Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Writing A Book Part 1: Idea to Execution

The 21-month period ended this Saturday with the publication of my latest book, Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality. The long process appeared to be common with certain kinds of non-fiction publications.

Things started last January when an editor for a new series of books on sports idols who became popular culture icons asked me if I wanted to submit a book proposal. Having had my book, The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, D.C. Basketball published with Rowman and Littlefield, I knew something about the steps they sought in their book proposals. The difficult part was figuring out whom I would write about.

At first, the names that popped into my head were female tennis stars, specifically Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. Each had played a role in furthering women’s roles on the tennis circuit, but they also were well known for their sexual orientation and became major figures in announcing. After thinking twice about them, I focused on Jim Brown. The former NFL star running back had a long career as a movie actor in Hollywood. He stood as a player in the Civil Rights Movement and had also voiced his opinion on matters in politics and culture over the years.

Then, the set of struggles over the Confederate flag in South Carolina and on the car used in the television show The Dukes of Hazzard happened. I read a wide-range of articles and felt there was a lot about the American South that I did not know. I realized that Terry Bradshaw had as rich a career in popular culture as in sports so I looked into him as a possibility for a book. I wrote a chapter on Bradshaw acting in 1970s Burt Reynolds movies, polished it up after my friend Brian gave it a great read, and shipped it off to the publisher along with the book proposal.

With university and some academic presses, after the editor completes a review, he/she submits these documents to people with expertise in the field for comments. Rowman and Littlefield have “reading boards” with librarians who offer their assessment, including whether they would have an interest in buying the book upon completion. The group gave the possible Bradshaw book the nod in January 2016. I received a contract giving me an October 2016 completion date. I doubted that I could complete the ten chapters in this time frame and sought a co-writer. This time I could not find one. Fortunately, Brian volunteered to read chapters, then raise questions and identify gaps.

As always I started with researching the subject. Bradshaw has written four books about his life and they proved very helpful. These books featured stories that I could use later and people and places that I knew had to be corroborated in other books, magazines and newspapers. Bradshaw’s books showed why he was a popular culture icon. His football career covered the 1970s and 80s. He served as a color commentator for games during the 1980s, and has been a studio analyst for professional football on two networks for 27 years. He has sang country western and gospel music, made movies and appeared on television shows in the 1970s and the 1990s and 2000s. Has has made commercials for nearly every type of product.

The other books ranged from fan and journalist books on football and the Pittsburgh Steelers to academic works on  of the 1970s.  Sports reporter Gary Pomerantz’s Their Life’s Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now provided details about the team and the individual men. Several figures from the team wrote autobiographies, including the team’s President Dan Rooney through linebacker Andy Russell and announcer Myron Cope. All these works provided context and stories about the team and Bradshaw’s personality. A few scholars wrote about on road movies and Southern movies during the 1970s as well the depictions of Southerners in popular literature and television which offered perspectives on imagery of Southern white males, specifically the Good Old Boy.

This information got me off to a great start but I noticed great gaps about his childhood and days working in television. I used resources like the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame to identify people who wrote about or played with Bradshaw while he played high school and college football. Thankfully I discovered that people from the area proved very nice and willing to help. Doug Ireland, the head of the Hall of Fame, gave me several names, and they remarkably included Bradshaw’s old high school football coach. The coach provided details about Shreveport, the school system, the football program, and Terry’s personality. I also spoke with the journalists they had told me about and they had grown up with Terry so they could provide some childhood insight as well as high school and college football stories. Again, my great fortune to meet open and straight-shooting people.

I figured finding out about television broadcasting would be more difficult. There are small cadres of people working in the field and reputations are guarded closely. I tried to reach out to a few groups including the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.  I left messages and heard nothing back. Some articles in sports weeklies such as Sports Illustrated, featured a few articles about individuals who worked with Terry Bradshaw while he was with CBS Sports. Through various searches I found information for sports producer Terry O’Neil. I re-read the articles, read his autobiography and prepared a list of questions. He proved very helpful and insightful about the work of a color commentator and studio host and analyst for the NFL.

Other searches for producers and on-air talent did give me a few email addresses and telephone numbers. Most significantly I got to talk with Bradshaw’s broadcasting partner for a few years Verne Lundquist. He proved generous with his time, providing responses to my questions but also offering stories.

