THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 75

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 75



“Queen Francine” – the egotistical, self-serving, superficial diva, has been bent on clawing to the top of the competitive field of broadcast journalism…


The Queen of Hearts Red Artwork carved from Mangowood

 Personality (noun)  per’son’al’i’ty

  1. somebody’s set of characteristics
  2. characteristics making someone appealing
  3. somebody regarded as epitomizing traits
  4. famous person
  5. unusual person
  6. quality of being person
  7. personal comment
  8. distinguishing characteristics 

ediitors-noteDefinition provided by,


It would seem that the Francine Bouchette, before Roy Crippen met her, has these

  1. best friend is a mirror
  2. has a phantom fiancee
  3. co-anchors avoid if they can
  4. treats interns like indentured servants
  5. gives scriptwriters fits

……is not one and the same. Roy Crippen has yet to meet that woman, though he wonders about her obsession with “exclusives”.

Indeed, there is no reconciling the definition with the facts, though there is plenty Francine in the first. The dedicated, concerned, sacrificial person, currently operating in the name of humanitarian justice, now working with NASA, is dichotomous when placed side-by-side with the egotistical, self-serving, superficial diva, bent on clawing to the top of the competitive field of broadcast journalism.

Francine Bouchette is truly a personality in every sense of the word. But as she prepares to continue the fresh quest to aid in the rescue of Sampson & Celeste McKinney, mercilessly stranded on Mars, the least desirable aspects of “Queen Francine” have been tabled; at least for now {and longer if the rest of Houston gets a vote}.

***Contrast this with the following glimpse of what is going on inside, the otherwise thinkeroccupied, Roy Crippen’s analytical mind:

‘She is quite a lady. With her knack for getting to the heart of a story, I am surprised she’s not working for network news. She is ten times better than that Elle Fanning on Sixty Minutes. Boy, she tried do a piece on the Colony and by the time she was through asking dumb nonsensical questions or sticking her nose where it didn’t belong, I had had enough. The damnedest thing is that her misrepresentation of the project almost did as much damage as the accident that destroyed it… I wonder why she never married? She is as gutsy as they come, pretty as a picture and probably financially secure, what could be her downside?’

***The following is what Francine is thinking, during her time of frank introspection:

 ‘I’m not the person that I was yesterday, this whole experience with Roy has made me think, what kind of person is he looking to share the rest of his life with?… All the years I’ve wasted, mistreating everyone from United States Senators down to kids that may be looking up at her as role model…What has changed all of a sudden? Is it just because I am falling for some good looking science guy, probably goes to Star Trek Conventions and is what, 12 maybe 15 years older than me? What would people think? And how many people must I trample to get where I want?’

Enough of these long winded thoughts; it is time to focus on the successful launch of the new/improved deep-space New Mayflower!


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Star Trek – The Next Generation

Episode 75

page 93


Contents TRT

Kids These Days – Juvenile Like Button

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Celebrities Who Are

Absurdly Popular

with Kids

Kids like-001

These days there seems to be a lot of pushback against nostalgia culture. Anyone who talks about how great the entertainment was back when they were kids can expect quite a few people telling them just how lousy their childhood shows and music were. However right either group may be, while looking at today’s pop culture geared toward kids, try to imagine having to explain some of it to future generations.

Seems like it will be almost impossible, doesn’t it?

In the meantime, prepare to feel either embarrassed by how lame and non-lucrative your childhood was compared with some of these people, many of whom achieved stardom before most of us got our first paycheck, or extremely old because you really don’t understand how anyone could find this sort of content bearable, let alone something to watch obsessively.

Kids these days, right?

10. Angelina Jordan

When many people first saw Angelina Jordan performing, their first thought was “Amy Winehouse.” That’s because, as Snopes reported, one of her first videos went viral because many people shared it with a title claiming that itwas Amy Winehouse, performing “What a Difference a Day Makes” at age 10. In truth, the video was Jordan performing for Norwegian television in 2014, when she was only eight.

Since then, Jordan has completely stepped out from behind her early viral legacy as the girl everyone thought was Winehouse. Her website claims that videos of her performing have over one hundred million views on YouTube. Considering her hit videos, like her performance of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon”, or her appearances on shows like The View, that seems a pretty believable claim. She has released a kid’s book (pretty much had to be, since she was only six when she wrote it) in Norwegian about two girls who “share a magical moment,” which her website claims is entitled “Between to Hearts” (presumably she meant “Two”). Hopefully all the pressure brought on by her success doesn’t mean she has anything like the tragic end that Winehouse did.

9. Madison Ziegler

Thirteen is a pretty young age to not only be one of the stars of a long-running television show, but to have your music videos be considered good enough in the music industry to be featured at the Grammy Awards, particularly for someone from Pittsburgh, of all places. That’s what Madison Ziegler has been able to achieve with the Lifetime television show Dance Moms, under the guidance of her mother Melissa Giosini. As of February 2016 she left the show and began work starring in a feature film directed by Sai, the same artist who directed her in the aforementioned music videos.

Although there have been polls which show that even the biggest film and television stars have to compete with YouTube celebrities for a decent online following, that doesn’t seem to be the case with Ziegler. The social media platform Instagram alone has provided her with six million followers. Seeing how many adults have just gotten the hang of using Facebook and Twitter, you can bet that it’s mostly teens and kids following her on there.

8. Robby Novak

Portraying the character “Kid President” for the YouTube channel Soulpancake (best known for being cofounded by The Office star Rainn Wilson) has been a pretty wild gig for 12-year-old actor Robby Novak. His first video as the character alone has more than 38 million views. He’s played opposite people ranging from Craig Robinson to President Barack Obama himself in his videos in the past three years. The content of his videos tends to be largely pep talk material, such as advising that parents hug their kids more often and yell at them less, or trying to promote feminism in the video “Awesome Girls.”

He achieved all this while suffering from a genetic weakness in his skeletal structure that leaves him with extremely brittle bones, which have been fractured dozens of times, and in February 2016 he underwent surgery to have a rod placed in his femur bone. So kid secret service will have to be on the lookout about that.

7. Harper Beckham

Image result for harper beckham

Can you imagine hearing that your kids want a specific item of clothing because they saw a picture of the daughter of an athlete? Many parents out there don’t have to bother using their imaginations for that. All that has to happen is another picture of this four year-old be posted to Instagram (seemingly, mostly by her mother Victoria, someone who really goes crazy with the keyword tags) and a major fashion line will get a boost. You know who was just below her in this regard? Prince George.

At present there don’t seem to be any signs that the Beckhams are making any overt attempts to cash in on this. Even though Harper Beckham is already pretty demonstrably an effective model without trying in the slightest, there’s no talk of a Beckham fashion line, or anything like that. On one hand, it’s good that the Beckham’s aren’t exploiting their children in quite this way. On the other, with 25% of mothers admitting in a survey that they ended up buying some article of clothing after seeing Harper or her siblings wearing it, it can’t help but seem like something of a waste.

6. DC Toys Collector

This celebrity is actually something of an enigmatic figure, and some media analysts theorize that the fact she’s so hard to identify is what makes her so appealing to such a large quantity of children. After all, she’s a complete mystery but still has over seven million subscribers. All we ever see of this person, who makes millions of dollars a year from all the ad revenue opening toy packaging, is her hands, which were noted for being “well-manicured.” All the audience can make out about her is that she has a fairly pleasant voice (albeit a little on the high-pitched side) and that she’s fine with doing voices for all her toy characters instead of just dryly reviewing them. A single video of her talking about making clay dresses for Disney princess dolls has over four hundred million views, which would be respectable for a music video from a chart-topping talent. Despite this success, she felt the need to change her channel’s name to “FunToyzCollector.”

That said, parents should be advised that this is not suitable viewing for children. Not because she says anything obscene or has any joke videos where she reviews adult toys. But if a picture of Harper Beckham’s child can make kids want a piece of clothing enough to convince many of their parents to buy them, just imagine how insistent for new toys they’ll be after watching these videos!

5. Stampy

These days it seems like playing the highly successful indie game Minecraft is much less popular among kids than watching someone else play it. One 25-year-old from the UK named Joseph Garrett has enjoyed truly bewildering success with that craze by way of his cat character known both as Stampylongnose and Stampy Longhead. The character seems basically the exact opposite of the popular comic strip character Garfield, in that he doesn’t have the least bit of attitude or edge to him. If that sounds a touch banal, by and large kids certainly don’t seem to think so, given that this channel of a blocky but kid-friendly character has garnered more than seven million subscribers.

Despite how crazy lucrative his career as a cubical cat has been (some rumors estimate it’s good for about 200,000 pounds a year), Garrett has not been the most aggressive chaser of personal fame or the most social of butterflies. He claims that he mostly hangs out with other vloggers, and it’s reportedly somewhat difficult to get him to agree to do an interview. Hard to tell if that’s just a matter of personal taste or if he wants to seem kid-friendly behind the scenes, too.

4. Jared and Evan

YouTube isn’t just good for making money off of the eager eyeballs of children: it’s also good for kids themselves to make money in some cases. EvantubeHD shows that kids can also make bank on YouTube with just a bit of guidance from their parents. Jared (last name withheld to protect his family’s privacy) is the father of now 10-year-old Evan, the main face of this toy, costume, candy, etc. reviewing channel. While at 2.9 million subscribers the channel doesn’t yet provide serious competition for the Stampys and DC Toy Collectors of YouTube, it still pulls in an estimated $1.3 million a year (that figure being an estimate by Evan, though, and possibly not reliable). Pretty good for a channel riding on a 10-year-old. Even if that amount is accurate, it apparently wasn’t enough for this family, and they spun off a second channel for videotaping daily events and reviewing video games.

Despite the spinoff channel, it should be noted that the family is not really greedy. They make sure to donate the toys they review to charity and do the same with a substantial portion of their income. Whatever you may think of a channel where one of the most successful attractions is watching a kid eat a huge gummy worm, there’s definitely a lot of good that came of it.

3. David Walliams

Even though this list is dominated by YouTube and Instagram celebrities, traditional media is alive and well. Representing it for our purposes is one of the most followed authors on Twitter (1.6 million followers strong), which is no surprise since he’s one of the most famous authors of children’s books today, David Walliams. A UK survey found that his book Demon Dentist was more popular among primary school students than JK Rowling’s books that need not be named, which is just amazing. Part of his fame, admittedly, is due to his controversial, debatably homophobic presence on Britain’s Got Talent, but that’s still major reach with child audiences.

As the title Demon Dentist implies, Walliams basically tries to inject the edge into his books that Joseph Garrett actively avoids for Stampy. He also has to his name books like Gangsta Granny, Awful Auntie, and Ratburger. Might not be the most sophisticated things for children to read but still, it gets their noses out of YouTube for awhile.

2. Dane Boedigheimer

For many of the entertainers featured in this list, it’s hard for an adult to understand the appeal. In this case, kids seem to like it just to spite adults that have to listen to it in the background. Dane Boedigheimer is known, beloved, and obsessively viewed by millions of children all over the world as the eyes, mouth, and voice of Annoying Orange. Basically the character’s routine was that he would pester a nearby animated food item until something came along and killed its companion. His channel reached a billion views even back in 2012 thanks to its core audience of 8-to-13 year-olds.

As a result, Boedignheimer got a show for two seasons on Cartoon Network. But really the only place kids were willing to watch the kid-friendly – and onlykid-friendly – character was on YouTube, and among general audiences it was such a bomb that IMDb users on average gave it only 2.7 out of 10. Not that something that popular could be killed off that easily. Boedignheimer just returned his focus to the YouTube channel, which now has more than five million subscribers.

1. Pewdiepie

In the past six years, the videos of 26-year-old Swede Felix Kjellberg screaming at video games have made him the most popular entertainer on YouTube, with tens of millions of subscribers that have provided more than eight billion views. His loud, often gibberish-laden “Let’s Play” commentary seem to really connect with young audiences, but it’s also gotten him in a bit of trouble for not being what the mainstream media traditionally thinks of as suitable for a young audience (though his view counts imply it’s actually exactly what kids want). He has repeatedly apologized for the language in his videos and mainstream critics like Variety have repeatedly bashed his videos for their “aggressive stupidity.”

But on the more positive side, he has, like Evan’s family, backed numerous charity projects such as Charity Water and Save the Children. These efforts have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, well beyond expectations. Still, it’s not an accident that TopTenz did not list his as one of the top ten gaming channels.

Kids These Days

– Juvenile Like Button


Real-Life Cops – Modern Day Action Heroes

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Real-Life Cops Turning

Into Action Heroes

When we see cops in the news, it’s usually in the context of something bad. The shooting of an unarmed witness. Alleged corruption. Even an attack on cops themselves. But there’s another, less reported side to our boys in blue. Plenty of cops are living their lives like 1980s action heroes.

We don’t just mean these guys are heroic. They are. What we mean is they are so heroic you can picture them being played by Bruce Willis, when Bruce Willis still had hair. Fed up with news stories portraying cops as bad guys? Check out the tales of these real-life action heroes.

10. David Muniz Talks Down a Guy Who Shot Him in the Chest


Plenty of cops risk taking a bullet in their line of work. It takes a special kind of cop to take that bullet, then carry right on policing as if nothing had happened. Meet that cop: David Muniz was responding to a domestic violence call in 2015 when he encountered a very drunk, very angry guy wielding a pistol. The guy politely listened to Muniz’s call to lower his weapon, then raised that weapon and shot Muniz right in the chest.

 At this point, most similar stories would take on a somber air as we told you about Muniz’s tragic sacrifice. This isn’t most stories. Instead of dropping down dead or going into shock, the wounded Muniz calmly tried to talk the guy who’d just shot him into surrendering his weapon.

It’s the sort of scenario you’d dismiss in a Hollywood movie as ‘too unrealistic’. In considerable pain, Muniz gently tried to talk his would-be murderer into putting his gun down, even saying at one point “we don’t want to kill you.” Like all movie villains, the guy didn’t listen. He went for his gun again. Muniz got there first and blew him away.

9. Mario Gutierrez’s Fistfight on a Flaming Forecourt 


In 2013, would-be mass killer Dominique Jean went crazy and set fire to a gas station forecourt in Florida. His intention was to blow the whole thing up and take a whole load of people with him. Officer Mario Gutierrez just happened to be passing and in the mood to hand out an ass-kicking. He took one look at this madman walking through a sea of fire toward the highly explosive underground tanks and jumped right on in.

What followed was like the climax to a Lethal Weapon flick. Surrounded by fire, Gutierrez charged headlong into Jean, knocking him to the ground. Unfortunately for the officer, his enemy was armed to the teeth. Jean repeatedly stabbed Gutierrez with a gigantic knife, causing him devastating injuries. Yet Gutierrez kept right on fighting. Every time Jean tried to leave his bloodied corpse and make a bee-line for the gas tanks, Gutierrez got right back to his feet and tackled him down again. Eventually, surrounded by an inferno, the officer finally managed to deliver a knockout punch. The score that day: Gutierrez 1, Forces of Darkness 0.

8. Donald Thompson Jumps Into a Burning Car


When most of us see a car explode into flames, our first instinct is to get as far away from it as humanly possible. Not Officer Donald Thompson. Thompson was out on patrol in LA one day when he saw a car career out of control and smash into a wall. It then reacted like a car in Grand Theft Auto, bursting into flames, its driver trapped inside. Thompson calmly approached the crumpled vehicle, wrenched open the door and climbed into the boiling inferno.

It was the sort of fire not even an action hero could escape from unscathed, and Thompson suffered horrifying first and second degree burns. Yet he kept right on with his single-minded rescue mission, cutting the driver from their seat and hauling them to safety. He did it just in time, too. No sooner was Thompson clear than the flames engulfed the entire car, turning it into a burning death-cage from which no one could ever have escaped. Like the total boss he was, Thompson shrugged off his death-defying insanity as all in a day’s work.

7. James Beaton Goes Man on Fire on a Kidnapper


Inspector James Beaton is a British police officer with an impressive claim to fame. In the 1970s, he managed to single-handedly stop a crazed kidnapper from abducting a member of the Royal Family. Beaton was on bodyguard duty when Princess Anne’s car bumped into another vehicle. They pulled over and the driver of the other vehicle got out. Thinking he was just an irate motorist, Beaton stepped out to calm him down. The driver pulled a gun and shot him in the shoulder.

The driver was Ian Ball, an unemployed lone gunman with a history of mental problems. For all Beaton knew, though, this was an IRA kidnap attempt and he was about to wind up very dead. Judging by his following actions, it was a sacrifice he was willing to make.

Beaton’s own gun had jammed. When Ball went for the Princess, Beaton dived in front of her. Good thing he did, as Ball fired again, shattering Beaton’s hand with the bullet. Ball then fired again, this time hitting Beaton square in the chest. The Princess’s bodyguard collapsed to the ground. Ball had won.

Or not. Beaton’s heroic actions had bought just enough time for another policeman to arrive on the scene, along with a former boxer who just happened to be passing by. Although Ball gunned down the other policeman, he couldn’t stop the boxer’s fist. Ball went down like a sack of potatoes. Like all invincible action heroes, Beaton completely recovered from his injuries.

6. Don Hull Hulks Out


On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh exploded a gigantic fertilizer bomb underneath the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, 19 of whom were children. That grim body count could have been even higher were it not for Don Hull.

A former DEA agent turned officer, Hull just happened to be a few blocks away when the gigantic explosion levelled the building. While most of us would probably have responded by screaming and running for cover, most of us aren’t Don Hull. Faced with the screams of children buried beneath the rubble, Hull’s latent hero genes kicked in, transforming him into the Incredible Hull-k.

Armed with nothing more than his bare hands, Hull raced to the ruined building and started digging through the rubble. He single-handedly shifted a whole foot of the stuff in seconds, pulling a badly-wounded baby from the wreckage. He then ran like a speed demon to the nearest emergency responders. His actions saved the young boy’s life. Fast forward to 2016, and little Joseph Webber (the little boy in his arms in the photo above) is now a fully grown college student and artist who owes everything to Don Hull, supercop.

5. Liang Xiao’s Suicidal Suicide-Stopping Dive


Chinese cops are just like their counterparts everywhere else. They get little thanks, low pay, and have to deal with all sorts of difficult situations. Oh, and they also have a tendency towards crazy levels of heroism, as Liang Xiao’s encounter with a suicidal man shows.

Xiao and his partner had been called out to deal with a suicidal man in Nankang Town, Beihai City. The man was standing on the fourth floor of an unfinished building and threatening to end it all. Pretty much the moment Xiao got there, he jumped. Xiao’s borderline-insane instinctive response? He leaped into the guy’s path, using his own body as a freakin’ human cushion.

In most worlds, this story would end with the phrase “and both were tragically killed.” Since this is a story of amazing hero cops, though, you can probably guess what happened next. The guy somehow survived his suicidal fall. Not only that, but Xiao survived, too. Although the guy crashed down on Xiao’s head, somehow the impact was softened enough to save both their lives. The guy escaped with minor bruises. Xiao’s only injuries came from his testicles immediately swelling up to a gargantuan size befitting such a total badass.

4. Marian Godina is a One Man Anti-Corruption Unit


In Romania, cops and corruption sadly go together like Kardashians and trashy headlines, or July 4th and drunkenness. Even when the ordinary guys on the beat are honest, the system is so endemically corrupt that their superiors will let well-connected criminals get away with anything. Except, these days, for traffic crimes. The reason? An on-the-beat traffic cop named Marian Godina has single-handedly given corruption a public kicking.

Godina is just an ordinary cop, with one difference. He hates corruption. Like, hates it. If corruption were an evil Empire laying waste to Romania, then Godina would be the Rebel Alliance – repeatedly shooting torpedoes down its exhaust vent. After his superiors let one too many bad guys go, Godina came up with a plan. He took to Facebook and began publically naming and shaming all of those involved. In Romania, such honesty should have got him fired from his job. Instead, it made him a national hero.

Godina’s crusade became so popular that when his superiors tried to take his page down, ordinary Romanians took to the streets and threatened to riot. Faced with a popular revolt, the establishment backed off, leaving Godina to mercilessly crack down on corruption in his department like a non-violent, Romanian Batman. At time of writing, he’s even inspired imitators in other departments. If that’s not an inspiring Lifetime movie in the making, we don’t know what is.

3. Colonel Hugo Martinez is the Colombian Elliot Ness


Elliot Ness is lauded in the USA for taking on crime kingpin Al Capone. If Ness had seen half the stuff Colonel Hugo Martinez did, he’d have probably chucked in the towel. Martinez is the guy the Colombian government charged with taking down Pablo Escobar.

 It was 1990, and Escobar was probably the richest, baddest guy on Earth. His Medellin Cartel was pumping so much cocaine into the USA that Escobar needed a vast complex of warehouses just to store all his paper dollars. His cronies were setting off bombs in Bogota, had brought down an entire airliner – killing 110 people – just to assassinate one man, and spread so much corruption through Colombia that the country was on the verge of becoming a failed state. Any police officers who stood up to Escobar were usually killed and their entire families murdered. Colonel Martinez in the special operations branch knew all this. And still he decided to take on Escobar.

What followed would make The Untouchables look like Sesame Street. Martinez’s family apartment was bombed. His own cadets were bribed to assassinate him. His food was poisoned. Escobar personally threatened to kill his whole family, then dig up the graves of his ancestors and shoot their bodies before reburying them. Yet Martinez would finally get the last laugh. It was he who led the team that shot Escobar dead on a Medellin rooftop on Dec 2, 1993. Against all the odds, Martinez had gone toe to toe with incomprehensible evil and survived.

2. Kevin Philippy Knows With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

kung fu cop

When hard-left French rioters surrounded the cop car, set fire to it and readied their weapons, they probably assumed the officers inside would die. They’d even prepared a sign offering ‘roast chicken’ (‘chicken’ being French slang for cops). They hadn’t counted on Kevin Philippy. Known to his colleagues as the ‘Kung Fu Cop’ (which sounds like a great, or terrible, movie), Philippy calmly stepped out his flaming car and proceeded to show those demonstrators how a real man rolls.

One of the activists grabbed an iron bar and came running at Philippy, swinging for his head. Using his ninja-level jujitsu, Philippy dodged the blows without breaking a sweat. With unhurried movements, he stepped around or deflected each blow, leaving his attacker wheezing for air and looking like the biggest dumbass in town.

At this point, you’re probably expecting to hear that Philippy then unloaded on those morons. While it would serve them right, the real story is way classier. Philippy turned to the other demonstrators and casually unhooked his gun. A moment of extreme tension followed. Then Philippy slowly smiled, gestured his partner and sauntered off, leaving the rioters confused and looking stupid. The message was clear: you idiots aren’t worth my time. For his absolute dedication to laconic badassery, Philippy became a French hero.

 1. Wasil Ahmad Becomes a Badass Cop (Aged 10)


Although he was only 10 at the time, Wasil Ahmad had more cojones than many cops twice or three times his age. Conscripted in his remote Afghan town of Uruzgan when the country started sliding to hell, Ahmad did something so brave we can’t believe we’re even writing about it. Wasil Ahmad was the 10-year old cop who took on the Taliban.

The context was a terrifying 43-day siege. The Taliban had surrounded one of the last government buildings left in the province, trapping many people inside. Ahmad was among them. But rather than doing what most 10-year olds would do, he decided to take the fight to the extremists. Tooling up with heavy weaponry, Ahmad proceeded to fight alongside his police colleagues, using mortars, machine guns and grenades to wreak vengeance on the scumbags who’d ruined his country.

 Incredibly, it worked. Thanks to the efforts of Ahmad and his Afghan police buddies, the Taliban were driven out of their province. Almost. Unfortunately, this story has a tragic end. In early 2016, two Taliban stooges ambushed Ahmad while he was walking to school. Like the evil monsters they are, the gunmen shot the 10-year old dead. Sometimes, sadly, in a place as brutal as Afghanistan, even the biggest heroes don’t get a Hollywood ending.

Real-Life Cops

Everyday Heroes

– Modern Day Action Heroes

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #282

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #282

…Sara Fenwick knows nothing, has nothing to hide and is simply missing body organs and part of her brain…

My Project 19-001

And then there is the matter of the illusive Sara Fenwick. This one needs no thespian skills in relating her experiences. She does not remember a thing, period. As far as this seamstress-turned-globetrotter is concerned, she just wants to get back for Christmas (1941), even though it’s really 1947.

The same high-ranking officers that questioned Lyn have come to the realization just how futile any interrogation of this enigma would be. She knows nothing, has nothing to hide and is simply missing body organs and part of her brain.

“We will be leaving soon, Sara, I promise,” assures her friend. “Bob Ford is coming back for us.”Blue Ridge Angel-001

“There isn’t any water in the middle of the desert,” Sara correctly observes.

“He has a different airplane, hon. Remember I told you that he and I came from New York to confirm that you were really alive?”

“Of course I’m alive, silly.” She looks at herself in a mirror approvingly. “I don’t feel like I’m 50.”

          “And I feel like I’ve caught up and passed you.”

          “You truly are mad, Lyn. I will always be five years older than you, not that I wouldn’t mind shaving those years off.”

          “I guess always is not as permanent as it used to be.”

          “You haven’t stopped loving me, have you – is that the “always” you are talking about?”

          “Just ignore me, Sara, I’m getting used to having you around again.”

          “Boy, I step out for a breath of fresh air and the whole world goes bonkers!”

  For now, they must rely on the hospitality of strangers and hope that Jupiter and Mars can possibly realign.

Alpha Omega M.D.

Stray Souls - Stolen Memories

Stray Souls (game) – Stolen Memories

Episode #282

page 265 (end ch. 15)

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Contents 5-2016

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #280

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #280

…Ford shrugs, Lyn is near tears, and before they can say boo, the word Clipper snaps Jane Doe out of her persistent daze…

Twiilight in a Daze by

“Excuse my oversight, folks, but this case has me baffled. I used to think my name was Ben Wright, now I’m not sure.” He instructs the guards, “Tell the attendants to bring the patient.”

Female headshot-001One minute later a gaunt figure, with flat drab hair and an even more drab expression, flanked by two burly women/aides, come into the room. Bob Ford stares first at the mystery woman, then at Lyn for signs of recognition from either side. There is none. It appears he has dragged Carolyn Hanes across the arrow-downcountry for nothing.

“Do either of you recognize this woman? Could she have been a passenger aboard the Pacific Clipper, the one you reported missing?”

Ford shrugs, Lyn is near tears, and before they can say boo, the word Clipper snaps Jane Doe out of her persistent daze. “When are we leaving Captain Ford?” She says out of the blue. “Did you have a good time with that Lady, lady?” The second question is directed at Lyn, who walks up to the woman to take a closer look into her eyes. The essence of the woman she thought lost, has moved into her pupils and iris.

“Sara!” Lyn is moved, but can only move back to her seat, fearing the fragile figure in front of her.

“Did you take a picture of her when you found her?” Ford still is not convinced this is one and the same. Sara Fenwick would be 56 years old now. This woman is not.

Psychiatrist Wright opens his file, producing a photograph taken the morning after they found her standing like a statue, where she had no business being. The same blue dress, jacket cut low enough for a pretty good look at her ample breasts.

“Well, I’ll be damned, that’s her!” He points to the photo, but still cannot connect the two.

“Do you know how many morons stepped on my feet, Lyn? I felt like a rag doll, so I decided to go for a walk. Sorry I didn’t tell you where I went, but let’s go to bed. We have a big day in front of us.”

All in the room are stunned. It seems that Wright wasn’t wrong after all.

“There has been no stream of consciousness for the two weeks we’ve had her. It seems you have

Omar the Tentmaker 1929 Thomas FRIEDENSEN

Omar the tent-maker

found the “on” switch.”

“Get me out of these horrid clothes. Who designed them, Omar the Tentmaker?”

arrow-up “It is she, Doctor Wright! Only Sara would invoke the name of Omar. He’s not a tentmaker, but being a seamstress and designer, she hates his designs, says they make women look thirty pounds heavier than they really are.”

“Who is Babe Ruth?” Sergeant Smith poses for further verification, albeit to trick German spies.

“A candy bar?” That is her answer.

“Ah ha! She’s not who she pretends to be.”

“This isn’t the war, Vince and what would a dressmaker know about baseball? Now let’s be serious.”

“I’m hungry, what’s for breakfast?”

“We haven’t been able to get her to eat solid food! Give her whatever she wants.”

Alpha Omega M.D.

Dazed Dandelions by METAL WALL ART LLC

Episode #280

page 262

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Contents 5-2016


Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #271

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #271

… A blank stare is the mystery woman’s default answer to most questions. She simply doesn’t remember… much…

Meanwhile Caption-001

“This is 1947, Miss ______?” wonders United States Air Force Sergeant Vincent Smith of a woman who is sitting up in a hospital bed at the military facility near Alamogordo, NewHolloman AFB-001 Mexico. She was found standing on the main runway at Holloman Air Force Base, in the middle of a moonlit night two days ago. It is only the full moon that saves her from being run down by a jet airplane taxiing to a midnight takeoff. “Okay, let’s forget your name for now. What is the last thing you remember?”


          “Dancing. That makes sense, considering the dress you were wearing when they found you. Can you tell me where you were dancing and perhaps how you managed to find your way onto the most highly guarded military base in the world?”

A blank stare is the mystery woman’s default the answer to most questions. She simply doesn’t remember… much. “Pearl Harbor – can’t go back, the Japanese…”

The man is puzzled why she always goes back to 1941. Maybe she was a prisoner of the Japanese? “That was six years ago,” he explains once again.

20140323psychiatry“No,” the woman insists, “we are leaving for Pakistan in the morning. I have to get back to the Clipper.”

The base psychiatrist, who has since come into the room, having dealt with this mysterious lady from the beginning, has been slowly putting some of the clues together. “I think she is talking about the Pacific Clipper, Vince, you know, the one Bob Ford flew for Pan American. When the bleeping Japs hit Pearl, he had to fly back to New York by the seat of his pants.”

“Yeah, I have a buddy who knows one of the mechanics from that plane, said they burned 76 octane half the time,” Smith recalls. “But that was still six years ago! This is beginning to creep me out. Keep an eye on her Ben; I’m going to give Pan American a buzz. Maybe they can help figure this out.”

Alpha Omega M.D.

Melancholia-Dr Sarvenaz Keyhani

Melancholia by Dr Sarvenaz Keyhani

Episode #271

page 253

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Contents 5-2016

You’re Wrong About Everything – WIF Mad Science

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You’re Wrong

About Everything

10. Your Lizard Brain


It turns out, size does matter–but mostly because of how you use it; or more precisely, how it can be used. Different areas of the brain have different functions, so it isn’t the total size that is important so much as the relative size of different areas, which support different cognitive processes. And this isn’t an endorsement of phrenology; it is a question of capacity, which may or may not actually be utilized.

Human brains are like evolutionary onions: they have developed several layers, and each layer adds both mass, and the capacity for higher functions. Because we are all superficial, we tend to heap attention on the last outer layer–the cerebral cortex–that is capable of complex thought, reasoning, and many of the features we think of as defining intelligence or humanity.

But superficiality is stupid, and we tend to give less credit to the relatively more important, less-evolved layers–namely, the Lizard Brain that secretly controls everything (Reptilian Conspiracy theorists, rejoice–you were right all along).

At the core of all brain activity is a small combination of brain parts found in all vertebrates that serve mostly to keep you alive, regulating heart rate, breathing, equilibrium, etc. Surrounding this is the limbic system, also known as The Lizard Brain, because that’s about all there is inside the average lizard’s head. It interacts with the central core to process sensory information, generate basic emotions, and manage decision-making at its most rudimentary level. In short, this bit of the brain is where instinct lives.

Every unconscious habit or automatic response–jumping when startled, eating what tastes good, or trying to make babies–originates in the reptilian core.

Because it is obsessed with survival (eating, escaping, reproducing), the Lizard Brain has an uncanny ability to shout over your higher reasoning brain and take control, rendering the more-evolved lobes (the ones that make you smarter than the average ape) impotent right when it counts.

Since it is embarrassing to admit how often our behavior is driven by base animal impulses, we tend to employ the rest of our mammalian brains to justify our behavior, rather than to control it. This is why rationalization is common to the point of being unconscious: it takes a lot of mental effort and concentration to perpetually silence the Lizard Brain, but a lot less to delegate decision-making to it, and let the cerebral cortex invent excuses to make those decisions seem rational.

Like so many MFA graduates who wind up writing generic marketing copy to pay the rent, our higher functions squander their talent by simply dressing up our primal instincts as deliberate, thoughtful actions. Human evolution has turned us into bullsh*t artists, because it is easier to invent excuses for our behavior than to take active control of it.

9. Threat Perception


As a species, we like to pat ourselves on the back for being aware of our own mortality. As far as we can tell, no other animals on earth possess this innate knowledge of their inevitable death, which supposedly gives us a powerful cognitive and behavioral advantage.

Except our brains are still hardwired to ignore long-term consequences so that we can better enjoy short-term pleasures.

Just as our Lizard Brains don’t let our higher functions waste time trying to reason us out of harm’s way, they tend not to let thoughtful consideration (or impending disaster) get in the way of a good time. The “Fight or Flight” response is really only applicable in dealing with an immediate threat; when the risk is more long-term, like obesity or the robot apocalypse, the Lizard Brain becomes obsessed with instant gratification.

Outside of the Flight or Fight response, the Lizard Brain is basically playing a never-ending game of *Boff*, Marry, or Kill, only it isn’t as interested in monogamy as it is in getting fed, so the game becomes *Boff*, Eat, or Kill. Even when there isn’t an immediate demand for its services, your Lizard Brain still wants its voice heard, and will always drive you to choose short-term pleasure over long-term security.

And when pleasure is involved–as opposed to fear–it makes your Lizard Brain feel like it is winning the game, and want to keep playing. This is also known as addiction–it literally happens in your brain, and is not nearly as dependent on the chemical properties of any substances involved; that is why behaviors can become just as addictive as anything you can consume. That is also why treating addiction takes more than just willpower; you have to physically change your brain to develop new habits.

So while you call upon all your knowledge and experiences to make a decision about how to behave in any given situation, you are simultaneously working to suppress your instinct to simply do the easiest, most carnally satisfying thing possible. Hence the popularity of Netflix, Cheetos, and porn.

8. Authority


You know that old saying, “Never meet your heroes?”

That’s because there is a gap between what we expect people to be, and what they are. Only it isn’t just heroes–it is everyone pretty, tall, confident, or even carrying a friggin’ clipboard.

There’s a whole cocktail of fallacies at play here, but aside from projecting a false correlation of authority based purely on appearance, there is the timeless appeal to authority. This can manifest as anything from a meme image that uses a famous historical figure to make a quote sound profound (when it is actually nonsense), to using Rotten Tomatoes to determine what is or isn’t a “good” movie. It is easy to come up with an opinion, but simply having more of them doesn’t make them objective or informed.

Even credentialed experts–like doctors–are often operating more on informed opinions than cut-and-dry facts, and that’s assuming the subject in question is actually within their area of expertise. If a nurse and a doctor disagreed over the best way to deliver a baby, for example, people tend to assume the doctor is the superior authority on the matter.

Of course, if the nurse was a certified nurse midwife (a maternity specialist trained in women’s health and pregnancy issues) and the doctor was a colorectal surgeon (butt doctor), then deferring to the doctor suddenly seems a little misguided. But the natural inclination we all feel is to simply look for an authority, without first qualifying what makes that person an authority–because, all too often, nothing does.

7. Binary Thinking


Sports, amirite? The popular narrative holds that youth sports create character, teach leadership and cooperation, and other such valuable life lessons. All that may be true, but they also train participants and spectators alike to view everything as a tribal contest between good and bad, right and wrong, us and them. This is why team sports are so eternally popular: they reflect the way we think.

Even though our brains evolved to tolerate and process complexity, these new developmental expansion drives take extra processing power, so we subconsciously simplify whenever possible. And it turns out, it is always possible, because there are few circumstances that can’t be (fallaciously) boiled down to an A/B option, just like the opposing teams facing off in an athletic competition.

This is the essence of binary thinking–A/B, ones and zeroes, us and them. Surviving as a tribe requires cooperation, which is greatly aided by the perception of a shared threat–a competing tribe, an opposing team. Because this kind of cooperative-competitive worldview has been so famously helpful in human survival, we project its simplistic calculus onto damn near everything else, so that we can better make decisions, forge alliances, and elect the right candidate for president.

No matter how much you holler about how party membership is a representation of ideological cohesion, millions of years of evolution make a compelling counter-argument that you actually just picked a team and want to see them win.

Even when it comes to what we eat, we can’t tolerate the dietary complexity of the omnivore. Instead, we make wild extrapolations–low in fat must also mean low in anything that might kill us; non-GMO means healthy; reduced sodium means vitamin-enriched. Our selection process for food is overwhelmed by creative labels that speak directly to our monkey minds, looking for the team we perceive as healthy.

6. The Internet


Believing your opinions are valid and correct is like thinking you know which way is up in an M.C. Escher drawing–it only works if you limit your focus and deliberately ignore all contradictory evidence, and the internet is a near-perfect tool for doing just that.

The internet is well on its way to bringing the sum total of human knowledge within reach of anyone who connects. We have never had more access to information, or more user-friendly platforms for consuming and disseminating data. Following the patterns established by the advent of written script or the printing press, we should be seeing an explosion of intelligence, progress, and intellectual transformation.

 But we aren’t. What we’re seeing instead is that people are more interested in being right than being informed, in making obnoxious punchline comments than advancing discourse, in Rick Rolling earnest YouTubers than in providing a video infotainment experience. Rather than an escalator to the pinnacle of human development, the internet is really just a utility for feeding confirmation bias.

This is the human tendency to agree with people who say things we think, and feel a surge of confidence that other people think the way we do.

Online, you can find someone arguing for, or agreeing with, virtually anything. This means no matter how objectively wrong you are, you can find someone else on your side. Now, through the power of binary thinking, you can boldly assume infallibility by association. After all, if people agree with you, then the real problem isn’t with your ideas… it is with the people who disagree with your ideas.

The internet, in combination with social media, feeds a similar-but-different problem,selection bias. This is where we tend to seek out opinions that match ours, and ignore those that don’t. The fact that you can block Facebook friends from your feed seems like a feature, but it is really just proof of how the internet is just an automated cognitive fallacy.

Multiply your friends network by the news channels you watch, the papers you read, the people you talk to, the movies you watch, the restaurants you patronize, and the house of worship you attend, and you can see how we aren’t so much seeking truth as avoiding conflicting reports on existence.

A possible defense against the overwhelming human tendency to indulge these biases has cropped up in the form of big data: a massive, automated, algorithmic assessment of raw data through various query-based lenses. President Obama even established the Office of Data Science in an effort to bring some measure of scientific and mathematical objectivity to the direction of U.S. federal policy. Either that, or even the White House is losing ground in the fight against Artificial Intelligence.

5. Distorted Memories


Memories are less like images etched into granite, and more like soft Play-Doh we accidentally step on and mix together until everything is a gross grey color.

In less metaphorical terms, memories are never complete. As we learn, make new memories, experience new emotions, and find ourselves in new contexts trying to remember something, all this new mental baggage lands directly on the memories we are trying to recall.

When we remember something, we aren’t simply recalling it like a photo in an album, we are interacting with it, projecting new memories, knowledge, and biases onto the old memory. Sometimes, we construct memories through some combination of suggestion and desire–or fear.

For example: if you are about to go on a date, you might find yourself visualizing disaster scenarios and the date ending in lonely tears. The emotionally jarring imagery might even compel you to picture the disaster all over again…and again, until the repetition emblazons the whole scene on your memory, as though it had actually happened.

Alternatively, you might find the experience of that hot date so sensual, that you expedite its storage straight to long-term memory. Unfortunately, however, you can have efficiency, or you can have accuracy, but not both. In order to make memories easier to recall, our brains take shortcuts, and then fill in the gaps whenever we call on them. This sort of adaptive memory relies on your present-day intellectual context and capacity to make up for what you didn’t actively commit to memory.

It is sort of like saving your finished novel as a word document, and then opening it back up only to find a 900-page Mad Libs epic, except that you don’t even realize that you are filling in random nouns and adjectives to complete the story.

It is also highly suggestible, which is why eye witness testimony is basically worthless. If they are gently nudged toward thinking something, they retroactively convince themselves that that is what they actually saw.

Outside of the occasional trauma or joy that is the stuff of dynamic memory, there is the unassuming, everyday drudgery that makes up the bulk of our lives. Like the commute to work or the layout of your home, this is the background scenery that seems so unchanging, that our brains actually stop noticing it and just assume it is there–a cognitive function known as habituation.

Our brains are much more engaged by novelty than familiarity, so when stimulation becomes routine, it stops penetrating all the way through every layer of the brain, and starts getting filtered out as noise.

4. Aging


Getting old is bad for your brain. If you’ve ever met an old person, you might already be familiar with the telltale signs of cognitive decline: forgetfulness, slower reflexes, impaired judgement, etc. Of course, there is no set age at which one becomes “old” and their brains start getting unreliable; Alzheimer’s can begin to develop in patients as young as 40–and 40 is the new 30, so really no one is immune.

But even if you reach your golden years in peak physical fitness, that still means you’ve spent a lifetime recalling old memories, which you’ll recall is not a passive process. By then, your long-term memory will be a mess of reconstruction, adaptation, suggestion, and pure invention that is hardly recognizable as an account of what you actually experienced in life. And when you start preparing yourself to face the grim specter of death, you’ll very likely want to believe that you lived a good life, which means you’ll subjectively recall memories through a very thick lens of nostalgia.

The future may be uncertain, but you’ll always have “the good ol’ days” to reflect on, because you are probably making them up as a compensatory mechanism for the lack of true, reliable memories.

And you’ll likely be spending a lot more time wrapped up in the comfort-blanket of your imaginary past, because your brain’s ability to perceive sensory information is also going to decline as you age. Sugar literally will taste less sweet, and all your favorite foods will become less appetizing. You will remember everything has being better back in the day, because in the current day you aren’t capable of fully experiencing the simple pleasures of life.

Bearing that in mind, maybe the next grumpy geezer you run across will seem less like a curmudgeon and more like another example of the quiet tragedy of the human experience.

3. Groupthink


If American anti-drug advertising is to be believed, peer pressure’s primary function is to get kids to take drugs in a desperate bid to seem cool. It is easily countered by the forceful repetition of “No” to any offer that involves social conformity.

In reality, peer pressure is one of the key evolutionary advantages that helps humans survive and thrive. Adopting a cooperative strategy might allow hunters to take down a mammoth, and enjoy more spoils than they would have hunting individually. Toddlers learn most of their earliest lessons (like how to talk, or when to laugh) by trying to imitate the people around them. The military indoctrinates soldiers to follow orders and work as a unit, because everyone having their own idea about how to behave in combat is a solid way to get everyone killed.

But our tendency to crowdsource our decisions isn’t limited to learning and survival tactics. Similar to the appeal to authority, groupthink functions as an individual default to the apparent will of the crowd. It isn’t just high schoolers who want to be part of the in-crowd; that’s why angry mobs, bandwagons, and the wave are all such standard features of people assembling. It is also why your opinion on a single issue can be extrapolated to an entire political platform: when you find a group who agrees with you, you naturally want to continue agreeing with them.

By extension, even when we find ourselves disagreeing with a group, we will self-police that disunity and silence dissent so as not to injure our membership. This, in combination with deference to authority, is how humans are able to come together and produce such hallmark achievements as genocide.

Much as w       e celebrate illusory notions of individuality, this tendency to try to blend in, mirror behavior, and offload thinking to a group is all but impossible to prevent, once enough people start mingling. It is unconsciously activated by socialization, and the only defense goes against instinct and popular opinion, and being unpopular is just the worst.

2. Conditioning


What is free will?

Trick question–you have no idea, because most of what you perceive as deliberate behavior is actually a conditioned response. From your minor daily habits to your entire sense of identity, you are overwhelmingly the product of conditioning–otherwise known as “training,” the exact same way you get pets and babies to defecate with more precision.

If you aren’t a pet-owner, you’ve still more than likely heard of the experiments ofPavlov–particularly the part where the dog began salivating upon hearing a bell ringing. Well, “culture” is to people what “ringing bell” was to the dog.

Except in society, the people holding the bell may not realize what they are doing, so both the trainer and the trainee are participating in the conditioning process unawares. This is basically how superstitions are born: by failing to differentiate between correlation and causation, we find ourselves augmenting behavior purely out of a perceived association with the desired outcome. (Editor’s note: As one with a BS in Psychology, I can attest that it was drilled into our brains that “correlation does not equal causation,” and it took an entire semester to learn that.)

Plus, memory distortions can directly feed conditioning–we remember certain key features of what appears to be a cause and effect, and then link the two. Without reconsidering the basis for that connection, we simply remember it, and proceed to act on it as though it is fact.

Whether it starts as an effort to avoid pain (or embarrassment, public shaming, loneliness) or the pursuit of pleasure (friends, laughter, comfort, social acceptance), your life soon becomes one long chain of conditioned responses that only seem like choices because of the stories you tell yourself about them. In fact…

1. Narrative Thinking


Most people think of empathy as the capacity to put oneself in someone else’s shoes. If you can imagine what something feels like, that must mean you understand how someone is actually feeling, right?

The key here is that in order to relate to someone, you need to see yourself in that person. Everything we perceive or think about, we convert to a first-person perspective; our minds are inherently self-centered. This is the essence of narrative thinking: all of existence is a story, and we all think we are the main character.

Not only is this the bridge connecting us to our fellow humans, it is one of the primary ways we make decisions big or small. Intrinsic or even relative value matter much less to us when expressing preference for a particular musician, brand, lifestyle, religion, or hair color. The value they add to our lives starts as the story we tell ourselves about them, and how they enrich our own sense of ourselves as the leading player.

We tell stories to explain everything–even our everyday speech is riddled with metaphors–but nothing more so than our own behavior. Narrative thinking is how we persistently ignore the bundle of instinct and emotion regulating our behavior, and turn it all into a blend of destiny and deliberation. It is how we take perfectly good memories and sensory perception, and muddle them up into whatever we want them to be. Our brains even tell stories subconsciously, filling in perceptual gaps to make sense of stimuli–otherwise known as illusions.You’re

Wrong About Everything

WIF Space-001

– WIF Mad Science