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The departed

The news of Elizabeth Taylor's death this week was rather sad, even though she had largely slipped from our cultural consciousness.  She was THE biggest star around when I was a kid, and my parents both always raved about how she was amazingly beautiful and extremely talented.  As I've gotten older and seen more of her work (particularly her earlier motion pictures) I tend to agree.

And somewhere along the line that led me to think of others from movies, music and books who are now deceased.  Just last night my wife and I watched "The Dark Knight," the second in what's presumed to be a trilogy of reality-oriented Batman films crafted by the talented director Christopher Nolan.  The film features an Academy Award winning performance by the late Heath Ledger as Batman's archvillain the Joker, and his portrayal of a psychopathic criminal is stunning at the same time as it's so chilling.  Ledger died very young, of course, but he left behind some interesting and memorable work.

Along with that, for the past several weeks I've been thinking about Kurt Vonnegut, the legendary novelist, writer, sometime artist and humanist who left us in 2007.  I was helping my son and a friend install some drywall in my son's nearly-renovated kitchen and the friend was cutting a hole to accommodate a ceiling light fixture.  I observed that he had cut in the general shape of an asterisk (* for those keeping score at home) and remarked that it looked quite a bit like Vonnegut's own rendering of an asshole from "Breakfast of Champions."  Brought down the house!

Then my son reminded me that I dragged him with me to see Vonnegut lecture many years ago when he visited Lexington for some sort of charity fundraising event, but upon reflection, my son says that he thought he was a pretty neat old guy.  And just a couple of days ago I saw a car with a bumper sticker with a phrase that looked familiar.  I got closer at the next traffic light and was able to read it and confirm my suspicion.  Here's what it said:

"The good Earth — we could have saved it, but we were too damn cheap and lazy."

--Kurt Vonnegut

As he would have written in one of his books, "and so it goes."

I'm sure I could go on, but if you're in the mood to do so, think about the Beatles who have died, about John Wayne's greatest movies, about how the news just wasn't the same without Chet Huntley, about what a shame it was that James Dean lived long enough only to make a handful of movies, and on and on and on.


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