Dawn Hawaiian Pineapple: Yellow Plus Me Equals Blue

Dawn Hawaiian Pineapple Scented Dishwashing Liquid – 10.3-Ounce



Pros: Product contains an accurate, agreeable pineapple scent.

Cons: Experienced transdermal allergic reaction.  No ingredients listed on product label.  No ingredient disclosure provided at the Procter & Gamble website.  Those with a sensitivity to yellow dyes should wear rubber gloves when using this (or any) cleaning product.

Having to constantly accommodate an allergic constitution gives a person perspective.  As a kid, unbeknownst to me at the time, the yellow dye in my favorite Mountain Dew soda made me hyperactive and photophobic.  A single use of my aunt’s Palmolive dishwashing liquid caused the skin on my hands to thicken and peel.  Exposure to certain perfumes could cause nausea and blinding headaches.  I eschew the otherwise harmless turnip the way Bugs Bunny avoids Elmer Fudd.

Life Is Good

Lest you think I exist as a cartoon lab rat, there is a solution to this problem – learning to cook well enough to avoid eating processed convenience foods is a priority.  People who experience such a degree of sensitivity also become inveterate label-readers – for proven foods that don’t offend currently, can be subjected to unannounced ingredient substitutions such as needless dyes and MSG.  One must exercise constant vigilance when their well-being lies in the balance.

Although Dawn‘s formulation appears to have changed since its introduction, their standard blue dish soap remains a product I can trust not to cause a reaction.  When a CVS sale had depleted that inventory, I grabbed a bottle of Dawn Hawaiian Pineapple Scent.  Since fragrance can be a major allergy trigger, I popped the top and found the light, sweet scent acceptable.

Be Still, My Heart

Though I didn’t associate the onset of my sustained heart palpitations with a specific event, the result of my doctor’s inquiry was revealing.  My symptoms began soon after using the unfamiliar yellow Dawn product, and abated with decreased exposure.  Aside from the introduction of this one product, nothing in my deliberately structured orbit had changed.  Once the suspected source was identified and my use of the product fully terminated, the symptoms disappeared completely within hours.  To verify our findings and eliminate coincidence, I resumed use of the product until symptoms once again were evident.


Now, it appears not only do I have to avoid ingestion of particular yellow dyes, I must avoid skin contact, as well.  A long-winded diagnosis of Transdermal Systemic Hypersensitivity has led me to redouble my efforts to stick with those products I trust and avoid those that refuse to divulge the particulars of their respective formulations.

In this instance, my curiosity as to the specific ingredients of Dawn Hawaiian Pineapple Scent Dishwashing Liquid led me to the Procter & Gamble website.  Once there, multiple keyword searches of the product’s ingredients resulted in a dead-end.  Federal regulation requires a company to clearly present a complete list of inclusions for all food items sold, but this apparently does not apply to other non-ingested household products.

Subsequent avenues of disclosure for my pineapple predicament were equally fruitless.  A detailed product keyword search of potential adverse health issues led to a site called Environmental Working Group – an entity whose annoying pop-up was more interested in signing-me-up than providing pertinent information.  Ultimately, at this point in my research, I already knew a good deal more about the product than their listing revealed.

Scary Stuff

In addition to chronic restlessness and photophobia, consistent, long-term exposure to yellow dyes (in those with a sensitivity to same) can cause clinical depression, headaches, dizziness and vertigo – but I’ve never experienced an irregular heartbeat as a result of the ingestion of, or contact with an affected product.  The question is – does this neon-yellow concoction contain a hyper-excess of culpritive dye, or is there some other ingredient responsible for my unconventional symptoms?  The mystery may never be revealed.

Reasonable Assumption

As of this posting, I could go through my house and find a number of Procter & Gamble products that I use regularly without adverse consequence – including both basic Blue and Lavender Dawn.  In all fairness, due to the abstract peculiarities of human physiology, there is no product in existence that is totally non-allergenic to a certain percentage of the population.

Judging from the reviews observed while researching this product, a majority of people find their experience with Dawn Hawaiian Pineapple Scent Dishwashing Liquid to be satisfactory – but the percentage of those reviewers who wear rubber gloves when using this product is not stated.  In fact, many lament its alleged demise – though, as of this posting, it remains available at both Amazon and Wal*Mart.com.

Approach With Caution

It is incumbent upon all of us to understand and take responsibility for our own personal environment.  According to medfriendly.com, an estimated 360,000 Americans have a sensitivity to Yellow #5, alone.  Currently, at least seven numbered variations of FDA approved yellow dye exist in a variety of consumer products that people with a history of hypersensitivity should avoid.  Unfortunately, unless sufficiently motivated (as I was), the majority of those afflicted may never discover the source of their chronic symptomatic discomfort.

For purposes of full-disclosure and overall consumer safety, a voluntary and comprehensive product-specific listing of the formulations that we come into contact with on a daily basis should be the foremost responsibility and inclination of those who develop and market such products.

Clearstream 2V Long Range HDTV Antenna: Mixed Signals

Antennas Direct Clearstream 2V Long Range HDTV Antenna  Model # C2-V-CJM


Pros: Price @ Amazon.  Works as claimed – especially when transmitters are grouped within a 70-degree window.  Build-quality sufficient to withstand exterior applications.  Supports 1080i HDTV.  Picture and sound quality inherently superior to that of cable.

Cons: Rural reception requires the use of an optional in-line amplifier.  Hilly terrain and obstructions will adversely affect reception.  Alleged 50-mile range conditional – stations with inferior signals didn’t get that memo.

In the realm of home entertainment, there are two camps – those who live for the thrill of the latest HBO series and those who would rather read a book and generate their own pictures.  I fall into the latter group for a couple of reasons.

As a kid who subjected his growing brain to endless hours of televised drivel, I now find most mainstream visual media inadequate or unbearable to sit still for.  This could be the result of developmental-teen TV-overload, adult attention deficit or a combination of both.

3 BC

In the three years before cable at my new location, my down-time was more productive.  Reading, writing and cooking sessions were constructive, fulfilling and relaxing.  After cable arrived, I lounged, ate junk food and watched shows pertaining to reading, writing and cooking.  When the promotional price ended, so did the cable TV.

