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Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/31 - Another Year in the Books

In separate op-ed pieces in today's NY Post, Peggy Noonan and Kyle Smith cite historical inaccuracies in PBS' The Crown and Hollywood's The Post. Richard Nixon did not start the Vietnam War - he ended it. True, he tried to prevent publication of The Pentagon Papers, not in self-interest but to protect others, including JFK and Lyndon Johnson, both Democrats, who were cited in the report for lies about the war. The PP's were completed before Nixon took office. The press never forgave Tricky Dick for his involvement in the House Un American Activities Committee. He was instrumental in the conviction of Alger Hiss, who was accused of spying. When the Venona Papers became public in the '90's, they seemed to suggest that Hiss was indeed a Soviet agent - and that the Rosenbergs were guilty. The VP's were based on the  interception and decryption of messages. Nixon governed as a liberal. Not only did he end the war, he recognized China, set wage and price controls, and signed the country's first environmental regulations into law, but those moves did nothing to lessen the left's hatred of him. He handed his enemies the rope with which to hang him by engaging in the cover up of the inane Watergate break in. I'm not trying to redeem his reputation. I thought he was a terrible president, but no one had been treated more unfairly by the media until Donald Trump was elected Commander in Chief. I don't write historical fiction, although I use historical events as background in my novels, to a great extent in Killing and Five Cents. I did not embellish. In reading about what occurs in The Crown, which I have not seen, it seems the series has obliterated the line between poetic license and truth, and rewritten history. And it seems there's nothing to do about it but cite the violations in opinion articles.

There is rioting in Iran by citizens fed up with the government. President Trump has tweeted about it. He is more optimistic about the situation than I. I've never been to Iran, but it seems most people there, and throughout the entire Middle East, prefer Islamic rule. Even Turkey, long a secular state, has been moving toward Islamic rule under Erdogan. I hope I'm wrong. On a positive note, more than a year later, I'm still grateful Hillary Clinton did not ascend to the throne.

After picking up the laundry at the old house, I was tempted to swing by the Chase bank on Bay Parkway to see what the wind was like there, where it is often blocked. Common sense prevailed. I went home, did a DIY buzz cut of my hair and a crossword puzzle, then did the final tally of the floating book shop's returns for 2017. I earned a few hundred more this year than last, but street sales of my own books dropped off considerably, 65 to 45. Three of my books are profitable: A Hitch in Twilight, Killing and Rising Star. Exchanges and Five Cents are close to breaking even. Billionths of a Lifetime has an outside shot of getting there. My first two novels, Close to the Edge and Adjustments, will probably always be in the red. I consider them learning experiences. I closed the year minus $930. That figure will rise by about $250 when I purchase copies of Present and Past, which should be available soon. Of course, when the proceeds of the floating book shop are considered I'm thousands ahead of the game. It's been on the shelf for five straight days, and will be tomorrow also. Fortunately, I've been reading an interesting novel to help fill the time. Still, I'm antsy. One of Rising Star's songs is titled Wintertime Blues. I'm trying to avoid that feeling. It won't be easy if this cold snap continues to be relentless. Right now it looks like I may be able to set up shop on Wednesday - before the temperature takes another dive. Another positive - my checking account has about $200 more than at this time last year.. Damn lucky.

Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/30 - Legends

The King Arthur legend is one of the greatest stories ever told. Curiously, I've found any written or filmed adaptation unsatisfying. Sir Thomas Malory started it all in 1485 with Le Morte d'Arthur. I gave up on it halfway through, finding it artless, merely a catalog of whom had slain whom. Still, it inspired many to take a crack at it. The Once and Future King by T. H. White, first published in 1958, is bloated and over the top, at least to my taste. The Mists of Avalon (1993) by Marion Zimmer Bradley is the tale from the point of view of the female characters. I was annoyed by her changing many of the names of the characters, although she may have done it to correspond to the language of the era. The thought once crossed my mind to do my own version, but I'm not thrilled by the prospect of doing a work that isn't mine. The screen versions have also been lacking, although Excalibur (1981) comes the closest to greatness of any of the Arthurian incarnations I've sampled. Still, whenever I view it, it feels as if something is missing. Last night I watched Guy Ritchie's take: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017), which goes only as far as Arthur ascending to the throne - no Lancelot, no Guinivere, hardly any Merlin. Since I'm not an expert on the legend, I'm not sure if the character identified as The Mage (a magician or learned person) is supposed to be Morgan le Fay. Although this latest version has good moments and great effects, it also comes up short. Charlie Hunnam, who did 92 episodes of The Sons of Anarchy, which I've never seen, is adequate as Arthur. Eric Bana is perfectly cast as Uther Pendragon, the future King's father. Jude Law lends his considerable talent to the villainous Vortigern. Although the character of The Mage is woefully undeveloped, I liked what Astrid Berges-Frisbey, a Spaniard, did with it. Ritchie and four others wrote the screenplay. They included black actors and a martial arts expert, Asian. I hope the director's motivation wasn't political correctness. There were two aspects I really enjoyed, made possible by CGI: a huge eagle, and The Lady of Lake. The battle sequences are what one would expect in the modern age of film-making. There is some bloodletting, but it doesn't go overboard. 128,000+ users at IMDb have rated the film, forging to a consensus of 6.9 on a scale of ten. It was a disaster at the box office. Made on a budget of $175 million, it returned only $140 million. That's a lot of ground to make up in DVD sales and rentals, and streaming. Its appeal is probably restricted to fans of the legend and to those completely unfamiliar with it. So far, a sequel hasn't been announced. Given the disappointing returns of this version, it is unlikely one will be made.

RIP Sue Grafton, 77, author of the popular alphabet mystery series, which feature private detective Kinsey Millhone. She was inspired by her dad, a lawyer, who loved the genre and wrote at night, managing to get four novels in print. According to her page at Wiki, Grafton began writing at 18. Only two of her first seven manuscripts were published. They attracted little attention. She turned to screenwriting, adapting one of her novels, The Lolly-Madonna War, to the big screen, and writing several TV movies. She created the series Nurse, which ran one season, shooting 25 episodes. She even contributed one script to Rhoda. But it was the alphabet series that made her a literary star. Those books have sold millions and been translated into 26 languages. Alas, she will not complete the alphabet, having ended with Y Is for Yesterday earlier this year. She refused to sell the film and television rights to those books, her time in Hollywood having quelled her desire to have her work on the big screen. Grafton threatened to haunt her children if they sold the film rights after she died. Well done, madam.

The floating book shop was again sidelined by unfriendly weather.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/29 - A Full Life

RIP showbiz legend Rose Marie, 94, whose career spanned almost 90 years. Baby-boomers know her as Sally Rogers, one of the comedy writers for Alan Brady within The Dick Van Dyke Show, which shot 158 episodes in its six-year run. She did so much more. Born in NYC in 1923 to an Italian dad and Polish mom, she began performing at three as Baby Rose Marie and had her own radio show by five. She did movie shorts, went on to sing in night clubs in her teens, and did vaudeville and Broadway. Before Van Dyke, she did 24 episodes of My Sister Eileen. After it, she did 50 of The Doris Day Show. She was a frequent presence on Hollywood Squares, and guest star on many series. She toured eight years in the revue 4 Girls 4 with Rosemary Clooney, Helen O'Connell and Margaret Whiting. She has joined them on the other side. Her final gig was doing what is listed at IMDb as "additional voices" on five episodes of the animated The Garfield Show, which ran from 2008-'13. Awesome, madam. Thank you. Here's a clip of her at six: 

And here are two pictures:

For years there have been warnings about exposure to the sun. Many women have taken to carrying an umbrella to stay in the shade. The sale of sun screen is lucrative. Alas, there has been an unintended consequence of all this caution. According to a blurb in yesterday's NY Post, a study reveals that one billion people worldwide have insufficient levels of vitamin D, which the body produces when skin is exposed to sunlight. I suppose the sale of vitamin D will now take off. I've been taking it for years, even though I don't use sun screen. I don't even remember why, most likely for BP or cholesterol maintenance. In my 67th year, my numbers are borderline without meds. I take only one prescription drug, for BP. I also use prescription eye-drops, which have dramatically reduced the pressure that leads to glaucoma. The last time I saw the doctor, he recommended a non-prescription pill that lowers cholesterol. I finally got around to looking it up at Wed-MD, and here's what it said: "Policosanol is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth in doses of 5-80 mg daily for up to 3 years. It can cause skin redness and rash, migraines, insomnia or drowsiness, irritability, dizziness, upset stomach, increased appetite, trouble urinating, weight loss, nose and gum bleeds, and other side effects." No thanks.

The floating book shop was again sidelined by frigid conditions. I miss it.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/28 - Repairs

A fun controversy has spawned on NYC's Lower East Side. A female artist painted a 40-foot mural of a penis on the side of a building. Of course, many complained about it and, not surprisingly, a few defended it. It has since been painted over. I suspect the woman was desperate for publicity. She did manage to get into the NY Post, and in many web publications. I will post a picture, gleaned from the, at the bottom. If you're repulsed by such work, you've been warned.

Whenever one leaves a vehicle at a repair shop, anxiety ensues, despite the fact that one may have done business with the place for years. Will the bill be $500, $600? It's impossible to know. The "Check Engine" light comes on, and we are at the mercy of management and mechanics. I have zero interest in how a car runs, so I don't ask what was wrong. Usually, an explanation is rendered, one that goes in one ear and out the other. I'm only interested in the bottom line. The highest amount I've ever paid on a single visit is $800+. Should I be relieved that the call I just received puts the initial estimate at $349? I will use a debit card to pay it - invisible money. Given the old Hyundai's age, a 2003 model, I would not be surprised if the light comes back on in a few days.

I completed the next phase of the publication of my ninth book, Present and Past. Reworking the format took a lot of air out of the book, reducing its length from 321 pages to 254. That lowered the projected price from $11.73 to $10, which I consider ideal. I will order another proof copy and try to read it carefully, which will be difficult after having read the novel so many times recently. The creative aspect is done. Revision is tedious. I did a lot of copying and pasting recently. I may have inadvertently left a few lines out or put them in the wrong place. And there will likely be a few errors I've missed. I also noticed that in a few instances the sentences still do not stretch all the way to the margin, and refuse manual correction. C'est la vie.

I completed the few chores I'd set aside for days when weather conditions put the kibosh on the floating book shop. With no relief in sight, I will be doing a lot of crosswords and leisure reading the next few days. I will not be psychologically ready to do the first sweep of my tenth book, scheduled for next January, for at least a few weeks.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/27 - Legal Theft & More

The new tax bill eliminates the penalty levied against those who do not purchase health insurance. So what are insurance companies doing to counter the loss of guaranteed income? According to an op-ed piece in today's NY Post by Betsy McCaughey, they're lobbying politicians in high tax states to institute such fines. They would deny the individual the right to choose what is best for him/her. They are thieves.

In another piece, Robert Cherry, professor of Economics at Brooklyn College, berates his brethren, citing the six-figure salaries and cadillac benefits of most of the faculty in the CUNY system, and the fact that they teach only two days a week. This surprises no one. They also are thieves.

When the Steelers released James Harrison, one of their all-time great linebackers, I immediately had an idea what his next destination would be. The Patriots have signed him. Even if he might not be able to help them on the field, he might provide information about Pittsburgh's defense that will will come in handy should the teams meet in the playoffs.

My "Check Engine" light has been on for the past 150 miles. I took it to the shop late this morning. The manager said he probably wouldn't get to it until tomorrow morning. As I was walking home I wondered if I'd let the weatherman scare me out of running the book shop. Sure it was cold, but the sun was out and the wind wasn't strong. I probably could have squeezed a couple of hours out. At least I made good use of time. I finished reading the proof copy of Present and Past. I made 41 changes. About a quarter of them were an elimination of a hyphenated word at the end of a sentence, actually the joining of the parts on the next line. The formatting problem remained. I googled hoping to find a better template than Create Space's, which in many instances did not extend sentences to the margin. I tried DiggyPOD. It is not perfect, but I spotted only a few sentences that had the same problem. I was unable to fix them. I'll have to live with it. To show how much air was in the file, it shrank from 321 pages to 265. I just resubmitted it to CS, and the program found no issues with it. I will check the interior reviewer tomorrow with a fresh brain and eyes.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/26 - Love Letter

The following letter was found inside a wall during a home remodeling in Massachusetts, and authorities are asking the public's help in finding the woman for whom it was intended, Betty Miller. What's nice about it is that it's from an average guy, not a writer. Whenever I include a letter by a non-author in one of my novels, I have to guard against it sounding too polished.

(Article from AP, photos from

With frigid temperatures on the way and likely to put the kibosh on the floating book shop, I gave it  a shot today. I did not leave the apartment until the clouds had moved away. I needed every bit of what little warmth the sun was offering. My first goal was to give Mayor Mike $45 for the nine vinyl albums I've sold for him. That was accomplished quickly. Minutes later a woman bought four cook books and Reader's Digest: Fix It Yourself Manual, How to Repair, Clean and Maintain Anything and Everything in and Around Your Home. Later Bill Brown, author of Words and Guitar: A History of Lou Reed's Music, visited. He's at the end of a two-week battle with the flu. He purchased two Elvis Presley gospel discs and Willa Cather's Alexander's Bridge, first published in 1912. And to top off the surprising session, a woman bought Wicked: Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. I was out there barely two hours. It remains to be seen if I will be hardy enough to venture out there again tomorrow, when the temperature is supposed to be a bit lower. The long range forecast has the cold snap lasting at least until next Tuesday.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/24 - Presences

Merry Christmas, Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad.

There are several fun items in today's NY Post: A nine-year-old Canadian girl has a future as a writer. Here's the note she left St. Nick: "Santa stop here. Leave presents. Take brother."... Here's a quote on the season from Shirley Temple: "I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph."... Edward Stone was playing Cassius in Julius Caesar at the Old Vic Theater in England. When he delivered the line: "Sirrah, what news?" someone's Siri replied: "Sorry, I did not understand what you said." The audience of 500 loved it... Marie-Lou Wirth, 100, has been tending bar in France since she was 14. The secret to her longevity? She advises to never eat fruit or drink milk or yogurt. She also touts moderation... Robert Cenedella's controversial painting, The Presence of Man, hanging in the window of a local gallery, was pulled after complaints from passersby. It is commentary on the commercialization of Christmas. The work is being defended by Catholic League President Bill Donohue, who condemned it two decades ago. The artist will be displaying it today outside St. Patrick's Cathedral. Here it is:

Last night the Svengoolie program, 33 on Cablevision in NYC, ran The Invisible Woman (1940), which I'd never seen. It was not what I expected. I'd classify it as screwball comedy. Virginia Bruce was the lead. John Barrymore hammed it up as an eccentric scientist. It featured a slew of familiar Hollywood supporting players, including Shemp Howard. Here's a still featuring the prolific Charles Lane, 365 credits at IMDb, as a surly boss getting his comeuppance from TIW:

Given the holiday eve, I didn't expect much action at the floating book shop today. Fortunately, two buyers made the session worth it. My thanks to the young woman who bought Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom by Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, and to the gentleman who purchased three hardcovers: The Conspiracy Club by Jonathan Kellerman, The Matarese Countdown by Robert Ludlum, and the massive Executive Orders by Tom Clancy, which I'd been carrying for at least a year.

Since we're having only one family dinner this year, forgoing the seven fishes, I decided to treat myself to a shrimp parm hero from Delmar. When I first moved to the neighborhood in 1988, it was five bucks. Today it is $11.43.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/23 - Adapting

