Thursday, October 31, 2013


The name pomegranate comes from Medieval Latin pōmum "apple" and grānātum "seeded".
It is the root of grenade (the explosive) and garnet (the gem color), per Wikipedia.

I overloaded this postcard with watercolor paint and I was going to toss it, but first tried washing it off under the tap. I like it now.

Homemade Halloween

slices of candy cane turnips
My auntie's small WI town held a Halloween parade, while I was down visiting. I was impressed by the many homemade costumes. Around here, I mostly only see store-bought costumes.

L to R: 
NASA astronaut; Dalek (the little girl got tired wearing it, her dad said, but she put it on again for the end of the parade--it looked pretty unwieldy--you can see she is carrying the whisk and toilet plunger for her arms); and Iron Man with Capt. America dad--constructed of cut-out cardboard!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lancaster: 6 Degrees of Star Trek

Always on the look out for the 6 degrees that connect (almost) anything to  Star Trek

Illustrator Juan Ortiz says here that he modeled his recent retro poster for the Star Trek episode "Is There in Truth No Beauty" on Saul Bass's poster for Birdman of Alcatraz, starring Burt Lancaster.

I watched Birdman (1962) last night. Lancaster plays Robert Stroud, a killer who, condemned to life in solitary confinement, began to breed and study birds and write articles and books about diagnosing and treating bird diseases.

Two and a half hours of a guy raising birds in prison? 
Actually, it's pretty gripping, and I ended up wishing there were a lot more about the birds and a lot less (like, none) of the blatant "prison kills men's souls" stuff, which, here, never rises above movie-of-the-week sentimentality.

Nice cinematography by Burnett Guffey (who won an Oscar for Best Cinematography for From Here to Eternity (1953), also starring Lancaster).

Wonderfully, the film devotes 2 full minutes to showing a baby canary emerging from its egg. It's riveting, I thought, both in contrast to the Birdman's grim life in solitary confinement and also as physical comedy;
I could see Don Knotts (Barney Fife) or Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean) playing the powerfully gawky baby bird.

From 2:00 min to the end: 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Added Puissant

Maybe I should take the word-verification off again so I find messages like this, with "added puissant", in my Spam Comments folder. (I had to look up puissant; it means "having great power or influence").
Who knew my tepid toilet was capable of a quaint medley of queer antics, such as reheating food products!

If ever my toilet is ordinarily tepid, actually is reliable to help reheat food products, of course this pan will likely be cooler to touch, it is safe in order to smoke dishes. 
Moreover toaster ovens originally from truly best toaster oven a particular maker numerous combinations with kettles as well as toaster ovens is normally extremely baffling and regularly give you a headache. Sim ple fact that in order to pick an important microwave, those that have small micro wave frequencies and transmission often is toaster oven reviews added puissant. 
Poster above from Circus World Museum I went to this weekend.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Home from the Circus

Just got home from  visiting my 88-year-old auntie this past weekend, with bink. We rented a car and stopped on the way at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, WI.
I grew up in a city nearby but my parents almost never took us to see the local sights.

And so I never saw this most beautiful No. 8 until now. It was on the side of a circus train car, right out of a film noir flick.

Friday, October 25, 2013

My review is up!

If you haven't heard me going on about Burt enough, you can read the review:  here
(It's short, but has good links to Further Reading at the end.)

Because the arts editor who was going to edit my piece has left the "paper" (online news source), my review of The Killers got put in the the unedited "community voices" section. The "citizen journalist" publication publishes all contributions. But... so what?

Here's an original poster for the film, a terrific film-noir flick that really is worth watching. Burt mostly stands around looking bruised and baffled, while Edmond O'Brien is the sensible guy who does the grunt work of moving the plot along.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Moods and Moves


Last night I read the excellent Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me by cartoonist Ellen Forney (illustrator-collaborator of Sherman Alexei's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian), a graphic tale of coming to grips with being bi-polar
It was recommended to me by Momo, who has recently been diagnosed with bi-polar II.

Forney's illustration of what she did when she was depressed is just what Alan Garner (who I wrote about yesterday, also bi-polar) described:

 Writing is so much more than the putting-words-down part, so I was interested to read a little about how Forney wrote the book, which includes a lot of useful information alongside her personal story:
"Forney embarked on the four-year journey to create Marbles, which comprised extensive research, interviews and personal journal excerpts. 
She enlisted a research assistant, Jamie Vann, who gathered data on bipolar disorder and case studies. Forney consulted, among other texts, Touched with Fire by psychiatry professor Kay Redfield Jamison on the connection between mood disorders and creativity.  
Forney also interviewed her mother and various friends for their perspectives on her struggle for emotional stability. And the author included her actual drawings from her sketchbook, each one a deftly fragile snapshot of madness."--Grace Bello at PW
Didn't work like that.

