Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Tuesday, August 22, 2017
So ... yesterday ... in the coffee shop ... I was reading (via iPad) the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Akron Beacon-Journal (I do so every afternoon).
And, I'll confess, I was on the prowl for cartoons to share on Facebook. (Facebook: What I have instead of a life.)
As my FB friends know, I usually "share" cartoons that are related to language or literature. (Such an intellectual, I!)
Anyway, yesterday, there was a cartoon that I just didn't "get." And that, my friends, is annoying. There are lots of things I don't "get" in this world (don't "get" me started), but daily newspaper cartoons? Not usually ...
Below you see it. Yesterday's Argyle Sweater cartoon. I stared at it, stared at it. Nada.
So I showed it to my friend Chris, sitting nearby. Nada.
So ... I thought ... maybe this is an age thing. So I took it up to the counter to show Nigel, who's, oh, about fifty years younger than I am. And a new young barista (I've forgotten her name--dotage.) Nada.
At first ...
But then Nigel had an insight ... that old nursery rhyme "This Little Piggy." And Chris, who had joined us at the counter (as had Nigel's mom, who owns the shop), said one of the lines involves "roast beef." And I saw the Arby's sign ... voila! Collaboration!
And so we solved it in a multi-generational (I confess: I was the Not-So-Wise Elder), bi-gender approach. A model for world peace, etc.
Here's the entire old nursery rhyme:
Monday, August 21, 2017
Sunday, August 20, 2017
1. AOTW: The guy in the mega-pickup who was tailgating me yesterday, apparently deeply aggrieved that I was violating his Freedom to Speed because I was going a mere 5 mph above the limit. So he roared by me on a double yellow line. He showed me; now I'll show him by naming him the AOTW!
2. Recently, I found amid my pile of clipping-clutter (stories I have cut and/or torn out of newspapers and magazines, then piled on a stand beside my bed) a New Yorker story from a couple of years ago, a story by Jonathan Franzen, "The Republic of Bad Taste," from the June 18 & 15, 2015, issue. (Link to that story.) So, I thought, It's time to read this story. I started reading it. Then ... another thought: I've read this story before! Where? Then ... I realized it was an excerpt from his recent novel Purity (released in September 2015), a novel I read its very month of release. (Shall we debate the meaning of the word dotage?)
3. On Friday we saw the new film by Steven Soderbergh, Logan Lucky, and we both enjoyed the humor of yet another caper film by the guy who brought us some Ocean's films (there's even a joke here about Ocean's 7-11). Soderbergh had announced not long ago that he was not going to make any more films; I'm glad he lied. This one takes place in West Virginia, where things are not going well for the Logan brothers (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver) and their sister (Farrah Mackenzie--whom I didn't recall seeing before).
They decide to rip off the proceeds from a big NASCAR event, and away we go. James Bond--uh--Daniel Craig appears as an expert safe-cracker and has some moderate success doing a WV accent (had to laugh a few times).
A little too long--a bit (more than a bit) offensive to people from the Appalachian region (is there a cliche we don't see?)--but great to see Soderbergh back at work ... (Link to film trailer.)
4. I finished two books this week ...
- The first was the latest thriller by Michael Connelly, whose cop novels about Harry Bosch I've been reading for years (enjoy this Amazon series based on the books, too). In this one--The Late Show--he's created a new character, Det. Renée Ballard, a woman who's been "demoted" to the night shift (see title of book) because she filed a harassment claim (an authentic one) against a superior, who weaseled out of it. Anyway, she dives into a couple of cases (one of which nearly costs her own life). An interesting character--bright and impulsive (like Bosch). She likes the surf, lives near it, visits the Pacific every day. (Like the Bosch books, this involves the LAPD.)
Robert B. Parker (RIP) also created a woman detective near the end of his career (Sunny Randall), and she was okay. I hope Connelly does some more of these with Det. Ballard. Enjoyed it.
- The second was Mrs. Fletcher (2017), the latest by Tom Perrotta, whose works I've really enjoyed reading over the years. This one? Not so much. We follow several characters: Eve Fletcher (see title), a divorced late-30s woman whose son, Brendan (who actually narrates some sections; the rest of the book is in the 3rd person), is about to head off to college, where he does miserably in about every way and soon returns home. We also follow Amanda, who works at a local senior center and who is taking a gender-issues community college class with Eve; the teacher is a trans-sexual (man to woman).
The term MILF runs throughout (Mother I Would Like to F-word--check the Urban Dictionary online for some more, uh, detail), and Eve is clearly one. There are some erotic scenes, some embarrassing scenes, some very bad choices by the characters, some coincidence, some near-misses, social/cultural satire, but I felt it was all kind of tired and obvious. Perrotta's earlier books (e.g, Election, Little Children, The Abstinence Teacher, The Leftovers) also mined suburbia for gold. And found it. But here? As I said ... not so much. An average book from a gifted writer.
5. We stumbled on the Australian cop series The Doctor Blake Mysteries not long ago and have somewhat binged. Only two left. Sigh. And we're also streaming the most recent season available of Hinterland, which we also like a lot. One (annoying) coincidence: Both are dealing with internal investigations of the principal characters. (Yawn.)
6. Final Word: A word I liked this week from my various online word-of-the-day providers.
- from the OED ... what interests me here is not so much the word but how far back it goes--1942. That surprised me.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
In a few weeks we're going to drive to Lenox, Mass., to help my mom celebrate her 98th birthday. But as we prepare for that trip, I've been thinking about how much more complicated it is now--how much easier it used to be. When I was, you know, younger.
Back in the summer of 1968, for example (before I was married--before I had even met Joyce), my college roommate (we'd graduated in 1966) was out in Wyoming doing graduate work at the U of WY. I decided I would go visit him out in Lander, where he was doing some summer work.
And here was my prep: I packed a bag, got in the car (my hot '67 Chevy Nova SS), drove 700 miles from Aurora, Ohio, to Des Moines, Iowa (where my parents were living), then drove 900 miles the next day to Lander.
No cell phones. No GPS. Just maps from the gas station and a vast amount of youthful stupidity.
And now ...?
Stop the mail, stop the newspapers (we subscribe to three), get the car serviced, make other arrangements for the house. Then ... in the car to head into the East, stopping far more than I used to (think: prostate), listening to the GPS narrator along the way (Turn back!)--though I still take a road atlas along. Just for comfort's sake.
Lenox, Mass. is about 520 miles from our house--a long trip now. We'll probably stop for the night along the way. We'll check in, too, with our son on our cells. We'll arrive exhausted, sick of listening to the GPS Narrator, whom I don't really need at all (we've driven this route countless times).
And I'll think about Lander, WY. 1968. About how easy it all was when my body was cooperating--and when I didn't really bother to think too much ... about anything ...
Friday, August 18, 2017
Thursday, August 17, 2017
Edna St. Vincent Millay has a sonnet I first stumbled across when reading Judith Guest's 1976 novel Ordinary People (and the successful film in 1980 (it won four 1981 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director (Robert Redford)). Some of it was filmed in Lake Forest, IL where Joyce and I had gone to teach at Lake Forest College during the 1978-79 academic year, so there was a bit of a thrill when we saw the film and recognized the places. (Link to film trailer.)
Anyway, the novel. I had my freshmen at Western Reserve Academy read it* in the 1979-80 school year (as part of their "outside reading"--one book/marking period), and I recall being struck by Millay's epigraph (see entire sonnet below):
*Which I can not find right now. (Curses! Foiled again!)
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
The play opened on December 26, 1849, ran for fifty-four performances (a lot for those days), earned positive reviews, and closed on February 27, 1850.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
|Seidman Cancer Center|
Yesterday was The Day ... well, one of them anyhow. The Day for my three-month visit with my oncologist, complete with multiple blood tests the week before.
I've been dealing with prostate cancer since late 2004 when my biopsy came back positive (I've always thought that odd--"positive" for a bad result!), and since then I've had surgery (removal of the prostate gland), radiation (when the cancer returned), hormone therapy (when the cancer returned again).
I'm now on two drugs that kill testosterone--Lupron and Casodex (Google them if you're inclined), and the combination has caused my PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) to stabilize at about 12. (Prostate cancer cells eat testosterone!) Of course, I should have no PSA at all since my prostate gland is gone--but the number indicates that prostate cancer cells are present and (in my case) are moving into the bones, a favorite spot for those nasty little buggers.
Yesterday, my oncologist was still encouraged by my body's resistance to the spread of the cancer (though bone scans have shown that the move is underway), and he told me that in a few months he will have me undergo a major blood-transfusion process involving something called Sipuleucel-T. (Link to some info about it.) Basically, they will drain my blood (Dracula, baby!), treat that blood with this stuff that will (we hope) strengthen my immune system, return the blood to my body, enabling my body to keep fighting This Damn Thing more effectively.
He told me the process will not affect my PSA score--just empower my body in other ways. (I think I'd rather be bitten by a radioactive spider, you know?)
The visit yesterday concluded with two injections: my quarterly Lupron shot (right butt cheek) and Xgeva (a painful damn thing) in the upper arm--a drug that works to increase bone strength (Lupron and Casodex can weaken bone mass).
So ... I drove home yesterday with sore butt, sore arm. But with Joyce beside me. I'll take that!
Feeling we "deserved" something more pleasant, we drove over to Aurora after supper and had a waffle cone at the Aurora Fantasy Delight (which used to be called the Aurora Dairy Bar when I first began sampling its treats in the late 1960s during the early years of my teaching career).
I can't do that kind of stuff all the time, though. Lupron and Casodex make it very hard to lose weight--and my oncologist has warned me that prostate cancer loves fat cells. Nice. Glad somebody does.
So ... it's been nearly thirteen years that I've been dealing with this damn disease. The medical procedures themselves (the blood draws, the surgery, the radiation, the bone scans, etc.) are nettlesome enough, but it's also the psychological burden that weighs heavily--the knowledge that it's always there. And ... worse--that it will eventually win.
To date, there is no cure for metastatic prostate cancer. Just delays. So ... each time I go see my oncologist (whom I greatly respect and like, by the way), there's this fear (no other word) that this will be the time I hear the Dark News.
I write these periodic posts not for sympathy--but to give me the illusion of control. There's something about words--about a sentence. Sometimes, a sentence can capture a fear, hold it for a while, somewhat tame it. And this can be a most comforting self-deception.
Monday, August 14, 2017
Sunday, August 13, 2017
2. This week we finished streaming the Brit series Suspects, which we loved. We had actually stopped the series at one point (when a favorite character departed in most sanguinary fashion), but we eventually picked it up again and were glad we'd done so. Such fine acting and writing and tension. Can't find out if there's going to be another season, though the final we saw certainly paved the way for one.
3. Friday night we went to the Kent Cinema to see Detroit, the latest film by Kathryn Bigelow, who did The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. (Link to trailer for the film.)
Friday, August 11, 2017
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Last week, at the Stratford Theatre Festival, Joyce and I saw a production of Treasure Island, a staged version of the 1883 novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. As I wrote last week, the first half was weak (I thought), but the second was much better--funny, playful, moving.
And I also mentioned in that post that the playwright and the cast had fun by inserting some other literary references into the story. At one point, a pirate picked up a skull and recited Hamlet's speech about Yorick (the audience went nuts); at another point, one pirate told another he could not talk because he wasn't holding the conch (remember Lord of the Flies?).
But here's another one I did not mention in that post--mostly because I wanted to write about it now--after I'd done my homework.
At one point, some pirates were walking along (looking for the treasure--what else do pirates do?), when one of them launched into a poem; the others pirates kind of smirked and snickered at first, then realized they liked it. I muttered to Joyce: "That's got to be one of Stevenson's--from A Child's Garden of Verses."
Back in the room, with Internet access, I checked ... and ... yes ... "The Moon" was indeed one of Stevenson's.
Here it is ...
Well, at that moment, I knew I had to memorize it as soon as we got home. One of the first poems I remember as a wee boy was Stevenson's "My Shadow," a poem my grandmother recited to me while she held me in her rocking chair (that chair now lives in a place of honor in our living room); I recited that same poem for my older grandson when I first held him in the moments after his birth (I'm sure he remembers it well!). And I've since learned a couple of others: "Windy Nights" and "Where Go the Boats?" (Link to all of A Child's Garden of Verses.)
It took me a couple of days to learn it (Stevenson accommodates the memorizer by using regular rhythm and rhyme!). But ... yesterday ... I recited it for Joyce (she had to prompt me a couple of times), but now I've got it pretty well. Okay, very well.
And as the title of this post suggests, for me, the poem (and so many others I've learned), is the true treasure from the island. I am now carrying around with me some 210 pieces of gold. May my poor brain and iffy health allow me to keep finding more in the gardens of poetry... and keep storing them away for future use. Perhaps a great-grandchild?