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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 November 2009: Hell Happens, But Heaven Prevails

This past weekend, after 21 years of mostly good and wonderful memories, English Alternative Theatre presented its final production of an original script by one of my playwriting students at the University of Kansas.  But, thanks to the awful temper tantrums of one of the actors, who had earlier asked me if he could also design the set and the lights for the show, and which I was foolish enough to agree to, I am now going to remember this final show as THE PRODUCTION FROM HELL.

Just as I was thinking this, I picked up the latest issue of Newsweek, and saw that its cover story on a journalist’s captivity in Iran is titled 118 DAYS IN HELL.  And then I saw that, not to be outdone, the latest issue of Time shows on its cover a bawling baby bidding bye-bye to THE DECADE FROM HELL So what’s going on?  Is this Armageddon?

Just out of curiosity, I did a quick check on, and discovered that the word HELL appears in the titles of 968 movies you can watch…3,452 songs you can listen to…and 474,641 books you can read.  Thankfully, also shows that the word HEAVEN appears in the titles of 1,016 movies…5,911 songs…and 523,445 books.  Thus, it would appear that God is winning over Satan in the world of popular culture, but not by much.  Going Rogue or Going Rouge, take your pick.

In the playwriting classes that I teach, in order to encourage the students to focus on each and every word they’re using, one of the early classroom exercises they have to write is a short monologue which would incorporate two very special words—the first, their favorite word in the English language; and the second, the one word in the lexicon which, if they could, they would banish forever from everyone’s vocabulary.  You’d be surprised what words show up on either side of the fence.  But, as far as I can remember, in the 21 years I’ve been assigning this exercise, I don’t think HEAVEN or HELL has ever popped up on anyone’s list.  And, just as I’m writing this, I remember hearing on MSNBC recently that PRE-DETERMINED seems to be one of Barack Obama’s favorite words.  To date, he has used it over 900 times in various speeches and public forums.  I wonder now if it’s all pre-determined, whether he knows where we’re going to end up when it’s all over.

Meanwhile, back to THE PRODUCTION FROM HELL.  Drop in on me sometime and, if you’ll bring a case of Pete’s Wicked Ale with you, and you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, I’ll tell you all about it.

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18 November 2009: The King Must Die

One of my favorite novels is Mary Renault’s The King Must Die (1958), a compelling portrait of Theseus, the mythical Greek hero and King of Athens who danced with bulls and slew the dreaded Minotaur.  For me, the title says it all.  Don’t ask me why, but people in America all seem to have a need to create heroes from among our politicians, movie stars, athletes, rock musicians, etc.  We build up “the chosen ones,” I think, just so we can knock them down, to prove to ourselves that they are, after all, no better than we are.  At one end of this horrific spectrum we have Abraham, John, Martin and Bobby.  I live in fear, daily, about the safety of Barack Obama, what with all the crackpots running around the fringes of our society. And then, on the other end of the spectrum, we have the media circus surrounding the likes of O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson, and all our other erstwhile gods as they topple down the lofty firmament that we built for their temporary residence.

Here, at the University of Kansas, I am amused by what’s happening to football coach Mark Mangino.  When he coached his team to an Orange Bowl victory two years ago, the man could do no wrong.  The school rewarded him with a $1.5 million guaranteed yearly salary through 2010; built him a new football stadium for his team to practice in, then planted trees around the new stadium so no one can spy on his team practicing; and, according to one news report, he was absolved of all his parking tickets, even after he had tracked down a student employee from KU Parking and Transit who had written one of the tickets, and launched a 10-minute expletive-filled tirade against the terrified student.

But that was then, and this is now. After losing five football games in a row this season, Mangino is suddenly undergoing “an internal investigation”  because he allegedly poked one of his football players in the chest several weeks ago.  This particular football player is willing to suffer all sorts of physical punishment and abuse on the playing field, but being poked in the chest by the coach simply isn’t acceptable or tolerable—especially with 2010 around the corner, with no more guarantees of any sort for the coach.

Well, this is just the beginning of the end.  Sit back and watch KU Athletic Director Lew Perkins whittle the Mighty Mangino down to normal size.  It’ll happen.  Mark my words.  The King Must Die.

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11 November 2009: How Deep Within Is The Enemy?

When 9/11 struck, a collective sigh of relief was heard from among the Filipinos I knew in the United States.  “Thank God the perpetrators were not brown,” they cried, although I’m not sure what skin pigmentation they would assign to Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorists in the Middle East.  If not also brown, then what?  Tan? Olive? Bronze?

I’m sure the Chinese in the United States felt the same way when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor during World War II. Except, in their case, they could not say, “Thank God the perpetrators were not yellow.”  But, how do you go about explaining to anyone willing to listen, that not all Asians are Japanese and, more importantly, that not all Japanese are kamikaze pilots?  Or, conversely, how would you feel if you were Japanese-American, and your remaining relatives in Japan blame  you for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Prof. Grant Goodman, who served in Japan with Gen. MacArthur immediately after the war, writes in his memoir that he personally knew some Japanese-American soldiers who committed suicide while they were on active duty in Japan, because they were so unhappy about who they really were, and how they were perceived by the rest of the world.

The story about Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan and what drove him to do what he did in Fort Hood, TX is hard for us to comprehend.  That he was a conflicted Muslim living in the shadow of 9/11,  that he was an Army psychiatrist who had to deal with the gruesome stories being told by the walking wounded returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, that he was a physician who could not heal himself, turning himself into the very enemy he had been taught to fear and hate, is something no one will ever understand, not unless you’ve ever been ashamed of, or felt guilty about, the religion and/or the skin pigmentation which you just happen to share with “the bad guys.”   This time, the enemy within is really within—deep, deep within oneself.  I hope none of us ever have to go there.

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10 November 2009: Carrie Prejean Sans Jeans?

Ex-Miss California Carrie Prejean was hawking her autobiography on Fox News last night.  During the cheery interview with Hannity, she coyly revealed that there is a solo sex video of her floating around, the result of a youthful indiscretion, something she made for her boyfriend at the time.  It isn’t clear whether this was before or after her famous breast implants.

Her autobiography is called STILL STANDING, which makes me wonder what position she’s in, upright or supine, in that video.  In any case, now that she has told the whole world about it, why doesn’t she just throw in a DVD of the video with the book?  It will allow her to compete better in the marketplace with Sarah Palin’s upcoming autobiography, and also with Levi Johnston’s forthcoming Playgirl centerfold.

Think about it. Carrie Prejean Sans Jeans! The Religious Right which she champions should be thrilled that she’s keeping righteous folks busy, turning the pages of her book and, if they’ve got the video, simultaneously reaching for the remote and pressing all the right buttons.  Rest assured, there will be no idle hands in the devil’s workshop, not anymore, not with Carrie leading us all through the Pearly Gates!

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7 November 2009: Play It Again, Uncle Sam

In Billy Wilder’s wonderfully wacky 1961 political satire One, Two, Three, there is a hilarious scene which shows the young East Berlin communist spy (Horst Buchholz) being “tortured” by American CIA interrogators. Their secret method is to play a hit song from the period, “Itsy, Bitsy, Teenie, Weenie, Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini,” over and over, until the poor guy is reduced to blithering idiocy.

And now, the latest issue of Newsweek gives us a list of pop songs which have actually been used during military operations conducted by both the FBI and the CIA, and also during the interrogation of detainees in various American prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan and, of course, at Guantanamo. Among the torturous songs are “Welcome to the Jungle” (Guns N’ Roses), “I Love You” (Barney), “Hells Bells” (AC/DC), “The Real Slim Shady” (Eminem), “F–k Your God” (Deicide), “These Boots Are Made for Walking” (Nancy Sinatra), and the Sesame Street Theme.

So here’s my suggestion for how America can end all the wars that we are involved in, right now, in the Muslim world. Let’s fly our helicopters 24/7 over all these non-Christian countries, with speakers loudly blaring all our most beloved Christmas carols, the same ones we are already being subjected to in our grocery stores and department stores, even though it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet. Maybe that’s why people aren’t buying, and why the economy is down.

Perhaps with Dick Cheney’s help, the CIA can put together a good loop of yuletide ditties that’ll drive them loopy, something that’ll Git ’em at Gitmo.  Maybe we can alternate the songs, in order to play Good Cop/Bad Cop with them. If telling them that “they better watch out, they better not cry” doesn’t work, then maybe those lyrics about “sleeping in heavenly peace” with “round young virgins” might do the trick. Who needs waterboarding?  Play it again, Uncle Sam.

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Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

It has been a while since I’ve updated this section of the website.  The plan, originally, was to pay tribute properly to friends and colleagues who have contributed to my own personal growth, not only as a writer but also as a human being. The list seems to grow longer every time I wake up in the morning.  Sadly, there are just not enough hours in a day for me to write and share personal stories about each and every one of them, many of whom I continue to miss fiercely, some on a daily basis.

I hope to retire soon from teaching, and will have more time to devote to these absences in my life.  Meanwhile, I am naming this entry after Jim Erdahl’s favorite song from Les Miserables, his favorite musical, which I am glad we were able to see together on Broadway before he died.  My friends…my friendsI see them all, taking their places again, one by one, the way they did in years gone by, when there were no “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.”

My friends…my friendsReynaldo (Ronnie) Alejandro, Robert Anderson, Sam Anderson, Nobleza Asuncion-Lande, Lyndsay Boynton, William Burroughs, Mike Cherniss, Tony Cius, Dick Colyer, Jolico Cuadra, Jack Davidson, Jed Davis, Pio de Castro, Carolyn Doty, Victorio Edades, Carroll Edwards, Jim Erdahl, Bob Findlay, Jean Gagen, Elaine Goodman, Grant K. Goodman, James Gowen, Ed Grier, Chez Haehl, Dennis Helm, Bud Hirsch, William Inge, Ken Irby, Judith Joseph, Bob Kahle, Clay Kappelman, Nick Katigbak, Paul Kendall, Eartha Kitt, Mark Knapp, Clay Kappelman, Glenn Kappelman, Tom Klavercamp, Joseph Kuo, Mandy Labayen, Carl Lande, Chuck Lown, Arthur Miller, Kaye Miller, Fusa Moos, Jack Oruch, Jim Pearce, Terry Moore, Charlie Oldfather, Maura Theresa Brennan Piekalkiewicz, Shirley Rea, John Roderick, Ed Ruhe, Amby Saricks, William T. Scott, Jim Seaver, Ken Smith, Eunice Ebert-Stallworth, Ilse Steinhardt, Andrew Tsubaki, Anne Turner, Jane Van Meter, Grace Wan, Josh Waters, George Wedge, Max Whitson, Ron Willis, Theresa Windheuser, Ed Wolfe.

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30 October 2009: Halloween, Part One

Students at the University of Kansas frequently tell me that, on first meeting me, they find me intimidating and scary.  And so, with Halloween coming up, I guess there is no need for me to look for Sarah Palin, Michael Steele, Michele Bachmann, Joe Lieberman, or Liz and Dick Cheney “two-for-the-price-of-one”  face masks.  I’ll just simply be myself and let people see what they want to see—The Bruised Lee! The Jackie-o’-Chantern! The Fulsome Manchu! The Inscrutable Asian! The Yellow Peril!  BOO!

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28 October 2009: Joe Lieberman, Pray For Us!

So who says Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has no loyalty when it comes to how he’ll vote on health care reform if it includes a public option? He’s loyal to all the insurance companies in Connecticut who have been contributing to his campaign funds for as long as he has been in politics.

“Let my people go,” Moses said to the Pharaoh in Egypt, just before all those plagues hit the fan.  But where will the people go now if they get sick and they don’t have health insurance?  Will there be a mass Exodus to Canada, or will we wander for another forty years in the American desert with Joe Lieberman?

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27 October 2009: Levi Johnston Unzips For Christmas!

The Huffington Post reports that Levi Johnston, the 19-year-old stud muffin who fathered Sarah Palin’s illegitimate grandson, has been hitting the gym in Anchorage three hours a day, six nights a week.  He’s getting ready for his huge unveiling in Playgirl magazine.  The shoot is scheduled to take place in mid-November, so the pictures will be out in time for Christmas.  Right now, only Santa knows for sure whether Levi will be naughty or nice, but it’s been confirmed that the pictures are “90% certain to be full-frontal nudity.”   This could turn out to be the perfect stocking stuffer for the holidays, unless Levi himself turns out to be stuffed with stockings.  Unzippity doo dah!

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