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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.

Tuesday, July 31

Richard Engel & D-Backs BB

Richard Engel, get your butt out of Syria! You’ll probably be the next major newscaster for NBC and we don’t want you getting killed in that awful place being devastated by rebel forces and Assad’s military forces. It’s incomprehensible what’s happening in that country. How can the two sides continue to kill each other and destroy their cities? For that matter, where have all the citizens of those bombed out cities gone and how are they now existing? The world is watching. We all want to know when this madness will end.

I went to Chase Field Sunday to see the DBacks/Mets game on a tour bus with almost fifty others from Sun City West and Sun City. The bus was brand new and gorgeous and the ride was quick and easy. I’d been to Chase only once back when it was Bank One Ballpark, so this was nearly a new experience for me. I thought my seat was going to be reasonably close to the action but I was wrong. I was on the right field side far enough away that I couldn’t tell what was going on until a batter hit it somewhere. And even then, I had a hard time picking up the ball in the air until one of the outfielders caught it. Not a good way to watch baseball. My impressions of Chase? It’s a beautiful facility with natural turf, air-conditioning, a swimming pool, lights everywhere, big screen in center field to let us know what was going on. More impressions: It was almost too chilly at 76°; the seats were very close together, making it a toe-stepping chore to get out to an aisle; at least 4 out of 5 people didn’t have a clue what was going on, which leads me to the question, Why would anyone pay an average of $30-40 to go sit and chat, eat and drink, and not pay any attention to the baseball game? There was too much commotion up and down the aisles of people selling stuff, people carrying trays of purchased stuff to stuff themselves with. I think this will be the last game I attend at Chase. Much easier to enjoy the game on tv.

Saturday, July 28

London Opening Ceremonies

At best the London Olympics opening ceremonies were underwhelming, and that’s an understatement. At worst, they were sort of boring and inconsequential. Most reviewers said they thought it was a great opening, certainly not as spectacular as the opening in Beijing, but a credit to Danny Boyle, who put it all together. I kept wondering how the people in the stadium would have reacted to the chaos below. If they didn’t have large tv screens to watch, they’d have been lost. The segment with all the nurses and beds, the children dreaming about their favorite literary heroes, was jumbled and hard to follow. I love the theme from Chariots of Fire, but I hated what the opening did with it, a mockery of the Olympians’ run on the beach with comic actor Rowan Atkinson doing the mocking. Then there was that strange musical love story with multicolored dancers going crazy to the music of assorted British rock groups, with the girl and boy sort of wandering around among the dancing and fireworks. How would the stadium viewers have made any sense of it? The people of Great Britain would hate what I’ve just said about their opening ceremonies, but so be it. I wasn’t impressed.

Friday, July 27

So You Think You Can Dance

I keep waving the flag for So You Think You Can Dance, and here I go again. The format for this season is much simpler than in past seasons—only one two-hour show a week without the cumbersomeness of the one-hour results show the next night, as American Idol has done and continues to do. All dancers perform and at the conclusion, we hear the result of the voting from the preceding week with three males and three females announced as the bottom three in the voting. The judges, with input from the choreographers, then tell us which four are saved and which two are dropped. If they’re not yet sure, the judges can ask one or more of the dancers to dance solos. This method is so much superior to what Idol does. And the judges for SYTYCD know so much more about what they’re judging than the odd bunch on Idol (and yes, Randy, I mean you). Nigel Lythgo, executive producer of both Dance and Idol, and Mary Murphy are the two regulars with a guest judge from theater or television to fill out the three. And all three invariably speak from their extensive knowledge of dance. If you haven’t yet tuned in to SYTYCD, you should give it a try. You’ll be blown away by the skill and beauty of the dancers, the beauty of the choreography and lighting and music. Check out this video to see what I mean.

