Category Archives: history

My Northern Aggression

Burn baby burn.

Courtesy of the photo archives of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

I dedicate this blog space to my own stupid ideas. The ones that wing into my mind and stay long enough for me to care enough to spend an hour to capture. Those thoughts normally revolve around my pet interests: movies, TV, pop culture, art, history, gaming — the little frivolities that bring me joy, the fruits of living in civilization. But today I am angry. I am angry because some folks want to tear that civilization apart instead of build it up. I am angry because my world exists so far away from my idealized Star Trek fantasies and Beatles-colored glasses.

I always felt that the crack in the Liberty Bell somehow reflected our nation’s Original Sin of betraying our Founding Principles by allowing slavery into the formation of this Union. All I wanted to do today was write a silly little post about why Rick Grimes was the Best Dad Ever for Father’s Day, but now I can’t. I can’t because that inbred, three-named, mother-fing, murdering, racist asshole made everything light, lovely and fun seem null in light of the suffering he caused. It is right that we should mourn and reflect. It is good that America should stare into the darkness of that fracture in our social contract.

I don’t know how to begin to heal that wound. But I guess I need to start to figure out a way to try. Otherwise all those fruits of civilization: the art, the creativity, the beauty, the fun — all the stuff that makes life worth living and we all should be enjoying without fear — will be lost to the chaos of the barbarians within. So I’m displaying this image of a burning Confederate flag. If the “heritage” you choose to embrace includes the owning of other human beings and their continuing subjugation and degradation through terrorism, as well as the crime of treason, well I’m terribly sorry, but, as a Philadelphian I must say, “go fuck yourself.”

Tesla Tribute Day

Wizard (adj.) see above

Wizard (adj.) see above

Nikola Tesla: born July 10, 1856, died January 7, 1943

Scientist and engineer; didn’t always shoot lightening from his fingers, but when he did, made sure he looked dead sexy doing it; lit lamps by touching them; destroyed buildings by amplifying their resonant frequencies; claimed to have discovered a free, inexhaustible source of energy and means for global wireless distribution; designed plans for a ‘Death Ray’; name associated with various conspiracies theories surrounding cataclysms such as the Tunguska Event;  so preternaturally cool they had to get David Bowie to play him in the good movie about magicians; engaged in an Epic Rap Battle with Thomas Edison; awesome, futuristic car named after him; in fiction, often found working with/against the likes of: Sherlock Holmes, Superman, Mark Twain, etc.; struggles with Edison described by a drunk man;  inventor of our modern Alternating Current system of electric power generation and distribution, wireless transmission and reception of electro-magnetic signals, and radio-guidance and control; played the historical long-game against the hardest hitters of his day and won big; pigeon fancier.

Happy birthday Nikola Tesla.

Cosmos and Prophets of Doom

Carl Sagan Cosmos

Carl Sagan in Cosmos: A Personal Journey

I cried during the finale of Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey last night. The use of Carl Sagan’s older, sicker, yet still passionately intoned ode to “The Pale Blue Dot” along with Neil de Grasse Tyson’s energetic and encouraging description of “The Five Rules” of skeptical thought made the perfect bookend to the series’ awesome case for science that “belongs to everyone.”

Then, when I chose a podcast to listen to this morning as I went about some errands, I guess a my inner Monty Python opted for something completely different. I chose one of Dan Carlin’s older Hardcore History episodes entitled Prophets of Doom.

Mr. Carlin told the story of the Munster Anabaptists, when for a year in the 1520’s the city was overtaken by characters we’d recognize as charismatic cult leaders preaching armed rebellion by God’s Chosen People against an evil world and the End of Days. And while it was a gripping tale, told with Carlin’s usual intensity, in the epilogue of the show, he admitting to feeling disappointed with the result because he could seem to draw no real lesson from the chaos.

He mentioned Waco and the Branch Davidians, which was an apt modern parallel. But he seemed torn over the idea of whether 16th century Europeans “could handle the Truth” of vernacular Bibles and the free-thought they inspired and likened it to a Galactic Bible brought to us by enlightened extra-terrestrials, but doled out to us as the Roman Catholic Church had done previous to the Protestant Reformation because we couldn’t handle its “Truth.” It occurred to me that I had watched the answer to his dilemma the night before.

I am NOT going to make the usual claim that the source of the madness of the Anabaptists of Munster, the Counter-Reformation, the Branch Davidians or “Militant Islam” are all symptoms of the inherit madness of religion. As Dan Carlin pointed out, secular regimes based on nationalism or other political, economic or whatever name-that-dogma can produce the same level of collective insanity.

The issue, as Dr. Tyson pointed out last night, is, as he described it, “Rule number one: Question everything, even me.” Above all, he warned, don’t trust anyone who says they have all the answers. The problem with the people of Munster or Waco or who welcomed Hitler is NOT that they were stupid or crazy, but that they were lazy. Intellectually lazy. Uncomfortable with the change and troubles of the world around them, they sought comfort in men who promised all the answers.

I cannot completely condemn the anyone for desiring the comfort of such unquestionable truths. The very notion of “Freedom of Thought” carries with it the burden of accepting the uncomfortable realities along with the exhilaration of discovery, of analyzing whether you think something is true because you want it to be or because it fits our ever-changing understanding of the facts. Facing this on-going challenge requires courage and vigilance. Carl Sagan’s famous “Baloney Detection Kit” might help as well.

So, in answer to Mr. Carlin’s hypothetical dilemma, enlightened space-faring race or not, if the Vulcans knock on my door bringing the “good news” of their Galactic Bible that  promises to solve all of my and the world’s problems, the first thing I’d have to say to them is “prove it to me.” And, if they were Vulcans, that would be only logical.



The Godfather BC

Take the cannoli

Too soon?






