Dawn Reader

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

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 192

1. AOTW: A weird one this week. We found ourselves following a car that made four turns in front of us (we made the first three as well--obviously), and not once did the AOTW remember his/her turn signal. People turning without signalling was rare when I was in my nonage; now, it's almost a surprise when someone does signal. But four times in a row? In front of the same car? Clearly, an AOTW winner!

2. We went to Kent Plaza Cinema last night to see Ocean's 8, a film neither of us was all that crazy to see--but the really good films were all up at the Cedar-Lee in Cleveland Heights, and we just didn't have the oomph to make that trip last night. So ... I've liked all the films about Danny Ocean and his criminal buds, so ... thought I'd give it a whirl. (Joyce was even less eager than I--but it's Father's Day Weekend, and, yes I played that card.)

Anyway, I thought it seemed kind of ... tired. There were a few surprises (nothing too earth-shaking), but the rip-off genre seems as if it needs to go out to pasture for a bit--or come up with some daring new twists. (It was all here, as in the past: revenge, computer nerd, pickpocket, etc.) Sandra Bullock, by the way, played the late Danny Ocean's sister, who gets out of prison on parole at the outset.

Also--and this seems weird, I know, to say about a mass-market caper film--it lacked what I guess I'll call a "moral dimension." In the earlier films, yes Ocean, et al. were criminals, but the guy/s they were ripping off were worse. Here, it was just a kind of a new way to hit the Lotto: steal some stuff from a museum (some of it was of great historical value) so that the players can go have 1% lives. I actually found it kind of gross in that regard.

Joyce mentioned that the women didn't seem to have the esprit and camaraderie of Clooney-Pitt-Damon-et al. I agree.

Still ... I didn't hate it. Had some fun. Good popcorn. Better company right beside me.

Link to film trailer.

3. I finished three books this week--two of which I'd been "picking away at" for a while.

     - The first was The Collected Poems of A. E. Housman (1940), a volume I'd picked up because I'd recently gotten interested in Housman (1859-1936) and was memorizing a few of his poems, beginning with "When I Was One-and-Twenty." a poem I'd first memorized (sort of) my senior year in high school. (I confess--I "put off" the work a little bit too long and had less that a firm grim on the thing when Quiz Time arrived.)

Anyway, when the volume came, I decided to read it all aloud to Joyce, in bed--just before Lights Out. A poem or so each night. (She read to me a few times, too.)

Housman did not publish a lot of verse (he was a Classical scholar (University College of London and, later, Cambridge), so there were only two volumes in his lifetime--A Shropshire Lad (1896) and Last Poems (1922). After he died--the cleverly titled More Poems (1936).

A number of the poems are--what?--rural in nature? Especially Shropshire Lad. But most of them are d-a-r-k, dealing with death--especially the deaths of young men (there was much speculation about Housman's sexuality). Lots of World War I poems. Young men heading off to war--not coming back. Over and over and over again--just before we went to sleep--I read to Joyce about death ... and death ... and death ... and death. It was really fun, as you can imagine!

But we finished this week, and we're already feeling lighter and brighter!

     - Early in the week, I finished the new biography of Mary Shelley: Fiona Sampson's In Search of Mary Shelley: The Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein (2018), a volume that's received mostly good reviews (there was one zinger I read the other day--in the recent issue of American Scholar).

And the book is pretty good, though, as regular visitors to this site know, I'm kind of a MS freak myself and will soon publish on Kindle Direct a memoir about chasing her story for a couple of decades. So ... I didn't learn a lot factually from the book, but it was interesting to see Sampson's "take" on a number of issues. And as Janet Todd did in her Death and the Maidens (2007--a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft's other daughter, Fanny), Sampson goes after the men in the lives of these women. And deservedly so. Yes, it was an earlier era (Mary's years were 1797-1851), but even "liberal" men like Bysshe Shelley put themselves first--way out front.

With consequences--sometimes very dark ones--for the women in their lives. (Fanny committed suicide in 1816: She was 22.)

Anyway, I'm glad I read it--and have already used some of her ideas (quoted properly!) in my final draft of Frankenstein Sundae.

     - The third book I finished this week was a collection of essays (and later reflections about them) originally published by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic: We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy (2017).

Coates pulls no punches--nor should he. He chronicles the devastating effects of slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, voter-denial, segregation (in neighborhoods, housing, schooling, etc.), and on and on. He writes eloquently about the Obama presidency (and about Obama himself, whom he interviewed at length and with whom he does not always agree), and his words claw harsh truths into our skin. It's a book than can make a reader bleed. And weep.

4. "Things fall apart," Yeats wrote. In this case, "things" means, well, me. In the last couple of weeks I've learned that I will need a dental implant (my 2nd) and cataract surgery (the words blur as I type this). Looks like a summer of joy, eh?

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

     - from Oxford English Dictionary

teemless, adj.
Formed within English, by derivation. Etymons: teem v.1, -less suffix.
Etymology: < teem v.1 + -less suffix.

Barren, sterile; spec. not producing grain or fruit.

Compare teemful adj.2
Obsolete. rare.

1687   Dryden Hind & Panther i. 13   Such fiery tracks of dearth Their zeal has left, and such a teemless earth.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 191

1. AOTW: This is kind of hard to believe ... but ... the AOTW this week, though a different individual from last week's winner, performed the same stunt in virtually the same place: We were driving down into the Valley, on our way to Szalay's (farm market), when a 4x4 pulled up right behind us--inches from our bumper--and tried to urge us with his dark presence to ... speed up (we were going 40 in a 35). When I did not speed up, he tried his bright lights--on, off, on again. I stayed firm. Then--seeing a driveway into one of the national park parking lots, I turned in and he roared by. I may have caught a flash of finger. (Guess which one?) Well, wherever he was going, only one thing is certain: At his destination the AOTW Award was awaiting him.

2. Last night, Joyce and I drove over to the Kent Cinema to see Solo, the latest in the Star Wars series. I was not all that crazy to see it--but went for two main reasons: (1) our grandsons love the films--want to be able to talk with them about it; (2) we took our own son to see the original Star Wars at the very same cinema in the summer of 1977, the summer he would turn five. He loved it--still loves it--has taught his kids to love it.

Anyway, it was much better than I feared (the reviews had not been kind; the audiences have not swarmed to see it), and we both enjoyed the relationships we saw developing (e.g., young Han and Chewie). Fun to see how he acquired the Millennium Falcon, too. As some reviewers have said, the young Han (Alden Ehrenreich) does not much resemble Harrison Ford (looks, mannerisms), but I forgot about that after a while and just enjoyed the leaps into hyper-space.

Sure, there were lots of boom-booms--lots of creatures dying (including some you didn't want to die)--but, as I said, much better than we'd expected/feared. (Link to film trailer.)

2. Odd coincidence: This week I streamed/finished the final John Wayne film, The Shootist, 1976, and saw a young Ron Howard playing the adolescent boy in the tale. Howard, of course, directed Solo.

3. We hadn't realized that Elementary had re-booted for another season, so, as soon as we learned, we streamed the first episode via the CBS app, which (in our case) is a lousy app. Anyone else have problems with it? (And, yes, I've done things to try to speed it up: clearing the cache, re-booting our Amazon Fire TV, etc.)

4. I finished two books this week ...

     - The first was the next in the Longmire series by Craig Johnson, a series I'm reading on Kindle (a few "pages" at night) (a) because I'd liked the TV series (though it little resembles the novels), (b) because I'm a psycho and have to read everything in a series once I begin. (As is my wont, I'm reading them in the order of publication.)

This latest was An Obvious Fact (2016), a novel that sends Walt, his deputy Vic (Victoria) (with whom he's ... "involved"), his lifelong friend, Henry Standing Bear, to South Dakota, where Henry is in a cycle contest--and where (surprise!) death and drugs and corruption and the Feds are involved in a variety of nasty goings-on.

Had fun reading it--getting to know these characters well--and Walt's literacy is a stunner: He knows, in some cases, some very arcane facts (convenient for the storyteller!). In this way he reminds me of Jack Taylor in the Ken Bruen novels (which I'm also psycho-reading).

     - The second was a "real" book--Matthew Pearl's latest, The Dante Chamber (2018), a sequel to the novel that launched him, The Dante Club (2003), a novel about a series of murders around Boston at the time that Longfellow and some friends (Oliver Wendell Holmes and James Russell Lowell among them) were working on Longfellow's translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. The murders resemble in kind the torments Dante describes in Hell.

The Dante Chamber moves on to Purgatorio--and we are in London, where the Rossettis, Tennyson, and Robert Browning are involved in dealing with some Purgatorio-like deaths around London, 1870; soon joining them is Oliver Wendell Holmes.

A world of fun to read. I loved it when the writers would talk about their works, when their jealousies would emerge, when they struggled to figure out what was going on. And, as usual, Pearl did some prodigious research that underlies the story--and its solution.

I should add here that I've met Matthew Pearl. I was teaching American lit at Western Reserve Academy in the 2000s, and after I read The Dante Club, I knew it was perfect for the eleventh graders I was teaching: They'd read Inferno as sophomores, and they read Longfellow and Holmes with me. I knew that, reading the book, they'd feel like geniuses!

Pearl spent a day at the school on Thursday, April 8, 2004; he spoke with each of my three classes; he delivered a talk to the entire student body; he did a book-signing, etc. I took some kids with me to pick him up at Hopkins Airport (and to return him--different kids), and he was great with them--conversing intently with them the entire way. It was a thrill. Below ... some pix of him that day.

And, yes, he signed some books for me!

5: Final Word--a word I liked this week from one of my various online word-of-the-day providers ...

     - from dictionary.com

bacciferous [bak-sif-er-uhs] adjective
1. Botany. bearing or producing berries.
QUOTES: Bacciferous trees, are such as bear berries; as the juniper and yew-tree.
-- Charlotte Matilda Hunt, The Little World of Knowledge, 1826
ORIGIN:The English adjective bacciferous “bearing berries” comes from Latin bacca (also bāca) “fruit of a shrub or tree, nut,” a word of unknown origin. The Latin suffix -fer “carrying, bearing” is from a very widespread Proto-Indo-European root bher- “to carry,” source of Germanic (English) bear, Greek phérein “to carry, bear,” and Slavic (Polish) bierać “to carry.” Bacciferous entered English in the 17th century.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Return to Seidman Cancer Center

Seidman Cancer Center
University Hospitals
Beachwood, OH 
Yesterday it was time, once again. Joyce and I drove up to Seidman for my quarterly visit with my oncologist. We talked about my latest test results, about the future ...

Oddly, it was almost exactly thirteen years ago--on June 9, 2005--that I underwent a prostatectomy (removal of the gland) at the Cleveland Clinic. Back in early January of 2005 a biopsy had found what they thought was a mid-range cancer, and no one seemed too alarmed. Waiting till June for the surgery would be fine. (I wanted to wait until I'd finished the school year.)

But the post-op pathology told another story: a serious cancer (a 9 on the 10-point Gleason Scale)--and it was not long afterward that my real journey commenced. When my cancer numbers began to rise, I underwent 30 radiation sessions down at the Clinic in 2009. My cancer came back. By then I had decided to shift to UH (for a variety of reasons), and it was under UH direction that I began my hormone-deprivation therapy about three years ago: taking drugs that smoosh my testosterone (prostate cancer LOVES testosterone).

When my numbers began to rise again last year, I went on an additional drug.

And now--as of yesterday--my numbers are again climbing the ladder, and I am nearly ready for yet another drug--a drug that, my oncologist warned me, is very expensive. Great.

Over the past years I've had numerous MRIs, bone scans, injections; in January and February this year I underwent some immunotherapy sessions. (I wrote about them here. Not fun.)

I'm now scheduled for some more blood tests (monthly PSA tests) and bone scans in the near future, for prostate cancer loves to shift venues. And in my case, it has moved into my bones, where only these very unpleasant drugs are, for the nonce, retarding its progress.

There is no cure for me. Not now. Only ... delay.

And so I cling to Delay like a life raft, which of course, it is.

So--in all--yesterday was a discouraging day. It was a day, of course, that I knew was in my future--I had just wanted it to be a bit farther (okay, a lot farther) in front of me.

But it's not.

And so I'll do my best to cope. I will--fiercely--grab Joyce's hand, for she, as I have come to learn in our nearly forty-nine years together, will never let go. Not until that hand vanishes.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 190

1. AOTW: No question this week. Last night, Joyce and I were driving on a scenic road (Barlow Rd./Kendall Park Rd./Truxell Rd.--it's the same road--changes names) down into the Cuyahoga Valley National Park--on the longer but lovelier route up to Montrose, where I wanted to get some goodies at Mustard Seed Market. Anyway, on the entire length of the 3-roads-in-one, the AOTW tailgated me (even though I was going 5 mph over the limit). Finally, worried that if I had to stop suddenly (wildlife, biker, whatever), there would surely be a crash, I pulled to the side, and he roared off toward AOTW-Land, where, upon arrival, he was surely greeted by cheering crowds and presented his award.

2. I've been streaming John Wayne's last film, The Shootist, 1976, which I remember well from back in my Glendon Swarthout days (he wrote the novel; I have a first printing--1975). I'd "met" Swarthout because of his 1970 novel Bless the Beasts and Children, which subsequently became a popular film directed by Stanley Kramer and released in 1971. (Link to film trailer.)

Anyway, The Shootist is about a dying gunman (Wayne, who actually was dying) and features a who's who of a cast and crew: director Don Siegel and performers Ron Howard, Richard Boone, Lauren Bacall, and James Stewart (among many other notables).

It's fun to see all these people, "doing their thing." (Link to film trailer.)

2. I finished two books this week ...

     - The first was Paula McLain's latest--Love and Ruin--her novel about the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and the woman who became his third wife, Martha Gellhorn. (There was a 2012 HBO film on the same subject with Clive Owen and Nicole Kidman in the principal roles.) (Link to film trailer.)

McLain wrote another novel about Hemingway and one of his wives (#1--Hadley Richardson), The Paris Wife (2011)--which I also enjoyed.

Anyway, this one is narrated (mostly) by Gellhorn herself--though there are some other chapters distributed throughout which, via 3rd person, give us some of Hemingway's point of view. The novel tells how they met, how they got "involved," how he separated from wife #2 (Pauline Pfeiffer) to be with Gellhorn, how he married her, how they competed (she was a wonderful writer and fearless journalist), how they separated and divorced.

It was fun to read the book. I've read all of Hemingway and have traveled all over the place (except to Cuba--sigh) to see his homes, his grave. So, for me, there was a tremendous amount of dramatic irony as I was reading it: I knew what was going to happen, and I enjoyed seeing how McLain set it all up.

My only real complaint: She too often slips into cliche, to the expected. And she's too good a writer to do that.

  • "But clocks don't turn backward" (29).
  • "Was this all a dream?" (46).
  • "Spain was a chance to find my voice as well as my compass" (100).
  • "my heart constantly in my throat" (109).
You get the idea ... and there are lots more of these.

Joyce and I saw McLain speaking at the Hudson Library and Historical Society last Wednesday evening. There was a full house. And she spoke easily and without a text. She's done her work on Hemingway and Gellhorn--and that was patent. Her manner of presentation though (to me), seemed--what?--a bit too bubbly--almost like a cliche of woman comedian trying to get laughs instead of trying to help us understand. I enjoyed the humor (sometimes) but wished, I guess, for more ... gravity from her.

     - The second was a short book of essays about fatherhood, the latest by Michael Chabon, whose complete works I've loved reading. These pieces are touching--and very self-deprecating (appealing in a writer--especially one of Chabon's accomplishments and experience and fame). 

He writes about his son Abe, who has long been "into" clothes and how the boy had to endure middle-school taunts and bullying. Bud did so. Another nice piece about watching a movie with his daughter. There's another good piece about reading Huck Finn to his children--about dealing with the language of Twain's novel.

Another son has issues with Little League.

He ends with a powerful piece about his own father.

A few things:
  • On p. 51 he used the term spatchcocking---a word that sent me swirling back to grad school, where I came across the word spatchcock (don't remember where), employed it in a grad-school paper, got a note from the prof saying I'd made him go to an unabridged dictionary. (Good!) spatchcock = 1. A fowl split open and grilled after being killed, plucked, and dressed in a summary fashion. (from the OED, which traces it back to the 18th cent.) I haven't seen the word in decades--but smiled when I saw it this time.
  • "... fatherhood is a favorite sideline of assholes" (80).
  • "the crushing orthodoxy of middle school" (100)

3. We're still streaming "our" shows each evening--about 10-15 min of each for about an hour: Shetland (nearly done with the most recent season), Bosch (ditto), Vera, Arrested Development (the new one), Barry--and some others. We sometimes get the stories and characters mixed up!

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

     - enantiodromia (i-nan-tee-uh-DROH-mee-uh)

noun: The tendency of things, beliefs, etc., to change into their opposites.
ETYMOLOGY: From Greek enantio- (opposite) + dromos (running). Earliest documented use: 1917.
The concept of enantiodromia is attributed to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c. 535-475 BCE). Later it was discussed by the psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961) as “the principle which governs all cycles of natural life”.
USAGE: “The union that Philip Murray had founded in 1936 as a way of combatting the wretched excess of management had come full circle in the cycle of enantiodromia, and had fallen victim to its own wretched excess.”

Tom O’Boyle; Excess, the Golden Rule; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Sep 4, 1994.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

On (Semi-) Pause to Finish a Writing Project

Visitors here know that for a couple of years I was serializing a very rough draft of a memoir about chasing Mary Shelley's story. I've been revising, revising. But ... it's taking too long. So I'm going to neglect this blog for a bit until I finish Frankenstein Sundae.

Oh, if there's something I really want to write about here, I will, but I want to finish this book! Time's winged chariot is hurrying near (as some poet once said), very near.

I'll post an update now and then,

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday Sundries, 189

1. AOTW: I think we may be nearing a Lifetime Achievement Award for those drivers who insist that when their lane is closing, they still have the right-of-way.  Dealt with such AOTWs several times this week in several different places. Each time I said several different bad words.

2. I finished a couple of books this week ...

     - The first was the next in the series of novels about Jack Taylor, a former Irish cop who lost his job for alcohol-related reasons. (He appeared for a while, did Jack, in a TV series we streamed; we'd like to see him back.) I've been reading Ken Bruen's novels about him, reading them in the order that Bruen published them. This most recent--Cross (2007)--involves Jack in a couple of cases, the principal one about a death by crucifixion of a young man in Galway (where Bruen sets his novels). Jack is winning his battle with alcoholism in this installment (but he will be sure to fall), and life has battered him and bruised him. But ... into the case he dives, and eventually he ... ain't tellin'.

Next in the series ... Sanctuary, which I've ordered. (For some reason it's not on Kindle, which is how I've read the others.)

     - The second I finished was Barracoon, the recently published early work by Zora Neale Hurston, whose Their Eyes Were Watching God I taught at Western Reserve Academy back in the day. Hurston was studying anthropology (with Franz Boaz) at Columbia Univ., and she latched onto this story of a last surviving slave. With Boaz' encouragement, she went to Alabama late in 1927 to interview Oulale Kossala (now called Cudjo Lewis); she got to know him well; interviewed him multiple times, and this book--for which Hurston could not find a publisher--tells both his story and hers.

His story is a grim one. Captured by other Africans from another tribe and sold, Lewis endured the terror and humiliation of it all; spent some foul time in the Barracoon (barracks) waiting to be shipped out; the trans-Atlantic voyage; the humiliations and horrors of slave labor here. Liberation in the Civil War. The struggle to survive in the South, where he and other freed slaves were hardly welcomed into the fellowship of humanity.

Near the end, Hurston writes: "I am sure that he does not fear death. ... But he is full of trembling awe before the altar of his past" (94).

There's a brief Foreword by Alice Walker (who helped return Hurston to public prominence years ago)--and much other scholarly front- and back-matter.

Informative to read--and wonderful to see Hurston first beginning to spread her writing wings.

3. Joyce and I finished watching (in several installments, via Netflix DVD) the 1971 film The Last Picture Show, based on the eponymous novel by Larry McMurtry (who also co-wrote the screenplay). We had been  married only two years when we first saw it, and I don't think I've seen it since.

Link to film trailer.

But it is something. Astonishing cinematography showing the dying small Texas town, the vast Texas terrain. And the performances were amazing, too--Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cloris Leachman, Ben Johnson, Clu Gulager, Randy Quaid, Cybill Shepherd, Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan ... so many others.

Director Peter Bogdanavich burst onto the scene with this--and never really (as I recall) matched the power of what he did here. (He filmed the 1990 sequel, also based on a McMurtry novel--Texasville (1987)--but it didn't match the power of the earlier story, though it featured many of the same performers.)

I hadn't remembered the emphasis on the sex lives of the characters--but it is a principal focus. (Hey, the picture show's closing ... what else is there to do?) And the desperation of so many lives ...

4. We finished the latest available streaming season of Death in Paradise, a series we've enjoyed. They did something unusual this year: They phased out their principal detective and phased in a New Guy. We not so sure we like the New Guy so much (shown in the foreground below), but will give him a chance when the current season is available to stream.

5. Last word--a word I liked this week from one of my various online word-of-the-day providers:

     - from wordsmith.org

Cervantic  (suhr-VAN-tik)
adjective: Of or relating to Miguel de Cervantes, especially his satirizing of the chivalric romances.
ETYMOLOGY: After the Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616), best known for Don Quixote. Earliest documented use: 1760. Many of Cervantes’s characters have also become eponyms.
USAGE: “The novel’s strong vein of comic dissent is summed up in the figure of Yorick, Shakespearean joker and memento mori, whose Cervantic tilting at windmills has a serious edge.”

Carol Watts; Rereadings; The Guardian (London, UK); Aug 23, 2003.

Friday, May 25, 2018

101 Ways to Be Revolting

It was almost exactly fifty years ago--on May 24, 1968--that I directed my second play at the old Aurora Middle School (102 E. Garfield Rd.; Aurora, Ohio). It was a comedy (?) that I'd written with a group of students throughout the year, a comedy about the American Revolution, and we called it Our War for Independence; or, 101 Ways to Be Revolting. I was 23 years old.

It was long before the days of easy photography, and I don't think I have any pictures from the production--though perhaps others out there do (if so, I'd love to see them).

We had no theater or auditorium in the old middle school, so we mounted our productions on the gym floor. We had, in those infant years, no spotlights or other special effects. Just a record player (!) attached to a speaker system--a very primitive speaker system.

At the bottom of the page are scans of our program. So many 7th and 8th graders ...

I have a script in a file--but I'm afraid to look at it. I would much prefer to remember it as a dazzling comedy that dazzled the audience during our two dazzling performances: one, an afternoon assembly for all students; two, for the parents (and others) in the evening.

Okay, a couple of memories.

  • We staged the old Paul Revere joke. Three women spaced out on the stage. He "rides" to the first: Is your husband at home? Yes! Tell him the British are coming! Woman 2: same thing. Woman 3: Is your husband at home? No! Whoa! (Pretty racy stuff for a middle school?)
  • But the big surprise--and crowd reaction--came at the end when King George III (who, unaccountably, is in America), realizing the war is lost, converts. We had him come running out in full hippie attire with the music of "Georgie Girl" blasting over our sound system (link to that 1967 hit). The audience went nuts for our converted King, played by John Mlinek, 8th grade, who went on to do a lot of acting and directing and has long been a Facebook friend--and real one, too.
It terrifies me that those "kids" are now in their sixties--for that makes me ... never mind.

But this play convinced me that this--directing kids--was something I loved to do. And so I did it for another thirty years, loving it every second, except when I hated it, which wasn't all that often!

The image at the top of the page is a rock that one of those "kids"--Doug "Skip" French--painted for me and gave me. It's been on my desk since 1968. Skip, by the way, went on to become quite an actor himself--and quite a human being. Cover design by Dave Prittie--a great actor, later a professional artist in NYC.