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.

Tuesday, August 29

Hurricane Harvey, Whitney Houston, Joe Arpaio and Donald Trump

Houston and surrounding areas just received a near-knockout blow from Hurricane Harvey. I say “near-knockout” because these areas will be rebuilt just as they were when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans twelve years ago, at a cost of well over one hundred billion. Harvey will be even more expensive. But the size and intensity of Harvey should be a red flag to those who still deny our responsibility for climate change. Fifty inches of rain. My mind can’t grasp the enormity of that much rainfall in only two or three days. It would be like having lakes and lakes of water pour down on your head, not in drops, but in solid lakes of water. Yes. We’re now seeing and will continue to see ever more horrific evidence of nature and our environment gone awry—category 4 hurricanes like Harvey, drought conditions in the Southwest, flooding and mudslides in California, the increasing number of tornadoes, forest fires too large to contain, ice sheets at both poles shrinking as chunks the size of Vermont break off and drift away, the rising ocean levels as these icebergs melt, leaving coastal communities that must sometime in the future pull back and rebuild. And Trump wants to build a wall and have us go back to using coal as a power source.

And now an awkward segue from one Houston to another. Last week Showtime presented Whitney: Can I Be Me, a Whitney Houston retrospective that was heart-rending but wonderful as we watched the rise and fall of this beautiful woman with the voice of an angel. Her rise to fame was spectacular; her fall from grace by drugs and alcohol was tragic. I still can’t understand how the makers of this film were able to find so many bits and pieces of her life on film and then put them all together in a fair but understandable way. If you missed seeing it, too bad. You missed a good one.

Another awkward segue—this time from Houston to Trump. But then, any move in Trump’s direction would be awkward. Last weekend he was in Phoenix, when, sometime in the course of his eighty-minute pep rally, he hinted at his pardon of his good friend, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, for the crimes Arpaio had committed in his dealings with the Arizona Latino community. Joe Arpaio had been unfairly treated, he told his audience. Everybody in Arizona loves Sheriff Joe. He doesn’t deserve to be convicted, Trump insisted, even though Arpaio had already been found guilty of disregarding a court order to stop racial profiling. A loose estimate of what Arpaio has already cost the state in legal fees and judgements against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office comes to about 83 million. Yes, that’s an 83 followed by six zeroes. And now, guess what, he is sending out appeals for donations to help him pay for his recent legal fees. Oh, the temerity, the hutzpah of the man. Why doesn’t he just go to his good old “birther” buddy Donald Trump and ask him to pay these legal fees? What do you suppose the Donald would say to him? “Sorry, Joe. We might be good buddies but I can’t start giving out my good money to every Tom, Dick, . . . and Joe who asks.”

Thursday, August 24

Trump in Arizona

The big eclipse is now in the rear-view mirror and I can get back to Trump-baiting. I’m surprised he didn’t lay claim to this solar phenomenon. You know, “The sun rises and sets on me and my accomplishments, so I must also be able to tell it when to shut itself off.” He was in Phoenix three nights ago and delivered an awkward, megalomaniacal eighty-minute speech during which he repeated many of his campaign promises without ever explaining where the money would come from to accomplish these grandiose plans. It was a speech filled with the typical adjectives and adverbs he loves—“splendid,” “great,” wonderful,” “very” to name only a few—filled with the thumb-index finger gestures he too often uses. He completely ignores the polls that show him with a 75% disapproval rating. Only the hardest of his hard-core backers are still with him. And, once again, he stirred the pot of divisiveness. I had originally intended this to be the opening section to a letter I was writing to a friend, and then it turned into another of my Trump tirades. So,I thought I might as well stick it in here, stick it to Trump, stick it somewhere. It's impossible for me to ignore what he's saying and doing and what others are saying about him. I guess that might qualify as one of my obsessions. The man is like a giant scab I can’t stop picking.

Monday, August 21

Solar Eclipse & the Solheim Cup

My wife and I must be cut from different cloth than most. We watched CNN this morning for coverage of the total eclipse and heard about all the people from around the world who had converged on the U.S. for a spot on that 7—mile–wide band from West Coast to East where the eclipse was total. Australia and Ireland were two such lands of travelers who came to experience that two-and-a-half minutes. That’s a lotta miles and a buncha bucks. Their buckets lists must be quite a bit different than ours. Neither of us would even consider traveling thousands of miles and spending a good chunk of our earnings for an experience lasting less than three minutes. A three-minute orgasm, maybe, but not a three-minute view of the darkened sun. Maybe if it helped save my life as it did for Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. I vaguely remember reading this Twain novel about a modern man being transported back in time where he was about to be executed. But then—miracle of miracles—he remembered that on that very date and time, the earth would experience a total solar eclipse. So he did a little mumbo jumbo like he was an all-powerful Oz who could extinguish the sun and when the sun seemed to be disappearing his executioners fell down in awe at this magic. Twain was stretching the laws of probability about as far as they could go, but this was Twain and Twain could do no wrong. Connecticut Yankee isn’t even close to as good as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but this little science-fictiony experiment with time travel is sort of fun to read.

I spent most of my weekend watching—what else?—golf. It was time for the LPGA’s equivalent to the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup in which the American ladies are matched against the European ladies. Their format is exactly the same as that of the men—morning foursomes and afternoon four-balls on Friday and Saturday, then twelve singles matches on Sunday. Foursomes are when a team of two hit alternate shots until it’s holed; four-ball matches are when each twosome plays their own ball with the best score on each hole counting. So, on Friday and Saturday they’re playing for sixteen points, and on Sunday for twelve points. To win the cup a team needs at least fourteen and a half points. They were playing in Iowa at the Des Moines Golf and Country Club. Beautiful course, gorgeous weather, colorful outfits on lots of the spectators, really beautiful outfits for the American women to wear. And all who were watching were treated to some of the best golf in the history of the game. The Americans won 16½ to 11½ but that was almost incidental. The ladies on both sides kept hitting ever more sensational shots, sinking ever more putts in clutch situations. I’m a big fan of Lexi Thompson and she didn’t let me down. In her singles match against Anna Nordqvist, she pretty much stunk it up in the first nine holes, losing the first four holes and still down by four when they finished the front. Then—WHAM!—a switch turned on and she won the first four holes on the back, with the killer shot on one of the par-5s. Nordqvist was already on the green with a near kick-in putt for birdie. Then Lexi hit her third from wedge range . . . and knocked it in the cup to win the hole and completely switch the momentum over to her and the rest of the U.S. team. The whole weekend was exciting with both teams playing very good golf. Now I can’t wait to see what they do in 2019 when they play it in Europe.

Friday, August 18

Trump & America's Got Talent

Well, he’s no longer the buffoon that late-night hosts make fun of, no longer just the insensitive misogynist, no longer the leader who leads only himself. Now we see him as dangerous . . . and frightening. This is the man who refuses to take advice from his advisers. This is the man with his finger on the button that could start a war that might destroy the earth. Leaders around the world must find him as frightening as we now should. People of all countries must wonder how we could have chosen this man to be our president. What were we thinking? We now see him in light of his core supporters, the alt-right racists and white supremacists, the resurgent KKKers, the separatists who, if they can’t annihilate all non-whites, would like to have separate regions where they could get away from them. This is the Donald Trump whom we elected. And we should now find some way to get him out and get him out quickly. Let the impeachment proceedings begin.

This year’s America’s Got Talent has an unusual group of contestants. Last night, seven of the twelve made it to the semi-finals, and I’m satisfied with most of them, but not all. The best of the lot was Darci Lynne Farmer with her singing mouse Oscar. I remember Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd. The bits were funny but the ventriloquism wasn’t very good. Bergen’s mouth was flapping all over the place. Then there was Sharri Lewis and Lambchops. Lewis was very good. Well, Darci Lynne Farmer is every bit as good and she’d only thirteen. Also going through are Angelica Hale, the tiny singer with the big voice; othe brother/sister skating daredevils, Billy and Emily England; the Air Force acapella singing group "In the Stairwell"; the standup comedian Preacher Lawson; the young singer Christian Guardino; and Yoli Mayor, the singer that Simon has sort of taken under his wing, praising her voice for more than is really there. I guess I’m saying that I don’t think she should be in the semis. And the skaters will go by the board next time. I mean, what can they do that’s anything different than what they’ve already done? And we will have seen the last of the Air Force group. They’ve flown as far as they can. It's a fun show that gets us us through to this falls new shows.

Tuesday, August 15

Kidnap & Spitting

Well, now I know at least one person I’d never want to piss off—Halle Berry, the mother whose son was abducted in Kidnap. She screams near the end of the movie, “You took the wrong woman’s son!” and oh my, did they ever find it out the hard way. There’s not much so say about this relatively forgettable movie: 1. Don’t screw with Halle. 2. Despite the near-record number of holes in the logic of the plot, it was a fun ride along with Halle as she pursues her son’s kidnappers. 3. Halle Berry, even covered in her own blood, is still one of the most beautiful women in the world. Was it worth seeing? Yes, even if only to watch Halle Berry in action for almost two hours. Would you need to feel bad if you missed it? No.

I’ve already expressed my thoughts on the expectorating in modern sports (5/26/2011 & 2/20/2012), most obvious in baseball, a habit which seems to be an extension of the old days when nearly all ball players had a “chaw” in the cleek. “Expectorating” is the nice word for “spitting.” Some spitting is more acceptable or less disgusting than other spitting. Most of the major league baseball players who still spit aren’t as disgusting as someone who snorts vigorously and then spews a big green blob on the ground for all the world to see and shudder at. I rank it right up there with those who do the handkerchiefless nose blow with tilted head and finger holding one nostril closed while the other exudes the snot, then the reverse. It’s almost as bad as a public defecation. I went on to say that most sports don’t have any spitting—basketball (Where would one do it?), football (Well, maybe in the chaos of a gang tackle but the viewers don’t see it.), tennis (too genteel a sport for such behavior), hockey (You’d think a sport called “hockey” would allow hocking on the ice but the players are much too busy beating each other bloody to take time out To hock a big one), soccer (Maybe, but the players are all too far away for us to see any spit flying.), golf (Nah, it’s a gentleman’s sport and gentlemen don’t spit. Or do they?). After this this past weekend’s PGA Championship, I have to revise my views on golf. Quite a few of the young guns were seen on camera letting loose a streak of saliva, Justin Thomas, the winner, the most obvious. Why, why, why wouldn’t a friend or relative watching on tv tell him that the cameras follow the front runners in vivid close-ups? Why wouldn’t someone tell him it looks bad, so very inelegant? I’m sorry to say that Tiger may have opened this can of worms, and the young guys today think if Tiger can do it, then they can too. Anyway, Justin Thomas, congrats on your gutsy win. But please, in the future, keep the saliva inside.

Saturday, August 12

Science Fiction Reality & Memory

I seem to be living in a science fiction novel. Too many of the dystopian elements in science fiction are now happening. Our amateur president, Donald Trump, may have the world in a Doctor Strangelove or Fail Safe situation with his braggadocio and saber-rattling for the idiot in North Korea, Kim Jong-un. A disastrous war is one thing to make me shiver, but I also felt a Big Brother shiver when I read that some companies are considering implanting microchips in their employees’ hands, thus doing away with keys or identification protocols within the companies. That at first sounds like an innocent reason, but it also smacks of Orwellian possibilities. Would employees agree to this in fear of losing their jobs? And what would this lead to? Tiny GPS chips to show their locations 24/7? Chips that could hear and record their every conversation? Whoa! I just felt another shiver. I also read an article about Amazon’s Echo with Alexa to do our bidding and answer all our questions. The article went on to suggest that Alexa may also be listening to, recording, and evaluating our conversations. This business giant Amazon already keeps track of our on-line purchases and searches and automatically dangles similar items when we visit the Amazon site, hoping to tempt us into buying their wares. Many of the futuristic predictions that science fiction writers envisioned have already come true or will be true in the near future. Houses that take care of themselves was seen in Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains.” Artificial intelligence, robots, and androids were seen in Asimov’s I Robot. The dangers of overpopulation were seen in Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar and Harry Harrison’s “Make Room! Make Room!” which was later made into the movie Soylent Green. Our reliance on mood-altering drugs was seen in Huxley’s Brave New World. And all these scientific and technological advances (or maybe “regressions”) have happened in my lifetime. I can’t even imagine what other mind-blowing things might be here in the next five or six years. Yeah, we’re all living in a science fiction novel.

I’m now old enough to be worried about dementia and Alzheimer’s, probably the ugliest way to slide down that slope toward death, to remain alive but totally without memory or even physical abilities. So far, I haven’t experienced too many memory lapses, although I do every now and then lose a word or an old friend’s name or the title of one of my favorite movies. Usually, after a head shake or two, it comes back to me. And sometimes I have to search on-line for an answer. Thank you, Wikipedia and IMDb. One of my check points is to see how often I can remember the name of the classical composer of the music that was used for the Broadway musical Kismet. It was Alexander Borodin. I keep it in my memory for that time when it comes up on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, that bit of trivia that will astound my wife and any friends who may be around. Remembering the lyrics to the songs of my youth is another way to test my memory. One curious aspect of the way the mind and the memory works is that in a semi-asleep state, my memory is much clearer than during the light of day. I wonder if that means I’d be better off in a slight daze during the day. My wife might say that’s a usual state for me.

Wednesday, August 9

The Big Sick

I’ve been wrestling with my reactions to a movie I saw recently. Why am I wrestling, you ask. I’m reacting two ways, one extremely positive and the other just confused. I’ll give you my positive review first and then try to explain why I’m confused and conflicted.

What a delightful film. The Big Sick should have been called The Big Love because it was more about the inexact nature of love than the oddity of life-threatening bacteria. If what I just said makes no sense to you, you’ll just have to go see this movie to get my point. Love is like quick silver, so brilliantly attractive yet so hard to pin down. Kumail Nanjiani is a standup comedian who just happens to be Pakistiani. Emily Gordon (Zoe Kazan) is in the audience at the Chicago comedy club where Kumail performs his five-minute routine at the mike. During his set she lets out an exuberant “Yahoo!” to which Kumail responds by telling her how rude it is to heckle a comedian. She tells him that she meant it as a positive reaction to his humor. He goes on to say that even a positive reaction during the piece is still heckling and rude. Later, he approaches her at the bar and they continue this good-natured banter, after which they end up in his bed. I guess I’m still not in tune with this generation’s sexual freedom. It seems like young people who meet in a bar just automatically end up in bed. No big deal. Just a bang that may or may not lead to a second or third bang. This one has multiple bangs with both Kumail and Emily suggesting that it probably won’t continue. But it does. The problem is that Kumail’s Pakistani parents are devout Islamists who would never approve of a non-Muslim, non-Pakistani girl for their son. At their dinners, they keep inviting drop-in visits from a variety of eligible young Pakistani women for Kumail to choose from. But Kumail keeps telling them he isn’t interested in any of them and deposits their pictures into a cigar box he calls his X-files. When Emily finally realizes that she will never be acceptable to Kumail’s parents, she breaks off their budding relationship. Okay, that’s the setup for an obvious conclusion. But it’s the way they get to that conclusion that’s so delightful. I fell in love with these two characters. The humor was subdued and clever and the audience’s reaction was unanimously good. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter play Emily’s parents who finally accept Kumail as the right man for their daughter. A really excellent film with the four lead roles all excellent. I give it six stars out of five. Go see it.

A day later, I read a few reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and discovered that Kumail Nanjiani was a real person playing the lead role, and that Emily really was his wife in both film and reality. The script was written by them, basing the story on their real romance. And that’s when I became conflicted. My delight at what I thought was a fictional romance lost some of its luster when I found that it was real. I guess I like romance in novels, plays, and film to be fictional, where the loving couple ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after. However, I know that true, lasting love and affection in real life is a rarity. I want Kumail and Emily’s love to last forever, but the odds against that are about a hundred to one. I don’t want to read in a few years that they’re getting a divorce. A real life breakup of these two would break my heart. The couple in the film will never get a divorce because their story ends on that “happily ever after” curtain.

As I said earlier, love is such an elusive animal. All too often in real life it doesn’t last a lifetime. But just look at all the films where two people find their love by movie’s end and how good it made the audiences feel to see this romantic connection and not have to suffer through a later disconnection: An Affair to Remember, Gone with the Wind, Love Actually, When Harry Met Sally, Pretty Woman, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Apartment, Pride and Prejudice. And the list goes on and on. Now you can add The Big Sick to that list.

Wednesday, August 2

Saturday Night Fever

I’m pleased to report that Saturday Night Fever was much better than I’d anticipated. The dancing was almost non-stop, the main vocalists were all excellent, the staging, as always, was surprisingly complex. The meal was, also as always, excellent. The young man who played Tony Manero was a hunk who looked so much like John Travolta he could do a creditable impression. The young woman who played Stephanie Mangano was a slender looker who could dance and sing as well as anyone on Broadway. The Bee Gees music was a nice reminder of the kind of music we listened to in the seventies. Before the curtain to Act I, we were entertained by disco music on the speakers. I’d forgotten how that disco beat can make a listener shoulder-dance to the music without even being aware of the movement. We were all doing the shoulder move as we conversed over cocktails. A young audience (and that would be anyone born after 1970) wouldn’t even know what disco was, would probably have never heard of the Bee Gees, wouldn’t have a clue who John Travolta was unless they were fans of Pulp Fiction. But my wife and I and the couple we were with were taken back those forty years to the days of the Disco with its addictive beat, the spinning disco ball overhead, and the music of Donna Summers, the Bee Gees, The Village People, and Michael Jackson.

Tuesday, August 1

TV Sports & Saturday Night Fever

I know, I know. It’s just too soon to be making football noises, but the Cardinals are playing the Cowboys this Thursday in the Hall of Fame game that always kicks off a new season. It will be a totally meaningless game as are most of the exhibition games, this one even more meaningless than the others. I and millions of other rabid fans, however, will be watching it as though the fate of the universe hangs on the outcome. Without televised sports, my life would be unbearably dull. Right now I have baseball and almost too much golf, and soon the start of NFL and college football. The golf coming up includes the PGA, the President's Cup, the Solheim Cup, and all the tournaments leading up to the FedEx Cup finale for the men. The LPGA has the women’s Open this weekend, the final major of the year with the Evian Championship in France, and their parallel to the FedEx for the men, the CME Group Tournament Championship. That’s a lotta golf. Will I be watching most of it? You bet. And if I run out of golf, baseball, or football, I can still catch U.S. Open tennis. I never played tennis but I find that it’s a very watchable sport. And now that I understand what’s going on, I’ll even watch the soccer matches leading to the World Cup. About the only things I won’t watch are auto racing and hockey. Hockey seems to move too fast for me to know what’s going on and auto racing still defies my understanding why so many people think this is a good spectator sport. And millions of auto racing fans would just love to slap me down with their reasons for watching it. Ah well, to each his own. They probably wouldn’t be golf fans either.

Tonight we’re going to the Arizona Broadway Theatre to see Saturday Night Fever. We’ll be back to the Disco era and the Bee Gees with their “Stayin’ Alive” and “How Deep Is Your Love.” And no, Travolta won’t be starring but I’m betting the choreography will be great. This won’t be even close to one of my favorite musicals but the food will be good and their production of this show will be excellent. Every season seems to conclude with two or three shows that aren’t very good. It’s a matter of how much the booking cost is. Season thirteen opens with Man of La Mancha and South Pacific, two biggies that probably cost quite a bit to book.But Saturday Night Fever will hold me over until next season.

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