Post #SOTU Commentary

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‘s speech was more of symbolic testaments than of real substance. Other than the brief mention of rebuilding our infrastructure and his most of the speech was about what others, his invited guest in the chamber, had done and empty words of rhetoric. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the speech had not clocked in at a whopping 1 hour and 20 minutes! The first 35 minutes was all about how he had created jobs, increased employee earnings, and help break Wall Street records. The rest of the speech was an artificially overly sweetened piece of fluffy confectionary Americana that leaves nothing but a bitter aftertaste. No real new DACA deal was offered, he wants the building of our defenses by returning to the days of nuclear annihilation, and told Congress he needs trillions of dollars for infrastructure rebuilding without defining what it is exactly and how it’s going to get funded. All I can say about this speech is that that’s 80 minutes I’ll never get back. 

On the Eve of President Trump’s State of the Union Address

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The wife is out doing the thing that she does to uplift and benefit the community, she is seamstress and customer for a local junior high school theater production company, leaving me to my own device. So, enjoying a couple of hours of solitary bliss I do as most in this modern age do and surf the streaming channels looking for entertainment. I finally settled on ‘Ken Burns: American Lives’ and specifically chapters 7 and 8, the life of Mark Twain. Now, as I was watching the program, I began to wonder what this magnificent genius writer of the American culture would have said of our times, and specifically, the 45th President of the United States. Challenging Google to find me an answer I came across the above quote from his “The Character of a Man” that, to me, fits best to what he could have thought. Of course, this could be argued as conjecturable and so I would need to press those who disagree with me to find confirmation as to the meaning of Twain’s quote by going to the source itself. If they chose to do so in order to make their point, who am I to question their absolute dedication to their cause. On the other hand, if some lack conviction in their own assumptions, and thus fail in their pursuit for the truth, they will undoubtedly continue to be the gadflies that they are and some other means will have to be found to deal with their pestering. It’s a shame tar and feathering has gone so out of vogue in our times. Maybe someone can come up with an internet version of it, perhaps?

-A. M. Holmes

Answer to a Facebook Friend Inquiry

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Author Note: I was asked once by an FB friend what it’s like to have ASD.

One of my Facebook friends asked me what it’s like to have Asperger’s. I replied as best as I could and liked it well enough to repost here.

It’s like being hyper-focused and easily distracted at the same time. I read at a minimum three books at the same time (my Kindle has made this easier for me, and less awkward) usually 2 fiction and one non-fiction. I’m at present reading ‘Dune’, 2 short story anthologies ‘The Robot Megapack; Astounding Science Fiction Stories, and a non-fiction about the early life on our planet called, ‘Life on a Young Planet’. I have to keep my mind constantly active so when I get bored reading one I switch without losing where I was before. I usually finish 1 or 2 300 page plus books in a week and a half. The internet is NOT good for me and t.v. can be impossible unless I find a show or 2 I can binge otherwise I go nuts because nothing is interesting. Talking to people is weird. I can listen better if I don’t look at the person because looking directly at that person is distracting (facial movements are distracting and I don’t hear everything. On the upside, I make a good listener if I just focus on the words). The world can be boring, boring, boring but if I have something to focus on I can watch something for hours. One time on my job I sat for 4 hours troubleshooting the operation of multiple relays until I found where an intermittent problem was occurring! Conversations are horrible because I tend to skip around a lot and digress quite a bit (it drives me nuts when I’ve moved on a subject my wife is still talking about). When I’m really bored I do “thought experiments” like imagining the path of a photon from its creation (the product of fusion within the Sun’s core) through its 93 million mile journey in space until it hits and excites the outer electron of a surface molecule which then we perceive as color. Touch is uncomfortable unless elicited. In other words, if I or someone like my wife wants a hug I can (and it feels good) but if someone were to touch me without me expecting it I flinch.

Upside: I know a lot about a lot, I can focus intensely on an activity without being distracted, I can discriminate sounds and inflections in voice quality better than most people, and I have a great imagination.

