As a handball player we are a keen observer of handedness.  This obviously includes in the court but also includes lots of other environments.  We are also a fan of the mystery genre in print, TV, and movies.  We think that mystery writers use handedness as a plot device but that either they don’t understand it or they recognize that everyone accepts probabilistic data as deterministic.  That is, it is more likely that a right hander will commit an act with his right hand but for most people it is far from certain that the right hander will act right handed.

In our experience there are two issues related to what hand a person will use to take an action.  It is likely that there are more but these are enough to conclude that the mystery devices are not convincing.  The first is degree of handedness.  You could measure this on a handball court because the player must use both hands..  What percentage of shots does the person take with each hand?  We are the fairly rare example that takes somewhere near half of the shots with each hand.  Even within in that division there are certain shots that we prefer one hand or the other.  Our guess is that we take 80% of backwall shots with our left hand.  Lots of players are very heavy toward their dominant hand and some (by our estimate) take as many as 90% of their shots with it.  This is the mystery writer model but it is only true for part of the population.

Another part of the equation is dominant eye.  We don’t know how or if dominant hand and dominant eye are connected.  We have a mildly dominant right hand and a very dominant left eye.  It would be difficult if not impossible for us to shoot a gun or a bow with our right hand because we couldn’t line it up.

It is time for mystery writers to drop the handedness but we would like to see something that includes dominant eye.  Handedness just isn’t convincing method to eliminate suspects.


John Whitman Sutter

We just finished Nelson DeMille’s Gold Coast and Gate House narrated by anti-hero John Whitman Sutter.  Nelson has created one of the most interesting characters in John.  We chose not to call John the protagonist or hero as the protagonist is defined as the hero and hero has three definitions according to Dictionary.com:

1. a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character,
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal,
3. the principal male character in a story, play, film,etc.

John does fit category three, he has a mixed record on courage, but he utterly fails nobility of character and role  model.  To give a short list, he is a murderer, tax cheat (as a tax lawyer), liar, blackmailer, drunk, and highly judgmental.  His complaining about other folks drinking is inspired.  But he is also fun and impetuous.  Much of the judgmental stuff is a joy in our politically correct environment.  In short, John is an strange person from a privileged background but he is very human.  And Nelson puts him in intense situations that test his humanity and lack of it.  Enjoy both of the books.  We did.


Grappa And DeMille

We have just discovered Nelson DeMille and we really like what we have found.  We picked up The Charm School at the library and it was a great story of Communism and spies.  We gave The Gate House from the same library run to the Gloves-in-law but it was too big a volume for her.  Nelson tends to run 500-600 pages.  We started The Gate House but realized that The Gold Coast came first so we switched over to that and are finding joy in mid-life John Sutter and old money.  As a New Englander we recognize the commonalities of the Gold Coast and The Cape.

Nelson’s books are great on details like flying helicopters or the old rich on Long Island.  That’s why it is so surprising when Frank (The Bishop) Bellarosa, a mafia don, says grappa is like brandy and sips it.  Well, it is kinda like brandy.  Brandy is distilled wine.  Grappa is, as the Rome File says:

The main ingredient of grappa is pomace, which consists of the grape skins, seeds and stalks that are left over from the winemaking process. These are taken through a second process of distillation, which extracts the remaining flavours from the pomace before the waste is discarded.

So grappa is distilling the remnants of the wine making process while brandy is distilling wine.  It is not sipped as the Rome File says:

Grappa is a wonderful way to end a meal, drunk either as a shot on its own or added to an espresso (in which case it’s known in Italy as a caffè coretto, or a “corrected coffee”).  [Emphasis added]

The Rome File is consistent with our guidebook.  When traveling you want to know these things.  Throwing back vodka shots and eating pickled herring help cement relations with the Poles.  It is a small complaint and we haven’t finished this otherwise wonderful book.  Perhaps Frank will act differently while enjoying grappa with his countrymen.

Buddy Guy

We accompanied the Lady de Gloves to see blues legend Buddy Guy for the first time at the Capitol Theater at the Overture Center in Madison, WI.  Quinn Sullivan was the opening act.  He is 18.  Check out this YouTube of Buddy and Quinn from ten years ago.  He can play and sing.  It was a good start.  Buddy is already in his 80s so it was time to see him.

Buddy came on in a polka-dot shirt and The Lady said, “Isn’t he adorable.”  She has always had great taste in men.  He was interesting, entertaining, and musical.  His stories, his playing, and his singing were right on.  From the big deep blues voice to the falsetto, he was in command of his voice.  He had a four-piece band (guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard) backing him.  They were ready to solo or back him while he told stories, played the guitar with a towel, or wandered through the audience.  He has a great stage presence if you don’t mind a little profanity.  He ended up right behind our seats!  One telling moment was when he brought Quinn and his son to join him toward the end of the concert.  We were watching Buddy while the two youngsters played solo and he really enjoyed watching both of them.

He gave us two great life lessons.  The first was “it” is not in the book.  This was mostly backed up by the amazing sounds he got out of his guitar in all manner of ways.  He’d smile and say it is not in the book.  One of the things that he mentioned not being in the book is that Buddy and BB and the rest were really discovered by the British and it led to the British invasion.  Buddy could have been upset by that but he was not.  He is a positive guy.

The second was keeping out of politics in performance.  He had lots of comments on Houston and other events but they were always in a positive manner.  He was pure Martin Luther King: “No matter how much you hate me I’m gonna love you.”  His comments showed it.  We might have missed it or not been open enough to micro-aggressions but we did not detect anything partisan during the performance and Buddy likes to talk.  He was a nice change from the partisan comments that showed up in the Graham Nash performance.

Here is his tour.  He plays at his club in Chicago during January.  You owe it to yourself to see him while he is still great.  He is older so there will be some sing-alongs and opportunity for the band members to solo but it is worth your time and money to see this treasure.

Graham Nash

We accompanied the Lady de Gloves to see Graham Nash at the Capitol Theater at Overture in the 77 square miles surrounded by reality.  The Capitol has great acoustics and singers almost always mention it as Graham did several times.  We are not sure if it is always part of Graham’s concerts or if the environment caused excessive virtue signaling but most of the denizens enjoyed it.

The show itself was great fun.  It was just two guys, Shane Fontayne on electric guitar or mandolin and Graham on acoustic guitar or keyboard and sometimes adding a harmonica.

Sidebar One: Shane Fontayne has an interesting history including a marriage to Mackenzie Phillips.  That means their son, also named Shane, is related to Shane, John Phillips, and Peter Barakan.  End Sidebar One.

Sidebar Two: Until we were just checking this we always thought that Michelle Phillips, in our opinion, perhaps the prettiest woman in the sixties, was Mackenzie’s mother.  We had always thought that genetics had treated Mackenzie unfairly but now we know.  End Sidebar.

The two guitars without any drums worked well.  Graham had some great stories about himself, the Hollies, and the rest of CSN&Y and he referred to them collectively as the other monkeys.  The stories provided some insight to the great With a 20 minute break the show went over two-and-a-half hours.  Their cover of the Beatles’ Blackbird was great.  It was a nice venue and a great show although we could have done without the rants on Trump.  Mercifully, they were short.

A Lesson And An Analogy

Yesterday we accompanied the Lady deGloves to an event at American Players Theatre (APT) and we taught a lesson in a beautiful fashion.  We taught a similar lesson, less elegantly, about 20 years ago.  To explain why we need to explain the analogy between APT and the university.

Brenda DeVita, the APT artistic director, was meeting with a group of supporters ostensibly to plan a season at APT.  The real lesson was: we really appreciate your support but you can’t have the plays you want because of all the constraints.

We faced a similar situation a couple of decades ago when accounting majors were in extraordinarily high demand.  Every firm wanted to be the first on campus so they could get the top candidates.  The Department worked with Career Services to create Accounting Career Expo (ACE) on Monday evening and Accounting Interview Days (AID) to follow immediately.  That way we could avoid no.

The analogy is that APT is very much like a university.  The comparisons are

Brenda is the department chair
The Core Company is the (tenure track) faculty
Other actors are academic staff
Directors are deans, albeit of one production
Supporters are supporters
Financial constraints are that seats must be filled

Brenda’s job is more complicated than a chair’s because almost all university performances are one-man shows while her shows are larger and often much larger.  The nature of the chair and her position, however, is the same.  Both of them have folks with awesome but not unlimited skills and often substantial egos that must be allocated to certain shows.  The Core Company or the faculty gets first consideration.  Other actors or academic staff fill needs and come and go.  Director and deans always have big ideas.  Both of them need to fill seats.  Both need to add new supporters without alienating continuing supporters.  Both need to accomplish much without much authority.  Agreements are reached by discussing, convincing, and cajoling.  We saw these attributes yesterday.

APT provided us with a nice dinner, plied us with alcohol, and brought in some of the performers to meet us (we met James Ridge who is wonderful as Cyrano) before moving into the Touchstone Theatre to design a season of APT.  They encouraged and got lots of input and put together a season.  Then they dropped “the math” on us.  The plays most folks like have lots of actors.  Not every actor can play every part.  Actors can only do a few plays a season.  There must be a Shakespeare comedy because “it is the gateway drug to the theatre”.  We’re not sure if everybody got it but the point was clear: You can’t always get what you want.

We learned the lesson and are more aware of the constraints than almost anyone but still want to see Arsenic And Old Lace at APT.  It only has 14 characters and the new stage will give them access to the Panama Canal.  Our casting is almost complete but we are have trouble with Dr. Einstein.

Arnaldur and Erlendur

We were going to entitle this a Ruthian moment but we did not want to confuse folks into thinking this is a baseball post because this is a book review.  The Draining Lake (TDL) by Arnaldur Indridason is an epic book.  We suspect he thinks of himself as Arnaldur but to find it you will need to have the patronymic Indridason.

Sidebar: In 1919 Babe Ruth set the MLB record for home runs with 29.  That was impressive as it was the most ever.  But 1920 was a Ruthian moment when he hit an astounding 54 home runs.  The MLB runner up had 19.  Arnaldur’s TDL is his Ruthian moment.  The other books were really good but TDL is a Ruthian step up for him.  End Sidebar.

We had read four of the Inspector Erlendur books, one out of order, and the stand alone Operation Napoleon.  We enjoyed all of them but were taken aback by the power of TDL.  It weaves together the story of Inspector Erlendur with the insidious impact of Communism.  As often happens, Erlendur is connected with an old missing persons case.  This time he is trying to identify a body exposed by the draining lake.  It connects the Iron Curtain, especially East Germany, with Iceland and the Cold War.

It does a brilliant job of showing the impact of Communism.  It gives us vivid specific cases as well as the overall data.  What makes it extraordinary, Ruthian, is that it tells us why Communism and socialism is so popular despite its long history of failure.  It is a book that everyone should read today.