A Better Medicine?

A new word that’s coming into widespread use is “doomscrolling”. It’s the bad habit of constantly checking the news to see what depressing thing has taken over the headlines this time. The reasons behind this, quite naturally, are seeing a lot of people becoming depressed or at least “down in the dumps”.

Now I’m not a professional – and if you seriously are depressed, you should seek out some professional help after you’re done reading this essay – but it seems to me that humans have been devising ways to chase away gloom for thousands of years…..

This famous musical, for example, is based largely on the plays of Plautus (c. 254 – 184 BCE), and it really does capture the look of daily life in Republican Rome:

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A Pain in the

I have written in the past about suffering from colds. Illnesses and aches and pains are part of growing old. The body stops being young and resilient, injuries – even little things like paper cuts – take longer to heal, they even happen more often.

One of the things that I find myself dealing with at the moment is lower back pain.

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Checking the Boxes

I happened to come across my first 2022 quarter today. There’s a new portrait of George Washington on the face – and Maya Angelou on the obverse. Now even though I haven’t read anything of hers, I understand she’s a very great writer and deserves more than just a few accolades. But being put on a quarter? There’s plenty of worthy Americans that should be honored with an appearance on our money, but why her in particular?

Might it have something to do with her being a black woman with a “tragic backstory”?

Are we honoring her because of her writing skills, or because she checks off a lot of boxes?

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Stupidest Things of the Year – 2021

(By the way, this will be my last post for 2021. See you in the new year!)

I recall reading of one holiday ritual that I firmly believe we need to do more often. On New Year’s Eve, go outside and start a large fire (in an appropriate fire pit or other safe place, naturally). As you and your friends stand around sharing good cheer, throw into the fire representations of everything you don’t want to follow you into the new year. The idea is that through “sympathetic magic”, the bad juju will burn up, turn to ash and smoke, and blow away on the wind.

If you can’t build a fire, simply writing the bad things on a piece of paper and burning that in an ashtray or other fire-safe container will work. If you must do it indoors, do it near an open window so you can blow the smoke outside.

This is also the time of year when various journalists prepare their “Best of the Year” lists.

How about a list of the year’s Worst? The stupid, awful, and inane things that should be left in the past?

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Movies I’d Like to See – I

As you can gather from my reviews here, I’ve watched a lot of movies. Not as many as some, though. I have different tastes than most. Very little of current cinema catches my interest. Nor do I consider myself a “scholar” of the art form. I’m just a person who has a bit more than a mere passing interest in movies.

And since I have this blog, I therefore have free rein to write about them.

Naturally, I imagine the sort of movie I would like to see. And that’s a topic for a post or three.

First, a reimagination.

The character of Fu Manchu was created by Sax Rohmer in 1913. An early archetype of the genius supervillain, he was everything the era was afraid of when it came to the Orient (“the Yellow Peril incarnate in one man.”). Yes, it was racist AF. But the novels – and the movies made from them – were incredibly popular in their day, and the character still haunts pop culture.

There’s actually been an origin story for him – The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (1929). Let’s do it again, but tinker with the point of view.

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Bowling in the Olympics

While at dinner tonight, I caught a bit of a news item on the upcoming Olympics. This set me thinking. They’re always looking to add more sports to the Olympics (which is one of the reasons they’re getting more expensive, but I’ve already written about that). Baseball and softball have been “demonstration” sports. Among those activities that are or have been seriously considered are ballroom dance (!) and chess (!!!).

Look, we’ve got to make something clear to stop such foolishness. Make a hard and fast definition that a Sport is a “competition primarily for physical skills where a winner can be determined objectively”. While competitive chess at the highest levels can give rise to serious physical stress in the players, it is almost entirely a mental game. You can play it with almost no bodily movement. And while ballroom dance requires great physical skill, it’s rarely obvious who “wins”.

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Blog Hop

I’m not sure what this is or how it works. Seems to be some sort of “blog sharing” thing, so I thought I’d try it:

What is a blog hop?

A blog hop is a linky list that is SHARED ON MULTIPLE BLOGS.
When several blogs put the same linky list code on their blog, the
exact same list appears on each blog.

Blog visitors can submit their entries on any blog that contains the list.
The entries will appear on each blog where the list resides.

Blog readers see the same list on each blog, and can “HOP” from blog
to blog seeing the same list of links to follow: BLOG HOP!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

An Open Letter to the National Film Preservation Board

The National Film Preservation Board “works to ensure the survival, conservation and increased public availability of America’s film heritage, including: advising the Librarian on its recommendations for annual selections to the National Film Registry…The National Film Registry selects 25 films each year showcasing the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation.”

Well, at least according to their website.

For the average movie buff, it’s a list of movies that are deemed sufficiently important for aesthetic, historic, or cultural reasons. They started selecting movies in 1989, but over the years they have somehow managed to avoid selecting one particular film. So once I’m done writing this, I’m going to nominate this movie – and hope someone there actually reads my nomination, and acts favorably.

The Blob (1958)

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To Be a Man

It’s hard not to notice that the news these days is filled with tales of Men (and Boys) Behaving Badly. Other items tell of Men being called out for having violated what is a current social norm some decades ago. Over the course a single lifetime (like my own), one sees that the entire social/cultural/legal relationship between the sexes has undergone a radical upheaval. Even the whole concept of “gender” has become fluid and variable.

I suspect that a lot of the problems with “Men These Days” is that they are having trouble coping with the new realities of their gender roles.

Most Men can handle it, naturally. But it still makes one wonder.

What is the role of Men in the 21st century?

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Starbucks

It’s been all over the news (at least the news I’ve been reading) this week how Starbucks closed everywhere for “anti-bias training”. This was prompted by an incident where two guests at a Philadelphia Starbucks were arrested for, apparently, loitering. It happened that those two gentlemen were African-American, so it quickly became yet another instance of being arrested simply for the color of one’s skin.

There’s been much commentary about how these sorts of training things are really ineffective. True, perhaps, but you have to give Starbucks credit for at least making the effort without prompting – unlike some other businesses one could mention.

And really, it wasn’t the corporation’s fault. *One* barista called the police. Starbucks could have just told them that their services were no longer needed, and they should seek employment elsewhere. And what about the two police officers? It should have been obvious that there was no reason to arrest anyone. Is the Philadelphia PD going to have more mandatory training on “How to Handle Situations Where an Arrest Is Not Clearly Warranted”?

Personally, I suspect some of people’s griping about Starbucks is residual – and irrational – hatred of the corporation itself. Starbucks was the first real coffee shop chain to go national (as far as I can recall), and all the hipsters and coffee snobs from the Pacific Northwest were jealous. They griped about how Starbucks was selling overpriced coffee and driving local coffee shops out of business. Funny how there didn’t seem to be any coffee shops of the Starbucks variety in the first place. Sure, you had luncheonettes and Dunkin Donuts. But they weren’t places where you could nurse a latte for an hour while working on your latest novel. And now, there actually are more independent coffee shops around.

Another common gripe (since that first one isn’t very relevant anymore) is that Starbucks over-roasts (i.e. “burns”) its coffee. I have two things to note about this. First, take a look at Starbucks’ menu. It’s all “lattes” and “cappuccinos” and “Americanos”. A latte is espresso and milk. An Americano is espresso and hot water. The vast majority of their menu is espresso-based drinks. And guess what? Espresso is the darkest, most roasted of coffee forms. It’s naturally going to taste “over-roasted”. Secondly, how many people order a “plain coffee” at Starbucks? They’ll always add in milk (of one sort or another) and flavorings. You need a strong, dark roast to cut through all that and give you some sense of coffee flavor.

Me? Yes, I’m a Starbucks regular. There’s one a half mile away from where I live. Across the street from that Starbucks there’s an independent coffee shop. There’s another one around the corner from that Starbucks. But they are both closed by 6 pm. The Starbucks is open to 9 pm. If I want an after dinner “dessert” coffee on a weekend, where else am I going to go?