Downside: I’m easily bored, having and keeping relationships are difficult (making those I do have very special), I lack patience, and I have problems finishing tasks especially if they are not very stimulating and are repetitive.

 

Note: I can relate to cats.

-A. M. Holmes

‘The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat’ X-Files Season 11, Episode 4 Review

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I love the X-Files. I have been a fan of Chris Carter’s show since it first introduced us to Fox Mulder and Dana Scully back in the 90’s. So, when Carter decided to do a limited run I was more than enthusiastic about it. Now we’re into the second season of this limited run and I’ve yet to be disappointed. To me, some of best episodes are when the show doesn’t take itself seriously. ‘Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’’, ‘The Post-Modern Prometheus’ and ‘Dreamland’ are my favorites because here is where you see Carter’s scriptwriting and direction of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson at their best. ‘The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat’ X-Files Season 11, Episode 4 Review I think will join the ranks of Classic X-File Episode.

I won’t give up too much because it’s best when you don’t expect it. It starts with Mulder returning from a relaxing session of “Sasquatching” to find someone signaling him for a meeting a la Deepthroat. Mulder intrigued as to who would have signaled him this way meets Reggie Something in the FBI’s underground parking lot. Reggie then begins to explain that there is a conspiracy being perpetrated by the sinister “They” to erase objects and him from history. As proof, he asks Mulder about The Twilight Zone “Martian” episode. Reggie then approaches Scully with the same concern and citing a gelatin confection from her childhood as proof. What follows is an exposition involving the Mandela Effect (or is that the “Mengele Effect”?). On the way, we discover the origins of the X-Files, the possible existence of alternate universes (or not), who They are (actually more like ‘is’) and are given the definitive proof of extraterrestrial life (including the answers to everything) done in a way that comments on our society today.

There, I gave very little away. You can see it on Xfinity, YouTube or Hulu. Now, go watch before it disappears and all that remains is this review of what was actually a ‘Fringe’ episode.

-A. M. Holmes

Understanding Men

 

Author’s Note: With the Women’s March, the #MeToo, and #TimesUpNow movements taking center stage I think it’s time we look at what really has inspired them, Men.

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Some of you women may have been wondering what the hell is wrong with these men? Is it all about power and control? Is it that they wish to dominate everything that badly? Did mommy and daddy not teach them to respect women? Is it genetics? Are they just plain stupid? Or just brain dead? The short answer is, well, boring.

A multi-disciplinary research study in areas from genetics to behaviorism, psychology, and physiology have concluded that the main drive for men falls into three categories and little else. Men are motivated only by three things,

  1. Food
  2. Sex
  3. A way to do as little as possible with the least amount of effort and the greatest amount of gain.

Every single human endeavor from the dawn of time created by men can be thought of as a way of achieving one or more of these goals. From understanding the secrets of the universe to Velcro, it’s all about food, sex, and the desire to be lazy. Now, these are not in any kind of order of importance and they do tend to overlap on many occasions. As a matter of fact, if more of these goals can be achieved at the same time, the better. Take for example strip joints that feature all-you-can-eat buffets that are so popular among men. Here men can eat, enjoy sex, and achieve a high amount of self-gratification without doing anything at all (I always thought that if all of this could be done in a tasteful way, men doing these things while sitting on the toilet would be Nirvana). Men will pay top dollar to go to these establishments.

Another example is agriculture.

What motivated humans from leaving the comforts of the jungle to go trudging into the dangers of the outside world? Food (and if it was a woman who led the way- sex). Tool making? To do as little as possible with the least amount of effort and the highest amount of gain (opening a coconut, or the head of the person trying to steal your coconut). Combining the two we became hunter and gatherers (please note that its “hunters” then “gathers”, you’ll understand in a minute). Men developed societies in which women did most of the gathering (a laborious back-breaking effort requiring a great amount of time) while the men did the hunting (requiring a lot of wandering around not really sure where to go, eventually running into something, tracking it, killing it, skinning it, chopping it, and after much revelry, back patting, and a lot of “atta-boy, Og”, finally dragging it home to eat it- after the women prepared it, of course). It only took a mere 2 million years (and a long time of nagging from cave wives) for men to go to the next step and invent agriculture. Now, all that men had to do was to go out into their back-yards and kill it, skin it, chop it to bring it in and eat it (again, after women prepared it).

