Thursday, November 30, 2017


            I said in a post a month ago that according to a film that Kim and I saw, two of the significant factors associated with happiness are flow and collaboration. The earlier post dealt with flow, and, as promised, here’s one about collaboration.

            Despite the fact, obvious to Kim, that I can be content in isolation, reading or writing or just going to the gym, I feel that collaboration is a deep source of joy. My solitary pursuits are an occasional break from an ongoing collaboration – needed, yes, but only occasionally. To collaborate is to work together, and we work together, currently, to maintain our home, to build a new home, to appreciate the beauty of the natural world, and to restore Kim to health. When I say that we collaborate, I do not mean to suggest that the two of us contribute equally – another fact obvious to Kim. She will cook dinner, despite her fatigue and sore back, and I offer to wash the dishes, a task requiring about 20% of the time and 5% of the skill. But still, it’s collaboration, and it makes me feel good. Yes, I also feel happy when reading or writing, but who says there is only one kind of happiness?

            Kim and I collaborate in a number of other ways:
·      She cooks dinner; I stay out of the way.
·      I make the salad; she makes salad when I forget.
·      I carry her heavy 500mm lens. She photographs birds.
·      I make the bed; she readjusts the covers so the sheet is not sticking out the side.
·      I drive; she alerts me to oncoming traffic.
·      I dress myself; she makes sure that my shirt is not twisted where I tucked it in.
·      She pores over the cottage blueprints to find mistakes and make adjustments; I watch and nod, grateful for how much she knows about making a home livable.
·      She goes to the Cancer Center for regular check-ups, infusions, etc.; I drive her there and back.
·      I tell her to rest because she is doing too much; she does too much.
·      I draft these blog posts; she reads and makes suggestions, which I incorporate.
·      She feels constant back pain; I feel unable to help.
·      She rubs me the right way; I rub her the right way.

You get the picture. Collaboration takes many forms, and there are degrees of collaboration.

            What is the deep source of the happiness that comes from collaboration? I have no definitive answer, but for me, I like to feel useful. Maybe that’s what people wiser than me call “living a meaningful life.” Useful. When I played drums in a jazz quintet years ago, I hated taking solos. This was largely because I was not very good at it, but also because what I really enjoyed was making the other guys in the group sound better, driving the sound rhythmically and building on what the bass and piano were doing: making music. Useful. Now Kim and I are more of a duet than a quintet, and we each take our solos, but we are collaborating.

            I should note in conclusion another profound source of happiness: bad memory. I vaguely remember hearing about and old man somewhere in Europe who was asked about the secret of his happiness. His answer: “bad memory.” He went on to explain that he simply could not remember all the insulting things that had been said or done to him over the years. Perhaps you know people who carry and maintain those hurt feelings like a colostomy bag, as if feeling wronged gives them something they need. Perhaps you are such a person. Well, that old guy – he might have been French – did not have such a burden. So maybe this is a benefit our aging – we can forget and let that shit go.

Comments welcome at

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Floors and Thanksgiving

            Kim and I figured we don’t have enough going on in our lives just now. We are building our cottage – the roof is on and some of the windows installed, but we are frustrated with the kitchen design and researching lighting decisions on the internet and in catalogues. At the same time, we are dealing with Kim’s continuing fatigue and back pain, though Friday’s blood draw showed her “numbers” were slightly improved. And we are preparing for the holidays – the cards Kim makes every year are almost done, and we have decided not to travel to see family for Thanksgiving but will rest instead. To replace the stress of Thanksgiving travel, we decided to replace the floors in our condo – out with the deteriorating cork, in with the engineered white oak. Simple, right?

            Corey, our floor guy, suggested that it would be impossible to stay in our home for the week when our floors were being replaced. He figured that if they started on Monday, we might be able to return on Friday night. Corey is the owner of the company, not the installer. We made arrangements to stay in a neighboring rental unit through Thursday, and just in case, we booked a stay at a nearby B&B for Friday night. (We thought we deserved that.) We looked forward to a triumphant Saturday homecoming to our pristine hardwood floors.


            We might have anticipated a problem three weeks ago when a guy showed up with flooring material that needed to “season” in our condo. He was working alone, so I helped him haul about a ton of boxes of engineered wood up to our unit, the stack creating a dining-room-table sized block where our real table used to be. The guy probably would have been able to move the stuff by himself. (Several people at the flooring company said, “He was a football player,” as if that explained anything. You know – I should be able to cook an omelette because I was a hockey player.) It took the two of us two hours. He might have been able to do it alone in two and a half. Time, I’ve come to learn, can be very elastic.

