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 or 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 how 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 is also available.

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. 

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.

09 February 2021

I Comment on Today's Headlines, Part of an Ongoing Series

National Guard troops approaching the Capitol on Tuesday.

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, Jean-Pierre Crankshaft of Iron City, Tennessee) that I have made this a regular feature -- to enthusiastic acclaim. Here then is part eleven in what is now a regular and beloved feature.

From the NY Times

Denying Incitement, Trump Impeachment Team Says He Cannot Be Tried

U.S. Congress response: oh yeah? Watch this...

Crisis Spurs Congress Toward Big Measures to Lift Families From Poverty

Let me see if I understand this correctly, once there's a crisis Congress will act to save those in poverty. If everything is peachy normal then the destitute are on their own. An interesting side note here is that, according to the article "at least one Republican" is among those focused on providing monthly payments to those who can't make ends meet. The Republican Party must be terribly ashamed of this member of their party who evidently has an ounce an empathy -- an ounce more than Republicans are allowed.

Georgia Officials Review Trump Phone Call as Scrutiny Intensifies

As you may recall as all hope of stealing the election dissipated, Trumpy tried to convince Georgia's Secretary of State to "find" enough votes for him to carry that state. The outgoing president even recorded the call. He should indeed face "scrutiny" and likely jail time as well.

From the BBC:

Myanmar coup: Police fire rubber bullets as protesters defy ban

While the U.S. managed to escape a Trump-led coup, pity the poor people of Myanmar (I always preferred the name Burma) who have seen their elected government toppled and the military assume power. One fears for protestors there and anyone seeking to re-install a democracy. Military juntas are notoriously harsh on political dissent. Hopefully the United States and other democracies can effectively apply enough pressure to budge the bastards.

Maori MP ejected from NZ parliament for refusing to wear tie

Seriously New Zealand? You'd developed such a good international rep, especially with your cool Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. Now you're going to deny a place in your governing body to a member of your indigenous people over wearing a fucking tie? Do better.

Traveling during Covid: 'I was nervous using a fake Covid-19 test certificate'

Knowing how the world is it shouldn't come as a surprise that there those out their lacking morals who would sell or use fake certificates asserting that the bearer has safely passed a Covid test. Desperate times sometimes result in despicable acts. Shameful.

From CNN:

Meet the Minnesota mom fighting QAnon conspiracies one Instagram story at a time

Thank you, Sharon McMahon for fighting the good fight. Facts are a mighty defense against the attack of lies that come from the likes of QAnon. Though not always effective, it's important to try and there are successes. One of the saddest aspects of 2020 (and by God there was a lot to choose from) was the fact that so many Americans fell for such ridiculous conspiracy theories. Many of the participants in the attempted January 6 coup were QAnon believers. A heavy saturation of truth against these lies can only help.

After allowing parents to opt-out of the Black History Month curriculum, a Utah school is switching the decision

Question: How can you tell if you live around a lot of racists? Answer: They don't want Black History Month being taught in their schools. I've got to admit that I didn't see this one coming. But sure enough a school district in Utah had allowed parents to opt out of Black History Month curriculum. The good news here is that absurd decision was reversed. In the twenty years I taught middle school U.S. history I never had a particular curriculum set aside for Black History month, because the story of African Americans was such an integral part of my overall curriculum. I started from slavery through abolition, the underground railroad, the secession crisis, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Movement. How can you learn U.S. history without thoroughly investigating the story of African Americans? Oh right, if you're a bigot.

Florida's governor was spotted mask-less at the Super Bowl. His reason is, uh, not great.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is legitimately one of the biggest idiots on the current political scene. His disregard for the dangers of Covid-19 unquestionably led to thousands of deaths in his state. One could easily make a case that he should be prosecuted and see serious jail time. His excuse for being maskless at the Super Bowl?  "How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on? Come on." Fucking idiot.

From the Washington Post:

Trump’s lawyers say he was immediately ‘horrified’ by Capitol attack. Here’s what his allies and aides said really happened.

Spoiler alert: his allies and aides said that he rooted for the mob -- the goddamned liar.

Biden works hard to suggest he’s not paying attention to proceedings against Trump

As well he should. Let Congress handle that. Biden's got more than enough on his plate. To begin with his predecessor left him with an ungodly mess to clean up as Republican presidents are want to do. The president should stay above the fray and take care of business as he has been doing.

She used Gorilla Glue as hairspray. After 15 washes and a trip to the ER, it still won’t budge.

There's something called Gorilla Glue? Learn something everyday. A woman in Louisiana used it as hair spray and her hair has been stuck in place for a month. Pro tip: Maybe not use something with glue in its name on your hair. The good news is that a plastic surgeon believes he can fix the problem. Gorilla glue?

Bonus headline from Raw Story found just after posting:

'Everyone makes mistakes': GOP senator suggests Trump is 'entitled to a mulligan' after deadly insurrection

If successful, this defense could be used in all murder trials not to mention embezzlement, rape, arson, extortion, burglary, bank robbery, assault and jaywalking. The Senator who made this assertion is Mike Lee from Utah and he's got a head start on the dumbest quote of 2021 award. 

