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12/31/2015 - A Year in Review and Thank You

As the end of the year fast approaches, I wanted to say thank you to all of you who have read my books and this blog.

As you know, I started out the year talking about bodily noises, which is always a favorite topic of mine unless you have misophonia, my grandparents were selected as a Typical American Family in 1940, and H.H. Holmes was America's first documented serial killer. There was ConnectiCon in July, where I got to meet George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, and Tony Todd. I explained my conquering of training wheels at the age of six, told of the origins of the teddy bear and Cotard's Syndrome, posted my own obituary, and shared with you my two favorite jokes.

August began my weekly blog, which I will try to maintain for all of my loyalest readers. There was my most embarrassing moment, an interview with James Sutherland and Namoenee, a list of my favorite podcasts, and a letter to my daughter. I answered some of the more popular writer FAQs that I receive. I was pissed off at Kermit the Frog for swearing, took a walk down memory lane, and helped out with a Murder Mystery fundraiser.

My dad had died last December, so it was with sad pride that I shared a skit he wrote for my friend and I when we were kids.

I wrote about how I felt about CBS announcing a new Star Trek coming to us in 2017, and of how I may have had a panic attack. The two were unrelated, and to date the attack has had nothing to do with my lungs or heart; according to the tests anyway, which are still ongoing. I'm waiting on test results from a sleep study, as I believe the shortness of breath was brought on by sleep apnea and stress. I'll be sure to tell you of any findings in next year's blog so stay tuned.

Toward the end of the year, I gave you a free short story, a list of Christmas Spirit, a photo montage of me throughout my years, and started playing the bass guitar. I shared with you and YouTube my Star Trek Jingle Bells, which was embarrassing for some of my family members, but you know what they say about people who can't take a joke. I mean, it isn't about them so they shouldn't be embarrassed, right? There was the family talent show soon after, where Santa's helper showed up, The Force Awakens premiered, and then came Christmas.

And here we are, getting ready to say goodbye to 2015. During the year I have worked on the latest James Sutherland adventure, Future Dark, and am confident in telling you it's 3/4 done. It's going slow but rest assured it's getting there. I also wrote my third screenplay which I am pitching. Know of any producers or directors interested in a comedy?

So thank you again. Happy reading and may 2016 bring you great joy and pleasure.


12/23/2015 - My Review of Star Wars - Episode VII - The Force Awakens

[Spoiler Alert] If you care about reading spoilers than stop right here. If you don't care, then forge on my friend, forge on. [Spoiler Alert]

I have to start off by saying I am a fan of the original trilogy. The original originals. Episodes IV, V, and VI, before their re-release and sans all the added special effects that George Lucas said he wanted to produce the first time but couldn't because "the technology wasn't there" to do them. Less is more, as the saying goes.

The originals were:
Episode IV - A New Hope, 1977
Episode V - Empire Strikes Back, 1980
Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, 1983

And then along came:
Episode I - The Phantom Menace, 1999
Episode II - Attack of the Clones, 2002
Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, 2005

(There's no need to discuss the less-than-loved prequels other than to say I did enjoy seeing Anakin turn into Darth Vader in Episode III.)

All the hype and anticipation about the latest installment, The Force Awakens, was finally met with a shattering of Box Office records when it opened and how everyone is saying how great it is. Yes, it's better than the prequels were, but for me, Episode VII is lacking in originality.

At first, I came away from this movie as, "Wow! That was fantastic." But the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how much it was like Episode IV. Almost exactly. And then I read an article on Motherboard that confirmed my sentiments. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was the "least interesting" movie of the franchise like they did. How could you not like this one if you liked the first one? Episode IV, I mean, which was the first.

You've got Rey, the she-Luke, who is ripped away from her "home" desert planet, Han Solo is now pulling Obi-Wan Kenobi duty in how he mentors her, and there's a new android holding onto sought after information, which the New Order (the Empire without its Emperor) desperately want. Oh, and after 30 years, the Dark Side can't come up with anything better than another Death Star, which is now called Starkiller because it gets its immense power of destruction by sucking stars dry. Really, in 30 years they have the same weapon only larger. So, the Rebel Alliance now has the exact same plot of setting out to destroy the planet killer before it can destroy them, and guess how? By having to lower its shields and shooting at its one particular weak spot. Sound familiar?

What about Kylo Ren, the bad guy, you ask? Well, he's the good son gone bad (again). But unlike his grandfather, Darth Vader, this guy throws tamper tantrums when things don't go his way. Unfortunately, he isn't as sinister as I wanted him to be, even though he does kill his own father.

So where is Luke during all of this? Why, he's the last experienced Jedi, so he's gone and hid himself away, just as Yoda had. If Leia could feel the death of her husband, Han Solo, then surely Luke should have felt the loss of his best friend / brother-in-law when Kylo Ren killed him and quickly come back into the fray. So where was he? Answer: He couldn't show up until the very end because Rey had to go find him just as he once had to find Yoda in the original trilogy, duh. And then, to my disappointment, he has no dialog (can you say cliffhanger?). So, the new Starkiller is destroyed (maybe, we thought so too at the end of IV), we have a new hot-shot pilot named Poe, and Rey, who is perhaps the daughter of Skywalker with all the Force she carries within her. At the very end of the movie, she just stands there holding Luke's lightsaber out to him, because when she visited a remote tavern, the weapon called out to her. Why was Luke without it to begin with?!? It's a Jedi's weapon and he's a Jedi.

(What about Finn, the rogue Stormtrooper? I didn't mention him because frankly, the movie could have survived without him. Captain Phasma too. Both Pointless.)

Anyway, with all the similarities and plot holes, after 32 years since the last good Star Wars movie, this is exactly what we the fans needed to get our hopes up for the franchise. A New Hope, excuse me, an awakening. A cookie-cutter of the original to tell us that Disney will continue to bring us what we need in the Star Wars franchise. Like Motherboard wrote, "No prequel-scale disaster in sight" for this one.

I was 13 when Episode IV - A New Hope came out in theaters and it became a huge hit. By the time Episode V and VI came out, I was working as an usher at the Middletown Moviehouse and we had sell out crowds for weeks for both. I can only imagine that Episode VII - The Force Awakens will be the awakening of a new generation of fans.

I totally enjoyed watching this movie while I was watching it. But I wonder how good it would be for those who have never seen the originals or know the history of the characters on the screen. I think this movie was made for Star Wars fans, so if you're wanting to introduce your kids to it, I would suggest they watch Episodes IV, V, and VI first. And let's hope the next one, Episode VIII, is more inventive and pathbreaking, just like the originals were.


12/20/2015 - Christmas Party Talent Show

It's a family tradition. Every year at this time my extended family; aunts, uncles, cousins with their significant others, and lots of kids running around, gather for a night of conversation and celebration. And there is a talent show. Not everyone has to, but there are plenty who like to get up and perform. For instance, my dad for many years would recite from memory "The Cremation of Sam McGee." My cousin and nephews usually do a Monty Python skit. The littles sing songs for us, mostly carols. Instruments are played. My grandmother would always play "The Sting" on her piano. And a special guest always comes.

So this year, my youngest wanted to participate for the first time. She's six. Having never done a talent in the past (too shy before), she practiced and practiced. And after I bought myself a bass, it was decided I would play with her. I think my wife actually suggested it to our daughter and she agreed. It was still her talent; I wasn't trying to horn in. Anyway, I haven't done a talent in years, probably 40 years if I had to guess. But here we are. Enjoy, and have a Merry Christmas.






12/13/2015 - Star Trek Jingle Bells

Whether you're a fan of Star Trek or not, this is sure to get you into the holiday spirit. If not, well then at least I had fun with it. I picked up this bass guitar 2 weeks ago and thought it would be fun to celebrate the upcoming 50th anniversary of Captain Kirk and Mister Spock. Live Long and Prosper. ST lyrics by me. Original Jingle Bells by James Pierpont.




12/6/2015 - Through the Years…

I work in a cube; a corporate cubicle with 3 grey walls looming down on me. To cheer myself up, I have placed pictures of my daughter from the time she was born to now, more than 6-1/2 years later. I currently have 16 of the best pictures of her hanging on one wall showing the changes she’s gone through in a blink of an eye.

I thought it would be fun to do the same sort of thing with myself. Some years are missing here, but you get the idea.




11/29/2015 - Getting into the Spirit of the Holidays

Every year Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier with stores vying against each other in order to get my business first and it puts me in a bad mood. I don’t like seeing Christmas decorations right after Halloween!

I like Christmas, but I don’t want to see, hear, or think about it until after Thanksgiving. Well after. I don’t participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday either; in fact, when I was single I would sometimes wait until Christmas Eve to do my shopping. When I was single, I didn’t bother putting up a tree for just myself either. It seemed more of a hassle then it was worth. Ba humbug, right?

But now I’m married with kids and if my family wants the tree to go up the day after Thanksgiving, then who am I to say no? In fact, I’ve grown to the point of liking it. It’s become a tradition.

I bring the tree down from the attic and set it up in the middle of our living room. I do it in the middle because it’s easier to walk around it straightening branches and stringing the lights. After, I slide it into the corner and then we all decorate the tree together. The fake fireplace is on and Christmas carols are played (The Muppet’s Christmas Carol soundtrack comes on first).

While putting up the tree this year, I began an A to Z list in my head of all that reminds me of Christmas. You’ll notice there is no mention of stores. Other than they, please let me know if I missed anything.

A
advent calendars, Alice’s Restaurant, angel

B
ballet, bells, birth, Blitzen, blizzard, blustery, boots, bough, bow, box

C
candle, candy, candy cane, cap, card, carolers, caroling, carols, carrots, celebrate, celebration, charity, chestnuts, chimney, Christmas, Christmas Eve, cider, coal, cold, Comet, cookie, Cupid

D
Dasher, Dancer, December, decorations, dinner, display, Donner

E
eggnog, elf, elves, evergreen, exchange

F
family, Father Christmas, feast, Feliz Navidad, festival, festive, festivus, fireplace, firewood, frankincense, friends, frost, Frosty the Snowman, fruitcake

G
garland, gifts, gingerbread, gingerbread house, gingerbread man, giving, gold, goodwill, goose, green, greetings, guests

H
happy, hark, holiday, holly, hope, hot chocolate, hot cider, hugs

I
ice skates, icicle, icy, ivy

J
Jack Frost, Jesus, jingle bells, jolly, joy, joyful

K
kids, kings, Krampus, Kris Kringle

L
lights, list, logs, Lord, love

M
manger, merry, Merry Christmas, mince pie, Miser Brothers (from A Year Without A Santa Clause (my favorite)), mistletoe, mittens, myrrh

N
nativity, naughty, nice, nippy, Noel, North Pole, nutcracker, nutmeg

O
occasion, ornaments

P
package, pageant, parade, partridge, party, peace, pie, pine tree, pinecone, plum pudding, poinsettia, popcorn string, Prancer, presents

Q
?

