Are They Worthy Part 3, The Rest of Them. Oscar Ready

So of course, the boy and I have been clambering to cram in the rest of the Best Picture nominees before the awards tonight.  Friday, we rented Birdman.  Yesterday we saw The Imitation Game and Whiplash.  Today, we rented The Theory of Everything and Selma.  Here are my final thoughts on the rest of the nominees and stay tuned to the end for my pick for Best Picture.

Birdman.  Artisitically brilliant.  Heading into this weekend, this was my pick for Best Picture, but I still had so many more films to see, I couldn’t choose this one for sure.  It flows like one continuous shot.  Michael Keaton’s performance was fantastic.  Edward Norton and Emma Stone lead a flawless cast of supporting characters.  It is imaginative, poignant, touching.  Great film.

The Imitation Game is a good movie.  It is well-written, well-directed, and very well-acted.  I liked it.  It is a teaching moment for historical brilliance that aided the free-world’s defeat of Nazism during the 1930’s and 40’s as well as the past prejudices, oppression, and crimes agains homosexuals that today seem unimaginable but which in fact took place not all that long ago. As such, it is an important piece of filmmaking.  A good movie.  A solid movie.  Certainly worth seeing.

The Theory of Everything.  Another biopic of a genius.  Great direction and cinematography, but it didn’t engage me the same way that the other films in the category did.  With that said, Eddie Redmayne deserves the Best Actor Award for his performance here.  He used his face, his body, his voice expertly.  As good as Michael Keaton is in Birdman and as much as Bradley Cooper becomes Chris Kyle in American Sniper, Redmayne simply surpasses even those two great performances.  The film though, not my choice for Best Picture.

Selma: The scene depicting the 16th street Baptist Church bombing that killed four little girls took us inside that church, showed us what the headlines and history books couldn’t begin to adequately describe.  Continuing with this year’s theme of flawed heroes, Selma took an honest look at a great man at a pivotal time in the civil rights movement in America.  The final scene is moving, inspiring, and stirring.  The words of Dr. King resonate to this day.  At the risk of being mistaken for criticizing the subject of the film, as with American Sniper, I will make my criticism of the film independent of my admiration for the man.  It is a wonderful film, however, as with The Theory of Everything, it did not pull me in the way some of the other films did.  Is this because of my age or my race?  Maybe.  I honestly don’t know.

Last, but certainly not least is Whiplash.  I went into this movie expecting very little.  I came out exhausted.  WIthout revealing too much about the story, I can tell you that I held my breath through most of the final ten minutes of the film.  I caught myself several times throughout the movie unconsciously clenching my fists with bated breath, on the edge because the filmmakers of Whiplash utilized the arts of music and filmmaking, cutting the film and manipulating drum tempo to build tension subtly throughout until at the very end you are taken to the point where you desperately want that release to come and… and… and… it doesn’t, at least not yet, so you wait as it builds more, and builds and builds and you wait for it… wait for it… wait for it… tension and release with no release until…

Well, I don’t want to ruin it for you.  🙂

I have never seen a film like Whiplash before.  I’d never been so manipulated by a filmmaker in that way before.  I don’t think I’ve been so energetically on edge while so engaged in a film before.  It was written, edited, directed, acted, and scored perfectly.  This film doesn’t have the social messages of Selma and The Imitation Game.  It doesn’t have the stylistic beauty of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman.  It wasn’t experimental like Boyhood.  It wasn’t about real life heroes like American Sniper, Selma, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything.  But what it was, was a true film-going experience, unique in how it grabs, holds, and shakes its audience, tossing it around, anticipating the landing so we can finally breathe that sigh of relief.  It is a rare quality for a film to affect its audience so effectively, and isn’t that the point of films?

My choice, though I’m not sure it will be the Academy’s choice, for Best Picture this year is Whiplash.  If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and go.  All these films are worth seeing.  All will make you think.  All have something to say.  Whiplash will make you hold your breath.

For more from this author, go to: and order his gripping novel, In The Sanctity of Revenge



Yes, I bought the book Fifty Shades of Grey. Across the back cover it boasted “More Than 70 million copies sold worldwide“. I think it’s safe to assume that women bought most of those 70 million copies sold. I’m a writer. I had to see what got ’70 million.‘ women to buy this book. I was also curious from the perspective of a man. Any insight into what women find alluring or attractive is helpful. When I began to read it though, everything I had been taught and everything I had come to think about what women want was called into question. And it’s not what you think.

I’ve always been attracted to a certain type of woman. I haven’t dated many women, but those I have dated have had a few attributes in common. Of course, they were all physically attractive, all very pretty, each certainly much prettier than I should’ve been attracting. They were also all intelligent. Not only book-smart, they had common sense too. They were all independent and proud to be. I never dated one of those, “could you fill my wittle gas tank for wittle ole me, I simply cannot figure it out” types. I’m not into helpless. Some guys like that I guess. Makes them feel manly. I don’t. There are other ways to feel manly around a woman without her having to pretend like the village idiot or a fragile delicate flower. They were confident, they were funny, they were strong, and yet they were completely and totally feminine. Soft and sweet and tender and womanly in everyway, but they had strong minds, strong spirits, ambition, and self-confidence in their self-sufficiency. Each was searching for a partner, not someone to take care of her.

The girl I married put her self through graduate school – twice. She has her Doctoral degree in education. Smart, pretty, independent, strong-of-spirit, feminine, determined, ambitious, tough when she needs to be, and sexy. The great part is, I know she’s with me because she wants to be, not because she has to be. She could kick my ass out tomorrow and keep on moving without missing a beat if she so desired. That’s what I like.

Then again, that’s what I grew up with. My maternal grandmother raised five kids on her own at a time when women were not equal in the workplace nor otherwise in society. She was tough, depression-era Irish. She didn’t take shit from anybody, and yet she was loving and caring and protective and generous and sweet. She passed those qualities along to her daughters, one of whom is my mother. My dad was a police officer. His schedule was erratic. He’d be on midnights sometimes. At other times, he’d work afternoons. He never turned down the chance to make overtime and often had a side job or two. We went to Catholic school and Mom stayed home. It was her choice to do so. She felt, and my dad agreed, that it was important for us kids to have someone home to care for us. My mother never had that herself, but she wanted to give that to us. As a result, my Dad worked a lot. That meant mom couldn’t pull the old ‘wait till your father comes home’ trick. She had to discipline us herself. She often found herself alone to run the household. She cut the grass, she weeded the lawn, she shoveled the snow, and she took care of what needed to be taken care of if my Dad was at work. She didn’t have the luxury of waiting for 5:30 to roll around, or for Saturday afternoon. Shit needed doing, and she did it.

I’m following my Mom’s side of the family since this is about women. My Dad’s mother, it should be noted though, is also a tough Irish girl who raised five boys and worked on the side while my Grandfather worked his multiple jobs. The toughness of spirit has been passed down on both sides of the family. My sister, my female cousins all are tough and strong and self-sufficient.

None of this seemed strange to me. I was a child of the 70’s and 80’s. You couldn’t swing a Bionic Woman doll without hitting a feminist. My first crush was on Linda Carter. As Wonder Woman, she beat up bad guys and didn’t lie around waiting for some dude in tights to save her ass, she handled shit herself, and yet, damn she was sexy. Television in those two decades was flooded with self-assured, empowered and sexy females. They could bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let you forget you’re a man. From Carol Burnett to Bernadette Peters to Veronica Hamel to Susan Dey to Phylicia Rashād the list goes on and on. As a result, I have always thought that that is what women have wanted – freedom, equality, and empowerment. So imagine my shock when I start reading about Anastasia Steele and her beaver tamer Christian Grey.

I’m a father of two daughters. I have made it a point to teach them that they have the ability and the right to go out into the world and become anything they want to be as long as they are willing to work hard for it. I hold up women like Condi Rice, Jenny Finch, and Mia Hamm as examples of women who achieved on their own. Women of strength and ability and power. I want my girls to grow up knowing that anything they want out of life they can get for themselves. They don’t need a man to get it for them; they are in control. Now let me tell you about Ana and Christian.

Look, I’m not offended by the sex and the bondage and the S & M stuff. What people do in the bedroom is their business. As long as everyone involved is a willing participant, have at it. We’re sexual creatures, and we’re creative, if bondage is what gets you going, grab the leash and have fun. You see, it’s not how Mr. Grey treats Ana in the bedroom that bothers me; it’s how he treats her outside the bedroom that goes against everything I believe to be right when it comes to how a man should treat a woman.

First off, he’s rich. Very rich. My thought is that if he were a plumber instead of a wealthy entrepreneur, a good percentage of those 70 million women would consider him more of an asshole than a sexy bondage master. Here we go with that same Cinderella bullshit I try to teach my daughters is wrong. If Cinderella had punched each of those wicked stepsisters in the nose and told the old lady that if she didn’t watch her step, she was next, she could’ve hired herself out to other people and washed their floors for money until she had enough to buy her own little cottage and maybe go to school. While at school she’d learn about, and later rally against, the tyranny of the Prince and his family and perhaps lead a revolution that ends with her being elected the first President of that village. But no, here we are in the 21st century with a poor little clerk and her knight in shining armor coming to sweep her off her feet (which he literally does by way of a helicopter) to his castle where he insists she become ‘his’.

At every point where Ana resists, the spoiled rich asshole takes a ‘my-way-or-the-highway’ stance which, had I been the author would’ve resulted in Ana calling him a bitch and leaving him for a real man. But she doesn’t because she is so infatuated with this man who lays down all the rules of the relationship, stalks her as a means to ‘protect’ her (because an adult woman can’t take care of herself), and insists that if she want to remain in his luxurious realm of awesomeness, this virgin must obey his sex-rules which just happen to include chaining her to the ceiling and making her submit to him, that she tentatively goes along with him one leery step at a time.

I’ll admit two things at this point. First, the passage describing her giving him a bj in the bathtub was very nicely written. I’ve highlighted that passage and intend on reading it over and over again on nights when my wife has gone to bed early and there’s nothing on TV but reruns of Maury. Second, I didn’t finish reading the book. I had to stop. Even when everyone in the book is a bad guy, I have to like the characters somehow, at least just one of them. In Fifty Shades of Grey, I couldn’t. He needs to have his ass handed to him by a man. (I want to read a sequel where Ana’s big brother returns from fighting in Afghanistan and beats the living shit out of this spoiled little pretty boy who likes to boss his sister around.) And Ana… she’s the opposite of everything I’ve been attracted to, everything I’ve been taught, and everything I’ve tried to impart to my daughters.

I did Google to see how it ends.  I don’t see any resolution to the problems I have with it. I hate to put the onus on her, but it is her fault. I hate him, but I blame her. He’s an asshole, he’s been an asshole, chances are, he’ll always be an asshole, but it’s her decision to put up with it, and that’s where I lose all respect for her. He’s a bully, and she’s a willing victim, and that happens long before any whips and chains are introduced.

If that’s what 70 million women worldwide want in a man, then I consider myself that much luckier to have had the fortune and pleasure of meeting the few women I dated and I appreciate my wife that much more. I’ll spend the next 8-10 years preparing my daughters to find this antiquated little fairy tale laughable when they eventually read the book or see the movie. If they sit down and make fun of it, I’ll know I’ve done my job. If either of them come home with a guy like Christian Grey, call the lawyers, I’m gonna need one.

For more from this author, go to: and order his gripping novel, In The Sanctity of Revenge


I am not sick.  I am not dying.  Something happens though, when you find yourself faced with the responsibility of parenthood.  You tend to acknowledge your own mortality.  I was never afraid to fly.  I flew a lot for work.  I flew a lot for fun.  Then I had a son and the first time I flew after my boy was born, I was terrified.  “What happens if the plane crashes?!  I will miss out on so much, and he needs me!!”  The second time I flew after he was born, I wrote those feelings down in this pseudo- poem.

Oh Little one, you’re on your way into this world

And I’m on my way out

Life can be awful cruel at times, of that

there is no doubt

I won’t be there to give you all the things

A daddy should provide

So I’ll leave you with some words

In hopes they’ll help you navigate the tides

Some of these words are mine

And some are those of others

But the one’s you’ll need to know right off

Are ‘Listen to your mother’.

A wise man once said,

“To thine own self be true”

Because there will be times in life

When your only friend is you

You’ll make mistakes, but that’s okay

Mistakes are life’s great teacher.

And if you don’t meet your goal at first

Keep trying ’til you reach her.

To find the key to happiness

Doesn’t take a great detective

The answer to those secrets

All lie in your perspective

For some the sunset means

Another day is dead and gone

For others it simply means

The night has just begun

It’s all in how you see it son

I guess I was wrong when I said

Words were all I had to give

For you’ll have a guardian angel protecting you

For as long as you shall live.

Brett & Me LLL


Dance on the stars little one

For the heavens are your playground

And the twilight your cradle

Dance on the stars little one

And let your laughter be heard

It is the song of angels

Dance on the stars little one

And frolic in the depths of your imagination

You’ll never be alone

Dance on the stars little one

And believe in your dreams

For they are all you really own



First and foremost, we have to separate, if we can, the movie from politics. Any criticism of the film should not be interpreted as criticism of the military, nor the brave men and women who serve in the military. The wars were real, and though this film was based upon a real person, it is still a movie. What I plan to critique here, is the movie, at least to start.

With that being said, as an action-packed thriller, it works. Plenty of explosions, clear-cut heroes and villains, edge-of-your-seat suspense – it works. The main character is immediately likeable, and the love story proves relatable and leaves you rooting for the couple to make it. If all you’re looking for in the film is a couple of hours of dynamic old-fashioned, blow-‘em-up, good guys versus bad guys, you won’t be disappointed. For the majority of the film, that’s what it is. But for as fun as those types of films can be, they are rarely Best Picture films.

Of course, this is not simply an old-fashioned, blow-em-up kind of movie. It is supposed to be a biopic. Here’s where it gets a little difficult to separate the ‘film’ from real-life. The film is about a real Navy Seal Sniper named Chris Kyle and is based on a book written by Chris Kyle. It’s not supposed to be a Hollywood war movie, it’s supposed to be based on real events. And so it becomes unavoidable that in order to fully critique the ‘film’, you have to critique some of the reality behind it.

First off, Chris Kyle was a Navy Seal. That, in and of itself, is worthy of our respect and gratitude. He also served four tours in Iraq, an unimaginable sacrifice worthy of our respect and gratitude. He served his country and he served it well and you can’t take that away from him and I wouldn’t want to, but I have to be honest here in my criticism of the film.

American Sniper borrows a lot from old-time Westerns. The common themes of the all-American man who must leave the homestead to defeat the threat, the protestations of the frightened wife left behind to care for the children and hold down the fort, the elusive and ‘worthy’ opponent – the one guy dressed all in black whose skills place him above the other ‘bad-guys’ so that the overall battle boils down to a showdown between our hero and this villain. It’s all there in American Sniper just as it is in any John Wayne western. But this is supposed to be real life and real life rarely resembles a John Wayne western.

Though there are events and accomplishments that are fact and cannot be denied, I have to be skeptical of a story like this written by the ‘hero’. I admit, I have not read the book, but I intend to. It is very possible that the screenwriters elevated the level of hero-making and that Chris Kyle’s book was not near so self-aggrandizing, but the controversies surrounding the story suggests that might not be the case. In the film, Kyle comes across as a one-man army. Regardless of how good or how tough he was, I’m fairly certain that was not the case. The US military is full of tremendous fighters, legends, and heroes. It takes more than one guy.

That’s 99.5% of the movie, a good-old fashioned western. We love our hero, we hate our villain, we want the man in the white hat to ride home to his wife and children victorious to live out his days in peace and comfort enjoying the freedoms for which he so bravely fought. That’s the story Clint Eastwood told – almost right up to the very end when reality rears its ugly head, and that’s when American Sniper earns its stripes. If you don’t know the story and plan to see the film, keep it that way. I don’t plan on giving away any spoilers, but I’d hate for you to be able to read between the lines and guess, so if you don’t know how it ends, you may want to stop reading now.

Schindler’s List, Lone Survivor, and American Sniper are the only films I’ve seen from which a large audience in a packed theater silently and solemnly remove themselves from their seats and out into the lobby. I’ve left church services in crowds less reverent than these moviegoers. It is a unique transformation from Saturday night fun and date night anxiety to quiet and reserved solemnity. It takes a powerful film and a good storyteller to be able to do that to an audience. Clint Eastwood succeeded. It is because of that impact that I feel American Sniper belongs in the Best Picture category for 2015.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Bradley Cooper in this review. Cooper is nominated for the Lead Actor Oscar. I went into American Sniper thinking the star was that skinny dorky guy from The Hangover. Funny and likeable and I know the women think he’s cute, but a Navy Seal? No way.

I sat through the entire film and never once did I see Bradley Cooper. He wasn’t there. In his place was Chris Kyle. The actor disappeared into the role and inhabited the character in such a way that you forgot who the star was. That is the sign of superb acting. Bradley Cooper deserves to be nominated for the Oscar in his category.

So, while my overall criticism of American Sniper is that the real story was made into a very ‘Hollywood’ story, there are some real issues that this film rightfully touched on, issues that have bothered me as well over the past decade plus.

While it is preferable to have an all-volunteer military, the problem with that is that the enormous amount of sacrifice, by both the service members and their families, falls on a relatively small percentage of the population. The result is our fighting forces are stretched thin, most having to do multiple tours of combat which strains them, their marriages, their children, their parents, their jobs or hopes for jobs back home, and produces some exhausted soldiers. In the meantime, the rest of us go about our usual routines without any form of sacrifice whatsoever. You would never know that America is at war. It doesn’t permeate the nightly news, it doesn’t impact our daily lives, it doesn’t stop us from doing anything. This was not the case during the conflicts of the twentieth century. Even during Korea and Vietnam, most people knew someone who was in the trenches. The wars affected the folks back home. Not so this time around. If you didn’t want to think about it, you didn’t have to. Meanwhile, a small number of families were carrying the heavy burden. They did all the work, we reaped all the benefits, and we didn’t even have to acknowledge it was happening. Janet Jackson’s nipple and the Situation’s abs and Paris Hilton’s skills at oral sex and her stint in jail affected more Americans than the wars raging in the Middle-East. We’d occasionally pause before a sporting event, but even then it was because it was forced upon us, and then it was play-ball and where’s the beer vendor. Ironically, it’s been since the bulk of the troops have been pulled out of harm’s way that we’ve begun to pay attention to them. Personally, I think the bombing at the Boston Marathon had a lot to do with reminding us that there are people out there trying to do us harm.

If all you see in American Sniper is a shoot ‘em up Western, you’ll be sure to be entertained, but you will have missed some very important points the film makes. If your criticism of the film is that it glorifies war, I think you’ve missed the point as well. Was Chris Kyle an American hero? In my opinion, he is. Does this movie tell the real story? Probably not, at least not with full honesty, there’s a lot of ‘entertainment’ going on here. Lone Survivor was a better movie. Does the film touch on some very real issues of America at war in the 2000’s? It does. Putting all that aside and taking the movie simply as a piece of filmmaking, does it belong in the category of Best Picture? It does. Does it deserve to win? Probably not. Does Bradley Cooper deserve a Best Actor nomination? Definitely.

Regardless of my thoughts on Clint Eastwood’s film, Chris Kyle has my respect and my gratitude, as does his family, for their sacrifice, a sacrifice made by too many and a burden carried by too few. If it takes films like American Sniper to bring home to Americans the fact that while we were living the easy life, there were those who were sacrificing everything they had, it is a worthy endeavor.

I’ve yet to see Selma, Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, Birdman, or The Imitation Game. Stay tuned for my thoughts on those as I see them.

For my review of The Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood, click here.



Yeah, I know they don’t say that, but I like it. It’s true. The one who gets the statue is the winner. The others lose. That’s not to say they’re ‘losers’. It doesn’t mean they’ve lost at life, that they’re failures. Hell, they’re doing what they love and they’re doing it well enough to get the attention of their peers to the point that they are selected to be in the elite club that is the Oscar Nominees. You are a professional success in my book if you’ve accomplished that. But if they don’t win, they, by definition, lost. That’s just how it goes.

In any event, I like to watch the Oscars. I like to try to guess who will win. I love, like everyone else and I don’t know why, the In Memorium segment in which all the people who’ve died between last year’s telecast and this year’s are honored with sad music and a string of fade up-fade out headshots, the very notables honored with a small clip.   But in order to really enjoy the Academy Awards, you have to have seen some movies. I liked watching the show when I was a kid too, but I hated that Amadeus or Terms of Endearment were up for Best Picture when I would’ve much rather have seen Goonies or Temple of Doom up for the award.

