Phones

I got a new phone today. I have officially joined the iPhone/Android duopoly. My old phone was a Windows phone. I really liked it. I would have happily bought a new one, but they don’t make it anymore. That’s actually why I had to get a new phone. Since they don’t make it anymore, it had been months since my phone got an update and the apps were no longer supported, so they were dying off.

Aside from the fact that my Windows phone could do everything an iPhone or an Android can do (and could actually do it before the other phones caught up), the thing I probably liked best about it was that it wasn’t an iPhone or an Android. Having only two companies control the entire phone market is a bad thing for us all. It’s a shame that so few of us seem to realize that anymore.

Picking a new phone was actually kind of tricky since I only had two options, but I really wanted a third or fourth or fifth. I wound up with an iPhone. On balance, Apple seems to be a little less evil than Google. That doesn’t seem like a stellar way to have to pick, but it’s all I had. I just hope the new phone is shiny enough and fancy enough to distract me from feeling like a complete sellout.

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Air Conditioning

I don’t use air conditioning in my house. The only time in my life I air conditioned my home was while I was married. It wasn’t really my choice. I didn’t have air conditioning as a kid, in college, or when I moved out on my own. And since my divorce, I have not used air conditioning.

I wish I could say that it was just because I like the heat, but I cannot. I hate the heat. Summer is the worst. But, as much as I hate it, and I really, really hate it, it doesn’t get me to use air conditioning.

When people ask why, I kind of reflexively say that it’s too expensive. That was probably true when I was a kid. It was certainly true during college and for the decade after college. But I can afford it now. It’s not because I’m cheap that I don’t have air conditioning.

It is true that I’m not a fan of air conditioning, at least the window units that I would have to use. They’re loud. I prefer fresh air. And did I mention that they’re loud? But my dislike of the air conditioners isn’t nearly as strong as my hatred for the heat. So, that’s not the real reason.

I could say that I don’t use it because of environmental concerns, but that would only be partly true. I am environmentally conscious. I’m a stickler for turning off lights; maximizing mileage; and reducing, reusing, and recycling. I walk when I can. According to the power company, I consume significantly less energy than my efficient neighbors. But I’m not a fanatic. I live a normal life. If my lack of air conditioning were simply due to environmental concerns, I’d have to give up TV, my car, and a bunch of other things I’m not willing to give up.

I think the real reason I don’t have air conditioning is the knowledge that air conditioning contributes a great deal to making the world warmer. I know that sounds like environmentalism, but it isn’t. Something that is designed to make my house cooler and more comfortable makes the world warmer and more uncomfortable. That’s too much irony for me. I can’t live that way. I’m not an ironic person. It makes me uncomfortable.

I can drive my car even though I know it contributes to the warming of the planet. There’s no irony there. The point of a car is to get me from place to place, not to cool me off. It’s not that I don’t worry or feel guilty about driving. I sometimes do. But when it’s a choice between keeping my job or quitting driving, I can get myself to drive. I can’t do the same with air conditioning. As long as I know that the thing whose purpose is to cool me is making me hotter, I can’t do it. Looks like I’ll have to live without it until I can afford a geothermal system or my electricity is 100% renewable. For now, I’ll just keep being hot and hating it.

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A Negotiation

Time for my seventh entry in the 12 stories in 12 months writing challenge. This month the prompt was “Men and Women.” That’s an easy one. Probably more than 95% of all the stories ever written are about men and women. But the word count was 300. That’s hard. I’m a fan of short, the shorter the better, but 300 words is really short. I wanted to avoid any kind of love story because it seemed too obvious for the prompt. I decided to go with a big theme so I wouldn’t have to waste any space with setup. The original draft was still quite a bit too long. I cut a lot to get it to 300. Let me know what you think.

                Women said, “OK, enough is enough. We’ve been going like this forever. We need a change.”

                “Don’t be silly,” men replied.

                “We’ll strike without change.”

                “Perhaps we can negotiate. What are your demands?”

“We demand the opportunity to work in the same jobs as men,” women answered.

                “We can arrange that. At least for most jobs,” replied Men.

                “All jobs.”

                “Not right away,” Men protested. “You have to prove you can do all the jobs.”

                “Good. We will. We also demand that women’s work be respected and done by men as well.”

                “Wait a minute. We can’t force anyone to respect something. That’s not how respect works. Nor can we force people to take jobs they don’t want.”

                “But it’s only fair. . .”

                Men interrupted, “Life isn’t fair. If any men want to be nurses or secretaries or do housework, we won’t stop them, but that’s the best we can do.”

                Women asked, “Who will do all of the women’s work?”

                “Women will. You can’t just stop doing the work you’ve always done. It will take time to transition. Society will break down otherwise.”

                “But how can we do men’s jobs if we keep doing women’s jobs?”

                “You’re the ones who wanted to do our jobs,” Men answered. “You’ll have to figure that out.”

                “Then you’ll have to compensate us if we’re doing both.”

                “That’s just absurd. Teachers and nurses already get paid. We can’t pay you for housework or child rearing, they don’t generate any revenue.”

                Women said, “So, you’ll allow us to work in men’s jobs, if we can prove we’re qualified. But you won’t do women’s work, or respect it, or compensate it. Is that the best we can get?”

                “It is.”

                “I guess we’ll have to take it,” Women said.

                “We think that went well.”

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A Lethal Prompt

Well, here we are with story number six for my twelve stories in twelve months challenge. The prompt was “lethal” and the word count was 1,800. This is essentially a cop out. I couldn’t think of anything for lethal for the longest time, and when I finally did, it was way too short. So, I turned it into a story about a writer struggling with a prompt. Like I said, a cop out.

OK, lethal. What’ve we got for lethal? How about. . .

                “We are going to binge watch ‘Lethal Weapon!’”

                “What?”

                “You heard me. We’re going to binge watch ‘Lethal Weapon.’ You wanted a big weekend on the couch.”

                “The movies or the TV show?”

                “I was thinking the movies.”

                “I don’t know. Mel Gibson makes me uncomfortable ever since we learned what a freak he is.”

                “Come on, that’s Mel Gibson, not Martin Riggs.”

                “Sorry, but he’s not that good an actor.”

                That’s not gonna work. There’s no story there. Hmm. How else do we use lethal? Lethal dose? A mystery. . .

                They surveyed the scene. No signs of a struggle. No forced entry. Just a body in a perfectly ordinary apartment in a perfectly ordinary neighborhood. It was almost peaceful.

                “Why are we here? Was there even a crime?” Brady asked.

                “There was a body,” replied the super.

                “People die all the time. It doesn’t mean a crime was committed.”

                “I found a body, so I called the police. What do you expect me to do?”

                “You did the right thing, sir,” Jake said as he glared at Brady. Then he turned to a tech and said, “It doesn’t look like there’s much in the way of evidence but collect whatever you can. We’re going to see the medical examiner.”

                “And find out if there was a crime or not,” Brady added.

***

                “It was definitely a murder,” said the medical examiner.

                “How did he die?” Jake asked.

                “Poison. He was given a lethal dose of . . .

                Of what? Cyanide? Arsenic? Those seem too old timey. Old lace? Ha.

                . . .old lace.”

                “Did you say he was given a lethal dose of old lace?” Brady asked. “What does that even mean?”

                “Old lace is a new designer poison,” the medical examiner explained. “All the top hitmen are using it.”

                Jake laughed. “Top hitmen? How many contract killers do you know?”

                “What do the second rate hitmen use?” Brady asked.

                “I try to keep up with the literature. In the last six months. . .”

                “Are they all men?” Jake wondered aloud.

                “Who?”

                “The hitmen? Are there any hitwomen? How about a nonbinary contract killer?”

                “Uh oh. It’s a crisis worse than no women in STEM. We need diversity.”

                “Guys, we probably shouldn’t be talking about this. There’s nothing but dudes in our own story. . .”

                OK, that’s not happening. Probably not a good idea to write a mystery since I never read mystery. What else? What else? Maybe lethal injection. . .

                It was ten minutes to midnight. All the appeals were denied and it was unlikely there would be a pardon. She laughed to herself. They make such a big deal about the last meal, but she wasn’t even a little bit hungry. This was going to hurt. She wasn’t worried about dying, it was getting there. Lethal injection. It was going to hurt bad.

                Who’m I kidding? It’s too dark and I don’t know the first thing about it. No one’ll want to read that. Maybe the ethics of capital punishment? At least I know my way around ethics. . .

                “The method of killing is irrelevant. Even the most humane lethal injection is still unjustified. . .

                That’s not a story. It’s a lecture. It’s more likely to bore or annoy than entertain. Come on. There’s gotta be something. Anything. . .

                “That pitch was lethal.”

                “Lethal?”

                “Yeah. Isn’t that right?”

                “Do you mean like filthy or nasty?”

                “I mean like it was a good pitch.”

                “Right, filthy or nasty. I’ve never heard lethal before in that context.”

                “It’s not a baseball word?”

                “It’s not even a sports word that I’m aware of.”

                “It sounds like one, though.”

                “I guess. But why use it if it just means filthy?”

                “Maybe it doesn’t just mean filthy or nasty. Maybe it’s better than they are.”

                “Better?”

                “Yeah. Filthy and nasty are fine, but lethal is actually deadly, so it’s a step up.”

                “OK. It’s got to be an out pitch, then.”

                “So, if a really nasty pitch is thrown for the third strike, we can say it’s lethal?”

                “Works for me.”

                “Cool.”

                “Cool.”

                Ugh. That’s not a story either. It’d be cool if it catches on, though. Think. How else do we use lethal? I guess there could be lethal force. . .

                They needed to send in a strike force, and it had to be lethal. Any survivors would compromise the mission. Alan surveyed the area. If they entered from the loading dock, they could get in without being detected. It would be easier to work from the inside out. . .

                This is crazy. Is Alan the bad guy or the hero? If it’s from his point of view, he’ll feel like the hero. But why is he going to kill those people? What’s their mission?

                Alan didn’t like their mission. Why all the killing? This wasn’t a military target, and they weren’t at war. Lethal force wasn’t necessary. It felt like a setup or a test. He didn’t want to be anyone’s fall guy. And if it was a test, he didn’t know which decision would get a passing mark. . .

                Nope. Can’t do it. It’s not something I’d want to read. But, it is a story. How desperate am I? Think. Think. Maybe a different tack. I’m no good at death and destruction. What else can lethal mean? Nothing that I can think of. . .

                “You need to capture me a black phoenix.”

                “But they’re as lethal as they are beautiful.”

                “I know, but I can’t complete the spell without a tail feather plucked from a living specimen. Without that feather, your son will certainly die.”

                She asked, “How do I find one?”

                “There used to be a colony on the cliff face where the river spills from the forest. That will likely be your best starting point.”

                She had to get ready. Its touch was lethal. She would need tools. . .

Well, it is another story. But it’s terrible. Should I plow through? I’ll hate myself if I do. Come on. Lethal. Lethal. Bethal? Pethal? Zethal? Is it possible than nothing rhymes with lethal? Aethal, bethal, chethal, dethal, ethal, fethal, gethal, hethal, iethal, jethal, kethal, lethal, but that’s not a rhyme. That’s the word. Methal, nethal, oethal, pethal, quethal, rethal, sethal, tethal, uethal, vethal, wethal, xethal, yethal, zethal. Wow. Nothing. Shethal? Thethal? That’s crazy. Is there a story in that?

                Orange, Purple, and Lethal walked into a bar. It was early afternoon and the bar was virtually empty. They sat down and ordered a drink each.

                “Why the long faces?” the bartender asked.

                Lethal replied, “Nothing rhymes with us.”

                “So?”

                Purple snorted. Orange muttered, “Typical.” Lethal looked the bartender in the eye and said wearily, “There’s not even a good slant rhyme for us. No one will remember us in poems or songs. We have no legacy.”

                “Legacy?” the bartender repeated. “Who gets a legacy?”

                “Almost everyone,” Purple snapped back.

                “Easy there. I’m just asking a question. Tryin’ to help.”

                “Sorry,” Orange said. “Purple had an audition and just got rejected for a new song. That’s why we came out.”

                Purple jumped in, “It’s crazy. Glove, Shove, and Dove all get accepted because they rhyme with Love. We’re better than them. It’s not about talent at all.”

                “Amen,” said Orange.

                “Maybe’s been riding Baby’s coattails for ages,” Lethal added. “So wishy-washy.” The three of them nodded together.

                “It can’t be that bad,” the bartender said. “You all get used plenty. I mean you, Orange, have a fruit and a juice named after you. And you get to be in the rainbow.”

                “I guess.”

                “And Purple, you’re a bunch of kids’ favorite color. That’s a legacy you can be proud of.”

                “Yeah, but it’s just kids. And Pink is more popular anyway. By the time they grow up, they’ve moved on to Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow.”

                “Lethal, you must be in a ton of mystery novels. That’s literature.”

                “I’m barely in them. I’m no more than a plot device, a glorified extra.”

                The bartender paused, then said, “You’re tough on yourselves.” There was another pause. “Wait a minute. Purple, you are in songs. ‘Purple People Eater.’”

                “Uh, a novelty song. Not a great legacy.”

                “Well, then, ‘Purple Rain.’”

                Purple smiled. “Those were the days. I miss Prince every day.”

                “That’s your legacy,” the bartender continued. “Wasn’t Prince’s whole thing purple?”

                Purple continued to smile. “That’s a good point,” Orange said. Lethal nodded.

                “I can live with that,” Purple said. “It’s a better legacy than most get. What about my friends here, though? They deserve better.”

                “Hmm,” the bartender thought. “Orange, you’re in pretty good shape. I still think the rainbow’s a pretty big deal. And you’re in that joke, ‘Orange ya glad I didn’t say banana?’”

                Orange laughed, “It makes me chuckle every time.”

                The bartender continued, “Come to think of it, you’ve got songs, too. ‘Orange Blossom Special’ and ‘Orange Crush.’” Johnny Cash and R.E.M. aren’t too shabby.”

                “You’re right,” said Orange. “My legacy isn’t about my last audition. It’s my whole body of work. Thank you.”

                Lethal looked at the ground. “Got anything for me?” he asked feebly.

                “I have to admit, you’re a bit tougher.”

