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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.

Sunday, November 30

Coming Home & Wicked

We’re on the brink of December, and in only one more day we’ll tumble into the depths of the darkest month of the year, into too many carols and too much hoopla about Black Friday and frenzied shopping. I don’t mean to be mean as a Grinch about these holy days, but I’ll be glad when they’re over and we can begin a fresh 2015.

Here’s another Sunday in the Valley—clear, calm, mid-seventies. Sorry, folks up north, don’t mean to rub it in, but our days now are lovely and snow-free. So, what do I do on this lovely day? I sit home and watch too much football. But before that I went to Amazon and bought two albums, the original cast recording of Wicked and Kristen Chenoweth’s Coming Home. I just had to buy them because last night we watched the PBS special with Ms. Chenoweth’s return to her roots, to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, to sing for her old friends and her family. Was it a show-stopping WOW of a show? It certainly was. This tiny package of dynamite (only 4’ 11” and weighing about ninety) had us weeping at the quality of her voice and her choice of songs. She dedicated one to her old music teacher, who had told her when she was in high school and wanted to sing “My Coloring Book” that she shouldn’t try that song until she really understood what it was all about. So she sang it, demonstrating to her teacher that she now understood the heartbreak of losing a loved one. For another song, “For Good” from Wicked, she brought on stage a young high school girl to sing with her. Will that girl’s life be forever changed because of this duet? You bet. As will the lives of the high school chorus she brought up to sing with her.
I bought Wicked because I wanted the song “For Good” and because Idina Menzel’s voice is equal to Kristen Chenoweth’s and the music from Wicked is so very good. Now I’m hoping that the Arizona Broadway Theatre will put this show on its schedule for next season.

All right, time for some football.

Wednesday, November 26

Ferguson Looting

Black looters and rioters in Ferguson, Missouri, you’ve pushed back much of the progress in race relations that was won in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Remember when those protesters used Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” as their tactic to make us all see the injustices of racial bigotry? Passive resistance won the day. And now you’ve taken this grand jury decision in favor of Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown, as an excuse for killing police officers, burning police cars or any other cars that might belong to the hated white man, looting and destroying businesses whether owned by blacks or whites. Our legal system may not always be correct in its decisions, but as a nation of law we have to abide by those decisions even if they’re sometimes incorrect. There were other protest groups around the country who protested without resorting to looting and destroying. Black looters in Ferguson, you’ve given race relations a black eye that may take another forty years to heal. Let’s hope not.

Tuesday, November 25

Links to Other Places

I'm wondering how many of my readers might be interested is some of the other things I've written. I have a blog in which I write about my life, which may not be of any interest to anyone who doesn't know me, but I like to think it's pretty well written and might be interesting to anyone who does know me. If so, click here: Mobridge Memories. And if anyone might want to read any of my stories or essays or look at my posts on a blog I call The Caterwaul, click here: Doggy Dog Stories.
There are a number of links at the beginning of the stories link that will take you to all these other places. And if you think I'm being pushy trying to get you to read what I have to say, just ignore everything I've said so far. I'd hate for anyone to think I was pushy. Obnoxious, yes, but never pushy.

It's nearly Thanksgiving and we're looking forward to a day of giving thanks for all we have and for the feasting with our daughter and her son and his girlfriend, especially since she said she'd do all the cooking and cleaning up afterwards. And, of course, the NFL games to keep me occupied while she's doing all that cooking and cleaning up. And soon thereafter comes Christmas and New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, and . . . whoosh . . ., another year down the drain. I hope anyone reading this will have an equally thankful and bounteous day.

I'll end with a Thanksgiving tribute to our three cats and all the cats of the world.

Monday, November 24

LPGA, Arizona Cardinals, & St. Vincent

I watched the year’s final LPGA tournament, the CME Group Tour Championship, with $500,000 to the tournament winner and $1,000,000 to the final points winner. Lydia Ko, the amazing 17-year-old New Zealander, won the whole bundle with a four-hole playoff win over Julieta Granada and Carlota Ciganda. Seventeen. And she made it look nervelessly simple. Maybe when she gets a little older she’ll realize how tough it is to do what she did and her nerves will start talking to her, the cup start to shrink on those critical four and five footers. Or not. Maybe she’ll dominate the ladies’ tour for the next twenty or thirty years. I really enjoy watching the ladies because of their golf skills and because I’m a dirty old man and so many of them are very attractive. Granted, not all of them have beautiful golf games and not all of them are beautiful. But the overall skill level is so much higher now than it was thirty years ago. And the ladies are, for the most part, so much more physically fit. And attractive. One of the things I noticed, though, that I’d rather not have noticed is the way too short skirts and shorts some of them were wearing. Morgan Pressel wore really ugly, really short shorts, designed for her by Lilly Pulitzer. I’d have to ask Ms. Pulitzer why on earth she thought those floral and too short shorts were going to be attractive on the bottom of Ms. Pressel. They weren’t. Morgan Pressel was one of the most attractive young ladies on tour when she first appeared in 2006 and she still is, but not in those Pulitzer shorts. I hope when she sees herself in the taped coverage she’ll come to her senses.

After the golf, I suffered through an agonizingly bad game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks, with the Seahawks winning 19-3. I was pretty sure Arizona would lose this game, but I hoped they wouldn’t look as bad in the loss as they did. They’ll have to right their ship in a hurry if they plan to do any good in the playoffs.

And finally, a few words about the movie St. Vincent. Bill Murray did his Bill Murray thing and Melissa McCarthy did her Melissa McCarthy thing, and together they put out a semi-successful comedy about a slovenly smoker, drinker, gambler who, strictly for the money, agreed to baby-sit his new neighbor’s young son. Manchester is the neighbor and Oliver is the eight-year-old son (Jaeden Lieberher), who is probably the best actor in this movie and the one with the least experience. Murray teaches the boy all about the things most parents wouldn’t want their young son to learn—smoking, drinking, gambling on the horses, and ladies of the night. Predictably, the boy takes all the lessons to heart and then writes an essay about the one person who should be nominated for sainthood, Vincent de Van Nuys, Bill Murray, St. Vincent. Two and a half stars out of five. Good enough to see, easy enough to forget.

Thursday, November 20

News Observations

First, the snow. The whole country is being buried in the stuff, especially my old stomping grounds, Jamestown, NY, sixty snowy miles south of Buffalo. Lake effect snow was one of the reasons Rosalie and I came to the Southwest to retire, never feeling any great desire to return to that scene of all my back-breaking snow shoveling. But this November they’re experiencing snowfall unlike any we had during the twenty-five years we lived there. We’re talking all activity coming to a halt—schools, businesses, highways, everyone stuck in their homes until the snow stops coming down. I’m sure the ski resorts are happy with it, but they’d be the only ones. I saw on the news this morning that Buffalo will try to get the snow removed from their football stadium so that the Bill/Jets game can be played. Good luck with that.

Puzzling tv plot moves: Madam Secretary is suggesting that a president might be part of a murder plot; The Good Wife is showing us Alicia’s political campaign as ugly as campaigns in real life; and more Good Wife stuff—Kalinda can’t seem to decide which side of her bi-sexuality to take, and just sure as hell, Cary Agos is soon going to die.

Sad sad tv story: the voice of The Big Bang Theory’s Mrs. Wolowitz, Carol Ann Susi, has died after a long fight with cancer. Goodbye, Mrs. Wolowitz and Ms Susi, we’ll miss you big time.

Please say it isn’t true, Bill. One of our favorite tv dads is again being accused of rape and he remains silent. This isn’t the first time such allegations were made against Bill Cosby. In 2005, he settled claims out of court. And now, here we go again. Women are coming forward from all over the place to tell their stories about how Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them. His comment in a 1969 comedy sketch has resurfaced, that he was looking for some Spanish Fly to put in a woman’s drink. Funny, huh? No, ‘tain’t funny, McGee. The sheer number of his accusers seems to lend weight to the truth of these accusations. And that brings me to the problem of defining rape and sexual assault. This is a very scary dilemma. At what point in a sexual episode does that act go beyond consensual sex and into non-consensual sex? This is a really gray area, in all fifty shades of grey. How is using a drug such as rohypnol that much different than using mind-numbing amounts of alcohol? Ogden Nash joked about it a long time ago when he wrote “Candy is dandy / But liquor is quicker.” That isn’t nearly as funny now as when he wrote it, and it shouldn’t have been funny even then. When does “no’ become “maybe” or “yes” go back to “maybe” and then to “no?”
All very confusing, and it’s all part of the problem with rape and sexual assault cases. What is consensual and what isn’t? It also includes that oh so grey area in the work place, sexual harassment, generally defined as uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (as an employee or student).
Most people think of sexual harassment as men harassing women, but it can also be women harassing men, or men other men, or women other women regardless of sexual orientation. Confusing, right? Well, just look at this list of behaviors considered to be harassment:
•Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.
•Unwanted pressure for sexual favors.
•Unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching.
•Unwanted sexual looks or gestures.
•Unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature.
•Unwanted pressure for dates.
•Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions.
•Referring to an adult as a girl, hunk, doll, babe, or honey.
•Whistling at someone.
•Cat calls.
•Sexual comments.
•Turning work discussions to sexual topics.
•Sexual innuendos or stories.
•Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history.
•Personal questions about social or sexual life.
•Sexual comments about a person's clothing, anatomy, or looks.
•Kissing sounds, howling, and smacking lips.
•Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person's personal sex life.
•Neck massage.
•Touching an employee's clothing, hair, or body.
•Giving personal gifts.
•Hanging around a person.
•Hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking.
•Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person.
•Standing close or brushing up against a person.
•Looking a person up and down (elevator eyes).
•Staring at someone.
•Sexually suggestive signals.
•Facial expressions, winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips.
•Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements.
Now there’s a list to contend with. How can civilized nations finally put an end to sexual assault or harassment of any kind? When will we finally agree to protect each other’s personal rights in all areas, not just the sexual?

Tuesday, November 11

Interstellar

I’m a sci-fi fan from a long time ago, long before Star Trek or Star Wars or nearly all of the dystopian novels and movies that came out since 1960. I’ve read everything written science-fictionally about time travel and the relativity of time and worm holes and black holes and the search for habitable planets. And I’ve seen nearly all the sci-fi movies ever made. Well, it all came together in Interstellar, directed by Christopher Nolan, co-written by Nolan and his brother Jonathan. Well, maybe not all coming together. There were still a bunch of worm-hole questions that never got answered. But the visuals were spectacular with the scenes aboard the docking station that took them to the worm hole and the smaller exploratory craft that took them down to the surface of the planets they visited
, and the gargantuan tsunami wave that overtook them on the first planet they visited to the frozen planet where they found the enigmatic Dr. Mann (Matt Damon). But first, the plot. Earth is dying in horrendous dust storms and failing crops, and mankind will probably not survive beyond the present generation. Coop (Matthew McConaughey) is an ex-spaceship pilot for NASA, now a farmer living with his father-in-law (John Lithgow) and his son and daughter. Through a rather unexplained discovery, he goes with daughter Murph to see what could be causing unexplained gravitational anomalies. And, lo and behold, they stumble onto a secret fenced compound housing a NASA complex, with scientists attempting to save the human race with a Plan A and a Plan B. Plan A entails sending a spaceship up to a wormhole near Saturn, then going through to an alternate universe where other expeditions have gone to find a human-habitable planet, and then to return to possibly transport the remnants of the human race to that planet. Hmm. It was never explained very well just how the folks on earth were going to be saved and transported. Which leads to Plan B. On this expeditionary spaceship, the scientists were transporting thousands of fertilized human eggs cryogenically suspended for the trip, eggs which would ensure the survival of the human race, but not of the human race back on earth still surviving on corn and dust. Coop is given the assignment to fly the ship along with Dr. Brady (Ann Hathaway) and two others as well as the robot known as TARS.

The rest of the plot, as you can imagine, could go in endless possible directions. And it does. And it leaves most of us very confused by all this scientific talk about gravity and its influence on time, and worm holes and black holes. Despite all the inconsistences and incongruities and unanswered questions, this is a movie well worth seeing. It may have been unnecessarily long (167 minutes) and the musical score may have been too loud and intrusive (especially when they were going through the worm hole), and Dr. Brand (Michael Caine) may have leaned a bit too heavily on Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.” Still, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Contact, and Gravity, this film will endure as a stepping stone into the future.

Sunday, November 9

"Everything Happens to Me"

I think I may have already written about this song, but it must have been so long ago I can’t find it. Ah well, it’s worth writing about a second time. Or maybe even a third. In 1940, Matt Dennis wrote the music and Tom Adair wrote the lyrics to a clever, unrequited love song called “Everything Happens to Me.” Sinatra, in his big band days with Tommy Dorsey, sang it to a big band dance rhythm in his thin, reedy voice that was so appealing to the bobbysoxers of the day. It told of a guy who just couldn’t catch a break in life or love, and it was almost comical in its depiction of that loss: he’ll go through life “catchin’ colds and missin’ trains.” There was an alternate final verse but I’m not sure when it was written. And along the way, Old Blue Eyes released it again, both for Capitol Records in 1959 and his own Reprise Records in 1981. But Adair supplied a new set of lyrics for this last rendition (the bridge remained the same for both versions), much slower, much darker, and sung heart-rendingly by Sinatra in his smoky, boozy voice, a much better style than his old bobby-soxer voice. And that last line of the last verse says it all: “But, pal, you don’t find rainbows in the bottom of a glass.” It joins that list of booze songs: “Lush Life,” “Something Cool,” and Sinatra’s “One More for the Road,” “Drinking Again,” and “Empty Tables.” I wish this last version was available on YouTube but the only one there is the Tommy Dorsey version. If you get a chance to hear what Sinatra did with it in 1981, you’ll understand why I’m so fascinated with this song.

First Version:

Introduction:
Black cats creep across my path / Until I’m almost mad.
I must have ‘roused the devil’s wrath / ‘Cause all my luck is bad.
* * *
I make a date for golf / And you can bet your life it rains.
I try to give a party / But the guy upstairs complains.
I guess I'll go through life / Just catchin' colds and missin' trains,
Everything happens to me.

I never miss a thing / I've had the measles and the mumps.
And every time I play an ace / My partner always trumps.
I guess I'm just a fool / Who never looks before he jumps.
Everything happens to me.

At first my heart thought / You could break this jinx for me.
That love could turn the trick / To end despair.
But now, I just can't fool / This head that thinks for me.
I've mortgaged all my castles in the air.

I've telegraphed and phoned; / I sent an air mail special, too;
Your answer was goodbye / And there was even postage due.
I fell in love just once / And then it had to be with you.
Everything happens to me.

Alternate final verse:
I’ve never drawn a sweepstake / Or a bank night at a show.
I thought perhaps this time I’d win / But Lady Luck said no.
And though it breaks my heart / I’m not surprised to see you go.
Everything happens to me,
Everything happens to me.

1981 Reprise version:

I never found the rainbow, / Never saw a pot of gold.
I lost at dice in Vegas / Every single time I rolled.
I’ve stamped my daydreams cancelled, / And the winter’s getting’ cold.
Everything happens to me.

I’ve known a lot of ladies, / But there’s something that I lack.
Each time that there’s a breakup, / I’m the one who holds the sack.
And when I give my heart away, / I always get it back.
Everything happens to me.

At first my heart thought / You could break this jinx for me.
That love could turn the trick / To end despair.
But now, I just can't fool / This head that thinks for me.
I've mortgaged all my castles in the air.

Now in the school of life, / Well, I was lucky just to pass.
And now I’m chasing rainbows / With the losers in the class.
But, pal, you don’t find rainbows / In the bottom of a glass.
Everything happens to me.
Everything happens to me.

Thursday, November 6

Memory

We’re living in an age of increased awareness of memory and how it works and how it now doesn’t work with far too many seniors. In the old days, most people died before it ever got to that point. Now we all have a working knowledge of dementia and Alzheimer’s and all of us, young and old, shiver at the thought that we one day may have to confront this dread mental condition. Memory. What a fickle beast it is. Some of what we remember from our past is false. Not deliberately so, but just skewed unconsciously to something better than or more acceptable than what actually happened. Some of our past experiences are brilliantly illuminated in minute detail, whereas some are only blank spots, dark passages from one brilliant memory to a later one. “Mem’ries light the corners of my mind,” Streisand sings. But only the corners, not the entire box.

I’ve also found that the memory works more efficiently in that ominous 3;00 a.m. moment when we’re no longer asleep but not quite awake.. Last night, 3:00 a.m., I think about pro basketball and some of the great players of the past—Magic, Larry, Chamberlain, Jerry West. And that led me to an LSU player who was considered the greatest shooter, ball-handler, passer in the college game. But who was he? I could see him—white, slender, not tall. I could see him performing his magic shot-making. But who was he? In the 3:00 a.m. silence and darkness, the name kept teasing me, just an itch away. Who was he? Then the memory coalesced and there it was, Pistol Pete Maravich. This morning I tried to remember his name and it was gone, vanished into that mysterious realm where reside all names we should know but can no longer remember, all those singers and actors from the past that should be on the tip of our tongues but have slipped off the back burner. So, I went to the memory-rescuer, the Internet, plugged in LSU basketball great, and there it was. Pistol Pete Maravich.

What would it be like without our memories? Nicole Kidman, in her newest film, Before I Go to Sleep, plays a woman who awakens each day with no memory of what she did in the last twenty years of her life, even the day before, a kind of selective amnesia. How awful would that be to have to renew yourself each morning of your life? What part of memory is our knowledge of language, of social conventions, of current technology? With dementia, victims lose short-term memories and retain long-term. With Alzheimer’s, both short- and long-term slip away until even language and motor skills vanish like smoke on a summer evening. How cruel. Memories are what we are, and without them we’re nothing. Will we soon find a way to derail dementia, to slow or even halt the decline of Alzheimer’s? I hope so, God, I hope so. Life without memory is a living death. No thanks. Just remind me where the pills are. Or haul me off to Oregon.

Wednesday, November 5

The Equalizer

I finally got around to seeing The Equalizer. It’s been in the theatres for almost a month now but I kept putting it off, mostly because I was sure it was pretty violent and Rosalie doesn’t care much for blood and gore. But, hey, it’s Denzel, right? I’d go to see Denzel just standing around shootin’ the shit with the boys or makin’ commercials for Cialis. He’s really that good. So I went alone with Rosalie’s permission. Most of the reviews were so-so in the middle, sort of backing off from the plot and what director Antoine Fuqua did with the bad-ass character of Robert McCall. But I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. I leave the long-range, in-depth reviews to better reviewers than I am. I like to keep it simple and just say yes or no or maybe. In this case I’m saying yes. Okay, it may have been a little longer than it needed to be, but the first half, which set up the violence, was necessary. It showed us this good man living a good quiet life in Boston, working at a Home Depot-ish place, going home to his obsessively clean and well-ordered apartment, reading his great books to keep up with his now dead wife who’d been working her way through a list of the 100 greatest, being unable to sleep much, going out to a late-night diner with his teabag for his nightly cup of tea, compulsively lining up his utensils. It was there that he meets Teri (Chloe Grace Moretz), who is nightly waiting for her assignment to a john that her Russian pimp has set her up with. When he tells her his name, she says he looks more like a Robert than a Bob. “Robert reads books,” she says. “Bob watches tv.” You get the drift. All this is part of the set up for the violence that follows. Robert McCall is much more than he seems on the surface, an ex-CIA guy who somehow faked his death to get out of the organization that used him for all sorts of nastiness. All he wants now is a quiet life, a nice routine of work and helping his coworkers with whatever they need, his books, his tea. But when Teri (whose real name is Alina) is beaten bloody by her pimp because she’d punched a psychotic john, McCall decides to rectify her situation. And that leads him to doing battle with the Russian enforcer Teddy (Marton Csokas) sent to Boston to find and kill whoever had done such damage to the Russian mob’s enterprises. Sure, the violence is predictable, but who cares? It’s Denzel doing his Liam Neeson impression, and doing it even better than Neeson does it. And the ending certainly reserves the possibility of more Equalizers down the road. I’d have to give it four of five stars. Go see it if you like Denzel as much as I do, and uou can stand a bit of gore. Oh, yeah, a bit more than a bit.

Saturday, November 1

John Wick & Filler Humor

I tried to count the number of people that Keanu Reeves killed in the action thriller John Wick. I lost track after sixty or seventy. Let’s just say it was a bunch, mostly with pistol or AKA, but quite a few by hand or knife. Simple plot—John Wick is a retired hitman for a Russian mob boss, one of the most efficient and deadly killers in the hitman network. As Vigo, the Russian boss, says to his son, “Is he the bogeyman? No, he’s the one you send to kill the bogeyman.” Wick has retired because he fell in love with and married a woman with some incurable disease. She dies. He mourns. He receives an adorable beagle puppy that his dead wife had arranged for him, knowing he would need someone to love after she died. The Russian boss’s son sees Wick’s vintage ‘69 Charger and wants to buy it. Wick turns him down. The son and three or four cronies follow Wick to his home, break in, beat Wick, kill the puppy, take his car. Oh, my, what carnage the son has unwittingly unleashed. As I said, simple plot with simply buckets and buckets of blood.

David Letterman's Top 10 Reasons Why Golf Is Better Than Sex
10. A below par performance is considered damn good.
9. You can stop in the middle and have a cheeseburger and a couple of beers.
8. It's much easier to find the sweet spot.
7. Foursomes are encouraged.
6. You can still make money doing it as a senior.
5. Three times a day is possible.
4. Your partner doesn't hire a lawyer if you play with someone else.
3. If you live in Arizona, you can do it almost every day.
2. You don't have to cuddle with your partner when you're finished.
And the NUMBER ONE reason why golf is better than sex?
When your equipment gets old you can replace it!

I just took a leaflet out of my mailbox, informing me that I can have
sex at 73. I'm so happy, because I live at number 71. So it's not too far to walk home afterwards. And it's the same side of the street. I don't even have to cross the road!

Answering machine message: "I am not available right now, but thank you for caring enough to call. I am making some changes in my life. Please leave a message after the beep. If I do not return your call, you are one of the changes."

My wife and I had words, but I didn't get to use mine.


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