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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/31 - Say Cheese

Bravo to comedian Kathy Griffin for continuing to showcase the current lunacy of the left. If you haven't heard, just google the dimwit's name. I'm sure her offense will come up.

This week in Gloucestshire in the southwest of England, a centuries old tradition took place - the Cooper Hill Cheese Rolling Contest. In it, a block of cheese is sent down the steep slope, and a bunch of nuts set off after it, many tumbling helplessly along the way. This year's winner was Chris Anderson, who has now won the event several times. Here's a three-minute clip of this hilarious bit of madness:  And here's a still. The winner is to the right of the man in black:

Anyone concerned about being tracked during search engine use has a new option - I don't know how it can stop tracking or even if it actually does, but someone mentioned it yesterday, and I checked it out. I entered my name in the box, and a thorough history was listed.

More trivia: Last night My9 in NYC aired The Unnatural, episode 19 from season six of The X-Files, written and directed by series star David Duchovny. In it, Jesse L. Martin plays Josh Exley, an alien enamored with baseball, playing for a negro league team. As he approaches 61 home runs, which would have bettered Babe Ruth's then standard, he receives death threats, and is assigned a police officer to protect him, played by Frederic Lehne. In a 2009 episode of The Mentalist, Lehne played Marshal Exley. Coincidence or tribute? Here's a pic from the first appearance:

It was one of those rare days at the floating book when almost every customer bought in bulk. My thanks to the kind folks who purchased books and DVD's, and to the woman who donated a bunch of books in Russian, and to Herbie, who donated a huge pictorial on the history of Broadway musicals. An elderly Russian woman bought seven novels in her native tongue. She rendered a glimpse of life in the Soviet Union. Today is the minor Jewish holiday of Shavuot. She did not even know of its existence while living in the USSR. She didn't even know what Kosher meant until she came to America.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/30 - Alice & Company

Born in Brooklyn in 1952, author Alice Hoffman grew up on Long Island. Her first novel was published at 21. She has since written 34 others, including those for children and young adults, as well as a work of non-fiction and a screenplay. Three of her books have been adapted to the big screen, two to TV. Her most popular is Practical Magic. I just finished Seventh Heaven, her eighth novel. It is the story of the inhabitants of a street in a new Long Island development. It takes place during the school year of 1959-'60. The main character is a harbinger of what would become more common in the decade to come - a single, hard-working mom of two. Divorce was rare at that time. The woman is treated coldly, the eight year old son ostracized and bullied. Hoffman focuses on the inner lives of the all the characters, who are trying to navigate the mystery of life, the social changes afoot. The lack of communication between family members is sad and unsettling, but not false. My only quibble is that it is complete. No one is happy. Fortunately, good things begin to occur in the final quarter of the narrative, although it doesn't conclude with a happy ending but rather an open-ended one - just like life. There are hints of the supernatural along the way. Although I've never experienced any personally, I don't discount or object to them. The prose and dialog are solid, a bit informal. An easy read, the 256 pages of the hardcover edition flew by. This is the work of an astute observer of the human condition. 187 users at Amazon have rated Seventh Heaven, forging to a consensus of 4.1 of five, maybe a tad too high. I'm embarrassed to admit I have no idea what the title refers to. I know only that it is a fine novel, often touching.

Trivia: Patrick McGoohan played the murderer in four episodes of Columbo. Although Robert Culp also appeared in four episodes, he was merely the father of the killer in one.

In 1794 William Blake famously asked: "Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night; What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?" Tiger Woods?

On Sean Hannity's radio show, Newt Gingrich just described the current political climate as "America's second civil war." Sadly, I don't believe it's an exaggeration.

It was another dreary day in terms of weather. I was actually cold at the end of the three hour session of the floating book shop. My thanks to Ira, who purchased a book on Hollywood musicals, and to Crazy Joe, the scourge of local radio talk show hosts, who showed late and overpaid for four works of non-fiction. He recently completed a 30-day suspension at Facebook for comments deemed inappropriate by management. He pulls no punches and has been accused of racism and xenophobia. He has always been generous to me, and good-humored despite my refusal to believe anyone other than Oswald murdered JFK. I don't say there definitely was no conspiracy. I just haven't seen any evidence, despite the myriad oddities, to convince me there was. Prior to Joe's appearance, I had a half-hour visit from Steve, aka Mountain Man, whose cynicism about politics goes way beyond mine. It would have been so interesting to hear those two converse, although I suspect it would have generated rancor, even though they share a lot of common ground. Both are argumentative.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/29 - Memorial Day 2017

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

"The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living." - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/28 - One Way Out

RIP Gregg Allman, one of music's great voices, who succumbed to liver cancer after decades of substance abuse. He had received a transplant in 2010. He was the brains and heart behind the Allman Brothers Band, a group with a long history that featured bitter feuds and tragic deaths, including that of Duane Allman in a motorcycle wreck in 1971 at 24. Fortunately, all the bad will pass and the good, the music, will remain. What a soulful singer Gregg Allman was, and gifted keyboardist, and good writer. The band released eleven studio albums, 16 live discs, and 18 compilations. Allman also had nine solo albums, two of them live. The band broke big in 1971 upon the release of At Fillmore East. For the longest time, it seemed the only live recording of a rock band worth listening to repeatedly. To my ear, producers failed to get the sound of live rock performances right until at least the late '80's. But that disc soared, testament to the talent of the players. The band was elected to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. Imagine how many amateur male guitarists have played Melissa to females of that name. How many parents have given that name to a daughter because of that beautiful song? How many garage bands have played the band's songs? How many times has Ramblin' Man been spun by radio stations? How many folks have cued Whippin' Post when feeling down in the dumps? How many have sung along to Statesboro Blues, Midnight Rider and One Way Out, trying to imitate that wonderful voice? Those who labeled the music "Southern Rock" were completely wrong. The best of the Allman Brothers Band transcends category. It is simply great music. Thank you, sir.  Here's a clip from a 1972 concert at Hofstra University. It runs 5:39: 

More proof that the NHL's 82-game regular season is largely like a pre-season: The Nashville Predators, who had the least points of the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs, is four wins from the coveted Stanley Cup. Contrast that with the NBA, where, as expected, the Cavs and Warriors easily cruised to the finals. Remember all the complaints about the Cavs resting their stars, holding them out of games completely? That strategy seems to have worked perfectly. Still, if I paid to attend a game where uninjured stars were sidelined, I'd be pissed. In this age of 24/7, 365 litigation, I'm surprised a class action suit hasn't been filed against the league demanding partial reimbursement of ticket prices.

The floating book shop had only two patrons today, a pair of old-timers who bought in bulk. The first purchased The Dickson Baseball Dictionary by Paul Dickson and Skip McAfee, a mammoth tome, plus John LeCarre's Little Drummer Girl in hardcover, and a paperback bio of JFK published in 1964. There was only a single paragraph at the end on the assassination. The second gentleman had previously went on a buying spree and did so again, purchasing The Wheel of Fortune by Susan Howatch, three true crime pictorials, two paperback thrillers by Heather Graham, Monsoon by Wilbur Smith, and The King of Torts by John Grisham. The stuff was so heavy I was compelled to furnish each with a cloth shopping bag. Thank you, gentlemen.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/27 - An Adaptation & Insults

Given the negative press it received, I had low expectations for The Girl on the Train (2016), which I viewed last night courtesy of Netflix. I assumed the tale would unfold entirely on a train. Instead, what the protagonist sees and recalls during her commutes to and from Manhattan trigger action on solid ground. Although extremely downbeat, it is a good film. I was frustrated at first, as the scenario travels back and forth in time, and there was no close captioning to help clarify the dialogue, but was eventually won over as I began to understand what was happening. Based on the best seller by Paula Hawkins, it is the story of a recovering alcoholic divorce` whose flashbacks slowly begin to make sense to her. Emily Blunt, a Londoner, is outstanding in the lead. The film features an attractive cast, several of whom were only vaguely familiar to me: Justin Theroux, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Luke Evans and Edgar Ramirez. TV vets Laura Prepon, whose voice intoxicates me, Allison Janney and Lisa Kudrow lend their considerable talents in support. Tate Taylor was at the helm, his sixth effort. He wrote and directed the highly regarded The Help (2011), which I haven't seen. Erin Cressida Wilson adapted the screenplay. I am unfamiliar with her other eight efforts, but her work here was solid. I incorrectly assumed the movie was a flop at the box office. Given the popularity of the book, it probably disappointed the producers, but it did bring in $75 million in the USA alone on a budget of $45 million. Add DVD purchases and rentals, and the foreign haul, and it's a winner financially. 102,000+ users at IMDb have rated The Girl on the Train, forging to a consensus of 6.5 of ten. I'd go to seven. Although it does not contain much violence, that depicted is intense. Anyone who is turned off by grim proceedings and a measured pace should pass. It runs less than two hours.

RIP MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, 85. The Kentuckian finished his career with a record of 224-184, ERA 3.27. In 1957 he won 20 games for the Tigers. He won 19 four times, three times as member of the Phillies. On June 21 1964 he pitched a perfect game against the Mets at Shea Stadium in the front end of a doubleheader. I'd left the broadcast in midstream, not realizing what was underway, and later rued missing that rare feat, accomplished only 23 times in the history of the big leagues. In 1986 Bunning was elected to the House of Representatives and served until 1999. He was also a Senator from 1999-2010. Well done, sir.

The floating book shop experienced two interesting incidents today. A gentleman, 65 or so, approached and said he had a great deal for me. He's written a book about himself and Bensonhurst. He bought 20 copies at $14 a pop. He suggested I sell them for $10 each, with a 50-50 split of the take. I said I'd take one to start to see what would happen. I think he was insulted. What's preventing him from selling them on his own? I inadvertently insulted someone else too. A Russian mother and daughter noted the books in their native language. The mom made a call on her cell phone, and the ladies then headed toward 86th Street. Minutes later the husband showed. He selected 18 books, a mix of four hardcovers and standard paperbacks. I asked for $15, less than a buck a book. He offered five. I refused. Rather than making a reasonable counter offer of, say, nine bucks, he walked away in a huff. He later returned in the company of the women, and I caved as I always do to the wishes of the opposite gender. "I give back free," the guy promised. That would be nice. Anyway, my thanks to the other kind folks who made purchases, and to Mother Nature for holding off on the rain.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/26 - Oblivious

Here's a short story from the Billionths of a Lifetime collection. The title is Oblivious. Anyone squeamish about violence should pass:
   He was seated on a bench in lower Manhattan, on West Street near Battery Park. On his lap there rested fancy binoculars. He hadn't been in the area in 20 years. He was amazed at how it had been transformed. It was far enough from the ugliness, the perpetual construction near Ground Zero, and so clean one would think it was not New York. He smirked, certain politicians and businessmen had lined their pockets with the money that must have been thrown around in the modernization.
   It was cloudy, the way he liked it -- no baking in the sun. People passed occasionally. He sniffed at the joggers, “Health Nuts,” he dubbed them. He hadn't exercised since his last high school gym class.  He was now retired, having put in 30 years as a token booth clerk. Only 56, he was living on a generous pension handed him by political suck-ups who'd had no idea, or hadn't cared, what such largess on a wide scale would do to future budgets, which were now billions in the hole. He didn't care, either. He'd gotten his and, by law, it couldn't be taken away, taxpayers be damned. The big shots who'd reaped fortunes in real estate and their enablers in office, who'd allowed the unqualified to secure loans, didn't care -- why should he?
   He took a final drag on a cigarette, burning it down to its filter, and crushed it under foot beside numerous others. A middle aged woman who happened to be passing made a face, shaking her head. He laughed at her. If not for the fact that he'd already targeted someone, she would have been his next victim. What fun it was. The long years he'd suffered in those cramped booths, the relentless rudeness of commuters, was in the past. This was his time.
   He'd used a different method in each instance. For the first he'd taken advantage of his lifetime pass and rode the subway to the Bronx, where he bided his time on a platform, finally found himself alone with a middle-aged woman, and sliced her throat with a box cutter before she knew what hit her. In seconds he was on the street and on a city bus, paying the fare so he wouldn't be traced as a transit retiree. He was exhilarated. He needed no trophy, not like the saps on TV shows. The joy of the hunt and kill had been enough.
   His wife nagged him about where he'd been. He'd refused to get a cell phone specifically to be as free of her as possible. She had no idea how often she'd been close to death, no more than those in the Towers had known planes would be coming at them that crisp, sunny September morning. The only thing that had saved her was the fact that he would never have gotten away with it, unlike his current killing, which he was sure would not be traced if remained smart. It was futile to dream of doing away with her and fleeing to another part of the country, changing his identity. Outside of her, he had it easy. Where else would he score a rent-controlled apartment? He prayed she would get cancer and die a painful death.  He didn't care if ever saw his ungrateful children again, either.
   His second murder was perpetrated at night in a remote part of Queens. He sneaked behind a Latino, no doubt an illegal, and calmly fired a bullet into the back of his unsuspecting head. He was snickering as he hurried to his car. He stopped on the way home to heave the gun into Gravesend Bay.
   His third was at the mall in Staten Island in winter. He followed an old sour puss to her car, scanned the parking lot for possible witnesses, unhooked a hammer from inside his coat and, delighted she had no clue what was coming, crushed her skull with a single blow. He was sure no one would miss her. The world was better off without such a shrew. His heart was racing as he walked away. The hammer, too, was at the bottom of the bay.
   His fourth was in his home borough, Brooklyn. For years bums had been gathering at certain spots in his neighborhood, panhandling aggressively, buying booze and retreating to their filthy haunts. He stalked the most obnoxious of the crew for weeks before getting him alone in an alley. As the sot tilted his head back for a swig, focused on nothing but alcohol, his judge, ecstatic at denying a final pleasure, slipped a rope around the pencil neck and tittered as liquid shot from the drunk's throat.
   And now his fifth victim was approaching, jogging toward him with a friend, chatting, oblivious of danger. He'd been following her from a distance for months. He knew where she lived and worked. He was thrilled by the thought of exterminating a lawyer. He'd already determined how he would do it, having purchased a sophisticated rifle, driving to Virginia and back in a single day. He'd always been a good shot as a hunter. He didn't anticipate any problem other than finding a lair from which to shoot. He wondered if she should be his last victim. Why not go out with a perfect record, having hit all five boroughs? But it was so much fun. He would hate to give it up.
   He lifted the binoculars and pointed it toward the women. They seemed to assume he was looking in the distance beyond them. His target, lean and beautiful, showed no sign of recognition. He loved it - one day going about life, the next snuffed without warning, just as nature did to so many.
   A half hour or so later the two women were on the return leg of their run. Ahead, there was commotion near a bench. People were gathered around paramedics, who were working frantically on a man lying on the ground. There were binoculars nearby.
   “Oh, my God,” said one of the joggers, coming to a stop, eyes contracting with compassion.
   “Guy didn't know what him,” said a male bystander quietly. “Heart must've burst.”
   “Just like that,” another mused, “out of the blue. Not that old, either. Scary.”
   “The poor man,” said the lean, beautiful jogger.
My thanks to Ira, who bought a book on first ladies, to Mikhail, who bought one in Russian, and to the gentleman who bought nine in that language.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/25 - This n That

In his business column in today's NY Post, John Crudele warns of a new scam. Thieves are coating the inner lids of mailboxes with sticky substances to keep letters from sliding into the box. Letters are then taken and the contents stolen. Using a technique Crudele wouldn't explain in order to avoid helping other criminals-in-waiting, the crooks erase the name on checks and substitute their own. He phoned the US Postal Service over a three-day span but no one has gotten back to him. Thanks for the heads up, sir.

Yesterday Gary, a retired educator who always stops to chat at the floating book shop, asked for information on getting a book published. He has written 25 pages about his mom, a Polish immigrant. He's frustrated he can't produce more. He asked me to read the first two pages and render an opinion, even if I thought it sucked. I've read it twice. Although it needs polish, it doesn't suck. I've been fascinated by such stories ever since I one day realized how much moxie immigrants had in coming to a foreign country and rebuilding their lives virtually from scratch. It's something most of the young don't appreciate it. I'm ashamed that I took my parents move from Sicily for granted for so long. Anyway, in the piece, Gary points out something I'd never heard before. Many parents lied about the age of their children, citing them as older so that they would be able to go to work immediately to help support the family. Thanks for the insight, sir.

Yesterday I went to Quest Diagnostics for the annual blood and urine check. The nurse drew three vials from my left arm - the red stuff, not the yellow. About an hour later, while playing guitar, the arm tightened. I put the instrument aside after 15 minutes. That's the first time that's ever happened. Things were back to normal this morning. Getting old is no picnic.

Here's a touching anecdote I've neglected to mention. Earlier in the week an old timer who's donated books to my sidewalk shop and always stops to converse noticed the cover of a work of non-fiction, Till Death Do Us Part, which is actually about killer spouses. He said he and his wife inscribed that phrase on every greeting card they exchanged through the years. She passed away recently.

Attorney and author Jay Sekulow is sitting in for Sean Hannity today. He used a terrific term to describe opposition to President Trump: "Media Filibuster." Kudos.

Headlines are warning that 20 million Americans will be without health insurance if the current bill passes. How many will be without it if/when Obamacare collapses completely?

The floating book shop was rained out for the second time this week, and the forecast for tomorrow is not promising. Enough already.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/24 - Bonded

RIP Roger Moore, 89, the first of those who have portrayed James Bond to leave this earth. The son of a policeman, he always projected an air of debonair aristocracy. He played a lot more parts than 007. Early in his career, he had only modest success in films. IMDb has 96 credits listed under his name, not including multiple appearances on TV, where he began hitting his stride. He was in 37 episodes of Ivanhoe, 37 of The Alaskans, 16 of Maverick, 118 of The Saint, and 24 of The Persuaders before he signed on to play 007. In a fun bit of trivia, in a 1971 episode of The Persuaders a stolen briefcase is opened to find the original contents have been substituted with ten James Bond novels. Three of the visible titles became movies in which Moore would later star: Live and Let Die (1973), For Your Eyes Only (1981) and Octopussy (1983). In all, he played the master spy seven times. He spent time behind the camera as well, directing two episodes of The Persuaders and nine of The Saint. His last four big screen appearances will be released posthumously. He was famous for his self-deprecating wit. Here are two quotes attributed to him: "I was pretty, so pretty that actresses didn't want to work with me." "My acting range? Left eyebrow raised, right eyebrow raised." He was my least favorite Bond, but there's no denying he had a great career - and a lot of class. Kudos, sir. (Facts from IMDb)

Here's a troubling, though unsurprising stat from today's NY Post: Each year 80% of incoming freshman at Manhattan Community College are placed in remedial courses.

The floating book shop continued its run of good luck. My thanks to the woman who bought ten Susan Wiggs romances, to the elderly woman who bought five novels in Russian, and to the other kind folks who bought and donated books. The most interesting sale of the session was Pearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin: A Biography by Ellis Amburn, published in 1992. It was bought by Barry Spunt, author of Heroin and Music in NYC, professor at John Jay College. The inventory has again grown so large that I had to haul a large bag of books to the apartment. Many are obscure novels that may never sell.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/23 - Blood Boiling

Kudos to NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill, who will not attend this year's Puerto Rican Day Parade, which will honor terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera, who spent 36 years in prison for bombings that killed four and maimed a police officer. The Yankees and Jet Blue have also pulled out. I hope a lot of cops call in sick that day. Just think - in 35 years London can include the slimes who orchestrated the attack after last night's Arianna Grande concert in one of their parades.

Rainy days leave me with too much time on my hands. Yesterday I finished up my web work at 7PM, an hour earlier than usual. I had an oldies stream playing and Fleetwood Mac's Sara came up. I've always loved it despite its occasionally puzzling lyrics, a hallmark of Stevie Nicks writing. I'd tried to learn it on guitar many years ago but couldn't get it to sound right. I've decided to take another crack at it. I copied the tablature. Except for bflatdim5, the chords are not hard. After I logged off, I fiddled with the opening, and it sounded terrible. This morning I visited the miracle that is youtube, where there are a number of instructional videos on the song, all in a different key than the one I copied. One guy really simplified it, strumming through the entire song in easy chords. It is well done but not nearly as haunting as the record. The other guys, whether playing electric or acoustic, plucked out the notes on the opening chords. I will definitely give that a try, but I'm not optimistic. I sense the gorgeous melancholy cannot be captured by a casual guitarist such as I. The creative forces who worked on the track created a composition of monumental beauty. If I succeed, I will change some of the lyrics. It will simply be about a guy in love. According to, this was Nicks' intention: She wrote it with the help of friend Sara Recor, a singer and model. At the time she was secretly dating drummer Mick Fleetwood, who had recently divorced. Fleetwood fell in love with Sara and broke up with Nicks. He and Sara married and divorced. The song is about a combination of things going on in Nicks' life. She considers Sara her alter-ego and muse - the "Poet in my heart." The "Great dark wing" is Fleetwood. He had a loud red Ferrari, and that's how Nicks and Sara described him whenever he drove up. (Edited by yours truly.)

Some episodes of Gotham seem nothing more than a routine killing spree. Occasionally, it soars, as was the case last night. I was surprised at the demise of one of the characters, not by the ghastly method. The blood feud between the Penguin and the Riddler is inspired. And since day one I've loved Camren Bicandova's portrayal of Catwoman-to-be Selina Kyle. And now Jim Gordon's ex-lover has injected herself with a virus that likely will take her to the dark side.

My thanks to the kind folks who bought books in English and Russian today, and to The Lady Eve and Herbie, who each each donated a book. I had a visit from Political Man, who continues to trash Trump to anyone passing in the street. I said nothing as he vented. Later, Mark, a Vietnam vet retired postal worker, approached and asked if I'd heard the latest stupidity Trump had spouted, saying while in Israel that he'd just left the Middle East. I resisted the urge to remind him of Obama's gaff about the 57 states of the union. Both those guys are Jewish. Neither mentioned that Trump was the first American President to visit the Western Wall, and that he was on board the first plane that has ever flown directly from Saudi Arabia to Israel.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/23 - Clowns & Rats

The late Morris West, an Australian, had an excellent literary run that spanned decades. He wrote 27 novels, five plays, four radio serials and four works of non-fiction. Six of his novels were adapted to the big screen. His books were translated into 27 languages. 60 million sold. He traveled extensively, living in several European countries as well as in the USA. He died in 1999 at 83. I just finished what was his 18th novel, The Clowns of God, which was published in 1981. It is one of the most disappointing I've ever read. The plot is simple, the pope has a vision of the second coming, referred to as "Perousia." When he decides to publicize it, he is forced to abdicate by the Vatican hierarchy. He then must decide whether to speak out or remain silent. With the world on the brink of war, the decision is made for him. Unfortunately, the novel doesn't work as either a thriller or illumination, although its heart is always in the right place. My lack of enthusiasm is not due to the failed prophecies: lack of oil, crop failure in Russia, which is blamed on drought, without a hint of the incompetence of the Soviet system. After all, the novel may just as well have been written today, as the existential threat is just as real as it was nearly forty years ago, with terrorists taking center stage. If the most fanatical got their hands on a number of nuclear devices, there's no telling what might happen. No, my problem with the narrative is that it goes nowhere, despite believable and interesting characters, solid prose and dialogue, and impressive vocabulary and scholarship. My only quibble with the writing is the overuse of the exclamation point, which always reminds me of that marvelous episode of Seinfeld when Elaine breaks up with her writer boyfriend because of his failure to use one in recording a message from a friend who just had a baby. Anyway, I think the novel's appeal is restricted to the devout. I'm not a believer. I don't think God, if He exists, involves Himself in the affairs of men. The hardcover edition I read is 370 pages, and seemed a lot longer. Now here's a dissenting view. 77 readers at Amazon have rated The Clowns of God, forging to a consensus of 4.5 of five. The book is still selling modestly, ranked 200,000th at last check. I would be thrilled if my books hovered at that mark, as there at least 13 million titles listed. The title refers chiefly to the pseudonym the pontiff adopts in writing the book that predicts the apocalypse and prepares the faithful for it. It also refers to the most helpless of humanity, such as the handicapped.

There are weird ideas and then there is... The San Francisco Dungeon is giving people the unique chance to dine with the most unlikely dinner guests - rats. The restaurant is giving customers a chance to enjoy the Black Rat Cafe. For $49.99 one can sip coffee at a bistro-style table while surrounded by rodents. People who opt for the experience will also enjoy all-you-can-drink coffee, water, tea and pastries. However, all of the food will be taken away before the rats join the guests. All of them are from a nonprofit rescue, Rattie Ratz. The rat dates are July 1st and 8th. Get your tickets now. Can't wait 'til one opens in Brooklyn - not! (Story & photo from, edited by yours truly.)

The floating book shop was washed out today. After completing the book and the Sunday crossword, I went out for some air. I was standing under the scaffold that has been erected at my regular nook. It does not provide enough shelter to sell books during steady rain, but might do so for drizzle. While I was there I ran in to Vinnie, whom I hadn't seen in a long time. He was pissed off about an argument he had in Bank of America. He has lost his debit card four times, so the manager's impatience with him is understandable. I sense he has a drinking problem. I let him vent without interruption, even though he kept calling me Chris. He had to make several calls to get approved. He again has access to his money. I suggested he change banks, although it won't help if he keeps losing his card.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/21 - 67

I turned 67 today. Although I've lived cleanly, I'm surprised I've made it this far - and grateful. I've always wondered why I should be so lucky. Here are the day's positives as of 5:30 PM EST: I woke up among the living. I got out of bed. Other than stiffness in my left ankle, I wasn't in any pain. My morning back and hip exercises, and my walk were done with ease. I read the NY Post, marveling at the state of the nation and the world. I was touched by the many birthday greetings on my Facebook page. I had an email from Amazon notifying me of a coming royalty payment. The weather was near perfect as I left the apartment. Once I arrived in Park Slope, I didn't have to wait long for a parking space to open up. I easily moved three crates, a large bag, a big box, and several small ones filled with books about 40 yards. Despite the fact that a street fair was underway on 5th Avenue, gobbling the public's money, about 50 yards from where I set up shop, I sold eight books. A young man bought the Kay Scarpetta thriller Predator by Patricia Cornwell and the non-fiction Killers: the Most Barbaric Murderers of Our Times by Nigel Cawthorne. A Vietnam veteran bought the huge three-in-one Harry Bosch mysteries by Michael Connelly. And a young man bought three thrillers and Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales after I assured him it was a lot easier read than Dante's The Divine Comedy, which he was assigned recently as a lit major. I later smiled when I spotted a guy wearing a T-Shirt that read "Leave Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboutit." I chuckled when a bald woman passed. She'd waxed her head, which had tattoos from just above her forehead to her nape. It was glowing. Soon I heard the work of a '60's cover band. They were a couple of blocks away and sounded great. When I got back to Sheepshead Bay, I found a parking spot convenient for the operation of the floating book shop - after tomorrow's projected rain-out. I won't have to lug the books very far, and I won't have to move the car until after Thursday's session. The toughest part of the day was resisting the temptation to celebrate with ice cream or cake. That will have to wait until mid morning on Thursday, after I've had my annual physical. My diet has been fairly strict since the start of the month. I don't want to add any prescription drugs to the one I'm taking for BP, which has worked like a charm. My thanks to the kind folks who bought the books and to all those who have wished me well at Facebook.

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

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/20 - That's a Wrap

When Morgan (2016) arrived from Netflix it was another case of Huh? I did not recall why I'd added the obscure flick to my list. I'm glad I did. It's a tight sci-fi thriller with interesting characters portrayed by a stellar cast. Although it opts for a standard story line, it is well worthwhile. Young Anya Taylor-Joy stars as the title character, created in a test tube, loved by the staff of the isolated institute where she resides. She begins to behave aggressively, and a woman from the corporate division is sent to investigate. The situation, of course, escalates. The question of elimination arises. Had the creators stayed with the moral dilemma rather than opting for carnage, it might have been more interesting, but who can say for sure? There is sympathy for Morgan until she loses it completely, which makes moot any argument about her fate. I guessed the twist about a third of the way through, but not that the story would not adhere to the traditional cautionary tale of man playing God, becoming instead one of cold calculation. Kate Mara plays the investigator. Paul Giamatti steals the show in a brief stint as a psych evaluator in the narrative's most riveting scene. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays the first attack victim, Michelle Yeoh the project head, Rose Leslie the "best friend." Brian Cox appears briefly at the end as an executive. Although the film's budget was "only" eight million, it looks as good as any blockbuster. It did poorly at the box office, returning less than four million. 21,000+ users at IMDb have rated it, forging to a consensus of 5.8 of ten, which is way too low. It deserved a better fate. Anyone squeamish about violence should pass. Another plus, it runs only 92 minutes. Luke Scott directed, his first stint at the helm of a full length feature. Seth Owen wrote the screenplay, only his second for the movies. I'm interested to see what they do next.

Emily Seilhamer, an artist, recycles items by creating new things out of them. She met her husband, Malachi, when he offered her a pack of Starburst, his favorite candy. He kept giving her the candies. She recently made a dress out of ten thousand of the wrappers. Here's a pic:

It was one of those days when negativism had to be fought. As I was walking away from the building this morning, I realized I'd left my lunch in the fridge. I went back and got it. While driving away I realized I hadn't brought extra money for gas (expletive deleted). When I got to within two blocks of Ocean Parkway, I saw that the annual mini-marathon was underway, blocking passage. I turned around and headed to the entrance to the Belt Parkway near my home, ignoring the longer queues to the ramps along the way. After the laundry was done and I left the old house, it began raining. I remained seated in the old Hyundai until it stopped, about 20 minutes. I listened to the forecast on the radio, which said partly sunny in the afternoon. I parked in front of the bank and waited until it stopped sprinkling. I gambled that that was the last of the precipitation, set up shop, and had to cover the wares within ten minutes. Fortunately, a young woman bought a couple of books and Jack of Chase purchased a thriller, which covered the three bucks I planned to spend on the meter. Then Danny and Bad News Billy showed up back to back. The former bought $20 worth of books and self help CD's, the latter the last of the 20 or so classical CD's I had, plus a VHS tape of Rose-Marie (1936), starring Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy. Billy has been ordered to lose 50 pounds by his doctor. My thanks, gentleman, and also to the one who bought the 35th anniversary edition of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. Now there is only one box full of books on the back seat.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/19 - X-Factor & More

Long ago, the early '70's, a college friend and I would use the term "the X-Factor" when words failed to describe our attraction to someone of the opposite gender. I've since extended it to celebrities who aren't drop dead gorgeous but whom the camera seems to love. Veteran actress Susan Blommaert fits the category to a T - or X. To my chagrin, there is hardly any biographical info on her on the web. Born in 1947, her first screen credit came in 1987, at or near the age of 40, in Forever Lulu. There are 64 credits listed under her name at IMDb, not counting multiple spots on popular TV fare. In appearance she seems a spinster librarian or judge, the latter of which she has played on 10 episodes of the Law & Order incarnations and eight of The Practice. I first noticed her when she scared the bejesus out of me on The X-Files in 1995, season two, episode 14, Die Hand Die Verletzt, "the hand that wounds" translated from German. In that she played a Satanist substitute teacher. Currently, she is superb as the chief nemesis, former confidante, of Raymond Reddington of The Blacklist. Here's a pic of this remarkable screen presence:

In an article in today's NY Post, Seth Lipsky asks why the mainstream media, which showed complete disregard for national security in publishing the leaks of Snowden and Assange, are now concerned that the President may have compromised that security. Kudos, sir.

And here's a shout out to Aerosmith. On Wednesday the band played a concert to 50,000 fans in Tel Aviv, sticking it to Roger Waters and all the rest who would have artists boycott Israel.

It was another hot one. My thanks to the kind folks who purchased books and CD's. Two gentlemen donated books. The first batch, a small one, included The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. The second provided a Russian translation of it.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Writer's Life 5/18 - Exit & Entrances

As the immortal bard Shakespeare put it: "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances..."

RIP Roger Ailes, 77, founding CEO of Fox News, who gave viewers an alternative to the mainstream media dominated by liberals. He began as a local TV producer, moving up when The Mike Douglas Show went into national syndication. He worked on the successful election campaigns of Richard Nixon, the first Bush, Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump. He and Jon Kraushar co-wrote You Are the Message: Secrets of the Master Communicators. In 1993 he became president of CNBC and later created the America's Talking channel, which eventually became MSNBC. He spent 20 years at Fox, building it into the behemoth it has become. Here's a quote attributed to him: "If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, 'I have a solution to the Middle East problem,' and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?" Thank you, sir.

Pro wrestling legend Classie Freddie Blassie frequently cited the importance of making a "grand entrance" during his madcap days as a manager. Pro golfer Lexi Thompson, 22, certainly made one at this week's stop on the ladies' tour. Her debut skydive was a tandem freefall with a member of the United States Navy, landing on the first tee of Wednesday's pro-am kickoff of the Tour Championship. She is a backer of the SEAL Legacy Foundation, which provides education assistance to families of wounded and deceased Navy SEALs. She says: "We all get to compete each week on the LPGA Tour because of the sacrifices of the SEALs and their families, so giving back is the least I can do." Well said, madam. Thompson is currently the fifth-ranked female golfer in the world. You go, girl.

It was a mid-summer-like day, temperature in the 90's. The shade provided by the scaffold recently erected at my regular nook helped considerably. My thanks to the kind folks who bought books and CD's, and to those who stopped to chat. There was no talk of politics for a change - and that's a good thing.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works: