Book Review #19

Paradox Bound

Paradox Bound

It is no paradox that I like to read stories about paradoxes. Oh, wait – I already published that, here.

Are you folks ready for some social and political commentary and satire?? Well, seat belt in. Here we go.

The book – Paradox Bound

The author – Peter Clines

The review – IN THE BEGINNING, was the United States of America. The founding fathers had a dream, a dream of what they had created, a dream of what it could be, a dream of what they wanted it to be. They wanted their dream to be real, solid, physical. Being (mostly) good Christians, they prayed to the Egyptian god Ptah.

Ptah’s father was an older, greater god. Ptah was a carpenter. He died, and came back to life after three days. Maybe they never noticed the difference – or the similarities. Ptah created a real, physical dream for them. It was stored in a safe place…. then one day, the dream was gone – Lost? Stolen? Went to North Korea with some crazy basketball player and forgot to come back?

Most Americans didn’t notice, or didn’t care, but there were many who did care, and they became the Searchers. 48 men had been created with no faces, only plastic Halloween masks. The faceless men’s mission had been to protect the Dream, but when it disappeared, they only protected their own existence. Their greatest strength was “Certainty.” They knew everything around them. They mined the almost 250 years of records of the entire United States. They hunted down and killed any Searcher who might re-establish the old status quo. These faceless bookkeepers were The Bureaucrats.

Is any of this roman a clé beginning to feel familiar? As a Canadian, it took me a few chapters.

Since this entire story is about the United States, there is no “Time” Travel, only about 250 years of History Travel. Like the Back To The Future movies, a vehicle is required. No speed is needed, only the ability to navigate the slick spaces on the roads and trails of America, to slide from one period or era, to another. Travel up-time beyond 2036 is impossible. If The Dream is not recovered and re-installed by then, American history will unravel, and the world will exist without all the wonderful things it has created.

Older vehicles were preferred, because they were stronger, and simpler, able to be repaired with a hammer, pliers and some string, if they broke down. Horse and wagons were mentioned, but usually early 20th century technology was chosen. The author mentions an Indian motorcycle, and apparently John Henry was a real person, riding the rails in a train he assembled himself.

The writer seems to love classic automobiles. He has different characters riding around in a 1929 Ford Model A Business Coupe, a 1940 Cadillac Sixty Special in factory Oxblood Maroon, a 1953 Hudson Hornet, a 1958 Edsel Corsair, a 1961 Ford Fairlane, a 1967 Chevrolet Impala, a 1969 Ford Mustang, a 1970 Dodge Lancer, a 1975 Dodge Dart Sport, and a 1978 Chrysler Newport. Without specific dates, he also mentions ‘tail-finned‘ Cadillacs, which would be from about 1953 to 1960.

Tailfin Cadillac

Since Ptah’s spell only covers the USA, all vehicles must be “American steel.” As an ex-autoworker, I know of American workers, assembling cars in the U.S. with parts produced in Canada, made from German or Pakistani steel. I guess when they cross the border, and get paid for with greenbacks; they become “American.”

Our hero and heroine are the ones driving the ’29 Model A. The author doesn’t know as much about old cars as he lets on. At one point, they make a run for the car. She whips open the passenger door, and “slides across the rumble seat.” I had a mental image of Starsky (or was it Hutch?) sliding across a smooth hood. You don’t do that with a rumble seat! There’s a large, protruding, steel T-handle that could ruin your whole weekend.

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There’s the T-Handle that you wouldn’t”t want to slide across.

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This car had the ‘rumble seat’ removed, so that the space could be used as a small trunk.

After a few more pages, he began to use the terms ‘bench seat’ and ‘rumble seat’ interchangeably. (Click above) A rumble seat is exterior to the small, enclosed passenger compartment of a coupe. It’s like a small trunk, set on the sloping rear deck, that opens to an exposed, upholstered, double seat.

It must be confusing for the History Travelers, to have the paradox of speaking to a person that they have never met, yet who has known them for years of their time-line – to speak to someone they’ve watched die – to observe the same occurrence from two – or three – different perspectives – and get it.

The ultimate paradox was that, since the Searchers had been trying to find the American Dream through 250 years of history, chronologically, the Dream hid itself, in 1963, so that they could all achieve their dream of locating it. It was never really ‘lost.’

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I liked Cline’s The Fold novel last year, about parallel time-lines. Despite its ‘Made In America’ plot line, I really liked this one too. I rate it two cheeseburgers. I’d give it three, but I’m trying to lose some weight again (still). 🌯 Tell me what you’re reading.

’19 A To Z Challenge – O

Tattooed Lady

This blog-post will be short and sweet, just like its inspiration

OLIVIA

Olivia, Olivia, have you seen Olivia,
Olivia, the tattooed lady?

Oh, wait! That should be Groucho Marx singing about Lydia, The Tattooed Lady, (Click if you’d like to hear it.) full of racy, risqué, double entendres. The song was first sung in 1939, and it’s easy to include extra little references. When Americans got off their lazy, isolationist asses, and got into WW II, Groucho included the verse, “When she stands, the world gets littler. When she sits, she sits down on Hitler.

I can’t figure out how to make any portion of this post about me, so I’ll just include a link to the one where I debated getting a tattoo myself, for any of you who didn’t see it – and are desperately bored. At least Groucho is dead, and can’t compose a derogatory song about a Grumpy Old Tattooed Dude.

Olivia, as a name, means “Peace.” It comes from ‘olive’, both the tree and the fruit, which comes from the Italian, olea, which is the oil that middle-eastern people learned early to squeeze out. Christians like to claim that the phrase ‘Extend an olive branch,’ which is an offer of peace, comes from the Bible story of the dove returning to Noah with an olive leaf, or twig. But Greeks and Egyptians were using the olive branch 500/700 years B.C.

Olivia was not a common name for centuries. William Shakespeare is often credited with inventing it, but it existed at least 300 years before he included it for a character in Twelfth Night. He only made it a little more well-known and popular. Even a century ago, it was the 2285th most (least) common girls name.

All that changed in 1986, when Disney Studio released the animated movie, The Mouse Detective, with a cute little female mouse named Olivia Flaversham, and impressionable young mothers began naming their daughters Olivia. More recently, the Disney Channel compounded the interest by offering an animated series named Elena of Avalor. It’s an historic magic story-line, with a young female named Olivia, as assistant to a wizard. As a result, in 2018, the name Olivia was the 3rd most common girls’ name in The United States, and the 2nd most popular in Australia.

I luvya Olivia. Please come back in a couple of days, for some more useless trivia. 😀

A Collection Of Atheism-Related Quotes

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“Through the prior assumption that his beliefs of faith are true, the Christian necessarily concludes that any ‘conflict’ between reason and faith is a mistake. He does not want contradictions, so he will refuse to accept anything as evidence of a contradiction. There is no apparent contradiction that cannot be explained away — even if it entails the castration of the Christian religion and the sacrifice of reason.”

George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God

“Whenever a man imagines that he need only believe the truth of a proposition, without evidence … he becomes capable of anything.”

Sam Harris, The End of Faith

“Because religious doctrines are supposedly ordained of God, the religious adherent cannot easily question the teachings of his chosen church, even when those teachings are provably false. The scientist, on the other hand, is most rewarded when he proves the conventional wisdom wrong and revolutionizes our understanding of the universe.”

David Mills, Atheist Universe

“At this very moment, millions of sentient people are suffering unimaginable physical and mental afflictions, in circumstances where the compassion of God is nowhere to be seen, and the compassion of human beings is often hobbled by preposterous ideas about sin and salvation.”

Sam Harris, Letter To A Christian Nation

“Monotheists have to practise intellectual gymnastics to explain how an all-knowing, all-powerful and perfectly good God allows so much suffering in the world.”

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

“Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable. It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other.”

Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great

“Being an atheist is nothing to be apologetic about. On the contrary, it is something to be proud of … ”

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

 

Where’d He Go?

Huether

View of the North-East corner, across King Street, the main drag.

Some people come here to shit and stink
And scratch their itchy balls
But I come here to sit and think
And write upon the walls

Do pay toilets even exist anymore? The last one I was in, the graffiti read

Here I sit, broken-hearted
Paid to shit, but only farted
Yesterday, I took a chance
Saved a dime, but shit my pants.

