Friday, February 26, 2021

When it comes to movies, I don’t scare easily… and then there was this

It’s true.  I’m not trying to sound like a tough guy, but you can sit me down in front of any horror movie and it’s not going to frighten or bother me too much. 

This past Saturday I watched “Saint Maud”, a young palliative nurse who’s devoted her life to God.  But she’s losing her mind, and begins thinking up some jaw dropping exercises in self torture to do penance.  It’s horror on a new level, and after it was over I had a cup of warm cocoa and went to bed.  Sweet dreams!

And then there was this.  A couple nights ago I saw “I Care A Lot” and I can’t get it out of my mind.  It made me angry and uncomfortable more than anything, and the ending provided little relief.  The star of the show (pictured here, Rosamund Pike) quipped “It has something for everybody!” and I know she’s an actress, but I still thought Yes it has something for everybody if they own a concentration camp or two.

I’m not going to give anything “good” away, it’s basically this:  Rosamund plays Marla, a so-called guardian appointed by the courts who (with the help of some shady doctors offices and nursing homes expecting kickbacks) targets senior citizens who live alone. 

She’ll have them declared a danger to themselves, get their social security signed over to some dowdy facility while Marla sells the person’s home and pockets the proceeds… along with their life savings.

In that photo above, Marla displays a wall of her victims like a hunter would display the heads of animals he’s bagged.  And then one day she gets a call of a “real cherry”, a woman (Dianne Wiest) who is 70 years old and lives alone. 

No family of her own, Diane owns a beautiful Cape Cod in a wealthy neighborhood.  Her life is a full one of swimming, painting, gardening… and Marla’s going to take it all away, learning later Dianne has a secret.  A dangerous one.

Marla doesn’t care.  She never loses.  NEVER.  “I’m a lioness, not a lamb!”  She’s the anti-hero you secretly admire and wish you could be, so rich, so successful, a businesswoman who takes no prisoners--

Except she’s not.   She’s not a businesswoman, just some crummy thief with no moral compass.  Her nursing home “pigeons” are fed a steady diet of pills to keep them from fighting the system until they die, confused & alone. 

She’s guilty of elder abuse on a massive scale.  

Netflix bills this as a ‘thriller slash black comedy’.  It just felt vulgar to me, these older people’s final years and legacies stolen from them by 1-2 people who know the system.  I kept thinking What if that was my mom, and none of us kids were there to protest?  And look at me, I’ve never married, no kids… Dianne Weist is only 10 years older than me.

Why doesn’t Netflix make a movie about child sex trafficking and call that “deliciously nasty” too?   Is one abuse less atrocious than the other?

Am I being too unkind here, taking this too personally?  Shortly after I finished watching the movie, I saw on the local news where the administrator of a large nursing home in Pittsburgh (in Mt. Lebanon no less, a pretty upscale neighborhood) has been directing staffers for years to falsify records, to make it appear the facility met federal and state staffing requirements. 

It turns out the home has been seriously understaffed and patients went uncared for.  Is it just me or do we hear of this type of thing too often?

Here’s a trailer for the movie… maybe it is delicious as one critic said.  For myself, it just hit too close to home.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Crooks, Liars and Fame: it may be fleeting, but can be scary just the same

The last several days have been interesting and opened my eyes a bit.  This past Friday, after I’d finished writing about those Verizon salespeople at my front door (who almost convinced me I was switching from cable to Fios whether I liked it or not), I got on my blog and saw something crazy:

The ‘Visitor Counter’ in my sidebar was clicking away; ApacheDug’s Teepee had gotten hundreds of visits since that morning too.  What was going on? 

It had to be a software glitch, or some Russian ‘web bot’ was crawling my blog and got caught in a faulty algorithm or something.  (And no, I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about.)

I wrote my friend Danielle and told her something loony was going on.  I joked that a link to my blog was probably on some nefarious website like Breitbart. 

(If you don’t know what Breitbart is… I envy you!)

A short time later, Danielle wrote back and said my blog was on a popular website called “Crooks and Liars”, a news site for liberals | progressives.  They had posted a “Roundup” of liberal-minded blogs, and mine was one of them.  She said I was on their Facebook page too, which has 165,000 likes.

I said “What the—how did you figure all that out?”  She replied “Because I’m SMART, Doug!  I have a brain you know!”  

(We have a sort of passive-aggressive friendship, next time it’s my turn!)  Winking smile

By Friday night, my recent Trump post had gotten over 2000 visits

I received some emails linked to my blog too, but wasn’t sure how to respond.  People sharing their own political views, and one had some pretty extremist opinions (for being a Liberal, that is). 