Unfortunately, other well-known people I called failed to return my messages. Getting in touch with players I figured would be a challenge. When I wrote the basketball book I received a list with contact information for some former players. This helped a lot and I conducted quite a few interviews, particularly with players who were active decades ago. A few active general managers, assistant coaches, scouts and former players spoke with me. But one former player gave me particular insight into why many would not discuss their past or other players. He said, “This is a fraternity. If you want to get a chance at a job in the league, you have to keep things tight.”

While that stunk, I revealed in the discovery of how much simpler researching history has become because of the digitization of many magazines and newspapers. Before starting specific searches, I consulted the yearly Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature to find any article published about Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers during the 1960s and 1970s, and items related to NFL quarterbacks. I then found many of these articles through the specific search engines for the magazines, including Sports Illustrated and Time, People and Variety. Most fortunately, people with specific interests such as in radio, or in movies, have digitized some special interest magazines, such as Broadcasting and Cash Box, which contained significant insight into Bradshaw’s television, movie and music careers.

The number of newspapers that have been digitized is amazing. Thankfully I live in Washington, DC and have the Library of Congress as a resource. They have access to the digitized versions of the largest newspapers, including Washington Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe and the Atlanta Constitution. They also have services providing access to African-American newspapers and to small-town and rural newspapers as well. The city’s library has a service that provides access to historical newspapers across the United States. Most of these newspapers start from the 1990s. These are incredibly valuable resources, especially when you are interested in knowing what reactions reviewers, critics and the general public had to a person’s artistic and other activities.

I spent weeks printing or copying the details from thousands of articles covering Bradshaw’s playing career through his years on Fox’s NFL Pregame shows, which have changed names and contributors over the years. Among those with regular appearances on the show are comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Frank Caliendo. I organized these materials chronologically in individual chapters based upon Bradshaw’s activity: childhood, football player, singing, acting and commercials, studio analyst. I drafted a chapter every three weeks and received pretty quick reads from my friend.

While Brian read the chapter 9 and the conclusion I searched for photographs. I asked several of the people whom I interviewed if they had a photograph and thought that two would send a copy. I consulted with Louisiana State University in Shreveport and discovered that they had digital images of the Woodlawn High School newspaper. This included a few photographs of Terry Bradshaw. I called the Louisiana Technical University’s Archives and they had a large collection that did not yield what I hoped to put in the book. The Pittsburgh area newspapers and magazines had a couple of excellent photographs. However, I ended up only using a bird’s-eye view of the new stadium (Three Rivers Stadium in 1970). The problem with the others was that they had NFL depicted on them and the photo archivist stated that I might have to pay the league for the rights to use them in the book.

I am not sure about the legal issues but I heard something similar when I called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Library and the Warner Brothers’ Library. Each had photographs of Bradshaw in the movies, specifically Hooper and The Cannonball Run. Unfortunately, each photograph cost more than I planned on spending and they mentioned that I was responsible for getting the rights clearances. The expectation was that I would contact the person in the image and get their consent to publish the photograph in the book. Way too much to do and quite unlikely to be granted if the person isn’t able to exert control over how the image is used.

After creating a list of the photographs and indicating their location in the book, I shipped these documents, copies of the photographs and the nine chapters to the publisher in late September 2016. The book editor read the manuscript and shipped me back copies within a month with questions to clarify points or offer suggestions about words or sentence structure. The largest comments focused on the size of the book. The contract called for 100,000 words and this I delivered. However, the book ran 400 pages which was too costly for production. The editor asked me to reduce the context surrounding everything from the economy of the South in the 1960s through the attempts of athletes to make music and star in movies. I could also make some small changes in word choices, spelling or other items. Another big decision involved splitting up the chapter on the Steelers’ four championships in two because of its size.

The first round of editing ended in December. The copy editors and printing staff at Rowman & Littlefield took over. We looked at a couple of possible cover images and I offered my opinion.They also asked me if I knew of people in the field of sports history and popular culture who would be interested in reading the first draft and providing an endorsement. I belong to a few groups of academics but am not very well connected so I wasn’t sure whom to ask. I contacted the people who initially got me involved, the series editors, and asked them if they had any recommendations. With me sending out a few requests and the editors looking, we arrived at finding three people who offered to read the draft. To my amazement, all submitted raves for the book. I felt great.

