Today was Jackie Robinson day in baseball and everyone wore a shirt with the number “42” emblazoned on it. Now, I’m enough of a baseball nerd to know that Jack Robinson’s entry into Major League Baseball was a big deal. A huge deal. It was the true beginning of the break from segregation to whatever we are doing these days.
We watched the movie “42” again. And loved it. Again. You can read the review hereand it is one of the best reviews I’ve ever written, along with Garry, the total complete baseball nerd.
The thing is, I’m also a total science fiction nerd — and, speaking of freaky coincidence — Douglas Adams shares my birthday. And we ALL know what he thought of forty-two. It was the number that made the world … well … the world. 42 is the “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.” It is the answer.
Sadly, the question remains unknown.
So how could Jackie Robinson and the answer to the question “what is the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything” be the same number?
Synchronicity of course. History rhymes and so do numbers. Phone numbers and house numbers and the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. I’m absolutely sure that Douglas Adams knew exactly what he was doing when he picked that number. He knew.
Jackie Robinson and his number, 42, IS the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. It is. Think about it. He broke the world open and it will never, ever go back to the way it was before he did it.
Celebrated around the world on March 25, Tolkien Reading Day is a favorite among fans of the renowned author. When we were younger and drank more, it was also Fall of Sauron Day.
This day commemorates the dropping of the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom and the non-extinction of the human race. Sadly, I think Sauron is back.
I don’t know if he-who-has-gone-to-Mordor (aka Florry-duh) or whether or not he has the one Ring of Power, but the extinction of the human race seems to be exactly his goal. If he can’t kill us by getting rid of our medical care, maybe he can wipe us out by destroying the planet. If that doesn’t get the job done, there’s always the nuclear option.
So perhaps this is the right day for celebration after all.
If we can remember a couple of hobbits and an insane mad creature named Gollum climbed through the darkness and horror of Mordor to get the ring into the fire, maybe we can get through this too.
J.R.R. Tolkien (Jan. 3, 1892 – Sept. 2, 1973) was an English writer, poet, philologist and university professor. He was best known as the author of the classic works: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarrillion as well as Roverandom and Farmer Giles of Ham.
HOW TO OBSERVE THE DAY?
Read some of Tolkien’s works and use #TolkienReadingDay to post on social media. As it happens, not only did I just finish reading the entire three book series, but Garry and I also watched the extended 3-movie extended version of “Lord of the Rings.”
This day was officially started in 2003 by the Tolkien Society to encourage the readings of J.R.R. Tolkien. March 25th was chosen as the date to honor the fall of Sauron in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
Personally, from our point of view, they were very late to the party. We’d been joyously celebrating that day for years, from the late 1960s right through the 1970s. By the time the Tolkien Society made their pronouncement and declared it a special day, we had largely disbanded. I had gone to Israel, others moved to Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Utah, and Massachusetts.
But we never forgot that day or the ceremony — which involved considerable drinking and a very short service, noticeably reminiscent of a Passover Seder. I steal my material from wherever I can find it.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT “THE LORD OF THE RINGS”
The book is about good and evil. On the bad side, there’s Sauron, the greatest and most powerful of evils. Saruman, who would have become Sauron — given the chance. The horror of those who follow these worst of men.
The fear that engulfs the world as Sauron’s shadow began to cover it. The fearful hope that somehow, when power fails, that the determination and dedication of the least of them may yet win the day — and does win the day. It was definitely worth a party and it still is.
I bumped into this quote last night. I was tucked in for the night and I hoped I would remember it in the morning. I didn’t exactly recall it, but luckily for me “Lord of the Rings” is such a well-quoted book, I found it online:
Eomer said, “How is a man to judge what to do in such times?”
“As he has ever judged,” said Aragorn. “Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.”
In the great fabric of life in which we are threads, good and evil are part of us. We are born knowing both. It’s in our DNA. When we see evil and allow ourselves to become part of it — when we live in evil times and excuse the evil around us– we become part of it. No spoon is long enough to keep you far enough away from the Devil.
A bad man and his wicked followers and adherents don’t have “a good side.”
Happy Fall of Sauron Day. Read Tolkien. Watch the movies. They’re available on Netflix. Maybe elsewhere, too.
I first saw the movie when I was 14. I had a tumor on my right tibia. Not malignant, but big and it had to be removed. Even a non-malignant tumor can do considerable damage if it keep growing and this one was growing like mad.
So there I was in Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York. I had a private room. I think most of the rooms were private and it was in that hospital that I very briefly met Eleanor Roosevelt who was not long for the world at that time. It was an elevator meeting, two wheelchairs and a brief “You are the woman I most admire in this world” and a “Thank you, dear.”
I was probably the only kid on the floor and the nurses tended to congregate in my room in the evening. I was watching TV at night. During the day, I read. One night, there was a movie on the tube — “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
I was terrified. I was convinced there was one of those pods under my bed and I made the nurses check there and in all the closets. Those Body Snatchers were sneaky and I wasn’t going to let them turn me into on of those emotionless neo-robots!
Although I’ve seen many other science fiction movies — and read thousands of books in the genre — I think that was the single story that scared me the most. Not because of its strange appearance. No tentacles and nothing bug-like, but because it looked like me. Or you. It was the alien clone that removed our humanity.
I think I’m still afraid of that. Maybe that’s the one thing left to fear!
I’m sorry, but I haven’t gotten all my renewed Star Trek fever out of my system. I’m having too much fun.
So here’s another thing I’ve noticed that was popular in the original series, but not so much in the later ones. The “POB”. Or “PESKY OMNIPOTENT BEING.”
POBs were usually alien races that were once normal biological beings. Like us. Except of course for the mandatory differences in their foreheads, ears or noses.
But after millions of years of evolution they no longer needed their biological forms and became pure energy. For some reason never explained, this seems to give them omnipotent powers.
There are two basic groups of POBs. POKs. Pesky Omnipotent Kids. And POAs. Pesky Omnipotent Assholes. The first category made sense. Omnipotent children would build their own planets, capture the Enterprise, annoy the crap out of the whole crew, break the ship and kill a few Red Shirts.
At the last minute, the parents would show up, fix the ship, bring the Red Shirts back to life, apologize profusely and disappear in a cheap special effect. The crew would all be like WTF? And life would go on to the next episode.
Later shows, especially Star Trek The Next Generation featured the POA. The most popular one was “Q”.
He was part of something called “The Q Continuum.” Whatever the hell that was. For some reason, he was obsessed with screwing around with The Enterprise and Jean Luc Picard. In some ways it sort of made sense. I mean think of it. You’re omnipotent. You’re omnipresent. You know everything. You’ve done everything. You know everything you are going to do. After a while. Say a few billion years, you’d probably get pretty bored.
“What am I going to do today? Oh who am I kidding? I already know what I’m going to do and I’ve already done it. A TRILLION TIMES!” Looking at it in that light, I might find it fun to screw up Jean Luc Picard’s weekend too.
Of course if Star Trek The Next Generation was on the air today it might be just a little bit different.
POA (Star ship Enterprise): . You are now under the command and the judgement of the all-knowing, all-powerful “T” from the “TRUMP CONTINUUM”.
PICARD: Oh crap.
ENSIGN CRUSHER:Captain is this a POB? We studied them at the academy. I can’t believe I’m actually in the presence of a Pesky Omnipotent Being!
PICARD:No you’re not. He’s just a Trumpulan. We’ve dealt with this jerk before. His real name is Donnie. He likes to sneak up on Federation ships, beam aboard and try to convince them he’s a POB.
DONNIE: No I don’t. My name is not Donnie! I hate that name! It’s “T ! And I have no ship. I need no ship. I am all-powerful!
PICARD:Oh for God’s sake Donnie. Your ship is parked right outside. We can see it right there on the view screen.
DONNIE:That’s not my ship.
PICARD: Yes it is. Look, it says TRUMP in huge letters right there on the hull.
DONNIE:No it doesn’t. You’re listening to the lying media again!
PICARD:No, we’re not. We’re looking right at the damn thing!
WORF:Sir, I’ve locked all weapons on the ship. I can destroy it on your order.
PICARD:Don’t tempt me. Look Donnie, I don’t have time for this. We have to start an episode. Worf, beam him back to his ship and get us out of here. Warp factor two.
DONNIE(as he fades out in a cheap special effect):You can’t do this! Only I can save you! I’m being treated very unfairly! SAD! Buy my daughters clothes! What a world, what a world.
PICARD: I never thought I’d say this. But, I miss Q.
You know, we could really use a POB right about now.
A couple of weeks ago, Ellin and I watched the Golden Globes.
Normally we don’t much care who wins or loses, but for the past few years I’ve been getting “screener” copies of all the movies nominated for all the award shows. We watch as many as we care to watch and can always watch the ones that win.
So, we watched the show. Near the end of the show Oprah Winfrey was given the Cecile B. DeMille award.
It’s their version of a life-time achievement award. The winner gets to give a speech without having to worry about the dreaded “music” telling them to shut the fuck up and get off the stage before they get “the hook.”
In 2017, year the winner was Meryl Streep. She gave a speech eviscerating our “So called Commander-in-Chief.” This year Oprah didn’t specifically name the President at all. Even so, she gave a presidential speech and by most accounts, a pretty good one. In the middle of it, I paused the show and said to Ellin. “Holy crap, it sounds like she’s running for president.”
And sure enough, that was the headline the next day.
I’m writing all of this, not because I support or oppose Oprah Winfrey running for president. I’m not writing this because if he’s done nothing else, Cheesy MacCheese Head has proved the old adage we were taught as children: “Anybody can grow up to be President.” More importantly, he’s proved that just because anybody canbe president, not everybody SHOULD BE!!
No, I’m writing this because I predicted that Oprah Winfrey would be president 28 YEARS AGO!!!
Don’t believe me? I have proof. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far … well actually, it was this galaxy. I wrote a show called “A Half Hour Radio Show.”
The premise of the show was that two hosts, me and my partner Jeff, would present a half hour of witty, satirical bits, and skits. The problem was, we never ever did any of them because something would always happen. We would never get to our actual show. In the first episode, the radio station we were on was sold during the opening music and they installed an instantaneous ratings computer that computed ratings in real time. Every time we went to commercial, the format would change so we never got to our show.
After that, things got much weirder.
In one episode, Jeff and I got sent 30 years into the future to do a show with our future selves. Why? Well, we still had the show 30 years in the future and we realized one day that we had no show for that week.
We thought it would be funny to get our selves from 30 years ago to come to the future and do a show together. Then they remembered that they actually did do that, so now, they had to do that. So, they did.
If that confuses you, it should. If figuring out time travel doesn’t give you a headache, you’re not doing it right.
The point of that particular show was to look at the world 30 years from then. Our young selves asked our old selves about what life was like. We learned things like:
There were 5000 TV channels. Today, cable, satellite, fiber, etc.
Every song had its own channel. Today, it’s Pandora, Spotify, etc.
There was a commercial channel. It only played commercials. Today, it’s on YouTube.
When asked who was the President of the United States, our older selves answered: “Oprah Winfrey.”
I’m writing this to try to find an answer to the mess we are in today. The fact is, Russian bots, trolls and right-wing “twitter twits” are waging a giant war on the truth and sanity.
I’ve had many people ask me, “Why can’t we put out phony Facebook ads? Why can’t we send out fake tweets?” And it’s a good question. The answer is, of course, we can. But the real question is what kind of fake tweets or fake Facebook ads do we create?
It’s hard for most of us because we’re, well, sane. And we have this quaint notion that facts are facts and lying is bad. Most of our parents told us this when we were growing up.
Even so, I don’t think this is a bad idea. So, again, the question is, what kind of fake news do we make up? When I don’t have the answer to a question I like to ask “What would Captain Kirk do?”
But in this case, I got nothing. But then I realized I was looking to the wrong person. The real question is “What would Mr. Spock do?”
You see, in Star Trek all problems were fixed in four basic ways. If there was a disease, Dr. McCoy found a cure for it.
If a computer needed to be shut down, Spock would either pull the plug or get it to do something that would drive it crazy, like computing the value of PI. If the warp core was about to explode, Scotty would fix it. Even though he would complain that he needed more time and he needed more power.
For all other problems, Kirk would either kiss it
or punch it in the face.
I don’t think anybody wants to kiss Trump, even though I know a whole lot of folks would love to punch him in the face.
But here, I realized we need the Spock approach. We need to craft a story that will create a self-destructing Trump feedback loop.
We have to come up with a story that Fox News, the Russian Trolls and all the other right-wing nut-balls will grab onto and re-post like crazy.
And I think I have it.
“A recent bombshell report has come to light revealing a secretly recorded conversation between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. In it, Obama reveals that he now totally agrees with everything that President Trump has done in the last year. He is reported to have said quote “I hate to admit it, but I was wrong. If I could do it all over again, I’d do everything that Trump did in 2017. Exactly the way he did it. Everything he did was genius. And very stable.” Hillary is reported to have replied “Yeah, I agree, and he’s like a really smart person too.”
Now here’s what will happen. Fox News and all the other trolls will jump on this like a cat in a catnip factory. Sean Hannity will literally have an orgasm on live TV.
It will be everywhere. They were right! Trump is vindicated!!
But, how will SCROTUS react? Will he be pleased? Will he be happy? Hell no. His whole presidency, his whole mission in life has been about destroying Obama. It’s been about destroying everything he did. If Obama liked it, he hates it. If Obama did it, he undoes it. So how does he react? Just like this.
TRUMP: Obama would do everything I did.
TRUMP: But everything Obama did is wrong.
TRUMP: I must undo everything Obama does.
TRUMP: I must undo everything I’ve done. Everything I’ve done is wrong.
TRUMP: But everything I do is right.
TRUMP: But if Obama likes it, it must be wrong.
TRUMP: But that can’t be. Everything I do is great. Everything I do is the greatest.
TRUMP: But everything I’ve done must be wrong. But … I can’t be wrong.
This is about the time steam comes out of his ears and the dull light in his eyes blink out and he falls off his gold toilet in a catatonic state.
So, there it is. Let’s get started. Post this on Facebook! Tweet it! Re-tweet!
As Spock would say. It’s highly illogical, but it could work.
I wasn’t sure about the title of this one. It could also be THE SANE STRIKE BACK, or A NEW HOPE FOR SANITY. All of them fit.
The truth is, in an insane world, the sane have to get a little crazy.
You think you know someone. You hang out with them. Exchange emails, jokes, anecdotes. Maybe you even work with them. One day, out of the blue, you discover they are fundamentalist Christians who think you are going to Hell. Or a hard-core right-wing Republican who voted for you-know-who. Maybe a conspiracy theorist or a proud believer in the upcoming zombie apocalypse.
I lived in Jerusalem for almost 9 years. It probably should not be a big surprise that you meet a lot of people who are sure they are Jesus Christ come back to finish His work on Earth. One of them worked at the local pizza joint and seemed perfectly normal, until in the middle of a casual conversation, he would drop a bomb about his mission and there you were, transported to wacko central.
I had a casual friend who was a piano player. He sang and played at fancy hotel lounges, like the Hilton Hotel lounge. He was, like me, an American. So it was inevitable we would meet. I did his horoscope for him because in those days, I did horoscopes for an awful lot of people.
We struck up a chatty little relationship. One night, he called and invited me over. He had something important to tell me.
Important? Our relationship consisted of reminiscing about life in the U.S. in the 1960s — and then, there was his horoscope. I was (coincidentally) the astrology columnist and managing editor of a short-lived English-language weekly. Please, let’s not discuss astrology or my psychic abilities (or lack thereof). You don’t want to know and I don’t want to tell you.
Having nothing better to do at the time, I walked over to his house (just around the corner) and we got to talking. Suddenly, I knew. He was going to tell me one of two things: he was an alien from on another planet … or … he was Jesus Christ.
It turned out to be the latter. Yet one more Jesus. He wanted me, because of my brilliant psychic abilities, to be his Paul and spread the word. I told him his timing was off. I promised to advise him when the right moment arrived. Then I fled into the night and home.
He was one of several people who convinced me there was no future for me in the psychically predictive arts.
Then there was the guy I worked with at a high-tech company in Rhode Island. One day he told me he was going to quit his job and move to an underground bunker in anticipation of the coming American apocalypse. I hadn’t even done his horoscope. Our relationship went rapidly downhill.
These surprises have made me wary of new friends who don’t come with references from other friends. I’m afraid of what might be revealed when we get to know each other better. The thing about people who believe in cabals — or that they were dropped from an alien space craft or will be leaving on one shortly — are that they are sure God has assigned them a mission and you cannot argue with them.
You can’t point out the incongruities and contradictions of their beliefs. They believe what they believe and that’s that. Facts are irrelevant. They ignore evidence. They know everything they need to know and given where they’re coming from, that’s probably enough. For them.
I haven’t personally met a real nutter lately, so I think I’ve got an opening in my tribe. Any applicants?