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Craig Conley's Blog

LAST BLOG

04/15/15 at 04:05 AM

Well, I’ve decided it’s time for some changes in my life. One of them is going to be that I’m closing down this blog. Several reasons; since I started it back in 2011, I’ve written several hundred blurbs on every subject my little mind could think of and it’s getting harder to come up with fresh stuff, and also, for financial reasons, I’m going to be closing down my website: www.craigconleysciencefictionbooks.com – primarily because my books don’t sell because of it. They’re all listed in the catalogues of Amazon and Barnes & Noble and several others anyway, so if someone wants to buy one, they can still find them around. It was a bad time for me to start a career writing paperbacks – the electronic age was coming on strong and even tho’ my little sci-fi stories are available in e-book form, folks aren’t so interested in reading full-length tales anymore when videos can paint the picture for them with no effort. So, I figure I’ll just save the money the internet site is costing me and close it...

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SUPERMAX

04/13/15 at 04:11 AM

Supermax stands for ‘super maximum security’. There is only one prison in the entire United States that bears that designation, and that’s the one located in Florence, Colorado. It is designed to hold the most violent and predatory criminals caught in the USA. In it, prisoners are kept in windowless cells with opaque doors, usually made out of concrete and steel. They are entirely alone for 23 hours out of every day with no contact even with other prisoners. The cells are soundproofed to keep any form of communication between adjacent cells impossible. The prisoners are allowed out of their cell one hour each day to go to an exercise room. When Supermax inmates are allowed to exercise, it takes place in a small, enclosed area where the prisoner will exercise alone. Their meals are introduced through the door through a method of slots which doesn’t allow the prisoner to ever see the guard delivering them. Once transferred into the Supermax prison, people tend to stay there for years or indefinitely. There is powerful administration – Supermax administrators and guards have ample authority to punish and manage inmates, without outside review or prisoner grievance systems. Supermax relies heavily on...

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LYNYRD SKYNYRD'S CURSE

04/11/15 at 04:32 AM

Last week the former drummer of the Southern Rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Robert Burns Jr., died in a car wreck in Georgia. That band has been plagued with so many misfortunes resulting in deaths for its members that it borders on the incredible. The band originally formed in the 1960’s, starting out rehearsing in the Burn’s family garage. In 1977, original band members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, along with backup singer Cassie Gaines and their assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, were killed in a plane crash in Mississippi. One of the bands other earliest members, guitarist Allen Collins, died in 1990 from pneumonia. Bassist Leon Wilkeson, who was badly injured in the 1977 plane crash, never fully recovered, and died of natural causes in 2001. Guitarist Hughie Thomasson died of a heart attack in 2007. Keyboardist Billy Powell died in 2009 of suspected heart failure. Now drummer Robert Burns, Jr. has met his end in a fatal car accident on a back country road late at night in Georgia. I wonder if maybe they were burning the candle at both ends or something to...

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NEWS BARRAGE

04/09/15 at 04:25 AM

I know it seems like every day, more and more reports of people killing others, accidents claiming lives, pets stuck in drainpipes, or trains colliding with pedestrians pop up on our different social media agencies. I can understand why the suicide rate climbs; it seems the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But, that’s wrong. There are no more horrible things happening today then there were years ago; we just never heard about them then. In one of his stories, Sherlock Holmes said that the number and hideousness of crimes committed in the country far outweighed the ones which happened in the city, and he was right. Out in the back country, there is no mediating populace, no public opinion, and no regular presence of people to discourage or condemn dastardly deeds visited on innocents. It seems like all the crimes you’d hear about back in Holmes’s day occurred within the cities, but that’s only because there was an overwhelming media presence there. Nowadays, with our instant messaging machines, we are flooded with all the rotten tomatoes in the human basket, and it seems like the world is going...

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CUCKOO CO-PILOT

04/07/15 at 04:38 AM

This most recent mass murder by some distorted-thinking individual is disheartening. The crazy co-pilot, who locked out his captain and then flew the commercial airliner into a mountainside, killing 150 people, shows how no matter what we do to try and maintain safety, some lunatic will always get through and make a mess. I understand the airlines are now considering a plan which would require that three people be in the cockpit so that at least two were in there at all times. That’s fine; we learn from each one of these events. Of course, we shouldn’t be having to go to such extremes in the first place. It seems there’s always someone who wants to go out making a rash statement…making a big splash…wanting to get noticed, even to the point of giving up their very life for it. Martyrdom? Desperate cry for attention? In this great big world, someone please notice me? Why can’t these idiots get a little more creative in their suicide attempts, i.e., finding some inventive way of killing just themselves…not being so stupid that the only way they can think of catching the headlines is by killing 100’s of innocents. Maybe they could immolate themselves with gasoline on City Hall steps? Or...

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EASTER

04/05/15 at 04:31 AM

Have you hidden all your Easter eggs yet? Did you spend days coloring hard-boiled eggs and finding tricky places to stick them? When we were growing up, Easter egg hunts were a big deal. We each had our little basket filled with green shredded paper (or plastic) and we’d go off on the hunt. I didn’t like to eat eggs, so finding the things was never as rewarding for me as it was for other kids, but I took pleasure in the quest anyway. And, of course, there was the chocolate! Chocolate bunnies; chocolate eggs, cream-filled eggs, and don’t forget the little oblong marshmallow candy egg-shaped things…candy, candy, candy…loads of it. Every kid on the block was covered in smeared brown streaks by the time the morning was through. There was the obligatory church service in our family, of course, my mother being quite possibly the most devout, dedicated, and demonically intense Christian on the planet, but we toughed it out knowing that the egg hunt was coming. Easter is the day which marks the resurrection of Jesus and plays an important role in the Christian faith. Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts, in that they do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian...

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THE DEATH RATTLE

04/03/15 at 04:02 AM

Last week I got sick with some disgusting stomach bug and had a rough time of it, throwing up out of both ends. I buried myself under the covers and waited it out. While I was huddling there I started having the shivers, kind of an uncontrollable shaking of the body. I got to wondering about the death rattle. This is a common occurrence in people (or animals) that are getting close to death. At first, I wondered if maybe it wasn’t simply the body trying to generate heat to combat the coldness of approaching death, you know, by vibrating, so to speak, after all, living bodies are warm and dead bodies are cold. But upon research, I discovered it’s actually more of a respiratory thing. The truth is it’s a sound often produced by someone when fluids such as saliva and bronchial secretions accumulate in the throat and upper chest. Those who are dying may lose their ability to swallow and may have increased production of bronchial secretions, resulting in such an accumulation. Usually, two or three days earlier the symptoms of death can be observed as...

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GOODBYE MARCH

04/01/15 at 04:39 AM

Well, today is April 1st. I welcome it because it brings Spring for sure. March, with its ‘in like a lion and out like a lamb’, is gone at last and with it, most likely the bulk of the cold weather. Another Winter passed. I’ve already seen several people in my neighborhood doing things like cleaning out their garage or turning one corner of their yard into a new flower bed with decorative rocks and pots. My huge Silver Maple tree in my back yard has little green buds on all the branches and it won’t be long before its glorious shade envelopes my patio again. I can smell the BBQ already. I actually got started with a project I’ve been putting off for too long this past weekend; I’m turning one corner of my back yard into an “L”-shaped trellis – fence-high and with a 6-inch rectangular flower box along the lengths of its base. I’m thinking a red climbing Rose...

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HEADS WILL ROLL

03/30/15 at 04:56 AM

A popular phrase in use today has its roots in antiquity. The phrase, “Heads will roll!” usually refers to a mistake which has been made, or someone screwed up and is going to be replaced. It comes from the French Revolution when the guillotine was the preferred method of execution. For a time, executions by guillotine were a popular entertainment that attracted great crowds of spectators. Vendors sold programs listing the names of those scheduled to die. Many people came day after day and vied for the best locations from which to observe the proceedings; knitting women (tricoteuses) formed a cadre of hardcore regulars, inciting the crowd. Parents often brought their children. Eventually however, the crowds thinned drastically. Repetition had staled even this most grisly of entertainments, and audiences grew bored. Two of the more famous recipients of this activity were former King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, who were executed in 1793. The device itself has earlier origins; as far back as 1280 a similar machine, called a ‘gibbet’, was used in England (although it used an axe head rather than an angled blade attached to a heavy wooden block which slid down two struts). During the French Revolution the guillotine became famous when it ‘became a part of popular culture’; and was celebrated as the 'people's avenger' by supporters of the Revolution...

