1. AOTW: An oldie-but-no-goodie. The AOTW who pulls out right in front of you from a side street or driveway when there's no one behind you for, oh, 1000 miles. Brake. Slow Curse. Plot revenge.
2. This week we streamed on Netflix a recent documentary about caustic comic Don Rickles--Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (link to video available on a number of streaming sites). The film, directed by John Landis (The Blues Brothers, Beverly Hills Cop III, Michael Jackson's Thriller, etc.), shows us Rickles then and now, still performing much the same routine he did when I first saw him back on Johnny Carson decades ago. In 1979 Joyce and I went with our friends Ted and Sandy Clawson (Ted was the band director in Aurora, where I was teaching) to see Rickles perform in Cleveland--the Front Row Theater (RIP). We didn't want to sit near the ... front row ... because we didn't want Rickles zeroing in on us (he didn't), but I remember having a lot of fun, laughing when I knew I shouldn't, watching/listening to Rickles get away with bits that no other comedian could. Landis' documentary brought it all back.
3. I finished a couple of books this week ...
- Some months ago I decided to work my way through some (most? all?) of Wallace Stegner's novels. (Stegner: 1909-1993) I'd not read much by him (maybe some stories?), so I decided it was time. This week I finished his early (and fat!) novel The Big Rock Candy Mountain (1943--published a year before I was born).It's a family saga set out in Rocky Mountain West (USA and Canada). A guy named Bo, a woman named Elsa, two kids (Chet and Bruce). Bo struggles to get rich in a variety of land, farming, booze-running schemes; Elsa hangs on; the boys grow up; Death visits. I was sort of reading-it-just-to-be-reading-it for a while, but then I got sucked in. Stegner changes points of view throughout and shows the Dark Side of the American Dream (and of American masculinity). When tragedies struck--as they surely must do, for all of us--I found myself profoundly moved.
- I also finished another Billy the Kid book by Robert M. Utley (1929-), a Western historian of some note who's written about the Kid before (and Custer!), and this one is a dual biography, Wanted: The Outlaw Lives of Billy the Kid & Ned Kelly (2015). Kelly was an Australian outlaw whose life somewhat paralleled the Kid's. Also met a violent end--at the end of a rope. I didn't learn a lot about the Kid (as I've written here before, I was a Kid Freak for some years back in the 1980s), but I guess the latest research about his birth family remains ... uncertain. Utley says he doesn't think we'll ever know for sure. Utley, now in his 80s, is, I fear, weakening as a writer. Although Yale UP published this, I'm not sure any other writer could have slipped this manuscript past the first reader. The final chapter--comparing/contrasting the two "heroes"--is right out of an English 101 how-to-write-an-essay-of-comparison manual. And at the end I found myself ... sad.
4. Last night (Saturday) we saw the terrific film Spotlight about the efforts of the Boston Globe to uncover the priest-abuse scandals--the horrific abuses. Good performances all around--an exciting film about investigative journalism. About corruption. And power. And let-sleeping-dogs-lie. (Only these dogs were manifestly not sleeping!) On the way home, Joyce and I talked about another sadness--the decline of the American newspaper. Who will do this kind of investigation in this new age? Who can afford to commit the resources that the Globe did to cover such a story?
We take three Sunday newspapers now: the New York Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Akron Beacon-Journal--and all three combined do not equal the former Sunday heft of the Plain Dealer. We are retreating into a brainless wonderless land of stories about sports, celebrities, and polarized politics featuring folks who bray and rage and accuse but seem to have no real ideas about how to improve the lives and hopes of Americans. I can't decide: Is this more sad or dangerous?
5. Some interesting words from my various word-a-day providers:
- selenology (sel-uh-NOL-uh-jee) nounthe branch of astronomy that deals with the nature and origin of the physical features of the moon.
- aposiopesis (ap-uh-sahy-uh-PEE-sis) nounRhetoric. a sudden breaking off in the midst of a sentence, as if from inability or unwillingness to proceed.
- A compulsive urge to buy things; an uncontrollable desire for acquisition.
6. Finally--you see the signs everywhere in the grocery stores: "gluten-free." This item from the most recent Consumer Reports. Of course, as a baker (of sorts), I'm biased ...