I’m currently reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs that I bought and had autographed by Mr. Isaacson at the Austin Book Festival this past November.  The man’s life was complicated and the story is mesmerizing…or maybe his life was also mesmerizing. In any case, I am enjoying the look at the dichotomy of art and technology that Jobs personified in his personal and business life.

This afternoon, upon returning to my hotel room after work, I reached the point in the book where Jobs has been ousted from Apple and has purchased what would become PIXAR from George Lucas. In doing that, he came into contact with John Lasseter. In reaching this point in the story, I was reminded of Lasseter’s first animated short in 1986 for PIXAR, “Luxo Jr.”, which told the short (two minutes) story of a desk lamp named Luxo and his son Luxo Jr. as they play with a ball.

Do you remember when you first saw this?

 

 

Even 32 years later, the story is what still shines through over the, at that time, state of the art animation and makes you think “Awww” part way through and then laugh at the cuteness of the ending.

Although Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said many wonderful things before his life was cut short, this has always been my favorite quote of his:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Since my mid-teens, I have always done my best to base my judgment of people upon their character and I have always found that it is a much more reliable gauge of the type of person they are than looks, wealth, social position, or any other part of their makeup.

R.I.P. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This post will be a bit deeper than usual, but I need to get this out of my head. No names are used to protect the innocent…and, unfortunately, the guilty as well.

Last Sunday night, Cindy and I were watching “The Space Between Us” on demand when Gary Oldman’s character, Nathaniel Shepherd, said a line to his son that riveted my attention and solidified feelings and thoughts I had been having over the previous week when he spoke these words;

“But it’s like the malignancy of any secret. It just kept getting worse.”

"Lies and secrets, they are like a cancer in the soul.They eat away what is good and leave only destruction behind." Since New Year’s Day we had been dealing with that very subject; the malignancy of secrets. Secrets that, like the plot of some dime-store novel, had been kept for years and years by people and now were causing results that were driving events beyond the control of innocent victims.

I had said to Cindy on New Year’s Day that secrets not only had consequences that would have to be dealt with, but that sometimes they also have unintended consequences.

I wish I had not been so right about that.

Trust me when I say that I was not blameless in keeping this secret. I was asked to do so by the one person who had the only valid reason for asking such a thing. And I kept it because I was told it was a one-time thing and would never happen again.

Until it did.

GuiltAnd then my anger exploded like a bomb in my soul. I was angry with myself for being an unwitting part of hiding something that had enabled someone to continue their depraved and repugnant behavior. And then I was incredibly angry with those who had initiated keeping the secret and supported keeping the secret because, even with the revelation of new, horrid actions there was still no one who wanted to deal with this person in the manner which they so richly deserved. Those that knew seemed more than content to simply keep hiding the secret.

What I could not, and still cannot, fathom is how people could keep this vile, repugnant, reprehensible behavior of someone a secret and never confront that person. Especially when the disgusting behavior and actions raised their ugly head once again and now have, no doubt, ruined the life of someone else who should never have had to endure such despicable words and thoughts.

Nightime is the worst. It's when everyone has a lot of time to think, good thoughts or bad. Secrets or no secrets.As a result, my feelings for and about some people had changed dramatically over the previous 6 days due to those secrets and the abhorrent decision to continue acting like these contemptible behaviors and actions were not occurring again. They just let this sick person keep acting like they are moral, upright, and honorable when they are none of those things. These are not the kind of people I want in my life. Right now, I don’t even want myself in my life because I still feel the weight of responsibility and guilt. Work and books help to alleviate some of that weight, but sleep comes fleetingly and when it does it is filled with nightmares that wake me throughout the night. I have tremendous anger and guilt at myself, and a tremendous amount of anger at those who still refuse to confront this person.

This whole sordid situation truly represents the truth of consequences and unintended consequences that are caused by the malignancy of secrets.

David Letterman and former President Barack Obama

I just finished watching the first episode of the new Netflix series, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction – with David Letterman” with former President Obama as his inaugural guest and I truly enjoyed the entire show. It was fun, poignant, and entertaining. My only wish is that it had been longer (because you could obviously tell that it had been edited down for length) so that there would have been more to savor.

And, after seeing David Letterman’s, as former President Obama described it, “biblical beard” I’ve begun to seriously entertain the thought that I might grow mine out like that as well.

 

 

 

Just cleaning up a bit, sweeping, dusting off the layer of dust that has accrued over the last two years or so of disuse, and mopping up the floor.

Just in case we were to, you know, reopen sometime soon.

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2018 and welcome back to this blog.

Note: It’s taken me several sleepless nights to try and put these words together. They still seem woefully pathetic in expressing the sadness I carry and the good memories of the small part of my friend’s life that I was honored and humbled to be a part of, but I hope they will do it justice.

 

I’m trying, and finding it extremely difficult,  to process the unexpected passing of a friend.

I’ve been trying to since Tuesday morning at approximately 8:30 am MST when Cindy called me crying to tell me that our friend, Art Littlefield, had passed away Monday. I was driving across the barren Lakota Sioux Pine Ridge Reservation on my way to the FEMA office in Pine Ridge and the news was such a stunning blow that I could not even accept what I was hearing. I thought she must be referring to his dad, who is also named Art.

It was interesting, the way we first met Art. About 6 1/2 years ago Cindy’s mom was talking to one of the other ladies who attended the same water aerobics class that she did in Orlando. Cindy’s mom mentioned to this lady that her daughter and son-in-law were building a cabin in Maggie Valley and the lady replied that her son was also building a cabin in Maggie Valley. Cindy’s mom said that we were building our cabin on Sheepback Mountain and the lady replied that her son was building his cabin on the same mountain. The coincidence was quite surprising.

The biggest difference was that we were using a contractor to build our cabin, but this lady’s son was building his with his own bare hands.

His own bare hands.

A few months after that Cindy and I, along with her parents who had already met Art by that time, met Art for the first time over breakfast at Joey’s Pancake House in Maggie Valley. I remember how surprised I was by his appearance. Having been told that he had cut down trees on his property by himself, had stripped their bark off and cut them to the lengths he needed, had cleared large rocks and leveled an area that provided a wonderful view of the western end of Maggie Valley from 5,000 feet up the mountain, well I expected to meet a man who was at least 6’4” weighing 300 pounds and all of it muscle. Art was maybe 5’ 10”, weighed less than 180 pounds, and was lean with a runner’s build. With his wire-rimmed glasses, he looked more intellectual than outdoorsman. Yet, as I was to discover, he was both.

Art Littlefield and Cindy at the door to his cabin in Maggie Valley.

Art and Cindy at the door to his cabin in Maggie Valley.

Over the next few years, we saw each other every few months. He was spending a lot of time coming up to Maggie Valley from his home in Melbourne, Florida to work on the cabin, hike around the area and bringing his family up to visit. After a year or so, he finished the one-room cabin with a sleeping loft above the room and a small storage area underground beneath the room.

When our cabin was completed, I believe he was the first or second friend we had over for dinner. He brought a beautiful photo of a nearby waterfall that was framed, signed, and numbered by the photographer, as a housewarming gift. Over the years, we enjoyed several dinners with him at our cabin and many additional breakfasts at Joey’s. He was always welcome to  use our shower or our guest room when it was cold. He occasionally took us up on the shower offer, but never on the use of the guest room. He liked his own cabin, and who could blame him? He, along with his wife and sons, came and spent the Christmas holidays at our cabin one year while we were in Florida, and we heard so many funny stories from that visit. He and Cindy and I hiked around to the other side of Sheepback Mountain one time when he was up visiting. And he was always adding improvements to his cabin, many times with the help of his nephew Chris or friends from Florida. He eventually added a wood burning stove, some furniture and even put in a sun-shower to give him at least some warm water. If Cindy and I went up to our cabin, we would go by and check on his, and he did the same for us if he was up at his cabin. He was one of only a few people who knew where we hid the cabin key. When he had a big family celebration in Maggie Valley one year at a nearby hotel, he graciously invited Cindy and I and her parents who were  up visiting to attend. We had a very nice time. Art was just one of those people that I enjoyed being around, and for those who know me, those kinds of people are few and far between.

From left to right: Art, me, Cindy, Cindy's mom and dad, in the parking lot of Joey's Pancake House, October, 2014.

From left to right: Art, me, Cindy, Cindy’s mom and dad, in the parking lot of Joey’s Pancake House, October 2014.

One of the main things I will always remember about Art was his smile. His smile always grew from his mouth, traveled to his eyes and then spread across his entire face. His attitude, his demeanor, his very body language and presence, if you will, was always one of courtesy, patience, kindness and…the best word I can come up with is encouragement. He was, simply put, one of the finest human beings I have had the pleasure of knowing and the honor of having in my life.

Cindy says the way to keep him alive is to remember all of these good things about him and to hold those memories in our heart. She’s probably right. But I can’t help but realize that we will never have the chance to make any more memories with Art, and that breaks my heart.

R.I.P. Art Littlefield. The world is a much poorer place without you in it, and our lives are barer without you in them.

Last Friday, while I was still in Florida, Cindy and I drove down to Clearwater to take my brother and his family to lunch for his birthday. It was the first time we’d been together for his birthday since we were kids. But I’ll write another post about that later.

This post is about my wonderful sister-in-law, Pia. And the kind of thoughtfulness that can only be defined by the deed.

For many, many  Christmases, until a couple of years before she passed away in 2010, our mom would always make Mark and I a fruitcake. I could never really understand all the jokes people made about the inedible qualities of a fruitcake until I tried a Claxton fruitcake one year and found getting down even one bite of it to be a struggle. If that was what people thought a fruitcake tasted like, then I could understand the jokes. My mom’s fruitcake tasted good and I would enjoy a slice as dessert after meals (and sometimes as a mid-day snack) for a couple of weeks after Christmas. The only drawback I could ever find was that sometimes, especially as she got older and making one became harder, the fruitcake would be a tad dry. But that was easy to overlook because, having observed her making them when I was living at home as a child, I knew the love that went into each one. That love made up for any dryness that might happen.

Since her illness and subsequent passing, I had resigned myself to the truth that I would never have another fruitcake like that again.

So you can probably imagine my surprise when, while we exchanging some gifts as we talked and laughed and visited, Pia said she had something for me. She said she knew how much Mark and I enjoyed mom’s fruitcakes and that she had asked my mom for her recipe and that mom had given it to her years ago. But that she had never used it because, while she loves to cook, she never considered herself a baker. However, this year she had made one for Mark and one for me. She also did something my Baptist mother would have never done; she soaked it in rum (which, believe me, eliminated ANY dryness, lol). She gave it to me to bring back to Orlando and made me promise that I would tell her the truth about whether it was any good or not once I had a chance to taste it.

My mother-in-law and I enjoy the delicious fruitcake my sister-in-law Pia made.I got my first taste of it Saturday night when, as you can see from the photo, I shared some with my mother-in-law.

So Pia, here’s the truth.

That was a damn good fruitcake! And it was made all the better and tastier because of your thoughtfulness in wanting to give two boys a reminder of how much that fruitcake meant each Christmas. Thank you.

I wrapped up half of it (as much as I could fit in my carryon) in aluminum foil and placed it inside a gallon ziploc bag, so I could bring it to South Dakota with me to enjoy for a few more days. The rest I left for others to enjoy in Orlando.

And so the visit and the lunch and the gift-exchanging and the sheer joy and happiness of getting to spend my brother’s birthday with him were made even more touching because of the thoughtfulness of a sister-in-law.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go have another slice of that fruitcake. 🙂

Happy New Year, 2016!

Friday , 1, January 2016 Comments Off on Happy New Year, 2016!

Happy New Year, 2016! Best wishes for a year of peace, love, happiness and success for you and yours.

Happy New Year 2016

Star Trek – The Original Series Season One Rewatch

Saturday , 5, December 2015 Comments Off on Star Trek – The Original Series Season One Rewatch

Last night I finished rewatching all 29 episodes of Star Trek – The Original Series Season One.

Earlier this year a good friend of mine told me about a set of books, “These Are The Voyages – TOS”, covering the three seasons that comprised Star Trek – The Original Series. I was, to say the least, intrigued. I watched the original Star Trek as a kid on TV each week as it aired; then again when it began enjoying a resurgence through re-runs several years later (even though the episodes were hacked edited to make room for more commercials on the stations that aired them). I’ve attended Star Trek conventions, probably read almost every book written about the series and several by the principal characters. I’ve been gifted with DVDs of episodes from the Original Series and my love of the Original Series spurred my interest in the various incarnations of the Star Trek mythos.

These Are The Voyages TOS Season One

So I was a little bit skeptical that these books would be anything other than a rehash of information I was already aware of, but I added them to my Amazon Wishlist anyway. On my birthday this year, Cindy’s mom and dad gave me the first two volumes. Have I mentioned how wonderful they are?

And if I thought these might be nothing but rehashes, well boy was I wrong.

Don’t misunderstand, there is a lot of background information, in at least the first volume which covers the first season, that I DID know already. But there was also A LOT that I did not know.

This first volume contains 658 pages dealing with the events leading up to the creation of Star Trek; detailed, behind the scenes information; new interviews with those who were there during production, filming and editing; exhaustive, episode-by-episode histories; memos and never-before-seen photos.

As the back cover states, “These Are The Voyages…will take you back in time and put you in the producers’ offices, the writers’ room, onto the soundstages, and in front of your TV sets…”

In the words of Mr. Spock, “Indeed.”

Since Netflix has Star Trek – The Original Series available to stream, I decided several weeks ago to combine my reading of the first volume with rewatching each episode of Season One. I would read the chapter on the episodes in the order they were filmed and, as I finished each chapter, I would then watch the episode. It was more fun than a barrel of phasers set to stun!

I’ve seen these episodes multiple times in the past 50 years since they first aired, but I watched them with a new awareness and eye for detail as I looked for scenes that now contained either on-screen issues I had not previously noticed (mostly continuity issues like uniform problems or fight sequences) or with a new appreciation for what was presented because I knew what the writers, producers, performers, cameramen or editors had to go through to achieve (or fail to achieve) what I was looking at 5 decades later.

In a strange bit of serendipity, I was at the bookstore a couple of weeks ago and from across the room saw this book, “The Autobiography of James T. Kirk” in a display. I tried to appear to be casually strolling over to the display, but the people I knocked out of the way may disagree with my description of how I behaved. Don’t worry, they’ll be fine.

The Autobiography of James T. Kirk

I bought the book, brought it back to the hotel, and began reading it. Soon, I was at the point in the autobiography that coincided with where I was in my reading of “These Are The Voyages” and viewing of the episodes. It was a copacetic experience to be reading the behind the scenes accounts, watching the episodes and reading the “autobiography” of the fictional Captain Kirk in the same order.

But soon the autobiography moved ahead of the first season and the magical experience came to an end. I finished “The Autobiography of James T. Kirk” last night as well and enjoyed it tremendously. I have plans to gift it to the same friend that told me about “Star Trek – The Original Series” for the holidays this year.

If you’re a fan of Star Trek, especially The Original Series, then you’ll want to get these 3 volumes and enjoy the excitement all over again.

 

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