Category Archives: Media


Stream verb (SEND): To send continuous sound or moving images using computers. Wi-fi networking allows you to stream music from a PC to the device. This one.

Stream verb (FLOW): To move continuously. Tears streamed down her cheeks; Record numbers of applications were streaming into our offices; Sunlight was streaming through the window. Not this one.

I am old-fashioned. All of my news comes from words printed on actual paper (well, except for the guilty workday pleasure of checking in at HuffPost to see if Mueller got the T. or there are new photos of the royal family). My phone is for texting and taking pictures (and the odd phone call), not for movies.  My computers are for emailing, googling, writing, blogging, Facebooking, and those sneaky moments with HuffPost (see above), not for movies. My car is just for driving (not for playing music or stories…)

I read books for stories. I go to the theater for movie-stories. Except when I don’t. Except when I turn to my television for both. That big slightly-rectangular black screen in my living room. That cable-less, dish-less big black blank…with a tiny device called Roku attached to it—and therein lies the magic. The stories—in movies, in series, in documentaries. The stories minus commercials. The stories I want when I want them.

Streaming. I love this magical new world—which I’m sure is about to be tarnished, sullied, altered, and further monetized by the loss of net neutrality. But for now, this winter, this holiday…it has been nothing short of splendid. Stories stories stories and no danger of the bloated T. face appearing.

Here’s what I’ve been watching with a one-two sentence description and recommendation. Most of them I’ve enjoyed in two or three day binges. I’ve gradually expanded my streaming channels—the danger is that if I’m not careful my story sources will soon cost more than my old cable bill. That’s okay—still no commercials and no bloated reddish face topped with an orangey hair-like substance.

Let me begin with the best of the best. For me that’s The Crown (Netflix). It’s near the top of what I’m calling my high-class, smarty-pants soap operas (well, not sure anything can ever top Downton Abbey). The second in a series that will eventually cover Queen Elizabeth’s whole life, it’s full of sudsy drama and some reasonably authentic history. I’m somewhat addicted to all things British so of course I consider The Crown a perfect gift for holiday escapes (shades closed, fleeces on, phone off, lefse at hand…the good life for sure)

Then along came the last season of A Place to Call Home (Amazon/Acorn), except for the final four episodes which have since been downloaded. I’m saving them for the most special of occasions, maybe tonight to start the year right, maybe for this weekend with a foodie treat of some specialness? I’ve talked about this series before—described it as Australia’s Downton Abbey with the downstairs folks moved to the farms and the time upped to the 50’s. I can’t bear to leave this family—what to do.

New seasons (and probably final seasons) of two of my favorite detective series have come available this fall, Broadchurch (Acorn) and Top of the Lake (Hulu). The first is one of those great British detective series with broody guys, strong women and it rains a lot. The second is Australian with super-strong, not so silent women and it’s sunnier. Elizabeth Moss is the main character in Top of the Lake and apparently with her Handmaid commitment is not coming back so it will likely end. Both shows have plenty of dastardly deeds and bad hombres to keep my attention without resorting to quite as much swaggering and gunplay as most American detective stories.

Robert and Marsha (bro and sister-in-law) pointed out a new one-season event from Sweden I’ve just finished watching. Rebecka Martinsson (Acorn) based on the detective novels of Asa Larsson, one of my favorite Nordic Noir writers. It’s excellent if you like smart women taking care of business with just enough personal story-line to make them your best friends. There’s also a whole lot of northern Sweden’s bleakly beautiful landscape, especially in the dramatic winter scenes—reminds me of much of northern Minnesota at its chilly best.

Haven’t been serious about my movie and documentary to-see lists yet but have watched the first half of the Joan Didion doc. Amazon had a glitch so couldn’t finish it but certainly will. It’s fine work by Didion’s nephew, intimate and poignant and admiring but not simply pretty either. Didion is one of my much-admired writers and it may be nominated for an Oscar so it will be pure pleasure to return to it.

Finally…The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu). I read the book while in Jaisalmer in the West Indian desert state of Rajasthan. In my golden room in a golden fort. It was a great late-night read with my wide open windows and the sounds of quarreling dogs wafting not-so-gently in. It’s hard to duplicate that experience on my couch in front of the TV, however brilliant the streaming experience is. That’s the long way of saying I’m having a hard time with it right now. I believe that’s because the first two episodes cover a few major experiences that take awhile to reach in the book, and because they are filmed exactly as I imagined them to happen. It’s rare to have a scene that’s existed only on paper and in your imagination come alive right before your eyes precisely as you pictured it. Of course I had the advantage of being an Elizabeth Moss fan and visualizing her right there in front of my eyes as I was reading. Anyway, it’s quite a story, and I just read that Margaret Atwood, the author, will be heavily involved in the second season which takes off from the book but moves beyond. Good idea. I’ll stay with it.

In the spirit of starting 2018 off right, I’ve written something, taken my cold medicine, eaten broccoli. I have one more evening ahead of guilt-free streaming, and then it’s back to reading and writing and gym and more damn vegetables.  Happy New Year.




 Last Tuesday night, my friend and I went to see Bob Dylan at the Kiva Auditorium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Friend Bob has been a Dylan fan since age 18 or so when he heard his first Dylan song; he doesn’t exactly say it changed his life—but close. This is around his tenth Bob concert and he knows most of the lyrics to everything The Bob has written.

I was a little older when introduced to the famous Bob from Minnesota and that was mostly from With God on Our Side which, as I’ve said previously, was my teaching aide for 6th grade social studies class, and from Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of Blowin’ in the Wind.

 As I drove home Tuesday night, neither slightly inebriated nor stoned—as might have been the case in the past—it became clear to me I had in the space of that hour been attentive to several Dylans. Let me explain:

First there was Bob Dylan, practically a home town boy from Hibbing, Minnesota; my town Northome just a few miles and a lifestyle or so away, the difference between a mining town and a village of Norwegian lumberjacks. Given the remoteness of northern Minnesota from the rest of the world, and the fact Bob Dylan and I are almost exactly the same age, I choose to claim kinship and listened to that gravelly voice with thoughts of both of us coming home from school in the snowy dusk of a January afternoon. I wanted to get out too but my escape was Minneapolis and then Florida and marriage. Bob did much better—the Village and folk singers’ heaven and fame and fortune.

Those thoughts alternated with the pleasure of watching that famous old poet/song writer and Nobel Literary Prize winner  gyrating a bit stiffly on stage and actually appearing to be having fun. So it’s okay to be an elder in this crazy world—having lived through some pretty stimulating times and not having to face the long future riddled with Trump-alikes.

Then there was the background music introducing me to my Albuquerque life. While not specifically Dylan, it was rock n roll of the folk variety generally, and it was playing when I moved to Albuquerque and met the ‘cool kids’ working in politics and for George McGovern. So, Tuesday night when I couldn’t understand a word being sung in some of the numbers, I metaphorically closed my eyes and drifted back there…

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, and how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind






Sometimes the morning headlines make me smile—not often these days but sometimes—like today. Bob Dylan awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. How great is that? After I write this post I will immediately order his book, and my friend and I already have tickets for next week’s concert (my first Dylan concert actually). My personal award however goes to Dylan for With God on Our Side, the classic, all-time best description of America’s doctrine of Manifest Destiny.


I used With God on Our Side to teach my Junior High classes in American history during my brief stint as a history teacher. And is there another song as great as Blowin’ in the Wind? Or The Times They Are a-Changin’? They represent such an amazing time in my life and my friends’ lives…I am just so happy about this…we must keep thinking about the good people and songs and books out there or we’ll get mired way too deep in the sleazy side of things, i.e. politics. Maybe buried deep in all this present badness is something good—maybe not—but we’ll always have Dylan to remind us ‘the times CAN change.’

Congratulations Bob Dylan—born in Duluth, raised in Hibbing—my home territory. I’m not sure he liked it a lot over on the Iron Range but home’s home and he could not possibly have turned out this brilliantly without some Minnesota connection.


With God on Our Side

Bob Dylan

Oh my name it ain’t nothin’
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I was taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side

Oh, the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh, the country was young
With God on its side

The Spanish-American
War had its day
And the Civil War, too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
I was made to memorize
With guns in their hands
And God on their side

The First World War, boys
It came and it went
The reason for fighting
I never did get
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don’t count the dead
When God’s on your side

The Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And then we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now, too
Have God on their side

I’ve learned to hate the Russians
All through my whole life
If another war comes
It’s them we must fight
To hate them and fear them
To run and to hide
And accept it all bravely
With God on my side

But now we got weapons
Of chemical dust
If fire them, we’re forced to
Then fire, them we must
One push of the button
And a shot the world wide
And you never ask questions
When God’s on your side

Through many a dark hour
I’ve been thinkin’ about this
That Jesus Christ was
Betrayed by a kiss
But I can’t think for you
You’ll have to decide
Whether Judas Iscariot
Had God on his side.

So now as I’m leavin’
I’m weary as Hell
The confusion I’m feelin’
Ain’t no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
That if God’s on our side
He’ll stop the next war

Songwriters: Bob Dylan

With God on Our Side lyrics © Bob Dylan Music Co.



Platform of Words…for my trains of thought has been in hiatus for awhile as I focused on Time and Place ( which is intended for both travel and, more serious, flash non-fiction and Today (, my ‘now and then’ journal of family and everyday stuff.

However…it occurs to me as I pick up this Sunday Morning’s NYTimes, I need a place to vent my fear and frustration. To repost dispatches from the intelligent life remaining on this planet, especially any to be found on this continent, in this country. To talk about the fact that I am, for the first time ever, truly frightened of my country.

Oh sure, I’ve been worried before, during the Vietnam war for example, and very worried about the continued uptick of popularized stupidity, i.e. Sarah Palin for VP. But now I am quite honestly terrified. If it were just Donald Trump I would think perhaps that the rest of the world could somehow bring him to heel. But fascism, real fascism, defined in a Times article this morning as “a governmental system that asserts complete power and emphasizes aggressive nationalism and often racism.” ( is on the horizon and on the move.

It’s all over the world–and isn’t this what was happening prior to WW2? But never mind the rest of the world for a moment. Because we (USA USA USA) were, in my lifetime, supposed to be the universal good guys, saving the planet from fascist and communist excess. I suppose I believed that, brainwashing not being limited to any one place. And now there’s Donald Trump. So much for that lingering little wedge of conviction in my brain that my country was just a little better than other places (well, except for Scandinavia of course).

What to do? Voting could make a difference. But voting just elected that smart Mr. Obama…along with a slice of the unintelligent life on the planet to thwart any positive possibilities coming to us via the presidential route.

What to do?

Sometimes I’ll just talk about books here, and my ongoing classes. Which was mostly my intentions for this blog. Before it all got so scary.




Sing a song of sixpence,

A pocket full of rye,

Four and twenty blackbirds

Baked in a pie.


When the pie was opened

The birds began to sing—

Wasn’t that a dainty dish

To set before the king?


The king was in the counting-house

Counting out his money,

The queen was in the parlor

Eating bread and honey,


The maid was in the garden

Hanging out the clothes.

Along came a blackbird

And snipped off her nose.

(Poetry Foundation)


The 13th Street (Neset apartment) Oscars Party requires attendees to have seen every Best Picture Nomination and to prepare a dish that fits within the theme of one of them. Susanna and I went to “Birdman” last night, hence the birds-in-a-pie idea.

What a strange and practically wonderful film. There are three main characters (Broadway/Live Theater, Movies and New York City’s Theater District) accompanied by several really great actors in fine fine performances. We loved it for all of that after our years as dance presenters; as movie aficionados (me, mesmerized by movies from the time I was a kid; Susanna, connected through her kid, a most beautiful and talented TV/film actor; and finally as great fans of the great city.

Now, trying to figure out how to define “Birdman” for myself, the phrase that keeps coming to mind is magic realism—not quite as defined by  Gabriel Garcia Marquez , but a sort of grungy 42nd Street version.

The Birdman, Michael Keaton is the ex-superstar hero of film trying to make an impact on Broadway. In spite of his occasional use of some supernatural abilities things do not go well. Well, sometimes they do—like when he’s flying. There are some little love/sex/sexy exchanges between various characters; a rather sentimental, in a very contemporary way, relationship between father and daughter (Emma Stone’s eyes have  magic powers all their own); and lots and lots of references to actors and acting.

In fact, “Birdman” is a story for and about actors and their back-and-forths between Hollywood and Broadway. And successes. And failures. And talent. And abuses.

Age presents its own conundrum as father and daughter play old world, new world in the battle of how to communicate with the world—movie critics and newspapers versus tweeting and trending.

You can tell whether a movie is good by whether you’re still discovering things about it a few days later. “Birdman” has layers and layers to explore; it would almost be worth seeing it again if there weren’t so many more on the list.


Angelina and the Coens—those Old-Fashioned Filmmakers. And the good—I mean bad—witch, Meryl

Unbroken. I just saw “Unbroken.” It is wonderful. I did not expect to say this; the reviews are mixed, based partly on whether you are an Angelina Jolie fan I suspect and partly on whether you are fond of old-fashioned war hero/WWII/survival-at-sea-and-prison-camp films.

As a big Angelina Jolie admirer, I trundled my lazy Saturday afternoon self over to my neighborhood multiplex, bought the requisite popcorn (extra butter please), chocolate milk and water for only $15 and prepared to try very hard to like the film for Angelina’s sake. I am not sure what I expected but the names Jolie and Coen did not lead me to believe I would be transported back to the 1950s. And that’s where I went. It was the Royal Theater in Northome, Minnesota and my cousin Audrey was selling tickets out front. On screen there was a very handsome and brave young Gregory Peckish-looking guy, bravely surviving the war against unimaginable odds. Popcorn was 10¢.

Would you believe there’s no sex, no cursing, no gratuitous violence in this Jolie/Coen film—it is, purely and simply, a war hero movie about how a very handsome young Italian guy who had just won an Olympic medal survived a couple of months at sea and an excruciating and extended time as a Japanese prisoner of war. It also happens to be a true story.


Into the Woods. My Oscar-obsessed movie-watching sprint actually started last week when I saw my first 2014 Oscar-possibility film, “Into the Woods.” The Albuquerque girls joined me for the launch—and were less than excited. Musicals just aren’t their thing…and fairy tales not far enough in their pasts for them to find pleasure in the Prince cheating on Cinderella or the Giant being female.

I thought…what did I think? Musicals aren’t my favorites either. But there is the obligatory one every other year or so, right? Two years ago it was “Les Misérables” and, yes I am going to say it, I was indeed somewhat miserable during much of it…as were my two musically unsophisticated companions. “Into the Woods” was better but only by a few degrees. Okay so it was very well-done, the singing was brilliant (if you like…), the songs clever and …, Meryl Streep, of course, is a great witch and the cynical edge to the notion of ‘happily ever after’ was much appreciated. By me at least.

My recommendation is this. If you love musical theater/film definitely go; actually you’ve already gone. If you are not in love with that genre but remember fairy tales ever so fondly you should also go—unless you need them unadulterated. If you have an Oscars’ obsession that demands you see every nominated film—there’s no choice. Go, get it over with, you’ll feel better about yourself for not having cheated. Because, even if it doesn’t make the final list of best picture nominees, you know Meryl Streep will be nominated and that counts.

I’m already planning the invitation list for the big film/foodie event at my house February 22. So far it’s just me and Teresa, hopefully to be joined by Jonathan and Susanna and maybe another person or two. The thing is you must have seen all of the best picture nominations—at the very least—to come to the party. Also there’s the theme food for which all attendees share responsibility. I hope to make this bigger than Christmas. But that’s another story.


“WORDS” takes a holiday


Starting yesterday Platform of Words… must take a week or two off to regroup. To return around New Years with the lists and resolutions for 2015. Such as: all the movies, documentaries, shorts to see before the Oscars (some guesswork at this point but you have to start somewhere); which, and in what order, Norwegian, Russian, Mongolian and Chinese authors and books to read before Big2015Trip (B15T); and, ditto, books about Scandinavian immigrants and the settling of Minnesota and South Dakota to go with my writing classes and The Book.

Then there are the little projects like any new Scandinavian/South Africa crime novels from favorite authors and trying to hang on to a beginning knowledge of contemporary poetry and how to write succinct but meaningful entries in my journal that will be found worthy of a read by some future great-grandchild in some future decade.

Finally there is the really really big ongoing project of how to better organize my blog life so posts get more dependably readable and relevant.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. There are all those Netflix series (House of Cards, Wallander, Annika Bengtzon) to keep up with or catch up on when I don’t want to do any of the above and then there’s Downton Abbey for winter Sunday nights.

And some MOOCs. Signed up for three or four. I did. Really.

Right now it’s all confusion and stress because I haven’t made the requisite lists yet. And the too-muchness of my too-many endeavors is apparent. The only justification for all of this is that I am old and there’s a lot still to do. And I am never ever bored this way.

I’ll be back when it’s all figured out. AGAIN.

Sticks and Stones

Words are important. Even though ‘sticks and stones may break my bones…’ still, words can harm me also. Nothing is simple.

The word I am thinking about  is exceptionalism. Or to be more exact, I am thinking about the phrase ‘American exceptionalism.’ What an awful harmful statement. But a statement, we think if we repeat often enough, will become true.

Here’s the definition of Exceptionalism:

Exceptionalism is the perception that a country, society, institution, movement, or time period is “exceptional” (i.e., unusual or extraordinary) in some way and thus does not need to conform to normal rules or general principles.” (from Wikipedia’s free encyclopedia)

Let’s consider the first part of that definition in relation to America. Yes, we have been unusual or extraordinary in some ways but so has almost every other country. If we just think about political exceptionalism in terms of who did what toward good government first, the prizes go to Iceland for the Althing  and the English for the Magna Carta.

If I were to research a list of who invented the most things or invented something first, my guess is that China would get the prize.

So we will just stick to the present since Barack Obama used the term “American Exceptionalism” not so long ago—to my great dismay. Really Mr. President, did you not check. We are actually so very ordinary.

We are 22nd in the honest, open government category  (Transparency International); tied with Germany for 16th place in the Where-to-be-born/Quality of Life Index (Economist Intelligence Unit) and between 14th and 17th in educational achievement (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

Still waiting for the answer? Where is American deserving of the claim to ‘American Exceptionalism’? Military/weapons/arms, yes undisputed #1. Economy, I think so, but isn’t China about to overtake us?

Oh wait. I googled around a little and I did find some other instances where America is FIRST. The Washington Post’s Wonkblog offers a few examples:

  1. Making Money, still the largest economy according to this list.
  2. Number of people per 100,000 population incarcerated.
  3. Making new parents work or lack of paid parental leave.
  4. Paying lots of money for health care—yay for us.
  5. Number One. Almost one gun per man, woman and child in the U.S. I am so proud.
  6. Killing people with flying robots/drones.
  7. Making cheese.
  8. Most bald eagles
  9. Military spending… already knew that.

Some more. These from AlterNet, a project of the non-profit Independent Media Institute.

  1. Most expensive place to have a baby.
  2. Obesity
  3. Anxiety disorders.
  4. Small arms ownership…would this be the same as ‘guns’?
  5. Most people behind bars. Seen this one before.
  6. Energy use per person.
  7. Health expenditures. Yup.
  8. Cocaine use. Probably part of the reason we’re fat, anxious and in jail.

So, about American Exceptionalism.  Yes, indeed, there are some number ones there. And how does the selection make you feel?

The second part of the definition of exceptionalism is the most troubling though. It is also quite probably the reason we keep yammering on about American Exceptionalism—so we do “not need to conform to normal rules or general principles.”

I get it. We are special and can torture-pollute-spend-and-shoot as much as we damn well please. Please let us ban the term ‘American Exceptionalism’ from our vocabulary. You too, Mr. President. You know better.


WORDS MATTER—More or Less—Depending

???????????????????????????????New Year is the most important holiday of the year in Japan. As it is should be everywhere. A sanctioned time of renewal, starting over, beginning again, upping the ante on what you’re already doing. Maybe the first day of every month should be reserved for this. I actually do this stuff most mornings of my life with a special focus on Sunday morning—just me and my gods: Daytimer, Journal, Surface and the NYT. One can never start over too often.

About  journaling. I have a 10-year Journal  for 2004-2014 which is wrapping up; I started a new one this year, 2014-2024, so have been dual posting all year. The problem is, as I look back, there is very little of interest to me or anyone else in these journals. They are definitely not raw material for a notable tome of any sort. Why do this at all…write in a book of some kind or on a blog or in facebook? It is just that some of us do not exist for ourselves unless we say something in written-down (typed-up) words.

Blogs are to articulate your semi-profound thoughts and observations in somewhat ready-for-prime time format. Facebook is for your puppies, kitties, politics, sunsets, foreign monuments and for ‘liking’ all of the above for all of your friends. What a relief not to have to watch those old slideshows of the trip to the Grand Canyon, yes? Now a glance and a like and you’re done. I love my blogs…and facebook’s okay…but journals…well, they are special. Personal. Intimate.

Journaling or diary-keeping, writing by hand, that’s for my-eyes-only isn’t it? Recording details of my secret criminal activity, my sex life, the politicians I’ve bribed (well actually none of that is true except I’m pretty sure there was some sex and, as to the crime part, there were quite a few parking tickets). Sharing my thoughts about the meaning of life or the loves of my life? Cataloguing unique ideas for novels or films or paintings or how to become a millionaire? All details upon which my biographer will base her best seller once I am famous.

But something has gone terribly wrong with my journals. Granted the10-year book only has a few lines for each day of a given year so no way to wax poetic exactly or even finish a coherent thought that includes adjectives and adverbs. Should they be quite this dull, this lifeless, this mundane though? I will not even want to reread them in the ‘home.’ But they are words on paper. I write, therefore I am.

Here are a few excerpts from all December Elevens from 2004 through last year. Don’t feel that you should read them…but if you do beware of the sense of time passing slowly that will envelope you. Slower and slower and slower …


December 11th

2004: …George Bush has a sense of his own invincibility or the righteousness of this cause that’s unreal.

2005: Sara’s like her dad was, pure motion. We baked ginger cookies with bacon grease for shortening. I loved them, others not so much…

2006: All day meeting at Barelas Community Center…more of Gordon’s old  stuff delivered [?]…45 minutes walk and abs, even with side hurting. In bed 7:30pm. What’s wrong?

2007: Back to work. Many details that I need pass on to other staff…feeling increasingly disorganized.

2008: Gym catching up. And an attack of the pain gremlin. In toe [?], I work it out, moves to shoulder. Stiff all over. Tired. Blah. Plugging away at reports. Meeting Ollie for coffee…really want him working for us. Funny, smart guy.

2009back to work, planning presenting, starting good habits again. No butter wine or sweets. Instead olive oil, pasta, beer or Baileys on special occasions. NO JUNK…

2010: So I have a $2000 grant and lots of frequent flyer miles for an art trip this spring so I need to do it!

2011: Honestly if I could only travel and write I would be successful at it. So maybe this next two weeks of organizing and thinking about the the habits of good bloggers, writers will make a difference.

2012: So fucking sick of hearing about ‘my hunting gun’, ‘my protection gun.’ Keep saying ‘Grow Up’ to them. Putting on your orange jacket and aiming your toy doesn’t make you smart or strong or wise or capable. It just means you like to kill stuff for fun.

2013: So today will bridge the sick-well gap (I suppose from the emergency appendectomy) nicely as I clean. And plan nice treats for people. My friends, wine, Whole Foods desserts. Re-think food. Okay feel better already.

 Let’s go find that book where I put all the stuff about sex, drugs and rock and roll.

WORD DAY and More of ‘Where I Left My Heart…’

Bob, my poetry guru, came out to Kerouac's town when I lived there.
Bob, my poetry guru, came out to Kerouac’s town when I lived there.


Sundays are intended to be ‘Word’ Post Days, meaning writing about/or from books, newspapers, classes and sometimes the ‘newish’ media. There is a lot to write about today; the Times Book section has a Russian theme and, since Russia’s on my travel agenda, I am sure there are books there to consider, even order. Also, along those exciting lines, Netflix is launching a new Marco Polo series available December 14th and, since Beth and I will be loosely tracing the explorer’s route next summer, that’s something to look forward to instead of just waiting for the new season of Downton Abbey on January 5th…although PBS has lots of Downton Abbey replays and teasers on most of the day today. AND last but not least, Aljazeera has some Marco Polo hours tonight. Their version is probably more news-oriented than Netflix’ will be and it is very good.

What a nice morning, not even 10AM and I am already feeling much enthusiasm for the world of books and media. And life in general I should add.

There is a little guilt over restarting “The Goldfinch” last night before digging into the Norwegian novels but it is just so damn good. I put it aside before a trip and now am back into it and much in awe of its storytelling—Goldfinch truly deserved the Pulitzer Prize for fiction which it won a year or two ago.

The intent for today’s post however is to talk about my favorite MOOC so far, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry or ModPo as it’s affectionately known. Haven’t turned on the TV for three days (except for one hour of a Netflix Swedish detective). When I feel the urge to plop down on the couch and hit the on button, I instead plop down on my big comfy desk chair and click on Coursera and scroll for the poet people. There they are, the funny professor and those bright and endearing students I’m coming to know. I have the same feeling as I do when I sit down for a visit with Frank and Clair or Piper and her buds. Although, come to think of it, Amri Baraka’s “Incident” has all the mystery of House of Cards’ double dealings and Ted Berrigan seems like a character that could have somehow walked on stage in Orange is the New Black.

 Okay. So I am name-dropping here, proud of the fact I know the names of some actual poets. Thanks for the introduction Bob, this is fun.

It is exciting and invigorating to be learning something new. I keep saying that but it’s true. Am I going into deep and meaningful study of modern and contemporary poets? Well no, but maybe like Bob, I’ll keep taking this class over and over and wind up on the other side an informed and regular reader of poetry.

The big Thanksgiving weekend discovery has been a light bulb moment about why I have liked what little I’ve read in the past of the Beats. It’s the Geography of course. They are everywhere around this country, their lives are one big road trip—which I knew in a way but never linked it with my own love of road trips and PLACES. Kerouac’s “October in the Railroad Earth” has probably been read more times than anyone except Frost (I don’t know that of course!) but it is forever wonderful—at least to anyone who has lived in and loved San Francisco. Can’t resist including a little of it here. Google a site to listen, the background music in his most famous reading does add.

A little bit of “October in the Railroad Earth” by Jack Kerouac

There was a little alley in San Francisco back of the Southern Pacific station at Third and Townsend in redbrick of drowsy lazy afternoons with everybody at work in offices in the air you feel the impending rush of their commuter frenzy as soon they’ll be charging en masse from Market and Sansome buildings on foot and in buses and all well-dressed through  workingman Frisco of Walkup?? truck drivers and even the poor grime-bemarked Third Street of lost bums even Negros so hopeless and long left East and meanings of responsibility and try that now all they do is stand there spitting in the broken glass sometimes fifty in one afternoon against one wall at Third and Howard and here’s all these Millbrae and San Carlos neat-necktied producers and commuters of American and Steel civilizations rushing by with San Francisco Chronicles …                                          Please.  Go to YouTube and listen.

I am so happy to have lived in San Francisco for a little while, a city where just a small piece of a poem or song can evoke so strongly the air and sound and smell and look of a place.

Well, I was going to talk about my ModPo discovery of the New York School but this is too long so that will have to wait until Thursday.

 Sunday is Word Day. Worship at the altar of books and poems and stories in whatever form.

Can’t resist some more old San Francisco photos from when I lived there.

My funky little Mission apartment.
My funky little Mission apartment.
The corner store where the guy sold us single cigarettes. Pretty much the extent of my illegal drug dealing.
The corner store where the guy sold us single cigarettes. Pretty much the extent of my illegal drug dealing.
Robert and Marsha came out for a little Left Coast atmosphere.
Robert and Marsha came out for a little Left Coast atmosphere.
A favorite market.
A favorite market.
Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.
Loved it. Loved it. Loved it.