Friday, June 30, 2017

Last Day at the Factory

When I was in junior high school, for some reason that I cannot explain, we kids were shown a movie called, The Last Day at the Factory.  It was a film about a man's last day at his place of work which was a factory. In it he shook hands with various colleagues, meandered around the factory--which did not look like a swell place to work--and nostalgically said good bye.

It is difficult to understand why we were asked to watch the film. If I had to guess, we were probably giving a teacher an hour off.  There was no positive message in it that I could see. Where I went to school they were not encouraging us to spend our working years toiling in a factory. Don't mean to sound snobby, just that was not the emphasis in our school.

In fact, another film was akin to the general message.  We saw a movie called, When I'm Old Enough, Goodbye. It was about a kid who could not wait until he was sixteen when he could quit school. Then the cool guy got a bunch of dead end jobs and was miserable.  It became clear that what might seem like liberation, would be more like incarceration if you were stuck washing pots the rest of your life (as was one of this character's stops before he went back to school).

The title of the first film has been sticking in my head the last few weeks. After seven years as an administrator I am returning to the faculty with more than a little bit of excitement about returning.  It was, on balance, a terrific experience seeing how the university worked from a higher perch in the decision making ladder.  But I missed the opportunity to write and the freedom that comes when you are a professor. It was precisely this autonomy at a thinking place that attracted me to academia in the first place. So, for seven years I did not have it.  Monday will be the first day in a while (except for a six month sabbatical) when I will not have to go to work like everyone else.  Believe me, I will not miss the traffic on the Mass Pike, nor the restrictions (that I know that most everyone bears) on my time.

Still when I boxed up my stuff and removed the various items on my desk, I felt like the guy in the first movie.  I shook hands with some colleagues, hugged others,--and walked around the joint.  The last months on the job had its tense moments and I will not miss some capricious and, in my opinion, wrong headed behaviors.  One of the things I liked about the job was that, in my area, for most of the time I was there, I was able to make decisions that otherwise others would make.  Now, others will be making them.

But that is very okay.  I will get to know the umpteen colleagues who have joined my department while I was attending meetings.  My academic field is communication in organizations, and more recently sports and communication.  Academics are often cited as out of touch with what is called "the real world." In the administrative job, I was in the real world, and the experiences in terms of organizational communication were edifying in a way that I would not have expected.  Sure, some meetings are mind bogglingly long and time wasters.  But many of them were intelligently structured and followed the prescriptions we teach about in our classes.

I am fortunate to work at an excellent institution and look forward to a new step.

Onward and upward.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

50 buck

My orthopedist is located very close to Fenway Park.  The game tonight against the Twins starts at 7. My appointment at the orthopedist was at 4.

Already as I was driving to the doc, I saw groups and couples in Boston gear, walking toward the stadium.  It is a humid night, not horribly oppressive, but we could get some rain.  It did not stop the small army ambling toward the park three hours before game-time. This sight of early fandom was not what caught my attention the most as I drove toward the doc.

I noticed what is familiar all around Fenway even hours before a game.  A fellow--in this instance a guy with a gut for the book of records--was waving a red flag to indicate that game parking was available down an alley.  The waving man with the red flag, was not what was novel. What made me move my head backwards, almost involuntarily, was that the fat man was standing behind a sign that indicated the cost to park in his lot.  Fifty bananas.

Fifty dollars to park your car!

It always sounds like you are an antique when you begin a sentence with "when I was a boy a hot dog cost..."  My parents would say that and we would roll our eyes because we had heard, more than a hundred times, that a dog cost a nickel.  At the time when we regularly heard the refrain, a hot dog went for the outrageous sum of a quarter.  (sauerkraut add a nickel).

So, I know I write at the risk of sounding like a geezer, but fifty bucks is an outrageous sum to pay to park your car. Unlike many stadiums Fenway park has almost no parking lots of its own. Most parks have dedicated lots. I have not been there for a while but where the Mets played in Flushing Meadow there were spots for nearly all congregants.  At Fenway, entrepreneurs with nearby lots can make a shekel or two with their space. There was a time, and it still may be the case, that a gas station near the stadium shut down the pumps at 5, and made more money cramming cars into their space than they could ever dream of making with gas.

But fifty bucks?

Let's say you are a family of four.  Each (even cheap) ticket runs you about 50 at Fenway.  Buy a hot dog and a cold one for the adults, and a hot dog and a coke for the kids.  You are now out a cool 300 for the night if you have to park your car.

Occasionally I try to figure out what it will be like when I retire in terms of available dough.  I ought to do just fine because I have been putting money away in what amounts to a tax deferred annuity since I was in my mid 20s.  I am doing okay now in terms of salary, but I am likely to make more when I stop working.

The thing is, what will it be worth?  Will it cost me 100 dollars to park my car at the end of the Trump administration? Will I need a loan to buy a hot dog and a cold one?  Will I need to ask the vagrants for money for coffee?

Oh, and today, it cost me 30 dollars as a co payment let alone what they extract from my check every month, for a (well meaning) and conscientious PA to tell me that I am doing fine.  But it was cheap to park my car, only six dollars for a validated ticket.  A few steps away the fat man was packing cars into a tiny space and collecting 50 bananas a motorist.


Monday, June 26, 2017

The Girl Before

It's a rainy Sunday.  Your partner is out. Whether that is a good thing generally speaking or not, you are looking forward to a relaxing day to do whatever you'd like.  If on this rainy day you were to decide to pick up The Girl Before, a new novel by JP Delaney, and start to read, you may be able to complete it before you end your day.  And you will be glad you spent the day between those covers. The Girl Before is a page turner whodunnit, very cleverly written with a number of potential suspects.  It will keep you guessing until the perpetrator is revealed.  

I understand that Ron Howard, well known as Opie to we senior citizens, will be making a movie out of this novel.  I will look forward to it.  It will be a challenge. The novel is written from the perspective of two characters, Emma and Jane. Each chapter is entitled either "Then: Emma" or "Now: Jane." In a nutshell: Emma and Jane, at one point or another, rent the same home in London-a home designed by an eccentric architect.  There are some deaths. To relay much more is to give away too much and even if you do not intend to read the book, you might down the road want to see Opie's movie without any hints regarding the identity of the doer.

I got the tip about the book at, of all places, a liquor store.  There's one I frequent nearby that employs a part time clerk who is a full time librarian.  Once I walked in there and she must have had a book near the cash register. We got to talking about books and I asked for recommendations. This was several years ago. At the time she gave me a recommendation for The Help, which I very much enjoyed.  So, when I saw her there last week I asked what she recommended. She said, The Girl Before.  Good tip. And I am passing it along.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

should this bother me?

I saw this information on the door to a bagel place early this morning. Sunday morning, I figured grab some bagels.  Parked my car, approached the doorway,  spotted the sign.

Should this trouble me? Kind of nice thin font for the title, and scripted look for the days. Interesting touch with the word to sandwiched between the two horizontal lines.

You have to figure someone approved of the sign. Likely more than one person.  Someone probably ran the design by management.  A manager or two of some stripe had to read it through before giving the okay.  Make sure all words were spelled correctly and the information was accurate.

Maybe someone can explain the rationale to me.  Why not

Monday through Wednesday 6 -5; 
Thursday and Friday 6-5
 Saturday and Sunday 6-5.

If you are an acquaintance reading this entry, you have probably heard my rant about pizza sizes.  It began years ago when I visited a New Jersey establishment.  I asked for a pizza and they told me that there were two sizes, Medium and Large.  Does this bother anybody else?

How can there be a medium size if there is no small size? As far as I know the American Pizza Organization or some other association like that has not designated certain diameters of pizza pie to be small, medium, and large.  This proprietor could have been offering a choice of large and larger, or small and less small--but there is no such thing as a middle ground if you only have two options.  The proprietor did not warm to my comments along these lines.

Once in Plainview--the town where I lived as a teen, a town that has earned a reputation for having an excellent school system--I noticed that the candy store that had been there for a long time had been purchased and was now a different sort of establishment. A huge sign on the storefront attempted to describe the type of merchandise therein.  The sign read Stationary.    This was both amusing and disheartening.  I don't think they were attempting to let all know that their lease was a long one.  How can you open a stationery store, and be in the business of buying and selling stationery items, and then buy a sign, review the sign, and place the sign above your place of business, (how many people must have been involved in the decision making) and spell the main brand of your trade incorrectly.  When I informed the owner of the error, she acted icily and defensively.  Apparently, she had heard this comment before. She sneered at me and said, "that's the second spelling of the word. Look it up in a dictionary"  Did she really say that to me? Sure, if you go to "stationery" in the dictionary you will see another spelling. This is because there are two different words with two different spellings, one referring to the merchandise in this establishment, and the other meaning something temporarily or permanently not moving.  How's this to describe the distinction?

The stationery on the shelf was not selling, apparently-given current consumer patterns--the stationery would remain stationary.  

Too high brow for the proprietor?

If I go to another meeting with people with PhDs who comment on a new innovation or an idea that is very unique, I will extract the remaining hairs from my scalp.  Innovations are, by definition, new. When a process ceases to be new it ceases to be innovative. Unique means one of a kind. You can't be very unique, any more than you can be unique.  One of a kind is as unique as it gets.   A recent graduate is not an alumni, unless she or he has multiple personality disorder. The person is an alumnus.   And there is no such word as criterias. If you have only one litmus test it is a criterion. More than one: criteria.

Should this trouble me?

A student once wrote in a paper that he had great sympathy for the Jews because throughout history they have always been used as "escape goats."  Interesting image that.  I probably could have used an escape goat at one time or another to avoid the evil eye of some allegedly educated sort who felt there was nothing wrong with selling two sizes of soda pop--medium and large--and endured my pedantic rant.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Blood of Emmett Till

A number of things crossed my mind when I read The Blood of Emmett Till a new book by Timothy Tyson.  Tyson does a thorough job of describing the context for the murder, the background of the murderers, the background of the victim, and the courage of the victim's family.

By the time I was a junior in high school I had become a good student.  I had not been in junior high school--often reading teacher descriptions of my work stating that I was underachieving. But I did okay by the time I was in eleventh and twelfth grade.   In New York State it was in a student's junior and senior year when you studied American History. Then in the second semester of my freshman year I took American History from the Civil War to the present with as energetic a professor as I have ever had.  People fought to get into David Goodman's class. He was dramatic as a lecturer, flamboyant with his cowboy hat, funny on occasion, unconventional (we did not have a text, we had to read four novels about the various decades of that period), and you were lucky to get a seat.

Point is that in both high school and in college I do not remember reading about or studying about Emmett Till.  I know that a folksinger I liked, Phil Ochs, had a song about Emmett Till--so I knew there was a story there, but I did not know the details. It was sometime in graduate school when I read about how Till's mother had forced an open casket and Jet magazine had put a photo of the mutilated kid on its cover.

Why did we not study it in high school or college?  The Till case was an egregious case of injustice. I graduated high school in 67. Till was murdered only 12 years before.

There is no doubt that the half brothers, JW Milam and Ron Bryant, kidnapped, killed, and then dumped Till's body in a river. Tyson begins his book with an interview with Carolyn Bryant the woman Till, allegedly, good gosh, spoke rudely to which caused the half brothers to abduct and murder. Bryant now in her 80s essentially said the kid did nothing warranting such punishment, and admitted that she lied at the trial.  So, they did it. They were guilty. And they were acquitted.

The defense attempted to provide some handle onto which the all white jury could hang a not guilty verdict. So, they contended that the identifications of the kidnappers might have been inaccurate, and the body pulled from the river might not have been Till's, and besides the kid had mouthed off to a white woman. Each of these arguments is at odds with the others.  If we can't convince you folks that these good old boys did not kidnap the kid, maybe we can convince you that the dead kid wasn't the kid they kidnapped. And if we can't convince you that they did not kidnap the kid, and if we can't convince you that the dead body wasn't Till's, well maybe we can provide you with a good reason for why the boys done it.

It worked.  Big rush of joy from the south. Why. Not because the brothers were innocent of this outrageous murder, but because yet again a southern jury protected its racial nonsense.

I thought of the Kent State murders while reading this book, and also the Simpson trial.  I've read a number of books on both, and spent quite a bit of time at Kent State's library in their special collections unit. There is no doubt, none, that the guardsmen's acts--in the words of the Scranton Commission--were unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.  Yet at the trial the guardsmen were acquitted.  There is no doubt that Simpson murdered his wife and Ron Goldman.  Yet he was acquitted.

I see an analogy here. The jurors in the Simpson case and the Kent State case were looking for a reason to acquit.

However, the Till case is even more horrific, because it was not an isolated incident. Till type murders were the way of the south and not a one-off like OJ or the National Guard.  The kid was mutilated by fellows who thought they had the right to kill.

I think what Tyson does best in this book is describe the climate at the time of the killing. It makes the reader realize that Bryant and Milam probably thought their actions were no big deal and they would be heroes of sorts, or at least just doing what a man should do.  He also describes the courage of Till's mother and uncle very well.  I am not sure the last chapter makes its mark, but as for the rest of it--you want the facts, you'll get the facts.  Emmett Till was murdered brutally for doing nothing wrong. He was butchered and when the not guilty verdict was read, there was dancing in the streets. Not that long ago.  There are still crimes of this ilk.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Go back to sleep?

So last night I returned home late, around 10 pm.  I flipped on the tube and saw that on some channels I could get sound and no picture.  It was only mildly annoying since there was nothing special I had intended to watch.  I figured it would be fixed by the morning or I would call Comcast then and remedy the problem.

Yesterday morning I went out to get the newspaper as I typically do. There was no newspaper. I went out again a few times later before I left for work. Still no paper.  Okay, it happens that there are delivery problems.

After I noticed that the tv was not working last night, I went out with a flashlight to see if the paper had eventually arrived. It had not. No big deal. I had things to read and do.

When I woke up this morning, just an hour or so ago, I flipped on the set and again saw that there was no picture on certain channels.  Before I went to call Comcast I checked to see if today's paper had been delivered. As is typical there was my wrapped in plastic--so it won't get wet-newspaper on the lawn. I brought it to a chair, parked myself, and called Comcast.

The robot that responded thanked me for calling Comcast.

Is anyone pleased when a robot thanks them for calling? I am not, for the record.  Not displeased, not annoyed--at least not immediately--just find it meaningless.  I begin to get annoyed when I have to answer several questions that, had there been a person responding (preferably one that had not recently had a lobotomy) I could get to where I needed to go in a hurry. Finally after a couple of minutes of responding to a series of unnecessary questions, I am put on hold to speak to a technician. I got to the technician "quickly" because at one point I just pushed zero several times.

A happy woman from India answered. She thanked me for calling Comcast.  It is a little more tolerable when a person, not a robot, thanks me but still clearly obligatory and, therefore, not very meaningful.  I explain my problem, clearly. She thanks me. She tells me she can help me with this. These are standard responses. She can't help me--as it turns out.

