I haven’t written anything in at least a year and a half. I could probably judge by the date of the last version of whatever chapter I was working on in Impaired which is on a different computer. I’ve been trying to kickstart myself into writing again by reading about writing, by just reading, and by attempting to get rid of the sorry for myself feeling I have. I just reached a point, I think, where I suddenly thought “Why am I putting so much effort into this when no one cares about what I do?” And the direction society has gone, especially because of the internet and streaming, etc., books seem like an antiquated notion — isn’t that cute, kind of thing. “Influencers,” stream themselves posing or playing casino games or doing this or that and everyone is interested, it seems. They get a million followers. And so the Bud Light people decide to send a few cans of Bud Light to a transgendered woman and all the hateful people in the country light up and starting shooting their boxes of Bud Light. It’s just so hard to believe and unbelievably stupid.

But I still want to try, and too often I find myself with nothing to do and then some depression sets in and all the usual problems that writers have. So I think I’m going to try to write a short story about Larry Myers and call it The Fraud. Because that is what he is.

(Update: 9/11/23). I thought I’d call it The Fraud before one review after another came out about Zadie Smith’s new historical novel called… “The Fraud.” However, I went to my local bookstore (192) after a week since the first review and asked if they had it yet. She did, but she said she wasn’t allowed to sell it until the next day, but she said she’d sell it to me anyway. And then when she went to get a copy she said, “Oh these ones are signed.” So I got a first edition, signed, of her new book “The Fraud,” and now I have to wait until I can buy a second edition so I don’t spill something on this one!

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Parties. Lea Michelle. Barbie.

I am having an open house which, ostensibly, is to welcome people and neighbors to your new home and let them know they are invited to be your friend. The only reason I am having this party is because my sister insistered (pun intended) that I have this party. Ironically, even though I think of myself as being a loner, we’re expecting about 40 to 50 people.

I simply can’t wait for this to be over. I think it’s actually been in the back of my mind for the last month and a half. I don’t like parties – I never have. When I was a stupid teenager I used to hate parties because I thought that not being invited to a party was a fate worse than death. Later, in college, I gave a party with the help of someone else, and I simply got drunk and crawled into bed and stayed there until they all left. Tomorrow, I hope I can summon up some of that enthusiasm that Sagittarians and Leos have. But in my chart, there is no fire, and probably one of the reasons I don’t want to be at this party — a party I am giving.

Well because so many family members are here, we went to see Funny Girl with Lea Michelle and I am the only person who saw Beanie Feldstein perform the role when the production opened. I can’t say that Lea Michelle’s interpretation wasn’t better, it was, or that her singing wasn’t better, it was, or that her acting wasn’t better, it was. But I have a tiny sense that Beanie’s comedy was a little better. They were very close. But what was so annoying and probably made what would have been a spectacular and maybe even historic performance by Lea Michelle were the fans… sadly. The spectators at Broadway shows, when a famous person is involved, hinder their artistry. In this case, Lea Michelle is one of those who can “belt” — like Liza Minelli, Barbra Streisand, Jennifer Holiday, Judy Garland and to a lesser extent Jennifer Hudson and some pop singers. But because so many people have gotten their culture from GLEE and television shows, they start SCREAMING before the singer has even reached that point of adulation. In Funny Girl, the big moment is when she sings “no nobody, no nobody, is going to rain on myyyyyyyy paaaarrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaade.” (I tried to indicate how long some of those notes are meant to be held.) But when the audience starts screaming like banshees on the first P of the last word, you don’t get to hear the vibrato or the wobble or even just the length of her ability to hold the note. And what’s even more depressing, is that most singing and artistry is done with the vowels. The consonants are kind of like “stops” that allow the singer to move to the next musical phrase. So for that phrase, it’s more like this: “no noooobodeee, no noobuuudeeeee is gonnaaaa raaain on maaaaaaahy paaaaraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaid.” Anyway, Lea Michelle did a wonderful job in spite of her fans. It would have been nice if I could have heard her above the screaming.

I’ll talk about Barbie some other time, suffice to say, I wasn’t impressed.

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Oppenheimer, by Christopher Nolan, Kai Bird and Martin Sherman

I think it will be pretty much agreed when all is said and done in Christopher Nolan’s long career, that Oppenheimer will be the greatest movie he’s ever made. And it will also most likely be Cillian Murphy’s greatest performance.

The look on his face at the end of the movie (it’s the last shot but it’s not a spoiler because it’s in so many images that have already been released) is the look of someone who has haunted himself to complete mental destruction. I don’t know if that’s a little embellishment — he spent his final years in St. John’s and did a lot of sailing — eventually died of throat cancer.

