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.

Wednesday, May 25

Modern Family & Money Monster

When we told her we’d never seen any episodes of Modern Family, Laura, our Kentucky daughter, sent us the first two seasons on dvd. Thank you, Laura. Now we’re hooked enough that I bought Seasons Three through Seven. This modern family consists of three households bound together by ties typical of today’s nuclear families: the Dunphy family, with Phil (a very funny Ty Burrell), Clair (the lovely Julie Bowen, with whom I first fell in love when she was the hard-to-catch English teacher on Ed), Haley (Sarah Hyland), Alex (Ariel Winter), and Luke (Nolan Gould); the Pritchett family, with Jay (Ed O’Neill, again Married . . . with Children), Gloria (the hilarious Mrs. Malaprop, Sofia Vergara), and Manny Delgado (Rico Rodriguez); and the Gay Guys in the third family unit, Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), Cameron Tucker (Eric Allen Stonestreet), and their adopted daughter Lily Tucker-Pritchett (Aubrey Francis Anderson-Emmons). Throw them all together and the mix comes out belly-laughable. I had to chuckle when Gloria spoke about living in a Doggy-Dog World. When Jay corrected her, she made the very sensible point that no world would ever be considered acceptable in which dogs eat other dogs. And, thus, my point in calling my blog Doggy-Dog World. I love the comic depiction of the gay pair, obviously gay but not overdone, showing the world the normality of gay and lesbian couples. And now that same-sex marriages are almost universally legal, I’m assuming that somewhere in a later season they’ll get married. And Cam will weep. Lily will strew flower petals and dance for joy. Jay will walk Mitchell down the aisle. Gloria will catch the bouquet and then give it to Haley. Phil and Clair will agree to keep Lily while Mitchell and Cam go on their honeymoon. And everyone in these modern families will grow older right in front of us, just as we all must. Thank heavens for the comic elements of our aging. If we couldn’t laugh at life’s foibles, we’d have to weep. And who wants that?

The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes regarding Money Monster seemed to be spot-on, about a B- or C+, but certainly nothing better despite the high-powered trio of George Clooney, Julia Roberts, and director Jody Foster. Lee Gates (Clooney) stars in a tv investment show, using smarmy devices like assorted hats and dancing girls to make his stock tips look like something from a carnival freak show. His producer, Patty Fenn (Roberts) has so tired of him that she’s taking a job with another network. In what was to be her final show with him, a very disgruntled investor sneaks onstage, holds a gun to Gates’ head, has him don a bomb vest, and then tells Gates and the millions of viewers why he’s there and what he wants. He’s lost $60,000 on a tax tip that Gates had proclaimed absolutely safe, and he wants to know how that happened. Kyle Budwell (Jack O’Connell) is unhappy enough that he’s willing to die for this moment in the limelight? I don’t think so. No one forced him into the $60,000 investment that failed. And as for the reason the stock failed, it seems that the CEO of the failed company had somehow made eight hundred million bucks disappear in what he called a computer glitch. For most of us, the stock market with all its little mice scurrying around each day recording what’s up and what’s down is a magic mystery show. Then you throw in a term like “algorithm” and we throw up our hands in surrender. What might have been a nice suspenseful ninety minutes with two of my favorite stars had too many illogicals. And, George, stick to acting and give up the dancing.

Tuesday, May 24

The Voice

It was finale night on The Voice, with each of the four finalists singing three times, a duet with their coaches, a song each had written, and a song selected by the contestants. The duets weren’t especially meaningful except for the one with Alison Porter and Christina, James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” which was quietly lovely. The others were just time fillers until they got to the two main songs, the one they’d each written and the one they each chose. Hannah Huston had a chance to take it all, but her duet with Pharrell was a stinker. And although her song choice, Sting’s “Every Breath You Take,” was interesting, it wasn’t powerful enough, not career-defining enough as it needed to be. But Alison Porter’s choice, West Side Story’s “Somewhere,” knocked it out of the park. And it came at the best time in the show, the final performance. I think Alison will undoubtedly be the winner, with Hannah in second, Adam in third, and Laith last. If this were strictly a show designed to find the best musician, Laith would win it. But it’s not. Somewhat like American Idol, the winner of The Voice depends on the vote of a fickle, often musically uninformed public. What might The Voice do next season to improve on this talent show? First, get rid of those really hokey waving arms down front; rely less on loud backup singers and band and let us hear the voices; cut back on the coaches’ comments all of which seem to say the same things; instruct the audience to stop their screaming during performances; and tell the lovely Christina Aguilera that she doesn’t have to show us quite so much of her bountiful bosom.

Monday, May 23

Retirement Villages

I’m at an age when friends and relatives are dropping like flies, not a pleasant thought, not a pleasant image. Here in maybe the best community Del Webb ever created, Sun City West, Arizona, we residents enjoy a way of life that may never again be duplicated. I remember in one of John D. MacDonald’s novels, One Fearful Yellow Eye, Travis McGee comments on the Sun City Syndrome: “Instead of fun in the sun in the golden years the oldsters find they’ve locked themselves into a closed society with a mortality rate any combat infantry battalion would find impressive. You have to make friends fast because they aren’t going to be around long. Spooks in the sunshine. Change the club rosters once a week. For Sale signs sprout as fast as the pretty tropical flowers and trees. . . . The separate generations belong together. No matter how lush the flowerbeds, how spirited the bridge games, the shuffleboard competitions, the golf rivalries—nor how diligently the Hobby Center turns out pottery waterbirds, bedspreads and shell ashtrays, this kind of isolation still makes a geriatric ghetto where, in the silence, too many people listen to their own heartbeats.” I’m happy to report that McGee was “dead” wrong about life in a senior community. I know more young old people here than I ever knew anywhere else, and even though we lose friends with some regularity, we do not, as Dylan Thomas implored us, “go gentle into that good night.” None of us here in Sun City West spend our twilight years rocking life away on our front porches. Most of us are engaged in activities we never had time for in our younger lives—biking, swimming, tennis, golf, painting, and volunteering in many ways to help out anyone who needs help. And as for needing young people around, forget it. I see all the youth I need whenever I go to a movie, and most of the high schoolers I see, I don’t want to see. I miss teaching but I don’t miss most of the kids.

A quick comment on that now ubiquitous man, Donald Trump. I just read that Jack Nicklaus has said he’d vote for Trump. Whoa, Jack! I thought you were maybe the most careful planner in golfdom. What can you possibly see in Trump as our next president? He’s a misogynist, he’s an egomaniac, he’s a dangerous man who shoots his mouth off with no regard for whoever or whatever his mouth hits, he’s completely clueless about what he’d need to know to lead our nation and guard the world. Please, Jack, say it ain’t so. You aren’t really going to vote for this arrogant boob, are you?

Wednesday, May 18

A Few News Tids and a Couple of Bits

Some minor but interesting news items. What does George Zimmerman’s auctioning off the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin in 2012 say about us? Granted, bogus bidders got the figure to a truly stupid $65 million, but an actual auction’s latest bid stood at $123,500. Apparently Zimmerman feels no remorse for the killing, justifying the sale by calling the gun an “American firearm icon.” Scary people out there who’d be willing to pay that much for a murder weapon. Scary George Zimmerman who sees nothing wrong with the sale of his gun

On May 8, doctors at Massachusetts General performed the first successful penis transplant, a feat that reminds me of several of the best jokes about such a procedure.
“What’s the trickiest part of a penis transplant? Finding a donor.”

A man had a bad case of stuttering. He went to many doctors over the years, but none of them could help him. Finally one doctor said to him "I believe I found the reason for your stuttering".
The man asked, “Wha . . . wha . . . wha . . . what is my pro . . . pro . . . problem?”
The doctor replied, “Your penis is very large. The weight of your penis is causing a strain on your larynx, and this results in your stuttering. The only solution for this is a penis transplant.” The man was really tired of his stuttering, so he agreed to the surgery. Several days later the doctor called the man up and informed him that they’d found a suitable donor. The transplant operation was successfully performed and the man could speak without any stutter.
At first he was happy, but after a while he began to miss his large penis, and how the girls used to love it. He finally went back to his doctor and said, “Doctor, I’m grateful for the opportunity you've given me to speak without a stutter, but I miss my old penis. Please find the transplant donor and tell him that I want my old penis back. The doctor shook his head and replied, “That's im . . . im . . . im . . . impo . . . impossible.”

The last person still alive who was born in the 19th century is an Italian woman, Emma Martina Luigia Morano, born on November 29, 1899. When asked to explain her longevity, she said that daily she had three eggs, one cooked and two raw, pasta, a dish of raw meat, and a glass of brandy. I think that last item may be the real reason for her 116 years.

In the last three weeks in the news, we’ve seen over and over again the word “presumptive,” referring to the two likely nominees for president. What an appropriate word it is, especially when it points to Donald Trump. It reminds us of the more well-known word “presumptuous,” arrogant and with brass cojones, a label the Donald seems to wear with pride.

And the fuss over transgender bathrooms. What’s the big deal? Simply do away with urinals in male bathrooms and have separate enclosed stalls, thus precluding any prurient eyeballing by those who don’t physically conform to our sexual profiles. Female bathrooms already have such separate stalls. In this age of sexual freedom with all the F-bombs and nudity and explicit sex in film and on television, how can we be debating a problem with such a simple solution?

And finally, the last Bit, the tragic death of Samantha Broberg, who fell off a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico. I was reminded of an old Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode called “Dip in the Pool,” based on a story of the same name by Roald Dahl. A passenger on a cruise ship has entered a betting pool with his and his wife’s life savings. Mr. Botibol is betting that the ship will travel the least distance the following day. The weather forecast has told him there would be foul weather, thus slowing the ship. But the next day was sunny and calm. That evening he comes up with a plan to stall the ship so that he can win the pool. He’ll accidentally (on purpose) fall overboard, making sure he has a witness who will inform the captain of his fall. He finds a young woman near the ship’s rear and engages her in conversation. When she glances away for a moment he jumps over the rail and into the sea. He waves frantically at her and she waves back. Then a matronly woman approaches her and scolds her for being on deck alone. It seems that the young woman is mentally handicapped or suffering from dementia. Bye bye, Mr. Botibol.

Friday, May 6

Jungle Book & Trump Redux

A quick comment on Disney’s The Jungle Book. I went to it to see if what everyone was saying was true, that the animals were so real one could almost reach out and touch them. It’s simply amazing what Disney and other studios can now do with animation, with creating characters and backgrounds that defy the human eye to determine what’s real and what’s created. I can see in the not too distant future when we will no longer need live actors for movies; we’ll just create George Clooneys and Julia Roberts and stick them in the stories. The story of the man-cub Mowgli was pretty straightforward and not very good. The running and leaping he did would have made the 3-D version acceptable, but one can take only so much running and leaping. The best thing about this latest version of Kipling’s well-known story is Baloo the Bear, with Bill Murray doing the voice. Funny man, funny character. And one other thing, anyone who would take a three- to six-year old to this movie would regret it. The extreme action would scare the bejesus out of tiny tots.

I almost hate to continue writing about Donald Trump. He’s like that itch that one can’t get over by continual scratching. With every scratch the urge to itch increases. He’s everywhere one looks in the news, a man at first sort of comically interesting for his idiotic babbling but who is now becoming frightening. He won’t win in November but just the fact that he’s one of the two left in the presidential race says something very scary about where our nation is heading. And where the world might be heading. If Donald Trump were somehow to win in November, Canada would have to build a wall hundreds of feet high to hold out all the Americans who would be fleeing north. And the Muslim Americans along with us. And the Mexican immigrants, both legal and illegal, would be heading south, simply leapfrogging over the top of the Trump wall along our southern border.

Monday, May 2

Night Thoughts

First, a funny commentary on our current election drama. I too would like not to come out until it's all over. Instead, I have sleepless nights. Last night, Bonnie Spur (my left hipbone spur) wasn’t behaving, so every few minutes after I’d turned onto my left side, she gave an irritable growl and woke me up. There I was, three o’clock, eyes shut but not sleeping. And what nugget did my mind come up with for my middle-of-the-night perusal? Often times, it’s song lyrics for songs I haven’t heard for years and years. Not this time, though, instead it was another linguistic anomaly that would drive crazy a student trying to learn English: the pronunciation of the “ng” in so many of our words. The Spanish language is almost entirely consistent in the pronunciation of their words, and for any exceptions they use diacritical marks to guide speakers, such as accents and tildes. But English doesn’t seem to follow any logical reason for our different pronunciations. I can hear Barbra Streisand, when she talked about herself as a singer, saying the word with a hard G, maybe a little Jewish flip at the end: “Sing-guh.” We have “finger” and “linger” that take the hard G, but then there’s “singer” and “swinger” that go soft. Look at “anger” and “hanger,” hard and soft with nearly the same spelling. And when we add an “e” after the “g,” it switches to the French sound in “gendarme” and “Gigi,” as in “hinge,” “singe,” “range,” “ginger,” and “challenge.” Look at “lung” and “lunge,” nearly the same spelling but entirely different pronunciations. It’s enough to drive anyone batty. Just imagine yourself lying awake in the dead of night, sifting through words to find examples of these crazy sounds in English. It’s enough to drive me crazy. My wife would certainly agree with that. Maybe tonight I can work on all the inconsistent “ough” sounds.

Sunday, May 1

NSA Invasion of Privacy

A worrisome plot detail on recent episodes of The Good Wife. One scene involved cubicles at a NSA site, computer geeks there monitoring phones, one of which is
Alicia’s. They’re listening to what they call a “hot” phone, that is, a phone that, although turned off, can still transmit sounds and conversations as far away as ten feet. Even sounds involving sexual relations between her and her investigator/lover Jason. This takes invasion of privacy to a frightening level. Edward Snowden warned us of this agency activity. Smart phones can be accessed remotely, turned on, and then have an app attached that causes the phone only to pretend to turn off but that really stays on. This whole world of communication involving phones and computers is almost incomprehensible to all us non-nerds. Is it necessary for our national security to do this? Is Orwell’s frightening image of Big Brother now here thirty-two years later? I guess so. We learned a hard lesson from 9-11, and other terrorist groups have made it imperative to find the bad guys before they can blow us up. And the ubiquitous phone is the best way to find them. But there must be safeguards built in that limit what can be listened to and recorded. I’m assuming that NSA nerds have a list of potential terrorists to listen to. Okay. And there must be a list of words and phrases that flag someone’s phone, even though it’s not on that terrorist list. Okay. To be safe and secure, we have to give up some of our rights to privacy. Okay. But not all of them. And not given up for prurient eavesdropping (as with Alicia and Jason) or political pressure (as with Peter Florrick’s futile run for the presidential nomination). Hey, NSA, CIA, FBI, how about downsizing just a bit, down to just a medium-sized Brother.

This is the second time I've written about Big Brother. Anyone interested in what I had to say in 2013 can go to the right and click on the Featured Post.

And a mention of aging: I just found out I'm seven months younger than Willie Nelson and seven and a half years younger than Cloris Leachman. There. That should make me feel better. But only a little.

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