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.

Wednesday, October 31

Halloween & Orderly House

Halloween, 2012. Good riddance. And in six days, the election of one or the other. And then, good riddance to the election and the negative campaign ads. I no longer care which one wins, but I’m still guessing that Barack Obama will be serving another four years. I hope those four years are better than the last four. We’ll see.

And what have I been doing this past week? Rearranging my back room where I have my computer. I carted away all the books I no longer wanted, took out one of the tall bookcases I was using as a wall to hide my workplace, unhooked all the stuff I have attached to my computer and removed the hardware so I could pull out my cumbersome desk, took the desk apart and hauled its remains to the garage, spent a painful four hours putting together a new desk, much smaller than the old, moved all my books out to the edge of my driveway and stacked them onto tables for the drive-by public to see and respond to a FREE BOOKS sign. I left the books out there for three days and got rid of about a third of them. Then I called Benevilla, a senior help center that was having a book sale, and offered them my leftovers. They came and took away all of them, some three or four hundred books. Good riddance. Now I have a back room that actually looks like a room again. And I’m body-weary from all the unaccustomed labor. But I’m mentally happy with the change. Just another step in the process of putting my life in order, simplifying my life. Henry David Thoreau would be proud of me.

Monday, October 29

Ed McBain's Widows

I know some of my readers must get bored whenever I talk about a writer’s style, but the old teacher in me just can’t resist. What follows is a long segment from Ed McBain’s (rest his soul) Widows, a very good episode in the 87th Precinct series.

Gloria Sanders was covered with blood.

This was ten o’clock on the morning of July twenty-fifth in the nurses’ lounge at Farley General Hospital, down on Meriden Street. Her white uniform was covered with blood, and there were also flecks of blood in her blonde hair and on her face. They’d had a severe bleeder in the Emergency Room not ten minutes earlier, and Gloria had been part of the team of nurses who, working with the resident, had tried to stanch the flow of blood. There’d been blood all over the table, bed, blood on the walls, blood everywhere, she had never seen anyone spurting so much blood in her life.

“A stabbing victim,” she told Carella and Brown. “He came in with a patch over the wound. The minute we peeled it off, he began gushing.”

She was dying for a cigarette now, she told them, but smoking was against hospital rules, even though the people who made the rule had never worked in an emergency room or seen a gusher like the one they’d had this morning. Or the kid yesterday, who’d fallen under a subway car and had both his legs severed just above the knee. A miracle either of them was still alive. And they would let her smoke a goddamn cigarette.

Arthur Schumacher’s taste for blue-eyed blondes seemed to go back a long way. His former wife’s eyes were the color of cobalt, her hair an extravagant yellow that blatantly advertised its origins in a bottle. Slender and some five feet six or seven inches tall, Gloria strongly resembled the one daughter they’d already met, but there was a harder edge to her. She’d been around a while, her face said, her body said, her entire stance said. Life had done worse things to her than being bled on by a stabbing victim, her eyes said.

“So what can I do for you?” she asked, and the words sounded confrontational and openly challenging. I’ve seen it all and done it all, so watch out boys. I’d as soon kick you in the groin as look at you. Blue eyes studying them warily. Blonde hair bright as brass, clipped short and neat around her head, give her a stern forbidding look. This was not the honey-blonde hair her daughter Lois had; if this woman were approaching you at night, you’d see her a block away. She reminded Carella of burned-out prison matrons he had known. So what can I do for you?

I wish I’d written that.

Note the effect of the first lone sentence to start the chapter.

Note the structure and punctuation of “There’d been blood all over the table, bed, blood on the walls, blood everywhere, she had never seen anyone spurting so much blood in her life.”(the movement from table to bed, then repeating “blood” to introduce the next two phrases; the use of a comma to hook the next sentence in instead of a semicolon or a period)

Note the author movement to interior omniscient in the paragraph beginning “She was dying for a cigarette . . .” (not using quotation marks for what she told them, the way he makes it sound like what she would be saying to herself even though he keeps it in the 3rd person) Note also the two fragments written as sentences (they’re both noun clusters)

