... at least on Fox come May after the conclusion of it's eighth "day," otherwise known as a season. From The Hollywood Reporter:
Tick, tick, tick … and done.
After eight seasons, Fox’s “24” is coming to an end.
The groundbreaking action drama will air its final real-time episode in May, the victim of a confluence of circumstances: a swelling budget, declining ratings and creative fatigue.
BOOOOO!!!!! Apparently, due to the fact that salaries spiral upward dramatically the longer a show is on television (especially after the fifth season), Fox was paying an incredible $5 million an episode for this year's installments. Let's see ... 5 million times 24 episode equals .... A LOT!
But Jack Bauer himself, as he's proven countless times on "24" is hard to kill:
Yet for fans of Jack Bauer, there remains hope. Studio 20th TV is developing a theatrical film that takes Bauer to Europe, and showrunner and executive producer Howard Gordon says other possibilities are being explored as well.
“There are other possible iterations of Jack Bauer and his world,” Gordon said.
The producers of "24" have long begged off shifting Jack Bauer to the big screen because it would screw up the narrative of the show. Makes sense. It would be hard to slip an entire new adventure into the timeline of each "off season" of "24" and not (1) take away from the show and (2) easily integrate the spent movie plot into the show's historical timeline. But I welcome the idea of seeing Jack Bauer in the movies. We could use an American James Bond.
And, no, Jason Bourne does not count. Jack Bauer would kick Bourne's whiny, metrosexual, conflicted-about-what's-right-and-wrong behind. After easily subduing Bourne with a chop to the throat — then sitting Bourn down in a chair to make it easier to get a clean shot when shooting him in the knee — Jack would lecture him on what real sacrifice for one's nation is about.
"Oh. Your girlfriend got killed? Boo hoo, you traitor! My wife was killed!!! I saw her die in my place of work!!! But I kept coming back, DAMMIT!!!! To protect my country. To do my duty. To do what was right." (Those last lines are not adorned with accumulating exclamation points because Sutherland would deliver them in his trademark Whisper of Intensity.)
So this May will mark the end of Jack Bauer's exploits on TV — and one of the most innovative dramas in the history of television, not the least from a production/presentation stand point. Remember that "24" insisted (once it was a legitimate hit) that all its episodes be run for 24 consecutive weeks so as not to lose its "one-day-in-real-time" grip presented one hour at a time. And Fox acquiesced. That was unheard of in modern television, but served the show well. The "24" producers even cancelled the entire season last year over the Hollywood writers' strike, because it was not willing to produce half a season, then come back and finish up later. I think what resulted — essentially a one-year hiatus — contributed greatly to the show's sagging, but still solid, ratings.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that "24" pioneered a network television innovation — "a returning hit that airs in midseason without repeats." "24," as much as the advent of summer-scheduled reality shows like "Survivor," blew up the tradition that the "television season" starts in the fall, takes a repeat-heavy break, and starts up again in the spring. Indeed, "24" executive producer Howard Gordon knows that his show has established itself in television history:
“I’d like it to be remembered as a revolutionary concept,” Gordon said. “I hope the second thing is that we loved this show so much and never did anything less than our best and I hope we delivered to our fans like we feel we did to ourselves.”
You did, Howard, by giving America a real American hero — who time and again put country before self and family. Bravo! And may Jack Bauer make a splash in movie history as well. I smell franchise!
Robinson Jeffers (1941)
Rep. John Murtha, D-Penn., has died, according to reports:
Congressman John P. Murtha died Monday at 1:18 p.m. at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, VA.
Murtha, 77, was Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.
Murtha had been hospitalized last week due to complications from gall bladder surgery.
Pennsylvania's longest-serving congressman was a lightning rod. In the past few years, he was the subject of numerous ethics investigations. Murtha was also a bete noire of conservatives, who particularly loathed the former Marine's reckless comments about the 2006 incident that left 15 civilians dead in the Iraqi city of Haditha.
There will be more commentary about that and Murtha's legacy in Western Pennsylvania in the coming hours, days, and weeks to be sure. For now, however, my condolences to Murtha's family.
As Allahpundit at Hot Air writes, today we "accentuate the positive" (quoting the Washington Post story):
He entered the Marine Corps in 1952, during the Korean War period, and served until 1955. He returned to Johnstown to run the family car wash and finish his undergraduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1962, and he joined the Marine Corps Reserve. During the Vietnam conflict, he volunteered for combat and served near Da Nang in 1966 and 1967.
