New poems for 12-1-2011

9-29-2011 — Fun With Cooking

Life is far too boring

                        dull

                        lackluster

To microwave TV dinners

To cook with premade sauces.

The kitchen should be a playground

                                           lab

To cook

      experiment

      taste

      create

To smile

When your culinary crdeations

Make your children

                    and others

Happy.

11-23-2011 — Sky, China, Russia

The sky, the heavens

Silver, gold,

Fiery red, blue, purple, green

Playground

Showcasing

God’s creativity

中国人们说:

你好,水星,火星,木星!

Русские говорят:

Здравствуйте, Солнце и Плутон!

We say,

Hello, sun, Sirius B, Proxima Centauri, Betelgeuse, Andromeda Galaxy!

11-26-2011 — Sylvia Plath 

At the bookstore

Within the sea of books

I found

Ms. Sylvia Plath.

Sky-high talent,

Sky-high surreal imagery,

Sky-high sadness,

Even across time,

My heart hurts.

11-26-2011 — Haiku about Jupiter 

Bright, bright moving star

Far East they call you 木 星

Mysteries endless!

11-26-2011 — Thirty Years as a Christian

Even at тридцать лет

There is still

So much

Of God

Of Jesus

Of the Bible

Я еще не понимаю.

11-26-2011 — When sleep is evasive 

When sleep is evasive

My head feels warm

My thoughts can’t connect

Everything’s uphill.

I’m in a haze

Many things seem hilarious.

My pillow, sheets

Become a

Freshly-laundered and dried cotton cloud.

11-29-2011 — Sun, moon, brightness

One day,

Countless 月 ago,

日was lonely

As was 月.

They consoled each other,

Found brightness in each other.

Soon,

日and 月

Became 明.

11-29-2011 — Michael Jordan? Wasn’t he an athlete?

The day will arrive

Perhaps untold, countless

Lunar orbits from now

When space stations orbit Jupiter

To try to unlock the under-the-cloud mysteries that abound

When a basketball player

Will hear the name

Michael Jordan

And will respond with a

Blank, void, gaze.

Even superheroes

Eventually are

Superforgotten.

11-29-2011 — Solomon’s books

Proverbs,

Ecclesiastes,

Song of Solomon.

Three books

Solomon wrote

With this message:

THIS is what I

SHOULD HAVE DONE

with my life!!!”

11-29-2011 — Jupiter and other gas giants hold emergency meeting

I wonder if

The day will come

When

Jupiter

will gather

Saturn, Uranus, Neptune

And tell them:

“Someday

People from that tiny round blue ball

Will orbit us

And extract our hydrogen

And other resources

Until all that’s left

Are our rocky cores!

We must do something!”

11-30-2011 — Chinese haiku about astronomy, planets and telescopes

[I spent eight months of my life formally studying Mandarin Chinese at the Army’s Defense Language Institute. I also have access to online Chinese dictionaries. Any errors in writing in Chinese characters are solely my own. — Richard Zowie (or, as I was called in Chinese, 左瑞查)]

我看了木星

每天在天明烽火

望远镜在哪?

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardzowie@gmail.com.

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Richard’s poetry for March 9, 2011

2-22-2011 — The World Bores Me

The world bores me.

People bore me.

Why do they expect me

To do

Think

Dress

Act

As they do?

Sorry, but I hate most country music.

Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue?

I prefer an in-the-flesh woman

Who prefers to show me

Her beauty

In private.

Redneck humor?

I’d rather tolerate

A gargantuan migraine.

Fashion?

<Sigh>

Who made these rules?

Designers who think

Starvation

Is sexy

Especially bore me.

If the world and its people

Don’t understand me,

Maybe with enough

Education

Tolerance and

Sophistication

They will.

2-24-2011 — The Black Bird

The black bird

On the black light pole

Makes me think

Spring will soon dawn

And

Winter will exit, stage left.

2-24-2011 — The Russian Rust Haiku

Я, в Техасе,

Мне очень жарко, но

Я рад быть дома.

Translation:

(When) I’m in Texas,

I am very hot, but

I am glad to be home.

2-24-2011 — Ode of Odor

“Ode to the toilet bowl…

“Stinks real bad!”

Once said the unlearned

But

Comical poet.

Even now,

Nineteen years later,

I find this “ode”

Absolutely hilarious!!!

3-8-11 — Seeing the Sun

The sun

On earth

Is an angry,

Yellowish-white ball

Pink at sunrise

Orange at sunset.

On Mercury,

It is a giant beach ball

Angrier, much brighter, whiter.

Can it be seen

On Jupiter

Underneath

The thick clouds?

Or are the Jovian oceans

Guarded by a

Perpetual black sky that

Crackles with

Endless lightning?

I imagine that

On Pluto,

The sun is a much calmer,

Paler,

Twinkling

White star.

As bright in the Plutonian sky

As the evening star, Venus,

Is in our sky.

With Jupiter, perhaps our

Distant descendants will know.

With Pluto, we’ll know

In July 2015.

I can’t wait.

Two poems: The Questions I Have, Afternoon Bright Light

 The first poem is pentameter and the second one attempts to rhyme. Decided to take a break from free verse.

2-8-11 — The Questions I Have

NOTE: This is a pentameter poem. Didn’t feel comfortable trying to make it rhyme

The questions I have

Mainly mysteries

The answers mock me

Daring me to learn

Of all their secrets

The five W’s

And, of course, the H.

How is it that God

Has no beginning

Nor has an ending?

I don’t understand

The meaning of the

Hebrew name Calel

(Which means, “All of God”).

What mysteries lie

Underneath all the

Salmon, pink and white

Swirling tapestry

Clouds of Jupiter?

What is the smallest

Unit of matter?

Is it something that

Makes quarks seem as big

As Andromeda?

(The constellation?

No. the galaxy).

Finally, would life

Be any real fun

If there were no more

Questions to answer?

2-8-11 — Afternoon Bright Light

NOTE: a few rhymes here.

The blinding afternoon light

From the sun

Hardly brings afternoon delight

To me

As I try to work.

I reach into my pocket

For my shades.

The sunglasses are

Much-needed aides

To shield my eyes

From the angry glare.

Even in the brown tint

The sun is a

Bright white fire

That never seems to tire.

The only thing I like

About the fierce glare

Is it helps my eyes

Decide to look green.

Normally my hazel eyes–

–a lot of green

With a little brown–

Can’t decide if they want to be

Green

Brown or

Hazel.

The afternoon light

Is afternoon delight

When it makes my hazel eyes

Look bright

Instead of

Dull and dark.

Richard Zowie is trying his hand at writing poems. Post comments here or send them to richardzowie@gmail.com.

Goodbye, ‘The Hunt For Red October’, hello ‘Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl’

Well, technically I didn’t finish reading read Tom Clancy’s novel The Hunt For Red October. I tried. Twice. This time, I made it halfway through the book before finishing the rest in skim mode. I’ll watch the movie soon when I can.

The idea was great, and I agree with a lot of Clancy’s politics. The problem was, I found this book to be far too technical. Clancy likes to describe technology, intelligence procedures and military equipment in explicit detail. It made for slow pacing and, frankly, boring reading. Yes, I know that President Ronald Reagan loved this book (which tells me his attention span was far longer than what his critics care to admit). But for me, while Clancy has great ideas, it just didn’t work for me.

Years ago, I tried reading Patriot Games and didn’t finish that, either. It seemed too far-fetched that Irish terrorists would travel to American soil to avenge a crime. I may try sometime to read Cardinal in the Kremlin, since it deals with a spy for America inside the Kremlin. Maybe. Other books are awaiting my time. Sometime soon, I’ll have to make some time to read Ben Bova’s Mercury. As readers of this blog know, Dr. Bova has turned into one of my favorite sci-fi writers. If you haven’t read Jupiter, do yourself a favor and read it…

I’ve read the first entry of Anne Frank’s iconic diary. This was originally required as reading in my high school in the freshman or sophomore honors English program, but since I didn’t take honors English until my junior year, I missed out.

Little did Anne Frank know, her writings to “Kitty” would become an important piece of literature.

I look at Miss Frank as a delve into two genres of literature: classic (it was written in the 1940s and, technically, was written not only in the prior century, but also in the prior millennium) and foreign (the German-born, Dutch-raised Frank was Jewish and penned her diary in Dutch). What we read in English is a translation.

Having a short attention span has always made it a challenge for me to start and complete classics in literature, especially if they seem slow or are filled with archaic language. We’ll see how this process goes.

I am determined to succeed.

Post comments here or e-mail Richard at richardzowie@gmail.com.
 

 

How much do you read?

If there’s one dream I have as a writer, it’s being able to write full-time for a living. I’d love nothing more than to be able to write fiction, be a journalist, blog and write columns and essays full-time without the need for a second job.

Many successful writers, when asked the secret to their success of writing for a living, will tell you that any successful writer must do two things daily: read and write. Some writers will spend several hours churning out thousands of words of fiction, blogs, columns, essays, journals before settling down later in the day with some great books. And perhaps a few magazines.

I am envious of those who can maintain a heavy book-reading workload. Stephen King in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft describes himself as a slow reader but somehow manages to read scores of books annually. Wow. It makes you wonder what he considers to be a fast reader. Maybe, perhaps he had in mind the older brother of one of my friends. Andy told a reporter once that his brother, Peter, could read about seven books per week.

Not per year or per month. Per week.

I am in awe and honestly wish I were like these people. One of my goals in life, both as a writer and as someone who wants to learn about the world, is to become someone who’s “well read”.

So far in the past year I’ve read four books that I can remember. One was a biography on Jim Morrison, another was Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing while two were novels by science fiction writer Ben Bova. I am currently finishing up Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot and plan next to read a collection of Bova’s short stories. After that, who knows? Whatever catches my fancy.

It is, of course, best to discipline yourself as a writer to read daily. By reading, you get an idea of what flows, what works and what doesn’t flow and what doesn’t work. Sometimes terrible prose can not only teach you how not to write, but it can also inspire you (“Hey, if this person can get published, so can I!”).

Perhaps this evening, when I get done blogging, I’ll do a little reading. Besides the two books I have checked out at the library, I have more than 100 books at home that I have yet to read.

Richard Zowie is a writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Zen in the Art of Writing: ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’

Maybe I’ve been working too much too lately or am just getting old (I’m 37), but I thought I’d posted this chapter commentary already. I haven’t, so here it goes…

Much of this chapter has to do with what was once a taboo genre of literature. Once dubbed inferior and not worthy of being read by those who desired to read fiction, science fiction has over the years slowly gained an acceptance. Currently, the top grossing movie of all time, Avatar, is science fiction.

Mr. Bradbury starts off this chapter with a reference to a poem of his about a boy in a semi-animatronic museum in the future. The boy stumbles upon Plato, Euripedes and Socrates.

Kids, Mr. B asserts, became teachers early on in this first time in history as they moved art and teaching “back in the form of pure illustration.” Sci-fi gives us a chance to ask “what if” and be creative.

When I think of some of my favorite sci-fi movies and books, I think of the “What if?” questions they answered…

What if man could design a pressurized space craft to enter into Jupiter and explore its oceans? (Ben Bova’s Jupiter)

What if artificial intelligence took over the world, lost a critical battle to humans and then invented time travel to try to kill the human resistant’s leader’s mother before he was ever born? (The Terminator)

What would it be like for humans in deep outer space with nothing to do but do scientific research? (Frederick Pohl’s Starburst)

What would happen if a corporation’s greed for profits almost allows a hostile lifeform to take over a ship and destroy the crew? (Alien)

What happens when robots do the unthinkable and start thinking for themselves? (Philip K. Dick’s Bladerunner, Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot and Ray Bradbury’s Marionettes, Inc.)

I wasn’t born until 1973, so I was pretty surprised to learn that in the 1920s and 1930s, there was no science fiction in school curriculum and few in any libraries. Even up to 1962 it was difficult, according to Mr. B, to find anything written by Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Alfred van Vogt or Bradbury.

Why was this? I defer to Mr. B, since he was an adult and aware back then. He believes the perception then was that facts and not fiction were worth reading. Fantasy literature was considered escapist and a waste of time.

But inevitably, kids grew more and more curious and wanted to read these books. This led to an explosion. Sci-fi flooded the market. Instead of being confined to pulp fiction magazines or paperbacks in dime stores, sci-fi graduated to hard cover and was soon in libraries and first-hand book stores.

More importantly, according to Mr. B, sci-fi brought with it new ideas that then turned into advances in technology. People read these books and get ideas. Perhaps someone long ago read Jules Verne’s book about traveling to the moon and thought, “Why can’t we travel to the moon?”

This is one reason why I’ve grown to love the fantasy science fiction rather than the “hard” science fiction. Hard bores me. I’ve tried to read a few of these books and am amazed: unless you have an advanced science degree in physics or engineering, you’re often lost. Too often far too much time is devoted to technical information while the story line is left to wither. I like the stories that ask “What if?” and let the imagination take them where they will.

Richard Zowie is a professional writer who likes reading science fiction. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

‘Moonrise’ by Ben Bova

It took me longer to finish this book than it did Jupiter, but it was time well spent.

Moonrise is an interesting branch inside the science fiction genre, one that focuses on the business aspect of space exploration, colonization and mining. Whether future generations try to mine ore from an asteroid, set up a colony on the moon, harvest hydrogen and ammonia gas from Jupiter or water from Pluto’s moon Charon, it all boils down to one thing: can money be made off of it?
 
So, in Moonrise, veteran astronaut Paul Stavenger is convinced that moon colonization is the future of mankind. The earth is getting far too overpopulated, and being able to colonize the moon and harvest previous elements from the moon are key to our survival. He has to deal with much corporate bureaucracy from the Masterson Aerospace, which, by the gross financial mismanagement of its boss the egotistical Gregory Masterson, is slowly teetering towards bankruptcy. Even with the hot-selling Clippership and even with Paul’s vision of how Moonbase could easily be turned into a profit.
 
Tensions arise as Gregory Masterson II, Greg’s son, uses manipulated nanotechnology to kill Paul months after Greg commits suicide and after Joanna Masterson marries Paul (who had been her lover). Paul, realizing nanobugs are in his suit, chooses not to head to the next station to prevent infecting them with the nanobugs also.
 
Paul’s son, Doug, 18 years down the road tries to continue what’s been going on with Moonbase as Greg II ends up in charge in what is, without question, the worst personnel move in the history of science fiction novels (something we can attribute to Joanna’s overprotective ways as a mother rather than Dr. Bova’s storytelling). Doug is determined to make Moonbase profitable for more than one reason: due to a sabotage attempt by a disgruntled employee, Doug is exposed to radiation and must depend on nanotechnology for the rest of his life. Since the earth has all but banned the research, manufacturing and selling of nanotechnology, Doug must stay on the moon indefinitely.
 
Greg II, who is Doug’s half-brother, finally snaps when he sees his mother favors Doug and when he realizes he will finally be held accountable for an old murder. The climax ensues and the book ends with Doug looking at the moon and realizing it’ll take many generations to do what needs to be done.
 
What I liked about this book: The storyline was very interesting as it wove business with science and exploration. The characters came from all walks of life (such as the short, pudgy, half Italian and half Korean astronomer Bianca Rhee, who’s attracted to Doug). Once you sit down and read and devote time to it, it’s not easy to put down. Again, I liked Jupiter better, but Moonrise was a very good read. It’s a prelude of what’s to come in future generations: whether or not a profit can be made will be a major factor in whether or not to explore space and whether or not to try to harvest products for use on earth.
 
The book also opens up ideas for the future: how about space crafts made out of pure diamond? If diamonds can be found in asteroids or terrestrial planets like Mercury or Mars, perhaps it could work.
 
There were a few love scenes in this book but Bova kept the details to the bare minimum. We are spared from cheesy, Longarm-style metaphors for breasts, legs, and genitalia (such as “fleshy orbs”). Bova tells you just enough to let you know sex took place, whether it was enjoyable, what it accomplished, and leaves it at that. Too much information diverts from the storyline.
 
Also, there is very little profanity in this book, something else that impresses me greatly.
 
We read in this book about New Morality and their attempts to quell nanotechnology. I don’t know what Dr. Bova’s spiritual beliefs are (two websites say he’s an atheist), but I feel he’s pretty fair with his depiction of Christians. To me, he’s the antithesis of Carl Sagan, whose treatment of Christians in Contact could be described as an amateur caricature at best.
 
What I didn’t like about this book:  It didn’t seem as fast-paced as Jupiter. Paul’s death and then Doug’s life seemed like they could’ve been separate books of their own. Other than these, I had no complaints.
 
What’s in store for me now? Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You. Brent Curtis and John Eldredge’s The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God. A few weeks ago, though, I visited a used book store in Lapeer, Michigan and bought two more of Dr. Bova’s books and will no doubt be reading them in the next few months. It’s time I consider very well spent.
 
Richard Zowie’s been a professional writer for 10 years and is working on selling some of his fiction stories and writing others. He spends ample time assuring people that, yes, Zowie is his legal surname (howbeit Americanized from the German surname Zahnweh). Post comments here or e-mail Richard at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Review of ‘Jupiter’ by Ben Bova

Like my movie reviews, here’s how I review books I’ve read: I tell you the basic details and then what I liked and didn’t like and then my overall thoughts. It’s then up to you, the reader, to decide for yourself from there whether you want to read it. No Roger Ebert snootiness, no thumbs up or down. I find critiquing to be extremely subjective and seldom on target, so I take the modest approach. What works for me might not work for others, and vice versa.

Jupiter, by Ben Bova, is a science fiction novel about Grant Archer, a young, recently-married scientist who must complete his four-year public service at a space station orbiting Jupiter while his wife Marjorie remains on earth doing her service. Archer has no choice and is depressed once he arrives. As a Believer (presumably what Christians and other adherers of religious faiths will be called in this futuristic tale), he’s also sent by the New Morality to spy on what’s happening at the station.

Archer, who grew up in a Christian home, feels very conflicted as a scientist. He’s also very frustrated, feeling being stuck at Jupiter’s a waste of time when his field is astophysics.

Archer soon learns the station’s doing secret manned missions into Jupiter (something that’s absolutely impossible today due to the unimaginable pressure of the Jovian atmosphere and its oceans that make human existence out of the question) to look for intelligent life. This has New Morality very angry. Archer is eventually recruited into one of those missions.

This is an example of what one artist thinks Jupiter’s “surface” looks like. (Actually, Jupiter is thought to be one gargantuan ocean).

What I liked about this book: Wow. Just about everything. Bova does an outstanding job of pacing: he gives you enough technical details to set the scene and give you a mind’s eye of what’s happening but not so much so that you get bogged down and bored. He’s also not afraid to use his imagination and come up with some very ingenious ideas about entering Jupiter. The action is also very fast-paced with a few surprises here and there and a very satisfying ending. There were a few nights I stayed up well past midnight reading because, well, I had to know what happened next. I also took the book with me and read as I walked outside. I can’t remember the last time I did that.

Christians and religion are often portrayed with hostility in science fiction. I remember trying to read Contact and quitting in disgust over Carl Sagan’s horrific caricature of both Christianity and anyone who dares to be skeptical of evolution and ask questions. I don’t know Bova’s spiritual beliefs, but I believe he was very tasteful in his approach.

And, best of all, this wasn’t a corny space opera like Robert L. Forward’s Saturn Rukh. No cheesy metaphors for female breasts, no clichés like “body of a Greek goddess”, no space crews passing around herpes or some other STD. When Bova mentions sex a few times in the book, it’s used tastefully and to set the scene and little more.

What I disliked about this book: Very little. Nothing comes to mind.

The book poses a question: can you be a Christian and believe in evolution or extraterrestrial life? While I’m a firm believer in creationism and intelligent design, my answer to both is yes. One fellow Christian named Bob, who’s the brother I never had, leans towards evolution, as does his brother.

As far as ETs, my feeling is this: it’s a big universe. How do we know God didn’t create life elsewhere? There are many mysteries about God, and I suspect that the extrasolar planets are one of them.

Overall, Jupiter by Ben Bova was an excellent book that I loved. I will definitely read more of Bova’s books.

Short Essay: What’s beneath Jupiter’s clouds?

For centuries, Jupiter has confounded both astronomers and outer space enthusiasts alike. The questions abound: Why does Jupiter emit more heat than it receives from the sun? What exactly is The Great Red Spot? Is Jupiter really a planet, or is it simply a failed star?

And my favorite question: what lies beneath the clouds?

When I was a student 20 years ago, I remember seeing the old textbooks depicting Jupiter’s surface as a meandering mountain range. Based modern knowledge, this is completely incorrect. Scientists generally describe Jupiter as a very enigmatic gas giant, one where underneath all those clouds are two “oceans”, one a gargantuan ocean of liquid hydrogen and the other an ocean of a substance completely foreign to earth: metallic liquid hydrogen. Hydrogen is theorized to reach a metallic state under enough pressure.

When visiting a Connecticut mall back in 1987, I happened upon a book that showed a terrifying depiction of what Jupiter’s “surface” might look like. The sky was black, save for the constant cackling of lightning overhead and the feeble attempts of the distant sun to poke through the thick atmosphere. The endless dark, yet clear, oily blue-green ocean of liquid hydrogen showed a world where no humans could ever possibly live.

We’ve tried to send space probes into Jupiter’s surface to learn more about it, and what Arthur C. Clarke postulated in 2001: A Space Odyssey came true. The staggering pressure of the Jovian atmosphere (estimated to be about three million times stronger than what we experience on earth) crushed the probes while they were still far from the “ocean”. This begs the question: will we ever know what lies beneath Jupiter’s atmosphere? Furthermore, is its core just a giant, earth-sized diamond, as Clarke also postulated in the book?

We may never know, but it’s always fun to speculate.