Terk vs. Clearstream

Before cable, my Terk digital rabbit-ears pulled-in all the major networks.  Trouble was, every station required a different location around the living room – making the Terk‘s telescopic footprint an unsightly, ever-moving obstacle.  I needed an attic antenna that would be powerful enough to receive what was out there, while being much less intrusive.

Cute as a bunny and remarkably efficient for its size, the Terk indoor digital antenna lives large when its telescopic ears are extended.
Cute as a bunny and remarkably efficient for its size, the Terk indoor digital antenna lives large when its telescopic ears are extended.

Mindless Drivel Redux

Of the five cable channels I enjoyed most often, three are receivable over-the-air in the Portland, Maine market.  The only channel that was consistently unavailable to the Terk is the local CW Network (hybrid of the failed WB and UPN).  Have I developed a sudden craving for routine portrayals of low-wattage teen-angst?  No… it’s just that the transmitter attached to the CW (Completely Worthless) affiliate broadcasts the coveted retro Me-TV Network (Memorable Entertainment Television) on its lone digital sub-channel.

Some Assembly Required

The Clearstream 2V Long Range 1080i HDTV Antenna is designed to receive both UHF and VHF signals.  It arrived in a spiffy box with clear, glossily illustrated instructions even I could follow.  An initial inventory of parts confirmed they were all accounted for – including a versatile J-mount mast that greatly simplified my attic installation.

The included J-mount makes quick work of a standard attic installation. [Image: Antennas Direct]
The included J-mount makes quick work of a standard attic installation. [Image: Antennas Direct]
 Assembly took less than 15 minutes.  Depending upon your installation method, some inclusions will end-up in the parts-bin – my attic venue did not require the use of the ¼ x 50mm mounting bolts or the four sticky, roof sealing pads.  Keep in mind that the only coaxial cable included is custom-sized to connect the figure-8-shaped UHF Loop Element to the top-mounted VHF Dipole Kit.  The antenna’s overall 18 x 34-inch footprint simplifies installation in tight spaces.

I made use of my home’s existing cable-TV wiring by disconnecting the television cable from the signal splitter and threading it onto the appropriate Dipole Kit connector.

Twist And Shout

Antennas Direct stresses the need to maintain your assembled antenna’s flexibility to achieve proper reception before final installation.  Using drywall screws, I temporarily mounted the antenna vertically to a section of 2 x 6 and clamped it atop a 6-ft. aluminum stepladder – allowing for unlimited rotation and subsequent television channel rescan.

When favorable atmospheric conditions prevail, I have received channels with the Terk from as far away as Providence, RI  – 170-plus miles to the south.  As a test of the Clearstream 2V, I began with a scan to the SSW and the Boston-Providence television market – with no success.  However, pointing the Clearstream due east, I was able to receive nearly every channel in the Portland market clearly with the antenna set in a single position – including the local Fox affiliate, which is located almost 50-miles away.  The introduction of a Winegard LNA-200 in-line amplifier has strengthened each signal sufficient to prevent atmospheric and weather-related inconsistencies.

Unlike some exterior-rated antennae, the Clearstream 2V appears built to withstand the elements.
Unlike some exterior-rated antennae, the Clearstream 2V appears built to withstand the elements. [Image: Antennas Direct]
 My Samsung television allows not only for an overall scan, but for manual individual channel selection.  Repeated attempts to attract the one channel for which I would trade all the networks was flat-lining – proving the signal from the local CW to be Conspicuously Wretched.

Why Are You Calling?

With the mistaken notion that the Antennas Direct Helpline could perform miracles, I called their toll-free number (which is irrelevant if you’re using a cell phone with a minutes plan).  Perhaps they could recommend a stronger, more appropriate antenna to better suit my particular application?

My short wait was continuously interrupted by a robo-voice with the assurance I was next in line.  The representative I eventually spoke with did what I had done – used the internet to locate my position at antennapoint.com and lament the specs. in regard to the weak and worthless signal emitted by my most desired channel.  Despite my coherent questions and explanation of the situation in a reasonable fashion, the rep kept asking why I was calling.  After I’d hung up, I asked myself the same thing.

I Want My M(e)TV

The Clearstream 2V has now been moved to its permanent home in a storage area behind the central chimney.  It is mounted low enough to avoid interference from the metal roofing materials, yet high enough to get the job done.  My home’s location at 763 ft. above sea level could be an advantage that creates the exception, but, with adequate amplification, this antenna works for me – though not for Me-TV.  Perhaps Perry Mason can eventually solve The Case of the Woeful Wavelength.

The Clearstream 2V is covered by a Limited Lifetime Warranty.

Made in Taiwan

Antennas Direct
16388 Westwoods Business Park
St. Louis, MO  63021
Helpline:  877-825-5572

Promise Land: America’s Often-Desperate Self-Help Dreams

Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture



Pros: very engaging, well-researched

Cons: none

I’ve gotta love a writer who nonchalantly describes Dr. Mehmet Oz as a man who bears resemblance to an underfed werewolf. Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, author of 2014’s Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture, met Oprah’s TV doctor when she accompanied her father, Dr. Shapiro, to the show as a reluctant expert on kids who hang themselves. The producer first had to prime him on how he should present his psychological information for the most dramatic effect, which her father resisted and finally wore the producer down. I don’t usually watch TV and had to smile as the author described this bizarre experience as well as others in general where her father had to answer inane questions like “Dr. Shapiro, should children hang themselves?” “No, they should not.”

The very engaging author grew up surrounded by America’s self-help culture. Her father had just published his first self-help book when her depressed killed herself. Lamb-Shapiro was barely three. Her father’s response was to shut down and not talk about it, only to lie about how she died, and to continue writing books and creating self-help paraphenalia to sell. Lamb-Shapiro followed him around and got to ask a question about her mother once a year, neither visiting the grave until very recently. That breakthrough came about largely because of this book.

The author starts out Promise Land with an objective look at the Chicken Soup phenomenon, attending a very expensive conference featuring Mark Victor Hansen, author (but not writer) of the megabestseller series alongwith Jack Canfield. Later on she criticizes Rhonda Byrnes’ bestseller The Secret, which is no secret, and The Rules by some other self-help scam artist. Lamb-Shapiro was so entertaining that she reminded me of my own attempts to satirize self-help books, often with my alter-ego Dr. Freudine where you can still read the fun in Dr. Freudine Is In: The Story Begins. I never reviewed these particular books that beg to be mocked, though.

There’s so much to enjoy about Promise Land. Lamb-Shapiro tries walking on hot coals, making a Vision Board and just watching a friend get into it, getting over her fear of flying with a class, and doing research on the history of self-help culture. Ben Franklin’s little book of advice may be the best known today, but such books were written in the late 1600s. Finally the author discusses books about grieving and how there’s supposed to be five stages, but not really as author Elisabeth Kubler-Ross later clarified. Her father created a suicide app for the military and started opening up about her mother…thirty years after her suicide.

The self-help book formula is a very successful one that draws on our dreams of being better looking, richer, more intelligent and capable, and so on. As Lamb-Shapiro observes, Americans desire to be independent and able to help themselves, yet self-help artists also must convince others they want to help them. It’s a fine line that she wanted to better understand by writing this book. While many self-help products can be very useful, many are questionable as she points out so well. I really enjoyed the book and if you’ve gotten a kick out of my review, you should check out the book or my own. Thanks!

Target: World Supremacy! GENGHIS KHAN for the NES

GENGHIS KHAN for the Nintendo Entertainment System



Pros: Gameplay, complexity, outstanding replay value

Cons: Unimpressive graphics and sound; some people just won’t like this game

It’s kind of amusing to look at what games for the Nintendo NES are the most sought after by collectors today, some three decades after the system debuted. Many games are quite highly-regarded by players (Super Mario Bros. 3 comes to mind), but were produced in such large quantities that one can find these games almost anywhere. On the other end of the spectrum are the games produced by Japanese game developer Koei. While companies like Konami and Ultra Games became known for the action titles they put out by the truckloads, Koei almost exclusively developed remarkably in-depth strategy games. Often, these games had downright bizarre titles like Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Nobunaga’s Ambition, and they frequently focused on historical events and periods. Though their offbeat titles ensured that I would ignore the company’s games for years (why would I play something called Bandit Kings of Ancient China when the video game of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was right there??), in the early 1990s, I happened to give one of Koei’s games a shot and I’ve pretty much been hooked on them ever since.

The world map – the player’s goal is to conquer it.

Genghis Khan, a turn-based strategy game produced in 1987 for various (extremely primitive) home computer systems, was ported for the NES in 1990 and offered up two scenarios in which a player assumed command of an ancient tribe or country if you will. Scenario one, “Mongol Conquest,” in set in the year 1175 AD and saw the player assume the role of young Temujin (who later would become the ruler known as Genghis Khan) as he attempted to unite the Mongol tribes under one banner. Scenario two was the bigger and better “World Conquest” which begins in the year 1206 AD. When starting a new game, up to four human players competing in the scenario would choose between four historically-based world leaders (from Mongolia, England, Byzantine, or Japan) and set out to conquer the world. This was done by executing domestic and international policies, building up individual states, keeping civilian populations happy, trading specialty items for weapons and food, negotiating with other countries, and taking command of military units to defeat enemies. Though a player can use diplomacy to aid his campaign, in the end the only way to win the game is to use military might to crush his opponents.

main game
The main game screen, which shows information about the player’s country and the various commands a player can execute on his path to world domination.

The scope of this game is pretty darn impressive for the time any way one looks at it, and though the game is difficult to describe, I’ll give it a go. The “world” as it exists in the game features all of Europe and Asia along with a bit of North Africa, and has 27 separate states (or countries if you will), each of which has its own geography, economy, civilian population, and military along with a unique ruler. During each of the four seasons of the year, players are given three “moves” and with these limited amounts of moves must manage various – and indeed all – aspects of their country, keeping the populace under control while expanding their territory through the use of military might. Each task a player does, from trading goods for profit, to training soldiers, to choosing new military leaders, to spying on enemies, to actually invading another country, has ramifications: assigning more troops to your military potentially takes them away from tasks that are needed to build up a country’s economy and defenses, but computer opponents are all too willing to take advantage of a country that has stretched its military resources a bit too thin. At the same time, by spying on enemy countries, a player can spot opportunities to swoop in and devastate enemy armies while minimizing casualties of his own. It’s also important to note that each playable character has ability parameters which deplete with every action he undertakes. Thus, the player has to manage these levels in order to keep moving forward in an effective, efficient manner.

A player could easily spend hours and hours of time building up his country since this game does a fine job of simulating domestic policy management, but eventually he will be forced to go on the march and invade a neighboring nation. This is where Genghis Khan (which feels a bit like an elaborate chess game from the beginning) truly starts to look like a game of chess as well, since the battle sequences involve a player navigating his military units through a battlefield of varying terrain while attacking enemy units whenever possible or desired. Battles in the game are relatively simple in terms of their onscreen construction, but strategy again plays a key role. Depending on how the terrain and skills of various military units are utilized, it’s possible (and extremely satisfying) to overpower a superior enemy force. Conversely, having a overwhelming military force doesn’t necessarily mean that a battle would be a cakewalk since, as in real life, an enemy force backed against the proverbial wall is an extremely dangerous one.

Thankfully, Genghis Khan makes up for its lackluster graphics with captivating gameplay.

Ultimately, this game is all about time, energy, resource, and personnel management – and success in the game is very much dependent on simply practicing and playing extensively to learn the ins and outs of the game’s mechanics. It’s no exaggeration to say that each time a person plays this game, it will be a different experience – or to say that it would take hours and hours and hours to actually win the game, let alone master it. I’ve had this game in my collection since the early 1990s, have spent WAY more time than I’d ever care to admit on it, and have actually, honest-to-goodness beaten the game a grand total of once. In some ways, it’s more fun and satisfying to start over after awhile and build up a country anew instead of pushing towards achieving total victory – at a certain point, this game has a tendency to become very frustrating. That said, I’d probably consider this one of the most mind-bogglingly difficult, complex, fascinating and addictive games ever made for the NES.