            We could check on the progress of our floor installation daily from where we were staying. Several days they got a late start because they had to pick up tape, or adhesive, or something from miles away, and several days they seemed to leave early, maybe because adhesive was drying. On Wednesday I talked with Joe, the installer, and was told that they would not be done on Friday and they did not work on weekends. I told him that Kim and I would like to sleep at home on the weekend, and Joe said OK, he would leave the bedroom unfinished until they did it on Monday. I asked if we should book a motel room for Monday night, and he said that would be a good idea.

            Friday’s B&B was a great idea – a farm out on Leelanau Peninsula less than an hour north of Traverse City. The owner and hostess, Susan, had worked at Greenfield Village demonstrating historical cooking techniques while dressed in 19th century garb. She did the same for us and for the family of six, all adults, who joined us around the huge iron woodstove where she prepared soup and the rest of our “supper.” Kim was keenly interested in all of the explanations and demonstrations, and in the cooking gear that you can’t get these days. I was keenly interested in the pie we would have for dessert. Kim mentioned that she always wanted to marry a farmer and lead this kind of life. (The closest I come to farming is mowing the lawn, and I don’t do much lawn mowing at the condo.) Breakfast, and its preparation, was even more elaborate, and we watched it with fascination, clutching our authentically made coffee. (By “authentically made” I mean she tossed a couple of eggs, shells and all, into the boiling brew, explaining that the collagen in the egg white helped the grounds settle so you could pour off pure liquid coffee. I will pass the suggestion along to Starbucks.)

            Meanwhile, back at the condo . . . we returned Saturday to find not much progress. Yes, we could sleep in our condo, but we could not live there. Furniture was stacked in the kitchen, blocking access to the stove and sink, and all of our counters were loaded with stuff we had put there to clear the floors – stuff we had anticipated putting away on Saturday. Kim’s back prevents her from lifting furniture (I had to insist a couple of times), and I managed to move some heavy boxes of flooring so we could gain access to our couch so Kim could nap (she never did) and I could watch some football on television (turned off when Michigan fumbled on the goal line). We left for the afternoon, dined at a restaurant again, and came home to sleep. Before sleeping, however, we had to clean up some of the chunks of dried adhesive that we had been tracking over the one-third of our flooring that had been installed. Tired but not especially happy, we crawled into the bed that I had dragged over dusty concrete to the center of our bedroom so we could have a place to sleep. Home is where the heart is, true, and a late-night cuddle reinforced that fact. But home is also where you can get to the kitchen sink.

            In what might be a half-hearted form of protest, we hung our Christmas wreath on the door leading to the debris of our home. No, we are not living in Houston or Puerto Rico, but in our own modest way, we were feeling a shadow of their pain. We will be having a Thanksgiving turkey, just the two of us, because when I made my regular blood deposit in the Red Cross karma-bank in hopes of a future good-health withdrawal, they gave us a voucher for free turkey. This will work out well if we can get to our oven by Thursday. It’s Wednesday as I am writing this, and they are nowhere near done.

            Despite these inconveniences, and that’s what they are, Kim and I are thankful. Thankful to be here.

            Happy Thanksgiving to all of our beloved friends and family, however you choose to celebrate. I recall a friend who had us over for a Thanksgiving dinner. He had some money bet on football, and in the middle of saying grace he paused to watch a play on the television behind us.

            Thanks for hanging in there with us, and keep your priorities clear.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Your Favorite Movies

            Lots of responses to last week’s “Favorite Movies” post. I copied them below.

Jeff Belth:
Favorite movie: Lawrence of Arabia. Nothing else even close. It is not historically accurate--but the photography is stunning. Everything you need to know about framing a photograph (or painting) can be learned from watching Lawrence. The script and score aren't too shabby either. While I understand the benefits of watching movies at home, nothing compares to experiencing Lawrence on a BIG screen!

Dawn Hewitt:
David and Kim, clearly we have similar taste in movies. Thus, I am shocked that Harold and Maude is not on your list. Warning: It is a black comedy as black as they come, and some might find the humor in death comedy offensive. But ultimately, it is a movie about life. I watched it for the nth time just last week, and I still find it charming, provoking, and brilliant.

Bill Lavery:
As we get old, I notice that Xfinity is raising the price of our Netflix and then I think "Gee, I didn't know we had Netflix." But to the crux here, which is gaining worthy perspectives of this new realm we have entered.  Your list will prove most valuable and thank you.  Alert!  We just saw the best movie of the century – Loving Vincent. Run, don't walk to see it.  200 artists got loose in the Netherlands and captured a number of Irish actors and then played wildly with film and animation and the great mystery of Vincent's death. (Note:  Saoirse Ronan is pronounced Sear-sha Row-nan.)  And the finish is elevating.

Kathy Malone:
I love The  Gods Must be Crazy!  I like Nine to Five. I like Dolly Parton, even though I am not a girly girl, she’s got a real sense of herself, and in the movie, she sticks it to the dude! And there was a similar movie years later with but I can’t think of the name of it! And I can’t think of the name of the actress. She’s very slim and a brunette. In the movie she had a broken leg because of a skiing accident and her secretary ends up running the company. Sigourney Weaver, that’s her name! Not very cerebral, but I like these films. 

Alice Shirley:
Where's The Way We Were?
What an emotional striptease that one is...for me. 

So here are my two suggestions thought please don’t put them on your list, or at least not with attribution: Dirty Dancing and Road House. They’re both Patrick Swayze movies and probably of little cinematic or moral merit but I love them.

Kim (recent additions):
Dirty Dancing, A Fish Called Wanda, The Full Monty, Amelie, Victor/Victoria, Grandma, Cujo, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Red Shoes

John Perkins:
One I would add: Hopscotch, 1980, cold-war satire spy movie with Walter Matthau, Glenda Jackson, Sam Waterston, Ned Beatty, and Herbert Lom.  It's one of the few VHS tapes we own, and we watch with some regularity, about every two years.  I can't tell you how many times I've watched it, but it cracks me up every time.  Not to be missed.  Especially since it's one of the few movies of which I can remember the title without prompting.

I should add that the humor in Hopscotch is quintessentially sophomoric.  Which is apparently my type.

John Bayerl:
We liked 500 Days of Summer. For just plain fun we liked Johnny Dangerously

Terry Segal:
My favorites in addition to many you listed are Casablanca, On the Waterfront, and The Magnificent 7.

Charmaine Stangl:
Here's a quick partial list of our favorites (some overlapping).  The Graduate, Sophie's Choice, Witness, Lars and the Real Girl, Ordinary People, Quiz Show, Strangers in Good Company, Intouchables (these two introduced to us by very dear friends), Beetlejuice, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Chocolat, Shakespeare in Love, The Way, Way Back, Dan in Real Life (these two are great examples of Steve Carrell's superb acting), Love, Actually (the PERFECT romantic comedy), The King's Speech

Barbara Woodmansee:
Now you've got me thinking.  OK here goes, and my list IS in order of importance, AND includes my favorite lines:
·      Cold Mountain - "Return to my request"
·      Out of Africa - "I want to move..."  (if you haven't seen this movie - and I bet you have - WATCH IT and look for this line)
·      The Princess Bride - "As you wish"
·      Elizabeth - "There will be no masters in this house, and there will be but one Mistress"
·      Dances with Wolves - "Why don't he write"?
·      Bull Durham - "The Bulls can't lose, and I can't get laid"
·      The Big Chill - "There's something I want you to do for me"
·      Forrest Gump - "Sometimes, there just aren't enough rocks"
·      Ordinary People - no favorite line - just loved that movie
·      The Fisher King - "I have a hard on for you the size of Florida"
·      Sophie's Choice - "Zojia, your mind is pulp"
·      The House of the Spirits - no favorite line - just loved that movie - and the book (Isabelle Allende)
·      Master and Commander - no favorite line - just loved that movie
·      Terms of Endearment - "You need a drink to kill the bug that crawled up your ass"
·      Dangerous Liaisons - no favorite line - just loved that movie
·      Alice in Wonderland (the Johnny Depp one) - "I'll take you to the Hatter, but that's the end of it."
[Excellent bonus to include favorite quotations!]

Jeff Putnam:
·      Children of Paradise
·      Vagabond
·      The 400 Blows
·      8 ½
·      L’Avventura
·      Blowup
·      Jean de Florette
·      Yojimbo
·      Ran
·      Where’s Poppa
·      Harold and Maude
·      The Big Lebowski
·      Fargo
·      Hail, Caesar

How come you don't like foreign flicks? 
I'm having memory problems and probably forgot a hundred or so, but that's mostly what we watch. The American stuff is too violent and noisy and the writing is mostly bad. Have seen all the Coen bros. tho.

Jay Freyman:
Some favorite films, chosen mainly for their "rewatchability":
Casablanca, Julia (with Jane Fonda) Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), Murder on the Orient Express (with Albert Finney), Tom Jones, Schindler’s List, The Two of Us (French, 1967), Spotlight, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Night at the Opera (Marx Brothers), What’s Up,  Doc? (1972), Never on Sunday, A Dream of Passion.

Phil Allen:
My choice: Back to the Future.  A perfect combination of silly humor and romance.
Costa Georgopoulos:
One of the movies that had a powerful impact in me is La Strada (1954) – see review by Roger Ebert 40 yrs. after movie was released.
Felini’s  story of Italian post war poverty and misery was haunting, as was the music by Nino Rota. Felini’s insightful look into male human nature/behavior was on target. 

Tom Jacobs:
The ones l love to rewatch are Black Orpheus, Fargo, Wayne's Word, and of course Animal House.  The first for its color and music and the last three for belly laughs.

Tom Guilbert:
Wild Target, starring Bill Nighy and Emily Blunt, is the best motion picture you never heard of before.  (One hopes that sentence-ending prepositions not be something up with which you will not put.)


I will refund all of the money that you paid me for this recommendation should you be dissatisfied with the result.

[When I suggested Pirate Radio as a Bill Nighy vehicle, he (Tom, not Bill) responded:]

We've seen Pirate Radio, and it has some of the same members of the BBC ensemble cast who were in Wild Target and the sub"plot" of Love Actually and also in the somewhat dark Page Eight trilogy.  But my second favorite Bill Nighy movie (featuring many of the cast of Page Eight) is The Girl in the Cafe, where the female lead is Kelly Macdonald, whose Glasgow accented, "Sometimes I pretend that I'm daid," melts me like the butter on my Marion Cunningham recipe/* yeasted waffles.  The same KMacD played a maid in Gosford Park, in which her softly spoken line, "I could've told you thet,' stole the entire movie.

Beth East:
I love all on your list that I’ve watched. Other faves are Shawshank Redemption, Cinema Paradiso, Life is Beautiful, The Way, Il Paradiso, The Sea Inside, and weirdly, Napoleon Dynamite.

Doug Bray  (aka “The Other Doug”):
While watching Jaws, the first Star Wars and the first Indiana Jones movies the first time I vividly remember feeling -  “This is new, this is very cool.”  No surprise there. 

Currently, for sheer “oh I’ll just watch this for a little while because it happens to be on while I’m channel surfing,” it would have to be Ferris Bueller’s Day OffGroundhog Day, the first Blues Brothers and the gunfight scene (best ever) of Open Range. 

But my all-time favorites are Lawrence of Arabia (read "Lawrence in Arabia" by Scott Anderson) and the second Godfather movie.

And lastly (Dave must have hit an artery) I can’t rewatch One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest and Sophie’s Choice.  Too tough!

Tony Packard:
While I would gladly watch any of those named, my favorites are The Twelve Chairs, A Fish Called Wanda, The Harder They Come (for the music) and The Russians Are Coming. Pure escapism!

Peter Wintersteiner
For acting, as well as for being unforgettable: Sophie’s Choice. For music, I’m with Tony. For most cleverly enjoyable, Young Frankenstein. I have a soft spot for silly funny gags, though, and nothing in that category tops The Pink Panther and Shot in the Dark. 

Don Lombardi
One of mine:
Funny Bones (1995) - Oliver Platt and Jerry Lewis in a dark and hysterical meditation on the nature of humor. Check it out.

Jack Crutchfield
Some personal favorites:
    * Witness:  Beautifully acted & directed -- key scenes are effective w/ very little dialogue.
    *  Dr. Strangelove:  Classic satire.
    *  Enigma:  Great portrayal by Cumberbatch of the brilliant and conflicted Alan Turing.
And more, but they slip my mind....or my mind is slipping....whichever.

Peter Easton
One out of left field, an Iranian film: The Children of Heaven, about a brother and younger sister in slums of Tehran who have to share a single pair of shoes in order to get to their respective schools. He accompanies her, takes the shoes and has to run like a bat out of hell to make it to his on time. He hears, though, about a race where a new pair of shoes is second prize, enters and… unfortunately wins the race, so he doesn’t get the shoes. Delicious typical Iranian irony.

And I’ll add one more, an old chestnut – but thereby hangs a tale.

The movie, in any case, is High Noon.

I knew it from the 1950s, but the tale is that a few months after arriving (with Smokey Stover) in Niger in September 1964 for Peace Corps service I was back in the capital of the country -- Niamey -- for a training conference… and discovered that the film was being shown that weekend at the French Cultural Center. The name in French isn’t High Noon but Le train sifflera trois fois – the train will whistle three times (it does).

I went and enjoyed seeing it again, but what really surprised me was that after the projection was over, everyone hung around for a 30-minute discussion of the film, led by the “chief animator” of the Cultural Center. “What’s this?” I said to myself: OK, it’s a good Western, but hang around just to discuss it?

Michael Newsome
I'd like to add The BestYears of Our Lives, a lengthy film made just after WWII. It's a wonderful story about readjusting to civilian life after service in WWII, as seen through the lens of social class, along with other things. I think the film won a number of Oscars.

Genne´ McDonald
Love this and would love to add more after some thought. Off the top of my head:
·      Goodbye Girl
·      Terms of Endearment
·      Officer and a Gentleman
·      Love, Actually
·      Silver Linings Playbook

More later..............

Note: I tried finding a lot of these movies on Netflix and Hula, with very little success. Any suggestions about where I can get them, other than, you know, buying them for money?