Dante Inferno #29 – 8th Circle of Hell Salvador Dali

Dante’s epic poem referred to as The Divine Comedy or Dante’s Inferno is without a doubt one of Italy’s national treasures. It is loved by cultural institutions as well as the Roman Catholic Church and has been since it’s writing more than 700 years ago.

In 1950 Salvador Dali, who had completely rejected religion by that point was chosen to bring that work to life.

Part of this came to be because in 1949 Dante met with Pope Pius XII and received permission to do work on another concept, and the Italian Government not wanting to get left out signed a contract and paid Dali to illustrate the work by Dante Alighieri (The Divine Comedy)

This led to much argument among the various political class types in Italy at the time and eventually the project was completed through a French company.  However it came to be the world now has a series of Watercolors done by Dali depicting events in The Divine Comedy. These were originally published in very limited quantities, many of which are still in the hands of private collectors (myself included).

There is a lot of detail about how these copies happened to be created. I will keep it brief, and if you are artistically inclined or curious there are books written on this topic.

But Dante painted 101 watercolors. Then wood carvings were made from those watercolors to create some “copies” of the paintings. Dali would apply the colors to the wood and press the pages between to create the image. The picture shown is one of those.

I have 4 in my home. The one shown here is Inferno #29 – Mohammed. It depicts the 19th and final portion of the 8th circle of Hell.

It does not look like a level that was pleasant.

What drives me into reading, gaming, writing, and all this junk

I get asked every once in a while, why waste your time on fantasy novels, writing books, being a gamer…Isn’t your time too valuable?

Yes, I have a high level of education, worked in some fantastic engineering spaces as well as scientific ones over the years. And yes, that is reasonably well compensated financially.

So why waste my time on these things?

It is these things that made me who I am. I would never have become a scientist if science fiction hadn’t caused me to become interested in how that stuff works. I would have never had that focus, that drive, or even curiosity if I hadn’t spend a ton of time reading fantasy adventure novels (like Tolkien, DragonLance, etc).

The creativity it takes to do some of what I have done (and still do) for a living is born in those other things that I do. It also gives a mind break.

It isn’t a waste of time to do things that relax you and foster creativity. Every person is different. But for me, I don’t feel watching TV and Movies constantly fosters that in my brain. But, your brain is different.

If you want to be a novelist, or engineer but feel like you have trouble coming up with “concepts or ideas” try something that fosters creativity. Try something new. Everyone can be creative, you just have to find what works for you.

The video below discusses all this stuff a lot further.

 

 

The Story Behind my Lego X-Wing

Most everyone with kids has had that moment where they deal with Lego in one form or another. Maybe they wanted Legos and you had to say no, dealt with kits, stepped on them…Whatever. Maybe you are an adult that likes Legos (I admit, I kinda am).

But this Particular Lego Kit will always have a special place in my heart.

On my 40th Birthday my son (shown in 7th grade) was more like 4ish years old, and crazy for Legos came to me and asked if he could borrow some money to get me a present.

I was like sure, if you really want, but you don’t have to get me anything. What did you want to go get? He said..A Lego Kit.

I was like..yeah ok…for me. I asked him why a Lego kit.

His response will always hold a special place in my heart. He said: “Because I love it when we build them together.”

We still do Lego stuff together. I love that dude, and all my kids. You can’t replace those moments, and I will forever remember that day.

 

 

 

Why did I write The Diocese Dilemma – I mean…really?

I recently released a novel called The Diocese Dilemma, and it is a pretty far departure from the other things I have written. Why would I do such a thing?

And more importantly why would I turn a Catholic Priest into a Serial Killer?

Well, that is not that easy to answer but I will give it a try.

I grew up in the Catholic Church, I consider myself a spiritual person, I believe in God, but I think dogmatic religion is a challenge, at least for me. If it works for you, please, don’t think I am trying to talk you out of it.

In order for me to really work through some issues I have with people who exercise religion in a more hypocritical way are pretty deep.

I have personally been told by a Christian that if I drink alcohol I am going to Hell?

Ok, so Christ isn’t in Heaven because didn’t he turn water into wine?

I have seen people who profess to be deeply rooted Catholics (and other religions) repeatedly be unfaithful to their spouse. The swore before God to forsake all others?

I see these Scriptures that say one thing and people who love to quote them do another.

It made me question things. And if people can so routinely misinterpret and pervert Scripture to justify their own actions, and I can notice it, surely clergymembers see it.

What happens if a Priest, who sits in the Confessional and listens to people confess their sins over and over gets just fed up with the hypocrisy and says you know what…some of these people are beyond absolution.

Eye for and Eye, right?

Make the punishment fit the crime?

Priests are supposed to be the sword and shield of God according to Scripture.

Can a Priest get so frustrated that he takes the worst sinners, pulls them out of the confessional and goes Old Testament justice and takes that Eye for and Eye a bit further than he should (kind of hypocritically).

And given all of the cover ups the Church has done over the years (and many religions have done) could and more importantly would the Church cover it up? What if the Church leadership agreed with his actions?

This book helped me really understand and see that these things (Scripture) are very often quoted by people who rarely think about the words, they just use them in a way to get you to do what they want, make themselves feel better, or justify some action.

While violating the crap out of other Scriptures (and Commandments).

I do think that this sort of thing could happen. Mind you I have no evidence that it has, but I do know that the Catholic Church (during the Inquisition) did kill a bunch of “sinners”

Would that happen again?

Could they get away with it?

Would they cover it up?

I dunno, you be the judge, and I can tell you right now I am not sorry about what Father Santini did to that person who was selling access to very young underaged women for purely perverted (and rough) pleasure of powerful people.

That guy had it coming.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen? – Movie and Book

I recently re-read the Donald Westlake Book What’s the Worst That Could Happen, which also has a movie adaptation starring Danny Devito and Martin Lawrence.

The movie adaptation is freaking hilarious, so let’s talk premise here.

The novel is one of several by Westlake about main character John Dortmunder (name changed for the movie). John is a burglar who never uses violence, and rarely pulls off much more than a robbery where he makes a much. So, he works hard, and is clean in that he doesn’t get caught because he is a pro after all. In the movie this is Martin Lawrence (who has a fence he uses played by Bernie Mac).

The story is centered around a ring that John’s girlfriend gives him that is supposed to be good luck. While John is robbing a home he gets caught and the house owner that catches him, and while he is handcuffs the house owner steals the ring from a thief.

A thief got robbed, during a robbery! What’s not funny about that.

This sets off a series of competitive robberies trying to steal the ring back, but John continuously “fails” and only manages to steal tens out thousands of dollars in cash and goods. And John feels he has failed…

The conflict between these two go back and forth, everyone on both sides just telling them to let it go, not worry about it, just move on. This can’t happen, once two people that are fighting for pride lock horns, it is hard to get them to stop.

Both the book and the movie are HILARIOUS. The book in the photo is my first edition copy of it. Fantastic stuff, and the movie did change a few things, but it totally works, and isn’t so changed that the story is different. It was an amazingly well done adaptation. The cast knocks it out of the park. A must see, and a fantastic read.

Dungeons & Dragons (DnD), Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro, oh my

When I was a kid I was at a bookstore one day with my mother and grandmother when I came across this game called Dungeons and Dragons by a then not that well known company called TSR.  My original basic book is up above.

I have been playing this game off and on my entire life since that time. Now, there is something disturbing is going on between the community and those who own the brand name (Hasbro through their subdivision Wizards of the Coast). That is me with one of my very old modules.

Since the dawn of time the game has had the ability through their open gaming license for third party developers to build things to go along with the game for our enjoyment as players. And some of those third party groups are shockingly creative.

Hasbro is trying to change the rules (I’ll stay out of that for a moment).

Why would a company do such a crazy thing instead of controlling their intellectual property?

Because DND is just a set of rules of how to play. The game takes place in people’s imagination. The game gives guidelines, and it gives you mechanics but it doesn’t always give you scenarios. Some of these third party groups have put together highly creative game scenarios to play. That are highly entertaining, and some have made a few bucks at it.

Hasbro doesn’t want that.

Well, without all those third party guys, I would never have bought nearly as many TSR (now Hasbro) books and products over the years. So in a way the third party groups have propped up TSR (now Wizards of the Coast and ultimately Hasbro).

Why change something that is working and get yourself a LOT of bad consumer sentiment in the process?

No clue, but I bet there is a bonus for someone involved somewhere. But, it is going to ultimately fail. Because there won’t be as many side products that I will enjoy, and TSR isn’t innovating the way it once did.

It isn’t that we hate Hasbro, or TSR, or Wizards (ok maybe a little now), but we love the creativity of these smaller orgs.

Below is a YouTube video I recorded on this whole mess!!

Lego Hogwarts

My kids, like lots of kids, went through a “I want the big lego kit” stage. Some of those kits are impressive.

One of the ones my kids put together over the years (and still have) is Lego Hogwarts.  With 6020 pieces.

The thing has a level of detail that is amazing. This one has the main castle, some of the common areas. The astronomy tower, Dumbledore’s Office, the chamber of secrets, it comes with a whomping willow, 9 mini figures. Just impressive all around.

I think they put it together in 3 days (sadly I thought it would take longer). It was a nice build for the time, and now Lego as a company has gone bigger. Most recently with the Lego Titanic. Not sure I want to alert the kids that one exists.

I could go on describing the impact of Harry Potter over the years but I will just leave it at anything that got a generation of kids and adults to pick up a book and read…I’m a fan.

 

Donald Westlake a Dortmunder Novel Drowned Hopes – Limited

If you follow along with me at all you know I have a book collection that probably needs its own house at this point. Ok, it isn’t that bad, but it does take up a lot of space.

This book is by a known, but not super well known author named Donald Westlake (who has passed away).  Dortmunder was a character in 14 of Donald Westlake’s novels and I think 10 or 11 short stories.

Dortmunder himself is a burglar. Or as he puts it he finds things. Ok, they are in your house at the time, but he was there last?

Like all of Westlake’s work they tend to be funny in some fashion. One of the Dortmunder books became a movie with the same name as the book called What’s the Worst that Could Happen?  The movie starred Danny DeVito and Martin Lawrence. In my opinion…hilarious. Watch it if you can, but better yet read the book.

This book is about John Dortmunder hearing about a buried fortune. Unfortunately it happens to be beneath a reservoir and he doesn’t want to drown. So he goes about trying to collect it in a rather…unique way.

The copy of this book in my collection is the slip cased limited print of 100 copies by Mysterious Press (autographed). I don’t have too many of this sort of thing in my collection, but I found this one relatively inexpensively a while back, and it does hold a position of pride on my shelf.

 

What got me started writing?

I always had an interest in doing things creative. After all I became a scientist for a reason. They get to do creative things on a regular basis. But what happens when your creativity goes beyond the normal work day?

I really wanted to try my hand at creative writing and considered short stories and the like, but anyone who knows me knows I don’t do things short.

So I had this chance to help someone who was a known author with a book, got a chance to talk to them a bit about their process, and it fascinated me. So after that interaction I had this idea for my own story, followed their process, and now multiple books later boom…Here I am an indie writer.

See the video below for the info on the writer and book that I helped out as a subject matter expert.

Why do stores put Science Fiction and Fantasy together? Sci-Fi Fantasy Crossover appeal!

When you go into a bookstore anytime in the last decade you have probably seen the “FANTASY/SCI-FI” section and it is all lumped together.

Aren’t those two things different you ask? Does it bug you that they don’t get treated differently?

After all, just a few years ago you could walk into a bookstore and see a section called “Teenage paranormal romance” where young people would fall in love with vampires and werewolves or be torn between those two.

So why is it that teenage paranormal romance gets to be off by itself and these two genres get lumped?

First, maybe we want to readers of that paranormal stuff to not be in the mix with anyone else. Maybe it is just better that way. They probably don’t want to mingle with sci-fi readers, and perhaps vice versa.

Second, Fantasy and Science Fiction do overlap in ways. They are books or series of books that create a world that differs greatly from the one we live in. One were characters aren’t bound by the laws of physics or even magic or lack thereof that we have in our daily lives.

These genres offer a specific type of escape that some readers (like me) are craving. I don’t care if it “isn’t believable” that someone can cast a fireball spell or travel faster than light. I just want a compelling story. If I wanted “believable” I’d head over to action thriller, or pure fiction. I’m here for the fantastical, that that’s why those two get put together in my opinion. And honestly, I hope it stays that way!

Check out the cover, and one of the interior photos of my personal copy of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks for AD&D written by Gary Gygax himself.

Maybe someday at a Con I can run this adventure as a DM and convince Luke Gygax to participate!