Thursday, May 26, 2016

Yesterday’s Tomorrows

Science fiction and I have a long relationship. The very first grownup novels (i.e. not Dr. Seuss and the like) I ever read were by Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, and Jules Verne. School assignments aside, I grew up on the novels, novellas, and short stories of Golden Age (1920s to mid-60s) science fiction authors, many of whom during my youth were still in mid-career: Bradbury, Kornbluth, van Vogt, Asimov, Harrison, Heinlein, Burroughs, Schmitz, et al., along with the few grudgingly admitted by academics into the ranks of quality-lit, such as Orwell (1984) and Huxley (Brave New World). There is a distinctive direct style shared by many of these authors (likely influenced by pulp editorial requirements), but more importantly they share an attitude that is harder to describe: hopeful, perhaps. Maybe not on the surface, but down deep. Even their dystopias typically are written as warnings – which is to say in hopes of avoiding them. Action/adventure tales in the era by far outnumbered the consciously culturally relevant ones, but the attitude pervades all types. It was in the air of their times, dreadful (Depression, the War) as some of them were.

A handful of mainstream scifi authors still write this way (John Scalzi, F. Paul Wilson, Joan Vinge [Catspaw], among others), but most do not. That’s OK. Times, tastes and society change, and I’m fine with cyberpunk and experimental scifi too. But sometimes I hanker for the old style – especially for the old guard themselves. For this reason, last week I picked up Can You Feel Anything When I Do This?, a collection of short stories by Robert Sheckley, mostly written in the 1960s. Sheckley is best known for The Seventh Victim (1953), a novel about a future in which game-players hunt each other for fame and fortune. If you think this sounds like The Hunger Games, you’re right. Sheckley really caught the groove of the 1960s when they arrived, and he wrote some of his most entertaining short fiction in that decade, much of it first published in Playboy. The tales in this collection are light-heartedly twisted and not infrequently trippy (60s vernacular intended). The first and title story involves an AI robotic vacuum cleaner that doubles as a sex toy. It develops romantic feelings for its owner, but (while she was perfectly willing casually to play with it) she forcefully rejects it when it falls in love with her because she is determined to choose her own lover rather than be chosen by either man or machine. In other words, as an act of self-empowerment she dumps it on its personal merits, not on its mechanical properties – this before “PC” was common parlance. The subsequent stories get only more offbeat.

Thumbs up on the collection, but that’s not primarily my point this week. I want to talk about the future – past futures. The time ahead always appears more distant to us than the time behind, which is why (after age 25 anyway) someone 5 years younger than ourselves seems about the same age while someone 5 years older belongs to a totally different generation. Accordingly, futuristic scifi is often set in a future 10, 20, 30, or 50 years hence that gets overtaken by actual history far sooner than seemed possible at the time it was written. Naturally, the authors – including Sheckley – get it wrong, except perhaps for a lucky guess about some piece or other of tech. That’s OK. Scifi authors are fiction writers, not oracles. Their subject matter is rarely really about the future; it is about the concerns of the times in which they were written. The best of it transcends its era. A few help to create one. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), for example, was one of the required books of ‘60s hippiedom; it is still worth a read, not least for the ways in which it doesn’t transcend 1961. These help remind us that we too have presuppositions that soon will seem quaint – if not actually offensive. A pretty good cultural history could be written that consists of nothing but a sequence of imagined futures.

If the erroneous past futures are truly irksome for a reader, however, it always is possible to adopt the approach taken by Heinlein, which was to embrace parallel worlds. In his later novels, the overtaken events of his earlier novels are represented as having occurred in one of those other worlds. Or one can just not worry about it. The steampunk genre is all about alternative history. So long as the human elements are right, fiction in any genre can have merit. Nonetheless, if one writes scifi (as I sometimes do), it might be best to set it further in future than our first instinct impels us. Like the next landmark birthday, that date will arrive all too quickly.


