Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Frank McCourt: 1930 - 2009

From Carradine to Cronkite, MacNamara to Michael Jackson, it seems the last 30 days have been a popular check out time for many a public figure. I haven't been moved to spill any digital ink over any of these passings; I suppose I don't have much to say besides the obvious.

But losing Frank McCourt touched me.

Angela's Ashes is an amazing book, and it will be read for many years to come but I think that I'll remember him best as a phenomenal talk show guest.

He would appear on the Conan O'Brien show regularly and he always killed. Most of the time he wasn't promoting anything, which gave me the feeling that he was the guy they would call if there was a cancellation and they needed someone who lived in New York and could be absolutely hilarious and compelling for 5 to 7 minutes without any advance notice. And he always seemed humbled to be invited onto the show night after night. Afterall, just a few years previous he was not a world famous author, just a retired English teacher. The anecdotes and tales that made up Angela's Ashes had been refined from 30 years of telling in front of an audience of high schoolers.

It was a major occasion when the late night comedy shows resumed after the September 11 attacks. David Letterman's guest on his first night back was Dan Rather and their emotional meeting is still being talked about. Less talked about, but for me, just as cathartic, was Conan's first show after 9/11. His guest was Frank McCourt.

I have looked and looked online for video of McCourt from that night and I haven't found anything. I haven't found anything written about the segment either. I will search again and if I find something I will post it here, because if there was a statement made in the days and weeks following 9/11 that bears repeating it was McCourt's and even though I haven't seen it since that night in 2001 I will attempt to paraphrase what he said.

He simply noted, matter of factly, that on the day of September 11, on which thousands were killed, two babies were also born. Little Johnny was born in New York and in Afghanistan, Little Mohammed. And in twenty years or thirty years or forty years time what will these two boys, grown now to men, say to each other should they meet? Any action that does not strive towards a future in which these two children can some day meet as friends, and not enemies, is surely misguided.

Tears flowed from my eyes after he said that. He had addressed the fear that I had been feeling but couldn't articulate. It was not the fear of poison gas or suicide bombings, it was the fear that hatred and mistrust would claim our future. A fear that choices made in haste, motivated by fear, cynicism, or simple political convenience would prove to be ruinous to the next generation.

I still think about Johnny and Mohammed. In two months they will be eight years old. They are old enough to know there is a world outside of their home, outside of their city or village. Each is old enough to know that the other exists. What are they being taught about each other and who is teaching them?

The thought that they both might someday have a teacher like Frank McCourt gives me hope.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New Post

It has been months (MONTHS!) since my last blog posting and I never intended to go that long without a post.

You see, when I started this blog I said to myself: "Self," I said, "If you are going to do this blog then you are going to do it right. You will not go months and months without a post but neither will you post nothing but frivolous stuff and youtube videos. You will regularly produce some kind of content (be it small or large) to share, in addition to the frivolous stuff and youtube videos."

When I stopped talking I nodded in agreement with myself (afterall, I'm so reasonable) but as you can see I clearly didn't follow through.

I haven't been lazy though. I have been working on many cool things but they are BIG things and big things take time to finish. Soon it will be time to post about some of those cool, big things but unfortunately not today.

So in the meantime, brace yourself for youtube videos.