05 April 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day Whatever, Entry Seven, While There May Be Depression , There is Also Hope

From Ruggles of Red Gap which we watched last night.
Struggling. The full bright, dark, glowing somber glare of depression is shinning its dark and empty lights on me. I sit here feeling like  I’ve been punched repeatedly in the face by the ugly melancholia. It is possible I’d be feeling this way even if the coronavirus wasn’t a terrible fact of life today. Even if it no one need speak of social distancing, even if restaurants, museums, ballparks, bookstores and gyms were open this might have been one of the bad days. Of course if this had been a gym day I would not be in the throes of depression. It would have to wait another day.

I take walks and see other people walking, some now wearing masks. People make a point of staying away from one another. Crossing streets, walking in the street, waiting in drive ways until others pass. It is the coronavirus dance. The dance of avoidance. Pleasantries are sometimes exchanged. I think in part to maintain some level of human contact with strangers.

Tomorrow I teach my class online for the last time. I, like 75% of the employees working for Language Studies International (LSI) and likely similar numbers for other ESL schools, have been laid off. Don’t cry for me Argentina or Albania or Athens or Antwerp or anywhere else. Teaching ESL online is about 25% is effective as teaching in person and about 10% as much fine. (Three uses of percentages in one paragraph — how about that?)

I still enjoyed my students and got to like each one. But the phrase “it’s just not the same” is most applicable. I don’t think it crude to say that teaching online to teaching in an actual classroom is like comparing making love to having a wank. The proverbial better than nothing, I suppose.

What I find myself missing the most besides going to the gym is having sports around. I, of course, especially miss those games that I would be watching on the telly or attending in person, but I miss all of it. Sports have been the backdrop for my entire life. Unlike every previous March there was no men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournament. I wouldn’t have watched more that a couple of games — if that — but I would have compulsively checked scores. Here it is April and there is no baseball as there has been every year of my life. Friday would have been the Giants’ home opener and, absent having a ticket, I would have dutifully sat in front of the TV and watched. The European Cup (football — soccer to you Yanks) has already been postponed a year and thus I have to wait an additional 12 months to see Finland’s first ever appearance in the finals. Meanwhile I’ve been missing watching Arsenal and the rest of the English premier league in action with no resumption of play in sight. Even next season’s Cal football season is in jeopardy. Cal home games are a particularly special and integral part of my life. This departure from the norm is unsettling for those of who struggle with emotional issues.

The loss of sports pales in comparison to the other issues surrounding this damned virus, people are getting sick and dying all over the world and it will likely get far worse before it gets at all better. But in the past when the news has been virtually unpalatable and all seems bleak, we’ve still had our distractions. Goodness do we need our distractions now. Being on the spectrum and suffering as I do from depression, I particularly desire the normalcy that comes from having sports events occur like clockwork at their appointed times.

What also hurts is the helplessness of the situation. The most that so many of us can do is just stay at home, maintain social distances and wash our hands. Hardly feels like making a contribution at all when you’re doing your part by watching another movie (three for me yesterday and if you must know: Double Indemnity (1944), Viridiana (1961) and Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) Three terrific films the latter of which I watched with the missus). I also do my bit by reading (currently reading The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer, and selections from various books of poetry) and writing and keeping abreast of the world via the internet.

Please, if you’re reading this (does anyone?) don’t think I want anyone feeling sorry for me. I’m a lucky bloke indeed. Neither I nor anyone I know has the virus — yet — and my health and that of my loved ones is all tip top. We will feel no financial strain, we will share much love and there’s plenty of food and endless hours of entertainment to amuse us. My depression is bad but usually not crippling and the same can be said of my anxiety which, while it sees the occasional spike more often these days does not impede my walks. I know that things will get better and maybe the virus won’t last as long as some people fear. We are deprived of a lot these days but not of hope.

Hope is a good thing to have.

31 March 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day Sixteen, Entry Six, A Preview of Forthcoming Films is Provided

From No Country For Old Hen

It’s been just over two weeks and there’s at the very minimum another four weeks (and that’s wildly optimistic) of this god awful quarantine. This is my first ever quarantine (how many have you had?) and it is starting to carry with it a weighty and oppressive depression. I was going to write about how sad this all is and how it's made all the worse because we have a pea-brained, prevaricating, narcissist in the White House, but the thought of it made me feel even worse. Better, I reckoned, to distract myself from the pain and do something light that might have the added benefit of entertaining and enlightening my readers (both of us).

While rummaging through the dark portals of the internet I recently came across cache of Hollywood scripts that had been green-lighted and were in full production or already completed. What I found remarkable about these films was a new marketing strategy whereby new films are to be given titles that are only one letter off from already well-known movies. One assumes the geniuses in Hollywood know their stuff. So I now provide some of these forthcoming titles along with very brief synopses and a snippet from production notes.

Raging Bill. A biopic about disgraced Fox News personality, Bill O’Reilly. Christian Bale stars and predictably Jay Roach directed. Bound to annoy conservatives and titillate liberals with low brow tastes.

The Man Who Would Be Bing. This is the story of a Bing Crosby impersonator who loses his mind and becomes convinced that he is in fact the legendary (and deceased) crooner. A study of the powers of celebrity, nostalgia and psychosis.

The Last Retail. A post apocalyptic tale of the last retail store. Very dark but beautifully shot in muted tones by Ridley Scott with Viggo Mortensen as the gruff but lovable assistant manager.

Dead Man Talking. This the story of a garrulous ghost. A comedy for the whole family with Eddie Murphy voicing the deceased gabber. This seemingly light fare touches upon our anxiety over death and our fear of being cornered by a motor-mouth.

The Big Sheep. A scientific experiment goes awry and a rural area is overrun by massive sheep. A modern horror story/sci fi thriller that will have audiences pondering eternal questions. Look for a Jeff Goldblum cameo as the bemused veterinarian.

Apocalypse Wow. A completely different take on the end times. This is a rollicking musical about the end of the world. Replete with toe tapping numbers and catchy tunes. Think La La Land meets The Road.

The Limes of Others. A psychological thriller about a farmer who becomes obsessed with the superior lime production of his neighbors. This tale of jealousy and madness will recall Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Joaquin Phoenix stars.

Scenes From a Carriage. Comprised entirely of conversations in carriage rides in 19th century New York. Very New Wave, Avant Garde and edgy. It’s My Dinner With Andre writ large.

No Country for Old Hen. This animated feature is destined to be a classic. The titular old hen finds that she is unwelcome on her farm and sets out on a journey of self-discovery in which she befriends numerous other wise or witty talking animals. Look for a live action feature edition a few years down the road with Wanda Sykes as the hen.

The Graves of Wrath. In this the latest zombie film, the dead rise in anger because their cemetery has fallen into ill repair. The cast includes a bevy of A list stars slumming to make a few extra bucks.

A Dish Called Wanda. Another animated feature, this one is about how objects in a kitchen come to life. They revolt against the humans in their house with the knives serving as the shock troops. The rebel leader is a dish named Wanda (Cate Blanchett in her most challenging role to date).

Gulp Fiction. Interconnected stories about people eating and drinking hastily. Cinema verite at its finest. Destined to be a cult classic.

The Seventh Meal. In this allegorical tale of gluttony, foodies over- indulge, eating seven meals in a single evening. Hidden truths are revealed and no one is spared in this epic drama from Paul Thomas Anderson.

Mead Girls. In an ode to the Italian Neo-Realism films of the early 1950s, Mead girls is a stark and honest look at the lives of young women who serve mead at a popular Brooklyn Mead Bar. A black and white film with no frills but plenty to say.

The Slop Around the Corner. The latest from the Coen Brothers defies easy description. It is ostensibly about a resident in an otherwise bucolic neighborhood who refuses to dispose of his trash. But there’s a lot going on here, especially with a rich cast of  eccentric characters. 

25 March 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day Ten, Entry Five, A Young George Clooney is Spotted

Photo by author taken today from my junior high alma mater.
A grand day for a walk. We'd had rain yesterday and this morning so the skies were a bright and clean and an azure blue. There were lovely clouds in the distance (mostly in the sky). The green of lawns, flowers, trees and leprechauns were especially vibrant and the temperature was in the upper 50s. Cool but not cold. So I made my walk a long one and once again strolled through my past. This time I visited the neighborhood were I grew up and walked around the grounds of my childhood residence. So much has changed and so much is exactly as it was lo those many (many) years ago. I should perhaps say many decades ago.

Walked around the junior high I attended and where I spent many an hour playing basketball, soccer, baseball and smoking weed. (Not at the same time.) There were a lot of people about but all seemed to be diligent about maintaining social distances, including the many joggers. Oddly I felt I was walking in enemy territory. For many years I taught at a different middle school in Berkeley and coached its soccer team and my alma mater was, of course, a bitter rival. I only spent two years as a student at the school but I spent over 15 coaching against it. Loyalties switch.

It was another day for me to be steeped in nostalgia this time with memories from being everything from six to 12 to 17. I've read that nostalgia can be good for you which should mean I'm quite healthy as I've a tendency to wallow in it.

My walk lasted close to 90 minutes and will have to suffice for today's exercise. I miss the gym and will eventually have to start doing some work outs at home. Dumbbells have been ordered. (No, we haven't sent for stupid people, I refer instead to weights -- for lifting. This witticism relies on a person knowing that dumbbell can be a way to insult a person by suggesting they are dumb....Never mind.)

Prior to my walk and just after teaching my class (online -- blgh!). I watched -- with wife and oldest daughter -- an episode of Murder She Wrote which aired on CBS for 12 years starting in 1984, I believe on Sunday nights. I had idled a few hours watching the show during its heyday but it became regular watching for the better half and some years later she watched re-runs with the aforementioned daughter. They have recently decided to stroll down memory lane and watch it again. I joined them today as the episode (the third of the series) was set and filmed in San Francisco. As it turned out much of it was filmed near the location of the school I taught at for seven and half years.
Snapped this picture on my walk. The car looks to be at least 70 years old.
In this episode Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) helps an SFPD Homicide detective solve a murder. It is well-known that police departments across the country love nothing more than to have private citizens help them solve cases. In Jessica's case she's even allowed a personal and private interview an accused murder right there in lock up. Ms. Fletcher also somehow knows where the detective lives and pops in on him at will. Of course.

So the show was ridiculous (interesting how wherever Ms. Fletcher went there happened a murder shortly after her arrival) but kind of fun in an I'll-never-do-this-again kind of way. I read about the episode on IMDb right after we watched it and noted in the trivia section that George Clooney had played a waiter. We hadn't noticed him. Oldest daughter decided to play sleuth herself and find his appearance. He was easy enough to have missed on first viewing because he was so damn young and barely recognizable and his role was so small. But we saw a waiter who resembled a young Clooney and when he spoke his line we recognized his voice. It was him all right. Not surprisingly it was one of his first credited appearances. As you may know, he went on to bigger and better.

After the walk I jawed with my two fellow quarantinees (to coin a word) for a bit, then called on my good buddy the Criterion Channel for amusement and edification. I chose to watch a Kelly Reichardt film, Wendy and Lucy (2008). I've seen all her films and this is my favorite as well as perhaps her most popular. I suppose I should write more about Ms. Reichardt and what is so appealing about her work. Maybe after I see her latest film, First Cow which I'd planned to see at a local theater two weeks ago but then this stupid coronavirus got in the way. Damn it.

Meanwhile the quarantine drags on, much to no one's amusement. I did note today that four different people offered me a cheery hello during my wanderings. I've heard that this happening a lot. It's understandable and most welcome that people should exchange pleasantries when deprived of the regular human contact one is generally afforded in normal life. (Remember normal life?)

Maybe some day soon we'll all be able to mingle in and share common spaces in shops, restaurants, ballparks and theaters. Here's hoping.

23 March 2020

I Proudly Introduce My First Novel, Lesson Plan


Since I was eight years old I've dreamt of having a novel published. After numerous attempts it was beginning to look like my dream might never be realized. Publisher after publisher, agent after agent rejected the three different books I've written. This became particularly frustrating recently with my novel, Lesson Plan which I was fully confident was at the very least worth publishing and perhaps was even an excellent work. Thanks to Amazon Kindle I was able to self-publish the book at no cost on kindle (if you don't have a kindle reader you can download the app for free) and it will soon be available on paperback. It does not equate to my fantasy of being published by Random House after receiving a huge advance, but it will do.

Lesson Plan was years in the making. My first version of it was completed seven years ago. Needless to say it was turned down by one and all. I forgot about it and moved on to other projects. I finished another novel a year ago and started sending out query letters for it. Meanwhile I "dusted off" Lesson Plan and took a look at it. I had two initial reactions: one, it stunk, two, it had enormous potential. Last Spring and Summer I took a hammer, chisel and sandblaster to it and turned the sow's ear into what I believe to be a silk purse.

Lesson Plan is set in a Berkeley middle school that is quite like the one where I taught for nearly 20 years. It takes place in 1999. The novel's prologue is the first few seconds after a grizzly shooting that has left one person dead. But the book mostly concerns itself with the two weeks leading up to this tragedy as seen through the lives of six main characters. One of the characters is a history teacher named Charlie Grant who bears a slight resemblance to yours truly. He is being threatened for termination because of a short temper that he inflicts on students (unlike me) but he is a dedicated educator (like me). Charlie Grant suffers from severe panic disorder (like me) was raised by a paranoid schizophrenic mother (like me) is divorced  (unlike me). A second character is the school's vice principal, a woman who is also divorced but whose real pain started with the death of her lover, another woman. The only thing she hates worse than her job is not working at all. A third adult character is a young man with serious mental/emotional issues who has gone off his meds. He lives across the street from the school and becomes entwined -- in odd ways -- with a student and an employee of the school.

Three students make up the other main characters. John Henry is a precocious 8th grader who has skipped two grades and whose intellectual capacity actually qualifies him for high school. As our story begins John Henry has recently discovered the fairer sex and has become obsessed with sex in general and a few of his female classmates in particular. Ricky Bresnahan is a popular boy who is a soccer star. His pursuits include the cutest girl in the school and getting high. The cross Ricky has to bear is his intrusive parents who he worries will discover his pot supply. The third student is Jimmy Hart an African American boy who dreams of playing in the NBA. However he struggles with grades and thus remaining eligible for the team. He is also exploring issues around race.

A few other students are also introduced including one who is being sexually assaulted by her step father and another who discovers she is John Henry's object of desire.

The lives of all the principal characters intersect on the day of the shooting.

Lesson Plan explores issues of isolation, changing relationships, finding one's place in society and feeling alone and different.

The book is based in large part on my own experiences working at a middle school.

I'm very proud of Lesson Plan. I believe it is an honest book that will in many ways be relatable to people of all ages and backgrounds and I also believe it will shed light on the middle school experience as it is for students, staff and society. I mean it to be a thought-provoking book that will engender conversations.

I hope that you will consider reading the book and that if you do read it and enjoy it, that you will share it with others. I'm relying on word of mouth to make people aware of Lesson Plan. I do not expect to make much -- if any -- money on Lesson Plan -- but I do hope people read it. The more the better. Writing the book was a labor of love but I also had in mind that people would read it.

Thank you.

21 March 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day Six, Entry Four, I Talk to a Confused Squirrel

That's Strawberry Creek which meanders through campus
Keen observers of this blog (both of us) may have noted that there was no post yesterday and that two days prior instead of Coronavirus Quarantine Diary I had a post on film quotes. Get used to it. This will be fairly consistent but somewhat sporadic and totally unpredictable -- like life.

I have lived during the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, political assassinations aplenty (JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcom X, Harvey Milk) the AIDS epidemic the dawn of a new millennium, protests, demonstrations, riots, terrorists attacks, mass shootings, the illegal invasion of Iraq, the first three years of a narcissistic, incompetent, lying, morally bankrupt president but nothing compares to this stupid, mother fucking virus.

Through all else I could still go to a ball game, watch live sports, eat at a restaurant, take in a film, browse in a bookstore and go to orgies (full disclosure, never been to an orgy). Now none of those wonderful diversions are available. The only good thing is that it's easy as hell to cross what are normally busy streets.

Fuck this.

It's a strange new world and there's nothing romantic about it. It is a painfully boring, uninspiring form of tragedy which will mainly be remembered for isolating people. It's not quite a week yet and I, like millions of others, am over it. Make that like tens of millions of others, hell hundreds of millions.

Took a long walk today. Again.

I traipsed through the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. It was as lovely as ever, especially with so few other people strolling about. (I can't wait until we are overcome again by the hustle and bustle.) I stopped on numerous occasions. I stopped and looked at the creek, I stopped and looked at plaques, I stopped and looked at trees, I stopped and looked at flowers, I stopped and looked at an empty Sproul Plaza, I stopped and looked at lawns, I stopped and looked at the eucalyptus grove, I stopped and looked at the Campanile, I stopped and looked at the Pappy Waldorf statue, I stopped and looked the architecture, I stopped and looked at the huge puffy white clouds. I stopped. I looked. Absent the circumstances, it was most pleasant.

One of the plaques I looked at commemorated the arrival of a Spanish expedition to the area around Strawberry Creek in 1772. That's a far ways back when you're talking about Berkeley or even California -- unless the topic is the Ohlone or any of the other native tribes who made this area their home for centuries until whitey came along.

A virtually deserted campus
During my walk one of the ubiquitous panhandling squirrels of the UC campus approached me. The squirrels on campus are known to be fearless, having figured out that a human is far more likely to toss some victuals their way than they are to cause harm. But this squirrel did not get all cutesy and wag its furry tail or hop around. It just looked at me and asked, "where the hell are all the people?"
I explained about Covid-19. "Well, that sucks," replied the squirrel, looks like the family and I are on our own for food for awhile." I replied, "I guess you are." The squirrel asked, "say, have you got any nuts or anything on you?" I said that I didn't but, "I've got a couple of bucks you're welcome to."
The squirrel gave me the side eye and snapped, "come on dude, what am I gonna do with money? Be real." I allowed that it was perhaps a stupid offer. We wished each other well and then one of us scampered up a tree.

I later alit from the tree and moseyed on home.

The day has been occupied with much of the usual. Chatting with the wife, reading, being alternately angry, depressed and amused at what I read online and watching a movie. I can safely predict that more reading and another movie await. I will also be enjoying he dinner that the missus is just now preparing. I'm very good about dispensing the food she cooks. Usually down my gullet.

I've also done a bit of writing. I've got two novels in the works in addition to the one that is complete and available for reading via Amazon Kindle. I'll be dedicating an entire post to a discussion about said novel soon.

That's a wrap on today's blog post. If you enjoyed reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it then I got twice the pleasure out of it as you. So there.

P.S. The coronavirus sucks and your can tell it I said so.

19 March 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day Four, Entry Three, I Teach While Wearing Slippers

I took this picture during my walk today.
It has been day four of the coronavirus quarantine but this is my third entry because yesterday my blog post was dedicated to film quotes. I've no idea how often I'll post these. Like a lot of things in life, we'll just have to wait and see.

Yesterday for the first time in my 33 year teaching career (I've been teaching since I was six?) I taught online via something called Zoom. Evidently this has become a most popular medium to host classes and even more so since Covid-19 entered our lives. I found it stressful to enter this brave new world, especially as this was a totally foreign way to teach and it involved so much technology. Fortunately oldest daughter is around and she is a whiz at all this high tech stuff and has even taken classes via Zoom, so she showed me the ropes. (No actual ropes were used.)

Yesterday was a dawn of a new age for me. It was as smooth as a porcupine, folks. Actually the lesson went relatively well it was just all in fits and starts and I had to accustom myself to not being in the same room as my students. The glitches mostly were on the student's end and I came off seeing mildly competent. Of course when I teach the old-fashioned way I come off like a genius (please excuse the exaggeration, however slight). I was in normal attire but inasmuch as I was teaching out of my bedroom wore my slippers. Students only see me from about mid waist up so I could teach pantless. I won't.

Teaching when you only see students in a little box on your computer screen is not ideal. Especially when some suddenly disappear or lose their audio. I'm used to looking students in the eye and prancing around the room. I like to get close to students without making them feel uncomfortable which I've become adept at over the years, decades, third of a century. But teachers are a resourceful lot and I made do.

After class yesterday I worked out. Well, after a fashion. I was able to stretch, do my planks, sit ups, push ups and leg raisers and compliment that with a very brisk walk around the neighborhood. It was the proverbial case of better than nothing but hardly compared with going to the gym and finishing a work out bathed in sweat, endorphins dancing about. It'll get better, I suppose.

Today was day two of online teaching and went much better, thank you very much. I'm getting the hang of it, will eventually get comfortable with it but will never embrace it.

Told ya I saw a guy on stilts
After class I went for a long walk. Went through a section of Berkeley's hideous downtown and noted that most businesses were closed except for pharmacies, a candy shop and Papa John's pizza, the latter because some people need there bad pizza, pandemic or no. I also had a great shock when crossing a street with the protection of the stop sign, a person on a bike actually came to a full stop! In Berkeley this is a rarity. Ninety per cent of all bicyclists seem to speed up the instant they note a stop sign, red light or person on foot. Many of them go careening down crowded sidewalks. For one to actually stop was mind blowing.

I'm noting a lot of other people out walking. This is a good thing. Everyone seems good about keeping their social distance. I make it a point never to get within  a few feet of my fellow pedestrians.

As I neared home I saw someone who could walk right by a person and still maintain a social distance because this chap was on stilts. Of course. One does not normally see a person on stilts -- even in wacky Berkeley -- but these are strange times.

Yes strange times, though hopefully not the end times. I just saw that 56% of Californians are supposed to be infected with the virus within the next eight weeks. That seems preposterously high, but what the hell do I know. In any case a scary stat.

I think I'll leave it with that grim thought and maybe be a bit cheerier next time. Hey, the weekend is coming! Theaters, beaches, restaurants, sports events, parks, shops are all....not an option. Excuse me for saying this, but fuck the coronavirus.

18 March 2020

The Return of Film Quotes


Long-time readers of this blog (both of us) may recall that many years ago I had a few posts dedicated to great -- or at least pretty good -- quotes from great -- or at least pretty good -- films. In curating old posts as I've been doing of late, I stumbled upon some of these posts and it got me to thinking (something has to) that it's high time I yanked this feature out of mothballs. Needless to say (watch, he's going to say it anyway) these are never-before-shared quotes. I have endeavored to select a variety of quotes from a variety of movies. Some from comedies and others from dramas and everything in between. I may just do it again some time too. Enjoy.

That rug really tied the room together. - The Dude,  The Big Lebowski (1998).

Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos. - Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski (1998).

That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me. - Adriana, Midnight in Paris (2011).

Captain, it is I, Ensign Pulver, and I just threw your stinkin' palm tree overboard! Now what's all this crud about no movie tonight? - Ensign Pulver, Mister Roberts (1955).

I should have had you wear double condoms. Well, we shouldn't have done it in the first place, but if you ever do it again, which as a favor to women everywhere, you should not, but if you do, you should be wearing condom on condom, and then wrap it in electrical tape. You should just walk around always inside a great big condom because you are *shit*! - Jean, Inside Llewyn Davis (2013).

Hello, America. I've been watching a part of the world being blown to pieces. A part of the world as nice as Vermont, and Ohio and Virginia, and California, and Illinois lies ripped up and bleeding like a steer in a slaughterhouse, and I've seen things that make the history of the savages read like Pollyanna legends. -John Jones, Foreign Correspondent (1940).

I don't want Santana Abraxis! I've just been in a terrible auto accident! - Larry Gopnik, A Serious Man (2009).

Worldly wealth corrupts souls and withers hearts. It makes men contemptuous, unjust, pitiless in their egoism. I understand the anger of those who have nothing when the rich feast so arrogantly. - Papa Jean, Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987).

That's the unfortunate thing about death. It's so terribly final. Even the young can't do anything about it. - Carlotta Vance, Dinner at Eight (1933).

Hey! You're Rick fucking Dalton. Don't you forget it. Cliff Booth, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. (2019).

We must make an idol of our fear, and call it god. - Antonius Block, Seventh Seal (1957).

You know what kind of plan never fails? No plan. No plan at all. You know why? Because life cannot be planned. Look around you. Did you think these people made a plan to sleep in the sports hall with you? But here we are now, sleeping together on the floor. So, there's no need for a plan. You can't go wrong with no plans. We don't need to make a plan for anything. It doesn't matter what will happen next. Even if the country gets destroyed or sold out, nobody cares. Got it? - Ki-taek, Parasite (2019).

Suppose I return to our godforsaken city a genius. Understand? But a man writes because he's tormented, unsure of himself. He has to keep proving his worth to himself and to others. But if I'm convinced I'm a genius - then why do I need to write? - The Writer, Stalker (1979).

Cold are the hands of time that creep along relentlessly, destroying slowly but without pity that which yesterday was young. Alone our memories resist this disintegration and grow more lovely with the passing years. Heh! That's hard to say with false teeth! - The Wienie King - Palm Beach Story (1942).

On the self-abuse front - and this is important - I don't think it's advisable to do it in the shower. It wastes water and electricity and because we all expect you to be doing it there in any case. And, not on... under the linen... Well... Anyway, if you're worried about anything at all, just feel free to ask and we'll look it up. - Ben Hood, The Ice Storm (1997).

You know when you hear girls say 'Ah man, I was so shit-faced last night, I shouldn't have fucked that guy?' We could be that mistake! - Seth, Superbad (2007).

I want to save part of my life for myself. There's a catch to it though, it's gotta be part of the young part. You know, retire young, work old, come back and work when I know what I'm working for. - Johnny Case, Holiday (1938).

Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there's only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming. - Jasmine, Blue Jasmine (2013).

Now ain't that the way? A man gets set for trouble head-on and it sneaks up behind him every time!. - Ben Vadergroat,  The Naked Spur (1953)

It ain't the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I'm smart! Not like everybody says... like dumb... I'm smart and I want respect! Fredo, The Godfather Part II (1974).

Papa spoke to me. - Frederik, Through a Glass Darkly (1961).

We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy. And how you ended up knowing what colors went together. Narrator, The Virgin Suicides (1999).

I was jinxed from the word go. The first time I was ever kissed was in a cemetery. - Fran Kubelik, The Apartment (1960).

I saved Latin. What did you ever do? - Max Fischer, Rushmore (1998).

I think I see a cab. If we run quickly we can kick the crutch from that old lady and get it. - Clifford Stern, Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989).

It's too late. I've already paid a month's rent on the battlefield. - Rufus T. Firefly, Duck Soup (1933).

I am the motherfucking shore patrol, motherfucker! I am the motherfucking shore patrol! Give this man a beer. - Buddusky, The Last Detail (1973).

This is a coincidence. I meet nobody from the old neighborhood in years. I finally do, and I gotta kill her. - Rocco, Radio Days (1987).

It shrinks my liver, doesn't it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys, yeah. But what it does it do to the mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly I'm above the ordinary. I'm competent. Extremely competent! I'm walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I'm one of the great ones. I'm Michaelangelo, molding the beard of Moses. I'm Van Gogh painting pure sunlight. I'm Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto. I'm John Barrymore before the movies got him by the throat. I'm Jesse James and his two brothers, all three of them. I'm W. Shakespeare. And out there it's not Third Avenue any longer, it's the Nile, Nat. The Nile and down into the barge of Cleopatra. - Don Birnam, The Lost Weekend (1945).

I thank you. The limit has at last been reached. The glass is shattered, but what do the splinters reflect? Can you tell me that? - Johan Borg, Hour of the Wolf (1968).

17 March 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day Two, Weird Times

From Bullets Over Broadway
I'm not seriously going to do this everyday, am I?

Started the day with a brisk 30-minute walk to my doctor's office. My doctor is retiring in two weeks so this was the last time to see her. She's been my doc for half my life and I'm still alive so she's evidently been doing a good job. If I die on April I, we'll know why.

I crossed three major streets in the course of my walk and lemme tell you folks, it's never been so easy. Very few automobiles traversing the roads these days. I also saw a commuter bus heading towards San Francisco -- this at about 8:00AM -- and it was empty. (Actually, I'm pretty sure there was a driver). I noted that many shops and cafes and restaurants were closed for the duration. Weird times.

The doctor prescribed me a service animal for my depression, something none of the stupid psychiatrists I saw ever did. She also took a look at my throat which has been raspy recently. I got a referral to an ENT doctor. I asked what an E, N,T was and was told ear, nose and throat. What if all specialists came in threes? Knees, ankles and hips. Heart, lungs and liver. Brain, back and bowels.

I thanked the doctor for her wonderful work, paid my bill and skipped merrily out the door. Of course I was careful not to touch doors and their knobs or anything else for that matter, with my skin.  I also had hand sanitizer with me just in case. Weird times.

My next stop was to be the pharmacy but they weren't due to open for 20 minutes so I took a stroll in the neighborhood I lived in with wife and children from 1997-2013. We spent all 16 of those years in a lovely two bedroom dwelling with a nice backyard. It was the longest I've ever lived at a single address. The people who bought the house lo those seven years ago completely re-did the dump to the point where it doesn't look a thing like the abode we occupied. Thus the nostalgia of my journey was lessened somewhat.

My friendly pharmacist, Gabriel, was wearing gloves and he sanitized the pen before I signed for meds. Weird times. We exchanged the usual pleasantries and I skipped merrily out the door towards my current humble home. Wife and oldest daughter were out and about and we chatted a bit. They are both handling our quarantine quite well and have made sure that our cupboards are full without getting into this whole nasty hoarding business. Weird times.

I prepared to start teaching tomorrow. Of course I will be doing my instruction on line (schools everywhere are locked up tight) which means learning how that's done. I sat through two video presentations, one of which was live. The live presenter kept saying that if we had more questions or needed to know more about a particular thing we could "cruise on over" to a particular link or website. Back in the old days we used to say "go over" to a particular link or website but then again we didn't say "grab a link" which he did. Indeed we did considerably less "grabbing" of things in days of yore. Today people "grab" lunch, a shower, sunshine and for all I know, a half hour of meditation.

So tomorrow I start my course -- same school, same students, same book -- on line and I have very little actual idea what I'm doing despite the best efforts of my on line experts. (I should probably be either hyphenating on-line or making it one word as in, online, but I'm not currently doing so and I blame the coronavirus.)

I've washed dishes twice today. I like a clean kitchen for other people to cook me food in.

Watched a Bergman film (as I'm want to do) on the Criterion Channel (goodness I truly do love the CC) Hour of the Wolf (1968). I haven't seen it in so many moons I'd forgotten much of it. Boy howdy folks it's not an easy film to forget (so how did I?) and maybe I'll write about it here someday. Maybe not. I don't know. Weird times.

Last night I watched Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway (1994) -- "don't speak." Hadn't seen it in a long time as well as it's been out of circulation. However I found a cheap copy on eBay last week and bought it. It's a regular knee-slapper. So I sat there slapping my knees until they were red and the film was over.

I did other stuff today but my god this post is already boring enough as it is. What, I'm going to tell you about another nap, or taking out the recycling or scratching an itch on my backside?

Right now I find myself writing on my blog after which I'm going to graciously eat the dinner that is currently being prepared and then watch last night's Better Call Saul on ye old DVR with the missus. (I like her a lot. She's the cats.)

Will I have more to say tomorrow? Will I update the world on teaching online? Will I take another long exhilarating walk? Will the virus magically disappear overnight? Will I stop asking questions and end this stupid blog post? Yes to the last question.

Weird times.

16 March 2020

Coronavirus Quarantine Diary: Day One, Memory Lane is Trod

My grandparent's home as seen today
Well, this is different. Indeed like nothing I've previously experienced in my six and half decades on this planet. No work. No gym. No orgies. No restaurants. No bookstores. No sporting events. No contact with people other than wife and oldest daughter with whom I'm sequestered in our humble home.

(Did he really write, "no orgies"? He's kidding, right?)

So the day started with me not going to work despite having risen early and preparing to do exactly that. The missus said it wasn't advisable as I am in the dangerous category of people being really, really old. I contacted the boss and she said it was cool, they'd cover me. (The school closed after today anyway and I'm to start teaching online Wednesday) Of course by edict of our local governments I ain't going anywhere from 12:01 AM tomorrow on, except a doctor's appointment.

Thus this was something of a day off but I'd just had a lazy weekend and am not want to sit around twiddling my thumbs on a Monday. I got busy. First there were old blog posts to go over. As I mentioned previously on this blog, I've been going through my nearly 12 years of blog posts and cleaning up left over typos, correcting bad grammar (not much of that, thank you very much) and flat out deleting dated or poorly written posts (very few of those).

Recently while going through past posts I noted that on half a dozen occasions -- though not at all in the last nine years -- I devoted entire posts to great quotes from great films (admittedly, some were merely really good quotes from really good films). I decided that it was an idea worth reviving and so today started compiling film quotes for a post that will be coming your way soon.

I then continued emailing and texting friends, relatives and loved ones (who am I kidding? anyone who's a "loved one" is a friend or relative.) I was checking in. As I write this everyone has checked back and many have said quite lovely things as one does in times crisis -- as I assume this is. One very good friend is stuck in his Paris apartment which doesn't sound so bad expect that his wife and children are similarly stranded and not with him and Paris isn't quite the same these days with the damned virus having shut down restaurants and other amusements.

I also spent a bit too much time on Twitter which I do virtually every day. That damn thing is so easy to get sucked into while at the same time, if curated properly, can be a wonderful source of information, informed opinion and hilarious animal videos.

Chatted with wife and daughter. There was a lot to talk about.

Went for a long walk. Saw a fair amount of people about and none seemed to think it rude that, as we've been instructed, I kept my distance. Lots of people pushing carriages (some with babies or toddlers in them), walking dogs or just getting exercise. I suppose some were running errands.

My walk took me by my maternal grandparent's house. I spent many hours there as a wee tyke as I grew up not far away. In fact the elementary school I attended was a block away so I went to Grandma's for lunch everyday. I would sit in front of the TV and she would bring me my meal which I would share with her golden retriever, Sisu. One day in the 5th grade I turned on the TV and instead of The Donna Reed show there were some boring looking old men in suits talking. The topic was the assassination of President Kennedy which had occurred an hour or so earlier. When I returned to school I told all my mates about it and of course none believed me. We returned to class and our teacher, Mrs. Phillips, came in a tad late and tearfully informed us of the death of the president. I heard a chorus of, "you were right, Richard."

I noted that the "front yard" in front of Grandma's house was tiny. I always picture it as a vast expanse of greenery, obviously based on my recollections as a wee one. The house and its environs looked otherwise much the same.

From there I went by my aforementioned old school were I matriculated from kindergarten through grade six. The seven years there was longer than I spent at any other educational institution. The expression one uses in such cases is that the memories came flooding back. They really did. I recalled where I confronted a bully, where we used to play handball, where I saw a girl get hit by a car and where kickball was played.

I then made my way home where I spent the afternoon answering and sending emails, looking into how I could publicize my novel (available on Amazon Kindle ) and chatting with my lovely housemates. I capped the afternoon off with a lengthy nap. I am a huge fan of naps and may make taking them a regular habit in the days, weeks, months to come. It's time well spent.

I'm proud to say that I washed the dishes and heroically ate the delicious tacos my darling wife prepared. I've also been writing this as is evidenced by the fact that it exists. Not to get too existential on you.

So what about this virus? How about this life altering pandemic? Well, stay tuned, this is after all only the first day of the quarantine. There may be a lot more to come.