My granddaughter has a new game. She sets out her family of stuffed animals, arranges them in a row, and tells them to get ready to evacuate. She warns them: “The sky is orange again!”. The muppets then proceed in an orderly fashion, as orderly as muppets can be in crisis, escaping the conflagration for the moment.

Everyone we know has a “GO” bag packed and a box of important documents by the front door. The folks who provide water for irrigation here have advised us that they won’t start making water available until June and that there won’t be…


Near the end of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, a weary Marlene Dietrich greets a bloated Welles: “You should lay off the candy bars … You’re a mess, Honey.” He was, and the film itself was a marvelous and flamboyant noir mess and great fun, but David Fincher’s Mank is simply a melancholy and slightly grubby mess and no fun at all..

Fincher mounts an obscured refutation of Welles’ singular role in the filming of Citizen Kane, shooting this film in rough, very rough, approximation of Kane’s distinctive vocabulary. It’s not a shot-for-shot imitation, but similar enough in its many…


It wasn’t the first time DC comics killed off Superman, but on May, 6, 1966, the League of Assassins, having practiced killing a Superman android, bumped off the real big guy with kryptonite radio waves. I was a college student, already veering from the DC universe into Marvel’s story lines, but, hey, they knocked off Superman? We all experience losses along the way, some truly grievous and some only slightly jarring. Yes, Batman dies eleven times in the multiverses of DC comicdom, but he’s just a guy, right? Acrobatic, wealthy, tech savvy, increasingly dark as the years go by, but…


I sat down to write about the continuing challenges I face in moving, string by string, from fumbling low level almost intermediate guitar player to solidly middling level almost intermediate guitar player when I realize that I’ve used “middling” rather than mid-level, which is the more appropriate term, because I’m never sure if “mid dash level” is more correct than “midlevel”.

I’ll get to the guitar thing at some point, but the more immediate issue has to do what I like to call the “Brain Inadequate to the Multiplying Jobs at Hand” conundrum, an ever-present (ever present?) logjam of lightly…


I’ve just read Julio Cortazar’s short story “The Axolotl” again after some five years of Axolotl-free reading and find myself audibly cheering as I follow Cortazar into a labyrinth. The story is much too good to be hashed up in this setting; I hope a curious reader will search it out and share my appreciation. The curious achievement of the story is in presenting a narrative voice that is simultaneously the narrator and not the narrator. It’s one thing to go all Sybil as an author, pumping out personalities by the gross and laboriously coming up with accents or verbal…


It’s hard to believe that the worst was yet to come, but madness and mayhem still lay ahead.

July –

Lots of nifty stuff in July, 2020, beginning with Vladimir Putin’s successful referendum to allow longer presidential terms, the seizure of 14 TONS of amphetamines in Italy, America’s officially withdrawing from the World Health Organization, and the announcement that the condor, the world’s heaviest bird, can fly for up to five hours without flapping its wings.

Civil Rights leader, John Lewis died in July, becoming the first Black lawmaker to lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda, and the United…


Democracy on the brink of extinction, a global pandemic, the impending end of truth, science, progress, empathy, and humanity. Seems like just about enough to cast a dark shadow on even the sunniest prospect, but the more immediate cost for me is the loss of friendship and the prospect of friendship. Family members and people I once knew and liked despite our differences have moved to affiliation with a political movement that is not only inimical to my beliefs but operating outside the constraints of constitutional democracy and dedicated to disenfranchising me and injuring people that I love. …


So, sometime between 2016 and 2020 we went insane.

I’m not talking about the relentless stream of misinformation and deception propagated by the cult of personality currently wielding power. …


My wife and I and our two dogs are living in a room offered us when we drove away from fire and our home. We are gratefully living in that room and very much aware of the desolation many others less fortunate than we face today. Many have lost everything. Fires continue to burn. We’re still in a pandemic. Shops and restaurants have folded. Differences of political opinion have become fraught with danger. Oh, and the entire state is suffocating as the smoke turns the sky yellow, orange, or brown, if sunlight penetrates at all.

There’s nothing funny about it…


Before this week, we knew a thing or two about fire. We’ve lived in the west for more than twenty years. We’d felt the hot breath of the Santa Ana winds, predictably whipping through our section of California in autumn, the devil winds that added a sixth season to the calendar: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer, Fiesta, and Fire. Some years the dry downslope wind was just a sand blasting hurricane, tearing leaves from trees and trees from their roots. A mess and scary. In the Sierras, a Santa Anna roared through Mammoth at more than 175 miles per hour. …

Peter Arango

I’m the author of four novels and America’s Best Kept College Secrets, a retired teacher of the humanities, eclectic reader, and prisoner of popular culture.

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