Green Eggs and Spam

I can't speak for the Navy, Air Force, or the Marines, but the Army was cursed with some truly awful food. As you can see in the image below, I have eaten actual green eggs on more than one occasion. (And unlike the photo below, they were usually served floating in a tepid pool of disgusting water...) With that in mind, when someone posted this photo, I thought that it deserved an appropriate ode in the style of Dr. Seuss...

I used to work for Uncle Sam
But never liked Green Eggs and Spam

Not in a tank, nor in a boat
Nor in a Jeep or Gama Goat

Not on the border in Germany
Nor in the rain or snow or sea

I did not like them in Korea
They only caused bad diarrhea

They were crap in Iraq and Afghanistan
So I still don't like Green Eggs and Spam

Green-Eggs-and-Spam

Taco Bell Isn't What It Used to Be - And They Don't Care

In recent years, Taco Bell has removed several tried-and-true items from their menu that I have ordered for decades, and they have replaced those menu items with - crap.

Taco-Hell

Believe it or not, I sent Taco Bell a letter asking if they bother checking with their customer base before making unilateral decisions that impact millions of loyal customers. And believe it or not, Taco Bell replied back - with the exact sort of dismissive, marketing rhetoric that one would expect. ("We test all of our menu items ... blah, blah, blah.")

In the end, I think Taco Bell has someone at the helm who is trying to shake things up and attract new customers, which is a good thing - but only so long as you don't piss off your original customer base. With that in mind, it's pretty obvious to most people who used to love Taco Bell that they suck now; but what's worse is - they really do not appear to care.

 

Sniff, sniff... I miss the Enchirito...

(... and Steak Baja Gorditas... and Volcano Burritos... and Double-Decker Tacos... and Pintos & Cheese... and Caramel Apple Empanadas... etc.)

Crying face

What's Really Important in Life

Someone once asked me a series of questions like the following:

Can you name who won the Best Actor Oscar for the past five years?

Or who won the Grammy for Best Female Vocalist?

Or who won the Baseball MVP?

On the other hand, can you name five teachers who made a difference in your life?

Can you name your five best friends from High School?

Simmer on those questions for a few moments...

In our present reality, the mainstream media is continuously tripping over itself to ask various "celebrities" what they think of this subject or that. But why should we care what they think? More often than people might realize, many of these "celebrities" are moral degenerates who contribute little more to society than to provide cheap entertainment, while expanding the drug trade and denigrating both females and minorities within their respective communities. With that in mind, I reiterate my earlier question: why should we care what they think?

Now, look back over those initial questions that I asked, and think about your answers for them. Which is more important? Is it some impersonal "artist?" Or is it the people who have genuinely mattered to you?

Once you think about life with the right frame of mind, it's pretty easy to see what's really important (and what isn't).

Christian Progressive Rock is a Small but Necessary Genre

I mean no disrespect to anyone - including my wife - but I personally find the majority of what is called "worship music" within the church to be insufferably boring when heard outside of a formal church service.

99% of the time that music is based around some arrangement of the I ii IV and V chords, with the occasional vi chord to mix things up.

I'd also say that 90% of the time that music has a time signature of 4/4, with another 7% of 3/4, and the remaining 3% being mostly of 6/8.

Adding insult to injury, most of the contemporary "worship" lyrics are utterly pedestrian and predictable. You could take a list of about 100 words from popular "worship songs" and write them on 3x5 cards, then toss them on a table and arrange them in some sort of random order and you'd pretty much have recreated the next Chris Tomlin "hit."

There was a time that I was working on an "Instant Worship" website as a joke, which would have used something akin to a "Mad Libs" type of algorithm to kick out random lyrics with bogus chord charts based on everything I have mentioned in the preceding paragraphs.

Suffice it to say, if it were not for prog I would have gone crazy years ago. I accepted Jesus in my late teens in 1984, and I spent years listening to a conglomeration (or conflagration?) of Christian music's "rock music" offerings. Bands like Petra were the powerhouses in that genre, and yet - I had been listening to Rush and Yes and Genesis and a host of prog bands before my salvation; Petra was nowhere near the level of musicianship or complex arranging as secular proggers.

I had heard of Phil Keaggy in the late 70s, but it wasn't until I heard King's X in the early 90s that I thought, "Wow - a Christian band with serious prog skills." (Yes, I know King's X seriously backslid in later years, but in their heyday they were awesome.)