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THAT NECESSARY SMARTPHONE

03/28/15 at 04:48 AM

It seems in Boulder, Colorado, a 12 year old girl tried to kill her mother for taking away her smartphone. The mom denied her daughter her phone as a form of punishment and the daughter responded by attempting to poison mom with bleach. The first attempt came when the girl put bleach into mom’s breakfast smoothie. Mom got a little sick, but put it down to other causes. Then she put it into the carafe of water mom kept beside her bed, and mom, thinking the glass had been washed in bleach when she smelled it, grew suspicious. She confronted her daughter, who confessed. The daughter was turned over to police and faces suspicion of attempted murder charges. The proliferation of these mobile media devices has become an integral aspect of our daily life nowadays, and depriving a child (or anyone, really) of access to one of them would be catastrophic with regards to their social life. Since teenagers all believe that their entire world revolves around their social life, taking away their cell phone is the equivalent of covering them in boils and warts and making them become social outcasts. Oh, the horror! You can see how that poor little girl would turn to murder to get her phone back. Her world collapsed around her just at the moment when she was budding into it. The pressure must have been ferocious...

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GANYMEDE'S MAGNETIC FIELDS

03/26/15 at 04:34 AM

Ganymede is the largest moon in our solar system and the only moon with its own magnetic field. The magnetic field causes aurorae, which are ribbons of glowing, hot electrified gas, in regions circling the north and south poles of the moon. Because Ganymede is close to Jupiter, it is also embedded in Jupiter’s magnetic field. When Jupiter’s magnetic field changes, the aurorae on Ganymede also change, ‘rocking’ back and forth. By watching the rocking motion of the two aurorae, scientists were able to determine that a large amount of saltwater exists beneath Ganymede’s crust which was affecting its magnetic field. This means that, at 3,000+ miles in diameter, Ganymede might be a potential place where humans can live. We need a magnetic field to block the dangerous radiation produced by the Sun. The Earth has one and that’s why we can exist here…without it, we’d fry. Scientists estimate the Ganymede ocean is 60 miles thick – 10 times deeper than Earth's oceans – and is buried under a 95-mile crust of mostly ice. Scientists first suspected there might be an ocean within Ganymede in the 1970s, based on computer models of...

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THE DEPTHS OF DEPRAVITY

03/24/15 at 04:02 AM

Perhaps you’ve heard about a startling tragedy which recently occurred here in Colorado. A woman who was 7 months pregnant went to answer an add offering to sell baby clothes. When she arrived at the address, another woman attacked her, beat her and used a knife to cut her baby from her womb. The police later said that the incisions were very precise; apparently the attacking woman had been studying c-sections in medical journals. When the police responded to the cries of help from the stabbed woman, they immediately rushed her to a local hospital where medics were able to save her life. At about the same time, a woman arrived at the same hospital carrying a baby which she claimed she had miscarried. Doctors put two and two together and realized that this was the baby which had been cut from the mother’s womb. The police were notified and the woman was arrested. She now faces a string of charges and is in jail on $2 million bond. The final charges haven’t been filed yet because under law the infant had to have been alive for murder charges to be filled; it was dead when it got to the hospital, and the autopsy hasn’t been returned on whether or not the child actually drew one breath yet...

