Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: The Sun Also Rises

© 1926 by Ernest Hemingway

Another book of which it is quite preposterous for me to label a post about it a “review.” I am but a flea compared to the conquering swaggering warlord that is the force of nature called Hemingway. However, I do quite non-preposterously consider myself widely read, so I’d like to share my opinion of one master’s debut novel I spent a week with.

In one sentence,

… I followed a bunch of insufferable drunks from Paris to Pamplona, with some bullfighting thrown in between tiresome drinking, fighting, and veiled sexual amorality.

In another,

… I didn’t enjoy the ride.

Oh, I can appreciate it. I very well did and do. I think the main problem with the novel was an expectation that something dramatic would happen. Something dramatic within the novel, such as someone getting killed at the end. And I had a good idea who it would be. But nothing of the sort happened.

Then I realized that something dramatic did happen. Something dramatic not within the novel, but about the novel itself.

It was Something New.

As anyone who’s ever read Hemingway in school knows, he revolutionized the way novels were written. In lieu of multitudinous, flowery, run-on, turgid, zig-zagging, stilted, embellished, ( … consults online thesaurus …), overly exegetic and ultra expository sentences, one atop the other, sentences upon sentences, page proportionate paragraphs, crescendo-ing to the highest heavens to tumble down thunderously to the foundations of the Niagara, The Sun Also Rises changed all that.

Changed all that. The book did. This book, now in my hands, late of the wooden shelf by the desk. This book changed all that. While drinking sherry, or jerez as the old Spaniards call it.

Hem’s revolution was much like, though more dramatic than, the chasm separating the previous two paragraphs.

Hemingway’s prose is sparse, functional, to-the-point. Long trains of interconnected prepositional phrases you might spot in the Conjunction Junction cartoon. And somehow the style amplifies the manly men and women who populate this tale. Everyone’s a drinker. Everyone boxes. Everyone fishes, or hunts, or steps in front of bulls, wants to step in front of bulls, or, if you’re a female Hemingway character, wants to seduce a bullfighter, in front of three or four other drunken boxing wanna-be bullfighters who’ve either bedded you, want to bed you, or can’t bed you due to a war injury.

So, while appreciative of what Hemingway did, overall I was disappointed. Am I a product of my time? Absolutely, unfortunately. But I can rise above it. I can dig good art when I see it, or read it. I wanna give The Sun Also Rises either a respectable solid-A or a disappointed C-minus. I’m not sure which. Maybe a mashed-up B / B-minus. Maybe if I drank more jerez I’d give it a B-plus.

Anyway, still planning on reading the other Hemingway I picked up a few weeks ago, For Whom the Bell Tolls. Might be a good exercise to do the ol’ high school compare / contrast essay, though that might also be a bit boring, unless I can come at it out of a field lefter than the one used for this “review”.

We’ll see …

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Is Someone a Racist?

* * * * * * *

As a despiser of muddled, confusing gender-neutral language, I’d change the “are they” to “is he” and the “like them” to “like him” and the “they are” to “he is”. “Someone” is singular, after all, so later pronouns must not be plural to be effective in communication.

Otherwise, I believe this flow chart accurately describes a disturbingly larger-than-one-thinks segment of the population out there.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Book Review: Worldwar: In the Balance

© 1994 by Harry Turtledove

Spring 1942. Total war rages across the globe as the US reels from the Japanese sneak attack at Pearl Harbor, Britain suffers nightly attacks from German bombers, the Warsaw ghetto toils under extreme Nazi oppression as mainland China toils under the barbaric imperial Japanese, and the Germans and Soviets lock horns over the vast plains of southeastern Russia.

Then, the aliens descend, armed and spoiling for a fight.

I found this longish paperback (565 pages) quite readable despite the fact that, for some reason, I could never get more than 20 or 25 pages done at a clip. I read it just about everywhere – bed, bath, bleachers during soccer practice, reclining chair in office during lunch, huddled over a slice at the local pizzeria – and I never lost interest, but the sheer weight of it kept me from motoring through it. Not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the novel really takes you into the 40s and Turtledove has a solid grasp on the cultures and personalities involved. But I’m getting a bit scattered. Let’s refocus.

Similar to my recent reading of Silverberg’s Tom O’Bedlam, the novel takes a form I like: characters scattered about who slowly come together. In Worldwar, there’s a “cast of thousands” appeal, a dozen protagonists who easily come to life under Turtledove’s pen. Americans, Brits, a pair of Nazis tank jockeys, a female Soviet flyer, a Swedish physicist, a Polish rabbi in Warsaw, Chinese peasants taken captive by the aliens. Oh, and the aliens, too, known as “The Race.” We’re privy to meetings and musings by the battle commander, various underlings, all the way down to alien fighter pilots and tank drivers. And then sprinkled in is a generous dose of historical character cameos: Patton, Fermi, Churchill, Molotov, Ribbentrop, General George Marshall, future General Leslie Grove of Manhattan Project fame, Hitler even, for two or three pages. So there’s really a lot packed into the book.

I liked that the action moved. I liked how humanity responded to the alien invasion with an uneasy truce, altering tactics and strategy, probing the aliens for weaknesses. I also liked how the Race realized it had come unprepared, expecting to fight a war with men in armor on horseback (due to a probe they sent 600 years ago and the human race advancing far quickly than theirs). There’s an interesting subplot where some aliens become addicted to a super-cocaine drug, known to us as ginger. And the underground drug trade that grows up around it. Also how the Race begins nuking us (Berlin first, Washington second) and how our scientists reverse engineer nuclear fission from the leftover byproducts at the devastation sites (plutonium?).

But, to be honest, there were strains of stuff I didn’t like, primarily focusing on the Race. I felt it odd that the aliens were basically matched with us, technology-wise, though their tanks and aircraft were probably two decades more advanced. And I thought taking all the secrets away from the Race and humanizing them was a mistake. Plus they were a tad bit monolithic: a society and culture that’s lasted hundreds of thousands of years without any revolutionary ideas or movements.

Bottom line: Worldwar: In the Balance kept me interested, but not enough to continue on to read the remaining three books in the series. Perhaps if I was a teen again I’d devour this. As is, I plan on giving his alternative history Roman legion stories a go should I come across them.

Grade: B+

Thursday, October 12, 2017


Came across the 1867 poem “Dover Beach” by Matthew Arnold a week or so ago and still can not get the third stanza out of my mind:

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

To me this encapsulates perfectly – oh too perfectly – that dim and obscure feeling that descends upon me when I read of what’s happening to the Catholic faith post-Vatican II, the changes currently test-driven by Francis and his cohorts, and the steroidal tsunami of transformation that’s molding our world like a brutal calloused sculptor that serves no master but itself.

Or am I being too histrionic?

now I only hear

Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,

Retreating …

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

If the South Won Gettysburg

© 1980 by Mark Nesbitt (concept by Paul S. Witt – whose signature is in the copy of the used book I bought)

This is a neat little book I bought down in Hilton Head last August on vacation, purely based on the cover artwork:

How could I resist a book such as this!

Anyway, it’s a short read – 197 pages, the last 26 being appendices: tactics, technology, the Confederate Constitution, army corps organization charts, and an index. I read it over two nights. In fact, I couldn’t put it down, really, and that’s always a bonus for a guy like me who has a thousand books on deck to read. It makes reading fun. Yes, this was a fun book.

According to his bio, Nesbitt first read about Gettysburg when he was eight. He eventually worked as a ranger at the battlefield for four years and has been passionate about it ever since. It shows. This little book is probably the best moment-by-moment play-by-play of the battle I’ve read. In short vignettes of half-a-page to a page-and-a-half, he clearly explains the lead-up to the Pennsylvanian invasion, the thinking of the generals, war councils, troop movements, and the actual combat. It was so simple to follow along I was actually amazed.

The best thing, though, is that it’s a mix of fact and speculation. And the demarcation line between the two is seamlessly crossed. I didn’t notice it, though, truth be told, it’s probably been five years since I read anything about Gettysburg, so the details of the battle have been lost to the mists of memory. That rusty creaky file cabinet between my ears. Perhaps I should have read up on the battle before reading If the South Won Gettysburg, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of it. Actually it was kind of challenging: where, exactly, in the battle does Nesbitt move from fact to fiction?

My guess is the final day. There’s no Pickett’s Charge, the cliché-tagged “high watermark of the South”, Lee’s failed attempt at smashing the Union line on Cemetery Ridge and the Round Tops using 18th-century tactics in a war quickly moving into the early 20th-century. So it must’ve occurred before then. There’s mention of Longstreet’s pincer plan, much like the movement used by Stonewall Jackson to win at Chancellorsville, being approved (I think) by Lee instead of declined, thus setting up the South’s killing blow – Jeb Stuart’s unimpeded cavalry ride south to assault, and ultimately take, the capital city of Washington.

Then the speculation flows. Lincoln and his cabinet flee the city, but no other northern city will take him. He winds up in Canada. Britain recognizes the Confederacy. But what interested me more was what could have happened further down the timestream. For instance, the authors believe slavery would have died out fifteen or so years after Southern independence for economic reasons which they explain. Also, due to big-E economics, the South would not suffer the morass of depression that an FDR-led North muddled in (due in large part that it was led by FDR – my conclusion, not the book’s). The continental United States would fracture into five nations: the USA, the CSA, the Republic of Texas, the Rocky Mountain States, and the Republic of California.

However, we don’t see the North supporting the Central Powers in the Great War (and possibly Nazi Germany) that I’ve read speculated elsewhere, nor do we see a Southern astronaut plant the Stars and Bars in the Sea of Tranquility.

But to me the best part of the book is the five short pages on Civil War tactics in the Appendix. How were battles fought? Strange, but in the two dozen or so books I’ve read on the subject, battlefield tactics were never straightforward explained to me. And now, care of If the South Won Gettysburg – 

1) Gain the high ground. If the enemy attacks, he’ll be tired climbing up after you. Also, easier to hide your reserve forces while he must show all his.

2) Remember when gaining the high ground not to silhouette yourself against the skyline.

3) Clear a field of fire in front of your position so the enemy must advance over open ground.

4) Create obstacles before your position to break the enemy’s formation while not giving him a chance of seek cover from your fire.

5) A position with a stream or river running before it is a bonus, as the enemy must advance through it and may be unable to return fire while doing so.

6) Secure your flanks – the “ends” of your line of firing. If you have a company of a hundred men in two lines, they have an alternating 50 weapons to fire with straight ahead. But if the enemy can attack the flank (the “side” of your line), you will only have at first two weapons to turn and fire upon him until and unless you reform the line. Securing the flank meant placing it against a hill or in the woods or at a river or water source where the enemy can’t get at it easily.

So, lots of interesting stuff packed into a small book you can read in two quick nights. Definitely worth seeking out.

Grade: solid A.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Birthday Book Score

Well, in addition to the Les Paul my family got me for my fiftieth, I did receive a few birthday gift cards. Over the weekend I took Patch shopping with me and we picked up a bunch of books. Here’s what I scored:

The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls, by Ernest Hemingway.

Sick and tired of all the limp-wristed SJW temper tantrums dominating the news cycle, I’ve been desperately on the lookout for something manly written by someone manly. A few books ago I completed the last tome of Rick Atkinson’s World War II “liberation trilogy,” The Guns at Last Light, and Hem was a minor character, popping up here and there as he propelled his jeep through war-torn France, binoculars, pistol, and flask ever at his side. What could be more masculine than that? True, I did read him way, way back in high school, though that was sadly wasted on a not-ready me. But I’m looking forward to both books, as they’re both now swinging bats in the On-Deck Circle.

A Voyage to Arcturus, by David Lindsey.

This will be my Halloween reading. I read it exactly ten years ago, and while I don’t recall all the details, I do remember it being creepy, philosophical, fantastical, and thought-provoking. I do remember thinking at the time that it needs a re-read in the near future. Well, a decade later, moisture, mildew, and possibly an encounter with flood water ruined my copy. Beneficiently, a newer ancient copy jumped out at me perusing the used book aisles with Patch. So I bought it, and come the fourth week in October, I will voyage again to Arcturus and try not to get too creeped out.

Le Morte d’Arthur, by Sir Thomas Mallory.

This has been on my radar forever, but never got around to seeking it out for a read. I’m a minor fan of the Arthurian legend, dating back to my nerd days. Read the Mary Stewart books in high school and re-read them two or three years back. Read the T. H. White classic to relax when not getting drunk as a college freshman. Read parts of Steinbeck’s book on the Round Table fairly recently. But this is the source material. This is reading J.R.R. as opposed to Christopher. At least, that’s what I’m hoping. Maybe around Christmas I’ll crack this one open.

I also picked up

100 Things Ranger Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, by Adam Raider and Russ Cohen, as well as the current issue of The Hockey News.

This all came about from a decision to extend my metaphorical middle finger to the protesting millionaires in the NFL, by switching my limited TV viewing time to the NHL.

My household during my tween years, before my parents divorced, was a broiling roiling zone of Rangers hockey. Seemed just about every night during those late-70s winters a game would be on, though in truth I usually read a book on the floor and only glanced up at the screen when the adults jumped up and down, hooting and hollering in excitement. Skimming through the book though brought back memories: mostly names – Esposito, Maloney, Duguay, Murdoch, some guy named Ulf, and the more I thought about it the more visuals I recalled. Mostly of bloody noses and torn uniforms.

And from one of the trad Cath websites I’ve been frequenting of late, I ordered the following:

The Inside Story of Vatican II (formerly The Rhine Flows into the Tiber), by Ralph Wiltgen.

From Ecumenism to Silent Apostasy, an analysis compiled by the SSPX.

The Roman Rite Destroyed, by Michael Davies.

Time Bombs of the Second Vatican Council, by Fr. Franz Schmidberger.

These all should rightly be part of a separate post. For several months now, discontent with the pontificate of Jorge Bergoglio, I’ve been researching the recent Church past to discover how we’ve gotten to where we now are. I’ve learned about John XXIII, Paul VI, Vatican II, the SSPX, the FSSP, Sedevacantism, and have listened to countless hours of podcasts on the internet from all differing opinions. I’m slowly – glacially – coming to an internal consensus, though I must admit I still am awaiting firm convincing. But I’ll keep reading to fill that aching itch in my soul, for I fear we are on the wrong path, a path leading very far from where it promises to take us. More, much more, later, after I digest these works.

Until later … happy reading!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Week 4 of the 2017 NFL Season

TIME: Sunday, 12:50 pm

PLACE: An apartment in a gentrified section of a blue state city

Old Hippie, Social Justice Warrior, and Woke Hipster sit snacking on kale chips and kraut frittatas, sipping IPA beer, waiting for the game to start …

OLD HIPPIE: So why are we watching football this week? I’ve never watched a game in my life.

SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR: The only football I’m aware of is fútbol. You know, soccer. We’re like the only country that doesn’t recognize the greatness of soccer.

WOKE HIPSTER: I watched a four-hour World Cup game once. Venezuela beat Cuba, 1-0.

OLD HIPPIE: But football is so … warlike.

SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR: We have to support the players. They’re honoring the sacrifices made by our fathers and grandfathers by kneeling during the national anthem. It’s what our fathers and grandfathers would have wanted.

WOKE HIPSTER: They fought and died for our right to protest! Even things they routinely did out of love for this country. It’s like the only thing that makes this country great.

OLD HIPPIE: Look – there’s barely anyone in the stands. Maybe the owners should let the homeless or some undocumented immigrants in to watch the games.

SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR: Why are there soldiers and all that flag waving on the field? Is it to remind viewers of America’s imperialism under Republican presidents?

WOKE HIPSTER: Hey, they’re showing highlights from last week’s games. I don’t see anyone kneeling though. Just a bunch of running and throwing and kicking that brown ball thing.

OLD HIPPIE: I’m not comfortable with all this violence. Hitting and tackling. Isn’t there a better way to play football?

SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR: How about each team tries to raise awareness for some worthy cause, like man-made climate change or transgender bathrooms, and the two teams who raise the most awareness get to be in the Super Bowl?

WOKE HIPSTER: Pope Francis could umpire the Super Bowl. He’s really great when it comes to climate change, and he’s totally nonjudgmental.

OLD HIPPIE: How would we decide which team raised the most awareness?

SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR: By whichever one raises the most money?

WOKE HIPSTER: I’m not comfortable with money. It just oozes privilege and is so patriarchal.

OLD HIPPIE: And these names! We’ll have to change some of these team names.

SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR: We’ll need a federal judge for that. I’ll call my friend at the ACLU.

WOKE HIPSTER: The New York Giants! What, are there no short people in New York?

OLD HIPPIE: So ableist. If I was a dwarf I would be uncomfortable rooting for the Giants.

SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR: Wait – can we say ‘dwarf’?

WOKE HIPSTER: And what if you’re a very tall person? Surely not everyone on the Giants is, uh, a giant. Sounds like appropriation to me.

OLD HIPPIE: Shhh! The game is starting. They’re playing the anthem. The players are taking a knee!

SOCIAL JUSTICE WARRIOR: Quick, let’s take a knee in solidarity with our brothers in the NFL.

WOKE HIPSTER: When will women be allowed to play in the NFL?

OLD HIPPIE: I know, right? Hashtag women in the NFL now!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Pope of Ambiguity

So now a group of 62 theologians, priests, and lay scholars have written a 25-page letter detailing what they regard as seven heretical positions propagating from Amoris Laetitia, Francis’ apostolic exhortation on marriage and the family. The letter is called a “filial correction” and such a thing has not been done in almost 700 years. The group sent the letter to Francis on August 11, and, as per Francis’ way of dealing with criticism, has been ignored for six weeks. Four days ago the group decided to publicize the letter.

The content of the filial correction as well as the signers can be seen here:

You can even sign up to support the document at the website. I did.

I recommend reading it. I did.

Those in the know recall the “dubia” (Latin: doubts), a document sent to the Pope from four Cardinals asking for clarifications on five main points, such as, for example, “Can adulterers receive Holy Communion?” In the Pope’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia, one can vaguely read a “yes” to that question if one wishes to. And believe me, there are many out there who wish to.

Amoris Laetitia was released in April of 2016. The dubia was sent to Francis in July of 2016.

There was no response from the pope.

The Cardinals made the dubia public the following September, a year ago.

Still no response.

Then, in April of 2017, the Cardinals sent Francis a respectful letter requesting an audience regarding the dubia.

It was, and continues to be, ignored.

In the interim, two of the four writers of the dubia, Joachim Meisner and Carlo Caffaro, have died.

And now I expect the filial correction to be ignored as well.

So, regarding an apostolic exhortation that may – or may not (I’d like to know) – be filled with propositions antithetical to 2,000 years of Church teaching, there is utter silence coming from the Vatican. Fourteen months’ worth of silence.

Francis, the Pope of Ambiguity …

Friday, September 22, 2017

Radial Buckle Fracture

It never fails. Whenever tragedy strikes, I won’t have my cell phone on me. Admittedly, I only forget the phone somewhere (home, work) maybe once or twice a year. But, yeah, it never fails: when something bad happens, my cell phone will be M.I.A.

Wednesday, in a rush to get out of work with a clean desk and as many lose ends tied as possible since I was taking the next day off to watch the girls during a school closing, I left the phone on my desk. I moseyed on home via the scenic route, and, two minutes away from the town library where I habitually pick up Little One, I reached over to send her a text.

Phone wasn’t there. Dammit! I contemplated turning back, but figured a day with the cell phone (or electronic Honey Do leash, as I like to think of it) would be manageable.

I turned down the street where the library was and spotted my daughter red and sobby, surrounded by four of her friends.

I immediately pulled into the next parking lot and they brought her over. “What happened?” I asked from the window, assessing my soon-to-be teen.

Her face was the pink and splotchy mess that told me she’d just had a terrible cry. Then my eyes saw her arm – bandaged and bulging. “What happened?” I repeated, more urgently.

Turns out she and one of her friends were horsing around on a footbridge that spans the railroad tracks a quarter mile away. Little One lost her balance and tumbled down five stairs, depositing her full weight on the outside of her right wrist. She was instantly overwhelmed with pain, and her resourceful friends walked her to a nearby pharmacy, pooled their money together to buy some gauze, and one who just took a babysitting “Safe Sitter” class bandaged her up. Then they waited for me.

I thanked them, put Little One in the passenger seat, got Patch from Aftercare down the road. Then we raced straight to the emergency room of the local hospital a few miles away, the hospital where both my children were born. She was immediately seen, X-rayed, and given some Motrin. The X-rays revealed a buckle fracture and she was put in a soft cast.

(Right after leaving the hospital, we drove to my work so I could retrieve the cell phone, possible to avoid further tragedy down the road ...)

If I had been the one who fell, my bone would break. My bones, at the half-century mark, are like hollowed out old sticks. Really. So are, most likely, yours. Hers, being still twelve years old, are more like rubber bands. Mushy wet rubber bands, especially on the inside. Instead of breaking, the outside of the bone fractured where the radius connects with the wrist bones. There’s an outward bulge you can see on the X-ray, and that’s an effect of the buckling.

Well, the next day we had to visit our orthopedic pediatrician. Yes, we have one, with Patch’s ankle injury over the Christmas holiday and Little One’s prior wrist sprain the summer before. He’s a great guy, a little eccentric, a dry sense of humor, and we could listen to his monotonous delivery for hours. That cheered up Little One. Once the doctor reviewed the X-ray from the hospital and examined her arm and mobility, he decided to put her in a hard cast for two weeks.

“To make it kind of fun,” he added in a nerdy way that made Little One grin, “you can pick the color of the cast.” Then he began to recite his inventory: “We have red, pink, purple, yellow, blue, lime green, just plain white, …”

“Blue!” my daughter decided. It was her school color.

“Blue,” the doctor sighed to himself. “They always pick the blue …”

So despite the trauma of the past two days, she’s very excited. Her friends stopped by a couple times, once bearing Get Well gifts – an oinking green pig, some M&Ms, flowers. She has a respite from gym class and clarinet practice. And, she said to me, “I always wanted to have a cast!”

Here she is, rocking the blue:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hopper's NFL Watchability Problem

OK, so I’ve read a bunch of articles and posts here and there about how the NFL is having problems. Primarily ratings problems, though one website labeled it a “watchability” problem. And that immediately lit up that invisible light bulb above my head. That’s exactly it for me, this season and last.

I’ve watched the NFL pretty regularly since the 94-95 season. Over time, I found myself getting too emotionally involved in my team – the New York Giants – my “tribe” as the sociologists may categorize it. I didn’t like that. The cliché “it’s just a game” does have more than a grain of truth, after all. I have zero skin in the game. In the long run, a game / season / playoff run doesn’t affect me in the least. So why was I going to bed royally pissed off after a close loss? I am, after all, a fan of the perpetually 9-7 Eli Manning Giants, so all games are close and only slightly more games are won than lost. So why the mental discombobulation from an activity that’s supposed to be fun and – even – relaxing?

In 2013 I decided to switch sports allegiances and began watching the Mets. Right off the bat I found the enjoyment and relaxation that had been missing. I wasn’t so emotionally invested, the games were slower paced, a loss wasn’t that catastrophic since ten baseball games equaled a football game in importance.

The past two season with the NFL, though, I’ve grown more than annoyed. I just don’t like watching the games anymore. Loyalty demands I do watch, though, but I may not after the Giants lackluster 0-2 offensive desert this year. But to me the NFL does have a watchability problem, and it’s not just due to the lousy New York teams.

In no particular order –

ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) Syndrome: More bells! More whistles! More camera angles! Up close shots! Let’s cut to the replay, several times from several different angles! Let’s hear the grunting on the field, the play calling! Let’s put humongous CGI robots battling on the field! Zoom in on ecstatic epileptic fans! Let’s cut to sideline reporters yelling over the loud crowd! Quick – cut to our man in NFL headquarters discussing the last penalty! More colors! More noise! More hard cuts!

Commercials, commercials, commercials … and more commercials: There’s the kickoff. Then three minutes of commercials. Then, if the Giants have the ball, a three-and-out before five real-time minutes elapse. Then three more minutes of commercials. There was a famous study a few years’ back showing that an average football game only lasts 11 minutes when the ball is actually in play. 11 minutes spread out over three hours. The game clock actually runs for an hour – and the game’s three hours long! What fills those extra two hours? Commercials!

Thug culture: A proliferation of criminal behavior on and off the field, gangsta swagger, an excess of tattoos, stupid overlong celebrations in the end zone. Including some classy crotch grabbin’ from a Giants rookie in their loss Sunday night.

Overexposure: Sunday afternoon, 1 to 7. Sunday evening, 8:30-11:30. Monday evening, 8:30-11:30. Thursday evening, 8-11. And four London games airing at 7 am on various Sunday mornings. That’s anywhere from 15 to 18 hours of football a week. Not counting the hour-long pregame analysis shows. Throw them in and you’re at around 20 to 24 hours of football a week. Too, too much. The product is diluted.

Announcers who want to date Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, etc.: Good Lord, get a room! The effusive avalanche of gushing love praise from the broadcast booth slathered on the select elected stars of the league is often quite embarrassing, if you take the time to actual listen to what is said. (Oh, announcers, one other thing, and I think I speak for all Giants, Eagles, and Redskins fans: just because you call Dallas “America’s team,” doesn’t mean everyone in America loves them!)

The kneel-down protests: Personally, I haven’t seen any at a game I’ve watched. I watch mostly Giants games, and I believe they’re one of the teams that hasn’t allowed this infection to fester to its sideline. But, yeah, the nationwide attention has had its effect, and I blame more the league itself for a cowardly, half-hearted, fence-sitting response more than the actual dopes taking a knee.

Ah, that’s enough. Giants lose this weekend to Philly, I may just ditch the entire season and resume bird-watching.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Birthday Weekend

Well, the Hopper birthday weekend officially came to a close late last night. And not only am I, straddling the half-century mark, utterly and completely exhausted, so is almost birthday-buddy Patch, now age nine, as well as Little One, age twelve (for only ten more days), and even the Mrs.

Thankfully, work was slow. As was I, at work.

Anyway, it launched with a blast. I am not a social animal. I’m probably best suited in this life for Carthusian monkhood. But the Lord in His wisdom decided to place me in a family of decidedly extroverts. I put my foot down months ago and told the wife not to plan any party for me, save for a quiet dinner with her and the two little ’uns. That lasted about a day or two. “Listen,” she said, “you’re turning fifty. Your family is not going to allow you not to have party.”

So we compromised. Something small, eighteen people, all relatives, aunts uncles cousins parents children. At a local pizzeria. Truth be told, I had a blast. I chugged some beers, guzzled some thin crust slices, wolfed down some birthday cake. And best of all, the wife got me this:


This is an Epiphone Les Paul, kind of an economy-classed Gibson Les Paul. No matter – it feels great. The size and curvature of the neck, the fit and heft of the body. I love the shiny black finish and the gold frets and tuning pegs. She also bought a small Fender practice amp that lays down a nice basic tone to build up on. As of the writing of this post I’ve already put about fours hours of jamming into it.

So an enjoyable two-and-a-half hour 50th birthday party, capped off with the wife dragging out a black guitar case behind my back for me to open. It’s no exaggeration that I will probably remember that moment the rest of my life.

Saturday was no day of recovery for us. Got up early and ran some of the usual errands with the girls (recycling, dry cleaners, post office, library). Went to Home Depot for a couple of items – there’s a post in itself I won’t go into. Then I had to race back, shower, get into some biz cazh and motored a few towns over for a pre-Tax Season meeting with my second job. Went over my “report card” with my district manager, set some goals for the near future.

Got back home and actually dozed for twenty minutes while the girls kicked the soccer ball around in the backyard. Then the wife pulled up with Patch’s big birthday gift – a bicycle! She was electrified, super-excited. So, despite the unseasonably hot and humid weather, I hauled it and Patchie to the local running track to teach her how to ride.

And, father of the year that I am, I did. After much bruising and tears on her part. But the Mrs, in her wisdom, also included elbow and knee pads with the helmet with the bike.

Saturday night we chilled at a local eatery – just the four of us. Now I’m not a foodie, but I had one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had outside of Hilton Head, S.C. I can’t recite the details two days later, but it was basically short ribs over creamy potatoes with some leafy veggie thing. But it was superb, I tell ya!

Sunday was a similarly action-packed day. Feeling somewhat spiritual entering my second half-century of life – O! forgot – I managed to find time yesterday for an afternoon confession – it’s good for the soul! – I got up at 6:45 and went to 7:30 mass solo (I allowed the ladies their beauty sleep). Got back, then the rush was on for Patch’s travel soccer game a few towns away. Poor little thing got rocked in goal for the first half, and we hoped it wouldn’t affect her birthday weekend. The wife actually had to bite her tongue and go for a walk as Patch was getting no help from her teammates. But after recharging with some oranges at half-time and going back in on offense, she got her fighting spirit back. Only one shot on goal, though, and it didn’t go in.

Once back and all showered, the wife took Patch to the beauty salon – where they met five of her fourth grade friends to get all their hands and feet done. Me and Little One picked up the cake and some balloons and met them all at that local pizzeria again, the scene from my bash Friday night. More pizza and cake followed. The parents came to pick up their little ones, we all mingled for a bit, then I headed home to shower yet again (like the third time of the day – it was unseasonably hot).

Because me and my pal were going to see It in the theaters. Had a chocolatini at his house (don’t ask – his wife makes them for me just about every time I come over there, something about both of us being chocoholics), then we drove over to experience the unexpected blockbuster. What a birthday, eh? It, my third all-time favorite book, now finally brought to the big screen in all its gloriously hideous and beautiful splendor (the 1990 miniseries does not exist in the world I inhabit). Normally I hate lengthy movies, but I absolutely loved every minute of the 135 minutes spent in Derry with the Losers Club battling ol’ Pennywise. A+. Easy A+. Best movie I’ve seen all year, best possibly since … I can’t recall. Definitely want to see it again on the big screen. Want to take Little One, but she’s still too little. Needs to mature at least another year, maybe when she’s in ninth grade.

So, that was the Great Birthday Weekend of 2017. Forgive my stream-of-consciousness post, too damn tired to edit it properly.

But it was a great 50th birthday.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Grant Hart RIP

Grant Hart, drummer, singer, songwriter, most famously for the proto-grunge alternative rock band Husker Du, died yesterday.

I was a HUGE Husker Du fan in the late 80s, turned on to them by my lead guitarist / pal Rich, and though it took a while for them to grow on me, by the summer of 1989 I must’ve listened to Zen Arcade, Candy Apple Grey, and Warehouse countless times. And by countless, I literally mean “countless.” Why, that summer alone in my virtual convertible Corolla, I blasted my cassette tape of Candy Apple Grey something like every single day, every single commute, every single lunch hour, from early May to late September. And I would throw on Warehouse in that brand-newfangled CD player thing I just bought every single night and jam along with it.

Now, as far as Husker Du goes, the band is absolutely one-hundred percent phenomenal, no doubt about that. To the Eighties what the Ramones were to the Seventies, plus some. Perhaps the greatest unknown-band-to-the-masses ever. And though I appreciated Bob Mould’s droning, wall-of-sound guitar and moody, dark, depressive lyrics, I enjoyed Grant Hart’s drumming and singing more. He had a mischievous, impish quality to everything he recorded, a hyper prancing galloping aggressive style of play that captivated me. Though I hold him not as a role model (serious drug abuse and worse), I always thoroughly enjoyed everything I ever heard him play or sing.

Died yesterday at age 56 (ach!) of “kidney cancer.”

Rest in peace. You gave a couple thousand of us some great entertainment over the years.

Grant Hart singing and drumming on Dead Set on Destruction from Candy Apple Grey:

Well, I’m standing in the queue
And I can’t stand anymore missing you
And I, I can’t stand the pain
And I can’t get home ’cause of a hurricane

Dead set on destruction
Dead set on destruction

There’s no flights home today
And no services out on the motorway
And I, I can’t leave the ground
And I can’t find a place now to put her down

Dead set on destruction
Dead set on destruction

The Atlantic winds are high
There’s only one virgin and if she don't fly
And they, they can’t land the plane
And they can’t get home ’cause of a hurricane

Dead set on destruction, etc, etc, etc ...

From the near-perfect Warehouse, the penultimate-penultimate song She’s a Woman and Now He is a Man

Well I can see her loading boxes in my mind
Into a belvedere with a trailer pulled behind
Well things didn’t go exactly as they planned
She’s a woman and now he is a man

Well there’s a vacancy between them everyday
And a sense of guilt that’s not going away
When they get older perhaps they’ll understand
She’s a woman and now he is a man

And now he’s into something that her heart cannot forgive
She’s saying to herself, “This is not the way to live”
Well he’ll never listen to her ’cause his mind is like a sieve
Oh brother! Oh brother! I’m telling your sister
No way can I resist her

With a guilty feeling hanging in their brain
And the two of them are potentially insane
Well they’ve had enough which is more than they can stand
She’s a woman and now he is a man

Well I can see her loading boxes in my mind
Into a belvedere with a trailer pulled behind
Well things didn’t go exactly as they planned
She’s a woman and now he is a man
She’s a woman and now he is a man, etc…

Solo Hart, from 2009: You’re the Reflection of the Moon on the Water

You’re the reflection of the moon on the water
You’re the reflection of the moon on the water
You’re the reflection of the moon on the water
But you’re not the moon

You are the scent of the sea on the night wind
You are the scent of the sea on the night wind
You are the scent of the sea on the night wind
But you’re not the sea

You are the shadows from the light of a fire
You are the shadows from the light of a fire
You are the shadows from the light of a fire
But you’re not the light

You are the sound of the rain on the dry earth
You are the sound of the rain on the dry earth
You are the sound of the rain on the dry earth
But you’re not the rain

[Repeat …]

(Husker Du live: Greg Norton, bass; Grant Hart, drums; Bob Mould, guitar)