Monday, June 26, 2017


We've made progress, The Bink and I, towards his recovery.  Daily dosages of anti-inflammatories, plus pain meds, seem to have alleviated his suffering.  We haven't one had pain yelp in the last three days. 

We have a new problem now, however: his naturally rascally nature.  The Bear is not a Bear of idleness.  Check that--he is a Bear of idleness, but not unrelieved idleness.  Eighteen hours of sleep a day--yes: that's reasonable.  Necessary even.  But twenty-two hours of sleep a day--that's too much. 

Too much, though, is what he needs.  For his body to fully heal, he has to stay calm.  Sudden jumps and lurches, yowlings, bounding--these are all actions the Bear enjoys.  But they're not good for his recovery. 

I'm trying to keep him as sedate as I can, but it's now been two weeks since he's gotten out of the house and walked in the neighborhood, and smelled the new smells.  He's becoming restless, and unhappy.  The obvious solution is to take him for walk.  That sounds fine--but walking requires a leash and that opens the possibility of reinjuring himself. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dark Days

Sad Bear
The Bink is suffering.  We don't know what happened, but on Saturday he woke up in pain.  When I rubbed behind his ears to comfort him he yelped--in pain.  Dogs don't yelp in pain often; in my life to this date I can count maybe ten times Bink has made that noise (usually when someone stepped on his paw by mistake).  The pain seemed to be coming from his neck and it didn't go away.  When we took him to the Hospital they gave us painkillers and anti-inflammatories but did not take XRays.  They hoped--we hope too--that after a few days it might go away.

Now it's Wednesday--four days later.  It hasn't gone away.  The wife is out of town and I'm spending all day alone in a house with a suffering animal.  It's been one of the worst (half) weeks of my life.

As anyone who's ever been around a suffering animal can tell you, they don't act like healthy animals.  They walk with their tail down.  They cower in odd places--Bink right now is huddled under an end table by our couch, pressed up against the wall.  It's as if he wants to make himself disappear, as if by taking himself out of existence he can also take his pain out of existence.

Of course we have to take him back to the Vet.  (We're waiting one more day to see if there's any improvement).  That doesn't promise to lead anything good, however.  The most likely reason Bink is suffering is so much is that he has a slipped disc, or a pinched nerve in his back.  Neither of those prognoses are good ones--neither are ones that admit to treatment.  If it's just inflammation, of a muscular-skeletal problem, it should begin to get better soon.  Let's hope it does.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Fargo's Unappealing New Season

I'm trying to get through the third season of Fargo right now.  It's pretty rough.  I guess the people who write the show must all have decided to get heavily into PCP this season, because it's been a disaster.  Poor casting choices.  Storyholes so big you could drive a semi- through them.  And a nausea-inducing reliance on curelty and shock, instead of story or dialogue, to generate interest.  The show feels like the spiritual equivalent of watching someone torture and then kill a small animal.  It is utterly unredeeming.

What a come-down this marks from the glories of last season.  The second season of Fargo was everything this season isn't.  Sharp surprising dialogue, complex memorable characters--but best of all were its villains.  Its villains were figures of complexity.  They weren't pasteboard monsters, who existed only to kill and maim, their depravities 'justified' by trite speeches about man's bestial nature--they were fully imagined human-beings.  That's all gone this season.  It's a grim, dispiriting slog, one unleavened by any notes of hope or cheerfulness.  Avoid it, I say--at all costs.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Whining about Wine

Interesting piece about a growing brouhaha in the world of wine.  My wife and I enjoyed the TV show Top Somm last year; it showed a group of highly-driven, slightly unstable New York sommeliers working to prepare themselves to qualify as Master Sommeliers--a designation that counts for a lot in the wine world.  One of them, Morgan Harris, is referenced in this article.

Cork Dork, the book that's excited all the furor, will, I confidently predict be turned into a movie within the next five years.  You heard it hear first.

Monday, May 8, 2017


Last night the wife and I attended the HGO's production of Wagner's Gotterdammerung (trans: kitten play-time). It's about the apocalypse at the end of the world, and ends with the death of all gods. It lasted five and a half hours and featured two intermissions.

I have been to only two other operas in my life; both were relatively obscure Baroque works that featured little in the way of spectacle.  This had been described to my wife--two of her close friends at work are hard-core opera fanatics--as being like 'Cirque du Soleil, only with singing.'  So I was primed for some big-time excitement.  It's the end of the world, here, people.  It ought to be big.

The actual ending--the end of the world, and the burning down of Valhalla--did not live up to expectations.  Essentially it consisted of various 'Gods' hanging from the ceiling on wires and writhing in mid air while computerized fire imagery played on the large movable blocks they used for scenery.
Image result for images gotterdammerung hgo
The performance itself, however, had a lot to offer.  The first scene features the three Norns suspending in mid air wearing an immense strand of rope which represents time and fate.  While they sang complicated net images played over them, and they rose and fell in mid-air as each one handed the rope to each other.  Later, the Rhinemaidens sang while suspended in floating cubes of water (each, according to the program, weighed about 2500 pounds).  The sequence where Siegfried, disguised as the evil Gertrun, comes to Brunhilde's fortress castle and forces her to marry him was exceedingly well done.

In general the whole experience was supremely satisfying.  Sitting in a dark space and surrendering to  an experience offers an escape from day-to-day worries.  For the first thirty minutes I worry about my dog and my business and the emails I need to send.  Then that all gives way and I attain true contact with the present, existing only in the moment, without any irritable reaching before or ahead.  It has value.

I want to see more operas, I think.

I also intend to resume posting.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


I am sad but I am slowly making my peace with it. I am nourishing the hope that, while Trump has done a lot of awful things, and said a lot of awful things while running, he has always, in the years prior to now, been (politically) a fairly moderate person. He's so duplicitous that I think it's fairly likely most of what he said he would do on the campaign trail won't happen. I hope. My fear is really international relations. I don't want us to go to war.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The New House

We've now been here about two months and slowly things are coming into shape. For the last two weeks we've had landscapers shuffling and rooting around the home's perimeter. The dog is a constant state of furor and working on anything requiring unbroken concentration has proven impossible. But--and it's a big but--our yard finally exists. We no longer are surrounded on three sides by piles of grassless dirt. We have planter boxes and climbing jasmine and Backstar gravel (which is gray) and all variety of flowering plants. And our sprinklers have been made to work. The inside of the house also progresses. Two of our rooms are still uninhabitable, however--the formal living room and the dining room. Our dining room table, ordered off EBay, arrived last week. Then, as the movers were bringing it inside--check that: after they had brought it inside and were in the final stages of lowering it to the floor, the table slipped. A leg broke and they took it away. They claim they can repair it back to how it was, however. We'll see. Regardless, we have no light source for that space--the home sellers took the chandelier--so it's not likely we'll have any dinner parties very soon. Maybe before the New Year. In an hour I'm going to a football game--the first professional football game I've been to in maybe twenty years. My wife's father has season tickets to the Texans and he's been good enough to let us borrow them. We're going to go early and experience the tailgating. The way our QB is playing, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Coach O'Brien asked me to suit up, either. Given my knowledge of 19th century French poetics.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Jeopardy Test

First off, I am aiming to get back to regularly weekly blogging.  We've been laboring mightily these last few months to get our new house operational.  At the same time, I'm trying to reestablish my tutoring business in the city after many years away.  Add my growing cosmetics empire to all of that, and it leaves very little time for blogging.

But I will make the time.  Damn those women and their mascara needs!

Last night I took the Jeopardy qualifying test.  (They are offering it today and tomorrow as well, if any reader wants to sign up for it).  It went well, I think.  It's not a hard test--I passed it fifteen years ago, and I know more now than I did then.

The challenge, though, is blocking out one's nerves and focussing on the questions.  Not that I should be nervous, sitting in my room, typing answers into computer, but somehow I was.  It gives me insight into the real challenge of going on the show.   It goes without saying that it's far easier to summon up a fact when you're out with your friends than it is to do so when you're standing in a TV studio with lights and cameras all around you.

When I tutor, I suggest to my students that to really KNOW a fact means you can be woken up at three in the morning and instantly summon it up.  That's how it is with your name or your birthday--that's information that's always accessible.  For me, that's going to be the challenge going on the show: instant recall, no matter the situation.   At this point, I would say I 'know' 90% of what's likely to be on the show.  The question is, can I recall it all under pressure.  We'll see.

