Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mark Twain

Life was not a valuable gift, but death was. . . . [D]eath was sweet, death was gentle, death was kind; death healed the bruised spirit and the broken heart, and gave them rest and forgetfulness; death was man's best friend; when man could endure life no longer, death came and set him free.

From his story, Letters from the Earth, which was published posthumously.

In 1895, Twain was in serious financial straits as a result of his investment in a new typesetting machine that never worked.  So he agreed to undertake an around-the-world lecture tour in order to pay off his debts.  

While Twain was in Europe on that tour, his 24-year-old daughter, Susy Clemens, died from spinal meningitis.  Twain was informed of her illness, but was unable to make it back to be with her before she died.  He was devastated by this loss, and much of his late writing is cynical and bitter.

Mark Twain was born on this date in 1835.

Olivia Susan ("Susy") Clemens

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Garry Shandling

I'm dating a homeless woman.  It's easier to talk her into staying over.

Garry Shandling, who was born on this date in 1949, got his start in show biz when he sold a script for the sitcom Sanford and Son to NBC in 1975.  He also wrote scripts for Welcome Back, Kotter and Three's Company.

After Shandling became a stand-up comedian, he was a frequent guest-host on The Tonight Show.  At one time, he was considered a candidate to replace Johnny Carson.

In 1992, Shandling launched The Larry Sanders Show on HBO.  Shandling played the title character, who was the host of a fictional late-night talk show.  It was a case of life imitating art, and it was brilliant -- the best television sitcom ever.

The guests on the show -- who always played themselves being guests on the show within the show -- included Carol Burnett, Robin Williams, William Shatner, Doc Severinsen, David Letterman, Suzanne Somers, Hugh Hefner, Sugar Ray Leonard, Adam Sandler, Alex Trebek, Howard Stern, Burt Reynolds, Jerry Seinfeld, Sharon Stone, Courteney Cox, Gloria Steinem, Bob Costas, Vince Vaughn, Sean Penn, Warren Beatty and many, many more.

I think my favorite moment on the show came when the deaf actress Marlee Matlin and Brooke Shield got into a dispute over dressing rooms.  Matlin used sign language to call Shield a very, very bad name.  It was as if Mother Teresa had dropped the f-bomb.  

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gary Hart

Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored.

Happy 75th birthday to former United States Senator and presidential candidate Gary Hart (whose real name is Gary Hartpence, and who used to claim he was born in 1937, not 1936).

Hart was the front-runner for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination when he spoke these words to a New York Times reporter in May 1987.  Two reporters from the Miami Herald decided to stake out his Washington, DC townhouse, and observed a young woman (not his wife) leaving the residence.  Hart claimed there had been no monkey business going on.

Coincidentally, Monkey Business was the name of a yacht where the picture below of Hart and the same young woman -- former beauty pageant winner Donna Rice -- had been taken when the yacht had been anchored in the Bahamas.

Hart dropped out of the race a week after the Herald story appeared.  He re-entered the contest in December, apparently so he could collect federal matching funds to help pay off his campaign debt.  The 1988 nomination eventually went to Michael Dukakis, who became the third straight Democratic nominee to go down in flames.

Donna Rice Hughes later married and is an author and speaker on Internet safety.

Donna Rice and Gary Hart

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Who

Pictures of Lily made my life so wonderful
Pictures of Lily helped me sleep at night
Pitcures of Lily solved my childhood problems
Pictures of Lily helped me feel alright

From their 1967 single, "Pictures of Lily," which was a top 5 hit in the UK.

We brought our yellow lab, Lily, home from the local humane society shelter exactly one year ago today.  (I don't think the Who were singing about a dog.)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Steve Martin

Now when I die
Don't think I'm a nut,
Don't want no fancy funeral,
Just one like ol' King Tut . . .
Born in Arizona
Moved to Babylonia
King Tut!
From his 1978 hit single, inspired by the sensational "Treasures of Tutankhamun" exhibit that attracted huge crowds when it toured seven American cities between 1976 and 1979.

On this date in 1922, English archaeologist Howard Carter first peeked into (and perhaps entered) the Pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb, the best preserved pharaonic tomb ever found in the Egyptian "Valley of the Kings."

Friday, November 25, 2011

Joseph Wood Krutch

The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February.
From his 1949 book, The Twelve Seasons.

Krutch was born in Knoxville, TN, on this date in 1893.  He started out as a theater critic and literary biographer.  After moving to Arizona in 1952, he began to write about ecology in general and the desert environment in particular.

I spent three Februarys in New England, and they are grim -- perhaps grimmer than Puritanism.  But Krutch was wrong.  The most serious charge that can be brought against New England is the Boston Red Sox.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Samuel Francis Smith

Our fathers' God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.

Samuel Francis Smith was a 22-year-old student at a theological seminary when he wrote the lyrics to "My Country 'Tis of Thee."  It took him only about 30 minutes.

Smith's song was first performed at Park Street Church in Boston on July 4, 1831.  We sing it every year at the Thanksgiving Day service at my church, and I think of it as a Thanksgiving song.

Whether you prefer this song or "America the Beautiful" may depend on not only your musical taste but also your political philosophy.  The author of "America the Beautiful" asks America to "Confirm thy soul in self-control/Thy liberty in law."  For those of a more libertarian bent, "My Country 'Tis of Thee" -- which chooses "freedom" and "liberty" over "self-control" and "law" -- is much preferred.

But this is no day for petty partisan squabbling.  A happy Thanksgiving Day to all of you!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

John Milton

Let [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter? . . . Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.

From Areopagitica, his tract against censorship, which is considered by many to be the most eloquent defense of freedom of the press ever written. 

Areopagitica was published on this date in 1644, at the height of the English Civil War.  Milton thought it was God's will that there be freedom of the press.  (See John 8:32: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.")

(Thanks to an old friend for suggesting this quote.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

C. S. Lewis

When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret.  Now that I am 50, I read them openly.  When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness.
(C. S Lewis died on the this date in 1963 -- the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated.  His seven Chronicles of Narnia novels have sold over 100 million copies in 47 languages.)

Monday, November 21, 2011


Once a philosopher . . . twice a pervert.

The story goes that the great French author and philosopher Voltaire once accepted an invitation to engage in some unorthodox sexual practice. (This is the French we're talking about, so I shudder to think what that might have been.) Voltaire apparently did quite well at whatever was being done, and was invited back to do it again.

He supposedly declined the invitation with the words quoted above. Apparently the great man would try anything once -- but only once.
Observant 2 or 3 lines readers have no doubt noted that today is neither "French-day the 13th" or "French Fry-Day." This post is appearing today because Voltaire (real name: François-Marie Arouet) was born on this date in 1694.
I'm guessing that Voltaire was remembering the "Once a philosopher" experience when this portrait was painted. That's my explanation for that sh*t-eating grin on his face.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Owen Chase

The captain's boat was the first that reached us.  He stopped about a boat's length off, but had no power to utter a single syllable; he was so completely overpowered with the spectacle before him.  He was in a short time, however, enabled to address the inquiry to me, "My God, Mr. Chase, what is the matter?"  I answered, "We have been stove by a whale."

From his 1821 book, Narrative of the Most Extraordinary and Distressing Shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex.  

The "spectacle" spoken of above by Chase was the sinking of the Essex, which had left Nantucket, Massachusetts in August 1819 to hunt for whales in the South Pacific, where it was attacked and sunk by an 85-foot-long sperm whale on this date in 1820.

The crew of the Essex (21 men) set out in three 28-foot whaleboats for South America, which was about 4000 miles away.  Captain George Pollard wanted to sail in the opposite direction to the Marquesas Islands, which were only about 1200 miles to the west, but his crew -- led by the first mate, Owen Chase -- voted him down because they feared that the Marquesas were inhabited by cannibals.

Chase's boat, with five men aboard, eventually became separated from the other two.  One man died on January 18 and was buried at sea.  When a second perished on February 8, the remaining three sailors resorted to cannibalism to survive.  They were rescued by a British ship three days later.   

Pollard's boat ran out of food on February 1, and its four survivors decided to draw lots to decide who would be sacrificed for the survival of the rest.  A 17-year-old named Owen Coffin drew the black spot, accepted his fate calmly, and was shot in the head and was consumed.  Another man in the boat died on February 11, and he was also eaten.  Pollard and the other survivor were finally rescued by another Nantucket whaler on February 23, 1820 -- 95 days after the Essex sank.

A total of eight of the 21 crew members survived, while seven were eaten.

Herman Melville, whose novel Moby Dick was inspired by the incident, later said that he believed that all would have survived if they had sailed west to the Marquesas.

Mountain's 1971 song, "Nantucket Sleighride" (from the album of the same name) was dedicated to Owen Coffin.  The title describes what happened when whalers harpooned a whale from a small boat -- they were towed behind the wounded mammal, often at a disturbingly rapid speed.

Nathan Philbrick won a National Book Award for his 2000 account of the ordeal, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Abraham Lincoln

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here . . .
From his "Gettysburg Address," which was delivered on this date in 1863 -- four and a half months after the greatest battle ever fought in the Western Hemisphere.

Lincoln was dead wrong, of course.  No other speech by an American is as well known or more admired than his.
Even the French admired it.  The current French constitution states that the guiding principle of the French republic is "gouvernement du peuple, par le peuple et pour le peuple" -- "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

There are five surviving manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address.  The latest one -- the Bliss copy, which has become the standard version of the address -- contains only 273 words.  How many e-mails have I written that are longer than 273 words?  More than I can count.  How many of them will be noted and remembered?  Not a single one. 

Lincoln at Gettysburg

Friday, November 18, 2011

W. S. Gilbert

Things are seldom what they seem
Skim milk masquerades as cream.
From H.M.S. Pinafore (1878).  Sir William Schwenck Gilbert was a facile lyricist who is considered by many to be the greatest comic opera librettist in history.  His collaborations with composer Sir Arthur Sullivan remain as popular today as ever.  Gilbert was born on this date in 1836.

Gilbert and Sullivan

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Elizabeth I

Concerning Marriage, which ye so earnestly move me to . . . . [N]ow that the publick Care of governing the Kingdom is laid upon me, to draw upon me also the Cares of Marriage may seem a point of inconsiderate Folly. Yea, to satisfie you, I have already joyned my self in Marriage to an Husband, namely, the Kingdom of England. . . . And do not upbraid me with miserable lack of Children: for every one of you, and as many as are Englishmen, are Children and Kinsmen to me; of whom if God deprive me not, (which God forbid) I cannot without injury be accounted Barren.

From her so-called "Marriage Speech" to the English parliament in 1559.

Only months after Elizabeth I succeeded her half-sister, Mary (not the same person as Mary, Queen of Scots), as Queen of England, on this date in 1558, Parliament tried to bully her into marriage in the hope that she would give birth to an heir and any disputes over her successor would be avoided.  The 25-year-old queen told Parliament they could stick it where the sun don't shine -- politely, of course.

Why was Elizabeth so averse to entering into a state of connubial bliss?  Perhaps because she was molested at age 14 by Thomas Seymour, the 40-year-old husband of Elizabeth's stepmother, Catherine Parr, who had married Seymour six months after the death of her third husband (and Elizabeth's father), King Henry VIII.

Elizabeth, a/k/a "The Virgin Queen," never married, dying heirless in the 45th year of her reign.

Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Merle Haggard

Leather boots are still in style for manly footwear;
Beads and Roman sandals won't be seen.
Football's still the roughest thing on campus,
And the kids here still respect the college dean.
I'm proud to be an Okie from Muskogee,
A place where even squares can have a ball
From his 1969 hit.  Oklahoma became the 46th state on this date in 1907.  About the best thing I can say about Oklahoma is that it's not Arkansas.  (Have you heard the joke about the Oklahoma native who moved from Missouri to Arkansas -- which raised the average IQ of both states?)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

William Tecumseh Sherman

You people of the South don't know what you are doing.  This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end.  It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization!  You people speak so lightly of war; you don't know what you're talking about.  War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. . . . The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make.  You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors.  You are bound to fail. 
In 1859, William Tecumseh Sherman became the first superintendent of the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning & Military Academy.  He wrote the words above to a pro-secession faculty member and friend after South Carolina seceded from the United States.

Sherman left Louisiana shortly after that letter was written, and was eventually given a commission in the Union army.  His performance in the early years of the Civil War had its ups and downs, but he finally hit his stride after being paired with General Grant.

After a relentless campaign lasting almost four months, Sherman's army occupied Atlanta on September 2, 1864.  Exactly 147 years ago today, he led his army out of Atlanta and began his famous "March to the Sea," wreaking havoc deep within enemy territory without secure lines of supply or communication. 

Sherman was perhaps the most complex and interesting general on the Union side.  He said he hated war, but he believed that the quickest way to end a war was to fight with ruthless determination, destroying the enemy's ability and will to resist -- he was the inventor of what we now call "total warfare," but what he termed simply "hard war."

After retiring from the regular U.S. Army in 1884, Sherman was approached about running for President by Republican leaders.  He famously declined, using these words: "I will not accept if nominated, and will not serve if elected."

Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman

Monday, November 14, 2011

Callan Wink

Like Sid, she was a nude sleeper.  When he found this out it became one of those happy little intersections of shared personality, the slow accumulation of which is love.

From his story, "Dog Run Moon," which appeared in the September 26, 2011, issue of the New Yorker.

Callan Wink is a young writer who grew up in Morley, Michigan, and then moved west.  He is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at the University of Wyoming.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thomas Jefferson

What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion?  And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance?  Let them take arms. . . . The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

From a letter to William Stephens Smith written on this date in 1787.

Yes, I realize that it is the 13th of the month, which means that it is "French-day the 13th" here at 2 or 3 lines a day.  But Jefferson, who was the U.S. Minister to France in the years leading up to the French Revolution (which he supported), exhibited distinctly French-like behavior while residing in Paris -- to wit, he initiated a long-term affair with a young slave named Sally Hemings (who had been brought to Paris to be a companion to Jefferson's daughter).  In 1805, Hemings gave birth to Jefferson's son, Madison Hemings. 

By the way, this year marks the passage of a century and a half since the outbreak of the American Civil War.  (Just sayin' . . .)

Thandie Newton as Sally Hemings
in the movie "Jefferson in Paris" (1995)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

H. R. "Bob" Haldeman

Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it is awfully hard to get it back in.

Haldeman, who was Richard Nixon's chief of staff during the Watergate scandal and spent 18 months in prison after being convicted of obstruction of justice, died on this date in 1993.  Haldeman was a Christian Scientist who refused medical treatment during his final illness.  (Say what you will about Haldeman or Christian Science -- but that requires considerable moral courage.)

H. R. "Bob" Haldeman

Friday, November 11, 2011


In peace, sons bury fathers, but in war fathers bury sons.
From Book 1 of The Histories, which he wrote in the 5th century B.C. and which is the earliest work of Greek prose to have survived intact.  Cicero called Herodotus "The Father of History," but some believe "The Father of Lies" would be a more suitable title for him.

Today is Veterans Day in the United States because it is the date on which World War I on the Western Front ended in 1918.  The date is also a national holiday in the UK (and other British Commonwealth nations), France, Belgium, and Poland.  


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Norman Mailer

All the security around the American president is just to make sure the man who shoots him get caught.

(Mailer said this in 1990.  He died on this date in 2007.  Mailer's New York Times obituary was headlined "Norman Mailer, Towering Writer With Matching Ego, Dies at 84.")

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Neil Gaiman

Have you ever been in love?  Horrible isn't it? 

Love takes hostages.  It gets inside you.  It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness.

Nothing should be able to do that.  Especially not love.  I hate love.
(From issue #65 of his comic-book series, "The Sandman."  Tomorrow is the 51st birthday of this prolific author of fiction, science fiction, graphic novels, and comic books. )


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hal David

Johnny, I said we were through
Just to see what you would do
You stood there and hung your head
Made me wish that I were dead!
Oh, Johnny get angry, Johnny get mad
Give me the biggest lecture I ever had
I want a brave man, I want a cave man
Johnny, show me that you care!
From "Johnny Get Angry," which was a top 10 hit for Joanie Sommers in 1962.

Bad romances come in many varieties.  There are romances that are bad because your partner steals your money, lies, is a drunk or drug addict, and so on.  And there are romances that are bad because you're the only one involved in the romance -- like the poor girl who sings this song.  (Wake up, Johnny!  She wants you!)

Hal David wrote the lyrics for dozens of great songs.  He and Burt Bacharach were one of the greatest songwriting tandems of all time -- their hits include "The Look of Love," "Walk On By," and "What's New, Pussycat?"

This song is notable for the use of the subjunctive mood in the counterfactual dependent clause in the 4th line: "Made me wish that I were dead!"  But I'm wondering about the use of the past subjunctive -- would the pluperfect subjunctive have been more appropriate given that the author is referring counterfactually to the past?

Anyone have an opinion on that?  Anyone at all?  Bueller?

