Monday, January 31, 2011

Amazing Facts About the Green Bay Packers

Earl L. Curly Lambeau

Dear George,

We are excited about the Super Bowl this weekend between our beloved Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are the Bengals’ arch-nemesis, and there’s no doubt where our loyalties lie. It’s Wisconsin vs. Pennsylvania, the north central vs. the east, the small city vs. the megalopolis, the lumberjacks vs. the steel drivers, the Scandinavians vs. the Germans. We hope that everybody will join us in cheering on the Pack. Here are some facts about our favorite team.



  • The Green Bay Packers were founded on Aug. 11, 1919, by former high school football rivals, Earl “Curly” Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun. The Packers were granted a franchise on Aug. 27, 1921, in the new national pro football league that had been founded a year before. They are the second oldest franchise in the NFL.
  • The Indian Packing Company contributed $250 for uniforms and equipment under the condition that the team be named for its sponsor. When the firm was later purchased by the Acme Packing Company, the team became known as the Acme Packers.
  • The Packers are the only community-owned non-profit franchise in all of American professional sports.
  • To insure that the club remains in Green Bay, the Packers’ contract stipulates that, if the team were to be sold, all of the profits would go to the American Legion to build a soldier’s memorial in Green Bay.
  • Between 1929 and 1931 the Packers won 30 home games in a row, an NFL record which still stands today.
  • The Packers have won 12 World Championships, the most in the NFL (the Bears are second with 9).
  • Don Hutson starred as an end for the Packers from 1935 to 1945, leading the league in receptions for 8 seasons and leading the team to NFL championships in 1936, 1939, and 1944.

Bart Starr, Quarterback

  • Vince Lombardi became the Packer head coach on Feb. 2, 1959, and led the team to five NFL championships over a seven-year span, including victories in the first two Super Bowls. Prominent players in the Lombardi era included Bart Starr, Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Jerry Kramer, Ray Nitschke, and Herb Adderly, among others.
  • Curly Lambeau had attended Notre Dame and used his college colors (navy blue and gold) for his new Packer team. Vince Lombardi changed the team colors to green and gold in 1959.
  • The Packers are the only team to win three consecutive NFL titles: 1929-30-31 under Curly Lambeau and 1965-66-67 (under Vince Lombardi.
  • After a drought from 1968 to 1991, the new head coach Mike Holmgren acquired quarterback Brett Favre from the Falcons, and Favre reinvigorated the Pack, leading them to 13 non-losing seasons and to Super Bowls in 1996 and 1997.
  • Despite widespread injuries this year to starting players, quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a 10-6 season, followed by playoff victories over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Chicago Bears.
  • The Packers have the NFL’s best team playoff winning percentage (.636) since the NFL introduced the playoffs in 1967.
  • Though they have the smallest local TV market in the NFL, the Packers remain one of the league’s most popular teams. Games at Lambeau Field have sold out for the last fifty years, and there are about 74,000 people on the waiting list for seasons tickets.
  • The average wait time for Packers season tickers is over 30 years, and it is common for Green Bay parents of newborn infants to place their offspring on the list.
  • During training camp in Green Bay, fans can bring their bikes to the locker room and ask their favorite players ride them to the practice field.


G-Mail Comments

-Gayle CL (1-31): David....As usual you perform your talents perfectly........I m glad u r in it to win it.......thx for the short documentary:)))))I. Hope ur team wins;)))) Lots of love;_)))

Friday, January 28, 2011

At the Lake's Edge

Dear George,

I’ve been busy taking photos for a while now, and I’ve dabbled in all sorts of topics, from neighborhood streets to orchids at the Krohn Conservatory to friendly elephants at the Zoo. I seem to get most pleasure out of taking pictures of nature in nearby parks and forests. Partly I like to be in the woods. But also it’s challenging to find views that are unusual and aesthetically appealing. The products remind me of abstract art, filled with a jumble of colors and shapes that are pleasing to look at and untouched by human design. Most recently I’ve been taking pictures along the shoreline of Burnet Woods Lake in the winter, here in our Clifton neighborhood. Here are some of the lake’s edge photos I like best.



G-Mail Comments

- Jennifer M (1-29): Nice photos.

-Phyllis SS (1-29): Dave, I find these really lovely. phyllis-

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mikey Gets Some Healing Touches

Dear George,

The sheepdogs are older than they were before. They’ll be 9 at the end of April, which is getting close to 65 in human years. Duffy’s mellowed with age and Mike’s gotten more assertive, though they’re still clear about who’s boss. Their groomer Marcy complains that the dogs are hard to comb out because they have difficulty standing for long periods and Mike, in particular, has arthritis pain in his hindquarters and gets snippy. When I ask her if she thinks I should take Mike to the vet, she says that would be a waste of time and money. Marcy favors alternative medicine. For years she’s sent us e-mails about the dangers of commercial dog food, the poisons contained in vaccines, why herbs are better than antibiotics, why vets are mistrained, etc. On several occasions she’s recommended a doctor in Kentucky for Mike and Duffy who’s a dog chiropractor. We haven’t taken her advice because we’re happy with our more conventional vet, but at the dogs’ last grooming Marcy had more trouble than usual and said she would definitely take Mike to see Dr. Hatfield if he were her dog. She gave me the chiropractor’s phone number in rural Kentucky. Worried, I made an appointment.

On the morning of our expedition, I got a call from my friend Norris who is a native Kentuckian. I told him where we were going, and Norris reminded me of the movie “Deliverance” (in which some naive city-dwellers take a canoe trip into the wilds of rural Georgia, only to be preyed upon by deranged killers). Norris cautioned me that I should be prepared for the worst, and, while he was joking around as he usually does, I had a slight tinge of anxiety as I crossed the Ohio River. Dr. Hatfield’s office was thirty miles away, located on a gravel road off the highway in an isolated country setting. As I drove up the driveway, there was a large sign that referred to things like sacred auras and healing touches. I wondered what I was getting into, and I seriously considered turning around and leaving. I’d say I’m a bipolar opposite to a sacred healing touch person. However, I had driven thirty miles, so I gritted my teeth and went in.

There was a statue of St. Francis, patron saint of the animals, on the front porch and a Tree of Life and lots of potted plants in the waiting room. Not tasteful but homey. One client was waiting there with a German Shepherd with two broken front legs. Mike wanted to say hello, but the man said his dog doesn’t like other dogs. After a while Dr. Hatfield came out, and we exchanged introductions. Then he said, “And who is this?” I introduced Mike to him and thought to myself, “Here’s a vet who greets dogs as if they’re human beings.” That seemed good. Marcy had told me that Dr. Hatfield is mainly a cow doctor, and, according to the Internet, he has a reputation as the best cow chiropractor in the region. I think he probably treats dogs on the side because the cow business doesn’t keep him fully occupied. He asked a few questions about Mike, then said he’d be ready in five minutes. He had a gentle, down to earth manner.

When we went in, Mrs. Hatfield was there too, and they lifted Mike up on a carpeted platform. After numerous background questions, Dr. Hatfield began feeling Mike’s entire body, pressing here and there, checking him out. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was doing chiropractic “adjustments” in the course of his examination. He noted almost immediately that Mike’s right pelvis was out of alignment, and that was a source of numerous other problems – weaknesses in both his front knees, swollen muscles in his shoulders (from pulling with his front legs to compensate for his weak back legs), pain throughout his back and rear legs, etc. Husband and wife were very gentle with Mike, and I was surprised at how calm Mike was in return. Dr. Hatfield told me everything he was discovering as he went along. I’d never had a vet be so thorough and informative about details of a dog’s condition. He said Mike had a lot of interrelated problems that needed to be addressed. At the end of it, he said he’d gotten Mike’s pelvis back into place, and he hoped he would be walking less painfully. He gave me a follow-up exercise regimen, and I made future appointments for four and eight weeks later. I seemed to be turning into a chiropractic practitioner without knowing exactly what was in store.

Mike appeared to be o.k. that evening, and I went to sleep pleased that I’d taken him for treatment. Either I dreamed it or perhaps it really happened, but at 4 a.m. I experienced Mike pawing at the side of the bed, and, when I got out of bed to help him in, it felt like his back legs were collapsing under him. Mike went right to sleep, but I lay there in a cold sweat, imagining that his chiropractic adjustments had popped out and that he was crippled. I debated in my mind whether I should call our regular vet in the morning or rush Mike back to Dr. Hatfield, but concluded that we’d probably have to have Mike put down in either case. When I finally woke up at 7 a.m., Duffy jumped out of bed, but Mike just lay there on his side. When he finally started to get up, I held my breath, but he seemed to be moving around all right. I was relieved when he ambled down the stairs.

Now I watch Mike with a careful eye. Sometimes he seems a little better, sometimes he seems his normal self, but he rarely seems worse. I’m sort of eager to get him back to Dr. Hatfield to see how he’s doing. I talked to a friend who takes her border collie to a chiropractor. She’s been pleased with the results, but she’s had to go back seven or eight times. I didn’t think I’d ever be a convert to sacred healing touches. I suppose this means that old dogs can learn new tricks after all.



*Pseudonyms used in this story

Friday, January 21, 2011

Don Hutson: Packer Legend

Don Hutson, Green Bay Packers

Dear George,

We’re very excited that the Green Bay Packers are playing Chicago this Sunday for the NFC championship. Menominee, my hometown, is a mere 45 miles north of Green Bay, right in the midst of Packerland, and everybody there is fanatic about the Packers. Katja and I got married during the Vince Lombardi era, and my parents took us to games at Lambeau Field each time we came home in the Autumn, including the famous Ice Bowl in which the Packers defeated Dallas for the NFL Championship in minus fifteen degree weather. We mourned Brett Favre’s departure for a couple of years, but now we’ve shifted our loyalties to Aaron Rodgers. Like most kids in Menominee at the time, I’d followed the Packers in the late 1940s, even though the NFL was nothing like it is today. My boyhood hero was Don Hutson who many regard as the greatest Packer of all times.

Here are some facts. Don Hutson grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He played only one year of high school football and was better known among his peers for his collection of pet rattlesnakes. He weighed only 160 pounds, but he got to go to the University of Alabama because one of his heavily recruited classmates told the coach he would only come there if Hutson came too. Hutson went, became an All-American in his junior and senior years, and wound up more celebrated than Alabama’s other starting end, Paul (Bear) Bryant (one of football’s most famous coaches).

The NFL had no draft back then, and new players could sign with any team they chose. Curly Lambeau, coach of the Packers, went to the Rose Bowl each year to scout promising prospects. In the January 1935 Rose Bowl game Don Hutson caught seven passes, two of them for touchdowns, and Alabama upset Stanford, 29-13. While most NFL players at the time were paid $100 a game, Lambeau signed Hutson for $175 a game. It was kind of a fluke. Hutson had also signed a contract with the Brooklyn team, but the Packer contract arrived by mail 17 minutes earlier at NFL headquarters, and so the commissioner honored it.

Hutson played with the Packers for 11 seasons from 1935 to 1945. He was an end on offense, a safety on defense, and the team’s kicker. On the first play in his first pro game Hutson scored an 83-yard touchdown reception against the Bears. His Packer teams won national championships in 1936, 1939, and 1944, and Hutson was voted to the NFL’s All-Pro team in 9 of his 11 seasons. A charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he still holds the records today for leading the league in receptions for most seasons (8) and most consecutive seasons (5), most seasons leading in scoring (5) and leading in touchdowns (8), most points scored in a quarter (29), and the highest career average for wide receiver in touchdowns per game (0.85). These records are astonishing when one realizes that this was an era when teams usually passed only on third down and then only when they needed long yardage.

Curly Lambeau & Staff, 1947 (D. Hutson on left)

When Hutson retired in 1945, he was earning $15,000 a year, a huge salary at the time. He spent two years as an assistant coach for the Packers, then became wealthy as the owner of an auto dealership and bowling lanes in Racine, Wis. The Packers named their indoor practice facility “the Don Hutson Center” in 1994. General manager Ron Wolf said, “He most certainly was the greatest player in the history of this franchise.” In 1999 Sporting News ranked Hutson sixth on their list of the 100 Greatest Football Players of all times. Hutson was a very quiet man and never spoke much about his accomplishments. According to the NY Times, his mother remarked, “He wouldn’t say two words in an A-bomb attack. He doesn’t talk unless he has something to say.” Don Hutson died in Rancho Mirage, CA, on June 26, 1997. He lives on in many football fans’ memories.



Sources: Wikipedia; NY Times obituary (6-27-97);

G-Mail Comments

-Ami G (1-21): Don't forget to root for the Jets, too!

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK Jr. Day #26

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the 1963 March on Washington

Dear George,

This is the 26th year since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was first celebrated as a federal holiday. Interestingly, Senators Jesse Helms of NC and John McCain of AZ were the most vocal initial opponents to the bill. Arizonans voted against observing the federal MLK holiday in 1990, whereupon the National Football League moved Super Bowl XXVII from Tempe to Pasadena’s Rose Bowl. In 1991 New Hampshire, the other state to not celebrate the holiday, introduced “Civil Rights Day”, then finally changed the name to “Martin Luther King Day” in 1999. Virginia instituted Lee-Jackson-King Day, and Mississippi still has a combined celebration of M. L. King Jr. and Robert E. Lee Day. South Carolina made King’s birthday an official state holiday in 2000, becoming the last state in the nation to recognize the day as a paid holiday for state employees. Prior to 2000, SC workers chose between celebrating MLK day or one of three Confederate holidays.

Here is a quiz to test ourselves on how much we know about Martin Luther King Jr. Some questions are easy, some pretty hard. So far the highest score is 8 out of 11. Will anybody top that?



QUIZ (answers at end)

1. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name at birth was:

(a) Martin Arthur King Jr.

(b) Martin Luther King Jr.

(c) Marvin King Jr.

(d) Michael King Jr.

2. In 1951 King received his B.A. degree in _____ from _____ _____.

(a) Divinity; Tuskegee University

(b) History; Fisk University

(c) Sociology; Morehouse College

(d) Theology; Howard University

3. On June 18, 1953, King married Coretta Scott, an alumnus of ______.

(a) Antioch College

(b) Howard University

(c) University of Cincinnati

(d) Yale University

4. King was a(n) _____ minister.

(a) Baptist

(b) Church of Christ

(c) Episcopal

(d) Methodist

5. King’s philosophy of nonviolence was based on the teachings of:

(a) Indira Ghandi

(b) Mahatma Ghandi

(c) Martin Luther

(d) Pandit Nehru

6. Martin Luther King Jr. gained national prominence in 1955 as a leader of:

(a) the Albany (GA) protest movement

(b) the Birmingham campaign

(c) The Montgomery Bus Boycott

(d) The Selma voter registration drive

7. King was one of the founders and the first president of the:

(a) Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)

(b) National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

(c) Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)

(d) Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

8. The FBI began wiretapping King’s telephone calls in 1963 under a written directive from:

(a) J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director

(b) Lyndon Johnson, Vice-President

(c) Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General

(d) Richard Nixon, Vice-President

9. King’s close colleagues and friends included all but one of the following. Which one?

(a) Ralph Aberrnathy

(b) Malcolm X

(c) Bayard Rustin

(d) Andrew Young

10. On the day before his assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968, which of the following speeches did Martin Luther King Jr. give?

(a) “Beyond Vietnam”

(b) “I Have a Dream”

(c) “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”

(d) “We Shall Overcome”

11. How many American towns and cities have streets named after Martin Luther King Jr.?

(a) 147

(b) 319

(c) 581

(d) 730


1. (d) Michael King Jr. When King was 5 his family visited Germany, and his father, named Michael King up to that time, changed both their names to Martin Luther King to honor the Protestant reformer.

2. (c) Sociology; Morehouse College. A precocious student, King skipped the 9th and 12th grades and entered Morehouse College without graduating high school. He graduated with his Sociology degree at age 19, then entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, PA, where he obtained a Bachelor of Divinity degree. He received his PhD in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955.

3. (a) Antioch College. Coretta Scott King was an alumnus of Antioch where her older sister Edythe had been the first African-American to enroll on a fully integrated basis in 1943. Coretta Scott King became an important leader in the civil rights movement herself, particularly after her husband’s death.

4. (a) Baptist. King’s father, Martin Luther King Sr., was the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and an early civil rights leader. King Jr. acknowledged his father’s strong influence on his decision to enter the ministry. King Jr. became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery in 1954 at age 25.

5. (b) Mahatma Ghandi. Leader of the Indian National Congress, Ghandi advocated a philosophy and strategy for social change that rejected the use of violence and advocated education, civil disobedience, and nonviolent direct action. Ghandi led the decades-long nonviolent struggle against British rule in India, eventually resulting in India’s independence in 1947.

6. (c) The Montgomery Bus Boycott. King was a leader of the Montgomery protest which was precipitated on Dec. 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white person on a Montgomery city bus. The boycott lasted over a year until the Supreme Court ruled that segregated buses were unconstitutional. King’s house was firebombed during the boycott, as were four black Baptist churches. King went to play major leadership roles in the Albany movement (1961), the Birmingham campaign (1963), the Selma protest (1964-65), and numerous other movement events.

7. (c) Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King, Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, and other civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. The group was created to harness the moral authority and organizing power of black churches to conduct nonviolent protests to accomplish civil rights reform. There were often dramatic confrontations with segregationist authorities, some of which turned violent. King led the SCLC until his death in 1968.

8. (c) Robert F. Kennedy. When J. Edgar Hoover claimed that some of King’s close advisors were communists, Attorney General Kennedy, who was strongly committed to civil rights, warned King to discontinue suspect associations and later felt compelled to issue a written directive authorizing the FBI to wiretap King and other SCLC leaders. No evidence of communist activity or influence was found.

9. (b) Malcolm X. Malcolm X rejected the goal of integration and was highly critical of the civil rights movement, calling its leaders “stooges” for the white establishment and labeling the 1963 March on Washington, led by King, “the farce on Washington.”

10. (c) “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” On the day before his assassination, King delivered his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” address. In response to a recent bomb threat, he said, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will…I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

11. (d) 730. Over 730 towns and cities in the U.S. have streets named for King. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the American Liberties Medallion from the American Jewish Committee in 1965, the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. King was Time’s Person of the Year in 1963 and was second in Gallup’s List of Widely Admired People in the 20th century.

G-Mail Comments

-Vicki L (1-17): Hi David, How about this? Today I went to a yoga class at 'Nourish' where I attend yoga twice a week and avail myself of 55 minute massages. The class is always full, the teacher ('Victor'), both serious and whimsical. During our postures he generally plays some sort of music....Meditational/New Age, Fun-loving or Otherwise. The 'Otherwise' today consisted of Martin Luther King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech, interspersed with gospel and other related music. I wanted to have chills but instead thought Martin should stop shouting at me while I was trying to focus on my postures. Then, of course, as a young adult of the 60's, I felt a sense of guilt for the remainder of the class. At the same time, I was really happy that the days of MLK were brought alive for us all to remember.

Thanks for your contribution. Love, Vicki

-Gayle C-L (1-17): David......very cool letter except if I knew there was going to be a quiz I would have studied.... In any event I didn't do so well..My memory seems to have taken a few steps back;))))))

Hope u all are well.....Love.....G

-JML (1-17): 5 for me. Very disappointing…

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Recession Hits Home

Dear George,

Recently, for the fun of it, I made a list of places I frequent most often. Our house, of course, was number one. Number two was Keller’s IGA which is three blocks down the street from us on Ludlow Avenue. When my parents-in-law, Helen and Buck, moved to Cincinnati and took an apartment on Bryant St., Buck would make a daily trek to Kellers to pick up a half-pint of cream or a dozen eggs. It got him out of the apartment, provided a little exercise, and added a sense of purpose to his daily routine. I find myself doing the same thing. I go to Kellers just about every day, and I like to buy our groceries in quantities of three or four items per trip. Kellers is the mainstay of the community. It not only provides Cliftonites with their life essentials, but the personnel are friendly and it’s sort of a gathering place for the neighborhood. There’s no other location where you’re so likely to run into persons you know, or even just see familiar strangers.

You can imagine my dismay when a friend called twelve days ago to tell us that Kellers had been shut down. The story soon hit the news. Keller’s was $136,000 in arrears in its taxes, and the county commissioners had padlocked the door. Revenues had dropped 8 or 9% in the past two years due to competition with mega-grocery stores as well as shoppers shifting to less expensive generic products. We hoped that the closing would be for two or three days, but nearly two weeks have gone by. A printed notice from the management on the front door says they’d tried to negotiate a plan for repayment with the state, but the deal had fallen through.

Keller’s mostly empty parking lot

Our neighborhood without a grocery store is hard to imagine. All neighborhoods need a grocery store. Its potential loss makes Clifton a less desirable place to live, and, as the biggest draw to the business section, the store’s departure would harm all the adjoining businesses. Even the panhandlers who have clustered around Kellers high-traffic entrance for years must be feeling a severe pinch. There’s a Kroger superstore a mile and a half away, but the many elderly persons and students in the neighborhood don’t have transportation available, and there’s not even a bus line that goes there. Plus the biggest building in our business district is sitting there dark and closed, a symbol of community loss and decline.

For the most part, the recession for us has been something abstract we’ve read about each day in the newspaper, but now its consequences stare us directly in the eye. We desperately hope that Kellers will reopen. But each day that goes by gets us more nervous about its prospects.



G-Mail Comments

-Vicki L (1-15): Hi David, At first I thought these were old pics from Menominee - our very own IGA story (Nieman's?).... and then along came Angeli's. My neighborhood market which is also a very social spot may go under because Whole Foods Market has moved into the territory along with a newly expanded Staff of Life....both of which have more to offer than Shopper's except for meeting friends. Alas, sorry for your loss. I briefly fantasized you investing your savings in Keller's - it could become a version of L**** Drugs ... the doggies could hang out there and greet the happy customers. Why build a portfolio when you can offer a half barrel of kosher pickles?... Love, Vicki

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Meening Of Liferotten Tomatoes

Dear George,

Doing a blog is sort of weird. You post a story, and it simply zooms off into the electronic netherworld. Unless somebody replies with a comment or an e-mail, you have absolutely no idea where it goes, who sees it, how many people it reaches, etc. I haven’t worried about this much, but it is strange.

The other day, just by chance, I ran across a web-site called that offers more blog-relevant information that one could imagine. Alexa tracks traffic on the Internet, and it gives you specific details about how many times people have done an Internet search that has connected with your website. That sounded interesting so I typed in my blog’s address. Sure enough, Alexa not only knew of us, but she knew more about us than I do. At first it was sort of discouraging. It turns out that Letters for George ranks number 17,472,138 in terms of its number of hits from Internet searchers. Not completely impressive (though one might have predicted it based on my paltry number of Facebook friends). I let this discovery sink in for a day or two, then did some more research. Actually things started looking up. According to, there are currently over 182 million web-sites on the Internet. So, if Letters for George gets searched more often than 165 million sites, that means it’s in the top 10%. Then I checked with, and I discovered that there are 95,700,000 porn sites on the Internet (no kidding). The implication, of course, is that Letters for George is more popular than at least 78 million porn sites. Amazing! I wish Alexa would break it down that way, but she doesn’t seem much interested in porn.

Alexa does have a lot of other info to offer. For example, I learned that the single query that has led Internet searchers most frequently to Letters for George is: “the meening of liferotten tomatoes.” Who would have guessed that? The three websites that have received the most traffic for this query are: (1) Rotten Tomatoes (34.75%); (2) Wikipedia (18.73%); and (3) Letters for George (15.06%). That’s definitely good company. On the other hand, it’s probably not that often that people search for “the meening of liferotten tomatoes.” The other most popular search queries that got directed to Letters for George were “rockman oil paintings on ebay”, “mainstreet mysteries winter wi,” “elementary days game shota,” and “Santa Monica gyms.” A little idiosyncratic, to be sure, but I would note that I’ve written about Rockman, e-bay, main street, winter, elementary school days, Santa Claus, and gyms from time to time.

So exactly what is the meening of all this? Unfortunately I don’t know. All in all, I find the Internet a vast mystery, and the more I fiddle around with it, the more mysterious it becomes. My aim for the coming year is to become the sixteen millionth most popular site for Internet searchers. That’s an extremely ambitious goal -- to advance 1.5 million places. It fills my mind with delirium and agitation.



Thursday, January 6, 2011

Best and Worst Movies of 2010

Bad Lieutenant (The Best)

Dear George,

Katja and I have been inveterate movie-goers since our first date at the Yellow Springs Art Theater in 1957. With our friend Donna, we have a Friday night movie club and try to see the best opening movie each week. Here are my picks for the six best movies we saw in 2010 (and for the six worst). I’ll admit that my companions wouldn’t agree with a lot of my choices, nor do Roger Ebert, Rex Reed, or any other professional critic that I’ve been able to locate. However, this is a pretty good list nonetheless.

The Best Six

#1. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Nicholas Cage. Cage does a magnificent job as a rogue New Orleans detective who is devoted to his job but steadily self-destructs in the course of his complex intermeshing with vicious drug dealers, thugs, and police authorities, many of whom are compelling character studies in their own right.

#2. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Noomi Rapace. A powerful Swedish tycoon employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and troubled computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate the disappearance of his 16-year-old niece from a family gathering forty years earlier, only to have unfold a dark and appalling family history involving Nazism, rape, incest, serial murders, and men’s bestiality toward women.

#3. Shutter Island. Leonardo DiCaprio. Two U.S. marshals come to a barren island off Boston harbor to investigate the mysterious disappearance of an insane child murderess from the island’s fortress-like hospital for the criminally insane, and the mysterious, terrifying events in this subtle psychological thriller play havoc with one’s sense of reality.

#4. The Girl Who Played With Fire. A dark, gripping thriller in which Lisbeth Salander’s fingerprints are on the gun used in the murder of two reporters and her ghoulish father returns to threaten her life.

#5. The Social Network. Jesse Eisenberg. An excellently paced, amazing true story of how Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg invented a global social network, became the youngest billionaire in history, and experienced numerous personal and legal complications.

#6. Secretariat. Diane Lane. In 1973 owner Penny Chenery Tweedy and trainer Lucien Laurin guide the longshot but precocious stallion in an effort to set the unbeaten record for winning the Triple Crown – manages to be filled with suspense even though everybody knows the ending.

I Love You Phillip Morris (Best of 2011 so far)

Also Near the Top

#7. The King’s Speech. Colin Firth.

#8. I Love You Phillip Morris. Jim Carrey.

#7. Please Give. Catherine Keener,

#9. Knight and Day. Tom Cruise.

#10. The Messenger. Ben Foster.

#11. The Most Dangerous Man in America. Daniel Ellsberg.

#12. Exit Through the Gift Shop. Shepard Fairey.

#13. Salt. Angelina Jolie.

#14. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Daniel Radcliffe.

#15. Stone. Robert De Niro.

Harry Brown (The Worst)

The Six Worst (of those we saw)

#6. Edge of Darkness. Mel Gibson. Apart from the lead actor whose private life grows sleazier by the day, an often inaudible soundtrack, and a perverted mix of maximum violence with a hyper-religious ending, this movie about a Bostom homicide detective whose daughter is killed does hold the viewer’s attention and manages to kill off just about everybody, bad guys and good.

#5. Winter’s Bone. Jennifer Lawrence. Despite rave reviews from the critics, I found this treatment of a Missouri Ozarks teen’s search for her missing father in order to save the family home to be a disturbing depiction of a hidden part of America – filmed nicely, but too slow, too boring, and relentlessly unpleasant.

#4. Going the Distance. Drew Barrymore. Some amusing touches about a long distance affair between two lovers in NYC and San Francisco, but gross sexual humor and Justin Long’s failure as the romantic lead pretty much doom the effort.

#3. Mother. Kim Hye-Ja. A single mother’s slow-witted 27-year-old son Do-joon follows a young girl down a dark alley, only to be arrested and jailed for her murder, whereupon his devoted mother sets out to find the girl’s killer and prove her son’s innocence, only to lead us along on the most boring and incoherent quest in movie history.

#2. Eat Pray Love. Julia Roberts. While my companions loved newly divorced Liz Gilbert’s world journey in search of self-discovery, nourishment, and love, I found Liz to be self-indulgent and her quest a pain in the neck.

#1. Harry Brown. Michael Caine. This is a dark, mean-spirited vengeance movie in which the problem of youth violence is addressed by a senior citizen blasting teens away with his assault rifle.

I suppose my choices are a little idiosyncratic. I might have rated Bad Lieutenant #1 because I’m a long-time Nicholas Cage fan and it was filmed in the dark in New Orleans. Most critics praised Winter’s Bone, and put it among the top 5 for the year (sometimes #1), but I thought it was dreary and painful. Katja and Donna were thrilled by Eat Pray Love, but I was grumpy. I thoroughly disliked Mother, which our local paper gave an A to (because they try to trick people to going to movies by Korean or Romanian film makers). Probably what this demonstrates is that movie evaluations, like everything else, are pretty subjective. But that’s what it’s all about.



G-Mail Comments

-Donna D (1-8): david, this ended up in my spam! so i just saw it. honestly, i don't think i saw bad lieutenant, so i'm going to rent it soon and see what you loved about it so much.

-David W (1-7-11): i hate nicolas cage and everything he's ever done-he should get a one way ticket to palooka ville- except leaving las vegas---you are a horrible critic--winters bone was one of my favorites for the year---shutter island one of my least fav., horrible script, horrible direction-scorcese should just pack up and host quiz shows--and that second half-have you lost your marbles-granted some are ok like the docs but knight and day, harry potter, salt(which i actually paid money to see because i like brangelina---i may have to report you to rotten i also noticed that you did not see despicable me!!!!! double insult

-David L to David W (1-7-11): That’s the best e-mail comment of the year. I should send you the rest of my movie ratings, and you would get twice as outraged.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 Utmost Action Plan

Dear George,

It’s time to be thinking seriously about our New Year’s resolutions. I’ve had exactly the same resolutions every year for the last twenty years: (a) exercise more; (b) lose ten pounds. I haven’t had much success yet, though I keep trying. According to the research, 52% of people are confident they will accomplish their New Year’s goals, but only 12% actually do so. That sounds about right. I plan to try to improve my odds for 2011 by adding more possibilities. Here’s what my list looks like so far:

Take the dogs out for a 30 minute walk at least once each day.

Practice line dancing at home five times a week

Eat more peaches, nectarines, and figs

Learn to identify the trees of southwestern Ohio

Read 10 or more stories in the New York Times every day

Be more sociable at the fitness center

Clean up my cluttered home office

Learn details about how my camera works

Find 365 interesting new sites on the Internet

Drink 10 cups of water every day

Cut down on Lean Cuisines – cook my own meals twice a week

Have a hearty laugh every day

All of these are fine ideas. I’d have to accomplish at least two of them to get past 12%, but I have my doubts. The only one I have any certainty about is having a hearty laugh, and I’m not even certain about that. The big problem of New Year’s resolutions is that, while they sound positive, they are things that we aren’t doing right now for reasons that are hard to alter (e.g., forgetting, no time, too much effort, opposing habits, having to give up enjoyable things, etc.).

A more realistic strategy is to pick New Year’s resolutions you have a good chance of achieving. For example, I’d have no trouble brushing my teeth every night or waking up every day before 2 p.m. These things, of course, don’t require any change. But here are some possibilities that involve bigger adjustments:

Eat only things I enjoy like chocolate peanut clusters and McDonald’s Double Quarter-Pounder Cheeseburgers

Spend more and more time reliving the past

Try to be less helpful around the house

Generate more computer passwords (five single-spaced pages aren’t enough)

Repeat the same stories at every social gathering (even though it’s the same people)

Hide behind trees in Burnet Woods and watch passersby

Quadruple my meager number of Facebook friends (39)

Spend most of my monthly allowance on useless collectibles.

I’m sure I could do better than 12% on this list. Some of these might sound frivolous, e.g., hiding behind trees in Burnet Woods, but I got this idea from seeing people doing just that. Maybe I will take three items from my first list and three items from my second list. That would increase my chances of reaching 12%. I’ll report back at year’s end. I hope this gives you some good ideas about your own resolutions.



G-Mail Comments

-Jennifer M (1-3): Very good! When I was reading the first list, I wondered why you would set yourself up for so much frustration. The second list looks much better. Perhaps I'll borrow some of them. :-)