Some explanation of the title of my blog is in order. Squirt is a feral tomcat who figured out the cat door. I think he’s been tortured (his tail is a mess) so he avoids people. But he likes the food, a particular pillow on the couch (I’ve had to cover the couch to protect it), and being around the house. We can’t touch him but he watches wistfully as we pet our cats. I think he wants affection but doesn’t know how to trust. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking; he’s probably thinking I’d make a good meal. I think I’d prefer not to die when Squirt’s around. Anyway, I feel sorry for him, except when he spraypaints our house with urine, and I admire his adaptability. I’ll work on gaining his trust until I can cut his fuzzy little nuts off. Until then, I’ll keep my ammonia bottle and kneepads handy for clean-ups. The Daily Squirt will try to reflect my impression of the cat himself. Cautious, adaptable, amusing…and sometimes it’ll stink on ice. Keep your ammonia bottle and kneepads handy.

Did I forget to mention that I’m a struggling writer with a novel, First Year, and a memoir, Greetings from Casa Cesspool to my credit? Read more about my work at my website, http://www.bagmlit.com.

FB cover snip 3

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I got another marketing nag

I got another nag that I’m not marketing efficiently. Okay. So here’s a review by Joyce Engleson.

Joyce Engleson was Editor-in-Chief for E.P. Dutton and editor-at-large for Crown Publishing, among many prestigious titles. She was also a best-selling author before her death in 2010. She was a highly accomplished woman. This is what she had to say about First Year.  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JYIV9D6)

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Water by the Spoonful, Esa-Pekka Salonen Guest Conducts at Phil

Last Wednesday Gordon and I drove down to the Music Center to attend Water by the Spoonful at the Taper. We’d just had soup at Kendall’s a few day’s earlier so we skipped dinner and went directly to the theater. I was afraid we’d have to park in the bowels of Hell because we showed up so late but the only thing going on was the Taper play. We got a decent parking spot, thank God. Water by the Spoonful is part of a Pulitzer-winning trilogy but each play can supposedly stand by itself. I’d never seen any of the plays but I didn’t need them so stay on stop of the action (one of the other plays is currently at the Kirk Douglas Theater but driving over to the West Side is such a pain I doubt I’ll see it). The action revolves around addiction and the mess if makes of peoples’ lives. Extended families also suffer from this scourge. The play starts with the thoughts of addicts in a chatroom encouraging each other to stay clean. They’re all struggling. Some are dealing with a crack addiction, one ex-soldier is dealing with an opiate addiction (he got hooked while undergoing four surgeries, also he has PTSD). The title comes from the story of one of the characters; when you’re dealing with dehydrated children you have to give them a spoonful of water every five minutes. It’s not much water but you have to stay and stay and stay making sure they get that spoonful every five minutes. I guess the moral of the play is you don’t have to do much for an addict except be there, and be there, and be there. It’s the supreme act of love. The reviewer of the Daily News claimed that the play was about the damage war does to people and there is an element of that but I didn’t get the political element that that reviewer saw. I thought the play was well-written. Gordon stayed awake throughout so…no Zs on the snore scale. The cast was balanced and excellent. Very thought-provoking but my main impression was: if people know what crack is going to do to them, why start at all? Doesn’t make sense to me. I’d rather have a beer. It’s cheaper and not immediately addictive.

Last Friday we attended a rehearsal of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s piano concerto, conducted by Esa-Pekka and performed by Yefim Bronfman. According to the notes the concerto was written for Bronfman so we figured we were in for a treat. But the real draw was Beethoven’s 7th. We missed that at the Beethoven festival last year and really wanted to hear it. Rehearsal started right at 10; Mr. Bronfman showed up in a gray suit and what looked like bedroom slippers–Gordon whispered that maybe they were Hush Puppies. Whatever, he looked comfortable. Esa-Pekka was all in black–Tshirt, jeans, tennis shoes….all black. He looked comfortable too. We listened to the orchestra practice that piano concerto for two and a half hours. It was very complicated and the orchestra needed the rehearsal but we were bummed. We wanted to hear the Seventh. So we bought a ticket for the Saturday performance. We got to hear the whole show. Biber’s Battalia consisted of strings and keyboard. The strings even stamped along to it. I’d never heard it before and it made me smile. I enjoyed the piano concerto when Esa-Pekka wasn’t constantly stopping to iron out rough spots. It’s new music but it’s trickling and sweeping–I was picking up a lot of water images listening to it. And Bronfman was amazing. He got a standing O and he deserved it. It really got special when Bronfman played an encore–Clair de Lune. It was breath-taking. After intermission we got hear the Seventh–our reward for being educated. It was whimsical in spots, precise through-out…it was an interesting interpretation and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Esa-Pekka even seemed to enjoy himself. The audience certainly did. It was a great concert. Glad we got the tickets. And it was good to have Esa-Pekka back in the house again. Sometimes I really enjoy living in LA.

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Bernstein’s Mass

My back is still spasming occasionally but I put on some new shoes–with a 3-inch hell! I’m living dangerously–and Gordon and I got our usual soup and wine at Kendall’s. We got into conversations with other bar patrons playing Jeopardy–none of us did very well–then walked across the street to Disney for Bernstein’s Mass.

I’ve never heard this Mass before. It was written in 1971 for the opening of the Kennedy Center and it sent me back into my hippy-dippy past. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing; it just made the Mass seem a little dated. During intermission we were laughing with our neighbors about the awful things we wore back ‘in the day’. The wife said she stopped at tie-dye but I told her I was magnificent in a split-cowhide leather jacket with fringe about 2 feet long along the sleeves, chest, and back. It was so heavy I almost got scoliosis of the spine but, by God, I was ‘in’. Back to the concert: Bernstein pulled out all the stops. There was the Phil, the LA Master Chorale, the LA Children’s Chorus, a street chorus (the hippies; you know, my mother was right, we were ugly), assorted dancers, and a boy soprano. It was a cast of thousands. On a raised stage behind the orchestra were an altar, a screen, and a cross. It looked a lot like a modern church. The Mass lasted about an hour and a half; some of it hokey, some of it profound. Ryan KcKinny was the celebrant; he has a wonderful voice and was totally effective, starting as a simple pastor, growing into the head of a mega-church, and returning to his roots. All the voices were wonderful. If it hadn’t been for the hippy clothes, which made me smile, I would have enjoyed the entire show. It’s thoughtful, particularly when the celebrant announces, “The Mass is over. Go in peace.” Bernstein did a good Christian show which is interesting considering he was Jewish. But so was Jesus so there ya go. I liked it.

Here’s a picture of Rowdy apropos to nothing. I got him back today and he’s gorgeous. He’s in the shade so you can’t see him gleaming like a little pearl but he does. I guess I’m just a fixer-upper at heart. I prefer the old to the new. We’re good for a few more years.

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Downsizing, The Disaster Artist, Lady Bird, Call Me by Your Name

Downsizing was provided by a streaming service and I had a lot of trouble with it. The film kept buffering–wouldn’t load at all. So I left a message and was told to watch it in Chrome. That worked better but the film still buffered 18 times, each occurrence lasting between 36 and 40 seconds (Gordon and I were waiting for the dishwasher to be delivered so it amused us to time them; didn’t have anything better to do). Downsizing had some nice moments. It’s about a couple who decide to shrink themselves to 6″ so their money will go farther–they’ll also leave a smaller carbon imprint. Things are great until the wife backs out at the last minute–and she gets most of the money in the divorce. There are some genuinely funny moments but it tends to bludgeon you with the climate change sledgehammer. Oh, there’s also the Social Justice sledgehammer when it turns out that foreign governments shrink their citizens as punishment and they sneak into the USA in fruit deliveries. And they make slums. The poor–they’re always with you. The ending is bittersweet. We’ve destroyed the environment so’s there’s really no hope and we might as well grab love while we can. Or something like that. It kept buffering and I got bored. But it has some nice ideas and Matt Damon does a nice job.

The Disaster Artist was a pleasant surprise. I’m not a big James Franco fan but he does a wonderful job in this movie. It’s about the making of one of the worst movies ever made, The Room; it’s a 2018 Ed Wood. I enjoyed it–even through all the buffering. Tommy Missou, the original film-maker, was on a morning news program. He’s an odd duck but he followed his dream. Franco’s rendering of him is uncanny.

Lady Bird is a sweet, coming-of-age story. Saoise Ronan is wonderful as a Catholic high school senior pushing her boundaries. And I just loved Laurie Metcalf. But then I always love Metcalf. Not much to say except it’s a beautifully observed year in the life of a Sacramento family. I really liked it.

Call Me by Your Name is another coming of age story about an American kid living in Italy with his professorial parents. It’s a James Ivory movie so there’re lots of meaningful pauses and camera pans–many, many pretty pictures. Arme Hammer plays a visiting scholar who lives and works with the family. He’s handsome, intelligent, charming, and sophisticated. Everybody falls in love with him, including the kid. What surprised me was the kid is the seducer not the older man. The pace is Merchant/Ivory slow even though it’s just Ivory so I fast-forwarded through most of the pretty pictures after the first hour. I also fast-forwarded through the gay love scenes. They don’t do anything for me. I guess it was sensitively done but I’d hate to be a woman around these men. We’re definitely second-class citizens. Good cooks, nice mommies, but other than that…meh. The performances are extremely well-done, particularly the kid. Hammer is just gorgeous. If I were a kid I’d have a crush on him too.

Just a few more films to go…

George is my movie-watching buddy.


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Aladdin and LA Phil Concert

Too much fun lately, my back hurts, and I’m getting over a cold. So I’m lumping everything in together.

Last Wednesday Gordon and I left early to catch dinner before going to the Pantages. We thought we’d stop at a place on Highland that we’d enjoyed but they’re out of business already. So we stopped at Delphine’s to see if there was room for us. Surprisingly, there was. We found out why. You can get a drink or a full dinner but you can’t order from the bar menu until after 8. They want to make as much money as possible from the pre-theater crowd. I understand that. But I don’t want a full dinner before a show; I tend to fall asleep. I must not be the only person who feels that way because the place was empty. IMO, it’s a bad business decision. So I had a glass of wine and cough drops for dinner.

We ran across the street to catch opening night of Aladdin. I wasn’t sure what to expect. How in the world do you replace Robin Williams and the cartoon critters? Well, they did it. The Genie channeled Cab Calloway and instead of the Williams characters they used bits from previous Disney hits. We got a commercial with the show but that was fine. The number “Friend like Me” stopped the show. Adams Jacobs who created the Aladdin role on Broadway was perfect. Michael James Scott who created the Genie role in Australia was wonderful. Isabelle McCalla sucked her stomach in all night as Jasmine. I wonder what the casting breakdown read like. Wanted; great voice and great abs. That’s an unforgiving costume but she looked great in it. Wonderful voice too. The whole cast was amazing. And the sets and production numbers…Disney pulled out all the stops. I really enjoyed myself. I recommend it.

We stopped at Arby’s on the way home but it was closed. So I made scrambled eggs when we got home. Have to plan better next time.

Last night I groaned my way to Kendell’s for my soup. The woman next to us at the bar ordered the mussels and I was briefly tempted until I remembered my stomach upset from last time. I love the mussels but they don’t love me. I enjoyed my soup, bread, wine, and Jeopardy. We gave me plenty of time to straighten up before we crossed the street to Disney Hall.

Itzhak Perlman played and conducted Bach’s Violin Concerto No 1, then conducted Brahms’ Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn and Elgar’s Enigma Variations. They were all wonderful. I forgot about the pain in my back. And after watching Mr. Perlman struggle to walk up the three steps with his bad legs I quit feeling sorry for myself. I knew my pain would go away; he was stuck. But he wouldn’t let anyone help him. He’d scoot out on his 3-wheeler then crutch himself up the three steps to the podium. I worried that he’d fall–at our age that’s no small thing–but he did everything himself, ornery cuss. But I think that’s what made him great. He doesn’t expect help: “Me do self.” You have to admire him.

We had an apple when we got home and I got back on my heating pad. The pain is easing but it’s not gone. Think I’ll spend a few more days screening movies. Awwww….

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SAG Nominations

I’ve been catching up on my SAG screeners. About damn time, I vote next Friday. I’m going to give my opinion on the first four films I’ve watched.

The Big Sick is a gently humorous dramedy. The lead character, a son of Pakistani immigrants, falls in love with a white American woman. He can’t tell his parents because they’re trying to make sure he marries a good Pakistani girl by ambushing him with dinner dates. So he keeps the relationship a secret. When the girlfriend goes into a coma he meets her parents and has to deal with his own conflicted feelings–at one point he asks his parents why they moved to the US but don’t want him to act like an American which includes questioning religion. The cast is all very good, I got some genuine laughs (“What about those Arabs who flew into the World Trade Center?” “Yeah, we lost 19 of our best that day.” It’s a joke). It’s slow moving but sweet. It’s worth a look.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri was hard on me. The film takes place in a small Missouri town and I’ve never heard people from small towns talk like that in my life. All those F bombs and C bombs are urban, in my opinion. I found the whole plot preposterous. The only decent policeman with the exception of Harrelson is a black cop. The real bad guy is military. It’s a social justice sledgehammer–you can tick off all the boxes. I did admire the performances of the three SAG nominees. Frances McDormand has the corner on bitter angry middle-aged women. I don’t know if she’s gotten into a type-casting trap or that’s all she can do but she does it well. Woody Harrelson brings humanity to the local sheriff. And Sam Rockwell disappears into his character. He’s a chameleon. My husband asked what he’d done before and every part I mentioned, Gordon said, “He did that?” I think Rockwell is one of the most under-rated actors in the country. My problems were all with the script. I don’t know why it got best picture from the Golden Globes. Oh yeah, social justice sledgehammer. What ever happened to nuance?

I, Tonya is wonderful. The script is great and Margot Robbie is completely believable as Tonya Harding. Allison Janney is also completely believable and she just might give Ms. McDormand a run for her money in the bitter angry woman category. They both deserve SAG nominations. I would actually recommend that people see the film. And most of the time I just tell people to rent the movie. Well done.

Get Out is a horror movie/ farce. It’s sort of a fractured Stepford Wives. Liberal white people …I can’t go any further without spoiling everything. It’s well-written and the cast is uniformly good–which is why they got a nod for outstanding performance by a cast. I have to give the woman who played the housekeeper some kudos. In one scene she’s smiling with one tear of despair rolling down her cheek. Wonderful technique. I think black people will like this more than I did. The writer seems to hate white people and that’s his right but why would I, a white person, want to watch it? Or maybe he just despises white Liberals…hmmm, have to give that some thought. The film is blackly (no pun intended) funny and it held my attention. And I appreciated the deer motif running throughout and the fact that the stag….can’t tell anymore but the script is really well-done.

Done watching movies for the day. I’ll watch some more tomorrow. At least I have something to do while my back heals.

George helped me watch movies. He got bored.

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Rose Parade

Gordon and I got up early yesterday to catch the Gold Line to Pasadena for the Rose Parade. We were at the station at 6:45 but there was still standing room only. That’s ok; it was only a 15 minute ride. We got off at the Delmar station and walked over to Colorado Blvd. When we got to our seats some tourists were sitting in our spots. They obstinately declared that their tour director told them that they could sit in our spots. Fortunately, an usher was there to straighten things out. They had to sit in row B and they were clearly unhappy. They were told they had front row seats! They seemed to expect us to give our seats to them because that’s what they wanted. Wasn’t going to happen. The rest of our party showed up and we forgot about the confrontation. We knew the parade started when the B2, flanked by two F35s, flew overhead. The fighter jets were new; usually it’s just the B2. But it was an amazing spectacle. We didn’t get to see the opening act; our seats were half a block down from the camera section but I saw it later on TV. We didn’t miss anything.

Normally the parade is seamless but this year the UPS float went to hell. I took a picture of the sea monster–it was an amazing float–then noticed that it was heading right toward me. Apparently, the steering mechanism went out. It kept coming closer and closer…I felt like I was in Animal House with a killer float bearing down on me. I stood up to jump on my seat; I didn’t want my legs to get trapped between the float and metal row. Fortunately, they managed it stop it about 2 feet from us. And there it sat. The other floats and marching bands had to work their way around it. Actually, it was rather funny. Spectators just reached out and plucked roses from the float as souvenirs. Gordon took a picture of me standing in front of it. They finally got a huge tow truck to haul it the rest of the way down the parade route. I explained to the couple next to me–from Chicago–that I’d never seen a glitch in the parade like that. They were charmed; they had an original story to tell.

The rest of the parade was the usual sensory overload. The floats are so impressive and the marching bands are wonderful. I think the All-Girl band from Kyoto (actually they had 3 boys–they’re going coed) was the best. They danced their way down the parade route. So cute. One thing that still surprises me–when a military or law enforcement group goes by everybody stands up. In Hollywood, 15 miles away they’d probably throw poop at them. I heard someone say that the Rose Parade is the most impressive small-town parade in the world. And that sounds right; small-town values–big city imagination and money. No wonder the Left makes fun of it. Of course, I don’t see the Left producing anything…But I digress. The other stars of the parade were the pooper-scoopers. One girl pushed her wheeled garbage bin and body-surfed on it. She got a big hand. Three boys were wearing tiaras and scooped up after the horses with flourishes. We all howled. It was a great day.

We followed the last entry down the road to where we could peel off and jog over to the Metro station. I read in the paper that protesters carrying Bernie Sanders posters and Jesus freaks screaming hell and damnation over megaphones fought for attention. I wouldn’t known about it if I hadn’t read about it. Nobody seems to pay much attention to that crap anymore. We stuffed ourselves on a train and were home before eleven. We spend the rest of the day sleeping and watching football. Think we’ll go to it again next year.

Before the steering went out…

This is how close it got. The construction of these floats is even more amazing close up.

Happy New Year!


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