Note the use of “blonde” as an organizing device (blood in her blonde hair, blue-eyed blondes, then a description of it as “blatantly from a bottle, blonde hair bright as brass, not the honey-blonde of her daughter,” then the image of her hair like a beacon in the night)

Note the cadence of “She'd been around a while, her face said, her body said, her entire stance said. Life had done worse things to her than being bled on by a stabbing victim, her eyes said.” (the position and repeating of “face said,” “body said,” stance said,” and then the clever echo of it in the next sentence, “her eyes said”)

Note the opening and closing of the final paragraph (the first question actually spoken and in quote marks, the final question only Carella’s mental repeating of it to illustrate the sound of her challenge)

Note the way he uses suppositional dialogue to get at the character of Gloria—her question in the last paragraph suggests that she might have said to them, “I’ve seen it all and done it all, so watch out, boys. I’d as soon . . .”

I hope I haven’t bored any readers. But this is a very instructive passage, and oh so very well said. McBain (Evan Hunter) may have started out as a writer of pulp fiction in the early books in the 87th Precinct series, but about a third of the way through he began writing much more carefully constructed stories. If you tackle the series, you’ll see what I mean.

Friday, October 26

600 & Argo

This is my 600th post. That’s a lot of words spilled out on this bloggy desert, most of which were sucked down into the sand without leaving a mark. I should be used to that, having five novels also sinking without a ripple. Poor me. But if I weren’t writing, I’d be dead. So I guess I’ll keep on plugging away, sending out misguided missiles, hoping to find a target every now and then.

Quick comment about Ben Affleck’s Argo. Amazing how the tension built throughout, even though the audience knew the outcome from the very beginning. A very good movie despite the fact that the story may have fudged on the amount of U.S. involvement and downplayed the amount of Canadian involvement in the exfiltration of the six Americans from a manic Iran. It was also a frightening portrayal of the horror of the mob beast that stormed the embassy. Good movie, although maybe not as good as the reviewers made it out to be. I’d be surprised if it won any Oscars. It did, however, give us a likely catchphrase for the next year or two—“Argofuckyourself!”

A side note about bumper humping. BC has the final say. And, yes, it’s a bit unpleasant.

Thursday, October 25

Lizz Wright & Political Ads

I’ve been trying to come up with a list of ballads by female jazz singers to put on an mp3 cd for those long car drives. I especially like the slow ones with interesting lyrics and blue overtones and there are plenty of those among my 12,000 tracks. My starting points were Karrin Allyson and Jackie Allen, maybe my two favorite singers after Barbra. Or maybe even before Barbra. Hard to say since they all have such different vocal styles and qualities. Then I went to a singer I haven’t listened to in a long time, Lizz Wright, a young black woman with a sexy alto voice. It didn’t take long to find at least a dozen that fit the bill for slow and bluesy—“Dreaming Wide Awake,” “Soon As I Get Home” (from The Wiz), “Vocalise/End of the Line,” and “Blue Rose.” I went to YouTube and picked out two that would go nicely in this blog, something for my occasional reader to listen to while perusing this post. I hope you like them.

Finally, less than two weeks to go. Finally. I and everyone else in the country are sick up to our armpits with all the negative campaign ads. Last night, in the tiny segment between the local news and the national news, I counted eight political ads, all of them negative. Eight. In about four minutes. One after the other. Did any of them convince me to vote one way or the other? No. In fact, if it were legal and feasible, I’d vote to throw all the bums out. Just leave an empty spot in the Senate or House. Even in the Oval Office, couldn’t we just have a stuffed figure sitting there doing nothing? A dummy? Hey, wait a minute, isn’t that what we’ve had all along? Just kidding, Barack. Just kidding, Mitt. I know either of you would be better than a scarecrow. But just barely.

Wednesday, October 24

Putting My Bookhouse in Order

In my battle with books, putting my bookhouse in order, I’ve been separating books to give away and books to keep. The giveaways win by five to one. I can’t believe the books I’ve accumulated with the idea that someday I’d get around to reading them all. I’m guessing that I’ve read about half of what I have, and a good many deserve a second reading. Well, I’ve now decided I don’t have enough time for them all. And I keep buying more books by people I just can’t not read—Lee Child, Robert Crais, Lawrence Block, James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, to name the most prominent. And what about all the dead guys I admire? I’ve read all the 47th Precinct series and the Matthew Hope series by Ed McBain each twice, all the Spenser series By Robert Parker twice, and all the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald thrice. And most of my other favorites are getting long in the tooth and may soon depart, like Block and Burke and Leonard and Deaver.

