Monday, October 26, 2009

my childhood passion

I'm fairly certain that Timmy Mouse by Miriam Clark Potter (illustrated by Tony Brice, published by Rand McNally) sparked my childhood passion for reading. We didn't have a lot of money when I was a child, and I only remember owning two books...this one and a Rand McNally publication of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. And these were probably given to me or one of my sisters as a gift. I remember having these when we lived on the family farm. When I was eight years old, we sold our farm to my brother (he is 20 years older than I) and moved into town.

The greatest discovery of my life was Briggs Public Library in Ironton, Ohio. I went with my friend whose dad took us. I was totally enthralled with the unbelievable notion that I could take as many books as I liked, without charge, and read to my heart's content. In two weeks, I could bring all of them back and start all over again! What a miracle that was to me! Another friend of mine who was a non-reader was a total enigma to me. Her aunt had bought her a whole set of Nancy Drew Mysteries and she never opened one of them! I asked to borrow them and she willingly let me take them home with me. It was supposed to be a permanent arrangement, but her mother found out and made me bring them back. I was devastated, but knowing I could borrow them whenever I pleased brought me consolation.

I went from Nancy Drew to the Hardy Boys and then to Trixie Belden Mysteries. Trixie was like the younger Nancy only more down home. She wasn't cool and sophisticated like Nancy, and I could more easily identify with her character. She lived on Crabapple Farm and her best friend was Honey Wheeler (loved her name) and they belonged to the Bob-White Club.

We moved back to the country when I was starting 7th grade and I no longer had ready access to shelves of books. The county bookmobile became one of my best friends. I would check out twenty books at a time, barely able to carry them to the car.

When I was in eighth grade, my tastes started getting a little more grown-up. Wow! I'll say! I managed to get a copy of Valley of the Dolls by Jacquelin Susann. I got in trouble for showing all the risque passages to my friends at school. My principal "suggested" that it would be inappropriate to bring that particular book to class again. She didn't say anything about Peyton Place though! I had pretty eclectic taste in my reading material. I still read young teen books. I loved Lois Duncan and Ann Head (remember Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones?), Rosamond du Jardin, Betty Cavanna...I could go on, but I'll spare you.

In high school, I was totally obsessed with Gothic Romance novels. Of course Emily Bronte set the standard with Wuthering Heights and Charlotte with Jane Eyre, but at that time in my life I was into more recent authors. I wanted to be that governess in books by Victoria Holt, Dorothy Eden, Phyllis Whitney, Barbara Michaels, Mary Stewart. Like most obsessed readers, once I found an author, I read everything by them until the supply was exhausted.

Also during high school, I read every best-seller I could get my hands on and I had a fixation on books about World War II, fiction and non-fiction alike.  I would read until 2:00 a.m on a school night. I think I read every single book in our small school library. In certain classes (with boring, repetitive teachers), I would make a little fortress of my textbooks and read a paperback behind them. Believe it or not, I never got caught and still managed to graduate with honors.

When I was a young mother, I felt tied down, overwhelmed, exhausted and just looking for a little escape from my humdrum I turned to Harlequin Romances. Yikes! I can't believe I'm admitting that, but, hey, don't knock them too much. They were short, easy to read, and they always, always had happy endings. Some of the authors were surprisingly good writers and a few (Barbara Delinsky, Janet Dailey, Nora Roberts, etc.) went on to become mainstream romance writers. Yeah, most of it is formulaic dreck, but they filled a niche in my life and then I got over them.

I still tend to find an author and read everything they've written. Two recent ones have been James Lee Burke who writes the "Dave Robicheaux" mysteries (I got interested in them when we lived in Louisiana where they're set) and Carl Hiassen whose books about southern Florida make me laugh out loud. I couldn't possibly list all the books I've ever read, but I would most likely recognize them if I saw them listed. I don't read as much as I should these days, mainly because I'm on this darned computer too much, but I'm trying to strike a happy medium with less computer time and more reading time. I want to regain my childhood/adult passion.

P.S. My current read is The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian.

P.P.S. This Timmy Mouse isn't my original one. I found this one at Alibris. It's a great source for out-of-print books at reasonable prices.

P.P.P.S.  This is a duplicate post of the one on Lens.Us.Together

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Movie MeMe--Howdy Pardner!

I couldn't resist posting  The Bumbles' movie meme this week. It's all about cowboys! I must be part guy, because I love a good western. I don't know if it's the great western scenery, or the handsome cowboy scenery that lures me in....well, maybe it's both, but there's nothing like a good shoot-'em-up for me!

The hard part is just choosing a few, that is if you consider 13 a few! I suppose you can, considering all the great western movies that have been made in the last 106 years. Which brings me to the first movie on my list:

The Great Train Robbery (1903) was directed and photographed by Edwin Porter, a former Thomas A Edison cameraman. It was a silent film, of course. It is 10 minutes long and has only 14 scenes and was filmed in the rugged wilds of....New Jersey? Of course, they could hardly film it on location since it really was still the wild, wild west at that time!  The story was said to be based on actual hold-ups perpetrated by the real Butch Cassidy and his Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, which leads me to.....

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Were Paul Newman's eyes ever bluer? Was Robert Redford ever sexier? Was any western "bromance" any closer...until Brokeback Mountain? I've watched this movie a hundred times and know almost every line. "Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill ya!"

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  Yeah, Tombstone (both Kurt Russell's and Kevin Costner's versions) told more of the background story and they were prettier to look at, but "Gunfight" was an original (My Darling Clementine with Henry Fonda was the first). And you can't go wrong with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday...two over-the-top performances that are an impersonator's dream.

Lonely Are the Brave.  Kirk Douglas plays a cowboy in the sixties who can't quite adjust to the modern world. He finds out that a friend is doing time in jail for helping illegal immigrants to cross the border, so he decides to get himself arrested to help his friend escape. When he gets inside, he finds out the friend would rather stay and do his time so that he can go home to his family, instead of spending his life on the run. Kirk breaks out with the help of his faithful horse, Whiskey, and is pursued by the sheriff, played by Walter Matthau. ( I know! Walter Matthau as a sheriff? But, it works.) The lovely Gena Rowlands plays his friend's wife. It has one of the saddest endings ever.

The Man from Snowy River. Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson) lived his first 18 years in the mountains of Australia on his father's farm. The death of his father forces him to go to the low lands to earn enough money to get the farm back on its feet. Kirk Douglas plays two roles as twin brothers who haven't spoken for years, one of whom was Jim's father's best friend and the other of whom is the father of  Jessica (Sigrid Thornton) the girl he wants to marry. A 20 year old feud re-erupts, catching Jim and Jessica in the middle of it as Jim is accused of letting a prize stallion loose. The scene when Jim rides the stallion down a steep cliff is just breathtaking.

Cat Ballou.  The drunkest gunfighter in the West takes on evil Railroad magnate! Jane Fonda plays Cat and she hires Kid Shelleen (Lee Marvin) to kill the S.O.B. railroad man who killed her father. It's really funny and Lee Marvin plays the best drunk ever....hmmmm, maybe he wasn't acting? There's also singing.....which leads me to.....

Paint Your Wagon.  Now, tell me, do you think of singing when you think of a Clint Eastwood western? Clint and Lee Marvin (in another funny role) play prospectors who share the same wife (the beautiful Jean Seberg). Believe it or not, this film was written by Paddy Chayefsky, directed by Joshua Logan, and the music was written by Alan Jay Lerner .

The Outlaw Josey Wales has Eastwood as a wanted man. He was a peaceful farmer near the end of the Civil War until a gang of renegade Union soldiers burns his home and murders his family. He vows to destroy the ones who took his "life". He joins up with a band of guerilla fighters after the Confederacy surrenders and sets out on a mission of mayhem and destruction. No matter how much Josey tries to deny it, his persona of peaceful farmer and builder of life comes through and finally he is able to listen to his inner yearnings to be that person again.

Unforgiven has been hailed as one of the greatest westerns of all time, with good reason. This movie is chock-full of great characters and performances by Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris. Clint Eastwood tells a great story about good and evil and the not-quite-good and the not-quite-evil. The shootout with "Little Bill" Daggett is classic and pure Eastwood.

The Cowboys is my favorite John Wayne movie and you can't mention western movies without listing a few of his films. Mark Rydell, who wrote and directed "On Golden Pond", directed this movie. Wil Anderson (John Wayne) is a rancher who has to get his cattle to market to avoid financial disaster. All the cattle drivers who usually ride with him desert him for the promise of  "thar's gold in them there hills". He is forced to resort to hiring young schoolboys. There is only one among them who has any experience, and he is only 15 and the oldest of the bunch. Needless to say, they run into their share of troubles and catastrophes along the way, but none more menacing than a gang of cattle rustlers led by the evil Long Hair (Bruce Dern in a perfectly cast role). These "cowboys" may have started out as greenhorns and little boys, but they ended up as true men of the west.

True Grit. Slap an eye-patch on John Wayne and give him a bottle and you've got "Rooster" Cogburn, a washed-up, drunken, don't-give-a-damn U.S. Marshal with a reputation for getting the job done. Mix him up with a teenage girl, Mattie Ross (Kim Darby), seeking vengeance for her father's death and you've got a match made in Cowboy Heaven. Throw in a little Glen Campbell (what?) and you've even got some cowboy singing. Now that's what I call a western!

Open Range. 
"Boss Spearman (Robert Duvall) and Charley Waite (Kevin Costner) freegraze their cattle across the vast prairies of the West, sharing a friendship forged by a steadfast code of honor and living a life unencumbered by civilization. When their wayward herd forces them near the small town of Harmonville, the cowboys encounter a corrupt sheriff and kingpin rancher who govern the territory through fear, tyranny and violence. Boss and Charley find themselves inextricably drawn towards an inevitable showdown, as they are forced to defend the freedom and values of a lifestyle that is all too quickly vanishing. Amidst the turmoil, life suddenly takes an unexpected turn for the loner Charley when he meets the beautiful and warm spirited Sue Barlow, a woman who embraces both his heart and his soul." (from
This is one of David's favorite recent westerns, and he thinks it is a great vehicle for Kevin Costner's talents. And you can't miss with Robert Duvall playing the ultimate cowboy, and that leads me to......

Lonesome Dove is THE greatest portrayal of western cowboy life. Some of you will argue that it isn't a movie, and you would be right, it is a television mini-series. But to me it is a cowboy movie that just happens to be nearly six hours long (on DVD without commercials). The combination of Robert Duvall as Capt. Augustus McRae and Tommy Lee Jones as Capt. Woodrow Call is even better than Newman and Redford. They epitomize the former Texas Rangers turned cattle thieves that they portray. None of the actors who played them in the sequels can compare with their performances. Lonesome Dove has everything that you could want in a cowboy movie:  cattle thieving, a cattle drive, lonely women, a prostitute with a heart of gold, beautiful breathtaking scenery, bad men with a heart of gold, bad men who are pure evil, witless bad men who bid the call of a woman who hankers after a bad man, hangings, boys who grow up in the time space of a cattle drive, death, snakes, and the neverending familial love between two men.

One of my favorite scenes is when Gus and Woodrow are getting ready to leave Lonesome Dove for the cattle drive to Montana. Gus insists on taking the wooden sign on which he has written something in Latin....
[referring to the Hat Creek Cattle Company sign]

Woodrow Call: ...and if that ain't bad enough you got all them Greek words on there, too.
Gus McCrae: I told you, Woodrow, a long time ago it ain't Greek, it's Latin.
Woodrow Call: Well what does it say in Latin?
[Gus blusters some gibberish]
Woodrow Call: For all you know it invites people to rob us.
Gus McCrae: Well the first man comes along that can read Latin is welcome to rob us, far as I'm concerned. I'd like a chance t' shoot at a educated man once in my life. 
For those of you who have read Larry McMurtry's great book of the same name, you will know that in the book Gus and Woodrow run into a man who does read Latin and translates it for him.

Never let it be said that cowboys were politically correct:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Five random words

Do you like memes? I love ones that make me think, but I suppose that is what memes are all about...

Violet Sky was doing one that I thought was interesting and she has some excellent responses to the words chosen for her. I wanted to play, too, so she came up with some thoughtful words for me to kick around.

I suppose you could say that jars are an important part of my life. I grew up beside my mother who filled jars every summer with wonderful things from her garden. If she didn't can the green beans, corn, pickles, beets, jellies and jams, we would be sorely lacking for food in the winter. She even canned meats, especially sausage, and even squirrel. I know some of you might think that eating squirrel meat would gross you out, but when you live on a very limited income as we did, you learned that many things that God provides make good eating when you're hungry. Squirrel meat is pretty tasty when you stew it, then dredge in flour, salt and pepper and fry it in an iron skillet. My sister Judy always complained when we had it for supper. She said she always got a piece of buckshot that escaped my dad's fingers when he was picking it out of the flesh.

I save jars. My mother-in-law cans a lot, so of course I save them for her, returning the ones that she has given me containing her hard work. I also save nice ones that I buy from the grocery store with jams, jellies and preserves. Sometimes they're just too pretty and useful to throw into the recycling container.

looking down from Mt. Washington at Point Park in Pittsburgh

Rivers have always been a part of my life. I grew up in southern Ohio near the Ohio River. We weren't right alongside it, but I would see it every time we went to town. If we wanted to go to Ashland, Kentucky or Huntington, West Virginia, we had to cross the bridges. I remember my mom (who was full of superstitions) would tell us to raise our feet off the floorboard of the car when we drove across. I'm not exactly sure what evil this peculiar gesture was supposed to ward off, but we always did it. I have a feeling it led to my unreasonable fear of bridges.

I've lived near other large rivers since I've been married. We lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, whose very high and curved bridge gave me apoplectic fits just thinking about driving over it. We lived there five years and I finally, in the last couple of months we were there, made myself drive over it to try and conquer my fear of it. I did it, but I can't say it made me any less fearful.

After that, we moved to the Pittsburgh area, where there are lots of bridges and tunnels. Anyone familiar with Pittsburgh probably knows that there are three rivers. The Allegheny River and the Monongahela River merge to form the Ohio River. Once our son got stuck in the city and called me to come and get him. Of course, I immediately started panicking, because the highways in Pittsburgh are like a big spaghetti bowl with scary bridges that lead to god-knows-where...sometimes baaaad places. Well, I took off, my heart pounding, and of course, I got lost...stuck on top of Mount Washington, with no clue as to how to get where I needed to be. I called David at work, sobbing so hard that he could barely understand what I was saying, and he had to first rescue our son and then rescue his hysterical wife. I did finally learn a little about driving in Pittsburgh with my friend Lynn, who had almost as much trouble with it as I did.

Here in central Ohio we have several rivers...the Olentangy, the Scioto (which flows into the Ohio River), Mad River, and the Big Darby Scenic River.

I love maps. David tells me I'm a great navigator when we're traveling. I like to find out-of-the-way places on maps, because I'm not fond of interstate travel. I like the little towns and the big cities. Our kids are good navigators as well. When they were young, they would spend hours in the van on our road trips learning about the highways and byways in the atlas that was always kept handy in the car or van...we have one in each vehicle.

Every time we moved to a new place, the first two things we did were study the city or county maps, and then find the local library. Then drive around to familiarize ourselves and find landmarks to go by. They're also handy for games to play on the road; such as, naming state capitals, state flowers and trees, etc. I know, we're such nerds.

Lately, my maps and atlases have been feeling a little lonely. We have come into the 21st century with GPS navigation. David has one in his vehicle and my recent purchase of a new cell phone gave me one I can take anywhere. I love gadgets and this one fits right into my love of navigation. But I still look at the atlases occasionally. I wouldn't want my faithful companions to think I've deserted them!

I'm really picky about purses and wallets. When I find one that works for me, I hang onto them forever, and it's starting to show. I've been scouting recently for a new wallet, but I just haven't been able to find the right one. This one is getting very worn around the edges. To me it's just broken in, but it is a little embarassing when I take it out to pay for a purchase. Anyone know where I can find one just like it?

Who doesn't like penguins? When I take my grandkids to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, we always have to watch the Humboldt penguins. It's especially fun when it's feeding time. Watch this video (by someone else) of our zoo's penguins following the reflection from someone's camera.

This is a no-pressure meme. If you would like to play, let me know in a comment with your email and I will try to come up with interesting words for you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Movie MeMe--True Romance

There are a hundred and one movies that I could name as truly romantic, but none says it better for me than Chocolat.

What could be more romantic than a mysterious and sensuously beautiful woman (Juliette Binoche) who comes to a rigid puritanical village with her daughter to set up a chocolaterie.  She sets about the task of winning over the sexually repressed men and oppressed women by serving them chocolate that makes them want to do things they haven't thought of doing in years. And did I say Johnny Depp plays a heartbreakingly gorgeous gypsy who wins our lady's heart?

The mayor is outraged when Vianne Rocher sets up her shop across the street from the church and at Lent, of all things! Slowly, the town comes to accept and love Vianne and her daughter Anouk, but the mayor is determined to run her out of town. He almost succeeds and almost destroys her, but with the courage she finds in her newfound love and the strong bonds she has made with some of the women, she overcomes even the mayor's determination and stops running away from her life.

The supporting cast is stellar and includes Lena Olin, Leslie Caron, Alfred Molina, and one of my favorite actresses, Dame Judi Dench. Lasse Hallstrom directs.

If you haven't seen this wonderful movie, do yourself a favor and watch it soon. Thanks, Bumbles, for the theme.