Dawn Reader

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

"Photographs and Memories ..."

The Kid, 2nd from left
Garrett, far right
Old photographs have been in the news lately. Someone lucked out and bought for $10 a tintype of a picture that shows both Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, the man who would shoot the kid dead in 1881. (Link to New York Times story.) Another one that hit the news was, of course, of Sen. Al Franken, feigning a groping move on a sleeping woman. (That went over well ...) (Link to Atlantic story about it.)

Old photographs have played a recent role in our lives, too. We've been cleaning out our basement (due to our waterproofing project down there), and in a box of assorted things, we found this photo of our son, Steve (about one year old), with my late father, Edward Dyer (who was about sixty at the time). They are out on the back porch of my parents' home, 3500 Wakonda Court; Des Moines, Iowa. Both my parents were teaching at Drake University at the time. I took the picture with a 35mm camera--summer of 1973.

I love this picture; I don't know why it was in a box. But it ain't no longer: In a frame, on a shelf where I can see it every day.

Just one more now. The other day a friend from high school, Ralph Green, published on FB some photos he'd found of our class' tenth reunion--1972. There's a picture of Joyce and me at a table with some others. I'm talking with my former basketball coach (and driver ed teacher!), Bob Barnhart (RIP). Priceless. (I'm the guy with the mustache and white sweater, to the right-center.)

Okay, we're almost there--almost to the point I want to make. But one more thing first. On Saturday night I saw Daddy's Home 2, and there's a scene at a school production, and when the thing begins, every parent in the audience whips out his or her phone or tablet and begins photographing/videoing (?) the action on the stage. Lots of laughs in the audience.

And then it was I began to think about how in these days--when virtually everyone is walking around with a camera--photographs are so abundant that I wonder if they can any way be as--what?--precious(?) as they once were--when a few photographs lived in few photo albums.

I have so few photographs of the people I knew and loved in childhood--in fact, I have none of some relatives I knew well. So different from today ... My iCloud holds so many pictures now--yet it's really holding no pictures at all. Just digital information. Fragile digital information. I don't print any of them very often. Store them anywhere. They are literally molecules in a cloud.

I saw a video ad the other day for a new smart phone-camera that responds to voice commands. A woman is out floating in the water saying "Selfie! Selfie! Selfie!" and you can hear the camera's sound--click! click! click!

Another precious moment captured.

Link to video/song: Jim Croce, "Photographs and Memories" (1972)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Sundries, 166

1. AOTW: I actually thought I would get through the week without having a winner. Then ... a gift from ... from wherever. Yesterday (Saturday), driving home from the health club (north on Ohio 91), I was approaching a side street (with a stop sign) on my right. I saw a car approaching its stop sign. But the car did not stop but pulled out right in front of me. Brakes. Bad words. I didn't recognize the driver at first--and then I did! It was the AOTW!

2. Joyce and I finished streaming the recent Netflix documentary about Joan Didion (Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold)--and we both loved it (although some of the reviews have been less than flattering). A writer's life--right there for you to look at. One thing I really enjoyed (and which really touched me): Didion's very active use of her hands and arms as she talks--almost as if she trying to grab her words from the air. (Link to film trailer.)

3. Last night I went to Kent to see Daddy's Home 2 (I know, I know)--principally because of a popcorn-craving. (If you eat it in the dark, as everyone knows, there are no calories.) I was surprised, on a lousy rainy night, how crowded the lines were, and even my theater was pretty much full (not to mention the enormous lines for the new superhero movies). Anyway, the film was absolutely As Expected. More of the same. (Now, an unkind comment: Isn't Will Ferrell getting a bit long in the tooth to play the daddy role?) (Link to film trailer.) And as for Mel Gibson ... can't stand him anymore.

4. I finished two books this week ...

     - The first was one I've been reading at my in-bed pace of 10 pp/night--Robert Sapolsky's Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (2017). There are nearly 700 pages of principal text (not counting Appendix, notes, etc.) ... so you can figure out how long it took me to read it!

But I loved it. Learned something new on just about every page (and, of course, promptly forgot most of it ... still). Sapolsky--a MacArthur Fellow and a prof at Stanford--is an excellent writer, mixing the dense with the light (like a good bartender!). He's interested in explaining why we are like we are--why do we demonize others? Why are we capable of such despicable--and praiseworthy--behavior? And here's  a little nugget from p. 602: "The biology of the behaviors that interest us is, in all cases, multifunctional--that is the thesis of this book." In other words, no simple, one-cause thinking about behavior is allowed! Not in these wonderful pages ...

I might read this one again. I enjoyed it that much.

     - The second was the second novel by Jennifer Egan (I'm reading her novels in the order that she wrote them). I'd known about Egan for a long time but had not read anything by her, until I saw the reviews for her new one (Manhattan Beach, 2017--link to New York Times review), I figured it was about time--no, past time. (Besides, she won a Pulitzer a few years ago, 2011, for A Visit from the Goon Squad.) So, off I galloped!

Look at Me is a very prescient novel. Written in 2001, it forecasts the incredible extent of the Internet--of social media. Charlotte (often, not always, our narrator here) is a fashion model (a very successful one), and the novel begins with a car crash, with the damage to her face, damage that surgeons repair, and she looks good, but not as she used to. Her career crumbles. Later on, an Internet guy convinces her (as her funds are running out) to let him tell her story on a new website he's setting up, and near the end of the book we return to the crash site to re-enact it for video cameras so that it can appear with her story. (It becomes--surprise! surprise!--wildly popular.)

In between all of this, we get the story of Charlotte's youth, of her niece (also Charlotte), of her involvement with all sorts of people--including a mysterious guy named Z., who seems to be some kind of foreign agent--including a private eye. Some of the connections did not dawn on me until near the end when I realized (duh) that Charlotte 1 and 2 were not the exact same story. (Stories within stories ...)

The model and her niece--two young women who want to be noticed (see the title) and who sacrifice much to see that this happens.

A dark look at us.

5. Decided this week that it was time to learn Hamlet's little speech to the skull of Yorick. And now ... I've got it!

(from Arden edition)

HAMLET : Let me see.
Takes the skull
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
bore me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one
to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen? Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let
her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that.

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

      - from dictionary.com--one of those words that seem as if they ought to mean something else--something to do, in this case, with pasta!

macaronic [mak-uh-ron-ik] adjective
1. composed of a mixture of languages.
2. composed of or characterized by Latin words mixed with vernacular words or non-Latin words given Latin endings.
His wife and daughters understood only English but together they rocked in unison on the settle and sang macaronic songs in a mixture of both languages.
-- Benedict Kiely, "The Heroes in the Dark House," A Journey to the Seven Streams and Other Stories, 1963

Macaronic verse—it can scarcely be called poetry—is associated especially with medieval universities, in which the various “nations” of students, e.g., English, Welsh, Scots, Picards, Normans, Paduans, Milanese, etc., all listened to lectures delivered in Latin and asked and answered questions in Latin. Such bilingualism, more or less fluent, invites bilingual puns and, sad to say, scurrilous verse. Perhaps the most popular macaronic verse in the contemporary United States is the Carmina Burana, a collection of 254 mostly bawdy and irreverent poems dating from the 11th or 12th century, from Benediktbeuern in Bavaria. The carmina were written in Medieval Latin, Middle High German, Old French, or a mélange of Latin and the vernacular languages. The German composer and conductor Carl Orff (1895–1982), who was born in Munich, about 45 miles away from Benediktbeuern, set 24 of the carmina to music in 1936. Macaronic entered English in the early 17th century.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Is This Really Happening?

Some of you know I got some darker medical news this week--news that will involve my participation in a new procedure that involves removing portions of my blood, sending them to Atlanta for transformation (making them, we hope, into better cancer fighters), returning them here to be returned to my body. (This will happen three times over five weeks.)

Okay. Are you guessing this will be expensive? (Duh!)

My insurance company has not yet approved the expense, but I do know this: If the approval does not come, there is no way we can afford it.

And so we come to the relentless GOP determination to attenuate or--even better, in their view--destroy the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).  Now, I will acknowledge--and quickly, too--that the AFC has some problems--problems that could be fixed if you-know-who would agree to it.

But, no. Obama did it. So, ipso facto, it must go!

The latest tactic is to eliminate the individual mandate--the requirement that you have health insurance. This kind of mandate seems not to bother us at all (and even qualifies as a "no-brainer") when we apply it to auto and home insurance, right?

Ask yourself: How much would car insurance--would home insurance--cost you if other owners of cars and homes were not legally required to buy it--if they (or you) could, well, opt out?

The cost would rocket out beyond our Milky Way.

The case is even more compelling with health insurance. There are people who will never make a claim on their auto insurance, their home insurance. They just pay premiums, year after year after year.

But the chances of your one day needing medical insurance? One hundred percent. (Unless a UFO whisks you away for some ... experimentation.)

I don't even want to mention the patent cruelty of arguing that some people "deserve" health care and others do not. (I just did--mention it, that is; it's a rhetorical device called apophasis*.) (Sneaky, eh?) Such "only-the-deserving" thinking is, I think, in violation of every religious and moral code I learned in childhood--and beyond. As Hamlet said about the skull: "My gorge rises at it."

I would happily pay higher taxes to help people who need it. (Talk about a "no-brainer"!).

We need to act as if we truly believe those things we profess to believe--that do unto others stuff, you know?

We need to treat all people with the same kindness and empathy we would if we knew that they were dying.

But, wait ... we all are dying ... right?

* apophasis (from Merriam-Webster): the raising of an issue by claiming not to mention it (as in “we won’t discuss his past crimes”)

Friday, November 17, 2017

On This Day ...

Facebook has a feature called "On This Day"--a feature that enables you to look back at the things you posted on "this day" in previous years--and perhaps share them again. That way your loyal FB friends can scroll past the post a second time--or third--or whatever.

I am guilty of two things: (1) sharing things from previous years, (2) not examining with much, uh, thoroughness the on-this-day posts of my FB friends (the definition of hypocrisy, eh?).

In my defense (Your Honor): Most of the on-this-day posts I share are items about literary birthdays and events. I mean, Robert Frost will always have been born on March 26. Do I really have to create a novel post to share about him on every damn March 26 from here on out? I think not!

Anyway, to get to the point (something at which I am not very good): Today on my "On This Day" list appeared a photograph I'd taken through the coffee shop window, 7:15 a.m., November 17, 2014. (That's three years ago, for those of you who were absent the day your teacher taught subtraction.)

And here it is ...

A perfect mixture of the lovely and the depressing, eh? We had a few flurries around here the other day, but nothing has stuck. And the temperatures are not really all that cold (40s, upper 30s), but we here in northeastern Ohio are skilled at complaining about the weather--even when it hasn't happened yet. Even when we feel only a hint of it in our bones. (A toss-up: Do we moan more about the Browns or the weather?)

For some reason this year it's just felt colder to me--colder than it actually is. Perhaps that's because I'm older. Perhaps that's because I know what will be coming (I've lived in the area since 1956).

Or maybe I'm just turning into "a whiney who bores people so" (a line from an old children's record we had when I was growing up--Manners Can Be Fun; has there ever been a title more laughable?).

Or, worse: I'm turning into one of those people who post on Facebook a bunch of unpleasant junk that they posted years ago? (The tacit message: I'm smart. It's going to get cold and yucky around here very soon. Aren't you glad you're my friend so that you can know such things? Otherwise, of course, you would not/could not know them!)

In my defense, I did not share that photo on FB today ... well, not directly. I mean, I will be sharing it, sort of, when I link this post to FB.

Sue me.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Brown Leaves Blowing

image from the Internet

The last few mornings as I've walked along Main Street in Hudson, on my way to the coffee shop, I've noticed myriads of large brown leaves tumbling from north to south along the sidewalk. There are no large trees on the west side of Main (where I walk), so, of course, these leaves have blown across the street from the Village Green--and from nearby Aurora Street--where large, older trees do live and display their various incarnations to us as each year progresses: buds-leaves-turning, leaves-dropping, bareness for Old Man Winter, who gets just what he deserves.

I confess I'm not much of a naturalist, so I'm not sure what variety of tree dropped them. Around here, though, it's pretty safe to bet they're from a maple or an oak. Maybe a black walnut. (Ignorance is never bliss, by the way, as I'm rediscovering by typing these sentences.) I went to elementary school in a day before leaf collections became a staple assignment in science class--either that or I just neglected to do mine, a failure of which I was eminently capable in my boyhood. Why run around collecting leaves when there are baseballs to be thrown, basketballs to be dribbled and shot, Alamos to be saved?

In high school, our son had a biology collection to assemble--and, one day, going up the on-ramp to I-480, westbound, in Twinsburg, Joyce and I spotted a dead black snake alongside the road. We stopped (endearing ourselves to those who followed us), found a stick, picked up the snake, tossed him/her in the trunk, thereby earning our son a bio-class bonus. (If you're wondering, dead snakes do smell bad.) Oh, parents-doing-homework-for-their-kid! Shameful!

Pause while I think like a former English teacher.  The lead sentence in the previous paragraph could have been a wonderful example of a dangling participle if I had just written the sentence a little differently: ... going up the on-ramp to I-480 westbound, in Twinsburg, a dead black snake .... I kind of like that image: a dead black snake going up the on-ramp ... Sounds like a possible horror movie? I'll pitch it to Hollywood ... We've already had Black Snake Moan (2006) ... it's time for Black Snake up the On-Ramp!

So about those blowing leaves ... Those of us in the autumn of our lives see such things with different eyes. The leaves cause us to think about the homogeneity of the dead. Though people dear to us will moan (like a black snake!), perhaps, when we die, it won't be long--another generation? two?--before, to the living, we will become no more than brown leaves blowing down the sidewalk.

In 1809, William Godwin (Mary Shelley's father) published a little pamphlet/booklet called Essay on Sepulchres. In it, he proposed that England should establish markers for the graves of their notable dead. And publish the locations. (Has Find-a-Grave done all that for us?) And that the men and women of England should visit those places, often.

The former has surely been accomplished (England also has the "blue plaque" project--markers placed on buildings of historical or biographical note); the latter--the visits? I'm not so sure.

Joyce and I have often traveled to the graves of American literary figures--Hawthorne, Melville, Hemingway, O'Connor, Faulkner, Ellison, Irving, Fitzgerald, Poe, and on and on. We sometimes see a few other people there--but usually no one else. I'm pretty sure, though, that many fans of those writers do make the pilgrimage ... but maybe not. Probably not.

I think I've been to the grave of one of my maternal great-grandfathers a couple of times (near Youngstown)--and a few other relatives, now and then. But not too often. I tell myself, They aren't there; they are here (indicating my mind, my heart).

True, but ...

Fame, influence, notoriety, infamy--most of it is evanescent. There are exceptions: Homer, Shakespeare, George Washington, Adolf Hitler. We could compile very similar lists, I'm sure. But even they will one day disappear. Assuming we don't destroy ourselves in the next thousand years, do you think we will still be reading Shakespeare? Two thousand years? Five? A hundred?

Probably not. Those notables will by then have become like the rest of us--leaves on Main Street. Lovely and evocative, maybe--but pretty much indistinguishable.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

On a brighter note ...

So ... on a brighter note ... I made cornbread this morning. ('Tis the season, no?)  I don't use any fancy-schmanzy recipe--just the one from the old Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book that I inherited from my mother. Pretty basic stuff. (See recipe at the bottom of this post.)

Okay, I did pop in a little whole-wheat flour instead of all-white. Sue me.

It always takes longer to bake than the 12-15 minutes the (lying) recipe calls for--sometimes five minutes more. Pull it out of the oven too soon and you have some cornbread--and some cornmeal hot cereal.

But it's a quickie--about a half-hour from I think I'll make cornbread to That looks great--when can we cut it?

Minimal clean-up, too.

And a lingering aroma--all throughout the day.

My mom used to make this recipe during the holidays, though cornmeal was not otherwise a part of my boyhood diet--except for cornmeal pancakes that my maternal Osborn men would make (my grandfather, my uncle (Mom's brother)). Those were awesome and one of the great benefits of a visit to or from the Osborns. I've never really matched the quality of what they did, but maybe boyhood memory prefers perfection, and adult consciousness recognizes that pretty much everything is a little screwed up, you know?

During the November and December holidays, we ate chunks of cornbread, and Mom would often (always? can't be sure) make a cornbread stuffing for the turkey. We've been doing the same in recent years.

Taste and texture, of course, are freeways to the past. A single bite, and it's 1954 again. And I'm in Enid, Oklahoma; I'm just ten years old. And the cornbread--swabbed with butter (no more for me in these cholesterol-awareness days)--goes down easily--much more easily, say, than the green beans (or hated Lima beans) that lie, ignored, on my plate. I must confront them later, I know: Family Rule #327 (Clean Your Plate). But Later is not Now. And Now is for cornbread swabbed with butter, all to celebrate the holiday--and the endless life that lies ahead of me ...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Back to Seidman Cancer Center

Seidman Cancer Center
Beachwood, Ohio
Yesterday was my quarterly visit with my oncologist up at Seidman. Readers here know that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer late in 2004, had a prostatectomy (removal of the gland) in June 2005. When the cancer returned, I had a month of radiation treatments at Cleveland Clinic in January 2009. And when the cancer returned a few years ago--moving into my bones--I commenced hormone therapy, which slows but does not cure. I am now on two testosterone-suppressants (prostate cancer loves testosterone!): Lupron (quarterly injection) and Casodex (daily pill)--and I also get a monthly shot of Xgeva  for bone strength.

Yesterday, after talking with my oncologist I got a nice dessert: both injections: one in left triceps, one in left butt cheek! Ouch and Ouch!

I'll also be returning in about a month for a CAT scan and bone scan--to see the dimensions of the metastasis. ("And we'll have fun, fun, fun, till my daddy takes the T-bird away!" Thank you, Beach Boys!) (Link to song!)

But there was news a little darker--with perhaps some faint glimmer of light about it. My doctor thinks it's time to add another treatment. My PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen), stable for a few months, is moving upward again (indicating the cancer's increased activity), so I will soon undergo a process called "Sipuleucel-T" or "Provenge." It's immunotherapy.

What will happen in this: Three times (separated by a week's rest) I will go to the Red Cross in Akron and have the T-cells* in my blood withdrawn and then sent to Atlanta for renovation (they will be "programmed" to resist the specific cancer I have); a few days later, I will go to the main campus of University Hospitals (University Circle in Cleveland) and have them reintroduced through another infusion.

This will be a Tuesday-Friday cycle: Tuesday (Akron Red Cross), Friday (UH). Three times, each time with a week's rest intervening. Five weeks in all. (Here's a link that explains it more clearly than I just did!)

The literature on Provenge suggests I may live a bit longer because of these treatments (link to a site). Though let's not get too excited: It seems the average is only about four months longer. But my oncologist is hopeful, and you'd better believe I am! (Hopeful? Wishful? Is there a difference?)

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying the health I do have, loving the time I do have. Family. Family. Family.

And Joyce--who was beside me every second yesterday, holding my hand, embodying my hope--how can I even imagine losing her ...

As the Bard says in one of my favorite sonnets, #64 (entire text below**):

This thought is as a death which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

*T-cell = a lymphocyte of a type produced or processed by the thymus gland and actively participating in the immune response.

**Sonnet 64

When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Few Wee Thngs ...

Okay, so wee goes back to Middle English--and even farther. Meant (and means) very small. (Had to look that one up!) (And, of course, there's that other meaning of wee (or wee-wee)--the one related to micturition!) (Merriam-Webster sniffs: "Not often in polite use.")

Anyway, there are just a few things today I want to mention--all too brief (wee!) for a full post, even considering my fondness for diverging into yellow woods--and woods of every other color, if the mood suits.

  • Today,  I was thinking about the word batten. It happened when I was running through (silently, silently) Tennyson's poem "The Kraken" this morning at the coffee shop. In that poem (see the whole thing pasted below), Tennyson mentions that the creature is "Battening upon huge sea worms in his sleep."
    • And then there's that expression batten down the hatches.
    • So ... here's what I found in (and copied from) Merriam-Webster ...
      • "The origin ... is believed to be the Old Norse verb batna, meaning "to improve." Batna is akin to Old Norse betr and Old English betera, from which we get the modern English word better. Batten entered the English language in the 1500s, with the meaning "to improve," and was especially used in the sense of improving or thriving by feeding. It is not related to the verb batten … found in expressions such as "batten down the hatches." This latter batten comes from the noun batten, which denotes, among other things, an iron bar used to secure the covering of a hatchway on a ship. This batten has Latinate rather than Germanic origins and can be traced back through Anglo-French batre to the Latin verb battuere ("to beat").
    • Batten, then, has two different histories: one meaning to eat or fatten; the other, to secure a ship's hatchway. There you go!
  • I had a wonderful 73rd birthday on Saturday. A flood of greetings from FB friends--a lovely (pizza) dinner with our son and his family at Hudson's 3 Palms (and an "after-party" at our house, with fireplace blazing). I am one lucky, lucky man.
  • I was thrilled yesterday (Sunday) that I actually paid attention while I was making our weekly bread and did not make the goof of last week (using oat instead of wheat flour as the principal flour). The pictures below certify the benefits of paying attention: Failure is rarely so evident as in baking!
Nov 6, 2017

Nov. 13, 2017
The Kraken

Below the thunders of the upper deep,
Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumbered and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge sea worms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Sundries, 165

1. AOTW: At the health club. In the parking lot (a big one.) I'm heading home, out the main drive. Toward me comes a woman. She is on her phone. Suddenly, she turns left right in front of me (no signal) into a lane of parking slots. I jam on the brakes. She waves daffily as she passes me, thinking, perhaps, that will compensate--perhaps even disqualify her for the AOTW. Nope. She's the winner this week. Hands down.

2. I finished but one book this week. I'm reading Jennifer Egan's second novel (Look at Me), which is quite long ... so ...

     - When I retired from the Aurora City Schools in January 1997, a young teacher replaced me. His name is Len Spacek, and he's still there at Harmon School. Not too long ago he stopped by Open Door Coffee Co. to have a talk, and I learned he had published a YA novel on Amazon, so I promptly ordered it--The Final Play--and it somehow disappeared on my neat desk. But it recently emerged, and I read it during my evening hours of read-a-bit-from-several-books routine.

And I really enjoyed it. It's the story of a sophomore boy who finds out as the school year is beginning that his mother--for convenience's sake (hers)--is sending him to a boarding school, and he will not get to play that football season with the friends he's grown up with. And his gf? Buh-bye, too.

He, of course, is very unhappy.

But at the prep school he meets some key folks--his roommate, a young woman, a very influential English teacher (hey, you gotta love a book that features a Good-Guy English teacher!).

The season goes along--and it looks as if his current team and his former team are headed for a showdown in the state tournament.

I'll leave it there.

