Sunday, January 31, 2016

More is Less

Imagine living your entire life in a monastery on a mountain top in Tibet. You have a bed, a small table and some sort of stove for cooking. You eat, sleep, dream, exercise, have aches and pains and wonder about the nature of existence, but you have no idea what Bloomingdale's is. That must be nice.

I try to approximate that life on the days when my husband is away, which are numerous, and when I don't have any appointments with anyone, which are also numerous. If I don't turn on the TV or look at my computer and if nobody ever calls, I can come close. But still, I remember Bloomingdale's, back when it was a big deal. Their flagship store on Lexington Avenue seemed like heaven to me during my New York City college days. Riding up there on the subway from my studio apartment in Soho -- in those days it was called Little Italy -- was a special occasion. So many pretty things to desire and someday attain!

Now I have more clothes than I need or even wear, and far too many dishes, especially considering we never have anyone for dinner, and way too many pairs of shoes. Besides all the sandals and loafers and high heels and clogs I have seven pairs of boots, despite having only two feet. I have earrings out the yin-yang, but I wear the same pair every day and have for the last four years. I have ten fingers but twice that number of gold and silver rings. If I walked around and put price tags on everything in my house, it could be another Bloomingdale's. 

At this point in my life I need nothing, except of course the direct experience of knowing I have everything I need. I wonder where they sell that.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Phoney Baloney Barbie

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, today's average American woman weighs 166.2 pounds, which is almost exactly what the average American man weighed in the early 1960s. So Mattel, Inc., maker of the famous Barbie doll, has decided to be politically correct in these days of political correctness. To that end, they have released three new Barbies that more closely represent what real women look like. They describe these dolls as Tall, Petite and Curvy. The "curvy" one is supposed to make fat girls feel better about themselves, despite the fact that they did not name it Fatty. 

Below is a photo of the new dolls showing how much more realistic they are.  In case you can't tell, there are two "curvy" models pictured: the one in the black dress and the other in the yellow skirt. Below that is another photo showing actual "curvy" women.  Mattel should get real: if you're gonna do something, don't pretend, just do it!

The New Barbies



Here are some real life "curvy" women.





Film Review: TRUMBO

The fiasco currently underway aimed at electing our next president is enough to make any American blush. The debates, the silly candidates, the lack of substance: it's downright embarrassing. Another particularly blush-inducing era is the subject of Trumbo, which tells the shameful story of the witch hunt that overtook Hollywood in the 1950s when many members of the Communist Party were blacklisted by the movie industry. Dalton Trumbo, the leading screenwriter of the day, was one of those. This film recounts the slow but steady destruction of his life and the lives of his friends and colleagues, all for what turned out to be pretty much no reason. They committed no crime other than having thoughts that ran counter to "the American ideal." Sound familiar?

Helen Mirren spewing hatred at Bryan Cranston.
Bryan Cranston plays the title character, and he does so with gusto, causing a lump in the throat and a well of tears ready to spill over, at least among people given to that sort of thing, like me. We feel his pain as he faces the Feds at one of those congressional hearings, interspersed with authentic footage from the time. Sentenced to eleven months in a federal penitentiary for his independent thinking, he leaves behind his loving wife, played blandly by Diane Lane, and his three young children to fend for themselves.

Other big names lending their talents are Louis CK as a fellow writer targeted by The House Committee on Un-American Activities (a.k.a. Big Brother), riotous John Goodman as a B-movie producer who hires Trumbo after he leaves prison, and Helen Mirren as the heinous bitch-on-wheels gossip columnist leading the witch hunt on the home front. (It is a testament to her talent that I hated her so much, as she is my favorite actress and usually inspires love and admiration. In her role here as Hedda Hopper I wanted to see her mauled by a pack of pit bulls, at the very least.)

Big names aside, the real star of the movie is Fear. Back then it was the Red Scare, today it's The Muslims. Trumbo is a timely reminder of how Groupthink destroys individual lives and entire societies. Despite some dull stretches in a seriously drab script, the film is an intense and worthy effort, valuable above all else as an instruction manual on how a free society must not behave.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cluck, Cluck

Often when I go out to dinner in a busy restaurant I am struck by how much the cacophony of all the other patrons sounds like hundreds of chickens clucking. What could everyone possibly be saying to one another while their food is getting cold? I wonder that too when I see people walking out in public with cell phones held to their ears.  Sometimes I hear a snatch of their conversations as I pass by, and it's often something like, "Where should we eat?" or "Okay, I'll call you later," promising even more talk about nothing very important.

Cartoon by Doug Savage

Which is funny, because the older I get, the less I have to say. Out loud, that is. So I am tempted to sign up for a week-long silent retreat to be held at a Buddhist conference center in the Maryland woods in a few months. You arrive and check in -- I guess talking is allowed for that part -- and then just don't talk for the next seven days. There are meals taken in a big dining hall but eaten in silence and daily classes where I assume the teacher speaks, but I am just assuming. Maybe the teacher just sits up on the podium and thinks deep thoughts and you get them because your senses are so refined at that point, from all the not talking.

Anyway, this silent retreat business has always had an appeal for me. (My husband often suggests we take a cruise somewhere, but the thought of all the constant clucking turns me off to the idea. If I could find a silent cruise through the Greek Islands, I'd definitely go.) But the price tag for the Maryland woods, room-with-a-stranger-and-shared-bath experience is nearly $2,000, and I started thinking of all the other things I could do with that money and just be silent all by myself, so I decided against it. In fact, if anyone wants to come and stay at my house for a week and not say anything and pay me, just let me know.  




Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tough Love

You never know where your next life lesson awaits. For me, today, it was at the dental office where I went to have the stitches removed after a tooth extraction last week. The hygienist who did the deed was quite nice and very helpful, open to all my questions concerning how to treat the now gaping hole in my gum until it gets filled with whatever I decide to fill it with three months from now.

Afraid I might do some lasting damage if I go at it with a toothbrush, yet worried that steering clear of it altogether would be even worse for the health of the tissue, I sought her advice. Her answer was stunningly simple: Brush the entire area and don't worry if it hurts or even bleeds a little. "Remember," she explained, "there's a difference between hurting and harming. Don't worry if it hurts a little; be assured, you won't be harming anything."

I suddenly realized that bit of advice for post-surgical care is applicable to a host of human interactions. And so easy to remember.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Questions to Ponder

If ignorance is bliss, why aren't there more happy people?

What does anyone see to admire in Hillary Clinton?


Why do gays even want to get married?

How does having fake bigger boobs make a woman feel better about herself?

How are the Oscars racist when the president of the Academy is 
black and comedian Chris Rock was hired to host the Awards ceremony?


Why did Ben & Jerry decide that eating what Bernie Sanders desires 
would be appealing? (Their new flavor: Bernie's Yearnings)

 
Why don't they sell Girl Scout cookies all year and make more money?

If everyone grows from the union of an egg and a sperm, 
how could anyone not agree that abortion is murder? 


Why is binge-drinking, binge-spending and binge-eating bad, 
but binge-watching TV shows is considered cool and trendy?

Monday, January 25, 2016

My Podcast and Me

I am given to tremendous fluctuations in my blood pressure; it's just one of the things in my particular sack of rocks. These episodes descend upon me with no warning or discernible trigger. They just happen, like an avalanche or tornado or volcanic eruption. The difference is you can at least try to run from those disastrous natural events and seek shelter, whereas these blood pressure attacks occur inside the human body and so you're stuck in the middle of them. To call them "alarming" is to call Donald Trump "undiplomatic."

This morning I had one out of the blue, with numbers reaching 206/140. Accompanied by headache, dizziness, heart palpitations and intense fear and loathing, they are completely debilitating in the short term; an hour later my reading was 130/70. During these awful times, only three things help: drinking water, swallowing more of my BP meds and listening to any podcast by Tara Brach, Ph.D. A psychologist, author and teacher of meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening, she spouts wisdom to soothe the savage beast, at least it works on the one lurking inside me.

It is obvious that when it comes to living life we all are doing it wrong, or else why would things be in such a mess? If you are trying to find a little peace and quiet in the midst of the hurricane of horror pounding down on every one of us constantly, I suggest giving Tara a whirl. (www.tarabrach.com)

Bad Dogs

Two young boys, one seven and the other eight, were attacked by a pit bull yesterday in North Carolina. One survived; the other was already dead when help arrived. This is not unusual; just a few weeks ago a 9-year-old boy was attacked and killed by his sister's three dogs, all pit bulls.

Pit bulls kill people, plain and simple. That's what they do, and that's why they are used as protection by many unsavory characters in our nation's worst crime ghettos. And yet the myth persists that the breed is no different than any other, and that they are sweet and loving, and that it's all got to do with how they are raised. But consider this: Since 1833, when record-keeping of this occurrence began, 481 people have been killed by pit bulls. The breed should be exterminated.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Survival for Dummies

Because at the first sign of stupidity in another person I turn tail and run, I am fortunate to have only smart friends. (One time I ignored that rule and started a business with a complete moron and her equally moronic husband, but I ended the relationship after going to their home and seeing their plastic slipcovers on the furniture.) So I have never met anyone who would suffer the same fate as the dummies I saw on TV this morning. I had turned it on to track the huge snowstorm that is deliciously not coming our way. In fact, here in Maine it's quite a decent day with nary a snowflake in sight or a breeze worth mentioning. And while a tad overcast, tomorrow promises  to be full of "abundant sunshine." (I love that word, implying not just a bit of sunshine but abundant, enough for leftovers even.)

Anyway, having lived in Washington and New York for thirty years, naturally I am interested in what's going on down there and how my friends are faring. So I tuned into the Weather Channel and saw reports of people being stuck in their cars overnight for twelve hours on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and for twenty hours somewhere in Kentucky. They were interviewed on the phone, their voices panicked as they described their plight: YOUNG CHILDREN WITH THEM and NO FOOD OR WATER IN THE CAR!

The approach of Winter Storm Jonas has dominated the national news for the last three days. You'd have to have been in a coma to not know it was coming. Yet there are people, many many of them, out on the road, with no supplies, with their kids, in the storm, driving somewhere. Were they all driving to get brain transplants? Because if they were, they are excused.


Friday, January 22, 2016

Mind, Body, Spirit, Teeth


My favorite author these days is Eknath Easwaran, a spiritual teacher who wrote many books on meditation and how to lead a fulfilling life, and a translator and interpreter of Indian literature. He died in 1999 but his words live on and are even more meaningful in today's morally bankrupt society. But still, were Eknath around I'd have a few questions for him.

For example, last night, freaking out over the fact that I was having a tooth pulled first thing this morning, I scanned  one of his books hoping to calm my jittery nerves and get some sleep. I greedily found a passage claiming "We are not our individual body and we are not our individual mind. We are all part of everything we call the Universe." He explained that the body is just a casing for the spirit, and the mind is simply the engine room housing the controls  running our machinery. But through meditation you can take charge and be your larger self, transcending both the body and the mind. Never again will your body drag you down. At the same time, you can control your thoughts and stop having your thoughts run the show. Sounded good to me.

Except this morning at the dentist's office, I was directed to place my body (which I supposedly am not) into the dental chair. And meanwhile my mind (which I also am not) was freaking out as the dentist shot tons of needles into the gums that I am not, and then yanked out the tooth that I am not. Then all day the mouth of the body I am not was in pain and swallowed many different kinds of pills to calm the anxiety of the mind that I am not. During all of this, the spirit, which I supposedly am, stayed home in bed and was no help at all.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Do Something Else

So much time is wasted doing things that give us nothing and learning things we never need to know.  For example, I remember having to study calculus in high school and then in college, and now I don't have the slightest idea what it is or how it's used. Ditto algebra. What is a parabola and where might you find one? Sadly I have no idea, yet I do know what a Brazilian Butt Lift is.



