Avoiding an Excess of Virtue – Lost Horizon

I’ve written about Lost Horizon before. The 1937 film is one of my favorite movies. Recently, more than one person has commented to me that they love the film too, and then they’ve ruminated on how adorably dashing Michael York was in the 1970s. 

Well, agreed, Michael York was adorably dashing in the 1970s. But Michael York, who was born in 1942, was understandably not involved in the 1937 Frank Capra adaptation of James Hilton’s bestseller, Lost Horizon. A lot of people my age were first exposed to the story as a result of Ross Hunter’s lamentable remake in 1973. That version of the film was a musical, which songs by the legendary Burt Bacharach. This film contributed little to his legend. Interestingly, though, the people my age who saw it—most likely its mid-70s TV airing on NBC’s The Big Event—seem to share the experience of not only thinking they saw the original, but of utterly (and thankfully) forgetting that the picture was a musical. I include myself in that number. I had no idea I had not seen Capra’s version until I saw Capra’s version. To be fair, the 1973 film is virtually a shot-by-shot remake of the original until the kidnapped party’s plane crashed in the Himalayas. No one sings until the party arrives at Shangri La, the lamasery in the hidden Valley of the Blue Moon, where the snows never fall, the chill mountain winds do not blow, and human beings live centuries without aging. (If you are a fan of the musical, take heart in the fact that I not only own the soundtrack album, I’ve actually listened to it.) 

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The Colonel’s Plan – The Thing Outside the Library Window – Part Two of Two

Sometime while I was in college, I believe, the dreaded metal cabinets arrived. These were, of course, surplus. They’re a blue-gray in color, with light gray doors and dusty orange shelves. Only they’re not shelves, they’re cross-bars designed so that wire brackets could be fastened into them, sitting upright. The cabinets were designed to hold reels of magnetic tape and were used for data storage in IBM Mainframe computers in days gone by. We have a few dozen of them, and I’m pretty sure we also have every. single. roll. of magnetic tape. that ever went in them. Well, we did. I’ve sent a lot of them to recycling now. But there are still hundreds in the basement.

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The Colonel’s Plan – The Thing Outside the Library Window – Part One of Two

March 7, 2018

Dear Daddy —

Two weeks ago, I wrote about The Thing out in the yard by the basement door. Last week I actually had hazmat experts come out and test it. I had asked a couple of people—our eCyclers, my friend Bob who runs a computer museum, the CEO of the National Electronics Musuem—what The Thing might be. They didn’t believe Phillips’s claim that it was a condenser that only held water. They were pretty sure it contained PCBs. Some of us also vaguely remembered that the reason you kept The Thing outside, sitting on its own special pallet which you had constructed, was that you feared it contained PCBs. 

Turns out it’s a 50-gallon energy drink. Seriously. The lab results came back, and the fluid within is composed of saccharine, caffeine, lactose and water. So, basically, it’s a giant steel Starbuck’s beverage. Why the fluid is bright green when it freezes and oozes out is anybody’s guess. But I’ve been told I can cart it to the landfill and tell them it’s not a hazardous material. 

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Enterprise Lost – Epilogue

David had pillowed his head against Saavik’s shoulder and now snored gently in sleep. Saavik had never heard snoring before—she had slept in close proximity only to Vulcans, who did not seem to suffer from the strange affliction. 

It made her smile to see him so defenseless—and happy. They had both thoroughly enjoyed their nights together. She reached out to stroke his face gently, taking an irrational pleasure in the coolness of his body… “like lying in the shade on a hot summer’s day.” 

She wondered again what Spock would think of the path she had chosen. He had said he might not approve of her decisions, but would he have approved of this one? Would he have been pleased that she had… fallen in love? And that she had done so with the son of a man Spock had so respected? She would like to think so. She would like to have thought that her happiness was important to him. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – The Old Door

February 28, 2018

Dear Daddy —

Christian works to reveal o9ne of many wrecks buried under fallen trees and overgrowth–the 1971 Malibu.

It’s going to take years to reclaim the property around this house! Unless I come into a huge, lump sum of money all of a sudden. The back property has as many fallen and broken trees as it has healthy ones. The property around the house is littered with clumps of briars and honeysuckle, with tree stumps or metal debris at their core, making them tricky to take down. You started it years ago, by placing outside the few pieces of equipment too big, too heavy, or in too-bad shape to go inside. 

For years, you at least kept the briars and vines trimmed away from these. You gave up sometime after your 70th birthday. Then you “hired” some person who said he would take down trees and haul away brush. He cut dozens of trees off at 30 inches, left their stumps, and dumped the trimmings all over the yard—fostering the growth of more brambles. And you had an absolute allergy to ever cutting down any tree, even if it was growing up amidst the branches of another one. We have a lot of work to do. 

This week I had the door put back up between the kitchen and the family room. Yes, the same door, doorjambs and hinges you had used all those years ago. I used a new doorknob from the shelf of door hardware in the metal building. You bought a lot of door hardware! The old doorknob, one with a keyed lock, is here in a box. Probably its original box, if I know you. But it’s in such bad shape that I didn’t want to try and use it. Plus, “it’s here,” only means that I’ve seen it in the last three years. It would probably take me hours to find it. I’m still going through the contents of the living room and the metal building to find tools and building supplies. 

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Enterprise Lost – Chapter Eleven

This was actually the back cover of the zine. I said there was only one chapter without an illo. I lied.

Spock felt the irrational urge to try to run somewhere and hide. Of course, it would have done no good. Jim would see him as soon as he materialized. 

He never had the chance. A sudden burst of light came from beside the Guardian and hit Kirk, who collapsed on the frozen ground. On Spock’s left, Saavik advanced, phaser drawn, on the fallen admiral’s companions: Chekov, McCoy and Uhura. The two younger officers wore expressions of utter shock. McCoy knelt immediately by Kirk and began looking him over while Chekov drew his own phaser and pointed it at Saavik. 

“I hev no idea what’s gotten into the two of you,” the Russian security chief began in anger, “but you’ve—” 

Seeing that none of the landing party had noticed him, Spock took advantage of the element of surprise in an attempt to prevent further injury. “That will not be necessary, Mr. Chekov,” he called out in a commanding voice. 

Chekov spun, his face white. Uhura gasped so that the sound must have been loud even in human ears. “Meester Spock?” Chekov asked, his jaw hanging open. 

Spock stepped out of the Guardian and came forward to stand by him. “Yes, Commander.” 

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Re-reading Jean Lorrah’s “Night of the Twin Moons” (Part Two of Two)

(Read Part One if you have not)

Penthesilea, the world on which Night of the Twin Moons is set, is a female-led culture. The name of the planet suggests that, if you know your mythology. Penthesilea was a queen of the Amazons, sister to the more-familiar Hippolyte, whom she had killed in a hunting accident, making her queen. In Greek myth, the Amazons were not, like Wonder Woman’s Amazons, women who lived without men on an island. They were warrior women who dominated their timid husbands, lopped off one of their breasts to make them better archers, and lived in the city-state of Themiscyra. 

Lorrah’s Penthesileans are likewise women who dominate their men, with the added wrinkle that there is a tremendous IQ differential between the women and the men, with few of the men being of even average intelligence, compared to humans, while the women’s intellects are comparable to those of earth people, or even Vulcans. The women therefore use men for breeding, swap men, retire (and castrate) men when they become too old to be attractive. It is heresy on Penthesilea to even suggest that a man could be as intelligent as a woman. Men are, essentially, livestock. Indeed, “one man” is a unit of currency. But Penthesileans are not Amazons, for the very simple reason that they are not warriors. War has never occurred on their world, because there is literally no competition between the sexes, and the choosing of a mate is so well regulated that there is no jealousy. 

Into this unusual paradise comes the Starship Enterprise, on a diplomatic mission to negotiate rights for the planet’s dilithium resources. Two big challenges are evident: One, the ambassador has to be female, since Penthesileans don’t believe men can think: two, the Penthesileans expect, if trade is to be opened with the Federation, to be paid in men. 

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The Colonel’s Plan – Working Outside

February 21st, 2018

Dear Daddy —

Trees. Not spectacular, but we have a lot of them.

This morning I walked the back property. This house sits on 13 acres of mostly wooded land. When you bought the land, it was just a field with maybe a dozen trees. The Simpson family had used it for farming, and it had presumably been kept clear for decades. Since then, trees have grown up everywhere. I was reading up on tree growth after my walk. In 40 – 45 years, 192 trees in excess of 85 feet can be found per acre of wooded land. I wonder how many we have? None of them look that tall. 

A few years before you died, I arranged to have the trees harvested on your land in North Carolina. That’s a forest that’s been a forest a long time—probably your whole life. Our land there used to house a sawmill. The logging trails are still there. We were paid about $2200 per acre for the harvested wood. This lot may not be worth harvesting, to a lumber company, but I think I’ll find out. The money is less of a goal than having a more manageable woods back there. As it is, we have an okay walking trail all around the perimeter, but I’d love to be able to have a nature trail, and perhaps have the clearance sufficient to allow horseback riding. Right now, a walker has to dodge a few vines and low-hanging branches. 

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Enterprise Lost – Chapter Ten

Captain’s Log, Stardate: 8150.1 

Commander Uhura is effecting repairs on our sabotaged comm system with all the speed her department can muster. 

I am still puzzled by the behavior of Admiral Morrow during my last transmission, and thus I have not advised Starfleet of our situation with Lieutenants Saavik and Metcalfe. If our comm system is not repaired in time for me to reach Excelsior and head off my two missing officers, I may find myself with no other choice than to disobey the Admiral’s order that I avoid the Time Planet. Should this become necessary, I take full responsibility for the actions of this ship and its crew and for the consequences thereof. 

“Is it ready?” Kirk asked as Uhura approached his chair. 

She nodded. “Assuming there aren’t any more surprises waiting for us inside the system somewhere.” 

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Re-reading Jean Lorrah’s “Night of the Twin Moons” (Part One of Two)

Time was Star Trek books were very different from what fans have known for the past 37 years. The novels were not carefully reviewed by Paramount licensing for accuracy and continuity. They were not written by people who were Star Trek fans and knew every episode by heart. They were science fiction novels by professional science fiction authors who had no previous tie to the series, and the stories they produced bore little resemblance to the TV show whose title graced the books’ covers. 

In April, 1976, when Jean Lorrah first published Night of the Twin Moons, there had been only a single original Star Trek novel published. It was Spock Must Die! By James Blish, the veteran SF author who had thus far novelized 71 episodes of the original series, making Trek the first TV series in history to have (almost) all of its episodes turned into prose stories. (Blish never novelized the Kirk-era parts of “The Menagerie,” although he did novelize the original pilot episode, “The Cage.”) 

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