A few of you might remember–I was intending to write a book

Me–waiting on my original book plot to resolve

I have had basically three books in me that I’ve wanted to write:

  1. 1. One of them involves the Founding Fathers.
  2. 2. One of them involves blues legend Robert Johnson.

3. One of them involves a ragamuffin band of childhood friends that wreak all kind of unintentional havoc on their town with their overactive imaginations.

4. And oh yeah, there’s a fourth one in which a billionaire buys a Costa Rican island, extracts fossilized dinosaur DNA from congealed amber, and uses frogs to plug in the genetic gaps before cloning them, although I feel like this has been done.

Book idea number one has resulted only in a prologue, even after months and months of rumination, reworking, woodshedding, contemplative Mount Sanais, and such.  And there it is–five years later. Nothing accomplished.

Idea #3 has been the one that has been the most fun to contemplate, and also to do without the perceived need for micrometers, T-squares, block-and tackle, or a laser-guided plumb-bob to get off the ground.

Today, my brain painted a complete picture, which will be accompanied by action, along with some advice I recently read by Stephen King that said to just write your book and don’t think about anything other than the story (something like that).

To that end, I can foresee the rough draft being done in a few weeks or months.  I’ll shut my mouth about it for now.

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Comet NEOWISE–not one of those vainglorious prints you’ll be seeing on calendars

Comet NOWISE, July 18, 2020. Taken on sub-standard equipment with horrifically-deficient photography skills at the helm.

So I managed go out to the lake and acquire my own photo of this illustrious comet.  This is as good as it gets from me, even after having a guy with infinitely-more photographic knowledge build a wheelchair-access ramp up to my ignorance.

Canon Rebel t100 with a long lens that I believe, comes standard with the camera. It isn’t mine.  It’s borrowed.

I may try again on the night of the 23rd, which is supposed to be the apex of viewability.

Recent events being what they are, the downside is–it’s not going to hit us.

 

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Siri, or SOMETHING is not only listening to me, it’s actually hearing me

flanneryIt was a long time ago that I arrived at the conclusion that our technology is listening, parsing and ultimately categorizing us by political categories for boxcars when the revolution comes.

I know this because the most obscure conversations in my home about abstractions–say hand-held leather punches–will result in my receipt of either an email about leather punch sales, or having saddle-making tools show up as ancillary advertisements in my social media.

I recently had some back and forth on my Facebook about Flannery O’Connor, my affinity for her writing, and the fascinatingly-short life she lived.

All of a sudden, my inbox has a gift in it.

Think Christian–a site that prides itself on nuanced spirituality, intellectual discourse within theological contexts, and sometimes outright extrapolatory aberrance, sends me regular emails.  The tag lines are usually provocative enough to draw me in sometimes, as long as they’re not hunting for upward worldviews in atrociously-abominable cinema. (I’ve thought long and hard about submitting an in-depth attempt at parallelism between Friday the 13th and how cowering in a lake cabin is just like the Passover, but I just don’t have it in me.  I wilt at rejection.)

Yesterday, they got me, and I don’t think Siri was the culprit, unless Siri sent an email to Karen Swallow Prior and told her to post “Flannery O’ Connor’s Grotesque Grace.”

I’ll just cut to the chase.  A new, rentable documentary is out, and I’m going to watch it.  Here’s the trailer.  Take note:  Famous people apparently like her work.  I appreciate that. What I don’t appreciate is having my comfort zones challenged with thinking Conan O’Brien is a deeper guy than I wanted to believe.  I’ll take the Mulligan:

 

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In which I Plagiarize My Own Review of “What Our Eyes Have Witnessed,” By Stant Litore–from Five Years ago

Note:  This is a review I wrote a long time ago, about a book I absolutely love.  I decided not to re-blog it, because the editions (and subsequent book covers) have changed.

I also post this because my Facebook page currently has a daily feature in which I am listing books that have marked me.  This would be one of them, and so instead of posting without comment, I will link this blog post to undergird what would be an otherwise paradoxical post all by itself.

Here’s the thing; not everyone within the Judeo-Christian literary perimeter is going to appreciate the concept of Zombies being the backdrop for Bible stories.  But if–and I mean if–you give it half a second, you’ll realize that scripture is rife with references to the spiritual and physical death of man from the moment the serpent emptied the original meanings from words and then renovated them with his own philosophical, post-modern innards.

To wit: we are zombies; dead, scrambling silhouettes on this terra firma, with no end to the thirst or hunger. The typeologies fit better here than in any Jane Austen novel, no matter how intriguing the concept may be.  Lincoln as a vampire hunter was an appalling venture.  For Zombies to represent the  lifeless caricatures that fall short of God’s ideal makes them a perfect point of tension.  And we may see ourselves in them.

What our eyes have Witnessed, By Stant Litore, can be found here.

_______________________

The second in the Zombie Bible series managed to leave the chronological biblical spectrum entirely, and take us to ancient Rome.

Caius, the head of the Roman Praetorian guard, is charged with the religious as well as the logistical protection of Rome. Thus far, the walking dead are but a distant, albeit audible afterthought, confined to ravishing the destitute lower classes in the outskirts–known as the insula.

When these barriers are breached in horrifying fashion, certain revelations begin to come with that moment—that all is not well inside the inner rings, and really—haven’t been for quite some time. And Caius knows this better than anyone.

Meanwhile, a Christian sect, led by Polycarp, is being held accountable for the outbreak, primarily for the crime of polluting Rome’s theological mashup with undiluted monotheism, and all the baggage that comes with a faith that exalts not the dead, but feeds the living and celebrates life after death. Roman culture, while expending its firsfruits to the dead who could not partake of them, completely ignored the living that could. Polycarp’s earthly mission involved chipping away at this behemoth. And the unity of communion—the breaking of bread is the accord in which this is brought to bear.

Caius is unable to hold the center, and is faced with personal traumas along with political decisions meant to allay the rage of vox populi –I won’t go into what those are here, because it gives away too much.

Polycarps’s band of devotees are gathering—at great personal risk—in the catacombs, a feature which helps undergird the horrid rumors that the communion they are taking isn’t symbolic—but cannibalistic—a major point in the ultimate prosecutorial proceedings against him.

But the book isn’t about logistical gamesmanship scenarios. It’s about relationships. Inside the isolated, patrician orbs of Rome, the people are hoping to hedge their hopes against the undead by the protections given them by their class distinctions. In the catacombs of devotion, those congregants are shedding, or subjugating their statuses for the sake of unity, and feeding the hungry, and opening themselves to the gifts that may give the undead a proper release from their torment and hunger.

Within this unified body, Polycarp gives authority and leadership to a young woman named Dora, a scarred, publicly-shamed pleasure slave. Upon paying a price for her, he sets her free, and then exalts her to his right hand with a new name.

As I said, the story involves relationships. And this one is key. It will touch your heart.

I fear of giving away more than this. It’s a beautiful and powerful story, rich in the historical nature Rome. But if I have to walk away with one message, I can say this. The idea of the walking dead as a horror linchpin alone is, and has been fascinating for me ever since I was a kid. But to see them as literal and metaphorical statements simultaneously gives these ones extra power. They can be seen as the simple, raging specters in the Via sanctus, or they can be seen as the composite boiling down of a nihilistic end, devoid of meaning—yet they are somehow starving for it.

In the inner circles of Rome, the barriers are physical. Assumptions of impregnability cause lethargy of spirit and lack of preparation for the ultimate breach. And when that day comes, all men are equal in the grip of the walking dead—and instead of being internally prepared for a glorious resurrection that saves them in the long term, they are externally destroyed by an aberrant resurrection in the short one.

In the margins, the poor and destitute, though hungry physically, also know that the physical hedge for them is improbable, if not laughable. Their equality amongst each other, however, was established in their communion with—each other, making death—in all its forms equal in scope—and an unworthy adversary against the Apostolic Gift, something that is only housed behind hedge of a pure and honest faith—the greatest hedge of all.

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Magic for Libraries, Lockdowns, and Just because

When this whole pandemic thing took off, the lockdowns in California were as bellicose as perhaps anywhere else.  I for one, did not take to it very well, and judging by the societal trajectory that I see at the moment (not to mention the long march through the institutions), neither did anyone else.

I started posting magic tricks on Facebook on a near daily basis.  This got a lot of traffic, as others seemed to rally appreciate the gesture.  Oddly enough, I was doing it for me as much as them.

Needless to say, I had a ton of show cancellations, to include an annual one I do for my Local Library.  Ultimately this led to me creating a montage of these videos, which has been posted here on my local library’s site.  If you’re click-squeamish, just check out the embedded version below.

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You Think Covid-19 is Bad? Wait Until I Release The Pandemic Pocket New Testament

 

By Satan,
Guest Columnist

You don’t have to tell me that 2020 is turning out to be a veritable, traumatic melting-pot of apocalyptica.  I mean, I’m over here, trying to coax that beast out of the sea, setting up a ways and means to dry up the Euphrates, and get a chimney sweep over in anticipation of  . . .  well, a preponderance of smoke.  I’m getting all confused the with “seven heads and ten horns” thing, but I’ll get it. lol.

Then all of a sudden, I’ve got some stupid amalgam of 1918, 1968, and . . . if the protesters keep burning down the infrastructure–1917 as well (Here’s a tip I learned from Winnie Mandela, Adolph Hitler and Ivan the Terrible: People burn better than dioramas, and they make noise too!).

Also, My drill bit broke at the Yellowstone Caldera, so an untimely, world-ending, suffocating super-volcano may have to wait until I can get the time.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t get creative in the interim.

I’ve got a few projects out there

  1. The Diarrhea Dolphins
  2. A sudden influx of piano-wire seatbelt “accidents”
  3. A 12-DVD, Blu Ray, extended collection of Kevin Costner outtakes.

But the pièce de résistance for me is a new an updated take on the scriptures.  I figured I’d leave the Old testament alone, being that it’s already chock full of disruption and violence.  But it also has stories of limitless bravery, foolhardy and near chivalrous pursuits, and even the occasional and heartbreaking fall from great heights (I *might* have a slight conceptual grip on this–but I’M NOT TELLING!)

But this New Testament; what decent narrative of the Gospels is complete without an artistic projection of what would happen if current pandemic social contracts were honored during the time:

Luke Chapter 2:

7)  And she brought forth
her firstborn son, and wrapped
him in swaddling clothes, and
laid him in a manger; because
there was no room for them
in the inn.

8)  And when the governor had
it brought to his ears that the
sojourners eschewed the mask,
his anger was kindled.  And he

had  
all the first born killed with
swords.

Just so you know–Jesus got away( Spoiler: never mind)

Mathew 27

17) Therefore when they were
gathered together, Pilate said
unto them,
Whom wilt that I release
unto you?
Barabbus, or Jesus
which 
is called Christ?

18) And the people spake with
one voice; Barabbus doth  riot
and rape our daughters, but this
Jesus doth flout Ceasar with his
synagogue-going.
 Let us have
him that rapeth!

19) And Pilate made a covenant
that day  
with the people; That no
more taxation
would be used to
pay guards and Keepers
of the Law.
And the people rejoiced, and were
raped according to their deeds
night and day.

Now, I could technically spice up the Old Testament, but . . . I don’t want to.  I’ve got my hands full with this–plus–there’s this “Wormwood” thing I’m discussing with Elon Musk. Coordinates are harder to configure than they seem!

So much to do, and an eternity to do it.

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Strange Stories Amazing Facts, and how Reader’s Digest is an American Treasure

I’ll never forget the time my dad got this book in the mail.  He handed it to me when I was a kid and said, “you’ll like all the interesting stuff in here.”

He was right.  I actually never did quit reading the thing.

Consider it a Ripley’s Believe it or not, with the exception of the Ripley’s penchant for oatmeal filler, balderdash, falsehoods, hoodwinks, hoaxes and speculative snipe-hunts.

The book is simply a compilation of intriguing information– It became a conduit for trivial mysteries–some of which capture the imagination even to this day. Written in a prose and accompanying photos that seems to have a gasp of the ethereal in it, I could not pull myself away.  Here is where I first absorbed things about:

  1. The eerie and almost convincingly-supernatural coincidences between the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.
  2. The treasure presumed to be secreted in a sub-aquatic cavern on Oak Island.
  3. England’s most haunted house–The Borely Rectory.
  4. The mysterious fate of famed spy, Buster Crabb.
  5. Cryogenic preservation of corpses for medical research.

And literally hundreds of other things, such as the visions seen by Dante, People claiming to be Ananastasia, the Tsar’s daughter, and even alleged theophany-as-popes–claiming to have the stigmata on their hands.

Chalk it up to formatting, but the breathy writing would have me up late at night, speculating . . . wishing I could jump on a plane and start hashing out the facts.

It would be many years later, when social media and internet would ruin the trivial–when some chunk of one-off information wasn’t dashed against the rocks of the instantaneous–that the Lincoln Kennedy thing would become a frequent flier with nearly everyone.  There was a day, right through my twenties, when I could quote the writing on that point of intrigue, and hold an audience captive, because they’d never heard of it.  Now, Oak Island has it’s own TV series with a small cadre of also-ran Goonies trying to find the treasure. Ghost hunter programs clog up the Travel Channel, and, well . . .  Google allows the pajama-clad grouch to mic-drop conventional wisdom ad nauseum.

So what does one do with this information?  I remember reading a book on the writing process once.  In there was a suggestion that if you wanted to dig in to the gargantuan task of describing a fictional town–to really paint a picture–that one technique would be to start describing a lone brick on the corner of a building, and then pan out from there.

This book could launch a thousand other books.  Each story is the flashpoint for novels, investigative endeavors, or historical deep-dives.  I imagine the Lincoln/Kennedy thing could be extrapolated to lengths previously unimagined–simply because its been a hermetically-sealed story by itself.

Now I’m going to have to get it back down off the shelf.  I might just have an idea.

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The World’s Last Night

 

“The doctrine of the Second Coming is deeply ‘offensive’cs-lewis to the whole evolutionary or developmental character of modern thought. We have been taught to think of the world as something that grows slowly towards perfection, something that “progresses” or “evolves“.

Christian “end of the world” teaching offers us no such hope! It does not even foretell (which would be more tolerable to our habits of thought) a gradual decay. It foretells a sudden, violent end imposed from without; an extinguisher popped onto the candle, a brick flung at the gramophone, a curtain rung down on the play . . .”  –CS Lewis

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In which I borrow from my own, 2006 Book Review of David Shenk’s “The Immortal Game”

Note:  Apparently this review (which in and of itself is FOURTEEN years old)–has been sitting as a draft in my blog-post hopper.  I have a tendency to think my Amazon reviews are wasted if all they do is languish there like a marooned critic.  So here it is.

It seems like some of the greatest works about a subject emanate from those who’ve made a laborious research of that subject as a relative outsider, as opposed to those who are inexorably saturated in the subject they cover.

Such is the case with The Immortal Game. If David Shenk isn’t considered a chess missionary by the end of this book’s run, then chess as a whole will be the one to lose. Far from being another static test pattern of information, Mr. Shenk very deftly walks the line between burgeoning chess expert and enthusiastic historian.

While the predicatory backdrop for the book is the infamous 1851 match in London between two chess rivals, Adolf Anderssen and Lionel Kieseritzky, the book as a whole serves as a sort of societal snapshot, and how chess has influenced even some of the world’s most weighty decisions. Chess’ innate characteristic of distilling the abstract and insoluble into digestible and concrete realities makes routine appearances throughout history, and the author skillfully makes use of these examples throughout the entire work.

Shenk also explores chess paradoxical side, examining how a game that has driven some of the world’s great players into institutional madness has also functioned as an anchor of sanity for those less inclined to peer directly into the abyss of infinite values; just exactly how was it that chess was a vital diplomatic tool in the hands of Benjamin Franklin, and yet a diplomatic nightmare in the hands of Bobby Fisher?

What I love about this book is the way Mr. Shenk immediately levels the playing field with the reader, by placing himself solely in the camp of one as easily flummoxed by “mate in two” conundrums as the next guy. Impeccably researched and peppered with quotes from the famous as well as infamous, the book sort of creates its own inertia by making the reader wonder what’s around the corner.

