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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Thursday, April 12

Stray Thoughts & A Quiet Place

          I can’t find any good reason for not setting term limits on members of both Houses. After, let’s say, twelve years, most of them would be old and infirm and should be replaced by someone younger and more fit. If not a term limit, then how about an age limit, like no one older than 70? We need to weed our garden.
          I also can’t find any good reason for not setting campaign spending limits for all elected officials. Why should the amount of money spent on mud-slinging and campaign promises determine the outcome? A multibillionaire can win any election if he’s willing to spend some of his fortune, but what happens when that mega-rich person gets elected, despite that person’s total political ignorance? Or his/her just plain ignorance? Look at what we now have in the Oval Office. I rest my case.
          What can I take away from the recent Masters? Exciting, gorgeous, dramatic. And I even saw some things I’d never before seen anywhere on a golf course—a ball that was putted into a bunker (Bubba), a 40-yard hook around trees and onto a green (Bubba again), a 30-yard slice from Leishman around trees and onto the green. What else caught my eye? Poor Sergio’s five balls in the water on #15, resulting in an octuple-bogey 13, a near perfect come-from-behind win by Spieth, a McIlroy situation on #13 where he found the azaleas behind the green and had very few options (no going back on a line since that would only put him deeper in the woods, no unplayable lie since two clubs wouldn’t get him out, or go back to the last spot and hit again, or just try to bully it out of the flowers, which he did), a resurgent Tiger, and a relatively unpopular winner in Patrick Reed. I hope I live long enough to see the next Augusta get-together.
          I’m continually amazed at the quality and maturity of so many young contestants on The Voice. I’m also amazed and surprised at the maturity and poise of so many of the young students from Stoneman Douglas High School. They renew my faith in the next generation that will lead us out of calamity.
          The tv tribute to Elton John a few nights ago was wonderful, with so many young singers taking on Elton John hits. Among the best of them was John Legend and Lady Gaga. I wish both of them would spend more time on American standards, especially Lady Gaga, whose voice is remarkably rich and pitch-perfect. Come on, Lady G, give up the shtick and sing “Lush Life” over and over again.
         
The reviews of A Quiet Place were good enough that I really wanted to see it. It was very good, but not quite up to what the reviewers were saying. The use of silence for raising tension was excellent and the plot was simple enough not to interfere with the characters and their need for silence. A man and his wife (John Krasinski and Emily Blunt) and their children (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe) are living on a farm not far outside New York City. We learn early on that blind aliens have taken over the earth, killing most of the humans. They are like very large skitterish spiders with snickety heads right out of Sigourney Weaver’s worst nightmare, with hearing so keen that any sound will bring them down on whatever is making that sound. So the family uses only sign language to communicate with each other. Simple plot. The score behind the alien scenes sort of echoes the screaming violins we heard in the shower scene in Psycho, enough to really make one’s hair stand on end. Simple plot. What do they have to do to survive? You’ll see. But there are so many flaws in the logic that I couldn’t overlook them. No spoilers here, just some references to things you might consider if you go to see it: sand (Where did it all come from?), water (How could that much flow from a broken bathroom pipe?), electricity (Are their solar panels enough?), bright, shiny nail (Why hadn’t they noticed it earlier and how did it get there?). Also, a few other questions: Did the aliens eat humans or just kill them? How did the aliens arrive and how many were there? What was their purpose for killing off life? Lots of questions, too few answers. But go see it anyway.

Countdown: I’m happy to say that my clock is running backwards. With a lot of help from Rosalie, I even managed to make it to a Harkins theater for a movie (see above) without too much shortness of breath. And I just got something from Amazon that’s a miracle aid for another physical problem of mine. From so many hours of sitting on one chair or another, day after day after day, my right butt cheek developed a sore spot very much like a bed sore (from poor blood circulation). It hurts like the devil and doesn’t want to heal because I sit on it so much. I ordered a butt donut for folks who suffer from hemorrhoids. It works beautifully. Now, with a little help from Neosporin, it should heal.

Tuesday, April 3

Masters, AI, Plastic Island


          It’s Masters week. Finally. I don’t know if anyone else is as excited as I am about this year’s play at August, but from the early coverage on the Golf Channel of the Monday through Wednesday practice rounds, it seems that everyone is ready and eager to watch the competition. Even though this upsurge in anticipation is mainly about Tiger’s return, this field is the strongest in a long time, with at least ten players who could win. There will be no Danny Willet who sneaks in this year. In fact, Willet won’t come even close to making the cut after two rounds. We who are golfers can’t wait to see who will prevail. But even hordes of non-golfers will be watching. I’d guess that tv viewing will be up between thirty and fifty percent over any past years. And most of the hype is because of Tiger. Isn’t it odd that only a few years ago, after the sordid tales of his adultery and subsequent divorce, many golfers as well as non-golfers were against him? And now we have the new, surgically repaired, more humane Tiger, and most of us are rooting for him. I hope he wins. But I wouldn’t be unhappy to see Spieth, Johnson, Mickelson, Rose, or even Garcia win it. I want the drama, the hutzpah, the magical moments and magical shots. I just don’t want another Danny Willet. Come on, Thursday, you can’t come soon enough.
          Another look at the A.I. movement. The accidental death of a woman struck by a driverless Uber auto has a bunch of folks now apprehensive about driverless cars and saying they will never ride in a driverless car. Not going to happen, folks. It’s a done deal. In the blink of an eye, there will be only cars that drive themselves. In an article about the accident, the writer said, in the near future, we’ll be boarding pilotless planes. On that same subject, I read that Steinway is now making a grand player piano that will play any classical music perfectly and with as much feeling as when a human plays it. Huh. I thought that why we had dvd’s and vinyl disks. Why do we now need a really expensive piano to do what dvd’s and disks can do?
          On Sixty Minutes, I saw that we now have an island in the pacific made up entirely of the world’s plastic debris, twice the size of Texas. Twice the size of Texas. I can’t seem to make that fit in my head. Twice the size of Texas. What can we do about it and what are the long-term consequences if we do nothing? It’s just another of the many things that drive me crazy.

Countdown: My doomsday clock hasn’t gotten any closer to midnight. I’m now in a holding pattern, no worse but still no better in terms of my energy levels. My last blood examination showed that I’m anemic, just not making enough red blood cells to provide for a proper amount of oxygen. There are many causes for anemia and I seem to be the unlucky recipient of many of them. Taking too much aspirin can cause blood thinning that leads to low red corpuscle production. Improper diet can lead to lowered production. Inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis can decrease red cells. Check. Got that. Bone marrow deficiency, check, got that (my diagnosis of myelodysplasia is indicative of marrow deficiency). So, what can I do to rectify this problem? Stop taking aspirin. Start taking lots of vitamin B-12 and folic acid.  Eat a diet that contains more of the above. Maybe even have a transfusion of blood rich in red cells. That will be my main question for my pulmonologist when I see him—what should I do?

Saturday, March 31

Blackness


         I’m confused by all the genetic labels currently being used in this country and why we still use them. Is anyone with even a trace of Negroid blood considered to be black? I know it once was so, but is it still? Is Meghan Markle black? Does Prince Harry care if she is or isn't? I don’t think so. Is NBC newscaster Lester Holt black? More like a nicely tanned fellow with a very receding hairline. Black is a color and is often used as a synonym for Negroid, but not all blacks are black. Most are those with varying degrees of skin pigmentation, all the way from obsidian black to opal pale. Skin color shouldn’t be what we use as labels for the world’s ethnic groups. Why even have such labels? And if we really do need a label for Blacks, then “coloreds” is much more accurate. But we also try to distinguish other races by skin colors, like red, yellow, and brown. Native Americans are redskins, Asians are yellow skins, and Hispanics, Indians, and a host of others are brown skins. What nonsense. America in the early 20th century was thought of as a melting pot or salad bowl because we were made up of so many different “colors” or ingredients. The melting pot metaphor suggests that we think of all these people who either emigrated here or were already here as different colored metals that are put in a pot, melted down, and stirred together, resulting in a new metal, stronger and more cohesive, a new breed of mankind that exemplifies freedom and unity, an American. Why do we insist on all these labels, especially the ones based on country of origin, as in German American, Irish American, Italian American, Mexican American, or Korean American? What nonsense. We’re all American Americans. And if we stick with nations of origin, would we have to label those from Panama Panamanian Americans, or from Argentina Argentinian Americans. Or should we just call everyone from south of our border South American Americans. What nonsense. “African American” as a label for blacks doesn’t make much sense since there are all kinds of different colors in Africa. Are Egyptian Arabs black or are they a hue of a different color? Or maybe we should use various religions for our labels, like Catholic Americans, Jewish Americans, and Muslim Americans. But how would we then be able to label agnostics and atheists? It’s all so confusing. And nonsensical.

Countdown:
          A number of my friends are unhappy with what I’m calling my countdown. I never intended it to be anything but an unemotional examination of what happens in the concluding chapter of one’s life. Ever since my encounter with pneumonia a year ago, with all the physical complications with heart and lungs, the boundaries of my world have shrunk and continue to shrink. The oxygen line that follows me everywhere has become a shorter and shorter tether. I’m finding it ever more difficult to go out for dinner, or to a theater for a movie, or even go the Arizona Broadway Theatre for a dinner/show. I run out of air so easily. I walk from car o restaurant and I’m panting like a dehydrated dog when I finally get seated. The answer, I guess, is to buy a wheelchair for Rosalie to get me to and from places outside our home. Granted, Stephen Hawking spent most of his life in more difficult circumstances than mine, but Stephen Hawking was far more intelligent and resolute than I am. It’s all about quality of life. Right now, I seem to be approaching what I consider an unacceptable quality of life. Thus, the countdown. This past week the clock has been stationary, no nearer midnight, still about 11:53.

Monday, March 26

Golf Observations


1. Has anyone else noticed the hump in Tommy Fleetwood’s back? He seems to be too young for osteoporosis, but it certainly looks like an early onset.
2. On the LPGA I find it curious that none of the commentators has said anything about Inbee Park’s amazing weight loss. In less than a year she’s gone from balloonish to svelte. Well, not entirely svelte, but she seems to be getting there. I guess marriage has been good for her.
3. This last weekend’s WGC match play tournament in Austin showed us the deadliness of having only two matches on the final day. What does the network do in between shots? You got it—commercials. Match play can be compelling, as it often is on Sundays during the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, and Solheim Cup, when there are twelve matches going on. That gives the network plenty of time to go from one compelling moment to another without so much commercial time. But in this WGC, the two semifinal matches in the morning and the final and consolation matches in the afternoon weren’t enough to sustain interest, especially when that final match between Bubba Watson and Kevin Kisner ended so early and without any kind of suspense. Bubba was five up after the first five holes, and everyone knew how that would end. It was deadly.
4. During almost every PGA event, I notice more and more golfers (the younger, the more likely) spitting. A while ago I wrote a blog about sports spitting with baseball players being the most frequent offenders. I went on to say that professional golfers were too gentlemanly to ever demean their game with spitting. That may have been true a decade ago, but no longer. Two of the younger golfers, Daniel Berger and Kevin Kisner, seem to have suspicious bulges in their cheeks which might suggest a wad of snuff, and when they all too often spit, it’s not a little squirt but a big drizzly gob. Don’t they realize they’re in the ubiquitous eye of the all-seeing camera? Don’t they realize how disgusting their spit is to most viewers? I guess not. There are others whom I’ve seen spitting occasional little baseballish squirts, like Tiger and Dustin Johnson, but you’d never catch Speith or Kutcher or Mickelson doing it. I’m going to keep a close eye on everyone at the Masters in two weeks. None of them should even think of dissing the hallowed halls of Augustan ivy. The powers that be might disqualify them for such disrespectful expectoration.
5. The game has changed so much I can hardly recognize it. Bubba Watson in his match on Saturday hit a drive that went 489 yards. What! And for many tour players, averaging over 300 yards off the tee is no big deal. I know that many young players are now in remarkable physical shape and swing with blinding speed, but most of this distancing and straightening is because of the clubs and balls they use. A 350-yard hole is now considered just a long par-3. How much farther can it go until all our courses become as extinct as pterodactyls?

Thursday, March 22

Countdown


 Countdown:   The last two days were the two worst days I can ever remember. I felt like I couldn’t breathe because of clogged sinuses, my back hurt from another polymyalgia attack, my upper dental plate was so loose that eating was difficult, my oxygen level would drop to alarming numbers after even the simplest activity, and I was so tired that all I wanted to do was close my eyes and sleep. I felt bad enough that I thought I might soon die. And I didn’t really care. See, not good days.
A few nights ago I got up to pee and when I got back in bed, my oxygen level was 59%. That’s a dangerous low, only a few percentage points away from hypoxia, loss of consciousness, and death.  I went out to the living room to check my concentrator and found that the oxy line had come loose. Put it back on, went back to bed, and in ten minutes I was up to where I should be. But it was a scary moment, another reminder of how important my oxygen line is, a life line as well as a tether. Just not good days.
Three days ago I went to see Dr. Michael Benson, a urologist to whom my primary doctor had referred me because my last blood test showed an elevated PSA, up to 7.2. Dr. Benson assured me that the PSA count was only one of the ways to detect enlarged or cancerous prostates. He then gave me the friendly social finger and told me that my prostate seemed to be normal, without any enlargement or hard spots that would indicate cancer. Good. I felt better.
But then these two awful days showed up. Two nights ago on the Stephen Colbert show, Drew Barrymore read a poem that hit me right between the eyes: “So Now?” by Charles Bukowski. Bukowski is an old iconoclastic hippie, but this poem isn’t any sort of protest. It’s the statement of an old man who mourns the loss of youth and fears the approach of death.

the words have come and gone,
I sit ill.
the phone rings, the cats sleep.
Linda vacuums.
I am waiting to live,
waiting to die. 
I wish I could ring in some bravery.
it's a lousy fix
but the tree outside doesn't know:
I watch it moving with the wind
in the late afternoon sun. 
there's nothing to declare here,
just a waiting.
each faces it alone. 
Oh, I was once young,
Oh, I was once unbelievably
young!

That’s me right now, exactly me. The only change I could make would be to switch “Linda” to “Rosalie.” Bukowski has painted a picture that fits me like a very old pair of shoes.

Tuesday, March 20

March Catchup


Time to catch up on a few things.
First, television and what’s good for viewing and what’s not so much. I say again, there’s just too much to watch. All networks, big and small, are now making their own movies and series, and then there’s the streaming of original movies and series on Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix. We would need about a hundred hours a day to see all that’s worth seeing. My assessments will be directed mainly to the major networks with a little peak at TNT and FX. I watched the pilot of The Alienist on TNT and decided it was just too grimy and with dialogue too hard to understand. FX’s The Americans will soon return, but without me. I loved the show when it first came out, but then there was such a long time between its brief seasons that I forgot what was going on. I still have too much to watch without worrying about what Elizabeth, Phillip, and daughter Paige are doing. I no longer watch American Idol or The Voice because both seem to be more interested in the judges’ shenanigans than on the talent they’re supposed to be judging. Who needs it? ABC’s For the People, the latest law and lawyer show, has too many main characters with too many plot lines racing from one to another. Don’t need it. Deception on ABC has an FBI magician working his illusions to help solve various crimes. Don’t need this one either. Taken (NBC) is just too stupid to watch. All right, what are the good ones? The two new medicals, The Good Doctor (ABC) and The Resident (Fox), are excellent. On Fox, 9-1-1 keeps getting better and better with more and more complicated and interesting plot lines. The Seal Team (CBS) is good but still not as good as The Brave (NBC), which may not be renewed for a second season. Rise (NBC), the second coming of Glee (FOX), looks and sounds very good, but where Glee was in many ways a parody (think Jane Lynch as the too hateful Sue Sylvester) with an unrealistic cast of great singers, Rise is trying to show us a high school with vocal and dramatic talent that no high school could possibly have. I hope it has as much success as Glee had. We’ll see.
          Quick Trump comment. I read one of the letters to the editor in the Arizona Republic a few days ago that railed against the students at Stoneman Douglas High School, saying they were too young to realize what they were doing to the Second Amendment and his right to “bare arms.” Yupp, that sounds exactly like a Trump supporter who wants to keep his arms bare. Trump and his supporters apparently aren’t very good spellers. Trump recently tweeted that he’d like to create a space “core.” Donald and his tweets. Doesn’t he realize that what he writes shows the world how stupid he is? Apparently not.
          And finally, what’s up with Tiger. It now looks like he really can come back and win more PGA events as well as one or two or more majors. I and all other golfers hope so. He’s very good for the game. I can’t wait to see what he does at Augusta in April.

Saturday, March 10

Tiger & Charlie



I haven’t mentioned Charlie and Tiger for a long time. Time, then, to catch up. Ever since I’ve been confined more and more to the house, the boys have assumed that all humans must be around their pets most of the time. They act much more like humans than do cats whose parents aren’t home as much as we are. They’re both much more involved with us. Tiger has to show off by playing his one-cat soccer up and down the kitchen and laundry room, or by being bad, as only he can be bad. He’ll jump up on the tv stand, turn around to see if we’re watching, then start scratching the screen as hard as he can. He knows he’s not supposed to do that, but that’s what makes it so much fun for him. And he’s such a good little helper. Whenever either of us has gone grocery shopping, he greets us at the door with tail wagging like a dog, sheer cat-happy. Then he leaps onto the counter to see what’s in the bags. “Whatta ya got, Mom, whatta ya got, whatta ya got? Huh? Huh? Huh?” He’s interested in what’s in the bags, but he’s even more interested in the bags themselves. He loves to lick plastic bags. Normal cats sleep about sixteen hours a day, but Tiger isn’t normal. He sleeps twelve and is awake to do his bad boy things for twelve. Charlie is the good boy. He’s willing occasionally to play with one of Tiger’s plastic soccer balls, but usually he’s too sedate for such nonsense. He has a regal air about him. If he’s the king of the house, then Tiger is the court jester. I’m happy to report that our two boys are now becoming best of friends. They still don’t sleep together, but they’ll spend three or four minutes grooming each other. Charlie is even now accepting me. It took us only about five years for that acceptance. He lets me pet him, he will even sit on my lap. But only for a minute. Anything longer than that would be an intrusion into his monarchy. Now, although I’ve been feeling like my home has been shrinking, the boys must feel like it’s expanding with Mom and Dad right there all the time.
And speaking of Tiger, hot damn, the other Tiger is back and looking much like the one from five or six years ago. After Saturday, he's one back of the leader at the Valspar in Florida and can maybe stage a Sunday Tiger attack and win one for the first time in five years. Oh, how I and most of the rest of the golf aficionados around the world want that to happen. 

Countdown: I seem to be holding my own this last week. By holding, I mean I’m not feeling more fatigued with the same activities, just about the same. It amazes me how much just getting ready for bed can make me pant for breath. I try to take every move slow, but by the time I crawl into bed my oxygen level is back down to 65%. Ten minutes later, it’s back up to upper 80’s, which still isn’t where I want it to be, but at least I’m no longer gasping for air. When I next see my pulmonologist I must ask him how I can counteract this lack of red blood cells. I hope he has an answer or two.


Wednesday, March 7

9-1-1 Calls


          I read that after every school shooting, there’s an uptick of fake calls to 9-1-1 about guns and plans for another shooting. The reasons they gave for such behavior? A need on the part of the caller for attention, a ploy to get school cancelled for a day or two, or just for the fun of it. Just for the fun of it?!! Kids, get real. School shootings aren’t fun. We’re living in such strange times. In this country we have an idiot for president and gun violence is at a ridiculous high. I guess I should add that technology is advancing at such a rate that no one can really keep up with it. Certainly no one as old as I am. That’s all I have for today. I’ll find something else for tomorrow.

Countdown: Today I had a wellness checkup with my primary physician, Dr. Greta Brown. Such a nice lady. I guess “wellness” would be a misnomer for me. My blood sample showed a low red cell count and my PSA was alarmingly high at just over 7. Do I have enough –ologists in my life? Apparently not. She referred me to a urologist to check my prostate. Just about the very last thing I want is surgery to remove my prostate. But if it’s cancerous, surgery would be the only answer. She asked me about my urine flow and I said it was more like a dribble than a flow. She explained that an enlarged prostate might account for the dribble. Moving on from there, despite my claims that I was still all there mentally, I was tested with three words to remember—chair, sunset, and banana. There. I still remember them nearly four hours later. Cassandra (Dr. Brown’s nurse) then had me fill in all the numbers on a clock face, then put in hands for 2:10. I passed with flying numbers. Dr. Brown also wanted me to do a stool sample to see if there was any blood. God, how I hate the collection of these samples, you know, two times take a tiny dab of stool to put on the card, then date and send in the results. I also confessed to bouts of depression and my episodes of falling down. She said, when I explained how my world is shrinking, that my depression was situational and not chemical. Well, duh, yeah it’s situational. The walls are closing in! She asked if I wanted a prescription to help with my depression and I told her the thought of taking any more medication really depresses me. She found that funny. I should do standup.

Monday, March 5

90th Oscars


          Ninety years of Oscars. Whew! So much has happened during so many of these Awards presentations, so many memories. I’m afraid nothing from this year’s show will remain in my memory for more than a week. Despite Jimmy Kimmel’s attempts to keep the acceptance speeches brief, the show itself was one tired trudge through a molasses swamp. I hope all those in attendance had butts as sore as mine. I mean, just short of four hours? Most of the winners were predictable. However, we may see another “Too White Oscars” protest next year because of the near absence of any black winners, the only two being Kobe Bryant for “Dear Basketball” (and many would say that wasn’t deserved) and Jordan Peele for original screenplay with Get Out. Now I have two movies that I must see just to put last year into perspective—I, Tonya and The Shape of Water. The best song was “Remember Me” from Coco, but here again, none of the nominees were at all hummable and, therefore, probably not very memorable despite the song’s plea for us to remember it. I keep wondering what ever happened to the simplicity and clarity of a song like “Moon River.” Enough! I have to wait another year to see what 2018 brings to Oscar.
       
          Countdown: My congestion and coughing/blowing are a thing of the past, but I still feel like I have less energy than I did only a month ago. Less energy means I’m finding it harder and harder to leave the house for almost any reason—dinners out, movies, grocery shopping, even the many medical appointments I have. Less time out and more time in means the walls of my world are closing in like in Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Not a pleasant sensation. And with increasing claustrophobia, there’s a decline in quality of life. At what point does quality of life drop enough to kiss it all goodbye? I don’t mean I’d consider suicide, but is there a point where I might just will myself to a permanent sleep? I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Sunday, March 4

Oscars 2018


          Oscar night with Jimmy Kimmel and I’m more excited about this year’s celebration than I have been for a long time, not just for the winners but also for whatever Kimmel and the winners might say about the #MeToo movement and our leader Donald Trump. I’m guessing that Kimmel may take it easy of the Donald but there will be plenty of others who take a shot or two. I haven’t been able to see all the films up for consideration so my choices are a bit skewed.
          First, the movies. I have to dismiss some because they just didn’t fit my eye. Dunkirk may have been interesting and cinematically awesome but I didn’t see anything that made it memorable. Get Out got much praise for its take on the horror genre and Daniel Kaluuya’s acting as the black victim of a white plot to steal his manhood and a portion of his brain. I enjoyed the tension but I couldn’t accept the false premises on which it was based, the hypnosis bit and the brain surgery. Same thing with Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird. I loved Soirse Ronan’s portrayal of teenage angst (Why doesn’t she just give in and spell it Sirshu?) but the film portrayed high school and teenagers in a way I just don’t understand. Too old, I guess. That leaves me with no opinion of five of the nominees, of which I most regret not seeing The Shape of Water. I would have to pick Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and one that didn’t even make it to the best nine, The Big Sick, as the two best movies of 2017. Both had great stories, interesting characters, and great acting. The Big Sick had additional humor and drama and should have been one of the nine nominated. It also had Ray Romano and Holly Hunter who should have been nominated for best supporting roles.
          What about the acting categories? First, I still don’t know what distinguishes a lead role from a supporting role. Is it based on the importance of the role to the overall story? Or is it based on the number of minutes on camera? I shrug my shoulders. In either category, what kinds of roles are more likely to win? It seems like eccentricity or physical transformation proves the difference, especially for best lead roles. Just look at some of the winners in the last 15 years. Actors: Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking, Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, Colin Firth as King George VI, Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln, and especially Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote. Actresses: Julianne Moore with Alzheimer’s in Still Alice, Meryl Streep as Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher, Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, Hillary Swank as a boxer in Million Dollar Baby, and beautiful Charlize Theron as the truly unbeautiful Monster in 2004. So, the greater the division of actor or actress to the character portrayed, the better the chances of winning. Where does that leave this year’s actresses? The best shots must be for Sally Hawkins as the mute lover of her Black Lagoonish monster and Margot Robbie as the semi-monterish Tonya Harding. But who will win? That’s a shoe-in for Frances McDormand as the Three Billboards mother and Gary Oldman’s Churchill. Best supporting actors and actresses? Allison Janney as the monstrous mother in I, Tonya and either Woody Harrelson or Sam Rockwell for their great portrayals in Billboards.  Okay, let the contest begin.

Wednesday, February 28

Gun Control


Guns, Guns, and more Guns. I keep trying to get my head around this controversial issue. What do we mean today by guns? What did the Founding Fathers mean by arms in 1791? What did “the right to bear arms” mean when they wrote the Second Amendment? “To bear” means what one individual could carry, which in 1791 meant a musket or handgun, along with black powder and bullets. The speed with which one could load and fire a round depended on how fast one could insert the powder and bullet, I’m guessing about twenty seconds between each firing. The Second Amendment is such a slippery little devil, one for which the writers laboriously chose each word and comma to make sure their meaning was absolutely clear. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” A militia then meant a citizen group which could be brought together to repel invaders or to fight against any leader who might try to enslave its citizenry. There was no standing army back then because the framers of the Constitution feared that the president or leader of the nation might use a supporting army to take over the government and the people. Such a militia would arm themselves and in time of need come together temporarily in emergencies or to defend the country. Thus, back then it was not only a right to bear arms but a duty for each male citizen to have his weapons handy in case they were needed for  bringing this well-regulated militia together. Today, we have a standing army as well as the other armed forces to do the defending, backed up by each state’s National Guard units. In 1791, the Founding Fathers couldn’t have envisioned the kinds of weapons one could carry or the speed with which those weapons could be fired.
Why do any of us now want to own firearms? I can think of only three reasons: for hunting game, for sports shooting and marksmanship, and for defending ourselves and our homes against bad guys, and for that we have rifles, shotguns, and handguns. Gun proponents argue, “If you take away our right to have AR15’s, only the bad guys will have them and how will we defend ourselves against them?” That’s why we have good guys who are allowed to have assault weapons. We call them cops. Gun proponents argue, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” The counter argument is that people kill people in any number of different ways, but killing someone with a knife or a club or a bow and arrow pretty much limits the number of people killed at any one time. That limit with an AR15 seems to be somewhere just under a hundred before the perpetrator is caught or killed, and the perp doesn't even need to be a marksman. He just aims it in the general direction of those he wants to kill and pulls the trigger. And, yes, a car or truck driven into a crowd would kill quite a few. But banning cars and trucks is impossible. Others, who think we should have even more guns than we now have, say, “What’s the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun? A good guy with a gun.” In other words, as in the old West, we should all carry guns either concealed or openly to use whenever someone draws down intending to kill someone specific or kill large numbers randomly. High Noon, here we come. It seems to me we might have bullets flying all over the place with all kinds of people being accidentally shot. And then we have President Trump’s solution for stopping school shootings—to arm qualified teachers and administrators to protect their students. First, where would schools find enough teachers and administrators who were qualified in the use of guns? And where would these guns be kept? I can see it now: The sound of gunfire alerts all teachers and students that a bad guy is somewhere in the school. These teacher guns would have to be so securely locked up that no student could ever get to them. The teacher would have to find the key to unlock the gun drawer and then unlock the box inside the drawer, all the while hearing the sound of approaching gunfire. Would that teacher be nervous? You bet. This proposed scenario makes absolutely no sense.
Would we be infringing upon the rights of our citizenry if we disallowed gun ownership by any and all? I don't think any of those who wrote this amendment intended guns should be available to absolutely everyone. Would we be infringing if we disallowed ownership to anyone, say, under 21, or anyone with a history of mental instability, or convicted felons? And why not ban everyone from owning semi-automatic rifles like the AR15, which can very easily and inexpensively (but illegally) be converted into a fully automatic rifle and modified to hold a clip that can spit out as many as 100 rounds in less than a minute? Why would anyone need that many rounds fired at that speed if we were hunting game or shooting at a target? The AR15 and other rifles like it were designed as military weapons, not sporting guns. The capacity and speed made it an ideal weapon to kill as many of the enemy in as short a time as possible, but for hunting game, sports shooting, or defending our homes we don’t need that kind of weapon. Why is the NRA so adamant about protecting the sale and use of such weapons under the guise of protecting the Second Amendment? Almost every motive for almost any action comes down to money. The sales of guns of all kinds generate huge profits for gun manufacturers. Does money also motivate the NRA? Should we allow a lobby group like the NRA to so control our elected officials that we will never see any curbing of gun violence and mass murders? The kids all over the country who are now protesting the government’s lack of action about gun control have it right. And many of them will soon be old enough to vote. Too bad they weren’t old enough about a year ago.

Countdown: I might just as easily have called this a metronome. Countdown sounds too much like a Doomsday clock approaching a personal midnight. But a metronome keeps a tempo that can be made faster or slower. A metronome better describes how my days are going. The more things I have to do during the day, the slower the tempo. The fewer things I have to do during the day, the faster it goes back and forth. This illness has pretty much confined me to the house, so my activities are limited. I’ve found that during this two weeks of feeling not so good, my days go really fast. I’m now sleeping almost ten hours a night. I get up and do my juice and coffee, a piece or two of toast, read the paper. Bang! It’s now noon. Then I may nap a bit. Then I may write a blog and a countdown or read a book. Then another nap. Then it’s time for a cocktail before we decide what really simple meal we may have for dinner. Bang! It’s now 5:30 and time for the Nightly News with Lester Holt. Then on to the tv shows we love. Then, Bang! It’s time to go to bed. Another really short day has passed. I saw my cardiologist a few days ago. She told me, assured me, that when I was finally done with this virus I would regain most of the energy I had just a month or so ago. That was really good news because I want my days to slow down, to lengthen. I miss our trips to see a movie or our several dinners out each week, even my trips to the grocery store just to get out of here for a while. I want my metronome to slow down. I want my countdown to slow down. I’m not quite ready to meet my maker. I may not rage against the coming of the night, but I also won’t just lie down to a peaceful death in the night. I still have too many things to do.

Thursday, February 22

Olympics & The Florida Project

             I have to say I’m getting really sick of the Olympics and can hardly wait for them to be over. There’s so much I don’t want to see and it’s almost impossible to locate what I do want to see. Mike Tirico keeps saying that we’ll soon see Lindsey Vonn perform her magic on the slopes and then she never seems to get there. And, yes, I’m mainly interested in only what the Americans are doing and not so much what the other nations are doing. And the Americans have been pretty disappointing. They’re too slow or they fall or they just can’t finish. Is this team less capable than those in the past or have so many other nations simply gotten better? I suspect the latter. The same might prove true in two years when we have the 2020 Summer Games. Meanwhile, I click off each day until we get to the closing ceremonies next Sunday. Then NBC and the other networks can get back to the shows I really want to watch.
          Several nights ago, when we didn’t want to watch the Olympics and all other channels had scheduled only reruns, we rented The Florida Project. This was a film that got much critical praise, even an Oscar nomination for Willem Dafoe for best supporting actor. Most of the reviewers called it powerful in its realistic depiction of its socially disadvantaged people living in the shadow of Disneyworld. The word “charming” shows up on many reviews. I’m bewildered. I didn’t find much of anything charming or heartwarming or praiseworthy about this film. I kept waiting for magic to happen and it never did. Here’s the setup: It takes place in a semi-sleazy motel near Disneyworld’s Magic Kingdom. It opens with two bratty children, Moonee (Brooklyn Prince) and Scooty (Christopher Rivera), screaming brattily just for the joy of screaming. Then Moonee, the lead brat, decides they should go over to an adjoining motel where from the second story balcony they can spit on a ratty blue car below. Why? It’s never clear why she decides to do anything. I went to Rotten Tomatoes and read some of the reviews to see what I seemed to be missing. Nearly all of the positive reviews said essentially the same thing—that The Florida Project was both charming and saddening in its portrayal of the semi-down-and-outers who reside in the garishly purple Magic Castle Motel. Charming? Not for me. Saddening? Yes, on so many levels I don’t have room for them all. The film is a two-hour lesson in irony, the ironic connection between the false magic of Disneyworld and the seaminess of the Magic Castle Motel. It might as easily been called The Nevada Project, substituting the false glitz of the Vegas Strip and the seamy underbelly of the roach-ridden motels on the edges of the old Vegas. Then there’s the irony of parenting and child-rearing in a normal household compared to that of most of the motel residents, especially that of the young mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) and her 6-year-old daughter Moonee. Halley makes ends meet (sort of) by panhandling (selling knock-off designer perfume to visiting tourists or wealthy patrons of more upscale motels nearby), begging, stealing and reselling the goods stolen, and even hooking occasionally when ends don’t quite meet. Meanwhile, Moonee and her running mates are free to gallop all over the place doing their Little Rascally things, like begging for enough money to buy an ice cream cone to slurpilly share, or sneaking into the motel’s forbidden power room to switch off the power to the entire motel (Oh, you little rascals!), or journeying to the forbidden abandoned apartment buildings waiting for demolition where they smash windows and mirrors and whatever else is smashable and then set a fire in one building before fleeing home to the Magic Castle (Oh, you little rascals!). At other times during her day, she goes to a fast-food place to pick up throwaway food handed out by Halley’s friend and fellow Magic Castle resident who works there, picks up a bag or two of bread handed out by a volunteer group, and accompanies her mother on her perfume sales trips. It’s as though she’s being home-schooled by a mother who doesn’t seem to know where her life is going, home-schooled in all the ways she will need to know when she grows up to become her mother, and the beat goes on. Maybe I’m being too harsh on Halley and Moonee and The Florida Project but I still don’t understand why this film is garnering such praise. All right, what about Willem Dafoe’s role? He’s the motel manager and surrogate father figure for the children and their parents. I also see him as a sort of elder catcher in the rye Holden Caulfield who protects the children from any perverts who get too close to them. He cares for the motel and its inhabitants. And he does it well. But I can’t see why his acting is deserving of a best supporting actor nomination. I think maybe The Florida Project has angered me in the same way that Beasts of the Southern Wild angered me when Quvenzhan√© Willis was so praised for her portrayal of that strange little girl in a devastated Louisiana. I pretty much hated that highly acclaimed movie from 2012. And now Brooklyn Prince will be hailed as the next great child star. I can almost hear Sean Baker, the director, telling her just to act as bratty as she can for the entire movie, and at the end, when Moonee needs to show some emotion in a full-face shot, he probably stood in front of her and told her to sob just as hard as she could until she can work up a tear or two. God, what a grouch I’ve become.

Countdown: I have to confess that I haven’t been entirely honest about my health. My countdown has been somewhat rapid because I’ve been battling a bug, not the flu bug because I’ve had no fever, nausea, or aching joints, but a bug of some kind that has me with a deep congestive cough and sinuses that keep me blowing and blowing. The countdown will resume, I hope, at a slower pace once I get rid of the congestion. Why do I still feel like I’m skiing on a downslope that keeps getting steeper and steeper? Because I’m in a Catch-22 trap—the more I just sit, the weaker I become, the weaker I become, the more I just sit. This decline is only physical, not mental. I still have almost all the marbles I’ve always had. But the activities I was able to do only a month ago without exhaustion I’m now unable to do unless I sit down for five or ten minutes to get my heart rate down and my oxygen level up. I won’t really know where I stand until I can finally stop the coughing and congestion. Soon, I hope.

Friday, February 16

News Bits


Only a few things in the news, the Winter Games and the killing spree in Florida. All the Trump news is becoming so predictable it’s not worth even a comment. These Games in South Korea are showing the world what can be accomplished in only six decades, to take a war-torn country from very primitive living conditions to a position as one of the world’s leading economic giants. Everything we see on television looks so pristine and modern. Maybe these games can help us avoid the dangers of hatred among nations and peoples. We can only hope so. And then we have that tragic shooting rampage in Florida. Again, we have a neon sign telling us we need to do something about controlling gun purchases. Why does an 18-year-old need an AR15? Why should he be allowed to buy one? For that matter, why should anyone need an AR15 designed for killing people? “I need to make this shooting/bombing ... infamous,” Nikolas Cruz wrote, according to the court documents. “I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can. I need to make this count. ... I’m learning from past shooters/bombers mistakes, so I don't make the same ones."  "I'm preparing myself for the school shooting. I can't wait. My aim has gotten much more accurate. ... I can't wait to walk into that class and blow all those (expletive) away.” What would drive this young man to want to randomly kill as many school students as possible? Sounds to me like winning some kind of notoriety, making a name for himself even if it has to be for such a horrendous act. Come on, Republicans and Democrats, you must now get together to put some sensible limitations on the Second Amendment.

         “Countdown”  I have to clarify what I mean by a countdown. First, I don’t have any idea what such a count would require. I could die tomorrow or live for another ten years. What makes me think I should start a countdown? I’ve noticed a perceptible dip in my energy levels. It takes me longer and longer after any activity to recover to acceptable pulse rates and oxygen levels. Now, just getting ready for bed exhausts me and I take ten minutes after getting in bed to come back to 80 pulse and 90% oxygen. My normal pulse at rest has always been around 60 and acceptable oxygen percentages should be minimally 90%, and 93% to 95 % for normal. However, I now realize I’m anything but normal. Another indicator is my equilibrium or lack thereof. My -librium isn’t even close to being equi-. I can no longer get out of a chair without some danger of falling before I can stand upright. I guess that means the next step down in the count will be to have a walker always in front of me when I want to stand up or go anywhere. How restrictive will that be? Very. And now when I go to the grocery store I can just barely make it to that of so welcome chair just outside of the pharmacy. Then I sit until my oximeter tells me it’s okay to move again. What will be the next step in this grocery count down? Shopping from one of the riding carts. I’m not being morbid just to listen to my whines. I don’t fear death and I probably would rather, contrary to Dylan Thomas’s advice, “go gentle into that good night.” In a recent obituary (yes, I’ve taken to glancing at them to see what the average ages seem to be) a woman in Phoenix “died peacefully in her sleep.” I find that a comforting thought. What a way to go, just go to bed, go to sleep, and then just keep on sleeping. No ranting or raging for that lady. She simply decided it was time to go. I hope when my times comes that it will be peacefully in my sleep.

Monday, February 12

Competitive Eating & Winter Games


News Item: Molly Schuyler, a competitive eater, recently won a contest by consuming 501 chicken wings in thirty minutes. Wow! That would be almost seventeen wings per minute, or three and a half seconds for each wing. That must have been a lovely sight, to see this woman shoving wing after wing into her mouth for half an hour. I wonder if she was growling or simply sighing with pleasure. Only in America. In places with extreme poverty, children starving to death, I wonder how many wings per day would sustain each child’s life. Five? Six? If as few as five, then Molly’s thirty minute total would save a hundred children from starvation for a day. Or keep one child alive for a hundred days. And what does a competitive eater do at the end of a contest? I’m pretty sure it would involve a finger in the throat to disgorge the wings, hotdogs, pies, burritos, steak, or whatever. Only in America. I then found on the internet that she had also taken up the Big Texan Steak Ranch challenge and had eaten three 72-ounce steaks in twenty minutes. Wow! And I thought that even one Big Texan steak meal would be impossible to consume in their time limit of an hour (the meal includes a shrimp cocktail, a baked potato, salad, and a buttered roll). Molly could probably go through everything in the kitchen in an hour, even the pots and pans. Wow! You go, girl! Only in America. Also on the net I found that there's an organization called MLE (yupp, that's Major League Eating and yupp, those are cannolis you see in the picture above) that oversees eating contests and set the rules for such competition. I also found that there are world records for consuming any kind of food you can think of (amount and time involved). Also, that nearly every nation has its own contests. So, America isn't alone in its gluttony.
          Winter Olympics: In a dictionary, you might find a photo of the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony right next to the word “spectacular.” It was a hitchless spectacle. I’ve watched every opening ceremony of every summer and winter games for the last sixty years and this one was by far and away the best. I hope the entire games can live up to the opening.
          Countdown Mode: Every day I feel a little less alive, a little more fatigued. The increments of these changes is tiny but relentless. Therefore, I’m going to describe briefly how each day is a movement down or up (it all depends on which direction death will take me). I know that sounds super self-indulgent, too much like an examination of my navel, as though anyone cares what my navel looks like. So, whatever readers I still have, please feel free to skip all paragraphs in future blogs marked as “Countdown.”

Monday, February 5

Face book, Super Bowl LII, & Trump Joke

          Facebook seems to be more and more simply a place to expose oneself to friends and foes alike. Anything one says there can be seen by virtually anyone in the world. Be careful what you say because it may come back to bite you. It reminds me of a Dickinson poem, “I’m Nobody,” especially the last stanza: “How dreary - to be - Somebody! / How public - like a Frog / To tell one’s name - the livelong June - / To an admiring Bog!” I guess I might say the same thing about blogs and bloggers. And I’m one of them. But my admiring bog isn’t nearly as big as the Facebook Bog.
          Thank heavens, football is over for another year. The game between the Patriots and Eagles was one of the best, best-played Super Bowl games ever. And what a nice outcome, with the Eagles spanking the Pats’ backsides. At the end of the first half, the touchdown the Eagles made on fourth-and-goal, the trick play in which Foles caught a soft pass in the right flat for a touchdown to put them ahead 22-12, has to be the best, best-executed play I’ve ever seen. That was the play that won it for the Eagles. I hope that next season the officials will clarify the ridiculous rule about what is and what isn’t a catch. They spent ten minutes trying to decide if that last Eagles touchdown was legitimate, all depending on whether Zach Ertz was or wasn’t a runner when he broke the plane with the football. But I was disappointed by the commercials, which are supposed to be clever and funny. Most of them were neither. Then there’s Justin Timberlake’s halftime hoopla (which may have needed another Janet Jackson nipple to make it memorable).  Way too much dancing and too little singing. That seems to be the case with nearly all current songs and singers—too much emphasis on lightshows and choreography and too little on lyrics. One last thing about NFL football: the stats need to be redefined. Why should the quarterback get passing yardage when he throws a one-yard screen pass and then the receiver takes it another ninety-nine? I think the passing stats should include only number of completed passes and how many yards there were at the point of the reception. Receivers should get credit for the number of their receptions and the yardage when they caught it. All yards after the catch should count for his yardage as a runner. Also, deliberate passes thrown away or spiked shouldn’t be included in the passing stats. Also, the plays in which the quarterback takes a knee to stop the clock shouldn’t be included in number of plays or passing or rushing yardage. There. Are you listening, all you statisticians and rules-makers?
          Okay, just time enough for a Trump joke, cute and not vicious for a change:
 Just as Donald Trump is getting out of his limo at Mar-a-Lago, a man steps from a nearby doorway and aims a gun at him. One of his secret service agents screams, “Mickey Mouse!” The assailant is so shook up by the scream that he’s tackled and disarmed. A second agent asks the screamer, “Why on earth did you shout Mickey Mouse?” The screamer says, “I didn’t mean to. I just got flustered. I really meant to warn him, “Donald, duck!”

Saturday, January 27

More on Money & Commas

I’m back to beating this old dead horse—money and what the future might hold for us here as well as for everyone else in the world. In an article by Porter Stansbury, a noted economist, (The Crux, 12-26-2017), Stansbury warns readers about something he calls a Jubilee, the term for a legislative canceling all indebtedness, sort of a declaration of bankruptcy for everyone who has any kind of debt. He says that such a move would result in the markets crashing in a heap, the closing of banks and corporations, the devaluation of the dollar, and an insane increase in the value of gold and silver. What could cause such a move?
Stansbury says, “Do you ever feel—despite the supposed economic ‘recovery’ of recent years—that something in America is still not quite right? If so, you are not alone. After all, how can things be ‘OK’ when nearly half the men ages 18-34 now live with their parents—the highest level since the Great Depression? How can it be ‘normal’ when in one of America's richest cities (Seattle) there are now 400 unauthorized homeless camps under bridges and along freeway medians? How can it be a ‘recovery’ when 78% of the U.S. population now lives paycheck to paycheck, with essentially zero savings? . . . Why are so many Americans so angry? We've hit a serious tipping point in America. Our nation, as I'm sure you've noticed, has become a financial, cultural, and demographic pressure cooker. . . . While the rich are getting richer, everyone else is losing ground. The middle class—the most politically and economically stable part of our society—is disappearing. The foundation of the middle class in America was a long history of consistently rising wages. For millions of Americans, life got a little better, year after year, as the value of their wages increased and our economy grew into the world's largest. But this is no longer happening. Low income earners now make LESS in real terms than they did in 1980!” He goes on to say, “Get ready America, The Jubilee is coming. Very soon, millions of Americans will be calling for the government to ‘do something.’ Specifically, they'll be calling for a clean slate . . . to wipe out their debts and ‘reset’ the financial system. The crowds will cheer and march like never before. The violence will escalate. Our politicians will promise this reset of the financial system as a way to a ‘new and better prosperity.’ And while it might sound like good news to those who have gotten in over their head—what will really happen is a national nightmare. You see, this idea of erasing debts to reset the financial system is not new. In fact, in the Bible, it's referred to as a Jubilee.” Thanks for the warning, Mr. Stansbury. I’ll put it on my calendar.
            More on money, this time from me. One of the most unfair aspects of huge fortunes is the ability of the hyper wealthy to evade taxes with a horde of tax lawyers finding secret and to pass on their fortunes to heirs. Let’s say Jeff Bezos dies with $100 billion. He can’t take it with him and his heirs have no need for that much since they did nothing to earn it. Why should his old money live on and on when it could be used to pay off our national debt, rebuild our entire ailing infrastructure, and eliminate poverty? Why not have an inheritance tax that disallows such extravagance? Why not tax everyone with more than a billion dollars at a rate of 99%? Jeff Bezos’ heirs would still get one billion and the government would get the rest. The percentage scale could go down by one percent for each billion dollars to one billion, which wouldn’t be taxed at all. I think most of us could live quite well on a billion bucks. My numbers may be fuzzy but you get the drift. Does that sound too much like socialism? Okay, then call me a socialist and I’ll be able to live quite well with that also.
* * *
            Has anyone else noticed that on Facebook, almost no one ever uses commas to set off names of those they’re speaking to? It used to be called using commas for Direct Address. The same is too true in editorials and newspaper articles written by people who should know better. In one of my blogs, I ranted about this same thing but it bears repeating. Some commas really do matter and can save lives. Just look at “Let’s eat, Gramma” and “Let’s eat Gramma.” Poor Gramma, gone to a consumptive grave by her grandchildren, and all for the lack of a comma.
            

Friday, January 26

Show Boat

  “Another opening, another show . . .” And again I’m effusive about this treasure in the Valley—the Arizona Broadway Theatre. Last Tuesday we saw what they did with Show Boat, the Jerome Kern/Leonard Hammerstein chestnut from 1927. I remember seeing the film version in 1951, with Howard Keel, Catherine Grayson, and Ava Gardner. I decided to listen on YouTube to those versions of “Ol’ Man River” to see which was better. In 1927, Paul Robeson sang it; in the film, William Warfield sang it; and at ABT, Earl Hazell sang it. Mr. Hazell was much better than Robeson and about as good as, maybe even better than, Warfield. Talk about a voice like milk chocolate. He may not have been as low as a basso profondo but he was certainly deep, more a basso cantante with an upper register that was rich and effortless. When I saw the film version, it didn’t hit me then what a musical statement this show made about race relations, male dominance, and alcoholism. I learned that the various productions, depending on the times and audiences, have wrestled with a suitable way to refer to Blacks. In the opening lyrics to “Ol’ Man River,” it went from, “Niggers all work” to “Colored folk work,” to “Here we all work.” How curious. Today, we still find “nigger” offensive enough that it’s referred to as the “n-word.” How silly. I would think most Black males would be more offended by “Hey, boy” than by “nigger.”  Show Boat also addressed the miscegenation laws back in the day. Julie, who is trying to pass as white, is about to be arrested because she’s married to a white man. Before the sheriff gets there, her husband cuts her finger and then sucks some blood so that he could truthfully say he was a black man, having one or two drops of Negro blood in him. How strange that not that long ago, we had such a racist attitude toward Negros. The story may have been shallow and outdated, but the sets, costumes, choreography, and voices were all excellent, especially that of Earl Hazell as Joe, Brittany Santos as Magnolia, Lacy Sauter as Julie, and Jamie Parnell as Gaylord Ravenal. ABT just keeps getting better and better.

Wednesday, January 24

Wealth and Responsibility

       
           I never have understood how money works. I took a class in economics in college but I don’t remember any of what I may have learned. I know only that if I work, I earn money and then use it to trade for goods. That’s always seemed like a better system than the old barter bit of trading goods for goods. What I don’t understand is how the U.S. can borrow money to run the government and then have to pay interest on what was borrowed. Who loaned it to us and who’s getting the interest? What would happen if we just declared bankruptcy? What would be the consequences? I simple-mindedly shrug my shoulders at these monetary considerations. And, just what the hell is a bit coin?
          Another thing I’ve never understood: How does the stock market work? If we have extra cash, we can buy stock in various companies. Then, if those companies do well, our investment goes up, just like the way that individuals like Trump and the other Forbes 400 accumulate money, accumulate it to such an extent that it becomes ridiculous. Money makes money without ever having to work for it, and the more money that piles up, the more and more and more it makes. What about all of us who don’t have any extra cash to invest?
I just read an article that included some frightening statistics about accumulated wealth. According to Oxfam, the international organization focused on the alleviation of poverty, billionaires around the world last year increased their wealth by $762 billion, enough to end extreme world poverty seven times over. Also, 82% of the money generated last year went to the richest 1% of the global population. The poorest 50% got nothing. Only 42 people in the world have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50% of the world. “Oxfam is calling on governments and international institutions to recognize the detrimental impact our current economic system is having on the world’s poor and work to develop more human economies that prioritize greater equality. Policies such as ensuring all workers receive a minimum ‘living’ wage, eliminating the gender pay gap, protecting the rights of women workers, and ensuring that the wealthy pay their fair share of tax would go far in achieving this goal. Oxfam estimates a global tax of 1.5 percent on billionaires’ wealth could pay for every child to go to school.
This from the L.A. Times (Nov. 11, 2017): “To really comprehend just how insane the wealth concentration has become, consider Jeff Bezos, the head of Amazon. Worth about $90 billion (that amount since this was written has gone up another $15 billion), he recently was declared the richest man in the world. In October alone, his wealth jumped by $10 billion—or more than $13 million per hour.” This from The Guardian (Nov. 8, 2017): “In a report, the Billionaire Bonanza, the thinktank said Donald Trump’s tax change proposals would exacerbate existing wealth disparities as 80% of tax benefits would end up going to the wealthiest 1% of households.” Also, “The study found that the billionaires included in Forbes Magazine’s list of the 400 richest people in the U.S. were worth a combined $2.68 trillion, more than the gross domestic product (GDP) of the UK.” The entire United Kingdom! Yikes! And John Hoxie, another co-author of the thinktank report, said: “So much money concentrating in so few hands while so many people struggle is not just bad economics, it’s a moral crisis.”
          A moral crisis. Why does anyone need so much wealth? Is it simply a sign of power? Is it simply so that we can now own that mansion and that yacht and all those really expensive cars? And why does anyone need that much power or need that many toys? How much money does anyone need to lead a satisfying, fulfilled life? If your answer is $100 million, or even $1 billion, then why can’t Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos donate the rest of their fortunes to eradicating poverty not only in the U.S. but in the entire world? Why can’t those oil-wealthy potentates in the Middle East do the same?
            I don’t know. I’m just a money moron.

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