16 September 2020

Trumpy Fun Facts

There have been a plethora of books released recently about our current (and hopefully outgoing) president. Much has been excerpted from these books and discussed ad nauseam on news shows and been fodder for social media. But there are some lesser known facts about the president that have not been included among the media barrage -- until now. It is my  pleasure to share some with you. I have gone through all the Trump-related books and culled some interesting trivia that have been heretofore ignored. Whether it will change your opinion of him one iota, I cannot say but you will get a fuller picture of the "man."

His favorite film is, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

An avid runner, he finished third in the most recent Boston Marathon.

He is a committed vegan.

For good luck sometimes wears a Metallica tee-shirt under his suit.

Reads from James Baldwin’s, The Fire Next Time, before falling asleep.

Is fluent in Latin, Spanish, Italian and Greek.

Every Sunday he bakes bread.

Five years ago he took up pottery as a relaxation technique.

Enjoys hosting Full House marathons. Favorite character is Joey.

Every Christmas he insists on dressing up as Santa Claus.

Is currently studying to be a doula.

Can walk on his hands.

At Thanksgiving he volunteers to feed the homeless at a soup kitchen.

After stressful day he likes to vacuum and dust.

Loves to play Chutes and Ladders.

Has a tattoo of a poodle on his left arm.

He once taught a crocheting class to seniors at a YMCA.

Greatest regret is selling his stamp collection.

Loves to sing along to Gilbert and Sullivan's, Mikado.

Does a spot on impersonation of Walter Matthau.

Loves walking on stilts.

13 September 2020

The Apocalypse May Take a Turn For the Worse -- But I Celebrate 33 Years Sober

Photo by author taken in Berkeley a few days ago at noon.
It’s not only bad but it could get worse.

Covid-19 is alive and well and the fear is that in the coming months it could combine with the flu to cause a Twindemic. So the virus we do not have under control could join forces with the regular flu season to wreck even more havoc.

Wild fires are raging through Washington, Oregon and here in California, costing lives, destroying property, burning forests, devastating wild life and causing unhealthy air quality. This is the fifth day in a row that we’ve had to keep windows closed because of the bad air. We’re not yet into the teeth of fire season so this might only be a preview.

Trump and company continue to defile the country in ways previously thought unimaginable and it’s still not impossible for him to win re-election and if he doesn’t he may not acknowledge defeat and his supporters may take up arms.

I’ve always understood that it is darkest before the dawn but exactly how dark can it get?

My emotional state can’t handle much more of what life has been doling out to everyone these days (today marks six month since I last stood before a classroom) and I am not alone in this respect. It’s difficult to imagine carrying on if things do indeed worsen. I’m sure I will — albeit under great stress — but surely others who are not blessed — as I am — with family, good physical health and sufficient funds, will have a much more difficult time.

As I mentioned it’s been six months since I last taught live and in person. It is also another anniversary. Today marks 33 years that I’ve been clean and sober.


I woke up on September 13, 1987 and realized I was an addict and alcoholic. This thought had never occurred to me before. Virtually everyone — especially psychiatrists — have been skeptical about my claim. Surely there had been clues, someone had planted the idea in my head. But I know with every fiber of my being that I passed out the night before convinced I was a social drinker. I knew what an alcoholic looked like — I’d drank with them — and I did not fit the profile.

I can’t explain why I woke up that Sunday morning with such clarity about the disease I had and don’t attempt to.

It was fortuitous timing. My wife had made up her mind the previous night to end our short marriage. When I woke up, found her sleeping on the sofa and told her, “I have a problem,” she decided to give me a second chance. Then, less than two weeks later she found it she was pregnant.

I’m a lucky man. Sobriety allowed me to help raise my oldest daughter and to sire and raise another daughter. Both are grown women today and are wonderful people succeeding at life. Oh yes, I’m still married to the same perfect wife.

Like I said, I’m a lucky man.

While I’ve struggled mightily recently with depression and anxiety, I have found some activities that help enormously in combatting the blues. One is immersing myself in a good book. Right now I’m reading a novel that is destined to be among my all-time favorites — The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
Of course watching a great film is an effective and fun distraction as can be a favorite TV show. Exercise helps a lot as do long walks (when air quality permits).

I close now by saying how much I miss people. I long for shopping in a crowded grocery store. I can’t wait to be among a throng of fans at a sports events. I yearn for the sights, sounds and — dare I say it — smells of the gym. I’m a misanthrope who’s missing being irritated by other humans.

Gray skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face….(unless the gray skies get downright black and refuse to clear).

11 September 2020

Coming Soon To A Theater Near You! (A Streams of Unconsciousness Classic)

I was rummaging around among some blog posts from days of yore and I came across the beauty below. It is a synopsis of coming attractions that might appear at any U.S. movie theater at any given time. It was tagged among my "favorite posts" and deservedly so. However, my blogger dashboard indicates how many views posts have had and I was surprised that considerably less than a billion people have viewed this gem. So I thought I'd give the world a second chance. Surprisingly, despite the paucity of views its had, the post received several comments all of which were laudatory. (Follow this link to see the original post and comments.)

The post is not particularly timely because very few of us are in movie theaters these days sitting through trailers. But it might make one nostalgic and help prepare us for our inevitable return to theaters (one hopes).

(I have edited the post to make it even better this time -- tell your friends.) 

The apocalypse soon! Alien invasion, polar ice caps melting, huge meteor striking Earth. Fortunately one of your favorite and most handsome movie stars is on the case (aided by a lovely female co-star). The film also features a gruff but lovable general or president or prime minister played by a favorite character actor. The films is replete with frightening special effects. See the Statue of Liberty blow up. The Golden Gate Bridge submerged under tidal waves. The Eiffel Tower shake, shimmy and roll. All the scarier because IT COULD HAPPEN! Peter Travers of Rolling Stone raves: "The must-see hit of the Summer!"

Arty indy schlock. See one of Hollywood's most glamorous stars slumming in this off beat look at lower middle class struggles. Yes, the accompanying music reminds you of the soundtrack from your worst hangover, but it's a perfect accompaniment to this touching story of regular people in rural communities facing love, disaster and oddly tinted, shaky, handheld camera shots. What these people go through you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. An official entry at the Yankton, South Dakota film festival and a winner of the Hanoi Festival's Grand Jury prize. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone raves: "If you see one movie this year make it this one."

Quirky offbeat romance. This is a different kind of love story with an oddly matched pair of misfits. Yes they're outcasts, but they find solace in one another. Not another gross out teen comedy, this is the melding of a director's vision and two extraordinary actors ready for stardom! The soundtrack features appropriately quirky songs. The actors joyfully ride bicycles and their laughter drowns all the negative stereotypical characters who surround them. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone raves: "The greatest love story of this, or any generation!"

A sequel! Finally a filmmaker not just out to make a buck, a filmmaker with an original idea. They've take a movie that did boffo at the box office and created a continuation of it! A sequel!!!! (What brilliant minds conceive of such ideas?) Well-worn characters doing more of what they've done before in similar circumstances with predictable outcomes. Sure it may not make a dime but such creativity!  There'll be explosions, chases and special effects galore. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone raves: "The greatest film ever made. Ever. Period."

Two sexy stars in a thriller! International intrigue and two beautiful leads. Our stars may be on opposite sides but they'll find themselves in the same bed. Exotic locales. Suggestive dialogue. Cardboard cut-out co-stars. Heroes extricating themselves from seemingly impossible situations. You can't be sure but it looks like they'll be a twist or two in the story and just maybe the stars will wind up together in the end with everything being okay. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone raves: "This is not a movie, this is an experience that will rival the greatest orgasm you've ever had."

A documentary few of you will ever see. Here's a probing look into how really eccentric and obsessed some people are. Look at the odd things they do with such passion and how they talk endlessly about it. See the corporate and political meanies who try to stop them. Watch our hero speak up at a local council meeting. They're not only different, they're brave! We come to admire them in what is an oddly heart-warming story that will inspire people of all ages. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone raves: "Not since the resurrection of Christ has their been such an important experience."

Seemingly incomprehensible foreign film. From a different country where they don't speak English comes the story of a boy and his quest for something. Not sure what. Looks kind of like a documentary but it's probably not. The locations are in a couple of different European countries. The film has won like a gazillion awards, but just in Europe so far. There's a lot of arguing and hugging and some of the actors are old people and there are no hotties in the movie. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone raves: "I didn't get it."

09 September 2020

Advising my Twenty-Four-Year-Old Self

Left to right, me, my brother his first child, his wife, brother-in-law and mother-in law.
Confident. Happy. Self-assured. Long blonde hair kissing my shoulders. A short, slender but healthy-looking lad. In one photo (above), grinning broadly as I lean against my older brother, who is holding my first niece. The other photo (below) reflects a seemingly more serious young man, staring confidently into the ever-present beer. I was hundreds of miles from home participating in a three-day debauch. There would be good food, booze aplenty, and young women my age. I'd be on the prowl. There was also the security of the family: Father, brother, aunt, uncle, cousins, and more. Old acquaintances to renew, new friendships to be forged. Me at the apex, still climbing higher.

I was recently sent two photos I'd never seen before taken in the summer of 1978. I was then twenty-four and a few months away from meeting the love of my life, a woman who has been my wife for the past thirty-three years.

At the time the pictures were taken, I reckoned myself to be on top of the world. I was young, handsome, athletic, witty, charming, sociable, and enjoying success as a newspaper reporter in Chico, California. I was also a lothario, and indeed the pictures were taken at a huge July 4th gathering in Mendocino during which I had a one-night stand (with the sister of a woman I'd seduced at the previous year's bash). I was also arrogant, self-centered, and cavalier. I'd enjoyed a lot of success early in life, first as a soccer star and then as a journalist. I had also suffered mightily having had a paranoid schizophrenic mother who had made much of my childhood a living hell. But that was behind me. Mom couldn't touch me anymore, and having survived those horrors, I thought myself invincible.

Studying the photos, I was awash with nostalgia and — as the cliche goes — memories came flooding back. I was really very happy back then in a way I would never experience again. Depression and anxiety were as yet unknown to me. But I was a practicing alcoholic, a smoker, and an occasional drug user. I was too hedonistic to contemplate my future. Ten months later, I would make a decision that did irreparable harm to my future, which was followed over the next few years by other impulsive life-altering decisions that did further harm. (Somehow, I came out of all these missteps, got married, got sober, became a father, and started on a teaching career that has lasted for 34 years.)

