31 August 2021

Enjoying an Apple, Enjoying Life

I took a break from writing and stood outside in the sun eating an apple. It felt good to be alive and able to enjoy moderate weather. The sun was out but there was a cool breeze. The apple was delicious and though they might not keep the doctor away if consumed on a daily basis, they are damn good for you in numerous ways. They are nutritious, good for weight loss, good for you heart, linked to lower risk of diabetes, promote good gut bacteria, good for your bones and brain and may help prevent cancer. They also taste good and make my mouth feel clean after eating one.

So the apple.

We are desperate here for rain but I had to take in a little sun as a bit of it is also good for you, especially on those days when you’re mainly ensconced in a room writing, researching and wracking your brain.

The depression so evident that past few days is currently in abeyance. I don’t pretend that it can’t come back tomorrow, or tonight or in an hour. It’s like that. But I had my “treatment” this morning (mentioned in my last post) so there may yet come a day when I declare that depression is — at least for the most part — no longer a regular visitor.

I’m also enjoying a notable absence of anxiety and that’s an especially hopeful sign as I do enjoy my independence and hate the idea of being confined to quarters. 

While enjoying my apple and the sun I also appreciated the fact that I am enjoying robust physical health — as has been the case for most of my life. A daily apple is only one example of the healthy diet I endeavor to maintain (with occasional lapses for ice cream or potato chips). The wife (how dearly I love her) makes healthy meals too (I wash the dishes). Of course I work out every other day. I focus on exercises that strengthen my core. 

While roaming about outside, meandering up the block, across the street, back in front of the abode, down the block, into the street, I also noted that I had a variety of topics with which to occupy my brain. Sports is always a topic I can explore in my mental meanderings. I fear that it has taken up a disproportionate share of my active thinking time over the course of my lifetime, but I’ve enjoyed so much of it that it’s hard to complain. There is much excitement for me these days as the start of college football is days away and I’ll be in the University of California’s Memorial Stadium Saturday evening to watch my beloved Golden Bears in action. The loss of last season to the virus was a brutal blow, so it will be that much sweeter to attend games this season. Go Bears!

When I finished my apple and had deposited the core into the compost bin, I returned to our humble abode to resume my duties as a glorified scrivener. I’m a busy lad these days, a novel in the works and a new blog that I have only just premiered. It concerns itself with the aforementioned Golden Bears featuring history, trivia and fun facts. A labor of love.

I’m used to being chained to a desk —if only figuratively — for long stretches of time. It’s not so bad when you can punctuate the writing process by chatting with the wife, doing the Times crossword puzzle, checking Twitter (then quickly getting the hell off) and going outside for an apple.

It’s okay right now. I’m going to enjoy feeling okay. It’s a nice reward for hanging in there.

30 August 2021

Stuck With the Pain, a Short Bit on Mental Struggles

Hopeless, helpless, couldn’t go. Stuck inside. Yesterday panic and anxiety kept me housebound. Supposed to attend a grandnephew’s birthday party. Lot of family there. Lot of fun there. Had been looking forward. But here I was at my desk. The wife was very understanding, went without me. Functioning in the outside world has become difficult for me these past few weeks.

Friday got stuck walking home. Couldn’t go further. Was less than five minutes from the house. Had to take an uber.

Awful feeling.

It’s no life.

Feeling utterly defeated.

Meanwhile I’ve started daily (Monday through Friday) therapy. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap…. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). Six to nine weeks of daily tapping on my brain. At a particular spot. Eighty per cent success rate. (Hope like hell I’m not among the twenty.) It’s for people who, like me, are medication resistant.

Strange first day last week when I was fitted for my "hat" that was marked up to find the correct spot on my brain to target. Comfortable chair. Nice doctor and "technician" attending to me. Much machinery and a computer linked to to the tapping, probing of my brain. A whole new experience. I wear the cap and the obligatory mask and the tapping begins. Every second a metal tap against one spot in my head. At first it seems incredibly annoying and utterly intolerable for more than a minute but one quickly gets used to the rhythm of it and is able to block it out. Half hour of tapping and you're done for the day. Ready to take on whatever life has to offer which for me hasn't been great these past few weeks.

For example there is depression, that voice in your head that tells you awful things. You’re a failure. You’ve nothing to be proud of. It’s all been a mistake. You did it all wrong. A life wasted. No redemption in the future, either. More pain to come. No point in going on. 

Depression tells you that misery is your natural state of being. Live with it. Wallow in it. Accept it. There are no alternatives. Never will be. Trying to contradict it is of little use. Depression has a persuasive voice.

But that's not all. There is also anxiety and it's great natural extension, panic.

Panic, that voice that surges through your body telling you that you’ve gone insane. Not safe in the world. No escape, your anxiety has taken over and rendered you immobile and useless. Staring complete madness in the face. Wanting to be tranquilized like a rampaging elephant.

Panic, anxiety and depression can come in one package. A deadly cocktail that makes life seem unlivable. Such cruelty. Cling to keys, to beads, squeeze the stress ball, hold on to one spot that for some reason feels safe. Terrified to move. That's right, terrified. 

All this despite a loving family, security and good physical health. Can't imagine without it.

Outside events don’t help. The unavoidable news adds to the awful cocktail. Idiots who won’t — for the greater good — wear masks or get vaccinated. How to process such stupidity among so many? Thus restrictions still apply as the virus lingers dangerously. Climate change, the Earth heating up, no rain in our area, drought, fires, consequent bad air quality. So many stupid voices on the right lying outright, ignoring science, empirical facts, denying the hand in front of their face, spreading hate and intolerance. Even one of my sports teams won’t help, playing abysmally. Where is the succor? Where is the relief? It seems impossibly distant and the depression says that it will never arrive. Never, never never.

But somehow one gets up, showers, eats breakfast and starts to write. Not with any joy or enthusiasm, mind you, but at least the effort is being made. Soon to my tap, tap, tap appointment. Probably four more weeks — at least — before it begins to make a difference.

Might as well be four hundred years.

But I'm here.

23 August 2021

A Trip to a Soccer Match Chases Away the Blues

Was depressed yesterday and thought that perhaps going to a Cal Women’s Soccer match might help. The way I was feeling it couldn’t hurt. I needed to get out of the house, walk and spend some time in the great outdoors.

There were a surprising number of people in attendance, I’d guess several thousand. Many of them were Cal students only just arrived in town as classes start this week. Many of those Cal students seemed to be freshmen and probably the majority of those lived in a dorm. Thus many were of short acquaintance. College freshmen travel in small packs, especially the females. They cling to each other — figuratively — because they are otherwise alone in a foreign setting taking on a new challenge. For the most part they’ve spent their lives in the security of a family. There is both excitement and fear in the college freshmen experience. For me it was all excitement as I was getting away from my mentally ill mother.

A lot of the attendees were girls making the transition to womanhood both in age and experience. I found most of them incredibly cute in the way eighteen-year-old females are, without sexualizing them (I am after all many decades their senior and not a creep).

It called to mind my freshman year in college and how delighted I was to be surrounded by so many girls who were unencumbered by parents and their rules. Heady times indeed.

Some of the students there were not freshmen and many were re-uniting with old friends after a summer break. Actually it was longer than that for most the virus having made a shambles of in-person education last year.

As is no doubt already evident I was doing a lot of people watching. Then again a lot of people there — maybe most — were not focusing their attention on the action on the field. Chatting was the order of the day.

There were also a fair amount of parents with small children. A free college soccer game is a good place to take a child whose lack of attention for the game is not going to make one regret plunking down money for a ticket.

It was a good match and a surprising one as the plucky Bears held Santa Clara, the number two ranked team in the nation, to a one-all draw.

It also made me miss my coaching days. Coaching the school soccer team at the middle school where I taught was one of the few unqualified successes of my life. I like to think that parenting and being an uncle are two others. 

By the time I walked home, the depression had faded. It works that way sometime. Occasionally you can chase the blues away by managing to do something. Thank goodness for that.

18 August 2021

Observations on Westerns

Red River

I’ve been watching a lot of Westerns recently and a few things have come to my attention.

In the old west there were only two beverages that anyone ever consumed: whiskey and coffee. On the trail, cowboys, gunslingers and lawmen were forever pouring what must have been really bad coffee. There was no French Roast or lattes on the open range. Nor certainly any half and half or oat milk to splash into the cup. They would drink the coffee anytime of day including just before bed which leads one to believe there wasn’t a lot of caffeine in it (were they all serving decaf?). Tea was never offered as an alternative. Because it’s the movies, recipients received barely a third of a cup (it’s the same on TV).

Once in town heroes and villains alike drank whiskey. Indeed they never seemed to have to specify what they wanted suggesting that whiskey was the only beverage on offer. No martinis, no gin and tonics no tequila sunrises and no frickin’ ice in drinks, no water or soda to cut it either and no beer back. Straight whiskey and you often got a whole bottle. Some people drank copious amounts without slurring words, wobbling or otherwise indicating that they’d gotten so much as a buzz. Yet there was often a town drunk around either for comic purposes or to provide a pitiable figure. Sometimes the drunk was an otherwise respectable figure, like Thomas Mitchell in Stagecoach (1939) Ford. Fun but flawed.

Another thing one notices in westerns is the reliance on horses. This was true in most of the U.S. until a decade or two into the 20th century. Horses were ubiquitous and absolutely necessary to anyone who wanted even the slightest bit of independence in their comings and going. Of course in films real horses are used and one gets a sense of the tremendous burden placed on these animals. Those horses got a helluva work out. Only in some movies do characters acknowledge that horses need food, water and rest.

Another feature of the Western is the bad guy. My goodness they could be really damned bad. Some of the cruelest, most sadistic villains on screen are in Westerns. Cutthroats, cheaters, rapists, sadists, cold-blooded killers. Surely such unpleasant characters roamed the west but one assumes they were not nearly so ubiquitous. An occasional flaw in Westerns is how one-dimensional villains are. They’re rotten through and through and that’s about all there is to them. 

Native Americans are of course standard fare in westerns. This is often sad, reflecting as it does the racism that permeated not only those times depicted but the racism extant when the film was made. Mostly Indians are portrayed as murderous savages — “hostiles” — who for unfathomable reasons seem to want to kill every white person they see. They are also shown to be extremely stupid in battle, exposing themselves to gunfire as they wildly charge their well-armed and often fortified defenders. (In realty, most native warriors were adept fighters who did not stupidly march straight into gunfire). 

Some Westerns have sympathetic Indians, although a few are sell-outs betraying another tribe to serve their own purposes. But other films have the proverbial cowboys and Indians getting along companionably or at least forming alliance against more warlike tribes such as the Apaches or Comanches.

Little Big Man (1970 Penn and Dances With Wolves (1990) Costner were two films that flipped the script and made whites the bad guys and the Natives heroes. It was long, long overdue and arguably a case of too little too late.

The manner in which Native Americans are depicted in films can be a deal breaker for people considering watching a Western and I can understand that. As a life-long student of U.S. history I have the advantage of knowing a fuller truth about the treatment of Native tribes (it was just this side of genocide) and armed with the truth can appreciate films for what they are. I was always hesitant about showing my children Westerns and when I did made sure they understood the reality of the situation. 

One thing I like about Westerns is they generally extoll the common man (and the more independent sorts among them) while vilifying the rich and powerful. See again John Ford’s Stagecoach — perhaps the quintessential Western — in which the real bad guy is the wealthy banker who absconds with the payroll. My oh, oh my you should hear this self righteous, bloviating, pompous swindler go on. He complains about taxes. He complains about government regulations. He insists on this and demands that. He looks down on drunks, whores, Indians and Mexicans and anyone else not up to his lofty standards. All the while there's a bag full of ill-gotten loot sitting on his lap.

He gets his comeuppance as the moneyed class often does in Westerns.

Westerns also recognize that some lawmen are corrupt, cruel or incompetent. (In other words no one is spared in Westerns). Usually they get their just desserts from the hero of the story.

Women are treated surprisingly well in Westerns. While men, of course, do the overwhelming majority of the fighting, dying, killing and are the bosses, there are many an independent woman in such films unhesitant about holding a rifle and even pointing it in the right direction. In Red River (1948) Hawks Joanne Dru stands up to two stubborn men and makes the two chuckleheads see reason. Simply put she doesn’t put up with any bullshit.

Westerns also feature an inordinate share of brawls with participants exchanging punch after punch, breaking chairs over one another and tossing opponents through windows. After the dust has cleared the fighters seem little worse for the wear, usually a small stream of blood pouring out of the side of a mouth and a torn shirt. If you bother to think about it, it’s damn silly. Brawls and fistfight, primarily because of their lack of realism, are usually my least favorite part of the story.

So why do I love a good Western? The simple answer is that I like any movie, regardless of genre, that is well-made. Westerns often are gorgeous to look at. The wide open spaces, the canyons, mountains, forests, deserts make for compelling backdrops and can even be part of the story itself. Westerns also can be good at exploring the human psyche. While it is true that villains can be one-dimensional characters, many Western protagonists are complex characters whose motives are conflicted. See for example Jimmy Stewart in the Naked Spur (1953) Mann and John Wayne in The Searchers (1956) Ford. In Budd Boetticher’s string of Westerns Randolph Scott stars and his outwardly simple leading man often betrays a more nuanced character. Red River is rich in interesting characters, beyond the already-mentioned leads (Wayne and Montgomery Clift). 

Westerns also evoke a romantic time in American history when the frontier was not yet closed. Possibilities seemed endless for the enterprising pioneer whether an individualist or part of a collective. But danger lurked. There were the ever-present criminal element, natural hazards, and in the parlance of the time — the untamed savages.

Many characters in Westerns have big dreams. They're going to settle down, get married. Maybe start ranching or farming. They want to get away from their past and live in some place new. In The Gunfighter (1950) King, Gregory Peck's Jimmy Ringo wants to settle in California or the Pacific Northwest or hell, even Mexico, just so long as he can get away from lawmen and young gunslingers who want to test his reputation. Like so many Western characters he longs for a fresh start. Of course such characters face obstacles. Fate will intercede. 

A good Western has engaging characters placed in difficult situations, that’s a simple recipe for a good story and one you’ve got settings like Monument  Valley in the background you’re all set.

16 August 2021

The Very Best of Trivia Fun

It is with great pleasure that I present the best of Trivia Fun. As long-time readers of this blog (Alphonse "Curly" 
Butterbutt of Olympia, Washington) are well aware, Trivia Fun has become a beloved feature of this blog. While every item presented is a treasure onto itself, I have painstakingly gone over all previous posts and selected a best of. All trivia fun facts have been independently verified by one of the following: NASA, the Smithsonian Institute, the Brookings Institute, the CIA, The French Embassy or The Hortense Culpepper Institute for Factual Trivia. Please enjoy.

The Department of Transportation has an entire division devoted to the pogo stick. 

It is little remembered that Monday Night Football replaced Monday Night Seance.

Snow White was originally conceived as a police procedural.

Due to a clerical error in 1889 a few lepers were accidentally sent to a leopard colony.

While he was on trial, Charles Manson guest hosted The Tonight Show for a week.

Oddly, Wilt Chamberlain was terrible at dunking donuts.

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

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

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

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

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.

Jeffrey Dahmer took dietary supplements.

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

The musical “Hello Dolly” was originally to be about a small ornamental paper with a lace pattern and was to be called “Hello Doily.”

Before peanuts and cracker jacks were sold at ballparks, most vendors hawked beets or crayfish.

Babe Ruth once hit a pop up so high that by the time it came down it was caught for the first out of the next day’s game.

In Europe, the poet Ezra Pound was known as Ezra Kilogram.

A great believer in reincarnation, Kaiser Wilhelm insisted that someday he'd come back as a K-pop star.

While Francophobia is the fear and contempt of the French, Frankophobia is the fear and contempt of people named Frank.

Abraham Lincoln’s brother Gordon opened the first Dim Sum restaurant west of the Alleghenys.

According to a NASA study, 98% of the time a person types LOL, they have not literally laughed out loud.

For his historic trans-Atlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh wanted a flight attendant.

The Renaissance was delayed due to a teamster’s strike.

Biblical scholars believe that John the Baptist was actually an Episcopalian.

In Canada Cinco De Mayo is celebrated in October.

In the original script for 2001: A Space Odyssey, instead of a monolith there was a barber’s pole.

Just to be contrary, the rock group the Rolling Stones, will, while on tour, gather moss.

Samuel Beckett wrote a never performed sequel to “Waiting for Godot” entitled, “Godot Finally Arrives, Was Stuck in Traffic.”

Scientists and theologians agree that the Hokey Pokey has little or nothing to do with “what it’s all about.”

In the first draft of Moby Dick, instead of a whale, Captain Ahab was pursuing an annoying seagull.

12 August 2021

Nora and Her Mom

After her father died in the car accident, Nora spent most nights in her room listening to Joni Mitchell records. It was a sad, solitary life and she felt the weight of the tragedy pushing her down.

Perhaps  it wouldn’t have been so bad if her big brother Chuck hadn’t  shipped out to Vietnam. He’d always been able to cheer her up or provide a shoulder to cry on. It was just her and Mom now and Mom had been drinking steadily since the second her father's memorial service ended.

Nora was sixteen and wondered if she would spend the rest of her life in misery. School was a drag. Her grades were fine but none of her classes interested her. Nora had a few friends but they had all begun to seem superficial. None of the boys in school who she liked paid her any attention. 

So Nora would come home, finish her homework, stare at the stupid TV for a little while then climb the stairs to her room. God the climb was suddenly seeming interminable. She tried listening to other albums like the Beach Boys, The Beatles,  and the Mamas and the Pappas but only Joni Mitchell clicked for her. Nora was beginning to wear out Song to a Seagull and Clouds the only two albums Mitchell had released.

Mom cooked half-ass dinners like Mac and cheese with broccoli or broiled chicken and rice. Nothing fancy like she did when Dad was alive and Chuck was at home. Mom would call her down to dinner at around 6:30. She’d sit across from Nora smoking Tareytons and sipping her fucking vodka tonics, occasionally asking how her day was and how she was doing in school.

Nora gave the shortest responses possible, barely looking up from her dinner.  She’d excuse herself and give her mom a perfunctory thank you then head back upstairs to continue listening to Joni until it was time to go to bed. Some nights she’d think about Gary Lawless a running back on the football team. Nora would stare at his picture from the previous year’s yearbook. The one where he was shirtless at the Fall beach trip. Nora would fantasize about Gary seducing her right there on the beach and making love to her. At least it gave her a couple minutes of pleasure.

Occasionally Nora thought about her father. He was nothing special as far as dads go, he sometimes drank a lot and had a temper, but he was mostly a fun father who loved his children.

Nora remembered the last words Nora ever heard him say: “goddamn hippies.” She’d closed her bedroom door after dad said that — he was talking to mom at the time although Nora was not sure about what. A few minutes later her Dad  went to meet his friend, Tuck Grandberry, on business. It was on the drive home that he skidded into a semi and died. The ironic thing was that her father wasn’t even drunk— it was bald tires on a slick road the caused him to skid. All the times he’d driven drunk and yet he only had a buzz when he finally got into a fatal accident.

But Nora was through crying about it. She’d cried like crazy for several days right after. It was right before Chuck shipped out so he came home for the funeral and he wept like a baby too. Mom had sobbed right up until the burial. Then she sat stoically through that and the service. Since then she’d been drinking steadily. Mom had hardly ever drank before. Sometimes wine with dinner. But now it was vodka tonics morning, noon and night. But she kept it together until she’d served Nora dinner and cleaned the kitchen. After that she gulped ‘em down. Usually passed out in front of the TV.

Nora thought about calling Aunt Shirley, Mom’s older sister. Aunt Shirley had made Nora promise that she would call her if there were any kind of problems. No matter what, she’d said. Anytime, she’d said. Aunt Shirley was such a together lady. A legal secretary at the biggest law firm in town. Smart as a goddamned whip. Tall, beautiful, killer legs and always wearing the latest fashion. An articulate, funny person. She was divorced but still able to work full-time and raise her three kids and date every handsome, eligible bachelor in town. Aunt Shirley was forty-three but didn’t look a day over thirty-three. God, Nora thought, what a contrast to my Mom.

Oh sure, Mom had been a wonderful mother before dad died. She’s always been so positive and upbeat and encouraging. It was like she reveled in motherhood and that nothing delighted her more than seeing her children do well. Mom had been a terrific cook, took care of household chores without complaint and was happy to drive her and Chuck wherever they needed to go. It also seemed like she was a good wife too. Mom and Dad had squabbled a bit — usually over his drinking — but they were affectionate and clearly had fun together. She’d fallen apart when Dad died is all. Completely. Now she was a pitiful drunk who could do no more than the minimum for Nora or herself. It seemed likely that she’d get worse.

So definitely she should call Aunt Shirley. But first Nora needed to get up the nerve. It was a difficult thing to call up someone — even a beloved aunt — and essentially tell on your own mother. But definitely it was the right thing to do.


“Hi Aunt Shirley!”

“Nora, sweetie, how are you?”

“I’m okay, I guess. How ‘bout you.”

“Oh I’m fine, Busy as always. You holding up all right? And your mom?"

“You have a minute to talk? Cause that’s kind of what I want to talk to you about.”

“Sure, sweetie. You actually caught me at a good time.”

“I don’t know how to say this….”

“Best thing always is to come right out with it.”

“It’s Mom.” Having managed to indicate who the problem was Nora stopped, not sure that she could continue.

“Go on.” Aunt Shirley’s prompting helped.

“I hate to tattle on my own mother but…”

Shirley was intrigued and alarmed.

“She’s, she’s been drinking an awful lot.”

“How much?”

“Like everyday almost all day. She still makes meals and keeps the house fairly clean but I’m afraid of it getting worse. I mean, she passes out every night in front of the TV.” Nora began to sob. “I’m sorry to cry like this.”

“Don’t you dare apologize, you’ve got every right to cry. You’ve only recently lost your father and now in a different way you’re losing your mother. I blame myself, I’ve put work ahead of looking after my sister and niece. What was I thinking?”

“Oh no, Aunt Shirley, you mustn’t blame yourself.”

“Well I do. I get so caught up in my own life that sometimes I forget about others. And at a time like this. I’ve talked to your mother a few times on the phone and of course she acts like everything is fine and, well, I guess I was too oblivious to notice if she was slurring her words.

“Look, I tell you what I’m going to do, I’m going to get a sitter for a few hours and pop by tonight. I’ll do it on the pretext of bringing over cookies. I just baked a couple of batches anyway."

“You’ll come by tonight?” Nora at last felt reason to feel hopeful.

“In a few hours.”

“You won't tell Mom that I talked to you, will you?”

“Of course not sweetie. Geez, I’m so sorry you’re having to go through this. You must feel so alone.”

“Kind of, yeah.”

“Well damn, I’m really sorry. I’ll see if we can get your mother straightened out and I’ll be more attentive to you two in the future.”

“But Aunt Shirley, it’s Saturday, don’t you have a date?”

“No, the fella I’m seeing is out of town — say what would it matter anyway? I’d break a date with Paul Newman for you and your Mom.”

“You’re the best Aunt Shirley.”

“Look, I’ll be by in a couple of hours.”

Aunt Shirley was better than her word and arrived ninety minutes later.

“Yoo hoo, Nora, your aunt is here,” Nora’s mom called from downstairs.

Good, thought, Nora, the slur in Mom’s voice is obvious. Evidence for Aunt Shirley.

When Nora got downstairs, her Mom was offering Shirley a drink.

“No thanks, Charlotte, I brought cookies so I thought we could have hot cocoa like when we were kids.”

“As long as I can spike my cocoa with brandy,” Nora’s mom smirked.

“It sounds like you’ve already had plenty of booze for the day.”

“Say who are you to come to my house and tell me how much to drink?”

“Better question: who are you to be getting drunk. You’ve got a daughter to raise and she needs a sober mother.”

“So I got a little tipsy one time!”

Shirley wanted to say that it isn’t just today, that she knew she was drinking daily. But that would be a violation of her promise to Nora. But brave Nora saved the day.

“Mom, you’ve been drinking too much everyday and it’s really upsetting.”

“I lost my husband! What do you expect?”

Shirley responded. “I expect you to mourn and grieve but not to have a full on collapse. You’ve got responsibilities, mostly to yourself.”

“Look who’s talking, my slutty big sister!”

“Mom! What an awful thing to say. Aunt Shirley is trying to help.” With that Nora collapsed on the sofa and began to sob uncontrollably.

It was Shirley who sat next to her and comforted her.

Nora’s mom walked over to the bottle on the dining room to freshen her drink. But as she picked up the bottle her hand froze. She stood stock still listening to her daughter cry and her sister offer comfort. She poured the drink. She held it to her mouth. She put it down. Picked it up again. Then she walked to the kitchen sink and poured the drink down the drain. She went back and got the bottle and poured it down the drain. She walked over to the sofa.

“Shirley, I’ll take over with Nora, why don’t you make the cocoa?”

09 August 2021

My Top 25 Films From My Favorite Decade of Films -- The Seventies

  1. Manhattan (1979) Allen
  2. Stalker (1979) Tarkovsky
  3. The Godfather (1972) Coppola
  4. Taxi Driver (1976) Scorsese
  5. Chinatown (1974) Polanski
  6. Amarcord (1973) Fellini
  7. Tess (1979) Polanski
  8. A Clockwork Orange (1971) Kubrick
  9. Cabaret (1972) Fosse
  10. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (1970) Petri
  11. The Godfather Part 2 (1974) Coppola
  12. The Emigrants (1971) Troell/The New Land (1972) Troell
  13. Apocalypse Now (1979) Coppola
  14. Annie Hall (1977) Allen
  15. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) Herzog
  16. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) Cassavetes
  17. Network (1976) Lumet
  18. Barry Lyndon (1975) Kubrick
  19. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Lumet
  20. The Last Picture Show (1971) Bogdonavich
  21. The Last Detail (1973) Ashby
  22. The Exorcist (1973) Friedkin
  23. The Man Who Would Be King (1975) Huston
  24. Mirror (1975) Tarkovsky
  25. California Split (1974) Altman

Honorable Mention: The Deer Hunter (1978) Cimino, McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) Altman, Animal House (1978) Landis, The Conversation (1974) Coppola, Three Days of the Condor (1975) Pollack, The Parallax View (1974) Pakula, Cries and Whispers (1972) Bergman, Jaws (1975) Spielberg, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) Fassbinder, The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) Fassbinder, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) Fassbinder, Shampoo (1975) Ashby, Being There (1979) Ashby, The Landlord (1970) Ashby, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) Spielberg, The Conformist (1970) Bertolucci, Wanda (1970 Loden, Serpico (1973) Lumet, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) Yates, Breaking Away (1979 Yates, Days of Heaven (1978) Malick, Love and Death (1975) Allen, Face to Face (1976) Bergman, Scenes From a Marriage (1974) Bergman, Interiors (1978) Allen, Bananas (1971) Allen, Badlands (1973) Malick, MASH (1970) Altman, Murmur of the Heart (1971) Malle, Lacombe Lucien (1974) Malle, The Story of Adele H (1975) Truffaut, Soldier of Orange (1975) Verhoeven, That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) Bunuel, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) Bunuel, The French Connection (1971) Friedkin, Lenny (1974) Fosse, The Front (1976) Ritt, Play it Again Sam (1972) Ross, What’s Up Doc? (1972) Bogdanovich, Paper Moon (1973) Bogdanovich, Marathon Man (1976) Schelisnger,  Five Easy Pieces (1970 Rafelson A Special Day (1977) Escola.

06 August 2021

Random Thoughts From The Blogger -- Fun and Interesting

Josephine Baker

Jimmy Stewart was too old to play the leads in at least three of his films: Vertigo, Bell, Book and Candle and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Anyone know why occasionally crows will meet en masse in one area and squawk up a storm? It’s like they’re having a convention.

Thank you iPhones for telling me a call is a Spam Risk. That always warrants an immediate decline and saves me from wondering if there’s really someone in Poughkeepsie who needs to talk to me.

Before I leave the topic, allow me to say this: people who make spam calls should fuck all the way off.

I eat a banana everyday and use a second on days I make smoothies. My complaint is that bananas turn brown and soft much too soon. You can’t stock up on them. Can somebody get to work on that?

Buying and mailing thank you cards for a simple birthday or Christmas gift is a colossal waste of paper. Shouldn’t a verbal thank you suffice? Of if necessary, an emailed thanks. What the hell are you supposed to do with the card? Put it on your mantle and admire it for weeks? No, you recycle that sucker.

For most of my life I thought of conservatives as being wrong about most everything. Now I see them — and this based entirely on their actions and words — as being stupid as hell and in many cases downright evil. They are also lying liars who lie a lot. Who do we trace this back to? Reagan? Nixon? Goldwater? They were three especially bad apples. Now the whole orchard is a mess. Oh, I forgot to mention that your average conservative today is also a racist.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first season of Kevin Can F**k Himself, starring Annie Murphy. Not like any TV show I’ve seen before. Actually it’s like a couple of different kinds of show I’ve seen, mashed together. 

In newspaper columns of yore this kind of thing I’m writing here was often referred to as, Thoughts While Shaving, which always suggested to me that some columnists spent way too much time shaving.

Isn’t fresh fruit great? Special shout out to peaches.

What olympics?

I miss people being called “a jive turkey.”

From the legendary Ruth Buzzi: I’ve done a few things I’m not too proud of. For instance, I sold my homing pigeon on eBay 211 times.

This is America today: Sixtenn cases of alleged voter fraud out of 160 million votes in 2020: let's pass 400 new voter suppression laws. 614,000 deaths from COVID: who needs vaccines?

Would it be appropriate to set up a go fund me page so that I could go to Italy and eat some really good pasta? I mean, I REALLY want to.

It’s a shame so few people today know about Josephine Baker. She should be remembered not only as an entertainer, but as a humanitarian. Great woman.

I have a great idea for a film that anyone is welcome to steal. The story of the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the furor it caused. It was one of the controversies that led to the Civil War. A good screenwriter and director could make a helluva film about it. 

Does anyone not like ducks? What’s not to like? I saw someone with a trained pet duck. Pretty cool.

I have a package on the way. It was originally scheduled to arrive today. I've been tracking it. Wednesday it arrived here in Berkeley yet the estimated arrival date was pushed back to Saturday. ???? Thursday it went to Emeryville. ???? Today it's back in Berkeley and still slated to arrive tomorrow. Crazy.

I had a psychiatrist who told me that he had a patient who confessed to murdering her husband. Due to patient-client confidentiality rules he couldn't pass along this tidbit to the coppers. She is a free woman today. Odd to be the doctor and possess that knowledge.

Are you a cinephile? (I am.) If so you owe to yourself to subscribe to the Criterion Channel. Such a selection of great films to watch. You'll create a list and never be able to catch up because they'll be new releases the next month and your list will grow. But what fun. Check it out. 

I guess now there's going to be a clamor for more of these "random thoughts" posts. I'll do my best. Thanks for reading.