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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.

Sunday, September 30

Water on Mars

More evidence of the existence of water on Mars. The roving Curiosity found what looks like an old river bed. I don’t know if most people find this as amazing as I do. I’m an old science fiction fan and for water to be found (or at least the evidence of water) on another planet in our solar system suggests powerfully that water, the elixir of life, must be found on countless other planets in countless other solar systems. Thus, the likelihood of life existing on countless earthlike planets in the universe. We’re not alone. We’re just one of countless others out there. So, what does that do to all the existing religions on our planet? Most people would say that it wouldn’t have any effect on their beliefs, that nearly all religions suggest that God, or the Creator, created life on an infinite scale, not just here on Earth. Odd that in the United States, one of the most enlightened nations in the world, there are still many people who disavow evolution and believe in one of the many offshoots of creationism. Since 1982, according to Gallup polling, at least 40% of Americans have said they believed that God created humans in their present form, with the latest poll saying that roughly equal numbers of Americans believe in evolution and creationism. In a 2005 survey about creationist beliefs in thirty-four countries, including the world’s most dynamic economies, according to results published in Science magazine, the United States had the lowest belief in evolution of any country except Turkey. Forgive me, any creationists who may stumble onto what I’m saying here, but how in a rational world can you believe in a literal translation of the Bible? How can you believe that the world was created 6,000 to 10,000 years ago, that Adam and Eve were created as the beginning of the human race, that they existed in a Garden of Eden and were then cast out? How can you disregard nearly all scientific proof that says otherwise? It’s not a matter of faith; it’s a matter of blindness.

Thursday, September 27

The Master

After seeing The Master, I’m now trying, unsuccessfully, to master what I saw. What an odd movie. Powerful, yes. Disquieting, yes. Oscar worthy, yes, especially for Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd, the compelling leader of “The Cause,” and for Joaquin Phoenix as Freddie Quell, Hoffman’s manic, neurotic disciple. I was unable to separate the Phoenix from the Quell. How much of Quell’s portrayal was simply Phoenix’s own strangeness and how much was extraordinary acting? How much of the physical mannerisms were the character’s and how much were Joaquin Phoenix’s—the narrowed shoulder thrust, the arms extended to the sides with hands behind the hips, the close-ups of a face that went rapidly from menacing frown to manic grin (with unsmiling eyes)? There’s a scene in a narrow jail cell when Quell, hands handcuffed behind him, goes berserk, kicking to pieces the urinal, banging his head and shoulders into the top bunk. This couldn’t have been faked. I got the feeling this was an unscripted display of violence that Joaquin Phoenix did on his own. He simply had to injure himself with the violence. How much was acting and how much the inner demons of Phoenix? Aside from the publicized parallels to Scientology, this was a film about the nature of the relationship between two men—father and son, master and disciple, potential lovers. Dodd sings (very badly) to Freddie, “I’d Like to Get You on a Slow Boat to China.” Who is really the master who is the disciple? By film’s end it seemed like they had reversed roles. I may have to see this film again to try to answer some of my own questions.

Wednesday, September 26

Alone Time

It's a wonderful day in the neighborhood--temps in the low nineties, calm, clear--the kind of day I wish I were on a golf course. But that will have to wait a bit until I can get all my medical issues resolved. We were on the road early this morning, going to Sky Harbor where I dropped off Rosalie. Left at 3:00 a.m. Thirty-five miles and thirty-five minutes, with highway reflectors lighting our way as on a landing strip. She had to fly to South Dakota for her oldest sister's funeral, not a pleasant journey but a necessary one. The sister, Bonnie, was 95 years young and she went swiftly. Just the way I want to go. She complained on Sunday about not feeling well. Later, she was rushed to the emergency ward where she lost consciousness, respiration way down, all vital signs dropping precipitously. And Monday morning she died. What a way to go. With a morphine drip to send her on her way. Just the way I want to go. But not for quite a while yet.