Iona and some other Christian proggers came along later, and several pieces from Iona's catalog definitely hit the mark. Although I know several prog fans who grow quickly tired by their Celtic influence. (Irish music doesn't appeal to everyone. Although I'm of Irish heritage so it works for me.) But still - I often feel that there's an itch that I just can't scratch when I think about Christian music. (Which, by the way, is the only music I buy.)

These days I have been particularly impressed by several of the spin off projects and musicians that are operating with Neal Morse's realm of influence. See the following video for an example of what I mean, although that particular song is more a pop/rock piece than prog until you get to the bridge, but having seen them live, holy cow - amazing musicians.

Some of the projects involving Matt Smith of Theocracy are also great. See the following video for Project Aegis as an example.

With all of that being said, more often than not I find that I cannot kick back and enjoy most of what exists within the banal realms of what Christian music typically has to offer, but I can get totally lost in a great prog piece of music.


UPDATE:

Much of what was written above was extracted from a post that I had made in the Christian Progressive Rock Online Gathering (CPROG) group on Facebook. Someone challenged my statements about Iona, to which I replied:

"Pieces here and there from Iona's catalog definitely hit the mark; that's why I intentionally singled them out. Although I know several prog fans who grow quickly tired by their Celtic influence. (Irish music doesn't appeal to everyone. Although I'm Irish so it works for me.)

However, if you look at the brilliance behind albums like
Fragile from Yes, or Lamb Lies Down on Broadway from Genesis, or Brain Salad Surgery from ELP, or Permanent Waves from Rush, etc., I can think of no albums in their entirety from the Christian Prog genre that approach those masterpieces. Because if they did, they'd also be popular outside of the incredibly tiny genre that is Christian Prog. So to reiterate: Iona is some of the best that Christian Prog has to offer, but overall - the Christian Prog genre is seldom everything that it could (or should) be.

PS - I should add that I have everything that Iona produced, to include their live videos. As far as Iona is concerned, I am quite the fanboy, and one of my regrets is that I never had the chance to see them live."

And then, much to my horror, Dave Baindbridge - one of the musical visionaries behind Iona - posted the following:

Thats' great Robert. Have you heard my albums Celestial Fire, and Veil of Gossamer? Both are more 'progressive' than most of my work with Iona. https://www.musicglue.com/iona/shop/categories/dave-bainbridge

I had to quickly re-read all of my earlier statements to see if I'd insulted Iona in any way... which I probably did. Not by intention, of course, but still... crap.

Sad smile

Yup, there's nothing quite like inadvertently insulting one of your favorite musicians in a public forum to remind yourself that anyone can read what you say.

A Higher Purpose for Higher Education

A friend of mine just posted the following article to social media:

University of California System can't use SAT and ACT tests for admissions, judge rules

Well, all I can say is - it's about time.

SAT and ACT scores are unfair, because they reinforce centuries-old stereotypes of "smart students," which must - by definition - infer that there are "dumb students," which is a horrible label to adhere to someone.

Next, we need to abolish the A thru F grading system, since grades are an entirely subjective method of assigning values to students, and we all know that someone's inherent potential cannot be measured by something as prosaic and outdated as a comprehensive "test" that covers what someone had an entire semester to learn. And how unfair are "grades" to the student who couldn't study due to their active social schedule? Why should some introvert who spends all their time buried in books have a higher value to society?

We could, of course, replace the A thru F grading system with a system of simple pass/fail scores; but that, too, is unfair - because NO ONE is a "failure." With that in mind, we need to do away with grades entirely.

Next, we need to seriously reconsider requiring students to attend classes. With the increasing invasion of smart phones, tablets, and laptop computers in the classroom, most students only retain 5% of what is covered during a class lecture anyway. Couldn't that time be better spent?

For example, here in Tucson at the University of Arizona, dozens of students gather daily to shout well-deserved insults at the narrow-minded bigot who has the audacity to stand on a stump near the student union building and proclaim that "Jesus is the only way to God." Just think, if students didn't have to attend classes (which are nothing more than a form of academic slavery), we could increase the multitudes yelling at that close-minded "Christian" into the hundreds - perhaps thousands.

A "Christian" is not entitled to an opinion, anyway, because "Free Speech" doesn't extend to someone who says something that someone else might not want to hear, and it is far more effective for students to learn the lesson that an opposing viewpoint is nothing but "violence."