Forney interview and more images in the Guardian 

This winter solstice, it'll be 11 years since my mother, Lytton V. Davis, took her own life. She never had a firm diagnosis, but was probably on the spectrum somewhere around cyclothymia. 
Coincidentally, the other day, Lucinda came across a birthday letter my mother had written to her twenty-two years ago. She e-mailed me an excerpt:
Did you know I find you to an inspiration in my life? Yes Ma'am-- I treasure [Lucinda's painting] "The Wand"-- and the precious spirit you have--- and I love your hair too! even!  
Artists are the spokespeople of and for the soul--and are so needed-- you're a valuable person and I'm so very very glad I know you, and that you're my daughter-out-law-- I admire and respect your courage and your faithfulness to your gifts -- Do you know how rare this is?  
It is a treasure in the world and I know how difficult the world (society) is for such a treasure--but it always is, I think-- and those who can somehow keep listening to their soul, with all the pain and obstacles that involves, are of inestimable value-- certainly + directly so, to me---
I hope you don't worry about being 34--- It's a splendid age-- but then, they all are -- sometimes in ways we don't know for a long time--"
Much love and good thoughts to you-- 
from your Aged Ancestress--Lytton

I'd been thinking about my mother recently (I go for long stretches, now, when I don't)--in a happy way, because I'd watched an interview with movie director Brian De Palma in which he said that John Travolta looks so good in Blow Out partly because he's a dancer
––like Jimmy Cagney:

Cagney was better known, of course, for playing gangsters in films like White Heat ("Made it, Ma! Top of the world!"), but I saw him first as a hoofer: one of my mother's favorite movies was Yankee Doodle Dandy, with James Cagney as George M. Cohan. 

And here's John Travolta as Edna Turnblad, the mother in Hairspray (2007) shaking it up to "You Can't Stop the Beat."
Can't get the video to embed. It's on youTube here:

Travolta said
"I wanted [Edna] to look like Sophia Loren if you added 200 lb. I wanted her to be a sexy bombshell who was fun to look at."

For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

14.1 words per day


After two years immobilized by depression, Alan Garner got up and spent the next twelve years researching and writing his novel Strandloper  (1996). In his essay "The Voice That Thunders," he writes about how long it took:

"Why had something, presented as amusing and trivial, taken up precisely four thousand, three hundred and twenty-six days of my life and produced a novel at an average rate of 14.1 words a day, or approximately 0.5875 words and hour? 
There are two answers. The first is that it had been the most rewarding and demanding period of my life so far. The second is that I had no choice. I did not even have to defend myself by hiding behind Hazlitt's statement that: "If a man leaves behind him any work which is a model of its kind, we have no right to ask whether he could do anything else, or how he did it, or how long he was about it."
That's romantic rubbish at the end there: of course we have "a right" to question. Art is not made in some untouchable realm of the angels. (What I really want to ask, though, is what he lived on for twelve years. Perhaps royalties from his earlier successful children's books?)

But that's not why I'm quoting Garner here; it's because I love that he figured out he wrote at a rate of 14.1 words per day. 

(Obviously he asked "how long he was about it.")
Of course I find this very reassuring, as I once again write at the speed of sludge (trying to put together my first Burt Lancaster review).


Looking for a photo of Garner, I found instead a couple photos of the landscape he lives in and writes about: 

These remind me how just recently I came to understand one of my favorite books better by seeing where it's set. The book is Fludd, by Hilary Mantel, and I saw its landscape in the (weird, unsettling, funny) British TV show The League of Gentlemen, sent to me by a blogfriend, a local of Glossop,  Derbyshire, England, where Hilary Mantel was born and the League is filmed, in part.

  Watching this TV show, all of a sudden the weirdness of Fludd wasn't so weird. Or, rather, it made sense in its place.
The League's Local Shop is for local people. You don't want to go in there.

The League is a trio of comedians, including Mark Gatiss who went on to co-produce and write Sherlock, and to play Sherlock's brother, Mycroft (below, right, with Benedict Cumberbatch, center, as Sherlock, and Martin Freeman, left, as Watson).

How many books rely on a sense of place, I wonder... And how much do I miss if I don't know the place?

A friend and I were just laughing the other day about how familiar Ole Rolvaag's novel Giants in the Earth feels, even almost 100 years after its publication, if you live here (the northern plains). We were talking about our winter light boxes that keep away S.A.D. (season affective disorder) and I remembered that one of the women in Giants goes mad, living in a windowless sod hut in winter.

This place can really get to your head. 

[Part of a clever ad campaign for Minnesota health care plan featuring mythic lumberjack Paul Bunyan with various injuries]
And now back to writing about Burt.

I only have to write 14.1 words today! Except I should turn it in in the next few days and I do want it to be more like 250 words. Let's see... so I only have to write, say, 75 words.

Here's our boy at his most bruised lily–like, in his first film, The Killers (1947). Film critic Pauline Kael called him "Hunkus Americanus" but 
in this film he's cast in a feminine light (really: his face, for instance, when he first appears is obscured in shadow--not normal leading-man lighting). 
[There! That's 40-some words already.]

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Who do you look like?

"You look like Martha Stewart."

I'd never heard that one before.

The guy who said it to me was a blind-drunk stranger on the bus. I figure he just saw the hair cut.

He asked me if I wanted a boyfriend.

"Why," I said, "are you into Martha Stewart?"

"I could be," he said.

[left: me at the coffee shop this morning (wearing my new scarf)]

Before I met Marz, no one ever said I looked like anyone famous except, once, Monica Lewinsky.

Marz says I have a "plush look, with a strong facial structure" like the early Elvis, or Bill Shatner at my age.

above: Elvis, Bill, and Monica

Do people ever say you look like someone else?

Dinner Last Night

Marz is experimenting with root vegetables.
Last night she baked carrots and parsnips in honey and orange juice, with a (tiny) sprinkle of lavender.

She looks a bit ominous here, but actually she's been happy lately working her new job at the food co-op and exploring the world of veg.

The carrots & parsnips were really good, rather like pie.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Do You Know Who Burt Lancaster Is? Survey No.2

At a friend's 50th birthday, I took the opportunity to ask the 50-some guests, mostly middle-aged, if they knew who Burt Lancaster was.

 "He wrote all that schlocky movie music," one guest replied, before catching herself. 
"No. Wait. I'm thinking of Burt Bacharach. Burt Lancaster was a movie star, right?"

Most people did know he was, indeed, a movie star, in the era after WWII. They didn't  always get the right one though. 
"Sure, he's Spartacus!" (that was Kirk Douglas); 
or, "that horrible shill for the NRA" (Charlton Heston).  

You can see how the confusion arose.
The bare chests. The surf.

If they knew who he was, I asked, Do you associate him with any particular movie or scene? 

"Not really," was the most common answer, followed closely by, "The beach! The beach!" 

The birthday girl's 80-year-old father nailed it. Almost.
"From Here to Eternity, making love with Deborah Kerr on the beach."
He added he also liked "that movie he was in with Frank Sinatra."

"You mean, From Here to Eternity?"

"Oh, yeah, that was the same movie, wasn't it..."

The wait staff who worked the party shook their heads at Burt's name, apologetically.
"No idea."

I describe the famous kiss.
"No, sorry." 

Results of the first survey (same question) in comments here

Sunday, October 20, 2013

So What?

I went to a meditation group for my first time at a congregational church (just a few blocks away--much in its favor) this Sunday morning.
I want to start a meditation practice. I never have meditated regularly, though I've read a lot about it, from both Buddhist or Christian perspectives.

I used to feel that reading and thinking deeply about the psychology of mediation was enough––even though every book said it wasn't. But just recently, reading about brain function, I had a revelation: you can't think your way out of thinking.
It's like addiction: you can't intellectually will yourself not to be addicted.
You gotta approach by another door.
Further, it's like running:
reading about it is fun and interesting, but it's entirely separate from doing it.

I tried Buddhist meditation many years ago, and while the meditation felt right, the groups never did. There always seemed to be a preponderance of Volvo drivers who'd just returned from trekking in the Himalaya foothills, which gave the groups a kind of lopsided feel.

So I liked this group a lot: it was mostly middle-aged, vaguely culturally Christian-by-default folks.

Even so, I thought how interesting it is that sitting silently with folk of my age, class, and culture, I can be annoyed by people.
The guy next to me, for instance, had been texting right up until someone rang the Tibetan bowl.

So I sat there for 35 minutes and, as is normal of course, my mind scampered about, here and there, while I tried to focus on my breath, in and out. This group suggests using a word to focus on, but I prefer a non-verbal focal point.
Nonetheless, a word phrase came to me somewhere in there. This is totally not the point of meditation, but I grabbed hold of it because it delighted me so much.