It's just 7:32 in the morning of a new day. It could be my last for all I know. I used to say "I could get run over by a  bus," but where I live there are no buses. I could get hit by a car I suppose, although that seems less catastrophic and far less likely to result in death than getting run over by a bus. But the point is, this could be my last day. Yours too. We both better get off this computer and do something more meaningful, or at least more nurturing. I'm starting with breakfast. What about you?


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Film Review: THE BIG SHORT

Steve Carell yelling into his cell phone.
Talk about your visual stream of consciousness: The Big Short is a mass of confusion from beginning to end. It's about the buildup of the housing bubble that burst back in 2007, I think, and brought down Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers and some other big banks, perhaps. Honestly, I'm not sure. And I went with a really smart person and she wasn't sure either. This is one movie where you need Cliff Notes to follow the action. (Not that there is any action.)

I tried to pay attention, but it was just like back in high school when my history teacher was explaining the "three-pronged attack" of General Burgoyne in some war or other: I kept nodding off. Each time I opened my eyes there were still the same old talking heads going on and on about money and banking and mortgages, but it was so boring I'd close them again so I totally missed what the heck a "short" even is.

To spice things up, they stuck in lots of unrelated images that flash on the screen like subliminal advertising that have nothing to do with anything in the plot. Many of these are of nude women, naked breasts and bare bottoms, as well as random shots of police and traffic and crowds and apparently anything lying on the cutting room floor from movies made during that time period. (I'm guessing the director and the film editor got their hands on some killer weed.)

Peppered throughout are impressive performances by Steve Carell yelling into his cell phone and Christian Bale staring at his computer. Brad Pitt is in the film too, sort of, but he was obviously too exhausted from all those kids he has at home to do anything or learn any lines so they gave him a role where he could just hang around looking disgruntled and still get his name in the credits. Marisa Tomei appears for a dull few minutes looking old, which is sad because she used to be so young.

Not that I was expecting more, but The Big Short was a Big Disappointment.

Palin Endorses Trump



Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Jew in the White House


This year's Oscar nominees are all white folk and Hollywood is atwitter about the horror and the shame. Celebs of all colors are vowing to boycott the Academy Awards ceremony, except Chris Rock who is slated to host the show. Uh-oh; maybe he'll do it in whiteface. Anyway, it's all just too too.

But really, who cares? It's the movies, people, not real life. If you want to talk about something shameful going on in real life, why do we never hear about the fact that Bernie Sanders is a Jew, and it's time for a Jewish president? All we hear is that it's time for a female president, and the time for a black president has already come and gone. Now a decent Jewish candidate is running and actually picking up steam, but all we read is that he's a Socialist.

Go figure.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sack of Rocks

I often wish I could give up the starring role in my life and instead just have a small part in a crowd scene, maybe even one without any lines. Being the center of my own attention is exhausting. And the worst part is that the performance is ongoing; there are no days off or nights when the theater is dark. It's work, work, work until the show closes.

A few nights ago I watched a rewarding documentary on Netflix about the former Broadway actress Elaine Stritch, who died last July at the age of 89. The film centers on her life just two years earlier when, at 87, she was still a pistol with legs to die for, pitching her salty personality and a lifetime of show tunes to sell-out crowds around the country. The film is called Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, and if you can find it somewhere, see it. It is both a total hoot and a lesson in how to drain every last drop of flavor from life.

The film is full of important truths, but one which struck me hard and has stayed with me was when Elaine, battling diabetes and losing, recounted her father's favorite expression: "Everybody's got a sack of rocks. That was
such a great way of putting it.... everbody's got a sack of rocks."

It's a hard thing to remember, but if you can, it helps in almost every situation that might otherwise dissemble into negativity, anger or frustration. It's sort of like realizing, when you're stuck in traffic, that you are also "the traffic," it's not just the other people in those other cars. Everyone's trying to get somewhere, just like you. And they all have a sack of rocks in the back seat.




Saturday, January 16, 2016

Pleading the Fifth


My husband often quotes an ex-boss of his from years ago, at least I think that's who it was, who kept a note pinned to her bulletin board that read, "Never explain, never complain." I'm not sure why she had that, and since Mitch is still sleeping I can't ask, but it seems like a great plan for life.

Imagine how simple things could be if that were your guiding philosophy. No more excuses, real or fictional, about why you won't be attending or how that vase got broken or how come you never called back like you promised. Just go about your business and that's that. Sounds heavenly. As for the complaining part -- stop it. When things don't go your way, just move on. Few people care anyway, except maybe your mommy and by now she's likely dead or suffering from dementia.

Still, I have to say one last time before I start this new approach that when I order soup in a restaurant, and this also applies to chili, having specifically asked for it to be hot (in temperature, not in spiciness) and it arrives and is lukewarm at best, that sucks.  I hate that. People I'm with always ask why it's such a big deal to me, but now I won't have to go into that.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Let's Face Facts

1. Our Political System is Rotten at Its Core
The only reason Donald Trump is "ahead in the polls" is because the pollsters want him to be: It's big business, big ratings and big news. Additionally, Trump actually says what he personally thinks, not what some group of highly-paid speechwriters, image consultants and political strategists instruct him to say to get elected. And for that particular quirk of his, people really do like him.

2. Facebook Serves No Purpose
It's not food, shelter or clothing. It doesn't give you a salary. It doesn't make your life better, and in fact the argument can be made that it makes your life worse. It has certainly taken all meaning out of the word "friend." Young people today have no concept of friendship because they have grown up with this silly, fake replacement for face-to-face communication. It will only get worse.

3. Hollywood Movies Are Robbing Us Blind
Another example of something that gives you nothing, watching a movie is simply watching a fake life play out onscreen. If yours were more interesting, you wouldn't be there. Everyone makes money off of you not having anything better to do, to make, to think, to read and to reflect upon. Documentaries and independent films are exempt from that statement, since they often actually teach and enlighten, yet they reach far fewer people and rarely show up in those giant multiplex theaters where most people get their fix of fantasy, sugar and lard-laden popcorn.

 4. Americans Are Unenlightened
How many people do you know who meditate daily? As many as watch the antics of the morally bankrupt Kardashian family on TV? Have you ever attended a silent retreat? Do you read books about spirituality? Do you think going to church every Sunday and sitting there half-asleep while some empty robe spews out s sermon that will be forgotten once you leave there will get you into Heaven? Have you ever really thought about death in general, and your own death specifically?

5. The Average Person is Below Average
Smokers, alcoholics, drug addicts, compulsive eaters, workaholics: these are our fellow countrymen and women. Instead of playing the hand they were dealt they go off in search of a new one with surgeries of all kinds: hair transplants, cheek implants, chin implants, liposuction, nose jobs, genital jobs and boob jobs. And then some former Olympian role model turned pathetic, grasping fool like Bruce Jenner turns himself into a 65-year-old bimbo and gets a "courage award" from a major, formerly respected sports organization.

6. Seriously, It's All Gonna End
"So people get ready there's a train comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord
"

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Losing the Lottery


I did not win the recent Powerball jackpot. Partly this is because I did not buy a ticket, and as we all know, you gotta play to win. But one two-dollar ticket would not have done it this time; turns out the winner spent $30,000 on 15,000 tickets! Already a millionaire, the 27-year-old California hedge fund manager is now far richer than he already was.

For reasons I can't explain, this pisses me off. It seems like the winner should have been someone struggling to pay their bills, or maybe someone with seven kids, three of whom are chronically ill.

Once again I am reminded of the searing and unforgettable portrayal of life's inequities as described by Shirley Jackson in her short story, "The Lottery." First published in The New Yorker in 1948, it never ages. If you've never read it, do so immediately. If you already have, read it again. It will make you feel a lot better about losing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ted Cruz for Prime Minister of Cuba!


Ted Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother and a Cuban father. 

The U.S. Constitution states specifically that "No person except a natural born Citizen ... shall be eligible to the Office of President." 

