Archive for September, 2010

Pieces of Ourselves

September 30, 2010

First, RIP, Tony Curtis. I can still see you staggering along in those heels!

As to the main topic, I should have written this entry right after the commentary on Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate in “What I’m Reading Now.”

The day after reading about Wendy Johnson’s connection to Thich Nhat Hanh and revisiting his comment about looking for pieces of ourselves I was glancing through Carolyn C. Denard’s introduction to What Moves at the Margin by Toni Morrison and found yet another connection.

Denard makes reference to “The Fisherwoman,” an introduction Morrison herself wrote to A Kind of Rapture, a book of photographs by Robert Bergman.

Morrison tells the story of meeting an old woman who was fishing on a neighbor’s property. She describes the woman in minute detail, even down to her men’s shoes. She describes their brief conversation, consisting of “fish recipes and weather and children.” The woman claims to come there often with the permission of the owner. Morrison looks for her the next day and for days after, but the woman is nowhere to be found. Morrison’s feelings evolve from disappointment to anger. Then she begins to wonder if she made up the encounter. She adds: “It took some time for me to understand my unreasonable claims on that fisherwoman. To understand that I was longing for and missing some aspect of myself. That there are no strangers. There are only versions of ourselves, many of which we have not yet embraced, most of which we wish to protect ourselves from.”

It has taken me more than two years to write about this observation because for the longest time I was trying to understand it in the context of Jungian soul fragmentation. At first I thought Morrison’s experience bore little relationship to Carl Jung’s theory that integration of various fragments of the psyche was crucial to mental health. I also thought that Morrison used her encounter with the old fisherwoman to express something more evanescent than what Jung had intended. Now I’m convinced otherwise. Morrison and Thich Nhat Hanh and Carl Jung all had the same thing in mind. Jung of course borrowed from Eastern thought, including Buddhism. Morrison’s encounter with the fisherwoman represented a search for her higher, wiser self. The old woman also bears elements of the fisher king, though without the wound.

At this point all I’ve concluded from this little excursion is that there are connections everywhere in the world if we just look for them.

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Happy Banned Books Week!

September 30, 2010

Or maybe I should say Unhappy Banned Books Week. The American Library Association uses this week to draw attention to books that have been banned or “challenged.”

My favorite is the list of classics. Of course I knew before looking that Joyce’s Ulysses would be on the list. I can almost guarantee that not one of the people who objected has read so much as the first page. Ditto Lolita, which I’m betting not one in thirty Americans has read.

I also understand but do not agree with the attempts to ban books with strong social commentary, The Grapes of Wrath; the fourth most challenged in 2009, To Kill a Mockingbird; and The Color Purple, the ninth most challenged.

Some of the others on the classics list left me scratching my head. Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton contains almost no action, an altogether boring story about a passel of boring people. There’s a hint of divorce, a hint of adultery and that’s it. Might as well ban Pride and Prejudice.

A couple of shockers on the list sent me hurrying for The Reader’s Encyclopedia. Alas, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White didn’t merit a separate entry. But I remember clearly the wonderful tale of Fern and Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider. What sort of unimaginative curmudgeon could object?

Another complete puzzle: Winnie-the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh??!! Did people not want their kids to learn about taking risks and having fun and learning to cooperate? Maybe they were upset that Eeyore was depressed.

The biggest shocker of all might be A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I mean really! The stories of Arthur and Ford and Zaphod make no sense, though they are laugh-out-loud funny.  How could anyone object to books that gave us the Babelfish?

What surprised me was the omission of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – but it does appear on the list of top banned/challenged books of the past 20 years. And guess what’s at the top of the most recent decade and in the top fifty for 1990-1999? The Harry Potter series. That’s right, can’t have the little impressionable minds corrupted by magic.

I noted that I’ve used more than a month’s quota of exclamation points in this entry. Maybe it displays my passion but Punctuation Day ended the day before Banned Books Week started, so I’ll have to go for several weeks without using one.

Here’s to the First Amendment!

Sushi Friday V

September 29, 2010

Jasmine Thai Restaurant

470 Bank St, New London, CT 06320

(860) 442-9991

I know it’s not Friday, but I haven’t posted a sushi review since July.

When I ate at this place in the fall of 2009 it had “Sushi Bar” in its name, which seems to have disappeared since.

The day I stopped I had intended to try a different place but noticed this one first. Next time I will drive by.

What I liked: Plenty of parking. Easy in and out, though Bank Street can get busy. Octopus in the sashimi, which was otherwise fresh. Very polite sushi chef.

What I didn’t like: The service. My soup and the sashimi arrived all at once. My beverage arrived after I was half way through the meal. The sushi chef had to supply the soy sauce. No one asked how my meal was even though the waitresses checked twice on the other patron at the sushi bar. I had to get up to ask for my check. The sashimi lunch special included crab Rangoon, heavier than a brick.

Overall score: D

Eric Foner’s America

September 28, 2010

We had great fun this weekend – missed the Friday birthday party but made it to the wedding (which started an hour late) and the reunion on Saturday, where I had a great time dancing with Nancy and other “spouses” while Larry’s fan club kept him busy circling the room. We followed with a quick trip to Cypress to congratulate the bride and groom because we’d left the wedding early. Got home at 2 a.m. Sunday and arose once more at 8:30 a.m. to get the NYTimes. Then back to Cyp to say good-bye to a friend of Larry’s who’d come from Florida for the wedding and was heading back Monday.

I’d devote more space to all this activity, but I have a few topics that have been hanging around so long they’re growing roots. I’ve got to dig them up and transplant them to WordPress.

I had intended to write an entire entry on “Our Lincoln,” Eric Foner’s essay in The Nation. It appeared in just before Barack Obama’s inauguration. It was still hanging around when my friend Thelma gave me a copy of the September issue of Harper’s, which contains Foner’s review of Nell Irvin Painter’s The History of White People.

The two articles provide a good foundation for examining this brilliant man’s take on race. In “Our Lincoln,” he sees a parallel between Lincoln and his changing attitudes toward slavery, emancipation, and equality on the one hand, and the challenges facing Obama, who Foner says has the opportunity to continue righting the wrongs inflicted by centuries of inequality.

Foner opens by observing that The Nation was founded shortly after Lincoln’s death to “complet[e] the unfinished task of making the former slaves equal citizens.” Lincoln did not call himself an abolitionist, though he rejected the idea that slavery should be allowed to expand beyond the boundaries that existed in the 1850s. The problem, Foner says, is that Lincoln did not put abolition above all other issues. And he had a much more nuanced (some would say misguided) view of racial equality. Men such as Frederick Douglass advocated for total equality and integration of blacks into the mainstream. Lincoln thought there should be a distinction between the “natural rights” of the Declaration of Independence to which everyone is entitled, blacks included, and what we today think of as equal rights: suffrage, right to travel, and so forth. He wanted to send emancipated blacks back to Africa long after most people in the free states had abandoned the idea.

“Our Lincoln” includes the clearest explanation of the Emancipation Proclamation that I’ve ever read. It freed only those slaves in the states that had seceded, which I knew. What I did not realize until I read the article was that the proclamation covered areas under control of the U.S. military  in addition to the slave states remaining in the Union. This information makes total sense since the proclamation was grounded in the constitutional grant of authority under “war power.” So the slaves in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes in Louisiana fell outside the protection of the proclamation.

The White Side of History: Sketches of a Caucasian Past” opens with Lincoln, this time representing a white man who sued his brother-in-law for calling him a “Negro.” Lincoln prevailed, and Foner uses the case as an example of how racial designations in the United States have always had “real consequences.”

Foner’s critique of History of White People appears disjointed, which I suspect is a fault of the book. Painter examines race from ancient (western) times into the twentieth century. Foner uses his review as an opportunity to correct her record on several points. He says she skips over our own country’s colonial period and then covers Ralph Waldo Emerson in three chapters. Foner takes issue with her portrayal since Emerson, like Lincoln, revised his views over time. Another omission, which seems unforgivable, is Frederick Douglass. Without his eloquent speeches and essays, a great many of our views on race might have remained stuck in the antebellum period.

Foner also objects to Painter’s omission of the latter-day racists who portray blacks as “naturally” lacking the capacity to learn. My own personal view is that these folks should come out of the closet with their sheets on.

With these two articles, Foner has drawn a line that takes this country from a dark period when slavery was the lot of most African Americans to a time when we have made great strides but continue to struggle with definitions of race and why such a question remains so important.

Andre Codrescu

September 24, 2010

Posting a bit early as we’re off to a birthday party a bit later.

First, Happy National Punctuation Day! In celebration here’s a link to the fabulous Victor Borge video.

This is the entry that I had intended to post on Thursday.

Andre Codrescu has fascinated me since I first heard him on NPR, probably back when I still lived in Philadelphia. He’s just as confusing and funny and scary as he was then. Now he’s added anger, Melissa Block called it fury, to his lexicon as he watched Katrina devastate his adopted city of New Orleans.

For a taste, listen to “The Mold Song,” his reaction to the destruction wrought on his collection of books, an antique map, and even his cash.

According to his “Vita,” he was born in Romania right after World War II. His list of credits is truly frightening, including awards and fellowships.

The piece of Professor Codrescu that I find most difficult to understand, and that I keep coming back to, is Exquisite Corpse, an online journal that he edits from his office at LSU (Go, Tigers!). It certainly fulfills its title, which comes from an early 20th century technique via a nineteenth century game. Think of the game Telephone, or Gossip, but played with pen and paper.

Codrescu’s version began in 1983, and despite knowing that it is a cooperative effort to create “an exquisite corpse,” I become increasingly mystified each time I look at it. He combines a certain level of horror (think Dracula) with sexiness (think Dracula) with glamour (think Dracula.) Now checking for this entry, I find the choice was deliberate.

The main page of today’s Exquisite Corpse is a good example of Codrescu’s imagination. He wants to use books to construct a house and is soliciting ideas. He’s also touting his latest book, The Poetry Lesson, and his current project, 1000 Nights Storytelling Festival, which I wish I could attend.

I do take issue with an item from the Stuyvesant Bee that lists chicken, or chicken and pork, as the main ingredient in Brunswick Stew. These days I guess that’s the politically correct approach. But the most accurate history I could find says squirrel is the proper meat. I’ve heard that ’possum, muskrat and raccoon can go into the pot but not tame ol’ chicken.

One of the items that fulfills the scary, sexy, glamorous requirement is the third interview with William S. Burroughs, himself a scary, enigmatic man, whose advice consisted of “feed your cats.” That’s it? From one of the icons of the Beat Generation and a father to hippies everywhere — feed your cats? Must have been one his days of heavy drug use, though I’m not sure there were any light days.

That’s just a sampling. The Corpse is definitely worth reading, as is the rest of the Codrescu canon.

What’s the Message?

September 24, 2010

I had intended another entry, but it will have to wait.

Wesleyan held Nora Miller’s agonizing and beautiful memorial service late yesterday afternoon. Light streamed through the three stained glass windows of the chapel. I’ve never been around so many people (500?) sitting mostly still, in utter silence. No talking, a little whispering, no cell phones. Just a great many people come together with a purpose. Most were students but faculty, and former students and teachers from Middletown filled in a few places. The 5 p.m. service started a bit late as more and more people made space for friends and friends of friends.

The sun formed prisms and rainbows behind the left panel of the triptych when we arrived. As the service ended it was shining through the center pane. I’ve not read the history of the building, but my sense was that the designers intended those windows to catch the westering sun at the equinox, which occurred Wednesday night.

A visibly shaken Michael Roth opened the proceedings. I have seen Wesleyan’s  president in a number of settings. I have never before seen him at a loss for words. He meant it when he said, “I don’t know what to say.” It was as if he took Nora’s death as a personal failure. He recovered, however, with brief remarks on how we should all be grateful for Nora’s time here and with us. But he also acknowledged the pain and the grief that everyone was feeling at the loss of such a magnificent human being. Since we had just watched a photo tribute that captured her in all her various moods, it was impossible not to second that emotion.

I won’t rehearse the entire service but say merely that Rabbi David Leipziger Teva has perfect pitch. He stood up twice, once to read a letter from the family, and then to deliver remarks about Nora. He, too, acknowledged the difficulty of the situation. He had everyone take the hand of their neighbor while he spoke. His message of connection and support resonated throughout the chapel.

As Larry and I walked back to the car, we noticed that a great many people seemed reluctant to leave, even though there was a reception following. Most were just standing around in front of the chapel, looking utterly lost.

Before the ceremony the day served up various disturbing messages that I have not yet processed. I tried to listen to the songs from the album that Nora posted called Set Yourself on Fire. I couldn’t so I can’t tell you whether Stars merited the Juno nomination.

A few minutes after I turned off the audio, I came across an interview with William S. Burroughs for the blog entry I intended to post. Early in the interview he revealed he had never contemplated suicide and would only do so under very, very limited circumstances – capture and potential torture by the Nazis or maybe terminal cancer. I must say I agree. The interviewer seemed incredulous given Burroughs’ multiple addictions. He also talked about the reasons for Abbie Hoffman’s suicide. That death was ruled an accidental drug overdose but changed to suicide following an autopsy. Burroughs seemed to think it should have been obvious from the start.

At lunch I came across a poem titled “The Problem” by George Held. It had been published in the Fall 2008 CT Review, the state university journal. I’ve had the magazine for quite some time but am just now reading it. The poem takes its inspiration from a quote by Albert Camus: “There is only one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” Held seems to think that these days the problem of inequality equals the problem of suicide, or maybe it’s the same thing.

Then I turned on the radio so I could do my aerobic workout. I had left it on the station that plays the drug-addicted, misogynist hate-monger and the only word I heard him say before I changed the station was “suicide.” My search for music brought me to “Only the Good Die Young,” which I flipped past in a hurry.

At that point I switched over to the iPod, found “Beat It” at 138 beats per minute, turned it up full blast and started the workout.

Tomorrow

September 24, 2010

I can’t wrap my head around the memorial service for Nora Miller. I’ll post tomorrow.

The Death of English

September 23, 2010

As previously noted “Regret the Error,” “Annabelle and Other Friday Follies,” I love reading about the errors, particularly typos, committed by newspapers and magazines.

In that spirit, Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post has proclaimed the death of English. He even picked a date: August 21, 2010. Mr. Weingarten presents evidence in the form of a number of errors that have occurred since the WaPo, like other newspapers, has consigned its copy editors to the ranks of the unemployed, or “repurposed” them.

Even when copy editors worked diligently, mistakes escaped us. I recall a colleague’s saying (gerund takes the possessive, don’t you know) that there were “only” three or four mistakes in the paper that day. Our boss replied, “I’m glad you aren’t my surgeon!” The rejoinder: “This isn’t brain surgery.” Maybe not, but the point was that readers deserved to have it handled as such. These days newspaper owners and managers only care about keeping their shareholders or the bankruptcy judge and maybe their few advertisers happy. (“Spel czech wanted me to change “days” to “days’” in the preceding sentence.) Actual news consumers fall way down on the list, just above rank-and-file employees.

Mr. Weingarten cites a number of instances that preceded the final breath of the English language. My favorites are: “pronounciation”’; “spading and neutering,” “prostrate cancer.” Spel czech should have picked up the first gaffe, but it would take an actual human eye (or two) to catch the incorrect use of actual words.

This effort to write the proper obituary is salutary, but, my dear Mr. Weingarten, I fear you are years late. Here’s a correction from your own paper dated 2009, which actually won the award for crunk of the year: “A Public Enemy song declared 9/11 a joke. The song refers to 911, the emergency phone number.”

Apparently I am not alone in welcoming a slam or five at the slaughter of the language. A significant number of others inveighed (love that word) against the confusion of it’s and its, (a confusion that spel czech doesn’t understand); they’re, their, and there; formally and formerly. The best commentary was a link from a British commentator, who really wants us to start using the Queen’s English properly. (Does he want it back if we don’t?)

Others have sent Mr. Weingarten their own “favorites.” I won’t repeat them as chalk across a blackboard would be preferable.

All in all, Mr. Weingarten, I join you in mourning the death of a beautiful and cranky language, and thank you for the eulogy. I fear the corpse has long since rotted.

Skechers, etc.

September 22, 2010

Quick note: As I listened to Terry Gross interview David Rakoff I picked up “Writing at Wesleyan.” Who is on the list for the Russell House series? David Rakoff. He merits an entire blog, not just an entry. He’ll be at Wesleyan on November 10 and so will I.

Quick note II: Wooden nickels pay dividends. Larry and I went for senior day at Lyman’s. I used their version of customer appreciation. (“I Take Wooden Nickels”). The result was the best applesauce either one of us has ever tasted. Better yet, it was free! Well, actually I had to spend $75 to get a $5 jar, but it was more than worth it.

Now for the main event, here’s the required ethics statement: I paid for my Skechers and am not receiving any money from the company for any comments I make about its products.

Now for the rave.

