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In a Hole In The Ground There Lived a Hobbit

Long before any cartoons, long before any movies, and long before any graffiti, there was Bilbo Baggins. And long before Bilbo, there was J.R.R. Tolkien.

I don’t remember whether I was 17 or 18 when a friend pressed a copy of The Hobbit into my hands, with the whispered secret knowledge that “Bilbo Lives!”  In a way, it was her small revolt against the ubiquity of Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger In A Strange Land and its byword of “May you never thirst.”

It’s funny, now, when I think back 50 years later, that I don’t even remember her name, that rebellious friend who started me on what has become a life-long quest for well-written fantasy, science fiction, and the various sub-genres we now lump under the heading of Sci-Fi (or sometimes, Sci-Fy).

Today I came across an old, somewhat weathered paperback copy of The Hobbit, and I was instantly transported back to that day in the hall of Highlands High School when I first heard of the book subtitled There And Back Again.

“Bilbo Lives!” never became the great rallying cry that “Frodo Lives!” turned out to be. Maybe The Hobbit came too soon, or maybe The Lord of the Rings had better press. Either way, had there not been The Hobbit, there would have been no Lord of the Rings (LOTR), in the same way that had there been no monthly The Strand magazine, there would be no BBC series called Sherlock.

And there most certainly would never have been that great classic of modern literature,

bored

But I digress.

The Lord of the Rings

I we were in the early years of the reign of King George Jr. when The Fellowship of the Ring was released in theaters. Shrub (so-called by Texans because he was the little Bush) hadn’t yet embarked on his take-no-prisoners approach to the environment, but already I could see the parallels to the Orcs tearing down trees in order to fuel the flames which would birth the great army of Uruk-Hai that would soon ravish the land and enslave millions if Frodo failed in his mission.

frodo failed

After watching The Fellowship, I came out of the theater wanting to be Arwen (Liv Tyler), elf-maiden, and fierce warrior. And to be honest, the fact that she (like me) had the hots for Aragorn, played by Viggo Mortenson, didn’t hurt, either.

LOTR, Redux

17 years later, the Eye of Sauron has reopened. This time  it has taken the form not of the ultimate evil but rather that of complete incompetence: Donald Trump as Gollum. Slimy, hate-filled, monomania wrapped in fascism and served up via a Russian samovar. Toxic masculinity at its absolute narcissistic worst.

Where is the Frodo Baggins who will destroy the ring in the fires of Mt. Doom? Or will he fail, and the country itself be driven there by Gollum?

Please. Vote sensibly in the mid-term elections this November.

Pinterest: A Love-Hate Relationship

Do you use Pinterest? And if so, have you ever had this happen to you? Last week I cleared my browser cache, and was subsequently unable to log into mt Pinterest account. “No worries,” I thought. “Use your other browser.”

I did, only to have Pinterest ask me for my account and password in order to log in. But no matter how many times I tried, no matter how many ways I tried to access my account, I was unable to log in.

This is the third time this has  happened to me, and each time, after receiving absolutely no reply from Pinterest technical support—which I suspect doesn’t exist and never has—I have had to create a new account. And here’s the kicker: if I then search Pinterest for my previous account, it doesn’t seem to exist anymore!

My ultimate solution? I’m continuing to use Pinterest to get ideas from other people, but I am saving those ideas on my laptop—and I’m not trusting Pinterest enough anymore to store my most important ideas there. Nope, I’m going back to OneNote and Evernote.

The Cloud is an excellent additional storage place, but don’t rely on it to be your be-all and end-all of your storage solutions.

Me? I have an external hard drive I back up to every night, and I also burn my critical information and files to DVD on a weekly basis.

Always remember Robyn’s First Rule of Computing:

BE PARANOID AND COMPULSIVE!

No Time for Novels?

The Guardian recently published an article claiming that

When our daily news is apocalyptic, it’s irresponsible to read made-up stories. It’s time to start reading the serious stuff instead.

Go ahead and read the article. This post won’t make sense otherwise.

This was my initial response on Facebook. Why Facebook? Well, that’s where I discovered the link to the article.

Nonsense. What better time to use one’s imagination than during a crisis? It was a lack of imagination that created the crisis in the first place, or more to the point, a lack of understanding possibilities.

Tom Clancy wrote about a 747 crashing into the Capitol building years before 9/11. In fact, after that tragedy, intelligence experts interviewed Hollywood writers about possible similar events.

The discussion on Facebook turned out to be just that: an actual discussion as opposed to the usual “You doodoo head! You don’t know what you’re talking about!” free-for-all insult exchange that usually passes for discussion on Facebook.

By the time I had finished reading the entire thread (as of 8:30 this morning), I was more convinced than ever that we absolutely need fiction now more than ever before.

