I sent an Avatar Instead

Actually my last cruise was in 2012.  I, myself, never went on a cruise ever again. In the year of 2013 instead of taking a post-thanksgiving cruise, I stayed home and sent my Avatar ahead to take the cruise for me!  Then again in 2016, it was my Avatar that went on that cruise as well. And truth to be told, in 2018 for two days while at Universal Orlando, Paul D. Dute stayed in the hotel room, and my Avatar was the one that visited Volcano Bay and Universal Orlando Studios.

You see, once upon a time, I had another name when working.  I eventually was able to give that up. And became Paul D. Dute full time, once again, and I have been so ever since. As Paul D. Dute, I went on cruises beginning in 1990 and up through 2012.  I ended my series of cruises with a 7 day cruise from Baltimore to Florida and the Bahamas. I really enjoyed all of those cruises over that time span.

I had no intention of giving up on cruising though, no, not at all.  In 2014, 2015, and 2018 I went on multi-day visits to Disney World and Universal Orlando.  Those years I would have to fly down to Orlando. Having to fly, since on a cruise ship there is only a one day port stop where one can catch a shore excursion over to the theme park area.  If  I wanted to make a multi-day visit, then the only choices to get there are, flying, the train, or driving down.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  For 2013 I planned a cruise on the MS Carnival Pride. However I did not go, instead I send out my Avatar: eccentric blurb writing nerd with a speech recognition equipped laptop.

On a cruise it is possible to create an whole new identity, as it were.  I thought about it as creating and projecting a new Personae (footnote 1).  For this cruise my Avatar would wander the ship with his laptop, headset and microphone.  And my Avatar would make extensive diary and journal entries of the happenings around while hanging out at various lounges, bars, and seating areas aboard the ship.

My Avatar would stand out because of the headset with microphone.  The laptop was equipped with Dragon Speech Recognition© software. It worked very well.  I would softly speak and my dictation would be input into my file. But it was early days for speech recognition in those times.  So the sight of my Avatar there with a laptop at the bar was quite noticeable and stand outish.

By the end of the first evening several people had wondered why my Avarar was talking to the laptop.  That was the time for my Avatar to deploy my new Personae. When queried, I would explain that I was a political “blurb” writer. Invariably they would ask me to explain just what I meant by “blurb” writing.

My Avatar would explain that a “blurb” was a short essay upon a given topic.  He explained that he did not write whole books or speeches. My Avatar called itself a ‘political’ “blurb” writer because, rather than making stuff up, it was my calling to take a candidate’s thoughts, and then fill them up with that “homey” stuff that would make those thoughts sound “Stream of Consciousness Like”.  My Avatar explained that this was actually much harder than it might seem, and that there was a real demand for that sort of thing.

People are of course knowledgeable that serious candidates have a whole staff of people to work on their communications.  What you need: Idea Guys to come up with the basic message. But for a real success strategy, before calling in the Speech Writer(s), it is helpful to call my Avatar in!

Why? Because he can take the ideas and then wrap an anecdote around the ideas, and “homey it up a bit”.  Add those little touches, even some deliberate mispronunciation, and a cute metaphor or two, but don’t over do it!  In other words he writes a set of “blurbs” for the campaign. It is these blurbs that go to the formal Speech Writers to be turned into a stump address, or a full blown speech at a big fundraiser.

My Avatar realized a couple of days before the cruise, that once he got a conversation going, the very next question would be: “In the 2012 Election, did you sell anything, and to who?”  This gave my Avatar the chance to:

  1. Give a little gasp………
  2. Pause, and with some pomposity state: “Sorry but my dealings are understandably quite confidential, and I am bound by very firm “Non Disclosure Agreements”…….
  3. Another serious pause…….
  4. Give a Shy Grin, and wait for the next question: “can you give us a hint?”
  5. Another pause…………
  6. Then my Avatar would say something to the effect of: “Well, all I can say is that the campaign staff, which I could not name of course, was MOST GRATEFUL for my help.”
  7. Followed up by: “I can say no more.”

Then my Avatar would, from then on be most careful to close the laptop when anyone was too close.  Also for the rest of the cruise we would carefully place ourselves to be seen with the laptop and the headset in all sorts of places.  Prominent bars, at the food court tables after meals, at the very stern of the ship at the Conservatory (adults only bar and pool area).  We would be dictating to my journal, or dictating emails for family and friends.

For the remainder of the cruise my Avatar had become a minor celebrity on the ship! Once he heard faintly on the third day someone say: “Look! There is that crazy writer! The election is over, you would think he could just relax and enjoy the cruise!” My Avatar just chuckled under his breath!

By the end of the cruise I was being asked: “You can tell me! I won’t say anything!, You wrote that stuff for Obama didn’t you?”  I was quite pleased at reaction that my Avatar’s Personae had attracted! It was a most enjoyable cruise for my Avatar!

This little essay is not the end of the story however.  As I related previously, in 2014 I went for a 5 day visit to Walt Disney World.  And then in 2015 I went on a 4 day visit to Universal Orlando Studios to see the new Harry Potter Diagon Alley expansion.  For both of those trips I had to fly down to Florida.

But in 2016 I intended to cruise once again.  And once again I would take a post-thanksgiving cruise on the MS Carnival Pride.  And it would be AGAIN time to send of my Avatar on the cruise with yet another twist to the Personae.  

I was planning this time to be a Novelist, looking for “Color” on a cruise ship.  Should be FUN! …..To Be Continued…..

Foot Note 1;  I got the idea from one of my favorite books. “The Image Men” by J.B. Preistly, 1967,  About a couple of down on their luck professors, who create a new science “Social Imagistics” for the creation and projection of Social Images as a Personae.

 

A New Old Book

I recently bought a book on Amazon at a sale price of 99 cents.  The book Thrilling Cities showed up on my Kindle Fire HDX as a special price item for prime members.  The title caught my eye, and then the author’s name also caught my eye, it was Ian Fleming.  Ian Fleming is, of course, the creator of the most iconic spy of the 20th century: “Bond, Jame Bond.”  I have all of Fleming’s’ novels, but I had never heard of Thrilling Cities.  So I was looking forward to reading it.  But first, I decided to look it up on Wikipedia to find out some history about this book.

The book is a travelogue written by Ian Fleming in his capacity as a writer for The Sunday Times.  The book was published in November 1963.  Thrilling Cities was initially a series of articles written for The Sunday Times.  These articles were based on two trips that Ian Fleming had taken.  The first trip was in 1959, and the second in 1960.  The 1959 trip had been suggested to Ian Fleming by the features editor of The Sunday Times, Leonard Russel.  

Russel told Fleming that he ought to take a five-week, all-expenses-paid trip around the world for a series of features for the paper.  When Fleming at first declined, claiming that he was a terrible tourist, Russel was able to persuade him to undertake the trip, claiming that at the very least Fleming could get some material for the Bond books in the process of traveling.

Indeed, in the course of Fleming’s travels he would encounter some interesting people  such as Richard Hughes, the Australian correspondent for The Sunday Times, who squired Fleming around Hong Kong, Macau and Tokyo.  Richard Hughes would eventually be immortalized in literature as being the basis for the character Dikko Henderson in You Only Live Twice, as well as being used by John Le Carre as the basis of the character “Old Craw” in The Honorable Schoolboy novel.

While in Tokyo Fleming and Hughes were joined by a journalist named Torao Saito, nicknamed “Tiger”.  Saito was later used by Fleming as the model for the character Tiger Tanaka in You Only Live Twice.

Thrilling Cities is Ian Fleming’s view of fourteen cities that he visited in his two around the world journeys.  The cities covered were: Hong Kong, Macau, Tokyo, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna, Geneva, Naples and Monte Carlo.

He wrote as if he were making journal entries, as opposed to some dry articles for publication.  He wrote about his impressions and his experiences while walking about the cities visited.  He was not interested in museums and civic information.  Instead he concentrated on looking out for interesting, and in some ways “thrilling” people.

He closed off each chapter with his dealings with local hotels, restaurants, food, nightlife, and even some of the more “interesting and thrilling” houses of ill repute that were to be found along the way.

His first journey ended in New York, with Fleming then returning to London.  In 1960 he once again begin a long journey.  This time taking a car and driving all over the Thrilling Cities” of Europe.  His first stop on this trip was Hamburg. He praised the sex industry in Hamburg by writing “how very different from the prudish and hypocritical manner in which we so disgracefully mismanage these things in England”.

In contrast to his views of Hamburg, Fleming found Berlin “sinister, but in a thrilling way”.  However, Vienna he found boring, by too “tidy and god-fearing”.  But he was cheered up upon reaching Les Avants where he met up with Noel Coward at his villa.  Also visiting Noel Coward was Charlie Chaplin, who was writing his memoirs.  Fleming in a couple days of entertaining “chatter” managed to obtain the rights to publish Chaplin’s memoirs in serial form in The Sunday Times.

In some ways the “Thrilling” people that Fleming was on the look out for, where also a bit “dangerous”.  For example in Naples Fleming met and interviewed Lucky Luciano, calling him “a neat, quiet, grey-haired man with a tired good-looking face.”

In Macau Fleming and his friend Richard Hughes went out of the way to visit and chat with the premiere citizen of Macau, Doctor Lobo.

“The reputed gold king of the Orient, the enigmatic Doctor Lobo of the Villa Verde in Macao [sic].  Irresistibly attracted, I gravitated towards him, the internal Geiger-counter of a writer of thrillers ticking furiously.” {Thrilling Cities, Ian Fleming, page 22}

“To take only the case of gold bullion, it is, therefore, perfectly easy for anyone to arrive by ferry, or seaplane or come across from Communist China, only fifty yards away across the river, buy any quantity of gold, from a ton down to a gold coin, and leave Macao quite openly with his booty.  It is then up to the purchaser, and of no concern, whatsoever to Doctor Lobo or the chief of the Macao police, to smuggle his gold back into China, into neighboring Hong Kong or, if he has a seaplane, fly off with it into the wide world.”

“These considerations make Macao one of the most interesting market-places in the world, and one with Many Secrets.” {ibid}

As Fleming put it to the Doctor, surely he was a man who needed a great deal of protection.  The Good Doctor replied that it was so, but he declined to discuss any of the arrangements he had made with the feared Tong to secure his safety.  Ian Fleming wisely decided to not pursue the topic any further.  However, he began to think of a fictional character that he decided to call “Goldfinger”.  There was also another character to be called “Doctor No” that had some of the characteristics of the Good Doctor Lobo of Macao.


I am taken by the style of this book, and it makes me recall some of the “peculiar” circumstances that affected my life.  A couple of times things that happened during my military service, that were a bit thrilling.

Such as the time that I was in a bar and wound up dancing on the bar top, only to fall and twist my ankle.  I was so sloshed that I did not notice until I woke up the next morning with a terrible hangover.  I never told any one in my family because the location was classified, the bar itself was classified for reasons that I am not at liberty to explain.  Classified under the thirty year rule.

And while that thirty year rule has expired, perhaps now I could think about writing about that.  Although perhaps the exact location should be not mentioned, after all Islamic law still applies in the area.  No thirty year rule there.

In civilian life there were a couple “interesting” experiences in my life including another “dancing on a bar” incident in Cozumel, but this time I did not fall off.  Then there was a curious conversation that I got drawn into at a place called Red Frog Rum Punch Saloon, renowned for their Zombie cocktails.  (there are five different rums in that thing, along with some vodka and tequila, if it is done to Red Frog Rum Punch standards).

While I do not have a “Thrilling Cities” within me, perhaps I could write about some “Thrilling Circumstances”.  This essay could be the first in a series, maybe four or five.  Did you know once my mother and I met, and exchanged a couple words with Pope Paul VI at a papal audience in the Nervi, Rome?  There was also a time when I was part of an Honor Guard for President Gerald Ford at Pease AFB in New Hampshire.  Surely that is enough for an essay or two.


 

from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster cocktail©

  1. Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol’ Janx Spirit.
  2. Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V (Oh, that Santragian seawater! Oh, those Santragian fish!)
  3. Allow three cubes of Arcturian Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzine is lost).
  4. Allow four liters of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in honor of all those happy hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia.
  5. Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qalactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heavy odors of the dark Qalactin Zones, subtle, sweet, and mystic.
  6. Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger.  Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink.
  7. Sprinkle Zamphuor.
  8. Add an olive.
  9. Drink…but…very carefully…

This effect of this drink have been described as “like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon, wrapped ’round a large gold brick’.”

