29 December 2022

Don't Let Despair Win, Advice for the Depressed

I was thinking about giving unsolicited advice to my daughters, nephews and nieces if depression hits them in middle age as it did my me and (I think) my brother. After all, I’m experienced with suffering depression, anxiety and panic attacks and know a thing or two about recovering from addiction.

In trying to craft my suggestions I realized there’s still a lot I don’t know or am unsure of. There are also variables, no two people have exactly the same experience. But I did come up with some suggestions I’m sure of. Let’s start with those.

Don’t feel the slightest bit of shame. It’s no different than having a physical malady. Don’t compound your depression or anxiety by feeling you’ve done something wrong. It can and does happen to anyone. 

Share what’s going on with trusted friends and relatives. You don’t have to take out a full page ad in the New York Times but you also shouldn’t hide it from people who can be part of your support group. You should instinctively know who you can confide in. You may need those people at some point. Maybe they can meet you for lunch, or chat on the phone or respond to text when you’re feeling down. Maybe some of the people you confide in are fellow sufferers and you can support one another. Misery needs company.

See a medical professional. But here’s where it gets dicey. Should you follow all their dictates? Should you accept a referral to a psychiatrist? Should you seek alternative methods of treatment? And the big question: should you take meds? These are all tough calls that you may have to make at some point. And there are so many gray areas and so much depends on the level of pain you’re at and what other symptoms you have.

Medication is a last resort. Be aware of the following: it can do some people a world of good, it can be utterly useless, there may be side effects and side effects can be disqualifying. Learn as much as you can about the medication before agreeing to take it. The internet can be full of information, including a lot that’s helpful including other people's experiences. And remember, you can always stop taking the meds (but be sure to do it as told by your doctor, a lot of meds can’t just be stopped cold turkey.) I'm sorry I can't be more helpful here. I've had mostly bad experiences with meds but they've done some good too. You may decide that meds aren't for you, period. That's fine, it's your call. Never let anyone pressure to do anything.

I should here add that medications are more effective in combatting anxiety than depression with less risk of side effects. My anxiety is pretty limited these days and panic attacks are practically a memory (thankfully). Depression is still part of my life and I am medication-resistant (wish I'd been side effects resistant).

Psychiatrists and other counselors have done people a world of good. They have also wasted a lot of people’s time. Keep asking yourself if you’re getting insight and making progress with whoever you’re seeing. Do you look forward to your visits? Or are they a chore? Do they give you something to think about? Or are they so much mental masturbation? One thing to look for in a therapist is whether they appear to be guiding you and leading you to ask and answer questions or if they are either eternally silent or mouthing useless babble. It may take awhile to figure out if therapy is working. I was with one doctor for years before I figured out that he was literally doing me more harm than good. I was with another who was helpful for a year or two and then we started going nowhere so, wisely, I bailed on him. It's a crap shoot.

There are plenty of alternatives to traditional therapy and pills offered today. I notably attempted one last year (transcranial magnetic stimulation). It worked — for a few months. In the past I also tried hypnotherapy. It was an exciting adventure into the mind but didn’t do a wit to help with my panic attacks. Some people have luck with cognitive therapy. Others try group therapy. Micro dosing with psychedelics is helping people too. Look around. See if there’s anything that feels right for you. The reality is that you may try something that costs time and money (see therapists) that ultimately doesn't work. There are no sure things. (By the way, beware of anyone who tells you their method is "a sure thing.")

There are a plethora of things you can do for yourself on an immediate basis. Exercise is one of the best. This can be anything from a vigorous workout at the gym to walk around the neighborhood to a bike ride. Meditation helps. Avoiding excess use of alcohol or recreational drugs is a must. Distracting yourself with movies, comedy, sports and TV can be good. Perhaps better is more kinesthetic activities like gardening, pottery, carpentry projects and painting. Nothing beats hanging with friends and family. It’s also really good to look outside yourself and do for others such as through volunteer work. Indeed being part of something — as you are at work — can be really good for you. Whatever you do, try not to surrender to the depression or let anxiety overcome you. I know, easier said than done.

Most important, remember that you’re not alone. If you don’t have people around and no one to call, or text, develop cyber friendships or connections. You can find online forums either on a topic of interest or specifically for people dealing with mental health issues.

Depression can feel permanent and unmovable. You can feel trapped and alone, with no hope. But that’s not reality. The truth is that you’re lucky to be alive. You’ve got a lot to be thankful for. (Counting your blessing is a must in combatting depression.) You’ve got some great memories and you’ve got brightness and light in your future. You can get through anything. The weight will be lifted. Don’t let despair win. This is the only life you’ve got. Fight for it and fight for it to be as good as possible. Remember, you’re worth it.

21 December 2022

Christmas Films Have Been on my Menu of Late, With More to Come


The Happiest Season joins other Christmas classics.

Tis the season for holiday films. They are plentiful these days with Hallmark, Netflix and other stations and streaming services cranking them out by the dozen with increasing frequency. Most are sappy, facile and overly sentimental. If you want to watch a good Christmas-themed movie it’s better to stick with the classics as I’ve been doing this past week (with a notable exception). Here’s a brief look at what I’ve been watching and what’s still on tap.

Meet John Doe (1941) Capra, one of director Frank Capra’s trinity of great films (along with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life) though it barely qualifies as holiday fare. The final fifteen minutes take place on Christmas Eve. There’s passing reference to the birth of Jesus, but nary a word about Santa or gift-giving. Not a carol is heard. But I still wait until December before watching it. Doe is the story of a hobo (Gary Cooper) who is used by a columnist (Barbara Stanwyck) to act as a non-existent person who claims that he’ll jump off city hall on Christmas Eve to protest social injustice. As a result her paper's circulation goes through the roof. More that that an entire social movement about truly loving thy neighbor is inspired which an unscrupulous businessman (Edward Arnold) tries to exploit to begin a fascist regime with him as führer. For me it’s Cooper’s best role and another in a career of gems by Stanwyck. The supporting cast, led by James Gleason, is superb.

Happiest Season (2020) DuVall. What have we here? A recently made Christmas film that’s actually quite good? It is in many ways typical of the new formulaic Christmas film but unlike the others it has a smart screenplay, good direction and an excellent cast. It’s a good movie but for it’s genre it’s an absolute gem. Kristen Stewart (as Abby) and Mackenzie Davis (as Harper) play lesbian lovers who go to spend Christmas with Davis’ family. Ahh but Harper hasn’t come out to her folks yet and with her father (Vincent Garber) set to launch a mayoral campaign this is going to be awkward. Mary Holland (who also wrote the screenplay) as the wacky younger sister and Dan Levy as Abby’s best friend are scene stealers. The cast also includes Aubrey Plaza, Mary Steenburgen, Alison Brie and Ana Gasteyer. Despite a one-dimensional character, a plot contrivance and an over-the-top scene, Happiest Season is a success and belongs with the best of holiday fare.

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944) Sturges. It begins and ends on Christmas Eve but it also has barely anything to do with the holiday. Creek is part of the incredible run of films that Preston Sturges wrote and directed from 1940-1944. How he slipped it by the censors is still a mystery to many. The nebbish Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken) is madly in love with the young and vivcasiou Trudy Kockenlocker. One night she goes to a dance with soldiers who will the next day depart for the front. In the process she hits her head and thus doesn’t remember getting married or impregnated. Absent any clue who the new hubby is, Norval does the honorable thing, but complications aplenty ensue as does hilarity. Diana Lynn as Trudy’s wisecracking sister and William Demarest as her irascible father are both scene stealers.

Remember the Night (1940) Leisen is another vehicle for Stanwyck, this time co-starring  Fred MacMurray as John Sargent. The latter is a prosecuting attorney who’s bent on seeing Stanwyck’s character, Lee Leander, in the hoosegow for shoplifting. But a holiday recess is called and events lead to Sargent taking Leander home to Indiana for a cozy country Christmas with his mom, maiden aunt and a cousin. It’s all sweet, innocent fun with an inevitable love story in the middle. A real charmer.

The Bishop’s Wife (1947) Koster. By rights this movie is too religious for my tastes but it’s such a beguiling tale that I find it irresistible. How do you not like a picture in which Cary Grant plays an angel? Dudley (Grant) is an angel sent to help a bishop (David Niven) who is wrestling with materialism and the desire to have an ostentatious cathedral (is there any other kind?) built for his flock. Loretta Young is the titular wife and she’s as lovely as ever. Dudley — hardly a surprise — falls for her. But there are rules in heaven…. Monty Wooley as a sherry-loving professor adds to the film’s delights, as does our old friend James Gleason.

Tonight I’ll be watching A Christmas Carol (1951) Hurst. This is my favorite cinematic version of the story, in large part due to Alistar Sim’s performance as Ebenezeer Scrooge. He is the perfect miser and later the perfect repentant. It's an economic telling of the story but nothing crucial is omitted.

Tomorrow will be my almost annual (have missed it a few times) viewing of It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) Capra. I can practically recite the movie from memory. Suffice to say I recommend it highly to anyone who hasn’t yet seen it.

Friday I’ll be enjoying a double feature leading off with A Christmas Tale (2008) Desplechin which I haven’t seen since it’s initial theatrical run. I thus can’t say too much about it now other than I wrote about it at the time and am looking forward to revisiting it. In the evening I’ll be watching Christmas in Connecticut (1945) Godfrey for at least the 16th year in a row (it may be as many as twenty). I have yet to tire of it. The cast is lead by Stanwyck in yet another Christmas film. This may be one of her better roles (which is really saying something given her impressive filmography). She plays a writer for a magazine who extolls the country life and raising a family (despite living in the city and being single). Her boss (Sidney Greenstreet) insists she host a navy hero (Dennis Morgan) -- who survived weeks at sea after a submarine attack -- for Christmas at her country home. What a pickle! She navigates in and out of trouble as laughs and romance ensue.

Christmas Eve day I’ll finish my Yuletide film marathon with The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) Keighley. This used to be a Christmas staple for me but I finally grew weary of it. After a few years hiatus it’s back on the menu. Bette Davis co-stars along with Monty Wooley with appearances by Jimmy Durante and the deliciously lovely Ann Sheridan. It’s a familiar story to most having been done on the stage repeatedly for decades. It’s also jolly good fun.

16 December 2022

Headlines From the Past, a Look at Some of What Was in the News this Week, from the Thirties Through the Seventies

(Headlines were culled from the San Francisco Examiner courtesy of Newspapers. com

Thursday December 14, 1933

THOSE CONVICTED UNDER VOLSTEAD ACT MAY GO FREE Prohibition (aka the Volstead Act) had been repealed one week prior which made a large swath of the population very happy and led to the freeing of many who’d been thrown in the hoosegow for selling booze. Sanity at last.

GEORGE RAFT REGISTERS IRE AND PUNCHES SCREEN CHIEF The extremely mediocre actor George Raft objected to a line of dialogue in a picture refusing to say it. An associate producer named Benny Glazer told him, “you’ll say it and you’ll like it.” Sounds like some cheap patter from a bad gangster film. Raft played Mr. Tough Guy (a real life role he fancied for himself but never lived up to) and slugged the AP. They later kissed and made up. Among the witnesses were co-stars Carole Lombard and Wesley Ruggles.

EVERYTHING IN GREY SWEATERS FROM $1.95 to $8.50 This was an ad for Moore, evidently a men’s clothing store, with three locations, two in San Francisco and one in Oakland. According to the ad: "Naturally he prefers grey. It’s the season’s smartest…." For that $8.50 you could get “Sportsmen’s finest pure alpaca coat sweater.” Yowza!

December 15, 1938


This sounds like something out of my novel, Threat of Night. It was a warning that spies were setting up a “potential sabotage machine” designed to impact the Unites States’ industrial and military efficiency in time of war. It was isussed by the House Committee on un-American Activities, which made a bigger name for itself hunting for communists (and ruining lives) during the Red Scare. Nazi spies did indeed operate in various parts of the U.S. principally on the two coasts, and many were subsequently arrested.


The American League finally acceded to the coming trend of night baseball. The senior circuit (as the National League was often called) had started playing night games in 1935. The Cleveland Indians were granted permission to host the first night game. As anyone with the slightest interest in Major League Baseball will tell you, the vast majority of games are now played under the lights. It was only in 1971 that World Series games were first played under the stars.

December 16, 1941


Astute readers will note that this headline appeared nine days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and eight days after the U.S. declaration of war. The article stated that according to Navy Secretary Knox (first name not given, but I happen to know that it was Frank) the U.S. lost six warships of December 7th and that 2,897 sailors and soldiers were killed. But Knox further stated that the Japanese had “failed utterly” to total knock out U.S. “armed might” in the Pacific. In other words: it’s on now, baby!


Hitler and the Germans had already begun the long, slow process of losing the war. Just as the Japanese had failed to deliver a knockout blow, the Nazis had needed to win the war against the Soviet Union quickly. They came close. But as we’ve all learned close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Radio Highlights that Tuesday evening included "Fibber McGee and Molly", The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Sports with Ernie Smith, "Amos ’n Andy", "The Shadow,"" Battle of the Sexes" (a game show pitting male and female contests answering trivia questions), "Burns and Allen" (who later had a long, successful run on television) and music and and news galore.

December 14, 1944


It was announced that President Roosevelt would make his annual holiday chat on Christmas Eve at 2:15 Pacific War Time. It would be carried by all major networks. From whence the address would come was not revealed. The previous year he had spoken from his Hyde Park home. FDR would die four months later.

December 17, 1951


No Americans deaths were reported for a twenty-four period ending the previous day in the Korean War — that is, “police action.” It is notable, I suppose, that the absence of death was newsworthy. U.S. troops had been fighting and dying in Korea since the summer. The fighting would continue for another three years. However, the U.S. would return to battle in Asia a few years later for a much longer time in Vietnam.


So read the bold-faced caption under a photo of the great Swedish-born actress, Greta Garbo seen in sunglasses and holding her jacket collar over part of her face. The picture was taken in New York after a flight from Paris. Garbo reportedly told newsmen: “Please leave me alone, I’m not in pictures anymore.” The notorious recluse had retired from movies ten years prior and never again appeared on the silver screen.

December 16, 1958


According to this story “a $5,000 annual income once marked the successful man.” But “now it is the average family income in the United States." The census bureau had issued a report stating that two-fifths of the country’s families  had incomes between $5,000 and $10,000 a year.


It was one of the hottest times of the Cold War (or should that be coldest times of the Cold War?). Tensions between East and West Germany, particularly in Berlin, were running high. The possibility of war loomed and as another article in that day’s paper stated. “A Single Shot Could Start War.” It would be decades before tensions would ease with the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of East Germany in 1989.

December 15, 1967


The father of the two lads was a twenty-nine-year-old associate professor who was subsequently charged with possession of a hallucinatory drug. The lads were five and ten years old. Mom had mistaken the LSD for fluoride tablets which the boys regularly took by doctor’s prescription. Way to go mom. The boys had “no lasting effects” although that’s debatable. It must have freaked them the hell out. Unknowingly dropping acid can have serious, though not necessarily long-lasting effects on the victim. At one point during the trip one of the boys told his father that he couldn’t sleep because, “I see colored pictures” (I bet he did). Pop asked if they were good or bad pictures. “They’re good pictures,” the five-year-old replied. Dad concluded that he was having a good trip. Well, thank goodness for that.


(Talk about eye-catching headlines….) According to a University of Southern California psychologist if you want a hippie in the house, “keep telling your child there’s a Santa Claus.” He explained that the worst thing parents can do is delude their young ‘uns about a “jolly fat man with a bagful of gifts.” Not only is Santa “a fraud’ (!!!) But allowing youngsters to believe in him can “cause the kind of emotional conflicts that will make hippies out of them.” It’s better, he claims, to tell them the truth so that kids will learn to trust their parents. The psychologist’s name was Chaytor D. Mason and I can only conclude that he was one of the biggest idiots on the planet. I googled him and discovered that he trod this earth from 1922-1996. I also discovered that he was frequently quoted in newspaper articles, purportedly as an expert on various topics. Yeah, right.


“Waves of American planes hit Hanoi’s suburbs today with high-explosive, fragmentation and delayed action bombs.” In other words death and destruction rained from the skies via the United States air force. This was roughly in the middle of the U.S. war in Vietnam. The peace movement was well underway and opposition to the war was starting to build. Many in the U.S. would have been horrified by this and so many other stories like it, but others would have cheered the merciless killers on. 

December 18, 1972


And five years later.... President Nixon personally ordered the resumption of bombing two days after it was announced that peace talks were at an impasse. These bombing were far more unpopular than those previously mentioned. While Nixon enjoyed widespread support and had just been re-elected by a wide margin, the war and bombings like these had become much more controversial. If it was as if people were objecting to the wanton killing.


Safeway Stores Inc. faced a nationwide boycott inspired by the United Farmworkers. Safeway was guilty of selling non-Union picked lettuce and supporting legislation that would have stripped farmworkers of the right to strike. The odd nature of the boycott stemmed from the use of “human billboards” standing at freeway entrances with signs reading: farmworkers say thank you, NO on Safeway.”


That evenings television fare included Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, the wildly popular, oft hilarious (for its times) comedy show; a special called "Alcatraz, Island of Hate," the story of the notorious former federal prison; the world premier of a film called "The Snoop Sisters" starring Helen Hayes; and "The New Bill Cosby Show,' which that night had a Christmas theme. Cosby was already one of America’s most beloved entertainers as he would continue to be into the 21st century. Then there were revelations.

05 December 2022

When Berkeley was a Finntown, a Short and Personal History -- My Finnish Independence Day Celebration Keynote Speech

Yours truly yesterday

Yesterday the Berkeley Finnish Heritage Society held it's Annual Finnish Independence Day Celebration (Finnish Independence Days is actually tomorrow, December 6). Below you will find my keynote speech from that event. I'm happy to say it was well-received. 

Last Sunday we had a run-though here at the hall. As I was walking here I noted that I’d be arriving right on time or perhaps early, as Finns do. A joke occurred to me, four Finns agree to meet someplace at noon. The fourth of them arrives at exactly twelve o’clock. The other three ask him: why are you so late?

As it turned out when I got to the hall on Sunday I noted that it was exactly 1:00 and I had been the last to arrive. Life imitates art and jokes. 

And now for my prepared remarks: When Berkeley was a Finntown, a Short and Personal History.

Too much is liika, (liika is Finnish for too much) my maternal grandfather Emile Kurki often said in the unique mixture of English and Finnish that he and other transplanted Finns regularly employed.

Emile emigrated from Finland at the turn of the century eventually meeting and marrying Jenni Pulkkinen, another Finnish emigre. First they settled in San Francisco then in the early 1920s they moved to Berkeley which was developing a reputation as a Finntown not so much for their large number of Finns who lived here but for their visibility.

By 1920 648 of the 7,000 Finns in living in California resided in Berkeley, with many more in neighboring communities such as Albany and El Cerrito.

The first church offering Finnish language services in Berkeley had been built in 1901 on Channing and 10th streets and another was erected in 1912 at Alston and Bryon. There were Finnish services every Sunday in Berkeley at least through the 1960s and to this day there’s still one on the first Sunday of every month.

The Finnish Brotherhood was established in 1911. Four years later it merged with the sisterhood thus forming the Finnish Brotherhood and Sisterhood Lodge 21. As a mutual benefit society, the Lodge provided sickness and burial benefits for its members, while also honoring and celebrating Finnish social and cultural life. In short it was a haven for Finnish emigres. There were stage plays, concerts, dances, an orchestra, choruses, and films and — significantly — celebrations of everything from Finnish Independence to Vapppu to Juhannus. Visiting Finns of any notoriety were feted here. This Finn Hall was built in 1932 with Emile Kurki among those who volunteered labor. With it Berkeley became even more of a hub for Finns from all over the Bay Area. The Bay Area was one of several spots in the United States that Finns emigrated to along with New York, parts of Michigan, Minnesota, Massachusetts and Seattle. Finns were among the immigrant groups who most prospered in the U.S. proving to be hard workers who, while maintaining their cultural identities, assimilated easily and happily. While some Finns faced relatively mild cases of discrimination, the Bay Area was already a place that was accepting of “others.”

In Berkeley in particular, Finns were active in local politics, usually supporting left-leaning candidates and the Hall hosted many political meetings. Of course there was a rival red Finn hall on tenth street which still stands today. It was not spoken of in my family and I imagine that for many other area Finns the red hall was a taboo subject, particularly during the height of the Cold War.

In 1938 Finns became an integral part of the Consumers Cooperative Grocery store, or Co-ops. Which had several stores in the area, eventually three in Berkeley. We were members and I remember it as something of the scandal that my Aunt Millie shopped at Safeway instead, all other Finns — it seemed — bought their groceries at one of the Co-ops.

As one researcher put it, the period between the early 1930s and late 1950s was the golden age of Berkeley’s Finntown, although it seems to me it remained strong through the 1960s only beginning to fade in the seventies as Finns stopped emigrating to the area and those who had been here in the early days started to die out or join the white flight to the suburbs.

One long time member was my father, Aimo Hourula, who was born in Nivala in 1916, after fighting in the Winter War he took to the seas in hopes of seeing the world. That he did, but he also saw German planes strafe two of the ships he was on and a Japanese sub that sunk his Liberty ship in the Arabian Sea. He eventually settled in New York where he met my mother, Kerttu Kurki, a UC Berkeley graduate who was getting her Master’s at Columbia.

They moved back to Bay Area in 1946 and like virtually all Finns in the area became active members of the Finnish Brotherhood. My brother Robert, or Roope, was born in 1947 and I came along seven years later. I remember coming here frequently as a child for a variety of events, my favorite being the annual visit by Joulu Pukki (Santa Claus) in early December for a pre-Christmas gift. My parents often attended the New Year’s Eve party at the hall and we made many a ski trip to the Finnish lodge.

My grandparents lived on Sacramento street between Cedar and Rose as they had since moving to Berkeley. Around the corner was an older gent called Maki Kalle, not far away was another Kalle known as iso Kalle. (Iso is Finnish for tall.) There were so many Kalles they needed nicknames. There were Finns all over Berkeley and they all knew each other. Those weekends in which there were no events at the hall were often taken up by ski trips, barbecues, picnics, fishing expeditions and parties. 

Meanwhile my father’s move to the US inspired his younger brother Unto to follow him along with his cousins Laura and Reijo. Other Finns like my Aunt Elsa’s sister Sylvie followed. My dad often credited himself — quite accurately as a matter of fact — with causing a mini-migration from Finland to the Bay Area.

Every month we’d get the Brotherhood newsletter which was filled with member’s birthdays, announcements of coming nuptials, memorial services, who was sick and various activities and functions involving local Finns, not to mention Brotherhood-sponsored events.

It was a fine thing to grow up Finnish-American in Berkeley during the fifties and sixties. As a child I enjoyed the benefits of living a middle class life in the US at a time when unions were strong and a carpenter like my father could easily support a family of four, own a home, two cars and have enough left over to invest. But I had the added benefit of being part of the Finnish-American community knowing and spending time with many fellow second generation Finns and others like my Dad and grandparents who hailed from the old country. I grew up hearing Finnish, English and the merging of the two Finglish which gave the world such word as traffiky, for traffic and rosseri for groceries.

Those Berkeleyites who weren’t fortunate enough to be Finns themselves, knew a Finn. We were everywhere though especially in the construction business, like my grandfather, dad and uncle. If you went by a construction site anytime through the sixties chances were there was a Finn working there if not a whole crew of them. Finns were also ubiquitous at the Berkeley wharf, often taking off for or returning from a fishing trip. 

Your presence here today shows that the legacy of Berkeley’s Finntown lives on. We owe a great debt to those early Finnish pioneers. It is up to us to honor them for as much as we are celebrating Finnish Independence, the mere fact of our gathering here today is a testimony to the indomitable spirit of those early immigrants who made Berkeley a Finntown. They gave each other support and succor, maintained their culture and left a legacy — including this very hall — we can all be proud of. 

As my father would have said, again mixing languages. Niin se on, thats the way it is.

Kiitos kaikille ja hyvä Suomi! (Thank you to everyone and good Finland!)

01 December 2022

The Blogger Checks In Discussing a Variety of Topics

The birthday boy

It’s time to catch up with the blogger.

The keyboard on my laptop is filthy, as if it has been dragged through muddy gravel. The screen is not exactly shiny either. Everything works though I’ll probably get a new computer after the holidays. This one is five and half years old. Maybe I should clean it in the meanwhile.

Do you understand bitcoin or crypto currency? I don’t either. Then again I have trouble understanding the stock market. One thing I know about "the market" is that’s no way to measure a country’s economic health. It only tells you how the well-to-do are doing. They’re generally fine and the real concern is how the have-nots are faring. Anyway I was talking about crypto currency, I wish it would go away.

Sight & Sound’s greatest films list will be announced later today. It only comes out every ten years which makes it kind of a big deal, The people who vote on it (critics and directors) are people who tend to know a good motion picture from a bad one. Put it this way, it’s more meaningful than the People’s Choice Awards. In 2012 Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) topped the list (as opposed to anyone else’s Vertigo). It’s a film I greatly admire but dropped out of my top 100 after my last viewing. It's not even my favorite film of 1958, Elevator to the Gallows is. Coincidentally, I watched it yesterday. Louis Malle's directorial debut. Amazing picture. If you’re interested (and why wouldn’t you be?) this part of the sentence links to my top 100 films of all time. As you’ll note, it’s followed by a long list of other films I love.

Today is Woody Allen’s 87th birthday. He recently completed his 50th film as a director. It’s a shame the way that the Farrow’s have besmirched his name. Here’s a quote from a tweet by Bob Weide: “The Farrow Industrial Complex® wants you to believe he did terrible things 30 years ago, but it’s provably untrue.” I’ve written about this before and have linked this sentence to my most comprehensive piece on his innocence. I’ll be watching one of Woody’s films later today in recognition of his birthday.

As I write these words (and the ones immediately preceding it and likely the ones to soon follow) it’s raining here in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is joyous news as we are in the midst of a historic drought. People will complain about the precipitation because, well they can be idiots at times (myself included). I’ve written about my love of rain and hatred of droughts here before so if you’re a regular reader of this blog (like Nanchez Kittyhawk of Frankenmuth, Michigan) you’re familiar with my diatribes on the subject.

I also note by a glance at the calendar that this is the first day of December, my favorite month. My love of Christmas is also a well-worn topic on the this blog (maybe I should start covering some new ground). I imagine I’ll be discussing the Yule season in the coming days.

The World Cup is in full swing and for the first time since I was child I’m ignoring it as best I can. I have a great love of proper football and seeing it played at the highest level. But this world cup is an embarrassment to the sport. Qatar should never have been awarded the tournament (it took bribes to accomplish) because of it’s abominable human rights record, low lighted by the abuse of migrant workers and abhorrent policies towards LBGTQ people. Never mind that Qatar is not a known footballing nation and an infrastructure had to be built from scratch (at the cost of some lives) to host the cup. What a joke. I wait anxiously for the return of the Premier League on Boxing Day. (For more on the corruption within FIFA see FIFA Uncovered, a four-part documentary, on Netflix.)

Meanwhile work continues apace on novel number three. This week marks two years that I’ve been working on it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I hope to have the manuscript ready before our April trip to Europe. I’m quite excited about the book and hope it will eventually reach a wide audience. 

Okay, time to put this up for your reading pleasure. Thanks as always for reading this far (someone did, I assume). More anon.