Monday, November 18, 2019

Lady Death

I watched The Battle For Sevastopol over the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed it! My husband stumbled upon the movie and we both received an education about the world's deadliest female sniper, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who came to be known as Lady Death. By the age of twenty-five, she had killed over three-hundred enemy soldiers. If you're like me, you've probably never heard of her. Here's more from Wikipedia:

Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko (12 June 1916 – 10 October 1974) was a Soviet sniper in the Red Army during World War II,credited with 309 confirmed kills,[making her the most successful female sniper in history. Lyudmila was nicknamed "Lady Death" due to her incredible ability with a sniper rifle. She served in the Red Army during the Siege of Odessa and the Siege of Sevastopol, during the early stages of the Eastern Front in WWII. After she was injured in battle by a mortar shell, she was evacuated to Moscow. After Pavlichenko recovered from her injuries she trained other Red Army Snipers and was a public spokesperson for the Red Army. In 1942, she visited the White House and toured the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. After the war ended in 1945, she was reassigned as a Senior Researcher for the Soviet Navy. She later died at the age of 58 due to a stroke on 10 October 1974.


In June 1941, 24-year-old Pavlichenko was in her fourth year studying history at Kiev University when Germany began its invasion of the Soviet Union. Pavlichenko was among the first round of volunteers at the Odessa recruiting office, where she requested to join the infantry. The registrar pushed Pavlichenko to be a nurse but she refused. 
After seeing that she had completed multiple training courses they finally let her in the army as a sniper. Thus she was assigned to the Red Army's 25th Rifle Division. There she became one of 2,000 female snipers in the Red Army (although female soldiers were still just 2 percent of the Red Army's total number), of whom about 500 survived the war. Although she was in a combat role, she was only given a frag grenade due to weapon shortages. On 8 August 1942 a fallen comrade would hand her his Mosin-Nagant model 1891 bolt-action rifle. She achieved her first two kills and proved herself to her comrades. She described this event as her "baptism of fire", because after this she was officially a sniper.
Pavlichenko fought for about two and a half months near Odessa, where she recorded 187 kills.[11] She was promoted to senior sergeant in August 1941 when she reached 100 confirmed kills. At age 25, she married a fellow sniper whose name was Alexei Kitsenko. Soon after the marriage, Alexei was mortally wounded by a mortar shell. Kitsenko died after a few days in the hospital. When the Romanians gained control of Odessa on 15 October 1941, her unit was withdrawn by sea to Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, where she fought for more than eight months. There she trained almost a dozen snipers, who killed over a hundred Axis soldiers during the battle. In May 1942, newly promoted Lieutenant Pavlichenko was cited by the Southern Army Council for killing 257 Axis soldiers. Her total of confirmed kills during World War II was 309, including 36 enemy snipers.
In June 1942, Pavlichenko was hit in the face with shrapnel from a mortar shell. After her injury, the Soviet High Command ordered that she be evacuated from Sevastopol via submarine.[ She was too valuable to lose as she was the perfect example of Soviet womanhood. She spent around a month in the hospital; she did not go back to the Eastern Front after her injuries. Instead she became a propagandist for the Red Army. Due to her high kill count, she was nicknamed "Lady Death". She also trained snipers for combat duty till the end of the war in 1945.
What a life! Had you ever heard of Lady Death? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Transforming Rita


Back in the 1930's, a young actress named Rita Cansino, was having a hard time breaking away from small exotic roles, in part due to her name, and in part to the jet black hair of her Spanish ancestry.

As a starlet at Fox Studios, Rita Cansino married salesman and promoter Edward C. Judson.  Judson knew potential when he saw it.  Not only was Cansino beautiful, she was a dancer with a charismatic stage presence, and a spark that Judson knew would propel her to stardom.

Judson got her the lead roles in several independent films and arranged a screen test with Columbia Pictures. Columbia studio head Harry Cohn signed Cansino to a long-term contract, then cast her in small roles in Columbia features.

Cansino appeared in several roles in the mid 1930s playing an exotic foreigner.  Cohn claimed that Cansino's image was too Mediterranean.  That reduced her opportunities to being cast in "exotic" roles, which were more limited in number. 

At Cohn and Judson's urging, Cansino changed her hair color to auburn and her name to Rita Hayworth. By using her mother's maiden name (Haworth), she allowed the public to see her British-American ancestry and became a classic "American" pin-up.

And the rest is history...Rita Hayworth became a screen siren superstar of the 1940s! 

My favorite Rita Hayworth movie is GildaWhat's yours? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Previously posted 9/23/13.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Pre-Code Hollywood: No Restrictions Apply

When one of my kids was about fourteen, he complained about not being allowed to watch rated R movies. He said, “You and Dad are I’m too overprotective and you're not giving me a chance to see what life’s really like.” Excuse me for being a parent. Instead of letting him watch today’s restricted movies, perhaps I should have let him watch some of these:

The Cheat, 1931
A compulsive gambler will do anything to pay off her debt – including turning to a wealthy businessman behind her husband’s back.

Events take an unhappy turn for Bill and Jack, two locomotive engineers, after Bill is attracted to his best friend's wife.
Dorothy Mackhaill in Safe in Hell, 1931
After accidentally killing the man who raped her and forced her into prostitution, a New Orleans woman flees to a Caribbean island. While she awaits her fiancé, the vicious local police chief sets his sights on her.

 Hot Saturday  1932
Scandal erupts after a young woman innocently spends the night with a notorious playboy and neglects to tell her fiancé.
Merrily We Go to Hell, 1932
An abusive alcoholic reunites with a woman from his past driving his wife to drastic measures.


They Call it Sin, 1932
With time on his hands during a business trip, Jimmy Decker (who's engaged to his boss's daughter) romances small-town church organist Marion Cullen.  She follows him to New York only to learn Jimmy's true colors after she's burned her bridges.
Attractive Nan, member of a bank-robbery gang, goes to prison thanks to evangelist Dave Slade...who loves her.
Letty, a young woman who ended up pregnant, unmarried and on the streets at fifteen is bitter and determined that her child will not grow up to be taken advantage of. Letty teaches her child to lie, steal, cheat and do anything else he'll need to be street smart.

Once upon a time in Hollywood, movies of the past were just as gritty as the movies of today. Well, maybe not just as gritty, but back in the late 1920s and early 1930s, it wasn’t unusual to find sexual innuendo, profanity, illegal drug use, promiscuity, prostitution, infidelity, abortion, extreme violence and homosexuality in films.

This period in cinema history is known as the Pre-Code era, the time before movies were censored and sugar coated to reflect all American wholesomeness.
Ina Claire publicity still for The Greeks Had a Word for Them, 1932
According to DVD Beaver, “In 1934, Hollywood was turned upside down by the enforcement of a strict “Production Code” that would change the way movies were made for the next 34 years. During the “pre-code” period (1929 to mid-1934), censorship barely existed in Hollywood and filmmakers had free reign to make the movies they wanted and the public demanded. No subject was taboo...”

To read more about Pre-Code Hollywood click here.

The sensational subject of sex sold back then, just like it does today.  However, Variety blamed women for the rise in such steamy films:

Women are responsible for the ever-increasing public taste in sensationalism and sexy stuff. Women who make up the bulk of the picture audiences are also the majority reader of the tabloids, scandal sheets, flashy magazines, and erotic books ... the mind of the average man seems wholesome in comparison.... Women love dirt, nothing shocks 'em.

The more times change the more they stay the same...

Were you familiar with the Pre-Code Era of Hollywood? Do you have any favorite Pre-Code films?  

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 1/20/14.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Aging Gracefully

I don't know about you, but I think there's a lot of truly "questionable" plastic surgery going on out there making some in the spotlight appear like they need to hide in the shadows. I won't post any of those pictures, but I'm sure some unfortunate celebrities come to mind.

I have, however, posted some photographs of lovely Loretta Young. I've mentioned before that she is one of the most beautiful women to have ever graced the silver screen. If I assume correctly, Ms.Young never "went under the knife." I've read that as a Catholic, she didn't drink and lived a clean life. Of course there's the matter of her first child, Judy Lewis, but that's another blog post.


These photos aren't dated, but I believe the one on top was taken sometime in the 1930s, so Ms. Young would have been in her twenties. From the small print in the bottom photo, I'm figuring it was taken in 1999, which would put her at 76. Loretta Young was gorgeous at every age!

Can you think of any other celebrities today who are choosing to age gracefully?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Hedy Lamarr: Beauty and Brains

What does a 1940's glamour girl-superstar have to do with Bluetooth technology? Keep reading to find out!

Hedy Lamarr was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful women to ever grace the screen. If you've never heard of her, here's some information, courtesy of Wikiepedia:

Hedy Lamarr (born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, 9 November 1914 – 19 January 2000) was an Austrian and American film actress. She appeared in numerous popular feature films, including Algiers (1938) with Charles Boyer, I Take This Woman(1940) with Spencer Tracy, Comrade X (1940) with Clark Gable, Come Live With Me (1941) with James Stewart, H.M. Pulham, Esq. (1941) with Robert Young, and Samson and Delilah (1949) with Victor Mature. After an early and brief film career in Germany, which included a controversial love-making scene in the film Ecstasy (1933), she fled with her husband and secretly moved to Paris. While there, she met MGM head Louis B. Mayer, who offered her a movie contract in Hollywood, where she became a film star from the late 1930s to the 1950s.

Okay, so now you're wondering about her relation to Bluetooth technology. Here's more from Wikipedia:

At the beginning of the World War II, Lamarr was told that she could better help the war effort by using her celebrity status to sell war bonds, which she did with great success. But she wanted to do more, particularly by using her interest in science to aid in the defeat of Nazism. This desire only intensified as Hitler continued his relentless attacks on Europe. When German submarines began torpedoing passenger liners, she said at one point, "I've got to invent something that will put a stop to that". This desire would give rise to the invention for which she would become famous many years later.
Lamarr's reputation as an inventor is based on her co-creation of a frequency-hopping system with George Antheil, an avant garde composer and neighbor of Lamarr in California. During World War II, Lamarr was inspired to contribute to the war effort, and focused her efforts on countering torpedoes. In her home, explains author Richard Rhodes during an interview on CBS, she devoted a room to drafting her designs for frequency-hopping.

Lamarr and Antheil discussed the fact that radio-controlled torpedoes, while important in the naval war, could easily be jammed by broadcasting interference at the frequency of the control signal, causing the torpedo to go off course. Lamarr had learned something about torpedoes during her marriage to Friedrich Mandl, a wealthy munitions manufacturer. Lamarr and Antheil developed the idea of using frequency hopping to avoid jamming. This was achieved by using a piano roll to unpredictably change the signal sent between a control center and the torpedo at short bursts within a range of 88 frequencies in the radio-frequency spectrum (there are 88 black and white keys on a piano keyboard).

The specific code for the sequence of frequencies would be held identically by the controlling ship and in the torpedo. It would be practically impossible for the enemy to scan and jam all 88 frequencies, as computation this complex would require too much power. The frequency-hopping sequence was controlled by a player-piano mechanism, which Antheil had earlier used to score his Ballet Mécanique.

On 11 August 1942, US Patent 2,292,387 was granted to Hedy Kiesler Markey, Lamarr's married name at the time, and George Antheil. This early version of frequency hopping, although novel, soon was met with opposition from the U.S. Navy and was not adopted. The idea was not implemented in the U.S. until 1962, when it was used by U.S. military ships during a blockade of Cuba after the patent had expired. Lamarr's work was honored in 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave her a belated award for her contributions. In 1998, an Ottawa wireless technology developer, Wi-LAN Inc., acquired a 49% claim to the patent from Lamarr for an undisclosed amount of stock.

Lamarr's and Antheil's frequency-hopping idea served as a basis for modern spread-spectrum communication technology, such as GPS, Bluetooth, COFDM (used inWi-Fi network connections), and CDMA (used in some cordless and wireless cell phones). Blackwell, Martin, and Vernam's 1920 patent seems to lay the communications groundwork for Lamarr and Antheil's patent, which employed the techniques in the autonomous control of torpedoes.

So, Hedy Lamarr wasn't just another pretty face! Had you ever heard of her? If so, have you ever seen any of her movies? Did you know she was an inventor? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 11/2/15

Monday, October 14, 2019

Slow Cooker Chinese Barbecue Pork


I've recently discovered the website Chefsavvy.com, and I absolutely love the recipes there! Easy and delicious are what counts with me, and this recipe has become my go-to pork loin favorite (even though they suggest using pork shoulder or butt). Serve this with jasmine rice and a salad, and you have a great and very tasty meal! Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

1 4 pound pork shoulder/pork butt trimmed of excess fat and cubed

Sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup hoisin
1 teaspoon sriracha or more to taste
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese 5 spice powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I love ginger, so I use 2 t)

INSTRUCTIONS

Add the pork and the sauce ingredients to the slow cooker and toss to coat the meat.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
Once the pork is tender shred it with two forks. I just do this in the slow cooker.
You can drain some of the liquid or serve the extra liquid over rice!

Serve immediately with sesame seeds if desired.

Have you ever tried Chinese barbecued pork? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Gail Russell: Lost Dream

Life is the fullest when we pursue our dreams. I once heard Oprah Winfrey describe a job she had as a teenager at a local five and dime. I don't remember the exact job, but I do remember her saying that she wasn't allowed to talk.  Regarding this restriction, Oprah said, "I thought I would die!" Can you imagine Oprah not talking?

Sometimes, not choosing the right career path can be deadly, as in Gail Russell's situation.  If you've never heard of her, she was a beautiful actress that never wanted stardom, or even to act for that matter, but regardless, a movie career was thrust upon her. 

Russell began painting at age five, and her lifelong dream was to become a commercial artist.  However, that ambition was put aside when Hollywood came calling.

Born in Chicago, Russell moved to the Los Angeles area with her family when she was a teenager. Her otherworldly beauty brought her to the attention of Paramount Pictures in 1942. She chose a starlet's salary of $50 a week to help her struggling family, and also to appease her mother, who as a young woman, had wanted to be an actress. Living vicariously through your kids is never a good idea. Russell was an extreme introvert and almost clinically shy with no acting experience, yet Paramount had great plans and lots of money riding on her.

Russell appeared in several films in the early and mid-1940s, the most notable being The Uninvited (1944).

She started drinking on the set of that film to ease her paralyzing stage fright and lack of self-confidence.  She'd freeze, forget her lines, then dissolve into tears, so the alcohol was a crutch.  But it eventually destroyed her career, her looks, and her personal life. By the fifties, Gail Russell's career was on the skids.

On July 5, 1957, she was photographed after she drove her convertible into the front of Jan's coffee shop at 8424 Beverly Blvd. After failing a sobriety test, Russell was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

Russell was unable to control her addiction and in August of 1961, was found dead.  Malnourished and full of alcohol, Gail Russell died of a heart attack at age 36. Authorities found her in her apartment surrounded by her paintings and empty vodka bottles.

Who knows how different and fulfilling Gail's life would have been if she'd only been able to pursue her dream?  Are you pursuing yours? If not as a full time job, do you have time to enjoy it as a hobby?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Reposted from 9/30/13

Monday, September 30, 2019

Dona Drake: Another Imitation of Life


I happened to stumble upon this interesting and talented actress who never quite became a big star. Her story is an interracial one, so of course I found it fascinating! Check out what IMBD says:

In a situation that closely recalls the Fannie Hurst story "Imitation of Life" in which a girl strives to pass for white, beautiful light-skinned African-American actress/singer/dancer/bandleader Dona (pronounced "dough-nuh") Drake, for the sake of her career, denied her heritage and passed for white (in her case Mexican) for the duration of it. While it did not make her a true star, her zesty talents and charm went a long way in the field of war-time music. Unlike the story, Dona, however, did not abandon her parents or deny her parentage.

Dona was born Eunice (nicknamed "Una") Westmoreland in Jacksonville (some references say Miami), Florida, on November 15, 1914, of African-American parents (Joseph Andrew Westmoreland and Novella Smith Westmoreland). A gifted child musically, her father moved his family and later opened a restaurant in Philadelphia. Five year old Eunice started to perform and play musical
instruments there as entertainment. Following schooling, she moved to the Big Apple where (billed as Una Villon) she caught the fetching eye of Broadway and nightclub talent ("Murder at the Vanities" (1930)) and worked as various chorines on stage, nightclubs and Earl Carroll revues. Claiming she was Latino, she even went so far as to learn Spanish.

In 1935 Dona changed her name to Rita Rio to emphasize her "ethnicity" and spiced up her image even further when she earned a featured spot in Eddie Cantor's film Strike Me Pink (1936). While it did not lead to more film work, it did enable her to form her own glitzy and glamorous all-girl band, Rita Rio and Her Rhythm Girls [aka The Girlfriends], which toured successfully.

On her own, Dona did a few short films and two-reelers, sang on the airwaves and revved up her image signing on radio. Good friend 
Dorothy Lamour assisted in getting her signed up to Paramount, where the studio changed her name to "Dona Drake" and built up her Latino background by sending out studio resumes that she was christened Rita Novella, was of Mexican, Irish and French descent and born and raised in Mexico City. Dona's first picture for the studio was in the Dorothy Lamour vehicle Aloma of the South Seas (1941). She then pepped up the Bob Hope starrer Louisiana Purchase (1941) as well as an Arab girl in the Hope/Crosby/Lamour comedy Road to Morocco (1942). Unable to break out of her typecasting as a spicy singing support, her contract was dropped after a sparkling big band singing lead loanout to Monogram entitled Hot Rhythm (1944). Around this time she married the Oscar- and Emmy-winning costume designer William Travilla.

Dona freelanced in Without Reservations (1946), co-starred with Kent Taylor in Dangerous Millions (1946) and was featured in Another Part of the Forest (1948) (as a girlfriend to weaselly Dan Duryea), Beyond the Forest (1949) (as Bette Davis' Indian maid), The Girl from Jones Beach (1949) (as Eddie Bracken's paramour) and as the gold-digging second lead in So This Is New York (1948). After her marriage and a daughter, Nia Novella, was born, she toned down her filmmaking but returned in the mid-1950s to some film and TV parts before retiring in 1957 due to health and emotional issues (heart ailment, seizures/epilepsy). She and Travilla separated in 1956, but never divorced and still appeared together at functions on occasion. Dona died of pneumonia and respiratory failure in 1989 with Travilla dying one year later.

I had never heard of Dona Drake. Had you?  Check her out on Youtube singing "Wha' D'ya Do when it Rains?" Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, September 23, 2019

Princess Mary

I saw the movie Downton Abbey over the weekend and absolutely loved it!  I'm a huge fan of the series and hope another movie is in the works!

From the movie, which involves a royal visit (that's all I'll give away) I learned a little something about Princess Mary.  Who?  That's what I thought too. Most of us know about her brothers, Edward, who abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson, and his successor to the throne, King George, the father of the current Queen Elizabeth. Well, Princess Mary was Elizabeth's paternal aunt.

Here's a little about her from Wikipedia

 Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood (Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary; 25 April 1897 – 28 March 1965) was a member of the British royal family

She was the third child and only daughter of King George V and Queen Mary and was born during the reign of Queen Victoria, her great-grandmother. Mary was the paternal aunt of the current British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II

Her education started at home. World War I brought Mary out of seclusion as she launched a charity campaign to support British troops and sailors. She eventually became a nurse. Mary married Viscount Lascelles (later the Earl of Harewood) in 1922. She was an avid collector of jewelry.

Click here to learn more.

If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, you absolutely have to see the movie! Are you a fan, and were you familiar with Princess Mary?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, September 16, 2019

On Writing Right

Stephen King is extraordinary, a master storyteller. Back around 1986, I read my first Stephen King book, Pet Sematary, a gripping novel that kept me up late at night turning pages. When I'd force myself to go to sleep, I kept the lights on. Even after I finished reading it, I slept with the lights on for two weeks afterward.

Well, I'm glad to report that I'm finally reading my second Stephen King book! One that won't scare the living daylights out of me, but will allow me to sleep with the lights out. Today I started King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Although his horror novels scare me too much to read, he is a true master of the craft and I'm looking forward to what I'll learn.

In his Second Foreward, King states that his book is short because "most books about writing are filled with bull****." He notes that one "notable exception to the bull**** rule is The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White." He goes on to say that there is little or no detectable bull**** in that book.

After reading Mr. King's statement about books on writing, I thought I'd share a few of my favorites--and they're short with no detectable waste products:

  • The Elements of Style is a must read for anyone who's serious about writing. Before even starting a novel, read and re-read Chapter 5: An Approach to Style. It'll save you from many common mistakes of first time authors.

  • On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel that Sells by Leigh Michaels is an excellent writer's resource. Even if you're not a romance writer, Ms. Michaels offers helpful advice that can apply to all genres. In the appendices, she includes helpful information on crafting query letters, synopses, and cover letters.

  • Robert's Rules of Writing101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know by Robert Masello provides useful instruction pertaining to novels, screenplays, stage plays, memoirs, periodical articles, and non-fiction. Each rule (ranging from 1-3 pages) is jam packed with excellent advice that will improve your work--and leave you feeling like you can write anything!
What are some of your favorite books on the writing craft?

This is reprinted from 2010.  I finished the book long ago and I highly recommend!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Chicken and Red Tomato Curry

I love Indian food because of the extensive use of different herbs and spices.  But for the same reason I'm crazy about it, others may not like it, or even have trouble digesting it!

If you are a lover of Indian cuisine, try this easy recipe from the Cincinnati Enquirer.  It's healthy, and not too fattening.  Throw it together in one pot, serve over rice--and yum!  Hope you like it!

Lal Tamatar Murgh (Chicken and Red Tomato Curry)

3 T sunflower oil
1 medium onion
1 T ginger garlic paste *
1 1/4 lbs skinless chicken breasts, kept whole
1/2 t turmeric
1 t garam masala *
salt to taste
14 1/2 oz. can chopped tomatoes
2 T chopped cilantro

Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry onion until soft.  Add the ginger garlic paste, stir and add the chicken, stirring to seal in on all sides.  Once the chicken is sealed, stir in the turmeric, garam masala and salt.  Mix well.  Pour in tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is done, adding a little water if necessary.  Serve hot, sprinkled with cilantro.  Serves 4.

*Available in the international section of most large grocery stores.

Do you love Indian food?  If so, what's your favorite dish?

Monday, September 2, 2019

Off for Labor Day

I'm taking a day off from blogging and will be back next week. Enjoy the Labor Day holiday!

Monday, August 26, 2019

Alexander Hamilton's Family Tree

What most people know about Alexander Hamilton is that his portrait appears on the ten dollar bill.  Some may have learned that he was killed in a duel by Aaron Burr.  Others might even be aware that Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury.

Here's some more detailed information from Wikipedia:
Alexander Hamilton (January 11, 1755 or 1757 – July 12, 1804) was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury.
As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton was the primary author of the economic policies of the George Washington administration, especially the funding of the state debts by the Federal government, the establishment of a national bank, a system of tariffs, and friendly trade relations with Britain. He became the leader of the Federalist Party, created largely in support of his views, and was opposed by the Democratic-Republican Party, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
 Hamilton served in the American Revolutionary War. At the start of the war, he organized an artillery company and was chosen as its captain. He later became the senior aide-de-camp and confidant to General George Washington, the American commander-in-chief.
Born out of wedlock and raised in the West Indies, Hamilton was effectively orphaned at about the age of 11. Recognized for his abilities and talent, he was sponsored by people from his community to go to the North American mainland for his education. He attended King's College (now Columbia University), in New York City. After the American Revolutionary War, Hamilton was elected to the Continental Congress from New York. He resigned to practice law and founded the Bank of New York.

A 20th century artistic rendering of the July 11, 1804 duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton by J. Mund
What most of us don't know, is that Alexander Hamilton was of African Ancestry!  According to Julie Carter over at RootsWeb:

The first mothers of Nevis were African slave women who lived on the
island with the mulatto offspring of their white slave masters.
Rachel Fawcett Lavain, a woman said to be of "mixed blood" and the
daugther of a Nevisian doctor, was the mother the First Secretary of
the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton's father, James
Hamilton, Sr., the 4th son of a Scottish Duke (History Writer NOTE: I
believe this is incorrect, and Alexander Hamilton's actual grandfather
has been identified as an untitled Scot. End NOTE.) did not marry his
mother. Their relationship lasted 15 years. John Fawcett, Rachel's
grandfather, was listed in an early census as having 4 black females.
The surest proof that Alexander Hamilton was of African ancestry was
that Alexander's older brother, James, by the same mother and father,
was of dark complexion with dark hair. James Hamilton, Jr. migrated
to the United States and was treated like a Negro once being refused a
seat on a Broadway coach because of his color.

Alexander Hamilton also migrated to the United States to be educated.
He got involved in the American revolution and later appointed the
chief military aide to George Washington then Secretary of the
Treasury. Alexander's father was invited to come to the United States
but not his mother because "her presence would have ruined his
prospects. Her features were too pronounced. She was too typically
Negro. Her dark skin would create as much trouble as a colored
delegate at a white convention." (History Writer NOTE: Rachel
Fawcett died when Alexander Hamilton was 13, before Hamilton ever
moved to what became the United States, so I am not sure where the
author got this quote. End NOTE.)

Alexander Hamilton's papers of ancestry were burned after his death in
order to hide his alleged African strain. When harassed about his
birth Hamilton stated, "My blood is as good as those who plume
themselves on their ancestry." The real truth regarding Hamilton's
ancestry can be found in the earliest and least known portrait of him
drawn from life by Peale which reflects Hamilton's skin color, nose
and wooly hair. The portraits that we know today have been
caucasianized revealing Hamilton with a more European nose, thinner
lips, light complexion and straight hair. Both pictures are found the
New York Public Library Collection. Information on the life of
Alexander Hamilton can be found in Charlestown, Nevis at the Museum of Nevis History.
Just a little fascinating food for thought! Had you ever heard about Alexander Hamilton's family tree?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally posted 8/27/12

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House

I'm a few days late with this post because I just got a new computer, or rather my son got a new computer for college, and I got his cast-off. It took a little longer than the weekend to get things done, but I'm finally enjoying a newer computer that's small and comfy on my lap. With that said, here's a post from August of 2013 that I hope you'll find entertaining if you missed it the first time around!

 As a lover of history and author of historical fiction, I thoroughly enjoy visiting historic homes. They're great for research and just a fun way to get lost in the past!

Okay, so that all sounds fine and good, but my kids hate history! Regardless, during summer vacation I dragged them over to The Harriet Beecher Stowe House.  It's less than ten minutes from where we live, and I thought it would be a great living history lesson for them.

"How exciting," I said, "to walk in the same house that Harriet Beecher Stowe actually lived in.  We'll walk on the same floor, climb the same steps, and walk on the very grounds she strode!"  I reminded them that she's the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, a book partly responsible for bringing about the Civil War due to its realistic portrayal of slavery.

She brought to light the truth about the "Peculiar Institution" that so many Americans were unaware of. While living in Cincinnati she met slaves.  She visited Kentucky, which is right across the Ohio River (today about a ten minute drive from the Stowe House), and saw the conditions to which slaves were subjected.  Her time in Cincinnati inspired her to write Uncle Tom's Cabin.

My boys were much less enthusiastic than I was about our field trip, but despite their initial protests, they enjoyed the self guided tour we had.  They even stood still  long enough for me to read some of the display materials to them.

Here's a little history about the house and Harriet Beecher Stowe's life in Cincinnati. Mrs. Stowe lived in Cincinnati for nearly twenty years.  The house where she lived, now known as The Stowe House, was completed in 1833. It was built as the residence for the Lane Seminary President, and its first occupants were Harriet's family, headed by her father Reverend Lyman Beecher, who moved his large family to Cincinnati in 1832.

Lane Seminary was an influential Presbyterian college and religious seminary in the 1830s and 1840s.  It was also the first US college and seminary to admit a black student, James Bradley, a former slave. Students of the seminary went on to become educators, ministers, abolitionists, and social reformers.

After Harriet married Lane professor Calvin Stowe in 1836, she moved nearby, but visited the house frequently, and her first two children were born there.

Every city and town has history to share.  Are you close to a piece of living history in your area?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Avoiding the Dreaded Info Dump

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." Anton Chekhov

We've all read craft books which explain that in our writing, we should show, not tell.

Okay, so I admit it, I thought I could get away with telling and not showing! I'm rewriting a novel I started over 10 years ago. A chapter I read to my critique group over the weekend started off with three pages of back story.  Needless to say,they wouldn't let me get away with that!  I was told that I was depriving the reader--which is true!

So today I'm rewriting again, and actually looking forward to it.  Describing a scene, and interweaving back story into is much more exciting for the reader--and won't put her to sleep.

Instead of me explaining what two weeks in Oberlin, Ohio has been like for a newly escaped slave, I can show her interacting with another character.  In my original draft, she merely thinks about this particular character, and how said character shows disdain for her.  She also reflects upon her new life and all the changes she's seen.

Now I'll need to create a scenario that enables me to show the newly escaped slave with the character who doesn't like her.  This will make for a fun interplay, and the dialogue between them (when not catty) can reveal some of the back story.  More elements of the back story can be woven in at a later time, and some aren't really necessary at all to keep the story moving.

So, no shortcuts, please!  Avoid that dreaded info dump, and show, don't tell!

Have you done an info dump lately?  Thanks so much for visiting today!

Originally published 1/24/11

Monday, August 5, 2019

John Howard Griffin: Before He Was Black

I've been doing some research for a project, and in the process I've learned about the author of Black Like Me, John Howard Griffen. I had no idea he'd led such an interesting life!

If you're not familiar with Black Like Me, here's some information regarding it from Wikipedia:
In the fall of 1959, John Howard Griffin decided to investigate firsthand the plight of African Americans in the South, where racial segregation was legal; blacks had been disenfranchised since the turn of the century and closed out of the political system, and whites were struggling to maintain dominance against an increasing civil rights movement.
Griffin consulted a New Orleans dermatologist for aid in darkening his skin, being treated with a course of drugs, sunlamp treatments, and skin creams. Griffin shaved his head in order to hide his straight hair. He spent weeks travelling as a black man in New Orleans and parts of Mississippi (with side trips to South Carolina and Georgia), getting around mainly by bus and by hitchhiking. He was later accompanied by a photographer who documented the trip, and the project was underwritten by Sepia magazine, in exchange for first publication rights for the articles he planned to write. These were published under the title Journey into Shame.
Griffin published an expanded version of his project as Black Like Me (1961), which became a best seller in 1961. He described in detail the problems an African American encountered in the segregated Deep South meeting the needs for food, shelter, and toilet and other sanitary facilities. Griffin also described the hatred he often felt from white Southerners he encountered in his daily life — shop clerks, ticket sellers, bus drivers, and others. He was particularly shocked by the curiosity white men displayed about his sexual life. He also included anecdotes about white Southerners who were friendly and helpful.
The wide publicity about the book made Griffin a national celebrity for a time.
However, before Black Like Me, Griffin had lived a rather extraordinary life. Here's some of what I learned from an article in Smithsonian:
Born in Dallas in 1920, Griffin was raised in nearby Fort Worth. “We were given the destructive illusion that Negroes were somehow different,” he said. Yet his middle-class Christian parents taught him to treat the family’s black servants with paternalistic kindness. He would always recall the day his grandfather slapped him for using a common racial epithet of the era. “They’re people,” the old man told the boy. “Don’t you ever let me hear you call them [that] again.”
Griffin was gifted with perfect pitch and a photographic memory, but his most vital gift was curiosity. At 15, he earned entrance to a boarding school in France, where he was “delighted” to find black students in class but appalled to see them dining with white people in cafés. “I had simply accepted the ‘customs’ of my region, which said that black people could not eat in the same room with us,” Griffin later wrote. “It had never occurred to me to question it.”
Griffin was studying psychiatry in France when Hitler’s troops invaded Poland in 1939. Finding himself “in the presence of a terrible human tragedy,” he joined the French Resistance and helped smuggle Jewish children to England. When he told an informer of a plan to help a family escape, his name turned up on a Nazi death list. Fleeing just ahead of the Gestapo, Griffin returned to Texas in 1941 and enlisted in the Army Air Corps shortly after Pearl Harbor.
While working as a radio operator in the Pacific, he was sent on his own to the Solomon Islands to ensure natives’ loyalty to the American war effort. For a full year, Griffin studied tribal languages and adaptation to the jungle, but still assumed that “mine was a ‘superior’ culture.”
After getting blasted with shrapnel in an enemy air raid a few months before the end of the war, Griffin awoke in a hospital, seeing only shadows; eventually, he saw nothing. The experience was revealing. The blind, he wrote, “can only see the heart and intelligence of a man, and nothing in these things indicates in the slightest whether a man is white or black.” Blindness also forced Griffin to find new strengths and talents. Over the next decade, he converted to Catholicism, began giving lectures on Gregorian chants and music history, married and had the first of four children. He also published two novels based on his wartime experience. Then in 1955, spinal malaria paralyzed his legs.
Blind and paraplegic, Griffin had reason to be bitter, yet his deepening faith, based on his study of Thomas Aquinas and other theologians, focused on the sufferings of the downtrodden. After recovering from malaria, he was walking in his yard one afternoon when he saw a swirling redness. Within months, for reasons that were never explained, his sight was fully restored.
That's just a portion of the article, but I must say his life reads like a novel! To see the entire piece, click here.
Did you know anything at all about John Howard Griffin? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, July 29, 2019

Lazy (No Boil) Lasagna

"When the lasagna content in my blood gets low, I get mean." Garfield the Cat

Lasagna used to be one of those dishes I'd only make for company because it was too labor intensive! Browning meat, preparing sauce from scratch, boiling the noodles, only to have them tear--ugh! The whole process was a major pain!

But ever since I discovered the no-boil method, lasagna has become a staple in our home.  Nowadays I use sauce from a jar, along with a pack of prepared Italian meatballs that I run through the food processor.

Without further adieu, here's my Lazy Lasagna recipe. Enjoy!

Lazy (No Boil) Lasagna

2 26 oz jars pasta sauce
12 oz. lasagna noodles, not boiled
1 pack prepared Italian meatballs (chopped through food processor)
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg
8 oz. mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.  In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan cheese and egg.  Set aside.

Spread one cup of sauce evenly over bottom of glass baking dish. Place a layer of noodles on top. Spread half of ricotta cheese mixture over noodles, then over this, sprinkle about 1/4 cup of the mozzarella. Top with half the chopped meatballs and another cup or more of sauce.

Repeat layers. Cover and bake one hour.  Remove cover, top with remaining mozzarella, then run under broiler until cheese melts.  Makes 8 servings.

Do you have a favorite pasta? Thanks for visiting, and have a great week!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Peg Entwistle: A Tragic End

If I were to mention the name Peg Entwistle, it might not ring a bell. However, if you're familiar with Hollywood trivia, you'd remember her as the actress who committed suicide by leaping from the Hollywood sign.

It's a shame that twenty-four year old Peg Entwistle, a talented and accomplished stage actress, is most remembered for her death. An unsuccessful attempt at a film career led her to a tragic end that happened nearly eighty-seven years ago.

Here's an account from About.com:

On the night of September [16], 1932, actress Peg Entwistle made her way up the steep slope of Mount Lee in Los Angeles to the site of the famous Hollywood sign (back then it spelled out "Hollywoodland"). She took off her coat and neatly folded it, put down her purse, and climbed up the maintenance ladder on the back of the 50-foot-high letter H. She stood atop it for a moment, looking over the lights of the glamorous city below, then leapt to her death.Peg probably died instantly, and her body was found [on September 18]by a hiker. 

Born in 1908 in Port Talbot, Wales, U.K., Millicent Lilian Entwistle, nicknamed Peg, saw more than her share of tragedy. She was just a child when her mother died unexpectedly, after which she moved with her father to New York City. A few years later, he was struck down by a hit-and-run car on Park Avenue and killed.


In her late teens, Peg began to pursue an acting career on the stage and was talented enough to win roles with the Boston repertory company and on Broadway in the renowned Theater Guild productions. (Bette Davis said that Peg Entwistle was her inspiration to pursue acting.) At age 19, she married actor Robert Keith, only to discover that he had been married previously and had a six-year-old son [Brian Keith, later of Family Affair fame]. They divorced.

Peg was able to find stage work in productions featuring such stars as Dorothy Gish and Laurette Taylor, but was already battling the demons of depression. Nevertheless, she set her sights on Hollywood and moved to Los Angles in 1932 in hopes of landing roles in motion pictures. 

At first she found work again on the stage, but then it seemed her destiny had really changed when RKO signed her to appear in the film Thirteen Women (click here to watch her appearance), starring Irene Dunne. When previews of the film received poor reviews, the studio re-edited it, and much of Peg's part was left on the editing floor. RKO subsequently dropped the options on her contract.  And on the night of September [16], 1932, after a bout of heavy drinking fueled by her depression and despair, 24-year-old Peg Entwistle told her uncle (with whom she was living) that she was going to meet some friends at a local drug store. Instead, she made her way to the Hollywood sign to meet her fate.

Not long ago I learned that Peg's grave site is in Oak Hill Cemetery in Glendale, Ohio, a small town close to Cincinnati.  A few summers ago, the kids and I took a field trip there to find it.
   This plot is shared with her father. For many years it was unmarked until a Facebook campaign raised funds for it.

   With my youngest at the grave site

                         The boys at Peg's family plot, probably wondering why their mother is so morbid

Although this song wasn't written for Peg Entwistle, I'm using it as a little tribute to her, compliments of Steely Dan:   

I've seen your picture 
Your name in lights above it 
This is your big debut 
It's like a dream come true 
And when you smile for the camera 
I know they're gonna love it 




I like your pin shot 
I keep it with your letter 
Done up in blueprint blue 
It sure looks good on you 
So won't you smile for the camera 
I know I'll love you better 


Peg 
It will come back to you 
Peg 
It will come back to you 
Then the shutter falls 
You see it all in 3-D 
It's your favorite foreign movie


Were you familiar with Peg Entwistle's story?  Thanks for visiting and have a great week!