Thursday, July 26

SiriusXM

We bought a new KIA Optima a month ago and only yesterday did I discover that one of the perks for the purchase was a three-month trial subscription to SiriusXM, the satellite radio signal that goes directly to your car or I-phone or computer, 130 different stations ranging from all genres of music to sports talk to comedy to national and world news. It’s intriguing but what am I going to do with another way to access music and news? I finally got a car that plays mp3 cd’s, so I can now load about 150 tracks and listen to them on shuffle. I already watch more tv sports than I can handle. And I have an I-Pod that holds 1500 tracks. In order to make the automobile SiriusXM worthwhile, I’d have to spend most of my days traveling to and from work or taking extensive cross-country trips. I no longer go to work and we’re both done with long trips. How can people keep up with the barrage of sights and sounds that television and I-Pods and cell phones and texting and instant messaging throw at them? I have over 13,000 music tracks on my computer. I have thousands of read and unread books in my library. I have well over a hundred tv channels to watch. Do I really need another device that adds to that barrage of things to see and listen to? I don’t think so.

Wednesday, July 25

Jewel Guns & Negative Ads

In the wake of the shooting in Aurora, gun sales are spiking, not only in Colorado but all over the country. I guess OK Corral isn’t that far off. Are those now buying guns first-time gun owners or are they just building up their arsenals? If they’re first-timers, what do they plan to do with their new purchases? Carry them all the time, keeping a wary eye over shoulders in case some gun-wielding bad guy is creeping up on them? That’s a scary scenario. Are those who already own guns simply adding more in case they have to flee to some deep-woods hideaway? I agree with Baby Blues, “A jewel gun is the only good kind of gun.”

The nightly news last night reported that all the negative ads coming out from both Obama and Romney are having a negative effect on popularity polls. I think that if either of them simply came out with a national statement that he would no longer engage in negative campaigning, a huge chunk of voters would be so happy to hear it that they’d pledge their votes to that candidate. I know I would.

Tuesday, July 24

Caterwaul

Why am I so compelled to put words on paper? Or in this case, put words on a blog? I can’t stop thinking in potential sentences. Even my dreams have begun to be long dramatic scenes and stories. Blog readers, whoever you are, have you noticed all the links I’ve sprinkled here and there? I now have twenty separate blog sites, all linked in a chain of titles. At the top of my blog description for Doggy-Dog World, you can click on “My Stories” and it will direct you to the story sites. Or you can click on my latest blog, “The Caterwaul,” in which I speak stream-of-consciousnessly about anything that strikes my fancy without worrying too much about how well I’ve said it or whether anyone would be interested in my wanderings. Words, words, and more words. The writing and the novel reading are what keep me sane. Some would argue that last word might better be insane.

Monday, July 23

Nutcase Two & Olympics

Well, we now have another Arizona nutcase embarrassing us Arizonans with silly statements. Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his continued attempts to prove that Barack Obama isn’t a citizen is nutcase number one. And now, nutcase number two. Former Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce spoke out after the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, suggesting that if we didn’t have gun laws prohibiting people from carrying defensive weapons, the shooter in the theater might have been stopped before many people were killed. Can’t you just see it? A masked man in full body armor appears, throws a canister of tear gas, then starts firing into the crowd. Suddenly, three hundred members of the audience stand with guns drawn, firing at the bad guy in a kind of lunatic OK Corral scenario. Bullets flying everywhere. No one knowing any longer who the bad guys are. Cops arrive and also don’t know who’s good and who’s bad and start shooting at anyone with a gun. Instead of twelve dead, we might have had hundreds. Russell Pearce, you’re an idiot.

The London Olympics begin this weekend . . . with thousands of police and soldiers for security. Isn’t it sad that events like the Olympics, doing what it does to promote peace and understanding between nations and people, should be held captive by terrorists whose only motive is to kill anyone who doesn’t believe as they do? More people have died from religion than from all other causes combined. I look forward to the events, especially the swimming and gymnastics. Can Michael Phelps win more gold or will his rival Ryan Lochte beat him out? Can’t wait to find out. I also want to watch Lolo Jones run the hurdles. Am I interested in the women's hurdles? No. I'm just interested in watching Lolo Jones.

Saturday, July 21

Aurora Shooting & Open III

Why does anyone need a rifle designed to fire 100 rounds per minute? Why do we still allow people to buy such a weapon? What are the NRA gun nuts thinking? Do they really feel the need to go hunting with this thing and what kind of game would require that sort of firepower? Or do they feel the need to have one for self-defense? If the latter, then please don't let me get anywhere near such a self-defensive crackpot. Why don't our laws prevent anyone from buying 6,000 rounds of amunition? Or at least have such a purchase send out a red flag to law enforcement? Too many questions, too few answers.

Saturday at the Open. Tiger looked like he was going to have a repeat of what he did in the third round of the U.S. Open, blow it bigtime. He bogeyed two of his first four holes, but then righted the ship to finish five back of Adam Scott, still within range, especially if the wind gets up on Sunday. His putter is just not Tiger-like. He missed at least three putts that he'd have made in the old days. But that's what happens when the years start piling up: the hands just aren't as confident as they were in our optimistic youth. I hope he can still win it, but he's never come back from five behind and I doubt he'll do it this time either.

Friday, July 20

People & Open II

My apologies to anyone who may have read any of my movie reviews that included spoilers, especially to Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, who let me know my error right between the eyes. In the case of People Like Us, there really wasn’t a spoiler about the two main characters being half-siblings. That was revealed almost from the beginning of the movie. It was only I and my hopeless romanticism that wanted them somehow to find a romantic connection. The film would have been worth it if only for the Six Rules that Sam had gotten from his father and then passed on to Josh, Frankie’s son. And without spoiling anything, the way it was all resolved was special, and jerked a tear or two. Two aspects of the plot bother me, though: Can a recovering alcoholic work as a bar tender without falling off the wagon over and over? And why is it that so many young actors have a perennial two-day beard? Do women actually find that attractive? In my youth, girls were always complaining about whisker burn after some serious necking. Yet today, nearly all leading men and nearly all male sports figures have that same two-day beard. They must all shave with an electric razor set for that length. Please, someone, enlighten me. Enough about People Like Us. Go see it

Day Two of the Open. Tiger shot another tactically efficient round, a 67 highlighted by his hole-out from the bunker on 18. None of the announcers has even mentioned that of the four par-5’s he’s played, he’s birdied one, parred two, and bogeyed the par-5 eleventh in his round today. That’s most unusual. He’ll get back on his par-5 track tomorrow. He’ll be in the penultimate group with a young man from Denmark, Thorbjorn Olesen, who’ll get a taste of Tiger heat and Tiger gallery feeding frenzy. Good luck with that, young Mr. Olesen. Brandt Snedeker is leading at minus 10 with Adam Scott right behind at minus 9. But Tiger is there, waiting to pounce. And if the wind picks up as is forecast, almost anything can happen to scores on the weekend. Here’s a list of prominent players who didn’t make the cut: Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel, Stewart Cink, Martin Kaymer, Robert Allenby, Darren Clarke, Lucas Glover Angel Cabrera, and Phil Mickleson. And just look at who made the cut: a 62-year-old Tom Watson. Take that, all you young guns.

Thursday, July 19

People Like Us & The Open

We decided to see People Like Us despite the luke-warm reviews, and we both liked it, just as we so often do when we see films with critically luke-warm reviews. Most reviewers took issue with the sort of sleazy character Chris Pine portrayed for the first half of the movie, sort of a fast-talking loser who didn’t want to return to California for his father’s funeral. But he turned it around by the end. I, like a lot of viewers, were wondering how they could possibly resolve the seeming romantic attachment Sam (Chris Pine) had with someone he knew to be his half-sister. I kept thinking that somehow it would be revealed that Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) wasn’t really Jerry Harper’s daughter, that they would surprisingly come together like Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember. Not to be. But that would have been too trite a solution anyway. We both thought it was quite a bit better than Roger Ebert and others had suggested.

