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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Swords Drawn—Don’t Eat those Cookies or Candy. They’re for Company

Yesterday we discussed serial killers and the Mueller Sword of Damocles suspended over Trump and his administration. Or not exactly. Spoiler alert if you’ve not read yesterday’s column.

The serial killer turned out to not be a serial killer since he’d only killed two people.  And, I did not discuss Trump. I just meandered into a discussion of fawning and faulty advisors and Trump’s troop sprang into my head unbidden.

But I’m back on track of talking about advisors and advice columnists, faulty and otherwise. As promised, I also will give this post a little holiday and end-of-year spin.

The columnist in our local paper, who shall remain nameless to protect her identity and also because the name she uses may be a pen name, recently addressed a complaint. 

The inquirer seeking advice said her husband eats all the festive, holiday candy she places in decorative candy dishes around her house. (I promised a holiday theme.) The husband’s gastronomic excesses occur even though he knows he isn't supposed to eat these candies.

The writer goes on to complain her husband’s decorative-candy eating occurs despite the fact she has provided him with volumes of healthy snacks in the pantry and freezer.

He eats all of that, as well as full meals, and also all of the potato chips in the house before she has a chance to have a few chips with her measly sandwich. Her husband swallows, practically unchewed, a whole can of nuts before she has a chance to think about eating a nut. And, to add insult to injury he eats all of this without gaining weight.

In response to the writer’s plea for advice on keeping her eating-machine of a husband to at least keep his grubby hands off the Christmas candy, the columnist suggests the writer display decorative candy made of glass.

What a great idea. This strategy should certainly discourage her husband from eating the candy after that first bite. But while her husband’s bad Christmas-candy-eating habit is likely to be broken so are his teeth, all in one swell crack.

He might also be discouraged from eating anything for a while. On the downside, the savings in candy purchases could be offset by the dental bills.

Once again, though, the advice columnist fails to get the question right. What I hear the wife screaming between the lines of her letter is: “How can my husband eat all of the snacks in the pantry, the food in the freezer, every last chip and nut in the house, and then polish off all of the decorative candy--and not gain weight?

Sister, I hear you pain. As does any woman  who has watched her husband consume all manner and quantity of junk food and never seem to gain weight. While if she eats a tiny bite of brownie she gains 5 pounds overnight.

Among many other gender disparities in this world, the ability to eat whatever one wants and not gain weight, unfairly burdens the so-called fairer sex.

As far as I know, there is no cure for this or many other of life’s inherent inequities. That says nothing about the non-inherent inequities. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to even the playing field. But that’s for another day. 

For now, we’ll just try to solve the problem of keeping decorative sweets to offer company when your husband is an eating machine. I have learned a few tricks from my foremother and can offer solutions to this timeless question that do not involve glass candy.

First, wait to put the candy on display until just before the guests are to arrive. That means hide the treats until then. It gives errant husbands a much shorter span of time to run in and eat all the candy. It also gives the guests at least a fighting chance at the candy.

Or try the other “trick” my mother used. When I was a child my parents never kept candy or snacks in the house. With one exception. My mother kept one particular type of cookie in our pantry: “Windmill Cookies”, so-called because they looked like little windmills. And maybe also because they were as hard as the material used to make actual windmills.

Guests may have occasionally broken a tooth while trying to eat one. Sort of like trying to eat glass candy.  But technically they were edible and it was not such a litigious society back then. Our family members, on the other hand, never suffered a problem as we knew better than to try a windmill cookie —so no rush trips to the dentist for us.

I once asked my mother why she bought the windmill cookies, our family’s least favorite sweet. My mother's reply was edifying, "I buy them because no one will eat them. That way, I always have cookies to set out for company."

If your husband eats all the decorative, intended-only-for company candy, consider buying technically edible but disagreeable sweets. That way you always have some to put out. After the first bite even the guests likely will leave the candy alone.

But, now that folks are so much more inclined to run to the courthouse over small incidents, you might want to warn them about possible broken teeth. Or is that like the serial killer next door? Is it caveat emptor when it comes to killers and candy? Discuss and analyze amongst yourselves.

Here's hoping your “company” cookies and candy last well into the new year and that 2018 brings joy and blessings to you, dear reader, and all of God's creatures.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Sword of Damocles and Advice Columns

In preparation for a new year perhaps we should examine the advice being doled out by professional advisors.

No, not what you think. I’m not going to berate Trump advisors. They have their hands more than full trying to keep the small-handed Trump from spewing forth rambling delusions to wandering reporters.

Not to mention the Mueller Sword of Damocles hanging heavily over Trump and his merry band of reverse Robin Hoods. In the dark of night do any of the not-yet-indicted Trump family, friends, and advisors wake up to contemplate the smell or feel of a prison cell? 

The Damocles Sword analogy is so apropos to Trump and his advisors. For those not familiar or who have forgotten the tale, a short summary. As a result of Damocles’ pandering to King Dionysius, Damocles finds himself “King for a Day” in the lap of luxury. But it turns out not to be such a great gig since a huge sword, barely held in place, hangs over his head the entire time. 

Some say the tale is a reminder that with great power comes great danger. Or a reminder that pandering has its own peculiar punishments.

Feel free to draw your own conclusions. I said, I’m not going to discuss Trump and his advisors. And I'm sticking to that.

Instead, I’m turning to something more benign—serial killers next door and the preservation of hard candy. Since this essay has continued to expand, much like some things do, I’ll split it into two, with a promise to tie it all neatly with a left-over Christmas bow in time for New Years Eve.

The New York Times ethic columnist recently dealt with whether a homeowner selling his house should disclose to prospective buyers that the owner next door is a serial killer. Gee, I suppose that’s in the category of something I’d want to know but never thought to ask.

The inquirer described the next-door neighbor as someone who had killed two people when he was a young man and, after serving 25 years, had recently been released and returned to the family home, which happened to be next door to the person who suddenly wanted to sell his house. For other reasons. Ha. That’s a good one.

The columnist discussed at great length various ethical and legal considerations, real estate disclosure issues, and how particular legal issues vary from state to state while, at the same time, not really answering any of those questions.

I can see this question on a future law school or realtor exam: Discuss and analyze constraints and requirements of disclosure when selling a house next door to a serial killer. Use your own discretion weighing liability issues with questions of ethics, morality, and common sense. Use all pages of the blue book and write in the margins as necessary to fully explore all sides of the issues.

The ethicist concluded by observing that societal interests were served by the would-be seller not disclosing that his next-door neighbor was a serial killer. Which also would seem to improve the odds for the would-be seller becoming an actual seller. The ethicist observed that the convicted killer, after all, had served his time and paid his debt to society and that one journalist’s study suggested a killer who has served his time is not all that likely to be a recidivist.

Plus, according to the ethicist, if the convicted killer is at all rational, he should know he would be the first suspect if a body is discovered nearby.

I don’t find this final conclusion particularly reassuring. First, the fact my future neighbor would be the first person the police would talk to if my body were discovered in the nearby woods does not give me a lot of comfort. But maybe that’s just me.

Second, assuming the next-door serial killer is rational, he likely would decide to dump my body as far away from his home as possible. Don’t TV shows always make the serial killer particularly crafty and less likely to leave clues right out in the open—like not dumping their victims’ bodies nearby.

Finally, though, speaking of TV shows portrayals of serial killers I have to comment on the stunning omission from the ethicist’s remarks. Why does the ethicist leave unchallenged the assumption that someone who has murdered only two people is a serial killer? As anyone who has watched even a smattering of crime shows knows, the FBI does not consider a murderer to be a serial killer until there are at least three similar killings.

So, the response should have been--obviously, there is no serial killer next door. He’s just someone who killed a couple of people, and maybe the victims annoyed the killer. So, the future home buyer need only be warned to stay on the good side of his neighbors. Listen carefully to the answers you receive next time you ask about future neighbors.

My next column will answer--how are serial killers like hard candy or windmill cookies. Cheers!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Have Aliens Landed Or is that Just My Dog Barking?

Why is it on days when I don't get enough sleep and my brain is foggy a lot of funny ideas come streaming into my mind? There's probably some good neurological or scientific data to explain this. Or maybe it’s just that most of the filters in my brain temporarily are shut down due to lack of sleep—napping as I wish the rest of my brain were. In a vacuum without filters, funny thoughts bubble up. That's the theory I'm going with. Or maybe aliens have taken over my brain.


Last night was one of those nights without much sleep.  I had neglected to pick up Blazer’s, our collie dog, full food bowl when I went to bed. As a result, I've been extremely foggy all day.


You see, Blazer loves to have a post-midnight snack. So, around 1 o'clock last night he went into the laundry room where his food and water bowls reside. He proceeded to eat everything.


Do you remember the movie, “Gremlins”? The first rule was: “Don’t feed the gremlin after midnight”. Whoever came up with the concept of Gremlins must have owned a collie dog. After our 5-year-old-but-still-a-puppy collie eats, he has an immediate blood sugar spike. Which is fine most of the time. We play with him, take him for a walk or chase him around the house as he herds imaginary sheep and our furniture. 


But if he eats after we’ve gone to bed he still gets that blood sugar spike. He gets frisky, wants to play, or just goes to the back door and barks. This is not nearly as much fun at 1 or 3 AM as it is at 1 or 3 PM in the afternoon. At least for non-collie-dog residents of the house, the people who are trying to sleep.


I've fallen for our dog’s middle-of-the night barking tricks in the past and, thinking he needed to relieve himself, let him outside, only to have to repeat this multiple times. I’ve discovered by watching him out the window, he does nothing that would merit a trip to the backyard.  Unless you consider standing on the deck and surveying his backyard domain as a top priority.


So last night when he started barking sometime between 1 and 3 AM (I was too sleepy to look at the clock) I went to get him where he was barking near the back door.  He greeted me with a big tail wag, sloppy grin, and playful antics. It was clear he wanted to play: herd imaginary, indoor sheep or chase a stuffed animal or ball. Any rough and tumble game would suffice for him.


Instead of returning his play proposals, I strongly encouraged him to go lie down and go to sleep. By taking him by the collar, leading him to his bed and saying as firmly as possible, “Go lay down go to sleep."


Even though they don’t teach that command at dog training class, it worked for about an hour. Then he barked uproariously again. This time my husband got up. Our dog didn't even pretend to want to go outside this time. Instead he simply laid down in our family room with that well-known collie look of, "What?  It wasn't me who barked."


This morning when the sunlight started peeking through our windows, always-on-the-alert Blazer again started barking furiously. This time the ruckus was coming from the bathroom.  When we went to check to see what monsters or spooks might be worthy of such an uproar we found Blazer furiously ready to attack a small space heater.


I had bought said heater a few days earlier, thinking it would be nice to chase away the chill when I step out of the shower on a cold day. In fairness to our collie, the heater does look a bit like a satellite dish ET might use to phone home. Our dog appeared certain aliens had landed in the bathroom.


By that point, I didn’t care if aliens had landed in our bathroom as long as they would let me sleep a little longer. I rolled over and tried to go to sleep. I hoped any aliens in the bathroom would be the type willing to play with our collie.


Tonight, I hope to get more sleep than the previous night. I can assure you, when I go to bed I’m not leaving out food for our dog, aliens, or even Santa. They all will have to fend for themselves. And I’m going to try to remember what rule two was about Gremlins—oh, don’t get them wet--or they multiply. And one collie “pup” sure is enough for us.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Audible books--best video

Please consider going to and voting for the video entry I just submitted. And sharing this with family and friends.

You can find my video by searching for Dorothy from Kentucky.

It was a rainy day project we put together in an hour and a half using my cell's iMovie App, various hats and what not we had at home.

There's only a few days left to get votes. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Again, we wake to the awful news--"the largest mass shooting in America." The death toll keeps growing as I watch the news. 

I'm sick to death of having to say this: Enough already. Those of you in Washington D.C. who have sold your souls to the devil--or make that the NRA--should know, if there is a hell you will be on the fast track.

Below are two essays I wrote on the occasions of other mass shootings. They are just a sample of what I and others have expressed for a number of years. What will it take to wake up this country to the need for reasonable gun regulations?

Another day, another shooting. Or several shootings. I’ve had enough talk where politicians wring there hands and say nothing can be done about guns. Or let’s look at mental health. It’s time Americans stood up and said, “Enough talk. Let’s see some action. Take their guns away.”
And it is an American phenomenon. Because we are a country of guns. Elisabeth Rosenthal eloquently and factually explained, More Guns = More Killing.
Below, I am re-posting an essay I wrote back in 2012. The location of the shooting is different. The victims this time are college-aged rather than elementary age. But three years later and we are still dealing with the same problems, the lack of will by elected politicians to do something that actually will make a difference. That is, take away the military-style weapons from the general populace.

Enough with blaming mental health professionals for not identifying which particular young or middle-aged or old male will be the next mass shooter. Most of these mass killers are male—that is probably the best demographic in identifying the next shooter. Women tend not to kill a whole group of strangers first if they decide to end their lives. We do not have the ability to identify who is going to suddenly decide to take out a bunch of other innocents as he ends his life is a news-worthy fashion. But we do have the ability to prevent every-day folks from acquiring an arsenal.

Mental health professionals, even the best of them, and I’m married to one of them, cannot predict which loner, which disaffected person, which otherwise normal person is going to be that one. This latest shooter, like a lot of the other mass-shooters, while perhaps a little strange, or someone who kept to himself, did not do or say anything that under current laws would have given a clear clue he needed to be committed or kept from having access to the ridiculous, military-style, deadly weapons legally available in so many places.

Let’s stop giving a pass to politicians too cowardly to stand up and do what’s right. “Stuff happens.” That’s what Jeb Bush said of the most recent mass shooting. He used the cleaned-up version of “Shit happens.” Is that what he would have said if he had known one of the victims? I think not.

The demi-god Trump said something like, “It’s too terrible to talk about.” He who talks about everything and is not afraid to go anywhere. Another coward.

Hillary is not a god, or even a demi-goddess. But she has mustered, even before this latest tragedy, the courage to come forward and argue for sensible gun control. Good for her and for anyone else who has the courage to make themselves a target of the NRA and do something to stop the next tragedy before it happens.

That is my litmus test for a politician who will get my vote. They must be willing to take on the NRA. They must be willing to talk about sensible gun control.

These latest shooting victims could have been my children. My grandchildren. My husband. Me or my friends. Or they could have been you or yours. Do you think the families of the latest victims suffer any less than you or I would if it had been our family’s loss? Does each and every one of us have to lose someone before we put an end to the madness?

Join me and shout “Enough”. I will not support any candidate who does not speak out and stand up for sensible gun control.

Written December 2012
I promised myself I would write more upbeat, happy essays. After all, life is too short to wallow in sadness. And I did claim this blog was mostly about the amusing things in life with only an occasional dose of seriosity.
But then I turn on the news and see the funerals of little children.

Local news is no better. If they are not covering the national tragedy in Connecticut, they are reporting on local violence and threats to schools in Jefferson and other counties in Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the front page headline of Louisville’s Courier Journal proclaims drastic budget cuts in Kentucky to school safety. A Kentucky state representative is quoted as saying we “need to study” what happened in Connecticut before we think about putting more money into school safety.

We aren’t back in the 1700’s, which incidentally is when the Second Amendment was adopted, and when stagecoaches and the Pony Express carried the news. Don’t we already know what happened?

A young male with easy access to military style weaponry shot his way into a locked school and massacred little children. Back in the 1700’s I suppose we would have called out the Calvary and blamed the Indians for rampaging. Maybe we would have evacuated families with children to a fort.

In the New York Times an architect writes about how we should “harden” our schools like we have done for airplane cockpits to keep the crazies with guns out. Or maybe we should just make schools, movie theaters, churches, mosques, shopping malls and wherever else a crazy person with legally-purchased automatic or semiautomatic weaponry and accouterments might go into fortresses. That would take a lot more money and for more than just school safety.

Retreating to fortresses would not protect us and our children even if we could afford it. The answer is obvious as the noses on our face and the guns in our hands.

 Our love affair with guns and belief in an inalienable right to a gun-toting “frontier” way of life with 21st century weapons has created the opportunity for this mass carnage of innocents.  And politicians’ blind adherence, until now when some sane voices have emerged, including Louisville’s own brave Representative John Yarmuth, to the NRA’s big stick have the blood of innocent children on their hands.

What century are we in—with 21st Century guns and an 18th century mentality?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Rhiannon Giddens--Wow Concert

On Saturday night at the intimate Kentucky Country Day theater, Rhiannon Giddens and her excellent back-up musicians wowed a sold-out crowd.

Giddens performed a number of songs before a wildly enthusiastic audience. I'll mention just a few of the highlights.

Rhiannon Giddens sang "Waterboy", one of her well-known songs. It's an old song, previously made popular by folksinger Odetta, where the singer is calling the waterboy to come out of hiding or she will tell on him to his pa.

In Rhiannon's performance of the song, if I were the "waterboy" I would've come out quick, fearing the singer far more than anything any pa could do.

She also covered Patsy Cline's "She’s Got You". Giddens has a voice to rival Patsy Cline. But her delivery was quite different.

Sitting in the fourth row, I felt the intensity of the anger in the song towards the woman who had taken her man. Giddens was not just the voice of a wronged or sad woman. Hers was the voice of an angry, possibly homicidal woman. If I were the guilty party, I would have made haste to exit the auditorium and relinquish all claims to the man in question. That was how powerful her rendition of the song was.

Giddens also sang songs based on research into true stories of African slaves. One song, "At the Purchaser’s Option", was heart wrenching. It told the story of a young slave woman, the mother of a nine-month-old, who was listed for sale with her baby available too, "at the purchaser’s option.”
Leading into the song, Rhiannon explained that as a mother she could imagine the heartbreak of being separated from her children. The audience felt that heartbreak on a visceral level.

The most moving song for me was based on the fable that some African slaves had the ability to fly but while some still could fly others had forgotten that trait after they had been brought to this country in chains.

Rhiannon told of a mother and daughter. The mother had carried from her mother the story of the ability to fly. She told her daughter that when the daughter felt the tingling in her arms she would know she had the ability. At some point the daughter began to feel that tingling in her arms and she and her mother flew away from slavery and into paradise.

I'm about as white-bread Caucasian as they come and by training and experience, a lawyer who deals in facts. So far as I know I have no African-American ancestors. So far as I know I also am not particularly susceptible to suggestions. But as Giddens sang, I literally began to feel both my arms tingle. The feeling spread up through the back of my scalp. I've never felt anything like this before. As Rhiannon sang, I began to wonder if I too had the ability to fly.

After the concert, we briefly stopped by the merchandise table to have a couple of CDs signed by Rhiannon. I told her it was a transcendental concert and her singing gave me goosebumps.

I used the word “goosebumps” for lack of a better word at the time. But it is not sufficient to describe what I felt at this concert. 

With a power that may be older than education, careers, and racial divisions, Giddens’ songs, storytelling and truly amazing voice transports her audience into another world. Rhiannon Giddens has a voice and a delivery that is a once-in-a- generation. If you have the opportunity to see her in person do so. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

An Unsuitable Nest Being Feathered

I've only posted a fraction of what I've written about Donald Trump. The trouble with being a casual writer focusing occasionally on current events, since Trump has hit the big time, is that everything changes in the space of an hour or two. The controversies, stories of corruption and chaos bloom like weeds in my garden faster than I can pull them.

Thus, whatever I have written becomes outdated in the length of time it takes me to water my outdoor flowers. If I want to write anything that is even remotely timely I find I’m constantly starting over.

As of last night, a special counsel has been appointed to the Justice Department to oversee the Russia / Trump investigation. There may be some totally new, shocking and outrageous development since last I looked. Please forgive me for missing whatever has occurred in Turmpland. I had flowers, birds’ nests and a collie dog to attend to.

Maybe last night’s appointment of a special investigator finally will give us a day or two of calm. The pundits’ pronouncements are filled with discussions of impeachment, 25th Amendment removals, and the possibility of resignation by President Trump.

There's also lots of talk about White House staffers, like rats on a sinking ship getting ready to jump overboard. So, there's no guarantee that any calm will remain long enough for an inquiry to get to the bottom of possible collusion with the Russians, violations of the emoluments clause or just outright corruption. I think those who are doing the investigation and pundit pondering may have some of the same issues I have. New revelations and shocking allegations continue to pour out faster than water from my hose on full blast.

Here’s my take: much of the problem with the Trump administration appears to be the stupidity and arrogance of the main character. Of course that does not excuse corruption, collusion with hostile foreign powers, unconstitutional acts, or just garden variety crimes that may have occurred. I do feel some genuine pity for those who work for him. But then I ask myself--why do they stay? Only they can answer that question.

On a lighter note, while I was looking away from the Trumpland’s blooming debacle, I discovered today the birds have been back at building a nest in our front door wreath.

Several weeks ago, a fully built nest had appeared overnight in the wreath, intricately woven within the new wreath I'd bought for our front door. It would be a nice spot for a birds' nest, since it's in a protected area under an overhang. I even think the birds, like I, may have appreciated the aesthetic design of the large, colorful and diverse flowers because they nestled the nest slightly hidden behind some of the large flowers. Except for the thing about the wreath, and thus the nest, being on the front door and people trying to go through that front door, that spot would have been perfect. 

If we'd been paying attention, we might have put together the facts of the tapping on the house and that our dog was barking frequently at the front door the day the nest was built. But with a collie dog there's always barking. And we have a lot of birds tapping here and there around the house.

I realize a lot of work must've gone into building that nest. On the other hand, anytime we went in or out through the front door, or let a visitor in or out, we ran the risk that a bird would fly into the house or any eggs deposited in the nest would go flying onto the front porch. While I felt slightly monstrous pulling that nest out of the wreath, it seemed the better part of valor to remove the nest before eggs were deposited therein.

Since then we’ve tried to discourage any further building of nests in that particular location. Every day we've been checking the wreath to make sure no new nest appears.

Today, was another unseasonably hot day. I watered the flowers on the back deck and continually tried to discourage our collie from eating the hydrangea leaves in the yard. Something he just recently decided is a canine delicacy. Just as I shooed him away from one hydrangea plant, he started to munch on another.

Then I went out front to water the potted flowers on the front steps. I found debris under the wreath along with the start of a new nest. I sighed before I disposed of debris and this new, partially built nest.

I guess one should try to be philosophical. Creatures return to whatever is in their nature. Our dog will keep trying to eat the leaves in our flower garden. Birds will continue to build nests in places that, for whatever inexplicable reason, appeal to them.

Had we, the American people, been paying close enough attention to the barking and tapping noises of construction by a shockingly unprepared and unsuited inhabitant of our White House, we might earlier have noticed before the current resident took to feathering his nest there. It appears our current President will continue to create chaos, mess, and corruption for so long as he resides in an office for which he is so ill suited.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

100 Days of Trump

Some journalists are making lists for 100 days of Trump. Others are asking the citizenry to assign grades. So, I’ll give Trump a grade--a solid F. I’d give him a lower grade if there were one.

I think that grade deserves a reasoned explanation, so here are three of the many reasons we could cite.

First, Trump has threatened our very democracy with his assaults on the courts, the press and the truth. Discussion to follow in next blog post.

Second, Trump is a liar and a bluffer. Neither our allies nor our enemies know when he is serious.  This could be an existential threat since Trump uses lies and bluffs against nuclear-armed powers with little apparent plan for the consequences. 

Trump has, on occasion, engaged in truth telling. He now says he’s learned healthcare is complicated. He says no one knew. Ha ha. But seriously, he also was astonished to learn that dealing a with nuclear North Korea is complicated. No one—that is Trump—knew that fact until now.

Trump acknowledges that trying to get legislation through Congress is hard. In his first 100 days, despite Trump’s threats, bullying, and bluffing he has not managed to pass any of the major laws he campaigned on.

No legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare. 

No legislation to fund his great wall.

No legislation to bring back jobs. (Executive orders to eliminate regulations that protect workers and the environment have not resulted in job growth.)

No big tax-cut legislation. (A one-page list of how to give more money to Trump and his fellow billionaires is not a plan for a tax cut to help average Americans. It’s not even a tax plan.)

Third, Trump is totally unprepared and unqualified to serve as President. As he now admits, being President is actually harder than being a real estate “mogul” who licenses his name. I suppose it also is harder than being a reality TV star. This should not have been a surprise to a ten-year old. But it was to Trump.

On more campaign promises than I can list, Trump has changed his mind. This definitely is a case of less is more. The less Trump accomplishes or even tries to do, the better it is for all of us. If only he would devote his full efforts to golf until Congress gets around to impeaching him.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Escape with "Firefly"

If you are in serious need of some diversions from the fiasco known as Trump World, here's an escapist suggestion for what you might consider watching.

I like sci fi and westerns, even when you combine them. But as I mentioned in an earlier post, the latest TV combination of sci fi and western-themed series, WestWorld, is too vile and inhuman to be an appealing diversion.  Much like real-life Trump World.

If you are looking for sci-fi with a western feel a better choice than WestWorld is the 2002 TV series Firefly. Or the subsequent movie, Serenity, that wrapped up loose ends left by Firefly’s cancellation.

 If you haven’t seen either series or movie, in a nutshell, five hundred years in the future, the Captain, Mal, (Nathan Fillion) of the Firefly spaceship is sort of Hans Solo-ish before he met Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia. And he has never heard of The Force.

Firefly also is absent most of the high-techy stuff and CGI so at times when the crew lands on a backwards planet, the show has the feel of an old western series. 

In concept, though, this is a space ship of the future. The usual assumptions on people's professions and status are sometimes turned on their heads from what we expect in current times. The first mate is a Black woman warrior, the only other survivor of the Captain's command from the Battle of Serenity. Her husband is a funny guy who cherishes his strong wife, plays with action figures and quite capably pilots the ship. 

A slightly built woman is the skilled mechanic. She harbors a crush on the ship's doctor, a formerly wealthy and well-connected member of the elite. He joined the ship as a passenger under false pretenses because he is on the run. He rescued, and then smuggled onto Firefly, his younger sister, a savant who was kidnapped and experimented upon by the government. 

The highest-status person on Firefly is a prostitute. In the future times of Firefly, high-tone prostitutes are known as Registered Companions and are reminiscent of geisha in that they are trained in certain fine arts. 

These Companions are like ambassadors who can go wherever they wish, choose whom they wish to see and provide respectability, cover, and entrĂ©e for the ship and its crew. 

Nonetheless, Captain Mal, either from jealousy or some vestigial sense of a centuries-old morality, is galled by the professional activities of Morena Baccarin's Companion Inara. The viewer is left wondering if the beautiful Companion Inara will ever leave her profession and she and Mal will end up a futuristic "item". 

 Many episodes involve horses, trains, miners covered in mud; under-handed bad guys often engage in bar brawls with the diverse and engaging crew. as double-crosses, hijinks and encounters or escapes from the Reavers, space-bogeymen who are cannibals and responsible for all manner of not-quite-human cruelty.  

Unfortunately, Firefly lasted less than one season. But fortunately, it’s available on DVD, Amazon Video or Netflix.

Mal, the Captain, who claims to now be apolitical, fought unsuccessfully against the Alliance but named his ship, Serenity, after the bloodiest and last battle of the lost war. The overriding theme of both Firefly and Serenity is that Mal, though a thief and crook at times, in the end demonstrates leadership and a strong sense of loyalty to his crew as well as basic humanity and an overriding concern for those who are suffering. 

If only that were the reality of our leadership in 2017 Trump World. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

West Wing or WestWorld

No one would blame you if you are binge-watching fantasy worlds.  I admit I am.


We’ve found ourselves alternating between the past and the future. On some nights, we binge-watch West Wing, Aaron Sorkin’s creation of a principled, intelligent President, Jeb Bartlett, portrayed by Martin Sheen.


West Wing may be every liberal’s dream of how a good, intelligent man struggles to rationally resolve the problems faced in the Oval Office. Something we most likely will not see for at least four years except on TV.


On other nights, we watch science fiction. WestWorld also is escapism with a nod to both those good old days in the wild west and a futuristic world where androids have been created to suffer the havoc man inflicts on other men and women in a place where there are no societal rules. I’ll leave it to you whether we will see more of that in real life.


The TV series, WestWorld is based on a 1970s Michael Crichton film of the same name. It brings to mind other Crichton creations, such as Jurassic Park. In both cases, man’s hubris in scientific explorations and development is his downfall because he failed to give adequate consideration to the consequences.


Crichton’s vision of an android-populated amusement park where men can kill or inflict harm on human-looking creations for no reason other than their own enjoyment, is a good tool for asking why. It’s just not very much fun to watch.


I hoped WestWorld would provide some diversion. Instead, it’s only taken a few WestWorld episodes for me to dread seeing men blithely kill and rape others, even knowing the others are androids.


We could easily analyze and discuss in detail how both West Wing and WestWorld provide valuable insight into America’s current situation. Without writing a college essay I’ll only mention a few points.


For example, how little we’ve considered the consequences of our actions. Have we let our media and unfettered technology run riot on our sacred political system, now tainted beyond recognition, by fake news and Russian hacking? How much has our media been complicit in this debacle because Trump gives good ratings?


We are days away from installing a dangerous, former reality show host who is so narcissistic he apparently doesn’t care about the fake news or the Russian influence of our political system, because they benefited him in the election. Who also claims, without explanation, to know more about the hacking than anyone else. Perhaps he does.


How this type of illegitimate election can be allowed to stand is beyond belief, as it will result in the installation of a scoundrel and know-nothing as the most powerful man in the free world.


But enough about the real world.


One series I’m looking forward to in the new season is The Americans. This award-winning series brings to life Russian spies embedded in American society passing as ordinary Americans. I’ve heard tell the 2017 series will open in current time with a Russian plant passing as an anything but an ordinary American. Hold your breath for his next tweet.