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SOME PEOPLE'S KIDS

03/22/15 at 04:21 AM

I’ve been working at my brother’s auto detail shop recently. Last week, we got in a car to recondition. It was a Volkswagen mini-van. When it arrived at his shop, we all took a look at it to see what kind of job it would be. The car dealer who had given it to us had made several ominous references about how bad it was. When we opened the doors, the sight which greeted us was unbelievable. In the back seat area, there were half-eaten candies, wrappers, miscellaneous corn-nuts and snack chips…again, half-eaten. One back door had some frightening brown-colored stuff smeared on the vinyl side panels…I hope it was chocolate, but other possibilities came to mind. Lying in the open back of the van was a large pink empty box with the word, ‘Barbie’ on it. Suddenly I was struck; what kind of people were the previous owners? Who could live in such squalor? They say that the way you keep your car is the way you keep your mind. Wow! A vision popped into my head. Here’s this woman driving down the road; a cell phone jammed up against one ear, knees doing the steering, and...

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BODY SHOPS AND COPS

03/20/15 at 04:53 AM

Someone came up with a really great idea the other day. In Pueblo, Colorado, body shop owners are being asked to assist the police in identifying hit-and-run vehicles. This makes such good sense. When a vehicle is brought in to a body shop with blood or skin or clothing imbedded in the dented area, if body shop owners would call police and report it, it might help the cops find these cowardly bastards who hit and run. There’s so much of that nowadays; you read about one almost every day. Usually, the driver had no license, or was under suspension, or just didn’t want to pay the increased insurance rates his actions would’ve required. But that’s no excuse for leaving someone injured beside the road and not stopping or accepting responsibility. Most of those drivers will be heading to a body shop straightaway to try and erase the evidence of their crime. If the police coordinated with the body shop owners and sent them a list of possible vehicles to look out for, then when one showed up for repair, the body shop guy could notify the police and...

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FREDDIE MERCURY

03/18/15 at 04:57 AM

Freddie Mercury, lead vocalist of the band Queen, was born Farrokh Bulsara in the British protectorate of Sultanate of Zanzibar, East Africa (now part of Tanzania). He died of bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS on 24 November 1991, one day after publicly acknowledging he had the disease. He died at the age of 45 at his home in Kensington. He had a four octave range with his voice and an incredible sense of tempo, making him one of the most impressive vocalists on record. He wrote many of the band’s hits, including; Bohemian Rhapsody, We Are The Champions, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Killer Queen, Don’t Stop Me Now, and Somebody To Love, just to name a few. He was a showman on stage, but something of an introvert in private, especially around people he didn’t know. He was married to Mary Austin and she figured prominently in his life, even though he left her and formed several gay relationships with men, but he and Mary remained friends. In his will, he left her...

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Pi IN THE SKY

03/16/15 at 04:58 AM

Saturday was March 14, 2015. When written as a numerical date, it is 3/14/15, corresponding to the first five digits of pi (3.1415) - a once-in-a-century coincidence! Pi Day, which would have been the 136th birthday of Albert Einstein, is a great excuse to eat pie, and to appreciate how important the number pi is to math and science. Pi is the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle. Any time you want to find out the distance around a circle when you have the distance across it, you will need this formula. Pi is what’s known as an ‘irrational’ number. Pi's digits extend infinitely and without any pattern, adding to its intrigue and mystery. Pi is useful for all kinds of calculations involving the volume and surface area of spheres, as well as for determining the rotations of circular objects such as wheels. That’s why pi is important for scientists who work with planetary bodies and the spacecraft that visit them. You can also use pi to think about Earth's rotation. Think about the nature of a day, as Earth's rotation on its axis carries you on a circle 21,000 miles in circumference, which you can calculate using pi and your latitude. NASA's Spitzer Science Center at...

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ISIL MADNESS

03/14/15 at 04:29 AM

This business of the Islamic extremists destroying archeological history is madness itself. Bulldozing archeological ruins which are thousands of years old into rubble; smashing ancient artifacts with sledgehammers and pickaxes; this is not the work of sane men, not in any way, shape, or form. They must be stopped. I don’t care whether it’s in Iraq or wherever; destroying ancient ruins is a crime against intelligence, a crime against the history of humanity. Good Grief, those relics have stood for centuries…they give us vision into our ancient heritages and cultures, allow us to see how humanity came to be what it is today. To have them so callously and recklessly destroyed by a bunch of maniacs and lunatics blathering nonsense about how they distract people from true Islam is sheer insanity. I know the Middle Easterners are a frothy bunch to begin with; if they don’t have an excuse for fighting and killing they’ll find one, but we need to put a stop to it this time. Those objects and treasures are irreplaceable. Irreplacable! During World War II, the Nazi regime, nasty though it was, didn’t damage important artworks and relics. They had respect for the histories they represented. Sure, some were destroyed by the intense bombing, but by and large the Nazis sequestered the important works and hid them safely out of harm’s way. The ISIL idiots are just the opposite. They’re going out of their way to...

