dual personalities

Tag: books

What are you reading and other stuff

Last week I read the newest Longmire book, Daughter of the Morning Star, by Craig Johnson.

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It is the 17th novel in the series and, as you know, I am a big fan. This one–about Walt and Henry Standing Bear (Walt’s best friend) investigating the disappearance of a Native teenager and the harassment of her sister–did not disappoint. Walt and Henry are always a literary breath of fresh air.

Now I am waiting to receive my copy of the latest novel by Amor Towles, The Lincoln Highway, which was released on Tuesday.

Let it be noted that Tuesday was the birthday of Jonathan Edwards (October 5, 1703 – March 22, 1758).

“And yet some people actually imagine that the revelation in God’s Word is not enough to meet our needs. They think that God from time to time carries on an actual conversation with them, chatting with them, satisfying their doubts, testifying to His love for them, promising them support and blessings. As a result, their emotions soar; they are full of bubbling joy that is mixed with self-confidence and a high opinion of themselves. The foundation for these feelings, however, does not lie within the Bible itself, but instead rests on the sudden creations of their imaginations. These people are clearly deluded. God’s Word is for all of us and each of us; He does not need to give particular messages to particular people.”

Some things never change, right?

I don’t miss being an Episcopalian, but this was kind of funny in a sad way, i.e. this is all Episcopalians have to offer these days. And, newsflash, that is not enough.

This is very special, indeed.

Also, today is the 71st anniversary of our parents’ wedding in 1950. They made it 38 years until our mother died. So I will toast them tonight. Mazel tov, Mary and Newell.


I pray for the day ahead and that I might bring Glory to God, in word, thought and deed. I thank God that his mercies are new to me every morning. I thank God that his grace is sufficient for all situations that I may encounter.

“Questions I have many, answers but a few”*

What are you reading? I just finished Blowing the Bloody Doors Off, a memoir by the actor Michael Caine.

I have to admit I enjoyed it a lot. He writes well and he is a very positive fellow who has enjoyed his life, from a happy, but what we might term, disadvantaged upbringing in London to international stardom. He is grateful and he is happy to share what he has learned. The book is full of practical advice for actors, but it is all applicable to the rest of us.

I remember Roger Moore, years ago, saying to me “Cheer up. You’d better have a good time because this is not a rehearsal, this is life. This is the show.”

Yes, indeed. He is all about hard work: know your lines, be on time, don’t fool around.

When you are prepared, you are able to subdue your fear, control your nerves, channel your energy, and enter that state of highly alert relaxation that is spontaneity’s best friend.

Don’t think you deserve anything.

Find something you want to do and learn how to do it really well. Take what you got and make the most of it. Learn how to do something, whatever it is, you would choose to do for nothing. Whatever it is, when you are doing it, it makes you feel amazing and most yourself. Throw yourself into it. Challenge yourself to be the best you can be. We can’t all be famous actors. But, if you can find something you love and if that something will also pay the bills, you will be on your way to your own personal paradise.

Anyway, now I am going to watch a lot of Michael Caine movies. He is the first to admit that he has made a lot of bad ones. (I watched Swarm recently and, despite its stellar cast, it is pretty terrible.) But I watched The Man Who Would be King (1975) the other night and enjoyed it.

Caine and his good friend Sean Connery are perfectly cast as the two British soldiers who set out to be kings of Kafiristan in the Rudyard Kipling story. “We meet upon the level, and part upon the square.”

Next up: Zulu (1964), The Italian Job (1969) and Alfie (1966).

We will also note the passing of “controversial” Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong–as Anne Kennedy describes him, “that famous Episcopal bishop who denied so many tenets of the Christian faith that eventually he ran out of stuff to deny. And yet, he remained a bishop.” Listen to her podcast to find out “why that’s not a good thing and how to avoid it.” She and her husband are right on target about actual heresy and how it takes over the church because everyone is too embarrassed to say anything. “The Episcopal bishop in Hell believes he has led a courageous life.”

Can you believe it has been 18 years since Johnny Cash died? Well, it has–September 12, 2003.

(Photo by Marty Stuart)

So a belated toast to Johnny and here’s Bob on Johnny’s show back in the good ol’ days.

“If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” 

–Leo Tolstoy

*Dolly Parton, “Travelin’ Through”

What are you reading?

I have several books going right now. I just can’t get into any of them, but I will keep plugging away.

I am almost finished with The Only Woman in the Room, which hardly does justice to the remarkable Hedy Lamarr. It is as shallow as a movie of the week. It is not enough to say, this was a beautiful woman who was also smart. You need to show it. Good grief, writing 101. The main character has no personality and moves through the book like a face in a movie stilI.

It’s not enough to say she disguised herself and escaped to London and met Louis B. Mayer there and he got her to Hollywood. You can read that on the back of the book jacket. Sigh. Clearly the author was not up to the subject.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek has potential, but it is a novel with obvious hooks and gimmicks and I have to just get over that and read. It is better written than the Hedy Lamarr book.

For Old Crime’s Sake is standard Jane and Dagobert Brown fare, which I really enjoy, but I need to read it during the day when I still have some mental energy.

The Patriot was written in 1960 and is about a teenage WWII recruit learning to be a fighter pilot. We’ll see. I think he is not a patriot. Lots of irony.

Maybe I’ll just re-read Busy, Busy Farm (see above).

Anyway, here’s a good post about reading TLOTR for the first time as a 45-year old: “If [Tolkien] had to do it all over again, I bet he would make Mark Zuckerberg into Sauron…” I bet you’re right.

In other news, daughter #1 went back to JC yesterday after a fun few days spent taking it easy and indulging ourselves. We watched a couple of movies. After discussing the End Times while drinking margaritas, we thought it only appropriate to watch Ghostbusters (1984). “Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.”

Somehow it resonates today.

We also watched Wonder Man (1945), a truly bizarre Danny Kaye vehicle, also starring Virginia Mayo and Vera-Ellen in her first movie.

BTW, Amazon Prime has a whole bunch of Danny Kaye movies available to watch for free if you are so inclined.

Last night the OM and I went to an event at the Eugene Field House/Museum featuring the Missouri Bicentennial Quilt. It was pretty cool. Each county in the sate had a quilt square. I must say, however, that St Louis had a mighty disappointing block.

It’s the one on the right with the braille inscription, representing the Missouri School for the Blind. All very well and good, but really, what about the Gateway to the West and the Arch and all that? St. Louis County has Grant’s Farm–appropriate. Jefferson County has Mastodon State Park–appropriate.

Jackson County (where my ancestors settled) has that cool covered wagon and the jumping off place for the Santa Fe Trail and the Oregon Trail.

C’est la vie.

Well, today I start my Bible Study at my new church. We are reading Leviticus. I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, have a fine day! Try to “slander no one…be peaceable and considerate, and always gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…” (Titus 3:2-5)

De choses et d’autres

One of the nice side effects of having a party, is all the leftover flowers…

(We also have a lot of leftover food!) But we miss seeing our loved ones and that “and then we were all in one place” feeling. Sigh.

Well, moving along, I read Redhead by the Side of the Road, Anne Tyler’s latest novel. NPR said that it “is heartwarming balm for jangled nerves.” Well, maybe. It is an easy read, but there just isn’t much there. Tyler wrote a few masterful books back in the 1980s and some good ones followed, but she is yet another example of someone whose editor keeps goading her to write one more novel because the publisher knows it will make some money. Anne, you’re 79 years old, it’s okay to retire.

Now I am reading The Only Woman in the Room, a fictionalized telling of real life “glamour icon and scientist” Hedy Lamarr’s escape from Nazi Austria and transformation in Hollywood. She was, no doubt, quite a woman, but in the hands of this author, it’s all pretty dull, re-hashed material. The book was a gift, so I will read the whole thing and hope that it picks up.

To celebrate the 200th birthday of the state of Missouri, I watched Across the Wide Missouri (1951).

(This photo must be of lunch break on the set, because look at that cowboy in the background!)

Directed by William Wellman, the film stars Clark Gable as a fur trapper and mountain man in the 1830s. Gable is a bit old for his part (typical for Hollywood) but I enjoyed it. Beautifully shot in Technicolor in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, there is a lot of action and nary a dull moment in this movie. Gable’s stunt double Jack N. Young was particularly impressive. The final action scene where our hero’s baby son, attached as a papoose to a horse that bolts, is quite exciting. The supporting cast is excellent and includes the usually suave Adolphe Menjou playing against type as a French trapper as well as Russell Simpson and James Whittemore.

Although romanticized, the plot and the depiction of the Blackfeet Indians seem fair. There are plenty of “good” Indians to balance Ricardo Montalban’s “bad” Indian. According to Wikipedia, the 31-year old Montalban was seriously injured during the making of this movie and had back problems for the rest of his life. I don’t doubt it. (You can rent it on Amazon Prime.)

Well, I hope everyone is keeping cool. We are experiencing a typical August heat wave.

Things could be worse.

I was happy to see this. You go, Isaac. You were always a favorite of mine.

Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works, begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

–BCP, 1662

“You’d never know it but buddy I’m a kind of poet/ And I’ve got a lot of things to say”

The Hibiscus is blooming! Huzzah!

You will recall that years ago I planted seeds given to me by my assistant (harvested from her yard) and they grew and bloomed once. Since then the plants have grown but never bloomed. Either they were cut down by accident, eaten by deer (?) or whatever. But, hallelujah, they have bloomed again! This brings me joy. You can see, too, that the Tiger Lilies are still going strong (all over our flyover town). I guess they like all the rain we’ve had.

Meanwhile I have been reading Horseman, Pass By by Larry McMurtry. It is a good first novel, but not great. As I figured, it is told from the perspective of the boy, Lonnie, and Hud has only a small, incidental part. Someone in Hollywood must have had the idea that the ornery, bad guy would make a better subject for a movie, and they were probably right. They changed a lot in the book. I wonder what McMurtry thought.

“I just wonder, when it’s all said and done,” he went on, “who ends up with the most in this scramble. Them that go in for big shows and big prizes and end up takin’ a bustin’, or them that plug along at what they can kinda handle. Home folks or show folks. They’s a lot a difference in ’em.”

Here is Paul Zahl’s list of movies on TCM in July (Part II). As usual, we are on the same page. What he says about Bonnie and Clyde is right on.

Some good thoughts here and here.

Today is the birthday of Robin Williams. Maybe I’ll watch Awakenings (1990) or Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), my favorite RW movies. Or maybe I’ll watch RV (2006)–who knows? Just remember ol’ Robin and go for the gusto, or at the very least, reach out to someone with a smile. It might go a long way.

And here’s a toast to Don Knotts on his birthday: Just a little lower, Barney.

*Johnny Mercer, “One For my Baby”

Look homeward, angel

Today is the birthday of American author Stanley Elkin, who taught at my flyover university for many years. He also lived two houses down from us growing up. I babysat for his children Bernie and Molly from time to time when I was in high school. His wife Joan was nice. I remember they had the cover of every book he wrote blown up to poster size and framed, which I thought was a little over the top, but to each his own.

Here’s a little film about Stanley which shows our street (I think) at about 1:01.

And here he is sitting in front of his house (photo by Esquire).

He rode a motorcycle until he was diagnosed with MS, and then he slowed down quite a bit.

Anyway, the English Department at WashU must have been quite the place back then–what with Stanley and William Gass and Howard Nemerov. The Gasses lived in our neighborhood too and Nemerov famously walked down our street on his way to work. But some of my friends didn’t like driving to my neighborhood–too sketchy.

Different perspectives.

“The Lord is my portion”*

How was your weekend? Mine was not so quiet as I first anticipated. Saturday was a lovely, sunny day. I bought some geraniums and planted them in the pots on my front porch. I weeded. Then the OM and I drove to Washington on the Missouri River and sat on a roof deck and enjoyed the scenery. Nothing fancy, but nothing better.

That night I watched The Wizard of Oz (1939) and was reminded once again what a perfect movie it is. I wouldn’t change a thing. Of course, it only won Oscars for best song and score. But the sets, the costumes, the art direction! The technicolor! The acting and direction! Zut alors! I highly recommend re-watching this movie the next time you are looking for something to watch.

Female archetypes

On Sunday I went to church–ah, how nice that sounds–and then went home and continued reading The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge.

This old-fashioned novel about a city-bred woman who moves to the English countryside when she inherits a house from a mysterious elderly relative is a type that is never written/published these days. It is a pleasure to read its carefully-written prose and its slowly unfolding story. Not much happens, but the characters grow in self knowledge and spiritual maturity. They are interesting people, not cardboard cutouts.

Next up is S.C. Gwynne’s Rebel Yell about Stonewall Jackson. I am no fan of the Confederacy or its generals, but I have always loved Stonewall Jackson, who was a devout Calvinist. I love the story of his Scotch-Irish ancestors who came to this country as indentured servants in the 18th century and fought hard and bravely to forge a home in the wilderness and improve their lot in life.

The wee twins came over Sunday night per usual with their parents for some frolicking goofball fun.

They are getting to be so grown up!

In other news, my Christmas cactus is blooming!

One more thing: here’s an interesting article. “As for security, it is the utter madness and control freakery of our age that thinks we can stay secure and somehow transfer that to our children. The gospel takes us out of ourselves and our efforts and places us in Christ where there is total security.”

So another week begins. Make it a good one!

*Lamentations 3:24

Tempted and tried with each step we take

I received some very nice gifts for my birthday from my thoughtful family, including a foot massager that is out of this world. Another favorite is my new book, Dolly Parton Songteller: My Life in Lyrics.

You know how I feel about Dolly–she’s the greatest–so wiling away the hours reading this collection of the lyrics to 175 of her best-loved songs, along with the personal memories and the inspiration behind them, has been a pleasure. Just looking at the pictures of this remarkably beautiful lady from the hills of Tennessee is fun.

In other news, we had a new roof put on our house yesterday and I feel as if I went through the Battle of the Somme. I was exhausted and shell-shocked after 7 hours of incessant hammering and thumping above me while I attempted to work remotely in my upstairs “office.” Boy, do those guys work hard! Anyway, the new roof looks very nice and I am glad to have it done and finished.

Tomorrow is the birthday of Henry Koster, who, though he never won an Oscar, directed some darn good movies: The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Harvey (1950), The Robe (1953), A Man Called Peter (1955), and a host of others. I will toast him and watch one of his films.

And here’s a good thought from another Scotsman. “So we do not panic and we do not vent, and we enjoy a deep confidence even as the tides seem to run against our faith. “

Well, TGIF. Have a good weekend. Mine will be a quiet one with none of the rollicking fun of last weekend, but that’s okay. I need to catch my breath.

Tempted and tried with each step we take.

We stumble and slide and make our mistakes,

Ask God to forgive us for all of our sins,

Then we take off our horns and wear halos again.

–Dolly Parton

(Only Dolly can rhyme sins with again.)

Tally ho!

It’s Friday and I am very excited because daughter #2 and baby Katie are arriving tomorrow for a quick visit. How great is that? Thankfully we have gotten through all the snow and cold temps and we should be able to enjoy some nice sit-outside weather.

In other news, my DP gave me this book for my birthday and I have been flying through it.

Scary stuff, harrowing stuff, but we knew that about the Comanches already. (I had a hunch that Larry McMurtry wasn’t exaggerating. He must have read Rachel Plummer’s journal.) Read it, if you can take it. There is no sugar-coating and excuse-making for the Comanches’ behavior. There is plenty of context. I am enjoying it a lot.

I watched two Humphrey Bogart movies this week: The African Queen (1951) and The Oklahoma Kid (1939). I enjoyed them both a lot. The African Queen is a classic, of course, and I have seen it many times. I had not seen the latter in 50 or so years–not since the Humphrey Bogart Theater on channel 11 days of my childhood. It also stars James Cagney as the eponymous hero. He is a little weird (and short) in a western, but I have grown to appreciate him in my dotage. He had a style all his own, even in high-heeled cowboy boots.

This was a thought-provoking piece. “How does a person become a saint? By grace alone. To argue otherwise questions what the Bible has to say about people and about saints. A true saint is not someone we strive to imitate, but someone who shows us a clearer picture of what it means to be a sinner saved by God.”

This reminded me that The Selfish Giant was one of the boy’s favorite stories and deeply affected him as a child. “And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, ‘You let me play once in your garden, today you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise.”

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


Enjoy your weekend! Make good choices!

“In a world gone mad”*

Today is the commemoration in many Christian denominations of the death of German Lutheran pastor, theologian and anti-Nazi dissident, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed/martyred by the Nazis two weeks before the Flossenbürg concentration camp was liberated by the American Army in 1945.

The great masquerade of evil has played havoc with all our ethical concepts. For evil to appear disguised as light, charity, historical necessity or social justice is quite bewildering to anyone brought up on our traditional ethical concepts, while for the Christian who bases his life on the Bible, it merely confirms the fundamental wickedness of evil. The “reasonable” people’s failure is obvious. With the best intentions and a naive lack of realism, they think that with a little reason they can bend back into position the framework that has got out of joint. In their lack of vision they want to do justice to all sides, and so the conflicting forces wear them down with nothing achieved. Disappointed by the world’s unreasonableness, they see themselves condemned to ineffectiveness; they step aside in resignation or collapse before the stronger party. Still more pathetic is the total collapse of moral fanaticism. Fanatics think that their single-minded principles qualify them to do battle with the powers of evil; but like a bull they rush at the red cloak instead of the person who is holding it; they exhaust themselves and are beaten. They get entangled in non-essentials and fall into the trap set by cleverer people.

–Letters and Papers from Prison

Interesting. I became acquainted with Bonhoeffer in graduate school when my best friend was a Lutheran. I was kind of embarrassed by my ignorance, but, really that was (and is) par for the course. There is just so much not to know-we do the best we can.

When I am not reading about courageous women who lived in dangerous times–try being a Protestant in 16th century France–I continue to plan curriculum and moderate Zoom classes. But the end is in sight, as my retirement has been officially announced and the search is on for my replacement. Daughter #1 has started planning the rager that will follow (a barbecue in the back yard with 7 or 8 people?)

Yesterday was the home opener of the Cardinals. (Not that I care anymore.) But I did watch Major League (1989) in honor of the occasion. Why does Bob Uecker amuse me so much? “It’s Harry Doyle with Tepee Time.”

Meanwhile, in my nostalgic look back at 1970s television in order to speed the Sandman, I have been watching old episodes of Starsky and Hutch. Surprisingly, this show is not that bad. Starsky and Hutch are both appealing, although I personally have always been on team Hutch (reader, I married him)…

…and who doesn’t love Huggy Bear?

Well, I’m just saying, if you get desperate enough for something to watch…try it. There is also all that driving fast of the red Ford Torino and making u-turns etc.

Anyway, it is finally Friday and the bell tolleth for me. Have a good one.

And for kicks, here’s more Josh Turner, this time covering one of my favorite Tom Petty songs.

*Tom Petty