So I'm at the grocery store, and overhear this conversation in the entrance, by the DVD rental kiosk:


Dad (excitedly): Nah, we're going to go home and watch the PBS News Hour!

Get in car, tweet it out, just because that's what we do these days, I guess.

Now, hold that thought.

Dentist appointment today. Eyes, then teeth; moving my way down. Friday I'm having my neck tightened. I like going to the dentist, really - I have great dentist, and I get the gas for everything. Not because I need it, but because hey, it's the gas. Ah, the temporary sense of well-being , simultaneous to mean whirring sharp things. It would have been interesting to be around during the time when Scientists lauded the "excellent air bag" for its imaginative properties. There's a great story about this.

On Boxing Day of 1799 the twenty-year-old chemist Humphry Davy – later to become Sir Humphry, inventor of the miners’ lamp, President of the Royal Society and domineering genius of British science – stripped to the waist, placed a thermometer under his armpit and stepped into a sealed box specially designed by the engineer James Watt for the inhalation of gases, into which he requested the physician Dr. Robert Kinglake to release twenty quarts of nitrous oxide every five minutes for as long as he could retain consciousness.

Afterwards he spoke intently of the revelations he had been granted by the gas. "‘Nothing exists but thoughts!", he blurted. "The world is composed of impressions, ideas, pleasures and pains!"

Sounds ideal for listening to Mahler, which is what I did. My session lasted exactly as long as the first movement of the 7th symphony; if I'd flossed more it would have been the fourth movement of the first, I suppose. I chose it because it had been a while, and it was long enough. The version I had was different than the Concertgebow performance I memorized years ago, which I remembered because it had a conspicuous mistake. You always remember those recordings. The ones where someone just fracks it. (A French Horn flub, in this case.)

It's one of my favorites, the last traditional Mahleresque symphony - after this, it was singing and moping. (But glorious singing, and truly anguished moping.) The first movement goes on a bit too long, and has about six endings, but it has one passage that always hits hard, one of those standing-in-the-mountains / beholding-the-glorious-majesty sequences (he wrote in a cabin in the mountains, so I'm not reading a program into something that isn't there) that's spoiled, as they always are, by the Shadow of Tragedy. But the change is so immense and profound - it's like a moment in a dream where everything turns terrifyingly incomprehensible. And then it climbs back up.

He wrote it in 1905, at the peak of fame and happiness; afterwards, it was the tailbone pogo down the long staircase until he died. It's the moment about 12 minutes in, if you're curious. (Not Lennie's best; the earlier recording is better. )

Anyway, it was just like any other day listening to the music, except when it was done there were small bits of food on a blue paper shield on my chest.

While I was writing this I realized I wanted to hear the movement again, so I put it on. Towards the end I get a DM on Twitter from a friend replying to the overheard dialogue in the grocery store. He happens to be the lead trumpet for the Minnesota Orchestra, so I tell him I'm listening to the Mahler 7/1. He says he hopes it's the old Bernstein recording, and I say that's the one. He tweets back that the lead trumpet on the recording was his trumpet teacher.

All because when I looked at my phone for something to listen to, I wanted something with duration.

When I come across an old sci-fi pulp mag, I turn to the letters. Years ago I found one of these fellows and emailed him; he was amused that his youthful enthusiasms had survived. It really was a unique place in the culture - the comments section, limited to a few, featuring the same fans over and over again, complaining about other fans. You get the sense of a community of nerds dispersed by geography, bound by dreams of rocketships and rayguns and BEMs. Like this:


Name's familiar. I'm thinking, this guy:

At the time of his first story, (Damon Knight) was living in New York, and was a member of the Futurians. One of his short stories describes paranormal disruption of a science fiction fan group, and contains cameo appearances of various Futurians and others under thinly-disguised names: For instance, non-Futurian sf writer H. Beam Piper is identified as "H. Dreyne Fifer".

Oh, as for the guy the Army turned down:

Walter Kubilius (November 22, 1918 – September 22, 1993) was an American science fiction (short fiction) writer. He was a member of the influential science fiction fandom club Futurians.

His style was characterized as "pedestrian, out-at-the-elbows prose" by James Blish.

A small world dreaming of bigger one out in space. (BTW: "out at the elbows," as in worn through. Cheap, shabby." And worse ones closer to home:

At the time the Futurians were formed, Donald Wollheim was strongly attracted by communism and believed that followers of science fiction "should actively work for the realization of the scientific world-state as the only genuine justification for their activities and existence". It was to this end that Wollheim formed the Futurians, and many of its members were in some degree interested in the political applications of science fiction.


Now it gets fun.


The name shouldn't be hard to find, should it? Well, here's a hint in the encyclopedia of fandom:

Conway - Family name of Futurian noms de plume. Bowen Conway is Michel, Graham ditto is Wollheim, Millicent Diana same Elsie Balter Wollheim, Ritter C - damon knight, Roger idem all the Futurians,Van Cortlandt C'wy is Cyril Kornbluth, and Wormwood Kermit Conway III is Doc's pen name.

Doc? You have to poke around a bit more:

Most often the nickname standing alone refers to Robert W Lowndes


Robert A. W. "Doc" Lowndes was fan, author, and editor. He was a principal member of the Futurians (and one of the six kept out of the first Worldcon by the Exclusion Act.

What? The EXCLUSION ACT? Yes: the first convention of like-minded people distinguished itself by kicking out the wrong like-minded people. It was over plans to hand out a pamphlet supporting Michelism. Which called for this:

"THEREFORE: Be it moved that this, the Third Eastern Science Fiction Convention, shall place itself on record as opposing all forces leading to barbarism, the advancement of pseudo-sciences and militaristic ideologies [referring to the racist notions of Naziism], and shall further resolve that science-fiction should by nature stand for all forces working for a more unified world, a more Utopian existence, the application of science to human happiness, and a saner outlook on life."

Meaning? "At the time everybody tried his hand at defining Michelism. Moskowitz' was the shortest: 'It is Communism.'"

So the current culture wars about ruining sci-fi with politics? A long-standing tradition.


The last week of tiny pictures of record outer sleeves printed on a record inner sleeve:


Hey, that's pretty rock-and-roll, there. Anyone run this by the Chairman of the Board?

The Popeye was a modified Watusi. Instructions:

Popeye or Sightseer: Looking right, with your right hand over your eyes and your left on your hip; then looking left with your left hand over your eyes and your right on your hip, and repeat

Hell, I could do that. As for Aki Aleong: singer and actor.

His first important role was in the 1957 movie, No Down Payment, which starred Joanne Woodward and Jeffrey Hunter. He is probably best known for portraying Senator Hidoshi during the first season of Babylon 5

That's something you won't find anywhere else in the Reprise catalogue.



From the Disc of Flying Mars, the Man. Chapter Ten:


Let's catch up our bad guys:



The last ep means the last cliffhanger. Kent was following the henchmen, unaware there was a hench on his bumper stuffing a burning rag down his gas tank. He didn't see the hench jump off. But suddenly, Spidey-sense a-tingles:


I think he's down three cars and four planes. Pretty tough for a two-man private security company who's not even doing this for a client.

All that remains is a fistfight and the death of the bad guy from Mars - Mota is his name, as if anyone cares - who acts like a miserable Commie and talks like a Red and looks like an old guy who hangs around the barbershop glaring at Esquire. It turns out now, in Episode 12, he's concerned about the ray gun we saw in the first episode. And it turns out Kent has them in his office, somehow. I missed that. Or it didn't happen.

Well, they kidnap the Office Gal, load her into the flying semi-disc, and take off. Gun battle. One hench is killed, and the other switches sides, telling our heroes where the secret base can be found. The turncoat hench calls Mota, and says Kent will trade the plans for the girl. The flying semi-disc returns, and Kent forces the pilot at gunpoint to take him to the volcano lair.

Old Mars Dude tries a punch fest. Doesn't go well. Watch Mota on the right.


During the fight some of the cute little atomic bombs fall into the volcano pit. And so:


He can pilot it? A ship for Mars? For the first time? Sure, why not. The ship's on fire, so they hit the silk while the volcano blows up some more.



We don't even get to see the bad guys die. Well, let's wrap it up.


That was, in a way, the ultimate serial. It had everything, and provided just about nothing.

That'll do - see you around!



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