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The Last Day of the Great Laibon [a story]

by Michael Robbins

This story is dedicated to my father.

 

Kiana had been in the wilderness alone. It was against protocol, and exactly what she needed. That’s what she told herself anyway. Lions came to nuzzle her belly, rumbling softly, perhaps due to that acute animal instinct for knowing when something was wrong. Usually they scattered when the Old man came around.

The first time was on the first day of the month, on the first hour past noon. Of course it was. He popped around a tree on those sand scattered Kalahari plains and waved. Kiana started, then bent over the hand-held UV monitor in both her mitts and muttered, “It’s not real.”

800px-Vachellia_erioloba_-_Camel_thorn

On the second day, at the appointed hour, he climbed into the sun-screened Jeep with her with a cheery “Hello!” Her grip tightened knuckle white on the steering wheel. “You’re not real,” she repeated, almost as a mantra. Her bright green eyes shunted her off onto a vision, flashing to the live-feed six weeks past, to the same man, now more emaciated than he’d been at their last contact, seemingly plied with ever-more tubes in every vein. She blinked, jerking to the side, but the man was gone, at least for now.

Twice more she saw him, at a distance paralleling her as she did her job, collecting genetic samples from the indigenous wildlife. It wasn’t normally dangerous work, but it was always better to work in teams. Especially on the Kalahari with its hundred-degree-plus temperatures, sparse grasses, pale sand pans and gnarled camel thorn trees clawing infrequently at the sky. On the sixth day, it almost cost her.

Kiana had sampled some weaver birds but hadn’t been paying enough attention to her surroundings. Which was how the cheetah had stumbled into her. They literally tripped over one another. Luckily Kiana rolled one way and the spotted cheetah the other. Her heart hammered at her ribs with startling ferocity. That was nothing compared to the snarl issuing from the big cat.

Its eyes were cloudy. It must have an older cat who stumbled carelessly into the noonday sun and been blinded. With all the other adverse effects of climate change it couldn’t have been helped. This was not helping her at all, though. Her limbs were still trying not to move. She didn’t seem to have much control over her shrill breathing, something the cheetah’s ears tuned in on with terrible accuracy.

That’s when the Old man stepped around her, waving both long arms and yelling, startling the cat enough that she could get off a shot with her tranq pistol. It took a couple of shots to flatten the agitated beast, but it was done.

The pistol thunked to the brittle yellow grass as the Old Man swung back to her with that familiar grin. “That’s why you shouldn’t be out here by yourself,” he said. “Baby? What’s wrong?”

“…please stop,” she whispered, her overflowing eyes burning. “…god, please stop…you can’t be here…”

“I don’t see why not. The cheetah seemed to agree with me.”

“B-but, Poppa, you’re gone. You’re…y-y-you’re…”

It all came spilling out, all the tears dammed for the past six weeks, all the suppressed emotions, stealing her breath, choking her. The Old Man returned from the truck with a paper bag for her to breath into. He held onto her with soothing words as she hunched over herself, hyperventilating for how long, an hour? All she was able to choke out in all that time was, “forgive me.”

“What for, baby?” he asked.

“I-I wasn’t there, Poppa. I-I didn’t come for the end.”

“The cancer was pretty far along this time. There wasn’t a lot anyone could do.”

As he’d done when she was younger and brought home every stray dog in the neighborhood, teary-eyed, he now dabbed her cheeks with a kerchief that was the same safari-brown as his sleeveless shirt and shorts. “It’s okay, Baby. Say what’s really bothering you.”

She could look at him now, into the smiling eyes that had raised her, the face now smoothed of all aches. “Is heaven real?” she asked.

“It’s better than heaven,” he shrugged. “Go on. You can do it.”

“I can’t.”

“What, the little girl who frolicked with lions? That’s not who I remember.”

“That’s just it. I didn’t want to remember you like that, all wasted away. I wanted you to be strong in my memory. I wanted to remember all the fishing trips with you and Momma. I wanted to remember that big hug you gave me when I came home from my mission.”

“You can still have that. Nothing wrong with that.”

“But I-I’m not ready.”

“I wasn’t. Nobody’s ever ready. That’s okay. I have faith in you, baby.”

“Does Momma hate me, for not coming home?”

He blew a raspberry out the side of his mouth. “Never. ‘Worried’ is more like it. You should give her a call.” Together they stood. “I’ve been allowed this one visit. I’ve probably overstayed it already. Why don’t I help you load that cat in the cage before I get back?”

This was done in no time at all. As she slammed the metal cage shut in the back of the Jeep, he tipped her chin up, chucking her on it. “I’m proud of you, baby.”

She ducked her head with a smile. A stiff breeze whipped through her bones and he was gone. In the depression in the grass where he’d stood, there remained a small red book of Psalms, the one he’d always carried with him for forty years. The one Momma swore she’d buried with him.

Doctor Who Series 11: A Perspective

I think I’ve heard just about enough of this. Ever since Jodie Whitaker was announced as the 13th Doctor, we have heard from the disgruntled male class how wrong this was, that the Doctor was MALE and always should be. Guess they all forget that the idea was first introduced in the 4th Doctor story “The Hand of Fear”. The change,  if you will has been hinted at, even anticipated by fans every time a regeneration was due. And now that is has happened, we have those same males swearing this is the worst Doctor Who ever, that this marks the END of Doctor Who.

I’ve finally had the opportunity to view the entire 11th series on DVD, including the New Year’s special ‘Resolution’. And my verdict? Calm down, you dimwits.

Point one: WORST Doctor Who ever? You people never watched Classic Who, have you? Where do I begin…? How about ‘The Twin Dilemma’? ‘Time and the Rani’? ‘The Power of Kroll’? Okay, ‘Robot’ had dicey f/x but at least there was some heart in it, and it was Tom Baker’s debut so his energy managed to carry it through.

DW power of kroll

@ BBC still for ‘The Power of Kroll’

No, I think we can settle on Series 22 as the rock bottom of DW. The writers failed Colin Baker, they relied too much on torture and violence as valid story telling elements, and god! That patchwork coat still burns my eyes!

dw_-_sixth_doctor_5773

Don’t look on this as a criticism of Colin Baker. Truth is he was my first Doctor, which is always going to leave some warm fuzzies–even though my first viewing of DW on PBS was Episode 4 of the Trial of a Time Lord season. Getting back to Jodie Whitaker. What to say about her first outing as the Doctor…

One of the failings of series 11 was something we’d all gotten used to, an overarching plotline leading to a season-ending all-in showdown. Where was the Cosmic Menace with Delusions of Grandeur threatening all reality/the universe entire/Earth in general, whatever? I think we could all have used more scripts of epic proportions. And DAMN Doctor Who for making me care about f—in’ giant spiders! Why would you do that, Chibnell? ‘Kay, so much for the negative.

‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’ served as a decent introductory story for 13 (I’m just going to call her that for now). Like so many before him, Tim Shaw–is it ok to call him that?–mistakes regeneration for incapacity. This Doctor is firing on all cylinders, scraping traps out of available materials and assembling a new sonic out of spare parts. Think ‘The Christmas Invasion’–‘The Eleventh Hour’–‘Deep Breath’. We haven’t had a regeneration story yet that was a turkey, and we don’t have one now. The Doctor is never more dangerous than when their neurons are going batshit.

jodie whitaker making sonic Ep_1_4.0

We did have gold amidst the dross. ‘Rosa’, ‘The Witchfinders’ are among the best New Who has to offer. ‘Demons of the Punjab’, oh lord, that was a heartbreaker! And make no mistake, 13 is the Doctor. The sanctity of life is still paramount, perhaps too much so; we’ll see what Time and Experience does to modify 13’s perspective and attitude.

DW-S11E06-Wedding

I know there are some people who will never be convinced this series is not pure shit, and honestly they’re not worth our time. Science fiction is about open perspectives and challenging ideas, NOT calcified notions of ‘THIS IS HOW DOCTOR WHO IS SUPPOSED TO BE AND NOTHING ELSE!’ I got this with Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi, not to mention Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy ad nauseum. There are some die-hards who think anything done since the 2005 return of DW was god-awful.

Okay, I’ll give you this. Jodie Whitaker’s first series as 13 was lacking in the Epic department. But its not the end of DW. It’s a different team’s take on a classic hero…heroine, whatever. We have two or three more series to judge her era on its merits or demerits. And I got exactly what I wanted when 13 first met a Dalek, she left it gobsmacked with clever patter, and she gave it as much mercy as it deserved–which is none at all. Will future Whovians look back favorably on 13? Sorry, friends, only Time and distance will tell us that.

jodie whitaker resolution 03-dr-who.w700.h700

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

Mike’s Amazon page:

f & d cover

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

 

Book review: Apollo 8

apollo 8 cover

Apollo 8: the thrilling story of the first mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger, author with Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 @ 2017 Henry Holt & co.

This was a mission of firsts which by no means was a sure thing. It may not be exaggerating to say this was the mission that saved the Moon Landing, the hurried preparations notwithstanding. Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to leave the Earth’s gravity field and surrender to another’s; the first manned mission to orbit another world; the first burn during a communications blackout on its first pass around the dark side of the Moon, to establish lunar orbit. That orbit would be the first time the eyes of man viewed the dark side of the Moon from close proximity. Then there was the burn to escape lunar orbit and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, all of which held the potential for disaster. Despite the fatigue that was inevitable on a six-day flight in a small, sometimes temperamental craft, with virtually the eyes of the world on these three men, the first trip to the Moon was an unqualified success.

apollo 8 crew

Though all three astronauts–Commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and rookie Bill Anders, along with their wives have their share, the focus is more on Borman, his service in the Air Force and his struggle to join the budding astronaut corps. For author Kluger it’s also a chance to revisit an old friend, Jim Lovell on his earlier career for his record-setting missions for Gemini. And for a last first, these gentlemen were the first to eyewitness the Earth rising over another world, and Bill Ander’s majestic photo has been immortalized ever since as ‘Earthrise’.

45th-Anniversary-of-Apollo-8-Earthrise

It is also a story of the tragedy of Apollo 1 and the disorderly craft that killed Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White on the ground. Apollo 8 was a bold, on-the-fly idea that ultimately saved the Moon landing, and I want to thank Kluger and all those brave men who helped bring back the wonder of the Moon shots, before cynicism and division became the norm and divided our country.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

f & d cover

Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

Book update: thinking Spanish

The third book in the Butterfly & Serpent series has logged another chapter, so I am making progress. The challenge is getting into another culture, another mindset, which might be hampered a bit by an inability to travel. The problem is compounded by the fact that just in the first section of the new book, I’ve had to learn not one but two cultures, diametrically opposed. But I’m keeping at it.

My biggest regret in this regard is that I wasn’t ready until now. I would have loved to have asked my grandmother Elsy about Spain, she was very knowledgeable about all things Spanish. That’s my bad. I’ve finished Vicente Blasco Ibanez’s classic novel Blood and Sand. If nothing else I’ve come away sharing the author’s healthy disgust with the whole ‘sport’ of bullfighting. I feel more for the bulls than the matadors. I can’t even talk to my wife about what happens to the poor horses. The people who go to these things are animals.

cover blood and sand

That’s where I’m at. I’m moving on to the next chapter. Thanks for the support, everyone.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

f & d cover

Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

Beatles ’64—what a year!

To say 1964 was a fruitful year for the Beatles, as well as a bonanza for Beatles fans, may be the understatement of the past century. At least it was for their American fans, who were treated to seventeen single releases, twelve albums and a motion picture, not including a national tour and two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. All their native Brits got was two albums and an EP-single.

beatles with the beatles       Beatles EP uk_long-tall-sally-960x960

Actually, a serious analysis would show those numbers are a bit misleading, and in fact England got the better part of the deal. Two albums may not seem like much, but those albums were presented to them as nature (or their British label, Parlophone Records) intended. In 1963 the Beatles also had their radio show, adding up to 39 BBC sessions that year, and a further eight radio shows in 1964. While that certainly was a much reduced schedule for ’64, it was something we didn’t have access to in America, at least not before the advent of bootlegs in the 1970’s.

For the next three years screaming rabid fans would be the norm for the four lads from Liverpool. This new generation of record buying kids had developed an insatiable hunger for Beatles merchandise. The boys could have recorded an album of Gregorian chants, in basic Liverpudillian, and odds are it would’ve cracked the Top Ten charts.

Let’s start with Vee Jay. Introducing…The Beatles was Vee Jay Records’ attempt to cash in on Beatlemania, and that story is worthy of a blog by itself. Before their contract on the music had even expired, Vee Jay re-packaged the same album—twice; first as Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles (October 1964, chart peak 63), and again as a double album, The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons (Oct. 1964, chart peak 143), paired with a greatest hits package by the Seasons.

Beatles Introducing...VeeJay     Beatles sogns pictures etc of fab bs vj     Beatles vs 4 seasons lp     Beatles Jolly_What_by_Beatles_and_Frank_Ifield

On February 26, 1964 Vee Jay offered another misleading title, Jolly What! England’s Greatest Recording Stars: The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage, reissued in October as The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage. While the Fab Four only had four tracks on the LP, none of them live, this was the only place to hear their hit single “From Me to You” until 1973’s compilation The Beatles 1962-1966 (‘The Red Album’) hit the market. The Beatles Story was a double-album propaganda piece that required little to no participation of the band members; and again it was slapped together in response to Vee Jay’s interview record Hear the Beatles Tell All (Nov. 1964). That’s seven down.