But as far as an arc of a movie, it’s an absolutely brilliant ending because of course, he and his scientists created the atomic bomb and ever since we’ve been in an arms race: first between Russia and the U.S. but then other countries — North Korea is the latest. And I think the movie very clearly points out that it was a terrible thing that nuclear weapons became part of the world’s killing arsenal. We live under its threat to this day.

That there was no choice but to go ahead and create it isn’t too debatable. Russian scientists were working on it and the Nazis were also working on it.

But the movie goes much deeper into the main character and his terrors as a young student, his womanizing, and later, his expulsion from the government agency that was established after atomic weapons were made — and the congressional enemy that got him investigated and rescinded of his Q level clearance.

Still what’s most impressive about the entire movie is the long arc of going from enthusiastic scientists and technicians basically having a Mickey & Judy “let’s put on a show,” moment, to finally realizing, in fascination and horror, at what they had done or accomplished, or maybe both. Joseph Campbell talked about how certain horrific things can be sublime — probably one of the reasons we are drawn to buildings imploding — or explosions. The trinity bomb was the biggest explosion ever made. 2 more were to come. 220,000 people were killed or died of radiation poisoning.

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A Fraud

I had a teacher when I first entered college who claimed he had a PhD from Yale or some place, in theatre. He had been hired based on that credential. The University of Cincinnati had a small theatre department, but one of the reasons I went there, initially, was so that I could have a double major, which UC allowed.

I always knew I was going to move to NYC, and after I got accepted at NYU, I moved there for my Junior and Senior years. Many of my credits didn’t come with me — only some of my English and French credits, so I had to go for an extra half year. I also discovered that the GPA in my minor (Journalism) was not high enough. I really hated journalism and wans’t good at understand the concepts. I was too complicated and journalism is about simplicity. The simple, well written sentence.

Anyway, I chose English because NYU didn’t do double majors and that was a good thing. But I heard later that Larry Myers, the teacher I was talking about, had been fired from UC because he hadn’t, in fact, obtained a PhD. He was a fraud. After firing him, U.C. took what was left of the department and absorbed into its much more successful and vaunted CCM (Cincinnati Conservatory of Music), which spat out Broadway stars writers like there were too many of them. One, in fact, was my music partner in Men’s Glee, who went on to become a Tony winner: Stephen Flaherty.

But Larry Myers was now in New York, supposedly teaching at Johns Hopkins in Jamaica, (although you can never quite tell) and over the years he’s just become one of the most insane and vainglorious people on earth. He continually makes up identities so he can comment on issues in the New York Times and it’s always the case that what he writes, as this other person, never has anything to do with the article. Over these 30 years or more, I’ve come across probably 20 to 30 “comments” in various places and in various disguises.

I used to see him when he lived on Commerce Street (I lived nearby) but the last time I saw him he looked terrible — stricken — and he was walking down the street and seemed to be in a daze. He made up a story about having two laptops stolen at Port Authority, but there was police footage showing that he didn’t have laptops when he entered the building. He called it a senior moment.

But the real fraud for me was that I had been taught by this shipwreck of a human being for 2 years — and nothing he said was true. We had a book in which we studied ever play in it, EXCEPT for the black writer: Amiri Baraka, which Larry said was “just a black anger play.”

We used to go see his performances, but Larry would laugh the loudest at the jokes because he said it got others to laugh. I finally decided not to go anymore, because I didn’t like him. He remains one of the worst teacher, if not the worst, that I have ever had and although it was decades ago and he’ll never talk about the people he misled from that part of his life, it’s a damn shame our paths crossed.

I have Covid by the way. Almost no symptoms except fatigue. No fever or cold or flu. Somewhat achy neck and upper back.

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“Asteroid City,” by Wes Anderson

The one sheet (poster) for this movie explains just about everything . Tons of stars that all want to work in a Wes Anderson movie, and motionless people. Even the character who is in a jet pack of some type is being held down — not allowed to fly.

Some day, I suppose, I’ll come across an article about Wes Anderson and his movies and this brilliant critic will finally explain to me what his movies mean, and I will understand why it is I can’t see his brilliance or genius.

But until that critic arrives and finishes my education, his movies feel like a kid that’s playing the game Minecraft. Or in the real world, building something from Legos.

For me it’s simply pointless. I do not understand them. The last one I saw (The French Dispatch) was impossibly boring and I finally decided I had had enough of his wasting my time. I’m no fan of Pauline Kael, but when she agreed to a private screening of his first movie Rushmore (1998) she said to him, “Well I don’t know what you have here,” or something to that effect. I looked for the quote online but couldn’t find it. So I guess it’s not a quote.

I did like The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel. But I think I will probably be extremely high if I ever see another of his films.

