dual personalities

Friday movie pick


I read this book back in the 1980s and really liked it. It is the haunting story of Mary Bee Cuddy, a spinster pioneer in Nebraska, who takes it upon herself (because a man cannot be found to do it) to transport three women back East. The women have been driven insane by their terrible, tragic lives on the plains. Mary Bee enlists claim-jumping George Briggs to help her.

I have been waiting for Hollywood to make it into a movie ever since. Word was that Paul Newman had an option on it, but nothing came of that. Finally it was announced that Tommy Lee Jones was going to star in and direct it: “Soon to be a major motion picture.”


But then…cue sound of crickets. Why does Hollywood do this? It was released last year with little or no fanfare and sunk like a rock (I guess) after a weak opening. Straight to DVD soon after. If it wasn’t for IMDB.com, I never would have run across it. But it is a really good movie! Hilary Swank gives an Oscar-worthy performance. Why was she overlooked? It is well-directed by Tommy Lee Jones–understated and well-paced.  The cinematography is beautiful. There are cameos by some excellent actors. Even Meryl Streep has a small role–I suppose she agreed to do it because Tommy Lee is a friend and her daughter got a part.

They changed a few things in the book–Lord knows why. I wouldn’t have. And, yes, the book is better. The book usually is. But I recommend this movie. It has stayed with me. It is my Friday pick.

“You should not confuse your career with your life.”*


Today’s PSA:

“This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.”
–Martin Luther

Have a good Thursday and stay focused.

*Dave Barry

Dear March–Come in

John William Inchbold (1830--1888)

Dear March — Come in —
How glad I am —
I hoped for you before —

Put down your Hat —
You must have walked —
How out of Breath you are —
Dear March, Come right up the stairs with me —
I have so much to tell —

I got your Letter, and the Birds —
The Maples never knew that you were coming — till I called
I declare — how Red their Faces grew —
But March, forgive me — and
All those Hills you left for me to Hue —
There was no Purple suitable —
You took it all with you —

Who knocks? That April.
Lock the Door —
I will not be pursued —
He stayed away a Year to call
When I am occupied —
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come

That Blame is just as dear as Praise
And Praise as mere as Blame –

(Emily Dickinson)

The painting is “A Study, In March”  by John William Inchbold (1830–1888)

“A solar eclipse. The cosmic ballet goes on.”*

So I feel that I should mention that Leonard Nimoy died. He was 83.

Clearly the man did not take himself too seriously. This is always a good thing.

Although I was never a particularly big fan of Nimoy or Mr. Spock for that matter, it is nevertheless sad to see another familiar star pass away.

I suggest we all watch the “Marge vs. the Monorail” episode of The Simpsons (season 4, episode 12) tonight.


It is a classic, one of the Top 5 best episodes, and stars the late great Phil Hartman as Lyle Lanely, as well as Leonard Nimoy. It was written by Conan O’Brien.

And, of course, don’t forget to raise a toast to our favorite Vulcan. Live long and prosper.

*Leonard Nimoy in “Marge vs. the Monorail”

Holier than thou


Well, I do feel a bit holier than thou, having gone to church on Sunday when over 300 (mostly small) churches in the area were closed. However, First Presbyterian and Kirkwood Baptist, two large churches which are only a block or two away from Grace, were also closed. And why you ask? Because it snowed on Saturday! But only 6-7 inches! The streets were plowed! I got down my driveway in my little car no problem.

When did this happen? This fear of snow and the weather in general? When did Americans become such sheep huddled together in fear of a big bad weather front coming through? When did church become just another activity that could be canceled at will?

Well, about 40 hardy souls gathered at our church (and 18 at the 8 a.m. service!), including all the acolytes, all the lay readers and half the ushers! The Sunday School held classes. I say high fives all around for these intrepid Episcopalians!


I must say, it was kind of creepy listening to the snow slide loudly off our big ‘ol roof during the service.

I shoveled off the front walk when I got home and part of the driveway and then the OM hired some teenagers with a snow-blower to clear the driveway, so we are all set now.

I watched some of Ken Burns’ The Civil War in anticipation of my trip in a couple of weeks to see daughter #2. We are road-tripping up to Gettysburg to see the National Military Park. I am also re-reading Long Remember by Mackinlay Kantor, which you will recall is a novel about the battle from the viewpoint of the people who lived in the town. It is really good. I will probably also watch Gettysburg (1993) based on the Michael Schaara novel The Killer Angels. I always thought it was pretty good, except for Martin Sheen as Gen. Robert E. Lee. Jeff Daniels, who plays my hero Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, makes up for Sheen.

Speaking of Chamberlains, did you watch Josh Duhamel’s new show Battle Creek last night? He plays a detective named Milt Chamberlain. (And BTW, the actor who played Dewey Crowe on Justified has a small part.)

Have a good Monday!

Roll on Spring…

It has been quite a week: so unseasonably cold that the frost line went deeper than the normal five feet and several nearby towns had massive municipal water disasters. Some even resorted to ‘trickle’ orders, hoping that if people kept their water on, the pipes wouldn’t freeze. So far, Canton has escaped, but keep your fingers crossed. Winter isn’t over yet. We did have one day mild enough so that my boys could frolick among the roof tops. Actually, they were not so much frolicking as attempting to prevent the garage roof from caving in.

thigh-high snow!

thigh-high snow!

It was a Herculean task, but they moved mountains of the white stuff!


I think they quite enjoyed themselves. The got sweaty and covered in snow and afterwards were rewarded with tea and brownies.