Students should be allowed to learn how to prevent the possibility of civil discussions with people they perceive as opponents while they're young, and before they enter the workplace, where a "boss" will expect them to actually "show up to work" and "do their jobs," and therefore they'll have no more time to vociferously express their important views about these @#$% fascists with opposing points of view who are taking over America.

So in the end, everyone who wants a college diploma should just get one, without any effort or standards, because those concepts are part of a historically oppressive, patriarchal, fascist, elitist, misogynistic, and racist educational system that has only existed to squash the spirit of youth across the globe.

Common Sense is Violence!!!

Educators are Fascists!!!

Fight Global Learning!!!

I Support my Brothers (and Sisters) in Arms

Years ago I saw the following statement, which - as a veteran - I thought was entirely accurate: "A veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to 'The United States of America,' for an amount up to and including their life." It goes without saying that military life is not for everyone; it requires a willingness to sacrifice selflessly for others. Together with my brothers-in-arms, we missed countless holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, births, and deaths - all in the name of preventing those who would do harm from reaching the shores of our nation. I can't say that we always did this without complaint, because sooner or later the sacrifices weigh heavy on everyone's conscience. Even still, the military is an honorable profession; we collectively chose to make sacrifices so that others might live in peace, and often for less pay than someone makes flipping burgers at McDonalds. In the end, we all sacrificed something, although some - tragically - sacrificed everything. The number of spouses, children, fathers, mothers, and siblings who will grow older with a void in their lives where a loved one used to be is incalculable.

Honor

But I'd like to shift gears for a moment. A couple years ago I shared on Facebook that my wife  - who is a registered nurse - saved someone's life on a flight that was about to take off from Phoenix. The man had a heart attack and lost consciousness, but thankfully my wife and an EMT were both on the flight, and the two of them took turns administering CPR. They managed to revive the man, who had been legally dead for several minutes, and he lived without complications. But that's not the end of the story. Several months later, the Phoenix Police Department invited my wife to an awards ceremony, where they presented her with a certificate to commemorate her for her lifesaving skills and willingness to save the lives of others.

It was quite the honor, but the evening wasn't only about my wife; it was an annual ceremony for the Police Department, wherein the sacrifices of police officers from the Phoenix area were officially recognized for their outstanding achievements. As the ceremony progressed, I was amazed at what I heard. For example, several officers prevented a terrorist attack at the Phoenix Comic-Con, which otherwise would have resulted in an unknown number of casualties. Story after story of personal sacrifice and heroism had me enraptured, and over time I grew angry - because I never heard any of these stories on the news. Apparently it just isn't newsworthy when a police officer stands between a crazy person with a loaded weapon and an innocent civilian. The more I heard, the more I realized that these police officers made the same deal on behalf of their fellow citizens that I once did. They made all the same sacrifices as my brothers-in-arms: they missed countless holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, births, and deaths - all in the name of preventing harm from reaching the homes of their communities. And - tragically - some of these officers sacrificed everything, too. It was abundantly clear to me that these officers had also written a blank check made payable to the citizens of Phoenix for an amount up to and including their life. And like my fellow veterans, these officers do so for a terrible paycheck, all the while having to endure the constant scorn and contempt of those dregs of society who are incapable of policing themselves.

I cannot count the number of times in my life I have heard people complain about "some jerk police officer" who wrote them a ticket for speeding, or running a red light, or driving under the influence. I almost never hear any personal culpability from these people about their own guilt in their situation; it's always the police officer's fault. I'd like to take a moment to set the record straight - if you're pulled over for speeding, it's your fault if you get a ticket. If the police officer decides to let you off with a warning, that's his prerogative - and it might just be your lucky day. But if you have to pay a fine for something that you did wrong, it's not the officer's fault; get down off your self-righteous horse, take responsibility for a change, and shut your mouth about it. You don't have to like it, but maybe next time you'll remember to obey the law.

The-Thin-Blue-Line

However, I'd like to take this train of thought a step further - there are some people in this world who do not share your sense of right and wrong. I've traveled around the world, and I've met all sorts of people who think that cheating, or stealing, or killing are perfectly acceptable ways of life. In our society, we have collectively decided that those behaviors are unacceptable, but not everyone agrees. We have our own collection of moral degenerates who still believe that cheating, and stealing, and killing are perfectly acceptable ways of life - regardless of what laws we pass or what we teach in our schools. When that happens, who is left to prevent these moral degenerates from reducing society to a maelstrom of anarchy, chaos, and suffering?

