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Piers the handyman 2007
JeJune 2014
HI-

I'm writing Xanth #40 Isis Orb, but deliberately not rushing it so as to have time to catch up on reading and videos. So if endless reviews turn you off, skip over paragraphs until you find what's worthwhile; there's bound to be something squeezed in where most folk won't notice it.

I watched No Such Thing. This is a bit apart from the ordinary run of monster movies. There is a manlike eternal monster, distinguished mainly by his crude broken horns and his ability to breathe fire, who speaks fluent American and simply wants an end to his existence, but he's immortal. Even a bullet through his head doesn't hurt him. He drinks alcohol to ease his pain of existence. There is one doctor who has a device that may be able to kill the monster, but the doctor has been put away in a mental hospital. A pretty young woman with a news agency decides to go interview the monster. She looks like Dorothy of Oz, complete with pigtails. But she disappears on the way, only to reappear five months later as the lone survivor of a plane crash, badly injured with her memory of the intervening months gone. In another five months she recovers enough to get around, and goes after the monster again, this time finding him in a remote northern outpost. He's not sure what to make of her, this lovely innocent creature. She talks him into accompanying her back to civilization, where they'll locate the doctor who can kill him. But of course the news agency gets in the way, milking it for all the headlines possible, including pictures of her with impressively bulging breasts in a revealing costume and him in a modern suit. Soon he's an object of contempt, because he is holding to his promise to her not to wantonly slaughter people, while the agency is trying to provoke him to do just that and generate phenomenal headlines. Realizing that they both are being used, she manages to sneak him away and get him to the doctor, who sets him up in a contraption that will kill him. At the conclusion he is gazing at her beautiful face as he expires. She kept her promise. We never do learn what happened in her missing months, and there's not much indication what will happen after his death; it's just a passing news feature. So this was interesting in various ways, but not completely satisfying.

I watched Hide and Seek. This is a horror thriller about a psychiatrist whose wife commits suicide. He takes his nine-year-old daughter to the country for a change of scenery, but she remains troubled. The new neighbors are mixed, some nice, some dubious. Then Daughter makes a new friend, Charlie, who can be vicious, writing mean notes on the mirror and then killing folk who might mess in with the family. The girl, at first pleased, changes her mind and doesn't like Charlie any more, but it's too late to stop the mischief. So is Charlie imaginary, or maybe an alias of a neighbor? Psychiatrist assumes the former, then fears the latter. There's a nice touch at the end. I note there are four alternate endings on the disc; I watched the regular theater one, but now I'm curious about the others. So okay, I went back and watched the other endings, and they didn't fix what I felt were holes in the main story, and the one they finally went with I think was the best one.

I watched The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd. This is based on a play by D H Lawrence, and it's grim. Holroyd is a drunken miner without redeeming traits. He even brings harlots to their house. His wife is locked in to the life with their two children, and wishes he were dead. She plans to run away with a more compatible man. Then the miner dies in a mine accident, and she is devastated, thinking she hadn't loved him enough to prevent his death. That's about it; the shock of death overrides the rest. I bought it for the bonus program, the three hour The Rainbow. The cover blurb says that the 1915 book on which it is based was found obscene and all leftover copies were burned. To me, burning books is obscene. So I was curious. If there's any obscenity, the movie must have edited it out, because this is a beautiful and feeling story. The title refers to the covenant God made with mankind never to flood the world again, having done it in Noah's time; the rainbow is the symbol of that promise. But in Part 1, “Ghosts,” the 16-year-old protagonist is haunted by memories of those who have died in floods. She has a romantic interest in a dashing soldier, but there's always that ghost. In part 2 “The Widening Circle” she moves on to become a teacher, but the grade school brats are such a trial that we can't blame her for not staying with it. She also has what may be a lesbian affair. Could that be the obscenity? The lesbian is a nice and cultured woman. In Part 3 “The Darkness of Paradise” her soldier boyfriend returns. They are now six years older and the romance gets serious. There is even—horrors!--nudity. He wants to marry her but she is severely conflicted. I think she doesn't want to be channeled into the sort of life Mrs. Holroyd had; she wants to be a free spirit forever. The tension, if I understand it correctly, leads to her mental breakdown. In the end she can't commit, and he marries someone else. She was maybe pregnant and maybe not; that's not clear. That's where it ends; I feel for her confused rebellion against the status quo. I didn't want to get locked in myself, and fortunately managed to find my calling, free lance writing. Maybe she should have become a writer.

I watched Battleship, whose blurb says “Explosive and action-packed.” Exactly, but maybe not a lot of sense. Earth locates a “Goldilocks” planet, just right for life as we know it, and beams a message there. Never mind that such a message would take years or decades or centuries to arrive at light-speed. Comes the response: a seeming battle fleet. What, in response to a friendly message? Four ships crash into the sea, one breaks up and messes up cities. This is mischief. Follows a sea battle as huge almost insectoid alien vessels attack, reminiscent of Pacific Rim. The good guys finally win, after much mayhem. I liked the battleship aspects: they are playing the game “Battleship” where you have to guess at the enemy's location and bomb it before it bombs you, and the reactivation of a real battleship to finish off the job. I liked the flying spinning-top attack balls that tear up everything they touch. I liked the crazy wild hero who loves the Admiral's lovely daughter but keeps fouling up. So it's my kind of junk.

I watched Chaplin, a biography of the famed actor. I wouldn't call this exciting in the way Battleship is, but the man had an interesting life, with some funny acts and a series of pretty girls. I am annoyed, as I am supposed to be, by the trial that declared him the legal father of a baby that a blood test showed he had not fathered; justice is not always served in the courts. It was also an interesting review of the early motion picture industry. Chaplin was a silent actor; sound was the beginning of the end for him. His mother lost her mind; when he got her out of the asylum it became clear how crazy she was. So this was educational.

I watched Wallis & Edward, a historical romance. The thing about this is that I was there, in my fashion, as a small child in England when the new king ascended, then stepped down because he couldn't remain king and still marry the woman he loved, an American divorcee. They were finally packed off to the Bermudas, and I was on that boat, the Excalibur, being seasick and having my 6th birthday as we came to America, with a birthday cake made of sawdust as it was wartime and they lacked the makings for a real one. I got a harmonica for a gift, and played it endlessly; in long retrospect I wonder whether the famous couple were wishing that brat would stop the music. Anyway, Edward had many affairs, but it was the married Wallis Simpson who won his heart. She divorced to be with him, and he gave up the throne to be with her. The royal family never forgave her. Apart from that it's fairly tame.


I watched Crash, a harshly realistic LA cop type movie that's like getting dipped into an alligator infested sewer. The title is for the way disparate figures wind up colliding, for good or ill. Whites, blacks, orientals, all are desperate in their own fashions, and racism is rampant; it does use the N(igger) word. It satisfies me that I don't want to live in that scene. Even where folk are trying to do the right thing, it gets complicated, and serious mischief can result. The movie was up for awards, and is the kind of thing you watch for perspective more than enjoyment.

I watched “Digging for the Truth: City of The Gods.” That was Teotihuacan (pronounced Teo-ti wa-CAN), near today's Mexico City, two thousand years ago one of the greatest cities on Earth. It was not Mayan; it was distinct, though there were cultural similarities. Its pyramids remain among the grandest ever built, and it was laid out and maintained as a carefully planned community. Human sacrifice was practiced as an honor; when there was a big ball game, where they hit the eight pound ball only with their hips, it was the winners, not the losers, who were sacrificed. There really has not been anything like it, since. Then after about 800 years it suddenly was deserted, never to function again. What happened? There were no written records, and key aspects had been burned. It turns out that the fires were not random; they were deliberate, destroying the ceremonial and administrative centers. Bone analysis suggests that the common folk were gradually deprived of wealth, until at last they no longer had enough to eat, while the rulers lived better and better. They used a huge amount of wood for burning, and denuded the region of trees, which surely damaged their climate in various ways. It seems that finally the oppressed majority rebelled and wiped out the ruling class and destroyed the city, and it never functioned again. This must have been like the French Revolution, where the only way to stop the grasping elite (“Let them eat cake!”) was to cut off their heads. I fear this is where America is going today; the richest simply will not let go until the poor—the 99%--have nothing more to lose and turn on them and destroy them, even if the nation be wiped out in the process. I hope not to live to see it happen; it will not be pretty. As with marauding rats: you can't reason with them, you have to kill them. Too bad our species is not better than that.

I read The Story of Ain't, by David Skinner. This is a densely detailed discussion of the making of Webster's Third International Dictionary, controversial because it recognizes “ain't” as a word along with other controversial terms. The idea was that it become descriptive rather than prescriptive, because language is always changing and a dictionary should reflect what is rather than what was or what supposed experts think is proper. I agree, though the one I have is Webster's Second, along with my oldest book, Funk & Wagnall's 1913 edition that I got for my tenth birthday in 1944, and Random House that I got in 1987, and the encyclopedia-length Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (the OED) that I got in 1973, together with its supplement I got in 1987. What can I say? I use dictionaries on a daily basis, and I like to get my words right. The book has capsule histories of the many folk involved; it was a huge undertaking. I have to say that this book tells me more than I really want to know about this dictionary, however.

I watched Night Train to Paris, a 1964 black/white thriller that I have to say didn't thrill me much; it views like a parody, and the special effects don't exist. Sexy girls were heavier set in those days too; I know modern girls are unrealistically slender, but I do like them that way. The protagonist is trying to help an old friend get a valuable tape (remember, this was before things like DVD discs and flash drives) from London to Paris, and the bad guys will kill for it, and you can't tell who has it or on which side anyone is. So it's quite a train ride. Maybe this is a classic, but I prefer more modern junk.

I watched Girl on the Bridge, a 2000 black/white film in French with English subtitles. A girl is on the bridge about to suicide when a man says he thinks she's about to make a mistake. He doesn't succeed in talking her out of it; she jumps anyway. So he jumps after her and rescues her. He's a carnival knife thrower and he believes she will make the perfect model. And she does; their act is a big success. It's a business arrangement; they like each other but it's not sexual. Well, qualify that; she has meaningless one night stands with men she meets; it's her weakness. When he throws knives at her, there is tension, a frisson, and when the knifes closely miss her, they both are turned on, and it may be erotic. When they get private, they don't kiss, they throw more knives. Together they're a winning team. But finally she tires of it and quits, and he finds he just can't do it without her. So he goes to the bridge, but the girl comes and says she thinks he's about to make a mistake. “We can't go on like this,” she says. “Like what?” “Being apart.” They truly need each other. She says that when in doubt, he can throw knives at her. There's their rapport. So it's a nice love story.

I watched Blind Date. This is one of those that I concede to be thoughtful pieces that nevertheless are not my type, because it explores the feelings of an estranged couple whose five-year-old daughter died. I don't like estrangement and I really don't like a daughter dying at any age. It also ends indecisively, something that I as a storyteller don't much like. The two are middle aged, maybe 50 and 40; he's a not-very-good stage magician, she's a well preserved housewife. They try a series of dates at a bar, as if just meeting, assuming different nuanced persona. The dates are awkward, and sometimes end in anger. So will they work it out? There is no answer.

I watched Jolene. This is the story of a girl raised in foster homes who married young to get a better life. But her husband's uncle makes moves on her, the wife catches them, husband commits suicide, uncle is sentenced to prison for sex with a juvenile, and Jolene is sent to an institution for troubled girls. Where a nurse takes her into a lesbian relationship. She flees that and hitchhikes west, where a tattoo artist marries her, until his wife shows up and it is apparent that her marriage was a sham. On to the next, evidently a powerful gangster who gets killed by business associates. Then to a very rich man in Oklahoma who doesn't want to hear about her past, then beats her up and dumps her when he learns of it, taking their baby. She has no recourse, with her history. Finally to Hollywood, where she has dreams of stardom. The film ends there; you sort of know it will come to more grief. She always tries to do the right thing, is pretty, has artistic talent, but is always betrayed by others. Not my favorite type of story, but moving nonetheless. We all get screwed on occasion by fate; she gets screwed worse. If there's a life lesson here, it's an ugly one.

I watched Elysium. This is my kind of junk: science fiction adventure set a generous century hence, wherein most folk live on a polluted overpopulated impoverished Earth, while a few elites—the one percent?--live on a lovely pristine space station called Elysium. It looks like a giant wheel, and I presume rotation makes the gravity. Ugly flying ships and ugly robots constantly mess in with Earth affairs, and their advance science enables them to maintain control. This reminds me of Oblivion, that I reviewed in Marsh, only with a whole lot more people. The folk of Earth don't want to destroy Elysium, they want to go there to live. Fat chance. Within that framework it's mostly violence as would be revolutionaries get hunted down and killed. The protagonist gets a download of the key to recompiling the master computer, so everyone wants him, and wants him alive. If the good guys can get him to Elysium, maybe they can change the program so that everyone can be a citizen. I doubt this makes much sense; we can't all be royalty. Someone has to clean the sewers and grow the crops. But it's good adventure, with a small slice of romance.

I watched The Last Station, about the last days of the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, 1828-1910, author of War and Peace. He wanted to give his copyrights to the Russian people so that they could appreciate his works without cost, but his wife of 48 years was dead set against it, as the royalties supported their mansion and family. I can see each side of it, being in the writing trade myself. There's a nice inset romance between his young biographer and a freethinking servant girl, with nudity. This is before the Communist takeover, so his notion was halfway heretical. He was supported by a daughter. At one point his wife says to that daughter “I lost five children; why couldn't one of them have been you?” Tolstoy finally flees the trappings of wealth, taking a train to nowhere, but gets sick and dies at a train station. Historically the wife did finally win the copyrights. So this is not exactly adventure, but is an insight into the life and times of one of the most famous of all novelists.

I read Witches Be Crazy by Logan Hunder. This is a wild fantasy adventure that mixed my emotions. It needs competent copyediting; the punctuation can be annoyingly wrong, signaling that neither author nor editor knows some elementary rules. But the story itself is fast moving and original. The protagonist, Dungar is a surly blacksmith turned innkeeper who throws annoying customers out the window, literally. He learns of mischief in a neighboring kingdom and decides as a matter of principle to go and kill the evil usurping princess. He'd rather go alone, but picks up some annoying companions he can't get rid of, who actually turn out to be useful on occasion. One gets killed several times. They blunder into serious mischief, such as being thrown into an arena to be slaughtered. At one point a fighting goat helps them escape. They run afoul of pirates who after complicated adventures such as getting lost in a huge hallucinogenic tree wind up as friends. At another point a monstrously obese queen wants Dungar as a boyfriend, and when he refuses, accuses him of rape, and his head is in danger again. When they finally reach the evil princess it turns out quite other than anticipated. You just never know where this story is going, but it's fun.

I watched part 2 of The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug. As I may have said last year when I viewed part 1, I read the original The Hobbit novel as a child circa 1943 when I slowly learned to read, and regarded it as the first and best fantasy novel of my experience. By now I have forgotten about 95% of it, but this still strikes me as about the best. Smaug is the dragon; I remember being disappointed when he was described as a giant worm, but then when I encountered him more personally, as it were, I realized that he was indeed a fearsome dragon. This segment has Bilbo the hobbit and the dwarves having to take a treacherous route to get where they're going in time. They run afoul of elves but are helped by an elven maiden with lovely long brown hair (as I like to mention, when I met a human maiden like that, I married her; what can I say? I'm a sucker for long brown hair) who miraculously slays attackers right and left without ever getting touched herself; this sort of thing is another kind of fantasy, that pretty girls can outperform men in combat, as if muscle doesn't count. Only with magic, I'd say. Then they escape in floating barrels while orcs (orcs of fantasy seem to bear no relation to the small whales of mundane seas) and elves battle around them. Then they make it to Smaug's nest, where golden coins form miner avalanches. Bilbo needs to find one special gem among them, but the sleeping dragon rouses and there's hell to pay. It's better to let sleeping dragons lie. Smaug finally flies off to seek vengeance elsewhere, and the segment ends. I look forward to the great battle with the goblins at the end, one of the parts I do remember.

I watched Frozen, a Disney animation which I was glad to see on a hot day, as it's mostly snow. One princess had magic power; the other is deprived of hers and confined for her health. The story is when they get together again, and things go wrong and the one with magic gets out of control and turns the kingdom into mid winter. Finally love turns the corner and things are returned to normal. Largely nonsensical, but fun. There's a bit of dastardly deeds and a bit of romance, and the usual Disney animal support; it really is suitable for children. It's nicely musical, too.

I watched the 139 minute Color of Night. This has a certain personal history. My main form of entertainment has become DVD videos, which I watch and review here. I shop the sales, checking catalogs and local stores; when they get down below ten dollars I start considering, and the cheaper they are the more seriously I consider, while still looking for quality films or at least my kind of junk. Remember: we're on dial-up here in the hinterland and never heard of things like broadband or streaming videos, so physical discs are the order of my day. Well, came a catalog with a serious sale: Blu-Ray double features for five dollars plus postage. That made it about three dollars per movie, and for Blu-Ray that's a bargain. So I bought four of those, as well as a couple of 50 movie sci-fi (I hate that term) regular DVD sets for $15 each, about as cheap as you can get. Sure, at that price you get the refuse, but you never can tell; there could be some good ones lost amidst the trash, and it's easier than rummaging through endless bins at the store searching for buried gems. The order arrived; then I realized it would be awkward, because the only Blu-Ray player we had was my wife's computer, and I didn't want to have to borrow that when she might need it. So we shopped for a portable Blu-Ray player—and there seemed to be none to be had. We discussed it with my video freak daughter, and she said it might be better and cheaper to get a Blu-Ray player and a separate TV, with a connecting cable. So we did that, shopping a Kmart sale, and for under $200 had the works, including a twenty inch TV much newer and sharper than the 15” TV I had before with its set-top box. Today's TVs don't need separate boxes; they are built in. They are also much flatter and lighter. Thus I caught up with the 21st century, maybe the last person in the world to do so. I struggled through the assembly instructions and got them set up, with 44 stations tuned from our 50' foot antenna, not that we ever watch more than one at a time. Would the player work? Just making sense of the remote controls strained my aging brain, but I finally figured out which half dozen of 90 buttons to push (45 per remote) and got things going. I put in Color of Night because that was the one that started me going—AND IT WORKED! Understand, twenty first century things seldom work for me. I mean I push the buttons the instructions say to, but they don't work until a native of the modern scene pushes them. Yet these ones did; there was the video playing through. Put in a Blu-Ray and it plays it; put in a DVD and it plays it, no complicated fussing about defining types. There's even a button to activate subtitles so I don't have to go into a mess of obscure sub-menus to get them; I love that. So maybe it was my unaccustomed thrill of having things actually work out of the box that gave me a high, with a bigger beautifuller higher definition screen, but I loved the movie. Bruce Willis is a psychologist whose female patient commits graphic suicide. He is so upset that he folds his practice and travels from New York to Los Angeles to visit his psychologist friend and his encounter group of misfits. And his friend gets stabbed to death, and the patients prevail on Bruce to take over the group, though he doesn't want to. More murders follow, and mystery, also a romance. Maybe this is formula, and it start to fall apart when I think about credibility, but the violence is violent, the mystery is keen, and the sex is wonderfully graphic; this movie doesn't seem to use ellipses. In sum: very much my kind of junk, well worth the price.

I watched Playing God, the other half of the disc. More hard-hitting action, bloodshed galore. A defrocked doctor saves the life of a mobster shot in a bar, and his companion hoods recruit him to doctor other causalities. But he gets disgusted with it all, and makes a break, though that puts his own life on the line. The title suggests that he is playing God by choosing which lives to save, but there's hardly such meaning here. He does manage to save the life of the mobster's girlfriend and there's a tiny hint of romance, but that's all. I'd say this is full of sound and fury, signifying not much. But as my second experience with my new system, okay.

