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For Christmas, my aunt gave me a Libra 2021 Calendar ("Personalized Daily Horoscope Presented by The International Astrological Alliance, a Leading Resource on Astrology and The Zodiac").

Personally, I have never seen anything to make me believe there's one all-powerful force controlling everything. But maybe that's because I've never been exposed to someone who really understood it all. Reading the back of the calendar, it says that "Libra can be possessive, smothering, insulting and sarcastic." If that wasn't written for me, I don't know what was.

Yesterday, on the first day of the year, my horoscope recommended that I should hang out with friends so that I could meet "someone who brags about every little thing." That doesn't sound like fun, but hey, maybe because I now know about it, I can avoid it, right? Thanks, horoscope.

On the other hand, today's entry reads:

Wedding bells may ring for many Librans in love. Others might get engaged. You can also meet interesting people at the wedding reception of a friend.

Um, I thought this was supposed to be personalized. Not only does that not sound like me or anyone I know, it also doesn't seem to have anything to do with 2021. Doesn't my horoscope know there's a pandemic on? "May ring"? "Might get engaged"? "Can also meet"? I've read things in cookies that were more definite and useful.

But maybe that's just one bad entry. Rather than throw it out, I've decided to hang the calendar in the most appropriate place I can think of: in my bathroom over my toilet. May the stars continue to be my guide in 2021.

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The year 2020 has been horrible in so many ways, but Christmas was not one of them.

Because the family was minimizing the amount of time we were spending with one another outside our households, I woke up at 1:30PM and opened presents — provided by friends and relatives who were much too generous — at 3 with just my Mother. When we were done we delivered pound cake and key lime pie to family elsewhere in town, and then came home to a ravioli dinner and a rerun of Jeopardy!. I finished the day watching a silent Hitchcock film and a spaghetti Western staring Toshiro Mifune.

I recognize that most people would disagree, but as someone who generally finds the holiday chafing, I think it was the best Christmas of my life.

Thank you, COVID-19.

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2020 killed my dog.

July, R.I.P.

July beat cancer for the first time in 2016 after having her toe amputated. She beat it a second time when she had a portion of her ear removed in 2019. This past July, she had a mammary tumor removed. Three times seems to be the limit.

In late October, she got wobbly in the legs. We crossed our fingers that it was a spinal problem. She initially responded to treatment, but she took a turn for the worse about two weeks ago when she lost even the ability to stand with assistance. It was downhill from there.

So long as she was lucid and had an appetite, I felt it was my duty to support her however I could — I couldn't justify killing my dog simply because she had become inconvenient. But I realized late last night that we had probably reached the end of the line. (I'll save the gory details except to say that cancer can be a real bitch.) I had her euthanized this afternoon, and she died in my arms.

For the better part of the past decade, July had been my shadow. Her sister, Victoria, wanted to be near me; July *needed* to be near me. She followed me everywhere and complained to whoever would listen when she couldn't see me. I can't blame her. Who else was she going to get to take her for walkies or hand her a slice of pizza?

I already feel like I'm missing something when I walk into a room and don't hear the tappa-tappa of toenails trailing behind me. I keep looking for baby, and she's not there anymore and never will be again. That will take some getting used to.

Thanks to Kelley for bringing her into my life and thanks to Mom for being a substitute Walter when necessary over the years. Thanks to her vet, Jeff, for helping me keep her around as long as we did. (Fourteen years is a good, long life for a standard poodle!) And especially thanks to July for doing your best to make 2020 bearable for as long as you could.

In happier times

I loved my girls.

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Dad's in the hospital again for some sort of infection. I thought at first he had decided that if COVID was good enough for the president, it was good enough for him. The good news is that he doesn't have COVID. The bad news is that I don't know what he's got.

[UPDATE 10-06: He's been diagnosed with untreated bronchiolitis that turned into sepsis. He is expected to recover. Would this have become such a dangerous issue if fear of spreading COVID to high risk patients hadn't closed his GP's office to all people with respiratory issues? *shakes fist at 2020*]

After extended visits in three consecutive years, it's getting harder to get Dad to go to the hospital. Despite feeling increasingly terrible, he's refused the option for weeks. He had to spend all last night bleeding from the nose before he'd finally consent to going. What will he have to bleed from next year?

It was almost exactly two years ago that he was checked into the same hospital for diverticulitis, a rupture in his intestines that he never had repaired. Is this a recurrence of that? (How far do you have to stick your head up your ass before bleeding from the nose could be a diverticulitis symptom?) Your guess is as good as mine. Better, probably.

I'm sure you don't really care about my father's medical problems, but this blog also serves as sort of a diary, and one day (probably in October 2022), I'll wonder when it was that Dad went in to the hospital for that mystery infection that might have been COVID.

I mean, I don't mind reminding you, but you really need to work on your long-term recall, future Walter.

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Taken 38 years ago today in a K-Mart photo booth:

8-28-82 K Mart Walter & Trey

I sure did like Pac-Man.

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Actual conversation:

ME: If America was a corporation whose CEO had run it the way America has been run for the past 6 months, would you renew the contract of that CEO?

DAD: Yes. I think America is doing great right now.

ME: Right now? A year ago, maybe. But not right now. Right now, things are terrible. (Points at television.) For example, there are riots in Wisconsin right now.

DAD: Donald Trump sent the National Guard into Wisconsin.

ME: If the presence of the National Guard is an indicator of greatness, why weren't they in Wisconsin last year?

DAD (looking at me like I had two heads): They didn't need them last year. There were no riots then!

You can't argue with logic like that.

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True story: Emma is my favorite Jane Austen novel, and I was really looking forward to the latest movie adaptation when it finally opened in my local theater the second weekend in March. (I've seen other adaptations, of course. The 1996 version is good enough that it almost made me like Gwyneth Paltrow.) However, the second week in March coincided with the arrival of COVID-19 and the global shutdown. That's right, this whole pandemic exists just to keep me from Emma. Curses!

Well, I finally fooled you, COVID-19.

126. (1780.) Emma. (2020)

Fifteen minutes into my rental, Mom asked me, "What is it you like so much about bitches?" She was referring to protagonist Emma Woodhouse, who at the start the novel is very unlikable indeed, something the movie leans into *hard*. (Some might say that she's not much better at the end. Those people are heartless monsters.) Mom also knows I just watched 6 seasons of Downton Abbey and developed a bit of a crush on Lady Mary Crawley, another character who always gets it her way. In response to her question, I replied, "I like women who are like my mother." We did not talk much for the rest of the movie.

The enjoyment of Jane Austen's story is Emma's journey of self-discovery through a series of misadventures and comic misunderstandings which the movie does perfectly. In fact, the movie does just about everything perfectly. If you can't get behind Miss Woodhouse and the rest of the amazing cast, you at least should be able to marvel at the lush, Technicolor-like cinematography and stunning Regency period outfits. (Oscars for everyone!)

If I have any complaint, it's that the relationship between Emma and her beau develops too quickly. (Austen's Emma is constructed more as a detective novel than a romance. All the clues are there the whole time, but nothing comes together until the end.) It's a minor quibble, and the modernization of the plot does nothing to damage an otherwise wonderful adaptation. (The Harry Potter movies disabused me of the notion that movies should be exact visual duplications of their source material. If you're going to adapt another piece of art, you need to bring something new to the table.)

I've been in such a foul humor lately, what with the eternal cycle of bad news, that it's truly an unexpected delight to have a distraction like this. While I've always highly recommended Emma, the novel, I can now do the same with Emma., the movie.

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Superman might not have time for movies, but I do. (Have you seen what's on television? I can only watch so much of that.)

First off, let's knock out these five at once:

58. (1712.) Mystery 101: An Education in Murder (2020)
61. (1715.) Ruby Herring Mysteries: Prediction Murder (2020)
71. (1725.) Flower Shop Mystery: Dearly Depotted (2016)
75. (1729.) Matchmaker Mysteries: A Fatal Romance (2020)
91. (1745.) Flower Shop Mystery: Mum's the Word (2016)
94. (1748.) Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Heist and Seek (2020)

There's not a whole lot to say about these individually. Most of them are fair to middling mysteries, nothing to write home about. Ruby Herring is still getting better with each installment, while Aurora Teagarden has given up on even acknowledging its red herrings. The others are good enough for watching with your mother when there aren't any game shows on.

74. (1728.) Comrade X (1940)
Imagine if they set a Cary Grant romantic comedy against the backdrop of the Communist revolution. It goes out of its way to intentionally misunderstand the revolution its satirizing — girls can't be boys! — but it does have its moments.

76. (1730.) Taxi Driver (1976)
I've been avoiding this for years because I thought I wouldn't like it, but I finally gave in... and discovered I was right. I felt slimy for watching. (Fuck Natural Born Killers. This is how you inspire murderers, as Hinkley Jr proved.) However, it does look and sound great. If any one movie is responsible for the feel of Fight Club, it's got to be this one. Probably not the best choice in the current political climate.

Drink Coke! (Taxi Driver)
You drinkin' from me?

77. (1731.) Our Miss Brooks (1956)
Eve Arden and her radio/television show of the same name are great, but this film isn't. Ninety minutes is simply too long to sustain the man-hunter plot.

78. (1732.) Peter Rabbit (2018)
My Dad said he hated this because that rude rabbit Peter killed old man McGregor, which I really think says more about my father than this movie. I thought it was cute, especially thanks to the antics of the good bunnies, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail.

More to come.

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I've been wondering how I will remember these dark days when we come out the other side. Travel restrictions, face masks, food shortages.... Frankly, we probably should have experienced it before now. America has been continuously at war with someone or other since 2001, and the public hasn't experienced any hardships like what happened in previous wars. Would we still be in Afghanistan if Americans had to share rolls of toilet paper in 2002?

Waaaaay back in the first week of March, when it became clear to everyone that this Covid-19 thing was going to be a real problem for neo-isolationist America, I rather naively believed that if everyone hunkered down, it would all blow over within two months. What a sucker I was for assuming everyone in the country was taking the plague very, very seriously. Like, prison solitary confinement seriously. However, I failed to take into account that no one can tell an American that they can't enjoy a Big Mac while test-firing their AR-15 inside the church of their choice. 'Merica!

It's now quite obvious that this thing isn't going to be over any time soon. I'm no president, but even I recognize that we can't start to relax restrictions until we know actually who has and who can spread the disease. Two months in, we've managed to test less than one percent of the country. At the current pace, it will take another sixteen years to test the rest. That speed will inevitably accelerate, but by any metric, we're still many months away from where we need to be for resuming what used to pass as "business as usual."

Personally, I'm still terrified that I'll catch the disease and give it to my family. Last month, I broke my piggy bank to renew my UGA football season tickets, but I cannot imagine that I'd attend any of those games if something doesn't drastically change in the next five months. Given the pace of progress, I'm beginning to suspect those games won't be played at all, at least not with fans in the stadium. I don't know what I'll do without football — specifically college football, that is. If the NFL doesn't play this fall, it may be a good excuse for me to give it up. It's not like the Dolphins have been all that entertaining over the past two decades.

I don't have much of a reputation for "staying positive," but I'm trying. Fewer cars on the road will help with global warming. Families will have time together they otherwise never would have experienced. People can explore new hobbies. For example, I'm now delivering what groceries I can find to my father, who is spending his time writing Trump fan fiction. Such is life in 2020.

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So, when I took down my Santa Claus decoration for Christmas, I left two anchoring poles embedded in the front yard. Rather than let me pull them out, Mother insisted that I create more decorations for other holidays.

Turns out, I've got nothing else to do.

Introducing my Easter Bunny:

Easter Bites Back

Here's another beside the front door for better scale.

The great American chocolate bar.

I'm already working on the next piece. (I had to brave a trip to Michael's, where only 10 customers are allowed inside at a time, to pick up some blue paint.) I'll show it off when I get closer to July.

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To be continued...

 

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