So I have a week of solitude (except for the two cats, Squeakie and Charlie). What will I do with all this time alone? Lots of tv sports, I guess. I always feel so guilty about watching one sport or another, knowing Rosalie doesn't share my interest (obsession?). Usually, then, I watch other tube things with her, occasionally switching channels to see how one team or another is doing. Now I can just immerse myself in baseball, football, and golf. I hate how the Diamondbacks are out of the running but I still watch them. I love the gladiatorial contest between pitcher and batter. I love the slow-motion of baseball and wish I had known back when I was playing baseball what I know now. I was then totally ignorant of the nuances of the game, not having the benefit of televised games and all the patter of the announcers, not having a coach who knew any more about the game than I did. Ah, well, in my next life. College and pro football also fascinate me. With baseball I only observe, don't participate empathetically in the action. With football I squirm and strain and groan with every play. I'm physically exhausted at the end of a close game, elated when the Cardinals win, depressed when they don't. Over the past decade I've been far more often depressed than elated. But this year may be different. Golf is the sport I spend the most time watching. I know all the players, know their voices, their swing characteristics, their virtues and their vices. I must confess that I’m most intrigued with Tiger and his game, as are a lot of other people. When he’s contending I follow every shot; when he’s not contending I lose interest. And this weekend I have the Ryder Cup matches to feast on. I can hardly wait.

Monday, September 24

A Wanted Man

I just finished Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel, A Wanted Man. It was typical Child, with inordinate attention to detail, mostly numbers, dimensions, time. Reacher is a storehouse of historical and geographical detail, and his inner clockwork and logic is again on display. Reacher is hitchhiking out of Nebraska, his clothes dirty and bloody, his nose mashed all over his face from his final encounter with the bad guys in The Affair, and he is somehow picked up by a car with two men and a woman driving east to Chicago. Or at least that’s where they say they’re going. They’ve picked him up to use him as a second decoy to help them avoid the roadblocks they know will be ahead of them, all of them with an all-points bulletin looking for two men, not three men and a woman. The plot involves a terrorist plot to contaminate the water supply in the Midwest, with the CIA and the FBI fumbling around trying to prevent it. This is another in the series about how Reacher, the loner, the extremely adept killing machine, the logician foils nearly everyone to bring the bad guys to justice—his kind of justice. I love this series as do millions of other readers, and I can’t wait for the Reacher movie to come out in December (called, naturally, Jack Reacher). I’m only sad that they cast Brad Pitt to play Reacher. How in the world can Brad Pitt portray a guy 6’ 5” weighing about 250? Can’t be done. And for those Reacher fans out there who haven’t yet read this latest one, here’s a Reacher riddle: How can you speak for a full minute without simply repeating a word or phrase and without using the letter A? You’ll have to read the novel to get the answer.

Friday, September 21

Squamous Cell Cancer

I’ve decided I should chronicle my leg problems, to help any other poor unfortunate who might have the same sort of medical dilemma. Mine are so odd that they should be reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. The squamous cancer sites and the psoriasis that showed up later were all confined to my calves, from ankles to just below the knees. How odd.

My first incidence of squamous cell carcinoma was on June 12, 2003. I had what I thought was a pimple on my right calf, but it wouldn’t go away, just kept getting bigger and bigger, with a scaly top that itched. Such a simple little thing, but it turned out to be only the first in a long procession of such cancers. Dr. Salmon, my dermatologist, took a biopsy which turned out positive. My first thought when he gave me the news was, “Cancer! I’ll die of cancer!” Both Dr. Salmon and my plastic surgeon, Dr. Hait, assured me that I wouldn’t die from it, that it was much less serious than melanoma. Good, I thought. So, let’s get it cut out and go from there. Since there didn’t seem to be any concern about the cancer, it wasn’t scheduled until July 28, almost a month and a half after the biopsy. Everything went well and it healed with a neat little two-inch scar.

A year later, July 27, 2004, again from my left calf, Dr. Salmon did an excision in his office instead of sending me to Dr. Hait. And on August 10, he took out the stitches and did another excision on a smaller lesion, also on my left calf. That made three.

I went to see Dr. Salmon on September 24 for him to examine one on my left calf and another small one on my right calf. Okay, that made five. He did the excisions in his office. On November 19, he did a biopsy on a recurring lesion on my right leg. Right. Cancerous. So he did the excision. Now I’m up to six.