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Chess Story, by Stefan Zweig

This is a short story which I believe was one of the last things Stefan Zweig wrote. (Update, it is the last thing he wrote.) And it was so interesting because it started out as just a story about a remarkable chess player prodigy, but one who could only play when he had a board in front of him. He can’t imagine or “see” a board in his mind to anticipate future moves. The “Shannon Number” is the number of possible moves in a game of chess and it is somewhere between 1o to the 111th factor and 10 to the 123rd factor. That’s more moves than there are atoms in the universe.

Now on some sort of cruise ship that the narrator (an observer of the story, like Tom in The Great Gatsby), notices an arrogant man that can’t believe this prodigy could win every game, so he starts betting and doubling down when he loses each time. On one of these games another observer butts in and says, “no don’t do that, you must do this,” and so on, and more or less explains the best he can hope for is a draw.

This man is Dr. B. and the narrator prods him to explain how he came about his extraordinary knowledge of the game. Dr. B., it turns out, is a holocaust survivor — having been isolated in Austria with absolutely no outside interaction. The only interaction he has is with a guard who brings the good. To prevent himself from going crazy, he swipes a book on chess with all the most famous games. He starts playing them, but unlike the prodigy on the ship, he “sees” these games in his head. He doesn’t need an actual board to play them. Finally, when he finds himself bored by having memorized all the games, he starts making up games in his head between himself and an alternate version of himself. This leads to more insanity, and once he is free, his doctors advise him never to play chess again.

The story is a very fine story I think, and it really captures the way the mind can trip itself up, especially when Dr. B. gets to the explanation of how he had to try to think with two personalities and try to pretend he did not know what the other was thinking. So a little story like this ends, which was originally titled, “The Royal Game,” ends up being another condemnation of the Nazis.

Stefan Zweig killed himself (his wife killed herself also) about 3 days after he sent this story off to his publisher. The story doesn’t really depict the despair he felt about Europe and the end of the Hapsburgs, but it doesn’t suggest he was struggling very hard with his mind when he was in Brazil.

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Not the Reality TV show, but my own discovery that I’m a hoarder. I’ll post a few pictures, maybe, at the end of the post. This originally started as a letter to my sister, but then I realized I was talking about despair and some pretty deep emotions.

This is the part from the letter: “You know I can look at these pictures and actually feel the despair that hoarders must feel when they start to fill rooms up and throw stuff as far to the back as possible. But what I still can’t understand is why they want to keep everything. Even though this looks horrible right now, I’m so eager to have it gone. And it’s probably not apparent, but I’m actually sorting out everything so that the white bedding I had in my “hotel” room in Newburgh is in the same box and the bedding I had in the “warm” room, is also in the same box. I’m throwing out tons of clothing that I’ve collected over decades but I have to allow them (the building) to empty the bin so it can’t all go tomorrow. But I’m definitely feeling the sadness of hoarding because I was a bit of a hoarder, I just didn’t realize it. I didn’t clean out my stuff — I just kept buying bigger and bigger storage units. And why did I have to buy so much? To have the sharpest cotton shirt. I didn’t buy anything…”

I was going to say “spectacular” or “unique.” I bought a lot of clothes from Eddie Bauer, which is just a shop that almost never changes its design and therefore, appeals to stupid men. But 30 to 50 shirts and long sleeved things? I have so much clothing stacked on the floor but, exactly like Hoarders, I can identify every fucking piece of clothing and bedding. So, like those idiots, I can look at piece of wrinkled fabric and say, “Oh that’s from my Hotel Room in Newburgh,” where I designed a guest bedroom with almost entirely white fabric. The chair and the desk were also white. Why am I trying to convey that message to anyone? It was a white room, and nobody liked it.

The room that I designed that I called the “warm” room, was designed for greys and blues and almost everyone wanted to stay in it. So now, I’m sitting here trying to fold and press and put the blue and grey (they warm room) into another couple of boxes.

But what I’m really trying to do is boast. It should all be thrown out, and I finally realized why Trump is so fucking stupid. He took all those classified documents, knowing he had lost the election, and then said, “Here’s what they did for me. Look at this. I wanted to know how we could attack Iran. And look at this. The Pentagon gave me some papers that showed me how to bomb Iran.”

The moral of the story, is that I’m sitting here trying to justify sending bedding and such to Ohio, when the fact is I’m a hoarder. I’m like Trump, trying to say “this is what I had access to…” but when the truth is, I’m just a hoarder with money.


Hoarder’s last words. hahahahahahahahhaha

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The annual spelling bee for students was just concluded and it’s worth looking at the video of the young boy who won. Dev Shah.

In the Times article, they had a list of words which knocked out the competition. But one of them, I’m pasting it here and it might include the links, had a definition that was one of those that you have to look up the other words in order to understand it.

crenel: one of the embrasures alternating with merlons in a battlement.

I don’t know what Crenel means, and I don’t know what embrasures or merlons mean, and I only have a slight sense of what a battlement is.

So embrasure is usually a slit in the wall of a castle that is wider on the inside than on the outside to shoot arrows through. It is also the gap on the parapets on top of the castle that allow canons to shoot canon balls, or just a bunch of men with bows and arrows.

Merlons are the solid portion of that defensive wall, or battlement.

A battlement is a parapet meant for defense against an enemy, but can also be for decoration.

So now we know what a crenel is.

The word he spelled correctly was psammophile. An organism that thrives in sandy soils, like a cactus. He, an 8th grader, knew that psamm or psam was Greek for sand and phile was Greek for lover. Very impressive.

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Stupid Post… Office

It’s so ridiculous, but some number of years ago the post office, strapped with ridiculous rules by congress to fund the retirement of employees that they hadn’t even hired, decided on a Forever stamp. Speculators and people that enjoy loopholes didn’t realize that even if you bought 10 million stamps at the Forever price and sold them later for 10 cents, you were betting on the fact that the post office has to raise prices almost every year.

But what the “Forever” label has actually accomplished, is a blindfold. Nobody knows what it costs to send a letter. (As of this writing, in June, 2023, it’s 63 cents for a single sheet of paper, usually a bill.) The “Forever” label on stamps has hidden the true value, except to collectors.

And I haven’t said this much, but I’ve said it enough, collecting is an important part of living. On television cable shows they show the results of hoarding, but collecting is not hoarding. Collecting — I’m going to grab at something bizarre — Horse saddles from the 1800s. TV also likes to show the riches of collecting. But that’s also rare. The importance of collecting is the concentration your tiny brain gives to this one thing.

So I collect stamps. I stopped a very long time ago with my American collection, because they were issuing one collectible after another. Every week, like an impoverished country or Island which have always relied on stamps to bring in some money. Once the US started acting like Bermuda, I realized our postal service had turned into a business that was supposed to make money. And they had to do it because of Congress and the Republican’s attempt to destroy the post office and privatize the service.

I wasn’t half wrong. I was half right. The only “service” outlined in the constitution of the U.S. is the postal service, which says it will run (a post office, I’ll look it up later), but the postal service was so important back then (1770’s) in its battle with the British, that the agency was written into the constitution. It required the U.S. to maintain a postal service. This was written, by the way, before the 1st or 2nd Amendment or the following 8 that make up the bill of rights. It’s part of the original constitution. IMHO, it would probably be unconstitutional to privatize the post office. But I don’t think it’s ever come up because it’s so deep inside our constitution. It’s not even one of the amendments which are usually the subject of cases the make it to the supreme court. The most recent “threatened” amendment was the 14th. And it still is, with Trump declaring that he will eliminate birthright citizenship with a scratch of his psychotic signature. (He does not know how to make a curve.) He doesn’t have that power, but like all tyrants, he will try to claim it.

Anyway, the “Forever” stamp is just a way of hiding postage rates. Our government uses tactics of the casino to govern, because casinos have had a very long history and have done a lot of research into human psychology. Replacing real money with casino chips, and making every chip just about the same size, allows you to forget that you are betting 40$ on a hand that you are likely to lose. “Forever” is the equivalent of the casino chip. It means nothing. It’s not a denomination. The small amount of money the post office loses on people who buy thousands of forever stamps and then sell them at a perceived discount when the price goes up is peanuts for the p.o.

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The end of Barry was literally the end of Barry. And the end of everyone except the one truly despicable character, Monroe. There’s not as much to discuss as there was with Succession. But one interesting story telling device is that there were two flash fowards: one of about 5 years and another of maybe 10. The first was at the start of the season when Barry and Sally are living out in the desert somewhere and have a 5 year old son. Second was in the last episode which jumped about 10 years and the boy is now about 15. He might be a little younger. I couldn’t tell. Anyway, Sally has just directed Our Town for a high school where she works at (it snows there so it’s got to be midwest, I think). Her son John asks if he can sleep over his friend’s house and his friend keeps saying it’s time. You think they might be talking about cigarettes or drugs or beer. But what he’s talking about is a movie that was made of his father’s life. In it, Barry is portrayed as a hero that is brutally gunned down by Mr. Cousineau. Mr. C. is also blamed for the cold blooded murder of his girlfriend. And the final credits tell us that Jean Cousineau is being held in a maximum security prison for life. Sad ending, but he did kill Barry.

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