I was at my eloquent best this am. Not always the case, but I clearly articulated the problem. She told me there was a power outage in my area and the technicians are working on the case. Would it make sense, I inquired, if there were some channels on which I had video and others where I did not?

Oh yes, she responded. This happens regularly.

I asked when the problem began. She put me on hold. When she got back, she thanked me for my patience. She told me the outage began at 104 am.  I told her that then this could not be the problem since I had experienced the problem at 10 pm.  She put me on hold.

She came back and thanked me for my patience. She then spewed something that I could not quite follow but had to do with the possibility that even though the source of the problem began at 104 am, it was possible I could have experienced it earlier.  I asked when the outage would be fixed. She put me on hold.

She returned. Thanked me for my patience. She said according to her notes the problem would be fixed by 5am.  I noted that it was now 630 am. She asked me if I wanted to trouble shoot, but told me, patronizingly, that sometimes when there is troubleshooting one can lose the video on all the channels and perhaps I should wait until the outage was over.  I mentioned that, according to her, the outage was to be over at 5 am.  She put me on hold.

When she returned she thanked me for my patience.  Before she could go further I conjectured that perhaps the problem was unrelated to the outage. I had mentioned that Comcast had sent me a box a while back for updating my equipment. I had not had problems with my set and am not technically savvy so I had not installed the update.  Could that be the problem? No, she said. I asked if someone could come out to install the equipment not, I made clear, to resolve the current situation, but because I see notices on the screen periodically indicating that it is time to install the box.

This was a big mistake. I now had irreparably conflated the issue with video with the box, and she could not separate out the matter. I decided to do the separation for her. I said that I would not do the troubleshooting regarding the current issue. We would leave it for a day since I am not going to be watching television until tonight anyway.  Period. On another matter--entirely--since we were on the phone, could she schedule a time for the technician to come out and install the box (as had been a service promised when the new boxes were sent out).  She said of course she could. She put me on hold.

She thanked me for my patience when I returned. No need. I no longer had any patience.  She asked me if I thought the technician could remedy the video problem. I, with a little more volume, reminded her that I was asking for the technician for another matter. She put me on hold.

She thanked me for my patience.  She asked again why I wanted the technician. I told her and asked why I could not just schedule an appointment.  She said she was getting the schedule now and put me on hold.

I decided to start reading the paper while waiting. I took it out of the wrapper while listening to music that could be soothing in another context but is annoying when you have been waiting interminably for a response.  I cut to the sports section and read the headline. There is a box score and article about the Red Sox game. The Red Sox did not play yesterday; they had the day off. I look up to the top of the paper and see that today they delivered the paper I was supposed to receive yesterday.

The woman from New Delhi gets back on the phone and thanks me for my patience. She tells me she is ready to schedule an appointment for me, but she tells me there will be a charge.  I lose it.  Not even 715 in the morning.

I should not have, but nonetheless do then, call the Boston Globe delivery service.   A robot thanks me for my call. A robotic message tells me that there were some delivery snafus yesterday which could cause a delay in delivery.  And some newspapers may not be delivered until the following day.  What possible good is Thursday's paper delivered on Friday--especially if Friday's paper is not delivered. Sure, tell me what the weather is going to be like yesterday.  That will be helpful.

The robot tells me that they are sorry for any inconvenience.

Should I go back to sleep?

Monday, June 19, 2017

An American Summer

My consciousness on a continuous basis begins in 1956.  I do remember an incident from 1953 and other episodes that if I were to try and identify when they occurred I'd figure would be before '56.  I can remember days in kindergarten which began in 54 but they are just isolated events.

How do I know this?  Well, I remember watching the World Series with my mother in 1956 when Don Larsen pitched the perfect game.  I remember my parents speaking about the Dodgers finally beating the Yankees in 1955, but I don't recall anything about it.  And the Giants, my dad's team, swept the Indians in '54 and I have no recollection at all about that.

However, one day in 1955 is vivid.  I was watching a program that I think was called Ding Dong school.  I remember my mother yelping with joy when she heard the host announce that the Salk polio vaccine had been proven to be effective.

I don't remember the fear of polio.  I know, now, that FDR was afflicted.  And I've read some about the fright that all parents had in the late 40s and early 50s, hoping that their children would not come down with the disease. But my first real memory of polio was hearing my mother shout with joy because the disease had been cured.

The majority of the book An American Summer by Frank Deford takes place in 1954, (despite the blurb in an Amazon description suggesting that it is set in 1955).  When I finished the book I read an excerpt about it that appears on the inside flap.  There, a Peter Gent, (an author whom I've never heard of) wrote: "What a heartbreaking, heartwarming, joyful read."

Those words are right on target.  This book is beautiful with one asterisk that while not insignificant does not render the book anything other than joyful and heartwarming.

A few weeks back Frank Deford passed and I read his obituary.  I knew Deford as a sportswriter and a very good one. I did not know that he had also written over fifteen books and several novels. I went to my library network web page, saw one that looked interesting, and requested it.

It is magnificent.  I will not give much away with the following description, but if you are inclined, as I am, not to want to know anything at all about a book, you might want to skip to the next paragraph.  In 1954 a family is moving from Indiana to Baltimore because the dad has accepted a job to be president of a manufacturing company there.  The whole clan is not ready to move, so in early summer the father and one of the sons, a fourteen year old, arrives in Baltimore. The rest of the family plans to join at the end of summer in the weeks before school will begin.   Early in the story the boy saves a dog from what appears to be its demise by running into the street and carrying the dog away from oncoming traffic. The owner of the dog is so grateful that she embraces the boy and brings him to her wealthy abode. There the boy, Christy, meets Kathryn who had had it all, but now is a victim of polio. The developing relationship between Christy and Kathryn, and Christy and his Dad  makes this a very believable coming of age story.

There is nothing trite about this tale.  We see human flaws, and courage, and resolution.  Deford is so crafty that you are not sure if Christy and Kathryn are fictional or real people despite the fact that the book is called a novel.  Only when I finished it and took a good look at the beginning and end pages did I realize what was what.

I mentioned an asterisk.  The one thing I thought of while reading was that what the book does not explore are issues of race in 1954 Baltimore.  If Christy had been a black lad, and had saved the dog, while I think the mother would have been as effusive thanking him, she would not have invited him to become so much a part of her family.  So, I am thinking while reading that my reaction to the novel would be different if  I were a black reader. I might think that what the book truly shows is the racial dichotomy in 1954 where someone could come of age as Christy did in the summer of 1954, but had he been black the seeds that would have been planted would not have been related to an awareness of the world with its challenges and compromises, but rather the epiphanies would relate to how race created a different set of understandings.

That comment, however, should not discourage readers of any ethnic background from reading.   An American Summer is a wonderful book that describes in part what pre Salk vaccine parenting was like, what it is like to be courageous in the face of a life aborting disease, and what it means to be a person of substance.


why do you think they call it dope

About a week ago I went to a lecture about opioids and literature. A professor at a nearby university was speaking at a library I recently joined.  The subject of drugs and how drugs are described in the media have been an interest of mine for some time. So, I went.

Back when I was a student, about halfway through my college years, the inebriant of choice changed from beer to dope.  Many of those who used to go to bars to self medicate or frolic, now began to roll joints.  Instead of asking buds if they wanted to go for a beer, a friend might ask if you wanted to get stoned together. Or for those more advanced, "trip" together.

I was never much of a druggie. There were a number of reasons for this.  One was that I was on the other side of the law, so to speak. In my sophomore year I applied for and received a coveted RA position. These were coveted less because there was a surfeit of those who wanted to uphold the rules, and more because the benefits were very sweet.  Room, board, and tuition.  I went to a state school and it did not cost a lot compared to other schools, but with my compensation for being an RA, I actually made some money going to school. I had been fortunate to receive what was called a Regents Scholarship which meant that my tuition was already paid for. For reasons that don't make a lot of sense, even if you had tuition waived because of being an RA, you still received a check equal to the amount of tuition if you had a Regents Scholarship.   This meant that starting when I was a junior, I was able to buy a better brand of wine when attempting to woo and wow women (still called coeds when I first started going to school).

One job of an RA was to stop people from smoking dope. This dampened my enthusiasm for exploration.  But also, on the few occasions when I indulged, I found the experience less than exhilarating and preferred liquid inebriants.  I eschewed what we called "acid" primarily because I had heard of bad trips. I thought my head was a decent asset and did not want to take a chance that some experience might dull what I thought was what I had going for me.

Still, despite being a reluctant and limited consumer of what were called drugs, I found the advertising and other media representations offensive and outrageously inappropriate.    I had and have a number of reasons for having felt and feeling this way.  As I write this now--someone who has not inhaled anything illegal in several decades--I find the portrayal of drugs an abomination.

The first reason is that there is a bogus dichotomy between legal drugs and illegal drugs.  So-called legal drugs are consumed and prescribed with no stigma attached.  Never mind that scholarly books (Mad in America for one) make it clear that many legal drugs have long lasting deleterious effects on consumers.  Yet, drugs that are not produced by the pharmaceutical companies are reviled by parents, teachers, and government officials.  If pharmaceutical companies could peddle dope, the product would come in fancy containers. This would not mean indulging in them, however peddled, would be good for you.  It just means that if you put a proper hat on some items, they are good for you, even if they are not.

The second reason is that the advertisements--public service ads no less--described the drugs in a way that were intended to frighten. I am all for frightening people about the risks of risky behavior.  But when you frighten people suggesting that behaviors are dangerous, when they are not necessarily, you become the boy who cried wolf.  When I was an RA we, the RAs, would listen to lectures from law enforcement types about the inevitable perils of weed.  It was just a load of malarkey.  If all the people who indulged occasionally in 1969 were affected as described in these lectures, there would not be enough teachers, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, accountants, etc. to serve our society.

The problem with drug usage (as is the case with alcohol consumption and all legal drugs as well) occurs when drugs are abused.  I remember a while back I had a toothache that created a type of pain that was borderline unbearable.  My dentist said he could give me something to take the pain away.  I did not want to take the drug, not because I am a tough guy on principle, but because I figured I would not want to get dependent on it.  But the waves of pain from the ache were too much. So, I succumbed and took the pills. And baby, did that feel good.  Pain went away.  Felt like singing, White Rabbit.  When I had my hip replaced a few years back they gave me a "cocktail" for the pain.  At about midnight of that night I got what all the fuss was about regarding acid. Holy smokes I was flying and it felt great.  I did not want to go to sleep and miss the fun of the ride.  But with the toothache and with the hip, there came a point that the drug did not make me feel good, it just took away the pain and I could sense that continued use would be no good.

That is the thing about any kind of excessive consumption.  The difference between me and 99 % of my cronies and the other 1 % was we, the majority. could stop. If we want to advertise to our youth that drugs are not good for them, we need to be credible and tell the truth.  Drugs, legal and illegal, can be bad for us if we become dependent on them.

The lecture, I was glad to hear, talked about some literary greats who found that being high actually had a positive (if temporary) effect on productivity.  She was careful to emphasize that she was not condoning drug usage--in fact went to great pains to describe the problems with the authors to whom she referred--when they became dependent on the drugs.  There was talk about the perils of addiction--and I heartily agree.  Whether you are addicted to opioids, beer, cheesecake, or even sports, you have a problem.  If you literally can't live with your head if there is not a ballgame on, well maybe it is time to start a stamp collection.

A few years ago  a crony from my college years came to town with his family.  His teenage kids were out cavorting and his wife snoozing when I met him in a bar for a beer.  This guy indulged in college and what's more argued forcefully against law enforcement types who "busted" kids for dope. You can imagine my surprise when he said--genuinely--thirty plus years later, that he was concerned that his kids might "get into drugs."

Say what?  When I called him on it, he Jackie Gleasoned hometa hometa, and said that drugs now are worse. Well, some are and some are not.

All of us have to be vigilant when identifying what is and what is not deleterious. We can't just with a broad brush paint some things bad and other things good without thinking about it.  If I were to caution anyone about drug usage, the first caution would be to look at the legal prescription pills they are knocking back daily.

Again, if you were to examine my  daily intake for the last forty years, I would not be arrested for anything. I should be arrested for eating an entire pepperoni pizza after the Patriots won a playoff game--or some other gustatory indulgences, but not for drugs.  Yet I think we need to be careful when we decry the evils of products regardless of their current legality.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

No Cure for love

 Is there no cure for love?

I recently read two books, both detective yarns of different flavors.  And they both--one centrally and one less directly--deal with this question.

The one that deals with it centrally is actually called No Cure For Love.  Very good book.  Two notches up from a beach read, and still a fast page turner.  A tv actress is being stalked by a maniac who claims to be her true love.  A detective who works in a special unit of the Los Angeles police department is on the case to try to find the obsessive lover and protect the actress.

The maniac is the most extreme example of someone who is crazy in a kind of love for which there is no cure.  But he is a maniac with a sick family background.  Besides the maniac, there are three other "normal" characters in the novel who engage/d in relationships that reflect that, once smitten, decisions and behaviors become irrational and can be counterproductive.  Yet a fourth example seems to provide a foundation for a sequel to the book.  (I just perused the author's website and I don't see any sequels to this novel, first published in 1995 and then re-released in 2015).  The normal characters and their relationships are not central to the plot, but they're examples of the premise: there may be no cure for love. Love begets irrational behavior.

A number of things are impressive about the book. The first is that the author, Peter Robinson, typically writes about an Inspector Banks who works and lives in the UK.  I have read several in this series and thought No Cure for Love was part of the Banks' series. No Cure for Love however has nothing to do with Inspector Banks and very little to do with the UK.  A main character is from the UK, but for the most part the dialogue/slang/language is typical of US detective stories. The ability to switch and write so differently reflects versatility and skill.

The second impressive feature is that while there are a couple of things in this book that make me wonder about how likely they are to happen, the book--for the most part--passes the plausibility test.  I wonder about Sally's current mental health given her behavior in the past.  And there is a love affair that seems not only gratuitous but, in my experience at least, unlikely to begin as it did.  Still, everything else about the book rings as if it could be true.

Third impressive aspect:  there are enough clues in the novel to keep you guessing about who the maniac might be.  And you can get it right.   I am not typically a fan of detective stories when at the last second someone pops up as the doer who could not have been sleuthed out by the reader.

In sum, if you like detective stories, read this book.  And when you are done with its plot, maybe think about whether there is indeed a cure for love so that we can behave rationally when we are in the throes of it.

The second book, Slow Burn, by Ace Atkins is a Spenser novel.  Spenser, a character developed by the late Boston author Robert Parker, is attempting in this novel to identify arsonists who have been burning buildings for a year.  I liked the Parker Spenser novels, a little more than the Atkins's ones, though the latter have its strong points as well. Both write fast moving stories.  Parker's typically had a moral message at the end that hung around for a spell. Atkins's characters have a little more depth. In this one, there is a reference to Spenser's hard drinking dad, who I had not read about before.  Maybe I just missed it.  I never thought Parker got Susan--Spenser's love interest--or Hawk--his friend and occasional partner--in anything other than monochrome.  Atkins does a little better.

In Slow Burn, three people, with holes in their hearts, rationalize starting fires.  The damage to their innards relate to family, abuse, and thwarted dreams more than romantic disappointments. Nothing of course condones their anti-social behavior.  One of the three does more than just set fires.

There is a reference in the acknowledgments that the author researched an actual spate of fires in Boston in the 80s to do this book. However real were the other fires, I found I had to suspend too much belief to buy the plot line in this one.  It is a fast read, but I don't think it sufficiently gets to the guts of why people do the things they do.  Spenser novels written by Parker did not do this either, but often you were left with something to wonder about relating to the human condition when you were done.  That happens to some extent with this one but not as much.

Not a bad read, but not a book I would hunt for.

No Cure for Love, however, is a different story.  Very well written and compelling page turner. And beyond the search for the maniac--the title and the book itself made me think of why we act irrationally if not maniacally when "every fairy tale seems real." Probably there is no cure for the "dizzy dancing way we feel."  I don't believe that is always a bad thing. Hate to be cured of that feeling.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Well, I got that wrong.

Three huge errors tonight in my forecasting.

(1) Cleveland won despite the fact that typically a team that wins three straight in basketball series, wins the fourth to sweep.

(2) I thought the Under was the way to go. The O/U was 227.5.  That was obliterated by 24 points.

(3) I thought that Kyrie Irving could not continue to play like superman.  I will not think this again because once again Kyrie Irving was absolutely incredible. Incredible means not believable. He made shots that are not believable.

Now, Richard Jefferson was playing football out there guarding Durant and there was a whole hell of a lot of contact which probably will not be permitted in game 5. Nevertheless Cleveland whipped a flat Golden State. Curry came out half asleep and nobody but Shawn Livingston looked like they were ready.

On to Monday.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Wisdom for Tonight

The fourth game of the NBA championship begins in about 2 and a half hours.  Cleveland is down 3-0.   In the past, teams down 3-0 often succumb to the sweep.  I cannot see Kyrie Irving playing as well as he played on Wednesday.  And I have to think the wind has been taken out of the sails of the Cavaliers after blowing the lead in the last minutes of the fourth quarter on Wednesday.

On the other hand, the Warriors could easily be complacent and not as focussed as they have been.  I will go with the Warriors tonight but only because my sense of basketball sports history is such that this typically is how it goes.  If the Warriors prevail as I believe they will, I think they will cover the 6 points.  The O/U is 227.5.  Take the Under.

I would not bet a wad on tonight. I never bet a wad anyway, and I always urge readers to remember that I thought Carter and Clinton would win against Reagan and Trump respectively.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Great game

I arrived home in the middle of the first quarter tonight. Then I was riveted for two hours straight.

This was a terrific basketball game.  The big three of the Cavaliers were outstanding particularly Irving who had a season's worth of highlights in one game. And LeBron James was sensational as he typically is.  While Love did not shoot that well, he was a monster off the boards and again made me out to be a liar as I never was high on Love's talents.

At the end Kyrie Irving could not continue to make shots that were optical illusions and LeBron ran out of gas.  It is understandable that he would. He played nearly the whole game and was stunning even by his standards.  James is just a person though--not Clark Kent.

The Warriors on the other hand kept hanging around.  Draymond Green did not have one of his better games and neither did some of the other Warriors.  But Iguodala stepped up defensively as did Klay Thompson.  And then Durant stuck the key three at the end.

Just great basketball.

Nobody can deny that LeBron James is the best ever or that Kyrie Irving made shots that truly were remarkable.  But the Warriors are the Warriors.

If you listened to me and were in Las Vegas, you won against the spread as the Warriors gave up three and won by five, so you got to count your shekels at the end. However, I liked the Under which was at 226 when I made my prediction. I see it creeped up to 228 over the last two days. Still the final was 231.  So I was a loser on the Under but a winner on the spread.

I am exhausted not from the toil of the day but from watching.  This is why we love sports. I did not have a horse in this game.  I like players from both teams.  I was pulling for Golden State because I love their motion offense, but I also love LeBron and have come to admire Irving.  Very exciting.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Comey and Dean

It was forty four years ago this month when John Dean testified before the Senate committee investigating the Watergate scandal.  At the time the Nixon White House was preparing for Dean's testimony and was considering how they would react to any allegations.

It made me pause today to read that the Trump White House now, nearly half a century later is doing something similar in anticipation of James Comey's testimony on Thursday.

Whether it is correct or not we will never know for sure, but many experts feel that if Richard Nixon had admitted to his behavior regarding obstructing the investigation of the Watergate break-in, his presidency would have continued.  The often cited claim is that the cover-up was worse than the break-in.  Yet it appears that Trump has already hired an attorney to address any comments Comey may make that accuse Trump of wrong doing.

