Thursday, July 12, 2018

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Allen J. Pfannenstiel 1964-2018

We met at the Spring Dance in Boulder on April 22, 1984, and for the next fifteen years he was my partner, my cohort, my love, my best friend, and an indelible part of my life.  We went from Colorado to Michigan to New Mexico, raising gardens and a puppy, Sam, and sharing the joys and tribulations, good times and sad, tests and the odds that all couples face.  We never married because we couldn’t by law, but we had everything married couples have, and when we parted in June 1999, we stayed friends, even to the point of being better friends apart.

When I moved to Miami in 2001, he moved back to Colorado, and ended up there last year.  He suffered a stroke last Christmas and complications developed two weeks ago.  He slept away last night in the house he grew up in with his family at his side, at peace and the way he wanted to go.

I have so many memories, so many thoughts, so many pictures; after all, fifteen years together can’t be summarized in just words and pictures.  I will just say that my life was better with him in it than without and that he will always be a part of me.  The reminders at home and in my heart are good things of good times and a good life.

Lake Charlevoix, 1986

This is one of my favorite pictures of him, taken in August 1986 when we went on a sailing trip around northern Michigan for my dad’s 60th birthday. Although the biggest piece of water he’d ever seen was the man-made lake behind his house in Longmont, he took to sailing right away.  It was the first of many such adventures we took, and his attitude was always “It’ll be fun!”  And so it was.

I will always call you sweetheart.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Philip Roth

He showed us a world of realities disguised as fiction.

Philip Roth, the prolific, protean, and often blackly comic novelist who was a pre-eminent figure in 20th century literature, died on Tuesday night at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 85.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said the writer Judith Thurman, a close friend. Mr. Roth had homes in Manhattan and Connecticut.

In the course of a very long career, Mr. Roth took on many guises — mainly versions of himself — in the exploration of what it means to be an American, a Jew, a writer, a man. He was a champion of Eastern European novelists like Ivan Klima and Bruno Schulz, and also a passionate student of American history and the American vernacular. And more than just about any other writer of his time he was tireless in his exploration of male sexuality. His creations include Alexander Portnoy, a teenager so libidinous he has sex with both his baseball mitt and the family dinner, and David Kepesh, a professor who turns into an exquisitely sensitive 155-pound female breast.

Mr. Roth was the last of the great white males: the triumvirate of writers — Saul Bellow and John Updike were the others — who towered over American letters in the second half of the 20th century. Outliving both and borne aloft by an extraordinary second wind, Mr. Roth wrote more novels than either of them. In 2005 he became only the third living writer (after Bellow and Eudora Welty) to have his books enshrined in the Library of America.

“Updike and Bellow hold their flashlights out into the world, reveal the world as it is now,” Mr. Roth once said. “I dig a hole and shine my flashlight into the hole.”

The Nobel Prize eluded Mr. Roth, but he won most of the other top honors: two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle awards, three PEN/Faulkner Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the Man Booker International Prize.

In his 60s, an age when many writers are winding down, he produced an exceptional sequence of historical novels — “American Pastoral,” “The Human Stain” and “I Married a Communist” — a product of his personal re-engagement with America and American themes. And starting with “Everyman” in 2006, when he was 73, he kept up a relentless book-a-year pace, publishing works that while not necessarily major were nevertheless fiercely intelligent and sharply observed. Their theme in one way or another was the ravages of age and mortality itself, and in publishing them Mr. Roth seemed to be defiantly staving off his own decline.

I just read “The Plot Against America,” published in 2004, that is eerily prescient in its alternative history of fascism coming to America with the election of Charles A. Lindbergh as president in 1940, defeating FDR in his bid for a third term.  It was written as a warning in the George W. Bush era, but strikes an even more jarring chord in the #MAGA era.

The first Roth novel that I read was “Portnoy’s Complaint.”  I will never look at liver the same way again.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

R.I.P. Harry Anderson

I was sad to the point of cursing last night when I heard of the death of Harry Anderson.  He became best known as the star of the comedy “Night Court,” which, to my mind, ranks up there with truly good TV sitcoms alongside “M*A*S*H” and “Barney Miller.”

Like those shows, “Night Court” was an ensemble that reminded me more of a play than TV show.  With a supporting cast that included John Larroquette, Markie Post, Richard Moll, Charles S. Robinson, and, early on, the incomparable Selma Diamond, whose career in TV comedy is legendary, having been part of the writing crew for Sid Caesar along with Woody Allen and Neil Simon, and Florence Halop, whose own career dates back to the Bowery Boys.  Marsha Warfield, who replaced Ms. Halop upon her death, was no slouch, either.  But the bond that held them together was Mr. Anderson’s wry sense of humor, his genial touch, and his love of Mel Torme music.

He had another series after “Night Court,” “Dave’s World,” based on the writings of Miami Herald writer Dave Barry, but he’ll be remembered most fondly — at least by me — as Judge Harry.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Monday, April 2, 2018

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking

From the BBC:

World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.

He died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday, his family said.

The Briton was known for his work with black holes and relativity, and wrote several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.

At the age of 22 Prof Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease.

The illness left him in a wheelchair and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesiser.

In a statement his children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”

They praised his “courage and persistence” and said his “brilliance and humour” inspired people across the world.

“He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”

He also promoted science to the masses: he guest-starred as himself on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “The Big Bang Theory,” and I think he would appreciate the timing that he left this form of life on Pi Day.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking Back/Looking Forward

Here we go with my annual recap and prognostication for the year.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

  • I have no earthly idea what will happen with Trump in the White House.  But I can say that for the first time in my life — and I will hit 65 this year — I am frightened both for myself and my country.
  • At some point in 2017 elements of the electorate will realize that they got conned into voting for Trump and that they were played for fools.  The backlash will begin when they find out he can’t follow through on his bullshit promises, and reach a peak when they find out that repealing Obamacare and deporting 11 million people effects them personally.  When it happens, it will not be pretty.

I’m still frightened.  Nothing — not the Mueller investigation, the revelations coming from various sources, or chatter about impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment — has calmed my fear that he is still capable of doing something that puts us and the rest of the world in peril.  As for the second bullet point, we are seeing faint glimmers that disillusionment is happening in the nooks and crannies of America where he can do no wrong, and no amount of tweeting and bullshit from Fox News can turn around his dismal approval numbers.  But that just means that fully 1/3 of the electorate still approve of him.  Even his failures — Obamacare yet survives and the deportations haven’t happened — haven’t dimmed the hopes of the dim.

  • There will be a downturn in the economy thanks to the cyclical nature of economics and the instability in the market by the Twitter-In-Chief. He will, of course, blame it on Barack Obama.

Obviously I’m not an economist because if I was I would have known that the economy lags behind and the continued growth and low unemployment rate are a result of Obama’s policies.  Of course Trump is taking credit for it.

  • A year from now the Syrian civil war will still be dragging on.  ISIS will still be a factor, and if Trump does what he says he will do with the Iran nuclear deal, expect to see them re-start their nuclear program.  “Dr. Strangelove” will be seen by historians as a documentary.
  • The refugee crisis will continue and fester once nativists and right-wing elements win majorities in western European countries.

The Syrian civil war goes on but it’s not dominating the news cycles, and ISIS is a lessening factor.  I don’t know if it’s sheer exhaustion.  The refugee crisis goes on but with a lesser magnitude.

  • Our diplomatic thaw with Cuba will freeze as the attempts to end the blockade will not get through Congress. Only until Trump gets permission to open a casino in Varadero Beach will there be any progress.

Trump rescinded some of the Obama administration’s changes in our relations with Cuba but not enough to return us to Cold War status.  The blockade, such as it is, enters its 57th year.

  • Violence against our fellow citizens will continue and take on a more xenophobic tone as the white supremacists think they are now in control. The attorney general will do nothing to put an end to it because, in his words, “they had it coming.”

Charlottesville and Trump’s tacit support of the Nazis proved that to be true, more’s the pity.

  • We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. 2016 was an especially painful year. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

I lost two uncles and a nephew since I wrote that.

  • The Tigers will finish second in their division.

They traded Justin Verlander.  Yeah, he helped the Astros win the World Series, but…

Okay, now on to predictions.

  • There will be indictments at a very high level in the administration as the Mueller investigation rumbles on.  Plea bargains and deals will be made and revelations will come forth, and by summer there will be genuine questions about whether or not the administration will survive.  But there won’t be a move to impeach Trump as long as there are Republican majorities in the Congress, and invoking the 25th Amendment is a non-starter.
  • The Democrats will make great gains in the mid-term elections in November.  This is a safe bet because the party out of power usually does in the first mid-term of new president.  The Democrats will take back the Senate and narrow the gap in the House to the point that Speaker Paul Ryan with either quit or be so powerless that he’s just hanging around to collect pension points.  (No, he will not lose his re-election bid.)
  • There will be a vacancy on the Supreme Court, but it won’t happen until after the mid-terms and Trump’s appointment will flail as the Democrats in the Senate block the confirmation on the grounds that the next president gets to choose the replacement.
  • There will be irrefutable proof that the Russians not only meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, but they’ve had a hand in elections in Europe as well and will be a factor in the U.S. mid-terms.  Vladimir Putin will be re-elected, of course.
  • Raul Castro will figure out a way to still run Cuba even if he steps down as president, and there will be no lessening of the authoritarian rule.
  • The U.S. economy will continue to grow, but there will be dark clouds on the horizon as the deficit grows thanks to the giveaways in the GOP tax bill.  If the GOP engineers cuts to entitlement programs and the number of uninsured for healthcare increases, the strain on the economy will be too much.
  • This “America First” foreign policy will backfire.  All it does is tell our allies “You’re on your own.”  If we ever need them, they’re more likely to turn their backs on us.
  • The white supremacist movement will not abate.  Count on seeing more violence against minorities and more mass shootings.
  • A viable Democratic candidate will emerge as a major contender for the 2020 election, and it will most likely be a woman.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren is considered to be the default, but I wouldn’t rule out Sen. Kamala Harris of California or Sen. Kristen Gillibrand of New York just yet.  (Sen. Gillibrand would drive Trump even further around the bend.  She was appointed to the Senate to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat when she became Secretary of State in 2009.)
  • On a personal level, this will be a busy year for my work in theatre with a full production of “All Together Now” opening in March and several other works out there for consideration.  I will also be entering my last full year of employment in my present job (retirement happens in August 2019) but I’ll keep working.
  • People and fads we never heard about will have their fifteen minutes.
  • I’ll do this again next year.

Okay, friends; it’s your turn.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Friday, December 1, 2017

Short Takes

Argentina ends search for missing submarine.

Outrage grows in Britain over Trump’s retweets.

GOP holdouts cave on tax bill.

Bette Midler vs. Geraldo Rivera over his defense of Matt Lauer.

R.I.P. Jim Nabors, 87, portrayed Gomer Pyle on TV.

Hurricane season is officially over, and not a minute too soon.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Monday, November 20, 2017