Wednesday, July 16

How to Be an Asshole

The London Review of Books, July 17, 2014 issue, arrived this week with four books given prominence on the front page. “How to Be an Asshole,” reviewed by Sheila Heti, was number four. I doubt anyone could turn himself into  body orifice, but, what the heck, I’ve read books on everything else, why not a “how to be” an “ass” (if not an asshole) and aggravate family, loved ones, friends, neighbors and the old man next to you on the public bus going to pick up his unemployment check. I could hardly contain myself long enough to tear off the plastic wrapper and see man’s guide on how to aggravate and torment.

It turned out that “how to be an asshole” was merely an editor’s slug line to capture attention. Ms. Heti reviewed “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., by Adelle Waldman.  (Windmill, 244 pp.) Nathaniel is a struggling writer trying to exist in Brooklyn while waiting for the miracle call from a publisher that something he has written is going to be published and please find an advance check enclosed. He is running one night to a party and encounters a woman he once dated.
“She tells him he is an ‘asshole’ for his behavior after her abortion in the wake of one of their trysts. (He phoned only once in the weeks after the operation, a quick check-up.) He’s annoyed by her accusation, and defensively soothes himself as he walks away: ‘She could have called him,’ he thinks.” This qualifies, surely and unequivocally, as either “ass" or “asshole” attitude and behavior.

The review (by a woman – Ms. Heti) goes on for approximately five and a quarter 14” columns and tells us it is important that a woman (Ms. Waldman) write about a man and his relationship with a woman named Hannah (not the one of the abortion) but who in the end settles on Greer “about whom there are many negative things” but whose story will “sell for six figures.”  Hannah’s won’t: “She lacks charisma, is morally cautious, has an average body.”

Maybe Nathaniel is, after all, capable of being an orifice.

Thursday, July 10

Come to Boston

Joan Baez's rendition of "Please Come to Boston" (a major hit by Kenny Loggins back in the seventies)  has always been one of my favorites and I took her advice recently and went up to Boston. I flew on Jet Blue airlines. This was my first experience with this line and it was a good one. Ticketing, checking my free bag, boarding, departing and arriving on schedule was smooth and efficient. I will use that line again whenever I can. After landing in Boston I went to New Hampshire to visit a sister and do a bit of looking around. Two of my sons and a D-I-L met me and we shopped at the Merrimack 80 Premium Outlet near Nashua.
Two sons and a D-I-L

Two sons and no relation.

View from 9th floor, Hilton Hotel at Logan Airport
Part of service area at Logan.
Rain clouds.Red Sox game delayed. 
Raining on the parade.

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Sunday, June 29

Looking for love

Moving up the Lane

Yesterday I was sitting at my desk looking out the window for the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes team to come down the Lane and give me a check for a million dollars, or $5,000 a week for life, or whatever they have promised me and a few million other gullible fools who open their e-mails. 
Suddenly, a Great Egret was looking in my front window and walking around my yard. I ran to grab my camera and call my wife to see this large, white eloquent bird with a yellow beak before he disappeared. I went into the yard and took several pictures of this beautiful bird in ours and two other adjoining front yards. It was exciting to watch this bird, especially when he stopped to look with love in his eyes at a metal replica of his species standing in the adjoining neighbor’s garden. When he decided there was no future for him with the replica he moved on. 
In a second yard a couple of small grandchildren came out of the house and startled the Great Egret. He took flight across the street and a few seconds later, still airborne about six feet off the ground, he headed for a golf course that wraps around our house.

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Thursday, June 26

A Hundred Years Later

This Saturday, June 28, 2014 is a most significant date in world history: the 100th anniversary of an event leading thirty days later to World War I, also called the Great War, the European war, and many other such titles. 
If we look only at books on the history of World War I which we are likely to read because English is our native language, we have 5,962 books published in the United States and another 1,295 in England to choose from.  (Figures courtesy of
Think about it. An average of 73 books has been published in the English language each year over the last 100 years dealing with World War I. Talk about a growth industry.

It all started on a Saturday in Sarajevo, June 28, 1914, when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife Sophie, were assassinated by a young Serb, Gavrilo Princip. He was one of five Serbs and one Bosnian Muslim, all under the age of 20, who set about the assassination that day. The political objective of the assassination was to break off Austria-Hungary's south-Slav provinces so they could be combined into a Yugoslavia. The assassination led directly to the First World War when Austria-Hungary subsequently issued an ultimatum against Serbia, which was partially rejected. Austria-Hungary then declared war, marking the outbreak of the war on July 28, 1914.
Before long all of Europe was at war with one nation or the other. Sides were chosen based on self-interest, earlier treaties and opportunities perceived. Stalemate eventually set in. It was only when the Unite States threw its hat in the ring and brought its manpower, industrialization, and money to the conflict that the balance shifted and the war to end all wars was ended.
Many historians and scholars hold to the view that World War I led to the Second World War; that issues raised between 1914 and 1918 were never fully put to rest and another war was inevitable.  This debate goes on today and you can pick it up among the 7,257 books available in English on
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Monday, June 23

Life's little pleasures

I am a few ticks north of 80 and continue to have new and pleasurable experiences from time to time. Today is a good example of what I am writing about. I had my first salon pedicure courtesy of my two oldest sons and first daughter who gave me a Father’s Day gift certificate at a local salon.
For about the last 50 years or so I have used shipyard pipe cutters to nibble away at my toe nails to keep from ruining pairs of Gold-Toe socks and be able to get my feet into my shoes. I’ve also gone to a podiatrist a few times, but those trips were usually first for a foot problem/checkup with a quick clip, file and out the door thrown in. 
I don't know why I never had a pedicure before. People have been doing it for over 4,000 years. To me it was something real men did not do: go into a beauty salon. Even to day I do not like having my hair cut in a salon. In South Carolina, you have to be a licensed barber (usually male) to shave a man's neck with cream and a razor. I fear I am digressing or as we say, chasing rabbits. Back to my toe nails. 
As the years went on my toe nails grew hard and thick. I told my family thick toe nails meant massive brain power. My late wife said it was more likely I was thick-headed than smart.  

Pedicurist chair 
At the neighborhood salon today, an efficient lady named Theresa had me sit in a specially designed pedicure chair with an attached granite tub and fiberglass footrest. The tub was a jet whirlpool. Talk about fancy seating. Such chairs, I later learned, cost retail about $3,900. I stuck my feet into the whirlpool filled with warm water and a soap that made it all look like a cauldron of bubbling warm pink grapefruit juice. After a suitable soak she went to work and cut, trimmed, sanded, filed, creamed and massaged my feet. It was truly a pleasurable experience and one I intend to go back for.
Meanwhile, thanks kids. It is a superb gift. 

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Friday, June 13

That Man

It does not matter when a book was written. If you have not read it then when you do the contents will nourish, enlighten and entertain.  Such is the case with That Man, a memoir written in the early 1950s by Robert H. Jackson, one of the giants of the Franklin D. Roosevelt era. Jackson was an intimate of Roosevelt (they vacationed and fished together) and served as Solicitor General, Attorney General, Supreme Court Justice and America’s chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials of the top Nazis after World War II.

Jackson’s suffered a major heart attack in March 1954, and was hospitalized. In May, he went directly from the hospital to the Supreme Court where he joined the other eight justices in the unanimous decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, declaring school segregation to be unconstitutional. He died in October 1954. He had been at work on the memoir prior to his major heart attack.

That Man was an epithet used by Roosevelt haters in the thirties and early forties who could not bring themselves to even speak his name. But by the mid-forties when Roosevelt ran successfully for a fourth term it was obvious he had won the argument as to his worth.

After his death the manuscript came into the hands of Jackson’s son, William, and when he died in 1999, the family found it a closet and later turned it over to John Q, Barrett, a law professor at St. John’s University in New York, who was at work on a biography of Justice Jackson.

Jackson wrote about FDR as he knew and observed him. The manuscript is anecdotal, not researched in great detail. Think sitting around with the family and telling stories about a favorite member who has died.

Reading in short spells over a period days I reflected on my feelings about FDR, and how they changed in three phases over my lifetime. Growing up damn poor during the depression I thought highly of the President and what he did to help us.  Later I listened to his critics and thought maybe he, after all, was a socialist.  He raised taxes, regulated businesses and gave us several social programs which exist to this day. During the second half of the 20th Century being a socialist was only one step from being a communist.  As the century came to an end and I had read more and more history and biographies I thought FDR a remarkable man for the times.

Maybe someone could have been a better leader and President, but no one else was able to capture the job and so we will never know. We are stuck with our history and when you consider how the other three giants of the age, Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini, ruined their respective countries, That Man was a great man.This memoir enhances that view.

Oh, yes, there was one totally new - to me - tidbit. FDR and Eleanor were married on St. Patrick’s Day in 1905. Joyce and I were married on St. Patrick’s Day in 2013. 

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