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

Monday, November 30

The Future Dead Ahead

I’ve lived through two-thirds of the 20th century and fifteen years of the 21st, and in that time I’ve witnessed remarkable changes, most of them good, some of them bad. There have been huge social changes and mind-boggling technological advances. I’m now living in an age when people believe that guns don’t kill people, that Donald Trump is a legitimate presidential candidate, when religious zealots think that killing all infidels is God’s will. An age when young people think rap is music and rap tracks are songs, find texting more meaningful than face-to-face conversation and raw fish more delectable than filet mignon, believe that body ink is essential for physical beauty and that e-books are better than books, contend that Bridesmaids is funnier than It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, regard correct spelling and grammar as old fogey concerns, and crown Lady Gaga the standard for fashion. On the other hand, young people are smarter and better informed than the youth of the past. They’re taller, faster, fitter, and stronger than almost any of their predecessors, and they’ve learned how to use all these maddening technological gadgets that have all but taken over our lives. Not that many decades ago, we were told that color photography and color television were impossible, that we’d never see cars that could drive themselves or planes that could fly themselves, that computers would never be affordable for home use, that only Dick Tracy could see someone as they spoke on a phone. In the middle of the last century, we were afraid that nuclear war would destroy the world. And since then, we’ve been engaged in almost continuous wars in Korea, Viet Nam, and the Middle East. And today we have much to fear—climate change, drought, melting ice caps, the deep web, drug cartels, and terrorist groups. We fear suicide bombers and AK-47-wielding crazies who spray shots into theaters and restaurants and schools, taking as many lives as possible. Technological advances are both frightening and exhilarating, coming so fast we can hardly keep up, pointing to a future we can’t imagine. Social changes have seen the election of a black president and the likelihood of a female president, majority acceptance of bi-racial and same-sex marriages, and transgender surgery, of near-racial equality. We’ve come a long way in my lifetime. We still have a long way to go. I’m sorry I won’t be around to see where the next fifty years takes us.

Wednesday, November 25

Reed Coleman & Moe Prager

I’ve long been a fan of tough-guy novel series—MacDonald’s Travis McGee, Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Sandford’s Lucas Davenport, Block’s Matt Scudder, and Parker’s Spenser. But now I have to add another, Reed Farrel Coleman’s Moe Prager. What an unusual character. In many ways he’s the brother of Harry Bosch and Matt Scudder, all rather dark and plodding in their methods of solving crimes, hanging onto the focus of their investigations like bulldogs, all rather fond of booze (although scudder spends much of his time at AA meetings). Where Travis McGee loved Boodles gin, Moe loves Dewars Scotch, and he drinks gallons of it along the way. Also, like Scudder and Bosch, he ages in real time throughout the series, unlike Travis McGee and Spenser, who never seemed to get much older from first in the series to last, despite the nearly thirty years that passed. The world got older but not McGee and Spenser.

Moses Prager is a lapsed Jew, an ex-cop after ten years when he slipped on a waxed squad room floor and injured his knee enough to force him into retirement. He loves Brooklyn and Coney Island. He goes into the wine business with his brother Aaron but hates it. So he gets a New York private investigator’s license and takes occasional cases for old friends and cronies from the 60th Precinct. One unusual aspect of this series of nine, they simply must be read in the order in which they were written. Each episode is built on so many back stories that a reader wandering into the middle wouldn’t have a clue about what was going on. Along the way, he meets Kate Maloney, sister of a missing brother, daughter of an ex-cop and political wheeler dealer that Moe hates with a passion. He marries Kate and they have daughter Sarah but lose another child in miscarriage, devastating enough for Kate that their marriage goes south. Kate is later killed by a man seeking vengeance on Prager. He meets a beautiful cop who turns out to be the girl Moe had saved in the early 70’s when she was thrown into an abandoned water tank and left to die. When she gets pregnant by a lawyer acquaintance, she and Moe marry and become partners in a private investigation firm, but the marriage also goes south as she goes north to Canada with Izzie, the son. Moe grows older and more infirm, but he can still hold his own with bad guys and old enemies from the past. He drinks more and more Dewars and wonders if he’s becoming an alcoholic, he muses about life and death and God. He then takes a final case when an old acquaintance, Nancy Lustig, hires him to find her missing daughter. Stomach cancer nearly takes him, but Pam, a Vermont PI, nurses him back and the two are together until she is accidentally struck and killed by an automobile.

