Add Romantic Fantasy Therapy to Your Relationship

Even the greatest relationships can be spiced up by a fantasy now and then. And they don’t necessarily have to be purely sexual in nature. Some fantasies can begin as simpley romantic flights of fancy and never end up in the bedroom. Or wherever. If you go the route of taking different names and personalities-and really those are the best kinds of fantasies-it’s perfectly normal to start getting a little uncomfortable using other names once you begin actual sexual activity. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with taking the fantasy to it’s ultimate destination.

The first thing you want to decide on before embarking on a romantic fantasy are the limits. What is going to be allowed and what isn’t? This is especially important if the fantasy crosses over into the darker side of sexuality. Always have a keyword that means no, because you may actually like saying no without meaning it. But once either of you use that keyword, you both know a line has been crossed and you stop. It doesn’t mean the fantasy has to stop, not by any means, in fact it’s great fun to take that little moment of crossing over the line and using it to work back to where you were.

You’ll want to put a lot of thought into what kind of romantic fantasy you want to have. How complex and complicated. Believe it or not, some couples actually spend an entire weekend engaged in a fantasy. They call each other by fantasy names, refer to fantasy jobs and friends. It may sound kind of strange, but it isn’t as odd nor as unusual as you might suspect. In fact, a weekend long fantasy can turn a quick two-day getaway into something you’ll always remember. Go away for the weekend, stay in a hotel and you can pretend you are completely different and nobody else is going to know and bring you crushing back to reality.

And the great thing is that you can go all out. Buy a new outfit or two that is nothing like what you normally wear. Buy a wig or some temporary hair dye. Completely and totally transform your looks. If your wife never gets to see you in a suit, chances are she’d really enjoy a fantasy involving you as a high powered businessman. If you’ve always dreamed what it would be like to dress up in a way that accents your body rather than hiding it, your man will go crazy.

Choose a name that isn’t anything like your own. You probably get tired of hearing your own name and unless it’s something really unique you may not even like it. One tip: stay away from names of your favorite celebrities or else you may start wondering if your partner is fantasizing about him or her instead of interacting with you. But now is a great time to try on that name you always liked, but weren’t fortunate enough to have parents who could see into the future choose as your signifier. As I pointed out earlier, for many people it’s easy enough to call their loved one by another name when the fantasy is at the acting out part. No matter how close to home your plot is, it is still just a fantasy. Once things begin moving toward the more physical, however, some people just find it really weird to refer to their mate by another name. It’s nothing to get upset about. Heck, you can still keep doing the fantasy using your real names. After all, it’s your fantasy!

And what will your fantasy be? It doesn’t have to incredibly complicated. You just can pretend that you are two new employees meeting for the first time. Or a new roommate moving into your apartment. Of course, if you really want then you can make it as wild and dense as you want. Go out for a night on the town, split up somewhere and pretend to meet for the first time. Get to know each, go for a drink or even dinner. Make it like a first date between two completely different people.

The thing about that is that you are the writer of your biography. You can literally become whomever or whatever you want. In this way, romantic fantasy is more than just sex games. It can actually become a kind of therapy. Choose a fantasy or a character that not only allows you to be attractive to your mate in a completely different and unexpected way, but that might actually reveal a part of each of your personalities’ you didn’t know the other possessed.

Go wild. Suggest something that you’ve thought about in your dreams, but you didn’t dare want to actually speak out because you thought you might get looked at like you were crazy, or perverted. I’ll bet that almost anything kind of sexual fantasy you’ve thought about often is something that your partner has thought about as well. There are lines that can be crossed here, of course, but those lines belong to you. Seek out just how far you think your partner might be willing to go.

You might even be willing to subject yourself to light pain but feel like your husband or wife will consider you disturbed. Perhaps, but perhaps not. And it probably isn’t going to damage your relationship if you get these darker fantasies out in the open. It’s the hiding of thoughts and feelings from your partner that is more likely to cause problems, especially if these kinds of fantasies are persistent and thorough, because they will eventually rise to the surface and when they do it might not be in a way that your mate will accept as easily as if you turn it into a sexual opportunity.

By understanding the fantasies that you have and taking part in the fantasies that your mate has, you cannot help but come to a deeper and more fulfilling appreciation of him or her. Truly understanding someone requires more than just understanding that which is on the surface. All of us have private lives we live in our minds, fearing to share with others. The excitement of a sexual encounter is the perfect place to invite the one you love to come into that world and find out what it is you are wanting that you don’t have. Or that you have but aren’t quite fulfilled by.

Taking on names and different looks now becomes a distancing device. You can put distance between what you secretly want until you feel your partner is more readily accepting of it. And in the meantime, you just might have the greatest sex of your life!

A Guide to Food Expiration Dates

How many times have you heard the joke about what happens to sour cream when it goes bad? Or, how can sour cream even have an expiration date? What happens, it turns sweet? But how often have you picked something out from the back of the refrigerator and discovered that the expiration date on the still-unopened package was yesterday? What do you do? Do you dare open it? If so, do you dare eat it? With this in mind, here are few pointers, tips and perhaps surprising facts about expiration dates and food.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about expiration dating is that dating is not required by US federal law for any foods except infant formula and baby foods. Not only are expiration dates mandatory for these products, but these products must actually be withdrawn by their expiration date. When it comes to dairy products, laws vary by state, but when it comes to all other foods everywhere, slapping an expiration date on the product is decided by only one entity: the manufacturer of that product.

As if that weren’t bad enough add to it this unnerving information. Well, unnerving unless you’re one of those types who think the government is already regulating big business too much. Even if the manufacturer is kind enough to let you know when his product will send you to the bathroom to sell Buuuuuicks or, worse, to the hospital, stores are not legally required to remove expired products from shelves.

There are three different types of expiration dates and, naturally, some are about as clear as the story of Ocean’s Twelve.

“Use by” means THIS is the expiration date. Don’t buy it if your Far Side daily calendar is set after this date. This is the only expiration guideline that means exactly what it says.

“Sell by” means that this is the date that stores who duly decided to protect their customers by removing expired food pull it off shelves by this date. But you can still buy it on this date and use it. Maybe. Usually. Sometimes. Seriously, though, some dairy products are still good up to a week after this date. In fact, milk generally remains safe to drink 7 to 10 days after the date on the label. Fresh meat, poultry and fish should be all cooked within 1 to 2 days of purchase, and should NEVER be purchased beyond the “sell by” date.

“Best if used by” means that the flavor or the quality of the product is adversely affected after this date. Of course, since any container of food is going to taste at least slightly different to whomever eats it, the term “best” is an abstract modifier at, well, best.

Of course, in most cases, the expiration date becomes meaningless once the container is opened because now the food has become perishable. At this point, your nose or tongue is probably the best guide for whether your food has expired or not.

Alexander Hamilton Deserves Better in Discovery Channel Countdown

Good for a laugh if you think: The Discovery Channel’s Greatest American vote.

ood for a headache if you feel: The Discovery Channel’s Greatest American vote.

The total tonnage of Americans who should be ranking above those who made the top twenty-five on this list could go on for days, but I can’t help feeling that one name in particular stands out, a man who came in just seven places above Michael Jackson and just two above Hugh Hefner!

Alexander Hamilton.

For those of you who may have voted and who obviously have no idea who Alexander Hamilton is, and for those of you who didn’t vote this time and need to know how Alexander Hamilton is deserving of, if not the number spot, then at least a spot more than seven places away from the man who helped to foist the song “We are the World” on the, well, world, I present to you a short (very) history lesson.

In 1786, Virginia’s legislature called for a convention of the states to consider changes to the nation’s commercial regulations. Alexander Hamilton attended as a representative of New York. With several states failing even to send delegates, it seemed as if the plan was headed for disaster. Perhaps the only conspicuous accomplishment to come out of the meeting was Hamilton’s call for a constitutional convention of all the states, which would meet in Philadelphia the next year. There, the delegates would have the power to make changes in the Articles of Confederation, but the general idea was that everything that had to do with the US government was a candidate for alteration.

Though he fought against its domination of the colonies, Hamilton was an ardent admirer of the British form of government. Holding low opinions of the mass of uneducated men, he believed than an educated elite should guide the favors and fortunes of this new country, this bold experiment in governing by the will of the people. For this reason, though he thought his own rejected form would hold better (including the election of a President for life, a little too much like King or Queen for life for a good many of the representatives at the Constitutional Convention), he advocated passage of the Constitution and abandonment of the Articles of Confederation, which left the central government of the US weak and without much in the way of effective power to control the country’s destiny.

He is to be admired, I think, for going all out with support of the Constitution by writing at least 51 of the Federalist Papers even though he did have reservations about what the Constitution actually was and what it could do. (Or, at least, what it could do before George W. Bush began his systematic dismantling of the first ten amendments.)

After George Washington was elected the nation’s first President, Hamilton was appointed to the job in which he did his most to guide this country’s course toward centralized government. Hamilton thought that “the proper role of the new government was to promote economic enterprise.” Hamilton conveyed a request to revenue agents and financiers around the country, asking for statistics and general information, in order to gauge the most efficient methods of revenue collection and spent a great deal of time attempting to demystify the concepts behind revenue and financing. In this, he was particularly influenced by the Scottish economist, David Hume.

“the proper role of the new government was to promote economic enterprise.”

Appropriating the support of the wealthy was simply a small step toward his visionary cause of a centralized economic system. The accumulation of wealth-though clearly very important to Mr. Hamilton-was not the Secretary of the Treasury’s ultimate goal, he rather wanted to nourish the use of private wealth for the later bountiful harvest of advantageous enterprises. Hamilton’s ultimate vision was that of a powerful economy in which everyone would participate and from which everyone would profit. Hamilton had a unique and rather vigorous vision of the economy and he was determined to use of all the possibilities of a young nation armed with seemingly unlimited resources and extraordinary potential.

He presented to the Congress a report on the public credit that provided for the funding of national and foreign debts of the United States, as well as for federal assumption of the states’ revolutionary liabilities. . The federal government would convert its debts into interest bearing bonds which would mature after an assigned period of time. A sinking fund of revenue from the post office would be established for the payment of the principal of the debt. It was his hope that the country’s finances would therefore be more stabilized and then credit could be established abroad. The voice of the opposition came from James Madison, one of his Federalist Papers co-authors and a friend. Madison and the opposition did not object to the funding of the debt, rather they disagreed as to who should be paid and how much. It was not without a fair share of fighting over this report that his proposals were ultimately adopted by Congress.

In due time he would present a report calling for the establishment of a national bank, which would be based on the National Bank of England, though he certainly wasn’t going to make that public knowledge and therefore fodder to be used against him by the anti-Federalists. The bank proposed by Hamilton would be a national institution run by a private board of directors. Hamilton was going on the assumption that private ownership of the bank would prevent corruption by governmental officials were it run otherwise. (Ah, well.) Hamilton explained to those who opposed his plan that a national bank would provide a safe depository for government funds while regulating banking practices around the country. Another argument in its favor was that it would arrange for a uniform currency. Finally, it would provide capital for investments and industry. In Hamilton’s vision, the national bank would be an engine driving national prosperity.

Once again, however, there was Congressional opposition against his plan, though this time it came almost completely from southerners who felt the primary candidate for whom a national bank would be a good idea would be a northern, non-slave holding merchant. One of the most virulent opponents of the plan was, once again, James Madison. Thomas Jefferson was so diehard against the plan that he wanted Pres. Washington to veto it. Pres. Washington was poised to do that very thing when he wrote to Hamilton urging him to send back a reply which would convince him otherwise. Hamilton wasted no time in coming up with that reply, Opinion on the Constitutionality of the Bank. This response was a comprehensive treatise on the subject of implied powers within the Constitution. Ironically enough, Hamilton’s basic argument was originated by Madison in The Federalist 44 that “wherever the end is required, the means are authorized; wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it is included.”

The passage of the bank plan sent the Madison/Jefferson camp into a frenzy. The extent of power intrinsic to the position of Treasury Secretary had begun to hit home, as well as how much the vision and biases of the officeholder influenced the country’s future, financial and otherwise. Madison and Jefferson began increasingly to see Hamilton’s victories as serious losses for themselves and the interests of their constituents, the southern planter class. They viewed the Secretary of the Treasury as an uncontrolled force with the backing of powerful, monied men from the northeast. Cries of a monarchical conspiracy by Hamilton were heard and most likely originated from anti-Hamiltonians, like Madison, who were present for Hamilton’s speech at the constitutional convention. They determined that emergency measures needed to be taken to prevent Hamilton and his “monarchists” from taking over. I now see where my vision of Mr. Hamilton as a monarchist comes from. Political partisanship is the same now as it ever was, I guess.

Meanwhile, Hamilton issued a second Report on the Public Credit which touched on the issue of federal taxation through a series of excise taxes, including one on the manufacture of distilled liquor. Hamilton understood one of the finer points of government: The power to tax and spend was the power to govern. Hamilton had very strong opinions on the role that a central government would play in the burgeoning years of the US. Individual states would have practically little say in the forward motion of the country under Hamilton’s idealized view of the turn of the century.

Hamilton was quite successful in implementing the spokes that would result in his wheel of invention, but one case where he failed was his Report on Manufacturers in 1791. This report went further than any other report in projecting the future of the United States and its place in the world economy. Hamilton urged Congress to promote manufacturing so that the United States could be free from dependence on foreign nations for military and other essential supplies. In addition to national independence, manufacturing would provide a path to equality in the global market. The growth of manufacturing in the United States would create more of a market for the produce of farms. Hamilton felt that the nation was limiting its potential by dismissing manufactur-ing and insisting on an agrarian-based economy.

Hamilton was and is well known for his admiration of the government and economic policies of England. A funded debt and a national bank were both British policies with Hamiltonian adjustments designed to conform to the special governing factors of life in the early United States. Regardless of the recent war and its ravages on the American consciousness, he felt that it was simple politics that US relations with Great Britain be stable. In Hamilton’s view, a Franco-American alliance at the expense of relations with Britain-recommended by his anti-Federalist rivals Jefferson and Madison-would be catastrophic to his own fiscal vision.

Hamilton resigned as Secretary of the Treasury in 1795, but he still had one more report up his sleeve, his Report on a Plan for the Further Support of Public Credit . His plan was for redemption of the public debt to stabilize the current system of funding, and to prevent progressive accumulation of debt. Hamilton configured the current system by counting existing sources of revenue, provisions for funding the debt and its interest, and provisions for extinguishing the debt completely. In a bold move, what the plan actually did was to address the fears of the Republicans that the debt would become unmanageable in the future. In the report, Congress was reminded that the United States was still quite young, and needed to maintain vitality and energy through the “invigorating principle” of credit.

Alexander Hamilton is perhaps most well-known for being one of the authors of The Federalist Papers and for being the first US Secretary of the Treasury. Perhaps he would have placed higher on a list of greatest Americans ever if he had just decided to ride a bike or host a talk show or start an unnecessary and illegal war instead.

Well, there’s always the hope of reincarnation left for him.

Note: This was written more than a decade before the Broadway musical and so, in a way, was prescient in that, in a way, Hamilton has been reincarnated.

Oliver Stone, JFK, and Conspiracies Destroyed

“Dedicated to the young, in whose spirit the search for truth marches on.” — Dedication at the end of JFK

Frankly, that’s the funniest closing line in movie history. When I first read it I thought it was funny because it was subversively ironic. Two seconds later I realized it was funny because it’s obliviously earnest. Actually, I believe that as a cinematic achievement Oliver Stone’s movie JFK was a brilliant accomplishment. In fact, there’s really only one major flaw that I can detect in the movie: it was foisted upon a lazy and gullible public as gospel truth when in fact it is nothing but the unsubstantiated and paranoid lies and delusions of both its main character and its director.

JFK is a movie constructed on a shaky foundation of duplicity. So many lies of omission permeate the movie that it would take up another article to catalog them all. Just as many of the deceptions are blatant and outright. One of the most prejudicial lies occurs when Louisiana Senator Russell Long tells New Orleans DA Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner) that Lee Harvey Oswald was incapable of killing President Kennedy because Oswald was a lousy shot.

Long may well have said this, but the lie here is that Oliver Stone presents this apparently uninformed opinion as uncontested fact to the viewer. In actuality, while Oswald was in the Marine Corps he achieved a score above what was required to attain the qualification of sharpshooter. The NCO in charge of his marksmanship training unit said that while Oswald may have been only slightly above average as a Marine, compared to the average gun owner in the US he was “an excellent shot.” Another Marine marksmanship expert said the shots attributed to Oswald were “an easy shot for a man with the equipment he had and his ability.”

In addition to distorting the truth, Stone has his characters make statements so outrageous in their overzealous attempts to prove a conspiracy it defies belief. The conspirators only had from November 18 to November 22 to organize the logistics at the site of the assassination and contrive where to place the alleged shooters (according to conspiracy buffs, there had to be a minimum of two shooters and possibly as many as six) and how to plan their getaway route, all while making sure Oswald wasn’t seen by any of his co-workers down the street at the book depository so he could appropriately be set up as the fall guy.

Obviously, these had to have been very smart men. Yet, according to Garrison and Stone, not one of these intelligent conspirators “could have predicted there’d be 8mm movie footage of the assassination” which might prove that there was more than one shooter.

Take a minute or two to finish laughing before reading on. Despite this astonishing lack of foresightedness by the otherwise brilliant conspirators-their brain power does seem to vary widely as the conspiracists see fit-it turned out that there were at least 75 cameras at the site of the assassination that day, including many 8mm home movie cameras that also captured parts of the shooting, though not as well as the famous Zapruder film. (Despite all those cameras, not one single photo was produced showing the barrel of a rifle sticking out of the window of the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Maybe I’m just smarter than those involved in the conspiracy.

I mean if I was going to go through all the trouble they supposedly went through to set up Oswald as a patsy, I’d have made sure I had at least one incontrovertible piece of evidence to prove that somebody was shooting from the place they were going to set up Oswald as having been shooting from.)

According to JFK, immediately after the shooting there were fake Secret Service agents all over the place bullying witnesses, yet not one single person ever testified about an attempt to confiscate their camera. Abraham Zapruder was quite conspicuous as he filmed the entire assassination from start to finish while standing high on a concrete divider in front of the Grassy Knoll, yet he was able to get away unmolested and successfully develop film that was supposedly so damaging to the lone gunman theory that Stone has Jim Garrison say the government tried to keep it hidden from the public. (Another outright lie).

The Grassy Knoll. The unquestioned site of the second shooter responsible for the fatal shot from the front that blew off half of Kennedy’s head. Stone tells us that “dozens and dozens” of witnesses claimed the shots came from the Grassy Knoll.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations reviewed more than 178 witnesses and only 12% of them thought that the shots came from the Grassy Knoll. I’ll admit that I’m no math major, but 12% of 178 doesn’t really quite qualify as “dozens and dozens” does it? Zapruder’s film raises an interesting question concerning the possibility of a second shooter in the Grassy Knoll.

As the camera pans right to follow the motorcade after the final shot, several men are seen running diagonally along the left side of the motorcade. If the bullets had been coming from the book depository, these men would be running out of the line of fire. If the bullets were coming from the Grassy Knoll, they would be running directly into the line of fire. Certainly not conclusive evidence, but sadly it’s more solid than the bulk of evidence produced by the conspiracy buffs.

The Grassy Knoll is important to the conspiracy theory because in order for their case to hold up, there had to be a second shooter there and furthermore there had to be a bare minimum of four shots. (I’ll explain why a little later.)

Garrison and Stone say there were actually six shots, though interestingly enough not one of these extra bullets were ever recovered and the only bullets that were ever recovered unquestioningly came from the gun found in the book depository-traced definitively back to Oswald. The Warren Commission interviewed over 200 witnesses regarding how many shots they heard. Over 88% heard just three shots while fewer than 5% heard four or more.

Obviously, these figures are quite damaging to a conspiracy theory that requires at least four-I’ll get to why in a minute, be patient-but there’s one more statistic even more injurious. Only four witnesses-not four percent of witnesses, but just four actual human beings out of all of those present that day-testified that they thought shots came from more than one location. The conspiracy simply crumbles if the bulk of this ear-witness testimony is accurate and there were only three shots that all came from behind Kennedy.

The most memorable line from JFK is “back and to the left” repeated several times by Garrison. He is referring to the fact that Kennedy’s head moved back and to the left after the fatal shot, meaning that it could only have come from the Grassy Knoll. Makes sense.

Except that the Grassy Knoll was at a 90 degree angle to Kennedy’s head, which was tilted 34 degrees left of center when hit, so therefore any bullet shot from there would have taken off the left side of his head and thrown him violently sideward, not backward. Unfortunately for the conspiracy buffs, the left side of Kennedy’s head was not damaged at all, and his head jerked back to his left, backward not sideward.

Itek Optical Systems did a computer enhancement of the Zapruder film that showed that Kennedy’s head first jerks forward ever so slightly before moving backward. This backward movement that so troubles the conspiracists is easily explained as resulting from several causes.

First, there was a neuromuscular spasm in which the muscles of the back and neck contracted, causing Kennedy to lurch back and to the rear. The back brace he was wearing contributed greatly to the force pulling him backward. In addition, the blood and tissue that violently exploded out of Kennedy’s head carried more momentum than was brought in by the bullet, resulting in what is referred to as a “jet effect.”

All of this is indisputably confirmed by the autopsy report showing that the bullet entered Kennedy from the rear. There was a nearly six inch exit hole on the right hemisphere of the front of Kennedy’s head, while there was only a small entry wound not much larger than the 6.5mm bullet that did the damage on the back of Kennedy’s head. Incontrovertible it would seem, except of course we must also add the autopsy doctors to the list of Stone’s conspiracy members. That was one magical conspiracy.

I kid, of course. The conspiracy wasn’t magical. The bullet that entered Kennedy’s back, moved upward in order leave his body from the front of his neck, waited in midair 1.6 seconds, turned right to enter Gov. John Connally’s body, headed downward at a 27 degree angle, exited his right chest, moved downward to enter his right wrist then turned left to enter his left thigh was magical.

This so-called “magic and pristine bullet” is, of course, the Holy Grail of the conspiracy theory and Stone’s movie because the physical impossibility of its progress proves there had to be at least four shots. The first one missed everybody, one hit Kennedy in the throat, a separate one hit only Connally, and then the final fatal bullet. If there were four shots, there had to be a second gunman. (Even I will admit that).

Stone very dramatically recreates the supernatural journey of the single bullet that did all that damage only to appear in near-pristine condition after it was placed on a stretcher in Parkland Hospital by-I kid you not-Jack Ruby, Oswald’s assassin. Stone seems incapable of proving any of his points without shamelessly manipulating reality. A bullet either is pristine or it’s not, and the bullet found by doctors at Parkland Hospital simply was not pristine. It was in fact so bent and severely flattened that it would be very difficult to take a hammer and flatten it to the same degree.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t pristine, but it still had to have magical properties to stop in midair and turn directions so many times, right? Well, once again, Oliver demonstrates that stone cold facts need not get in the way of a good theory. In JFK and in every conspiracy literature I’ve ever seen, the sketches showing the positions of Kennedy and Connally are just plain wrong.

Photo enhancements made long ago prove that Kennedy and Connally were positioned in such a way that the bullet needed no magic to inflict its damage. The bullet entered Kennedy’s back traveling at 1700-1800 feet per second. After grazing the tip of a vertebra in the neck and slightly splintering the bone the bullet exited through his lower throat tumbling end over end. The entry wound in Gov. Connally’s right shoulder was 1 ¼ inches long-the exact length of the bullet found on that stretcher. The speed was now down to between 1500 and 1600 feet per second when it made its way through Connally’s chest, shattering his fifth rib. It was only at this point that the bullet’s trajectory was significantly altered, deflecting to the right.

Connally’s exit wound was nearly two inches in diameter, proof that the bullet was still tumbling wildly. As it exited Connally’s chest it had slowed down to just 900 feet per second and the entry wound in his right wrist was ragged and irregular because the bullet was traveling backward as it came out of his wrist before barely entering his thigh.

If, as all the conspiracy sketches have it, Connally and Kennedy had been in the same exact position-back flat and head to the front-and at the same height, yes, this would be the work of a magic bullet. But Connally was positioned lower than Kennedy and was turned to the right and leaning slightly forward. Why? Because he had heard the first shot and was looking behind them to see where it came from.

The only hard evidence produced in regard to the JFK assassination points to Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone as the killer. The only evidence produced by conspiracists is coincidence and paranoid speculation that by its very nature is almost impossible to dis-prove.

If Garrison and Stone’s ultimate conspiracy theory is correct – at various points during Garrison’s investigation the motive ranged from being a homosexual thrill-killing to a plot by Nazis to turn the US into a fascist state (and amazingly all three of his theories still managed to involve both Oswald and Jack Ruby) -the specific individuals mentioned as well as members of the following institutions would have had to have been involved in some way, either before or after the fact.

The assassination of the leader of the free world in full view of witnesses equipped with cameras: the CIA, those who chose the motorcade route, the Warren Commission, Vice President/President Lyndon Baines Johnson, twelve men on site at Dealey Plaza including six different men with rifles, doctors at Parkland Hospital, the Dallas Police Department, the Pentagon, the FBI, the White House, Jack Ruby, and possibly some of the employers who rejected Oswald for all the jobs he applied for in the weeks before he got the job at the Book Depository -long before the motorcade route in front of it had ever even been proposed, by the way.

Even the brother of the President, Robert F. Kennedy, was at one time accused by Garrison of being involved, though Stone doesn’t see fit to include that in his fictional film, instead having Garrison passionately win his wife over to his viewpoint by convincing her that RFK’s assassination was a continuation of the same conspiracy.

That’s a heck of a lot of people to count on to keep a secret, but apparently they have been quite successful for almost forty years now.

Or, perhaps, once upon a time a disturbed misfit found out that he was going to be given the opportunity to attempt the second political assassination of his life. (Oswald had previously taken a shot at General Edwin Walker).

I have my own personal theory about why up to 80% of the American public still believes there was a conspiracy involved in the JFK assassination despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. My feeling is that most people desperately want to believe it would take an organized, multi-level conspiracy to change the course of history rather than the unpredictable actions of one lone nut. It’s a scary thought to think that one man with a gun can change the world.

But that’s exactly what happened on November 22, 1963.

Why Kubrick’s The Shining is So Compelling

Upon the release of the Stanley Kubrick-directed film version of The Shining, many fans of the Stephen King novel upon which the film was based expressed emotions ranging from utter disappointment to outright incredulity at the changes made in the translation from novel to film.

Many viewers were completely dumbfounded at the deletions and changes made by the legendary director in his vision of the most commercially successful novel written up to that time by the then not quite so legendary horror novelist. Even Stephen King himself was quite vocal about his negative reaction to what Kubrick had created from the base material of King’s own potboiler novel. Based upon the lackluster audience attracted to the film after its quite successful opening weekend, it appeared that Kubrick had quite possibly gone wrong somewhere in his visual rendition of King’s printed story.

However, in the last 30 odd years since the film’s initial release, (aided no doubt by a recent television miniseries version which was more faithful to the novel while being far less interesting and compelling than Kubrick’s film), the big screen version of The Shining has grown in stature as a towering film achievement deserving of far more critical and commercial respect than it achieved upon its arrival. The reason for this probably lies in the fact that Kubrick’s film version actually improves upon the novel’s themes by reducing the scope of the horror involved.

The film version becomes more narrow, focused and claustrophobic than the novel, and is more successful at examining how a patriarchal society deteriorates when the caretaker of the family unit decides to try to escape from his responsibilities and enter into a selfish world of living only for his own desires. While this examination is also part of the novel, one reason the novel lacks the overall effectiveness of the film is that it tries to add too much more to story and thereby only succeeds at deflating the impact of its intended theme. Kubrick was allowed the luxury of having only so much time in which to tell his story, and therefore he was able to cut away all the extrinsic fat that would have weighed his film down as it did King’s novel.

Perhaps the single most obvious change that Kubrick made from the novel is his exchanging a maze in the film for the animal topiary in the novel. No doubt this was partly due to the fact that the animal sculptures in the novel are seen moving, or rather having moved, and that could have been a difficult thing to pull off successfully in a film. At the very least it would have required many separate sculptures of the topiary to have been created in order to show how the animals had moved, and the logistics involved may have made the topiary prohibitive.

The most likely reason for rejecting the topiary, however, was probably that it didn’t fit into Kubrick’s thematic view of the film. For one thing, in the film the character of Jack Torrance is seen outside the Overlook Hotel on very rare occasions, whereas in the novel the character is often seen outside. Since Jack and his son Danny both see the animals in the topiary moving, it would have meant one more scene with Jack outside for Kubrick, who obviously wanted to keep Jack inside the hotel.

The Overlook Hotel itself stands in for civilization, and therefore Jack must be allowed outside that civilization only when absolutely necessary so as to keep the focus on Jack’s struggle against the confines of civilized subservience to duty. More importantly, the maze functions as a psychological symbol representing Jack’s descent into madness. A maze, after all, is a construct in which we struggle to get to the middle. Jack Torrance has struggled to get to the center of control in his life, found that he doesn’t really like it, and now is struggling to escape back to his selfish former ways of living. The center of the maze represents stability and rule, a safe place found after making wrong turns and going up blind alleys. That safety is actually threatening to Jack Torrance, and he now wants to escape from it back to uncivilized disorder. The maze also mirrors the mazelike structure of the Overlook itself, which is in turn the real life maze through which Jack is making his way as he searches for an escape route from the societal impositions of responsibility.

The maze stands as a much more vital and impressive symbol of Jack’s inner torment than the topiary in the novel. The concept of animals made out of vegetation engaging in movement toward Jack and Danny doesn’t contain nearly the symbolic beauty of the maze. The primary thematic point at work in the topiary seems to be the suggestion that primeval, animalistic forces are at work guarding the Overlook. This makes sense when they attack Danny since his ability to “shine” represents a threat to the Overlook’s desire to control his father, but why should the hotel need to be guarded against Jack himself? Jack does see the topiary animals moving and they seem to be threatening him. Why they feel the need to threaten Jack is never fully explained and lessens the thematic impact of the topiary. Kubrick clearly made the right decision in excising the animal hedge and replacing it with the maze.

On the other hand, Kubrick’s shelving a certain episode found in the novel might not have been as good a decision. Kubrick seems to have missed an opportunity to create a bit of foreshadowing that seems to have contained some very fine filmic possibilities. In the novel version, Jack finds a wasps’ nest and kills all the wasps with a bug bomb. He presents the empty nest to Danny to keep in his bedroom. Somehow, the dead wasps revive and proceed to attack Danny, Jack and Jack’s wife Wendy. The reviving of the wasps acts as a central metaphor for the evil that is to be revived inside the Overlook. The empty wasp nest containing dormant danger is a perhaps overly obvious symbol, yet it does work in setting up what will be a dominant theme of the novel: the continuing reawakening of evil inside the Overlook.

That theme is more than suggested at in the film version. In a later conversation we will discover that Jack Torrance has always been the caretaker of the Overlook and he is expected to rise again to battle against familial duties and expectations. The final image of the film shows a photo of Jack taken during a party during 1921, more than hinting at the possibilities that evil in the Overlook is something which comes and goes. And comes again. While he doesn’t examine the history of evil in the Overlook to nearly the same degree that King does in the novel, Kubrick obviously wants us to realize that the Overlook is a place where evil lies in wait.

The episode involving the wasps’ nest could very easily have been fitted into the film from a thematic point of view. However, the film is longer than the average movie as it is (and much longer than the average horror film), and it could certainly be argued that the scenes involving the finding of the nest and the resulting attack by the wasps would have taken up at least an additional five to ten minutes, so from a logistics point of view it may be easy to see why Kubrick decided to excise the wasps’ next sequences.

Something many critics of the film don’t understand is how Kubrick could have excised so much of the history of evil that was contained within the Overlook. A key component of the novel is Jack Torrance’s finding of a scrapbook in the attic of the hotel that details a history of corruption, suicide and murder at the Overlook through a series of newspaper clippings. In this way, the novel expands upon the theme of the disintegration of the family unit, incorporating the concept of a more generalized sense of sin and evil within the Overlook. Doing this waters down the more immediate and interesting story of a man coming to terms with fatherly and husbandly responsibilities. The external injuries done at the Overlook lessen the impact of what is happening to Jack Torrance and his family and the larger concerns of what it means to be a caretaker in the patriarchal society developed by most of the civilized earth. The insanity which attacks the caretakers of the Overlook isn’t limited to just the caretakers anymore.

The madness infects a whole host of guests who aren’t central to the story being told. Enlarging the focus to make the Overlook itself a living, breathing organism of evil in the end bedevils the intent of the story, which is to tell what happens to families when their caretakers abandon their duties. Kubrick, to his credit, realized this. The scrapbook does actually appear in the film, but it’s off to the side and incidental. No mention of its importance is ever made explicitly. The film, therefore, is stronger than the novel precisely because it does not dwell on the history of evil that has taken place at the Overlook. The film, as stated before, is more claustrophobic than the novel.

The film understands that the only important story of evil in the Overlook is that story of Jack Torrance once again succumbing to his own selfish desires and its effect on his family unit. The film understands that this is the story of the caretaker of the Overlook (read patriarchal society) and the result of what happens when the caretaker “overlooks” his responsibilities (read chaos). Far from criticizing Kubrick because of his choice to leave out the scrapbook and the history of evil contained within it, the director should be commended for focusing on only that which was necessary and relevant to furthering his thematic point of view.

Another controversial choice by Kubrick is equally relevant to his view of keeping even his choice of actors in line with his thematic direction of the material. A movie differs significantly from a novel in that it relies greatly on the talents of actors to add depth and significance to the characterizations already existing on the printed page. A wide range of reactions has been expressed regarding Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance in the movie. Interestingly, both those who cheer and those who jeer at his performance often base their opinion of Nicholson’s acting on its intensity.

Those who scoff at Nicholson claim he is overacting. Those who approve of his performance credit him with rising to the challenge of brilliantly showing an already unbalanced man slowly slipping into outright insanity. Regardless of how one feels about Nicholson’s performance, there can be no doubt that it is in keeping with the characterization already outlined by King in his novel. Shelley Duvall’s performance as Wendy is an entirely different matter, however.

In fact, there’s actually nothing wrong with Duvall’s performance itself. She plays Wendy exactly as written, and is almost Nicholson’s equal in delineating her character. The controversy surrounding Duvall lies in the fact that the Wendy as portrayed in the film differs so significantly from the Wendy portrayed in the novel. In the film, Jack displays absolutely no sexual interest in his wife whatsoever. Wendy Torrance as acted by Shelley Duvall is totally regarded as a mother to Danny and a somewhat nagging wife to her husband. In the novel, Wendy is a much more rounded character and there is a clear sexual chemistry and dynamic at work between Wendy and Jack. In fact, at one point in the novel, Jack fantasizes about committing a sexually sadistic act against Wendy after she questions his authority, furthering the point that Jack is losing his civility in the face of having to continue as the caretaker. Shelley Duvall is skinny, flat-chested and brunette. Wendy in the novel is shapely, full-breasted and blondish.

The two characterizations are completely at odds with each other, so why did Kubrick make this choice? One reason may be to further instill in the viewer’s mind that Jack is caught in a situation in which he finds himself completely trapped. (Yet another instance of Jack being caught in a maze). Even in marriages where the couple has totally drifted apart from each other, the overwhelmingly compelling sex drive succeeds in bringing them back together for at least a small amount of time. In the film, there seems to be no sex drive at work whatever between the Torrances. Jack clearly does possess a sex drive as his encounter with the young nude woman in room 217 shows. But he does not sexually desire his own wife. This can certainly be read as Kubrick’s way of intimating that for Jack there is precious little primal urge binding him to the family unit.

His eager embrace of the naked woman exemplifies his quest to run away from family obligations and embrace the sexual promiscuity that reattaining the single life promises. For Jack in the film, Wendy extends an invitation only to fulfill the drudgery of husbandry, whereas in the novel Wendy is often an object of lust for her husband. Wendy in the novel offers the inevitable extension of a sexual invitation to Jack. It’s not insignificant, therefore, that in the novel Jack does not have the encounter with the young naked woman that appears in the movie. This sequence is a powerful indication of Jack’s state of mind and it’s almost impossible to imagine the movie without it.

The strength of the scene is underlined by the fact that Jack has expressed not one iota of sexual feelings for his wife, who has been portrayed by an actress generally considered not to be particularly sexually appealing or physically attractive. Kubrick’s conceit that Jack wants desperately to break away and run from the constriction of socially-imposed institutions is yet again beautifully symbolized in a sequence not found in the book.

Books can usually contain more thematic concerns than films simply because of their often sprawling length compared with the average film having to deal with its themes within a period of an hour and a half to three hours. The reason that the film version of The Shining is so much more successful than its novel counterpart lies with Stephen King. King is usually disparaged by critics who claim that he is a hack who writes nothing but simple horror stories. Ironically, the problem with his novel-and in fact with most of his novels-is that they aren’t simple, but rather that he attempts to put too much into them.

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He desires to attack so many thematic components that he fails to satisfy any of them completely. On the contrary, in his film version, Kubrick single-mindedly attacks his thematic concept of symbolizing the breakdown of society through the loss of its caretaker by focusing on one family and the utter anarchy that ensues when its caretaker dares to give in to selfishness and pursue his own desire to break away from societal responsibilities.

In the final contrast to the book, Jack Torrance doesn’t die in a boiler explosion, but instead is frozen solid in the snow, lost forever in the maze from which he tried vainly to escape, never realizing that you can’t escape responsibility. It follows you wherever you go.

Whales of Mass Destruction: Dubya as Ahab

The opening decade of the 21st century will stand as one in which Moby-Dick not only seems achingly contemporary, but also eerily prescient. In these times Moby-Dick presents a reply of sorts to Plato’s fears about reality being distorted through fictional representation. Ahab and his psychotic pursuit of an object he refuses to understand in any terms but his own vengeful pride and arrogant will to conquest can be seen as a flawless mirror image of the same traits exhibited by the democratically appointed leader of our own country, and is a testament to one of the novel’s implicit themes and warnings. Rising above all the conflicting symbolism that permeates the novel, one theme is crystal clear and unadorned with any confusing trappings of duality. Bestowing power upon a man who is maddened by monomania, consumed with revenge, and bereft of the ambition to understand his adversary while content to label that adversary through ignorance as purely evil will always lead to death, destruction, economic devastation and the perpetuation of that indifference to apprehend.

The character of Ahab stands a warning against not just any kind of maniacal person achieving power, but specifically a type of person rising to power through a democratic process and exercising that power within the loose structures of that process; Ahab is a distinctively American-born madman who has more in common with a President than with a Fuhrer. A former sailing partner of Ahab describes him as having “been in colleges, as well as ‘mong the cannibals” (75) and later this same sailor compares himself to Ahab in that both of them can be described as “a swearing good man” (77). Ahab has risen through the ranks to attain his position as captain. He did not grasp at it and steal power he had not earned or deserved. Also of interest is the fact that Ahab is not a Naval captain; he is not a military man. Ahab is a captain of capitalistic industry. Free market capitalistic initiative is theoretically the backbone upon which America was built. As captain of a whaling ship at the height of the whaling industry, freely promoted through the ranks by the owners, entrusted with property by the shareholders, Ahab is further cemented as a decidedly American and democratic figure. He is a man of the people. At home among students, cannibals and sailors, today he would probably be equally at home among Texas cowboys and Maine lobstermen. At home with, but belonging to none, for Ahab, like most men subject to obsession with revenge, is most at home with his own sense of purpose and destiny.

Ahab desires to attach to Moby-Dick all the evil that exists in the world but in the end Moby-Dick is merely a symbol for all the petty slights that men build up into universal evils. Ahab himself identifies the ultimately personal source of what he sees as a universal evil when he says, “it was Moby-Dick that dismasted me; Moby-Dick that brought me to this dead stump I stand on now…it was that accursed white whale that razeed me; made a poor begging lubber of me for ever and a day!” (143). Moby-Dick took away Ahab’s ability to stand on his own two feet, literally. Of course, the loss of his leg can also be seen as a symbolic emasculation and that symbolism is made all the more apparent by the fact that Ahab’s quest is for a sperm whale. Moby-Dick contains sperm; Ahab does not. The important point, however, is not the symbolism of what Ahab lost, but the symbolism of the loss itself. Revenge is only sought when one has lost some-thing, not when one has gained something, not when one comes out even. Compounding the thirst for revenge is when that loss is to an enemy you consider you should have beaten, not on losing to what you consider you should never have beaten. Ahab lost his leg to a beast, an inferior creature. Ahab lost a leg, but his quest for revenge could just as easily have been instituted by the loss of an arm, or a child, or a father. The revenge motif often revolves around a son seeking revenge for the loss of his father, or even for a father’s loss. It is the pride lost that gives the loss its status as a conception for monomania. When it comes to the triggers of monomania and revenge, it is the psychological fixation on the loss that is important, not the actual loss itself, which may be benign. Ahab’s loss of limb is immediate and it is personal, but despite losing a leg he can still walk, he can still captain, he can still go out on a whaleboat himself and harpoon. His loss of leg, therefore, must not be seen simply in terms of a loss of limb. The small missing part of Ahab is a symbol meant to stand for a greater loss and it’s meant to stand for the driving mechanism behind revenge and his monomaniacal pursuit of it. It is pride that is driving Ahab to revenge and so he must universalize the object of his revenge and recreate it as something larger in context. To accomplish this, Ahab must imbue Moby-Dick with powers beyond comprehension.

By placing the capacity of evil upon the whale Ahab can fool himself into thinking that Moby-Dick is a greater being than he really was and that therefore his own loss is greater than it really is. Pride is thereby replaced by the delusion of being a redeemer for mankind. By instilling in Moby-Dick this alien power he does not really possess, however, Ahab blinds himself to any reality of what Moby-Dick actually is, to any real strength and intelligence the whale possesses, just as other leaders motivated by revenge blind themselves to the strength and intelligence of their adversaries. This blindness springs not from mere ignorance, but from a consciously willed ignorance; from the desire not to know, from the ambition not to understand. Ahab desperately wants Moby-Dick to be inscrutable, to be a thing that is incapable of ever being understood, because that makes him easier to categorize as sheer evil. Therefore he refuses to undertake any effort at understanding and it is this iron-willed ambition to remain ignorant and to instead glibly label a thing as evil that gives rise to dangerous men like him. “That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will wreak that hate upon him” (144). In wreaking hate upon Moby-Dick, in turning him into a symbol that carries all of mankind’s worst traits, Ahab naturally hopes to be seen as mankind’s salvation against evil. If there is one single evil in the world, it stands to reason that there must be one single good. That is the most frightening trait of men afflicted with Ahab’s kind of monomania, because it seems so easy for them to transfer their views to men who will blindly follow them.

Ahab, like many men in power, is able to capture the imagination of his underlings and light their fire for revenge against evil. It should not be surprising that he is able to accomplish this by appealing to the crew’s desire for money. After all, money is the reason most of them are on board the ship in the first place. Any good democratically appointed leader knows that quickest way to a man’s heart is through a bonus. Democratic Ahab is not totalitarian tyrant. He will give all appearances of going about his job in the way he is expected. But his monetary appeal is made all the more tempting by drawing the men into his vision of Moby-Dick as an agent of evil. Ahab is almost religious in his masterly use of ritual in passing the flagon and crossing the lances (145). As any good democratic leader knows, it is not enough to expect men to do your bidding in exchange for money. They know they will be paid anyway. You must also appeal to their deepest senses of decency and their deepest fears. For most of the crew of the Pequod, the white whale was a legend. Ahab turns that legend into the very essence of what they knew they must fight against. Ahab plays on the crew’s natural inclination toward superstition of things they don’t understand. He spurs them toward that willful ignorance in which he thrives. To understand Moby-Dick, as Ishmael attempts to do, is to see into the madness of Ahab. That is why Ishmael alone survives. If the world were full of Ishmaels, there would doubtless be fewer wars on behalf of monomaniacal revenge-driven leaders because there would be more understanding that pure evil rarely exists in the world.

The crew of Pequod is doomed from the very moment they first step foot on board the ship. Ahab has been successful in hiding the true depth of his madness. He is considered merely “kind of moody-desperate moody, and savage sometimes” (77), but capable of bringing in the money. In truth, however, Ahab has gone beyond the pale. Ahab is the personification of that type of man who to all outward appearances seems normal, but who is in fact deeply disturbed. The sheer genius of Ahab lies in his ability to hide how very deeply disturbed he is. To conceal the fact that he is driven to a single minded purpose and has no intention of letting the fact that men’s lives are in his hands deter him. In fact, he relishes his power over his men: “Starbuck now is mine; cannot oppose me now, without rebellion” (144). Rebellion is the key word. The democratically appointed monomaniacal leader who succeeds in selling his deranged vision of revenge is protected by the very system he is corrupting. Ahab toys around with the actual business of whaling just enough to make sure that Starbuck can’t accuse him of not carrying out his duties. If Starbuck rebels, then rebellion will rise against Starbuck. Ahab is successful in convincing the crew to follow him. By buying into his false ideology, the crew unknowingly signs a suicide pact. The crew of the Pequod are symbolic of soldiers who commit themselves to battle for a cause, never getting the chance to realize that that cause isn’t just. Ahab is deceptive and cunning and plays upon the crew’s fears and needs just like the monomaniacal leader of a country is deceptive and cunning and plays upon the fears and needs of his soldiers.

In his zealous pursuit of revenge, Ahab does not even show interest in economic well-being. Money is often portrayed as the driving principle behind all men, but for the monomaniac money has no value. Ahab offers the doubloon as a bribe for the men’s allegiance and to spur them into buying into madness, but one doubloon is meaningless. Ahab would no doubt have offered ten or twenty times that. As he tells Starbuck, “If money’s to be the measurer of man, and the accountants have computed their great counting-house the globe, by girdling it with guineas…let me tell thee, that my vengeance will fetch a great premium” (144-145). Ahab sees his vengeance as worth all the gold that has been put up to unknowingly finance it. The monomaniac sees no value in money. Economics cease to have meaning, for all money spent in his pursuit is money spent no better. And in the wake of Ahab’s pursuit of the white whale lies economic ruin. The Pequod lies sunk at the bottom of the sea as well as all property on it and all the oil and sperm gotten from the whaling to that point. Beyond that, of course, there is all the money that would have been made by all the whales that would have been caught had Ahab carried out his duties as he was appointed. The crew would have been paid, the joint-stockholders would have been paid. Money would have seeded out in all directions, helping who knows how many people. But for Ahab all that is for nought. For Ahab all that is meaningless. Nothing matters but his capturing the whale, his bringing down the evil of the world. The monomaniac sees in tunnelvision. Everything that has any worth, everything that has any meaning in the world only gains that worth and that meaning in connection with how it helps him carry out his revenge. It seems almost impossible that a man so dangerous as Ahab could possibly be appointed to a position of such power. Indeed, it seems unlikely that in a democratic system any man such as Ahab could possibly rise to such a position. And therein lies the power of Melville’s book. For it stands as a warning, unheeded, that even democratically appointed leaders can be dangerous when handed power.

It may be considered a stretch to compare Pres. George W. Bush with Captain Ahab. But Ahab’s monomaniacal pursuit of Moby-Dick certainly looks similar in tone to Bush’s pursuit of Saddam Hussein. Both men labeled their adversaries as evil. Hussein was part of the “Axis of Evil.” Both men deceived their underlings into accepting that their adversaries were more threatening than they really were. Both men left behind a spectacular loss of lives and money in the pursuit of their objectified evils. In fact, the only difference between them is that Ahab dies and Bush is alive. Politically, however, Bush may soon join Ahab in death; his legacy will remain as one who bankrupted his country and left untold thousands of men and women dead who didn’t have to die.

Regardless of present circumstances and how they may or may not relate to Moby-Dick, the book is unquestionably a brilliantly realized examination of the effects of handing over too much power to a man who is clearly incapable of dealing with that responsibility. Ahab is a shining literary example of exactly the kind of man who should not be placed into authority in a democratic system.