He DID Build That

shoeless-joeThe talented and quirky author W.P. Kinsella died over the weekend. Or, as they say in show biz, “He’s dead, Jim.”

I’m glad he received some recognition, although it irks me that he’s best known as the guy who wrote a book (“Shoeless Joe”) that became a very popular movie (“Field of Dreams”). It’s an old and worthless lament — books don’t get the acclaim or reward that movies inspire — and a sad commentary on the culture and education of the American public.

If I say, “Clockwork Orange,” do you think of Anthony Burgess, who wrote the book, or Stanley Kubrick, who made the movie? You can play this game all day ’til the popcorn cools and it will end the same way every time.

Still, a paycheck is a paycheck, and I don’t doubt Kinsella was delighted to get his. Besides, it was a decent movie, as faithful to the book as it needed to be. He struck me as smart enough to take the food before biting the hand that fed him.

Godspeed, my friend, and when you bump into Ernie, tell him Let’s play two.

Posted in People Who Died, Died | 5 Comments

“Up on the Roof! 100 Proof!”

meckler's ladderRemember that kind of call-and-response thing from years ago? Nothing to do with the song by the Drifters. Nothing to do with anything, as I recall, except adolescent hormones better left forgotten.

Although I had occasion to think of at least some of these synaptic fragments this week.

We’re getting a new roof. After 17 years old and three separate patches, our roof is porous as the Mexican border, but a lot more humid.

The roofers leave a ladder up against the front of the house for the inspector to use – SOP. Inspector climbs up, pokes around, then signs off (or not) on paperwork so project moves forward. Although I understand that in some parts of Florida, the only climbing the inspector does is out of his car to saunter into the office to exchanges a signature for an envelope stuffed with cash. It’s just bidness.

After lunch, I climb up to the roof to clean out some dead palm fronds and seed pods with my defrondulator (pronounce that with Schwarzenegger accent). The defrondulator is a 9 foot long bamboo stick I harvested some years ago when our bamboo was just out of all fucking control. It has a few nubs and branches good for grabbing and yanking. Awkward, but effective, and better than anything similar I’ve ever bought at Home Depot.

I’m up there 20 minutes, having a glorious time in the afternoon baking sun, reaching for and yanking fronds off the areca palm and flinging them down to the back yard. But all things must end, and soon there’s no more in safe reaching distance, so I make my way back over to the front of the house…….and the ladder isn’t there anymore.

It’s one of those moments, a balance between Twilight Zone and Laurel & Hardy. There had to have been a ladder there less than half an hour ago. Same house, right? Ladders don’t walk. So — where is it?

I yell for Guido, who comes out curious, and ask her if she moved the ladder. No, she hadn’t. Nor did she hear anybody take it away. “I heard something,” she says, “but I figured it was you up there.” I suggest she quickly call the roofing company and ask if anybody had just come back to remove the ladder. She does. Somebody did. She tells the rep her husband is on the roof, stranded. “OMG! Let me get my guy on the phone!”

Ten minutes go by during which I devise two alternative dismounting strategies, both certain to cause injury. One is to leap for a sturdy palm and make my way down, monkey-like. The other is to jump down on the roof of the shed, easily accessible but a very steep pitch, then climb down the step ladder Guido could set up for me. The maneuver from shed roof to step ladder is not a surefire success, assuming I don’t teeter off the shed’s steep incline first.

ladderReally, all this picture needs is a sixpack and the famous last words of rednecks everywhere: “Hey fellers! Watch this!”

Fortunately, before I settle on Plan B (Bruises) or C (Contusions), Mr. Roofer returns with the ladder and makes them both moot. “I only climbed high enough to unhook it from the roof,” he says. “Didn’t expect nobody up there – not this time of day, anyway.” Shakes his head. “Been roofing over 25 years and this is the first time I ever stranded anybody!” He squints my way. “What were ya lookin’ for?”

I show him my defrondulator, explaining how I take the opportunity when I can to clean out the palms, pulling all the dry brown crap out so they look better. Besides, the sun is fabulous up there, all that reflected heat and bouncing UV waves. He nods neutrally and thoughtfully, then asks Guido, “So how tempted were you to just toss him a beer and leave ‘im there for a while?”

I get no respect. No respect at all.

Anyway, I’m back to earth and vow to never climb up again without taking a phone (a parachute wouldn’t work). And if using anybody else’s ladder but my own, making sure it’s in view at all times. No question I’ll be up there again, of course. Gotta get my money’s worth on the defrondulator.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 4 Comments

And He Could See Russia, Too!

