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Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Writer's Life 7/22 - Hearts

In an op-ed piece in today's NY Post, Kevin D. Williamson focuses on the lingering effects of '60's protesters. He concludes: "The radicals of 1968 thought they were getting a revolution. What they got was involution, a generational retreat into childish self-absorption. Turn on, tune in, drop out." While reading, I sensed the article was implying, although Williamson didn't go there, that national unity is virtually impossible in a multi-cultural society. That certainly seems to be the case at present. I hope I'm not putting words into his mouth.
Since it's contested while I'm out trying to sell books, I don't get to see the British Open. I just read the good news that a goombah has won it. Italy's Francesco Molinari, 35, who had his first victory on U.S. soil earlier this month, outlasted big names: McIlroy, Rose, Woods and Spieth. Bravo!

It was one of those sessions when the floating book shop was worth the effort despite meager returns. My thanks to Raffaella, who spotted Side Effects by her mom's favorite, Woody Allen, which also led to the woman purchasing Gregory Maguire's Confessions of an Ugly Step Sister for her precocious child. Soon Kaline came along, speaking on his cell phone, which he hung up to take a look at the wares. I call him that because his favorite ball player of all-time was the Detroit Tiger's Hall of Fame rightfielder. I hadn't seen him in ages. I took a chance and dug out an Eddie Matthews bio, which I was sure he already had, since he has more than ten thousand books on baseball. Lo and behond, he didn't have it. He recently went through a very rough patch involving a woman he'd first met 44 years ago. He fell in love, and she proceeded to steal from him. He took her to court but the case was dismissed because she was on welfare and food stamps. It sent him into a mental tailspin that required therapy. Kaline is one of these guys who is very good at making money. Well past retirement age, he is still doing income tax returns. When the record shops began going out of business, he bought up a lot of their wares and makes a ton selling it. He has a bat Babe Ruth used, which he bought when he was eleven, and which he estimates is worth a million bucks. Thank you, sir. Soon Bob approached, saying: "I owe you a ton." Last week I told him I'd eschewed cable and gone to an indoor TV antenna. He had an old one in his apartment, hooked it up, and it's currently bringing in 45 channels. He plans to get a better one and a co-axial cable, which the guy in the video I watched recommended. Only a few days ago he had a defibrillator installed. He pulled his T-Shirt down a bit and showed me his doctor's handiwork. As we were conversing, Bad News Billy showed. He's scheduled for the same surgery - at Coney Island Hospital, a facility that does not inspire confidence. Bob gave him information about his man, who's regarded as one of the best in his field and is associated with St. Luke's Hospital, part of the Mt. Sinai empire. Bob bought non-fiction by Aldous Huxley and Alexander Woolcott. My thanks.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Writer's Life 7/21 - Movie Folks

Last night I watched an independent film, Infinity Chamber (2016), courtesy of Netflix. It is quiet, cerebral sci-fi. The story is simple: a man awakens in a chamber with no recollection of how he got there. The computer that controls it has one goal - to keep him alive. Clues are dropped via flashback throughout the narrative, chiefly of the protagonist's encounter with the female proprietor of a coffee shop. He engages in a battle of wits with the computer, escape his goal. I was a bit baffled when the reason for his incarceration was revealed. I was wondering why his opponents hadn't simply killed him. I may have missed something. The movie was written and directed by Travis Milloy, only his second stint at the helm. He has greater experience writing and producing. I was not familiar with the actors, both of whom were fine. Christopher Soren Kelly has 43 acting credits, most of them in shorts, which he has also directed, edited and written. Cassandra Clark has 17 credits. Like Kelly, she has done several shorts. She also co-created and directed a TV series, Englishman in L.A., which shot nine episodes in 2014. 4700+ users at IMDb have rated Infinity Chamber, forging to a consensus of 6.3 on a scale of ten. I agree. Those who prefer slam bang action should pass, as there is virtually none here. It runs an hour-and-forty-three minutes at a leisurely pace. Here are stills of the leads in character:



Afterward, I landed on a PBS station that was airing Something to Sing About (1937), a musical starring James Cagney and Evelyn Daw, possessor of a big voice who acted in only two films before marrying and retiring. It was directed by Victor Schertzinger, who had an amazing career cut short by a fatal heart attack in 1941 at 53. He toured as a violinist and conductor before landing in Hollywood, where he directed 89 films, produced five, and worked on the screenplays of six. IMDb also lists 23 credits under his name as Composer, and his music has been used 117 times on soundtracks on the big and small screen, as recently as 2014 in a Glen Campbell documentary, I'll Be Me, and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Here's a pic of this gifted soul that includes a prediction that didn't come true: 


And here's Daw with her leading man:


It was an unusually cool afternoon for July. My thanks to Danny, who for the third straight week bought non-fiction in bulk; and to the gentleman who purchased the Paul McCartney and Wings pictorial; and to the elderly woman who selected a romance compilation; and to the woman who selected a book in Russian, and to the other who did a four-for-three swap in that category.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Writer's Life 7/20 - Nuggets

The hysteria exhibited in modern life is at once amusing and vexing. People have been living with asbestos for decades. A few, probably those with weak immune systems that make them vulnerable to any potential carcinogen, allegedly contracted cancer from it. Suddenly most folks are paranoid about it, which makes attorneys who get rich from lawsuits very happy. Shysters must be delirious about yesterday's explosion in Manhattan. A wonderful woman who greets me warmly several times a week and occasionally gives me goodies mentioned her new fear of traveling to midtown, which she frequently visits. She carries an umbrella to ward off the sun. A few weeks ago she complained about a nearby construction site where dust was blowing, and said she was on her way to tell the local political hack about it. Knowing she has battled cancer, I resisted the urge to tell her to stop being paranoid. I might have if I didn't like her so much. Then again, I usually hold my piece even during the rants of Political Man, whom I haven't seen for a while - fortunately.

In his sports media column Phil Mushnick often laments the way modern baseball is managed, particularly the use of relief pitchers for one inning each from the sixth on. He has cited many instances where the strategy has backfired, particularly if a guy who pitched a 1-2-3 inning was removed and the next man got rocked, blowing the game. Today he supported his view with a terrific quote from former MLB pitcher Ron Darling, who is now on the Mets broadcast team: "They pay the big money to the starters, then expect the relievers to win the game." Although I know managers stick to a consistent strategy believing the percentages will fall in their favor over the long haul, and also that millions are invested in talented throwing arms, which encourages babying, I believe elite starters should be pitching more innings or, at least, to a pitch count of 100-110.

The current top selling NFL jersey is: QB Nick Foles, Super Bowl hero of the Philadelphia Eagles - and he isn't even a starter!

Gracelyn Griffin couldn't wait to come into the world. Her mom gave birth to her in the bathroom of a San Antonio Chik-fil-A. Mother and child are fine. The company says Gracelyn will have free food for life and a job when she turns 14. And the family has a great story to tell for generations to come.
Welcome to the great adventure, little one.


My thanks to the woman who donated a book in Russian, and to another who bought one; and to the gentleman who purchased Lawrence Sanders' The Sixth Commandment; and to Michael, who selected a Catherine Coulter romance. I had one of those awkward moments trying to recall someone's name. I hadn't see Alun in at least a year. Six months ago he lost his job in the health field when his boss was busted for Medicare fraud. He recently interviewed for another after filling out scores of applications. He was fresh from the gym, his T-shirt soaked. He bought Present and Past. I was relieved he didn't ask me to sign it, as I would have been forced to ask his name, which finally occurred to me as I was closing shop. Thank you, young man, and best of luck.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Writer's Life 7/19 - ?????

In his business column in today's NY Post, John Crudele offers interesting numbers. In the first nine months of the current fiscal year, income tax revenue has been at an all-time high, yet the government still ran a deficit of $607 billion in that time. The problem is spending, and the swamp is responsible - or irresponsible. President Trump has done about all that's possible to drain the swamp, but that battle seems unwinnable, even if the November elections go his way. It is a cancer that continues to metastasize, fed by congress, members of both parties. It seems to have a life of its own. On the surface, the mid-terms seem an epic battle for the future of America, but I believe that future has already been determined - more government intrusion in the lives of its citizens. We've merely hit the pause button. I hope I'm as wrong as I was on election night 2016, the miracle that seems more miraculous by the hour given the treachery unearthed about the upper echelons of the FBI and DOJ and the ferocity of attacks by the left and the mainstream media. Now in my 68th year, I lament the quick pace of time in all facets save one - I can't wait to see what happens a few months from now. Has Trump lost support? Has he gained any? It is the most interesting election in the history of the republic.


The weather was great but business was lousy today at the floating book shop. My thanks to the gentleman who bought The Cassandra Compact by Robert Ludlum and Philip Shelby, and The Thomas Berryman Number by James Patterson; and to Cabbie, who did a four-for-five swap of paperbacks that saw some cash come my way. 73, he's still on the job. He encouraged me to look into business opportunities. I didn't bother arguing that I'd rather take a shot every day at selling my own books - and come up empty - than doing anything else. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Writer's Life 7/18 - Perspectives

“Potholes are universal truths — nobody loves them, everyone hates them,” says Jim Bachor, 54, in an article in today's NY Post. A guerilla artist, he fills them and does a ceramic portrait on top of the cement he uses. Recently, he shifted his work from Chicago to NYC. He has filled five potholes in a series he calls Vermin of New York, which includes a dead cockroach on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, a dead pigeon on Pacific Street in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and a cheeky portrait of President Trump’s face in the East Village. He has yet to reveal the location of three other pieces. He does not have permission to ply his trade. He and his crew don neon vests and put down traffic cones to cover their illegality. The Department of Transportation says it will pave over the works, claiming they're a hazard that might distract drivers. Here's one:


This morning talk radio host Mark Simone mentioned a study, which sent me on a search. Here's the gist of what he said: "In a research database created at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, between 1946 and 2000, Russia/USSR meddled in 36 elections, while the U.S. meddled in 81." Apparently, the Russkies are catching up to us.

Here are more uncommon words from the work of non-fiction I'm reading: Afflatus: divine creative impulse or inspiration; Sardanapalus: a king willing to destroy all of his possessions, including people and luxurious goods, in a funerary pyre of gore and excess. Muliebria: female genitals; Impudicities: immodesty; Hellebore: poisonous flower. Here's the 1827 painting the writer was referring to, The Death of Sardanapalus by Eugene Delacroix. It hangs in the Louvre:


My thanks to the young woman who purchased two books in Russian, and to Michael, who bought two more Catherine Coulter romances. He recently had his wallet pilfered from a traveling bag at the Kings Highway train station. He had to go through the rigmarole of filing a police report and canceling credit cards. His Jet Blue card was used immediately by the thief. My thanks also to the gentleman who donated about 20 books, an interesting mix of fiction and non that includes classics and two handsome pictorials. All three of these patrons did not show until late in the session. Before that I was contemplating eliminating all hardcover fiction from the inventory, just giving it away, leaving it in the lobby of my building. Why lug it back and forth for so little reward? Much of it is by authors outside the top ten - but still popular. I decided to reduce the price to a dollar, although I doubt it will make much difference, as so few people even ask about them. Anyway, my negativism immediately bit me on the butt when I spotted a woman pushing her husband in a wheelchair, waiting for the change of light at the corner in order to cross Avenue Z. They are in their late 50's. He had a stroke while they were on a cruise. I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't think he'd remembered me, as the stroke was quite severe. Fortunately, I forced myself to approach and he did remember me. In fact, it seems his mind hadn't been affected - or had recovered a great deal during rehab. Understandably, he is bitter about what happened to him. I, on the other hand, have nothing to complain about.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Writer's Life 7/17 - The Beat Goes On

The reviews on President Trump's meeting with Putin are almost universal in condemnation. I can't argue with that, as his stance was disappointing. Still, if the election were tomorrow, I'd vote for him. I believe his policies have been sound. Whether they will be successful is still a long way from being determined. The swamp remains the problem.

I've begun reading a work of non-fiction published in 1959. Through 70+ pages it has been interesting but challenging. The author is obviously way more educated than I. Here are words that were completely foreign to me: Lickerish, defined as characterized by sly grins and dirty jokes; and Venery, defined as sexual indulgence; Snudge, defined as stingy and niggardly; Velleity, defined as the lowest degree of volition. There were others I was too lazy to jot down and look up.

I somehow knocked over my computer desk. Fortunately, the laptop survived. Unfortunately, the remote mouse has stopped working. I'm using the touch pad. Ugh!

