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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

14 January 2011: Cash Cows in Kansas!

Republican Governor Sam Brownback’s new budget plan for Kansas has moolah to help grow economic sectors such as “animal health,” whatever that may be, but will cut grants to community mental health centers by $10 million.  His budget recommendations also include shutting down the state hospital (i.e., the Kansas Neurological Institute in Topeka) for developmentally disabled Kansans by 2014.  I hope to God the next crazy gunman who shoots his or her way into our lives does not come from Kansas.

How now, brown cow?

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13 January 2011: All the President’s Children

Not once during his lengthy and moving eulogy in Tucson, Arizona, at the memorial service for those whose lives were cut short by gunman Jared Loughner, not once in his many references to Christina-Taylor Green, the nine-year-old girl who tragically died alongside five others, did President Barack Obama mention his own daughters, Sasha (also 9) and Malia (12).  But we all knew what he was thinking. That’s restraint. That’s class. Last night, he embraced us all, and we were all his children.

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10 January 2011: Grammar and Punctuation Kills!!!???

Everyone is trying to figure out the 22-year-old gunman who killed and maimed all those people this weekend in Tucson, Arizona. Of special interest to me is how Jared Loughner’s fixation with grammar and punctuation has now been traced to the bizarre theories of David Wynn Miller, who prefers to be known as : David-Wynn: Miller because, according to him, by adding specific punctuation like colons and hyphens to one’s name, one can be transformed from a human into a “preposition phrase” that cannot be taxed by the government.

The 62-year-old former tool-and-die maker from Milwaukee writes in his website: “I use prepositional phrases, through punctuation, which is classified as hieroglyphics, which makes me a life, l-i-f-e. Now, when you don’t punctuate your name … David is an adjective, Wynn is an adjective, Miller is a pronoun. Two adjectives are a condition of modification, opinion, presumption, which modifies the pronoun, pro means no on noun. So therefore, I’m not a fact. I’m a fiction.”

Although I’ve been teaching the use of good grammar and proper punctuation to college students for nearly 40 years, I don’t pretend to understand any of : David-Wynn: Miller’s theories. He claims he does not advocate violence anywhere in his writings, but someone like Jared Loughner, who has been reading him (as well as Mein KampfThe Communist ManifestoAnimal Farm and Brave New World), seems to spell government relief not with TUMS but with GUNS!!!???

All I can think of now is this poem by e.e. cummings:

pity this busy monster,manunkind,

not.  Progress is a comfortable disease:
your victum(death and life safely beyond)

plays with the bigness of his littleness
-electrons deify one razorblade
into a mountainrange;lenses extend

unwish through curving wherewhen until unwish
returns on its unself.
A world of made
is not a world of born-pity poor flesh

and trees,poor stars and stones,but never this
fine specimen of hypermagical

ultraomnipotence.  We doctors know

a hopeless case if-listen:there’s a hell
of a good universe next door;let’s go

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Remembering Ilse Steinhardt

I know Ilse Steinhardt (2 November 1914—3 December 2010) only through her good friends Anita Herzfeld and Grant Goodman, who for some reason always included me in their dinner parties and birthday celebrations for Ilse.  I was told that Ilse liked me, even though for many years she called me Jim instead of Paul.  Once, when I finally decided to correct her, she said, “Funny, but you look like a Jim to me.  I’ve always loved people named Jim. But Paul is very nice too.”  From then on, she never called me Jim again, but I often wondered if I ought not to have changed my name to Jim.  After all, James was one of the Twelve Apostles, and Paul wasn’t.

At one of her birthday parties at Alvamar Country Club a couple of years ago, all the guests were asked to say a few words about Ilse.  Many spoke about what a terrific cook she was, what fine and elegant dinner parties she gave, her wonderful sense of humor, her love of music, and above all her skill at the piano.  When it came to my turn, I really did not know what else to add to what everyone had already said, so I simply said, “Like all the pianos that she plays so wonderfully, Ilse is both upright and grand.”  The guests liked this a lot, and they have now repeated the line many times, at succeeding birthday parties, and then again by Betty Baron at the brief remembrance celebration of Ilse’s life which was held at the Unitarian Fellowship in Lawrence, KS on Friday 10 December 2010.

Of the many beautiful melodies I’ve heard Ilse play on the piano through the years, the one I remember best is “When I Grow Too Old To Dream.”  Even at age 96, Ilse never grew too old to dream, and I hope I never do either.

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15 December 2010: What Makes You Cry?

We’re all familiar with Sarah Palin’s mantra that leaders in Washington need to “man-up.”  I wonder what the swaggering gun-toting ex-governor of Alaska thinks of all the press and television coverage that GOP Weeper of the House John Boehner has been getting by precisely ignoring her dick-tum, and daring to open up the floodgates of his emotions.

Since it’s okay now for men to cry in public, I’d like to admit that I sob every time I hear “Drive” by The Cars, and Eva Cassidy’s rendition of “Fields of Gold” by Sting.  I’m also an absolute wreck, a total babbling incoherent mess, even just thinking about the last scene of Robert Bresson’s 1966 film, Au Hasard Balthazar.  But, most embarrassing of all, is how I start crying these days when I see pictures of John Boehner with Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor , and they are all smiling, not crying.

That said, what makes you cry?

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7 December 2010: Oprah Opts for Dickens!

Oprah Winfrey says she has never read A Tale of Two Cities or Great Expectations, so she decided to select them for the Oprah Book Club, and viewers have until the end of January before she begins discussing the two novels by Charles Dickens on her television show.

The selection of these two novels seems particularly apt for this period in American history, economics, and politics.  Given the extension of the Bush tax cuts, “it’s the best of times” for Americans making over $250,000 annually, and “it’s the worst of times” for the 9.8% of Americans who are currently unemployed, and who are in desperate need of “anonymous benefactors” to tide them over the Yuletide.  Great expectations, indeed, as the wealthy splurge on gifts for each other at Neiman Marcus, while the poor hunt for treasures in Goodwill and Salvation Army stores all over America.

As for Oprah herself, I don’t know about you, but I find it truly grotesque and pathetic, how the needy people in her studio audience shriek and scream and cry and jump up for joy when she plays Santa and “shares the wealth” by handing out luxury cars and dream houses to people who probably cannot even afford health insurance.  Great expectations, indeed.  It looks more like Oliver Twist to me.  “Please, ma’m, can I have more?”

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5 November 2010: The Human Centipede

At the grocery store yesterday, in the aisle where I was examining the red, green and golden delicious apples, I was approached by an attractive woman, perhaps in her late 30s or early 40s, who said excitedly, “I just want you to know, I had you in English years ago.   You were such a hard grader.  You made me do more than I thought I could.  I loved you, and I hated you.”

I wasn’t sure if she was going to pick up an apple and present it to me as an offering, or maybe throw a rotten one at me, so I quickly told her that I’ve just retired, and that I now have more time to pursue other interests.  She noticed the Redbox movie I was clutching like a protective shield.  “What movie did you rent?” she asked eagerly, waiting for further enlightenment outside the classroom.

“A guilty pleasure,” I replied.

“Shakespeare or Dickens?  Arthur Miller or Tennessee Williams?  You see?  I remember.”

I showed her the box.

The Human Centipede,” she read the title, slowly.  Then looked at me again, her eyebrows arched, “The Human Centipede?”

“As I said, a guilty pleasure.”

“Oh, God.  And I was going to make meatloaf for dinner.”

“I’m sure it’s good.”

“My meatloaf?”

“No, The Human Centipede.  Your meatloaf too, I’m sure. ”

“I hope you enjoy your retirement,” she said hastily, starting to retreat.  “I just wanted you to know.  I loved you, and I hated you.” And with that, she disappeared into the meat section.

Well, I’ve now seen the movie.  It’s about a mad German scientist who lives near (I’m guessing) the Bavarian Forest. He traps unsuspecting American and Japanese tourists in his basement, cuts open their various orifices and joins them end to end, oral to anal, just like the title promises, into a human centipede.  The whole surgical procedure looked rather unhygienic, and the movie left me hungry for more.

A meatloaf sandwich would have been nice.

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4 November 2010: Me-sogynist?

I’ve always admired Hillary Clinton, but there’s no denying that, once the Republicans saw the handwriting on the wall and the glass ceiling breaking, our Hillary gave birth to their Sarah Palin, who then spawned such shrews as Sharron Angle, Carly Fiorina, Linda McMahon, Christine O’Donnell and Meg Whitman.

I don’t want to sound misogynistic, but if Louisa May Alcott were writing Little Women today, Sarah Palin would be the new Marmee Grizzly trying to raise her unruly cubs.  And in this new reality show, Marmee will eat her own young as she turns into Lady Macbeth. Barack Obama could stop all these weird sisters in their tracks by running with Hillary Clinton as his vice-president in 2012.

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