IT CAN’T BE THAT BAD, CAN IT?

Can’t Watch This – When was the last time you watched something too scary, cringe-worthy, or unbelievably tacky to continue?


Almost everyday, I am offended by appallingly cliche-ridden, derivative shows proffered as “the next new thing” for us, the obviously dim-witted audience. Not to mention the “reality shows” like “Marriage Boot Camp” which has offended me merely by its advertisements. No, I haven’t watched one of the shows. If I become that senile or desperate, please shoot me.

Form unimaginative scripts, to the failure of the writers to do even the most basic research about the subject matter, to the inevitable use of tired old lines we hear thousands of times — “Stay in the car!” “Be careful out there!” “You’re off the case and on desk duty!” — to which we all say a weary, “Yeah, right, sure,” because no one stays in the car or on desk duty. And wouldn’t you think being careful would not be something of which you needed to remind police officers who’ve been doing it for years?

However, standing out from the crowd of mediocrity is a movie we had never seen. Was it an instinctive knowledge it would be terrible? Presenting (drumroll) …

WUSA (1970) 115 min – Drama | Romance – 12 March 1971

From the IMDB, a plot summary:

Rheinhardt, a cynical drifter, gets a job as an announcer for right-wing radio station WUSA in New Orleans. Rheinhardt is content to parrot WUSA’s reactionary editorial stance on the air, even if he doesn’t agree with it. Rheinhardt finds his cynical detachment challenged by a lady friend, Geraldine, and by Rainey, a neighbor and troubled idealist who becomes aware of WUSA’s sinister, hidden purpose. And when events start spinning out of control, even Rheinhardt finds he must take a stand.

Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Writers: Robert Stone (screenplay), Robert Stone (novel)
Stars: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Perkins and more.

WUSA_(movie_poster)It looks good on paper, doesn’t it? I mean Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, right? How bad could it be?

Bad. Very bad. The script starts off slow, but degenerates with each passing minute until it is so stunningly awful, so over-the-top hysterical and preachy, you find yourself glued to the screen, mouth hanging open, bits of drool falling from your slack jaw.

If, by some bad juju, this movie is showing on a television near you, save yourself! Find an oldies station and watch an episode of Gilligan’s Island.

There are probably worse movies lurking in the vaults of Turner Classics. I just hope we have the good sense to not watch them.

THIS IS BASEBALL? BRANDING AND THE AMERICAN PASTIME

Photo by Phil Konstantin

Petco Park, Photo by Phil Konstantin

“It’s an exciting afternoon here at Petco,” the announcer says. The Padres are playing the Mets. At Petco Park. The mental image this formed in my head were utterly un-baseball, totally non-sporting. This whole branding thing is out of hand.

I looked up from the computer, wondering if we needed more dog food and biscuits. We’re forever running short.

But next, the announcer points out the pitcher has been, so far, throwing a no-hitter. Never, in Padre history has any pitcher thrown a no-hitter, so this should have been riveting baseball. Except the announcers couldn’t seem to focus on the game and instead, were busy talking all kinds of nonsense while showing clips of everything but the game in progress. Ultimately, I suppose it didn’t matter since the pitcher gave up three hits but still, they might have at least given the kid his time in the sun.

Finally they pointed out the right-hander, Odrisamer Despaigne “… has a great, boring fastball.”

padre player uniformThis made me wonder if they should be playing any kind of game at Petco, especially if Odrisamer Despaigne’s fastball is boring. I get they are really saying something technical about the pitch. Nonetheless, words matter. Boring has multiple meanings, the most common being dull. So how boring was that fastball?

And doesn’t Petco Park sound like a dog park to you?

Someone once told me I’m “branding” my photographs by signing them. No, I’m not. I sign my art because I’m proud of it. Branding would be if I sold my blog to Costco, after which this was no longer Serendipity, but Costco Web Thoughts — but I still did the writing and photography while they paid to put their corporate name on my work. That’s branding.

Garry points out the Padres not only have a crappy team and awful branding – Petco really doesn’t work as a stadium name – but they wear ugly uniforms. From Garry, that is total condemnation.