In my unshelving of books and my fondling them and making the hard decisions about which to keep and which to throw to the wolves, I came upon one of the Jack Reachers by Lee Child, Running Blind. It’s the fourth in the series and I know I’ve read it because I’ve read them all. I just happened to glance inside and read the first page or two . . . or three, and I couldn’t remember it. See, I must be getting closer and closer to that two-book library when I just keep reading the two over and over, not quite remembering what I’d previously read. So, naturally, I read beyond the first three pages and kept right on going. By the time I got through about a third of it, I remembered things from my first reading. But not enough to keep me from reading it again. Man, It’s a good one. But back to the sorting out. I’ve now identified the ones I want to keep. Now comes the task of taking the giveaways out to the garage to join all their kin from last year’s abortive garage sale. Then I need to make signs to put out on the corners of our street—FREE BOOKS AND CD’S!!! COME AND TAKE AS MANY AS YOU WANT! PLASTIC BAGS ARE ON THE HOOK. ENJOY! Then set up tables to hold part of the bounty. Then cart out as many as the tables will hold. Then sit back and hope they all disappear. Then put out another batch the next day and the next and the next until the garage is empty of books and cd’s. Oh, happy day! Oh, sad day.

Sunday, October 21

John Sandford & Michael Connelly

John Sandford, in his Prey and Virgil Flowers series, isn’t known as a descriptive writer. He’s known more for his homeboy dialogue, which is often hilarious, often Minnesota coarse. Here’s an example of a rare bit of lyricism, and an image any Minnesota or South Dakota lad can appreciate. “In a cold dry spring, before the trees bud out, the morning sun seems to shine white like a silver dime on the horizon, and the clear air over the still fallow ground gives the prairie a particular bleakness, if your mood is already bleak.”

Another writer I admire is Michael Connelly. In The Narrows he has an aging Harry Bosch thinking about the world’s ugliness that he’s experienced and his need to protect his daughter from that ugliness. He says, “You can become unhinged and cut loose from the world. You can believe you are a permanent outsider. But the innocence of a child will bring you back and give you the shield of joy with which to protect yourself. I have learned this late in life but not too late. It’s never too late. It hurt me to think about the things she would learn about the world. All I knew was that I didn’t want to teach her anything. I felt tainted by the paths I had taken in my life and the things I knew. I had nothing from it I wanted her to have. I just wanted her to teach me.

So I told her, yes, the Burger King and the Dairy Queen were happy and that they had a wonderful life together. I wanted her to have her stories and her fairy tales while she could still believe them. For soon enough, I knew, they would be taken away.” Isn’t that sadly but exquisitely said?

Saturday, October 20

Humping & End of Watch

I discovered another way for the bumper humper to gain a car length. When he comes to a red light and he’s in the right lane, he makes a quick right followed by a quick Uie and another quick right on the green. Yupp, he gains ten, twenty seconds, and who knows how many points in his roady video game. Oh, how I long for a cop car to see him do it. Oh, how I long for the cop to hold him there for twenty, thirty minutes. I wonder how many points he’d lose for that delay.

I saw End of Watch today and counted 583 f-bombs in the first hour. After that I lost count, but I’m assuming it must have gone over a thousand by film’s end. But—you know what?—it sounded entirely reasonable in light of the setting in really tough “gangsta” L.A. Officer Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Officer Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) cruise South Central L.A., looking for crimes and bad guys and finding both in unlikely abundance—child abuse, house fire, a coyote house filled with thirty or forty illegals imprisoned in filth, drug cartel and gangbanger shootouts. And nearly the entire film is shown by hand-held camera or tiny lapel cameras (Taylor is making a film of their daily activities for a filmmaking class he’s taking), by dashboard cams, or by other hand-held cameras or cell phones of onlookers to various crimes. It makes a frenetic movement that approximates the high-speed violence of the cops and bangers. The film is all about the dangers the boys in blue face on a daily basis. But more important, it’s about the blue brotherhood of the entire force, especially the bond between Taylor and Zavala. They’re brothers, even more than brothers. If they were gay they’d be lovers. But they’re both married, Taylor to Janet (Anna Kendrick), Mike to his childhood sweetheart Gabby (Natalie Martinez), and married forever it seems. At Brian and Janet’s wedding reception, the two do a really clever dance expressing their feelings for each other. Mike tells Brian that when he asked his grandmother if he should marry Gabby, she told him: “If you can live without her, then man-up and cut her off. Don't string her along.” That’s what the relationship between the two officers is all about, nearly an inability to live without the other. Great movie. Great acting. Go see it.

Tuesday, October 16

Taken 2 & Bumper Humping

Liam Neeson, in Taken 2, kicks some serious ass. And the man does his own stunts. And the man is sixty. I think Neeson would have been a better choice to play Jack Reacher in the upcoming film called Reacher than Tom Cruise. Neeson is tall and built like a block, just like Reacher. David Morse might also have been a better Reacher than Cruise—tall, broad, and tough as nails. I guess I’ll just have to wait to see what Tom Cruise does with the role. But back to Taken 2. I asked Rosalie to refuse to let me ever go to Istanbul for whatever reason. Just not a place I’d want to visit, with narrow nasty streets and nastiness all around. In the movie, the Libyans that Neeson had killed in Taken, were being buried, and the father of the tribe decided that he had to have revenge against the man who had killed his favorite son. Never mind that the son had kidnapped Neeson’s daughter to sell her into white slavery. Never mind that the family is a group of real baddies. So Neeson is in Turkey on government business (I’m still not sure what kind of badass business he’s in) and his ex-wife and daughter show up for a brief vacation with him. And the Libyans show up en mass to capture the three of them. That’s the movie. The whole thing involves Neeson’s attempts to rescue his wife and daughter, meanwhile killing several dozen bad guys. A very forgettable movie, but a nice way to spend an empty afternoon. And, naturally, they set it up for a Taken 3. I can’t imagine who will be taken in that one, but I’m sure Neeson will be there to kick ass and take no prisoners.

On my way home from a dental visit this morning, a little green car rode my bumper for a quarter-mile or so, then squirted out to pass me and catch up with the next car, riding his bumper also. It seems that too many young drivers are really playing a roady video game, seeing how many cars they can pass to gain a temporary one-car advantage, zipping in and out and back and forth from lane to lane, always cutting dangerously in front of cars on both in and out, always tailgating the car in front. I like to think of it as bumper humping, or autofanny kissing, or, more specifically, Fido fucking. I always wish a motor patrol would spot him/her and fine his/her ass a bunch. But they never seem to be around.

Thursday, October 11

The Black Widow

I wrote The Black Widow intending it to be the final episode in the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald, but the MacDonald family said no. So I switched it to a private detective in Phoenix. But the two characters, Travis McGee and Colt Frazier, are essentially the same character with the same beliefs. Now that Curiosity, the Mars rover, seems to have found evidence of water on that planet, this conversation between Sarah and Travis seems fitting. While they are waiting for a phone call, Sarah pumps him about his religious beliefs:

"I’ve already told you," Sarah says, "I was raised a Baptist, but I haven’t been to church on a regular basis for a very long time. Max wasn’t willing to go with me, so I just quit going. How about you? What are your religious beliefs? What church were you raised in?"

I just looked at her, slowly shaking my head, a very small smile to lighten what might have been construed as a negative reaction. "My mother and father were both Catholic, but never very strict Catholics, and I was never raised with a lot of religious imperative or instruction. And after I left home, I became very much a lapsed Catholic. I could never understand the need for some intermediary between me and God, whatever sort of God there may be. Or even if there is a God. I’m not an atheist, but certainly an agnostic. I just don’t know if there is or isn’t a God. And certainly, if there is, he or she or it isn’t some deity in human form. That just doesn’t make any sense to me. Science tells us about the immensity of the universe, of the numbers of stars and star systems, too many to comprehend. How can we believe that we’re the only intelligence in this immensity? And how can we think some creator or creative force is looking down on us benevolently, waiting for us to grow up and come to our senses? I believe in the principles Christ taught, and in my own way I follow them to the letter. But I don’t need a church to govern me into following those principles."

She was watching me intently as I said all this, her mouth moving side to side as she concentrated on my words, her head sometimes nodding a bit, sometimes moving side to side. "So, you’re a Christian . . . sort of. And you’re not sure about the existence of God or, if one does exist, what form this creator might take. Is that it?"

I nodded.

"And you’re saying the inhabitants of this planet may not be the only intelligence in the universe?"

I nodded.

"I agree with that for the most part. But what makes you think we’re not alone? Are you thinking we may have some aliens, some green critters, one day come to call?"
I laughed. "Green critters, indeed. You’ve been brainwashed by too many bad science fiction flicks. I’m a realist and because science has convinced me that we, and our earthly home, are an infinitesimally tiny speck in the total scheme of things, I have to believe that somewhere out there, there must be a nearly limitless number of potential planets that sustain life that would develop on an evolutionary track similar to ours."

"Similar to ours? You mean that these potential planets would have intelligent beings like us? Not giant bugs or slimy slugs or . . . apes?" She was leaning forward, hands on knees. She wasn’t challenging what I was saying, just intent on understanding what I meant.

"Okay, I don’t mean that other forms couldn’t become the dominant species on one of these planets. But it seems logical to me that life can only begin on a planet with just the right conditions, like just the right temperatures and with the existence of water. Look at our own system and the planets we have. Earth seems to be the only one with these necessary conditions. No form of life could exist on Mercury, let’s say, or Venus from what the scientists tell us about conditions there. And most unlikely on any of those further out except Mars. I don’t think most people realize the philosophical implications of our discovering water on Mars. If it’s true, and that’s what they’re now saying, these scientists involved in the Mars missions, then they could also discover some form of microscopic life on Mars. That tells me that in the vastness of our universe, there would be many many solar systems with circling planets, some of which would have conditions similar to ours. And, therefore, not only the potential for life, the probability of life."

Wednesday, October 10

Odds and Ends

Barbra has the best voice of anyone in this and the last century. Nobody even close. Frank was a better stylist but he didn’t have the vocal quality she has.

What a humbling experience it is to put words down on paper, words you’ve labored over, sighed over, pored over, sweat upon, wept upon, cursed, blessed, kissed. And when the child is finally born, the labors over, you think he’s so handsome. And onlookers turn away, with a look of disgust or sympathy, or a veiled smile, maybe a little chuckle behind masking fingers.

The unfed mind devours itself. Gore Vidal

I’ve decided that what I do almost daily isn’t computering—it’s computtering

Another quote from Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, this time about English complexity and its influence on the other languages of the world.
“English is the largest of the human tongues, with several times the vocabulary of the second largest language—this alone made it inevitable that English would eventually become, as it did, the lingua franca of this planet, for it is thereby the richest and the most flexible—despite its barbaric accretions . . . or, I should say, because of its barbaric accretions. English swallows up anything that comes its way, makes English out of it. Nobody tried to stop this process, the way some languages are policed and have official limits. . . . English was in truth a bastard tongue and nobody cared how it grew . . . and it did!—enormously. Until no one could hope to be an educated man unless he did his best to embrace this monster.”

Tuesday, October 9

Fat Folks & Aging

Fox last season was hyping a new reality show for the fall, a thing called "More to Love." Yikes! How could they do it? And how could they describe the twenty ladies vying for the love of the stout young gentleman as average or normal regarding their weight and body types, saying sizes 14-16 are average? Yikes, again. From what I saw of them, "zaftig" and "pleasingly plump" would be too kind. How about chubby, pudgy, rotund, paunchy, lumpish, corpulent, fleshy, beefy, obese . . . or just plain fat? Why would anybody tune in to this awful idea for a show? And, apparently, no one did, because it was axed almost immediately.

I'm seventy-eight years old, soon to be 79, and figure I probably have ten more years to go. That's 120 months. If each month were a dollar, I'd have $120 in my mental piggy bank. And October is about to cost me a buck. So far it's seemed more like two-bits. Inflation, I guess. I could stretch it out to twenty years if I behaved myself, lost thirty pounds, went on that exercise program I keep talking about, give up ice cream and booze. But the quality of my life would go down dramatically. I think I'll spend a few pennies thinking about it . . .. I just did, thought about it, and I decided against it. Okay, then, 119 months left. Spend them wisely, fool.

Monday, October 8

Putting My House in Order

The death of my 95-year-young sister-in-law Bonnie Scott and all the details her two sisters Rosalie and Kaye had to go through to send Bonnie safely on her way made me think about my need to put my house in order. I don’t want my wife or children to have to go through what Rosalie and Kaye had to go through with Bonnie.

The first thing is to get rid of all the “stuff” I no longer need, like my many books and cd’s, like all the clothes I’ll never again wear either because it’s out of fashion or it seems to have shrunk over the years, like all the “stuff” I’ve saved on my computer. I’ve already donated a bunch of cd’s to the 4-Paws Animal Rescue. And the books I have on my shelves and all the series of novels by my favorite authors stored in the garage can all go. Instead of trying to sell them, I think I’ll put an ad in the local paper that I have FREE books and cd’s to give away. Knowing the folks in Sun City West and knowing how they’ll show up for anything that’s free, I should be able to get rid of everything. Then they can someday put their own houses in order. Maybe by then I’ll have forgotten my books and will go to their free book giveaway and pick up a few I’ll no longer recognize. As for all the gunk in my computer, I’ll just have to open files to see what’s there and then delete what I no longer need. For the last twenty years I’ve saved all the letters sent and received by relatives and friends. Why? Was I planning one day to go back and read them all? Nearly every joke I’ve gotten on the internet is saved somewhere on my hard drive. Why? Was I planning to go back whenever I needed a laugh?I guess I was saving them in case I ever wanted to send one along with a letter. It’s a very disorderly house, my computer.

The next thing I need to do is to list all the things we want to give to our children and which to whom. And when I think about it, there isn’t that much to list. Most of our belongings don’t have any personal value or familial meaning. I wandered around our house and made my list—jewelry, crystal, paintings by my mother and Rosalie’s father, a few expensive knickknacks, some collectible sets, some small furniture handed down from past generations, and a beautifully carved pheasant given to me when I retired. That’s it. Now we just have to stop buying any more “stuff.”

Thursday, October 4

Science Fiction

I’m re-reading an old favorite of mine from my youth when I was a science fiction fan—more than a fan, a compulsive devourer of the genre—Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. It’s typical Heinlein with his oh so stilted style, but it also shows what a futurist he was. The stranger in the title, Valentine Michael Smith, the Man from Mars, is an example of what we could be, may even become in the distant future. And though it would need considerable updating and revising, Stranger would make a great film. One quick quote that seems too relevant today: "There was one field in which man was unsurpassed; he showed unlimited ingenuity in devising bigger and more efficient ways to kill off, enslave, harass, and in all ways make an unbearable nuisance of himself to himself. Man was his own grimmest joke on himself."

Heinlein’s book took me back to that time when I first discovered science fiction, sometime in the mid-Forties when the pulp magazines were in full bloom. I found Edgar Rice Burroughs, probably more famous for the Tarzan series than his science fiction. I devoured them all—the Tarzans, Pellucidar and At the Earth’s Core, all the Mars and Venus series, all the oddball stuff. And then I devoured them again. I was never tuned into the early sci-fi greats, H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, but I soon learned about the others, both early and late: Isaac Asimov and the Foundation series and I, Robot; Theodore Sturgeon and More Than Human; all of Heinlein’s extrapolations into the future, especially The Door into Summer. I read Ray Bradbury, but he was almost more into horror and fantasy than science fiction with Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Illustrated Man, and the two stories that stand out in my memory, “There Will Come Soft Rains” about the end of man after a nuclear holocaust, with a self-sustaining house slowly running down, and the truly spooky “The Emissary.” And along with all the not so great sci-fi, I read the really good stuff: A Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter M. Miller, the Dune trilogy by Frank Herbert, Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, and 2001, A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke.

But science fiction sort of wandered off into fantasy in the Seventies and I got bored with it. Critics even began calling it speculative fiction, apparently arguing that much of what was written wasn’t based on science so much as pure speculation about what the future might hold for man. “Spec-fi” just doesn’t sound as good to me as “sci-fi.” Lots of dystopian novels warning us of the future (Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World probably the best examples) and a thin sprinkling of utopian views envisioning a positive future (especially Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End). It seems that science fiction is still alive and well, if not in novels and stories, then certainly in film and television. I think of The Hunger Games, the just-released Looper and the up-coming Cloud Atlas, all the Mad Max movies that gave us Mel Gibson whether we wanted him or not. I think of all the tv shows based on science fiction: the comedies like “My Favorite Martian,” “Mork and Mindy,” “3rd Rock from the Sun.” and “Alf”; the very successful “Lost” and the not so successful “Terra Nova,” the still-to-be-determined-if-successful-or-not-so, "Revolution." It seems that sci-fi- or spec-fi is alive and well and will probably continue to be for a long time to come. Anyone looking for a good book and a good change from whatever they’re now reading might do well to turn to one of the sci-fi novels mentioned above.

Wednesday, October 3

This 'n' That

Finally, the debates are here. This should be an interesting dogfight, and I’m thinking it may be between a pit bull and a chihuahua. You figure out which is which.

In Ian McEwan’s novel Enduring Love, the narrator is talking about his wife Clarissa: “I couldn’t move my eyes from her lips. So supple, so glossily rich in natural color. Lipstick was invented so that women could enjoy a poor version of lips like these.” What a charming compliment to the woman he loved.

I just listened to Jackie Allen sing an old Rogers and Hart song, “You’re Nearer,” and couldn’t help but notice how simple, yet how lovely, the lyrics were.

You’re nearer, than my head is to my pillow,
Nearer, than the wind is to the willow.
Dearer, than the rain is to the earth below,
Precious as the sun to the things that grow.
You’re nearer, than the ivy to the wall is,
Nearer, than the winter to the fall is.
Leave me, but when you’re away, you’ll know,
You’re nearer, for I love you so!

I may be old-fashioned, but I still most admire lyrics I can hear and understand, lyrics carefully constructed and balanced, unlike too many song lyrics being written today. Even Taylor Swift, a singer/writer I admire, writes lyrics that don’t have real balance. “White Horse,” for example, is a great song, but it depends for the most part on her singing it, her delivery, her personality. Then there’s the insanely popular Justin Bieber. I think he could sing the yellow pages and his female fans would go berserk. But the lyrics themselves are certainly not up to any of Larry Hart’s. He begins “One Time” with “Me plus you, I’ma tell you one time, / Me plus you, I’ma tell you one time, / Me plus you, I’ma tell you one time, / One time one time.” Catchy, right? And he goes on with “When I met you girl my heart went knock knock, / Now them butterflies in my stomach won’t stop stop. / And even though it’s a struggle love is all we got / And we gon’ keep keep climbing to the mountain top.” All right, so I’m picking on the Beebs and his lyrics. He seems to be a fine young man with a great future in the music industry, but I’ma tell you one time, one time, he ain’t no Larry Hart.

Monday, October 1

Sunday Sports

After Sunday sports I’m exhausted. I watched the entire U.S meltdown in the Ryder Cup, and I’m exhausted. I watched the entire overtime victory of the Cardinals over the Dolphins, and I’m exhausted. I feel like I need to go to bed and sleep for a week. The Americans simply let the Ryder Cup be snatched away from them, especially in the final three matches when no one on the U.S. team could seem to make a putt. The most egregious error was when Steve Stricker couldn’t get up and down on seventeen. He just couldn’t lose that hole. But he did. And then he could only tie Martin Kaymer on the eighteenth to lose his match one up. Unforgiveable for one of the best putters on the U.S. team to choke it on that seventeenth hole. He will live forever in replay hell, like Bernhard Langer in the 1991 Cup. If he had gotten that crucial half point, then Tiger needed only to tie Molinari on the final hole to win the Cup. But by the time Tiger and Molinari got to their second shots on eighteen, the results were already in. The win or loss was a matter of inches. Just wait’ll 2014.

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