In the meantime, I avoided grading by messing around on the internet, where I discovered this classic 1939 yearbook photo:

Father's yearbook picture

Let’s look at a close-up:

father's yearbook detail

For readers unfamiliar with the our family, that’s our father looking austere and noble on the bottom right. Note that Newell is one of the only students without a nickname. I suppose his mother thought they were tacky or maybe he just didn’t run with the nickname crowd. Really, is High School fun for anyone, ever?

Next weekend, if all goes according to plan, I should be posting from the  nation’s capital. I’ll be visiting my son and (I hope) the National Archives, while the DH attends a conference. In the meantime, have a great week and console yourselves with the notion that somewhere spring has sprung.



Friday movie pick(s)

Ah, Friday! How sweet it is.

It being Lent, I think I will haul out one of my favorite lenten moviesThe Robe (1953) with Richard Burton. In recent years, I have gone to my DVD shelf to find it and come away confused and empty-handed. You know–you think you have a movie, but you don’t. So thinking ahead, I bought a new copy recently. I am all set for some Cinemascope wonderfulness.


Earlier in the week I watched the movie St. Vincent (2014) starring Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy and Naomi Watts. It is the story  of a little boy whose parents have just separated, forcing  him and his mother to move. He finds an unlikely friend and after-school babysitter in the misanthropic, bawdy, alcoholic war veteran who lives next door.


I wan’t expecting much, but as often happens in that case, I enjoyed it. The TV ads always pushed it as a comedy, and it is funny, but it is more of a drama with comedic moments. Melissa McCarthy  is subdued and not over-the-top. The child who plays the boy is very good, and as you know, that can make or break a film.


Anyway, I liked it and it would be appropriate lenten viewing since it asks the question, “Who is a saint?”

If neither of these choices appeals to you, you could choose a film starring Franchot Tone (February 27, 1905 – September 18, 1968), whose birthday is today.


Tone was a cousin of one of my father’s best friends and so he was always on my radar, although he is a rather stiff, old-fashioned kind of actor. He usually plays the debonaire, less sexy, but stalwart other guy, who sometimes manages to get the girl if the lead is a real schmo.

He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and he starred with the best of them, including Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper. He was even married to Joan Crawford!

Recently I watched Suzy (1936)–a WWI drama–with Cary Grant and Jean Harlow. Mostly I was impressed with Harlow.


She steals the show.

Anyway, have a good weekend. Keep warm. We’re supposed to get more snow and wintry mix, etc. Whatever.


“I exist as I am, that is enough”*

Well, thank you, fastcoexist.com for letting me know that I live in one of the worst states for “well-being”.


Yes, there we are in gray in flyover country. Well, I say phooey.

Don’t you get tired of being told the results of surveys and studies? I say, live your life and forget about surveys.

I think I will give them up for Lent.

Meanwhile, our well-being in flyover country is greatly enhanced by the fact that these guys are back in training.



C’mon, Mike, turn around!

“I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware, and by the far the largest to me, and that is myself.”

(Walt Whitman)


Have a nice Wednesday


The way a crow

Shook down on me

The dust of snow

From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart

A change of mood

And saved some part

Of a day I had rued.

(Robert Frost)



bigroom(All paintings above by Andrew Wyeth and one bonus piece by N.C. Wyeth below)

nc wyeth

“Oh wow! What? Who’s that man? What the hell was that, man?”*

Oh, man, so I finally saw Easy Rider (1969) over the weekend. I was too young to see it when it came out, but it was on TCM and the OM and I watched it.


I think I may have waited too long. If I was too young in 1969, I am an old lady now. But it wasn’t a total waste of my time.

There were some nicely shot scenes by László Kovács of the boys riding through the scenic American West. The music was appropriate and of the moment.

But seriously, the script by Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Terry Southern–which was nominated for an Oscar–is threadbare.  It seems like most of it was made up as they went along. Wyatt (Fonda) and Billy (Hopper) sell drugs and score some big bucks, so they head out on the highway to go to Mardi Gras. They do drugs and meet some cool (not really) people on the way. They are free, man. And by free I mean free to do drugs.

Okay. Is this freedom? There is much drug-induced talk about freedom and exchanges like: “Where you from man?” “Hard to say.”

I don’t buy it, man.

Our heroes seem perplexed that people look at them askance and seem to judge them for being dirty, probably smelly, drugged-out, oddly-dressed bikers who disrespect the American flag. The ending seems extreme. I think they just needed to end the movie and couldn’t think of another way to do it.

Roger Ebert thought the movie was a “great” one when he reviewed it in 1969. Here’s the review. I’m still not buying it.

I’m sure my brother, who graduated from high school in 1969, saw this movie, but I can’t remember what he thought at the time. He probably thought it was pretty cool.  After a semester in college he kind of resembled Dennis Hopper.

banjo chris

He even had one of those suede coats with fringe. At the time I thought he was channeling John Wayne in Fort Apache, but maybe I was mistaken. Looking back, it is just kind of embarrassing.

In other news, I did not watch the Oscars and it seems like I didn’t miss anything. The only surprise to me was that Eddie Redmayne won for The Theory of Everything. I thought Michael Keaton would win, but isn’t it typical that they give Best Picture and Best Director to a movie, but not to the actor who plays the titular character?


Remember when George C. Scott refused his Oscar for Patton in 1971? He said, “The whole thing is a goddamn meat parade. I don’t want any part of it.” He made a good point.

P.S. You can bet that I am going to remember that phrase “goddamn meat parade.”

*Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider


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