robertsgriffin.com

THOUGHTS

In this section are thoughts on whatever comes to mind, no limit on topics, written for this web site.  When I get the impulse, I’ll write thoughts and add them to what’s already here (I don’t plan on ever deleting any thoughts).  For each thought, there will be a title, length, the month and year I wrote it, a blurb on what it’s about, and a PDF of the  thought. 

To get a sense of who I am and how I see things and what's going on with me, you could read these thoughts in order beginning with "On Foucault,"  the June, 2007 thought. The thoughts are self-contained, however, and you can read them in any order.  

If the PDFs are oversize, adjust them to accommodate your reading preference.

Beginning in 2018, I'm going go put the latest thought at the top rather than at the bottom.

         

         •  On Arthur Godfrey and Haleloke, 6 pp., May, 2019.

 

         When I was twelve or so, I watched Arthur Godfrey and Haleloke on television.  Read the complete thought here.


       •  On Growing Up Well, 3 pp., April, 2019.

 

         Dear Dee— A big part of growing up is finding out what you are good at and like to do.     Read the email portion here.

 

     •  On Getting Our Needs Met, 6 pp., April, 2019.

                                     

    This week, I’ve been perusing a book about the French-born intellectual René Girard (1923-2015).   Reading the book has
    prompted me to recall a book I read a year ago, What Day is Today?  The Story of My Life in the Minor Leagues, and to reflect
    on how we go about satisfying our needs.  Read the thought here.


     On Mindfulness. 2pp., March, 2019.

        

      I don’t know if it’s the biggest choice we make in our lives, but a crucially important choice is to be happy.  Read the complete thought here.

      

      • On a Role Model for Dee, 5 pp., March, 2019.

       My daughter Dee is fourteen now, a freshman in high school.   Like every parent, I think about who in Dee’s world she can look up
       to and emulate.  It was reassuring this past week to find just such a person:  the singer Miley Cyrus.   Read the thought here.

      
        • On Kurt Vonnegut, 4pp,,  March, 2019.

        About a week ago, I looked through the biography and autobiography section of my local library’s e-book collection, and a book of letters
        by the writer Kurt Vonnegut caught my eye.  Read the complete thought here,

 

       • On Jean Arthur, 4pp., February, 2019.

       This week, I read a biography of the old-time movie actress (she did some stage work after her movie career ended) Jean Arthur (1900-1990)
        that has stuck with me.   Read the thought here.

 

     • On “Lyle Mitchell,” 6pp., February, 2019

 

     I was taken with “Escape at Dannemora,” a seven-part series on SHOWTIME which aired in November and December of 2018 and I binge
     watched in January, 2019.  “Escape at Dannemora” is based on the breakout from a prison in up-state New York by two life-sentence murderers.    

    They were abetted in their escape, as well as sexually serviced, by a prison employee, Joyce “Tilly” Mitchell.  The focus here is on the
     relationship between Tilly and her husband Lyle.   Read the thought here.

 

    • On Getting Better at Golf (and Other Things Too), 4 pp., January, 2019.

                                      

     My fourteen-year-old daughter Dee, as I call her in public expressions, lives in another state with her mother.  Dee is very involved with golf
    and shoots in the mid-70s and hopes to play on her high school team and in college.  During the 2018 Christmas break from school, she and
    her mother traveled to Arizona to compete in a junior golf tournament.   Dee wrote me a long email just after she returned from the Arizona
    trip.   She reported that she didn’t do well in the tournament.  A visit to the Grand Canyon (including the rental Mercedes to get there)
    was a great time.  With a bit of editing, this was my emailed reply to Dee’s message.  Read the email here.


     
• On the Interminable Ending of Basketball Games, 4 pp., December, 2018.

       

       I’m a regular reader of Phil Mushnick’s sports columns in The New York Post online.  I find him a breath of fresh air amid all the cheerleading and inanity
        that passes for sports commentary in our time.  Read the thought here.


       • On “First Reformed,” 5 pp., December, 2018.

 

         I’ve written favorably about screenwriter and director Paul Schrader on this site (see the thought “On Paul Schrader,” October, 2014).  
        
I’ve changed my mind.   Read the complete thought here.

                   

         • On “Just a Sigh,” 3pp., November, 2018.


                              

         I suppose to the world, the 2014 French-and-English language film “Just a Sigh” is three-and-a-half, perhaps four, stars out of five. 
        
But to me personally, its five stars.   I can’t get enough of it.  Read the review here.

 

 
            On Dreams as Life Lessons, 4 pp., October, 2018.

 

          I keep a notebook and pen on the bed stand and record my dreams.  If I don’t write them down, very often I don’t recall their particulars.   I seek   
         to remember dreams because I find them personally educative, informative, directive.   Read the complete thought here.



• On Dealing with Reviews, 3 pp., September, 2018.

                                    

After viewing a film, I often check the internet to see what professional critics have to say about it, as well as
look over viewers’ comments.   Read the complete thought here.

        

           • On Jack Jarpe, 4 pp., August, 2018.

                                     

           It’s a little after  5:00 a.m., and the image of Jack Jarpe from  

           my high school teaching years just popped in my   

           consciousness, however that happens--this was fifty years    

           ago, a half century, my gosh.  Read the complete

           thought here.

 

            • On “It’s Only Make Believe,” 7 pp., July, 2018.

 

            The past year, every couple of months it seems, I give over a couple      

  days to an “It’s Only Make Believe” pre-occupation.  Read the  complete thought here.

 

            • On Dee’s AirPods, 3 pp., July, 2018.

 

             My 13-year-old daughter Dee lives with her mother in another state.   Dee emailed me asking me to get her some AirPods, wireless earplugs
             that serve as earphones.   This is my emailed reply to her.  Read the reply here.

 

•On Guilt, 5 pp., June, 2018.

 

A week or so ago, I read a novel by William Maxwell (1908-2000), So Long, See You Tomorrow.  It is a very good book; I’d put it in the
bottom half of the top rank.   That’s all I’ll say about the worth of the book.  This isn’t a book review.  Rather, it is about what an episode
in the book brought up for me about my own life.   Read the complete thought here.

         

          • On Anna May Wong, 4 pp., May, 2018.

                                         

          For the past week, I’ve been caught up with Anna May Wong.   Who’s Anna May Wong?   A week ago, I didn’t know either.   Read the  

          complete thought here.


         • On William Stoner, 6 pp., April, 2018.

 

         William Stoner is the protagonist of the eponymous novel Stoner, published in 1965, the author John Williams (NYRB Classics, 2010).   The 

         book has gotten a lot of attention in the last few years--decades after its publication,and long after the death of its author. 
         Read my commentary here,

 

         • On Memory, 2 pp., April, 2018.

          Song from the musical “Cats.”  The lyrics here.        

          • On the Baritone Horn, 3pp., March, 2018.

                                        

             I played the baritone horn in the Monroe High School band.   A baritone horn looks like a small tuba and sits on your lap. 
           Read the full thought here.
 

         On Dr. Toni Grant, 6pp., March, 2018.

                                     

       A couple of weeks ago, I guess it was, the memory of a radio show I listened to just about daily many years ago popped into my mind,
       seemingly out of the blue.   Read the thought here.

 

        • On Dad’s Stories, 15 pp., January, 2018.

 

        I read a book on the magician and escape artist Harry Houdini (1874-1926). The Houdini book reminded me of an anecdote involving him
        my dad recounted to me frequently as a kid.  Read the complete thought here.


  • On Foucault.  19 pp.  June, 2007.

Michel Foucault (1926-1984) was a philosopher who taught at the College de France and other universities, including in the United States. He authored critical studies of social institutions, including psychiatry, medicine, and the prison system.  He also wrote about the history of sexuality and the relationship between power, knowledge, and human discourse. I first read a biography of Foucault by James Miller, The Passion of Michel Foucault, in, I believe, 1995, and have revisited it regularly since, once or twice year, reading a chapter or two or three and browsing sections here and there before setting it back on my library shelf.  This last time I pulled the book off the shelf—in June of 2007--I noted the phrases and sentences, sometimes a paragraph, I had underlined, I suppose, ten or twelve years ago.  For this thought, I reproduce the underlines and offer my comments.  This thought provides a sense of the impact this book has had on me, including my writing, this past decade, and gets across something of what I am like in 2007.  Also, I hope this thought will prompt readers to reflect on their own lives, as well as look into Foucault and the other philosophers mentioned in these pages.    Read the full thought here.

  • On Mishima.  8 pp.  July, 2007.

Yukio Mishima (1925-1970) was a Japanese author and playwright, who gained international recognition and acclaim, including being on a short list for the Nobel Prize in Literature.  He is most remembered, however, for his ritual suicide at 45 by seppuku (disemboweling oneself with a knife and then being beheaded by a colleague).  I’ve read a good bit of Mishima’s fiction, but I have been most drawn to his outlook as an artist and as a man and to his personal story.  Every couple of years for the last fifteen, I’ve checked out from the library two biographies on him and his philosophical essay and memoir Sun & Steel.  In this thought I comment on excerpts from Sun & Steel.  I hope I explain Mishima some here and encourage readers to look into his writings and personal example, but most of all I use Mishima’s writings to explain myself.   Read the full thought here.

  • On the New McCarthyism.  18 pp.  July, 2007.

The topic here is the current attacks on racially conscious and active white people by those who would marginalize, silence, and punish them for their beliefs, expressions, and actions.  I use a memoir on the McCarthy era, as it was called, in the 1940s and ‘50s, written by Walter Bernstein, Inside Out: A Memoir of the Black List, and an encounter I had in late 2006 with the Southern Poverty Law Center to frame an analysis of this phenomenon, drawing parallels between what went on in the McCarthy years, and at other points in history, and what’s going on now.  I offer some suggestions on how racially committed white people can deal with attacks against them.  Read the full thought here.

• On A Very Big Regret.  22pp.  July, 2007.

I’d like this thought to speak for itself.  The title says as much as you need to know about it before you read it.  Read the full thought here.

• On Personal Health.  16 pp.  August, 2007.

I’ve never gone after good health for all I was worth at any time in my life, and that has held me back in significant ways.  I’m making that commitment in this thought, and I’ll describe how I plan to carry out this commitment over the next few months.  I hope this thought gives guidance and inspiration both to me and to the reader of these words.   Read the full thought here.


On Three Films That Touched Me 3 pp.  August, 2007.

This past year, I saw three old Japanese films by the same director, Yasujiro Ozu, that touched me more than any films in my memory.  All three feature the actress Setsuko Hara.  This is my report on those three films.  Read the full thought here.

•On Living the Martial Way.  8 pp. August, 2007.

In the same way I did with the Foucault and Mishima thoughts, I record underlines I made in a book years ago and comment on them, a book I have gone back to a number of times since that first reading.  The book is Living the Martial Way by Forrest Morgan.   My focus is on the application of what Morgan calls the warrior mind-set to daily life.  Read the full thought here.

          •On Big Sur.  2 pp. September, 2007.
                  
          Excerpts from the book Big Sur by Jack Kerouac; although in some cases I may not have copied them down
          exactly as  they were in the book.  Read the full thought here.

          •On Chuck Davey  7 pp.  October, 2007.

           Chuck Davey was a boxer prominent in the 1950s.  I went back to a few pages I had written about him back in
           2002 and  filed away.  This thought is about what came up for me as I revisited this writing. 
           Read the full thought here. 

         •On Victoria’s Dogs  6pp. November, 2007

          Victoria Stilwell is an animal trainer who straightens out unruly dogs on the Animal Planet show, "It's Me or the
          Dog." I think I'm learning something from Victoria about straightening out unruly people. Read the full thought here.

       •On John Cheever   3 pp. November, 2007

          Entries from the journals of novelist John Cheever written in the last months of his life.  Read the full thought here.

       •On Man in the Holocene  2pp.  November, 2007 

           Excerpts from the novel by Max Frisch, Man in the Holocene.  Read the full thought here.

        •On Hemingway’s Politics  2pp.  November, 2007

        
Some passages from the book By Force of Will by Scott Donaldson about the political outlook of Ernest
         Hemingway.  Read the full thought here.

       •On Leonard Schiller  2pp. November, 2007

      
From the novel by Brian Morton, Starting Out in the Evening.  A young woman has contacted Leonard Schiller, a
       novelist in his seventies, requesting to meet him as part of writing a masters thesis on his work.
       Read the full thought here.

       • On the Death of Faron Young    2pp.  December, 2007
                                   
        Faron Young was a country music star from the late 1950s to the 1980s, a honky-tonk singer and entertainer
        in the mold of Hank Williams.  Read the full thought here.

       • On The Beans Story  2 pp.  December, 2007

       Beans, a Boston terrier (at least nominally), was the beloved family dog when I was little.  Beans was “put to sleep,”
       as they say, when I was about three—I think he had just gotten old.  Beans was often the subject of discussion
       when my much-older brother and sister and their spouses came to the house for Sunday dinner.  There was one
       Beans story, so to speak, that was repeated time and again.  Read the full thought here.

       • On Falconer 2pp. January, 2008

       John Cheever’s novel Falconer ends with convict Ezekiel Farragut’s escape from prison (New York: Knopf, 1977).
       Read the full thought here.

       • On War 1p.  January, 2008.
         Read the full thought here.

       • On Self-Abuse, 4pp., February, 2008.

       
David Crosby is a singer/songwriter who was prominent in the 1960s and ‘70s.  He developed a very serious
        drug problem in  the years of his prominence, the subject of this thought.   Included are excerpts from two hospital
        in-take  reports in late 1983.  Following the excerpts is my commentary.  Read the full thought here.

       • On Aldous Huxley, 14 pp., February, 2008.

        Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) was a British-born novelist and essayist who lived the latter part of his life in the United
        States.  He is best known for his novel Brave New World, published in 1932.  Brave New World is the ironic 
        depiction of a “utopia” in which people are brainwashed into subordination, accommodation, and a mindless,
        shallow,  though happy, existence by the  government and its agents.  Later in life, Huxley became associated with
        spiritual and mystical concerns and experimentation  with drugs reputed to be mind-expanding, such as mescaline. 
        This thought contains my commentaries on excerpts from a biography of Huxley.  Read the full thought here.
  
      • On Living the Artist’s Way, 10 pp., February, 2008.
      
       Robert Henri (1865-1929) was a prominent American painter.  Not long before his death, the Arts Council of
       New York chose him as one of the top three living American artists.  Henri was also a popular and influential
       teacher of art. Henri’s ideas on art and life were collected by a former student and published as a book in 1923
       entitled The Art Spirit. This thought is made up of  excerpts from that book.  Read the full thought here.

      • On Personal Health II: From Fear to Rage, 9 pp., March, 2008
                      
       This thought is an update on “On Personal Health,” which I wrote back in August of 2007.
       Read the full thought here.

      • On Jack Nicholson, 3 pp.,  March, 2008.
                
       Things the actor Jack Nicholson said about himself to journalists over the span of his lengthy career in films. 
       In one instance it is something a friend attributed to him.  Read the full thought here.

     • On Woody Harrelson, 5 pp., March, 2008
                                  
       Actor Woody Harrelson first came to prominence as the bartender on the hit television series “Cheers.”  He has gone
       on to an active big screen career, including starring in director Oliver Stone’s film “Natural Born Killers.”  He
       continues to act in both lead and supporting roles in films, and has become an environmental activist.  This thought
       is made up of quotes from Harrelson.  Read the full thought here.

      • On the Death of James Whale, 2 pp., March, 2008
                                  
       British-born film director James Whale is best known for directing the sophisticated and morbidly
       humorous horror classics “Frankenstein” and “Bride of Frankenstein” in the 1930s.  By the 1950s he was
       retired, essentially discarded by the Hollywood movie studios.  Read the full thought here.

      • On Arthur Bremer, 3 pp., April, 2008.      
            
        On May 15, 1972, twenty-one-old Arthur Bremer shot presidential candidate George Wallace at a rally
        in a Laurel, Maryland shopping center, paralyzing Wallace for life.  Read the full thought here.

     •On The Punisher, 1 p, April, 2008.

      Comic book superheroes tend to abide by the law and stay away from killing.  One of Marvel     

      comics' characters, however, created in the 1970s, The Punisher, had a very different 
      outlook.  Read the full thought here.

      • On Monsieur Hire, 2 pp., May, 2008.

       “Monsieur Hire” is a 1989 French film directed by Patrice Leconte.  This thought is dialogue from the film:
        Read the full thought here.

      • On Dashiell Hammett, 1 p., June, 2008.
     
      Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961) was an American author best known for his hardboiled detective fiction.  This
      thought is the last words he wrote for publication.  Read the full thought here.

     • On Two Romanian Films, 3pp., June, 2008.
                            
      This past week, I saw a couple of films I found remarkable, compelling, personally transforming. 
     Read the complete thought here.

     • On Samuel Beckett, 2pp., July, 2008.

      In 1982, at 76 years of age, the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett (“Waiting for Godot,” “Endgame”) wrote
      a play without spoken words for German television entitled “Nacht und Traüme.”  This thought is a description
      of the play.  Read the full thought here.

     • On Arthur Schopenhauer, 1p., August, 2008.
                         
    Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher.  From the age of 45 until his death 27 years later, Schopenhauer
    every day followed the same routine.  Read the full thought here.

    • On Steve Ditko, 4 pp., August, 2008.

     The success of the recent Spider-Man movies has brought new prominence to the artist who drew Spider-Man,
     Steve Ditko.  This is my explanation of what to many is a very enigmatic man.  Read the full thought here.

     •On Philippe Petit, 3pp., August, 2008

     Last night, I saw a documentary, “Man on Wire,” which recounted the planning and execution in 1974 of a high
     wire walk by Frenchman Philippe Petit across the space between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center
     in Manhattan.  This thought is my reaction to it.  Read the full thought here.

    •On Gorgeous George, 5 pp., September, 2008.

     Gorgeous George was the biggest name in professional wrestling  in the 1950s.  This is an account of one of his
     matches.  Read the full thought here. 

    • On the Death of Eddie Waitkus. 3 pp., September 2008.
                    
     In June of 1949, Eddie Waitkus was a 29-year-old veteran of the Pacific war and an all-star caliber first
     baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies major league baseball team.  Read the full thought here.

    • On John Lennon, 7 pp., October, 2008.

      This thought is essentially a reflection on the ex-Beatle John Lennon’s relationship near the end of his life
      with a woman named May PangRead the full thought here.

    • On Hayden Carruth, 2 pp., October, 2008.
           
      Hayden Carruth was best known as a major poet, but he was also a critic, essayist, novelist, and autobiographer. 
      He died at 87 on September 29th, 2008.  Read the full thought here.

    • On the Barber, 5pp., November, 2008.

     The barber was born in rural Georgia in 1890.  This is his story.  Read the full thought here.

    •On Sartre, 3 pp., November, 2008.
                                   
    Philosopher, critic, novelist, and dramatist Jean-Paul Sartre has singular eminence in world letters.  His earliest
    novel, Nausea, was published in 1938.  It is made up of the diary entries of a French writer Antoine Roquentin
    (a stand-in for Sartre himself?) that depict Roquentin’s struggle to come to grips with the meaning and direction
    of his life.  This thought is excerpts from this fictional diary.  Read the full thought here.   

   • On Richard Yates’ Former Girlfriend, 1p., December, 2008.
                                 
