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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.

Saturday, May 19

Great Novels


          I know I’ve written quite a bit about the books and series I’ve loved over the years, so forgive me if I repeat myself. My goal here is to point out what I consider are the best novels in American literature. I’m ignoring European novels because I, like many others, haven’t read some of the great ones, like War and Peace, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, or those two confounding novels by James Joyce, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake.
But before I get there, I must once again explain my reading habits. From the very beginning, I’ve always found writers I like (love?) and then read all their works just as fast as I can, like a dog with rawhide knots, chewing and chomping until they’re all gone. When I was very young and first felt the bite of the reading bug, there was L. Frank Baum and his Oz series and Edgar Rice Burroughs and his Tarzan, Mars, Venus, and Pellucidar series. Later, in high school, I went from genre to genre, immersing myself in one type for a while, then moving on to another. In science fiction I read all of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, and others; in Westerns, mainly Luke Short and Max Brand (but never Zane Gray); in detectives, Mickey Spillane and Bret Halliday (but for some reason, not Dashiell Hammett); in historical fiction, Samuel Shellabarger and Thomas B. Costain. These were the four genres I read, but I also read an assortment of novels outside these boundaries, like the early James Michener and Arthur Hailey.
Much later I decided to catch up on the best and best-known writers of the first half of the twentieth century, all of Hemingway and John Steinbeck (but not William Faulkner because I wasn’t yet ready for him). Much later, I returned to the easy stuff, again like that hungry dog—Ian Fleming’s James Bond series, Dick Francis and his English horse racing novels, all of Stephen King’s massive production, John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series (three times), Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder series (two times), Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series (two times), James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheau series, and Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct series (two times). Later still, John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers series, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series, Jeffry Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series, Robert Crais’s Elvis Cole series, Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series, and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series.
Now I can return to my original reason for this journey through popular American writing (with the exception of Dick Francis, the Englishman). Which do I consider the greatest American novels? My reading of literary fiction pretty much ended in 1970 or 1980. Too much work involved, too little time. I consider the 19th century classics and find Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, which is considered great by many critics, but not me. Same for Melville’s Moby Dick. As Twain said, “Classic. A book which people praise and don’t read.” In the 20th century there are Hemingway’s novels, but I think he’ll be considered a writer of great short stories, not great novels. In 1962 John Steinbeck, like Hemingway and Faulkner before him, won a Nobel Prize for Literature, but I’m convinced the Nobel Committee was looking for an American that year and Steinbeck was the best they could find. The Grapes of Wrath might be a great novel, but all the rest are pot boilers (with the possible exception of East of Eden). And back to Faulkner. I and others might praise him for his complex style and his complex creation of the generations who inhabited his Yoknapatawpha County, but other than The Sound and the Fury, most of his novels get lost in a Mississippi fog.
All right, here we go. Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage are the best of the 19th century. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 are the best of the 20th century. And their reverse order? 5. The Red Badge of Courage 4. The Catcher in the Rye 3. Catch-22 2. The Great Gatsby 1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (with the probable European parallel, Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield).
That should do it for my reading habits. I promise I won’t ever again subject you to it.

Monday, May 14

Tiger, Obesity, Tv Trends


          What a nice Tiger weekend. He proved at The Players’ Championship that he can compete in, probably even win, a PGA tournament. His last two rounds—a 65 and a 69—were signs of the old Tiger, and indicators of a new Tiger, one who could win not just any old event but one of the majors, like this year’s Open where he could hit those vaunted stingers he made famous in his last Open victory. I and a bunch of other lovers of golf hope so. He is undeniably a shot of adrenaline in the arm of golf. He will next play in Jack’s Memorial Tournament in two weeks, an even he’s won five times. Maybe he’ll make it his sixth.
          Food and Fatties Revisited. I’ve written several times about the obesity epidemic in our country—too many grossly overweight people dining too often on high-caloric foods, junk foods, our worship of consumption that we see in all the eating contests—hamburgers, hotdogs, pancakes, pies, steaks, chicken wings, pizza, etc. That leads me to a question about fat-food hamburgers. Why have so many fast-fooders gone to bigger and bigger burgers stacked higher and higher in a bun? How can anyone even this his mouth open enough to consume it? Here’s a picture of several prize-winning burgers shown in the Arizona Republic.
Doesn’t that look awful? Just the sight of it makes me want to vomit. The usual stacker these days is made up of two beef quarter-pounds, several slices of cheese, two or three onion rings, two or three slices of bacon, lettuce, tomato, and a slice or two of jalapeno pepper. How can anyone eat that much? Why would anyone even want to eat that much? So, we publicly acclaim huge burgers and eating contests while too many in the world are starving.
          Television Trends—shorter and shorter series seasons, longer and longer waits between seasons. I just read that The Orville won’t start Season 2 until December 30. That’s nearly a year since Season 1 ended. I may have forgotten what I was watching after that long. The Americans is another one that took so much time off between seasons that I wasn’t able to keep the various plot lines straight. I’m glad they’re ending it after this season. I can’t see any way to end it except with Elizabeth and Phillip getting killed in a shootout with the FBI, probably headed by their across-the-street neighbor Stan Beeman, with daughter Paige’s move to Russia with their Russian handler Claudia, and with son Henry’s being comforted by Stan. How else can Elizabeth, in light of her killing so many people, end up anything but dead? Another sad bit, the sudden end of The Last Man on Earth, Will Forte’s really strange series with which I fell in love. The very last episode . . . ever . . . has the group surrounded by hundreds of gas-masked people. What should have been a cliff-hanger leading into the next season becomes a cliff without any hanging on.

Countdown: Although my stamina remains pretty much the same, way down there, I now have to realize that most of the things I used to do are no longer available to me: like going on any vacations, no Vegas to see Penn and Teller, no Disney Land to see Snow White, no trip to the zoo, no trips to CostCo or the Arrowhead Mall, no movies at Harkins, no swimming. In other words, I’m now resigned to a life within the confines of our house. The days now become a set routine of coffee, toast, the Arizona Republic, a blog every three or four days, televised sports, letters to friends and relatives every two or three weeks, saved tv shows, watching the antics of Charlie and Tiger, and then to bed. Pretty much the same every day. That’s a description of how restrictive my world has become.

Tuesday, May 8

The Voice & Tiger


I’ve written about The Voice several times, but it’s now time for another comment or two. I earlier praised this talent show because it put its emphasis on vocal quality, downplaying looks and performance skills. Even the blind auditions were strictly about the vocals and not the looks or performance. But that was in the past. This season seems to be more about performance than voice. And all the peripheral noise too often drowns out the vocals—too many backup singers, the band too loud, the audience screaming their approval during a performance. I want to hear what each one is singing. I’ve said in the past that they should have at least one episode in which all the singers have to sing a cappella. That would certainly separate the wheat from the chaff. The final ten contestants this year aren’t nearly as good as those from past seasons. I see only two who deserve to win—Britton Buchanan and Jackie Foster. Here's the one who should win but probably won't.  And I wish they’d spend less time listening to the judges and more time listening to the singers. And please, Carson Daly, get off those too long dramatic pauses before announcing who’s been saved. Just announce it.
           This week we get to see Tiger in action at the Players Championship on Pete Dye’s dreaded TPC course. I hope he can get his putting woes behind him. He was just awful last week at the Wells Fargo with more than thirty putts for each of his rounds. That’s most uncharacteristic. He and Phil are paired together for the first two rounds of the Players. Should be interesting to see how they react to each other. All the big boys are in the field—Spieth, Johnson, Day, McIlroy, Thomas, Fowler, Rahm. How will they all play the 17th? Will Tiger make the cut? Will he actually contend in this tournament that he’s won twice? We won’t know until late Sunday, and I and a lot of other golfers and non-golfers will be watching the drama unfold. Let’s go, Tiger.

Monday, May 7

Nobel Peace Prize


  
Some GOP senators have nominated Donald Trump for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. I would think that giving him this award would be as inaccurate and indefensible as their awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. Dylan may be an influential writer of folk songs, but should he have been considered the best in the world for literature, putting him in with all the writers who are truly deserving of being called the best, putting him shoulder to shoulder with Hemingway, Faulkner, and T. S. Eliot? I don’t think so. Back to the Peace Prize. How could Donald Trump, this Trumpety Bumpkin, be considered a peace maker when he has done more than any other president to divide Americans as well as most of the nations of the world? How could he be compared to the true peace makers like Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa? He can’t. That would be like putting a wolf in with the lambs. This consideration seems to be based on what these GOP senators see as a successful move on Trump’s part to secure a deal with Kim Jong Un to give up his nuclear program and all his nuclear arsenal, and to bring about a peace between North and South Korea. Trump isn’t a diplomat, and he may be walking into the lion’s den when he meets with Kim Jong Un. Rather than securing a peaceful resolution, he might be sent home with his tail between his legs. And Alfred Nobel must be spinning in his grave at the thought of a Trump award for peace making. He might even put a ghostly stick of dynamite under the whole awards business and put it to an end.

Saturday, May 5

The Bridges of Madison County


        Another outing to the Arizona Broadway Theatre, this time for an unusual adaptation of Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County. I say unusual because it just seems like such an unlikely plot for a musical: 1960’s, a man comes to Iowa to take pictures of some of the iconic covered bridges there. He meets Francesca, who is somewhat unhappy with her life as a farmer’s wife. Simple plot, right? Obviously they fall in love but don’t know what to do about it. She has a son and daughter, a husband whom she met in Italy after WWII. She loves her husband but not in the same romantic way she loves Robert. The theme is also simple—what our lives are and what we wish they might have been. She decides to stay with Bud and her family and never again sees Robert. The score by Jason Robert Brown was good, although not very memorable or hummable, the vocals excellent, especially that of the two principals, Cassandra Klaphake as Francesca and Bryant Martin as Robert. The staging and set design was also unusual, minimalist, very theatrical. Modern theatricalism is the opposite of realism. In realistic theater, there is a distinct separation of the stage and the audience, with the actors pretending the audience isn't there and the audience pretending they’re looking through a window at the action on stage. All set changes are made behind closed curtains. Most of us got our first taste of theatricalism in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, a play that openly acknowledges the audience, with set changes made in full view of the audience, with the character called the Stage Manager speaking directly to them and explaining what they are about to see. He carries a few props onto the stage as he speaks to them, telling them where the two households in the town are located. Then a boy comes on stage delivering imaginary newspapers. The stage manager is useful for shifting locations and changes in the times of actions. In The Bridges of Madison County, the sets are minimal, a screen door and a porch with a swing, a kitchen with table and chairs and a chandelier. There is also a technique similar to the chorus in Greek plays. Four or five people were seated to the rear, not a part of the action, but simply there as observers. Whenever the kitchen table and chairs are taken off, four people synchronize their removal; all set changes and the placing and removal of props are done as though to music. I’m not sure what purpose this theatricality served, maybe nothing, maybe a comment on the unreality of romantic love. This was definitely not my favorite musical and I’m reasonably sure I won’t remember it for very long.
            We don’t see many commercials on television anymore because we save nearly all shows and then fast-forward through the junk. But we keep catching the Century Link commercial in which a man tending a barbecue is explaining to another man what a good deal he got on Century Link, internet access and a fee that will never change. The other guy keeps interrupting him, saying, “Oh, yes, it will.” The barbecuer saying “No, it won’t.” This exchange goes on some three times. After the third time, I’m afraid I’d have had to pop the yea-sayer on the nose. Another one we see too often, the Toyota commercial with Pat Finn, the idiot sales guy. Although I don’t think I’d punch him, I would have to put a bag over his head. Amazing that Pat Finn could make an entire career out of playing this yahoo. Just give me the Geico Gecko and I’d watch him all day.

Monday, April 30

Cash & Favorite Authors

I've been away for almost three weeks. Time, that slippery devil, has been rushing by without my even noticing.

          I recently saw somewhere in the news that we are soon to become a cashless society. We’re already close to that with credit and debit cards, but even those will be replaced by other, faster ways to pay for goods and services: scan an IPhone app, scan a fingerprint or eyeball, or maybe even a facial recognition device that taps directly into our savings. What happens, though, to those who don’t have a bank account or someone who simply wants to stay off the grid? How do they pay for goods and services? I guess they’d have to go back to a barter system. But that would certainly be awkward. This whole concept of money confuses me. Cash, or money (paper certificates and metal coins), represents an amount of value that members of a world society agree on. So, if the U.S. goes cashless, wouldn’t the rest of the world also have to follow suit? And what if not all foreign nations agree? Very confusing. It also seems like the only way to make it work would be to require everyone to have a bank account somewhere in The Cloud, whether they wanted one or not. Very confusing. It would also be one more step toward Big Brotherhood, with everyone having to be in some huge data base holding our fingerprints, eyeballs, and faces. Very confusing, too Big Brotherish for me.

          Once again, I’m weeding out all the books I’ve already read or never intend to read, packing them up to donate to Good Will or Disabled American Vets or any other of the charitable organizations that accepts books. It’s another step in my getting rid of unnecessary “stuff” before I die. The book weeding is a slow, solemn business, because I have to kiss them all goodbye as I pack them up, sigh over their leaving. In doing so, I’ve noted which authors I’ve most often read, which series I’ve followed. Odd how many are men, how few are women (14 men, 5 women). That’s not a gender bias, just an odd fact in my odd book choices. Of the male authors, I guess my favorite would be John D. MacDonald and his Travis McGee, followed closely by Ed McBain and the 87th Precinct, Lawrence Block and Matt Scudder, Robert B. Parker and Spenser and Jesse Stone, John Sandford and Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, Lee Child and Jack Reacher, and James Lee Burke and Dave Robicheaux. The other seven I’ve read religiously but they don’t stack up to my top seven—Dick Francis and jockeys, Dutch Leonard and a wild variety of protagonists, Jeffrey Deaver and Lincoln Rhyme, Robert Crais and Elvis Cole, Michael Connelly and Harry Bosch, Jonathan Kellerman and Alex Delaware, and James W. Hall and Thorn. All of them are old friends and I’ll miss them, but time marches on. The five female authors on my list are Kate Atkinson, Tess Gerritsen, Laura Lippman, Tami Hoag, and J. A. Jance. But I don’t give them kisses as they go, maybe a brief hug or a little pat on the head. My next giveaway will probably involve gold clubs and golf accessories. And I’ll probably weep over their passing just as I sigh over the books I’ve loved.

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.

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