What about other inventions, you say? Cars- come on, aren’t they supposed to be sexy? Yes, if you consider a noisy, smelly, polluting machine made of cold steel and plastic that provides transportation with the least amount of effort (on the driver’s part) can really be an object of sexual desire (on a personal note, I prefer woman. It looks a lot less strange talking to one of them then to a machine that should not have anything interesting to say back to you).

Sports? The object of any sport to aggressively overwhelm your opponent through aggressive acts, and outscoring him with a lot of display. Ever watch deer rutting or any other phenomenal display of sexual competition? Compare that to something like football or boxing, same thing. I mean, how many times have men been heard using sport terminally to the ability to “win”, or “score” with women sexually? Isn’t the sweat in sport the same as in sex?

Ok, what about religion? What’s that all about? Religion is the set up (as thought up by men) of a moral code (as determined by men) of conduct (regulated by men) in which society (men and women) can live by. All religions include in their doctrine rules that govern sexual behavior- specifically, a woman’s sexual behavior. Why is that, you ask? Well, if a man can control a woman’s sexual activity he is guaranteed a source of sex (and food preparation) that requires as little effort as possible. I mean, that’s what marriage was really all about, wasn’t it (“until those goddamn women libbers and fags had to ruin it all for us real men”)? If a woman broke the rules she is labeled a whore. If a man does the same with a woman, he is considered doing God’s will and there is a lot of show of high fives all around and a lot of drinking and celebrating (and by the way, I know I sound like I’m religion bashing, I’m not. I’m a good little Catholic boy- well, most of the time). And don’t get me started on the many dietary laws religions have (that’s food, by the way).

Power is about sex. Before Catholic priests were made to take an oath of celibacy they were screwing anything that moved (and thinking about screwing anything that didn’t). Money is about power and the ability to get as much of it while doing as little as possible with the least amount of effort has always been looked at as a high achievement Communism failed because even though through sharing the work meant there was less effort, there was little gain as well. With power getting more food and more sex becomes easier.

What about understanding the secrets of the universe? Here you have men (and though there have been many strides made by women it is still men for the most part) sitting looking up into the sky, sitting considering a microscope, sitting looking at a difficult mathematical problem, sitting- well, you get the point.  Possessing knowledge is power (“I know more than you do, nya-nya-nana-nya-nya”). Power there is prestige. And with prestige comes invitations to all those high-class celebrity parties that all the “In” people go and where there are a lot of food and women. Seeing the pattern here?

So, women, that’s the secret to understanding men. The Golden Grail to the basic psyche of men.  The essence of maleness. The rhyme and reason to all the silly things that men do. So, accept them for what they are. After all, this study about men was conducted by men and men wouldn’t to women to make there lives easier. Now, I’m going out for lunch.

-A. M. Holmes

“It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…”

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Author note: Some beginnings just start badly.

“It was a dark and stormy night…”, so began Niles Steinberger’s latest literary effort making it the fifty-eighth time he produced a piece to submit for publication that would most likely end up becoming his fifty-eighth rejection. This, along with the one hundred and sixteen short stories he had submitted to various periodicals, all returned, and the twenty-two thousand posted blogs he had on eighteen different online writer’s groups, none commented on, made Niles the unrecognized most prolific literary failure of all times. It wasn’t that his writing was bad, it was that he wrote badly. None of this, though, discouraged Niles from continuing to pen unexceptional prose. He was like the ant who was stuck at the bottom of a deep cup going around in circles and not realizing he wasn’t getting anywhere. Surprisingly, he was optimistic that someday he would produce a winner, a story that will resonate with readers and finally give him his first break.

