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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.

Monday, September 27

End of Diving

It’s been almost two weeks since I had my last session at the hyperbaric unit. I’ll miss my two friends who took care of me while I was there, Debbie and Freddie, two of the nicest people I’ve ever known. Forty times in the tube, eight weeks plus the one week I spent in the hospital. It’s been a long time since I began seeing Dr. Essary at the wound clinic, almost nine months. At the end of my last dive, he told me my wounds looked like they were on the brink of healing across the top now that they had healed up from the bottom. To my eye, they were still a long way from healing entirely. So now I’m using another different salve on the wounds, bandage changing every other day. It’s called Medihoney, a tube of honey from New Zealand that I squeeze into the wounds before binding them up. I hope this hastens the final step to healing. It’s been just too long. And more good news now that I’m done diving, my energy level is up a bit. I no longer fall asleep sitting at the computer or watching tv. Still tired more than I want to be, but that will change once I get back to walking. I even tried to golf nine holes last week, after which I was so tired I felt like just falling facedown on the turf. I say “tried” because it wasn’t a pretty sight and the score wasn’t what I’d want as a steady diet. But I didn’t roll any shots or make any really stupid mistakes. All I have to remember is to take two or three more clubs than I used to. I’ll get back to playing more regularly when the temperatures finally go down, maybe in two or three weeks.

Wednesday, September 22

A Stupid Day

Have you ever had one of those days when nearly everything that happens to you pisses you off? Well, my Tuesday was one of those days. I’m not really an irascible man, not an old grump as so many of my fellow Sun City Westers are. But from the moment I got up and went to work at Stardust to the moment when I could finally heave a sigh and get the hell out of there, everything irritated me. And early afternoon we decided to watch two shows I’d saved from Monday, the beginning of the new season.

The Event had gotten more hype than any other show of the upcoming pilots. It looked like something I’d really like. But then reality. Talk about writers trying to out-lose Lost. But at least Lost didn’t go to such lengths to confuse its audience, at least not right away. To illustrate, the opening of The Event begins in the present, with a young man (Jason Ritter) boarding a commercial airplane, but he is obviously nervous about something. And we see a black SUV racing to the airport, then somehow getting onto the runway to try to stop the plane from taking off. Flash back to eight days earlier, when the young man and his girlfriend are about to go on a cruise with her parents wishing them bon voyage. They cruise. Young man goes scuba diving without girlfriend, and when he returns to the ship he can’t find her. They have no listing for either of them on this cruise. Flash back to seven days earlier, when some unnamed killers shoot and apparently kill the girl’s parents and little sister. Flash thirteen months earlier to the president of the U.S. (Blair Underwood) speaking with his advisors, saying he must meet the 97 someones his advisors keep advising him not to see, the someones supposedly kept hidden away and incarcerated (aliens, political prisoners?). Flash forward to the plane where the young man has somehow gotten a gun aboard and is trying to get into the pilot’s cabin. Flash back thirteen months when the president is taken to a snowy Alaska where the strange 97 are being held. Flash forward to a setting on a tropical beach where the president is going to introduce the public to Sophia, the woman acting as leader of the strange 97. Suddenly the security guards get a call about an approaching airliner. They hurry the president and his guest away but stop to watch the plane from about four miles away as it seems to be heading directly at them. The wind mysteriously comes up and is rocking the trees and blowing everything around. The plane then turns into a bluish blob just before it was to crash into the beach scene. Sophia breathes to the president, “They saved us.” End of pilot. Stupid. Mondays from now on will remain uneventful for us.

Maybe the second show I’d saved would save the day. Wrong. Chase was another heavily hyped action hour starring Kelli Giddish as U.S. Marshal Annie Frost, or “Boots” to her fellow marshals. The opening scene has her giving chase to an obvious bad guy. They race through Houston, up town, down town, through a herd of bulls being driven down one of the streets (why?), through a rodeo ring as cowboys are riding broncos. She catches up with him after what seemed like ten minutes and ten miles . . . not even breaking a sweat or breathing hard. Just another day in the life of Boots. Okay, we gave The Event the whole hour to lose us; we gave Chase the opening ten minutes. Stupid. We won’t be chasing after Chase on Mondays.

Thank God, I thought, at least we have the opening of Glee. Understand, this show is one of my all-time favorites, a bit wacky, especially with Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) doing her nastiness to the Glee Club, but the music was sensational. The writers for the second season must have felt they needed to out-wacky the first season. So they introduced a huge, masculine woman as football coach, one of the Cheerios girls with a boob job, a tiny new girl from the Philippines who can sing up a storm but who threatens Rachel’s position in the Glee Club, a new male student who auditions for glee club but in a close-up scene of him and the other male members they all seem to be wearing cupiedoll lipstick (why?). Stupid. But Rachel (Lea Michel) saves the show by concluding with “What I’d Do for Love.” Oh, please, writers, don’t screw up this show.

Even the opener for NCIS was confusingly stupid. Apparently all the writers of shows either opening a new season or premiering a new show felt compelled to make them as action-filled and confusing as they could make them.

We went to bed at 9:00. I felt like I was leaving the Twilight Zone and couldn’t wait to close my eyes, hoping to get to a better day the next morning.

Monday, September 20

Two Movies

I’ve seen two movies this week, Easy A and The Town. Easy A got four and a half stars from our local reviewer and The Town got four. I think those number should have been reversed, with Easy A maybe dropping down to three and a half or even just three.

Most reviews compared Easy A to Juno, for the hip dialogue of these very cool teenagers. Not even close. Juno centered on really only one socially maladjusted teen who expressed her oh so modern views in oh so cool dialogue. It seemed like all the students in Easy A were about twenty-seven years old, physically and socially much older than students have a right to be. These were no Pretty in Pink angst-ridden kids. Not that it wasn’t a good flick, just not nearly as good as the reviews led me to expect.

Then there’s Ben Affleck’s film about Charlestown, Mass, the center of the universe for bank robbers. I didn’t think he was good enough to pull it off. I mean “written by,” “directed by,” and “starring” Ben Affleck. Well, he was. Good enough, that is. This was a very good film and will probably be one of the nominees for best picture, even though its early release will weigh against it. I just can’t remember being this impressed with a film for a long time now, the last one being The Hurt Locker, in which Jeremy Renner starred and now co-starred in this one. Go see The Town. And yeah, go see Easy A also if you were ever in love with Molly Ringwold.

Thursday, September 16

First Anniversary

I just realized that I began writing these blogs just over a year ago, September 2, 2009, to be exact. I can say that some of them are pretty good, some not so good, but all expressing some aspect of the way my mind works. One hundred and fifty-five blogs counting this one. And in all that time, all those blogs, I've gotten only a handful of comments from readers. I would like to think I have a fan base of more than four or five, but that may be the number. If I have only four or five readers, or possibly no readers, then it's a little like casting words into the wind and watching them blow away and scatter, then disappear. Or maybe like a metaphor I've used before, like speaking in a huge, empty auditorium, my words echoing faintly from that distant back wall. How depressing. So, if any of you out there would like to acknowledge your existence, you might send me a brief message on the comment form at the bottom of each blog. Just say hi if that's all you can muster. Just to let me know you're there. I'll be grateful forever.

Rosalie and I have been faithful fans of Meredith Vierra and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? ever since she took over for Regis Philben some seven years ago. We've watched it go through changes in the format, some we liked, some we didn't. But we stuck with it because of Meredith, her fifty-something beauty and poise, her skill at comic banter with the contestants and the audience. And whenever she was gone and had to have a substitute for a week or so, we always felt disappointed. It was Meredith we wanted to see. This week she began her eighth season and introduced a number of changes in the format, none of which we like. She and the contestant now stand at a variously colored podium looking up to a giant screen with the questions and answers. There is no longer a clock to make the contestants answer quickly, which now means they can stretch their fifteen minutes of fame to any length they want. The biggest change, though, is the set of questions leading to that elusive million dollar payoff. Now, the questions with values up to $25,000 are shuffled, the values also shuffled. The contestant has three lifelines: ask the audience and two "skip the question." But if he chooses to skip a question, whatever money value for that question is lost. We've watched only two shows in this new format, but it seems to us that a lot less money will ever be won. And in order for a contestant to make it to the upper tier of questions, the ones begining at $100,000, he needs to answer all the preliminary questions correctly. And with only three lifelines, that seems most unlikely. If a contestant chooses to walk away with what he's accumulated, he gets half that amount. And if he misses any question, he drops to $1,000. We hate the new format, we hate that Meredith and the contestant are now standing, we hate that Meredith now looks like a clothes horse with much more makeup on, especially the maximum eye shadow she's wearing. So, after only two shows, we've decided never again to watch it. Goodbye, Millionaire, goodbye Meredith.

Wednesday, September 15

Where Do You Start?

In my last post, I wrote about a really stupid song from the past, “I Dunno Why,” as sung in my memory by Dean Martin. And now I have to talk about another song, one of the best by one of the best sets of lyricists who ever tinkled a piano. The song is “Where Do You Start?” with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. I’ve always thought their “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” is the best set of lyrics ever written, but these two have a track record for songs that few if any writers ever achieved, with the possible exception of George and Ira Gershwin, really Ira since he wrote the lyrics of all those great songs.

I first heard Michael Feinstein sing “Where Do You Start?” on one of the talk shows maybe ten years ago, and felt the sorrow of the words as he sang them. It’s the story of two people who have lived together, loved, and then for some unstated reason decided to end it. The listener gets the impression it was a decision made by the other partner and not the singer. And like all the Bergman songs, this one is near perfect in the choice of cadences and images and rhymes: “Where do you start? How do you separate the present from the past? How do you deal with all the things you thought would last, that didn’t last? With bits of memories scattered here and there, I look around and don’t know where to start. Which books are yours, which tapes and dreams belong to you and which are mine? Our lives are tangled like the branches of a vine that intertwine. So many habits that we’ll have to break and yesterdays we’ll have to take apart. One day there’ll be a song or something in the air again, to catch me by surprise and you’ll be there again, a moment in what might have been. Where do you start? Do you allow yourself a little time to cry? Or do you close your eyes and kiss it all goodbye. I guess you try. And though I don’t know where and don’t know when I’ll find myself in love again, I promise there will always be a little place no one will see, a tiny part deep in my heart that stays in love with you.”

Since my original Feinstein encounter, I’ve come to own seven more versions of the song—Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Maureen McGovern, Susannah McCorkle, Trish Hatley, Sophie Milman, and probably the best by Barbra Streisand—all of whom sound like their hearts are breaking as they sing the last word and the song subsides.

Anyone who might be interested in finding out more about Alan and Marilyn Bergman and the songs they wrote may go to www.alanandmarilynbergman.com.

Sunday, September 12

Dumb Song & Sunday Sports

Last night, in that half-sleep dream state we all know, I started singing in my head a truly dumb song, “I Dunno Why I Love Ya Like I Do.” I dunno why it popped into my head. Or maybe it was because last week we watched a half-hour infomercial about the old Dean Martin musical variety show, and it was one of the songs he sang. I call it a dumb song because it’s so simple it never should have found any success or have been sung by anyone, let alone Dean Martin. It’s written in a standard A-A-B-A form, but each part is only four bars instead of eight, making it a sixteen-bar song. With these really dumb, repetitive lyrics: “I dunno why I love ya like I do, I dunno why, I just do. I dunno why ya thrill me like ya do, I dunno why, ya just do. You never seem to want my romancin,’ the only time ya hold me is when we’re dancin’. I dunno why I love ya like I do. I dunno why, I just do.” Dumb.

It’s Sunday and a golf and football day. I’m presently watching the playoffs in Chicago with half an eye. Half because Tiger is just going through the motions, way out of making it into the finals next week. Oh well, maybe next year. And the other half an eye is on the two early football games, just biding my time till the Cardinals/Rams game comes on at 1:00. Nearly all of the prognosticators are saying the 49ers will win the western division of the NFC, assuming that the loss of Kurt Warner and Anquin Boldin will be devastating for the Cardinals. That’s just dumb. I’m predicting the Cardinals will go 10-6 this year and easily repeat as the western division champions. Write that down.

Monday, September 6

Scattered Thoughts

Anne Thompson, the woman I thought would go away, hasn’t gone away. It seems like every night we have to see her standing on the bow of that same boat in the water off New Orleans, talking about either the BP mess and the failed safety cap or another hurricane or how New Orleans is getting along five years after Katrina. Enough already.

Several weeks ago I saw on CNN a story about the Saudi judge who sentenced a man who had paralyzed another man to have his spinal cord surgically severed. When exactly are those people in the Middle East going to come out of the 19th century and join the rest of the world in the 21st? And Brian Williams, on the NBC Nightly News, spoke of the Chilean miners who need to have no more than a 35 inch waist to make it up the rescue hole. And that the national average in the U.S. for men is 40 inches, women 37 inches. How is that possible?

Ben Quayle, Dan’s son, is now running for a congressional seat in Arizona with the campaign statement, “Barack Obama is the worst president in the history of the United States.” To paraphrase someone I read in Time a week ago, “That nut hasn’t fallen far from the tree.” Someone should ask him how he spells the plural of “potato.”

And finally, I must confess that I’m sick and tired of getting e-mails telling me that Barack Obama is a muslim, or that he wasn’t born a U.S. citizen. How stupid can 25% of our population be?

Friday, September 3

English Oddities

I love the English language. I love our words, their convolutions and quirkiness, their interesting edges, like jigsaw pieces. Foreigners must go crazy trying to sort out some of our really odd words. I love the way our language borrows from other languages, from all other languages, bringing words in and then shaping them to our needs. Sometimes, through ignorance, shaping them erroneously. The best example I can think of to show this is my old bugaboo about forte and forte. The first, pronounced “for-TAY,” is an adjective or adverb, from Italian, and is restricted to music, telling the musician to play it or sing it “loud.” The second, pronounced “fort,” is a noun from Old French to Middle English and basically means “strength” and by extension means something a person does particularly well. Curiously enough, it can also mean the strong point of a sword, from the hilt to the middle. And the counter word is foible, or weakness, specifically the weak point of a sword, from the middle to the tip. Note the similarity to “feeble” or weak. But to the point (not the foible), too many of our television sportscasters or news analysts now invariably speak of a person’s particular strength as his for-TAY. I just hate when that happens. We will soon lose the wonderful color and connotation of the two words, their histories coming from two different languages as we blend, even in error, these words into our language.

Two other similar words that cause confusion are discomfort and discomfit. We’re all fairly sure of our use of discomfort, usually as a noun meaning “unease” or “distress.” Discomfit causes us discomfort and we avoid it like the plague. Here it comes: it’s always a verb meaning to frustrate plans or outcomes, to thwart, to make uneasy or to confuse. And as you can see, if you discomfit someone, you’re going to cause them to feel discomfort.

Had enough? Nah. Let’s try torturous and tortuous. The more common one, torturous, is an adjective that means “full of pain or anguish.” And tortuous is an adjective that means “full of twists or turns, crooked, devious, deceitful, or tricky.”

Two sets of words that are often misused, mainly because one is real and one is false, not even a word. George W. is the most prominent guilty party, the one who most loved to talk about nucular weapons (no such word) instead of nuclear weapons (all too real). He should have known better, which must say something about either his ignorance or his stubbornness. Then there’s memento and momento. A memento is related to memory, a thing that serves as a reminder or warning, or, more commonly, a souvenir. But consider this Latin phrase: memento mori, any reminder of death. The common mistake is to think this word is momento (no such word). Misusers must first think of something that’s momentous (which is a word), or very important, and go on to a thing that must be important, or a momento (still, no such word).

On a different tack, look at see and watch. We all tend to "watch" television and go to "see" a movie. We don’t see television nor do we watch a movie, at least not in a theater. We might, though, watch a movie on television. Now notice the slipperiness of “We saw an approaching storm” and “We watched an approaching storm.” Which one is one single moment in time and which one implies time passing?

Those poor people trying to learn the vagaries of English. Let them consider our many different meanings of up and down. Let them try to get a handle on got.

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