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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Writer's Life 10/17 - Remembrance

Here's an excerpt I recently added to Present and Past, the novel I plan to self-publish in January. It's about lifelong friends who are very different from each other. They embark on a cross-country car trip and, along the way, have long conversations:
“She was older than us. She had tits already. I don’t think I ever saw her any place but in school. Richie Finn was always teasing her.”
“Tall kid from the Avenue?”
“Right.” Freddie chuckled. “One Saturday in winter I was at the Benson for the matinĂ©e when he comes strolling down an aisle, swinging his arms, singing: ‘Oh, he’s the son of Robin Hood ‘cause he’s the son of Robin Hood,’ or some such nonsense.”
“Why was he singin’ that?”
“That was one of the flicks in the double feature. I was so impressed by how bold he was. I could never do something like that.”
Tony made a face. “Why would you wanna?”
“It was silly, harmless kid stuff. The last time I saw him was during our high school English regents’ exam. He walked out after fifteen minutes. It took me almost two hours to finish. I never found out if he was just fed up with school or if he had the answer key. I wonder if he went into acting. He seemed a natural for it.”
Tony shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe he got it in ‘nam.”
Freddie froze. “Wow – you just blew my mind.”
“You got a lotta junk floatin’ around in your head.”
“Junk? These are parts of my life, parts of the fantastic voyage we’re all on – how could I not love them?”
“Fantastic,” Tony sneered. “How d’you know you’re even rememberin’ ‘em right after all this time? My family’s always arguin’ like idiots about how things went down.”
“The memories may not be exact, but the essence is right on. I know what you mean, though. Whenever I watch a scene from a movie I think I have down pat, it’s always a little different than I remember.”

It was a second straight sandwich-type session at the floating book shop, two sales immediately, then three while I was packing up. My thanks to the woman who bought two young adult novels, one of which was Once Upon the End by James Riley; to the woman who bought two Danielle Steel romances translated into Russian; to the young man who bought a cook book; to the one who purchased The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz; and the two young ladies who bought Asi Es Venezuela 2000, a huge pictorial on their native country. Each gave me a high five before departing. Sadly, much has happened since then to destroy the economy of that once prosperous, oil-rich nation. Although it was a beautiful day, it was cold under the scaffold. I walked to the corner repeatedly to warm myself in the sunshine.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Monday, October 16, 2017

The Writer's Life 10/16 - Forces

For those who are contemplating a Star Wars theme for Halloween decoration, it will be hard to top what a guy in Parma, Ohio has done:

As of October 13th, President Trump has signed 49 executive orders. How does this compare to others in that span? IKE: 60, LBJ: 58, JFK: 56, Obama: 29.

Botox may be on the way out. A dermatology clinic on the Upper East Side of Manhattan is offering an alternative - platelet rich plasma injections - taken from one's own blood. The blood is first purified, in 15 minutes, by an in-house device. Each shot costs $1000. Maybe the frozen face of of those men and women who use Botox will be eliminated from society, which is a good thing. (From an article in the NY Post.)

How often has it been said that the ice-caps are melting? If so, explain the following, which I gleaned from a blurb in the Post and will put into my owns. Thousands of penguin chicks died of starvation in the Antarctic last summer. The catastrophe wiped out nearly all of them. An ecologist attributed the cause to unusually large amounts of sea ice, which forced the parents to travel farther for food. A similar event occurred 40 years ago.

Here's a neat bit of trivia: There was a first in NFL history yesterday - a Harvard-to-Harvard TD connection between QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and TE Cameron Brate of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fitzpatrick entered the game when starting QB Jameis Winston was injured. He rallied the team from a deep hole, but it still fell short. There's an inside joke in the league dubbed the "Fitzgerald Curse." Several times he has ascended to the throne due to a season-ending injury to the #1... As for the rest of the league - parity is its hallmark, the results unpredictable from week to week. This seems to indicate that New England will again be the last team standing. The call that overturned the Jets TD was especially galling because it benefited the Patriots. The Raiders have regressed, the Chiefs lost their first game, at home, to what heretofore appeared to be a weak Steelers squad; the Falcons blew a 17-0 lead at home to the Dolphins, who are led by Jay Cutler, one of the biggest underachievers in league history; the Broncos lost at home to the 0-5 Giants.