We are often told not to judge a segment of society by the transgressions of a few. We are told not to hold all African Americans responsible for the crimes of a few. We are also told not to judge all Hispanics for the crimes of a few. In a like manner, we should not judge all Caucasians for the racist stupidity of a few. Nor should we judge all Muslims for the crimes of a few. Nor should we judge all Christians for the stupidity of a few. The same follows true for police officers; we MUST NOT judge all police officers for the bad actions of a few. Because when all is said and done, and regardless of your opinion on the matter, when society starts to fall apart, sometimes the only line of defense we have is an underpaid and underappreciated police officer, who will still put himself or herself between you and a bad guy.

If you take everything that I have said into account, and you still want to destroy an institution that consistently sacrifices everything so that others can live in peace, then I suggest the following: you should join the police. If you're a good person and you think they're all bad, then join up and change them from within. On the other hand, if you can't bear the thought of living on the trivial amount of pay that police officers receive, or you can't handle the level of selfless sacrifice that is required to be a police officer, or you can't handle the thought of having to step into a domestic dispute or robbery or even a traffic stop where someone might be armed and pull the trigger before you have a chance to draw your own weapon to protect yourself, then you have no right - and I mean that sincerely - you have NO RIGHT to act as judge and jury and executioner where our police officers are concerned. Despite their many faults, most police officers are better than their peers, because these officers typically serve their communities - unthanked and unrewarded - for days on end, in harm's way, making sure that the rest of us are safe. So if you still feel the need to denigrate and defund the men and women in blue, whom I honestly regard as my fellow brothers-in-arms, then let me make this clear - you are a wicked, evil, twisted person. And yet, I hope the day never comes when you need a police officer to save you from another wicked, evil, twisted person who wants to do you harm.

Back-The-Blue

Movie Review: Radioactive

Marie Curie is one of the most-brilliant physicists and chemists in the history of science. She was a pioneering woman who was years ahead of her time, and her life deserves a biopic in tribute to her genius that is equally as brilliant as she was. Sadly, Amazon's 2020 release of Radioactive is not that biopic.

WARNING!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!! (You have been warned.)

To be perfectly honest, I looked forward with great anticipation for this film to be released. Marie Curie's many contributions to science and humanity are almost legendary, and Rosamund Pike is a brilliant actress who is capable of reading the dictionary and making it sound wonderful. However, this movie isn't terrible because it lacks a strong female role model from history, nor is this movie terrible because it lacks an equally strong actress to play the lead character, nor is this movie terrible because it lacks an impressive set of actors to play the periphery characters, nor is this movie terrible because it lacked an acceptable script. The primary reason this movie is terrible is because it was guided by a director, Marjane Satrapi, who was apparently preoccupied with trying to create a work of "art" at the expense of the story that she should have been telling.

Here is one perfect example of useless "artsy" direction: after the tragic and untimely death of Marie's husband, Pierre, there is a long dream sequence with bizarre imagery that resembles one of the many LSD/acid trip scenes from Oliver Stone's 1991 biopic The Doors. While I admit that it was essential to Marie's story to include various scenes that depict her extreme grief after Pierre's death, this dream sequence had no place in the film. For this travesty of screen time I fully blame the director.

Here is another example of useless "artsy" direction: at several times throughout the film, the scene would suddenly jump several decades into the future from Marie's timeline in order to show how radiation was used after her death. Examples shown were both for good (e.g. radiation therapy for cancer patients), and for evil (e.g. atomic bombs and Chernobyl). These scenes were supposed to convey the eventual impact of Marie's discoveries, but the jarring way in which the story jumped around on screen made no sense at all. All of those scenes would have been better suited as some sort of visual epilogue that discussed the long-term results of Marie's efforts, which should also have included nuclear power as one of the many positive benefits. (See FOONOTE below.)

And here is yet another example of useless "artsy" direction: near the end of the movie, Marie finally succumbs to her years of radiation poisoning, and viewers are treated with a nonsensical scene of Marie walking through various hospitals of the future to visit the eventual victims of radioactivity's many ills. However, this scene wasn't as "artsy" as the director undoubtedly intended. On the contrary, this scene was just... silly. It had no emotional impact, it didn't serve the plot, and it really had no place in this film.

One of the main arguments that I have with this movie is the fact that far too many scenes play fast and loose with history. As with all Hollywood biopics, scenes are added, or shown out of order, or lack their historical impact. For example, the movie depicts Marie being offered her late husband's teaching position at the University of Paris, which was a first for a woman and certainly significant from a historical perspective. However, Marie had already been teaching for several years at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris; a position she earned through her own merits, which is far more impressive than assuming the position that her deceased husband had previously occupied. An emotionally gripping scene from the film is a vicious argument that ensues after Pierre travels to Stockholm to accept their Nobel Prize without Marie, which is notoriously and negligently inaccurate; both Pierre and Marie traveled to Stockholm, therefore the entire argument scene is nothing but a fabrication for dramatic effect, and grossly unfair to Pierre's public memory.

Another point of contention is that this movie begins too far into Marie's career, and completely glosses over her early years of struggle to enter a university and earn her degrees at a time when such things were nearly impossible for a woman to achieve. These are important pieces from Marie's story that should have been portrayed, but those parts of her past were completely ignored by this film in order to advance scenes that were ridiculously unnecessary - such as Pierre's obsession with spiritualism and séances. (Those scenes were useless to the story and had silly-looking and unnecessary special effects; e.g. ectoplasm portrayed as green electrical sparks. This movie wasn't supposed rip off scenes from Ghost Busters.)

If I were one of Marie's descendants, I think I would have been offended at the consistently selfish behavior that Marie's character consistently displayed. Granted, I never met Marie Curie, nor have I read any correspondence from her, nor have I met anyone who met her. Perhaps she was a selfish person who spent her entire life obsessed with nothing but personal gain. However, this movie had a scene in which Marie's children entered her bedchamber while she was having an affair. In this scene, Marie's only reaction was to ask her children if they wanted her to feed them, otherwise they needed to get lost. This scene and several like it destroy the chances that today's young women would look to Marie as any sort of heroic figure to emulate.

To give benefit of the doubt, this film's portrayal of Marie as a selfish and combative creature might have been someone's half-hearted attempt to show a strong female character. However, there is a world of difference between showing strength and being a narrow-minded, self-absorbed jackass, and this movie tended to lean way too far toward the jackass side of the behavior spectrum where Marie was concerned.

In a way, this movie has a hard time finding an audience; the history is far too bad to be useful to anyone who is interested in studying about the life of Marie Curie. In addition, if I were an educator, the protracted scenes of sex and nudity would prevent me from being able to display this movie to students. Which is too bad, because the world needs more girls to be interested in STEM subjects, and this movie threw away a perfect opportunity to help out in that endeavor.

With another director at the helm, and with a better script that delved more into Marie's history, Amazon might have been able to produce a wonderful mini-series about Marie Curie's life. Instead, this director and the accompanying script produced little more than a two-hour gap in my life that I will never get back.


FOOTNOTE:

On a personal level, I found it morally reprehensible that the director, Marjane Satrapi, kept jumping back and forth between Pierre's acceptance speech for his Nobel prize to scenes of the Enola Gay dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The director's intention is perfectly clear: each time Pierre suggests how a "criminal" might use radioactivity, the story jumps to the scenes of the Enola Gay. There is no mistaking the director's meaning here: she is accusing the United States of war crimes.

I find it highly doubtful that anyone involved with this film was alive when World War II had been raging for six years, (or eight years if you include Japan's bloody invasion of China). By 1945, the war had already cost the world around 70 million lives. (See Fallen.io for a breakdown of how the number of deaths were obtained and how casualty estimates were distributed across the planet.)

If Japan hadn't surrendered, the war would have raged on for years, costing millions of additional lives. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved millions of Japanese lives. (See Operation Downfall for details on how costly the inevitable invasion of Japan would have been in terms of casualties; both allied and Japanese.)

This miniature history lesson is outside the scope of a movie review, although it is certainly indicative of the director's continued obsession with playing it fast and loose with history, while also taking a moment to cram her close-minded and naïve opinions down her viewers' throats. Shame on you, Marjane Satrapi. You're not just a bad director and bad student of history, you're apparently a pretty rude person, too.

To sleep, perchance to dream...

I have never had a time in my life where I lived with a schedule that resulted in a traditional, eight hours of sleep. For starters, I am what most people would call a "Night Person." I love staying up late working on this project or that. Adding insult to injury, I am also a workaholic; I have no concept of what a decent work/life balance should look like. (I never have; even when I served in the military I overdid everything.)

However, once I finish my career-oriented tasks for the day, that's when I work on my hobbies. Late nights are my "Me Time," and I love getting involved in something that might take me days or weeks to complete. That being said, I also have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), so I rarely finish most of the hobby projects that I begin. (But that's another story for another day.)