R
receive, red, reindeer, rejoice, reunion, ribbon, ritual, Rudolph

S
Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, scarf, Scrooge, season, season's greetings, shopping, singing, skates, sleds, sleigh, sleigh bells, snow, snowballs, snowbound, snowfall, snowflake, snowmen, spirit, star, St. Nick, stocking, stocking stuffer, sugarplum, sweater

T
tidings, tinsel, toboggans, togetherness, toys, tradition, tree, trimming, trips, turkey

U
unwrap

V
vacation, Virgin Mary, visit, Vixen

W
winter, wintry, wise men, wish, wonder, workshop, wrap, wrapping paper, wreath

X
X-mas

Y
yule, yule log, yuletide

Z
?


11/22/2015 - An Evil Genius’ Monologue

T-minus fifteen minutes.

“Is it time for my monologue?” asks the fat-faced albino. He’s dressed in an all-white suit with a frilly white boa around his neck, making his grey skin seem a shade less pale, like an egg against the fur of a polar bear. The metal point of his cane tics on the floor of his lair as he ambles past his minions toward the Impossible Missions agent who is bound to a stone table.

Albus reaches the great slab and waves off the minion watching over her. He peers down with his squinty pink eyes at his nemesis tied down on the table in a human X. He answers his own question, “I believe it is, Agent Kyle, because the time has come for you to die and it is only fitting that my voice should be the last one you hear. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Miranda Kyle remains silent and turns away from the man she has spent years trying to capture. She buries her ruby lips into a thick of ginger hair resting on her shoulder, where she had spied a hairpin earlier and now quickly inchworms it into her mouth.

“No?” Albus says. “That’s a shame.” He hooks the wolf-head handle of his cane under her chin and pulls her face back toward him. He is pleased to see nothing but contempt in her eyes but pouts just the same. “It’s always so much more fun when your kind squirms and begs for mercy. Funny that the males of IM scream more than the women do.”

He turns to watch his minions prepare the launch and Miranda looks to her right hand. She spits the hairpin into her palm and buries it quickly into a fist. Albus hasn’t noticed, but when he turns back to her she gives the expected reaction and tenses all of her muscles against the restraints. He laughs at her pathetic attempt to reach for him, yet he admires her beauty and strength. He slides the mouth of the wolf down to her throat and admires the taut tendons he finds there. He licks his dry grey lips.

In your dreams, she thinks.

T-minus ten minutes.

She looks up to the rocket exhaust cone staring down on her with its gaping black hole; soon to be blasting out enough energy to melt everything in the cave, including her, unless she can find a way to stop it.

Albus follows her gaze upward. “My greatest achievement … the launching of a nuclear warhead.” He sweeps the silver cane up in a grand arc to point to his obsession and lets out a maniacal laugh before he gimps away from her. His egotism has turned his attention to the World map chiseled into the stone wall.

A quick glance at the five minions busy at their stations tells her she’s free to work on the lock which restrains her arm. The IM agent barely hears Albus’ ravings as she concentrates on the first bracelet. With her wrist at an almost impossible angle, she stretches her fingers to the point where she wonders if they’ll even reach.

Slowly, carefully, without a breath, this is her one chance.

“You may wonder what my target is, well wonder no longer, Agent Kyle. It’s Washington D.C. The White House, the Capital Building, they’ll be levelled to the ground. Millions will perish.” Another evil laugh bounces around the cave.

Once the hairpin is in the lock, Miranda tries turning it. She ignores the bead of sweat as it rolls down her brow and stings the corner of her eye. With the slightest of audible clicks she’s done it; her right arm is free and no one has noticed as she leans over to work on her left side.

“And with the government in chaos, I shall take command with my drones, declare Martial Law, and rule these dearly misguided United States of America.”

T-minus five minutes.

Another click and Miranda flexes her abs to sit effortlessly upright to begin working the rudimentary locks at her ankles. With both hands free she’s able to work them quickly and she’s out of her shackles in seconds. She grabs a double-edged blade from her boot; the only weapon the minions did not find on her when she allowed herself to be caught.

“With the United States arsenal at my disposal I shall launch more missiles and everyone will tremble to hear my name.” Albus is still looking at the map, dreaming of his world supremacy, when Miranda slips quietly off the slab.

She creeps up behind the closest minion and slits his throat, and as she eases his body to the stone floor one of the others turns and notices. He’s twenty feet away, but his alarm is preempted by the knife thrown deep into his larynx. His bloody gargle isn’t heard over his boss’ speech.

Albus contemplates, “Will there be no one to stop me? What will I do once I rule the world?”

The IM agent uses her cat-like moves to run and flip over the flat bed of a transport truck. In mid-air she grabs an eight-foot length of steel tubing off its bed and an extra twist garners her the third minion’s neck between her ankles. It snaps like a twig as she uses her momentum to send his limp body crashing into the fourth bad guy; who now lays unconscious. As she lands on her feet she hurls the tubing like a javelin and impales the last minion through his chest and out the back. Blood mixes with flesh as thick droplets drip and splatter on the ground. It is unclear whether he has died from the hallow spear or the electric shock from when the conductor panel behind him was breeched. It doesn’t matter either way.

Miranda turns to find the egg with legs trying to scurry away, his monologue interrupted and his boa trailing behind him like a kite tail. Tic-tic-tic. He moves fast for a large man with a gimp. A quick glance tells her he is headed for the blast doors; his only escape.

T-minus two minutes.

She won’t be able to reach him in time, so she pulls the knife out of the second minion’s throat and flings it across the cave like a pitcher with bases loaded, two out, and it’s the bottom of the ninth. It isn’t Albus she’s aiming for, but the control panel next to the blast doors. The panel explodes in yellow and blue sparks and the doors slam shut with a magnetic clang and swoosh of air. The two of them now trapped.

Albus stops short, his armpits soaked through from exertion. He turns to Agent Kyle. “You’ll be killed too,” he tells her between breathes.

She struts over to one of the control panels, confident in her decision. “Not if you give me the abort code.”

He straightens his back. The evil genius would rather die. “Never,” he says.

Miranda wasn’t expecting that answer. “Come, come, Albus. Live to fight another day. Give me the code and I’ll let you go.” She’s annoyed at the price she’s willing pay to save millions. At the same time she looks over the console for a self-destruct button. There’s always a self-destruct button.

“It’s a failsafe launch sequence, Agent. There is no stopping it.”

T-minus one minute.

A pair of rocket igniters come to life one-hundred feet above them. A steady rain of orange sparks shower down to the slab table in the center of the cave floor and Miranda winces at the thought of still being tied to it; the searing pain of a thousand sparks burning through her flesh is unimaginable.

All of the dials and readouts look the same. She’s not a rocket scientist, so she wonders why they aren’t clearly labeled. Budget issues maybe? “Will it be worth it, Albus,” she asks, “To die and not see your plan come to fruition?”

T-minus thirty seconds.

“Oh,” he begins as he slowly tics toward her. “This isn’t how I planned for my life to end, but what a glorious way to go—out with a bang, as it were—I will be a martyr for all of those who agree with my vision. Everyone will see just how corrupt our government is. It is time for us to begin anew; wipe the slate clean; to start again without making the same mistakes; an innocence as pure as the driven snow. No. I don’t need to bear witness to my prophecy, Agent Kyle, because I know my name will be written into the history books.”

T-minus ten seconds.

Miranda realizes this is the end. There’s not enough time for there to be anything else. She’s sorry for not being able to stop the launch, but is pleased that Albus’ terror streak will finally end. Maybe, she thinks, maybe the Air Force will shoot down the missile off the East Coast before it reaches ground-zero. It’s a glimmer of hope she’ll take with her.

Five, four, three.

She turns to her adversary with a nagging question. “What is it with you evil geniuses and your monologues?”

Two.

Albus shrugs his shoulders in response; finally speechless.

One.

Miranda smiles.

Ignition.

The End


11/15/2015 - My Panic Attack

I'm fifty-one, a little overweight (okay, more than a little overweight, but I carry it well), and I used to smoke. So, this past Friday morning, while in the shower, I became really short of breath, like my lungs turned into little sacks and I just couldn't expand them enough to get air into them; and along with the feeling of ingestion just below my sternum, I thought I was having a heart attack.

Just the thought of having a heart attack can be stressful. I was scared, which made my catching my breathe even worse. It was like I was going to suffocate under the shower head, and my nerves became worse because of it. I ended up sitting down in the tub, having to force myself to calm down. I breathed in through my nose - in with the good, then breathed out through my mouth - out with the bad. Soon, I was breathing normally again, but I was still scared.

By the time my shower ended, meaning when I finally had the courage to move, my symptoms had changed to feeling cold and clammy. I dried off and got dressed, slowly, let the dogs out, fed them, and went slowly back upstairs, where I told my wife, Jeannine, who was awake, "I don't feel well." But she didn't understand my seriousness until I added, "I'm going to drive myself to the emergency room."

To my wife's credit, she wanted to drive me but I didn't let her. Yes, I am stubborn and selfish. I didn't want to deal with the time waiting for the kids to get ready for school, and if we rushed them, their whining would have stressed me out more. So no, I drove myself, slowly and carefully to the hospital.

I called Jeannine when I got there, then called my boss and left her a voice mail at 6:30 in the morning, and then slowly walked into the emergency room. By now my hands were shaking a little bit to keep cold and clammy company. There was no one else there, so with no lines/no waiting, within ten minutes after an expedient check-in, I was half-naked with a flimsy gown over my frontside and open in the backside and I was quickly hooked up to an EKG machine. The printout looked fine, "but better to have the doctor look at it."

Before the doc came to see me, a vampire came in and drew 3 vials full of blood and left me with an open IV. I got hooked up to an oxygen and heart monitor. The doctor came in, asked me to explain what happened, what symptoms I was still having, and told me they were going to test my enzyme levels now and then again in 2 hours. The means curve of my enzymes will determine if I indeed had an event or not.

The first good news came a hour or so later when the doc popped his head in saying my enzyme levels were fine, but the thyroid results hadn't come back yet. Another hour passed with another red vial filled.

Being alone in the ER, I was happy to be able to use my phone. I played games and posted updates to friends and received well wishes back to help pass the time there. Thank you all you facebookers. After fours hours of lying around uncomfortably on a gurney with one thin blanket and being hooked up to wires, which gave warning beeps if ever I moved wrong, the doctor came back a third and final time. "Are you ready to go home?" he asked.

All my blood work had come back fine, including my thyroid. He suggested that since he didn't feel that I had a heart attack, that it must have been a panic attack. They can't actually say that in their prognosis, as they don't have a "code" for it, so he put me down as "Shortness of Breath, Unclear Etiology," meaning they didn't know the cause. They sent me home with a prescription for Lorazepam and I have to follow up with my primary doctor. I have an appt. for this Wednesday.

While I don't feel as bad as Friday morning I still don't feel great. I feel oogey, and not quite my self. I took some Adavan yesterday, one when I got home and one when I went to bed. Today I felt fine until I ate breakfast (cereal) when I felt a little shaky again. I took another one and sat down to write this. I feel fine now.

Is it my nerves? Probably.

Why are they shot? Well, I hate to admit it, but my job is sucking the life out of me. Leadership has created such a lean workforce that it has become a very stressful environment. It's a pity too because I used to love my job.

Stress can kill, so something will need to change. Maybe I should take up yoga and learn how to meditate?


11/7/2015 - CBS announces a new Star Trek series for 2017

Those of you who know me or read this blog know that I am a fan of Star Trek, but with that said, I was not overly impressed with the last movie, Star Trek: Into Darkness. Yes, it was impressive as an action movie, but the stomping all over the original second movie, The Wrath of Khan, was not necessary; the swapping of dialog from old to new was uncalled for, some go so far as to calling it plagiarism, and the science behind the science-fiction was nonsensical. If they had stopped at just the rogue agent plot it would have been so much better, but I digress. I mention it again here because a guy, among many, who was involved in the last two movies and its controversial alternate timeline, Alex Kurtzman, will serve as Executive Producer to this newly announced series on CBS.

Without knowing any details of this new series, I'm exited for a new Star Trek, but not if it's going to be a messed up one like Into Darkness was. This new series needs to shake things up and expose us to new elements, yes, but it also needs to be true to the five television series and the twelve movies (um, discounting the odd numbered ones, of course - fellow fans will know what I'm talking about).

I'm excited for a new Star Trek series because not only are we overdue for one but whatever the creatives have come up with is strong enough to get the execs to give it the green light.

The hardest task for CBS will be to make it exciting for the next generation who love the new movies AND to keep the fans from the very beginning happy. To do so, I think it should stay in the original timeline and it should deal with something we haven't seen before. This means either a prequel to the original series (Kirk and Spock), like the upcoming crowd-sourced Axanar (an independent film with Alec Peters as Garth of Izar), or something after The Next Generation (Captain Jean-Luc Picard). Wouldn't it be great to give Patrick Stewart a cameo, as Admiral Picard, sending a new crew out on a five year mission?

With the success of the new movies, controversial as they may be, the box office figures don't lie, so CBS may continue with the alternate timeline. I have to speculate whether or not the new series may being a continuation of the next movie due out in 2016 for Star Trek's 50th anniversary. If the execs were smart, they would set us up for the premise of the new show at the end of this next movie, but alas, the new television series is not related to the upcoming feature film, Star Trek Beyond, which will be distributed by Paramount Pictures next summer.

Exciting as all this is, one thing I'm worried about is CBS will be airing the new Star Trek on their CBS All Access streaming service for $5.99 a month (CBS All Access already offers every episode of all previous Star Trek television series). The announcement said that the new Star Trek pilot will broadcast on CBS, but then the subsequent episodes will only be available on the streaming service. I don't mind paying the six bucks, but it makes me wonder how many episodes we'll actually get and what kind of budget they'll have without advertisers. Or will CBS be really greedy and have us sit through ads too? We'll have to wait and see.

I glad there will be more Trek, but the caveat to it is my fingers are crossed in hope that the movie and TV series will both be great and that the Star Trek franchise will be around for another 50 years. Always to Live Long and Prosper.


11/1/2015 - The Mystery of the Secret Cave by G. Warren Westbrook

For the sake of argument I will say I was around 10 years old when my dad wrote a little sketch for my best friend, Mark, and I to perform. It’s silly now, but back in circa 1974, we were thrilled and thought it a pretty cool story. We even went as far as to record it using a portable cassette recorder with its brown plastic shoulder strap and little hand-held on/off microphone, and we made it with as many sounds effects as we could muster in and around Lake Pocotopaug. I would give my left arm to hear that long lost recording again, but I came across the original papers recently, which is just as good. They were yellowed and water stained but still legible, so I typed them up so that they would last another generation. I have a copy and I gave one to Mark for nostalgia, but I have decided to share it here too. I’m not sure why my Dad thought we were so tired all the time…

Prop: GONG – GONG – GONG – (12 times)

Announcer1: The Witching Hour

Prop: GONG

Announcer2: The Witching Hour – brought to you tonight by that miraculous new cereal “Crunchy-Gooees.” Can a cereal be crunchy and gooey at the same time? You bet it can. Just pour “Crunchy-Gooees” in a bowl and then add milk to ½ of the bowl only – practice for about one year until you finally find the answer – now you have “Crunchy-Gooees.” Now back to The Witching Hour, a Mark-Jon Production.

A1: Settle back. Relax. Listen to Mark and Jon in their latest adventure, “The Mystery of the Secret Cave.” Here’s Mark and Jon…

Mark: I’m getting sleepy. We’ve been fishing in this stream for four hours now and not one fish. Not one! Think I’ll take a nap!

Jon: I’m sleepy too. Maybe we’ve been in the same spot too long. Let’s move upstream!

M: Okay. Nothing doing here. Get your stuff together. The walk will wake us up!

J: Wow! Look at that white water. Boy, Mark, this is real wilderness. Mark, listen, hear that?

M: Yeah, sounds like a waterfall. Let’s go find it. (Pause) Ugh. Oh. Gee, that waterfall was further away than we thought. Let’s rest awhile.

J: Come on, let’s go a little further. It’s a lot louder now. I’m hot and tired too. I think it’s pushing through the bushes to try to keep next to the stream. Look at that white water now. We can’t be too far away. Ugh. Oof.

M: Well, Jon, there she is. Boy, what a beauty. Must be 10 feet high, just like a giant shower. Hey, that gives me an idea, let’s take a giant shower!

J: I’m with you, Mark. Last one in’s a rotten egg.

M: Wow! That water is really coming down. Almost knocks you off the ledge.

J: Yeah, man, this is excellent. Think I’ll just lean back against the rock and let the water pour over me! Hey, there’s nothing here! I’m way back out of the water. Mark, do you hear me?

M: Where did you go? Where are you?

J: Mark, go get the flashlights and come on in!

M: Okay, I’m back. Where are you? Oh, there you are. Gosh, I was yelling as loud as I could out there. Turn on your light.

J: There. Look, Mark, a cave, a secret cave!

M: Wow. It goes way back. I can’t see the end. Follow me!

J: Wait. Hold on, Mark. There’s a couple of reasons why we shouldn’t go charging in there like bull’s in a China shop. First, we don’t know when the last inhabitants were here and we don’t want to destroy any ancient dishes or tools or weapons they may have left here, and secondly, we don’t know if there is anything or anybody in here now. Go easy and shine your light all around before taking each step.

M: You’re right, Jon. Hey, there’s an old piece of pottery the Indians must have left here – in perfect condition!

J: Yeah, but here’s something that’s not so old – a cigarette butt. Let’s see. Marlboro, that’s not very old. I’m beginning to have a strange feeling about this cave!

M: Hey, Jon! Look at this – a canvas bag, looks new. What’s the name on it? Let’s see, B – R – I – N – K – S – Brinks. Hey, this is a money bag.

J: Hey, Mark, here are some more money bags and they’re full. Mark, let’s get out of here right now. No! Don’t take the bags. Leave them. There are too many of them anyhow. C’mon, let’s go! Ugh. Whew. There! Get behind those bushes. Now turn your back to me and pick a long and a short straw from the grass, and don’t let me know which is which!

M: I know what you’re thinking. I’ll stay here and you go for the Sheriff or the State Cops or whoever is the law around here!

J: No! This is the fairest way. Whoever stays has to follow anybody who comes back for the loot! Hold them out here and I’ll pick one. There. Let me see yours. Okay. I got the short one. I stay!

M: Okay. Here’s the plan, I’ll work my way downstream the way we came and you keep watch. Wait a minute. Have we got everything? We don’t want to leave anything here to show we’ve been here. Check your stuff and I’ll check mine. Okay? Here I go. I’ll bring the troops. Good luck!

J: Good luck to you, Mark. And hurry back. I’ll hold the fort, I hope! (pause) Well, here I am, got to get comfortable but not so soft that I fall asleep. There, that’s it. If I nod, my nose will hit that branch. Hope Mark makes it back okay!

A1: We’ll be back with Mark and Jon after this announcement.

A2: “Crunchy-Gooees” folks. There. Fill up ½ of the bowl, no, try it from the other side, now you have it, or do you? Too bad! Try again, and again, and again. Now back to Mark and Jon.

M: (whisper) Boy! It’s tougher going back than it was going up to the waterfall. I’ve got to keep out of sight, don’t know how those crooks got to the cave. Oops! (falls down) Got to go easy. Don’t want to break a leg before I get to a phone!

J: (whisper) Oops! Almost fell asleep. Good thing I put that branch there. Wonder how Mark’s doing? What was that? Somebody coming. Keep cool, Jon Ol’ boy. Got a good lookout here—right on top of the falls. Hey! There are three of them. Mean looking characters going into the cave. Now what do I do? Lot of big rocks around here. I wonder. If I pushed that one rock, all those big boulders would fall down and block the entrance to the cave. Well, here goes. Ugh. Oof. Ugh. Good-bye boulders. Oops! Almost got caught in the landslide. The whole hill is coming down. Hold on Jon boy! Hope that did it! (lot of noise!!)

Complete Silence

M: Jon? Jon? Jon, are you there? The Sheriff is here, and two deputies. Hey, what happened to the waterfall? Jon! Jon!

J: Over here Mark. Help me down from this ledge. Hello Sheriff. You’ll find them under those rocks in a cave!

M: The Sheriff says we’ll be heroes, Jon. These crooks are number one on the list.

J: All I want to do is go home and get some sleep. C’mon Mark. Maybe we can go fishing again tomorrow.

Prop: GONG – GONG – GONG – (12 times)

The End.

Thanks again Dad.


10/25/2015 - Whodunit? I'm not telling.

I had a nice time at the Murder Mystery Fundraiser for Children of Incarcerated Parents last night. You may read all about the cause in my previous blog below, but I wanted to recap the evening for those who could not make it. The food was good, the company better, and the show was short, but fun. I will not spoil the whodunit for you just in case you ever see it for yourself, but I will reiterate that it was for a good cause, and like my small amount of graphic contributions, everything was by volunteer or donation. I went with my brother and his wife (thank you guys for coming), and I ended up winning some Wood-n-Tap gift certificates in one of several silent auctions, along with two tickets to the Funny Bone Comedy Club, and a pair of Sports Ear Buds.

I want to congratulate Ida Terry, Executive Director, MA, LADC, Carol J. Boggs Bernier, President, Social Service Professional, and to all of the actors, staff, and members who helped put on this event. I'm sure it will be even a bigger success next year so long as we continue to spread the word of this non-profit organization. Along with our help, they will make a difference in the lives of children with incarcerated parents. Please donate if you can.

www.reachhealthykids.org


10/7/2015 - A Murder Mystery Fundraiser for Children of Incarcerated Parents

Frederick Douglas is quoted, “It is easier to build a child than to repair a man.”

There are over 7.5 million children nationwide who have one or both parents incarcerated in prison. 7.5 Million. Can you imagine how hard it must be on a child to have a parent in prison? The weight on their shoulders must be tremendous and no one should have to go through that alone, regardless of the circumstances.

That’s why there are programs which can help these kids.

One program in particular is the REACH Training Healthy Children Initiative Inc. in the Greater Hartford area and they offer specialized training and educational programs to raise awareness of the impact a parent caught up on the wrong side of the justice system can have on a child. Through socio-drama, public lectures, and preventive conferences, REACH is working to build a network of providers and community partners to address the needs of these children.

It is up to all of us to teach our children that they are special people regardless of their parent’s status; that they are worthy of having a good life; that they have the potential to grow above their circumstance.

But making people aware through training programs takes money. REACH Training Healthy Children Initiative Inc. is non-profit, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need money to run these programs. If you can, please donate to this worthwhile cause at www.reachhealthykids.org. You may donate with a major credit card or PayPal.

If you feel the need to receive something for your tax-free donation (besides the gratification of helping our youth), there is an upcoming Murder Mystery Dinner for $45 per person, and all proceeds go toward the REACH program.



I donated my time by fixing the text on this flyer and by manipulating the images on the left in Photoshop. The very talented Terry, shown in picture #2, asked me to place his head on the maître d in picture #1, resulting in picture #3.

“The fundraiser will include a silent auction,” said Terry, who will be acting in the show. “There will be a full-course appetizing dinner as well as a featured live show. The show, billed as a ‘Murder Mystery’ is sure to fill the atmosphere with suspense and laughter as the characters set the stage for a fast-paced, hilarious ‘whodunit’ and invites the audience to assist in solving the mystery.”

If you would like to purchase a ticket to the show, you may call Terry direct @ 860.566.0494 or visit their website. www.reachhealthykids.org

Please help this cause if you can. Our children deserve a fighting chance to reach their highest potential.

Update 10/15/2015 - the REACH and Eventbrite web sites have used my blog with my permission.


10/4/2015 - An Interview with Namoenee

After I interviewed my friend, James Sutherland, I heard from his wife, Namoenee. She wanted to know if I wanted to interview her as well. “Of course I do,” I said. I have known her practically my whole life, though she was born four-hundred years before me. I knew her from the Legend of Lake Pocotopaug: a real legend in East Hampton, CT, where I grew up every summer. I couldn’t wait to meet her in person.

She showed up promptly at 4PM, and why wouldn't she? She is a time traveller just as her husband is; it's how they met. But instead of just popping into my living quarters, or phasing in, as he calls it, she knocked on my front door.

After some small talk and her soaking up every last detail of my home, we convened to my home studio. The following transcript was recorded in its entirety…

Welcome Namoenee. Your request to come and speak with me took me by surprise.

Thank you for having me. I hope I’m not inconveniencing you in any way.

Not at all. It is an honor to finally meet you. From hearing about you as a child and then reading about you in the James Sutherland Chronicles, I feel I know so much about you; like we are long time friends (acquaintances, really). Is there something specific you would like to talk about? The floor is yours.

I have nothing specific, but as a strong character in my husband’s manuscripts, I thought his readers would like to hear from me as well. He has a lot of female followers because of me, not that I am jealous of this. I am not, but I thought perhaps they would like to know more about me.

Fair enough. Unlike James, you became a time traveler not by your own choice, but were swept up in other people’s affairs. Do you resent their interference?

If the Professor hadn’t interfered I would be dead, so I think what you’re asking me is do I miss my people? Of course I do, my father the most, but I did what I needed to do to save them. I can’t go back now even if I wanted to, and besides, I always knew there was more to life than on the shores of Lake Pocotopaug.

Living up to your name of ‘She That Is Curious,’ how have you adjusted to the concept of time traveling?

When the Professor brought me to the Earth Time Authority, I thought it was Powwaw magic, and not just the time travel, but everything. All the amenities of the future were beyond me; running water, electricity. You have to remember I am a daughter of an Indian chief from the 1600s and the things you take for granted in your timeline are often wondrous to me. I’ve always been curious, and luckily, I was the sachem’s daughter and could get away with it in a culture where women weren't meant to be curious. The future is a much brighter place; people, all people, have the right to live equally in the eyes of others. It’s an advantage that I will fight to keep.

Your husband is calling his next manuscript Future Dark, which sounds ominous compared to the bright picture you just painted. Care to elaborate?

I cannot speak for him, but it’s all relative, isn’t it? I mean, sometimes a rich person’s waste is a poor person’s meal ticket, and I've seen a lot of waste. As the Professor was fond of saying, the future is always subject to change, so I trust that Hobomoko [the Great Spirit] will guide me to the correct future.

How will he do this?

He will show me the atrocities which must be fixed.

So the future is bleak but we can fix it, is that it?

That’s the idea. The past needs to be manipulated to ensure the future we deserve.

That sounds a lot like T-MEEP’s motto. Have you converted over to their philosophy?

I suppose I have, in a way, but it will not be for the benefit of only a few individuals like T-MEEP has tried to do for itself. I can’t say more other than my plan will save millions.

How does James feel about this? (Namoenee didn't respond.) All right. When we interviewed your husband (see 9/6/2015), he became upset and left abruptly. Can you tell us why?

I cannot, but if you happen to see him, I have a message for him. James, I love you, but I have to do this. Mud nunchedush ne.

It was at this time that Namoenee said thank you to me and, just like her husband before her, she phased out to destinations unknown.

I had to have Namoenee’s words to James translated. Literally, they were, “No go after I.”

Does this mean, "Don't follow me" (for your own safety) or "Don't come after me" (you won't like what you find)? Either way, there was a tone of warning in her voice that I didn't like. It sounded as ominous as James' next title. She may have said she wanted equal time for the readers, but I think this message to James was what she was really after.

In both of these interviews, it was clear to me that neither Namoenee nor James were willing to talk about something that happens in the future. I can only speculate, knowing him as I do and now having met her, that they both seem very hurt and upset over their circumstances. My only hope is that they can work it out.

It’s unfortunate that she wouldn’t explain more, but I’m sure we’ll find out what it all means once Future Dark is released. James said he is 2/3 of the way done writing it, so I will look forward to reading what’s going on with them. In the meantime, you may find his first two novels, A Legend in Time and Onboard the Marauder, on Amazon.com.


9/28/2015 - Who says you can’t go home again?



My daughter started first grade this year and is now going to the same elementary school that I went to. A short distance away from the school grounds is the house I lived in when I was her age, so the other day as I picked her up after school, we decided to take a walk to see it.

It basically looks as I remember it. It has grey vinyl siding now instead of white clapboards. There’s a deck to the south where there used to be a swing set and a trellis filled with grape vines. The dirt driveway is paved and there is an extension built onto the garage for an extra bay, but it was like seeing a long lost friend again; I overlooked all of the cosmetic changes and recognized the warmth she still had in her eyes.

So many memories came rushing to the surface and ghosts were stirred as my daughter and I walked by. Some I shared with her, others I didn’t. The ones that I didn’t tell her, she either wouldn’t have gotten without their context or I didn’t want her getting any bad ideas. Ha!

My cousin, Willa, still lives next door and what used to be my grandparents’ house is just beyond her. Willa’s older sister, Pam, and her husband bought my house when my parents divorced. I was eight.

As we walked the street of my childhood, Willa drove up with her always welcoming smile. She reveled in the fact I was there showing my kid the neighborhood and said I could take her inside my old place, that Pam wouldn’t mind. I declined. Even though I would like to share more memories of my youth with my daughter, I didn’t want to impose on anybody. I said, “If [Pam and Larry] ever decide to sell, maybe we’ll take a walk through it during the open house.”

Secretly I thought, wouldn’t it be cool to buy the house I grew up in if ever it did come up for sale?

I realize this would be impractical, what with my family being settled in our own place. I have no idea how the girls would feel about it, but I know they wouldn’t want to give up our new pool and deck. But, it’s fun to think about. Who says you can’t go home again?


9/22/2015 - Kermit the Frog Should Not Swear

Last night, during the premier of The Muppets, Kermit the Frog said “hell” and that’s not okay with me, so shame on you, Disney, for tainting the iconic wholesomeness of the Muppets.

I understand the want to bring back an edgier, more up-to-date Muppets, but taking a “grown-up” view of them when you know how much kids are drawn to the Muppets is just wrong.

Should they put a swear word into the Muppets 3D show at the Disney Studios theme park? Of course not, because of all the kids in the audience. So why do it during the earliest primetime slot when kids will be able to view it?

When my 6 yr. old turned to me after hearing it and said that hell is a swear word, I had to explain to her that hell is the opposite of heaven so it was okay to say in that context. But it wasn’t in that context, so now Disney has compelled me to tell a fib to my daughter. Not only is Jim Henson rolling in his grave right now, but you’ve got Walt doing it too, so shame on you again!

There were other ways to handle it. First of all, there shouldn’t have been any swearing and the executive who authorized it should be fired. Secondly, if you really wanted Kermit to be edgier, you could have gotten away with it by bleeping the swear word out and then Sam the Eagle could have said, “You can’t say bleep on TV.” Now that would have been funny; adults would have gotten it and kids wouldn’t have been the wiser.

But instead of being funny, the show fell flat. Oh, there were some highlights, like when when guest Elizabeth Banks threw Scooter out of the golf cart (I’ve always been a sucker for physical comedy), but that was the only moment I laughed.

Unlike the previous The Muppet Show, the classic “behind the scenes” formula which ran from 1976-1981, branched Jim Henson’s Muppets out of Sesame Street and the toddlers-only demographics, this new show lacked the manic energy and mayhem that made the original show so great. By trying to make all the “backstage” drama real by mixing in real people made it unrealistic at best, specifically Fozzy dating a human woman. That’s not funny, it’s weird. And what was the point of Tom Bergeron as the lacky?

Speaking of weird drama, what’s up with the whole Kermit and Miss Piggy dynamic? Sure, they’ve broken up, I understand the need for a renewed tension between them, but to make Kermit a pig-craving frog by having him lust after another pig just isn’t right … it’s Miss Piggy who is self-centered and should not be able to move on by dating another frog. That would make sense, but having Kermit with another pig just makes him seem like he has a fetish, and again this is not something kids should be watching.

But maybe that was their goal: to make an adult show for those who are now grown-up fans of the original program. I don’t know. What I do know is … if I can’t watch The Muppets with my kids, then I won’t be watching it at all.


9/20/2015 - Writer FAQs

As a writer, I get asked the same questions quite often. Questions like, “What made you become a writer?” “What inspires you?” “How do you come up with your ideas?” and “When will your next book come out?” There are also a lot of questions about my books themselves, of which there are currently three. But the most frequently asked question that readers ask me is, “Who is your favorite author?”

Although I’ve learned to broaden my horizons over recent years, I generally stick to reading science fiction, but alas, I don’t have an all-time favorite writer in that genre.

I grew up on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Tarzan” and Robert E. Howard’s “Conan, the Barbarian.” In Fantasy, I liked reading Piers Anthony most; I loved his early Xanth and Incarnations of Immortality novels. In Horror, I like Stephen King the most. I’ve read all of his works except for the Gunslinger novels (I confess I did read two of them but Roland and crew did nothing for me). I enjoy Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon books equally to William Shatner’s Star Trek series. And although I can’t single out an author in my preferred escapism, I do like Hugh Howey, Andy Weir, David Mitchell, Suzanne Collins, among others.

Other individual works that are standout favorites for me are:

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize, Toole’s tale is a comic masterpiece, dealing with the outrageous adventures of Ignatius J. Reilly, a gargantuan of a man living in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks
A story of a homeless pothead teen living on the edge of society in a world you hardly knew existed but comes to life with its powerfully modern vernacular.

Handling Sin by Michael Malone
An insurance agent is set off on a quest to find his father, who has left him clues after he discharges himself from the hospital and taken with him a young female mental patient along with withdrawing all of the money out of his bank account.

Four Testimonies by Kate Daniels
An extraordinary collection of poetry set on the tragedy of everyday life, whether man-made or natural, where characters come to life while dealing with death.

So, when I’m asked, “Who is your favorite author?” My answer is, “I don’t have just one.” But if you were to tie me down on a bed of nails for a singular response … I would pick Stephen King. He is the only writer I really look forward to reading and he rarely lets me down.


9/20/2015 - A Letter To My Darling Daughter

If I should die tomorrow, please know that I love you with all my heart. I may not show it at times, but you mean everything to me. You’re my daughter and I sometimes assume that you understand the deep love I have for you. Just know that it goes beyond our father-daughter relationship; you’re smart and funny and beautiful, and I am very proud of you.

Without me there, I don’t want you to feel insecure or lonesome. Be confident even if I can’t be there to cheer you on. Be happy even if I can't be there to make you laugh. I am always with you even if I can’t be there physically. Remember that you have kissing hands! I love you.

You are smart, much smarter than your age, so I know you will go after whatever it is you want out of life. Grab the tiger’s tail and take the world by storm. You can do it! Remember to be humble in your glory though; just because you’re smart doesn’t mean you’re better than others. We're all pink on the inside. I love you.

I was strict at times, but this was only to make you the best person that I know lives inside you. I hope I have instilled in you an attitude which could care less what others think of you and to find the happiness in any situation. You’re only six now but you already have a great sense of humor. You are adorable! You’re funny, but don’t ever lose sight of your manors. Manors are very important, remember to use them. I love you.

There is nothing I would rather see more than your smile and nothing I would rather hear more than your laughter. You are beautiful when you smile. You are beautiful when you’re happy. Always be happy, pumpkin. I may not be there to share in all of your joys, but I wish you a happy life. Remember, life is what you make of it. I love you.

Why do we fall? So that we may learn to pick ourselves back up again. Life is full of roller-coasters; like the Barnstormer, so it is Only natural to face many ups and downs, those pesky bumps in the road, but I know you will make the best out of everything you do. This is my wish for you. I love you.

I am very proud of you. No matter what happens in your life, I have confidence that you will know right from wrong and that you will strive to do your best. I am telling you this because no matter what age you are when you read this on your own, it will always be current. Thank you for being you. I will always love you.

I may not be there to kiss you goodnight tonight, to give you hugs and a shake-shake, but always know that you are never alone. I will always be there for you. Sweet dreams, sleep well, I love you.

Love,
Daddy


9/13/2015 - My Favorite Podcasts

Before there was television, radio was the dominant form of home entertainment and in the 1940s around 82 out of every 100 Americans were radio listeners, according to a 1947 C. E. Hooper survey. Families used to gather around the radio and listen to live serial shows, like The Lone Ranger, Zorro, and Superman, along with quiz shows, situation comedies, soap operas, variety shows, Presidential speeches, and even the evening news.

Today we have podcasts, which are essentially radio programs but on the digital side of life, available to anyone with a computer, tablet, or smartphone. A lot of them originate from radio shows that air today, but instead of turning on the radio, we now have the ability to access hours of stored listening pleasure via streaming or download.

And there are tons of shows to choose from. So which podcast might be right for you? Everyone’s taste is different, but here is a Top 5 list which I listen to…
  1. LORE by Aaron Mahnke. Lore is currently a bi-weekly narration about the history behind scary stories. The people, places, and things of our darkest nightmares all have facts at their core.
  2. TED Radio Hour by Guy Raz of NPR. The TED Radio Hour is a journey through fascinating ideas: astonishing inventions, fresh approaches to old problems, and new ways to think and create. It is based on the TED stage presentations.
  3. The MOTH by George Dawes Green. Since its launch in 1997, the Moth has presented thousands of true stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide.
  4. WHAT IT TAKES features rare and intimate conversations with towering figures in almost every field. These rare interviews have been recorded over the past 25 years by The Academy of Achievement.
  5. SERIAL by This American Life (a production of WBEZ Chicago) and is hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial unfolds a true story over the course of the whole season. Season 1, the only season currently available, deals with the arrest and sentencing of convicted killer Adnan Syed.
And some others which I listen to…
  1. DETECTIVE from Investigation Discovery. This is not for the timid, as Season 1 features retired detective Lt. Joe Kenda and his true stories from 23 years on the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Homicide Division.
  2. Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me NPR’s weekly current events quiz show. Have a laugh and test your knowledge while figuring out what’s real and what they’ve made up.
  3. 60 MINUTES Get the biggest scoops and best storytelling on television from 60 Minutes. This podcast is the audio version of the weekly Sunday CBS television show.
I’ve been searching around for some other worthwhile podcasts, but these are what I’ve been hooked on so far. It would be nice to find a serial fiction, like the Lone Ranger, Zorro, or Superman. If you know of any that are as high caliber as the ones I’ve mentioned, please send them to me and I’ll give them a try.

Update 9/18/2015 - I found a new serial podcast, LIMETOWN, which only has 2 episodes available at this time but it is very promising. As you just read I was (and still am) looking for a serial style broadcast like the old radio shows and I'm very entertained by this one I found today. Here's their blurb, "Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again. In this seven-part podcast, American Public Radio host Lia Haddock asks the question once more, 'What happened to the people of Limetown?'"

So far there has been no mention of it within the show itself of it being fiction which just adds to its allure! Give them a try and tell them I sent you.


9/6/2015 - An Interview with James Sutherland

I’ve known James for ten years, give or take, and I consider him a close friend. Since his first novel, A Legend in Time, came out I’ve been wanting to do an interview with him. He would always tell me he wasn’t interested, so I was extremely pleased when he finally agreed. The following transcript was recorded in its entirety in my home studio…

Thank you for agreeing to come and speak with me today.

I had to [laughs] or else you would have kept pestering me until I did.

I may have. You are the protagonist in the James Sutherland Chronicles, a memoir of sorts about your time traveling exploits. Danger aside, it must have been very exciting to find out you could traverse through time and space, yes?

The very first time I travelled was by accident and I was thrown for a loop; I didn’t know what was happening. Suddenly I found myself in the woods where just moments before I sat in the living room of my house. Luckily, I didn’t travel too far back and I was able to witness everything disappearing according to their age. Once I got over the initial shock I was very excited at the possibilities.

What made you decide to write about your experiences with the Earth Time Authority?

My writings are meant to be a journal for future time travelers to learn from because I really didn’t have a mentor, at least not in the true sense of the word.

Professor Traven isn’t your mentor?

Traven was the co-inventor of time travel and he was there for me more often than not, I owed him my life many times over, but he never really taught me how to time travel. Its intricacies are not to be considered lightly, and yet, because of his off-handedness I had to learn the rules as I went along. [chuckles] On the job training, as they say. So, I started writing my manuscripts as a way of mentoring any would-be time travelers in the future, to help them avoid the problems that I had during my first few jaunts through time.

Jaunts is putting it mildly. Every place in time you travel to seems to become a life threatening scenario for you and/or your wife.

Life is meant to be a journey and sometimes we get to walk along the path of our choosing and other times we have to find our way through the dark woods. Wow, that’s an awful analogy when I say it aloud, but wandering around lost in the woods was certainly how I felt when T-MEEP first revealed themselves to me. I had no idea they wanted me dead until it was almost too late.

Why do you think T-MEEP is so anxious for your demise?

I will never believe in their doctrine that Time Manipulation Equals Earth’s Progress. They wanted me dead because I “do something in the future” that they obviously don’t like. I spent many a sleepless night pondering what it was I could possibly do to them that would warrant my death. Heck, even Traven wouldn’t tell me what it was about, if he even knew, because he didn’t want to change the outcome of that particular future; he would always say that the future is subject to change. See what I mean about the lack of mentoring? He was a hard man to follow. Anyway, things have changed. I have become proactive instead of reactive.

Wait. Are you saying that you’re going after T-MEEP? Or have gone after them already? It gets confusing when speaking about time travel as these events have already happened for you but they have yet to happen for me.

All I can tell you is you’ll have to wait and see.

No spoilers, huh? Can you tell us anything about your next manuscript? The title at least?

There is no release date yet as it is only 2/3 done, but it will be called Future Dark, and it will detail the fate of humanity.

It sounds foreboding.

For some it will be.

I look forward to reading it. Hey, are you okay? You seem sad suddenly.

Some curtain calls are bitter sweet.

Do you mean Future Dark will be the end of the James Sutherland Chronicles?

It was at this point James picked up his watch, which lay on the table between us, opened its golden cover with a push of its plunger, and then he disappeared into thin air; just as he describes doing in his books.

Why did he leave the interview so abruptly? I can only imagine that his memories are too painful to elaborate on. With a title as ominous as Future Dark it makes me wonder what sort of sacrifice he has had to make in order to ensure his (and our) survival. I guess we’ll wait and find out in his third installment when it comes out.

In the meantime, you may find his first two novels, A Legend in Time and Onboard the Marauder, on Amazon.com. Next week our guest will be: The Princess of the Wangunk tribe herself; James Sutherland’s beautiful bride, the one and only, Namoenee.




8/30/2015 - The Puka Shell Necklace Incident

What: This is an embarrassing moment
Where: Mickey Finns: a retail store located on the Berlin Turnpike in Berlin, CT
When: circa 1985
Why: Well, it’s a funny story about me, so let me share it with you…

I was twenty-ish, tall and lean, with tight jeans, cowboy boots, and long hair. How long? Long enough to think I was cool. I wore aviator shaped glasses that turned dark in the sunlight yet always stayed a little tinted while indoors, similar to Foster-Grants. I also wore a puka shell necklace with a stylized metal cross on it. I wasn’t religious. Nor was I a surfer dude from a beautiful isle in the South Pacific, though I did carry a good tan back then. Again, I thought I was cool. Life in your twenties is all about trying to be cool.

If you’ve ever seen a puka shell necklace, like the cheap ones sold in Florida souvenir shops, like mine, then you know the multitude of tiny shells are strung together on a string of fishing line. You may also know that fishing line becomes weak with age.

After a couple of breaks and my retying the fishing line each time, the necklace grew smaller and smaller, eventually becoming a choke collar. See where this is going?

So I’m in Mickey Finns with a girlfriend, Elise, shopping for some more tight jeans and who knows what else, when I’m standing in line to pay and I sneezed.

You guessed it. The necklace broke again, only this time, instead of my being able to salvage it, dozens of little shells rained down on the tiled floor of the store like a hailstorm, tink-tink-tinkling their way all across the aisle and into the next. Everyone, employees and customers alike, stopped to look at me. Someone snickered.

Elise took off, running out the door while laughing her ass off. I picked up the cross, wishing I could stay down there and crawl away unnoticed, but instead I stood up and waited patiently as the clerk finished ringing up the person in front of me, and then I paid for my things. I calmly walked out of the store to my car where she and I shared a great laugh together. I still laugh about it to this day.

My standing there in line with everyone staring at me was one of the most embarrassing moments I’ve had. I will never forget it. Not only was it a lesson in humility, but it showed me how uncool I really was. I was a dork. I still am.


8/23/2015 - My Two Favorite Jokes

Clean:
Two hunters were walking along the Serengeti when they came across a huge pit. One of them picked up a stone and threw it down the pit, they both listened, but no sound came up from the bottom. The other picked up a big rock and threw it down the pit. They both listened. Nothing. They picked up a huge log; it took both of them to carry it over and throw it down the pit. They listened … when all of a sudden they heard a noise, but it wasn’t coming from the pit. They looked around and they saw this goat come charging down the hill, 90 miles an hour straight toward them, and ZOOM!, straight down the pit. The hunters looked at each other … what the heck!?! A few minutes later, a tribesman came along and asked, “Hey, you haven’t seen my goat, have you?” “Well, we don’t know if it was your goat or not, but we saw this goat come charging down the hill, 90 miles an hour, and ZOOM!, it went straight down this pit.” “Oh, that can’t be my goat, I left mine tied to a log.”

Dirty:
An ant was walking along the jungle floor when he came across a distressed elephant with a thorn in her foot. “I can help you with that,” he told her, “but you’ll have to let me do you afterward.” The elephant was in such pain that she agreed to his terms without hesitation. So the ant pulled out the thorn, crawled up her back leg, and he began to fuck her. Up in a tree a monkey witnessed all of this and started laughing his ass off. He laughed so hard he knocked a coconut lose and it fell right on top of the elephant’s head. “Ow!” she cried. The ant replied, “That’s right, take it all, bitch.”

Send me your favorite joke here.

Today would have been my Dad's 91st birthday, and he always enjoyed a good joke. These are for you Dad.


8/17/2015 - My Obituary

The day I started writing this post, in fact after I had finished the obit part below, I read about the 104 year-old woman who (with help from her family) stole an obit from a deceased Florida woman. The beginnings of both were exactly the same, “It pains me to admit it, but apparently, I have passed away. Everyone told me it would happen one day but that's simply not something I wanted to hear, much less experience. But you don't always get what you want in life.” Then subsequent details were filled in by the family, blah-blah-blah.

I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but did she die from plagiarism?

I mean, come on, the internet is praising this woman for a life well lived, and while that may be, we shouldn't give her accolades for something that wasn’t hers. If anything, the Florida woman’s obit should have gone viral, not the stolen copy of it.

Anyway, I thought about not posting this after I read all of that. It seemed less of an original idea after all the internet hubbub over these women, but after some consideration I decided since mine is truly written by me and no one else, I figured why not. So, here’s what I originally wrote…

>Let’s not start any rumors. For the record I am NOT dead. But if I were, this is what I would like to be written about me …

Jonathan Westbrook, [old age] (hopefully), of [town], beloved husband of Jeannine (Stead) Westbrook, passed away peacefully (again, wishful thinking on my part) on [date]. Born in Manchester on October 12, 1964, son of G. Warren and Patricia (Clarke) Westbrook, Jonathan ended up moving around a lot within the state after his parents divorced. He lived in [town] until he was 8, then Milford, Cromwell, Middletown, Meriden, Rocky Hill, East Hartford, and then returned to [town] at the age of 42. During high school, with the Middletown Tigers, he was a four-year varsity swimmer (I was a fish), earning the first Ron Seria Memorial Most Improved Swimmer’s Award (who became a shark - a TIGER shark), broke the school record for the 500 freestyle his junior year (I am still proud of this accomplishment), and became co-captain of the team his senior year (I had finally blossomed). Dropping out of college due to a back injury, Jonathan later completed his Associate’s Degree in Graphic Design at Manchester Community College. He worked as a draftsman for the Hartford Wire Works Co. Inc. in Windsor before moving into a technical illustrator position with Pratt & Whitney at their East Hartford campus. He was with P&W for [x] years (20 years and still counting), drawing illustrations for all of their Commercial Engine manuals, and his art work has literally flown all over the world. As technical illustrating did not always placate his creative needs, Jonathan started his own business called Westbrook Designs working on Hartford Wire Works drawings and selling other art work from his home. Jonathan sold many science fiction pieces to online magazines, created logos for new companies and friends, and loved playing around with Photoshop (a true hack at best). He also wrote several novels (I’m being optimistic that I’ll write more than the current three), of which included the James Sutherland Chronicles, and he kept a popular blog on his website (but you know this since you’re here reading it). He enjoyed volunteering for Toys-For-Tots and the Big Brother/Big Sister organizations (we should do more for our children in need). Jonathan loved to travel and explore new places. One of the benefits he had working for Pratt & Whitney was being able to see more of the world than he normally would have. His most favorite personal trip (to date), was a 2 week vacation to Alaska (it was amazing! I still can’t believe it a year later) with Jeannine. In addition to his wife, Jeannine, of [x] years, he leaves his daughter [name] of [town], and step-daughter [name] of [town] (I love you girls). He also leaves a sister, Sandra Lee Westbrook of [town], and two brothers, G. Anthony Westbrook of [town] and Richard W. Westbrook of [town].

Those are the highlights anyway. Hopefully my family will fill in the blanks in my eulogy of who I was to those who happen to show up to my service. Hopefully they will be kind. Besides my child carrying on my family’s history, I hope my work will have a lasting impression on the people who have borne witness to it. Maybe in this small way I’ll get to live forever.<

You may think this blog post a bit narcissistically morbid, but at least it’s mine and not copied from some dead person. It would be nice to fill it up with some more worthwhile stuff, but we’ll have to wait and see about that.

The reason why I wrote my own obit? I was feeling my mortality when I came up with the idea as I was scheduled for an endoscopy and colonoscopy, and they require that you be put under for those. As with any procedure which requires anesthesia, there is a risk of things going wrong, but here I am, still able to sit up and take nourishment.

They did find 3 benign polyps; so unfortunately I’m now on the 5 year plan. Ugh. People kept telling me how awful the prep was for theirs; of how they could hardly get past the drinking of the magnesium citrate. For me, the bloating cramps from all the air they blew inside me was the worse. It’s a good thing that the discomfort only lasted a short time; until I exploded.


8/10/2015 - Cotard’s Syndrome: The Curse of the Walking Dead

Cotard’s Syndrome, also known as the Cotard Delusion or Walking Corpse Syndrome, is a rare mental disorder in which the patient has the denial of self-existence. This could mean they believe they have no blood or organs or mind, or that one or more limbs aren’t theirs but someone else’s, or that they are dead or no longer exist. This denial is also known as the Delusion of Negation.

My wife and I were in the car this past Saturday, driving to my best friend’s daughter’s wedding, when she told me of a book she was reading, titled, Love Story, with Murders, by Harry Bingham. In it, the protagonist, a female detective, is afflicted with Cotard’s Syndrome, but is coping under medication. My wife explained to me a little bit about the disease from what she had read in the book and through a radio show she heard on NPR. “I thought you would be interested,” she told me. She was right. We had a lengthy conversation about if this disease was related to schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder or some other sort of psychosis.

The first known case was in 1788, when Charles Bonnet reported of an elderly woman who told her daughters to dress her in a shroud and place her in a coffin. Convinced she was dead, she emphatically instructed her family to mourn her. After finally giving in, they did as she asked. When she fell asleep at her own wake, they undressed her and put her to bed. She was treated with a “powder of precious stones and opium,” and her delusions went away only to return every few months for the rest of her life.

It wasn’t until 100 years later that French neurologist Jules Cotard saw a patient with an unusual complaint. Mademoiselle X claimed to have “no brain, no nerves, no chest, no stomach, and no intestines.” Despite the missing organs, she also claimed that she was eternal and since she had no internals there was no need to eat. She soon died of starvation, her case went rampant, and it took the name of Cotard’s Syndrome.

Other reported cases are similar; a woman complained that she smelled like a dead fish and asked her family to take her to the morgue so she could be around other dead people; a man suffered a head injury and he thought he had died during recovery; another man checked himself into the hospital because he was anxious that no one had buried him yet; and doctors treated a woman who claimed, “all of her organs had melted.” Another believed not only was he dead but he had been turned into a dog. In 2003 a patient believed he was empty-headed, literally born without a brain. And in 2012, a 69 year-old patient told doctors, “I am dead. I’d like to ask for your opinion.” When the doctor quizzed him on whether a dead man could speak or not, the patient agreed that his condition was illogical, but he could not shake the feeling that he was deceased. After a year, his delusion had passed, but he still insisted that his death did indeed occur. He said, “Now I am alive, but I was dead at that time.”

A mild case is characterized by despair and self-loathing, and a severe case is characterized by intense delusions of negation and chronic psychiatric depression.

The Delusion of Negation prevents the patient from making sense of the reality around them. This does not mean they are experiencing hallucinations, but it is in line with delusions found in schizophrenic patients. The patient does not recognize their face as their own, and if it is not their own, it belongs to an imposter and therefore they must be dead or no longer exist. The disorder is still a mystery, but experts suspect lesions in the parietal lobe create a neural disconnect which brings on the delusions.

Like bipolar disease or schizophrenia, Cotard’s Syndrome is another form of delusional psychosis. In this case it affects the parts of your brain that recognizes faces and pairs emotions with those faces, including your own. There is no current cure, but treatments include anti-psychotics, anti-depressants, as well as electroconvulsive therapy.

Many who have suffered from this condition have died from starvation. Some have gone so far as to pour acid on themselves in an effort to stop being one of the walking dead. Others have been known to commune in graveyards in an attempt to get closer to death because it is more familiar to them than life.

The Walking Dead. I haven’t read the comic books, but it makes for a great television show. After finding out about Cotard’s, the writer in me can’t help but to think, “Instead of the zombie apocalypse occurring as we know it today, where the populous become zombies after being bitten by other zombies, what if Cotard’s Syndrome is transferred by bodily fluids and a pandemic occurs where we all start believing we are dead?” Hmm.


8/8/2015 - Origin of the Teddy Bear and Our Love for Animals

Named after the 26th President of the United States, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the teddy bear is a soft toy in the form of a bear; a kid-friendly, cuddly, collectible, cartoon-looking bear.

The President was on a hunting trip in 1902 when, after a day of having an unsuccessful kill, one of his attendants clubbed over the head and tied up a black bear for the Commander-in-Chief. But once Roosevelt saw it, he refused to kill the tied up animal, calling it unsportsmanlike. The story became a political cartoon by Clifford Berryman in the Washington Post, where the bear is shown having big round ears and is somewhat pathetic looking, but in a cute way.



Morris Michtom, seeing the cartoon, created a stuffed toy in its likeness and placed it in his shop window, calling it “Teddy’s Bear.” The toy was an immediate success and Michtom founded the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co. Since that time, general retail sales of plush animal toys from companies like Gund and Ty Warner has exploded into a billion dollar business. Why? Generally speaking, it is because of our love for animals and our desire to be close to them; to be one with nature.

On the other side of the coin however, we hunt these same animals for sport. Distasteful, but nonetheless a fact, it is for this reason the rest of the Roosevelt’s story is usually left untold. No one wants to hear that though he did not shoot the black bear himself, he did instruct the "poor beast be put out of its misery." I’m glad we didn’t get that version when Michtom made his “Teddy’s Bear.”


8/5/2015 - Training Wheels

I have a vivid memory about the time I took it upon myself to take off the training wheels on my bicycle. I can picture it as if it were yesterday. I was six, and boy was I proud that I had the wherewithal to be able to handle a wrench and disassemble my kiddie bike and transform it into a real bicycle.

What I can’t remember was the catalyst for wanting them off. I don’t know if it was my idea or if someone told me I was getting too old for them, but I was determined to take them off.

So, I crept down to our unfinished basement, a frightening place for a young boy alone with its dark corners, cobwebs, and creepy black furnace, and quickly grabbed one of my Dad’s adjustable wrenches from his work bench lit by a single lamp. I remember sitting on the dirt and gravel driveway, sweating and stooped over in the summer sun, as I struggled with the nuts which held the two metal brackets and their attached plastic wheels to the rear axle. But I did it!

After my training wheels were lying on the ground like dead soldiers, whom I had killed, I stood over my project with triumphant fists to my hips like Superman. It was my first step toward independence and manhood.

My next memory is sitting atop my “new” bike and being scared shitless. Why did I do such a thing? What if I fall? Someone please put my training wheels back on! There may have even been tears streaming down my face from being so frightened.

But I persevered. I survived. I may have fallen, in fact, I’m sure it was more than once, but I got back up and I learned to ride again.

I suspect we have all had the same kind of experience once or twice in our lives. We become accustomed to life being a certain way, and although we may wish for a change it is disheartening when it arrives. Until, that is, we become accustomed to it once more (or revert back to the old way of life).

The other day I mentioned to my daughter, who is now six, that we take off her training wheels. She responded with an emphatic, “No way!” Of course I won’t take them off her bike until she’s ready, but maybe I was her catalyst and she’ll end up taking them off herself.


7/12/2015 - ConnectiCon 2015

The first science fiction convention I went to was back in the 90's. It was held in the rather small space of the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Club in East Hartford, and I only went because Marina Sirtis (Counselor Troi from Star Trek: The Next Generation) was going to be there. If not for meeting her and Gary Lockwood (2001 and the Star Trek pilot Where No Man Has Gone Before) there, it would have been a bust.

Fast forward 20 years and the convention scene held for all things geek has exploded into something so much more with cosplayers, gamers, nerds, geeks, dealers, and more celebrities than one can shake a plastic Lightsaber at. I was amazed at the amount of people who showed up at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. There were probably 200 times the amount of young geekdom than there had been 20 years ago.

No, I didn't dress up like the majority, although I've been known to do so for Halloween and costume contests, but I did wear my Axanar t-shirt to help promote it. I didn't go for the gaming scene either. Nope, I went with one goal in mind, well three actually; I wanted to meet two icons from my childhood: Nichelle Nichols and George Takei. My third goal was to meet Tony Todd of the crowd-sourced next chapter of Star Trek: Axanar, which I have gladly contributed to.

I accomplished these goals, but the reason for this blog is not to gloat about it, but to share with you just how personable these three celebrities were and how I will remember meeting each of them for the rest of my life.

George Takei is just as charming and funny in person as he is on social media. For an example, he told me a joke about the photo (see below) he signed for me, saying, "Here is the younger me and the older me," and then he pointed to himself, "and the real me." I told him the real him was the best one! He asked about me and we chatted for a bit. He made me forget all about the other people standing in line behind me. For that small moment, I felt that if I had invited him and Brad over for dinner he would have said yes. Uncle George indeed! He even at one point gave me an "Oh my!" I also got to meet Brad, his partner, who is very nice and down to earth too as he came out to greet each one of us waiting in line.

Nichelle Nichols is a beautiful woman, inside and out, but I thought I wouldn't get the chance to meet her. I have her autograph already through an order off of her website, so it was more than that for me; I genuinely just wanted to meet her. When I first got to her booth a sign read, "Out of respect for Ms. Nichols, please do not mention her recent stroke or the passing of Leonard Nimoy." But her booth was empty. I stood there, with others, for a long time before deciding to walk around and explore the dealer's booths with many loops back to that empty spot. Given her recent health, I grew concerned, so I finally inquired. Her assistant told me she was on her way, so I got back in line, which was now considerably shorter. Perhaps those who left had given up hope of her showing, but in my mind, she deserved to take as much time as she wanted/needed. Those of us still in line clapped for her when she arrived via wheelchair, and I was beaming from ear to ear just to see her. She looked fantastic! You can see by the photos (below) how happy I was just being next to her. Talk about a fanboy. And like with George before her, she was such a pleasure to talk to. She told me a joke about how she once signed her name over her belly button and a fan got mad at her for it. She told me, "I've never signed over it since." She was so sweet. I regret not knowing her better than this chance encounter. Please know, Ms. Nichols, you are loved by many, including me.

Tony Todd is a big guy at 6'-5" and that voice! There is no mistaking him. And like the rest of my experience at ConnectiCon, his encounter was perhaps the best as he took the time to talk to me. He grew up in Hartford, so this was sort of a homecoming for him. He has been in a lot of productions, such as Candyman, Platoon, Boston Public, Smallville, NYPD Blue, and of course, his recurring role as the Klingon Kurn on Star Trek, which he gives major props to for the notoriety the role gave him. And as I had mentioned, he is also to appear in the crowd-sourced Axanar as Admiral Marcus Ramirez. He is very, very affable. For him to shake my hand and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with me really told me of his character as a person. He loves what he does and is grateful for his supporters, and it shows.

So thank you George, Nichelle, and Tony, if I may be so bold as to call you all by your first names. Thank you for your work as actors. Thank you for your years of entertaining me. But most of all, thank you for remaining humble, friendly, and remarkably normal. You may not always enjoy running the circuit, living out of suitcases, or dealing with fanatics, but if you treat most of your fans like you treated me, it has to be worth it spreading the joy and making us happy.

May you all Live Long and Prosper, and thank you again for making ConnectiCon 2015 a very enjoyable experience for me. From one creative to another, I will never forget meeting you.




6/25/2015 - H. H. Holmes: America’s First Documented Serial Killer


H. H. Holmes

H. H. Holmes was born Herman Webster Mudgett on May 16, 1861 in New Hampshire. He died at the age of 34, while incarcerated in a Philadelphia prison of execution by hanging. His crime was the first documented case of serial killings in America and his motive: life insurance claims and selling the corpses of his victims (mainly skeletal remains) to medical schools and doctors for profit.

At an early age, Mudgett claimed that his classmates forced him to stand face-to-face with a human skeleton after they discovered his fear of the local doctor. Afterward, some speculated that his fear had turned into a fascination.

In 1882, Mudget “disappeared,” leaving his wife and their two-year old daughter, and enrolled in the University of Michigan’s Department of Medicine and Surgery as Henry Howard. He ended up stealing cadavers, disfiguring the bodies, and then placed claims that they were killed accidently in order to collect on policies which he himself took out on the deceased. After receiving his doctorate, he moved to Chicago under the alias H. H. Holmes.

While still married to his first wife, Clara, Holmes married again. This time to a woman named Myrta, whom he had a daughter Lucy. Around this time he fell into a partnership with Dr. Elizabeth S. Holton and she gave him a job in her drugstore. After her husband’s death, he offered to buy the drugstore and she agreed. After a time, the vacant lot across the street came up for sale, so Holmes purchased it as well, wanting to build a rooming house with part of it devoted for commercial use, knowing that the World’s Columbian Exposition was coming soon. This building, later known as the Murder Castle, would be first called the World’s Fair Hotel (catering to women) and he moved the drugstore to the first floor along with various other shops to let, and the second and third floors housed 200 rooms, with doorways opening to brick walls, stairways leading to nowhere, and lead-lined gas chambers with trap doors and chutes leading down to the basement. He even had alarms wired to his room letting him know if a prisoner was trying to escape. Holmes accomplished all of this by constantly firing and hiring new construction workers so that only he knew of its labyrinth-like designs of his castle.

Holmes selected mostly females to be his victims, whether they were employees, hotel guests, or lovers, of which he would place life insurance policies on and collect the money after he killed them. Some were locked in sound-proof, air-tight rooms and were left to suffocate. Others were incinerated and send down chutes to the basement, where they were dissected, stripped of their flesh, and made into skeletal models – he still had his connections he garnered from medical school. Others were placed in lime or acid pits. Bottles of various poisons were found and even a medieval stretching rack. There were also two giant furnaces which could hold a multitude of bodies at once.

Holmes was arrested in 1895 and confessed to 30 murders, but authorities at the time said it could have been closer to 200 victims based on missing person reports. “I was born with the devil in me,” Holmes had said. “I could not help the fact that I was a murderer, no more than the poet can help the inspiration to sing; I was born with the ‘Evil One’ standing as my sponsor beside the bed where I was ushered into the world, and he has been with me since.”

Upon his execution, his dying wish was to have his grave left unmarked and his coffin filled with concrete; he did not want his bones to end up being used as a medical skeleton. Holmes did not die by having his neck snapped by the hangman’s noose. It is reported that he lingered with fingers and feet twitching for over 15 minutes until he finally succumbed to suffocation.

I can only imagine that this horrific circumstance was made possible because instant news was not available back then and people could change their names easily without so much as a background check being done. It’s obvious that Holmes was a convincing liar, who must have had the ability to make people feel comfortable around them. He must have been a friendly person, but I guess that’s true of all serial killers, when we first meet them.


2/6/2015 - 1940 New York World’s Fair and the Typical American Family

The World of Tomorrow.

That was the theme of the 1939-40 World’s Fair, held in Flushing Meadows, New York. It was the first of its kind to be based on the future, with an opening slogan of “Dawn of a New Day.” The fair was not meant to predict the future, although they had a smoking robot, but to show visitors, “Here are the materials, ideas, and forces at work in our world. These are the tools with which the World of Tomorrow must be made. Familiarity with today is the best preparation for the future.”

And my family was a part of it, because they were selected as the Typical American Family.

My grandmother, Ella Westbrook, entered and won an essay contest for the Typical American Family held by the Hartford Times newspaper, which would become today’s Hartford Courant. One of their many prizes was the rare opportunity to stay on the fair grounds for two weeks in a typical American Family model home, where they got to enjoy the fair for free; normal admission was fifty-cents a day.

My grandparents took with them two out of their five children, which included my dad when he was sixteen. Not only did he get to see the wondrous things of the fair, like television for the first time, but he received a Babe Ruth signed baseball from the mayor of New York.

From Wikipedia, other firsts at the fair included color photography, nylon, air conditioning, fluorescent lamps, the View-Master (you may have to be my age to remember the cardboard wheel with tiny slides in it that you would slip into a plastic viewer and the images inside would appear in 3D). Another first was the ill-fated Smell-O-Vision (a system that released odor during the showing of a film so that you could “smell” what was happening in the movie. I’m glad that didn’t catch on).

The fair was also the world’s first Science Fiction Convention, dubbed Nycon1. Although I mentioned the smoking robot, I doubt there were many cosplayers there, except maybe on Superman Day. I know he was there because I have seen pictures of Kal-El making an appearance. It is said that this was the first ever sighting of the Man of Steel from Krypton though he had his own radio show.

Speaking of radio, my family was interviewed as the Typical American Family at the RCA Palace of Radio Magic, with Ms. Television and their star announcer, Bill Patterson. My grandmother was given a copy of the interview on a vinyl LP, which I had put onto CD. It gives a wonderful feel of their time at the fair in 1940, and you can give it a listen on my --> YouTube channel.


1/25/2015 - Body Noises

There's no denying it; we are a part of nature. We are just another animal that breathes air and eats food to survive. And as such, our bodies naturally make noises.

These noises can be small or large and can come at inopportune times, but they're all good. It's the natural order of things. So I find it funny when people get upset. embarrassed. humiliated, or indignant whenever they happen to experience these noises, either coming from their own body or someone else's.

I'm sure you know of which I speak, but let me list them out here just to make certain.

1) Clearing Your Throat - sometimes it feels like there's something in the back of your throat and this noise can come as voluntarily as snapping your own fingers trying to get rid of it. Other times, we don't even know we're doing it as it can become a habit you've gotten into.

2) Joint Cracking - some people cringe at the snap, crackle, and popping of joints.

3) Sighing - a guttural, often audible, exhale of air to convey negative emotion or relief. No one likes to hear the former. But did you know that sighing also serves to improve the properties of lung tissue, especially in babies?

4) Sneezing - a sneeze is a semi-automonous action which can spread colds, infections, and disease if not covered up properly. A lot of people shy away from sneezers for this reason.

5) Tinnitus - though not audible to others, this noise is most annoying to the people who have it; a ringing in one's ear that never goes away can be horribly distracting when trying to listen to others.

6) Coughing - a step above the clearing of the throat, and just as fear inducing as sneezing, a cough is often repeated to alleviate irritants in the throat or lungs.

7) Stomach Growl / Rumbling - sounds produced by the movement of contents in the gastro-intestinal tract by muscle contractions known as peristalsis. Though not associated with the stomach at all, some people liken the noises to being hungry.

8) Chewing - close your mouth! No one wants to hear you chew. Yes, we're animals, but we don't have to act like them.*

9) Snoring - oh, boy! There is just something about snoring that drives people crazy. Researchers say that snoring can be the first sign of sleep apnea, which can sometimes lead to death in severe cases. I personally wear a mouth guard at night to help open my constricted passage ways. Sometimes it works. Sometimes my wife would like to kill me.

10) Hiccups - a hiccup is an involuntary contraction of the diaphram to expel air from within the stomach so that we may eat or drink more. There are many cures for hiccups. I hold my breath for as long as I can to help get rid of mine. Others drink water, but essentially that does the same thing as you can't breath and drink at the same time. There are others still who have severe attacks of hiccups that must be treated medically.

11) Burping - also known as belching, a burp is the release of gas from the digestive tract from the stomach upward. Some can swallow air to make themselves burp at will. Some can even burp the entire alphabet this way.

12) Flatulence - a fart is the release of gas from the digestive tract from the stomach downward. "Better out than in," to quote Mike Meyers. The problem most people have with farts is the smell. It's always better to smell your own then someone else's. But the different noises we all can make with our rears is about the funniest thing in the world to me.
This item would not be complete without mentioning kweefing - a noise similar to farting, but which can occur from the female genitalia. Again, the air has to go somewhere.
And let us not forget the sophomoric hijinks of the simulated fart by mouth or hand in one's armpit.

Let's all I can think of. So please write to me if you know of a body noise that I may have missed. I'll be sure to add it to this list.

* Having to hear people chew with their mouths open is absolutely irritating to me. There's no need for it. I've seen some posts floating around FB about the irrational hatred one gets by the sounds they hear, but I had actually researched it myself last month, which led me to this blog topic. The term is MISOPHONIA, meaning "hatred of sound," is a disorder in which negative emotions are triggered by specific sounds (my wife with my snoring, for an example). Either loud or soft, the sounds can elicit disgust, hatred, flight, and anger. Sufferers may experience physical symptoms such as muscle tension, sweating, and a quickened heartbeat. Currently, there is no cure for Misophonia, other than maybe anti-anxiety medication.