Whatever else is wrong with the Red Sox, at least they have not turned Fenway into Burger King Stadium. Or Walmart Watcharama. And, to the best of my knowledge, the pitchers throw highly entertaining fastballs.

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Hail Mary?

Sudden Shifts - At the beach, enjoying the sun, nibbling on watermelon. Within seconds, the weather shifts and hail starts descending form the sky. What happens next?


I should be writing. Processing pictures. At least be going to the kitchen to get another cup of coffee. I need more coffee.

I should be packing up our stuff to go to the beach. I promised the kids we’d go today, but the forecast calls for hail. Bullets from heaven. Buckshot of the gods.

75-BeachNK-00

I can’t seem to move. Or think. My head is stuffed with cotton wool. Hey, remember cotton wool? Fuzzy, sort of rough? We used it to stuff things, right? Maybe we used it to clean things. Whatever.

After the long day yesterday, I can’t seem to quite wake up. Beach. Blanket. Thermal bag full of sandwiches. Do we have any cold cuts? Soft drinks? Bread. The Hell with it, we’ll buy hot dogs.

Towels. Suntan lotion. An umbrella bright with stripes. Do we still have the umbrella? Oh, right, it’s under the deck. Probably full of bugs. Spiders. Never mind. I’ll skip that.

Does my bathing suit still fit? It looked hideous last year. I looked hideous last year. Bet I won’t look any better this year. At least not in a bathing suit. Do I have a kaftan somewhere under which I could hide? No?

Let me get that cup of coffee and think about this some more.

75-BeachAtConeyIsland-707

I hear they had hail on a beach in Russia. Glad I’m not Russian because I can’t run … even with hail falling. Does that make it a Hail Mary? Sorry. It’s that kind of day.

I think I’ll watch that Sox game. Where’s the remote?

CLEARANCE TIME AGAIN

It’s final clearance sale time. It may be the middle of summer according to the calendar, but in retail, summer’s over. Time to clear out and make room for the new fall fashions. Which is why I’m wearing my new orange dress from J. Jill.

Given my druthers, my entire wardrobe would be neutral. Dark, preferably black. Orange makes me feel as if I’m wearing a neon sign, though Garry thinks it looks cute. Not that he would ever wear this color. He’s even more New York than I am. His favorite color is (wait for it) … gray.

When I said I can’t go out in public in anything this bright, Garry said “This is Uxbridge.”

Uxbridge. On the way to the grocery store, we spotted her. A lovely, plump young thing. Wearing very short, tight, purple spandex shorts. With an over-sized bright yellow tee-shirt. Large bouncing breasts and obviously, no bra. But the thing that brought it all together, that made her larger than life, was her long, electric-blue hair.

She was walking while texting, the epitome of fashion in Our Town. Garry and I discussed the possibility she didn’t own a mirror, but decided she probably thought she looked really cool. I suppose that’s why Garry thinks an orange tee dress is no big deal.

The two colors you can always get at clearance sales are orange and purple.

purple and orange sweaters

End of the season shopping provides a limited choice of colors. Purple, orange. Beige. Ghostly white and unhealthy green. Also special colors which were supposed to be hot but weren’t. Named after food, you’ll find cantaloupe, mango, kiwi, aubergine, honeydew, sugarplum, pumpkin, mocha, and vanilla bean. In other words, purple, beige, and orange. Renaming does not a fashion trend make.

I shopped final sales and closeouts long before I was strapped for cash. It’s tradition. My mother raised me to hold fast to one unyielding principle: “Never pay full price.

You aren’t supposed to brag about how much you pay. You’re supposed to brag about how much you didn’t pay. The less you pay, the greater your bragging rights. I was astonished to discover some people are proud of paying a lot when they could have gotten for half off if they’d waited a couple of days. They might have had to get it in purple or orange, but think of the money they’d save!

Would I have different attitude towards shopping if I were richer? I don’t think so. To put it in perspective, in the early 1990s, I got into a tug of war with Carly Simon for possession of a 70% off final clearance silk blouse in a chi-chi shop in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard. Neither of us was poor. It was principal. It was orange. I won. It was a fantastic blouse.

Bargain hunting is not just for people on a tight budget. For some of us, it’s a contact sport. Somewhere in the ether, Mom is smiling proudly.

WHERE ARE MY 4,089 FOLLOWERS?

Yesterday, I glanced at my statistics and realized I’d reached a new level. According to WordPress, I now have 4,089 4,111 followers.

That’s a lot of followers. You’d figure I’d get at least 1,000 hits a day, right? And certainly, with 1000 more followers than I had a few months ago, I must be getting a lot more hits. It just stands to reason, doesn’t it?

Not.

I have no idea who — or what — is following me.

I am convinced most of my followers are non-human. I have a couple of dozen real people in the mix. These are  my regulars who read my stuff, comment and have become virtual friends. They look at my photographs. They remember stories I’ve written in the past.

That accounts for a couple of dozen people There are a few dozen others who drop by regularly, but not daily, as the spirit moves them. What’s with the other 3,500 followers?

Image: Mashable.com

Image: Mashable.com

Where are you? You don’t write, you don’t call. Not a comment or a “Like.” What’s a blogger to do but wonder if you are real? I bet you are software spammers and cyber-bots. Unless there more than three thousand people who — for no known reason — clicked “Follow” on my site, then lost interest and never came back.

I’m by no means alone in wondering “where have all the followers gone.” It’s the deepest, darkest mystery of blogging, these elusive followers from whom one never hears. Do I really have thousands of lurkers, none of whom have ever clicked on a post?

Anyway, although I’m (technically) more popular than ever, the number of hits per day is slightly lower than it was a couple of thousand followers ago.

If you’re out there, drop me a line. Click “Like.” Make a comment.

Or not.

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IT’S GOOD TO BE THE KING

Somewhere on the Internet, Garry found a cartoon that says it all about history … ours, everyone’s. Great surfing, Gar!

It IS good to be the King.

good to be the king cartoon

You only have to kill the historians you can’t buy off or threaten into writing your story the way you want. And keep the bards. They’re all suck ups anyhow.

A FINE AND LINGERING SCENT

Nosey Delights - From the yeasty warmth of freshly baked bread to the clean, summery haze of lavender flowers, we all have favorite smells we find particularly comforting. What’s yours?


There was a time when I baked bread. The smell would bring friends and neighbors lining up at the kitchen door to get a hunk off a warm, newly baked loaf. I was a good baker, but one day I got tired of spending ten hours to bake 4 loaves of bread which would be consumed by my pals in about 10 seconds.

empty chairs

I used to love the smell of new-mown grass, but we have no grass here, just crabgrass, weeds, rocks, and woods. And though the smell of freshly mown anything is good, weeds and crabgrass don’t have quite the same kick as grass.

I suppose my favorite smell these days is the scent of supper being cooked by someone else wafting from the kitchen. Someone who isn’t me.

It’s the smell of a night off from the kitchen. It is yummy and I can’t get enough of it!

IS HE STILL ALIVE?

By Garry Armstrong

The phone rang and the caller ID flashed one of Boston two major newspapers. I figured it was the sales department. I handed the phone to Marilyn.

I heard Marilyn respond “yes” several times and was puzzled. We didn’t need and couldn’t afford expensive home delivery of newspapers. Then Marilyn said “He’s right here. Why don’t you speak to him?” She had a broad smile on her face. I was even more puzzled.

Long story short. The caller was a reporter working on a series about Boston schools and the 40th anniversary of court-ordered school desegregation. She was looking for people who had covered the story in 1974.

forced busing Boston

Photo: Associated Press

Apparently my name came up in her research. I confirmed I had indeed covered the story and shared a few anecdotes about the first day of what some called “forced busing”. I also shared some stories about my coverage of Boston schools over the following 25 plus years before I retired. To give some context, I mentioned that I’d also covered the civil rights movement for ABC Network before coming to Boston.

The reporter seemed impressed. We agreed to meet again for a more detailed interview. I hung up the phone and smiled. I looked at our four dogs seated around me and they understood. They were grinning at me. I could read their minds. He’s not just an old fart who feeds and plays with us. 

I looked at Marilyn with satisfaction. I wondered what she had said to the reporter when she took the call. Marilyn smiled and recounted the conversation. “She asked if you were alive. Then she asked if you actually remembered what you used to do. I bit my tongue and didn’t say ‘That’s a matter of opinion.’”

I looked back at the dogs. They were still grinning. How fleeting is fame.

I HEAR YOU

Full Disclosure – A mad scientist friend offers you a chip that would allow you to know what the people you’re talking to are thinking. The catch: you can’t turn it off. Do you accept the chip?


All those voices ricocheting around my head! It’s maddening. It wouldn’t be so bad if I could just hear what they are thinking about one thing, whatever we are talking about … but I hear everything. Talk about too much information, this is psychic overload to the nth degree!

well-stressed-4

Do I need to know what you’re planning to buy at the grocery store, how much it costs? What meals you’re going to make from which ingredients?

How your little sexual adventure with hubby went last night? What you think you are going to do tomorrow? How much Viagra the old guy takes? The state of your legs, whether or not they need shaving?

I just want to have a simple conversation about … what was it we were talking about? I’m lost in all that mental noise. I can’t remember anything. I think I’m going mad.

dilbert information overload

You’re looking at me funny. Hey, do you have one of those chips too? Oh my Gawd. It’s a freaking nightmare.

Whose idea was this? I see the bastard. He’s over there, look! It’s that guy from WordPress. Can I kill him? There’s gotta be a law … Don’t let him get away! Grab him, he’s trying to run!

Okay, WordPress guy. We need to have a little chat. And I’ve got a chip for you.

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TEST SHOTS: CEE’S ODD BALL PHOTOS – WEEK 20

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: Week 20

The oddest photographs are the ones I take when I get my hands on an unfamiliar camera and want to see what it will do. Anything becomes fair game for the lens. And I do mean anything.

72-SummerWindow-TestShotsZS25_27

All of these were taken in low light. And from the recliner. Talk about feeling lazy! It also was a fair test of the telephoto lens in moderately low light.

72-Oddball-TestShotsZS25_07

Who will be the first to throw away the dead flowers? I hate throwing them out, so I wait until Garry gets me a new bouquet. No flowers this week — or last week — so it’s still waiting. It has become a contest. Who will break first? Probably me. Garry can ignore it forever.

18th century Japanese porcelain cohabits with 19th century Italian blown glass.

18th century Japanese porcelain cohabits with 19th century Italian blown glass.

How close can you get without getting out of the recliner? Pretty close.

Who will clean that window?

Who will clean that window?

No one is willing to climb a ladder so the window will never be clean. I think of it as life’s natural bokeh.

NOW? LATER? ALL THE SAME TO ME

Now? Later! – We all procrastinate. Website, magazine, knitting project, TV show, something else — what’s your favorite procrastination destination?


Holy moly! You made me pause to think this morning. I’m not sure I can handle that. Procrastination destination? You mean … like … what do I do when I’m not doing what I’m ‘posed to do?

What am I supposed to do? What is that?

I have no schedule. I have no professional goals, no boss, no deadlines. Other than an annual vacation, the occasional party, or doctor’s appointment …. everything is optional. I can do it. Or not.

Kitchen summer morning 2

Do it now, later, or skip it entirely. It’s up to me. Procrastination loses its zing post-retirement. I suppose I could set myself deadlines and then stress about meeting them, but why? Haven’t I had enough stress in my life? Now, later, never. It’s all the same.

You young ones are welcome to your hyped up lives, frantic schedules, important agendas, and artificial deadlines. I wish you well. I remember living a life where running as fast as I could meant staying in the same place — with exhaustion (mental and physical) as my constant companion.

I served my time and then some. Looking back, so much of it was a waste of energy. It meant nothing in the long run. Most of it meant nothing in the short run, too. Artificial deadlines for insignificant projects which frequently came to nothing for anyone … and I was just an itsy bitsy cog in someone else’s wheel of fortune.

I don’t have to do that anymore. I knew there was an up side to oldness. Time for another cuppa. I love coffee in the morning. Don’t you?

NATIONAL BROTHERHOOD WEEK?

Way back in the dark ages, the third week in February (an otherwise dreary and neglected month) was designated National Brotherhood Week. As designated special weeks go, it was never a big hit with the general public. In the 1980s, it disappeared completely. Probably because it failed to sell greeting cards. Which is, I believe, the point of such created events.

brotherhoodweek-624x446

The National Conference for Christians and Jews (NCCJ) came up with the idea of National Brotherhood Week in 1934. Given the current political climate, maybe we can agree more brotherhood year round would be an improvement. Sadly, we no longer have even that one, measly week.

February is now Black History Month which seems to mean movie channels run films featuring non-white stars. Unless you watch PBS or the History Channel where you might see a documentary or two.

The man who took it seriously – even in the old days – as he took all politics seriously, was Tom Lehrer. He taught math at Hahvid (Harvard, if you aren’t from around here). He didn’t write a lot of songs since he, till his dying day (which hasn’t occurred yet as he’s alive and living in California), thought of himself as a math teacher who wrote silly songs. Not as an entertainer.

Despite this unfair self-assessment, I’ve always felt Tom got this particular holiday dead to rights. Ya’ think?

He got a lot of stuff right. Check him out on YouTube. He only wrote about 50 songs and most of them are posted in some video or other. Me? I’ve got the CDs. (Remember CDs?)

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!

Seat Guru - You get to plan a dinner party for 4-8 of your favorite writers/artists/musicians/other notable figures, whether dead or alive. Who do you seat next to whom in order to inspire the most fun evening?


I probably should ask you to define “fun” as well as “fun for whom?” Because we might have very different ideas of fun. Be that as it may, this is my post and in this ghostly dinner do, I am sure that I will have fun just listening and laughing.

My guest list simply has to start with Dorothy Parker because no dinner party is complete without her acerbic with. Any woman credited with saying:

You can lead a whore to culture, but you cannot make her think.

If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.

Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves.

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

is bound to be a hoot at my soiree, don’t you think? Meanwhile, from her dinner date, Oscar Wilde, we get such winners as:

America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up. 

America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between. — Oscar Wilde

I’m sure the two of them would be busy the entire night swapping bon mots.

Next, I think a manly man — Papa Hemingway? He too had a mouth on him and loathed those sappy, intellectuals. And wasn’t afraid to say so. Let’s sit him next to Noël Coward.

There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter. — Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s ultra manly manliness should be an excellent foil for Noël, the gay guy’s gay guy. Talk about duking it out!

He loved me true did Harry-boy and I loved him true, and if the happiness we gave each other was wicked and wrong in the eyes of the Law and the Church and God Almighty, then the Law and the Church and God Almighty can go dig a hole and fall down it.

Hollywood is a place where some people lie on the beach and look up at the stars, whereas other people lie on the stars and look down at the beach.

Finally, because Garry needs a dinner companion of his own, we’ll invite the Duke himself, John Wayne.

“You’re short on ears and long on mouth.”

“I’ve always followed my father’s advice: he told me, first to always keep my word and, second, to never insult anybody unintentionally. If I insult you, you can be goddamn sure I intend to. Third, he told me not to go around looking for trouble. ”
― John Wayne

I won’t sit. I’ll just flit around catching bits of brilliant conversation as it zings past. What a night. I will bring my best camera and take lots of pictures. It can’t get better than this.

Let the good times roll!

PHOBOPHOBOPHOBIA

phobophobia

Being afraid of fear itself … and worse yet, being afraid of being afraid of fear itself. I could go on and on but I won’t and aren’t you glad?

I just discovered that Wikipedia, my favorite source, lists phobophobia as a fear of phobias — the fear of fear itself. I made it up on the spur of the moment yesterday thinking I was terribly clever.

Now I feel cheated. Somebody made it up before me. How unjust can life and literature be? Is there a phobia for that? Can I make one up? Will Wikipedia include it on their master list of phobias?

Fear According to Savage Chickens

I am afraid of being afraid … and afraid of being afraid of being afraid. Or is it fear of being thought to be afraid? Anyway, that would be phobophobophobia.

My fear of being afraid of fear ignites my courage, so to prove that I am not really afraid of fear or the fear of fear, I will do anything and everything, including incredibly dangerous and stupid stuff.

Does that mean I’m brave?

I’m not sure. I’m confused. I will not really do anything and everything to prove I’m fearless. Unless it’s a double-dog-dare. That changes everything. Beside, my personal history of bad decisions speaks for itself.

Okay, maybe I would. Under the right (whatever they are) circumstances.

HOW TO TAKE A CASUAL PORTRAIT YOU WON’T HATE

The proliferation of cell phones and high-end, point and shoot cameras has made everyone think they take great pictures. For some people, it’s true or close enough for folk music. Others, not so much. Facebook is the place where I am constantly reminded of how many people take awful pictures.

Kaity portrait

This is aimed at the photographically challenged. You know who you are.

First, let’s discuss equipment. No matter what you are using — cell phone or camera — it needs to be in working order. Clean lens, not scratched. If it’s an old cell you have dropped and doused, I feel safe saying it won’t take great pictures.

Ditto that old point and shoot camera that’s been kicking around your basement for years. Probably not going to give you the quality you seek.

If, on the other hand, you have a relatively new cell phone, maybe an iPhone 4 or better? Or by some miracle you have a real camera in working order? Or someone in your family has a camera you can borrow for a few hours?

If none of this works for you, consider giving up photography.

Okay. Moving on. You need light to take a picture. Flash is unflattering and cheap cameras need more light than expensive ones. You don’t need to know why, just take my word for it.

ghoul in gettysburg

This means you should take your pictures outside in natural light. During the day. But not bright sunlight or in drenching rain. You knew that, right?

Rain is bad for cameras and cell phones. It’s the whole electronics versus water thing.

Bright sunlight creates unattractive sharp shadows and burns out highlights. It means you won’t be able to see anything in the bright or in shaded parts of the picture. Nor will there be much to see in the middle. Also, it makes people look all squinty.

Bright shade or a cloudy day will do the job.

Don’t pose yourself (or anyone) staring straight into a lens close up. Shot that way, everyone looks like a criminal. Just put a number under their face and you’re in an episode of Law & Order.

Have your subject turn slightly right or left. That includes you if you’re taking a selfie. Look at the screen and see if it’s an attractive picture. If not, keep moving the subject around until you like what you see.

Marilyn Herself 9

Take a lot of pictures from different angles. Let your subject move around. You can move too. If you take two dozen shots and get one you truly like, you’re doing well. The more pictures you take, the more likely you are to get a few excellent ones.

When you look in the viewfinder or screen, don’t just look at your subject. Look at the background. No trash cans. No piles of rubble. You want a neutral, pleasant backdrop. Leaves, trees, grass. A wall is good too. Mostly, you want the background to not distract from the subject.

Avoid flash for portraits. It is unflattering, like full sun and for the same reasons.

If all the pictures are unflattering, unfocused, off-color, do the right thing. Delete them. No one will thank you for making them look bad. You don’t need to be a photographer to know the most important rule of people pictures:

Everyone wants to look good.

Avoid trash cans in the background. Please!

Week 27 — STILL SHARING MY WORLD

Share Your World – 2014 Week 27

If you were the architect of one existing building, which building would you select?

carnegie-hall

I’d sign up for Carnegie Hall. It’s got superb acoustics. It was built more than 100 years ago (opened in 1891) and remains one of the premier concert halls in the world. carnegiehall-inside

What is one of your favorite quotes?

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
― Michael Crichton

What color do you feel most comfortable wearing?

Black. It’s not a statement. I like the way it looks and it’s sort of a New York thing. I’m from New York. Did I ever mention that?

What is something you learned in the last week?

I learned I am an expert, a referenced source. On stuff about which I know next to nothing. This comes as a complete and peculiar surprise.

facts expert