Beatles_and_Frank_Ifield_on_Stage     Beatles storyalbumcover     Beatles hear the beatles tell all

https://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/the-beatles/the-beatles-story/

We’ll discuss the official U.S. capitol albums another time. Suffice it to say you can thank Dave Dexter, the Capitol Records exec who’d spend the next three years creating two albums out of one, with the addition of all their singles and B-sides. For now it is time to dispel the confusion…or perhaps to add to it.

The first Beatles album released in North America isn’t what you think it was. Capitol Canada got the jump on us by issuing their second British LP, what we know as Meet The Beatles! a couple months ahead of Capitol US, under the augmented title Beatlemania! With The Beatles. That was followed by Twist and Shout, the Canadian version of their first LP Please Please Me. The final Canadian-exclusive Capitol release was The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally, which incorporated the British EP of the same name with four tracks already released on the Beatlemania! album. The cover design was virtually identical to Capitol US’s The Beatles’ Second Album. From here on Capitol Canada followed the U.S. releases, beginning with A Hard Day’s Night.

Beatles Canada LongTallySally       Beatles Second Album cover

Nor was their time wasted with Tony Sheridan. Their first professional recordings were backing the English singer on five tracks in 1961, although they were credited then as The Beat Brothers. “My Bonnie” (Polydor, 1962) would be the single that brought them to the attention of their future promoter Brian Epstein. And these recordings would be twice issued, as The Beatles with Tony Sheridan and Their Guests, augmented by six tracks featuring Danny Davis & the Titans (MGM/Atco, Feb. 2, 1964, chart peak 68); and then as Ain’t She Sweet, featuring an entire side devoted to British Invasion band the Swallows (Atco, Oct. 5, 1964).

Beatlesmgm w Tony Sheridan      Beatlesatco Ain't she Sweet

Here’s a misleading list of all the Beatles’ albums from 1964:

-Official British releases for 1964: 

Long Tall Sally (EP, June 19)

A Hard Day’s Night (July 10)           

Beatles for Sale (Dec. 4)

Beatles A Hard Day's Night U.K. cover      Beatels for sale

-Beatles releases by Capitol Records for 1964:         

Meet the Beatles (January 20)        

The Beatles’ Second Album (April 10)    

Something New (July 20)    

The Beatles’ Story (Nov. 23)

Beatles ’65 (Dec. 15)

beatles meet the beatles     Beatles Something newBeatles 65 vinyl

Beatles A Hard Day's night United Artists cover
U.S. release A Hard day’s Night, United Artists, released June 26, 1964

-Vee Jay LPs: 

Introducing the Beatles (Jan. 27)

Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles (October)      

The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons (Oct.)     

Jolly What! England’s Greatest Recording Stars: The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage (Feb. 26)

[reissued in October as The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage]  

Hear the Beatles Tell All (Nov.)

 

-Reissues of 1961 recordings with Tony Sheridan:  

The Beatles with Tony Sheridan and Their Guests (Atco, Feb. 2)

Ain’t She Sweet (Atco, Oct.5) 

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

 

 

Response to Rick Wiles: ‘we will impose christian rule’

Christian TV Host Rick Wiles: We Will Impose Christian Rule In This Country

I hate to break this to you, Ricky, but, uh…your religion, Christianity? It’s kind of based on Judaism. Every bit of it. The Ten Commandments, Genesis, Noah and the Ark, Isaiah, Jonah, Moses? ALL JUDAIC FOLKLORE. Oh, and Jesus? Yep. He was a Jew. I’m afraid you’ll have to blame the Romans for slapping the ‘Christian’ label on us; our ancestors didn’t pick it, we just decided to own it.

Force me to become Christian? Heh. You have no idea what a Christian is. You and your rabid viewers have no concept of the most basic Christian concepts. You shame us with your bile and your bigotry and your basic stupidity.

Plainly you don’t understand the least thing about Americans. We’re stubborn cusses. You don’t get to ‘force’ anything on any of us. Try and push us to do something; I promise you, we will shove you back and shove you on your ass.

Also, just one more question? Before you stick your foot any deeper down your gullet, exactly WHICH version of Christianity did you mean? My home town’s phone book last year had 20 PAGES or more of listings for churches. Which denomination did you intend to impose on us?

Y’know what, just stop. You’re making this too easy. It’s because of sacrilegious gits like you that I’m no longer among the converted. My eyes are open and my mind is unchained.

Golden Messiah for the ’90’s

Warlock 1-4 (Vol. 2) 1998 Tom Lyle script & pencils

All characters & art, @ Marvel Comics

I usually expect more of this character, this series. I suppose you can’t expect Jim Starlin to script all of Adam Warlock’s adventures, but the depth of characterization, the strange worlds he’d encountered on his watch is sorely missed here.

I suppose my greatest disappointment with this miniseries was with Adam himself; he was always a calm man, rational yet passionate, plagued by the consequences of his actions and the harm this brought to his allies. Here Adam is on an emotional roller-coaster since recovering his Soul Gem [again]. At times he’s his old rational self, at others a screaming memmie that would be perfectly at home in any ’90’s comic. Saddling Adam Warlock with a temper tantrum syndrome somehow renders him…ordinary. A quirk that could apply to this miniseries in particular.

Bringing me to Plot Failure #1. It has been re-iterated time and again that Adam Warlock would die without the Soul Gem. But if past experience is anything to go on, that thing gets popped off his brow with alarming regularity. Recall that the High Evolutionary just handed it to Adam in Marvel Premiere # 1 in 1972, which raises the question of where HE got his frisky paws on it. [That business where a sacrifice is required to acquire the Stone, by the way, insofar as I know is purely an adaptation for the movies.]

Warlock 1998 syphonn #3The villain for the day is Syphonn, another overlord from the anti-matter universe of the Negative Zone. He is a being gifted with an impractical tentacly suit, whose motives…yeah well, we never get to hear his backstory, so we have to take it at his word that he has a good reason for wanting to destroy the positive universe–our universe. There’s no rhythm or reason for his actions. He’s a bit like Maxwell Smart’s Siegfried: “It’s like this, Mr. Smart. There are goot guys unt there are bad guys, unt I am a bad guy.” Indeed he is a being so all powerful, so full of awe-inspiring mojo…that we never hear from him again.

His overly elaborate plan is to raise the dead body of Captain Marvel so that he may bring his Nega-bands to Drax the Destroyer. Drax’s living body will then be a conduit to open a portal from our universe to the Negative Zone. The energies released in the destruction of our cosmos would funnel to something called a Conqueror’s Wheel, which theoretically would be used to turn Syphonn into a god.

Warlock 1998 1 dead CM syphonnw4

For reasons unknown this involves Mar-Vell’s corpse committing five murders across the galaxy, including that of Mar-Vell’s grieving widow Elysius at his gravesite on Titan. Each murder leaves a distinct calling card, a staff adorned with a craved head of Drax. Which brings us to the 2nd Plot Lapse: surely a plan like this would best succeed if the guilty parties did not go out of their way to attract attention to themselves–not to mention the vengeful wrath of not one but TWO protagonists, Adam Warlock and Mar-Vell’s grieving son Genis-Vell.

This also leads me to question Adam’s state of mind. He knows Drax; he called him to bear the Power Stone in the Infinity Watch. After all their dealings together, you would think he could take a moment to consider whether Drax was the object of an elaborate frame-up, instead of rushing to judgment like a damn fool human.

Familiar faces abound. Pip the Troll at least is practically writer-proof; it’s very hard to get his character wrong. Drax the Destroyer is along as well, first as the falsely accused and then as a tool. The son of deceased Kree warrior Mar-Vell, Genis, is not ready to step up as the new Captain Marvel. At this point he’s still a whiney ’90’s brat.

Gamora has very little to do here besides kick random thugs and intergalactic policemen’s fannies, and to pine over her unrequited love for Adam. To Gamora’s question, “Why did you even ask us along to “help”?”, Adam brusquely replies, “I’ve wondered that many times recently myself!” Traditional Negative Zone baddies Blastaar and Annihilus barely rise above the level of cyphers. All they contribute to the master plan is to bluster and get their asses handed to them by Drax and Genis.

Warlock 1998 4 endgame

Syphonn undoes his own scheme first by unintentionally blasting his own Conqueror’s Wheel; and second by foolishly engaging Adam after he goads Syphonn into using the Soul Gem against him, a plan that backfires predictably. If the moral of this series was that anger is self-destructive and counterproductive to one’s own ends, it demonstrated that point admirably. If the intention was to showcase the outlandish adventures of a cosmic entity from beyond the stars, this was a lackluster showing.

http://marvelite.prohosting.com/surfer/reviews/warlock1.html

 

 

A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Michael Robbins has been the author and a contributor to six books. BUTTERFLY & SERPENT, the first book in a series, was published in 2012. Mike takes pride in being part of the American labor force for over 40 years. In his prose he strives for unity, not division; humor over prejudice; and heart over heartlessness. His art page can be found at Deviantart.com

His latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

f & d cover

Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA