An Impending Beheading

[Update, January 3, 2016: Sheikh Nimr was executed by beheading and his body crucified on January 2, 2016, by the authorities in Saudi Arabia. He was one of 47 executed that day. The oppressed Shia population in Saudi Arabia is protesting; Iran, a majority Shia nation is officially outraged. The Sheikh was a soft-spoken leader of that population.

Below is a post from October 2015; I will have a full post-execution column this week.]

The Gad About Town

[Update, January 3, 2016: Sheikh Nimr was executed by beheading and his body crucified on January 2, 2016, by the authorities in Saudi Arabia. He was one of 47 executed that day. The oppressed Shia population in Saudi Arabia is protesting; Iran, a majority Shia nation is officially outraged. The Sheikh was a soft-spoken leader of that population.

Below is a post from October 2015; I will have a full post-execution column this week.]

His family says that he has calmly accepted his probable fate: Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr is due to be beheaded soon, possibly this week. A post from his Facebook account this morning confirmed that Sheikh Nimr was informed by his family (rather than by a judge in a hearing) yesterday that a court upheld his sentence. It said that he thanked them for the information.

Sheikh Nimr is the uncle of Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, the…

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‘Poetry of Departures’

Philip Larkin died 30 years ago today.

The Gad About Town

Philip Larkin (August 9, 1922–December 2, 1985), was a librarian at the University of Hull in the north of England. He was also a major poet; almost thirty years after his death, he is consistently ranked among the top ten post-war English writers. Born in Coventry, he studied at Oxford University and became best friends with Kingsley Amis; he contributed to and helped edit Amis’ first novel, “Lucky Jim,” which launched Amis on his own legendary career in literature.

He accepted the position at Hull, far away from the London literary scene, in 1955 and never left. He rarely saw London or Oxford, even more rarely spent time abroad, never set foot in Canada or America. In 1964, a television program profiled Larkin, who by then had published two novels and three volumes of poetry and was being ranked among the best writers of his generation. Asked about his affiliation…

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‘A Conversation with Cary Grant’

Cary Grant died 29 years ago today. Here is one movie fan’s memory of an encounter …

The Gad About Town

(Cary Grant died 29 years ago today in Davenport, Iowa, while on tour with his Q&A show, “A Conversation with Cary Grant.”)
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Starting in the mid-1980s, Grant toured in a one-man question-and-answer show, “A Conversation with Cary Grant,” in which he spent ninety minutes or so answering questions from audience members. Several other movie stars and celebrities have since taken on similar productions in which they and their fans bask in an accepted and reflected adoration? Gregory Peck, for one?but Grant was the first. The show was an extended, and deserved, curtain call from beginning to end.

One cool feature to Grant’s tour was that it visited theaters in which he had performed during his vaudeville years in the 1920s. Thus it was that in April 1985 I found myself sitting in the balcony of the small (1500 seat) Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston…

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Donald Trump’s Disability

Donald Trump’s disability is a terrible one, one that I would not wish on anyone: There is little that is more disabling than a mean spirit.

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“Four eyes!”

The elementary school bullies used to yell that. I hated the plastic tortoise-shell glasses for their book-thickness, their weight, but most of all, I hated them for the taunts. There were other kids who wore glasses in our school, so I could not have been the only one who was taunted, but my glasses truly were thicker than anyone else’s. By high school I took up the affectation of not needing them, because, as a near-sighted person, I could see light and dark and shapes and so I could negotiate my way from classroom to classroom. I stopped the affectation one day when I did not recognize my own sister among the shapes and colors of our high school halls.
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Peter Cook: Goodbye-ee

The great comedian Peter Cook was born on this date in 1937. This essay is a tribute I wrote about him in January 2015. Please enjoy.

The Gad About Town

John Cleese has said that for him it often took hours of “grinding” work to write several minutes of comedy, but that Peter Cook could write three minutes of top-quality material in just over three minutes. It appeared to come to him that easily early in his career.

But he did work hard. As a writer and performer, Cook worked hard at avoiding politeness for politeness’ sake if a laugh was available instead. When the Prime Minister of England, Harold Macmillan, wanted to attend a performance of the hot new West End show, “Beyond the Fringe,” either no one told him that one part of the show was the performance of a monologue by Peter Cook as Macmillan and that Cook made Macmillan sound like a sluggish dolt, or it was expected that Cook would skip that section of the performance in deference to the nation’s leader. In the monologue…

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Planet Kitty

According to the internet, today is National Cat Day, brought to you by places that make money by declaring things like “National Cat Day.” Thank you internet!

Whatever could go wrong with that? (https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/comedy-of-errors-and-bonus-assignment/)

The Gad About Town

The stories about Angel’s supreme being-ness are too many to recount and they bore her anyway. Our entire Planet Earth, all four rooms of it—and, really, that’s three rooms too many but space is needed for all seven billion humans upon it—are here because she willed it through complete indifference.

Without trying, but after a really deep stare at nothingness, there was tuna, and even better, salmon treats, but there was no one to bring these savories to her. She developed opposable thumbs but was bored with the effect and thus willed thumbs onto someone who could use them to bring her platters of tuna, and even better, salmon treats.

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The Pointless Loss of El Faro

About three miles beneath the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean, 35 nautical miles north of Crooked Island in the Bahamas, at 23.2°N 73.7°W, rests SS El Faro, a 790-foot-long cargo ship that was lost at sea on October 1, a victim of Hurricane Joaquin. The ship and her entire 33-man crew were lost; other than one unidentifiable body and an empty lifeboat in a debris field, little else has yet been found. (The ship had two lifeboats that had more than enough space for the entire crew as well as supplies; it is unknown if the crew, a well-trained crew of professionals, even had the chance to abandon ship.)

El Faro had been on its way from Jacksonville, Florida, to Puerto Rico. And there lies the problem. It did not need to be there, stormy day or sunny day, and it does not now need to be at the bottom of the Atlantic, with 33 dead. An American law known colloquially as the Jones Act created the reason the ship was where it was and now, where it is.
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Down with Renoir!

The anti-Renoir movement continues to get (tongue-in-cheek) coverage and has announced a march at “High Noon” this Saturday, October 17, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The Gad About Town

Yesterday at noon, protesters began to chant: “Rosy cheeks are for clowns / Do your job, take them down.” Another: “God hates Renoir! God hates Renoir!” The number of people attending the protest in front of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts numbered in the middle-to-high single digits, according to reports.

Max Geller, a political organizer, hates Pierre-Auguste Renoir, the Impressionist painter who died in 1919 and never used anything but pastels in any of his several many famous and gigantic works. If one could type a sentence that used air quotes and then took them away and then replaced them again, one might perhaps begin to convey a sense of how completely almost serious and almost mocking and yet earnestly this hatred is felt.

Protest is important. In a free country, one ought to be able to protest anything and everything. This happens to be a free country…

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