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Monday, September 24, 2018

The Writer's Life 9/24 - Plunging

NYC MTA commuters may want to take the plunge and consider what this inventive woman in China does:

The Vikings were touted as Super Bowl contenders. Experts believed the Bills would have trouble winning a single game in 2018. Yesterday Buffalo, 17-point dogs, won easily at Minnesota, 27-6, shocking the football world. It is the largest points swing against the spread since 1983. There is a pool usually dubbed "Last Man Standing" wherein each week participants must pick one winner to remain alive, no points involved. How many players were eliminated yesterday having selected the Vikes? In NCAA action, Old Dominion, 27.5 point underdogs, was 0-3 going into its game at home vs. Virginia Tech, which was 2-0. The Monarchs won, 49-32. And that, folks, is why they play the games despite the odds. Kudos to the gamblers who took the plunge on those huge dogs.

Given his stellar play the past few months, it seemed inevitable that Tiger Woods would soon win a tournament, which he did yesterday for the first time in five years. He has rebounded to 13th in the world golf rankings. At one time, plagued by personal and back problems, he had plunged to 1199. He will probably be the favorite for the 2019 Masters. There is a downside to his return to prominence - the insufferable fawning of the media. Lost in Tigermania, Justin Rose, ranked #1, won the Fed Ex Cup. Kudos.

The following was found in northern Virginia. It is believed to have escaped from Washington D.C.:

My thanks to Michael, who took the plunge on yet another romance paperback, and to the Frenchman, who purchased non-fiction, The Secret Self by Theodor Reik, a student of Freud's, and a large pictorial on movies, which Herbie had just donated. Special thanks to the gentleman who donated about 20 books in Russian, which gives that part of the inventory, dominated by sci-fi and fantasy, much needed variety.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Writer's Life 9/23 - Public Opinion

In today's NY Post, Kyle Smith devotes his op-ed piece to the defense of those who are speaking out about the legions of know-it-alls convicting people in the court of public opinion. He dubs them "Twitterati." I don't know if he is the first to use the term. Kudos to whomever came up with it.

Here's something else that can be counted on in life besides death and taxes - politics will always sink lower. It has no bottom.

For the second straight day there has been a first in MLB. Four starting pitchers for the Cleveland Indians, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger, all have at least 200 strike-outs. Kudos. Here they are in the same order:

The season has changed but the foul weather pattern persists. For the past few years I thought forecasting had gotten a lot better. That hasn't been the case lately. The 3-5 day forecasts have been wrong consistently. The chart in today's NY Post called for clouds and sun, temperature 65-71. I doubt it got out of the mid 60's and the sun was obliterated. I was pissed when I heard a radio report this morning calling for sprinkles all day. Until this pattern changes, it seems meteorologists should be playing it safe, saying the chance of precipitation is 50%. They would be right at least half the time.

I put my laundry in the bag, went to the potty for a minute, then hurried to my car without my clean clothes - and didn't realize it for at least an hour, so preoccupied was I about where to set up shop. I'd planned to go to Park Slope for the first time since May. Given the ominous cloud cover, there was no sense going all the way there. And Bay Parkway immediately became out of the question when it began drizzling. So I headed for the neighborhood hoping I'd get parking close enough to haul at least half the wares to my usual nook under the scaffold. Dumb luck was with me. A car pulled out of the most advantageous spot just as I arrived. My thanks to the kind folks who bought books, and to Herbie, who donated a John Wayne pictorial in excellent condition he bought from the local library for a buck, which I'll sell for three. The most satisfying sales came back to back. A young man asked for easy reads to help him improve his English, which was very limited. I helped him pick out three young adult epics. And a thirtyish woman asked the same, and I pointed her to a box that contained romance novels, from which she selected two.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

The Writer's Life 9/22 - Party Time

Although she's been active since the late '60's, I was completely unfamiliar with the work of Sally Potter, who began shooting shorts and has moved on to full length independent films. Last night I watched The Party (2017), courtesy of Netflix. It is a bleak portrait of modern life leavened by occasional humor, mostly by Switzerland's Bruno Ganz and his character's new age ideas. The story is set in the London flat of a middle age woman who has just won a political race for a position as a minister. She is played with gusto by the great Kristen Scott Thomas. In fact, everyone in the stellar cast is at his/her best. It is rounded out by Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Spall, Cilian Murphy, Cherry Jones and Emily Mortimer. It may not cover all of society's foibles, but it comes close despite a running time of little more than an hour. There's infidelity, hypocrisy, cynicism, drug abuse, lesbian angst, hysteria, illness. A character who plays a huge role in the proceedings never appears on screen. The dialogue is intelligent and often biting. Although there is a liberal bias, no one is unscathed. And it ends with an awesome twist I did not see coming. Appropriately, it's shot in black and white. Chauvinist that I am, I wondered if Potter chose the format because age is not being kind to several of the actors. The Party is not a great flick, but it's worth watching, especially appealing for those who believe life is one big mess and to those who appreciate first rate performances. 11,000+ users at IMDb have rated it, forging to a consensus of 6.6 on a scale of ten. It brought in less than a million worldwide at the box office. It wouldn't surprise me if that were a slight profit, as the budget was probably very modest. Here's a still of the cast:

