dual personalities

Laughter is the best medicine

or,  what to do when it’s hot outside. It’s actually a lovely day out today, but earlier in the week the temperature got into the 90s and the weather people kept warning us to drink lots of water or we might die. Okay, they tend to be alarmist up here because we’re not used to those temperatures.It was hot and humid, though.

Being sensible, the DH and I  responded by eating sandwiches for dinner all week (no cooking!) and watching humorous things on youtube. So if the weather is making you lethargic, you might try this wonderful example of comedic timing, in which Rowan Atkinson plays invisible drums:

If you want to be able to pretend that you are learning something while you chuckle, you can start watching the fascinating, but also funny British game show QI, hosted by the incomparable Stephen Fry.

Seriously, there are about a million episodes to choose from, so you will never run out.

But if the weather has really gotten you down and you are feeling sorry for yourselves, rest assured that someone else has it worse. According to the Washington Post, “On Friday, Bandar Mahshahr, Iran registered an air temperature of 115 degrees and a dew point of 90, an extraordinarily rare combination of heat and humidity. The resulting heat index – a measure of what the air feels like – hit 165 degrees, the second highest we have ever seen reported, although official records for heat index are not maintained.”  Yuck!

Continuing with the ‘someone has it worse’ theme, you could console yourself with any of these movies:

1. Lawrence of Arabia


2. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre


3. The Bridge on the River Kwai


4. Walkabout


5. Rear Window


What movies would you add to the list?

Have a great weekend and stay cool!


Note to self: carpe diem!


Today is Beatrix Potter’s birthday!

The Mice at Work: Threading the Needle circa 1902 Helen Beatrix Potter 1866-1943 Presented by Capt. K.W.G. Duke RN 1946 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/A01100

The Mice at Work: Threading the Needle circa 1902 Helen Beatrix Potter 1866-1943

It is also the anniversary of the day that Thomas Cromwell, Chancellor of the Exchequer, was put to death in 1540. Cromwell was condemned to death without trial and beheaded on Tower Hill on the day of the King’s marriage to Catherine Howard. We will have to wait for Hilary Mantel’s third book in her Cromwell trilogy to learn all about this depressing turn of history…

In the meantime, have you heard that there is a new book of short stories and essays by Shirley Jackson coming out soon? Well, there is.

“For the first time, this collection showcases Shirley Jackson’s radically different modes of writing side by side. Together they show her to be a magnificent storyteller, a sharp, sly humorist, and a powerful feminist.” Please. Shirley Jackson never would have characterized herself as a “powerful feminist”–she was just a brilliant woman who managed to do what she wanted, supported by an appreciative husband. Sheesh.

I will probably check this book out as I am a big fan of Shirley Jackson. At least it is her children who have put this collection together and are presumably benefiting from it. I will not be buying Go Set a Watchman by poor old Harper Lee. I had a bad feeling about that one from the beginning. Someone’s making a boatload of money and it isn’t Harper Lee, who I have no doubt, never wanted this manuscript published.

Well, I am heading to a conference at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa today.

lgo_ncaa_alabama_crimson_tideI broke my rule about never flying anywhere, where in order to get there, I have to change planes. It’s a long plane ride to Birmingham (via Tampa) and then a drive to Tuscaloosa. But carpe diem! Hopefully I will learn something new. And you gotta love a school with a raging elephant for its mascot!

Happy third anniversary to the boy and daughter #3 who tied the knot on this day in 2012. Seems like yesterday!


I won’t be back until very late on Thursday night, so I will probably be off the blogosphere grid for the rest of the week. Have a good one!

O God, our heavenly Father, whose glory fills the whole creation, and whose presence we find wherever we go: Preserve us as we travel; surround us with your loving care; protect us from every danger; and bring us in safety to our journey’s end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP)

Loaves and fishes



I went to two memorial services in three days.

Mamu’s was a high requiem eucharist service for the repose of her soul with full choir and all the bells and whistles.

The other was for a work friend–a secular service with ten speakers extolling her impressive life. There was no religious element save the singing at the end of “Amazing Grace”, which seemed all the sadder for the evident lack of faith of the deceased. Twenty years of Catholic school sometimes has that effect.

We sang “Abide With Me” at Mamu’s service and that about undid me. What is it about hymns? Something about the familiar (sad) music and the words, I guess. It made me want to run home and watch Shane (1953)–I didn’t (but I did later on Sunday).

At church on Sunday we were reminded that it is that time of year again when we all collect money for the United Thank Offering in what we use to call our “mite” boxes.


I brought one home and I intend to fill it up while counting my blessings.

It is a good spiritual practice to count your blessings. Are you in the habit of doing that?

Here are some wise words from Thomas a Kempis (c. 1380 – 25 July 1471), whose feast day was last Friday:

“As long as you live, you will be subject to change, whether you will it or not – now glad, now sorrowful; now pleased, now displeased; now devout, now undevout; now vigorous, now slothful; now gloomy, now merry. But a wise man who is well taught in spiritual labor stands unshaken in all such things, and heeds little what he feels, or from what side the wind of instability blows.”

Have a good Monday!

Empty thy head of wind

Recently, I found myself returning to the Shahnameh or Persian Book of Kings. As cool epics go, it’s right up there. It has magnificent kings, conniving bad guys, great heroes, and lots and lots of tragedy. Most famous are the stories involving the greatest hero, Rostam (aka Rustum), especially the one in which he defeats his opponent in combat only to discover that he has killed his own son. You may know Mathew Arnold’s version of the tragic story of Rostam and Sohrab. Back in high school, I put this passage in my quote book:

So, on the bloody sand, Sohrab lay dead;
And the great Rustum drew his horseman’s cloak
Down o’er his face, and sate by his dead son.
As those black granite pillars, once high-rear’d
By Jemshid in Persepolis, to bear
His house, now ‘mid their broken flights of steps
Lie prone, enormous, down the mountain side–
So in the sand lay Rustum by his son.

But it was not Rostam that drew me to the Shahnameh this time; rather, I was trying to track down another passage:

Empty thy head of wind, for none is born of his mother save to die. Wert thou a rampart of well-wrought iron, the rotation of the heavens would break thee nonetheless, and thou shouldst disappear.

It turns out to be part of the story of “Zohhak and the Snakes,” which comes early in the first book. Zohhak was a regular guy until the evil demon Ahriman got his hooks into him. After Zohhak killed his own father to become king, Ahriman cooked a wonderful meal for him. When Zohhak asked what he wanted as a reward, Ahriman wanted only to kiss the king’s shoulders. Zohhak readily agreed, but was surprised when two nasty serpents sprang up from the spots Ahriman had kissed.

Zahhak and the snakes

To make matters worse, it turned out that Zohhak had to feed the snakes human brains every day or they would eat him. Naturally, Zohhak responded by killing people and feeding the snakes. Bad king! Apparently all this gave him indigestion and one night he had a bad dream. When he asked his advisers to interpret it, one of them responded with my quote. It didn’t seem to have much effect though, and Zohhak continued to be nasty until a hero, Feridoun, finally defeated him. Here is the hero sneaking up on Zohhak. I’m not sure where the snakes are.


Rather than kill Zohhak outright, Feridoun nailed him to a rock high on Mount Damavand, where he would suffer enternally.

Zahhak on damavand

Then Feridoun ruled as a great king and all of Persia was happy and prosperous.

Feyredoun court

I’ve always liked Persian painting. The colors are lovely and jewel-like. They remind me of medieval illuminated manuscripts, though with obvious differences.

The moral of the story? Don’t talk to demons or let them cook for you and never, never kill the king, your father.

When you get the chance, take a look at the Shahnameh and its lovely illustrations. They have much to offer.

In the meantime, have a great weekend!


Guilty pleasures

Okay, I admit it. I liked Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009).


And so when Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 was released on DVD, I was first in line at Netflix.


I guess I love a fat guy on a segway.

Yes, Kevin James is pretty darn funny as the nerdly guy who takes his unglamorous job super-seriously and works hard “to protect the people of the West Orange Pavilion Mall.” When he goes to a mall cop convention in Las Vegas, hilarity ensues.

And there is no bad language in this movie! Yes, you heard me right: No. Bad. Language. There is no bathroom humor. No sex. When was the last time you saw a comedy that didn’t rely on vulgarity for laughs? I didn’t think they still made PG-rated films!

Well, they do. And Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is funny.  I laughed out loud throughout the movie.

(I will say that the OM walked out of the room in disgust after 5 minutes, but what does he know?)

So it may be stupid and low-brow, but sometimes you just need a good laugh at the expense of a fat guy on a segway. My Friday movie pick is Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2! Check it out at your corner Red Box.

“Knights had no meaning in this game. It wasn’t a game for knights.”*

Happy birthday to Raymond Thornton Chandler (July 23, 1888 – March 26, 1959)–great writer and keen social commentator!


“Man has always been a venal animal. The growth of populations, the huge costs of war, the incessant pressure of confiscatory taxation – all these things make him more and more venal. The average man is tired and scared, and a tired, scared man can’t afford ideals. He has to buy food for his family. In our time we have seen a shocking decline in both public and private morals. You can’t expect quality from people whose lives are a subjection to a lack of quality. You can’t have quality with mass production. You don’t want it because it lasts too long. So you substitute styling, which is a commercial swindle intended to produce artificial obsolescence. Mass production couldn’t sell its goods next year unless it made what is sold this year look unfashionable a year from now. We have the whitest kitchens and the most shining bathrooms in the world. But in the lovely white kitchen the average [person] can’t produce a meal fit to eat, and the lovely shining bathroom is mostly a receptacle for deodorants, laxatives, sleeping pills, and the products of that confidence racket called the cosmetic industry. We make the finest packages in the world, Mr Marlowe. The stuff inside is mostly junk.”
The Long Goodbye (written in 1953)

Haven’t I been saying this for years?

Have a good Thursday. Read some Chandler or watch Double Indemnity (1944). Drink a gimlet.

*The Big Sleep

What are you reading?


Well, as you know, I finished Lonesome Dove. I will note that at the end of the book when Captain Call is hauling Gus’s body thousands of miles to be buried in Texas, he detours into Colorado and crosses the Picketwire River into the neighborhood of my ancestor John W. Prowers. Call runs into Charles Goodnight and has a conversation with him. (Goodnight was a real-life business partner for awhile of Prowers.) It has been suggested that the character Captain Call is based on Goodnight, who hailed from Macoupin County, IL.

All of which is to say that there is only six degrees of separation between us and (even) fictional characters!

Now I have moved on to several different things.


First, I finished The Gates Ajar by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, a “spiritualist” novel of the mid-nineteenth century, which daughter #2 recommended and I started in Florida. (I had to order my own copy when I got home!) Immensely popular when it was published in 1868, it appealed to a population exhausted by the personal losses of the Civil War. Eighty thousand copies were sold in America by 1900; 100,000 were sold in England during the same time period. Basically it is a dialogue about the afterlife between the two female protagonists. I enjoyed it very much and found it easy to read (not stilted) and the characters real and easily relatable. The subject matter is one that still appeals to twenty-first-century readers–look at the popularity of Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo in 2010. The Gates Ajar is a much better book, and the author takes great pains to site scripture to back up her theories.

I started re-reading The Tin Can Tree by Anne Tyler, her second and one of her lesser-known books, published in 1965 when she was only twenty-four. Like all Anne Tyler books, it is deceptively simple and an excellent read (and shorter than most of her other novels).

Next up is The Handsome Man’s Deluxe Cafe by Alexander McCall Smith and another Larry McMurtry which I got on eBay. I am also working on my Jackson County, Missouri research.


What are you reading?

FYI today is the birthday (1948) of S.E. Hinton! So “Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.”

One thing I don’t worry about


“Don’t you ever get the feeling that all your life is going by and you’re not taking advantage of it? Do you realize you’ve lived nearly half the time you have to live already?”
“Yes, every once in a while.”
“Do you know that in about thirty- five more years we’ll be dead?”
“What the hell, Robert,” I said. “What the hell.”
“I’m serious.”
“It’s one thing I don’t worry about,” I said.
“You ought to.”
“I’ve had plenty to worry about one time or other. I’m through worrying.”
“Well, I want to go to South America.”
“Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.”
“But you’ve never been to South America.”
“South America hell! If you went there the way you feel now it would be exactly the same. This is a good town. Why don’t you start living your life in Paris?”

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961), American author and journalist, was born on this day 116 years ago in Oak Park, Illinois.

This flyover son sometimes reminds me of another midwestern fisherman.



Don’t you think?

I haven’t read any Hemingway for quite a while. Perhaps it is time to dust something off. Needless to say, it is definitely time to toast old Ernesto.

And did you read this? I think ABInBev should sue!

“All goes onward and outward—nothing collapses”*

We experienced some highs and lows this past weekend.

Mamu died last Friday. She was the boy’s grandmother-in-law.


I knew her a long time, since the boy was three years old in pre-school with her grand-daughter. I remember her clearly back then, because she frequently picked Lauren up from pre-school. She stood out among the other mothers in the carpool line. She drove a Jaguar then and was always dressed to the nines–usually in a cocktail suit and high heels, elegantly bejeweled, her blonde hair perfectly coiffed.

But she was no Joan Collins. She was friendly and thrilled to be the designated driver of her adorable three-year-old grand-daughter.

She and her husband were the most glamorous couple at our church. And probably the most devout. Indeed, there was a lot more to Mamu than her glittering facade let on. She was from Indiana, after all, and her people were solid folk.

I wish she had known my mother. Although very different in some ways, they shared a deep and abiding faith and I know they would have liked each other.

Anyway, I have no doubt that she is with Dick now, standing before the Throne.

Into paradise may the angels lead thee; and at thy coming may the martyrs receive thee, and bring thee into the holy city Jerusalem.

2012 The boy on his wedding day with Mamu who loved him.

2012 The boy on his wedding day with Mamu who loved him.

On the other side of things, the boy’s best man was in town and we had a mini celebration at church in honor of his going off to seminary next month.


The boy, the future minister and Weezer–still in the choir.

It was a very special occasion–his friends and family, everyone in his church family who have known him forever, surrounded him before the altar and there were prayers and some laying on of hands, etc.

Afterwards there was cake!


Godspeed, indeed, to Michael as he begins his studies at Yale. And Godspeed to dear Mamu on the next phase of her journey.

The circle of life.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,

for the living of these days, for the living of these days.

–Harry Emerson Fosdick

*Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass #14

“Oh, ’tis not my qualities they object to! ‘Tis my lack of vice.” *

Recent unwelcome contact with a fuel tanker having left me feeling somewhat delicate (not to mention bruised), I naturally turned to comfort literature and movies to restore my optimistic view of life. Shirley Temple provided the perfect antidote on the movie side. On my dual personality’s advice, I bought “Little Miss Marker” and, boy, did it deliver. Shirley is amazing in that movie.

Shirley temple littl miss markerI also really liked all the supporting cast, especially Adolphe Menjou. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, do!

As for reading, I returned to one of my mother’s old favorites, Georgette Heyer, author of a vast number of intelligent, well-researched Regency romances and mysteries. Born in England in 1902, Ms. Heyer began writing to amuse her younger brother and eventually became a hugely successful author, though of course the critics ignored her almost completely.


She, herself, harbored few illusions about her career: “I think myself I ought to be shot for writing such nonsense…. But it’s unquestionably good escapist literature and I think I should rather like it if I were sitting in an air-raid shelter or recovering from flu.”  Yes, indeed. Her books are witty, informative, and wonderfully devoid of sex, violence, and serious drama. Hence, you see, perfect for those of us who need an escape from modern life. The book I’ve been enjoying, Devil’s Cub, made me laugh out loud several times. Surely, any mother could relate to this:

“You will like her,” he persisted. “Egad, she’s after your own heart, maman! She shot me in the arm.”
“Voyons, do you think that is what I like?”

Then there are witty dialogues like this:

“M’sieur, I am as a slave to my wife.” He kissed the tips of his fingers. “I am as the dirt beneath her feet.” He clasped his hands. “I must bestow on her all that she desires, or die!”

“Pray make use of my sword, ” invited his Grace. “It is in the corner behind you.”

Her books are civilized, historically accurate, and full of delightful characters, who have actual depth. Take, for example, this descriptions: “A certain cynicism, born of the life she has led; a streak of strange wisdom; the wistfulness behind the gaiety; sometimes fear; and nearly always the memory of loneliness that hurts the soul.”  No need to feel ashamed of reading Ms. Heyer. Many of her books are still in print. I highly recommend her.  Some of her books are available on CD and they are very diverting on long car trips!

Have a witty, civilized weekend!

*Georgette Heyer, Powder and Patch  — I think it would make a good epitaph for Mitt Romney :)


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