Zuckerman Unbound

Book Blurb

Not the best Philip Roth book but pretty good. It always amazes me how Roth can take the ordinary and turn it into literature or a simple idea like what happened to him after he became famous after publishing Portnoy’s Complaint and spin gold out of it. Pure genius! And quite funny too, I might add. I had several laugh out loud moments as I was reading this book. Highly recommend!

Top 10 Books 2020

I read 28 books in 2020. Here are my top 10 favorites:

  1. 2666 – Robert Bolano
  2. The Follies of God – James Grissom
  3. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  4. The Adventures of Auggie March
  5. The Odyssey – Homer
  6. All Quiet in the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
  7. Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  8. The Weight of Ink – Rachel Kadish
  9. Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
  10.  The Last Carousel – Nelson Algren

Rainstorm

There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.”
― Tsunetomo Yamamoto, The Hagakure: A code to the way of samurai

Photo: Benn Bell

Nomadland (2020)

Movie Review

Nomadland (2020)

Directed by Chloe Zhao, starring Frances McDormand, David Strahairn, Linda May

This is a movie about America. There are two Americas. The haves and the have nots. This about the have nots who choose a life on the open road and freedom. It is not a life I would choose but it is a fascinating portrait of those who do. They are called American Nomads.

Frances McDormand turns in another brilliant but understated performance as Fern, the strong and determined woman, who takes to the open road after she loses her job at US Gypsum, a plant where she and her husband, who has recently died, had worked for years. The plant closing in Empire, a small town in Nevada, causes the economic collapse of the town. This is the sad reality of so many small towns in America.  

Fern sells her stuff and buys a van and takes to the road searching for work. She outfits the van to live in. She first takes a seasonal job at an Amazon fulfillment center through the winter. Whenever I buy anything at from Amazon, I cringe a little bit thinking of the workers at the fulfilment center, although Fern seems to thrive in this environment. A co-worker invites Fern to visit a desert winter gathering in Arizona organized by Bob Wells, which provides a support system and community for fellow nomads. At the gathering, Fern meets fellow nomads and learns basic survival and self-sufficiency skills for the road.

Fern later takes other jobs down the road: an RV camp host, a worker in a beet harvest, and a worker in a fast-food restaurant. It is a tough life living at the margins. She continues to run across some of the other nomads she has met along the way as she continues her travels and they become her friends and kind of a family or tribe. She does have a chance to settle down a couple of times along the way but continues to choose a life on the road to be free and independent if, lonely.

There is not much of a dramatic story here, more of a character study and a documentary on the nomadic existence in America. Even if we can’t identify with her way of life we can empathize with her very human feelings of loneliness and her desire to be free. As Bob Wells so aptly put it, “I’ll see you down the road.”

The Ballad of Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz is a particularly odious politician

Who left the country in a lurch

While his people froze in their homes

In Texas

He was on a plane to sunny Cancun

To say anyone in Texas would do the same

Misses the point by a mile

To say all politicians are the same

Also makes me smile

Ted Cruz takes the cake

Now he can eat it too.

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021)

Movie Review

LaKieth Stanfield in Judas and the Black Messiah

Directed by Shaka King, starring: Daniel Kaluuya, LaKief Stanfield, Jessie Plemons.

Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) is an important movie about a chapter of the Black Panthers in Chicago and the charismatic leader who led it, Fred Hampton. Part documentary and part bio-pic it delivers a history lesson on that volatile period in America when race relations were at an ebb. It is an interesting juxtaposition of events to the events happening today when once again the tension between the races is at a snapping point. The organization Black Lives Matter draws eerie parallels to The Black Panther Party.

The Messiah in this case is Fred Hampton, played by Daniel Kaluuya in a resplendent performance. Two other black messiahs who came before him were scarified on the altar of white supremacy, Martin Luther King and Malcom X. His betrayer, or the Judas of the title, is FBI informant William O’Neal (LaKieth Stanfield) who infiltrated the Black Panthers and gained the trust of Hampton. It was O’Neal who provided the layout of the apartment to the FBI which was crucial information that led to his assassination by the FBI and the Chicago police.

When law enforcement entered the apartment on Monroe Street where Fred was sleeping guns blazing, I was put in mind of the Breonna Taylor case where Louisville police officers entered her apartment while she was asleep on a “no knock” warrant and assassinated her. Police brutality and extra-judiciary killing continue to be a problem for the black community to this day.

Fred Hampton’s rhetoric was indeed inflammatory but he never actually declared war on the United States. He merely threatened the status quo. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover wanted get rid of Hampton because  he thought the rise of another black messiah would unify and electrify the militant nationalist movement. Fred Hampton was an upstart crow, but he didn’t deserve to die. The FBI now has other fish to fry with the rise of white nationalism, which poses an even graver threat to American security.

LaKieth Stanfield was excellent as the informant William O’Neal delivering a nuanced performance of an underwritten part. Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson, Hampton’s coworker and eventual lover I thought was particularly good and Jesse Plemons as the baby-faced FBI agent who compromised O’Neal into betraying Hampton, played his part with equal parts menace and moral queasiness.

Excellent movie. Highly recommend!

Camp Hope

Jefferson Square, Louisville, Kentucky

Thirteen homeless individuals had taken up living in Camp Hope. This camp was cleared out Monday as part of Greg Mayor Fisher’s new revitalization program. The team is comprised of 67 business and community leaders. Their main topics pf concern are litter, safety, graffiti, and homelessness.

The hotel and tourist industry has been in freefall since the pandemic struck. About two thirds of the city’s 65,000 hospitality workers are out of a job, much of which was concentrated in downtown Louisville.

The city has committed to increasing police presence and adding $1,000,000 to the effort to dealing with homelessness.

This is all that is left of Camp Hope

Galveston, Day 5

The continuing saga…

Ghost Dog and Buddha went on a road trip to Galveston, Texas from October 1, 2020 – October 8, 2020. This is their story.

Early morning run
On the Rocks
A Fisherman of men
The Old man and the Sea
The Sand Piper
The Rising Sun
Gazing at the Gulf
On the Ferry to Bolivar Peninsula
Meanwhile back at the pool for drinks
Bishop’s Palace
Sealy Mansion

Sacred Heart

Rumor has it that this statue point the way to the best gay bar in Galveston

The 1940 Sears Building

Thanks for watching! Meanwhile, stay tuned for further adventures of Ghost Dog and the Buddha.

Galveston Day 4

The Further Adventures of Ghost Dog and Buddha

A New Day Dawns
All is Emptiness Under the Moon
Breakfast at the Gumbo Diner
The Shrimp and Grits were delicious!
Eat the Rich
Downtown Galveston
Interesting Architectural Features
All my Truffles seemed so far away…
Galveston Square
I promise to learn from my mistakes
Come blow your horn…
Macao Spice Co.

Galveston Day 3

The Further Adventures of Ghost Dog and Buddha

Sunrise over the Gulf

Every morning upon arising I would walk across the street from where we were staying and catch a sunrise.

Voted Best Pool on the Island

We stayed at Gaido’s Seaside Inn. Pretty decent place with easy access to restaurants, pool, poolside bar, and the beach. Served a full sized breakfast every morning which came with the room. Friendly staff. Everybody was masked up and socially distant due to covid-19. As we got there on the weekend it was pretty crowded.

Where the Crawdads Sing
Poolside
Where the Girls Are
On the Beach
Sand Trap
Pleasure Pier
My step daughter Kim and her husband Tony

My step daughter Kim and her husband Tony came down from Houston to visit. We had dinner in a seafood restaurant and then we went for a walk along the seawall.

RUN FORREST RUN
You only go around once in life….

We stayed in Galveston a total of five days then headed back on the sixth.

Stay tuned for day four of our excellent adventure.