I was free of any more for over a year. But in 2005 he cut out three more in his office. Up to nine.

The next year, 2006, had to be the worst year for medical woes for both Rosalie and me. This was the year of Rosalie’s Valley Fever and night sweats and aching joints. And this was the year I first encountered the ugliness of old man Gout, an affliction that kept showing up in one foot or the other for most of that year and the following two years. The pain was intense enough that at one point I bought a walker just to help me get around, especially to help me get to the bathroom during the night. Finally, I was put on a large enough dose of allopurinol that the gout episodes stopped. This was also the year the squamous lesions began sprouting like dandelions. I had so many that Dr. Salmon didn’t feel up to that much more surgery, so he sent me to a Mohs specialist, Dr. Betty Davis. Dr. Davis, when I first met her, looked like a gorgeous seventeen-year-old. How in the world could this young woman be a surgeon? The Mohs surgery involves taking out tissue a slice at a time, each slice lab examined to see if any more cutting would be required. She did two, both on my left calf. The brochure for Mohs said that there was a 90% rate of success for any excision. I found out later that I gave that 90% the lie. On March 27, 2006, Dr. Davis cut out two carcinomas from my left calf. And my squamous count was now up to eleven.

In July, 2006, Dr. Salmon did biopsies on four sites, two on my left ankle and two on my right calf, all of which were malignant, one near the site of the earlier Mohs excision and one exactly on the earlier site. Thus, that one fell into the 10% failure rate.

August 24, 2006, back to the lovely Dr. Davis, four more slice sites, one of which was in exactly the same place on my left calf as where she had earlier excised and pronounced as free of any more cancer cells. My count is now up to fourteen. A wonderful year, 2006. And my squamous count is up to fifteen.

On September 29, I went back to Dr. Davis’s offices to have the stitches removed and was chewed out not only by her nurse assistant but also by Dr. Davis for not, apparently, taking good enough care of my wound sites. Needless to say, that’s all it took for me to say goodbye forever to the lovely Dr. Betty Davis.

On October 30, after four more biopsies proving to be cancerous, two on the right calf and two on the left, I went into the hospital for these surgeries by Dr. Hait. Squamous count up to nineteen.

In December of this awful health year, Dr. Zimmerman, my primary, took one look at my messed up left calf and sent me back to Dr. Salmon, who took biopsies of the two sites that hadn’t healed from the Dr. Davis excisions. Naturally, both tested positive, one of which was the same site that Dr. Davis had cut on twice before. Now I’ve really shot the 90% success rate. Since I would no longer consider Dr. Davis for any more surgery, I again saw Dr. Hait. On February 5, 2007, he had to do a Z incision on the place that had recurred three times because as he said, the flesh there was so fragile. The Z was about two inches long on each segment of the Z and was the ugliest scar I’ve ever seen. In addition to those two, he also excised two others from my right calf. My count is now up to twenty-three.

On August 20, 2008, Dr. Hait cut out five more, bringing my total to twenty-eight.

From January 19 to February 19, 2008, I had thirty radiation treatments on the site with the Z incision on my left leg, and by March 27, my left leg seemed to be clear of any more squamous sites, but I noticed four more on my right leg, all on the sites of previous Mohs surgeries. That doesn’t say much for the success rate of the Mohs technique.

On July 29, 2008, I met with Dr. Hait to schedule surgery for a huge site on the top of my left calf, about halfway between my ankle and knee, and he did that on August 19, taking skin from my left thigh for a graft. On September 9, he cut out four more lesions on my right leg. My totals are now up to thirty-three.

On January 6, 2009, I began a series of twenty radiations on the site of the large excision done on July 29, 2008, and sometime in December of that year, two holes appeared in my left leg exactly on the sites of the two radiations, the smaller hole from the first radiation, the second hole, frighteningly large, from the second radiation. In January, 2010, I began a three-year journey to the Boswell Wound Center to get the two radiation wounds healed. The small wound, about the size of half a dime, healed within three months, but the large wound, the size of a fifty-cent piece, took nearly three years and many varied treatments to heal, including eighty hours in a hyperbaric oxygen tube.

As if the squamous cell cancers weren’t enough, sometime in 2008, I developed psoriasis on both legs, from ankles to knees, leaving me with surgical scars and the ugliness of psoriasis scaling and the skin discoloration that accompanies it. I think my doctors may have misdiagnosed the psoriasis as being squamous. I now believe that huge site that Dr. Hait excised was really psoriasis and not squamous. Who knows? Maybe it was a combination of both psoriasis and squamous. In any case, by May 12, 2009, my legs were looking horrific, with a total of nearly a dozen patches on both legs, ugly, scabrous, growing things that looked like alien creatures sucking on my flesh, my left leg now swollen, purplishly mottled, disfigured, and if it were green instead of purple, it would look exactly like a Shrek leg. My right leg had the same number of squamous (or psoriasis) patches but they were much smaller and the leg wasn't as swollen or discolored.

In early 2009, I began a regimen of very expensive salve, first Efudex and then Taclonex, to alleviate the psoriasis and squamous areas. This treatment, in addition to being very expensive, left my legs scabrous and inflamed. I was suffering from plaque psoriasis in exactly the same areas that had been afflicted by the squamous lesions I had fought for nearly six years. Dr. Flynn, my dermatologist, didn’t think there was any relationship between the two, but I don’t see how that’s possible. Almost immediately after my last surgery for another of the many squamous cell cancers, these patches of psoriasis began to bloom on both legs from mid-calf to ankle. No more squamous lesions, but more and more psoriasis patches. From the literature I’ve studied, this is a disease of the immune system. The disgusting red patches are a result of my system producing about ten times as many skin cells as normal but shedding only ten percent of them (the normal rate). Thus, I get these expanding red areas of thickened skin with a tannish silvery material on the surface, stuff that flakes off or can be peeled off in chunks from tiny to half-dollar size.

I had no more squamous lesions until May, 2012, when a large bump appeared on the left side of my left calf. Dr. Flynn took a slice for biopsy, which showed it to be cancerous. I was scheduled for surgery in July with Dr. Brown. But from the time of the biopsy and the surgery, the site grew like an ugly mushroom, and by the time of the surgery, it was the size of a pingpong ball. Dr. Brown had to cut out an area about the size of a baseball, over which he put a skin graft. He also put a skin graft over the three-year-old wound. The first surgical site healed beautifully, but the wound didn’t seem to take the skin graft. However, it must have taken enough to promote the healing that finally concluded in September, 2012.

This last squamous lesion brought my total to nine surgeries and 34 excisions. And nobody can tell me what caused them except long exposure to the sun. And I always wonder why none have shown up on my arms or back of neck or anywhere on my face, all places that have had more sun exposure than my calves. I went on-line to see what I could find. One article mentioned that scars or burns or chronic ulcers are more susceptible to squamous cell cancer than healthy skin; also psoriasis treated with PUVA therapy; also legs and torsos in workers exposed to arsenic or industrial hydrocarbons; and last, areas of the genitals affected by genital warts. None of the above applies to me. Treatments other than excision, which is what I've had with the two episodes of radiation, include curettage and electrodesiccation, a scraping and then an electric probe; cryosurgery, killing the cancerous cells by freezing them with liquid nitrogen (but this one is used only with very small tumors); radiation; Moh's surgery; laser therapy, using a narrow laser beam to destroy the cancer; and finally injecting interferon alfa directly into the tumor. And one last frightening bit of information: “Once a squamous cell carcinoma has spread, the five-year survival rate is less than 50% even with aggressive cancer therapy.” That's certainly not a happy thought.

I hope I haven't sickened any of my readers with this chronicle, but it could be useful for anyone who might be similarly afflicted.

Thursday, September 20

Calvin & Politics

I wrote the following two years ago and now, two years later, I think it bears repeating.

Calvin again. “It’s a lot more fun to blame things than to fix them.” He says, “When everything goes down the tubes, I can say the system doesn’t work . . . ,” the system in this case being the current administration. Calvin ought to run for office with that last statement as his rallying cry: “The system doesn’t work, so kick it out and vote in something new.”

