Most people who want to “get to the bottom of things” are usually math or science teachers with a flat top haircut who actually believe that there is a “bottom of things.” Curtis Smale

Why Using Chapstick is Self-Defeating

Chapstick puts alcohol in their lip balm so that after the balm comforts your lips, it also dries them out.

Creating the artificial need for more Chapstick.

Many products are deliberately designed to fail. This creates a desire for more of the same product, increasing the profit margin of the manufacturer.

Cell phones, car tires, clothing, shoes…

This morning, the sticky gel inside the nose pad of my sleep apnea assembly broke open. This is a piece of durable medical equipment that was not very durable. I’ve only had it for about a year and already it has fallen apart in five ways.

The nose pad broke open; the plastic is yellowing and drying out, the other two cheek gel pads fell out; the strap is “worn,” and the tube assembly falls out. They deliberately put an extra layer of material on the strap so that it gives the appearance of age and “wearing out.”

How much more money would we all have if planned obsolescence was not part of our lives?

Curtis Smale


Get Rid Of This Kind of Person

Some people (and even pieces of art) are vexations. This is a theme that keeps hitting me lately. It isn’t that someone is screaming at you, or cursing at you, or threatening you– that is a kind of vexation that is so obvious and over the top as to miss you altogether.

I’m talking about subtly unsupportive, “friends.” If you are seeing this, then you can know that I am not talking about you, because I blocked the person I am talking about.

I told this person over and over over the last year that I didn’t care for this.

When people like this “support” you–mentally, emotionally, and even “spiritually,” they give you a compliment they feel obligated to give, or they say something for manipulation purposes.

How amazingly revealing the written word can be. You can see a person’s heart, their motivations, even their tone of voice if they are a good enough writer, or if you talk with them long enough.

Over especially the last year, every time I had an insight, this “friend” would come with one-upmanship. Not just a correction or an improvement or an insight or even a good argument, or an interesting point, (all of which I appreciate) but a “better than you.”

This person had expertise in one field, but seems to have thought that that expertise transferred to every subject, even if he was outmatched by formal education and four decades of study. C.S. Lewis called that, “Bulverism.”

I got tired of having to mentally and emotionally process irritations that profited me nothing and, it seems, profited him nothing.

Curtis Smale

How It Feels to Meet Moon Astronaut Buzz Aldrin

Photos of this event are at:

“The Buzz of the Universe: My Meeting with Buzz Aldrin, the Second Man on the Moon,” by Curtis Smale

On Sunday, April 12th, 2015, from 5pm to about 9:30pm, I had, by far, one of the most incredible and unexpected experiences of my life. On that night, I was in a meeting room at The Space Foundation (on Garden of the Gods Road), for about an hour and a half with the most unusual and extraordinary human being I have ever seen, in person: Buzz Aldrin.

Buzz was the second man to stand on the moon, about twenty minutes after Neil Armstrong became the first man to do so. The moon I am talking about here is the same one that you have seen many times, hanging without visible support, hundreds of thousands of miles above you in the starry night sky.

In the weeks leading up to this experience, I was so excited about what was coming that I couldn’t even believe it was real. Several times, afterward, when I told people that I stood five feet from the second man on the moon, their reaction was: “How?” As in, that’s impossible. There is no way that last night you were five feet from the second human being to put his boots on the moon. Impossible. How could that even be?

That’s like saying that last night you met Christopher Columbus. Exactly. That’s the reaction, with a sense of mystery and wonder, that I was looking for.

Well, in the weeks before, I exhausted myself with excitement. I also felt embarrassment and self-reproach because I was way, way too excited about this meeting.

The moon landing was a worldwide historical event back in July of 1969, when I was just four years old. I didn’t see the moon landing on TV, and I have no memories of it. I don’t remember my parents talking about it.

About 25 years ago, I missed my chance to meet the late Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, at the E.A.A. Fly-In in Wisconsin, and I have regretted that ever since.

Now, this is embarrassing to admit, but this truth is central to my experience of attending the Sunday night meeting with Dr. Buzz Aldrin: I became afraid of meeting Buzz, and then on the night of the event, “Yuri’s Night,” I became terrified at times, deep down. I was afraid because I thought, “Here you are, you stood on the moon, and here I am, and I sell products for a corporation.”

What I didn’t expect were two things. When you are in the presence of great people, they do not drag you down. They bring you up. A lot.

Secondly, the terror was from the mind expansion. Using that phrase is not an exaggeration. I was in two meeting rooms for a couple of hours with people who have put on real space suits and floated around in real space, on the International Space Station, and on the real moon. They were not in a movie.

For an hour and half, I was in a room with the man who was in the Lunar Module while the first man on the moon was making the first footprint ever made on the moon.

Before the lecture by Buzz, I spoke to Dr. Leroy Chiao, Chinese NASA astronaut and a space walker, in the Q & A after his lecture. I asked him if Mars One (a group expedition to go to Mars and live and die there) was real. He gave a very long and complicated answer: “No,” he said. Everyone in the room laughed. They would not make it there. They had no rocket scientists on their staff.

Chiao went through some history of the Chinese contribution to NASA and to space exploration in general, and showed many photos that he took from space, mostly of structures on earth as seen from space. The thing he was most surprised by was the blue glow of earth’s atmosphere, and how there were all these different gradations of blue.

Then, I went over to the room named “Area 51,” for the lecture by Dr. Kathryn Thornton, an astronaut. She looked like, and was, a friendly grandmother. But about twenty-five years ago, she too was wearing that familiar astronaut space suit and floating unbelievably high above the earth on a space station. She talked about man’s journey into space, tracing it from the beginnings of mapping out the continents of the earth, hundreds of years ago. The most amazing thing she said was that her uncle travelled westward across the United States on a covered wagon, and then, only a few years later, watched his niece being rocketed into space and floating among the stars.

I again was among the maybe three or four people who asked Thornton questions in the Q & A after her lecture. I asked her how dangerous it was, being in a suit that could be hit by space debris or a meteorite. Her answer stunned me to the core. She said something very close to: “We accept that we can die when we accept the mission.” Stone cold. She was more scared about flipping switches correctly and completing the mission well than about dying. There is an instant respect and recognition of nobility that arises in the soul of a person who realizes that this is real.

Then, everyone was told to keep their seats because we have another speaker coming in in a few moments. Well, he just walked into the room with no introduction and went over and stood by the wall.

Immediately, I recognized Buzz Aldrin.

He stood ramrod straight as they fitted him with a head microphone, looking just like they were suiting him up for a moon mission. This, and his unannounced entrance, already affected me.

After a very brief introduction, Buzz stepped forward, and talked about Mars and Venus. He used about half a sentence to mention the moon landing in passing and immediately began outlining his plan for reusable orbiters and robots to branch out to Mars and Venus. There was a circular diagram on the video screen that he kept adding arcs and loops to. He punched the air and envisioned a thousand-year plan for exploring space. We were both to cooperate with and be wary of our political enemies.

The thing that most impressed me the most about Buzz is that he wasn’t at all like the person I’ve seen on TV several times. I was expecting maybe a bloated egotist basking in past glory. Not at all.

This was like being in the Rebel Flight Crew Room from STAR WARS. Actually, there were STAR WARS posters and posters from many science fiction and science fantasy movies on the wall that Buzz walked by when he entered the room. When you are in a room with a man who has stood on the moon, and he is lecturing you about how we are going to go to Mars and Venus, and then out of the solar system, you believe him. It is an awe-inspiring experience.

I have never seen a man as powerful as Buzz Aldrin. His demeanor was like George C. Scott playing General Patton, except this charisma was real, born directly from experience. Authentic. Undeniable. I was ready go into battle. At 85 years old, Buzz’s years of aging have not diminished his power. They have almost certainly added to it. He looked like he could throw you across the room with his eyes. I was ready to go to Mars. Now. He wore a shirt that said, “Get Your Ass To MARS.” Yes, sir.

Contrary to what was promised, Buzz Aldrin did no Q & A, and did not shake hands, take personal photographs, or sign autographs. After his lecture, I waited with another guy in the lobby, Eric, a Lockheed Martin employee, to meet Buzz Aldrin personally. The attendant told us that Buzz would not be coming this way, but that he would leave out of the back of the building. Eric and I were not buying it. We were both fifty years old, and we were not falling for that.

Standing there with his mother was a young man about twenty years old, with a ponytail and a high school jacket with ROCKET SCIENTIST curved in capital letters on the back. He told one of the Space Foundation’s blonde female handlers in a black skirt that he had taken a photo of the moon on the night Neil died, and he wanted to give it to Buzz. His mother wanted it given to Buzz, but the handler said something like, “Wait right here.”

I love hearing those words. I heard similar words after I saw online that this night was SOLD OUT. When I called, the young female professional said that they sold out for the Buzz Aldrin evening. Fire code occupancy limits. I told her that I wanted to see Buzz because I missed seeing the first man on the moon twenty-five years ago, and did not want to miss meeting Buzz Aldrin. “What is your name?” “Neil” “Last name?” “Armstrong.” She laughed. “Curtis,” I said. “Last name?” “Smale.” “Hold on for a moment.” She went and talked with someone…

“Can you be here at 5pm?”

“YES,” I said.

“Just say your name and we will let you in.” Tears came to my eyes. I almost missed out on this experience!

I asked, I think, five times if I also could go up the futuristic elevator and down the hall to have a personal audience with Buzz. I had a photo of Buzz and Stephen Hawking I wanted him to autograph. “No, sorry,” came the reply.

But, sure as we thought, Buzz came down the elevator and walked by Eric and me, the only other two guys in Colorado Springs, Colorado that night who really wanted to meet him.

“Hi Buzz,” I said, or maybe I only thought it. Several older guys in dark suits, and one in particular, blocked my photo-taking efforts with their chests.

But, I got what I wanted: Buzz Aldrin walked right by me.

I can’t remember envying anyone as much as that kid who got to meet Buzz Aldrin privately. I felt like LaCombe when Roy Neary was getting passage on the Mothership in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. Maybe there will be another time.

I have never watched any science fiction movie that was more real and intense than this experience.

For two or three days after this meeting, my mind was floating around in the universe between Mars and Venus, looking out on the endless galaxies. It was hard to come back down to earth.

There was a long-lasting and deep sense of possibility, unlike anything I have ever felt.

This was a person utterly unlike anyone I have ever met–and I have shaken the hand of a sitting president and have met more than a dozen movie stars and other famous people in person. This experience had the quality of being in the room with a space alien for an hour a half.

The man from the moon.

The man who had stood on the moon was in another dimension entirely, even compared with those who had floated in space above the earth.

I had to wait until three weeks after these things to write about it. I was too excited.

I’ve probably told this story twenty-five times at least already, especially in the week after.

Buzz Aldrin may come back to the Space Foundation next year. If, next year, you get the chance to meet this great man, visionary, doctor, genius, and truly legendary astronaut of incredible bravery–don’t miss it for the world.

This was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.

Curtis Smale

~Originally posted May 9th, 2015~


How Does It Feel to See to King Tut’s Face?

“I Saw the Golden Mask of King Tut’s Face, in Denver Today,” Museum Rating: Awe-Inspiring!

There is absolutely no comparison between seeing a photograph of a huge Egyptian statue, 20 feet tall, 3,000 years old–and standing right in front of it.

No comparison at all.

Why even bother taking a photograph?

I’m kind of glad that they prohibited photographs, even non-flash photographs, at the King Tut exhibition.

That might prevent people from actually being there, psychologically, in the presence of these awesome treasures.

When you first get there, the charge for museum non-members is $30, and it is worth every single penny.

Then they try to do two $5 add-ons–and I took ’em both: a 3-D movie and a hand-held device with Harrison Ford’s voice on it, talking to you about about 20 exhibits when you punch in the number. I used that only three or four times, as I figured I would.

So, $40, plus $7 parking and about $8 in gas there and back: $55–and worth every penny to travel halfway around the world and 3,000 years ago.