I received this first version of the book that the three readers got in early April 2017. This gave me the chance to see what the book will look like and determine if anything generated heartburn and needed changing. Every paragraph received a numerical label in brackets representing the chapter and when the paragraph appears, for example [2.3]. I understood the purpose of the numbers in brackets. Instead of using page numbers, the published wanted me to place these numbers in the book’s index. I had 2-3 weeks to place these numbers in the index next to the persons, places, and things that I thought worth tracking. After starting the indexing of chapter one, I realized that several people and organizations would need many subheadings to indicate the different activities and events they participated in. As I finished the second chapter I felt exhausted and another 250 pages remained. I decided in order to meet this deadline I needed to hire someone. A neighbor had some time so she took over the indexing of the two non-football focused chapters because she is not a big fan of the sport. She did a fantastic job and helped me with another chapter as well. I emailed the completed index to the publisher.

A month later, the book editor at Rowman & Littlefield emailed me with the final copy of the book’s cover. A week later I received a second  copy of the final draft of the book, including the index. They also sent an author’s questionnaire and a document I filled in with places that I thought would be potential locations for a book review. The press’s small publicity department generally sent out copies of the book to four of the outlets the review books for libraries. The publications are Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Choice and Booklist. I knew a few places from previous books that I’ve published, such as Journal of Sports History and Journal of Popular Culture. I researched for other outlets, particularly websites, and forwarded a list to the publisher.

In July, almost two months before the book came out, the first review emerged. The Publishers Weekly reviewer thought highly of the book and gave it a great review. My editor sent me notice of it. Now I became curious what else might come out. I noticed this blurb from Library Journal:

FIRST AND TEN: TOP FOOTBALL TITLES FOR SUMMER AND FALL

Abrams, Brett L. Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality. Rowman & Littlefield. (Sports Icons & Issues in Pop Culture). Sept. 2017. 304p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781442277632. $40. SPORTS

Arians, Bruce with Lars Anderson. The Quarterback Whisperer: How To Build an Elite NFL Quarterback. Hachette. Jul. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9780316432269. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316432252. SPORTS

**Bell, Upton & Ron Borges. Present at the Creation: My Life in the NFL and the Rise of America’s Game. Univ. of Nebraska. Nov. 2017. 400p. illus. ISBN 9781496200396. $24.95. SPORTS

Carlson, Chuck. Ice Bowl ’67: The Packers, the Cowboys, and the Game That Changed the NFL. Sports Pub. Oct. 2017. 224p. illus. ISBN 9781683580973. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683581017. SPORTS

George, Thomas. Blitzed: Why NFL Teams Gamble on Starting Rookie Quarterbacks. Sports Pub. Sept. 2017. 208p. notes. ISBN 9781683581079. $24.99. SPORTS

Myers, Gary. My First Coach: Inspiring Stories of NFL Quarterbacks and Their Dads. Grand Central. Aug. 2017. 288p. index. ISBN 9781455598465. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781455598472. SPORTS

**Oriard, Michael. The Art of Football: The Early Game in the Golden Age of Illustration. Univ. of Nebraska. Aug. 2017. 280p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780803290693. $39.95. SPORTS

Savage, Phil with Ray Glier. 4th and Goal Every Day: Alabama’s Relentless Pursuit of Perfection. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2017. 336p. index. ISBN 9781250130808. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250130815. SPORTS

Stewart, Wayne. Remembering the Stars of the NFL Glory Years: An Inside Look at the Golden Age of Football. Rowman & Littlefield. Jul. 2017. 238p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781442274235. $38; ebk. ISBN 9781442274242. SPORTS

**Zimmerman, Paul. Dr. Z: The Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer. Triumph. Sept. 2017. 304p. ed. by Peter King. ISBN 9781629374642. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781633198487. SPORTS

The R&L publicist said that indicated a full review of the book would be coming in the near future. It did and the person called it a unique take on Bradshaw’s life and career. The R&L editor thought the reviews were outstanding.

Anybody who knows me immediately realizes that I start combing through the Internet to see what else would appear. The book did not get reviewed in the other two locations. The hard work of marketing and publicity remained ahead to be discussed in the second part of this chronicle.

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Billy the Cat

Here’s our foster cat Billy enjoying an offering as he embarks on his constitutional. Billy is a very playful guy who runs to the door to greet you when you come home.

He’s available through City Dog Rescue of Washington, DC

http://www.citydogsrescuedc.org/adoptable-cats.html#.WV1zJojyu00

go to Billy

Lobos: Mexican Gray Wolves

Mar 27

Because #LoboWeek: A Brief Look at the Plight of the Mexican Gray Wolf

This week 19 years ago, 11 captive-born Mexican gray wolves (aka lobos) were released into the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona for the first time since they were very nearly eradicated in the early 1970s.  In 1976, three years after the passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the lobo was listed as an endangered species.  From just seven individuals, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) began a captive breeding program to save the species from extinction.  On March 29, 1998, the first individuals were reintroduced in the Blue Range Recovery Area in New Mexico and Arizona.  After more than 30 years of absence, the rarest subspecies of gray wolf returned home to the mountains of the southwest.

To commemorate this close call, ESC and many other organizations around the world are celebrating #LoboWeek by raising awareness and mobilizing activists just like you to help!

Tweet: This week is #LoboWeek! Learn more about Mexican gray wolves and take action to help save them: http://bit.ly/2n9HlCe via @endangered

Despite all this celebrating and 20 years of recovery efforts, the Mexican gray wolf is still critically endangered.  The good news is according to FWS’s latest count, there are 113 lobos in the wild, which is an increase from previous years.  The bad news is that 14 wolves were found dead- some illegally poached– in 2016, making last year the record holder for the most lobo deaths since their reintroduction in 1998.

 

More Bad News for the Lobo:

Genetic Diversity

Every lobo that exists in the wild is a descendant of the seven wolf survivors that started the captive breeding program in the late 1970s.  This means that all the wild wolves are closely related and genetic diversity is very low.  Consequently, their ability to adapt to changing conditions is extremely limited.  Reports of unusually small litters and genetic abnormalities have resulted from the inbreeding.  Until more wolves are released into the wild, these problems will continue, which leads us to our next problem.  New Mexico secured an injunction last year, giving them the power to stop FWS from reintroducing anymore Mexican wolves into the wild.  FWS is in the process of appealing that decision.  Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance have all filed to intervene in the case.

S. 368

Last month, Senator Jeff Flake (AZ-R) introduced S. 368 , a piece of legislation that could drive the Mexican gray wolf to extinction.  The bill would authorize states, the livestock industry, and other special interest groups to dictate the terms of the Mexican gray wolf recovery plan, rather than scientists. It would set an arbitrary cap on the number of wolves in the wild and require removal (probably lethal removal) of all wolves over that number. It would ban wolves from areas scientists have identified as necessary to their recovery, like the Grand Canyon ecoregion and the San Juan Mountains. Worst of all, this bill would remove the Mexican wolf from the endangered species list once the terms of the politicized recovery plan have been achieved, even though they would still be biologically imperiled. This bill undermines the ESA by skipping the mandated delisting process required by Section 4 of the Act.

Social Intolerance

The Mexican gray wolf is victim to the same intolerance and scapegoating that other wolf species, as well as other carnivores, are subjected to.  In reality, wolves  are responsible for just a fraction of a percent (.2%) of livestock loss–less than that caused by illness, weather, or even dogs there’s no evidence they kill more  deer than needed to survive; and there is no statistical proof that they are a danger to humans.  All this fear rhetoric overshadows the awesome benefits of having wolves in our ecosystems.  Here are some examples: wolves keep prey populations healthy and even reduce diseases in hoofed mammals, like Chronic Wasting Disease.  They reduce overgrazing from deer and elk, which leads to decreased soil erosion and a stable environment.  They provide food and habitat for hundreds of other creatures, earning them the honorary title of keystones species.  And not to mention that tourism directly related to wolves near Yellowstone National Park contributes $35.5 million to local economies yearly.  Despite these and other benefits, social intolerance still persists and that contributes to a lack of political will.

So, that’s the bad news.  The good news is that it’s Lobo Week and YOU are reading this blog and educating yourself on the rarest and most biologically unique subspecies of gray wolf in the world.  Right now, there are around 113 lobos in the wild that need your help!  Celebrate Lobo Week with me by sharing their story!

Want more ways to help?

  1. Share this blog with your friends and family.  Education is one of the most powerful catalysts.  And how can someone help if they don’t know there’s a problem?
  2. Educate yourself! Learn more about lobos from Lobos of the Southwest, Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, and Wolf Conservation Center.
  3. Join the movement by using the hashtag #LoboWeek on tweets and other Mexican gray wolf related posts this week.  You can find photos, graphics, and badges on the Wolf Conservation Center’s site.
  4. Do you happen to live in Arizona? If so, you are one of Senator Flake’s constituents.  Call him and say that S. 368 is bogus!
  5. Be an ally for wolves by joining ESC’s Species Guardians! You’ll be given the information, resources, and support you need to be a leader for wolves in your state!
  6. Tell your community that it’s Lobo Week by writing a letter to the editor and submitting it to your local paper.  Make sure to include why wolves are important to you.

Passionate folks like you and me are the only thing standing between the lobo and extinction.  Make Lobo Week 2017 count.  Join the movement and get involved!

Rescuing a Dog

Lori came speeding off the transport from North Carolina and ran into the grassy area where we waited to take home our foster dogs. “Who’s got Lori?” said her handler. “I do,” I responded and she handed me her leash. Immediately, the Shepard mix tried to tug me around to get a sense of where she was/

lori-4She looked sad and a little apprehensive when we got home. I tried to hand her a treat but she would not eat it from my hand. Later, we discovered that this was not unusual.

The shelter asked for money to send Lori, then named Elise, to the vet. She had burn marks on her back and was 10 pounds underweight. The people of her home area came through.

Then City Dog Rescue stepped in. The Washington, D.C. based group picked her up among many other dogs and brought them to our area so that someone might adopt them.

My husband and I fed and cared for Lori for two weeks.

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Lori began eating out of my hand after one week and she quickly adopted to her requirement to sit before getting to eat her meal. We also hired Anibal S. Apunte to walk her during the day when we weren’t home. He introduced her to other dogs that he walked as a part of her socialization.

Lori enjoyed her runs immensely! She proved to be a good member of the pack as well.

A few days later, two great human companions adopted her and rechristened her Saga after a modern heroic narrative resembling the Icelandic saga and her own long struggle. She has a happy new home and lease on life.

NHL Forward Thinking Forward

 

Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins faced an interesting choice after receiving a tweet with a homophobic slur in it. Pete Blackburn explains what the Bruins’ left winger did.usatsi_9743954-vadapt-767-high-0

Towards the beginning of his NHL career, Brad Marchand quickly developed a reputation as being a nuisance on the ice. He established himself as an effective pest and agitator, but also was labeled as “dirty” after a few controversial hits and incidents.

In his arsenal of tactics, Marchand has been known to low-bridge, sucker punch and slew foot opponents. His trash talk game is also tremendous and relentless.

While those aspects of his game haven’t completely been eradicated, in the past few years the Bruins winger has become more recognized for his elite two-way skill. He has developed into a leader for the Boston club and, this past fall, scored the clinching goal at the World Cup of Hockey while playing on Canada’s top line alongside Sidney Crosby.

Marchand, 28, credits that growth to being older and more mature, saying his “priorities have changed” over the years. But it’s not just his on-ice play that has become more admirable.

Recently, Marchand has become somewhat of a champion for people in the LGBT community. In December, the winger was attacked on a Twitter with a homophobic slur. In a since-deleted tweet, Marchand responded to the hate by publicly shaming the person who sent the vitriolic remarks his way, saying “this derogatory statement is offensive to so many people around the world, [you’re] the kind of kid parents are ashamed of.” The response prompted the user to delete his account.

Marchand was applauded for standing up for the gay community and taking a proactive approach to silencing the hate, and ESPN’s Joe McDonald recently spoke to Marchand about the exchange.

“I want to stand up for what I believe in, and I don’t think it’s right when people say things or bash people because of their sexual orientation,” said Marchand, via ESPN. “I have friends who are in gay relationships, and I don’t think it’s right for people to be against that. Everyone is allowed to find love whatever way that is, so I felt like that was a time to say something, especially nowadays. We’re in 2017, and things are a lot different than they were 100 years ago. We’re all evolving to be equal, and that’s the way things should be.”

When asked whether or not an openly gay player would be accepted in an NHL locker room, Marchand delivered a strong vote of confidence in favor of equality.

“Guys would accept that, no question,” Marchand assured. “We’re a team in the [dressing] room and a family. It doesn’t matter what different beliefs guys have, or where they come from, or whatever the case may be. Guys would accept it. Again, in the room we’re a family. That’s the way it is on a hockey team, and that’s the way it will always be.”

There has yet to be an openly gay player in the league, though Marchand says it’s “bound to happen at some point, and when it does, it will be accepted.” The NHL has had a large number of players endorse the You Can Play campaign, which is dedicated to eradicating homophobia from sports, so it certainly appears that Marchand isn’t the only star who feels this way.

Portugal Trip: Animals

I enjoy all kinds of animals. Their charm and joyful personalities make them wonders to be around. On our trip to Portugal we saw many fun, wonderous creatures.

Inside the monestary and cathedral at Batalha,  the Royal Cloister, with its embellishments in the Manueline style and the square Chapter House with a huge Gothic vault that is remarkable for having no central supports get most of the attention. One no longer used basin for water collection contains an array of Koi.

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We had seen the wild chickens on our visit to Kauai many years ago but did not expect them in Sintra, 40 miles outside of Lisbon, the most populous city in the nation.

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Not everyone is a student in the university town of Coimbra. While one long-legged dog lounged during the day, later that evening three joined their human companion at an outdoor cafe.animal_3

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These dogs weren’t the only ones engaged in playful fun. A nice couple who ran a beautiful bed and breakfast outside of Obidos had a pair of cats that enjoyed a tossle while we talked around the dining room table.

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Inside the walled city of Obidos, the sun beat down on all of us tourists walking in and out of shops. Several cats seemed to take the best approach.

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Outside of Porto, the country’s second largest city, we found a beautiful new church that displayed nice architecture.

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We were surprised to find a farm next door.

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Near the city of Evora we stayed in a bed and breakfast run on a farm. The first sight we encountered were two burros.

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The gate to the farm was locked, so I did the next best thing and climbed over to search for the owners. Two fellows came to greet me. Lucky for me the Irish Wolfhounds remained calm.

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At a beautiful bed and breakfast near Lagos, this French bulldog found the fish endlessly fascinating.

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We encountered much more active dogs when we talked with their human companions. Vegan never wanted to stop chasing the tennis ball. I convinced others sitting around the outdoor cafe to join in the game.

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On the beach at Faro, this dog liked nothing more than digging holes and burying important rocks to find later in the day. He amused himself and all of us who watched.

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Washington Theater Year: 2014

The top critic for the Washington Post compiled a list of the top plays and musicals of the 2014 year in the city. Happy to say that I saw half of the shows and one more when it appeared on Broadway. I agree with most of the choices, although I thought choice seven was a good character study that didn’t really get me thinking or generate any emotional response. The top choice wen to Broadway and didn’t draw enough audiences to keep running. Tribes was an incredible show that offered much, as did Bad Jews.

 

1. “Side Show,” Kennedy Center. Forever ahead of its time, this heartbreaking musical about conjoined twins turned vaudeville stars, nurtured in a splendid revival by director Bill Condon, was a succes d’estime, but both in D.C. and on Broadway after that, a disappointing box-office performer.

2. “Tribes,” Studio Theatre. Nina Raine’s play detailing the mixed and missed signals in an intellectual London family brilliantly intermingled the perspectives of deaf and hearing characters.

3. “Sunday in the Park with George,” Signature Theatre. The Pulitzer-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine remains a profound statement about the art of making art, as director Matthew Gardiner’s smashing revival demonstrated.

4. “Bad Jews,” Studio Theatre. The funniest play of the year, set on a night of operatically pitched family battles, courtesy of a playwright, Joshua Harmon, we’re bound to hear more from.

5. “The Admission,” Theater J. A searing drama by Israeli playwright Motti Lerner that inflamed passions about the Middle East and, in the resulting political firestorm, likely contributed to the firing by the DC Jewish Community Center of the company’s artistic director, Ari Roth. (Honorable mention: the inspired Tovah Feldshuh in Theater J’s companion one-woman show, “Golda’s Balcony.”)

6. “Sleeping Beauty: A Puppet Ballet,” Pointless Theatre. This small-budget and enjoyably big hearted staging of the Tchaikovsky ballet with both puppets and actors established this resourceful troupe as Washington’s most promising young company.

7. “The Wolfe Twins,” Studio. Artistic director David Muse commissioned of Rachel Bonds this surprising and sharply drawn study of an American brother and sister (the wonderful Tom Story and Birgit Huppuch) having a devastating falling-out in Rome.

8. “Colossal,” Olney Theatre Center. Playwright Andrew Hinderaker and director Will Davis found parallels in the physicality of football and ballet, creating in the process an exhilarating dance-drama about a player dealing with a catastrophic sports injury.

9. “Sex with Strangers,” Signature. Laura Eason’s entertaining tale of boy writer-meets-girl-writer felt like a camera-ready romantic comedy, with expert help from director Aaron Posner and actors Holly Twyford and Luigi Sottile.

10. “The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” Folger Theater. The clever folks from visiting Fiasco Theater showed how excitingly newly minted Shakespeare can feel, when presented on a refreshingly intimate scale, with close and revealing attention to text.

What’s Love Got to Do With It

Columnist Richard Cohen went to see the new movie Her and came away with a stronger impression of our cultural narcissism. Critics and sociologists and historians have talked about our cultural obsession with ourselves for 50 years. The 70s were the Me generation; great historian Christoper Lasch wrote The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations at the close of that decade.

The awareness of our navel gazing is nothing new but the movie adds a twist; our ability to use technology to serve this purpose. It seems to provide a cure: we can all have our own personal technological male 0r female to serve our desires! Cohen provides several examples that embody this self focus, including selfies, watching only a cable network that provides the information you want to hear (Fox, MSNBC). He also adds that Americans have about 70 million dogs and 74 million cats and, says “…while some of them are for helping — guard dogs, etc. — most offer the service of uncomplicated affection.”

The animal companionship item is an odd example to demonstrate narcissism.In fact, it demonstrates our need to be related to others and the joy we receive from that connection. People with animals know that you spend a fair amount of time fulfilling their basic care needs. Other time is spend playing with them and showing them affection. We have relationships with the animals. We love watching them be themselves, and get an amazing amount of joy out of the things that they do. That’s far from narcissistic and someone who has a pet for their own glorification is providing a great disservice and missing out on so much.

Celebrity Watching

Went to the opening night of Betrayal:

Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz have caused a stampede to the box office by theatregoers keen to keen to see the husband and wife acting powerhouse in Harold Pinter’s Betrayal.

The show opened on Sunday, in front of a star-studded audience including director Steven Spielberg, musician Bruce Springsteen and US Vogue editor Anna Wintour at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre who were among the lucky ticketholders.

Others I saw included actor Ian McKellen and his husband. Playwright Tony Kushner and his husband, actress Ellen Barkin, actress Patricia Clarkson, actress Candice Bergen, newsperson Chris Matthews, and of course since Mike Nichols was the director, newsperson Diane Sawyer.

But others desperate to see the show have seen theatre lovers pay $2,500 on the black market to see the new adaptation, directed by ten-time Tony Award winner Mike Nichols.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2478075/Daniel-Craig-Rachel-Weisz-star-Broadway-Betrayal-Steven-Spielberg–tickets-sell-figure-sums-black-market.html#ixzz2j7UHUaSp

Adoption Event

 First dog I walked around the Washington Animal Rescue League adoption event today now has a wonderful owner. The second dog is this beautiful unique two year old Australian Shepard-Dutch Sheepdog mix.
This second dog that I spent most of my time with is a two-year-old Australian Shepard, Dutch Sheepdog mix named Dutchess of Cambridge is still available.
The Dutchess

What an amazing, alert, intelligent dog. We went running and she has such an amazing stride when we ran to get some exercise.