Messin’ with the moon

I drove in the gathering darkness to a small park on the shore of Lake Ontario, stoked to capture the moonrise.

“You have to shoot the full moon tonight,” daughter Lacey had said with a laugh earlier Monday. 

I’d been flooding the family with moon shots since late July, after I spotted this crescent shining through a gap in the foliage of a maple tree off the back deck.

July 24

“Doesn’t look real,” Linda texted from the living room.

“Looks like the moon is in front of the trees,” Lacey chimed in.

“I know,” I replied. “Looks like it’s pasted on somebody’s basement wallpaper.” 

I’d started monkeying around with filters and adjusting the light and color only recently.

Some of the images that emerged were eye-popping, as was the case the next night.

July 25

(The moody manufactured moon glow at the top of this post is my favorite.)

All this technology is novel to me. I began taking pictures with my new Nikon DSLR this summer. 

I’m having almost as much fun in the darkroom of my computer as I am stalking wildlife, focusing on nature.

  In the olden days, I never liked colorized photos or movies. But, going the other way, back to black and white, has been a blast.

On the last day in July, the moon was nearly full. 

Monday morning, I checked the online charts: Full moon rising in Toronto: south-southeast, 9:03 p.m.

It rained most of the day. Thunder and lightning cracking at about 4 p.m.

Sun peeked through the clouds briefly. But, it was drizzling and socked in with clouds when I headed down to the lakefront just before nine.

Rain stopped when I got there. Good sign, I thought.

Stood in the darkening dusk, scanning the eastern horizon.

Guy with a flashlight walking a white dog passed behind me.

Three teenage boys sitting at a nearby picnic table, laughing at whatever teenage boys laugh at.

Young couple necking on the shoreline rocks.

9:03– No moon.

9: 15– No moon.

9:30– No moon.

Dark as hell.

Headed home.

Throughout the night, checked the sky. Nada. 

At about 1:30 in the morning, standing in the driveway, caught a hint of moon glow in the clouds. Had to enhance the image to create the illusion.

My book, The Expat Files: My Life is Journalism, is available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

Capturing critters

For more than twenty years, I hunted wildlife. Then, I ran out of film.

A decade or so passed before I caught up with the Digital Age this summer. And, despite having no idea how to get the most out of my new Nikon – stuck shooting on  the automatic setting – I’m once more consumed with the pursuit of pictures of birds …

… and animals.

The obsession began in 1980, when we bought a Nikon FM and set off from Toronto on a six-month working adventure across North America. The plan was for me to write stories from the road and Linda to take the pictures. 

We did some of that. 

But, by the time we reached the Rockies, I had seized control of the camera, affixed the long lens, and stalked big game, as I would on return trips to Banff and Jasper.

Meanwhile, during winter vacations on Sanibel Island, Florida, I was up with the sun every day, bird hunting in the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Over the years, I learned where I was likely to spot a posing red-shouldered hawk …

… Where in the mangroves the night herons hang out …

… Where the goofy-looking roseate spoonbills assemble …

… Where the prehistoric-looking wood storks wade  …

… Where to catch an ibis taking flight.

In Ding Darling, especially in winter, you’re never at a loss for lens prey. Herons and egrets everywhere.

Great egret
Great blue heron
Snowy egret
Tricolored (Louisiana) heron
Little blue heron
Juvenile yellow-crowned night heron
Green heron

“How was the show?” Linda would ask when I returned to the cottage we rented every year on San Carlos Bay. It was understood there was always a show.

Later, sitting with my camera on the dock of the bay, the show came to me.

Back home in suburban Toronto, when the kids were little, I’d wake them before dawn and drive the three hours to Algonquin Park to wake up with the moose.

When we lived for a couple of years on the north shore of Lake Superior, the moose came to us. 

Driveway: Moose crossing

So did foxes.

And black bears.

Also, some big birds visited year-round.

Ruffed grouse
Pileated woodpeckers

In 2000, on a travel-writing trip to Australia, I found cool critters everywhere.

Kookaburra, Noosa
Dingo, Fraser Island

Kangaroo Island, where I spent a couple of days, was like a giant wildlife park. 

Goanna
Wallaby
Australian pelican
Sea lions

The 2000 trip to Australia was pretty much my last hurrah with the old Nikon.

A few years ago, I got a scanner, providing a fresh look at all my old photos. Being able to crop and otherwise monkey with the images has been fun.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to bring to digital life the thousands of slides still in storage.

Last Christmas, my daughters gave me the Nikon D3400 with two zoom lenses: 18-55mm and 55-300mm.

For a variety of reasons, including the ongoing bafflement with the equipment, I didn’t start shooting until June.

I hate auto-focus, yet have no clue how to operate it manually, despite reading online tutorials and watching YouTube instructional videos.

Still, on my evening walks in the Rattray Marsh off Lake Ontario, I have managed to capture some nice images of creatures that don’t fly.

My book, The Expat Files: My Life is Journalism, is available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

Happy anniversary to me

It’s been five years since I posted the first story in this space – 195 so far.

Wooden anniversary. 

So, illustrating the occasion with a grumpy-looking robin in the sticks. Picture worth 800 words.

I originally chose July 14 because it was Bastille Day and the anniversary of the death of Adlai Stevenson.

Today is also the day Roger Stone was supposed to go to jail.

Oh, well.

Thanks for reading.

My book, The Expat Files: My Life is Journalism, is available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

‘Power to the people’

Driving north on the 101 freeway out of San Francisco. Pass San Quentin, San Rafael. Traffic thins. 

Cruising in my ’67 Mustang. California sunshine. Windows wide open. Radio cranked up. Little Kate in the back.

Spot a car coming up fast in my rearview mirror. It pulls alongside in the left lane. I look over. 

Four Black Panthers. Two in the front. Two in the back. Black berets. Black jackets. All sitting at attention. Staring straight ahead. 

“Power to the people,” Kate shouts, raising her right fist.

I’ve told this story before. But … Whoa … Hold on. Having a Liberty Valance moment.

When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Kate was only four months old when we left California in April of 1969. She was precocious but …

Still, I can picture the Panthers on that stretch of freeway. And can still see little Kate with her little fist raised, hear her saying, “Power to the people.” One of her first phrases.

Guess I put the two together. Made for a good story

Lots of memories of the ’60s flashing lately. 

Thousands in the streets. . Fists raised. Chanting. 

Then, it was “power to the people” and “black power.”

Now, it’s “no justice, no peace” and “black lives matter.”

Then and now. Lots of similarities. Lots of differences.

Then, it was Panthers with rifles on the steps of the California capitol, protesting a bill to take away the guns they carried to dissuade cops from killing black people.

Now, it’s wacko white Trumpiacs with assault weapons on the steps of the Michigan capitol, protesting an order to stay home and not spread plague.

Give me liberty and give you death.

Don’t buy the media talk about 2020 America being a replay of 1968 America. Sure hope not.

Haven’t recovered yet from ’68.    

Earlier in the decade, still in my teens, I thought we might overcome. 

March on Washington in ’63. Quarter-of-a-million people. MLK’s dream speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Peter, Paul and Mary singing Blowin’ in the Wind. 

How many deaths will it take ‘til he knows,

That too many people have died?

And, If I Had a Hammer.

It’s the hammer of justice.

Joan Baez leading the crowd in We Shall Overcome …

… Some day …

Damn, we had good protest songs. Hopeful.

Uplifting movies too. In the Heat of the NightGuess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Sidney Poitier. Hollywood’s first black leading man. 

The movement had its stars too. Leaders.

King, Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale.

Knew all the names.

Now?

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor.

“Say their names.” All dead.

Leaders?

Dunno.

Maybe that’s okay. Power to the people.

My book, The Expat Files: My Life is Journalism, is available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

‘A good day to die’

While Chief Orange Face With Forked Tongue gathered his tribe on sacred Native American land to spread hate and plague, I passed the time with Little Big Man.

The movie seemed like appropriate counter-programming to the political porn from Mount Rushmore, which the Lakota Sioux called Six Grandfathers before it was hacked into the visages of four presidents and scaled by Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint.

Everything around the monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota – the county, a town, a large state park – is maliciously named for George Armstrong Custer, an enthusiastic exterminator of America’s original inhabitants.  

Chief Orange Face would have loved Custer. His kind of general. Bloodthirsty. Vain. Insane.

That’s the way he’s portrayed in Arthur Penn’s terrific 1970  movie, with scenes of Custer constantly primping and boasting – sound like somebody? – before leading his soldiers in the slaughter of  Cheyenne women, children and ponies. 

I watched Little Big Man mainly for the scenes with Chief Dan George as  Old Lodge Skins, schooling the orphaned white boy he adopts – who grows up to be Dustin Hoffman in the title role.

The most enduring lines from Old Lodge Skins:

  • “My heart soars like a hawk.”
  • “Today is a good day to die.”

But he also has a few speeches which would resonate with the Native Americans who protested on the road to Mount Rushmore on Friday, plus the tens of thousands who have been in the streets for weeks decrying racism and police brutality.

The movie is set in a time when the U.S. Army could – and did – murder Native Americans without provocation or consequence. 

Two massacres of Cheyenne in the 1860s are graphically and heartbreakingly depicted in the film.

In Old Lodge Skins’ world, the Cheyenne are “human beings” and the white authorities are savages.

“The white man,” he says, “they believe everything is dead – stone, earth, animals and people, even their own people … If things keep trying to live, white man will rub them out.”

Even after the tribes band together to kill Custer and his soldiers at Little Bighorn, Old Lodge Skins sees no future for himself and his people. 

“Why do you want to die, grandfather?” asks Little Big Man.

“Because there is no other way to deal with the white man, my son. Whatever else you can say about them it must be admitted, you cannot get rid of them … There is an endless supply of white men but there has always been a limited number of human beings.

“We won today. We won’t win tomorrow.”

My book, The Expat Files: My Life is Journalism, is available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

No masks, no muzzles

I heard him before I saw him, Skinhead leading his female disciples on a lecture tour along the trail in the marsh where I walk every evening. 

He never stopped talking, his voice getting louder and louder as they came around a bend behind me, emerging on the boardwalk through the forest.  

“They’re trying to hook our daughters on drugs,” was all I caught of Skinhead’s sermon to the three rapt young women and a small, brown, spiky-haired dog.   

I immediately thought of him as Skinhead because he was a forty-something white guy with a shaved scalp who swaggered like a con – or a cop.

Paused on the outward-bound leg of the loop, I was trying to spot the woodpecker hammering a nearby tree. Turned my back to Skinhead & Co. Lowered the long-lens on my Nikon. Raised my N95 mask.

They continued down the path, his incessant oration uninterrupted. 

I hung back until they were out of sight and he was eventually out of earshot. I would be subjected to more snippets of his crackpot conspiracy crap on the return trip. 

The Rattray Marsh ain’t what it used to be since it reopened about a month ago in the Year of the Plague. Too many tourists. Social butterflies disturbing the birds and the birders.

Groups of four, five, six strolling, clogging the narrow boardwalks. No masks. How about muzzles?

It was going on eight o’clock. Sun still above the treetops. Early summer on the shore of Lake Ontario just west of Toronto. Some clouds moving in after a hot, sunny afternoon.

I walked along Sheridan Creek and stopped on the observation deck overlooking the pond. The resident great blue heron was  at his post atop a dead tree sprouting from the murky water.

A young couple passed, apparently discussing their latest selfies.  

“I look awful,” she said.

“You look beautiful,” he said.

I watched the swallows and red-winged blackbirds dart and dive above the cattails. Took a few shots of a downy woodpecker climbing an overhanging branch.

Heard a group of teenage girls approaching. Each started every utterance with “Oh, my god …”

Tough to tune out humans when every private conversation is presented at the volume of a public address.

I recalled a lunchtime confrontation with an elderly patron at an elegant cliffside restaurant in Sydney. He complained that my companion and I were “talking business” while he and the missus were having a silent repast.

I didn’t believe interviewing an Australian official and jotting down notes about preparations for the 2000 Summer Olympics qualified as business. 

Wrote him off as an old crank. Unable to cope with aural intrusion. 

Twenty years later …

Moi?

On the homeward-bound leg of the loop, Skinhead once more announced his arrival before I saw him and his followers.  Once more, I attempted to tune him out and turned my back as they neared.  Mask on. Camera focused on a distant evergreen where a family of great-horned owls sometimes perched.

This time, Skinhead seemed to be projecting his spiel all the way across the Great Lake, at the U.S. side of the border. Ranting about something called “Project Mockingbird,” the CIA, the mainstream media, Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve, Joe Biden and the Democrats. 

“You wouldn’t believe how stupid people are” was the only quote that registered. 

I neared the exit from the marsh. A coyote setting out on its nightly hunt was striding my way.

It halted. Posed.

A few seconds later, it ducked into the bush as a couple of loudmouths, beefy middle-aged guys in flashy tracksuits, came up behind me. 

My book, The Expat Files: My Life is Journalism, is available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

Viral Vignettes: Playing the God Card

Fifth in a series

Taking the dog for a late night walk. Wondering  why Venus is so bright lately. Considering the existence of God – capitalization, for me, requires a leap of faith – in this time of plague. Thinking about John Wayne, the Vietnam War, and General Bonespurs. 

Recall reading that Wayne, on his deathbed, converted to Catholicism to hedge his bets on the hereafter. Did he get his just reward for collaborating with the Pentagon to make a  Vietnam War propaganda film, The Green Berets?

Coronavirus deaths in the United States are fast approaching the 58,000 Americans killed in that stupid war. 

But General Bonespurs says he sees “light at the end of the tunnel.” Needs to check his eyesight and the ghost of General Westmoreland. 

Remember when Rick Perry said Trump was “the Chosen One”?

Same Rick Perry who as Texas governor declared a weekend of prayer to rid his state of a devastating drought in 2011. It got worse. Lasted another six months.

Perry was gone as Trump’s energy secretary when the virus hit the U.S. But that didn’t stop the administration from going to the GOP playbook – when tragedy strikes, bow your heads and close your eyes.

Pastor Pence took over the White House coronavirus task force on February 26th. He opened the first meeting with a prayer.

At the time, there were 60 cases of the virus in the United States. The first death was reported three days later.

It would be another couple of weeks before the Chosen One quit the rally circuit and the golf course to declare a national emergency on Friday the 13th of March. By then, there were 2,183 cases and 48 reported dead.

No worries. He issued a proclamation that Sunday, March 15th, be a National Day of Prayer.

In this time we must not cease asking God for added wisdom, comfort, and strength, it said, and to pray for God’s healing hand to be placed on the people of our nation.

The death toll began to soar.

 On April 10, with more than 20,000 Americans dead, Trump tweeted: 

HAPPY GOOD FRIDAY TO ALL!

Like everything else, he’s bad at playing the God card.

Obviously hasn’t boned up on the bible since his two-Corinthians-walk-into-a-bar bomb at the Jerry Falwell College of Evangelical Indoctrination & Storm Door Company during the 2016 campaign.

But that hasn’t stopped the Chosen One from preaching at the pulpit of the West Wing Church of Blissful Ignorance. Have fun mainlining Clorox, America. 

“To say no to President Trump would be saying no to God.”

― Paula White, presidential spiritual adviser

I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.
― Nietzsche

Two years ago, in the same month Trump disbanded the National Security Council’s pandemic response team, he celebrated the annual National Day of Prayer and announced a White House faith-based initiative to “protect religious liberty.” From whom? Bill Maher? 

This lack of social distancing between (mainly Christian) church and state is nothing new for Republican presidents since the 1950s.

Reagan designated the prayer day – first Thursday in May, perhaps to compete with the commies marching on May Day – and Bush Junior started the in-house faith initiative.

Eisenhower inserted “under god” into the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, puzzling me and my classmates when we started third grade in the fall.

Two years later, also under Ike, the official motto of the United States became IN GOD WE TRUST – mandated to appear in capital letters on the greenback – replacing the secularly inclusive E pluribus unum (out of many, one), stamped on the seal of the country since 1782.

But it was Tricky Dick, Trump’s spirit animal, who first played the God card as a politically shameless complimentary closing to a presidential address. 

On April 30, 1973, Nixon’s  first speech on the Watergate scandal concluded: “I ask for your prayers to help me in everything that I do throughout the (1,361 remaining) days of my presidency. God bless America and God bless each and every one of you.”

God keeps popping up without written invitation at the most consequential events in Washington. 

Since the mid-20th century, presidents have consistently added “so help me God”  to the tail end of the text of the oath office as spelled out in the Constitution.

Earlier this year, senators swore an oath, “so help me God,” to do “impartial justice” at Trump’s impeachment trial. 

And, in case they forgot, the Senate chaplain implored, “Lord help them to remember that they can’t ignore you and get away with it. For we always reap what we sow” – right before the Republicans voted to block any witnesses and wind down the trial to its preordained conclusion. 

Six days later, Trump strutted onstage at the National Prayer Breakfast – another Eisenhower-era creation – to trumpet the verdict.

Imagine if the Senate vote had gone the other way. Would tens of thousands have already died of the virus? 

Would a killer still be lazing his days away watching TV and performing batshit-crazy standup in the White House?

Never mind.

Another National Day of Prayer is coming up on May 7.

My book, The Expat Files: My Life is Journalism, is available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

Viral vignettes: Confederacy of Dunces

Fourth in a series

Tate Reeves was fuming. Wandering through the darkened rooms of the Governor’s Mansion. Cussin’  the liberal media under his breath after being hit with a double-barreled blast of national headlines.

First there was the insinuation he was an April Fool for honoring his birthright as a son of the South while people were dying of plague.

Then there was the endless article – must be 10,000 words! – from that elitist Yankee magazine, The New Yorker.

Reeves, unlike his hero, could not command a podium with the presidential seal to berate and belittle the press. 

So, he was silently seething as he made a beeline for his office, and lifted his favorite shotgun, a gift from his daddy, out of the closet.

Reeves hunting with Don Junior in Mississippi last fall.

Reeves had been seeing no end of shit from the shiftless media since all this coronavirus business started. Sure, he’d made some policy adjustments as the political winds shifted. 

But he stuck to his guns when he declared abortions an illegal health hazard during the statewide emergency, classified gun shops essential businesses, and told churches they didn’t have to abide by his edict against folks gathering.

And he sure as hell wasn’t going to take back what he said at the prayer service he convened to ward off the virus.

“Thank you for giving our leaders wisdom. Dear Heavenly Father, please be with President Trump, Vice President Pence, the leadership team in Washington as they try to deal with this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic across the globe.”

He was loading his shotgun with 20-gauge-birdshot shells and thinking about scripture – In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer – when his cell phone vibrated in his pocket. 

He checked the caller ID and answered, “That you, Brian?”

“Yeah,” replied the governor of Georgia, “and Ron in Tallahassee is also on the line.”

“How y’all doing tonight?” the governor of Florida piped up.

“Did you read what they said about me in that left-wing New York magazine?” Reeves asked.

“Hell, no,” spat Brian Kemp, “it was about a gazillion words, but everybody knows fake news.”

“And the stuff about Confederate Heritage Month? Y’all have that in April too, right?”

“Damn straight,” said Kemp, “we just don’t talk about it in certain circles, know what I mean?”

“Listen, Tate,” Ron DeSantis said, “we’re all hearing it from the radical left Democrats. Just follow the president’s lead and ignore it, talk about something else.”

“I got no end of crap from those libtards,” Kemp interjected, “when I opened the beaches again.” 

“Don’t tell me about beaches,” DeSantis added with a sigh. “Listen, we’re all good Catholics …

“Episcopalian,” interrupted Kemp.

“Methodist,” said Reeves.

“All good Christians,” DeSantis corrected. “Hope you guys are keeping the churches open.”

“That’s what I keep telling folks,” said Reeves, “this is not China or North Korea.”

“Only the virus is Chinese,” DeSantis said with a chuckle. 

 “Remember,” Kemp concluded, we’re all out of a job if we lose the churches and the NRA.”

It was after midnight in Jackson. Reeves took in his surroundings, the historic house he’d moved into only a few months ago.  

He knew that wounded Confederate soldiers were billeted in the mansion during the War of Northern Aggression.  But musket balls weren’t contagious.

He shook off a chill as he imagined stretchers filled with COVID-19 patients being carried up the stairs to the rooms where his family slept.

He recalled the prayer he tweeted as the virus closed in on Mississippi:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Then, he remembered the clandestine communication he got that morning from his go-to guy at the White House: Keep the numbers down.

He checked the latest stats from his department of health: 2,469 cases, 82 deaths.

Not bad for a state of three million, he thought.

Reeves was heading upstairs to bed when he received a text from one of his governor pals.

The message was a smiley face over a newspaper headline:

My book, The Expat Files: My Life is Journalism, is available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.

QUIZ: Six degrees of Sydney Pollack

I’ve done a ton of research on the six degrees of separation/Kevin Bacon enterprise, and still have no idea what it’s about and, if it’s a game, how it’s played.

Just thought it was a good title for a little quiz based entirely on the movies and TV shows mentioned in my last piece in this space: Viral vignettes: ‘I like to watch.’

So, here goes.

  1. Sydney Pollack (1934-2008) directed six of the movies. Which ones?  
  2. The actor who starred in the most movies in the story – 12 – is? 
  3. Pollack directed this same actor in four of these movies. Which ones?
  4. Name the three actresses not named Delle Bolton who had a fling with this actor in these films?
  5. The same actor’s famous sidekick in two wildly successful movies starred in another Pollack movie. Who is he? And what was the movie?
  6.  Name one movie in the story in which Pollack appeared as an actor?

Please submit your answers by clicking Leave a Comment below.

Praise, though not prizes, will be awarded.

Viral Vignettes: ‘I like to watch’

Third in a series.

I had a strong sudden instinct that I must be alone.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up

Staying at home has not been much of a sacrifice.

It’s been a decade since I left the house to go to work or went anywhere on a plane. Not been on the subway or a bus for much longer. 

The last movie I saw in a theater was Titanic. Haven’t been to a ballgame since the SkyDome was the SkyDome.  

Can’t remember the last time Linda and I went out to dinner. Skipping trips to Costco lately has not been burdensome.

I’ve welcomed warmer weather on my daily walks, the bitter cold of early spring easing to tolerably chilly in southern Ontario. 

But, mostly, like Chance the gardener in Being There, “I like to watch.”  

The virus has wiped out two of my TV staples.

I really miss sports, especially baseball and golf. And I’ve been avoiding cable news like the plague.  

So, I turn to movies and TV shows in my digital library and a bookcase filled with alphabetized DVDs – from Absence of Malice to Zodiac– to distract and pass the hours.

On what would have been baseball’s opening day, I watched a triple play of The NaturalField of Dreams and For Love of the Game

Sometimes, I drift into a stream-of-consciousness selections, recently tripping from Sneakers to Midnight Run to Bandits to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, smart action films that make me smile.

Today, my great escape is The Great Escape, the third feature in my Steve McQueen film festival, after Bullitt and The Thomas Crown Affair

McQueen, dead forty years, remains one of the coolest cats on screen. Bullitt, especially, revived an appreciation of the art of occasional silence.     

I have The Getaway, with McQueen and Ali MacGraw, queued up. Which brings me to Love Story.

It aired in early March on TCM, a treasure for shut-ins. (For some reason, black-and-white movies are comforting during a 21st century crisis.) 

My only memory of Love Story from when it came out fifty years ago is that if  I saw it – not sure – I hated it.

After seeing it – again? – despite the beauty and charm of Ali MacGraw, it may top my list of worst movies ever. 

Which brings me back to Fitzgerald’s Crack-Up:

I could lie around and was glad to, sleeping or dozing sometimes twenty hours a day and in the intervals trying resolutely not to think—instead I made lists—made lists and tore them up, hundreds of lists: of cavalry leaders and football players and cities, and popular tunes and pitchers, and happy times, and hobbies and houses lived in and how many suits since I left the army and how many pairs of shoes … And lists of women I’d liked, and of the times I had let myself be snubbed by people who had not been my betters in character or ability.

Lists. Great time-killer. 

To keep my theme going, here are packages of movies and TV shows – WARNING: Explicit scenes of handshaking and other physical contact may be startling – on my playlist to help get through the pandemic:

Ten hours with David Lean: Lawrence of ArabiaThe Bridge on the River KwaiDoctor Zhivago.

Real fake TV newsNetworkBroadcast NewsUp Close and PersonalThe Electric HorsemanThe Newsroom (HBO)

The sound of typewritersAbsence of Malice, All the President’s Men, His Girl Friday, Teacher’s Pet, Citizen Kane.

Five Hitchcocks: North by Northwest, Dial M for Murder,To Catch a ThiefVertigoFrenzy

WesternsLonesome Dove (CBS miniseries), Little Big Man, Blazing Saddles, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Maverick.  

Crime: Charley Varrick, The Silence of the Lambs, Zodiac, Double Jeopardy, The Wire (HBO). 

Courts: Inherit the Wind, 12 Angry Men, Witness for the Prosecution, Jagged Edge, Primal Fear. 

WW II: The Americanization of Emily, The Eagle Has Landed, Eye of the Needle, Patton, Battle of the Bulge (Henry Fonda wins the war). 

‘Nazis, I hate these guys’: Marathon Man, The Boys From Brazil, The Producers (1967), The Odessa File, The Plot Against America (new miniseries on HBO).

Spies: Three Days of the CondorThe Company (TNT miniseries), Zero Dark Thirty,The Little Drummer Girl (1984), Homeland (now wrapping up its final season on Showtime).

Race: A Time to Kill,  In the Heat of the Night, Mississippi Burning, Ghosts of Mississippi, The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings.

I love Paris: The Day of the Jackal, Frantic, Charade, Midnight in Paris, A Little Romance. 

 New York storiesThe Hot Rock, A Thousand Clowns, The Godfather, Annie Hall, The French Connection.  

Boston (mostly Damon and Afflecks) strong: Good Will Hunting, The Departed, The Town, Gone Baby Gone, Moneyball (scenes at Fenway). 

L.A. stories:Chinatown, L.A. Story,  Into the Night, True Confessions, Heat. 

Making movies: Sunset Boulevard, The Player, State and Main, Get Shorty, Wag the Dog.

Kate, Babs & JuliaThe Philadelphia Story, The Prince of Tides, The Way We Were, Erin Brockovich, Mona Lisa Smile. 

Bogie: Dark Passage, The Maltese Falcon, High Sierra, Casablanca, The Caine Mutiny

More Harrison Ford: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Presumed Innocent, Witness, Regarding Henry, The Fugitive. 

More ConneryFrom Russia With Love, The Wind and the Lion, The Man Who Would Be King, The Untouchables, The Hunt for Red October. 

More Redford:The Candidate, Jeremiah Johnson, The Sting; director of Ordinary People and A River Runs Through It

More Grisham: The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Chamber, Runaway Jury, The Client.

Trains and boats: Silver Streak, The Taking of Pelham 123 (1974), Narrow Margin, Jaws, The Deep.

Latest stream of consciousnessThe Matador, The General’s Daughter, A Few Good Men, Charlie Wilson’s War, Molly’s Game.

My book, The Expat Files: My Life is Journalism, is available in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com and Amazon Canada.