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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, January 28

Breaking Bad


This is my 800th blog post. My first post was September 2, 2009. Whoa! That's over four years ago. I guess 800 nicely rounds out my 80 years. I wonder if I'll be up for another 800 posts . . . or another 80 years. Probably not. In both cases. Writing a blog is sort of like the selfie photos people take with their cell phones, a narcissistic exercise in trying to get attention. Please forgive my narcissism. I hope I haven't bored anyone. I hope I've had some faithful readers. In either case or in any case, here comes number 800.

Thanks to NetFlix, we recently climbed aboard the Breaking Bad bandwagon and though the ride can be bumpy at times, there’s no way anyone is going to get us off until we see the final segment. And, thank you, Breaking Bad, for not feeling compelled to insert background music. No musical intrusion as with too many television series, NCIS the most obvious offender. We don’t need a musical score to lead us by the hand to appropriate emotional responses. It’s like comedies that try to elicit laugher by sticking in a laugh track. Don’t need it, don’t want it. Breaking Bad has received more critical acclaim than any other show. We now understand why. The writing is excellent with unexpected twists and turns in plot development. The characters are excellent, three-dimensional people with all the warts showing. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a good man whom circumstances turn bad. He’s a high school science teacher who has lung cancer and has huge medical bills and, his doctor assures him, only two years to live. To accumulate enough money for his medical expenses and a nest egg for his family after he dies, he embarks on a career as a meth cooking drug lord.
The viewer likes him even though he’s doing great harm to those who buy his product. He partners with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), a pot-head ex-student. The viewer likes Jesse despite his drugginess and unsavory meth dealings with really unsavory drug distributors. All the characters have good and bad sides. Skyler White (Anna Gunn), Walter’s wife, is forty and expecting a surprise gift of a baby girl. Her sister Marie (Betsy Brandt), married to DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), is a kleptomaniac. Hank, although working on the side of the good guys, is an unlikeable loudmouth. We’re only finishing up the second season, and we can’t wait to see the rest of the story. Breaking Bad is really Breaking Good.

And speaking of good television, we can’t wait for the return of The Americans and The Bates Motel. In the old days, a series would run for nearly eight months before hitting us with a cliff-hanger finale, then go off the air for four months before returning to get us off that cliff. Yeah, eight months on and then four off. Now, a series like Americans and Bates runs for only ten or twelve episodes before saying goodbye for what feels like forever. One needs a really good memory to wait for six or eight months before picking up their stories when they return. I guess what we should do is wait for NetFlix to make them available and then watch them in a NetFlix marathon. Too much to see, too little time.

Sunday, January 26

Super Bowl Sunday


Sunday, sweet Sunday. Clear skies, calm air, and mid-seventies. Life here in Arizona is just too good. Then there’s the upper tier—the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois—freezing. The Northeast and Southeast, freezing. California, burning. New Jersey shoveling snow out of the Super Bowl stadium. I still don’t understand why the powers-that-be decided to schedule this game for a wintry east coast. I think a cold venue might favor a defense over an offense, therefore Seattle over Denver. I hope that doesn’t prove true. I want Peyton Manning to prove that he’s the greatest quarterback ever. He deserves it. Next Sunday. Should be fun. And the Phoenix Garbage Can Open will lead into it. Possible as many as half a million people will go to the TPC party. Lots of beer, lots of screaming and jeering at that infamous par-3 16th. This is the hole where players like Bubba Watson actually encourage the fans to shout as loud as they like when the golfer is in his backswing. It’s the hole where the caddies race off the tee to see which can get to the green first. The PGA officials have tried to put an end to this race because of the danger to the caddies, lugging a very heavy golf bag as they run. I think the caddies may decide to continue the practice despite what the officials say. Next Sunday should prove to be a fun day—football and golf. What more could I ask for? Well, I guess I might ask for a celebratory pizza. That would be nice.

Wednesday, January 22

Academy Awards 2014

Another Oscar night on the horizon. It seems like they appear more often than once a year. Or maybe it’s because we have so many award shows leading up to the Academy Awards: The People’s Choice, The Golden Globes, and the SAG Awards. And all of them give us a feel for where the voting is going. This year’s crop of films seems more bountiful than in recent years, and, I’m happy to say, I’ve seen all of the nine nominated for best picture. It looks like American Hustle will win it, even though I don’t think it’s the best of the year. My alternate pick is Gravity, but too many voters will think the story was too thin to win. I loved Her, but even Scarlet can't make it a winner. A lot of the votes will go to 12 Years a Slave, partly because it was a very good film, partly because a bunch of the voters (mostly white) will feel guilt over the awfulness of the slavery issue depicted in it, and will vote for it out of shame. Maybe I’m wrong on that, but it seems we still can’t, as a nation, free ourselves from that awful time in our past. Even though we get closer and closer to a total acceptance of all people regardless of the color of their skin, we still have a black/white issue. And that issue will show its ugly head in the voting for this year’s best film, maybe even extending to the voting for best actors and supporting actors. My dark horse pick is Dallas Buyers Club, but that one shows us a time in our past that a lot of us would rather forget, the HIV and Aids epidemic in the Eighties that took so many lives. But damn, did McConaughey and Leto ever carry that picture, which is why I think Matthew McConaughey will win best actor and Jared Leto will win best supporting actor. The best actor category has five people, any of whom could win and no one would think it was an upset: Christian Bale is great in Hustle; Chiwetel Ejiofor is great in 12 Years a Slave; Leonardo DiCaprio is great in Wolf of Wallstreet (Leo the actor is great, the character he portrays is disgusting); and Bruce Dern is great in Nebraska. So, who’s going to win? The odds still favor McConaughey. The five women up for best actress are equally excellent, but of the five, Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine should win in a walk. But then, there’s always Meryl Streep in the rearview mirror. Best supporting actress is a little more confusing. Julia Roberts in August: Osage County will probably win just because she’s Julia, but Sally Hawkins from Blue Jasmine might sneak in there. That leaves best director. David O. Russell will probably win for American Hustle, but I think Steve McQueen will win it for 12 Years a Slave. I don’t have a clue about all those other categories. We’ll see on March 2.

Tuesday, January 21

Mobridge, South Dakota


Isn’t it odd how we can never truly cut the ties to the place where we grew up? Every time we return to our South Dakota hometown, Mobridge, we see so many changes that it no longer seems like our town, and we both say we’ll never return. But we do. High school class reunions have in the past been the reason to go back, and we still had relatives living there, and a few friends from the past. But every year there were fewer and fewer friends, fewer relatives, and the rolls of our two graduating classes kept diminishing, and most of those still alive were too fragile to make the trip.

On our last trip there, for my sixtieth reunion, I had an afternoon free from social obligations, so I drove west across the bridge and over to visit Tatanka Iotake on his granite pedestal, known to most as Sitting Bull. With only the nearby monument to Sacajawea, Indian guide for Lewis and Clark, to keep him company, he’d be really lonely sitting there looking out over the vast waters of the Oahe Reservoir, created by damming the Missouri River of my youth. His monument was placed on the western bluffs about where the old highway bridge used to be when it was crossing only a river, the highway then climbing up to the prairie above.

Now the bridge and the river were only pictures in my memory. The wind was chilly and I had juice left in my camera for only one or two more pictures. So I took a shot of the water with Mobridge in the background. Then I picked my way down the old trail leading to the water, where the bridge used to be those many years ago. How strange. The remnants of the two-lane highway looked much narrower from side to side than I remembered. I got to the bottom—sure enough, littered with beer cans and bottles, a condom or two. So I took a quick peek and turned around. So much for nostalgia. On the way back up, I thought about the times I used to drive up to Sacajawea’s monument to park and neck with one of the girlfriends from my youth. But looking back on it from the vantage of my seventy-plus years, that probably wasn’t so great either—much wider in memory than it must have actually been: all those fumbling moves, the anxiety, the runny noses from our omnipresent winter colds, my ignorance of sex and affairs of the flesh. Now they’re all gone along with the bridge and the river of my youth.

Friday, January 17

Nebraska


I felt like a kid back in 1939, seeing The Wizard of Oz for the first time and being so disappointed at the black and white of the opening scenes, having looked forward so much to my first experience with the new-fangled Technicolor. But then Dorothy and Toto landed in Oz and the magical colors began. We just saw Bruce Dern in Nebraska. It could have been filmed only in black and white. From Billings, Montana, to South Dakota and down to Hawthorne, Nebraska. It could only be in black and white. The starkness of that prairie land, the desolation of those little towns along the way, the shabbiness of the houses and Main Street stores. It had to be in black and white. People not from one of those Midwestern prairie states wouldn’t be able to identify with this film the way that I and Rosalie could. After the closing credits, when we were all leaving the theatre, we heard people all around us telling others what state they were from—Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, the Dakotas—and chuckling over their shared memories of growing up in places exactly like Hawthorne, Nebraska. Just as the Coen brothers had to make Fargo in black and white, Nebraska also had to be. Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) was also a study in black and white, with wispy feathers of gray hair blowing in the chill winter breeze, gray scraggly beard, enough gray nose hair protruding that it could have been braided. And all the relatives were black and white characters, with black and white lives behind them and black and white lives in front of them. Aside from the many laughs the audience got from Woody’s foolish quest to get the million dollars he thought he’d won, this was a most depressing film depicting empty lives and lost dreams. The landscape featured fallow fields and deserted backroads, leafless black trees silhouetted against gray skies. Woody’s wife Kate (June Squibb) and their two sons David (Will Forte) and Ross (Bob Odenkirk) visited the old homestead house outside of Hawthorne where Woody was born and grew up. It was a shell with broken furniture and peeling walls and I could almost smell the dust and mold and decay. It was like Woody’s life, empty and decaying and just waiting to collapse. Three adjectives for this film: funny, good (especially Dern’s depiction of Woody), depressing.

Thursday, January 16

Her


The question, really, is about love—what it is, what makes it a peculiarly human affliction. We went to see Her yesterday. I loved it, Rosalie hated it. She couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me why she hated it, just that it seemed so unlikely that someone could fall in love with a computer. Then she added, “But you seem to be in love with your computer, all the time you spend with it. So I guess that isn’t so farfetched.” But back to love and how it relates to Her. The story is set in a not-too-distant future in which Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) works in a place much like Hallmark, where he writes letters for people who hire him for that task. He sits all day in front of a computer, talking to it, having it write in the buyer’s handwriting, on individualized stationery, what the buyer, apparently, can’t say for himself, at least not as feelingly and beautifully as Theodore can. That’s pretty much what Hallmark cards now do. Her seems to be set in a time when there’s no more poverty and everyone walks around with an earbud (much like what we now have with Bluetooth buds) and tiny computers they look at and converse with (much like what we now have with the proliferation of Smart Phones). It’s a world where people can play video games with 3-d images on holographic devices hovering in the air in front of them (much like the increasingly realistic video games we now have). Theodore is in the middle of divorce proceedings and isn’t yet able to finalize the divorce. He just can’t sever his ties to the woman he once loved. He’s a loner who lives more inside his computer than in the real world outside. He sees an advertisement for a new computer app that would give him a personalized voice called OS1 (operating system) that would be at his beck and call. Everyone who signs up for this service is assigned a voice that was personalized just for him. Theodore’s OS calls herself Samantha (the voice of Scarlet Johanson) who tells him she has just read through a book of names and chose that name because it sounded nice. It took her just under one second to read the entire book. They converse, he learning about Samantha, she learning about Theodore (with a lot of help from his e-mails and his biographical details stored on the internet). She has a voice that sounds delightfully human even though he knows she isn’t really real, a voice much like what we have now with Siri, the computer voice that speaks directly to the one using a computer or driving a car, writing what he says, giving him directions to places, setting reminders of meetings and appointments. Raj, in The Big Bang Theory, fell in love with Siri, and we laughed at his naiveté. What we see in Her is a glimpse of what we might have in the near future. I can’t think we’re so far behind a time when the technologists and computer nerds won’t be able to create an artificial intelligence with access to the world’s knowledge, a being that can think and learn on its own, relating to humans just like another human relates. A long time ago, Isaac Asimov wrote about this very thing in his I, Robot series. Current television shows consider the same things in Almost Human and Intelligence. This movie was all about love. What if I were a blind quadriplegic, unable to see or touch or feel the one I was communicating with. Could I possibly fall in love with that being? Is a physical relationship necessary for two people (or artificial beings) to fall in love? Could I love more than one person, or voice? Would I be jealous if that voice I loved told me he/she loved more than just me, like maybe as many as 687 others (as Samantha tells Theodore)? Good questions, and ones we’d better be prepared to answer, because this kind of future is just around the corner, just a day or two away.

Tuesday, January 14

August: Osage County


I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to catch up on all the new movies I want to see, especially the ones that are getting Oscar attention. I flipped a few coins and decided to see August: Osage County. I mean, how can one forego any performance by Meryl Streep? And as a bonus, the side dish Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts. Osage County, Oklahoma, flat as a prairie can be and desolate as tired wind through telephone wires. It takes place in a dark, beat up farmhouse, Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) stumbling down stairs to confront her husband Beverly (What kind of parents would stick a son with the name Beverly?) who is hiring a young Native American girl to care for his ailing wife. Her face is pasty white and wrinkled, her eyes red-rimmed, her hair gray and ratty like someone had cut it with sheep shears. We learn that she has cancer of the mouth (How appropriate and symbolic is that?) but she retains her shrill, nastiness when she speaks to Beverly. Flash forward to Beverly (Sam Shepard) going out on a nearby lake and drowning himself. Flash forward again to the arrival of three daughters and their significant others—Barbara Weston (Julia Roberts), Ivy Weston (Julianne Nicholson), Karen Weston (Juliette Lewis), Charlie Aiken (Chris Cooper) and his wife Mattie Fae Aiken (Margo Martindale), Violet’s sister, Bill Fordham (Ewen McGregor), Barbara’s estranged husband, their daughter Jean Fordham (Abigail Breslin, no longer “little Miss Sunshine”), and Little Charlie Aiken (Benedict Cumberbatch). They have all except Little Charlie just returned from Beverly Weston’s funeral. It’s a family get-together that echoes Tennessee Williams, O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey, Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. The food and dishes fly everywhere, the verbal bombs from one member to another find their marks, and Violet Weston is shrillest and strongest (according to her own assessment) of them all. She is hooked on prescription pain medication and she smokes almost continuously, almost sexually admiring the smoke and flame of her cigarettes as she prepares another volley to fire at her children and her sister. It’s one screwed up family. The review in Entertainment Weekly made two points about this movie with which I must agree: the distance between an audience and the actors on stage in the Broadway play could better cope with the invective than a movie audience having to see and hear these people close up, face to face (and not very attractive faces at that); and I found myself simply watching these people more as actors than as people in Osage County, Oklahoma. Meryl Streep is a great actress, but I kept thinking about all the gestures and facial tics as pre-planned. The same was true of the others, a great cast doing some great acting. But I was unable to willingly suspend my disbelief. Streep will certainly be nominated again for this role, and she may even win it. But I’ll be rooting for Cate Blanchett for her role in Blue Jasmine.

Monday, January 13

Jack Jones


One of my favorite male singers (second only to Old Blue Eyes) is Jack Jones. When I saw that he’d be performing at the Arizona Broadway Theatre, I couldn’t resist, even though I knew he was now an old dude like me and probably could no longer sing very well. Right on one count: He’ll be 76 tomorrow, and his hair is a piled-high drift of snow and his gait has one or two hitches, but he stayed upright and sang for just over ninety minutes. Not bad for an old dude. And I was wrong on one count: He can still sing up a storm. All the high notes were still there, all the sustained notes, all the volume he needed. Before he came on stage, we were treated to a twenty-minute tape of his career highlights—clips from some of the movies he’d made and tv guest appearances, an especially good segment singing with a very young Shirley Bassey on one of his signature songs, “Here’s That Rainy Day.” Then he appeared, backed by piano, bass, keyboard, and drums. A few oldies mixed in with a bunch I’d never heard him sing. Highlights included “Wives and Lovers” for which he’d won a Grammy. He explained that he’d gotten a bunch of letters from various women’s groups pleading that he never again sing that song because it was so demeaning to women, painting them as only housewives while their husbands went out to earn the living. You know, “Wives should always be lovers too, run to his arms the moment he comes home to you.” He thought he should write new lyrics for it: “Hey, little boy, cap your teeth, get a hairpiece.” And a sensational set of two from Man of La Mancha, “I, Don Quixote” and “The Impossible Dream.” Later, he told us about the time he went to Paris to record songs by Michel Legrand, especially one with lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and I knew what was coming, maybe the best set of lyrics ever written, “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” The entire audience sighed as one when he began. His closing featured a medley of two that said something about our need for world peace, John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Julie Gold’s “From a Distance.” It was a wonderful evening of songs by one of the greatest voices in the modern era.

Sunday, January 12

Practical & Impractical Jokes

My sister sent me a book for my first Christmas in Korea, H. Allen Smith’s The Compleat Practical Joker. That was in 1953 and I had just turned twenty. She and I had very similar senses of humor and she was sure I’d appreciate a book of practical jokes. Smith, in his forward, suggested that probably the first such joke wasn’t so much a joke as it was an attempt at physical humor, but humor only for the joker, but a kind of cruelty for the jokee. It’s the “goose,’ a gesture as ancient as man. Some people are goosie and some are not. It’s always the goosies who get the goose bacause that’s what the gooser finds delightfully funny—to see someone leap in anguished frenzy when someone sneaks up behind him and jabs, or gooses, him in the butt. I think it’s a joke for bullies, in that same category as giving someone a wedgie or stuffing him in a locker or giving him a swirlie (head in toilet), noogies, pantsing, nipple crippling, towel snapping, wet willies and putting a “kick me” sign on the back. A catalogue of Three Stooges stuff. True practical jokes don’t have to rely on cruelty to be funny. Smith tells of a time when he decided to tie a piece of string around his ear with the other end in his mouth. He wanted to see how many people would notice it and if anyone would ask him why. He could go whole days with everyone secretly looking at him but no one asking. Finally, aboard a plane, a young man came up to him and asked him, hesitatingly, what the string was for. Before boarding, a friend of Smith’s had given him some kumquats to take home with him. On the spur of the moment, Smith explained that he was involved in an experiment to see how certain fruits affected the gastric process and that he and his colleagues had each been assigned a citrus fruit, each to eat nothing but that citrus for a week, with a tiny gold bucket attached to a string and lowered into the stomach. Once a day he would retrieve the bucket and send the contents to a lab. His assigned fruit was the kumquat, at which time he took one out of his pocket and offered it to the young man. The joy of the joke was in considering how the young man would spread the story to his friends, and they to other friends, the story of the strange scientist who had a gold bucket in his stomach.

Saturday, January 11

Card Tricks

Mr. Wizard reminded me of other card tricks I’ve known across the years. About sixty years ago, when I was in Korea, an army buddy showed us a trick in which he had one of us select a pair cards from ten sets of pairs he laid out facedown. The chooser was to memorize the two cards. Then he picked them all up and laid them out, face up, in four rows of five cards each. Then he asked which row or rows the two cards were. Then he told us what the two cards were. Amazing. How did he do it? I finally paid him $20 to reveal the secret. You have to understand, twenty bucks sixty years ago was a bunch of money. And, in this age of the World Wide Web, I could have found the answer without paying out good money. But then I thought it was worth it. I was young and stupid. What did I know? The trick depends on four words: bible, atlas, goose, thigh. In putting out the cards, the trickster places them on a grid conforming to those four words. Whatever row or rows the person says will contain the ones duplicated in the letters of the words. The trick is to put out the cards as fast as possible without looking like there’s any pattern to the layout. That takes practice. And without knowing the words, there’s no way anyone can see how it’s done. I got the four words for five buck apiece, and spent a lot of time practicing the grid. The old con games with the walnut shells and 3-card Monte take the same kind of practice, but I was never very good at either of those.

Another game my wife and I played at parties in the past had me lay out six, eight or ten cards, face up in two or three rows. I’d send Rosalie out of the room, then have someone choose one of the cards. She’d come back and I would then touch each of the cards and ask her which one was chosen. She would tell us the right card. We could do that two or three times before someone told me not to touch any of the cards. Okay. So when she came back, she could still point to the correct card. This could go on for up to an hour. At first, when I touched the cards, I would touch whichever card had the same number of pips as the pattern of the layout, touch the pip that corresponded to the card chosen. If there were ten cards, I’d lay them out in three rows, four in the outer rows and two in the middle, conforming to the pips on the ten that I’d included in the laid out cards. When the tricked person decided that the secret lay in the way I was touching the cards, I’d agree not to touch them. But when Rosalie came back in the room, she’d surreptitiously look to see how I was holding a cigarette (in those old days when folks still smoked indoors at a house party)—pointing left, right, or neutral to indicate which row, fingers holding it at top or bottom or part way in between to indicate which card in that row. The same could be done with a pencil or pen. Ah, the good old card-trick days. Now I have to trick myself into going to sleep and waking up.

Friday, January 10

Mr. Wizard

Another strange middle-of-the-night memory. Why on earth do I too often half awaken at 3:00 a.m. and have my mind wander hither and yon? Last night, I thought about my daughter Laura, who would occasionally call me and ask to speak to Mr. Wizard. These calls were often years and years apart, and I remember panicking, trying to remember what I was supposed to do. Mr. Wizard is an old card trick you may have used or had used on you, and it’s one of the all-time best amateur (non-magician) tricks ever devised. Lots of card tricks have to be pre-planned or set up before springing them. But Mr. Wizard is all set up and ready to go any time or any place. Here’s the simple explanation for those not familiar with this trick. The phone rings. Laura says to me, “Hello, can I speak to Mr. Wizard?” at which I stumblingly say slowly, “Ace, two, three, four . . .” etc. Laura interrupts at the proper spot by saying, “Yes, Mr. Wizard?” and I say, slowly, “Clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades.” She interrupts, again at the proper spot, and says, “There’s someone here who would like to ask you a question.” She gives the phone to the one being tricked and the charade continues, with me speaking in a spooky, portentous voice, something like, “You wish me to tell you what card you’ve chosen? Are you looking at it and envisioning it? Ah, I see that it’s the seven . . . of clubs.” The tricked-upon usually screams, “Oh, my God! That's incredible! How’d you do that?” Then I add a few spooky comments about needing a rest after that mental exercise and hang up. Good trick, especially if it can be done without much time passing between our exchanges. And it’s especially impressive if there’s no preliminary situation or party where such a trick is introduced. For example, let’s say you’re sitting in a bar and you hear some strangers discussing clairvoyance or telepathy and you casually interject that you know someone who can read cards from a distance. And then the game begins.

A few years ago, Laura called me to pull this trick on her manager at a day care school where Laura was working. The woman was astounded at my telling her the card she’d chosen. But then she persisted with other questions, like how many children did she have. I guessed at two (a likely number) and she said yes, that’s right. And then I went on to tell her that one of them had recently asked her advice about something. A good guess since nearly all children ask for a parent’s advice, even though they then never take it. She excitedly told me all about it. I didn’t press my luck any further with my clairvoyance and made my telephonic escape. Laura later told me the woman wanted to know how she could contact this Mr. Wizard for a further fortune reading. Needless to say, Laura never told her it was just a trick. I miss Mr. Wizard. I wish I’d get a call from daughter Laura asking for him. Now that I’m old and forgetful, I’d probably really screw up the routine, but it would be nice despite the stumbling screw up.

Thursday, January 9

Winter Olympics 2014

Soon we’ll be watching countless hours of Winter Olympics coverage in Sochi, Russia. Let’s just hope it isn’t marred by any terrorist suicide bombings such as has been going on there this past week. I have yet to figure out why rational people would do such things. But then, they aren’t rational to begin with. These games will be without Lindsey Vonn, who wisely decided that her knee just wasn’t up to the downhill stress. This year I’ll probably watch less of it than I have in past Olympics. There’s just so much I can’t relate to or understand—like the luge (flat on the back aboard a tiny sled, feet first, hurtling down a track at frightening speeds, the winner after two runs determined by tiny fractions of a second), the skeleton (just like the luge only belly down and headfirst), the biathlon (that strange combination of cross country skiing and rifle marksmanship), and curling (a little like watching paint dry). I’m really interested only in the figure skating.
Oh, how I used to pull for the lovely Michelle Kwan, who could never quite win the gold. Skaters from the past remain vivid in my mind: Peggy Fleming and her aristocratic beauty, Dorothy Hamill and her Hamill-cut hair, square-faced Katarina Witt, the nasty Tonya Harding in her feud with Nancy Kerrigan, tiny Tara Lipinski, the whirling Kristi Yamaguchi, athletic Brian Boitano, the back somersaulting Scott Hamilton, and, of course, the sensational dance pair of Jayne Torvill and Chistopher Dean doing “Bolero” in 1984. But I’m sure I’ll watch some of the speed skating and the gymnastic tricks of the snowboarders. Just can’t get as excited about the winter games as I do the summer games. And now no Lindsey Vonn. And, please, you maniacs, don’t blow anyone up.

Tuesday, January 7

BCS BS

The end of the BCS bullshit (BCS BS), and it ended with a most exciting game between the Auburn Tigers and the Florida State Seminoles to earn the right to call themselves the best college team of 2013. Auburn deserved to win but lost it in the last minute and nineteen seconds when the Seminoles took it on a long drive to a winning touchdown. Auburn had only to stop them somewhere in that final seventy-nine seconds but couldn’t get the job done. That’s the difference between winners and losers. Winners come through in the clutch and losers let it happen. But at least we’ve seen the last of the BCS. Next year we have a four-team playoff which will be a much fairer system for determining a national champion. I have to comment on the Seminoles: In an age when Native Americans object to the name of the Washington Redskins, the Atlanta Braves , and the Cleveland Indians as demeaning to them, why isn’t there an equal disapproval of the Florida State Seminoles?
Anyone attending the game and not an FS fan or watching it on the tube had to be really sick of the continuous tomahawk chops and Native American chanting from the Seminole fans. I know I was. Also, while on the subject of college and pro football, why must so many players have to scream and pound their chests and do a little dance whenever they’ve made a tackle or sacked the quarterback? It’s like they’re playing to the camera, “Look at me! Look at me! I’m soooo good!” Why not just get up and get ready for the next play? I think all coaches—high school, college, NFL— should make it a point to discourage such behavior, maybe even take the miscreant out of the game or at the next practice make him run a hundred laps or do a thousand pushups. Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals is a perfect example of what behavior should be. When he catches a pass for a touchdown, he quietly hands the ball to the referee and then goes on about his business—no spiking the ball over the cross bar on the goal posts, no pre-planned dance or celebration. Just a “This is my job, this is what I do, so let’s get on with it.” That’s classy. Thank you, Larry Fitzgerald.

Sunday, January 5

I'm Back with Pot & Wolf of Wallstreet

Okay, so I couldn’t take even a full week off. Blog writing becomes addictive, and I’m hooked. I thought I’d run out of topics but there is no end to possible topics. And I’m still seeing movies and reading books that I can review. And local and national and world news still has enough stories about stupidity and stupid people to keep me in fodder for a long time to come.

One of the top recent stories has Colorado making pot legal for recreational use. And that’s probably just the beginning as more and more states will likely follow suit. It remains to be seen if this will result in increased addiction to what was an illegal substance, which may lead to more people moving on to the harder illegal substances. Cigarettes are legal. Do they cause smokers to move on to heroine and coke? Booze is legal. Does it cause drinkers to move on to harder stuff? In both cases I don’t think so. Nor will legalizing pot lead to a nation of pot heads.

And speaking of potheads, I just saw Leonardo DiCaprio, as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, doing coke and ludes as though he was in druggie heaven. Whoa, three hours of nudity and F-bombs and drugs and booze and money in every scene. DiCaprio did his best imitation of Jack Nicholson’s brazen, screaming self as he sold and scammed his way through Wall Street, igniting his fellow stock salesmen and women to pick up those phones and sell, sell, sell penny stocks that netted them all 50% of the stocks’ values. The audience couldn’t figure out whether to root for him or despise him. But what a salesman he was and what an energetic hip-hop three hours of acting on his part. If you can’t stomach almost continuous bad language and nudity and graphic sexual intercourse, don’t see this movie. But if you want to watch DiCaprio strut his acting stuff, go see him as the Wolf of Walstreet.

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