Archive | November 2013

Best Worst Review

It started out fairly well but then I realized that it was written from a woman’s perspective. As a male I could not connect with it.

Apparently it was only when this fellow “realized” that Bernardine Bishop’s Unexpected Lessons in Love was written from a female perspective — <hint, hint> it opens in a nunnery, is written by a female author, and features a cat and a child’s toy on the cover — that he suddenly “could not connect” to it!

Bishop had written 2 novels in the early sixties, but abandoned writing to bring up a family, teach and practice as a psychotherapist. For her final book, she was able to draw on her lifetime’s worth of experiences, which is evident as the central character is also a retired psychotherapist coping with anal cancer and a colostomy.


Bishop, who died this past July  at age 73, made her mark as a novelist posthumously with the publication of Unexpected Lessons in Love, which was recently nominated for the Costas prize. The Costas is given both for high literary merit but also for works that are enjoyable reading and whose aim is to convey the enjoyment of reading to the widest possible audience.

You can read the first chapter of the book here.

The Spinning Wheel


1868 Spin Doctor

The other evening I was at a birthday /  dinner party. After a few drinks and some cake by the fireside, the conversation turned to politics.   It was a bipartisan group in attendance — let me stress that.

The topic? The one thing my own party does that most alienates me as a voter.

Interestingly, both sides agreed on the same thing: dead presidents. Nothing says “I’m a political dinosaur” like someone drawing on the memory of Reagan or Kennedy.

It’s not surprising once one thinks about it.

Parties focused on presidents decades past and generations ago are bound to alienate younger voters.

And they should.

Would anyone go to a doctor who refused to prescribe any treatment or medication that came into being within the last 50 years?

Would anyone do business with a company that only used technology that’s 50 years old?

Would anyone opt to live in a house or drive a car that hasn’t been updated in 50 years?

Society, the world, everything, grows and changes. It’s why we don’t have a king, or slavery, or white male property-owning voters only.

Political ideas and modes of government have to keep pace. They have to stay current and reflect the reality of the times. If they don’t, or worse, people so in love with the past don’t let them, it holds a country back.

I’m not suggesting parties change, just that it’s time to retire them. They’re quaint anachronisms, like typewriters and spinning wheels.

People might choose to indulge in anachronistic political thought for fun and pleasure still, in the privacy of their own homes.

But dated ideas of government are of no use to those whose interests are in accomplishing the task of running a modern country for the benefit of all its citizens.


A 2013 Congressional representative at work.

See no evil, hear no evil, say . . . . what?


My friend, “Piccolo,” called me up. He asked if I wanted to make some extra dosh for six months or so doing some data crunching.

I crunch data like nobody’s business. I like doing it. And I like Pic. I also have a group of friends there. (Luekemia friend was one of them, till she died two days ago, way ahead of the 14 months her doctor promised. The funeral is this weekend. Carpe diem, people. Carpe diem!)

So, why not say yes? Because you  don’t know Piccolo’s business or his business model.

Things start out deceptively normal and friendly, with a small group of people that have known each other forever. As things go on, craigslist becomes the HR department.

Then work escalates to the point one could be working round the clock for weeks straight and finds oneself considering duct taping one’s Monster-chugging totally high coworker to a wall.

It’s not for the faint of heart.

Last time I helped Pic out,  the building manager went ballistic over the number of people smoking (and hotboxing) near the shared entrance with the gym/ health clinic. Among many, many other things.

Things got worse when people began sleeping in their cars so they could work a 72-hour shift (for which they were paid time and a half over 8, but not the legally required double time after 12).

How does a building manager let one know one’s lease is up? By turning off one’s HVAC in a building where none of the windows open.

Some days the office was 40 degrees, others it was 90. Pic didn’t care because OSHA has no rules about temperatures. It was totally psycho.

Because working conditions sucked, lots of people began to fall sick (four people got pneumonia). However, since no one had health insurance . . . and no one could afford to miss work . . .  they came in anyway. And they made other people sick (including me).

In the end, I referred a bunch of people to the local free clinic so no one died (although one guy came very, very close). There were more pills floating around that place than Eli Lilly.

I also took to spraying  the entire office (and any paperwork that touched my desk) with Lysol, twice a day, to keep ahead of the epidemic. And I am the most immune, least germophobic person on earth. So, it was bad.

I could say more, but you get it. I like Pic and I like the work, but I worry about ending end up in court or before the Labour Board having to give damaging testimony about . . . anyone.

But a couple grand a month extra? That won’t hurt the “move” coffers any. So, I said yes.

But I also said, I’m just sitting in a corner office crunching numbers for a few hours a day, while wearing headphones. I don’t want to see or hear anything. That way, I don’t ever have to say anything.

Except on my blog.


Katie Walsh by Spencer Murphy

This is a portrait of Irish jump jockey Katie Walsh by Spencer Murphy. It’s an amazing portrait of an amazing woman.

It won the Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize of the National Portrait Gallery (London) the other day.  That’s about $19,000 US .

This portrait was taken last year just after the Grand National. Katie had been riding the equally amazing Seabass.

She achieved the highest-place a woman has ever achieved in the race.  She came in third.

I guess this could be called the longest “come from behind” win in the history of racing.

Congrats to all!

Worst Friend Ever


I recently found out a good friend has leukemia and has been given 14 months to live.

In ruminating about this on a late night walk with Red, I thought to myself, “I really should send a Get Well card.”

Of course a split second later I realized, she wasn’t going to get well.

I pondered Hallmark’s lack of a “Happy Dying” card section.

And my own stupidity.

Then I laughed.

Which was okay.

As Shaw once said,

Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.

Tempus Fugit

I'm busy, go away!

Time in the pursuit of knowledge!

Daylight Saving Time is something I use all year round, like the Argentines.  But it’s nice when everyone else at last joins in.

My phone and computer are automatically set to run on “accurate” time of course, but it makes me feel better to say I rise at 9.30 because 10.30 makes me sound little lazy.

I think the health benefits of not forcing oneself to move to a different time zone twice a year outweighs the social harm of arriving fashionably late now and then for most of the year.

However, if you disagree between March and November, that’s okay.

Come back in an hour.

I’ll be by the clock, book in hand, waiting for you.

1 Novel, 30 Days, 50,000 Words.

Real men, Real romance

What these boys don’t know about romance,  you don’t need to know!

Ah, November. Thirty days (and nights!) of literary abandon. Well, that can be true. A lot of people write a lot of words, most of which are not (yet) fit to be read.

Writers abound in my county, but they’re mostly paid professional working writers of some stripe. NaNoWriMo is ignored. We don’t have a single NaNoWriMo group. We’re just a dead space between Santa Barbara and LA counties.

I love NaNoWriMo, in theory, because it encourages people to write everyday and not worry about the consequences. On the other hand, whatever gets written, however wonderful, will need revision and edits and maybe some volunteer readers, before it’s submitted anywhere.

One local-ish library is doing a Write-In on Sunday afternoons this year. That’s not really as exciting a meeting up for an after-dark all-nighter at a cafe. I’d certainly go to that. But I’m already working to deadline on a book that fell behind the curve — because resource material being shipped from Bad Kreuznach (in Germany) only just got here yesterday, so  . . . I’ll have to put off experiencing my first NaNoWriMo for another year.

I do think a fast writer can turn out a good book. I remember once hearing about three men who worked in publishing. They went on a fishing trip, just for a few days, but it rained miserably. After a few beers, they hit upon the idea of writing a romance novel. It was done in by the time they left. They submitted anonymously under a pen name, it was picked up and published, and met with great popular success.

So really, if three men in a cabin, to say nothing of the fish, can write a book, I’m sure you could too.

Good Luck!