In 1955, he married Joyce Bell. She survives, along with their daughter, Donna Murtha ; twin sons, Pat Murtha and John M. Murtha ; and three grandchildren…
Rep. Murtha, whose military decorations included the Bronze Star and two awards of the Purple Heart, was one of the first Vietnam veterans to sit in the House. His district returned him regularly to office, and after 10 years, Rep. Murtha had quietly established himself as a key Capitol Hill player who could woo lawmakers of divergent views to join forces.
A special election will be called within 60 days to fill Murtha's seat for the remainder of the year.
I always liked the idea of JD Salinger more than I liked anything that Salinger wrote. Franny and Zooey was ok, I guess, but Catcher in the Rye is massively overrated. Generations of literary hipsters have named their children "Holden" because they saw Catcher's protagonist as the ideal; an authentic James Dean type, maybe, railing against the phoniness of modern life.
Me: When I got around to reading the book at age 17 -- during my year of reading classic novels that were often banned -- I simply couldn't believe what a whiny sonofabitch the kid was. I don't think it's because I had the soul of a College Republican; I was reading books like Johnny Got His Gun, Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five that year and they were greatly influencing me. I just think that Holden Caufield was a whiny sonofabitch. Which makes me suspicious of all those who idolize him.
Salinger, of course, withdrew from public life after Catcher. The glimpses we got of him over the intervening decades were not flattering; he apparently had a pretty creepy sex life. But there's something fascinating and inspirational about an artist who produces One Great Work and gives it to the world, then hides himself forevermore. Too bad the reality of JD Salinger could never, ever live up to the hype.
Tangina Barrons has joined Carol Anne in the light.
Or, rather, the actress who immortalized the character in three Poltergeist films has gone to her reward. Zelda Rubenstein was 76.
The diminutive Rubenstein did cartoon voice work before making her debut in the atrocious Chevy Chase-Billy Barty vehicle, Under the Rainbow. She went on to roles on television, including most memorably as the sheriff's radio dispatcher in Picket Fences.
But this will be how millions of fans will remember her:
(More Rubenstein clips here.)
At 47, Rubinstein -- a Pittsburgh native, Zaius will be happy to know -- abruptly decided to end her career as a medical technician. She told an interviewer:
“I had no idea what I would do next, but I knew it would involve advocacy for those people who were in danger of being disenfranchised,” she said. “I wanted a platform to be visible as a person who is different, as a representative of several varieties of differences. This is the most effective way for me to carry a message saying, ‘Yes you can.’ I took a look at these shoulders in the mirror and they’re pretty big. They can carry a lot of Sturm und Drang on them.”
Rest in peace, madame.
Gumby creator Art Clokey has died. The animator and filmmaker had a rough childhood but lived a remarkable life and left an indelible legacy for several generations of kids. He was 88.
If you came of age in the 1980s, you will likely remember a short-lived Gumby revival and, of course, Eddie Murphy's take on the character in the Silver Age of Saturday Night Live. This is what I remember most, though...
"If you've got a heart, then Gumby's a part of you." Rest in peace, Art Clokey.
As 2009 winds down, the news wire services have begun moving their year-end retrospectives. The Associated Press today publishes its list of the hundreds of notables who left the scene this year. By the way, it's never a good idea to die between Christmas and New Year's, especially if you are only sort of famous, or your fame and notoriety waned decades ago, or your speciality is no longer appreciated the way it once was.
Among the more interesting passings I missed just this month were Roy Disney and Sol Price. Disney was the irascible nephew of Walt and defender of traditional animation who hired and ultimately ousted Michael Eisner as the House of Mouse's CEO. Price was the founder of Price Club, one of America's first big box discounters, which later merged with Costco. But UC San Diego students know him better for the mall at the center of campus that bears his name. It's just a hop, skip and jump away from Theodore Geisel Library. You can't miss it.
The Monkeys noted several of these deaths (and a couple that didn't make the AP round-up) in 2009. Michael Jackson wasn't one of them.
• Chris Warden (Jan. 4)
• Ricardo Mantalban (Jan. 14)
• John Updike (Jan. 27)
• Estelle Bennett (February)
• Paul Harvey (Feb. 28)
• Ron Silver (Mar. 15)
• Jack Kemp (May 3)
• Billy Mays (June 28)
• TOTUS (July 14)
• John Hughes (Aug. 6)
• Ted Kennedy (Aug. 26)
• Irving Kristol (Sept. 18)
• Soupy Sales (Oct. 12)
The intellectual father of neoconservatism has died. Irving Kristol was 89. The New York Times obituary says Kristol "as much as anyone, defined modern conservatism and helped revitalize the Republican Party in the late 1960s and early ’70s, setting the stage for the Reagan presidency and years of conservative dominance."
Kristol's intellectual evolution from communism to conservatism is essentially to his story and significance. "Ever since I can remember, I've been a neo-something: a neo-Marxist, a neo-Trotskyist, a neo-liberal, a neo-conservative; in religion a neo-orthodox even while I was a neo-Trotskyist and a neo-Marxist," Kristol once said. "I'm going to end up a neo- that's all, neo dash nothing."
I don't consider myself a neoconservative, but I did faithfully read Kristol's journals, The Public Interest and the National Interest. Clearly his ideas shaped mainstream conservative thinking over the past 40 years. Here is a very small sample of some of Kristol's speeches and writings:
• Kristol on the future of capitalism.
• Kristol on The Public Interest.
• Kristol on orthodoxy and heterodoxy in Western Civilization.
• Kristol on liberalism and American Jews.
• Kristol on corporate capitalism in America.
• Kristol on the problem of equality.
Update: Here is Commentary's John Podhoretz on Kristol's long intellectual legacy:
The clarity of his thinking and the surety of his purpose were one and the same; they were immeasurably enhanced by a powerful curiosity for the way things worked and the ways in which things could be made to work better. His was a resteless intelligence, always on the move; there was not an idea he didn’t want to play with, and there wasn’t a new idea for a think tank or a magazine or a center for the study of something-or-other that didn’t excite him. He was a conservative by temperament and conviction, but he was an innovator to the depths of his being.
Robert Kagan at the Washington Post's PostPartisan blog adds:
The passing of Irving Kristol is a very sad occasion. He was a truly great man, a great intellectual, and a great, patriotic servant to his country. He was also a unique inspiration, to me personally, and to untold thousands of other young people for whom he provided a model of the intellectual life well-lived. He was a deep and fierce thinker, who nevertheless delivered his thoughts in the most amiable fashion, without animus or bile. He was curious and invited others to be curious, to engage in serious dialogue on the important issues of the day.
The American Spectator posts an interview R. Emmett Tyrell conducted with Kristol in 1969, when the Spectator was still The Alternative and Kristol was still calling himself a liberal. Here's Kristol on a theme that he explored throughout his career:
Civilizations have a way of not falling apart all that easily. Are our values corrupt? In a way they are. I don't know that they're more corrupt than the values of other civilizations, though I might even concede that in some senses they are. On the other hand, these are the values that regulate the way we live together. And even if they may be false in certain important respects, they simply can't be shoved aside; people cannot live in a vacuum. False values are better than none. And until these values are amended and improved, we'll have to cope with them as best we can.
This quotation -- and others like it -- highlight a division among certain conservative intellectuals about use and abuse of "values." Values, as Harry Jaffa has pointed out, "are moral choices, which have no object or basis. The value is a subjective desire, not an objective truth... A hundred years ago, nobody would have spoken about our principles as being values." Jaffa's quarrels with Kristol go back at least
35 45 years, and a proper recounting of that story is probably best left for another day. I mention this only because when Kristol's left-wing critics use "neoconservatism" as a kind of catch-all slur, they fail to understand the arguments and divisions among conservatives that have shaped the movement they caricature.
Here's William F. Buckley on Irving Kristol from a review of "Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea" that appeared in the Weekly Standard in 1995:
In the substantial introduction to his collection... Irving Kristol ticks off ambient felicities. He ends by remarking happily the political faith of those who surround him. "My son and daughter, and son-in-law and daughter-in-law, along with dozens of young 'interns' who have worked at The Public Interest over the past thirty years, are now all conservatives without adjectival modification."
That is a tremendous statement in political taxonomy, on the order of the excommunication of Trotsky from the communist movement, as presided over by Moscow; except of course that Mr. Kristol moves in the opposite, ecumenical direction -- toward amalgamation, away from schism. Neos are now just plain cons.
More to follow.
When it was announced months ago that Ted Kennedy was gravely ill, I shared a little note about him. I reprint it here this morning:
Doctors announced today that Sen. Ted Kennedy's seizure on Saturday was caused by a malignant tumor on his brain. The prognosis is typically for a patient to survive such a condition for between one and five years.
I interviewed Ted Kennedy on several occasions outside the Senate chamber when I covered Congress for The Washington Times. I was always struck by how much shorter he was than I imagined. And he walked as briskly as he could with a noticible stoop -- half hunched over. That couldn't have been comfortable.
Kennedy wasn't the rudest senator I ever stopped to ask questions of (that's Ted Stevens, R-AK, hands down). Nor was he the most kind (it's a tie between Sam Brownback, R-KS, and Mark Pryor, D-Ark.). But he was congenial enough and gave you quotes you could use. And there was also a sense that you were speaking to a living political legend -- which is undeniable, no matter how much I disagreed with his views and political tactics.
My prayers go out to him and his family today. It is a terrible thing to watch your body break down.
There will be much more to say later about the legacy of the liberal lion, but for now, prayers. RIP, Edward Kennedy.
If you were a teen-ager during the 1980s and you hear that news and you didn't feel just a little twinge of sadness, well, you're not human.
Michael Jackson made us dance back then. But John Hughes provided the soul.
UPDATE: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Here is a subject on which Joel and I can agree: Lauding the greatness of John Hughes. I'd forgotten (if I ever realized) that Hughes was also responsible for "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," a movie that always makes me laugh — especially this scene (WARNING: LOTS OF F-BOMBS that are essential for this hilarious scene).
A sad, sad day. Billy Mays, a favorite son of my home town of McKees Rocks, PA, was found dead in his home today. The relentlessly cheerful pitchman with the unmistakable Pittsburgh accent is gone.
R.I.P., King of the Informercial.
From Fox News:
DEVELOPING: Television pitchman Billy Mays — who built his fame by appearing on commercials and infomercials promoting household products and gadgets — died Sunday, FOX News confirms.
Mays was found unresponsive by his wife inside his Tampa, Fla., home at 7:45 a.m. on Sunday, according to the Tampa Police Department.
Police said there were no signs of forced entry to May's residence and foul play is not suspected. Authorities said an autopsy should be complete by Monday afternoon.
Mays, 50, was on board a US Airways flight that blew out its front tires as it landed at a Tampa airport on Saturday, MyFOXTampa.com reported.
US Airways spokesman Jim Olson said that none of the 138 passengers and five crew members were injured in the incident, but several passengers reported having bumps and bruises, according to the station.
Authorities have not said whether Mays' death was related to the incident.
"Although Billy lived a public life, we don't anticipate making any public statements over the next couple of days. Our family asks that you respect our privacy during these difficult times," Mays wife, Deborah, said in a statement on Sunday.
Update: Here's Billy Mays, with this "Pitch Man" partner Anthony Sullivan, appearing on Conan O'Brien just last week:
Update: More from the AP:
His ubiquitousness and thumbs-up, in-your-face pitches won Mays plenty of fans. People line up at his personal appearances for autographed color glossies, and strangers stop him in airports to chat about the products.
"I enjoy what I do," Mays told The Associated Press in a 2002 interview. "I think it shows."
Mays liked to tell the story of giving bottles of OxiClean to the 300 guests at his wedding, and doing his ad spiel ("powered by the air we breathe!") on the dance floor at the reception. Visitors to his house typically got bottles of cleaner and housekeeping tips.
Discovery Channel spokeswoman Elizabeth Hillman released a statement Sunday extending sympathy to the Mays family.
"Everyone that knows him was aware of his larger-than-life personality, generosity and warmth," Hillman's statement said. "Billy was a pioneer in his field and helped many people fulfill their dreams. He will be greatly missed as a loyal and compassionate friend."
I suspect Kemp hadn't been on many conservatives' radar for quite some time, but his importance to the Reagan Revolution cannot be understated. Shortly after Kemp's family announced in January that the former congressman and 1996 Republican vice-presidential nominee was ill, Jeffrey Lord of the American Spectator wrote a piece assessing Kemp's legacy to the conservative movement:
Jack Kemp long ago earned his role in this American pantheon. He did not invent "supply-side" economics. Yet in a day and age when many members of Congress use their office for nothing grander than prying grandma's Social Security check out of the federal morass and issuing a press release telling the world, Kemp, elected in 1970, set about an entirely different task. He began schooling himself, and eventually his party, about the difference between bread slicing and bread baking economics. As Bartley would later recount in his book The Seven Fat Years: And How To Do It Again, Kemp became the focus of a Washington group (paralleling Bartley's in New York) that focused on the economic woes of the 1970s. What they were, how they got there, and, strikingly, what to actually do about them. Bartley says that Kemp "did bizarre things like sit down and read The General Theory." This would be John Maynard Keynes' less than scintillating tome The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, a basic economics text then and now if one wishes to call oneself a Keynesian. It is not to be confused with a romance novel.
With what Washington would eventually realize was the typical Kemp passion, Kemp took an idea about tax cuts and made of it a gospel. In legislative form it became what was called Kemp-Roth, named respectively after Kemp the House sponsor and Delaware GOP Senator William Roth, its Senate champion. At its core, the idea proposed to slash personal income tax rates -- and cut them big time by 30 percent over three years. It was 1978, the middle of the Carter malaise years, and after what Bartley calls a "stormy debate" the bill failed in a conference committee. Kemp kept going. By 1980 he had convinced candidate Ronald Reagan, and the concept was written into the 1980 Republican platform. By August of 1981 President Ronald Reagan was signing Kemp's cause into law. By 1983, the American economy had begun to shake off recession and, in a startling reversal, roared to life. The results were so powerful that Reagan later said France's Socialist President François Mitterrand, Reagan's guest at the 1983 Williamsburg G-7 Summit, wanted to know just exactly what went into America's blossoming and quite vivid economic growth.
For Kemp, this was more than simply passing a piece of legislation. Supply-side represented a real threat to the core beliefs of an entire intellectual class, a class that then -- as now -- considers itself "enlightened." Passing Congressman Kemp one day as he bounded (Kemp bounds, he doesn't walk) up an escalator to a House office building from the Capitol subway, I watched him overtake a moderate Republican Congressman who clearly considered himself a member of this enlightened class, an affliction that, sad to say, is all too bipartisan. After a brief conversation that required Kemp to stand still, he clapped the moderate on the back and -- with a smile, always with a smile -- said: "You know what your problem is? You're an elitist!" And bounded away as his target visibly fumed that someone would mistake his addiction to me-too liberalism as something other than being a champion of the average man.
No doubt, we'll be hearing and reading a great deal about Jack Kemp, good and bad, in the next few days. For the moment, let me simply say, may he rest in peace.
"I had plenty of substantive disagreements with him, including his lack of interest in cutting spending and controlling the growth of government," Bandow writes. "But he was a rarity in Washington--someone who had achieved significant success before entering politics, really cared about those with the least opportunities, was seriously interested in ideas. and genuinely hoped to use politics to make the world a better place. He might not have succeeded in achieving the latter goal, but he personally made the world a better place."
Pleszczynski adds: "Jack's football position was quarterback -- but in fact his position was leader. Even at the small Saturday Evening Club dinner he once attended as our guest, where he felt called upon to tell other guests when to come to the table and where to sit. He couldn't help himself. Wherever man still wants to breathe freely, his memory will remain cherished."
Update 3: Bill Bennett, who in 1993 co-founded Empower America with Kemp, remembers his friend: "You know, there's a lot of talk, these days, about who will be the next Ronald Reagan. A few of us were thinking, this morning, who will be the next Jack Kemp?"
I was familiar with Silver's work often-intense work here and there — but he really hit my radar upon Bill Clinton's election. He infamously said to his fellow military-hating Hollywood peaceniks who were appalled about a celebratory fly-over at Clinton's election in 1992: "Those are our planes now." He got less shallow, and a lot braver in his politics among the Hollywood crowd.
I think there are September 10 people and there are September 11 people. I’m one of the latter. Everything changed for me. Since then I see everything through the prism of what happened that day.
That's something he so believed in, he switched from hard lefty to center-right. And did it without apologies. Silver even spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention:
Responding to attacks on our soil, America has led a coalition of countries against extremists who want to destroy our way of life and our values.
This is a war we did not seek.
This is a war waged against us.
This is a war to which we had to respond.
History shows that we are not imperialists . . .but we are fighters for freedom and democracy.
Even though I am a well-recognized liberal on many issues confronting our society today, I find it ironic that many human rights advocates and outspoken members of my own entertainment community are often on the front lines to protest repression, for which I applaud them but they are usually the first ones to oppose any use of force to take care of these horrors that they
Under the unwavering leadership of President Bush, the cause of freedom and democracy is being advanced by the courageous men and women serving in our Armed Services.
The President is doing exactly the right thing.
That is why we need this President at this time!
I am grateful for the chance to speak tonight to express my support for our Commander-in-Chief, for our brave troops, and for the vital cause which they have undertaken.
General Dwight Eisenhower’s statement of 60 years ago is true today . . .
“United in this determination and with unshakable faith in the cause for which we fight, we will, with God’s help, go forward to our greatest victory.”
Well said, and bravely, Mr. Silver. You were a patriot. Rest in Peace.
Everyone knew Harvey would never retire, but he had obviously cut back on active work years ago. Every time I'd happen to be on a station that was playing one of his "Rest of the Story" segments, or "Paul Harvey News and Comment," I was disappointed to hear a substitute host — his son, Paul Harvey Jr., or even Fred Thompson.
But I heard him give what is now one of his last broadcasts a week or so ago. I must say, as someone who enjoyed listening to Harvey, it was sad to hear his voice — once so confident and bright; now so sickly and weak. I thought to myself, he doesn't have long. Sadly, I was right.
When I was in junior high, I learned I could make people laugh with my Paul Harvey impersonation. Of course, that's an easy laugh. Just put on the Paul Harvey voice — exaggerated enunciation, HOLD OUT THOSE VOWELS!, and long pauses where they don't logically belong. And of course saying: "Paul Harvey ................................(make a face).............(make another face)........(look at your watch)...................(pick up something to read)............(take a sip of water)..............(then, finally say).........................Good Day!
