Star Trek – The Deep Space Nine Companion – Terry J. Erdman, Paula M. Block (2000)
From 1993 until 1999, what I consider the greatest science fiction television show ever aired in syndication in the United States. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) turned the Star Trek formula upside down. Instead of a ship and crew of high-end achievers exploring the galaxy and encountering a new threat or danger or problem every week, DS9 showed us a flawed Commander and crew who take over a commandeered Cardassian outpost orbiting a small, seemingly inconsequential planet named Bajor. Whereas, in Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) the entire ship was populated by Starfleet personnel and their families, in DS9 the command crew is composed of a mix of Starfleet officers and staff, Bajoran military and government officials, and a whole slew of civilian shopkeepers and workers, not to mention the constant arrival of travelers seeking refueling, repairs, or just some rest and relaxation after a long voyage. Because of this, DS9 was able to tell deeper, more involved stories, sometimes taking years to fully understand.
DS9 began in 1993, as a premium syndication show, meant to be the showpiece of a new network, UPN, now defunct. It aired for 7 years, and because it was a syndicated show sometimes it was moved, pre-empted, or otherwise ignored by the UPN people. DS9 always sought to maintain a sense of continuity between its episodes, but once they began to fully explore serialized storytelling, if became a difficult show to follow if you had missed a few episodes. TNG, on the other hand, told stand-alone episodes, capable of being watched in nearly any order. Watching DS9 out of order would lead to massive confusion! It was a good thing that the people in charge of DS9 knew how special the cast and show were and kept this all in mind as they crafted season after season of amazing science fiction television.
Because of this, Terry Erdman and Paula Block’s book, Star Trek – The Deep Space Nine Companion, is such a favorite among fanatics of DS9. (We call ourselves Niners, BTW) Not only does this heavy tome detail every single episode’s narrative, but it provides countless piles of data and information about the show, including cast members, trivia from behind the scenes, the production teams, and thoughts about each episode from the pertinent cast or crew members involved. It is literally the DS9 bible, and it fetches a fair price on the secondary used book market!
I am a huge fanatic of reference material, and to have such a motherload of data about my all-time favorite television show is so cool. I enjoy the insight provided to me by the cast and crew as they look back on some of the best work they ever did. I look forward to a lifetime of curiosity leading me to dig back into the Deep Space Nine Companion. I highly recommend it, either for yourself if you are a Niner, or as a gift for someone in your life that loves Deep Space Nine.
Chats with God in Underwear – Eduardo Chapunoff (2019)
What a weird little book! Recently, I received a request from this author to review his book, Chats with God in Underwear (translated from the Spanish, “Charlas con Dios en Calzoncillos”, explaining its themes and topics. I was told this book concerned a trip that God makes to Earth, and his thoughtful conversations with the people he meets. I was immediately intrigued, especially after I saw that the author is an eminent cardiologist and prominent member of some very serious medical boards. There are not too many cardiologists out there writing books exploring the nature of man, death, the Universe, and its creator.
This was a quick and lively read. The book is structured almost like a screenplay or stage play, consisting mainly of dialogue between God (who goes by the name Rogelio), and John, a man he meets upon arriving on the shores of Brazil unharmed in the middle of a hurricane. John takes Rogelio to his beach-side home, where he is informed that Rogelio is God, and that he is interested in talking to learned people of various faiths, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Agnostic.
The story proceeds to detail the various conversations that God/Rogelio engages in, each of them polite, but intense questions regarding their faith, their specific beliefs, and the way they view the Divine, without avoiding the pain and horror that humans suffer through and must come to grips with if they chose to believe in an all-powerful, all-good deity. No one but John is aware of the fact that Rogelio is God, although they react to him in a way that lets you know they can sense his innate goodness and kindness.
These conversations are great, and likely the type of self-analysis that many devout people do regularly, as they try to understand their god, their beliefs, and how it all applies to the world around us, so full of evil and pain and hate. Many of the people that God interacts with admit as much.
There are sections of this book where the author goes into the personal life of John, and his marital troubles, children troubles, etc. God/Rogelio offers advice to help John in these matters, even though John is not very receptive to it. Several asides are included which try to show the relationship John has with his three children and they are not very successful, apart from being plot devices that allow God and John to continue their conversations. I would have preferred that these sections were omitted.
Other than that quibble, I really enjoyed reading this, and seeing how Chapunoff imagines God would interact with the humans he meets. Many of the questions that God poses to the people he meets are things that all of us should think about, especially the religious among us, for they can help us understand the complexity and mystery that is the world we live in, and our daily existence. Very cool stuff.
(This book can be purchased (Kindle Edition) here: https://www.amazon.com/CHATS-GOD-UNDERWEAR-Eduardo-Chapunoff-ebook/dp/B07RD8Q4YM )
Journey to the End of the Night – Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1932)
One of the greatest sources of information about books and writers that I am not aware of comes from the authors I read. Charles Bukowski, and his raw, unvarnished views on the world around him, always fascinated me, and when I read a quote stating that Bukowski considered Louis-Ferdinand Céline “…the greatest writer of 2,000 years” I was intrigued, having heard mention of this French author whose style and mind helped set the stage for the modernist works of the 20th century. As I always like to note any synchronicities around me, soon after reading that quote by Bukowski I was listening to the Doors, specifically the song “End of the Night.” Looking up the song I found that it was a reference to a Céline novel titled “Journey to the End of the Night.” I had to go and find this novel, and see what all the fuss was about!
We jump right into the story of Ferdinand Bardamu, a veiled double for our author, and his cynicism about the world he inhabits, France during The Great War. While talking about the terrible state he and his companions find themselves in, with the war getting closer and closer to them, our protagonist rashly jokes he will join the army, as he has no other prospects. The crowd’s patriotic fervor eggs him on. He proceeds to fool around, joining a column of marching soldiers. By the time he realizes that the cheering crowds have thinned out, he was inside the army compound and in the military.
The novel jumps from there right to Bardamu in the middle of a predictably chaotic and pointless skirmish, and his cynical view of things stands in sharp contrast with the patriots and flag-wavers he encounters. His superior officers are brain-dead nitwits, some seeking glory, and others seeking power, with no concern for the safety and well-being of the men they lead. This is a point that Céline/Bardamu reiterates constantly. He finds the war to be as stupid and vapid as the cheering morons who support the war from the safety of their cafes and parlors.
We follow Bardamu as he proceeds to go AWOL, get discovered by another patrol, gets sent to a far-flung outpost in Africa, manages to find his way out of that, get “Shanghaied” on a steam-ship, and then make his way to the United States. In New York, he sees the glittering lights, absorbs countless films at the air-conditioned movie house, and is overwhelmed by the massive amount of beautiful, young, energetic, hopeful women he sees. Compared to the lifeless women he knew in France it was a big change.
From the moment he entered the military, Bardamu’s tale coincides with a fellow Frenchman named Robinson. They run into each other in the Army, again in NYC, and then again in France once Bardamu returns home. Bardamu eventually ends up in Medical school, and becomes a doctor for hire in one of the poorest parts of the poor parts of Paris.
Throughout these adventures, Bardamu lets fly with some of the wittiest and most caustic analysis of the world around him that I have ever read. I can see why Bukowski, Heller, Beckett, and others were such big fans. Céline lays bare every bit of corruption, chicanery, and falsehood that we all live under. These lies and obfuscations help make our society function as a whole but they destroy the individual mind and will. I would love to re-read this novel with a highlighter in my hand so I can mark every amazing sentence and truth.
Céline was one of the first authors to make use of ellipses, jumping forward in time with no connective exposition. Kurt Vonnegut makes use of this method in his novels, and I first found it in Slaughterhouse 5, thinking it was a very cool way to tell a story. This is Céline’s first novel, and it was a sensation in Paris, with people discussing the crudeness, pain, and horrors that Céline describes casually. In the Europe before WWI, the aristocracy and well-off lived their lives ignorant of the common masses and their troubles. This book must have been one bitter pill for them to swallow, as Céline excoriates the people in power, showing their stupidity, greed, and self-delusion. Not many novels before this one delved into such ugly things. It really is a great piece of writing. I am very glad the synchronicities lined up to introduce me to this book.
(This book can be downloaded and read in PDF format here: https://neoalchemist.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/louis-ferdinand-celine-journey-to-the-end-of-the-night.pdf
The 12th Planet: Book I of the Earth Chronicles – Zecharia Sitchin (1976)
I have always enjoyed my forays into what mainstream writers refer to as “the Fringe,” or, if they are being blunt, “the Lunatic Fringe.” Ideas and subjects once considered ridiculous or plain deluded, have been shown throughout history to be valid, sometimes because it takes time for society to catch up to the ideas being described, and sometimes because what may come intuitively to a human being as a Truth cannot be verified until years or centuries later.
An example of the former is Copernicus, whose writings were deemed heretical, solely because the mass consciousness at the time was living under a reality tunnel that did not allow for anything other than the will of a god to determine what happens to our world. In a world rife with illiteracy, those who were literate and powerful (the church) controlled what the illiterates thought and believed. An example of the latter would be Alfred Wegener, a meteorologist who, in the early 20th century, wrote up his ideas that the continental plates were in constant motion, and that the landmasses were all connected at one time in the distant past. His ideas, while consistent with the observational data, were dismissed out of hand by geologists and earth scientists, who still believed the Earth was an unchanging rock, only altered by erosion and wind. Once we humans began to create tools to explore the possibilities and history of plate tectonics, it was discovered that all the landmasses had indeed been connected in the past, and not just once, but at least 5 different times that can be verified through rock strata. There are countless such examples.
I am not stating that what Mr. Sitchin describes in his book is factual, or even possible, but who am I to know? I am just a well-read, educated reader, but in no way am I an expert on ancient cultures, especially the Sumerian kingdom, and what came before it. What I do have experience with is reading about religion and myth and exploring how truth can be coded into legend, and how legends can betray truth when misread. I say that as a caveat. Mr. Sitchin studied the Hebrew Bible in the original Hebrew, and has studied the Greek early translations. I am not sure if he has taught himself to read cuneiform and earlier writings, or if he is using other’s work, but I have to take all of his translations with a grain of salt.
That being said, what is described in this book is, to my mind, plausible, and a bit frightening if even slightly true. There are some very serious and unanswered questions regarding the evolution of Homo sapiens, from the previous hominid species (Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalis, etc.) that immediately preceded our species. The anthropological record seems to show that hominids evolved in Africa, and around 100,000 years or so ago (maybe longer), the ancestors of our species migrated out of Africa, settling in the Tigris-Euphrates valley and spreading through the world. The earliest civilization that we can find any record of, whether archaeologically, or in ancient myths and writings, seemingly began out of nowhere around 8-10 thousand years ago, complete with agriculture, livestock, and societal structures we would recognize already in place. This also coincided with the end of the last Ice Age on record.
Sitchin claims that the legends of Sumer and their tales of their gods are actually factual accounts retold as legendary history. The 12th planet of the title, is supposed to be a planet on an inclined elliptical orbit of the Sun, taking it out way past Pluto, and then back into the Solar System, between Mars and Jupiter, every 6,400 or so years. This planet was the home of beings that sought out the mineral riches of Earth for their benefit, and who settled down on our planet, building several cities in the Euphrates to serve as their “space port” in a way, for every one of their years afforded them a chance to return to Earth or return from Earth back home.
In this tale, the beings asked their lesser brethren to work on Earth, gathering the minerals (gold, lithium, plutonium) that they needed from the southern areas of Africa. According to Sumerian myth, these workers got fed up and asked their leaders to create a race of beings to serve as their work slaves. This was to be us, the humans. Much is discussed about how the biblical story of creation seems to describe exactly such events, especially when the god of genesis describes how he is one of many gods, and how they created humans in the gods’ image. Sitchin goes into a lot of detail regarding this, and it makes for very interesting reading. Humans served the gods. The gods watched over the humans.
In recent times, WWII air forces would set up temporary bases in secluded Pacific Ocean islands, bringing with them everything modern, and, once the usefulness of the island was gone, the Air Forces would leave. The people who lived there, the native islanders who had very little, if any, knowledge of the world outside their islands, started very quickly to believe they were gods, who, if placated or inspired, would return, providing the islanders with the modern goods and luxuries they saw as nearly magical. They would build effigies of WWII propeller fighter planes, and create landing strips, hoping to inspire the visitors to return again and grace them with their godly presence. They stopped their native religious practices in the attempt to feed this new belief. That is our human nature. It is very plausible to me that if beings from another world ever came to our planet and interacted with us that we would see them as gods and build our entire culture around them.
