CODON ZERO

By Jim Hendee

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

“If you agree, you’ll be happy you did.  I promise.”

In today’s world, most people are familiar with the terms ‘terrorism’ and ‘terrorist.’  And because of the omnipresence of the media, many people are aware of bioterrorism, but only as a concept.  Fortunately, very few people have come into contact with bioterrorism.  Yet bioterrorism is real and it’s scary.

In his bio-thriller – Codon Zero – author Jim Hendee brings the reader face to face with bioterrorism and its lethal consequences.  As the story opens, retired U.S. intelligence officer Jason Stouter is approached by Dr. Chance Bonnard, a biochemical engineer.  Dr. Bonnard informs Jason Stouter that he has a formulated a cure for the rare disease that afflicts Jason’s son.  If Jason will do Dr. Bonnard a favor, the doctor will cure his son.

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AN UNPRINTABLE BOOK

By Anne Rasmussen

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

“Patients are tired of seeking help from human beings who pretend to be robots.”

In An Unprintable Book, Anne Rasmussen, who was trained as an anthropologist, relates her experiences as a patient in Norway’s hospitals.  Rasmussen entered a psychiatric hospital in the 1980s, followed by being hospitalized for cancer in 1990, and was twice hospitalized for endometriosis in 1991, and 1992.

Rather than being a memoir of her experiences, Rasmussen states that she is “describing events, rarely experience.  My experience was far more bloody; a book built on experience would have been unreadable.”

Essentially, An Unprintable Book is Rasmussen’s complaint, her protest, her criticism about the health care she endured while hospitalized.  For example, Rasmussen’s stint in a mental hospital occurred because she became angry with her grant advisor, who arrived almost an hour late for their appointment, and had not bothered to read her draft for her proposed project.  Rasmussen’s friends insisted she see her psychiatrist, who prescribed medicine that made her suicidal.  Nevertheless, the psychiatrist wanted her to keep taking the medicine.  Rasmussen rejected the idea.  As a result, Rasmussen was sent to a psychiatric hospital.

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PURGATORY

By Amelia Martens

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

According the dictionary, purgatory is defined as:  “in Roman Catholic theology, a state or place in which those who have died in the grace of God expiate their sins by suffering; any state or place of temporary punishment, expiation, or remorse.” 

The operative word in the definition, the one everyone pounces on like a starving lion on a piece of meat, is ‘temporary.’  None of that forever jazz so often associated with God and eternity and Heaven and Hell.

The doctrine of Purgatory dates back to a papal letter written in 1253, and was confirmed at the Council of Trent.  Purgatory was adopted by the Church as a response to the wave of heresy crashing through history at the time.  The popular heresy of the day was dualism, sometimes called Manichaeism, which really upset the powers that be.  So the guys at the top decided on a two-pronged attack:  punishment and reward.  The punishment was initially called the Abigensian Crusade.  Later, they came up with a concentrated version of the same thing and called it the Inquisition.  The reward was Purgatory.

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Thinking About Thinking

By Christopher Zoukis

Thinking Randomly Can Be A Good Thing

If you’ve ever seen video of Jackson Pollock in action, you have seen a masterful painter consciously inviting randomness into his work. Pollock exercises a great deal of control over his brushes and paddles, in the service of capturing the stray drips and splashes of paint that make up his work. Embracing mistakes and incorporating them into your projects, developing strategies that allow for random input, working amid chaotic juxtapositions of sound and form – all of these can help to move beyond everyday patterns of thinking into the sublime.

The Completion Backward Principle:  Thinking Backwards

Just like turning a thing upside down, working backwards breaks the brain’s normal conception of causality. This is the key to backwards planning, for example, where you start with a goal and think back through the steps needed to reach it until you get to where you are right now.

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COOKING UP A STORM

By Christopher Zoukis

Some friends of mine were playing ‘Name That Movie,’ which is where one person quotes a line from a movie and the others guess the movie.  It’s a fun game to play, but not nearly as fun as going to a movie, hoping it might have one of those memorable scenes that you’ll never forget. 

For some unexplainable reason, cooking movies have always mesmerized me.  Probably because food, especially sharing food with others – in a restaurant for example – carries so much meaning.  To me, eating dinner at a restaurant with friends or family is almost a religious experience, because of the sacramental elements.  But now I’m getting maudlin.  And the point of this article is to enumerate my favorite cooking movies, which all had great kitchens with just the right equipment that gave them just the right look and just the right feel.  That’s why they’re so memorable.

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GOLF BALL

Golf is popular with millions of people, young and old, expert and beginners.  And like most popular sports, golf has a history.

Before the present-day, white, dimpled golf ball, they used various and in some cases strange substitutes for golf balls.  Early golf balls were made of cowhide, while later examples were constructed from feathers and sap.  Then along came rubber and golf balls really began to change.  Nowadays, golf balls are made from urethane blends.

In the very beginning, golf balls were made from wood.  These wooden examples date back to the 1400s.  The clubs were made from wood, too.  The balls were handmade as were the clubs.  And since technology wasn’t even really a word then, the balls weren’t very round and the clubs were less than efficient.

It was during the 17th century that the ‘featherie’ ball replaced the man-made wooden golf ball.  Featherie balls were composed of goose or chicken feathers jam-packed into a small leather pouch.  First the feathers were boiled, then they were stuffed into the pouch, which had been soaked in warm water.  As the pouch dried and cooled the feathers would expand.  The result, hopefully, was a hard, compact golf ball.

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HOLY JUMPERS

Zarephath, New Jersey is the location of the grave.  The tombstone, large, white and heavy resembles the person it stands over.  A complex of titanic ruins.  Odors of damp earth and mildew, along with the rustle of leaves brown and dry, set upon the senses.  The ripe, dead smell makes you rub your nose repeatedly.  Tall and bent like arthritic fingers, the old oaks living here view the cemetery with detached aplomb.  They are used to seeing people come and go, die and be buried.

It’s a dismal cemetery.  Not because it’s a place of the dead, and not because of neglect, but because of the austere atmosphere that pervades the place, irritating your psychic senses, like someone dragging their nails down a blackboard.  Something’s not right here.  The dead are less rigid now, in their coffins, than they were when alive.  In death, they are fragile, dessicated.  Alive, they were taut with self-righteousness, stank of phony reverence, spoke in sepulchral tones of gravity, did nothing eccentric, and disengaged themselves from life. 

In short, they were major sticks in the mud.

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Surviving Lockdown

By Christopher Zoukis

Lockdown!  We – the imprisoned – know what it is.  As I write this, we at FCI-Petersburg are locked down. 

Technically speaking, lockdown is an extended period of time over which the cell doors remain closed.  Food rations are reduced, showers are almost non-existent, and one’s resistance to claustrophobia is challenged.  During my time in prison, I have learned (the hard way) that lockdown is either hell on earth or a holiday vacation.  The difference is in how you approach the situation. 

Preparation for the situation can make all the difference in the world.  First, go to the commissary and purchase 20 Ramen Noodle soups, which will cost you $5.  And while you’re at it, don’t forget to buy 5 cans of tuna, saltine crackers (for flavor and substance in the soups), a bag of coffee, and a few bars of soap.  Everyone needs coffee, and you can use the soap for birdbaths in your cell’s sink.

This investment will definitely improve your lot-in-life during lockdown.

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BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT: THE VIOLENT EMPIRE OF THE ARYAN BROTHERHOOD

By John Lee Brook

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

Notoriety is the substantive form of the adjective ‘notorious,’ which is defined as “widely but unfavorably known or talked about.”  Which means that being notorious is the same thing as being famous, only for all the wrong reasons.  Some obvious examples defining the subtle difference between fame and notoriety would be:  Jesus is famous.  Hitler is notorious.  Mother Theresa is famous.  Lindsay Lohan is notorious.  Yet in today’s world, which espouses an attitude of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” the distinction is lax.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether one is famous or notorious.  Either way, one is a celebrity.  Which is what it’s all about.  

Without a doubt, with the publication of Blood In Blood Out, the Aryan Brotherhood (AB) will have attained its highest pinnacle of notoriety or fame or celebrity, depending on your viewpoint.  For this book is bound to make them famously infamous.  Essentially, it is a voyeuristic exhibition of infamy, in which, like a peeping Tom, John Lee Brook gives the reader a view into an extraordinary world.  A world of drugs, money, and violence wrapped around an inner core of mystical warriors.  

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THE MURKY WORLD OF REPTILE SMUGGLING

By Jennie Erin Smith

Reviewed by Christopher Zoukis

Status, whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not, is important in life.   Status is an unspoken, yet universally recognized, form of competition.  Status may be derived from any number of things, including how much money one has, what kind of car one drives, and what brand of clothing one wears. And each and every subculture within a culture has its own particular system of status. 

For example, a few years ago, status among Roman Catholic priests was determined by cuff links.  The fancier the cuff links, the higher the status.  Right now, among fourteen-year-males in Chicago, status may be gained or lost based on the brand of shoes worn.  Vans convey status, as do DC shoes and the Etnies brand.  Nike athletic shoes are totally cool, whereas Reeboks are not. 

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