It's funny, especially to a kid. But when Paul Harvey spoke on the radio, he had a knack for keeping your attention — which is what the radio game is all about. I'll miss Harvey's unique broadcast styling, his Midwestern accent, and his "Rest of the Story" stories — a genius piece of information and entertainment. He earned that Presidential Medal of Freedom Bush put around his neck above. Paul Harvey is an irreplaceable piece of Americana. A patriot. An icon.
Good Day, Mr. Harvey. Rest in well-earned peace.
(Erick Erickson has a nice tribute over at RedState)
Estelle Bennett, one of the original Ronettes, died last week of undetermined causes. The New York Times has a fascinating story about Bennett, who enjoyed a few brief years of fame followed by decades of "illness and squalor that were little known to many of the group’s biggest fans."
Bennett was Ronnie Spector's sister. Apparently, she suffered from mental illness for years. Her's was the quintessential story of fame and celebrity in America, told time and again.
“Estelle had such an extraordinary life,” Nedra Talley Ross, one of the other original Ronettes, told the Times. “To have the fame, and all that she had at an early age, and for it all to come to an end abruptly. Not everybody can let that go and then go on with life.”
And yet she did, for years and years. Bennett's daughter and her cousin told the Times they helped clean up Estelle for the Ronettes’ induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. They worried that the ceremony would be too much for her to take, so another backup singers performed in Bennett’s place.
But before the concert Ms. Bennett gave a brief acceptance speech. "I would just like to say thank you very much for giving us this award,” she said. “I’m Estelle of the Ronettes. Thank you.”
I was never a huge fan of John Updike. I made a go of reading one of the Rabbit novels when I was much younger, but I've never quite found the whole genre of suburban white guy angst to be all that compelling -- yes, I'm grossly oversimplifying -- even in the hands of a master. So my exposure to Updike was limited mainly to his reviews of books and art in The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books, and I found that if I wasn't a fan of Updike's novels, I was certainly a fan of the idea of John Updike: A lifetime spent in ravenous pursuit of the life of the mind.
I remain touched, though, by one of Updike's short stories that appeared in The Atlantic in November 2002. Varieties of Religious Experience was about 9/11 -- seen through the eyes of Dan, a WASPy Ohioan who is in New York on the day of the attacks; "Mohammed," one of the attackers; Jim, a worker in one of the towers; and Caroline, a passenger on Flight 93. It was the first fictional treatment of 9/11 that I had seen, and re-reading it now I find I'm getting a lump in my throat. The opening sentence, though, is what initially caught me:
There is no God: the revelation came to Dan Kellogg in the instant that he saw the World Trade Center South Tower fall.
At the end of the story, Dan Kellogg has turned his back on this atheistic declaration, resettling comfortably into the confines of his Episcopalian congregation. But reading those words and the entire story in 2002 somehow dislodged the growing doubts about my own faith that I'd tried to ignore since 9/11. By the end of 2002, I was out of the church -- not because the story moved me to agnosticism, but because it forced me to confront what I could no longer ignore.
This, no doubt, is not a result that would've pleased Updike, who was a churchgoing man his entire adult life. But such is the power of literature: Authors do not control how it is received, and sometimes readers cannot control how they receive it -- not, at least, if they're approaching with an open mind.
So no, John Updike was not my favorite author. But his writing in some small way changed my life. I am thus grateful for his career and his gifts; may he rest in peace.
The great Ricardo Mantalban has passed on to the great "Fantasy Island" in the sky.
Ricardo Montalban, the suave leading man who was one of the first Mexican-born actors to make it big in Hollywood and who was best known for his role as Mr. Roarke on TV's "Fantasy Island," has died. He was 88.
Montalban died Wednesday morning at his Los Angeles home of complications related to old age, said his son-in-law, Gilbert Smith.
Yes. Yes. "Fantasy Island." Even I couldn't resist a reference in the lead. He and Tattoo are finally reunited. But the Montalban role that I think will go down in history is (naturally, from the picture I chose) his turn as Kahn in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn." He chewed up every bit of scenery in every take — not an easy task with William Shatner on the set. And Montalban was given great lines like this one:
To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!
He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him! I'll chase him 'round the moons of Nibia and 'round the Antares Maelstrom and 'round Perdition's flames before I give him up!
I've done far worse than kill you, Admiral. I've hurt you. And I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her; marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet... buried alive! Buried alive...!
Classic. That was by far the best of the Star Trek movies, thanks to Montalban's unforgettable performance. There's a reason why Kirk's KAAAAAHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNN!!!!!! resonates in pop culture. Montalban's Kahn was worth the yelling.