An Arrow to the Eye


For that highly specialized niche that goes in for Anglo-Saxon history and Skyrim. Which may or may not be only myself.

Dear Sir, (Letters to a Union Soldier)

Dear Sir, (Letters to a Union Soldier)

20 minute non-traditional narrative. 

by, Jessica Lakis & Michael Mullan

DEAR SIR traces the interconnected stories of a Civil War soldier and a modern young man who shares his name as they struggle with both their common dreams and individual fates.

The impetus for DEAR SIR began when film-maker Michael Mullan discovered a gravestone at the Gettysburg National Cemetery that bore his name. Further research into archives revealed the historical Lt. Michael Mullin to be an Irish immigrant who once lived in Mullan’s old neighborhood in Philadelphia.

Finding this coincidence too great, Mullan and Jessica Lakis set out to create a way for the two men to communicate over time. This resulted in the creation of a “journal” for Lt. Mullin. Writer and co-director/producer, Jessica Lakis, based her writing of his fictitious “journal” on available biographical information, research into the Irish experience of emigration and  the American Civil War, and contemporary writing samples.  The result of this effort often misleads viewers as to the journal’s authenticity.

Filmed mainly in Pennsylvania on a shoe-string budget, DEAR SIR went on to become the only selection of an under-graduate film at the 2000 Student Academy Awards. Among other honors, as well as local and national airing, “Dear Sir,(Letters to a Union Soldier)” continues to catch the attention and hearts of all who watch it. A fitting tribute for a true labor of love.


The Blood Dharma: Synopsis

By, Jessica Lakis

Genre: Action-Adventure/Period

Logline: THE BLOOD DHARMA weaves an exotic tale of love, betrayal, and revenge set against the terror of the Indian Mutiny against the British.

Synopsis: Rajput warrior IKSANDER is left for dead at the foot of his beloved’s funeral pyre. Saved by a mysterious stranger, and aided by an unlikely band of confederates — he seeks vengeance on those responsible. THE BLOOD DHARMA is part John Ford/Kurosawa yarn and part David Lean period adventure. The main drama and conflict arise from the clash of the worlds of the native rajputs and that of the British East India Company.

Iksander is a military leader from a noble line He lives to serve his lord, THE RAJAH, but his heart belongs to the Rajah’s sister RADHA. His preordained world is torn from him when the fearful Rajah agrees to sacrifice Iksander’s  life for a treaty with an ambitious East India Company agent to ensure his title. With Iksander left for dead, Radha kills herself in grief. An Untouchable and a mysterious man who live in the mountains rescue Iksander from death. Iksander’s life as a dutiful servant is replaced by the desire for revenge. But Iksander’s journey will do more than test his strength; his beliefs, views on duty and caste, and even his selfish quest must all be challenged if he is to achieve vengeance.

JAMES STUART CAMPBELL is an agent of the quasi-military British East India Company. Unlike the nobly born Iksander,  James has relied on his intellect and cunning to rise to his position in life. He is tasked to make favorable trading terms with the Rajah’s opium-rich kingdom or annex it. From his residence, complete with British-style furnishings and rose bushes, capturing the kingdom is a chess game with the reward of advancement and wealth if he wins. His only human care — frighteningly so — is for his niece and ward, YOUNG ALICE, who he calls his “pet.” But Young Alice is seventeen, and as she begins to become aware of life outside her isolated world with her Uncle, grows harder for James to bend to his will — the first crack in shattering his illusion of control.

Framed as NARRATOR/ALICE’s reminiscences to her daughter later in life, Alice is the bridge, the frame, and our access to both worlds. A chance encounter at a train station brings up disturbing questions about her past and experience of the horrific Indian Mutiny against the British. Alice mixes the legend of Iksander with her own first-hand knowledge to weave the stories, the fates of the characters, and their worlds together — a tale of love, betrayal, destiny, and revenge in the lost world of colonial India.

On Moving & Mortality

English: Odysseus. Group of Odysseus blinding ...

English: Odysseus. Group of Odysseus blinding Polyphemus. Marble, Greek work of the 2nd century BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, I just finished a move. I went from the big (yet, admittedly lame) city to a place where one might have both a yard and a good sushi spot. But with moves come those nasty, mean little problems, such as: “I never knew you could spend this much on gas!” and “Why can’t I find a doctor with my insurance?” In a word, mundane, banal, so-dull-you-want-to-smash-your-head-in (alright, that was several words, but I don’t care!). “How did you ever manage? What makes you keep on?” I hear you ask, and I’ll tell you because I’m just a swell gal.

Audiobooks and podcasts. Actually one audiobook, Sir Ian McKellen reading The Odyssey, and one podcast, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. “Ew, well, who is Hecuba to her and she to Hecuba that she should weep for her?” I hear you sneer like Terry Jones impersonating a woman. And to you I say, “That bit was from The Illiad ya fakackta….” Anyhow, Dan Carlin’s amazing “Fall of the Roman Republic” got me through packing, cleaning, moving, and unpacking, so I will shamelessly plug him. I already had my Audible subscription and so could not follow the link he describes and get The Odyssey for free while supporting him . . . but you can here! So there’s my plug for Dan Carlin.*

And onward into mortality. What has revived my sense of wonder and poetry and kept those banal little problems at bay? Why, none other than that wily Odysseus, battered by the wine-dark sea, man of sorrows. Nothing of late has touched my heart more tenderly than his plaintive and eternally human refrain of hope and humanity through all the sufferings we mortals must endure echoing down the ages and into my Android phone.

And now . . . now as the world grinds on, pitiless, paying no mind to the troubles of men and the shortness of our days . . . now I sit down again to write. Blessed brief life, I scribble on against the end and etch my immortality in pixels.

*I know you’re a Trekkie, sir.

%d bloggers like this: