The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Posts from — January 2009


That time is relative and does not always follow a strict hierarchical continuum is an interesting philosophical concept, but it may not make for great television. Do you get the feeling that Lost is lost this year?

January 30, 2009   Comments Off on Lost?


He sat in silence
For a thousand years, not once
Did God come to him.

January 30, 2009   Comments Off on 155

On Being Loyal

I value loyalty. Not the blind kind of obedience Bush demanded from his associates. But a loyalty based on keeping my best interests at heart, respecting my integrity, and giving me hell when I need it—and doing all of this while staying connected. This is rare, I’ve discovered. Often, a friend or relative has only his or her interests at heart, has no respect for another person’s boundaries, and stays connected only when it suits his or her purposes to do so. Of course, it is love—the Corinthians 1:13 kind of love—that makes true loyalty possible. This idea is expressed very well by a poem (another of my favorites) called “A Broken Appointment” by Thomas Hardy.

You did not come,
And marching Time drew on, and wore me numb.
Yet less for loss of your dear presence there
Than that I thus found lacking in your make
That high compassion which can overbear
Reluctance for pure lovingkindness’ sake
Grieved I, when, as the hope-hour stroked its sum,
You did not come.

You love not me,
And love alone can lend you loyalty;
—I know and knew it. But, unto the store
Of human deeds divine in all but name,
Was it not worth a little hour or more
To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me.

I’m probably one of the few people in the world who like Hardy’s poetry above his novels, justly famous though they may be. I’d gladly exchange all of his novels for this one poem.

January 30, 2009   Comments Off on On Being Loyal

What’s Ali MacGraw doing in Winds of War?

I think either you’re either a romantic or you’re not. It’s probably in the genes. My grandmother read romance novels and sipped red wine long past midnight until just before she died. My mother was addicted to tabloids, Hollywood films, and such stars as William Holden and Marlon Brando (I don’t think she knew Marlon swung both ways). As a result, I’m fascinated with fiction and tend to believe what I see on the screen and in novels over the prosaic facts of everyday life. A romantic has no trouble blurring the lines between fact and fiction. A case in point. My wife and I have been watching a 1983 television miniseries called Winds of War, based on Herman Wouk’s novel of the same name. It stars Robert Mitchum (one of my mother’s favorites), Ali MacGraw, Jan-Michael Vincent, and John Houseman, among others. What I can’t get through my head is what Ali MacGraw is doing in the series. I was certain she had died in 1970 in the film Love Story. Really and truly. I thought she was dead. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

January 29, 2009   Comments Off on What’s Ali MacGraw doing in Winds of War?

The Amazing Kop

Oh campione,
the one and only,
we’re Liverpool,
they say our days are numbered, we’re not famous anymore,
but Scousers rule the country like they’ve always done before,
Oh campione…

I missed this madness when I went to see Barça at the Camp Nou. There wasn’t much chanting or singing, just the occasional “Barça, Barça, Barça Fútbol Club” and shouts of “cabron” by the woman sitting behind me whenever the opposing keeper touched the ball.

English football is a mad comic opera. These days the ranks of Rafa detractors are growing–not just those of opposing teams like Aston Villa–but also the Scousers themselves. He hasn’t managed to win a match since calling out Ferguson as a cheat. Even his three surgeries for kidney stones have garnered scant sympathy.


January 29, 2009   Comments Off on The Amazing Kop


Grooming the ski trails
For Sunday’s 30K race,
Boys eager as hounds.

January 28, 2009   Comments Off on 154

The Writer Whom No One Knew

On this day when John Updike is being lauded as a great American writer (and rightly so), I wanted to talk about another writer at the opposite end of the spectrum, who received an endless stream of rejections from agents and publications throughout his long career, though to call it a “career” is a misnomer since he has never been published anywhere.

By way of introduction, let me first say that my local grocery co-op has become a joke. The board no longer allows members to work. There are no dividends, just prices comparable to convenience stores and twice as many employees as required. Although the whole hippie ideal has been gutted, I don’t mind too much since it provides a place for what might otherwise be unemployable persons to earn a living wage with good benefits. One such person was a writer whom I got to know, mostly because I was curious about him and peppered him with questions. He had the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen. Basically, he worked, ate, slept, and wrote. When I talked to him (which was every time I saw him), I got the impression that he wrote to keep himself sane. He didn’t have a car and took the bus to and from the co-op where he filled containers with bulk goods—nuts, cereals, beans, and the like. Yesterday when I stopped into the store for some yogurt and didn’t see him, I asked about him—”You know, the taciturn writer about my age who worked in back.” No one remembered him or knew who he was. None knew he was a writer. It was only when I mentioned him by name and indicated that he was the guy who filled containers that they knew whom I meant.

One automatically assumes that Updike is a better writer than my acquaintance, and he probably is, but who really knows for sure. Most of us believe someone is good because we’ve been told that he is, and, often, a writer’s reputation (his legend) is more important than his work. I’m sure my friend thoroughly deserves his anonymity, and Updike his fame. Or do they?

January 28, 2009   Comments Off on The Writer Whom No One Knew


Woodpecker knocking
In a bleak, frozen landscape:
When will it be spring?

January 27, 2009   Comments Off on 153

That Thing You Do

Bill D. Cat

Most of us are self-conscious about something. George Bush, for example, seemed obsessed with looking and acting Presidential—which seemed natural enough, since he was about as Presidential as Bill the Cat. Or, remember when Biden was getting his hair transplants that looked as if someone had used a rivet gun on his head? We all have these issues. We wouldn’t be human without them. Maybe you have a big butt, don’t know how to spell, or can’t pronounce your l’s properly. Maybe you’re obsessed with your weight, have a pug nose, or never learned how to swim. Whatever it is, it’s impossible to shake, right?

Well, now there’s hope.

If you can watch the film Into Great Silence (Die Große Stille) all the way through without blinking once, you will be cured. I promise.

January 27, 2009   Comments Off on That Thing You Do

Is it spelled Barack Obama or Barrack O’Bama?

The Cold War and, particularly, Sputnik were a boon to my generation. It scared the shit out of our government, and, among other things, caused them to change the education system in positive ways. From the sixth grade on, I was tracked and got the best teachers and courses in high school. I went from a single teacher classroom with three grades when I first entered school to the best and brightest teachers with modern classrooms in high school. There were advantages to the old system, in which reading, writing, and arithmetic were imprinted on your brain as if with indelible ink, and to the new system, where we were taught to think and evaluate information under any and all circumstances. No generation since, I believe, has received such a good public education in the United States.

What happened?

When I was a practice teacher myself in the early seventies, I was told by parents of my students that my generation was the problem. Our lawlessness and questioning of authority had destroyed the classroom. The riots at 1968 Democratic Convention were responsible. Blacks were responsible. Drugs were responsible. Maybe this was true. But my hunch was that, as usual, we had become scapegoats for a much broader change that no one could cope with.

One thing I do know is that public education has changed in this country. I’ve read articles saying that some members of Congress don’t know how to spell Obama’s name. Who are these people and how did they get through school? A better question is how did they get elected to Congress? But wait, maybe it isn’t their fault after all. Maybe it’s simply that Spellcheck doesn’t include Barack’s name yet.

January 26, 2009   Comments Off on Is it spelled Barack Obama or Barrack O’Bama?