05 March 2021

The March Edition of 'I Comment on the Today's Headlines'

Banned?

Since July, I have occasionally been posting headlines from various news sources and writing comments about them that are either pithy, snarky, wise or brilliantly on point (or a combination thereof). The response has been so overwhelming (thank you, Vidal Buffoon of Bend, Oregon) that I have made this a regular feature -- to enthusiastic acclaim. Here then is part twelve in what is now a regular and beloved monthly feature.

From The NY Times:

Dr. Seuss Books Are Pulled, and a ‘Cancel Culture’ Controversy Erupts

I believe this is what the British call a sticky wicket. First let's set aside the term "cancel culture" as it has become a misnomer. Few people or books or ideas are ever really canceled. The exception being the worst of the convicted felons such as Bill Cosby. Also it's debatable whether there's an actual culture around current attempts to silence people and books, although some people do seem to revel in it. There are in the Dr. Seuss books mentioned some highly questionable references to race that many people would not want their children exposed to. Keeping them from young eyes is not a terrible idea given the plethora of children's books available, many of them classics and many of those by Seuss himself. But I shudder every time a book, movie or TV episode is taken away from the public. It is a dangerous precedent that is becoming a dangerous practice. One thing that has gotten me through the pandemic has been re-watching 30 Rock (thanks Hulu) from beginning to end. But several episodes have been deemed inappropriate and are unavailable. (White characters in black face.) I'd have preferred the episodes be kept with a disclaimer appearing before it pointing out the offending part of the show and explaining why it is problematic. Then viewers could decide to either forge ahead and watch it anyway -- armed with the knowledge that they will see something offensive, or they can watch it and fast forward or mute the offending section or they can skip it entirely. The key here is that is the viewer's choice. We're walking some might fine lines these days and I don't know that we're always getting the more rational, informed people making the final decision. About the only critique of the left in which conservatives have a point is that we tend to be pretty censorious of speech we don't like. I'd hate to give the knuckleheads any more ammo. I understand the impulse to keep racial stereotypes away from young eyes and ears, but I worry about an increased tendency to censor and what is supposed to be a free society. Very fine line indeed.

Cuomo Aides Rewrote Nursing Home Report to Hide Higher Death Toll

Come on, you must have known at the time that what you were doing was a) morally repugnant and b) stupid. It is much easier to tell than truth than lies -- unless someone asks if their new skirt makes them look fat. 

As Biden Urges Caution on Covid, Governors Split on How Fast to Reopen

The governors of Texas and Mississippi have announced that their states are going to fully re-open. Idiots, boneheads, morons, jerks and a-holes have celebrated the move. What's particularly frustrating is that we are not that far away from states (meaning restaurants, theaters, gyms, sports venues, etc.) actually being ready to open. But dumb people are not known for their patience. How many more people are going to get the virus and die because of the stupidity of these governors? Shameful.

From CNN: 

Father arrested in India for beheading his 17-year-old daughter

The daughter's "offense" had been to be alone in a room with a boy that the father did not like. He severed her head and calmly -- yes, calmly -- walked to the police station to turn himself in. This is a situation for which the term 'unspeakable tragedy' was created. Yes, the man doubtless suffers from mental illness but this is also indicative of a culture that oppresses women and endows patriarchs with far more power than any human deserves. Indian reported 24  'honor killings' in 2019. Other countries, such as Pakistan, register even more. That was one sad, sick culture.

Creighton's men's basketball head coach suspended after 'plantation' comment

The coach in question said, "Guys, we got to stick together. We need both feet in. I need everybody to stay on the plantation. I can't have anybody leave the plantation." I've heard worse but that's still pretty bad. The coach claimed that the remarks are not reflective of his values. I believe him. He said something stupid and offensive and he's got to pay the price. He's probably a decent bloke. I know how hard it can be when you are constantly talking to young people and often in stressful situations. As a middle school teacher I once grew extremely frustrated with a class and said that if their present attitude towards behavior and classwork is really how they felt they might as well plan on working in the fields. Dumb thing to say. Worse, one student decided to rat on me and told the principal I said, "cotton fields." I most certainly did not. In any case I was immediately sorry for what I said. I know of many other teachers who have said worse. They were generally good people who in the heat of the moment weren't careful with their words. It ain't easy, folks. So I feel for the coach but feel that after the suspension the lesson will hopefully have been learned.

Aged 118, the world's oldest living person will carry the Olympic flame in Japan

Wow. She was born in 1903. She was born in the same year as George Orwell, John Dillinger and Bob Hope. She could have dated Babe Ruth or Rudolph Valentino or Charlie Chaplin. She could easily remember the end of World War I and probably the beginning too. If an American she could have voted for Calvin Coolidge in the 1924 presidential election, which could have been the first of nineteen presidential elections she voted in. She could have been going to movies for over a dozen years before they added sound. She was 38 when Japan and the U.S. went to war. She was born the same year the Wright Brothers first flew. She was born over forty years before television sets were available. She was in her nineties before home computers were readily available and nearly 100 when the smart phone came along. My goodness me. 

From the BBC:

Voting rights: How the battle is unfolding across the US

This is easy to explain: Republicans are trying to make it harder for people to vote, especially people of color, because they care more about their chances of winning than they do about the principles of a democracy. Rather than try to appeal to a wider spectrum of the electorate they choose to cynically narrow the number of people who vote. If given the opportunity they would embrace fascism as they nearly did when Trumpy tried to steal the election he lost. The modern Republican Party only cares about feeding its corporate overlords tax breaks and stripping women and minorities of protections and rights while shrinking government so that it is too small to serve the people. Fuck them.

Covid: Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to ‘stop whining’ as deaths spike

Poor Brazil. We had a president like him until quite recently. Not a wit of compassion. No common sense. No understanding or respect for science. Wishing you the best, Brazil. We got through it, bloodied but unbowed.

US sees jobs surge as hope for rebound rises

Look everybody, it's good news. I could get used to that. Let's have more in the months to come. God knows we're owed a lot. Let's have news about the pandemic being over, joblessness plummeting to new lows. Indoor activities being safely open to one and all. Trumpy jailed for any one of the numerous crimes he's committed (treason, election fraud, tax evasion, inciting a riot, obstruction of justice). Let's see Republican politicians held accountable for their lies and deceptions and greed. Let's have signs that efforts to reverse global warming are proving effective. Let's see America's infrastructure being rebuilt. Let's see long overdue reforms of police departments across the country. And let's see my favorite sports team have their greatest seasons, and oh yes, how about my latest novel becoming and international best seller? Thanks.

03 March 2021

An Imagined Overheard Conversation


On our walk the other day the missus and I saw a young father standing on his front porch with his — I’m guessing here — eighteen-month old child in arm. He was chatting with an even younger man and woman who had evidently come by on their bikes. Here’s some of what I guess he said.

“Chrissy just got over a kind of nasty cold. She had a temperature of 100 last Thursday. But she’s fine now.”


“Jonah loves his new school. Janet and Robin’s son, Jonas, goes there too.”


“Yeah, Patrick and Michelle are expecting next month. They’re using the same doula we had for Chrissy.”


“Right, they’re having a home birth.”


“We were last in Mexico I think it was six years ago, a couple of years before Jonah was born.”


“We spent a week in Mexico City then went to Yucatan. We’re definitely going to take the kids when they get older. It’s so awesome down there.”


“I’ve been planning on painting the back deck for awhile now. Rachael’s been after me to get it done but we’ve been so busy. You know how it goes.”


“Depending on what we need we either go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. How about you?”


“Last weekend on that really clear day? We went on a bike ride up in the hills.”


“We’re going camping when the weather gets better.”


“Rachel and I have been playing our guitars a lot, the kids love it. We’re going to get them into playing an instrument early. All the research says it’s really good for their development.”


“Gosh we haven’t been to a movie in awhile. Usually when we get a sitter it’s to go to dinner or a concert.”


“Leena and Thomas are getting married in June. They decided to have a ceremony for their folks. I guess it will be kind of traditional.”


“We hardly ever watch TV, just usually like stuff on PBS or occasionally a movie on Netflix. We’re always so busy.”


“Next Saturday we’re driving up to Rachel’s folks’ place. There’s lots of room for the kids to play and I can help with a few chores. They always cook a big supper. It’s nice.”


“Our friend Liam is moving to Seattle and he’s selling us his truck for cheap. It’ll be nice to have.”


“I killed a couple of guys last weekend when I was high on meth. Don’t tell anyone though.”


“I like to wear dresses and dance on the roof. The neighbors Instagram it.”


“Rachel and I strangled a weasel with our bare hands and ate it raw.”


“We’re looking for a cult to join. Preferably one with a charismatic leader who sexually manipulates his followers.”


“I went kayaking in the desert once. Kind of a blast doing it without any water.”


“When the kids act out we just scream at them and threaten them with knives. Super effective.”


“I wish I could go back in time and kiss Hitler. Don’t you?”


“You want some zucchini from our garden? We’ve got  plenty. Take some.”

26 February 2021

An Annual Event is Coming -- My Birthday!

Me on the far left celebrating a birthday a few years ago

My birthday is on Sunday. This is yet another in a long series of birthdays I’ve enjoyed. This one will be number sixty-seven. That’s not bad, especially considering I’m in excellent health and have been all my life. Physically. Mental health is another matter, but I do what I can.

I’ve now lived longer than Jack Kerouac, John Lennon, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Sylvia Plath, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Fred Hampton, John F. Kennedy, Robert F, Kennedy, Ken Kesey, Babe Ruth, James Dean, F Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Marylin Monroe, Carole Lombard, Jean Harlow, Michael Jackson, Carl Sagan, Robin Williams, Mario Savio, Hart Crane, Enrico Fermi, River Phoenix, David Foster Wallace, Theodore Roosevelt, Arthur Rimbaud, Andy Smith, Lou Gehrig, Roberto Clemente, Rachel Carson, Amy Winehouse, Raymond Carver, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Grace Kelly, Anne Sexton, Diana Arbus, Jean Seberg, Bill Hicks, Steve McQueen, Alan Turning, Richard Pryor, Wilfred Owen, John Reed and Oscar Wilde, to name but a few.


It’s kind of hard to know what to make of my longevity compared to the people above. Several have written books that will be read forever. Others have had books written about them. Some have been in movies that will live on. Others were the subject of films. Many made music that will continue to be heard for a long time. Some were inspirational political leaders. Others were comics whose humor will live on via recorded performances. A few were scientists who made significant contributions to human society. Some were memorable athletes who’ve had awards or places named after them. Some remain icons. Some are remembered each year on their birthday or the anniversary of their death. Some were murdered, others took their own life. Some died accidentally, some were struck by fatal illnesses. 


I guess I shouldn’t compare myself to them. I’m barely even famous in my own house. But I’ve done all right. Two novels, over thirty years of teaching, two daughters successfully raised, an on-going marriage (nearing thirty-four years) the love of friends and relatives, a largely ignored but entertaining blog. Not much on the minus side. No arrests. Taxes paid. One mysterious charge of sexual harassment proved unfounded (what a nightmare that was, I never even learned what the complaint regarded who originated it). I’ve committed no serious crimes nor given anyone an STD, nor cheated anyone out of money. I’ve not badly injured anyone either in a fight or accidentally. I’ve set an example for others by maintaining over three decades of sobriety and by carrying on with life despite struggles with acute panic syndrome, bi-polar disorder, PTSD as an abuse survivor and severe bouts of depression. 


Some of my writings have helped people similarly struggling and some of my teaching advice (which can be found on this blog) has proven helpful to young teachers.


I do readily admit to being a lousy neighbor. Grumpy, unfriendly, uncommunicative. At the same time I keep the front of the house clean and manage the trash, compost and recycling.


In my commuting days I was always a grouchy commuter, but then again so were most of my fellow travelers. I at least followed the proper etiquette of commuting, never knocking over a crippled old woman to get the last seat on the subway train — tempting though it may have been.


As I write this I realize it reads like I’m writing a summation, that I’ve reached the end. Au contraire. Though any of us can go any day and I cannot even be assured that I’ll live to post this, my intentions are to keep going indefinitely. 


While seeing the most recent of my psychiatrists, I often moaned about who little I had accomplished in life relative to my grandiose dreams. He suggested the possibility of a second act. That there could be more to come from me if I pursued it. I’ve taken this to heart and have since written and published two novels and am currently working on two others. (One has a completed first draft and I will return to it in the summer. The other is in its nascent stages and I’m working furiously on it these days.) 


I have hopes that one of my books will become a bestseller. I have hopes that one of my books will be made into a major motion picture. I have hopes that a measure of fame and a modest fortune await me as a reward for my writing labors. But I also realize that such hopes are really dreams — the kind that rarely come true. No matter. I will continue writing and be satisfied mostly in the effort and in the completion of my works. It’s the process that counts.


I was trying to think of any birthday stories I could share that would wrap up this post. I’ve not got much. Most of my birthdays have been perfectly pleasant days enjoyed with family and friends.


But here are a few that stick out, offered in no particular order:


I spent my 30th birthday alone at home with the flu. It is my least favorite birthday to date.


Two years later I had a much better birthday as the love of my life (currently serving a life sentence as my wife) and I saw Wynton Marsalis perform in the Venetian Room in the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. That was a good birthday. 


When I turned twenty one (living then in Chico) I went to bars around town to collect free drinks as one did on their 21st birthday. This was great fun except for the place that I had been drinking at for years with a fake ID, they were not amused and asked me to leave. I spent the rest of the evening avoiding places where’d I’d used the fake ID.


The next year I was living with a girl and we had a few friends over for a casual evening of drinking beer and chatting. Much to my surprise, by ten o’clock there were twenty-two guests cramped into our apartment. “They’re all here to see you, they like you,” my girlfriend said.


For my 60th birthday my wife and daughters took me to a favorite restaurant. I was in a somewhat sour mood because I’d not gotten a phone call, text or email from any of my nieces and nephews wishing me a happy one. 

Surprise! They all showed up at the restaurant for a wonderful surprise party.


A lot of my favorite birthdays were when my daughters were little. Having a small child of your own wishing you a happy birthday and giving you a hug and a kiss is the best. All of my birthdays with my wife have been grand because she makes them special. (Except for one. Somehow we got into a fight and I ended up going to dinner with my befuddled young daughters sans the missus. The exception that makes it a rule.)


Some people don’t like birthdays. I do. For one thing, they’re a break from the ordinary. A “special” day. My over-sized ego likes the idea of being the center of attention while in reality I get embarrassed when given too much attention as when happy birthday is sung to me. But, I do not object to receiving presents and being in other ways feted. 


So on Sunday it’ll be happy birthday to me. Again. May there be many more.

23 February 2021

I Proudly Introduce My Second Novel, A Spy Thriller, Threat of Night (Yön Uhka)


Excerpt from Threat of Night:

I reminded myself that my visit was to get information and tried to ignore the elegance of the surroundings and the charm of my host. Trying to ignore a mansion's elegance is like swimming and trying to forget you're in the water.

Weidemann was tall and handsome in the uninteresting way of film actors who always play the second lead. I could see a woman falling for his rugged good looks in the first reel then trying to trade up when Cary Grant entered in the second reel.

An officious little man dressed in a white suit came in and poured us coffee in cups with saucers that looked like they were worth more than I made in a year. 

The consul general was warm and gracious in the way people are who do it for a living. It seemed like everything about him was an affectation. There was probably a human being with original thoughts and ideas under all the manners and social etiquette, but he wasn't someone who was allowed to come out and play. I would be dealing with the edifice of Fritz Weidemann, and that would be reflected in the banality of the answers I'd receive. I didn't know any better than to make the most of it.

Before my first question, Fritz hit me with an opening salvo. He assured me that Herr Hitler was not such a bad bloke and wanted to avoid war with the U.S. at all costs and that half of what the American and British press wrote about Der Führer was the bunk. He was a man of peace, my host suggested. Internally I had a good chuckle, but outwardly, I played it straight and scribbled in my notebook as if I'd just gotten an exclusive.

I’m very proud to introduce my second novel, Threat of Night (Yön Uhka). It is currently available via Amazon's Kindle Store and the paperback version will be out soon.

Threat of Night takes place from November 1940 to December 1941 in Berkeley. It is about a first-year reporter named Matt Kurki who discovers a Nazi spy ring operating in the Bay Area. The story begins with Matt’s best friend, Chaim Klassen being taken to the state mental institution after exhibiting bizarre behavior in public and in a police station. Chaim is no ordinary fellow, he’s working with the eminent physicist Dr. Robert Oppenheimer on developing the atomic bomb. (Oppenheimer and San Francisco German General Consul, Fritz Weidemann are the two characters from real life who appear in the book). 


There is something odd about Chaim’s commitment as he has never shown signs of having mental problems in the past. He soon escapes from the institution.


Meanwhile Matt receives strange visitors and unusual phone calls, some of them from Chaim, who is in hiding.


There follows a suicide, a murder and threats to Matt. Thugs come looking for Chaim.


Matt is undaunted and when he discovers that there are fifth columnists operating in the area, he doggedly pursues the story and finds links between the Nazis and Chaim’s disappearance. Before the story is over Matt is chased and nearly killed — twice.


Through the story Matt, who is Berkeley-born of Finnish parents, is supported by his Finnish-American girlfriend, Martta. We also meet Matt’s parents and kid sister as well as his aunt, uncle and three cousins.


Threat of Night contrasts Matti’s happy home life with the dangers and horrors of Nazism.


For me this book is very much a love letter to my family, both nuclear and extended and to the many older Finns I grew up around. For the first half of the 20th century Berkeley had a thriving Finnish community including first and second generation Finns. My mother, born of Finnish parents, grew up in Berkeley and my Finnish-born father emigrated to Berkeley after meeting and marrying my mother in New York where she was attending Columbia University.


Berkeley still has a Finnish Brotherhood Hall (there used to be two) and a church that offers services in Finnish. There are also Finnish language AA meetings.


I sought to honor my heritage through my book.


I also sought accuracy. I did extensive research into Berkeley in particular and the United States in general in the early 1940s. It helped that I have been watching movies from the time period for over thirty years. I also poured through Berkeley Gazettes from that time. The internet was also a valuable resource in getting all the details necessary for my story.


All the historical events that are mentioned in the book actually took place and at the times described. When I quoted public figures such as President Roosevelt, those quotes were accurate. A few of the restaurants and other establishments mentioned in the book existed in 1941, with a few others I took poetic license. The characters attended a couple of college football games and those happened as I described them.


After the first draft of Threat of Night, I wondered if my story was a little far-fetched. Nazis in Berkeley? Then I came across a book called “Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood & America” by Steven J. Ross and discovered that far from straining credulity, the activities described in my novel were quite possible. I owe much to Mr. Ross’ book and advice he gave me when I contacted him.


Lastly I owe a lot to the late great author Raymond Chandler. I read all his novels (some for the second time) while working on Threat of Night, and his writing informed my own. When unhappy with a page or two I’d just written, I’d often use the old writer’s trick of transcribing another writer’s work. I used Chandler. Then I’d go back and re-write the passages I was unhappy with and they’d invariably come out much better (and, not incidentally, less wordy).


I’m really pleased with Threat of Night (and by the beautiful cover design by youngest niece Matlena Hourula. I believe it will appeal to wide range of readers. Perhaps especially to those interested in the time period shortly before the U.S. entered World War II and those intrigued by spies or Nazis and certainly Nazi spies. It might also be of particular interest to Finnish-American readers, not to mention Finns themselves. 


I first realized that Threat of Night was a good book when I asked my wife to read it. She is without a doubt my toughest critic. Thus this was a tremendous gamble that could have caused tension if not outright warfare between us. Much to my delight she loved the book and indeed became my key adviser and editor, making several suggestions that greatly improved the manuscript. 


Unlike my first novel, I will be doing my utmost to market the book, create interest and look for potential readers. I believe it deserves it. I hope that if you read it and enjoy it, you will tell friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers about it.


Thanking you in advance,

The Author


A second excerpt from Threat of Night:

I got out of the car and ran after him, not knowing what I'd do when I caught up to the bastard. But lucky for him and unlucky for me, a car was waiting for him. He hopped in, and the driver sped off. I ran back to my car to give chase. They drove through a residential district for three blocks before reaching the end of a cul-de-sac — I had them! Or so I thought. After slamming on the breaks, the driver got out and brandished the biggest pistol I'd ever seen, pointing it straight at me. Not wanting to meet the business end of a bullet, I made a u-turn so fast that it defied the laws of physics and drove in the opposite direction for a hundred yards. Finally, I stopped and looked back. The armed man was running toward me with his gun pointed at me. 

I thought about running him over, but I didn't have the nerve, mainly because he'd be able to get off a few shots before I hit him. Meanwhile, Carlyle took the wheel and drove up to his partner; I figured that they'd soon be pursuing me. Believing that discretion is the better part of valor, I sped off, turning down one street and then another in hopes of losing them.


18 February 2021

Trivia Fun Returns! Again!!!

Mime Troupe's radio show was not a success

Back in the horse and buggy days I brought joy and surcease to my legions of followers  through daily tweets of #TriviaFun. Then a few years ago on this very blog I published fifty of the best of #TrivaFun to great acclaim, hoopla and enthusiastic excitement. On December 1 of last year I posted a new iteration of Trivia Fun which was greeted with a deluge of praise and thanks from all over the world. It is my privilege now to share with you another list of  trivia fun.  (Note: As always, all the trivia below has been independently verified either by the National Geographic Society, the National Archives, The Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Institute,NASA, the Senate Sub-Committee on Trivia or the gang down at Joe's Beanery on 5th and Pine.) Enjoy!

Radio Station KSFO in San Francisco once booked a mime troupe to do a live on air show. Ratings were abysmal. 

According to biblical scholars, Jesus had a cousin Lloyd who he found to be a pain in the ass.


Cotton candy is, for all intents and purposes, pink, sweetened insulation.


According to scientists, not only do no two snowflakes look alike, but neither to any two battering rams.


In 1936 Burma Shave offered Frida Kahlo $1,000 to shave her unibrow on camera.


Adolph Hitler often absent-mindedly heiled himself when looking in a mirror.


Before doing his own compositions, Johannes Brahms led a Beethoven cover orchestra.


Charles Manson’s favorite Disneyland attraction was the Mad Tea Cup Ride.


The Battle of Gettysburg was delayed when a collie ran out on the battlefield.


A Central Park squirrel was taught sign language.


Hemmings Bashford of Syracuse, New York regularly completes the Times crossword puzzle despite being illiterate.


President Eisenhower was reportedly furious when his wife Mamie openly flirted with Nikita Khrushchev.


While it’s true that elephants have good memories, they often misplace their keys.


Although Jay-Z is known as a rapper, his favorite music is polkas.


The state of Mississippi has never had a U.S. senator who could properly recite the alphabet.


Because there are billions of stars in our galaxy that could support life on a planet, it is estimated that there may be as many as million people in the universe named Barney Fife.


The real John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt was a notorious misanthrope.


On more than one occasion, Gerald Ford asked aides what night Saturday Night Live was telecast.


David Mamet once wrote a screenplay about a Pope who suffered from necrophilia, narcolepsy and Tourette’s Syndrome. Every major studio passed.


Jeffrey Dahmer took dietary supplements.


Joseph Stalin refused to work on the days he got his bikini wax.


The Blame Game was invented by Milton Bradley in 1933.


In response to the popularity of The Blame Game, Hasbro created a game of their own, Pointing Fingers.


Despite appearances to the contrary, Mitch McConnell is only fifty percent turtle.


NASA recently scrapped a plan to send the first walrus into outer space, ultimately deeming the idea, “silly.”


In ancient Rome, members of PETA used to go the Colosseum and root for the lions.


According to the Bureau of Erroneous Statistics, the most popular spectator sport in the United States is cockfighting.


It's believed that nearly one hundred per cent of dog owners own dogs.

14 February 2021

Ten Lists of Ten Films for Your President's Day Enjoyment

Bicycle Thieves

Regular readers of this blog (J. Lattimore Potbelly of Bowbells, North Dakota) may recall that last Memorial Day I provided ten lists of ten films in various categories. Much to everyone's chagrin this has become regular holiday feature. Subsequent installments have appeared on this site on Independence Day, Labor Day, Indigenous Peoples Day, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving Day, Boxing Day and most recently on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday. My tenth and final installment will be posted on Easter Sunday. Meanwhile, please enjoy my President's Day lists. 

My Ten Favorite Oscar Winners for Best Foreign Language Film

1. Bicycle Thieves (1948) De Sica

2. Rashomon (1950) Kurosawa

3. La Strada (1954) Fellini

4. Nights of Cabiria (1957) Fellini

5. Through a Glass Darkly (1961) Bergman

6. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) Petri

7. Amarcord (1973) Fellini

8. Fanny And Alexander (1982) Bergman

9. A Separation (2011) Farhadi

10. Parasite (2019) Ho


My Ten Favorite Comedies Made After 1960

1. Manhattan (1979) Allen

2. Annie Hall (1977) Allen

3. Animal House (1978) Landis

4.  Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) Schaffer/Taccone

5. Stripes (1981) Reitman 

6. Trading Places (1983) Landis

7. Arthur (1981) Gordon

8. Superbad (2007) Mottola

9. Bananas (1971) Allen

10. MASH (1970) Altman


The 39 Steps
My Ten Favorite Films From the 1930s

1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Capra

2. Duck Soup (1933) McCary

3. The 39 Steps (1935) Hitchcock

4. Holiday (1938) Cukor

5. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Milestone

6. City Lights (1931) Chaplin

7. My Man Godfrey (1936) La Cava

8. Stagecoach (1939) Ford

9. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) Whale

10. Wild Boys of the Road (1933) Wellman



My Ten Favorite Films Directed by Howard Hawks

1. His Girl Friday (1940) 

2. The Big Sleep (1946)

3. Red River (1948) 

4. To Have and Have Not (1944)

5. Bringing Up Baby (1938)

6. Twentieth Century (1934)

7. Ball of Fire (1941)

8. Monkey Business (1952)

9. Scarface (1932)

10. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)


My Ten Favorite Films Featuring An Actor Who was in Meet John Doe

1. The Lady Eve (1941) Sturges - Barbara Stanwyck

2. Morocco (1930) von Sternberg - Gary Cooper

3. Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) Hall - James Gleason

4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) Capra- Edward Arnold

5. The Big Sleep (1946) Hawks - Regis Toomey

6. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) Huston - Pat Flaherty

7. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) Capra — J. Farrell MacDonald

8. His Girl Friday (1940) Hawks — Gene Lockhart

9. Red River (1948) Hawks  - Walter Brennan

10.Shadow of a Doubt (1943) Hitchcock - Irving Bacon


The Lady Eve
My Ten Favorite Films Starring Henry Fonda

1. Grapes of Wrath (1940) Ford

2. The Lady Eve (1941) Sturges

3. My Darling Clementine (1946) Ford

4. 12 Angry Men (1957) Lumet

5. Fort Apache (1948) Ford

6. Young Mr. Lincoln (1939) Ford

7. Mr. Roberts (1957) Ford/LeRoy

8. The Wrong Man (1956) Hitchcock

9. The Male Animal (1942) Nugent

10. The Ox Bow Incident (1942) Wellman


Ten Terrific Films From Which Bad Remakes or Sequels Were Made

1. Blade Runner (1982) Scott

2. The Getaway (1972) Peckinpah

3. Mean Girls (2004) Waters

4. Arthur (1981) Gordon

5. The Godfather Part 2 (1974) Coppola

6. Chinatown (1974) Polanski

7. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Kubrick

8.Psycho (1960) Hitchcock

9. The Exorcist (1973) Friedkin

10. Jaws (1975) Spielberg


Ten Films With Great Endings

1. Manhattan (1979) Allen

2. Chinatown (1974) Polanski

3. Inglourious Basterds (2009) Tarantino 

4. No Country For Old Men (2007) Coens

5. The Searchers (1956) Ford

6. It's A Wonderful Life (1946) Capra

7. Nights of Cabiria (1957) Fellini

8. City Lights (1931) Chaplin

9. The Lady Eve (1941) Sturges 

10.Birdman (2014) Iñárritu


Hannah and Her Sisters
Ten Terrific Movies Set in New York City

13 February 2021

I Get Vaccinated and Reminisce About Grandma and Rail About Anti-Science Idiots

The House Where Grandma Lived

I got my first vaccination for Covid-19 today. Actually it wasn’t “for” covid, it was against it. I’m very much anti-coronavirus. Anyway, my upper left arm where I got the shot is a little sore right now but I’d hardly call it pain. I understand that some people feel after effects the next day so maybe I have something to look forward to. Hope not. And by the way, thank you Pfizer. 

Today is the birthdate of my maternal grandmother, Jenny Kurki. She died when I was a teenager back in 1970. My brother and I didn’t go to the closest elementary school when we were kids (Whittier) instead going to Jefferson so that we could walk the half a block from school to Grandma’s house for lunch on school days. About half my lunch everyday went to my grandmother’s golden retriever, Sisu. That’s a name that has much significance to Finns. (Whittier and Jefferson have new names now as does my former junior high, Garfield, such is the march of time.)


My Grandmother spoiled me. She’d make me pancakes in the middle of the day if I asked her to. Sometimes I did. She’d also sit in a lawn chair in her backyard and pitch baseballs to me. I remember once hitting a line drive that conked her in the head. She was momentarily rattled but otherwise unfazed and resumed pitching. I also remember spending the night at her house once and as she talked me into the sofa bed she started tickling me. I kicked my legs out as I giggled with glee and one foot landed solidly in her belly. It took out her breath and for a few seconds I was as scared as I’d ever been thinking that I’d badly injured my grandmother. She was fine though. 


In doing some genealogy research last Summer my wife discovered two things about my grandmother: one was that she was ten years older than her stated age and thus ten years older than my grandfather (who preceded her in death by ten years) and that she gave birth to my mother only a few months after marrying. Wow, grandma. Who’d have thunk it?


Grandma was a big one for going to church. But then again it was a Lutheran church so it wasn’t much of an infringement on anyone else’s life and she never proselytized. I remember she liked to go those epic bible films that were big for a time, like King of Kings.


My wife had it a lot rougher than me as a child. She was born into a Southern Baptist church and couldn’t even go to the movies until she was nearly a teenager. Having parents ram their religion down a child’s throat can mess a kid up. Especially if your parents are the kind who put way more faith in praying than they do in doctor’s or medicine. There are still cases of children dying or being really sick or infecting other children because of their parents’ stubborn belief that the power of prayer supersedes a vaccination or doctor visit.


I guess we’re back to vaccinations now….. I read that a third of Americans are taking a “wait and see” approach to the Covid vaccinations. Waiting and seeing if you die is one approach, I suppose. This all baffles me. When I grew up it seemed everyone had great faith in science and medicine and believed what experts in fields said. Sure we’ve been misled by politicians and foreign policy experts and even some economists, but the hard sciences are pretty reliable. They got us to the moon when I was a kid which people were pretty darn impressed by. Now there are idiots who think the whole moon landing was faked. It seems — and I could be wrong on this because I’m no expert — that more people believe in conspiracy theories today than when I was a kid. The thing is that some conspiracies are real. For example there’s no question in my mind but that John F. Kennedy was killed as a result of a conspiracy and that was probably the case with his younger brother Bobby and maybe even with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. though I don’t know nearly as much about that case.


Cousin to the conspiracy theory is the, “I just bet that what they really did…” or a variations thereof. You hear these all the time. People feel damn sure of themselves as they “just bet” that the real reason something happened, or the real reason for a particular plan is….well, they fill in the blank with whatever pops into their head. Then one of the people who they were talking too, or who reads their comment on social media thinks that what they said makes sense and it spreads. That’s pretty much what QAnon is all about. Makes me wonder which one of these idiots said, “I bethcya the Democrats are all a bunch of pedophiles.” (What it is with the right and pedophilia is beyond me.)


I was looking for something on You Tube once and came across a news story about a supposed Bigfoot sighting in Utah. I watched it and noted that there was little evidence to support the claim that the mythic creature had been found and a scientist of some sort give a likely explanation as to what had been seen. One of the comments below the video was from a kook who said, among other things, “these scientists don’t know what they’re talking about.” Yes, actually they do. Sure, some of them are wrong sometimes, but when it comes to their field of expertise they generally know of what they speak. It’s funny because when a mechanic tells someone what’s wrong with their car, you never hear, “bah, these mechanics don’t know what they’re talking about.” Same with dentists. “My dentist said I had an impacted molar but these dentists don’t know what they’re talking about.”


For some reasons it’s scientists who are just making shit up. 


People don’t have respect for certain professions. I was on a bus to a baseball game once and there were a few teens on the bus acting up. Some old coot said to his wife, “that’s what they teach ‘em in school.” I was a middle school teacher at the time and said, “no, we don’t.” The old geezer just looked away.


Anyway, like I said I got the first shot today. Next one in three weeks. Then I can go out carousing again. Not that I will.