Watergate is the scandal most of us collecting social security remember most vividly.  The scandal became such a common part of our culture that any subsequent scandal has been given the gate suffix. In sports we have Spygate and Deflategate.  An exhaustive list of all such gate scandals can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scandals_with_%22-gate%22_suffix.  I had not heard of many of these and the sheer number is a bit startling.  (My favorite I think is Nipplegate a reference to the wardrobe malfunction during halftime of the superbowl a few years back).

The point is that anyone with any sense of history knows that what is happening now is similar to what happened then--not in terms of the offense--at least that has not been proven yet--but how the White House apparently intends to react to the accusation. It is a stonewalling defense that never works in the long run.

Of course in this case it would have been wise for Trump never to have attempted to stifle the investigation in the first place.   But if he indeed had, why follow in the footsteps of the only president ever to be forced to resign.

I was in New Hampshire when Dean testified in June of 1973. I was staying with a buddy who had rented a remote cabin in the white mountains. We could not get television reception but we were able to listen to the testimony on a radio.  And we did that all day long during the first day of his testimony--which was essentially, a very long statement.  I can still remember us shaking our heads at what Dean was relaying.  I will not shake my head if Comey says something akin to what Dean said half a century ago.  But it will be head shaking stuff if the Trump White House decides to aggressively take the same road in defense that caused his predecessor to resign in disgrace.




Monday, June 5, 2017

Golden State

I am very much impressed with the way Golden State has played in the first two games of the championship.  They play good defense,  look for open players, run and run and run and run, and can shoot from long range.  They have three players on the starting five who can shoot threes as good as any player in the league. Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson are deadly.  Who do you guard if you are Cleveland?  You prevent Curry from getting the ball and Durant will hurt you, or Thompson.

Cleveland did not play poorly last night. LeBron James is still the best player on planet Earth and he demonstrated his prowess last night.  Kevin Love continues to make a liar out of me. I thought he was overrated, but he has been an able shooter and a very good rebounder in the playoffs. Kyrie Irving makes shots that are worthy of standing ovations.  Last year I thought he was only a bit better than average. I do not think so anymore. Irving is a super star.

However, despite James, and Love, and Irving, the Cavaliers got shellacked last night.  And they got tired. This is not a knock on the conditioning of the Cavaliers.  It is to the credit of the Warriors who are perpetually in motion.  Every rebound starts a fast break. They often run after made baskets. And the offense is a motion offense.  It is exhausting to watch and it must be impossible to defend.

Last year I, incorrectly, predicted that the Warriors would definitely beat Cleveland in the championship series.  Yet, the Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Warriors. And they made Stephen Curry look only average.  So, I should not count the Cavaliers out after two losses at the Warriors' gym.  But gee, even if Curry and Thompson get cold, there is still Durant.

I think the only way Cleveland can prevail is if either Durant or Curry get injured during the series.  Otherwise I don't see it happening.    It is not just that the Warriors have excellent players. They have excellent players playing excellently. And last night despite shooting well, Curry had several turnovers, and the Warriors still won by close to twenty points. Quite a spectacle.  I think people will talk about the 2017 Warriors for years to come as maybe the best team ever.

The Warriors are currently three point favorites for Wednesday's game at Cleveland. I think you give away the points and count your shekels afterwards.  The over/under is 226. That seems low given last night's 235, but I kind of like the under on Wednesday.

A Man Called Ove

This is a beautiful book.  Read it.

That is the short version of this review.

I had seen A Man Called Ove on best seller lists for a long time. Then, a few weeks ago I was sitting on a bench reading.  A stranger sat down on the same bench and, after a spell, asked me about the book I had and if it was worth a read.  I told her what I thought and asked for a recommendation.  She said A Man Called Ove was specialHer comment plus the many weeks on the best seller list made me want to go get it.  So, I put myself on a waiting list at the library and eventually it arrived.

It is wonderful.  The story takes place in Sweden and is about, well, a man named Ove.  He is a 59 year old curmudgeon who seems difficult to like.  But he endears himself, despite his thorny personality, to others.  The author does a good job of blending the past with the present and making Ove a real character-in both senses of the word.  The evolution of his relationship with Rune-a neighbor, and Ove's beloved Sonja is very well developed.  We learn about his cat, visits to a cemetery, issues with people breaking the rules in his community, a dear neighbor who befriends him, "white shirts" who are the bane of his existence, and assorted other relationships.

The story is laugh out loud funny. It's also sad and moving in many parts. The translator as well as the author, Fredrik Backman, deserve a good deal of credit.  The descriptions of Ove's and others' reactions are so spot on that the reader can just about see facial expressions.

I was half way done when a buddy spotted me with the book and told me he had seen the movie.  I had not known there was a movie, but am looking forward to renting it.  If you've seen the movie and it is lame but not have not read the book, don't let the lame film stop you from reading this one.

You know Ove.  You're likely not like him, but you will like him and he is inspiring in many ways.  Very fast read.  And a sweet ride.