It’s actually been a couple of months since I recorded this. The producers took their time adding some visual effects to the YouTube version above, and it was finally unleashed on the world today (Thurs Jan 18 ’24).
FWIW, I’m working on with a ‘virtual assistant’ – would you believed based in Pakistan? – who is pitching me for more podcast conversations like this. If you care to read the pitch, find it here.
I guess I should post something before the year ends.
Let’s start with this:
A seasonal, pagan ritual, co-opted by Christians…
…to celebrate the birth of a Jew.
No wonder we’re confused.
Recently, a new email correspondent told me about an exchange she’d had with her daughter, who was pissed that Mom didn’t want to drive several hours (in each direction) to participate in a preconceived notion of some idealized holiday festivities. The story triggered me, and in reply I started pounding out some things I think a lot of people think about this time of year but nobody actually says.
When has that ever stopped me?
Herewith an excerpt from my reply:
To say I have mixed feelings about “The Holidays” would be a bit of an understatement (that, actually was a massive bit of understatement).I think I rather resent the whole “hey, let’s top the year off with a quasi-fascist forced march of of the Christmas Industrial Complex that starts every year right after Halloween (before, even).
Got any money left?We’ll take that now, and it will be so. much. FUN!!!Fa la la la la!
Just in case somebody doesn’t get the message, we will play the same dozen “Christmas tunes” that you have now heard a dozen million times on every sound system (i.e. shitty speakers) in every establishment you enter from now until sometime in January. Gotta stop in the bathroom? Well deck the goddammed halls – it’s not safe there, either.
Are we having fun yet??Ba-rumpa-bum-bum!
And then the whole family thing.Given my own family history (dead father, pre-fabricated step-family), I have a dim view of the whole concept*.And judging from your story about your daughter, I think all of those misgivings are validated.
I encourage you to wonder only one thing, and that is how you could have raised a daughter so insensitive and unforgiving (so much for ‘the Christmas Spirit!).And since I gather you are divorced from her father, we can surmise that whatever genetic disposition makes your daughter that way she got from him. Feel better now?
Also… I dunno what’s in the air this year, but a lot of the people I know seem to be experiencing ‘early on-set SAD’ (Seasonal Affected Disorder)**.I’m hearing of a lot of fatigue from people who are ready to call it a day around 8PM because by then it’s been dark for three hours.
And, given the state of the world during this ‘joyous time’ it’s a wonder any of us has the strength to get out of bed.
And who thought it was a good idea to schedule all this stuff for the one time of year when the weather mostly sucks and there is no place to park at the mall??
Wake me when it’s over.April will be soon enough.
I dunno if any of that made my pen-pal feel any better. It sure made me feel better….
And speaking of April: Can somebody please explain to me why we turn on “daylight savings time” when the days are getting longer – and turn it off when the days are getting shorter? Who thought that was a good idea?
Nor do I understand why the ‘shortest day of the year’ – today’s Winter Solstice – is only the first day of actual winter. Why doesn’t the shortest day come in the the middle of winter? There must he something I don’t understand about planetary orbits and the Earth’s axis. I’m sure they explained it that day I wasn’t paying attention in school (which, of course, could have been any day I was in school).
Here’s the thing about winter: it goes on for as long as you can possibly take it. And then it goes on even longer. Hell, I had enough of the-cold-and-dark-before-5PM about two weeks ago – i.e. two weeks before actual winter even started. I am not looking forward to February.
Nevertheless, I have my own small way of observing (fending off?) the season: Despite all the preceding ‘bah humbug’, I put up lights on my house every year.
It’s beginning to look a lot like… winter!
But please understand, these are not “Christmas” lights. These are Winter Lights.
I don’t just put them up for ‘the holidays.’ I put my lights on the house the day that we shifted from Daylight Savings to Standard time. This year it was November 5th. And I’m gonna leave ’em up*** until Daylight Savings starts again on March 10th, 2024 (even though winter is not officially over for another ten days).
Oh. And. Speaking of “Christmas music,” you might be surprised to learn that there are actually a whole TWO “Christmas tunes” that I think are worthy of your time and attention – especially since, by and large, they get very little time in the retail rotation.
So please, take a few minutes to avail yourselves:
First, this (truly!) timeless classic by Bing Crosby and… wait for it… David Bowie!
And then, what I consider, truly, my favorite Song of the Season:
“And so this is Christmas, and what have you done…?”
After reading the above my sister wrote to remind me that she’s the only member of the original ‘nuclear (that term seems oddly apt now) family still living, and provided this photo from one of our Christmases in Florida with the Grandparents:
Christmas in Florida, ca. 1955.
*Family: a gathering of humans that we would have nothing to do with were we not ‘related’ to them. Any exceptions only prove the point.
**Not to be confused with SADS, which sounds really serious, but could also be triggered this by time of year.
*** Actually, I take down the little spiral Christmas tree lights in January, and just leave the “winter” lights on the house until spring.
And it seems like all of my missives start that way.
If I’m going to stay in touch with the people on my ‘Dunbar List‘ (aka ‘in lieu of Facebook etc.’) I should probably write/post more often, because by the time I do get around to it so much water has passed under the bridge that whatever I finally post turns into a flood.
I’m actually writing from a restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, LA CA.
Friday was the first time I’ve been on a plane since before the pandemic.
(what follows is the reading I did at Richard Hull’s High Energy Amateur Science (HEAS) gathering in Richmond, VA on October 7, 2023. If you don’t care to read the whole thing, here’s an audio recording I made with my iPhone (no promises re: the quality). Photo above by David Rosignoli.
Tonight’s reading is in two parts.
Part 1 is the Foreword to the 2023 Edition of The Boy Who Invented Television:
“It’s an odd mission… but this seems to be my destiny in this life.”
I tossed that line off to a friend in March 2023.
At the time I was nearing the release of my second book, The Man Who Mastered Gravity– the biography of a mercurial figure named Thomas Townsend Brown.That book is now available from booksellers worldwide.
Some guys fly to the moon. Some guys start a company and make a billion bucks. Some guys become doctors or lawyers – that’s what my parents always expected of me.Some guys become auto mechanics, bakers, candlestick makers or Indian chiefs.
Some guys become writers and publish dozens of books.
And some guys… well, so far I’ve written/published two books.
It has only taken me fifty years.
Nobody is ever going to accuse me of being prolific.
How’s your summer going? Have you jumped on the BarbieHeimer cultural zeitgeist yet?
I’ve jumped on half of it.
I went to see Oppenheimer last week, and have already written a couple of things about it. Rather than duplicate those efforts, here’s the links:
First, I started a discussion at fusor.net – the site I create (in 1998!) to explore the one form of nuclear energy (controlled fusion) that we do not have at our disposal (the one Einstein said was “the good part of my theories”!).
What I really wanted to write about is what I have always considered the missing piece in this puzzle.
Now for today’s science lesson:
There are four ways to release nuclear energy. Two of them involve fission – splitting atoms, and two of them involve fusion – squeezing atoms together. In either case – fission or fusion – the reaction can be explosive: ‘Atomic’ bombs are explosive fission and ‘hydrogen’ bombs are explosive fusion. Or the reaction can be controlled: The kind of nuclear reactor that pumps electricity into the grid is controlled fission.
All of this discussion of atoms and energy started when Einstein whipped up his little equation E=mc2 way back in 1905. There were many steps and many physicists who embellished on Einstein’s theories in the ensuing four decades leading up to the Trinity Test in New Mexico, but Einstein’s equation was (pardon the expression) ‘ground zero’ for the whole undertaking.
So I was intrigued when I kept seeing a scene in the trailer for Oppenheimer that showed an encounter between the title character (Cillian Murphy) and Einstein (Tom Conti) at the edge of a pond. That scene turned out to supply a critical thematic underpinning for the entire three hour film.
Once I’d seen the movie and understood how that scene fit in (never mind that it never actually happened), I knew what I wanted to write about those two characters and the one I’ve been obsessed with. Behold….
I hope y’all have time to click over there and take a gander.
Now then, About Buster…
Those of you who subscribe to my ‘Buster Sez’ occasional weekly newsletter will notice that Buster is dressed a little oddly in this week’s masthead photo.
Oh please. You want me to wear this???
How shall I say? Buster’s been feeling poorly the past couple of weeks. Something must have bit her on her back, just below the neckline, and she’s licked on it to the point that there’s a big hole in her fur, and I guess that caused some kind of infection. She spent a whole weekend hiding under the covers before I could get her to the vet, who gave her a couple of injections.
She’s mostly recovered since then and is much more like her usual rambunctious self, but that damn sore on her back has been slow to heal, hence the collar. That collar really didn’t work though, so I’m waiting for Amazon to deliver a “kitty onesie” that I hope will cover the bald spot so I an apply the ointment the vet prescribed and keep her from licking it off.
She’s back to spending a lot of time under the covers but I think she’ll be OK. I’m sure she’ll be crawling over me tonight as usual.
So that’s how my summer has been going. How’s yours?
If you have any idea what a piston is supposed to look like, then you’ve got a pretty good idea “what’s wrong with this picture?”
Oh. And. One other thing:
I got a new car. The original Mustang – the one I got back in 2019 just after the divorce – was cursed. Long story short: it was in the shop like ten times this year, ending with the two words you don’t ever want to hear in the same sentence: “engine” and “replacement.”
So fuck it.
I just replaced the whole damn car. And this time –instead of replacing the engine – I got one with twice as many cylinders.
This thing is awesome!
It’s a 2020 Mustang GT Convertible. I got it with 16K miles!
But this time the Greg Carlwood went a little deeper into ‘The Caroline Group’ and some of the, umm… more… ah… conspiratorial? … aspects of the Townsend Brown story.
And I got to expound a little further on the place where the Philo Farnsworth and Townsend Brown stories dovetail together…
Listen on Apple Podcasts:
Today’s Guest: Paul Schatzkin is a biographer of obscure 20th century scientists. He has written “The Boy Who Invented Television” about Philo T. Farnsworth and “The Man Who Mastered Gravity” about T. Townsend Brown. Together, the two stories hint at – as science fiction pioneer Eden Philpotts predicted – a “Universe of magical things, patiently waiting for your wits to grow sharper.”