Thursday, December 31, 2015

Thank You

You, the readers of this blog, deserve a bundle of thanks for taking the time to drop by and check on my strange musings throughout the year.

I've always thought of this blog as a magazine. Although having a niche would provide a marketing advantage, these have been my guidelines:
  1. "If it bores me it's not going in."
  2. "Stay out of a rut."
  3. "Be a gentleman."
  4. "Try to be helpful."
  5. "If it seems particularly insightful, let it simmer for a while."
Special thanks are also due to the cadre of bloggers I've met via blogging. They are from a variety of nations and backgrounds. Each is decent and thoughtful. They spark serious hope for the world. 

Thanks again. Take care. May God bless you. Have a great year. 

See you tomorrow.


A live video stream from Times Square.

Music Break

Ritchie Valens with "La Bamba."

Crank it up.

"More and less"

Kurt Harden of Cultural Offering has a wise plan for 2016.

Any plan with more reading and less television is very wise.

A Crazy Year

A Texas 9-year-old was suspended for saying his magic ring could make people disappear. A young girl was sent home with a censorious note from her school because her Wonder Woman lunchbox violated the school ban on depictions of "violent characters."

Read the rest of George Will's review of 2015.

Best Business Books of the Year

Wally Bock provides a valuable service by posting more than one list of the best business books of 2015.

A Word with You

Nicholas Bate wants us to pick a word and live it in 2016.

I'm leaning toward ubiquitous.

Art Break: Rieder

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Marcel Rieder.

Barry's Year

Dave Barry reviews the key events of 2015. An excerpt:

In politics, the Republicans hold their first presidential debate, featuring approximately 75 candidates ranging outward in popularity from Donald Trump at center stage to John Kasich and the late Warren G. Harding out at the far edges. Jeb Bush has an off night, falling asleep several times during his own answers. Ben Carson does better, except for when he identifies Pyongyang as “a kind of lobster.” Trump dominates the evening, at one point ordering everybody to shut up while he takes a call onstage from Beyonce. Savvy Washington-based political insiders agree, after conferring with other savvy Washington-based political insiders, that Trump’s unorthodox behavior will alienate voters and he will be out of the race by fall.

Read more here:

Auld Lang Syne: The Ultimate Version

A tradition on this blog: Dougie MacLean shows how to sing "Auld Lang Syne." 

Start singing it now and you'll be ready for tonight.

The Year: Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

This year only consisted of six months.

At least that's how it seemed.

I tried to notice more things (that whole mindfulness approach) and did but one of the items noticed was that time doesn't march, it sprints.

You whippersnappers out there should realize that you eventually reach an age when time is regarded very differently. My older brother (much older and far less vigorous, of course) recently observed that when he makes a major purchase he thinks, "Well, that's the last one of those I'll own."

Charming. Since he buys a car every two weeks I had difficulty taking him seriously. I also changed the subject.

No matter how old you are, here's my advice: have goals, keep busy, stay in touch with your friends and family, keep learning, and always have a ten-year plan.

In short, don't let the calendar grind you down.

Quote of the Day

None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm. 

- Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

When the Heroes are Crooks

Product Details

I wasn't sure that I was going to like this unusual novel but wound up thoroughly enjoying it.

First Paragraph

For as long as I can remember, my father hibernated. Come late November or early December, the familiar signs would be evident, the familiar preparations begin. Already some days unshaven, the hair seeming to mat his chest a bit more thickly than usual, whether illusorily or otherwise, he would stuff himself on lots of good greasy food, like potato pancakes and pork butts, give us all a bear hug, and shuffle off to bed for the winter. Of course, he didn't sleep straight through till spring, any more than any hibernating creature does - or any more than any of us sleeps uninterruptedly through till morning on a conventional night. He would stir every few days, eat a meal or two, perhaps a stack of pancakes soaked with honey, or some blueberry muffins similarly sweetened, drowsily read the paper or one of his comic books for an hour, yawn, scratch himself, and climb back under the covers. Christmas morning would find him rooting under the tree with the rest of us. But he would not emerge permanently until he could hear the ice breaking up on the river, so to speak, in February or March. Something in his metabolism seemed to need that yearly rhythm. 

- From Consenting Adults or The Duchess Will Be Furious by Peter De Vries

Wisdom from Maine

Sippican Cottage reviews the year and makes a prediction.

I won't say that his prediction is always right but it resonates with many of us. An excerpt:

Don't get me wrong. I could make New Year's predictions that were spot on. I've predicted lots of things with uncanny accuracy in the last ten years on the Intertunnel. It doesn't do me any good, and the audience gets mad at me, and wishes to go back to sleep, so I stopped doing it. It's like the 'Free Beer Tomorrow' sign on the wall in a disreputable tavern. It's always right, and it doesn't matter.

No Congratulations

No congratulations are due those who are merely:
  • Petty instead of cruel. 
  • Tawdry instead of ugly. 
  • Passive instead of cowardly.
  • Lazy instead of blindly ambitious.
  • Shallow instead of ignorant.
There can be a temptation to excuse behavior on the basis that it is not as bad as something else. That is a low standard indeed..

Quote of the Day

The heights by great ones reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept, 
Were toiling upward in the night.

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Here is the first segment of the last interview given by Grace Kelly

The interviewer is Pierre Salinger, producing a visual and stylistic contrast.

"Cowboy Survivor"

This True West article reviews Theodore Roosevelt's cowboy experiences. An excerpt:

The chase continued almost until dawn, as Roosevelt’s horse nearly fell and struggled through a patch of quicksand. The other cowboy on night watch fortunately escaped injury when his horse died crashing into a tree in the pitch dark. Half the cattle scattered, and Roosevelt sat 40 hours in the saddle before the cattle were rounded up.

Battling Procrastination

Gretchen Rubin reveals how she overcame an annoying habit: a reluctance to make appointments.

"The Biggest Math Story of 2015"

One of many reasons why I enjoy Political Calculations

Where else would you find this story?

An Outside Opinion

You may have experienced this.

You're working on a project and someone who has no expertise in the subject wanders by, glances at what you're doing, and then, on the basis of a cursory analysis, mutters, "That won't work because of [fill in the blank]."

Irritating no doubt but the real frustration arises when you realize that the meddler has a point.

And that causes me to wonder about a fear that goes far beyond simple frustration. What if that limited perspective applies to matters of mega-importance such as cancer research, terrorist attack prevention, or environmental protection?

You know the answer: It probably does. The wake of many a disaster is filled with gnashing of teeth and cries of "Why didn't we notice?"

The decision makers didn't notice because they were too close to the subject and were having a long-term romance with many of its assumptions. Thus, we hear:

"The Japanese wouldn't attack while negotiations are still going on."
"German armor cannot get through that forest. It is impenetrable."
"Foreign cars will never break into the American market."

A classic line to keep in mind: "It is very difficult to see the picture when you are inside the frame."

Sound Effects from Skin Doc Visit

Hi. How have you been doing? How about those Cardinals? Let's check you out. 

Zap. Zap. Zap. Zap. Zap.


Of course, the pain didn't set in until I was out in the parking lot.

But not really bad at all.

Quote of the Day

I realized early on that success was tied to not giving up. Most people in this business gave up and went on to other things. If you simply didn't give up, you would outlast the people who came in on the bus with you. 

- Harrison Ford

Monday, December 28, 2015

First Paragraph

Citizens, gather 'round your loudspeakers, for we bring important updates! In your kitchens, in your offices, on your factory floors - wherever your loudspeaker is located, turn up the volume! 

- From The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson

Art Break: Feynman

Art Contrarian looks at the art of Richard Feynman. [Yes, the Richard Feynman.]

Page 9

I have a feeling that we'll be hearing much more about the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the years ahead.

[The "Page 9" title of this post to reflect the view, first expressed by Dennis Prager, that the most important information in news articles can be found on page 9. This is not to be confused with The Sun's Page 3.]

Go Vinyl

FutureLawyer brings good news: The Columbia Record Club is back

I have a record player stored away along with some old records. I'm hauling them out.

Still in mourning for a lost recording of Little Richard's live performance at the Okeh Club.

Skin Doc

I see my dermatologist today. To be a skin doctor in Arizona is to operate in a target-rich environment. People in my generation were regularly tossed outside for large portions of our childhood. Sun block was nonexistent. Suntan lotion was the ticket if any lotion was used at all.

As a result, yesterday's beach bunnies have become today's old lizards.

This visit will involve dry ice and burning; perhaps even some cutting. 

Boo Radley may have been onto something.

Quote of the Day

There was an important difference between Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, whose actual policies were quite parallel and not rarely identical. Nixon treated foreign policy as an endeavor with no end, as a set of rhythms to be managed. He dealt with its intricacies and contradictions like school assignments by an especially demanding teacher. He expected America to prevail but in a long, joyless enterprise, perhaps after he left office. Reagan, by contrast, summed up his Cold War strategy to an aide in 1977 in a characteristically optimistic epigram: "We win, they lose." The Nixon style of policymaking was important to restore fluidity to the diplomacy of the Cold War; the Reagan style was indispensable for the diplomacy of ending it. 

- Henry Kissinger in World Order

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Three Enemies

Know and beware of them:
  • Anxiety
  • Procrastination
  • Lack of Focus

Music Break

Nuggets of History. Significant Dates.

In 1940, the U.S. Army sent a representative to Arizona to choose a site for an Army Air Corps training field for advanced training in conventional fighter aircraft. The city of Phoenix bought 1,440 acres of land, which they leased to the government at $1 a year effective March 24, 1941. On March 29, 1941, the Del E. Webb Construction Co. began excavation for the first building at what was known then as Litchfield Park Air Base.

Another base known as Luke Field, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, released its name when the base was transferred to the Navy in June 1941 and the fledgling Arizona base was called Luke Field at the request of its first commander, Lt. Col. Ennis C. Whitehead, who went on to become a lieutenant general as commander of Air Defense Command in 1950.

The first class of 45 students, Class 41 F, arrived June 8, 1941 to begin advanced flight training in the AT-6, although only a few essential buildings had been completed. Flying out of Sky Harbor Airport until the Luke runways were ready, pilots received 10 weeks of instruction and the first class graduated August 15, 1941. Capt. Barry Goldwater served as director of ground training the following year.

- From Luke Air Force Base History, Luke Air Force Base site

A Major Omission: Hip Version of White Christmas

I deeply apologize for not posting this earlier.

Click here and smile.

[HT: Rick Miller]

Old Testament

     "You've made a mess of this, Paul," I stammered out, coughing a bit, "What the hell is this?"
    "It's ginger ale. You're coming with me tonight."
    I could see it all rolled out in front of me. Pity. Kindness. Friendship.
    "No." I rose to leave.
    "You'll come, or you'll never darken the doorstep here again."

Read all of it at Sippican Cottage and then buy his book of short stories.

A Boring Blog Post about Weather

It's 41 degrees in Phoenix right now.


Go to David Kanigan's blog. Read the excerpt from The Shepherd's Life.

Boxing Day

No boxing gloves are involved.

The Telegraph on its meaning and practice.

First Paragraph

In 1961, as a young academic, I called on President Harry S. Truman when I found myself in Kansas City delivering a speech. To the question of what in his presidency had made him most proud, Truman replied, "That we totally defeated our enemies and then brought them back to the community of nations. I would like to think that only America would have done this." Conscious of America's vast power, Truman took pride above all in its humane and democratic values. He wanted to be remembered not so much for America's victories as for its conciliations. 

- From World Order by Henry Kissinger

Small Things

A great day for small things that are not really small, the essentials that lurk just beneath the larger projects, and the links that are vital if additional action is to be viable.

Coffee, toast, marmalade, and small things.

A great morning.

Quote of the Day

Abdicating power generates the taste for organized inaction and the pursuit of pseudo-work: I refer to redundant talk, broody sittings of committees and proliferating plans and reports fore and aft of nonexisting accomplishments. It is not exaggerating to say that ritual gathering has by now become a polite form of debauch. 

- Jacques Barzun

Thursday, December 24, 2015


From First Things in 2002: Joseph Bottum's "Dakota Christmas."

A short but memorable read.

First Paragraph

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. 

- From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

You can read the famous story free and online.

Desperate Last Minute Gift Suggestions

  • Purell
  • Batteries
  • Brut
  • Sanka
  • Bic lighter
  • IHOP placemats
  • Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill

The Onion's 2015

The Onion gives its list

[As of this posting, November and December are missing but then, it's The Onion.]

Quick Fixes

Pecan Pie Bites

The Pioneer Woman shows how to make Pecan Pie Bites.

"Road Candy"

Vanity Fair has a brief adaptation from Paul Theroux's new book, Deep South.

Excellence at the Bakery

There are more fine examples at Cake Wrecks.

When You Care Enough to Ask for the Very Best

Cultural Offering has a heart-warming discussion for Christmas.


24 (2001) Poster

The incomparable Nicholas Bate explores the number.

Art Break: Ambrosi

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Alfredo Ambrosi.

The New Mrs. Claus and Friends

I dislike the acceleration of Christmas as much as anyone else, but with no access to a Pandora account and lacking satellite radio in my car, I listen to the station all the same, until I can't stand it anymore. Like the season itself, my moment of Christmas-music overfeeding arrives earlier and earlier with each passing year. In a few years I will be driving around shouting for the death of the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir before Columbus Day. But I am captive to the station's programming long enough to notice a few things. Chief among them is that during the modern Christmas season you can't get away from Mariah Carey. Even now, many years after the salad days of her career began to wilt, she's like our generation's Queen of Christmas—or the new Mrs. Claus. Or the Transitioning Santa. She's everywhere.

Read all of Andrew Ferguson at The Weekly Standard.

And a special gift for Andrew Ferguson: Mariah Carey with "All I Want For Christmas Is You."

Recovery Reading

Although every day I get stronger, I'm still in my post-surgery recovery mode and so am sensitive to anything that might cause complications. It is much safer now but I've nonetheless opted for night-time reading that does not produce, to use an appropriate term, belly laughs.

As a result, reading books by the following authors has been postponed:
  • Joe Queenan
  • Tom Sharpe
  • Carl Hiassen
  • Sue Townsend
  • Christopher Buckley
  • George MacDonald Fraser
Are there any others I should avoid?

Quote of the Day

The success rate of having a guy come off the street and play is maybe 60%, but you don't know that because most coaches are too scared to give them an opportunity. 

- Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Take a stroll today through The Hammock Papers. You'll be glad you did.

21 Things I Wish I Knew In My Twenties

Back by popular demand. This was first posted in 2007.

  1. This too shall pass.

  2. What they say is required is not really what is required.

  3. The whole world is not looking at you.

  4. Good news: You have a lot of years ahead of you.

  5. Bad news: Those years will start passing more quickly.

  6. Set specific goals. All others are meaningless.

  7. Don't regard the spiritual as impractical. It may well be the most practical thing in your life.

  8. If you are trying to impress someone, your priorities are skewed.

  9. Don't use humor as a weapon. Employ it as a defense.

  10. The journey from A to B often goes from A to Z, M, and D before arriving at B.

  11. Seek balance in all things.

  12. Master a skill, then master another.

  13. You are far from the only nervous person in the room.

  14. Don't burn bridges. You may need them sooner than you think.

  15. There are many times when it is better to be kind than clever.

  16. Worry less and strive to reduce your fears. Years from now, you'll shake your head at the way minor matters used to trouble you.

  17. Talk more with your parents and, if possible, tape some of their reminiscences.

  18. Be reluctant to assign bad motives to others. Most of us are blundering, not conspiring.

  19. Keep your word. Do what you say you will do.

  20. Consider which of your virtues has become a vice. At least one has.

  21. Try not to trip over the rocks on your way to the horizon. Don't let your grand vision distract you from what is needed to achieve it.

Quote of the Day

All organizations are perfectly aligned to get the results they get. 

- Arthur W. Jones

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Internet Game

The Telegraph: Can you spot the sneaky panda hiding amid the snowmen?

First Paragraph

While serving in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, my wife's uncle Gordon had occasion to bomb some of the most beautiful countries in Europe. The future wing commander, just a boy at the time, had bombed the Germans, he had bombed the Italians, he had bombed the Austrians, the Hungarians, and the Romanians, and he may have bombed the French. Years later, when I first made his acquaintance in 1977, he was confined to a wheelchair in the tiny village of Charing, a stone's throw from Canterbury. He had lost his legs to gangrene after his wife died, and he was living with his sister Margaret, herself a widow. Back in those days, desperate for a hobby, he would busy himself making his own Kentish wines, which he impishly compared to the finest Bordeaux. These concoctions were cheerfully horrid, but as he had been instrumental in terminating the Thousand-Year Reich 988 years ahead of schedule, I thought it my duty to force them as far down my gullet as they would go. 

- From Queenan Country: A Reluctant Anglophile's Pilgrimage to the Mother Country by Joe Queenan

Music Break

Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra sing "The Christmas Song."

Municipal Government's Face

The websites for the cities of:

News You Can Use: Rodeo Drive

Just in case you want to fly in for last-minute shopping, here's the website.

Street scene: You can rotate the view.


"I heard about the comment Ed made at your staff meeting a few months ago. Did you order training for your team?"


"Did you launch an investigation?"


"Did you suspend Ed?"


"What did you do?"

"I called him into my office and told him never to do that again or he'd be fired."

"That's all? What happened?"

"He hasn't done it again."

A Ghost Story for Christmas

The BBC presentation of The Signalman.

Exotic Names

There was a time last night when every ten minutes my wife emerged from writing Christmas cards in the den to ask about the spelling of names.

The younger generation in our family has a higher percentage of unusual names.

On the other hand, if we go several generations back, then we're into the territory of Wiley, Earl, Isaac, Ellsworth, Beulah, Ella, Rensler, Maryl, Herman, and Conrad. [A few of the better ones were borrowed by the younger generation of Wades.]

Many of those were hardy names that evoked a no la-de-dah lifestyle where if you got three hots and a cot you were happy and heaven was no longer having to beat your laundry against a rock.

So far, Apple and Saint have not been appeared.

Quote of the Day

The ultimate conformity, abdication, what you will, finds expression in what I may for convenience call the thought-cliché. I used the term in speaking of the misleading image of a fingerprint that advertises a current book, but its like is to be found in all forms of written or spoken opinion. The thought-cliché is an idea or a phrase contrary to fact, which is clung to because it sounds familiar and feeds a half-attentive wish for thought. 

- Jacques Barzun

Monday, December 21, 2015

Humor Break: Film Directors and Christmas

The Auteurs of Christmas. [Part One]

The Auteurs of Christmas. [Part Two]

Candide Thovex for Audi

Althouse: This is one car ad you will watch.

The NoPhone


FutureLawyer sings the praises of the NoPhone's ability to be dropped into a toilet with no ill effects.

Alas, the product is missing one key feature.

Got Dickens?

The trailer for the BBC program "Dickensian."

"I love the tradition of Dickens, where even the most minor walk-on characters are twitching and particular and alive." - Donna Tartt

Art Break: Vettriano and Leech

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Jack Vettriano and Raymond Leech.

Interesting Distinction: Lord Mayor and Mayor

The difference between the Lord Mayor of London and the Mayor of London.

Miss Universe Mix-Up

This is painful.

There is more than one reason why the Oscars have the name of the winner in a separate envelope.

Dinner with Losers

All of us have played the game in which we choose which famous people from history that we'd have over for dinner. Lincoln and Churchill are frequent contenders.

But what if the criterion is losers? 

It is harder to compile that list than ones of great or of evil people because a loser in one aspect of life can be a winner in other aspects. Neville Chamberlain, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Lyndon Johnson are examples of individuals who had sizable setbacks and yet would score as admirable in other aspects.

That should be reassuring to us all. People can bounce back.

Edwin O'Connor

Edwin O'Connor died much too young. I hate to think of how many great novels went with him. His books contain much wisdom and humor as well as scenes that will, no matter how many years pass, will be within easy reach of your memory. He is an author who can be re-read with pleasure. I particularly recommend:
  • The Last Hurrah. His most famous novel is about Mayor Frank Skeffington, a charming rogue who plays Boston machine politics like a violin. Must reading for political junkies but also just flat-out funny. Thoroughly enjoyable.
  • I Was Dancing. A retired hoofer is trying to elude a rest home. His eccentric friends overshadow the main character.
  • The Edge of Sadness. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a priest's relationship to a strange Boston Irish family is filled with humor and just the right amount of sadness. Charlie Carmody is one funny but infuriating villain.
My suggestion: Start with The Last Hurrah, then move on to The Edge of Sadness, and save I Was Dancing as a light dessert.

The Stuff on Your List

There is much that you want to do and much that can be done but fortunately there is much less that really needs to be done.

Don't let the first two categories distract from the third.

Quote of the Day

Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. 

- African proverb

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Man with the Lights

I still miss it.

I thought it would never go away, then one day it was gone and my world was diminished. Some of my neighbors may not have noticed but I immediately spotted the gap and told my wife.

She replied, "It's about time." That was unworthy of her.

Here is the story. A man who lives around the corner had the lights of a white star strung along a side of his townhouse. Every year at Christmas time, I looked forward to the night when he would push in a plug and the lights would shine.

Very nice, but that was not the beauty of his display.

Its true appeal was that he never took the lights down.

They would be lit only during the Christmas season. The rest of the year they remained in place and a keen eye could discern the faint outline of the star. It was the quiet statement of a man who'd decided that putting up Christmas lights once was enough of a chore. I imagined him shuffling out, cigar in one hand and a drink in the other, and plugging in those lights.

The repainting of the townhouse ended this practice.

Progress has its penalties.

KBACH's Top 100

KBAQ [a.k.a. KBACH] is Phoenix's classical music station. 

Here is the link to its listeners' 100 "most wanted" list for 2015.

Find Something Beautiful Today

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Music Break

Judy Collins sings "Silent Night."

Look Ma, No Hans

Cultural Offering cites a key point in the Christmas season.


A Christmas Story House and Museum.

There was an auction. The winner gets to spend Christmas in the house plus gets an extra day to explore Cleveland

That is an especially nice touch.

No wonder someone bid $8,700.

First Paragraph

We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like "I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive. . . ." And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: "Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?" 

- From Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson

The City for Christmas

Is there a dream location for Christmas?

Consider these options:
  • London. Scrooge and Tiny Tim territory. Perhaps the ultimate Christmas locale outside of Bethlehem and certainly far safer. Dickens as tour guide.
  • Some hellish place in Maine. Snow is nice but only if you can hide from it. Throw another log on the fire. Drink some nog. Cancel all meetings.
  • Hawaii. Now we're completely off the reservation. At least Arizona resembles the Holy Land.
  • New York City. There is some Christmas aura about the place. I'm not sure why. It may be the camels and the elves.
  • Others?