Sunday, December 31, 2017

Wrap Up the Year with Grace

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Barry on 2017

Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry looks back at 2017.

Kurt Vonnegut on The Shapes of Stories

Assignment: Draft a Movie Premise

Check out the photo that FutureLawyer snared of a mistaken year sign, then jot a quick movie premise based on it.

Anyone who grew up on Twilight Zone episodes should be able to craft a description in no time.

Report from the Sickbed

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When you want a cough drop, you want a serious cough drop, not some cute variation that might be used by a dry-throated speaker at a garden club. 

You want one that reads "Original Extra Strong."

Accept no other version.

Bundling Up in Phoenix

The low today is 46. It's brutal.

13 Predictions

Law professor and author Stephen L. Carter has an interesting list of 13 things to look forward to (or fear) in 2018.

Bock's Picks

As we near the end of the year, Wally Bock provides some leadership reading.

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.

Resolution Nominees

It's resolution time. Here are a few items to consider:

Slowing down to gain time. Thinking more. Getting additional options. Not worrying so much about what others think of you. Scheduling times for intense focus. Savoring the smallest moments such as stirring or sipping a cup of coffee. Reading a type of fiction you've seldom or never read before. Asking yourself what one of your heroes would tell you about your current situation. Avoiding self-sabotage. Examining how a problem might be a solution and how a solution might be a problem. Looking for opportunities instead of excuses. Noticing all that others do for you. Stop keeping score. Start saying no when you know you should. Connecting when you want to withdraw. Being indifferent to what deserves indifference. Expanding and improving the circle of your associates. Realizing that perfection is very elusive. Asking for help when you need it. Recognizing what life has been telling you is your chief role. Being open to a higher meaning.

[Photo by Annie Spratt at Unsplash]

Find Something Beautiful Today

[Photo by Teddy Kelley at Unsplash]

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Rudy The Kip

Cultural Offering has a truism of life from Rudyard Kipling.

I Get Along with a Little Help from My Friends

There is a new Sir Richard in town.

Overdue recognition for someone who has long been under-rated.

Art Break: Woodruff

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Peter Woodruff.

The Battle of New Orleans

A friend sent the link to "The Battle of New Orleans: A Meaningful Victory" and I thought, in my medicated haze, "Okay, I'll give it a look."

I'm glad I did. 

It is fascinating and gives an often-neglected view of the battle.

Quick Look

The trailer for "Bright."

It reminds me of "Alien Nation."

Morning Sickie

Still fighting the Whatever the Hell This Is. It seems like a combo cold/sinus infection but not the flu. For that I am thankful. The problems travel: one day it is the nose and the next it's the throat or the chest, I had a small pain in my right foot this morning and pondered that for a while but it went away. 

This is nothing serious but simply an irritation. Being a germaphobe, I even tried to re-trace where I could have picked up this treat. Was it the smiling cashier who coughed near her hand? Was it the door at that restaurant? Such craziness is part of the illness.

So this morning, I shuffled in for a breakfast of pumpkin muffin (a.k.a. cake), espresso, and regular coffee. That espresso and coffee duo was a brilliant idea. The espresso was cold and the coffee was hot and by shifting back and forth I obtained a small thrill.

Another cheering point: a friend invited me to be on his float at Mardi Gras. 

I am seriously considering it.

The Dodged Bullets

Any realistic assessment of a life should include the number of dodged bullets. 

It is amazing to me how often an item which I regarded as a serious setback at the time turned out to be a long-term blessing. It resembles the story of the Chinese farmer whose "maybe yes, maybe no" response to seemingly adverse events was jarringly accurate.

Quick Look

The trailer for "The Thin Man Goes Home."

Great Book Titles

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Quote of the Day

Learning, n. The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.

- Ambrose Bierce in The Devil's Dictionary

Friday, December 29, 2017

"[T]he alphabet now ends at Y."

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Mystery writer Sue Grafton, R.I.P.

First Paragraph

This study of leading personalities in the Nazi dictatorship is an attempt to achieve some insight into the relationship between psychodynamics and social conflict in the modern world. A unique opportunity to obtain first-hand data concerning this interplay of personalities and social processes, as it existed during the rise and fall of an aggressive ideological dictatorship, was provided by the international war crimes trial of 1945-46. As prison psychiatrist at Nuremberg during the period of the trial, the writer had free access to the major German leaders who had survived the war. The study was conducted under conditions well suited for continuous close observation for a full year, from the time of indictment to the time of execution of sentence. Rapport was enhanced by the fact that the writer was the only prison officer to whom all of the prisoners could talk at will and in their own language.

