Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 176

1. AOTW: No one particularly stands out this week--oh, there were some folks who turned left right tn my face (sans signal), but this has become so commonplace that I can hardly dignify it with the AOTW Award, can I?

2. Some of you know that I've been reading aloud to Joyce (most nights) the complete poems of A. E. Housman. Until you read them all in a row, by the way, you have no real clue about how dark they are: youth dying, war, the loss of this and that ... Anyway, the other night, I read a stanza whose final word ended the reading. The reason? I had no idea what it meant. Here is the quatrain in question:

Their arms the rust hath eaten,
   Their statues none regard:
Arabia shall not sweeten
   Their dust, with all her nard.

Nard? WTH?

So, I grabbed my phone, checked Merriam-Webster, found this:

spike·nard noun \ˈspīkˌnärd, -ˌnȧd, -nə(r)d\
called also nard
1 a :  a costly ointment with a musky odor valued as a perfume in ancient times —
b :  an East Indian aromatic plant (Nardostachys jatamansi) of the family Valerianaceae from the dried roots and young stems of which the ointment spikenard is believed to have been derived

I will not say (because it's kind of gross) that it takes some nads to use nard in a rhyming slot in a poem.

This poem, by the way, is number III in Houseman's posthumous collection cleverly called More Poems (1936--the year he died).

3. This week (last night!) I finally finished Wilkie Collins' 1866 novel, Armadale, which I really loved. It's got some great characters, the most memorable of whom is a "Miss Gwylt," a scheming, angry, vengeful young woman (also very attractive--which matters here) who sets into motion a plot to murder Alan Armadale and take over his (considerable) property. The last thirty pages are about as exciting as any I've read in a Victorian novel.

But this is also a novel about friendship, about seduction (Miss Gwylt has no problem getting men to do things they shouldn't be doing--including a foolish old lawyer named Mr. Bashwood, who thinks he has a chance with her; he doesn't), about the transfer of property, about courtship, and a whole lot more.

I liked this sentence I read last night (in the Penguin Classics edition pictured above): It's in a letter written by an attorney (not Mr. Bashwood!) to his son: "We live, Augustus, in an age eminently favourable to the growth of all roguery which is careful enough to keep up appearances" (673).

I'm slowly making my way through all of Collins' novels. Next is Man and Wife (1870). It's on my nightstand right now!

4. We "enjoyed" streaming (Netflix) the new stand-up special by Chris Rock, Tambourine. I put enjoyed in quotation marks because a lot of it was painful--esp. the second half when he talked about his drug use, infidelity, divorce, child custody, etc. We have known Rock since he, a nervous very young man, first appeared on SNL a long, long time ago, and it was kind of tough to see him looking a bit worn from his life, a bit bitter, and sometimes even making generalizations about men and women that--in my experience, anyhow--just didn't ring true. But a talent--no question. (Link to trailer for the special.)

5. We're about to finish streaming (Acorn) Season 3 of Line of Duty, which grows ever more intense. I've come to care very much for some of the characters, and when they get in trouble, well, my heart goes pitter-patter!

6. Last Word: A word I liked this week from one of my various online word-of-the-day providers:

    - from wordsmith.org--a word with horrible relevance this week ...

molochize (MOL-uh-kyz)
verb tr.: To sacrifice.
After Moloch, a Canaanite god of the Bible, associated with the practice of child sacrifice. Earliest documented use: 1825.

“Look to the skies, then to the river, strike
Their hearts, and hold their babies up to it.
I think that they would Molochize them too,
To have the heavens clear.”

Alfred Tennyson; Harold; 1876.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

And the beat goes on ...

So where have I been the past couple of days? Places I didn't want to be.

On Thursday, Joyce and I drove up to the Main Campus of University Hospitals (University Circle), where I underwent some minor surgery (local anesthetic only) to install in my upper chest, near my clavicle, what's called a "central venous catheter"--a device that will help me continue with my immunotherapy treatments. (Here's a link to what WebMD says about them.)

As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago I had a bad experience at the Akron Red Cross, where the nurses were simply unable to acquire an accommodating vein in my left arm, and by the time I went home, my left arm looked as if it had been used for a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey. And because of that failure, I had to miss one of my immunotherapy sessions.

So ... my oncologist thought it would be prudent (!) to install this device, and yesterday (Friday) we drove to the Akron Red Cross again, where it took only about two hours (and zero hassles) to withdraw all my blood, remove some T-cells (the warrior cells), return my blood to me. Those T-cells are now in Atlanta being super-charged with Provenge, a drug that will increase their ability to deal with my metastatic prostate cancer (which now has moved into my bones).

don'tcha love the hat?
On Monday morning, Joyce and I will return to UH to have those cells re-infused--again, through the catheter that I now wear, a device, as I think of it, that kind of reminds me of Tony Stark's heart-like device--though, I confess, his is much cooler, sexier.

So, all of this has occasioned some ... change ... in my rowdy (!) lifestyle. No more showers, not until I get the thing removed in a couple of weeks. So, I sit in the bathtub, and Joyce washes my back and hair (while I hold a towel around my neck). No one's given me a bath--or helped me with one--since I was a Wee One, so this is ... strange.

But I do sit there in that warm water and marvel at my good fortune in the summer of 1969 to stumble into a Kent State classroom for a graduate course, to see a young woman sitting there, a young woman I had no chance of attracting (and so I didn't even try to "connect").

And then, one day--one magic day--she spoke to me ... and now, more than 48 years later, she gets to help me take a bath.

But anyway I keep wondering what on earth unloved people do when Mortality arrives and says, Yo, you are going down for a while!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Frankenstein at 200

1818 original title page

So ... it's the 200th anniversary of the original publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, a book she published anonymously (at first); some revisions appeared in 1823 (arranged by her father, William Godwin) and in 1831--a major revision in which Mary toned down a few things. Most of us prefer the 1818 text.

This anniversary has not gone unnoticed. In the current New Yorker (Feb 12 & 19) is a retrospective piece by Jill Lepore ("It's Still Alive: Two Hundred Years of 'Frankenstein'"). (Link to it--the online version has a different title, as you'll see.) And a Facebook friend recently sent me a message that there was an NPR feature about it, as well. (Link to it.) And a bit of Googling will reveal any number of other pieces and tributes and whatever.

Of course, I have an intimate interest in all of this. Back in 2012 I published a YA biography of Mary Shelley on Kindle Direct (The Mother of the Monster: The Life and Times of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley; link to it), and for the last ga-jillion years I've been working on a memoir about my fascination with Mary Shelley--Frankenstein Sundae: My Ten-Year Pursuit of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. On this site I serialized that book--a very, very very rough draft of it--a year or so ago, and I am currently still working on the final draft, which I hope to upload to Kindle Direct in the next few months.

What writers know is this: The subject doesn't sit still for you. New books keep coming out; new articles appear. I'm now reading a new book about the science behind Frankenstein (Making the Monster: The Science behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, 2018, by Kathryn Harkup),  and another big book awaits me--Christopher Frayling's Frankenstein: The First 200 Years (Reel Art Press, 2017). It's endless, folks.

But I'm trying to read the key things, trying to keep up, though I know that the very moment I publish on Kindle Direct, much of it will soon be out of date. So it goes.

And there is one more odd connection between me and that story ...

Tomorrow I will go down to University Hospitals in Cleveland and have a device installed near my neck, a catheter that will allow physicians to infuse into me my own chemically enhanced (Frankensteined!) T-cells, empowering my body (we hope) to do a better job of fighting this silent cancer-killer that's been eating at me since late in 2004.

For a couple of weeks I will walk around with this medical device as part of my body.

And somewhere ... both Mary Shelley and Victor Frankenstein are smiling.

Oh, in the next couple of weeks, if you see me? Please--no open flames around me.* I can't be responsible for what will happen!

*Actually, this is not in the novel--just the films.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Update: Immunotherapy

Regular visitors here know that I have begun to undergo a series of six immunotherapy treatments designed to beef up my immune system to fight the cancer that doctors first detected in me in late 2004.

As most of you know, I've gone through surgery, radiation, hormone-deprivation therapy (all of which have delayed, not cured, my cancer). It began in my prostate (now gone: surgery) and has metastasized into my bones.

This latest therapy involves three pairs of sessions. For each pair I have T-cells withdrawn at the Akron Red Cross and then reinfused at Seidman Cancer Center (University Circle) a few days later--after those T-cells have been, well, beefed up down in Atlanta.

The first pair of sessions (a few weeks ago) went all right.

The second pair didn't. The nurses at the Red Cross could not access a vein in my left arm.* Eleven "sticks" brought nought but pain and bruises and frustration. And, okay, some anger. We aborted the session when my left arm, from hand to biceps, was, well, a mess. (That arm still looks as if it's been a torture site.)

So ... plans changed. Waiting. Waiting.

And I just got confirmation today about what's going to happen now. On Thursday morning Joyce and I will go down to Seidman, where I'll get a catheter installed near the right side of my neck, a procedure (and a device) that will allow easier access (to my blood!) and quicker sessions. On Friday I will go to the Red Cross for the second withdrawal session ... and on we go.

I'll have the catheter for a couple of weeks until all of this is over.

Which cannot be soon enough!

Anyway, if I do not post here all that regularly in the next couple of weeks, I've got an excuse that even a Mean Teacher Like Me would accept!

*I needed to have both left and right arms accessed: one for withdrawal, one for return after the T-cells have been removed. So ... it goes like this: blood out of one arm, blood into a machine to steal the T-cells, blood back in the other arm. Takes several hours.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Taxing Time

In about half an hour I'll head out for my annual Grim Visit. No, it's not an annual physical. It's my annual visit with our accountant to get ready for Taxing Time.

I spent quite a few hours over the weekend getting ready. Joyce and I both use Quicken, so we could easily print out our summary reports (aren't we virtuous?), but what takes time is getting all the receipts arranged.

I have learned, over the years, to categorize them as the months roll along. I have a little portable file box that sits right by my feet beneath my desk, and whenever a tax-related receipt or document comes in, I file it there in the relevant category (Utilities, Subscriptions, Donations, etc.). That helps.

But still ... I know that each February will feature some dreary hours during which I must remove those receipts and documents, put them in envelopes or file folders, label them, etc.

I'm getting depressed just describing this.

But ... 'tis done for this year!

And, as I said, I will soon head out to see our accountant; I will spend an hour or so with him; I will return to do something here that I forgot to do and that he reminded me I must do.

And I will wonder why it is that it always seems to be taxing time!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 175

1. AOTW: Not hard this week. Coffee shop. Ten feet away. A woman (!) having a full-voice Skype call with another woman; iPad volume on HIGH. About ten minutes. And the entire conversation could be summarized like this: "How are you?" "I am fine."  Perhaps I'm being ... insensitive. Okay. So it goes in an Old Man's dotage!

2. On Friday night, Joyce and I went over to the Kent Cinemas to see Hostiles, a film whose run around here is just about over. (The only Kent showing the entire evening was at 6:20.) I had read some good reviews of it--and, having seen it, I understand. Just the cinematography alone is gorgeous and it all had a special effect on me because, you see, I love the West, the vistas, the mountains, the deserts, etc. I've driven across it all quite a few times--and I grew up during the age of the Western on TV and at the movies.

The actors were fine. And the story is about a crusty, anti-Indian U. S. Army captain (played well by Christian Bale), who is ordered to return to the Cheyenne reservation in Montana an older (sick) warrior (played by Wes Studi) and his family (he's been in custody for some years).

As I said, I loved the vistas--the shots that were clearly a tribute to John Ford, et al.

I thought, though, that it was a little PC, especially for a Western. Some characters transformed along the way, and you could see it coming from Minute One. Others were resolutely hateful and you knew they were not going to change (they didn't).

SPOILER ALERT ... I also thought the ending--the little Cheyenne child ending up with the white woman (Comanche had killed her husband and children), who's taking a train, post-adventure (and post-trauma) , to Chicago--was a little ... much. Why do all the Cheyenne--women and children (except for one) and men have to get killed ...? And the kid end up with Rosamund Pike? On a train to Chicago?

SPOILER ALERT OVER. (Link to film trailer.)

3. Joyce and I finished streaming the HBO miniseries Olive Kitteridge, based on the Elizabeth Strout novel and starring Frances McDormand (title role) and Richard Jenkins and, later, Bill Murray (!). Such a fine series. Both of us loved the book; both of us loved the series. Marriage. Parenthood. Friendships. All there. All the sorrow and the pain and disappointment that so many films avoid. (Link to series trailer.)

4. I finished two books since last I posted a "Sunday Sundries":

     - The first was the first book by Jennifer Egan, a collection of short stories called Emerald City, a 1996 volume that she first published in England in 1993. (I couldn't afford to buy one of those--a signed copy is going for about $500 today!).

I should explain that I'd never read Egan until I saw the fine reviews for her 2017 novel, Manhattan Beach (which I have begun now to read). I decided to read my way through Egan's previous novels--and did--but when I'd finished them, I wanted more, so I went with the story collection before launching into MB.

The stories are like her novels: fine, complex, shifting points of view. They deal with coming of age, loss, pain (sound like fun yet?). And sentences like this one: "The relief of being one step closer to something inevitable. The pleasure of ceasing to resist, of giving up" (137).

     - And I also finished the final novel I'd not yet read by William Faulkner, a journey I've been enjoying for about a year: The Reivers, 1962, published on June 4, barely a month before he died on July 6, 1962.

I had read Faulkner's most celebrated novels (The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!)--and I'd enjoyed teaching As I Lay Dying, which, by the way, was the first Faulkner novel I'd ever read: Hiram College, Dr. Abe C. Ravitz, 1965-ish.

Anyway, I started reading all the unread ones--in order--reading other things in between. (After a Faulkner you need a few breaths!) And now ... all gone. Sigh.

I saw the film of The Reivers: A Reminiscence, 1969 (with Steve McQueen, music by pre-Star Wars John Williams), released on Christmas Day; Joyce and I had been married five days. It must have been one of the first movies we saw as a married couple. I've got it ordered on Netflix DVD and will post something here once I've seen it.

It's a more frisky story than we normally associate with Faulkner--a "caper" story set in 1905. It involves a young boy, a stolen horse, a missing car, some horse races to retrieve the car, social class and human races, relationships with women, and even a stolen false tooth. Fun to read.

Near the end, the grandfather of Lucius (the boy) tells him: "Nothing is ever forgotten. Nothing is ever lost. It is too valuable" (Lib of Amer edition, 968). Well, I'm not so sure about that--but nice idea!

5. And some really good news: The fact that I even posted today is amazing because I meet with our accountant tomorrow (Monday) re: IRS, etc. And I'm ready! (Or at least I think I am: He generally sends me back for more homework!)

6. Final Word: A word I liked recently from one of my online word-of-the-day providers:

     - from dictionary.com

flakelet [fleyk-lit] noun
1. a small flake, as of snow.
I am amazed before a little flakelet of snow, at its loveliness, at the strangeness of its geometry, its combination of angles, at the marvellous chemistry which brought these curious atoms together.
-- Theodore Parker, Lessons from the World of Matter and the World of Man, 1865

Flakelet was first recorded in the 1880s.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

A Milestone; A Taxing Time

1. Just now I noticed on this site that yesterday's post was #2100 for DawnReader. That surely does not seem possible ... what human being has 2100 things to say about anything? I guess I must have, though I would not want to be incarcerated and forced to read them all through again. Isn't there something in the Constitution about "cruel and unusual punishment"? If not, there ought to be.

Anyway, I've had a lot of fun doing this and will keep rolling along, I guess, as long as I can.

I just checked my stats--as is my wont each 100 posts--and here's what I found:

429,758 total hits since I began--so that's ... [pause for arithmetic] ... almost 205 hits/per day. So ... not too bad, though (as I've observed before, my total hits probably equal about five minutes' worth of hits on some celebrity's site. So it goes in My Small World.

Anyway, here's a link to the very first post I did (also my wont on these anniversaries), a post whose title ("I Am Born") I stole from chapter one of Dickens' David Copperfield. Always good to steal from someone talened!
2. And as soon as I finish posting this, it will, indeed, be "taxing time"--time to start assembling and organizing all my tax information for our accountant, with whom I meet on Monday morning.

We have been going to the same accountant for decades now. We like him. He's local; his wife's a teacher (so he knows what our lives are like); he's amiable; he gave us the name of a good clock-repair guy whom we still use when tick-tock goes into sick-tock.

But it's a pain, isn't it, putting all this stuff together? My mom--who did the family taxes when I was growing up--would shut the door to their bedroom/study and stay there for hours. Dad would warn us to stay away from that door (though, after a bit, we needed no warning, believe me), and he would take us out for A&W Root Beer or some other generally rare delight. "Your mother's on the peck," he would sometimes say.

(On the peck--which, I assume, is an angry-bird allusion? Too lazy right now to look it up--but I will!)

Until Mom emerged, looking as if she'd just barely won a bout with the Kraken.

And now--time for me to see if I can survive with the Kraken this year ...*

*spell-check tried to change Kraken to Karen!

The Kraken, winning ...