Just Imagine (1930): 1980 as imagined in 1930. I’m still waiting for one of those private hover-planes.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

May 21 Bout: a Shore Thing

In Saturday’s bout in Morristown between the Jerzey Derby Brigade (JDB) and the visiting Jersey Shore Roller Girls (JSRG), what appeared at first to be a runaway night for the Shore turned into an exciting contest.

The bout began with #8 Emma Effa putting 10 points on the board for JSRG. #414 Mick Stob Her added more in a grand slam and #9 Ja Jolter pushed the JSRG score up to a 50 point lead. All three would repeat their success throughout the match with #8 showing exceptional ability to break through the pack and circle around at speed. #64 Madeleine Alfight put the first points on the board for the JDB. Despite gains by JDB skaters #8 Lil MO Peep and #3684 CaliforniKate, at the end of the first half the JDB trailed JSRG 49-94.

For much of the second half JSRG held its 50 point advantage, widening it at one point to 74 points. JSRG’s early success owed much to effective blocking favoring the diamond formation, a blocking tactic that originated in Australia. JDB increasingly used the same tactic as the night wore on to equally good effect. The game turned when JDB’s CaliforniKate lapped the pack four times and closed retightened the gap to 80-129. Although JSRG continued to score and provide stiff resistance, JDB chipped at the lead. Lil MO Peep took JDB over the century mark to 115-157. In a remarkable series of jams in the last 7 minutes of the bout JDB jammers (including #1 LL Kill J in a star pass) closed the gap to 11 points. In the final jam #9 Ja Jolter and #8 Lil MO Peep both broke through the pack and circled for points.

The whistle blew with a surprisingly close final score of 159-166 in favor of the Jersey Shore.

MVPs: #8 Emma Effa (jammer) and #610 Tina Slay (blocker) for JSRG; #64 Madeleine Alfight (jammer) and #17 Beast Witherspoon (blocker) for JDB.


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Flint Knapping and Smashed Fingers

Among my reviews last week was one of the series Dollhouse, of which I had watched several episodes. The season finale (watched last night) took an unexpected apocalyptic turn due to misuse of technology. The plot reflects a lingering fear. Modern technology opens up the world (and beyond) in the most marvelous ways, but futurists have worried about where technology might lead us since before the word “futurist” was invented (1846). Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published in 1818. Later in the 19th century Verne was wreaking fictional havoc by submarine and aerial bombardment. At the turn of the century Wells fretted about bio-terrorism, modern chemistry (e.g. The New Accelerator and Food of the Gods), and even atomic warfare (The World Set Free). The warnings continued throughout the 20th as Colin Clive shrieked “It’s alive!” in the 1931 movie version of Frankenstein, an endless series of monsters created by radiation from weapons tests ravaged civilization in films of the 1950s, and The Terminator tracked Sarah Connor in the ‘80s. Also in the 1980s, Eric Drexler warned in his book Engines of Creation of “grey goo”: self-replicating nano-bots overwhelming everything like a mechanical Blob. Just last year Stephen Hawking warned that artificial intelligence poses an existential threat to humanity.

Are these kinds of fears overblown? Haven’t they always been? [In my short story Modern Times an early modern human is scolded for knapping a better flint tool.] There have been plenty of industrial accidents from modern technology including some that were regionally calamitous. Many products from laboratories have unintended consequences: the amphetamines that doctors once handed out like candy come to mind. The intended consequences are often scary enough: many of the weapons imagined by 19th century scifi writers came to be. We’ve seen what industrial war can mean. Yet, with all that, human lifespans keep rising and life on balance is vastly safer than in pre-industrial societies. Civilization has given itself some knocks but has not destroyed itself so far. Have we just been lucky? There might have been one occasion when we got lucky.

