Monday, December 21, 2020

Book Review: Rod Serling: His Life, Work, and Imagination by Nicholas Parisi

 

Book Review: Rod Serling: His Life, Work, and Imagination by Nicholas Parisi

by Eric Gilliland

 

          

         


Few figures have influenced the popular memory more than Rod Serling (1924-1975). His work continues to captivate the imaginations of millions in the decades since his passing. In our current era of uncertainty with a creeping authoritarianism seeping into the political discourse we turn to Serling’s warnings on the dangers of prejudice, demagoguery, and intolerance going unchecked. Nicholas Parisi’s comprehensive study covers Sterling’s wide-ranging work in multiple mediums that included radio, television, theater, and film. A volume of perceptive criticism with valuable biographical insights, Parisi traces Serling’s evolution as a writer and the themes he returned to throughout his career as a writer and public personality.

          Serling grew up in in Binghamton, New York and had a rather ordinary childhood, a place he would often return to in his writing (The Twilight Zone episode “Walking Distance” being an example). He served in the Pacific Theatre during the Second World War as a paratrooper, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. His war experiences would influence his work which often dealt with the lasting consequences of violence. Shaken by what he saw in the war, Serling dealt with PTSD symptoms for the duration of his life. Aimless after the war he found purpose through creative writing as a student during his years at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

          After college Serling found work writing scripts for local radio and television in Cincinnati. Parisi devotes particular attention to a short-lived anthology TV series Serling authored entitled The Storm, a precursor to The Twilight Zone. The Storm revealed his interest in fantastical storytelling to address current social issues. An episode entitled “As Yet Untitled” dealt with a Chinese-American couple being persecuted after moving into a white neighborhood, which was based on a real incident in San Francisco. Most of his early radio and television work in Cincinnati only exists in script form that’s available at his archives at Ithaca College and it is to the author’s credit for unearthing these key works in Serling’s evolution as a writer.

          From Cincinnati he moved on to New York City and began writing for the television networks. He broke in during the “Golden Age of Television” when live dramas were shaping the future of the medium. If movie studios were still relying on big budget star driven vehicles, television was moving in the direction of gritty socially relevant stories that were giving voice to a new generation of writers, directors, and actors. Patterns would be the work that made Serling a household name, a stark tale of corporate intrigue presenting a grim vision of the American dream, in Serling’s words, “an indictment of the supposed values of a society that places such stock in success and has so little preoccupation with morality when success has been attained.” Patterns would be made into a feature film, as would his other teleplays Requiem for a Heavyweight and The Rack.

          Parisi also details Serling’s battles with censors during his years writing for live television, with “Noon on Doomsday” being a noteworthy example. Based on the 1955 Emmett Till case, Till was a 14 year old African-American teenager who was lynched in Mississippi while visiting relatives. When Till’s murderers were acquitted by an all-white jury, it became a moment that would galvanize The Civil Rights Movement. Serling was outraged at the triumph of racism and mob justice in America and felt compelled to write a teleplay directly addressing the gross injustices of the Jim Crow system. Sponsors and the network feared that such direct references to the case would offend white Southerners and hurt advertising revenue, so he had to water down the script into a vague story dealing with mob justice set in New England with barely a mention of race. His struggles with censorship led to the creation of The Twilight Zone, the legendary anthology series that would give him complete creative control.

          When The Twilight Zone debuted on CBS during the fall of 1959 it would change television forever. Serling’s creative breakthrough allowed him to explore social issues through the lens of fantasy and science fiction. He wrote 92 of the 156 episodes, supported by some of the strongest genre writers of the day including Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and Ray Bradbury. Serling’s opening and closing narration for each episode allowed him to act as a presence outside of the show’s universe. While the Cold War anxieties of the era are evident throughout the run of the series, The Twilight Zone also dealt with issues of history including The Holocaust in “Deaths-Head Revisited” and mob mentality in “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.” Noteworthy episodes also looked towards the future and the changing relationship between humanity and technology.

          The Twilight Zone shaped the collective unconscious of the burgeoning boomer generation. Everyone who came after, including Stephen King to Jordan Peele, have cited Serling as a major influence. Like most anthology shows, the quality was inconsistent, but so many episodes hold up as classics. It ran for five season and has remained a staple of syndication, 24-hour marathons are an annual New Year’s Day tradition on the Syfy channel. From clever parodies on The Simpsons to multiple reboots, The Twilight Zone has never gone out of style.

          Serling’s next TV project was The Loner, an allegorical Western starring Lloyd Bridges that ran for one season on CBS. Still largely unseen, The Loner was finally released on DVD in 2016. Serling wrote 15 of the 26 episodes with the American West serving as a backdrop to explore his recurring themes of intolerance and the consequences of violence. Bridges played William Colton, a Union Captain haunted by his experiences during the Civil War, he searches for meaning, often finding himself in the role as peacemaker. Parisi compares the show’s existential themes to The Prisoner, in any event, The Loner is a must see for fans of Serling.

          In the latter half of the 1960s Serling continued to work in film and television. He earned a screenwriting credit for the classic Sci-Fi film Planet of the Apes and the political thriller Seven Days in May. Various TV projects continued, perhaps most famously “Carol for Another Christmas.” The Christmas season was another setting Serling loved to write about. Airing on December 28, 1964, Parisi called it the darkest interpretation ever written on the immortal Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol. The stellar cast included Sterling Hayden and Peter Sellers (a Dr. Strangelove reunion) and it dealt with heady themes of corporate greed and nuclear war!

          Night Gallery would become another notable TV project. An anthology series that ran from 1969-1972, the pilot episode featured an early directorial effort from Steven Spielberg entitled “The Eye.” Night Gallery emphasized horror and fantasy with Serling hosting and writing about 40% of the scripts. But it would prove be an unhappy experience. Without creative control Serling was chagrined to stand by as his scripts underwent significant revision in some cases. Parisi sees much to admire in Serling’s Night Gallery work, including special praise the collection of short stories that adapted his episodes into print form. After Night Gallery Serling remained a presence on television (often as a narrator) and continued to write screenplays until his untimely passing in 1975. In 2013 J.J. Abrams’s production company Bad Robot purchased the rights to one of Serling’s unproduced screenplays “The Stops Along the Way” about a hitchhiker aging from a young to old man as he travels across America.

          Rod Serling: His Life, Work, and Imagination belongs on the bookshelf of any pop culture devotee. Everything Serling wrote is summarized and critiqued by Parisi, along with supplemental chapters focusing on specific ideas in his work. For Serling, television was never a place simply for mere entertainment, but one to expand the minds of those willing to go along with him on the journey.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Book Review: Gravity's Rainbow Part I


I've made many failed attempts to get through Thomas Pynchon's 1973 novel Gravity's Rainbow, but this time around I'm a quarter of the way through and I have hopes of reaching the finish line. The novel won the National Book Award in 1974 (sharing it with Isaac Bashevis Singer for his A Crown of Feathers and Other Stories) and was selected to win The Pulitzer Prize by the Jury but got rejected by the Advisory Board for being "unreadable" and "obscene."

Pynchon remains something of a mysterious figure. While the idea of a "reclusive" seems to be a 20th century phenomenon, Pynchon's continued to uphold the tradition (if you would call it that). Now 83 years old, there's still only a few photos of him available to the public. Pynchon rarely gives interviews, although he did appear on The Simpsons in a voice role as himself in 2004 (also in two more episodes). He grew up in Glen Cove, Long Island, attended Cornell University, dropped out for a stint in the Navy, then returned to finish his degree in English. Novelist and songwriter Richard Farina (1937-1966) was an influence and close friend of Pynchon's at Cornell, Gravity's Rainbow would be dedicated to him. Vladimir Nabokov was one of Pynchon's professors, coincidentally Ruth Bader Ginsburg was also a student of Nabokov's around the same time. 



I started reading Pynchon back to the mid-2000s. The first Pynchon novel I read was The Crying of Lot 49, published in 1965. For anyone interested in Pynchon, that's maybe the best place to begin. Set in phantasmagoric 1960s California, the novel follows Ophelia Mass as she discovers a vast web of conspiracy (the post office plays a big role). I was also assigned to read Lot 49 in graduate school for a course on Postmodern American Fiction, one of the best literature courses I was lucky enough to get into. Then I read his debut novel V published in 1963, a pre-psychedelic journey through the 20th Century. 



