Tuesday, August 31, 2021

August Words of Wisdom

Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen. --Samuel Adams

Tolerance will reach such a level that intelligent people will be banned from thinking so as not to offend the imbeciles. --Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned. --Richard Feynman

Let truth and falsehood grapple...in a free and open encounter. --John Milton

If you don't follow your heart, you might spend the rest of your life wishing you had. --Brigitte Nicole

I have made my world and it is a much better world than I ever saw outside.
--Louise Nevelson

You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm. --Colette

Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, "Grow, grow." --The Talmud

The older I get, the more I realize I don't want to be around drama, conflict or stress. I want a cozy home, good food, and to be surrounded by happy people. --Unknown

The ones who ask for nothing other than your authentic self, are the ones you should spend the most time with on purpose. --Stacie Martin

Some people don't wanna be fixed, because being broken gets them attention. --Unknown

When laws do not apply to those who make them, people are not being governed, they are being ruled. --Judge Michael McHaney

I like being alone. I have control over my own shit. Therefore, in order to win me over, your presence has to feel better than my solitude. You're not competing with another person, you're competing with my comfort zones. 
--Horacio Jones

Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself. --Franz Kafka

I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity. --Margaret Donnano

We live in times where smart people are silenced so that stupid people won't be offended. --Brigitte Gabriel

You should sit in nature for 20 minutes a day...unless you're busy, then you should sit for an hour. --Zen Saying

You can rise up from anything. You can completely recreate yourself. Nothing is permanent. You're not stuck. You have choices. You can think new thoughts. You can learn something new. You can create new habits. All that matters is that you decide today and never look back. --Idil Ahmed

Reality is what continues to exist whether you believe it or not. --Philip K. Dick

The nearer a person comes to a calm mind, the closer they are to strength. 
--Marcus Aurelius

Give me a good script, and I'll be a hundred times better as a director. 
--George Cukor

There has never been a shortage of people eager to draw up blueprints for running other people's lives. --Thomas Sowell

I only sound intelligent when there is a good script writer around. --Christian Bale

Keep me away from the wisdom that doesn't cry, the philosophy that doesn't laugh, and the greatness that doesn't bow to children. --Kahlil Gibran

It's really difficult to be in a bad mood when you're sitting on the sand, listening to the ocean. --Rachel Roy

Write your first draft quickly, before you have time to think. Let go of the result. --Alan Watt

Create your vision, then go beast mode to achieve it. --Unknown

Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue has never been erected in honor of a critic. --Jean Sebilius

Never throughout history has a man who lived a life of ease left a name worth remembering. --Theodore Roosevelt

I've made peace with the fact that the things that I thought were weaknesses or flaws were just me. I like them. --Sandra Bullock

The truth does not require your participation to exist. Bullshit does. --Terence McKenna

The real innovators did their innovating by just being themselves. --William James "Count" Basie

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. --Abraham Lincoln

A real decision is measured by the fact that you've taken a new action. If there's no action, you haven't truly decided. --Tony Robbins

Monday, August 30, 2021

God bless our fallen soldiers

Like everyone else (with a soul) I've been riveted the past few days by the news of the tragic deaths of American troops in the explosion at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan. 

One of the many things about this story that really got me is how young they all were. All but one were only in their twenties. The oldest of all of them was only thirty-one. One of the young men has a wife who is about to give birth. They were:
  • U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31
  • U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosariopichardo, 25
  • U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23
  • U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23
  • U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22
  • U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22
  • U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20
  • U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20
  • U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20
  • U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20
  • U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20
  • U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22
  • U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23

We all spent about twenty-four hours looking at pictures of them and reading about what wonderful people they were. The pain from family members has been palpable. Now these young heroes have been brought home to their loved ones. And here, side by side, are two of the most enduring images from their arrival at Dover Air Force Base.

In one photo, someone who would rather be anywhere else.
In the other photo, someone who would rather be anywhere else.

