Lex (Luthor) #atozchallenge

Lex Luthor, as I’m sure everyone who reads comic books knows (come on, admit it), is the archenemy of Superman. He’s known for his bald head and his super-intelligence and really gives Superman a run for his money, but Superman always ends up winning and Lex ends up in jail. In the 1978 movie Superman with Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder, Lex was played by the veteran actor Gene Hackman.

Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor (source: IMDB)

I bring this up because it’s crucial to the story…

Have you ever had a situation where you draw an absolute mental block on someone’s name? I have.

After my brother Pat’s high school graduation, we were all sitting at dinner at a very nice restaurant, and Mary and I are talking to my brother Jim and his wife Lisa. The subject was movies, and we were talking about a movie that Gene Hackman was in (since Pat graduated in 1993, I’m going to guess it was The Firm). And I said, “oh that’s the movie with…” And I drew a blank: not only could I not remember Gene Hackman’s name, I couldn’t remember anything he was in except Superman. So I went with it. “…the guy who played Lex Luthor in Superman.”

I thought Jim was going to wet his pants. “John! Gene Hackman? The French Connection, A Bridge Too Far, The Poseidon Adventure, and all you can remember is he was Lex Luthor in Superman?” I tried to protest, but he was having too much fun with it.

Incidentally, later in the same conversation, Mary is talking about going to Blockbuster (or Hollywood Video, I’m not sure) and picking out movies, and she says “Sometimes, when I’m feeling really generous, I’ll tell John to go out and pick a couple of movies for us to watch…”

Jim bursts out laughing again. “Oh, God, you let him pick out movies?” (My taste is a little on the, for lack of a better word, eclectic side, as you can probably guess.) “I can just imagine what he comes home with. There’s probably a section in the video store that’s covered in cobwebs and dust… the John section! you know, Mystery, Suspense, Drama, Comedy… JOHN!”

Mary has suggested that, if I should ever write the book everyone’s nagging me to write, I should name it The John Section. I was thinking Shanty Irish, but The John Section is growing on me…

Laudanum #atozchallenge


I had a friend (now deceased, sadly) who used to write “Phantom of the Opera” fan fiction. (Maybe we should call it “Phan fiction.”) She shared one with me in which the heroine was constantly being given laudanum by a man looking to control her. And I didn’t want to admit it, but I had never heard of laudanum. I asked Mary, who reads a lot of Victorian romance, if she had heard of it, and she said “Of course, it shows up in a lot of my books.” Still had no idea what it was, but I assumed, based on the woman’s behavior in my friend’s story, it was some kind of an intoxicant that was addictive.

Well, I did some reading up on it, and learned it was opium mixed with alcohol as a tincture. That explained why it was so addictive. It was discovered by a Swiss alchemist named Phillip von Hohenheim, who took on the name Paracelsus after a First Century Roman physician. “Paracelsus” sang the praises of this new drug, which he named laudanum because he was singing its praises.

To be sure, it was effective as a painkiller. To this day, people are given opiates to dull their pain. I was prescribed hydrocodone with acetaminophen when I had my periodontal work done. Turns out I didn’t need it, but I had the prescription filled because, as a friend of mine in the inventory business used to say, “I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” Morphine is regularly prescribed for people suffering with cancer, particularly in the end stages where the pain can be excruciating. We used to be able to buy cough syrup with codeine over the counter in the Sixties.

Laudanum, available at Sears! Sears really did have everything. (source: Pinterest)

Likewise, laudanum was used for almost every ache and pain during Victorian times. It was effective for dealing with menstrual cramps, colds, even yellow fever. It was effective against diarrhea because, like every opiate, it caused constipation. It was marketed freely in both England and the United States under such names as Godfrey’s Cocktail and Bailey’s Quieting Syrup.

It’s now a Class 2 drug, still available but by prescription only. Making opiates prescription drugs hasn’t prevented people from abusing them. In fact, the problem has only gotten worse.

Lithium #atozchallenge


Lithium in paraffin (Public Domain, source: Wikipedia)

Lithium is nature’s lightest metal, with an atomic number of 3. It’s a good conductor of heat and electricity and is about as dense as pine wood. You can cut it with a knife, it’s that soft. Because it reacts so readily with water, it’s usually stored in oil, petroleum jelly, or paraffin.

In medicine, it’s helpful in the treatment of bipolar disorder. It’s an alkaline metal, so you probably see it most frequently in rechargeable batteries, especially laptop batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are more expensive than nickel-metal-hydride ones, but are lighter and less bulky, and recharge quicker and are less prone to the “memory effect” than their nickel counterparts, at the cost of expected life (i.e. they last shorter than NiMH batteries). Some jurisdictions put restrictions on the number of lithium batteries you can purchase, because lithium can be used in one of the methods used to create methamphetamine.

Can you think of other uses for lithium?

Five “Long” Songs #atozchallenge


I had all my posts planned out for the portmanteau theme this year. When I decided to do the music theme as well, I knew I had to wing it, and here I am.

When I woke up this morning, “The Long And Winding Road” was going through my head. I took it as a sign. Here are five songs with the word “long” in the title.

The Long And Winding Road – The Beatles: I have no idea what Allen Klein was thinking when he hired Phil Spector to produce the Let It Be album. Spector added his “wall o’ sound” to it, and I think it detracted from the music. A few years ago, Apple issued Let It Be… Naked, where they stripped Spector’s contribution from the music. The result was pure magic. The first time I heard this, I was in a rental car in Orange County, California, and had to pull off the road and listen again. Here’s that version, which I created using MP3 To Video Converter.

ETA: The minute I put it up, UMG blocked it. Sorry. I’ve replaced it with a Paul McCartney and Wings version.

Long, Long, Long – The Beatles: This song, “Piggies,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and “Savoy Truffle” were George Harrison’s contributions to The Beatles, better known as the “White Album.” It fell at the end of the third side (or record two, side one) and came after the infamous “Helter Skelter,” which ended with either Paul McCartney or John Lennon screaming, “I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!” I think it’s one of the prettiest songs on the album, and music critic Ian McDonald considers it George’s finest moment with The Beatles.

Long Tall Sally – Little Richard: I could have gone for three Beatles songs, as the Fab Four cut an EP with this (it appeared on The Beatles’ Second Album in the US), but figured you’d heard enough of them. Besides, Little Richard’s original is fantastic.

Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress – The Hollies: This is, as far as I know, the only song The Hollies recorded without their trademark harmonies, or at least the only song they released as a single where they didn’t use them. I was dating a girl named Holly when this song was popular. Just thought I’d mention it.

How Long (Has This Been Going On) – Ace: I was surprised to find out this was released in 1974; I thought it was from much later. Wikipedia tells us that this song was written by lead vocalist Paul Carrack when he learned the band’s bass player, Terry Comer, was moonlighting with another band. Comer is playing bass on this one.

Now off to figure out what I’ll do tomorrow. What are your favorite songs with “long” in the title?

#atozchallenge: Linner or Lupper

lunch + dinner
lunch + supper


Just as brunch is a meal between breakfast and lunch that takes the place of both, linner or lupper comes between lunch and dinner (or supper) and takes the place of both.

Mary and I have done this for some time, wait until three or four in the afternoon and have a meal that counts for both. Some diet experts say this is a good way to lose weight. I’m not sure (certainly hasn’t worked for me), but it seems logical to me. Of course, we’re at the point in our lives when restaurants encourage people of a certain age to have dinner early, maybe thinking that’s when we want to eat, maybe thinking we go to bed after Jeopardy! (8:00 PM) and are thus in a mood to eat early. I think if we were to fall asleep after Jeopardy!, we’d be up again at 1 AM and be up watching infomercials. Grandma Holton and her sister Florence would nap on and off all day, then be up in the middle of the night. I remember I was staying with them once, and I woke up at about 2 AM and heard voices in the living room. I looked out of my room, and they were praying a novena.

What time do you eat?