The test, though, was easy.  Easy easy easy.  A few questions that I can recall (not the exact wordings):
1) In what month was Julius Caesar murdered?
2) Biggest hit of Meghan Trainor  (knew this only b/c I'd studied pop music--and found I really like M Trainor, btw)?
3) What's the stuff in plants that effects photosynthesis?
4) What animal's name means 'water horse?'
5) What's a ten letter word to describe a country that doesn't border water?
6) Recent musical about someone buying an old shoe factory (knew this only b/c I'd studied musical theater)?
7) Where's the Simpson desert?
8) Who was ruling England when Shakespeare died?
9) What former first lady wrote a memoir called "Woman from Plains?"
10) in 2017 Charles Darwin will be taken off the UK 10 pound note and replaced with this woman.  (Did not know this)
11) The seven largest starts of Ursa Major are better known as ___
12) Who wrote 'The Naked and the Dead'?
13) What does LAN stand for, in computer-speak? (missed this)
14) What word that starts with an 'a' means 'to give up a throne'?

I think last time I took the test, a passing score was 30 out of 50.  Maybe 35?  But no more than that.  I can only think of three questions that I missed so far, and I doubt I missed more than six.  So, I should be ok.

Next step is to do some kind of physical audition.  If I get invited to do so, I'll let you know.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Echo Chamber

Here is a recent piece in the Times that tells you everything you need to know to understand why the GOP is no longer functioning as a viable party in presidential elections.  The fact that serious people can be conned into believing Hilary Clinton has hidden health issues based on the outright lies concocted by Sean Hannity should convince any genuine Republican that they need to do more--much more--than watch FOX News if they want to be informed.

In fact, I'll go further: to watch on FOX News

Note the pushback from Wall Street Journal and former Bush officials, however.   There is some sign of hope.

During major inflection points in Donald J. Trump’s campaign, the advisers, family members and friends who make up his kitchen cabinet burn up their email accounts and phone lines gaming out how to get his candidacy on track (and what counsel he might go along with).
But one person in the mix brings more than just his political advice. He also happens to control an hour of prime time on the Fox News Channel.
That person is Sean Hannity.
Mr. Hannity uses his show on the nation’s most-watched cable news network to blare Mr. Trump’s message relentlessly — giving Mr. Trump the kind of promotional television exposure even a billionaire can’t afford for long.
But Mr. Hannity is not only Mr. Trump’s biggest media booster; he also veers into the role of adviser. Several people I’ve spoken with over the last couple of weeks said Mr. Hannity had for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging.
So involved is Mr. Hannity that three separate denizens of the hall of mirrors that is Trump World told me they believed Mr. Hannity was behaving as if he wanted a role in a possible Trump administration — something he denied to me as laughable and contractually prohibitive in an interview on Friday.
But he did not dispute that he lends his thoughts to Mr. Trump and others in his close orbit whom Mr. Hannity has known for years.
“Do I talk to my friend who I’ve known for years and speak my mind? I can’t not speak my mind,’’ he said.
Continue reading the main story
But, Mr. Hannity said, “I don’t say anything privately that I don’t say publicly.’’ And, he acknowledged, it’s unclear how far his advice goes with Mr. Trump, given that “nobody controls him.”
Mr. Hannity is unapologetic about his aim. “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States.” After all, he says, “I never claimed to be a journalist.”
That makes Mr. Hannity the ultimate product of the Fox News Channel that Roger Ailes envisioned when he founded it with Rupert Murdoch 20 years ago, as a defiant answer to what they described as an overwhelmingly liberal mainstream news media that was biased against Republicans. Mr. Hannity was there from the beginning with Mr. Ailes, who was forced out over sexual harassment allegations last month.
Mr. Hannity’s show has all the trappings of traditional television news — the anchor desk, the graphics and the patina of authority that comes with being part of a news organization that also employs serious-minded journalists like Chris Wallace, Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly.
But because Mr. Hannity is “not a journalist,” he apparently feels free to work in the full service of his candidate without having to abide by journalism’s general requirements for substantiation and prohibitions against, say, regularly sharing advice with political campaigns.
So there was Mr. Hannity last week, devoting one of his shows to a town hall-style meeting with Mr. Trump at which his (leading) questions often contained extensive Trumpian talking points — including the debunked claim that Mr. Trump opposed the Iraq invasion. (As BuzzFeed News first reported, Mr. Trump voiced support for the campaign in a 2002 discussion with the radio host Howard Stern.)
On other days, he has lent his prime-time platform to wild, unsubstantiated accusations that Hillary Clinton is hiding severe health problems. He showed a video of a supposed possible seizure that was in fact a comical gesture Mrs. Clinton was making to reporters, as one of them, The Associated Press’s Lisa Lerer, reported. He also shared a report from the conservative site The Gateway Pundit that a member of Mrs. Clinton’s security detail appeared to be carrying a diazepam syringe, “for patients who experience recurrent seizures.”
A simple call to the Secret Service spokeswoman Nicole Mainor, as I made on Friday, would have resulted in the answer that the “syringe” was actually a small flashlight.
People in Mr. Hannity’s audience of 2.5 million who are inclined to believe the health allegations, and who believe the mainstream media are covering for Mrs. Clinton, are unlikely to be impressed by the Secret Service’s explanation.
That’s the ultimate result of the hyperpoliticized approach Mr. Hannity and so many others use in today’s more stridently ideological media: A fact is dismissed as false when it doesn’t fit the preferred political narrative.
But while this informational nihilism appears to have hit a new high, the last two weeks have signaled the start of a possible reckoning within the conservative media.
First there was The Wall Street Journal’s deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens, who, after trading insults with Mr. Hannity over Mr. Trump, said on the MSNBC show “Morning Joe” that “too much of the Republican Party became an echo chamber of itself.”
Those who spend an inordinate amount of time “listening to certain cable shows” and inhaling the conspiracy theories promoted on “certain fringes of the internet,’’ he said, wind up in a debate that’s “divorced from reality.”
Then there was the conservative radio host Charlie Sykes, who lamented in an interview with the Business Insider politics editor Oliver Darcy, “We have spent 20 years demonizing the liberal mainstream media.”
That criticism was often warranted, Mr. Sykes said. (Just take a look at the decision by the former Clinton White House aide and current ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos to give some $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation, for which he apologized last year.) But, as Mr. Sykes said, “At a certain point, you wake up and you realize you have destroyed the credibility of any credible outlet out there.” Therefore any attempt to debunk a falsehood by Mr. Trump, he said, becomes hopeless.
What really caught my eye, though, was the moment on Fox News on Wednesday when Dana Perino, a host of “The Five,” refused to go along with a colleague’s attempt to dispute the many polls showing Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. Trump. “That’s a real disservice to his supporters, to lie to them that those polls don’t matter,” said Ms. Perino, a White House press secretary for George W. Bush.
She went on to express regret for joining with other Fox News hosts who doubted the polls showing President Obama leading Mitt Romney in 2012.
You can’t help but see it as a sure sign that Mr. Ailes, who presided over all of that polling doubt four years ago, had left the building. Still, even Mr. Ailes occasionally reined in his more opinionated hosts when he worried they would tarnish the credibility of his news reporters.
It’s why, for instance, he abruptly canceled Mr. Hannity’s plans to attend a major Tea Party rally in Ohio in 2010 after it came to light that the organizers were using his appearance to raise money.
Mr. Ailes faced another Hannity-related issue shortly before his ouster, when CNN reported that the host had provided Newt Gingrich with private jet travel to Indiana, for a possible vice-presidential interview with Mr. Trump. (Mr. Hannity had been lobbying Mr. Trump to choose Mr. Gingrich.)
Mr. Ailes opted against forcing Mr. Hannity to collect the fare from Mr. Gingrich. He had a possible reason: Mr. Hannity was among those supporting Mr. Ailes amid the sexual harassment scandal, eventually even discussing a walkout in the event of Mr. Ailes’s ouster, as Breitbart reported a few days later. (After Fox News executives shared with Mr. Hannity and others the full details of the allegations, which Mr. Ailes denies, the talk of a walkout ended.)
Mr. Hannity says Mr. Gingrich is a very close friend and it’s his business what favors he does for him, though he left open the possibility that Mr. Gingrich might cut a check for the plane trip just the same. Since Mr. Ailes’s departure, Fox executives have not pushed the issue. Nor, apparently, have they warned Mr. Hannity away from giving advice to Mr. Trump and his campaign — at least not so far during a turbulent time at the network.
Then again, at this point there are questions about how much advice Mr. Ailes himself was lending to Mr. Trump when he was running the place, given that, as The Times reported on Saturday, he has already emerged as an influential Trump adviser.
Mr. Hannity told me his support for Mr. Trump makes him “more honest” than mainstream reporters who hide their biases. It turns out even “honesty” is a relative concept these days. For some people more than others.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Last Day

The home is in boxes.  Yesterday the movers were here all day.  Today they are coming to take us away.

In a few hours I'll set out to drive by myself to Houston.  It's been a long time since I drove across the country to move.  In my youth I seemed to do it every other year.

For our last meal, last night we ate at In-N-Out.

And it was righteous.