Major Strasser has been Shot


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Well, guess what – Casablanca, the movie, is 75 years old.  And so to get more mileage out of the film TCM or somebody re-released it in big screen format.  And it’s in the that big screen format that I saw it yesterday afternoon.

The movie tells a story which needed to be told at the time.  You can look up the movie a film history site.  I prefer not to dissect Casablanca into parts.  It’s the whole that matters and the whole thing works really well.  You can read for yourself all about who did what and what the social and Hollywood implications were.  But the movie doesn’t need any of that and deserves to be judged for what it turned out to be.

There are no car chases, nothing blows up, no theatre rattling explosions on the soundtrack.  The sound track is a character in the movie. It supports the plot and the actors.

The one chilling sound effect that works very well is the sound of the advancing German artillery while Bogart and Bergman are in Paris.

The nicest, the best thing about the movie is that scenes take minutes, not seconds jammed with jump cuts, slow motion, fast motion aerial shots.  The camera locks in on Rick and Ilsa and they act.

There are no toss away lines, not a moment of the movie is wasted.  Every piece of dialogue fits into the puzzle and eventually pays off.

Take 1 hour and 42 minutes to lose yourself in some history, movie and otherwise.



A Tale of Two Scales

I have a part time job at a place that houses a fitness center.

We have two scales, one is electronic and the other one is analog, I guess, where you stand on the scale and move little weights until the arrow floats and that’s how much you weigh.  No graphic support necessary.  I’m sure you get the picture.

Last week the plug in scale goes on the fritz.  People are forced to use the old fashioned scale.  It does not require a quarter.

We received several complaints that the old scale was not accurate in that it told people that they weighed more than they thought they did.  It’s never an under weight is it?

We get the electric scale back and I plug it in.  Just for fun I take a ten pound dumb bell and put it on the plug in scale.  The weight is indeed ten pounds.

I put that same weight on the older scale which does not plug in, and slide the little markers until the arrow floats.

And the old scale reads…


Postcard Tax Returns

The latest bright idea from our friends in Congress is that they will change the tax code so dramatically you’ll be able to do your tax return on the back of a post card.

The first problem I see is that everyone in the US Post Office will be able to see just how much you made last year.

Here’s my return well before April 15th 2018:

How much did you make?    Umpty Nine Billion

How much have you stashed offshore? Another Umpty Nine Billion

How many Congresspersons do you own?  Several dozen

Tax breaks weasled from your state and local governments ?  About a Gazillion.

How many lobbyists do you employ? ( Optional)  No Comment

Taxes owed – $3.00

Taxes paid – $3.00

Amount you want credited to next year’s taxes? Eleventy Billion.





The Game Slows Down

As in when Wayne Gretzky played that game on ice.  That’s how he described it.

He possessed such a superior athletic intellect that when he played he was able to see the game in slow motion because I suppose his brain processed the action much faster than normal human beings or other normal human being hockey players.  It was a gift.  After all they did call him “The Great Gretzky.”

Supposedly in times of great stress we normal beings benefit from our brains speeding into hyperdrive and slowing the action so we can analyze the situation and make the best of it.

I sort of had that kind of experience the other night although it did not involve a stressful or otherwise athletic encounter.

The big band, all 18 pieces, was playing a gig and midway through the second set when I was warmed up and had my amp dialed in we pulled up Duke Ellington’s ” Take the A Train” written by his long time collaborator Billy Strayhorn.

It’s not an especially difficult chart for the guitar player, who would be me, but we zipped out of the gate at a pretty brisk tempo.  The four bar piano intro sets it up and we were off.

We’re zipping along, I’m sitting literally right on top of the drum kit and so the kick and  hat are providing plenty of drive.  I’m not only hearing it, I’m feeling it and me and the rest of the rhythm section is ” In the Pocket.” Look it up.

And somewhere during the tune, I can’t recall exactly where but somewhere on page two I’m floating and flying and even though we’re zipping along at 80 miles an hour I’m seeing the chart and playing my chords in what I can only describe now as the game slowing down.  The chart is as big as the windshield on my car.  The notes are a foot tall.

I’m driving my guitar right on the beat but my brain has somehow become disconnected. I’m reading the chart in slow motion but the song maintains the tempo and I’m right in the middle of it all.

My musical brain is right there directing traffic.  My eyes are locked on the page, I’m not looking at my hands.  They are doing just fine on their own acting together even though they are making separate and distinct motions.   Lefty is going left and Righty is going right. My foot is tapping to the beat and what’s flooding my ears is pure magic.

I’m inside the song, I’ve crossed some kind of boundary into a zone I don’t normally get to be in but tonight I’m there and it’s beyond words – joy maybe?

I don’t want the song to end, I’m hoping there is a repeat sign at the end but I know there isn’t.

It’s the fastest 3 minutes and 5 seconds in the world that also lasts an hour in slowed down Wayne Gretzky time.

My thanks to Billy, Duke, the bands ( Duke’s and ours), Fender amps and Guild guitars.





The Soul of Medicine


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I had the occasion to visit with a general surgeon this afternoon.  The reason why is not important.  What is important is a phrase that he uttered during the course of our conversation.  It appears above.

He looked at my chart, on a screen of course and made a few remarks about the general state of my health noting that the lack of a long list of prescriptions indicated I was pretty healthy.  Lucky me.

I am few years older than he is and so he remarked at how I probably remember when medicine wasn’t a corporate for profit assembly line.

For the record, in my part of the state, hospitals are being bought, health care systems continue to merge and there is even a private hospital under construction in the county that won’t have an emergency room.  Paying customers only I suppose.

And if you think of it as I did on my drive home it seems that there is an awful lot of medical overhead money being made way beyond those folks who actually provide care to patients.

Hospitals and health care systems advertise on tv, on radio, in print and even on vinyl bus wraps.  When was the last time an ad on a bus influenced you or changed my mind about something, anything?

When did hospitals start to compete for my dollar?  You had a family doctor, you needed your gall bladder or something else taken out so you went to the nearest hospital and had your procedure.

Now commercials masquerading as news stories populate the six o’ clock news blurring the lines between what’s news and what’s not news.  Real news anymore whatever that is.

The worst part of all this for me is that when I visit a doctor’s office I see on the average three to four people before I see the Doctor.

Someone signs me in, someone takes my info, someone takes my pulse and blood pressure and then someone else tells me the Doctor will be right in.  I end up telling my story and explaining my symptoms at least three times not including when I made my initial phone call setting up the appointment all the while hoping that I have not forgotten something or contradicted myself.

The Doc today was worried about what medicine had become and how it wasn’t what it was when he got into it and he wondered where it was going.  He worried about medicine.  He worried about what would become of it’s soul.



A Big Yellow Mustang


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With apologies to Joni and her old man.

Spell check thought I was going for Big Yellow Mustard but I said no so fast buster.

I recently spoke over the FB pages to a friend who is on her way to Los Angeles, not for the World Series ( Trademark registered, MLB & all rights reserved) but for a vacation and a drive from southern California to northern California and San Francisco.  I suggested she keep driving until she got stopped at the Canadian border.

I also suggested that her rental car ought to be a ( see title ) A Big Yellow Mustang with 6 on the floor and my reasoning is the following:

How many times are you going to get to do something like this??????

I say go for seven or eight on the floor, make sure it’s a convertible too.

I once made the drive from San Francisco to Arcata, CA and if my fuzzy brain recalls correctly I rented a manual transmission in a dark blue Opel.

I’m open to suggestions to correct my faulty memory as to if Opels existed in California in the 1980’s and if they were part of rental stock.  Those were the days.

I should have kept driving to the Canadian border and told the border agents that I knew Gordon Lightfoot and I was on my way to see him perform.

I bet if my friend plays the GL card she gets into Canada no sweat.


The First of December…


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I suppose it might be covered with snow this year and then again maybe not.  Perhaps it was in 1968 when James Taylor wrote ” Sweet Baby James.”  It turns out there really was a baby James Taylor born to James’ brother Alex and his wife.

I was perusing the Pandora channel this morning when I came upon James Taylor telling the story of how he came to write ” Sweet Baby James” for his nephew James.

The bottom line is that there is another James Taylor and if he was born circa 1968 he would be, let’s see, 6 plus 7 carry the one around 49 years old.  I wonder how it feels to have a song written about you.

Further on down the road, also on Pandora, ” Danny’s Song” popped up.  You know           ” Even though we ain’t got money…”  And that song is also written about a baby which I think Kenny Loggins wrote for his brother and his wife who were also about to have a son. So where’s that kid and how does it feel to also have a song written about you.

And thanks to a dear friend who introduced me to Loggins & Messina in the wilds of Connecticut once upon a time.

Maybe James Taylor, James Taylor, and the Loggins kid should get together with Kenny and write another song or at least record a medley of their hit birth announcement songs.

Clearly, I have too much time on my hands and too much space left in my brain.


I Went Somewhere Last Night but I Don’t Know Where I Was, How I Got There OR How I Got Back Home



Sounds like the lead in or a set up for a three day blackout bender of a weekend but no.

The big band played a gig in East Greenville last night which is somewhere up there  – motions up and to the right.  Originally we were booked into Red Hill but the gig was switched  to the fire hall in in East Greenville.

As I said, I sorta knew where East Greenville was but not really.  GPS to the rescue.

I plugged in the address, got the driving directions and was off.  Forty eight miles, arrive in 1 Hour, 17 minutes.  Easy enough.  I’m on the road but I really don’t know where I’m going.  My faith in the GPS unit is unflinching and I suppose that’s how people drive off cliffs or into lakes.

” Go right on Lakeside Drive, turn at the boat ramp and go straight.”  Glug, glug.

I informed one of my bandmates about my lost in space predicament and he proceeded to draw me a map in the air  waving his arms .  ” Allentown is here and Pottstown is here and so East Greenville would be right about where my nose is.”  I get my Potts mixed up, we could have been near Pottsville.

During the drive I saw to my amazement a sign for the Tacony Palmyra Bridge which I though was way over there near his left ear.

We play the gig, I’m dialed in and the date goes well.

I load out, punch in ” Go Home” and  the GPS says turn right on Quakertown Road only it says Quackertown and of course Reading is pronounced as Reeding.  I wonder how the GPS does with Ypsilanti?

The funny thing is that the brains in the GPS take me home on a different route and amazingly it’s still only 1 hour and 17 minutes.  How can this be?  Have I drifted in to Einstein’s Time Space E=MC squared theory?  Am I bending time and space?  Do I have Marty McFly’s GPS?

I observe the speed limit so there’s no way I’m going 186,000 miles a second.  It’s a 10 year old Subaru – come on.

I went somewhere last night,  got there ( somewhere)  and got home.

Go figure.




This is a True Story


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During my prolonged summer and early fall absence from these pages I’ve been awarded customer of the month twice at the local orthopedic surgeon store.  The details are unimportant.

I highly recommend the nerve block for any surgery.  It’s got a delightful aroma of hickory with a hint of whimsy.  Plus, your arm, leg, shoulder or knee feels like a 2 x 4 for a day and a half after the surgery so there’s that.  I have no idea what it costs but I’m telling you it’s a bargain at twice the price.  Which bring us to our most recent MRI.

I get suited up or dressed down as the case may be and as I’m lying (laying?) on the table that’s about to slide me into the magnetic tunnel the MRI tech asks if I would like to listen to music instead of bricks rolling around in a dryer.  I say yes – what do you have?

He hands me the play list and I say channel 788 which is the Frank Sinatra station.  The quality of the audio in the headphones is terrible but I don’t care.  I’m just hoping I haven’t forgotten if I have a pacemaker or a stent or any other piece of metal in my body which I guess would get zoomed out of me at hypersonic magnetic speed once the machine starts.  Clearly there would be blood everywhere, all of it mine along with an internal organ or two draped over the MRI machine.  And so much paperwork – Oy.

In I go, the music begins, it’s old Blue Eyes, the Chairman of the Board and the first sounds I hear are… BANG BANG BANG BANG AND NOW THE END IS NEAR AND SO I FACE THE FINAL CURTAIN …BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG…

It’s ” My Way” one of Frankie’s biggest hits not exactly appropriate but I laugh it off without moving cause you can’t move once the magnets start taking pictures.  That tune is followed by Dean Martin’s ” Ain’t that a Kick in the Head?” and soon the hammering stops, I’m back on my feet and on the way home.

I don”t know if Frank was trying to reach me from the great beyond or if I was a victim of a simple twist of fated black humor.  But Frank, if you’re listening keep those hits coming.  I’ll take the pumpkin spice nerve block next time.