Monday, January 31, 2011


No, this has nothing to do with vehicles, whether pulled by a tractor, or permanently parked somewhere on the wrong side of the tracks. This is about the trailers one sees, willingly or under silent protest.

(The name "trailer" implies that it will follow, not precede, but who would stay to watch this advertising if trailers actually followed the "main feature"?)

In the market town near where I was born, there was originally only one "cinema", the Hippodrome. Despite its name, no horse ever entered the place--let alone a hippopotamus. In the mid-thirties, another movie house was opened, the Majestic (a mundane structure that belied it's name). Each movie program was shown for a week, usually the main feature, a second feature, a "B picture", plus newsreel and a cartoon. Before the main feature, we were shown a "trailer", listing the next week's main feature, the principal actors and actresses (we never called female performers "actors" in those days), and a few clips from the movie itself. I never found these objectionable, despite the somewhat extravagant claims for the "coming attraction".

I seldom go out to movies these days, but when I do I try to arrive shortly before the stated performance time. No longer is there just one trailer, but five or more of films "coming shortly". In some movie theaters, they show trailers of films being shown at other venues under the same management.

However, there is one type of trailer which actually does follow the main feature--that's on TV. I can understand that on commercial television, it make sense to try to encourage the audience to tune in to the next episode, be it a sitcom or a crime series. We seldom watch commercial programs (other than the venerable 60 Minutes), so this doesn't annoy us.

We do watch programs on PBS, in addition to our regular dose of the PBS News Hour. I have two criticisms, one of which has nothing particularly to do with trailers: the tendency to broadcast loud "incidental music" over dialogue. But what really distresses me is when we've watched an episode of some excellent series, such as the just-completed Downton Abbey, we are subjected to "scenes from next week's episode". Yes, one can always switch off the set; also, thanks to our DVR, we can rush through that unwanted material without losing anything that we want to watch.

I suppose even in public broadcasting, there is an incentive to try to hold on to as many viewers as possible. In my case, this just turns me off--especially if a character is shown in a death scene--or making a miraculous recovery.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Our driver braked sharply, as the car at a stop sign on a side street made a right turn right in front of us, and drove off at high speed. A fellow-passenger made a disgusted gesture with a middle finger at the retreating vehicle. The miscreant could not have seen it, but it undoubtedly made my fellow-passenger feel better. Another person commented "American Sign Language" and we laughed, intending no disrespect to the wonderful communication system so named, developed for those with speech and/or hearing challenges.

I reflected on the many types of non-verbal communication with one person's hands, which most of us would recognize. Here are some of them:

1. Thumbs up, and thumbs down: universally understood to show approval o dis approval.

2. One or more fingers--usually the whole hand, facing the gesturer, beckoning one or more others to approach.

3. Arm--usually the right, raised, with palm of the hand facing out, meaning "stop!".

4. Shoulder shrug, usually accompanied by facial movement, and often by outstretched hands, indicating indifference.

5. Arms crossed and held up in front of the gesturer: stop there (as when helping someone park.

6. Single hand, facing inward outside an open mouth: a real or pretended yawn, indicating sleepiness or boredom.

7. Hands held, palms together, as if in prayer, leaning forward: making an important

8. Hands held, palms together, facing another, bowing slightly: "peace to you" .

9. Single fist, shaken towards another person, indicating anger.

10. Clenched fists, moved up and down: enthusiastic encouragement, as in "Go, team!"

11. Single hand, palm down, moved slightly down: : "No, thank-you"

12. One hand miming writing on the other hand: "Please bring the bill!"

13. Arm raised, hand high: "Call on me, teacher!"

14. Single fist, thumb extended up and to the rear: "Get outta here!"

15. Both arms extended upward: "Touchdown!" (or other athletic success).

If others occur to you, please comment: remember, no "high fives", and no other body language. These are just examples using arms and hands of a single person. When i began to list them, I certainly didn't expect to think of so many.

Monday, January 17, 2011


I can't walk safely outside a house these days without support. At home, I do use a cane to walk from the dining-room into the-living room, but I don't use one upstairs, as I migrate from my bedroom to the bathroom, my office, or the stairs. I have two canes, one furnished by Kaiser Permanente, my health insurer; and another one which can be pulled apart into three pieces--useful when it has to be packed.

What I like to do is to use a cane (preferably in my right hand) and be supported by a friendly right arm accepting my left arm.. My dear wife, actually a few months older than I am, is fit and spry, and walks daily for pleasure. For much of the past few years, it has been she who has supplied the "friendly arm". For some time, she has been encouraging me to try to move around without linking arms with her.

I have tried using two poles, one in each hand, and that works reasonably well for short distances on flat land. Since we live on a hill, and Barbara can no longer drive me down to the flatlands, this is not a very satisfactory solution.

We have a four-wheel walker with a basket, and this walker can be set to act as a portable seat for me. I like that, but it also requires flat land and transportation to reach level ground. Again, not a satisfactory solution. There are battery-powered wheelchairs and "scooters", but I'm not ready to cope with either yet. Besides, they really aren't very well fitted for my needs.

When we go to concerts, the theater, a restaurant, or a meeting, we usually go by car, driven by a helper, and then I walk in, with a cane and someone's arm. When I visit a grocery store, a "basket" to transport our purchases doubles very well as a walker. It has the advantage to my vanity that there are other shoppers, not needing the support that I need, also pushing a grocery store's shopping basket.

For weeks, Barbara was telling me that I should buy a lightweight walker. I made a few brownie points when I showed her an ad for a discounted two-wheel lightweight model. The store was in Hayward, calling for a round trip of close to fifty miles. It had occurred to me that the distance might happily cause a further delay--but Barbara was determined, so quickly went to the store with our driver, coming back with the perfect answer to her pleas.

We tried it out for an Early Music concert recently. We had dinner at The Musical Offering (a restaurant which shares the space with the record store), perhaps 200 yards from the church where we were to hear the music. I hated using the walker! It took us perhaps ten minutes to walk that short distance.

There was the annual party afterward--free wine and delicious finger food, an annual event I had enjoyed many times over the years. I told Barbara that i really didn't want to walk back to The Musical Offering. So we arranged to be picked up outside the church, and went home to bed.

I realize that a major part of my resistance is because I am being taken out of my "comfort zone". There is also the psychological factor of appearing weak. It's no fun getting old and immobile! As a contemporary friend of ours puts it: "Growing old is not for sissies".. I prefer to rejoice that, thanks to our driver, we can still attend concerts and plays, eat at restaurants, go shopping, attend meetings in San Francisco--and I can attend church each Sunday.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Egg nog

Plenty of eggnog mix is sold in the US, mainly between about November 15 and New Year's. However, it is my perception that it has become less popular in recent years, at least in the circles in which we move. We don't attend many pre-Christmas parties, let alone the many business-related events I used to attend. I can remember many occasions in which an eggnog was available, although there were usually some alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic alternatives.

I can remember making eggnog from scratch, but in recent years we have relied on commercial eggnog mix. We have several family members who will have one eggnog when it's available, but one of our sons would find the holidays incomplete without it.

My recipe is straightforward: 10% brandy, 10% dark rum, 80% eggnog mix, with grated nutmeg sprinkled on top.

We were given most of a  "leftover" half-pint carton of "light" eggnog mix on December 27, so I made a weaker-than usual serving daily. I finished the last of the mix on January 4. No more until next Thanksgiving, I imagine.


Monday, January 3, 2011

"Christmas observed"

For years, we have received a calendar/diary on which we record our appointments. It is a vital source for keeping us on track with medical appointments, concerts, parties, and other engagements. Each day has its own space, and some of them list important dates. I'm not really sure why Americans want to know the date of the Japanese Emperor's birthday, but it is listed.

I recently took a look at some entries for December. I was astonished to see "Christmas observed" listed for Christmas Eve. Now, it is true that our family celebrates Christmas (in accordance with Barbara's Norwegian roots) on Christmas Eve. However, we observe Christmas on only one day: December 25. Of course, I understand that these calendars are designed for business people. When a day which is normally a holiday occurs on a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday is "observed" on an adjacent day.

I looked ahead in the new calendar. It has several entries for December 26. I read that Christmas will be observed in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. At the same time, it will be "Boxing Day" in Canada. Furthermore, Kwanza begins that day. Not surprisingly, another entry reads "all markets closed".