In the 1920s and early 30s scientists were teasing out the basics of nuclear architecture. Some of the most talented physicists the world ever has known (Enrico Fermi, Leo Szilard, Lise Meitner, Otto Frisch, Werner Heisenberg, et al.) experimented with uranium; each hoped to create transuranic elements that don’t occur in nature by bombarding uranium samples with neutrons. Independently, they succeeded in splitting uranium atoms in multiple experiments but somehow missed that this was what they were doing. This is often called the “Five Year Miracle.” These incredibly brilliant people were looking for elements with higher atomic numbers than uranium; they weren’t looking for fission, and so in very human fashion they didn’t see it. Not until 1939 did Hahn and Strassmann in Berlin recognize that they were seeing fission byproducts from their uranium experiment; this in turn led them to recognize the significance of the U235 isotope and the possibilities for the transuranic element 94, which didn’t yet exist but later would be named plutonium. Fermi expressed self-flagellating amazement that he hadn’t seen it all himself in 1934. If he had, however, those five years of additional development time would have meant that World War 2 would have been fought as an atomic war, not just by one nation at the very end but by all sides from the beginning – unless the prospect of mutually assured destruction deterred war altogether. Given the actors of the day, a good outcome is hard to imagine.

Whether or not concerns about tech are justified in a general way is a moot question of course. Even if one believes the restraint of technical advancement to be a good idea (I don’t), there is no way to do it without overarching global authoritarian force, which even if possible (it’s not) is hardly a good idea either. Scifi writer Larry Niven in his Known Space universe imagined a future in which there was just such an enforced restraint on new “disruptive” technologies by a global earth government; this literally came back to bite them when humans encountered the unrestrained Kzinti: predatory imperialist aliens rather like sentient tigers. I don’t think extraterrestrial sentient tigers pose much risk, actually. People do, as we always have. In the end, however, the tools matter less than who wields them. Tamerlane, for example, is credited with killing some fifteen to twenty million people with nothing more than swords and arrows; those victims probably wished they had a better weapon.


Blondie – Atomic

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Four Diversions of Page and Screen: Pocket Reviews

Page:

Thinking Fast and Slow (2011) by Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus at Princeton, won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2002, which is an unexpected award for a psychologist. He won it for his studies on human irrationality and how this affects economic behavior. He says he acquired his interest in psychology as a boy during the Nazi occupation of Paris. In 1942 he was on the street after curfew and encountered a soldier in an SS uniform. He expected arrest – the usual fate in this situation – but instead the man emotionally hugged him, gave him money, and sent him on his way: “I went home more certain than ever that my mother was right: people were endlessly complicated and interesting.”

Kahneman made his name with his studies of cognitive biases such as the anchoring effect. Gamblers will place larger bets and judges will give lengthier sentences, for example, if they are exposed to completely irrelevant large numbers first. People remember things oddly: they give greater weight to the last few minutes of an hour-long experience when remembering it as either good or bad. They ignore game theory by weighting a risk of loss more than the equivalent chance of an equal gain. The varieties and extent of human irrationality are vast and normal. In the ‘90s Kahneman applied his findings to economic models. In the 21st century, while continuing to explore the way people think in general terms, he has focused on the pleasantly named “hedonics,” the study of happiness. All of this is summarized in his 2011 book Thinking Fast and Slow.

One theme that resurfaces time and again is the dual human thought process. System 1 includes easy matters that require little concentration, such as walking at a normal pace, driving a car under normal circumstances, recognizing an angry face, understanding simple sentences, and so on. System 2 includes whatever requires focused concentration, such as filling out a tax form, understanding sentences with complex grammar full of double negatives, counting redheads in a large crowd, following a complex logical argument, and walking at a faster pace than is comfortable for you. One system can interfere with the other: for example, it is not a good idea to make a left turn across heavy traffic while trying to solve even such a simple (System 2) multiplication problem as 17 x 34. We have only a certain amount of concentration available to us at any given moment, and System 2 activities use a lot of it. Humans are lazy at heart: they tend use System 2 sparingly and, even then, rarely rigorously.