He gave me grief for declining that invitation to a Heathen’s Supper 20 years ago (which I wrote about on that Trump post) and called me an Elitist.  Isn’t there a statute of limitations on name-calling?  

One cheerful woman asked if my blog was even a liberal one, “you seem to be all over the place”. 

I did write back and said if it helps I was a liberal thinker.  Nerd smile

I feel fortunate to know other personal bloggers out there like myself, I suppose most of us write or share what we do because something in us simply compels us to.  And it’s nice when others take the time to read what you’ve written.  At the same time, I wouldn’t want a thousand people reading what I’m sharing everytime I publish a new post.  The idea of that kind of overwhelms me.

I wish I could know every person that’s been on my blog more than a couple times.  I’m sure there isn’t that many, but when your blog gets 2,000 visits in one day you can’t help but wonder what they thought.   Hope they weren’t too disappointed.

Well, I enjoyed the attention while it lasted.  I’m pretty much back to relative obscurity now, and that suits me just fine.


Friday, February 19, 2021

It would seem that door-to-door salesmen (salespersons) are alive & well

This past Tuesday, I got this email from my apartment building’s management:    

Dear Steiner Realty Neighbors, 

Please be aware that you will receive a knock on your door sometime tomorrow, Wednesday, February 17th, by a Verizon representative.  Your building has been chosen by Verizon for an exclusive $50 promotion for all residents, on top of any current national offers!  

We understand you may be reluctant to answer your door at this time.  The Verizon marketing sales reps will have badges and will be following social distancing guidelines and wearing masks. 

Sincerely, Steiner Realty Inc.       

To say I was fit to be tied would be an understatement.  Excuse me??  Some weeks ago, we got various pleas from management to PLEASE quarantine, DON’T ALLOW anyone inside the building except the mailman & emergency personnel.  So I couldn’t have family or friends visiting, but Verizon salesmen had free rein?  I smelled a kickback.  I called my landlord and said I didn’t want anyone knocking on my door and trying to sell me stuff. 

Stacey said “Aw, we’re sorry to hear that Douglas!  Well, you should hang a ‘Do not disturb’ sign on your front door for tomorrow!”   I said “You mean, like a hotel?”  She said “Right, exactly!”  

I’ll be goddam—skip it, I’ll hang a note on my door.

Wednesday, I had no visitors or door-to-door salespersons at my front door.  At 11:30pm I went downstairs to mail something, and took the DO NOT DISTURB sign off my front door before I went to bed.

Thursday afternoon, I’m sitting here watching MSNBC and trying to decide if I want spaghetti or tuna salad for my early dinner (I like to eat by 4pm) when I get a knock.  What is wrong with me?  No alarm bells went off in my head as I got up to answer it.

There were 2 young people standing there, mid-twenties, a black male and Latino female.  They were wearing black pullovers with FIOS logos on their sleeve and Verizon on their front pockets.  They looked like they just stepped out of a tv commercial.

  • HER: Hi good afternoon!!  (Looking at her clipboard)  I’m sorry, your name is…?
  • ME:  Uh… Douglas?  Doug.  Listen, I thought you guys--
  • HIM:  Hi Douglas, I’m Charlie, this is Dexie.  How are you today? 
  • HER:  Douglas I’m going to ask you how to spell your last name in a minute.  So you have the traditional set-up right?  Landline phone, internet, cable?
  • HIM:  What do you watch on tv, I mean, how many channels do you think you watch?
  • ME:  I pretty much just watch MSNBC and some local news & Netflix.  Guys, I--
  • HIM:  My man!  Netflix, yep me too.  What shows do you like on there?
  • ME:   Uh… “Rake”, a legal drama.
  • HER:  Aw is that the one with the little cartoon animals at the bottom of the screen?  I’ve seen clips of it, is it any good?
  • ME:  There’s no cartoon animals, it’s an Australian barrister who--
  • HIM:  Ah, so she owns a coffee shop or just works in one? 
  • ME:  I said “Barrister”, not barista.  It’s a courtroom show.   Hey guys--
  • HER:  Douglas could I ask you 2 things?  How much do you pay Comcast for the services they provide?   And is that a tablet you’re holding?  Can I check out your internet download speed?  I promise I won’t download or install anything.

I foolishly hand her my tablet and say I pay around $200 a month for my internet, phone & cable.  Charlie and Dexie’s eyes widen in feigned surprise. 

  • HER:  Douglas I have it all figured up.  We’re going to save you around $100 a month.  Charlie can you check my figures and confirm I’m right?
  • HIM:  Let’s see, yep—$105.00 a month for Verizon phone service and internet.
  • ME:  What about TV?
  • HIM:  You already said you only watch Netflix.  You don’t need channels.
  • ME:  I said I watch MSNBC.
  • HIM:  Dude—Douglas—that’s NEWS.  You can get that on the internet anytime you want!
  • HER:  Doug, here’s your tablet back.  You just need to open this email, enter your credit card number and hit the confirm button.

I look down at my tablet screen and see this image with Click below to confirm.

I said “Alright, enough.”   Dexie said “Is there a problem?  We’re happy to answer any questions you have Douglas.  That’s why we’re here today.” 

Charlie said “Great news!  I just confirmed your apartment is wired for FIOS.  The technician will be here tomorrow and have you set up in… 15 minutes.”

I said “I don’t appreciate the hard sell, guys.  I never invited you here, I never said I wanted to change my phone & internet service.  I don’t want to give up my TV either.”

Charlie said “We can add TV to your package if you like, but then you’ll need a set-top box.  And a dvr too, there go your savings and then some.

Dexie said “Douglas you must have a GREAT job if you don’t want to save a hundred bucks a month!  Wow!”

I said I didn’t have a great job, I was retired.  And I wasn’t looking to save any money on my tv/internet/phone let alone spend more.  They finally left in a phony confused huff.

(The truth is, I HAVE been looking!  I’ve been looking at streaming services like Philo and Sling Blue for a couple weeks now.)  

But one thing’s for certain, I’ll never go to Verizon.  This little stunt was TOO SHADY for me.   And Steiner Realty, I’m not impressed with YOU either.  The End!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

What’s it like to still be a Trump supporter? That’s a rhetorical question, but still…

Washington County is precisely 40.2 miles south of Pittsburgh.  It’s smack-dab in the center between my place in the city and my sister Shawn’s house in Rogersville Pa.  Whenever I drove from Pittsburgh to Waynesburg (where we grew up) to visit family, when I hit Washington Pa I knew I was halfway home.

In my younger years, if you wanted to eat at a nice restaurant, or see a new movie, or go to the mall, you made the trip north to “Little Washington”.  I wonder, do they still call it that?  It’s really not that little.  Waynesburg never had a population greater than 8,000 people—Washington has a populace of around 225,000.

It’s not what it used to be, that’s for sure.  It struggles with drugs and criminal activity now, heroin being the drug of choice. 

A recent study says 97% of the state of Pennsylvania is safer to live in than Washington Pa.  I find that hard to believe, I’d sooner live in little Washington than Harrisburg or Philadelphia, but what do I know?

This morning on ‘Morning Joe’ on MSNBC, a Republican official from Washington Pa spoke out on why Senator Pat Toomey from our state, one of the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Donald Trump, was being censured.  “We didn’t send him to Washington DC to vote his conscience.  We didn’t send him there to do the right thing.  We sent him there to represent us.”  

Doesn’t voting your conscience or doing the right thing take precedence?  Like, EVERY time?  I can’t believe this was their argument for censure.  But I guess I can, as 65% of Republicans will defend Trump with their last breath.  I just wish I knew why.  

After the presidential election, when poll numbers became available (I love me some numbers), I learned that 21% of people in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) voted for Trump.  That’s 1 out of 5.  Hm.  Then I checked the voting results for Greene County (home of Waynesburg, my hometown). 

72% voted for Trump.  That’s almost 3 out of 4.  I wasn’t surprised, when I was down there in October I saw VOTE FOR TRUMP signs everywhere I looked.  Still… why?

Saturday I got a letter in the mail (a real letter) from Rita H, a woman my age who I worked with 20+ years ago (we keep in touch thru cards).  She wanted to thank me for her birthday card and apologize for not sending out Christmas cards this year.  Frankly she was too devastated over Donald Trump losing the election to a socialist like Biden. 

Do you know how Rita and I became friends of sorts?  We were working close together on an IT project in 2000, and she invited me out to dinner.  When I said “Aren’t you married?” she laughed and said it was an invite to her church for something called a “Heathen’s Supper”. 

She thought I was a nice person and didn’t want me to chance burning in Hell.  I didn’t attend the supper, and I didn’t convert my beliefs.  Now I’m wondering if I’d be a Trump supporter if I did.

Wouldn’t a Christian SUPPORT a so-called Socialist like Joe Biden, who is making it his priority to ensure everyone gets vaccinated and no one goes hungry?  Does it honestly take that much reasoning within to see that Donald Trump is a very bad person and Joe Biden is a decent human being?  Why is this so hard for so many?

I feel like that kid in the old Tootsie Pop commercial from the 1970s, asking the wise owl how many licks are in a pop.  “I guess the world will never know.”  

I do know one thing:  Senator Toomey earned some of my respect for voting to convict Trump.  Thanks for voting your conscience, Senator.  Thanks for doing the right thing.


Friday, February 12, 2021

If you’ve got a thing for feet, then maybe you should come live here with me

My apartment building is quite large, compared to places I’ve lived in before.  102 units, in various sizes & configurations.  Studios, 1 & 2 bedrooms.  This is a view of #502, the apartment directly above me.  It bears the distinction of being an exact copy of mine. 

I know because I snuck in & snooped around when it was vacant a couple months ago.  (They always leave vacant units unlocked, as no one can get into our building without a key.)

It’s the same size, same layout, same paint scheme (Antique White, Basic Buff & Summer Suede), same kitchen, flooring (carpeting in livingroom & bedroom, wood parquet floor in dining room, rust tile in kitchen & bathroom) as mine.  All it’s missing is my stuff.  Okay it’s carpet is newer, which ticks me off some, but it’s also $40.00 a month higher in rent, for the simple fact it’s on one of the top 2 floors.

As I sit here this morning typing this, wearing a t-shirt and thin pair of drawstring pants, it’s a balmy 70F in my place and 18F outside.  I can’t remember the last time I heard my furnace either.  I’ve only lived in 2 other apartments in my 35 years in Pittsburgh, but in both of those places I couldn’t escape a chill in the air or some VERY cold floors if the temps outside dipped below 25F.  But in both of those other places, I lived on the top floor which you would think would be warmest, but wasn’t.  Here, my apartment is nestled somewhere near the middle.  Snug as a Doug in a rug, you might say.  And my bare feet are toasty warm.

And speaking of bare feet… podophilia is the medical term for someone with a foot fetish.  You hear about those types in movies or on tv, but I’ve never met anyone who admitted to being one.  Then again, if you’ve got a foot fetish I guess you don’t go around bragging about it. 

I wouldn’t, it seems a bit out there even if it is pretty harmless. 

(I’m reminded of a very old episode of “Love, American Style”, a man with a fetish for women’s hands meets a woman who won’t be seen without her gloves on.  It seems she has a phobia of exposing her bare hands.  They fall in love & marry, and on their honeymoon she comes to bed wearing sexy lingerie… gloves!)

I suppose the reason I’m bringing all this up is because I am giving serious thought to going upstairs, banging on #502’s door and demanding to see his carpeting.  Like I said earlier, I was up there when it was vacant, and noted the newer carpeting and even took a picture of it.  It’s plusher than mine.  But when I’m walking around my apartment, I only hear the occasional scrunching or wooden squeak if I’m going back & forth in the non-carpeted areas, my bathroom or kitchen or dining room. 

In that unit above mine, it can be days without a sound—maybe the man is an airline pilot, gone for days at a time.  And then suddenly, like this morning, I’ll hear him.  Right above my sofa, where I thought was carpeting.  It’s not a shuffle of slippers, or clomping of shoes.  I swear I can hear the bones in his feet crack, then the thud of one heel hitting the floor, now the other; next are the thumps of his feet like he’s rocking them back & forth before standing up and beginning his journey.  He’ll cover every square foot of that apartment this morning too.  Lots of snaps crackles & pops.

I can’t help but wonder WHY I’m hearing what I’m hearing, and if all these footsteps would excite a foot fetishist.  What’s he doing up there, giving tours?  I’m guessing he wears a size 10… no, 10 1/2.

Waitaminute—it stopped.  For all I know, there’s a peephole in my ceiling and he’s on his hands & knees now, squinting thru his floor and reading this as I type.  Why can’t people be more normal, like me!


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Give me some of that good time music… that I want to hear (and see) Vol. 2

Back in the summer of 2019, I posted a collection of my (then) Top Ten favorite music videos on Youtube. 

You can see it by clicking here.

I freely admitted that I was no connoisseur of music, and not exactly a fan of the newer stuff either.  Pretty much anything after… say, 1980 and I’ll pass.

The DeFranco Family featuring Tony DeFranco; next time, gang!

Since that previous collection, I’ve moved on to THESE old songs, some with a new spin, that have kept my toes tapping. 

In fact, I like this list even better than the first one.

So on that encouraging note, in pretty much random order (tho’ I AM saving the better ones for last), here we go: 

10.  “Be A Girl”  Public Service Announcement for Girls Clubs of America 1968

Have you ever seen or heard something that you haven’t seen or heard in 50 years, and you got a giant flashback?  I stumbled across this classic PSA recently, and it took me right back to the late 1960s.  (It’s Youtube title is incorrect, it began airing 5 years prior to 1973.)  

My dad had this boxy, reel-to-reel tape recorder then, and I asked him if we could set it up to try and catch a song the next time it aired on tv.  When he asked what it was, I can’t remember what I said but I do remember getting one of his raised eyebrows.  I probably told him it was a song on how to be a girl.  I just liked it’s folksy tune!

9.  “Love of My Life” Brian May & Shuba 2020

Fans of Ronni Bennett’s blog “Time Goes By” (Ronni died of pancreatic cancer in 2020) will remember her weekly music column, guest-blogged by Peter Tibbles from Australia.  Every Sunday Peter shared a collection of songs based on a theme, complete with his own liner notes.  In Sept 2020, he shared this cover of Freddie Mercury’s song from 1975, performed by Queen’s guitarist Brian May & Indian singer Shuba.  It’s haunted me ever since.


8.  “Could You Use Me” Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney (from the movie “Girl Crazy”) 1943

I told my sister Shawn a year or so ago, everytime I’m feeling down—every time—this song picks me right up.  I love all the Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney movies, but “Girl Crazy” has GOTTA be my favorite. 

Instead of a plain-janed Judy silently pining for Mickey while he chases after Lana Turner, in this picture it’s Rooney who’s smitten, but Garland’s been bitten—so no thanks!


7.  “If They Could See Me Now” Melissa Gilbert on ‘American Bandstand’, 1978

I am precisely 2 years & 5 months older than Melissa Gilbert.  While I don’t recall her disco performance on Bandstand in 1978 (and I watched the show regularly), I bet my teenaged self probably said “This is the gayest thing I’ve ever seen.” 

And now, all these years later… something compels me to watch it again.  I’m afraid to ask why, ‘cuz it’s the gayest thing I’ve ever seen.


6.  “Simply Jessie” Rex Smith (from the TV movie “Sooner or Later”) 1979

This video isn’t about the artist as it is his muse.  I recently watched the tv-movie “Sooner or Later”  (containing this song), and remember seeing it in 1979 because I was crushing HARD on this girl!  Her name is Denise Miller, she went on to star on “Archie Bunker’s Place” from 1981 to 1983 and that was pretty much her acting career.

As for Rex Smith, this made-for-tv movie was his first acting role, where he says he literally became a teen idol overnight. “The day before this movie aired on television, I could walk downtown without being noticed.  The day after when I went shopping for clothes, I was literally swamped by 500 girls.”   Sweet.


5.  “Spirit in the Sky”  Norman Greenbaum 1970

Growing up, we had 2 drive-in movie theaters: the Sky-View in nearby Carmichaels, and the Waynesburg Drive-In right outside town.  Amazingly, the Sky-View is still in business, the other closed down 45 years ago.

While both drive-ins played coming attractions & cartoons between shows, the Waynesburg Drive-In also showed trippy music videos.  I was 10 years old when I first saw Spirit in the Sky there, and I was horrified—I thought this was Charles Manson and his scary Manson girls clapping along! 

Anyway, I now love this song.  Norman Greenbaum explained he only wanted to make a good rock song for Christians to call their own, and I think he succeeded.


4.  “Love Me For A Reason”  Merrill Osmond 2020 

Look, there is no way I’m posting a music video collection without Merrill Osmond in it.  I love him that much.  And while I still enjoy the Osmonds video Love Me for a Reason from 1974, I think Merrill’s 2020 cover via Zoom makes it all the more special. 


3.  “Unchained Melody”  Austin Brown 2021 

YouTube has been a wonderful platform for new performers, and it appears this young man has just been discovered.  Austin has posted several videos of himself singing standards, but 2 weeks ago he shared this rendition of 1955’s Unchained Melody and it’s now gotten close to 2 million hits.  Boy does his voice soar.


2,1.  “One Night” & “When I Was Young”  Eric Burdon 1986 

A couple months ago when I got my new bookshelf radio, I was showing it to my neighbor Opal and she asked who my favorite male & female vocalists were; hers was Doris Day & Frank Sinatra.  I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me that for years.  I said Karen Carpenter & Eric Burdon. 

I wanted to include Eric in my first collection, but couldn’t decide between his songs with The Animals or with War.  Now I don’t have to, in this performance of a bit older Eric & an acoustic guitar.  Just listen to the first song… man!