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SOCIAL SECURITY FAILURE

03/12/15 at 04:55 AM

Here in Colorado Springs recently, we had a sad incident. An 80 year-old man placed a 911 call saying he had tried, but he just couldn’t live on Social Security and he was going to be evicted from his home and had no family and he was going to commit suicide and burn down his house. He did it. Officers arrived to find the house engulfed in flames and the man lying dead on the ground outside. This really hit me. Here’s this guy, 80 years old, probably born around 1935, started working full-time in the early fifties, most likely a blue collar worker, raised his family, did all the expected things for an American living during our “Golden Age” (the fifties and sixties!) when everything was bright and chrome-shiny and bullish market…and now, years later, he has no family, and the Social Security he paid into all those years doesn’t even come close to providing the ‘Security’ he was promised. It gets hard. There are property taxes, medical insurance, car insurance, sales taxes…all mandated by the government and required by law...

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CONTRAST

03/10/15 at 04:07 AM

Consider the concept of contrast. Generally, this means a thing’s opposite. For example, light and dark; near and far; hot and cold; big and small. It is by comparing one opposite with the other that we can know something. As a matter of fact, each thing’s opposite is absolutely necessary in order to know the first thing. You wouldn’t know what light was if you didn’t have dark to compare it to; you wouldn’t know what large was if you didn’t have small to compare it to. And so on for all the opposites. Our minds are able to discern intermediate states of things by comparing the opposites, i.e., different shades of light or dark (or big and little). This fundamental necessity for contrast has plentiful implications. Take for example, good and bad. It seems they are both necessary – you can’t have one without the other. The Christian idea of seeking the all-good Heaven being promised them (if they follow the appropriate rules) suddenly comes crashing to the ground. The bad is essential to knowing the good. Where this takes us (in this respect, anyway) is to search for the balance…the right balance between good and evil. Both are necessary. There is no lopsided imbalance anywhere; it just doesn’t exist...

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THE ONE DOLLAR BILL SEAL

03/08/15 at 04:43 AM

In 1782, Sam Adams created the third Congress and appointed a design artist, William Barton of Philadelphia, to bring a proposal for the national seal. For the reverse, Barton chose a pyramid design with the Eye of Providence on top. The pyramid has 13 levels, representing the 13 original colonies. The adopting resolution provides that it is inscribed on its base with the date MDCCLXXVI (1776, the year of the United States Declaration of Independence, in Roman numerals). He added two Latin phrases; Annuit Cœptis and Novus Ordo Seclorum. They translate as ‘He Favors Our Undertaking’ and ‘New Order of the Ages’ respectively. They were originally portions of a Latin poem by Publius Vergilius Maro (usually shortened to Virgil in English) who lived from 70 BC to 19 BC. He was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues (or Bucolics), the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid. There are many other items within the Great Seal which number 13. On the obverse, the eagle is holding 13 arrows; the olive branch he is holding usually has 13 leaves and 13 olives, and the blue field above...

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BIRTHDAY TIMES TWO

03/06/15 at 04:39 AM

Today is auspicious because within my family there are two birthdays which fall on March 6th. My Sister-in-Law and my Mother. This situation became particularly gnarly once my mother, in her unpleasant way, tried to run my sister-in-law’s life. This is actually quite a common occurrence…mother’s-in-law don’t want to let go of their sons and almost every one of them believes that they know best how to manage the boy’s affairs. Of course, when a woman takes a man for her husband, then they are beginning a new life (just like the one the mother originally started herself, but she conveniently forgets about that) and the one thing the new wife doesn’t need is someone telling her how to do it. There’s an old saying; ‘There’s only room in the nest for one hen’. I don’t understand why so many women can’t figure that out. My own wife, who was a very intelligent woman, was sorely rebuked by her daughter-in-law when we tried to help the new couple out financially after they were first married. The girl exploded and said “Stop trying to...

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BEEF OVER NOODLES

03/04/15 at 04:46 AM

The other day it was snowing here in Colorado and I decided that since I was going to be housebound anyway, I’d dive into cooking something. I chose Beef Stew. Now that’s not a really difficult thing to do, especially if you use the pre-prepared seasoning packets you can buy for a dollar or two at any grocery store. I got one and followed the directions meticulously as I’m a bachelor and generally only eat whatever I can fry up or scrape out of a can. Complex dishes requiring even minimum cooking skills elude me; too bad because I adore them. Anyway, as I was doing the first phase (according to the directions on the seasoning packet), I noticed that browning the stew beef chunks in a little oil after covering them with flour and then adding the contents of the seasoning packet and the 3 cups water it called for made a rich brown gravy which smelled excellent. I let the mixture simmer for an hour and was about to add...

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RIP BFF

03/02/15 at 04:09 AM

The other day I was web-surfing and I decided to look up my old buddy “Sonny” in the little town of Schertz, Texas. We had moved there as a military family in the late fifties and as Sonny was our neighbor and about the same age as me, we hooked up as friends. We became really tight over the next few years, sharing a love for fireworks (which were legal then in Texas – including the excellent ‘Cherry bombs!) and fast big-block cars and our beloved motor scooters. We rode all over southeast Texas, dated girls (got my first feel of a boob in the back seat of his daddy’s ’61 maroon Chevy Impala), and gave the local sheriff hell with our shenanigans. Well, I found him on the internet; his obituary was posted there. He had died in October of 2014. Of course, we hadn’t stayed in touch after my dad was reassigned...

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BYE SPOCK

02/28/15 at 04:02 AM

It had to happen. Mister Spock is dead. Leonard Nimoy, who played the Vulcan First Officer aboard the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek, passed away at his home in California on February 27th, 2015. All his shipmates from the series sent acknowledgements and condolences to his family. It happened once in the movies, and he came back, but this time it’s for real. I was a huge Star Trek fan myself. I don’t think there has ever been a character with such an incredible hold on so many people. The idea of this supremely logical, unemotional, super-strong, green-blooded alien who was half-human traveling side-by-side with his Earthling counterparts through the stars, exploring new worlds…it was just what every science-fiction aficionado (myself included!) dreamed of. Unfortunately, I believe it somewhat overwhelmed Nimoy; the success took him by surprise. He wrote two autobiographies; ‘I am not Spock’, written in 1975, and ‘I am Spock’, written in 1996. Makes me wonder if at first he didn’t like his own identity being subsumed into the TV...

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FIFTY SHADES OF RED

02/26/15 at 04:18 AM

The movie, Fifty Shades of Grey, came out the other day and, predictably, there was a contingent of ladies marching out front in a picket line. They carried placards proclaiming that the movie promoted pornography and violence to women. I have no ready rebuttal to that, but I will point out something that I’ll bet those girls missed. In my years of unofficial and unsponsored (but enthusiastic) sexual researches, I have come across a surprising number of women who actually seek these moderately painful punishments as a part of their sexual nature. Why? I believe it dates back to Victorian Era Christian repression (farther back than that, actually, but let’s use that date as a starting point). When our parents and grandparents promoted the Christian beliefs that sex was bad and never to be engaged in purely for pleasure, what did that do to our minds? On the one hand, we are driven by that most powerful of urges, the sexual desires (key to reproduction and therefore the continuance of life); and on the other, the unwillingness to disobey or go against the teachings of our respected parents and elders. Caught in the middle between these two (almost) irresistible forces, we are given over to feelings of guilt when we follow the path we must (the sexual desire path is the strongest of the two!). That guilt makes us crave punishment for our misbehavior...

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