A welcome to readers

As a resident of this planet for more than four fifths of a century, I have enjoyed both successes and disappointments in a wide variety of vocations, avocations, and life experiences. This blog satisfies my desire to share some thoughts and observations--trenchant and prosaic--with those who are searching for diversions which are interesting, poignant and occasionally funny. I also plan to share recommendations about good/great movies I've watched and books and articles which I've found particularly mind-opening, entertaining, instructive. In addition, I can't pass up the opportunity to reflect publicly on how I am experiencing the so-called Golden Years. Write anytime:

Friday, February 7, 2014


Here's a truth I discovered early in my life, one that I continue to employ regularly. In the Paris Review,  Mary Karr said it well. "[R]eading is socially accepted disassociation. You flip a switch and you're not there anymore. It's better than heroin. More effective and cheaper and legal."

Wow! Flip a switch is right. I don't venture out of my apartment for any appointment these days without  a book in hand. Haven't for years. For me, it must be a real book, makes no difference if it's hard or soft bound, must have paper pages, and so it can't be an electronic version. Not so fast, Mark!  I don't diss all electronic books because I can--and must-- immerse myself in a narrated book on tape when I have to perform any repetitive or mindlessly boring physical activity (e.g., treadmill, recumbent bike) for half and hour or so at a time. I confess that in the gym or doctor's waiting room I do not read Jung, Kant, Plato, or Shakespeare to escape the drudgery or the fear--those authors require concentration and focus and a Wikipedia close at hand. Rather I go for authors who write what I refer to as "chewing gum for the mind" e.g., Nelson  deMille or Vince Flynn, Ken Follett, or Daniel Silva.

In the gym setting, it takes but a few seconds of listening to a favorite reader from Audible Books to transport me, entirely, to another place, time, and mental state.  These days I am listening to volume 17 of   Patrick O'Brian's  20 volume series of historical novels featuring Aubrey-Maturin. I confess that this is my second time through the series because the narrative is exciting, and because because the narrator's ability to use a variety of British accents simply ripens the story's effectiveness in transporting me back in time, up the rigging, and into a life filled with hard ship's biscuit full of weevils, the taste of lime and  Maderia, the smells of tar and gun powder, and the sounds of holystones scrubbing the decks during the morning watch.

The novels are set  in Napoleonic times, in the British navy, far removed in time and place from my treadmill at 24 Hour Fitness. I listen with deeply padded earphones that eliminate the ambient noise of crashing  weights and screams of Zumba enthusiasts. When my trainer arrives to announce that it is time to begin our session, and touches my shoulder to get my attention, I jump as if hit with a cattle prod, as I struggle to return to Denver  from the deck of a 64 gun Man of War in the South Seas c.1814.

My hyper anxiety in the waiting room of a dentist, urologist, cardiologist, or Emergency Room is almost totally relieved or abated if I can sink my conscious mind into an adventure of espionage or become a participant in realistic  military action. So necessary is this kind of reading to my mental health that I have mustered the courage brazenly to turn off a waiting room television set, or at least get its volume muted, so that I can concentrate on my of escape from reality via print.  I am unable to remove all distractions, unfortunately, such as the telephone calls being made by the receptionist to remind other patients about their upcoming appointments--usually in a loud and strident voice as if increased volume would somehow guarantee attendance at the scheduled time (think Lily Tomlin without the humor). And don't even get me started on people who use their cell phone in the waiting room to discuss shopping lists, recipes, school problems, personal problems, or politics.

So I've figured out how to cope with the realities --and dangers--of my life by  flipping the switch,  by changing where I am and what I feel by immersing myself in a book.  Disassociation has proven to be an important  and inexpensive key to improving my mental health. As an added benefit, reading has allowed me to travel without having to deal with the long lines of security checks at airports, to participate in derring-do without putting myself in actual danger, to love-woo-wed-make love, eat sumptuous meals, and to participate in life and events long past. 

Forget the X-rays and drills, the diagnosis, the blood draw, the tread mill's  endless challenge. Just flip the switch...

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Add to the following  hated words from Lake Superior's list, the following words I heard too many times during the  recent football season:  sports commentators' repetitive use of "the next level" (will he be able to play on "the next level?") and observations that a defensive back was able to make a tackle "in space." And now, "Omaha" is perilously close to being added to my list along with "Hurry Hurry." Maybe I'm just feeling poorly after the Bronco's loss to Seattle. (Talk about being out in space--the needle and all).

Now add these two lists to my earlier blog, and take an aspirin.

Lake Superior State University 2014 List of Banished Words

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Has the honor of receiving the most nominations this year.
"People have taken pictures of themselves for almost as long as George Eastman's company made film and cameras. Suddenly, with the advent of smartphones, snapping a 'pic' of one's own image has acquired a vastly overused term that seems to pop up on almost every form of social media available to us….A self-snapped picture need not have a name all its own beyond 'photograph.' It may only be a matter of time before photos of one's self and a friend will become 'dualies.' LSSU has an almost self-imposed duty to carry out this banishment now." – Lawrence, Coventry, Conn. and Ryan, North Andover, Mass.

"Named 'Word of the Year' by Oxford Dictionary? Give me a break! Ugh, get rid of it." – Bruce, Ottawa, Ont.
"Myselfie disparages the word because it's too selfie-serving. But enough about me, how about yourselfie?" – Lisa, New York, NY
"It's a lame word. It's all about me, me, me. Put the smartphone away. Nobody cares about you." -- David, Lake Mills, Wisc.
Dayna of Rochester Hills, Mich., laments how many people observe "Selfie Sunday" in social media, and Josh of Tucson, Ariz., asks, "Why can't we have more selflessies?"


Another word that made the Oxford Dictionaries Online this year.
Cassidy of Manheim, Penn. said, "All evidence of Miley Cyrus' VMA performance must be deleted," but it seems that many had just as much fun as Miley did on stage when they submitted their nominations.
"Let's just keep with 'shake yer booty' -- no need to 'twerk' it! Hi ho, hi ho, it's away with twerk we must go." – Michael, Haslett, Mich.
Bob of Tempe, Ariz. says he responds, "T'werk," when asked where he is headed on Monday mornings.

"I twitch when I hear twerk, for to twerk proves one is a jerk -- or is at least twitching like a jerk. Twerking has brought us to a new low in our lexicon." – Lisa, New York, NY

"Time to dance this one off the stage." – Jim, Flagstaff, Ariz.
"The fastest over-used word of the 21st century." – Sean, New London, NH.
"The newest dictionary entry should leave just as quickly." – Bruce, Edmonton, Alb.


We used to call it the pound symbol. Now it is seeping from the Twittersphere into everyday expression. Nearly all who nominated it found a way to use it in their entries, so we wonder if they're really willing to let go. #goodluckwiththat
"A technical term for a useful means of categorizing content in social media, the word is abused as an interjection in verbal conversation and advertising.  #annoying!" – Bob, Grand Rapids, Mich.
"Typed on sites that use them, that's one thing. When verbally spoken, hashtag-itgetsoldquickly. So, hashtag-knockitoff." – Kuahmel, Gardena, Calif.
"Used when talking about Twitter, but everyone seems to add it to everyday vocabulary.  #annoying #stopthat  #hashtag  #hashtag  #hashtag ." – Alex, Rochester, Mich.
"It's #obnoxious #ridiculous #annoying and I wish it would disappear." – Jen, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
"#sickoftheword"  – Brian, Toronto, Ont.


To which we advise, keep all future nominations to fewer than 140 characters.
"There cannot possibly be any oxygen there." – Matt of Toledo, Ohio


The 30-year anniversary of this hilarious 1983 Michael Keaton movie seems to have released some pent-up emotions. It received nearly as many nominations as "selfie" and "twerk" from coast to coast in the U.S. and Canada, mostly from men.
"It was a funny movie in its time, but the phrase should refer only to the film, not to men in the real world. It is an insult to the millions of dads who are the primary caregivers for their children. Would we tolerate calling working women Mrs. Dad?" says Pat, of Chicago, who suggests we peruse the website captaindad.org, the manly blog of stay-at-home parenting.
"I am a stay-at-home dad/parent. And if you call me 'Mr. Mom,' I will punch you in the throat. – Zachary, East Providence, RI.
"Society is changing and no longer is it odd for a man to take care of his children. Even the Wall Street Journal has declared, "Mr. Mom is dead" (Jan. 22, 2013). I think it is time to banish it." – Chad, St. Peters, Mo.


This common way of describing an automobile collision has now made it from conversation into the news reports. While the accident's layout does, indeed, resemble its namesake cut of beef, we'd prefer to dispense with the collateral imagery and enjoy a great steak.
"As in 'crashed into another car perpendicularly.' Making a verb out of a cut of beef?" – Kyle, White Lake, Mich.


New! Improved! Steroidal!
"Please, does the service at my favorite restaurant have to be 'on steroids' (even though the meat may be)?" – Betsy, Los Angeles, Calif.


Many in advertising and in the news took two words – Armageddon and Apocalypse and shortened them into two worn-out suffixes this year.



"Come on down, we're havin' car-ageddon, wine-ageddon, budget-ageddon, a sale-ageddon, flower-ageddon, and so-on-and-so-forth-ageddon! None of these appear in the Book of Revelations." – Michael, Haslett, Mich.
"Every passing storm or event is tagged as ice-ageddon or snow-pocalypse. There's a limited supply of ...ageddons and ...pocalypses; I believe it's one, each. When running out of cashews becomes nut-ageddon, it's time to re-evaluate your metaphors." – Rob, Sellersville, Penn.


Politicians never fail to disappoint in providing fodder for the list.


   Used by members of each political party when describing members of the other.


   A wandering prefix (see 2010's "Obama-") finally settles down. We thought it might rival "fiscal cliff," the most-nominated phrase on the 2013 list, but it didn't come close.
Cal of Cherry Hill, NJ wonders, "Are there intellectual creditors?"
"Because President Obama's signature healthcare law is actually called the Affordable Care Act. The term has been clearly overused and overblown by the media and by members of Congress." – Ben of Michigan "What more can I say?" – Jane, McKinney, Tex.



   Heard often in the world of football.


   Why use one word when apparently two are twice as better?
"Facing adversity is working 50 hours a week and still struggling to feed your kids. Facing third and fifteen without your best receiver with tens of millions in the bank, is not."  – Kyle, White Lake, Mich.
"From the world of sports comes the latest example of word inflation. What's wrong with the word 'fans'?" – Paul, Canton, Mich.