Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.” I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Time to have a little fun with a Star Trek motif. We note in passing that Captain Picard has exquisite taste.


Some people swear by coffee
As loud as loud can be;
But for the truly civilized,
A cup of Earl Grey tea.

Some long for port or cognac,
White wine or vin rose`;
But far more elegant than these:
A small sip of Earl Grey.

Some swear by Coke or Pepsi,
The Uncola or RC;
But those who really want the best
Request some Earl Grey tea.

And some must have their Perrier;
Some could have had V-8.
But those whose taste is most refined
All think Early Grey is great.

The captain of the Enterprise,
He sails a starry sea;
He asks the Replicator for
A cup of Earl Grey tea.


The captain of the Enterprise,
When first he rises up,
He wants the status of the ship
And Earl Grey in his cup.

The captain of the Enterprise
Will always end his day
With a page or two of Shakespeare
And a cup of hot Earl Grey.

The captain of the Enterprise,
He drinks it by the pot.
Unto the Replicator,
He says, “Tea—Earl Grey—hot!”

While too much Saurian Brandy
Or too much Romulan Ale
Can give you trouble, you can drink
Your Earl Grey by the pail.

Yes, some folks swear by coffee
As loud as loud can be.
But for the truly civilized:
A cup of Earl Grey tea.

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD


Bucket List (New Poem)

A poem by Donald Williams

Masefield longed to go down again to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all he asked was a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
But I would like a Treasure Map and a bonny, loyal Crew
Including Flynn the Librarian, Thor, and Doctor Who;
Our vessel the starship Enterprise with the Tardis built into her bridge,
And lots of Earl Grey in the Replicator and plenty of Pie in the fridge,
And dangerous Dragons to seek and slay, and Orc-Heads to cleave with zest,
And Villains sufficient to challenge us, but never derail the Quest.


VR: Where You Can Punch A Shark In the Face

Virtual Reality Explosion: Soon You Too Can Punch A Shark in the Face


A few stories come up here and there in the general news media about advances in virtual reality technology, but if you haven’t been paying attention to more specialized tech sources, you probably don’t know about the apparent explosion of new VR ventures currently happening. The recent E3 (Entertainment Electronics Expo) showcased a very strong showing of several gaming companies’ attempts to enter into the new field, and while you may not be interested in video games, this industry has a specific interest in pushing the envelope for VR technology which will soon be adopted in nearly every other industry.

Virtual Reality: A Science Fiction Fantasy?

Oculus Rift DKIIWe’ve been trying to figure out how to make virtual reality a real thing ever since it was a fake thing in science fiction. The idea of simulating the real world through mechanical or otherwise synthetic means is by no means a new concept: flight simulators, driving simulators, and immersive artistic experiences have been around long before the computer, relying on a mix of mechanical and electronic means. One famous example, usually considered the first comprehensive VR machine, was Morton Heilig’s Sensorama, built in 1962.

In fact, there were plenty of past attempts at kick-starting the virtual reality industry predicted by science fiction for years. Famously, Nintendo created a whole console devoted to the idea, but numerous flaws caused it failed utterly, spoiling the video game industry on the idea for decades.

I9 has a great article outlining several failed virtual reality technologies, including those mentioned above.

So why is this such a big deal now? Well, for the first time, the technology is not only viable and effective, but hyped beyond all reason.

The Oculus Rift: The Standard-Bearer of a New Generation of VR

About a year ago, a small engineering firm put up a Kickstarter campaign to build their new VR Head Mounted Display, dubbed the Oculus Rift. I’ve highlighted this one before, but since my last coverage, the company has not only met record-smashing success selling development prototypes alone, but they’ve been acquired by Facebook. People are still a little confused about why exactly the social media titan would want a VR headset, but apparently they want to create the largest virtual reality network in history, planning for 1 Billion simultaneous users. So basically, any anime, game, movie, or tv show you’ve ever seen with a massive VR game world is basically coming, thanks to the big FB.

Needless to say, people are really getting excited about this thing. The Holodeck? Seems to be right around the corner. Speaking of Star Trek, George Takei even got in on the fun during his Youtube segment  Takei’s Take, where he played an Oculus Rift game where you punch a shark in the face (skip to 2:46 for the actual Oculus Rift demo. Spoilers: he didn’t do very well):

It’s pretty hard to imagine what using one of these devices is really like, but there are plenty of people raving about them. Here are some impressions people have gotten from trying the Oculus Rift out at E3:

Not surprisingly, lots of people are jumping on this bandwagon right-quick:

Sony Project Morpheus

Looking to be a major contender, Sony’s really trying to beat Microsoft to the punch and to be the first game console maker with a first-party VR headset. Anyone with a Playstation 4 will be able to hook up a Morpheus and play virtual reality games, which really will pull VR into the mainstream market.

Cmoar Mobile MR Viewer , Vrizzmo

Several companies are catching on to the fact that many people already tote around a small, HD screen with motion sensors and computing power: smartphones! Cmoar is a specialized unit with interchangeable lenses which will let users swap out for different uses, including games, movies, and even Augmented Reality with the front-mounted camera. Vrizzmo, another unit made by De Jet Works, takes a simpler, cheaper route by giving you one set of adjustable lenses to slide your phone into.

