Tuesday, January 31, 2012


The most boring football game of the season is coming, the Stupor Bowl.

Ooops. The Super Bowl. Sorry. ;-)

I don't know why the last game of the season is often so dull. Maybe I'm just footballed out. Maybe the players work so hard to get there that the game itself is a letdown. Maybe they have nothing more to prove. Maybe the pre-game hype wears me out.

A friend of mine, KN, thinks it is the biggest game of the season. Of course, he doesn't start watching till the playoffs.

I disagree. I think the best games are early in the season, when the guys are fresh, not so beat up, and new guys are trying to make the teams.

It has been exciting to see new players come into the NFL and establish themselves. Players like Victor Cruz and Jimmy Graham.

Watching them reach their potential is a blast.

Some of the best teams are out by now. New Orleans. The Forty-Niners. I used to be a huge Niners fan back in the days of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. I even had a game I taped, and I would watch it over and over again in the summer.

It is great to see the Niners back. I had hoped the two Harbaugh brothers would be facing each other in the Super Bowl. That would have been fun.

But oh, well. I'll watch the Stupor Bowl. It may be a good game, although I doubt it. You never know.

I look forward to next season. Maybe I'll go watch some of the teams in summer camp. That would be fun. I saw the 49ers one summer, years ago. That was a blast. Jerry Rice seemed to be made out of steel springs.

Usually, the Super Bowl is anticlimactic. But I hope it proves me wrong. Go, Niners. Oooops.

Do I care who wins? Not really. I like Tom Brady and the Patriots. But I also like those Manning brothers. Now Eli is carrying the family torch. So I could root for the Giants. We'll see. I just hope the game isn't boring.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle


I have found a new way to enjoy "Hawaii Five-O." I have finally realized that it is a comic book, a live cartoon. It's a lot more fun if you realize it isn't realistic.

Trouble is, sometimes it is realistic. It's a mix of silliness and believable cop drama. Oh, well. I have decided to just enjoy it as a cartoon.

So what if Steve doesn't know how to rappel or how to climb a rope and Danny doesn't know how to belay?

So what if the plots are full of holes?

So what if the whole Wo Fat story-line is way too far over the top?

So what if a bad guy parachutes out of an airplane for no good reason?

So what if another bad guy steals the cops' hot Camaro, making our heroes look like fools?

Who cares? Don't think too much, just have fun. Enjoy the surf and sea and sand and hot cars and hot babes and sometimes mindless action. That's my new motto.

So far, so good. We'll see how long that lasts.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I hate to admit it, but I am a big fan of pop culture. Pop fiction. Pop movies. Pop TV shows. When they make sense. When they have a brain. The trouble with most of them is that they are mixed bags. Partly fun and partly dumb.

I recently watched the entire first season of Hawaii Five-O, and it gets progressively more stupid and less believable as it goes on. Who is this series for? I can't figure out their demographic, i.e., their target audience.


At the end of Season One, Steve McGarrett, our ex-Navy SEAL hero -- Can anyone be more heroic than that? Especially now? -- suspects that the governor, who hired him and set him up to lead Five-O, has had her assistant killed, and that the assistant, a lovely woman who likes one of his cops, was sending Steve evidence from his late father's case, evidence that could lead Steve to his father's killer.

Yes, it is very convoluted and not very believable. I presume the point is to keep us jacked up, to keep us in suspense. But it doesn't work that way for me. I start laughing when it gets too ridiculous.

How does Wo Fat (the big bad guy) know McGarrett is there? What is Wo Fat doing in the governor's mansion? Does he live there? It doesn't make any sense. He just shows up, out of the blue, or out of the night, and zaps Steve with a taser, knocks him him, picks up his gun and shoots the governor, then puts the gun in Steve's hand, presumably so Steve's fingerprints will be on the gun.

But wait. Isn't Steve wearing gloves? How is it that Steve doesn't hear Wo Fat come in or sense his presence? Isn't Steve highly trained? The scene has McGarrett stupid and vulnerable for the sake of the plot.

So the story doesn't work on its own terms. I don't know if I can keep watching. It is so hard to find movies and TV shows that are not idiotic. Maybe I'll keep watching. If I can.

Today, I'm trying to watch the next episode, where Steve is in prison, and the guards conspire to let in his father's killer, who tries to kill Steve.

Wait! Say what? How the hell did that happen?

I wouldn't say the show is stupid, but it does assume that the audience is not going to question its credibility, that the audience is going to be exceptionally gullible.

I think I'm going to call it "GULLIBLE'S TRAVELS." 

For me, the lack of believability takes the fun out of it.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


GOP front runner Mitt Romney and his wife paid $3-million in federal taxes on $21-million income for 2010, according to the L.A. Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-romney-releases-tax-returns-20120124,0,4945167.story 

Gee, things are tough all over, huh?

How do they manage to live on such a small amount? Only $21. Wait, it was $21-MILLION!

Holy crap!

Where is my private jet? My mansions? Remember when a reporter asked then-GOP presidential candidate John McCain how many houses he and his wife owned? He said, "I'll get back to you on that." He didn't even know. Yeah, things are tough all over. Turned out, they owned seven.

Isn't it wonderful that these big-time GOP honchos get their hands dirty, just like the rest of us? How do they even know who we are? How do they know what our lives are like? How do they know what our problems are?

My advice to Romney: Put all your holdings in a blind trust, and cut off your family's access to all your wealth. No income for five years, and GET A JOB!

BTW, that was the premise for an old movie, with Joel McCrea, in which a rich man travels around the USA as a bum during the Great Depression. The character learned something about real people, ordinary people, the salt of the earth.

I wonder if Mitt would learn anything. I doubt it. But we'll never know. That will never happen, not in the money-driven world of GOP politics. Too bad.

Yeah, things are tough all over. Especially for us voters.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Monday, January 16, 2012


The confessed killer Joran van der Sloot got off too easy, in my opinion. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison in Peru for the murder of a young Peruvian woman.

More than likely, he also murdered Natalee Holloway. After he gets out of prison--he could be eligible for parole in nine years--he could be extradited to the USA and tried for the Holloway murder.

In my opinion, he is a psychopath who is likely to kill again, if he ever gets the chance.

He is the reason why the death penalty was invented. That is the only way to stop him, in my opinion. He is 23 now and could be 32 when released. If he is not brought to the U.S. and convicted, he could be on the loose. Even if he served the entire 28 years, he would be only be 51 when released, young enough to kill again. Psychopaths don't have any reason to reform. (See Robert D. Hare's book "Without Conscience.")

In theory, I am dubious about the value of the death penalty. But not in his case. He should be sent to the great beyond, to the happy hunting ground, as soon as possible.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Friday, January 13, 2012


I finally finished trying to struggle through THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES of 2010, edited by Richard Russo, who is a fairly well known writer.

If these are the best, I'd hate to see the worst.

As I said before, on Dec. 28, I loved the first story, by Steve Almond, about a shrink who is a compulsive and self-destructive gambler. It was great, the most fun I've had reading a short story in years.

I have waded through the first pages of all the rest, but have not found one that I liked. I did read a couple more all the way through. But I can't even remember them. 

Not one of the rest made me care, and that is the first job of the writer, to make the reader care. If the reader doesn't care -- about the characters, the story, the dilemma, the story problem, the writing, or something -- you have failed. The reader is not going to read on.

Life is too short, and we are way too busy.

As I used to tell my reporters, when I was the editor of a weekly newspaper, the first question any reader asks himself/herself is, 'Why should I give a damn?'

The best way to answer that question is to show the central character in motion, trying to cope with a moral dilemma or serious problem. The first opening that comes to mind is Shakespeare's Hamlet: "Who's there?"

Then we find Hamlet, essentially a college-age boy who comes home from abroad and finds that apparently his uncle has murdered Hamlet's father, the king, and married his mother, the queen.

Now what the hell does he do? Therein lies a tale, as they say.

There is a lot of competition out there, and as a writer you should meet it head-on, with all guns blazing. Don't come half-steppin', and don't be firin' blanks.

Otherwise, the reader is going to drift away, or run away. As my old acting coach, Alex Bruhansky, used to say, "You can do anything, but you can't be boring."

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Monday, January 9, 2012


Today I heard Madeleine Brand on NPR's Pasadena, CA, station, KPCC-FM, talking about how much better Finnish schools are than those in the USA.

In Finnish schools, kids start later, at age 7, spend less time in school and do less homework. They do more creative play. Yet they do better.

Why is that? See this article in the Atlantic:

I have been a teacher off and on for 40 years, mostly part-time and mostly at junior colleges, universities, extension schools, and one adult school, since I got my master's degree in 1972, so I know a little about teaching. I hold a lifetime junior-college CA teaching credential and renewable adult-school credential.

There is so much baloney in the U.S. about education. Most of the reform ideas are ridiculous. In my opinion, good teaching requires four things:
  1. Teachers who care about the students and want them to succeed. (Many don't.)
  2. Teachers who are passionate about their subject matter and know it well. (Ditto.)
  3. Teachers who constantly engage students, so the students are awake and alive and involved while they learn. No passive learning. Learning should be fun.
  4. Students who are well fed, rested, prepared by previous experience and able to learn.
Most of the rest is hokum.

Why is the good old USA plagued with such silly ideas in so many areas--foreign policy, health care, drug policy, education, politics, visual art? I don't know. Good question.

We seem incapable of using common sense and basing our policies on logic and facts.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I can't believe it. I've spent my life--I'm 73--trying to master my craft as a poet, writer and novelist, and these young people come along and they are not even playing the same game.

Their rules are different, if they have any, and so are their sensibilities.

Take a look at Amelia Gray, soon to have a new novel out by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in March: http://vimeo.com/19614728

Here are three quotes from "Threats" (these are apparently notes from a wife who is leaving her husband):

"I am testing for structural weakness in your skull.... I will hold my finger half an inch away from your left eye until the end of days.... I will lock you in a room that looks very much like your own until it begins to fill with water...."

I can't believe it. This seems to be performance writing. I don't get the appeal. On that video, people are laughing and cheering, like this is great stuff, as if this is enlightening, as if it expresses their own feelings. But the writing seems shallow and superficial and tossed-off, without thought or craft or any intention at deeper meaning.

I can't believe professional editors at a major publishing house are spending time and money on this writing and putting their reputation behind it. Amazing.

It reminds me of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer, a novel that I hated. It has now become a big-time movie. Here are my notes, from when I first tried to read it:

Extremely erudite and incredibly clever, at first, then too clever for its own good. I loved it for 18 pages, then the meta-fictional elements started to turn me off. Oh, it is so, so, so damn clever. A brilliant 10-year-old who speaks French and turns everything into an intellectual game tries to deal with his grief. The series of pages with just a phrase on each one breaks the “fourth-wall” illusion that is necessary to fiction. The photo of the doorknob is so tedious, boring, and banal.

Yes, this novel is clever, in a way, but it’s so pleased with its own cleverness that it becomes boring and stupid. Sorry, Mr. Foer, wrong number. I lasted about 75 pages. It got to be a chore to read, not a pleasure, which is what fiction is all about. I’m not the right reader for this kind of book. You need a left-brain person who is tickled to be in on the joke. I get it, but I don’t care.

Where does this leave old writers like myself? I have no clue. Maybe the world is just moving on. I am reminded of a scene in a movie, "No Country For Old Men":

"You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you..."

It isn't all waiting on me, that's for sure.

-- Roger

Monday, January 2, 2012


Today, I read in the New York Review of Books (9/29/11, Page 27) that we in the USA spend about $80-billion a year fighting what we perceive as terrorism, not including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and other military efforts around the world.

According to David Cole, a professor of law at Georgetown U., estimates put the total number of Al Qaeda and its sympathizers in the whole world at 3,000 to 5,000 people.

"That means we are spending between $16-million and $27-milllion per year on each potential terrorist."

Does that seem insane to you? It does to me.

Why don't we just bribe them? If you offered me a million bucks a year to change my mind about some foreign country I didn't like, I sure as hell would think about it. If they won't take our stupid money, why don't we assassinate them? We seem to be pretty good at that.

Our nation--the good old USA--is driven by fear out of all proportion to the threat. We are a nation of scaredy cats. What a bunch of gutless wonders.

Something happens to our collective consciousness when we all try to act together. We show no courage and no common sense.

It makes me sad and ashamed.

-- Roger

Copyright © 2012, Roger R. Angle