Speaking of Elephants

by Bob Sparrow

An American tradition that has lasted more than 146 years comes to a close next month. On Sunday, May 21 at Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, NY the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus ‘Big Top’ will come down for the very last time. And with it goes the threat that any of your children or grand children will run off and join the circus.

It was called The Greatest Show on Earth, of course that was before Tiny Tim or Charo created their shows, but it was indeed a great show. I can attest to that personally, but first a little history. The circus as we know it today started in 1875 when Phineas Taylor Barnum (‘P.T.’ to his friends) was convinced to lend his name and his money to an existing circus that soon combined efforts with James Bailey’s circus and purchased the first elephant born in the United States and later purchased ‘Jumbo’ which was advertised as the ‘world’s largest elephant’ – a fact they couldn’t prove, but no one could disprove it either. That’s sort of the way old P.T worked. You may remember P.T. Barnum as the person that said, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. Actually it was never confirmed that he said that and in fact, he was known to be very courteous to his suckers . . . er, customers.

‘Jumbo’

P.T. died in1891 and Bailey purchased the circus from his widow and continued to tour the east coast, until 1897 when he decided to take the act to Europe. A few years before that, five of the seven Ringling brothers had started a small circus in Wisconsin and when they heard that Bailey was taking his circus to Europe, they decided to head east, which apparently was circus-crazy. When Bailey returned from Europe he discovered that the Ringling Brothers were dominating the east coast, so he moved his circus out west in 1905. The next year Bailey died and a year later the circus was sold to the two remaining Ringling brothers.

As the circus gained in popularity and size, a train was needed to move the circus from city to city and it became a popular spectacle to see the train pull into town and watch the workers set up the tents and work with the animals.

In 1950 the train pulled into San Francisco when the circus was no longer performing in tents, but rather large permanent structure, so it set up shop in ‘the City’s’ Civic Auditorium. Our Dad and his Mom took brother Jack and me to the circus. I suspect that our Mom stayed home because she was pregnant with my co-writer. I remember a lot about that day and when I called Jack, who has the memory of an elephant, to ask him about his recollections, he happily filled in some of the details. We started recalling the things that we saw, the high wire act, the clowns (Emmett Kelly, the famous hobo clown was among them), a lion tamer, the ring leader in his top hat and of course, the ‘dancing’ elephants. We were amazed. To us, it was indeed the Greatest Show on Earth. You have to keep in mind that we didn’t have a television until a few years later.

The 5 Ringling Brothers

Through world wars, the Depression and various other wars and recessions, the circus endured and became part of our culture, part of Americana. But it’s easy to see why they are closing their doors, or tent flaps, now, what with their rising costs and dwindling attendance. With all the entertainment literally at the fingertips of today’s kids, the circus is too mundane, doesn’t move fast enough, too analogue in a digital world. I get it, but it’s still sad to see it go.

To Mr. Barnum, Mr. Bailey and to the five Ringling Brothers, you had an amazing run. Thank you for a great childhood memory.

If you like our blog, please ‘share’ it on social medial, if you don’t like our blog, mums the word.

Nationally Parked

by Bob Sparrow

Is that finger pointing at me?

Based on its popularity with our readers, Suzanne’s blog last week obviously got a lot of you thinking about antiques you have stuffed away somewhere that you inherited from your parents and haven’t yet tossed. Or you may be thinking about all the stuff you have that will become ‘antiques’ that your kids will stuff away somewhere until they get tossed. That old spinning wheel lamp of Mom’s got me to thinking about an old antique that I’m not quite sure what to do with . . . me!

You may have noticed that I’ve changed my photos on Facebook because I looked at them over the weekend and thought to myself, “Who is this guy?” He looks like a real adventurer, a regular Indiana Bob”. I think I vaguely remember someone like that, but lately he congers up California Fats. That person in the old pictures used to go on hikes to exotic places and travel to the far corners of the globe. Not so much anymore. As I sat and perused my previous blogs this year, I noted that I’ve written about bank robbers, sitting in the desert, watching the Oscars, walking (not running) on the beach, pontificating on heroes, eulogizing Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds and proffering a ponderous philosophical tome on New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t gone anywhere!  I’m surprised I didn’t write about going to Nashville again, an adventure I wrote about last year, but didn’t actually go on. So I regrettably changed my photos.

Il Volo

Two weeks ago I did venture into Los Angeles, which in fact can be an adventure in itself, to see the singing group Il Volo. They are a trio of nice-looking, mid-20s Italian tenors, who made their U.S. debut on American Idol in 2011, not as contestants, but as guests, where they sang O Sole Mio. Their concert was awesome, possibly the best that Linda and I have ever seen, but the adventure to Los Angeles was without any muggings, murders or even traffic delays, thus my adventure consisted of simply sitting in a venue in another city.

My adventurous instincts were buoyed last week when I read that April 15-23 is National Park Week.  During those two weekends one can get into all National Parks for FREE. The 16th is Easter so there will be lots of tourists that day hunting for bear eggs and the 22nd is Earth Day, where we acknowledge . . . the earth . . . or something. The old me, or perhaps I should say the former me, which is the younger, thinner me, would have booked a hike in Yosemite or Yellowstone, but the new me is looking to Nationally Park my butt in an chaise lounge and watch the grandkids get frustrated trying to find the Easter eggs that I was too lazy to hide this year. I haven’t yet quite decided how I’m celebrating ‘Earth Day’, perhaps I’ll purchase a globe; on Amazon of course, so I don’t have to leave the house.

My newfound pastime of sitting also takes place when I’m plying my trade of selling Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (the old reverse mortgage, which I’ve heard had a bad reputation and my mother always said to stay away from things with bad reputations – I thus missed out on a lot of good times!) I really do enjoy working with my fellow seniors to help them with retirement financing when I can, although it seems to be making me heavier, but I’ve rationalized that it’s for a good cause. I have found that rationalization goes hand and glove with idleness.

The latest insult occurred recently when I stepped on one of those scales that print out your ‘fortune’, mine said, “One at a time please!”

But alas, summer is coming and my hip is fully healed (it’s actually been fully healed for about 5 months, but I’ve relied on it to limit my physical activity), so there are some adventures planned of which you’ll once again be coming along vicariously.   Once I’m feeling better about my increased activity level, I’ll post some more adventurous photos on Facebook as I’m not quite ready to go the way of that old spinning wheel lamp yet!

 

If you like our blog please ‘share’ on social medial; if you don’t like our blog please keep it to yourself.

Bank Robbery

by Bob Sparrow

No, this is not about Jesse James, Butch Cassidy or Bonnie & Clyde, but you may better relate to them when you’re finished reading this.

I don’t typically spend a lot of time looking at my credit card bill; two reasons: usually it’s zero so there’s not much to look at, secondly if it isn’t zero I immediately pay whatever is owed and file the statement. For whatever reason, last month, I looked over my last bill fairly carefully and I noticed some scary numbers and several ‘warnings’ from the credit card company.

The first ‘warning’ was regarding the Annual Percentage Rate for various activities. For example, a regular ‘purchase’ or a ‘cash transfer’ had an Annual Percentage Rate of 13.74%. A nice return if you can get it. Oh, I guess they can! I thought that seemed rather high, until I saw what it cost for a ‘Cash Advance’ . . . 25.49%! I’m surprised there wasn’t a quote from Guido, the leg-breaker, telling me that they have ways of making me pay.

The other ‘warning’ I noticed for the first time was under the ‘Payment Information’ heading. I had paid for part of an up-coming trip (yes, I’m going to get off my fat ass later this year and go somewhere!) with my credit card, to the tune of about $5,000 and thus I was ‘warned’:

If you make no additional charges using this card and each month you pay only the minimum payment, you will pay off the balance shown on this statement in about 19 years! And you will end up paying an estimated $11,575!!!

It goes on to tell me that if there is a penalty, like a late fee, there is a limit on what interest rate the banks can charge us – 29.99%. Well thank goodness it’s not 30%!!!

I know this has been going on for a long time, but as I researched further, I realized just how the banks have been ripping us off for years and I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY LONGER! OK, maybe I am, because I don’t have any other alternative and that’s just the way the banks like it.

Here’s some historical data to chew on, or perhaps it’ll chew on you.

Stumpf: “You expect me to get by on $130,000,000 this year?”

The bank’s rate to borrow money (the discount rate) has dropped from around 14% in the early 80’s to its current level of 1%, while the banks have only dropped their credit card rate from 17% in 1980 to 13.7% today. Let me do the math for you, the bank’s rate to borrow money dropped by 93% during that time period while their credit card rate dropped by only 20%. But they certainly dropped their Certificate of Deposit rate quick enough; that rate in 1985, for a 1 year CD was up to around 12%, today it’s around .25%, yes, that’s  right ¼ of 1%! Have you noticed that virtually all the banks have about the same rate for everything?   That’s called ‘price fixing’ which, in effect has all the banks acting as one, which is a monopoly. Both price fixing and monopolies are supposed to be illegal! To support the price fixing argument, take a look at mortgage rates; in the 1980’s they were as high as 18% for a 30-year mortgage, today they’re in the 4’s. Why have they dropped so precipitously? Because there are institutions other than banks that make home loans, so there is honest competitiveness.  I can guarantee you that if banks were the only ones making home loans, those rates would be somewhere around 12% today.

But there is a reason that banks need to rip us off, they have some fairly high compensation packages to satisfy. Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America made $13,722,849 last year. J.P. Morgan Chase CEO, James Dimon made a hefty $28,000,000 in 2016. Wells Fargo CEO, Timothy Sloan made a paltry $12,830,000 last year, but Wells had to pay John Stumpf, their former CEO, who left amid the ‘fake account’ debacle, $130,000,000 in severance pay. Boy, I guess they taught him a lesson!

So the next time you see a bank advertisement on TV or see one of those ‘warm and fuzzy’ posters in your branch, just remember that they are just trying to find another way to rip you off.

Anybody want to help me rob a bank?  I would be honored to be in the Butch Cassidy Bank Robbery Museum.

 

Stars in the Desert

by Bob Sparrow

As I was sitting out in the desert this past week, well I was not actually sitting in the desert, I was sitting at our Marriott Desert Springs timeshare, anyway, I recalled the first time I ventured out this way. It was in the early 70s and brother Jack had just started working as the restaurant manager at Ironwood Country Club in Palm Desert. Although I lived in Orange County, it was a particularly cold January and dark clouds hung in the sky as I traveled southeast on Interstate 10 to ‘the desert’. As I entered the Coachella Valley I could see that Mt. San Jacinto and the rest of the Santa Rosa Mountain Range was holding back those dark clouds so there was not a cloud over the entire valley. It was not only my first time in the desert, but it was the first time I could drive for an hour and a half from my home and find a totally differ ecosystem.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the desert; my impression of deserts had come mostly from movies where people were crawling on the sand dying of thirst, seeing mirages of palm trees surrounding a watering hole or of camels trekking across the wind-blown sand with nothing in sight as their destination but more wind-blown sand. This was not like either of those visions, Palm Springs was ‘Home to the Stars’

I learned that there were many famous people who had a second home in the desert, such as Bing Crosby (You can stay in his house today for $3,000 a night!), Frank Sinatra, with a piano-shaped swimming pool, Dean Martin, whose pool was filled with martinis (Just kidding . . . maybe), Sonny Bono (excuse me, Mayor Bono), Gene Autry, Liberace and many, many more. I subsequently found out why the stars back in the day made the desert their go-to get away place.

‘Interesting fact #1’: Most actors had a clause in their contracts, called the ‘2 hour rule’ where they could not be more than two hours away from the studio. Palm Springs was just under a two-hour drive, but a whole world away, so that’s where they headed.

But I digress; those aren’t even the stars with which I was first impressed. During that first trip to the desert, I certainly noticed that the weather was warmer, but the real ‘a ha’ moment for me came that evening, when I was sitting out on the deck of an Ironwood Country Club condo feeling a warm desert breeze, which hardly moved the umbrella in my mai tai, and I looked up to see billions of stars that sparkled as brightly as I’d ever seen them. The Big Dipper was bigger and dippier, the Milky Way was less milky and Ursa Minor looked Major. I could see half the planets in our solar system with my naked eye (the rest of me was fully clothed).

Aside from the spectacular stars, my other most memorable recollection was, ‘There sure are a lot of palm trees around here!” I did notice that these palms were a little different from the King and Queen palms with which I was familiar, these were Date Palms and there were thousands of them.

‘Interesting fact 2’ – This desert produces 35 million pounds of dates annually, that represents 80% of the U.S. crop. You may not have been aware that there are male and female date palm trees and you also may not know that they typically have trouble reproducing, so date farmers must climb the male date palm tree, collect the pollen then climb a female tree and pollinate its flowers. Caution: don’t try this with your date!

I learned more interesting facts about the desert, to wit

     #3: The 50,000 swimming pools are the most pools per capita in the country.

     #4: The thousands of wind turbines make it the largest wind farm in America

     #5: Over 100 golf courses make it the ‘Golf Capital of the World’

     #6: In 1980 the Cabazon Band of the Mission Indians opened the first casino in the U.S. on an Indian reservation; it is now called Fantasy Springs Casino Resort & Spa. I’m proud to say that my contributions (involuntary) have helped make it what it is today!!

For me the desert is truly an oasis, tons of beautiful and challenging golf courses within a few minute’s drive, great bars and restaurants, the Marriott Villas are a great facility and the weather rarely disappoints.

There was a bonus on this trip; I was introduced to some different stars – tennis stars. We attended the BNP Paribas Open tournament, which draws the top players in the world to the beautiful Indian Wells Tennis Garden. I had seen this facility from afar many times while driving through Indian Wells, but never been in it until now. It is ranked as one of the finest, if not the finest tennis facility in the world.  Watching Djokovic and Federer win their matches on a beautiful desert evening was something very special.

The stars in the desert just keep sparkling.

 

There’s No Business Like $how Busine$$

by Bob Sparrow

Indeed, there is no business like show business when it comes to spending time, energy and money patting themself on the back   We have now just concluded what I call the ‘Actors’ Aggrandizement Season’; there’s been the Golden Globe Awards, the People’s Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and new to the party is the Made in Hollywood Honor Awards, because apparently Hollywood felt we were one awards show short of genuinely honoring actors and actresses. And now finally (I think!) we’ve endured the just-concluded Oscars – excuse me, the Academy Awards ceremony presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where winning an Oscar means . . . “I can ask for more money for my next movie”.

Watchers of the Oscars were subjected, ad nauseam, to the emotional thank yous from the beautiful people, to their agent, their psychiatrist, their current spouse and of course, us, the fans who they believe, wish we were them. We heard how wonderful the acting ‘craft’ is and of course we heard not what they were wearing, but who! Really?! Most of all, these thespians wanted to make sure they used their celluloid platform to express their banal opinions on domestic and world affairs – forget that most of them couldn’t find Syria on a map if they were adopting a baby in Damascus, much less understand the intricacies of our foreign and domestic policies. Yet, they have opinions and they are free to express them – unfortunately they all have the very same opinions. Where’s the diversity they so cherish?

Aside from similar opinions, one of the other things they have in common is a large, fragile ego. Do you remember when they used to open ‘The Envelope’ (which now cost $200 each!  Yes, just the envelope!) and say, “And the winner is . . .”? They don’t say that anymore, because saying ‘winner’ would imply that there are ‘losers’, so the presenters were asked a few years ago to change the phrase to say, “And the award goes to . . .”.  Now that is standard phraseology for ALL the award shows.

Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu Beach, Kauai

And under the heading of ‘all participants should get a trophy’, gift bags or ‘swag bags’ as those on the inside call them, are given to all of the nominees in the actor, actress and director categories. The bags include such things as a 5-night stay on the island of Kauai, a full wardrobe of women’s clothes from Belldini, a stay at an Italian hotel overlooking Lake Como, and while they’re in Italy they have a three-night stay at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria which overlooks Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast, the cost of a suite there is $1,800 a night. They’ll get another week at an exclusive spa, a Casper mattress for each nominee AND THEIR DOG, and many, many more items. The value of the swag bags last year was approximately $230,000 . . . that’s not for all the bags, that’s EACH! There is no business like show business!  Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that $3.4 million could go to a better cause than 15 wealthy movie people.

Oh, I almost forgot, under the category of ‘any publicity is good publicity’, the Razzies, or more formally, The Golden Raspberry Awards, were handed out last week recognizing the worst picture and actors of the year. I didn’t watched them, but I wonder if they said, “and the loser is . . .” Nah!

My sense is that actors and actresses are generally not people that I would want to spend a lot of time with or have my children emulate. Their morals are questionable, they spend money foolishly, certainly too much on houses, cars, psychiatric help, and ex-spouses and wherever they are, it is always all about them. Going on location to shoot a movie always takes precedent over going to their kid’s soccer game. Generalizations I know, some do get it, but most don’t. Contrast these statements from two famous actors:

When is Robert Redford really acting?

Robert Redford said of the recent passing of Mary Tyler Moore, “The courage she displayed in the movie Ordinary People, taking on a role darker than anything she had ever done was brave and enormously powerful”. Really?? OK, I liked the character The Sundance Kid and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Mary Tyler Moore in her own show as well as The Dick Van Dyke Show and was saddened to hear of her recent passing, but I felt that Redford must have been acting when he said that, or does he really believe that playing a character in a movie is “brave and enormously powerful”?

Contrast that with what Denzel Washington said when he was sitting around the table with a group of fellow movie people and was asked how tough it was to make his latest movie, Fences. He said, “Making a movie isn’t tough, sending your kid to Iraq is tough! Making a movie is a luxury; it’s just a movie!”  Thank you!

Hidden Figures

As unimpressed as I seem with the acting profession, I have watched most of the aforementioned award shows. Why? The truth is, I love movies, I love a great story well told. I don’t know the political leanings of the three women who were in Hidden Figures, nor do I care, but the movie, told a great, true story of three incredibly smart and courageous women who succeeded in spite of having to overcome significant obstacles (There, Mr. Redford is bravery and courage . . . in real life). You don’t have to like Mel Gibson to recognize his performance as William Wallace in Braveheart, another great story based on historical events.

Good actors make good movies, and I love them.

But they’re just movies.

Blurred Horizons

by Bob Sparrow

We’ve had our share of rain this year, thank God! On one of those cold, rainy February mornings here in southern California I headed to the coast, thinking it would be a great place to get perspective. It was. So I jotted down a few thoughts . . .

The contrast in my mind was stark

On this brisk, rainy February morning at the beach

By summer Frisbees will be flying

Music playing under colorful umbrellas

The smell of Coppertone

Kids splashing in the surf

A seaside calliope

But here and now the beach is empty

Save for an occasional walker and his dog

And a lonely surfer in a wet suit

A light rain drips off my wide brim hat

As I look for a place to take refuge

In the solitude of this chilly ashen day

I walk down a deserted beach

A leaden sky hangs over a steel gray ocean

Making it difficult to tell where the water stops

And the sky begins

A blurred horizon

My nostrils widen as the scent of salt rents the air

I pull my collar up against the morning chill

And affix my hat securely

Against the off-shore breeze

The smell of coffee

Draws me to a beachside café

I find comfort on a sheltered bench

And gaze pensively at the horizon

I am drawn to the mercurial surf

Rushing in with such urgency

Then thunderously breaking on shore

Only to retreat in an easy measured cadence

Natures melody of moving water

Music to my ears

The cup of coffee warms my hands

As I listen to the steady pattern of the surf

Hypnotic in its redundant rhythm

I fix my stare on that blurred horizon

The vastness of the ocean gives me pause

I feel at once tiny and inconsequential

And yet significant enough to be connected

To all of this in some universal way

As the leading player in my own life

In spite of pounding surf and an occasional squawking seagull

There is a quiet serenity pervading the coast

Alone and uninterrupted

It feels good to be here

I solemnly contemplate those resolutions

I made just over a month ago

And affirm that they’ll find purchase in this new year

I turn and walk back to the busy street

Cars rushing by and people hustling to work

Punctuate the pleasure of my time alone

It’s was good to get away even for a little while

To think, to get perspective

To recharge batteries

It’s going to be a good year

If I make it so

 

Heroes

Recently I was on a conference call at work, the subject of which was marketing to seniors; we were referred to an outline of a book by Dan Kennedy entitled, No BS Guide to Marketing to Lending Edge Boomers & Seniors: The Ultimate No Holds Barred Take No Prisoners Roadmap to the Money.  Quite a long title and I was to later learn that the only thing worth remembering is the ‘BS’.  As a senior (I’m not sure if I’m a ‘Leading Edge’ senior, but I thought I had a pretty good idea of what works in marketing to me and my peers), so I listened and read the outline with particular interest.

There is a section in the book that talks about our heroes and that people selling to us should be aware of who our heroes are and talk them up when possible or at least don’t degrade them during your communication with seniors.  I couldn’t wait to see the list.  When I saw the list, I was waiting for the punch line, this couldn’t be real!  Who was on the list of heroes you ask? John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Sally Field, Oprah and Meryl Streep.  These are people that we supposedly ‘identify’ with.  Really?!!!  Five very polarizing people – 2 very conservative male actors and 3 very liberal female entertainers.  I thought this list was totally contrived.  I identify with none of these people and they are certainly not on my list of heroes.    So I wondered whether I was out of step with my generation or the author was, so I did a little research on the author, Dan Kennedy.

I quickly learned that he felt very highly of himself as being a ‘leading edge’ Boomer.  In his book introduction he states, “I have, and in random rotation drive, three classic automobiles including a Rolls-Royce convertible previously owned by Dean Martin.  I also have a stable full of Standardbred race horses and two homes, blah, blah, blah”.  He goes on to liken himself to Paul Newman, who used to race automobiles as a hobby, while Dan harness races for fun.  He then says, “I am the gold standard for seniors, if you can figure out how to successfully sell to me and satisfy me as a customer, you can open the vault to all boomer and senior gold . . .”

I guess I should have been impressed, but I’m typically more impressed with people who don’t have to tell me how wonderful they are, but still I wondered where he got his list of heroes and was he out of step or was I?  So I sent an email blast to about 25 of my peers asking them who their heroes were and to send me at least one male and one female ‘hero’.  I said nothing else, I didn’t give them the list of five that Kennedy put forward, no coaching, no prodding, just give me your heroes.  The results are in and my initial reaction to Kennedy’s list was justified and my faith in our generation renewed.  Four key findings from my survey:

  • The most popular response was a parent or parents or grandparents
  • Many cited heroes that were just people they knew, ordinary people who did extraordinary things to make this world a better place in which to live.
  • Five world leaders were named: Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela, George H W Bush, Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill
  • Not a single actor, actress or entertainer was named!

Other ‘heroes’ named included: Jesus Christ, Condoleezza Rice, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, Pat Tillman, Carly Fiorina, Thomas Sowell, Dr. Ben Carson, Clarence Thomas, Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, John Glenn, Alan Shepard and Sally Ride. 

Hero groups: Navy Seals, Mercury 7 astronauts, anyone in the armed forces

Thank you to those who participated in the survey!

I realize that my sampling was very small, but I’d bet Mr. Kennedy’s Rolls-Royce (then maybe I’d be a Leading Edge Senior) that if he actually did the survey, instead of providing his own BS that he wouldn’t find many entertainers as heroes for our generation.

Care to chime in?  We’d love to hear who your heroes are.

Postcards and Postscripts

by Bob Sparrow

You would have had to be living in a cave for the last several weeks to not have seen a tribute or two about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, after their passing on Dec 27th and 28th of last year.   We were reminded of how Debbie, at 19 and with zero dancing experience, partnered up with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Conner to create one of the most beloved musicals of all time, Singing in the Rain. She went on to have a number of successes as an actress, singer and businesswoman. But for my money, Carrie was the most talented one in that family.

I was first introduced to Carrie Fisher not in Star Wars, which came out in 1977 (and I didn’t see until sometime in the 90s), but by my dearly departed amigo, Don Klapperich, while he was in Saudi Arabia. We were not only sending music and audio cassette tapes back and forth to one another (prior to Al Gore inventing the Internet), but also our writing efforts in the hopes of publishing something. After reading a few samples of my efforts he recommended that I read the novel Postcards from the Edge (1987) by Carrie Fisher, that that seemed like the writing style I was trying to master. I read the book and loved it and of course he was right, it was indeed a style that I have tried to emulate without really knowing it . . . and without really much success.

Carrie followed Postcards, which was turned into a movie starring Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep , with a number of other novels, all of which had semi-autobiographical themes, as the heroine usually had a number of issues from which Carrie suffered – bipolar disorder, alcoholism and drug addiction.  She has also written some non-fiction books, the best in my opinion is Wishful Drinking, which she subsequently turned into a one-woman show that she performed to rave reviews! I’m sure some of you have seen it, but it’s worth another quick visit and for those who haven’t seen it I’ve inserted below a 10 minutes ‘taste’ from the hour+ performance. One of the highlights of that performance, which I could not find a short enough clip to insert here, is her explanation of her ‘family tree’ to her daughter Billie, when Billie asked if she could date Reese, the son of Mike Todd and Elizabeth Taylor, or were they somehow related?  Very entertaining!

Her life was filled with many highs and lows as she both dwelled in the limelight and suffered from failed relationships, but she has indeed left her mark.  If you’re not familiar with her work, I’d recommend taking a look; she’ll make you laugh as well as give you some very candid insight into relationships.

I’m thinking Don and Carrie would have made a great couple – great intelligence, great wit, a flare for the dramatic and both were just a bubble off plumb.

The Unexamined Life

by Bob Sparrow

“The unexamined life is not worth living”

Spoken by Socrates at his trial after he chose death rather than exile

philosopherIt was suggested by more than one reader that my last blog, the one about ‘creative’ Christmas gifts, was simply filler, fluff, no real depth, mailed in, not intellectually challenging, stimulating or provocative.

I offered excuses about the hustle and bustle of the season, my new work schedule, another birthday, travel demands (Dallas, Salt Lake and Vegas in the last 60 days).  But after searching for the many layers of that last blog, I discovered that it was a piece with no layers at all and in fact had no redeeming social, or for that matter, antisocial, qualities. So, as an apology I proffer a Top 10 list (along with my cogent comments) espoused by an All-Star cast of deep, philosophical thinkers to help you put your New Year’s resolutions in perspective.

  1. I will say yes to life

Nietzsche, means rediscovering the seriousness one had as a child at play.  (Pretty heavy when you think about it)

  1. I will grow collective

Badiou commented that when people find love, they realize life offers them more together than it does alone. (Can we really trust a guy whose name is BAD  I.O.U.?)

  1. I will be present for others

Authentic engagement is world-disclosing work. Implicitly, by trying to enable the other, I acknowledge the value of sharing a world with them.  (I think he means, wherever you are, be there!)

  1. I will be a giver not a taker

Ask yourself, ‘What unique contributions can you make that could empower others?’ (Great arm farts probably don’t count)

  1. I will focus on the things I can control not the things I can’t

Genuine self-control is equal parts focus, drive and humility. (and perhaps some prozac)

  1. I will be a meaning maker

We must be prepared to disrupt ourselves every now and then in order to see the unexpected opportunities in daily events and take our lives in new directions.  (We have to look no further than the latest election to affirm that we have indeed disrupted ourselves)

  1. I will convert negative emotion into creative energy

Anger can be a gift. Channel it into a creative activity (Some are more ‘gifted’ than others)

  1. I will question everything

By learning to think skeptically, we are not only better able to identify things that have real meaning, relevance, and value in life, we are also enabled to identify the things that lack meaning, relevance, and value (I know what you’re thinking – this blog lacks meaning, relevance and value)

  1. I will celebrate abundance

Everything is fed by the flow of radiation from the sun. Hold out your hands to the sun. Feel it vitalize the molecular flows of your body.  (Sun worshiping – it’s all come full circle)

  1. I will never give up

Sartre argued that authenticity involves making a fundamental choice about how to live – as a philosopher, writer, communist, whatever. The caveat is that we acknowledge that this is only a choice, and there are other choices we can make in life. Camus argued for what is ultimately, I think, a more uncompromising position: that existential authenticity demands that we admit to ourselves that our plans and projects are for the most part hopeless and in vain – and struggle on regardless. This, for Camus, is existential revolt – to affirm the absurdity of life and continue. (I couldn’t have said it any better myself, actually I couldn’t have said it at all!)

Final words to think about when making your resolutions, from former publisher of Success magazine, Darren Hardy . . .

“Resolutions tend to focus on what you are not (skinnier, wealthier, punctual).  As you try to focus on the life you want, you’ll be fixated on the things you haven’t accomplished”.  He suggests that resolutions should start with your abundances and expand them.

Or you could forget about resolutions this year and just curl up with your new Santa Farting Butt Pillow.

 

I’m Not Making This Stuff Up!

by Bob Sparrow

turkey-hat

Who wouldn’t look good in this?

Some of you may remember that last year around this time, I posted a blog entitled ‘Gift dog-go-proIdeas for Those Who Have Everything’.  It was one of our least read blogs, but I did hear from readers who found it helpful, not for finding things they would really give to someone, but for putting into perspective the things they actually bought. “Hey, that laundry soap on a rope wasn’t as stupid as that yodeling pickle!” So, here I am again this year, with another selfless act of providing you with great ideas for gifts for that person who may not have everything, but you can be sure they don’t have any of these!

Doggie Go Pro – Tired of a bird’s eye view? Get a dog’s-eye view with this ‘fetch mount’ camera.  Shouldn’t your dog be able to capture his adventures on film?  Only $399.99 – film not included.

coffe-mug-hoopYour Cup of Joe – You coffee lovers who didn’t jump on the coffee mug in the shape of a vodka-mugtoilet bowl last year, probably won’t jump on this coffee mug in the shape of a basketball, complete with hoop and ready for dunking marshmallows.  Or you may want to just be honest and get the ‘There’s A Chance That This Could Be Vodka’ mug

What could be more romantic than snuggling up with that special someone withsabutt_2_thumbnail your own Santa Farting Butt pillow.  Aside from the Santa beer fart smell, it comes in various holiday fragrances, my favorite is reindeer breath.

ashtrayTrying to get that special someone to stop smoking? Here’s the perfect gift, the ‘Black Lungs Ashtray – the more you smoke, the blacker it gets.

The Faux Tummy Stuffer – we all over-indulge during the holidays, what with all the cookies, candy and booze laying around.   It’s hard not to become an alcoholic or chocoholic at this time of year; so when people comment, “Say, that extra weight really looks good on you.”, you can surprise them by revealing the Tummy Stuffer that makes you look fat, which takes their attention away from how really fat you are.

hillarynutcracker1_thumbnail

Hillary Nutcracker – no comment

spray-timeTime in a Can – Is that special someone tired of the convenience of a wristwatch, but wants to know the time?  Here’s your solution; just carry around this ‘Time Spray Can’ and you can spray the time on anything. Now that’s convenience!

You’re welcome!  You’ve still got a few more shopping days left!

S.P.  Suzanne and I wish you and your family the very Merriest of Christmases