of Whipped Dogs by Harlan Ellison
Along the Scenic Route by Harlan Ellison
A Boy and His Dog by Harlan Ellison
Shatterday by Harlan Ellison
I could go ad infinitum on Ellison.
Isaac Asimov referred to one aspect of science fiction and the Frankenstein syndrome. That every new advance is met with horror and how by playing God all hell will break loose.
The new Frankenstein I've found it called Cryspr.
I downloaded two books the same day. One by the blockbuster author Dean Koontz and the other by someone I've never heard of before, Geffrey Cooper. I did not know they both used the same monster.
Both books were murder mysteries. Both books referred to something called Cryspr. I've set up a link here that explains what Cryspr is.
The Dean Koontz book Devoted, is about a laboratory that is trying to develop the ultimate human being. There's a leak of the genetic material and the Billionaire owner has the plant rigged to explode and burn all evidence along with the 93 people working there. Lee, the head of the project escapes. He's infected with the rogue genetic material, but he has an escape plan to leave the country and live off a hundred million dollars in Costa Rica. While he's fleeing his body starts mutating.
Enter stage left is a golden retriever named Kit, who is part of the doggy wire. He can communicate with other special dogs like him. He's even able to talk to his owner with a laser pointer and alphabet on the wall. His owner dies and he is hearing someone on the wire and decides to find this new voice as it's different.
Enter stage right is an 11 year old autistic child who's never spoken, but reads at college level since he was 4. His mother is a widow, but lives in a well protected, fortified house. She worried about the people who murdered her husband.
Add one other person, Ben, to the mix with an ex-seal that teams up with Kit on the road to find Woody, the autistic boy and his mother, Megan. Got it so far?
Lee decides if he's going to live in Costa Rica he wants the one woman who was stolen from him by his friend, Megan.
Add in the billionaire who sends a hit squad to capture Megan and Woody. From there is gets complicated.
Forever also uses Cryspr, but in this case it's a Billionaire wanting immortality. He's murdering college students and having their bodies drained so he can have blood transfusions.
Ben's girlfriend is an FBI agent assigned to the murders. He's working in a lab working on getting certain antibodies spliced into cancer cells that renders them benign. The woman next to him in the lab is working on dog genes comparing grown genes from long lived dogs to shorter lived dogs.
A Billionaire sets both of the scientists up in his lab thinking that by combining the method of changing genes from cancer research and putting the genes for longevity together will make him immortal. That's the premise, but as far as I'm going here.
Now to my point. Since Charles Darwin published The Origen of Species. Evolution has been the basis of biology and most of science. It's been the boogey man for fundamentalists.
I've wrestled with evolution and belief in God all my life.
I accept God as Creator, and that he used evolution to make life here on this planet.
My synthesis of faith and science has developed over the decades down to Faith askes the question WHO. Science the question HOW.
With my limited science knowledge I learned that 90% of all evolution is micro-evolution. This is the difference between a single specie. All the varieties of dogs, they're still dogs. Same with cats and even people.
Macro-evolution is change from one specie to becoming another. Mutation is the catch phrase as to how this happens. I've accepted that human beings developed from lesser specie through mutations over great periods of time.
I was never one to swallow the crap the God created the universe in 4004BC. Adding up all the number of years of the patriarch mentioned in the bible from Adam to Noah and dating when God created everything is so sisplistic, childish and down right stupid as there is causal relationship to those years and creation.
My understanding of how humans evolved from lesser specie came from Isaac Asimov's book Beginnins.
He explained it through the development of the human fetus. That in the various stages of development is the evolution of humanity. The fetus goes through all those stages even having a tail at one point.
What has been lacking in my understanding was how mutations happened that caused macro-evolution. The book Forever has my light bulb moment. Brad Parker is trying to do just that, mutate cancer cells to change them from virulent to benign. He's found different anti-bodies that when present over time can cause this and after identifying a few of the antibodies works to combine them to speed up the process.
Now this has explained to me how gene manipulation has its benefits and how a specie can evolve into a different specie. The mechanism, if true after all this is a novel, has answered my question of how God did it.
Now were back to man trying to becoming God and does that better our lives or create monsters.
Todays challenge is: Things I wish I were better at.
1. The first sport I ever played as a team was baseball. Little League. I played first base and was a good fielder. I was the walk specialist as a batter. I could hit a dozen foul balls until I was finally walked. Hitting I was not very good at, but I usually got on base. Stats were crap.
2. No matter how hard I tried, I could never dunk a basketball. I couldn't even touch the rim.
3. I get by in the pool, but I've never been much of a swimmer. I won't try a lake. I have to be able to touch bottom.
4. I have a brown thumb. My father could plant something and it would grow and our yard was always lush and green with flowers and a garden of vegetables. Whatever I plant it survives, but doesn't thrive. My son has taken over the front yard. He sits out there and smokes. I told him he could water the flower bed, a little patch of grass and the rose bushes. He has the scrawny, puny, things, lucky to have five roses a summer covered with them.
5. I wish I was better at typing. The godsend for me was the computer and word processor. In college all my papers in English and history came back bloody. Fortunately I married a great typist. My final education classes before student teaching whenever I handed in my papers (back when all typing was corrected by little correcting sheets), the professor the first thing the professor said was, "Who's your typist?"
A good typist back then (1970's) could make a fortune typing up masters and doctoral theses. My brother paid a thousand dollars for his doctoral thesis. It was not optional.
6. I wish I was better at proof reading. The biggest complaint I have when someone reads my e-books is typos and misspelled words. When I retired and started writing I was churning out a lot of pages a day. My wife was the assistant editor of a newspaper (why she's a good typist and editor), but the last thing she wanted to do after getting home was edit my work. In the last ten years the spell check and grammar check on Word has gotten much better, and I can edit better, though for the life of me I don't know why it underlines contracted words like don't. Wife is now retired and I'm getting her to edit my books and with the beauty of e-books I can republish and clean up the mess that drives friends like Berthold Gambrel nuts.
Hot off the press. A newly edited and revised Optimus: Praetorian Guard and the sequel Stephanus.
Available at Amazon as e-book and now paperback.
Also the newly edited, revised and updated: Fan Plan Trilogy. Three complete novels in one a compilation.
The same goes for my others books now in an edited and revised version and in paperback.
Fan Plan Trilogy is now edited, revised and updated, with new cover and now in paperback at Amazon. Free with unlimited, $2.99 for e-book, that's three full novels at a buck a piece. For paperback it's $9.99.