Monday, November 7, 2011

John Sandford

"I'm Virgil Flowers, with the BCA, up here to arrest your bomber."
Both deputies frowned, as though they suspected they were being put on.  "You got an ID?" the woman asked.  She was a redhead, with freckles, and a narrow, almost-cute diastema between her two front teeth. . . .
"I do, in my truck, if you want to see it," Virgil said.  "Though to tell you the truth, I thought I was so famous I didn't need it."

From his 2011 novel, Shock Wave.  "Diastema" is the term applied to a space between two teeth -- in humans, it's usually the upper front teeth.  (More about diastema -- which the French refer to as dents du bonheur, or "lucky teeth" -- below.)

John Sandford is the pseudonym of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Roswell Camp, who has written some 30 novels since leaving the Saint Paul Pioneer Press in 1989.

Most of those novels (the "Prey" series) feature Lucas Davenport, one of the all-time great fictional detective characters.  Davenport is an ex-college hockey player who works for the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, drives a Porsche (he made a small fortune creating roleplaying games and police training software), is happily married to a maxillofacial surgeon (he was a bit of a playboy before their wedding, of course), knows how to manipulate the press, is a bit of a gun freak, and dresses very fashionably.  (His wife is appalled one night when he and a male friend have a long conversation about different Italian suit designers.)  One more thing -- Davenport generally plays by the rules, but he'll bend them when necessary to bring down a bad guy.

Shock Wave is the fifth book in a newer series about a Davenport sidekick, Virgil Flowers, a long-haired, thrice-divorced, fishing fanatic who wears jeans and rock-and-roll T-shirts.  Virgil usually has an affair or two per book -- he's a pretty irresistible guy -- and he also does what has to be done to bring down bad guys.

Sandford's books are full of subtly humorous touches that make them a delight to read.  The plots are solid, well-paced and with just the right number of surprises.  But it's the characters, their relationships, and Sandford's deft touch with dialogue that are the secrets to the success of these two series.  

Both Davenport and Flowers are relatively realistic and normal characters, not comic-book figures or eccentric oddballs.  They don't have drinking problems, and aren't tortured by dark secrets from their past -- they're essentially well-adjusted guys with healthy libidos and just the right amount of swagger.   

I think a lot of women would enjoy Sandford's books, but they are really books for guys.

Popular folklore holds that women with a gap between their front teeth are lustful.  In Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the Wife of Bath -- who described herself as "a lusty one" -- was gap-toothed.  Virgil Flowers may be about to get lucky with that female deputy.

Model Lara Stone, diastema sufferer 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

James Naismith

I am sure that no man can derive more pleasure from money or power than I do from seeing a pair of basketball goals in some out of the way place -- deep in the Wisconsin woods, an old barrel hoop nailed to a tree -- or a weather-beaten shed on the Mexican border with a rusty iron hoop nailed to one end.

James Naismith (he had no given middle name, but later adopted "A" as his middle initial) was born in Ontario, Canada on this date in 1861 -- which happened to be the same day that Jefferson Davis was elected President of the Confederate States of America.
Naismith invented basketball in December 1891 while he was a physical education teacher at the International YMCA Training School (now Springfield College) in Springfield, MA.  The head of his department had ordered him to invent an indoor game that would provide an athletic distraction for his rowdy male students but not be too rough. 
Naismith later studied medicine in Denver and obtained his M.D., but then moved to the University of Kansas in 1898, where he became the Jayhawks' first and least successful basketball coach: during his nine seasons as head coach, the team had a 55-60 record.  
Basketball became an Olympic sport in 1936, when Naismith was 74.  He went to Berlin to award the first medals for the sport.  (The United States won the gold, and Canada earned the silver.) 
Basketball is somewhat unique among team sports in that you can enjoy playing it even if you are all alone.  All you need is a ball and a rusty iron hoop nailed to a tree or a garage.

James Naismith and his wife

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fred Murray and R. P. Weston

I'm Henry the eighth I am
Henry the eighth I am, I am
I got married to the widow next door
She's been married seven times before
And every one was a Henry 
She wouldn't have a Willie or a Sam
I'm her eighth old man, I'm Henry
Henry the eighth I am

This song, which was written in 1910, was the signature song of British music-hall legend, Harry Champion.  (Click here to hear Champion's version of the song.)  When Herman's Hermits released it as a single in 1965, it shot to #1 on the Billboard "Hot 100" chart.

Although I've spelled "Henry" in the usual way in the lyrics quoted above, the song is performed in an exaggerated Cockney accent with that name pronounced as if it contained three syllables -- "Henery."

Herman's Hermits lead singer, Peter Noone, was born on this date in 1947.  Noone is still touring, and I understand he puts on a great live show.

Friday, November 4, 2011


On the banks of that beautiful river
There the bones of our forefathers lie
Awaiting the sound of the trumpet
To call them to glory on high
In our hearts we will cherish their memories
And we all like true brethren will join
And praise God for sending us King William
To the green grassy slopes of the Boyne.
From "On the Green Grassy Slopes of the Boyne," an Irish folk ballad.

William Henry of Orange was born in The Hague in the Dutch Republic on this date in 1650.  

In 1672, he became Stadtholder (chief of state) William III of Orange of the Dutch Republic.  In 1688, after a male heir had been born to James II, the Catholic king of England, William invaded England in response to an invitation from a number of Protestant lords and deposed James, who was his father-in-law.  (William's wife, Mary, was not only the daughter of James but also William's first cousin.  James was not only William's father-in-law but also his uncle. )

William and Mary's hold on the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones was contested by James until July 1690, when his Dutch, Danish, French, English, and Scottish Protestant troops decisively defeated James's Irish Catholic and French forces near Drogheda, a port town located where the River Boyne flows into the Irish Sea.  James left his army behind and fled to France, where he remained until his death in 1701.

William reigned as William III in England and Ireland and as William II in Scotland until his death in 1702.  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Larry McMurtry

I brought a young lady swimmin' out here once, more than 20 years ago. Was after my wife had lost her mind and my boys was dead.  Me and this young lady was pretty wild, I guess.  In pretty deep.  We used to come out here on horseback and go swimmin' without no bathing suits. . . . 

Aw, too late to think about things like that too much.  If she was here [today], I'd probably be just as crazy now as I was then in about five minutes.  Ain't that ridiculous?  Naw, it ain't really.  'Cause bein' crazy 'bout a woman like her's always the right thing to do.  Bein' a decrepit old bag of bones -- that's what's ridiculous -- gettin' old.

From the screenplay for the 1971 film, The Last Picture Show, which he adapted from his semi-autobiographical 1966 novel of the same name.  The book was great, but the movie was even better.  It is remarkable not only for its script and the fact that it was shot in black-and-white, but also for its cast -- which included Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Jeff Bridges, Ellen Burstyn, Timothy Bottoms, Randy Quaid, Clu Gulager, Eileen Brennan, and Cybill Shepherd.  (Johnson won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, beating out fellow nominee Bridges.  The quote above is spoken by his character about the character played by Burstyn, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, but lost out to Leachman.) 

Larry McMurtry taught English and creative writing at Rice University, where I was a sophomore when the movie was released.  He has written about 30 novels and a dozen or so volumes of nonfiction.  

A number of his books have been turned into successful movies, including 1983's "Best Picture," Terms of Endearment.  He is most well-known for his novel Lonesome Dove, which won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  It was turned into a very successful television miniseries starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones.  Lonesome Dove was originally a screenplay that McMurtry wrote for Peter Bogdanovich (the director of The Last Picture Show), who wanted James Stewart and John Wayne to play the Duvall and Jones roles.

It is hard to say whether the 843-page novel or the 384-minute TV miniseries is better.  I would have been happier if both of them had been twice as long. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oxford Movement Centenary Prayer Book

Have mercy, O Lord, upon the souls which have no especial intercessors with thee, nor any hope save that they were created after thine own image; who from age, or poverty, or the unbelief or negligence of their friends, are forgotten and whose day of departure is never remembered.

(Quoted in Stephen L. Carter's short story, "The Hereditary Thurifer."  A thurifer is an acolyte who carries a thurible, which is the metal censer in which incense is burned during a worship service.  Today is All Souls' Day, the day on which Roman Catholics remember the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven.)

A thurifer (with thurible)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Elvis Costello

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture -- it's really a stupid thing to want to do.  
(Elvis Costello is the stage name of Declan Patrick McManus, a British singer-songwriter who has released over 30 studio albums.  Today is the second anniversary of 2 or 3 lines, my music blog.)