Thursday, April 27, 2017



ALTERING COURSE on Amazon kindle


I am a mystery novel addict and have read all the great ones and most of the just plain good ones, usually many times since it's so hard to find good writers. George Eliseo is pure delight as a mystery writer. He has it all, great plot, tasty observations about life in Southern California, fascinating insights into the world of cops and robbers since he was a real cop, great characters who are so real, you feel you met them yesterday at lunch, snappy, original and amusing dialogue, lots of heart, and a skewed, but ultimately very interesting sense of justice. I am breathlessly awaiting his next book.

At last, a contemporary mystery writer who knows how to tell a story. And oh by the way, he doesn't lob any gratuitous PC insults just to please some elitist publisher. But then, once you've read three pages, you know that Mr. George Eliseo is very much his own man and will kowtow to no one. A dangerous guy with words and gun.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Emilie Made Voltaire Look Dumb, And He Adored Her

In 1733, in France, twenty-seven year old Emilie Du Chatelet, a married aristocrat, met the almost forty year old Voltaire and became his lover. She had been married off young, French style, to an older aristocrat who could prove four hundred years of aristocratic blood. She'd provided the requisite heirs, and both husband and wife were then free to pursue love wherever they could find it.

She found it in the arms of one of the great intellectual giants of the French Enlightenment, a sometimes hunted man, due to his forward thinking views, which he took little trouble to conceal. A highly educated woman, in a country where women were never educated, Emilie spoke five languages, and studied math with two of the greatest mathematicians in world history, Johann Bernoulli and Clairaut.

She was the first woman to have a scientific paper published by the Paris Academy of Sciences, which sponsored a competition one year to determine the nature of heat, light and fire. Voltaire spent millions, in today's dollars, buying equipment to heat, weigh and take the temperature of molten metals. He broke a lot of thermometers and learned very little.

Emilie got busy with her pencils and calculated that, if light was moving at a billion feet per second, than if light was a particle, even the most infinitesimal quantity of it bombarding the earth would destroy all living beings. She dared advance the startling and unheard of idea that "light was something that had no mass at all." Further, she had plans to repeat Newton's experiments with the prism, in which he'd separated white light into colors, except Emilie was going to put thermometers in each of the different colors of the rainbow lights, hypothesizing that "different colors of light would carry different amounts of heating power." Eighty years elapsed before anyone got around to trying this, thus discovering infrared light.

Emilie did not get to carry this experiment out, because Voltaire had to make a hasty exit to escape arrest by the King for advancing anti Church and anti Royalist ideas.

From Wikipedia: "In 1749, the year of her death, she completed the work regarded as her outstanding achievement: her translation into French, with her commentary, of Newton's 'Principia Mathematica', including her derivation of the  notion of conservation of energy from its principles of mechanics. Published ten years after her death, today du Chatelet's translation of Principia Mathematica is still the standard translation of the work into French."

She made the translation, and discovered the notion of the conservation of energy all while pregnant at forty-three years old. She died a few days after the birth of her child. It was not Voltaire's child, but another man's, for Voltaire was by then much older and not an attentive lover.

I suppose what strikes me so forcibly about Emilie's story is the idea of this brilliant woman enduring a dangerous, late stage pregnancy, while translating from Latin into French, Newton's book of mathematics, in which he introduces calculus to the world. Calculus is tough for the best of us, under any circumstances, but she mastered it while pregnant and in her forties. Seems to me Emilie is proof that women need never apologize that they don't appear in the history books quite as often as men. Having babies either left them with little time for creating works of prodigious scholarship, or ended their lives prematurely.

The only reason we remember Emilie's achievements is that, obviously, she was an extraordinary prodigy, who overcame all the immense hurdles, natural and cultural, that so often stand in the way of outstanding female accomplishments.

"I shall await you, quietly
In my meridian
     in the fields of Cirey
Watching one star only
Watching my Emilie"

Voltaire "Ode"

The quotes are from the book "Passionate Minds" by David Bodanis. A book about two incredibly daring, intelligent and passionate people, both of whom changed the world in very great ways. It's an entertaining as well as informative book, well worth a reading.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


I have always been interested in the Revolutionary War. Growing up in New Jersey, right by the George Washington Bridge, near Fort Lee and across the river from Fort Washington, perhaps it was inevitable. I also have a more personal connection with the Revolution. My father's family, the Casterline family, were Huguenots who'd fled religious persecution in France in 1690 and come up the Delaware River to New Jersey. Consequently, by the time the Revolution began, they had been citizens of the colony of New Jersey for almost a century. Several Casterlines fought in the war which raged all across New Jersey for years. We know this because their widows received war pensions.

