I've decided I'm in the market for Peter and the Wolf on CD. It's been recorded many, many times, and I'm not sure which one I want to get. (I don't want to buy them all).

Obviously I grew up familiar with the 1946 Disney version narrated by Sterling Holloway, but the Oscar-winning 2006 stop-motion Polish animation is good, too. I have good childhood memories of attending an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra presentation hosted by Monica Kaufman; I'm sure that one wasn't taped. (Did I ever see it at the Center for Puppetry Arts? I vaguely feel that the answer is yes.)

The only version I have in the house is Weird Al's on cassette tape; it's out of print and prohibitively expensive on the secondhand market. Besides, I think I want something different anyway, something more traditional.

Does anyone within eyeshot have any recommendations? What's your favorite Peter and the Wolf?

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I read in the local newspaper that my county currently averages 1 suicide every 14 days. That's on pace for 26 a year. If that seems high, it's because it is.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Americans kill themselves nationally at a rate of about 14 per 100,000, which implies that Coweta County, Georgia, population 155,000, should expect something near 22 suicides per year. For Coweta, that figure is an aspirational number.

What's so bad about living in Coweta? I can only guess.

Of course, thanks in part to our poor healthcare system and our easy access to guns, Georgians kill themselves more often than average Americans. (That's just the price you pay for freedom!) By Georgia standards, Coweta should see 24 suicides per year. So maybe our higher rate is our friendly way of helping prop up those counties that aren't pulling their weight.

Back when I was in a Coweta County high school, the statewide suicide rate was only 13 per 100k (national average 12/100k), yet I knew several people whose parents had killed themselves, and I knew students who attempted it. If people are finding things more bleak and hopeless now than they were then... as a community, maybe as a whole society, we just must be doing something wrong.

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As you can tell from the following numbering, we've rolled into a new year of movies!

1/2312. Fear of a Black Hat (1993)
I thought I'd seen this mockumentary years ago, but surely I would have remembered something this funny. This hews closely to the template laid down by Spinal Tap, but the song parodies and attacks on hip hop stereotypes make it fresh and unique.

2/2313. Where Danger Lives (1950)
I'm not going to lie, this title brought back no memories, so I had to look it up on imdb to refresh my memory. I know now why I forgot it. (Doctor Robert Mitchum falls for an insane patient!) The irony of my failing memory is that just yesterday I was thinking about Claude Rains' ridiculously small part herein as an accused abusive husband. When you only remember what a movie got wrong... well, that's your capsule review.

3/2314. You Can't Take It with You (1938)
If I'm so irritated by Frank Capra's trademark too-happy-to-be-possible endings, why do I keep watching his films? In this case, it was to see a Jimmy Stewart film I hadn't yet seen. And now I have. Bonus: appearance of Spring Byington, who is for my mother what Agnes Moorehead is for me, e.g. an actress we're always delighted to bump into in an unexpected supporting role.

4/2315. The Youngest Profession (1943)
This family melodrama in the "Andy Hardy" vein is about a girl autograph hound who thinks her father is cheating on her mother because of the evil machinations of... Agnes Moorehead! Seriously, I didn't know Moorehead was in this when I set my DVR to record it. No, that was because the poster promised me William Powell, who has one line at the very, very end of the movie. Still worth the wait. William Powell is the best.

5/2316. Barbie (2023)
Mom bought the DVD for herself for Christmas, and we watched it together. She was lukewarm -- it wasn't really to her taste -- but I had a blast. Greta Gerwig wins again! I've watched it twice more since. Honestly, my favorite part is that Ken was nominated for the Academy Award but not Barbie, which is exactly the very sharp point of the entire film. I hope he wins.

More to come.

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Beware the fire engines

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When it's quiet, I hear a ringing that doesn't seem to exist. I'm pretty sure that tinnitus is just a sign of my ears gradually ossifying. My solution to that is to turn on the radio. I still hear the static, but at least then I can pretend there's a source.

That's not the only time I hear things. Sometimes I think I hear someone call my name or dogs barking when there can't be anyone around to call my name or my dogs are sleeping beside me. This has to be my mind playing tricks on me, right?

I probably shouldn't be typing any of this. Everyone knows that hearing voices is a bad sign. A little over a decade ago, my then across-the-street neighbor told her friends that she could hear people having conversations in the basement when no one else was there. They put her in a home.

She was nearly 100. I'm only half that age. I'm too young to be put in a home. But at least in a home there would be other people who could be calling my name. I have to admit that, technically, that solves the problem.

In the meantime, if you call my name and I don't answer you, know that I probably did hear you; I'm just in denial.

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With football season over, one of the things I've been listening to while walking the dogs is the "Family Trips with the Meyers Brothers" podcast in which brothers Seth and Josh Meyers talk to their many, many celebrity friends about (surprise, surprise) trips they've taken with their families.

Yes, I have been very dismissive of podcasts in the past. And yes, I concede that listening to people I don't know talk about their fancy globetrotting is not always quite as endearing as they might think it is. But sometimes I need something in my ears between Louis' rabid barking at passing joggers, and this fits that bill.

Anyway, the point here isn't an endorsement of podcasting (or your judgement of my pastimes), but that I wanted to mention that apparently I have more in common with Seth Meyers than I previously realized.1

By way of explaining why his family calls him "Soofie," he mentioned that as a bookish youth in the 1980s, he frequently dressed in Ocean Pacific apparel when it was at the zenith of its popularity. Seth is only very slightly older than I am, so he was probably wearing OP t-shirts and board shorts in Connecticut about the same time I was in Georgia. I don't know what excuse Seth had for dressing like a fashion victim, but my attire came from my aunt, whom I believe worked sales for OP at the Atlanta Apparel Mart and had samples to spare.

As a result of Seth's beach bum wardrobe, it seems his Yankee friends called nicknamed him "Surfie" (eventually mangled into "Soofie"). Meanwhile, I was saddled with the Mayberry-eque "Opie." On what I am sure is a completely unrelated note, Seth appears to still talk to his childhood friends whereas I definitely do not.

And now, three-and-a-half decades removed from that childhood trauma, Seth's a famous comedian with his own talk show and podcast. And I have a blog! We're like twins!2

1 The Venn diagram intersection between us previously contained only "Caucasian American male," which, frankly, isn't all that exclusionary.

2 Of the Schwarzenegger / DeVito variety; I believe they're called "infernal" twins.

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The OG (Original Grouch)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Footnote 1: Yes, this will eventually be displayed by the mailbox in the front yard, but it's pretty obvious that Oscar's native habitat is among the junk piles in my messy, messy studio.

Footnote 2: I started this piece back in April 2023 and have only just now finished it. While Oscar's fuzz did take a long time, most of that delay was because I was working too hard in 2023. Blech. I promise not to do that again.

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He sits outside in all weather and sniffs flowers; We call him Bonkers for a reason.

"Like a beautiful flower full of color but without fragrance, even so, fruitless are the fair words of one who does not practice them."

—Buddha, Dhammapada verse 51

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Poodles have been a recognizable breed for 500 years, but the 'white poodle' is a longstanding myth

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143/2309. Violent Night (2022)
Santa Claus as reluctant action movie star in a film that is exactly what it promises to be. The script is a little rough around the edges, many of the camera shots are too tight, and most of the "actors" were clearly stunt people. But those were largely features, not bugs. If you want to see Santa Claus killing very bad people with a sledgehammer, then this is certainly that.

144/2310. Merry Little Batman (2023)
This Christmas-adjacent movie about Batman's very young son trying to replace his crime-fighting father leans heavily on 1960s animation aesthetics and feels about twice as long as it needs to be. I like the weirdness of the tone and style, but it reached me much too late in life -- and after far too many murderous psychotic Joker stories -- for me to find it endearing.

145/2311. Platinum Blonde (1931)
Frank Capra is the director, but this isn't quite as treacle as the films he would become better known for. It's the old story of opposites attracting and worlds colliding, but it's not very deep and the "happy" ending is an amicable divorce. I didn't care for it.

And that brings us to the last of the 145 movies I watched in 2023. At final count, Glenda Farrell, star of the "Torchy Blane" movie series, was the actor most often on my screen (6 times). The next closest was Jimmy Stewart (4 times in 2024, 23 times since I started tracking in 2012). I'd certainly watch more of both of them.

I'm already 17 new-to-me movies into 2024, which puts me on a pace to exceed my annual goal of 150. Will I get there? Only time will tell.

More to come.

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To be continued...


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