If you feel like our country is drowning, you're not the only one. This also popped up on my social media yesterday:

I usually try to keep the blog reasonably upbeat, but these are somber days. In fact, I kept finding more and more unpleasant reports from Dover, but at some point I needed to get this posted, so that's it for now. Probably more to come, if I can stomach it.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Cool plates

Didn't get a chance to take pics, but yesterday going to and from the store I saw a trio of really cool license plates.

In the parking lot, one car had VEN BCH. I wonder how long they've had it. My late godfather, an Arcadia, California historian, had the plates ARCADIA and OAK TREE on his and his wife's plates. Not sure if she kept them after he passed away.

Just a few spots down from VEN BCH was a car sporting plates declaring I LV NY (California plates - the classic gold lettering-on-black, no less).

Then driving home I saw a car sporting DLVR BBS. It took me a few seconds to realize what it meant...deliver babies!!!

And just to top off the automotive experience for the day, the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile was parked out in front of the hotels down the street. 

This was right after the rest of my patio furniture arrived! So just a good day all-around.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

From the Department of Stranger Than Fiction: Jockey Frank Hayes

Despite a lifetime as a horse-crazy girl, a large part of which was as a horse racing fan, I had never, ever heard of this guy until this post about him popped up on my social media the other day:

Frank Hayes is the only jockey to win a race while dead. No joke. He suffered a fatal heart attack during a steeplechase at Belmont Park in 1923, just after Sweet Kiss, his 20-1 longshot mount, took the lead at the head of the stretch, but his body stayed in the saddle until after the horse crossed the finish line. It was Hayes's first - and needless to say, last - win as a jockey. In fact, he's the only dead person to ever win a sporting event.

No one realized Hayes was dead until after the race. Belmont officials graciously waived the usual post-race weigh-in and because the jockey was still in the saddle when he crossed the finish line, ruled the win legit. 

You can learn more about Hayes here (and do check out the links at the bottom of that page). Stranger than fiction indeed. And you'd better believe I'm adding this to my riding writing notes. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

Recent reading: "Meghan and Harry: The Real Story"

Meghan and Harry: The Real Story by Lady Colin Campbell

I don't think I'm any more or less interested in gossip than the next person, but after recently discovering Lady Colin Campbell's YouTube channel and hearing her dish on Prince Harry and the former Meghan Markle, I was hooked on the ongoing trainwreck that is this pretentious, entitled couple. Lady Colin Campbell has had a fascinating life of her own, like something out of an epic novel. You can read all about her here

As a result of being born into a wealthy family and marrying into a titled one, Lady C (as she is know to fans) has moved among an elite crowd for most of her life. And having spent a number of years living in New York (where she worked as a model) she has an understanding of the surprisingly vast differences between the British and American media coverage, as well as the realities of British royal life versus how it's perceived by Americans. She has a great number of sources in that world, some of them courtiers, some of them royalty themselves. And it seems like a lot of them, along with a number of estranged friends and family, were more than willing to dish on the disruption that occurred in the British royal family when Meghan Markle descended on them.

Since I wasn't aware of Meghan Markle as an actress or celebrity prior to her being linked to Prince Harry, I had no idea of her background. I also had no idea she was mixed-race until people started making a big deal about it; I couldn't tell from looking at her. Lady Campbell explains how this actually worked to Meghan's benefit with Buckingham Palace. In addition to helping make the lily-white royal family look more modern, there's the fact that a large number of the British Commonwealth nations are populated by people of color. So rather than being a drawback, it was an advantage, at least until Meghan and her supporters started playing the race card every time she didn't get her way or was criticized, then it became a weapon.

What was really surprising was finding out that Meghan actually had a pretty privileged upbringing. Her father, Thomas Markle Sr., is an Emmy-winning lighting director, and was director of photography on Married... with Children. As a result, she spent a great deal of her childhood on set with him. He adored her and gave her everything he could. As a child she attended private schools, starting at Hollywood's Little Red Schoolhouse before transferring to Immaculate Heart Catholic School. When she decided she had to attend Northwestern University in Chicago, Thomas footed the bill for that as well. Years later, after Meghan told Prince Harry she had struggled to put herself through college, Thomas threatened to provide proof that he had actually paid for her education. It was one of the reasons she cut him off which seems extreme until you learn that by then, she had begun dumping people when they were no longer of use to her, including childhood friends and her first husband.

From the book:

Although Meghan had praised her father to the skies publicly, privately she had become concerned that a garrulous loose cannon like Thomas Markle Sr would cough up inconvenient facts which might cause Harry to query aspects of her past which did not accord perfectly with her present version of events. For instance, she led Harry to believe that she had had a far harder life than she had. She had gained his admiration by making herself out to be far more self-sufficient than she had ever been, to have surmounted struggles that did not exist. She had told him how hard she had to struggle to put herself through university when, in fact, her time there had been one long joyride on her father's bandwagon. She didn't want Tom Sr giving the game away and shining a light on those aspects of her persona which were, to put it politely, self-generated rather than organic.

In addition to the years of financially providing as many advantages as possible, Thomas Markle actively encouraged his daughter to pursue her dreams, and in spite of a lingering feeling of confusion over her racial background, Meghan powered through childhood and college as a popular hyper-achiever. Her trajectory didn't hit a wall until after she graduated from college, where the Hollywood fame and success she felt was her due eluded her. It took a number of years for her career to solidify when she landed a prominent role on the USA Network series Suits. In the meantime she married Trevor Engleson, a producer who earned her ire for failing to recommend her for roles in his projects that he didn't think she was right for, but she believed she was perfect for. Once she began meeting and socializing with movers and shakers in Toronto (where Suits was filmed) he had outlived his usefulness and was unceremoniously dumped. She had also begun to shed longtime friends, many of whom felt she changed (and not for the better) once she became famous.

As an employed actress, Meghan began social climbing in earnest. She had developed a relentless, entitled ego and drive for the good life. "Classy" (a trait she believes herself to possess in spades) became one of her favorite words. Her ambitions eventually led her to London where she asked a British socialite friend to help her find "a rich and famous Englishman". And despite the friend trying to do just that, she would become one of many dropped when they were no longer useful and Meghan's relationship with Prince Harry had taken off.

A number of Meghan's self-serving claims are demolished in the book as they just don't hold up for any number of reasons, but no more so than her claim that she knew nothing about Prince Harry before they started dating. On the contrary, not only was she was a long-time fan of Princess Diana and used her as a role model, but on the very day she was due to meet Harry for the first time, she excitedly told another British friend (also soon to be jettisoned) that not only was she well aware who he was, she had googled him. And once she got her hooks into him, she was not about to let her ticket to worldwide fame get away.

From the book:

With hindsight, it is obvious that Meghan had an agenda where her wedding was concerned. She wanted it to be the most beautiful and glamorous occasion. It must be the perfect setting for her introduction to the world at large. It would establish her as a beautiful, desirable, 'classy' woman of style and taste, as someone who had everything, every virtue, from superficial style and beauty to profound depth of character. She was a jewel that the Royal Family was lucky to have in its Crown and the world must see this. She did not want any of her family, with the exception of her parents, there. She wanted none of them or her oldest friends raining on her parade. She was flying high and didn't want too many links with the past she had left behind. Then, she had been an ordinary girl on the make. Now, she had it made. 

Then there were Prince Harry's issues. He had been understandably traumatized by the death of his mother. But another problem was that while alive, Diana had spoiled him rotten and the result was an undisciplined but well-meaning and not particularly bright guy, given to reacting emotionally rather than intellectually. He was ripe to be emotionally manipulated by someone who knew how to do it. By the time Harry met Meghan, he was yearning to get married and start a family of his own, leaving him that much more vulnerable to a master manipulator. Once engaged, the besotted Harry's mantra was that whatever Meghan wants, Meghan gets, even if what she wanted defied British and royal traditions and rules, which she exhibited zero respect for or interest in.

Shortly after her royal wedding, riding a wave of popularity with the public who were unaware of the drama she had been creating behind the scenes, Meghan began to assert herself in ways that promptly began to erode that goodwill. She and Harry began making demands that they be allowed to do as they pleased, establishment tradition and values be damned. Meghan quickly lost interest in the less exciting and glamorous aspects of royal life and duty. She was abusive to staff (the royals pride themselves on treating their staff with respect), ignored protocol and flouted royal dress codes. One of Harry's oldest friends was frozen out simply because he (as well as Prince William) had counseled Harry against rushing into the marriage. At the wedding of Princess Eugenie to Jack Brooksbank, the Sussexes stole the spotlight from the bride by using it as an opportunity to reveal their first pregnancy. Extremely tacky and about as far from "classy" as one could get. And whenever anyone - especially the press - called them on their behavior, the couple immediately assumed the position of being victimized, and in Meghan's case, being discriminated against due to her mixed-race background. Then they would dig in their heels and create more drama.

In addition to her social-climbing, Meghan is shameless in her pursuit of money. The several million per year she and Harry received as royals apparently wasn't enough for her. Part of their supposed reasoning for stepping back as senior royals was to become financially independent, but it's clear that Meghan, feeling constrained by royal life, realized they could make a lot more money by monetizing their "brand", something anathema to true royalty. At this point her ego was running amok. Meghan believes she is destined for greatness simply because she's her. Her aspirations are to be as rich, famous, and influential as possible. And the besotted Harry, described as following her around like a lovesick puppy, only enables her.

From the book:

According to Liz Brewer, socialite doyenne of the British aristocratic PR world, whose information came from someone at Buckingham Palace's Press Office, and according to a European prince whose information came from a British royal, Meghan had flown to LA shortly after the baby's conception with the specific objective of employing the best Instagrammers in the world. The brief she gave them (her high-powered PR firm) was straightforward enough:

1) I need you to create the world's number one Instagram account for me. It needs to end up having more followers than any other Instagram account on earth;

2) I want to be bigger than Diana, Princess of Wales;

3) I need you to make me the most famous woman in the world. 

Having said all that, although the book throws bare Meghan's abject egoism, sense of entitlement and ruthless ambition, the author is fair to her, acknowledging her tactical brilliance, intelligence, and confidence, which unfortunately are so over the top that they've become liabilities. Lady Campbell repeatedly points out that most people, even in Buckingham Palace and the upper echelon of British society, were pulling for Meghan to succeed in their world and bent over backwards to make her feel welcome. And the thanks for that was that Meghan and Harry have thrown the royal family into tumult, alienated a great number of their subjects, and left numerous once close, healthy relationships in ruins. They have the benefit of being willing and able to behave in the most odious, disrespectful, greedy, and superficial manner when they know full well that Harry's family doesn't have that option in response, at least not publicly.

From the book:

Even the Queen, who is the most anodyne of all of them, has expressed her displeasure in no uncertain terms. She has many friends, and she has been forthright in expressing her viewpoint. I have been told by two separate and utterly reliable sources that she feels that Meghan's demeanor has been only a cut above a floozy's and her conduct has been no better than a strumpet's. That does not mean that she regards Meghan as either a floozy or a strumpet, but simply as someone whose sense of obligation, responsibility, and self-aggrandisement is reminiscent of a category of woman who is out for herself in a way that other women would not be.

Nonetheless, at the end of the book, which was released in July 2020, the author wishes Harry and Meghan success in their endeavors. Viewing her YouTube videos recorded since then, I don't think she would make that statement today. In fact, Lady C recently claimed that a reliable source told her that Meghan made the shocking comment that she and Harry were, "One plane crash away from the throne," one idea being that if something happened to both Prince Charles and Prince William, Harry would be the obvious choice to serve as regent to Prince George until the child reached adulthood, or even worse, the loss of not only Charles and William, but William's three children as well, making Harry King and Meghan Queen Consort. And between this book and Lady C's YouTube videos, I could see Meghan saying that. Bitch is crazy entitled and maybe a little psycho.

There are so many other aspects and observations in this book that even this lengthy post doesn't begin scratch the surface. If you're at all interested in the drama of Harry and Meghan, I highly recommend it. It's also a wonderful look at the nuances of royal service and privilege, and how the royal family interact with their subjects and their press. Highly, highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Sartre was right: Hell is other people

Words fail me. I mean, it's not like you can reason with people like this. It reminds me of something my Dad once told me: "You'd be surprised how uncommon common sense is."

Luckily, for occasions like this, we have memes.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Screw you guys, I'm going to Casa Bonita!

South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone have made it official: they're buying Casa Bonita!

According to the linked article, due to the previous owner's bankruptcy filing it may take a couple of months before it's officially official and the guys can take full possession of the restaurant, but this is still great news.

Not coincidentally, today is also the 24th anniversary of South Park's debut on Comedy Central. so just a great, all-around kickass day!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Recent reading: "On the Road with Del & Louise"

On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories by Art Taylor

This is a novel told in a series of six short stories, rather than chapters. It follows the multi-state exploits of Delwood Grayson, a well-meaning, small-time crook who robs convenience stores to help pay his community college tuition, and Louise, who is manning the cash register at a 7-Eleven he knocks off. By the time Del empties the register and makes his escape, the two have bonded enough that Louise gives him her phone number. He actually calls her (although as she notes, caller ID promptly provides her with his full name, not the smartest move for a criminal) and the two are off and running, with the sharp-tongued and sharp-witted Louise quickly adapting to a criminal mindset. 

Both Del and Louise are looking to make fresh starts, hoping to find a place where they can settle down and live legitimate lives. But a series of crazy situations - some of their own making, some foisted on them - constantly thwart these attempts.

Starting with their unlikely meeting and courtship in New Mexico, the couple make their way to Victorville, California, Napa, Las Vegas, North Dakota, and finally to Louise's native North Carolina, where her mother threatens to derail the couple's wedding plans.

Taylor is an awards magnet short story author who earned an additional Agatha Award for Best First Novel for this book. It was an interesting concept to tell the story in a series of stories (one for each stop on the road) and the ending was a bit of a surprise, especially considering how the trip began. But the evolution from low-key Bonnie and Clyde to a well-intentioned couple who just want to be happy is expertly handled by Taylor.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Snow angels of death

These haunting images popped up on my Facebook feed this morning. They are imprints left in the snow by owls snagging their earthbound prey:

The whole set can be seen at The Thanatos File on Facebook.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Recent reading: "November Road"

November Road by Lou Berney

This is an absolutely riveting thriller set against the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963. Frank Guidry has performed a job for his New Orleans mob boss that makes him expendable - a car he dropped off in Dallas, Texas could tie him and his boss to the assassination and his boss is tying up loose ends, if you know what I mean. 

While on the run from Barone, the hitman dispatched to eliminate him, Guidry comes across a woman who, along with her two precocious daughters, are on a flight of their own. Charlotte has impulsively fled her alcoholic husband and small Oklahoma town, hoping for more from life than the tedium hers has become. At first Guidry views the innocent family as a convenient asset to his flight to safety - Barone isn't looking for a family or a family man. But by drawing Charlotte and her girls into his desperate bid to stay alive, he's putting them in danger as well. Matters are complicated even more when Guidry and Charlotte fall hard for each other.

Berney is a gifted writer and November Road is a non-stop thrill ride. You're immediately drawn in not only to the story, but especially to the characters. I had to find out how things would turn out for them and got through this book in just a few days. The ending was completely unexpected, salvaging the main characters believably and without tying everything up into a neat little package as a lesser author might have done.

November Road earned Berney a well-deserved slew of awards: the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, The Hammett Prize, as well as Anthony, Barry, Lefty, and Macavity awards. It was named one of the best novels of the year by numerous publications. And I was thrilled to discover that a film version is in the works, with Lawrence Kasdan scripting and directing. I can't wait for casting announcements.

Berney has written three other novels (November Road being the most recent) and now I'm dying to read those as well. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

It's a scorching 100 degrees today and tomorrow at my old apartment. It's a cool, gorgeous day at the new one.

Seeing boats out in the Marina del Rey channel always makes me want a boat. Talk about getting away from everything. Also, pardon mah fingers.

This is either a heron or egret in the pond at my apartment complex, I'm not sure which. But it was very cool.

Hope you're having a beautiful day!