Eleven hours of British Open coverage, beginning at 1:30 a.m. That’s early. And that’s a lot of coverage. So I had my dvr record the first four hours, than got up at 5:30 to watch what I’d saved. Good. Tiger was just teeing off when I started watching. And the day was much better than any forecasters were predicting. Tiger played a workmanlike round, following a game plan to the letter, shooting a three under 67 in an almost robotically technical round. As he said in the post interview, he just wanted to be in position, that there was a lot of golf to go, that the typical links wind would probably start blowing and the greens would speed up in the next three days. I think he’s right. And I think he’ll probably shoot three more technically good rounds to win by three.

Tuesday, July 17

The Klein Museum

A week in South Dakota, although a nice annual trip we make, a necessary trip, can be a tad too long . . . like three or four days too long. Time certainly is relative because the year between last year's visit and this year's seemed like only six months. But this week seemed like an eternity. One of the highlights was our annual visit to the Klein Museum.

Every year when we go back to our South Dakota hometown to visit relatives or engage in one class reunion or another, we make it a point to go to the Klein Museum, and every year we see more and more exhibits, more and more artifacts and memorabilia donated by Mobridge residents. This time we explored the Arikara Earth Lodge and teepee that had been recently added. Remarkable, especially the lodge. It didn’t look as large from the outside as it was after we entered it. Cool in the heat of the summer day and probably quite warm even on the coldest of South Dakota winter days. Three Sioux men built it in eleven days. It was constructed of timber from Montana, vertical logs set in the earth, then brought together without the use of nails. The sides were then made of timber slats placed side by side at a 45° angles, leaning on the interior logs. Then willow branches covered all before laying sod on sides and top. Inside, there were log seats, packed earth floor, a central fire pit beneath an open smoke hole in the ceiling. It looked like it could easily house a family of four or five. We’re assuming that a buffalo skin could be used as a door to keep out heat or cold and any pesky flies that might be around.

This museum is quite remarkable for the amount and diversity of the exhibits, all of which are devoted to the history of the town and surrounding area from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Included are a complete dentist office, doctor’s office, telephone office, beauty shop, grocery, millinery shop, barber shop, law office, optometrist office, a trapper’s shack, a large section devoted to saddles and horse gear, a central room with photos and information about Sitting Bull and other Sioux leaders, Sioux artifacts like head dresses, beaded jackets and shoes, peace pipes and tomahawks. Outside the main building visitors can find a complete furnished house dating back to 1919, a tiny post office built around 1920, a schoolhouse complete with desks, books, maps, pot bellied stove—all the furnishings of a country one-room school, a building devoted to early machinery and tools, a log cabin housing farm toys and scale models of farm machinery. For a town the size of Mobridge, this is a place of which they can be especially proud.

Sunday, July 8

Korean Golf

I watched the USGA’s U.S. Women’s Open this weekend at Black Wolf Run golf course in Wisconsin, and was again impressed with the beauty and athleticism of most of the players. Obviously, I was more interested in their golf sots than in their looks. Obviously. The other thing that was noteworthy: the number of South Koreans who play so well. There are forty ladies from South Korea who play regularly on the American tour, many of them ranking in the top twenty. I find it remarkable that this tiny nation I visited in 1953 could become an industrial giant and the home of some of the best golfers in the world, women as well as men. In 1953 I remember looking out over a Korean valley green with rice paddies, dreaming about the chocolate shake I’d have when I got back home, imagining the golf holes I could create in that Korean valley. Nearly sixty years ago, the South Korea I experienced was war-torn and impoverished—most of the hills brown and desolated from the nearly constant shelling. And just look at it now. There very well might be a golf course right there where I envisioned it almost sixty years ago. Two Korean ladies, Amy Yang and Na Yeon Choi, battled down the back nine at Black Wolf Run, both well ahead of the rest of the field, although Na Yeon Choi easily won the battle with great shot after great shot to win by four over Yang, by eight over the third-place finisher Sandra Gal. Na Yeon Choi is twenty-four but looks fifteen, cute as a soaking-wet hundred-pound bug. I look forward to seeing more of her in the future.

Tomorrow we leave for our annual trip to South Dakota. We hope the upper tier heat wave will have passed by the time we get there. I'll try to keep this post going with whatever strikes my fancy while we're there.

Saturday, July 7

Love & Lust

Let’s talk about love. It’s our strongest emotion, stronger than fear or hunger, stronger than hate. But it’s a two-pronged beast made up of emotional love and physical lust, and too often people misunderstand one for the other. How many couples engage in sex and then assume that what they feel is love, feel it enough to spend the rest of their lives together, only to discover soon or late that lust wasn’t enough to bind them. Some live with it; some go separate ways. Otherwise, how can we explain that two out of three marriages end in divorce? That number would be even higher if we added in those who wanted to split but couldn’t, ether because of religion or moral upbringing. Lust is the physical drive to satisfy our sexual appetites. It feels so good at the time, but what follows may not be love or even affection. The simplest solution is to find a fuck buddy: momentary satisfaction, then separation. In marriage, after the sex tapers off or even disappears, we find two people who don’t really know each other or care for each other. They split or they stay together, unhappy. For a lifetime. Then there are extra-marital affairs, lust again. Real love doesn’t require sex. Sex may be part of it, but not necessarily. Real love involves affection for the person, with or without the sex. Real love can be between good friends, parents, siblings, or offspring. Real love can exist with many others, not just the one we live with. It’s important not to mistake lust for love.

Wednesday, July 4

The Fourth of July

July Fourth, two hundred and thirty-six years after our first Fourth. What will we be doing on this day? Thinking about what it means to be an American, to be living in freedom, safety, and prosperity; having a steak and potato dinner; watching the fireworks as the Boston Pops plays in Boston Harbor; waiting out the days before our impending trip to South Dakota. “Impending” is such a dark word to describe our trip. Sounds like someone dying, or a dark storm cloud on the horizon. But we’ll go and it will be all right, but I’ll be anxious to return after only two or three days. Need to get back to see the kids, Squeakie and Charlie, need to get back to watch all the Olympic drama in London, need to see if Tiger can win the Open. So much to do, so little time.

Tuesday, July 3

Sentence Exams II

James Lee Burke is one of the finest writers of the past forty or fifty years, often following the tradition among Southern writers of emulating Faulknerian prose. In one of the Dave Robicheaux novels he writes:

"The truth was, he could not rise in the morning from his bed surrounded by the things she had touched, the wind blowing the curtains, pressurizing the emptiness of the house, stressing the joists and studs and crossbeams and plaster walls against one another, filling the house with a level of silence that was like someone clapping cupped palms violently on his eardrums. He could not wake to these things and Rie's absence and the absence of his children, whom he still saw in his mind's eye as little boys, without concluding that a terrible theft had been perpetrated upon him and that it had left a lesion in his heart that would never heal."

If I were explaining this to one of my English classes, I'd start with the structure, the way he builds on a very simple main clause and then drips the images thereafter. "The truth was . . . something." That's just a basic S-V-S pattern with the second S a noun s-v-o that forgot it's signal word "that." The structure of that noun s-v-o begins with "he could not rise" and then two adverbial 1-o's (prepositional phrases), the 4, "surrounded" (past participle), working with both the subject "he" as well as the verb "could not rise", then the "surrounded" modified by the adverb 1-o-o "by the things," with the "things" modified by the adjective s-v-o "she had touched" with the signal word "that" left out because it was acting simply as the object of the verb "had touched," then the very complicated set of words acting as the second object of "by." All right, we're now up to the sets of words led off by the "wind," which is acting as the s of the 3 (present particple) "blowing" and the object of "blowing" "the curtains." Then another 3 "pressurizing" and its object "emptiness" and the 1-o "of the house" modifying "emptiness." Then another 3 "stressing" and its objects "joists," "studs," crossbeams," and "walls" with the 1-o "against one another" working adverbially with "stressing." Then the final 3 in the series of 3's, all with the subject "wind," "filling" and its object "house," followed by the adverbial 1-o "with a level," then another 1-o "of silence" acting as an adjective to describe "level." And finally, the adjective s-v-o working with "silence" "that was like someone clapping cupped palms violently on his eardrums." Now how to explain the structure of this last thing? I guess I need to create a similar sentence to show it: The silence was similar to (or "like") someone clapping cupped palms on his eardrums. The structure of that sentence is an S-V-S (the silence was similar) and then a 1-o (to someone clapping palms), the object of the 1 being an s-3-o (a gerund with its own subject and its own o), and finally a 1-o "on his eardrums" adverbially modifying "clapping." Whew! Almost no one except for some of my very advanced English students would have any idea what I just said. I'm not sure Burke knew what he was doing when he wrote that sentence, but his ear told him how to do it without needing to know if it was right or wrong. It's very very right.

I’ll demonstrate the structure of the second sentence using my system of symbols. “He could not wake to these things and Rie's absence and the absence of his children, whom he still saw in his mind's eye as little boys, without concluding that a terrible theft had been perpetrated upon him and that it had left a lesion in his heart that would never heal.”

All the words below the top line are working adverbially with the main V (“could not wake”), the first set of 1-0's being "to things, absence, and absence"), the second set a 1 with the object a gerund 3 "concluding" followed by two noun s-v-o's acting as objects of the 3, introduced by the signal words "that" and a final adjective s-v "that would never heal" modifying "lesion." There. Simple, right?

Monday, July 2

Sentence Exams

Forgive me for going back to sentence examination. I can’t help myself. And I must once again demonstrate how much simpler my system is than a traditional grammatical explanation. One of my main regrets is that when I die, my system will be lost forever except for the few students who understood it and may still be using it in their writing. It's still all available at lulu.com as an e-book.

Here’s a sentence described in my system:

“Few places are more charming than a quiet cocktail lounge in the middle of the day with the ice tinkling in the glasses and the starched look of a bartender’s white shirt and the clarity of the beer in the glass with the bubbles drifting up.” (A Savage Place, Robert B. Parker, p. 125)

See, a simple S - V - S pattern (with the 3 "charming" acting as a predicate adjective, followed by nine prepositional phrases all acting together to modify "charming."

And here’s a sentence explained in traditional terms:

“When the wind was in the north you could hear them, the horses and the breath of the horses and the horses’ hooves that were shod in rawhide and the rattle of lances and the constant drag of the travois poles in the sand like the passing of some enormous serpent and the young boys naked on wild horses jaunty as circus riders and hazing wild horses before them and the dogs trotting with their tongues aloll and foot-slaves following half naked and sorely burdened and above all the low chant of their traveling song which the riders sang as they rode, nation and ghost of nation passing in a soft chorale across that mineral waste to darkness bearing lost to all history and all remembrance like a grail the sum of their secular and transitory and violent lives.” (All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy)

It begins with an adverb clause of time, then a simple S-V-O, then a long series of nine nouns and noun clusters in apposition with “them,” all the things you could hear “when the wind was in the north.” Faulkner used this kind of sentence quite often. It is long, but can be untangled if the eye realizes what it is seeing. The only appositive that needs serious examination is the last one, beginning with “the low chant.” The real confusion centers on the present participle “bearing” (which modifies “nation and ghost of nation"). It should be a transitive verbal requiring some object, but what follows are ten words, none of which can act as that object. Then the reader picks up “the sum,” and now he realizes it really reads, “bearing like a grail the sum of their secular and transitory and violent lives, lost to all history and all remembrance.” There are just too many phrases competing for proximity to bearing. The past participle lost and its prepositional phrase “to all history and all remembrance” is modifying sum as is the prepositional phrase “of their secular and transitory and violent lives.” Maybe it would be clearer if it read, “bearing like a grail, lost to all history and all remembrance, the sum of their secular and transitory and violent lives.” McCarthy chose to make the reader fight for his meaning, either purposely or accidentally. One always wonders the same about Faulkner: How much confusion did he intend and how much was just poor writing?

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