Gravity's Rainbow takes place during the final months of the Second World War, alternating between London and Germany. The novel defies any attempt at a plot synopsis. Pynchon jumps around between points of view and time periods, sometimes between paragraphs. The famous opening passage describes a rocket descending upon a building, "A screaming comes across the sky," and we are off. The "A" mimicking a rocket about to be launched. 

Many, many, characters are introduced throughout, some of which are real figures, but most are fictional. If there's a protagonist in the novel it would be Lieutenant Tyrone Slothrop, an American serving in London being kept under close scrutiny by various intelligence agencies and other interested parties. Other characters include rocket scientists, psychologists, neurologists, military officers, statisticians, diplomats, spies, nurses, psychics, and mediums. Pynchon's view of the war is that of an apocalyptic event, a dividing line in history with shades of the future embedded throughout (way more on this in further posts).

Gravity's Rainbow almost requires a supplemental reading list to go along with it. In addition to the onslaught of 1940s cultural references Pynchon throws at you, for the dedicated reader, primers in Pavlovian psychology, classic psychotherapy, rocket science, quantum physics, the occult, Calvinist theology, colonialism, statistics, strategic bombing, bananas, and a chronology of events in 1944-45 would also help. Written long before google, my guess is Pynchon had the Encyclopedia Britannica at his side as he wrote. 



The novel throws so much at you in terms of imagery and plotting I find the best way is to just keep moving forward. Don't worry about understanding everything, you learn as you go along. I get the sense Pynchon set up the novel to steer away those who are not serious, one must get obsessive and let yourself into its world. You have to get familiar with the landscape!

Dedicated readers are rewarded with striking passages about life in wartime London and living under the constant dread of a rocket landing anytime, anywhere. Here's a passage from the opening pages:

Some wait alone, some share their invisible rooms with others. Invisible, yes, what do the furnishings matter, at this stage of things? Underfoot crunches the oldest of city dirt, last crystallizations of all the city had denied, threatened, lied to its children. Each day has been hearing a voice, one he thought was only talking to him, say, "You didn't really believe you'd be saved. Come, we all know who we are by now. No one was ever going to take the trouble to save you, old fellow . . . ." (4)

My strategy so far has been to read the book in small doses. Some may be able speed read through it in one gulp, but not me. Every sentence reads like it was thought out and constructed with the precision of an algebra equation. Digressions are common, but you get used to them. The book is full of graphic descriptions of certain acts we'd rather not know or even think about (especially on human digestion) and will put off many (as it did for the Pulitzer Jury). The book is dark, crude, sad, ugly, yet witty and often hilarious. In the chaos are stunning moments of humanity to counter the darkness. 

As of now I'm on page 156 of the Penguin Classics version, closing in on the end of Part One (Beyond the Zero), the first of four. I started the book on August 9, so I've been reading in fits and starts. I usually try to read a fiction and non-fiction book at the same time, ideally a short novel I can knock out in a few sittings, not this one. Finishing before the end of 2020 is within the realm of possibility I suppose, we'll see. If not then, hopefully by Spring of 2021!


Saturday, September 26, 2020

St. Elsewhere: "Time Heals"

Air Dates: February 19-20 1986

Written by John Masius, Tom Fontana, & John Tinker

Directed by Mark Tinker 

"Time Heals" was a two part episode that aired during season four of the NBC series St. Elsewhere (1982-88). Although the show was never a ratings juggernaut, it found a loyal audience who followed the doings at St.Eligius hospital. "Time Heals" provided back stories for the major characters, but even more than that, a history of the hospital (and America) from 1936-1986. 

Edward Herrmann as Father Joseph McCabe


The episodes are structured in the form of flashbacks of various points in the history of St. Eligius, starting with its founding 1936 by Father Joseph McCabe. An Irish priest straight out of James Joyce brilliantly played by Edward Herrmann, Father McCabe started the hospital to help the people of South Boston struggling to get by during the Depression. In newsreel footage recalling FDR delivering his inaugural "nothing to fear, but fear itself" speech, McCabe's New Deal idealism and optimistic spirit would guide St. Eligius through the decades. He bucks against the Catholic establishment who disapprove of his advocation of birth control as a means to curtail poverty. He takes action against intolerance, stating a failure to act against hate and it will spread like a disease. 

We also meet Dr. Westphall's father (played by Ed Flanders) who was a friend of Father McCabe, later Westphall would be mentored McCabe. In a surprising scene a teenage Westphall appears to be on the road to delinquency, an angry young man expressing anti-Semitism and bigotry. How did this kid become the compassionate Dr. Westphall? It's proof that under the right guidance anyone can change for the better. We also see a young Dr. Auschlander (Norman Lloyd) being hired in 1945 after his return from the Pacific theatre during the Second World War (which he mentions throughout the series), unknown to him the kid who just spouted an anti-Semitic slur at him will later be a trusted colleague. 

In 1955 we meet a young Dr. Craig William Daniels), as a sycophantic young surgeon to his mentor Dr. Domedion (Jackie Cooper). Craig dreams of leaving St. Eligius and becoming chief of surgery at Boston General, the premier hospital in the city. We see Craig being browbeaten by Domedion during an operation (just as Craig does for everyone he mentors) and losing his confidence. Reference is also made to the polio epidemic of the 1950s, in one scene the doctors discuss their hopes for a vaccine to stop the scourge of that disease after walking through a ward of children confined to iron lungs. 

During the 1960s Dr. Craig would become chief of surgery and the lone superstar surgeon St. Eligius after leaving Boston General after being passed over, proud to be a pioneer in open heart bypass surgery. In 1965 we see Nurse Rosenthal (Christina Pickles) being hired (with a stronger English accent) as she provides comfort for a young Luther (Eric Laneuville). By 1975 Dr. Westphall is happily married with two kids (Elizabeth and Tommy), only to lose his wife in a tragic accident, echoing the loss of his mother and sister in the fire in 1936.

Ed Flanders and William playing younger versions of their characters.


There's also a present day story set in 1986: Dr. Morrison (David Morse) is having trouble diagnosing a case and even worse his young son has been abducted. As played by Morse, the character epitomized the shows ability to build up characters and then tear them down because of their very strengths. For example, Morrison treats his patients in a humane matter, yet his sensitivity works against him, making him indecisive. His peers consider him ineffectual as a physician. Yet here he makes a breakthrough correctly diagnoses a rare case of polio, connected to the 1950s timeline. Dr. Chandler (Denzel Washington) compliments Morrison and tells despite what everyone thinks he has it in him to be a good doctor. Morse and Washington play the scene well. As St. Eligius celebrates its 50th anniversary and Morrison is reunited with his son.

"Time Heals" reminds that everyone in their endeavors may never live to see the results of their labors or even if they made the right decisions. It's a daily grind. Change is slow and time moves fast. Most days it appears we're going backwards, but we keep struggling. 

These episodes were a wonderful gift to fans of the series, but also innovative and in their structure and theme. Each era replicates the style of cinema of that particular decade, the 1930s are in B&W while the 1950s are in technicolor. The two episodes together reminded me of The Godfather Part II, ruminations on how the the actions of the past inform the present and shape the future. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

TV Watching in the Year of Quarantine

Here's a list of some TV Shows I've been watching 2020. In recent years I've devoted more time to movies, but making an effort to watch more TV.

Classic TV




St. Elsewhere (1982-1988) 

St. Elsewhere was set at St. Eligius hospital in South Boston. Under funded and in constant disrepair, each episode followed the ensemble cast of newcomers and veterans in their personal and professional lives. A pioneering show in the sense in that story lines would play out over multiple episodes so there was a sense of continuity over the seasons. Realistic in its depiction of medical care in the 1980s, it took on many issues television had never taken on. St. Elsewhere's sense of humor and tragedy with a touch of the surreal made it memorable. Many characters would come and go over the course of the series, but the stalwarts were Dr. Westphall (Ed Flanders) the chief of medicine, Dr. Craig (William Daniels) chief of surgery, and head of operations Dr. Auschlander (Norman Lloyd). Many members of the cast went on to big careers including Denzel Washington, Mark Harmon, Howie Mandel, Ed Begley Jr, and David Morse. St. Elsewhere is a fascinating show because it had one foot set in the past and one in the future. Like hospital dramas of the past it took on a wide spectrum of social issues, most notably the AIDS epidemic, budget cuts in the Reagan era, class, poverty, race, and gender issues. Old TV shows were always referenced, providing an intertextual element. St. Elsewhere had the humanism of M*A*S*H and the gritty realism of Hill Street Blues. It would point the way to another hospital drama E.R. After completing St. Elsewhere on Hulu I plan on moving right to E.R., imagining both as a part of a continuum. 




Barney Miller (1975-82) 

Barney Miller was set at the fictional 12th Precinct in New York City. A workplace sitcom in the style of Taxi, Cheers, and Wings, Barney Miller chronicled a slightly eccentric group of cops as they deal with day to day criminal activity, mostly of a minor nature. Most of the criminals were shoplifters, muggers, con artists - rarely anyone violent. Led by the quiet calm of Hal Linden as the title character to the cranky Detective Fish famously played by Abe Vigoda and the rookie "Wojo" played by Max Gail. African-American detective Harris (Ron Glass) aspires to be a writer and Sgt. Yemana (Jack Soo) provides surreal commentary to the doings at the precinct. For the first two seasons Gregory Sierra played Sgt. "Charo" who brought an edge to the early seasons and was the center of one my favorite episodes "The Hero." If you're a fan of Dog Day Afternoon or Serpico, you'll appreciate Barney Miller




The Rockford Files (1974-80)

 I've been going through The Rockford Files in fits and starts over the past few years. Unlike other TV super sleuths like Columbo or Jessica Fletcher, Rockford lives in a trailer and is usually broke. Most shows deal with white collar criminal types, it makes you think there's a small time scheme in every corner of California. A lo-fi show of darkly lit bars and shady warehouses, plots always move in a labyrinth pattern. Rockford often gets beat up (so many blows to the head) a lot so the show by no means glamorizes the job, things are usually oblique and rough around the edges. Of all 70s shows it feels the closest to the New Hollywood trend of movies with shaggy morality and disoriented humor.





Cosmos (1980) 

I covered each episode over at my other blog, but if you've never been able to watch Cosmos - seek it out! A history of science and an eloquent argument for rational reason, the show provides an anecdote to the madness of 2020. Television of the highest ambition and magnitude.   

And Two New Ones




Mrs. America 

A nine episode political history foreshadowing how America got to the Trump era. Cate Blanchett stars as Phyllis Schlafly, the conservative activist who led the fight against the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment during the 1970s. The series tells a parallel story of the feminist movement and its leaders Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan, and many more. With ERA on course to being ratified with bipartisan support, Schlafly led a successful anti-feminist movement which prevented ERA from being ratified in 1982. Blanchett delivers a complex, even sympathetic, performance as Schalfly. Mrs. America is more focused on the tensions within each movement, while at the same time portrays an often overlooked political battle in recent American history. A recreation of a Tom Snyder episode is a highlight. Streaming on FX-Hulu.





Cobra Kai 

Look no further for a generous serving of 80s nostalgia than Cobra Kai which is getting a second life on Netflix. The show picks up on the lives of Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence from the Karate Kid franchise. Daniel is now a successful owner of a luxury car dealership, while Johnny survives on odd jobs, a living anachronism stuck in the 80s (more of a state of mind). But a series of events lead to a revival of their epic rivalry. The younger generation also plays a major role and turn the series into an interesting melding of Gen X - Gen Z morays. Each episode is around 30 minutes and they move fast. 





Sunday, September 6, 2020

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Book Review: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

Most summers I like to re-watch of the original Planet of the Apes movies released from 1968-73. I finally got around to reading the source material, the 1963 novel by Pierre Boulle. Few novels of the 20th century have ignited the imagination of many and led to nine feature films, a TV show, and graphic novels. 

A swift read, Boulle's style recalls that of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, fast paced action- adventure with a philosophical underpinning. It bears many similarities to the classic 1968 film, but at the same time tells a much different story. Like the movie, the story begins with a group of astronauts en route to the Betelgeuse system. They crash land onto a planet and quickly discover an upside down world where humans are subjugated by apes.

The protagonist Ulysse Merou bears little resemblance to "Taylor" famously played by Charlton Heston. A fairly bland character, Merou acts as more of an observer with his narration throughout. It was smart for the movie to give him a misanthropic and colonial attitude, here he's more of a bystander. When Merou and the crew are put into captivity by the apes, he amazes them at his ability to talk and display intelligence, so sympathetic Chimpanzee scientists Cornelius and Zira become his benefactors (like the movie). The political leader Dr. Zaius symbolizes establishment attitudes on earth - and fears what the human visitor will entail for his planet.

Merou becomes a celebrity and has a son with a primitive woman Nova (she was partnered with him in a science experiment). Fearing a social revolution to come, the leaders of ape society decide Merou must leave the planet. The conclusion diverges from the movie, although Tim Burton sort of used for his remake in 2001.

Planet of the Apes is a fun read. Boulle's use of satire makes for a compelling allegory of power structures and how they respond to change. All societies have an interest in keeping a social balance, anything threatening such a balance will be considered hostile. The cycle of films would serve as an allegory of race relations in America, as explained in Planet of the Apes as American Myth by Eric Greene. There's also pro-science theme in the novel, as it explores the dangers of politicizing scientific advancement, an obstacle holding civilization away from reaching full potential. The novel also makes you think about why there is so much resistance to change and what that tells about the rise and fall of communities. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Book Review: The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan

The Demon-Haunted World was Carl Sagan's final book. It was published in 1997 and feels alarmingly prescient when we look at the world a fifth of the way through the 21st Century. Sagan takes on the rise of pseudo-science in the culture and the consequences of living in a world where anti-science attitudes prevail from top to bottom, even given credence by heads of state (Trump). I don't even have the words for what Sagan would think if he were alive today. I'm sure he would see some signs of hope, but if you read the news we see the consequences of magical thinking prevails on a grand scale. 

Consider this quote:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time - when the United States is a service and information economy, when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching their crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness (25).

Throughout Demon-Haunted World, Sagan makes the case for the scientific perspective as essential if civilization is to survive into the 21st century. He counters the view that science and spirituality must be in conflict, science can evoke wonder in a way similar to religion. Stepping away from the idea of a universe without a creator is too frightening for many. A scientific world view values radical skepticism and requires overwhelming evidence to support any hypothesis. Holding to beliefs without evidence or going by intuition solves little, the idea everything happens for a reason, leads to complacency and susceptibility to charlatans who will distort the truth. While Sagan has no qualm with spiritual world views that are self-critical, the prevalence of fundamentalism entails a regression of civilization. 

Many chapters look at unnerving cultural trends throughout the 1990s, the decade that saw conspiracy theory thinking rule over pop culture. Widespread beliefs in alien abductions and widespread government cover ups of everything from AIDS to crop circles. While governments have been known to lie and attempt to cover up the truth, going down the rabbit hole where everything is a conspiracy leads to slipshod thinking. 

A chapter is devoted to the "Roswell Landing," the most famous UFO hoax. Sagan looks at the more outrageous claims and finds no evidence to support any of them (and offers his own hypothesis much less dramatic than the explosive conspiracies). Alien abduction narratives can be explained through neuroscience and psychology - and how easy it is to fall into self deception. The most outrageous claims must be supported with equally compelling evidence.

Sagan also defends science from some post-modern critics who view it as simply one path to knowledge, no different than witchcraft or transcendental meditation. Other criticisms criticize the history of sexism and racism within science. Sagan concedes all scientists have bias (including himself), but scientists must undergo the most intense scrutiny from their peers. Science is a self-correcting approach to knowledge. A chapter is devoted to ethical issues scientists face, especially in light of the atomic age, and argues scientists must be aware of transgressions they've made in the past. 

Demon-Haunted Earth fine work of popular science and a fitting culmination to Dr. Sagan's career as a public intellectual. We desperately miss him.