dual personalities

Mid-week pep talk

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“Doubt not, O poet, but persist. Say ‘It is in me, and shall out.’ Stand there, balked and dumb, stuttering and stammering, hissed and hooted, stand and strive, until at last rage draw out of thee that dream-power which every night shows thee is thine own; a power transcending all limit and privacy, and by virtue of which a man is the conductor of the whole river of electricity.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays

Oh man, when in doubt, read some Emerson. Isn’t he just the best?

And, by the way, don’t we all need one of these? Or we could have one made with a R.W. Emerson head.

And here’s a prayer to start the day by William Bright:

O Eternal Light, illuminate us; O eternal Power, strengthen us; O eternal Wisdom, instruct us; O eternal Mercy, have pity upon us; and grant us with all our hearts and minds to seek thy face, and to love thy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Prayer via here.)

Sackcloth and ashes

Lent starts tomorrow. Lent, as you know, is a forty-day period of repentance and reflection leading up to Easter.

"Man of Sorrows" by William Dyce (1806--1864)

“Man of Sorrows” by William Dyce (1806–1864), Scottish National Gallery

The length is symbolic of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness just before his temptation.

Before we plunge in, here is some food for thought from our old friend Fred Buechner:

During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.

-If you had to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn’t, which side would get your money and why?
-When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore?
-If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be in twenty-five words or less?
-Of all the things you have done in your life, which is the one you would most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you happiest to remember?
-Is there any person in the world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?
-If this were the last day of your life, what would you do with it?

To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can me a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.

Whistling in the Dark

If nothing else, Buechner reminds us that our lives are important and that we must take them seriously. It is a good thing to take these forty days and practice some introspection. Times a-wastin’!

“While life’s dark maze I tread”*

Yesterday was the last Sunday in Epiphany. We are heading into Lent. Tomorrow we eat pancakes.

I had another confirmation class to go to on Sunday which meant another painful meeting with the eighth graders! We had a lesson in using a concordance. I thought this was kind of fun, but then I am such a nerd. We mentors were instructed to bring a bible with a concordance, so I hauled out my old NIV study bible from back in the day when I was in a small group. It made me realize how seldom I use it, now that one can find everything on the computer–and so fast!

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Anyway, I told my ‘mentee’ as we were leaving that when she was bored sometime she should play with the concordance. It really can be fun. You know, look up words and then follow up with the bible verses. Super fun and better than trolling your iPhone! She smiled and nodded enthusiastically, probably thinking, “OMG, how did I get stuck with this person?”

The weather this weekend was warm and springlike. I ran a lot of errands and even induced the OM to go to an estate sale on “The Hill”–an historically Italian-American neighborhood in south city which is terra incognita to me.

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The estate sale was run by the most reputable and high-end estate sale company and the pictures online looked like there was a lot of good stuff, so I wanted to check it out. We got lost of course, but we finally found it–right around the corner from St. Ambrose Church.

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The exhilaration of finding the place was unfortunately followed by the let down of most of the good stuff being already gone. C’est la vie. I did a little sleuthing and figured out that the house was owned by a retired Episcopal priest! Do I have a nose for finding Episcopalians or what? Even in the heart of Little Italy. I bought one of his bibles for $2. There were a bunch of old Vanderbilt yearbooks, which, had I been alone, I might have perused and even bought. I get a kick out of old yearbooks.

We had dinner out with the boy and daughter #3 and her parents on Saturday and we went to a Super Bowl party for oldsters, where we mostly watched the commercials. The PSA about the rampant problem with heroin starred a girl from our church!

Which I guess really brings home the message of heroin addiction and the girl next door. Sigh. I remember Tori (or maybe it was her sister) as a toddler going up to communion with her mother and saying in a loud voice, “Crackers? I want a cracker!” My older and more sophisticated daughters thought that was uproariously funny and for years afterwards would say, “Crackers? I want a cracker!” at inappropriate times.

And Peytie Pie won the Super Bowl!

Well, it’s Monday. Have a good one!

*Ray Palmer, 1830, “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”

“I am a ham! And the ham in an actor is what makes him interesting.”*

I have posted a lot about movies recently, so you will probably be all, oh, another blogpost about old movies.

But today happens to be the birthday of the great character actor and Episcopalian John Carradine (February 5, 1906 – November 27, 1988), so how could I not?

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Hatfield in Stagecoach (1939)

He had one of those truly amazing careers spanning 60 years (1930-1990) where he made literally hundreds of movies–by some counts over 300. He was in some of the best movies ever made in Hollywood (Stagecoach, The Grapes of Wrath)

As Casey in The Grapes of Wrath

As Casy in The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

and some of the worst (too many to count involving mummies, zombies and even sex kittens).

Dracula in Billy the Kid vs. Dracula

Dracula in Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

Well, he was a real working actor, and he had quite a range. He was even the voice of the Great Owl in The Secret of NIMH (1982)!

But he never was even nominated for an Oscar. They threw him a bone with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Sigh.

In honor of his birthday, I suggest we watch one of his good movies–

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Caldwell in Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)

Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) or The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) or The Proud Rebel (1958) or The Shootist (1976) or even Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), a movie I like a lot.

His funeral was held at St. Thomas the Apostle in Hollywood. His ashes were scattered at sea.

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And, yes, I will be watching at least part of Super Bowl 50–I can’t miss my Peytie Pie!

Dec 14, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) and quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) before the game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Enjoy the weekend!

*John Carradine

Throwback Thursday

Chris and Tom

Here is a photo of our handsome older brother (on the right) with his dreamy best bud Tom at our parent’s home back in 1980. Written on the back of the snapshot is Oct. 18, 1980 which means it was taken on the evening following the wedding of the OM and yours truly. Everyone was relaxing and the bride and groom had left the scene.

Good times. I wonder what they were playing?

P.S. The BB (big brother) is the same age here as the boy is today.

Playing along with the farce

I’m not saying I will, but I could go on for hours escorting the reader–forcibly, if necessary–back and forth across the Paris-Chinese border. I happen to regard the Laughing Man as some kind of super-distinguished ancestor of mine–a sort of Robert E. Lee, say, with the ascribed virtues held under water or blood. And this illusion is only a moderate one compared to the one I had in 1928, when I regarded myself not only as the Laughing Man’s direct descendant but as his only legitimate living one. I was not even my parents’ son in 1928 but a devilishly smooth imposter, awaiting their slightest blunder as an excuse to move in–preferably without violence, but not necessarily–to assert my true identity. As a precaution against breaking my bogus mother’s heart, I planned to take her into my underworld employ in some undefined but appropriately regal capacity. But the main thing I had to do in 1928 was watch my step. Play along with the farce. Brush my teeth. Comb my hair. At all costs, stifle my natural hideous laughter.

–J.D. Salinger, The Laughing Man

“I hope you have the pleasure of buying me a drink on your next payday.”

Yesterday was the birthday of the great director John Ford (February 1, 1894 – August 31, 1973). In fact, he is probably the greatest of all film directors. Even Bergman and Kurosawa looked up to him.

"Stagecoach" 1939

“Stagecoach” 1939

When I was watching Red River (1948) the other day, which is directed by the great Howard Hawks, I kept thinking, “This is good, but it would have looked so much better had John Ford directed.” There are some good shots in this movie–notably of the swarming cattle herd–but he never gets the huge vistas that Ford would have had. You never get the sense of the size of Texas or the sky in Kansas. Most of it looks like it was filmed on a soundstage with bad lighting. John Ford would have opened it up.

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The iconic approaching storm scene in “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” 1949

"The Searchers" 1956

“The Searchers” 1956

A lot of Ford’s success is due to his close association with two great cinematographers, with whom he worked on many of his greatest films: Winton C. Hoch (3 Godfathers (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Quiet Man (1952), and The Searchers (1956); and Bert Glennon: Stagecoach (1939), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Drums Along the Mohawk (1939), Rio Grande (1950), Wagon Master (1950), Sergeant Rutledge (1960).

He knew how to pick ’em. And he knew how to cast. His ensemble casts are second to none.

"The Long Voyage Home" 1940

“The Long Voyage Home” 1940

He won four Best Director Oscars–for The Informer (1935), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), How Green Was My Valley (1942), and The Quiet Man (1952).

"How Green Was My Valley" 1940

“How Green Was My Valley” 1942

He won two more  Academy Awards for best Documentary–The Battle of Midway (1942) and December 7th (1943). Of course, not one of them was for a western. There are so many for which he should have at least been nominated–The Searchers (1956) and My Darling Clementine (1946) chief among them.

I’m  not saying that all his films are great. In fact, they are quite inconsistent. He can succumb to a weepy Irish sentimentality which is unfortunate and can be embarrassing. Any movie involving James Cagney, Tyrone Power, Grace Kelly, Spencer Tracy, and/or English history (yes, I’m thinking Mary of Scotland) should be avoided. But even these can be entertaining and worth watching.

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John Wayne and Henry Fonda were never better than under the direction of John Ford. And John Ford had the good sense to use them often. He famously cast the relatively unknown John Wayne in Stagecoach when the producer wanted Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich. The result using the big stars would have been a good movie, but Marlene would have taken over and Gary would have been all aw shucks and adorable–standard fare.

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Directors who copied his style have made a lot of standard movies. His never were.

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John Wayne gave the eulogy at his funeral.

So a toast tonight to the great John Ford!

Sgt. Beaufort in Fort Apache (1948)

In a mirror, dimly*

12622510_536756126494538_6594554921321818546_oIn flyover news, the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company announced last week that Mac, the first foal of 2016, was born at Warm Springs Ranch in Boonville, Mo., joining more than 160 other horses in the beer giant’s stable. Hello, Mac!

Over the weekend the OM and I attended the “Elegant Italian Dinner,” an annual fundraising event for the youth mission trip at church. It was, as usual, a jolly good time. What is it about heated up lasagna and a side salad in a dimly lit church hall that always hits the spot?

The next morning I got up and went to the 8 o’clock service at church so that we could go out to breakfast afterwards with the boy and daughter #3 at our favorite diner.

photo from yelp.com

photo from yelp.com

The OM had never been there, but he liked it, I guess, because he ate his slinger and then finished daughter #3’s waffle a la mode.

Anyway, the 8 o’clock service is a shorter service because there is no music (besides the Voluntary at the beginning and end of the service). It appeals to an older crowd and also to the golfers in the congregation. It is not really  my cup of tea. I also skipped the 155th Annual Meeting which followed.  I forgave myself.

I finished the mystery I was reading by the Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen, The Keeper of Lost Causes. It is the first in the Department Q series about detective Carl Morck. I thought it was very good–character-driven and darkly humorous. I will definitely read more in this series.

I watched Red River (1948) and really enjoyed it. John Wayne and Montgomery Clift are really pretty great together. Clift never overplays his hand, never tries to upstage John Wayne, but is a real presence in every scene. He appears to be confident and at ease and not bad on horseback. I was impressed. Needless to say, this is no mean feat, because John Wayne is mythic in this part.

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*I Cor. 13: 12 (or “through a glass, darkly” KJV)

If the world IS going to come to an end, at least you won’t get caught with holes in your socks. *

Last night as I trolled Amazon Prime looking for something to watch, I happened upon a 1965 sci fi movie starring Dana Andrews, and immediately knew that my search was over. What could be better for weekend viewing than a movie in which  dying scientist, Dr. Stephen Sorensen (Dana Andrews), who just wants to find a source of cheap renewable energy for the world (in 1965 no less!), accidentally starts the apocalypse? Meanwhile, his young scientist wife, Dr. Maggie Sorensen (Janette Scott), who really loves her cranky husband, gamely tries to deny her attraction to former boyfriend and fellow scientist, Dr. Ted Rampion (Kieron Moore), the one guy who can see that Dana Andrews’s theories could end life as we know it. After Sorensen sets off a nuclear bomb that creates a crack in the earth’s crust, the three more or less get over their problems to try to save the world. I mean, really, a love triangle involving Ph.D.s AND floods of magma. Who could resist that?

If only I could add speech bubbles to this photo...

If only I could add speech bubbles to this photo… the mind reels.

Despite the Mystery-science-theater vibe, it was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. All of the actors took their roles seriously, and, notwithstanding the ridiculous getup depicted above, Dana Andrews gave the type of performance we would expect from the star of Laura. What’s more, I realized partway through that I had seen the movie before. As a child of about 10 I had found it tense and nerve-wracking. Who wouldn’t? No one could figure out where that pesky crack would move next.

It's over there!

It’s over there!

Now it's over there!

Now it’s over there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The young hero had to lower a nuclear warhead into an active volcano,

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climb up a wrecked elevator shaft with his lady love, who would have fallen if he hadn’t saved her,

crack in the world4and outrun the flowing magma that threatened to surround them.

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The special effects were really pretty good. There was even a train full of evacuees that got derailed by a volcanic eruption while crossing a viaduct.

crack in the world train

It was nonstop action with a message: science requires restraint and caution, and people who are sick, jealous, or just out to make a name for themselves before they die, should not make decisions that could end the world.

It’s good to rediscover those movies we watched on quiet Sunday afternoons when we were kids. And let’s face it, in many ways they’re more enjoyable than the oversexed, over-violent, characterless movies they make nowadays. If I sound like an old lady, well…it takes one to know one, right? :)

Have a great weekend!

*Dr. Maggie Sorensen in A Crack in the World

 

Born and bred in the heart of the western wilderness

The title of today’s post refers, of course, to…the Wizard of Oz, who you will remember was from Kansas.

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Well, today is the 155th anniversary of the day Kansas was admitted as our 34th state in 1861.

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Abolitionist Free-staters from New England and pro-slavery settlers from Missouri had rushed to the territory when it was officially opened to settlement by the U.S. government in 1854 in order to determine whether Kansas would become a free state or a slave state. The area became a hotbed of violence and chaos in its early days as these forces collided, thus earning it the name Bleeding Kansas. The abolitionists eventually prevailed. Kansas entered the Union as a free state and the Civil War followed.

After the Civil War the population of Kansas grew rapidly when waves of immigrants turned the prairie into farmland. It also became the center of what we think of as “the Wild West,” what with cattle drives on the Chisholm Trail moving through the state to railheads there. Cattle towns like Abilene, Wichita and Dodge City, flourished between 1866 and 1890 as railroads reached towns suitable for gathering and shipping cattle. All the famous gunslingers and lawmen like Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp worked on one side of the law or another in Kansas.

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Things eventually calmed down in the state and since the turn of the 20th century people have generally regarded it as one of those states where not much happens.

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We who live here in flyover country know that is decidedly not true. Kansas is a big, beautiful state where the weather can be quite severe and the sky is large.

"The High Plains" by THomas Hart Benton , 1958

“The High Plains” by Thomas Hart Benton, 1958

Lots of famous (and infamous) people have started out life in Kansas. For instance, did you know that Mabel Walker Willebrandt (1889-1963) was from Kansas? She was the U.S. Assistant Attorney General from 1921-1929 and the highest-ranking woman in the federal government at the time and first woman to head the Tax Division.

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She vigorously prosecuted bootleggers during Prohibition–in fact, she was the one who came up with the idea that illegally earned income was subject to income tax. That’s how they got Capone, you know. She is one of those amazing women who nobody knows about–probably because she was a Republican and campaigned vigorously for Herbert Hoover.

Anyway, I watched the movie Dodge City (1939) with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland fairly recently, so I will recommend instead watching Red River (1948)–a movie about a cattle drive on the Chisholm Trail which ends dramatically in Abilene, Kansas. It is not one of my favorite westerns, but it is well worth watching for John Wayne, Walter Brennan and Montgomery Clift, who is surprisingly effective as a cowboy.

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Well, as you know, that is how my mind works.

P.S. Did you know that Home On the Range is the state song of Kansas? How freaking awesome is that?!

Have a good weekend!

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