I had eyeball surgery. No, that's not nearly as gruesome as it sounds. It seems that the front sections of my eyeballs are relatively shallow and this can lead to high pressure. I am within tolerance, but it's a risk, and if something like a reaction to medication should increase it and put me in the danger zone, it would be awkward to clean up. So as a preventive measure the eye doctor is drilling little holes between the sections that will relieve the pressure if necessary. It's done with a laser; no external cutting. I don't have to wear an eye patch or anything; I did have a slight headache but it didn't stop me from doing my normal writing, which is eye-intensive. It was the right eye this week, the left one next week. Mainly I found that the eye drops that condensed my pupil had a lingering effect, so things looked smaller with my right eye than with my left eye.

Patrick Woodroffe died. He was a British fantasy artist, for my taste one of the best in the world. I sought him for illustrating my novel Balook, the one about recreating the biggest land mammal ever, and he came up with a nice package of color illustrations. I wound up paying for them, rather than the small publisher. Book of the Month Club was thinking about getting into science fiction, and we showed them the very nice edition, but they passed it by. I think book clubs, like editors, can be governed more by whim than by good taste. At any rate I bought several of his books of art and had some correspondence with him. He clearly thought initially that I was just another not too bright popular writer, but our dialogue quickly disabused him and thereafter he wanted to proclaim our friendship. I was less eager; his interest seemed more commercial than I liked, and his apparent view of women as a nation of whores turned me off. Still, I commissioned him for my project to make a 50-card Animation Tarot deck, paying a thousand dollars per card for the card rights only. He did the first and never got around to the second. Another lesson learned: artists can be as undisciplined as writers. I suspected alcoholism. I wrote off my loss and there never was an official Animation Tarot deck published. Too bad; I regard it as the supreme Tarot in concept, a viable psychological tool and more, depending on who might use it for what, and he could have done a brilliant job. So let's leave it at that: Patrick Woodroffe was a superlative artist, but vulnerable as a man as so many of us are.

Things get misplaced. I encountered in my piles of papers a newspaper clipping from 2001 by Paul Hollander, leading from the Nine-Eleven attack that pitched us into endless mischief. He remarked on the reaction of some to make the United States responsible for its own misfortunes, like this one, thus to an extent excusing hate crimes. I see his point. Just as today it seems that to Republicans anything bad that happened in the past generation is all Obama's fault, there are some who blame America for whatever happens. Victim-blaming is popular. I am disgusted with both camps. So is the author of this piece. “Hard as it may be to accept, the recent suicide attacks are the purest expression of a pathological hatred, fanaticism and irrationality that deserves no sympathetic understanding.” Amen.

Other notes: a Stanford study indicates that walking makes you creative. That makes sense to me; I get many good ideas while running. I assumed it was because then my mind is free to think, but it also could be the revving up of my system, so that the brain is better supplied. Another study shows that Republicans tend to think that a person who is rich worked harder than others, while Democrats think he had more advantages. What about if he is poor? Republicans say it's because of lack of effort; Democrats say it's circumstances beyond his control. I as a lifelong registered independent side with the Democrats on this, and I include sheer luck as a huge factor. The luck to be born into a wealthy family, to have a superior mind, to live in an area where economic freedom is encouraged. The article concludes that poverty in resources is not synonymous with poverty of values. Amen. In fact power and money tend to corrupt. They have come up with a handgun that can be keyed to be fired only by its owner, making it immeasurably safer than the regular kind. This seems like responsible gun ownership. And wouldn't you know it, the gun nuts are opposing it; they don't want anyone to have even the option of getting such a gun. So much for freedom of choice, in NRA land. I believe that a person should have the right to carry a gun of his choice as long as he is actively serving in a militia, per the Second Amendment, but the nuts don't like to mention that part of it. Again, responsible gun ownership, not wild west mayhem. In the NEW YORK TIMES Magazine Julia Scott tried a bacteria mist, spraying it on for a month—and her skin cleared up, her feet didn't smell, her complexion improved. So are all these cleansers on the wrong track? Maybe what we need are more bacteria. About the exorbitant cost of health care in America: a study shows that it's not the doctors, it's the inflated bonus packages of the upper hospital and insurance staff, from CEOs down. And about the problems putting criminals to death: letter in the newspaper by Joseph Clary of Tampa says that a nitrogen gas chamber is the least inhumane method. Normal air is 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen. As the oxygen drops a person will not feel out of breath, he'll become drowsy and fall asleep, and soon stop breathing and die. No pain. If I had to die before my time, I think this would appeal. Religion: it is declining globally, with more folk joining literally godless churches. Here again I have been well ahead of the curve; I've been agnostic all my life.

