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Piers the handyman 2007
Jejune 2012

I read Stomper Rex, by Brian Clopper. Bradford, nicknamed Stomper, is a fifth grader who has issues at school. He lives with his mother, his father having walked out. His mother is understanding but firm about his need to shape up. She gets him a tutor, Wanda, a teen girl he has a crush on, so he does pay attention as she reviews the material. This setting is competent, as the author is a fifth grade teacher; the secondary characters are well rounded. Then two odd men descend from his bedroom ceiling to take him to a fantasy land where he is needed. They are Ruffloon and Strivelwunk, who put him on a ladder which then flies into the land of Crawlspace, where there are many monsters, and much of the magic is made by figures of speech. Yes, the very thing he is having trouble with in school. I suspect this novel was a female dog to write, because coming up with relevant figures of speech when you need them can be a challenge, as I have found in my own writing. For example, when he is threatened by multiple snakes, he says “Fake snake!” and they merge into one pretend snake. That's pretty simple, but others aren't, such as “Try knocking loose those lox.” That's homophone magic to make locks give way. It seems he has been summoned to defeat the cruel mistress of this realm, Stigma, a girl who visited but then decided to stay and rule, and they need to be rid of her. They have many adventures, requiring different figures of speech. Naturally there's a climactic showdown, and strange things happen as they fight with whatever figures of speech they can think of under pressure. This novel represents a kind of course in figures of speech, and fifth graders who read it will surely develop a better understanding and possibly become better students. That may be the hidden agenda. This author continues to be a writer who deserves better attention in the literary world; this novel is anything but mindless.


I read Lance of Earth And Sky, by Erin Hoffman, published by Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books, so you know from the outset it's not junk. This is a sequel to Sword of Fire And Sea, which I reviewed here last year, and just as full of magic and action. The author has a phenomenal imagination, and there's always something happening. But in my dotage I am having trouble remembering as much as I used to, and wasn't sure of the situation left by the first novel, as I dived into this one. It would help if there were a list of at least the major characters and a capsule summary of the prior novel, so that its complications are not lost on forgetful readers like me. There are multiple characters, each with his or her special powers and motives, making a rich tapestry. It took me a while to catch on that the protagonist, Vidarian, had taken a very serious action to save the life of his girlfriend, which alienated her. Women can be that way. But the story came to life when he rescued an orphaned thornwolf pup and adopted him as a pet. That pup turned out to be a ferocious shape-changer, one of whose shapes was a telepathic dragon; fortunately he was also ferociously loyal. There's palace intrigue, betrayal, and finally war, with violent magic galore. The reader can never be sure what will happen next. It leaves off with the next adventure incipient.


A minister asked me about my position on gay marriage, as he has a problem with it. Me advise a minister? Chances are that this is no incidental question; there is bound to be real passion behind it. I would be well advised to stay clear. So naturally I plowed in: “Gay marriage vs civil rights. I do seem them as different issues, though there may be parallels. I have always thought, as I think you do, that marriage is naturally between a man and a woman. But I remember the schools for whites and blacks, supposedly separate but equal, that turned out to be separate but vastly unequal. If gays are limited to a civil service theoretically equal to marriage, would it really be so? My concern is that it would not. So I think I have to come down on the side of marriage for gays, same as for heteros. I remarked once that I would not want my daughter to marry a gay, and now some readers take that to mean that I don't approve of gay marriage. No, it's that for a straight woman to marry a gay man is a likely exercise in heartbreak. Were my daughter gay, I'd support her marrying another gay woman.

“But I think for you it has to be more difficult. For one thing, you have serious religious constraints that I don't; your denomination's stance on gay marriage has to have force, regardless of your personal position. I don't know that stance, but assume it is against gay marriage, as I think yours is. As long as you align, you have no problem, as I see it. But if you believe in it and your church doesn't, you have a problem, and if it accepts it and you don't, you have a problem. If your church asks you to perform a gay marriage, could you override your personal sentiment? But regardless, the harder question I would pose to you is is this really a matter of conscience for you, that gays should not have the same rights as heteros, or is it personal bias? I would ask what would Jesus say? I think of him saying impatiently to let the dead bury their dead, and thus to let the gays marry gays, imperfect as the parallel may be. So I think he would approve it, as a matter of humanity; God accepts all kinds, including sinners, including prostitutes, including gays. But what counts is not what this agnostic thinks, but what you, committed to Jesus in a way I will never be, think. If you should see Jesus as supporting gay marriage, or as opposing it, I think your course will come clear.”


I read The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus by Peter J Gomes. He is a black preacher who has surely experienced discrimination in and out of his religion, but evidently risen above it. I picked it up in Jamboree for a dollar at Dollar Tree, remaindered from $24.95. It can be amazing what value you can still get for a dollar. Now I'm agnostic, which means among other things that I neither love nor hate religion; I like to think I can treat it with objectivity. I admit, though, to a certain profound cynicism sponsored by spot experiences, such as when I was in the US Army, being trained for war, and I went to the chaplain because I doubted I would in conscience be able to kill another man, even on the battlefield. He said “I'm sorry your patriotism isn't better than that.” I saw before me a husk who thought murder was simply patriotism. But I trust that chaplain was not typical of all religious professionals. So once I got a smidgen of free time, I read this book, prepared for the worst. But I find I rather like this man Gomes. No, there's not a lot of scandal; I think that's a title the publisher put in it to sell copies. But there is sensible thinking. A few quotes from it should make the point. “It still shocks some Christians to realize that Jesus was not a Christian, that he did not know 'our' Bible, and that what he preached was substantially at odds with his biblical culture, and with ours as well.” Right: how could he know the New Testament, assembled long after his death? “One of the reasons that religious people are often cultural conservatives and that cultural conservatives take comfort in religion, is that religion is seen to confirm the status quo.” Something that Jesus emphatically did not do. The author makes the point that Jesus lived in times that are not our times, so there may be no direct connection between what he faced and what we face. “The question should not be 'What would Jesus do?' but rather, and more dangerously, 'What would Jesus have me do?'” Which is really the question I am asking my correspondent above. Gomes mentions how theological students passed by a person in obvious distress on the way to the lecture hall for a class on the parable of the Good Samaritan; obviously they did not relate to that message. He remarks on how the war on terror became as much about resuscitating the political fortunes of the Republican administration as about bringing terrorists to justice. He mentions how William Sloane Coffin got the attention of his audience by mentioning David and Goliath: “Hey, kid, whatcha got in the bag?” He makes the point that if God is the author of the universe, how can a Christian leader say, as one did, “God does not hear the prayer of Jews.” That man's God is too small. He quotes what he calls doggerel: “How odd of God to choose the Jews.../But not so odd as those who choose/A Jewish God, but spurn the Jews.” He makes the point that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality, so the scriptures can't be used as a basis for discrimination, yet many are adamant in condemning it. Right; they are ascribing their own bigotry to the Bible. They should be ashamed, but they seem to be shameless. But there may be hope: “...the Church, we know from experience, will eventually do the right thing once it has exhausted every other alternative.” There is much more, and I recommend this book for those who want a serious look at religion by a surprisingly objective preacher.


One of the things that accumulated while I was busy writing—I'm a writaholic, so other things do get neglected—was a series of DISCOVER science videos I subscribed to. 24 had piled up, and another came as I pondered. So my assigned chore for the month of Mayhem was to view these educational efforts. I viewed them one, two or three a day, and they turned out to be worth it. I will mention only the highlights. One was on Hawaii, showing how this chain of islands is atypical of other volcanic regions because it's not from plate tectonics, wherein one place slides under another and the buried land heats, melts, and boils up in the form of rim volcanoes, but from passing over a hot-spot. The spot is a channel down deeper in the world, and a tube of lava rises and forms a mound where the lava overflows the surface. Since the plate continues to slide across the hot-spot, new mounds keep appearing, forming a chain. Because erosion keeps wearing down the soft rock, these mounds disappear into the sea after a while, but remain below it. Thus the main island of Hawaii, actually the biggest single mountain on the globe, is but the most recent example of a chain that extends back to Asia. Fascinating! Then there's Loch Ness, where brown sandstone is the same as is found in eastern North America, formed the same time. How could that be? Because long ago America bumped into Scotland, then later separated, taking half the sandstone with it. And the Loch Ness Monster? Could it be a surviving plesiosaur from the time of dinosaurs? No, because the loch filled with water only with the melting of the glaciation ten thousand years ago, while the dinosaurs passed 65 million years ago. One on Fractals, including the Maldelbrot set, always a fascination to me. It turns out the whole world is fractal in nature, or self-emulating; it governs how plants branch, how blood vessels divide, how math operates. The modern marvels of the Potato and Corn. The driest place on Earth: the Atacama Desert of Chile in South America, with only one fiftieth the rainfall of the Sahara Desert. The Great Lakes, whose greatest, Lake Iroquois, no longer exists; it drained some time ago, and great was the carnage thereof. The Sphinx: who really made it, carving it out of the rock of the desert? Extreme Cave Diving, where fabulous paleontological treasures can be found in oxygen-free water, but they have to hurry to find them, because global warming makes the sea rise and soon it will flood out those regions, destroying them. The geologic formation of the region New York city is built on, animating the continents as they drift and collide. Today's Rockies are pikers compared to the mountains that once existed in this area. The Cuttlefish, related to the Octopus and the Squid, king of camouflage; its skin can be like a movie screen in its instant changing, and it's pretty smart too. The San Andreas Fault, its mischief not at all finished; but one section produces no quakes. Why not? Because it is composed of gypsum, which is like talcum powder, slippery. So the Fault continues to move, but quietly. Hummingbirds, amazing feisty little fliers. And Krakatoa, one of the most violent eruptions in recorded history—and now that volcano is building again, swelling by a dozen feet a year. This is mischief.


Caught up on chores, for the moment, I watched some movie videos. The Road is about a disaster that wipes out most of humanity, the survivors scrounging what little they can from the barren world remaining. A man and his son struggle through, trusting almost no one, for good reason, until the man is injured and dies; then the boy is taken in by another family. That family turns out to be superior to what he had; it's a meagerly happy ending. Seems simple, but it has verisimilitude; it's one realistically ugly story. Red Riding Hood, wherein a huge werewolf terrorizes the town. When he corners the heroine, lovely Valerie, he asks her to come away with him. But others hear only growls; how is it she can understand him? The villagers think they have managed to kill the wolf, but they haven't; he is among them in man-form by day. A fine, tense story, with a surprise conclusion that makes sense. Hugo, wherein a city boy of circa 1930 is trying to repair an automaton — that is, mechanical man — he has found, hoping it can tell him what happened to his father. He is befriended by a girl who helps him, but it gets to be a pretty wild adventure before the automaton is fixed and the mysteries are resolved. Naturally, adults don't understand anything; it's up to children to accomplish anything. All fun movies.


J R Rain and I completed the third Aladdin novel, Aladdin and the Flying Dutchman, and it is available now on Kindle and such, and will have a POD edition. It's amazing how easy it is now to do without traditional publishers of any stripe; their monopoly has been broken and they are headed inevitably for a silver or copper or brass age following their golden one. This time Aladdin and his companions have to rescue their allies the Sirens from an attack by a Kraken, then go on to prevent the evil sorceress Medea from opening the Gates of Hades and wreaking Hell on Earth. But Medea is no easy creature to deal with, especially for a man like Aladdin who is smitten by her savage beauty. It's as wild and fantastic as the others, not at all authentic mythologically, with twists and turns you won't see coming. How could you? We, the authors, didn't.


Monica Parish sent another Internet circular, this one on student answers. I was once a teacher, so such things resonate. Name the four seasons: salt, pepper, mustard, and vinegar. In a democratic society, how important are elections? Very important; sex can only happen when a male gets an election. What happens to a boy when he reaches puberty? He says goodbye to his boyhood and looks forward to his adultery. How are the main 20 parts of the body categorized (e.g. the abdomen)? The body is consisted into 3 parts—the branium, the borax, and the abdominal cavity. The brainium contains the brain, the borax contains the heart and lungs, and the abdominal cavity contains the five bowels: A, E, I, O, U. Which leaves me wondering Y.


Couple of newspaper comments on a new book titled Breasts: A Natural and unnatural History, by Florence Williams. Breasts utterly fascinate me, and I look at them at every opportunity, whether in pictures or the flesh; I'm obsessed, which is to say I'm a normal man. Yes I know that many of the best ones are artificial, whether by padding or surgery; I still can't get enough of them. No, it's not size; I prefer the middle range, C cups, and I am most intrigued by supposedly accidental peeks down inside a halter. I like other parts of a woman too, of course, especially when the wind blows up a dress or they cross their legs in short skirts, but those other parts are less frequently on display. Anyway, the author saw a news article about toxins in breast milk, so got her own milk tested, and was horrified to learn that it was an arsenal of baby-harming poisons. This was what she wanted to feed her trusting baby? She studied breasts, and wrote the book. Human beings are the only mammals with permanently enlarged breasts; other animals shut them down after weaning their offspring. Why? To attract the attention of men, of course. As I have remarked before, breasts would have been a turnoff to men in the early days, because a lactating female is not breedable, and males normally have little interest in females other than in breeding them, whatever else they may pretend. So females signal when they become breedable, by smell, pheromones, brightly colored genitals or whatever, and then the males congregate. But when our species rose to walk on two feet, women had to carry their babies, and could not run, fight, or forage well enough to compete on their own. They needed the help of men, and of course the readiest way to get it was via sex appeal. As has been wisely said: the average woman would rather look good than seem smart, because the average man can see better than he can think. So the great conversion occurred: women hid their true fertility so as to fake it all the time, and breasts became attractants instead of repulsants, never shut down between nursings. Then men with better eyes than brains were constantly attracted and constantly trying to breed, helping to protect and feed the women to make them more amenable, and the result of this seemingly wasted effort was that their offspring survived, while those of men who would not touch breasted women did not. Viola! We are all descendants of those who made the change. But there's a price. Those breasts form more tumors than do other organs, and breast implants mess up both lactation and sexual response. “Well, at least your breasts won't spontaneously ignite,” the author's typically thoughtless husband jokes. But I suspect they came close to doing that when he laughed. I picture her saying “Honey, let me hold you close to my bosom” just before the fire flares. Meanwhile, given that breast feeding is supposed to be superior to bottle feeding, how about cleaning up those breasts? Who wants to feed her baby a cocktail of flame-retardants, foreign hormones, and toxins that may mean her daughter develops her high-potency breasts at age nine or ten and has a 50% increased risk of breast cancer, the effect possibly persisting through three generations. O joy! But it will take a thorough reform of environmental pollution to accomplish such a cleanup, unless we really want to have the trend continue until children are bearing and nursing children and dying before they become adults. Article in the June 2012 DISCOVER magazine makes the point that breast feeding is not just for nourishment; there are countless other compounds to shore up the baby's immune system and facilitate its digestion. Some are indigestible; why? So they will pass through the baby's system and reach the gut, where good bacteria can feed on them and prosper, eliminating bad bacteria and contributing to better health. So breast fed infants tend to be healthier, and fewer become obese later in life. The formula companies are interested, and in time bottle milk may have these additional compounds, but at present they don't.


Stray items: cartoon shows the Pope speaking to US nuns, saying “I'm very upset with you for not speaking out against homosexuality! Same goes for your friend.” That friend being Jesus Christ. In Orlando, Florida, there was a foul stench coming from a broken package from Yemen with tubes and wires and a viscous brown substance coming out. The supervisor moved the package outside, but his throat was burning and he had a headache. The package disappeared and the incident was not reported to the Department of Homeland Security. Meanwhile the supervisor fell inexplicably ill, his symptoms suggesting neurological problems consistent with toxic exposure. He's in serious condition, unable to work, unable even to take care of himself. But the doctors can't adequately treat him until they know what was in the package — and the Postal Service refuses to investigate, claiming it never happened, despite witnesses who testified (at the risk of their jobs) that it did. The Justice Department may finally be getting ready to do something about prison rapes. It's a fact that more men are raped than women, but they don't make the news because it happens in prison, victimized by other men. There are five conservative members of the Supreme Court who don't much like the idea of a mandate for signing up for health insurance, saying it's not what America's founders intended. But it turns out that the founders did establish similar mandates. So whatever the Justices' objections, they are not based on the historical record. Were they ever? Privacy: you think you have it online? Hardly; you might as well be parading naked, as everything is on record and there are outfits busily collecting information on everyone. But there are services to help you anonymize your input and erase your tracks. Still I'm skeptical; I suspect that if you go online, you are known. Article by Harold Meyerson on economics: “This recovery differs from its predecessors because it is concentrated among the affluent, and almost entirely among the very rich.” They are verifying why so many folk are so seriously running for exercise: runner's high. I run for exercise, but have never experienced that. Ah, well. THE WEEK reprinted an article from The Righteous Mind, by Jonathan Haidt, making the case that your genes may account for the way you vote, more than your environment. Interesting, though my skepticism hovers nearby. NEW SCIENTIST has another article showing how wealth corrupts folk; they start awarding themselves bonuses rather than paying fair wages. We see the evidences of this in our largely corrupt political system, where rich folk in effect buy their offices, as Governor Scott did here in Florida; I think the governorship cost him $72 million, and of course he means to recover that investment; he's a businessman. Certainly he shows no sign of caring about the poor. NEW SCIENTIST also has an article on phytoplankton, tiny plants in the ocean on which much of the rest of life is based, but they are being decimated by climate change. If the food pyramid crashes, we're going to be very sorry; that could be what brought on the world of The Road. And one more: Immortality, The Quest to Live Forever and How it Drives Civilization, by Stephen Cave, whose title I suspect pretty well summarizes the book. Our instinct of self preservation means we don't want to die, yet chances are we will die anyway. What to do? Plan A is to stay healthy and forestall death as long as possible, meanwhile reproducing so that at least our line carries on. Plan B is to come back to life somewhere, the basis for monotheistic religions and cryonics. Plan C is the Soul, carrying on regardless of the body; all major religions perpetuate this view. Plan D is legacy, putting our names and faces everywhere (I remember the ditty: “Fools names and fool's faces are always seen in public places” as well as “A boy's ambition must be small, to write his name on a shit-house wall”), creating music and art, writing books. Suddenly that gets personal. I suspect it also applies to writing long monthly blog-type columns.


Charles Krauthammer is a conservative who seldom makes sense by my definition. But in a column in the newspaper for May 14 he wrote something that made me take notice. He reviewed the Israel/Arab war of 1967, which is one of my private interests, wherein the Arab nations, in violation of previous truce agreements, ordered UN peacekeepers out, blockaded Israel, and marched 120,000 troops up to the border, pledging the final destruction of Israel. Only the horse blew first: Israel made a preemptive strike, spooked the Arabs, and sent them fleeing home with enormous losses. Why is this an interest of mine, when I'm not Jewish? Because I see it as a loose analogy. When I was blacklisted in 1969 for protesting being cheated by a publisher—they could not stomach the very idea of a writer demanding an honest accounting, and were out to teach me a lesson--it was rough going for a time, but I fought back, mainly by hanging on, and in the end something funny happened: the blacklisters lost out, and I think none of them had much success thereafter if they even remained in business, while I went on to become a bestselling author. (My message to publishers: don't shit on a future bestseller, because he will remember even if you forget, and make you regret it if he can. But, you protest, you don't know who the future bestsellers are? Then maybe, heretical thought, you should try treating all authors fairly.) I saw Israel as the model I coincidentally followed. I remain militant, as does Israel, and I privately root for its continued success, as I do for my own. The Arab nations remain hostile to Israel, as do certain aspects of Parnassus to me, and continued vigilance is required. You can see the figurative lines of battle around Israel's borders and in my projects such as my ongoing survey of electronic publishers, helping writers to bypass Parnassus, and there is more warfare going on that doesn't show publicly. Okay, that's why I watch Israel, and no one else needs to care; it's just an analogy somewhat like my comment when I had a cracked tooth whose sides ground against each other and caused me pain: I likened it to the San Andreas Fault, where tectonic plates collide, only the toothtonic plates were smaller. This is known as hyperbole, humorous exaggeration to make a point, something critics are apt to miss. (I try never to miss a chance to mess up a critic; they too should clean up their acts.) But Krauthammer has his own point to make, and it is frightening. Now the Arabs are gathering again, notably Iran, who is developing a nuclear weapon it all but promises to use on Israel. Israel is not going to sit still for that literal annihilation any more than it did in 1967, and it does have the nuclear option. So it is organizing its political forces, becoming internally unified so that it can act decisively when it needs to. Other nations can tut-tut or try to deny the threat, as England did while Nazi Germany was arming itself in the 1930s, but Israel can't afford to wait on them. Imagine the subsequent dialogue: “Oh, you naughty boy; you shouldn't have A-bombed Israel! It will take decades for that hole in the ground to lose its radioactivity. Don't do it again or we'll be annoyed.” If you were Israel would you wait on that? Krauthammer says there are about 18 months before Iran is ready to move, and if the world does not act to stop Iran in that interim, Israel will. I believe it. That's nuclear war, which may or may not remain limited to that region. That scares the hell out of me. This ain't beanbag, and that's no hyperbole.


About war, nuclear or otherwise: DISCOVER has a set of articles on it, one making the case that war has existed seemingly as long as mankind has existed, and the percentage of adults who died in war was worse in the past than it is today. In southern Ukraine an ancient burial site indicates that figure was 22% 11,000 years ago; in northern India 3,000 years ago it was 30%. All across the world it has been like that. Even chimps make war raids against other chimps, so war may date back millions of years, to before the human line separated from the chimp line. But the companion article say no, chimp killing chimp is rare, and may even be a response to human encroachment on their territory. Monkey see, monkey do? Evidence of human war goes back only 13,000 years, and may occur when human tribes overpopulate a region and run low on resources. If your choice is between fighting or starving, you fight. I read elsewhere that when the hunter-gatherers settled down to agriculture, they had to defend their territory. That's not the same as wanting war. So war is not necessarily inevitable.


Columnist Todd Farley says that standardized testing can't be trusted. “There was no statistic that couldn't be doctored, no number that couldn't be fudged, no figure that couldn't be bent to our collective will.” Yes, I tend to distrust standardized tests, being an independent thinker whose correct answers don't necessarily match the programmed ones. Today in Florida there's a flap about the FCAT test; they changed the scoring, too many students flunked, so they changed the scoring again to have the right number pass. In Xanth the F Cat is a feline whose purpose is to make people fail, in contrast to the A Cat, B Cat, C Cat etc. Maybe related: there is an Integrity Report on the several states, and Florida is 18th with a grade of C-. New Jersey is first, Georgia last. It seems that the average state government is not very honest. Duh! I'm surprised Florida isn't lower; we have freakishly poor government here now.


From RESIST, a publication of an organization giving grants to less-favored charities. Corporate food production, more interested in profits, may actually be poisoning people. But the big outfits have the ear of the government, and healthier organic farming has a rough time. Only 2% of the food consumed in the US is organic or sustainably produced. But there's a glimmer of hope for the future, as people start to catch on.


New research, says Jonathan Gottschall, shows that fiction molds us. The more deeply we are cast under a story's spell, the more potent is its influence. Fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction aimed at evidence and argument. When we read nonfiction our shields are up; we are properly skeptical. But when we read fiction our shield are down; after all, its just entertainment. We are moved emotionally, and that is another matter. Fiction enhances our ability to understand other people, even strangers. Thus storytelling has always shaped culture. I knew that! Storytelling is fundamental to the nature of our species. I am a storyteller, thus I define our nature; I am the center of the universe. Too bad the universe doesn't know or care. Sigh.


DISCOVER magazine has a nice article on Postapocalypse Condominiums. Larry Hall, a former software engineer, bought a hole in the ground for $300,000 and is making something of it. Evidently he does know his assets from a hole in the ground. The hole was left over from a cold war nuclear ballistic missile silo. It's 174 feet deep and buttressed by concrete walls up to 9 feet thick; it's pretty secure. Now it is being filled in with eight disk-shaped luxury apartments stacked like pancakes, plus six other floors for hydroponics, machinery, storage, community center and such, a potentially self-sustaining community for up to 70 people. This is a science fiction type concept, so naturally it appeals to me. Would I actually want to live there? I am wary of planned communities, having been part of one as a child; all is not necessarily sweetness & light. But if the alternative were to struggle in a world such as that depicted by The Road, remarked on above, I would be interested.


We saw Men in Black 3, as a kind of joint birthday celebration for Wife and Daughter. Reviews said it was indifferent, but movie reviewers are like book reviewers: they may have an agenda other than what the average viewer wants. It was wild and full of weird aliens, and actually the overall plot did make sense. A bad guy was set to travel back in time 40 years to kill a good guy, Agent K, before he could arrest the bad guy, as he did before, so a good guy, Agent J, had to go back to just before then and kill the bad guy first. Along the way were things like alien creatures who could live in the body of a man and assist him, people with heads like a nest of scorpions, and a lovely motorcycle that consisted of a single big wheel; they rode inside that wheel as it rolled along. That just might work, with gyroscopic stabilization. The time travel bit was well handled, given the danger of paradox, with a nice surprise conclusion. So it had everything, not phenomenally well organized, but it was there, and we did enjoy the movie.


Now, with a month of chores done, I am ready to return to my natural medium: writing. I will start on what I think will be a novella, Odd Exam, about an unusual college entrance examination. It is in the form of a multi-player online game, semi-virtual reality, with portals to other worlds, alien monsters, and something like magic. For those who qualify, board and tuition will be free; can this be serious?


Once again I have missed my target of a 3,000 word Column; this one's 5,850 words. Sigh. I just always seem to have more to say than time or space permit. It must be the legacy thing.

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