Where the Twain meets

Three volumes comprise Mark Twain’s autobiography because he was a chatty man and had a lot to say. I am a fan so I enjoy reading his volumes very much.

I enjoy much less their heft. I didn’t weigh them but each one would be a deadly projectile if one had enough brawn to throw one.

More than 1/3 of each book, roughly 300 pages at the end, is explanatory notes and footnotes and acknowledgments and caveats and arguments and commentary. I think someone may have added some recipes in there just for fun.

I should applaud the care taken to verify his thoughts, put them within context, and display the kind of detail fixation prevalent among those obsessed with his work. But the book is so heavy, it should have its own lectern.

Considering Mark Twain dictated most of it while in bed or in a comfy chair, I suspect he would find this funny.



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Workman’s compensation

Across the street from our condominium, an 1894 brick warehouse is being re-imagined as a trendy apartment building. The architect’s design requires slicing huge slits in the brick facade to make way for windows. Lots of windows. Lots of trendy.

This also means that bricklayers are carefully replacing bricks around the openings so they are tidy and straight. Lots of bricks.

The bricklayers work solo or with one partner. Watching them work, carefully, brick by brick, reminds me there are still tasks that are worth watching.

I am sure the end result will be good looking and sleek and of course, trendy.

But the skill to make it so is personal, ageless, and simply beautiful.


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Book Looks

Folks read to learn or at least appear smarter, to be entertained, to escape, to understand, to stimulate, to get scared safely, to pretend, to remember. These are fun but the best part of reading is choice. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. Here’s a few types of readers:

Multitaskers have piles of books, open them willy nilly, pause, move on. They challenge a book to capture their interest.

Guilt-holders leave any not-finished book nearby. They believe they owe every book they open a read.

Word-for-worders are people who also read maps just for fun. They hope to hijack something in the book no one else can.

Detectors are usually smart at something other than reading, like data mining. They are on a quest for a book’s flaws.

Page-turners are furtive about skipping the boring parts but can’t help themselves.

Plot chasers are alot like page turners, except they are on the hunt for the best parts.

Achievers read lots and lots of books. They really need a more public outlet for such ambition.

Scanners are a little egotistical in that they secretly believe they already know the book.

Fortunately, books are nice and they don’t mind at all, with the exception of critics, who of course should NEVER be allowed to read at all.



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Moving pictures

Christmas and Easter and brief vacations to one of Wisconsin’s fishy little lakes  were the occasions for filming our home movies during the 1960s in Elmhurst, IL

You’d think nothing happened in between and that would be about right. Sometimes a sacrament like Baptism or First Holy Communion made it onto the movie archive but usually not. Nobody felt like mugging for the camera outside Immaculate Conception church.

You’d think my brothers, cousins and I were spawned in the wild where making screwy faces, leaping about and screeching were forms of communication. Sometimes a startled grownup exhibited similar lunacy when the camera zoomed in. Scary.

The girls, including my cousins, aunties and Mom, froze into what we assumed were model poses when we were dressed up but it was hard to hold still for very long. We bored ourselves.

It also might be assumed that no fathers existed in this cinematic universe because the uncles and dads were behind the camera. As silent movies, their encouragements to us weren’t recorded: “Hey kids, over here! Smile! Smile for heavens sake! Look here! Do something! No, not that!! Wave! Yes! That’s good! Wave!”

This experience overall was most entertaining when we watched the movies much later. None of us were silly most of the time, but watching our movies reassured us we had the capacity.




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Tried and true

Having two brothers and no sisters whilst growing up in Elmhurst, IL during the 1960s had more pluses than minuses: I had my own bedroom. The boys shared one. I had no gripe with the gene pool, free of comparison to a sister, who would have at least a 50% statistical chance of being prettier, smarter and destined for more fame than me.

One minus was competition, in the sense I had no idea how to do it.

This was revealed to me late, in kidhood time, seventh grade, when I tried out for the cheer-leading squad at Immaculate Conception grammar school. I don’t vividly remember trying out but precisely recall minutes during the week prior. I was terrified. Being judged.

My brothers were encouraging, which I ignored. Mom and Dad suggested I enjoy the challenge, which I ignored. Girlfriends practicing with me affirmed I had a good chance of succeeding, which I ignored.

If only I had a sister to laugh at me for being such a scared sissy.

I would have shown her.

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Supporting roles

Film credits that roll down the screen at movie’s end don’t get enough credit. The number of folks required for a two-hour product is astounding, suggesting it takes a lot of people working together, even if the result is just so-so.

I particularly enjoy reading the actors’ roles that are too minor for a real name but have a part in it:

“Redcoat #2,” “Humming Woman,” “Child in Stroller.”

The music credits are fun, too, because jazz, rock ‘n roll, swing and classic musicians probably didn’t know they’d be getting together to be a new thing, the film score.

I wonder why film producers put this cool info at the end and roll the credits so fast.

Art imitates life I guess.


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Mrs. Fitz's Story Emporium

We who attended college during the whimsically labeled “turbulent” 1960s were fond of asking questions. This both freed us from finding answers and left time for more important endeavors, such as protesting.

The Next Fifty Years: Science in the First Half of the Twenty-First Century is a collection of essays by twenty-five scientists, edited b John Brockman. They like asking questions, too.

I particularly like this one:

Should we genetically engineer people with traits and abilities we deem desirable, such as contentment, optimal body shape, empathy…or do we benefit from biodiversity?

2050 is only 37 years away. Will we be expected to have an answer?

Good question.

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