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.

Sunday, July 31

Crazy Stupid

If I thought Horrible Bosses was funny in a sort of slapsticky, raunchy way, Crazy, Stupid Love was twice as funny, twice as well done as Bosses. And without the raunch or the stick. The laughter was more subdued but more genuine, the plot more unexpected. I think this may be the best romantic comedy I’ve seen in at least ten years. Steve Carrell is a funny man, and in this show, he was more genuinely funny and human than in most others, more so than in The Forty-Year-Old Virgin, Date Night, Dinner for Schumcks, or Despicable Me. You need to go see this movie. You’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

And this one is just too cute to pass up. I'd like to take all five of them in my arms and squeeze. Not too much, just a little.

Saturday, July 30

Tiger & Debt Ceiling

Tiger is returning next week at the Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, and golf fans all over the world will be watching to see if he’s the old Tiger or some new version. The tv ratings will be twice what they would have been if he hadn’t decided to show up. I can hardly wait. He’ll be rusty so I don’t look for anything like a win, but Tiger’s Tiger, and he may just do it for the eighth time at this Ohio venue. We’ll see.

The August 2nd deadline for the two political parties’ either putting up or shutting up looms. The Republicans led by John Boehner are still trying to get passed an amendment for a balanced federal budget. If they’re successful, our nation could fall into a depression as deep as or deeper than the Thirties chasm. They keep arguing that the federal budget should be the same as any family’s budget: don’t spend more than you take in. But that comparison doesn’t work. The federal government is in the business of keeping the nation afloat, and that requires spending dollars we may or may not have. We simply can’t allow such an amendment to pass. Then there are the Republicans who don’t want any tax increases, especially on the filthy rich, like those individuals and corporations making millions and billions of dollars annually. When I see what some CEO’s make each year, the numbers are so large they don’t make sense. C’mon, boys and girls, let’s not allow our nation to default on its loans. Raise the debt limit to a level that would allow our nation to keep running as it has been.

Wednesday, July 27

Horrible Bosses

And I thought Sandford’s Preys were full of blue language. We just saw Horrible Bosses and I thought my ears were going to fall off. It was hilarious, but oh so blue. Let’s see, there were plenty of F-bombs, and a whole bunch of MF-bombs, C1-bombs, C2-bombs, P1-bombs, P2-bombs, and quite a few bombs of various other colors and designations. I’ll leave you to figure out what they all might have been. But, as I said, it was hilarious. And of an audience of about forty, only three got up and walked out. When I first saw the title, I thought it was going to be a tribute to Rose Putz, my former boss at Stardust, but she wasn’t mentioned. The three bosses in the film were so horrible that their three employees decided there was only one way to get out from under them (and in the case of the dentist played by Jennifer Anniston, her dental assistant, played by Charlie Day, really was under her)—hire someone to kill them. So they went to the nastiest bar in town and found M-F Jones, played hilariously by Jamie Foxx, who, for $5,000, told them how to do it but wouldn’t do it for them. The rest of the plot involved their misguided attempts at murder. It was all pretty much obvious, but how they got to the obvious ending was pretty funny. And along the way, Bobby (Jason Sudeikis), when he first sees the wife of Nick’s (Jason Bateman’s) horrible boss (Kevin Spacey), says, “I’d like to bend her over a barrel and show her the fifty states.” To which, Bobby says, “What does that mean?” And the audience echoes that thought about nearly everything in the movie, “What does that mean?” But it was hilarious.

Monday, July 25

Bad News, Sad News

Oh, TNT, say it isn’t so. I just read in “Entertainment Weekly” that one of my favorite shows of all time, Men of a Certain Age, is being canceled after only two seasons, and really short seasons at that. What a shame, when so many truly stupid shows, mostly reality shows, go on and on and on. I hope some more reasonable network will pick it up and let the Men continue to age and make us laugh and cry. Here’s what TNT had to say: “TNT has been proud to be a part of Men of a Certain Age for two seasons. While the show has featured great storytelling and impeccable performances, the audience simply hasn’t built to the point where we can continue the series. This was an extremely difficult decision for us. We wish Ray Romano, Mike Royce and the terrific cast and crew of Men of a Certain Age the very best and look forward to exploring new programming possibilities in the future.” How could they have expected huge ratings when they tucked this show away on late Tuesday nights?

Sunday, July 24

The F-Bomb

As I said earlier, I’m in the process of re-reading all the Prey series by John Sandford. And although I really like them, I can’t get over the number of F-bombs he uses in all its many variations. I’m not a prude, and I don’t mind reading the words, or even hearing them in movies, but it seems like it’s in overload in Sandford’s books. I keep remembering how, in my distant past, The Catcher in the Rye was banned in most high schools because of that one F-bomb near the end, when Holden sees it graffitoed on the wall at the museum. Catcher is one of the most affirmative and moral novels ever written, yet it suffered for years from the stigma of that one word. Holden wanted to be the “catcher in the rye,” the savior who would protect his little sister Phoebe and all the other Phoebes of the world from evil, as symbolized by that word. Not that the act itself is evil. Just that those who used the word back in the old days intended it as evil. Today, it seems to be just another word, neither evil nor good.

Saturday, July 23

Golf Disappointments

Two golf disappointments: Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie.

Tiger recently gave Steve Williams his walking papers, and from the sounds of Steve, it was totally unexpected . . . and disloyal. If what Steve says is true, then Tiger has slipped monumentally in my regard. I once considered him one of the people I most admired, well spoken, handsome, honest (or so I thought). And then the tragic November incident and all the ugliness that followed. And now this seeming disloyalty to his friend of twelve years, Steve Williams. I, like a lot of other golf fans, will probably still root for him when and if he gets back on tour, but it will be with mixed emotions. We will no longer smile and hoot with him when he makes a long snake for birdie to win whatever tournament he’s in. We’ll watch and consider how it writes another chapter in a career that could have been, should have been, wonderful.

Then there’s Michelle Wie, who I and everyone else thought would be the female Tiger. She’s tall and beautiful, and wonderfully skilled as a golfer. But what could be going on inside that pretty little head of hers, causing her so often to pout that little pout with those pretty little lips? She seems to be missing that most important ingredient in a golf game—the five inches between the ears. She’s still young and could still live up to her potential, but I’m beginning to doubt if it will ever happen.

How disappointing, Tiger. How disappointing, Michelle.

Friday, July 22

Tree of Life & SYTYCD

We went to see Tree of Life yesterday, and I sat and carefully watched to see why it was so difficult as had been reported by reviewers and those I’d talked to about the film. My impressions are that, like the Beatles way back when, it was a film heavy on symbols and mixed meanings. I remember reading someplace in the Sixties what the Beatles had to say about one of their songs, but I can’t remember which one. Anyway, the song didn’t make much apparent sense but got everyone trying to figure it out, a little like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” but that wasn’t the song. They were smugly satisfied that they could feed the public something that made no sense but sounded like it did, an inside joke about the stupidity of their listeners. I think Tree might be somewhat the same.

The symbolism sort of overlaps, and the words whispered at various points are so hard to hear and out of context that we don’t know what’s going on. But the main sets of symbols are the trees and the water. All the shots of trees are supposed to suggest how intertwined the human race is, how complex that relationship is. The water always suggests life and fertility, and there were water scenes everywhere. Then there’s the overlapping. Mr. O’Brien (Brad Pitt) is like Job in his suffering, and a little like the Old Testament Jehovah, the angry, punishing father, and Jack, the oldest son, is a little like Cain, with the second son like Abel. Jack is a very strange little boy. Right after his brother is born, we see him sort of frowning at the baby. And in almost every scene thereafter he’s seen with that awful look on his face, even when he’s hugged by his father or punished by his father. And we hear him pray that God will kill him, and later tell his father that he’s much like him in his anger and darkness.

That twenty-minute section near the beginning was beautiful and said more about what Malick was getting at than anything else: the fiery beginning, or Genesis, followed by the oceans and the beginning of life, the dinosaurs with the raptor about to feast on the fallen creature, stepping on his neck, then deciding against it. I guess that was to show the start of life’s compassion. The cinematography was gorgeous but maybe a bit too long. And then back to the narrative plot (which kept folding back and forth between reality and symbolism, present and past). The O’Briens get the news that their 19-year-old son has been killed. We never find out how he died, but since Mrs. O’Brien gets a telegram, we assume he was killed in war, probably Viet Nam. This was the youngest son, the one who might have fulfilled his father’s dream of being a musician. The rest of the plot is a series of flashbacks to the three boys when they were still adolescents, the strictness of the father at the dinner table, the punishments involving that odd flight up the stairs to the attic, the drawing of the line between their yard and the neighbor’s, Jack’s tentative move toward evil, Satan, when he and the band of boys break out the windows of an empty house, the shooting of the frog tied to a rocket, the breaking into a house where he goes through the woman’s underwear, taking a slip and then releasing it into a stream, the planting of the tree and the growth of that tree over the years, the growing separation of the O’Briens with the father the stern disciplinarian and the mother a childlike innocent. And then there’s the aging Jack, the architect who “thinks of his brother every day” and is so dissatisfied with his life. Whoa, that’s a bunch of symbols and misty meanings behind a very simple plot. Just look at the little suggestions of symbolic meaning: the partly shaved head of one of the boys (Jack’s?), the desolate doorway Jack steps through to follow the barren landscape, the drowning of the boy in the flowing water. This last one suggests that even in the life-affirming water, God can whimsically reach out and take a life just to show his power. I think one of the best symbols of all was that minute-long view of the starlings’ flight. We used to see it in New York, and it’s so mystically fascinating to watch the shifting patterns of those thousands of birds, all flying together in moving Rorschach blots. I think Malick must have been suggesting just that: the mystery of the flight, the mystery of life and death. Even at the end you get the feeling that Mrs. O’Brien might be Mary, who “gives God her son.” And all the people with Jack at the end, all walking around in the shallow water, an affirmation of life.

