1. It's difficult to write today. As my Facebook friends now know, my wife, Joyce, will be undergoing four hours of abdominal surgery early tomorrow morning at Akron General Hospital (now affiliated with the Cleveland Clinic). She has a great surgeon, lots of support from family and friends, but, of course, Worry doesn't care about any of that--nor does Fear. I've learned, though, that work is the key to survival (physical and emotional), at least for me. Murderous Macbeth said, flippantly, The labour we delight in physics [medicates] pain. Which goes to prove that even a murderer can occasionally be profoundly wise. Joyce is working furiously today, too. So I will work on ... until I can't. And inside I will tremble and quake until she awakens tomorrow from the surgery, sees me, smiles, takes my hand.
2. I finished a couple of books this week.
a. The latest collection of stories by the amazing Joy Williams--Ninety-Nine Stories of God (2016)--a collection of, well, ninety-nice "stories," some of which are only a few sentences long, some of which are a few pages. Nothing lengthy here. The title could be misleading: Most of the stories are not directly about God, though "the Lord" (as she most frequently calls the deity) does figure in some of them. They are, however, about Life and coincidence and confusion and oddity and quirks and ... well, just about anything you can think of. Some examples ...
- a woman saves her mother's artificial knees after cremation
- a man thinks you don't get older in church
- someone has a pet rabbit named for an adverb--Actually
- someone says, "We can only know what God is not, not what God is" (story 49).
- the Lord is in line for a shingles shot at a pharmacy
- the Lord is in a den with pack of wolves--wonders why they're hunted and hated so
I think you get the idea? Fun to read--quick, too!
b. Although I finished the "autobiography" part of the third and final volume of Mark Twain's Autobiography, this week I finally finished reading through the back matter, as well (hundreds of pages), including a long account he wrote near the end of his life, an account of his firm belief that two of his close assistants--Isabel Lyon and Ralph W. Ashcroft (who married in the middle of it all)--had been systematically ripping him off. (BTW: There's a recent book that deals in great detail with this matter--Mark Twain's Other Woman: The Hidden Story of His Final Years, 2010, by eminent Twain scholar Laura Skandera Trombley.) Anyway, Twain is an emotionally broken, bitter man by the time all of this happens, and the way he describes Lyon and Ashcroft is brutal.
- Ashcroft, he says, "insults me as freely and Frankly as if I were his fellow bastard and born in the same sewer" (311).
- about their wedding: "a binding together of a pair of conspirators" (354).
- of Lyon, he says, "the muscle in her chest that does the duty for a heart is nothing but a potato" (385).
- and on and on ...
3. We've been watching the HBO miniseries Empire Falls (2005), the series based on Richard Russo's novel of the same name, a novel I just recently finished (Russo also wrote the screenplay). (Link to trailer.) Quite a cast. Ed Harris, Paul Newman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joanne Woodward, Helen Hunt, Aidan Quinn, Robin Wright Penn, and on and on. The emotion of the novel does not come through nearly so strongly here, but it's fun to watch all these heavyweights in action. We've seen only about half of it so far--so I'll save the rest of my thoughts for later.
4. We're also watching more of the Brit series William and Mary, with the wonderful Martin Clunes (later he became Doc Martin, a character we like even more than his "William" here). We're both souring a little on the second season. I'm especially weary of the deceptive-teen aspect of it. It's all a cliche now, I fear, and every time they become the focus, I become bored. The same with Mary's wacko mom. I'm not sure we'll finish it. It is fun, though, to see Clunes do his thing.
5. Last words--some words I liked from my various word-of-the-day online providers this week.
a. opacus \oh-PEY-kuhs\ adjective [DICTIONARY.COM]
Meteorology. (of a cloud) dense enough to obscure the sun or moon.
What is the cloudspotter to do when the cloud layer has grown thick enough to be of the opacus, rather than the translucidus, variety, so that it doesn't show the position of the sun or moon?
-- Gavin Pretor-Pinney, The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds, 2006
Origin of opacus
Opacus is a New Latin construction that stems from the Latin opācus meaning "shaded."
b. run of the mill, n. and adj. [OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY]
Inflections: Plural runs of the mill, run of the mills.
Forms: 18– run of the mill, 19– run of the mills.
Origin: Formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: run n.2, of prep., the adj., mill n.1
Etymology: < run n.2 + of prep. + the adj. + mill n.1
orig. N. Amer.
1. N. Amer. The material produced by a mill before being sorted or inspected for quality; (more generally) goods of an uncertain or variable quality produced by a mill. Cf. run n.2 47a, mill-run n. 3. Now rare.
1876 J. B. Killebrew Rep. Ocoee & Hiwassee Min. District 33 Lumber is cheap. Ten dollars per thousand is the price for inch lumber, the run of the mill; $12.50 for choice.
1877 Rep. Select Standing Comm. Immigration & Colonization in Jrnls. House of Commons Canada 11 App. 172 The run of the mill will cost from $15 to $16 a thousand, and the selections, throwing out portions of it, makes good flooring.
1896 W. G. Berg in A. L. Johnson Econ. Designing of Timber Trestle Bridges App. iii. 39 Lumber can be bought more cheaply by giving a general order for ‘the run of the mill for the season’ or ‘a cargo lot’.
1910 H. Maxwell Wood-using Industries of Maryland 26 The cost of longleaf pine by the run of the mill was $12.05 in 1908 in Louisiana.
1939 M. Evans & E. B. McGowan Guide to Textiles 66 Run-of-the-mill is a term which in general means that the merchandise has not been inspected... Sheets and pillowcases are frequently sold as run-of-the-mill.
2. The ordinary, average, or mediocre type of something.
1922 S. Lewis Babbitt xiii. 170, I guess I'm as good a husband as the run of the mill, but God, I do get so tired of going home every evening, and nothing to see but the movies.
1930 Hearst's Internat. Sept. 37/2 But level-headed as a wife and a darned sight better-looking than the run of the mill of wives.
1938 K. A. Porter in Southern Rev. Winter 429 I've got a special job beside my usual run of the mill.
1966 Polit. Sci. Q. 81 2 As long as the going is good, the run of the mill of the citizenry will not enter the political market.
2003 K. Scott in C. B. Bailey Age of Watteau, Chardin, & Fragonard 94 Like Mignard, Chardin used formal means, among them portrait conventions, to set his scene apart from the run of the mill.
Of an ordinary or undistinguished type or quality; average, mediocre; mundane.
Freq. hyphenated, esp. in attrib. constructions.
1919 Trans. Med. Assoc. Alabama 263 The run-of-the-mill layman is not nearly so well equipped for this work as the run-of-the-mill physician.
1933 Sun (Baltimore) 14 Oct. 4/3 An ordinary, run-of-the-mill gravy.
1943 B. A. De Voto in Harper's Mag. May 645/1 But what they have to say is mostly run of the mill.
1969 Daily Tel. 21 Apr. 17/7 No hard boundaries exist to separate jazz singers from run-of-the-mill night club performers.
2008 Review (Rio Tinto) Mar. 7/3 While its most dramatic uses include replacement joints, surgical instruments and heart stints, it has many more run of the mill applications.