’20 A To Z Challenge – X

 

How do you catch a bear??  You dig a hole in the forest, and build a big fire in it until it burns down to ashes.  Then you place frozen peas around the rim of the hole.  When the bear stops for a pea, you kick him in the ash-hole.

All of which is easier than catching a theme for the letter X.  I recently published a post with references to Utopia, Brigadoon, and Shangri-La.  Since I did not include it there, and with inspiration (and words that begin with X) so thin on the ground, I’ve decided to feature the word

XANADU

a place of great beauty, luxury, and contentment.

Xanadu – the movie – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanadu_(film)

Xanadu – the poem (part of it) – By Samuel Taylor Coleridge – actually titled

Kubla Khan

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

   Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground

With walls and towers were girdled round;

And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,

Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;

And here were forests ancient as the hills,

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

The Xanadu in the poem was inspired by Shang-tu, the summer residence of Mongolian general and statesman Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan). You might also recognize “Xanadu” as the name of the fantastic estate in Orson Welles’s 1941 film Citizen Kane.  Coleridge’s fantastic description of an exotic utopia fired public imagination and ultimately contributed to the transition of “Xanadu” from a name to a generalized term for an idyllic place.

There’s everything that you never wanted to know about Xanadu.  After (almost) completing this post, I decided on a likely suspect for next year.  After that, you’re on your own.  The alphabet will only contain 25 letters.  Any suggestions or requests will be gratefully accepted, unless you want an exciting and extended treatise on the development and use of the cedilla.   😳

Book Review #22

Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven

Mark Twain, making fun of Christians’ beliefs about heaven. 

The book: Captain Stormfield’s Visit To Heaven

The author: Mark Twain = Samuel Langhorne Clemens

The review: This is a short story written by Mark Twain, about 1868. It was not published until 1909 – 41 years later – because it was thought to insult all the Good Christians.

The story follows Captain Elias Stormfield on his decades-long cosmic journey to Heaven; his accidental misplacement after racing a comet; his short-lived interest in singing and playing the harp (generated by his preconceptions of heaven); and the general obsession of souls with the celebrities of Heaven such as Adam, Moses, and Elijah, who according to Twain become as distant to most people in Heaven as living celebrities are on Earth (an early parody of celebrity culture). Twain uses this story to show his view that the common conception of Heaven is ludicrous, and points out the incongruities of such beliefs with his characteristic adroit usage of hyperbole.

Much of the story’s description is given by the character Sandy McWilliams, a cranberry farmer who is very experienced in the ways of Heaven. Sandy gives Stormfield, a newcomer, the description in the form of a conversational question-and-answer session. The Heaven described by him is similar to the conventional Christian Heaven, but includes a larger version of all the locations on Earth, as well as of everywhere in the universe (which mention of, albeit as a backdrop, is the last science fiction element).

All sentient life-forms travel to Heaven, often through interplanetary or interstellar space, and land at a particular gate (which are without number), which is reserved for people from that originating planet. Each newcomer must then give his name and planet of origin to a gatekeeper, who sends him in to Heaven.

Once inside, the person spends eternity living as it thinks fit, usually according to its true (sometimes undiscovered) talent. According to one of the characters, a cobbler who “has the soul of a poet in him won’t have to make shoes here,” implying that he would instead turn to poetry and achieve perfection in it.

On special occasions a procession of the greatest people in history is formed; on the occasion of Stormfield’s arrival, this includes Buddha, William Shakespeare, Homer, Mohammed, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah plus several otherwise unknown people whose talents far exceeded those of the world’s pivotal figures, but who were never famous on Earth.

As Stormfield proceeds through Heaven he learns that the conventional image of angels as winged, white-robed figures bearing haloes, harps, and palm leaves is a mere illusion generated for the benefit of humans, who mistake “figurative language” for accurate description (the wings are part of their uniforms, and not functionally wings); that all of Heaven’s denizens choose their ages, thus aligning themselves with the time of life at which they were most content; that anything desired is awarded to its seeker, if it does not violate any prohibition; that the prohibitions themselves are different from those envisioned on Earth; that each of the Earth-like regions of Heaven includes every human being who has ever lived on it; that families are not always together forever, because of decisions made by those who have died first; that white-skinned people are a minority in Heaven; that kings are not kings in Heaven (Charles II is a comedian while Henry VI has a religious book-stand), etc.

