dual personalities

Building character

I was pleased to hear the MVP quarterback of the Super Bowl, Nick Foles, speak humbly about his great game.

“I think the big thing [to tell people] is ‘don’t be afraid to fail’. I think in our society today, you know, Instagram, Twitter, it’s a highlight reel. It’s all the good things. Then when you look at it, then you think like, ‘wow’, when you had a rough day or your life’s not as good as that, you’re failing.

“And failure’s a part of life, that’s a part of building character, and growing. Without failure, who would you be? I wouldn’t be up here if I hadn’t fallen a thousand times, made mistakes. We all are human, we have weaknesses, and throughout this being able to share that and be transparent.

“I know that when I listen to people speak, and they share their weaknesses, I’m listening because I can resonate. So, I’m not perfect, I’m not Superman. I might be in the NFL, and we might have just won the Super Bowl, but I still have daily struggles … And that’s really just been the message, simple. If something’s going on in your life and you’re struggling, embrace it, because you’re growing.”

(quoted in The Guardian)

And for the record, he did give the glory to Jesus Christ. Well, Nick, I’m glad you could come back after your experience with the STL Rams. You paid your dues. Chris Long too–if anyone deserves two Super Bowl titles, it’s Chris Long.

This was interesting about Super Bowl halftime shows of the past. My favorite was when Dolly Parton performed. Or was that a Simpson’s episode?

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Chin chin.

“Those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength”*

Well, a weekend without many plans turned into a pretty busy weekend after all. And it was cold again–it even snowed on Sunday!

I followed my usual weekend routine plus I re-read The Hours by Michael Cunningham, which was good but not as good as I remembered. I was overly aware of his details and his writing in general. But there is some real truth in it.

She simply does what her daughter tells her to, and finds a surprising relief in it. Maybe, she thinks, one could begin dying into this: the ministrations of a grown daughter, the comforts of a room. Here, then, is age. Here are the little consolations, the  lamp and the book. Here is the world, increasingly managed by people who are not you; who will do either well or badly; who do not look at you when they pass you in the street.

I watched The Shape of Water (2017) which has been nominated for 13 Oscars, including best picture, and has already won a slew of awards.

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I did not like it. “‘The Shape of Water’ is partly a code-scrambled fairy tale, partly a genetically modified monster movie, and altogether wonderful,”  gushed the reviewer in the NYT.  I would beg to differ. “Bigotry and meanness flow through every moment like an underground stream,” he continued. This is true. We are shown several examples of this. Women, blacks and gays are treated badly. We see, we understand, we virtue-signal our superiority.  Men are the bad guys in this movie, the enemy. The only decent man is gay. (Oh, and the other is a communist spy.) The #1 scary villain, of course, is a white male who works for the military, is married, has two children, lives in suburbia, and aspires  to own a Cadillac. He is the real monster. I am tired of being hit over the head with this view of the world. “The most welcome and notable thing about ‘The Shape of Water’ is its generosity of spirit,” the NYT reviewer concludes. Is he kidding?

The wee babes, thankfully, came over for dinner on Sunday night. They cheered me up! They are so active now and curious, so happy. They get very excited about  peanut butter and jelly, 30-year old toys, investigating the kitchen, and checking out the handles on the highboy. The wee laddie climbed all the way up to the second floor twice.

IMG_1972.jpegMiss Lottie slept on my shoulder after arriving, but perked right up once she awakened. She is a speed demon on all fours and can crawl the circuit of our first floor in under a minute.

IMG_1978.jpegThe wee laddie can take up to six steps on his own and is swiftly gaining his sea legs.

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Now it’s back to the salt mine–have a good week!

*Isaiah 40:31

Into the dustbin of history (again)

January 28th was the 100th anniversary of the death of John McCrae, the handsome Canadian doctor and artilleryman who wrote the famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

First published in Punch in 1915, the poem was written during the early days of the second battle of Ypres. It became something of an overnight sensation and remained one of the war’s most popular poems. After serving throughout the war, McCrae contracted pneumonia and died in France in 1918. He is buried at Wimereux, France.

John McCrae  had an interesting career, although in some ways he was typical of his time: the family was hard-working, intelligent, and dedicated. His grandparents emigrated from Scotland, his father was a Lt. Colonel in the army, his sister married a lawyer, and he and his brother both became doctors, the latter eventually becoming a professor at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.  Despite his training as a physician, John McCrae joined the army in 1900 and served in the artillery during both the first and second Boer Wars. When WWI broke out, he returned to active duty as a Medical Officer and Major of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery, eventually reaching the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He was a dutiful and patriotic man, who, one can’t help feeling, gave more for his country than he got in return.

McCrae’s personal diary from 1915, more of which you can read here, has this to say about the way the Canadian press covered 2nd Ypres:

Newspapers which arrive show that up to May 7th, the Canadian public has made no guess at the extent of the battle of Ypres. The Canadian papers seem to have lost interest in it after the first four days; this regardless of the fact that the artillery, numerically a quarter of the division, was in all the time. One correspondent writes from the Canadian rest camp, and never mentions Ypres. Others say they hear heavy bombarding which appears to come from Armentieres.

McCrae is much celebrated in Canada where statues, plaques and museum displays attest to his achievements. When the French held a ceremony at his grave to mark the centennial of his death, according to the Ottawa Citizen, “about two dozen visitors stood as a French band played O Canada, and the French town supplied a Canadian flag. French veterans stood with their banners. The town council of Wimereux laid a wreath. So did the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. So did one visitor from Britain,” but no Canadians attended.  I guess they were too busy voting to neuter their national anthem.

So it goes.

Still, we can lift a glass to the good doctor and to all those men who died in the mud of Flanders fields. A hundred years isn’t so long ago that we should forget. Who will remember you in a hundred years and what will they remember?

 

“Well, if this ain’t a frosty Friday!”*

“Having the right approach to life was a great gift in this life….Do not complain about your life. Do not blame others for things that you have brought upon yourself. Be content with who you are and where you are, and do whatever you can do to bring to others such contentment, and joy, and understanding that you have managed to find yourself…You can do that in the company of an old friend—you can close your eyes and think of the land that gave you life and breath, and of all the reasons why you are glad that you are there, with the people you know, with the people you love.”
―Alexander McCall Smith, The Double Comfort Safari Club

Do you have exciting plans for the weekend? As usual, I do not have exciting plans. I’m not sure I even know what exciting plans are. But I have a couple of estate sales to go to and the OM and I are going to get the ball rolling on having new kitchen counters installed.

I can’t say I care about the Super Bowl. Football is on the way out if you ask me. I won’t be sad to see it go. And I am not one of those people who watches the Super Bowl in order to see the commercials. I mean, commercials are the bane of my existence! I hardly even watch network tv anymore, such is my loathing of commercials.

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 1.17.07 PM.pngI saw something online about this emotional-support peacock and I thought it was a joke! Imagine my surprise reading this in the WSJ! Good lord! What is the world coming to?

If you want a weekend movie pic, here’s an idea. After watching The Valley of Gwangi last week, I thought I’d watch The Big Country (1958) which also features great music by Jerome Moross.  So I watched it last night and enjoyed. It is not a perfect western–mostly due to the annoying character portrayed by Carol Baker–but it is still a good one, and the music really is great. Gregory Peck is at his most appealing and Burl Ives certainly deserved that Oscar he got for supporting actor. You gotta love straight talkin’ Rufus.

Well, the wee babes will be over on Sunday with their parents.

Unknown-1.jpeg There is no pick-me-up like laughing babies.

Have a great weekend!

*Rufus Hannassey in The Big Country

“And you O my soul where you stand, …Ceaselessly musing, venturing…”*

Hello, February!

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The Olympic Games in PyeongChang begin in a little over a week.

PyeongChang_2018_mascot-01.jpgThis is the second time South Korea has hosted the Olympics–remember the summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988? I can’t say I remember much about them. I always used to love the winter Olympics with the skiing and the skating and the bobsledding. But I have to say that all the “big air” snowboarding and such leaves me cold. No one is an amateur anymore. Like everything else, it is all about the money and the politics. Oy.

It is also Black History Month.

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In the Episcopal Church we celebrate the life and ministry of the Rev. Absalom Jones, the first African American ordained as a priest in the U.S. “Stepping outside the box this year,” the diocese has designed a morning program for children and parents or grandparents. Gee, I can’t wait to bring the wee babes to this when they are old enough to appreciate it. We sent our kids to a public elementary school where they were in a racial minority, so they have always felt pretty comfortable wherever they find themselves–unlike those kids in the picture above who, we are led to believe, will encounter people of color in a “museum”. Oy.

The Orchid Show starts at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 1.25.20 PM.pngBut orchids always kind of freak me out.

The air was thick, wet, steamy and larded with the cloying smell of tropical orchids in bloom. The glass walls and roof were heavily misted and big drops of moisture splashed down on the plants. The light had an unreal greenish color, like light filtered through an aquarium tank.

Maybe I’ll just stay home and re-read The Big Sleep.

Thank goodness it is 31 Days of Oscar month on TCM. Lots of good movies to watch and/or DVR.

yankee doodle dandy.jpgFind something to do this month that you can relate to. Engage with some real people. Have fun! .Don’t waste the month of February.

*Walt Whitman, “A Noiseless Patient Spider”

“Well, all that glitters isn’t gold, I know you’ve heard that story told.”*

Today we toast actor James Franciscus (January 31, 1934 – July 8, 1991) on his birthday.

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You remember him. He was in a lot of television shows in the 60s and 70s (according to my research he was on at least three TV Guide covers!) and he made a couple of memorable movies. Unfortunately he made a lot of bombs as well. Mostly he could rock a jeans jacket.

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But did you know that he was born and raised in St. Louis? His father was a pilot in WWII and was killed in action, so after his mother remarried, the family moved east, thus interrupting his idyllic country childhood. After graduating from Yale, he headed west to stardom.

Growing up, we always liked him (as did our mother) and we watched whichever of his shows or movie-of-the-week was on the telly. A particular favorite was Longstreet (1971-72) which starred Franciscus as insurance investigator Mike Longstreet.

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After a bomb (hidden in a champagne bottle) kills his wife and leaves him blind, Longstreet pursues and captures the killers. He then continues his career as an insurance investigator despite his blindness. Bruce Lee was a semi-regular on the show, so you know it was legit. It was a cool show. Really. Too bad it only lasted a year.

Although Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) is admittedly a special movie (and Franciscus is nearly naked throughout–check out those abs),

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my personal favorite is the The Valley of Gwangi (1969)–a western/fantasy spectacle with special effects by the great Ray Harryhausen and music by the great Jerome Moross.

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This movie surfaced on TCM last week and I DVR’d it and watched it one evening with the OM. It was a diverting 90 minutes to be sure. This movie deserves to be much more famous than it is! I mean, really–cowboys lassoing a T-Rex?

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A T-Rex bringing down a Mexican cathedral?

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James Franciscus in this outfit?

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Well, suffice it to say, you should try to find this movie and watch it. There is something quite endearing about these pre-CG films and the action scenes are really quite exciting. And the music is terrific.

So don’t forget to toast old James Franciscus tonight! When his mother died in the 1980s she left a big chunk of money to the Episcopal church I attended. No one remembered who she was by then (she had been gone for years) but the gift went to build the St. George Chapel and was much appreciated. Funnily enough, there was another old lady at this same church at the time whose son also had a go at a career as a movie star, although he was not nearly as successful as James Franciscus. Who remembers this guy?

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Yes, that’s Todd Armstrong, who starred in Jason and the Argonauts (1963)–another Harryhausen feature. He fought those scary skeletons.

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And, hey, he was the son of the architect who designed the famous meeting house for those ethical humanists I blogged about last week!

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Let’s hear it for synchronicity! The world is more than we know.

*Neil Young

“One clover, and a bee, And revery”*

Yesterday was the birthday of one of our favorite ancestors, John Wesley Prowers,

bent1881_jwprowers.jpgthe older brother of our great-great grandmother, Mary Prowers Hough. I toasted him and we watched Red River (1948) in his honor.

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A more appropriate movie would probably be The Rare Breed (1966) with James Stewart, which is a fictionalized account of the introduction of the Hereford breed in America, but I didn’t feel like it. Red River is a much better movie.

It is, indeed, a fine, fine movie. The first hour is really great. It wanders a bit after that–especially when John Wayne is off stage–and my mind did too. Watching this time, I was struck by several things.

1. Ricky Nelson In Rio Bravo a few years later is really channeling Montgomery Clift hard. He even rubs his nose the same way.

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2.Walter Brennan plays a character named Nadine Groot. I wonder if the character Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is named after him. If not, he should be.

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3. Young Noah Beery reminded me a lot of Nathan Fillion.

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Anyway, John Prowers, a bonafide cattle king, died of cancer at age 58 in 1884. He was laid to rest in Las Animas Cemetery in Bent County, Colorado–not on the lone prairie, but in his family plot.54629765_132759232704.jpgProwers grave.jpgWilliam Bent is buried there as well.455abc96-fdf9-4846-b5bf-a4fbd9ed1111_d.JPGMaybe I will make it to Las Animas some day. It is kind of a godforsaken place, but that is not in itself unappealing.

“O bury me not on the lone prairie.”
These words came low and mournfully
From the pallid lips of the youth who lay
On his dying bed at the close of day

He had wasted and pined ’til o’er his brow
Death’s shades were slowly gathering now
He thought of home and loved ones nigh
As the cowboys gathered to see him die

“O bury me not on the lone prairie
Where coyotes howl and the wind blows free
In a narrow grave just six by three—
O bury me not on the lone prairie”

“It matters not, I’ve been told
Where the body lies when the heart grows cold
Yet grant, o grant, this wish to me
O bury me not on the lone prairie.”

“I’ve always wished to be laid when I died
In a little churchyard on the green hillside
By my father’s grave, there let me be
O bury me not on the lone prairie.”

“I wish to lie where a mother’s prayer
And a sister’s tear will mingle there
Where friends can come and weep o’er me
O bury me not on the lone prairie.”

I always liked this song, don’t you? The theme is played throughout Red River and a lot of other great westerns too. Think Stagecoach (1939).

*Emily Dickinson

“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.”

Lord hear our prayer and be our guide

We had more lovely warm weather this weekend and everyone was out and about. I even got the OM moving. (He usually hibernates in January.)

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I also went to the church annual meeting…

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…and the dedication of our new labyrinth in Albright Hall. The labyrinth is pretty cool. You will recall that the labyrinth in Christian parlance is a spiritual tool for prayer, a metaphor for your own spiritual journey–taking the next step with God. There is a famous one at Chartres Cathedral in France and they have one at Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco.

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We used to have a portable labyrinth on a large piece of fabric which we would haul out from time to time. It finally wore out and, when we needed to renovate the floor in Albright Hall, someone had the bright idea of building a permanent one. Pretty clever.

Speaking of floor coverings, I rescued an amazing handmade needlepoint rug at the most recent Link Auction–for $10!

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How great is that? The amount of work that goes into a needlepoint rug is beyond, you know, my comprehension. I also picked up a copy of the Women’s Exchange cookbook (Memphis, TN) from 1966 in my travels this weekend. What a classic! The recipes are all like: “Punch (My Mother’s)” with the notation that “one quart of champagne may be used instead of ginger ale.” My kind of ladies. Plus they all have names like Mrs. Stovall Jeter and Mary Chism Roberts and Mrs. Shelby Foote. There are also quotes sprinkled throughout (“Coquetry whets the appetite, flirtation depraves it” in the appetizer section). Fun to read and who knows, maybe I’ll make some of Mrs. Lucius McGehee’s Rum Mousse. I will not, however, try Mr. Johnny Jacobs’ recipe for Barbequed Raccoon.

The wee babes came over for dinner with their parents on Sunday night and we had tortellini–always a popular choice–although the wee laddie preferred the organic cheese ducks (like Pepperidge Farm Gold Fish).

I had cleaned up an old Fisher-Price horsie we found in the basement (from the 1980s) and the wee babes loved it.

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Good times. (Thanks to the boy, once again, for the pictures of the babes.)

Have a good week!

Young boys should never be sent to bed. They always wake up a day older.*

Even when you don’t send your boy to bed, he sometimes just falls asleep wherever he happens to be — in this case, curled up against the family room wall, lying on top of the TV remote.

I found this picture yesterday, while tidying up my desk at work.

Then “time like an ever-flowing stream” does its work…and before you know it, he’s  a 22 year old Yukon Cornelius!

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Aside from finding old photos of my darling youngest son, I didn’t do much this week besides fill out paperwork and go to meetings. I finished reading Hilary Mantel’s  A Place of Greater Safety. As it involves major historical figures of the French Revolution, it contains no surprises — everyone gets guillotined — yet, even so, she manages to make it heart-rending:

There is the world and there is the shadow-world; there is the world of freedom and illusion, and then there is the real world, in which we watch, year by year, the people we love hammer on their chains.

Having finished that book, I am now reading something that a friend lent me: Philip Kerr’s Berlin Noir trilogy about a private detective in 1930s Berlin — not exactly a shift to the lighter side!

Although I haven’t read very much, I’m a little put off by Kerr’s dogged but not quite successful effort to be Raymond Chandler. On the plus side, I’m encouraged by the reviewer’s comment in the New Yorker: “one thing I like about [Kerr] is that he makes bad behavior look bad again.” And he’s Scottish, so that’s another plus. I’ll let you know…

It should be a quiet weekend, at least for me. Boy #1 is doing double shifts. During the week he’s a juror in a sensational murder trial (about which I can say no more) and on the weekend he’s a frenetic line cook at our local hotel. There’s no rest for that weary lad — he may end up falling asleep wherever he happens to be. If so, I’ll try to get a picture…

Have a wonderful weekend and get some rest!

*J.M. Barrie

Let angels prostrate fall*

Friday at last–what a long week it has been! The highlight of mine was when daughter #1 came home Wednesday night because she had business in town on Thursday.

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That was a fun, but short, diversion for me! Nothing like a mid-week wine & gab session.

A quiet weekend of puttering is fine with me. Hopefully we will see the wee babes for our usual Sunday night family dinner.

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Miss Lottie looks so grown up with her four teeth!

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The wee bud says, “I have a tooth too!”

I will note one historical milestone happening this weekend: Saturday is the anniversary of the dedication ceremonies of the New County Meeting House of the Ethical Society of St. Louis (designed by Harris Armstrong) in 1965.

ethic4.jpgThe Ethical Society of St. Louis was organized in 1886 under the leadership of Walter L. Sheldon. Meetings, services and Sunday School were conducted in the Museum of Fine Arts at Nineteenth and Locust streets, where social and settlement work projects were also instituted. Under Sheldon’s direction the Self-Culture Hall Association came into being. (“Self-Culture”?) After his death, members of the Ethical Society erected the Sheldon Memorial in his name in 1912 and it served as the society’s meeting place until the move to the new Mid-Century Modern structure. In its heyday speakers such as Margaret Mead, Thurgood Marshall, R. Buckminster Fuller, Norman Cousins and Martha Gellhorn spoke from its stage and the St. Louis Chapter of the League of Women Voters was founded in The Sheldon’s Green Room. The Sheldon is now a concert venue and art gallery.1200px-Sheldonconcerthall.jpgToday the Ethical Society, located in an upscale neighborhood in west county, offers “Sunday School” and nursery school for children and adult education classes on various topics including a book of the month club, chorus, discussion on current events, ethical circles, ethical mindfulness meditation and other discussion groups. A Humanist congregation, they “affirm human dignity, celebrate reason, and work together for social change.” It is a “place where people come together to explore the biggest questions of life without reference to scripture, religion, or God.”

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I see from their Instagram that their congregation appears to be as old and gray as any mainline Christian group. LOL.

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Phooey!

Well, in honor of the ethical humanists, I will go to church on Sunday and to our Annual Meeting.

(It is interesting to note that the Church of the Immacolata, located across the street from the Ethical Society and built two years later, chose this scripture for their cornerstone:

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In your face, ethical humanists!

Have a great weekend!

*”All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” by Edward Perronet (1779)