All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players… One man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. At first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.  And then the whining school-boy… the lover,  sighing… a soldier, full of strange oaths… the justice, in fair round belly… The sixth age shifts into… the pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side… Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion: sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”  — Shakespeare


Welcome to my world!

August 19th, 2009

Although I’m calling this new website “a personal memoir in flux,” it is also my hope that the various sections will be of interest to people, whether they know me or not. “Out on a Lim” shares short observations on day-to-day life. “Limerances” chronicles longer remembrances of things past. “Limoscenes” presents descriptions of the plays I’ve written to date, with production photos. “Images in Limbo” shows pictures of the aging process, of me with family and friends. “Limpets” are the non-human dogs in my life, and “Limitations” are tributes to people who are no longer with us. So here I am, past imperfect, present progressive, future tense. Let me know what you think.

15 August 2014: Alliterative Governors

August 15th, 2014

I rarely write Letters to the Editor, but I was moved to send in this one which was published in today’s Lawrence Journal-World:

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s campaign team reportedly likes to refer to Democratic challenger Paul Davis as “the liberal lawyer from Lawrence” for no other reason than because they like the literate sound of alliterative words.  This from our literally “go-for-broke governor from Garnett.”

9 February 2014: Beating Putin With A Schtick!

February 9th, 2014

In a special interview with NBC prior to the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Sochi/Russia, when President Barack Obama was asked by the interviewer if there is any personal rift or animosity between him and President Vladimir Putin, Obama smiled benevolently, then said that Putin’s public style of sitting back and looking a little bored during their joint interviews is just his “schtick.”  Have we ever had an American president use this word before in reference to another head of state?  For the uninitiated, “schtick” is a yiddish word for “a comic mannerism or eccentricity.”  Was this a coded message from President Obama that, whatever else Russia decides to do in the Middle East, America will always be Israel’s friend and ally?

In any case, as NBC coverage of the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Sochi/Russia continued on Friday night, with Putin sitting on the stage behind him, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said:  ”Olympic Games are always about building bridges to bring people together. Olympic Games are never about erecting walls to keep people apart. Olympic Games are a sports festival embracing human diversity in great unity. Therefore, I say to the political  leaders of the world — thank you for supporting your athletes. They are the best ambassadors of your country. Please respect their Olympic Message of goodwill, of tolerance, of excellence and of peace. Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes.”

To his credit, Putin did not jump up and rip off his shirt and smack down the IOC president for daring to hint at Russia’s new legislation against gays and lesbians.  Putin stuck to his “schtick” and merely looked bored even as the whole world watched Vladimir Putin’ On The Ritz.  Most impressively, he managed to put on a straight face when all the ephemeral Russian ballet dancers danced gayly to Tchaikovsky’s music—Tchaikovsky, a homosexual who was well-known for cruising the streets of St. Petersburg at night in search of male partners.  And, I imagine, back in the day (or night), a nut cracking good time was had by all.

In his State of the Union address earlier this month, President Obama also referred to the issue of diversity in America, and lack of diversity in Russia, and how everyone in America will be watching proudly as “the red, white and blue bring home the gold.”  At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico, during their award ceremonies, our African-American athletes raised their black-gloved fists in proud solidarity.  What will our LGBT athletes do when it is their moment in Sochi?  In recent years, the LGBT community has reclaimed the use of the word “queer.”  Isn’t it time now to reclaim our limp wrists?  Wouldn’t be wondrous to see our LGBT athletes dancing lightly around the podium in their loafers, then claiming their medals and raising their limp wrists?  Will Vladimir Putin be able to stick to his “schtick” when that mighty moment comes?

5 January 2014: I’m 490 Years Old!!!

January 5th, 2014

Although I’m snowed in today in Lawrence, Kansas, I’m grateful for all the birthday greetings I’ve received, thanks probably to the fact that Facebook seems to have alerted all my friends even though I thought I had deleted the information about my bidet some time ago.  Anyway, I spent the day bundled up cozily with KeeWee, the love of my life, and together we watched new productions back-to-back (on DVD) of traditional holiday fare like DIE FLEDERMAUS, THE MAGIC FLUTE and, of course, THE NUTCRACKER.  KeeWee is absolutely astonished that, in dog years, I am now 490 years old!!!  It doesn’t get better than that.

22 October 2013: Republican Tour-de-Force at K.U.

October 22nd, 2013

While I am frequently tempted to write Letters to the Editor, I mostly just compose the letters in my mind, and never actually send them to the local newspaper.  But, a couple of days ago, upon reading in The Lawrence Journal-World that Republican legislators in Kansas were planning to tour university campuses in the state to see what more they can do to undo the state of higher education, I yielded to temptation and sent off the following letter, which the paper actually published today:

“With regard to the Journal-World report that Republican legislators like Susan Wagle would like to ‘start touring universities this week in preparation for the 2014 session,’ I would like to suggest that their Kansas University tour begin at Memorial Stadium, to see if additional funding can revive our dying football program, and end at Pioneer Cemetery on Mount Oread, to see if further defunding can keep the Ghosts of Professors Past from rising from their unhappy graves at Halloween to remind us of days gone by, when KU prided itself as Harvard on the Kaw.”

Remembering Jack Oruch

July 4th, 2013

The initial news from Jim Carothers:
Dear Colleagues:  I regret to inform you of the passing of Emeritus colleague Jack Oruch on June 6 in Ohio.  Jack came to the University in 1963 and retired in 1997.  He was Chair of the Majors Committee, a predecessor of the current Director of Undergraduate Studies position, and also served as Associate Chair.  His teaching often focused on Shakespeare and on the Freshman-Sophomore Honors courses.  Jack is invariably recalled by those who knew him as a kind, gentle, and friendly colleague, and a hard worker for his students and for all of us.  Elaine Oruch would be happy to hear from colleagues and friends, and she says “the written word is beautiful.”
(Elaine Oruch, 586 Pine Grove Place, Gahanna, Ohio 43230)

From Amy Devitt:
What a wonderful colleague Jack was. I am sorry to hear the news and sorry that so many of you did not get the chance to know him.

From Iris Smith Fischer:
Jack was indeed a wonderful colleague and a very fine Associate Chair.

From Richard Hardin:
Jack and I were friends from the start when I came to KU three years after him. We were the only people in Kansas who had read Drayton’s Poly-Okbion. He was then chair of our undergrad honors program and gave our honors students a sense of belonging somewhere in a huge university of 16,000 students, e.g. with the newsletter he called ‘The Weakly Reader.’ I still encounter students from long ago who remember his Shakespeare and Chaucer courses. A sweet guy.

From Dick Eversole:
The night before I learned of his death, I had a pleasing and vivid dream of Jack as a young man.  He was smiling and happy and dressed ready to teach.  It felt like a gift.  He was indeed a sweet guy and I was very close to him.  As others have said, he was always generous with his time and affection–a good friend.

From Vic Contoski:
I remember Jack’s kindness.  Whenever I would take my wife Dzidka up to the Mayo Clinic, he always called the night before to wish us well.  What a privilege to know him!

From Paul Stephen Lim:
I’m still trying to process the news of Jack’s demise. The first thing I thought of, actually, was a line from Shakespeare’s RICHARD II, which I first read when I took an undergraduate Shakespeare class from Jack in 1969: “For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings…”
As many others have already noted, Jack was the sweetest, the gentlest, the kindest person it was ever our fortune to meet and call our friend. During the early years of English Alternative Theatre (EAT) in 1989-1992, before I acquired my own truck, I relied primarily on Jack’s truck to help us transport our sets, furniture, props, costumes.  Not only did Jack provide the trusty truck, but he also drove, and helped to carry things with the rest of the crew! Those were the days, when all our backs were still strong and capable of bearing burdensome loads. Jack’s departure from our midst is a burden we will continue to bear gladly for as long as memory is still with us.

