They called me the “Girl Who Flirts with Death.” I never saw it that way. All I wanted was somethin’ different. Grown’ up in Kansas as I did, different were hard to come by. Farms, winds, wheat, and prairies were my life. By the time I left my teenage years I were as restless as a bull sniffin’ around a cow in heat. I weren’t about to get married and have a litter of lil’ ones like every other farmgirl in the county. That was a quick road to hell, if you pardon my language. I saw what that done to Mama, bless her heart. By the time she turned 40 she was wore out from scrapin’ by on the farm and tendin’ to 9 kids. Ain’t no shame in that, but it weren’t for me. When I were 22 I left home and joined the first travelin’ carnival that would hire me.

They didn’t know what to do with me, so they gave me low jobs like muckin’ out the pens. It really weren’t no different from what I done back home, except now I got some money. Weren’t much, but it were mine. Best of all Read the rest of this entry »

Early Saturday afternoon I was suddenly consumed with a burst of restlessness, an urgent need to get out of the house and do something that did not involve staying in the house. It was a gorgeous day – high clouds, crystal blue skies, mild temperatures with low humidity. There were plenty of local options to burn off the jumpiness. We could shoot down the road into Princeton and wander among the ivy, day trippers, and shops. A short drive in any direction would take us to hiking trails and parks. We could stroll around our familiar streets and blithely comment on minor changes to our neighbor’s outdoor décor. We could do any of these things, things we’ve done 1,000 times before. But on this particular Saturday I wanted more than the usual distractions. I quickly concocted an impromptu plan.

I slipped downstairs. With the subtlety of a diplomat I asked Caryn if there was anything she hoped to get done before the end of the day. She mentioned a few things, but they all had a self-imposed deadline of Sunday night. Seeing an opening, I shot my plan at her. (Figuratively.) “Let’s go spend the night in Philly!” Within minutes we were headed south to the city where Ben Franklin fathered an illegitimate son, where Angelo Bruno was rubbed out Mafia-style in front of his home, and where Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday Texas slipped further back into its wild, wild west fantasies. A flurry of laws went into effect which make the Lone Star State a fascinating and depressing petri dish of individual liberty and systematic repression. The ever-shifting Texan ground is fertile for commentary. Today let’s focus on House Bill 1927.

House Bill 1927, named for the last year when all was right with America dammit, allows most Texans to carry a handgun without first securing a permit. Before you get all indignant, keep in mind the Texas legislature is a reasonable body comprised of rational people making common-sense laws. For example, anyone convicted of a felony or domestic violence will still need that permit. Sensible, right? You should feel ashamed for scoffing at the notion the Texas legislature is anything other than reasonable.

Assuming you are without conviction, you are now free to carry your gun as you please. You can mosey down the street and play cowboy without needing a stupid piece of paper from a stupid bureaucratic hack trying to enforce Read the rest of this entry »

shorts: 16

Posted: August 31, 2021 in Arts
Tags: , , , , , ,

Short film reviews to suit our short attention spans. If your attention holds, more can be found here.

Nomadland (2020) – A beautiful, if a bit over-romanticized, chronicle of living in America without a permanent home. (3) – 08/31/21

Waiting for Guffman (1996) – This take on the classic trope of “putting on a show” is sublimely brilliant. (3½) – 08/31/21

Dumb and Dumber (1994) – Check please! (4) – 08/31/21

Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) – Potentially fascinating historical drama offers no evidence Read the rest of this entry »

Since musician Nanci Griffith’s recent death her fans have flooded social media with an avalanche of tributes. They reflected on songs and albums which hold special meaning. They remembered concerts and television appearances. They talked about times when her music shepherded them through challenging periods. These posts were (and still are) varied, heartfelt, and often tinged with sadness and melancholy. But almost universally they were framed with feelings of gratitude and thanks.

The official announcement of her passing specifically mentioned her wish that no details surrounding it be publicly shared for at least a week. It was a curious and, in this age, unusual choice, although Read the rest of this entry »

Word came down today that my nephew was admitted to the University of Cambridge. He will begin his studies in the fall. As a statement of fact, he is officially further along than I was at 18. Heck, he is further along than I am now. Okay, I realize his accomplishment is not about me, but I simply want to assuage any uneasiness he may have harbored about a direct comparison to his New Jersey uncle. I imagine this was his predominant concern over the past several months as he awaited news of his acceptance. How could it not be? Well, the results are in and you are on it like a car bonnet. Rest easy, good nephew.

Cambridge is, as you know, one’s of the world’s most British universities. Founded over 550 years before the United States was even a gleam in a suspicious Plantagenet’s eye, they have been in the education biz for a long, long time. Not University of Bologna long. Don’t get carried away. But definitely longer than Read the rest of this entry »

The relentless avalanche of details surrounding the most recent ex-president’s last two months in office brings to mind the radio crime dramas of the 1940’s and 1950’s. Sirius XM broadcasts many of these old programs like The Whistler, Boston Blackie, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. They also rerun comedies, variety shows, and straight dramas from the golden age of radio, but it is the mysteries which are particularly entertaining and nowadays, surprisingly instructive.

These shows did not deal in subtlety. A crime was discovered. The hero arrived at the scene, sussed out the whos and whats and wheres, and quickly settled upon a primary suspect. The rest of the program Read the rest of this entry »

As a child I had a troubling, recurring dream. I was probably 4 the first time I dreamt it and it would regularly return until I was 8 or 9. I hesitate calling it a nightmare since it never reached the point where I felt helpless and doomed. I would end the threat before it got that far, but I am jumping ahead.

In the dream it was the middle of the night. The drawn curtains blocked out the street lights. I was alone on the floor lying on my stomach watching television. My arms were propped up and my head rested in my hands. The television was in my father’s living room. It was a large, very old black and white Zenith, the kind that took a moment to warm up when first turned on. A small dot would appear in the center of the screen and gradually grow larger until the full picture appeared. When it was turned off, the dot Read the rest of this entry »

“Would you like anchovies on your pizza?”

Excuse me? Anchovies on my pizza? Are you pranking me? That’s hilarious! Where is the hidden camera? While you’re at it you should ask if I’d like a nice dusting of baby powder and a fresh dollop of mud on each slice.

“Have you ever tried it?”

Wait. You’re serious? Why would I eat that? Imagine the sound of rodents racing through the walls as you sit down in a restaurant. You don’t see the wall crawlers, but does that matter? Would you still want to order food? Not if you’re with me. If you multiply that sickening feeling by 1,000 you may understand the scope of horror I feel when it comes to anchovies on pizza.

“You should try it. How can you be certain if you’ve never tried it? Do your own research, man.”

For that I had no comeback. They were right. Until I Read the rest of this entry »

Cheater. Such a damnable word, is it not? It is pinned on any unfortunate soul who dares not follow convention, who dares to bend arbitrary rules set by people with no better sense than a common smithy or White Wing. Yet it is a label I endure. For reasons as unexplainable as the north winds, some self-appointed stookies called me a cheater and it stuck.

Oh sure, they insisted I violated a regulation. However, when another competitor committed multiple, blatant abuses in the very same event they turned a blind eye. Why? I wish I knew, but it is easy to suspect Read the rest of this entry »