“Let us be crooked, but never common.”

Isn’t March supposed to be “in like a lion, out like a lamb”? It was nasty and cold today, colder than I think it was a month ago, and definitely not very lamb-like.

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon attending an Eagle Scout court of honor with my father. These are always a little awkward for me, since I don’t really know anybody there — my father’s been involved in the troop and local district considerably longer than I ever was — but I go to show support and because I think my father appreciates it. And this one was actually pretty nice, and nowhere near as awkward as the first one I went to, when I wound up feeling like an interloper up on stage. And they had a really nice spread of food afterward, so it really wasn’t so bad.

I spent the rest of the afternoon working on the Spring 2012 issue of Kaleidotrope, which is now live. It’s another interesting mix, and I hope some of you will take the time to read some of the stories and maybe even comment with your thoughts.

And then I rounded out the evening by watching The Lady Eve, a screwball comedy from Preston Sturges starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda. It was a little silly and convoluted even by those standards, but good fun nevertheless.

And that was my cold and nasty, but not too shabby, Saturday.


I attended an Eagle Scout court of honor this afternoon with my father. I didn’t know the boy who was earning the rank, or the local Scout troop, or really anyone there except my father. But he asked me to tag along, and so I did. Once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout. My father knows the troop, helped out at the boy’s Eagle project, and had a few brief sentences to read during the event.

This time was a little less awkward than the last one of these we attended, almost a year ago. This time, at least, when I reluctantly took to the stage to join the rest of the Eagle Scouts in attendance in repeating our pledge to the Scout Law, I was in a much larger group, and not just a third wheel with two other people listed by name in the program. I was still some stranger off the street — in a suit and tie, though — but I felt a little less conspicuous, a little less like I was trying to shoehorn my way in.

Then this evening, I watched Croupier, which was enjoyable and interesting, if ultimately a little unsatisfying.

And that was my Saturday.

“A policeman’s job is only easy in a police state.”

We had Chinese food for dinner tonight, my parents and me. Afterward, my fortune read, “A feather in the hand is better than a bird in the air.” Not quite “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” but I think that was the general intended gist.

Shortly before that, my father and I attended an Eagle Scout court of honor at the local high school. I didn’t know the boy in question, or practically anybody else there either, but it’s nice to go out and show our support. And my father, who’s remained somewhat active in the troop — and who was very active for maybe twice as long as I ever was, staying on as Scoutmaster even after I graduated high school — was invited. So, as a former Eagle Scout myself, I tagged along. I didn’t know, but maybe should have, that they would be asking all former Eagle Scouts to go up on stage and re-pledge ourselves to the Scout oath. That was all well and fine, since all we had to do was try and repeat what we heard read aloud to us. But I was one of only three people walking up there, and the only one not directly involved in the court of honor itself. The other two were listed by name in the program, and I felt a little conspicuous, like I was there trying to steal somebody’s thunder.

Still, overall the ceremony was quite nice, and it’s good to see the troop — somewhat unrecognizable to me, these sixteen years later — continuing to be active in the community*.

After dinner, I watched the terrific Touch of Evil, staring Charlton Heston and Orson Welles. Here’s what Roger Ebert had to say about it:

Yet the film has always been a favorite of those who enjoy visual and dramatic flamboyance. “I’d seen the film four or five times before I noticed the story,” the director Peter Bogdanovich once told his friend Orson. “That speaks well for the story,” Welles rumbled sarcastically, but Bogdanovich replied, “No, no–I mean I was looking at the direction.”

That might be the best approach for anyone seeing the film for the first time: to set aside the labyrinthine plot, and simply admire what is on the screen. The movie begins with one of the most famous shots ever made, following a car with a bomb in its trunk for three minutes and 20 seconds. And it has other virtuoso camera movements, including an unbroken interrogation in a cramped room, and one that begins in the street and follows the characters through a lobby and into an elevator. The British critic Damian Cannon writes of its “spatial choreography,” in which “every position and movement latches together into a cogent whole.”

Welles and his cinematographer, Russell Metty, were not simply showing off. The destinies of all of the main characters are tangled from beginning to end, and the photography makes that point by trapping them in the same shots, or tying them together through cuts that match and resonate. The story moves not in a straight line, but as a series of loops and coils.

And to think, I almost didn’t watch it, worried I wouldn’t like it.

* Though I do have to admit to being just slightly weirded-out by the whole Order of the Arrow business, despite having been a not very active member of it myself. (I was a Brotherhood member, but never attended more than a handful of Order meetings.) I know that it’s not in any way intentionally racist, and the ideals expressed by its members this evening were all excellent. But I can see how the hodgepodge of stereotypical, noble-savage trappings might make some people — particularly actual Native Americans — uncomfortable. It didn’t make me uncomfortable, and I was happy to accept it all in the context in which it was meant. It just gave me pause for thought.

Also, it’s funny how you can spend the first twelve years of your life, saying the Pledge of Allegiance practically every day, at school and in Scouting, and then practically never have occasion to say it again.

Plumbing the depths

I spent the afternoon today helping my father at a local Boy Scout “Merit Badge University” in Great Neck. Some Long Island troops had put together the event, where Scouts could go from one class to another and learn about the requirements of different merit badges. My father was teaching the plumbing section of Home Repairs, for which he’s a counselor — and for which his large collection of tools and significant experience make him well qualified. (He’s a chemical engineer, so not a plumber by trade, but he’s definitely my go-to person for any home repair questions that I might ever have.)

I should say that, while I was an Eagle Scout and Scouting was a big part of my life growing up, my father has significantly more years invested in it now than I ever did. He stayed on as Scoutmaster for at least half a decade after I graduated and went away to college, for one thing, and he remains actively involved to some extent with several local troops, including the troop that I was a member of as a boy. My involvement today consisted mostly of helping my father carry in all the plumbing supplies he’d brought along to show the scouts, and at one point going back to the classroom to grab a closet auger the boys wanted him to demonstrate in the bathroom across the hall.

We were in a local Jewish temple, in the religious school on the second floor, and it wasn’t a big group. My father’s “class,” which ran from about 1 to 2:30 PM, was just two boys and one of the boys’ fathers. I sat quietly to one side and thought I’d work on the Sunday crossword puzzle, but I ended up not wanting to be rude or distracting to the others, so I mostly just listened. I had plenty of time to work on the crossword puzzle — not quite finishing it just yet — when we got home.

We got takeout at a nearby Azerbaijan restaurant for dinner, and I spent some more time finishing that Wallace and Gromit computer game — just one more episode to download and go — and trying to get caught up on episodes of Chuck. That’s about the extent to the excitement of this Sunday.

Now I’m getting ready for bed. I might watch one more Chuck episode and then that’s it.