I've been wondering what I'd say to the young man in those photos if the universe somehow allowed me to travel back and speak to him.
Probably something along the lines of the following:

Don't leave the newspaper for a few years and then only for a better such position or a similar position in a better place.
You will meet the woman of your dreams soon, treat her well from the beginning.
You might as well start easing up on the drinking now and don't start using cocaine. The sooner you realize that you're an addict and go into a 12-step program, the better.
Get over yourself. You're no damn better than anyone else. Respect and learn from your elders. Look up humility in the dictionary and practice it.

Yours truly.
Watch out for impulsive decisions. Think several steps ahead. Live in the present but have an eye on the future. Know where you're going.

Have a regular exercise routine.

Be an honorable man.

Don't use women.

You've got a lot of pain stored up from your childhood. Don't hide from it. Deal with it. Counseling will help. 

Psychiatry is useful but seek alternative methods too. Be careful about side effects when prescribed medications.

Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Love others. Forgive others.

Look for the good in people. Don't obsess about negatives in others.

Yes, you're an excellent writer, but take your craft seriously and practice it daily.

I have good news for you: You will have a long, happy marriage and two wonderful children you will adore, and you'll be a good father. You will also be uncle to four children and grand uncle to seven more. You'll be good at it and much loved.

You'll have a lot of good friendships, but don't cast friends aside for petty reasons. Keep them close to you.

You're going to be blessed with excellent physical health. Be grateful.

Invest in something called Apple computers as soon as possible. Watch for it.

I love you.

The twenty-four year old me was not a bad sort. He'd been dealt a bad hand early in life and would later have to deal with PTSD from being an abuse survivor, panic attacks, recovery from drugs and alcohol and severe depression. There would also be instances of injustices suffered and bad luck but the lad would prove resilient and well, here he is today doing all right. I envy and pity my younger self. He threw so much away, wasted so much time, hurt some people and spent years staggering around high and confused and purposeless. But he found resources within himself to improve his lot and become a dedicated family man and contributing member of society who, as a teacher, positively impacted a lot of lives. That 24-year-old version of me had no idea what was to come.

I miss him. I miss that time. I am him. I am that time as much as I am today. You could look it up.

07 September 2020

Ten Lists of Ten Films For Your Labor Day Enjoyment

From Viridiana 
Regular readers of this blog (Cleopatra McPherson of Kittery, Maine and Lance Buttercup of Weed, California) may recall that on Independence Day and Memorial Day I provided ten lists of ten films in various categories. Much to everyone's chagrin I have decided to make this a regular holiday feature. Therefore you can look for the fourth installment of this series on Indigenous People's Day. Meanwhile, please enjoy today's lists -- or not, entirely up to you.

My Ten Favorite Films Directed by Luis Buñuel
1. Viridiana (1961)
2. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise (1972)
3. That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
4. Simon of the Desert (1965)
5. Exterminating Angel (1962)
6. The Young One (1960)
7. Death in the Garden (1956)
8. The Milky Way (1969)
9. Diary of a Chambermaid (1964)
10. The Phantom of Liberty (1974)

My Ten Favorite Films of the 1980s
1. Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987) Malle
2. Heaven’s Gate (1980) Cimino
3. Fanny and Alexander (1982) Bergman
4. Raging Bull (1980) Scorsese
5. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) Allen
6. Down By Law (1986) Jarmusch 
7. Radio Days (1987) Allen
8. Do The Right Thing (1989) Lee
9. Platoon (1986) Stone
10. Shadows in Paradise (1986) Kaurismäki

My Ten Favorite Films Starring Cary Grant
1. His Girl Friday (1940) Hawks
2. Holiday (1938) Cukor
3. The Talk of the Town (1942) Stevens
4. Notorious (1946) Hitchcock
5. The Philadelphia Story (1940) Cukor
6. Bringing Up Baby (1938) Hawks
7. The Awful Truth (1937) McCarey
8. Mr. Lucky (1943) Potter
9. North by Northwest (1959) Hitchcock
10. Suspicion (1941) Hitchcock

From The Philadelphia Story
My Ten Favorite Films That Have Won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay
1. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
2. Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) Hall
3. Casablanca (1942) Curtiz
4. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) Huston
5. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Lean
6. The Godfather (1972) Coppola
7. The Godfather Part 2 (1974) Coppola
8. All the President’s Men (1976) Pakula
9. Schindler’s List (1993) Spielberg
10. No Country For Old Men (2007) Coens

My Ten Favorite Films With Only a Person’s Name in the Title
1. Tess (1979) Polanski
2. Andrei Rublev (1966) Tarkovsky 
3. Annie Hall (1977) Allen
4. Ariel (1988) Kaurismäki
5. Barry Lyndon (1975) Kubrick
6. Hamlet (1948) Olivier
7. Spartacus (1960) Kubrick
8. Macbeth (1971) Polanski
9. Jackie Brown (1997) Tarantino
10. Wanda (1970 Loden

My Ten Favorite Films Set during WWII
1. Au revoir Les Enfants (1987) Malle
2. Rome, Open City (1945) Rossellini
3. Casablanca (1942) Curtiz
4. Inglourious Basterds (2009) Tarantino
5. The Burmese Harp (1956) Ichikawa
6. Le Silence de la mer (1949) Melville
7. The Great Escape (1963) J, Sturges
8.  Come and See (1985) Klimov
9.  Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Lean
10. The Ascent (1977) Shepitko

Ten Great Films with Great Opening Scenes
1. Manhattan (1979) Allen
2. Apocalypse Now (1979) Coppola
3. Goodfellas (1990) Scorsese 
4. A Clockwork Orange (1971) Kubrick
5. Sunset Blvd. (1950) Wilder
6. The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Ford
7. Rebel Without a Cause (1955) Ray
8. The Searchers (1956) Ford
9. The Mirror (1975) Tarkovsky
10. The Letter (1940) Wyler

The Big Parade
My Ten Favorite Movies That Aren’t in My Top 100
1. The Big Parade (1925) Vidor
2. Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) P. Sturges
3. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Kazan
4. The Aviator (2004) Scorsese
5. Meet John Doe (1941) Capra
6. A Separation (2011) Farhadi
7. The Maltese Falcon (1941) Huston
8. Come and See (1985) Klimov
9. Seven Samurai (1954) Kurosawa
10. Mean Girls (2004) Waters

Ten Great Movies Set in Ten Different States
1. Manhattan (1979) Allen -- New York
2. Chinatown (1974) Polanski -- California
3. Heaven’s Gate (1980) Cimino -- Wyoming
4. No Country For Old Men (2007) Coens -- Texas
5. On the Waterfront (1954) Kazan -- New Jersey
6. Down By Law (1986) Jarmusch -- Louisiana
7. Nashville (1975) Altman -- Tennessee
8. Groundhog Day (1993) Ramis -- Pennsylvania
9. Mean Girls (2004) Waters -- Illinois
10. The Verdict (1982) Lumet -- Massachusetts

My Ten Favorite Films Featuring a Newspaper Reporter
1. His Girl Friday (1940) Hawks
2. Five Star Final (1931) LeRoy
3. The Parallax View (1974) Pakula
4. Foreign Correspondent (1940) Hitchcock
5. All the President’s Men (1976) Pakula
6. The Year of Living Dangerously (1982) Weir
7. Sweet Smell of Success (1957) Mackendrick
8. Zodiac (2007) Fincher
9. Meet John Doe (1940) Capra
10. Platinum Blonde (1931) Capra

04 September 2020

Tia Maria's Red Sweater and Simon Now Sean -- or -- Artie Helps Out

Artie's daughter Chrissie told him all about a short story that she was reading for her English class. It was everything Artie could do to not yawn like crazy. Sure he loved his daughter and all, but the story she was describing was the most boring thing imaginable. Basically, the plot seemed to be about a goddamned red sweater that this girl had that used to belong to her Tia Maria, which his daughter explained, meant Aunt Maria in Spanish. Why, Artie wondered, are half the goddamned females from Spanish-speaking countries named Maria? Anyway, the girl's aunt had died, and the red sweater was a sort of cherished reminder of her. Evidently, the girl had been nuts about her Tia Maria. Some story.

As excruciating as it was listening to his kid go into great detail about the stupid story, it was also kind of sweet. Chrissie was twelve and smart as a whip and wasn't acting like a goddamned teenager yet. Artie was not looking forward to Chrissie being a know-it-all teen, rebelling against parental authority. He'd been bracing for it and so was trying to enjoy Chrissie as a kid for as long as he could. Still, listening to how much some stupid kid in a story loved a sweater was pushing it.

Finally, Chrissie said, "so I'm supposed to write a reflection on the story, but the problem (and she said the word problem with emphasis) is that it can only be 500 words and I've got a lot more to say than that." Chrissie also emphasized "that."

Artie thought for a second. Was he supposed to say something here? Offer advice, sympathize with Chrissie's plight? He cleared his throat and did what he'd long ago learned was the go-to move when not sure what to say, he asked a question. "When is the reflection due?"

"Tomorrow," Chrissie frowned broadly.

"Hmmm, tell you what you do, Sweat Pea, you just sit down and write as much as you want then see where you're at with words. You may not have that much more than 500 words, and your mom or I can maybe suggest where you can shorten it." Artie wasn't sure that it was the best thing he could have said but was satisfied that it would do. Thus he was surprised by his daughter's reaction.

"Thanks, Daddy! You give the best advice," and she wrapped her arms around her father's neck and hugged him.

"Well, you better get on it," Artie said, pleased with himself and delighted that his daughter still held him in such esteem.

"Notice what I'm wearing, Daddy?"

"Your favorite red sweater."

"Yup. I thought it would help get me in the right frame of mind to write the story."

"You're something, Sweet Pea, such a clever girl."

Chrissie literally skipped to the dining room table, took a notebook out of her Snoopy backpack, and began to write.

Artie sat back in his leather chair and started reading the evening paper. Reading the newspaper comforted him, and he read it all. Of course, all the news, the editorials, sports, entertainment, the comics, even the advice columns. Artie took pride in being well-informed.

It was especially quiet that evening. Artie could hear his wife June in the kitchen, washing the dishes and singing. She had a nice voice. Artie could also hear Chrissie writing. The child seemed to forever be writing or drawing and was good at both. Artie imagined that she'd someday write and illustrate books, perhaps for children.

There was one other person in the house, June's nephew Simon was staying with them for an indeterminate time. The nineteen-year-old had been kicked out of his parent's house by Artie's brother-in-law, Tom. Simon was gay. For years, everyone had known except his father, a cop, and the most conservative man Artie had ever met. When Tom learned the truth about his second of three sons, he refused to have anything more to do with him and banished Simon from their house.

June had insisted to her sister, Alice, that they take him in until Simon could get work and afford a place of his own. Alice sent a small check every week to help cover Simon's extra cost in the house.

On the surface, everything was fine. Chrissie loved Simon and thought it was the greatest thing ever to have a cool, older cousin staying with them. June loved him too and would listen for hours as Simon detailed the many difficulties he'd been facing in life. Artie wondered how someone who was only nineteen could have already gone through so much. He thought that Simon over-dramatized and exaggerated everything — except for how much of a schmuck his father was. Artie barely got along with Tom and readily accepted all the horrible things Simon said about him.

But Artie was uncomfortable having Simon around all the time. Not because he was gay, but because Simon was a frail person — both physically and emotionally weak — who could neither sit still nor stop chewing his nails. When he did sit, Simon would cross his right leg over his left, and his right foot would ceaselessly bob up and down in a way that drove Artie nuts. Simon lacked confidence. He lacked conviction. He lacked ambition. Artie couldn't imagine what the world had in store for such a perpetually frightened person. He did grant that Simon was exceptionally intelligent, having already seemingly read every significant novel in the canon and knowing history backwards and forwards and being an art expert. Surely if Simone could get himself together emotionally, he would amount to something someday. It gave Artie the tiniest bit of stress to have a Nervous Nellie in the house, fretting about everything.

Artie wanted to give Simon a pep talk. He'd like to encourage him to go back to college. Simon had dropped out after the professor he was having an affair with dumped him to try to give his marriage another try. The experience soured Simon on college. This, Artie, found to be ridiculous. Why should the end of a relationship, no matter that it was inappropriate, make a person want to give up on their education? He wanted to tell Simon that it was silly. He had fountains of advice to give the young man but couldn't work up the nerve to. Maybe if he asks me, Artie thought.

Artie was in the middle of reading an article about the local college quarterback's comeback from an injury when Simon entered the room and flopped down on the sofa.

"Uncle Artie," he sighed. "I've decided that I hate my name. I mean, come on. Simon. It's such a boring name. It makes me sound like a librarian or an accountant."

"Oh, it's no so bad," Artie offered cheerfully.

"Well, I've decided I hate it."

Artie had a thought and immediately decided to try it out. "Maybe you should change it then. Maybe it'll turn your luck around or make you more confident."

"Hmmm, ya know, you're probably right." At last, Simon sounded enthusiastic. "Got any suggestions?"

"Goodness me, no, that's got to be your department. Surely there are some names you like." Artie would rather be reading about the quarterback, but at the same time was encouraged that he might have just helped Simon.

"There are a lot of names I like. French ones. Jean-Luc is really nice. I also like Francois and Maxime. But do I really want a French name?"

Chrissie bounded into the room and announced, "I finished my homework, Daddy."

"Congratulations, Sweat Pea. Say, where's your mom?"

"She's watching her favorite show on the TV in your bedroom, Daddy."

"What show is that?" Simon asked.

"I believe it's called The Scarecrow and Mrs. King," said Artie.

Simon made a face as if both puzzled and repelled, "never heard of it," he said.

"Hey Daddy, aren't you going to watch the Monday Night football game?"

"I'm not interested in either team that's playing tonight."

"My neanderthal father would watch any teams play any time. He cared more about stupid football than any of us," Simon offered sourly.

Chrissie, who'd been standing by her father, went over and sat next to Simon and leaned her head against his shoulder. "I'm sorry you and your dad don't get along, Simon," she said, adding hopefully, "Maybe someday, huh?"

"You're such a darling, Chrissie," he answered and kissed the top of her head. "Say, Chrissie, you want to help me pick out a new name?"

"What's wrong with Simon, Simon?"

"I don't like it anymore. The truth is I've never really liked it."

Artie chimed in, "Simon had some ideas, but they were all French names. Whattaya think of that?"

Chrissie frowned dramatically and looked her cousin in the eye and said, "you should most definitely pick an English name." After a pause, she added, "unless you're moving to France."

"You're right. People would just mispronounce a French name. How about Cyril?"

"Nooooooooooooooo. No way. No how. Uh-uh," Chrissie said loudly.

"I was half kidding anyway. Ya know, I kind of like James. But never Jim or Jimmy. Harold is nice, but not Harry. What else…"

"You could use my father's name, Chester," Artie offered jovially.

Simon and Chrissie both laughed in response, then fed off each other's laughter and positively howled with delight.

"What do you think, Chester?" Chrissie said, looking at her cousin mirthfully. They both laughed some more.

There was a long enough silence for Artie to pick up the paper and resume reading the article about the college quarterback.

"Sean!" Simon practically shouted it. "I love that name. Plus I'd keep the same initials. I'd be Sean Littlefield."

"I love it, Simon! I mean Sean," Chrissie announced.

"Suits me fine," said Artie.

"I want to hear what Aunt June thinks."

As if on cue, June entered the room.

"What's all the commotion down here?" She asked happily, noting that everyone seemed in good spirits.

"Your show, mom, you left while your show's on."

"It's commercial time, and it's the ones right in the middle of the program that go on forever."

"Simon is going to change his name, Mommy!"

"Oh really? Say, shouldn't you be getting ready for bed, young lady?" June asked her.

"Say that's right," Artie said, "it's 8:30."

Ever dutiful to family rules, Chrissie leapt off the sofa to prepare for bed, but before doing so, she gave her cousin a hug and said, "good night, Sean."

"What's this Sean business?" June enquired.

"I'm changing my name, Aunt June. I always hated Simon."

"I didn't know that. Well, Sean is certainly a nice name."

"I thought it might change his luck," Artie said seriously as he craned his neck to look at his wife.

"It just might!" She said. "I've got to go back to my show. I'll come talk to you two in half an hour when it's over."

June went back upstairs, and Artie returned to the sports section hoping that he could get through the article and then take a look at the entertainment section. But Simon sighed ponderously, obviously trying to get Artie's attention.

Taking the cue, Artie put the paper down — yet again — and looked at the young man.

"Do you really think changing my name will make a difference in my life?"

"Hey, it's worth a shot. If you were unhappy with your name, it was like you were unhappy with yourself, so it stands to reason that you'll be happier with yourself if you're happy with your name. That could get you going." It was all off the top of Artie's head, and he knew that it sounded good and probably made sense but still didn't completely trust that it was the best advice to give in the circumstances. The truth was that Artie was rarely called upon by anyone to give advice.

Simon crossed his legs, and his right foot started bouncing again. He took another bite out of a fingernail, then looked at Artie and said, "I've got to do something. I'll change my name, and I'll take Aunt June's advice and see a counselor."

Feeling like he was on a roll, Artie said, "and maybe you can give some thought to re-enrolling in school." Artie couldn't believe he said that but was glad he did.

"I might as well face the fact that I've got to. I've known it pretty much since the day after I dropped out. I suppose I'll have to get a job in the meantime. My friend Scott said that there's a waiter position opening up at the restaurant where he works."

"Wow, sounds like you've got some plans and are on the right track."

"I really appreciate what you and Aunt June have done for me. You're a couple of lifesavers. But I don't want to be a burden to you any longer."

Artie waved his hand dismissively. "It's no bother at all."

Chrissie came dashing into the room and announced. "Daddy, I've brushed my teeth and have got my PJs on and am ready for bed. All I need is a good night kiss."

Artie kissed her on the cheek, "You want me to read you a bedtime story, Sweat Pea?"

"Come on, Daddy, I've been old enough to read my own bedtime stories for a year."

"Did you need me to look over your English paper?"

"Nah, I'm sure it's okay. It's not like a big assignment or anything anyway." With that, Chrissie bounded over to Simon. "G'night handsome cousin," she said and give him a kiss on the cheek.

"Aren't you sweet," Simon said, tearing up.

"Hey, don't cry about."

Simon composed himself and said, "I won't, it's just that you and your mom and dad are such darling people."

"So are you for sure going to be Sean from now on?"

"Yup. I'm Sean Littlefield from this day forward."

"Hooray!" Chrissie exclaimed.

Then she dashed out of the room, yelling, "good night, EVERYONE!"

Ten minutes later, her show finished, June joined Artie and the newly christened Sean.

Her nephew excitedly filled June in on his plans, giving credit to Artie for helping him. June listened intently and offered encouragement. Artie finally finished the evening paper and said his goodnights.

"Thank you, Artie, I appreciate your help," Simon now Sean said. Artie smiled at Sean. He felt really good about having helped the young man.

On the way to bed, Artie stopped in the dining room and picked up Chrissie's homework assignment. He read the essay — which was quite good, he thought — and was surprised to note that Chrissie had added a dedication at the end.

To my wonderful dad who listened to me talk about Tia Maria's Red Sweater even though it must have been kind of boring. He's pretty cool.

Artie couldn't remember ever feeling better.

01 September 2020

I Comment on Today's Headlines, Fourth in an Occasional Series

Jacob Blake with one of his children. Blake was shot seven times by police for being  black.
In July I came up with the brilliant idea of posting some of the day's headlines from various news sources and following them with comments that were either pithy, snarky, wise or brilliantly on point (or a combination thereof). The response was so overwhelming (thank you Isadora Humpback of Yankton, South Dakota) that I offered readers two more editions in August. Since no protests (at least no violent ones) have resulted, I am continuing the series with part four presented right here and now.

From the New York Times:

Federal Government Relaxes Rules on Feeding Low-Income Students
I'm so accustomed to callousness and disregard for the under privileged by the current administration that I read this wrong the first time thinking it said "tightens" rules. The story says that this is through December at which point, presumably, the poor and malnourished will be on their own, bah humbug very much.

Liberty Will Investigate University’s Operations Under Jerry Falwell Jr.
I've been loving this story and watching all the chickens come home to roost. Exposing the rank hypocrisy of  evangelicals is something I'm all about.

Family Accuses College of Forcing Ailing Son to Play Football
This is one of the most American stories I've ever seen. Many American football coaches are missing links to the neanderthals. They can be cruel, sadistic and about as sensitive as a hungry badger. There are far too many stories -- and have been for decades -- of coaches forcing players to take the field when injured or ill thus inflicting more pain and discomfort on young men and sometimes causing permanent damage.

From CNN:

Trump's Heading to Kenosha Today
Any moron can tell you that Trumpy's visit isn't going to do anyone the slightest bit of good. Trumpy himself should realize (but he's too much of an idiot to) that this visit isn't going to do him any good either. He usually at least acts in his own self-interest (he sure don't care about anyone else's) but not this time. Stupid.

Wedding Announcement Goes Viral after Groom's Ex Publicly Reveals he Cheated on her when he met the Bride
This is news? Who gives a....Baffling what people care about.

Two Huge Snakes Fall Through Kitchen Ceiling in Australia
Remind me to stay the hell out of Australia. According to the story the snakes were pythons. One was  nine and half feet long the other just over eight feet. Nope, not going to the land down under until they reach an agreement with their snakes about staying out of kitchens.

From SF Gate:

New Trump Adviser Pushes Herd Immunity, Worrying Officials
Note to all Trump advisers: please shut the hell up, you're only making things worse.

Trump says Plane of 'Thugs' Threatened GOP Convention
Ladies and gentlemen here is yet another example that our current commander-in-chief is delusional and paranoid and wholly unfit for office. Either that or he's intentionally just making shit up in an effort to get people to vote for him. In any case we need this basket case out of the White House.

White South Carolina Cop Suspended for Repeating the N-Word on Camera
Suspended? They need to fire his ass.

From The Washington Post:

Wall Street Reports Best August in Decades
Great news for people who own stocks, particularly those who own a lot of stocks. Wonderful for the rich that they're getting rich. But dare I ask: When is this going to trickle down to the jobless, the homeless and those working two jobs to make ends meet? I understand from other stories that the coronavirus has not only not cut into the profits of our richest one percent, but they have been making even more money. Capitalism at work.

A Florida ‘Antifa Hunter’ Violently Threatened a BLM Activist. Now he’s going to Prison for Three Years
Sounds about right. We need to lock up more of this right-wing vigilantes. To make space for them in our prisons, we can release people who are still locked up for marijuana charges.

Pandemic-Related Cooking and Eating Habits Could Help Curb Food Waste — If Consumers Stick to them
I've been saying that there could be a lot of good things that come out of the pandemic and this is one example. People may end up being more mindful, cleaner, less wasteful and follow health protocols more closely. The Black Plague helped create more equality within society and was a contributing factor in the Renaissance. There are doubtless positives that will come out of the pandemic that we can not now predict. Assuming of course that we survive this damn thing.

30 August 2020

It's Time Again for Streams of Unconsciousness News & Notes, I'm Calling this one, Odds & Edds

 A red panda.
I looked out the window a minute ago and saw a crow walking down the middle of the sidewalk. I’m used to seeing crows walking in the street or or roofs or on lawns or over corpses, but there was something odd about it walking smack down the middle of the sidewalk. Like a goddamned pedestrian.

If you’re in indescribable pain and a doctor asks you to describe it, what do you do?

I can’t be the only one who thinks that the Holy Ghost is badly in need of a better publicist. It’s always God this and God that or Jesus this or Jesus that but when do you ever hear anyone invoke the Holy Ghost except when saying something like, in the name of the father, the son and the holy ghost. Even then sometimes people say “holy spirit.” Maybe the Holy Ghost is lazy.

Aren’t red pandas cute as hell? Why aren’t they more often featured in cartoons? Maybe they need a better publicist too. The fact is they’re endangered. That sucks.

I remember as a kid thinking that all films were shot on location. What mystified me was how they managed to shoot World War II films during World War II in France and other places where battles were taking place. I figured the Nazis must have just let film crews come in. I was a pretty bright kid, but I had some blind spots just like everybody else.

Jacob Blake would not have been shot seven times if he was white. That’s just a fact. This country is racist as fuck.

I drink St. Pauli non alcoholic beer and am starting to develop a crush on the woman on the label. In my defense, she's hot.

I just discovered that Molly Jong-Fast is the daughter of Erica Jong and granddaughter of Howard Fast (hence the last name). Did everyone else know this? I also recently learned that Jason Bateman is married to Paul Anka's daughter.

The missus and I finally watched the mini-series, A Very English Scandal. Cracking good stuff. Again, to prove what an idiot I am, I didn’t realize until after finishing that it was based entirely on actual events. Hugh Grant was brilliant, by the way, and has won my respect. Ben Whishshaw was also very, very good.

Animal facts, lions edition: A lion in the wild usually makes no more than twenty kills a year. The female lion does ninety percent of the hunting.

I could do without ever again hearing the thoughts of sub-humans like Tucker Carlson, Anne Coulter, Tomi Lahren, Aubrey Huff, James Wood, Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity. Sick to death of them and all other racists assholes. Actually you can add Trump and sons to that list.

Word origin (courtesy of the Oxford Royale Academy: The word “quarantine” has its origins in the devastating plague, the so-called Black Death, which swept across Europe in the 14th century, wiping out around 30% of Europe’s population. It comes from the Venetian dialect form of the Italian words “quaranta giorni”, or “forty days”, in reference to the fact that, in an effort to halt the spread of the plague, ships were put into isolation on nearby islands for a forty-day period before those on board were allowed ashore. Originally – attested by a document from 1377 – this period was thirty days and was known as a “trentine”, but this was extended to forty days to allow more time for symptoms to develop. This practice was first implemented by the Venetians controlling the movement of ships into the city of Dubrovnik, which is now part of Croatia but was then under Venetian sovereignty. We now use the word “quarantine” to refer to the practice of restricting the movements, for a period of time, of people or animals who seem healthy, but who might have been exposed to a harmful disease that could spread to others.

I’m really enjoy a podcast I’ve been listening to but the host keeps saying, for example: “the quote unquote dirty secret” rather than, “the quote dirty secret unquote.” Shouldn’t bother me so much but it does.

Here’s a headline from CNN: Yellowstone warns visitors not to get mixed up in elk mating season. I rather think that should go under the category of "it goes without saying." Evidently, however, some people are trying to play Cupid with elk.

Saw this tweet this morning from  @joshgondelman and I'm all about it: "The abbreviations for teaspoon and tablespoon are too similar and NOBODY'S TALKING ABOUT IT!!!!" (Though I could have done with one less exclamation point.)

Collywobbles is an actual word and it means: "sickness or stomach pain from anxiety." Have had a  bit of that in my lifetime. In fact our current president is giving much of the country the collywobbles.

It's time once again for me to complain about writers (including some of the best in the world) penning sentences like this: "Bob thought to himself that...." Let's be clear, you can only think to yourself. Perhaps if you're writing science fiction you may have an alien capable of sending thoughts but we're not there yet. Please stop.

Be safe everybody. Wear your masks, social distance, spay and neuter your pets and breeding age Republicans.

28 August 2020

Film Quotes Foreign Language Edition

Monica Vitti in L'Eclisse.
It's time for the 13th iteration of film quotes. Today's is the first to include only quotes from foreign language films. A few of these have previously appeared in film quotes posts.

We spent the whole night talking things over. And for what? I'm so tired and depressed. Disgusted and confused. What can I say? There are times when holding a needle and thread, or a book, or a man - it's all the same. -- Monica Vitti as Vittoria in L’Eclisse (1962).

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. —  Philippe Morier-Genoud as Pere Jean in Au Revoir Les Enfants (1987).

We must make an idol of our fear, and call it god. — Max von Sydown as Antonius Block in The 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?— Kang-ho Song as Ki-taek in Parasite (2019).

Sometimes everything seems just like a dream. It's not my dream, it's somebody else's. But I have to participate in it. How do you think someone who dreams about us would feel when he wakes up. Feeling ashamed? — Liv Ullman as Eva Rosenberg in Shame (1968).

Maribel Verdu in Y Tu Mama Tambien
We do things my way! One more fight and I'm gone for good!... Now we play by my rules. I won't fuck with any of you. Fuck each other, if you wish. 2. I sunbathe naked and I don't want you sniffing around like dogs. 3. I pick the music. 4. The moment I ask, please shut your mouths. 5. You cook. 6. No stories about your poor girlfriends. 7. If I ask, stay 10 yards from me. Or better 100. 8. Obviously, you do all the manual labor. 9. You may not speak of things you don't agree on. Even better, just keep your mouths shut. 10. You're not allowed to contradict me, much less push me. — Maribel Verdu as Luisa in Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001).

If you ever find me face down in the gutter, turn me around to my back. — Antti Reini as Electrician in The Man Without a Past (2002).

If a well is really deep, you can see a star down there even in the middle of a sunny day. — Irina Tarkovskaya as Ivan’s mother in Ivan’s Childhood (1962).

You are everything... everything! You are the first woman on the first day of creation. You are mother, sister, lover, friend, angel, devil, earth, home. — Marcello Mastrioni as Marcello in La Dolce Vita (1960).

As a little girl I learned: "Our Father who art in heaven." I thought it said "who arts in heaven." I imagined my father with an easel painting outside the pearly gates. — Jeanne Moreau as Catherine in Jules and Jim. (1962).

For me it's simple. A golf course is for golf. A tennis court is for tennis. A prison camp is for escaping. — Pierre Fresnay as Le captaine de Boeldieu in La Grande Illusion (1937).

When the child was a child, it was the time of these questions. Why am I me, and why not you? Why am I here, and why not there? When did time begin, and where does space end? Isn't life under the sun just a dream? Isn't what I see, hear, and smell just the mirage of a world before the world? Does evil actually exist, and are there people who are really evil? How can it be that I, who am I, wasn't before I was, and that sometime I, the one I am, no longer will be the one I am? — Bruno Ganz as Daniel in Wings of Desire( 1987).

It's about a society on its way down. And as it falls,it keeps telling itself: "So far so good... So far so good... So far so good." It's not how you fall that matters. It's how you land. — Vincent Cassel as Vinz in La Haine (1995).

Here in America, they value women. It's not like bloody Sweden where they use us like maids during the days and as mattresses at nights. — Monica Zetterlund as Ulrika in The New Land (1972).

You see it, God, you see it. The innocent child's death and my revenge. You allowed it. I don't understand you. Yet now I beg your forgiveness. I know no other way to be reconciled with my own hands. I know no other way to live. — Max von Sydow as Töre in The Virgin Spring (1960).

Ingrid Bergman in Stromboli.
I am your wife. And this is your home, but, I'm not like you. You slept very well last night, huh? But, I didn't sleep. I'm different. I'm very different from you. I belong to another class. I can't live like this in this filth! This is no life for civilized people. Keep on counting your nineteen thousand liras. You need much more for a woman like me. — Ingrid Bergman as Karin in Stromboli (1950).

Skin like satin, like a true courtesan of the Roman Empire. Here's something for your left-wing readers: no undergarments were found in the apartment. — Gian Maria Volontè as Dottore in Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970).

This is the nature of war: By protecting others, you save yourselves. If you only think of yourself, you'll only destroy yourself. — Takashi Shimura as Kambei Shimada in Seven Samurai (1954).

I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven't you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain. — Patricia Moran as Rita Ugdale in The Exterminating Angel (1962).

A kid? I smoke, I snort. I've killed and robbed. I'm a man. — Darian Cunha as Filé-com-Fritas in City of God (2002).