Making fun of slavery was one thing, but making fun of people’s cherished Christian beliefs was something else entirely. This book never did well, and even many Twain aficionados are not aware of it.

 

’19 A To Z Challenge – G

AtoZ2019

Letter GWhere did it all start to go wrong??! I blame it on reading Mad Magazine as an impressionable youngster. Mad satirized society, politics, entertainment, and much more. While it was full of silliness, it was still thinking man’s humor. When it achieved commercial success, it was quickly imitated by the likes of Cracked, and Eh magazines. Full of Adam Sandler-like fart jokes, they didn’t last long, and folded. Mad is still publishing after almost 70 years.

One of the ongoing humor bits, was the “translation” of foreign words and phrases.

Gott mit uns – I found my winter gloves
Deutschland uber alles – Alice got run over by a Volkswagen
Mare nostrum – Mary can’t play the guitar
Ad hoc – I had to pawn some of my stuff
Honi soit qui mal y pense – Honey, why did you spank Malcolm?
Sic transit gloria mundi – Gloria threw up on the bus, early this week

This brings us to the translation of this week’s foreign word – actually, a German name, which many local people carry

Gottschalk

Gottschalk – an elementary-school teacher 😉

I ran into this name in a book about people’s delusions. He was a medieval priest who helped raise an army of 100,000 men in Germany, to go on a crusade. Through poor preparation and planning, as well as internal strife, only a handful lived to even get as far as Constantinople, leaving a trail of death and destruction through several countries, including Hungary, with at least that many ‘civilians’ dead behind them.

Always interested in name values, I plugged it into Google Translate. I regret the fact that Dictionary.com can no longer afford to maintain their translation service. It was the best translator I’ve found. When I just enter ‘Google translate’ into the computer toolbar, I always get Bing Translate at the top of the page – terrible site – couldn’t translate a wish into an action.

For those of you who have never used Google Translate – I assume, most of you – when you begin typing text in, it immediately begins translation. I knew that ‘Gott’ equals ‘God,’ so I wasn’t surprised to see that quickly pop up. I thought that the compound word was possessive – Gotts chalk = God’s ?????, but the word ‘schalk’ has a meaning of its own.

As I continued to type in the S, C, H, A, L, suddenly the translation was God scarf, showing how the Anglo-Saxon word ‘schal’ became the English word ‘shawl.’ I typed in the final K, and got knave, rogue, instigator, troublemaker. For a busybody Christian, whose religious fervor was instrumental in causing the deaths of almost a quarter million people for no benefit, I find the name’s word value of ‘God’s little shit-disturber,’ painfully appropriate.

Don’t wait to stop back, Hoss, but if you do, I’ll have something for the letter H in two weeks. 😀

’18 A To Z Challenge – K – PART #2

 

Challenge '18
Letter K

KNOCKER-UPPERS

Now that we’ve all had our tween-aged boy snicker, we’re going to speak British.

The daughter, my primary research assistant, sent me a link to a YouTube video about a now-extinct job.  In the heyday of the Industrial Revolution, many men in the cities of the UK, worked in the factories and mills.  They were expected to be at work ungodly early, by 5:00, 5:30 or 6:00 AM.  Alarm clocks had not been invented, and the sun was not up.  How were they to get to work on time?

Alarm Clock

Who wakes up the bugler who plays Reveille, to wake everyone else at a military base?  The answer to that question is the reason that it’s now recorded, and played automatically.  This task fell to certain people, who would come around to your house, and tap on a window to rouse the worker.  These were usually the neighborhood night watchmen, who were paid to stay up all night, and keep an eye open for fires.

Since bedrooms were usually on the second or third floors, they carried a long wooden rod, often bamboo, with a metal hook or knob on the end.  Why not just stand outside and shout??  Because not every house had a mill-worker, and even the ones that did, had wives and children who could benefit from another couple of hours sleep.

It was an interesting human answer to one of the first technological problems.  I have in the past, and I do now, stay up (almost) all night.  I’ve roused my children, to go to school, and day jobs.  I don’t tap on other bloggers’ windows, but I do publish in the middle of my night.  It’s sometimes interesting to see who I wake.

Feel free to stop back in a couple of days when we’re all awake, to see if I’m successful this week with a 100-word Flash Fiction, or if I have to tap into my cache, and publish a WOW.  I’m setting my alarm.   😆

Sisterhood Of The Blog

Reapers

This is where we explore the distaff side of this ‘Meet The Blogger Tour.’

TWOFER!  That’s what I got.  Two for the price of one.

I’ve been stumbling around like a constipated rhino, yodeling, “We’re going to Rants’!  We’re going to Rants’!” but there’s another side to it.  BrainRants would like to be a published author, in fact the reason that he originally started his blog, was so that he could practice composing and publishing 500 words a day, for an entire year.  That’s where I first found him.

He attracted the attention of a lovely, lady author, named H. E. Ellis.  Since I was constantly hanging around his blog back door, like a lost puppy hoping for a pat on the head, she noticed me also.  She had already published a coming-of-age novel titled The Gods Of Asphalt.

Using stories solicited from a circle of bloggers, she compiled an eBook titled Fucked-Up Fairy Tales, to which I was allowed to submit a disappointing little ‘Tortoise and the Hare’ story.  She also assembled a Christmas spoof titled Iconic Interviews, in which I was interviewed as a crusty, corpulent Frosty the Snowman.

After Rants’ marriage ended, the online writing seminars graduated to personal visits.  One backyard brainstorming session of two couples produced the story line of the Grim Reaper, overworked by the deaths of Earth’s burgeoning population and subject to Other-Worldly bureaucracy.  H.E. wrote it as a book titled Reapers With Issues and 3 sequels yet to come.

I purchased an eBook version of it, and also a paperback copy for a memento.  With my usual, unthinking arrogance, I asked if I could get an autographed, first-edition copy.  While H. E. did the actual composition, she gave the other three co-writing credits.  Not only did she sign it herself, but she arranged for the other three to sign it also.

The logistics of the care and concern, time and effort, organization and labor, to get three other people together with one book, is awe-inspiring and heart-warming.  All the more so, because a monkey-wrench got thrown into the situation.

By the time the book was written and published, Rants was back on his second 1-year tour of Afghanistan.  After getting the book signed by the other two, she packaged it up, and shipped it half-way around the world to BrainRants.  He autographed it and added a dedication, and shipped it back Stateside.  It still reeks of camel shit, and desert sand sifts out when I hold it – AND I HOLD IT DEAR TO MY HEART!

So, this is the heart-high Yin, of the Yin and Yang creative and caring couple that we’re going to visit.  They’re each younger than our actual children, but maybe I might persuade them to adopt us.   😀  I forwarded photos of the entire clan, and haven’t heard of any vision or psychiatric problems, so here’s hoping.

’17 A To Z Challenge – U

Challenge2017

letter-u

UH!!?? Was I supposed to have a post for the letter U ready to publish last Monday?

I was a little uneasy, sitting here in my underwear, with the understanding that it didn’t need to be finished till today, so I published an out-of-order comedy post.  Oh well, there’s never too much fun and good humor.  Maybe it was my T post, about being under so many things.  Maybe it was just my usual procrastination or preoccupation.

That’s it guys. I only stole downloaded 4 or 5 prompt words beginning with U, and they’re all used, above.  I’d like to claim that my Greek literary muse, Erato, did a hit-and-run, but it wasn’t even a little parking lot sideswipe. She, and her American cousin, Inspiration, pranced off, and are probably drinking Mimosas together in some dive Miami bar, while I sit here, being outwitted by a keyboard.

I guess the only thing to do, is what I did last year for the letter T.  I’ll make this an audience participation post, and ask my gracious readers to supply one or more themes/words that begin with U.  I will not be ungrateful.  I could even do a post about ugly, although it would have to refer to someone other than me.

Whadya say folks? Wanna get in on this ‘Help The Old Coot’ contest?  The cost of a ticket (which we don’t issue) is one thin word.  You’ve had words about for me before.  You can do it – politely – again.   😉

A To Z Challenge – Y

april-challenge

M – I – C – K – E – Y….

Letter Y

are we all shouting Yay?? Because we’re almost finished with this Mickey Mouse challenge!

Mickey Mouse

It seems like just yesterday that I began this series, but it’s more like ‘days of yore.’  I’ve written about yummy food, and my long-past though perhaps not sufficiently-misspent, youth.  I can’t find any reference to all the wife’s knitting yarn, although I did include some in other posts.

I imagine that you are yearning for me to get back to publishing posts that are at least a little more serious.  I can’t think of what to do with ‘yardstick.’ You are free to imagine on your own, as long as you don’t make any inappropriate suggestions.

There’s only one more letter, and I’m done with this task. Then I’m giving it up for Lent.  😆

Reading Challenge – 2016

Reading challenge

Oh wow, yet another post about what I read last year.  Last year, I threatened vaguely hinted that I might list what I did/did not read, that filled the above Challenge list.  Not being a great team-player/rules-follower, the results are not impressive.  The covers are all shown back at ‘It’s All Newton’s Fault’, if you want another look.

A book published this (2016) year.
N/A I’m too busy trying to catch up on about four series, so that the next ‘unread’ one is less than 5 years old and I can borrow it from the library at no charge, to be bothered with anything less than a year old.

A book you can finish in one day.
Henry Freeman – The Crusades From Beginning To End
A 156 page disappointment, with no real information, not worth the price.

A book you’ve been meaning to read.
Jonathan Kellerman – Flesh And Blood
After owning it for 15 years, I finally got around to actually reading it. (See below)  A somewhat pedantic little procedural, nowhere nearly as interesting as his wife’s mysteries.

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller.
N/A Years ago, there was a TV ad which touted, “You can always tell a Heinz pickle, but you can’t tell a Heinz pickle nothing.”
Heinz pickle = Grumpy Old Dude

A book you should have read in school.
N/A See last year’s statement.  Perhaps some of the Sci-Fi that I’m now rereading.  Maybe I should have got to them sooner.

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF.
Jared Diamond – Guns, Germs And Steel
More ‘recommended’ than ‘chosen’, by my online BFF, BrainRants, it was an enlightening treatise showing how White Europeans ended up owning or controlling so much of the world.

A book published before you were born.
E.E. (Doc) Smith – The Spacehounds Of IPC
With Jim Wheeler’s prompt, I am rereading some old Sci-Fi.  I think I should get extra points for this one.  It’s hard to find books that were published before I was born.  This one was from 1931.  I also reread the original Buck Rogers, from 1928.  I refuse to reread The Bible.

A book that was banned at some point.
N/A I probably have read one at some point, because some of the most supposedly inoffensive books have been banned, somewhere, sometime, including Harry Potter.  I just didn’t actively search one out.

A book that you previously abandoned.
N/A

A book that you own, but never read.
Jonathan Kellerman – Flesh And Blood
I can’t believe that I was always so far ahead with books to read, that I didn’t get around to this one for 15 years.  Then I read it, and realized why.

A book that intimidates you.
William Patterson – Robert A. Heinlein biography – Part II
This was big, and dry – but ultimately, very rewarding.

A book you’ve already read at least once.
Aside from IPC and Buck Rogers, I also reread;
Isaac Asimov – Pebble In The Sky, and Nemesis
Robert A. Heinlein – Tunnel In The Sky
A. Bertram Chandler – The Far Traveller
John Brunner – To Conquer Chaos, The World Swappers, and The Super Barbarians as well as 10 other classic science fiction books.

With all those N/As, if I hadn’t seen the list of books I did read, I might have thought I didn’t really read much.  I just don’t read a lot of what some others feel is acceptable.  You read my posts last year.  Did you have time to read anything else?  😕

Book Review #15

robert-a-heinlein

The Book – Robert A. Heinlein

The Author – William H. Patterson Jr.

The Review –

This is the second of a two-part complete biography of one of the most important, seminal authors (not merely of Science-Fiction) of the 20th Century.  BrainRants made me aware of Part 1 last year, and recently, another blogger reminded me that book two was available.

The complete title is, Robert A. Heinlein – In Conversation With His Century.  That needs to be remembered when accessing library or bookstore web catalogs.  Enter only ‘Robert A. Heinlein,’ and you get, We have 800 listings for Robert Heinlein, which one did you want? I want the one written by Patterson.  The sub-title of Volume 1 was ‘Learning Curve.’  The sub-title of this Volume is, ‘The Man Who Learned Better.’  It covers his career from 1948 to 1988.

For someone like me, used to reading novels, with their character development and plot twists, reading this tome was a ….learning curve. Were it not for its subject, it would be as exciting as reading a telephone book.  (Remember those?)  But this was a man who met and talked to Presidents and Prime Ministers; who awed, and was adored by, astronauts who went into space and walked on the Moon, and scientists who put them there, and a probe on Mars.

I see why those with little intellect, or lives of their own, hang on every video-provided nuance of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” The author casts a very fine net, down to what Heinlein had for breakfast on particular days. Scrambled eggs, sausage, coffee and toast on April 17, 1957.

The ‘Rich And Famous Lifestyle’ of a profoundly successful author is not all that we might imagine – or rather, it’s far more than many of us would want. Not only did Heinlein (and many like him) have to keep grinding out grist for the publishing mill, but he had to keep in constant touch with lawyers, editors, publishers and agents.

He had a New York agent, a California agent, and a European agent. There was an agent who failed to promote Heinlein’s work.  There was an over-zealous NY agent who invaded the California agent’s territory long-distance.  There were editors who revised his works without his permission, or even his knowledge in a couple of cases, completely changing the thrust of a story.

Agents sold rights to stories they were not authorized to do. Publishers printed work they had not paid for. He lost money twice in the movie industry, when projects collapsed.  One studio used creative bookkeeping to withhold payments for a successful movie, while another simply pirated his idea, and retitled it.  Which brings us back to the lawyers.

Back before the internet, he had to deal with most of this at the speed of ink. When he moved to Colorado, he was on a party-line telephone with six neighbors for over a year.  One of his later notes said that he finally had to give up helping fans with theses, term papers, and dissertations.

He corresponded with other authors, giving and receiving commendations and inspiration for story lines. Occasionally, he would pen a promo or review for another writer.  While he pumped out a stupendous amount of prose during his working life, it was far overshadowed by the mass of mundane, unpaid writing he had to do.

‘All You Zombies’ is considered one of the greatest short-stories ever written. A time-travelling hermaphrodite becomes his/her own mother, father, and child.  It was written as a submission to Playboy Magazine, who turned it down – because of the implied sex??!

As a way to give back to a country he cared very much for, Heinlein did at least two important things. He promoted and supported NASA, and the space program.  While many civilians complained about the waste of money, Heinlein knew that every dollar invested in NASA returned $14 to the economy – and that was even before the Silicon Valley bubble, powered by the newly developed micro-processors.

He had had a variety of medical afflictions over the years, and had a very rare blood type. His life had been saved at least twice by transfusions provided by the Rare Blood Association.  He established grassroots blood donor clinic organizations, and he helped make the likes of Rare Blood, and the American Red Cross stronger and more efficient, donating both expertise and money.

While the book could seem dry and tedious, the life of the man it revealed was just awe-inspiring. I am glad I spent the time and patience.  I highly recommend the pair.

Erickson Expose

HE’S ALIVE….ALIVE!!

Just got home from my exciting trip, and only have a little bit of time and energy tonight, but I felt that should inform those of my readers who were worried and asked or encouraged me. The primary mission of the journey was a success.  I managed to locate and speak with Doctor Livingston Erickson in the wilds of darkest Ohio.

He is alive, and as normal as he ever is.  His vanishment from the social media scene has been caused by a fluke series of electronic frustrations.  It began with a PC that ate its own hard drive.  He located a used laptop, and spent several days building bookmarks, and teaching it other tricks.  Just when he got it domesticated, it went blind.  It still computed, but nothing he did could get it to display on the screen.

His internet access recently changed to a new, local Wi-Fi tower. In Ohio, they build these on top of tall hills, in an area well-known for lightning storms, but apparently no-one thought to install a copper grounding cable.

He had tamed yet another computer, to the point where he knew he had over 3000 unread emails, when the inevitable happened. He’s now impatiently waiting for fried circuits to be replaced, and a ground cable installed, and feels he should be ready to re-assume the title of Supreme Commenter within a week or so.

He and his wife were overjoyed to meet me and my wife, but were absolutely amazed that anyone would make the trip, and that others would be concerned enough to urge and encourage me to do so. I’ll give more details when that section of the Blog Fellowship series is published.

Rest easy, the lost is found, even if he’s silent on WordPress a bit longer. In the meantime, spread the word – King John the Digital is alive and well.

My personal thanks to AFrankAngle, whose assistance and guidance made this trip the enjoyable success that it was. Now Soon, back to our regularly scheduled program.

 

Archon 😆