Friday, February 27, 2015

The Final Frontier

Spock (Leonard Nimoy):          "Random chance seems to have operated in our favor."
Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley):  "In plain, non-Vulcan English, we've been lucky" 
Spock:                                         "I believe I said that, Doctor" -- Spock 
(The Doomsday Machine, 1967)

Noting the passing of iconic actor Leonard Nimoy at age 83.

The show was from another age. The "special effects" were special then, rudimentary (almost comical) now. TV's had tubes, removable to be tested at the drugstore. There were three channels, four if one counted the nascent PBS entry on UHF (whatever that meant). Late in the afternoon, with our "Rangoon, Burma calling" antenna on the roof, Star Trek was attainable from Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. 

Captain James T. Kirk (played by the nearly universally detested William Shatner) always got the girl, but Spock got the best lines. Allegedly emotionless, Nimoy could make even the most deadpan of delivery ooze with engaging dryness. Informed that "nobody helps nobody but himself" Spock sighs. "Sir," he says, pained expression stealing the scene, "You are employing a double negative." When Kirk wins a war of words with a killing machine Spock's compliment has two very sharp edges - "Your logic is impeccable, Captain. We are in grave danger."

Nimoy played other parts after Star Trek but never quite shook off the role of Spock. Among the books he wrote were I Am Not Spock in 1975, followed twenty years later by I Am Spock. The Star Trek movies rekindled the voyages of his alter ego and renewed our relationship with him.

Star Trek strode brilliantly ahead of its time with scripts about mutually assured destruction, proxy wars involving balance of power and the ever delightful notion that some cultures will imitate anything, even the Roaring Twenties. Center screen, just behind the overacting captain, was half human, half Vulcan Spock reminding us of the yin and yang inside of all of us.

Live long and prosper exploring new worlds and new ideas, Mr. Nimoy.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Channeling Tech Thirty

"To err is human. To really fuck things up, you need a computer."

Hard drive crash. Just the sound of it sends chills down the spine.

Not the inevitable waning of zest late in a man's life,when a little blue pill is required before refilling the radiator of a classic Camaro. Or, whatever that commercial was about. No, I mean the chilling call from the repair tech saying that the little metal disks containing the little ones and zeros that make life worth living had vanished to the great electron sigh in the sky. I would need a new laptop.


There are documents - short stories I've written to capture this thing or that about a main character. There were eight hundred pictures I'd transferred from my phone, on the theory that the laptop was more secure. Photoshop covers of a novel I want desperately to publish. Expensive programs. Fifteen hundred songs. Most of my writing was safe - sort of. My latest manuscript? I hadn't saved the final version to Microsoft's version of the Cloud. I was.... Bereft. Morose. Discomfited, even. And gloomy.

But, wait!

The world and all of the modestly-priced doodads are so incestuously connected that I just have to back off the ledge, put away the Vat 69 and think. Most of the really important pictures I posted on Facebook. Pat and I on ships, the dogs, the grandchildren. I sent - and received - hundreds of pictures via email, text.... Although I'd stupidly, lazily let a manuscript go, a good friend had the latest copy. It was back in my hands (and off to backup heaven) within hours. The photo shoot of friend Alison as Amy Painter? Safe with the photographer (Leider Phtography) who took them. All of my music was available when I reloaded iTunes. (Sigh).

A toast, if you will. Come on - it won't kill you. To Bill Gates and all of the men and women who have so interconnected our planet that virtually nothing is lost but time.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

On The Bus

"In professional stage racing, particularly the Tour de France, riders who are not in a position to win the race or assist a teammate, will usually attempt to ride to the finish within a specified percentage of the winner's finishing time, to be permitted to start the next day's stage. Often, riders in this situation band together to minimize the effort required to finish within the time limit; this group of riders is known as the gruppetto or autobus." Road Bicycle Racing, Wikipedia (2015).

Choosing a 5K primarily either uphill or downhill (very little flat terrain) for the first real run in 15 years may not have been especially wise. Granted, the recent treadmill sessions were confidence builders, and I had no illusions of grandeur. Before we had even begun I took my place with the affectionately labeled "Water Buffaloes." No doubt a term of endearment.

It was not long into the effort with folks half (or less than half) my age before reality set in. Running the whole way would be unlikely. Yet.... The folks in my group were encouraging, supportive and refused my suggestion that they run their own pace. "This is a great pace" once of them claimed. They chatted amiably (I gasped for breath) about the route, the nice weather and the fact is was Friday. Eventually we arrived back at the Academy, me none the worse for wear.

Our time? Slow. But when the discussion turned to how slow? Wait a minute. I may be old, and new at my job....

In any cycling event, be it the above mentioned TdF or a local group ride, there is always "The Bus." It is generally comprised of cyclists who don't ride very long (or very often) at the front. They make the effort, do the route and get each other home in whatever time propriety demands. Membership on the bus is restricted to those willing to help each other get to the finish with dignity intact (and ahead of the time cut). For those unwilling to lend a hand, or encouragement, there is always the Sag Wagon.

The men and women who saved me a place on the bus did so with grace. I walked a bit, ran a bit more and was still jogging at the end. Two days later, enough lactic acid had dissolved that I could shovel my driveway without whimpering.

Don't dis The Bus. A lot of fine cyclists ride it, so that they can fight another day. For me, it meant success on my first real run in a long time. Back to the treadmill so that I can ride the bus some more.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Etched Everywhere

"Those that touch our hearts stay in our hearts forever."

You thought that by vandalizing a memorial you could tarnish the memory of the fallen? Seriously?

Sixty eight of Denver's Finest have died in the line of duty. The latest was Celena Hollis, shot while working extra duty at a jazz festival in City Park. She had served in Detroit, had an affection for red shoes and left a daughter.

Dave Roberts passed in 2011 from the effects of a gunshot wound sustained in 1985. The suspect asked to have a handcuff loosened and Dave, who was a great guy, obliged.

Bruce VanderJagt was killed by a man with a rifle at the tail end of a pursuit that began in the mountains. His wife spoke at his funeral, of what a loving man he had been. Several thousand people from all over the country attended.

Ron DeHerrera had just begun field training when he was killed in a car accident. A stolen vehicle running from officers struck the side of his patrol car. He lingered for several days before passing. His funeral was held at a church on Colfax Ave in early April. The sanctuary was packed with officers long before the last of us arrived, so we stood outside at attention in long rows until the service began. Typically April, the day began cool but with a perfect blue sky. Warm sun finally bathed the thousands filling the street while, inside, friends and family said good bye. Clouds rolled in, as did the sleet. Several among our ranks were designated to retrieve coats. The rest stood firm until Officer DeHerrera led a miles-long procession.

If you think desecrating stone tarnishes the memory of the brave men and women we hold in our hearts....

You are a special kind of stupid, aren't you?

We don't remember them because their names are on a wall. We remember them because their faces, like the many Colorado police officers who have fallen, are etched in our hearts. They are heroes, sworn to protect even you with their lives, if necessary.

What do you stand for? Oh, you threw paint.

Well, I don't know your name. I won't make any special effort to remember it. You don't count.

The people whose names are on the memorial do.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In G, All Over the World

"Ne'er looked back, never feared, never cried." 39, recorded by Queen (Brian May, 1979)

Music. A catchy little tune, a compelling arrangement. 

The band Queen's Brian May wrote '39 a song about a dozen astronauts who left Earth in '39, returning a year later. Except, in our world, a hundred years have passed.

'For so many years have gone though I'm older but a year
Your mother's eyes from your eyes cry to me."

Quirky sci-fi thing, done in so many Hollywood movies. The guitar licks are impressive, engaging and though based on simple chords demonstrate what an accomplished player can do with the key of G.

I found this cover:

Then this one. There were 350,000 Ukraines singing along in a place called Freedom Square. An estimated 20 million people watched on TV.

Gives me goosebumps.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Like A Girl

"You play a girl." The Sandlot, (1993).

How does a man become a feminist? He has daughters.

I wrote this short story in 2010, a kind of tease for The Heart of the Matter.  It is based on an event that took place at a Florida beach. It makes this an especially long blog - I get it if you decide not to wade in. But, there are a lot of women out there who do police work like it was meant to be done.
This is for them, and for my Mom, Pat, Beth, Katy and Greta - my girls.

Like a Girl

“I’m going to kill you, bitch.”
            He burst out of the shadows, never hesitated; lunged at Deputy Karen Sorenson before she could fully dismount the sheriff’s department bike she rode to patrol her beat. The struggle was personal, instantaneous, and vicious – a strong, determined man’s stale-alcohol grunts, insane eyes that burned in unrestrained fury, and a hand that clawed desperately for her duty weapon while his other savaged her. Her initial reaction – disbelief – soon gave way to an overpowering anger that the man would put his hands on her.