- From The Psychology of Dictatorship: Based on Examination of the Leaders of Nazi Germany by G. M. Gilbert

Quick Look

The trailer for "Black Mirror: Metalhead."

Just One Request

Being a noble patient, I have made only one request of my family while I groan and swallow medicine. I ask that they cater to my every whim.

So far it's not working.

Sickbed Reading

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Yesterday, when not drinking water and sleeping, I was propped up in bed reading. 

I quickly read "Down the Long Hills" by Louis L'Amour, an entertaining novel about a seven-year-old boy who survives a grizzly bear, a blizzard, hostile Indians, and murderous outlaws due to his almost encyclopedic knowledge of the outdoors.

The other sickbed book was "The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century" by George Friedman. He sees bright things ahead for Poland, Turkey, Japan, and Mexico but is particularly bullish on the United States.

It is challenging to read a book of predictions when you're drifting in and out of sleep. You often find yourself asking, "Hold on. What was that prediction?"

Quick Look

The trailer for "They Might Be Giants."

Great Book Titles

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Quote of the Day

Writing is a combination of intangible creative fantasy and appallingly hard work.

- Anthony Powell

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Music Break

Reprise: Waylon Jennings with "Dreaming My Dreams."

Recovery Update

I'm thinking of compiling a list of "Books to Read While You are Quasi-Conscious."

Illness and Mindfulness

The washcloth, soaked in cold water, is wrung out and then placed on my forehead. I carefully sip water and note the time of medications. A small list is made of tasks I hope to accomplish today. Most of the day will be spent in-doors but all of it will be deliberate.

Slowing down and focusing on a few tasks may produce more than those energetic days when I bounce from chore to chore.

[If you were ill today, aside from a rapid recovery, what you would hope to achieve?]

Perhaps the best approach is to embrace rest, "sloth out" and use the time as a needed distraction so the eventual return to a regular schedule will bring fresh ideas. 

That sounds better. It is the old trick of gaining insight on A by focusing on B or C.

Quick Look

The trailer for "Wild."

Great Book Titles

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Quote of the Day

One of the foremost concerns of this study is to understand how the idea of exposure, which once had been equated with shamelessness, impudence, and impropriety, came to be celebrated as the premier agency of enlightenment and emancipation. How is it that the qualities associated with the reticent sensibility, once regarded as the very foundation of civilized life, came to be blamed as the root cause of personal misery, social evil, and impoverished national culture?

- Rochelle Gurstein in The Repeal of Reticence

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Quick Look

The trailer for "A Fistful of Dollars."

Under the Weather

Drinking lots of water. Taking Tylenol. Trying to catch up on sleep (I know there is a theory that it is impossible do so but I'm giving it a try).

Doesn't seem like the flu. I'd really be out if it were the flu. The damned thing is also not a standard cold. My non-professional diagnosis is it is a sinus infection.

Or allergies brought on by the dog or the stacks of papers in my office. Now that I think of it the decline started after I went through some ancient files to prepare for a meeting.


Quick Look

The trailer for "Detour."

Rhone's Reading

Patrick Rhone, a very wise man, gives his reading list.

Check it out.

Great Book Titles

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Quote of the Day

His mastery of the hard-luck story was of a kind never achieved by persons not wholly concentrated on themselves.

- Anthony Powell

Tuesday, December 26, 2017



Details on the Prescott Rodeo.

Scribble, Scribble Update

Some quick items:
  1. The "Random Thoughts" book will be out in January.
  2. A revised edition of "All I Said Was" will also be out in January.
  3. Yes, it would have been better to have them out before Christmas but life did not adjust to my desires.
  4. I will be shamelessly plugging both books.
  5. Watch this space.

Quick Look

The trailer for "A Pocketful of Miracles."

Policy Wonks

On occasion, many of us have fallen into the role of policy wonk. We carry certain specialties and types of expertise and we smile at the mention of topics which might send others rushing to the exits.

The one item we need to recall, however, is that bothersome subject of people. That they may not behave as anticipated is an easy prediction but that is not, I would submit, the biggest problem of policy wonks.

The wonk's danger is that a torrid romance with process may gloss over the very real price paid by individuals. I've seen planners move assignments and locations around like chess pieces without considering the effect on the people who will suffer from those moves. 

"Where's the money going to come from?" is always a grand question but let's also remember, "What do we say to the people who bear the heaviest burden?"

First Paragraph

The four men paused in accord at the summit of the hill. They walked the horses, but the need for haste was in them. Below this place, where they loomed against a sky which contained no other largeness or shape than the largeness and shape of itself, the stage road sliced empty, a narrow scar on a shifting flesh of sand. The wild spring desert flowed away and beyond this shallow cicatrix, running straight as an arrow shaft, then curving into the vacuum of distance, along the miles of massed mauve and blue bloom born of the rains.

- From A Time in the Sun by Jane Barry

Journal, Notebook or Notepad

A Field Notes memo book on top of a larger spiral notebook with two sharpies on the right and a phone on the left

Whether it is a journal, notebook or notepad, get one and keep it nearby. Jot down important thoughts, plans, and commitments.

Within a few months of starting this practice, you will see its benefits.

No joke. Serious benefits.

Quick Look

The trailer for the first season of "Justified," one of the best series ever put on television.

Great Book Titles

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Quote of the Day

We cannot drift, really. We cannot coast forever. We cannot agree with a shrug to leave our children a world of murder and war and corruption and hurt souls. Though there is no final victory that we can achieve on our own, still we must work so that things don't worsen. To have children is to look to the future and glimpse the consequence of the present moment. To have children is to understand what it means that down at the end of the easy stream, the rocks are sharp and the water cold.

- Joseph Bottum

Monday, December 25, 2017

Music for Christmas Morning

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Crank it up.

[HT: Cultural Offering]

Merry Christmas!

May the peace and blessings of Christmas be with you and yours.

[Photo by Ben White at Unsplash]

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Word for Colored Lights

The Washington Post: The classic 2001 essay by the great Michael Kelly on the colored versus white lights divide.

{Photo by Bob Ricca at Unsplash]

You Will Smile

Mitigating Chaos has a heart-warming story.

Art and "A Christmas Carol"

At Muddy Colors, Cory Godbey looks at how various illustrators have depicted the classic tale. 

The above illustration is by Carter Goodrich.

Early Presents

Nicholas Bate lists "22 Things To Let Go Of at Year End."

It is liberating. He also provides some bonuses.

[Photo by at Unsplash]

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: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas by Charles Dickens

Nitwittery Update

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A health warning is attached to the Churchill film.

Christmas Eve Checklist

Family. Meals. Church services. Music. Atmosphere. Reflection. Relaxation.

Don't aim for perfection. This is supposed to be fun.

[Photo by Kari Shea at Unsplash]

Great Book Titles

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Christmas Eve: Find Something Beautiful Today

An evergreen wreath decorated with berries and pine cones hangs on a teal door

[Photo by Erwan Hesry at Unsplash]

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Quick Look

The trailer for "Love Actually."

"Come with me into Macedonia"

Back by popular demand:

“I am not, fellow citizens, one who believes that no advice may be given to leaders; nay rather I judge him to be not a sage, but haughty, who conducts everything according to his own opinion alone. What therefore is my conclusion? Generals should receive advice, in the first place from the experts who are both specially skilled in military matters and have learned from experience; secondly, from those who are on the scene of action, who see the terrain, the enemy, the fitness of the occasion, who are sharers in the danger, as it were, aboard the same vessel. Thus, if there is anyone who is confident that he can advise me as to the best advantage of the state in this campaign which I am about to conduct, let him not refuse his services to the state, but come with me into Macedonia. I will furnish him with his sea-passage, with a horse, a tent, and even travel-funds. If anyone is reluctant to do this and prefers the leisure of the city to the hardships of campaigning, let him not steer the ship from on shore. The city provides enough subjects for conversation; let him confine his garrulity to these; and let him be aware that I shall be satisfied with the advice originating in camp.”

Consul Lucius Aemilius

168 B.C.

Power of Language

A cluster of pine needle stand out against the backdrop of the tree

Dylan Thomas reading "A Child's Christmas in Wales."

[Photo by Cameron Kirby at Unsplash]

Detective Story

You are a private eye. Your feet are propped up on your desk and the sun is just peeking through the canvas blinds covering your office windows. You are jarred by the ringing of your phone. When you answer, an important client croaks out an assignment:

"Find out what you are doing which you think is good but is actually hurting you."

Now all you hear is the busy signal. Where do you start?


My father always insisted on an early Christmas breakfast -- a huge feast of eggs poached in milk, and bacon and hashbrowns and pancakes and marmalade and grapefruit and a sort of sweetened toast whose name I can't remember, but it tasted like corrugated cardboard with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top.

Read the rest of "A Child's Christmas in Pierre" by J. Bottum.

[Photo by Brooke Lark at Unsplash]

Great Book Titles

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Quote of the Day

Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.

- Frederick Buechner

Friday, December 22, 2017

Killer Apps

Back by popular demand: Historian Niall Ferguson on the "6 killer apps of prosperity."

Bate: Brief and Brilliant

A fountain pen on a spiral notebook

Nicholas Bate: Brilliant at the basics of business.

[Photo by Aaron Burden at Unsplash]

Quick Look

The trailer for "The Florida Project."

An Art Treat

At Muddy Colors, Howard Lyon explores some details at The Brandywine Museum.

It reminds me of the old line that illustrators are artists who can draw.

Some Photos Spark Immediate Envy

Photo from Cultural Offering.

First Paragraph

When Hardy Collins woke up, Big Red was gone. Hardy had picketed the stallion himself, and with sudden guilt he remembered that in his hurry to return to the supper fire he had struck the picket-pin only a couple of times.

- From Down the Long Hills by Louis L'Amour

All You Have May Be You

The great and often cited line from Maslow is that if all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail,

I'd add that the first mistake may be assuming that the solution requires any tool.

Look inward.

Quick Look

The trailer for "Prime Suspect: Tennison."

Great Book Titles

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Here's a clip of Daniel Patrick Moynihan addressing the United Nations in 1975.

Quote of the Day

Skill and confidence are an unconquered army.

- George Herbert

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The 21st Century in a Nutshell?

Instapundit has a nominee.

Heil Mel Brooks!

When "The Producers" played in Berlin.

Quick Looks

The trailers for "Gringo" and "Dom Hemingway." [Language alert.]

I don't believe "It's a Wonderful Life" was used as a model for these.


“I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.”

- Taylor Caldwell

[Photo by Aaron Burden at Unsplash]

Quick Look

The trailer for "Chappaquiddick."

Some Christmas Shopping Lessons

  1. Unless you are shopping online, it is much more difficult to find a copy of "Home Alone" than one of "Elf."
  2. In fact, there are so many copies of "Elf" out there, the stores may pay you to take one.
  3. If the stores have added seasonal personnel, I haven't noticed them. I suspect they are in the backroom asking the warehouse to send more copies of "Elf."
  4. If you are in the market for good chocolates, pray that your state has a See's Candies store. They have excellent chocolates. The only drawback is that See's has a high number of customers who like lengthy discussions with the check-out crew. Those people will be ahead of you in line. Each will have a group discount, but they will have to search for the card.
  5. Costco used to have Christmas DVDs but when I checked last night, the closest thing to one was "Dunkirk."
  6. Not all Targets are alike. I just thought I'd pass that along.
  7. It is not enjoyable to be in a long line of hacking people at the drugstore and read a headline about the flu season.
  8. Keep in mind that by December 24, Aqua Velva is considered a gender-neutral gift.
  9. Of course, by December 24, a bag of Three Musketeers bars will qualify as a gourmet treat.
  10. When I was young, my parents would buy a huge box of Brach's chocolates and then leave it out for their five children to paw over. I learned more about the animal kingdom from that practice than I ever did from any National Geographic films.

[Photo by David Zawila at Unsplash]

Quick Look

The trailer for "T.S. Spivet."

Great Book Titles

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Quote of the Day

Except in cases where he had pledged his word, Hitler always meant what he said.

- Sir John Wheeler-Bennett

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Clean, Well-Lighted Place to Blog

Eclecticity Light finds another one.

What Do You Mean It's December 20?

This is going to be a "Saved by Amazon" day.

[Photo by Michal Pechardo at Unsplash]

First Paragraph

Muller knew the maze quite well by this time. He understood its snares and its delusions, its pitfalls, its deadly traps. He had lived within it for nine years. That was long enough to come to terms with the maze, if not with the situation that had driven him to take refuge within it.

- From The Man in the Maze by Robert Silverberg

Cuter Than Cute

Details at Instapundit.

Art Break: Russell

Art Contrarian looks at the work of Walter Westley Russell

[The painting above was done in 1910. All hell was going to break out in a few years.]