05 February 2021

Odds and Ends Such as Oh, God! A Long-Ago Date, Polo, Issues With Netflix, Signs You're Stupid, My Next Novel and Advice for Writers

Bob Denver and George Burns in Oh, God!

Last night I watched Oh, God (1977) C. Reiner, a film I’d not seen since it opened in theaters forty-three years ago. Oh, God! stars George Burns as God in something akin to typecasting, given how beloved the comedian was. His co-star was singer Bob Denver in his film debut. Denver read his lines and hit his marks and was not terrible. However Oh, God! would have greatly benefitted from a professional actor in the lead role, someone who would given the character more depth and played off Burns better. Oh, God! is a rare case of a film that I’d call, "cute." Fun to watch and instantly forgotten after. I certainly remembered nothing about it four decades plus after seeing it.

I do recall — if barely — the person I saw it with. Her name was Erin, she was from Baltimore and it was our first and only date. She was cute, with a nice body, short, dark hair, shy, unassuming and companionable. As I recall we had a perfectly nice evening. I’ve no memory why I didn’t pursue a relationship with her, though I seem to remember regretting at it at some point later. I also don’t even remember seeing her around anymore. She was — for what must have been a very short time — a receptionist at the newspaper I worked at. In any case I met the woman I’m currently married to almost exactly one year after my date with Erin. 

Last weekend I watched a film set in England during World War II. One of the main characters was a boy of about ten who wore his hair much longer than any lad did in those days. Several other male characters wore their hair too long for the 1940s as well. If you go to all the trouble of getting period appropriate costumes and sets, is it really any harder to give cast members an appropriate haircut? 

How often have you heard someone say: “I hate good-byes.” Fair enough. But who doesn’t? After all you never hear anyone say: “by golly I love good-byes.” Never. Saying "I hate good-byes" is akin to saying, "I hate getting sick." 

I was enjoying a film the other day when two characters parted with one saying, “meet for breakfast tomorrow?” The other agreed and they went on their way. Bugged the hell out me. When are they going to meet? Six? Eight? Nine-thirty? Would it really bring the movie to a screeching halt if the conversation had been: “meet me for breakfast tomorrow, say about eight?” 

Do people still play polo? I only ever see it in movies from the thirties and forties. I think it should be introduced to inner city schools as a way of keeping troubled youth off the streets. Get about twenty horses, the necessary equipment and a coach and let ‘em have it. I'm counting on you here, President Biden.

Netflix, we need to talk. First of all about this “continue watching thing” — take a hint. If I stopped watching something over two months ago it’s a pretty safe bet that I’m done. I watched the first few episodes of Space Force and by early August decided it wasn’t for me. Yet it remained under the continue to watch label for months after. Did you think I forgot that I’d started it? Do I seem senile to you? When it comes down to it I could do without the continue watching feature entirely. I know what I’ve been watching and I know what I want to continue to watch and what I don’t. Let it go.

This next one goes out to most streaming services: let me finish watching the closing credits without you butting in trying to get me to watch something else. For crying out loud I just completed a two hour movie and you expect me to — without missing a beat — start in on another one? At the very least a person needs to get up and stretch. Even on days when I watch more than one movie I take at least an hour break between them.

And what the hell is the difference between “trending now” “popular on Netflix” and “top ten in the U.S.A?” And am I really supposed to care about “what’s hot?” Because I don’t. I guess there are a lot of people who want to know what “everyone” else is watching so that they can securely feel like part of the masses. I don’t. I watch what I think I’ll enjoy and whether that’s “trending” “hot” or “popular in my area” is of no consequence to me. 

Signs you’re stupid

Ever wonder if you’re stupid? Ponder no more. If any of the following is true about you, then, my friend, you ain’t too bright:

You chew gum loudly

You wear a cowboy hat

You play loud music from your vehicle while driving through quiet neighborhoods

You wear flip flops on cold and/or rainy days

You say or write “anyways”

You watch NASCAR

You think diet sodas are good for you

You ask people, “working hard or hardly working?”

You vape

Okay so how about signs you’re smart? Seems only fair. Here you go.

Signs you’re smart

You read and enjoy this blog

We're approaching the eleven-month mark in the pandemic and I'm beginning to envy characters in movies and TV shows. Watch as they mingle, go to parties, eat in crowded restaurants, take in a ball game. Thanks goodness one can at least watch normal life on the screen. Being avoided and avoiding people while walking has gotten really old.

My second novel is now available on Kindle. When the paperback is issued I'll have an entire post about it. Should be soon.

Meanwhile I completed a first draft of my third novel and have put that aside as I work on my fourth. I'm anticipating interest from major publishing houses and from movie studios. Also anticipating Rihanna asking me out, so....

I close with some advice for writers:

Plan to write everyday. Setting goals is good, such as writing 1,000 words a day.

Read a lot and read a variety of kinds of writing including non-fiction poetry and journalism.

Don't go overboard reading about writing, you eventually reach a point of diminishing returns.

Be observant. Pay attention to your environment, people and how interactions unfold.

Watching good films and TV shows informs your writing as does appreciating other arts such as music and paintings. Find what inspires you.

Write what you know and what you don't know.

Write long first drafts, keep going until you run out of steam and later edit and reflect.

Know your grammar rules

Have fun.