All that said, however, three words crossed my lips as soon as Mrs. Zaius informed me that Montalban was gone ... Rich Corinthian Leather. As you see from the clip below, Montalban actually says "soft Corinthian leather — at least in this commercial. That guy ... the "Most Interesting Man in the World" who does those cheeky "don't mess with him" commercials for Dos Equis? Ricardo Montalban picked guys like that out of his stool.
R.I.P. to a Hollywood original.
DAMN!!! He was the coolest dude on the planet. Cool enough to make Chrysler look classy.
Chris Warden -- professor of journalism, former editorial page editor of Investor's Business Daily, and my friend -- died Sunday night from complications following hip surgery. He was 51.
The news struck this morning like a hard slap to the face. And, oh God, does it ever hurt. I'll save the highlights of Chris's career for later. Right now, I want to share a few thoughts about my friend, to whom I owe a massive and irreparable debt of gratitude for years of kindness and wisdom.
Chris was a forthright and candid editor. More important, he was a good, decent man. Totally unpretentious. How could he not be? This was a guy who wore seersucker suits in Southern California! Sure, he was an avid golfer, but nobody's perfect. Above all, I will remember Chris as a consummate gentleman who was relentlessly upbeat when he had every reason not to be. When he was down, he didn't stay down very long.
It was for that reason -- well, that and the seersucker suits -- that I began calling him "The Colonel." As in Kentucky Colonel. But he deserved the honorific more than most. He was nothing if not honorable. I was pleased that the name stuck, at least in our circle.
Truth is, Chris hadn't been well for a long time. He suffered a variety of ailments over the years and periodically was hospitalized for one reason or another. A joint disease forced him to walk on crutches for most of his life and made him prone to accidents. A fall in his shower last week left him with a broken hip and in urgent need of surgery. He was also a hemophiliac, a condition no fault of his own that made his surgery much riskier and left him too weak to recover. I knew that he'd been having more frequent health problems in the past year, though he downplayed these troubles in our last conversation.
I used to drink with Chris. A lot. We were, after all, professionals. Several of us from IBD would repair to the Fireside Bar and Grill on Lincoln at Manchester, usually a couple of times a week, where we would take over the biggest booth in that little place. We hatched many editorials over martinis and vodka-tonics. Chris invariably assumed the master of ceremonies role. He kept the conversations lively with old stories about newspapers or his tutelage under M. Stanton Evans at the National Journalism Center. And then, of course, he would always ask his "table questions" -- things like, "What's the best Billy Joel song?" or "If you couldn't do this job, what would you do?" Opting out of an answer was not an option.
Although I had spoken with Chris as recently as June, I hadn't seen him in a few years. He drove to Rialto in 2005 to visit Millie, Benjamin and me when he was staying with some mutual friends of ours who lived way on the other side of the Valley. It was probably a two-hour drive one-way for what amounted to a 90-minute visit, but he made it anyway. And what a pleasure it was to see him, as always.
But Chris was often generous like that. Some time earlier -- probably in 1999, not long after I'd left IBD but before Millie and I were married -- I invited him to my parents' house for Thanksgiving dinner. He showed up in a jacket and tie bearing gifts -- a bottle of wine and an electric barbeque fork that tells the temperature when you stick it in the meat. When I told my dad this morning that Chris had passed away, he said, "I still have that fork he gave us. That's the best fork I ever had!" When I left IBD to go back to the Claremont Institute, he gave me a cheap pipe and a cap and gown in a battered styrofoam box. He took great pleasure in teasing me about leaving the newspaper for the more intellectually rarified think-tank world. "Don't forget the hoi polloi!" he'd say. I enjoyed ribbing him a few years later when he left the paper to teach at Troy State University in Alabama.
On the occasion of my 26th birthday, Chris gave a toast "to the youngest 40-year-old I know." Now that I'm approaching 40, I'm left to wonder what he would have said.
Rest in peace, Colonel. And thanks. Thanks for everything.
Update: The Troy (Ala.) Messenger reports Chris's death. I liked this comment from Steve Padgett, director of Troy's Hall School of Journalism:
Padgett said Warden’s teaching style was one that was hard to match: he taught the truth.
“I would say that probably one of the more difficult positions I’ve had to fill was always the print journalism field position because so many people that teach print journalism really teach agenda journalism,” Padgett said. “He taught the facts. The truth was more important than the agenda, and that’s really hard to find in someone.”
Some of his friends called him The Colonel, but his students called him Prof. Here is a lovely recollection of Chris by one of his students. "He believed in me," she writes, "when I didn’t believe in myself."
