William Goldman was an optimist

One of my favorite quotes is from one of my favorite screenwriters. William Goldman, who wrote such brilliant scripts as “The Princess Bride”, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, and “All the President’s Men”, among others, once summed up his opinion about the state of affairs in the film business by saying:

Nobody knows anything. Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess—and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.

He was talking about Hollywood’s ability (or inability) to predict which movies would be hits and which bombs. His wisdom has proven accurate over the years.* Supposedly sure things with well known commodities as subject matter and bankable stars have soiled the proverbial bed. (Think “Jungle Cruise”, for just one instance.) There are several every year, just as there are several surprise hits. All this in spite of the focus groups, market research, and billions spent on advertising.

Let me suggest that Mr. Goldman, as much as I respect him and his acerbic opinions, was an optimist by limiting his comments to the film industry. Here are a few more fields where his insight applies just as well:

  • Medicine
  • Sports
  • Politics
  • Economics
  • Publishing
  • Weather forecasting
  • Religion
  • The list goes on and on…

Go ahead. Check “predictions” about what college quarterback will be a star. (Tom Brady? No way! That’s why he was drafted in the sixth round.) Ask ten economists how to solve some financial crisis and you’ll get a dozen plans. You can’t even get doctors to agree on whether a patient has multiple sclerosis, never mind how it will progress. (They don’t even know what it is.)

Even a field such as technology where there a lot of smart people (although I spent my professional career in high-tech, I wasn’t one of them) has had its share of gaffes. Check out this curiously entertaining list. The folks making those predictions were no slouches but they still got it wrong.

This is why as a child of the 60’s (okay, Boomer) I still abide by the motto, “Question Authority”. Especially in medicine. Especially in neurology. Especially in multiple sclerosis.

Your mileage may vary.

But probably not.


*With the possible exception of the pre-Disney Pixar, which produced hit after hit after hit… etc.

[Goldman photo by Bernard Gotfryd, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

Ultimate Christmas time-saver!

Like many of you out there, I’m addicted to Hallmark-style Christmas romance movies. They’re awfully acted, wretchedly written, dreadfully directed Christmas-cookie-cutter calamities. Yet, for reasons I can’t identify, I watch them anyway. (Admit it, you watch them, too.) I already wrote about my addiction in a post from a few years ago.

Other than “A Christmas Kiss”, the “Citizen Kane” of Christmas romance movies (from a non-Hallmark source, more recently and inexplicably renamed “A Kiss for Christmas”) they are a complete and total waste of time during a season when time is at a premium. We’re fortunate they’re all almost exactly only 90 minutes long or some people might never leave the house for the whole month of December.

This year, however, I’ve come up with the perfect time saver for addicts like me. As a public service, I’m passing along my findings to you, no charge. (I know, that kind of selfless anti-capitalist behavior isn’t in the modern Christmas spirit.) First, I found the following video at my local library: a collection of nine of these dogs on three DVDs in a single package.

Now here’s the tricky part. Hook up your DVD player(s) so they can read and play all nine movies at the same time! (How? You’ll have to work it out. Hey, I gave you the idea; I can’t do everything for you!) Once that’s all set, sit down and watch all nine movies in parallel. You just watched 810 minutes of miserable movies in 90 minutes, a time savings of 12 hours!

When I did this, other than a few scenes where characters seemed to have multiple shadows and the colors were a little funky, you can’t tell you’re watching multiple movies. That’s because, in reality, you aren’t! They really are all the same movie!*

There. My Christmas gift to you. You’re welcome.


*Seriously, two of the movies had the same actor as the male protagonist with the same irritating personality in the same job: a workaholic advertising executive. I’ll admit to giving up after that revelation. That’s another approach to the problem: go cold (Christmas) turkey.

Thanx Redux

Back in my old Limping in the Light days, I had a series of posts named “Thanx#<insert installment number here>”. The series lasted 5 years. The first entry, Thanx#1, explained the motivation and meaning behind the series. The final entry was posted 7 years ago this Friday. Like this one, that was the day before Thanksgiving, appropriately enough.

Each post consisted of a list of people, events, objects, and concepts for which I was grateful at the time. For those that remain extant, I’m probably still grateful. For those that have passed the way of all flesh, I’m grateful for the memories. In the first few posts, I listed at least 10 things I was thankful for. After that, I had 20 or more items in my lists. Estimating, that makes for well over 300 objects of gratitude. (I confess there were repeats in there. My wife, children, and grandchildren deserved and received multiple mentions.)

I’d barely scratched the surface.

I won’t necessarily repeat the series, but there is always room for gratitude, especially in this season. Science is finally catching on to what the Bible has been telling us for eons, gratitude is a path to peace and joy and away from anxiety and depression. For those of us with MS, it can be a more difficult exercise, but it is also more important. It’s therapy.

Here’s a new list for this year, in no particular order… except the first two:

  1. Jesus. (A given.)
  2. My wife, children, and grandchildren. (You had to know that was coming.)
  3. 30,000 miles of cycling.
  4. My bikes.
  5. Two new books this year, this and this.
  6. Five repaired doors.
  7. King’s Cribbage.
  8. The Vineyard Square Wheelers.
  9. Biking NYC.
  10. Bark Thins.
  11. Healing and successful surgeries.
  12. MSSG, or whatever we’re calling ourselves these days.
  13. Cafe 12 and the Java Room.
  14. The late Paul Farmer and his legacy at PIH.
  15. Reunions.
  16. Baby laughter.
  17. The lives and work of Frederick Buechner and Fran McKendree; I miss them so.
  18. Freshly baked bread.
  19. Generous friends and family.
  20. Eggroll Cafe.
  21. Martha’s Vineyard.
  22. “Who Is MS?”
  23. Acadia National Park.
  24. Crossing guards.
  25. You… for reading.

Look, I could go on and on (…and on (…and on and…)) but you get the idea. This Thanksgiving, for your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being, I suggest you make a list for yourself. If you can’t quickly come up with at least 20, you’re not trying hard enough!

A BlogSnax© post about a snack

BlogSnax© are quickie posts I write occasionally to keep the momentum on this site. Read all about them here. This one happens to be about a snack, one of my favorites.*

I love potato chips. I eat way too many of them, be they plain, barbecue, sour cream & onion, or salt & pepper. (Note: Pringles don’t count. They are not potato chips. They’re overpackaged compressed industrial waste.) Barbecue chips are my flavored chip of choice. Among those, the primo brand, IMHO, is Route 11.

However, there’s nothing like a plain and simple potato chip, unflavored and unadulterated. After all, they already have a flavor: potato chip flavor! In that category, one brand rises above the rest so supremely that it stands in a class by itself.

Utz Kettle Classics Potato Chips Dark Russets

As we say here in New England, they’re wicked good. And look at the ingredient list:

It doesn’t get any simpler than that: Potatoes, oil, and salt. What else do you need? Nothing! And the flavor is incomparable. If I could only eat one kind of chip for the rest of my life, this would be my chip of choice, hands down.

*I should be more discreet in naming my favorite foods. Whenever I do that, they seem to disappear. See this post for ice cream examples. I’ll take my chances. I think Dark Chips, as we call them in my house, have staying power. At least, I hope so.

AI Addendum

Little did I know when I posted last week’s column on the dangers of AI running our lives that I’d experience the most egregious example of genuine AI stupidity this week.

I was visiting a friend where there was an active Alexa unit nearby. We told it to play a couple of songs we wanted to hear, which is about all an Alexa unit is good for IMHO, although that feature isn’t worth the pitfalls it presents in terms of loss of privacy and security, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

When it was time to leave, I thought I’d let Alexa bid adieu for me. I said, “Alexa. Play ‘Hello, I Must Be Going’ by Groucho Marx”. Well, Alexa is a young thing and might not be familiar with the brilliant Marx Brothers, nor with “Animal Crackers”, the film whence the song came. She said in no uncertain terms that she didn’t have access to that fun little ditty. Fortunately, she had a another number she was sure we’d find a perfectly suitable replacement.

What did she play for us? Johnny Cash’s rendition of the old hymn, “Were You There?”:

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

I’m failing to make the connection, either between the hymn about the crucifixion of Christ and the song I requested (unless a blasphemous reference was intentional) or between the estimable man in black and the outrageous man in the greasepaint mustache, but that’s Alexa for you.

Sleep well knowing she’s listening and AI is in control.

Artificial Intelligence or Genuine Ignorance?

[A genuine Blog Snax© post!]

We’ve been told all along that AI will be controlling our lives eventually. It will drive our cars, determine our medical care, identify us by our appearance, as well as our purchases and preferences.

Unless there are incredible leaps in the technology, the future is bleak, based on my observation of the current use of AI.

Example: On Instagram, one of the few social media platforms I subscribe to, I’m inundated with cat and dog videos. I have less than zero interest in cat and dog videos. They annoy me no end. I’ve never watched one, much less lingered on one, which would supposedly trigger the “swamp this guy with cat and dog videos!” trigger. I don’t buy or search for cat or dog related products. So why does Instagram insist on showing me these videos?

There are countless clothing ads and recipes yet I’m the last person anyone would call a clothes horse (99% of my clothes were free and have dates on them going back to the 80’s) or a foodie (my idea of a gourmet meal is a burger and fries from a now defunct establishment).

Hair styling, knitting, jewelry, colleges, souped up cars and trucks, and so much more that are wasted on me. Why? AI.

Then there’s Amazon. I’ve vented on this before. (Buried somewhere deep in this post.) When you buy something, they always give you helpful ideas about what to buy next. First, if you’re letting Amazon decide what you need, punch in, folks. You’re losing it. Second, they always recommend I buy another of what I just bought. Coffee maker, refrigerator, cell phone cover? Who couldn’t use another one of those, just in case?

That’s AI for you. Someday, that will be the technology that will guide the surgeon’s scalpel (if there’s a surgeon at all) during your open heart surgery. And driving that bus heading toward me on the highway.

Maybe they’ll show cat videos at my funeral.

Stevie Wonder: Prophet

It’s patently obvious that Stevland Hardaway Morris, a.k.a. Stevie Wonder, is a musical genius. I can’t think of many people in history who have created such an extensive catalog of brilliant music. Three consecutive albums of his won “Album of the Year” Grammies, a feat never achieved before or since. I’m just scratching the surface of his prowess, both musical and personal. Scan his Wikipedia entry for more details of his incredible contributions.

It boggles my mind to think that one of his masterworks, the album “Innervisions”, my personal favorite, was recorded when he was only 23 years old!! (What were you doing at 23?) Not only was it an outstanding musical tour de force, it also revealed one of his heretofore unknown gifts, that of prophet.

Read these lyrics from the great song, “He’s Misstra Know-It-All” and tell me whether this guy precisely described our 45th president 43 years before he was elected:

He’s a man
With a plan
Got a counterfeit dollar in his hand
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Playin’ hard
Talkin’ fast
Makin’ sure that he won’t be the last
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Makes a deal
With a smile
Knowin’ all the time that his lie’s a mile
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Must be seen
There’s no doubt
He’s the coolest one with the biggest mouth
He’s Misstra know-it-all

When you tell him he’s livin’ fast
He will say what do you know
If you had my kind of cash
You’d have more than one place to go
Ooh

Any place
He will play
His only concern is how much you’ll pay
He’s Misstra know-it-all

If he shakes
On a bet
He’s the kind of dude that won’t pay his debt
He’s Misstra know-it-all

When you say that he’s living wrong
He’ll tell you he knows he’s livin’ right
And you’d be a stronger man
If you took Misstra know-it-all’s advice oh oh
Ooh

He’s a man
With a plan
Got a counterfeit dollar in his hand
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Take my word
Please beware
Of a man that just don’t give a care no
He’s Misstra know-it-all (look out he’s coming)

Dum bum bum ba bum bum,
Dum bum bum ba bum bum
Bum bum bum bum bum say
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Can this line, take his hand
Take your hat off to the man who’s got the plan
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Every boy take your hand
To the man that’s got the plan
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Give a hand to the man
Don’t you know he’s got the plan
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Give a hand to the man
You know damn well he’s got the super plan
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Give a hand to the man
You know damn well he’s got the super plan
He’s Misstra know-it-all

If we had less of him
Don’t you know we’d have a better land
He’s Misstra know-it-all

So give a hand to the man
Although you’ve given out as much as you can
He’s Misstra know-it-all

Check his sound out
He’ll tell it all
Hey you talk too much you worry me to death
He’s Misstra know-it-all

(Although I’d never noticed this until hearing the song recently for the first time in a long while, I’m not the first to make this connection. It bears repeating, however, because it serves us all well to (1) be reminded of Stevie’s brilliance and (2) further expose the target of these lyrics as the scoundrel he is.)

Mixed Messages

Saw this sign on the side of a building during a recent bike ride:

Okay, I’m good with that. I’m a massive proponent of supporting local businesses.

But wait! Pull back a little and we see the bigger picture:

What am I supposed to do with this cognitive dissonance? Subway spreads like a deadly pandemic across the face of this country. Fine. Let Iowa, Florida, and New Mexico have their nasty, mass-produced, generic sandwiches. But here in the Boston area, home of some of the best local sub shops east or west of Tuscany, Subway is unnecessary at best, a cancer at worst, eating away at our culture like the rot slowly consuming the shack in this photo.

Run away! Run away!!

The NFL’s Priorities

The NFL’s Cleveland Browns signed Deshaun Watson. He didn’t play at all in 2021 and he faces civil lawsuits for sexual misconduct from 22 different women. He has lost endorsements from Nike and Beats. But the Browns, perennial NFL bottom dwellers, believe in him.

Now, it’s possible that every one of those accusations is false. It’s as likely that Donald Trump will win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Watson’s resume includes exactly one playoff win. He has never made it past the first round of the NFL postseason.

Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick, who had the gall to exercise his constitutional right to protest this nation’s continued oppression of African-Americans, can’t get a cup of coffee in the same league. Here’s a guy who has a 4-2 record in the playoffs with one Super Bowl appearance and he can’t get a job in a league with an overabundance of poor and mediocre quarterbacks.

In other news, the Cleveland Browns have announced they’ll be playing reruns of “The Cosby Show” during the halftimes of their games.