Wow, does that sound like a bunch of bullshit. Anyway, there you have my impressions of Tree of Life. I think I may have to stick to flicks like Dumb and Dumber for a while.

I hate to keep beating this dead horse, but I can't help it. We're now down to the last eight dancers in So You Think You Can Dance and I have to say once again just how good a show it is. I think Melanie will win simply because she's such a good dancer, and so elegant in her moves and hand gestures and facial expressions. But the other seven are really good. This past week, the ten finalists all danced one number with an all-star from past shows, and each one thirty-second solo. Nine of the ten performances were great, with only one not up to par. Unlike American Idol, the three judges are all so informed on what they see, even this week's guest judge, Neil Patrick Harris, spoke meaningfully about each performance. The judges on Idol nearly all say the same stupid things after a performance. Their musical expertise isn't nearly as great as the dance expertise is on Dance. I can hardly wait for next week's show. I just hope Cat doesn't show up in another outfit with a too short skirt. She looks so much better, classier, in a calf- or floor-length skirt. Check out Melanie and Pasha's Viennese waltz from last week's show. Click on the bottom right to view it full-screen.

Tuesday, July 19

Big Water

Our trip back to South Dakota this summer brought back memories of a long ago summer when I fished from the shore for northerns and caught enough of them that I was a hooked fisherman. Hooked enough that I bought a Fish-‘N’-Float outfit in Chicago that would allow me to fish out on the big water instead of just from shore. By “big water” I mean the Oahe Reservoir, one of the bodies of water created by the dammed Missouri River. And I don’t mean “damned,” although that muddy river that gave my hometown its name, Mobridge, was often damned whenever the winter ice would break up and then the old Mo would flood the land along its banks. Or damned whenever one of our young citizens close to swim in it and go down never to be seen again. When I was a boy, I used to fish the river with throwlines from the shore, but never to swim in it, catching a wild variety of fish, most of which were inedible—carp, sturgeon, eel, suckers, shiners, something we called golden-eyed herring, catfish, bullheads. And after the river was dammed at Pierre, a hundred miles to the south of Mobridge, we had a body of water with over two thousand miles of desolate, uninhabited shoreline. I used my Fish-‘N’-Float outfit, a truck innertube inside a canvas sleeve with a seat in the middle, several times when we returned to Mobridge for summer visits, always hoping to latch onto a northern big enough to tow me around, never having such a thing happen. In fact, I never satisfied that old hunger to fish the reservoir, always assuming there would be a time to do it, never doing it. And now that I’m an old unsatisfied fisherman, I think I’d like to buy another Fish-‘N’-Float and try it again, dipping my old, fragile legs into that mysterious water, casting out and reeling in, hoping with each cast that I’d find that big old northern I’ve always dreamed about.

Friday, July 15

The Open, Some TV, and 2 Golf Jokes

For anyone crazy enough to get up in the middle of the night to watch Open golf in England, you were probably as delighted as I was when Tom Watson hit a 4-iron into a strong breeze at the par-3, 160 yard sixth hole, the ball landing on and bouncing once directly into the cup. I certainly hope he had two pairs of pants with him, because he had a most unlikely hole in one.

And on to television.

So You Think You Can Dance just keeps getting better and better, with lavish costumes for the dancers and amazing lighting effects for each performance by the couples as well as the entire company. Comparisons are invariably made to its sister reality show, American Idol, but anyone who’s seen both would agree that Idol comes off as a sorry second. SYTYCD has so much more class than Idol with judges that actually know what they’re talking about, with a format that doesn’t rely so much on viewer voting to decide who stays and who goes, with Cat Deeley instead of Ryan Seacrest, and choreographers who keep going farther and farther in their quest to create intricate and dramatic dance routines. If you’re not presently a fan, watch it just once and you’ll become one.

And I’m more convinced with each episode that Men of a Certain Age is the best show on the tube. The writers manage to keep each of three plot strands going in unpredictable directions, none of the three overshadowing the other two. Joe (Ray Romano) is now attempting to make it on the senior tour, and Romano, after many golf lessons, now actually looks like a golfer. Terry, the aging Lothario, has had success selling cars for his buddy Owen Thoreau, but he still yearns for some kind of creative success, either as an actor, or in a new role as director. And Owen has to put up with his father, the founder of Throeau Chevrolet, and they just keep losing money. This is a really unpredictable show, full of interesting characters and plot twists. As with SYTYCD, if you haven’t seen these Men, you should.

And two more golf jokes, both oldies, but still very much goodies.

1. “The Yukon Department of Environment advises golfers to take extra precautions against bears, while playing on golf courses in Whitehorse, Annie Lake, Dawson City and Watson Lake. They advise golfers to wear noise-producing devices such as little bells on their clothing to alert, but not startle, the bears unexpectedly. They also advise you to carry pepper spray in case of an encounter with a bear. It is also a good idea to watch for signs of bear activity. For example, golfers should be able to recognize the difference between Black Bear and Grizzly Bear droppings on the golf course. Black Bear droppings are smaller, and contain berries and possibly squirrel fur. Grizzly Bear droppings have bells in them, and smell like pepper spray.”

2. Joe was trudging off the course after what was his worst round in years and years. He’d hit three balls out of bounds, had four penalty strokes in one pond or the other, and had so many 3-putts he couldn’t even count them. He passed a dumpster at the back of the clubhouse, took each club out of his bag one at a time, broke each across his knee and deposited the pieces in the dumpster, then followed with the bag. He went in the locker room and sat wearily on the bench by his locker. He found an old single-edge razorblade on the shelf and slashed each wrist. At that very moment, Charlie came through the door, saw Joe and shouted, “Hey, Joe, I’m getting up a group to play tomorrow. You interested?” Joe stood up with wrists crossed tightly and shouted, “What time?”

Thursday, July 14

The Open & 2 Jokes

I think it should be Royal St. Gorges, and I don’t mean “gorgeous.” They can say all they want, rave all they want, about links courses, but I find them just plain plain, and Royal St. George's is about as ugly as they come. So much of the scoring seems to depend too much on luck, a good luck bounce here, a bad luck bounce there, a warm dry tee time or a drippy cold tee time. I guess I’d rather watch four hours of major golf played in the U. S. than twelve hours of Open golf that comes on at 1:00 a.m. And I want some American to step up to take Tiger’s place in the order of things. Nah, I want Tiger to get back.

How about a long golf joke?

The Hitman

One morning, a man approached the first tee, only to find another guy approaching from the other side. They began talking and decided to play 9 holes together.

After teeing off, they sat off down the fairway, continuing their chat.

"What do you do?" the first man asked.

"I'm a salesman. What about you?"

"I'm a hitman for the mob," replied the second man.

The hitman noticed that the 1st guy started getting a little nervous and continued. "Yeah. I'm the highest paid guy in the business. I'm the best." He stopped, sat down his bag of clubs, and pulled out a fancy, high powered rifle that was loaded with all types of scopes and sights. He than asked the man where he lived.

Still nervous the man replied, "In a subdivision just west of here."

The hitman placed the gun against his shoulder, faced west, peered into a scope and asked, "What color roof ya' got?"


Then he asked "What color siding?"


"You got a silver Toyota?"

"Yeah," replied the first man who was now completely amazed by the accuracy of the hitman's equipment. "That's my wife's car."

"That your red pickup next to it?"

Looking baffled the man asked if he could look through the scope.

Looking through the sights, he said "Hell. That's my buddy Jeff's truck. What the hell is he doing there if I'm..?"

The hitman looked through the scope once more. "Your wife a blond?"


"Your buddy got black hair?"


"Well, I don't know how to tell you, but I think you've got a problem. They're going at it like a couple of teenagers in there." said the hitman.

"Problem??! THEY'VE got the problem! I want you to shoot both of them! Right now!"

The hitman paused and said, "Sure. But it'll cost you. Like I said, I'm the best. I get paid $5,000 per shot."

"I don't care! Just do it! I want you to shoot her right in the head, then shoot him right in the groin!"

