Sunday, June 12, 2016


(currently playing on Amazon Prime)

Earth to Hollywood! EVERYBODY'S FINE is based on a very dated Italian movie, directed by a British guy and starring actors who obviously haven't left their gated compounds in FOREVER! No wonder Hollywood and all the elites are terrified of free elections and the voter's revolt. They make no bones about showing everyone in the USA as shallow, screwed up, failing, drinking, overweight and sexually confused. They don't think we peons out here in flyover country ever have a happy day.

Frank Goode, (get it? He wants to be frank, and his name is good. So he's frankly a good guy. Don't barf yet, it gets better.), is the lonely Dad of a family of four grown children who has just lost his wife of many years.

Won't even mention the weird lack of modern technology for a 2009 movie, no cell phones, travel by bus and train, and no prescription refills in other cities, because if the story and performances worked, you'd forgive them everything.

I really wanted to at least like this movie. Family drama is a big favorite of mine. But, come on, old Hollywood B melodramas had more depth and realism than this movie. The big sin of the dad played by Robert De Niro, who, as always, eats the scenery, (He can't help it, but it's all wrong for this role.) is that he pushed the kids when they were young instead of accepting them for what they were, which his now deceased wife did. So she knew they were screwed up and didn't tell him. Now, eight months after her death, barely time to start grieving a wife of a long time marriage, he finds out the awful truth.

It is awful, because his youngest son has OD'd on drugs in Mexico and died. This is the son who receives the ultimate Hollywood accolade; he's described by a pretty young thing as "really special." Ahhhh. Well, then his death really is a loss. We can be sure that even if he was a reckless, freeloading ne'er do well playboy, he was special.

But, just so we know, his spirit appears to Dad when he's in the hospital with a heart attack to tell him it's not his fault that this "special" guy got all messed up on drugs. Well, for Pete's sake, if this is a family Gosh Darn drama, it's gotta be somebody's fault. So it's gotta be Dad's fault because he pushed the kids. And if that Dad is played by powerfully aggressive, take no prisoners actor De Niro, you have a sneaking suspicion that when this dad pushed, it verged on brutal. But no, we're just supposed to believe he's a puzzled care bear who was always too busy making his blue collar living to understand. What this movie wants you to understand is that it was wrong for Dad to expect his kids to try to be happily married, raise normal kids, and contribute to society in some small way. He pushed them to achieve, don't you see?

There is a particularly maudlin and unpleasant scene of Dad's vision when he is having his heart attack. In the vision, he's his current age, but the kids are kids again. However, he's really not the dad anybody would want. The worst is when his eight year old son smart talks him, and he makes a big issue about showing respect. When a kid that young and tender stands up to you in their silly way, it shows they trust that you won't smack them down and that they are developing some moxie. Respect is such a hard thing to earn from your kids, and De Niro lost all my respect when he got all testy and, threatened by his eight year old child, verbally smacked him down. Ugly.

However, the ending is perfect for this movie. Dad narrates to himself that "everybody is making his and her way in the world, and everybody is fine". (Except for the dead kid, you know, the one who dad smacked down for not showing respect and who is "really special", but who's too nice to blame dad for his ruined life.) Frankly, Frank Goode as a father is reminds me of Joan Crawford as Mommie Dearest. But the whole family gets together in Elmira, New York for Christmas. Upstate New York, where winter is snowier than friggin Moscow and where global warming would be proof of a merciful God. There, Dad cooks the Christmas turkey, and boy is this movie ever a prize turkey.

Sunday, June 5, 2016


This is from a book called A LITTLE DAILY WISDOM Christian women mystics, translated by Carmen Acevedo Butcher

I'm the secret Fire in everything, and everything smells like
The living breathe in My sweet perfume,
and they breathe out praise of Me.
They never die
because I am their Life

I flame out -- intense, godly Life -- over shining fields of
I glow in the shimmer of the fire's embers,
I burn in the sun and the moon and the stars.
The secret Life of Me breathes in the wind
and hold all things together soulfully.

This is God's voice.

Hildegard of Bingen, Hymn

The Origin of Fire Medieval Chant by Anonymous 4 of Hildegard's Music

Here is the like to the movie on DVD VISION about the life of Hildegard von Bingen. It's really excellent.

Saturday, June 4, 2016



I kid you not. There she was behind the fish counter at
Fred Meyers. (Erte fashion print)

Have you ever read about a character in a book who is so extraordinary that you say to yourself, no, nobody like that ever existed. And then you walk into your local Fred Meyer's and there she is behind the fish counter, the exact amazing girl, eloquent with every fiber of her being of sophistication, grace, delicacy, wisdom, in fact, the complete essence of that improbable character from your mystery novel. That's what happened to me with Zizi, the fey, 1920's flapper nymph, helper to detective Pennington Wise in Carolyn Wells mystery novels. If only, I thought, if only I were a movie producer, I'd sign this girl to an immediate contract to play Zizi. She'd be a big star and unforgettable.