That seems to be what the Republicans are now intent on doing—obstructing all legislation, even if it’s legislation they originally supported, filibustering everything to death so the public will scream in rage against a system that doesn’t work. Then, in 2012, they can regain power. I may be politically naïve, but if even a part of what I just said is true, maybe we should just kick everybody out—Democrats as well as Republicans—and elect a king. That would serve us right.

I must be politically naïve . . . or maybe just stupid. Why can’t we regulate the amount of money spent on any campaign on both a national as well as a state level, make the amount small enough that no candidate would want to waste money on the sort of attack ads we now see . . . over and over again. Why should elections now be decided by the amount of money candidates can raise instead of on their stand on issues? A billionaire doofus can now buy a seat in congress if he’s willing to spend most of his fortune. I’m certainly glad Ben Quayle isn’t a billionaire. Oh, yeah, he’s a doofus, but not a rich doofus.

Wednesday, September 19

Lulu.com

If there are any readers out there who might like to read any of my novels or who might be interested in my book on sentence structure, you can get a cheap e-copy for $2.99 at Lulu.com

I guess you could say I'm hawking my books, but for that price I don't make enough money to be hawking books. I just want readers.

A Sudden Country

A word or four about A Sudden Country by Karen Fisher, a novel I recommend highly. It’s set in 1847 on the Oregon Trail. One of two main characters, Lucy is reluctantly traveling west with her husband, someone she’s married for convenience rather than love. Along the way she meets the other main character, James MacLaren, who is searching for his Nez Perce wife who had deserted him, leaving him behind with their children who die of small pox. Naturally, the plot is centered on the growing love between the two. But the writing style and the attention to details of what it must have been like to travel the Oregon Trail a hundred and fifty years ago are what make this not just a good book, but a great one. A quote or two to illustrate.

On love: "He wanted to tell her: love was a cheat. All hopes, all desires were nothing but pitiful inventions born of our own ignorance and sorrow. The things we sought were never there when we arrived, or never stayed. Love was not the last eternal benediction."

On sorrow: “There's jagged times. Till hurt wears off.”

On grief: Lucy, not at all happy about their journey to Oregon, has just awakened from a dream in which her little girl has drowned in a stream, a dream that provokes this: “She thought about the years to come, and whether she could ever bear to lose a child, why mothers were fated to dream this way. Until it seemed such dreams must play a part in hardening off the tender heart, like those chills that toughened seedlings on spring nights, by God’s design: in the safety of our sleep, exposing us to the icy blasts of possibility—the unspeakable future, the unquiet past. To make us stronger in the daylight world.” How elegantly said. Find this book, buy this book, read this book. You won’t be disappointed.

Tuesday, September 18

Bits and Pieces

On one of our frequent visits to Red Lobster, I noticed a framed saying on the bathroom wall: “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist believes it will change; the realist resets his sails.” I think I’d like to add, “And the dreamer spreads his wings and rides on it.”

Last night a thought struck me: the similarity of the words martial and marital, I mean, just the placement of the “i.” So I came up with this: “If the eye wanders, marital blisses might become martial hisses.”

I described a round of golf I’d played a while back as “quicksand slow.” I wonder why they call it quicksand when one sinks into such a place at such a slow rate. I’ll have to look it up. I did and was unable to discover anything. But the more I think of “quick” the more I think it means “alive” (as in “the quick and the dead”) instead of “fast.” When one is sinking into quicksand, it would almost seem alive as it swallows you up. Yeah, that must be it.

James Lee Burke quote: “I reflected upon the ambiguous importance of the past in our lives. In order to free ourselves from it, I thought, we treat it as a decaying memory. At the same time, it’s the only measure of identity we have. There is no mystery to the self; we are what we do and where we have been. So we have to resurrect the past constantly, erect monuments to it, and keep it alive in order to remember who we are.” I think that’s why I’m so preoccupied with my past, having to look back on it over and over, then write about it. I want to “keep it alive in order to remember” who I am. Thank you, James Lee Burke, for that thought.

I was up early early this morning, having to obey Charlie’s need to go out on the back patio. It was still dark when I went out to get the paper, and the new moon was just up in the eastern sky, a tiny sliver of a jack-oh-lantern smile of a new moon right on the bottom of the gray-tinted full moon. This is the only place I’ve ever been where one can see night skies and moons that look totally phony. Phony but beautiful.

Friday, September 14

Axioms & Parker's Spenser

“Axioms to Live By.” I found these in a little coffeeshop paper at the grocery store: 1. Going to a church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car. 2. My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance. 3. It is easier to get forgiveness than permission. 4. For every action, there is an equal and opposite government program. 5. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks. 6. A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand. 7. Middle age is when broadness of the mind and narrowness of the waist change places. 8. Opportunities always look bigger going than coming. 9. By the time you can make the ends meet, they move the ends. I love that first one about pseudo Christians and the last one about our inability to keep up with inflation.

Parker’s first Spenser, The Godwulf Manuscript, was written in 1973 and the style was young and hardboiled, sort of like the stuff that McBain and MacDonald were writing in that era. Spenser was just as smart-mouthed then as he is now. And he loved to cook just as he does now. He mentioned that he was thirty-seven then. Thirty-nine years later he’d be seventy-six but he was depicted in the last novel as in his mid-forties. So I guess for the last thirty-nine years Spenser and the ageless Susan Silverman have been in a chronos crawl, aging about two months for every year. But the world they pass through has kept up with the times. In this first novel we meet Joe Broz, the gangster boss who shows up in quite a few books down the line. And we're introduced to Lt. Quirk and Belson, both of whom don’t have much time or fondness for Spenser. That would come later. What a good series that was . . . is, despite the untimeliness of the plot movement.

Wednesday, September 12

The Dogs of Babel

I was looking through my journals and found this I’d written about a novel I’d read eight years ago, The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst, a remarkably well-written book about a man whose wife has just been killed by falling from a high apple tree, the only witness to the tragedy being their dog Lorelei. So the man embarks on a project in which he will teach his dog how to talk, to let him know what he needs to know about his wife’s death.

But as to the writing, here are some quotes that just leaped out at me for their beauty and truth: “I was thirty-nine when I met Lexy. Before that, I was married for many years to a woman whose voice filled our house like a thick mortar, sealing every crack and corner. Maura, this first wife of mine, spoke so much while saying so little that I sometimes felt as if I were drowning in the heavy paste of her words.”

“All this to say: I am forty-three years old. I may yet live another forty. What do I do with those years? How do I fill them without Lexy? When I come to tell the story of my life, there will be a line, creased and blurred and soft with age, where she stops. If I win the lottery, if I father a child, if I lose the use of my legs, it will be after she has finished knowing me. ‘When I get to Heaven,’ my grandmother used to say, widowed at thirty-nine, ‘your grandfather won't even recognize me.’ ”

“How can it be, I wondered, that we can be lying in bed next to a person we love wholly and helplessly, a person we love more than our own breath, and still ache to think of the one who caused us pain all those years ago? It's the betrayal of this second heart of ours, its flesh tied off like a fingertip twined tightly round with a single hair, blue-tinged from lack of blood. The shameful squeeze of it.”

“I sing of a woman with ink on her hands and pictures hidden beneath her hair. I sing of a dog with skin like velvet pushed the wrong way.I sing of the shape a fallen body makes in the dirt beneath a tree, and I sing of an ordinary man who is wanted to know things no human being could tell him. This is the true beginning.”

Through a series of flashbacks we learn more about the woman he married, this Lexy who made fabulous papier-mache masks in her basement. I can feel the depth of the man’s despair, trying to piece out the puzzle of his wife’s odd fall from the apple tree. I can empathize with his feeling for his dear sweet Lorelei, the dog who had to have his larynx removed in order to tell his master exactly what had happened to his wife.

What an unusual story and one that I’d recommend highly, now that I’ve remembered what it was like from eight years ago.

Tuesday, September 11

September 11

Tuesday, September 11, 2012. The eleventh anniversary of that awful event in New York when the Twin Towers went down. The new World Trade Center has one tower completed and the second, the Freedom Tower, scheduled to be completed in 2014. Our resilience after the attack in 2001 amazes me. Our dedication to see that nothing like it ever again happens amazes me. I hope most of the rest of the world notes our resilience and dedication and applauds us. And how do we stand with terrorists now? It seems to me that we’re much more alert and that the terrorist groups are much weaker. Can we afford to sit back and relax? Not on your life, not on all our lives. The world economy is about the only thing we need to worry about, and the next decade will probably show our economy and the world’s economy springing back. I hope so. I hope I live long enough to see peace in the world. I hope the world allows that to happen.

Monday, September 10

Love, Jerry

With the current rage for tweets and instant messages and texts and short notes on Facebook, there seems to be a trend away from the old niceties in letter writing. No one seems to have time to go into any detail in their correspondence, feeling obligated to use a minimum of characters and the annoying text shorthand ("LOL" especially annoying). And the old salutations and closures are now long gone. I was raised in a time when it was automatic to open any letter with a “Dear,” and close it with a “Yours truly” or a “Sincerely” or, when it was to a friend or relative, a “Love.” Now people are too uncomfortable to use that closure, instead opting for nothing but a name. People think I really mean I love them when I close with a “Love.” In many cases I do, but I don’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable when I say it at the end of a letter. It’s just the way I was taught in my youth. The “Dear” in the salutation doesn’t really mean I hold the recipient “dear” in my heart. The “Love” in the closing doesn’t mean I’m hot for the recipient. It’s just a nice way to open and close a letter. So, dear readers out there, I’ll close this blog with a “Love, Jerry.”

Saturday, September 8

Show Time

I saw three movies this week, two recent flicks in a theater and one oldie on the tube. I’m not quite sure what I saw in Branded. I know it was satirizing our gluttony for fast foods (especially huge burgers) and our alarming increase in obesity, our falling like druggies under the influence of advertising agencies. I know it was set mainly in Moscow although I’m not sure why it needed to be. I know Leelee Sobieski looks and sounds enough like Helen Hunt to be her twin (except for a rather prominent nose). There. That’s all I know about this extremely puzzling film.

Earlier, I saw Celeste and Jesse Forever, and I understood this one although it also saddened me with its portrayal of found and lost love. I kept seeing parallels to (500) Days of Summer, especially in Rashida Jones’ physical similarity to Zooey Deschanel from (500) Days. But the two flipflop as losers and winners. Celeste (Rashida Jones) is like Joseph Gordon-Levitt from (500) Days, both of whom have lost love and then find love. Celeste too must accept the loss of the husband/friend/lover Jesse (Andy Samberg) when they finally divorce and get on with their lives. I thought Celeste and Jesse Forever was well worth seeing, though not quite as good as (500) Days.
And finally, we sat through the three hours of The Green Mile, with Tom Hanks, David Morse and Michael Clarke Duncan and enjoyed it despite the length and the too typically Stephen King reliance on supernatural elements (the cloud of flies from John Coffey's mouth). The news of Duncan’s death this week saddened us as we watched his performance as the giant John Coffey. But Hanks (as Paul Edgecomb, the humane head guard in Block E), Morse (as Brutus Howell, another prison guard), Sam Rockwell (as the completely disgusting Wild Bill Wharton), Doug Hutchinson (as the hateful psycho Percy Wetmore), and Mr. Jingles (as himself) were a delight. We liked it so much we’re now going to find and see another King story about life in prison, The Shawshank Redemption with Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.

Thursday, September 6

Trumpets


Trumpets have been a part of our lives for all of our lives. Rosalie’s family all played trumpet, and all very well. Her dad played in a band for most of his life, son Bill played well into adulthood, daughters Kaye and Rosalie played trumpet in the high school band and the Mobridge city band, and son Gene played trumpet and French horn in high school. Then there’s me. I took up the instrument when I was in seventh or eighth grade, a cornet instead of a trumpet, and I wasn’t very good at it. I just didn’t want to practice enough to get better than mediocre. I even quit the high school band at the end of my junior year. I was more into listening to people who played the trumpet than doing it myself. Harry James was the preeminent player in the Thirties and Forties, with a cool style that fit the big bands of that era. But I was also a fan of Bobby Hackett and his fat little trumpet, with his oh so sweet sound when he played with several prominent bands back then, the best-known of which were Glenn Miller and Jackie Gleason. I could always tell it was Bobby when I heard him on the radio, recognizing that fluid, vibratoless sound. But I was also into jazz, especially the progressive jazz of Stan Kenton, who had any number of great trumpet players—Pete Condoli, Conte Condoli, and Maynard Ferguson with his soaring, stratospheric notes. I once owned a Kenton album that featured several members of the band, tracks written solely for the individual. Ferguson had one that I can still hear in my inner ear, a slow beginning that wound up with unbelievable notes so high they almost squealed. I’ve tried to find that track just to listen to it again and see if it went the way I remembered, but it’s nowhere to be found. I was never a big fan of the muted trumpet of Chet Baker, although I could recognize him every time, especially when he also sang in that quiet little voice of his. Only two trumpeters come to mind in the last thirty or forty years—Doc Severinson, with The Johnny Carson Tonight Show, and Chris Botti with his quiet, silky commercial style. A few years ago I dug my old cornet out from under the bed, had it refurbished, and gave it to Mike’s son William, so he could play it in his school band. William will be the trumpet standard bearer for the Travis/Zimmer family. And we wish him luck.

Wednesday, September 5

Song Intro & Men of a Certain Age


Sorry about beating this old dead horse, but how could I have forgotten this long intro when I was writing about the lost art of musical intros? Ira Gershwin did it again:

There's a saying old, says that love is blind.
Still we're often told, "seek and ye shall find."
So I'm going to seek a certain lad I've had in mind.
Looking everywhere, haven't found him yet.
He's the big affair I cannot forget.
Only man I ever think of with regret.
I'd like to add his initial to my monogram.
Tell me, where is the shepherd for this lost lamb?

And then, of course:
There's a somebody I'm longin' to see . . .


Another dead horse, Men of a Certain Age, but I think this one should be resuscitated. I bought the first season of this show because I wanted to have it to see now and again what real television drama is all about. Ray Romano, how could you have let them cancel your show? This series had the most complex plot lines and the fullest, richest set of characters of anything on the tube. Each hour segment examined the three “men”— the love life of Terry (Scott Bakula), the aging Lothario, sometime actor; Owen (Andre Braugher), the overweight, put-upon car salesman at his father’s dealership; and Joe (Ray Romano), the owner of a party supply store who dreams of making it on the senior golf tour but who is still fighting a compulsion to gamble. Talk about intricate plot lines. My next question, when TNT cancelled the show, why didn’t one of the other networks pick it up? Instead, we’re treated to stupid reality show after stupid reality show. Come on, Ray, push it at NBC or CBS until one of them brings it back.

Monday, September 3

Cell Phone Throw & Election


I just saw that a young Finn, Ere Karjalainen, had won the world mobile-phone throw with a record- setting 332’ 9” toss. I didn’t know there was such an event, but I applaud it. I think it should be included in the Olympics in Rio in 2016. I wonder if there’s more than one category, like one for the old-fashioned cell phone and one for the larger, flatter I-phone. I can just see the flat one being launched across water to see how many times it would skip. Maybe that could be a separate event, counting the water skips. Maybe there should be one to see how far contestants can throw compulsive texters and automobile cell phone users. I’d really applaud that one.

The Democrats converge in Charlotte tomorrow to cheer on their presidential hopeful. According to recent polls, Romney and Obama are tied at 45%. But there should be a modest bump in Obama’s camp after the convention. I really believe that he’ll win in November because of Michelle Obama. Nearly as much as her husband, she is a great speaker and a very charming person. She’ll be the one who will sway the women voters still on the fence. Two months to go. I’m weary of this long, drawn out process and can’t wait for it to be over. I’m sure most of us are. Of all rest of this campaign, I’m looking forward to the debates. I don’t see how Romney can win any points in a faceoff with Obama. That shouldn’t be what we use to decide our vote, but it often is. In a past before up-close-and-personal television, we had to make up our minds on what we knew or what the newspapers told us, but almost never until JFK did we cast our vote on how the candidates looked or spoke. We live in a new world where money and appearance count for more than substance.

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