dual personalities

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“Sweet July, warm July!”*

I have been reading a little bit of this, a little bit of that…

The Walter Mirisch book is fascinating if you are at all interested in movies. Written by an extremely successful film producer (several Academy Awards for Best Picture), one learns how someone who can make brilliant decisions can also make dumbfoundingly bad ones and never understand why. The David McCullough book contains “portraits in history” ranging from Louis Agassiz to Frederick Remington to Miriam Rothschild. As I have said before, McCullough understands context better than almost anyone writing today. He does not judge his subjects, but he likes them (you can tell).

Did I mention that we watched The Brothers Karamazov (1958) Sunday night? I’m not sure I had ever really watched the whole movie. Of course, it is not the masterpiece that the book is–it is just the plot with some character development that we see. The spiritual aspects are mostly left out, although (spoiler alert!) Richard Basehart as Ivan does admit that there is a God at the conclusion of the story.

Nevertheless, it is very good. Yul Brynner is excellent and so handsome–really at the top of his game–his performance shows a lot of depth. Also, William Shatner is very good as the youngest, most spiritual brother. (And he is also very handsome.) There are also some casting mistakes (why did Albert Salmi have a career?), but on the whole, I was impressed by this adaption by Richard Brooks–well done.

[Also I will note that there is a line in the movie said by Grushenka–“All the truth adds up to one big lie.”–which is also a line in a Bob Dylan song. Of course, Bob.]

I am having some follow-up surgery this Thursday, but my DP, along with daughters #1 and 2, will pick up the slack, and I’ll be back soon.

“Be not forgetful of prayer. Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you fresh courage, and you will understand that prayer is an education.”

–Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

*George Meredith, “July”

I drove my Cooper

This weekend the wee babes came over to play while their Mommy went to the sofa store and the wee laddie found my toy Mini Cooper high up on a bookshelf (quelle eagle eye.) No amount of telling him that it was off limits would prevail, so I said, fine, play with it. (Am I becoming a push-over?) He played with “my Cooper,” along with his “special cars”…

…and his “special book”.

When it was time to go home, however, he made quite a scene when told the Mini Cooper had to stay at Mamu’s house. (I am not a complete push-over.) He was tired, but he put up quite a fight. Later when his Dad got home from work and asked him what he had done that day, he told him all about “my Cooper.” His Dad asked if he played with the Beanie Babies etc and he said, “Yeah, and I drove my Cooper. I love that car.”

I was glad that daughter #1 had come home for happy hour, so that she could help wrangle the nutballs. We deserved those margaritas we had when they left.

Later the OM ordered take out from Amigo’s and we watched The Pajama Game (1957) and sang along with Doris Day and John Raitt.

On Sunday morning I drove my Cooper to an estate sale where I got some needlepoint coasters (can a person ever have too many coasters?) and a book. Daughter #1 found some sewing paraphernalia. She headed back to mid-Mo soon thereafter.

I FaceTimed with the infant and her Mommy. Life is quiet and our joys are simple.

I leave you with these thoughts about Life from Frederick Buechner:

The Temptation is always to reduce it to size. A bowl of cherries. A rat race. Amino acids. Even to call it a mystery smacks of reductionism. It is the mystery. As far as anybody seems to know, the vast majority of things in the universe do not have whatever life is. Sticks, stones, stars, space—they simply are. A few things are and are somehow alive to it. They have broken through into Something, or Something has broken through into them. Even a jellyfish, a butternut squash. They’re in it with us. We’re all in it together, or it in us.

Life is it. Life is with. After lecturing learnedly on miracles, a great theologian was asked to give a specific example of one. “There is only one miracle,” he answered. “It is life.” 

Have you wept at anything during the past year? 

Has your heart beat faster at the sight of young beauty? 

Have you thought seriously about the fact that someday you are going to die? 

More often than not, do you really listen when people are speaking to you instead of just waiting for your turn to speak? 

Is there anybody you know in whose place, if one of you had to suffer great pain, you would volunteer yourself? 

If your answer to all or most of these questions is no, the chances are that you’re dead.

Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.*

Recently, son #2 reminded me that El Cid died on July 10th, 1099. From there discussion moved to the 1961 movie El Cid starring Charleton Heston and Sophia Loren. We agreed that this very long, mostly boring film is only redeemed by its great ending [Spoiler alert for the rest of the post!]. The mighty hero dies of wounds, but so great is the moral power of his presence that his compatriots lash his body to his trusty steed to lead the army to victory against the attacking Saracens.

