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.

Thursday, June 29

Baseball Records & Jazz

A little more on baseball. The Arizona Diamondbacks are one of several surprise teams in MLB this year. Last night they won their fiftieth game against only twenty-eight losses. That’s their best start ever and makes them third best in both leagues, trailing only the Houston Astros and the hated LA Dodgers. They’re such a fun bunch to watch. They’ve pulled off twenty-eight come-from-behind wins. Now, that’s exciting baseball. In baseball, almost all records can and will be broken, but there are two records from the past that will probably stand forever: Ted Williams’ season average of .407 in 1953 and Joe DiMaggio’s fifty-six games in a row with one or more hits in 1941. One would think the Williams .407 would be reachable, but in all of baseball, he’s the only one to maintain an average that high for a whole season. He also did it in 1941 - .406 and 1952 - .400. With today’s pitchers—bigger, stronger, faster, with far more pitching tools than in the past—batters can’t hit them at a 4 for 10 pace for an entire season. Then there’s Joltin’ Joe’s 56 in a row. No one since then has come within shouting distance of his record. No one in the future will either.

In most sports involving a ball, the eyes have it. Players who see the ball more clearly and for a longer duration will be more successful than those who don’t. Ted Williams swore he could see the stitches on the ball when his bat made contact. Golfers with amazing hand-eye coordination will tell you they see the ball as they hit it. In all sports involving catching, kicking, or striking a ball or puck, it’s all-important to see the ball until after the ball or puck has been caught or struck. The eyes have it, and it’s the single most important factor in sports success.

I’m a longtime jazz fan. I was going to say “old time” but I’d rather not think of myself as old. But not just any kind of jazz. There are all sorts of music that fall under the jazz label—big band or swing and small groups like trios of bass, percussion and piano; Dixieland, male and female vocalists, fast, slow, loud, soft. From my youth in the 40’s and 50’s, I loved the big bands—Glenn Miller, the Dorseys, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Les Brown, and Benny Goodman, to name only the best-known. But my all-time favorite was Stan Kenton. His jazz was louder than most, more innovative than most. I listened to all of his “Artistries” over and over and even today I can hear note for note in my inner ear his most famous “Artistry in Rhythm.” Louis Armstrong’s Dixieland turns me off; jazz that’s too loud or too fast turns me off. I guess I’m saying that quiet jazz piano and a quiet female jazz singer like Diana Krall or Carmen McRae turns me on. I’ll always regret never going to a club to listen to either of these women. It was always something I’d do sometime, just not today. And now it’s too late.

Wednesday, June 28

McEnroe vs Williams

The Battle of the Sexes, Round Two. Remember when Bobby Riggs lost a grudge match to Billie Jean King in 1973? It was to decide if a woman tennis player could beat a man, even an old loudmouth like Riggs. And now we have a new debate when John McEnroe left-handedly slapped Serena Williams by saying that she was without a doubt the greatest female tennis player of all time but that she would rank only about 700 in the men’s circuit. Oh, my, did Serena take offense. It’s probably true that most women in most sports wouldn’t be able to compete with most men. That’s not a sexist observation, just one based on the physical differences between most women and most men. The best woman in most sports that require physical strength and speed would be better than most men. But not the best men. We’ve been watching American Ninja Warrior and are big fans of Kaci Cantanzaro and Jesse Graff,
both of whom have demonstrated that they can compete with and beat most, but not all, of the male contestants. In football, women have made it on male teams in high school and college, but so far mainly as punters or kickers. In professional basketball, Ann Meyers played briefly with the Indiana Pacers in 1979 but more as a curiosity than an effective starter. Even the 6' 8" Brittany Griner
wouldn't be able to compete with NBA players. Michelle Wie a decade ago made the sorry discovery that she couldn’t keep up with the men in professional golf, nor could Annika Sorenstam
in 2013 when she failed to make the cut in the Colonial that year, nor could Babe Didrikson Zaharias in the 1938 Los Angeles Open. But McEnroe’s placing Serena back at 700 is truly insulting. She would more likely be in the top 100, maybe even as high as 25. But not number one. And Bad Boy John should acknowledge that and apologize to her. Or better yet, challenge her to a match like Riggs did to King. That would generate a huge audience of men and women most of whom would be rooting for Serena to shut Loud-Mouth John’s loud-mouth.

Tuesday, June 27

This 'n' That

We’re still in the middle of a heat wave, but in a few days it will go down to what we average for late June, about 106˚. Most people unfamiliar with Arizona would say we’re still in the middle of a heat wave. I guess so. But when one doesn’t leave the house because it’s hovering around 120˚, one also doesn’t leave when it’s only 106˚. It’s like what we did in snowy Chautauqua County—not go out in the middle of a blizzard, also not go out when it’s chilly, muddy, wet-snow sloppy.

Interesting stat. Facebook just reported that over two billion are now socializing on its medium. Mind boggling. That makes fifty times two billion inane remarks made every day, or ten trillion such inanities daily. How many emoticons would that entail? Probably only five trillion per day. The numbers are so huge the mind can’t fathom this phenomenon. How many minutes a day are wasted because two billion people are Facebooking? About six trillion minutes, or one hundred billion hours, or about 4.17 billion days, or 11.42 million years. Mr. Z, how can you report this with pride and the promise to make that number of Facebookers even higher?

Not much to report about movies. The only one that’s coming out this week that I want to see is Baby Driver. It got good reviews and the plot sounds like something I’d like. A week ago, we made the sorry mistake of renting The Great Wall. What a stinker. How could Matt Damon have agreed to make this movie? How could the producers have thought it would make a bunch of money? The visual effects were good but then we have The Great Wall of China and these millions of beasties that attack it. How silly. I’ll think twice before I rent another Matt Damon flick.

More on my lessons about living with oxygen. The Bitter Apple spray seems to be working to prevent Tuffy from chewing holes in the line. I’ve also discovered that the more time I spend with the two prongs up my nose the easier it becomes. In fact, often now I don’t even realize it’s there. And I’ve come up with a solution for that awful pain one gets at the top of the ears from the oxygen line sort of biting into the flesh. I bought several terrycloth head bands, then attached two large paperclips, bent the top of the paperclips, and now the line can be held up above the ears. No more pain.

Sunday, June 25

Obesity & Bill Cosby

My nearly six month hiatus from this blog has seen an almost 100% loss of readers. Not that a wide and varied readership was ever my bloggish goal, but It did feel good when a hundred or more readers would show up for one of my blogs. From the very beginning, I posted here as a kind of daily journal or diary entry. The writing was for me mainly and only partly for anyone else who may have wanted to see what I had to say. And now that I’ve returned to a tiny audience, I feel sad. And abandoned. Therefore, I’m going to continue to post and hope that some of my past readers will return.

The Cosby trial resulted in a hung jury. The just couldn’t find unanimity. I can understand. Too many of these trials on sexual harassment and sexual misconduct are too hazy, the definition of each too subjective, with too much room for revenge instead of justice. Not that I think Bill Cosby is innocent of all these charges. That many women all telling the same story can’t be motivated simply by revenge. I also wonder why so many of them agreed to take the pills Cosby gave them to “relieve” their anxiety. What were they anxious about? Wasn’t that agreement at least partly a consent to what came later? There may or may not be another trial.

Every so often I have to say something about fat people, really fat people. What makes them tick? Is the taste of food so enticing that they’d give up a normal body size just to eat and eat? I recently read an article about the world’s heaviest man, a Mexican living in a nation in which nearly 35% of adolescents are overweight or obese. He weighed in at just over 1300 pounds. Another article reported that about a third of the world’s population is obese. How is that possible? Faulty metabolism doesn’t explain it. Only a tiny fraction could legitimately claim they had a metabolism too slow. The only explanation must be over-eating or eating way too much fat-producing food, ours and the world’s penchant for junk food. But a third of the world’s population is over two billion people. Two billion! Can you imagine what they’d look like if you piled them up helter-skelter? That would be one huge, greasy mountain of blubber. Is it some sort of competition to see who can be fattest, to win an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records? Those at the top of the heap usually die young from a failure of one or more organs that simply throw up their frankfurter fat fingers and give up the ghost or from an inability to get from one room to the next because the doors aren’t wide enough. Two billion! Is the taste of rich food so enticing that these fat folk can’t deny their taste buds? I don’t know. But if we want to make room for our now nearly seven billion people, we could make quite a bit of room by stapling the stomachs of these two billion grossly overweight people.

Monday, June 19

Baseball & Active-Reactive Sports

Baseball is such an unusual sport. For those who have never played it or have never become a fan, it must be like (as my wife is fond of saying) watching paint dry. But for those who are avid fans or have ever played it, the game is a study in mental pressure. Nearly all sports are reactive. That is, a competitor reacts instinctively to some action of his opponent, who then also reacts instinctively to that instinctive move. For example, tennis, except for the serve, is reactive, as is basketball, except for free throws, as is football except for the kicking of extra points and field goals. Boxing, soccer, and hockey are almost entirely reactive. Golf, on the other hand, is almost entirely active with the competitor deciding rationally instead of instinctively what club to use, where to aim it, how hard to swing. The golfer, except in occasional match play events, is not competing with anyone or anything but the course, each stroke for 18 holes set in motion by the golfer’s active decisions. Then there’s baseball, which is about half and half active and reactive, leaving all sorts of possible head games. The duel between pitcher and batter goes on for the entire game. Who can outguess the other? Batter: Which pitch will he throw to what part of the plate and at what speed? Pitcher: Which pitch will he be expecting and delivered to which part of the plate at what speed? The catcher becomes involved by signaling to the pitcher which sort of pitch he thinks should be thrown. The batter looks to the third base coach who will relay the manager’s instructions for the next pitch—bunt, take, or hit-and-run. The pitch is thrown, the batter either lets it go or he swings and misses or hits it foul or hits it somewhere in fair territory. The defender reactively catches it or picks it up and throws it to a fellow defender at whichever base that’s appropriate to produce one of the three outs that comprise that half an inning. And between each pitch, all nine defenders must keep in mind all the possible outcomes when a ball has been hit. It’s all very complicated. And very exciting if you know what you’re seeing and involve yourself in the mental aspects of the game.

Baseball questions:
Why aren’t more young players becoming switch hitters? Why aren’t hitters given a set amount of time between pitches, with each infraction counting as a strike? Why doesn’t professional baseball do away with an umpire calling balls and strikes? To avoid those painfully long games that go into three or four or ten extra innings, why not have only one extra inning? If it remains tied after that one inning, then have each team choose one hitter to bat against one of their own pitchers, the hitter given three swings with the other team defending. Two hits followed by a home run would count as three runs. A home run followed by two hits would count as only one run. Three hits (other than a home run) would count as one run. If the score after this sudden death inning remains tied, then declare the game as a tie. Just think of the interest in the game this sudden death inning would produce.

Tuesday, June 13

Trump vs Comey

I can ignore him and his escapades no longer. I just have to comment on the sad image our nation is now presenting to the rest of the world. I’m referring to the “He said-he said” confrontation between James Comey and our omni-tweeter president Donald Trump. On one hand we have the Comey memos he wrote about their meeting in the White House, the “he said” that he feared Trump might lie about what was said. On the other hand we have the Donald’s “he said” suggesting he may have made tapes of their meeting. Comey said, “I hope so. When will we see and hear them?” Trump said, “Not now, maybe later.” We, apparently, will hear them on the same day we see his tax returns. Like never. Meanwhile, the investigation into Russian ties to Trump and his band of advisers continues, with ever widening ripples in the guilt pool about those Russian ties. Comey calls Trump a liar and Trump calls Comey a leaker. It’s quite possible that Trump doesn’t know the difference between a lie and the truth. Whatever is convenient is the truth. Or maybe he just doesn’t remember what he once said that contradicts what he later says. Maybe he just didn’t realize how difficult his job would be and now, unconsciously, wishes he could get out of it. Even Paul Ryan now tries to explain Trump’s many faux pas by saying, “He’s still learning how to act like a president.” Maybe Trump doesn’t realize how stupid he sounds when he says, “Climate change is a hoax” or “Barack Obama isn’t a legal U.S. citizen.” All of this in his first five mostly unsuccessful months in office. It seems ever more likely that VPOTUS Pence will become POTUS Pence. That would be better, but only by a little, than what we now have.

Monday, June 12

Tonys 2017

“Another opening, another show, another Tony’s the way to go!”  I think I’ve seen every Tony Awards show since we’ve been married.  That would make last night’s my 57th Tony.  And it was as good as it’s ever been.  Of all the awards shows (and there seem to be over a hundred), the Tonys are the classiest, most entertaining of them all.   Kevin Spacey was an adequate host but he couldn’t come up to those hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman.  And if last year was the year of Hamilton, 2017 would be the year of Dolly and Evan Hansen.  Bette Midler, looking a few decades younger than she really is, won for her role as Dolly in the winner of the best musical revival, Hello, Dolly.  I think she may have aged another year during her prolonged acceptance speech.  I know I did.  Then there was Ben Platt, who won for his role as Even Hansen in the winner of the best musical Dear Evan Hansen.  Wow!  Simply Wow!  He won me over with his extended, oh so complicated version of “Waving through a Window.”  I’ve always been fascinated by song lyrics.  That doesn’t mean I think more highly of the lyricist than the one who puts those words to music.  Richard Rogers was every bit as important as Oscar Hammerstein.  But the lyrics, ah, the lyrics.   I guess that’s why I’ve spent my entire life writing lyrics that will never be heard by anyone but me.  I guess that’s why I’m such a fan of Stephen Sondheim, who learned the trade at the knee of Oscar Hammerstein.  And now we have Justin Paul and Benj Pasek, who came up with these complicated, very clever lyrics for Dear Evan Hansen.  I hope I live long enough to see this show performed at the Arizona Broadway Theatre.  If you want to taste a few of the best songs from this show, here are the YouTube versions of “Waving Through a Window,” “Only Us,” and “You Will Be Found.”  Again, Wow!

Friday, June 9

Inogen One G2

My in-home oxygen concentrator and G2 portable arrived at my door today.  If packaging is a criterion for judging how good a company is, then Inogen must be in the world’s top ten.  It came in two cardboard boxes, with cardboard heavier than any I’ve ever seen.  The first box contained the in-house concentrator, about a third the size of the one we’ve been renting from our health provider, sounding about a third as loud as the bigger one.  It was held in place in the box by really heavy plastic blowup sheets.  I think the unit would have escaped any injury even if dropped from ten stories.  The second box contained the portable with all its accessories, this also encased in heavy blowup plastic.  The accessories: a plastic pull cart with telescoping handle for transporting the portable in case it became awkward to carry it on the shoulder, a carry bag for the portable, one 12-cell and one 24-cell lithium battery,
two power cords (an AC cord for at home and a DC cord for car or boat), and a user manual.  First, I tested the in-home concentrator.  Worked just fine.  Then the portable concentrator.  This one really surprised me.  With the 24-cell battery attached, the whole thing weighs just over seven pounds.  You charge the battery by plugging the portable in and turning it on.  A little display window at the front of the unit tells you how much the battery has been charged and what level of oxygen supply you want it set at.  When I first put a cannula on with the unit set at 3, I didn’t understand why it wasn’t pumping any oxygen continuously.  Then I could feel and hear the oxygen being delivered in little bursts to coincide with my nasal breathing.  If I breathe through my mouth instead of my nose, it doesn’t put out any oxygen because it can’t tell if I’m really there.  But when I breathe through the cannula it will match the oxygen puffs to my breathing, just as though Siri is in there listening and checking up on me.  And when it’s turned on, there’s almost no sound, just a tiny purr and those occasional little puffs.  I didn’t realize that the portable unit could serve as an in-home concentrator and, therefore, I didn’t really need the one I bought.  But, I guess it serves as a reliable backup in case something happened to the portable.  All in all, I just can’t say how happy this makes me.  Compared to the large in-home unit and those annoying silver tanks for trips outside the home, what I now have is like a dream come true.  If one really does need to life a life on oxygen, then this is the only way to go.  Maybe in a month or a year, when something awful happens to either unit, I might feel differently, at which time I will slap myself in the face and take back my glowing endorsement.  But I doubt anything like that will happen.

Now, back to my sharp-toothed little Tuffy who keeps biting tiny holes in my oxygen lines.  He did it again last night and this morning when I tried to patch it with packing tape, it just wouldn’t seal.  So, I put on a new line, went on-line to that wonderful place called Amazon and ordered a package of twenty-five 40-foot lines for just over thirty dollars.  Each line comes to about $1.25.  And on Monday, I’ll be getting a spray bottle of Bitter Apple cat repellent (another purchase from Amazon) that I’ll use on the oxygen line to see if that won’t make him quit his biting.  And if that doesn’t deter him, then for only about $1.25 I can simply throw the bitten one away every three or four days and put on a new one.

Wednesday, June 7

Oxygen & Tv Westerns

In one or two days I’ll get my order from Inogen, a small in-home oxygen concentrator and a battery-operated portable.  The in-home unit will replace the larger (and louder) unit we’re now renting and the portable will free me from that awkward tank that I’ve been pulling around like a dog out for his constitutional.  The portable will allow me more freedom away from home, even an extended automobile trip if we want to visit our Kentucky daughter and don’t want to fly.  The unit can be plugged into the car for oxygen use while it recharges the battery.  Can’t wait.  More on cats and oxygen hoses.  Tiger or Tuffy did it again last night, chewed a hole in the line that leaked about 90% of what should have been coming to me in bed.  So I again looked up cat repellent and found bottles of bitter apple spray or rub-on.  Supposedly, dogs and cats can’t stand it.  We’ll see.  I also found out that my advanced age and oxygen dependence has altered the makeup of my blood such that 82˚ now feels the same as 75˚ felt only a few years ago.  We now keep our AC set at 82˚and it feels just fine.

Where are the television Westerns of yesteryear?  I long for a Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Bonanza, or Maverick.  I miss Miss Kitty, Matt, and gimpy Chester; miss Rowdy, Gil, and Wishbone; miss the Cartwrights (Ben, Hoss, Little Joe, and Adam); and, of course, miss the Maverick brothers Bret and Bart.  Were these shows really as good as I remember or have I simply romanticized them?  I don’t know.  There used to be a bunch of hour and half-hour Westerns in the Fifties and Sixties, but they weren’t nearly as good as the four mentioned above: to name only a few,  Have Gun Will Travel, The Rifleman, The Wild Wild West, The Lone Ranger, and Bat Masterson.  I’ll take the few Western movies still being made, like The Hateful Eight, Django Unchained, Jane Got a Gun, and The Revenant, but I’d sure like to see a good Western series.

Tuesday, June 6

Tiger's Fall

I guess I can no longer ignore the latest episode in Tiger’s fall from grace.  For years I’ve defended him, as a remarkable golfer and a remarkable young man.  Then the news from Florida in November 2009 and the debacle with his wife, the news not only of his infidelity but his supposed addiction to sex, nymphomania on the female side and satyriasis on the male.  But there is no psychological consensus regarding such behavior.  Is it a psychological condition or is it simply a desire to have sexual relations with more than just a wife or girlfriend?  No one seems to know.  Okay, so despite my disappointment at this unfortunate incident, I forgave him his sins.  He’s certainly not the first husband to stray, just one of the most famous.  I kept saying that his golfing career would continue, that he would still beat Sam Snead’s record for most wins, that he would still win more majors than Jack Nicklaus.  After all, he won the 2008 U.S. Open on just one leg.  But then it became a back issue more than his surgically repaired knees.  And more and more rehab that kept him out of the game during what would have been his most productive years.  Then that series of comeback attempts two years ago that were so embarrassingly bad.  I kept saying I still thought he’d recover and get back to winning golf tournaments, maybe not five or more majors, maybe not even one.  But at least he could contend.  But then he had more issues with his back.

And now another news flash—an apparent DUI in Florida with that unfortunate and awful lineup photo that was aired all over the world.  Those who hated Tiger from the very beginning for his apparent arrogance, for his unapproachability, for his being black, must now be chortling over this latest fall from up there to down here.  It still hasn’t been determined if he was under the influence of alcohol or if he was encumbered by a combination of prescription drugs.  Doesn’t matter.  The damage has been done and nothing will make it better.  That booking photo has confirmed that everything that could go wrong with his life and his golfing career has gone wrong.  He will retreat into the privacy of his wealth.  He will never again play competitive golf.  He may or may not continue his philanthropy.  I hope does.  Maybe that would somehow offset these two falls from the heights of the sports world to the depths of that booking photo.

Saturday, June 3

Quality Television

I keep saying the same thing about our leisure time television viewing: There’s too much quality stuff and too little time to see it.  In the old days, we had the three major networks—ABC, NBC, and CBS.  Then, more and more networks got into the act.  And now we have at least twenty that are watch-worthy.  I tune in CBS far more often than the other two.  Why?  Because the best hour-long dramas are there—Madam Secretary, Blue Bloods, NCIS, Bull, and Criminal Minds.  And the best two comedies, The Big Bang Theory and Mom.

Two of the best dramatic series can be found on FX, The Americans and Fargo.  The critically acclaimed Better Call Saul is on AMC.

I’ve watched
The Americans from the beginning and I’m just as confused now as I was after the first episode. There are almost too many plot lines to keep track of, especially those set in Russia with Russian dialogue and English subtitles.  I love Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as the spy couple, love their many different disguises by alternating head and facial hair styles.  It’s odd to be rooting for Russian spies, but they’re just such nice people.  That’s what so surprised me when Sweet Keri killed the Russian woman who, in WWII, had been forced by the Nazis to execute and bury in a large trench the young Russian men in her village.  Even more surprising, when she also killed the husband, who had nothing to do with his wife’s acts in the war, knew nothing about them.  The next season will probably be the last, since the end of the Cold War would be the end of their spying.  Will their FBI friend and neighbor Stan (Noah Emmerich) ever learn their true identities?  Will they and daughter Paige relocate to Russia or will they decide to stay in America, where they’ve lived for most of their adult lives.  We’ll see.

One of the oddest but best series on television is the Breaking Bad spinoff, Better Call Saul.  I call it odd because it’s using many of the same character as those in Breaking Bad, but they’re all so different, some even risen from their graves.  Saul (Bob Odenkirk), who was a true lawyer sleazebag in Breaking Bad, is now the sympathetic but still strange lawyer Jimmy McGill in Saul.  The two nasty drug dealers, Hector Salamanca and Gus Fring, both die in Breaking Bad but are resurrected and larger than life in Saul. Mike Ehrmantraub (Jonathan Banks) was a drug partner of Walter’s in Breaking and is now back in Saul as a much more sympathetic character.  Odd, yes, but very watchable and surprising.  [Ah, ha!  I've been informed that Saul is a prequel to Breaking Bad.  Why did I not know that?  Why didn't I do better research?  I now understand why Hector and Gus are alive in Saul but I'd still prefer that Jimmy not turn into Saul later in his career, the sleazy one we had in Breaking Bad.]

Then there’s probably the best show of all for the last three seasons, Fargo, the very funny, very bloody, very interesting creation of Noah Hawley.  Each season is a self-contained ten episodes set in the Minnesota we first saw in the Coen brothers’ hilarious Fargo, the movie.  And if you’re looking for pure evil embodied in anything on television, look no further than V. M. Varga (David Thewles), the crooked-toothed, soft-spoken, anorexic villain who takes over the company of Emmit Stussy (Ewen McGregor), killing and intimidating anyone who gets in his way.

As I’ve said before, just too much quality viewing on the tube and too little time to view it. 

Thursday, June 1

A Quiet Passion

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth's superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Cynthia Nixon was a believable Emily Dickinson in the recent film, A Quiet Passion.  She captured the passion as well as the reticence of this New England recluse.  I was a little disappointed that so many of her best-known poems were ignored and those that were included weren’t as clearly presented as they might have been.  Most who saw this movie would not be as familiar as I am with either her life or her poems.  I think too many of the poems quoted would have gone right over the heads of most of the audience.  It would have been more effective to see the poems as she wrote them, with all her idiosyncratic punctuation visibly evident.  Too much was made of the few males she may or may not have felt attracted to and too little made of other aspects of her life, like how much her garden became a refuge for her in her reclusive years.  Where was the “narrow fellow in the grass,” or the bird which rides “upon a single wheel” or the robin she watched secretly as he “bit an Angleworm in halves / And ate the fellow, raw”?  Too much time was spent with her mother’s death and brother Austin’s infidelity.  Too little time was spent with the poems and too much on the conversations she had with her liberated friend, Vryling Buffam (Catherine Bailey).  One of her poems was quietly delivered by Dickinson when she said hello to her new-born niece, “I’m Nobody!  Who are you?” but it felt more extemporaneous than poetic.  The film was almost entirely devoid of background music, a good thing, although early on we see the Dickinson family attending a particularly painful operatic performance, one which Dickinson supposedly proclaimed wonderful.  No, the perceptive Dickinson would not have said such a thing.  Many scenes were slowed down to allow Nixon room for dramatic, full-face expressions.  Dickinson’s life was almost entirely without the sort of drama most moviegoers require.  Except for a few shouting matches between her and  her Puritanically pious father and her and her philandering brother Austin, her life played out in slow motion.  Her New England isolation was underscored with the absence of any mention in her poems of the Civil War.  We needed to see more of her poetry to appreciate the woman and her character.  I wanted more of her surprising metaphors, like “ ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers— / That perches in the soul,” and “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died—”  I needed more of her surprising word choices, like “The Riddle we can guess / We speedily despise— / Not anything is stale so long / As Yesterday’s surprise—” or “Much Madness is divinest Sense— / To a discerning Eye— / Much Sense—the starkest Madness— / ‘Tis the Majority / In this as All, prevail— / Assent—and you are sane— / Demur—you’re straightway dangerous / And handled with a Chain—”  I admired Cynthia Nixon’s portrayal of Emily Dickinson, for which she will very likely be an Oscar nominee;  but I wanted more of Dickinson’s poetry.  I guess that must be the old English teacher in me.

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