One day, when the grandson was in 7th Grade, he put up his hand. The teacher knew what he wanted, but what he said was, “I have to go cogitate.” Now, ‘cogitate’ is not a word which often falls from the mouths of 7th Graders. She thought that he said he was constipated, and sent a note home for the daughter to check his digestion.

Where do I do my thinking? Well, I do most of it at home, some of it even in the bathroom. Once a month though, I save a dime (because it’s free) and do my thinking at a Sunday brunch meeting of the local Free Thinkers.

The meetings are normally held up in our twin city, Waterloo, Ontario, in the Huether Hotel, two feet below the basement level, in the old malt room, which once held a large vat for beer brewing. Click above, if you’d like more details, or enter ‘image Huether Hotel’ into the Bing search engine. It’s historically famous enough to have its own Wikipedia page. She’s a utilitarian old queen, built to provide food, drink and lodging to horse-drawn travellers, long before hipsters needed pretty and comfortable.

The Wiki article doesn’t include the information that further, recent excavations for our new street railroad, found a tunnel which completely crossed under the main street, to surface in what used to be a saddlery and buggy rental building. It is thought that Al Capone’s boys quietly loaded beer out its back door during Prohibition, un-noticed by local police at the micro-brewery across the street.

Huether 2

Management makes a somewhat specious claim, with the very existence of their 1842 Café, even though the place wasn’t built until 1855, as evidenced by the inscribed lintel stone in the malt room doorway.

Huether 1881 Parsell

View of the South-East corner across King St., from an 1881 print. The plain brewery section at the rear has been demolished, and replaced by a bowling alley.

Much work has been done in recent years, to bring the building up to modern safety codes. The old mixes very nicely with the new. A quarter of the old malt room is now taken up by an enclosed stairway, to provide a second exit from the basement, in case of fire.

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A print of a slightly newer, and safer, version. Fire escapes have been added.

Your resident nosy old coot had a look at the landing at the bottom of the stairs, and found a table with a dozen 1972 Presbyterian Book Of Praise. I guess if they host the atheistic Free Thinkers, it’s only fair that they allow an occasional Christian prayer meeting.

Huether 6

Like me, they celebrate their antique status, using it for marketing ambience. I’ve got another plate of leftover lasagna, as a prize for any of my fellow hayseed hicks who can identify all of these old tools, most of which are still in use by nearby Mennonites.

Huether 4

I don’t give a shit. I think that I’ll keep attending these meetings. I hope that you enjoyed the tour. Seeya again, soon. 😀

Huether 5

A cabinet full of Heuther trivia and memorabilia, built into a hole in the stone wall, where the big malt tank used to be drained to the brew tanks.

Book Review #18

Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds

Extraordinary Popular Delusions & The Madness Of Crowds

I am ticked off…. or rather, this book is ticked off the reading list challenge that I don’t follow.

It was originally published before I was born – more than a century before. It was first printed in 1841. The copy that I got on an inter-library loan was reprinted in 1980. It had 3 prefaces – the original, a slightly revised version when the author had it reprinted 30 years later, and yet another from the 1980 re-release.

The 1980 instigator was taking a University Psychology course, when he thought he heard the instructor speaking of an old book about The Madness Of Krauts. He didn’t realize that Germans were called Krauts, that far back. A check of the University library showed him his mistake, but since the copyright had long expired, he felt that he could make a little money by having it reprinted.

This book was a disappointment, yet also a delight to me. Even since the ‘70s, there have been great changes and improvements in psychiatry and psychology, but since I only knew of the 1980 publish date, I hoped to get some fairly up-to-date insights into mob behavior. The 1841 composer rendered none of that. He only provided recountings of historical events which were notable for mass delusion.

These included the likes of the monetary bubble, collapse of the Louisiana Investment scam/scandal, the sad failure of the earliest attempt at a German Crusade, and the ongoing hysteria of the witch hunts. While the historical details were interesting enough, he delivered them all with the long-winded panache of someone reciting a Life Insurance actuarial table.

With the German Crusade, 100,000 young men were said to have started out, but only a handful survived, even to reach Constantinople, because of fighting among themselves, and with the armies of states and countries they marched through and denuded for food and drink.

As usual, the section on the witch hunts provided the worst atrocities. It was both a Church and State viewpoint that, “Because of the seriousness of this offence, none who are accused of this horrid crime shall escape torture to make them confess their sins. It is better that a million shall die, than that one witch shall be allowed to escape.”

Even while trying to do good, the well-intentioned did bad. As the witch-hunt frenzy was ebbing, a minor member of British Nobility tried an experiment. He was unconvinced that torture-induced confessions, and especially the naming of other witches, was valid.

He was acquainted and friends with, two Jesuit priests who acted as judges at the torture trials. To convince them of his viewpoint, he used a woman accused and imprisoned as a witch. They all attended the torture chamber, and he acted as interrogator. He had the woman stretched on the rack, and afflicted with the gamut of horrible tortures. Within a day, she admitted that she was a witch. Skillfully using leading questions, he also had her claim that the two Jesuits were wizards, calling them by name.

As they left the building, leaving the poor woman to her undeserved fate, the senior priest said, “It is well that this was done by a friend, rather than by an enemy.” And so, the witch-hunt frenzy slowly died, but not before thousands of innocent people also suffered and died.

This book is old enough to display some of the some of the English language’s spelling shifts. Words like ‘showed’, and ‘shown’ were printed as shewed, and shewn. While it was not what I thought I was getting, still it was an interesting read.

Auto Prompt – Knowledge Challenge – Combermere

It all started so innocently, as most of them usually do, though this one was unusual, because it involved my often less-than-innocent Scottish ancestors.

Scottish Flag

I needed a four-letter crossword solution for ‘sea’, starting with M. Five minutes later, working sideways, I had ‘mere’? 😕 Quick Archon, to the dictionary. I soon found that the Scots, through a mouthful of oatmeal porridge, had turned the French word ‘mer’ into ‘mere.’

Through my Scottish heritage, I knew that there was a small Southern-Ontario town named Combermere, and one back in the UK. The word ‘comber’ has two pronunciations. There is the usual English Coe-mrr, which is a person or device which combs. Also, a large, long wave, which can strip (comb) things off a beach as it crashes ashore, is a comber. Then there is the Scottish Comm-Brrr, which is used for personal and place names. I once heard two women refer to a man, whose name of Comber they’d read but not heard, as Coe-mrr. As a Scot, I knew better. What did those old kilt-wearers mean when they put those two words together?

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I quickly learned that the mere was no vast sea. It was merely a wee mountain lake – a tarn. The ground around it was too rocky for agriculture, so sheep were raised. However pronounced, the word comber had the same meaning. Once the sheep were sheared, and before the wool was spun to thread and woven into bright Tartans, it was combed (carded), whether by hand, like the hand-carders above, from my Gadgets post, or with a hand-cranked, mechanical device.

The shearing of hundreds of sheep produces a lot of fleece. While the men were busy tending to the now-nude creatures, the women combed, and combed, and combed. Combermere became the name for a pastoral little village which grew up at the lower edge of a Scottish lake, renowned for its yarn and woven cloth.

Don’t look for it there now. Time, and society, and politics changed over the centuries. All that’s left is the Combermere Abbey, in England, near the northern border of Wales. It was named for an Earl of Combermere, which title was given to an Englishman, after James VI of Scotland became James I of England.

If you’re interested in some hand-carded fleece, or hand-spun yarn, or hand-knitted or crocheted apparel, join the daughter, Ladyryl, at her blog, or at http://www.facebook.com/frogpondcollective. She’ll show you how it was done in the Goode Olde Dayes.

Flash Fiction #188

Lilliput

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD

His grandfather had this house built, over a century ago. It had been a proud mansion, 2-1/2 stories of fieldstone, a mile and a half from town, dwarfing nearby one-story wooden farm houses.

Times changed. Commerce changed. Businesses started up, and workers moved in. The city changed. Steadily it bloated out towards him, into pristine Mennonite farmland.

Now, the house was the last of its kind, on a busy street, a Lilliputian, towered over by apartment buildings. Developers constantly hounded him to sell. He would mourn the loss of his heritage, but it was time to surrender and move on.

Mennonite

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

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Friday Fictioneers