(By the way, the Clancy novel I referred to was Debt of Honor. Like all of Clancy’s works, it can be summed up with a quote from the late Ronald Reagan: ” A good yarn.”)

To write at all you’ve got to be creative. To write fiction you’ve got to have a plot. And to write good fiction, you’ve got to have a good imagination.

Last night I watched The Fellowship of the Ring on Netflix. Sure, I had seen it before, but this time, watching the Orcs tearing down trees and creating a barren wilderness where there once was beauty, my own imagination immediately saw a connection between those scenes and Donald Trump’s slash-and-burn, scorched earth approach to the environment.

From there, my mind jumped to Dr. Seuss’ classic tale of The Lorax, and once more I wondered why people who insist on poisoning the air and water, destroying forests, and levelling mountains in the name of profit have the nerve to call themselves conservatives. Just what the hell are they conserving? Wall Street?

You know Tyrannosaurus Rex was destroyed before
By a furry little ball that crawled along
The primeval jungle floor
He stole the eggs of the dinosaur
CLOSE YOUR EYES & CREATE THE SOUND
OPEN YOUR HANDS & REBUILD THE GROUND
We are egg snatchers –
flashin’ sunshine children
Bunch of diamond thieves
Mau Mau (Amerikon)

Paul Kantner wrote that song back in the ’70s for the very first Jefferson Starship album, Blows Against the Empire.

Our own empire is falling all around us while the Emperor plays not the fiddle but the back 9 at his golf resort, and all of his sycophants exclaim over how lovely his new clothes look. The barbarians are not only at the gates but they have actually broken through and are now looting the nation’s treasury.

Will we survive? Can we survive? Or will some future Edward Gibbon chronicle these days as The Decline and Fall of the American Empire?

Or is this just a prelude to the decline and fall of Western civilization?

You Say You Want a Revolution?

Reading the November 2017 issue of The Empty Closet caused—as it usually does—me to experience mixed emotions. Joy, because of the stories about adoption and other loving family issues, and fear because my own government refuses to recognize my right to even exist .

Having grown up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, I bought into the lies everyone else did. As Pete Seeger so memorably sang,

“What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine?
I learned our government must be strong.
It’s always right and never wrong.
Our leaders are the finest men.
And we elect them again and again.
That’s what I learned in school today.
That’s what I learned in school.”
”What did you learn in school today,” by Tom Paxton

That dream was shattered when the nation ran headlong into Viet Nam, assassinations, and Watergate. The past 40 years have taught me that our government can’t be trusted to tell us the truth, that politicians—at least at the national level—exempt themselves from the laws they impose on the rest of us, and that we haven’t learned a damned thing from history. How are we supposed to react when the enemy is not at the gates but rather occupying the seat of government.

40 years ago I didn’t even know what “transgender” meant, much less the fact that it applied to me. But now we’re in the 21st century, when the spelling of the word “bigotry” has changed into “sincerely-held religious beliefs,” and we have both an occupant of the White House (I refuse to call that orange monster “president”) and an Attorney-General who both tell me I have no right to even exist, much less be treated with the same rights as everyone else in our country are.

What will be the fate of our nation if the very people who are sworn to protect and defend it “against all enemies, foreign and domestic” are themselves domestic enemies? Or are we as a nation no longer worthy of those freedoms and liberties we fought for in 1776, 1812, 1860, 1914, and 1941? Is this, as Jack Nicholson’s character asked, “as good as it gets?”

“And I don’t know a soul who’s not been battered
I don’t have a friend who feels at ease
I don’t know a dream that’s not been shattered
or driven to its knees
But it’s all right, it’s all right
We’ve lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road
we’re traveling on
I wonder what went wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what went wrong.”
–Paul Simon, “An American Tune” Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group

Am I the only one who thinks these thoughts? Am I crazy? Or am I thinking clearly?

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical….An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medecine [sic] necessary for the sound health of government.” – Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, Paris, January 30, 1787 (Emphasis added)

jefferson

Why Do So Many Americans Hate Each Other?

That was the question on Facebook this morning. This was my answer.

It’s fear, most likely. People don’t understand what’s happening in our country today and so they cling desperately to the idea that nothings wrong. When someone tries to point out what’s essentially cognitive dissonance, they lash out in fear.

Our “modern” educational system, which places standardized testing above actual learning, has made it all but impossible to recognize that our nation’s run as an empire is over. We have an evil buffoon in the White House who is set on destroying the country from within. A man who has sworn to uphold the Constitution and defend it against all enemies, foreign or domestic, is himself the greatest domestic enemy.

Both he and his corporately-owned cronies in Congress will be remembered, if at all, as petty Neros who fiddled while Rome burned.

I recently read a prediction that Trump will be the last Republican president, that his party won’t survive his administration. I predict that he will be the last president period, regardless of political party.

“It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.”