There was a first last night in MLB: brothers hit two home runs in a game on the same day. Blue Jays' SS Lourdes Gurriel and Astros' 1B Yuli each went deep in their first two at-bats. Very cool. Here are Cuba's gifts to the USA:

My thanks to Taurus, who bought Billionths of a Lifetime at Amazon, and to whomever downloaded Killing to Kindle. And also to the woman who bought Danielle Steel's Pure Joy, non-fiction about her love of dogs, and to the gentleman who purchased Unshakeable Trust: Find the Joy of Trusting God at All Times, in All Things by Joyce Meyer; and to Bay 37th alum Lorraine, who selected a thriller and a children's book; and to the woman who treated her grandson to Fractured Fairy Tales by A. J. Jacobs.

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Writer's Life 9/21 Around the World

Bjorn Lomborg believes global warming is potentially dangerous, but he often refutes the findings of zealots. Here are excerpts from his op-ed piece in yesterday's NY Post, edited by yours truly:
The UN Climate Panel found that hurricanes or cyclones haven’t increased: “Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century.” In the 51 years from 1915, Florida and the Atlantic coast were hit by 19 major hurricanes. In the 51 years to 2016, just seven. In the last 11 years only two hurricanes greater than category 3 hit the continental USA — a record low since 1900. From 1915 to 1926, 12 hit. Yes, hurricane costs keep escalating, but this is not due to climate change. Rather, more and wealthier people live in harm’s way. The US population has risen 50-fold in coastal areas. The area hurricane Florence hit held fewer than 800,000 homes in 1940; there are now 11.3 million. The homes are bigger and contain expensive possessions. Adjusted for population and wealth, hurricane damage has not increased since 1900. Global weather damage as a percentage of global GDP actually fell from 1990 to 2017. The effect of global warming making storms fewer but stronger will see damage end up around 0.02% of GDP. Global warming will increase harm, but prosperity will decrease the overall impact. The Paris agreement on climate change will cost $1-2 trillion a year in lost growth for the rest of this century. It is estimated that the cuts promised until 2030 will achieve 1% of what would be needed to keep temperature rises under 2°C, while the cost would be around 10,000 times higher. That's terrible policy. We should spend far more on research and development of green energy sources to make them cheaper and more attractive than fossil fuels.

From Yahoo's Odd News: Speaking of weird climate, here's a pic of webs that spiders in a Greek coastal town have spun to trap an explosion in the population of insects on which they dine:

There's an interesting political race in a farming town in central Peru. It pits Hitler Alba against Leninn Vladimir Rodriguez. Neither is a follower of his namesake.

Yesterday I had a little fun with my tiny Bell & Howell camera shooting what's available at the floating book shop. The video is three minutes:

All business today occurred in the last half hour of operation. My thanks to the young woman who purchased Barbara Taylor Bradford's To Be the Best, and to Marsha, who bought two cook books and handed me her card in case I get anymore. She lists herself as "Image Consultant" - "Fashion, Hair, Home, Lifestyle." As I was closing shop, the middle age Latino gentleman who has been so generous rode up on his bike and cleaned out my CD's and DVD's. Gracious, amigo.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Writer's Life 9/20 - Treasures

Born in NYC in 1915, Belva Plain was a late bloomer in the literary world. While raising three kids, she managed to place short stories in magazines such as Cosmopolitan. Her first novel, Evergreen, was published when she was 63. 22 others followed. A total of 21 were NY Times best sellers. More than 30 million copies of her books are in print, translated into 22 languages. A large part of her canon features Jewish protagonists. Evergreen was adapted into a mini-series in the '80's. Treasures, which I just finished, features three 20-something Christian siblings from a small town in Ohio. Their parents have passed away. The elder sister, the rock of the family, stays in the hometown. Her brother and sister strike out to pursue their fortunes. Both end up in NYC. The brother quickly becomes rich in the financial world. The sister marries into wealth. The narrative follows the ups and downs of the three. This is not romance fiction. It is an intelligent portrayal of the human condition. It doesn't go as deeply into psyche as the best tales about human beings, but it is damn fine storytelling, and not always predictable. Although there is a liberal bias, the author is fairer in her portrayal of businessmen, even the most ruthless, than most writers. In the end, the theme is that the greatest treasure in life is family love. I thought the writing overdone and the dialogue a bit unnatural, but still found the 304 pages a smooth read. Plain passed away in 2010 at 95. She left quite a legacy. Kudos. (Facts from Wiki) 

Although I miss a couple of options, I do not regret having cut the cable chord, even though an over the air antenna suffers problems. This week the signal of the three channel fives - Fox, Movies! and Light - was weak, making them unwatchable. Last night I moved the antenna from the lower left of the window nearest the TV to the lower right. That weakened the signal for GetTV, 68. I then moved it to the middle of the lower window, a few inches from where it had been, and the system was a treasure again. I expect to be moving the antenna periodically. Maybe the satellite relaying the signal moves around.

