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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.

Wednesday, July 31

Euthanasia

Well, we did what we finally had to do. We took Squeakie to the vet, paid the fee, kissed her on the head, and said goodbye. It wasn’t fair to her or to us to put it off any longer. She wasn’t going to get better and we couldn’t get up every morning to see if she was still with us. This past week she moved less and less each day, unable to drink or eat or use the litter box. And for the last two days we were barely able to see that she was still alive: no more Squeakie talk, no more climbs up onto our bed, only a tiny twitch of tail and occasional blink of eyes. So, lot of tears, a few recriminations, but we’re now resigned to what had to be done.

Last January we were selfish in waiting too long to release our older cat Dusty, and were now sensible enough and kind enough to release Squeakie when we did. Too bad the same kindness can’t be given to people who have lived too long. The average life span in the US has risen to 78 for men, 80 for women., but in too many cases that life extension has people living non-quality lives: Alzheimer victims slipping slowly into vegetative states, comatose patients hooked up to life-sustaining machines, stroke victims physically and mentally incapable of anything but living in their heads. I think we should extend our present euthanasia laws to all those who no longer want to live. I remember Dr. Kevorkian and his legal battles regarding assisted suicide. I remember Karen Ann Quinlan and her vegetative state and her family’s battles regarding pulling the plug and how she remained a vegetable for another decade even after the plug was pulled. How would we tell who wants to go and who wants to stay? Have everyone given the legal option at any time during his life to state what his parameters are. In each state have a committee of five with the power to grant a death permission, the committee having to be unanimous in that decision, a decision that would override family members who might not agree with such a decision. If the patient has stated under what conditions he wants to be euthanized or allowed to die, why should anyone else go against those wishes? I know, I know, we already have “do not resuscitate” provisions, but that doesn’t cover all those who might not need resuscitating but who still aren’t living the way they want to live, too many people in our assisted living facilities who aren’t really living and who sit all day in wheelchairs hugging a doll or staring at some distant nothing, too many people who have lost the power of speech along with all their other bodily functions. No thanks to that, I say. I need to keep that bottle of pills handy, but what happens if I forget where they are? I need someone to find them for me. I need a Dr. Kevorkian. I need someone to acknowledge my desire to leave a life no longer worth living.

Monday, July 29

Squeakie


The little ones, Tiger and Tuffy, had to have their six-week shots today and they came home a bit groggy but none the worse for wear, just not their usual ebullient selves. Here they are dozing off the effects of the shots.
And then there's Squeakie, who isn't even squeaking anymore, just lying on our bed waiting to die. The people at 4-Paws told us that there was nothing they or we could do for her, just let her pass on her own as long as she's not in pain. But the waiting is painful for us. She's been with us for fifteen years, our little squeakie calico we brought home from 4-Paws fifteen years ago along with her buddy Dusty. Dusty was three years old then and we were always embarrassed when Squeakie would suckle on him. But if Dusty didn't care, why should we have cared? So we let her do it for nearly a year. Then she gave up her youth and quit the suckling. And now she's nearly ready to join Dusty in that big heavenly cat haven in the sky. Very soon now I'm going to have to take her to our vet, just as I did with Stephanie, who died just before we got Dusty and Squeakie. I remember the pain of having to take Stephenie in. I'd planned to sit with her when they gave her the shot, but I simply burst into tears when I handed her over to the receptionist. I just couldn't do it. I also remember the Dickinson poem that seemed so appropriate then, just as it will be again with Squeakie.

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth--

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity.

Here she is in better days with her good pal Dusty. This is my favorite picture of them.

Thursday, July 25

The Conjuring


When it comes to ghosts and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night, I’m pretty much a disbeliever. I say “pretty much” to leave myself an escape hatch in case I’m wrong. It’s also why I’m an agnostic rather than an atheist. You know, a two-door burrow in case there really is a God who might take note of my disbelief and send down a lightning bolt to dissuade me of my disbelief. Sort of hedging my bet.
Because the reviews were all so positive, we went to see The Conjuring, and I’m pulled in two directions—my skepticism about such things as exorcism and demonism and possession pulling me one way and my admiration for movies that are truly scary pulling me the other way. Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates in Psycho scared me. Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs scared me. And Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining scared me (but then, Jack Nicholson as Jack Nicholson is a pretty scary fellow). The Conjuring scared the crap out of me. The story is much like that in The Amityville Horror, a New England house seemingly possessed by ghosts and past crimes. And, as with Amityville, the filmmakers would have us believe these events are all true. Bah, humbug! I say. The film doesn’t need that to be effective. The house in Rhode Island is a wonderful set location, large, multi-roomed with all kinds of hidey holes, especially the hidden cellar the new occupants discover soon after they move in. In 1971, Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) have bought the house as a fixer-upper at a bargain price. Well, yeah, not many buyers for a haunted house. They and their five daughters move in and start to fix it up. It’s out in the boonies surrounded by huge creepy trees, with a dock in back on a silent creepy lake. Their dog Sadie on move-in day refuses to come in the house and is discovered a day or two later dead and bloody. No explanation for such a calamity, just there for us to imagine. To escape the boredom of their new country home, the girls play a game of hide and clap—the one who is “it” is blindfolded and must find the others who are hiding but must clap hands when the searcher says “clap,” three such requests all together. Ah, yes, all kinds of room here for ghostly skullduggery, and it’s creepily effective. There are enough spooky happenings (Carolyn’s unexplained bruising, a daughter’s sleepwalking, another daughter’s conversations with a dead boy) that the Perrons contact Ed and Lorraine Warren, two well-known paranormal investigators, to come investigate their apparently haunted house. Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) is clairvoyant and Ed (Patrick Watson) is the investigator. I love Vera Farmiga for her role in Up in the Air and as the fidgety Norma Bates in tv’s The Bates Hotel, but I love her equally in this movie. The Warrens come to stay at the Perron house and set up all kinds of recording equipment to document any paranormal activities, and they get plenty of opportunities, capturing video footage of one daughter’s being dragged around by her hair. All of it is quietly, spookily, scarily creepy. The final episodes are more violently creepy but are still effective. I think the best scary parts involve that really interesting house with all its cobwebby secret spaces and the creepy music box and that really creepy doll so reminiscent of Fats, the ventriloquist’s dummy in Magic.


Go see The Conjuring and enjoy the thrills and chills, ignore the implausabilities.

Wednesday, July 24

No News

Very little worth writing about these days. The weather around the country is still strange and stinky . . . or should that be “sticky?” We’ve had one haboob and one torrential rain here in the Valley, and the monsoon season has our Arizona air really hot and sticky . . . or should that be “stinky?” Enough of sticky stinky weather.

The world is enthralled by the arrival of Kate and William’s yet-to-be-named baby boy (ah ha, I just heard it's George. Surprise, surprise). And the Brits are going gaga over the arrival. I guess I’m conflicted about the idea of a monarchy in this day and age. It’s such an outmoded idea. What exactly does the royal family do? It’s not as though Queen Elizabeth and those that will follow her to the throne rule anything or govern anything. They’re just figureheads representing the past glory of the British Empire. Even that word strikes me as vainglorious—Empire—although I’m sure the rest of the world would view the United States as a kind of vainglorious empire. But our kings and queens are elected, not born to the throne.

I’m also conflicted about the concept of a Catholic Pope. He (or someday she?) serves the same purpose as a king or queen—sort of a figurehead of past glory, in this case that of the Catholic Church. I guess I just don’t understand the need or the desire to worship a figurehead, whether it’s a queen or a king or a new-born prince or a newly elected pope. Someday, in the near or distant future, we’ll see the end of both. These comments will probably raise the ire of a few Brits and a few Catholics. Or a boatload of Brits and a carload of Catholics. But I’m too old to care if I’ve offended anyone. Let me know if you’re offended or if you agree with me. I’d be delighted to hear from either side.

Sunday, July 21

The 2013 Open

Another Sunday at one of the majors, and another Sunday on which Tiger couldn’t play a Tiger round. As Paul Azinger remarked, Tiger doesn’t seem to have that youthful enthusiasm he used to have, all the uppercut arm pumps, all the smiles. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have much to smile about on these Sundays, and too few arm pumps, too many “goddamit”s, too many missed putts. I was hoping I’d live long enough to see him win that 18th major, but it now looks like I’d have to be Methuselah to see that happen and Tiger’s got only five or six more prime years. It was nice, though, to see the happy farmer win the Open for the first time. I call Phil the happy farmer because he always seems to be smiling that sappy smile and he walks like a farmer. What a final round he put together. He says it was probably the best final round he’s ever played and I and most of the announcers would agree with that. All right, Phil, now go for next year’s US Open.

Another update on Tuffy and Tiger, our two new kitties that have brought such sunshine into our lives. The day after Tiger recovered from whatever he had wrong with him, Tuffy came down with the same thing, couldn’t stand up, couldn’t walk, listless and crying whenever we touched him. And forty-eight hours later he was back to running and playing. According to the folks at the animal shelter, it seems to have been a 48-hour virus and isn’t all that unusual. Now why wouldn’t our vet have known about such a thing? Beats me.


Here’s a picture of two critters that are normally thought of as sworn enemies, but here they’re lovey-dovey. Don’t you wish all peoples could put their enmity aside, could hug and love each other despite genetic or racial or religious or national differences? We’ll finally realize world peace when that happens.

Wednesday, July 17

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

We went to the Arizona Broadway Theatre last night to see what turned out to be an amazing show. The word "spectacular" comes to mind, but even that doesn't do this show justice. The set design, the lighting, the costumes, the singing, the choreography--all were better than ever. Each production seems to outdo the previous one, and this one certainly did that. I think I'll let a real critic have his say. David Appleford, Phoenix film and theatre critic, raved about ABT and this show:

There’s a rumor that from time to time Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber is prone to secretly turning up at a production of one of his shows, unannounced, just to see how it was being interpreted and whether standards were being met. I’m not sure how true this is, but if this is the case, let me extend an invitation for the celebrated composer to drop by Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria to see what they’ve done with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He’ll not only be impressed, he may even be overwhelmed.

Joseph began life as a short production for a British high-school in 1968, but when Jesus Christ Superstar became a smash, Joseph was revisited, expanded, and has now become almost as popular as Superstar itself. And with good reason. It’s a bright, infectiously tuneful and at times, very funny interpretation of the famous biblical tale that virtually bursts with color and life, and that’s exactly how this outstanding production at ABT is being presented.

You have to hand it to ABT. It knows its audience and it has a clear vision of what its audience wants, but there’s something more. It also knows what its audience has now come to expect, and that’s a high standard of production way beyond anything considered the norm at a dinner theatre, but allow me to qualify that in case anyone thinks I’m down on dinner theatre. Quite the opposite. Yes, ABT is a dinner theatre and quite possibly one of the best in the country, but in the end, no matter how good the food and service is – which is first class, by the way – in the end, the show is the thing, and it’s here where the theatre truly delivers.

Watching Joseph come to life is like watching the sum total of everything the theatre has learned about production and presentation since it opened, and it has poured every talented trick into this one show. When going to the movies is becoming more expensive and less of an option due to content and style for many adults, theatre continues to deliver, and with this production of Joseph, ABT has now proved that beyond a doubt it is quite simply among the most accomplished of its kind anywhere in the United States. Having been to several and even performed in some, I feel quite confident in making such an exclamatory declaration without fear of contradiction.

Director Joseph Martinez keeps his production close to what is now considered the accepted standard book of Joseph, after all the various revisions, but he incorporates the occasional storytelling invention of his own. At the beginning, school children explore the cavernous Egyptian exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with flashlights, presumably on a school trip. Among them is our show’s narrator, the wonderful Laura Berger, who begins to tell the children, and us, the tale of Joseph, his jealous brothers, and how a young dreamer from humble beginnings went on to greatness. You know the story. Once the tale begins, part of the set rises and we’re instantly transported back to ancient Egypt.

The part of the narrator is demanding one. She not only has most of the songs but she needs to have the audience warm to her and her voice in order for the show to work. Often, those cast in this challenging part can occasionally sound shrill – Lloyd Webber didn’t exactly make it easy for the character – but Laura has an exceptionally gifted voice with an enviable ability to sing with such great clarity, I swear she surpasses any of the professional recordings of Joseph that I’ve previously heard, and there are many out there.

Ryan Michael Crimmins injects the right amount of naiveté required for Joseph. He’s a young man so thrilled with his coat of many colors and the ability to interpret his dreams he’s oblivious to the annoyance he causes among his brothers and has no clue of their jealousy. Ryan’s engaging manner and ability to sing – Close Every Door stops the show – is exactly what you want from Joseph.

Paul Black’s scenic design coupled with lighting designer Tim Monson’s ever changing array of colors is as captivating to watch as the performers themselves. In fact, all technical areas, including Tamara Diersen Treat’s colorful costumes, Kurtis W. Overby’s fun choreography, Adam Berger’s excellent music direction and Jason Lynn’s sound design, all add to make Joseph something quite special.

Go and see Joseph for yourself. It may well be one of the most satisfying nights of family entertainment you’ll have in a local valley theatre for some time. You’ll not only leave ABT with the broadest of smiles with the sound of the climactic Joseph Megamix still echoing in your head but you won’t know what song to start singing first on the car journey home.

Tuesday, July 16

Tiger Update

Rosalie took Tiger to the doctor and even he couldn’t figure out what was wrong. After extensive tests (expensive as well as extensive)—blood draw, three x-rays, temp taken, thyroid exam, infusion of fluids, and a shot to calm him (Tiger, not the vet)—Rosalie brought him home (Tiger, not the vet). The x-rays didn’t show any kind of break or injury. Now we have to wait to hear the results of the blood tests to see if that explains what was wrong. I’m happy to report that by evening he was able to walk . . . a little drunkenly, but walk nevertheless. And today he’s able to roam his new digs without all that mournful squealing he’d done at first. I’m also happy to report that Charlie and Squeakie have now decided to accept them . . . although a bit grudgingly. Give them all more time and I’m sure they’ll be buddies forever. I hope so. And we’re hoping that whatever affliction Tiger had is now past and he’ll be able to grow up healthy and strong. Isn’t that what we want for all our children, cats and dogs and humans?

Sunday, July 14

Tuffy & Tiger

Yesterday, Rosalie came home from 4-Paws with two kittens, two brother tabbies about six weeks old. At the shelter they’d been name Pinto and Poncho but we decided to rename them Tuffy and Tiger.






Here's Tiger:
And here's Tuffy:

Tiger is just a little bigger than Tuffy, but Tuffy is the more aggressive of the two. Are they ours to keep? Actually, we have them on a foster-parenting deal, keeping them until it’s time for shots and tutoring (we try not to use the n-word around them). But I ask you, are we going to keep these two for another four or five weeks and then take them back, telling the folks at 4-Paws that we decided we didn’t want them? Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. Squeakie sort of ignores them but isn’t afraid of them, but Charlie refuses to accept them and spends his time underneath our bed whenever the two interlopers are out and about. We put food and water and a litter box in our guest bathroom and keep them there most of the time, letting them out occasionally to get used to the house. Last night, while I was watching the D-Backs game, both of them slept on my lap for about an hour before I carried them into their new digs in the bathroom. This morning, Tiger had somehow hurt his front leg and didn’t want to walk on it. We can’t figure out how he could have done that. So on Monday, it’s off to the vet to see what’s wrong. We hope it’s nothing serious because we don’t want our 4-Paw friends to think we’re lousy foster parents.

Saturday, July 13

Calvin & Hobbes


It’s a really slow news day, at least for me. I just can’t seem to get too worked up with what’s going on in the nation or the world, so instead of commenting on the Zimmerman trial or what’s going wrong or right in Egypt, I’ll keep it light with some Calvin & Hobbes. I love peanut butter and I love Calvin, so Bill Watterson naturally had to give me both in one strip. I love what Watterson had to say at the bottom of this one: "Calvin will probably have trouble getting dates when he'd older." But then, Calvin will never get older, because time can pass ever so slowly for him.
And this one about the impatience of youth, especailly that of Calvin.
And one about political apathy.
And, finally, here’s one about modern art, especially the kind about which no one seems to know what to say.
There, hasn't Calvin made your day a little brighter?

Thursday, July 11

The Heat

Melissa McCarthy, in The Heat, came close to duplicating her role in Identity Thief--rough, foul-mouthed, slovenly. I didn't care much for her in Identity, almost no redeeming qualities, but I liked her in Heat. In Identity she plays a nasty felon but in Heat she's Shannon Mullins, a non-conforming but effective Boston cop. Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock), a New York FBI agent, travels to Boston on a drug ring case and has to team up with McCarthy. And it's not a happy union . . . at first. The two start out as personality polar opposites, agent Ashburn a hard-to-like, uptight, by-the-book ex-nerd. But, naturally, by the end they meet in the middle, both coming to admire the other. In fact, it was apparent throughout that the two of them got a kick out of playing these two dissimilar people, bonding in real life as well as in the film.
Only one part bothered me. There's a long scene in a grungy bar where they're doing shots of tequila (at Mullins's urging) and it goes on for the entire night. It was suggesting that real people can do shots and do shots and do shots without any ill effects except for a hangover. That gives young people a dangerous example to follow. One can't do shots for a whole evening. One tends to die. But although this wasn't even close to great cinema, it was certainly better than Identity Thief and was entertaining enough to warrent a trip to the theater. Besides, what a great excuse to munch popcorn.

Tuesday, July 9

Sketch Surprise

I had an unusual morning. Rosalie and I drove to the Kia dealer on 91st to have our annual maintenance on the car. We sat in the waiting room, Rosalie with a magazine and I with the latest Sandford Prey book (I never go anywhere without a book). A bearded man was sitting against a wall facing me, engaged in some kind of hand business with what looked like an I-Pad. Another game player, I thought, or a texter busy with messages to anyone who’d listen to or read it. Just before our car was ready, the man got up to leave.
And he handed me a pencil drawing of me, showing me intently reading my book. I was amazed and pleased, flattered that he found me worth his while. No one had ever before thought enough of how I looked to spend half an hour doing a portrait of me, albeit in pencil and hastily done. I thanked him and he handed me his business card,
the self-portrait on one side, his website and e-mail addresses on the other. Interesting man. You should check out his website and view some of the paintings he’s done. www.geraldruggiero.com.

Thursday, July 4

The Lone Ranger

Johnny Depp has played, in a wild assortment of outlandish makeup and costumes, nearly all of the odd characters in the past three decades of film—Gilbert Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (although it was only the name that was odd), Edward Scissorhands, Sweeny Todd, the Mad Hatter, Ichabod Crane, the pirate Jack Sparrow in The Pirates of the Caribbean series, Willy Wonka, John Dillinger, Barnabas Collins of Dark Shadows, and two cross-dressing oddballs (Bon Bon in Before Night Falls and Ed Wood in Ed Wood, about Hollywood’s worst director). And now, in perhaps his greatest odd character of all, his hilarious portrayal of the Lone Ranger’s Cochise sidekick Tonto. I wasn’t sure I’d like this modernization of the hero I grew up with on early radio and in early films about the Lone Ranger and his valiant horse Silver. But I was pleasantly surprised at how funny this version was, with Depp’s Tonto and the ranger’s Silver delivering most of the laughs. Armie Hammer was very good as the lawyer who became a Texas Ranger and then the masked lone ranger (although not alone as long as Tonto was at his side). The humor was set at the beginning when a young boy, in white cowboy hat and black eye mask, visited a carnival in 1933 to see a western display. And there, behind glass, was an ancient Tonto outside a teepee. The boy is amazed when the figure comes to life and converses with him, Tonto telling the boy about how he had come to know and ride with the masked man.
Quite a bit of Tonto’s face and head makeup were of Depp’s devising, the white paint with two black vertical lines from the eyes to the chin, the crow sitting above his head. But even without the garish makeup, Depp’s facial expression and eye rolling would have been a riot. Most of the action and stunt sequences had to do with two trains near the end of the track being laid to finish the east to west railway system. And much of the humor came from the craziness of those action stunts. The scenery was spectacular, the action frenetic and silly but exciting, and the humor mostly related to Johnny Depp. The audience was vocal in their laughter throughout and their applause at the closing credits For a fun filled afternoon or evening, go see The Lone Ranger.

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