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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 is 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, you can find an archive list at the bottom of this page.

Monday, June 28

Random Thoughts

Gun control doesn’t take guns out of the hands of criminals; it takes guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. Citizens who want to maintain their right to shoot between the eyes every criminal they encounter. Sometimes they may mistake an innocent bystander for a criminal, but that’s the price we must pay for protecting the Second Amendment.

Last week we finally said, what the heck, nothing much in the theaters, but let’s take a chance on Knight and Day, the Tom Cruise/Cameron Diaz action flick. We’re both glad we did. Our local reviewer didn’t think much of it, but other reviewers around the country thought it was worth at least a B rating. It had lots of flaws in the logic of the plot. But who cares? It had Cruise doing a comic parody of Bond and Bourne, and Diaz was the comic foil. The body count was beyond counting, the action nearly constant and exciting, the romantic outcome apparent from several miles away. But as I said before, who cares? Go see it.

I read the Q & A section in this week’s Time, ten questions for James Patterson. Marlene Jones asked, “What’s the greatest number of books that you’ve worked on simultaneously?” His answer: “In my office in Florida I have, I think, 30 manuscript piles around the room. Some are screenplays or comic books or graphic novels. Some are almost done. Some I’m re-writing. If I’m working with a co-writer, they’ll usually write the first draft. And then I write subsequent drafts.” Wow! He just explained why I stopped reading him. Doesn’t he realize his readers might deserve better than the drivel he’s now writing by the ton instead of the Alex Cross diamonds by the ounce of his earlier writing?

We're leaving in two days for a week's visit to South Dakota, to see a few old friends, to see some really old relatives, and to drop a buck or two at the west-river casino. And this year, since daughter Jeri is accompanying us, I'm going to see my first rodeo in sixty years. You see, I'm just not a rodeo fan. But Jeri is looking forward to the experience.

Sunday, June 27

Vuvuzela, Anyone?

The US soccer team finally met its match and lost to Ghana on Saturday to fall out of the final sixteen teams. Good. Good for the way the rest of the world views us, as a bunch of bully boys who win way too many sporting events against the rest of the world. Good for Ghana, the underdog African nation. Good for me, who doesn’t really understand soccer, who is unable to distinguish between good play and bad, who finds soccer really boring because of the low scoring. Good for me, who can now stop watching World Cup football games and stop having to listen to that really annoying sound that hovers over every match, that truly awful bee drone created by the Vuvuzela horns in the stands. When I first tuned in to the match between England and the US, I thought that South Africa was in the throes of a killer bee invasion. Then I heard what it was. And I continued to wonder how the sound could be so constant throughout the two-plus hours of a match. Why wouldn’t it rise and fall in relation to what was going on down there on the field? How could fans blow the damn things all the time, without taking any potty breaks or trips to the refreshment stands? How could they retain their sanity, just as I wondered how I could retain my sanity? Even Charles Barkley’s irritating commentary sounds good compared to the Vuvuzela horn.

Friday, June 25

News or Olds

I keep wondering why the local news stations interrupt regular programming for what they call breaking news, and do so often within twenty or thirty minutes of the regularly scheduled news. It may be the report of a forest fire near Flagstaff or a car chase in Scottsdale or a near drowning of a child in a backyard pool in Mesa. But couldn’t it wait for the regular news program? And too often they insist on reporting things I don’t consider news, like every damn house that catches fire in the Valley. Why do we need to know about every one of them? We get this shot of a burned out shell of a house, usually the second floor especially blackened and an estimate of the damage. Or the gruesome fact that three small children were found dead upstairs, or an old man or woman, and often that the cause of the fire was children playing with matches, or the old man or woman smoking in bed or on a sofa and falling asleep . . . never to wake up. And automobile accidents, and stabbings on X Street, and drive by shootings on Y Avenue. Surely there must be stories more newsworthy than just death and mayhem. Why not the man who just donated his 200th pint of blood? Why not the woman who works for the phone company and saved a family of starlings who had taken up residence in one of their transformers? I realize these are all human interest stories and not really timely (chronos, chronicle, time, thus news). Would yesterday’s news be olds? So why not have some olds on our news? And what restricts the news to bad news? Why not good news? Or at least news that avoids the gruesome?

Saturday, June 19

Scammed

“Stupid is as stupid does.” Forrest might have been talking about me, and I feel stupid even admitting to it. But here it is. Somewhere in my internet wanderings, I stumbled onto mention of two tooth brightening products offering free samples, which when used together worked as well as a professional tooth brightening, one costing more than a hundred bucks. What the heck, I thought, why not? My wife has always expressed her doubts about shopping on-line and I’ve always pooh poohed her, saying it was as safe as shopping in a mall. I offered my information regarding shipping and method of payment to both companies. Caveat emptor. Two weeks later I received my trial material from Extreme Brite White, and an e-mail telling me about the product and information about canceling the trial and any further shipments. Ah ha, I thought. One of those time-frame deals: within two weeks of shipment date, the trial had to be canceled. I immediately called the company to cancel, repacked the stuff and sent it away. Shortly thereafter I received an e-mail telling me I’d successfully canceled. Good.

Two weeks later, I noticed a charge of $87.47 from my debit card account to a company called Dazling Brite. This was the second company, the one from which I’d never received anything, no product, no e-mail, nada, nothing. I went on-line and tried to find a website for this company. Instead I found a site containing numerous letters describing this scam. Dumb, dumb, dumb. I went to my bank and canceled my card and requested a new card. Once bitten, yes, but not twice. When I tried to file a dispute of the charge with Wells Fargo, I was told I first needed to attempt to contact the company. There was a phone number attached to the description of the charge. I called the number. I got a sales representative who spoke such broken English I could barely understand her. Twenty minutes of garbled conversation and I was finally given a UPS tracking number for my shipment, which she said had been sent out June 1, some seventeen days earlier. I was also given an RMA (return merchandise authorization) for writing on the package when I sent it back to the address she gave me: 3609 N. 29th Ave., Hollywood, Florida 33020. I logged in to UPS and found that the tracking number didn't exist. I’ll be damned, she gave me an erroneous number. I went back to the file of complaints and found many fellow-scammed folks saying much the same thing. Apparently, there is no such company, no website, no such product, no such address. This has to be a really elaborate scam, to have people sitting in a room fielding calls from irate customers, handing out completely false information. One would have to wonder why the Better Business Bureau hasn’t shut them down.

Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware. And, boy, will I be a lot more wary from now on.

Friday, June 18

Dance

Wednesday we watched the new format of So You Think You Can Dance, with the eleven finalists performing with all-stars from past years instead of with each other. It seemed to work fine. It allows me now to concentrate on only the dancer competing, not necessarily both of them, although some of the lady all-stars make it difficult not to watch them. Both Kent Boyd and I were taken with the sultry moves of his partner, Anya Garnis. The lad from the tiny country community in Ohio had probably never before seen anything remotely like Anya. And the brilliance of Alex Wong's performance to "Hallelujah," choreographed by Sonya, made the evening successful. But there seems to be a trend this season that I'm not happy about. One of the producers apparently thinks that the sea anemone arms on American Idol should be emulated by their vocal equivalent, that is, the oh's and ah's from the audience during a performance. A genuine reaction to a dance move is one thing, but these sounds seem to have little to do with what’s going on during the dance. How intrusive, how unclassy, just as the waving arms is unclassy on Idol.

If Barbra were in concert, would the audience be encouraged to make these sounds during one of her numbers? I don’t think so. In fact, she’d probably skewer the offenders with a Streisand glare.

Thursday, June 17

Ed McBain, Evan Hunter, Salvatore Lombino



More on Ed McBain and the Matthew Hope series. I had remembered a few oddities about McBain, aka Evan Hunter, from his obituary in 2005. I remembered that his real name was something odd and Italian and that Evan Hunter was a name he used when he first began publishing, the name I remembered from his 1953 novel The Blackboard Jungle and the subsequent movie version with Glenn Ford and Sidney Poitier. I remember it so well because I first saw this movie in a 42nd St. theater in New York in 1955, pretty much surrounded by a black audience. There I was, a white country bumpkin from South Dakota with almost no experience with blacks of any kind, let alone big city blacks. It was memorable also for the appearance of Poitier who went on to become a major player in American films.

I’m now reading Mary, Mary, the tenth book in the Hope series. Matthew has just begun an affair with Particia Demming, the fiery assistant d.a. She has told him often that she hates to be called Pat or Trish, once upon a time even breaking a football player’s nose when he kept calling her Pat. Here’s what I stumbled onto, something Matthew says about names and people’s preferences: “I’ve always felt that people should be called what they wish to be called, don’t you? If Salvatore wants to be called Evan, I owe him the dignity and respect of free choice, which isn’t always so easy to come by in this land of the free and home of the brave.” Salvatore? Evan? My mind went back to that obituary. So I did the Wikipedia bit and sure enough, he was born Salvatore Lombino in 1926, and in 1952 he changed his name legally to Evan Hunter, the “Hunter” from Hunter College where he earned his degree. I also found in my McBain search that he was even more prolific than most others with the reputation for prolificacy: Robert Parker (76), Louis Lamour (62), Zane Grey (50), Stephen King (48), and the champion Earl Stanley Gardner (160). In addition to hundreds of short stories, Even Hunter, or Salvatore Lombino, wrote 122 novels. When did the man actually live? Did he ever go see a movie? Spend a day at the beach or Disney World? Journey to Europe? Did he ever play golf? Bowl? See a baseball game? There simply wasn’t enough time to do much of anything other than sit at a typewriter or computer. Talk about the likelihood of carpal tunnel syndrome.

My admiration for the man and his writing keeps going up. When I finish the Matthew Hope series, I think I’ll go back through the entire 87rh Precinct saga (53! Whew!).

Friday, June 11

Dusty & Dipper


Garfield in today's paper and I couldn't resist. Both our cats are Garfields, but Dusty is the main man. I'm now resigned to getting up anywhere from 2:30 to 4:30 a.m. to feed him. Doesn't seem to matter how much I give him before we go to bed, he still must have this mid-night feeding. And it doesn't seem to matter how I try to hide from him, how I pretend to be asleep, he is very persistent, with his head just inches from my face, meowing a flat and very annoying meow at me, insisting I open my eyes and prove to him I'm awake. Too often, I cave and get up, as much to go to the john as to satisfy him. And since I'm already up, I may as well go to the kitchen and feed the beast. Yeah, "if cats ruled the world?" Oh, yeah, they do.

And while I'm on the subject of cats and my being a subject of the ruling species, here's a picture I took accidently about thirty years ago. It's a double exposure that came out interestingly effective. The green-eyed cat is Dipper, and the ghost behind him is me. But it's unusual that my right sideburn is perfectly aligned with the middle of Dipper's face, and the glasses behind us seem to have been from some long-ago Thanksgiving meal.

Sunday, June 6

Steve Nash

Yes, I'm a Phoenix Suns fan, have been since we moved here in 1994. But I've been an avid Suns fan, a rabid Suns fan since the Suns acquired Steve Nash, the man with the skills of a magician. I recently stumbled onto this short essay about Nash and thought it was so good I just had to share it with other fans of round ball.

“Thesis: Steve Nash Is God,” Brian Doyle, editor Portland Magazine

Consider the evidence. He’s having arguably the best season of his career, at the age of 1,000—a better season than he had when he was the most valuable player in the league not once but twice—the smallest player since Allen Iverson. He’s actually better with age, and how often can you say that? His team will make the playoffs again, as they have every year with Nash at the controls, except for The Failed Shaq Experiment Year, which I remember best for Nash’s patient misery at the press conference. He’s still arguably the best point guard in the world, a remarkable statement, considering that he’s older than Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, and Rajon Rondo collectively. (To see what a great point guard looks like when he does not get better with age, watch Jason Kidd.) Nash reportedly eats absolutely no sugar, just like God. He went to a Jesuit university, just like God. Unlike many of the other men who work in his profession, he has a sense of humor and can write his name, just like God. A normal human being, faced with the loss of Shawn Marion and saddled with the reboundless Amare Stoudemire, would be bitter, and excoriate management, and demand to be traded, and be arrested in the company of women named Bambi and Sparkl, and contemplate accepting a trade to the Clippers, or playing professional soccer in British Columbia, but no, Nash trundles along, getting better and better. He has children, just like God. He lives in a place filled with light, just like God. He is the premier creator of his era, just like God. He has no peers, really, not even in the pantheon of unbelievably great smaller players, the heaven that includes Tiny Archibald and Bob Cousy and Allen Iverson, because he is a better passer than any of them, and has invented more new wrinkles for passing than even Cousy, who invented passing just after the world was born. Nash was signed to a new contract for a raise at age 35, in a business with absolutely no mercy for fading skills, even if you are Tim Duncan or Larry Bird or Michael Jordan. People say o my god! when they watch him play. People lean forward when he gets the ball and the break begins, because they might see something they have never seen before, which is exactly why we love basketball, and exactly the feeling you have when you have those little rippling epiphanies here and there about the nature of creation in the largest arena, as it were, which is not in Phoenix, but is rife with Suns. I rest my case.

Saturday, June 5

Glee


I guess I qualify as a gleek. The premise of Glee is so simple, high school nerds and geeks find fulfillment in the glee club. And they sing and dance like no high school glee club ever sang and danced, with musical accompaniment like no glee club ever had. And they just knock my socks off. I guess they must knock a bunch of socks off a bunch of people around the country because they’ve become the surprise hit this year. The plots involve the duels between Will Schuster, the Spanish teaching head of the glee club, and Sue Sylvester, the perfectly awful, self-centered head of the Cherrios, the cheer leading club. And high school satire abounds. The plot elements are so outlandish they’re funny, and the writers must have a ball thumbing their noses gleefully at ever cliché and redneck attitude they can find. But it’s the musical numbers that really make the show: Kurt singing “A House Is Not a Home” as he gazes longingly at Finn; Rachel and her mother singing “I Dreamed a Dream” just after Rachel has discovered the head of their rival glee club is the mother who gave her away at birth; Will and Brian Ryan (Neil Patrick Harris) dueling for the lead in a local production of Les Miserables as they sing “Dream On”; Will and April (Kristin Chenoweth) singing “One Less Bell to Answer/A House Is Not a Home”; Rachel banging out “Don’t Rain on My Parade” nearly as well as her idol Barbra; and too many others to mention. If there’s anyone out there who hasn’t yet gotten hooked on Glee, tune in next Tuesday for this season’s finale. You too will become a gleek.

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