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Danny Heitman’s “At Random” : Exploring fifty shades of butter

DreamWorks by FRANCOIS DUHAMEL -- In 'The Hundred-Foot Journey,' Helen Mirren, as Madame Mallory, serves up deliciousness from Le Seule Pleurer Restaurant.

As “Fifty Shades of Grey” opened in theaters across the country last month, my wife and I stayed home and indulged in our own form of sensual cinema. We screened “Chef,” a 2014 feature film that boasts some of the best “food porn” around. Written and directed by Jon Favreau, who’s also the star, “Chef” tells the… Continue reading →

At Random: Sacks’ books help keep wonder alive

After reading the newspaper each morning for years now, I’ve grown accustomed to getting bad news over breakfast. Or so I thought. Nothing could really prepare me for taking my first sip of the day’s coffee last month and learning that Oliver Sacks is dying of cancer. Sacks, the 81-year old neurologist and author,… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s At Random: Lesson from a master of trees

Franklin Williams, the arborist who took care of my trees, died recently, and I’ve been missing him as spring approaches. Franklin was good at cutting down trees but disliked removing healthy ones. He was fond of a Latin expression, “arbor vitae,” which means “tree of life.” It was a reminder to him that each tree has its own… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman: Story of Very Rev. Than Vu doing the dishes a lesson for us all

Rev. Than Vu

For some three decades, the Very Rev. Than Ngoc Vu served numerous Catholic church parishes in south Louisiana, including ones in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas. His death last month after a long battle with cancer brought a flood of testimonials from those he’d inspired, and I’d like to share my own story about my one… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s ‘At Random’ : A simpler year, one day at a time

Although Christmas is gone, bits of paper still cling to the rug, the scraps of wrapping quickly undone in the passion of acquisition as we opened presents beneath the tree. The gifts themselves will linger under the lights until New Year’s, when I stow away the new necktie on a closet rack, tuck the holiday sweater into… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Crèche a little broken, like me

I never met my wife’s Aunt Pat, who died long before I entered the family. But I connect with Pat each Christmas when we unpack her crèche and place it under the tree. My wife inherited the nativity scene from Pat, which makes it an heirloom, I suppose, although nothing so grand as what you’d see on “Antiques… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Crèche a little broken, like me

I never met my wife’s Aunt Pat, who died long before I entered the family. But I connect with Pat each Christmas when we unpack her crèche and place it under the tree. My wife inherited the nativity scene from Pat, which makes it an heirloom, I suppose, although nothing so grand as what you’d see on “Antiques… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: A dog’s view of Christmas

From beneath a quilt on these dark December nights, I occasionally sense what sounds like sleigh bells, the music of Christmas faintly guiding me to sleep. But what I’m really hearing is what I hear throughout the year — the jingle, from the next room, of my terrier’s vaccination tag as he rolls over in his… Continue reading →

At Random: Farmers are founders of our feast

My family started the holidays as we often do — by rising early on Thanksgiving, packing homemade pies as carefully as Fabergé eggs, then driving west to see relatives in Acadiana, a part of Louisiana that boasts some of the richest farmland in the state. What I like best about the drive is the openness of it.… Continue reading →

At Random: A few books to put on holiday list

Some people adore Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” and read it aloud each December, but I’ve only read it recently in a handsome edition published by Candlewick Press. There are passages in the text that sound oddly overwritten; in his writing as in his short life, Thomas was prone to excess. But we’re all in… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s 'At Random' : Moments away from news cycle abide

It’s a sickness of our country that we can’t get enough of politics, which is why, some two years before the next president is supposed to take office, there are already reporters in the Midwest, notebooks in hand, trying to handicap the Iowa primaries. But this autumn, I’ve been thinking of another man in the Midwest, also with… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random” : Older writers show how to be brief

This month, quite by coincidence, I’ve been reading three books written by men who are all well past retirement age. Experience has taught them to write concisely about big topics, a skill that no writer ever really perfects. In “The Meaning of Human Existence,” 85-year-old scientist Edward O. Wilson discusses what he’s learned about why we’re here… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Worn out by visit with Teddy

Like soccer fans who exhaust themselves during World Cup season, staying up past their bedtimes to watch the latest televised match, my wife and I grew groggy and red-eyed over several nights this month as we screened “The Roosevelts” on PBS. New episodes of Ken Burns’ seven-part series on Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt quickly piled up… Continue reading →

At Random: Almanacs good answer to malaise

When summer’s lasted too long, and the headlines are all nasty and bleak, and the year begins to sag under the weight of its worries, I look to each autumn’s arrival of the latest farmer’s almanacs to cheer me up. The new almanacs appear in the drugstore sales racks around September, tucked beneath the recent editions of… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random” : Not going to miss moon again

I missed this month’s arrival of the Super Moon, the astronomical event in which the moon, passing particularly close to Earth, hung like a mammoth medallion in the night sky. On the Sunday of the Super Moon, I was finishing up dinner dishes, paying bills, gathering what we’d need for my son’s first day back at… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random” : After travel, pleasures of being home

Standing in the library of the Biltmore House, billed as the largest privately owned home in America, I craned my neck toward the Italian ceiling mural, scanned thousands of books on shelves that climbed like Jacob’s ladder, then tried to imagine myself in reading chairs as big as thrones. What I felt wasn’t envy, though, but homesickness.… Continue reading →

At Random: Technology builds bridges on travels

As I’ve been reminded this summer while rereading “Mornings on Horseback,” President Theodore Roosevelt’s enthusiasm for travel was a family tradition. David McCullough’s book about Roosevelt’s youth mentions that Roosevelt’s uncle, Robert Roosevelt, had some passionate opinions about travel, too. Don’t focus on the scenery when you leave home, Robert suggested in 1851. Going somewhere else,… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s At Random: Summer week ordered by Rabbit Time

The ideal speed of life, I decided after a recent week along North Carolina’s New River, is about the speed of the river itself. The current near the little town of Jefferson, where we stayed in a rented house at the river bank, seemed to flow as casually as a jazz procession, although I didn’t gauge the… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s At Random: Letters reveal nature of their writers

Not long ago, after I received a small honor from my college alma mater, my friend Bob mailed me a small note of congratulations. Bob’s handwritten letter said more about him than any email ever could. The neat, straight lines of script were just like Bob — ordered, deliberate, careful. When we write a note longhand, we place… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s 'At Random': July brings thoughts of yuletide

A few days ago, with the mercury hovering near 90, I opened our front porch mailbox and found a Christmas card from my sister-in-law, who had apparently decided that in the realm of good intentions, late is better than never. I didn’t bat an eye, since I had only recently tackled an unfinished yuletide chore of… Continue reading →

At Random: Time, not miles, splits family

My in-laws recently held a family reunion — a gathering that, like all traditions, was meant to celebrate what endures in a world of change. But even the rituals of reunions, so seemingly unaltered from year to year, slowly evolve to meet new challenges, new possibilities. This summer, for example, there weren’t quite as many… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman's 'At Random': Sunset reminds us of priorities

I never know what to get my wife for her birthday, so I’m always relieved when she tells me what she wants. Last month, as her special day approached, she asked for an evening dinner with a good view of the sunset. Her birthday brought other things, too: a crockpot, some gift certificates to the dress shop,… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s At Random: Summer guided by luck, not design

On Memorial Day weekend, informally known as the first weekend of summer, I rose early and heard crows outside the bedroom window. Although crows live here year-round, I’ve always thought of them as winter birds, their sad caw-caw-caw a kind of soundtrack for cold gray afternoons when the trees are empty of leaves and the hours are empty… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Catching up on last year’s reading

Danny Heitman

I haven’t paid much attention to the latest summer reading lists, since I’m still trying to finish reading the books I started last summer. Twelve months ago, I decided to tackle the novels of Shirley Jackson, who’s best known for “The Lottery,” her short story about citizens of a quaint New England town who gather to participate… Continue reading →

Danny Heitman’s “At Random”: Mr. Danny’s camp for bored kids

Photo provided by MetroSource - Bored? Mr. Danny says go play in the sprinklers.

Welcome to Mr. Danny’s Summer Camp for Bored Youngsters. You’ve been sent here because, with summer still new, you’ve already complained to your parents that you have nothing to do. When I was your age, we did many things to chase away dullness when school was out. But sometimes, the years stack on top of the old… Continue reading →