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.

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.

Saturday, January 20

Information Age

I’m continually amazed by the information that’s available on-line. How did all of it get put there? How did Wikipedia manage to transfer all this past knowledge from all the books we used to have to dig around in? And how does it keep up with the deluge of new information that stacks up every day? If growth in technology and medicine is exponential, how can humans manage it all? I guess that’s where artificial intelligence comes in.
Back to my opening statement. During another night in which I only half slept and half wandered around in my mental palace, I heard an old song from my past, “At Last.” And I tried to pull up the lyrics but I could only hear, “At last, this never happened at last.” I could hear the music but only fragments of the lyrics. “What’s more, this never happened before, this is a once in a lifetime, this is the moment when suddenly . . .” and as it went into the bridge, “Mine to hold as I’m holding you now . . .” Something just didn’t make sense. When I got up this morning it was still there, like an unscratchable brain itch. So I searched on-line for what I thought was the title, “At Last,” which took me to YouTube, which seems to have versions of every song ever written. I found Etta James singing, “At last, my love has come along, my lonely days are over . . .” Yes, I knew that song. Only it wasn’t to the music I kept hearing. So I searched for: “What’s more, this never happened before,” and lo and behold, it took me to the old Nat King Cole song, “Again.” And it all came together. It wasn’t “At Last,” it was “Again.” Again, this couldn't happen again, This is that once in a lifetime . . .”  Amazing.
I also half heard in my nighttime wanderings “Something Old, Something New.” But all I could hear was the first verse: “There's something old and something new, And something borrowed, something blue, Packed in her suitcase. I never thought that she would be a blushing bride, but golly gee! Just look in her suitcase!” Does that “golly gee” tell you how old and out of date this song is? It’s almost too old even for ancient me. Anyway, I searched for those opening lines and was rewarded with a Sinatra version on YouTube. The song was first recorded by him in 1946. Seventy-two years ago. Golly gee that’s a long time ago. I wonder who last used that expression. Those were much simpler times than the times today. Today we would more likely hear someone shout, “Holy Shit!” or “Whudda Fuck!”
I wonder when someone last said “Aw shucks.” I go on-line and find: Bashful said it in Disney’s Snow White in 1938; Thumper said it in Disney’s Bambi in 1942; and SpongBob SquarePants said it sometime after this show was introduced in 1999. That was probably the last time it was said.
Amazing what one can find on the Net. This is especially important for old fogies like me who can’t remember much of anything. If I see an actor on tv but I can’t think of his name but I remember a movie he made, I can go to IMDB, look up the film which lists the cast. Wham! There he is. Or maybe “Goldern! There he is!”

 The All Powerful Net will tell you anything you want or need to know. And a few things you don’t want to know or shouldn’t know, like how to counterfeit hundred dollar bills or how to build a homemade bomb.

Friday, January 19

Birthdays & Cats

Today is my wife’s 80th birthday and Edgar Allen Poe’s 209th. I wasn’t able to put eighty candles on a cake for her, but she forgave me, nor would I be able to put over two hundred candles on Poe’s cake, but I’m sure he doesn’t care. A hundred and sixty-nine years in the grave will take most of your cares away.

          Even though she didn’t want any cake or presents, I went to PetSmart and bought two more pieces of cat furniture and put them in her name, an S-shaped piece that sits on the living room floor and a triple-tiered piece that goes on the back patio with all the other pieces out there. She says it’s the best two presents she’s ever gotten. Our two cats are pretty much our lives now. They own the house and allow us to live with them as long as we feed them regularly and buy them toys and furniture. We lost our third cat Tuffy in a tragic accident four months ago. Tuffy, always the inquisitive one, climbed into the clothes washing machine when we weren’t looking, the door got shut, and we didn’t look for him nor could we hear him until it was too late. His air ran out and he suffocated. We assume it wasn’t a painful death, just a slow sleep when the oxygen ran out, but horribly tragic nonetheless. Tuffy and Charlie were always the best of friends with Tuffy’s brother Tiger the outsider. But now that Tuffy is gone, Charlie and Tiger are bonding. They actually seem to like each other. The two of them now have six different cat furnitures on the back patio, so many they can’t decide which to sit in or on.  But all have views of the backyard and they love to sit and watch the birds and bunnies that come along. They don’t so much care for the coyotes that occasionally amble through our yard. The coyotes will look at them and think, “Ummm, what a scrumptious meal you two would make!” And the boys look back and say “Yah! Yah! Yah! You can’t get us, so just go on your way and leave us alone!” And the coyotes do just that, continue on their way to find easier meals than Tiger and Charlie.

Tuesday, January 16

Religious Beliefs

I was born in and raised in Mobridge, a small prairie town in South Dakota. I’ve already extensively examined my memories of that town—the trees, birds, childhood games, carnivals, the Missouri River that flowed a few miles west and south of the town, the sports I was involved in, and the golf course on which I spent so many hours of my youth.
But what about religion. My memories of my religious background are hazy at best. I know my mother (not my father, who was never a church-goer) insisted on my going to the little Mobridge Episcopal Church with her. It was a small brown church just north of our house on Main and 7th St. Rosalie’s father and grandfather built it around 1910, with a basement where I remember having to go for catechism lessons, or Bible school as we always called it. Oh, how I hated those required lessons in religion. Maybe it was my natural rebellion against such thought, or maybe it was simply my laziness.
I vaguely remember singing in the church choir, something my mother must have suggested, but I doubt that I did that for very long. I remember the sermons Father Clark would give in that pretentious voice he used to demonstrate his holiness, his sanctimoniousness, how boring they were. I also remember the communions when Father Clark would give kneelers a sip of grape juice posing as the blood of Christ and a fish food wafer posing as the flesh of Christ. Then he would sanctimoniously wipe the lip of the flagon and move on to the next kneeler. Back then we didn’t over-worry about passing germs. Or maybe everyone assumed that God wouldn’t allow any such passing of dangerous germs. I knelt when Father Clark indicated it was time for a shared prayer, but I did so only because it would have been too apparent to the other parishioners that I was a dissenter. I never looked down or closed my eyes when he led us in prayer. I never felt that I needed an intermediary between me and some higher being, some universal creator. 
I also remember when I was in my early teens that brief time when I was an altar boy. It had to be something my mother had forced on me. I certainly wouldn’t have done it on my own. Me, an altar boy. God must have looked down in some alarm seeing me there, lighting the candles, snuffing the candles, performing my other little altar boy duties.
The Episcopal congregation was tiny, with as few as only fifteen or twenty people on any given Sunday. I remember some of the regular families: the Travises (minus my father), the Morrises, the Todds, the Leshers, maybe the Nichols and Shermans. There must have been others but I don’t remember who.
I remember the distinct odors of that church, the scent of lilacs from the cupboard in which the choir robes were hung, the holiday aroma of pine needles. Did we ever have a nativity play for Christmas Eve? I simply don’t remember, but if we did I’m sure my mother would have insisted that I be one of the Wise Men.
I also remember when I had to go to Father Clark’s house for my confirmation lessons. I remember arguing loud and long with him about one or all of what he was trying to teach me. Despite my protests and denials, I was confirmed when I was fourteen, and God, again, was probably looking down in amazement.
After I left Mobridge for good (leaving Mobridge was never bad, always good), I never attended any church, never went to any services except for one or two funerals and one or two marriages, but those don’t really count. I never entered any church except for one or two times with Rosalie to the Methodist Church in Lakewood, N.Y. Both times, I was surprised that the walls didn’t come crashing down on me, the interloper. One or two times was more than enough. Why take a chance on crashing walls.
I’m not an atheist, one who denies the existence of God, but I’m certainly an agnostic, one who just doesn’t know. Agnostics are people who hedge their bets, just in case there really is a God. Playing it safe. That’s me.

Friday, January 12

Molly's Game, Harkins Theaters, & Joe Arpaio

We finally got back to our favorite Harkins Theater near the Arrowhead Mall to see Molly’s Game, the story of Molly Bloom and the really high-stakes poker games she ran in New York and Los Angeles. It was interesting to see how these high rollers played Texas Holdem, but it was really about seeing Jessica Chastain create the character of Molly Bloom. Molly sort of backs into her ownership of these poker games, but she’s so bright she makes them bigger and better than the other games in town, getting a selection of wealthy movie stars, sports figures, and businessmen, and, without realizing it, a few Russian mobsters. Her world comes tumbling down when she’s arrested by the FBI for her connection to the mob. She persuades Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) to defend her and the two (actually three if you count Jaffey’s oh so cute young daughter, who considers Molly as her role model) bond as they plan her defense. The story itself was fairly forgettable but Chastain as Molly Bloom was very memorable. She pretty much made the movie, and though she probably won’t win the Oscar for best actress, she’ll be close.
We also got to see what Dan Harkins has done to the Arrowhead theater and what he apparently is doing to all of his theaters in Arizona—going the same way the AMC theaters have gone, to the reclining leather seats, the reserved seating, and the wine and beer bar in the lobby. I wasn’t very happy about how long it now takes to get a ticket (those in front of you who have to pick the seats they want). I guess one should simply buy the tickets on-line and not have to wait in line. I think I’ll do that next time. As for the reclining seats, they may not be quite as comfortable as they’re made out to be. I found my legs going numb after an hour or so. I’ll see how it goes next time. Meanwhile, I may just go to the bar and get a big glass of wine to take into the show. Then I could really nap during boring stretches.

Now there are two birds of a feather who flock together.
Here’s a news item that makes my stomach churn. Joe Arpaio, Arizona’s bad-ass ex-sheriff, has decided he’ll run for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate to replace Jeff Flake. And what makes me really nauseous is that he might actually win. He’d be 86 years old, a Trump pardonee, a Trump chum, and just like we discovered with Donald Trump, there may just be enough really stupid people who would vote for him. Please, please, please, let there be a Democrat who could keep him out of the Senate. Gabby Giffords, even with your health issues, would you consider coming back as U.S. senator instead of representative? Much much better you than Nasty Joe.

Thursday, January 11

Time's Up & Warren Buffet

From last Sunday, the Golden Globes were interesting, especially the way the attendees chose to show their support for the recent women’s movements against gender inequality and sexual harassment, “Time’s Up” and “Me Too.” Black was the protest color with most men in black tuxes and most women in black gowns. Most of the gowns were very elegant and classy, unlike too many of the gowns from past Globes and Oscars. Most noteworthy was the speech Oprah Winfrey gave when she accepted the Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement. She was slim again, she was beautiful, and she was eloquent when she spoke of the women’s movements. And there was speculation about her possibly running for president in 2020. I hope she does. I would certainly vote for her. I think most of the women and a lot of the men in the country would vote for her. She may be a billionaire like Trump, but she she’s a whole lot smarter than Trump. Anything to get that boob out of the White House. So, yes, Oprah, run, please run. The other thing that struck me about those in attendance: so many looked so much older than I want them to look. Kirk Douglas looked like a seriously deformed mummy and Barbra Streisand looked like she could be his daughter. How did so many of these actors and actresses get so much older than I remember them? Time flies, time flies. I wonder how the Oscars will go and how all these people will look.

In a Time Magazine interview (January 15, 2018), Warren Buffet spoke of the cryptocurrency craze and warned against investing in any of it. He also mentioned that in the last 25 years, the  total wealth of those on the Forbes 400 saw an increase in their fortunes go up 29 times, from $93 billion to $2.7 trillion—“while many millions of hardworking citizens remained stuck on an economic treadmill. During this period, the tsunami of wealth didn’t trickle down. It surged upward.” Twenty-nine times! That means that if I had a million bucks in the stock market in 1982, I would have twenty-nine million bucks today. That makes the recent tax bill a huge mistake, with most of the tax cuts going to the rich, while for most of us, those of us who are not on the Forbes 400 or are unable to have savings in the rising and rising stock market, losers. There will be, as Buffet suggests, no trickledown. Just a huge increase in the fortunes of the already wealthy. In that old song, “Ain’t We Got Fun,” we hear again, “The rich get rich and the poor get poorer. In the meantime, in between time, ain’t we got fun.” No, Donald and all your billionaire buddies, we ain’t got fun.

Saturday, January 6

Lost Love

In yesterday’s mail, I got my semi-annual South Dakotan magazine, the alumni news magazine put out by my alma mater, SUSD, State University of South Dakota. They’ve upped the ante from past publications, with heavy slick paper and vivid color. A lovely issue. I looked at some of the articles, but it’s been almost sixty years since I graduated and almost nothing about the campus or the staff is familiar to me anymore. The school I knew in the fifties is now considerably different. But, as I always do, I turned to the section with news about graduates from past decades. Nobody there I recognized from the 1950 to 1960 section. Then I went through the In Memoriam list of those who had died in the past year. And a name from my past popped up. Patricia (Prostrollo) Schultz, ’57 B.S.Ed. Sioux Falls, SD, Alphi Phi. I was stunned. I felt more sorrow than I should have. Her death shouldn’t have surprised me so much or made me so sad. She had to be, after all, in her eighties. But the sight of that name filled me with such sorrow and regret. Patricia Prostrollo was a woman whom I had loved enough that I had wanted to marry her. “But that was in a different country, and besides, the wench is dead.” (Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta) The wench is dead, the wench is dead, and my sorrow was as much for my loss as for her passing.
          My sorrow was all about the life I have that will probably soon end. Sorrow for all the things I wanted to do and never did. Sorrow for what might have been. Sorrow for the passing of a woman I had thought about off and on for my entire life.
          I met her in 1955, after I’d gone back to college, gone back to my affiliation with Phi Delta Theta. The Phi Delts had agreed to team up with the Alph Phi sorority for our entry in the annual Strollers’ show, a musical competition among eight or nine combinations of fraternities and sororities. Patty and I were named directors, I because of my time in New York writing songs, her because she could wrap almost anyone around a finger to get what she wanted and she apparently wanted to be the director. I remember the first night we met to discuss what we might do for our act. One of my frat brothers was a huge Harry Belafonte fan and convinced us to do a calypso-themed story about building a house. And that’s what we agreed on. But at the end of that first evening, beers in hands, I sat in a chair in the Phi Delt livingroom and Patty sat on my lap, her face so close to mine I could hardly breathe. Here she was, this tiny, raven-haired girl/woman who knew exactly how to play me like a salmon. And I was hooked from that moment and for all the time we spent together getting our musical show ready and for several months after that. We performed the calypso act and won second place. We were all excited and I was in love.
          We were together quite often for those next several months. But I was a freshman and she was a junior. I remember in the spring asking her to go to a college dance with me. She told me an old boyfriend from her hometown was going to be there and that she was obligated to go with him. But she had really wanted to be with me, she insisted. And kept insisting. The hook was still set and she was still able to reel me in whenever she wanted. But when the college year ended and she went back to Watertown, our relationship also ended. She graduated the following year and I never saw her again. But I always felt the sting of that loss.
          In the years I taught American Literature, whenever we had a unit on Fitzgerald, I had my classes read his short story, “Winter Dreams.” The main character, Judy Jones, was a seductress who could lead on several male suitors at the same time, always bringing any who strayed back into the fold of her charms. I always told my classes that I had known a Judy Jones back when I was in college and knew exactly what the young men felt when she would switch from one suitor to another. Patricia Prostrollo was my Judy Jones. And now the wench is dead and I feel such sorrow.
          I wrote a song about her right after I lost her in 1955. It’s a slightly get-even song, youthfully romantic and a bit too sentimental, but it still sums up what I felt those sixty-two years ago. 

Saturday, December 30

Top Ten Movies

Hello and Goodbye. Here comes 2018, ready or not. What will Donald Trump do or say that’s outlandish? What will happen at the Winter Olympics? What will the FBI probes decide? What will Artificial Intelligence give us that we’ll love or fear? How will Tiger fare in his latest comeback? Lots of things that need to be answered. 
Happy New Year, everybody!.
I’m in countdown mode with only one day left in this year, and since film plays such an important part of my life, I need to talk about films in 2017.
First, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a year in which there was almost no consensus about what was good, what was bad. I checked out a variety of critics and magazines and their picks for best ten. I’m not sure I have enough room here to demonstrate all their differing opinions.
Let me start with some of the curiosities. Mother, with Jennifer Lawrence, made it as high as #10 on one list and down near the bottom of most lists. The Lost City of Z was in the top ten in several lists, but I can’t for the life of me understand why. I thought it pretty much stunk. I, Tonya sneaks into the top ten of several lists, and, again, even though I haven’t yet seen it, I can’t understand how a movie about Tonya Harding and her curious assault on Nancy Kerrigan could be anything but average, maybe even lower than average.
The most noticeable curiosity in these lists is their choice of films that have made almost no ripples in film news. I realize I don’t see all the movies that come out in any one year but I certainly see more than most people do. Here are some that were listed in top-tens that are almost invisible: Colossal [USA Today], Faces Places, BPM (Beats Per Minute), Dawson City: Frozen Time [CBS], Wormwood, Lady Macbeth, Columbus, Marjorie Prime, I Don’t Feel at Home in the World Anymore, I Called Him Morgan [Esquire], Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, Novitiate, Their Finest [Rex Reed].
Okay, here we go, the lists I looked at:
Rolling Stone – Dunkirk, Get Out, Call Me by Your Name, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Post, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water, Detroit, Phantom Thread
Esquire – Wormwood, Lady Macbeth, Dunkirk, Marjorie Prime, Columbus, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Okja, Phantom Thread, The Lost City of Z, I Called Him Morgan
NY Times critic, Manhola Dargis – Dunkirk, Ex Libris: The New York Public Library, Faces Places, The Florida Project, Get Out, Lady Bird, Okja, Phantom Thread, A Quiet Passon, Wonder Woman
USA Today – Get Out, Logan, The Lego Batman Movie, The Big Sick, A Dark Song, Guardians of the Galaxy, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Baby Driver, Split, Colossal
Rotten Tomatoes – Get Out, The Big Sick, Dunkirk, Wonder Woman, Lady Bird, Logan, Baby Driver, Star Wars, the Last Jedi, Coco, Thor: Ragnarok
Most Critics – Get Out, Lady Bird, Call me By Your Name, The Florida Project, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, Phantom Thread, Blade Runner: 2049, A Ghost Story
Bill Goodykoontz, AZ Republic – Lady Bird, The Big Sick, Dunkirk, Call Me by Your First Name, Get Out, The Florida Project, The Shape of Water, The Post, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, Phantom Thread
Rex Reed – The Post, Call Me by Your First Name, Lady Bird, Their Finest, Brad’s Status, I, Tonya, Mudbound, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, Novitiate, Stronger
Ranker – Logan, Dunkirk, Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider Man: Homecoming, Wonder Woman, Baby Driver, Get Out, John Wick 2, War for the Planet of the Apes, Split, Despicable Me 3, Blade Runner 2049, It, The Lego Movie
The Guardian – Call me by Your First Name, The Florida Project, Get Out, Phantom Thread, Lady Bird, The Post, The Shape of Water, Blade Runner 2049, A Ghost Story, Lady Macbeth
Entertainment Weekly – Dunkirk, Call Me by Your Name, The Shape of Water, Get Out, Foxtrot, Hostiles, Lady Bird, Molly’s Game, Faces Places, Wonder Woman
Now, what about me? I’m going to list the best of what I’ve seen and some of what I haven’t yet seen but plan on seeing based on the bests of those above. And I’m eliminating all the Marvels and animated children’s films; let the children and teens make their own lists. Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, The Big Sick, Blade Runner 2049, Get Out, The Shape of Water, The Post, Lady Bird, Call Me by Your First Name, The Florida Project, Dunkirk.
Now I can’t wait to see which movies are nominated for Academy Awards. I have a feeling they too will be without a consensus. I hope my ten come close.

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