I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
August 30, 2016 - 11:28 a.m.
I just sat up straight as that's better for typing even though that involved moving. Believe it or not that's important. Picture me writing this. I bet you are picturing it wrong. I sit on a couch. Now I'm sitting straight up, before I was slouching. That's what I changed. My feet are resting on an office chair the same height as the couch, it's my ottoman. Rob Petrie trips over it every day. That joke, how I'm sitting, and the need to write this, tells you quite a bit about me.
Gene Wilder died yesterday. My usual take when Facebook explodes with tributes to people dying is, "Come on, do you really care so much about this guy? When was the last time you thought about him when he was alive?" That's now how I feel about Gene Wilder. The first time I saw him was in The Producers. I saw it in the theater twice. I loved the film and thought that Wilder was the funniest person on earth. I laughed out loud in the theater. I saw it again with camp when I insisted that it was the movie we should see because I knew that everyone needed to see it. They all owe me a debt of gratitude as the film was a flop and not that many people got to see it in a theater.
He had a run of great films over the next 10 years, Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx, Start the Revolution Without Me, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein. You can maybe add The Frisco Kid to the list. I was never that enamored with his films with Richard Pryor. I preferred the films he directed. They weren't great but they were always charming. That was the end of it. He did nothing I felt special after that. That was enough. Those aren't just great films, they are unique, nothing at all generic ab out them. Oh hell I'll add one more from the 70s, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother. It belongs because it too is unique and I can't see anyone but Wilder in the role.
Here's where I feel differently than many of you. My reaction on hearing he died was not sadness. It was not, "Oh my god no!" He wasn't cheated, he was 83. He was no longer an active artist. There's no lamenting the great things he will now never do. My reaction was being reminded how great he was and how much I loved those films. I was too old for Willy Wonka in the theaters. This fourteen-year-old was not going to see a children's movie. At that point the only role I'd seen him in was the Producers and I was disappointed he wasn't doing something like that. I had never read Roald Dahl so I didn't know how delightfully weird he was. So I discovered that as an adult not no longer embarrassed to watch a kids' movie. I also discovered Quackser Fortune and Start the Revolution on TV or video. He started his career as a star with three great films that flopped. Maybe the producers made a fortune because of that.
I somehow didn't know that Wilder was Jewish till reading his obit. Now it seems obvious but I never thought about it before, not even after The Frisco Kid. Yesterday a friend linked to this an excerpt from Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish. Reading that I discovered that he saw the world very similarly to the way I do.
"I'm going to tell you what my religion is," Wilder announces, leaping to the point. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Period. Terminato. Finito." (I can't help hearing Wonka's voice in the factory: "Finito!") "I have no other religion. I feel very Jewish and I feel very grateful to be Jewish. But I don't believe in God or anything to do with the Jewish religion."That could have come straight out of Wise Madness. Then there's this.
The world is not based on fairness. Human beings can rise to fairness, can administer something that makes it fair or just. But that's not God. When I was being radiated twice a day at Sloan-Kettering, they'd wheel me down there and I'd see these little kids—5, 6 years old—bald from the chemotherapy. I'm supposed to think that if their mothers had prayed to God, asking, 'Please help my child,' then they wouldn't be here? Nonsense." Wilder shakes his head.That's exactly what I think. Who knew that Gene Wilder had the same theology as me? Not me. Did you think of Gene saying "Not me" in the courtroom scene in the The Producers? I did and felt the need to tell you.
Usually I feel alienated when a celebrity dies and everyone discusses it. Last night was the opposite. He made me feel part of the community. Well almost, when I asked people what their favorite film of his was so answers made me go, "oy!" Of course some people might think that about my loving Revolution and Revolution.
Now for breakfast. I will make it before noon today if I can get myself moving.
Good Neuro on City Island - September 04, 2016
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