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Listen to Paul’s interview.

“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


Although I’m calling this 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. — Paul

25 July 2011: Dial M for Murdoch

Being Asian-American, I’m super-sensitive to news about other Asian-Americans, whether it be about creaky old Senator Dan Inouye of Hawaii, Woody Allen’s daughter-turned-wife Soon Yi, Star Trekker-turned-gay activist George Takei, new GLEE heart-throb Darren Criss, Matrix superstar Keanu Reeves, pot-smoking Harold masquerading as John Cho, potty-mouth comedienne Margaret Cho, or long-suffering keeper-of-the-flame Yoko Ono.

And now we have….WENDI DENG MURDOCH!

I was skeptical when I first read about Wendi Deng.  According to The Telegraph, she was born in the eastern Chinese city of Xuzhou, the daughter of an engineer.  She came to the United States in the late 1980s to work and study through a visa sponsored by an American couple from Los Angeles, Jake and Joyce Cherry.  When the Cherry’s marriage ended (Surprise, Surprise!) Wendi and Jake married, but (Surprise, Surprise!) divorced in less than three years.

Shortly after that, in June 1999, being footloose and Cherry-free, Wendi met media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and (Surprise, Surprise!) married him just 17 days after his divorce from his second wife of 31 years had been finalized. Wendi was 30 at the time, and Rupert 68. No fool like an old fool. Look what happened to Anna Nicole Smith and J. Howard Marshall.  I envisioned a remake of Hitchcock’s DIAL M FOR MURDOCH.

Twelve years and two daughters later, they’re back in the news. Wendi is now 42, and Rupert 80. They’re still married to each other, and (Surprise, Surprise!) it’s beginning to look like true love. The proof is in the pudding, or at least in the shaving cream pie.

When comedian/activist Jonnie Marbles attempted to throw a shaving cream pie at old Rupert during the select committee hearing last week about the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal, millions of people saw on television how a sprightly Wendi leapt to her feet, smacked Marbles in the head, and tried to push the pie back in his face, proving to the world that Rupert’s Wendi is no shrinking violet, no Madame Butterfly. I wonder what’ll happen when the Dragon Lady finally discovers that the prince she married is really a toad.

Maybe we’ll still get the remake of that Hitchcock movie.

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24 July 2011: If Obama Is a Thermometer…

Princeton professor Cornel West, when asked by New York Times columnist Andrew Goldman as to how Obama can be the president West wants him to be when he’s facing this Republican Congress, replied thus:  “You’ve got to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer. A thermostat shapes the climate of opinion; a thermometer just reflects it.  If you’re just going to reflect it and run by the polls, then you’re not going to be a tranformative president.  Lincoln was a thermostat.  Johnson and F.D.R., too.”

Okay. If President Obama is a thermometer, where and how is he taking our temperature?

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10 July 2011: Your Summer Fiction Rereading List

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof has just listed ten books which are on his summr rereading list because they’re “triumphs of fiction, both fun to read and significant for literary or historical reasons, relating to social justice at a time when inequality in America has soared to historic levels.”

Here’s Kristof’s list of Best Beach Reading Ever—“Germinal” by Emile Zola, “Pale Fire” by Vladimir Nabokov, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte, “Our Man in Havana” by Graham Greene, “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque, “Les Miserables” by Victory Hugo, “The Mysterious Stranger” by Mark Twain, and “Scoop” by Evelyn Waugh.

Assuming that anyone even vaguely connected to the University of Kansas is now rereading (or perhaps reading for the first time) the novels of science-fiction giant Theodore Sturgeon because of the recent acquisition of his books, papers, manuscripts and correspondence by the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, thanks to retired English professor James Gunn, himself a giant in the field, one might have time to read just three more non-Sturgeon novels for what’s left of the summer.

My three would be— “Giovanni’s Room” by James Baldwin, because it would make right-wing conservative Christians fall down on their knees in perpetual prayer, and maybe also for occasional inappropriate sex with members of their own sex; “All the King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren, which firmly advocates that, if you dig deep enough, you can find dirt on anyone, Republicans as well as Democrats; and “The Transposed Heads” by Thomas Mann, because I keep fantasizing about what it would look like to graft the heads of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor on the bodies respectively of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Mary Matalin. Or, truer to the spirit and theme of Mann’s novel, perhaps the heads of Hillary Clinton, Claire McCaskill and Elizabeth Warren on the torsos of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor.

So, those are my three summer rereads. What are yours?

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13 June 2011: Support Your Local Koch Dealer!

Thanks to The New Yorker article (30 August 2010) on the powerful billionaire Koch brothers of Wichita, and the continuing updates about them on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, we now know what Koch Industries is up to as it funds and manipulates the election of political candidates who would then support the Koch agenda.

Depending on how you personally feel about what the Koch Brothers are doing, you can either buy or boycott the many consumer items which are produced by Koch Industries—among them, common household paper products like Dixie plates/bowls/cups and napkins, Mardi Gras napkins and towels, Sparkle napkins, Vanity Fair napkins, Zee napkins, Brawny paper towels, Angel Soft toilet paper, Quilted Northern toilet paper, Soft ‘n Gentle toilet paper, and Georgia-Pacific paper products and envelopes.

It’s interesting how you can eat and drink with Koch, then wipe and clean your various orifices with Koch, then send your own campaign contributions in Koch envelopes to the same politicians who are endorsed by Charles and David Koch. Put more crudely, if you put your money where your mouth is, then the brown you flush down the toilet will turn into corporate green which lines the pockets of greedy Koch-suckers in Washington.

For more information on other Koch Industries products, including Stainmaster carpets, Polyshield resin, Wood Fiberboard, Flexrock, Dense Armor Drywall and Decking, and various home repair and contracting supplies, go to

Things go better with Koch! It’s the real thing! Support your local Koch dealer….or NOT!

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7 June 2011: Mykee Is 14 Years Old!

Mykee, my sweet and gentle keeshond, is 14 years old today. In the past six years, she has undergone major surgery and extensive chemo treatments twice, but you wouldn’t know it from her youthful demeanor and disposition. True, she is now somewhat deaf, but she has learned to read my lips and to go wherever I point. More amazingly, she continues to bark enthusiastically for the same boring Science Diet dry food she has been chowing down twice a day for all the 4,984 days thus far of her life.

Although Mykee watches every calorie I ingest or imbibe at home, she is not normally allowed to have human food, so she lives for the rare occasions when I treat her to a bit of pizza crust or a tiny morsel of white chicken breast, and jumps with joyful anticipation when I extend my arm to let her lick the bowl from which I’ve just had my instant oatmeal with skim milk.

But, because Mykee is twice a cancer survivor and it’s her birthday today, I’m giving a small dinner party for her tonight, and she’s going to have a bit of what I’m serving in her honor:  Brie and crackers, stuffed pork chops, deviled egg potato salad, and cupcakes filled with cranberries, pineapple and walnuts. I hope this keeps her going for at least another year, or two, or three.

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2 June 2011: Outsizing Anthony Wiener

What’s all the hew and cry over the alleged photo on Twitter of Rep. Anthony Wiener (D-NY) in his underwear?  Didn’t we all grow up seeing equally “lurid” photos of Marky Mark and all the other beefy Calvin Klein models in humongous billboards all over Times Square and in glossy family magazine spreads? Republicans taking pharisaical scandal on the matter at hand should stop outsourcing American jobs and start outsizing their own House members. We’ve seen donkey dongs, so it’s time for some elephantine trunks. Put up or shut up!

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29 May 2011: David Mamet Turns Against English Majors!

In an interview with The New York Times about his new book, “The Secret Knowledge,” David Mamet says, among other things, that it’s “none of our goddamned business” how much money C.E.O.’s on Wall Street make….that he might have been anticapitalistic when he was younger and didn’t have a penny, but he cannot “go on denouncing capitalism” since he is now older and richer….that the only thing an M.A. in English can do is bag groceries.  Here’s his parting shot at English majors: “Jesus Christ.  Listen, here’s the thing about an English degree—if you sat somebody down and asked them to make a list of the writers they admire over the last hundred years, see how many of them got a degree in English.”

Now I know why I’ve never admired David Mamet.

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11 May 2011: Artless in Kansas!

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback has now fired all five employees of the Kansas Arts Commission. I’m sure what money this saves the sorry State of Kansas can now be shifted to any further campaigns the artless governor might have against Planned Parenthood and Abortion.  By all means, let’s have more unwanted kids in more crumbling classrooms with more underpaid teachers who should teach only what the Bible preaches.  After all, Jesus never went to an art gallery; the twelve apostles  never put on any ballet tights (or worse, tutus); and St. Paul would have stoned all wanton women to death the likes of Carmen, Lucia, Aida, Norma, Tosca, Violetta, and Cio-Cio San, who might have done the right thing by having that luckless baby out of wedlock, but who most certainly would have ended up an illegal alien had she followed Col. Pinkerton to America.

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Farewell, My Lovelies…

On the afternoon of 9 May 2011, the English Department of the University of Kansas gave a festive “milestones celebration” in the North Gallery of the Spencer Research Library for three of its new retirees, presided by Chair Marta Caminero-Santangelo, and organized by Administrative Assistant Robert Elliott.  The retirees (Mike Johnson, Jim Hartman and I) were expected to say a few words. Here’s what I prepared for the occasion.

Many, if not most, of the people here know me as, until recently, the one and only person who has been teaching playwriting in the English Department since 1989, the same year I founded English Alternative Theatre to nurture, develop and produce the plays being written by my students.  But, my history with the department goes all the way back to spring of 1969, and not many people here know how I came to be at KU, so I thought I might share the story with everyone present.

These days, if I am filled with feelings I cannot begin to describe when I’m watching the hit television series MAD MEN, it’s because I lived through the same exciting period in the 1960s as an advertising copywriter for J. Walter Thompson in the Philippines.  Many of the ad campaigns that I worked on had won various industry awards, and my colleagues in Manila thought I was “good enough” to make it on Madison Avenue in New York.

Thus, travelling on just a tourist visa, I left for the United States with my hefty portfolio in June of 1968.  To my disappointment, after they looked at my portfolio, the people at J. Walter Thompson in New York said that, ironically, I had too much experience.  They were only interested in hiring cheaper, beginning copywriters.  They suggested I try my luck with employment agencies, which I did, and they in turn told me that I could lie about my experience and start at $18,000 a year, or else I could sit and wait for a $30,000 job to open up at one of the ad agencies in the city.  Not wanting to sell myself short, I chose to wait.

Day after day, I sat by the telephone, waiting.  Nothing.  Six months went by, and I began to worry, because my tourist visa was running out.  I had only two options.  I could be deported as an illegal alien, returning to Manila with that damned portfolio, my tail between my legs, or I could exchange my tourist visa for a student visa.  And then I remembered that, back in 1964, I had met a peripatetic historian from the University of Kansas, who had been in the Philippines first as a soldier during World War II, then as a Fulbright scholar, then as a frequent visitor in the course of his academic research.  Although I did not have any of my college transcripts from Manila with me, I turned to Grant Goodman to convince the registrar at KU to accept me as a foreign student.  And, believe it or not, that’s how I ended up in Lawrence, Kansas.

As a side note, two weeks before I left the East Coast for the Midwest, the telephone finally rang, not once, but twice, with lucrative job offers from The Wall Street Journal and from Alka-Seltzer, both of whom were starting their own in-house agencies, and they were interested in someone with my background and qualifications.

Too late.

I had dropped out of school after two years of college in Manila because I was bored with my teachers, but now I felt I was ready to reenter the groves of academe.  Had I gone to work for either The Wall Street Journal or Alka-Seltzer in New York, I would not have had the joy of studying with, among many others, Ed Wolfe, Ed Ruhe, Ed Grier, Paul Kendall, John Bush Jones, Jack Oruch, Max Sutton, Hal Orel, Beverly Boyd, George Worth and Jim Hartman.  I would not have formed lasting personal friendships with, among others, such wonderful colleagues in the department as Carolyn Doty, Bud Hirsch, Mary Davidson, Mary Catherine Davidson, Jim Carothers, David Bergeron, Geraldo Sousa, Amy Devitt, Dick Hardin, Bill Scott, Bob and Dorice Elliott, Marta Caminero-Santangelo, Brian Daldorph and Phil Wedge.

When Grant Goodman himself retired from the History Department 22 years ago, he let it be known that he did not want to be presented with an autographed 8 x 10 glossy of then-KU Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs Judith Ramaley, a position which, incidentally, no longer exists in Strong Hall.  I’ve never met our new Provost, so I don’t think there’s any danger of my receiving an autographed 8 x 10 glossy from him.  Truthfully, I am quite happy with all the pictures in my mind’s eye, of everyone I’ve named, of everyone here today, to say nothing of all the wonderful student playwrights, actors and designers I’ve been fortunate to work with through English Alternative Theatre, to remind me that the journey has been worthwhile.  Indeed, it has all been more than worthwhile.

These days, given the economy, I’m thankful I never got into the habit of reading The Wall Street Journal, so there is no reason for me to imbibe the “plop plop, fizz fizz” of an Alka-Seltzer.  Actually, I’ve never in my life ever had an Alka-Seltzer, not even the mornings after the nights of heavy drinking after some of our more memorable and sometimes even deplorable departmental meetings.  I hope I live long enough to tell all the steamy stories on my website at

Thank you for the memories, one and all, everyone.  A special thank you, too, to all my friends and colleagues who have given so generously to the KU Endowment Association for the annual Paul Stephen Lim Asian-American Playwriting Award which has been established by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

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My Memorable Movies for Good Friday

Growing up in the 1950s in the Philippines, I remember Good Fridays being especially sad and mournful, not because Jesus died a horrible death on the cross on this particular day, but because it was the only day of the year when most of the movie houses in Manila were sanctimoniously dark, and the few which dared to be open for business did so only because they were showing “religious” movies.

Five of these movies are forever etched in my memory because I don’t remember now how many Good Fridays they flickered through my consciousness for lack of any other diversion other than sermons on how the Roman soldiers nailed Him on the cross at 9 in the morning, and it took Him all of six hours to die.  Speaking of which, it’s now nearly 3 in the afternoon as I’m writing this.

Of the five movies which were shown without fail on Good Friday in the Philippines, the most popular is, of course, The Ten Commandments (1956), never mind that the Egyptian pharoah’s palace is full of scantily-clad dancing girls, because the only thing anyone wants to see is Charlton Heston waving his impressive rod as he gets ready to part the Red Sea.

Other films they show on Good Friday back in my day in Manila are—Come to the Stable (1952), based on a story by Catholic-convert Claire Booth Luce, featuring Loretta Young and Celeste Holm as two nuns from the Order of Holy Endeavor in France who arrive in a small New England town with plans to build a children’s hospital; The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima (1952), about three Portuguese children who, in 1917, had visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary dressed in blue and white, floating on top of a bush; Marcelino Pan y Vino (1955), a Spanish-language film about a poor orphan in a monastery offering his only piece of bread to an old wooden figure of Jesus, who not only accepts the bread but actually eats it in front of the hungry boy.

But, my own special favorite among the Good Friday offerings of my youth is The Song of Bernadette (1943), based on the novel by Franz Werfel, in which Jennifer Jones plays the sickly French girl in 1858 who claims to have seen “a beautiful lady” at least 18 times near her home in Lourdes, and who didn’t mind it when the BVM never cured her of her asthma.

In subsequent years, Jennifer Jones would go on to appear in Love Letters (1945), as an amnesiac who doesn’t remember that she stabbed her husband to death; in Cluny Brown (1949), as an amateur plumber who tries to keep at arms length two men (Charles Boyer and Richard Haydn) who are actually more interested in her own plumbing; with two other men in Duel in the Sun (1946), as a Mexican half-breed torn between rival siblings Joseph Cotten and Gregory Peck; in Madame Bovary (1949), where she actually betrays her husband and has an affair with Louis Jourdan before committing suicide; in Ruby Gentry (also 1952), wherein she marries Karl Malden but has the hots for Charlton Heston before he turned into Moses; and, most scandalous of all, in Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953), as a married American woman visiting relatives in Rome, who ends up with Montgomery Clift as her lover in a train station in Rome while her small son (played by Richard Beymer, who will himself grow up to woo Natalie Wood in West Side Story) tries to amuse himself elsewhere in the station.

But, sinful as she is in all her later movies, I forgive Jennifer Jones all her cinematic trespasses because, on Good Friday every year, she is once again my beatific Bernadette; even now, in 2011 in Lawrence, Kansas, as I get ready to have my afternoon snack of hot cross buns from Wheatfield’s Bakery, to be washed down with my favorite cocktail for the day—3/4 oz. Scotch whiskey and 3/4 oz. Drambuie, over rocks in a pre-chilled old-fashioned glass—which, according to Playboy’s Bar Guide, is also called a Rusty Nail.

Come Easter Sunday, there will be other movies to watch, no shortage of gilded lilies. And my favorite among those is Shanghai Express (1932), wherein Marlene Dietrich utters that memorable line:  “It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.”

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