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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, March 31

Ho Hum Easter Sunday

No, I’m not dead. No, I’m not sick. No, I didn’t break both arms. I just haven’t had anything to say lately. None of the news stories appeals to me. There are so many stupid things going on in the world that I can’t decide which to comment on. That truly stupid young man in North Korea deserves a paragraph or two, but I’ll wait on that to see how much stupider he can act in the next week. All in all, this is writer’s block to the tenth power. It's Easter Sunday and we're observing it in the cathedral of our home. The Catholics down the street held up traffic from both directions for over ten minutes while they poured out of the church parking lot. Charlie is out on the patio enjoying his new furniture. I recently bought him a five-foot cat tree: half-barrel crouch on top, full open-ended barrel below with a diamond cutout in the side, another half-barrel at the bottom. Right now, he’s sleeping in the full barrel, enjoying the 85° day, listening to the grackles squawking in the yard. I just finished watching the Houston Open golf, but they got rained out before conclusion. Ho hum. Quite a few no-names contending. Phil stumbled again and Rory was never even close. Two more weeks until the Masters. Can’t wait to see what the big boys do with that layout. I still pick Tiger to win his fifth jacket. Oh, yes, and a few days ago we had new carpet laid in our two bedrooms and the Arizona room. It’s a tight weave gray and looks very nice. But oh what a job it was to move all the small stuff out of the three rooms. And, of course, I had to break down my computer. It’s always touch and go to see if I can put it back together again. And the million books and knickknacks had to be boxed and moved out onto the patio. The installers moved all the big stuff in the bedrooms. It took them six hours, six hours of us sort of sitting around until they got finished. Rosalie chose to sit with the cats in the laundry room. Charlie has become such a scardy cat when anyone he doesn’t know comes around. We think Squeakie taught him that. But it was finally completed and we could then begin the job of putting everything back where it belonged. I found a lot of stuff I no longer needed, so out it went. Life at the far edge is a slow process of getting rid of the stuff we once thought was so important.

Tuesday, March 26

Kristen Chenoweth & The Call

Kristen Chenoweth appeared on PBS’s series “Live from Lincoln Center” in an hour-long set of great songs from great Broadway musicals. It was called The Dames of Broadway . . . All of ‘Em!!! and she tried her best to include every dame ever. Kristen Chenoweth is a tiny blonde package who just explodes on stage. She’s forty-four but you’d never know it to look at her, and she’s got a voice that belies her tiny frame—4’ 11”, just under a hundred pounds. With the help mainly of her musical director on the piano and a trio that came in midway through the performance, she sang a bunch of songs most of which I wasn’t familiar with. And I’m a lifetime lover of and follower of Broadway musicals. The songs weren’t your usual singalong songs, the ones that make it on the singles charts, like “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “The Impossible Dream,” or “My Funny Valentine.” These were “My White Knight” as sung by Marian the librarian in The Music Man, “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” from Sweeney Todd, “My Lord and Master” as sing by Tiptum in The King and I, “It’s a Quiet Thing” from Flora the Red Menace, “When I Marry Mr. Snow” sung by Carrie Pipperridge in Carousel, “Old Maid” from 110 in the Shade, and Mary Martin singing “Moonshine Lullaby” from Annie Get Your Gun. Wow, what a dramatically musical evening. I was especially struck by "It's a Quiet Thing." I remember first encountering this song when I heard it fifty years ago recorded by Morgana king in her oh so quiet voice. If you’d like to see Kristen's show, go to www.pbs.org and check in with the Live from Lincoln Center performances. Watch her here as she does a dame she didn't include in the PBS show, "Glitter and Be Gay."


And if you want to see a thriller that really thrills, go see Halle Berry in The Call. Hell, even if it doesn't thrill you, it's worth it just to see Halle Berry. She may just be the most beautiful woman in the world. She plays a 911 operator with the LAPD, but loses her nerve after she loses a girl to a killer who takes her from her bedroom while she's speaking to Jordan Turner (Berry), the killer saying to the operator when she pleads with him not to kill this little girl, "It's already done." Six months later, after Berry has given up her job on the phone and taken up teaching new 911 recruits, another girl is taken and calls 911 from the trunk of the car she's in. The girl, Casey Wilson (Abigail Breslin) is a young blonde with a hauntingly familiar face that finally came to me after we left the theatre--little Miss Sunshine from that movie nearly a decade ago. It's never made very clear what motivated the bad guy in his taking young blonde women, but he's one spooky dude. And at the end of the movie, the phrase "It's already done" takes on a whole new meaning. Go see it. You'll know what I mean.

Sunday, March 24

Kitty Fixing

Rosalie has been volunteering one day a week at a nearby no-kill small animal rescue shelter called “4-Paws.” It’s almost entirely devoted to cats and kittens, all of which get spayed or neutered when they take them in, and the shelter’s struggle is to adopt as many out as they take in.. It seems to me that all cats and kittens should be “fixed” as soon as possible, but there are still too many people who just love those cute little cuddle buns . . . for a while. Then they sort of misplace some of them outdoors, turning cute little cuddle buns into feral cat factories. And then any number have to be caught and euthanized lest we get up to our asses in cats. The same might be said of our six billion residents of the planet. Too many people are either too ignorant of the child-producing process or think they just have to have six or eight or ten or more cute little cuddle buns. I’m reminded of Octomom Nadya Suleman who, with the help of Dr. Michael Kamrava, her fertility doctor, gave birth to eight children by in vitro fertilization to go with her previous six children. That’s right, fourteen children. She is now being charged with welfare fraud. Dr. Kamrava in 2009 was expelled from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and lost his California medical license in July, 2011. Oh, yes, and Nadya also has a prescription for marijuana, probably written for her by the good Dr. Kamrava. Her story wouldn’t so much fall in the stupid or cuddling categories, but in the selfish, money-loving, fame-grabbing category. China’s one-child per family rule may seem cruel to some, but in a world of six billion it makes some sense to me.

Friday, March 22

Buddy Holly & Jack the Giant Slayer

The Buddy Holly Story at ABT was surprisingly good. I was surprised because I went there knowing I was going to, not hate exactly, dislike the music. I’m just not a fan of Rock ‘n Roll, or as I called it recently, Retch ‘n Regurgitate. But the young man, Jared Mancuso, who played Buddy won me over. What a great performance. In fact, nearly all the main players were great. They all played various instruments as well as sang—drums, bass fiddle, two guitars, and piano. The story was weak but the music was alive. After all, how much story can there be in the 18-month meteoric rise of young Buddy Holly and his brand of R ‘n R? He began in a small studio in Lubbock, Texas, singing country but wanting the other. Then on to Nashville where he his three buddies form “The Crickets” and record “That’ll Be the Day,’ which shoots to number one on the charts. Just over a year later, after breaking with the group, meeting and marrying Maria Elena Santiago, we see him playing a winter gig in Iowa with Richie Valens (“La Bamba”) and The Big Bopper J. P. Richardson (“Chantilly Lace”), after which he and the other two die in a small plane crash on their way to Minnesota. Short, tragic story. But I don’t really thing it marked the “day the music died” as suggested in “American Pie.” The final act in Iowa was played with house lights up, and we, the audience, becoming the Iowa audience, with repartee between us and the actors, even with some of them coming off-stage to jitterbug with some of us. Lots of fun, lots of great musical performances.

And speaking of fun, that’s what marked Jack, the Giant Slayer. Not much of a movie except it was a lot of fun, especially in the encounters of Jack and others with the grubbiest set of giants one could imagine. This was a movie I’ll forget in a few weeks, but I enjoyed it as I saw it. Since we chose the non-3D version, I can only imagine what it was like in 3D—toppling bean stalks crashing into the audience, flaming arrows coming at us, giants throwing tiny human bodies at us. Such fun. And the giant cook plucking a huge booger from his nose and then eating it. Such fun. At least, all the booger-eating children in the audience thought it was hilarious.

Tuesday, March 19

Freecell Frenzy

I’ve been playing Freecell on my computer, and I find it distressingly addictive. “Distressing” because it takes me away from reality for much too long each time I get hooked. I love the symmetry of the cards. I love to sit and ponder eight or nine or more moves before I ever commit to a move. I find that all games are winnable if one just takes time before jumping off the deep end. I also remember when I was first introduced to the game. We had little to do in Korea when we were assigned to sit in a bunker and keep track of enemy movement—chow on K-rations, smoke (oh, lots and lots of smoking), read whatever books or magazines parents sent to us, play cards. One of my bunker mates showed me Freecell. With real cards the game is a little different than the computer version. Shuffle, then lay out nine columns of cards in descending order, from nine on the left, to eight, then seven, etc. until the last column of only one card. Cards are moved as in other standard solitaire game, red jack on black queen, etc. The player always hoped for an ace in that first or second column or something that could be moved to free up a space or two. The seven extra cards were freebies that could be used at any time. The trick was to get enough free spaces to be able to move multiple cards. And, like the computer version, nearly every layout could be solved if one were patient enough. The computer version, my present addiction, is a fun challenge, and whenever a game is won, the cards all fly up to the aces and then come crashing down to computer bottom, breaking up into colorful card pieces. And now that I’ve written this, I guess I’ll play another game . . . or two. If you've never tried it, you can do a search using "Freecell" and find a number of free downloads of the game. You, too, can become addicted.

Monday, March 18

Robert Crais & Golf

I seem to be stuck in a holding pattern, sort of up there waiting for landing instructions, and sort of running out of fuel. I guess I’ll get down one way or the other, either safe and smooth, or headfirst. I haven't written any blogs for almost a week now. I haven’t seen any movies for a while, and we’re going to the Arizona Broadway Theatre tomorrow. I’ve slowed down on the reading, my last one the latest by Robert Crais called Suspect. It was good but not nearly as good as his Elvis Cole/Joe Pike series. This one was about a severely wounded cop who lost his female partner, with whom he was in love, in a shootout in a late-night back alley. He’s a mess physically and mentally, blaming himself for the death of his partner. He recovers enough to be assigned to the K9 unit, where he’s teamed with Maggie, a police dog severely wounded, both physically and mentally, in a shootout in Afghanistan where she loses her beloved pack brother. Talk about two of a kind. The plot focuses on their bonding, these two wounded creatures, and their search for the people who killed his partner as well as a carload of victims of the night assault. Good but not great. But especially good for anyone who’s a dog lover. I’d bring Maggie home to live with us in a heartbeat. Charlie and Squeakie might complain, but they’d learn to live with her.

My golf is getting better (but then I don’t see how it could have gotten any worse). Today I came within one stroke of shooting my age. I got my first age-shoot at 70. Then, when I got to be 74, I thought I’d be doing it every third or fourth time out. Whoa! Was I ever wrong. I managed it about a dozen times after the first time, but then the health problems set in and I couldn’t get even close. See, the Catch-22 in golf is that as you get older and older, it should get easier and easier to shoot one’s age, but instead the scores keep getting higher and higher. I enjoyed watching Stacy Lewis win the LPGA tournament last weekend in Phoenix. What an extraordinary story hers is, eleven years in a back brace, multiple surgeries on her spine, lots of pins and rods holding her together. It was a courageous win and one she justly deserved. I did feel sorry for poor Ai Miyazato, though. One bad swing with her pitching wedge and she came undone on the sixteenth hole. And next weekend, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, we get to see if this Tiger is for real or is just a pussy cat. I’m hoping he’s for real. I’m betting he is.

Wednesday, March 13

3D

More on three-dimensional movies and television. The last time we watched anything in 3D at the theatre was Alice in Wonderland and we weren’t very impressed with that one. But there we were again with Oz, the odd little glasses we had to don, the on-screen advice to put on our glasses to better appreciate the 3D previews of coming attractions, especially the latest remake of The Great Gatsby. Apparently there will soon be a time when all films will be in 3D, and soon thereafter they’ll have figured out how to get the 3D effect without the cheesy glasses. And someday young people will chuckle at the way we used to view movies. Even the word “movies” is odd, harking back to that long ago time when silent films were introduced, with pictures that “moved.” And then silents became talkies in black and white, then Technicolor, then in Dolby Surround Sound, then 3D. What lies in the future? Probably holographic stories told right in front of us like stage plays, seen in theatres or in our living rooms. Or maybe even in our laps. Who know what wonders await us.

Another step into the future that’s happening even as I speak—the effect that DVR’s now have on television and will have in the future. How will television be funded if commercial revenues dry up because viewers are now “saving” shows on their DVR’s and fast-forwarding through all the commercial garbage Will all channels become like PBS, pleading for donations? Or will we see an end to the many many channels like History, Lifetime, Bravo, Discovery, and Hallmark that can’t continue without commercial revenue?

This morning I was greeted on the front page of the Arizona Republic with a picture of our governor Jan Brewer, telling us of her plan for expanding Medicaid in Arizona. She seems to be seen on the tube or in the news more often than she should be. The woman tries to look like she’s an attractive forty-year-old when she really would have been perfectly cast as the wicked witch in this latest Oz. Her face has been lifted so often she now has nipple cheeks and a belly button in the middle of her chin. I guess you could say I’m not a fan of Jan Brewer.

Tuesday, March 12

Oz the Great and Powerful

We saw Oz the Great and Powerful today, and were both enchanted by this enchanting tale of a place everyone knows from the original 1939 film. I first became an Oz fan when I was a wee lad and discovered the L. Frank Baum series of books. They were my keys to the kingdom of books, and I’ve been an omnivorous reader ever since. I think I was more enchanted by the special effects of the 3D than by the story or acting. In fact, if I’d seen it in regular vision instead of 3D, I’m not sure I’d have been so positive in this review. James Franco just didn’t seem right as the somewhat sleazy Oscar Diggs. I can’t put a finger on it—his smile? his delivery of lines? Just something that wasn’t quite right. Or maybe I was remembering fat Frank Morgan as the original Wizard, gray and flustered by Dorothy, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. And Mila Kunis wouldn’t have been my first choice as witch Theodora, nor my second or third or fourth. She’s eerily beautiful with those huge brown eyes but I don’t see her as a Baum witch. Maybe I’m just put off by her role in Black Swan. Didn’t care much for that movie or her role in it. But Michelle Williams was perfect as Glinda. She has to be the sweetest female in Hollywood right now. She’d probably love to have an evil role someday but I don’t think she could pull it off. Just too sweet. The story of Oscar’s tornado ride to Oz and what followed was all right, but a bit thin. The film paid homage to the original by showing the first scenes in Kansas in black and white, expanding to color when Oscar first views Oz. And what color and effects he and the viewer sees—flowers opening in his path, multi-colored birds flitting around his head and right up to us in the audience, cascading waterfalls, clouds of butterflies. And Mila Kunis coming through the underbrush to find Oscar, looking like a fashion model in her red hat and dress. Two of the most delightful characters in the movie are his little monkey buddy Finley and the tiny China Girl. I guess what I’m saying is that the 3D version of Oz the G & P is well worth seeing, but maybe not the regular version.

Sunday, March 10

No News, Good News

No news is good news, but since I don’t have anything else to write about, I guess it will have to be about recent news. Sorry.

A new pope will be elected soon, maybe as soon as next Tuesday. And the cardinals will use the old smoke signal to let us know yes or no—white for yes, black for no. That sounds just silly in this high-tech age. Why not just let the world know via television?

North Korea, like a feisty Pekinese, is growling about a nuclear attack on the U.S. What silliness. They’re a small nation just north of their sister nation South Korea. Can’t they see how much better life is to the south of them? Life in North Korea is, at best, difficult for most of its citizens. Life in South Korea is, most certainly, very good and prosperous for most of its citizens. Has Kim Jung Un, North Korea’s young leader, lost his mind? Has he convinced his citizenry that they’re starving because the hated U.S. is responsible for their sorry state? Does he really think his imperial army could compete with U.S. forces in an all-out war? Does he think we’re all as weird and crazy and stupid as Dennis Rodman?

We watched a segment on the news about the effect of global warming on the South Polar ice cover. The global warming expert reported that if all the South Polar ice were to melt, the depth of all oceans would increase by about two football fields. Wow, that’s a lot of water. He failed to tell us what that would do to the world’s coastlines, but I can only imagine we’d all be crammed together onto a lot less land than we now have.

The panelists on the Chris Matthews Show were speculating about the 2016 presidential candidates, that it would be amusing to see another Clinton-Bush battle—Hillary and Jed, that is. I’m more than ready for Hillary, but do we really need to see another Bush?





Tuesday, March 5

The Crying Game


Love and marriage, what we used to think of as a binding relationship between a man and a woman, is today all mixed up in about as many relationships as one could imagine. And films and television are now no longer afraid to show two women kissing, or two men kissing. People are now coming out of the closet as fast as the closet doors can fly open. Love is now more complicated than it ever was. I’m reminded of a film I saw over twenty years ago, a film that impressed me not just for the surprise ending, but for the honest questions it raised about the nature of love . . . between two people regardless of their sexual orientation. I guess I needn’t worry about any spoilers in this one since most everyone around at the time this movie came out would know the surprise ending.

The Crying Game is the story of the Irish terrorists who seize a black English soldier as a bargaining piece for one of their captured buddies. The soldier, Jody (Forest Whitaker in a very early role), who is supposed to be shot by one of his captors, is accidentally killed trying to escape, and Fergie, the terrorist who had befriended Jody, goes to England to try to make it up to him by seeing if the soldier’s girl friend, Dil, is getting along all right. What an off-the-wall love story. But what a good film. Dil turns out to be a man in drag, but only after the Irishman, who now goes by the name Jimmy, has fallen in love with her/him. It just goes to show that love can come in many forms. For all of us who assume that homosexuality is somehow deviant, this film may have prompted us to look at the relationships between men and women in a somewhat different light. Is Jimmy, now in love with a man who he first assumed was a woman (and a very attractive woman she/he was), a homosexual? Or is he just a person who fell in love with another person, regardless of physical genders? Very confusing, because the viewer is totally sympathetic to both characters; they’re easily the most likable people in the movie. Ten years after I first saw this movie, I rented it and saw it again. I noticed things about the film I hadn’t seen the first time. They opened with a rendition of “When a Man Loves a Woman” and concluded with “Stand by Your Man” as Dil is seen visiting Jimmy in prison, where he still has about seven years to go on his sentence. She will wait for him and they will be together thereafter. Or maybe not. Also, I saw the irony of the bound Jody’s comments to Fergie when Jody had to urinate and Fergie had to open his pants for him and take out his “piece of meat” as Jody called it, and then reinsert it after Jody was finished. It’s all very complicated, but I’m so glad we’re now approaching a time when we can accept the complexities of love and marriage and sexual relationships.

Monday, March 4

One-Eyed Jacks & Zero Tolerance


Netflix again, this time with an old Western I think I liked a long time ago--One-Eyed Jacks directed by and starring Marlon Brando and Karl Malden. Despite the washed out color and the all-too intrusive musical score, this was as I remembered it, one of the all-time best Westerns. And most of the credit for that lies with Brando. He was one of the best actors ever and he was up to the task here as the "kid," Rio the bank robber partnered with Dad Longworth (Karl Malden). The plot was simple enough, with betrayal and vengeance right out of Greek tragedy. Malden is the betrayer, leaving Rio and taking off with the gold from their last bank job in Sonora, Mexico, leaving Rio to his capture and 5-year imprisonment in the prison at Sonora. He and a buddy manage to escape, and all Rio wants is to find Malden and kill him. He runs into Bob Amory (Ben Johnson) who is planning to rob a bank and wants Rio and his friend to join him, with the added incentive that Amory knows where Dad Longworth is--now a wealthy sheriff in Monterey, California. The scenery along the coast is as breathtaking in this 1960 film as it is now when I see it at the Pebble Beach golf tournament. Longworth is married to Maria (Katy Jurado)and has taken her daughter Louisa as his own. Rio, when the sheriff sees him, assures "Dad" that there were no hard feelings about their parting in Mexico. But the viewer knows better. The rest of it involves the inevitable coming together of Rio and Louisa, Rio's shooting and killing a bad guy, Malden's whipping Rio and crushing his hand, then throwing him into jail to await a trial and his hanging. But Rio, with Louisa's help, manages to escape and flee north with Amory and the others to heal and plan his revenge. Good flick, Brando at his best (much younger and slimmer and more handsome than in his Godfather days. Malden was also much younger and slimmer than is his Streets of San Francisco days. And his nose hadn't yet grown to the grand proboscis he would have later on.

A comment on the zero tolerance policies in some schools recently, relating to students who bring in guns or knoves. Okay, so there must be a policy forbidding students to bring in stuff that could be harmful or even lethal to other students. Right. But when schools also expel kids in kindergarten or first or second grades who point a thing made out of lego blocks and go "Kachoo! Kachoo!" or who have a bubble-blowing gun, or who, god forbid, point a finger at a classmate and go "Bang!" they've taken Zero back to about negative 100. There should be some rational adjustment behind zero tolerance. I remember when I grew up (yes, a long time ago) we had cap guns we could use to play Cops & Robbers, or in the summer we could have elaborate war games in the park with our rubber guns (homemade wooden guns and rifles with Mom's clothespin attached to hold a stretched piece of innertube) and hardly anyone thought we really meant any harm when we pointed an index finger at someone and went "Bang!" Beebee guns were a little more dangerous, but never lethal. And slingshots, although potentially dangerous, were never, in my memory, used to shoot at another human being. Come on, schools and school administrators, use your heads.

Friday, March 1

Quartet & The Pope

We just saw the most delightful film, Quartet, about aging and the old people who live in Beecham House, a retirement community for old musicians in lovely English countryside. I think if I couldn’t live in Sun City West, Arizona, I’d like to live out my days in Beecham House, especially if I could live there with this cast of delightfully wacky and talented musicians. Dustin Hoffman directed. Thank you, Dustin, for giving us this funny and moving film. Every October 10th, the residents of Beecham House put on a show to celebrate Verdi’s birthday and to generate enough money to keep the place running for at least another year. When prima donna diva Jean Horton (Dame Maggie Smith) moves in, just knowing she’ll hate living like any other old person without much money, the three other people with whom she once sang Verdi’s “Quartet” from Rigoletto try to convince her to sing it again with them, she violently tells them no.. Reggie Paget (Tom Courtney) is one of the four, an ex-husband of Horton’s who has never gotten over their breakup. The other two are splendidly funny—Wilf Bond (Billy Connolly) as the handsome, lecherous old devil who propositions every female in sight, even though he probably wouldn’t know what to do with any of them if they should take him up on his propisition; and Cissy Robson (Pauline Collins), a forgetful lady with, as Wilf, describes her, the best tits in the UK. The acting is all top rate, the English scenery breathtaking, the music throughout excellent . . . and the humor is to die for. This isn’t a movie that would have a lot of appeal for anyone under fifty, but for anyone over fifty it’s a must see.

Pope Benedict is now officially out of office, having abdicated his “throne” because of ill health. I don’t know why this should have been such a big deal to so many Catholics. I don’t know why he should have been the first to step down in almost seven hundred years. Is any pope a leader or is he just a human symbol to those in the Catholic faith? If he is, indeed, a leader, then he or any other pope before him should have stepped down when age and failing health make it impossible for him to lead. If he’s just a symbol, then I guess he can continue his popedom until he dies, even if he’s lying in a coma in Vatican City. I guess, not being a Catholic, I just don’t understand all the popish pomp and circumstance of the Vatican nor of the Catholic service.

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