When I saw the movie on TV as a youngster, the end both deeply affected me and made me feel that sitting through the rest had been worth it. What a payoff!

Well, as you can imagine, El Cid got me thinking about other movies that had great endings — not necessarily ones that turned a bad film into a better one (that is truly rare), but an ending that took the whole thing to another level. Here’s what I came up with in no particular order.

  1. The Natural (1984), starring Robert Redford. I read the novel in college and truly hated it, so I was a little worried about going to the movie. Happily, Hollywood changed the ending and thereby transformed a cynical tale into an incredibly uplifting baseball myth. The good guy won.

2. The Life of Pi (2012). A boy, an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena, and a tiger get stuck on a life boat together.

This sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. But the ending, in which our hero offers an alternative version of his experience — this one involving people rather than animals — alters everything. A pretty fable about life becomes a statement about belief and God. Pi asks his rescuers, “So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can’t prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?’ Mr. Okamoto: ‘That’s an interesting question.’ Mr. Chiba: ‘The story with animals.’ Mr. Okamoto: ‘Yes. The story with animals is the better story.’ Pi Patel: ‘Thank you. And so it goes with God” (Yan Martel, Life of Pi).

3. Signs (2002). A minister (Mel Gibson), who loses his faith when his wife is killed in a seemingly random accident, struggles to care for his children and feckless brother. Then aliens arrive on earth and all hell breaks loose.

Though the attentive viewer picks up on the message as the movie progresses, Mel Gibson’s character only begins to understand when he repeats his wife’s last words, “Swing away, Merrill”, to his baseball-bat-wielding brother as an alien threatens his son. Only then does Mel begin to see that everything happens for a reason and we are not alone.

4. Cool Hand Luke (1967), starring Paul Newman. This might seem an odd choice, but I’m including it to represent the category “when the hero’s death clinches the message”.

Face it, Cool Hand Luke would not have been as powerful if Luke had survived. Sometimes the hero has to die. I suppose this contradicts the title to this post, but what can I say? That’s just the way life is.

What endings changed your opinion of a movie? What about books? Perhaps we’ll save them for another post.

Have a great weekend!

*Oscar Wilde

“Even in my customary befuddled state…”*

It’s been a very busy, draining week “at work”–lots of Zoom meetings and emailing and answering of phone messages etc. Ugh. So though we don’t have anything exciting planned this weekend beyond picking out a new ceiling fan for my “office,” I am really looking forward to it nonetheless.

I liked this message from the Anglican bishop of South Carolina, Mark Lawrence. Ah yes, John Calvin was right when he said, ““The human heart is a factory for the making of idols.” Read the whole thing. (Discuss among yourselves.)

The OM and I have been watching the old 1980s British television series Lovejoy, starring Ian McShane, on Prime. It is based on the mystery novels by Jonathan Gash of which my parents were fans. The show is fun–Lovejoy is “an irresistible rogue with a keen eye for antiques. The part-time detective scours the murky sale-rooms, auction halls and stately homes of Britain, always on the lookout for a find.” Right up my alley! Auctions and estate sales! (But no murders or sex crimes!)

Besides that, I haven’t seen anything worth reporting. How about you?

Tomorrow is the birthday of the inimitable Yul Brynner (1920-1985).

So we will toast him and watch one of his great (or even not so great) movies.

It is also the birthday of the ubiquitous supporting actor Thomas Mitchell (1892-1962) who won an Academy Award for Stagecoach (1939).

Although he made several movies with John Ford in the 1930s, he was not a regular member of his corps of players. He nevertheless turns up in so many movies–everything from Gone With the Wind (1939) to Our Town (1940) to It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) to High Noon (1952) to Pocketful of Miracles (1961). We will toast him and think of Kansas City, Kansas.

As far as I can tell Yul Brynner and Thomas Mitchell never made a movie together.

Well, I’m feeling the Katiebelle vibe this weekend…

Talk to the hand. I’m over and out.

*Tinker in Lovejoy

No longer a newborn!

Did you know that technically an infant only qualifies as a newborn for 28 days? It seems that more informally, 12 weeks is the newborn window, but our pediatrician congratulated us at our one-month appointment on making it past that mark. Now we officially have a “baby.” Ok then!

Who’s that?

At 5 weeks, Catherine is 10 lbs 7 oz and 23.5 inches long. This continues to be off-the-charts in height and is 78th percentile for weight! She is a healthy girl whose only physical complaint seems to be “eye goo.” We’re coping.

Meanwhile, DN and I are coming into our own as dorky parents. At this point, we have a number of songs we have made up to sing to our child, including my personal favorite: “Baby Burrito,” sung to the tune of “Baby Beluga.” (Remember this iconic Full House episode?) I sing this song after Katiebelle has a bath, when I wrap her up tightly in a cozy blanket to warm her back up. I’m not sure there’s anything cuter than my baby burrito. (The second line of the song is, “You look so cute and you look so warm,” if you’re wondering.)

A swaddled burrito
This is the original “baby burrito” moment, after her first bath at home. Doesn’t she look so teeny tiny?

Don’t lose heart!

Breaking news from my neck of the woods: I finished my sampler!

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty proud of it. And I have COVID-19 to thank for providing the time and lack of things to do for helping me finish it.

In other news, I had planned to scale back my during the week drinking this week to my pre-COVID levels. That is, only having a glass or two of wine on the weekends. But then, with my parents visiting this weekend, some open bottles were left behind and I really should finish those and not let them go to waste. Maybe I can work on cutting back in 2021.

Also! I get to pick up my new mouthguard at the dentist in Columbia tomorrow. I really can’t tell you how exciting this is. Seriously, I clench my teeth so hard at night that I wake up most mornings with a headache. I hope this does the trick.

So, as you can see, lots of exciting things going on in my world. I did have a really splendid time with my guests this weekend. We travelled out and about and everyone was respectful of the guidelines and properly social distanced. But, I still feel like maybe we shouldn’t have been so confident. And I’m getting pretty tired of feeling this way. I listen to an hour and a half conference call every morning that goes over exactly what is happening in the state and I still feel this way–I can’t imagine how people who only have the news as a source feel!

One thing that I learned from working on that sampler is that sewing or having something to do with my hands really helped keep me grounded. I found reading difficult during quarantine because my mind wandered, but sewing allowed me to focus on something that didn’t require too much thought.

As usual, a reminder to not worry so much is in order.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

–2 Corinthians 4:16-18

“I ain’t askin’ nobody for nothin'”

Well, that long-haired country boy Charlie Daniels (1936-2020) died yesterday.

Before becoming a superstar on his own, Charlie worked as a Nashville session musician, including playing guitar and electric bass on three Bob Dylan albums during 1969 and 1970.

I bet you didn’t know that.

Skilled on guitar, fiddle, banjo, and mandolin, Daniels was also known for his song-writing over his long career and was honored as a BMI Icon at the 53rd annual BMI Country Awards. Throughout his career, his songwriting garnered 6 BMI Country Awards. He also made a musical guest appearance in the Veggietales episode “Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson’s Hairbrush,” writing, producing, and performing the Minnesota Cuke theme song.

As Marty Stuart said on Instagram yesterday, “Charlie Daniels will forever be remembered as a true American folk hero. The joy he brought to our lives is inestimable. I admired Charlie for not only standing up for what he believed in but living it out on a day to day basis. We’ve lost a true statesman. Connie and I send our love and prayers to Hazel, the family and Charlie’s extended musical family.”

This 1970s classic says it all.

So a toast to Charlie Daniels. Into paradise may the angels lead thee; and at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem.

Cow in the road

How was your 4th of July? The OM and I had a super fun time visiting daughter #1 in mid-MO. We got to eat outside and people-watch for awhile on Friday night. Schmidt and Jenko were patrolling downtown Jeff City…

…and all was well on the street until a ferocious midwestern thunder storm broke loose, causing the cancellation of the Jeff City parade and the Diamond Rio concert scheduled to be held later that night on the lawn of the Supreme Court building a block from daughter #1’s apartment.

We were bummed, but we rallied and listened to music and drank Rosé back home.

On Saturday we ventured to historic Rocheport (pop. 290) on the Missouri River in Boone County. We had lunch at our favorite, Les Bourgeois Winery and Vineyards, and drank in the beautiful scenery.

Lots of complete strangers complimented the OM on his cool shirt.

One of these is grape juice.

We also managed to visit two large antique malls and to find a couple of things to buy amid the acres of nonsense. We also FaceTimed with little Katiebelle who is endlessly fascinating.

That night we hauled our folding chairs to the roof of the House garage next to the Capitol and settled in to watch the fireworks on the river. They were the best I have ever seen and the mid-Missourians who had parked their giant pick up trucks on the roof and set up their family food stations (all appropriately socially distanced) were a friendly crowd of citizens.

Meanwhile, the wee babes were at their other grandparents’ lake house wearing this year’s trend-setting holiday outfits.

The night before the wee laddie had spent many hours in the ER after he swallowed a penny. (The text messages were flying.) They had to anesthetize him to take the penny out. It was his second x-ray in two days (see Friday’s post.) He is on a roll, but doesn’t appear to be any the worse for wear. Did I mention that he played his first round of golf?

Too much drama pour moi. Now it is time to get my head back in the salt mine game. This week is the start of our first all-online summer term. Zut alors! But first, I may have to watch a little of the real Schmidt and Jenko…

Enjoy your Monday! Stay safe and far away from emergency rooms.

You’re a grand old flag

Happy Independence Day and Happy Birthday to our dear brother! I hope that this year everyone will take a little time to consider the significance of July 4th.

The Signing of the Declaration of Independence, painted by John Trumbull

We could use a good reminder of why we celebrate freedom. People have been focusing so much attention on the negative aspects (some real, some imagined) of our fair nation that they have forgotten all the good things. Peter Schramm’s personal reminiscence (read the whole thing) offers an eloquent reminder of what this country is all about. Or read a good American history book, perhaps something by David McCullough or Shelby Foote. In his latest column, son #2 had this to say about July 4th:

“I needn’t recount all of America’s present woes here, but the entire reason we celebrate July 4 as a holiday is because we had plenty of woes before and found solutions.

That’s pretty much what all of history is. Some woes are worse than others. Some solutions come swiftly and some come slowly. Sometimes we take steps in the wrong direction, but we try.

Independence Day is all about celebrating America’s potential. When they signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, they didn’t know what was going to happen or what the future would hold. Technically, that’s impossible. But you’ve got to dream big if you’re going to get anything done.”

If you’re not in the mood to read, do something outside! Remember baseball? If you can’t attend a game, go play one.

Or have a yard sale (but do check your spelling first)!

If the spelling problem is stressing you out, take a hike — America is full of beautiful places to wander!

Montana, 2019

However you spend your day — whether you are wealthy or poor, happy or sad, healthy or sick — consider how lucky you are to live in a free country! Teddy Roosevelt once wrote, “I am an American; free born and free bred, where I acknowledge no man as my superior, except for his own worth, or as my inferior, except for his own demerit.” Mull that over… and have a great weekend!

“Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice but to carry on. “*

Three-day weekend! Some people say the weekend doesn’t mean much since we are home all the time anyway, but I disagree. On the weekend, I am not chained to my laptop or to the feeling that I should be “doing” something. No sir.

Since there is pretty much nothing going on in our flyover city this 4th of July weekend and the boy and his wee family are going to be at the lake, the OM and I have opted to fly the coop and head to mid-MO to visit daughter #1 in our state capitol. We will probably not join the hoards that may gather to celebrate, but we can watch out her apartment window. And there will be fireworks on the Missouri River.

We will raise a toast to our big brother whose birthday is on the 4th of July.

Yippee-ki-yay, pardner!

The wee babes were going to come over to frolic on Thursday morning, but the wee laddie fell off the deck at their house on Wednesday night and had to go to the doctor to get checked out in the morning, so I had Lottiebelle all by herself. We had a fun time playing. She is truly the queen of imaginary play and I find that if I just give a funny voice to any and all stuffed animals I am hilarious.

After the wee laddie was given a clean bill of health–he was fine, no broken bones–and they picked up Lottie and all went home, I went back to my Zoom meetings (and using a normal voice). Life is pretty strange. I try to go with the flow.

I want to give a shout out to TCM, which has quite a good line-up of movies in July. Tony Curtis is the Star of the Month (my DP will not want to miss Captain Newman, M.D. on July 13!) and John Ford movies are on the schedule every Friday. Today is a particularly good day!

I will also note that I just watched Logan Lucky (2017) again (on Prime) and I have to say, I really like this movie.

It has a smart script and a great cast: Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Hilary Swank, and others you will recognize in smaller roles. It is rated PG-13 for Pete’s sake. The Hillbillies win. What’s not to like?

And this cartoon from Liz Climo is my life at the moment.

Let me say, this is just too perfect. (PS I’m the bunny. I live with the bear.)

Enjoy the weekend! Let your freak flag fly. God bless America!

*Stephen Stills