Announcing GFA Retirement

    This photo is for GFA readers who never thought they would see me with a smile. Enjoy!

    Hello and Farewell,

    I am writing this post to announce that I am officially retiring Gasping for Ayer at the end of this month. The site will be coming down.

    Honestly, it has amazed me how this blog has been received. Though I haven’t posted in months, I am still getting hundreds of visitors a day. That is odd with material that is time sensitive in nature.

    It has been obvious that my posts have declined in frequency as my passion for local politics has waned. I am at a point in my life, where I think time is too precious for me to squander it broadcasting my views on community issues. I wish to focus my attention on health and fitness, family and friends.

    Simply stated, politics is a cruel mistress and regardless of your political stripes, she will leaving you feeling empty. Losses hurt and Wins are fleeting. My desire is to be a positive influence for change.

    I truly appreciate those who have read my work over the years. If you wish to continue reading my essays, and are willing to listen to me rave about Almond Butter and Barbells, feel free to visit my other blog, Defiant Wellness. There you will find no politics, just encouraging posts about staying alive and vibrant in spite of one’s chronological age. Yeah, I am still opinionated, but it’s positive.

    Thanks and God Bless you, your family and the quirky Town of Ayer – a funny little place I call home.



    42 Years and Counting

    …a Rose by any other name…


    Today is Suzanne’s and my Wedding Anniversary.

    She is truly a blessing in my life.

    To have put up with me for all these years, she is truly a saint!


    My Top Ten Christmas Films

    I love everything about Charlie Brown Christmas, including sound track.

    From Thanksgiving to Christmas the Hallmark Channel turns my stomach by racheting up their schmaltzy chick-flick fare to round the clock schmaltzy Christmas chick-flick fare.

    They are such gooey, sticky, “follow-your-heart” drivel that it is enough to make me sick.

    It may surprise some folks to know that I am not the most sentimental guy in the world, so I have a low sweetness threshold when it comes to television or film. That is not to say I don’t enjoy aspects of Christmas. A wretch like me certainly is grateful that Christmas celebrates the birth of God incarnate. Christ taking on human flesh to atone for my iniquities. But that doesn’t translate very well to most Christmas films that are more about schlocky love stories or dysfunctional families than the birth of a Savior.

    After decades of films, I have to admit there are some that I do like to watch every Christmas Season, to help get me in the mood. Now I titled this post My Top Ten Christmas Films, but I will be surprised if I can come up with ten that warrant my attention. If I don’t that is too bad, I’m not changing the title because My Top Eight as a title would not pull in readers.

    1. A Charlie Brown Christmas – 1965
    What is not to love about this television classic. It’s Peanuts! It’s real kids voices, real kids singing! The film is critical of the crass commercialism that has grown exponentially over the past 47 years. And of all the films listed here, I believe it is the only one that acknowledges that Christmas’ meaning is to remember the birth of Our Lord. Linus even reads the nativity account from the Gospel of Luke. This film also has the very best sound track of all these films, performed by the late great Vince Guaraldi. As a bonus for all you iPad users, check out A Charlie Brown Christmas app from the AppStore. It is fantastic. It will most certainly bring a smile to your face.

    2. A Christmas Carol – 1999 – Patrick Stewart version
    This Christmas Classic by Charles Dickens is absolutely timeless. As a kid I remember gathering around the dinky old black and white TV to watch the old versions starring Reginald Owen in 1938 and Alastair Sim in 1951 (no i didn’t watch them in 1938 or 1951, that’s when the films were made). Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserable and hard-hearted miser who measures all of his relationships by how they affect his balance sheet. The ghost of his late partner Jacob Marley (not Bob Marley, mon) appears to warn him of his doom if he fails to change his ways. In the end Scrooge finds redemption in good works (as opposed to the work of Christ on the cross). Patrick Stewart, known by many as Jean Luc Pickard on Star Trek, is an amazing Scrooge. He performed this role in a one-man play for years in the theatre.

    3. A Christmas Carol – 1984 – George C. Scott version
    This is a ditto of my second selection, but Scrooge is superbly portrayed by one of my favoriate actors of old, George C. Scott. If you like Scott, check him out in Death of a Salesman. Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is a very depressing film. And now that I think of it, George C. Scott wasn’t Willie Loman in that play, it was Lee J, Cobb. Of my, this isn’t going well at all, is it? And I’m only on number 3.

    4. A Christmas Story – 1983
    This Jean Shepherd story is a classic. Jean Shepherd was a national treasure as a storyteller. I used to love the old series Jean Shepherd’s America. But I digress. Ralphie wants a Red Rider BB gun with a compass in the stock, but everyone tells him he’ll put his eye out. This first person narrative reminds us what it was like to be a kid in the days leading up to Christmas (at least the way it was in the 1950′s).

    5. It’s a Wonderful Life – 1946
    Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed were superb is this honey-sweetened Frank Capra classic. George Bailey is a selfless kind hearted soul who gives his life to the town of Bedford Falls. He is all that stands between the locals and ruthless mogul Mr. Potter. When Uncle Billy’s absentmindedness combines with Potter’s ruthlessness, Bailey heads for a fall. But a goofy angel, Clarence, comes to save the day. Please do not confuse this villain with Harry Potter, I understand they are different, though I have never had reason to read Harry Potter.

    6. Polar Express – 2004
    Tom Hanks is the voice-over star of many of the characters in this computer animated wonder. A little boy’s belief in Santa is hanging by a thread and the Polar Express comes to the rescue. This is one of the few films we have on DVD. I drive Suzanne crazy with my favorite scene, the Hot Chocolate scene on the train. After we finish the movie, I always go back to that scene and I play it in all the languages on the DVD. It cracks me up and my wife thinks I’m nuts. Hot! Hot! Hot! We got it!

    7. Home Alone – 1990
    A Chicago family leaves their suburban home to go to Paris for Christmas. In the frenzy to get out the door to get to the airport, they don’t realize that they forgot Kevin, the pipsqueak of the house. By the time they figure it out they are airborne and there are no homeward bound flights available because of the holiday traffic. The storyline splits in two directions; the family’s adventure trying to get back home; and Kevin’s adventure being the Man of the House while fending off the local burglars. Though I have seen Kevin’s booby traps at least a dozen times, I howl whenever he nails Joe Pesci or Daniel Stern.

    8. Die Hard – 1988 Bruce Willis is one of my favorite action actors. Like Patrick Stewart, he is a man who knows how to wear his hair with manly distinction. In this film, John McClane, a New York City cop, who is struggling to save his marriage, travels to Los Angeles to spend the Christmas Season with his estranged wife who is working for a large Japanese corporation. McClane finds himself in the middle of a hostage takeover. His close quarter combat skills are all that are between the terrorists and the deaths of the hostages, including his wife. Why is this in my favorite Christmas films? Because it takes place at Christmastime and I can only take so many schmaltzy story lines. Willis delivers some excellent action and Alan Rickman is an awesome villain. Now, please pass the Egg Nog.

    9. How the Grinch stole Christmas – 1966
    I was shocked as I was researching this film at the Library of Congress (that is where I do my best work, though the coffee is much better at Starbucks), that there was a remake in 2000. Why can’t people leave well enough alone. We had a perfectly fine Grinch from 1966, who looked just the like the guy in the book. Dr. Suess is still a guy I admire greatly. It is in his honor that I prepare Green Eggs and Ham, Sam I am, every Saint Patrick’s Day. I’m not Irish and I’m not Catholic, but Suzanne gets me these great green eggs from Drumlin farm…, oops, I went off on a tangent again didn’t I. Do I really need to explain the Grinch to you? You have been reading Gasping for Ayer for nine months, I would assume the Grinch is self-evident.

    10. there is no 10, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.


    12 in 12 Challenge – Post-Mortem

    For the record, I typically do NOT do New Year Resolutions. But last year at this time, critical issues were affecting my health and well-being. The new year was a coincidental starting point and it helped set a benchmark for success (or failure).

    It is a well-known maxim that it takes about 28 days to ingrain a new behavior, or break an old one. So with the Year 2012, I issued myself a 12-in-12 Challenge. Change 12 behaviors in 12 months. I am aware, as I was when I set it, that 12-in-12 was a ridiculously ambitious goal, BUT, I figured even a 50% success rate would account for significant change in my life.

    So what was my success rate? Well, it was actually 66 %. I succeeded in eight out of twelve areas. I changed my sleeping habits from an average of 5 hours a night to 7-8. I took three inches off my waist. I lost 35 pounds. I have completely overhauled the way I eat, adopting a Paleo lifestyle. I get plenty of exercise. That is a sampling. I wouldn’t bore you with all the details.

    Where did I fail miserably? I had a goal to reduce my “screen time”. I defined this as my addiction to Internet consumption on iPhone, iPad, MacBook, PC, Nexus 7, etc. I was going to trade in screens for real books. I was going to read deep, not read a simple veneer on the web.

    The first book I read this year was The Information Diet by Clay Johnson. In the book, Johnson compares America’s diet for data to our lustful cravings for sugar-saturated empty calories that we eat. We are what we eat and we are what we read.

    I was going to restrict the amount of garbage I put into my head. I succeeded by carefully selecting what went into my pie hole, but not so much regarding what went between my ears. A political junkie should not decide to go on an Internet Fast in an election year. This is where I was losing sleep in the past. This is a high risk behavior.

    Checking e-mail at 10:00 p.m. could mean I was off in a Google Wasteland at 12:30 a.m., which meant I was only going to get four and a half-hours of sleep. Fortunately I didn’t mess up on the sleep issue, but I did squander opportunities for reading, writing and more spiritually rewarding activities than googling. I have taken The Information Diet off the bookshelf and it will also be the last book I read in 2012, as I reset my goals (not resolutions) for the upcoming year. Who knows, perhaps the end of Gasping for Ayer could be an objective for 2013?



    Dad’s Birthday

    My parents, Don & Irene Miller, with my sister Donna, at home on Newton Street, with the Ayer Fire Station in the background – August 1945


    It seems the more time you spend on this planet the more calendar dates ring with significance in your life.

    As I glanced at the calendar on my iPhone this morning,I noticed it is November 16th, my Dad’s Birthday. He left us a few years back. Today he would have been 92. It’s strange having no parents.