It took Kahneman 482 pages to summarize his work, so I’m not going to do it in a few paragraphs. But if you are looking for a readable guide to the way humans think and to how this can be exploited by retailers, politicians, and others, there are few better than Thinking Fast and Slow.

**** ****

DVD-Movies:

Our Brand is Crisis (2015)
When this film was released in October 2015, foreplay already was underway in the US Presidential primaries as well as in several other major upcoming elections and referenda around the world. The movie's poor box office performance suggests the timing of the release was not such a commercially sound decision. In the heat of campaigns, it may be that a lot of viewers don’t want to hear a message that all sides are ruthlessly cynical. “Some folks on our side might have a few foibles but those other guys are really terrible,” is the more tempting mindset.

This movie was inspired by a 2005 documentary also titled Our Brand is Crisis about the successful efforts of the American political consulting group Greenberg Carville Shrum to elect Gonzalo S├ínchez de Lozada president of Bolivia in 2002 despite his initial unpopularity. The “Carville” of Greenberg Carville Shrum is frequent US TV guest James Carville, a Democratic political strategist married to Republican political strategist Mary Matalin.

In this 2015 fictionalized version of the Bolivian election, “Calamity” Jane Bodine (Sandra Bullock) is an American consultant hired to go to La Paz by the candidate Castillo, an unpopular former president. Jane’s long-time competitor Pat Candy (Billy Bob Thornton) works for an opposition populist candidate who initially leads by 28 points. Both consultants are simply hired guns; Jane makes a point of being willing to work for anyone. Both use ruthless smear tactics and dirty tricks, and Castillo’s numbers soon start to rise. Jane works to create a sense of crisis to scare voters away from his inexperienced opposition candidate, because it’s always easier to induce people to vote against someone than for someone. Jane has a personal problem in the form of a conscience, which is a liability in her profession. Yet, while she does feel bad about herself, when push comes to shove during a campaign her conscience never stops her from pulling the trigger. “There is only one wrong in this,” she says to Castillo’s staff, “only one, and that is losing!” Besides, as she also says, "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."

This film has so-so reviews, but despite its flaws (and there are many) I think it is worth a look. Thumbs slightly up.
 
A tale of two strategists

Room (2015)
Over the years we’ve witnessed chilling news stories of young women abducted by psychopaths, held captive for years, and finally rescued – sometimes by their own hand and sometimes with outside help. Such stories prompted Emma Donoghue to write Room, a story of a young boy Jack who has lived his entire life inside a 10 x 10 foot garden shed, which to him is the universe. He lives there with his mother who had been captured seven years earlier by the vile Old Nick. Wisely, the producers and director of the movie adaptation tapped Emma also to write the screenplay.

This is a movie that is not much helped by prior exposition beyond an explanation of the premise. It’s best for the viewer to let it unfold for itself. I’ll merely say that it is not just about engineering an escape but about what the aftermath might be, and about whether mother or son is more damaged. Brie Larson is superb as the young woman and Jacob Tremblay gives a solid performance as Jack.

Thumbs firmly up.

**** ****
DVD-TV:

Dollhouse
After last week’s comments about Joss Whedon, I convinced myself to try his 2009-2010 Dollhouse, which first aired to barely lukewarm reviews that grew ever more enthusiastic as the series progressed. But while the show slowly won over critics, it did not ever build an audience and so was canceled after two seasons.

I think the problem for viewers (and perhaps at first for critics) is that the show isn’t Buffy the Vampire Slayer despite starring Buffy veteran Eliza Dushku, whose recurring role was as the bad-girl rogue slayer Faith. Whereas Buffy contained a hefty dose of humor, Dollhouse is straight-up suspense/action/sci-fi/drama with only the annoying young genius Topher cracking jokes, which only make him more annoying. But taken on its own terms, Dollhouse is pretty good. (I’m still just partway through the first season.) The first episode, true enough, is a bit sluggish, but this might have been unavoidable since the show needed to set up the premise and introduce us to the various characters, which necessarily ate up time. Subsequent episodes are more exciting, but most viewers were not willing (sorry, but the pun cries out to be said) to take the prospect on faith.

Dollhouse is a secret business venture in which men and women employees, if that is the right word, called “dolls” are imprinted with personalities, memories, and skills to suit the wishes of super-rich clients. At the end of each assignment, the doll’s memories are wiped clean until the next assignment. Between assignments the dolls are vapid, child-like, and pliable. The dolls are supposedly volunteers who at the end of their contract will be released. The doll called Echo (Eliza), however, volunteers only in the sense that her alternative apparently is prison; Dollhouse offers her a clean slate after five years. If Dollhouse sounds like an overpriced escort service, sometimes that is exactly what it is; on other occasions, though, the dolls are imprinted with hostage negotiation skills, fighting skills, or even singing skills for special assignments.

Echo begins to retain bits of memory between mind wipes, which is not supposed to happen. Meanwhile, an FBI agent doggedly tries to uncover the truth about Dollhouse, of which he hears persistent rumors, because it sounds to him like human trafficking. Olivia Williams makes a smoothly amoral executive officer for Dollhouse, though even she answers to an unseen higher-up.

Verdict: Thumbs up, but you might need to stick with it through a few episodes to agree.

Dollhouse Trailer

Sunday, May 8, 2016

All That and a Bag of Chips

My mother never had the prejudice against comic books for kids that was common in the 1950s and early ‘60s. On the contrary, she had the philosophy that “reading is reading.” To her mind, anything that encouraged the habit of reading was a good thing. Accordingly, she happily brought home comics, magazines, and what was still called juvenile literature (“young adult” in today’s more flattering parlance). The strategy worked. My sister Sharon and I both became lifelong recreational readers, and both of us added adult literature to our reading lists quickly. Not exclusively: without really thinking about it, we both intermixed the headier stuff with youthful fare for a good number of years.

So, it might be no surprise to the reader that as a boy I not only read but wrote and drew comic books. So did several of my friends. Many kids do that. I even had a brand name (unregistered): MTS (Mysterious Tales of the Supernatural). If you had asked me then what I wanted to do when I grew up, “write comic books” is likely the answer you would have gotten. I was not precocious. The ink-and-crayon comics from my hand were exactly what you’d expect from a 10-year-old with no extraordinary talent: badly drawn monsters with inexplicable origins doing evil deeds for no comprehensible reason until defeated by the hero (sometimes super and sometimes not). This phase of reading and writing comics passed before high school, by which time I had acquired a more realistic self-judgment of my skills in that area and switched to the notion of writing science fiction instead. (I do write science fiction – see http://richardbellush2.blogspot.com/ – but quitting my day job never has been an option: Stephen King and Larry Niven are not looking over their shoulders.) For the remainder of the 20th century I only rarely picked up a comic book, whether or not it was dressed up as a “graphic novel.” [Neil Gaiman on being complimented as a graphic novelist rather than as a comic book writer: “But all of a sudden I felt like someone who'd been informed that she wasn't actually a hooker – that in fact she was a lady of the evening.”] I basically missed out on the largely adult-oriented comic book revival of 80s and 90s popular culture including the manga invasion.

Yet, one never entirely forgets one’s childhood ambitions and affections any more than one forgets a first adolescent romance – or post-adolescent for the later starters among us. The 21st century saw some remarkable comic book creations that finally tempted me back. Among them was Mark Millar’s utterly nihilistic Wanted, which violates every proscription of the 1954 comic book code with an intriguingly dark narrative, as do his well-regarded Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim and Seconds are much less bloody but highly imaginative and thoughtful. Mark and Bryan are joined by many other inventive authors and artists. While I don’t read remotely enough comics/graphic novels to qualify as an aficionado, the presence of a comic on my coffee table is no longer actually a cause for wonderment.

Given my self-publishing career at age 10, one author in particular piqued my interest, for he returned to making comics at the threshold of middle-age. Of course he had a bit more stellar writing career than mine in the years between – and since. Joss Whedon’s grandfather wrote for the Donna Reed Show and his father for The Golden Girls; Joss himself clearly inherited the family gene for writing scripts and screenplays. He always manages to bring something special to the screen, whether an action blockbuster like The Avengers, a modestly budgeted paranormal romance like In Your Eyes, or a cult scifi TV show like Firefly. His first big success as a young writer was Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1992. He walked off the movie because he didn’t like the overly goofy direction in which his script was being bent, but he got a chance to do things his own way when he was given creative control over the subsequent TV series, which ran from 1997 to 2003. I’ll leave for another blog (or maybe another blogger) the argument for why it’s OK for adults to watch and appreciate this teen-oriented show. Suffice it to say it is OK and they should. The point is that, as Buffy entered its final season, Joss was inspired to turn his pen to comics. (Yes, I know that was 13 years ago, but while I knew all along that there were Buffy comics I didn’t notice until last week that Joss wrote them – as I said, I don’t really qualify as a comic book aficionado – so I didn’t read any until then.)

Joss, naturally enough, explains himself best: “Comic books and girls. Don’t get me wrong, there were certainly other things on my mind in my young adolescence. But almost certainly topping the list were girls and comics. And more specifically, girls in comics…I got to put a cool girl hero on the stands who may not have been blindingly original in terms of today’s graphic arena, but who was someone I had waited a good portion of my life to meet.” He is writing of Melaka Fray in Fray, set in the Buffyverse but far in the future – very much the kind of urban future one sees in Blade Runner and The Fifth Element. If you are passingly familiar with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series (or even the movie) there is nothing confusing here. Fray is amusingly written, well-plotted, well-illustrated (by Karl Moline and Andy Owens), and to my mind worth the fairly hefty price tag on today’s comics and graphic novels.


Joss followed Fray with Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home. This comic book series is a different kettle of fish. The story picks up after the last episode of the TV show, and is based on the assumption that the reader is intimately familiar with the entire series. Do you remember the episode where Willow goes into a witchy rage and flays a character alive? If you don’t you’ll miss a major plot point. Do you know why Amy (the erstwhile rat) still has mommy issues? You get the idea. If you’re not already a fan of the Buffy TV series, don’t start with this comic. You won’t get the references, the jokes, or the characters. On the other hand, if you are a fan of the series and wish there were an 8th season, The Long Way Home is for you.

Joss has turned out a slew of other graphic titles, some based on his TV series and some not (e.g. Sugarshock! about a rock band in a scifi setting); I’ve read none of these, but based on Fray and Buffy it’s not unlikely I’ll pick up one or two at some point. No one is suggesting that this sort of graphic literature is Dostoevsky or Goethe. They are the meals while comic books are between-meal snacks. But, hey, everyone likes a few potato chips now and then even if nutritionists frown. (Most nutritionists snack, too, though they feel bad about it.) One could do worse than Whedon’s brand of chips.


Monday, May 2, 2016

The Rodney Dangerfield of the Six Core Emotions

Paul Ekman is a psychologist best known for his work on deception, polygraphs, and emotions. Back in the 1960s he surmised that there were six core emotions: Happiness (Joy), Sadness, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Surprise. Each is associated with a universally recognized human expression. (If you see a basis for the animated film Inside Out in this, you’re right – Surprise was left out.) Some recent analysts narrow the list to four by combining fear with surprise and anger with disgust. Most, however, still go with six. What of love, hate, embarrassment, contentment, guilt, jealousy, pride, etc.? These are regarded as secondary emotions: they derive from the six, often mediated/altered/mixed/enhanced by an intellectual component. Ekman himself added Contempt as a seventh core emotion in the 1990s, but this is controversial; there may well be a distinct facial expression for it (sneer) but, like its dictionary opposite “respect,” the emotion involves an intellectual judgment. Most psychologists still classify it as a form of disgust. Hunger and lust are not emotions but drives.