Well, I’ve grown up now and my tastes have, if not changed, expanded. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing better than a good Indiana Jones adventure, but I don’t mind the subtle genius of a movie like The Skeleton Twins. I’m disappointed that neither Kristen Wiig nor Bill Hader was nominated for their roles in that film. Both proved that they are so much more than comedic actors. They are Actors. Much as MacGruber proved the same in last year’s fantastic film Nebraska. See it if you haven’t.

As a result of my expanded tastes, I like to try to see as many of the Best Picture nominated movies as I can before the awards telecast. This year, I’m way behind. At the time they were announced last week, I hadn’t seen any of them. So I started this weekend with the first two: Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood.

If you’ve never seen a Wes Anderson film, you’re missing out. He has a style such that you know immediately that you are watching a Wes Anderson film, a style that elicits an either ‘love him’ or ‘hate him’ response from moviegoers. It seems to me that he composes each scene as a still photograph then lets the action take place within that picture. It is a beautiful way of making a film. The camera isn’t just there to capture the actors; it is truly painting a picture.

As far as what’s going on within those pictures, well ‘quirky’ is an understatement. The characters are refreshingly unique and often odd. The people inhabiting The Grand Budapest Hotel are no exception. In fact, they are among the most likeable of any in a Wes Anderson movie. The script is tight and funny and well paced. It was a fun movie to watch. I loved it. It certainly deserves to be nominated for Best Picture. I’ll reserve my opinion as to whether or not it should win after I’ve seen all the nominees.

Boyhood is the exact opposite of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Boyhood was filmed over the course of 12 years using the same cast. That’s a neat idea. We see the main character grow up before our eyes without substituting some unknown kid whom kind of looks like the star to play the role of ‘Young Main Character’. In this case, when the movie begins, Ellar Coltrane who portrays the protagonist, Mason, is a little boy. By the end of the film, Ellar Coltrane the actor, is a grown-man same as the character Mason he’s portraying. It’s neat to see him and the other child actors grow and age as the film goes along.

The scenes with Ethan Hawke are good. I like Ethan Hawke. I think he’s a good actor, and he takes on these experimental roles (Before Sunrise for example) and he delivers. The problem with Boyhood is, he’s the only one. It felt like a student film when Hawke wasn’t on the screen. Even veteran actor Patricia Arquette comes across as stiff and unbelievable as does the rest of the cast.

Not only did shooting meander, but so too does the script, and that is not a good thing. It feels as if writer/director Richard Linklater kept rewriting and refining and changing the script to the point that one scene felt as if it had no relation to the previous scene, even if they were shot within the same time period. It was all over the place.

And as far as the experimental, and brave, approach of shooting one film over the course of twelve years, it didn’t work, at least not in this film. I’d like to see it tried again with a better script and with better execution. It was an okay movie. About an hour longer than it should’ve been. Did I like it? Yeah, overall it was enjoyable. Best Picture though? Not a chance. If Selma, American Sniper, Whiplash or Birdman are as good as people are saying, or even come close to being as good as The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood doesn’t stand a chance. It’s an okay movie. It is not the Best Picture of the year.

I’m going to try to get to the rest of the nominated films between now and the big night. I will post my thoughts throughout. What do you think of these two films? Am I wrong about Boyhood? Let me know.


5.       MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS – It seems a simple enough idea, something mothers tell their children from a young age. It’s good advice. So many of our tensions and problems can be cured if each of us would just do this. We’re all so worried about what everyone else is doing. I don’t understand why. I have enough of my own shit to worry about without adding everyone else’s life on top of it. “Stop those gay people from being gay!” “How can you believe in an invisible puppeteer in the sky? Stop with your religion!” “Why don’t YOU believe in God? Don’t you know you’re going to hell?” “Believe in our god and cover up your women or we’ll blow up your children on a bus.”   Every single one of these issues of tension could be solved with simply minding your own business. Live and let live. Or as Jesus would say, “let he who is without sin…” okay, you get the idea – shut up, mind your own business.

  1. HAVE SOME EMPATHY – Now, while we aren’t concerning ourselves with what everyone is doing, we should give some thought to how others are feeling. If we are aware of and take into consideration the feelings, needs and perspectives of those around us with whom we must share this goofy world, we would all get along better, would all be better off, and would in turn also be happier.
  1. REALIZE EVERYTHING HAS A COST AND LIVE ACCORDINGLY – Ain’t nothin’ in life is free kid. That’s true of everything. Nothing comes without a cost. Driving is convenient but adds to our pollution, dependence on oil, and the widening of our collective ass. Driving a BMW is nice but working overtime to pay for a brand new one can strain the family, robs you of free time, and adds to stress when a used Honda gets you where you’re going just as well. Not having a car at all means it’s going to take you longer to get where you’re going. Give and take. Always a price. Cars and driving is just one example, but it applies to everything. (And 0% down means you may have possession of it, but you don’t own shit)
  1. DON’T WORRY WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK – In the immortal words of wisdom from that sage poet of modern philosophy Taylor Swift, “Haters gonna hate hate, hate. Shake it off.”   Be yourself, follow your own path, be kind to others and respect their journey while following your own and you will be happier than if you give the critics residence in your mind, heart, and soul.
  1. LIGHTEN THE FUCK UP ALREADY!!!!! – We have all seemed to have lost our sense of humor – about ourselves, about others, about life in general. We’re all so worried of being offended and we’ve become so protective of our stance, our feelings, our beliefs that we have lost sight of any sense of joy. Relax. Getting upset doesn’t fix anything. Smile, laugh, and be able to laugh at yourself – mistakes and all. If we each did that, life would be so much more pleasant for us all. So smile, it’s not that bad, it’s just life and it’s short, enjoy it.




And don’t forget to grab a copy of In The Sanctity of Revenge before the year’s over!!!


Okay, so it’s time to blog about Christmas I suppose. I don’t really feel like it. It doesn’t feel like Christmas. I think that’s the problem. Here’s why:


1) I’ve spent the last six weeks going out of my way to avoid Christmas carols on the radio, the television, in the stores. It’s impossible. You have to try though because if you don’t you will go insane before December even begins. I used to like Burl Ives’ song Holly Jolly Christmas, but that was before the radio put it on heavy rotation between Halloween and Christmas Day as if it were the National Anthem and every fifteen minutes a ballgame was starting.


My Christmas ‘party’ was here.

2) Last night was my work Holiday Party. My wife looked stunning in her dress. The in-laws were prepared to take the kids overnight. All that was left was for me to get dressed. Then the eight year old came home from school in tears and with an earache and a 101.9-degree temperature. Instead of the party, we spent the night at the Immediate care center, then in line at Walgreens getting coughed on by strangers. Instead of a pasta bar, fresh salmon, and free beer, I dined on some bland bowl of something from Chipotle, or as I like to call it, the place with $7 flavored rice.


3) I live in Chicago and it’s going to be 40 degrees tomorrow. They’re calling for rain on Christmas Eve, which should turn to snow. In other words, slush is going to fall from the sky. I’m dreaming of a slushy, sock soaking Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. The really pretty snow, the kind we associate with Christmas even though we rarely have it which is why Bing Crosby had to dream of it will come. We will get snow. We will get that pretty, heavy blanket of white, but you can bet it is going to fall after Christmas, just in time to bury the decorations my wife will want me to take down, now.


This is what kids who don’t believe in Santa Clause get for Christmas.

4) The kids are getting older. My eldest is in high school and what he wants is either high-tech, too expensive, or it’s clothing. The other two are at the point where the clothes and the toys are about even and Santa is something they either aren’t quite convinced of, or haven’t the heart to tell mom and dad that they don’t believe anymore. Once that magic is gone, the whole thing becomes something else entirely.

5) I won’t be spending all-night, and I mean all-night, putting together little flimsy plastic toys with instructions that would make the people at Ikea scratch their heads in their complexity. ‘This was supposed to be Barbie’s Dream house, why does it look like a Pepto-Bismol factory post-apocalypse?

6) Of course it doesn’t help that right now my house is a cluttered mess and the whole place smells like chili.


7)   It ain’t like it used to be. I don’t have to go into detail on that. If you grew up in the 1940’s, it ain’t like it was in the ‘40’s. If you were a child of the 80’s, it ain’t like it was back in the day. If your formative years were the 1990’s, it’s not like that anymore is it? Our place of reference might be different, but when I say ‘It ain’t like it used to be’, we all get it. We grew up and so did the world. What a shame, huh?


8) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Charlie Brown are On-Demand. It used to be that those shows were Specials, events to be watched all together at the same time, and only one time each year because once it was over, it was gone. If you missed it, you were shit-out-of-luck. Now you can watch them all day any day as many times as you’d like whenever, wherever, nothing special, no event, just another damn show to choose from of the thousands on that digital jukebox of television and movies. Play it again, Sam. No need for a quarter, just hit ‘enter’ on the remote.


9) I’m lucky. Sounds strange but, it’s a reason. So much of secular Christmas is wishing and getting. Well, there isn’t much I’m wishing to get. I mean, at least not material things. My wife and I make a decent enough living that if there is something we really and truly want, we buy it. So, there is no excitement for that gift I’ve been dying to get. Nor is there much excitement for the gift I can’t wait to give, because there is nothing special on her list either. ‘Let’s get through it without getting the flu’ seems to be at the top of the wish-list this year. Can’t circle that in the Sears catalog.

10)   I’m getting older. Shit, I’ve been through this rigamarole now forty-two times. This will be the forty-third. I have to admit, it’s losing some of its charm. I mean, I get it, Bing sings, we go to Mass, the presents get opened, I eat too much, I feel like shit, and tomorrow is depressing because it’s been weeks of anticipation, a flurry of momentary excitement, and then it’s over until next Halloween when Burl Ives starts singing A Holly Jolly Christmas.

27777393 Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Halloween too I suppose, it’s all running together now.

Blessings & Curses and Trouble on the Horizon – A Passage from the Novel In The Sanctity of Revenge

I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse…

– Moses, Deuteronomy

Skeletal arms trembled, struggling to lift the old steel revolver. Blue and purple veins popped through celluloid skin. Shaking hands with frail fingers and rusted joints fought with the trigger to pull the heavy hammer back. Jack Hanlon smiled at the sight.


The sun hung high in the cloudless afternoon sky, drying the sidewalks and baking away the evidence of the viscous storm of the night before. Small branches and twigs littered the lawns and gutters of the sleepy Chicago side street. The two opposing rows of brick bungalows, most redbrick, some yellow-brick, that lined either side of Mobile Street had weathered the storm as they had done for close to a century now. There was no major damage. A few basements had taken in water, but just enough to make a mess before receding back into the floor drains.

Saturday morning was uneventful at the Hanlon home. Amy had gotten up with the boys and made them blueberry pancakes for breakfast while Jack slept in. Around noon, dressed in the gym shorts he’d slept in, cheap slippers, and an old softball shirt that read “Mad Dogs” in script across the front from his Wednesday night 16” league (on the back was an ad for their sponsor Windy Ray’s Tavern), Jack lifted the lid to the black, iron mailbox hanging on the wall just outside his front door. It was empty. He stood on the front porch, and peered up and down the quiet street in hopes of seeing the mailman walking his cart down the block. No luck.

Across the street Mrs. Kelly watered her flowerbed despite the heavy rains that had doused them overnight. When she saw Jack, she waved. Jack waved back and tried to duck back into the house before the old lady could trap him into a conversation but it was too late. She’d already dropped her hose and was heading across her small patch of perfect lawn calling his name, “Jack, oh Jack. I want to talk to you.”

It’s not that Jack disliked Mrs. Kelly. In fact, he liked her very much. She reminded him of his grandmother, and he felt a sort of responsibility toward her since her husband passed. Jack would spend weekend days doing little jobs around Mrs. Kelly’s house, fixing this, patching that. Amy would take her shopping if the weather was bad and the buses were running slow. But lonely widows can talk an awfully long time, and make a big deal about things of no consequence, and frankly today Jack wasn’t up for one of those conversations. His mind was elsewhere.

“Jack,” she called hustling across the street. “Jack, I want to talk to you. Don’t go anywhere.” She hurried as quickly as a seventy-eight year old woman in Walgreen’s sneakers can. Jack stepped off his porch and met her on the sidewalk.

“Hi Mrs. Kelly, how are you?”

“Oh, I could complain, but who would listen,” she replied.

‘Apparently, this morning, it’s going to be me,’ Jack thought, but held his smile.

“Anyway, did you hear that storm last night? It woke me from a sound sleep. I thought lightening hit that big tree and that it was going to fall in on my head. Thank the Lord it was just a clap of thunder. Did it wake the children? You look like you missed a good night sleep.”

“Yeah, Timmy woke up a couple of times, but went back to bed pretty quick. Once I was up though, I had a hard time falling back to sleep. I wish I was more like Amy, she gets up with the kids, and as soon as her head hits the pillow again, she’s out cold.” Truth was, Jack was already up. He hadn’t been sleeping well lately.

“That’s because women work harder than men,” Mrs. Kelly gave a wink and a smile.

“In my house, that is certainly the case. I won the lottery when I married Amy. She’s one of a kind.”

“Don’t you forget that Jack Hanlon,” she said, her eyes narrowing, then flashed him a wink and a smile. Jack had often thought that Mrs. Kelly had probably been a very beautiful woman in her youth, and now and then a flash of that girl would appear in that wink and smile she often gave to let you know she was teasing. “Ah, she coulda done worse herself too ya know,” Mrs. Kelly continued, “Anyhow, the reason I stopped you is because I was wondering if you could do me a favor.”

“Sure Mrs. Kelly, what do you need?”

“Well, the storm last night did knock a huge branch off the neighbor’s tree into my backyard. I’ve been telling them for months now that the tree needs to be pruned, but that good for nothin’ bum sits on his backside all day doing nothing, and you know she’s not much of a housekeeper. I’ve never been inside, but from what I hear there is crusted food all over the kitchen and dust bunnies everywhere. How people could live like that is beyond me. Anyhow, I know he’d never move it from my yard, or at least I’d be waiting till my last breath for him to do it, so if you wouldn’t mind just stopping by – when you have time of course, no hurry – and just put it out in the alley for me?”

“Of course Mrs. Kelly. Give me a minute to put on a decent pair of shoes and grab a saw and I’ll be right over.”

“You’re a doll Jack, thank you. You know, since Harold died I’ve really come to realize how nice it was to have a man in the house. I am certainly for women’s equality and what not, but there’s no denying that there are some things men are better at taking care of. Maybe I’m just an old woman, I don’t know. And don’t you dare tell a soul I said that or so help me God I’ll shoot you right in the face,” she smiled and winked at him again with that twinkle in her warm blue eyes. That’s when Jack had the vision of those skinny little arms struggling to raise a pistol to eye level and fighting to pull the trigger. The thought had made him smile and he wondered if she noticed. Of course, if he knew what would eventually come of them all, he never would have found such a scene amusing.

“Okay, see you in a few minutes.” Jack turned to go inside, then stopped and turned back toward Mrs. Kelly who was about to cross the street back to her house. “Mrs. Kelly, did you happen to get your mail yet?”

“No, he hasn’t been by yet Jack. It’s that new fella. I don’t like him very much. He’s slow. When we had the black fella…” she said the word ‘black’ a little quieter than the rest, almost a whisper but not quite, “… we always got our mail by ten o’clock, even on Saturdays. This guy though, you never know when he’s gonna decide to show up. I’ve complained several times.”

“I’m sure you have. Thank you Mrs. Kelly.” Jack took another look up the street for the mailman, then dropped his head and went in the house to fetch his shoes and chainsaw.

Christmas Eve Remembered – a passage from the novel, ‘In The Sanctity of Revenge’

From the new novel, In The Sanctity of Revenge available now on Amazon:

Mrs. Kelly awoke Christmas Eve morning to WGN radio on her alarm clock. She shuffled to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee. Sitting alone at the kitchen table, she remembered Christmas Eves past. She could recall the children bouncing off the walls almost as soon as they got out of bed waiting for night to come so they could go back to bed and get up for Christmas morning. She remembered Harold getting up, grumbling his way through the morning’s first two cups of coffee and first three or four cigarettes. Then he’d announce to the kids that it was time to get dressed. The kids would immediately rush upstairs to their bedrooms and change out of their pajamas and into the day’s clothing.

Once dressed and back downstairs they would tug at Harold’s arm begging to head out to the stores for the day. It was their annual tradition. Harold thought it important to include the children in the shopping for their mother’s Christmas presents since it was they who benefitted most from her hard work and sacrifice.

He’d finish off his coffee and take a last drag from his cigarette, then he’d head off to the bedroom to get dressed in his cleanest white t-shirt and a pair of brown polyester pants for a day at the department stores. He’d take the kids to Sears and they would shop for dresses and slacks and scarfs for their mother. Mrs. Kelly didn’t know it, but Harold saved a few bucks a week all year long for her Christmas present. Whereas Jack shopped on Christmas Eve because he liked the fun of the spontaneity of it, Harold Kelly shopped on Christmas Eve because that was when he finally had saved enough money to give his wife a proper Christmas. Along with his yearlong savings, each child contributed a little from his/her allowance. Money that, upon their father’s orders, they were supposed to have been saving for their mother’s Christmas since August.

From there, they would take the bus to the Ideal Pastry bakery where they would buy their mother her favorite cookies and donuts, plus a cookie for each kid. After that, he’d take them to the Irish Imports Shop, where they would usually purchase a record of Irish songs like the ones Mrs. Kelly’s parents would sing when she was a child.

Her folks had both been born in Ireland and met here in the States. While little Irene was growing up, her parents would play songs from the homeland and dance around the front room of their one-bedroom apartment with their little girl. Mrs. Kelly didn’t know what happened to those records after her parents died, but every Christmas Harold would surprise her with a record album of the songs of her youth.

Harold was a stickler for tradition, and so, there was never an artificial tree in the Kelly residence, and there was no tree in the Kelly residence until Christmas Eve. So after the Irish Imports shop, it was straight to the C-Davis Truck Rental lot, where the trucks had been temporarily replaced by Christmas Trees, to choose the perfect tree for the Kelly family Christmas. Mrs. Kelly often wondered if it was truly tradition motivating her husband to shop for trees on Christmas Eve or if it was the fact that he could haggle the salesman down so easily at such a late date. The pickings were scarcer, but you couldn’t beat the price and he always managed to bring home a tree that, once decorated at least, would be brilliant.

She smiled a bitter-sweet smile as she conjured up the vision of her husband dragging a six foot tall Christmas tree onto a city bus with children in tow dragging shopping bags from Sears and the Irish Imports, bumping into other riders, needles flying and falling off the tree throughout the bus, bags and packages bumping against knees and seats. It was no wonder she never got a porcelain tea set or Waterford crystal for Christmas, it never would’ve survived the journey.

Once home, the children would run the shopping bags up to their rooms where they’d wrap them while Harold took the tree and a hacksaw to the yard and sawed off the bottom few inches. She could see him in her mind’s eye out there in the dark snowy yard in his work boots, polyester pants and plaid winter coat sawing off those few inches of tree trunk so that the fresh cut could soak up enough water to make the tree last until the Feast of the Epiphany when it would finally be taken down and the Christmas Season would officially end.

Next came the annual hour of Harold lighting the tree, mumbling words not appropriate for such a sacred Holiday, as he fought with tangles and burned out bulbs and flashing strands that had never flashed before.

Then, with the tree firmly placed in its stand and fully lit, Harold sipping from a fresh brewed cup of coffee (with a three count splash of Jameson), and enjoying a well-earned cigarette after a long day of children, store-clerks, crowds, tree salesmen, and those goddamn Christmas lights. Then Mother was presented with one record from the Irish Imports (the others to be saved for the morning). The sounds of the Emerald Isle would play on the phonograph as the children decorated the tree with the family ornaments Mrs. Kelly had brought up from the basement while they were out shopping.

With the kids in bed, the stockings stuffed, and the presents beneath the tree, Harold and Irene Kelly would slip off to bed where it was time for another Christmas Eve tradition. Both of them bursting with love – love for their family, love for their blessings, love for their Savior, and love for each other – they would nestle in beneath the covers, legs rubbing the other’s to produce some warmth, arms wrapped around the other, bodies pressed together, they would embrace and envelope each other in a physical love that only years of marriage can invoke. That well practiced tradition complete, they would both settle in to drift off into a solid slumber.

In The Sanctity of Revenge can be purchased at Amazon.  If you buy a paperback, you get a free Kindle version.

Available world wide on Amazon:

United Kingdom-

Brazil —

Austrailia –

France –