“So Anyway…” by John Cleese


This review has taken me awhile to write and publish: I quite simply do not wish to stop reading the book.

One of the taller of the founding members of Britain’s “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and an accomplished writer of sketches and screenplays, Mr. Cleese takes a very entertaining life and makes an even more entertaining autobiography out of it.

Monty Python's Flying Circus (L to R): Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin
Monty Python’s Flying Circus (L to R): Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin

Cleese has lived a life with humble roots and has never been reluctant to acknowledge he’s spent as much time in a therapist’s office as anyone.  In fact, he spends a fair amount of time in the first several chapters examining the dynamics of his parents’ relationship and considers how that may have impacted how he became the individual he is.

The result is a book that illuminates the writer himself even as it surveys the various milestones any person experiences in their life.

Two “Pepper Pots”: Cleese and his favorite writing partner, Graham Chapman. The phrase, “pepper pots” is a reference to their silhouettes when performing in this drag…

Even better, as an accomplished writer of funny sketches, revues and screenplays, Cleese entertains his audience even as he informs.  And within the opening pages, one begins to hear his trademark voice and style of delivery.  It’s a great way to make the experience even more intimate and real.

And the anecdotes!  If you are somehow unfamiliar with the unique brand of comedy that has since come to be described as “Pythonesque”, you’ll likely laugh out loud at some of the author’s recollections and observations.

Take this example, in which the author contemplates his family’s change of residence immediately after they experienced a German Air Raid …

Mother told me once that some Westonians privately criticized Dad for retreating so soon.  They apparently felt it would have been more dignified to have waited a week or so before running away.  I think this view misses the essential point of running away, which is to do it the moment the idea has occurred to you.  Only an obsessive procrastinator would cry, “Let’s run for our lives, but not till Wednesday afternoon.”

Cleese’s revelations run the gamut: he was more than 6 foot tall by the time he turned 12 years old and one of his teachers described him as “six foot of chewed string.”  He was an only child and sheltered by a frequently over-protective father even as his mother was wracked by a form of anxiety that surpassed anything that might be described as “clinical”:

“I once proposed to Dad that we should purchase a large hamster wheel for her, so that she would find it easy to remain active all day, instead of having continually to invent non-essential activities like polishing cans of peas, or stacking cups, or sewing borders on handkerchiefs, or boiling knitting needles, or weeding the carpet.”


Yes, of course it’s funny… but it’s also got that telltale ring of truth to it as well.  Cleese’s writing is as delightful as it is illuminating.  For example he describes one of his his school teachers as “not exactly the brightest lighthouse along the coastline.”

His observations of his favorite writing partner, Graham Chapman, his erstwhile professional benefactor, David Frost, and British comedy luminaries such as Peter Sellers make for fascinating reading.  He also rewards the devoted fan base with tales of some origins for such things as the name “Fawlty Towers”, the “Cheese Shop Sketch” and what may be one of his most classic bits of Python comedy, the “Dead Parrot Sketch.”

Fair warning: the book includes a few sprinkles of profanity, but if you’ve ever seen the Python comedy films, you already know to expect that.

Extremely highly recommended, especially now that it’s available in paperback (Five out of five stars).

Here’s hoping he’ll be reading the audio book version in the not-too-distant future.




Here is a link to a truly wonderful article published by author John Scalzi about how some people may react to the events that took place yesterday in the City of Light … and why they shouldn’t. I hope you like it. Just click on the link “Paris.”

Source: Paris


Book Review: “Rod” by Rod Stewart

It’s often said that a band is like a family, and that may well be true, depending how often your family is tired and drunk.”

So writes the author less than a quarter of the way through this 365-page story of yet another rock ‘n roll icon turned Las Vegas headliner.

It’s one of the qualities that sets “Rod” apart from its kindred in this newly burgeoning sub-genre…

It would appear we are on the cusp of a new popular literary phenomenon: the rock ‘n roll autobiography. The prospect is at once both exhilarating and not.

The formula is already in place…


>Protagonist starts off as hungry, lower-class scrambler,

>Protagonist suffers several initial setbacks but eventually hits the big time,

>With fame and wealth comes temptation, followed by…


>The Fall and, ultimately..

>The Redemption, usually facilitated by the partner (most typically the romantic partner, followed closely by the artistic/managerial one.)

David Crosby dictated his memoirs into a tape recorder, Pete Townshend labored over a computer keyboard. Rod Stewart, it would appear, turned to his own memory and, I’m guessing, simply composed his notes in longhand on foolscap.

The result is a literate and entertaining read that tends to hold its focus (unlike Crosby’s “Long Time Gone”) and comes across as slightly less self-important (unlike Townshend’s “Who I Am.”)

Roderick David Stewart also brings a few surprises to the table. He reveals that while many have assumed he is of Scottish origin, he is in fact a Londoner; he confesses that songwriting is a difficult labor for him; he originally thought “Maggie May” was a song with no real promise; and he harbors a lifelong passion for model railroading.

And oh yes, the women…


Unlike his peers who threw themselves into alcohol and drugs, Stewart describes himself as shy in that respect, being protective of his voice, even though he was not above steeling himself with fermented “Dutch Courage” when the need arose. No, Rod saved himself for the ladies…

The list of names makes the head swim and Stewart makes no bones about his problems with fidelity, which were on a level that would have given Masters and Johnson a migraine of epic proportions.

Thankfully, modern medical science notwithstanding, one benefit of age is a moderation in one’s ability to “perform” and our hero has finally slowed his roll.

Once again, we are treated to a parade of names that reads like a “Who’s Who” of early British rock luminaries; we’ll let you unearth them on your own.

Rod Stewart1

Warm, witty and eminently readable, “Rod” is easy to enjoy and easy to absorb. At its conclusion, one really has the sense that one has indeed met the man.

Most definitely recommended!” (Five out five stars)


A Temporary Solution…

…To the question of what I should post.


Book reviews, at least for now.

I recently remembered that I went through a phase several years back of writing reviews of books I read for my own amusement.  Don’t worry, gentle reader, I do not plan to re-publish them all, only the ones I think may have stood the test of time (however brief that test may be when you’re only going back less than three years.)

IN ANY EVENT, IT WILL AT LEAST BE NEW CONTENT (at least it’ll be new to you,) and I’ll get back into the swing of maintaining this blog.

I thank you in advance for your patience, your company and your indulgence.

Your humble servant and blogger
Your humble servant and blogger

Why It’s Been So Long…

…Since I last posted anything:

It’s been a real slice these past 5 or 6 months; I’ve been running around in the offline world, dealing with things that absolutely require analog attention and application.  You know, what we older folks like to call … “Life.”


Don’t worry, the family and I are all fine.  But I won’t lie: it’s been challenging.

The details are not so important as the outcome.  The big news is we’re all still here and thriving.

Peeps Jumping at Surf

How soon will I resume posting to this blog?  Good question.  I have pages and pages of draft material … on another CPU.

Sorry, I simply DO NOT trust the Cloud.  No more than I trust my personal savings to a hollow tree trunk in my local public park.  Not after the IRS reveals that 300 THOUSAND tax filers may have been compromised in their personal information which the IRS is legally authorized to collect, but apparently not required to take reasonable measures to protect.

So there we have it: I have material ready to go, but I must either re-copy it manually (keystroke it into the keyboard, as we used to say back in the days when dinosaurs and floppy discs ruled the earth), or else re-compose it from memory, kind of like one of Ray Bradbury’s human reciting novels from “Fahrenheit 451” or one of the “bookleggers” from Walter Miller’s “Canticle for Leibowitz”  (Hey, go to the library, people, that’s what I do!)


In the meantime, please know, again, the family and I are all fine.

So how are you?

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David Letterman’s Top 10 Legacies


What better authority on these matters than “Variety”?

This may be my last post for a little while, as I’m going offline for another stretch…

Please feel welcome to e-mail me if you have need!

Originally posted on Variety:

Beginning with “Late Night” on NBC in 1982 and continuing with the “Late Show With David Letterman” on CBS in 1993, the gap-toothed, be-spectacled, Indiana-born “Dave” became America’s most exceptional everyman — finding unconventional ways to point out the silliness of daily life. Here’s how his hosting style forever changed late-night TV.

10. The Top Ten List
The segment mocked the media convention (ahem) of ranking everything from the eligibility of bachelors to the popularity of songs, while shunning anything in eleventh place and beyond. It debuted in 1985 with “Things That Almost Rhyme with Peas.” Over the years, guest presenters added another layer of humor: see actor John Malkovich reading “Top Ten Things That Sound Creepy When Said by John Malkovich,” or our current president and then-senator intoning the farcical “Top Ten Barack Obama Campaign Promises” in 2008. Total Top Tens by the time the show wraps: 4,605.


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secret app logo and motto

The Secret’s Out… Over and Out

From the New York Times:
Last summer, employees at the start-up Secret gathered in their new offices in downtown San Francisco, waiting for the founders to address the company. Secret had recently raised $25 million to work on its smartphone app, which lets users anonymously share information with groups of friends and connections.


But the news had broken that David Byttow and Chrys Bader, the founders of Secret, had sold part of their stake in the company for $6 million and that Mr. Byttow later bought a Ferrari.
The founders did not initially tell the employees about the sale; instead, some of them found out on Secret.
Although Mr. Byttow and Mr. Bader reassured workers at the meeting that they were dedicated to the company, it was a turning point, said people close to Secret, who spoke on condition of anonymity. It shook the confidence of some workers, they said: If the founders had taken money off the table, it could mean they were protecting themselves against Secret’s failing.
On Tuesday, that course of events played out. After use of the app declined for months, Mr. Byttow told employees that the company was closing and handed out severance packages, the people close to the matter said.


“After a lot of thought and consultation with our board, I’ve decided to shut down Secret,” Mr. Byttow wrote in an online post on Wednesday shortly after BuzzFeed reported that the start-up would close. He said he would wind down Secret over the next few weeks and would return money to investors. “I believe in failing fast in order to go on and make only new and different mistakes.”

Secret App Logo

Secret’s trajectory illustrates the flash-in-the-pan nature of Silicon Valley’s current technology boom. Even as a handful of start-ups rise to stratospheric valuations and take in billions of dollars in financing, other privately held companies cannot sustain their following.
Please read more by clicking on the following link:
Flynn Doubts Rapunzel

English Much?

As a writer, I am naturally fascinated by the adaptive use of my native language.  Sometimes that also includes adaptive abuse of my native language.  Please permit me to illustrate…
I was very recently at a certain cultural venue which shall remain nameless.  Its identity is not important.  
Also present were two young women.  They were not with me.  
They were, as it happens, very pretty, very young, very well-groomed, very well-dressed and very much aware of all of the above.  
They were not so adept at self-expression and that also soon became apparent.  Which is certainly one good reason why they were not with me.
As they entered the venue they were both within my range of vision and hearing.  The taller of the two, a willowy young blonde, evidently seeking to express her excitement, spread her arms, lifted her head and exclaimed, “This has always been one of my goals in life!”
Her companion, a shorter brunette, obligingly inquired, “What’s that?”
Quoth her companion, “To CULTURE myself!”


Now, the last time I had heard the word “culture” used as a verb in a sentence, the object was either bacteria… or cheese.  Neither of these were being celebrated at this particular venue on this particular occasion.  
To give credit where it’s due, at least this young lady was making some sort of attempt to, shall we say, “enculturate” herself, and that is most laudatory.

Spock Wants To Know

On the other hand, this also fuels my growing conviction as I trundle along my little course on the timeline, that my mortality is truly a good thing.  
By the time Ms. Malaprop has reached the pinnacle of her career as a patron of the arts and humanities, I will be cultured myself and doubtless pushing up the daisies as a result.


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Jayne Meadows Dies at 95; Widow of Steve Allen Was Nominated for 3 Emmys


A unique woman of remarkable talent who walked among some incredibly brilliant colleagues and family members has passed from the stage and screen…

Originally posted on Variety:

Jayne Meadows, a longtime television actress who was the widow of TV legend Steve Allen and the elder sister of actress Audrey Meadows, died of natural causes at her home in Encino, Calif., on Sunday night. She was 95.

Meadows was thrice nominated for Emmys, the first time for a 1977 episode of the PBS show “Meeting of Minds,” the second time in 1987 for an episode of NBC’s “St. Elsewhere” on which she guested and the third time in 1996 for supporting actress in a comedy for CBS show “High Society.”

Over a showbiz career that spanned six-plus decades, Meadows took to the Broadway stage — in “The Gazebo” in 1958 — appeared in films including 1946’s “Undercurrent,” starring Katharine Hepburn; toured in her one-woman show “Powerful Women in History” for seven years; appeared with Allen onstage in A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” off and on for 11 years; and…

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Driverless Cars Will Change Everything

The following link will take you to a SlideShare presentation designed by the marketing firm of sparks & honey.  

It makes some truly insightful predictions about how driverless or autonomous vehicles will likely affect our lifestyles, our culture and our lives.  

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  

And as always, thanks for reading!

Here’s the link!:

1960s era Futuristic Monorail and Automobile Highway