Niles imagined himself doing massive book signings and guest appearances on popular talk shows. He had even gone so far as to practice imaginary interviews with his cat, Mister Muggles, playing the part of the host. In Niles’ dreams, the host would encourage their ongoing banter as the audience laughed at his lame jokes. He fantasized about his likeness not only featured in literary magazines but in popular publications like The New Yorker, Variety, the New York Times Sunday edition, and the cover of Entertainment Weekly. He envisioned the movies deals, the script consultations (he would write those too!), the film versions of his stories, and maybe even an Oscar for best picture, screenwriting, and book adaptation. He knew he would become famous AND RICH! All he had to do was to do something with those seven little words on his computer monitor. Unfortunately, the difficult part for Niles wasn’t that he didn’t know where to go beyond those seven words. His problem was that he just could not express it in a way that was… interesting.

Writing “uninterestingly” didn’t fully described his shortcomings. Nor did “unimaginatively” or “incoherently”. One way to describe the effect of Niles’ work would be that if given the choice between listening to a reading of one of his masterpieces of mediocrity or be waterboarded one would be inclined to choose the latter as the least painful method of torture. Another way to put it would be that if there was such a thing as intelligent design and God knew of Niles beforehand, He would have scrapped the entire idea of Creation, gone home, write a letter on why He had given up, entirely blaming Niles, of course, take out the .45 caliber He had hidden in a shoebox on the top shelf of His bedroom closet, and then proceed to blow His Divine Brains away. For example, “Fatima’s Fabulous Fancy- A Taliban Tale”, one of Niles’ most infamously tasteless and obnoxious submissions, would have been enough to justify the call for a jihad on Western civilization.

Yes, he was that bad.

“It was a dark and stormy night…”, he read it again to himself contemplating on what to say next. Finally, feeling an idea stirring in his mind he typed, “and the rain made a sound on the roof like the beat of a crazed heroin-addicted negro jazz drummer.” He stared at his computer monitor for a minute feeling quite satisfied with himself. He wasn’t sure what a “crazed heroin-addicted negro jazz drummer” sounded like but he was quite sure it probably sounded like rain falling on a roof. He leaned back on the wooden chair to stretch his legs and looked around the cluttered living room of his small home for more inspiration.

He once heard that Ray Bradbury had drawn inspiration for his stories in this manner so he tried to do the same. Scattered among the trash and stacks of magazines were pulp novels written by his favorite author and literary mentor Lance Kilright. The pulp novels had titles like ‘A Grape in the Shade’, ‘Of Moses and Hombres’, and, Niles’ personal favorite, ‘The Wasp Queen of Neptune’. ‘The Wasp Queen of Neptune’ was dear to him because it had the what he thought made a great story, adventure and sex. That the story lacked a coherent plot, was a grammatical nightmare, and plagued with many misspelled words didn’t trouble him at all because Niles believed it was just Kilright’s distinctive style. Most of Kilright’s critics had concluded that the book must have been written by a twelve-year-old, mentally retarded child. The rest never got past the acknowledgments.

Before his untimely death from a virulent venereal infection (he was in Thailand doing research for his next book, ‘The Yellow Slave Girl of Neptune’), Kilright had managed to publish 26 “Neptune” novels at a rate of three a year. His last novel, ‘The Yellow Slave Girl of Neptune’, was rushed into publication by Kilright’s publisher, Amalgamated Ace, so soon after his death that it wasn’t until the first, and only, edition that it was realized it was unfinished. ‘The Yellow Slave Girl of Neptune’ has the double distinction of being the only novel ever written to abruptly end in the middle of the story, as well as, going from “New Book” to “50% discount” to “Free Used Book” status in just under twenty-four hours.

The rest of the room was littered with empty food boxes, old yellow newspapers, and odd and ends of miscellaneous useless or broken objects stacked precariously on top of each other like a trash version of the stone formations found in the southwestern United States. It was the general flotsam of a lazy and disorganized mind and nothing there offered much inspiration. There was also an ashtray placed in a strategically by his mouse. It was filled with cigarette butts packed so closely it resembled a nicotine artichoke.

Niles didn’t really like smoking. He had heard that Lance Kilright was a connoisseur of cheap tobacco and wanted to emulate his hero. Kilright was also a heavy drinker, but anything stronger then soda-pop made Niles queasy. Niles suspected that even if Lance Kilright had been a bit more careful with his sexual escapades he would have eventually succumbed to lung cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. Stumped at not finding anything interesting he reached for his copy of ‘The Little Blue Book for Writers’.

Although it was blue, the reference book was neither little nor actually very helpful in writing. Anyone who hopelessly tried to decipher its 4224 pages of complicated cross references would soon be driven mad by the poor editing and the many typos. Even if you could understand how to navigate the complex key system it still wouldn’t help because it was not written in grammatically correct English. This was because it’s publishing house, Amalgamated Ace, used non-English speaking Malaysian editors in its publications. After one attempt, most of its users either would utilize it as a doorstop or a paperweight. Niles used it frequently for Kilright had endorsed it. Kilright was also a co-editor of the book and he frequently used it as a doorstop. Most of the time Niles couldn’t understand the intricate way the book was put together so he would open it to a random page and start reading.

This time he opened it to page 1153. It said, “write something of you familiar with.” Niles thought about it and even though he was familiar with a lot of things none of them were particularly interesting. He tried again, this time a bit closer to the end of the book on page 3212. “Right about something unexpected”. Niles pondered this. He wasn’t quite sure what this meant or how he could write about something unexpected he could be “right” about.

It was at this moment, right as he was developing one of those migraines he usually got whenever he used the massive tome, that he heard a knock on his front door. Startled out of his momentary state of torpor he got up from his chair and threaded his way through a path in the clutter. Another knock, a bit louder this time, shook the flimsy door. He opened the door and was greeted by two strangely dressed individuals on the other side. It had been raining heavily that night and the two short, gnome-like men dressed in what seemed like clown outfits were soaking wet. Despite their condition, both creatures bore the two biggest and most foolish grins that Niles had ever seen. His first thought was that they were lost Little People from a passing circus. Then he remembered that the circus hadn’t been through locally for several months.

There followed an awkward moment where the greeter and his guest weren’t sure what to say. Finally, the one on Niles’ right, in the red jacket with green ruffled shirt and yellow pantaloons said, “Greetings! Are we to assume that we are speaking to the owner of this humble, yet honorable home?”

“Ah… yes, yes you are,” answered Niles.

The two little men stared at each other and started to giggle like a pair of Catholic school girls.

The one on the left in the blue paisley blazer, pale green shirt and purple polka dotted pants then asked, “And may we also assume that you are the Niles Steinberger whose very house this is?”

“Ye-yes” answered Niles once again.

The two ridiculous creatures turned to each once more and giggled.

Niles, very confused over the whole thing then asked, “Um, okay, eh. So, who are you exactly and what do you want? If you’re here to sell something-”

“OH NO! Dear Sir, please, nothing of the kind,” said the one in the red jacket.

“No, really, we don’t mean to intrude, kind Sir,” said the other before continuing. “Let us introduce ourselves. My name is Toby Mackwire and this is my associate, Asher Kutchton and we represent the League of Terran Righters. LOTR for short.”

“WRITERS!”, said Niles with sudden surprise and enthusiasm. He supposed now that these two were part of some nearby convention, the kind he had heard about, a Something or Other-Con and that they had somehow heard of him. He remembered the blogs and postings and guessed that they must have read his stories. FANS! He thought. I have an online following! With a sudden renewed sense of excitement, he stepped aside and hurriedly invited his guest in from the cold rain. “Come in, come in!”

His two-diminutive guest entered still looking at Niles with their huge wide grins.

Once inside Niles embarrassingly looked at his messy living room and cleared a spot on a forlorn loveseat in a vain attempt to find a place in which to seat his guests. He decided to stack the papers and empty frozen meal boxes higher on a pile of trash that was already leaning too far to remain standing. For himself, Niles sat atop of where his coffee table had once had been. Something underneath let out a dying rasped sigh of relief as it settled. Once they all were seated there followed yet another awkward moment of silence.

Finally, the one who called himself Toby Mackwire broke the silence. “As I was saying, we are representatives of the LOTR and are here to address a long-neglected list of grievances concerning you.”

“Yes,” said the one called Asher Kutchton. “You see, it has come to our attention that your writing has had much influence in current events and that it’s time to attend to it properly.”

Could it be, Niles thought, that he was finally getting the recognition he was due?

“Wow,” said Niles, “I am truly surprised- honored that your League of…”

“Terran Righters.”

“…yes, writers, you believe I have that effect? Wow, I don’t know what to say.” He came up with an idea he thought was brilliant. “Maybe you can introduce me to your group? Can I give a little speech? Maybe an award can be presented?”

The two creatures looked at each other conspiratorially and giggled once more before the one called Asher pulled out what appeared to be a rather authentic looking and nasty alien pistol from the inside of his coat. He as pointing it at Niles.

“I don’t think you understand us, Mister Steinberger, we are not here to honor you. You see, we are from the future and here to kill you.”

Niles laughed nervously. Then he saw that they had stopped giggling and were dead serious.

Frightened, Niles jumped up and yelled, “THE FUTURE! TO KILL ME!”

“Yes, Mister Steinberger,” said Toby, “we are from the future and here to kill you.”

“But, but why?”

“You’re a danger and a menace,” said Asher. “You see, although you never published-”

“Never?”

“Never! Never published. But, enough of your works survived after the Great Holocaust of ‘63 that, after three hundred years had gone past, we were plagued with a rebellion insurgency inspired by your writings.”

“I’m an inspiration to a rebel movement?” Niles strangely heartened by the thought.

“It was their hatred of you that bound them together and inspired a two hundred years long bloody jihad …”

“Oh.”

“that plunged the entire human civilization into a thousand year long Dark Age …”

“Oh.”

“where billions died of war, famine, pestilence, and disease.”

“Oh.”

“So,” Toby continued, “we invented the time machine to go back and right that which had wronged us for, so long. We, League of Terran Righters, took an oath to remove this scourge from history and to end all the suffering before it begins!”

“I hope you understand it’s nothing personal,” added Asher.

Niles wasn’t sure what to make of all this.

“So, if you would please, Mister Steinberger,” said Asher as he still pointed his ugly gun at Niles, “stand over in that clear area by that bookcase and we can get this over.”

Niles got up not sure what else he could do. As he did so he accidentally bumped over a golf club that had been set into place to hold up a tall trash pile of dubious construction. What followed could only have been described as the most spectacular display of a chain reaction ever to be a witnessed. The tall pile of trash spilled over a pile of garbage which knocked over a stack of books that, in turn, spilled over on to a makeshift shelf of cinderblocks and planked wood which catapulted a jar full of golf balls across the room. One ball hit Asher square in the head and he fell along with his gun to the ground in front of a heavily jam-packed bookcase. Another ball hit Toby on the side of his head and he fell next to his partner. Yet another ball hit a stack of empty pizza boxes which once dislodged from their job of holding up several boxes of rejected manuscripts fell over in a crescendo of catastrophic proportion as it struck the heavy bookcase causing it to fall. When the dust finally cleared, Niles saw that the two diminutive men had been crushed to death.

When Niles finally recovered his senses his first thought was surprisingly not of panic. Instead, with the help of a shovel that he had kept around much like the golf club, he made a quick job of his two little problems. With the broken bodies buried safely in the garden, for he knew nobody in the present would miss them, he went to the kitchen to clean himself up and had a bite to eat out of a day-old, and rather dubious, Chinese food container.

He once again sat in front of his computer. This time, though, he had a clear idea of what he was going to write about. This time he knew what to say and how to express it. After all, he thought, didn’t ‘The Little Blue Help Book for Writers’ say, “Right about something unexpected”?

-A. M. Holmes