Article in NEW SCIENTIST about the uncertainty principle in quantum theory. I always thought this business about things not being defined until an observer sees them was nonsense, and this article agrees: it's not quantum theory that's uncertain, it's us. Rather than dive into the mind-bending complexities—remember, even Albert Einstein had trouble with quantum theory—let me give one of my simple-minded analogies. Say you flip a coin, but the other party can't wait for the verdict; he wants to know whether it's head or tails now. But that is indeterminate, you protest; the coin is still spinning in the air. You might measure how fast it's spinning, but you can't know which side is up. He doesn't care; he says enough of this spooky mystery, he'll damn well get his answer. He takes a flash camera and snaps a picture, as it were freezing the coin in mid air. It shows that Heads is up. It has been determined by the observation, with the picture to prove it. Never mind that the coin continues to spin, finally bounces on the ground, and winds up Tails. At that point it has no spin, but it does have an orientation. You can't know both at once. Well, that flash picture had no effect on reality; it merely caught the coin at one fractional point in its trajectory. The man with the camera has satisfied himself that he has fixed reality, but it's really all in his limited mind; he has merely selected an answer that appeals to him and tuned out the rest. Okay, that's how I see quantum uncertainty, and this applies to Schrodinger’s Cat as well as other examples. It tells more about the observer than about reality. That is in essence what this article says. Got it straight now? It's amazing how long it can take the experts to catch up to the obvious.

Article in NEW SCIENTIST titled “Solid, Liquid, Consciousness” suggests that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon. That is, something that emerges when circumstances are right, like waves on the sea that can't exist until you have a large enough body of water. A wave can take on a life of its own, traveling across the world, messing up folk along the shoreline, providing sport for surfers. Waves have personalities, yet all they are are water molecules bobbing up and down in place. When you have a sufficient body of interacting neurons they can make waves: consciousness. Okay, but I still feel that for full consciousness you need feedback, the brain observing itself in action. The mystery of Consciousness is one of my buttons, as my readers know, along with Existence and Life; I would like to have solutions for all of them before I die.

Column by Bill Maxwell in the local newspaper for JeJune 1, the day I'm editing this column, remarks how denialism takes root and truth gets choked off. Politicians paid by the pollution industries deny climate change, for example, because there is money to be made by pollution now, and the devil take tomorrow, as he surely will. Polio, measles, mumps, chicken pox and whooping cough are resurging because folk are in denial about the safety and effectiveness of preventive vaccination. Yes, I had most of those; whooping cough was no picnic, and measles almost killed me in high school. I had a fever of 105.5 degrees F and a cough, but I didn't cough because I was too weak to take a deep enough breath. Intravenous feeding and bed rest finally tided me through, but it was like laboriously climbing up out of a well to reach the blessed surface at last. Those who unnecessarily put their children at risk of that are fools. Then Maxwell mentions water fluoridation. Okay, not all the evidence is in yet, but I am deeply wary of fluoridation, and fear that this columnist has fallen victim to denialism himself. The way I heard it, fluoride was a poisonous waste product of industry until a marketing genius reclassified it as a medication. They put enough money into it to influence the powers that be in dentistry, and now almost every dentist swears by it. You think that's impossible? Consider what the NRA does to keep guns in the hands of people-hating nuts despite the continuing slaughter. Money talks loudly. Does fluoridation work to prevent tooth decay? To a degree, though much of that seems to be postponement rather than cure, and there are ugly side effects. So far I have not taken the time to do my homework to make a solid case, but I'm a skeptic. We should not be dosing entire communities with this stuff until more is known. Call me a nut for saying so, if you wish, but keep your eyes open. I'm not your ordinary nut, and when push comes to shove, I am seldom wring.

PIERS
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