May 2015

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Where did everybody go?

Where did everybody go?

This past week has alarmed me more than I can say. Supposedly good Christians attacking a woman who was the target of a murderous assault by the proud sponsors of videotaped decapitations, rapes, mutilations, and other acts so detestable most people can’t and don’t watch them. The cognoscenti sought to shame her and give fanatical murderers a pass because they were “provoked.”

I’ve had it. At this point I’m entirely willing to be on the outs with friends and family who have forgotten what they shallowly profess to believe. Do I extend to them Christian forgiveness? No. Some sins it is up to God to forgive. But there are sins not even God forgives. Something else our jaded, indolent society has forgotten.

Anymore, most so-called Christians are simple secularists, mouthing the pieties of a world that stands in stark contrast to the religion they believe they believe and don’t actually think about or care about at all. They go to church and go through the motions, checking the boxes of baptism, confirmation, and communion. But motions are all they do.

We’re witnessing an ongoing slaughter of people who really do believe and mostly we don’t care. Not even enough to watch it or take any note of its occurrence.


I got this far the other night, weighted down by the dismissals and denials of professed Christians. One who thought an empty reality show simulacrum of the ritual of First Communion was proof against the proliferating temptations awaiting a girl on the verge of puberty. One who still stubbornly professes to believe in the Constitution as much as his Roman Catholic faith and yet believes that it’s just common Christian decency to let Muslims determine what we can say about their barbaric, utterly indecent cult of theocratic world domination. (A generation younger, he no doubt also believes that the Crusades were an unconscionable war against the world devouring Nazgul of Muhammed. So be it.) One who told me, in all candor, despite being raised in an evangelical tradition, that he just doesn’t care that much about anything that happens outside his own family and neighborhood.

So I put down my iPad and fell silent.


Then, today, I found on my newsfeed a commemoration of the first recording the Rolling Stones’s Satisfaction, 50 years ago yesterday. And the old, failing punk rose in me, so that I wrote this in a comment on my own citation of the song:

Of course, I’m no way near as energetic as I was then. But I’m way, way more pissed. Does that count? Can’t figure out why so few people care that our way of life is being taken apart day by day in this Caligulan administration. How can anything be business as usual for anybody who claims to have a brain. Six years of this halfwit clown in the Oval Office, American influence nearly gone, American security crumbling to dust, poor people poorer, talentless billionaires dealing with the White House to enrich themselves further at everyone else’s expense, and the overwhelming majority of the mass media, academia, Hollywood, and every identity constituency still blaming the only economic system that has ever provided prosperity for generations of talented hardworking people. And, btw, Christians, even the ones who take their kiddies to church, no longer know what any of their so-called faith is about, except maybe conceding to MSM secularists that every other religion, even the most proudly vicious and murderous of them, is just as valid, just as good, just as evil. Thus proving they know absolutely nothing about Christianity, which has tolerated other faiths but has never stipulated their equality, just the customary Christian love of sinners, not their sins. Christianity is the light of every aspect of modern consciousness, everything that makes us individuals and connects us to the divine. No other religion is remotely close. Why the near and Far East were both sunk in feudalism and rigid caste systems until American Christian hegemony turned them loose to build new hopes and aspirations for their peoples. Japan, India, Taiwan, Singapore…

And they don’t care. None of their business. Nothing to do with their own Biblical illiteracy, their own ignorance of the prophets, nothing in fact but another little pageant display in a blind church — with a Jumbotron a jumble of stained glass windows with no Christian content whatsoever — presided over by a progressive, collectivist, pro-abortion minister, and a lot of noisy rearranging of deckchairs on the Titanic by men and women in tee shirts and shorts.

While they simply, purely, and completely don’t give a rat’s ass about anything except whether their damaged kids are buckled safely into the child seats of their SUVs.

The Stones were about living, taking risks, daring, shining, not subsiding into an oatmeal-colored limbo of submissive nonentity and unthinking cowardice.

Where did everyone go? I can’t stand even to be in public anymore. Everybody’s fat, loutish, dressed in lewd shirts, obsessed with food and toys more than curiosity, and totally blind to the stars in a streetlightless sky. They’re dead already. Watching American Idol and worshipping Beyonce, Brady, and their trust in Brobdingnagian government.

God help us. But at this point, why would he?

Rant ended. Been building in me like the Yellowstone Supervolcano. Bad news. It will almost certainly erupt again. Satisfaction? No, no, no.

Certainly not with this, which nobody wants to watch or ever will.

Look. LOOK DAMMIT. she could be your daughter. And chances are, she was a better Christian than you will ever be.

Look. LOOK DAMMIT. she could be your daughter. And chances are, she was a better Christian than you will ever be.

I’m never again going to say, “Don’t look.” This is happening, whether your little self-satisfied church gives a damn or not. “LOOK!” You think off-key kid choruses and theology free ads for Obama’s immigration policies and bathetic identity grievances about rape culture in the only country in history where women have achieved cultural dominance will free you from accountability for your sins of omission will ever save you? No. They won’t.

If there’s a part of you that really believes in Christianity, you face damnation. If not, you face damnation.

P.S. Ever noticed that western atheists are all pacifists? They don’t ever see a moral point worth fighting for. Ever noticed that Eurasian atheists are all genocidal totalitarians? They don’t see a moral point worth fighting for. Rational superiority is absolute superiority and they have no qualms about killing everybody else to get what they want. Which is actually the sensible answer given their perspective. It was romantic the way Ayn Rand’s heroes flew away as the lights of New York were going out. Wasn’t it? How the elite have always seen themselves. Above it all and unaccountable to anyone.

Kind of like pretend Christians when you think about it.

Our own little corner of Augusta, right next to the front door. Glorious.

Our own little corner of Augusta, right next to the front door. Glorious.

We had the top down yesterday. It was glorious.

We had the top down yesterday, with my wife doing 80 on the Turnpike. It was glorious.

I knew I remembered this.

I knew I remembered this.

You know how conversations go unless you don’t. David Zincavage and I were having a fun back and forth on a post of mine about Gunter Grass on Facebook, which somehow got us on the topic of books that have been made into movies. (You can find the FB post below.) The Russians came up, which they sometimes unfortunately do, and my wife and I started trying to remember movies besides Dr. Zhivago that had been turned into usually terrible movies.

I had already confessed to Zincavage my knowledge of Russian literature was somewhere between zilch and zero, and I reinforced the point with my wife, who actually studied Russian in school, by acknowledging that all I remembered about War and Peace was Audrey Hepburn. Which is red blooded but hardly flattering of my learnedness. Was it Brando who played Napoleon, I asked. No, she told me. Then she leaped onto her iPad and informed me, Herbert Lom. A sickeningly awful movie she said unnecessarily, since my memory of only Audrey was already its own kind of review. Henry Fonda was in it too. Really? Didn’t even know they had Okies in Russia.

Anyway, and this is the conversation part, I adamantly insisted that Brando had played Napoleon at some point and Jean Simmons was there too. Jumping onto my iPad, I quickly found a movie called Desiree, which by golly I had also read the book version of, thus shoring up my lit cred immeasurably.

Thus emboldened, I told her about a breathtakingly complimentary rejection letter I had gotten from The New Yorker 40 years ago. It was a piece called “The Retreat from Moscow,” a journal of said sorrowful journey. The premise was that Napoleon was actually a woman, irritated by small discomforts while his troops starved and froze outside his domestically perfect tent. Why the hand inside the greatcoat. Bosom camouflage. “Funny,” the rejection letter said. “Try something else.”

My wife laughed. Women were off limits even back then. But I was happy, having steered the conversation back to my favorite subject, me. So I told her about other ways I had been cheerfully rejected in humor attempts that weren’t right for their times, long before anyone had even coined the term Political Correctness. How good can things get? I have a perfect opportunity to be whiny and self pitying with my wife AND take credit for it. Nirvana. If that’s a word.

Remember the gas crisis? No, you probably don’t. Back in the late seventies we had the second worst president in U.S. history. Name of Carter. He somehow managed to piss off the middle Eastern oil cartel and gas prices went through the roof, leading to such savage by-products as Pintos, Chevy Vegas, and if memory serves, AMC Gremlins. So I wrote a satire for my favorite literary publication, Car and Driver Magazine, acknowledging what they perversely would not, that all us motorheads were essentially grounded for the duration. It was titled “Carbon Monoxide in the Closet.”

Okay, it wasn’t exactly cheerful. It described an emerging phenomenon called “car bars,” in which sad guys like me gathered together to drink in mostly dark shotgun taverns plastered with signs advertising Castrol, Sunoco mega-octane gas, Roadrunner decals, and wall mounted Hooker headers. There was a jukebox, but the only choices were small-block Chevy, rat motor Chevy, and 340, 440, and 427 Hemi Mopar revs. And probably whatever Ford thought it had going at the time. Guys brought their own fetish parts to stroke in remembrance of times past, fenders, steering wheels, Koni shocks, alloy wheels, you name it. Because life as they knew it was over.

Well, it was THE most complimentary rejection letter I ever got. “Everybody here just loves this,” they said. Apparently they had all passed it around and fell on the floor laughing. They didn’t even mention why they rejected it. Because they didn’t need to. Even then you couldn’t make even an implied comparison to what was already becoming a protected group. I understood.

I’d already been there and done that. I’d been rejected with far less joviality as far back as college, when I submitted a work at the height of the radical era to the famously irreverent Harvard Lampoon. Well, it seemed funny to me at the time. What? My fraternity publication issued by Sigma Delta Sigma, replete with alumni notes about bomb mishaps and ads for such hot items as sweat stained work shirts worn by genuwine UAW members. The way the Lampoon worked, they returned your manuscripts with all the comments members had jotted on them.

There were a bunch of comments, all of them nasty. The one I remember most vividly was a single word: “Shit.” But there was a note from some misguided Poonie, who said, “You have talent. This is funny. Try again.” But, hey, it only takes one blackball to scotch you at the Lampoon. I tried again, just because I had to, but I never heard from them again.

How did we get all the way from Audrey Hepburn to the lowest years of the Harvard Lampoon and me stubbing my toe on the first rung of the ladder to the inferno known as political correctness? It’s called conversation. And my wife and I commit that particular sin all the time.

Why I love Tolstoy so much.

Why I love Tolstoy so much.

Why I no longer have "lampoon" in my vocabulary.

Why I no longer have “lampoon” in my vocabulary.

Next time maybe I’ll tell you about the short story I’ve always loved the most, the one about a man remembered by a 108 year old as “Poley,” whom he encountered as a child on an island off the lefthand coast of Africa. If you’re good. OR if you happen to own a copy of an anthology from the forties called “Bedtime Bonanza.” From a time when stories were meant to be entertaining, not overwritten plotless exercises in existential angst. If you’ve got that book, send it to me or tell me where I can buy my own copy.

Who am  I supposed to be?


All my life they and I thought I was a harmless writer. I was always worse than that.


I am the undead who can still write a sentence. What makes me dangerous in our day and age is that I still have cheekbones and a waistline. Also not transgendered. Or even gay. I wake up every morning expecting to see myself on the front page of the National Enquirer, which I read waiting in line at RiteAid to pay for my allergy meds.

Yeah home. Click for bigger. Much bigger.

Yeah home. Click for bigger. Much bigger.

My wife is going to talk about her mother on Mother’s Day.

The seas roar. The skies thunder. She’s really going to do it. uh, tomorrow. Sometime.

It's gonna be good. A picture and a Hallmark card.

It’s gonna be good. A picture and a Hallmark card.

Saw this beautiful pic proffered by Harvey Sklar. An arch in a perfect garden.

Gorgeous, elegant, and I'm not even talking about Harvey's shirt.

Gorgeous, elegant, and I’m not even talking about Harvey’s shirt.

The dilettante sloth is overwhelmingly inclined toward the Victorian ideal of gardens lost to rack and ruin, from decades ago. Recreating these Swinburnian concoctions takes enormous effort. Please appreciate our own meticulously designed backyard arch.

Three architects and fifteen Mexicans. Just saying.

Three architects and fifteen Mexicans. Just saying.

Then there’s our gazebo. It takes an army of engineers to hold it, like the Tower of Pisa, at precisely this tipping point. Not to mention what it costs to hire lookalikes of Vivian Leigh, Jane Seymour, and lately, sad to say, even Aussies like Cate Blanchette to moon around it and pretend to be Jane Austen characters.

It'll collapse at any second, like the British Empire if the Tories ever win, except -- Oops.

It’ll collapse at any second, like the British Empire if the Tories ever win, except — Oops.

Yeah. The serfs who cut the grass missed their last turn. They were out machine gunning Tory signs. But perhaps you can still see the beauty of the dead straw around our giant phallic ivy monument to Oxbridge and Yalevard.

Life is, basically, about switches that can be applied to Eton bottoms, n'est-ce pas?

Life is, basically, about switches that can be applied to Eton bottoms, n’est-ce pas?

A clearer view of the monument.

Even Harrow quivers in love the Queen...

Even Harrow quivers in love of the Queen…

Unless it’s about something higher instead.

God's in his heaven, and we are content here in our polyglot paradise.

God’s in his heaven, and we are content here in our polyglot paradise.

Or even higher than that.

All's right with the world.

All’s right with the world.

Everything falls apart. But some of us know better than entropy.

My mother in Cancun, 1984. You should have seen her in Paris, 1963.

My mother in Cancun, 1984. You should have seen her in Paris, 1963.

It used to be that photography was understood to be an instantaneous approximation of kinetic life. Where the word “snapshot” originated. My mother was always in motion. Why I won’t apologize for the blur here. She spent her life doing everything for everybody, but — and this is key — she never lost herself along the way. Not the downtrodden one, not the victim, not the identity-less cipher, she chose the beneficiaries of her effort and love. Her husband, her children, her parents, her husband’s parents, she expended everything for them.

And as I look back on it, all these were co-equal to her. Not my children above all and civilization be damned. Or any of the other rotten excuses for narcissistic obsession we hear so much about these days. She could be stern with the kids and a friend up to a point and a proud cheerleader, but she also understood my dad’s role to guide and discipline us. And her own. I once failed to do my arithmetic homework and begged her to do sums for me. She did them in a trice after breakfast and before the bus arrived, laying down the law that she would watch me perform those same sums when I got home from school. Which she did and I did.

She had some give on the question of whether dad had to know what we had done wrong that day, though she wasn’t afraid to blackmail us. If we atoned properly, our haunted fearful looks would gradually go away. This time, he wouldn’t know.

About those sums. You have no idea how fast she did them. Smart as a whip but never said so. She had a degree in Romance languages — French, Portuguese, Spanish — and as a result worked as a translator at DuPont and as an, of course, “secretary” on the Manhattan Project. In college she was also a jock, swimmer and archer for the Buckeyes. In married life she was an indefatigable knitter and seamstress, producing masterful Irish sweaters for me and all the clothes my sister wore until prep school mandated fancy labels, as well as an endless number of monogrammed bookbags whose proceeds went to our school. She made most of her own clothes too, while supporting every event at our elementary school, from cupcakes to classroom painting, and looking after both sets of my grandparents on an almost daily basis. You literally could never see her not in motion.

Why her only (but multiple) traffic tickets were for failing to come to a full stop at a red light. She was in too much of a hurry. But she could drive fast in her ’65 Mustang.

It’s possible I misspoke above. There was one love that the loss of damaged her. Her dad had wanted a son. (She was supposed to be Glen; she was Glenna instead.) He compensated by bestowing on her the love and attention he’d have given a boy. He taught her how to throw a baseball, and so it happened she could play catch with me. Every Fourth of July he awakened her with a huge firecracker under her bedroom window. She set her alarm hoping to beat him with his own medicine, but by her own admission never made it. When he died at 90 some of the life went out of her.

My wife only met her when she had become an invalid, desiccated by years of over strong blood pressure medication. (When it became critical, a new doctor said, “Good God, woman, how you can you still be alive with no electrolytes?”)

She once weighed 130 pounds and could probably lick you in a fight. At the end she weighed 80 and had only the strength to give Patrick the greyhound a few Cheetos. But the native generosity never left, apart from a Scottish penury that seems to run in the family.

She was never a great cook (when my dad was away in England and France, my sister and I coined the term Europe burgers to describe the ruined stones of ground beef she put between buns with ketchup to feed us), she could hold a grudge with the best of those who had German-Scottish roots, and she never forgave my dad for the incredible fact he reminded her too often of, that in their only two meetings Dad’s Cornell Big Red had defeated her Ohio State Buckeyes.

But you should have seen the two of them together the night they went out for a night on the town in Paris. He was a dagger in his tuxedo and she was a cool blonde dream in a Paris hairdo and a dress that today we could call bling. Princess Grace had nothing on her.

My mother. My dad painted multiple portraits of her. He was unusually adept at catching the truth of his subjects. But he was never satisfied with one of them. Something about a blur, I suspect.

I live inside. Like Proust.

I live inside. Like Proust.

My favorite? The lizards who bask in the sand and the sun.

My favorite? The lizards who bask on the old mossy gate.

Free range parenting. Let them run in the countryside, but read to them and make them read. Why I get to be an old curmudgeon. My grandkids know I don’t put up with bad behavior. They love me for it. I’m the wall they know should be there and usually isn’t. And if they ever asked, I’d read them this one out loud.

Over in the Meadow

Written by Olive A. Wadsworth (1800s)

Over in the meadow,
In the sand in the sun
Lived an old mother toadie
And her little toadie one
“Wink!” said the mother;
“I wink!” said the one,
So they winked and they blinked
In the sand in the sun

Over in the meadow,
Where the stream runs blue
Lived an old mother fish
And her little fishes two
“Swim!” said the mother;
“We swim!” said the two,
So they swam and they leaped
Where the stream runs blue

Over in the meadow,
In a hole in a tree
Lived an old mother bluebird
And her little birdies three
“Sing!” said the mother;
“We sing!” said the three
So they sang and were glad
In a hole in the tree

Over in the meadow,
In the reeds on the shore
Lived an old mother muskrat
And her little ratties four
“Dive!” said the mother;
“We dive!” said the four
So they dived and they burrowed
In the reeds on the shore

Over in the meadow,
In a snug beehive
Lived a mother honey bee
And her little bees five
“Buzz!” said the mother;
“We buzz!” said the five
So they buzzed and they hummed
In the snug beehive

Over in the meadow,
In a nest built of sticks
Lived a black mother crow
And her little crows six
“Caw!” said the mother;
“We caw!” said the six
So they cawed and they called
In their nest built of sticks

Over in the meadow,
Where the grass is so even
Lived a gay mother cricket
And her little crickets seven
“Chirp!” said the mother;
“We chirp!” said the seven
So they chirped cheery notes
In the grass soft and even

Over in the meadow,
By the old mossy gate
Lived a brown mother lizard
And her little lizards eight
“Bask!” said the mother;
“We bask!” said the eight
So they basked in the sun
On the old mossy gate

Over in the meadow,
Where the quiet pools shine
Lived a green mother frog
And her little froggies nine
“Croak!” said the mother;
“We croak!” said the nine
So they croaked and they splashed
Where the quiet pools shine

Over in the meadow,
In a sly little den
Lived a gray mother spider
And her little spiders ten
“Spin!” said the mother;
“We spin!” said the ten
So they spun lacy webs
In their sly little den

Don’t know how I feel about this video. I prefer the act of reading to computer entertainment.

Saw my dad's flight jacket. Wanted more provenance.

Saw my dad’s flight jacket. Wanted more provenance.

No, I don’t blame him. He’s maybe the coolest guy I’ve met on Facebook. He was intrigued by the term “Flying Skull Squadron.” He wants to see the truth of it. Here’s the truth of it.

My wife took the picture. If you need her to, she'll also take a picture of my dad's  P-47 painting on the back.

My wife took the picture. If you need her to, she’ll also take a picture of my dad’s P-47 painting on the back. Click for big.

Star Wars. Go ____ yourself.

Star Wars. Go ___ yourself.

I shouldn’t. Can’t. Ever stop, that is. Especially when there is a debt to pay. Never ever ever stop. Owe her.

My wife taught me about movies that need no English. How many of you have been taught by your spouse?

I taught her about Shane and The Outlaw Josie Wales. Smart me. Then she lowered the boom and gave me the greatest combat scenes any guy could ever hope to see. The lesson is called humility.

Eisenstein. Alexander Nevsky. The Battle of the Ice. Couldn’t have made LOTR without it, some 60 years later. (After repeated attempts, the Russians don’t want us to blog this masterpiece of film art.) So go see it here at Youtube.

Orson Welles. The greatest battle scene never released in a movie. Henry IV. Fought in the fog. Eerie and beautiful and terrifying.

Abel Gance. Napoleon’s Russian campaign. Heartbreaking. Even in the post 1927 version. Who was this guy? And maybe the best likeness of Napoleon ever.

Which makes it harder to explain all the subsequent hooey about you know who….

Sorry. I have to laugh. Russians are secretive about things they should be proud of. Like defeating Napoleon. Truth is, there are just a handful of people in history I’d ever want to meet. None of them Russians. Who’s on your list? Mine is in single digits. Akhenaton. Jesus Christ. Napoleon Bonaparte. Abraham Lincoln. Nobody else interests me. What would you say to Bach or Mozart? I like your work? Well, maybe Ambrose Bierce. What does it feel like to be actually evil?

If I were Sicilian, I'd be taller than Al Pacino too.

If I were Sicilian, I’d be taller than Al Pacino too.

Guys. Many times your wives are better than you. Like me, you should learn to rejoice in that fact and learn. What does she need me for? Telling the deerhound to lie down in a loud voice. That I’m good at.

Why I never stop telling her how much more I know about movies than she does. She just smiles that smile, and then we have eggs and bacon. I can ruin them the way she likes them.

Inside every one of us is a wolf, ready to defend his lair.

Inside every one of us is a wolf, ready to defend his lair. (Click for bigger.)

It’s enough. A president who prefers Muslims to Christians and Jews. Who prefers despots and dictators to traditional allies. Who despises the troops he oversees as Commander-in-Chief. Who hates his own country.

While he does this, a sleeping beast awakens. What the beast will do nobody knows. Only two of us have seen what he is capable of. Taller, stronger, faster. more deadly when attacked. Like this nation in history. Time, once again, to look him in the eye.

The pro ally feral one.

The primally feral one.

Nothing always works. You wait, you hope, and sometimes you get lucky.

Talked about her before. The scrawny, scared, paranoid, agoraphobic, borderline psychotic one. Cassie shouldn’t be here. She is. But sometimes more a spirit than a flesh and blood cat. And now she’s a presence.

Anybody here believe in a fair fight? No. Thought not. Me either.

Unlike many of you impetuous types, I would never draw a cartoon of Muhammed. It’s disrespectful to dimmhwitted little bullies who think they always win because they’re a better sort of being.

And it’s just not nice the way certain members of lower sorts of beings insist on being snide, sarcastic, and superior. Even when they absolutely are. Superior, I mean. In every way. For hundreds and hundreds of years.

So I’m doing no drawing of the, uh, Prophet. And th-th-that’s all folks.

P.S. Um. What’s all this sudden brouhaha about unspeakably foul, Satanically unclean offensiveness? If you sit at the right hand of God, what the hell can a cartoon do to you? Unless it’s to remind people of your true station in the afterlife. Okay, forget the pig. Try the most long lived of creatures. Suit you cold blooded losers any better?

Ali Ali Oxen Free. The Caliphate.

Ali Ali Oxen Free. The Caliphate.

Somewhere in this swamp are 78 virgins. Looks like they're staying that way.

Somewhere in this swamp are 78 virgins. Looks like they’re staying that way. Me too.

Kiss Me Deadly.

Kiss Me Deadly.

I’ll begin with a disclaimer. One of the most callous and heartfelt literary obits I wrote at the original Instapunk was that of Mickey Spillane. In his own way he was a genius.

Film noir is old. Much of it very very dark. But when it comes to detective movies, there was a breaking of the mold that occurred in 1955.

Ralph Meeker’s Mike Hammer may remind you of Bogart’s Marlowe. Both hard drinking gumshoes at odds with the cops and irresistible to women. But Bogart had a moral center as both Marlowe and Sam Spade. Meeker’s Hammer was an opportunistic thug (yes, I used that word) with a few personal loyalties that never amounted to a moral sense. This was a cold, mean movie to which many hugely successful contemporary directors owe their careers, including Scorsese and Tarantino. But this one’s better than anything they ever did.

One outstanding way to tell. The sheer number of actors who later had fine careers appearing in this movie is stunning. Even without them, the thing is worth watching solely for the cars. But that’s a detail. The script is laconic, the action swift, brutal, and usually fatal, and the plot just complex enough not to be indecipherable. In its genre it’s a masterpiece and a template for much of what was to come. The black and white cinematography is stark. Ralph Meeker should have become a star.

Well. In case you’ve had enough of Tarantino arterial spray and overacted Scorsese mafiosi roles. And Meeker wasn’t as tiny as Pacino, de Niro, and Wahlberg. If you care about that sort of thing. He looks like he could send you to the morgue in about three punches.

The whole thing is here.

Enjoy it. Or duck.

A graphic of the sounds of near silence.

A graphic of the sounds of near silence.

Call this a tale of two ears. I’ve been lucky. Lived through the sixties and seventies rock era going to stadium concerts in which the audio waves were as physically buffeting as ocean waves, playing the radio as loud as possible without blowing the car speakers, and then, later, investing in high end stereo that didn’t freak out at high volume. My hearing is somehow intact. I can still hear the mail jeep approaching half a mile down the road, the oven beeping done in the kitchen downstairs, and the thump of a cat jumping off the counter. My wife can’t do any of these things.

She suffers from tinnitus. Not from rock concerts. Some high end noise she heard repeated too long in her younger years. As did my father and grandfather. There’s still such a thing as too loud, but too soft to make out is an even bigger problem. In the old days of PBS my Anglophile dad was denied access to Masterpiece Theater and other programs he would have loved because the quality of BBC sound recording was so pitiful he couldn’t understand what the actors were saying.

I used to turn my nose up at movie subtitles. Haughtily disdained to “read a movie.” But my wife has a better more exploratory approach to film productions than I do. She showed me the Russians and the Germans, from Eisenstein to Fritz Lang. I learned that watching subtitles isn’t really reading a movie. A proper mind can multitask the print and spoken words without sinking into a pseudo-intellectual mire.

So we learned, in the age of Netflix, to enjoy movies and TV series from Scandinavia, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, India, China, Japan, and Korea. Subtitles get to be like breathing, automatic and unworthy of remark.

Two more steps to my recommendation. In the old old days Brit movies were all acted by Oxonians with perfect enunciation and more than a dollop of Shakespearian stage training. Even bad recording did not bury their consonants. Nowadays we are inundated in their productions with every variety of regional accents, many of which are almost impenetrable to the best American ears. Including my freakishly good ones. So now we immediately turn on subtitles for everything English, Irish, Scottish, and Australian. (Doesn’t help with Welsh shows. Indecipherable no matter what.)

The final step is a two-parter. With all the proliferation of viewing venues — cable, on demand, Netflix, and other streaming services — the sound levels vary tremendously from program to program. Even in media you’d expect to be exempt, producers don’t seem to care much about vocal sound anymore. On the network series “Elementary,” Brit actor Jonny Lee Miller can’t seem to raise his voice above an inaudible whisper. Worse, all women under the age of 25 in American TV swallow all their consonants. Even I can’t make them out. Can you?

Subtitles have become our default. I got tired of asking my wife if she could hear, only to be told she couldn’t. Now there’s the rare occasion when we look impishly at one another and decide to go commando — no subtitles.

I bet a lot of you can’t hear too well anymore either. Many of us who grew up in the rock era can’t hear worth a damn. Try the subtitles. They may make your life more fulfilling in this particular media realm.

Hear me? Sure you do.


There was a clever little puzzle offered on Facebook by George Takei.


Very cleffer.

An extraordinary late act of a disciple who has earned a place in history.

WWJD? WWYD? Me, I’d have been terrified. Bet you would have been too. Then what? He did something noble and good. We can only hope we would have too.

At some point, you got to stand up and be a man. Or something .

At some point, you got to stand up and be a man. Or something.

These greyhounds that need their Winnie the Pooh. I don’t know who Winnie the Pooh is. Is he anything like Shnockle here? Well, tough luck. I’ve got Shnockle and I’m not giving him up.

What do they call you? Skippy? I knew a Skippy once. Except her name was Molly. She stole things. Like Shnockle. It was okay though. She didn’t go anywhere. I always got Shnockle back.

Molly’s gone now. I’m keeping Shnockle for her. She’ll want to steal him again. Why Shnockle can’t go anywhere.

What were we talking about. Pooh? Never heard of him. I’m sleepy now. Okay?

Damn. Shnockle’s going after Mommy’s chocolates again. Molly will be so pissed.

Damn, damn, damn.

Damn, damn, damn.

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