By approaching the historical aspects of chess overall, as well the annotations from June 1851, one feels a legitimate sense of journey from someone intellectually curious enough to read a book just like the one they’ve written. The book is a smart read, but not the pretentious work of a chess diva. This is a book that says “here’s what I’ve learned thus far . . .” setting the reader up for either a sequel, or their own journey through the annals of chess history. This is a book that will engage a grandmaster, while driving the novice to learn more about the game. The historical tapestries are far reaching, and rich, yet one never feel the sense of impending, academic overload so many historical texts are guilty of delivering.

I do not intend to downplay the importance of the game after which the book is titled. The game, along with its very insightful annotations, is cleverly woven through the book as a sort of musical coda, before engaging the next movement. The game’s comparatively short 23-move lifespan can be interpreted in many contextual ways. It can be seen as a testament to hope, or a paean to tactical brilliance. One can see the fateful pessimism of Napoleon’s waterloo, or the epic and bloody triumph at Normandy. It can literally be transmogrified and recontextualized an infinite number of ways, and yet never violating the boundaries of plausibility. Yet, Shenk proves the game itself is worthy of study in an academic sense as well. Shenk’s annotations are clear and brief, leaving the readers to discover their own rationale for moves considered simultaneously brilliant and suicidal. I had never studied a game quite so closely, and never really thought a chess game could carry any real pyrotechnic qualities. I was wrong.

For this analysis alone the book is worth its price many times over.

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The Lincoln Conspiracy–an unfinished review

Thus far I’m halfway through what has turned out to be a psycho-therapeutic pit stop.  lincolnBeing that the current state of the world is one of unmitigated anger, listless calls for some undefined goal of “justice,” the burning of infrastructure, the hedging of fortunes, both political and financial, and the appalling manipulation of a world populace against the backdrop of a pandemic–I not only construct an obscenely-long sentence, I also admit that I have had to check out.

What’s interesting about “The Lincoln Conspiracy is,  it nearly parrots the current state of American affairs; a President was elected in a divided country with a controversial set of policy goals.  Immediately, state houses start talking succession.  Overt projections of hate and assassination make the rounds in media, and sub-cultural organizations start plotting to burn the cities, take over Washington DC, destroy the infrastructural framework of the rail systems, and kill the President-Elect.

And yet, I find it comforting, because the insanity of those days doesn’t seem to have the post-modern nihilism that permeates the American Zeitgeist of 2020.  We live in an age where atonement is demanded, and forgiveness is never given.  Even in the midst of the most vociferous and hateful turns of the Civil War, there appeared to be lines of demarcation that said, “Life must resume again, no matter our broken starting place.”

Interestingly enough, it never occurred to me that Lincoln’s election itself would be the starting place for someone wanting to take him out. And yet, why not?  People are people.  It’s not like the slavery and abolitionist factions didn’t have words before the Emancipation Proclamation.  Everyone knew stuff was coming down the pike.  Reasonable men may differ about Lincoln’s dedication to the abolitionist cause, but his actions were undiluted enough to sent John Wilkes Booth into the balcony seating to make sure Our American Cousin had an eternal intermission.

The idea of a plot to kill Lincoln on the way to his Inauguration is a movie-grade plot line–and yet it’s true.  And that fact that we know it as not successful begs the question: How was it foiled?

I’ll leave out most of it, but understand this; the Pinkerton detective agency is involved, along with a cadre of the country’s first commissioned female detectives.  This is done out a matter of recognized logistical ability and expressed self-advocacy for intelligence-gathering, rather than Alan Pinkerton getting “woke,” which is actually a refreshing thing to think about.  The agency of women are instrumental in saving the life of an American President.

Perhaps I should finish reading it before opening my mouth, but since I know he wasn’t killed until 1865, I can safely say he made it to his March 4th, 1861 inauguration.

How he got there, however, is worth the price of the book alone.

The Lincoln Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill America’s 16th President–and Why It Failed–Brad Meltzer and John Mensch.

 

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