    Natalie Bowen had been an old girlfriend of writer Richard Yates (1926-92).  Yates is best known for his 1961
    novel Revolutionary Road.  In 1972, Bowen received a phone call from Yates.  Read the full thought here.

   • On Sending A Message With Joan Allen, 1 p., December, 2008.
                               
     Producer Jeremy Bolt says casting three-time Academy Award nominee Joan Allen in his 2008 film “Death Race”
     was to send the message that “Death Race” is an A film and not a low-class genre movie.  Read the full thought here.

   • On Don Logan’s Bad Attitude, 2pp., January, 2009.

    Don Logan is a character in the film “Sexy Beast” (2001).  Portrayed by the actor Ben Kingsley, middle-aged, working
    class Brit, fierce bird-of-prey persona, small, compact, muscular, ramrod-straight posture, shaved head, mustache and    
    goatee,  form-fitting short sleeve dress white shirt, grey dress pants, shined shoes.  The scene, a commercial airliner filled with
    passengers,  ready to take off.  Read the full thought here.

   • On Ginger’s Dress, 3pp., January, 2009.

   Ginger Rogers (1911-1995) was twenty-three years old in 1934 and preparing a duet with the legendary dancer Fred Astaire  
   (1899-1987) for the film “Top Hat,” their second film together.  This thought has to do with a conflict that arose over what
   dress Ginger should wear for her dance with Fred.  I think the way Ginger handled this episode illustrates exemplary care for 
   one’s work, and great personal integrity and courage.  And I think it also says something about how a parent can encourage
   those qualities.  Read the full thought here.

   • On John Updike, 2 pp., January, 2009.
                  
   The writer John Updike died of cancer on January 27, 2009.  He was 76.  The evening I learned of his death, I retrieved my
   copy of his memoirs (entitled Self-Consciousness) from the bookshelf and paged through it, pausing to read a few pages here
   and there.  A couple of passages particularly caught my eye.  Read the full thought here.

   • On Ted Hughes. 4pp., February, 2009.

   English poet Ted Hughes (1930-1998) near the end of his life was designated Poet Laureate of Great Britain.  This thought
   is made up of excerpts from his letters.  Read the full thought here.

   • On Philip Roth, 1 p., March, 2009.

   This thought is an excerpt from Philip Roth’s novel, The Dying Animal.  “The only thing you understand about the old
   when you are not old is that . . .”  Read the full thought here.

  • On the Death of Jean-Paul Sartre, 5 pp., April, 2009.
                                        
   Jean-Paul Sartre, 1905-1980, was a French philosopher, novelist, playwright, and political activist.  He was one of the
   leading intellectuals of the twentieth century.  An earlier thought on this site deals with his novel Nausea.  The material
   in this throught was taken from Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre, written by Sartre’s lifelong companion, Simone de Beauvoir.
   Read the complete thought here.

   • On Personal Health III: George Valliant and Vitamin D, 7 pp., June, 2009.
                                      
  I recently read a magazine article (“What Makes Us Happy?,” Atlantic, June 2009) about the Harvard Study of Adult 
  Development, the most exhaustive investigation of personal well-being ever conducted, and the chief analyst of its
  lessons, psychiatrist George Valliant.  Read the full thought here.

   • On Being a Modern Day Spinoza, 7 pp., September, 2009.
                                        
    Even the quickest perusal of this web site makes it clear that my outlook doesn't play well at all in the university in which
    I am a professor.  From time to time, people ask me how my university deals with me, as well as how I manage both
    personally and professionally in such a context.  This thought discusses what I make of what is going on with me currently
    in this regard.  Read the full thought here. 

   • On The Captive, 3 pp., September, 2009.
         
    An excerpt from the film "La Captive" (2000), written and directed by Chantal Akerman.  Read the excerpt here.

   • On The Last Days of Elvis, 2pp., October, 2009.                                                         

     Elvis Presley on stage in Los Vegas, 1974, having just finished the song, "You Gave Me a Mountain."
     Read the full thought here.

   • On Coetzee, 1 p., October, 2009.