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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Writer's Life 3/21 - Infernal Equinox

Politics will make one laugh or howl at the moon. Since the state of New York and NYC will be governed by one-party for the foreseeable future, there's no sense in any Big Apple resident on the right in getting upset about liberal policy and behavior. It's best to be amused by the shenanigans. The latest has actress Cynthia Nixon, a personal friend of Mayor de Blasio, announcing a run for governor vs. Red Billy's mortal enemy, Andrew Cuomo. Apparently Andy Boy isn't liberal enough for them, which must have conservatives laughing themselves silly. Former city council head Christine Quinn, who lost a mayoral primary to RB, has rendered an opinion on the woman who dares to run against her ally, dubbing Nixon an "unqualified lesbian." Quinn herself prefers the same sex in relationships, which I guess makes it okay for her to make a statement which, had it been made by anyone right of center or even a moderate, would have caused a firestorm. The tactic is similar to one employed in the 1977 NYC mayoral race when fliers were posted in Brooklyn and Queens, reading: "Vote For Cuomo, Not The ..." Well, it rhymes with Cuomo. Of course, the liberal icon claimed ignorance. Many believe it was the work of his son. Although Koch had a working relationship with the Cuomos, he never forgave them and said so in a video issued after his death. Their constituents give them a pass in the same way they did West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, a former Grand Dragon of the KKK. Is it the people politics attracts, or is it what years in politics does to them - or a combination of both? Here's a cropped copy of a flier mailed to people's homes back in the day:

In a Facebook post warning people about a speed trap, an Austrian man referred to police officers as "smurfs." He has been cited for violating “public decency” and faces a fine the equivalent of $197 American dollars. Imagine how much money municipalities would amass if this were done in the USA.

So far there isn't much snow on the ground in my end of Brooklyn, but the the heaviest band has yet to arrive. It looks like at least eight inches, which may sideline the book shop tomorrow too. I filled time by doing chores: hitting the recycling center and the ATM, vacuuming the floor and cleaning the windows, then doing Sunday's crossword. Here's a pic I took of the front of our building at about 11:30:

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Writer's Life 3/20 - Round Four

According to an article in today's NY Post, a recent poll of 803 Americans cites that a majority believes there is a "shadowy deep state cabal that secretly runs the government" - and the belief is spread fairly evenly across party lines. Many believe the government spies on everyone. I don't believe that. Most people go about their business each day without much thought about politics and I doubt anyone is watching them. Of course, if anyone were perceived as a real threat it would be easy to track him/her in this age of technological marvels. Anyone who spied on me would probably fall asleep from boredom. I do, however, believe that Washington is a swamp, a behemoth that has evolved through the years and taken on epic proportions, and that it makes life worse, not better, for those who work the hardest and play by the rules most of the time. President Trump is doing what he can to change that, but in the end the swamp, which includes Democrats and Republicans, will probably prevail. It has become so powerful.

It will be interesting to see how partisans react to the latest school shooting, in which an "armed school resource officer" engaged the 17-year-old perp, who had shot two students, one of whom is in critical condition. It is under investigation, so it's probably best to refrain from comment until the facts are revealed, but don't expect that to be the case on social media.

The Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is arguably MLB's most heated. Does playing a series in London sound like a good idea? Negotiations are underway for two regular season games in 2019. I've been wrong so many times on innovations, so I should probably shut up. Besides, I don't watch baseball anymore, so it's none of my business. Still...

With the fourth Nor'easter of the month on the way, I felt compelled to open the floating book shop despite the cold. Without sunshine, it wasn't easy, but I managed to put in two hours. My thanks to the local home attendant who bought two CD's, two Harlequin romances and a cook book; and to Ludmila, who purchased a Russian-English dictionary; and to Romanian-born artist Andu, who visited for the second straight day. This time he went for CD's, buying five. The latest weather event is entirely my fault. Last week I took the shovel I keep in the car during winter back to the apartment, jinxing everyone. I doubt NYC will get off as easy it has the previous three storms, two of which had barely any accumulation. It feels like all snow this time. How fast will it melt? If it warms up on Thursday, do I shovel out an area in front of the Chase bank, as I've done in the past?