I know he loved his students. And his students obviously loved him.
(More after the jump. Click "Read More" below.)
The queen of pin-ups is dead. Bettie Page died Thursday in Los Angeles after suffering a massive heart attack nine days earlier. She was 85.
According to the International Herald Tribune:
Page, whose popularity underwent a cult-like revival in the last 20 years, had been hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia and was about to be released Dec. 2 when she suffered a heart attack, said Roesler, of CMG Worldwide. She was transferred in a coma to Kindred Hospital, where she died.
In her trademark raven bangs, spike heels and killer curves, Page was the most famous pinup girl of the post-World War II era, a centerfold on a million locker doors and garage walls. She was also a major influence in the fashion industry and a target of Senator Estes Kefauver's anti-pornography investigators.
But in 1957, at the height of her fame, she disappeared, and for three decades her private life — two failed marriages, a fight against poverty and mental illness, resurrection as a born-again Christian, years of seclusion in Southern California — was a mystery to all but a few close friends.
Then in the late 1980s and early '90s, she was rediscovered and a Bettie Page renaissance began. David Stevens, creator of the comic-book and later movie character the Rocketeer, immortalized her as the Rocketeer's girlfriend. Fashion designers revived her look. Uma Thurman, in bangs, reincarnated Bettie in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," and Demi Moore, Madonna and others appeared in Page-like photos.
The obits say Page helped fuel the sexual revolution of the 1960s and '70s. I suppose that's true. I think it would be a mistake to downplay the rest of her story -- particularly her conversion to Christianity and her reclusiveness. She had trouble accepting her latter-day fame. I was one among who knows how many teenage boys who ogled Page's pics years ago. (Fact is, because I was a comic book geek, I knew Bettie Page first from Dave Stevens before I saw any of her actual pin-ups.) I hope she found what she was looking for.
Had to put my wife's dog down yesterday afternoon. That suuuuuuuuucked.
I once had the honor of being corrected by Lyn Nofziger. May he rest in peace.
Peter Robinson notes: "Lyn Nofziger was one of the toughest, funniest, smartest, and most utterly loyal men Ive ever known. Hes also the only man Ive ever known who wore a Mickey Mouse tie to the White House every day..." Robinson has some of Nofziger in his own words. And by all means, take a look at Nofziger's website.
Richard Pryor Passed away today at an all too young 65 years old.
Hopefully, he will remembered for more than the freebasing episode.
Awful news today from the RAAM website. (My explanatory post on RAAM here.)
With profound regret, Race Across America announces that Bob Breedlove, competitor #188, collided head-on with a pickup truck at approximately 12.15 p.m. EDT, on [Thursday,] June 23, 28 miles west of Trinidad, Colorado. When paramedics arrived on the scene they pronounced him dead. The accident took place on a section of road that sloped very gently downhill for cyclists in the race. According to the driver of the pickup truck, Bob Breedlove appeared to collapse on his bicycle and swerved into the path of the oncoming vehicle.
Cyclists competing in the Race Across America are offered the option of completing the race, should they so desire.
Race Director Jim Pitre said: "Speaking both personally, and on behalf of the entire management and all those associated with the race, I extend my most sincere sympathy to the family of Bob Breedlove."
At the time of the accident, Bob Breedlove was leading the 50+ category, and was 12th overall in the race.
The last individual update (beyond numerical time-station check-ins and mph average) about Breedlove was posted early this morning before the accident, recounting:
Around Noon local time on Tuesday [the third day of the race], Dr. Bob Breedlove walked into the gas station at time station #12 in Mexican Hat, Utah [670 miles into the 3052 mile race] to cool off. With an ice pack on his head, he began reminiscing about his many past transcontinental crossings. He had ridden on this section of the course two times. He said that the Southern course he set the 50+ record on in 2002 (outside of RAAM) was much flatter the first half. ... Getting ready to leave, Bob put on a pair of thin orange long-fingered gloves overtop regular cycling gloves so people can see him waving at them across the country.
Dr. Breedlove's bio, and pictures of him before the race and reaching the continental divide are now posted on the home page of RAAM's site. Breedlove's epic ultracycling resume and his back and forth competition with the legendary Rob Kish have been inspirational to me in my reading over the last several weeks.
My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. My thoughts also go out to the organizers, and volunteers of RAAM, and particularly the other riders whose emotions are likely laid bare at this point in their undertaking. Noteworthy in my mind are those in the trailing third of the field and all of the team riders who are likely headed past the very location of the tragedy as they complete the route.
Dr. Bob Breedlove will be certainly be observed and his memory honored. I hope that we will see an award created to commemorate the 5-time finisher of the world's toughest athletic event.