My 2003 Hyundai has been a treasure, not perfect but very reliable. For the past two days, parked in the most favorable spot for the operation of the floating book shop, the rear doors would not unlock when I opened the front driver door to begin the unloading of wares. I wondered if I'd done something without realizing it. Forced to move the car because of tomorrow's parking regulations, it wouldn't start, dead as a doornail. I assumed it was an electrical problem, and my hunch seemed corroborated when the AAA guy hooked up to the battery and the car started immediately. I took the car to the shop, where the battery was changed and the electrical system checked out. Ralph says it was the battery. Of course, as one who suffers car paranoia, I expect it not to start tomorrow.

My thanks to Wolf, who purchased a beautiful art workbook for his grandkids, and to the woman who, just as she was about to turn away, spotted the Russian translation of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye; and to other who, despite being laden with six heavy shopping bags, bought eight books in Russian. Those three customers walked away with treasures for mere shekels.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Writer's Life 9/19 - The Goal

Here's an excerpt from Michael Goodwin's op-ed piece in today's NY Post: "Trump, to 63 million Americans, was the antidote to both parties. Warts and all, he still is. He is the fighter Republicans longed for, which is why he still commands upwards of 90 percent of GOP support. They know nobody else would have beaten Clinton, so, without him, one Clinton nominee already would be on the high court and the second one about to join. Neither would be named Neil Gorsuch or Brett Kavanaugh and you can bet that many Republicans would have played nice and voted yes for her nominees." Kudos, sir. I still believe Trump is America's best and, hopefully, not last hope. Many are saying Democrats have lost their minds collectively. I thought that too until it occurred to me that they're simply following a progression toward socialism, which they have since FDR, only at a now accelerated pace. They are approximately half way to their goal. I hope I never see them achieve it.

Despite an impressive array of wares, it seemed it would be another abysmal sales day at the floating book shop until two buyers showed in the final hour. My thanks to the gentleman walking his dog, who bought six books in Russian for his wife, to whom he was speaking on his cell phone; and to Ira, who purchased a beautiful color pictorial on the Dr. Who series, which doesn't include the latest, the lucky 13th protagonist, the first female incarnation, played by Jodie Whittaker. Thanks also to Maria, who donated two self-help books, and also to the retired Romanian janitor who donated a large paperback edition of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and five books in Russian, among them a translation of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye; and to the lovely woman with vivid blue eyes whose little girl has grown up and is no longer in need of her young adult novels - about 50 of them.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Writer's Life 9/18 - It's the Real Thing

Smart investors are buying stock in marijuana companies. Dumbbell that I am, I'm not anymore comfortable with that than I am with investments in tobacco or alcohol. Turns out I may not have a choice. A short article in today's NY Post informs that Coca Cola officials are talking with a Canadian cannabis company about infusing soft drinks with pot. I have more than two hundred shares of Coke, which has been one of my big winners. I won't sell because of this, as the stock pays good dividends. I suppose those who consider soda one of society's great evils will dub me a hypocrite. So be it. Each day I look forward to dinner when I allow myself 10-16 ounces of a soft drink. I'd drink them all day if I didn't care about my waistline and the possibility of diabetes. Maybe Coke will ask U2 permission to use Even Better Than the Real Thing in commercials for the new product.

The Weird But True column in the Post led me to this billboard message commissioned by a British businessman:

Pundits reason that if Paul Manafort had had any dirt on President Trump he would have spilled it long ago to avoid going to trial and jail. That makes sense. So what is one to make of the deal the Special Counsel has offered him? Conservatives are hoping, since Robert Mueller is often described as a stand up guy, that Manafort will spill the beans on Clinton crony John Podesta, and that an investigation will ensue. I'll believe it when I see it. In this case, right wingers seem as deluded about the possibility as leftists are about collusion with Russia. I would rather see it all go away. Does America need more of this? Then again, would the mainstream media even cover it?

I left the apartment 15 minutes early, hurrying to set up the floating book shop, anticipating rain. Today's session was about an hour old when the skies opened up. The scaffold was no help when the downpour intensified. I managed to keep the wares dry until the precip slacked off and I was able to return them to the old Hyundai. There were no sales, but it wasn't a total loss. Bob Rubenstein showed bearing a gift - a copy of his latest novel. Thank you, sir. I look forward to it.