The hitman agreed, turned, and took firing position. He carefully stared into the sights, taking careful aim. He then said, "You know what buddy. This is your lucky day. I think I can save you $5,000!"

Now, how about a short golf joke:? Why do golfers always carry two pairs of trousers with them? Just in case they had a hole in one.

Wednesday, July 13

Larry Crowne & Teeth

Quick movie review: Larry Crowne with Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks rated only a C+ for Entertainment Weekly, and our local reviewer for The Arizona Republic thought it worth only 2½ out of 5 stars, saying it “has its moments but it doesn’t earn its laughs—or its dramas. A disappointment.” Hmm? How can any movie starring Julia and Tom be a disappointment? The laughs were muted but honest and didn’t need to depend on sexual innuendo or vulgar language or toilet jokes or farting, barfing, or diarrhea, as do too many of today’s blockbusters, like Hangover I and II, The Little Fockers, and Bridesmaids (although Bridesmaids had other very funny moments aside from the dress shop scene). When I go to see a romantic comedy, I don’t need high drama or hilarity. I want an honest romance that makes me feel good, as in Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Notting Hill, or Pretty Woman. And Larry Crowne, although not quite in the league of those just mentioned, still delivers.

And for those of you who knew about my impending teeth extractions and were concerned for me, don’t be. It was a . . . piecea cake. Well, okay, more like a chocolate shake. I was more worried about it than I should have been. I mean, five teeth. All at once. Three were broken crowns and were down close to the gum line and two were in between the broken crowns and needed to go to accommodate a partial plate for upper left and right around my front teeth. I went in, got three or four shots of Novocain, opened my mouth, and push pull crash bang—five minutes later the surgeon was done. He said he’d put in some dissolvable stitches but everything was fine. I said, “What?! You mean you’re done?” He put in my temporary partial plate and some gauze and said goodbye. And $1200 later I was out of there. And yes, a huge DQ chocolate shake because I’d been such a good boy.

Saturday, July 9

Home Again

The old home town looked beautiful, with the low hills across what used to be the Missouri River greener than they’ve ever been. And the water of the Oahe Reservoir, the result of one of the dams on what used to be the Missouri River, brimming up to a level never seen before. Beautiful. One of the female visitors for the Fourth, someone who had never before been to Mobridge, took 192 photos of the hills and water. She just couldn’t get over how lovely the area was.

Mobridge no longer was the dusty little town we grew up in. You really can’t go home again because that home no longer exists. Nearly all the houses and yards in my memory were now so much less grand, so much smaller. So many of them not even there anymore. Rosalie and I would drive around town, remembering what families lived where, remembering adventures and misadventures in our youths, probably embellishing those memories with details that never really happened. The memory is a fickle animal, painting some scenes more vividly than they deserve, leaving long stretches of time completely blank.

Our week in the old home town was interesting although not particularly fun. Just too many reunions, too many social obligations. And several of the interesting things involved my learning more of life’s little lessons. My mechanical aptitude measures about ten on a scale from one to a hundred. Locks. On our first day in our motel, we left and I punched in the little button on the door knob, then turned it just as I had always done with simple locks like that. When we returned, nothing I did would open the door. Off to the manager, who came and finally had to kick the door open. He told me I had only to push the button in, not turn it. Okay. I wonder how many others had locked themselves out as I had. The next day, we drove down to the water to see how it was doing. Parked the Chevy rental, got out, closed the door, heard the little beep and flash of headlights. Yikes! Sure enough, the car had locked itself. And, sure enough, I had left our only set of keys in the car. How was I to know, owner of a stupid car of 2001 vintage, that cars were now so smugly smart that they could lock themselves, especially when they encountered drivers stupid enough to leave the keys in the car? After many searches for someone who could jimmy the lock, we were again in the car, never again to make the same mistake. Damn smug Chevy. And after my ranting and raving against cell phones, I recanted and bought a Samsung cheapie for our trip. My grand niece Claire gave me instructions on its operation, much more complicated than I’d anticipated. But neither she nor the instruction manual (way too complicated) told me I had to have the phone turned on to receive any calls. How was I to know? If the silly thing could change the time to whatever time zone you were in, how could it not also turn itself on when a call came in? I guess I’m just too stupid to keep up with a technology that advances at light speed. Every communications device now on the market is obsolete as soon as it comes out.

It was good to return to our known world, to our two cats, to the heat and humidity of the Valley of the Sun. Maybe in five years we'll make the trip down memory lane again, providing we still have our memories. A card I bought says it well: "The positive side to memory loss . . . you meet new people everyday!"

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