You Learn Something New Every Day

My longtime friend Michael sent me a copy of They Live (one of our favorite b-movies and something that’s been on my Amazon Wish List forever) for my birthday a couple weeks ago. While watching it the other day I realized that as much of a favorite as it is, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the entire thing from beginning to end—or that I just didn’t remember all of it. (Just as likely.)

Ben had never seen it before, but he was not impressed when he did. “It’s awful!” To which I responded, “That’s part of it’s charm!”

Anyhow, I did a quick internet search to see if I could find any info on the film beyond the basics, and imagine my surprise when I discovered after all these years that the entire premise of the movie was based off a short story called Eight O’Clock In The Morning by Ray Nelseon.

Since it’s apparently in the public domain and can be found in its entirety on multiple websites, I’m gonna go ahead and pass it on here for your edification. It’s a rather short read, but as one site said, “Even though it’s supposed to be a work of science fiction, the story holds many analogies to our current situation.” More than ever, I’d say.

So without further ado, I present:

Eight O’Clock in the Morning

by Ray Nelseon

At the end of the show the hypnotist told his subjects, “Awake.”

Something unusual happened.

One of the subjects awoke all the way. This had never happened before. His name was George Nada and he blinked out at the sea of faces in the theatre, at first unaware of anything out of the ordinary. Then he noticed, spotted here and there in the crowd, the non-human faces, the faces of the Fascinators. They had been there all along, of course, but only George was really awake, so only George recognized them for what they were. He understood everything in a flash, including the fact that if he were to give any outward sign, the Fascinators would instantly command him to return to his former state, and he would obey.

He left the theatre, pushing out into the neon night, carefully avoiding any indication that he saw the green, reptilian flesh or the multiple yellow eyes of the rulers of the earth. One of them asked him, “Got a light buddy?” George gave him a light, then moved on.

At intervals along the street George saw the posters hanging with photographs of the Fascinators’ multiple eyes and various commands printed under them, such as, “Work eight hours, play eight hours, sleept eight hours,” and “Marry and Reproduce.” A TV set in the window of a store caught George’s eye, but he looked away in the nick of time. When he didn’t look at the Fascinator in the screen, he could resist the command, “Stay tuned to this station.”

George lived alone in a little sleeping room, and as soon as he got home, the first thing he did was to disconnect the TV set. In other rooms he could hear the TV sets of his neighbors, though. Most of the time the voices were human, but now and then he heard the arrogant, strangely bird-like croaks of the aliens. “Obey the government,” said one croak. “We are the government, ” said another. “We are your friends, you’d do anything for a friend, wouldn’t you?”

“Obey!”

“Work!”

Suddenly the phone rang.

George picked it up. It was one of the Fascinators.

“Hello,” it squawked. “This is your control, Chief of Police Robinson. You are an old man, George Nada. Tomorrow morning at eight o’clock, your heart will stop. Please repeat.”

“I am an old man,” said George. “Tomorrow morning at eight o’clock, my heart will stop.”

The control hung up

“No, it wont,” whispered George. He wondered why they wanted him dead. Did they suspect that he was awake? Probably. Someone might have spotted him, noticed that he didn’t respond the way the others did. If George were alive at one minute after eight tomorrow morning, then they would be sure.

“No use waiting here for the end,” he thought.

He went out again. The posters, the TV, the occasional commands from passing aliens did not seem to have absolute power over him, though he still felt strongly tempted to obey, to see things the way his master wanted him to see them. He passed an alley and stopped. One of the aliens was alone there, leaning against the wall. George walked up to him.

“Move on,” grunted the thing, focusing his deadly eyes on George.

George felt his grasp on awareness waver. For a moment the reptilian head dissolved into the face of a lovable old drunk. Of course the drunk would be lovable. George picked up a brick and smashed it down on the old drunk’s head with all his strength. For a moment the image blurred, then the blue-green blood oozed out of the face and the lizrd fell, twitching and writhing. After a moment it was dead.

George dragged the body into the shadows and searched it. There was a tiny radio in its pocket and a curiously shaped knife and fork in another. The tiny radio said something in an incomprehensible language. George put it down beside the body, but kept the eating utensils.

“I can’t possibly escape,” thought George. “Why fight them?”

But maybe he could.

What if he could awaken others? That might be worth a try.

He walked twelve blocks to the apartment of his girl friend, Lil, and knocked on her door. She came to the door in her bathrobe.

“I want you to wake up,” he said

“I’m awake,” she said. “Come on in.”

He went in. The TV was playing. He turned it off.

“No,” he said. “I mean really wake up.” She looked at him without comprehension, so he snapped his fingers and shouted, “Wake up! The masters command that you wake up!”

“Are you off your rocker, George?” she asked suspiciously. “You sure are acting funny.” He slapped her face. “Cut that out!” she cried, “What the hell are you up to anyway?”

“Nothing,” said George, defeated. “I was just kidding around.”

“Slapping my face wasn’t just kidding around!” she cried.

There was a knock at the door.

George opened it.

It was one of the aliens.

“Can’t you keep the noise down to a dull roar?” it said.

The eyes and reptilian flesh faded a little and George saw the flickering image of a fat middle-aged man in shirtsleeves. It was still a man when George slashed its throat with the eating knife, but it was an alien before it hit the floor. He dragged it into the apartment and kicked the door shut. “What do you see there?” he asked Lil, pointing to the many-eyed snake thing on the floor.

“Mister…Mister Coney,” she whispered, her eyes wide with horror. “You…just killed him, like it was nothing at all.”

“Don’t scream,” warned George, advancing on her.

“I won’t George. I swear I won’t, only please, for the love of God, put down that knife.” She backed away until she had her shoulder blades pressed to the wall.

George saw that it was no use.

“I’m going to tie you up,” said George. “First tell me which room Mister Coney lived in.”

“The first door on your left as you go toward teh stairs,” she said. “Georgie…Georgie. Don’t torture me. If you’re going to kill me, do it clean. Please, Georgie, please.”

He tied her up with bedsheets and gagged her, then searched the body of the Fascinator. There was another one of the little radios that talked a foreign language, another set of eating utensils, and nothing else.

George went next door.

When he knocked, one of the snake-things answered, “Who is it?”

“Friend of Mister Coney. I wanna see him,” said George.

“He went out for a second, but he’ll be right back.” The door opened a crack, and four yellow eyes peeped out. “You wanna come in and wait?”

“Okay,” said George, not looking at the eyes.

“You alone here?” he asked as it closed the door, its back to George.

“Yeah, why?”

He slit its throat from behind, then searched the apartment.

He found human bones and skulls, a half-eaten hand.

He found tanks with huge fat slugs floating in them.

“The children,” he thought, and killed them all.

There were guns too, of a sort he had never seen before. He discharged one by accident, but fortunately it was noiseless. It seemed to fire little poisoned darts.

He pocketed the gun and as many boxes of darts he could and went back to Lil’s place. When she saw him she writhed in helpless terror.

“Relax, honey” he said, opening her purse, “I just want to borrow your car keys.”

He took the keys and went downstairs to the street.

Her car was still parked in the same general area in which she always parked it. He recognized it by the dent in the right fender. He got in, started it, and began driving aimlessly. He drove for hours, thinking–desperately searching for some way out. He turned on the car radio to see if he could get some music, but there was ntohing but news and it was all about him, George Nada, the homicidal maniac. The announcer was one of the masters, but he sounded a little scared. Why should he be? What could one man do?

George wasn’t surprised when he saw the road block, and he turned off on a side street before he reached it. No little trip to the country for you, Georgie boy, he thought to himself.

They had just discvered what he had done back at Lil’s place, so they would probably be looking for Lil’s car. He parked it in an alley and took the subway. There were no aliens on the subway, for some reason. Maybe they were too good for such things, or maybe it was just because it was so late at night.

When one finally did get on, George got off.

He went up to the street and went into a bar. One of the Fascinators was on the TV, saying over and over again, “We are your friends. We are your friends. We are your friends.” The stupid lizard sounded scared. Why? What could one man do against all of them?

George ordered a beer, the it suddenly struck him that the Fascinator on the TV no longer seemed to have any power over him. He looked at it again and thought, “It has to believe it can master me to do it. The slightest hint of fear on its part and the power to hypnotize is lost.” They flashed George’s picture on the TV screen and George retreated to the phone booth. He called his control, the Chief of Police.

“Hello, Robinson?” he asked.

“Speaking.”

“This is George Nada. I’ve figured out how to wake people up.”

“What? George, hang on. Where are you?” Robinson sounded almost hysterical.

He hung up and paid and left the bar. They would probably trace his call.

He caught another subway and went downtown.

It was dawn when he entered the building housing the biggest of the city’s TV studios. He consulted the building director and then went up in the elevator. The cop in front of the studio recognized him. “Why, you’re Nada!” he gasped.

George didn’t like to shoot him with the poison dart gun, but he had to.

He had to kill several more before he got into the studio itself, including all the engineers on duty. There were a lot of police sirens outside, excited shouts, and running footsteps on the stairs. The alien was sitting before the the TV camera saying, “We are your friends. We are your friends,” and didn’t see George come in. When George shot him with the needle gun he simply stopped in mid-sentence and sat there, dead. George stoond near him and said, imitating the alien croak, “Wake up. Wake up. See us as we are and kill us!”

It was George’s voice the city heard that morning, but it was the Fascinator’s image, and the city did awake for the very first time and the war began.

George did not live to see the victory that finally came. He died of a heart attack at exactly eight o’clock.

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

Longtime readers will be well aware of the ongoing saga that is Ben’s mother. It started for us jointly back in 2013 when we reluctantly invited her to move to Denver and stay with us until she got set up with SSDI and properly resettled on her own. At the time she was living in Phoenix under horrible circumstances, had just been fired from yet another job, and we simply couldn’t have her out on the street. Little did we know at the time, but putting her out on the street might have been the best thing to happen to her.

What initially started out as six weeks turned into six months, and after deciding not to apply for disability and instead go back to work, it then became over a year. The nightmare only came to an end when we finally gave her notice and threw her out.

At that time she had a steady job working for Comcast and was making good enough money that she could afford to get a place of her own. She was doing well both mentally and physically, supposedly had her pain killer problem under control, and it seemed she’d finally gotten back to having something resembling a normal life. This lasted for a few months until—as has become standard operating procedure for her—things were going so well she had to fuck them up: off the wagon, incidents at work, and once again out of a job with rent due.

This time Ben made it very clear she was not moving back in with us. She destroyed enough of the apartment during the year she was with us (the first time in my life I had to pay for damages upon vacating a rental) and made life such a living hell (not one, but two calls to the paramedics because she was unresponsive) that she had proved herself unworthy of our trust and that there would be no second chance.

So after many telephone calls to Ben’s brother in Seattle, what remained of her large belongings were put in storage, and she was placed on a bus heading north.

In Seattle, the same tired story played out once again: promises to get set up with SSDI, find a place of her own and rebuild her life. Of course none of that happened; Ben got all the paperwork together—even going to far as to fly to Seattle on his own dime to get Powers of Attorney signed.

And still nothing got filed. (In case you don’t know, getting SSDI approved and in motion is a long process; typically six months at the earliest from when the paperwork is filed until the first check arrives.)

The difference this time was that Ben’s sister-in-law was having none of her bullshit and once again she was put on notice that her welcome had worn itself out and she needed to make other living arrangements.

By this time we’d moved back to Phoenix, and being the dutiful son, Ben did all the required research, sent her job listings, scouted apartments, and bought her a plane ticket home since she hated Seattle and wanted to move back here.

To her credit, she found work rather quickly after arriving back in Phoenix. She even met a guy and started dating! While she wasn’t living here, she had taken up residence on our couch, and what was once again to be only a week-long stay dragged on and on until I pulled the “no unauthorized visitors over a month” stipulation from our lease and sent her packing to a motel.

Apparently her new beau (who didn’t live in Phoenix full time, but had an apartment here) took pity on her and offered to have her stay at his place.

This lasted until about three months ago. For a variety of reasons she moved out of the beau’s apartment into a pay-by-the-week place closer to her work (because no one else would rent to her because of her credit and rental history). Things were going well; she had money, a good job, and a decent roof over her head. The only time we saw her was when she came over once a week to do laundry.

She was succeeding.

And you know she couldn’t let that last. It was about two and a half weeks ago that Ben got a call from a mental health facility, inquiring how he was planning on paying for his mom’s stay.

WTF?

It seems that she was feeling suicidal (she’s attempted it several times over the last ten years), and had checked herself into the facility a couple days earlier. Without so much as letting anyone—including Ben or her employer—know.

My dear friend Al, whom I’ve known for close to a decade, worked as a case manager at a hospital where we were both employed. She’s been telling Ben for years that he has to step away from all this; he has to cut her off completely just as his siblings have done and let his mom hit rock bottom. She needs to be on the street, where—hopefully—she can finally get the state assistance she needs. I’m cautiously optimistic that this latest incident has finally flipped that switch for him, because he’s not having any of her bullshit any more.

Now let me say we are not being heartless bitches here. Ben’s mom is in no way elderly; if she were and it was the cause of this behavior that would obviously affect our disposition toward her. But she’s not. She’s a couple years younger than I am. She has some real physical pain issues that require meds to mitigate, but it’s unaddressed emotional issues that are at the root of her behavior; issues that in her mind are more easily self-medicated than actually addressed directly through proper counseling (something she has been told to seek out each and every time she’s been in and out of these mental hospitals and consistently refuses to do). It’s that willful refusal that has exhausted all our patience and has forced us to say enough.

So once again, faced with no income (the question of whether or not she is still employed is up in the air,  but since she was approved for short term disability I assume she is), she knows homelessness looms in her future. But being the cunning, manipulative user that she is, she’s figured out she can game the system for another week “until she starts getting her checks.” To that end, she’s feigned suicidal thoughts and has again checked herself back in to that same mental hospital.

What will happen in a week’s time is anyone’s guess. She’s burned all her bridges. She knows she can’t stay with us (or, as she ridiculously suggested, in the back of Ben’s minivan). She has no other friends or family. Ben is done with it. We’re storing her clothing and a few household items from of her apartment until such time that they’re needed and that’s it.

The Nerd In Me

…orgasmed a little upon seeing these photos from Cassini. Saturn’s rings, up close and personal:

It pains me that after this year, there will be no new pictures of Saturn. There are no plans to return to the planet during the remainder of my foreseeable lifetime. I’m glad I was alive when I was to witness this in real time.

I know it would risk losing control of the spacecraft completely, but after seeing these photos shot from still thousands of miles away, can you imagine what we’d see if Cassini flew through the rings on its final orbit around the planet?

Impeach Him NOW

From Robert Reich:

Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) is already drafting articles of impeachment related to Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, believing there’s enough evidence of Trump’s obstruction of justice to begin an impeachment inquiry (not to mention Trump’s blatant violation of the Constitutions emoluments clause by profiting off his presidency, and much else).

But Democratic leaders are pushing back, warning there aren’t enough facts to justify an impeachment inquiry at this point, and, in any event, such an inquiry would politicize ongoing congressional investigations. 

Baloney. 

Historically, the three previous impeachment inquiries in the House (involving presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton) rested on less evidence of obstruction of justice than is already publicly known about Trump.

Comey’s testimony to Congress is itself more than enough – confirming that Trump demanded Comey’s loyalty, asked Comey to stop investigating Michael Flynn, repeatedly told Comey the FBI investigation was a “cloud” on his presidency, and asked Comey to declare publicly that Trump wasn’t an object of the investigation

In addition, we have Trump’s interview with Lester Holt on NBC and Trump’s subsequent meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office. In both instances, Trump connected his firing of Comey with the Russian investigation.

Also bear in mind the obstructions of justice that caused the House to impeach previous presidents concerned issues far less serious than Trump’s possible collusion with a foreign power to win election.

Democratic leaders say they don’t want to talk about impeachment now because they’re worried about politicizing the current congressional investigations, which aren’t impeachment inquiries. Hello? Republicans have already politicized them. 

The real reason Democratic leaders don’t want to seek an impeachment now is they know there’s zero chance that Republicans, who now control both houses of Congress, would support such a move. So why engage in a purely symbolic gesture? 

Democratic leaders figure that between now and the midterm elections there will be even more revelations from non-partisan sources – future testimony by Trump operatives like Michael Flynn and Roger Stone, early reports from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and leaks to the press – that will build the case, and fuel more public outrage. 

That outrage will give Democrats a strong chance of taking back the House and maybe even the Senate. Then they’ll really impeach Trump.

I can’t argue with the political logic of Democratic leaders. And if their strategy will lead to Trump’s ouster sooner than any other way, I’m all for it.

But here’s the problem. It’s not clear America can wait for the midterm elections, followed by what’s likely to be a long and drawn-out impeachment investigation, followed by a trial in the Senate. (Note that none of the presidents listed above was ever convicted by the Senate and thrown out of office.) 

With each passing day, Donald Trump becomes a greater danger to America and the world. We don’t have time. 

The advantage of introducing a bill of impeachment now – even attempting to do so – is that such an action might itself galvanize the vast majority of Americans who want Trump out of office. It could mobilize and energize people around the most important immediate issue facing the country. 

Never underestimate the power of a public aroused to action. It is worth recalling that Nixon resigned of his own accord before the House had even voted out an impeachment resolution. The American public demanded it.