"She was a mere slip of a girl, a wisp of humanity, in a flimsy frock of thin black stuff, with a touch of coral-tinted chiffon in bodice and sash. The skirt was short, and her black silk stockings and high-heeled pumps gave her a chic air. Her black hair was drawn smoothly back, in the prevailing mode, and though she had an air of world-knowledge, she was inconspicuous in effect."

(Wells, Carolyn. The Carolyn Wells Mystery Megapack: 17 Classic Mysteries with Pennington Wise, Fleming Stone, & More! (Kindle Locations 2872-2875). Wildside Press LLC. Kindle Edition.)

“And Zizi is my model,” he informed them, “that is, when I want a thin, scarecrow type. I won’t use her for the average peach heroine. Look, Zizi, don’t eat too much of that potato puff! See, if she puts on a bit of flesh, she runs straight back to the movie studios.”

“Ah, a film star?” said Braye.

“Not a star,” and Wise shook his head. “But a good little actress for a brat part.”

Zizi flashed an amused smile from her black eyes and partook again of the forbidden potato puff.

“Zizi! For the love of Mike!” expostulated Wise.

“The love of Mike is the root of all evil,” said Zizi, saucily; “but then, everything is.”

“Is what?” asked Eve, interested against her will in this strange child.

“Is the root of all evil,” was the calm reply.

“Whew! this must be an evil old world!” exclaimed Braye.

“And isn’t it?” Zizi flashed back, her big eyes sparkling like liquid jet.

“Are you a pessimist, little one?” asked the Professor, studying the clever, eerie face.

“Nay, nay, Pauline,” and the small, pointed chin was raised a bit. “Not so, but far otherwise.”

“Then why do you think the world is evil?”

“Ah, sir, when one spends one’s life between a Moving Picture Studio and a popular artist’s studio, one learns much that one had better left unlearnt” The child face suddenly looked ages old, and then, as suddenly broke into a gay smile: “Don’t ask me these things,” she said, “ask Penny Wise. I’m only his Pound Foolish.”

(Wells, Carolyn. The Carolyn Wells Mystery Megapack: 17 Classic Mysteries with Pennington Wise, Fleming Stone, & More! (Kindle Locations 3054-3072). Wildside Press LLC. Kindle Edition.)

Alright, I confess, Carolyn Wells mystery writer is a guilty pleasure of mine. A finishing school writer married to the scion of one of the most famous publishing houses in New York at the turn of the century, Hadwin Houghton, heir to Houghton Mifflin Publishing company. I would imagine her in-laws sent her very few rejection notices. And from her lively, carefree tales of the upper class in the good old days, you can tell that though she had a heart, she very seldom had a care. Still, her books have a charm that is irresistible. She has an effervescent style and clever plots. And she has the unique Zizi.

There are many more of her books available on your kindle for very little. Her stories have provided me with many delightful hours of escape into a somewhat frantic, antic and fascinating world of the upper class. Not the fabulously wealthy, just the well off flapper and her mate. It's all very Art Deco.


(Note: Am writing this at 3:30 am in Bellingham, WA and the horizon is already visibly light with the coming dawn. Love this time of year so far north.)

Isn't Limberlost the most beautiful word? The Limberlost is a swamp forest in eastern Indiana, which at the time the book A GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST was written was about 13,000 acres. THE GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST  and its companion book FRECKLES were written by Gene Stratton Porter (1863-1924), "one of the most popular, successful and prolific authors of her day. Her deep and intense interest in nature led her to write magazine articles and to illustrate them with her photographs. She then turned to novels and also wrote many books on natural history."

Photography in Ms. Stratton Porter's day, shortly after the Civil War, was no easy matter, but required carrying large, awkward camera and tripods, very expensive film stock, and endless patience for focusing and capturing the one great shot.

"Set in the shimmering atmosphere of Indiana's Limberlost swamp, this is the moving story of Elnora Comstock -- courageous, independent and bright -- whom through her teenage years, must confront and overcome enormous odds to achieve success on her own terms.

"Elnora will remind many readers of the fabled Anne of Green Gables. Although not an orphan, as Anne was, Elnora's father died when she was barely three, and her mother, hardworking, bitter and cold, does not seem to appreciate her overwhelming desire to continue her education through high school. Elnora must find a way to pay for her own books and appropriate clothing, and she discovers the solution is in her beloved Limberlost swamp, with its fascinating and beautiful specimens of insect life.

To earn the money she needs for books and clothes, Elnora gathers rare moths in the Limberlost and sells them to collectors. She has grown up by the swamp and knows its every mood and resident. "Early June was rioting in fresh grasses, bright flowers, bird songs and gay-winged creatures of the air...A turtle scrambled from a log and splashed into the water, while a red-wing shouted 'O-Ka-lee' She paused and looked intently at the slime covered quagmire, framed in flower-riot and homed over by sweet-voiced birds. then she gazed at the thing of incomparable beauty clinging to her fingers."

Of course, there is romance, heartbreak, disappointment, dancing, tragedy and a very happy ending.

There is an old black and white movie of THE GIRL OF THE LIMBERLOST free on YouTube.

The book is old fashioned, shockingly modern in its understanding of the environment, and as sweet and innocent as the song of birds. "The Limberlost is life....What I like is the excitement of choosing a path carefully, in the fear that the quagmire may reach out and suck me down; to go into the swamp naked-handed and wrest from it treasures that bring me books and clothing, and I like enough of a fight for things that I always remember how I get them."

This book took me back to my college days of studying environmental science. There was a professor who all of us girls in my all girls school were madly in love with. He'd been a medical doctor, but had given it up to study environmental science. He'd recently married a woman who was an entomologist, which is a person who studies bugs. I'll never forget when they had our class over for brunch and she showed us her specimen cabinet. It was a chest high bureau as wide as your outstretched arms with about fifteen drawers two inches high. As she pulled out each drawer to show us the contents, we were all amazed at the hundreds of beautifully colored and delicately patterned moths displayed in each drawer. The wildly extravagant variety and design of the moths was staggering. That nature could recklessly bestow such complex effort on even these insubstantial creatures, whose life was so fleeting and whose function so minimal, was truly a lesson in the incredible complexity of the web of life for all of us.

But most romantic of all, like Elnora in the book, the professor's new wife also played the violin with great skill. How we envied her. Not only had she found joy in the study of the most humble of God's creatures, but she played the violin, the most romantic of all instruments, which we girls knew was only played well by those with deep and intense heart strings.

If that wasn't enough to set our girlish hearts afire, they told us about their honeymoon hiking the Appalachian trial. They'd timed their honeymoon hike for a section of Georgia in spring so that their progress north kept up with the spring bloom of all the flowering trees for which the Eastern Deciduous forest is famous: magnolias, Mountain Laurel, dogwood, and so many others. The way they described it, it was like camping out in a sensuously fragrant and magical bower of fairy land. To all of us environmental devotees, it was the dream honeymoon.

Friday, June 3, 2016


"For half a century, she was the best-known, best-loved, and best paid writer America had ever known. Her novels were bestsellers, her plays had successful runs on Broadway, she paid visits to royalty and dined with presidents. One of the few women allowed to visit the front line, she reported firsthand from the battlefields of World War I. A spokesperson for Native Americans, she went to Washington to champion the rights of the Blackfeet Indians. In 1947, she laid the issue of breast cancer openly before the American public, writing candidly about her own experience. Daring, adventurous, yet devoted to her husband and family, MARY ROBERTS RINEHART became one of the most charismatic, most celebrated women of the century."

Quote from the Charlotte Macleod HAD SHE BUT KNOWN biography of Mary Roberts Rinehart.

Searching for good, but inexpensive books to read on my kindle, I discovered Mary Roberts Rinehart's THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE, a delightful mystery featuring a salty, irascible silver haired matron as heroine. It sold 1.25 million copies in 1907. And that was just the beginning for Rinehart.

So you might reasonably ask yourself, if here was a best selling mystery writer who arrived fourteen years before Agatha Christie, and who went on to write for the next fifty years, becoming probably the most celebrated writer in the states, what happened? If here was a woman who rose from genteel poverty by becoming a nurse when nice girls didn't do things like that, who married a doctor, had three sons, and when they lost all their savings in the crash of 1903, picked up a pen and wrote to help support her family, why don't we all know about her? Why isn't Hollywood clamoring to do her life story? Why doesn't one of those actresses who always complain that there are no parts for older women shop the Circular Staircase to the studios. It's still a terrific mystery story, and no more dated than anything Agatha Christie ever wrote. Why is she forgotten?

Well, there are two very good reasons for that. One, she was popular, meaning she sold books without the help of anyone who calls themselves an intellectual or who went to Harvard. Intellectuals feel it beneath them to acknowledge any value in the merely popular, for no other reason than that it is popular. Since today we all live and breath at the behest of the elite, naturally they have no interest in advancing the works of a writer who anyone can enjoy. No, difficult works of literature that are obscure and give you a headache are more their line.

The second reason is that she's American. Now to you and to me, that's kind of a point of pride, but to intellectuals, we rubes in flyover country, Americans are the bane of their existence, the great unwashed, etc. Now, had Rinehart been British, she might be regaled today in a way worthy of her talents, for we all know that anything British is so far superior to anything merely American that it makes an intellectual laugh. Or if she was someone published in a foreign language, that would have been a great help. Intellectuals hold European culture over the heads of Americans like a cudgel ready to beat the insensitive brutes into submission at every opportunity. What? You haven't read THE AIRY WISPYNESS OF NOTHINGNESS by Sordid Fustylocken? My, my!

Take my advice for your kindle. For free on Kindle unlimited or .99 to 7.99 you will have yourself many, many completely pleasurable hours of reading if you download anything by Mary Roberts Rinehart. She is witty, romantic, well spoken, pithy, observant of character and place. She wasn't the most popular writer in a America for nothing. No sir!

Take that you intellectual snobs! And from a woman who had more courage and intelligence than I've seen in anybody to come out of some fancy school in many years.