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12/24/14

"I know what a lessor Sorkin is...and I want to be one."

I just finished watching the last episodes of Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom. Again.  After I had watched them, again.  After I had.... You get my drift.


Each time the 'on demand' menu flashes the blue screen and suggests the 'next title', I pause to dissect and marvel at the writer's creation which just expired before me (yet will arise, again).

Before I go further, I should make this remark:  I'm as independent a thinker as has ever been minted.  Progressive, liberal, or conservative views I treat as imposters just the same.  I weigh a viewpoint by the amount of water it holds, and that amount is determined by the number of holes it has.

My point is this:  I don't care where Sorkin is coming from, its the truth he's saying that's hard for all of us to handle.  No matter how 'bent' we all are in whatever direction, nearly all of us, he says, have become "Uncivilized," and I agree with him.

The word deserves to have caps, quotes, italics, and bold text, every emphasis print can give it, because that's how bad we've become.  Cervantes has not been able rest in nearly 400 years and probably is rolling over faster of late.  He needs for more Dons, Sanchos, and Dulcineas of all stripes to get off our asses, and onto a higher horse.  Then he could rest in peace.

I don't see much to debate here.  Most 'uncivilians' camp out with their ideologies, ready to war without rules against anyone who disagrees with their viewpoint.

Each episode gave me succeeding examples why this is so, and caused me to hit my 'pause' button to reflect.   Each time I'd come to this moment, I'd tell myself: 'he's right'.  I wish more of you would agree with me.

You have to give him this:  He's a great writer, regardless how his style of quadruple axles lands on the page.  Sure, he has a stable of creative people tossing him ideas, and he gets to pick and use the best of the litter, but it's his words that course through his fingers onto the keyboard.  He did this week after week in home run derby fashion.

What is a lessor Sorkin?  Someone like me, who loves to write, and wants to put  just one or two over the fence like he does, all the time.

I would be happy at that, if I didn't have to contend with the demons which are usually commensurate to enormous talent, and what Mr. Sorkin admits he has to face every day.


12/18/14

Dermatology

My friend went to his annual skin screening about two weeks ago, something he does religiously because his lifetime of sun worship and bronze tans has only left him reminders of how good he looked, in the form of freckles, moles, yet so far, no melanomas.

His appointment was made at the end of his last visit one year ago.  As it turned out, it was on the day of a pummeling Nor' Easter that super soaked the area.  He called ahead, making sure the doctor was in. He was, and my friend wryly remarked he would take the next 'boat' to the office.

To his surprise, there was hardly any traffic, he arrived early, and he was taken into the exam room immediately.  Chagrined, he told the doc:

"Doc, in all my years of doctor's visits, your the first one to see me early."

The doc replied:

"Miracles never cease."

The doc proceeded to give my friend a very thorough exam, more time consuming than a normal 'late' visit.  The past few years my friend noticed a pattern:  the doc would find one 'suspicious' lesion which he'd biopsy and send to the lab.  This visit, the doc found four.  Four! 

Well, my friend mused, all those years I thought I was George Hamilton are catching up to me.  He got dressed, then went to the receptionist to make next years's appointment, assuming optimistically these biopsies would be negative like the others.  After getting the 'same time, next year' appointment card, he relayed the 'early' visit comment he gave to the doc.  She said:

"That was easy, he had three cancellations before you."

My friend left the office, still believing in 'miracles', but not performed by this doctor.


5/19/13

I Should Have Stayed Home

        The new municipal ticket in town.  They don't make them like they used to.

One of those days, Tuesday was.  I'm not a firm believer in bad things happening in "threes", however:

1.)         As I'm on my way out the door to go make a bank deposit (the old fashioned way), my wife hands me a check to cash.  Fine.  Off to the bank.  Check and deposit up the chute.  Still fine.

Ever have an idea pop into your head causing lack of attention?  (I heard all of you daydreamers and ADHDers say yes).  This was an idea for a screenplay of "Ark" (working title:  "Ghost Games") I've been struggling with.  Out of the dream, as the chute returns my deposit ticket.  Off I go back home.  A few miles down the road, I'm stopped waiting to turn left when the light changes.  Ever creep into the turn, slowly, eyeing the amber, opposing light?  I've done it dozens of times at this intersection.  This time was one too many.

Looking forward, and not in the rear view mirror where the police car was behind me, I made the turn, and waved to the deferring motorist in the opposing lane.  A block later, I did look in the rear viewer, at the flashing police lights.

I sheepishly produced my license, but not before I made him notice my Police Benevolent Association  badge, next to it in my wallet.  He was a nice, polite cop, I'd say in his mid to late twenties. I needed to get the registration and insurance card from the car docs binder, which was in the trunk.

Opened trunk, heart sank.

I cleaned out my trunk a week before, forgetting one of the bags contained the car docs binder at the bottom.  After explaining to Officer Nice Kid the registration and insurance cards were at my house, he asked me to sit in my car.  

Shit.  Worse case:  not deferring to opposing traffic is a fine with points, plus tickets for not presenting the registration, AND ditto for no insurance card.  Around $500. for not looking in the rear view.

However, Officer N K returns with my $180. ticket for no registration.  He waved the points and insurance card tics!  

Thank you PBA badge... but the day wasn't over yet.

2.)         The phone rings two hours later.  It's my bank branch.  After some sleuthing, they determined I left a cashed check in the drive-thru cylinder.  The honest next customer returned it.  My eyes failed me again.  Back to the bank, where my profused apologies are returned with snickers.  Driving home, through the same intersection where I just got the ticket (rear viewing and deferring this time), I started to let one of my little demons convince me I was an idiot.  I let him go with a 'stupid is as stupid does' counter, but I wasn't done yet.

3.)          My wife was on her way out the door when I returned from the bank.  She asked if I wanted the house alarm on.  I said yes, I was going to take a nap to minimize any more trouble for the rest of the day.  I dozed for about an hour, got up, and noticed I didn't fill the bird feeder off the deck.  I opened the sliding door, and was met with the piercing sound of the alarm, screeching 'intruder, leave immediately', several times before I could get to the nearest keypad (by the side door, half a house away).  Waiting by the phone for a minute or so for the alarm company to call, I lamented, again, not having a keypad by the back door slider to the deck.  I lamely told the dispatcher I was just 'testing' the system.

That was it for the day, no #4 to add here, but 3 events were enough for an expensive, stupid, headache.           


5/10/13

Mama Killdeer


A few days ago, I was reminded of the upcoming Mother's Day by a Killdeer sitting on her nest.  The Killdeer is a shore bird who has been misplaced by over development, so they find homes farther inland, like our retention pond.  She was just off the walking path, in plain view on the mulch surrounding a small tree, less than 4 feet from me.  I walked slowly past her, she not moving a feather, and I said softly, "good morning."

The next day as I approached the nest from a distance, I saw three little chicks scurrying about in a panic.  I'd done a little research to find out killdeer chicks are "precocial" which means "ripened beforehand."  They know the meaning of "hit the ground running."  The same root gives us the word "precocious", the meaning of which every mom knows.

As I got closer, I noticed mama was on the left side of the path, while the chicks were squawking, as if looking for their heads, on the right.   I didn't want to scare them more, yet I still wanted to resume my walk, and not get a peck on the head from mama.  She gave me the "broken wing" act, trying to draw me away from her chicks.  I slowly circled reasonably far away from the chicks, keeping one eye on her beak.  As I passed by the four of them, mama seemed to chirp curse at her three babies for straying.  They came together, one behind the other, and she led the way into the bushes, screeching at them the whole way.  

It's always nice to see a mother who cares.

So all you good moms on my list who care:  Happy Mother's Day!

For the rest of you, who were precocious some or most of the time, tell her thanks for caring.





2/2/13

The Sonogram

                  The first picture of little girl Taub (If you say so, Papa Jordan)

This post is for all parents, and grandparents, to be.

As you can tell, my honorary nephew and niece, Jordan and Eve, are expecting.  He posted the above sonogram on his Facebook page a few weeks ago.  I don't know about you, but I'm not too good interpreting these things.  When my doctor shows me an x-ray, I play along, and pray he's telling the truth.

Really, how many of you see the mathematical symbol for "pi"?
A Rorschach test sample?
A magnified portion of a Jackson Pollack painting?
A black and white copy of a Hubble telescope photo?

I don't want to go on and on, at the risk of you thinking writers have TOO much imagination at times.

Anyway, I hadn't spoken to Jordan in a while, so I thought I'd call to see how Eve was feeling.  Happy to hear she was doing well, I mentioned the Facebook sonogram, noting I couldn't make heads or feet of it.  Well, Jordan launched into a very detailed interpretation of what to look for.  It went something like this:

"Uncle John, if you look closely, she's about the size of a banana, and if you look very closely, you can make out her head and her one arm..."

Not sitting in front of the computer, I could not agree or disagree, but only marvel at his enthusiasm of approaching parenthood.  I just let him go on talking, and vowed to give the sonogram another look after the phone call.

Guess what?

No help, Jordan.

I did get what I wanted:  Jordan's excitement for the event which will change his life forever.         

1/29/13

"I've Never Won Anything."

              Yours truly before the Court Club "Double Header" meeting. Photo by Duncan Williams http://www.duncanwilliamsphotography.com/gallery/3659648

I was doing my thing before the Court Club meeting, which featured Tim Pernetti, the AD, and Mike Rice, the head coach, Rutgers men's basketball:   selling a few books, meeting, greeting, and schmoozing.  Up to the check in table comes a friend of my friend, (Calvin), Vejai.  Lou, Mike, and I, all Court Club diehards, collectively pitch him the 50/50 raffle for the night.

"I've never won anything," said Vejai.

"Vejai," I said, "I won the 50/50 a couple of years ago at a Club meeting just like this (true), and I've continued to buy tickets since, even though my probability of winning again is smaller than your chances right now, because it's a worthy cause."

"OK.  I'll buy one ticket,"  he said.

                                        Yours truly and AD Tim Pernetti
                           Courtesy of Duncan Williams and the Court Club

So right after, Vejai saunters into the meeting room, looking unimpressed by my pep talk, yet still holding his one 50/50 ticket. Tim Pernetti arrives, walks up to me, shakes my hand, AND remembers my name!  Just joking, we've met and talked several times, but he does have a facility for names, which major politicians succeed with:  a separate file in his grey matter with its own RAM for instant recall when needed.  Enough with the political stuff;  we're going to try to keep him right where he is.

Before he had to go off and schmooze the rest of the room, I had a chance to discuss my email to him outlining an idea for a sports biography of an RU legend.  He thought it was a great idea, and hopefully, more on that later.

                       Mr. and Mrs. Court Club, Brian and Janet Kelley
                       Courtesy of Duncan Williams and the Court Club

After the meeting, after a terrific talk about the state of school athletics by Tim Pernetti, and an equally honest and forthright talk about the basketball program by the Coach, Mike Rice, it was time for door prizes, and the 50/50 raffle.  The winner of the 50/50 is:

"Vejai!"  ( Not fixed, folks, honestly).

Here's the kicker:  Vejai donated his winnings (around $600.)  BACK to the Club!!

Maybe my pep talk about being a good cause did have an effect?   Hummmm?


1/13/13

"Where's Harry?"

With the flu season now gearing up to run over as many immune systems as possible, and the media attention showing numerous arms being needled with the vaccine, I had a flash back to my elementary school days in the 1950's, when the Salk polio vaccine was being targeted to rid the world of THAT scourge.

I'm going to say I was in third grade, in 1956, when I received the first of three shots that year.  The early 1950's were a trying time to be a parent of young children.  The cold war, A and H bombs, and the dread of a polio outbreak every summer had everyone knowing the meaning of the word, ANXIETY.  A national sigh of relief accompanied the "safe to use" announcement of Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine.  The word Anxiety just had to be thought of with a capital "A", since now only bombs and war were a worry ( a few years later, "Dr. Strangelove" would help us to 'stop worrying, and love the bomb', lol.)

Seriously, and sadly, I remember that time, after my year of kindergarten, when I had made friends with another young boy in my class. After summer,upon returning to school for first grade, I was told he was gone.  Died.  Went to heaven.  Unforgettable trauma which couldn't be sugar coated.

Fortunately, for the rest of us who were lucky to survive, there was a happy ending, and the point of this story.

Flash ahead to 1956, our relieved parents were told the March of Dimes was sponsoring an immunization program for elementary schools across the country.  Never liking needles (even to this day, I have to lie down for blood work), I vividly remember lining up in the hallway outside the school auditorium, passing through an anteroom to be swabbed with iodine (not clear alcohol, why, I know not), stabbed with a needle which looked like a harpoon to me, then ushered to a seat in the auditorium to rest, and be observed for ill effects, I presumed later.  What happened next was that era's equivalent of a viral you tube video.

From our vantage point in the resting area, we who had already been shot, could observe those who were about to enter the anteroom, and of course we would heckle them about 4" needles, the stinging and burning (half true) afterwards, and the PAIN!  We all became two bit actors and actresses (yes, then there was still a distinction) at the expense of the little lambs yet to join us.

Harry, a popular kid in the class, was among those being heckled, which he seemed to take in stride.  However, we noticed Harry wasn't coming out of the line to join our chorus, and the speculation quickly escalated. 

"I'll bet Harry fainted, the big baby," was offered to provide some more chuckles.  After about 20 minutes, still no Harry, and the mood turned from laughter to dread.  Quickly, the comments spread like an epidemic among us...

"He's still unconscious..."   

"He must have hit his head, and got knocked out..." 

"He could have had a reaction to the shot..."  

"Maybe he's DEAD!!"   

We were full blown out of control when the tall, Lincolnesque principal with a baritone voice silenced us,

"What's going on here?"

One from our now quiet choir of church mice chimed up,

"Where's Harry?  Is he dead?"

A nurse at the Principal's side chimed in,

"He's fine.  He coughed before he got his shot, so I took his temperature, and he has a slight fever, so we sent him home.  He'll have to go to his doctor for his shot when he gets better."

She rolled her eyes at the Principal, and he managed a taut, pursed smirk; the closest any of us ever saw him smile.

We all, at the same time, felt relieved, and stupid.  However, we managed the happy giggles soon after.


                      Dr. Jonas Salk, photo by Yousuf Karsh, 1956, Thanks to Wiki.

Thank you, Dr. Salk, for not accepting royalties, and making the vaccine available to rich and poor alike.