16 March 2019

I Make it An Even 100 Favorite Films

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
As regular readers of this blog (both of us) may recall, on my recent birthday I posted my favorite 65 films in honor it being my 65th birthday and thank you to all of you who noted that I don't look a day over 30. I have since gotten literally a handful of requests that I go ahead and make it an even 100 favorite films of all time. And so here it is the previous 65 and an additional 35 which, according to my calculator comes out to 100.

1. Manhattan (1979) Allen
2. Stalker (1979) Tarkovsky
3. Goodfellas (1990)  Scorsese
4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Capra
5. The Godfather (1972) Coppola
6. Winter Light (1963) Begman
7. His Girl Friday (1940) Hawks
8. The Seventh Seal (1957) Bergman
9. La Dolce Vita (1960) Fellini
10. Duck Soup (1933) McCarey
11. Europa (1991) von Trier
12. Taxi Driver (1976) Scorsese
13. Chinatown (1974) Polanski
14. Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) Malle
15. Amarcord (1973) Fellini
16. Heaven’s Gate (1980) Cimino
17. Tess (1979) Polanski
18. A Clockwork Orange (1971) Kubrick
19. Fanny And Alexander (1982) Bergman
20. Sunset Blvd. (1950) Wilder
Rome: Open City

21. Rome, Open City (1945) Rossellini
22. Cabaret (1972) Fosse
23. Casablanca (1942) Curtiz
24. Raging Bull (1980) Scorsese
25. L’Eclisse (1962) Antonioni
26. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948 Huston
27. Foreign Correspondent (1940) Hitchcock
28. Sullivan’s Travels (1941) Sturges
29. Dead Man (1995) Jarmusch
30. The 39 Steps (1935) Hitchcock
31. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) Petri
32. The Godfather: Part II (1974) Coppola
33. The Emigrants/The New Land (1971/72) Troell
34. Umberto D (1952) DeSica
35. Inglourious Basterds (2009) Tarantino
36. The Ice Storm (1997) Lee
37. Andrei Rublev (1966) Tarkovsky
38. Sunrise (1927) Murnau
39. It’s a Wonderful Life 1946) Capra
40. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) Coens
41. Vivre Sa Vie (1962) Godard
42. Apocalypse Now (1979) Coppola
43. The Big Parade (1925) Vidor
44. The Third Man (1949) Reed
45. Annie Hall (1977) Allen
46. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) Herzog
47. Midnight in Paris (2011) Allen
48. Through A Glass Darkly (1961) Bergman
49. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Kubrick
50. The Talk of the Town (1942) Stevens
51. Match Point (2005) Allen
52. Red Desert (1964) Antonioni
53. Holiday (1938) Cukor
54. La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928) Dreyer
55. Nights of Cabiria (1957) Fellini
56. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Ford
57. The Big Lebowski (1998) Coens
58. Rushmore (1998) Anderson
59. The Big Sleep (1946) Hawks
60. No Country For Old Men (2007) Coens
61. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Milestone
62. Ariel (1998) Kaurismaki
63. City Lights (1931) Chaplin
64. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) Cassavetes
65. The Flowers of St. Francis (1950) Rossellini
66. The Searchers (1956) Ford
67. Network (1976) Lumet
68. Shame (1968) Bergman
69. Barry Lyndon (1975) Kubrick
My Man Godfrey

70. My Man Godfrey (1936) La Cava
71. The Burmese Harp (1956) Ichikawa
72. On the Waterfront (1954) Kazan
73. Vertigo (1958) Hitchcock
74. Stagecoach (1939) Ford
75. La Haine (1995) Kassovitz
76. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Lumet
77. The Gold Rush (1925) Chaplin
78. Citizen Kane (1941) Welles
79. Requiem for a Dream (2000) Aronofsky
80. If…. (1968) Anderson
81. Hamlet (1948) Olivier
82. Pulp Fiction (1994) Tarantino
83. Silence (1963) Bergman
84. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) Allen
85. Le Silence de la mer (1949) Melville
86. The Last Picture Show (1971) Bogdanovich
87. Bonnie and Clyde  (1967) Penn
88. La Strada (1954) Fellini
89. Down By Law (1986) Jarmusch
90. The Lady Eve (1941) Sturges
91. Rashomon (1950) Kurosawa
92. Birdman (2014) Inarittu
93. Odd Man Out (1947) Reed
94. The Last Detail (1971) Ashby
95. Modern Times (1936) Chaplin
96. Y Tu Mama También (2001) Cuaron
97. La vie de Boheme (1992) Kaurismäki
98. The Match Factory Girl (1990)  Kaurismäki
99. Bicycle Thieves (1949) De Sica
100. Radio Days (1987) Allen

And I still left off this terrific films (not presented in any particular order): Nashville (1975) Altman, Blade Runner (1982) Scott, Do the Right Thing (1989) Lee, Le Havre (2011) Kaurismäki, Platoon, (1986) Stone, Psycho (1960) Hitchcock, La Grande Illusion (1937) Renoir), L’Avventura (1960) Antonioni, Reds (1981) Beatty, The Virgin Spring (1960 Bergman, Zodiac (2007) Finchner, 8 1/2, (1963) Fellini, Ivan’s Childhood (1962) Tarkosky, The Wild Bunch (1969) Peckinpah, The Exorcist, (1973) Friedkin Viridiana (1961) Bunuel, Groundhog Day (1993) Ramis, Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Whale, Ride The High Country, (1962) Peckinpah The Great Escape, (1963) J. Sturges Bitter Rice (1949) DeSantin, Shadow of a Doubt (1943) Hitchcock, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Gondry, The Man Who Would Be King (1975) Huston, Army of Shadows (1969) Melville, I Knew Her Well (1965)  Pietrangeli, Wild Boys of the Road (1933) Wellman, Heroes For Sale (!933) Wellman, Mean Girls (2004) Waters, Moonrise Kingdom, (2012) Anderson, Broadway Danny Rose (19840 Allen, Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) Allen, Zelig (1983) Allen, The Purple Rose of Cairo, (1985) Allen, Stardust Memories (1980) Allen, The Great Dictator (1940) Chaplin, A Woman of Paris (1923) Chaplin, The Deer Hunter (1978) Cimino,  Band of Outsiders (1964) Godard, Downfall (2004) Hirschbiegel, The Lodger (1927) Hitchcock,  A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Kazan, Rebel Without a Cause (1955) Ray, Spartacus, (1960) Kubrick, MacBeth (1971) Polanski, Three Days of the Condor (1975) Pollack, The Aviator (2004) Scorsese, The King of Comedy (1982) Scorsese, Animal House (1978) Landis, Blonde Venus (1932) von Strenberg, Shoot the Piano Player (1960) Truffaut, Jules et Jim (1962) Truffaut Paisan (1946) Rossellini, Bullit (1968) Yates, Horse Feathers (1932) McLeod, Cries & Whispers(1972) Bergman, Gods and Monsters (1998) Condon, McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971) Altman, Seven Samurai (1954) Kurosawa, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) Hill, Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) Pabst, All the President’s Men (1976) Pakula, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) Yates, Stromboli, (1950) Rossellini The Parallax View (1974) Pakula, The Roaring Twenties (1939) Curtiz, A Serious Man (2009) Coens, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) Coens, Hable Con Ella (2002) Almodóvar, Jaws (1975) Speilberg, Bull Durham (1988) Sheldon, The Crowd (1928) Vidor, Some Like it Hot (1959) Wilder, Double Indemnity (1944) Wilder, Personal Shopper (2016) Assayas, First Reformed (2017) Schrader, Letter Never Sent, (1960) Kalatozov, The Conversation (1974) CoppolaSchindler's List (1993) Spielberg, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) Fassbinder, The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978) Fassbinder, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) Ceylan, Port of Shadows (1938) Carne, Notorious (1946) Hitchcock, The Man Without a Past (2002) Kaurismäki, Jackie Brown (1997) Tarantino, Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) Sturges, Boyz N the Hood (1991) Singleton, Closely Watched Trains (1966) Menzel, M, (1931) Lang, Paths of Glory (1957) Kubrick, Sweet Smell of Success (1957) Mackendrick, Greed (1924) von Stroheim, The Maltese Falcon, (1941) Huston, Bringing Up Baby (1938) Hawks, Light in the Dusk (2006) Kaurismäki, Shadows in Paradise (1986) Kaurismäki, Meet John Doe (1941) Capra, The Exterminating Angel (1962) Bunuel, Melancholia (2011) Von Trier, Shampoo (1975) Ashby, Being There, (1979) Ashby, La Notte (1961) Antonioni, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, (1977) Spielberg, The Mirror (1975) Tarkovsky, Red River (1948) Hawks, My Darling Clementine (1946) Ford, The Conformist (1970) Bertolucci, A Separation (2011) Farhadi, Ida (2013) Pawlikoski, Wings of Desire (1987) Wenders Chimes at Midnight (1965) Welles, Philadelphia Story (1940) Cukor, We Need  to Talk About Kevin (2011) Ramsay Of Gods and Men (2010) Beavuois  Wanda (1970) Loden, Richard III (1955) Olivier Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Lean, A Hard Day's Night (1964) Lester, Medium Cool (1969) Wexler, The Verdict (1982) Lumet, Gosford Park (2001) Altman, Viaggio in Italia (1954) Rossellini  and The Strawberry Statement (1970) Haggman.



12 March 2019

A Walk, A Former Student, A Seduction, An Extra Terrestrial

The Street
Thus begins my second week of retirement. I could spend my retirement just writing about my retirement. But right now I want to write about what happened this past weekend.

Saturday morning I was out for a walk. It was a grey day with clouds promising a downpour within a few hours. Just the kind of day I like. I was walking through our neighborhood which is residential, tree-lined, filled with happy homes. Houses that practically smile back at you. It was somewhere between 8:30 and 9:00 so there was virtually no traffic and hardly a soul to be seen. A jogger or two passed by and there were a few people getting early starts on household chairs. I saw a young woman pushing a stroller and a tall man walking purposefully down an opposite street, I imagined him to have urgent business.

The temperature was in the upper 40s which is damn cold for Berkeley, especially in March. It felt good to me, as I was ensconced in warm clothes. My mind was be-bopping around dancing briefly with one topic then twirling around with the next before moving along to another. I remember contemplating my recent difficulties with writing, mulling over the current form of my favorite sports teams and imagining the many ways I would spend tens of millions of dollars if I ever came across such a sum. No topic was delved into too deeply, mentally this was a light and breezy walk that was more intended as light exercise.

Before the walk I had stretched, so I was feeling loose and limber and certainly up to a stroll of an hour or more should I desire it. And I well might have walked for that long had it not been for what happened. I had just turned up a block that I had never walked on, when a young woman wearing only a robe veritably crashed out of her front door and came running toward me. She shouted my last name, with Mr. before it, suggesting she must have been a former student. I was quite startled indeed and even more so when she threw her arms around me and gave me a long embrace. While wrapped within her arms I still did not know who this fair creature was. Finally upon ending the embrace, her hands, now resting on my shoulder, the young woman stood back and looked me squarely — and I must add, lovingly — in the eyes. “It’s me,” she said, “Nora, Nora Bowditch.”

Of course. Nora Bowditch had been a favorite student of mine some dozen or so years ago. Precocious, energetic, curious and fun and destined to be a beautiful woman, hard to forget. I’d not seen her since her 8th grade graduation when she was a mere lass of 14. But why, I wondered, the over indulgent embrace? I’m well used to former students giving me quick hug, but Nora had favored me with something warm and damn close to sexual.

“Of course, Nora! You were one of the best students I ever had. What are you up to these days?”

Nora continued to look at me with something approaching passion. I feared she was going to try to eat me alive.

“I’m kind of cold out here, I just have on this robe and no shoes. Can you come in for a second?”

I saw no harm in it and followed the young lady into her tiny house nestled on the corner of the block. It was a warm and cozy abode. A small living room was crammed with a large over stuffed chair, a sofa and long coffee table. I could see a kitchenette and one door to my left was half open, and clearly led to the bedroom. Another door to my right must have been to the bathroom.

The former student
Nora indicated that I should sit on the sofa and asked if I’d like tea or coffee. “Black tea, if you’ve got it.”

“I do,” Nora replied cheerily. “I’ll have some too. Ya know it was amazing that I saw you. I’d just gotten up and gone to the bathroom and was thinking of laying down a bit more when I glanced out the window and saw you. A one in a million shot!”

“Do you live here alone?”

“I do now. My boyfriend and I broke up a couple of months ago. He moved out and moved to Detroit of all places.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. He turned out the a real asshole and I’ve been happier since he left than I was while we lived together, which was for almost two years.”

I looked carefully at Nora while she prepared tea. She was, as I had predicted years ago she would become, a strikingly beautiful woman. Her bathrobe barely reached her knees and thus revealed a perfect set of legs. Her hair was a bit tousled from having just gotten out bed but was long and blonde and her face was as perfectly structured as any magazine cover model you’ve ever seen. All this is not to say that I was aroused. After all she was nearly 40 years my junior and a former student to boot. But I had to admit the memory of the initial hug was something to savor.

“So what are you doing these days, Nora? Where did you end up going to school?

“I went to Dartmouth. I know, kind of weird, right? In fact after graduating I lived on the East Coast for a couple of years before moving back here with Rory — that’s the ex — two years ago.”

“And are you working? What did you get your degree in?”

“You inspired a love of history in me but I ended up majoring in astronomy. Now I’m a UFO researcher.”

I’ve come across scores of former students and some have gone on to be lawyers, doctors, engineers, architects, actors, businessmen, teachers and some are in prison for capital crimes. Nora was my first UFO researcher and thus this was the first time I was surprised to learn of a former student’s occupation. “That must be fascinating.”

Nora handed me my cup of tea and sat down inches away from me on the sofa. I couldn’t believe she was sitting so close to me particularly as her robe wasn’t cinched very tight and I could see, with little effort, most of her left breast. Surely Nora must have known it was on full display. Did she not care? Good god, was she trying to seduce me? I felt like I was watching a movie in which you couldn’t be sure what was going to happen next, except I was the star. It was at once exhilarating and frightening.

“You were the best teacher I had in either middle school or high school and better than most of my professors.” Nora was practically cooing.

“Thank you that’s — ”

“I mean you made history so fascinating and I loved the assignments you gave. Plus you were so funny and cute and took so much time to explain things.”

“You’re very kind to say that Nora. You were a great student.”

“You really remember me?” This she said — I swear it — flirtatiously.

“Of course. Most of my students I forgot the day after the school year ended. But there are some I’ll never forget. A few because they were such god awful trouble and many like you who were such a joy to teach.”

“Awwww,” she replied blushing.

“The tea is good,” I added nervously.

“Are you still teaching?”

“Just retired.”

“Cool, you deserved it. How many years did you teach?

“34.”

“Wow!” And she gazed at me with her big beautiful blue eyes like I was her favorite rock star. I was having trouble not being aroused.

“Tell me about your UFO research.”

“I follow up on claimed sightings, 90% of which are just fantasy bullshit but those 10% that are credible make it all worthwhile. So I interview people, investigate their claims, file reports, I end consulting a lot with Air Force people, pilots, astronomers and sometimes with the FBI and police departments. We’re pretty thorough. We have a data base of credible claims.”

As she talking Nora shifted her sitting position completely exposing her breast and revealing more of her legs. Was this intentional? Was a gorgeous 26 year old woman really seducing me? It seemed so obvious yet so implausible.

“So do you think we’ve been visited?”



“Oh I know we have. Some claims point to no other possible conclusion.”

“I believe you. What got you interested in all this?”

“I had a close encounter of the third kind,” she said matter of factly.

“You did?”

The extra terrestrial
“Yup. Sophomore year of college. I was out for a walk alone in the forest and came upon a clearing and there was a space ship. I stood there frozen for a few minutes before a door opened and this creature emerged. It walked right toward me. It stopped a few feet away and then I got the sense it was scanning me with its big bulging eyes. The thing was like four feet tall and silvery. Anyway, it turned back around got back in the ship and like a second later the ship just headed straight up and was gone like in a blink of the eye. Ever since then I’ve wanted to learn more.”

“Wow that's amazing.” I believed Nora completely and her story was so compelling that I was at last distracted from her body and seeming flirtatious behavior. But then she said this: “Ya know I had a big crush on you when I was in the 8th grade, several other girls did too.”

“Well that’s flattering but that was also a long time ago.”

“Not so very long, besides, you’re still handsome, only now in a more distinguished way.”

That was it. I had to go. There was no longer any doubt about it, Nora was seducing me.

“I really need to get going. My wife is expecting me and we have plans to go shopping.” I made a special point to emphasize the word “wife.” I stood up.

“Oh don’t go just yet. We’ve barely caught up,” Nora said pleadingly.

“Yeah I know, but I was towards the end of my walk when you spotted me and I’m expected. It was really nice — ”

Nora rose and untied her bathrobe. It fell to the floor. She stood before naked.

Of course my jaw did not literally drop but it did dangle. Nora was stunning and I was stunned. at her brazen act. I couldn’t form any words and I couldn’t move. 

Nora smiled broadly then stepped toward me, as she got close I stepped back but tripped and fell, landing on my back. Nora immediately took advantage of my fall and straddled me. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. But Nora, why are you doing this?”

“Doing what?” She asked coquettishly.

“For the love of god you’re seducing me. Why?”

“Why does one ever seduce another person. So that they can fuck.”

“But I’m old. I’m married, I’m — ”

I couldn’t continue my protestations as Nora started to kiss me, driving her tongue in my mouth. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t very well push her off and I couldn’t let her continue kissing me, there would likely be a point at which I would succumb to her and that was unthinkable.

After two minutes of kissing me, Nora stood. “Come on,” she said, “let’s go to bed.”

I felt defeated. I felt elated. And I felt terrible. I was about to cheat on my wife with a woman nearly four decades my junior who had once been a student. At the same time I was filled with lust and couldn’t wait to make love to this gorgeous woman.

We entered her bedroom and she started pulling my clothes off. Soon we stood facing each other naked. Nora smiled victoriously. Then my former student got into bed and beckoned me to follow. Dutifully, gladly, regretfully, excitedly, I did. We began by kissing passionately, then I slid down the bed to begin performing oral sex. I had just put my tongue against her delicious nether regions when there was a loud noise that seemed to come from another part of the house. Nora and I both sat up.

“Oh no,” she said, sounding genuinely upset.

“What is it?”

Then there at the bedroom door stood a four foot tall creature of silver with huge bulging eyes.

“That little son of bitch has been following me for six years. I never know when or how he’s going to show up.”

“Does that mean there’s a space ship that’s landed here?”

“No. He usually just appears. I don’t know how but he’ll pop up from time to time. This is the first time he’s done it when someone else has been around.”

“Get the fuck out of here, you goddamned midget!” Nora yelled at the creature. But it stood stock still staring at us.

“How long does he stay?”

“Varies, anywhere from a few seconds to two or three minutes.”

Of course I was fascinating to be looking at an extra terrestrial. I’d long assumed there was life on other planets but here was living proof. I didn’t know how I could tell anyone about it, especially given the circumstances of this close encounter. I also noted that I’d gone flaccid and thoughts of sex where as many miles away as this creature’s home planet. I took the opportunity to get dressed.

“Oh no, you can’t leave.”

“I really have to and this would have been — ”

“I know a ‘mistake’ but I disagree. It would have been fun for both of us.”

“It was great seeing you again Nora. Are you sure you’re all right with that, ah, creature here?”

“Yeah, he just looks and does that scanning thing I’ve mentioned then disappears.”

“Well, goodbye.”

“Now that you know where I live, come visit me sometime. Soon. Tomorrow, maybe.”

“Maybe so, Nora.” And with that I was out the door.

I continued my walk but now I had a helluva lot more things to think about. Later I went grocery shopping with the wife.

06 March 2019

Retired


Retired.

For the first time since I was four years old I am neither in school, working or looking for work. I’m done. Finished. I’m walking a tightrope to nowhere. It’s not as if nothing to do. I’ve got queries for novel to send to agents and their rejections to read. The first of which came Monday, my first day of retirement. It simply read: not for us. What a bunch of assholes, I thought. Not. For. Us. Three fucking words to reject years of work. You bastards don’t have a form letter that is polite? I’ve subsequently received three other rejections and each one has thanked me for my submission and encouraged me to carry on. They were still rejections but neither curt nor cruel. One of the rejections said my novel was not “a good fit” for them. The term “not a good fit” has been around for awhile now. It’s a euphemism. When used for rejecting a book proposal it means: we don’t like it - or - we think it sucks. It’s used between employers and employees too and there it can mean, we don’t like you - or - you suck at your job.

I’ve sent out about a dozen queries so far and a third of them had gotten the thumbs down. I may never hear from other agents. I was very careful in writing my query letter and the synopsis and all the other things some agents ask for such as a one sentence pitch, an author’s bio, a list of similar books and target audience. Some agents want the first three pages, some the first ten, others the first 50.

It’s discouraging to be rejected, regardless of whether you’re told “not for us” or “yours’ is the greatest novel since Moby Dick but it’s not a good fit for us.” But there seems to be an infinite number of agents so you just keep plugging away. Eventually I’ll go over my query letter and all the other crap they ask for and see if I can buff them up, make ‘em even shinier. I’ll also probably go over the beginning of the book and see if there are any revisions that will make it more appealing. I won’t be giving up anytime soon, though. Lots of authors have piled up dozens of rejections before getting their proverbial foot in the door. Right now all I’ve got is a view of the door. Sometimes the door looks like it has a sign on it saying “entrance” and other times the sign seems to say “not for us.”

But there’s more to retirement than having life long dreams dashed. For instance, not working. This is something I’ve been practicing for on weekends and during vacations for decades now. I’m actually quite accomplished at not working. The simple trick is to not go to a job and to do nothing for which you might get paid. Easy peasy.

The problem is that I loved my job. I loved interacting with students from all over the world who were eager to improve their English and who enjoyed my class. I liked the vast majority of the co-workers I had over my seven and half years at the school. I loved teaching, I even liked grading tests and correcting writing. I loved planning lessons. Getting to work was another thing entirely, I had been goddamned sick and tired of commuting for years and was hating it more and more with each passing day. I also didn’t like having to pack a lunch almost everyday. I didn’t like rushing out the door in the morning and I didn’t like having to get up at the crack of dawn and I didn’t like having all my time consumed by a job.

So now I don’t have to commute, I can get up when I damn well please and I can stay up watching movies on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. I don’t have to go to the gym at night after work when it is most crowded. I have more time to write, to read and do whatever the hell else I want like being told “not for us.”

In my last days at the job I received a great deal of cards and notes detailing what a wonderful teacher I was and how enjoyable I made learning. My boss and co workers sang my praises. On instagram I posted some farewell pictures and former students from all over the world and a couple of former colleagues wrote very nice messages to me. This felt very good. I was always uncomfortable being praised when I was teaching but when it was all said and done I welcomed it and appreciated it far more than I’d ever have imagined.
I am a lucky man.

One thing I miss is the countdown. I spent a year counting down to retirement. Now it's here. Nothing to countdown to. I've arrived.

How’s retirement going? Three days in (not counting weekend) I feel a bit numb. Empty. Not happy, not sad. I look back at my last job in the same way that as a youth I would reflect on a great party. It was a great time but it had to end. I’m going to be writing a lot more now. I’ve got a prequel to write to the novel that is not a good fit for some and to others is not for them. My workouts will become more intense as I try to prolong the great physical health I’ve enjoyed. I’ve no idea what’s to become of my mental health which is always in dodgy shape. Retirement could be the best or worst thing to happen to my emotional state since I got clean and sober. It’ll likely land somewhere in between as things do. Just as with work I’ll keep showing up and doing the next thing in front of me to the best of my ability. I’m not working but I’ll stay busy and active and I’ll keep trying to be a published author, if I ever quit trying it’ll be because I’m dead, a condition that seems inevitable eventually but I’m not going to worry about for now.

I’m still here.

28 February 2019

65 Films for 65 Years

Tarkovsky's The Stalker my #2

In commemoration of my 65th birthday (today). I here present my 65 favorite films of all time.

1. Manhattan (1979) Allen
2. Stalker (1979) Tarkovsky
3. Goodfellas (1990)  Scorsese
4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Capra
5. The Godfather (1972) Coppola
6. Winter Light (1963) Begman
7. His Girl Friday (1940) Hawks
8. The Seventh Seal (1957) Bergman
9. La Dolce Vita (1960) Fellini
10. Duck Soup (1933) McCarey
11. Europa (1991) von Trier
12. Taxi Driver (1976) Scorsese
13. Chinatown (1974) Polanski
14. Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) Malle
15. Amarcord (1973) Fellini
16. Heaven’s Gate (1980) Cimino
17. Tess (1979) Polanski
18. A Clockwork Orange (1971) Kubrick
19. Fanny And Alexander (1982) Bergman
20. Sunset Blvd. (1950) Wilder
21. Rome, Open City (1945) Rossellini
22. Cabaret (1972) Fosse
23. Casablanca (1942) Curtiz
Raging Bull

24. Raging Bull (1980) Scorsese
25. L’Eclisse (1962) Antonioni
26. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948 Huston
27. Foreign Correspondent (1940) Hitchcock
28. Sullivan’s Travels (1941) Sturges
29. Dead Man (1995) Jarmusch
30. The 39 Steps (1935) Hitchcock
31. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) Petri
32. The Godfather: Part II (1974) Coppola
33. The Emigrants/The New Land (1971/72) Troell
34. Umberto D (1952) DeSica
35. Inglourious Basterds (2009) Tarantino
36. The Ice Storm (1997) Lee
37. Andrei Rublev (1966) Tarkovsky
38. Sunrise (1927) Murnau
39. It’s a Wonderful Life 1946) Capra
40. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) Coens
41. Vivre Sa Vie (1962) Godard
42. Apocalypse Now (1979) Coppola
43. The Big Parade (1925) Vidor
44. The Third Man (1949) Reed
45. Annie Hall (1977) Allen
46. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) Herzog
47. Midnight in Paris (2011) Allen
48. Through A Glass Darkly (1961) Bergman
49. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Kubrick
50. The Talk of the Town (1942) Stevens
51. Match Point (2005) Allen
Red Desert

52. Red Desert (1964) Antonioni
53. Holiday (1938) Cukor
54. La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928) Dreyer
55. Nights of Cabiria (1957) Fellini
56. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Ford
57. The Big Lebowski (1998) Coens
58. Rushmore (1998) Anderson
59. The Big Sleep (1946) Hawks
60. No Country For Old Men (2007) Coens
61. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Milestone
62. Ariel (1998) Kaurismaki
63. City Lights (1931) Chaplin
64. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) Cassavetes
65. The Flowers of St. Francis (1950) Rossellini

14 February 2019

I Write Again at Last, Topics Include Valentine's Day, The Oscars and My Forthcoming Retirement


Good god it's been a long time since I've written on this here blog. And it was a long time before that.  In my defense it's not like anyone is clamoring to read what I have to say (except for you, Klaus Berger of Utica, NY).

It's Valentine's Day and I've always had mixed feelings about the day. The "holiday" is really just a way for greeting card and candy companies to make a buck -- not to mention florists. I don't mind it so much though because I've had a Valentine for over 30 years, my beloved wife. It's not a great day for people who are not in relationships, particularly those who've recently been dumped. It can be a very special day for people in new relationships, especially those in their embryonic stages. And it is a damn silly day in schools, especially elementary schools where students exchange cards with little candies. Everyone gets one so it has no meaning. I realized that back in grammar school days (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth). Today you have people -- usually high school students -- walking around with huge heart shaped balloons. They're an absolute delight on public transportation and classrooms.

February 14th is also the anniversary of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre, although few people celebrate or acknowledge it. Hey it was a seminal point in prohibition-made gang warfare and provided a key plot point for the great Billy Wilder film, Some Like it Hot.

Speaking of movies...the Oscars have no host this year which is still another reason not to watch (like I needed any). I've made my views known about the Oscars in numerous posts which are linked in the labels section to the right. Suffice to say that any organization that deems Crash a good film, not to mention the best of the year, doesn't know Citizen Kane from Shrek. And don't get me started on all the greats who never earned a competitive Oscar because if you do I'll mention Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, Richard Burton, Montgomery Clift, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Altman, Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Howard Hawks...and that's just for starters. Besides not having a host the Oscars will be presenting some awards during commercials. Most egregious is the Oscar for best cinematography. In my estimation this category ranks among the five or six most important. The people who organize the Academy Awards are idiots.

Getting back to the paucity of recent posts....I mentioned before that I'm preparing a novel to send to potential literary agents. I find the searching for possible agents and the crafting of the query letter to be thoroughly unpleasant (albeit necessary) tasks. I'm struggling with it. So that and final, final revisions are soaking up a lot of my free time as is my job. Why my job? Because I'm retiring in two weeks and am determined to be able fly out the door after my last class with no loose ends to tie. Plus I'm getting a lot done in advance for my final fortnight to make my last working days as easy as possible. Suffice to say I'm most excited about my pending retirement. Especially the parts about not having to wake up when an alarm tells me to, not having to commute and having oodles of time to myself. Will I miss teaching? We'll find out.

Okay, I hope this little writing will hold my legions of fans (both of you) for a bit. I think it safe to say that I'll be writing more regularly when I'm a retiree. Please try to contain your excitement.

31 January 2019

I'm a Teacher (For Four More Weeks) and I Take Pride in My Work, Just Don't Call Me "Great" Plus Some Advice

Disclaimer: the above teacher is not yours truly

My psychiatrist and I got into a long discussion yesterday that went nowhere. Or everywhere. I couldn’t tell which. It stemmed from the fact that I’m retiring in four weeks and I told him that I dread goodbye ceremonies in which my employers and co-workers heap with me praise for being such “a great teacher.” I’m not comfortable with it. I like being thanked for my services or have a student point out something in particular they liked about my class, but having an adjective thrown at me — no matter how laudatory, is useless. What does it mean if you are a “great” teacher? Okay it can mean you’ve got satisfied students, but not only does it not specify anything but it can make you complacent. I need to go out there and teach again tomorrow and I need to prepare and execute the best possible lesson plan that I can, thinking I’m “great” doesn’t help. Realizing I’m capable does. I've had a lot of students say things like "you were a great teacher." But I much prefer praise that begins: "I really liked the way that you...." Or, "I appreciate that you always..."

I have always taken great pride in my efforts as a teacher. I have also derived great satisfaction from the knowledge that I’ve impacted a lot of lives in positive ways through my teaching. This type of understanding can allow one to die a happy person. But as long as I’m still teaching I don’t need or want my ego fed.

Teaching is a humbling experience. You’ve got to perform to the best of your ability day after day. It’s a grind. I’ve loved doing it and found it wonderfully fulfilling. But I don’t need to hear the cheers as I’m doing it.

My philosophy as a teacher is to show up and do my best every damn time. Of course to do one’s best requires not merely effort, but imagination, innovation, professional growth, attention to detail and humor.

Actually maybe on the day I retire people can tell me how “great” I was and I won’t blanch, but I still think I’ll feel a little weird about it. It’s like in AA when you announce it’s your sobriety birthday and people applaud. I hate that. I don’t want applause for staying sober one day at a time. I didn’t do anything but follow the principles of the program.

I’ve gone through the whole “being great” thing. I used to think I was a great soccer player, a great journalist, a great writer. It didn’t help me a wit to think that way, it made me lazy, taking bows rather than trying to achieve actual greatness.

Yesterday when our “time was up” as psychiatrists like to say, I noted that our animated conversation had distracted me from my depression. The doctor wondered aloud if my attitude toward praise was a cause of my depression. This was a clear sign that I’d failed to explain myself. You’d think a teacher would have no problem explaining something. Maybe I’m not so great after all.

I close this with some advice I’m passing on to my current colleagues before I “hang ‘em up” on March 1.

RICHARD RECOMMENDS
Unsolicited advice from a veteran teacher.

Don’t talk too much. It’s far more important for students to talk, in fact it’s essential that they do. Most lessons lend themselves to student interaction through pair or group work. Young people in particular should only be exposed to a limited amount of lecture or teacher-centered instruction. Guided student interaction should not be just a break from the norm but an integral part of lessons.

Students want a teacher not a robot. You do not have to be the life of the party type but you should exhibit some signs of life. An occasional smile, a personal anecdote or a ready quip are advised. Don't sit behind a desk, you're not an accountant. Circulate, make eye contact, vary your voice. Don’t drone on in a robotic voice, try dramatic pauses, accents, stage whispers maybe even a bellow.

Call audibles. If students are getting bored you may need to switch activities sooner than you planned. Alternatively if students are enjoying something you may want to extend what you're doing. You have to sense that some lessons need to be modified. Know your audience. Read their faces, look for yawns, look for eyes wandering, note if you're getting a lot or no questions, note if students are puzzled or engaged. Classes take on different personalities and have different needs. Some are stronger academically, some are more sociable, some are quiet, some are full of the dull and lifeless and some are full of whirling dervishes. Some understand one concept but not the other. Pay attention to the different needs of each class and don’t be afraid to modify on the run.

A little TLC goes a long way. Give students encouragement and praise whenever possible, even if it's not totally sincere. You should be something of a pom pom girl, rooting them on. Assuming you have a student for more than a couple of weeks, it’s good to get to know a little about her or him. Teaching is about establishing relationships, knowing what a person's strengths and weaknesses are and if they have specific needs. When writing summary comments on a student paper or giving them oral feedback I always employ PCP. Praise, criticism praise. Always leave them feeling good about themselves.

Learning is its own reward. What rewards should students get? Isn’t learning reward enough? If not isn’t a good grade or advancement to the next level a nice reward? That being said, rewards are proven to be far better in motivating students than punishments. Punishments should be swift, fair and used minimally and should never be in the form of “making them write.” Writing should be viewed as a rewarding experience, not as a punishment.

Tell them why. Teachers often fashion innovative lessons that challenge and inform students. But often students don’t understand the point of a lesson. Go ahead and tell them. In fact, sell them on the idea. If you can’t explain the value of an assignment, it’s likely because it has none. Justify the assignment to yourself, then to them. Nothing should be done just because it’s fun.

Would you like it? Create lessons and a classroom environment that you'd enjoy if you were taking the class. In fact, if you’re enjoying teaching a lesson its likely they’re enjoying learning it. Students feed off your enthusiasm and energy. Also they'll like you. Being liked by students is a big plus. If students like you they're going to be more open to what you have to say and more willing to do what you ask. Also remember you're dealing with two different dynamics: you and individuals and you and the class as a whole. The more students who you have on your side, the more likely you've got the whole group. That's key because groups are infinitely harder to manage than individuals.

Don’t drown students in paper. For one thing it’s bad for the environment and for another it can be a lazy way to teach. It’s easy to pile on the worksheets and readings to give yourself a break. My teaching philosophy is — whenever possible — offer a variety of teaching methods within one class. I like to — again, when possible — give students a mix of interactive, writing, listening, reading etc. Remember two things: 1) Variety is the spice of teaching and 2) Moderation in all things teaching.

Video, like all things, in moderation. I have heard too many aging educators (usually ones who are no longer teaching) complain about the use of videos. Several say that “students can watch TV at home.” Yes, well for that matter they can read and write at home too. However if you are showing them part of a movie or TV show or any other type of video, presumably it is something that they would not choose to watch at home and even if they did they would be doing so without the benefit of your introducing the relevance of it and clarifying and explaining and giving assignments around it. By not using video at all you are eliminating an important instructional tool. Of course many teachers overuse video. There’s got to be a demonstrable value to whatever you are showing.

Students are comforted by routines but shake it up. You start every class with a particular warm up or activity, you always do something at the end of class or every Wednesday you do this or every Friday you do that. I have a number of routines that I practice in every single class and students come to expect and enjoy them. Consistency and stability and a certain predictably is comforting. But you’ve also got to shake things up from time to time. Within the boundaries of the everyday activities mix in something different. The totally unexpected can be a refreshing break and in fact can invigorate your classroom. Make yourself and thus students step out of the comfort zone.

Test results sometimes reflect you. If I give a test and a few students fail while most do well, I have to assume those few students did not study or did not understand. I’ll work with them. But if a lot of students have trouble with a test, it’s on me. Clearly I either made it too difficult or did not prepare them well enough. I’ve heard teachers rail about how dim their students are. That kind of attitude will get you nowhere as a teacher and is a disservice to students. Also if there’s a particular part of the test that a lot of students struggled with be sure to review that and keep it in mind the next time you give that test. Whenever “everyone” is struggling its up to you to fix it not bitch about it.

Don’t not look back. A good teacher is reflective. If a lesson goes poorly do not blame the students, look in the mirror. You can’t fix how they react to a lesson but you can fix the lesson itself. Always ask yourself what you could have done differently, challenge yourself to improve. At the same time when a lesson goes well, give yourself a hearty pat on the back and learn from that too.

Have fun Teaching is challenging, at times difficult and occasionally enervating, but it’s also jolly good fun. If you’re not enjoying teaching find a profession that you will like. Look at the bright side, it’ll probably pay more.

08 January 2019

My Short-Lived Meditation Journals are Here Published and They Include Various Other Musings

Author's note: I neither sit like this nor am I a woman
Saturday
I mediated today for the first time in over a year. (This time I mean to stick to it.) Coming back to meditating after a long lay-off is similar to working out after a prolonged period of laziness. It’s difficult to get back into a rhythm. Now that I think of it saying there is a rhythm to meditation is a bit weird but I’m sticking with it nonetheless. So what happened this morning when I gamely tried to meditate was that my brain — such as it is — immediately started flying off in all directions. Measured breathing, mantras, focussing on an image, none of these deterred my wandering mind. It got so bad that instead of focusing on my breathing I found myself planning to write this. I started observing all the various topics my mind was intent on addressing. This is not mindfulness, it’s more like mind full of nonsense.

I know enough about meditation to realize that what I experienced was not unusual — particularly for someone who is, let’s say, out of shape. It wasn’t a negative experience at all. It was a start. Tomorrow will probably be a little better, though maybe worse. Certainly if I continue daily meditation I’ll stop thinking about basketball, work, models, sex, Netflix, traveling and sundry other topics within a short meditation. One can hope.

Sunday
Day two of mediating went just barely better than its predecessor. Actually there was a part two to day one that went well. If it gets better all the time then eventually it will be good and someday excellent with nirvana just around the corner.

So I suppose I’ve something of a meditation journal going on here. Maybe I could include other important daily practices like stretching, working out, reading, work, chores and writing. A daily journal in which I write about writing. Takes care of itself. Here I am now writing, Words. Sometimes a phrase. Occasionally a full sentence with a beginning, middle and end. Some of the sentences, like the preceding, will include commas. I may have enough sentences put together on one topic to complete an entire paragraph. Like so.

Writing has been a strange part of my life. It courses through my veins, makes me happy, alive, expressive. But I struggle with it so. Laziness and depression fight against my desire, my need to write. That deadens me inside. Like impotence. Speaking of impotence, the best cure for that is a good fuck. Not funny? Well, it’s just as when Groucho Marx recommended plenty of sleep as a cure for insomnia.

Yes, Julius H. Marx. One of my heroes. Like many really funny people (and he was among the funniest ever) he was extremely intelligent. See too: Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Woody Allen, Christ Rock, Bill Hicks, David Letterman, Dick Cavett, Dave Chapelle and many more.

I’m funny and intelligent too but obviously not on a par with the aforementioned gentlemen. There’s a point. I only included men, though I did include three men of color and two Jews. Anytime you write or say a list of people you’ve got to be conscious of being inclusive. Making it a rainbow. This can be tough. It’s hard to compile a list of your favorite British kings, for example, without it coming out all white, Christian males. (I here add that I personally have never listed my favorite English kings. Not, for that matter have I impersonally made such a list. Personal is an interesting word. Sometimes on public transportation you are reminded to keep an eye on your personal belongings and not to forget them when you leave. This would suggest that any items related to work need not be looked after. If you’ve got a laptop from your job it’s not as important as your own personal umbrella.)

So where was I? Where have I been? What have I been doing? All important yet unanswerable questions. I’m struggling with being mindful while just doing and not thinking. I’m struggling with living in the moment while preparing for the future and not forgetting the lessons of the past. I’m struggling with what I’ve done and my perceptions of what I’ve done and how other people have reacted to what I’ve done and how I should interpret all this and whether it’s worth my time to interpret anything at all. Sometimes there’s mumbo jumbo and sometimes there’s deep insight.

I need to understand Dharma. Which means the four noble truths and the eightfold path. This seems a bit overwhelming but…. But. But. But. You’re never too old, it’s never too late. You have to find the path and that requires effort and that effort is being awake to it all. I start my awakening through meditation. I read. I write. I let go of my ego and take hold of my mantra and breath. Always. It’s all laid out for me.

I feel like I’ve come to the end of this writing. You’ve got to respect the part of your brain that says stop just as you do the part that tells you to carry on. Right now my brain is saying that I’ve exhausted the topic. For now. So I stop.

Monday
On day three of my return to meditation I listened to silence. It is pretty loud. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a total vacuum of noise, not in the natural world. I heard some sounds, of course. The first was my wife starting the car as she went to pick up oldest daughter from yoga. The sound of our car is very familiar and comforting to me. It can mean someone is home, or someone is leaving — perhaps to the store to buy food! Sometimes the sound is a harbinger that I’m about to have the dump to myself for a few blessed minutes — or hours.

I also heard an airplane. I like the sound of airplanes, assuming it’s not some massive jumbo jet flying ten feet above my domicile. The problem was that it got me thinking if air travel. So I focused on my breathing. Focusing on breathing is not the most fascinating thing one can do but then again this is meditation, not a trip to an exotic isle. So as you can see I’m still struggling (what the hell, it’s only been three days). But I shall persist.

Earlier I missed a train by seconds that would have got me home 15 minutes earlier. After my initial stifling of expletives I decided to focus — in a very Zen sort of way — on the feeling of frustration. To detach myself from the feeling and just examine it. This actually worked pretty well.

Later I was walking home from the subway station down quiet dark streets enjoying my solitude, then a young couple fell in step behind me. They were chattering away. This broke my reverie. I crossed the street. Later they crossed the street and were behind me again. So I crossed for a second time. They turned down the street I was going to turn down so I took an alternate route. The nerve of some people not knowing I like a nice quiet walk home minus people yakking at each other.

I’m reading Moby Dick. All I’ll say is that it’s a whale of a book. No, I’ll say more. I can’t understand why some people have such trouble with it. It really flows along for me. This is my second time with it. Maybe I’ll discuss it more at a later date. Wouldn’t that be exciting?

Tuesday
Just finished meditating and I did it right here at work. All I needed was an empty classroom. Again the results were mixed. I focused on my breathing, then on the sound of clock, I tried to feel the lightness in my body then the heaviness. I tried counting. I tried my social security number (seriously dude, what were you thinking?). I tried a mantra of “no thoughts, no thoughts, no thoughts.” I thought about every thing under the sun but what was most notable was that again I thought about what I would write after meditating. This is a clear signal that I should cease and desist these meditation journals. Maybe when I finally have meditation “success” maybe I’ll try again. Meanwhile I’m going to try to find a drawing board to go back to. Which is to say that I’ll be reading about meditation again so that I might better practice it. Better. There’s no way I could do worse unless I started screaming and listening to heavy metal at full blast.

All that being sad I feel better after meditating than I did before. More relaxed and happy. I’m hoping meditation will help mitigate my depression. Nothing much else has worked aside from running. Certainly meds have not magically cured me. Meds do allow me to sleep and have warded off panic attacks and keep my acid reflux in check but seem to have done nothing over the years for my depression. I think I’ll have better luck with meditating. I’m also looking into practicing other Buddhist principles in my life. You’ll perhaps hear more from me on that topic. I was going to write “you’ll perhaps hear more from me on that topic in the future” but I realized that “in the future” was redundant. You can’t exactly hear anything new in the past. Although if the scientific community can sort out the whole time travel business, who knows?

I here close my “meditation journals” with this quote from the Buddha: “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” I’m working on it.


01 January 2019

My Top Ten Films of 2018



1. First Reformed (Schrader)
2. Roma (Cuaron)
3. Burning Chang-dong Lee)
4. Shoplifters (Koreeda)
5. You Were Never Really Here (Ramsay)
6. The Favourite (Lannthimos)
7. Blackkklansman (Lee)
8. A Star is Born (Cooper)
9. Blindspotting (Estrada)
10. Wildlife (Dano)

Honorable Mention: Widows (McQueen);  Eighth Grade (Burnham);  Disobedience (Leilo);  Ben is Back (P. Hedges);  Sorry to Bother You (Riley);  A Ciambra (Carpignano)

Best Actor: Bradley Cooper (A Star is Born).  Runners Up - Ethan Hawke (First Reformed), Lucas Hedges (Ben is Back), Ah-in Yoo (Burning) Ed Oxenbould (Wildlife).

Best Actress: Carey Mulligan (Wildlife).  Runners Up - Charlize Theron (Tully), Glenn Close (The Wife), Lady Gaga (A Star is Born), Julia Roberts (Ben is Back).

Best Supporting Actor: Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Runners Up  - Sam Elliott (A Star is Born), Rafael Casal (Blindspotting), Steven Yeun (Burning).

Best Supporting Actress: Amanda Seyfried (First Reformed). Runners Up - Emma Stone (The Favourite), Rachael Weisz (The Favourite), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk).

31 December 2018

Wherein I Write My Last Post of the Calendar Year and Discuss Various Topics, The Photo of Rihanna Below is Gratuitous



I have to squeeze in one more blog post before the end of 2018. To the delight of many I've written far less on this blog this year than any previous (excepting those years in which this blog did not exist and most especially those years before the advent of the internet). I have any number of excuses for the lack of postings but the best are: working on novel, depression, laziness, helping bringing about peace in the Middle East. This last one has been particularly time-consuming and I must say not altogether successful -- yet. Give me time and I may be able to work things out. Hey, I'm just as likely to bring peace to the Middle East, or anywhere else for that matter, as is that knucklehead who currently occupies the White House.

Sadly the depression (was that just a pun?) was all too real and even laid me low this morning. Mine is a strange case that has the psychiatric community scratching their heads. My mood can go up and down like a yo-yo within a day, within hours, and sometimes within minutes. My lows can get pretty far down there and its a cause for concern but I've managed to avoid walking on the Golden Gate Bridge. I can joke about it, it's happening to me.

The novel is nearly ready to be peddled. I hate this part. I like to write, not sell. I don't want to have to write the perfect query letter, I want someone to look at what I've wrote and say, "brilliant, we'll take it." Hard work and not the kind I enjoy. I've also started to sketch out the prequel which I'm quite excited about. This is a different kind of fictional experience for me because I know where the story is going in advance. I hope to be able to share more about my writings in the future.

Oh yeah, another excuse I have for not posting more is....the holidays! It gets crazy around here during the holidays. I used to have a boss who was constantly going on about how "crazy" its been recently and how particular times were "crazy." This is a great catch-all for pardoning yourself for ignoring someone or something. You've got: "it gets crazy around here before the holidays" followed by "it gets around here during the holidays," and, of course, "it gets crazy around here right after the holidays." That covers several months of the year. You can use it for the Spring, Summer, or Fall. You've also got "it's our busy time of year" and we're getting ready for, or going on or just back from vacation. School age children add to your excuses. You've got the start of the school year and the end of the school year, and if their high school age, the end or beginning of the semester and if they play sports or in theater or a chorus or a band or the chess club that can add to the "craziness."

Laziness is my biggest bugaboo. TV used to make me lazy but I moved on from that and then the internet came along and that can really add to your laziness. Twitter, You Tube, Instagram, message boards, can all kill one helluva lot of time. Prudent use of the internet is a big net positive but time wasting is a huge deficit to your productivity and ultimately your happiness. I've been off work the past two weeks and have thus suffered from not having a routine. I've needed some down time but tend to get into bad habits such as the aforementioned wiling away of hours on the damn internet.

Today's news included word that the disgraced comedian Louis C.K. had performed recently and included in his routine poking a little fun at the survivors of the Parkland survivors. Clearly this is a man who has never heard the term, "too soon." I mean this is way way way way too soon. Plus the jokes were tasteless. It's a free country and the man can say whatever he wants and it's great that comedians push boundaries (all the great ones have or do, such as Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Richard Pryor) but sometimes you can push the wrong boundary or push it too hard. You'll know if you've gone too far if people turn away from you or lambaste you. One thing that CK said was to question why we should have to listen to the survivors. A better question is why do we have to listen to Louis CK? I know I don't want to anymore.

But let's end up on a happy note. My 2018 was much better than my 2017 a year which two of my best friends died, I had a horrible rash that lasted months, I had a "minor" heart procedure and a "minor" foot surgery. On the plus side there was a trip to Europe. This year no one close to me died and I had no physical ailments to speak of other than losing a tooth. Of course there was no trip to Europe but there was one to NY and DC.

I now look forward to 2019, maybe things won't be so "crazy" all the time.