Another version of the recipe:
  • 1.5 shots 151 Proof Rum
  • 1/4 shot Tequila
  • 1/4 shot Gin
  • 2/3 shot of Triple Sec
  • 1 shot of Blue Curaçao
  • 1 dash Bitters
  • 1 dash Grenadine

Have I tried one?

No, I have not, quite frankly it sounds like a ‘scary’ combination of liquor.

Where I found the recipe

I got this cocktail out of my 1987 Leather Bound Edition of “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.  One of my favorite and much loved books in my collection, a book that I treasure and that I hope will find an appreciative home after I have gone.

Metformin

Earlier to day I picked up a prescription for high blood sugar, Metformin.  I take 4 pills a day, so a 90 day supply consists of 360 pills.  This is a generic medicine, so the when I picked up my 90 day supply in  January I paid $26 since that was the copay for this medicine under Horizon Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

Today would be the first time I had this prescription filled under my new Medicare Part D plan.  So I was not sure how much it would cost.  I had ordered it first thing this morning, and I stopped by CVS to pick it up after visiting with mom over at Baker Place around 3pm.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it rang up as $0.83 copay.  Yes, that is right under my Aetna Medicare Part D, the copay was less than $1!

Beginning of my methodology book.

The Methodology of Lieutenant Columbo

by Paul D. Dute, © 2018

Warning: this book contains Spoilers.


Introduction

Columbo always gets his suspect.

Detective Inspector Lieutenant Columbo always got his ‘murderer’ in the end.  All of us faithful fans have seen it over and over again.  Occasionally there is a bump in the road, as in the “Last Salute to the Commodore“, where the prime suspect is himself murdered in the course of the investigation.  And then there was “Fallen Lady“, where Columbo identifies the murderer, but faces a difficult conundrum in that the murderer is unable to recall they had committed the murder in the first place.

As viewers, we also are not spared the occasional bump in the road ourselves.  In the series, we the viewers, behind out “fourth wall”, are used to seeing the murders committed.  The fun of the show is in trying to puzzle out what clues it is that Columbo sees, and whether Columbo will be able to see through the “wriggling” of the killer.  The killer trying to confuse the inspector and to lead him astray from the facts of the case.  We ask ourselves, will Columbo see through all of the sand thrown in his face, will Columbo be able to prove his case?

In the aforesaid mentioned “Last Salute to the Commodore“, we never actually see the murder.  There is an obviously dead body on the floor, and we see Robert Vaughn seemingly cleaning up the crime scene and disposing of the body.  But was he the murderer?  As viewers we are certainly supposed to assume so, but later on Robert Vaughn himself is murdered.  Was he murdered as an act of revenge?  Was there an accomplice to the earlier murder who then murdered Robert Vaughn to keep him silent?  Or was Robert Vaughn never the murderer, but was cleaning up the scene because he, Vaughn, thought someone close to him was the actual murderer?  As viewers there was only one thing that we knew for sure:  In the end Columbo would figure it all out.

Another episode with a macabre twist was [“Twins Episode].  Here we clearly see Martin Landau murder his uncle.  But later on we find out the Martin Landau was one half of a set of twins.  How can we know which twin “did it”?  Again, we could only be certain that Columbo would get it all sorted out by the end.

There must be some methodology to the actions of Lieutenant Columbo.  One of his adversaries said it best:

“You know Columbo, you’re almost likable in a shabby sort of way.  Maybe it’s the way you come slouching in here with your shop-worn bag of tricks.  The humility, the seeming absentmindedness, the homey anecdotes about the family….  Yeah, you know, Lieutenant Columbo fumbling and stumbling along, but it’s always the jugular that he’s after.  And I imagine that, more often than not, he’s successful” – Ransom for a Dead Man.

However Columbo is never just stumbling along.  He is focused on the moment, always looking for that something, that anything that is a piece of evidence, a little piece of the puzzle that will lead him to the truth.  But it cannot be random, there must be a method to this Columbo “madness”.  It is this methodology that I want to explore in the next Chapter.