The rain held off long enough to allow a full session of the floating book shop. My thanks to the gentleman who bought God Loves You No Matter What by Judy Ladd, and to Matt, who purchased a Julia Child bio; and to Barry, professor of criminology at John Jay College, who selected a book on the Beat Generation, on which he's writing a paper. I've never been able to relate to the Beats. I guess I'm too square. Barry's also working on a book on opium, and asked that I set aside any works on the theme that may come my way. Thanks also to the woman who donated three books in Russian, and to local porter Rob, who gave me five impressive works of non-fiction.




Monday, July 16, 2018

The Writer's Life 7/16 - Ludwig & Johnny

Born in Italy in 1898, Ludwig Bemelmans captivated children with the seven books of the Madeline series. According to Wiki, he is considered Austro-Hungarian. When his dad took a hike, his mom moved to her home town, Regensburg, Germany, which Bemelman hated. He apprenticed at a hotel, where he shot and wounded a headwaiter who beat him. He was given a choice between reform school and deportation to America. He became a citizen of the USA in 1918, and went on to write scores of books. The Blue Danube came my way via a recent donation. It is not a children's book. It's set in Regensburg, in southeast Germany, just before the full brunt of the allies might hit it. The story involves an old farmer, his two sisters, and a niece, who occupy an island in the Danube that pops up once the river goes down in late spring. They live in a house the farmer built himself, and grow radishes in the rich soil and sell them to locals. The old-timer humiliates a local Nazi bureaucrat, who subsequently plots against him with the aide of an underling. He disappears for a while, and the local bishop enlists a young French POW to help the women. The farmer returns on the QT, and the situation eventually comes to a head. Generally, I prefer gray when it comes to stories of the human condition - the struggle of the average Joe to be good in a world where temptation lurks at every turn. When it comes to Nazis - and terrorists - it's a different matter. To this day, more than 70 years after the end of WWII, which raged well before I was born, I derive visceral satisfaction in seeing Nazis dispatched in films and TV shows. I will say nothing else about the plot. Although the story is rather simplistic, it is effective. All the locals but the farmer say nothing about the abuses they suffer - an all too common factor among the citizens at that time, even those who were appalled by Hitler's actions. They have no idea their country is about to be crushed, as the propagandists have kept them in the dark. A lot of the action takes place at a beer garden, the Blue Danube, once owned by the farmer, who sold it when red tape made it impossible for him to earn a living. The setting is idyllic save for the presence of the monsters. Today the population of Regensburg is 142,000+. Bemelman sprinkles German words and phrases throughout the narrative. The bureaucrat is called Gauleiter, which translates to "party leader." The slime refers to Christians he despises as phaffe. The Blue Danube provides an interesting aspect of German life during WWII not seen in films and TV. Three users have rated it at Amazon, each giving it the maximum five stars. I rate it 3.5. Published in 1945, the hardbound copy I read has illustrations by the author. Bemelmans died in 1962, but his work lives on. Here's the title page from the book:


GetTV is a channel, 68-3, that has popped up since I went to an indoor antenna. Last night it aired an episode of The Johnny Cash TV Show, which ran two seasons, 58 episodes, 1969-'71. I was 19 at the time of its debut and ignorantly believed Country music was produced by hillbilly hacks. While I still do not consider myself a big fan of the genre, I recognize the wonderful artistry of those who crack the charts, and the session musicians who back them. Last night's program, Episode 30 of Season One, featured Loretta Lynn, Ricky Nelson, fiddler Doug Kershaw, Chet Atkins and Kris Kristofferson, and the house band was manned by the Statler Brothers and Carl Perkins. Lynn was in great voice, and Nelson performed two songs I'd never heard, which sounded real good. He is one of the most under-appreciated artists of his heyday. Unfortunately, I nodded off, as I frequently do these days, and missed Atkins, who was regarded as one of the world's greatest guitarists. According to the summary page at IMDb, the shows were shot at three locations. Last night's was at the legendary Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, home to the Grand Old Opry for decades. Of course, Cash performed. I look forward to other episodes.


My thanks to the gentleman who purchased a book in Russian, and to the elderly Latina, who bought Impulse by Catherine Coulter on my recommendation, not my cup of tea but the type of novel she eats up. I don't understand how, but it seemed hotter today than during that brutal heat wave a couple of weeks ago.