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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 is 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, you can find an archive list at the bottom of this page.

Tuesday, May 30

Donald Trump, U A

He may not have said it, but if he had it would sound something like this: “Our trip to Europe and the Middle-East last week was a huge success, a really really great visit with our allies over there.  And I believe I won that knuckle-crusher contest between me and France’s President Macron.  Yes, he’s a lot younger than me but I showed him what a grip I had.  And it’s the same grip I use on making America great again.  For a relatively older man, I have a tremendous grip.  But I also had a bad time with Chancellor Merkel in Germany.  All those automobiles they ship to our great country has to stop.  They are bad, very bad in their trade relationships with our great nation, and I will put a stop to it.”

Almost sixty years after Lederer and Burdick made the tag “Ugly American” a fitting label for the way most of the world viewed Americans, President Trump is doing his best to resurrect that image.  It was then a legitimate complaint about too many U.S. citizens who traveled abroad, their arrogance in insisting that communication be in English and not the language of the nation visited, the flaunting of money, the loud, brash stressing of opinions, the lack of class in attire, the reminders of how much better life is in the US, our ignorance of the history and culture of nations visited.

We haven’t often heard him speaking directly about his policies, off the cuff, that is.  I’m not sure he could state much of anything very clearly without the help of his writers.  In the debates, he very carefully avoided having to say anything with substance.  Without a teleprompter he’d be almost speechless, and even with a teleprompter which gives him someone else’s words, his delivery is slow and awkward.  He loves empty adjectives, like big, wonderful, bad, great, amazing, incredible, and tremendous.  He loves to pile up intensifiers to make a point, believing, it seems, that if he repeats such words, he’s making strong points.  For example, he might say something “is really, really bad,” or someone “is a very, very good person.”  He speaks in clich├ęs.  He tends to exaggerate.  He too often makes statements that haven’t been accurately researched.  He stumbles over phrases and leaves words out.  For example, in an interview about his appearance on the Chris Wallace show, he said, “I have, seem to get very high ratings. I definitely. You know Chris Wallace had 9.2 million people, it’s the highest in the history of the show. I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple. Chris Wallace, look back during the Army-Navy football game, I did his show that morning. It had 9.2 million people. It’s the highest they’ve ever had.”  [In fact, it was 2.3 million.]  In other interviews, “When WikiLeaks came out ... never heard of WikiLeaks, never heard of it.”  “The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the electoral college. Big, big, big advantage … The electoral college is very difficult for a Republican to win.” And: “The election has, you know, look, the Democrats had a tremendous opportunity because the Electoral College, as I said, is so skewed to them. You start off by losing in New York and California, no matter who it is … The Electoral College is so skewed in favour of a Democrat that it’s very, very hard.”  “But President Xi, from the time I took office, he has not, they have not been currency manipulators. Because there’s a certain respect because he knew I would do something or whatever.”  “I mean mostly they register wrong, in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly, and/or illegally. And they then vote. You have tremendous numbers of people.”

I believe we have made a really, really tremendous mistake in electing this man to be our president, and I, well, have to say . . . we have a leader who’s now reinventing what we once thought we’d done away with, the really, truly, Ugly, Ugly American.

Monday, May 29

Airline Scuffles & Big Brother

Much has been made lately of all the scuffles on airlines, especially the one involving the bloody doctor being dragged off the plane because he refused to give up his seat to make room for an airlines employee. So many people, both passengers as well as flight attendants, seem to be angry. Where is the sociability and civility of the past? Could it have something to do with terrorists and our growing anxiety when we board a plane? Could it have something to do with our impatience over the lengthy process of checking in? Could it have something to do with ever-shrinking seat space? Probably all of the above. More and more, I and a lot of other people don’t really want to fly anywhere unless it’s absolutely necessary. We’re now warned that bombs can be made small enough to fit in laptops as well as smartphone and tablets. Therefore, now such devices have to be transported with luggage or left behind. And if such bombs are powerful enough to blow a hole in the side of the plane from the passenger section, why wouldn’t they be powerful enough from the luggage storage area? That leads to my next question: Why are these terrorist cuckoo birds so intent on killing old, young, or in between, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, or any other group that doesn’t necessarily agree with and adhere to their views? Does the rest of the world have to root out and kill all these terrorists before we can stop running scared? I guess the answer is yes. It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world we’re living in.


Another thought—Orwell’s Big Brother of 1984 is with us, following and recording our every move. A proliferation of cameras can now watch us no matter where we go. They’re not yet able to send out signals to Big Brother to warn him of our transgressions, but they soon will be. Or maybe they already are. I’m not sure where you’d have to go to escape this surveillance—deep in the Rockies or some other wilderness area. But with the rapid increase in the number of drones and what they’re capable of, very soon there’ll be nowhere to hide. Some will argue that if you’ve done nothing wrong, why worry about it? My response? Who decides what is or isn’t a wrongdoing?

Sunday, May 28

Emily Dickson & Julie Harris

Next week we’re going to see the only movie in town that looks promising, at least the only one I can find that isn’t directed at children or those adults who are mental midgets. It’s A Quiet Passion, about one of my favorite poets, Emily Dickinson. Cynthia Nixon is getting very good reviews for her portrayal of this enigmatic New England lady. I hope she’s as good as the other one who took on the challenge, Julie Harris in her one-woman Broadway show called The Belle of Amherst. When I was a young lad in 1955, living briefly in New York City, I went to see the movie version of Steinbeck’s East of Eden three or four times in a row. You might think I went that often to see James Dean doing his early James Dean thing. That may have been part of the reason, but it was really to see the young Julie Harris, just one of the many film stars with whom in my youth I fell in love.
Then in 1976, she gave us a television version of The Belle of Amherst, a Broadway performance for which she won a Tony. If you’ve never seen it, go to YouTube for a ninety minute treat. It’s a tour de force for Julie Harris similar to what Hal Holbrook did with Mark Twain in the Fifties and Sixties. I wish playwright William Luce hadn’t chosen to include one of Dickinson's worst poems, “I Shall Not Live in Vain.” It’s a poem that a number of literary critics say may not even have been written by Dickinson. One of her distinctive stylistic traits in her fascination with unusual words. “I Shall Not Live in Vain” is plain and amateurish, relying on false emotion not found anywhere else in her more than fifteen-hundred poems. See what you think:

If I can stop one Heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain
If I can ease one Life the Aching
Or cool one Pain
Or help one fainting Robin
Unto his Nest again
I shall not live in Vain.

This was supposedly written in 1864, the same year she wrote

Love— is anterior to Life—
Posterior—to Death—
Initial of Creation, and
The Exponent of Earth—

Now, I ask you, did the same poet write both poems and both in the same year? I doubt it. If you have never seen Belle, go to YouTube. As for A Quiet Passion, I’ll let you know how Miss Nixon did, see how she compares to the Julie Harris version of Emily Dickinson.

Thursday, May 25

Life on Oxygen

Life with a trailing oxygen line. Well, it beats the alternative, so, yes, living with oxygen is better than dying without it. I’m a newbie in the oxygen club, so I haven’t yet discovered all the plusses and minuses that go with this lifestyle. Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned so far. The green plastic tube that trails after me isn’t as cumbersome as I thought it would be. I don’t step on it; I don’t stumble from a coil around my ankle; I don’t pinch it in a closed bathroom door. But oh how Tuffy loves to chew on it. At first I thought it was too tough for a cat to do any damage. Wrong. He has very sharp little teeth. Tiger and Charlie don’t find it tasty, only Tuffy. A week or so ago I realized around 3:00 a.m. that nothing was coming through. I got up and checked the line—tiny little tooth holes close to where the line attaches to the oxygenator were emitting tiny little streams of oxygen, four such holes in all. I got out a roll of packing tape and taped the holes. Success, at least until he decides he also likes the taste of packing tape. The next day we tried to think of anything that would be noxious to a cat that we could rub on the line. By “noxious” I don’t mean deadly. I simply wanted to find something that would really turn him off. So my wife dipped a cloth in white vinegar and rubbed it on the line. That seemed to deter him at least temporarily. But I don’t want her to have to apply the vinegar on a frequent basis. I went on-line to see what others may have said about such a problem (and, yes, one can find answers to almost any question one can come up with). Some suggested solutions: 1. Slit open lengthwise thirty or forty plastic straws to protect the line. 2. Go to a hardware store and buy a length of flex line big enough to run the oxygen line through. 3. Make a paste of flour and water mixed with cayenne pepper and slather it on the line. 4. Suspend the entire line from hooks in the ceiling. Now, I ask you, are any of these suggestions practical? No. If not ridiculous (the straws), or messy (the paste), or way too cumbersome (the flex line), then totally unworkable (the ceiling hooks). One would need a separate line for each location that needed to be visited since a line suspended from hooks wouldn’t allow for any change in direction. That would give me about five or six separate lines with the need to reconnect to the oxygenator whichever line would take me to a new location. Whoa! That would never work. I guess the only practical solution is to give Tuffy away, and that ain’t about to happen. Better a few little air leaks than an absent Tuffy. I also learned that the cannulas need to be sanitized on a frequent basis, like every three days. One needs to wash it in warm sudsy water, then soak it in a solution of warm water and vinegar for an hour or so. Why is that necessary? Well, plastic cannulas, especially the two nasal prongs, are susceptible to bacteria that can so easily give the wearer a sinus infection. That’s all I’d need—an infection that might disallow my taking in any oxygen. There is, then, the unsatisfactory hauling of an oxygen tank whenever one wants to leave home. The tank sits on something like a tiny golf cart and is pulled behind.
It’s awkward to put it in the car, awkward to take out of the car, awkward to enter restaurant or movie theater or grocery story with this silver tank, like some cantankerous child attached to an impatient parent.

That about all I’ve learned so far, but I’m sure there will be other issues to deal with down the yellow-brick oxygen road.

Wednesday, May 24

The Voice, Season 12

I wrote this last night, so what I say is one day old, but my prognostications about who will win were pretty much on the mark. I’m talking about the finale of The Voice, which was on last night, two hours of hype, hype, and more hype. We’ve watched this twelfth season more closely than any in the past and my observations are in most ways just a repeat of what I’ve already said.

Overall, the vocal talent is better on The Voice than on other such contests, even better than on American Idol. My positive takes? So many of the contestants are so very attractive. Are they naturally so or are the makeup people magicians? The sets of all of the performances are unbelievably intricate and beautiful and how they manage to get them ready between performances is beyond me. The backup singers and band musicians are excellent, although maybe a little too intrusive. The judges are cogent and funny. Negative takes? Those awful out-of-synch arms waving from the front boxes. Why do the producers of Voice as well as Idol feel they’re necessary? The volume of the backup singers and orchestra too often makes it hard if not impossible to hear the contestants. Then there’s the audience reaction during performances, all the screaming and applause during instead of after the performance, and unless I miss my guess, they have someone out in front of the audience directing them when to amp it up. That’s too much like forcing laugh tracks on the audience watching tv sit-coms. There’s also too much time spent on banter between judges (especially that artificial duel between Adam Levine and Blake Shelton) and not enough on the actual performances. The voting seems to be too dependent on the number of ITunes downloads. Tonight’s winners? Chris Blue will win, with Lauren Duski second, Jesse Larson third and the delightful 15-year-old Aliyah Moulden fourth. See, I told you I was pretty much on the mark, with only Jesse and Aliyah trading reversed.

Now, what about the two hours last night? It was nice to see so many of the contestants who didn’t make the final four come back to sing duets with their coaches or other star singers. I loved the duet between Usher and Chris Blue, “Everybody Hurts.” I loved the twosome of TSoul and Vanessa Ferguson who joined the incomparable Gladys Knight for an extended “You Are the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me/If I Were Your Woman” How can Gladys Knight look and sound almost exactly as she did forty years ago? ‘Tis a mystery. The two best singles were Chris Stapleton singing “Either Way” and Jennifer Hudson singing “Remember Me.” Wow, has Jennifer Hudson ever come a long way from that stint she did on American Idol in Season 3, the year Kelly Clarkson won and Jennifer finished . . . SEVENTH!! Her new single “Remember Me” should be a big-time winner.

Will we watch another season of The Voice? Too soon to say if the negatives will outweigh the positives. If only they would have all the contestants sing at least once acapella so we could really hear how good or bad they are. Dream on.

Tuesday, May 23

Hello Again, Hello Again

I’ve been away too long again. I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to get a publishable version of my book on English sentence structure; all those arrows and variously sized circles nearly drove me nuts. But I finally got it done and had it published on Amazon. Now if I could only entice a few English teachers out there to buy it and try it, I’d be a happy old man. Here’s the place to find it: ES3

An old news item but one that really made me grind my teeth. It involved the young man, 19-year-old Timothy Piazza, who was allowed, yes, allowed, to die in that hazing incident at Penn State a number of weeks ago. How tragically stupid such hazing is. When I was a young pledge at the U. of South Dakota many many years ago, all the fraternities called it Hell Week even though it lasted only 72 hours. ONLY 72 hours? It was an exercise in sadism that for 72 hours allowed fraternity members to demean, humiliate, and torture the new pledges, supposedly to separate the wheat from the chaff. Those who could survive would become full brothers in the bond. Those who couldn’t were dropped like sacks of garbage. I won’t go into any of the details, but I would have to guess that many of the unmentionable activities I went through were the same as those at the Beta Theta Pi house. The excessive, forced consumption of alcohol is the only thing their pledges had to do that I didn’t. And it killed him. His blood alcohol level when he was found on the edge of death was between .26 and .36. The legal limit for blood alcohol is .08. That’s a rather astonishing difference. But it was the nearly total lack of humanity demonstrated by too many of the fraternity brothers that was especially awful. He fell down a flight of stairs and was then ignored for the next twelve or so hours. Nobody checked to see if he was all right. No one called 911. They just pretended he wasn’t there. Until it was too late. Fraternal organizations are a fine way for young people to become accepted on college campuses, but there was no need then nor is there any need now for the kind of hazing that’s still allowed.

Then there’s our president, Donald Trump. He’s been in office for just over four months and the man just can’t keep his mouth shut, can’t keep one or the other or both feet out of that open mouth. He’s demonstrated over and over again that he’s way too far over his head in the depths of Presidential requirements. London bookies are indicating that the odds of his being impeached are almost up to even. More on that in posts to come.

Saturday, May 6

Happy Valley & Oxygen

Hello again. I think I said that same thing last year. Well, here I am again. I stopped posting just after the New Year to get back to writing a novel I began almost ten years ago. And I'm happy to say that it's now finished. It's called Happy Valley (a really trite name but it was the best I could come up with). It's about a retired English teacher who now lives in a retirement city called, naturally, Happy Valley, which is really a thinly disguised Sun City West, where I and my wife now reside. Nothing very unusual or dramatic happens during this man's life, but I think it's a life that's interesting enough to be the basis for a novel. I would hope that some of my readers might buy it and judge for themselves. It's available through Amazon (what else?) as an e-book for $1.99 or as a paperback for $10.00. Click here for purchase.

What else has gone on this year? Well, I had a near-death experience with pneumonia that put me in the hospital for more than a week. It was determined there that in addition to pneumonia, I also had pulmonary fibrosis and a diseased heart. How's that for a triple-header? I've been out of the hospital for about a month, living on oxygen, a condition that appears to be mine for the rest of my life. I don't find that having an oxygen line trailing after you everywhere you go in the house is a happy experience. It also makes trips away from the house awkward. But I'm ordering a portable oxygen concentrator that should make it much less awkward. It's a little expensive, but what choice do I have>? It weighs five pounds, runs on lithium batteries that are good for up to ten hours, and is very quiet so that it won't bother other people at a movie theater or restaurant. I guess I'll get used to it. I guess I'll have to get used to it. The alternatives aren't very good.

I plan to write two or three blog posts every week, just as I did in the past. I have lots of Trumpisms to catch up on. Will I ever run out of things to say about the Donald? I don't think so.

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Any comments? Write me at jertrav33@aol.com