Daphne Du Maurier, who passed away in 1989 just short of her 82nd birthday, was one of the most successful authors of the 20th century, producing many novels, short stories and plays. Several of her works have been adapted to the big and small screen. There are three versions of My Cousin Rachel,  1952, a 1983 four-part miniseries, and 2017. I watched the latter last night courtesy of Netflix. Although I have not read the novel or any of Du Maurier's works, in viewing the film it is easy to see why the book was so popular - and difficult to adapt into great cinema. An hour-and-forty-six minutes may not have been enough time to develop it fully. I'm tempted to rent the TV adaptation. Set in the 1800's in Cornwall, a rural, seaside area in England, it is the story of a young man who inherits an estate from the much older cousin who raised him. The elder had moved away due to ill health, married, and died of a brain tumor. The younger becomes infatuated with the widow, who may have murdered her husband and now may have designs on the property. I won't say anymore, especially about the ending, which I loved but which may disappoint many. Sam Claflin, who starred in three of the four Hunger Games flicks, and the great Rachel Weisz are solid in their roles, as is Holly Grainger as the better match for the protagonist. Barely 30, Grainger is the midst of an outstanding career, already having played Lady Chatterley, Bonnie Parker, Lucrezia Borgia and Estella from Great Expectations. Roger Michell, who is from South Africa, directed and adapted the screenplay for My Cousin Rachel, which at times has the feel of cliff notes, likely a concession to the impatience of modern audiences. He has 21 titles under his name at IMDb, the most notable of which is Notting Hill (1999), which I haven't seen. 9000+ users at IMDb have rated My Cousin Rachel, forging to a consensus of six on a scale of ten. Its appeal is likely limited to those curious about how it was adapted and those who enjoy old-fashion fare. Here's a still of the leads in character:

The proofing of Present and Past has gone from the absurd to the ridiculous. I copied and pasted the file into Create Space's template, and that solved the problem of certain sentences not extending to the margin. That move reduced the length by about 30 pages. Unfortunately, I noticed that the text on many pages doesn't extend all the way to the bottom. Worse, the portions cannot be joined by a simple press of the back arrow. Why should things be easy? I now have to count lines and copy and paste. I've ignored those pages that fall only one or two sentences short of the bottom. If the next proof copy doesn't have glaring errors I will be very surprised. I'm keeping the file from which I copied and space alive, and making corrections to each - just in case. In 172 pages I've found 19 errors.

The floating book shop was rained out today. I shopped for one Christmas gift. Everyone else in my family wants either a gift card or cash.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/22 - Hale & Hardy

I may be overlooking someone, but U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is the most impressive woman in politics since Margaret Thatcher. May she never be corrupted by the Swamp. As for that woebegone body, the USA pays 22% of its budget. Japan is second at 9%.

RIP Dick Enberg, 82, who was at the microphone of so many the top sporting events. He always conducted himself with class and never put himself above any game. Thank you, sir.

I've proofed 114 pages of Present and Past and found 14 errors. The latest was the most egregious. It had the protagonist performing the same action twice within a few lines. Concerned that readers may conclude I was too lazy to fix the sentences that do not go all the way to the margin, I sent a private message at Facebook about the problem to my literary angel, Victoria Valentine of Water Forest Press. If it's a quirk that cannot be fixed, I'll add a note to the book's Acknowledgments.

My thanks to the lady and gentleman who each bought a book in Russian, and to Marsha, who purchased Danielle Steel's Precious Gifts; and to the woman who picked up a children's book as I was hauling wares back to the old Hyundai. Special thanks to Marie, who donated a large cache, most of which were cookbooks. I showed my appreciation by giving her a copy of Five Cents. She has been one of my biggest supporters, having read most of my books and even taking the time to rate several at Amazon. Noting the vinyl albums I had on display, she asked if I would partner in selling hers. Gladly - as I soon as I sell most of Mayor Mike's.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/21 - Speaking Out

As if another example of government insanity is needed, here's one of the difference in the amount of federal regulations in a 50-year span. They're now up to 1750,000 pages. President Trump has eliminated a few through executive orders:

Basketball dad LaVar Ball is trying to start a developmental league for young men who do not want to go to college. Players will be paid. I like it. Anything that threatens the farce of the one-and-done NCAA system is fine by me. Scholarships should go to true student-athletes. And while on the subject of BB, here's a shout out to Knicks' center Enes Kanter, born in Switzerland, raised in Turkey, who has spoken out against would-be dictator Erdogan, who is turning the country into an Islamic state. Kanter has been threatened with imprisonment upon his return to his homeland. Imagine how many U.S. citizens, under such rule, would be behind bars for speaking ill of its leaders.

According to a blurb in today's NY Post, Hollywood blowhard Rosie O'Donnell offered two million dollars each to two GOP senators in an effort to get them to vote against the tax bill. It went out in a tweet for all America to see. She may be charged with bribery. To anyone who hopes she will see prison time - don't hold your breath.

So far I've proofed 75 pages of Present and Past and spotted ten errors. Four were holdovers from long ago when I scanned the hard copy manuscript into my first PC. Somewhere along the line, using a hyphen to break up the last word of a sentence became passe... There is a freakishly odd quirk to the Word file. Many sentences don't stretch to the margin, although there is ample room for at least one other word, and none respond to correction. This means the book should probably be a few pages shorter than 321.

I left the apartment a lot earlier than usual this morning, and managed to get a parking spot near my usual nook for the first time this week while the alternate side regulation was winding down. Most sales were again of books in Russian. The lone one in English was The 5 Personality Patterns: Your Guide to Understanding Yourself and Others and Developing Emotional Maturity by Steven Kessler, selected by a young man. His companion purchased two vinyl albums, compilations of Sinatra and Blondie. And the same gentleman who has already bought about 20 records gobbled up five more, two by Old Blue Eyes and three by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, including one I once owned:

Thanks, folks.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/20 - Luck of the Solstice

The Winter solstice doesn't always fall on the 21st, but it will tomorrow. Here are facts about the event, gleaned from an article by Jane Rose at, edited by yours truly: The next solstice occurring on December 20th will not happen until 2080, and the next on December 23rd will not occur until 2303. (Can't wait.) The event occurs the instant the North Pole is aimed furthest away from the sun on the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis, which will be at 11:28 AM Eastern time in 2017. NYC will experience 9 hours and 15 minutes of sunlight. Barrow, Alaska, will not have a sunrise at all, and hasn't since mid-November; its next will be on January 22nd. The Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock on December 21, 1620; on 12/21/1898 Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium; and on 12/21/1968 the Apollo 8 spacecraft launched. Stonehenge lines up with the winter solstice sunrise. No one knows why. Each year thousands of hippies, pagans, and other enthusiasts gather there to celebrate the occasion. Some traditions hold that dark spirits walk the earth on the day. Some folks expected the world to end on 12/21/2012, the finish of a 5126-year cycle on the Mayan calendar... As someone who hates frigid weather, each year I try to bolster myself with the following thought: From here on the days get longer. Unfortunately, it doesn't work. I dread freezing temperatures and snow.

I'm not surprised that I'm completely out of tune with the opinion most Americans have of President Trump's job approval rating. It languishes in the 30's. Given the tremendous roll he is currently on, I wonder if it will ever improve. It remains to be seen if he can rescue the economy from the sins of congress and previous administrations, Democrat and Republican, but it does seem to be "Morning in America" again, as President Reagan put it so wonderfully in the '80's - at least to me. Horse sense trumps the micromanaging of politicians. And I'm not surprised that polls show 55% of Americans disapprove of the tax bill. After all, 48% of U.S. citizens receive some sort of government largess. The other seven percent might disagree only with a certain part that affects one directly, and who knows how many disapprove because it doesn't cut taxes enough and across the entire spectrum. According to what I've read and heard, those in the highest bracket will be paying more in the hope that it will offset, at least partially, any loss of revenue.

The proof copy of Present and Past was just delivered to my door. How many errors will I find?

My thanks to the kind folks who bought wares today. Most of the sales were of books in Russian. A young woman bought two vinyl albums, The Best of the Doors, and a similar compilation by the Carpenters. A lovely young woman whose English was flawless overpaid for two books in Russian. A middle age woman who months ago purchased $30 worth of audio books, donated by Alexander E. Poet and his wife Nadine before they moved to Cincinnati, remarked how much she enjoyed them - and gave me a $20 gift. I tried to get her to take two of my books, but she said: "Another time," and walked away. Bad News Billy didn't have a few moments to look through the records, as the kids are driving him crazy, but he handed me $20 for the next time he spots items to his liking. A woman with a heavy accent was reminded of life in the Soviet Union by a book cover. She said that on the day she emigrated petty bureaucrats prevented her from taking along a family photo taken in 1945. Years later it was smuggled out by relatives. And Mr. Conspiracy had me laughing out loud at a personal anecdote. When he spotted the Frank Sinatra album I had at the head of the pack, he said that his father, divorced, bought every record Old Blues Eyes ever made, hundreds. It frustrated Mr. C, who claims to have said: "Dad - how many times do you expect to get laid?"
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/19 - Deliveries

Yesterday talk radio host Mark Simone updated the sexual harassment tally: 97, one female. It would be interesting to see how each voted in 2017, or even if any did. The greater majority seem to be leftists. Several congressman have expressed regret for saying Al Franken should resign. Will others show remorse for having denounced Bill Clinton decades after the facts? They are a sad, curious lot.

The House of Representatives has delivered on the tax bill. It is now up to the Senate. The most important elements are on the business side, the reduction of the corporate rate from 37 to 21%, and the repatriation of money kept overseas, which will see a levy of 10%. Unfortunately, as John Crudele points out in his business column in today's NY Post, there is no accompanying mandate on how that money should be spent. Even if there were, he contends, the companies would find a way around it and use the money to enrich themselves and shareholders, as has been the case in the past. As for politicians crying about the loss of the deduction of state and city taxes - too bad. Tax your constituents at a fair rate. Will the plan stimulate an economy that already seems to be rising? I don't know, although tax reduction has always worked in the past. Trouble is, the swamp, once the revenue begins poring in, has always increased spending and paid only lip service to the deficit. President Trump has rallied the economy virtually on his own, through executive orders and personal appeals - with almost zero help from the establishment, Republicans and Democrats. Despite missteps and inane tweets, he appears to be doing a fantastic job, delivering on his promises.

No team deserved a beat down more than the Seattle Seahawks. Many of their players have behaved despicably for years, and coach Pete Carroll does nothing to stop it. Too bad classy, great QB Russell Wilson is stuck with that franchise. Kudos to the Rams for delivering the comeuppance, although I suspect they have some miscreants as well.

I haven't been able to work my usual book nook this week, as parking has been unavailable. Part of the problem stems from space occupied by a dumpster on one side and a trailer on the other, which eats up at least four spots. The guy who owns the trailer is in a sort of bind, waiting for closure on the sale of his co-op. I no longer do long back and forths with the crates and boxes. For the past four days I've set up shot in front of a Chase bank, an area that gets a lot of sun, which is vital during the cold months. My thanks to the gentleman who bought five works of non-fiction, including a paperback copy of the New Testament; to the woman who purchased two paperback thrillers; and to the one who after a long search found a book in Russian to her liking. The highlight of the day was the delivery by local super Mayor Mike of a box filled with vinyl albums, perhaps 50 or so. Almost half are geared toward Jewish culture. The others include Sinatra, Elvis, Paul Anka, Herb Alpert, the Doors, Gene Pitney, Dionne Warwick, and several country artists. Trouble is, most of the sales of them have come at my regular nook. Here's a pic of my partner in crime, taken with a camera my second oldest niece gave me for Christmas. Thanks, Tanya:

Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/18 - Tough Guys

Sometimes critical acclaim is puzzling. That's the case with Junot Diaz's short story collection Drown, which was first published in 1997. It consists of ten works, most from the point of view of a Dominican child whose father is working in the states, others from a young man dealing drugs in NYC and Jersey, and one from a young man who delivers pool tables and other recreational products. All are connected at least loosely. Although each has good moments, none is a satisfying whole. It has the feel of a writer trying to find his way, connect the parts. The most complete piece is the last, Negocios, which renders the father's history in greater detail. The prose is often puzzling, erratic. The dialogue is solid, though without quotation marks. Of course, Spanish terms are sprinkled throughout, something I always love. 274 readers at Amazon have rated Drown, forging to a consensus of 4.4 on a scale of five. The raves laud the accurate portrayal of Hispanics, the pans decry the stereotyping. I don't believe it's egregious in this regard. Many readers make the mistake of thinking a writer is describing an entire group instead of the just the characters in a story. That said, I'd rate Drown only two, and I don't believe that stems from professional jealousy. Junot has received many awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for his only novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. He has been published in the top literary magazines, including the New Yorker. He has one other short story collection and several essays to his credit. Whenever I read works I don't like that have garnered high praise in literary circles, it makes me feel as if I have no clue as to what constitutes good writing or story-telling. Perhaps Diaz's other two books are vastly superior to his first. Perhaps those who lauded it were lauding his potential. 

Last night the Sunday Night Noir series continued on Movies, 113 on Cablevision in NYC, with one of genre's best, Night and the City (1950), starring Richard Widmark in top form, and the lovely Gene Tierney. Directed by Jules Dassin, it hits all the right notes: story, location shooting (London), lighting, score and frantic pace. Widmark plays a hustler who challenges pro wrestling by promoting the real thing, Greco-Roman style. Of course, this means horning in on the territory of shady characters, which precipitates a downward spiral for the anti-hero. The cast features two actual wrestlers: two-time legit world champ Stanislaus Zbyszko, who was born in the 1880's in what is now Poland, and Mike Mazurki, born in the early 1900's also in what is now Poland. The latter had a long career as a movie tough guy, usually dumb, the antithesis of his real character. He earned a BA from Manhattan College. Before breaking into acting, he was a pro wrestler, and eventually founded the "Cauliflower Alley Club," a non-profit organization that awarded scholarships and financial assistance to retired or injured wrestlers and their families. Zbyszko, who studied law, philosophy and music, eventually made the move from legit to pro wrestling. He is credited with training superstars Johnny Valentine and Harley Race. His surname was adopted by Larry Zbyszko, one of the industry's all-time great heels. He appeared in only one other film, which was also about the "squared circle." The climax of Night and the City features a brutal impromptu match between Mazurski, 6'5" and Zbyszko, 5'8". Here are pictures of the two. Mazurski, who passed away at 83 in 1990, will be familiar to baby-boomers and film fans. Zbyszko died at 88 in 1967 (Facts from Wiki):

My thanks to the kind folks who bought books in English and Russian on what turned into a beautiful day.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Writer's Life 12/17 - Hall Monitor

What occupation suffers the most suicides? I would have guessed police officer or military. Here's a shocking excerpt from Salena Zito's op-ed piece in today's NY Post: "... 2016 study of approximately 40,000 suicides reported in the US in 2012 — the most recent year for which statistics are available — showed that the rate for agriculture workers is 84.5 per 100,000. The next occupation most at risk were construction, extraction, installation, maintenance and repair workers who had a suicide rate hovering around the 50 per 100,000. Meanwhile, the suicide rate among American male veterans is 37 per 100,000, according to a 2016 study by the Veterans Affairs department."

Here's another story about government's maddening ways, also from the Post, edited by yours truly: A CUNY administrator has instituted an eight million dollar lawsuit, claiming he has nothing to do. 72, his salary is $106,700. He sits at his desk in his cubicle from seven AM to three PM, listening to music, watching rugby or cricket matches. This begs the question: If the guy retired or passed away, would the city pay someone to take his place and just sit there? That would surprise no one.

Picture from the Houston Chronicle.

Facebook has a lot of critics. I am not one, despite the annoying political postings of my leftist friends and acquaintances. It is so much fun connecting with people one would otherwise have never heard from again. Yesterday someone posted something that touched me to the quick. I was a security guard at Loy Norrix H.S. in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1975, just before I was to return home to NYC permanently that June. The school had successful, track, swimming and baseball programs, but was woeful in football and basketball. I was a volunteer assistant for the former. Rick ran track. He now lives in Oregon and is constantly adding fishing photos to his FB page. I don't recall having signed his yearbook. Here's a picture of the inscription, which includes a lampoon of my position:

Thank you, Sir. You made my day.

My thanks to the young man who purchased a short story collection, the only sale of the day. It was a lot like being a hall monitor, standing around waiting for something to happen. At least it wasn't very cold.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works: