As with my father, I was asked to deliver the eulogy for my mother’s funeral. What follows is the text from which I worked last Saturday. I can’t promise that this is exactly what I said, but it gives the reader the general impression. And if you’re just catching up because Meta has failed spectacularly in the duty it assigned itself to be the principle medium of the communications of life events: My mother, Evelyn Briggs Wilson, born Elizabeth Evelyn Briggs on December 7, 1926, died on August 25 of this year. Her obituary related the facts of her life. And now for a more personal perspective:
Do you ever lie awake at night,
Just between the dark and the morning light,
Searching for the things you used to know,
Looking for the place where the lost things go?
Memories you’ve shared, gone for good you feared,
They’re all around you still, though they’ve disappeared.
Nothing’s really left or lost without a trace.
Nothing’s gone forever, only out of place.
Those words aren’t mine. They were written by a man named Scott Wittman for the Walt Disney film Mary Poppins Returns. It’s sung to children who have lost their mother. We saw that movie on Christmas Day in 2018, on one of our last Christmas trips to Rehoboth Beach, one of my mother’s favorite places.
The memories we’ve shared are all around us right now. Dementia changes people, but some prominent traits were with her to the end: her concern that everyone was getting fed, and that everyone had a bed to sleep in; her insistence that all the bills be paid on time–she was sure to the bitter end that she owed someone eight hundred dollars, and that her taxes were late. I never told her that the Maryland Comptroller had mistakenly sent her to collections this Spring for a tax bill she didn’t owe.Continue reading
Meta, via Facebook, has taken the place of the newspaper in society. In the pre-Internet days, newspapers did significantly more than report on foreign wars and partisan multi-generation duels. Newspapers were the backbone of our social network. From the newspapers we learned which old classmates had died, who was getting married, who was holding a picnic, what the local schools were up to. Newspapers were critical to our engagement in the community.
Then came social media, and, let’s face it, to most of the American public, that means Facebook. Those who once relied on newspapers moved to this new technology for sharing community news. Newspapers required days of lead time and were not free. Facebook made it painless to announce meetings, deaths, births and marriages, and even to request help in crisis. Papers lost this folksy market, and, predictably, people also stopped subscribing.Continue reading
My apologies to the handful of you that already read this under a different title. The fact is that most of my traffic comes from the social media site that’s recently added a new algorithm to “curate” content. A fair number of pieces of content that I’m very proud of have been getting buried. So I’m experimenting with titles and posting styles.
I started The Rational Rebel a couple of years ago to share thoughts related specifically to my home in Howard County, Maryland. These may not be of interest to all my regular readers, either because of the specificity or because of my political philosophy; but I’ve decided I will start sharing them here so you’re aware they exist. This essay was inspired by a recent trip Renee and I made to Niagara Falls, a return, after 35 years, to the site of our honeymoon.
I keep my political life relatively quiet here. I don’t necessarily keep my opinions about issues quiet, but I haven’t talked much about my day-to-day political activities. I have friends across the political spectrum, and I mostly don’t want to drive wedges based on labels.
So many of you may not even realize that, for the past four years, I have been an officer of the Howard County Republican Party, and, for two of those years, its Chairman.
A few weeks ago I resigned from the Republican Central Committee, with apologies to the over 4,000 voters who put me there. I could not do what they elected me to do. The committee and I, indeed, were just in each others’ way.
But my conscience forced me to share with the voters—all the voters—my concerns about the state of politics and government in Howard County, Maryland and the U.S. I wrote a brief Op Ed for the Baltimore Sun, and that led me to be interviewed by the insightful Claudia Barber, Esquire for her Being Well Informed podcast. I wanted to give everyone a chance to read and hear what I said. My most-used social media platform, no doubt trying to improve user experience by sheltering users from hearing things that would make them think, seems to have kept my post about this off of most people’s feeds. So here it is again.
A lot of people are already angry, and no doubt more will be when they hear what I have to say. But some, like Claudia, might be pleasantly shocked at this Republican’s words. Please keep your minds open. Of course, if you’re a friend of mine, I know you’ll do that anyway.
July 25, 2023
It was 22 days ago that I wrote that Kirby was home. It was three days ago that we said goodbye to her. Start to finish, our journey with her illness was 28 days. I knew on July 3rd that the future was uncertain (isn’t it always?) and I said I was grateful for every day.
In between, we had learned that her tumor was still on her abdominal wall, albeit reduced in size. Cytology revealed almost nothing: necrotic cells and spindle cells. Could be a sarcoma, could still be a hematoma that was dying. We opted against surgical intervention in an almost 12-year-old dog. She was happy, she was outwardly healthy. Then, on July 19th, she refused her breakfast. We were concerned, but then she ate dinner ravenously. The next day (sorry if this is gross) her stool was black. That means blood in the digestive tract. We took her for bloodwork.Continue reading
The headline is the important thing here. Inverted pyramid style, I put the most important fact even above the lede. That Kirby is home is the most important piece of news I have to share this week. And then I can tell you how she almost didn’t come home.
Kirby is my family’s dog, a shepherd/husky mix. She has a drinking problem, but only with water. She has a bad habit of silently creeping from the room where the family is and slinking upstairs to see if anyone left a toilet lid up, so she can binge. Barring that oversight by a human family member, she pulls up the bathmat in the tub and licks from it Every. Drop. of Water. She loves peanut butter and ice cubes. She will stare fixedly at you if you eat in front of her. If she slips her leash, she approaches escape velocity and quickly leaves the zip code. She pulls hard on the leash, because, if you come from Siberia, everything and everyone looks like a sled. She has barked less than a dozen times in her life–about once a year. She talks frequently, especially if she believes it’s time for peanut butter and none has been delivered. (If you have never heard “husky speak,” visit YouTube and search the term. It’s enlightening.) More than one friend has referred to her as a “therapy dog,” because he very presence relieves tension and anxiety.Continue reading
I was not planning to review this book. I have read it countless times. Recently, when my grandson asked me to name my favorite book, I named two: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (to give him a more-accessible reference, as I suspected that my answer was going to make it back to a teacher who was not born when Robert Heinlein died) and The Number of the Beast.
“It is not Heinlein’s best work!” is the most generous thing most readers say about it. I don’t claim that it is. I can’t begin to develop the criteria by which I would rank the “best” book by an author who defined a genre and continues to entertain readers 35 years after his own death. I merely state that it is my favorite of his books, one which I, in the words of the book itself, “reread for pleasure when [I am] too tired to tackle a new book.” Reviewing such a book would be the equivalent of writing about eating a Zero Bar or drinking a bottle of cream soda.
Why, then, am I writing? I am writing because last night, amidst the sadness of closing the cover on page 511 of the beautiful trade paperback edition I’ve owned since Christmas, 1981, I went down the rabbit hole of reading the book’s reviews on Goodreads. The one-star reviews did not rattle me. They are, as always, largely reviews of the author, not the book, with all the expected buzzwords: Self-indulgent, narcissistic, homophobic, misogynist. They also include a handful of tasteless references to the fact that Heinlein wrote the book’s first draft while suffering an oxygen-depriving brain disorder, with the suggestion that such explains the book’s poor quality. There are also wild speculations about how “Heinlein’s editor” “allowed” this book to be published. (In fact, he put it out for bid and there was competition. And the version that was published was heavily re-written following a successful surgery which restored his mental and physical health.)Continue reading
There is much pontificating among science fiction media fans about how damned moral we are, because we watched these TV shows and movies that taught a moral lesson. Oh my God, we are so moral! Star Trek taught us not to be racist. Star Trek taught us not to be homophobic. Star Trek taught us that people who are different should be celebrated.
Oh, the cleverness of us!
Most of us have only learned, from Star Trek and other shows, the cleverness reinforced by the news media, our HR departments, and public policy enacted by certain politicians.
What I learned from Star Trek, and many other shows, was a lesson I don’t see evidenced in the attitudes or behaviors of a lot of people, not even fans. Maybe especially not fans.
I learned that people who disagree with me are not therefore evil.Continue reading
So, right up front, there’s some doubt about the name of this story. It is consistently called “The Hell-Bound Train” wherever mentioned in The Hugo Winners, Volume I. Wikipedia credits it as “That Hell-Bound Train,” matching the folksong from which it takes its name. Isfbd.org agrees with Wikipedia.
Robert Bloch is perhaps best known as the author of Psycho, the novel on which Alfred Hitchcock’s famous thriller of the same name was based, and of Psycho II, the novel on which Richard Franklin’s less-famous thriller of the same name was… not based.
Bloch’s work nearly always includes elements of horror, but he is known for science fiction stories as well, including the Star Trek episodes“Wolf in the Fold,” about Jack the Ripper, “Catspaw,” about the fabled civilization whose science is so advanced that it is indistinguishable from magic, and “What Are Little Girls Made of?”, about the killer androids created by a dread (and dead) civilization.
No surprise, then, that his first-and-only Hugo-winning short is not really a science fiction story, but a variation on Faust and many other tales of mortals trying to outwit the devil.Continue reading