                “It’s not just because I have no rhyme. I’m pretty negative. No one wants to work with Lethal.”

                “I’m sure that’s not true. You seem perfectly nice. And you have these two friends here.”

                “Yeah, but it’s not much of a legacy.”

                “Maybe you could make something,” the bartender suggested. “Make your own song or poem.”

                “It would have to be about death or dying. I’m not really versatile. I don’t have a lot of range.”

                “That’s nonsense. You know yourself better than anyone. There must be a positive way to present yourself.”

                Lethal thought for a moment. “I’ve always liked the idea of death as a gift.”

                “Go with it,” said Orange. Purple and the bartender nodded.

                “Maybe I can. I can create my own legacy. Would anyone really take Lethal as a positive?”

                “Of course,” answered the bartender. “Go with the Gift thing. You’ve got Shift and Lift for rhymes.”

                Orange and Purple chimed in, “We’ll help.”

                “It would be cool if the afterlife were Orange and Purple. OK. I’ll try it. I’ll write it so well, they’ll be trying to cast me in everything.” Lethal added to the bartender, “Thank you.”

                Purple and Orange added their thanks as well. The three of them paid for their drinks and left the bar, talking excitedly to each other.

The End

Well, it’s a story and it’s about lethal. I can live with that. Now how on Earth am I going to stretch it to eighteen-hundred words?

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Dr. John aka Mac Rebennack

Mac Rebennack, whose alter ego was the much more famous Dr. John, died today. I am a big fan of his music. True to form for me, I know virtually nothing about his life. Apparently he was 77 years old. That’s a little older than I would have guessed. So, I can’t say much about him, but the music he left us is incredible.

I first discovered Dr. John when I was in high school. His new album at the time was “In A Sentimental Mood.” It’s certainly not typical Dr. John. The title is apt. But it caught my teenage attention. There’s just something about him, I just knew he was the real deal. I suppose I had probably heard “Right Place, Wrong Time” before “In A Sentimental Mood,” it must have been his biggest hit, but “In A Sentimental Mood” was the first one I really listened to.

Not that there’s really any such thing as typical Dr. John. He played everything from blues to funk to jazz to big band to rock to R&B. Basically, if a music came out of New Orleans, Dr. John played it and played it better than most.

The album that solidified my love of Dr. John has to be “Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack.” It’s a solo piano album, and it’s incredible. He only sings on two of the tunes, but you don’t miss anything. It sounds as full as a big band. It was on “Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack” where I really discovered Dr. John’s left hand. I could listen to just his left hand all day. Whether the song was fast or slow, the boogie never quit.

I don’t have much more to say. He kept making beautiful new music into the current decade. I’m just sad that he’s gone. I’m going to spend the next few days listening and appreciating. And I’ll be thankful for every note he plays.

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A Conversation

Here is story number five in my 12 stories in 12 months challenge. For this one, the prompt was Rome and the word count was 1,200. To say the prompt left me cold is an understatement. I’ve never been to Rome and I only know the basics of its history and culture. So, I decided to challenge myself a little and just write a 1,200 word conversation, nothing but dialogue. You’ll have to decide how successful I was, and let me know (if you want).

“If you could go anywhere, where would you go?”

“Rome.”

“Why Rome?”

“Ever since I first took art history in college, I’ve wanted to see Italy.”

“So, go then.”

“I can’t.”

“You have to.”

“What do you mean I ‘have to’?”

“When was the last time you did anything for yourself that you actually wanted to do?”

“I do stuff all the time.”

“Yeah, you work. You come out for drinks with me because it’s what I want to do. You take care of all of us. It’s never about you.”

“I really can’t go, though.”

“Why not?”

“For starters, I don’t have a passport. Or money. Or time.”

“Screw that.”

“Easier said than done.”

“You can get a passport. Just go to the post office. You make money, and you never spend it on anything.”

“Yes I do. I pay rent and buy food and go out for drinks with you. Not to mention electricity, gas, my cell phone, and internet.”

“And you get vacation time.”

“You know I like to use that around the holidays.”

“Ugh. There’s always excuses. Just do it.”

“Why is it so important to you?”

“Why isn’t it important to you?”

“I’m fine. I don’t need an expensive vacation. And that’s not an answer.”

“It’s important to me because it should be important to you. College was twenty years ago. You’ve been wanting to take this trip for twenty years. You need to do it.”

“You’re exaggerating. I’ve barely thought about it in the last twenty years.”

“That’s because you never think about yourself.”

“But I don’t speak any Italian.”

“So?”

“I wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone.”

“Screw that. Everyone speaks English.”

“That is kinda true.”

“It’s not ‘kinda’ true, it is true. You can go anywhere in the world and find people who speak English.”

“There’s something wrong with the world if everyone speaks English.”

“Blame the Brits. They conquered everything.”

“Not just them. Americans have done plenty, too.”