My second attempt to locate sandals (‘Redux, Redux IV Chapter 2’) produced two pairs of Bass. I have not worn them since I bought them because I went across to another discount shoe place and bought a pair of Skechers Toneups. I’m Ninjafied! And no, I did not pay $50 for them.

I’ve owned a couple of pairs of Skechers, including a cute pair of slides, for a number years. Useless for much of anything but walking to the car and into the mall, which I seldom do. Hence after five years they still look like new. Hence I was not prepared for these babies. Except for a couple of chilly evenings when I had to don regular shoes, and my volunteer efforts at the hospital (no slides allowed), I’ve not had them off. In fact they’ve already stretched so much I’ve got little marks on the sides of my feet where the thong part is rubbing. It’ll be time to retire them for the season soon. Anyway, I raved about them so much that Anna bought a pair while she was visiting and didn’t take hers off after she put them on, either.

The slightly raised and very cushioned heel makes make me feel as though I’m walking on a cloud. I’m not sure about claims that wearers burn more calories and that they improve posture, but I do know that my legs feel stronger. They came with a little booklet which has disappeared into the bowels of my office. If I find it I’ll update this entry with relevant info.

I was in the market for a new pair of running/walking shoes because the ones I had were too small. After a couple of wearings, the toenails fell off both my big toes. Note to self: never again buy running shoes in the depths of winter. I gave Anna my just about new pair and went in search of something better while she looked for shoes for work at the same place where I had purchased the Toneups.

There were floor to ceiling piles of boxes of Skechers Shape-ups. I’m not only Ninjafied, I’m Action Packed! And no, I did not pay $100 for them. But they are worth it. The ads claim it’s like walking on sand and it really does feel that way. Since I’ve worn them, I no longer have any pain in my knees or hips. The shin splints are gone, and I can feel that my leg muscles are even stronger than they were with the Toneups. (The copy editor in me is asking why there is a hyphen with shape and not with tone…) The journalist in me is asking how much of this is marketing hype, even as my legs are enjoying the feeling.

The Shape-ups came with a booklet that describes the various models and provides warmup (hyphen?) exercises. Testimonials are included, too. A separate booklet contains a diet guide with the all important BMI at the beginning. Most of the advice is sensible: avoid junk food, balance meals, don’t skip. But diet soda should not be on the list. Also, noting that most people don’t want to cook at the end of a long day and then suggesting a meal of baked potato, grilled swordfish, and asparagus seems self-defeating. How about suggesting people cook several dishes over the weekend (not including fish) and freeze for use during the week?

The last little goodie in the shoe box was “Shape-ups: Shape Up While You Walk,” a DVD to get started. I have only done the 5 minute warmup and the 15 minute workout. Talk about a burn! Will post again when I’ve worked my way up to the 30 minute torture – I mean session. One positve finding: I’m (more than) a few years beyond the target age for the customers, but my balance is excellent and except for a couple of arm waving parts, I could do the advanced level without a problem.

Of course I didn’t look at any of the literature until I had worn the Shape-ups the first day on two walks, one very hilly, lasting perhaps a half hour and the other on a more level surface lasting more than an hour. I mean, who includes instructions in a shoe box? The Action Packed felt great, though my feet tended to pronate, which they don’t normally do. Then I read that I wasn’t supposed to wear them for more than 45 minutes on the first wearing. And that I was supposed to go through all these little balancing tests to find the right spot. Oh, well. No harm has occurred that I can see.

Since that first day I’ve worn them on several walks and have noticed they provide an extra workout. They really do feel like walking in sand. My legs are getting stronger and my balance has improved. Not sure about posture, though. And no more shin splints, no more hip pain, no more knee pain. I’m a believer.

Now all I have to do is find a pair of boots and a pair of slippers. …

Finding a ‘Face Like Ours’

September 21, 2010

My friend Bill Foster, Professor William H. Foster III to the rest of the world, is one of those special people who has uncovered hidden treasure. He shares it with the world and then he finds more and shares that. A professor at Naugatuck Valley Community College, he is indeed a scholar, but his area of expertise isn’t some arcane topic that us ordinary folk can’t wrap our heads around.

For many years, Bill has researched, and written about, and lectured on the world of comics and cartoons, specifically the images of people of color in comics and the lives of the people who drew and wrote them.

He actually began his studies a young boy growing up in Philadelphia (more about that below). But as much as he devoured the likes of the super heroes and Archie, he couldn’t find any pictures of black people. After he grew up, he searched and continued to find almost nothing into 1960s and beyond. He searched back and found stereotypes in early cartoons, but still no characters of substance, black supermen (or superwomen).

Eventually he was able to track down people who had created such characters (and a few heroines). Bill interviewed those creative pioneers and as he researched, he began to write about his findings and to publish his interviews. He compiled those essays and interviews in Looking for a Face Like Mine, which was published in 2005 by Fine Tooth Press.

I learned a great deal from Bill’s writings. For example, I had heard of The Justice League of America but had stopped reading comics by the time the series discovered African Americans in the 1970s. One episode included a black soldier who had the ability to control people with his voice, a power he discovers in Vietnam.

And I learned that trading cards have evolved far beyond the routine baseball cards that showed up in packs of bubble gum when I was a kid. Bill says he has more than 3,000 trading cards with an African American theme. Prominent items include the leaders of the Civil Rights era – Martin Luther King and Malcolm X – but also Franklin from Peanuts and Miss Black America.

Perhaps the most useful part of the book is the final chapter, “An Abbreviated History – Blacks in Comic Books” beginning with what Bill thinks is the first comic book by African Americans, published in 1947 and ending with a graphic novel The Festering Season, published in its entirety in 2002.

With Looking for a Face Like Mine, I thought Bill had exhausted his subject, but I was wrong.

On Saturday I went to a book signing for Dreaming of a Face Like Ours. He held the event appropriately at Sarge’s Comics in New London. I had a few minutes to kill after I arrived, so I wandered down toward the State Pier, where a 3,000-person cruise ship had docked that morning. Most of the passengers had departed for the casino or Mystic Seaport but some were already drifting back and filled the streets. I hope they gave some business to the few vendors selling arts and crafts at the bottom of State Street.

Then I returned to the store where I looked through the collection of New Yorker cartoons from 1928 to 1950. Talk about negative images of black folks! They were all there – thick lips, eyes with big whites, Brillo hair. I shut the book in disgust, though I probably should have bought it. And I read a graphic bio (graph-bio instead of biograph?) of Anne Rice. Who knew her parents named her Howard when she was born? I gained an appreciation of Rice’s ability to probe the dark side from her upbringing in a poor Irish section of New Orleans. But I still do not understand her return to the church unless maybe Type I diabetes  drove her back to her faith.

Pretty soon Bill and his wife Gretchen arrived, and I soon had a chance to dive into my autographed copy of Dreaming of a Face Like Ours. This time he delves into such topics as images of Harlem in comics and cartoons and images of black cowboys. He devotes a full chapter to graphic biographies of African American women, including two about Harriet Tubman. Aside from these world-famous people, I was proud to realize I had actually heard of some of the other characters and their authors.

Torchy Brown, drawn by Jackie Ormes, came up when I was researching At Home Inside. I remember noting the paper doll cutouts for her clothing and remarking on the fact that Torchy’s creator was a woman. I pursued this avenue bit because someone had compared Torchy to Elton Fax’s Susabelle, a sassy little kid. Fax’s charcoal drawing of my father is included in my memoir.

Bill drew my attention to two other familiar folk. One was not a cartoonist, but rather a brilliant storyteller. Langston Hughes created Jesse B. Simple in the mold of the comic anti-heroes. He was a “simple” man who with his pointed observations held a mirror up to a world pained by war and riots and poverty and of course racism.

The other man included in the same chapter was a friend of my parents. Oliver or Ollie Harrington created the character Bootsie, who appeared in black newspapers and elsewhere for years. Harrington became a victim of the McCarthy witch hunt and moved to Europe. But Bootsie lived on for years.

Aside from Torchy and Simple and Bootsie, I have learned a great deal from reading Professor Bill’s insightful prose. I particularly enjoyed the concluding essays “Foster’s Freehold” in which he discusses images of black people in science fiction, comics, and “other forms of popular culture.” His fourth column about the novel Space Relations by Donald Barr is especially thought-provoking. I plan to search out this tale of a young black man captured and held as a slave. Written in the 1970s it is, according to the “Freehold,” a commentary on the treatment of slaves in the United States more than a century earlier.

Thanks, my brother, for expanding our understanding of the world around us.

An aside: I met Bill through a mutual friend and learned that he had grown up in Philadelphia, not far from where I lived when I went to law school. Then I found out that when Bill first moved to this area, he rented a room from Larry’s grandmother. Small world!