Tuesday, December 31, 2013

why december was quiet

"Unsettled", that's what Jon tells me I've been, and that kinda sums up 2013 for me.  I can't explain any of it.  I didn't like the things I used to like but wasn't sure how or if to replace them.  I wanted to move on but didn't.

A New Year's Eve usually depresses me -- the time-goes-too-fast thing.  Here at the end of 2013, I am ready for the start of a New Year.  Getting back to normal while at the same time doing something radically different:  that's the plan.

2014 may turn out to be the best year that I have left.  I want to get back to blogging -- maybe back to an every day thing -- but only if I can say something at least marginally worthwhile.  That's why December was a blank -- There was nothing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

'so did you see any shows?'

You know that I love Las Vegas as another-world getaway, but, let me tell you, I'm a really boring person to go to Vegas with.  I can spend a couple hours at a time zoned out in front of a slot machine or perfectly content just having a cup of coffee and people-watching.  When I get home, friends ask, "So did you guys see any shows?" or "Did you find any good restaurants?", and that's all normal Vegas stuff, and I usually say No, because, let's face it, I'm no foodie and I have no interest in seeing Celine Dion or Donny & Marie.

As I write this, I'm sitting in our room on the 21st floor of the Aria Hotel, looking at the flashy neon of the Las Vegas Strip and enjoying the moment.  Meanwhile, Jerry called.  He was just in a multi-car accident (he was sitting at a stop light, not moving), so the rental car is dented up but he's okay.  Reality sneaks back into my awareness.
And, by the way, we did go a show -- Zarkana, a Cirque du Soleil show here at the Aria.
Home tomorrow for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


The heck with it.  It's my birthday, and I'm gonna go to Las Vegas.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

first, the non-radical stuff

I didn't set out to skip two weeks of blogging.  It's not like I didn't have anything to share.  Maybe I just wasn't ready to share.

Remember when I said I was feeling the need to make a radical change of some sort?  Well, that radical change may be imminent or it might not happen at all.  Whichever it is, getting close to doing something radical has re-invigorated me in some weird way, even if it doesn't end up happening.

On the same-as-usual front, I've been going to too many Timberwolves games and a few plays and even a Scotch class.

The Guthrie Theater still gives me complimentary tickets to selected performances of most of its plays, which I appreciate.  Two plays that I saw this fall were Tribes and Skiing on Broken Glass, two relatively new works given great interpretations by the Guthrie.

Something new, something old:  The Guthrie has been doing Dickens' A Christmas Carol every holiday season for 30-some years -- every year, a masterful production -- and, even though I've seen it before several times, there were the tickets, and I took my son Tom, who hadn't seen it, and it was fun.  The sobering fact, seeing it on the 17th of November, is that some people are already thinking about Christmas.  Some people are already listening to Christmas music.  Some people are already planning on Christmas-shopping on Thanksgiving at those awful retailers that will be open that day.  Help!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

utter worthlessness, part 2

And then there is the silliest of political trends -- "ranked-choice" voting, which is now in place here in oh-so-progressive Minneapolis.  Two days ago, the election for Mayor (and City Council and other city positions) took place, and because of the new loosened rules, there were 35 -- count 'em, 35! -- candidates on the ballot for Mayor.  Voters were to pick their favorite of the 35 -- then, if they wish, a 2nd choice and a 3rd choice.  One candidate ended up with 36% of the 1st-choice votes and enough 2nd- or 3rd-choice votes to somehow put her over the top.

The way I see it, ranked-choice voting will in the future be a boon for fringe candidates, and the loose rules will be perfect for anybody who might be desperate to see his or her name in print.

Certainly, today's two-party system is screwed up, but a replacement for it should be something other than laughable... or dangerous.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

the utter worthlessness of 2013 democracy

Consider the plight of the honest, intelligent, well-intentioned members of the U.S. Congress, assuming such members still exist.  They might have great ideas of solving some problems, but nobody hears them.  The media only hears the attention-grabbing loudmouths like Ted Cruz or Michele Bachmann, who get into the news for trying to be even more outrageous and nuts than their past idiocies.  And the plutocrats like the oil-rich Koch brothers keep buying elected officials, who then are not allowed to have a conscience of their own.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

botannical madness in the inner city, part 3

It's November 5, and most of my patio plants are still surviving even though Minneapolis has had freezing temperatures -- maybe because it didn't get too cold and the plants are next to the building.  I'm hearing that we may be having some snow tonight, so my beloved plants may be meeting their Waterloo.  It was a good season.  Thanks for your advice, Jon and Nancy.

Monday, November 4, 2013

mid-autumn sports update

When you stop and think about it, are we really better or worse off having professional sports in our lives?  Is it merely a cute harmless distraction from reality?

I think it depends on which teams you choose to love.  If, like me, you mainly focus on the Minnesota and Philadelphia teams because of their connections with our lifetime mailing addresses, then it can be argued that having professional sports in our lives causes endless misery and heartbreak, and, if I wanted to dwell on that notion, I'd start harping on football:  how horrible the Minnesota Vikings (1-8 so far) are this year or how the Philadelphia Eagles have no credible offense.

But, no, I'm in a Pollyanna mood, so let's find something to be glad about:

Basketball.  The NBA's season is only a week old, but for the Minnesota Timberwolves, my bad-luck favorite, it's been good:  3 wins, no losses.  They look amazing if they can avoid the injuries that usually doom them.  And the Philadelphia 76ers, predicted before the season started to be the worst team, are also 3 and 0, including  a victory over the champion Miami Heat.

Unfortunately, three games just won't do it -- each team plays 79 more games between now and April -- but Wolves and Sixers fans can feel good today and harbor some sort of guarded hope.
Hockey:  My son Tom and I had a wonderful time last night seeing the Minnesota Wild defeat the New Jersey Devils, 4-0.  The Wild seem to be having a pretty good season.  I don't follow hockey too closely, but there is something about the energy of seeing hockey in person, along with 18,000 fans who all understand hockey rules better than I do, that draws me in.  Go, Wild.  Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers are awful this year.  Fortunately, we keep expectations low.
Added later:  By 9 P.M. that evening, neither the Timberwolves nor the 76ers were still undefeated.  I may have jinxed them.

Friday, November 1, 2013

the wicked people are gone for now

The Broadway touring version of Wicked was back in town for a few weeks and finally finished its run last weekend.  I mean, Wicked isn't a bad show to see once, and I saw it several years ago and for me once was plenty.  Somehow they manage to still fill the seats.  But the good and bad witches are gone at last, and now I don't have to give directions quite as often to confused-looking suburbanites as I'm walking back from the gym.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

i was thinking about hillary

October was a weird month and now it's over, with nothing left of it but Halloween night, an annoyance at best.

For me, it was a month of tremendous dissatisfaction (hence, no blogging) for which I have no explanation.  I've had this urge to do something totally radical without having any decent radical options.

I'm thinking it's a panic-at-this-stage-of-life thing, realizing that there isn't enough time left to do everything and anything.  Boredom with the routine, maybe.

Or maybe just too tired to deal with the routine much longer.  The age thing again.

And that's when I thought about Hillary Clinton, an amazing woman of about my age, who may run for President in 2016, three years from now, potentially taking office in 2017.  She would be one of the all-time great Presidents, probably.

But why the heck would she want to?  Isn't she tired too and how much more tired will she be in a potential term extending eleven years from now?  Being President is hard work and, especially these days in the current political environment, ultimately unrewarding.

If I were her, I'd say No and go hang out with Bill.... well, at least some of the time anyway.  It's hard to picture the two of them being totally retired and watching "The Price is Right" together.

Same here.  No "Price is Right" for me.

Something else.  But something.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

mad but not quite bad

In the last couple months, I've kind of gotten into Scotch whiskey, liquor that I had never really thought about before.  I think it started with our catch-up binge of the TV series, Mad Men, and I've been going through a Don Draper-wannabe phase, which made me realize what a wuss I've always been with my alcoholic-beverage choices, so I went right for the other extreme.  I started with Glenlivit 12, which Jerry happened to have in our liquor cabinet.  Then a client gave me a bottle Balvenie Doublewood.  Both brands are terrific.

So I've been learning and trying various brands of Scotch, mostly, unfortunately, at the high end, which has made me become a Scotch snob who looks down on the lesser brands of Scotch.

A month or so ago, I was with my two business partners at our happy-hour bar next door to the office, and I asked the waiter for a glass of whatever their best Scotch was.  He said, "That would be our Macallan 18,"  so that's what I had, and it was so wonderful that it was practically a life-altering experience.  But then we got the bill:  $30 for that little two-fingers of Scotch.  Whoops.  But I played it cool, just as Don Draper would have.

Now we're on a new TV-watching binge, a show that has been around since 2008 (we're always a little behind the times), Breaking Bad, in which the main character produces and sells crystal meth.  No temptations there.

Monday, October 7, 2013

we've got to get ourselves back to the garden

Montreal Botanical Gardens
It's so hard not to go on a useless rant about John Boehner and his treasonous lunatic-fringe Tea Party idiots, but you're hearing enough of that already in these shutdown days, unless you are one of those people who only get their "news" from FoxNews or Rush Limbaugh, in which case, what the heck are you doing reading my blog anyway??

Hey -- the Montreal Botanical Gardens.... If you go to Montreal, it's a must-see -- the 2nd or 3rd largest botanical garden in the world (depending on which tour book you read).  It's beautiful and peaceful.  A good escape.

Friday, October 4, 2013

YUL to MSP (two days ago)

Back from Montreal... what a great city.... I could live there.  (Watch the video in full screen if you can)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


My son Jon and I are about to fly to Montreal.... Neither of us have been there before.  Renting an apartment there for a week, will get to know the city well!

Look out, Canada, here we come....


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

i love two things

"I love two things.  I love you, and I love the opera."  -- Ronny Cammareri (played by Nicholas Cage) in the movie Moonstruck.
Personally, I love the Puccini and Verdi Italian operas.

Tonight we're going to the Minnesota Opera's production of Puccini's Manon Lescaut.  Giacomo Puccini also wrote the music for La boheme, Madame Butterfly, Turandot and other great operas.

Manon Lescaut, which premiered in Turin, Italy in 1893, is one I haven't seen before and am of course looking forward to it.
My son Jon and I leave tomorrow for a week in Montreal and Quebec City.  Parlez-vous français, dudes?

Monday, September 23, 2013

rediscovered aunts and uncles

Currently on the Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater is the Anton Chekhov classic, Uncle Vanya, first performed in Moscow in 1899 but still thoroughly enjoyable here in Minneapolis in 2013, with remarkable characters that are real, sometimes funny but ultimately kind of miserable.  See it if you are local and get the chance.  It's there until late October.

Besides seeing Uncle Vanya this past week, I also got to see How to be a Korean Woman, a one-woman performance by actress Sun Mee Chomet, based on her own story of growing up in the U.S. as a Korean adoptee and then as an adult going to Korea in an attempt to find her birth family.  This show is up in the Guthrie's Dowling Theater, is just there briefly (ending tomorrow) and is entertaining, funny and sad.  In her story, she does ultimately, after much frustration and determination, find her mother, aunts and grandmother and learned from them, well, how to be a Korean woman, which might not be at all what you would expect!

Thanks, Guthrie, for providing such quality and variety.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

delta's health care options

Michael, a friend (actually, more like a friend of a friend), and his wife were coming back from London the other day on a Delta flight, sitting in coach seats.  At some point, there was an "Is there a doctor on this flight?" announcement.  Michael's wife is a physician, so she responded.

There was a passenger in Business Class having a heart attack or something.  Michael's wife was gone from his seat for an hour and a half, trying to revive the man.  When she went back to her seat, she told Michael that the man didn't make it, he had died.

Shortly after that, a flight attendant came to them and said thanks for helping, we could move you up to Business Class if you like.  Michael:  "No thanks, there's a dead guy up there!"  So this is what the flight attendant offered them instead:  a $50 voucher on their next Delta flight!

What??  That's it??  Might it have been something bigger if the guy had lived??

Friday, September 20, 2013

what you didn't miss

"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do." -- Eleanor Roosevelt.
A word of wisdom to the lapsed bloggers out there.  Who cares what your readers think when you probably don't have any anyway?  Write what you want, write it for yourself.  Experiment.  Go wild.  Take chances.  Or just post photos of your cocker spaniel.
What you missed or, more likely, didn't miss since I woke up screaming:

--  Within the last month, I started to write emotional rants about the Syria thing, really angry stuff, but I found myself self-censoring because I apparently worried about how you, the unknown reader, would react.  You know I like Obama, for the most part, and you might get the wrong idea if I started comparing him to LBJ or george w. bush, two presidents who led us into destructive, unnecessary but corporate money-making wars based entirely on lies.  Plus I didn't know how sensitive you might be to over-use of the F word in describing my rage.  So I published nothing.  I need to take chances of offending you, the perhaps reader, sorry.
--  I started drinking Scotch, thanks in part to going on a binge watching 5 seasons of the amazing TV show Mad Men.  I'll have more to say about that (Both about Mad Men and Scotch).
--  To get a fresh start on working out, I dropped my membership at Lifetime Fitness and joined the YMCA.  For the past month and a half, I've been obsessed with getting back in shape, and I'm feeling great, and when I'm feeling good, my brain works better.... Let's see if it shows in my renewed blog ...


Saturday, August 31, 2013

i wake up screaming

Not too many of you have slept with me, so you probably don't know that once in a while -- maybe once every couple months -- I have this recurring nightmare in which I am driving my car at a good speed on a busy freeway, and I suddenly lose my sight and feel myself careening off into the dark unknown, waiting for the deadly crash. I wake up screaming, maybe jumping out of bed -- shaking, heart pounding and a general mess.  Last night was one of those nights.  Takes a while to settle down after that.

Otherwise, generally, I'm a delight to sleep with.
Saw the new Woody Allen movie last night -- Blue Jasmine.  Cate Blanchett is great.  Remember her at Oscar time.
Tomorrow starts the month of September.  I want it to never end.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

the nearby diva

As people started trickling out of the bar to the Diana Ross concert across the street last night, I started having some regrets, or maybe it was the cocktails kicking in.  I said to Jerry that maybe we should have gone to see her after all.  After all, I hadn't seen her since 1967 -- Steel Pier, Atlantic City -- when she was still with the Supremes.  Back then, I was the ultimate Supremes fan, you know, and to some degree I still am.

But I admit that I'm still holding a grudge against Diana, for the way she treated the other Supremes, Flo and Mary, and, by extension, us the fans (A book I highly recommend:  "Dreamgirl:  My Life As A Supreme" by Mary Wilson).  So I went back to the cocktail and only had fleeting nostalgic interludes.
Yesterday, by the way, was a big anniversary:  50 years since the civil rights March on Washington, where MLK gave his "I have a dream" speech, 8/28/63.
Coincidence:  in our catch-up marathon of "Mad Men" (we are in Season 3), last night's episode took place during the week of that 1963 historic march.
I kissed Mary Wilson once, or did I already tell you that?  I have never kissed Diana Ross.  It's her loss.

Monday, August 26, 2013

view from the loveseat...

...when the temperatures are in the upper 90s and you don't feel like being anything but a couch potato....

Sunday, August 25, 2013

the surprising thing about netflix

Ok, I'm finally on my 30-day Netflix free trial, and I'm shocked at how few movies there are on Netflix.

BUT --  I also finally listened to those people who have been telling me all years that I would love the TV series "Mad Men"... So Netflix has come in handy.  Just finishing Season 2 (out of 7 so far!).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

august trivia

Here we are in the hot, humid "dog days" of August, so let's take a moment for some August trivia.

First, where did the term "dog days" come from?  Per Wikipedia:

The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the "Dog Star" because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog). Sirius is also the brightest star in the night sky. The term "Dog Days" was used earlier by the Greeks (see, e.g., Aristotle's Physics, 199a2).

Dog Days were popularly believed to be an evil time "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies." according to Brady’s Clavis Calendaria, 1813.

OK, maybe that was more than you needed to know about Dog Days.

August was named for Caesar Augustus, 8 B.C.  (Do you ever wonder about the "B.C." thing?  Is that what their Hallmark calendars said, counting down the years to zero?).

Fast forward to August 1969 A.D.:  Woodstock, 400,000 baby-boomers peacefully sitting in the mud listening to music in between the rain storms.  Oh here's some Woodstock trivia:  The Beatles were invited to play at Woodstock, but John Lennon said No, unless Yoko Ono's Plastic Ono Band could also appear.  I'm thinking this may have been a hollow response, since the Beatles hadn't performed in public since 1966.

August 2013:  the NSA, chaos in Egypt, political nonsense in the U.S. Congress.... The Sea boiled and Wine turned sour.  No days of Peace and Love, at least none that I noticed.
Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

how leon used to look

I first started loving Leon Russell during his time with Joe Cocker -- early '70s, the Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour -- but he had been part of my life during the '60s too, I just didn't know it.  He composed or accompanied many of the '60s hits that I liked.

Until last night, I hadn't seen him perform in person in about 15 years.  His performance at the Dakota Jazz Club showed that he can still sound the same as he used to and play the piano like nobody else.  He's 71 now, is a bit limited physically, has had a Santa Claus-look for quite a while, but he's still cool and unique.

I even bought a Leon t-shirt -- why not? -- but the photo on it is Leon back in the early '70s, when a person might say he was in his prime.  But he is still performing 180 days out of the year, is still commanding audiences, so maybe his whole life is his prime.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

he could feel it slipping away

He was so determined to not sleep through the month of August, but he woke up and it was August 20th already.  He had even missed Aviation Day.

So the question he faced was whether to lament the lack of accomplishment of 20 days or try to live 31 days in the 11 that were left?

He's still undecided. And he doesn't know how many Augusts are left.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

linkedIn, maybe lockedOut

When it comes to technology and internet trends, I'm usually a couple years behind the rest of the world, and here I go again.  Yesterday I finally stopped ignoring requests and opened a LinkedIn profile (which everybody else did several years ago) and am gradually compiling some business "connections" (It was hard to invite prospective "connections" at first since I was starting with zero and didn't want to look unpopular with those first invitees).

And now with LinkedIn I have yet another sign-in password to remember.  It sort of scares me when I occasionally log in somewhere, am prompted for my password, and my mind draws a complete blank.  As I wander further into senility, I wonder if one day I'll have no password memory and I'll have to go back to dealing with people in person instead of on my iPad.

Monday, August 5, 2013

eventually the little guy made me nervous

Mary O. pointed out to me that there was a butterfly on the outside of my office window, just hanging there.

At first, we said, "How beautiful!"  But he just stayed there and stayed there, even when I tapped on the glass.

I started thinking, maybe it's a sign to me from somebody or something, maybe something positive.  But after he clung there for several hours, I had a fear that the poor thing was going to die there, and what the heck kind of sign would that be to me??

He finally was gone, and I'm hoping he just stopped by to have a nap and then flew away refreshed.  If instead he gave up the ghost and crashed to the sidewalk below, I don't want to know.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

the dandelion fountain at the park

Walked over to the park for the Loring Park Art Fair that's going on this weekend.  Beautiful day for an art fair.  Beautiful day to have a park nearby.

Friday, August 2, 2013

mid-summer sports update

Was baseball always this boring?  When I was a kid, I loved baseball.  My brothers and I used to collect baseball cards and had hundreds of them (and should have kept them until they became collector items), and I knew every player on every team.  Of course, there were only 16 teams then, maybe it was just easier.

Or maybe it's that the Minnesota Twins are exceptionally awful this year and are distorting my impressions.

I was given tickets to yesterday's Twins game vs. the Kansas City Royals, and the game was deadly dull (maybe unless you were a Royals fan).  The  best part of going to a Twins game is being in the stadium, which is very cool.  But by the end of the 7th inning, I had enjoyed the stadium and bratwursts and Jumbotrons enough for one day and left.  I look around as I leave and wonder how the season ticketholders manage to come back for as many as 80 home games without going postal.

The Twins record so far this season:  Won 45, Lost 60, and they are 15 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the American League Central.  And there is no hope of getting better than that this year.

The Philadelphia Phillies, my other team -- almost as pathetic:  Won 50, Lost 58, 13.5 games behind first-place Atlanta in the National League East.

No more baseball talk this year.
Meanwhile, football teams are in training camp and pre-season games start any day now, the depressing part of that being that once football season starts, suddenly it's Christmas, and who can think about that?  Here's another depressing thought:  A month from now, the Minnesota State Fair will be wrapping up.  It will be Labor Day.

So, if somebody offers you Twins tickets this year, Just Say No.  Get away from your television.  Don't watch any more baseball or NFL pre-season games.  Go for a walk.  Go for a bike ride.  Think warm thoughts.  It's summer and it's fast.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

an unusual number of weddings for a thursday

For the past eight hours, as of 12:01 a.m., gay marriage has been legal here in Minnesota.  Over those hours, dozens of couples have already been married -- at the Minneapolis City Hall, at St. Paul's Como Conservatory, even at the wedding chapel at the Mall of America.  Celebrations went well into the early morning and are probably still going on.

I of course slept through most of that, but I celebrate the day anyway and offer congratulations to all the new brides and grooms.  I'm at the moment enjoying the photos on the StarTribune website and I see faces of people I know.  There's the senior pastor of my church.  He and Minneapolis Mayor Rybak officiated the first ceremony.  Then I see another man that I know well, marrying his partner of some 40 years, and looking overjoyed.

My concern is that, in the upcoming months, a lot of couples will tie the knot without from a legal standpoint thinking it all through, maybe to give the Michele Bachmanns of the world a poke in the eye or maybe just because "it's MY turn to have a party!" (which, let's face it, these days is why a lot of hetero couples get married).  They won't be able to file their tax returns the same anymore (which may be good or bad), and, if things don't work out, they don't just move out, they need to get a divorce.

For better or worse, for richer, for poorer, equality and liberty and life are what it's all about and for that this is good for all Minnesotans.  Some of them just don't realize that yet.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

botanical madness in the inner city, part 2

I left you all hanging at Schiphol Airport, but relax, we managed to get home yesterday, or at least I think it was yesterday, jet-lag is doing a job on me.

Mary, the nice lady who lives in the unit next door, watered my patio plants while I was gone, and they're looking darn good, ya think?

Friday, July 26, 2013


Flying back to the U.S. today.  Presumably, that is:  standby, you know.

Not sure if I'm sadder about leaving Amsterdam or sadder about going home.
Added later:  a bad standby day, two flights so far were full and tomorrow isn't looking good either.  If this goes on very long,  I might have to apply for Dutch citizenship!  :-)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

common scents and red lights and a cup of coffee

I write this as I sip a morning latte at Coffee Company, a coffee shop in the next block from our hotel -- a real coffee shop, not one of those Amsterdam "coffeeshops" that exude the sweet scent of marijuana.

Today will probably be our last full day here in Amsterdam, and I always wonder, after many visits, when and if I will ever be back.  This visit has been different from others because it was so unplanned and because we are staying in a hotel instead of on a houseboat or in a rented apartment in one of the quieter neighborhoods.  I admit, it's been fun this time to be in this touristy center of the city, surrounded by crowds speaking every imaginable foreign language and wide-eyed visitors seeing the red-light district for the first time.

The mornings here, though, are the best time, as the city begins to wake up.... And on we go...

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

a twin and his twins

It's not as big a story as the birth of William and Kate's royal baby, but it's a cuter story:

Joe Mauer, all-star catcher for the Minnesota Twins, and his wife are the proud parents of newborn TWINS, born today or yesterday (I'm confused about what day it is in Minnesota right now).

(I stay more updated on the news when I'm out of the country than when I'm home.  Believe me when I tell you that the Edward Snowden story gets different coverage here in Europe that it does in the U.S., and not in a good way!)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

my knee hurts

uh-oh, not sure where that leads.  Knees are strange, complicated creations and not meant to last eternally.

Otherwise, life is good, and I feel weirdly inspired:  meaning, maybe not in ways you might expect.

Monday, July 22, 2013

life at the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky

Thanks to a deal on hotels.com, we are staying at one of Amsterdam's premier old hotels, located in the heart of the old city, just across the square from the Dam (the palace).  We will be in this hotel for five nights.

The day has begun -- it will be another hot one -- and we will head into the neighborhoods that we know well.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

if only i could spend several years in the netherlands

We are having a peaceful Sunday morning at friends' vacation home on the southern Dutch coast.  We spent the night here with them and will take the train today back to the wonderful hubbub of Amsterdam.  It's all good.

Friday, July 19, 2013

spontaneity on a friday night

Despite what I said in my July 7th post, "the boys' embrace of uncertainty", here I go embracing an uncertain uncertainty.

Jerry messaged me from the Netherlands this afternoon, saying basically, Hey, James is going home tomorrow, why don't you come over and spend a few days?  Standby, he says, is wide open.

So I am taking him at his word and am going to try to get on the 9:50 flight to Amsterdam tonight.  Amsterdam, my favorite city, is the draw.  Wish me luck.  If I write an angry post later tonight, you'll know that I'm stuck at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

an evening with jane austen fans

I have the feeling that I would have appreciated the Guthrie Theater last night more if 1)  I had ever read the book Pride and Prejudice or 2)  I was a fan of the TV series Mad Men.

You see, the theater was packed with lots of people (mostly women) who had read Pride and Prejudice and loved Jane Austen novels in general.  Then there were other people who came to see Vincent Kartheiser, who plays a character in Mad Men, playing the prideful Mr. Darcy.

And this seems to be a beautiful stage production (adapted by playwright Simon Reade) of a 400+-page classic novel.  It's just that for a novice like me, it's hard to remember which of the five Bennet daughters is which and which guys you wish that each would end up with.  So, if you're going to see this play, put yourself in the proper category:  Austen fan, Mad Men fan, or confused and sometimes-bored stranger.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

de-friend (click), de-friend (click), de-friend (click)

Since the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman verdict, I've been dismayed to see how many of my Facebook friends are blatantly and unashamedly racist, and some, sad to say, are relatives of mine.  It's been an embarrassing week to be American.  Thank god that at least I'm not a Floridian.

Monday, July 15, 2013

but the lake is still enormous

Minnesota, you know, is the "land of 10,000 lakes", and I'm sitting on the south end of the. 2nd largest, Lake Mille Lacs, a couple hours north of Minneapolis.  "Mille Lacs" is French for "a thousand lakes", and this lake, at 137,000 acres, is as big as a thousand normal-size lakes.

I was first here in August 1978 for a week of staff training at a lodge that I most remember for its great food.  That lodge has been replaced by a bigger, better (?) lodge, surrounded by time-shares and golfers.  The lake looks the same.  You look up at it and can't see across it.  I like it.  It doesn't make me feel like golfing.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

le quatorze juillet 2013

Jerry and James left Paris last Thursday, and it was probably a good time to leave.  As they were leaving, thousands of French people were streaming into Paris for Bastille Day weekend, the biggest celebration in France all year.  It would have been wild but crazy, maybe fun but maybe not for guys who can't speak French, and hotel rooms would have been at a premium, if available at all.

For any French citizens and Francophiles and former French students out there on 14 July 2013, Happy Bastille Day!

For any non-Francophiles and non-former French students wondering what the heck Basille Day is, help is on the way -- just click on the link:

Basille Day on wikipedia

Saturday, July 13, 2013

words from the spyhouse

Various things I've learned this week:

When the blooms fall off lilies, it might mean that the plants are getting too much water or too little water, too much sunlight or not enough sunlight, or it might mean that lilies just don't bloom very long into the summer.

If you are a man in your 50s and you take a boy of 20 on a whirlwind trip to Europe, chances are you each aren't going to want to do the same things 24/7.

I like the stories on Season 1 of The Newsroom except for the mismatched love interests, which are frustrating and eventually predictable.

I need to figure out if I can write my book on Google Drive and whether I should re-think having the word "masturbation" in the first sentence.  Might it set the wrong tone?

It would have been a good weekend to have been in Seattle, weather-wise, but there were only three Delta fare specials this week:  Rapid City, South Dakota, where, even though I've never been there, I might move to one day to live in an apartment over a hardware store to write my book (if Home Depot and Walmart haven't put all the hardware stores out of business there);  Chicago; and Detroit.  I'm not ready to have my Rapid City vision crushed by reality yet, so that was out.  Chicago, now that I think about it,  I maybe should have considered.  Detroit? --  yeah, right.

Some people in my life are just plain mean, and I'm having a hard time dealing with the realization that people that I care about can be mean to other people that I care about.  Where does that leave me?

Even though I've gotten away from blogging every day, I haven't had anybody complain about that to me.
P.S.  The Spyhouse is a coffeeshop on Nicollet Avenue just south of  downtown.  It's sort of part funky, part hipster, and then there's me, but the coffee sure is good.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

laziness and the newsroom

"Summertime.. and the living is easy..."  Maybe it's a little mid-July thing, but I'm finding that once I get home from the office this week, I accomplish nothing and am a total slug... and I don't even care...

As I work up the energy to at least be a couch potato, I've been watching Season One of the HBO series, The Newroom.  I've watched 4 out of 10 episodes and am still reserving judgment on what I think of the program overall, but so far, for a leftie like me, it feels pretty good.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

the boys' embrace of uncertainty

I could have gone -- Jerry wanted me to -- but I just couldn't handle the uncertainty.

You see, Jerry once again has these Delta "buddy fares" for cheap airfares, the downside of buddy fares being that he has to fly standby, which maybe isn't a problem getting on a flight and maybe is.

So he asked James, my 20-year-old nephew, to go with him, and James, who has never been much of anywhere, snapped up the offer, but -- hey -- standby was made for 20-year-old adventurers and kids at heart, like Jerry.

Tomorrow -- hopefully -- they fly off to Europe for two weeks, destinations not totally known.  Depending on which flight they get on first, they will either fly direct to Amsterdam or direct to Paris and from there, who knows?  They are traveling light with no hotel rooms booked yet and Eurailpasses in their backpacks and the continent of Europe at their feet.

They will come back with stories --  all of them good, I hope.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

botanical madness in the inner city

Summer was late in coming, true, but I finally got around to buying some plants for the patio.  Now that I sit here looking at them, I wish I could stop thinking about how short their beautiful lives will be.

Thanks for the help, Nancy and Jon.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

the 4th and the preceding days

It's the 4th of July, one of those let's-get-together-and-have-a-cookout-and-then-go-see-some-fireworks holidays, and we're going to follow those traditions more than we usually do.

My sister Nancy is visiting from North Carolina, in the mood to celebrate the 4th with family and that's us.  She had never spent any real time here in the Twin Cities, so we've had a fun week of showing her around and just hanging out with her.

Right before she arrived, it was Pride weekend -- the biggest yet -- so the days have been full.

Weather is finally perfect, I finally put out some plants on the patio, we'll enjoy it all while we can.  Life s good, and the blog posts will get better.

Friday, June 28, 2013

edward's whistle

Here's the deal.  Edward Snowden blew the whistle on the NSA's spying on Americans, which maybe none of us are all that surprised about, but it was a no-no of some sort anyway.

But when I hear a war criminal like Dick Cheney calling Snowden a traitor and others of Cheney's ilk saying that Snowden should be executed, I start to think, Hey, maybe this Snowden dude isn't such a bad guy!  I of course have had a deep distrust of the U.S. government ever since the Vietnam War.... Remember the Pentagon papers?

The questionable thing about Snowden, though, is that he is being protected by China and Russia, two countries which, considering their records past and present, I certainly would hope aren't vocalizing that they don't believe in spying on their citizens!
P.S.  I wonder if the NSA is reading this post.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

pre-empting the edward snowden thing

I was going to blog something today about Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency guy who leaked information and is being called traitor and hero and everything in between as he moves from country to country looking for asylum.

But the Supreme Court this morning overruled my thoughts when they trashed DOMA (the spiteful Defense of Marriage Act) and also permitted same-sex marriages to resume in California.

All good news...

But then the tax-guy persona in me kicked in and I started wondering about some ramifications, good or bad -- In states where same-sex marriage is legal, those couples can now file a federal Married Filing Joint tax return -- But I'm assuming that the only other, usually bad, option is to file Married Filing Separately... Filing Single won't be an option anymore, unless they get divorced.

I bet divorce attorneys love these newly-allowed marriages.

Monday, June 24, 2013

a town of fictional characters

As much as I love living in the city, sometimes ya just gotta drive out of there, and today was one of those days.   My car said "go East, young man" and I'm currently having a mid-afternoon cup of coffee in downtown Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, a town of 13,000 souls about an hour and a half out of the Twin Cities.  I'm pretty sure I've never been here before, and it's sort of cute, in a Wisconsin sort of way.

I don't know of any famous people from Chippewa Falls, but quick!  can you name two famous fictional characters from here?  The quick answer:  Jack Dawson, the Leonardo deCaprio character in Titanic;  and Annie Hall, the Diane Keaton role in Annie Hall.

That's it for today.  Back on the road.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

it's weird, being powerless

Sometime during the night, the electricity came back on after 30 hours of being gone in our condo building.

It started Friday night, when a wild thunderstorm went whipping through Minneapolis.  At the time, we were down the street at Eli's, one of our favorite bar/restaurants, when the storm suddenly came out of nowhere.  We could see trees coming down and rain flying through closed windows.  When the rain died down, we ran home and found that all of the units in our building were without power, yet the common areas were still okay because a backup generator kicked in.

Residents gravitated to the hallways, the lobby and the party room to get away from the darkness in their apartments (But mostly to re-charge cell phones and iPads).  It became sort of a bonding experience and we met some cool people we hadn't met before, including three people from New Jersey like I am.

Still, I'm glad to have the lights back on.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

whether to see the new superman movie

Ah, the vast wasteland of summer blockbuster movies --- sequels, remakes, and overdone special effects that remove any connection with momentary believability, and they've just begun.

I kinda wanted to see Hangover III since I heard that it was better than the horrific Hangover II, but then I read that one of the pranks involves beheading a giraffe, and you know how I feel about giraffes, so I'll be skipping that desperate cinematic option.

People are telling me that if I liked the Christopher Reeve Superman movies (and I admit that Superman II was a favorite of mine), then I should definitely skip the new Superman attempt, Man of Steel.

I just saved twenty bucks plus popcorn money.

Monday, June 17, 2013

sympathy for the devils

One of the current political trumped-up "scandals" has to do with the I.R.S. theoretically targeting right-wing "tea party" organizations that were probably abusing the IRS Section 501 (c)(4) regulations.

The hubbub has, predictably, generated a bunch of general IRS-bashing from Congress, the same people who pass the often-ridiculous laws that the IRS is supposed to be enforcing.  Everybody of course hates the evil behemoth that the IRS image conjures, so politically this always makes good press for short-sighted Congresspeople who mostly don't want their donors audited or questioned by examiners.

But, speaking from my perspective of dealing with IRS employees now and then, I'm aware that, because of budget cutbacks, the IRS is amazingly understaffed and underfunded now, which doesn't make sense if Congress wants them to do their job effectively.  I certainly wouldn't want to be an IRS employee -- it would be a total "lose-lose" proposition.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

a day without any good jokes

I've been spending the last few minutes deleting a bunch of spam comments to old posts -- Google is falling down on the job -- and then I remembered I haven't blogged today (or yesterday), so I thought, Hey, it's Father's Day, maybe I can find a good Father's Day joke.  I googled and found nothing but totally lame Father's Day jokes, so I will spare you any of them.

My Father's Day was excellent, lunch with Jon and Tom on the rooftop patio at Brit's Pub on a perfect-weather afternoon, which we tend to see very few of these days.  Thanks, guys, it was fun.  You're the best.

Friday, June 14, 2013


There's an ex-Nazi down the street!

That was the big story here today and even nationally.... that an ex-Nazi SS commander, accused of horrible atrocities during World War II, has been living all these years in northeast Minneapolis.   His neighbors are of course saying stuff like -- "What?  and here he was such a nice church-going model citizen!"

And the guy, if he is even coherent at age 94, will of course deny any wrong-doing and he'll probably die before anything is ever proved, but I'm thinking how interesting it would be to hear his real unsanitized true story.... not the Nazi part of it, which would be repulsive .. but how the heck he made it across the ocean and managed to convince authorities that he wasn't a war criminal and then fit so comfortably into American life.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

it made lots of noise and then died

Our old washing machine, that is.  We knew it was coming -- that last burst of life -- and it met its Waterloo the other day in a cloud of smoke.  Today the guys delivered our new one.  It's all shiny and new and efficient and quiet, but I sure wouldn't have had any trouble finding a more fun way to spend a thousand dollars.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

at the twins-phillies game

Target Field, downtown Minneapolis
Tonight was a beautiful night for baseball...  Twins won.  I was rooting for the Phillies, of course.  Had a good bratwurst.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Tony Awards 2013 opening number

Definitely worth watching to the end.  Enjoy! (Not sure how long this video will be available, so I'm sorry if you just see a blank screen)


Added the next day -- wow, that video didn't stay around long.  If you want to see it, go to YouTube.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

writing from way off broadway

Watching the Tony Awards show -- Broadway's big night of the year  The nominated shows don't look too tempting for me this year, but who couldn't love Neil Patrick Harris as host? -- he might be the best award-show host ever.... and there's the also-lovable Cyndi Lauper winning an award for writing the music for Kinky Boots.

It's always a good show, man.  Indulge me.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

i can't keep up

It wasn't on my bucket list, but I can check it off my un-bucket list:  going to the race track.  I'm not sure what horse-racing fanatics love so much about it.  The beauty of the horses in action?  Getting out of the house?  Whatever it is, I have more of an appreciation for the activity (sport?) than I did before I went.

Our local race track, the only one in Minnesota, is Canterbury Park, just south of the Twin Cities.  I must say after visiting, it's quite an impressive facility.  We stayed for all ten races, didn't lose any money except for the price of the buffet dinner, and had an enjoyable evening with friends.

A friend/client of mine had a horse running in the 10th race and we bet on it even though my friend the owner said not to, and the poor horse, in its first race ever, came in 7th of of eight places.  He sold the horse right after the race.

It's not an easy life, being a race horse.  You can be young and beautiful and fast and doing everything right and there's always somebody better.

Friday, June 7, 2013

an excellent new play at the Guthrie

Clybourne Park, written by Bruce Norris, a play about race and racism, a sort of turnaround to the 1959 play Raisin in the Sun.

Act One takes place in 1959 in a white-neighborhood home that's being sold to a black family.  Act Two takes place in that same home 50 years later when it is now in a primarily African-American neighorhood and being sold to a white, gentrification-minded couple.  In both cases, the attitude from the neighbors is "there goes the neighborhood".

The play has great dialogue and characters and acting and is a good evening of theater.  All of the actors in Act One play totally different types of characters in Act Two, making for a wide acting range for each.

Clybourne Park won the Pulitzer in 2011.  This 2013 Guthrie production is outstanding..

Thursday, June 6, 2013

trusts, baby!

Continuing-education time.  Spent 8 hours with about 40 people I'll never see again in a class about trusts, while outside it was still rainy and chilly.  I'm hoping it's not a day that goes through my mind when I'm lying on my deathbed.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

we're living in seattle

I mean, really!  Dreary skies and intermittent rain for days and weeks on end?  Minnesotans just aren't used to this kind of spring.  It really does feel just like Seattle, except without the cool coffeeshops or mountains off in the distance or legalized pot!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

dire nostalgia

I wrote something about that dumb '80s song, "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits and how the '80s station on Sirius Radio plays it way too much and whether the fact that the former VJs on MTV in the '80s -- the heyday of MTV videos -- are now the DJs on the Sirius '80s station and whether they, now 30 years older and stuck on satellite radio, like hearing the MTV reference in the lyrics had anything to do with why they play it so much, but then the whole post blew up and it isn't worth re-typing, so forget it.  You aren't missing anything, believe me.

Monday, June 3, 2013

the boy flies to baltimore

5 a.m. is a heck of a time to set an alarm for, but James -- my nephew, our protégé, the soon-to-be University of Minnesota student -- was heading back to New Jersey for a three-day visit and the cheap flight was early morning -- to Baltimore, instead of the usual Philadelphia -- and his cousin was paying for the ticket, so price was an issue.

So we were up at 5 to take him to the airport.

And Jerry and  I, once we were up and out of the house, kept commenting on what a beautiful time of day it was, something that we always know but need to be reminded of.  On the way home from the airport, we stopped at the Egg & I restaurant for the "early-bird breakfast" -- it was only 6 a.m.! -- and were the only customers, and it was great.  After that, I came here to the office very motivated compared to my usual Monday morning self.

I need to do this more often -- minus the airport run.  The hard part is going to bed early the night before.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

the jersey taffy connection

The wedding last night turned out to be fun.  It helps to always keep my expectations low.

First, it was a fairly nontraditional wedding... no church stuff.  The young couple getting married made the event a celebration of certain things and places that mean a lot to them in their relationship.  It surprised me that one of the favorite places of these newlyweds is the Jersey Shore.  Most Minnesotans their age haven't even heard of the Jersey Shore, except for maybe that awful MTV show.

It turns out that a lot of the bride's extended family lives in North Jersey and New York City, hence their awareness of the Shore.  There were some very nice New Jersey people at our table, so we went right away into Jersey-talk.  You can take the boy out of Jersey, but you can't take Jersey out of the boy.

To top it off, there at each place setting was a package of three salt-water taffies from Shrivers, in Ocean City, N.J., a landmark fudge-and-taffy store right across the boardwalk from the beach where my ashes will be spread one day.

A nice evening....  But now I'm weddinged-out for a while.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

it's bustin' out all over, i hope

June, that is.  It has to be a better weather month than May was.  Spring, you say?

June is one of the best months of the year, if the weather cooperates, but one of the disadvantages is that's a wedding month, and we have a wedding to attend later today.  Not my idea of a fun way to spend a Saturday.

Friday, May 31, 2013

my sister Nancy sent me this weird giraffe video

This video might not stay on here long since it's European (French, to be more precise), but watch it if you can... It's kind of amazing -- but strange.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

we're all thinking of him today

My thoughts are on my brother Ronnie, who passed away two years ago today, four days before his 61st birthday.  Sometimes it's hard to fathom that he is not still around and that I can't just pick up the phone and call him.  He was a good brother to the other five of us, his siblings, and we'll always be missing him.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

break out the champagne

Politically, it's not often that you feel like celebrating, but let's make an exception today.  It's not every day that Michele Bachmann --  Tea Party heroine and all-round whack job --announces that she is not going to run for re-election to Congress.  Cheers!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

you could be reincarnated as a giraffe

It was a dreary day.  It didn't feel like the beginning of summer, like Memorial Day is supposed to feel.  But what the heck, we decided to go to the zoo, and the place was surprisingly busy.  Como Zoo, that is, in St. Paul.

And your favorite animals at the zoo?  Mine are without a doubt the giraffes, the most fascinating of animals, and I am drawn to their space and they just stand there, being watched for being so different.  Can you imagine actually being a giraffe though?  Wouldn't it be kind of awkward, always ducking your head, and being that tall and not being able to play basketball?  And what would a sore throat be like?

I always think about a little girl quoted in one of those "Children's Letters to God" books:  "Did you mean for the giraffe to look like that or was it an accident?"

Sunday, May 26, 2013

hi, jesse

Associated Press file photo (I think)

Yesterday we were walking down the D Concourse at the Las Vegas airport, and there was Jesse Jackson crossing my path.  I couldn't help myself, I reached over to him and shook his hand, and we exchanged hellos and grins.  I'm still in awe of Jesse -- his oratorical skills, his passion, his place in the history of the civil rights movement and beyond.

This photo --  Jesse on left, Martin Luther King in center, Ralph Abernathy on the right -- was taken on April 3, 1968, the day before MLK was assassinated on that very spot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.  It's the motel balcony where I took that picture of my sister Joan standing last month (See my May 11 post -- "stax, burning love, etc. - Part 3").

Jesse Jackson would have no reason to know this, of course, but I had shaken his hand once before.  October 2002.  Jerry and I were seated on the platform at the Wellstone memorial service, and so was he.  There were no smiles that day.  It was good to see him again.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


Kanab, Utah.  If's the kind of town that if you lived here, you'd kill yourself.  But it's conveniently located between Zion National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and about 200 miles from the Las Vegas Airport, where we'll be heading shortly, so we spent the night here at the Holiday Inn Express in Kanab.  I'm having coffee in the hotel's breakfast room and Fox News is unfortunately on the big screen, but what can you expect?  It's small town Utah, not exactly a Renaissance city.

The Grand Canyon was spectacular, though.  Most people, when they go to the Grand Canyon, go to the South Rim, which is the more touristy area and which is more than 200 miles from the North Rim, but, in reality, the North Rim has the more dramatic views.  Yes, Jon, we took some photos.

Friday, May 24, 2013

thoughts while riding through the desert on the way to utah

For me, the desert is therapeutic.  It's not really beautiful, yet it's awesome and has the power to drain some stress from me.  Remind me of that some day when you see me freaking out.

Here, some 60 miles or so north of Las Vegas, heading toward Zion, the landscape is stark, sun and sand and brush as far as you can see, ending with mountains way off in the distance, zero population anywhere nearby.  There's something to be said for that.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

thoughts yesterday while playing slots at excalibur

You know what?  Every big, life-changing mistake I've made came about because I was passive, because I just let things happen even when my gut said "No!" or at least, "Hey, maybe we should give this a little more consideration."  If I were to follow my active instincts at this point in my life, though,  it would surprise some people.  Even you.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


If you're looking for me, we'll be at the Bellagio the next three nights, then are going to spend a day and night going into southern Utah to explore Zion National Park and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  I'll blog from my iPad.

Monday, May 20, 2013

it's cher's birthday

Wow, a desperate blog title.

But it really is Cher's birthday, and the photo I posted is from the 1987 film, Moonstruck, because I didn't really want to post a Sonny-era pic or a photo of what she looks like now, which is plastic surgery to the extreme, and Moonstruck is my favorite movie and she won the Best Actress Oscar for her role.  Anyway, Cher, a one-of-a-kind icon of sorts for my generation, turns 67 today.  She has re-invented herself so many times in her singing/acting/celebrity career that you can't help but wonder if there are any more incarnations coming.  Or maybe not, dude.

It's also Joe Cocker's birthday, his 69th, and I bet he hasn't had any plastic surgery, and I bet his voice still sounds just as rough and powerful as it always did.  I hope.

My friend Kari has a birthday today too, now that I think of it, and she turns a much more reasonable age than the aforementioned duo, but I've never heard her sing.  Yet.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

it's cheaper than a nervous breakdown

I've decided to drop the defensiveness and embrace a guilty pleasure.  Guilt is a wasted emotion anyway.  It's the Vegas thing.  We're going back this week.  I can't help it, man.  It seems to be the only place I can relax these days.  Some people have their lake cabins.  I have Las Vegas.  And it doesn't help that I keep being tempted by free hotel stays at Bellagio or Aria or Mirage and other free stuff.  Three days of Vegas and I'll be refreshed and ready to be out of there, but it won't be long til I want to go back.  And I will.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

absolutely mongolian

Hang in there, Jon.  Moving is one of life's most traumatic experiences, and I know your stress level is sky high.  The cleaning will get done, the walls will get painted, you'll make the yard into another work of art.  Thanks for introducing me to the Mongolian restaurant.  I hope it helped.

Friday, May 17, 2013

'myspace' of the future

I'm required for my profession to get 40 hours per year of continuing education per year, and I sat through 16 of them in the past two days -- some classes helpful, some mind-numbingly dull, some somewhere in between but unmemorable.  The most interesting, but decidedly unhelpful, tidbit from a speaker today:  a prediction by know-it-alls in the social media industry that Facebook will be mostly gone in 5 years, replaced by something else.  Quick, sell your Facebook stock!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

all the new little masons

I was just reading what the most popular names were for newborn babies in Minnesota last year:  for girls, Emma; for boys, Mason.  Yeah, Emma is a nice name, but where is the name Mason coming from?  I realize that, for some reason, parents these days are prone to name kids last names for first names, but I wonder why Mason?  Can anybody tell me?

(Having the last name Dixon, I'm glad that neither son of mine is named Mason)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

sometimes, you just gotta love the millennials

photo by studio306.com
The "millennials" -- that generation currently aged 18 to 32.  They can drive you crazy with their self-obsession, their video games, their texting, their awful music.... But at same time, we need to give them credit.

The gay-marriage issue, for instance.  70% of millennials favor legalization of same-sex marriage, and it's the overwhelming support of this key voting bloc that made the difference in the November 2012 elections and referendums.

This photo is from the celebration in St. Paul last night of the signing into law of gay marriage being legal in Minnesota.  Which states are next?  Alert the millennials!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

reporting live from downtown st. paul

Last Thursday the Minnesota House of Representatives voted Yes, yesterday the Minnesota Senate voted Yes, and today Governor Mark Dayton signs the bill to make gay marriage legal in Minnesota.  Minnesota becomes the 12th state to allow same-sex marriage.

We of course are heading over to St. Paul this afternoon to join the throngs witnessing the signing on the steps of the State Capitol Building followed by the celebration party in downtown St. Paul.

This is a big deal, and I feel good about it.  My only misgiving:  I have the feeling we are going to be invited to a bunch of weddings starting August 1st, and you know how I hate weddings.  The bright side:  They are going to be kick-ass weddings!

Monday, May 13, 2013

ease and pleasure

Wikipedia's definition of the term "primrose path":  it refers to someone living a life of ease and pleasure.

The current play at the Guthrie Theater, The Primrose Path, based on a novel by Ivan Turgenev, brought us some ease and pleasure on a May Sunday evening.  It takes place in 1845 Russia and is very funny, with characters still seeking that primrose path mostly without success.  Don't be turned off by the 1845-Russia thing -- some searches confuse every era.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

stax, burning love, etc. - Part 4

I'm not sure what got into me that led me into this little Tennessee travelogue, but this is the finale and if I haven't talked you into a trip to Memphis sometime, then the heck with you.

Back to Memphis music..

You may know of Beale Street, which is sort of the home of Memphis blues as well as lots of BBQ ribs and the Memphis Grizzlies (NBA basketball team, currently in the playoffs).  Beale Street, unless you are a heavy drinker, is a place you just stroll along and maybe listen to some blues now and then.  It's sort of a carnival atmosphere, if you are in the mood for such a thing.

But then we ventured to a neighborhood south of that hubbub to visit the Stax Museum.  You know I'm a big fan of '60s R & B music-- and, if you don't know that, you aren't paying attention -- and Stax Records was a major producer of big R & B hits, starting early '60s and into the early '70s.  The recording studio then fell into disrepair but has now been restored into a museum, which for me was interesting because I knew all the artists and songs that the museum was celebrating.

Music, wonderful food, Memphis.... It was good to get out of town after a rough busy season and being reminded that other worlds exist beyond the immediate.  Pick a place, get out of town, refresh....

Saturday, May 11, 2013

stax, burning love, etc. - Part 3

Even if you just went to Memphis for the food, you wouldn't be disappointed.  I have a major weakness for Southern comfort food, and, if I lived there, I'd weigh 300 pounds.

But Memphis is a city with interesting history and individuality, unlike many U.S. cities which are all too often depressingly similar.

And the history of Memphis has good stuff and some horrid stuff.

Remember -- my sister Joan, the history buff, was with us, so we stopped at the former Lorraine Motel, which has now become a tourist site because it is where Martin Luther King was shot and killed.  We peered into the motel room where he was staying and which has been preserved to be how it looked in April 1968.  It was kind of eerie to be on the balcony on the spot where he was standing when shot.

Across the street from the motel, in the building which used to be the boarding house where James Earl Ray was staying when he fired that deadly rifle, is the National Civil Rights Museum, which we toured.  The museum focuses on the history of the U.S. civil rights movement but also -- again, eerie -- has a restored mockup of what James Earl Ray's room looked like.  You can even stand at the window from which he took aim.  I don't know what I think about that.  This museum might be too much about the assassin.

Then we got back in the car and headed to something more musical.

Friday, May 10, 2013

stax, burning love, etc. - Part 2

Here's one of the things I like about Memphis:  It's a very manageable city, easy to find your way around.  Graceland, as it turns out, is very close to the airport, so we went there before we did anything else.

I had been in Memphis several years ago but didn't go to Graceland because I had promised my sister that I would take her there someday, so here we were.  My expectations were low -- after all, this was Graceland -- but it turned out to be a lot of fun.  The house itself, as everyone will tell you, is smaller than you might expect, but it still has the look and decor from 1977, the year Elvis died, and then there are all the gold records, the memorabilia, etc., that will draw you in even if you knew nothing about Elvis.

Afterward, we had Elvis CDs in the rental car (Joan's favorite Elvis song:  "Burning Love"; mine:  back and forth between "Surrender" and "The Wonder of You") and maintained our Elvis high for a little while as we set out to explore Memphis.  Meanwhile, my Graceland pledge was fulfilled.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

stax, burning love, etc. - Part 1

As I neared April 15th, all I could think about was getting away from here -- anywhere -- but when the time came, I decided to be a little more selective than that.

Most Tuesdays, I get an email from Delta Airlines, listing the fare specials for the next weekend -- from MSP, there are usually five choices -- so I decided that when the list came out on Tuesday April 16th, I'd pick the best of the choices and go that next weekend.

This is how the deal goes:  You have to leave on Saturday, which was April 20, and come back either the next Monday or Tuesday.

I was a little worried that my choices were going to be places like Grand Forks, North Dakota or Omaha, Nebraska, but the April 16th choices were exceptionally good:  San Francisco, Seattle, Memphis, Washington DC and one other that I now forget.

Memphis, Tennessee:  a good option for several reasons.  1) It is the closest and, after all,  it's just a long-weekend getaway.  2) The weather forecast for Memphis was perfect, while here in Minnesota it was still cold as hell.  3) Jerry and I could get free hotel nights at a casino just across the border in Mississippi.  4)  I'd been in Memphis once before and liked it.

And then I had relatively inspired idea.  I called my sister Joan to see if she might want to go with us.  She has always wanted to go to Memphis to see Elvis' home, Graceland.  She jumped at the chance.

So we booked it..... we were going to Graceland...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

mid-spring sports update

My brain might be ready to tackle the blog again.... What has stopped me is that I seem to have a lot to say since last posting, and I don't know where to start and I don't really want to summarize, so I guess I'll go with one thing at a time - starting tomorrow, that is.

I was sort of kidding about the "mid-spring sports update", since it's hard to care too much about any sport right now and because this "spring" has been kind of a joke.  Maybe I am rooting for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the basketball playoffs;  after the Minnesota Wild lose to the Blackhawks, then I won't care about the hockey playoffs; and, in baseball, when their games aren't postponed because of snow, the Minnesota Twins are actually mediocre, which is a big step above what anybody was expecting.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

i'm not sure why anybody would want to be married anyway...

....  but the main reason to be for same-sex marriage is that just the thought of it upsets its opponents so much.

Monday, April 1, 2013

today's baseball humor

Yeah, I know that it's April Fools Day, but the big joke going around downtown Minneapolis today is asking people whether they're going to the Twins home opener this afternoon over there at the outdoor Target Field.

Yes, fans, baseball season starts today, which usually gives warm feelings of spring being here, but, as I write this, the temperature is 27 degrees, and the game starts in two hours.

So I see lots of people walking through the skyways wearing Twins jerseys and I'm wondering how many of them will actually be shivering in the stands under their blankets and parkas.  At least the players will be warm playing the game.  Whoops, that's right, it's baseball --  Not a lot of moving around!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

downtown vs. downton

My life from January to mid-April is pretty much confined to downtown Minneapolis, where I live and where I work.  And work.  And work.

My busy season, which includes insane office hours at times, brings out love/hate emotions in me, and each year I find ways to mentally escape.

Last year, for instance, I went home after long work days and over the months re-watched all the James Bond movies.

This year, expecting a more-stressful-than usual season, I've had several escape mechanisms.  I put the blog on hiatus -- and maybe you thought it was on life support -- but it will rise again.  And Jerry and I found a couple TV shows to distract us those late winter nights.  We got through three seasons of the addictive PBS series, Downton Abbey, in about a month.  We are almost through the second season of the HBO show, Girls, which is sort of the direct opposite of Downton Abbey.  I continued to try to master that Chopin piece (see my January 30 post, "It Might Drive Me Mad") and am near admitting defeat, but at least it was a distraction that kept my fingers pounding on something other than a computer keyboard.

And April arrives tomorrow and I will try to flip back into a normal routine in two weeks.  Meanwhile, the office is humming  this Sunday morning.  Somebody told me that this is Easter.... whatever that means.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

criminals running loose

Ten years ago this week, the United States invaded Iraq, a country that had done us no harm other than having a nasty dictator, and usually the U.S. has had no problem tolerating nasty dictators:  quite often, they are our allies.

But bush and cheney, the theoretical heads of the free world at the time, needed to invade somebody.  After all, we had been terrorized on 9/11/01 and there was no winning to be had in Afghanistan, so let's invade a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and then sell it to the revenge-seeking American public as somehow connected.

It was a criminal act.  Many thousands of people, including more Americans than were killed on 9/11, died as a result of their lies.  These men, bush and cheney, as well as their accomplices, should still be held accountable for crimes against humanity.  Instead they roam the world in blissful retirement, seemingly oblivious to the destruction of their direct making.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

no, not the Steinbeck novel...

.. or the Shakespeare play that the phrase comes from:  This is about the winter of 2013, a winter that, because of its length and severity, has people in certain parts of world just plain pissed off.  Not just here in Minnesota, where it's still cold and snowy in spite of the fact that tomorrow is the first day of spring (as well as my son Jon's birthday, as he reaches the age that Jack Benny claimed).  I see Facebook posts from friends in Pennsylvania, New York, etc., that complain, and my friend Elke in northern Germany is just fed up with winter too.  I don't remember hearing people express winter discontentment like this before.

Me, I work all the time, and I admit that it was harder to work last winter when it was 80 degrees than it is now with single-digit temperatures.  Jerry is somewhere in the Caribbean, spring-breaking with James, and having them gone makes it a little easier to work too.  But I'm getting restless....

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

marathon in white

Every day is a work day, and it seems like every day we get some snow.  I look out my office window, and I don't wish I were outdoors.  It's white everywhere.

Last week, I took three days off and left town for some recuperation.  Of course, to assuage my guilt, I made myself work 80 hours the week before in anticipation of that, so by the time I got on an airplane I was goofy.  While on the plane, I listened to iPod music on my headphones and had a gin-and-tonic next to me, and my mind was racing into weird fantasies of permanently disappearing somewhere, and I imagined finding a place where nobody would ever think to look for me (I came up with Rapid City, South Dakota).  But then I woke up in Las Vegas, which is probably the first place people would look for me.

And since getting back, I've been doing another work marathon, but the break was worth it.  And the snow comes down.  And the blog is back.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Howard ranks the Oscar nominees

It’s Oscar week, so here I am with my annual list.  This is one year when it turned out to be fairly easy to see all nine Academy Award Best Picture nominees.  They’re all pretty good – and when I say pretty good, that means they are movies that I like and/or admire, but what the heck do I know?

OK, here is how I rank them, from the ones I like best to the ones I like not as much.  Make your own list.  J

1.       Les Misérables.  OK, this isn’t going to win because there aren’t enough Academy voters who like film versions of Broadway musicals and there might be plenty who don’t like Les Miz music in particular, but I do and it’s my list, but, besides that, this is a great adaption from every aspect.  Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway deserve acting Oscars too.

2.       Silver Linings Playbook.  I loved everything about this movie, and maybe only a Philadelphia Eagles fan would say everything.  If Hugh Jackman doesn’t win Best Actor for Les Miz, then Bradley Cooper should win for his role in this film as a man with bipolar disorder, but of course neither one will win because Daniel Day-Lewis will for Lincoln and how much more room does that guy have on his mantle for statuettes?  Jennifer Lawrence should win the Best Actress Oscar.

3.       Django Unchained.  Hey, I’m not telling you to see this movie, because not all of you could handle it, but it’s sort of a work of brutal genius.  It’s a fantasy re-working of a time in the history of slavery in the U.S.  Christoph Waltz will probably win Best Supporting Actor for his part as a bounty hunter in this film (Although if Robert Deniro wins that Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, I’ll probably stand up and cheer).

4.       Amour.  OK, you’re going to say, Isn’t it enough that this film will win the Best Foreign Film award?  And I know not many of you are going to go see a French movie with English subtitles, but this is an amazing film about aging and death and love.

5.       Life of Pi.  We saw Life of Pi in 3D, and I’m not sure if 3D is an addition or subtraction when comparing film quality.  Life of Pi is beautiful, though, and if David R. Russell doesn’t win Best Director for Silver Linings Playbook, then I’d like to see Ang Lee win for this movie (Although there is a case to be made for Michael Haneke for Amour)

6.       Argo.  This is another excellent film and is the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture, partly because Ben Affleck is so well liked in Hollywood. It just didn’t grab me the way my Top 5 did.  The scenes of the taking of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran feel very real.

7.       Lincoln.  Lincoln is great historical drama, and I can’t argue that Daniel Day-Lewis isn’t a perfect Abraham Lincoln.  The whole movie just feels awfully predictable to me, and I can’t stand the uplifting John Williams music.  As I’ve said before, that guy hasn’t written a creative soundtrack since the original Star Wars trilogy.

8.       Beasts of the Southern Wild.  A hard-to-describe film about people living in a very isolated swampland of southern Louisiana and, in particular, the interaction between a young girl and her father as they lose their homeland.  The actress playing the young girl is nominated for an Oscar.  The actor playing the dad should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, in my opinion.

9.       Zero Dark Thirty.  While this is a film to see – it’s about the hunt for Obama bin Laden, I find it disappointing too.  The CIA agents seem too stereotypical, and the torture scenes are overdone and misleading.

The Oscar telecast is this Sunday.  Watching the red-carpet interviews beforehand is optional.