Flash Fiction # 78

Coffee

Copyright Jean L. Hays

CARNIVAL

It might have been a mistake to book an entire week in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The volume of water, the height it plunged, the roar it made, the mist it produced, were awe-inspiring – for about an hour. Two hours, if you went back at night to see the colored lights.

The second day we discovered Clifton Hill, three blocks of pavement rapidly ascending from the edge of the gorge. Its sides were lined with dozens of shops whose sole purpose was to relieve tourists of their money.

Not Starbucks, Henry’s Coffee Emporium – lovely stained glass, wish we lived at 708 Fulton.

***

To begin: In reverse, on the banner outside the window, are the words ‘Clifton Hill.’ I’m not crazy(er than usual).  There may be a Clifton Hill somewhere else, but I thought of Niagara Falls, since we’ve been there several times.  There is no ‘Fulton’, St., Ave., etc. in Niagara.  Don’t let my slightly dystopian tale affect any plans.  The place is well worth visiting.

The Falls are magnificent, from either side of the border. The city is clean and well-run, and has much to offer.  Clifton Hill is like a little microcosm of Las Vegas, or a permanent carnival set-up.  It has wax museums; the Ripley’s Believe It or Not, museums of the strange, shops offering kitschy mementos.  It has a small Ferris Wheel, perched halfway up the hill.  It has candy shops and purveyors of all types of food, some of it fried, which is good, but not necessarily good for you.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

Advertisements

Book Review #9

 

inferno

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This will be a review of Dan Brown’s most recent book, Inferno – but first, a word from our author – as usual.

I am always leery of “Best Sellers.”  That just means that marketing has appealed to the lowest common denominator, including people who write things that I rant about and make fun of in my usage blogs.  Take out the prurient porn, and Fifty Shades of Grey is really just a shit piece of prose.

So, when The DaVinci Code burst on the scene, I waited till I got a few actual readers and professional reviewers who said it was worth the read, before I dived in.  Lots of action and suspense, it all took place in one, 24-hour period (cute gimmick, that).  I caught many of the background references, but felt there must be more.

A book-reading co-worker lent me his copy of The DaVinci Code Decoded, an explanatory companion volume.  Sure enough, page by page, hundreds of little details turned a rock concert poster into the Bayeux Tapestry.  For example, if you spoke Italian, you would know that Bishop Aringarosa’s last name translated into “red herring.”

I went back, and read his Digital Fortress, and Deception Point.  Not as frenetic as The Code, these were still good solid books.  Later, Angels and Demons had that “many things happening” feeling, while The Lost Symbol was less so, but very enjoyable.

The Book – Inferno

The Author – Dan Brown

The Review

This is another Carnival ride novel, beginning with that reliable old cliché, amnesia.  It all occurs in a couple of days, until returning memory flashes and characters’ comments show the hero (and us) how we got here over the previous three days.

As with The DaVinci Code, I felt that I could use a lot of explanation.  The bad guy is six foot–five, with vivid green eyes.  I thought Brown might be referring to Osama bin Laden, but he was long dead before this book was written, and he personally did not possess bio-engineering abilities.

The plot turns on overpopulation, and how society must collapse if we don’t control it.  It took until 1820, for the world population to reach one billion. In a hundred years, by 1920, the numbers had doubled, to two billion.  In only fifty years, by 1970, the numbers doubled again.  Not merely “added another billion”, but doubled, to four billion, and it appears that, after only another fifty years, 2020, we’ll be hip deep in eight billion of our “loving neighbors.”

Being restrained and “civilized” is all very nice but, if we don’t have a good war or two soon, we’re going to have a bad plague.  As I finished this book, the news spoke of 20,000 dead to Ebola.  You may not get to read this review.

Although Professor Langdon doesn’t remember it, he traveled without a passport from Boston to Florence, Italy.  He goes by train to Venice, and is flown to Istanbul for the grand finale.  The world-travelling author provides great descriptions of many beautiful buildings and locations.

Brown always keeps our mind spun around.  The hero’s amnesia – isn’t.  The “good guys” aren’t always good.  The “bad guys” aren’t really bad.  The perils are only imagined, and the quiet, safe periods often have an avalanche bearing down on them.

one shot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concurrent with this book, I was simultaneously reading Lee Child’s, One Shot, and remarked upon the difference of construction.  While far from plodding, Child’s books move in one direction till that plot point is achieved.  Chapters end on one page, and a new one begins on the next page.  They can be 30, 40, 50 pages long, taxing my attention span.

Dan Brown flits and flutters from thought to thought to thought – the hero, the villains, the damsel, the cavalry, the Blue Mosque, and then back around again, perfect for my Adult ADD.  Chapters end where they end – and the next one begins two lines below.  They are often only a few pages in length.  One chapter began on line 40 of the left-hand page, and ended on line 20 of the right-hand page, an entire chapter, less than a complete page long.

The plot-line centers around Dante’s Inferno trilogy poem, and a couple of well-known paintings which illustrate it.  The action and suspense are well built.  While nothing in the book is really what it seems, it still feels believable.  As many good books do, it describes a social problem, and causes the reader to think about both large-scale, and personal solutions to it.

If you haven’t read it already – and this literary Smoothie hasn’t ruined it for you – I suggest you give this book a try.

“Heaven’s For Real” Rant

In my Jesus Loves You post of April 22, I mentioned how exclusionary and judgemental many “Good Christians” can be if you don’t exactly match their idiomatic religious expectations.  The more extreme the group, the more difficult that can be, since they almost contend with each other to be more rigid and unforgiving.  Several years ago, a Palestinian terrorist group began killing members of other Palestinian terrorist groups – because they weren’t killing enough Jews and Christians.

When I used WordPress to see what others were writing about “Christian”, I found this review rant about a feel-good little movie – titled, Heaven’s For Real- EXPOSED!

The Uber-Christians complain so often about Hollywood not presenting Christianity in a positive light.  I thought that a movie validating one of its basic precepts would be happily accepted and celebrated.  Once again I overestimated.  This sad little man’s screed was disturbing and depressing.

The movie kid claimed that Jesus had a rainbow horse, with lots of colors. Well, that sort of thinking just can’t be allowed.  To these Ultra-Christians, rainbow means gay, and gay is simply unacceptable.  This over-serious Bible-thumper claimed Christ has a “pure, white horse” to battle the Antichrist.  Apparently the thought that Jesus might possess more than one horse in Heaven, including a pretty, rainbow horse to please a six-year-old boy, wouldn’t fit into his narrow little mind.

The kid claimed that Jesus had a pink crown with a diamond in the middle, and wore purple.  The thumper insisted Christ would have seven stars in his right hand and a sword coming from his mouth.  He didn’t say whether the point was in or out, but declared that Christ would not wear pink, or purple – because they’re effeminate, and Christ can’t be effeminate.  He claims that Christ-in-Heaven wears gold, although the Bible passage he quoted only says that Christ has a golden sash across his robe.

He rails that the kid says that Christ has “markers.”  “What use would Christ have for markers?  They weren’t even invented!”  When?  The movie is set in the present day!  Not having read the book or seen the movie, I don’t know if he (again, narrow-mindedly) can only imagine felt-tip ink markers, but I can think of a couple of types of markers Jesus might use.

I know I shouldn’t bait the trolls, but I asked if Jesus was a sword-swallower in a carnival.  He came charging back with two more “sword from the mouth” Biblical references – one from the Old Testament, before Christ was even born.  He averred that, “Since Jesus is God; His word is the sword to cleave unbelievers.”

I replied that, since Bob is Richard, he hadn’t understood, but did now.  It was obvious that the Bible was not a book to be taken literally, since there were passages where what was clearly written was not what was meant.

I would have liked to be in the room with him, just to see steam spew from his ears.  It might have been dangerous though.  If the pressure was too much, his head might have exploded.  He didn’t exactly accuse me of misinterpreting.  What he said was, “So, you’re going to send me a $50 donation?  If words don’t mean what they say, then I can interpret your comment any way I want.”

Might as well, you’ve got this interpret-it-as-you-please thing going pretty well.  This is where the cognitive dissonance, and refusal to see – or think, kicks in.  He said: that a sword coming from the mouth was actually the word of God.  He said: that Jesus – is God.  Did The Kid get a promotion, or did he bump the Old Guy off?  He said: that the Word Of God was actually delivered by Jesus.

By his own editing and interpretation, he has said that the words he quoted don’t mean what they say – therefore, the Bible can not be taken literally, but he’s angry at me for pointing this out!

He admitted to another less-strenuous Christian commenter, that there is a Bible passage which describes a rainbow around God’s throne, but rainbow horses must be Satan’s work.  There’s a rainbow horse in The Wizard of Oz, and that’s an occult movie.  He claims that there is also a sodomite lion.  I don’t remember either of those.  Maybe I didn’t get the XXX version that he rented.

I am still bewildered by what purpose such unremitting negativity serves.  He’s in for a surprise when he gets to Heaven and finds that he’s not on the guest list, but assigned to the serving staff, holding the kid’s rainbow horse, and fetching him markers.

🙂

😯

 

Dr. Strangeblog – Or, How I Learned to Start Posting and Love The Attention

HAPPY 1000

By the time I get this blog composed and posted, I should have reached the one thousand visitor mark.  This was not something I considered when I set out on this journey.  It’s probably not something very many bloggers considered, before they started.  If you get into blogging for the fame and fortune, you will achieve neither fame, nor fortune.  You have the wrong mindset, and most of the potential fans will feel that.

I wonder how many of my readers GOT the title.  It is, of course, a reference to the movie, Dr. Strangelove.  It was a seminal movie, and number three on AFI’s 100 Funniest Movies.  I remember watching it as a teenager.  Then again, I remember having our paper delivered by a T-Rex.  He had trouble getting it up onto the porch, because of his short arms.  The movie was released in 1964, long before most of the people in “my group” were born.

I feel sorry for my wife.  She has inhalant allergies which keep her in the house much of the time.  A day of shopping can mean two or three days of breathing problems.  She don’t get out much anymore.  Once, a fairly social person, she had to “divorce” her toxic family to prevent anxiety attacks.  When the medical problems forced her to stop working, she lost what little other social contacts she had.  The daughter set her up with a WordPress account, and she blogged once, back in December.  I feel that, if she would get into this blogging thing, she would be happier by being more socially cocooned.

The blogosphere is a huge multi-faceted place, with something for everyone, and a few things no-one should have to see.  It can be a wild and crazy carnival, and that suits me fine.  I’m sure the wife could find a group of safe and pleasant bloggers, who could be a support circle for her, and help lift her depression and feelings of abandonment.

As I retired, the wife was worried about what I would do to fill my time.  Perhaps she was worried, as many older wives are, that I would be bored, and that boredom would impinge on her peaceful lifestyle.  As previous posts have revealed, more and more of that spare time has been taken up driving her, the daughter, and now myself to a bewildering array of doctors and medical facilities. 

 When I first started posting, I thought that the writing was *what it was all about*.  I soon found that, followers, and the give and take of commenting and being commented at, was the replacement for the intellectual and social intercourse (Heh, Heh.  I said intercourse!) I’d had when I was working.  Also, I can pick an intelligent, insightful, interesting, linguistically capable, expressive group to associate with, something not guaranteed at any place of employment.

The World Wide Web is indeed, worldwide.  I am intrigued by the geographical span of my readers and followers.  I have readers from Ireland and Australia, but at least they speak English there.  I wonder more about readers from places like Denmark and Croatia.  Who/what are they, and why are they there?  I have a follower who is a Texan, living in a beautiful old city in southeast France.  I have a new follower, who is an English-speaking Asian, from Singapore.  I can take advantage of these contacts to learn more about their regions. 

could question these folks about their backgrounds, and, if the Cheeky Monkey curiosity becomes too great, I may.  I find though, that not knowing is more exciting.  I can write a back-story in my mind, for each of them, explaining how they followed a husband or a wife or a job or an adventure, to a foreign land, or how, as natives of these far-off countries, they came to read and write, sometimes impressive prose and/or poetry, in clear, easy-to-understand English.

 My mind, my imagination and interest, continues to expand.  Fortunately, the thick bones of my Scottish skull will prevent any possible sociological explosion.  I don’t think I will ever be able to cram so much in, that I develop cracks and leaky seams, like Edward Hotspur, and spew forth such a wildly esoteric mix of reality and strange imagination.  I’ve been plodding, but I hope to start treading more quickly, composing-wise, perhaps even getting to the point of skipping lightly.  Please continue to visit.  I feel that it can only get better, and I feel better when you visit.