I recommend this to you more than I can say. There were a lot of people from other countries taking this in as well. It is only here until January 9th, 2011, so if you are in Colorado, you ~gotta~ go see this!

The friendly greeter at the door looked like Alan Arkin, and I told him so. He said people said he looked like Anthony Hopkins, and I agreed with that, too.

We began the exhibition standing in a dark black-draped area and a TV screen with the bassed-out voice of Indiana Jones–I mean Harrison Ford.

This was extremely well done by people, perfectionists, who obviously do this for a living. (Once, I spoke over the phone at work with a guy who transported million dollar artworks, and man, that is an intense process).

The first thing I saw as we entered the “crypt” was a life-sized statue of Menkaure son of Khafre. There I was, like a dork, writing down the name of the first ancient Egyptian I ever met, “in person.”

I looked closely at his hands, and the various lengths of his fingers matched mine.

Apparently, we had the same Creator.

So, after meeting the son of Khafre, I tried to let everyone go by me so I could have some space, but the next group came in as soon as the first started to leave. There were, I think, 15 rooms in all, and another guy at the exit door told me there were exactly 100 pieces in all.

There were about five mind-blowing full-room displays–huge statues that looked at you with those thick-lined Egyptian eyes.

I don’t know if it was the music or what, but I could see how the common Egyptian people of thousands of years ago would be intimidated into worship of these pharaohs–I felt the power, no joke.

If you go, you need to stand right in front of the biggest pieces for several minutes to really freaking get the effect! And you will!

People were quiet and mesmerized, walking around and through these displays.

My shadow fell across the funerary box of a royal Egyptian cat…

I put my face four inches from a face that was thousands of years old–nothing between us but air: the statue face of Queen Meritamun. This was the experience I was looking for!

By the way, that Menkaure guy I met first–he ordered the building of the smallest of the three Great Pyramids of Giza you’ve seen photos of hundreds of times. (I can’t imagine what kind of an experience it would be to see those, and the Sphinx, in person in Egypt!)

The guy whose face is on the Sphinx–his statues were there, too, as well as those of many other pharaohs.

Then there was Amenhotep IV, a huge skinny-faced guy, 17 feet tall who looked like an exotic black kid, with narrow nose, raised cheekbones and full lips, slightly smirking at you as he stared you down with serene arrogance.

I have to admit, I had a visceral reaction to this piece, like this dude was challenging me.

This piece also had a very strong, quiet power.

As I walked by a huge mummy case, looking intensely at other things, I bumped all 300 plus of my pounds into it, and for a moment I thought I was about to become famous for knocking over a mummy sarcophagus, but, thank God, it was heavily secured to the floor.

In the very last room there was a huge statue of King Tutankhamun himself, as if to bid you farewell. The Boy King himself, the minor Egyptian king who died at age 19, but precisely because he was so minor no one discovered his tomb, and he is the only one whose things survive to this day.

One of the most incredible things to see was the bed of King Tut–a very simple wicker-woven thing, but when you realise that this, one foot away from you, is the very thing upon which a real live ancient Egyptian Pharaoh slept and dreamed… Man, if you have any imagination at all…

This was just awesome. I may go to see it again before it leaves the state in 5 months.

If you go, from the Springs, get off at the Broadway exit. The Denver Art Museum (big crazy-looking silver building) is at 13th and Bannock.

Have fun, and let me know what you think!

By the way, that gold mask of King Tut was actually a full-body shape, a super-detailed gorgeous miniature, and about 1 foot tall, but that didn’t spoil anything at all. (I joked with this really gorgeous blonde girl looking at it that I wanted it as a souvenir).

(Side note to self: I got to get out to Denver more, the girls there know how to dress and act–classy!)

The 3D movie–the best thing about it was that I learned that the preserved mummy face of Ramses, from THE TEN COMMANDMENTS Bible story with Moses asking him to “let my people go,” is the ~only~ face from the Bible stories that you can actually still see today and know what the person looked like (kind of a long, gaunt, drawn face, like Peter Cushing (Grand Moff Tarkin) from the original STAR WARS, I kid you not!)

Yes, I think that is absolutely amazing. This guy who talked with ~Moses~ OVER THREE THOUSAND YEARS AGO–his body still exists and you can see his face, very well preserved. This was the face that talked to Moses in that Bible story. You gettin’ this?

This was a *fantastic* exhibit.

When I got back to my apartment a few hours ago and unlocked and opened my door, for a moment, I felt like I was entering a crypt thousands of years old. That’s how powerful an affect this exhibit had one me.

You do ~not~ want to miss this one.

Curtis Smale

October 12, 2011

Mrs. Zello’s Favorite Cuss Word

Midmorning, 1991. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Kind of a cool day. I drive up to the single-story house, with the big window out front.

I get out of the car with my CNA bag, wearing my oversize, kind of rough-to-the-skin over-starched, dark blue linen uniform top, and ring the doorbell.

CNA means, “Certified Nursing Assistant.”

There was the lady of the house: heavyset, loud, and officious, with a Mrs. Doubtfire apron around her entire body, but also rather nice and gracious.

This was 25 years ago. Still, I won’t use her real name, but rather something similar.🤐

Heck with it: “Mrs. Zello.”

That was her real name. She was over seventy at the time, and if any of her relatives chance to read this by almost lottery-level unlikelihoods, there is nothing untoward here, and no identifying first names or details here, anyway.

Her name, for me, conjures memories from a quarter century ago.

Like Jello, except the last one ever made: Zello.

She welcomed me into the front living room, immediately there, and to the left was Mr. Zello, seated like a granite statue in his brown leather recliner, immovable except for a few irritated side-to-side struggling inches, in the side corner, to the right of the front window.

I don’t remember their first names, and I wouldn’t use them if I did, because of confidentiality, even separated by 25 years and about 1,000 miles. (But there is no distance on the Internet or with keyword indexing.)

I can still hear her voice, “Okay, eee-nuff of this bullshit, now!” She would shout this over and over, referring to her husband’s behavior, which was pretty much consisted of sitting there.

Her exact last name and that exact vulgarity, are very important to my memory of her, her husband, and my life at the time.

Saying “bullshit” over and over seemed to be her way of releasing stress. A comfort sometimes not even afforded by prayer, as Twain said.

She was a very proper woman, I think Roman Catholic, but with an Italian forthrightness that didn’t quite fit the way she looked.

Sometimes, there isn’t a whole lot to memories, other than the time and place that they index.

I’m sure you have many of these yourself.

Things that aren’t very important of themselves, but that allow you to remember people, places, situations, and vivid memories from the past.

This is one of those that knocks around in my memory, and has for many years.

I think the recent animated movie INSIDE OUT is a good example of how our minds and emotions really work, and why we are all often so unpredictable. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s worthwhile.

So, I did my job. TPR: temperature, pulse, respiration.

Mr. Zello looked like an even more rugged version of Ed Asner. Even more accurate, he looked almost exactly like the cartoon old man in UP, which I think was voiced by Asner. He was a very heavily built man, and all he could do was look around with wide eyes, grunting gruffly. Unable to speak. He had late-stage Parkinson’s.

I guess, realizing this right now, that there are two reasons why I remember this story.

One is the sense of caring and family that I felt while in their atmosphere.

Curtis Smale

Arrogant Young Kids

I saw a photo the other day of four or five young boys from rich families standing, in suits and ties, at their schools. Maybe it was a graduation or a prom or something.

These kids could not have been more than 15 or 16 years old.

But the facial expressions of relaxed, self-satisfied arrogance and condescension were overwhelming.

Their parents were well-educated, financially successful people.

But at fifteen years old, what authority and status and societal position had they themselves attained? Near zero.

Yet, their entire souls screamed of their age, their accomplishment and their social status.

Curtis Smale

What Do You Do When People Brush Off Your Pain?

Have you ever told someone of a very painful experience or time in your life, a time that lasted months or years, or maybe decades, which included outrageous amounts of deep suffering that scarred your soul for life? You told your story to someone you imagined was your friend, in an effort of disclosure in order to be vulnerable and to deepen the bond of friendship, only to be answered, after this telling, with something like, I’m not kidding, “Bummer.”

“Bummer”? Is this full grown person next to you really somehow still in the sixth grade?

Or, have you ever told a close friend at seemingly the right time, of one of the greatest joys of your life, perhaps by text, only to be answered with a big blue Thumbs Up…

My only question is, where, praytell, did you bury the body?

Curtis Smale

Is There Objective Quality in Movies?

There’s a good friend of mine who likes movies a lot. Sometimes, we will go down a list of movies and compare our reactions to them.

He will often say something like, “You either like a movie or you don’t. It’s just opinion.” And it seems he often wants the discussion to end there.

I found it interesting that he doesn’t seem to like giving reasons why he liked a movie. And, after asking him, he told me that he doesn’t like reading movie reviews–which are essentially the opinions and evaluations of other people regarding essentially the same objective experience (the movie.)

That certainly is okay, but I wanted to know what goes on underneath, in our love or hate of movies. Why do we love one, and hate another?

I find it fascinating how radically different that different people’s reactions can be to a film.

Also, I heard a famous online interviewer the other day say that, as a kid, he loved the movie, ALTERED STATES, but when he saw it again recently, he thought it was “cheesy crap.” Was this a matter of personal development and age and experiences that caused the new negative evaluation? (I am guessing I would still think ALTERED STATES is awesome, but I will let you know the next time I watch it.)

I found these two little experiences interesting, so I wrote this article.

While we can have an opinion about whether we liked a movie, is it also true that there is no truth or validity to the statement that some movies are great and other movies are trash?

Can a person call a movie, “a deep, meaningful, beautiful, and profound work of art and truth, that accurately portrays important elements of actual human experience”–and have that statement be valid?

I personally believe that some movies are great and others are trash. I believe in objective quality. I don’t believe that movies, or anything else, are only a matter of personal opinion. It seems to me that to think that would be the same as saying that there is no reality.

Until I thought this out and wrote this out, I didn’t understand the reasons for this very deeply.

Certainly, a movie is made up of many elements that we can have an opinion on: story, cinematography, music, editing, directing, acting, and many other elements. It seems we can often easily agree on the relative quality of these elements, but not of the overall movie.

Why is that?

I think it is because to say we like a movie is to say, often, that we resonate with, or approve of, the underlying message of the movie.

Every movie has an underlying belief system, or a lack of one. Every movie has its own outlook. Though the movie itself is not conscious and self-aware, the writer and director were, when they created it.

The film has its own emotions, its own thoughts, its own personality, its own experiences, its own reality, in the subjective sense of inner realities.

Just as with a person, the elements that we pay attention to, combined with our subjective life experiences, or our subjective life experiences at the time, will create our reaction to a film. When I say subjective, I do not mean that these experiences were not based on objective experiences and interally valid reactions, as if they were arbitrary. They are not.

At heart, we all want to be understood. Being understood is a great part of what we experience as love, because it is a part of love. Again, that is not just a subjective experience, but also it is based on realities that are not easily changed, if at all.

Is it true that if someone doesn’t understand our favorite film, that they don’t understand us, or that they don’t value or love us?

I don’t think so, but it certainly can feel that way.

This is also why a certain person’s writing or painting or music can deeply affect us, and cause us to have a profound reaction, whereas another’s art seems to us to be of very low quality–it “does nothing for us.”

So, here’s what I have come to understand. I think that a person should be able to identify which elements of a film, the archetypal framework or attitude of a film, spoke to him. What was it about the film that opened the door to deep beliefs or emotions or points of view?

Opinions about movies, songs, books or art can sometimes, unpleasantly, get very heated because it may be basic values, or experiences, or attitudes or beliefs that we are really talking about.

Movies are a way to evaluate what we most deeply believe and value, the outlooks we hold most dearly.

When we look at movies this way, a whole new experience at the movies, and fruitful interactions with our friends and other people, can begin.

Curtis Smale