The novel has some good messages for kids: books can be cool (our hero is moved by John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany (as I was)), and he sees (and greatly enjoys) his gf perform in Much Ado About Nothing (a play I taught at Harmon!).

So a lot of personal resonance for me in this book--and a lot of heart, as well. The heart of Len Spacek, a heart that is capacious!

3. On Friday night Joyce and I drove over to the Kent Cinemas to see Kenneth Branagh's film of Murder on the Orient Express. (Link to film trailer.) I wasn't expecting much, to tell you the truth; it was an excuse to sit in the dark with Joyce and eat popcorn (heaven, my friends--heaven).

But we were both pleasantly surprised. I liked it. I liked it a lot. Maybe I loved it. Of course, I'm a Branagh fan--and have been so ever since his wonderful Henry V years ago (1989). The exteriors were lovely, the performances were fine, Branagh mingled comedy and horror in effective doses, and I left the theater feling both entertained and, well, informed (once again) about the astonishing dimensions of the human soul.

BTW: Some of the cast members had appeared, years ago, in Branagh's 1993 film of Much Ado--a film I used to show my eighth graders in my final years at Harmon Middle School.

4. We started streaming the Netflix mini-series Alias Grace, based on the Margaret Atwood novel--just part of the first episode so far. Kind of like it. We'll keep going. (Lots of FB friends have said good to great things about it.) (Link to series trailer.)

5. Final Word--A word I liked this week from one of my online world-of-the-day providers ...

     - from the Oxford English Dictionary--interesting: we all know beloved; I did not know this form of it (though, in my defense (!), it's very rare now) ...

belover, n.   A person who loves someone or something dearly; a lover.
Origin: Formed within English, by derivation. Etymons: belove v., -er suffix1.
Etymology: < belove v. + -er suffix1, probably partly after beloved n.
 rare after early 17th cent.

a1492   Caxton tr. Vitas Patrum (1495) ii. f. clxxxxvi/2   Wymmen that vtter swetly theyr wordes for to gete loue of theyr bylouers [Fr. housiers].
1610   J. Healey tr. St. Augustine Citie of God viii. v. 304   Plato then affirme that a wise man is an immitator, a knower and a belouer of this God [L. dei..amatorem].
1620   F. Beaumont & J. Fletcher Phylaster v. 60   Deerly belouers of Custards & Cheescakes. 
1887   Westville (Indiana) Indicator 22 Dec. (advt.)    Christmas has always been kept as a remembrance day by all belovers in Christian Faith.
1914   Maccabæan Sept. 95/2   An old tree bends over the river as over a belover.

2009   C. D. Baker Forty Loaves ix. 35   She is a believer..a belover—a follower of Jesus.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Birthday #73

So ... I turned 73 today.

Here's a link to what I wrote here on my birthday two years ago (2015, for those of you who, like me, are mathematically challenged): link to it

That post shows some things: a baby picture, my parents, my dad's letter to me when he found out I was born (Dad was in Europe--something about a World War), my mom's hospital bill for my delivery (the price is jaw-dropping).

Actually, I just looked: This hospital bill is not there--so here it is ... for an almost two-week stay! (Not all that uncommon then, in the days before the get-em-in-get-em-out insurance mandates.)

Anyway, I was apparently worth $63, but here I am--still hanging in there at 73. Enjoying the things I've always enjoyed (well, most of them). More worried, of course--I'm carrying cancer around in my body, and one of these days (not soon, I hope) he will triumph.

But so many things to love--so great to be back in touch with so many via Facebook.

I'm loving our son, his wife, our terrific grandsons (Logan, 12; Carson, 8), and my time with Joyce is more precious than breath.

We will meet them this evening for pizza and whatever at a local restaurant. And I will treasure every second.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Winter Warrior

This morning, I wore my next-to-heaviest winter coat. Some faint flurries were in the air. It was 29 degrees on our indoor-outdoor thermometer.

I have some kind of rule for what coat I wear when I walk over to the coffee shop in the morning: 80s (nada), 70s and 60s (a light jacket), 50s and 40s (a fleece jacket), 20s and 30s (a black pea coat--which is what I wore today) ...


Okay, why is it called a pea jacket? I didn't know, looked it up in Merriam-Webster, and it seems we have the Dutch to blame for this mildly naughty term (Ha! A jacket you pee in!)

by folk etymology from Dutch pijjekker, from pij, a kind of coarse cloth, a coat made of this material (from Middle Dutch pie) + jekker jacket; First Known Use: 1717


... below 20 (a parka with all the tech features I don't know and can't name but thank Science for!). When it's bitterly cold, I'll wrap a large scarf around my face. I used to have a ski mask but thought I looked like a criminal, and with everybody packing these days, I didn't want to be on the receiving end of some citizen's let's-prevent-this-crime-before-it-happens bullet(s).

Sometimes, as I've been senescing,* I've noticed that I'm a little colder than I want to be, even in the coats I've so carefully arranged. So ... the other day I remembered that I had a thermal vest I got from Western Reserve Academy when the Headmaster retired a while back: He paid for every faculty member to have one. It's been hanging on the coat hook in our house ever since, but this year, defying dotage, I remembered it and now don it when I've feeling especially wimpy.

As I was getting ready to come home from the coffee shop (about 9:15) today, the place was getting crowded. I saw an older man come in (I didn't recognize him), so I told him I was leaving, that he could have "my" table-and-chair. He was grateful. We talked a little as I packed up. He's in town from Southern California. Never sees snow. Doesn't like the cold.

I told him about my mom. When we moved to Ohio from Oklahoma in the summer of 1956, she was always cold, often wore sweaters on even very warm, humid days. Ohio could be warm, yeah, but it was about 110 the day we left the Sooner State. (Take that, Buckeyes!)

I hurried home, my black pea coat (!) dotted with snowflakes. When I go back this afternoon, I'm pretty sure I'll add the vest. Gotta keep an Old Guy warm, you know?

*senesce was the word-of-the-day on wordsmith.org today (link), so ... use it! Own it!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Yet Another One in My Head

The last week or so I wrestled into my brain yet another literary passage--another memorization. As I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, when Joyce and I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream (for about the gazillionth time) a few weeks ago in Cleveland, I was struck by Theseus' speech near the end when he is talking about "the lunatic, the lover, and the poet" (5.1). It's a famous speech, and I decided, Hey, let's learn that one! (See text below.)

It took a bit. It's twenty-one lines, and, as you certainly would expect, the diction, at times, is a little ... unfamiliar. Odd to our twenty-first century ears are words written for an English audience in the 1590s.

But I did it, and I discovered, doing so, that I understood the speech a lot more than I used to. (At a production, the words sometimes flow over you, leaving loveliness behind--but not always a clear meaning.)

And I realized that the speech has an urgent, contemporary significance. Theseus is talking about facts and fiction. (News and fake news.) Several times here he disdains the false, argues for the true. (Of course, the great irony is that the actor playing Theseus is almost always the same person who, in earlier scenes, plays Oberon, the fairy king! And, of course, playwrights make a living by creating from air something solid.)

In the first few lines, Theseus talks about how "lovers and madmen have such seething brains"--full of fantasy--that they experience things that those endowed with "cool reason" recognize as "fantasy." 

He gives examples. Then in the final lines he returns to the notion. Those prone to fantasize "see"--or invent--things that aren't really there--or confuse one reality for another (a bush for a bear).

His bride-to-be (Hippolyta, the Amazon queen ... ancestor of Wonder Woman?) sees more subtlety and complexity in it--begs to differ a little--but the action swiftly moves on to the "Pyramus and Thisbe" production.

So ... these words are now in my head. Last night--awakening--I was going crazy because I could not remember the word supposed in the final line. I didn't want to turn on the light and look ... I wanted to go back to sleep.  A little square of moonlight, admitted by a crack in the shutter, lay beside me on the floor. I watched to see if Titania and her fairy attendants would arrive in it. And dance for me.

THESEUS (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 5:1)

More strange than true: I never may believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

With Dava Sobel and Women Astronomers

Dava Sobel, signing books
Hudson Library & Historical Society
November 7, 2017
Last night Joyce and I walked down to the Hudson Library Historical Society for yet another fine author appearance arranged by archivist Gwen Mayer.

This time it was Dava Sobel (link to her website), a science writer whose book Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time (1996) I read--enjoyed--admired back in the spring of 2013. Here's what I wrote to my mom on May 22 when I had just finished the book:

Last night, I finished reading Dava Sobel’s little book Longitude (1996) about the clockmaker who solved the problem of how to measure longitude. I guess ships had a hard time figuring out exactly where they were before this guy Harrison solved the problem—sailing into islands, reefs, etc.  It was easy to read and understand—even for a scientific doofus like me (hey, you remember my Hiram High science grades!)—so that was another reason I enjoyed it: I didn’t feel stupid!  (Which I often feel when I read books about science, which I try to do now and then—just so I don’t get dumber than I already am!) 

I haven't read any of her others, but I'm going to now--now that I've listened to her, met her.

Last night, Sobel talked (with PowerPoint) about her latest book, The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars, 2016, which has just been released in paperback.

She spoke about these remarkable women--in the pre-computer era--who were ... computers (i.e., they did computations), how they helped map the stars, discover distances, powers of illumination, etc. (I understood it all!) She spoke, as well, about how women have had a hard time gaining admission to the male sanctuary of the sciences (even today) and explained the various factors that enabled these particular women to emerge and, well, shine.

She spoke repeatedly about the importance of libraries, of archives--and as one who has used them often in his own research, I was profoundly grateful for those remarks--and shared her concern (which she expressed near the end) about the anti-science, anti-fact enthusiasm that has overwhelmed so many Americans. Worrisome in a democracy. If this great social experiment is going to work, we have to be willing to accept those truths that contradict what we may believe--or prefer to be true.

Afterward, she did a signing, and I--eager, rude, mildly offensive I--was the first in line, though I quickly yielded my place to a middle-school girl who was right behind me. (A long-time middle-school teacher, I could hardly barge in front of a student, could I?)

Then--humorously--another woman barged in front of both of us, assuming, I suppose, that every queue must begin with her.

When my turn came, she thanked me for letting her use my pen for her first few signings (hers had run out of ink). I told her I'd reviewed books for the Plain Dealer and still do for Kirkus--though I've never reviewed any of her work. She said, "Kirkus has been kind to me." I said: "They should be!"

And I thanked her for her comments about science-denial. She asked, "What are we going to do?" Good question.

Sobel is a slight woman, a couple of years younger than I, who spoke with a voice a bit ragged (I bet she's been doing lots of talks to promote her book!) but who evinced a wry sense of humor and a comprehensive knowledge of what she was talking about, a sort of fearlessness that comes with having done the work, the research. Not bad qualities for a writer--a speaker--to have!

I'm going to be reading more of her works now ... probably all of them. (I'm, as some of you know, a Book Junkie: Once I start on a writer, I snort all of it!)

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Longest Stay, 2

I did a post on Saturday about the various houses Joyce and I have lived in since our marriage in December 1969, a post occasioned by my realization that we have lived at our current place in Hudson, Ohio (see pic above), for twenty years (plus a couple of months), the longest occupancy we have ever bestowed upon an apartment or a house.

I spent virtually all of that Saturday blog about our previous places. So now it's the hour for 30 Church St., our house that stands right next to the funeral home parking lot, a funeral home, it turns out, which our house used to be a wing of. (Joyce knows all about this; I am not Joyce; I do not know all about this--thus, some superficiality here!)

The house dates to 1903 (coincidentally, the year that The Call of the Wild was published), though parts of it are older (just ask Joyce).

Anyway, as I wrote on Saturday, Joyce saw the place for sale when she was over in Hudson for some reason, and when she got home to our place in Aurora, she said something like this: "I just saw a house in Hudson, near the Green. You better not look at it because you'll want to buy it."

We quickly drove over to look at it. I wanted to buy it. We put in an offer. It was accepted. Pow. I now owned two houses (and could barely pay for one).

We immediately put our Aurora home on Pioneer Tr. up for sale, and it (fortunately) went very quickly--and to a couple I half-knew: She had been a middle school student of mine decades earlier.

And then commenced The Move. (Those of you with lots of books know what THAT means.) The new place also needed lots of attention: electric, plumbing, floors, bookshelves (many of these), etc. Money flowed from us like the Niagara River. But we had a fantastic work crew here--multi-talented and -capable. So things went quickly--if not exactly inexpensively.

My journal from September 1997 is full of details about The Move. Tedious to read now--and puzzling, too: How did we do all that? Joyce was still teaching at Hiram, and I was also at Hiram, teaching in the Weekend College (classes met only every other weekend). I graded papers and planned lessons as the sounds of hammers and power-saws pounded and roared nearby.

Our first night here was September 25, 1997. But the work here was far from done--a statement that remains ever true for homeowners.

It's been a great place for us. We can walk so many places. The summer farmers' market is a block from our house. The street is quiet. The neighbors are kind. Joyce and I each have a study. Etc.

When I decided to return to teaching (part-time) at Western Reserve Academy in the fall of 2001, I was able to walk or ride my bike to school every day: It's only a couple of blocks north of us. And ten happy years flew by while I was doing that--I retired again in June 2011.

We were living here when our son was married, when our two grandsons were born, when my father died,when Joyce retired from Hiram College, and on and on and on.

It's been our favorite place. By far.

But now? As I age (and age and age), I realize there is a problem: We have no full bath downstairs. Will we have to leave? A couple of times we have looked in sort of desultory fashion at retirement communities (here, in Oberlin) and at ranch houses in ranch-house communities, but they don't seem right for us. We have talked about converting the back screened porch into a bedroom-with-bath. Maybe we'll do that.

Neither of us wants to leave this place, ever. There is, you see, a third resident here. History. The house's. Ours. And history is a dear, dear companion, a companion whose absence would be shattering.

Monday, November 6, 2017

A Day to Remember ... Except I Didn't

Remember A Night to Remember? (Book and film about the Titanic and its encounter with an iceberg?) (The whole movie is on YouTube now ... link to it!)

Well, yesterday (Sunday), I had a Day to Remember--only it was more like a Day to Forget. I did a bit of it yesterday, forgetting.

Just some wee examples ...

  • We subscribe to several daily newspapers (Cleveland Plain Dealer, Akron Beacon-Journal, New York Times). On Sunday morning I always go out to collect them, then toss the Times in the car. We do our weekly grocery shopping on Sunday mornings--after sitting at nearby Panera to drink coffee, eat a bagel, chat, and read the Sunday NYT. "Put a pin in that," as comedian Sarah Silverman likes to say. (We'll revisit this in a moment--unless I forget.)
  • Sunday morning, as my Facebook friends know, is also bread-baking day around our house--and has been so for decades. I use some sourdough starter I bought in Skagway, Alaska, in August 1986 when my son (age 14 at the time) and I were there doing some family and Jack London and The Call of the Wild research.
    • I generally make a multi-grain bread, then post a pic on Facebook, usually with some pun ("Bready, set, go!"). (Annoying, I know.)
    • Yesterday, I was mixing in several cups of whole-wheat flour when I realized (too late! too late!) that I'd been using flour from the oat bin. (Oat has no gluten, the ingredient that makes bread dough cohere.) So ... I got a gnarly-looking dough that produced some gnarly offspring. Below, see the FB pic from a week ago, followed by the Facebook pic from yesterday. Notice any difference? (Gnarly vs not-gnarly!)
last week

(As I look at these pictures, I see, first, my youthful self; second, my current self!)
  • Okay--back to the newspaper issue (in which you inserted a pin): When we got to the Acme parking lot (I'd already dropped Joyce at Panera, only yards away), I discovered I'd tossed into the car not the Times but the Plain Dealer. So ... go home and get it? Walk into Acme and buy another one? (I did the latter.)
  • In Panera, I explained my, uh, tardiness--then soon realized I'd left my phone back at home, plugged in and charging in the kitchen. By this time I was veering near lunacy, and Joyce (ever aware of my various mental ... states) volunteered to drive back to the house to get it (less than a mile). I assented, thinking that if I did it, I'd probably get home and wonder what I was doing there ...
So ... three major I-forgot episodes in the span of a few hours.  I was starting to lose it over my losing it.

I was very careful the rest of the day, and I can't remember if I forgot anything else (!).

And this morning! A new day! Joyce rose early and headed out to the health club (as is her wont); I fussed around in my study, then got ready to walk over to Open Door Coffee Co. (as is my wont).

Then realized I'd left my house key upstairs in the bedroom.

Uh oh ... here we go ...

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Sundries, 164

1. AOTW: An easy one this week. We're at a four-way stop. Facing us is a car that arrived at the intersection ahead of us. Left blinker on. The car goes through, turning left. We're next. But then the car that had been behind the car-whose-turn-it was zipped through, turning left directly in front of us.  (No turn signal.) And was I dazzled to see that the license plate was "AOTW." (Not really, but I like the thought.)

2. We've been streaming a new series (for us)--Line of Duty--about some British cops, one of whom--viewed throughout the force (and city) as a Super Cop--is corrupt. But Our Heroes are on the case. Very intense. I often switch to lighter fare when it becomes too much to bear! (Wuss, wuss, wuss, I know.)

3. I finished two books this week.

     - The first was How Not to Get Rich: The Financial Misadventures of Mark Twain (2017) by Alan Pell Crawford. I've read a lot of Twain bios (and the three massive volumes of his autobiography), so there wasn't a lot new here for me--but it was nice to have it all in one compact place (the text is only 194 pp.).

Twain, throughout his life was, as we see here with great clarity, "an easy mark." He had, for a while, mega-bucks (his wife's inheritance, his own writing and publishing), but he flung much of it into the wind on cash-sucking investments, virtually none of which worked out. In his later years he ended up having to go on a world lecture tour to avoid poverty--and to pay his bills. (One of his investments, by the way, was in ... condoms.)

     - The second was Go Down, Moses (1942) a collection of stories by William Faulkner. As some of you know, I'm (slowly) reading my way through those books of his I somehow never managed to read.

The volume includes one of his most famous tales, "The Bear," which tells about a young boy on a hunt for a ... (3 guesses). I really liked the first 2/3 of it, then lost interest after the hunt had ended, and WF takes us off into some local history and genealogy. Z-z-z-z-z. (I know: You're not supposed to admit that with a Nobel laureate!).

I read it in the Library of America volume (Novels 1942), and I really did admire much of what I read. Faulkner knew--profoundly--what he wrote here: "... this whole land, the whole South, is cursed ...," says one character in "The Bear" (206).

And how about this: "There is only one thing worse than not being alive, and that's shame" ("The Old People," 138).

3. Last night, Joyce and I drove over to Macedonia to see Suburbicon  (link to film trailer). Originally written by the Coen Brothers, the script  got a revision from director George Clooney and a colleague, but it very much looks like a Coens' film--in a good way (at least as far as I'm concerned).

In some recent outings (e.g., Burn After Reading) the Coens have taken a beating--an undeserved one in my view. (This film got trashed, too.) Both this one and Burn are very dark; both show the pervasive ugliness in the human species, an ugliness that--in Suburbicon--only children may possibly correct. (The film ends [SPOILER ALERT] with a small black child and a small white child playing catch across a backyard fence.)

We see it all here--corruption in business people, murderous solutions to problems (even family ones), racism wearing its most disturbing vizard. Everything is exaggerated--that is the point. Ugliness is ugly, you know--not subtle.

And there is dark, dark humor (as you expect from the Coens via Clooney, who has starred for the Coens before). A peanut butter sandwich becomes significant; Matt Damon, bloodied, riding along on his little boy's bicycle (after I-ain't-gonna-tell-you-what); a couple of Tough Guys whose day jobs will surprise you; etc.

The Coens are not for everyone. And Clooney, honoring them in this film, has held up a mirror to us, and what we see is not, well comforting. To say the least.

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

     - from wordsmith.org

chillax  (chi-LAKS)
verb intr.: To calm down and relax.
A blend of chill + relax. Earliest documented use: 1999.
“Chillax, sit back, just take it slow
make every effort to unwind
let the calming breeze just blow
away those worries from your mind.”

J.R. Winchester; The Word According Two; Lulu; 2016.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Longest Stay

Our Place
November 4, 2017

This fall, I've been thinking off and on about how we are now beginning our twenty-first year in our Hudson home. It is the longest we have lived anywhere.

We moved around quite a bit when I was a kid. By the time we moved to Hiram, Ohio, in the late summer of 1956 (I would turn 12 in November), I had already lived in more than a few places:
1609 1/2 E. Broadway (Enid, Okla.) (upstairs from my maternal grandparents)
  • a year in Norman, Okla. (while my dad did his residency at OU for his Ph.D.)
  • 1709 E. Broadway (back in Enid)
  • 4242 W. 13th St. (Amarillo, Tex.)
  • 1706 E. Elm Ave. (Enid)

Those moves were occasioned by education and war: My dad served in both WW II and Korea (though he did not go overseas for the latter--just to Amarillo AFB).

We lived in two places in Hiram. When we first arrived, we lived in faculty housing in a little cul-de-sac called Dodge Court. Then we bought a house down Hiram's north hill--11917 Garfield Rd., where we lived during my high school and college years.

But the year I graduated from Hiram College (1966), my parents took jobs at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and I began my teaching years--my bachelor years--living in an apartment in an old house (now razed) in Twinsburg, Ohio, five miles west of Aurora, where I was teaching.

I was there only a year, then tried the next year to live with a teaching colleague (male)--but it didn't work out, so I moved to a place I couldn't afford on Fishcreek Road near the bowling alley on the west side of Kent. The next year I found another apartment back in Aurora--in a house on Chillicothe Road, right near the stoplight near the library. I was there a couple of years, and I was living there in the summer of 1969 when I met Joyce. We swiftly married!

Our first place was 323 College Court in Kent (a four-apartment complex). Then we moved to a rental house not far away, 214 S. Willow (recently razed for Kent's Esplanade project), and we bought our first place in the mid-1970s, 114 Forest Drive on the west side of Kent.

We were there until the fall of 1978, when we moved to Lake Forest, Ill., where I'd taken a job at Lake Forest College. We stayed only a year, living in faculty housing--10 Campus Circle. A great house, by the way.

We both then took jobs back in Hudson, Ohio, at Western Reserve Academy (fall of 1979), and we lived for a year in campus housing--306 N. Main. Then we bought a home, 120 Aurora St., right across the street from the school. We were there from 1980-90 (the year our son graduated from WRA and headed off to college).

Joyce's father died that summer of 1990, and her mom, already slipping deeply into Alzheimer's, could no longer live unsupervised. So we moved her to Anna Maria in Aurora (where she had great care), and we bought a house in Aurora, 60 E. Pioneer Tr., an old brick house--one of the oldest in town, just across the street from the library.

I retired from the Aurora Schools in January 1997, and Joyce, who was teaching then at Hiram College, was over in Hudson one day in the late summer and saw a for-sale sign ... in front of the place where we are still living.

But I will get into all of that next time!

To be continued ...