These are the two words that arose:
So what?

Oh, so funny! So helpful for me, who is so good at adding value to distressing things. So useful in so many circumstances.

My relative doesn't want to talk about the ethics of grocery shopping?
So what?

My neighbors annoy me ?
So what?

I am doing everything (including mediation) wrong?
So what?

It's not that things don't matter. They do.
But this was such a dear, welcome reminder that I don't have to make them a bigger deal than they are.
Bookworm points me to the Peanuts Philosophy of Charles Schultz

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Consider the Onion, How She Rolls

I. Yesterday a relative told me she had bought a membership to one of those warehouse food-suppliers:
"A gallon of milk is only two dollars!"

(Relative is not poor, not by any standards.)

I thought––but did not say––"But why do you think it's so cheap?"
[Meaning, consider the cows.] I didn't say it because I know Relative is allergic to my moralizing, quite likely from overexposure.

II. I rather like invitations to moralize about food. This morning I read that Robert Capon, food writer, priest (Episcopalian), and theologian died last month (Sept. 5, 2013).

Reading in his NYT obituary his call to be mindful of the onion while preparing to cook it, I thought of a garden photo I took this week:
"You will note, to begin with, that the onion is a thing, a being, just as you are," Capon wrote. 

"An onion is not a sphere in repose [but] a linear thing, a bloom of vectors thrusting upward from base to tip.... 
[a] paradigm of life that it is — as one member of the vast living, gravity-defying troop that, across the face of the earth, moves light- and air-ward as long as the world lasts."

III.  I think it's fun to see how the onion is constructed, but if you wave it in people's faces and make them cry, they won't think so.

I wrestle with my desire to preach, not because I think it's wrong to make moral connections (hardly!), but because the heavy-handed way I've done it in the past has not been helpful to anyone, least of all to myself.

I fear I'm genetically predisposed to moral thumpery, from my mother's grandfather, James L. Davis (right). 

Born in 1865 at the end of the Civil War,  he was an evangelist for the Church of Christ in the hills of Kentucky. The real thing, he traveled with a horse, a rifle, and a Bible.  
He died in 1947, having lived through World War II.

My grandfather, who hated this dogmatic father of his and ran away from home as soon as he could, used to sing out this phrase of his father's.
In his Missouri accent, it sounded like,
"Holy Bible, book a' lah."  

I never knew if he was singing "book of love" or "book of law."

It's so tempting to thwack people with the law, but I've noticed it doesn't work that well, in the long run. 
It never has for me, anyway.
I knew the facts about factory-farmed dairy cattle, but what finally changed my milk-buying habits was Marz coming along and insisting we spend the money (2 to 4 times as much) on organic milk from grass-fed cows because it makes her--and me--happy: it tastes better (it does) and it's nice to be able to consider the cows (instead of averting my thoughts).

P.S. Capon's good on dairy products and alcohol too. 
From the his obit in the Economist, who supply my favorite obituaries:
"He had no truck with American abstinence. 'God invented cream. Furthermore, having made us in his image, he means us to share his delight in its excellence,' he wrote. 
He liked a drink or two as well: a married couple’s half-bottle amid meatloaf and brawling children was one of the 'cheerful minor lubrications' of the 'sandy gears of life'. But modern-day Americans, he wrote glumly, 'drink the way we exercise: too little and too hard.' "

Friday, October 18, 2013

A Man with Slow Hands

I watched my first Burt Lancaster movie to preview, The Professionals (1966).

Lancaster's mouth gets a lot of press. His grin may be charming, but his teeth are chompers. The better to eat you with, my dear. 
His hands, however, are what's on show in this movie.

Burt plays Bill Dolsworthy, an expert in dynamite. He's part of a crack team a rich rancher hires to rescue his kidnapped wife. 

Nitroglycerine, the liquid explosive in dynamite, is extremely touchy. It's the stuff that blew up Emil Nobel, the brother of Alfred who went on to give peace prizes. 

Nitro is mixed with dry, inert matter, but even so, it's shock sensitive. You can't handle it in a heated rush.

  Lancaster was an acrobat when he was young (he's in his early fifties here), and he's a wonderfully physical actor. He did his own stunts in this film. Hunkus Americanus, film-critic Pauline Kael called him. But while his character is casually brutal, he's got beautifully slow hands.

Here he is rigging dynamite to blow a rock wall. He stabs it ever so carefully, and inserts the fuse.
Then he lies back and tucks the bundle, gently, gently, into a cleft in the rock.

Real satisfying to watch.

[I'll post a full review later.]


Don't know why, but I just can't seem to work hard on a writing project and exercise.
If I divert my mental concentration, I have a terrible time getting back to work.  

Shouldn't exercise energize the brain?  All that extra oxygen?
But instead my brain is like, 
"While you were away, I shut myself down and, oh, yes, also took the opportunity to change the password, which I choose not to tell you."

So for about 6 weeks, I just didn't move much, so I could finish my ms.
Result: soddenness

I finally went for a trot again today, and I'm definitely right back where I started in February.
Oh well. Round and round I go.
At least it's great jogging shuffling weather: 49º and sunny.

This is my new profile photo, standing on a wood circle at the sculpture garden out by the apple orchard we went to this past weekend.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nasturtium, Bell, Raindrops, Burrs

After a rainy morning, yesterday afternoon I went photographing in the nearby community garden. Every month I snap a couple hundred shots in that garden, for next year's (2014) neighborhood calendar, and I submit about ten.

I want to post all the good leftover pix here, but looking at other blogs, I notice that less often really is more. (Though too much "less" is not enough.) So I try to limit myself.

After I'd whittled down my choices and posted them here, I realized that, without meaning to, I'd chosen representations of fire, air, water, and earth.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Introducing Marz's New Blog

Even though I live with the Marzipan, I miss her writing voice, so I am thrilled that after a blog silence of 2+ years, she has launched a new blog: 
Wilderness Garbage Company

Marz and me, jumping at an apple orchard this past weekend:

 And Marz looking all literary...

Other bloggy news: 
Sorry to say, I have turned the word verification back on because I got tired of the spam.

Monday, October 14, 2013

"Snadgers in Space" Flashcards

Marz has started a new job at a food co-op, and she was saying she needs to learn to recognize many fruits and vegetables. 
So I water-colored these flashcards for her this afternoon.


I learned more than Marz, doing these. (In fact, she said they "weren't useful, thank you so much.") 
Like, I had no idea the rutabaga is a cross between the turnip and the cabbage. Click to read more about this fascinating root vegetable, known as a "snadger" in northeast England and a "neep" in Scotland.

Sometimes people are laid low.

After a few days of post-completion slump, following turning in my ms, I am feeling up again, but I relish people who know that life is most definitely not all sunshine and moonbeams.
And who retain a sense of absurdity alongside that knowledge.

Like Tove Jansson, Finnish creator of the Moomin:

"He made it through the night but would rather eat his hat
        For breakfast everyday than spend another night like that."

--For Momo

I just came across this doc about Tove Jansson--can't wait to go home and watch it!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Free Falling

Oof. After I turned in my ms, I went into a bit of an emotional drop. What am I supposed to do now?
Oh, yeah, I should start writing my Lancaster movie previews.
The editor I'd discussed the project with just quit to go work for public radio?
OK, fine. I can and will still write my pieces––I want to!––but I feel like I'm working without a net.

Update on Felix the Fox Terrier

I wrote about this wire fox boy, here, who is going through intensive therapy. He's getting better every day!
Photo from his foster home with the Wire Fox Terrier Rescue [click on link for more info].

His foster mom writes: 

"Felix is not letting his disabilities get in the way of living. He is a very well behaved and house trained young fellow - loves to follow you around the house, curl up in a nice doggie bed nearby, lounge outside on a rug on a nice sunny day, explore the yard, enjoys car rides and especially sitting up high in a Lil Snoozer Lookout Seat. 
Felix is fine with other dogs - not afraid or intimidated - just goes about his day and in his world. He is a special Wire Fox boy who brings great joy and reward to a heart and home. Felix is adoptable to a special Forever Home who has love and compassion and time to devote to loving him."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Kirk & Spock Masks

Stacia at She Blogged By Night researched the history of the Captain Kirk mask used in the first (1978) Halloween movie.

Turns out, it was made from a life-cast of Shatner. 
This Spock mask from the 1970s was also from a life-cast of Nimoy. 
Both masks definitely live in the "uncanny valley"--that place where images are just close enough to real life to invoke revulsion.
Tho is the Kirk one also sort of touchingly sad?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Vulcan of Love

[not by me--I'd have chosen a screenshot from the "Way to Eden" episode]

For those who don't know, this is a reference to the Steve Miller Band's song "The Joker" (link to live performance from 1973)--a song that's generally more Captain "Pompetous of Love" Kirk than Spock.

Thanks for sharing, Deanna!