While the game is a dream come true for history or strategy game buffs, there’s a heapload of potential problems with this Koei game and most others from the company. Simply put, Genghis Khan is not designed for those who want instant gratification – the game is slowly-paced and would be devastatingly tedious for many people used to the slam-bang action of the typical NES platformer. Honestly, I think only a very select group of gamers would enjoy this title – but those who would be open to a game of this type would probably REALLY LIKE this game. It’s also worth noting that I believe this may be the most intricate “build up your nation and conquer the world” game Koei ever developed – the Super NES sequel was nowhere near as in-depth as the NES version, which is more than a little disappointing.

Every character in the game has a variety of attributes that can be build up over time, as well as a unique portrait.

Graphics here are downright lousy and noticeably dull and drab. There are precious few actual animations in the game – most everything here is relayed via static screens. Despite the graphical limitations, what is here looks decent considering when the game was made and I do like the fact that every character in the game (i.e. the rulers of every state along with a never-ending string of potential officers) has their own portrait. The sound present in the game is of slightly better quality –most every country in the game has an individual music piece associated with it, and these themes effectively convey the cultural differences between different locations. Unfortunately, every battle plays out to the same, monotonous tune and I suspect that most players will quickly tire of the repetitive sound design. I usually put on some background music of my own when I play this game just to make it more tolerable.

Alas, things don’t always work out well in this game – it’s time-consuming and very difficult!

There is a TON of stuff for a player to discover about this open-ended game, most of which can only be learned by playing it for long periods of time. Aside from other games released by the Koei corporation, I’m not sure I could come up with another NES game that’s quite this detailed – if a player “got into” this game, he likely could keep playing it intermittently for years and years. There’s a reason why many, many NES games have been lost to the sands of time, yet Koei games continue to be talked about with reverence. These games quite simply are some of the most demanding, challenging, potentially addictive, and utterly unique games made for the system. Genghis Khan surely wouldn’t win any awards for being the most visually-impressive game out there (even for the woefully outdated NES), but this cartridge packs a lifetime of gameplay that a select few, hardcore gamers will find themselves coming back to again and again. If it sounds at all intriguing, I’d highly recommend you check this game out – I’d easily place it in my list of top ten NES games.

Title screen and a brief look at the gameplay (with music):


Descriptionary Fourth Edition  – A Thematic Dictionary



Pros: Easy reference book, incredibly inclusive, many varied themes

Cons: Is it too technical or didactic?

Not long ago a friend mentioned seeing a “herringbone cloud formation” in the evening sky.  I had no idea to what he was referring until he explained it was a lateral chevron pattern. Out of curiosity, I Googled it and sure enough, it was exactly as he described.  Little bits of information like that are like the sprinkling of nuts atop a hot fudge sundae. I hoped I would remember it so I could use it someday in a writing. I guess I just did.

Perhaps this book is best described by the author, Marc McCutcheon himself :

“The book for when you know what it is but not what it’s called”.


The searchers weren’t sure what they were seeing – was it the lost plane or just another guyot ? For all they knew it could be a portion of the Kerguelen-Gaussberg Ridge.


It was just a lapsus linguae, certainly not meant to hurt anyone, on the other hand it wasn’t exactly logorrhea, so I didn’t see the problem.


He figured he had at least another klick to go – which annoyed the heck out of him since he was a sapper, not infantry. He had lost his Fritz and wondered how long it would take the glad bags to arrive in the event he became the target of a salvo.


I’ve written three very short paragraphs containing words I have never heard or used before – with the exception of ‘salvo’. My concern is that a writer can use these words if he or she chooses, but one of two things are likely to happen: A) the reader will have to research the word to get a definition, or B) the author will have to follow the word with a brief definition – both situations might be cumbersome. Using the second paragraph as an example:

” It was just a lapsus linguae, ( slip of the tongue)certainly not meant to hurt anyone, on the other hand it wasn’t exactly logorrhea, (excessive or irrational talking) so I didn’t see the problem.”

I love the word “lapsus linguae”, but not if it’s unlikely the reader will have a clue, or if I have to define each unusual word I choose – just to (try to) make myself look brilliant. I may as well have said ‘a slip of the tongue’ and ‘excessive or irrational talking’ to begin.

HOWEVER, with those caveats in place, this reference is fabulous at bringing to mind (and pen) words that would be just plain fun to use (randomly flipping through book):

Banana ball: A golfing term meaning a ball that’s been hit and is curving in the shape of a banana. I can imagine several different writings one could use this term, and none involving golf.

Apostacy: An abandonment of one’s faith.

Sunshine laws: Laws that require meetings held by government agencies be open to the public.

Boys of Summer: Originally the name of the Brooklyn Dodgers, now connoting all baseball players.

Arm stump: On an armchair, the vertical member that supports the armrest.

Animism:The belief that everything in nature has a soul or form of consciousness.

 The books’ twenty-four chapters range from Animals and Insects to Furniture to Language to Medicine to Sports – and more.  And the ‘sub-chapters, if you will, are incredibly detailed. For example – under the main heading ‘SCIENCE’  you’ll find Anthropology and Archeology,  Astronomy, Chemistry,Comets, Constellations, Elements, Evolution, Moon (yeah!) Particle and Particle Physics, Space and Sun.  This book is just plain fun to read!

There’s a forty-page section titled “Words and Expressions You Should Know”. It’s a section filled with words and expressions and terms every literate person should know, ” to sharpen both comprehension and communication skills”.

Following “Words and Expressions You Should Know” is a sixty-five page Index, itself a fascinating section to peruse.

I found this book at a garage sale for $1.00. It must have simply fallen into the wrong hands – I can’t imagine no longer having use for it.

Author  Marc McCutcheon

711 pages

Checkmark Books

ISBN – 13:978-0-8160-7947-6

“Well babe, cheated death again”

The Air Up There by Dave English




Pros: Funny, Insightful, short, super gift

Cons: Probably has a fairly small audience

I feel I’m ‘going long’ on this review as there are lots of people  who have never been in a small plane – and never intend to – in fact, the idea might be rather nightmarish. Then there are others, myself included, who have experienced the pure felicity of flying, and have found few pastimes to better it.

