30 December 2020

Good Riddance 2020 and A Wishlist for the Future

"You may say I'm a dreamer 

But I'm not the only one 

I hope some day you'll join us 

And the world will be as one

Thank god that’s over." --  From Imagine by John Lennon

The year that it seemed would never end is drawing to a close. Finally. At long last. About time. Good riddance. 2020 was historically awful. The Trump presidency has made each of the last four years trying but when one throws in a pandemic you’re in for a real mess.

I started this fully intending to recount all the horrors that visited us these twelve months. But it occurred to me that that would be akin to reminiscing with family members about the recent fire that destroyed your house. Everyone knows. Everyone wants to forget. Everyone wants to move on. Everyone wants to look forward to better times. I do think it’s worth noting that we’ve not seen the likes of 2020 since World War II (before my time). 1968 used to be the gold standard for awful years but it was a positive lark compared to these past 12 months. Trump + Pandemic = the worst.

So am I brimming with optimism as the new year approaches? Not so much. I am hopeful. Trumpy will be out of office and an actual competent human being — one who has empathy for others — will be president. So that’s a huge plus. Vaccines for the coronavirus should be increasingly available as the year goes on and the death toll should begin to drop dramatically by Spring. By summer we may start getting back to a new version of normal. Gyms, restaurants, theaters, schools et al might be open again, although in many cases certain restrictions will apply. Some for the short term, others permanently.

Social mores will likely change. I understand that handshakes may become a thing of the past, for example. In certain settings six feet apart may remain the rule for a bit longer. Masks will not immediately be discarded. Many more people will work and take classes remotely than pre-pandemic. Thus schools and work places will change. 

I’d imagine that re-openings throughout society will be accompanied by a certain amount of paranoia. Germaphobia will undoubtedly be far more prevalent. I don’t imagine life will ever return to anything like it was before the pandemic. We’ll all adjust to a new way of living just as we have with the recent advents of the internet and smart phones. Yearning for the good old days will be common.

Meanwhile in the United States we’ll still have to deal with the science and medicine denying neanderthals that dominate the Republican Party and form much of the far right extremists who were emboldened by Trumpy. Currently these idiots are helping spread the virus by spreading lies about the virus — such as that it’s a hoax — while gathering in large groups and not wearing masks. They are acerbating the problem. Of course these are the same people who turn a blind eye to climate science. Speaking of which, trying to reverse climate change has got be another priority for the Biden administration. Every year the Earth’s temperature rises and we see the cataclysmic effects of global warming. How about putting the Green New Deal in immediate effect?

There’s a lot to be done to fix our very broken political system. For example, we need to eliminate the electoral college by the next presidential election. It would be nice if we really had a system in which each vote counted — LIKE THE REST OF THE WORLD AND IN ALL OUR OTHER ELECTIONS. While we’re making changes let’s have universal health care. Oh yes and forgive student loans and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. How about we also legalize marijuana in every state. Let’s start taxing the hell out of the super rich and let’s cut the military budget by 15% and most important of all let’s eviscerate and re-write the tax code so that multi-millionaires, billionaires and huge corporations no longer get away with not paying taxes. Let’s also end the disparity in funds available to schools whereby some private schools and schools in suburbs have money to burn and many urban schools serving largely minority populations struggle for basic resources. Every school in the United States should have the same amount of funding per student, period. Let’s also reduce the power a majority party and particularly the majority leader of that party has in the Senate. It’s especially ridiculous when a senate is run by a party whose candidates received less votes than the minority party. Also let’s give Washington DC two senators. It currently has zero despite a population greater than Wyoming. Let’s also make Puerto Rico a state, after all, its residents are U.S. citizens and have been since 1917.

There’s a lot to be done in reforming our police departments. Our court systems need be overhauled so that rich and poor are treated equally. This would be just one of many ways to address the systemic racism that is rife in our country’s institutions.

Citizens United needs to be over-turned and there has to be further reforms to get money out of politics. Far too many political decisions are based on the wishes and desires of large donors. In a true democracy the wealthy should have no more political power than the poor. 

After eliminating the electoral college let’s continue efforts to make it EASIER to votes and not only call out but penalize those who try to make it more difficult to vote (see the Republican party). Let’s also re-draw congressional districts so that they are fair and do not benefit one party. Gerrymandering shouldn’t exist in the 21st century.

Let’s rebuild our crumbing infrastructure and in so doing create jobs. 

Let’s strengthen labor unions.

Let’s end the filibuster.

Let’s regulate the hell out of Wall Street.

Let’s protect our environment, natural resources, parks and wildlife.

Let’s secure medicare, medicaid and social security.

Let’s release non-violent drug offenders from prison.

Let’s ban private prisons.

Let’s tax the hell out of churches or any other house of worship that advocates for any politician, political party or political cause.

Let’s pass the equal rights amendment and protect women’s rights to choose.

Let’s reduce the huge profits made by owners of sports teams and the huge salaries made by players and pass the savings on to fans in the form or greatly reduced ticket prices.

Let’s tear down the NCAA and rebuild it in such a way that it actually serves the best interests of student athletes and universities and does not line the pockets of greedy officials and their corporate overlords.

Let's not just hope for a better future. Let's not just hope we never see the likes of Trumpy again. Let's work towards it. Together. Let's be understanding, compassionate, empathetic, reasonable people who prioritize the greater good.

Yes, I am a dreamer. But as the song goes, I'm not the only one.

26 December 2020

Ten Lists of Ten Films For Your Boxing Day Enjoyment

Bogart in Casablanca 

Regular readers of this blog (Ebeneezer Havisham of Harrogate, UK) 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 DayLabor Day, Indigenous Peoples Day, Veteran's Day and most recently on Thanksgiving. An eighth installment will be posted on Martin Luther King Jr Day.  Meanwhile, please enjoy my Boxing Day list and let me extend to you and yours holiday greetings from all of us at Streams of Unconsciousness. 

My Ten Favorite Humphrey Bogart Films

  1. Casablanca (1942) Curtiz
  2. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) Huston
  3. The Big Sleep (1946) Hawks
  4. The Maltese Falcon (1941) Huston
  5. The African Queen (1951) Huston
  6. High Sierra (1941) Walsh
  7. To Have and Have Not (1944) Hawks
  8. The Harder They Fall (1956) Robson
  9. Petrified Forrest (1936) Mayo
  10. They Drive By Night (1940) Walsh

My Ten Favorite Films Featuring a Best Actress Academy Award Winner 

  1. Jezebel (1938 (Wyler) -- Bette Davis
  2. Suspicion (1941) Hitchcock -- Joan Fontaine
  3. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) Kazan — Vivian Leigh
  4. Two Women (1960) De Sica — Sofia Loren
  5. Hud (1963) Ritt — Patricia Neal
  6. Cabaret  (1972) Fosse— Liza Minelli
  7. Network (1976) Lumet— Faye Dunaway
  8. Annie Hall (1977) Allen — Diane Keaton
  9. Silver Linings Playbook (2012) Russell — Jennifer Lawrence
  10. Blue Jasmine (2013) Allen — Cate Blanchett

Foreign Correspondent

  My Ten Favorite Hitchcock Films

  1.Foreign Correspondent (1940)

  2. The 39 Steps (1935)

  3. Vertigo (1958)

  4. Psycho (1960)

  5. Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

  6. Strangers on a Train (1951)

  7.  The Lodger (1927)

  8. Rear Window (1954)

  9. I Confess (1953)

  10. The Trouble With Harry (1955)

My Ten Favorite Films from the Nineties

  1. Goodfellas (1990) Scorsese
  2. Europa (1991) von Trier
  3. Dead Man (1995) Jarmusch
  4. The Ice Storm (1997) A. Lee
  5. The Big Lebowski (1998) Coens
  6. La Haine (1995) Kassovitz
  7. Pulp Fiction (1994) Tarantino
  8. The Match Factory Girl (1990) Kaurismäki
  9. My Own Private Idaho (1991) Van Sant
  10. Groundhog Day (1993) Ramis

My Top Ten Films that Include Narration

  1. Europa (1991) von Trier
  2. Radio Days (1987) W. Allen
  3. Royal Tennebaums (2001) Anderson
  4. Goodfellas (1990) Scorsese
  5. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) W. Allen
  6. Double Indemnity (1944) Wilder
  7. Barry Lyndon (1975) Kubrick
  8. The Virgin Suicides (1999) S. Coppola
  9. Fight Club (1999) Fincher
  10. City of God (2002) Meirelles/Lund 

The Strawberry Statement
Ten Favorite Films that Capture the Spirit of the Sixties
1.The Strawberry Statement (1970) Haggman

2. Harold and Maude (1971) Ashby

3. MASH (1970) Altman

4. Medium Cool (1969) Wexler

5. The Landlord (1970) Ashby

6. A Hard Day’s Night (1964) Lester

7. Hair (1979) Forman

8. Getting Straight (1970) Rush

9. Zabriskie Point (1970) Antonioni

10. If….(1968) L. Anderson

Ten Terrific Films Featuring Boxing Scenes

  1. Raging Bull (1980) Scorsese 
  2. City Lights (1931) Chaplin
  3. Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) Hall
  4. The Harder They Fall (1956) Robson
  5. The Fighter (2010) Russell
  6. Fat City (1972) Huston
  7. Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) Nelson
  8. The Set-Up (1949) Wise
  9. Gentleman Jim (1942) Walsh
  10. The Hurricane (1999) Jewison

Ten Great Films About Criminals

  1. Goodfellas (1990) Scorsese
  2. The Godfather (1972) Coppola
  3. The Godfather Part 2 (1974) Coppola
  4. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Penn
  5. The Public Enemy (1931) Wellman
  6. A Prophet (2009) Audiard
  7. Donnie Brasco (1997) Newell
  8. Gomorroh (2008) Garrone
  9. City of God (2002) Meirelles/Lund 
  10. The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) Yates

Dog Day Afternoon

Ten Great Films With an Animal in the    Title

 1. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Lumet

  2. The Cranes are Flying (1957) Kalatozov

  3. Raging Bull (1980) Scorsese 

  4. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) Pollack

  5.  Three Days of the Condor (1975) Pollack

  6. The Lion in Winter (1968) Harvey

  7. Duck Soup (1933) McCarey

  8. Elephant (2003) Van Sant

  9. First Cow (2019) Reichardt

  10. Silence of the Lambs (1991) Demme

Ten Great Films Set During World War I

  1. The Big Parade (1925) Vidor
  2. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) Milestone
  3. Paths of Glory (1957) Kubrick
  4. Westfront 1918 (1930) Pabst
  5. Wooden Crosses (1932) Bernard
  6. Wings (1927) Wellman
  7. Shoulder Arms (1918) Chaplin
  8. Hell’s Angels (1930) Hughes
  9. La Grande Illusion (1937) Renoir
  10. The Lost Patrol (1934) Ford

23 December 2020

Once Again I Comment on Headlines, But This Time They're From 50 Years ago

A regular and much beloved feature of this blog has been my occasional looks at the day's headlines. Once or twice a month I print a dozen or so headlines from various news outlets and follow each with comments about them that are either pithy, snarky, wise or brilliantly on point (or a combination thereof). The response has been overwhelming (thank you Bob Cratchit of Londonderry, NH). As a change of pace and a bit of a history lesson, I'm changing things a bit for todays' edition as all headlines will be from 50 years ago today -- December 23, 1970. In doing so I have the advantage of actually remember those times.  I was then a senior in high school. I hope you enjoy this, a history edition of headlines.

From the San Francisco Examiner:

Tough Nixon Pollute Order

Richard Nixon was one of the most disreputable presidents in our nation's history. His role in Watergate was alone enough to place him in infamy, but there was much more notably his role in continuing the war in Vietnam and thereby costing tens of thousands of people their lives. Yet he can look like a flaming liberal compared to today's Republicans. This story is a case in point. It's about Nixon clamping down on industries trying to dump their wastes into the nation's rivers and lakes. The Republican of today doesn't give a good goddamn how badly industries were polluting. This really says more about modern Republicans than about Nixon

Christmas Vigil for Angela

That day Angela Davis had been arraigned on trumped up charges related to an attempted kidnapping and escape from a federal courthouse in Marin the previous Summer. Davis had purchased several of the firearms purchased in the escape attempt which resulted in the death of three prisoners and a federal judge. This was at a time when Black activists were regularly being targeted by the police and FBI. Ultimately Angela was found not guilty.

Satellites for Cable TV

I would have looked at this story 50 years ago and thought, "what the hell do satellites have to do with television and what's a cable TV"? Times, folks, have changed.

U.S. Ready For Mideast Peace Role

I don't recall this specifically but I'm sure everything worked out and peace in the Middle East was attained and aside from a misunderstanding or two everything has been peachy there to this day.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Nixons Are Reported Shocked at Frost's White House Show

The foul-mouthed bigoted Richard Nixon was sensitive to humor with an edge, especially when it edged towards him, his policies or his administration. Frosts's jokes were pretty mild and if you know anything about Frost that shouldn't be a surprise. The barbs' were delivered during a theatrical evening in the East Room for Nixon friends, and supporters. One of the jokes was that a little girl in a nativity scene complained that it was easy to be a shepherd but hard to be a virgin. Frost and Nixon famously met after the president had resigned in disgrace during a series of interviews conducted by the Brit. Those interviews were immortalized in both a play and film called Frost/Nixon.

Fugitive Weatherman Seized Sought Here Seized in Pittsburgh

This was a story about Caroline Tanner a member of the weatherman, a faction of the SDS, a radical splinter group often responsible for bombing federal facilities.The charges against her stemmed from an incident in which four policeman were attacked by a "mob of about twenty persons" at a Chicago federal building.  I was curious about Ms. Tanner and after research later discovered she was sentenced to six months for jumping bail. She is currently alive and practicing neurology at UCSF she specializes in Parkinson's disease and works with the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Two More GIs One a Chicagoan, Face Trial in My Lai Killings

On March 15, 1968 U.S. soldiers killed between 347 and 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians including women, children and infants. Some of the women were gang raped by soldiers first. While this was the worst massacre perpetrated by American soldiers in Vietnam, it was -- unfortunately -- not an anomaly as many believed at the time. While the incident sparked international outrage -- in part because of the efforts to cover it up -- those few found guilty were given light or no sentences. The fall guy for the massacre, Lt. William Calley, served three years of house arrest for his leading role in the killings. The My Lai Massacre remains one of the blackest stains in U.S. military history.

From the Atlanta Constitution:

Hanoi Lists POWs But U.S. is Wary

It was around this time of U.S. involvement in Vietnam that the naming and eventual release of American prisoners of war became a hot topic particularly for propaganda purposes and as a negotiating tool for both sides. POWs became a noble symbol of U.S. efforts and their return was the cause célèbre for the Nixon administration.. Returning POWs were given hero's welcomes and many were feted at the White House. Among those POWs was John McCain.

Nixon Prods Senate on Social Security

Was Nixon trying to cut our reduce social security? Au contraire. He was insisting they be increased. The point again is that while Nixon was an awful man, the Republican Party of fifty years ago was not completely unreasonable or totally Scrooge-like. What changed? It all started with Reagan. But that's a story for another time.

1970 Has Been a Bad Year for Republicans

Which is to say that it was a pretty good year for the country. As I've noted here twice Republicans weren't quite the ogres then that they are today and Democrats were not exactly angels either. Also the war in Vietnam was still needlessly raging with Americans one of the chief villains. But my recollection -- and this is not strictly anecdotal -- is of a time with far greater optimism, less division and a sense of shared responsibility. Social progress -- while it had massive roadblocks -- seemed more doable.

From the Boston Globe:

Nazi Commandant Gets Life Sentence

The man in question was the commandant of the Nazi death camp at Treblinka who, 25 years after World War Two's end, was finally being brought to justice. We still occasionally hear of an accused Nazi war criminal being found but at this point they can't be much younger than 95 or so. Indeed, we may no longer read of anymore Nazis being unmasked. Back then it was not exactly common but did happen from time to time. Franz Stangl, the arrestee in this case, was still only 62.

Mayor Fights Move to Reinstate Teacher

The teacher in question had been dismissed "in connection with the use of a four-letter word in a high school class." Let's be clear, as someone who has taught for over 34 years, approximately 25 of which were in public schools, I am one hundred per cent against teachers using profanity while in the presence of students. But dismissing a teacher? Maybe if it was habitual and there had been many warnings....Times have changed. Foul language by teachers is not tolerated but it does occasionally happen and I don't know of it ever leading to a dismissal.

Three Tate Co-Defendants Removed

The infamous Charles Manson trial was underway at this time (the Tate-LaBianca murders having been committed the previous August). The trial was a spectacle in itself and this story is about three of Manson's followers -- all women -- having to be dragged out of court, kicking and screaming after constantly interrupting closing arguments. The story of the Manson family is one of the most compelling reads you'll likely come across and a fascinating look into that era.


That night there was a Johnny Cash Christmas special on TV at 9:00. Comedian Bill Cosby was performing live at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe. In movie theaters you could see Love Story, Five Easy Pieces, Brewster McCloud and the Aristocats. AM/FM pocket radios were selling for $12.88, 30 cup coffeemaker were going for $9.88, a Lady Shick razor was $11.88 and a Fondue set was $3.99. 

All newspapers were completely Trump-free!

18 December 2020

The Best of Christmas Past Posts

A photo from last night's Streams Christmas party.

It's always a bit hectic this time of year even with Covid restrictions. My second novel will be released in a few weeks and I'm busy on two (2!) others. So I haven't found time for a Christmas post, so I'm going back to Christmases past. Below are nine Christmas posst from this blog going back as far as 2008. I suppose you could call them: The Best of Christmas Past Posts. Hope this will tide my millions of readers over (especially you Philomena Fezziwig of Berwick-upon-Tweed, UK). 

15 December 2020

Streams of Unconsciousness Survey Results are in and They'e Fascinating

The answers to the recent Streams of Unconsciousness survey have been tabulated and I’d like to thank all of you who participated. We received hundreds of thousands (give or take) of responses from all over the world. Below you will see the questions I asked followed by the three most common responses with the percentage of people who so responded. Your participation in this survey will help me improve the content and format of the blog in the months and years to come. Thank you! (And congratulations to our prize winner 
Nebuchadnezzar O'Leary of  Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. He's the respondent whose name was drawn at random. We'll be sending him a $100 gift certificate good for merchandise at our gift shop -- redeemable on-line or in person at the store.)

How often do you check for new blog posts?

61% Daily

17% Several times a day

11% Every few years

Where are you most likely to be while reading the blog?

24% My penthouse

11% A coffee shop

9% Panic room

How did you first hear about the blog?

22% Televised Senate Hearings

16% Ad in Sunday New York Times

10% I know you and you never shut up about it

My favorite thing about reading this blog

91% Finishing reading a post and closing the goddamned page

3% The author’s wit

2% The author’s insights

What is your favorite item at the Streams Gift Shop?

27% Codpieces

22% Top Hats

18% Lederhosen 

I would recommend this blog to someone if

49% I hated them

49% If a gun was pointed to my head

2% If I was drunk off my ass

The social media or website I use the most is

32% Tinder

22% Grinder

16% Suicide Hotline

What food are you most likely to be eating when you read this blog?

13% Lobster

9% Scones

5% Badger meat

What field do you work in?

17% Education

15% Organized crime

11% Whaling

Reading this blog is most comparable to

26% An orgasm

18% Root canal

9% Trying to sleep while in the middle of a drum circle

The blogger’s writing style reminds me of

27% F Scott Fitzgerald

22% A second grader

19% Badly translated hieroglyphics

My favorite type of posts are

31% Film reviews

20% Political commentary

18% Orgy etiquette guides

If I should ever meet the blogger I would

44% Let him have his way with me

33% Ask him what his problem was

22% Run like hell

The humor posts on this blog are

51% Hilarious

22% Reminiscent of the best comedic minds of all time

20% Some of these posts are supposed to be funny?

I keep coming back to this blog because

44% It’s so good

31% I’m psychotic

15% The free munchies!

If you’re a premium member, what is your favorite benefit of premium membership?

34% Exclusive content

20% Discount at gift store

19% Solid gold membership card

My favorite weekend activity is

26% Fox hunts

19% Performing Gregorian chants

10% Self-flagellation

My favorite form of government is

31% Social democracy

22% Absolute monarchy

17% Mob rule

A typical Saturday night activity for me is

27% Attending a seance

24% Visiting my local opium den

22% Taking in a cock fight

I get most of my news from

31% News sites on the internet

22% A local gadfly

14% Emails my racist uncle forwards

My recommendation to the blogger is that he should

50% Keep up the good work

39% Bow out gracefully

10% Get back on his meds

12 December 2020

Welcome! It's Nice to Have You Here, Feel Free to Read and Comment and Browse Around the Blog

Miley Cyrus. Nothing to do with the post, just trying to increase page views.

This is my 118th blog post of the year. So far two people have commented on my posts since January. I had a third comment that recently arrived but it was on a post from a few years ago. Here’s that comment: “Go to the hell man,,, don't waste our time... You Mother fucker!!!!!!!” The author wished to remain anonymous. The post he (or she?) commented on was a childhood reminiscence. Well, it least it constituted some feedback and indicates that someone looked at this blog. Actually my blog posts generally get over 100 page views by the time they’ve been up for a few weeks. How many of those people actually read a word of it, I do not know. I’m not particularly concerned about it. I’m going to keep posting no matter what. I pretend that there are people out there waiting to see my next writing. I edit and proofread my posts (perhaps not as well as I should) and I provide links. On holidays I offer my ten lists of ten films. That — for the math-challenged — is 100 movies. I link each one. I could say, “screw it, no one reads this thing and if anyone stumbles on it they’re not likely to click a link anyway.” But I don’t. If you’re going to do something at all, do it right. In for a penny….

I’m on Twitter and I tweet from time-to-time and get virtually no likes for my tweets and doubt I’ve gotten a retweet in over a year. I have over 200 followers but for all I know most of them have muted me. I do get likes sometimes for comments I make on other people’s tweets. For what that’s worth. I'd probably tweet more if started getting likes and retweets. But nothing is going to deter my writing.

I’ve self-published a novel. Some people have bought it. Only three have written me to comment on it (they said nice things) but they’re friends of mine. I have another novel coming out soon which I think will be more widely read which means maybe two dozen people will read it and four or five will comment. So it goes.

I don’t know any better than to keep going. Keep blogging, keep tweeting, keep writing fiction. I enjoy the process and having a blog is fun and gives me structure. Writing novels — no matter if they’re read — fulfills a lifelong dream of mine. I’ll keep writing until I’m physically or mentally unable. That’s just the way I am.

Obviously I don’t expect more than maybe two or three people to read this post and seriously doubt anyone would bother to comment on it. That’s okay. It’s like staying sober, you have to do it for yourself.

Sometimes I think I’ll be “discovered” posthumously. Perhaps one of my books will finally start to sell and readers will look for my other writings and find this blog. Of course, I’d rather it happened while I’m still alive but I’m not going to hold my breath.

I’m not writing this so that someone will see it and feel sorry for me. I’ve had a lot of tough breaks in life but never wanted any sympathy. Save that for the really unfortunate souls. I’ve done all right. After all I’ve had good physical health all my life and am enjoying a long and happy marriage and am father to two children I adore. I’m a lucky guy. So no one reads my stuff. There’s far worse fates. Hell, maybe I’m not that good a writer, maybe I don’t deserve to be read. If that’s true it’s not going to stop me from trying.

One other thing about all the writing I do: it’s cathartic. Of course, writing about my being raised by a schizophrenic mother, my struggles with mental illness, my recovery from alcoholism, have been important parts of my emotional well-being. Anyone struggling with demons should write about it. It's really good for you. For me, it's more meaningful if I share it publicly, like on this blog. Who knows? Sharing my stories might help someone.

A lot of what I’ve written on this blog is a record of my life. Something for any grandchildren I might have. There’s a lot about my father (an incredible man) and my aforementioned mother and my life growing up in Berkeley in the sixties. There’s a lot of advice about struggling with depression and other mental health issues too. Plus I’ve written a lot about teaching, including advice to people starting out into the profession. These posts might prove useful to new or aspiring teachers. Some have already read them. 

I also write a lot about films and believe I've provided some interesting insights and observations. Over the years people have watched films based on what I've written here. That's nice.

I also write humor pieces and some of my attempts are actually quite funny. I should think more people would get enjoyment out of them. But what do I know.

One thing that’s often occurred to me is that I’ve done a poor job of marketing my writing, particularly my first novel. Maybe that’ll change with my second and subsequent books but it’s really not my thing. I hate self-promotion. In my youth I twice had sales jobs and brother, I was terrible at it. I couldn’t sell clothes to a naked person in a snowstorm. (I just made that up, any good? Like I’d get an answer….)

Okay so I got to vent. Good for me. Really a matter of “telling it like it is,” as we used to say in the seventies. If you’re someone who’s not me and you’ve actually read this, don’t be shy about making a comment — preferably a nice one. But no pressure. I’m used to the silence. 

09 December 2020

I Comment on Today's Headlines, Ninth in a Regular Series

Santa Claus immune to Covid

Since July, I have occasionally been posting some of the day's 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, Clive Clovenhoof of Homer, Lousiana) that I have made this a regular feature -- to enthusiastic acclaim (by which I mean dead silence). Here then is part nine in what is now a regular and beloved feature of this blog.

From The NY Times:

He Pretended to Be Trump’s Family. Then Trump Fell for It

Let me see if I understand this correctly, some idiot managed to fool Donald Trump? Who'd have thought a low grade moron could be so easily deceived. Hmf.

U.S. Leaves Behind Afghan Bases — and a Legacy of Land Disputes

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in September 2001, the Bush administration started making a series of foreign policy blunders continuing until W. left office in 2009. The worst, of course, was the illegal invasion of Iraq, the ramifications of which we'll be feeling for decades to come. But not to be forgotten (how could it be?) was the royal mess the U.S. made of Afghanistan. Instead of a targeted attack against the perpetrators of the 9/11strikes the U.S. went for the whole country and in the process ruined countless lives and sowed the seeds of terrorism for another generation. Blowback writ large. The United States could have gone in and built schools, hospitals and infra structure. Goodwill could have been established. Instead it was bullets, bombs and mayhem. In other words, standard U.S. operating procedure. So much damage done to a poor country and to the reputation of this country.

Supreme Court Rejects Republican Challenge to Pennsylvania Vote

This is how dumb Trumpy really is, he thought that the courts would reverse his electoral loss despite his not being able to provide any evidence of cheating. His lawsuits are being struck down left and right. So much losing. Getting tired of the losing, Mr. Outgoing President?

From CNN:

Azar has met with Biden's transition team and says 20 million Americans could be vaccinated in 'the next several weeks'

This seems suspiciously like good news so naturally I'm wary of it. Could it be that there is a light flickering at the end of this very very long, very very dark tunnel? It can't come soon enough and all hail the medical community.

158 people arrested, sex trafficking victim recovered at 'super spreader' party in Los Angeles County

So a mixture of stupid people (spreading the virus) and evil people (sexually exploiting an underage girl) are busted. Another example of actual good news. Well, good that they were busted. Not good that they exist and are doing idiotic/horrible things.

Feds to investigate after a sheriff's deputy killed a Black man entering his own home in Columbus, Ohio

So it's no longer safe in the United States for an African-American male to legally enter his own house. If I were black I might never step outside. I don't mean to be flip, it really is that bad. And yet people (read: racists) dismiss Black Lives Matter and some promote blue lives matter. What a country.

From the BBC:

Human-made objects to outweigh living things

I've seen this headline several times and still don't know what to make of it. Should I be surprised? Concerned? Shocked? Amused? Annoyed? Baffled? The story claims this is "astonishing" but adds it is all merely "symbolic." I may have to ponder this some more or I may write it off as a piece of not terribly interesting trivia.

Paris St-Germain v Istanbul Basaksehir: Uefa investigation after official accused of racism

Yesterday in a Champions League match in Paris, a fourth official allegedly used a racial slur against an Istanbul assistant coach. In response his team walked off the pitch and into the locker room and in solidarity so too did PSG. On the one hand it's shocking and disappointing that we would have a match official using any kind of slur and particularly disturbing that it was a racial one. But on the other hand the response of both teams -- and, as it turns out, UEFA officials -- is encouraging indeed. Bigotry is no longer being tolerated in International football. Progress somewhere, at least.

Where does the Republican Party go after Trump?

They can go to hell as far as I'm concerned. What's that? That's where they are? Yes, their ongoing aiding and abetting of the idiot-in-chief would be proof enough of that. One hopes this means they've nowhere to go but up. (The bastards.)

From The Washington Post:

Biden faces a changed world and no end of foreign policy challenges from China to Iran

Once again a Democratic president has to come in and clean up a mess made by a Republican. Usually the greater damage is done domestically especially to the economy and this will again be the case. But Trumpy has wreaked havoc everywhere, even among our allies. Biden's got his work cut out for him.

EPA rollback makes it harder to enact new air pollution rules

Speaking of damage that Trumpy has done...The environment has taken an awful beating under another Republican administration that puts profits before planet. Worse, this comes at a crucial time in human history with the disastrous effects of climate change already being felt. Goddamn but these people have no moral compass and care for nothing but dollar and cents.

Santa Claus is coming to town. Try not to infect him.

What a silly headline. Obviously Santa Claus is impervious to Covid or any other virus. Him, Mrs. Claus, the elves and reindeer are all safe. Not to worry kiddies!

04 December 2020

My Favorite TV Shows of 2020


1. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. For the second year in a row this top's the list. I'll repeat what I wrote last year: "It has won a slew of Emmys and has deserved every one of them. Oliver is a perfect host as he is personable, witty, clever and he keeps his ego in check (he never boasts about the Emmys and he is never self indulgent). LWT always touches upon a few of the bigger stories in the news and then delves deeply into one main issue. Many of the subjects are heavy but Oliver is a master at injecting humor when and wherever appropriate. LWT is educational and hilarious and in my opinion the best thing on television."

2.  Ozark. A recent discovery of mine, Ozark will for me join the pantheon of great TV dramas along with Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Sopranos and the original Twilight Zone. Jason Bateman, Laura Linney and Julia Garner head the cast and all three are superb. Ozark recalls the best in Breaking Bad in it’s constant ability to shock and surprise, it’s masterclass use of suspense and its inventiveness. Of course, we again find ourselves rooting for “good” people who’ve “gone bad” and my goodness it’s odd how relatable the experiences of someone laundering money for a Mexican drug cartel can seem.

3. Schitt’s Creek. I’ve been a fan from the beginning and I’m so happy that in its final season Daniel Levy’s creation has received all the honors and recognition it so richly deserves. In addition to Levy, the cast is topped by his father, the great Eugene Levy and his frequent acting partner Catherine O’Hara -- one of the best comic actresses of all time. SC is hilarious, charming, warm and wise. 

Better Call Saul
4. Better Call Saul. With one season to go it may yet crack my aforementioned Mount Rushmore of TV dramas. It is, of course, a spin-off of Breaking Bad and it long ago emerged from the shadows of that great show and claimed a spot as one of the best offerings on TV. Bob Odenkirk is a revelation as Saul but Rhea Seehorn’s Kim Wexler is one of my favorite TV characters of all time. BCS gets better each season so I’m expecting it’s finale, season six, to be off the charts. All hail Vince Gill.

5. Late Night With Seth Myers. I switched from Stephen Colbert to Seth for my late show viewing over the Summer and only wish I’d made the change much sooner. Seth is extremely bright (a trademark of good comedians) very funny and his show pulls no punches. The “Closer Look” segments often combine biting political commentary with large, loud guffaws. Seth is also an excellent interviewer. He has not one-tenth of the massive ego that burden Colbert and his show.

6. After Life. Ricky Gervais has long been able to make us roar with laughter, often with the outrageous (see his Golden Globe hosting performances). But in After Life, which aired its second season last spring, he also touches the heart  in this story of man dealing with the death of his wife. It’s no mean feat to combine comedy and tragedy and still make us laugh but Gervais pulls it off. Evidently the show has been important to many, many  people dealing with loss and depression.

7. Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Is this the last of the great network TV prime time comedies? I see no others so perhaps it is. Brooklyn is still going strong after seven full seasons, owing to a terrific ensemble cast backed by excellent writers. The show manages to tickle our funny bones and occasionally add a hint of social commentary without ever appearing preachy.

8. Brockmire. This was the final season of Hank Azaria’s shows and paled in comparison to the first three years. Still it was quite good and it’s a shame Brockmire never reached the wider audience it deserved nor garnered the awards it was worthy of. 

9. Perry Mason. This is not your grandmother’s Perry Mason. This is a hard- drinking, brawling, cussing, tortured Mason in an unfiltered LA of the early thirties. The HBO version of Mason is exquisite to look at with impeccable period costuming and set designs. But it’s not all glitz. There are engaging story lines and a wonderful cast led by Matthew Rhys in the title role. I can’t wait for season two.

10. Fargo. This was the fourth iteration of Noah Hawley’s looks at various parts of the midwest in various eras with the emphasis on crimes and the criminals who commit them. This time the setting was Kansas City in 1950 and the focus was on a  war between Italian and African- American gangs, the latter group led by a gangster portrayed by Chris Rock. He provided another example of a comic ably handling a dramatic role. I had issues with some of Hawley’s choices, but the show was always fascinating, rarely predictable and often inventive. He’s four-for-four.

11.World On Fire. A British production from PBS, the WOF covered several stories, many interlocking, from throughout Europe during the days before, the outbreak of and the beginning of World War II. The drama is heavy, as is appropriate for the topic, and even for a student of the era such as myself, it was illuminating. WOF was also exciting and included romance and strong characters, some of whom one heartily roots for. More seasons are forthcoming.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
12. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Racheal Broshnahan is brilliant as the aspiring comic in early sixties America and Alex Borstein as her agent (quirky doesn't begin to do her justice) and Tony Shaloub as her father shine as well. Mrs. Maisel emphasizes the laughs but it is also a look at America in a different time (one in which I was growing up) with a culture on the verge of a sea change.

13. The Great. Among the things I would not have predicted about 2020 is that I would have enjoyed a TV show in which Elle Fanning portrayed Catherine the Great of Russia. Anyway, I did. The Great is…I’m going to say, weird. It is historically accurate at times, it is farcical at others, it is always irreverent and it is occasionally dramatic. The emphasis, I suppose, is on fun and of that there is plenty. The young Ms. Fanning  is the centerpiece of the show and in my mind, at least has established herself as a big star. The supporting players were good too although I struggled with the color blind casting. It was initially confusing to see a Black and Indian descent actors playing Russians and Swedes. I suppose it’s the wave of the future and I’d better get used to it. The show is easy to get used to as it’s a joy.

14. The Last OG. The show took some strong dramatic turns in later episodes of this last season, particularly in the final episode which was downright dark. But it still mostly held to its comic roots and any program led by Tracy Morgan is bound to be good as was The Last O.G.

15. The Plot Against America. HBO’s mini-series telling of the Phillip Roth novel was presented in six parts. It’s deviations from the source material were mostly so that the series could serve as a warning for modern times and I’m okay with that. I was, in fact okay with the series as a whole, though not gaga. Comparing books and films is not only tricky business but often a waste of time because novels are usually inspirations for the films which are not trying to replicate them. PAA was just fine on its own terms.