Johnny the Cat, 2005–2024

His most recent boudoir photo. A handsome boy to the end.

There will now be a brief mourning break following the departure of my cat Johnny, who at 19 was roughly the same age as this blog, for the Western lands. This is sad, not tragic — he had a good long run and enjoyed his time. But he will be missed. I’ll be back with more of my nonsense in a day or two.

Obituaries and Weddings Dept.

Of all the obituaries I’ve read lately, this one — of conjoined twins Lori and George Schappell — is the craziest. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, though it is full of details that will make you sit up and go “What?!?” It’s actually pretty inspiring that they were able to lead real lives despite all they had to deal with. Makes my bitching about how the wifi is slow today seem pretty dumb. Read the whole thing — it’s worth it, trust me.

Another recent departure was this one:

After he was paralyzed by polio at age 6, Paul Alexander was confined for much of his life to a yellow iron lung that kept him alive. He was not expected to survive after that diagnosis, and even when he beat those odds, his life was mostly constrained by a machine in which he could not move.

But the toll of living in an iron lung with polio did not stop Mr. Alexander from going to college, getting a law degree and practicing law for more than 30 years. As a boy, he taught himself to breathe for minutes and later hours at a time, but he had to use the machine every day of his life.

He died on Monday at 78, according to a statement by his brother, Philip Alexander, on social media.

He was one of the last few people in the United States living inside an iron lung, which works by rhythmically changing air pressure in the chamber to force air in and out of the lungs. And in the final weeks of his life, he drew a following on TikTok by sharing what it had been like to live so long with the help of an antiquated machine.

His story, too, is a wild one full of twists and turns, and similarly uplifting. Here’s a link to the whole thing.

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The Santa Claus of Murder

Upon hearing that O.J. Simpson had died, my first thought was: And he never found the real killers!

The O.J. saga was a tragedy, of course. It was also a comedy. It was a bizarre, enthralling spectacle with so many surprising twists that there was no way to keep track of them all.

For instance, I knew that O.J. had written a book called If I Did It, where he described how he would have killed Nicole and Ron, if he had. (He did.) I grabbed a copy out of a free library box a couple years ago, and though I’ve never read it and don’t intend to, I hold on to it as a talisman of… well, what?…. weirdness, I guess.

I knew but had forgotten that around that same time, he gave an interview where he more or less confessed, saying that he drove to Nicole’s house with a knife in the passenger seat and doesn’t remember what happened after that. I actually find this somewhat plausible — maybe O.J. committed the murders in a fugue state and was surprised afterwards to find out he had done it. And maybe he looked so surprised when the glove didn’t fit because he was thinking, wait, could it be I didn’t do it after all?

Well, it’s a theory.

But I never knew until this week that in 2006 O.J. starred in a reality prank show called Juiced. This is so grotesque on so many levels that I don’t know where to start, except to say that if he had played a prank on me, I would have run for my life.

But apparently I’m in the minority. In the This American Life segment where I learned about Juiced, Harmon Leon — who was O.J.’s sidekick on the show — marvels at how much people seem to love The Juice despite everything. (It was Leon who provided the title of this piece.)

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Four Lives

I think all of you dear, precious few who read this thing are fellow geezers, so all of you have probably already had the dreaded Procedure I underwent this week. On the whole, well… could have been worse. Everything seems to be hunky-dory down there and I got to see a picture of my colon, which looks not unlike the famous picture of the black hole.

Anyway… one of the reliable pleasures of my geezer life these days is reading the obituaries in the print edition of the Sunday Times. A well-written obit is a thing of beauty, a capsule biography that can be absorbed over coffee… unlike that fking Einstein book that I bought so casually and has been mocking me for the last decade.

This week there were four. The two on the first page were for relatively young people, starting with…

Buddy Duress, a small-time heroin dealer living on the streets of the Upper West Side who became a sensation in the New York film scene as an actor and muse for the movies “Heaven Knows What” and “Good Time,” which helped launch the careers of the filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie, died in November at his home in Astoria, Queens. He was 38. The death, which was disclosed only in late February, was from cardiac arrest caused by a “drug cocktail” including heroin, his brother, Christopher Stathis, said.

Buddy Duress — one hell of a moniker, that — was a stage name, one he adopted while making the first Safdie Brothers movie. His real one was Michael Constantine Stathis, born May 21, 1985. He had a troubled life and he had his reasons. In the article his lawyer is quoted thusly:

I represent so many people with the kinds of problems he had, and they always have excuses. Michael never did. It seems paradoxical to say that an admitted and convicted thief was honest, but he was honest. He was honest about who he was.

Duress/Stathis’s obit takes up about 9/16 of a page. Below the fold is this one:

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Reading Report, November 2023

Books Acquired:
The Crow Road, Iain Banks
Sixty Stories, Donald Barthelme
The Black Hole, Alan Dean Foster
Cyber Way, Alan Dean Foster
Midworld, Alan Dean Foster
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, Alan Dean Foster
Star Trek: Log Two, Alan Dean Foster
With Friends Like These…, Alan Dean Foster
Who Needs Enemies?, Alan Dean Foster
Mind Games: The Guide to Inner Space, Robert Masters and Jean Houston
The Modern Drunkard, Frank Kelly Rich
Apricots on the Nile, Colette Rossant
Ringo: With a Little Help, Michael Seth Starr
Bagombo Snuff Box, Kurt Vonnegut
Welcome to the Monkey House, Kurt Vonnegut

Progress Made:
Cyber Way, Alan Dean Foster

Books Finished:
The Black Hole, Alan Dean Foster
Look at the Birdie, Kurt Vonnegut


So, yes, I fell off the book-acquisition wagon pretty hard this month. But there were very good reasons for all of them, I swear.

How did I come to stockpile seven (7) books by the journeyman sci-fi author Alan Dean Foster? Well, recently I went down a (black) rabbit hole relative to the 1979 Disney movie The Black Hole, which I knew I saw when it came out but remembered very little about other than a crushing sense of disappointment. Could it really, I wondered, have been that bad?

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R.I.P. P.R. a.k.a. P.W.H.

Paul Reubens died this week, and while I was never a big fan of Pee-Wee Herman — who I found more annoying than amusing — I admired some of Reubens’ other work. Particularly his small but memorable role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which included possibly the most hilariously extended death scene in the history of cinema.

The normal and compassionate thing is to wish someone a quick and easy death. But I have to admit, I kind of hope Paul went out like this: