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Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/25 - The Shaft & More

From Yahoo's Odd News, edited by yours truly: Activists are collecting money to repair a penis-shaped rock formation in southern Norway after the popular tourist attraction was found badly damaged. Joggers discovered that the Trollpikken rock formation had cracked and noted holes drilled into the rock — which experts believe suggests vandalism. So far more than 500 people have donated nearly 90,000 Norwegian kroner ($10,600). Why would anyone give this thing the shaft? Here's a pic:

From Yahoo Sports, edited by yt: The Oakland A’s made history yesterday, becoming the first MLB team to have three different players hit their first career home run in the same game. Rookies Matt Olson, Jaycob Brugman and Franklin Barreto all went deep against White Sox starter James Shields, who reached a milestone of his own, despite the 10-2 loss - his 2000th career strikeout. I guess those three hitters gave Shields the shaft... Also in baseball, future hall of famer Ichiro Suzuki, 43, is now the oldest man ever to have started a game in centerfield.

Pop quiz: Who wrote these 1930's lyrics? "You thrill and fill this heart of mine, with gladness like a soothing symphony, over the air, you gently float, and in my soul, you strike a note."It's from a song titled Humoresque by none other than Al Capone. The handwritten copy sold at auction yesterday for $18,750. Who knew Scarface was really a sentimental softy? I wonder if anyone will record it. (From an article in the NY Post, in my own words.)

I just looked at an email from designed to lure me into again becoming a paying member, as I was way back in 2007. It was once a good site but it has been made irrelevant by Facebook. Anyway, four former classmates from St. Mary's elementary have allegedly visited my profile and each selected a word to describe me: charming, sweet, athletic, kind. Shucks.

It looked like another day of brutal returns at the floating book shop. Since it was such a beautiful day and I was under a tree and a cool breeze was blowing from the direction of Gravesend Bay, I forced myself to stay an hour longer than usual. For the first 3:55 I sold only a book in Russian to an elderly woman, a regular customer. Fortunately, a Russian gentleman dropped off a cache of marketable books equally divided between his first language and English, and Monsey swapped a bunch of pictorials, including four on photoshopping, for a college lit tome, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. As I was packing up, another Russian woman bought a translation of The DaVinci Code, and a young mom overpaid for two young adult books. My thanks, folks.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/24 - Light & Color

Although it is a fine film, The Light Between Oceans (2016) did not generate much buzz upon its release. It is the heartbreaking story of a laconic World War I combat veteran who takes a job at an isolated lighthouse off the coast of western Australia. The day before he leaves for the tiny island he meets a woman. They begin a correspondence that leads to marriage. They are happy until the wife suffers consecutive miscarriages. Fate intervenes when a dinghy washes up on their shore. Inside are a crying infant and a dead man. The woman convinces her husband to pass the child off as theirs. After much anguish and contrary to his rigid sense of right and wrong, he agrees. Four years later he stumbles upon the birth mother. Germany's Michael Fassbender, one of the hottest actors in the world at present, is outstanding in the lead, as are Sweden's Alicia Vikander as his wife, and the great Rachel Weisz as the birth mom. America's Derek Cianfrance was at the helm and also adapted the screenplay from M.L. Stedman's best-seller, which must be a heck of a novel. I'd seen one of Cianfrance's previous efforts, the highly regard The Place Between the Pines (2012), which I was not crazy about but respected because it was different. I hope he continues to do different. Worldwide, The Light Between Oceans was modestly successful at the box office, returning $25 million+ against production costs of $20 million. My guess is that it is too downbeat for most moviegoers. I'd bet most of its take came from those who'd read the book, and also that it appeals primarily to females. Aussie screen vets Jack Thompson and Bryan Brown lend their considerable talents in support. The pace is leisurely and the running time exceeds two hours. The location photography is breathtaking. 28,000+ users at IMDb have rated it, forging to a consensus of 7.2 of ten, too low in my estimation. It is an old fashion story about good people in unfortunate circumstances. Life is so unfair to a young woman filled with love, married to a moral man whose character is his destiny. Here's a still:

I had no luck selling books on the street today. I had a visit from B.S. Bob, who told me about another of his screenplay ideas. The main character is a big fan of Fred Astaire and devotes several floors in a building he owns to scenes from the great dancer's movies. In one scene Bob would have the lead, either Hugh Jackman or Jean DuJardin from The Artist (2011), dancing on the keys of a huge typewriter. I hated to reveal that this had been done in Absolute Beginners (1986). Of course, there's no reason it couldn't be done again. Here's a still of David Bowie from that colorful flick:

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/23 - Pressed

Think your Iphone costs a lot? Get a load of this one:

It was created by Alchemist London, which specializes in adding designer gold and jeweled cases to laptop computers, tablets and smart phones. It claims this is the world's most expensive iPhone, worth a cool million. Only two exist.

In an op-ed piece in today's NY Post, Charles Gasparino renders an opinion on why the stock market keeps climbing despite the weak economy. My view is that there is nowhere else to get a decent return, so investors keep pouring money into it. I'd not heard one of the reasons Gasparino gave, but it makes a lot of sense. In 1996 there were about 800 stocks listed. Today there are about 400. With less options, more dough goes to the high quality stocks such as Apple, Netflix, etc, which drive the market.

I have no idea if the Republican health care bill, if passed, will begin to correct the brutal costs people are paying. I am naturally skeptical of plans drafted by politicians. I am happy the individual mandate will be eliminated. I find it disgraceful, wholly un-American. I did not see any mention in the Post of consumers being allowed to cross state lines to purchase insurance, although I thought I heard on Hannity that it was part of the bill. It is essential. Competition has always led to lower costs. One sign I'll use to gauge the bill will be the reaction of the conservative wing of Congress. If those folks are not happy, it will indicate that it's just more of the same.

RIP Bronx boy Gabe Pressman, 93, longtime local reporter for NBC in NYC. His career spanned 60 years. During World War II he served in the U.S. Navy from 1943–46, taking part in the Philippines campaign, serving as a communications officer aboard a submarine chaser. After earning a Master's from Columbia in 1947, he worked for short period for the Newark Evening News. Columbia awarded him a Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship, and he spent the next 15 months in Europe as a freelance journalist, contributing feature stories for various outlets. He was a pioneer of TV news and has been credited as the first reporter to have left the studio for on-the-scene reporting at major events. Along the way he won a Peabody Award and 11 Emmys. He was an icon. Well done, sir. (Facts from Wiki)

My thanks to Kinesha, who bought two more paperback thrillers, and to Susan, who purchased non-fiction on domestic violence and finding one's purpose in life; and also to the gentleman who purchased a hardcover in Russian. The humidity was high, although I dared not complain, as one of the men working on the refacing of the huge apartment building surrounding my nook passed countless times, pushing a wheelbarrow filled with bricks to a dumpster. I timed one of his runs. It was less than five minutes - and he was a skinny guy. I hope his boss appreciates how hard he works. I was embarrassed by my own work "load," standing there like an idiot hoping people will buy books.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/22 - Short Shorts

In his op-ed piece in today's NY Post, Seth Lipsky suggests Donald Trump do what no president has done since Harry Truman in 1948 - order congress to forgo its August recess. He points out that Truman's approval rating at the time was even lower than Trump's is now, 36% compared to 38%. Do it, sir. It's what a true outsider would do.

A Post blurb informs that the CIA has fired several of its contractors, who rigged vending machines to surrender free food worth a total of $3314. How were they busted? Hidden surveillance cameras were set up in the break room. Watching the watchers, as is often said these days.

I chuckled when I came upon a friend's Facebook post regarding the special election in Georgia. He quoted a source from Fox News, who said Democrats "colluded" to spend $31 million on the race. Of course, Republicans "colluded" to spend $20 million. After winning in South Carolina, Republicans have swept all five of the special election races of 2017. I neglected one factor in the Georgia race. Trump carried that district by only two percent on election day. Karen Handel won by nearly five points. Does that indicate that approval of the President's job performance is rising in that district, where two years ago the Republican won by 19%? Does it even matter when circumstances can change so quickly?

Boys at a British high school in the city of Exeter have found a novel way around strict uniform rules banning shorts, as the country sweltered through a heatwave that has now ended. They donned skirts instead of officially mandated gray slacks. None was punished. Meanwhile, in the western French city of Nantes, male bus drivers reportedly wore skirts this week to protest the fact that they are not allowed to wear shorts. I know the school might not be air-conditioned, but aren't the buses? Couldn't the drivers change from shorts to work pants just before beginning a shift?

My thanks to Romanian born artist Andu, who plans to make a collage of the pictures in the the 75th Anniversary pictorial of Time magazine he bought today. My thanks also to the middle age woman who purchased a thriller in Russian, and to the one who bought four romance novels, and to the two women who donated a slew of paperbacks. Here's one of Andu's creations:

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

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/21 - Relief

What is to be gleaned from the result of the special election in Georgia, won by Republican Karen Handel? The Democrats poured a record $30 million into capturing the seat, which is in a heavily Republican district. I suspect they will focus on the fact that the margin was 19% lower than in 2016, that they are gaining ground. The right should be happy, but it would be wrong to gloat, despite its 4-0 record in such elections since President Trump took office. The country is in flux and power will be determined by performance. If the economy continues to stall, few politicians will be safe, especially the commander in chief.

A blurb in the NY Post informs that the NY state senate is preparing a bill that will allow those drivers unsure of gender identity to select X. Oregon is the only state to have done it so far. One wonders if other categories will be added.

Modern love: A Brooklyn woman participates in a three-way and freaks out when the resident of the apartment starts filming. She flees and calls her boyfriend, who was not part of the menage a trois. He kills the would-be auteur. Now the story is in the popular NY Post and most likely other sources as well. She has brought the exposure she wanted to avoid onto herself. Writers love irony.

In his eighth big league season, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen is on a phenomenal tear. Check out these numbers: 15 saves in 15 opportunities, 4-0 record; 29 2/3 innings pitched, 17 hits, 0.91 ERA; 50 strikeouts, 0 walks; 15.2 strikeouts per nine innings; .160 batting average against; 107 batters faced, only six three-ball counts; one immaculate inning – three batters, three strikeouts, nine pitches. Are you kidding me? Awesome, dude.

Three months ago I was told I was at risk for glaucoma. Since then I've been using prescription eye drops each night before bed. I went for a check up this morning and received excellent news. My numbers have returned to near normal. Last time they were 25, 26. Today they were 17, 18. Normal is 15.16. I was so relieved. Now I can stop worrying about going blind, at least until the next visit in October. One of my main concerns was not being able to get the last three of my manuscripts into print. I plan to self-publish one in each of the next three Januaries. I had a hop in my step upon leaving the office.

My thanks to the sweet elderly woman who donated six books in Russian and insisted on paying for the six she selected from me. My thanks also to Ira, who purchased the Beverly Sills bio titled after her pet name - Bubbles.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/20 - Slants

The Supreme Court voted 8-0 to allow Asian-American rock band The Slants to keep its name, which some find offensive, a victory for common sense.

I came across a new term in today's NY Post: Triparenting, which is when a child has three legal parents. Do I hear four? How 'bout five?

RIP comedian Bill Dana, who in the '50's & '60's had folks laughing through his character, a Latino of limited English. His tagline, offered whenever he was confused by a question, was imitated countless times: "My name .... Jose Jimenez." I remember a sketch when he wore a baseball uniform. The interviewer, who I believe was Steve Allen, asked something like: "What do you throw when Mickey Mantle comes to bat?" And Jimenez replied: "When Mickey Mantle comes to bat ------- I throw up." He had an eponymous sitcom, which shot 42 episodes, and had 22 credits as a writer, including the famous meeting of Archie Bunker and Sammy Davis Jr. on All in the Family. These days his act would probably be deemed offensive by the thin-skinned. Thank you, sir.

I woke at 2:30 AM and immediately realized my mind was on a negative jag. Knowing I wouldn't get back to sleep, I turned on the TV, which always helps in that situation. At one point while channel surfing, I chuckled as I spotted Hollywood stalwart Gale Gordon, whose specialty was curmudgeonly characters. I looked him up at IMDb. There are only 46 titles listed under his name, but he was a regular on many series. He did 130 episodes as Eve Arden's foil on Our Miss Brooks, 44 of Dennis the Menace as the replacement Mr. Wilson when Joseph Kearns passed away, 111 of The Lucy Show, 140 of Here's Lucy, and 13 of Life with Lucy, as well as multiple appearances on other sitcoms. In the 1930s he wrote two books: Nursery Rhymes For Hollywood Babes, co-authored with Gloria Gordon, who I assume was his sister, and Leaves From Story Trees, two one-act plays. He was married to wife Virginia from 1937-'95, when she passed away. He followed her a month or so later. He was 89. Kudos, sir.

The NY Mets have been struggling mightily this season, so things did not bode well last night when they faced Dodgers' ace Clayton Kershaw, perhaps the best pitcher of his generation. They hit four home runs, the first time the superstar has allowed that many in a game. Alas, they'd fallen into a 0-7 hole, and lost 6-10. Kershaw got the win and is now 10-2, ERA only 2.61 despite last night's uncharacteristically weak performance. The game was especially notable for the accomplishments of rookie Cody Bellinger, who has split time in leftfield and at firstbase for LA. He socked two homers, bringing his total to 21 in his first 51 major league games. That betters the mark of Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, who had 20 in the same span last year.

I hadn't seen two of my best customers for months - and both showed up today and bought a bunch of books. My thanks to Jimmy, who took a lot of weight off my hands, and to Kinesha, who wheeled along the new edition to her family, a beautiful baby boy. As usual she selected an eclectic mix, including Billionths of a Lifetime. My thanks also to Ira and Arlene, who purchased three books between them, and to Tanya, who donated four, including a collection of Saul Bellow's short stories. And to top it off, Red Berries Special K and Wild Cherry Pepsi were on sale at CVS.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/19 - Inspired

Brooks Koepka's excellence stripped the U.S. Open of its usual high drama. He didn't give anyone a chance to snatch his first major title from him, cruising to a four-shot win, tying Rory McIlroy's all-time mark of -16 for the tournament. And he earned two million plus. Kudos, sir.

Here's a list of interesting literary facts from the Huffington Post. I pared it from twelve, and edited heavily: Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust features a character named Homer Simpson. It was not the inspiration for Matt Groening's iconic character... Sci-fi legend Ray Bradbury was a descendant of a Salem witch, Mary Perkins Bradbury, who was sentenced to be hanged in 1692 but managed to escape before her scheduled execution... Ernest Hemingway once took home the urinal from his favorite bar, arguing that he’d pissed so much of his money into it that he was entitled to ownership... Sting wrote Every Breath You Take at the same desk that Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels - at the Fleming Villa at GoldenEye in Jamaica... D. H. Lawrence liked to climb mulberry trees in the nude to stimulate his imagination... Before he was famous, Kurt Vonnegut managed America’s first Saab dealership. It failed within a year... As a schoolboy, Roald Dahl was a taste-tester for Cadbury’s. Is it any wonder he went on to write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?... Aristophanes’ play Assemblywomen contains the longest word in Greek - 171 letters. It's the name of a fictional food dish: Lopado­­temacho­­selacho­­galeo­­kranio­­leipsano­­drim­­hypo­­trimmato­­silphio­­parao­­melito­­katakechy­­meno­­kichl­­epi­­kossypho­­phatto­­perister­­alektryon­­opte­­kephallio­­kigklo­­peleio­­lagoio­­siraio­­baphe­­tragano­­pterygon. As for English literature, it is believed that James Joyce is responsible for the longest word - 101 letters, used in Finnegan's Wake: Bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhoun-awnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk. It refers to the thunderclap associated with the fall of Adam and Eve.

Where's D.H?

It was quiet at today's session of the floating book shop. My thanks to the gentleman who bought two books in Russian, and to those who stopped to chat.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/18 - Personages

For the first time in a while the Sunday NY Post is chock full of interesting items. Here's a summary of a few: Larry Getlen devotes his article to a new book: The Invention of Celebrity by Antoine Lilti. He cites four historic personages who were as wildly popular as the stars of the present. Artists capitalized on the popularity of Voltaire (1694-1778), the subject of countless paintings showing him doing everyday things such as drinking coffee - and the buying public ate them up. A French chocolatier made an item called "Bonbons ala Washington" in honor of America's first president. Medallions were minted with the image of Benjamin Franklin, of which he told his daughter: "... made your father's face as well known as that of the moon." Marie Antoinette was the subject of explicit erotic fan fiction... Nick Poppy's piece introduced a name completely unfamiliar to me - Georgia Tann. As head of the Tennessee Children's Home Society she was responsible for the abduction of an estimated 5000 white babies, many of them blue-eyed blonds, which were sold to well-to-do families. She collaborated with doctors and nurses. It is the subject of a new book by Lisa Wingate: Before We Were Young... Continuing on the path of there one day being an app for everything, Kevin Sebili, a young Brooklynite frustrated by the failure of his friends to show up for pick up basketball games, has created Flakex to attract the attention of anyone interested in some roundball. It was named in honor of his unreliable friends.

There was no action at the floating book shop until I began packing up. I wasn't surprised, given that it's Father's Day and folks are spending on gifts or visiting. My thanks to the elderly woman who bought two thrillers in Russian, to the middle age one who purchased a collection of women's writing about mothers, and to the ever gregarious Carmine, who said he owed me a dollar. It had been months since I'd seen him and I'd forgotten about it. My thanks also to Mr. Conspiracy, local super Mayor Mike, and B.S. Bob, who stopped to chat. Bob said talk of the financials has begun regarding his screenplay, Christmas 1945. Not many writers get that far when it comes to the movie business. Kudos.

Thanks for everything, Dad:

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/17 - Nocturnal

Some movies are downright puzzling. Such is the case with Nocturnal Animals (2016), a story within a story. I caught up to it last night courtesy of Netflix. Things did not bode well during the opening credits, which features a fat, naked woman from start to finish. She is part of an art exhibition run by Amy Adams' character, whose career takes a back seat to two other plot elements: the affair her husband is having, which goes nowhere, and the arrival of a manuscript from her ex, whom she left 20 years ago, presumably because of his refusal to give up writing. He has dedicated the book to her. The novel is about a family of three that crosses paths with the vilest of criminals, a standard story told so many times. Jake Gyllenhaal plays both the writer and the novel's victim. As far as I can see, the book has no correlation to the couple's past, which is made manifest by the fact that Adams imagines another woman in the part and that she herself has a college age daughter. And therein lies the rub. What is this film about besides the obvious? Adams is fine in her role, her third in 2016. Gyllenhaal has never been better. The flashbacks to the marital difficulties hit home for me. Why would any woman stick with a failed writer? It's a question I've asked myself many times. The film is notable for the performances. Two others are first rate. The ubiquitous Michael Shannon was nominated for a supporting actor Oscar as a cop in the "fictional" part of the scenario. He was in ten movies in 2016! Laura Linney is as terrific as usual as Adams' mom. Unfortunately, before her five minute scene, she is needlessly identified as a Republican - as if a Democrat couldn't be as cold and calculating. Anyway, 130,000+ users at IMDb have rated Nocturnal Animals, forging to a consensus of 7.5 of ten, way too high in my estimation. Seeking a better understanding of the film, I ran a search, and was relieved that Anthony Lane of the New Yorker reacted similarly, although a lot more harshly. I didn't feel quite as dumb after perusing his thoughts. I don't think it's a bad film. I just think it would have been more interesting if Gyllenhaal's character would have based his fiction on his relationship with his ex-wife. Based on the novel by Austin Wright, it runs just short of two hours. Tom Ford adapted the screenplay and directed, only his second stint at the helm. It did not do well at the box office, its worldwide take falling short of the production's overall budget. It probably turned a slight profit after DVD rentals and streaming. I'm not sure anyone but those curious to see how the novel was adapted to the screen, and fans of the actors would find it interesting.  

The top ranked golfers in the world are Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy. Each missed the cut at this year's U.S. Open.

An article in the NY Post warns of a future scam - theft of finger prints, which would be used to open phony accounts. It never ends.

The floating book shop was open about 15 minutes when it began raining. I'm now contemplating setting up just as soon as I'm done with this evening's shift on the computer. It would depend on finding a parking spot near the scaffold at my regular nook. I'm not optimistic.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/16 - Style

As I've said many times in this blog, I'm not a fan of written mysteries, although I do enjoy the genre on film and TV. I even prefer any version of celluloid Sherlock Holmes to the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, although I appreciate the author for his fantastic and enduring creation. I've read two mysteries that transcend the genre: A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny, which had existential overtones, and A Thin Dark Line by Tami Hoag, which was about the temptation those in law enforcement must resist in taking dire measures in the fighting of crime. I picked up Murder New York Style, a collection of 21 short stories, each by a different writer, hoping to be enthralled. Unfortunately, I had that same unsatisfied feeling upon finishing most of the entries. I did enjoy Dorothy Mortman's The House at Lake Place, mostly because the setting is the Gravesend section of Brooklyn, which I pass through regularly. Each tale takes place in the greater Metropolitan area, and all were written by women. Randy Kandel, who contributed Name Tagging, served as editor. I thought Elizabeth Zelvin's Death Will Clean Your Closet the best of the bunch. It had to do with a recovering alcoholic who finds a body in his closet. Lina Zeldovich's Murder in Aladdin's Cave, about a belly-dancer sleuth, was fun. I'd guess the book's appeal is restricted to fans of the genre, especially those who prefer the female perspective. Published in 2007, it has attracted five customer reviews at Amazon. They forge to a consensus of 4.6. The large paperback copy I read will go on sale tomorrow at the floating book shop.  

I just heard Newt Gingrich relate a tale on Sean Hannity's radio show. Enthralled, I ran a search and found the following at, which asks for verification of the story, as it is from a Trump speech. I've edited it slightly: "Luis Haza's father was the police chief in Santiago, Cuba. Just days after Fidel Castro took control, Luis' father was one of 71 Cubans executed by firing squad. Luis buried his grief in his great love of music, playing the violin so brilliantly and so beautifully. Soon the regime saw his incredible gift and wanted to use him for propaganda purposes. When he was 12 they organized a national television show and demanded he play a solo for Raul Castro. They sent an official to fetch him from his home. Luis refused to go, and a few days later soldiers barged into his orchestra practice area, guns blazing, and told him to play for them. Terrified, Luis began to play, and the entire room was stunned by what they heard. Ringing out from the trembling boy's violin was a tune they all recognized - the Star-Spangled Banner."

Someone in a town on Long Island had some fun:

My thanks to the kind folks who bought and donated books today. I had a long chat with Al the Mensch, whose 70th birthday it is. One of the topics was the mail he receives from travel companies offering tours of Cuba, which he immediately tears to shreds. Minutes later Dave the Cook arrived and said that President Trump had rescinded Obama's agreement with the communist country. Al bought a book on the history of Pakistan. As a birthday present, I gave him Mikhail Bulgakov's
historical novel The White Guard, which is set in the Ukraine in December 1918.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/15 - Excellente

I fear someone on the right will now rationalize a violent attack of his own. One cannot predict what a nutjob will do, but the most damaging action to President Trump would be violence from one of his constituents. His supporters need to be like Gandhi and MLK and adopt a course of non-violence. I may be reading it wrong, but it seems the far left is on a track of self destruction. Who in his/her right mind would support killing to overturn an election result with which he/she is unhappy? Okay, you hate Trump. Select a candidate who will make a compelling argument that would convince the majority to show him the door. At present I see and hear only hysteria. America's demise has been predicted before - and the country has always bounced back. The required bounce seems larger than ever, and I believe Trump's policies offer the best chance for it, but I would never get in his opponents' faces about it. In fact, I try to avoid discussing politics completely and regret when I allow myself to be goaded into an argument. I bypass Facebook posts from friends who attack the right, despite the temptation to respond to the most egregious. I want to talk about books, movies, TV, music and babes. I've always believed the less politics the better, and what I've seen lately merely corroborated it.

Today I was feeling like this 67-year-old dude hadn't in a long time - like a bull. The ideal weather was energizing. It looked like the session of the floating book shop would provide meager returns. For the first three hours I sold only two books: Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and a Russian translation of the King Arthur legend. Fortunately, two late donations delayed my departure. In a weird bit of karma, I was thinking about my Tuesday benefactress, who had failed to show, when she turned the corner a moment later. She provided her usual cache of pictorials and non-fiction. Soon Natalia dropped off ten mysteries in Russian. While I was sorting all those, a woman came along and paid the two bucks she owed me, and another bought a book by televangelist Joel Osteen. She was followed by Crazy Joe, the scourge of radio talk show hosts, who overpaid for six works of non-fiction, most of them political in nature, such as White Protestant Nation: The Rise of the American Conservative Movement by Allan J. Lichtman and a large pictorial on Israel. My thanks to those kind folks, and to Shelley, who stopped to chat and revealed an amusing anecdote. She was once seated in a candy store near her home in Brighton Beach when Jackie Mason and his lawyer, Raoul Felder, entered. The owner didn't carry the comedian's favorite drink. "No Snapple?" said Mason exactly as he would have on stage, beside himself. "How can you not have Snapple? Everybody loves Snapple." I can picture it so clearly. I also received the season's first Mamasita Report from the gregarious Russian retiree who strolls to nearby Manhattan Beach each day. He gave me a thumbs up and said: "Excellente." I believe he thinks I'm Hispanic.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works:

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/14 - Obsession

I resist drawing conclusions from the shooting in Virginia. Here's a short story from the Billionths of a Lifetime collection. It's a 10-15 minute read. The title is Miller's Time:

   He turned left from the elevator and immediately spotted a note taped to the door of his apartment just below the large UFT decal. He scanned the message, crumpled and threw it to the floor.
   “I will not be bought,” he muttered indignantly.
   His bushy beard and what remained of the hair on his head were largely gray. He was of average height, about 50 pounds overweight. He wore wire-rimmed glasses.
   “Mr. Miller! Mr. Miller!” someone called.
   Miller recognized the voice and sneered as he let go of the doorknob and turned to the middle age man in a suit. “I've got nothing to say to you, Costas.”
   “Have you seen our latest offer?”
   “I’m not joining the plot to rid Manhattan of the middle class, to make it a playground of the rich.”
   “We’ll give you a studio right here in the building.”
   “The maintenance fee would be more than my current rent. What kind of deal is that?”
   “But you’d own the apartment and you’d be able to sell whenever you want. You have a nice pension and great benefits. You’d have no trouble keeping up.”
   Miller eyed him with suspicion, seething. “How’d you find out about my finances?” No doubt the banks were in cahoots with real estate agents and building owners.
   “Please, sir. You’re alone. You don’t need five rooms.”
   “What if my wife comes back? Take a hike. I’d never trust someone like you.”
   He entered the apartment and set one of the three locks. The interior was in the middle stages of disarray. Ashtrays filled to the brim were everywhere. His wife had always seen to the upkeep. He hadn't the time or patience for it. It’d been a year since she walked out and moved to Florida. He was surprised she was able to live outside of Manhattan. Both had been born and always lived in the borough. They’d spent their entire married life, raised their children in this rent-controlled flat. He’d expected they would die here. He felt betrayed.
   Without removing his coat, he lit a cigarette and sat at his cluttered desk, on which there were several books, a few open. He scanned a paragraph in one, closed it and returned it to its proper place on the top shelf of the case, which held books on the Kennedy assassination. The second was devoted to 9/11, the third to the McCarthy era. All were alphabetized.
   Deep in thought, he was startled by the ring of the telephone. He lifted the receiver and listened for a click, a bugging device. He heard none and chalked it up to the sophistication of modern technology.
   “Oh, Mark -- it’s you. How are you?”
   “Fine, and you?”
   “I’m really on to something.”
   “I was afraid you’d say that.”
   “Benghazi was all about Khadafy’s gold, a massive amount -- stolen”
   “So what if it was? What’s it to you?”
   “How can you not care about the crimes your government perpetrates?” he said, exasperated. “That’s not how we raised you. There‘s also evidence that Hillary orchestrated the death of JFK Jr. because she was afraid he was going to run for senator, which would have ended her career.”
   “Dad, I love you, but you've got to get off this unhealthy track you’re on.”
   “I can’t look away while our freedoms are threatened. The NSA is probably listening to us.”
   “You’re nobody to them, Dad, a harmless crank, a retired teacher. Get your ego in check.”
   “You should be ashamed. Here’s something else, perfect for someone like you who likes warmongering pop novels. You find nothing curious about the deaths of Vince Flynn and Tom Clancy, two relatively young men by modern standards -- rich men who could have paid doctors forever to keep them alive? They died within weeks of each other. That doesn't seem like more than a coincidence to you?”
   “Why would the government kill them?”
   “Because they knew too much.”
   “People die, Dad. It’s the first rule of life. You told me that a long time ago when Uncle Morty died.”
   A heavy silence followed. All these years later, he still could not believe his younger brother was dead.
   “I spoke to mom.”
   Miller did not reply. He felt a pang as he gazed toward an end table and the picture that stood atop it.
   “She asked how you were.”
   “If she cared, she’d be here.”
   “You drove her away with your obsessions.”
   “She used to be so interested in politics.”
   “She still is. She’s involved in the retirement community. You should be down there with her.”
   “I’d go out of my mind.”
   “I’m afraid you will if you keep obsessing about conspiracies.”
   “I seek the truth.”
   Again silence came between them.
   “Have you heard from Sue?”
   “Your sister is busy doing good. Unlike you she isn’t a corporate sell-out.”
   “Yes, those evil corporations who provide millions of jobs and benefits, who pay enormous taxes and provide goods and services to the public.”
   “Who avoid paying taxes, more like it -- and overcharge for things we all could do without.”
   “Whatever. Mom quit smoking. You should too.”
   Miller scoffed. “Don’t send me anymore of those infernal electronic cigarettes.”
   “They can’t be as bad for you as tobacco. When’s the last time you had a checkup?”
   “Doctors can’t be trusted anymore. They’re shills for the drug conglomerates.”
   “Listen to yourself, for God’s sake. We have a liberal president and senate, and you’re more mistrustful than ever.”
   “Because it’s a one-party system of the rich. They should all be jailed, many of them shot.”
   “I’m worried about you, Dad.”
   “Worry about your country. I’m fine.”
   “I understand Costas made you another offer.”
   Miller smirked. “So that’s why you called. You've been talking to that slime behind my back, eager for a cut of the proceeds. You've been infected with the greed of your contemporaries.”
   “I don’t need your money, Dad.”
   Miller hung up, miffed that he was no longer able to trust even his own son. He glanced at his watch. He had plenty of time to get to the library downtown. Each day he visited a different branch. He kept a chart of those he used to make sure he did not leave a traceable pattern. He communicated by computer with fellow travelers, sharing evidence and hypotheses. He no longer had a cell phone or his own computer, which left a trail. He was eager to hear more about a contributor’s belief that Gene Vincent, and Buddy Holly and everyone aboard that plane had been murdered by the CIA in an effort to kill rock and roll in its infancy.
   He was excited, moving so fast his breath grew short.
   As soon as he was outside he lit a cigarette. There was a tightness in his chest he attributed to the biting cold and his anger at his wife, son, Costas and the government. He stopped outside a new pizzeria and finished his smoke. He loved pizza, ate it almost every day. He entered the shop and ordered a pepperoni slice and large root beer. Halfway through the meal he felt light-headed and flushed. Perspiration broke out on his brow. He removed his heavy coat. It didn't help. He felt worse, an acute pain in his chest unlike any he had ever suffered. He sniffed at his drink, certain it’d been poisoned. He looked to the counter, where a man was smiling at him. Was he working for the government or Costas?
   Bastards got me, he thought, keeling over, falling to the floor.
   Efforts to revive him were futile.
   An autopsy was performed. The doctor told Mark his father had suffered a massive heart attack. The procedure also found malignancies in the lungs. Untreated, they would have proved fatal in a year. Even an immediate operation might have failed.

With the inventory running low on the most popular commercial fiction, I brought out two paperback Susan Wiggs romances. Wouldn't you know those were the only sales of the session? My thanks to the kind woman who, as she has with many other books, overpaid for them
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Writer's Life 6/13 - By the Numbers

In the Fast Takes column in today's NY Post, economist Charles Hughes provides an opinion on worldwide poverty that flies in the face of what most people think. It's not increasing - far from it. He says: "...In 1970, about 60% still relegated to extreme poverty. Now, the figure is 9%." Wow.

A Post blurb reports the findings of a new survey. 62% of Americans believe in life after death, 17% do not, 20% are unsure. I'm among the third group, and lean toward the second.

The NBA and NHL seasons are complete. I was curious about what the odds for a championship in those sports were before the season began. was right on the money in pro basketball, listing the Golden St. Warriors at 2-1 and the runner-up Cleveland Cavaliers at 5-1. Year after year the NBA final pairing seems the easiest to predict. The site listed the perennial underachieving Washington Capitals as Stanley Cup favorites at 9-1. The champion Penguins were 10-1. Runner-up Nashville Predators were 40-1. There seems to be more surprises on the ice than in any of the other big four sports. Then again, it wasn't that big a surprise that the Penguins repeated, but it wouldn't have been had any of several other teams gone all the way. In MLB the Cubs, who have been mediocre, were 4-1 at the start of the season to repeat as champions. The Yankees, who at the moment seem unbeatable, were 30-1. Except for the dynasty years of the Bronx Bombers, I've always felt the World Series winner the most difficult to predict. At, the current odds of the Patriots repeating as Super Bowl champions are 6-1. As long as the Brady-Belichick tandem leads the way, a prediction of a New England championship seems safe. The Dallas Cowboys are 8-1. I didn't understand bleacherreport's way of calculating NFL odds. It awards points. It too has the Patriots way ahead of the rest of the field.

The floating book shop did well today despite the heat. My thanks to the woman who bought the two children books the Lady Eve donated yesterday; to Ira, who bought the Charlie Chaplin bio Herbie gave me; to Shelley, who purchased three Nora Roberts novels; to Michael, who chose The Raphael Affair (Art History Mystery) by Iain Pears; and to the gentleman who selected a book in Russian. I spent the entire three hours under the scaffold, venturing into the sun only at the end of the session to return the wares to the trunk of the old Hyundai. I was eager to get to the apartment and douse my head with cold water.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
Vic's Short Works: