September 2007


Back when I was a student at Davy Crockett Jr. High School in Irving, Texas, my little preview of Hell, there was one thing and one thing only that made the place worthwhile (except for Miss Hull the history teacher with nice legs) and that was the bookshelf of science fiction in the library, seven or eight shelves of it. I read it all. My favorites were the Heinleins. I read and reread them until the politics started to sink in, and I quit. Teaching science fiction, I talk about Heinlein when we do the fifties, heaping praise and stressing his influence, but never teaching. I found Bradbury’s politics in F. 451 painful enough, but Heinlein? I couldn’t do it. But still. Then the used clothing store where I buy all my snappy wardrobe put all their books on sale. Paperbacks for 25 cents. There was a pristine Starship Troopers. I remember reading it when it was new, and it totally blew me away. There were scenes I could still remember. How many books do you remember for almost 50 years? What the Hell.

The first thing that struck me is that narratively he’s doing the same thing I’m doing now—a fictional memoir of an ambiguous protagonist—in his case, Johnnie Rico, and in mine, Lucifer. Even though I have no interest in “military science fiction,” it was the perfect book for me to read right now. The second thing that struck me, and I don’t say this about many sf writers of the 50s and 60s, is what a good writer he is. The voice, and the whole thing is Johnnie Rico’s voice, is pitch perfect. The rest of the world is all by-the-way suggestion. The ethical arguments so thoroughly grounded in the imaginary world Rico lives in, I defy you to find your way out. It’s quite the performance. I disagree with the creaky tooth and claw notions of evolution that form the foundation of his thought, but that shouldn’t matter. I don’t believe Yeats’ nonsense either but love the poems.
Like Heinlein, I probably sympathize with my ambiguous hero more than I ought to reveal to the reader, but in Heinlein’s capable hands, I found that part of the fun.  Many thanks to a master.

One of our favorite things in Montreal was the Biodome (not to be confused with the Biosphere) where I took this shot of a sturgeon in one of their terrific aquariums. The museum reproduces several different ecosystems above and below the surface.

This image caught our eye on a poster in Montreal. It’s pretty tough to beat as an arresting political image. Biking in Montreal was a joy compared to any American city I know of. That’s likely due to the efforts of the many bike riders there.

Sarah and I had much too good a time in Montreal to blog about it while there. The people were wonderful, the city beautiful and vibrant. I especially want to thank the young fellow below who leapt into my frame, turning my dull crowd-on-street shot into a demonstration of my photographic skill at capturing the antic moment.

Sarah and I are vacating in Montreal this week and enjoying it immensely. We time-traveled to 1967 to take this shot. I’d write more, but we’re off to rent bikes and exhaust ourselves.

The flagging God campaign suffered disastrous numbers in the last round of polling. As one pollster put it, “Basically, no one wants God for President.” Theories abound as to why, despite his overwhelming name recognition and unrivaled influence, that this would be true. Some are made uncomfortable with his historically patriarchal, anti-democratic views, while others are worried he’ll be so busy watching out for the fall of every little sparrow that he won’t keep his eye on the stock market. But issues aside, God’s biggest problem, all agreed, was that nobody can identify with him, feel like he’s one of them—except for a few delusional paranoids in high-security mental institutions. He brings no built in constituency. Women married to faithless men can identify with Hillary, people who always have to spell their names like Barak Obama, and hispanic guys with anglo names can feel a particular bond with Bill Richardson. But who can identify with God? He’s it. The only one. How many people, at the end of the day, can honestly say they feel Almighty? “Monotheism might be good theology,” one campaign worker who asked to remain anonymous complained, “but it gives you basically nothing toward building a constituency. Combine that with no party affiliation and downright hostility to raising money, and we’re basically screwed.” As if matters weren’t bad enough for the God Campaign, God’s running mate, Santa Claus, is under investigation for possible lead paint use at his secret North Pole workshops. The elves, thought to be a sure endorsement for the God/Santa ticket, recently endorsed John Edwards instead, citing his stand on labor issues.

God, with his usual off-the-cuff style, brushed off any concerns about his poor showing in the polls. “What do you mean there’s no one like me? What about David Petraeus? From everything I hear, he seems like my kind of guy. Smart as the dickens.”

We paddled up to Bosher’s Dam this weekend. The river’s so low it’s uncharacteristically easy to paddle upstream if you don’t mind getting snagged on an occasional rock. Here’s the dam and the fish ladder (not in operation at the moment). You’d think those would be awful big steps for fish.

It occurs to me that Nettie Potts might make a good character name, but today I’m passing on medical advice. As one of those uninsured Americans, I’m always looking for cheap, effective alternatives to prescription drugs. After my doctor tried me on a couple of different nasal sprays to combat chronic congestion ($110+ for a tiny bottle with side effects), he suggested I try sinus irrigation based on the testimonials of a few of his patients. Basically, you pour water in one nostril, and it comes out the other. You can add salt and baking soda to the water to increase its efficacy. It works like a charm, costs almost nothing, and has no side effects that I’ve discovered. I bought a SinuCleanse pot from Walgreens which comes with measured packets of salt and soda. When those ran out, I mixed my own using a kitchen scale. If you find yourself snuffling or constantly clearing your throat, try a neti. I use one daily.

Greeting from my researches. I’ve been busily writing this week. Something about this novel keeps leading me to characters who fall from high places—Lucifer, Kong, Jezebel. Jezebel’s tossed from a window by some of those believers in the one true God who teaches us to love one another. Go figure.

I turned 60 yesterday, and Alice turned 15. That’s right. I’ve spent a quarter of my life with this dog. We had a great party in a house cleaner than anyone could remember it ever being. This is one of my favorite shots of the party animals:

The painting on the wall is of Sarah’s mother when she was about sixteen. The story goes it was painted by a young man smitten with her. Everyone assumes it’s a painting of Sarah at sixteen.