Anyway, as someone who has spent their entire life routinely abusing themselves where sleep is concerned, I thought that my life could serve as a warning to others of what they might have in store for their futures if they follow my example of habitual late night activities and poor work/life decisions.

Insomnia

This might seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes I work so much that I am too exhausted to sleep. I drag my sorry self around the house and eventually collapse into bed, but sleep never comes. I am genuinely tired, but I cannot bring myself to fall asleep. After an hour or so, I give up and drag myself back to my desk to continue working.

Another type of insomnia that I battle is caused by a combination of stress, workaholism, and ADD. When these three factors intersect each other in my life, they create a perfect storm of sleepless days and nights. I might lie down now and again, but my brain is constantly racing - I'm thinking of this detail or that, or this deadline or that... I think of a thousand things that I should be doing, and I cannot force my brain to rest.

I once participated in a sleep study (at the request of my doctor). The testing facility had several rooms, and I am convinced that everyone else in the facility was asleep by 10pm at the latest. In my room, however, 2am rolled around and I was still working on my laptop, reading reports from work, and watching a series of documentaries on the TV in my room. I was still wide awake and easily could have been up for a few more hours. The technicians from the sleep study eventually had to come to my room and inform me that if I didn't go to sleep, my entire test would be voided. I regretfully packed up all my things and climbed under the covers, but I still didn't fall asleep until 4am or so.

Sleep Paralysis

This is one of the most-terrifying experiences that you can imagine: you wake up, but you cannot breathe, you cannot speak, and none of your muscles will work. This scenario has happened to me on more occasions than I can remember, and based on what I have read about it, this condition is caused by a combination of stress and sleep deprivation. (Both of which are constant fixtures in my life.) What causes this condition is that our human bodies are paralyzed when we sleep, and this happens in order to prevent us from physically acting out during our dreams. (e.g. Sleepwalking, etc.) However, if you constantly impede your body's attempts to sleep naturally, you can run into a situation where the paralysis does not go away as you awaken, which quickly leads to panic.

As I mentioned earlier, I have lived through this experience more times than I can recall, and my method of breaking out of the situation feels like it takes a great deal of effort - both mentally and physically. When I wake up paralyzed and unbreathing, I immediately feel as though I am suffocating, and I panic. However, I cannot call for help, nor can I move any of my limbs. I have to force myself to think through the panic and concentrate on moving just one finger, and when I am able to do that, I work on a second finger, then a hand, then an arm, and eventually the paralysis begins to fade. All of this takes place in a matter of seconds, but it is a horribly agonizing period of time that seems like several minutes of intense suffering.

Thankfully, my sleep paralysis is not accompanied by hallucinations, but that appears to be a common problem. (See 15 People On Their Experience With The Sleep Paralysis Demon.)

Nightmares/Night Terrors

A direct result of terrible sleep patterns and living with constant stress is that your brain will inevitably take out its frustrations on your sleep time. Sometimes this will simply result in less sleep or poor quality sleep, while at other times you will be tortured by nightmares or night terrors. People with PTSD tend to experience these same sleep disorders, and in my experience - living with constant stress and constantly changing sleep patterns eventually leads to a form of low-scale PTSD.

I used to be plagued with nightmares of falling, or drowning, or being the victim of a heinous crime, or being attacked my monsters. Thankfully, I learned to master Lucid Dreaming, wherein a person who is dreaming becomes aware that they are in a dream, and then learns how to control their dreams. It might sound like make-believe or a hokey fantasy, but Lucid Dreaming has helped me put an end to all of my nightmares. I can now fly in my dreams, I can breathe underwater, and I can pick and choose what gets to stay and what has to leave when I'm dreaming. (I wish I could teach others how to dream lucidly, but the truth is - I'm not sure how I learned to do it myself; all I know is that Lucid Dreaming forever changed my life for the better.)

Narcoleptic Behavior

I do not have actual narcolepsy, and I genuinely feel sorry for those who suffer from that disorder. However, I have - on occasion - experienced some of its symptoms.

For example, I was working on a project a few years ago, wherein someone had promised someone else far too much work for me to complete in far too short a time period. As a result, I was working around the clock for a whole week. I would work for hours until I would suddenly lose consciousness, then I would sleep uncomfortably for a few minutes wherever I was located and in whichever position I collapsed. When I awoke, I would continue to work for several hours until I lost consciousness again, and then I would repeat the whole process. When the project was over, it took me weeks to recover from the abuse, and I had to drop out of a Master's Degree program that I was attending outside of work. (As of today, I have yet to return to that degree program.)