These are just a few examples, and there are sure to be many more coming. The future of VR seems to actually be here.

Don’t Want to Wait? Build Your Own!

RoadtoVR.com has been my go-to for VR news of late, but one set of articles I keep coming back to (without yet doing anything with them) are their Do-it-Yourself guides for building your own VR head mounted display for roughly $20. That’s right! You don’t have to wait for consumer models to come to a store near you. With a little elbow-grease and surprisingly little technical know-how, you can make your own lens and phone assembly like those phone-based unites described above. I want to do this for myself (once I get a decent phone, that is!), but until then I’ll be watching the news for more details about the coming VR revolution!



Review: The Hobbit, Part 1. Directed by Peter Jackson.

Review:  The Hobbit, Part 1.  Directed by Peter Jackson.

Reviewed by Donald T. Williams


I am going to shock everybody and actually try to be fair to Peter Jackson.  (This is coming from someone who has called his movie version of The Lord of the Rings a “betrayal of Tolkien’s vision”—and for good reason, given what Jackson did to some of Tolkien’s characters.)  The first installment of the new Hobbit is not as bad as I feared.  It has Jackson’s virtues as much as it suffers from his weaknesses.  The sum total was a movie I could enjoy if not quite love or fully embrace.

To the Prancing Pony!

The film is simply gorgeous visually.  When I get the DVD I will be constantly tempted to pause it just so I can savor the landscapes.  And it is not just that they are beautiful—they are appropriate (especially The Shire) to Middle Earth as we have always imagined it, guided by Tolkien’s descriptions.  The costuming is delicious too.  On the other hand, while some of the Dwarves look satisfyingly dwarvish, others (including unfortunately Thorin) inexplicably look more like short humans than dwarves.  If you can get it right, why not do so consistently?  We wonders, yes, precious.

Film critics have almost universally panned the flick as poorly paced and dragging.  This just goes to show that critics are not fans.  They made the same mistake with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, complaining about the long scene when Scotty gives Kirk a shuttle tour of the hull of the newly refitted Enterprise.  But those of us who had come to feel affection for that ship loved every second of that sequence.  Those classic lines, in what may still be the most elegant of all that great vessel’s incarnations, deserved every frame that was spent on them—if you are a true Trekker.  Similarly, Tolkien’s real fans almost universally just want to be in Middle Earth.  If Middle Earth itself is convincingly incarnated—this is Jackson’s greatest gift—we don’t really need anything to happen there.  We would gladly watch a three hour slice of daily life in The Shire or Rivendell and leave contented.   The plot (and Tolkien gave us a great one) is almost a bonus.  (I am exaggerating to make a point.)  I think this explains why fans have liked the movie better than the critics do.

Bag End

Oh, yes, there is a plot, too.  This is where Jackson’s weaknesses show.  He tries to give an apologetic for his approach early on by having Gandalf say that “Any good story deserves embellishment.”  This line encapsulates a profound difference between Jackson’s and Tolkien’s views of the world—for it casts doubt precisely on the trustworthiness and truth of the ancient legends, whereas Tolkien was all about discovering the truth that was in them after all.  One thus cannot imagine Tolkien’s Gandalf saying such a thing.  It highlights Jackson’s view of the legendarium as malleable art, raw material for self-expression, whereas Tolkien was careful to maintain the illusion that it is history.  This is a significant difference.  The historian uses art in telling his stories, but he must bow to the higher value of faithfulness if he is to be a good steward of his sources and his task.  Tolkien of course knew that his pose as historian (merely the translator and editor of The Red Book of Westmarch) was a fictional strategy—but it is one that speaks to the kind of fiction he was giving us.  And this is what Jackson seems incapable of understanding.

J. R. R. Tolkien

Embellishment goes further than adaptation.  Some changes to the story are necessitated by its adaptation to a different medium.  Some purists do not understand that.  But In Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, his self-granted freedom to “embellish” gave us characters with personalities and motivations that we did not recognize, and it undermined Tolkien’s motif of Providence by having Frodo (more “dramatically”—ahem) push Gollum off the cliffs of doom rather than having him fall by accident or “chance” (if chance you call it) as in Tolkien’s scene.  I thought  then and think now that such “embellishments” had earned the epithet of “betrayal.”

I saw nothing on that level of betrayal in the new Hobbit, nor anything that would demand that kind of departure from Tolkien’s tale in the subsequent installments.  (We shall see.)  But this does not mean that Jackson’s propensity for embellishment is innocent.  Tolkien’s approach to fiction emphasized what he called in the essay “On Fairie Stories” an “inner consistency of reality.”  That is how he gave us a fantasy world that is more believable than most realistic fiction.  There were by contrast three moments when I did get impatient with Jackson’s Hobbit, though not for the reasons of pacing given by the critics: All involved a violation of Tolkien’s principle.  The first was Radagast’s rabbit-sled.  Really? The second was the long fight/chase scene in the goblin cave, which ends in a fall that no one could have survived.  (Tolkien allowed himself to add the laws of magic to reality as we perceive it, but not to break the laws of physics.)  The third was Jackson’s version of the rescue from the forest by the Eagles, with multiple bodies just happening to fall right onto the backs of multiple eagles who just happened to be flying below them at just the right moment.  No group is collectively that lucky, not even in fantasy.  There is a difference between Eucatastrophe and silliness.

The Hill, Hobbiton

In sum: there is much to enjoy, but the aesthetic impact of the whole is marred by Jackson’s embellishing hubris.  Jackson exceeded my expectations (which were lower than the pits of Barad Dur).  So we have some things to praise, some to criticize, but nothing (yet) to damn.  But, hey, we’ve still got two installments to go!  No doubt something will turn up.


Donald T. Williams, PhD

Toccoa Falls College


Check out Dr. Williams’ books at Lantern Hollow Press:  Stars Through the Clouds: the Collected Poetry of Donald T. Williams (2011); Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy (2012); and Inklings of Reality: Essays toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters, 2nd edition, revised and expanded (2012).  Order (each $15.00 + shipping) at https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.




Science Fiction Roundup: Star Trek Stuff and Food-Related Tech

Hello, everyone! Tis I, the lit-critical tech junkie with a penchant for misnomers, Erik the Reddest, back on rotation with a suite of science fiction for you and yours. Frankly, I spent my whole last run on such a narrow topic, I want t spread out a bit this time, and since I talked on and on about someone else’s writing, I’d like to present some of my own.

But first, something fun (yet still relevant): a science fiction roundup! I haven’t done one of these in a while. It’s just a mashup of tech and sci-fi articles to tickle your imagination for your own writing, and to make a point about some of the things I jabber on about in my own posts. Anyway, here you go.

Ok Fine, so I Guess Star Trek Had Some Merit

The chicken/egg first debate surrounding science fiction and technology makes my head spin sometimes. Here we had a goofy, low-budget space odyssey show from the 60’s and it still managed to predict/inspire things like the cell phone, tablet computers, and now apparently, warp drives and tricorders.


spock with tricorder star trek original series
It still amazes me what was supposed to *look* high tech in old movies and tv shows. I guess 50 years from now, people my age will say the same thing.

Being able to use a handheld device to analyze the chemical properties of a sample on the fly would be useful for numerous fields of science. Since Star Trek, fans have been speculating and dreaming about developing real tricorders like the ones in the show, and we appear to be getting closer to that goal. One hurdle to this device is handling non-metal samples such as plant or animal cells, since it would be nearly impossible to tell without treating with chemicals and lab processes if you are actually testing what you mean to test, and not just a contaminant like crumbs from someone’s turkey sandwich. Luckily, researchers at Penn State have figured out how to use special sound waves like tweezers to sort different microscopic cells, making it possible for a computer to one day figure out what it’s analyzing.

Source: Acoustic Cell-Sorting Chip Could Help Build Tricorder

Star Trek had a habit of making up reasons for technology long after it has been in canon for the series. The most famous example is, of course, warp drives. Initially thought of as just going really, really fast, writers for the show eventually settled that the ships can go really fast (breaking the speed of light barrier without problems) because they’re warping space around them, making it more “dense” behind and less “dense” before a ship.

warp drive starship
Heh, they put stitching on it. Cute.

Initially, the plausibility of this idea was just kind of shrugged off, but Harold White of Nasa recently breathed new life into the idea at the 100 Year Starship Symposium, taking a physics model presented in 1995 by Miguel Alcubierre, and claiming that it could take far less energy than initially thought, bringing it back into the realm of plausibility. The method would involve a football-shaped ship surrounded by an outer ring which would let it ride in front of a bubble of warped space.

Source: Warp Drives Might Be Possible After All

I feel like I’m eating some crow on this one, considering how much I’ve made fun of Star Trek’s supposedly impossible science. I guess anything can happen when your fanbase is made up of a bunch of really smart nerds.

Meanwhile, in the Dairy Industry…

cows grazing in a field

Leaving science fiction behind, let’s take a quick look at heath. I know several people with digestive problems when eating food with high fat and dairy content, and I gather that’s not a lot of fun. Food allergies in general can be extremely unpleasant to life threatening, and there’s a whole realm of research science dedicated to figuring out ways around that. This article comes out of New Zealand, where they figured out how to use gene therapies and hormone treatments to make cows give milk that doesn’t contain certain proteins known to cause allergic responses in certain people. This line of research holds promise for controlling other desirable traits in livestock, but this is just one of the first successes for the technique. I can only imagine how expensive this milk will be when it eventually comes to the market, but hey, to some people it’ll be the only milk they can drink, and that’s better than nothing.

Source: Genetically Modified Cows Give First Hypoallergenic Milk

I hope you have enjoyed this reprieve from heavy analysis and semi-scholarship. I realize some of what I write is not everyone’s cup of hot Earl Grey,  and I’ll try to stick to smaller-scale stuff so it doesn’t get dry. On top of that, I’ll be presenting some of my own actual writing this month to hopefully demonstrate some of what I’ve been talking about for the last few years. Until then, who wants to tell me “I told you so” about this warp drive thing? Let me know in the comments below!