WHAT A SHOCK!

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.

fobidden planet poster

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.

edward-gorey-donald-imagined-thingsIt 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?

PUNCHLINES AND PROPHECIES – BY TOM CURLEY

So, last night Ellin and I were watching the Golden Globe Awards.

Normally we don’t that much care who wins or loses. But for the last 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 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.”

Last year the winner was Meryl Streep. She gave a speech eviscerating our “So called Commander-in-Chief.” This year Oprah didn’t really mention 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, 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 can be 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.”

It’s on tape. You can listen to it here.


Not only did I write it, I wrote it the in early 1990s
when 30 years in the future was 2020!


I was JOKING!! I was trying to be FUNNY!  I thought that was all CRAZY stuff! Considering what’s been going on, maybe it’s not so crazy after all.

I wanted to make the future as funny and absurd as I could. I never thought I’d become “The Nostradamus of Nonsense.”

NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY – JODI TAYLOR AND THE CHRONICLE OF ST. MARY’S

Yesterday, January 2, 2018, was NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY


It was another day too, including National Cream Puff day, but I’m much more interested in science fiction. So I’d like to talk about Jodi Taylor, author of a series called “The Chronicles of St Mary’s,” a school which isn’t a school where all the historians are time travelers. Never have I found time travel so much fun as I have found in all of Jodi Taylor’s books.

Just One Damned Thing After Another cover art
Book 1

There have been nine full length books and a bunch of short stories too, many of which are free. All of them also available as audiobooks. It’s actually less expensive to buy the Amazon Kindle version and get the audiobook for a couple of dollars than to buy the audiobook by itself, by the way. But I don’t care: I’d have bought them full price too.

The Long and the Short of It cover art
Book 9

The books are funny. Not in a slapstick, stupid way, but with intelligence and lots of historic detail. I’ve learned a lot of history from these books. Lots of cool details I never read in more “serious” history books. And oh how I have laughed!

It’s hard to find good science fiction that’s funny without being dumb, but this is it. There’s also drama and violence, a bit of sex and sometimes, death. But mostly, the books are a great deal of fun. Extremely British, witty, and smart. AND well researched. If you like time travel, you cannot go wrong with any of these. They are great.

They are all available from Amazon and pretty much on every continent and also on Audible.com. Super highly recommended!

LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND FINDING YOUR WAY HOME – BY TOM CURLEY

Marilyn wrote a blog about National Towel Day. That was May 25th, the day fans celebrate the works of the late great Douglas Adams.

I’m not a fan, I’m a zealot. I’ve read all his books. Listened to all the BBC radio series. And watched both movies of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.”  The first one done in the 80’s with the original BBC radio cast, was actually a TV series. It was done on a budget of … maybe 25 bucks, but it was great.

The Disney movie was okay. Mostly, because Douglas Adams was the producer. Unfortunately, he died before it was finished. Even if you didn’t like the movie, it was worth watching just for the opening musical number “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish”.

While Hitchhiker is my favorite Adams work, I also loved the Dirk Gently series.

One of the things in the book always stuck with me. Whenever Dirk was lost he would simply follow someone who looked like they knew where they were going. He found that he never got to where he was going but he always ended up where he needed to be.

I used that concept once. I was driving home from work one night and I was on the local road that leads to my house. I came upon a police barricade. The road was closed.

There were no detour signs. I only knew that one road. So, I did what Dirk did. I saw a car in front of me turn off the road. He/she seemed to know where he/she was going. So I followed him/her. For the next 20 minutes to a half hour we wound our way through twisty back roads in the bowels of Southern Connecticut. I had no idea where I was.

Suddenly, the car in front of me turns on to the main road again. Past the barricade. I couldn’t believe it! It actually worked! But here’s where it got weird. The car in front of me turned off the main road and on to the road I live on. OK, I thought. Makes sense. There are a lot of houses on my street. This person was obviously going home too. But then the car turned into my driveway! That’s when I realized it was my daughter. I should have recognized the car, but I didn’t put two and two together.

The really funny part was that my daughter had just spent the last 20 minutes or so completely freaking out because this mysterious black car had been following her, turn for turn and then followed her to her house! True story.

I know Douglas Adams was smiling.

LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND EVERYTHING … IS JUST A REALITY TV SHOW – BY TOM CURLEY

I wrote a post a while back called Unhinged, Unfit and Unbelievable.  Actually, I wrote it about 10 minutes ago.  But who knows when this will actually air. In it, I was pointing out that in our current surreal reality, we are all looking at the trees and not seeing the forest. The trees are becoming crazier and crazier and the forest is aflame with the fires of pure insanity.

Well that doesn’t look good.

But then I realized that there was a bigger forest. The universe. That’s where the crazy comes from. But why? Why is the universe so … weird?


Some physicists think our universe is a 3-dimensional hologram being produced by the 2-dimensional surface of a really big black hole.


That’s weird.

But I think the real answer is even weirder.  The universe is just a big, really, really big reality show. And this is how it came about.

Consider God. Or whatever you perceive as God. Buddha, Allah, Universal Consciousness, a guy named Phil. Whatever. This being/entity is all-knowing, all-seeing. Omniscient, omnipresent. He/she/it is the entire universe. So — what is it like being that … Supreme Being?

Well, for the first few billion years it’s fun. Creating things like stars and planets and nebulae. Then blowing them up and making new stars and planets and nebulae. Cool stuff. But at some point, you wake up one day and go “So, what do I do today.” You realize that you haven’t invented days, so you do so. That takes a week. And then you wake up and realize … you’re bored. “What do I do today?”

Oh yeah, I already know. I’ve done it all, I know it all. Damn. This is really getting old.”

nancy lemon blog

So, he/she/it has an idea. “I know, I’ll create all sorts of sentient, or sort of sentient life forms. I’ll put them on billions of planets and give them free will. They can do anything they want. Good, bad or just stupid. (Note to self. Invent Good and Bad.) I have no idea what any of them will do.

I could interfere, but I won’t. That would spoil the fun.

Over 100 trillion channels and there’s nothing on worth watching.

And then he/she/it just started sitting back and watching. The unfit, unhinged and unbelievable reality show called the universe. Lately he/she/it is watching us a lot. I imagine God and Jesus sitting in front of a really big TV screen with billions of feeds from billions of worlds. Right now, they are focused on our feed.

JESUS: Damn Dad. You put me through all that shit just to end up with these jack asses?

GOD: Sorry, my bad. Guess I didn’t really think that one through.

We’ll just change the channel.

 

 

SUPERHEROES AND SPACESHIPS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’m usually not a big fan of space or superhero shows, but I really like the “Star Trek”ish television show “The Orville” and the movie “Wonder Woman”.

I think the reason I like these two particular representatives of their genres is because they focus on the human (or not quite human) relationships. The shows are not primarily about the pyrotechnics, battle scenes, superpowers or twenty-third century technology, although those are elements of both shows. In these tow stories, the characters and their interactions don’t get lost in — or play second fiddle to — special effects.

In the first part of “Wonder Woman”, I became absorbed in Diana’s early life on a mystical island of Amazon women. Then I enjoyed watching her adjust to life in the early 1900’s of WWI. I also loved the way her romance with Steve evolved. The movie is, at heart, a beautiful love story.

I’m a big fan of WWI and WWII movies. The major plot line here revolves around a ratty band of anti-heroes — plus Wonder Woman. They are trying to destroy the Germans’ new, extra lethal nerve gas before it can be used on the Allies. You could also almost call the movie a WWI drama with superheroes.

Talking about “Wonder Woman”, I have to mention the star, Gal Gadot. In addition to being breathtakingly gorgeous, she exudes intelligence, strength and compassion. She embodies the quintessential modern female superhero.

If you have any reservations about watching something like “Wonder Woman”, I recommend it as more than just a typical comic book based movie.

“The Orville” has a “Star Trek” vibe. But again, it is much more than your average space travel adventure. Members of the crew have quirky and interesting personalities and there are many fun and intriguing relationships on the ship. For example, the Captain and the First Mate are ex spouses who haven’t fully worked through their issues. Seth McFarlane is a write, producer and plays the Captain. He is fantastic, as usual.

There’s lots of humor and lightness in the show as well as charming banter between the exes. In addition, there are serious and topical issues that are brought up and discussed in most episodes. There was one that dealt with the conundrum of whether or not to change the sex of a female baby who would face serious discrimination and banishment on an all male planet.

The plots are good and I find it an engaging and entertaining hour of television. I have ADD and often can’t sit through a one hour show. So that says a lot for me!

Over the years, I’ve become an expert at glazing over during most of the comic or space ship based shows I watch with my husband. These are two that actually got my attention and kept me engaged.

Kudos to the makers of “Wonder Woman” and “the Orville”.

“BELLWETHER” IS NOT NEW, BUT APROPOS

I’m listening to it again. Not the first, second, or third time. Maybe the fifth or sixth? When life gets too weird, I need a “Bellwether” fix. It’s novel — a short one — Connie Willis and along with several books by Douglas Adams, is one of the books that keeps me sane when all the world is going out of its way to drive me batshit.

It was the bellwether and sheep connection I never got. What do I know about sheep? And why would I care? It turns out, sheep and people have an unnerving amount in common.

A bellwether is the leader of a flock of sheep. She is — the bellwether is always female — an über ewe. She is the sheep who the flock always follows. There’s no specific reason why the bellwether leads and no reason why the flock follows. There is just something about that ewe.

What the bellwether does, other sheep do. They don’t have to think about it — not that sheep do a lot of serious thinking. Their following is automatic, instinctive. Every sheep in the fold will mindlessly, blindly follow, even over a cliff if that’s where she leads. The flock doesn’t know they are following a bellwether. They just do it.

We have bellwethers. One of them is president. His followers are akin to sheep. They don’t examine. They don’t think. They don’t care what “their bellwether” is doing because she is the sheep all of them follow. We no more recognize our bellwethers than do the sheep. An atavistic instinct, embedded in our DNA which says some are born to lead, others to follow. A few will walk their own way.

The book is laugh-out-loud funny. Erudite, witty, and replete with trivia guaranteed to upgrade your anecdotal skills.

Bellwether suggests answers to previously unanswerable questions. Why do people vote against their own self-interest? Why do we do so many stupid things? The answer? We’re following a bellwether. They are loose amongst us, invisible shakers and movers. Unaware of their effect on the people around them, they change the world. Bellwether explains a lot of events throughout history which have never made sense. Even after you know all the facts of what happened, most of history still doesn’t make sense. When you add in a few critical bellwethers, there is a hint of clarity. Human life, history and relationships are illogical. They happen. We can explain them only in retrospect. That’s what historians are for, after all. To make sense of the past because it won’t make sense by itself. Human society is chaotic. The only predictable thing is unpredictability.

I found Bellwether original, insightful, amusing and thought-provoking. Highly entertaining and funny. I can’t imagine what more anyone could want from a book. I recommend it both in print (Kindle or paper) and audio. It is a book you will read and remember.

Then read it again. It helps make the nonsensical almost sensible.