It’s hard to miss that only one of the core emotions is positive; one is neutral and four are negative. This makes evolutionary sense. There are more things in the wild that will kill you than there are that will satisfy your wants. Fight or flight will keep you alive more often than will frolicking in the meadow.

Of the six, fear gets the worst rap, as in FDR’s line “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” which like all the best political rhetoric is untrue. There is plenty of reason for an unfriendly attitude toward fear, however, as anyone who has suffered from panic attacks, compulsive behaviors, or phobias can attest. Agoraphobes have trouble even leaving the house. It can be debilitating. Why evolve a debilitating emotion? There is an advantage sometimes to being frozen with fear as every opossum knows; predators often ignore what doesn’t move. Opossums have been around for 60 million years so they must be doing something right. But only sometimes is it advantageous. Fortunately, fear can be the most effective motivator, too. Legendary trial lawyer Gerry Spence lectures on the value of fear – the fear of losing a case with consequences to clients and oneself. A generalized fear of failure can improve our game, whatever it may be, and an immediate one gives us an adrenaline rush. This isn’t always a good thing either: fear of looking fearful motivates some people (young men especially) to do some very stupid things. Thrill seekers deliberately seek out fear with derring-do and sports such as base jumping. Freud explained the reward of this sort of thing in terms of the release of tension when it is over. Comments Michael Aptor, Ph.D, author of The Dangerous Edge: The Psychology of Excitement, "The safer we try to make life, the more people may take on risks."

Like most people, I’ve had a highly varied relationship with fear. I’ve let it keep me from doing what I should have done and at other times let it goad me into doing what I shouldn’t have done. But it stopped me from doing more than a few stupid things and on other occasions gave me a much needed kick forward. It’s ruined whole years of my life and vastly improved others. It even showed me the truth of Carl Jung’s dictum, “You meet your destiny on the road you take to avoid it.” Nowadays, fear and I are on much better terms than when I was young – a natural effect of aging. Knowing that, whatever happens, it won’t be for very long is oddly comforting.

As for the other core emotions…well, I’ll leave those for another day.

We All Have Fears


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Dutch Treat

Last night the Morristown based NJRD (New Jersey Roller Derby) on its home track met the Dutchland Rollers visiting from Lancaster, PA. 

From the outset it was clear the NJRD had a stiff bout on its hands. Dutchland’s #302 Genghis Bon scored 3 points in the first jam and #17 Metaphor Shadow added 8 more in the second. Dutchland’s blocking was well-coordinated and aggressive; it is normally not easy to slow down or stall NJRD jammer #44 Maulin Rouge, but Dutchland’s walls and formations proved to be tough barriers. A series of penalties also plagued NJRD in the early jams. At 15 minutes into the bout the score stood at 9-53 in favor of Dutchland. Dutchland’s jammers, notably #302 Genghis Bon and #151 Acute Toxicity, repeatedly broke out and added points. Despite star passes and a multipass jam by Maulin Rouge, the first half ended with NJRD trailing 39-96. 

96 is a good but not exceptional point total for a first half, demonstrating that Dutchland’s advantage lay in defense. In the second half NJRD skaters redoubled their determination to overcome it. This paid off quickly with Maulin Rouge and #5 Chase Windu battling through Dutchland defenses for 21 points. Dutchland skaters added points of their own however. The NJRD no longer lost ground, but in sometimes brutal action on the track struggled to gain on the lead Dutchland had built in the first half. Though Maulin Rouge put the last points of the bout on the board, the final whistle blew with a final score of 121-169 in favor of Dutchland. 

MVPs: #5 Chase Windu (jammer) and #117 Nessa (blocker) for NJRD; #302 Genghis Bon (jammer) and #52 Salt N Decker (blocker) for Dutchland Rollers.