Also, above, I have a copy of the New Jersey Journal from 1779, when the war was still being fought and outcome undecided. The Casterline's owned a tavern and had a subscription to the Journal. Many of the issues have been preserved and passed down in our family.

Until reading Washington's Immortals, I had no idea how severe conditions were for the American Army, the incredible hardships they endured, the way the British and Hessians usually gave no quarter and slaughtered the American soldiers rather than take prisoners, as the American Army did. In plain truth, these Washington Immortals, the Maryland and Delaware regiments, were nothing short of superhuman in their fighting spirit, endurance, unbelievable courage and determination.


Now, of course, Patrick K. O'Donnell's book is far more scholarly and has mature content not suitable for young people, but I think he would not be offended to be included in a post that also mentioned the Walt Disney Swamp Fox movie about the Revolutionary War exploits of Francis Marion which was made for 1959 Disney's Wonderful World of Color starring Leslie Nielsen. I happened to find a few of those terrific old TV shows on Youtube. They were the kind of videos where the focus swims around and you feel you're watching them on a ship at sea. Nevertheless, they taught me a great deal about the Swamp Fox's exciting Army Ranger style exploits in South Carolina to help win the war. Much of what I saw on those shows was brought to mind again as I read about Washington's Immortals.

Sadly, I'm sure my son went through an entire public school education and never heard of the Swamp Fox. But I have nothing good to say about public schools these days, so I won't say anything at all. But I wish somebody who was proud of America would do a film or documentary series about Washington's Immortals. Patrick K. O'Donnell has loaded his book with thrilling stories and very personal events from the lives of these men who fought so hard for freedom.

Friday, April 21, 2017

A TIME TRAVEL ROMANTIC COMEDY - After Cary Grant, Everything Else is.......


A ROGUE, A PIRATE AND A DRY MARTINI is my time travel romantic comedy novel homage to Hollywood back in the Golden Days of the black and white movie classics. How would you like to find yourself starring opposite one of the legends of Hollywood, his leading lady, in fact? Relive the magic of old Hollywood, when Musso and Frank made the best dry gin martinis (as they still do) and everybody who was anybody strolled along Hollywood Boulevard.

"Cancelled, dumped and told to retire all in one morning in Hollywood, our heroine, the former star of Morgan Sidney, the Laughing PI, thinks it can't get any worse until her agent tricks her into working on some real low end, Loserville production where everybody smokes all the time and drinks martinis between scenes. No special effects, no car chases, just actors she's never heard of playing scenes.

And her co-stars! Who are these guys? Sophisticated, witty, and sexy, the kind of men you wouldn't mind a bit doing a nude scene with, but for some reason in these movies there's no humping. All they do is kiss. But after a martini or two, kissing these guys (and our heroine makes it her business to kiss them all) is better than sex. No kidding.

It's all great fun, even if it is guaranteed to ruin her career. So what's going on? Nobody makes movies like this anymore. And where the Hell are they getting all these unfiltered Chesterfields? So what happens if the guy you're crazy about turns out to be somebody you've probably watched on Turner Classic Movies? And you're pretty sure (if only you'd paid more attention in history class) that it's the middle of the Great Depression and World War II is on its way. Does any of that matter if you're in love for the first time in your life?"

Looking for the old homes of the Legends of Hollywood

One of my greatest disappointments was visiting Hollywood and finding that the town was unaware of and totally indifferent to its glorious past. The oldest star on the star maps was Lucille Ball. I love Lucy as much as anybody, but she was more of a TV star. Nobody had heard of let alone cared about Carole Lombard, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Rudolf Valentino, Mary Pickford, Fred Astaire or any of the myriad other world class artists who wrote the book on what cinema could do, spawned and refined an entirely new art form, and changed the way the world perceived itself now and forever.

Grauman’s Chinese footprints and hand prints were the only tangible sign that these giants had once walked Hollywood Boulevard. Tom, my husband, actor Tom O’Rourke, and I were both completely crushed. When we moved out to LA, we spent many weekends, chasing around looking for star homes and other old Hollywood landmarks that were still standing, and there were precious few, even then.

I actually had the great good luck to meet and shake hands with one of the greatest stars from the great days of Hollywood: Cary Grant. It was 1967, long before the days of DVDs and VHS, when the only place to see old black and white movies was on afternoon TV’s Million Dollar Movie. I was young model invited to a fancy cocktail party on Park Ave. My friend asked if I’d like to meet Cary Grant. I said I’d be thrilled, even though I was confused between Cary Grant and Gary Cooper, not sure which name went with which face. The minute I saw him, he was everything he looked in the movies and more. I remember his slightly bemused smile and kindly gaze into my star struck, teenage eyes. I mumbled something polite as he shook my hand. He was the first movie star I’d ever met, my first encounter with a dream walking. He was so much more gorgeous, charming and gracious than he was even on film. I’m sure I’ve met at least a couple of other movie stars, but, somehow, I can’t remember them at all.

Monday, April 17, 2017


Women at the tomb of Jesus

This post is not some feminist griping about Christianity, rather this is one of the pieces of historical evidence that I have always found very convincing and am now going to share. I apologize for this being posted after Easter. But I think it is an interesting point about the resurrection and very compelling evidence that is hard to dismiss or forget.

The author is addressing one of the objections to the veracity of the bible, attributing the story of the resurrection to the desire of the Jesus community to create (i.e. make up) a legend about their leader.

The quote is from the the book Who Is Jesus? Linking the Historical Jesus With The Christ of Faith, by Darrell L. Bock. It's a daunting and scholarly book that was difficult to read, but definitely worth the effort. 


Another key element in the empty tomb tradition involves the criterion of embarrassment. In fact, this criterion is the one that most contradicts the idea that what we have is a fabricated account, a created story that is mere myth or legend. The key factor here is the unanimous testimony in the gospels that women were the first to discover the empty tomb.

What is important in this detail is the ancient culture's lack of appreciation of women. In this culture, a woman's testimony often counted for nothing. Josephus testifies to this view in Antiquities 4.219  when he says, "From women let no evidence be accepted, because of the levity and temerity of their sex." The Mishnah, Yebamot 16:7 shows some permitted women's testimony to attest a death but others do not. So their role was debated. In the Mishnah, Ketubot 2:5 and the Edduyot 3:6, a woman's testimony about her marital status is to be rejected if another witness speaks to the contrary. These texts show that women were not highly regarded as witnesses in the first century.

So if the Jesus community is trying to sell the unpopular idea of a resurrection to a skeptical audience, why would it do this by opening such a difficult story with witnesses who do not count as witnesses culturally? If you are creating the story, why would you create it this way? A created story would have had male witnesses at the start. The idea that this story was created lacks cultural credibility, as evidenced in the starting point for this account. The women's being in the story and remaining there in all the gospel versions speak to the authenticity of this detail and of the empty tomb. No one would have put them there had they not already been there.

Interestingly, some of the accounts reflect this nervousness about female testimony. Mark 16 ends before reporting any message to the disciples. Luke 24:11 says those who initially heard the women thought they spoke "nonsense." In fact, the second century skeptic Celsus mocks the report's credibility, speaking of Mary Magdalene as a "half-frantic woman" (Origen, Celsus 2.59). All of this reinforces that the criterion of embarrassment is applicable to this account. The combination of multiple attestation and embarrassment appears to attest to concrete events, not legend."


Saturday, April 15, 2017



 Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote             
When April with its sweet-smelling showers
      The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
   Has pierced the drought of March to the root,
       And bathed every veyne in swich licour
   And bathed every vein (of the plants) in such liquid
       Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
   By the power of which the flower is created;   

Who can wake up on a sunny morning in April and not feel just as Chaucer's pilgrims felt seven hundred years ago that it's just the season to set out on a pilgrimage to seek foreign shores and distant shrines and especially to visit Canterbury?

In Washington state our sun shifts are quite extreme. Already in April the grey light of dawn is visible at five am. By six thirty, the sun has been up for awhile. I can still walk my dog at eight thirty at night and not need a flashlight. It would have been much the same in England almost a thousand years ago. And having no street lights or artificial light except lanterns, April would have provided long hours of lighted travel and pleasant weather for all adventurous travelers.

How delightful a journey Chaucer's pilgrims make, each telling a story to pass the time. I haven't read the full Canterbury tales, just one or two of the stories. But I had to learn the prologue in high school and have never forgotten the first lines, which evoke the spirit of April so aptly.

We must rescue April from the tax man and restore it to a season for celebrating the long days. I suppose for farmers, April is a busy time of much hard work. But we all welcome spring's return and a new season of growth and plenty.