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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.

Tuesday, December 31

New Year's Eve

I said I was done blogging for a while, but I just can't leave the year hanging without saying goodbye. So, goodbye, 2013. Sorry, but I won't miss you. You provided me with too many aches and pains and too many trips to the dentist. Will 2014 be any better? I certainly hope so.
Another day of bright sunshine and calm air, just like we’ve had for about the last week. How nice to live here in Arizona while the rest of the country is in a deep freeze. And it’s the end of another year. We’re having a steak and potato for dinner, after which we’ll probably watch a few Big Bangs and catch up on Major Crimes and Rizzoli and Isles before toddling off to bed around 10:00. Such excitement for us old folks. And tomorrow Rosalie is going to 4-Paws to care for her kitties and I’m going to feast on more football. Last night I watched the ASU Sun Devils look more like moondogs, losing to TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, and it wasn’t even close as TCU wanted it more than the moondogs did. Too bad they had to look so bad on national coverage. But the Suns simply destroyed the Clippers in LA, winning it handily by nineteen. Now, after only thirty games, they’ve won as many as Las Vegas picked them to win for the whole season. Wow, I wish I’d put some money on them before the season began. But hindsight is always better than foresight.


Sunday, December 29

Time Out & American Hustle

I seem to be all tapped out of things to write about. I don’t know if it’s just me or if it’s a lack of subject matter. The year is grinding to a conclusion; the nation is slowly returning to financial stability despite all the screaming about the Affordable Care Act; the NFL is moving into playoff mode with the Cardinals getting screwed out of a playoff spot; new movies are still grist for my mill but I’m sick of reviewing them; our three kitties are all nearly into adulthood and give me nothing new on which to comment; and all my old-age aches and pains are too painful to broadcast. So I guess I’ll take some time off to reinvent myself, or to regain some mental vigor (“Vigor” rhymes with “rigor.”)
But before I momentarily retire, I have a few comments about a film I saw yesterday. The critics are almost unanimous in their acclaim for American Hustle, but I felt a little like I’d been the one who was hustled. I hated the plot, which had me confused from start to finish, but I loved watching the five principals strut their acting stuff, especially Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld, a tubby, balding 1970’s con man. And Amy Adams, with her boobs hanging out for most of her scenes, as Bale’s fellow con-person and lover. And Bradley Cooper as Richie DiMaso, a curly-headed eager-beaver FBI agent who cons the con team into helping him con assorted politicians and mobsters into wiretap confessions of their larceny. And speaking of 70’s coifs, at the movie’s start, Bale spends several minutes carefully doing an intricate comb-over with a super-glued hairpiece, and Jeremy Renner, as Mayor Carmine Polito, has a pompadour that would out-pomp Elvis. Jennifer Lawrence is interesting as Bale’s screaming Jersey wife who sticks her nose into the final con and disrupts the whole game. A good movie for watching everyone trying to win Oscar nominations, a good movie for enjoying the music of the 70’s and the hair and clothing styles of that period. But the story left me empty.

Thursday, December 26

Christmas Day & Light of the World

Christmas Day with clear skies and rising temperatures. A very nice day in the Valley, and the promise that soon, after too much to eat and too many house guests, we’ll have the holiday behind us. There just seems to be too much festive pressure this time of year, with carols assailing us at every turn, with too many concerns about buying friends and relatives gifts they truly want or need, with too many conversations competing for center state, with endless strings of Christmas specials on the tube. I sound more and more Ebenezerish in my dotage, but I must confess I’ll be happy when January one is here. I want my quiet, regulated life back. And then 2014 will be hurtling by, marked Super Bowl, March Madness, the Masters, and so on until I’ll be peering ahead to Thanksgiving and Black Friday and then you-know-what. And so it goes.

No one writes about evil the way James Lee Burke does—evil men and evil deeds. I’m just beginning his latest Dave Robicheaux saga, Light of the World, in which a trio of men seem to form a dark triptych of evil. It’s set in Montana, where Dave and his daughter Alafair and his good friend Clete Purcell and his daughter Gretchen are visiting a retired English professor. And soon we meet three men who out-devil the Devil: Bill Pepper, a sheriff’s deputy with a mean streak several miles wide; Asa Surrette, a serial killer that Alafair tried to interview for a book she was writing; and Wyatt Dixon, who may or may not have tried to kill Alafair with an arrow that just missed her head. Another good Burke read with the typical nod to Faulkner and his Southern Gothic voice even though the setting is now Montana. Here’s a part of his opening commentary: “Police officers keep secrets, not unlike soldiers who return home from foreign battlefields with a syndrome that survivors of the Great War called the thousand-yard stare. I believe that the account of the apple taken from the forbidden trees is a metaphorical warning about looking too deeply into the darker potential of the human soul. The photographs of the inmates at Bergen-Belsen or Andersonville Prison or the bodies in the ditch at My Lai disturb us in a singular fashion because those instances of egregious human cruelty were committed for the most part by baptized Christians. At some point we close the book containing photographs of this kind and put it away and convince ourselves that the events were an aberration, the consequence of leaving soldiers too long in the field or letting a handful of misanthropes take control of a bureaucracy. It is not in our interest to extrapolate a larger meaning. ¶ Hitler, Nero, Ted Bundy, the Bitch of Buchenwald? Their deeds are not ours. ¶ But if these individuals are not like us, if they do not descend from the same gene pool and have the same DNA, then who were they and what turned them into monsters?”

I can't wait to see how Dave and Clete deal with these three badasses.

Friday, December 20

Holiday Greetings, 2013

Here we are again, with several changes to my usual Holiday epistle. In this age of electronic communication, sending out Hallmark cards seems too old fashioned, too out of date, too expensive, too unnecessary if all I’m going to do is send a card with our names attached—no news, no personalization. In my case, no letter of time passing and technological advances, no complaints of cell phones and cell phoners (or should that be, cell phonies?) who continue to chat while driving, or worse yet, text while driving. I think I say pretty much what I want to say on this blog, so I won’t bend any ears or tweak any noses here in this greeting.

Isn’t it odd that even the word “holidays” expresses an archaic meaning for this modern age? Holidays, holy days. Now this season seems more concerned with gift giving and receiving than with any holiness. More’s the pity. Even the attached card is my unconscious inclusion of unholy things—Christmas trees and Santa Clauses and presents and cute little mice and kitties. No sign of any silent nights or oriental kings or figures on a cross. Forgive me for that oversight. And forgive me for going back to a card I put together when we still put up trees and swept up needles and sent out tardy seasonal cards.

To all of my regular readers as well as those who might stumble onto this blog, I wish you a Merry Christmas, but I also wish you a more holy Christmas, one in which we all spend more time being thankful for world peace, for friends, for a holiness we need to hold onto in difficult times. Oh, and by the way, may your new year be bountiful and peaceful.

Thursday, December 19

Obituaries Again

At the end of September, I ruminated about obituaries and how I was affected by them. Well, I'm ruminating again, saying much the same thing I said almost three months ago. Forgive me my repetition. Lately, I’ve come to examine the obituaries in several papers, not looking to see if I’m listed but to see if I know anyone there. My hometown paper, The Mobridge Tribune, usually has only two or three deaths notices a week, and since I no longer know most of that town’s residents, I hardly ever read about anyone I know. But school classmates are mentioned even though most of us relocated as soon as possible after graduation. We still feel a connection to that tiny, dusty South Dakota village located on the banks of the river by which it got its name. My youth was so Huck Finnish. One by one my classmates fall. I think we’re now down to about half of the original fifty-eight, shrinking each year by one or two. I wonder which one of us will be the last man or woman standing. And when that time comes, will the one of us return to our roots for a one-person reunion on the Fourth of July? Probably not since the last one would probably not be standing . . . or walking . . . or even crawling. And the old hometown would no longer even slightly resemble the home we once knew. I have better luck finding obituaried people in our local news (Better luck?). We Sun City Westerners drop with great regularity. The sounds of our local firemen rushing to the site of a rescue call fills the air four or five times a day. We always mutter to ourselves when we hear that claxon call, “Well, there’s another house for sale.” I even check the large Phoenix Independent. The odds against my spotting anyone I know are about the same as winning that megamillion lottery we just had. But I look anyway, just to check out the ages at which those people died, comparing them to my own numbers. I also glance at the small section listing the birthdays of well-known people. I saw today that Cicely Tyson is a year younger than I. And Jennifer Beals is now fifty. Oh, the humanity. It was only a year or so ago that she was Flashdancing. And Brad Pitt hit fifty a few days ago. Whoa! I remember as if it were only yesterday when he rode with Thelma and Louise in their ill-fated Thunderbird convertible. I’ve noticed that most of the listings are for ages under fifty, and I don’t recognize most of them. I’m sure that one of these days I won’t remember why I’m examining the obituaries. Or maybe not even remembering what an obituary is.

Monday, December 16

Three Movie Reviews

A few quickie reviews.

I saw 12 Years a Slave almost three weeks ago and couldn’t figure out what to say about it. Critics have raved about the acting, especially that of Chiwetel Ejifor as Solomon Northrup, a free black violinist in 1841, and Michael Fassbender as Master Epps, the brutal, strangely dual-personality Louisiana plantation owner who winds up with Northrup when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. The movie was difficult to watch as director Steve McQueen gave us a no-holds-barred view of this country less than two hundred years ago, showed us what atrocities some whites could inflict on other human beings with a completely blind eye to their inhumanity. It was a film that we needed to see, just in case any of us forgot what a horrible institution slavery was. But I can’t see the acting of Ejifor or Fassbender as being academy award worthy. Good, but not great.

Then there’s Matthew McConaughey’s performance in Dallas Buyers’ Club. Wow! He’ll certainly be nominated for best actor, maybe even win it. Just picture him as we saw him in some of his other films: Mud, The Lincoln Lawyer, A Time to Kill, Reign of Fire, and two of his better known romcoms The Wedding Planner and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. About six feet tall, maybe 185 pounds, a handsome hunk who likes to take his shirt off. Well, he lost 45 pounds for this role as Ron Woodroof in Dallas. That’s a bunch of weight, to go down to about 140. He was portraying Woodroof, a racist homophobe in 1985, a boozer, a smoker, a womanizer, a snorter of cocaine. And when he was admitted to a hospital for an injury, he was told he was HIV+ and had only about thirty days to live. He set out to prove the diagnosis wrong. He talked a hospital orderly into selling him AZT pills, the drug that was then in trial status. It was soon discovered that large doses of AZT was as toxic and dangerous as it was an aid to the treatment of Aids. The drug-supplying orderly gave him the name of a doctor in Mexico who was treating Aids patients with other FDA non-approved drugs. And then he started smuggling large quantities of these drugs back into the U.S. for his own use and to sell to other Aids patients. When he found out how illegal such sales were, he began a club called the Dallas Buyers’ Club, to which people could join for a monthly fee and then get his drugs free. And all the while he has this running battle with the FDA. But he ran the club for seven years before he died. A gritty story about a gritty subject, but McConaughey played it to the hilt—scrawny, bleary-eyed, pale, dying. And by the end he had come to understand and even like most of his fellow Aids victims, especially Rayon, played brilliantly by Jared Leto, a transgender victim who helped Woodroof in his drug club. Jennifer Garner was also in it as Dr. Eva Saks, but hers was only a bit part while McConaughey and Leto will both probably be nominated for best awards. Oh yes, and an odd fact about McConaughey: he’s afraid of revolving doors.

And finally, To Catch a Thief, with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. Amazing how our memories of old movies can be so different when we see them at dramatically different times. I remember getting High Noon from Netflix a few years ago and couldn’t believe how hokey it was. I was remembering it as one of the great films I’d ever seen. And then the reality of fifty or more years later. It just wasn’t very good. The same can be said of Mr. Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. It was supposed to be suspenseful, as are all of Alfred’s flicks supposed to be. But instead it was slapsticky silly. Bad acting, silly story. Now I’ll have to get Rear Window and The Birds and see if they are also silly and unsuspenseful. Sorry Mr. Hitchcock wherever you are.

Sunday, December 15

Sunday and The Boys

It’s a Sunday, with the day dawning clear and calm, a bit chilly, but what I think of as chilly anymore really isn’t when one considers how frigid the rest of the country is. Thinning blood, creaky bones. And for the first time I’m playing Christmas music. Right now I’ve created a Pandora station of holiday music to play on my back-room television. Right now, Mannheim Steamroller is quietly giving me their rendition of “Silent Night.” I guess ten days before the event is about right for the barrage of carols we hear on nearly all radio stations, the holiday specials on the tube. Jimmy Stewart is once again finding his wonderful life, and Frosty is melting all over the ether. Hallmark has a new one tonight, Finding Christmas, and I know if we watch it that I’ll tear up during the commercials. Such a sentimental marshmallow I am. What seem like a hundred or more bowl games will soon begin making their ubiquitous appearances. Lots of NFL action today but nothing of interest in golf, the Franklin Templeton Shootout and the Father/Son Challenge. Whoopie do. The real golf season doesn’t get started until the AT&T at Pebble Beach in February and the match play World Golf Championship at the end of February here in Arizona, the Cadillac World Championship in Florida in early March, and Arnie’s invitational in late March. Then the Masters in April and another year of golf from then on, with Tiger trying once again to win a major. I hope he does just to quiet the talking heads who keep saying they doubt he can win another.

Our two boys, Tiger and Tuffy, are now almost six months old, kitty teenagers and no longer the terrible twos they were just a few months ago. But they’re still driving us crazy. This year we’ll have a non-decorated Christmas—no tree, no table stuff like the fat snowman we got a decade ago, no strings of lights hanging anywhere. The boys would have everything on the floor just after we put it up, chewing on Mr. Snowman, on the downed light strings, on the upended tree. We love them dearly, and they’re so very sweet . . . when they’re sleeping. But when they’re awake, oh my. Yesterday morning while I was golfing, Rosalie heard a loud crash in the laundry room, rushed there to find the million glassy remains of a Mason jar in which she’d kept tiny multi-colored glass beads. The boys had discovered it on the window sill behind our freezer, and one had climbed up on a nearby paper shredder, then leaped onto the window sill and decided to see what would happen if a curious paw could move the jar thing to the edge. And down it came to the tiled floor, with glass shards and glass beads everywhere—under the freezer, under the washer and dryer, into the food and water dishes, into the litter box. I’m so sorry Rosalie had to clean it all up. I’m so glad I wasn’t here to witness the devastation.
And Charlie just sits and watches these two bad boys, shaking his head at their misbehavior. He’s such a good fellow. And Tiger and Tuffy will soon leave their teens and become responsible adults. End of childhood and into manhood. Sort of sad to see them leave their kittenhood, but then, as with our own children, it was nice to have an empty nest. This won’t be an empty cat nest, but we’ll be able to put trinkets and trees out again without worrying that the boys, now men, might pull anything down to see how much noise they can make.
People who aren’t owned by dogs or cats don’t know what they’re missing. A few years ago, Rosalie’s sister Bonnie, who died last year at ninety-five, spent a horrific five months alone in her house during an unusually cold winter, alone except for occasional guests dropping by, the television that she seldom watched, the local radio station telling her about local news and local weather. Not really much company on those long winter days and nights. If she’d only had a dog or cat to share her house and time. Phyllis, Rosalie’s other sister, lived alone in her apartment for the last twenty years before she died recently. How much fuller her life would have been is she’d had a cat or dog to greet her whenever she went for a walk. Dogless or catless people just don’t know what they’re missing.
Just look at the sleeping Tiger, resting in his favorite spot. Isn't he sweet? (As long as he's sleeping.)

Thursday, December 12

Billy Collins

I forget if I ever shared this poem with anyone. My good friend Anne Smith sent it to me a few years ago and I just discovered it again, momentarily lost among the million documents I’ve saved on my computer. It’s too good and too relevant to someone my age not to share it with others who may have been touched by a friend’s or relative’s dementia or Alzheimer’s. Billy Collins was appointed as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003, and, according to one of many Google searches, is the modern equivalent of Robert Frost. Since I’m an ardent Frostian fan, I think I may have to find more of Billy Collins’ poetry. But then, I may forget what it was I was looking for.

“Forgetfulness,” by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Saturday, December 7

Gray Clouds, Silver Lining

Yes, there really is a sun behind all those gray clouds. Yesterday was cold and ugly, as it was all over the country. And it put me in one of those ugly gray funks that pose too many questions without any answers. I wrote that gray piece about good and bad death and what lies beyond the dark conclusion to life. Pretty depressing, right? I went back to my memoirs and read what I had to say several years ago about my religious and philosophical beliefs, and I found them refreshingly cogent. Enough so that I’m going to include them here.
* * * * * *
I was a science fiction addict, so religious explanations of the universe never made much sense to me. It was provable scientifically that our planet, Earth, was a tiny insignificant little speck in the immensity of the universe, third planet out from a tiny insignificant little star set way off in a corner of our galaxy, the Milky Way, one of an infinite number of galaxies in the immensity of time and space. That we could be the only intelligent life in that immensity made no sense to me. I always believed that we created God in our own image, not the other way around.

And as for our souls and what happens to us after we die, I always believed that we would live again in the next closest to us genetically. If I had one son, his mother and I would be combined psychically in that son. If we had more than one child, we would be spread out among them. But there would be a continued consciousness evolving and spreading out into the future. Walt Whitman said something like that in Leaves of Grass, that our individual spirit is one speck in an ocean of spirituality and that when we are born we are removed from that pool and placed here in this physical space for the length of our lives, to be returned to the spiritual pool when we die, to await our next time in life. Reincarnation, yes, but not involving insects and lesser animal species. But I take it one step further and believe the human connection must be more direct, a genetic connection, not a random placement.

James Hall, in his novel Buzz Cut, paraphrased from the Tibetan Book of the Dead: “The soul when set loose from the body begins to roam the dark plains of afterlife searching for some speck of light. Finally seeing it, moving toward it, then entering it as the sperm enters the vagina and battles its way up the hostile twists of tube to reach the great mother egg. A dead man wanders until he sees his new parents, then reenters the world through their moment of great pleasure. Becoming a child again, a disembodied scream. All of it starting over and over and over.” I think that’s pretty much what I’ve believed all my life, but never said it so well.

What, then, is God, or some creative force? I don’t believe there is a single creative force. I think life began at some distant time and that all life is a combined force that evolves and spreads out in many different forms in many different parts of the universe. That life force is Godhead. I’m a part of it, everything that has life and motion is part of it. The substance of our universe isn’t part of it anymore than the husks of our bodies are a part of it. When we die, the shell that held our spark of life returns to the substance from which it came. But the spark returns to the body of the life force—Whitman’s pool of spirituality.

Most people haven’t really thought it through and instead let their church or church leaders do their thinking for them. They accept on faith what the church tells them, the church’s explanations of life and death and good and evil and the nature of the universe. Most of them are afraid of death and need the comfort of a social organization to lessen their fears. Most of them believe that good people attend church and evil people don’t.

I believe in the humanity and teachings of Christ. I believe that there is evil in the universe and that we have to combat it through a universal or personal code of ethics, a morality we need to work at and to pass on to our children. Christ was a messiah, a messenger who brought that code of ethics for us to follow. But he wasn’t a messenger from God. He wasn’t the son of God. And he won’t be reappearing tomorrow or any tomorrow thereafter.

Death makes little sense to me. I’ve often thought, if there really is a God, that he must be an unfeeling bastard, allowing the bestiality we read about in the papers every day, allowing the unfair deaths and tragedies that occur all around us. And cruelest of all, the span of our years is like some awful practical joke. Just when we become skillful physically or mentally, just when we’re able to answer most of the questions we asked throughout our lives, it’s time to die. This is the plan of a God who pulls wings from flies. About a quarter of a century ago, Peggy Lee made popular a song called “Is That All There Is?” When I first heard it I thought it was the most cynical, despairing, darkest set of lyrics I’d ever heard. It was, still is, but the words are becoming more and more personal. Is that all there is? Just this ridiculously short span of time without any meaning and then an eternity of nothing? I hope not. But I guess I won’t really find out for sure until it’s too late to report back to the living.

Life, even though painfully short, beats the alternative. Even when we become so weary we’d like to get off the train, we can’t. Somewhere I read that life is like dancing with a gorilla. You don’t stop when you get tired, you stop when the gorilla gets tired. So I guess I’ll just keep dancing.

Friday, December 6

The Grim Reaper

More and more often, my body keeps reminding me that I’m getting old. No, not “getting” old; I AM old. Every morning, Arthur Eyetis wakes me up and then screams at me as I prop my weight on an arm to hoist my aching body out of bed. The shoulder aches, the lower back moans, my feet tingle. I take two ibuprofen every morning, along with a handful of other meds, and they keep me relatively pain-free throughout the day. I feel like I’m relatively healthy compared to a lot of the oldies I see at Safeway or at Hole-in-One, the restaurant where we breakfast quite often. I see them shuffling to the restroom, tiny steps, backs hunched over their walker, faces contorted with the effort. But lately I notice a sway in my gait, and the gait is a lot slower than it used to be. Now that I’m an octogenarian, I’m thinking more and more about that exit door just down the hall, with the green ripper behind it waiting for me. A little girl in one of John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series overheard her parents talking about the Grim Reaper and thought they were describing some green monster who ripped people apart, thus the Green Ripper. I don’t envision any ripper or black-cloaked figure with a scythe. I know death is a kind of farewell, a closing down. But what comes after? I don’t believe in God, at least not the God of any of the world’s religions. No heaven, no hell, no limbo.

Some deaths are better than others. My father fell dead from a heart attack, one moment here, next moment gone. That was a good death even though too soon at sixty-eight. My mother lived ninety-four years, taking care of herself even though legally blind for her last decade. She fell and broke a hip, was hospitalized, and never recovered, dying within a week and a half. A good death. Brother Dick drowned in a motel pool at eighty-five. A tragic death, but quick, a good death. You get the idea—the time between relatively good health and death should be short, quick, not agonizingly drawn out in some hospital bed or in a wheelchair in a Golden Bridge assisted living place. “Golden Bridge,” now there’s a misnomer if I ever saw one. A bad death is that one just described, mind and memory gone but blood still pumping. When the quality of life dips below what is acceptable, we should be given the right to say goodbye. My sister-in-law, ninety-two, is presently caught in that awful corridor between acceptable and unacceptable life, for two years gradually succumbing to Alzheimer’s. That’s my idea of a bad death. We should all have an off button somewhere handy, a button we could hit when life is no longer acceptable. I know, I know. What if we no longer have a mind to determine when that time comes? Ay, there’s the rub.

Thursday, December 5

The Mentalist


Like a lot of us who, for five and a half seasons, have faithfully followed The Mentalist’s Patrick Jane in his obsessive quest for Red John, we were pretty sick of all the weekly mention of this badass who not only killed Jane’s wife and daughter but countless others. Finally, finally, even the writers had had enough and decided to let Jane find him and kill him. Good riddance to bad rubbish, as we used to say in my youth. But the series never made clear how RJ could have enlisted the number of people in his evil doings, never made clear why RJ decided to kill Jane’s wife and daughter, never made clear what would happen to the RJ followers when RJ was gone. And most curious of all, after Jane strangles RJ and calls Teresa to apologize for what he’d gotten her into and to tell her goodbye, suddenly two years have passed. The folks at the CBI have been scattered to the winds: Teresa Lisbon is now in uniform as a police chief; Wayne Rigsby and Grace Van Pelt, now married, are heads of a security firm; Kimball Cho is now in the FBI; and Patrick is now beach bumming on an island somewhere south of the border, sort of just waiting around until he can figure out a way to get back into the U.S. Two years. We went from what we presumed was the present to a time two years in the future. While Jane is bumming, he meets Kim Fischer, a teacher there on the island for a short holiday break. They connect and agree to having dinner together. Then Jane is severely beaten by a local drug dealer’s thugs, after which Kim takes him back to his room and leaves him to return to the U.S. Apparently, Kim (an FBI agent, not a teacher) and Agent Abbott, the FBI agent who’s been tailing Jane for two years, will be recurring characters in the future, and Rigsby and Van Pelt will be shown the door. I’m happy to say that this new plot line is a welcome relief from the old line, almost like starting over with a new series starring Simon Baker as a new Mentalist. And then we’ll have two romantic possibilities the writers can milk for all they’re worth—Teresa Lisbon and Agent Kim Fischer. Should be interesting.

Tuesday, December 3

Philomena

We just saw the Judi Dench film called Philomena and were touched by her performance as well as by this story of a woman’s search for a son she’d lost to the Catholic nuns in Ireland fifty years before. The story was touching, maybe a bit tear-jerky, but I don’t mind having a few of my tears jerked or my heart strings plucked. Every now and then, we all need a good cry even if it isn’t for our own problems or heartaches. Dame Judi didn’t do anything phenomenal; she just showed us an older woman who lived a simple life and maintained her faith in God and the Catholic Church despite what they had done to her in her youth. I didn’t realize before seeing this movie that it touched on the reprehensible Magdalene Houses in Ireland in the first half of last century. One of the most vivid film memories I have is of The Magdalene Sisters, a black and white indictment of these Irish places that imprisoned young girls who had “sinned” in the eyes of their parents and the Catholic nuns who ran these houses. The women were kept under lock and key and made to work at chores like doing laundry for townspeople, and they were there for their lifetimes unless they could somehow find someone to bail them out for up to five hundred pounds, usually a sum that was impossible to come by. Philomena Lee had to stay there for four years, able to see her son every now and then as he grew up under the care of the nuns. Aaron, her son, when he was four, was sold to an American couple for a thousand pounds. Now, forty-six years later, she wants to find him, to see how his life has been, maybe to ask him for his forgiveness for having allowed him to be taken from her. She enlists the aid of a journalist, and together, they find him and learn the story of his life. The film may soon be forgotten, but my images of Judi Dench will be with me forever, just as those scenes from The Magdalene Sisters are with me forever. The filmmakers chose to do a lot of full face shots of her as she traveled with Martin in their search.
There she was, old face with lines and crags, eyes rheumy, but I could still see the young Judi Dench beneath the mask, the beauty she must have been in her youth. I’ll be pulling for her when the Oscars are announced.

Monday, December 2

Big Brother

I’ve been gone for a while, taking time out to play with my new toy, the iPad mini. So much to discover, so much to learn, so much to practice. I just can’t believe how complex this thing is. All you Smart phoners already know what these little gadgets can do—access the internet, get breaking news and weather reports, go on Facebook, watch popular YouTube stuff, watch movies and tv series episodes, get weather, financial trends, medical news, and all the porn one could ever desire. Well, I can do all that on my computer but I never thought I could do it on this tiny device. I tried using the on-screen keyboard for writing e-mails, but it was way too slow a process. So I went to the Apple store in our nearby Arrowhead Mall. Mobs of people there, all scrambling for the latest Apple stuff. I wandered, found the rack of keyboards, found an ultrathin keyboard for the iPad mini, tackled one of the very busy Apple nerds to see if this was what I needed. “Oh, sure,” he said. “That’ll work.” I said, “Okay, I’d like to buy it.” “Okay,” he said. “Let me get a sales clerk to check you out.” He handed me off to Carl and his seeing-eye dog Claire Bear, a friendly black lab who was content to be under the counter while his master took care of holiday shoppers. Carl scanned my purchase with his magic wand, then swiped my credit card on a small black device that looked like a cell phone. He asked me for my name and address and my e-mail address. I just had to ask him how he was entering all that info into his sales log without being able to see the keys. He gave me a Stevie Wonder smile and pointed to the ear bud in his ear. “The machine tells me when I pass my stylus over the keys which ones to hit.” Just plain magic, a blind man leading a blind shopper through a sale. I thanked him and hurried out with my booty, eager to get home and try it out. The technological advances, especially those in electronics, have been so sudden and so dramatic that I find myself speculating about the near and distant future. The exponential curve for such advance has become so steep, I think it may simply tip over and fall backwards. I envision a time when science may be able to install a small computer into a contact lens allowing a person to see what’s in front of him and also be able to speech-activate a retinal mini-computer. Or maybe they could simply implant it in the front of the brain. Instead of that bottle in front of me or the frontal lobotomy, a frontal computer. I see a time in our near future when electric autos will drive us to our destinations without our having to drive them. I see houses taking care of themselves without human intervention. I remember Ray Bradbury’s story from 1950, “There Will Come Soft Rains,” in which a house simply died after a nuclear war, with no one to instruct it. These houses of the future will be able to clean themselves, heat and cool themselves, turn lights on and off, play music low or loud, remind us of appointments and schedules, cook for us, do our laundry. All we’ll do is occupy them. Oh, wait, we already have such houses. I see a time when movies and tv shows will no longer need live actors, but will simply use computer processing to digitize characters and settings. Oh, wait, we can already do that. I see the demise of shopping areas, replaced by huge warehouses that take internet orders and deliver them to our doorsteps by tiny delivery drones. Oh, wait, I just saw where Amazon already has such planned for the very near future.

Meanwhile, as we become ever more able to film and save nearly every location and every person in those locations, we will lose any privacy we may have once had. Is this scenario for the future good or bad? I have no idea. But I’m sure Big Brother knows.

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