Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

44!

44!

It was fourty-four years ago today
Sergeant Pepper taught the kids to play

Monday, July 27, 2015

Watch this Space

The on-line submission system at ANALOG informs me that my sestina has been rejected. Evidently, poetry is not my metier. (Ho ho) I will await official notification, then figure out if I should just post it here for free.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Now, This is Funny

The Thomism Discussion Group in Facebook has a unique way of warning against topic drift or incivility:

Acta et Decreta Omnia
Reverendissimi Inquisitoris Generalis atque Illustrissimi
Colloquii Thomistici Gregis in Libro Facierum Statuti
XIMENÉS de CISNEROS

... In solicitude, therefore, for the continued purity of this forum, and for the exigencies of Our bounden duty, We enjoin this decree upon you, that you ensure that your prospective scriptions be more plainly conformed to the directives which are set forth for Our learned company. ...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Infodumps for Fun and Profit

One of the problems the Writer faces is the dreaded Infodump. This occurs when a writer drops a mass of information on the Reader's head as if the latter were a statue and the former a pigeon. This is especially acute when the story is set in unfamiliar terrain, such as the future, the past, or an exotic country like Iowa, because the reader really does need some info if the setting is not to degenerate into the equally dreaded White Room. 


You are here, or not
One hardly needs to describe the sunny clime of LA or the concrete canyons of NYC, the which are well covered on the screens of television. Nor need the Writer expend effort telling the Reader what subways are and how they work. "Bob, take the A train to Harlem..." is sufficient. One needn't add: "As you know Bob, subways are underground railroads that operate off a powerful electrical current carried in a "third rail" running beside the track. Of the many trains running through this maze of tunnels, one of them, designated "A," runs up the Eighth Avenue tunnel in Manhattan, and..."

...and so on into the background of the IRT, BMT, and how the IND differed from the others... etc. etc. Dig it.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Calvin and Hobbes on Art

The strip is long retired, but continues to speak to us:
Calvin and Hobbes
Always beware of artists with manifestos. Indeed, of anyone with a manifesto.





Saturday, July 18, 2015

Generations

Examining some scanned photographs supplied by Pere, TOF was struck by a thought. Therefore, he is reflexively striking back. The two photographs, plus one of TOF's own, document three generations of Flynn caught at approximately the same ages, to within, he suspects, five years. Here are the images:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Too Close for Comfort, part two

TOF's cousin, his milk-sister from days of yore, was over to the stronghold the other day and, as so often the case, talk turned to the recent murder spree that touched down tornado-like in the West Ward and blew lives apart. The friends of the murdered man, one of whom ran out of the house to comfort him as he lay dying, bore names familiar to TOF from his own schooldays -- Bader and Kutz. And Mariellen, the aforesaid cousin, recollected that she had taught the fellow in middle school. He was not an academic powerhouse, but had worked hard and dutifully and had achieved respectable grades.
Jeffrey S. Knoble Jr.
There had been another murder in Easton this past March 11.

Jeffrey S. Knoble Jr. texted Andrew "Beep" White trying to get a room for the night, and White, trying to be a good Samaritan, rented a room at the Quality Inn downtown, across the street from the McDonald's that the TOFian family sometimes use. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bastille Day

Jerry Pournelle writes:
On July 14, 1789, the Paris mob aided by units of the National Guard stormed the Bastille Fortress which stood in what had been the Royal area of France before the Louvre and Tuilleries took over that function. The Bastille was a bit like the Tower of London, a fortress prison under direct control of the Monarchy. It was used to house unusual prisoners, all aristocrats, in rather comfortable durance. The garrison consisted of soldiers invalided out of service and some older soldiers who didn’t want to retire; it was considered an honor to be posted there, and the garrison took turns acting as valets to the aristocratic prisoners kept there by Royal order (not convicted by any court).

On July 14, 1789, the prisoner population consisted of four forgers, three madmen, and another. The forgers were aristocrats and were locked away in the Bastille rather than be sentenced by the regular courts. The madmen were kept in the Bastille in preference to the asylums: they were unmanageable at home, and needed to be locked away. The servants/warders were bribed to treat them well. The Bastille was stormed; the garrison was slaughtered to a man, some being stamped to death; their heads were displayed on pikes; and the prisoners were freed. The forgers vanished into the general population. The madmen were sent to the general madhouse. The last person freed was a young man who had challenged the best swordsman in Paris to a duel, and who had been locked up at his father’s insistence lest he be killed. This worthy joined the mob and took on the name of Citizen Egalite. He was active in revolutionary politics until Robespierre had him beheaded in The Terror.

And elsewhere we read of the triumph of Reason four years later:
[T]he first such modern genocide in the West took place in France, beginning in 1793. It was undertaken by modern, progressive apostles of Enlightenment and aimed at pious peasants in the Vendée region of France. By its end up to 300,000 civilians had been killed by the armies of the Republic.

This story is little discussed in France. Indeed, a devout historian who teaches at a French university once told me, “We are not to mention the Vendée. Anyone who brings up what was done there has no prospect of an academic career. So we keep silent.”

It is mostly in the Vendée itself that memories linger, which may explain why that part of France to this day remains more religious and more conservative than any other region. The local government opened a museum marking these atrocities on their 200th anniversary in 1993 — with a visit by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who noted during his eloquent address that the mass murders of Christians in Russia were directly inspired by those in the Vendée. The Bolsheviks, he said, modeled themselves on the French revolutionaries, and Lenin himself pointed to the Vendée massacres as the right way to deal with Christian resistance.

It was ordinary farmers of the Vendée and Brittany regions who rose up in 1793 against the middle-class radicals in Paris who controlled the country.
+++++++++

“Not one is to be left alive.” “Women are reproductive furrows who must be ploughed under.” “Only wolves must be left to roam that land.” “Fire, blood, death are needed to preserve liberty.” “Their instruments of fanaticism and superstition must be smashed.” These were some of the words the Convention used in speaking of the Vendée. Their tame scientists dreamed up all kinds of new ideas – the poisoning of flour and alcohol and water supplies, the setting up of a tannery in Angers which would specialise in the treatment of human skins; the investigation of methods of burning large numbers of people in large ovens so their fat could be rendered down efficiently. One of the Republican generals, Carrier, was scornful of such research: these “modern” methods would take too long. Better to use more time-honoured methods of massacre: the mass drownings of naked men, women and children, often tied together in what he called “republican marriages,” off specially constructed boats towed out to the middle of the Loire and then sunk; the mass bayoneting of men, women and children; the smashing of babies’ heads against walls; the slaughter of prisoners using cannons; the most grisly and disgusting tortures; the burning and pillaging of villages, towns and churches.
Anyone for a rousing chorus of Le Marseillaise?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Too Close for Comfort

Last week, Kory Ketrow, 22, who graduated high school a year before the SAMBBITU, was shot multiple times and killed as he was walking home from a friend's house in the early morning of 5 July. This is only a block or so away from the SAMBBITU's own apartment, and that is too damned close.
Kory Ketrow


Lehigh Street, where you don't want to be.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Three Huzzahs for the United States


As TOF writes the Great Fireworks display down on the river is reaching its crescendo, since today was the celebration of the Glorious Eighth. (Yes, we know. Today is the Glorious Twelfth, but it is customary to move celebrations to the nearest weekend for the usual reasons of having people actually attend them. Besides, the 12th of July is Orange Day, celebrating the Williamite victory over the Jacobites at the Battle of the Boyne, and TOF sees no reason to celebrate such a calamity.)


 Heritage Day celebrates the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence, which took place in Easton, as well as Trenton and Philadelphia, on 8 July 1776. This year it was read by a re-enactor playing Robert Levers, the original reader. (One year, they tracked down a descendant of Mr. Levers to do the honors.) There was a second reading in the afternoon in German. (The news of the Declaration was first broken on 5 July 1776 by a Pennsylvanian paper: the Pennsylvanisher Staatsbote
Listen up, dudes!
The Easton Flag, said to have flown on 8 July 1776,
but oldest surviving one is attested in the War of 1812





Sunday, July 5, 2015

Counterattack! Redux!

Nearly a year ago, TOF mentioned a high school project; viz., a 16mm B&W movie set in WWII entitled Counterattack! We made uniforms, borrowed souvenirs from our parents, obtained M1's and ammunition from a nearby gun shop -- it's amazing what kids could buy in them thar days -- as well as dynamite and C4 for special effects. No students were harmed in the making of this film. We wrote a script -- more or less -- in German as well as English and did all the directing and cinematography ourselves. Gary Armitage deserves much of the blame credit for the film, he being the producer and kept the whole enterprise on an even keel. We sold stock in "Keystone Films" to the students at Notre Dame, as well as to parents, for a dollar apiece. Jim Reilly, our director, also deserves great credit for the fact that the final product is actually coherent. It was filmed on his family's Christmas Tree farm, and he knew how to handle the dynamite. Gary was Range Safety Officer.

You can read more about it at the link above, should you wish.

In any event, our 50th class reunion was a couple weeks ago, not too far from the fields where the filming took place. Gary was there along with several of the stars -- Red Scannell, Tony Ingraffea, and TOF himself -- and TOF was inspired to upload the file onto YouTube for the delight and edification of the TOFheads out there.

Be aware that this is a DVD file made from a VHS tape shot off a screen showing of the 16mm B&W original. Consequently, there is at the beginning some out-of-focus, sprocket jumping, and other difficulties that we must all endure unless and until the original film is rediscovered and a better version is made directly therefrom. 

And now, without further ado:

Friday, July 3, 2015

Outward Bound



Hello...

From Low Earth Orbit

From Geosynchronous Orbit

On the way to Mercury:


From the Moon


From a Fly-By



From the other side of the Moon

From Martian Orbit


From Mars


From Saturn


From the Edge of Interstellar Space

colored bands are artifacts of the image
Good-bye....


Images from ExtremeTech
and Scientific American

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Jim-7

An excerpt from a rough draft of "Nexus," currently under construction, has been put on the PREVIEW PAGE.

IV. Jim-7
Alien life, we are told, would be unlike human life, and that may be true enough as regards such trivia as species and body form. Indeed, an alien may possess senses, organs, and appetites unknown to us. What lusts do bats endure that compel their squeaks? Does it pleasure them to receive the echo? How can human minds encompass the hankerings of bats – let alone those of a headwalker?
(This particular species of headwalker, for example, does not feel pleasure in the reproductive act. Rather, it feels a growing pain the longer it abstains, so the pleasure is more like the pleasure of ceasing to hit yourself on the head with a hammer. Mother Nature has more than one way of butt-kicking her children into reproduction.)
And yet, all things pursue the good insofar as they know the good, and the good is whatever preserves and completes its nature. In inanimate bodies, this preservation is called “inertia.” For animate bodies, it is called “life.” The struggle to maintain existence that Darwin saw in living kinds is only a higher form of the struggle of a boulder to remain stubbornly in place.




(cont. at the Preview)

They don't really wait very long these days, do they?

The celebrations are over! Let the carping begin! Because, you know, it's all about collecting bennies and obtaining a government-certified celebration of Me!

Whoa, What's This?