From a pool of 318.9 million, can't we find a president who was born here?

Not that Cruz will get the nomination, but still -- let's get these rules straightened out.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Go Ahead: Ruin My Day


I heard from Anonymous again today.  
Naturally I deleted the insulting comment.

The world is full of hate. It's everywhere. I try to keep it out but it seeps in. One way is through the comments I receive on this blog, which is innocuous to say the least, and extremely innocuous to say the most. 

What baffles me is why someone would continue to read something they don't enjoy. It's completely optional, yet there they are, not just on my blog but on countless websites, spewing hate.

I imagine them at home, reading and writing. They sit on an overstuffed, sagging sofa, one with bits of grated cheese and potato chips smashed between the cushions, having fallen there during food orgies. 

They are fat, and maybe even smell bad. 

They have no power other than what they wield online. 

It's sad, but they still get me angry and even a little depressed. 
I can only pray they are not my husband's cousins.

Weird Shit

So many people call themselves artists these days that it's often hard to know what the word means anymore. I'm guessing that anything one dreams up in their own head and makes real is considered to be "art."  The first things that pop into mind are the paintings, drawings and sculptures filling the halls of museums around the world. This group includes the famous Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, not to be confused with Leonardo DiCaprio who is damn good too. But it also includes music, poetry, novels, acrylic nails, baked goods, furniture, jewelry, interior decorating, architecture, acting, lighting, sound, shoes, clothing, cars, film, and landscaping. The list goes on, potentially endless.

Being an artist myself, I have a deep well of empathy and sympathy for others of my ilk. I am willing to extend the definition to include almost anything created in earnest out of whole cloth. But even I have my limits. Last weekend, on a cold rainy day, I sought shelter from the storm inside a huge antiques mall with a visiting friend who loves that sort of thing. We went to the cavernous Fort Andross Mill in Brunswick, Maine; it's got it all.

Included in "all" were two items I saw that come under their own category I named "Weird Shit." Shown below, I wonder about the artists who brought these items forth from inside their heads, out into the world, and now inside my head. I am hoping they are in some kind of facility, being well cared for.

Plastic & Chicken Wire "Hand Chair"
Lamp Base with Four Authentic, Now-Dead Deer Legs

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie Died, And So Will You

The young David Bowie was dying even then.

"For the last 18 months (we learn only today) David Bowie has known that he was dying. He kept that information private, while spending his final months doing what he'd done his whole life — making outrageously original, beautiful, complicated art." So said a post on Facebook earlier today as the sad news of Bowie's death rocketed around social media.

Several things struck me about Eat, Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the post. First, her unbelievable arrogance in saying that "we learn only today," as if it were Bowie's responsibility to tell the world he had been diagnosed with cancer a year and a half earlier. Second, her inherent stupidity, revealed by saying that the 69-year-old singer "knew he was dying," implying that the rest of us don't have the very same information about ourselves.

Wake up people: we are all dying, every day, every second. Just because some doctor gives you an end date doesn't mean that he's right, or even that you will live that long. The only sane thing to do is to keep on doing what you do and try not to dwell on the fact that you too are dying, and so is everyone you know.  Or else, embrace it and make every day count. 

Still, we will all miss Bowie's contributions to the world of art and music. Only God knows who's next.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Big Ego, Little Information

Amy and some of her body language.
I just came across an ad for a book called Presence, written by "the high-priestess of self-confidence for the self-doubting," at least according to the jacket copy. It goes on to say the book is a "must-read for everyone." Really? Everyone? Is there not one person anywhere who cannot stand on their own two feet without being propped up by the musings of this young woman named Amy Cuddy in order to thrive? I opted to get some some further info by reading some of her fabulous, must-read book on Amazon, a website that graciously gives you a sneak peek of ten to twenty pages for free.

Seems that this Amy thinks you should "put your best foot forward," especially if you are going for a job interview. She also advises "not to be nervous," and to "pay attention to your surroundings." And that "your body language shapes who you are." (That surprised me, as I always thought it was the other way around.)