A friend filed the following dispatch from the Alaskan Bay:

“We continued south on a ship whose first port of call was Skagway.  It turns out that part of Sarah Palin’s childhood was spent here. The house, built in 1899, was small with light blue aluminum siding and a pretty picket fence around the property. While I did not see a bronze plaque explaining that it was a building of historical significance, I did see [this] sign nailed on the picket fence.”

Skagway - Spitting Prohibited



Posted in NIMBY | 4 Comments

Even The Losers

BojackMinding my very own business at the Liquor and Rubber Balls Sports Bar & Numismatics Anonymous Recovery Center when I commit the error of nodding hello to Betty Washerman- Shirtz, sitting down the bar and texting furiously. Washerman-Shirtz has a well-deserved reputation at LRB as a relentless and tedious political junkie, constantly over her head in one life-or-death cause or another, like changing the names of streets in Hollywood.

“This is a seriously bad development,” she tells me, grimly, downing her drink.

What — out of gin? I’m sure you can get Don to mix you another one. With or without formaldehyde?

“No, dearie. The bad development is these back room Republican power brokers trying to maneuver Trump off the ticket. I’m thinking it’s just rumor but there’s sources say it’s true. At the very least they’re talking about the RNC cutting off money to him and diverting it to local races.”

trum thumbWhy is this a problem? You want Trumpf to win?

“Of course not. But I don’t want him to drop out. God only knows what happens next — they move Pence up, they get Kasich or Cruz to take over, they run Bullwinkle and a ham sandwich instead — it all spells disaster for the Democrats.”

Lemme guess — cuz the ‘Crats nominated somebody so unpopular the only one she has a chance to beat is Trumpf?

“Isn’t it obvious? The sole candidate to rack up worse unfavorable numbers among voters than Hillary is Trump. She’d lose to Rubio or Jeb! in a New York minute. She’d lose to Jersey Governor Porcine! Hell, she’d lose to BoJack Horseman!’

I can see the banners. Vote Neigh for the U.S.A.

“Lemme tellya, if the Democrats were smart, they’d be infiltrating some of these high-level Republican gabfests and reinforcing Trump’s support. They might even shovel some extra cash his way, just to make sure the sonofabitch doesn’t lunch out. Losing him at the top of the ticket is the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to the Clinton campaign.”

Didn’t Hildabeest send an email to that effect when she was still Secretary of State?

“Not funny, Squattle. And ‘Hildabeest’ is an offensive name dripping with microagressive sexist hatred.” She glares at her phone. “Excuse me. I gotta get on this.”

bojack 4 presYou go girl. Meanwhile, I get my microaggressive ass (WTF?) out of there. The Betty Washerman-Shirtzes of the world are another reason even normal voters despise the political process and the people who manipulate it.

But she has a point: 10 weeks out from Election Day, the second-to-last last person on earth I want as president is Hillary Rotten Clinton. That’s why how I’m voting for her.

Unless I write in BoJack Horseman.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 5 Comments

Forget Me Not. Not!

I pack up and box a staamnesiack of books I don’t want anymore, toss them into the car and ride off to the sunset (literally: I drove them  20 miles to Key West Island Books!) to trade them in. To make a long story (and ride) short, I return with about half of the ones I carry down, plus another 10 I buy.

Unpacking the box, I spot one book I just don’t remember ever owning, buying, or reading. Ironically, it’s called Amnesia, by Douglas Cooper. It looks sort of interesting, so I put in the line-up.  I get to it last Monday, go through the first of its 4 parts, and decide it probably ain’t worth continuing,  but decide I’ll see what I can learn about the author and the book on-line.

Here’s part of what I learn:

Publishers Weekly noted that it was “Published to extravagant praise in Canada (with comparisons to Nabokov, Genet, Calvino and Margaret Atwood).”[11] Kirkus Reviews wrote that Amnesia was “more concerned with emotional states than traditional characters, and… reminiscent of, say, Thomas’s White Hotel.”[12] Michiko Kakutani in the New York Times observed: “Although… (a) self-conscious quality never entirely lifts, one gradually comes to appreciate Mr. Cooper’s copious gifts.”[13] James Polk, in a second New York Times review, called Amnesia “a dense, absorbing first novel (which) locates prominent features in the landscapes of mind and memory.”[14] While the Chicago Tribune hailed the book as “intricate”,[15] the South Florida Sun-Sentinel dismissed it as “forgettable”.[16] The Boston Globe called Cooper “ambitious”, and noted that he “takes us on a journey through the dark corridors of the psyche, introducing us to characters who change shape as easily as smoke rings.”[17]

So the sole negative review it gets is composed right here in south Florida. What crabs we are. Totally out of step with the rest of the North America reading public. Nattering nabobs of negativity. Just for shits and giggles I activate the link to read the review. Imagine my surprise when I see I wrote it in 1994.

Amnesia.  Don’t remember reading it. Don’t remember reviewing it. Called it “forgettable.” And 22 years later, I confirm my own black-hearted opinion.

Fun re-reading the review, though. The kid could write.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 4 Comments


This story starts in a lake in Schenectady, NY. Seems a young man hooked himself an an alligator gar — unusual fish for that area, native of Mississippi. He kept it long enough to have a photo taken, then, as a responsible Catch and Release angler, tossed it back.

The photo found its way to Facebook, which eventually led to several keenly interested and concerned parties at the state environmental protection agency.  The organized a trip to the lake to find and confiscate what they correctly identified as an invasive and potentially destructive species. Speculation is it was in somebody’s fish tank, got too big, and well, you know the rest. Alligators in the NY subway. Pythons in the Everglades. French Canadians on Dania Beach.

The state agents came up empty, but figured no big deal — just one fish, and it won’t survive an upper  NY state winter anyway. But then the mayor decided to make a game of it, and offered a $100 reward to whoever caught it.

And then the fun began.

Since [Mayor] McCarthy’s offer, the park, moribund even on an August day, according to residents, has been packed. Its shoreline bristles with anglers of all ages. At Goldstock’s Sporting Goods, in nearby Scotia, weekly sales of rods have quintupled to 25 a week. “I love it, are you kidding?” an owner, Mike Kausch, 61, said, referring to the gar. “I should put one out there every couple days!”

When weeks went by with no gar sightings, suspicions surfaced instead. Maybe the whole thing was a set-up? A fish tale? A marketing plan that struck gold? Or —

Sitting in his rocking chair at Wiggly Worm Bait and Fishing Supply, in Ballston Lake, a few miles away, William Ingles, the shop’s 92-year-old founder, had a theory: “You say, ‘Wait a minute. All of a sudden we got 30, 40, 50 ones out there trying to catch this fish, and all of a sudden nobody’s catching it?’” Perhaps, he mused, the gar was already gone. “What would you do if someone caught the fish, and ate the fish, and everyone’s still out there fishing?”

Fall arrives early in Schenectady, so we might never know. Meanwhile, there are rumors that the Florida Tourist Board has reached out to the young angler about coming down to Lake Okeechobee, where thanks to the algae blooms, fishing is dead. What if he just happened to catch something exotic, say, like a mermaid, snapped a photo, then released it back? Would that jump-start the season? Worth a try, innit?


UPDATE 8/11/16

The rogue gar has been officially apprehended! [via]


Posted in NIMBY | 5 Comments


brain-boostTalking lately to a nerdy friend whose idea is to establish a brain-stimulation clinic. The machinery is inexpensive, and there don’t seem to be any licensing and regulatory hurdles other than those that govern businesses generally.

I do some research and find this, to start:

Neuroscientists began experimenting in earnest with transcranial direct current stimulation about 15 years ago. In such stimulation, electric current is administered at levels that are hundreds of times less than those used in electroconvulsive therapy. To date, more than 1,000 peer-reviewed studies of the technique have been published. Studies have suggested, among other things, that the stimulation may be beneficial for treating problems like depression and chronic pain as well as enhancing cognition and learning in healthy individuals. —NYTimes

Evidently the model started with DIY experimenters. Sticking stuck electrodes on their own heads, through trial and error, they generated some good vibes and (they maintain) improved health.  Zap away anxiety! Charge off depression! Never lose your car keys again!

The device scientists use for stimulation is essentially a nine-volt battery attached to two wires that are connected to electrodes placed at various spots on the head. A crude version can be constructed with just a bit of electrical know-how…. Figuring out how to stimulate your own brain requires work. To determine where to place the electrodes and what level of current to use, these individuals rely heavily on scientific journal articles.

I have to believe there were some singed hair and blistered skin, too, but hey — Edison didn’t get the light bulb right on the first try, either.

Anyway, we need to do a lot more research on constructing (or buying) the equipment, and how to locate electrodes for specific outcomes.  And of course before opening to the public and charging for services, we’d need to conduct experiments. Anybody interested in volunteering, please send an email to Squathole@gmail.com. We’ll buy you a beer, and provide the Bactine and bandages (if needed).

Our goal is to be open the studio for business by December, in time for tourists and the Christmas Season. I suggest calling it Fried Branes While U Wait. That could change, too.

Posted in Shaken and Stirred | 5 Comments