My thanks to Wolf, the kind elderly gentleman who has been so supportive of the floating book shop, who bought the massive paperback Natchez Burning by Greg Iles. It looked like that would be the only sale of the day until the final moments of operation when a tall gentleman pulled his SUV to the curb and bought five thrillers, among them The Forgotten by David Baldacci.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Writer's Life 10/15 - Matters

In an article in today's NY Post, Larry Getlen addresses potential advances in technology that rival science fiction. A Chinese company has become proficient in the 3-D printing of houses. It has created ten homes in 24 hours at a cost of $5000 each. Detractors wonder, if the practice becomes widespread, what it will do to the construction industry... Another development is Augmented Reality, with which video gamers are already familiar. The intention is to make helmets that make complicated tasks easy. The drawbacks would be the potential for hacking... Scientists are working on a cannon that would blast a craft into space, eliminating the need for costly fuel. It would be used only for cargo transportation, as the rate of acceleration would be fatal to humans. The downside - what if rogue nations or terrorists got hold of one?... Programmable Matter seems something out of Star Trek. One example - a bucket of goo that, at voice command, would transform into a tool such as a wrench or hammer. Naysayers imagine bad actors hacking into it in the middle of the night, commanding the goo to be naughty. 

From the Post's Weird But True column, in my own words: Sign of the times: Northern Michigan University has begun a four-year program on the science and business of growing and selling pot. To show how much society has changed in this regard, here's something that happened in 1967 while I was a freshman at Western Michigan. My buddy Bruce, who was on a football scholarship, smoked a joint in his room, so naive about the stuff he didn't realize the aroma would travel beyond his cinder block walls. He didn't get busted, as he came down to the TV room and sat beside me, exaggerating the effects, smiling broadly. Mike, a nice red-haired kid who lived across the hall, did not fare well. Dorm staff assumed he was the source of the odor, entered his room, and held a flashlight to his eyes, searching for symptoms of drug use, scaring the bejesus out of him. If I recall correctly, Bruce eventually became one of the prime suspects, but there was no evidence to pin the rap on him or anyone else. I don't remember if he had more of the stuff and had to dispose of it. That's the way it was, Fall 1967. Bruce is now a doctor, an internist, in the Detroit suburbs. I lost track of Mike after freshman year.

My thanks to the teenage boy whose mom allowed him to select Stephen King's It, the only sale of the afternoon. At least it wasn't a total loss, as I scored a favorable parking spot upon my return home. I won't have to move the car until after Thursday's session.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Writer's Life 10/14 - Teamwork

Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling are great actors. Any film in which they team is worth seeing. Such is the case with The Sense of an Ending (2017), the type of movie made only independently in the States, a quiet slice of life. I watched it last night courtesy of Netflix. Broadbent plays a divorced, technically retired owner of a shop that sells only used Leica cameras. One day he receives a letter informing him that he has inherited the diary of his former best friend, who committed suicide while they were college students. It was bequeathed by the mother of the girl he lost to that friend. That woman is in possession of it and refuses to relinquish it. Emily Mortimer, another great Brit talent, plays the deceased mom. The story moves back and forth in time. There is a subplot about a lesbian daughter having a baby on her own. Whether one considers that just another politically correct teaching moment or poignant dramatic addition will depend on the individual. I know it happens in real life, but I'm always skeptical of it in the arts. I read underlying motive into it. Anyway, the rest of the narrative is infinitely more interesting, the characters genuine, the dialogue intelligent, the actions plausible. 2600+ users at IMDb have rated The Sense of an Ending, forging to a consensus of 6.3 on a scale of ten. Its appeal is limited to folks who prefer subtlety, serious work that explores the mystery of life, that does not move very far from the every day. Nick Payne adapted the screenplay from the novel by Julian Barnes. It was directed by Ritesh Batra, who was born in Mumbai, India, his second stint at the helm of a full length feature.   

There were two shocking upsets last night in college football. Defending national champs Clemson lost at Syracuse, 24-27. Its chance of repeating appear slim, as its starting QB, who played on a gimpy ankle, was injured. Washington lost at Cal, which is surprising only in that it was a complete drubbing 3-37, as the boys from Berkeley have pulled surprises before. The Tigers and Cougars are now 6-1, the Orangemen and Golden Bears both 4-3. It was Syracuse's most significant victory in many years. At the moment it appears no team is even close to being in Alabama's class.

My thanks to the young Latina who purchased the entire Twilight series, the only sale of the day. A lot of folks passed on the Russian translations of Danielle Steel. It was frustrating. There was a light moment when an Asian woman who spoke no English forced a shopping bag into my hands. I caved, accepting it, and thanked her. Inside were a Minicci handbag and a black winter coat. I wonder if the woman thought I'd need the latter this winter. I left the bag in the lobby of our co-op. A similar one lists for $12.99 at Ebay. I'll put the coat in a charity bin tomorrow. I hope the items make the recipients happy.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Friday, October 13, 2017

The Writer's Life 10/13 - Obsession with a Classic

NY Post film critic Sara Stewart devotes a full page article, words and pictures, to a new documentary by Alexandre Philippe: 78/52, based on the shower scene in Psycho (1960), which starred Janet Leigh and Tony Perkins. The numbers in the title refer to pieces of film used and cuts done. The scene is only three minutes. Philippe estimates he's viewed it thousands of times. I believe it. There's a lot there. Most people know that Bosco was used for the blood. There are other interesting aspects. The director says it was the first time a belly button was seen in a Hollywood movie. I have no evidence to the contrary, but I'd be surprised if that were true. There were so many comedies, such as the Hope-Crosby Road pictures, set in exotic locales that it seems an umbilicus had to have made an appearance in one. Philippe notes the unprecedented killing off of the star only 40 minutes into the movie, which runs 109. That, indeed, was shocking way back then. It still doesn't occur very often. The only example I can think of off the top of my head is The Place Beyond the Pines (2012), in which the lead role changed three times in that long (2:20) flick. I'd guess I've seen the shower seen at least 20 times through the years. In fact, I have it on videotape among a slew of clips I recorded from televised movies during the '80's and '90's. I went well beyond the three minutes, beginning just before Norman peers through the peephole at Marion and ending after the disposal of the body as the car is swallowed by the swamp. If I recall correctly, it spans about 20 minutes, without dialogue. It is absolutely riveting. I understand why a cinephile would become obsessed with it. The documentary runs 91 minutes and features commentary from admirers and people who were involved in the picture, including Marli Renfro, who was the body double in the scene. She was an original Playboy bunny and appeared on the cover of the magazine in September 1960. Here's that and another:

From Yahoo Sports, edited by yours truly: Were the bogus African-American Studies courses at the center of the scandal at the University of North Carolina strictly an accreditation issue, given that they were available to all students and not just athletes? Or does the disproportionate number of men’s basketball and football players enrolled in those classes show that athletic department personnel provided extra benefits by steering academically at-risk athletes to courses where they would receive passing grades doing no work? Today the NCAA, after a four-year investigation, ruled it could not conclude the school violated academic standards, and did not levy any significant penalties against the Tar Heels. Is anyone surprised? Major college athletics are a joke.

My thanks to the kind folks who bought books, videos and music on this cool day. Two people commented on President Trump's executive order on health care. Dave, a chef in a Manhattan hotel who is covered through his union, approves. An online book-seller, whose name I don't know, disapproves, despite the fact that he is in the midst of a dispute regarding his ACA plan and its high premium, and his belief that Obamacare has been a disaster.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Writer's Life 10/12 - Free to Choose

I've been eagerly awaiting this move since I heard of it a couple of weeks ago. President Trump has signed an executive order that will allow small businesses and individuals to form associations to sponsor coverage that can be marketed across state lines. The new policies also do not have to provide the 10 “essential health benefits” covered under ObamaCare, including maternity care, emergency room visits, mental health treatment and others. Members would be paying only for the coverage they choose. It will likely attract the most healthy individuals, those who need the least care, particularly the young, many of whom have chosen to pay the abominable ACA fines rather than be coerced into expensive coverage they don't need at this stage of their lives. The hope is the move will incite free market competition that will eventually lower costs for every American, not just those in enrolled in the new plans. Do I know that it will? Of course not, but at least the idea errs on the side of freedom. No doubt it will incite a firestorm from the usual swamp suspects, many of whom receive massive donations from insurance companies. Don't back down, Mr. President.

I had another visit from Mountain Man today. He has an interesting take on the Weinstein scandal. He believes the brother initiated it in order to save the company, which would have faced massive lawsuits with Harvey as its head. Given how easy it is to sue anyone these days, I doubt the ouster will prevent the suits. Will it minimize the damage, however, and allow the company to survive and eventually thrive again?

Happy Birthday, Mark, 69, retired postal worker and Vietnam veteran. His age hasn't stopped him from trying to find a companion. He's been communicating online with an Air Force officer who has been assigned to Australia, where she's living in a tent in the jungle. She hates it.

My thanks to the burly gentleman who bought Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama, Invisible by James Patterson and David Ellis, The Scorpio Illusion by Robert Ludlum, and The Lazarus Vendetta by Robert Ludlum and Patrick Larkin. The biggest surprise of the day was the lack of action on the Danielle Steel translations into Russian.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Writer's Life 10/11 - Savior of the World

The painting above was done by a master approximately 500 years ago. The title is Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World). If it reminds one of the Mona Lisa, it is because it is by Leonardo da Vinci. It was once owned by England's Charles I, then went missing. It is believed that it was painted over in 1900. Despite this, it sold at a 1958 Sotheby's auction for $60. In 2005 it was brought to an expert. It was restored, the paint covering it removed. It was then verified as an original, one of only 20 of da Vinci's paintings known to exist. In November it will be auctioned by Christie's and may fetch as much as $100 million. Maybe it will inspire another best seller from Dan Brown. (Facts from an article in the NY Post and the Christie's web site.

As the Harvey Weinstein scandal gets uglier, I wonder what finally incited the all-out attack after decades of abuse, of others looking away at his behavior. As far back as 2004 the NY Times was ready to publish an article of his sins, but backed off. Who did he piss off or betray to have suddenly become the target of such intense vitriol? I don't feel sorry for him, but I am curious. Why now? Is it simply a matter of an inevitable tipping point having been reached?

The first hour of the floating book shop turned into a political forum of old-timers. Mountain Man delivered his usual screed against everyone in office. We were soon joined by Political Man, who tried to turn the conversation into a partisan attack on President Trump, which MM wouldn't allow, driving PM away. Soon Alan joined us. Although he is non-partisan, he made some vicious comments about Trump, blaming him entirely for things not getting done. He and MM believe that there is no fixing America, that it is doomed. I'm not as pessimistic as they, but I am worried what needs to be done to revive the economy will stall, and that the window of opportunity for meaningful change will slam shut permanently. Fortunately Mike, pushing his shopping cart, arrived. He is apolitical, a breath of fresh air. The three quizzed each other on tenants they hadn't seen in a while, and commented on the high rate of turnover in the three apartment buildings on the street, which are owned by Lefrak, which charges $1800 a month for a one-bedroom. Fortunately, all three enjoy rent stabilization rates. They have lived in their apartments more than 40 years. It got awful quiet when they departed. My thanks to the young couple, my only customers of the session, who purchased three books in Russian, two of them translations of Danielle Steel novels.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works: