LATE NIGHT DOSES OF SANITY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I can’t stop reading or watching the news. I don’t read as much or watch as obsessively as I used to, but I can’t stay away.

I do have an antidote to the craziness and corruption I read about during the day. The secret to my mental stability is a healthy dose of the late night talk shows. They reaffirm my belief that intelligent and moral life still exist in this country. It also confirms for me that I’m not alone in seeing the Trump Administration as dangerous and erratic, out of touch with reality, and just plain stupid and uninformed.

I’m comforted by the jokes and comments of the liberal late night hosts. They voice my frustrations and fears, horror and exasperation. Lately it even seems that the late night personalities are having an impact on the national discussion of issues.

Jimmy Kimmel recently gave an emotional monologue about his infant son’s heart surgery and his need for health insurance in order to survive. It reached, and touched, a lot of people. A conservative Republican Senator got into a pissing contest with Kimmel and came off badly. Some people think that Kimmel may have humanized the issue of health care and helped prevent the repeal from passing in the Senate.

Kimmel talking about his son and tearing up

Maybe when the ‘Trump is crazy and dangerous’” drumbeat from different sources gets loud enough and broad enough, it may give courage to the timid Republicans who agree, but are afraid to act.

Republican Senator Bob Corker said in an interview that most Republican senators agree that Trump is insane, incompetent, a moron, and temperamentally unfit to be President. They also agree he is a serious danger to the country and the world. So now, all we have to do is get these assholes to speak out. Then something constructive might actually happen in Washington, D.C.

Even Trump’s faithful are beginning to abandon him. Recent polls show significant erosion of support from his ‘base’. So maybe soon, Republican Congressmen can be less afraid of losing electoral support from this ‘base’, and more afraid of a nuclear war being started by a tweet.

Maybe the voices of sanity in the government, the press, the internet and on television, will crescendo to a level where Republicans will have to listen and actually do something about Trump. I don’t know if or when this will happen. But my nightly doses of reality and sanity keep my hope alive.

GOOD NEWS STARTS WITH A BALL AND A BAT

Where have all “the positive” stories gone? Didn’t there used to be “positive stories” on the news?

Actually, the answer to that is “not really.” Even in the better-than-now old days, when the world was a little bit less insane, and calamities weren’t a daily (hourly?) event, news media focused their efforts on evil-doers.

Drugs. Murder. Fire. Car crashes. Plane crashes. Derailment. Financial disasters. Trials. Protests. Scandal. More scandal.

Garry worked in the news from 1962 until he retired in 2001. He didn’t do a lot of “positive” stories. He did a lot of murders, trials, drugs, fires, and blizzards. The theory of news stations is that death and destruction sells best. If you don’t have death and destruction, scandal and political protests can take up the slack. If, by some miracle, you run out of scandal … well … maybe you can add a feature about glorious autumn leaves or the new, improved zoo. Maybe there’s a hero somewhere getting an award.

That’s not just the way it is. That is the way it was and has been, as long as there has been “news.”


News isn’t good. It should be called “bad news” since it pretty much always is. Bad, that is.

They used to say “if it bleeds, it leads.” Carnage makes news sell better. If you can scare people to death, your ratings are sure to go up. We complain about the awful things going on politically and climatically, but news ratings are way up. The worse things get, the higher ratings go. Even people — like us — who used to avoid watching news find we watch at least a piece of it every night because we have to at least keep up with change.

The only other thing that sells news as well as murder is extremely bad weather. If, by some extraordinary luck, you get terrible weather that also results in deaths, bet your ass every news channel will be on it like ticks on a dog.

It is interesting to me that the same people who complain about how we don’t have any “good news” on the news, also complain that sports are a waste of time. Because essentially, sports are the good news portion of the news.

The point of sports is to have something entertaining and involving which doesn’t include politics, ranting commentaries, and piles of bodies. For example, you can get fully engrossed in baseball for decades or your whole life. The most tragedy you are likely to experience is a bad shoulder injury by a winning pitcher, a losing home team, or maybe a scandal. Even the scandals rarely involve death or destruction.

I have learned to enjoy sports. I don’t come from a sporting family, though I know back in the very old days, we listened to the Dodgers on the radio and rooted for them. We weren’t fanatics, but we were interested. For the past couple of years, the Red Sox and the Patriots have brought smiles to our faces even when the rest of the world was in a state of siege.

Say what you want about “overpaid athletes.” You try throwing a fastball 90 feet to get the batter out at the plate. It may be a game, but it isn’t an easy game. I bet you couldn’t play it no matter how much money they offered you. They pay these guys a lot of money the same way and for the same reasons we pay actors, singers, dancers, and other performers a lot of money. Entertainment matters. Why do you feel a great pitcher is less deserving of being well-paid than a movie or television star? You mean … pretending to be a detective on TV is so much more validating than playing quarterback on a football team? Because being a fake detective is inherently more enriching than throwing a ball?

We pay entertainers — including athletes — a lot of money because they do things we can’t do and which we enjoy seeing. Because we need something in our world that is interesting, involving, and fun. A place in our universe where we can go and just enjoy it. Whatever it is.

This doesn’t mean that we aren’t interested in the arts. Or books, movies, music, television and other events humans enjoy when they aren’t fully absorbed in horrors of politics and war. But sports is more than just entertainment. It gives us something to root for. These days, we need that. I need that. I absolutely need something I can be “for” which isn’t life and death.

Sports has been our saving grace of the past few years as what used to be reality turned surreal — and sometimes became meaningless.

The next time you watch the news, consider that there is good news. It’s sports.

DECEMBER BOYS (2007) DANIEL RADCLIFFE – RICH PASCHALL

DECEMBER BOYS (2007)


Movie Review, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

You probably missed it in the theater.  Daniel Radcliffe stars in this independent production at the height of the Harry Potter phenomenon.  The Australian made film found a big name distributor for the USA and Canada, Warner Brothers.  Yes, the same mega movie studio that distributed Harry Potter.  If you were the producer of this little Australian project, you might have expected to hit the jackpot with Radcliffe’s star power, plus one of the biggest movie distributors in the world.  You would have been wrong.

Distributor: Warner Independent

Distributor: Warner Independent

Filmed down under in 2006, December Boys is based on the novel of the same name.  The setting was moved up from the 1930s to the 1960s and is told as a flashback, as it was in the book.  This allows the ending to be brought up to modern times. The boys are orphans at a Catholic institution.  Four boys (five in the novel) share December birthdays. Each is given a gift of a Christmas holiday at a large beachfront home.

Radcliffe, a teenager at the time, is the oldest of the boys, known as Maps.  The other three, Spit, Spark (or Sparks, the film is unclear) and Misty are younger boys of about the same age.  Misty is the narrator.

For Radcliffe, this is a coming of age story.  He meets a girl who is a bit of a wild child and through the course of the movie you will see Radcliffe smoke, drink and, well, if you don’t know what they were doing in that cave, you were never a teenager.  Later, Maps dismisses an inquiry by one of the younger boys about that mark on his neck.

The home of the older couple who hosts the boys’ holiday introduces the element of health problems of one of the adults.  It’s a bit of a sad sidetrack to a storyline filled with side tracks.  There is also an old fisherman at the sea trying to catch some elusive large fish.  Naturally one of the boys get caught in that story line.

Then there’s the young couple who fail to conceive a child.  When the young husband tells the priest from the orphanage they are having trouble getting pregnant, you know what the priest will suggest.  Misty overhears and determines to be the one adopted. Eventually he tells the priest he was eavesdropping. The other boys force him to spill the story.  Then the little ones try to be model citizens, while Maps knows an older boy will never be adopted.

There are plenty of hi-jinks for the boys.  The young man pushing the adoption with his wife owns a motorcycle and gives the younger boys rides along the beach.  Misty goes in the water and nearly drowns and our hero comes to the rescue. Do I have to tell you who?  There is disappointment and heartbreak in store. Throughout, the single thing the boys share is the only family they know, each other.

In addition to various goofs, some of the symbolism is confusing. And unnecessary.  A dark stallion periodically appears, symbolizing something, but I’m not sure what. Misty has “visions” of the future — nuns and the Virgin Mary.  It works having Misty picture the future through an empty frame; the rest doesn’t work. Boomers may find the out-of-time 1970s songs jarring.

Radcliffe wasn’t paid a big salary to make the movie.  He probably wanted a chance to be someone other than Harry Potter.  The character of Lucy, with whom Maps has a relationship, was not in the novel.  Perhaps this intrigued Radcliffe. Perhaps it worried Warner Brothers.

When the film opened in September of 2007, it had staggered release dates for Sydney, Melbourne, and London, most likely so Radcliffe could attend. When Warner Brother opened it as a “limited release” in the US, it was on four screens the first week, eight the next, and 13 next. After which it more or less disappeared. Not exactly a grand opening for a boy known round the world. Of course, the boy was known for a specific role and Warner Brothers wanted to keep it that way, at least to the degree they could control it.

It didn’t make much money. Of course. In the U.S., it grossed about $100,000 during its three-week release in September 2007. The film cost an estimated $4 million and grossed around a million dollars (U.S. and Australia) during its theatrical release. It’s currently available as a digital download from Amazon, and on used DVD.

December Boys got mixed reviews. The confusion of the story lines mixed together was criticized.  Immortal film critic Roger Ebert said, “There seem to be two movies going on here at the same time, and “December Boys” would have been better off going all the way with one of them.”  One thing critics agreed on: young Daniel could play someone other than Harry Potter.

The “coming of age” story with Lucy and Maps was created for the big screen. Perhaps therein lay some of the problem of plot development.  It might have been better to skip the extra plot and have Radcliffe play a boy who everyone looked up to, who came in to save the day when there was trouble for any of the other characters.

Oh wait, he was already doing that. Rather successfully too.

NO LONGER INVISIBLE – RICH PASCHALL

Hunter Hayes, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


Crowded hallways are the loneliest places
For outcasts and rebels
Or anyone who just dares to be different

He admits it.  He is a geek.  Someone who is a bit different from the crowd.  He was picked on in school, not severely like some others, but a little anyway.  He was not one of the cool kids.  Perhaps you would consider him a bit of an outcast, not a rebel.

And you’ve been trying for so long
To find out where your place is
But in their narrow minds
There’s no room for anyone who dares to do something different

He also loves music.  He always loved music.  He loves to play it and to sing and even to write it.  Perhaps the others just did not know, but he was good, real good.  He mastered the instruments he played, lots of instruments.  He was different and he dreamed different.

Live at Sears Centre, Illinois

Oh, but listen for a minute

He received encouragement at home and from friends and could shake off those who would look down on him, even push him around.  He was encouraged to seek out his dream, and he did just that.  Now he has advice for those who feel different, outcast, or even Invisible.  They may hurt inside, but he wants them to know they will not always be “Invisible.”

Trust the one
Who’s been where you are wishing all it was
Was sticks and stones
Those words cut deep but they don’t mean you’re all alone
And you’re not invisible

So Hunter made music and pursued his dream and people took notice.  He didn’t look different to promoters and friends. He looked like the All American Boy who could sing and play.  He got jobs and gave performances and got a record deal.  He became a sensation to the You Tube generation and could fill theaters and concert halls.  Soon he had hits and had a story to tell.  In fact his second studio album is titled Storyline.  He’s one of the cool kids now.

Hear me out,
There’s so much more to life than what you’re feeling now
Someday you’ll look back on all these days
And all this pain is gonna be invisible
Oh, invisible

And his message comes from the heart:

So your confidence is quiet
To them quiet looks like weakness
But you don’t have to fight it
‘Cause you’re strong enough to win without a war

Hunter was confident in his ability to play and write music.  He won his war.  He became what others in the high school hallway would not have expected.  He became a star.  He also got a Grammy nomination for Best Country Solo Performance of his song, “Invisible.”  In addition to writing the song, the studio album also credits him for “Lead vocals, Piano, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Percussion.”

Every heart has a rhythm
Let yours beat out so loudly
That everyone can hear it

Everyone can hear Hunter now.  He’s hit the big time. He did not do it for the bling.  He does not have a crew of hangers-on.  He meets fans, signs autographs and gives thanks for what he has.  Now the cool kids and the geeks are fans of Hunter.  At age 25 Hunter Hayes has garnered a long list of award nominations since picking up Country Music Association Award for New Artist of the Year (2012) . It does not get cooler than that.  To his fans, Hunter wrote in the Storyline notes, “Thank you for not only giving the music its meaning, but also for giving me a place where I feel I belong.”

And someday you’ll look back on all these days
And all this pain is gonna be invisible
It’ll be invisible

“It sucked at the time…” I guess its okay now.

Note:  On August 26, 2017 Hunter Hayes was the opening act for Zac Brown Band at Wrigley Field, Chicago.

Invisible, Hunter Hayes, Bonnie Baker, Katrina Elam, 2014, Songs of Universal Inc.

MY FAVORITE FAMILY ADVENTURE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Whenever the topic of traveling comes up, I will invariably go on and on about my all time favorite type of vacation – a drive through the canals of England. Not many people know that there is an extensive canal system that winds through the English countryside. The boats used on them are called Narrow Boats. They are large, steel houseboats, about seven feet wide (which is very narrow) and from 45-65 feet long. You drive the boats yourself and they can only go up to five miles per hour. It is a leisurely and relaxing vacation – or it can be.

In 1987, my family of four took a week-long canal trip with our close friends, the Millers, an English family of four. The kids were ages two (my daughter), six (their daughter), seven (my son) and eight (their son).

Our summary page for the trip

Our boat was 65 feet long, slept eight easily and had two dedicated bedrooms, a living area, eating area, kitchen and bathroom. It was surprisingly comfortable, even for eight people. The boat was driven, with a single tiller, from a small outside deck at the back of the very long-boat.

Our trip started inauspiciously. Our seven-year old son fell into the water just trying to get on the boat for the first time! Things improved for a while and we all enjoyed the beautiful scenery for the rest of the first day.

On the third day, our two-year old daughter ran in to where the rest of us were having breakfast and asked, “Why is it raining in the bedroom?” That set off alarms! Sure enough, water was pouring into the back bedroom, right where both families had stored their fabric suitcases. We had to make room wherever we could to dry out all the clothes that were soaked by this major leak.

We called the boat rental company and reported the problem. We had to pull over, in the middle of a field of cows, and wait for the repairman to come, by car, and fix the boat.

It was actually a lovely morning in a picturesque setting. Some of us took the bikes we had brought and rode along the path beside the canal. We also got up close and personal with some of the local cows. The kids were thrilled. The boys also played soccer in the cow’s field.

When we got underway again, we were heading to Birmingham, a city on our route. We were warned that the canal part of the city was not a safe or savory place to spend the night. We had to get through the large city and out the other side before dark.

We realized that we had reached the city when we started to see garbage and dead animals, including cats, floating in the water. It was getting dark. We began freaking out. We had to push on and hope to reach the city limits before we had to pull over (no lights, no night driving). We made it, with maybe a few minutes to spare. We were incredibly lucky and equally relieved.

Our next incident occurred when we stopped at a charming canal side pub for lunch. My ex husband, Larry, a lawyer, decided to call his office in New York City to check in. Big mistake. There had been a major crisis at work and Larry had to return to New York ASAP. We had to figure out how to get Larry from the middle of nowhere, back to London and onto a plane. That turned out to involve a taxi ride to a train, the train to a subway and the subway to Heathrow airport.

The rest of us had a wonderful afternoon exploring the ruins of an ancient Abbey in a beautiful woods.

Soccer in the ruins of the old abbey

One other aspect of this trip deserves mention. The locks. English locks have to be operated manually and take lots of time and effort. Everybody pitched in to master the 119 locks that we had to pass through over the course of the week. We had the kids ‘help’ and made it into a fun exercise. But 119 is a shitload of locks! We also had two ‘flights of locks’, which are numerous locks one right after the other with no space in between. We did as many as 43 locks in one day!

Near the end of the week the remaining Dad took the two boys on another bike ride. The four girls were left on the boat, tied, as usual, to a stake at the edge of the canal. I was washing dishes and looked out the window. I saw that the shore was farther away than it should have been. The rope tying us down had come loose and we were drifting into the canal.

The other mom waded into the water, got to shore and grabbed the rope. She tried to pull us back to shore. Instead, the boat pulled her into the water. The two little girls thought this was hysterical. We all ended up laughing as I also had to wade into the water to help my friend tie the boat down again.

Beautiful canal views

Most canal trips are far less eventful. I’ve spent three weeks on the canals since then, and had next to no problems. But despite our challenges, we all loved the 1987 vacation. We still remember it fondly and talk about it often, thirty years later. It was even brought up in a toast at the Miller daughter’s wedding! It is definitely a fun trip – also interesting, different, exciting, sometimes relaxing and, above all else, memorable!

PONDERING PUBLISHING AND THE WORLD GONE BY

I usually say I wouldn’t want to ever work again, but I got to thinking about that. I realized if I could get back my job as editor at Doubleday? I’d do it in a heartbeat. How many jobs give you unlimited sick days, two-hour lunches, and require you to read sleazy novels during the day? And pay you for the privilege? And give you the best bunch of people as colleagues you could hope for.

We met at Doubleday!

I also had to write stuff about the books I read, but a long review was still shorter than any of the pieces I write for this blog. Even in my crumbling state of health, I think I could handle it.

The trouble is, the job doesn’t exist. Publishers are thoroughly conglomerated. Each is a subsection of some über corporation where books are one of many products — and not an important product, either.

The 1970s were wonderful years for reading. It was a tremendous period for books and book clubs — and for literature as an art. In those days, reading was major entertainment. People read books and talked about them by the water cooler. If you got excited about a book, you told all your friends … and they read it, too.


Before the internet.

Before cell phones.

Before cable and satellite television.

Before computers and many years before WiFi …

We had books.

Other entertainment? Of course there were movies, but you had to see them in a movie theater. Television was there, but it had limitations. We had — in New York which was entertainment central — seven channels. Unless you had a really good antenna on the roof, you rarely got a clear picture. There was interference called “snow.” Pictures rolled — up, down, and side-to-side. Vertical and horizontal holds on your TV were designed to help control it. Sometimes, they did, but I remember many nights of giving up and turning the set off because we couldn’t get a decent picture. Meanwhile, many of us used a set of rabbit-ear antennas that worked sometimes — if the wind was blowing due west.

I spent more time trying to convince the rabbit-ears to receive a signal than watching shows.

Doubleday in Garden City, NY

Not surprisingly, television wasn’t our primary source of entertainment. Instead, we read books — and we talked to each other — something we old folks continue to do. Sometimes, we had conversations that lasted for hours and in my life, occasionally ran into weeks. Blows your mind, doesn’t it? All that talking without a phone? Without texting, either.

Books were big business. If you wrote anything reasonably good, there were more than enough publishers who might be interested in printing it. I miss that world, sometimes more than I can say.

All of this got me thinking about how hard it is to get books published these days. So many people I know have written really good books and have never found anyone to back them. It’s rough on writers, and it’s not a great sign for the art of literature. Not only has our political world caved in, but our literary world is sliding down a long ramp to nowhere. In theory, many more books are published today because anyone can publish anything — and sell it on Amazon. All books — the great, good, mediocre, and truly awful are lumped together. Most of them are rarely read since none of them are being promoted by a publisher. This isn’t a small thing. Publishers were a huge piece of what made books great. If your publisher believed you’d written something excellent, you could count on being visible on the shelves of bookstores everywhere. You’d also be part of book club publications. People — reading people — would see your book. There were book columns and reviews — and people read them they way they read stuff on upcoming television shows today.

Of course, we are also suffering from the vanishing bookstore … a whole other subject.

A great idea followed by a well-written manuscript was just the beginning of a book’s life story. From the manuscript, publishers took books and did their best to sell them to the world. Today, all that pushing and pitching is left to authors, including those whose books typically sell well.

Can anyone imagine how Faulkner, Hemingway and Thomas Wolf would do trying to “work the marketplace”? No doubt there were writers who were able to do the balancing of writing and marketing, but many authors are not particularly sociable. A good many are downright grumpy and a fair number are essentially inarticulate. They are not naturals to the marketing gig.

And … ponder this … what kind of blog do you think Faulkner … or … Eugene O’Neill … would have written?

I miss books. I miss authors. I miss publishers. I miss carefully edited manuscripts and beautifully published books where you could smell the ink and paper as you cracked the cover open. It was a heady perfume.

HOTTER THAN FIRE – RICH PASCHALL

Hot Summer Dancing, by Rich Paschall


Summer is in full swing, just like your dance moves.  The nights are hot and the days are sweltering.  We can tell by the sweat running down your flushed face that you are not just a Hot Child in the City, but that you have the Dance Fever.  It happens to many so do not be five alarmed.  In The Heat of the Night, you just have to get up and move.  We are not handing you a Hot Line, just our top ten HOT dance tunes.

If our last top ten list of Dance Songs did not get you out of your chair, we think these will do it.  They are hot, really hot.  In fact, they are so hot all the titles tell you so.  Yes, they all have heat (or fire) in the title.  Since you have heat in your shoes, get up and bust a move to these dance tunes. Click on any song title for the song and video, or get the entire playlist at the end.

10.  Hot Blooded, Foreigner.  Sometimes dancing is not enough in the 1978 hit.  “Well, I’m hot-blooded, check it and see / I got a fever of a hundred and three / Come on baby, do you do more than dance?”  The single sold more than a million copies and also appeared on the Double Vision album.

09. Heat Wave, Martha and the Vandellas.  There are many hot versions of this song, especially this one by Linda Ronstadt, but we thought it was best to go with this Classic version by Martha Reeves.  The 1963 release went to number one.  Yes, it was a hot hit.

08. Just Like Fire, Pink.  “Just like fire, burning out the way / If I can light the world up for just one day / Watch this madness, colorful charade / No one can be just like me any way.” And no one can be just like you on the dance floor.  Get up and groove to this 2016 pop hit.

07. Heat of the Moment, Asia.  This was a 1982 hit for the alternative rock group.  “It was the heat of the moment /Telling me what your heart meant /The heat of the moment shone in your eyes.”

06. Hot Fun In The Summertime, Sly and the Family Stone.   We can see that you are starting to pant, so it is time to slow the playlist down for a couple of songs before we have a scorching hot finish.  This 1969 hit added a bit of funk and a bit of soul to the hot tune.

05. Too Hot, Kool and the Gang. The smooth 1979 R&B hit should add some soul to your step.  “Oh it’s too hot, too hot, lady / Gotta run for shelter / Gotta run for shade.”

04. Hot Stuff, Donna Summer.  By 1979 the disco queen was rocking up the tempo with this single from her seventh studio album, Bad Girls.  “How’s ’bout some hot stuff, baby this evenin’ / I need some hot stuff baby tonight.”

03. Hot, Hot, Hot, Buster Poindexter.  This infectious dance tune got an over-the-top performance in 1987 by singer David Johansen as Poindexter.  It will add a bit of calypso to your dancing feet.

02. The Heat Is On, Glenn Frey.  This tune was recorded for the 1984 movie Beverly Hills Cop.  It received a Grammy nomination for Frey and a lot of air play.  The music video was very popular in the early days of MTV.  “The heat is on (flames are burning higher) / The heat is on (baby can’t you feel it) .”

01. Hotter Than Fire, Eric Saade.  The Swedish pop star scored so big with the 2011 dance tune that there were actually two official videos.  The first one featured pictures and graphics, while the second one had Saade dancing through many sets.  You might be cooler than ice, but your dance moves are Hotter Than Fire.

Play the entire hot playlist with Bonus tracks here.
Related: Can’t Stop The Feeling