I have only been at the controls of a plane for about three minutes – long enough to know that was long enough. I’m a much better co-pilot, with duties ranging from Thermos-Bottle Controller  to Official Chewing-Gum Dispenser.

I’m speculating that The Air Up There was primarily written for flying enthusiasts.  In fact, it was pretty much written by  flight enthusiasts. The author, Dave English states in his introduction that after his first book Slipping the Surly Bonds: Great Quotations on Flight, he was overwhelmed.

“No one was guessing in 1997 that a book on aviation quotations would sell 30,000 copies or that 200 pages would not be nearly enough to cover all the material.”

The book is divided into seventeen very short, snappy chapters quoting on subjects such as Cliches, Space Flight, Combat, Birds, Piloting and Safety.

A small sample. . .

Chapter: Cliches

  “The average pilot , despite the sometimes swaggering exterior, is very much capable of feelings such as love, affection, intimacy and caring. These feelings just don’t involve anyone else. “

” If God wanted me to fly, he would have made me flush riveted.”

Chapter: Space Flight

I don’t know what you could say about a day in which you have seen four sunsets.” ( John Glenn).

Why don’t you fix your little problem, and light this candle.”  ( Alan B. Shepard, Jr. to Mission Control during his four-hour sit atop the 10-story, 33-ton Redstone rocket).

Chapter:  Combat

My pilot pointed to his left and above, and looking in the direction he pointed, I saw a long dark brown form fairly streaking across the sky. We could see it was a German machine, and when it got above and behind our middle machine, it dived on it for all the world like a huge hawk on a hapless sparrow.” ( James McCudden, VC RFC)

I belong to a group of men who fly alone. . .I do everything myself, from engine start to engine shutdown. In a war, I will face alone the missiles and the flak and the small arms over the  front lines. If I die, I will die alone.” ( Richard Bach  1963)

Chapter: Piloting

A pilot lives in a world of perfection, or not at all.”   ( Richard Drury 1979)

Chapter: Safety

Remember one thing: the Pk ( Probability of kill) of the ground is always 100%.”  ( Origin unknown)

Chapter: Humor

Motor cut. Forced landing. Hit cow. Scared me.”  ( Dean Smith telegraph to his Chief)

I enjoyed this book immensely, not only because I could personally relate to some of the lingo and  scenarios, but I also learned so much. Like. . .

Engine failure:  A condition which occurs when all fuel tanks mysteriously become filled with air.”

“Roger” : Used when you’re not sure what else to say.”


  • Try to stay in the middle of the air.
  • Do not go near the edges of it.
  • The edges of the air can be recognized by the appearance of ground, buildings, sea, trees, and interstellar space. It is much more difficult to fly there.

Final thoughts. . .

I did,  eventually, get used to my friend stalling the engine on purpose – aiming toward the sun as high as the single – engine Cessna 174 could take us, then, turning downward, and in a lesson on anti-gravity, floating a pencil inside the cockpit. But I never got totally used to seeing pine cones two hundred-feet off the ground but yet, eye-level, hopping over creeks on final descent (Red’s Horse Ranch in the Wallowa Mountain range)) or coming up out of a canyon at a 45° angle. Nor was I ever comfortable hearing him say ” Well babe, cheated death again” – but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

Author  Dave English

Published by McGraw-Hill 2003

182 pages







The Melancholic Classic Rock of The War on Drugs’ LOST IN THE DREAM

The War on Drugs : LOST IN THE DREAM


Pros: Classic rock sound and great songs

Cons: Second half of the album can’t quite keep pace with the spectacular first

Sounding somewhat like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers if that band had formed a decade or so later in the context of the shoegaze movement, Philadelphia, PA based band The War on Drugs have built a reputation for being perhaps one of the best contemporary groups utilizing familiar 1970s and early ‘80s classic rock formulas. Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Adam Granduciel (who has gone on record stating that The War on Drugs is essentially his solo project), this music has a nostalgic warmness to it that one is unlikely to find outside of the classic rock genre, and I would identify most every song the group makes as being perfect “road music” due to the propulsive, unflinching rhythms pushing the tracks along.

The band.

After 2011’s well-received Slave Ambient, Granduciel and company (namely multi-instrumentalists Dave Hartley, Robbie Bennett, and Charlie Hall) returned with 2014’s Lost in the Dream, an album that I’d have no problem calling one of the year’s absolute best recordings. Written about feelings of depression and loneliness experienced by Granduciel when he came back to everyday life following extensive touring through 2011-12, a melancholic tone permeates every track on this album which overflows with a sense of uncomfortable ennui. Despite the heaviness of the material though, it’s a rather inspiring record in that it’s suggestive of the fact that a person with perseverance can make it through any rough patch they face in life.

The album kicks off with “Under the Pressure,” a track which sums up the main ideas of the album quite well. Granduciel’s smoky but warm vocals essentially talk about disillusionment and a desire to break out from his everyday situation. The instrumental parts here are supremely calming even though the track constantly surges forward behind a driving rhythm. Like many of the tracks here, this opener (the album’s second single) is fairly lengthy at nearly nine minutes in length, but it never gets dull or boring; instead it builds in intensity over time, introducing wall of sound guitar and honky background saxophone bursts before a straight-up shoegaze finale of swirling ambient guitar tones. Second track “Red Eyes” was the lead single from the album and sounds quite a bit like Bruce Springsteen’s early ‘80s hits. The quiet verse sections here are contrasted by the loud chorus, and the track boasts another unflappable, infectious rhythm. As may be obvious by its title, “Suffering” ratchets the tempo down substantially in a song that’s lazy and more heartfelt, with resonant guitar chords and gorgeous warbly keyboard progressions making Granduciel’s lyrics hit home as he wonders about a loved one’s commitment level. Though it’s not my favorite track, this one pops up at the perfect point in the album, providing a counterpoint to the much more uptempo opening pair of tracks.

At South by Southwest a few years back.

“An Ocean in Between” initially has a more mechanical sort of feel to it with its heavy, churning bass line and light drum beat, but it eventually works into a poignant finale of yearning lyrics and bravura guitar work. It’s really a credit to Granduciel’s talent as a songwriter that he allows many of these tracks to play well into the seven to eight minute range: instead of just going through the motions, throwing in a few gimmicks and wrapping things up, the songwriter allows these tracks to really develop into something triumphant and almost transcendent at times. Possibly the one true anomaly on the album, “Disappearing” has the feel of an slower, early 1980s synthesizer ballad, while “Eyes to the Wind” returns to the realm of pure Americana rock and is probably my favorite track here. Playing out to a sauntering tempo, it’s very pleasant sounding, with vocals that recall Bob Dylan (if Dylan had a better voice…). I also really like the lyrics here; it may be the track that best defines and expresses the main themes of the album as a whole. Following the sparse, appropriately-named instrumental “The Haunting Idle,” we get the energetic, Springsteen-influenced piece “Burning,” and the twangy title track before the album concludes with “In Reverse.” This finale starts off sounding kind of ghostly with more Dylanesque vocals, but eventually builds heads into another laid back rock song section, ending the album on an agreeable but appropriately apathetic note.

This image felt appropriate here.

One of the best things about this album is its all-encompassing theme dealing with modern discontent (honestly, the album’s title and cover art are absolutely spot on). Lyrics throughout the album seem to have been written from the perspective of someone struggling to find meaning in their life, but Granduciel never resorts to making “woe is me” statements. Instead, he sort of works through these issues as the lyrics and songs progress, thus providing the listener with a perspective on how to make things work even when faced with intense personal dissatisfaction. All in all, it’s a remarkable, coherent work and a definitive artistic statement in an era when far too many musical groups simply pump out albums full of singles in an attempt to appeal to teenagers. Lost in the Dream seems to speak to an older, much more thoughtful listening audience, and I think it has appeal beyond the hipster crowd that usually latches onto this kind of indie rock album. For the fan of classic rock who doesn’t know where to even begin in the modern music scene, The War on Drugs would be an ideal place to start. Though it’s not particularly upbeat, Lost in the Dream is, in my opinion, inspiring and I’d give it my highest recommendation.

I’m a bit run down at the moment…

“Three rifles, supplies for a month, and Mozart”

Out of Africa – DVD  1985


Pros: Meryl Streep is phenomenal

Cons: Robert Redford is ‘Meh’ 

Most everyone watching this bio/drama/romance  would probably categorize it as a love story, and indeed it is, but (IMO), not wholly  in the conventional sense.

The real Karen Blixen aka Author, Isak Dinesen
 The real Denys-Finch Hatton
Handsome, but so . . .brooding?
Denys Finch-Hatton (Robert Redford), is Karen Blixens’ (Meryl Streep), love interest, but she’s not nearly as in love with Denys, as she is with Africa, the total adventure, and her own persona as ( a female) owner of a ‘farm/plantation’ – or so I see it. To demonstrate – let me recount a scene. . .

Karen and Berkley Cole, (Michael Kitchen), a mutual friend of Karen and Denys, are having dinner. The conversation turns to her recent safari with Denys, where, after two or three nights, he finally gets around to visiting her tent, and so on and so on. . . Anyway, during dinner, Berkeley asks Karen if she intends to divorce her husband, Bror Blixen, and she replies ” Then I would have no one.” That ( to me) doesn’t exactly sound like a woman who is completely in love with, or devoted to any one  man. That sounds like a woman who wants the title(s) ‘Mrs’,  ‘Baroness’, and CEO of her own plantation, and doesn’t like to fly solo.

“But I’ve gone ahead of my story, Denys would have hated that” (another line that just came to me at the perfect literary moment).

Karen Blixen lives in Denmark. She’s reached an age where she’s considered a spinster. She has a lover, but he seems pretty indifferent to their relationship. So, Karen does the next best thing – she proposes marriage to his twin brother, Bror ( Klaus Maria-Brandauer), offering him financial security in exchange for the title of Baroness Blixen. They agree they’ll begin their life together in Africa.

Bror leaves for Africa first, by the time Karen arrives he’s purchased a thousand acres and has hired a staff of Kikuyu natives to help run the farm.  During their first evening together, Bror informs Karen that he hasn’t purchased cattle to start a dairy as they agreed, they’ll grow coffee instead. This rankled Karen because they have no knowledge of the coffee industry. She and Bror argue and subsequently spend their first night as husband and wife, in separate beds. Not a good start. The next morning Karen asks her servant, Farah, (Malick Bowens), where Bror is? She learns he’s gone to hunt, and won’t be back until the rains begin – could be “many days” before the rains, Farah tells her.

Karen takes it upon herself to run the farm, despite that Bror has hired an experienced manager, Mr. Belknap ( Shane Rimmer) – whom you can tell Karen almost immediately dislikes.

One day, as she is horseback riding on her property, she encounters a lioness. Her horse runs off. Just as she’s about to do the same, Denys appears and chases off the lioness. He tells Karen that Berkley has brought her wedding presents. This begins Karen and Denys’ push me-pull you  relationship.

In the meanwhile, World War I commences. Although of Danish nationality, Bror leaves with the English troops to fight the Germans.  Later, Karen learns the troops need supplies. Despite the dangers, Karen sets out with a caravan of cattle and goods.  It’s a rough trip, but she makes it thanks to the help of a *compass Denys has given her.

* The compass you see in the movie did, in fact, belong to Denys Finch-Hatton, but was stolen during production.

Shortly after returning from her ‘adventure’, Karen becomes ill. The local physician informs her she has syphilis. There is no possibility other than Bror. Karen leaves for Denmark for treatment.The only known cure is arsenic. She’ll either be cured or rendered insane.

Karen is cured, and returns to Africa.  It should be the beginning of a lovely life for Karen and Denys. They hunt, fly in Denys’ new de Havilland DH 60 Moth  plane, and share many romantic, moonlit nights around a campfire deep in philosophical conversation. But things are not always what they seem. Karen finds herself wanting more than Denys is willing to offer.


I love this “cinematic classic” as another reviewer recently tagged it. It involves everything that will keep me enthralled – romance, challenge, animals, scenery,  and ( some sort of) evolution.

Meryl Streep is profound in her role as Karen Blixen. I understand it took many hours listening to Karen Blixens’ voice learning to pronounce certain words with a Danish accent – like ‘launch’ for ‘lunch’, or, ‘satto’ for ‘saddle’.  I’m sorry to say the love scenes between Streep and Redford are about as convincing as Kermit and Miss Piggy – but then, I’ve never seen any love scenes between a frog and a tiara-ed pig – so how would I know? I’m surmising.

Not being a devoted Redford fan, it’s not  that hard for me to imagine someone else in this role. Clearly the real Denys Finch-Hatton was a scholarly, gentleman-hunter, but Redford is too tightly wound-up, too into himself.

The scenery is jaw-dropping gorgeous. There are many long, panoramic shots, i.e. *the train traveling across the Serengeti plains, hundreds of pink flamingo’s over a lake, Karen’s journey to Lake Natron. All indescribably beautiful.

* Actually the opening scene of the train was filmed on a spur that hadn’t been used for thirty years!

The music was composed and directed by John Barry, and as crucial to the overall beauty and evolution of the film as the actors – longing, ethereal, haunting. Who would have ever guessed – Mozart and ivory merchants?

I read on IMDb that Aubrey Hepburn was Mr. Pollacks’ first choice as Karen. Frankly, I think she would have been too elegant, sophisticated and polished for such a sturdy role. Can you see her in her upswept French coif fighting off lions?

Directed by Sidney Pollack

Written by Isak Dinesen ( Karen Blixen)

Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen

Robert Redford as Denys Finch-Hatton

Klaus Maria Brandauer as Bror Blixen

Michael Kitchen as Berkeley Cole

Malick Bowens as Farah

Shane Rimmer as Belknap

Film length  161 minutes

Filmed in Kenya, Africa and England

Sourpuss Stone Giant Rumbles Through Feudal Japan: DAIMAJIN



The Complete Series or at Amazon


Pros: Well-done trick photography and special effects

Cons: Predictable; doesn’t satisfy either as a period samurai film or rubber monster flick

A sort of combination of a samurai period drama with Godzilla-style monster movie, the 1966 Japanese film Daimajin (also known as Majin, the Monster of Terror in its English dubbed version) fails to satisfy on either level: too predictable as a samurai flick and too downright dull to compare to the best of the Japanese monster films. Similar to the tale of the , the story takes place in feudal Japan and begins with an evil samurai (in case we’re not sure if this is the bad guy, he and his men address old women as “hags” and children as “brats,” frequently cackling maniacally for no reason whatsoever) staging a violent uprising against the lord of a small fiefdom. After killing all the family members of the ruling Hanabasa clan save a young prince and princess who miraculously escape into the mountains, the evil Samanosuke enslaves all the villagers, forcing them to pay exorbitant taxes and work tirelessly on the construction of a massive fortress. As they grow up in the mountains, the Hanabasa prince and princess learn about the mountain god Daimajin, who they believe will one day return to free the villagers from enslavement and restore the region to the rule of the Hanabasa clan. This legend doesn’t sit well with Samanosuke of course, and he sets out to capture the remaining Hanabasa family members. When he attempts to demolish the large stone statue of Daimajin however, it appears he’s finally crossed the line. The statue comes to life and embarks on a mission of vengeance, but can anyone – even the princess who willed its return – truly control the beast and stop it from destroying everything in sight?

A really nice effects shot showing Daimajin resting in his mountain hideaway. Insert your own “the hills are alive” punchline here.

Produced by the Daiei Film studio as a sort of competition to the Toho studio’s incredibly popular Godzilla franchise, Daimajin attempts to combine the best elements of the popular films of the mid 1960s. Director Kimiyoshi Yoshida had previously made quite a name for himself in the Japanese swordplay film genre, having made at least six entries in the well-regarded Zatoichi series that dealt with a blind swordsman. Unfortunately, Yoshida seems to have been a bit out of his league in trying to make Daimajin into an entirely successful film on any front. The script by Tetsuo Yoshida is relentlessly slow to get going, utilizing the basic samurai film formula that, by 1966, had been thoroughly played out. The mid 1960s was a time when (in a manner similar to what Italian filmmakers were doing with the western genre) younger filmmakers were revisiting the classic samurai films and injecting them with new energy: simply copying the basic scenarios thought up by the likes of Akira Kurosawa and Hiroshi Inagaki wasn’t going to excite audiences anymore – especially since wild and violent fare such as Kihachi Okamoto’s Sword of Doom was appearing in cinemas at the same time. In the end, Daimajin simply offers up period drama that most viewers would have seen time and time again; it’s undeniably bland.

Complimenting the problems for a viewer is the fact that the actual “monster film” content of Daimajin is minimal: it takes a good 70 minutes or more of this 90 minute film for the much-discussed titular creature to even make an appearance. The fact that this film cries wolf too many times is the biggest single flaw of the production since, compared with what Toho was doing at the time (i.e. making ludicrous kiddie movies like Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster and Son of Godzilla), Daimajin could have come across as a more adult-oriented alternative. Special effects in this film (courtesy of Yoshiyuki Kuroda) are surprisingly decent, particularly in terms of the trick photography and visual effects used to create the illusion of a giant (and extremely pissed off) stone monster. Obviously, the Daimajin is actually an actor wearing a suit, but the split-screen techniques in this film do a fine job of allowing the beast to interact with a live-action foreground. Too bad we only get about ten to fifteen minutes of the monster in the final film…

Daimajin looking particularly constipated.

The version of this film that I watched was (gulp!) dubbed into English, though I have to say that the dubbing in this film wasn’t as atrocious as I expected. Certainly, the monotone voice acting alleviates much of the drama going on in the story and too often the actors voicing the villains of the piece simply made belchy, guttural grunts instead of reciting actual dialogue, but I can definitively say that I’ve seen worse dub jobs. Miwa Takada appears as the Hanabasa princess whose desperate appeal finally awakens the Daimajin and I got the feeling that her acting performance might have been pretty decent if it wasn’t for the English dubbing. Yoshihiko Aoyama portrays her brother, the prince of the Hanabasa clan, who exists as the (disappointingly lame) hero of the story. His performance was a little too wide-eyed for my taste – though in fairness, I think some of the problem was due to the weak script material he had to work with. By far, the most fun characters to watch in the film are the villains, including Ryutaro Gomi as the evil Samanosuke – check out the scene where he slices an old woman to death with a sword while contorting his face violently. I also really dug the performance of a larger actor (whose identity I can’t seem to pin down; one of the hazards of these older foreign films is that their onscreen credits are notoriously vague) as one of Samanosuke’s particularly nefarious henchmen.

Despite the fact that Daimajin is strictly mediocre as a film, it does have some noteworthy elements. I really liked some of the location filming, particularly extreme long shots of a large waterfall which the stone statue of the lifeless Daimajin overlooks. These shots, a combination of live action location footage with matte paintings, are stunning to look at. I also appreciated some of the (relatively brief) swordplay and battle sequences which are choreographed effectively and captured nicely on camera by cinematographer Fujio Morita. In the same way I would have liked more monster action, it would have been cool to see more of these skirmishes, but I suspect this production was right up against its budget cap. As much as these sequences are relatively bloodless, I was a bit surprised by an off-color torture sequence and one particularly gruesome scene that occurs near the film’s conclusion. Finally, it’s worth noting that the music score in this film was made by Akira Ifukube, the same man who composed the music for nearly every one of Toho’s Godzilla films and related monster movies. The truly shocking element about Ifukube’s score for Daimajin is that it’s very nearly identical to some of his other, highly recognizable themes. This struck me as being kind of sad – apparently, the man wasn’t given any room to really experiment when making this score – or perhaps, he was simply creatively exhausted. Either way, not a good situation for a guy who crafted some wonderful soundtrack cues over the years – Ifukube, in my mind, is the unsung hero of the entire Godzilla film series.

Just a thought…you might wanna GET THE HELL OUT OF THAT TOWER!

At the end of the day, the best I could say about Daimajin is that it’s a worthwhile but flawed experiment in combining popular Japanese film genres of its day. I could easily say that this film is better made than some of the other monster flicks of the mid 1960s – this production is leaps and bounds more impressive than any of the films in Daiei’s Gamera series for instance. That said, Daimajin isn’t nearly as fun to watch as the best that the kaiju (or Japanese monster film) genre had to offer. I truly believe that in making a darker, more violent picture, Daimajin’s producers could have tapped into a different core audience than was watching any of the other rubber suit creature features of the day, but the end result here is simply tiresome: predictable and unremarkable. Inexplicably, two additional films in the Daimajin series were produced in 1966 and released within months of one another, but as much as they may be worthwhile for fans of Japanese monster flicks who would know what they’re getting into, a viewer isn’t missing a whole lot by skipping them entirely.

Both the DVD box set from ADV films and Blu-ray package from Mill Creek contain all three Daimajin films (the original, as well as The Return of Daimajin and Wrath of Daimajin) in widescreen, with multiple language options. The original Daimajin is also available .

4/10 : Some rough swordplay and battle sequences; a brief torture scene and one gruesome death near the end. A bit of blood and gore.

0/10 : Very minor rough language; no profanity.

0/10 : No sex, no nudity, no panty shots, nothing.

4/10 : Yes, it’s a Japanese monster movie, but this one is less downright enjoyable than most.

“The god of the mountain is angry. He will not permit this cruelty to go on any longer.” Oh, so you mean the movie’s ending soon?


Krista and the Argan-nots

Marc Anthony Oil of Morocco Argan Oil Shampoo

marc anthony


Pros: Not very expensive, cleans hair

Cons: scent, static, dry hair

I’m forever on the lookout for really good hair care products.  Things that don’t leave me dry, frizzy, greasy, or weighed down.  When I first discovered argan oil products, I was . . . eh.  My first try was Organix Argan Oil of Morocco.  The ?  Was perfectly acceptable, but didn’t win any awards.  The ?  Better.  Nice scent, not too heavy, not too waxy or greasy, and works great in the shower as a detangling conditioner.  Neither, of course, measured up to my , but, as the price has risen, it’s a bit out of my range these days.  Yes, I am sadder for it.  It’s beginning to look like maybe they’ve stopped making it, and that’s a tragedy, because it’s amazing stuff, as I said in my review HERE.

My latest argan shampoo purchase?  .

I admit, I bought it because it was cheap.  It was cheap, and, about halfway through that breathtakingly long sodiumdimethicocambatglycpolydivinylquaternium ingredients list was “Argania Spinosa Kernal Oil.”  That’s the stuff.  Noticeably lower on the ingredients list than I’d like, but budget meets desire and this is the result.  A side note:  this product does make a big deal out of being “sulfate-free.”

My first opening of the fli-top bottle was a major disappointment.  The Orlando Pita has an amazing scent, wonderfully nutty, sweet, and earthy.  This stuff?  Smells like cheap shampoo.  Sorry, no other way to put it.  It’s got a sharpness to it, a tang that reminds me of the old, before-they-started-loading-them-with-fake-fruit-scents Suave shampoos or some of the cheaper baby shampoos.

The feel and texture are average shampoo-like.  It lathers pretty enthusiastically, and it rinses thoroughly without residue, though my hair was left a little squeakier and grabbier than I like.  That usually means my hair will wind up a bit dry if I don’t condition.

Which was exactly what it meant this time, too.

My hair was left smelling weirdly tangy, and it was dryer than usual and more prone to static.  I didn’t notice any difference in how tangly my hair was—it tangles easily all the time, and that didn’t get worse or better with this shampoo.

Now, when I follow the shampoo with the Orlando Pita oil or the Organix argan conditioner, there’s a marked improvement.  Of course, there would be.  The smell improves, the static lessens, and the dryness is alleviated.  You may be saying to yourself “that’s true of any shampoo.”  Except it’s not.  Some shampoos leave my hair smelling good, feeling great, and not static-laden even without conditioner.  This isn’t one of them.

In all, for the price, this is a solidly average shampoo.  To be completely blunt, it’s no better than Organix, doesn’t smell as nice, and is more expensive.  If you’re looking for a great argan oil shampoo, pony up the bucks for the Orlando Pita if you have it.  If you don’t?  Organix, while a step down, is still pretty nice.  But this stuff?

It’s not awful, there’s just better to be had for less.

One little afterthought:  most of the argan hair care products come in packaging of gold and turquoise.  I’m not sure what that means, if anything, but it strikes me as odd.