I stopped reading there, sensing that whatever else she had to tell me I already knew. The same is likely true of you. The difference between us is that Amy actually enjoys getting up in front of an audience and giving TED talks. And then she diligently sits down at a desk and writes out all this fluff, I mean stuff. Then she finds a publisher, gets her hair done, has her picture taken, and suddenly there's a book!

I've also just written a book myself, but it's not one that tells you how to live; that's your business, and besides, it can't be taught. Those self-help authors certainly have huge egos.

Friday, January 8, 2016

A Year of Living Ignorantly


Growing up as I did in New York, I've always been plugged-in. (It just happens there.) Still, I'd always heard that old saw claiming ignorance is bliss, and wondered how I might get dumb enough to experience bliss, which, defined as "perfect happines, great joy," sounds lovely.

Earlier this week I had a major health episode that felt like a heart attack but wasn't. It turned out to be a surge in my blood pressure to new heights, which then triggered a panic attack. It sucked. The whole thing was brought on by reading two articles in the newspaper that seriously bummed me out and ultimately caused anxiety. Before I read those articles I felt fine. Later, still looking for a New Year's resolution, reflecting on the dire experience made me reevaluate how I spend my time.

Knowing what's going on in the world outside of our small town in Maine serves no purpose. The global news is dismal, abysmal and glum, and since there are no cocktail parties here, or at least none that I plan to attend, I don't need to have facts at my fingertips to impress people. (In fact, nobody cares what I know.) Thus, in the interest of  improved health in 2016 I have decided to stop ingesting news, be it through the written word or over the airwaves. Instead I will keep painting my paintings, writing my stories and focusing on the lives of people I actually know and affect.


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Bang Bang Boo Hoo

Yesterday got away from me, so when I opened this morning's paper I was surprised by the huge picture of Our Fearless Leader with tears streaming down his face. I wondered what could have caused such a phony outpouring of photo-op emotion? Turns out it was brought on by thoughts of the massacre at Sandy Hook, Connecticut back in 2012, when a 20-year-old disturbed man killed twenty elementary school children with weapons that his mother, a gun collector, had purchased legally.

Maybe Obama was crying because he realized that criminals are the ones doing the crimes, and criminals break laws, so whatever new laws he creates concerning gun control will do nothing to stop such heinous events. Or maybe he was crying because he learned that since Chicago passed a law allowing private citizens to carry guns, the crime rate has dropped in that city. As Illinois State Rifle Association's executive director, Richard Pearson, explained, “It isn’t any coincidence crime rates started to go down when concealed carry was permitted. Just the idea that the criminals don’t know who’s armed and who isn’t has a deterrence effect.”


Or maybe it was just that fact that he's only got one year left to fly around the world in Air Force One and have big parties at the White House and hobnob with celebrities that's got him down.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Sung and Unsung Heroes

Steve Jobs, the former billionaire CEO of Apple, producer of this very laptop on which I write these words, died in 2011. As the news spread throughout the world, people who had never even met the man but simply had added to his considerable fortune mourned the loss, weeping openly at flower-laden memorials that sprang up outside of Apple storefronts everywhere. I can't remember doing  anything special to mark his passing, since he was nothing special to me. Yet to so many, he was a virtual God.

I learned about him watching "Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine," a movie about his life that aired on CNN last night. As a film it was boring and uninformative, skimming the surface but never diving deep enough to explain what was so great about the man. But I learned what made him not so great, like turning his back on both the mother of his child and his child, even denying paternity to avoid paying  child support. (DNA proved his paternity, and he eventually coughed up $500 a month despite having millions at that point.) He also screwed his oldest friend and business partner, the genius who actually designed all the whiz-bang products, out of much of the lucre derived from the business.

It seems Jobs was a savvy businessman with a twisted ego, driven to succeed and armed with a winning personality and a great head of hair. Yet even in death he remains a hero to millions, who pray daily at the altar of their video games and iPhones and iPods and iPads and Mac laptops. Several Hollywood movies of his life have been made, each claiming to depict "the real Steve Jobs," as if it matters.

Instead of Steve Jobs, we should shine a light on the lives of relative unknowns like Mitch Snyder and Lenny Skutnik, true heroes who still inspire me. And all those divorced dads nobody ever hears about who can hardly afford it but still send in their child support each month. And each one of us who rises to new heights, just because we couldn't live with ourselves if we didn't.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

What Hath Caitlyn Wrought?

The photo above is actually an ad for couture clothing you likely cannot even afford. Yup, that's high fashion for ya'. Now I'm no trend-setter, and would never want to be, but I sincerely hope what we see here is not the beginning of one. For starters, the young women are appallingly thin, hold oddly graceless poses and odder expressions, and the one on the far right is a guy. Actually, not just any guy, but the offspring of Hollywood's Will Smith and his wife.  Jaden Smith is an up-and-coming actor and has just been named the "face" of the Louis Vuitton clothing line for women.

Okay, so I'm a dinosaur; I think men should not wear skirts or dresses or high heels. But I guess since old-fashioned sex between a man and a woman is so, well, old-fashioned these days, it hardly matters if women find men attractive, forget sexually appealing. Back in my day, men looked like this (or tried):



Whereas these days, men look like this:

Life Is Beautiful









Saturday, January 2, 2016

Why This?

James Gandolfini, now deceased, lives on in my fantasies.

A long time ago, my son said this blog was dumb, and suggested I keep a diary instead. While his opinion had some merit, there are several personal reasons I produce this blog every day, 
sometimes even more often,
 if the spirit moves me.


Bailey, the Labradoodle who lives across the street, has the best dog nose I've seen!

Most of my career was spent as a graphic designer, art director and illustrator. 
 Those were the good old days, as they are commonly known, when making sense of a page and having it be beautiful at the same time mattered.  
Those days are gone. 

My beautiful mother, in her brother's Navy cap!

But here, I get to play around with fonts and color and images and do whatever I please.  
The words are secondary.  
If I kept a journal, or diary to use the old-fashioned word, I couldn't change things later on, or move whole paragraphs, or add color, or do any of the things I do here.

IT'S FUN FOR ME....



Me having fun.

 Get it?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Film Review: CONCUSSION

Will Smith sees problems on the playing field.
What a great movie! Concussion has so many good things going for it, it's hard to know where to start. First on the list has to be Will Smith's impressive performance, one where he's not even Will Smith anymore but some actor you've never seen before, one whose ears don't even stick out all that much. As the brilliant Nigerian forensic specialist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, Smith has a very convincing accent that never gives out, which happens sometimes halfway through a movie. (Do they think we won't notice?) Never an avid Smith fan myself, still I loved him in this role and hope he gets some kind of award from somebody for it.

In this sad-but-true story, Smith plays an accidental whistle-blower who inadvertently condemns the entire NFL when he discovers this dire truth: playing football causes head injuries that ultimately lead players to commit suicide. The tautly written tale unfolds in Pittsburgh, a somewhat overlooked American city that finally gets its day in the sun. Lots of aerial shots -- the city at night with its stunning skyscrapers aglow or in bright daylight, gliding over the confluence of its two rivers that join to become a third -- show off its best features with sharp cinematography.

Solid performances by the entire cast, notably David Morse (star of TV's St. Elsewhere years ago), the ubiquitous Alec Baldwin and an ancient-looking but endearing Albert Brooks, make it an ensemble piece. There's also a love interest for the good doctor. (She's adorable, whoever she is.) An unassertive sound track balances out the intensity of several autopsies performed on athletes who succumbed to post-brain death suicide after years of cracking their heads against other players, some of whom will likely meet similar fates, be it by gunshot, taser-induced heart attack or an intentional head-on collision.

A few words of caution: If you currently play football, do not see this film. If you have a youngster who wants to play football, definitely see this film and then forbid it. If you're just a plain old rabid fan who loves watching the game, get ready to love it less. Other than that, Concussion, bad title aside, is a good time.