There are a lot more examples and cool stories in this book. While it may all be a writer-created hope, there is always the possibility that what Sitchin is describing is the truth of our existence. Ancient man had deities that were eternal, always with us, always a part of the world around us. In fact, the world itself was full of life spirit. Modern man, however, created civilization, rigid religion, and the idea that the god/gods came once in our past, and will return again in the future. This makes no sense if it was just a truth gathered by our experience in the world round us. This makes more sense if we are collectively remembering a past in which humans were the subservient slaves of what seemed to us to be god-like beings.
This book is from 1976, and helped foster the Ancient Aliens hypothesis that I so deeply loathe. (This states that the great works of humanity’s past were too hard for lowly ancient man, and must have been created by aliens, or with the help of aliens, etc. This insults the brain of ancient man which was exactly like ours today. If we can do something, they could have done it too. The only difference is in our storehouse of aggregated knowledge that we can all build upon.) What Sitchin proposes is not that aliens came down and helped humans, but that an alien race came down to Earth, genetically altered Homo erectus, and created what we call Homo sapiens. This is why our upward mobility and societal structures have exponentially grown in the past 6,000 years, where before our ancestors were pleased enough to just chill in family groups, and enjoy their lives. It is a crazy idea, but there have been far crazier ideas that have turned out to be correct. Many of the criticisms I read about this book and Sitchin's work pertain to very specific instances of sections that critics state are mistranslated from the Sumerian language. They outright dismiss any of the other claims in this book, without properly addressing them. That is lazy criticism. The jury is still out!
(This book can be downloaded and read as a PDF here: The 12th Planet - Sitchin )
The Direction of Time – Hans Reichenbach (1956)
In the late part of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, many philosophers saw their world crumble when their old, long-held assumptions about reality came crashing down around them, due mainly to the various advancements that occurred in physics during that time. Einstein’s relativistic theories regarding the large-scale composition of our Universe, and quantum mechanics’ probabilistic theories regarding the small-scale composition of the fundamental particles creating our existence did not allow for the old stand-bys of philosophy. A Priori ideas were discarded. Previously believed truths about our reality that were simply accepted as fact because Plato said so were understood to be false. The understanding that any philosophical theory needed to support and not contradict the verifiable, empirical facts of the world of science was required. In this tumult, philosophers such as Bertrand Russell sough to unify the empirical results of science with the aims of philosophy, helping create what is now called “scientific philosophy.”
Hans Reichenbach was at the forefront of this movement. He understood early on that the world as described by the then-current physics was not one that could be easily codified into philosophical terms and concepts. A new philosophy was needed, and Reichenbach sought to provide that for the world. One of his final attempts at this unification came in the form of this book, The Direction of Time, which explores how science and philosophy merge to describe the way that humans experience what we call time.
Time is a concept that many people misunderstand. People assume that time is a purely linear function, equally applicable to the entire universe as it is to an individual, while others believe that time is relativistic, that each person experiences a different flow of time from anyone else. Reichenbach begins his discussion of time by exploring what time means and what it has meant to philosophers of the past. He explains the basic mathematics that show how our Universe is in a constant state of becoming from the past to the present, and how these mathematics show that time is irreversible, even though our minds can imagine such time reversals. In our reality, time moves forward in all respects, with the future defined as that which has yet to occur but is influenced by the past and present, while the past is defined as occurrences which cannot be changed once they happen, but which will influence future events indefinitely.
In order to explain his reasoning, Reichenbach goes into levels of math that are frankly beyond my cognition. I have to admit that I never got past Algebra II, or Pre-Calculus in school. As a Fine Arts student I satisfied my math requirements with Logic classes. Thankfully, those same Logic classes help me keep Reichenbach’s thought processes in clear focus, even though his mathematical specificity leaves me in the dust. I wish I had more ability to process Logarithms! The beauty of knowing mathematics, even on a level such as myself, is that, while I may not understand the full import of a formula, I can follow the thought processes as one formula is permutated into another, or as it is simplified by the author. This does help a lot in understanding this book.
(This book can be purchased here: Dover Books )
The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life, Vol. 1 – Drunvalo Melchizedek (1990)
This is a deep dive indeed. As I am always on the look-out for weirdness and bizarre books I try to keep a running list of odd tomes that authors often reference, or use as source material. I prefer to go read the actual source than to read someone’s interpretation of it. I want to do the interpreting! Because of this I found myself seeking out Drunvalo Melchizedek’s engrossing and enlightening work describing his experiences in researching what mystics call “Sacred Geometry.” This is the first volume of two, and serves as an introduction to the idea of sacred geometry, where it comes from, and what it means to the whole of existence.
(Let me make something clear before I continue. I read about many things. I read about ideas I do not hold, and viewpoints I do not agree with. I am always seeking new data, and new ways of thinking about the multiverse we all inhabit. I am a supporter of new ideas, not a “believer” in new ideas. Does that make sense? It may be that everything discussed in this book by Drunvalo Melchizedek is accurate and real, but I am not the person to judge. I can only try and understand the content of this book based upon the countless other books and experiences I have been fortunate enough to acquire.)
The author wants to explain sacred geometry, and specifically, the image called by ancients and mystics The Flower of Life, and where this all comes from. This requires us as readers to accept that the author is channeling ancient entities/angels who provide him with the information he seeks to share with us. This may seem weird, but I have read of many “normal” authors whose fiction they claim comes unbidden from who-knows-where? Stephen King, a very prolific author, has discussed how whole story ideas and book plots have come to him as if he tapped some source outside of himself. Countless other artists and creative people claim the same. I choose to take Mr. Melchizedek at his word about his sources, but of course I reserve judgement.
According to the author, what we term the age of modern man, or human civilization, is actually just the most recent flowering of humanity. He states that in the wisdom received from angels and the being Thoth he was informed that not only did vast ancient civilizations exist throughout the Earth hundreds of thousands of years before Egypt’s Old Kingdom, but that they have influenced our collective culture, religions, and beliefs. This is all quite a standard trope in “received wisdom” writings, but in this case the message is not hidden under layers of obfuscation or cryptic word-play. Drunvalo Melchizedek comes right out and tells you everything in a plain manner, with a lot of visual assistance through photos and diagrams.
Mystics have always held that there is one key feature of the Universe. As above, so below. Many take that to mean that heaven is like Life, while others take it to mean that outer space follows the same laws as the planet where we live. Yet others see this statement as an indicator that, in order to know the Universe one can study the Self, or vice versa, if you wish to know the Self, you can find your answers by looking at our Universe. Either way it is true. However, the ideal of Sacred Geometry is that the human body, by its proportions, can show the same mathematical relationships that are seen by measuring the heavens.
I do not want to just give examples and details, because they are all of a piece, and need to be taken in all together for the desired effect. The author shares information in several different ways, in order that both our Left (feminine) brain and our Right (masculine) brain both understand everything. I found this really cool. I am a hyper masculine thinker, deeply rooted in logic and reasoning, but my subconscious is where my allegorical and metaphorical thinking takes place, and that is where my art comes from. Because of this, I am aware that the brain can sometimes be processing information subconsciously while the conscious brain is occupied with the day to day job of keeping alive.
This first volume holds as its aim the goal of sharing with the reader exactly what is Sacred Geometry, why it matters, and how this knowledge was handed down through time. It succeeded in piquing my curiosity for Volume 2. Volume 2 seeks to explain how each individual can create their own transcendent spiritual body, called the Mer-Ka-Ba. It is this spiritual creation that allows a human to transcend this mortal coil, and create a body crafted of pure consciousness. Various synthetic, structural Mer-Ka-Ba’s have been created through time by beings residing here on Earth, attempting to create a planet where the population has the possibility of transcending their corporeal existence. Supposedly our planet is here precisely for that, and this is what the man named Emmanuel, who people choose to call Jesus the Christ, was trying to impart to his followers, only to have this personal revelation be hidden by crooks who sought only to ensure their wealth and power and their status as intermediaries between humanity and the gods (of course, I am talking about organized religions, priests, rabbis, clerics, monks, etc., the very same people who worked with those in Roman government to wrongfully accuse and execute their Messiah.) I cannot wait to see what Volume 2 holds. If it is anything like Volume 1, it will give me a lot to think about!
(This book can be purchased here: The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life Vol. 1 )
(This book can be downloaded and read as a PDF here: PDF Download )