Category - Digest

Something from the Archives

As seen above a trendy restaurant in Sausalito, CA, just after the holidays sometime in the mid-or-late 1970s.

And yes, I did wake up on Tuesday, January 2nd, thinking, “thank god that’s all over with for another year…”

Merry Ho Ho and Happy Ha Ha

Hey Kids!

I guess I should post something before the year ends.

Let’s start with this:

_______________
Christmas:
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…?”

Well I wrote this blog post.  And a few others.  And published a couple of books.  Does that count?

Maybe I’ll do better next year.

But then, that’s what I say every year.

Actually, I think that’s what everybody says every year.

So y’all have a Merry Ho Ho and a Happy Ha Ha, and I’ll hope to see you at the next roundup.

*

I’ll leave you all some snaps from back in the day when Christmas was still fun – because it was the 1950s, and cuz we wuz the kids!

For more about the electric trains, read Harvey and the Lionel Trains

*

Addendum 231222:

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.

Greetings from Los Angeles

Clear Los Angeles Skyline

Yeah, I know.  It’s been a while. 

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.

I flew out here to do an interview with Jesse Michels, host of the ‘American Alchemy’ YouTube channel.  Jesse has been a true champion of The Man Who Mastered Gravity and has a keen sense of how that story fits into the larger narrative of the… unexplained.   Back in September Jesse posted a two-hour documentary featuring exclusive interviews with David Grusch, the former intelligence officer who testified before Congress last summer about UFOs, crashed flying saucers, recovered alien ‘biologics,’ reverse-engineered technology, government cover ups, etc.  You know, the usual stuff.   Read More

“It’s an odd mission…

HEAS 2023

… but this seems to be my destiny in this life.

(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.

Read More

It’s Busterheimer Time!

Barbie + Oppy + Buster = Busterheimer

Hi kids!

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”!).

I am nobody’s idea of a film critic, but I can play one on the Internet so I posted my idea of a review here – with some links to some useful background material. There are a few add-on thoughts that I posted as well.

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.

A controlled fusion reaction…that’s the missing piece, the ‘star in a jar’ we seemingly haven’t figured out yet.  And that’s what’s fascinated me since 1973.

All of this discussion of atoms and energy started when Einstein whipped up his little equation E=mcway 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….

Oppenheimer, Einstein – And Farnsworth

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.

Buster in Collar

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! 

2020 Mustang GT Convertible

It’s a 2020 Mustang GT Convertible. I got it with 16K miles! 

Some things never change.

That’s Me Up On The Jukebox (2)

The Higherside Chats

I did another podcast interview that was released this week.

A lot of this will be familiar to you if you tuned into the first one.  

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:

The Higherside Chats

 

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.”

 

Listen on Spotify:

A Tale of Two Biographies (Part 1)

Philo. T. Farnsworth and T. Townsend Brown

 

The initial impulse was innocent enough. 

After Apple canned me in January ’22 and I had nothing but time on my hands, I started to wonder two things: 1) what to do with the time and 2) how to restore that little bit of income, which for five years had made the difference between living on ‘portfolio income’ and running out of capital before I run out of breath.  

A couple of months after I’d hung up my Apple T-shirts I got a check from the self-publishing service called ‘Lulu.com‘ – which I’d used to publish the unfinished Townsend Brown biography after I abandoned the project back in 2009.  The check was not very much, maybe $60 or $80 for a quarter.

Necessity being the mother of invention stories, that was enough to get me wondering: if I dusted off the manuscript, could that trickle be turned into an actual stream?

By then I’d had Mike Williams’ rewrite for several years.  I tried to do something with it when Mike first presented it to me in 2018, but I didn’t have the patience then for the very granular work of restoring my ‘voice’ to the expedited narrative Mike had distilled. 

It’s not like I’d ever stoped thinking about what-the-hell had happened back in 2009 – when my collaboration with Brown’s daugther went off the rails, when the only interested agent rejected the proposal, saying “there’s no meat on the bones” – when I closed the book and put it away.  I did expect I might return to it some day.  I just didn’t think it would be another twelve years. 

Still, over the ensuing years I found myself returning to certain themes I could dwell on and some story points I could focus on.  

My computer workstation

The Room Where It Happened.

With nothing but time on my hands (and, more importantly, no co-habitant  telling me not to) I re-visited the files in the spring of 2022. 

I opened three windows on my 27″ display: my 2009 manuscript, Mike’s 2018 rewrite, and a new window where I cobbled the pieces back together.  It took about six months to reconcile my original manuscript with the Mike’s scaled down version.  

Fast forward to this recent spring.  With the help of designers in Pakistan and Bangladesh I found through Fiverr.com, I had a book ready to upload to Amazon’s Kindle Direct platform. 

I didn’t stop there.  

Not only had I thought a lot about the themes running through the Townsend Brown story, I also thought a lot about what that story had in common with the Philo Farnsworth story that was published back in 2002.⁠1  And it occurred to me that so much has happened since that book was first published that it was time for an update – and a new introduction to explore what ties the two books together.   

These two stories – Farnsworth and Brown – are like swamp creatures crawling out of the priordial soup of 20th century cosmology – that bubbling cauldron of novel thinking from the likes of Planck, Einstein, Bohr, Schroedinger and all the others that gave us Relativty and Quantum Mechanics. 

For example: You might be surprised to learn that Albert Einstein did not win his Nobel Prize in 1921 for either his Theories of Relativey or E=mc2.  No, Einstein won his Nobel for the first paper he published in 1905 on the Photoelectric Effect.  

You’ll be hearing a lot about the bomb and E=mc2  in a few weeks when the big feature film Oppenheimer is released.  In the meantime, think about this: 

E=mc2 gave us the atomic bomb, but the Photoelectric Effect gave us television and every video screen on the planet (including the one you are looking at now). 

Both came out of the New Cosmology of the 20th Century.  

Now I have two books in circulation.  They both draw from that well. 

And now, this: Last month Amazon put more money in my bank account than I have ever earned from something I created and put into the world⁠.2

At the ripe age of 72, I am actually earning a living (well, subsidizing my retirement) as an author.  I’m not certain yet that the model is sustainable, but I’ve been learning how to run ads on Amazon and the results are quite encouraging.  

Who’da thunk⁠3?  

In addition to the targeted advertising I’ve been doing on Amazon (thanks again, Holly Butler), I have also been interviewed for a couple of podcasts in the past few weeks, and each conversation has given me an opportunity to articulate some of the not-yet-fully-formed things I’ve been thinking about since I went back down the rabbit hole last year.  

You can read all about that in “A Tale of Two Biographies, Part 2.   

Or you could watch the trailer for Oppenheimer:

CYA at the bijou… and bring plenty of popcorn, it’s long one!

_______________________

1 Isn’t it curious that the Farnsworth book was published the last time I got fired from a job – when Gaylord took songs.com out to the woodshed and put it out of their misery?

2 songs.com not withstanding – that was mostly an aid to others putting their creative  work into the world.

3 Certainly not my ex-wife.