Trust me - that was a horrible way to live.

Inverted Circadian Rhythms

After several intense work projects that have required me to put in a lot of long hours, I have eventually realized that my body clock was completely upside down. I wanted to head off to sleep around 6am, wake up around noon, and work until 6am the next day. Believe it or not, I can thrive and be extremely productive with that work schedule. The trouble with this scenario is that people keep scheduling meetings at 9am (or earlier), so even if I head off to bed around 6am, I'm still getting up in a couple hours to go back to work.

Sleep-Deprived Hallucinations

Thankfully I have not experienced this situation recently, but when I stay up for three days or more, I begin to hallucinate.

A story that I occasionally tell dates back to a time in the military when I was required to be awake for more than four days. After I had been up for around 90-100 hours, I was driving a HMMWV down the German autobahn with a friend in the passenger seat. As I looked at the road in front of me, I asked my friend, "Do you see dogs all over the road?" He replied, "No... maybe you should let me drive." We pulled over and changed seats, then we got back on the road. When we arrived at our destination, I managed to get two hours of sleep, then I went back to work.

There have been a few other times that I have suffered from sleep-deprived hallucinations, but that story was the worst.

All Of The Above

When working on a few intense projects, I have sometimes experienced all of the conditions that I listed earlier at the same time. Needless to say, this is awful when it happens. I quickly feel out of control, and utterly helpless to rectify the situation. On occasion I have gone to see my doctor, who prescribes something that will knock me out at night and force my body back onto a 'normal' sleep schedule, but I hate it. I feel as though I am losing half my life unless I can stay up until 2am or 4am. When I fall asleep at 10pm, I have no time for hobbies; I lose my precious "Me Time," and I sink into depression. So even though I can be forced through medication into a traditional sleep pattern, I will quickly fall back into a "Night Owl" schedule as soon as I am done with my medication.

In Closing

It's after 4am. I should probably head off to bed soon.

Winking smile


ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: I have written in other blogs that I suffer with a disorder called Essential Tremor, which is exacerbated by both stress and a lack of sleep. In other words, my chosen lifestyle contributes to my unwelcome tremors. However, one question has recently occurred to me: my lifestyle currently contributes to my condition, but did my lifestyle originally cause my condition? I may never know the answer to that question, but it's something to think about.

Star Trek Continues to Disappoint

I don't know about you, but I was extremely disappointed with Star Trek: Picard. I thought the plot was poorly designed, I thought most of the actors were poorly cast and therefore their characters were poorly acted, and worst of all I thought that the writing was terrible.

And it is with those same sentiments in mind that I shuddered with trepidation when I read the following announcements:

Future Star Trek Television Series

Two animated and two live-action television series are currently in development.

Animated: Star Trek: Lower Decks

Star Trek: Lower Decks was announced on October 25, 2018, by CBS All Access as a two-season order for a half-hour adult animated comedy series created by Mike McMahan, the head writer and executive producer of Rick and Morty. It focuses on the support crew of "one of Starfleet's least important ships", and shares a name with a Next Generation episode. The first season is scheduled to premiere on August 6, 2020, and will consist of 10 episodes.

Animated: Star Trek: Prodigy

In February 2019, it was announced that an animated series developed for young viewers was in development. The series is being co-written and created by Dan and Kevin Hageman and will air on Nickelodeon as a joint-venture with CBS. It focuses on a group of teens who embark on an adventure upon an abandoned Starfleet ship. On July 23, 2020, it was announced that the title would be Star Trek: Prodigy and that it will premiere in 2021.

Live-action: Untitled Philippa Georgiou series

Announced in January 2019, a live-action television series will focus on the mirror universe's Philippa Georgiou and her adventures as a member of Starfleet's Section 31 division. Michelle Yeoh will reprise her role from Discovery, with Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt serving as co-showrunners. The series is reported to feature an ensemble cast.

Live-action: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Announced in May 2020, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds will depict the early days of the Enterprise and feature Discovery actors Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn reprising their roles as Pike, Spock, and Number One, respectively. It will be released on CBS All Access. In June 2020, Jonathan Frakes confirmed he had been asked to return as a director for the series.

The people in charge of the Star Trek vision appear to have lost their way. They are turning Gene Roddenberry's original vision - which was once ground-breaking Science Fiction - into a horrible, hollow caricature of itself.

