October 2013

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


It occurred to me the other day that I’m going about this whole monthly update thing wrong. I usually babble on about books or TV or cats for a thousand words or so, and then, in the last paragraph, ask folks to either subscribe or donate to this site. So this month I’m just going to reverse the routine and ask for help up front.

So here’s the deal: about seven years ago, I was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. At the time I was glad they had found an explanation for the strange symptoms that had suddenly appeared (although some of them were apparent 20 years earlier), but, apart from my left leg not working right and intermittent vision problems, I figured it it must be progressing very slowly and wasn’t going to amount to much. Wrong-o-rama. I had apparently failed to fully appreciate the “progressive” part, and, for whatever reason, it has sped up. It’s only six years later and I have seriousĀ  trouble standing, can barely walk, can’t really use my left hand, and my vision only works right about half the time. There are more bizarre and debilitating dimensions to the whole tiresome business, which can be perused at the Wikipedia article. My favorite glitch is that if I do manage to pick up something with my left hand, I have enormous trouble letting go of it. Yes, it’s every bit as creepy as it sounds, and it proved inconvenient the other day when I was using a match held in my left hand to light our broken stove. Bad idea. I couldn’t put it down after the burner lit, but I couldn’t raise my arm to get it close enough to my mouth to blow it out. I ended up prying it free with my right hand in a desperate imitation of Dr. Strangelove. Never a dull moment. Perhaps I should rent myself out for children’s parties.

When I first started this website, I sold email subscriptions mostly to pay the hosting fees, etc. My columns ran in several newspapers, I wrote books and articles for other outlets frequently, and I was getting by. Since 2001, newspapers have atrophied (to put it mildly) and book publishing has been remade in Jeff Bezos’ image, which is to say that living on advances and royalties is a thing of the past. So this website and subscriptions have become a far more important — uncomfortably vital — part of my income. Unfortunately, our readers have not escaped the ravages of our new minimum-wage economy, and lately those vital doubloons have been thin on the ground. And it shows. Our house is full of things we can’t afford to fix, including the stove, water heater, bathroom floor (it’s collapsing), the water softener and my teeth. Our 16-year old car (bought used) needs serious work.

So please consider subscribing or donating. Any amount will help; if you have a spare ten grand lying on the piano, that would be awesome, but even $15 is more help to us than most people wanna think about.

Oh yeah, the TV report. There’s been an interesting epilogue to the conversion of OTA (over the air) TV from analog to digital. Many local stations have established digital sub-channels and filled them with old movies and low-cost syndicated shows, mostly from the 1950s and 90s, providing something to watch for folks who can’t afford cable (which is a lot of people). Around here we get, in addition to some really bad movies and horse operas, many of the shows I watched as a kid, including Mister Ed, Sea Hunt, Twelve O’Clock High and my absolute favorite then and now, Highway Patrol with Broderick Crawford. Apart from the weirdly addictive charm of these shows (cop cars with huge tail fins!), they’re notable for the number of major stars who appeared in supporting roles early in their careers. I’ve seen Leonard Nimoy, for instance, playing criminals in at least two Sea Hunt episodes.

Page 1 of 2 | Next page