The series is self-contained, unlike that of Travis McGee and Spenser, both of whom kept going until the death of both MacDonald and Parker. I can think of only one other series that actually ended itself, Ed McBain’s Matthew Hope series, the last book named The Last Best Hope. I was so saddened by this seeming conclusion that I wrote to Evan Hunter to ask him if it was really true. He said, yes, old Matthew was going to retire from his law firm and sit on his front porch watching the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. That’s sort of what Moe Prager does, moves from his beloved Brooklyn to Vermont, where he can be nearer to his daughter and her husband and his grandson Reuben.

The most striking aspect of the Moses Prager series is how well we get to know the man. Coleman uses the first person point of view and never deviates from it. All the words are Prager’s, then, and we hear his clever and insightful thoughts about nearly every possible topic.

Here are a few about death and dying: “I think knowing death is coming for you is a mixed bag, a blessing and a curse. For the family of the dying, it’s a blessing, I’d say. Things can be put in order, grudges forgiven, balance restored. And when death finally comes, it comes as a relief. The mourning is shorter lived, because the loved ones have been grieving all along. For the dying, though, it can be brutal. And I’m not talking about the physical pain here. I had a waitress friend tell me once that she could barely remember the customers who’d given her her biggest tips, but she could describe with crystal clarity the people who’d stiffed her. Impending death can be like that, it can amplify your sins so that everything else is background noise.” (p. 132, Walking the Perfect Square) “Got me thinking about how disconnected we were from death. It was easy to blame drugs, movies, TV, and video games for violence and the devaluation of human life. Bullshit! The real culprit was our lack of intimacy with death. When you’re unfamiliar with death, you’re disrespectful of life. No one dies in his or her bed anymore. People die in hospitals now, or in hospices or nursing homes or alone in cars along the side of the Belt Parkway. Kids don’t go to funerals. Strangers clean our bodies, dress and groom us. Machines dig our graves. Why should any of us respect death when we make it as remote as the mountains of the moon? ¶ I have often wondered if it would be a little harder for a killer to pull the trigger or shove the blade in a second time if he had washed his dead brother’s body or dug his mother’s grave. What if he had watched his dad die an inch at a time from cancer and sat by the deathbed day after day after day? What if there was no church, no funeral home, no hospital, no way to pass the responsibilities of death off to strangers. How much harder would murder be?” (pp. 160-61, Soul Patch) “Death, I thought, had all sorts of potential for unpleasantness, especially if I was wrong about all those many things I didn’t believe in. What if the face of God was a sneering one and he was the type to say I told you so? What if he was just a universal hurt machine? Man, in either case, I was fucked.” (p. 103, Hurt Machine) “Sometimes I thought I would live as long as I was still curious. I bet a lot of cats had that same thought as they breathed their dying breaths.” (p. 145, Hurt Machine) “You never know anything or anyone as well as you think you do, least of all yourself. It is the great folly of humanity, the search for self-knowledge and significance. It’s why we’re all so fucking miserable. Oh, I thought, to be an ant or a cat or almost anything else that doesn’t lose sleep over dying. Does an ant ever ask itself where do I come from, where am I going, or what does it mean?” (p. 203, Hurt Machine) “For some reason I slept better in the late afternoon these days than at night. At my age, you’re confident you’ll wake up from a nap, but the same couldn’t be said of a night’s sleep.” (p. 183, Hurt Machine) “Why do we so value the magic show, the putting on of brave faces? Inside, I was just like those leaves on the trees along the expressway. All I wanted to do was give in when I knew death was coming. I became impatient for it. I wanted to tap my watch crystal with my finger and say, ‘Come on already. I’m here. You’re late.’ ” (p. 100, The Hollow Girl)

A few thoughts about love: “First kisses are a revelation, so uncomplicated and so unlike firsts in bed. Somehow, the awkwardness of first kisses adds to their beauty: Which way should I tilt my head? Will she mind if I cup her chin in my hand or should I hold her in my arms or should I touch her at all? Will she close her eyes? Should I look to see? Will she part her lips? If she does, should I follow her lead? And when, in the end, in spite of your considerable calculation, you bump noses, it’s funny and the tension burns off like fog.” (p. 135, Walking the Perfect Square) “It’s amazing, isn’t it, how two people can spend hours moving in, out, over, around and through parts of each other’s body but refuse to share a toothbrush in a pinch?” (p. 147, Walking the Perfect Square) “I knew that love faded. Anyone married for more than a few years knows that lesson. Sometimes it evaporates completely and so abruptly you question whether it was ever there to begin with, but love and romance are different animals.” (p. 120, The Hurt Machine) “Pam and I had grown into love as opposed to falling into it. Falling is so much more exciting than growing. Falling is all about the manic blur of obsession, the ache of separation, the joy in the exclusion of everything else but love as so much noise. Even am my age, the thought of falling could still make me dizzy. But gravity dictates that falling is always followed by a crash. Gravity is funny that way. Sometimes, like with my first wife, Katy, the crash could be twenty years in coming, inexorable and inevitable.” (p. 157, The Hollow Girl) “I’d been on an island by myself for too long and since that exile was self-imposed, I had only to look in the mirror to ascribe blame. I don’t suppose I ever forgave myself for Katy’s murder. It took seven years for Sarah to absolve me and the rest of the universe either didn’t know or didn’t care. If there was any persuasive argument for the existence of God, it wasn’t in the biology of things, but in emotion, in feelings. I couldn’t quite see how guilt and forgiveness had evolved from the primordial stew. I didn’t know, maybe the ‘adult’ relationship I’d been sharing with Pam over the last two years was just part of my self-inflicted exile. I let her in, but not inside. Suddenly, I wanted off the island and I didn’t care why.” (p. 207, Hurt Machine)

On Time: “It had never before occurred to me that the older one gets, the less one’s life is accompanied by music. I remembered my parents’ house and how music was confined to an hour of show tunes on Sunday mornings. Even for me, news radio had begun replacing music as the soundtrack of my life.” (p. 67, Walking the Perfect Square) “It’s a funny thing about getting older. You lose a sense of how much of your past is real and how much of it is self-fabrication and filler your mind spins out in order to let you sleep nights. I’m not certain if the ratio of real to imagined was knowable, that I’d want to know it. How many of us would, I wonder?” (p. 72, Empty Ever After) “However, the past, it seemed, was not set in granite, but rather as fluid as the future. I was as incapable of shaping one as the other. The past, my past, sang a siren’s song to me that was beyond my ability to resist and I was forced to reach deeper and deeper into my pockets to pay the price each time I succumbed. By any measure, it had been a weird fucking day and I was off balance, way off.” (p. 77, Empty Ever After) “The sun wasn’t particularly bright nor the sky severely blue. The clouds that drifted overhead weren’t shaped like angels’ wings nor were they ominous and gray. The wind blew, but only enough to disappoint. It was a plain summer’s day that no one would ever sing about or write a poem about or paint a picture of. In this way, it was like most days of most lives, a nearly blank page in a forgotten diary. I think if we could remember our individual days, life wouldn’t seem so fleeting. But we aren’t built to work that way, are we? We are built to forget.” (p. 157, Empty Ever After) “I saw Carmella Melendez with my eyes instead of my heart. Her hair, once so impossibly black, was now salted with threads of gray. She was still fit and as perfectly curved as she had been in her mid-twenties, but some of the fierceness in her eyes had vanished and the sun-darkened skin of her face showed age beyond her years. There are all kinds of aging. Time ages us more gracefully than heartache. The lines in her face, around her eyes and mouth, were etched in tears, many tears.” (p. 6, The Hurt Machine) “I stopped, about-faced, and used my hand to block the light from the sun that hung fierce and low in the western sky. It had already begun telling its late September lies. My hand could shield me from its light, I thought, but not from its lies. Soon, early darkness would follow. Too bad life wasn’t like that, darkness following the lies. It was my experience that a lot of life was built on lies, mostly the ones we tell ourselves. I had reached a kind of Zen about the ones I told myself. Most of my life had been a wrestling match with them. Not anymore. Om. . . . Sometimes it became just so much noise that translated into Give money, stop death. It was the biggest lie we shared. That if we only gave a few dollars more, we could all spread lamb’s blood above our thresholds and the angel of death would walk on by.” (pp. 34 & 35, The Hollow Girl) “Her looks—a striking mixture of African and European features—both defined and defied the label African-American. She was pretty enough in the photos I’d seen of her, but she was more attractive in person. This in spite of the obvious toll the last few months had taken on her. In her thirties and taller than I expected, she was athletically slender and wore her tightly curled hair short to her head. Her medium brown skin was taut over mile-high cheekbones. She had a gently sloping nose and angular jawline. Her lips were full without being showy, but the stars of the show were her hazel green eyes. Yet, in spite of her natural beauty, she was practically aging before my eyes.” (p. 37, The Hurt Machine)

On being a Jew: “Jews know guilt. We can smell it on your breath. We can read it in the lines of your face because we’ve looked at it in mirrors for thousands of years. Guilt is like a witch’s spell. Once cast it cannot be reasoned away.” (p. 149, Walking the Perfect Square) “Something smelled delicious but completely out of place in the Swan Song’s allegedly kosher kitchen: frying bacon. God’s quintessential torment. With bacon you were fucked either way. Even if you were an observant Jew and disdained pork products, there was no prohibition against breathing. And one sniff, one breath that contained that sweetly smoky aroma, could torture the most devout rabbi. If, on the other hand, you were, like myself, a bad Jew, or someone unconstrained by five-thousand-year-old dietary laws, you were still screwed. Bacon was cholesterol’s perfect delivery system. Bacon-egg-and-cheese sandwiches had killed more cops than all the cheap handguns ever made.” (p. 46, Redemption Street)

On Brooklyn: “The Brooklyn I love likes itself a half-step behind and a few years out of date. It likes its yearning. The yearning where making it means somewhere across the river, not across Bushwick Avenue. My Brooklyn doesn’t consider its decay ironic or a statement about something bigger. My Brooklyn is what it is, and says that’s enough because it has to be. That’s all there is. Brooklyn is necessarily a place that used to be, not a place that’s happening.” (p. 69, The Hollow Girl)

On a wide variety of topics, all elegantly said: “Touch of Evil was a ‘50s black-and-white flick about a corrupt cop and a Mexican drug prosecutor set in a small Texas border town. Orson Welles directed it and played the drunken, candy bar-eating cop. You had to love Orson Welles. Either there was no budget for makeup or he simply willed himself to be more obese and sloppy than an unshaven whale. I take that back, there was a budget for makeup, but they spent it all trying to make Charleton Heston look Mexican.” (pp. 210-11, Walking the Perfect Square) “Cars drifted slowly into the fenced parking lot outside the Sanitation and Highway Department garage. Stories high piles of asphalt crumbles, road salt and sand peeked over the ledge of the garage’s flat roof like distant mountaintops. The air smelled of hot tar, though I could see from where I sat that none of the paving trucks had fired up their rolling furnaces. It was similar to how airports stink of spent kerosene even late at night, when runways go unused for hours at a time. I suppose it’s a scientific impossibility, but sometimes it just seems that, like a rug or silk tie, the atmosphere can be permanently stained. (p. 216, Walking the Perfect Square) “I tried golf a little bit, but I figured if I wanted to suffer so much, I’d just stick pins in my eyes.” (p. 189, Soul Patch) “There he was, his thick, short body laid out like a cadaver. Maybe that was just wishful thinking on my part. He didn’t realize it was me, and his eyes lit up when I came into the room. The light went out soon enough. It wasn’t pronounced, but the right side of his face drooped like a wax mask that had gotten a little too close to a hot lamp.” (p. 105, Redemption Street) “Sheriff Vandervoort was a gruff, cinder block of a man who, in the space of a very few minutes, had twice boasted that his ancestors had lived in these parts since New York was New Amsterdam. He wore his insecurities like a rainbow.” (p. 17, Empty Ever After) “. . . the tragedy pimps. There were just some people addicted to the scent and spectacle of tragedy. Drawn like swarming flies to a fresh corpse, it was easy to spot their faces in the crowd. They were the lean and hungry onlookers, the ones waiting to feed off the bad news. They were the ones with the vacant lives whose condolences were more for their own empty selves than the families of the lost. They were the eager wreath-layers.” (p. 182, Innocent Monster) “He had a head of neatly kept black hair, dark brown eyes, and a strong chin. He had a confused nose that couldn’t decide which way to go, but it added a nice bit of character to him.” (p. 150, Hurt Machine) (About the importance of cell phones in our lives today) “I recalled that once being free was freer than it was now. There were times when you were unreachable, unaccounted for, unconnected to a cyber life. A time when your actual, living breathing life was more important, when the details of what you were saying and doing and thinking and feeling at any particular moment was all that there was of you. No more.” (p. 145, The Hollow Girl) “It had been my experience that truth wasn’t the great emancipator, not the great tonic and elixir everyone touted it to be. I’d often found the opposite was the reality, that truth could be toxic, that it sometimes made everything worse. I’d also found that the effects of truth, good or bad, had as much to do with when you told it as the truth itself.” (pp. 222-224, The Hollow Girl) “The problem with bills coming due is that the wrong party often paid the price. I guess that’s why I had never been able to buy into God. I didn’t believe much in karma anymore either. Whatever goes around comes around. Nope. The longer I lived, the colder and more random the universe seemed to get.” (p. 279, The Hollow Girl)

And finally, some insight from someone other than Moe Prager: (Detective Fuqua on why the world hates America) “ Our obsession with ourselves; the inflation of our small lives into objects of public fascination. It is not our bombs or our constant flag waving in their faces that they so much detest, I think, as our petty obsessions. The world wants our country to care about important things, but instead we care about Dancing with the Stars. We know the bra size of Lady Gaga and we have TV shows that sexualize little girls as beauty queens, but how many of us can name even a single country in West Africa, or know who is the president of Russia? Our lack of perspective is what makes us hated.” (p. 151, The Hollow Girl)

I have only one complaint about the Prager series. The eighth book, Onion Street, is jarringly out of sync with the others. After attending Bobby Friedman’s funeral, a friend of Moe’s from the time they were both attending classes at Brooklyn College, Moe’s daughter asks him to tell her how he became a cop. Onion Street is about that time in 1967 when Moe doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life, but he knows it isn’t in the wine business with his brother Aaron nor obtaining an empty degree from Brooklyn College. He gets involved with other students actively protesting the war in Viet Nam, a radical group called the Committee. My problem with this novel is that it sounds much more like something Coleman probably would have written early in his writing career, something that he may have tried and failed to get published. The style isn’t anything like that in the other eight novels. The writing is much more like that of the pulp novels being put out in the Fifties and Sixties—short, tough, noir-ish, hastily written, like all the Mike Hammers of Mickey Spillane, the Mike Shaynes of Brett Halliday, or the early novels of Parker and MacDonald and others who were cranking them out as fast as they could to scratch out a living. I realize that his use of the first person point of view gives him an out, that the words we hear in Onion Street are Moe Prager’s when he was only recently out of high school, young and foolish and without the depth of the later Prager’s thoughts. But Moe is telling his daughter and his readers when he was in his late sixties, looking back on those early events in his life. Wouldn’t we hear the old Moe instead of the young?

Here’s just one example to show what I mean. Near the end, Moe is waiting in the darkness of a warehouse for the two baddies, Tony Pizza and Jimmie Ding Dong, to show up with his friend Lids, who has been beaten nearly to death by Jimmie. He hears the two men dragging someone into the warehouse.

“The kid’s fuckin’ us around,” Jimmy said, staring into the blackness of the unit. Something crashed to the floor with a sickening thud.

The sound was of Lid’s body being dropped. Would it have crashed with a sickening thud? The older Moe, the older Coleman, wouldn’t have used such a silly description of the sound of a slight man’s being dropped to the floor from only two or three feet. The Prologue to Onion Street establishes why we’re hearing this 1967 tale about the young Moe Prager, and the Epilogue brings us back to 2012 and the sixty-six-year old Moe. Onion Street might easily have been eliminated from the series without hindering it a bit.

With other writers I admire and other series I enjoyed—my all-time favorite John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder, Robert Parker’s Spenser, John Sandford’s Preys, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Michael Connely’s Harry Bosch, and Ed McBain’s 87 Precinct—I often re-read them as fast as I can to see again what I liked about their series, to see things I’d missed about the stories, the characters, and the writing styles. I’m positive I’ll do the same now for Reed Farrel Coleman’s Moe Prager.

Anyone searching for the nine novels in the series, here's a list of them. You'll probably discover they're a little hard to find, but they all seem to be available at Amazon, but not at any of the used bookstores or commercial stores like Barnes & Noble or Border's. But find them. You won't be sorry. 1. Walking the Perfect Square 2. Redemption Street 3. The James Deans 4. Soul Patch 5. Empty Ever After 6. Innocent Monster 7. Hurt Machine 8. Onion Street 9. The Hollow Girl

Monday, November 23

LPGA & Acting

This last weekend, I watched the LPGA’s CME Group Tour Championship, and it was an exciting conclusion to a year that saw Lydia Ko come out with player of the year and the million dollar bonus. Right down to the wire, four or five could have won, but it was Cristie Kerr, with an eagle on seventeen, who pulled it out. When it comes to professional golf, I’ve done an about-face. Now that Tiger is more or less out of the picture, I think I enjoy watching the ladies more than the men, although Jordan Spieth has become my new Tiger, luring me to any tournament in which he’s entered. The ladies play a game that doesn’t come close to what was played only twenty years ago. They swing beautifully and powerfully. Lexi Thompson is the first to come to mind.
And so many of them are so very attractive. Lexi Thompson, Paula Creamer, and Minjee Lee are the first to come to mind.
I only hope they use enough sun screen to prevent the damage I see in old-timer women and men. Julie Inkster and Tom Kite come to mind. Michelle Wie, who was once going to be the Tigress of the ladies’ tour, is still exciting to watch and still attractive, but she’s also looking more and more like a praying mantis, all long arms and legs and that odd ninety-degree putting stance. Lydia Ko is the darling of the tour with her unassuming style and killer instinct, having won ten times before her nineteenth birthday. Then there’s Inbee Park, who seems to have lost at least forty pounds in the last two or three months. And no tv commentator has even mentioned that transformation. Good for you, Inbee, and here’s hoping you can drop another twenty or so. Now I can’t wait for the 2016 season.

A quick observation about acting and the current job market for actors. Way back in the Golden Age of film in the Thirties, when only about 150 movies per year were made, there weren’t that many opportunities available for young people to break into film. Then television happened with three major networks available for acting jobs. Then more networks like HBO, Fox, TNT, and USA, each producing their own movies and series. And finally, more networks also making their own movies and series, like Hallmark, A&E, Fx, History, SYFY. In addition to the 250 or so theatre films made each year and the countless tv networks with original movies and series, we also have Amazon and Netflix entering the acting race with their own streaming shows. Anyone wanting to make acting a career has never had it so good. But with so many movies and tv series that are worth watching, how can anyone find the time to view it all?

Wednesday, November 18

Miss You Already

Miss You Already might just as easily have been called BFF because that’s what it was. No spoiler alerts here because it went predictably from life to death, through thick and thin, from first to last, from good to bad, with plenty of tears along the way and a few good chuckles although not many and no laugh out-louds. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the viewers liked it better than the critics—82% to 66 %. I guess I’d side with the critics. It was good enough to see but not to remember. Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette are lifelong friends in London, English Milly and American Jess, with Milly impregnated by her businessman hippie Kit (Dominic Cooper), who marries her and loses his hippiedom, and Jess marrying her oil rigger boyfriend Jago (Paddy Considine) but unable to get pregnant. The whole thing is so symmetrical. Pre-middle age Milly is told she has breast cancer and will need to go through chemo. And Jess and Milly’s mother (Jacqueline Bissett) and the viewers go through it with her, in all its ugliness. She loses her hair and finds that the chemo hasn’t worked. She then has a double mastectomy, losing both breasts as well as her sexuality (at least she thinks so when her husband Kit can no longer perform). Meanwhile, Jess and Jago, after many fertility tests and procedures, are successful and Jess gets bigger and bigger as Milly gets uglier and uglier. Amazing how Toni Collete, who is an odd looker to begin with, could look so attractive and sexy at first and so unattractive at last. The plot comes full circle with the birth of Jess’s baby and Milly’s demise. See, no spoiler alert necessary because we all saw it coming from the very beginning of the movie. As I said, it’s worth seeing but not worth remembering.

Monday, November 16


No room for levity today. The world hasn’t seen such senseless horror since Hitler’s attempts to kill all Jews in the Forties. We now have the senseless horror of terrorist attempts to kill all infidels. After the cowardly terrorist attacks against civilians in Paris, France declared that it’s now war, sending air strikes against ISIS in Syria. I say we should also now admit it’s war and send, not ground troops, but all the weight of our air power to annihilate these barbarians, doing this in concert with all other civilized nations, just as we did with our allies in WWII. It might be expensive but we’re the most prosperous nation in the world and we can afford it. What we can’t afford is the possibility of some similar attack in the U.S. First, we should make it clear to the rest of the world and to the civilians in ISIS-held territories that all innocents should get as far away from ISIS troops and ISIS locations as possible. Then we should simply destroy the Islamic State before it can destroy us and other nations with its attempts to kill all who don’t believe as they do. We have to do this before it’s too late.

Saturday, November 14

The Way

Netflix again, this time for The Way, a movie with Emilio Estevez writing, producing, directing, and playing the son who died while hiking on the 550 mile Camino de Santiago from France through Spain. Martin Sheen starred as the father who came to bring his estranged son home for burial and then, after the coroner persuaded him that cremation was the better option, decided he would make the walk in honor of his son, sprinkling ashes along the way. Good movie, even if a bit too much like the other walks we’ve seen lately in Reese Witherspoon’s Wild, Robert Redford’s A Walk in the Woods, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s The Walk (although this one on a much narrower path than the others). Amazing how much Estevez looks like his father—with those eyes that seem to look right through you, the downturned mouth. I loved Martin Sheen in West Wing, especially in that unforgettable episode in which he chewed out God for prematurely taking his secretary, lighting a cigarette in a Catholic church and then crushing it out underfoot to show his contempt for an unfeeling God. I’d happily vote for him for president if he were in the running this year. I’d also vote for Tea Leoni if Madam Secretary chose to run. Currently, we seem to have too many yahoos, led by the biggest yahoo of all, Donald Trump, for whom I wouldn’t in a million years cast my vote. Back to The Way. Sheen makes his very predictable way from St. Jean Pied de Port, France, through Basque country, on to Pamplona and other Spanish towns along the way to the sea. He meets three other pilgrims whom he begrudgingly lets join him—the overweight Dutchman Joost (Yorick Van Wageningen), the cigarette smoking Canadian Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), and the Irish travel author Jack (James Nesbitt). They all make it to the sea where father empties the last of son’s ashes. Good movie, but much more forgettable than Witherspoon’s Wild and much more memorable than that Redford fiasco A Walk in the Woods. Great scenery along the west coast of Spain. Almost made me want to walk the Way. Almost.

Monday, November 9

Mr. Morgan's Last Love

I was surprised at all the negative reviews of a movie we watched last night on Netflix. The critics almost unanimously (with Roger Ebert leading the way) hated the 2013 Mr. Morgan’s Last Love, with Michael Caine as a retired Princeton philosophy professor living out his last years in Paris after his wife had died from cancer—three years, two months, and eleven days ago, as he tells his new young friend Pauline (Clémence Poésy). But who’s counting? Most of the critics said that it was too slow-moving, too minimalist (whatever that means), too fraught with romantic clichés. And why, they asked, make Sir Michael use such a phony American accent? I call this last comment a major nit-pick. After all, he’s played an American any number of times, doing it well enough to win an Oscar in The Cider House Rules. It was simply a love story, unusual, yes, but a love story most older viewers like me could understand and appreciate. He meets Pauline on a bus. She is a young (much less than half his age) dance instructor who is drawn to him as a replacement for her recently deceased father. She seems to be a young replacement for his deceased wife Joan (Jane Alexander). Love doesn’t have to be a physical coupling but can be as truly demonstrated with a kiss on the cheek or an embrace. The story doesn’t have to play out with high speed car chases or exploding buildings, but can slowly, quietly, show us the bonding of two people regardless of their age and youth. I can identify with Matthew Morgan, a man at the end of life who finds comfort in the friendship of a younger woman. The aging Mr. Morgan tries twice, unsuccessfully, to kill himself. “I took too many sleeping pills,” he explains to Pauline, “Or too few. Depends on how you want to look at it.” His son Miles (Justin Kirk) and daughter Karen (Gillian Anderson) fly to Paris to see him as he recuperates in the hospital. They both think that Pauline is a young fortune hunter, after their father for this money. Miles tells his sister when she asks him who Pauline is, “She’s a bimbo who may be our new step-mother.” To Matthew and me, she’s the exact opposite of a bimbo. I’ve often fallen in love with cinema females, and Clémence Poésy is my latest. She is a delightful woman with kewpie doll lips
who has won my heart, as I’m sure she has won the hearts of many aging viewers of this film. Mr. Morgan explains to her what kind of person he thinks she is: “You’re beautiful. Obviously you’re smart, and I can always tell when you’re sad, because you hide behind your defiance when you are. When you’re happy, all of you is happy. Even your hair. You don’t have a mean bone in your body, and I thought they didn’t make them like that anymore. You’re funny. When you listen, you look interested. You’re kind. And you wear your heart on your sleeve, which can be terribly intimidating. . . . And you remind me of Joan.” So, it was slow-moving, even minimalist (whatever that means). But it was also beautiful. I think it was epitomized by a quiet Monet moment when the two of them are out on a still pond, boating slowly, with the many-colored autumn trees reflected in the still water. It was beautiful, just as the love between these two people was, just as the film was.

Saturday, November 7

Windows 10

Yesterday, I checked a message I’d gotten from my computer, Lenovo, telling me I could, should, download the latest version of Windows. Yes, Windows 10. So I clicked on the message, which took me to the Internet, where I clicked on the free download. Free, it said. Is anything on the Internet free? It downloaded and downloaded and I sat here clicking on all the little boxes about accepting terms and clicking “next” and “finish” and every other box they threw at me. See, I just referred to them as “they.” Who the hell are “they?” Are there really people out there, up there, who give a good damn about me and my computer concerns? Is someone keeping track of all my stuff on The Cloud? And what exactly is “The Cloud?” I don’t know and I don’t know anyone else who knows? I envision someone who looks a lot like Frank Morgan, the Great Oz, smiling down at me from his place on The Cloud, with that odd combination in his smile of friendliness and evil. The world has gotten too technically complex for a man as simple as I. After it (They) finally finished loading Windows 10, I was asked how satisfied I was with the new look. I checked the box for 4 out of 5. Always good to tell these people that you like what they do but still leave room for improvement. Don’t want to bow too low or scrape too loudly. I sat and admired my new Windows look. Ah, but then I got a box telling me I had twenty outdated drivers. I don’t know what a driver is or what it does, but outdated sounds bad and I trust the Great Oz. Or is it that I’m afraid of what he might do to me if I don’t trust him? I checked the box to say I wanted to upgrade my twenty drivers. I was taken to the Internet upgrade site where I found that I could upgrade for only $29.95. Fearful that bad things would happen to me and my Lenovo if I didn’t have new drivers, I agreed. The download would begin as soon as I called an 800 number to get my verification code. I called and was connected to a young man named Russell who spoke very rapidly in an Indian accent just heavy enough that I couldn’t quite understand what he was saying. An Indian, named Russell? How odd, I thought. Russell wanted my permission to take over my computer so he could expedite the process. I agreed and then watched him speed my cursor here, there, and everywhere, clicking, clicking, clicking. Finally, he was done, but then he wanted to explain about all the potential viruses and Internet dangers that lurked just outside my computer doors, and all the firewalls he could put up for me . . . for a very minimal annual fee. I said no, I didn’t think I needed any more walls against fire or flood or vicious hackers out to get my identity. We parted amicably, and I then began the process of finishing the driver downloads, a process that seemed to take forever. After nearly ten hours, I got a box that said it was all done and that I could now enjoy my new Windows 10 look. It looks good. And I remember not too many years ago when I bought an AT&T word processor, little more than a typewriter that allowed me to type documents without having to use white-out to repair typing errors. Then I progressed to a tiny Mac with only 40mgs of storage, with funny floppy discs for another 40mgs additional storage. Then a Zip drive that had discs with 100 mgs of space. Now, tiny little thumb drives that seem able to hold the entire Library of Congress in their tiny little thumbs. And every few years a new computer when the old one had crashed too many times, each new monitor a little bigger, each computer a little faster, each with more and more space to store documents and photos and music and movies, each with more and more need to connect to the Internet, each more and more complicated for simple folk like me. Now I’m wondering when I’ll have to do this all again when Windows 11 comes out.

Tuesday, November 3

Steve Jobs

I just sat down to write a review of a movie we saw today, write it on my personal computer, this thing with a gigundous screen and access to the Internet that allows me to find the answer to any question I can ask it. For example, I had a piece of a song lyric buzzing around in my head and it was driving me crazy. I could hear the music but all I could come up with was the phrase at the end: “Being miserable is gonna be fun.” I went to Google (but it could have been any search engine), plugged it in, and found that Irving Berlin had written “My Defenses Are Down” in 1942. Amazing that I could find the song with only a scrap of lyric. Another example: On Netflix we’ve been whipping through old episodes of “Frasier” and my wife asked me about the dog Eddy. So I went online and searched for Eddy + Frasier and wham, I found more information about him than I wanted. He was a Jack Russell terrier, his name was Moose, and he died at 15½ during the eighth season, replaced by his son Enzo. Another son, Moosie, was adopted by Peri Gilpin (Roz Doyle on the show). Eddy’s salary was around $10,000 an episode. Amazing (not just the salary but also the information). What, you say, does this have to do with a movie review I’m in the process of writing? The movie was Steve Jobs and it was all about Jobs and his role in developing this thing that now so dominates our lives. The movie opened with a black-and-white scene in which Arthur C. Clarke, the English futurist and sci-fi novelist, is explaining to a computer geek what the future will likely hold, that instead of this huge room encompassing one of the first computers, we may all one day be able to carry this thing around in our pockets. Fade to Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) in 1984 about to present his boxy Apple Macintosh to the world, but he couldn’t get it to say hello to the audience. They have only about an hour to get it right and we have confrontation after confrontation between Jobs and his marketing director Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet, looking very unlike Kate Winslet); John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), Apple’s CEO who debated with Jobs about a Pepsi commercial they’d made; Steven Wozniak (Seth Rogen), who simply wants Jobs to acknowledge the guys who developed the Apple II computer, the one that made all the money for the company; Andy Hertzfeld (Michael Stuhlberg), who did the dirty work in developing the hardware for the computer; and Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), the woman whose daughter, Lisa, Jobs refuses to acknowledge as his. Lots of confrontations, lots of heated dialogue, very little action. This film may have been better as a stage play. Act Two was another presentation for Jobs’ NeXT computer in 1988, the black imperfect perfect cube that never caught on. More confrontations. And finally, in Act Three, we have Jobs preparing his presentation of the iMac in 1998, with a final confrontation between him and his nineteen-year-old daughter (whom he apparently has now acknowledged as his daughter). He tells her as she is about to get in her car that he’ll be able to give her access to 500 . . . a thousand songs in her pocket instead of the few she has in that boxy cassette player she has strapped around her neck. A wonderful summary of exactly what Steve Jobs did for the computer world, he tells Wozniak, “The musicians play the music. I play the orchestra.” Despite his conducting, I feel more like the movie did a “jobs” on me. Michael Fassbender will undoubtedly be nominated for best actor, but I undoubtedly doubt that either Alan Sorkin for his writing or Danny Boyle for his direction will get the same recognition. Arthur C. Clarke had it right—there’s no way we can accurately envision what lies ahead in this techno world we live in, the one Steve Jobs and his co-workers gave us in the last century.

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