Sunday, February 22, 2015


As I write this, the temperature here in the Twin Cities is minus 6 degrees.  It's hideous.

We, along with my son Tom, are some are of the lucky ones, getting on a plane in a few hours to somewhere warmer -- Las Vegas, then a little road trip into northern Arizona to two places that are on Tom's "bucket list" -- the Grand Canyon and Sedona.  He hasn't been to Vegas before and is a Cirque-du-Soleil freak, so we are taking him to several of the shows there.

Without looking at the extended forecast and crossing my fingers, I am hoping that we arrive back in Minnesota next week to tolerable temperatures and that an early spring is more than a wild fantasy.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Howard ranks the Oscar nominees

Films come, films go, some we remember, some we don't.  I don't go to the movies nearly as often as I used to since the choices are generally pretty bleak (Remakes, sequels, overdone and tacky special effects).  Then comes January and the Academy Award nominees are announced and suddenly I'm bingeing in my annual quest to see all of the Best Picture nominees.  Some years, there are 9 nominees, this year there are 8.  The Oscars air tomorrow night, starting just about the time I'm stepping off a plane in Las Vegas.  I'll rush to my hotel room to see most of the program, I hope.

My friend Ward, another annual nominee-binger, was texting me the other day that none of this year's Best Picture nominees are grabbing him as outstanding, and I have to agree with that.  It's definitely not a Lawrence of Arabia year.  There are some close calls as I list my favorite to my least favorite. And remember, these aren't predictions, they are my quirky preferences.  Here goes:

1)  The Imitation Game.  A gripping story about the guy who broke the Nazi code in WW II and ended up being a "criminal".
2)  Birdman.  The direction, cinematography and Michael Keaton make this story about an aging former superhero movie star an excellent film.
3)  Boyhood.  The uniqueness of Boyhood is what makes it -- being filmed over 12 years with the same cast, watching this boy grow up before our eyes.  The story is kind of thin, but either this or Birdman will win Best Picture.
4)  The Theory of Everything.  Eddie Redmayne is a totally convincing Stephen Hawking.
5)  Whiplash.  An intense movie about "I'd do anything to be the best jazz drummer of all time".
6)  American Sniper.  Since I don't like war movies and since this movie had no context about "what the heck were we doing in Iraq anyway?", you might be surprised that I don't have this film listed last, but, hey, who wouldn't love Bradley Cooper in anything?
7)  Selma.  Considering the great topic of the 1965 Selma marches, this should have been a way better movie.  I personally couldn't get past the dragging dialogue and the totally unconvincing portrayals of MLK and LBJ.
8)  The Grand Budapest Hotel.  I'm sorry, guys, but I thought this was a really dopey movie.  It will win some technical awards, though.

Other thoughts:
Best Actor:  Michael Keaton in Birdman, although it would be kind of touching to see Eddie Redmayne win for Theory of Everything too.
Best Actress:  Julianne Moore will win for Still Alice, which I still haven't seen, but, gee, she sure looks good in the clips.
Best Supporting Actor:  No question.  J.K. Simmons in Whiplash.
Best Supporting Actress:  They all deserve it, although I thought that nominating Meryl Streep for her part as a witch in Into the Woods was kind of silly.  She was just having some fun.  Or maybe they just like having her in the Oscar-night audience.
Best Director:  Richard Lanklater will probably win because of his 12-year commitment to Boyhood, and I'm no expert in film directing, but I'm thinking that the best overall accomplishment in directing goes to the guy with the unpronounceable name for Birdman.

I looked back in my blog to my list last year, when I picked Wolf of Wall Street as my favorite, even though I pretty much knew that 12 Years a Slave would win.  A movie year goes fast.  All years go fast.

Who knows, maybe Imitation Game will pull an upset?

Watch the show tomorrow night.  Let me know what you think.

Friday, February 20, 2015

meditating with my eyes open

If I would have been blogging from November 8th until now, I would have been complaining and whining, so you didn't miss anything enlightening.  Now I'm ready to re-energize my blog (do people still blog?), partly because I have some things to say and partly because I need to give my annual Oscar rankings.

That's coming tomorrow, followed by continuous words of genius.  Stick with me.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

but there's a severe drought in California

To tell the truth, if it weren't for Jerry and Tom and Jon and my house being here, I'd probably move out of Minnesota.  I mean, Minnesota isn't so bad, except for the weather and bad sports teams and phony smiles, but I've done it and now it's just repetition.

I'm going to buy a new laptop (any suggestions?) and finally try to do some serious writing.  You see, I'm going to start working a lot less, eventually phasing out, so I'll have some free time to write.  What I'm not sure of is if I'll have inspiration here. Do surroundings provide inspiration?

When we were traveling the Northern California Coast this past summer, I could picture myself being inspired there to write.  But, if I'm going to fantasize, why not a year in Paris?  Or Hamburg, Germany?

Ah yes, Europe inspires me.  But life's choices are limited, especially when you reach a certain age.

Snow is in the forecast.  And the Timberwolves lost another game last night, and Ricky Rubio got hurt.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

the personality of a urologist, part 2

When I wrote the first "personality of a urologist" post (21 June 2011), I was in the hospital, lamenting the fact that all of the prior urologists I had been to had been personality duds but feeling optimistic about my new one, the doctor who had just operated on me.  It turned out that he, Dr. Kern, became my favorite doctor of any kind of my whole life.  He had a way of making me feel comfortable and confident and taken care of.  As I would go for my annual checkup after that, I liked him more all the time.  He was the opposite of the stereotypically cold, personality-less urologist.

Two days ago, I received a letter from the clinic reminding me that it's time for my annual checkup and informing me, to my shock, that Dr. Kern had died suddenly and unexpectedly last December, which would have been not long after my last visit.  I had no idea that he was dead, and I'm still upset that I didn't know.  What a great doctor he was.  I'll miss having him there for me, and I'll miss him as a person.  I bet I won't ever find another one that I'll trust as much.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

hell to the chief

Today, the 4th of November, is the mid-term elections, and we are expecting bad results -- meaning, more Republicans elected to the U.S. Senate and House.  President Obama has become unpopular, and the Republicans have learned to blame Obama for any possible worldwide woe, and somehow that works.

So expect even more gridlock in Washington.  And why does anybody ever want to be President of the United States?

Monday, November 3, 2014

mid-autumn sports update

Basketball:  The NBA season started last week, and Tom and I took in two Minnesota Timberwolves games (We have tickets for all 41 home games).  The Wolves won the first, beating the Detroit Pistons, and lost the second one to the Chicago Bulls by one point with .2 second left to play.  It was traumatic to be that close to a win, only to lose on a last-second foul to my least-favorite NBA team, the Bulls.  And why do I dislike the Bulls?  It has nothing to do with the team itself:  it's their fans that show up at that once-a-year Bulls-Wolves match here on our home court.  They have to be the most obnoxious fans anywhere, and how nice it would have been to shut down those loudmouths with a win.  So I'm still traumatized, and I wonder why I ever watch sports at all if it leads to heartbreak.

Baseball:   The slowest (?) of all sports finally ended its season last week with the San Francisco Giants beating the Kansas City Royals in the World Series.  Most people seemed to be rooting for the Royals, since its been eons since they've been in the Series and the Giants have won 3 of the last 5.  It went down to the wire, the 7th game, in Kansas City, and the Giants pulled out a win.  Royals fans are traumatized too, when they should be happy that they even made it that far -- way farther than my favorite teams, the Phillies and the Twins.

Football:  It's been a weird season so far.  No team seems to be very consistent.  There are upsets and there are blowouts.  It could end up anywhere.  At least, my team, the Philadelphia Eagles are 6-2.

Hockey:  All I know is that the Minnesota Wild are doing pretty well.  Local Wild fans seems happy but cautious.  Go, Wild!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

sweating it out in old san juan

Jerry lived in Puerto Rico for about a year back in the '80s sometime, and he goes back there once in a while to visit his friend Jose, and that's where he is now.  He is Facebooking his friends and texting me about how hot it is there right now -- for instance, this morning he texted "Jesus it's been HOT!!  yesterday it was hotter and more humid than I can ever remember!" -- and getting very little sympathy from those of us left back in a chilly Minnesota.

Old San Juan, January 2014
The last time I was there, back in January, San Juan being one of the cruise stops on that Caribbean cruise, and the weather was quite perfect then.  Here's a pic that I took back then.  After taking the photo, I spent some time in that little coffee shop off there to the right (because it had Wifi).  Old San Juan can be quite charming.  Or not.  Pay attention to the time of year, I guess.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

the time, it is a-changing

That reminds me.  Bob Dylan will be here in town for two concerts this week.  I wonder why I didn't buy tickets.

October came and went.   Unbloggable stuff is going on me -- professional not personal -- but it's coming to a head and a satisfying (I hope) resolution, so I should be sleeping better before long and getting back to the things I like.

October worldwide was pretty annoying:  the mid-term election campaigns, the ebola over-reaction, ISIS (a disaster that we brought on ourselves), etc.

And November starts with an extra hour of sleep tonight, the consolation for early-afternoon darkness from now until Spring.  Together, let's find ways to be cheerful.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

howling wolves and suicidal moths

During the week that I took off from blogging, I spent a long weekend with Jerry and Tom up in the Minnesota north woods, four hours north of the Twin Cities, in a lake cabin belonging to a friend of Jerry's, and had a marvelous time.  It's good to occasionally get away from the city, out there in a sort of wilderness, hearing the soothing sounds of loons (it's sort of an On Golden Pond kind of lake) and the intimidating howling of wolves.

Sunday was unseasonably warm, especially considering that this cabin is in the far northeast corner of the state -- almost to Canada --, and we spent a great five hours or so out on a pontoon, giving me a rare late-September sunburn but enjoying the relaxation and peacefulness,  When the weather cooled, we built a fire in the fireplace and played cards and watched the Vikings game (they won!) and ate well.  I was disturbed when a crazy moth kamikazed into my glass of scotch (what a way to go!), but otherwise the weekend was drama-free and perfect.  Remind me to do it again sometime!

on Caribou Lake

view from the kitchen table

view from the pontoon

Monday, September 22, 2014

it's the first day of spring somewhere

.... but here in the Northern Hemisphere, it's the first day of fall, and I look wistfully at my back yard, still a beautiful green but soon to be brown and then white...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

yo, Adrian, part 2!

Admittedly, I spent more time watching football today than I should have (the Vikings look a bit anemic without Adrian Peterson) and then I just read a TIME  magazine cover story about "Is football worth it?" and then an NBCNEWS story about how 12 players suiting up today have at some point been arrested for domestic assault, so the National Football League (NFL) is on my mind more than usual... Hence, this blog post...

So I'm starting to sense that we are entering an era where it's going to become politically correct to be anti-football and especially anti-NFL..... I bet we will hear that even more loudly  here in Minnesota, where a billion-dollar stadium is being built -- still a touchy subject locally.

I can't get into the issue of traumatic brain injuries, the topic of the TIME article, but I have some more thoughts on the domestic violence issue.

When it comes to big-name celebrities here in the U.S., we've been in a guilt-by-accusation mindset for a while now.  We love to bring them down after we've built them up.  Right now any wife or lover can accuse a professional ball player of abuse, and the accusation will make a headline and maybe end a career, so the NFL has to walk the tightrope of neither under-reacting or over-reacting until the truth is known.  An arrest is not a conviction, and it's possible that an accusation is an act of revenge.

There are 32 NFL teams with 53 players on each, so that's 1696 suited-up individuals.  12 of those players have somewhere sometime been arrested.  That's 7/10ths of 1 percent.  I wonder what the domestic-violence arrest percentage is for the male population at large?  And could any of the 12 been victims of extortion?  All of the 1696 players are making lot of money, and money -- and the hangers-on it attracts -- are new to most of these guys.  They can make really bad mistakes.  The mistake the public can make is to typecast a whole profession.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

every day brings dead leaves

It's a beautiful, perfect sunny day until late afternoon and then suddenly the storm clouds take over... I leave the patio (where the music is wafting over the hostas), hunker down, things are feeling eerie.... autumn casts a shadow... I reach for a book...

suddenly, i remember that I have bookshelves...