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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Monday, April 29

Eether or Eyether and Hair

The Gershwins, in their “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” brought up the old pronunciation debate—potayto or potahto, tomayto or tomahto, eether or eyether, neether or neyether. It must be my Midwestern upbringing, but whenever I hear an actor coming out with “eyether,” I consider “eether” the actor or the director to be too stupid to realize how phony it sounds. I don’t know anyone from anywhere in this country who would normally say eyether, neyether, potahto, or tomahto. The English may do so, but any American who does so is simply affecting an English accent or trying to sound sophisticated. The other night on one of the many crime shows we watch, one scuzbag says to another, “I don’t do heroin,” and the other responds, “Neyether do I.” Oh, come on, guys, get real.
Throughout most of my later adult life (like since I was 40), I’ve fought a running battle with body hair. Not necessarily the hair on my arms, legs, chest, and back, although that too has been conducting skirmishes on me when I’m not looking. I’m talking about nostril hair, ear hair, and eyebrows. Way back when I was in Korea, one of my army buddies had hair growing so far out of his nostrils he might have considered braiding it. Disgusting image, isn’t it? Wouldn’t he notice how long they were? Wouldn’t they tickle? I don’t know. But I know he never did a thing about it. And I’ve seen old men here in Sun City West with dark hair growing out of their ears in such abundance I would think it would affect their hearing. They must even ask their barbers not to trim it. Why? In New York when I was there as a youngster just out of the army, I worked with a man in the Bulova Watch Company who had a hair growing out of the top of his nose that must have been at least as inch long. Wouldn’t he have noticed it whenever he looked in a mirror? Did he think it was too attractive to pull? I don’t know. And recently, in the Jackie Robinson movie 42, Harrison Ford in his role as Branch Ricky had luxuriant eyebrows, sort of like the ones John L. Lewis sported, brows like two wooly bears arranged above each eye, or Larry Hagman throughout his late career. Jeannie should have told him to trim them or made them magically disappear. His mother, Mary Martin, should have told him to trim them. But he never did. Did he think these hair bushes above his eyes were manly things to have? He always looked so proud of them whenever he glowered at anyone in Dallas. Maybe I should just throw in the towel and let the damned hair sprout wherever it wants. Maybe I’d have to beat off all the women who think such hair is manly. Or not.

Sunday, April 28

Oblivion

I’m an old-school fan of science fiction, cutting my baby teeth on the sci-fi pulp magazines of the 40’s and 50’s like “Amazing Stories” and “Astounding Stories,” Edgar Rice Burroughs’ series about Mars and Venus and the Earth’s core. I passed by the stuff from those considered to be the fathers of sci-fi—Jules Verne and H. G. Wells. Then later I whetted my growing appetite on the futurist visions of Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov, the fantasies and horrors of Ray Bradbury, then graduated to the more literary works of Arthur C. Clarke, George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, Herbert’s Dune, Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, and too many others to mention. It goes without saying, then, that I was also a fan of sci-fi series on television and the many great sci-fi films—2001, a Space Odyssey, Star Trek, Star Wars, The Hunger Games, Cloud Atlas, Looper, The Matrix, WALL-E, Alien, Planet of the Apes, Contact, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Soylent Green, and The Thing (although I’ve always been partial to the old 1951 Thing with James Arness instead of the more recent versions).

And so I was pulled to the theatre for Tom Cruise’s Oblivion. I’d give it three out of five sci-fi stars, and the movie’s title may be an indicator of where it will end up on a list of great science fiction films. I was a little disappointed in the plot, but the visual imagery made it worthwhile. Cruise and his partner Victoria have been assigned to a nearly lifeless Earth to patrol and maintain the huge vacuums that hover above the diminished oceans and suck up the water to be used for fuel on Jupiter’s moon Titan, where the remnants of earth’s population have emigrated after our planet had been nearly destroyed and made uninhabitable by an alien race that had come to take over the earth. In the ensuing war, the aliens blew up the moon, causing a cataclysmic disaster on earth—earthquakes, tsunamis, and radiation. We won the war but lost our planet, with only a few aliens, called Scavs, roaming the surface, trying to destroy the drones, small, round cyber policemen there to protect the water vacuums. And John Harper was there to protect and service the drones. He and his partner live in a Jetsons-like sky villa, complete with swimming pool and landing pad for the small ship Harper flies to conduct his business. As I said earlier, the gadgetry and scenes of a desolated earth were more intriguing to me than the plot, which included a small group of humans led by Beech (Morgan Freeman) and Sally (Melissa Leo), whom we see only as an out-of-focus black and white face giving Harper and Victoria their orders from the far away Titan. The plot evoked memories of past sci-fi flicks—Memento, Looper, Back to the Future, and Terminator—with their juggling of time and replication of people. I enjoyed the movie, but my wife Rosalie would have hated it. Must be a guy thing.

Thursday, April 25

American Idol Again

Okay, I’m back on Idol (or should that be “back on idle?”). Last night we watched the four final ladies sing and strut their stuff, and oh how they all did sing and strut. Angie, Kree, Amber, and Candice—the four ladies—are undoubtedly the best final four ever, and any one of them would be a fitting winner. Not once has Randy felt obliged to mention any of them being “pitchy.” Nicki Minaj loves them all dearly. Mariah Carey thinks they’re all star quality. And Keith Urban gives his usual on-target comments about all of them. What’s odd to me about the judges this year? They all seem to be so much better than judges past. Sorry, Simon Cowell, I don’t miss your acerbic attitude. Odd that I hated Nicki at the beginning, with her perfectly cut hair styles and her meticulous eye makeup. I assumed she was stupid. And now I like her for her honesty and intelligence. Never thought I’d say that about Nicki Minaj. Randy has finally—thank God— given up on his “Yo, Dog” opening to most of his comments. Mariah is still stumbling with words, and last night, when the show began, she was showing a whole lot of cleavage that she covered by bringing a bunch of hair around front. Someone in production must have mentioned the boob thing to her during the first commercial break. And Keith Urban seems to know more about music than I first would have believed. So much for the judges. How about the singers? Amber looks and sounds more and more like a young Natalie Cole. Angie is drop-dead gorgeous and accompanies herself on piano like she owns it. Kree is also drop-dead gorgeous and, when she begins touring and recording, will lose forty pounds and be even more drop-dead gorgeous. And Candice, who will also lose about forty pounds, can sing anything, but I wish she’d stop relying on so many runs like too many young singers now use. Can’t singers these days sustain a note without escaping into the safety runs? I can’t wait to see who will be voted out tonight. And I know that whoever it is will be saved by the judges and we’ll see all four of them again next week. I hope the winner will be Kree, but I’d be happy with any of the four. If you’re not an Idol watcher, you should tune in for these last three weeks to see what a talented group of singers we have this season.

Monday, April 22

Antique Furniture

We got our chairs back from Sit Well Upholstery this afternoon, and are we ever happy with the results. Good story behind these particular chairs (plus one loveseat). In 1972 or ‘73, right after we’d moved into our very first house in Lakewood, NY(lots of years in mobile homes), we were trying to furnish it with whatever household sale stuff we could find, and my wife and my mother found these three pieces in someone’s basement—dirty, tattered, covered with black paint and a few coats of other colors beneath the black. The sellers asked for $75 (this at a time when $75 meant a bunch to us) and we bought them. Both wife and mother thought they could probably take the paint off and see what was underneath. Besides, the wooden frames were interesting. They brought them home, took them to our basement, stripped them of way too many coats of stuff, and found what was underneath. Then they bought a green and yellow floral material to use for the backs and seats. And we had them for years and years before they were refinished and reupholstered in a green and red plaid material. And they made the trip from New York to Arizona with us, and after years and years of changes in humidity, the glue holding them together sort of dried up. First we had the loveseat reupholstered. Gorgeous. And now we have the two companion pieces done—one straight chair and one rocker. Reglued, restriped, refinshed, reupholstered in an antiquiy blue/green/cream material. And they look beautiful. And they feel wonderful when I sit in them. I have no idea what they may be worth, but as far as we’re concerned, they’re family heirlooms, and we’re going to get it in writing that none of our children will ever ever sell them at some garage sale. Here they are. Aren't they handsome?

Saturday, April 20

42

We saw 42 last week and were moved by this portrayal of Jackie Robinson and his difficult breaking of the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947. Chadwick Boseman does well in his role as Robinson, but for most viewers, the noteworthy thing about the film was Harrison Ford’s recreation of Branch Rickey, with his bushy eyebrows, gruff demeanor, cigar firmly in place, spouting wisdom to Jackie and to the many white racists on the Dodgers and the other teams they had to play. The movie was shown in one of the largest venues at Harkins, about half filled, including some thirty or forty high schoolers who had been bused in for the film, probably as part of a social studies class project. The movie was sort of hokey Disney, in that everyone, blacks and whites, seemed to be Disney-like attractive, too good and too good-looking to be true, giving me nearly the same reaction I had to seeing The Help. But it was the story of a real person, one who suffered through taunts and death threats to him as well as his wife and child. If it had been a fictional story about race relations in 1947, it would have been viewed as simply that—a Disney evocation of ugly times past. But it was about a real person. Jackie Robinson, at the urgent request of Branch Rickey, agreed to sign a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers to be the first black player in a milk-white sport. Rickey exhorted Robinson to demonstrate his courage by never, ever, giving in to his anger, no matter how ugly the provocations became, and did they ever become provocative, from the “Nigger, nigger, nigger, get your monkey face outta here!” from Ben Chapman, the Phillies manager, to the death threats mailed in to Rickey's office. It took Robinson a full year to win over his teammates. And he did it with his bat, his fielding, and his ability to run the bases and discombobulate opposing pitchers. The movie ended and many of us in the audience felt compelled to applaud. What a nice feeling, to have shared with several hundred people the belief that we had finally rounded a corner in our nation’s race relations. How awful it must have been—nearly a century after the Emancipation Proclamation—to be looked upon as third- or fourth-class citizens. To be spit at, insulted, beaten, even killed by torch-bearing, white cloaked KKKers. To be restricted from public water fountains, swimming pools, restrooms, theatres, hotels, restaurants, public transportation, assuming their skin color would contaminate the whiteness of the water or the air. How could rational human beings have treated an entire racial segment of our society as we did? How good it is to see the advances we’ve made in our social attitudes. We’re now on the brink of accepting gay marriage, racial equality, women’s rights, and reproductive choice. I hope I live long enough to see the total acceptance of the above issues as well as the end of the religious differences that now threaten us. One or two more generations need to die before we can get to those lofty social goals.

The Masters Redux

It’s been almost a week since the conclusion of the 2013 Masters. Congrats to Adam Scott for a fine and exciting end to this most widely watched golf tournament in the world. Aside from winners and losers, though, I have a few Masters impressions I’d like to share. Every spring I look forward to this tournament, as do millions of other golf fans around the world. I know most of the holes intimately from nearly sixty years of watching the shots made or missed by the various competitors over those six decades. I remember strange Curtis Strange’s errors on the back nine on Sunday in 1985 when he hit into Ray’s Creek in front of the par-5 thirteenth and then into the pond fronting the par-5 fifteenth, shots that cost him a green jacket that year. I can still see Fred Couples’ shot on the par-3 twelfth that hit just below the green and should have rolled back into the pond but instead somehow hung up on that slope and allowed him to get his par and go on to win the 1992 Masters. I remember the dance Larry Mize did in 1987 after holing that impossible pitch from the wrong side of number eleven, the second playoff hole against poor Greg Norman. In 1986 I remember weeping as Jack Nicklaus eagled fifteen and then nearly hit it into the hole on sixteen to win that improbable sixth green jacket at the age of 46. All of us have now seen over and over again Tiger’s chip on sixteen that went up the slope and then back down to hang on the lip and then topple in for a birdie that let him win in 2005. How could I forget Scott Hoch’s disastrous miss of that two-footer to win the 1989 Masters, instead allowing Nick Faldo to beat him on the second playoff hole. Will any of us ever forget "the drop?"

I thought it would be entertaining to use my translating app to put what I wrote above into German. Here it is: Es ist schon fast eine Woche her, seit dem Abschluss der 2013 Masters. Herzlichen Glückwunsch an Adam Scott für eine feine und spannende Ende dieser meistbeachteten Golfturnier der Welt. Abgesehen von Gewinnern und Verlierern, obwohl, ich habe ein paar Eindrücke Masters Ich mag zu teilen würde. Jedes Frühjahr freue ich mich auf dieses Turnier, wie Millionen von anderen Golf-Fans auf der ganzen Welt zu tun. Ich weiß, die meisten Löcher innig von fast sechzig Jahren beobachten die Aufnahmen gemacht oder von den verschiedenen Wettbewerbern über diesen sechs Jahrzehnten verpasst. Ich erinnere mich seltsam Curtis Strange Fehler auf der Rückseite neun am Sonntag im Jahr 1985, als er in Rays Creek treffen vor dem Par-5 dreizehnten und dann in den Teich Frontmann der Par-5 fünfzehnten, Schüsse, die ihn kosten eine grüne Jacke in diesem Jahr. Ich sehe noch Fred Couples 'Schuss auf dem Par-3 zwölfte, die knapp unterhalb der grünen getroffen und sollte wieder in den Teich gerollt haben, sondern irgendwie auf diesem Hang hing und erlaubte ihm, seine par bekommen und gehen auf die 1992 zu gewinnen Masters. Ich erinnere mich an den Tanz Larry Mize im Jahr 1987 tat, nachdem holing das unmöglich Tonhöhe von der falschen Seite der Nummer elf, die zweite Playoff-Loch gegen schlechte Greg Norman. 1986 Ich erinnere mich weinend wie Jack Nicklaus eagled fünfzehn und dann traf es fast in das Loch auf sechzehn, dass unwahrscheinlich sechsten grünen Jacke im Alter von 46 zu gewinnen. Alle von uns haben jetzt immer und immer wieder Tiger-Chip auf sechzehn, die aufgestiegen den Hang und dann wieder nach unten, um auf die Lippe hängen und dann stürzen in ein Birdie, das ihn im Jahr 2005 gewinnen wir gesehen. Wie konnte ich das vergessen Scott Hoch desaströsen Miss dieser zwei-footer, die 1989 Meister zu gewinnen, so dass Nick Faldo statt, um ihn auf der zweiten Playoff-Loch schlagen. Will keiner von uns je vergessen "das Dropdown?"

Lots of images, lots of memories. Until about the last twenty years, none of us tv viewers were able to (allowed to?) see any of the front nine. I know, I know, they weren’t then set up to televise those holes. But I always felt that the Augusta National bigwigs didn’t really want to share with the riffraff all of its secrets, didn’t want us to see any more than the last nine of their hallowed eighteen holes. This is a very elitist bunch who run the club. Even the CBS commentators all seem to reverentially bow and scrape as they report the play—Jim Nantz in honey tones regaling us with the many Augustan traditions, showing us numerous slow pans of flowerbeds bursting with Georgia flora, giving us gorgeous views of hand-trimmed fairways and greens, putting us to sleep with too many interviews of past and present players, too many flashback examinations of Masters memorabilia. And, oh my, if any of you CBS people have the audacity to laugh, even chuckle, at any of the Augusta National elements, beware. Jack Whitaker, in 1966, found out the hard way that one must not refer to the people surrounding a green as a “mob scene.” Goodbye, Jack. Gary McCord, in 1994, got his boot from the grounds by saying the Augusta greens looked “bikini waxed.” So long, Gary. It’s been good to know ya. Both were instructed never again to darken the hallowed halls of Augustan ivy. I’ll go on every year watching every minute of the coverage, every stroke of every player they choose to show. I’ll still thrill with the drama that takes place on that famous back nine on every concluding Sunday. But I’ll also still feel that pompous air exuding from this exclusionist band of men in green as they “allow” us to watch their tournament.

Sunday, April 14

Sunday at the Masters

What a strange turn of events at the Masters, and the strange reaction to what happened to Tiger in Saturday’s round. Tiger, on that interesting but daunting fifteenth hole, took an improper drop after his third shot into the green struck the flagstick and rebounded into the water. Some (mostly Tiger haters) would say it was only just after all the lucky breaks Tiger has gotten over the years. Some (mostly Tiger haters) would say he purposely cheated and should have been disqualified from further play, and even if there was a rule that allowed him to continue without disqualification, he should have manned up and withdrawn. How to explain why he purposely dropped his ball about six feet in back of where he’d hit the previous shot into the water. He’s just seen what very likely would have been a birdie turn into what very easily could have been a double bogey. He, without thinking it through, took a drop two paces directly behind his previous shot, thinking, without really thinking it through, that he could have if he’d wanted gone as far back on that line as he wanted. Who knows what thoughts would be stirring around in his head after that awful break when his shot hit the flagstick. In any case, it wasn’t as though he purposely cheated to gain an advantage. I mean, what advantage did he gain by dropping two steps back? None. Did he purposely cheat like the unethical duffer who uses his foot to kick his ball out of a bush? No. Did he gracefully accept his two-stroke penalty? Yes. Should he have been disqualified because he signed his card for a wrong score when he didn’t even hear about the penalty until way past the card-signing? No. That would be taking the rules to a stupid level, and many of the game’s rules are already at the stupid level. Should tv viewers be arbiters of rules violations? I remember Craig Stadler’s “building a stance” infraction when he put a towel on the ground for a shot he took from his knees. Stupid. I remember when Paul Azinger, standing in a water hazard, unconsciously pushed a rock aside as he prepared for a shot, two stroke penalty. Stupid. I remember when Roberto De Vincenzo in the 1968 Masters signed a card that was one stroke higher than he’d actually shot, denying him a spot in a playoff with Bob Goalby, and this at a time when television and all the talking heads in the announcers booths were keeping track of his score. Nope, sorry, Roberto. And Roberto said, “What a stupid I am to be wrong here.” Yep, that’s the key word here—“stupid.” How about a sports analogy: a baseball player in the bottom of the ninth slides into home plate with the winning run. Later, the umpires , in reviewing the video, see that he never touched the plate. So they take away the run and award the victory to the other team and tell the player that he’s being disqualified from playing in the next game. There you go: STUPID. I can’t wait to hear what the talking heads have to say on this, the eve of the final day at the 2013 Masters.

Thursday, April 11

Dentistry & American Idol

I went to the Midwestern Dental School today for another of what seem like an endless series of dental appointments. But the price is very right and the two students who are assigned to me . . . or I to them, are very nice, Dan and Dave, two young men who will go far in dentistry. It’s been nearly a year since I first went to them to see what they could do with my awful bite. So now I’m in the process of having a full upper and partial lower made. I’m so looking forward to finally having a true bite again, because for that near year I’ve not had at all a satisfactory bite. I manage to get food down, but it’s easiest with soft stuff like mashed potatoes, chocolate shakes, soups, chocolate shakes, spaghetti without the meatballs, chocolate shakes. As you can probably see, if push came to shove, I could very easily live on chocolate shakes. While I was sitting in the lobby, waiting for Dan to come get me, I noticed a woman sitting across from me, her left leg crossed over her right, left leg vibrating at about a thousand beats a minute. I’m not sure how she was able to keep up that pace without any conscious effort. But it reminded me of something I’d read a long time ago, that women who unconsciously give their crossed leg the rock and roll treatment are actually unconsciously masturbating, just as women who love to horseback ride are less in love with the horse than with the saddle horn, and trotting is better than walking or galloping. Did I really read that or did I make that up? If it’s true, then a lot of ladies out there could verify it. If I made it up, then I must be a dirty old man.

I swore a few years ago that I would never, never, never again watch American Idol. And again this season I’m watching it. I have in the past ranted and raved against Nicki Minaj both as a singer and as a ridiculous person with that ridiculous makeup and hairstyle. But, lord help me, she makes a lot of sense in her comments about the performers and their performances, much more than Mariah Carey, who can only lapse into lengthy word searches, as she tries to out-comment Nicki. Of course, I still can’t stand Ryan Seacrest, and I still hate Randy Jackson’s “Yo, Dog.” But now that they’re down to the last six, it’s sort of interesting, especially with the five remaining women doing so well, especially Kree Harrison and Candice Glover. A sign that the voting is as much a popularity contest as a talent contest, Lazaro Arbos is still there, and he shouldn’t be. And even his most ardent supporters have to let him go after that pathetic performance last night. If he doesn’t go, then I swear I’ll never watch another A.I. ever again. I swear it. But I and most viewers can see Kree and Candice as the final two, with Kree probably winning it all.

Wednesday, April 10

The Masters

I just watched the tv coverage of the par-3 tournament at the Masters, a nice prelude to the real tournament that begins tomorrow. The course looked magnificent, the Georgia weather looked ideal, the greens looked impossibly fast—good omens for the four days ahead. It was fun to see some of the young players having a pre-tourney ball alongside some of the oldsters there—Jack Fleck, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer. Even Ben Crenshaw. But Ben isn’t really an oldster. His snaggly teeth simply make him look like one. Surely he’s made enough money from golf to get those teeth fixed. Then there are the bellies on Jack and Arnold as they sort of tottered from tee to green. It saddened me to see them wearing their ages so obviously. Jack Fleck could hardly walk, let alone swing a golf club. Gary Player was still as slim as ever but his swing was suspect. Jack had a hitch or two in his swing he never used to have. And Arnold, who hit practically every pond on the course, must have nearly run out of golf balls, and his walk to the ninth green was a study in slow-motion wobbles. It saddens me to realize that I’m six years older than Jack, two years older than Gary, eighteen years older than Ben, and only five years younger than Arnold. I look in the mirror and see myself in their old visages. Then there’s Augusta National to make me forget my age. What a place that is, one of the most carefully pristine and beautiful spots on earth. And most of the people there, either competing in the tourney or just observing it, are the most carefully pristine and beautiful people on earth. I’ve yearned for a chance to be there for one of these contests, but I never made it and never will. It’s one of the toughest tickets in the world of sports. Every year I submit my name for the lottery drawing for two tickets and every year I lose. So I’ve resigned myself to the television coverage, as have nearly every other golf fan in the world. I can hardly wait to see what sort of magic will unfold. This tournament has more viewers world-wide than any other, and not just golfers. Everyone seems to be interested in what goes on there. It may be the beauty of Augusta National, with its birdsong and floral bounty. It may be the tradition involved and the fact that it’s played on this and only this course, unlike the other majors. It may be the drama that builds for four days up to that dramatic final nine holes we all know so well. Will one of the old guys actually pull it out just as Jack, with putter raised high and tongue between front teeth, did in 1986? Will Rory win his third leg of the grand slam? Will Bubba repeat his out-of-the-woods magic? Will Phil make good use of his new 3-metal driver and win his fourth jacket? How will Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old from China, fare? Will one of the Europeans pull it out—Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, or Lee Westwood? Will it be an Asian such as K.J. Choi or Y. E. Yang or the young Japanese phenom, Ryo Ishikawa? One of the peculiarities of this tournament and its tradition is that it’s a very limited field, only some forty or so of the field of ninety-three with any kind of chance to win it. Drop the old guys who get to play because they’re past winners—Watson, Crenshaw, Stadler, Lyle, Mize, Woosnam, O’Meara, Langer, Couples; drop several others who may not yet be old but whose current play says they can’t win it—Mike Weir and Jose Maria Olazabal; drop the four amateurs. What you have left are the ones I mentioned above and one other—yeah, right, Tiger. Will Tiger’s sterling play so far this year let him win his fifth Masters, his fifteenth major? Is he really back and is he really the number one player in the world? Against this very limited field, I’m guessing the answer to all these last questions is . . . YES!

Thursday, April 4

North Korea & A Few Reviews

Disturbing images on the news these past few days—knee-locked fanatics stomping along the streets in Pyongyang. I was reminded of German troops in 1940 similarly marching in Berlin, goose-stepping past their mad leader. I recently referred to Kim Jong-un as a stupid young man embarked on a stupid course that could ignite the entire world in that conflagration we have imagined in our worst dreams for more than sixty years. But I now realize he’s more than just stupid. He’s an egomaniac who cares only that the world recognize him as a great leader, doesn’t care a whit that most of his people live in poverty on the edge of starvation. The entire world should be alarmed by Jong-un’s reckless behavior, his bellicose words. We should send Dennis Rodman back to him to offer the young man his vast wisdom. No maybe not. If we did we’d have two cuckoo birds in Pyongyang instead of one.

How about a few comments on recent television shows and one movie? I began watching Top of the Lake, Sundance channel's new drama set in New Zealand. My, but that's an interesting premise and plot, interesting and disconcertingly confusing. Elisabeth Moss plays a young detective who, on a short visit to her ailing mother, signs on to find a missing girl, a pregnant twelve-year-old. I remember Elisabeth Moss from West Wing as the president's daughter Zoe. Then she made a big splash on Mad Men, a series I didn't care enough about to watch. My mistake, I guess. Then there's Holly Hunter as GJ, a really strange leader of a battered women's group. But then, Holly Hunter has always gone for strange roles: Ada McGrath, the mute in The Piano; Edwina McDunnough in the Coen brothers' Raising Arizona; Penny in the Coen brothers' Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?; and Grace in that oddball tv series Saving Grace. Top of the Lake is set in backcountry New Zealand, beautiful scenery, complex relationships between the characters, all sorts of plot strands and conflicts. I'll continue to watch it, hoping the confusion will pass, the connections between people and times become clear. Then there's that other series I wrote about a week or so ago, The Americans. I can't figure out who to root for, the spy family, the bad guys, or the FBI agents trying to deal with Russia and the cold war, the good guys. But then, the bad guys don't always seem so bad and the good guys don't always seem so good. I guess I'll just keep watching to see how it's all resolved. Now, the movie, Admission, with Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, and Lily Tomlin. I guess I'd go see anything Tina Few was in. She's a really funny person. And I wasn't disappointed with Admission. The comedy was subdued but funny, the laughs relying more on the interaction between Fey, who works in the Princeton admissions office, and Rudd, who is head of an experimental high school, than on the sophomoric sexual and toilet humor of too many comedies these days. Rudd is trying to get Princeton to accept a really bright boy from his school, an autodidact with extemely high test scores but a lousy resume. And mix in Ringydingy Lily Tomlin as Fey's oddball mother and you have a proper mix for an interesting two hours at the theatre.

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