Gary Numan - Forerunner of the Emo Genre

If you'll indulge me for a moment, I thought it would be fun to look at some music history and give you a laugh at a particular subgenre that used to be enormously popular, why it was important decades later, and where it's at now.

Smile

During the late 70s/early 80s, British New Wave and Synth Pop rose from the ashes of the quickly collapsing British Punk era. For what it's worth - I hated 1970s British Punk. I thought that the bulk of what that genre produced was absolute crap. However, several extremely popular bands emerged out of British Punk's decline; for example: U2, The Police, The Cure, Joy Division, and a host of other artists. Part of what made the British New Wave scene enormously successful was a heavy dependence on an explosion of new synthesizer technologies during the advent of the digital age. These new types of synthesizers were extremely popular on both sides of the Atlantic, but British Synth Pop bands used them differently than their American counterparts. For example, see bands like Depeche Mode, Tears for Fears, Yazoo, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Erasure, etc.

FWIW - the following Synth Britannia documentary is an excellent expository about the British Synth Pop genre. It's long, but it's amusing, and it's pretty nostalgic for those who listened to British New Wave during its heyday.

However, there was one artist who had a slightly different take than his musical contemporaries, and that was a vocalist named Gary Numan. He had a string of hits, and I will freely admit that his style is probably not most people's cup of tea. That being said, for a good example of Numan when he first hit the music scene in the late 1970s, see the following performance of his "Are Friends Electric" on BBC's "Top of the Pops," which was the TV show that you were invited to play in England when you had "arrived" as a musician. (PS - A lot of British artists became superstars overnight after playing on "Top of the Pops.")

As I said, Numan probably isn't many people's style, but that video is really funny when you think about it from an 80s perspective; the weird costumes, the strange lyrics, Numan's odd voice, and a plethora of synthesizers. And this is where Numan seemed to create his own subgenre that was a departure from his fellow synth-based colleagues, which we liked to refer to as "Science Fiction Rock" at the time, because there was something otherworldly about his approach.

However, recently Numan revealed that he has Asperger syndrome, which makes his success even more amazing. Performances like "Top of the Pops" might have been somewhat easier for Numan, because they were in a tightly controlled environment. Yet Numan was required to tour to sell albums, which makes performances like the following example all the more spectacular when you consider how hard it was for someone with Asperger syndrome to be in front of thousands of people.

I still freely admit that this additional video is probably even less appealing to many people. Although it's interesting, because it shows something that happened at a lot of his shows: he would spontaneously start laughing, but not lose his place. I think I heard Numan laugh on every live recording of him from back in the early 80s. I had always assumed that he was simply enjoying himself as a performer, but now I wonder if it was more of a coping mechanism of Asperger's.

Jumping ahead a few years in the music world, you can see how Numan was the progenitor for the later Emo genres. For example, here is "Are Friends Electric" in 1989, which is ten years after his "Top of the Pops" performance.

And the same song in 2003, which 20+ years later than his TOTP performance.

Note that I am using live versions of the same song simply to illustrate Numan's evolution over the years, and how he was always "Emo" before the industry caught up with him.

All of that brings us today's world. A good friend of mine from my late 70s/early 80s high school days just sent me the following video of Numan performing "Are Friends Electric" from a few years ago.

I find it admirable that Numan is still performing despite his having Asperger syndrome; although to be honest, his more recent live videos have seemed as though he's a little less socially awkward in front of a crowd. Regardless, it's clear that he's still willing to evolve musically. But if it hadn't been for artists like Numan (and a few artists like him - e.g. Morrissey), we probably wouldn't have had the Emo genre. (That could be good -or- bad, depending on whether you like Emo. Personally, I think it has it's place.)

I mentioned earlier that I wanted to use Numan's performances of "Are Friends Electric" over the past 40 years just to chart how Numan changed and evolved musically, but I think it's worth taking a complete departure and showing some of the cool things that Numan has done more recently; like last year for example. To see what I mean, take a look at the following videos.

 

Personally, I think Emo music with Middle Eastern themes and an orchestra/choir works for Numan. His music is probably not most people's style, of course, and it's not necessarily my style, either. That being said, I still think it's... interesting.


UPDATE: The Synth Britannia documentary was the first video that I shared in this blog post, and I should mention that the program has a section that highlights Numan's importance to the British Synth Pop scene; here is the relevant excerpt from that documentary.