From Mary Davidson:
I wrote to Elaine by snail-mail….Contoski’s and your posts were moving. Oruch and Hardin were among the most honest and generous administrators the Department ever had.

 

Remembering Mike Cherniss

July 3rd, 2013

Mike Cherniss had a wry sense of humor, and he probably had the last laugh when he died on April Fools’ Day (2013) after a long and difficult illness.  At the remembrance party held recently at the home he shared with spouse and partner Jane Garrett, many wonderful stories about Mike were shared by his friends and colleagues from the English department at the University of Kansas, where he was one of two senior medievalists.  Although I did take a Chaucer seminar from Mike in the early 1970s, what we talked about outside of class was mostly about pop culture and the movies.  Mike was from Los Angeles, a graduate from North Hollywood High and U.C. Berkeley, so it’s no surprise that he loved the movies.  I’ll repeat here the same story that I told the group gathered at the remembrance party.

When I first arrived at the University of Kansas as an undergraduate in Spring of 1969, I was dismayed to learn that the five movie theaters and one drive-in in Lawrence only showed the usual Hollywood fare, that there were no foreign films in sight.  Fortunately, I knew some students who were involved with Student Union Activities at the Kansas Union, which had a good offering of movies for students nearly every night of the week.  I asked Katherine Giele, a wonderful lady who ran Student Union Activities at that time, if I could have one night a week for foreign films.  She readily agreed, and so it came to pass that, every Tuesday night during the fall semester in 1969, I was able to show 16mm prints of my favorite foreign films at Dyche Auditorium on campus, adjacent to the Natural History Museum.

Even though the admission charge was only 75 cents, we never had much of a crowd at any of these foreign movies.  The same twelve people would show up for the films, week after week.  Among the apostles were Mike Cherniss and Jane Van Meter, a local legend whom many called “The Blue Lady” because she always wore the same blue dress, blue bonnet, blue shoes, and always carried the same blue purse.  She had been married to a famous Shakespeare scholar; had lived in Paris in the 1930s, worked at “Shakespeare and Company,” Sylvia Beach’s famous bookstore, a favorite gathering place for writers and artists.  Rumor had it that Jane still had in her possession letters from Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson and James Joyce.  But, sadly, in the 1960s, after he had been teaching at the University of Kansas for a number of years, the famous Shakespeare scholar divorced Jane and married someone younger.  And so “The Blue Lady” fell on hard times.  When she showed up on Tuesday nights for the foreign films, she would fish inside her blue purse, and count out the pennies, slowly, painstakingly, one by one, all 75 of them.  One night, Mike Cherniss, who was standing behind her, exclaimed impatiently, “Oh, for God’s sake!”  He pulled out a dollar from his wallet, gave it to me and said, “Jane is my guest tonight, and you can keep the change.”

But the twelve apostles came only when I showed films by more familiar directors like Fellini, Antonioni, Visconti, Pasolini, Bergman, Kurosawa; and not for less familiar names like Rene Clement, Mauro Bolognini or Serge Bourguinon.  One particular Tuesday night, when the special treat was a film by Henri Verneuil, the only two people in attendance were Mike Cherniss and “The Blue Lady.”  When it became evident that no one else was going to show up, I turned to Mike and wailed mournfully, “Perhaps I should have scheduled a more familiar name.”  Mike put his arm around me and, with a beatific twinkle in his eye, he  said sonorously, “It’s okay, Paul.  Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  And so the three of us watched one of my favorite foreign films, Henri Verneuil’s ANY NUMBER CAN WIN.

“The Blue Lady” is long since gone. And now Mike Cherniss, too, is no longer with us.  Perhaps her spirit is back in Paris, and his is hovering over the Hollywood hills.  I am happy that I was able to share my passion for foreign films with them.  In retrospect, I am even happier that Mike Cherniss was able to share his passion for Chaucer with me and countless other students through the years.  Perhaps Mike’s departure on April 1st was premeditated, because it now brings to mind the famous opening line from THE CANTERBURY TALES:  ”Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote…”

 

4 April 2013: No Gun Left Behind

April 4th, 2013

In order to make schools safer, the National Rifle Association wants all teachers and administrators to buy guns and undergo special training so they can be ready to stop the likelihood of Newtown ever happening again.  But why stop with teachers and administrators?  In the State of Kansas, for example, if you’re fourteen years old, you can get a learner’s permit to drive a car.  So why not give our teenagers a learner’s permit to shoot firearms so they can protect themselves in case their teachers and administrators aren’t around?  And, while we’re at it, why not give a learner’s permit to anyone who’s at least six years old?  How many of those little kids at Newton died unnecessarily because they only played with fake guns when they could have had real ones?  How many of them would be alive today if their mothers had packed some small hand guns in their lunch boxes, or maybe some tiny assault weapons in their gym bags?  The NRA has the perfect solution:  Let. No. Gun. Be. Left. Behind.

3 December 2012: No Babies, Please, We’re Gringos!

December 3rd, 2012

The New York Times reports that, according to the Pew Research Center, U.S. birthrates in 2011 hit the lowest rate ever recorded, with just 63 births per 1000 women of childbearing age (the rate was 71 per 1000 in 1990).  For the first time in recent memory, Americans are having fewer babies than the French or British.  What are the reasons for this?  Well, it’s possible that, thanks perhaps to Ayn Rand and “The Virtue of Selfishness,”  sybaritic young Americans would rather splurge on themselves, and not on those proverbial “bundles of joy.”   Or, it’s also possible that, with same-sex marriage being the in-thing among young people, they are all gayly cohabiting with mirror-images of themselves; and if they want children, why, they can always adopt from the expanding pool of unwanted babies resulting from rape or incest among pro-life forces on the religious right.

It puzzles me why Republicans are having such a problem with immigration reform.  Most Hispanics are Roman Catholic who obey the Pope, who do not practice birth control, and who therefore continue to have more children than their white neighbors.  It would be logical to assume that Latino kids would grow up thanking the Republicans that they were conceived and born, that they would all go on to vote Republican, and yet this has not happened.  Turning against the Dream Act has turned out to be a nightmare for the GOP, resulting in the overwhelming Latino vote for Barack Obama last November.

I’m not sure which ethnic group is having more sex, but it’s the Latinos, the Blacks and the Asians who are having more babies, babies who will grow up to work and pay into the system that will keep social security secure for all the American generations yet to come.  Dream on, People of Color, dream on.  But, above all, continue to increase and multiply.

29 November 2012: White House Hosts BIG LOVE Lunch

November 29th, 2012

President Barack Obama has graciously invited Mitt Romney to have lunch privately with him today at the White House, and the press is not privy to what the two men will talk about, nor even to what they will ingest and digest.  Now, more than ever, we need a secret video of the event.  Are the wives included?  Can a BIG LOVE lunch be complete without the wives?  We also need to know if, in this instance, given Romney’s religion, whether places have been set at table for all of the Republican Mormon’s baptized ancestors.  More importantly, will Top Dog Bo dare to be anywhere near Mitt to beg for table scraps?  As for refreshments, will the beer-drinking Obama abstain from alcoholic beverages in deference to his teetotal, Tea Party-leaning guest, or will the President indulge in a celebratory cocktail or two?  If so, what will Barry imbibe?  Take your pick—whiskey sour, vodka stinger, Blue Angel, Red Devil, Swiss Fizz, Cayman Island Cooler—all made with liquors which are at least 47% proof, of course.  And afterwards, will caffeine be served with dessert?  And will the President light up one last stick of nicotine before the two men say their goodbyes?

Beau geste has never been so beau, nor so difficult politically.

4 November 2012: Paul Ryan is a Dick (Cheney)!

November 4th, 2012

According to an interview which appeared in today’s Sunday New York Times, Paul Ryan says that, if he and Mitt Romney are elected on November 6th, he plans to be another Dick Cheney.  This should be reason enough for George W. Bush to vote secretly for Barack Obama and Joe Biden on Tuesday.

Next »