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Writer's Life 3/19 - Humble Beginnings, Huge Success

Here are highlights from an article by Shannon Quinn on people from humble beginnings who went on to huge success. It's from and has been edited heavily by yours truly:
Leonardo Del Vecchio was born in Milan in 1935 and grew up in an orphanage. He worked in factories and eventually operated his own, making eye glasses under the brand Luxottica. The corporation now produces Ray-Ban, Coach, Oakley, Prada and other fashionable lines. His estimated worth is $22.6 billion.
In 1981 Do Won Chang moved from South Korea to the USA. He washed dishes, pumped gas and cleaned offices. He eventually opened a store called Fashion 21, which sold wholesale clothing at low prices. He changed the name to Forever 21. He is now worth $3.1 billion.
Englishman Magnus Walker dropped out of school at 15. He eventually landed in L.A., where scoured thrift stores for cool clothes, which he resold on Venice Beach. He soon began selling his own designs, and his profits went through the roof. He supplied rock stars with duds. He also began collecting, customizing and reselling Porsches. He bought a dilapidated building in a poor district and wound up renting it to film companies.
IKEA mastermind Ingvar Kamprad was born on a farm in rural Sweden. His family was so poor that he began working at six, selling matches on the street. At 10 he hawked Christmas decorations door-to-door.
Oprah Winfrey was born in a tiny Mississippi town to a teenage single mom who worked as a housemaid. At nine she was raped repeatedly by family members. She moved to Tennessee to live with her father, but the sexual abuse didn't end. Pregnant at 14, she lost the baby soon after its birth.
At 16 John D. Rockefeller was a bookkeeper for a produce shipping company. At 20 he started his own business, earning commissions on selling hay and meat. He soon realized there was money in oil.
Coco Chanel was raised in an orphanage, where nuns taught her how to sew. She used those skills as a professional seamstress. At 23 she began living with a rich man, which helped her learn how to speak and act like wealthy woman.
Lebo Gunguluza, who grew up poor in South Africa, didn't earn his high school diploma until he was 20. He founded Gunguluza Enterprises & Media. By 27 he was a millionaire.
And as almost everyone knows, J.K. Rowling was a welfare single mom when she began writing the Harry Potter series.
There's a message somewhere in all that.

With Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy back in the groove on the golf course, CBS, which broadcasts the Masters, is in its glory.

For the first time in a week I was at my usual nook and, even though it wasn't very windy, it was cold in the shade of the scaffold. I spent a lot of time standing in the sun at the corner of East 13th. My thanks to the gentleman who bought Wicked Prey by John Sandford, the 19th entry in the series, and The Talbot Odyssey by Nelson DeMille; and to the woman who purchased Long Time No See by Susan Isaacs. The highlight of the session occurred as I was breaking down the display. Romanian born artist Andu arrived, looking better and more stable than I'd ever seen him. He's been selling his work on the street in Manhattan on Sundays and says anything inspired by Batman and Wonder Woman sells immediately. He made $135 yesterday and hopes to soon be doing it every day. He bought several items: a beautifully illustrated book on Impressionists, one of the Harry Potter series, a huge educational reader on the three R's for his mom, and Smut Volume One, a compilation issued by, which bills itself as "Smutty & Smart."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Writer's Life 3/18 - Adapting

Last night the Svengoolie program on MeTV, channel 33 on Cablevision in NYC, ran The Mad Magician (1954), starring Vincent Price, Eva Gabor, Mary Murphy and Patirck O'Neal. Originally shot in 3-D, it tried to recapture the box office results of the previous year's House of Wax. Although it has good moments, it has too many lapses in logic for my taste. In researching it at IMDb, I discovered another of Hollywood's unsung stalwarts, director John Brahm. Born in Hamburg in 1893, he fled Nazi tyranny in 1934, going at first to England, then to the USA in 1937, where he immediately found work. In 1952 he crossed over to TV almost exclusively. He has 75 titles listed under his name, but that doesn't reflect his prolific output, as multiple stints at the helm of a program show as only one at that valuable website. I counted 147 additional credits, including 16 of Medic, 23 of The Schlitz Playhouse, 15 combined of Hitchcock in both the half hour and hour incarnations, 12 of Thriller, 15 of Naked City, 12 of The Twilight Zone, 14 total of The Man from Uncle and its offshoot The Girl from Uncle. The highlight of his career was The Lodger (1944), a stylish thriller based on Jack the Ripper starring Merle Oberon, George Sanders and Laird Creger. He passed away in 1982. Well done, sir. Here's a pic:

The Jets have made a smart move by trading up to the number three position in the draft, which guarantees that at least one of the four highly rated QB's will be available. Now the tricky part - picking the right one. I'd select Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma. The knock on him is that he is only six-feet tall and a prima donna. My second choice would be Josh Allen of Wyoming, who has the strongest arm; third Sam Darnold of USC; fourth Josh Rosen of UCLA. The latter three all had disappointing seasons, while Mayfield was awarded the Heisman Trophy for his stellar play.

When I rolled up to my Sunday nook in Park Slope, a dumpster was in place. If I set the shop up in its usual proportions, it would have blocked too much of the sidewalk, and I don't want to give anyone an excuse to lodge a complaint. I was about to drive away and head to Bay Parkway, where I'd worked five straight days, when it occurred to me to use the dumpster as part of the display, although it might turn off fuss-budgets. Here's what that part looked like:

My thanks to the gentleman who bought a huge hardcover version of one of the Harry Potter series, and to the other who showed just before closing time and purchased a large compilation of African-American lit, and four books on nutrition, including The Maker's Diet by Jordan Rubin. The first sentence of the book's blurb at Amazon reads: "Are you looking for a health plan that is biblically based and scientifically proven?"

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Writer's Life 3/17 - Saints Help a Sinner

Sometimes a film is successful despite its flaws. Such is the case with St. Vincent (2014), which I watched last night courtesy of Netflix. It is the story of a grouchy Brooklynite, a role tailor made for Bill Murray. He is on the skids, broke, drinking and smoking too much. He's thrown a lifeline when a single mom and her pre-teen son move in next door. He agrees to "babysit" a couple hours a day, filling the gap from the end of the school until the woman returns from her job as a nurse. He does not change his ways, taking the boy to bars and the race track. Sure, this is Hollywood excess, where sinning is shrugged off as really no big deal as long as there are a few good deeds of penance, but it's heart is in the right place in the same way Little Miss Sunshine (2006) is. The cast is outstanding. Melissa McCarthy plays the mom, a departure from the comedic roles she usually undertakes. Naomi Watts' abundant talent raises the stereotypical role of a pregnant, Russia-born hooker/stripper to lofty heights. Jaeden Lieberher is as touching as the kid as he was three years later in The Book of Henry (2017), another contrived story that somehow manages to hit home. I was impressed most by the performance of teacher/priest Chris O'Dowd, a rare positive portrayal of Christian clergy in a tinsel town flick. It was written and directed by Brooklyn-born Theodore Melfi. Unfortunately, there isn't much info on him on the web. Since the protagonist is from Sheepshead Bay, my neighborhood, I wonder if Melfi is too. While viewing, I've always found it difficult to pinpoint where filming took place, and that was the case again here. Despite the predictable material, I got misty during the kid's warts and all school presentation, a nomination for sainthood that reveals a lot about the curmudgeon's history. 84,000+ users at IMDb have rated St. Vincent, forging to a consensus of 7.3, which is on the money by me. It runs less than two hours and has a soundtrack baby boomers would enjoy. I believe its appeal is broad. A cynic might scoff, which is ironic, as the main character is one. Here's a still of McCarthy confronting Murray:


It was a glorious day, the sunshine taking the bite out of the wind which has persisted all week. My thanks to the woman who bought Beyond Fear by Dorothy Rowe and Night by Elie Wiesel, the umpteenth copy that has sold at the floating book shop; and to the woman who selected Gorgias by Plato and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie; and to the woman in a wheelchair, who purchased five CD's. She'd just returned from the parade and was dressed appropriately for St. Patty's Day, green derby and all. A young woman came out of nowhere with a donation of about 30 books, a marketable mix of fiction and non, and refused my offer of books as payment - my thanks. And a middle age woman I expected arrived just before closing with about 15 thrillers, a blend of hard and soft cover. As a thank you I suggested she take a few books. She took two anthologies of the supernatural and my own story collection A Hitch in Twilight. I was glad to surrender it, as she is an avid reader who will at least give it a shot.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Writer's Life 3/16 - Donald, Ed & Ben

With the Special Counsel's Russia collusion probe going nowhere, Robert Mueller wants the Trump Organization to submit all its financial records. If the swamp gets the President, it will be because of sexual transgression or, more likely, shady business practices. Trump has been in business for almost 50 years. He's probably had to deal with bad actors and may have succumbed to dollar temptation as he has to sexual. My hunch is the investigation will limp along until the November elections. If the Dems regain control of Congress, as it appears likely, I don't see how Trump can survive the onslaught - unless the alleged crimes of FBI and DOJ officials is proven.

RIP Ed Charles, 84, member of the 1969 Miracle Mets. He platooned at third base with Wayne Garrett, and was loved by his teammates and the fans. Bob Murphy, one of the three members of the original broadcast crew, would show his affection by saying: "Never hang a slider to The Glider." In eight big league seasons, three with the Amazin's, he hit .263 and belted 86 homers. Well done, sir.

With the wind still kicking up a fuss at my usual nook, I ventured to an alternate site and had good luck. My thanks to the woman who purchased Five Cents, although I suspect it was an act of sympathy rather than real interest. Thanks also to the middle age Latina who bought four CD's, and to the gentleman who, after careful browsing, selected Fart Proudly: Writings of Benjamin Franklin You Never Read in School by Benjamin Franklin and Carl Japikse. The latter, according to his bio at Amazon, is a modern writer whose "works are designed to stimulate thoughtfulness and help people shed the shackles of prudery, superstition, and careless thinking." Many of his books are issued under a pseudonym, such as his parody The Zen of Farting by a student of master Reepah Gud Wan. For decades he has collaborated with an MD on the topics of the human mind, creativity, personal growth and human psychology. He runs his own publishing houses and has overseen reprints of the work of Alexander Pope, Richard Hovey, H.G. Wells, Talbot Mundy, Joan Grant, A.E. van Vogt, Dion Fortune, and Henry van Dyke. As for Mr. Franklin, here's a snippet from something I found at, culled from a long 1781 letter to The Royal Academy of Brussels: "My Prize Question therefore should be, To discover some Drug wholesome & not disagreable, to be mix’d with our common Food, or Sauces, that shall render the natural Discharges of Wind from our Bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreable as Perfumes." I'd always read that he was quite a character.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Writer's Life 3/15 - Roads

Post-apocalyptic fare has always been popular, whether a serious exploration of the possibility or over-the-top silly fun. Recently, a copy of Cormac McCarthy's The Road came my way. More than one customer of the floating book shop had praised it, so I really looked forward to it. I'm disappointed. I don't mind bleak, downbeat or depressing material, as my own often trends that way. It's what I expected. I was reminded of The Walking Dead TV series - without zombies, humans preying on each violently, some even resorting to cannibalism. My main gripe is with the writing. I don't understand why the author, in a third person account, chose such unpolished prose. I don't mind an occasional run on sentence. It is way overdone in the narrative. There are no quotation marks, which I've encountered before and always seems affectation. The main characters are not given names, which I suppose is some sort of symbolism of a world that has gone blank. I found it annoying, especially in those cases when it was difficult initially to determine who "he" referred to, man or boy. The dialogue is spare and as colorless as the devastated landscape. That said, the novel has several redeeming qualities, the chief being the relationship between the unnamed father and son. The dad will go to any length to protect the kid, whose age is never mentioned but which seems to be at least eight. The concept of the son being the keeper of the fire, that is, the hope of humanity, is first-rate. I was reminded of John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent, in which the protagonist first believes his son is a keeper of that light that keeps humanity from descending into utter chaos, then realizes it is his daughter who is endowed with that decency. Also, the author demonstrates a knowledge of the workings of devices that dwarfs mine and makes me wonder how long I would survive in such an environment. The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. I've read other winners and responded even more negatively than I did to The Road. This makes me believe my own writing is way off the literary mark, and explains why my sales are so weak. 4500+ users at Amazon have rated The Road, forging to a consensus of 4.1 on a scale of five. I rate it 2.5. Born in 1933, McCarthy has written ten novels, and short stories and plays. Several of his works have been adapted to the big or small screen, most notably Oscar-winning Best Picture No Country for Old Men (2007), which I really like. He has not published a book since The Road, which came out in 2007. It's still selling, ranked 2251 overall at Amazon, where 13+ million books are listed. I've just added the 2009 movie version to my Netflix list. This time my expectations will be low. 

According to an article in today's NY Post, a UK room rental service is using DNA analysis in the matching of roommates. It's not surprising, is it? It's a road that continues to lead to innovation, a better world. If only it could be used to make government better.

With the wind still strong at my usual nook, I took the show on the road and had modest success. My thanks to the woman who overpaid for an illustrated book on the song's of The Lion King, which she plans to read/sing to her handicapped teenage son; to the elderly woman who bought paperbacks by John Grisham, Janet Evanovich and Fern Michaels; to the woman who insisted on paying for a book in Russian even though she donated one; and to Monsey, who purchased a country classics CD by Leann Rimes, and compilations of Broadway and Disco... I had some entertainment while I waited for customers to come along. A crew of four was working on the three-story building, replacing the roofing, on the other side of 85th Street. None of the men was wearing a harness, despite the precarious perches they took. At one point one carried a plywood board, cut to about four by four, up a ladder as high as he could. It was too low for one of his mates to grab, so the guy called to another, who, I assume, held onto his legs as he dangled to reach it. I wonder if their kids appreciate what their dads do to bring home the bacon.