“It’s good for us, though. Don’t worry about it.”

“But isn’t traveling about immersing yourself in another culture?”

“That’s not how most people travel. Most people just want to see things and say they’ve been places.”

“That’s not how I like to travel. Not that I’ve ever traveled.”

 “Never?”

“Nope. I grew up here and never left. I’ve never even been to New York and that’s just a couple hours down fifteen.”

“You’ve never been to New York? Literally? Never?”

“Never.”

“Pay the check. We’re going now.”

“No, we’re not.”

“Like you said, it’s just a couple hours away.”

“I have to work in the morning. So do you. We’re not going.”

“You’re probably right.”

“I’m certainly right.”

“I guess. But we’re going to New York soon. Like this weekend.”

“We’ll see.”

“How have you never been to New York?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never had a reason to go.”

“You don’t need a reason.”

“I know. It just seems like such a hassle. And haven’t you ever met a New Yorker?”

“I can’t argue with that, but it’s not much of a hassle.”

“I hate driving.”

“So take the train.”

“It’s still a hassle. All traveling is. I don’t understand why everyone says they like traveling so much.”

“Because they like traveling?”

“I can’t believe everyone likes traveling. It’s a hassle and it’s expensive. I like home.”

“Don’t you want to see the world?”

“Eh. I wouldn’t complain, I guess. But I don’t have any real desire.”

“You said you want to see Rome.”

“It’s not Rome, exactly. I’d love to see the artwork and the architecture, but I don’t like cities.”

“How on Earth do you know that? You’ve never been to New York. Have you been to other cities?”

“Hartford.”

“That doesn’t count. Hartford isn’t Rome or New York.”

“It’s not like you’re a world traveler.”

“I’m better than you. I went to Hawaii on my honeymoon. I’ve been to New York and Boston tons of times. I even went to Montreal in high school.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You didn’t need a passport back then.”

“What did you get out of all these travel experiences?”

“What do you mean?”

“What made them so great?”

“They were fun. I got to see things I don’t normally see. I got to talk to people I don’t normally talk to.”

“That’s it?”

“What more do you want?”

“I don’t know. Something deep. Did it change the way you see the world?”

“Nah. People are people.”

“If that’s true, I should be fine staying here. These people are as good as any other people.”

“Do you act this way all the time or just with me?”

“I think a little of both.”

“It can’t be both.”

“It’s not like I’m lying or anything, but I do like to give you a hard time.”

“Nice.”

“What? You’ve been giving me a hard time all night.”

“But that’s my thing. You can’t take my thing.”

“I do what I want.”

“No you don’t.”

“That’s why we’re besties. I can with you.”

“Awww.”

“Can you believe it’s been twenty years?”

“We’re not old enough for it to have been twenty years.”

“We are. We’re both still on our first drink.”

“You’re right. There may not even be a second one. I don’t want to wake up with a headache tomorrow. We are old.”

“We’re not that old. I actually like this age. Everything still works, but there’s a lot less pressure.”

“Less pressure? I work so hard to keep up with everything.”

“I no longer care about keeping up. It’s freeing.”

“I see where it would be.”

“Mmmm.”

“I can’t believe you’ve never gone anywhere. What’s the furthest you’ve been?”

“I’ve been to Mystic. Or maybe Sturbridge. I don’t know which is farther.”

“Not even Boston or Newport?”

“Nope.”

“That’s crazy. I’ll bet you could become a viral sensation with that. ‘The girl who’s never been anywhere.’”

“I can’t imagine that’s the kind of thing that would go viral.”

“You have to play it up. It could just be videos of you asking silly questions about famous places because you’ve never been to them.”

“I don’t know. Wikipedia is a thing, you know.”

“Then act like you never left here because it’s so amazing here. ‘Our pizza is better than New York’s. Our beignets are better that New Orleans’.’”

“Our pizza probably is. The pizza’s amazing around here. I’ve never had a beignet.”

“How is that possible?”

“I’ve never been to New Orleans.”

“Neither have I. You can get them outside of the city limits.”

“They’re basically donuts, aren’t they?”

“Well, yeah, but fancier and Frenchier.”

“I’m not a big fan of. . .”

“Don’t even say it.”

“Frenchie things.”

“I told you not to say it. Seriously, though, what are you doing this weekend.”

“No real plans. If the weather’s nice, some gardening and taking the dogs out.”

“No you’re not. I’m taking you to New York this weekend.”

“I can’t leave the dogs for a whole weekend.”

“Saturday, then.”

“Will I have fun?”

“I guarantee it.”

“What the heck. Let’s do it.”

“And do you know what we’re going to do on Sunday?”

“What?”

“We’re finding a travel site and booking your trip to Rome.”

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A Dance-tastic Weekend

My daughter and I had a super busy weekend, and it was all about dance. On Friday night, we went to see the Connecticut Ballet at the Bushnell. Pretty much all of Saturday was spent in dress rehearsal for Sunday’s big dance recital. My daughter was in four dances, plus the finale. And I made my dancing debut doing a father/daughter tap dance.

The ballet was excellent Friday night. They performed four pieces. One was a classic, “La Ventana Pas de Trois,” from 1854 by August Bournonville with music by Hans Christian Lumbye. In a lot of ways it was what you think of when you think of ballet, graceful and beautiful. The other three pieces were all world premiers (I guess technically they premiered a week earlier at the run’s first show, but you get it.). There was “In the Shadow of Women” by Marden Ramos with music by Kodomo, and “Trust Me If I Lie” by Aguibou Bougobali Sanou with music by Moussa Sanou, and “Now & Then” by Joseph Locarro and music by Bonnie Raitt. “In the Shadow of Women” was very modern, even futuristic. “Trust Me If I Lie” was very rhythmic. And “Now & Then” was just plain fun.

My daughter couldn’t decide if her favorite was “In the Shadow of Women” or “Now & Then.” She was totally blown away by the dancing in “In the Shadow of Women,” but she thought “Now & Then” was really funny. I was torn between the other two. We couldn’t have asked for a better night.

Our only complaint about the performance was that the audience was really small. I can’t figure out why. It is a bit pricey for a night out, but it’s only once a year. I’m surprised every parent of the hundreds of little girls taking ballet in the greater Hartford area didn’t want to go. If you’ve never been to the ballet before, it’s kind of like Cirque du Solei, except much more entertaining. The good news is that the Connecticut Ballet will be back in the Hartford area doing a free show in Elizabeth Park in the middle of July. I’d like to see a big crowd there.

Saturday was a long, but satisfying day. I only had one number to rehearse, but I volunteered to help set up. It started at 9:00 in the morning. The recital happens at a local high school, but the school’s facilities aren’t nearly big enough to accommodate the number of kids and their costume changes. So we converted the cafeteria into a giant dressing room. We hung paper over all the windows to give the kids some privacy, put a bunch of signs up, then worked on the stage from sweeping to taping. I ran home for a quick lunch, then came back for the rehearsal itself.

I was a little worried at the rehearsal. It was the first time the dads would be dancing outside of the studio. I was afraid without all of my usual visual cues, I would forget the dance. But my fears were unfounded and we got through our routine. I also got to watch the whole show, which was great because I missed most of the first act on the actual performance day.

Sunday was the big day. I was anxious all morning. My daughter was just excited. The dads all helped with taking tickets and handing out programs and things like that. That’s when I started to get really nervous. I’ve performed in front of people plenty of times, but up until now, it had always been playing a musical instrument. I always had a certain amount of confidence that I knew the instrument and I knew the music, so I never got very nervous. Sunday was dancing though. I’d never danced before in my life prior to the six months of lessons leading up to this. I was terrified. Dancing is way harder than music. As I got into my costume, all I could think about was all the ways it could go wrong. I was sweating like crazy. But, we went out there and we all remembered the routine. We mostly stayed with the music. No one fell down. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but I don’t think we embarrassed ourselves or, more importantly, our daughters. The biggest mishap was that the dad next to me had his flower fall off during the dance. There was a nice sense of relief after it was over. All the dads agreed that if our daughters will have us, we’ll do it again next year.

I was able to watch the rest of the show. My daughter did great in all of her dances. Actually all of the kids did a great job. The audience was good and supportive. All in all, it was a success.

Before I had a daughter, I never dreamed that I would have a weekend full of dancing. If you asked me then about a weekend full of dancing, I would have thought you were describing some sort of nightmare. But it was a really good weekend. I’m already looking forward to next year.

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Chewbacca

I heard the news earlier today that Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca, died. When I first saw Star Wars, forty-ish years ago, I left that theater thinking that Chewbacca was the single coolest thing ever. That first impression never really changed. It might have been George Lucas who created the character, but it was Peter Mayhew who brought him to life. For that, I will be forever grateful.

I know next to nothing about Peter Mayhew outside of Chewbacca. I’m not the type of fan to follow the behind the scenes stuff or read celebrity news. I know he was very tall. 7’3″ according to Wikipedia. I once heard that a third of all seven footers play in the NBA. I don’t know if that’s true, but outside of Peter Mayhew, all the seven footers I can name played in the NBA. I generally feel bad for any seven footer who doesn’t play in the NBA. It must be rough being too big for everything. But Peter Mayhew got to be Chewbacca. That’s gotta be better than being a professional basketball player any day of the week.

I think I’m going to re-watch the original trilogy this weekend to honor the man who gave us Chewbacca. Whether he was beating on the door of a trash compactor, carrying a disassembled C-3PO on his back, or swinging onto the top of an AT-ST, he was always the coolest. We should all take a few moments to remember that.

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A Friendly Game

This is story #4 for my 12 stories in 12 months challenge. I’m not at all thrilled with this one. The prompt was “cut-throat” and the word count was 750. It was fairly easy to write, I can toss off 750 words in my sleep. But the prompt left me cold. I’m pretty sure the only time I’ve ever used the expression cut-throat is playing cards. So that’s what you get, a conversation among four friends as they play cards.

“Okay, we’re playing cut-throat tonight. No teams. If you’re set, you lose points and money. You can only score what you bid. A dollar a point and a twenty-dollar ante,” said Carol.

Jim replied, “Twenty bucks? I don’t have twenty bucks on me.” Everyone else groaned.

“You need to get a real job, man,” said Dave.

“Well, you just got a real job a month ago. You know where I am. You’ll have to spot me the ante. I’ll pay you back when I win.”

“Like you’re gonna win.”

“I might. Besides, if I don’t play, there’s only three of you. The game’ll take ages and Jack’ll get all whiney.”

“He’s right,” Jack said.

Carol added, “Just spot him the money, Dave.”

“Fine, Jimbo.” Dave took a twenty out of his wallet and flicked it across the table. “Next time, bring some money with you.”

“Remember when we used to play for m&m’s?” Jim asked.

Jack shuffled the cards and said, “That wasn’t as interesting.” He dealt.

“That’s cause you were the first to leave. This used to be a work game, remember?”

Carol said, “Pass. That job sucked.”

“Of course it sucks. All jobs suck, but I’m still there,” Jim answered. “I’ll bid three.”

“You’re brave with other people’s money. I pass,” said Dave. Jack passed, too.

Jim tossed the queen of diamonds down. “Admit it,” he said, “none of you like your ‘real’ jobs.”

Carol shrugged. Dave said, “I don’t hate it, yet.”

Jack said, “As long as it pays.”

Jim won the trick. He put down the king of diamonds. “That’s no way to live. Thanks for the ten, Carol.” She saluted Jim as he picked up the cards. This time he led with the ace of diamonds.

“Who shuffled?” Dave asked.

“It’s skill,” Jim answered.

Dave said, “Jack’s right. At least we get paid. Your job sucks and you’re barely making more than minimum wage.”

“Teach me to major in something interesting.” Jim collected the cards. Only Jack had trump left. There hadn’t been a jack or a two yet. Jim debated whether to throw another trump before settling on the seven of diamonds.

“What did you major in?” Carol asked.

“Philosophy.”

“Jeesh,” she said. “I though you said ‘interesting.’”

Jack was out of trump, so Jim took the cards. He had his three, but they played the last two tricks as a formality. Jim won one and Jack won the last.

“I told you I was gonna win,” Jack said as he wrote down a three next to his name. “It’s more interesting than communications. Or the business degrees these bozos have.”

Carol collected the cards and shuffled. “I hated my intro to philosophy class.” She dealt, “Besides it couldn’t get any less practical.”

“Pass,” Jim said. “We use it all the time. There just aren’t any jobs in the field unless you have a PhD.”

“Which you don’t have. I’ll bid two,” Dave said.

“Three,” answered Jack.

Dave said, “Someone’s gettin’ set.”

Carol said, “It’s yours,” to Jack. “Like I said, not practical,” to everyone.

Jack led with the ace of clubs. Everyone followed suit without face cards.

“I’m better able than most to make excuses for my lack of material success,” Jim said.

“Real practical,” said Jack as he put down the two of hearts. Carol followed with the ten of hearts.

Jim put the two of clubs down and Dave followed with the ten of clubs. “You’re done,” he said to Jack as he collected the cards and threw down the king of clubs. “This was the suit I was going in.”

Jim said, “Look, it’s not my fault the economy’s been bad since we were in high school. A degree like philosophy used to be more than enough for most jobs.”

“Whatever,” said Dave as he gathered the trick. He led the next round with the queen of diamonds.

Jack said, “I really am set,” as he trumped in with the jack. “I’m only getting two. Anyone have trump left?” Everyone shook their heads and threw their cards into the middle of the table. “I only got high and jack. Dave got low and game.”

Jim wrote a negative three next to Jack’s name. “You didn’t play that right,” he said as he took the cards and started shuffling. “I don’t need to make more money if this is the best you’ve got.”

“Dude, you gotta get a real job,” Jack said.

Carol interrupted, “Can we please talk about something else?”

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Some Ranting

I haven’t written anything in a little bit now. Part of that has been that I’ve been busy with work and general life stuff, but part has been that all of the topics that have been presenting themselves lately have been really annoying, or at least annoying to me. I just don’t want to annoy myself with my writing. Although, the topics have me annoyed anyway and I haven’t been writing, so I thought I’d take a moment to vent about some of these topics and maybe get it out of my system.

Genre Labels Are Racist

Billboard magazine recently decided that “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X couldn’t be on their country charts. Anyway you look at it, it was a racist decision. Billboard is apparently just that racist. I know they can point to Ray Charles, Charlie Pride and Hootie and say, “Look, we have black friends,” but that only reinforces their racism. I’ve been talking about racist genre labels for more than 20 years now. The system is set up so there’s white music and non-white music. If a white artist wants to try their hand at some non-white music, they can be quite successful. But if a non-white artist encroaches on white music, organizations like Billboard have to put a stop to it. The few examples we do have of people of color crossing over is tokenism at its finest. Besides, not that I know what makes a country song country, this song is easily as country as plenty of other hit country songs.

Two of the Reactions to the Notre Dame Fire

Notre Dame is an old cathedral in Paris. I’ve never been to France, so I’ve never seen it, but I believe the countless people who have described it as an amazing feat of architecture and a wonderful piece of art. Therefore, it made me sad to hear of the fire that nearly destroyed the cathedral. What other reaction is there to the loss of a great work of art? I’d be equally sad if the Sphinx or the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall were similarly damaged. I would argue that sadness is the proper reaction. But I’ve seen two reactions that are basically chastising people for feeling sad. One reaction I’ve seen a bunch is along the lines of don’t repair or rebuild Notre Dame, spend that money on curbing global warming or feeding the hungry or something. This reaction is making a couple mistakes. First, charitable giving is not a zero sum game. Notre Dame can be rebuilt and we can also work to mitigate climate change. Second, it misunderstands how people work. There is always a rise in charitable giving after a specific tragedy because most people need to feel a personal connection in order to be moved to give. It’s sad to say, but things like hunger are constants and people get numb to them. No one is taking money that they would have given to hunger and sending it to Notre Dame. The choice is not between competing charities, at this moment for most people, it’s Notre Dame or nothing. It certainly wouldn’t meet the approval of the Effective Altruists (I have major problems with the Effective Altruists, maybe I’ll write about that sometime), but on a very basic level, some charity is better than no charity, so let people donate to a cause that they feel connected to.

The other reaction is basically saying that France is an evil, imperial power and deserves any bad thing that happens there. It’s crazy to think that everyone who has ever appreciated Notre Dame is equally guilty of France’s historical sins. It’s also crazy to think that a society’s sins can invalidate every other thing that society has done. It leads to nihilism. If the only art that it’s right to appreciate has to come from a blameless society, then there’s no art left to appreciate. Whatever you think of France, don’t criticize people who have been moved by a work of art that happens to be French. Now, I hang out in some pretty far left areas of the internet, which is where I’m seeing these reactions. They bug me because of their basic wrongheadedness, but they also bug me because they are why people dislike the left. If the lefties would just keep their mouths shut in times of tragedy, maybe they could win an election.

Star Wars: Episode IX

The trailer for the last Star Wars movie of the third trilogy dropped. Everything about it annoyed me. The name of the movie is “The Rise of Skywalker.” That’s a really dumb name. It could have been the name of Episode IV, or the entire original trilogy, but the last movie of a trilogy that barely even features anyone named Skywalker and turned the one Skywalker it does have into a sulky coward is just weird. Either Luke is going to rise again, which will totally undercut his death in the last movie (not that his death really landed, but if it did, this would ruin it). Or it will turn out Rey is really a Skywalker even though they specifically said she is not in the last movie (and if it turns out she is a Skywalker, wasn’t “Force Awakens” the actual rise of Skywalker?). Or they could say Kylo Ren is actually a Skywalker on his mother’s side, but that would give this movie almost the same exact plot as Episode VI. Or I suppose they could introduce an entirely new Skywalker, but I don’t think I even need to explain how stupid that would be.

Aside from that, I hate, hate, hate two uses of slow motion in the trailer. One is where Rey is doing a backflip as a speeder chases her and the other is as Kylo stabs someone. It’s like they don’t understand the aesthetic of Star Wars at all. That’s The Matrix, not Star Wars. Hopefully it will just be in the trailer, not the movie. And possibly the worst thing of all, there’s the line, “No one’s ever really gone,” followed by Emperor Palpatine’s laugh. It’s like they’re trying to retcon the original trilogy out of existence. Not the prequels, mind you, but the original Star Wars. The idea of Palpatine being involved in any way with anything that happened after “Return of the Jedi” might actually be the stupidest idea ever.

Impeachment

Since the release of the Mueller Report, the younger segment of the Democrats (and Elizabeth Warren) have started loudly calling for Trump’s impeachment. I think that’s crazy. The Republicans control the Senate. If Trump survived an impeachment, it would make everything far worse. He would basically be untouchable. I like most of these new congresspeople. But they’re wrong about this. The only circumstance under which Trump should be impeached is if there is absolute certainty that the Senate will convict.

***

So there are some of my rants. Sorry. Hopefully I’ll write something more interesting in the near future.

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