Thursday, December 22, 2011

Savage Behavior

Professor Mondo shared an article today from the National Review on the slow destruction of rural property in central California--a disturbing account of the perils of turning a blind eye to illegal immigration.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Tia -- 1993-2011 -- RIP

Our beloved Tia died today.  A long-haired gray calico, she was the grande dame of our feline household who bopped young whippersnappers on the head whenever she thought they needed to mind.  As described by a dear friend, Tia was "a cool old soul."  That she was, indeed.  She started life as a shy, retiring cat, but after eighteen and a half years, she was the one waiting on the landing when you opened the front door.  And boy, could she vocalize.  How that much sound came out of a five-pound cat, I can't fathom.  But it let us know loud and clear what she wanted, and as the grande dame, of course she was granted her wishes.  Who could deny her?  She was one pampered and loved cat--and we'll miss her so.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sipping Coffee at Starbucks

Thanks to a gift card, I'm eating breakfast at a Starbucks and drinking the Christmas Blend coffee they're serving up weeks before the holiday.  I just dropped off my geriatric cat, Tia, at the vet.  She's being hydrated at the moment because she's not drinking enough water, while all I want to do is drink even more coffee.  Odd, that twist.  Here's hoping she'll be back to her old self soon. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Is Black Friday Really Gray?

A theatre friend is organizing a "Zombie Flash Mob: Occupy Black Friday" event.  Lots of gray face paint but no blood is the make-up strategy.  They'll walk up and down the retail strip, bags in hands, stiff-legging it as they groan: "shopping, shopping."

To what end?  The fun of dressing up like zombies?  Yeah, I can see that.  To stop the mindless consumerism associated with the day?  Hmm...  I think it's going to take more than zombies to achieve that.

A couple of thoughts: if you mock and embarrass people, they're more apt to get angry than change their behavior.  And there are a lot of people shopping today because they have the day off, and if they're looking for deals, it's probably because their wallets are pretty thin.  If some folks want to camp out in front of Best Buy, who am I to insist that their idea of fun not include bargain hunting? To each his own.  Mostly friends and families are out today, so it's still a day about bonding, even if their activity isn't of the highest, spiritual ideal.

As a deck curmudgeon, of course, I'm staying home.  But for those of you venturing out, I say: keep the zombie fun on the sidewalks and the shopping fun in the stores, and that should keep away the cops' sense of fun: the soul-chilling use of pepper-spray.

Friday, November 11, 2011


On this Veteran's Day, I salute our vets and those currently serving in our American forces.  I'd also like to thank the men in my family who have proudly served here and overseas:  Major George P. Kniess, Captain Silas S. Jones, George P. Kniess, Jr. (Marines), Ronald J. Kniess (Army) and Walter J. Barkey (Army).   I'm truly grateful not only today but every day. 

Friday, November 4, 2011


The furniture cushions are gone.  Winterizing has begun.  That said, the happy lights will remain operational for as long as possible.  Snow is but frozen water--I can wade through it with a shovel.  A cat tunnel will be dug, to keep Maggie the Cat happy, and deck vistas will remain accessible, to keep me pondering--my simple, yet so soulful pleasure. 

More to come, my friends, and I hope it isn't just graupel....

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Reflections While Sweeping's been over two months since my last post.  I'd originally planned to make passing comments on the books and plays I've been reading/seeing.  (Yes, yes, I know--the best laid plans...!) Until a week ago, I hadn't seen a play all summer.  (Despite morning temperatures in the 20s, it still is, technically, summer.)  Come summer our city's stages go dark; for a few precious months Nature, herself, is our diva.   And as for books...well, they were replaced by journals, essays and magazines--"light reading" as we worked on building a greenhouse.

So why write now?  Ah, the irony.  I'm PROCRASTINATING.  (I count myself among the few who write to procrastinate.)  I'm supposed to be cleaning house for Friday's Oktoberfest on the deck, and cleaning depresses the heck out of me.  We managed to skip spring cleaning this year because spring never arrived.  And now that fall and the fest are fast approaching, windows have to be washed, carpets have to be cleaned, so on and so forth.  Dust escalates into grease and dirt which, at least in our house, manage to inhabit every nook and cranny.  The problem with cleaning is, the curtain rises on everything hidden.  Drat.  So it's time to give myself a pep talk and suggest that sweeping the cobwebs may turn out to be a metaphysical experience.  Yeah, right.  Better to turn out the house lights. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Fine Union

On this Fourth of July, as P. and I celebrate the Declaration of Independence from the deck, I want to raise my glass to not only independence but also union. It's an American holiday, but it's also my parents' wedding anniversary. Married in Germany 54 years ago (my father an American soldier, my mother a German bride), they are a wonderful example of how love can weather differences. And isn't that what being an American is all about? Cheers, Mom and Dad!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Murder So Foul in Norway

I just finished up Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman (that’s Nesbo with a slashed o). It’s a mystery thriller set in Oslo, featuring Detective Harry Hole as the bad-boy cop—an alcoholic, lustful, independent cuss but also a man with, of course, honor. He’s a noir prototype, and Nesbo doesn’t push the crime genre boundaries in his Hole series. When I pick up a Nesbo thriller, I read it to experience a police procedural in a Norwegian setting. Of course, I also read it to try and solve the mystery before the authorities do. Yeah, I solved it, but the clues were obvious. Nesbo provides the red herrings and twists, but his central conceit, the snowman, disappoints. It's quite a haunting image, but the snowman feats the perp concocts are almost impossible to accomplish. Rating: three out of five stars.

And this brings me round to what I’ve been pondering today on my deck: I read mysteries as entertainment, which means I read them quickly. (Think grilled bratwurst instead of lamb on a spit.) Nonetheless, as many as I finish, there are probably just as many that I don’t. If the writing is too dreadful, the characters too dull, I put the book back in a pile for the library drop box. Life is too short to adhere to any work ethic that requires finishing what you start. So I ask myself, why do I bother to read genre fiction at all? Why not stick to great novels—for a masterly one captures your imagination and your heart, and it stays with you, long after turning the last page. One possible answer is that I’ve become a multi-task reader. I want to simultaneously use my imagination and my analytical skills, and novels without mystery often don't allow me to do so. (The multi-tasking also explains why there’s always more than one book on my bedside table.) And, as a self-exiled ivy-tower type, I no longer write essays to satisfy my urge to analyze, so perhaps mysteries fill that void. That said, I feel it’s time to tackle some Tolstoy. But first, I want to prop my feet up and raise my ice-cold glass in a toast to Norwegian snow. Skal.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Tony Awards Put on a Good Spectacle, BUT...

I don’t wish to bash the Tony awards from my deck chair, for awards can serve to recognize excellence (notice I say “can” instead of “do,” for nominating committees are not always savvy observers and thinkers). But if the New York theatre establishment wishes to remain Command Central for US theatre, the televised awards need to do more than the usual song and dance routine.

Consider the Tony’s LA counterpart, the Oscar. That program broadcasts scenes from the nominated films, showcasing the acting nominees. Granted, a theater performance is a live construct while a film performance is easily captured for eternity on, well, film. Still, it seems to me that if the producers are willing to spend a fortune on production numbers, why not spend a few bucks on re-enacting short scenes from the plays? It might mean that the nominees can’t spend the whole evening sitting in the audience in tuxes and gowns, but it gives them a chance to show off what it is they hopefully do: really act. I know, I know—add such scenes and the evening will spin out into the wee hours of Monday. But surely musical numbers can be trimmed—especially the emcee routines.

Which brings me around to what I’m really wondering: how did the Tonys and the Oscars become vehicles for the emcee? Come on, folks. We watch the ceremonies to study the nominees and discover the winners—who hopefully speak no longer than a minute THANKING people instead of gushing on about politics, philosophy and/or attained wisdom. That said, returning to Sunday’s telecast--how does the emcee number “It’s Not for Gays Anymore” serve Command Central? Plenty of potential visitors to the Big Apple arrive from the fly-over kingdom. For them, “Aren’t we wonderfully liberal” slogans can be a real turn off. (Yes, really—and it isn’t because they aren’t enlightened individuals. Many simply prefer their theatrical experiences to be moments of discovery instead of blatant propaganda.) So Neil Patrick Harris’s number, even though well-hoofed, decreases the chances of busing the Heartland in to Broadway. And that defeats the whole point of an awards program, doesn’t it? Drumming up new business? Making that next buck? Or I should say, C-notes?

Signing off with a refreshment,
Your Deck Devotee

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Open Season

The deck is now open for the season, thanks to a patio heater.  Observations therefrom are coming soon to the internet provider nearest you.