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Just Three Things

One of these things is not like the other. The third thing. Feel free to skip it, although I do recommend reading the recycled Faceplant IM that serves as its gentler coda. This coda is well-marked. It has been removed. The coda remains. Please do read footnote #1. It contains an important-to-me announcement. It is here to commit me publicly to a project long-delayed.[1]

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

An image of a scene from the movie

This section’s title is the name of the movie about which my six-year-old brother said as its credits rolled–with a deadpan gravitas suitable for a film that opened with an affecting scene in which Jimmy Durante kicked the bucket (no quotation marks needed)–“that was the funniest movie ever.” This after he sat, stoic and intent, not once cracking a smile for its duration, while his family fell about and roared with laughter around him in our small living room. Well, Mom probably didn’t actually roar I suppose. But she laughed while keeping a sharp eye out for any sign that one of her three kids might possibly be choking on a killer piece of popcorn.

Whether or not you have a similar memory may depend upon the position of your family’s brow.

I’ve been watching parts of this film all week after watching a documentary about it sucked me into the Mad, Mad vortex. So many scenes from it are just fall-down hilarious. I do think the final scenes, those after the treasure was found, were a bit of a letdown.

It made me sad to be reminded of the way Hollywood treated African Americans in 1963. Which is: as stereotypes and the butt of jokes, seldom to be taken seriously. Of course Hollywood was reflecting the society into which I was born. And some people would like us to return to when America was “Great.”[2]

All the world’s a stage

Page from the first folio

A regular feature in The Guardian prints authors’ lists of favorite books (not their own). These are often interestingly themed, and not simply lists of of greatest books of all-time or other such worthless click-bait. Not that they are always or even often profound, but the best are at least thought-provoking in some way.

Author Robert McCrum’s list of fiction–with one exception–inspired by Shakespeare was published this past Monday on The Guardian’s website. The 10 books on it are:

1. A Dictionary of the English Language by Dr Samuel Johnson
2. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
3. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
4. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
5. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Wolff
6. Shakespeare’s Wife by Germaine Greer
7. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
8. The Lodger, Shakespeare on Silver Street by Charles Nicholl
9. Nothing like the Sun by Anthony Burgess
10. Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being by Ted Hughes

I’m curious about several. I’ve read two–Twain and Wolff–without sniffing out any inspired-by-Shakespeare vibes (I read Huck Finn at least once as an adult). I have read some fiction overtly based on the playwright, including ones centering around his wife (not Greer’s), his daughter Judith, and his dog (“What dog?!,” A.L. Rowse howls from the grave). But I’ve read a lot of Shakespeariana. And I am aware of his enormous influence.

The books that intrigue me most–based mostly on McCrum’s short paragraphs on each–are Smiley’s, Greer’s, Nicholl’s, and Burgess’s. Maybe even Wolff’s, despite the fact that I have struggled, and failed completely to enjoy her novels (I’ve only read Dalloway and Lighthouse). I don’t have inclination to struggle with a book at this point.

I encourage anyone with any interest to read The Guardian’s piece. I am not familiar with McCrum, but note that he has a book on the subject of Shakespeare coming out soon.

It’s a sad, sad, sad, sad world

Googly news headline very on-brand for 2020

This is the difficult bit. On top of this pandagnammit, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Bob Loblaw blah blah blah …

After “sleeping on it” I’ve cut out several paragraphs that were written in love, but wouldn’t have been received that way by all. It’s all best left unsaid. I will leave what was intended to be a gentler coda.

A coda
A friend I’ve known 50 years(!) related to me after I’d asked about a sibling, that this sibling had severed all contact with the family over religious differences (the sibling attends a fundamentalist, evangelical Christian church). My friend, a Christian, grieves this loss. Part of my reply is reproduced here.[3]

Oh, that’s very sad. I’m sorry to hear it. [...] My wife was a life-long Catholic who drove 45-min each way every Sunday to attend mass with her mother. This up until her mom passed (unexpectedly) in 2007. Then Joann would attend a closer Catholic church every Sunday and have tears in her eyes and heart the whole time. She, like many Catholics, didn’t necessarily accept all tenets of the Church, but accepted the mystery and chose to believe in a universe given meaning by a loving god. It was an important part of who she was. Then in the fall of 2008 Minnesota put a marriage-equality amendment on the ballot and, of course, the Church opposed it. One Sunday her priest spoke about it during mass. It was awful, but Joann knew that many in the congregation agreed with her that the Church had no authority – moral or otherwise – to impose their dogma on non-Catholics. She thought she knew. After the priest finished his “call-to-duty” voting-wise, the congregation gave him a standing ovation. Joann left, devastated and in tears. She has never been back. I was and am proud of her. But I was and am incredibly sad that she lost something – a mystery – that was an important part of her, and a strong connection to her deceased parents. She remains, however, one of the best “Christians” I’ve ever known. That is, she embodies the “the greatest of these is love” spirit that many – not all – think Jesus of Galilee stood for. She does despite that she isn’t sure now that she believes in the existence of any god at all.


  1. In an attempt to put pressure on myself to follow through with what will almost certainly be my last effort to finish a project important to me, I wish to publicly reveal the following: I am writing a memoir. Not for publication, but for my family and close friends. Distant friends and insatiably curious passing acquaintances, if they happen upon it, will welcome to experience it as well.
    I hope to do as well as my late, dear Grandpa Cagle, who with an eighth-grade education, some ballpoint pens, and a spiral notebook, wrote an extraordinary one in longhand almost thirty years ago. I treasure my copy.
    Beleaguered readers of this blog should know that I likely won’t manage to ask a competent editor to read and give advice on my manuscript. However, I do intend rein in as much as possible my worse tendencies (among them–you might have noticed (surely)–my overuse (bordering on the profligate (unnecessary “big word” alert!)) use of elliptical, parenthetical, and nonsensical remarks (Pythonesque in the wordst weigh)). A key strategy will be to perform a last-minute sweep for commas–ruthlessly and randomly deleting 70% of them. Wish me luck!
    The working title of my memoir is Funfare from a Common Man: The Ultimate Vanity Project. [^]
  2. Stanley Kramer directed some of the most acclaimed films of his time. Per Wikipedia: “As an independent producer and director, he brought attention to topical social issues that most studios avoided. Among the subjects covered in his films were racism (in The Defiant Ones and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), nuclear war (in On the Beach), greed (in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World), creationism vs. evolution (in Inherit the Wind) and the causes and effects of fascism (in Judgment at Nuremberg).” I guess comedy didn’t count for much then. [^]
  3. Joann did okay my use of this. This in spite of her reluctance to blab publicly about her beliefs–spiritual, political, or otherwise. [^]

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