Bright Star

All day I have been thinking about August, with its steamy heat, threatening clouds, violent clashes, super moons, and super stars, some of whom have fallen, and left us forever.

It hasn’t been the easiest month in the world.

When the word hit that Robin Williams–so quick on his feet, so thrilling to watch as his manic humor unfolded–had died, I really could not believe it.  It sounded like a hoax, a terrible mistake, and I was just waiting for someone to post that it was all a big joke, that he was fine, making a movie, performing for the USO, hanging out with his friends.  You know:  being himself, one day after another.

That is how it is sometimes:  something is over, and you would do anything to bring it back.

But you can’t.

Someone leaves, and you would do anything for that person to walk back through that door.

But they won’t.

Lots of words have been written about his death, the ones that keep ringing in our ears: depression, alcoholism, drugs, bi-polar disorder, rehab, treatment, struggling.  I keep thinking about one of his last interviews in which he said he was okay with being unhappy sometimes.  I know we need these words to identify certain problems, but somehow, they still feel hollow as explanations or even contributing factors to a mystery as wide as the sea, the mystery of why one would choose death over life.  We will never really know the answer to the question “why?” and maybe that is part of why it hurts so much–silence is such meager solace when mourning a loss.

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Big Times in Big-D


When you are driving to Dallas in July, the last thing you think will happen is that the temperatures will be below the high nineties. But when I pulled into the DFW Hilton in Grapevine, the Dallas suburb near the airport, it was only 82. In Texas, in July, this constitutes a minor miracle. It was the first of many pleasant surprises, and you might even be a little shocked to hear that I, Miss Lit on Lit-Er-Ah-Ture, was there for a conference to hear all about science writing.

Strange, but true.

I brought my son Christopher with me because he wasn’t named after the Patron Saint of Travel for nothing, and when we drove the long way from Houston, he read to me from a book called Ambush about Bonnie and Clyde. He had visited the Bonnie and Clyde museum in Louisiana, saw where they were shot dead, and wanted to disabuse me of any romantic notions I might have about them. He told me that Bonnie was really a waitress, (although he used the more politically correct “server,”) and that “she was just a tag-along, although they were in love.” When we walked into the hotel, the first thing we saw was the restaurant called “Bonnie and Clyde’s.” We looked at each other and laughed. Well, you can’t reach everyone.
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The Magnificence of “Maleficent”

Angelina Jolie may be the most beautiful woman on the planet, the face that launches not thousands, but countless ticket sales for the pleasure of seeing her unforgettable image on the wide screens of movie theaters across the globe.  Like Edgar Allan Poe’s “Helen,” she has a “classic” beauty that seems to defy time.  She does not seem of this century, but of any century, take your pick.


No wonder she was chosen to play the gorgeous and gloriously malcontented Maleficent in Disney’s “retelling” of the animated “Sleeping Beauty” that I saw as a child.  And why not?  Figuring out whether or not “true love’s kiss” cures anything, including the need for a wake-up call, is a puzzle that is never going to go away.

Now let me tell you right up front that this is not a movie review, and I am going to give it all away, so just ex-out right now if you are afraid of “spoilers.”  This is just some writing–you don’t need movie reviewers to help you with Disney movies now, do you? Of course not. And to tell you the truth, I am sick to death of “critics,” with their murderous dissections, their insufferable arrogance.  They don’t “help” me as much as they protest. It’s my movie and I will like it if I want to.  Or, not.  Usually, I change sides. I like to think about it, revel in ambivalence or just be fickle about it.  Hey, the stakes are low.

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