Wednesday, July 17, 2019


As I may have mentioned before, I sometimes read more than one book at a time. On second thought, who remembers what I may have mentioned before on my blog? Since I post seldom and irregularly now, I probably have very few readers. Along with books, I read magazines and newspapers. My present reading includes four books, one of which is a book of essays by Marilynne Robinson, a favorite novelist of mine. Robinson writes beautifully, but her writing is dense with meaning and demands attention. Every word counts, so don't expect a quick read.

I've read and enjoyed all four of her novels, a couple more than once. The titles are Housekeeping, Gilead, Home, and Lila. I fell in love with the character Jack in Home. He's flawed and causes hurt to people who love him, but I sense an innate goodness and sweetness in Jack that is, sadly, all too often overcome by the flaws in his character.

My friend Susan sent me two collections of Robinson's essays, most of which originated as lectures at universities. The titles are The Givenness of Things and What Are We Doing Here? Both collections are excellent. The latter collection includes an essay on Barack Obama and his time in office that was first published in The Nation.

The essay on Obama is brilliant and insightful and holds a place as the best writing on the former president that I have read to date. Below is an excerpt from the essay on Obama. You can read the entire essay at the link above.
I have had a singular relationship with President Obama. I cannot imagine a greater honor than his having called me his friend, but if I call our relationship more than meaningful acquaintance, I might suggest a degree of personal familiarity that I cannot claim. We have had conversations. His expressed interest in my work has had a marked effect on my career, very marked in Europe because he is held in such high regard there. The association of his name with mine abroad has let me see him as he is seen where the miasmas of polemic do not obscure him: as a gracious, good, and brilliant man. There, he is a vindication of American democracy, while here, every means has been tried to deny the public the consequences of having chosen him.

Monday, May 27, 2019


On Saturday evening, I watched John Huston's film "The Dead", the last movie he directed. The film is based on James Joyce's short story of the same title in his collection of stories, "Dubliners". Then, on Sunday morning, I watched the movie again because it is wonderful with excellent performances by the actors in the film.

"The Dead" is a family affair with daughter Angelica in a starring role as Gretta, a guest at a dinner party in Dublin, and son Tony Huston as the adapter of the story into the script for the movie. Many of the spoken lines in the film are taken verbatim from the dialogue of the characters in Joyce's story. In my opinion, the story is a masterpiece, and John Huston honors the brilliance of the story in his film adaptation.

Huston was ill with heart trouble and on oxygen during the filming which was completed in April 1987. He died in August of the same year before the film was released.

After I watched the movie twice, I wanted to read the story again. Ah, regrets! I once owned a copy of "Dubliners", but I gave it away. I found the story online, but now I want to reread all the stories in the collection.

Gabriel (Donal McCann), Gretta's husband in the film, is much struck when his wife stops on the stairway as they are leaving to listen raptly to a song, "The Lass of Aughrim", sung by another guest, tenor (Colm J. Meaney).

I searched for the song on YouTube and found this version by Fran O'Rourke, accompanied by John Feeley on James Joyce's restored guitar!

Monday, April 29, 2019


St John's Episcopal Church in Thibodaux, Louisiana, knows how to do a wonderful funeral. The service and music on April 6, 2019, were lovely. The organist, LaDonna, played both organ and piano beautifully. Fr Stephen's sermon was perfectly suited to the occasion, especially so, since the first time he met Tom was when he was in the hospital and most certainly not at his (Tom's) best. Nevertheless, Stephen captured the essence of Tom's humanity in the reflections on the meaning of his life and death for all of us who knew him.

Thanks to all the people at St John who contributed to make the service and reception following a comfort to me and my family and all who attended. The flowers were gorgeous. The two large arrangements of white roses, baby's breath, and greenery on the altar were moved to the scatter garden after the service. In the Episcopal church, with exceptions for funerals, only greenery is used on the altar during Lent. Along with Tom's picture and the urn holding his ashes, I took the small vase of flowers home with me. The scent of the white roses and another smaller vase with red roses filled the family room when I took them home.

Many thanks to all who were present at the visitation and funeral. While Tom was alive, I did not fully realize he touched and inspired so many throughout his life. It's bittersweet for me that only after Tom's gone do I understand the breath and strength of his friendships with people of different ages and how he will be missed.

Though I'd rather not end my post on Tom's funeral with regret, I'm at the end, and it is with a touch of regret.

Saturday, March 30, 2019


Obituary for Joseph Thomas Butler Jr.

Beloved husband, father, and grandfather, Joseph Thomas (Tom) Butler, Jr died peacefully on March 19, 2019. Tom fought a hard fight after treatment for cancer in 2017. He was born January 24, 1938, in White Castle, Louisiana, and lived in New Roads, Louisiana, in his childhood and youth.

Tom attended Louisiana State University where he received bachelor's and master's degrees. He then attended Southeastern Louisiana University and received another master's degree.

In 1969, Tom moved with his wife and three children to Thibodaux, Louisiana, to accept a position in the library at Nicholls State University, where he worked for 34 years. He was Associate Director when he retired from the Ellender Memorial Library.

Tom is survived by his wife of 58 years, June Barrosse Butler, originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, son Patrick and wife, Marlet, son Timothy and wife, Cindy, daughter Alison Butler Costanzo and fiancé, Frank DiVincenti, and six grandchildren, Joey Butler, Bryan Costanzo, Ashlynn Butler, Andrew Costanzo, William Costanzo, and Joshua Butler. He was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph Thomas Butler, Sr and Laura Janis Butler.

Tom's funeral service celebrating his life will be on Saturday, April 6, at 2PM, with visitation beginning at 1PM, at St John's Episcopal Church, 718 Jackson St, Thibodaux LA 70301. A reception in the church hall will follow the service.

The loves of Tom's life in addition to his family were gardening, fishing, and a small wooden boat museum, The Center For Traditional Louisiana Boat Building, established in the 1970s by Tom and John Rochelle, first at Nicholls State University and later in its own building in Lockport, Louisiana, on 202 Main Street. Tom served as director of the Center until very recently.

In lieu of flowers, tax-deductable donations may be sent to Friends for Traditional LA Boat Building, 202 Main Street, Lockport LA 70374.

Monday, January 21, 2019


So Long

so long
is in the song
and it's in the way you're gone
but it's like a foreign language
in my mind
and maybe I was blind
i could not see
and would not know
you're gone so long
so long.

(Langston Hughes)

Tuesday, January 1, 2019


My hope for 2019 and all the years that follow is for The Little Prince and his tender care for his small Asteroid 325 and his beloved rose to be a lesson for grown-ups and children on planet Earth. May we learn to tenderly care for all Earth's living inhabitants, and the land, water, and air that keep us alive.

Dougie MacLean's version of the auld song from Robert Burns' poem of the same title is my favorite. The lyrics are below.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 

And never brought tae mind? 
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, 
And days of auld lang syne? 


For auld lang syne, my dear, 
For auld lang syne. 
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne. 

We twa hae run aboot the braes, 
And pou’d the gowans fine; 
We’ve wander’d mony a weary fit, 
Sin' days of auld lang syne.


And we twa hae paidl’d i' the burn, 

Frae morning sun till dine; 
But seas between us braid hae roar’d 
Sin' days of auld lang syne. 


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere! 
And gie's a hand o’ thine! 
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught, 
For auld lang syne.

Chorus x 2 

(The following verse in Robert Burn's poem is not included in this version of the song.)

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp! 
And surely I’ll be mine! 
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, 
For auld lang syne.
 Edit: As one of my Facebook friends said, "...a cup o' kindness" may be the most important words in the song.

Friday, November 2, 2018


Louisiana voters, Tuesday, November 6 is election day. If you want change and "A Better Deal", if you want to reelect our single Democratic congressman, oust Trump's enablers in Congress, insure healthcare coverage for preexisting conditions, and free and fair elections in Louisiana, please vote for the following Democrats on the ballot.

Renee Fontenot Free - Secretary of State.

Tammy Savoie - 1st Congressional District.

Congressman Cedric Richmond - 2nd Congressional District.

Mimi Methvin - 3rd Congressional District.

Ryan Trundle - 4th Congressional District.

Jessee Fleenor - 5th Congressional District.

Justin Dewitt - 6th Congressional District. (My candidate in the 6th District. I voted early.)

Read about endorsements by the Democratic party:

Please vote for the 2nd Constitutional Amendment on the ballot requiring unanimous jury verdicts for conviction for felonies. If one or two out of 12 jurors have reasonable doubts about whether the person on trial is guilty of one or more felony charges, then that should be reason enough for a verdict of "Not guilty".

If you are concerned about...

1. Healthcare, especially affordable insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions

2. Voting rights, gerrymandering, voter suppression

3. Immigrant children separated from their parents and locked in cages.

4. Campaign finance reform

...please VOTE BLUE!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018


G-d, filled with mercy, dwelling in the heavens' heights, bring proper rest beneath the wings of your Shechinah, amid the ranks of the holy and the pure, illuminating like the brilliance of the skies the souls of our beloved and our blameless who went to their eternal place of rest. May You who are the source of mercy shelter them beneath Your wings eternally, and bind their souls among the living, that they may rest in peace. And let us say: Amen.

Cecil Rosenthal
David Rosenthal
Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz
Irving Younger
Melvin Wax
Rose Mallinger
Bernice Simon
Sylvan Simon
Joyce Feinburg
Richard Gottfried
Daniel Stein

The killings and woundings by Robert Bowers in Tree of Life Synagogue left me speechless and without tears. It was only today when I saw the people in Pittsburgh marching in solidarity with their Jewish neighbors that I shed tears. Isn't the Jewish prayer for the dead, El Maleh Rachamim, one of the most beautiful prayers ever?

Monday, October 8, 2018


I hope Trump's mocking of Dr Christine Ford hangs around Kavanaugh's neck like a dead, stinking albatross for his entire time on the court. I doubt there are many other nominees to the court who would not have withdrawn, if for no other reason than to spare their family the grief Kavanaugh's forced his to endure. He is in no way vindicated by his confirmation. He may have "won", but to take a seat on the highest court in the land under such circumstances seems a disgrace rather than a victory. Of course, the people of the country will suffer the consequences of the debacle. Justice Anthony Kennedy must be proud

Shocking and scary is how I'd describe Kavanaugh's behavior at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week. He demonstrated his obvious contempt for the hearing itself in his angry rant of an opening statement with references to revenge and conspiracies involving the Clintons. He gave direct answers to very few questions. Kavanaugh yelled at Sen Feinstein when she attempted to question him and never apologized.

The worst of Kavanaugh's contempt went to Sen Amy Klobuchar, who spoke of her father, who is now sober, and his struggle with alcholism. When she asked Kavanaugh if he ever had memory loss after drinking, he turned the question back on her and said, "I don't know. Have you?"

At times, Kavanaugh seemed so out of control, I wondered if he had been drinking. My father was an alcoholic who was on and off the wagon throughout his life. Sometimes he didn't drink for years, but he thought he could go it alone without AA, and, even when he wasn't drinking, he was mean and angry. Kavanaugh reminded me of my father, and to think of him sitting on the highest court of the land is devastating and frightening.

Not for one minute did I believe Susan Collins (R-ME) was "undecided". Her "undecided" act is old and tired and needs to be retired. She's Lucy with the football. Her 45 minute long speech was a load of bullshit. She believes Dr Christine Ford was assaulted but not by Brett Kavahaugh, who must be innocent until proven guilty. Collins wants to have it both ways as a case of mistaken identity by Christine Ford. Shame on her for abusing Ford again and for insulting the public's intelligence.

Was Jeff Flake's (R-AZ) apparent angst and call for a delay and an FBI investigation fake? Fake Flake? He got his delay and a mockery of an investigation that was brief, narrow, and severely limited. The FBI ignored a list of people who wanted to be interviewed and didn't even include interviews with the principals! Flake was satisfied that Dr Ford's testimony was not "corroborated" even without hearing from witnesses who told the FBI they could corroborate her story. He promptly decided he had enough cover to vote yes to Kavanaugh's confirmation.

The bar for a nominee to the Supreme Court should be set much higher than innocent until proven guilty. A justice on the Supreme Court should be above reproach and above partisanship. Kavanaugh has a history of reproaches and was blatantly partisan in his opening statement. Kavanaugh seems to have strayed from the truth multiple times during his testimony in 2006 at his confirmation hearings for the Washington DC Circuit Court and again last week. He will take his seat on the highest court in the land with indelible black marks on his reputation and suitability.

Watching Christine Ford's testimony alleging that a drunken 17 year old Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her with his intoxicated friend Mark Judge in the room was one of the most wrenching and compelling TV moments in my life. Ford was completely credible. I saw absolutely no sign of calculation or intention to make herself look good. I saw her tell the truth. I believe Christine Ford.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


Why is it Dr Christine Ford and not Brett Kavanaugh, Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court, who asks for the FBI to investigate her allegations of sexual assault against the nominee? If Kavanaugh is telling the truth, why wouldn't he want to clear his name instead of taking his place on the court under a cloud? Of course, lying to the FBI is a crime.

I believe Christine Ford's story. Why would she make public a false story about an alleged sexual assault by Kavanaugh when she was 15 years old, and he was 17? Ford certainly knew further abuse would follow, but perhaps even she did not envision death threats to herself and her family that  made it necessary for them to leave their home and go into hiding.

Dr Ford's description of the alleged sexual assault in her letter to Sen Feinstein:
Dear Senator Feinstein;

I am writing with information relevant in evaluating the current nominee to the Supreme Court.

As a constituent, I expect that you will maintain this as confidential until we have further opportunity to speak.

Brett Kavanaugh physically and sexually assaulted me during high school in the early 1980's. He conducted these acts with the assistance of REDACTED.

Both were one to two years older than me and students at a local private school.

The assault occurred in a suburban Maryland area home at a gathering that included me and four others.

Kavanaugh physically pushed me into a bedroom as I was headed for a bathroom up a short stair well from the living room. They locked the door and played loud music precluding any successful attempt to yell for help.

Kavanaugh was on top of me while laughing with REDACTED, who periodically jumped onto Kavanaugh. They both laughed as Kavanaugh tried to disrobe me in their highly inebriated state. With Kavanaugh's hand over my mouth I feared he may inadvertently kill me.

'From across the room a very drunken REDACTED said mixed words to Kavanaugh ranging from "go for it" to "stop."
At one point when REDACTED jumped onto the bed the weight on me was substantial. The pile toppled, and the two scrapped with each other. After a few attempts to get away, I was able to take this opportune moment to get up and run across to a hallway bathroom. I locked the bathroom door behind me. Both loudly stumbled down the stair well at which point other persons at the house were talking with them. I exited the bathroom, ran outside of the house and went home.

I have not knowingly seen Kavanaugh since the assault. I did see REDACTED once at the REDACTED where he was extremely uncomfortable seeing me.

I have received medical treatment regarding the assault. On July 6 I notified my local government representative to ask them how to proceed with sharing this information . It is upsetting to discuss sexual assault and its repercussions, yet I felt guilty and compelled as a citizen about the idea of not saying anything.

I am available to speak further should you wish to discuss. I am currently REDACTED and will be in REDACTED.

In confidence, REDACTED.
We now know that except for the final two lines in the letter that refer to Dr Ford, REDACTED is Kavanaugh's high school friend, Mark Judge, who has written extensively about his drunken years at Georgetown Prep in Wasted: Tales of a GenX Drunk and God and Man at Georgetown Prep.

The loathsome responses of GOP Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and other GOP senators on the committee are disgusting. Grassley, with great condescension said, "I don't doubt that she believes what she says, and in fact, I have a responsibility to give deference to that, at least until I hear it, and to make a determination afterwards if it is possible to make a determination."  There, there, dear. We'll pretend to listen, but your testimony is unreliable and won't change anything.

Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said Ford was "mixed up" and “there’s no question in my mind she was coached by special interest groups. Her story’s too contrived. It’s so slick it doesn’t compute.”

Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “This has been a drive-by shooting when it comes to Kavanaugh....I’ll listen to the lady, but we’re going to bring this to a close.”

Dr Ford doesn't remember certain details like how she got home or the exact date of the party, but she remembers quite clearly the details of the alleged assault and that Kavanaugh's friend, Mark Judge, was in the room. Is that unusual? Not at all. She was traumatized, and it is common that peripheral details of an incident that causes trauma remain hazy.

Why in heaven's name would Dr Ford or anyone believe the GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee would give her anything resembling a fair hearing?

The latest in a still developing story from the New York Times:
Dr Ford “would be prepared to testify next week,” so long as senators offer “terms that are fair and which ensure her safety,” according to an email her lawyers sent to committee staff members.

In the email, obtained by The New York Times, the lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford said that testifying Monday — the timetable Republicans have set for a hearing — “is not possible and the Committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event.” The lawyer reiterated that it is Dr. Blasey’s “strong preference” that “a full investigation” occur before her testimony — wording that stopped short of demanding an F.B.I. probe and suggested she is open to testifying without one.