Monday, June 1, 2020

Jack Benny and Eddie Anderson: A Solid Friendship

With all the racial strife going on right now, I thought I'd re-post a feel good story about friendship across racial lines.

I guess I'm showing my age if I say I remember Jack Benny. I don't remember his show; I'm a little too young for that. But I do remember him being a guest on various talk shows or variety shows and he always made me laugh. 

Since I know a few things about the early days of television, I knew that African-American actor Eddie Anderson played his valet Rochester on Benny's comedy series The Jack Benny Show. What I didn't know was that the two men maintained a solid friendship.

Here's a portion of an article from Americacomesalive.com that I hope you'll enjoy!

The humor and energy between Jack Benny and Eddie Anderson led to the development of a 20-year collaboration that delighted radio, television, and film audiences.

The men’s relationship was solid on air and off. Jack Benny refused to tolerate poor treatment of Anderson. In 1943 the company arrived in St. Joseph, Missouri, where they planned to do one of their radio shows. Anderson and his wife were denied a hotel room, and only at Benny’s urging did the hotel management find the Andersons a room.

Another time in New York, a Southern couple complained about a black man staying in the hotel so the manager approached Anderson suggesting he find a room elsewhere. The show’s producer told the manager Anderson would leave the hotel the next day. The next morning all 44 members of the cast and crew checked out with Anderson and moved to another hotel.

During World War II, Benny often remarked on-air about African American contributions to the war effort. In 1948 after the show re-used a script from the early 1940s that contained issues that were racial stereotypes, Benny was displeased and ordered his writers to refrain from any sort of racial stereotype or slur. Rochester was to be considered an integral part of the show, and as his role evolved it became typical for Rochester to cut through Benny’s pomposity with comments like, “What’s that, Boss?”). African Americans warmed to the character and appreciated that Anderson had broken a barrier—he was a black man playing the role of a black man; not a white man playing the role in black face.

Here is a classic scene with Rochester carrying the humor of the scene.

Do you remember Jack Benny and Eddie Anderson? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Originally published June 18, 2018

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Best Years of Our Lives

It's Memorial Day and I'd like to send a huge thank you to all of the brave men and women who have served and are currently serving our country in the military.

Reflecting on this day last night, an old movie came to mind that I haven't seen in years. The Best Years of Our Lives is one of my favorite movies, perfect for Memorial Day or any day. I've posted the original November 22, 1946 New York Times movie review by Bosley Crowther below:

It is seldom that there comes a motion picture which can be wholly and enthusiastically endorsed not only as superlative entertainment but as food for quiet and humanizing thought. Yet such a one opened at the Astor last evening. It is "The Best Years of Our Lives." Having to do with a subject of large moment—the veteran home from war—and cut, as it were, from the heart-wood of contemporary American life, this film from the Samuel Goldwyn studio does a great deal more, even, than the above. It gives off a warm glow of affection for everyday, down-to-earth folks.

Virginia Mayo's character is such a tart!

These are some fancy recommendations to be tossing boldly forth about a film which runs close to three hours and covers a lot of humanity in that time. Films of such bulky proportions usually turn out the other way. But this one is plainly a labor not only of understanding but of love from three men who put their hearts into it—and from several others who gave it their best work. William Wyler, who directed, was surely drawing upon the wells of his richest talent and experience with men of the Air Forces during the war. And Robert E. Sherwood, who wrote the screen play from a story by MacKinlay Kantor, called "Glory for Me," was certainly giving genuine reflection to his observations as a public pulse-feeler these past six years. Likewise, Mr. Goldwyn, who produced, must have seen this film to be the fulfillment of a high responsibility. All their efforts are rewarded eminently.

For "The Best Years of Our Lives" catches the drama of veterans returning home from war as no film—or play or novel that we've yet heard of—has managed to do. In telling the stories of three veterans who come back to the same home town—one a midde-aged sergeant, one an air officer and one a sailor who has lost both hands—it fully reflects the delicate tensions, the deep anxieties and the gnawing despairs that surely have been experienced by most such fellows who have been through the same routine. It visions the overflowing humors and the curious pathos of such returns, and it honestly and sensitively images the terrible loneliness of the man who has been hurt—hurt not only physically but in the recesses of his self-esteem.
This scene always makes me teary.

Not alone in such accurate little touches as the first words of the sergeant's joyful wife when he arrives home unexpectedly, "I look terrible!" or the uncontrollable sob of the sailor's mother when she first sees her son's mechanical "hands" is this picture irresistibly affecting and eloquent of truth. It is in its broader and deeper understanding of the mutual embarrassment between the veteran and his well-intentioned loved ones that the film throws its real dramatic power.Especially in the readjustments of the sailor who uses prosthetic "hooks" and of the airman who faces deflation from bombardier to soda-jerker is the drama intense. The middle-aged sergeant finds adjustment fairly simple, with a wife, two grown-up kids and a good job, but the younger and more disrupted fellows are the ones who really get it in the teeth. In working out their solutions Mr. Sherwood and Mr. Wyler have achieved some of the most beautiful and inspiring demonstrations of human fortitude that we have had in films.
Myrna Loy and Frederic March are great together!

And by demonstrating frankly and openly the psychological blocks and the physical realities that go with prosthetic devices they have done a noble public service of great need. It is wholly impossible—and unnecessary—to single out any one of the performers for special mention. Fredric March is magnificent as the sergeant who breaks the ice with his family by taking his wife and daughter on a titanic binge. His humor is sweeping yet subtle, his irony is as keen as a knife and he is altogether genuine. This is the best acting job he has ever done. Dana Andrews is likewise incisive as the Air Forces captain who goes through a gruelling mill, and a newcomer, Harold Russell, is incredibly fine as the sailor who has lost his hands. Mr. Russell, who actually did lose his hands in the service and does use "hooks," has responded to the tactful and restrained direction of Mr. Wyler in a most sensitive style.

As the wife of the sergeant, Myrna Loy is charmingly reticent and Teresa Wright gives a lovely, quiet performance as their daughter who falls in love with the airman. Virginia Mayo is brassy and brutal as the latter's two-timing wife and Cathy O'Donnell, a new, young actress, plays the sailor's fiancée tenderly. Hoagy Carmichael, Roman Bohnen and Ray Collins will have to do with a warm nod. For everyone gives a "best" performance in this best film this year from Hollywood.

One great movie! Have you ever seen it? 

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!  

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Real Inspiration for Betty Boop

What you can find while doing research on the internet is always fascinating. Today I'll share something I stumbled upon. 

So you've heard of Betty Boop, but do you know where the idea for her, or at least her singing, was originally conceived? I didn't, so here's some interesting information about her from Wikipedia!

Betty Boop made her first appearance on August 9, 1930, in the cartoon Dizzy Dishes, the sixth installment in Fleischer's Talkartoon series. Although Clara Bow is often given as being the model for Boop,she actually began as a caricature of singer Helen Kane. The character was originally created as an anthropomorphic French poodle.
Max Fleischer finalized Betty Boop as a human character in 1932, in the cartoon Any Rags. Her floppy poodle ears became hoop earrings, and her black poodle nose became a girl's button-like nose. Betty Boop appeared as a supporting character in 10 cartoons as a flapper girl with more heart than brains. In individual cartoons, she was called "Nancy Lee" or "Nan McGrew" – derived from the 1930 Helen Kane film Dangerous Nan McGrew – usually serving as a girlfriend to studio star, Bimbo.
Helen Kane
In May 1932, Helen Kane filed a $250,000 infringement lawsuit against Max Fleischer and Paramount Publix Corporation for the "deliberate caricature" that produced "unfair competition", exploiting her personality and image. While Kane had risen to fame in the late 1920s as "The Boop-Oop-A-Doop Girl", a star of stage, recordings, and films for Paramount, her career was nearing its end by 1931. Paramount promoted the development of Betty Boop following Kane's decline. 
The case was brought in New York in 1934. Although Kane's claims seemed to be valid on the surface, it was proven that her appearance was not unique. Both Kane and the Betty Boop character bore resemblance to Paramount top-star Clara Bow. On April 19, Fleischer testified that Betty Boop purely was a product of the imaginations of himself and detailed by members of his staff.
The most significant evidence against Kane's case was her claim as to the uniqueness of her singing style. Testimony revealed that Kane had witnessed an African American performer, Baby Esther (Esther Jones), using a similar vocal style in an act at the Cotton Club nightclub in Harlem, some years earlier. An early test sound film was also discovered, which featured Baby Esther performing in this style, disproving Kane's claims. 
Baby Esther Jones
Theatrical manager Lou Walton testified during the Fleischer v. Kane trial that Helen Kane saw Baby Esther's cabaret act in 1928 with him and appropriated Jones' style of singing, changing the interpolated words "boo-boo-boo" and "doo-doo-doo" to "boop-boop-a-doop" in a recording of "I Wanna Be Loved By You". Kane never publicly admitted this. Jones' style, as imitated by Kane, went on to become the inspiration for the voice of the cartoon character Betty Boop.
New York Supreme Court Justice Edward J. McGoldrick ruled, "The plaintiff has failed to sustain either cause of action by proof of sufficient probative force". The ruling concluded that the "baby" technique of singing did not originate with Kane.
So there you have it, the "Betty Boop" style of singing originated with African American nightclub singer Baby Esther Jones! Here's an end-note to the story: Esther Jones had no say in the matter. In court, it was presumed that she had since died. 
Had you ever heard this story? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 11, 2020

African Chicken Stew

"He who pursues a chicken often falls, but the chicken has to run." African proverb, Amaka

This recipe is a delicious chicken stew that can be served alone, over couscous, or over rice.  It's hot and hearty and features one of my favorite veggies, the sweet potato! 

Growing up, I always ate sweet potatoes as a pudding or souffle. But as an adult, I've discovered lots of recipes that use them in savory dishes, which my husband prefers over the sweet ones.

This stew is easy to prepare, but unfortunately involves a little cutting and chopping (so just pretend it's therapeutic).  I've adapted my version from one I originally found in Woman's Day Magazine. Hope you enjoy it!

African Chicken Stew

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
2 t onion powder
3 sweet potatoes
3 t garlic powder
1 1/2 t chili powder
20 ounces canned diced tomatoes
12 ounces frozen peas
1 1/2 T lemon juice
1/2 cup peanut butter

Season chicken with salt pepper and onion powder. Coat a large pot with cooking spray. place over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook about three minutes until browned.

Peel potatoes and cut in bite sized pieces; set aside. Sprinkle chicken with garlic powder and chili powder. Cook about 30 seconds or until fragrant.

Add potatoes and tomatoes. Bring chicken to the top. Bring pot to a boil, reduce heat. Cover and simmer about thirty minutes, or until potatoes are soft and chicken is cooked through. Sprinkle with peas, cover and cook 10 minutes longer. Add peanut butter and lemon juice. Stir until blended and hot. Makes 4 servings.

How do you like your sweet potatoes, sweet or savory?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Titanic: An Untold Story

The Laroche Family
April 15 marked the 108th anniversary of the sinking of  the Titanic Ocean Liner. The history of Titanic has always been of interest to me, and back in 2003, I had the opportunity to tour an exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

Viewing the mementos salvaged from the wreckage was sad, yet reading about the passengers was fascinating. From that exhibition, I learned about Joseph and Juliette Laroche, an interracial couple on board the ship.

Joseph Laroche was a Haitian-born, French educated engineer from a prosperous family.  His wife, Juliette, was white, and from a privileged French family. Joseph Laroche had not intended to travel on Titanic when he left France with his family in 1912.

Because he was black, Laroche had been unable to find work in France. So upon learning of his wife's third pregnancy, he decided to return to his native Haiti.  He'd bought first class tickets for the French liner France. But once he found out that children could not eat with their parents, he transferred to Titanic.

His first-class France tickets were equivalent to second-class tickets aboard the British Titanic.  He and his family boarded the ship at Cherbourg, outside of Paris.  They enjoyed the ship's luxury for three days, and on April 14, dined together for the last time. Afterwards, Joseph retired to the smoking parlor with other men in second class, while Juliette returned to their suite with daughters Simonne, three, and Louise, one.

Joseph Laroche felt the collision later that evening, and ran back to his room for his wife and daughters. As Juliette and the girls were placed in a lifeboat, Joseph draped his coat, stuffed with money and family valuables, across his wife's shoulders. "You will need it," he told Juliette, who was 22 at the time. "I will see you in New York. I must take another raft. God be with you."

Those were the last words Joseph Laroche spoke to his wife, and although his coat was stolen, Juliette Laroche and her daughters survived. Joseph Laroche was 26, and the only black man aboard the ship.  He was one of 166 second-class passengers who died.

I found the above information here in a story that described an exhibit featuring them. The Laroche's story is a fascinating, yet little known Titanic fact. Had you ever heard of them?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Remembering Sultana

Do you remember Sultana?  If you're like me, you've probably never even heard of it.  I know you've heard of the Titanic, but the Sultana tragedy was the greatest maritime disaster in US history.

My friend Dan told me about this disaster and its ties to my hometown of Cincinnati, so I thought I'd share it.

Here are some excerpts from a fascinating article featured in NationalGeographic.com by Stephen Ambrose:

On April 27, 1865, the steamboat Sultana, some seven miles north of Memphis, Tennessee, carrying 2,300 just-released Union prisoners of war, plus crew and civilian passengers, exploded and sank.

Some 1,700 people died. It was the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history, more costly than even the April 14, 1912 sinking of the Titanic, when 1,517 people were lost. But because the Sultana went down when it did, the disaster was not well covered in the newspapers or magazines, and was soon forgotten. It is scarcely remembered today.

 April 1865 was a busy month; On April 9, at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, General Robert E. Lee surrendered. Five days later President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. On April 26 his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was caught and killed. That same day General Joseph Johnson surrendered the last large Confederate army. Shortly thereafter Union troops captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis. The Civil War was over. Northern newspapers rejoiced. News of a terrible steamboat tragedy was relegated to the newspaper's back pages. In a nation desensitized to death, 1,700 more did not seem such an enormous tragedy that it does today.

 The accident happened at 2 a.m., when three of the steamship's four boilers exploded. The reason the death toll was almost exactly equal to the number of Union troops killed at the battle of Shiloh (1,758) was gross government incompetence.

The Sultana was legally registered to carry 376 people. She had six times more than that on board, due to the bribery of army officers and the extreme desire of the former POWs to get home. In 1863, the Sultana was built in Cincinnati and began sailing the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, mainly from St. Louis to New Orleans.

She was state of the art, including the most modern safety equipment--safety gauges that fused open when the internal boiler pressure reached 150 pounds per square inch, three fire-fighting pumps, a metallic lifeboat and a wooden yawl, 300 feet of fire hose, thirty buckets, five fire-fighting axes and 76 life belts. In April, 1865, Union POWs were gathered at Vicksburg. They were loaded on steamboats for the trip to Cairo, Illinois, with the government paying $5 per man. That was big money, which led to corruption--steamboat captains kicked back $1.15 to the army officers in charge if they filled the boats with men.

 The Sultana was the last to leave. One of her boilers had sprung a leak and needed repair, but instead of doing the job right--removing and replacing the bulge in the boiler that was the cause--the Sultana captain ordered a patch of metal put over the bulge. That could be done in one day, while a proper repair would consume three or four days. Before that was done, other steamboats would come to Vicksburg from New Orleans and pick up the POWs, leaving the Sultana without these lucrative passengers—thus the hurry-up.

At 9 p.m., on April 24, the Sultana left Vicksburg to head up river. The captain, J. Cass Mason, told an Army officer his ship had carried so many men before. He said the Sultana was a good vessel and the men were in capable hands. "Take good care of them, the officer replied. "They are deserving of it." The Sultana was badly overcrowded, Mason knew, but not overloaded. On April 26, the ship docked at Memphis to pick up coal. At midnight she headed upriver.

At 2 a.m., April 27, the repaired boiler exploded. Two of the three other boilers exploded. Fire spread through mid-ship. The two smokestacks fell on the boat, crushing the Hurricane deck and killing many men. Those who survived panicked and rather than fighting the fire began to jump into the river. The flames started sweeping toward the stern, causing more panic and jumping. The river was high, flowing fast, crowded with dead, drowning and barely floating men. The Sultana was in flames.

When the sun began to come up, more than 1,700 were dead. The survivors began singing marching tunes. Holding onto their driftwood rafts, they looked like frogs--some men noticed this and began croaking. Almost 800 of the 2,500 passengers survived (although 200 later died). On the Titanic, 882 feet long, 1,517 died. On the Sultana, 260 feet long, the toll was 1,700. The steamship, what was left of it, drifted downriver and sank opposite Memphis. She lies today, covered with mud, at the bottom of the Mississippi River.

To read the complete article, click here.

Had you ever heard about the Sultana? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 13, 2020

How Are You Adjusting to Self-Quarantine?

Self-Quarantined Extrovert: Must have people!
According to the CDC, the practice of quarantine, as we know it, began during the 14th century in an effort to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. Ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. This practice, called quarantine, was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which mean 40 days. For more on the history of quarantine and quarantine practices, click here.

So here we are self-quarantining for the duration, which will likely be more than 40 days. Are you enjoying yourself, or are you going crazy? If you're an introvert, chances are you're enjoying yourself (or at least managing alright). If you're an extrovert, I'm sure you're going crazy!

Self-Quarantined Introvert: Another relaxing day with no people...
Everyday social interactions and social gatherings have always been more of a challenge for the introverted among us. Introverts get their energy from inside themselves and seek only selected social interactions. Extroverts, on the other hand, receive their energy from outside themselves, so social interaction for these individuals is a must.

According to ABCNews.com, "It's a relief for some introverts who now don't need excuses for why they don't want to be out — and, equally, a struggle for extroverts seeking out social connection in a world where that's suddenly a limited commodity."


While extroverts are enjoying conference calls, virtual family gatherings and parties, introverts are relishing days of peace and quiet. To each his own. However, we'll all be happy when things return to normal! 

These days won't last forever, but if you want to remember them for posterity, why not keep a journal? Take a look at the funny one below. I received this as an email, so I'm not sure of the source. Enjoy!

Self-Isolation Quarantine Diary:

Day 1 – I Can Do This!!  Got enough food and wine to last a month!

Day 2 – Opening my 8th bottle of Wine.  I fear wine supplies might not last

Day 3 – Strawberries:  Some have 210 seeds, some have 235 seeds.  Who Knew??

Day 4 – 8:00pm.  Removed my Day Pajamas and put on my Night Pajamas.

Day 5 – Today, I tried to make Hand Sanitizer.  It came out as Jello Shots!!

Day 6 – I get to take the Garbage out.  I’m So excited, I can’t decide what to wear.

Day 7 – Laughing way too much at my own jokes!!

Day 8 – Went to a new restaurant called “The Kitchen”.  You have to gather all the ingredients and make your own meal.  I have No clue how this place is still in business.

Day 9 – I put liquor bottles in every room.  Tonight, I’m getting all dressed up and going Bar hopping.

Day 10 – Struck up a conversation with a Spider today.  Seems nice.  He’s a Web Designer.

Day 11 – Isolation is hard.  I swear my fridge just said, “What the hell do you want now?”

Day 12 – I realized why dogs get so excited about something moving outside, going for walks or car rides.  I think I just barked at a squirrel.

Day 13 – If you keep a glass of wine in each hand, you can’t accidentally touch your face.

Day 14 – Watched the birds fight over a worm.  The Cardinals led  the Blue Jays 3–1.

Day 15 – Anybody else feel like they’ve cooked dinner about 395 times this month?

By the way, I'm an introvert. What about you? 

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 6, 2020

Synopsis: Friend or Foe?

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Mention the word synopsis to any writer, and you'll elicit fear or an overwhelming dread at the thought of having to write one.

I think most authors agree that writing a synopsis is no fun! After we've worked months, or years, to refine and polish our novels, how can we reduce them to 10 pages, five, two or one page, and then whittle them down even further to a paragraph or even a single sentence?

We can't let the synopsis be our enemy. It has to be our friend to help us sell our work. If you're not familiar with what a synopsis is, here's a simple definition: the summary of a novel.

But in summarizing your novel, you want to show that editor, agent or publisher that you can tell a knock down, drag out, darn good story that they're gonna want!

One agent told me that she doesn't read the synopsis until after she's read some of the sample writing sent along with it. So remember, you're writing (the actual novel pages) will always speak louder than the synopsis, because all the synopsis is, is plotting. But regardless, it must be clean, tight and extraordinarily well written!

There are varying lengths for a synopsis, the longer lengths, of course, being the easiest! Sometimes an agent will ask for a "short synopsis." This usually means one to two pages. Page length may or may not be specified. If a "synopsis" is requested (with no page limit mentioned) you're pretty safe to send 5 pages. If a "detailed synopsis" is asked for (with no specifications), up to 10 pages is acceptable.

However, just be sure to carefully read the guidelines of whomever you're submitting to. Some agencies and publishers are very specific about the page length of the synopsis.  

The formats for a single page and a multi page document do differ. A one page synopsis is written in block paragraphs with double spaces between paragraphs. More than one page requires the entire document to be double spaced.

Still thinking the task impossible, especially the one sentence synopsis, or one line hook? Read this example from Elizabeth Lyon's The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit: "As the Civil War rages, a woman's passion for the wrong man blinds her to the love of the right one."  That's a one line synopsis for Gone With the Wind!

If you're fighting with the idea of writing a synopsis, it's time to stop. As with writing a query, there are lots of great tools out there to help, such as Blythe Camenson's and Marshall J. Cook's Your Novel Proposal, and The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, mentioned earlier. Visit Charlotte Dillon's website at www.charlottedillon.com/SynopsisSamples.html for some great sample synopses.

Writing a synopsis can be difficult, but it can be done!

Have you written a synopsis for your latest completed work? Are there any other tools you'd like to recommend that have helped you?

Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Chicken Soup

"And Tom brought him chicken soup until he wanted to kill him. The lore has not died out of the world, and you will still find people who believe that soup will cure any hurt or illness and is no bad thing to have for a funeral either." John Steinbeck, East of Eden

One of the best comfort foods around is chicken soup! Not only does it taste good, but it's good for you, just like Grandma said! And during cold, flu, and COVID-19 season, it's good to have on  hand. And homemade is much better than anything you can get from a can.

According to Natural News, research shows that chicken soup helps break up congestion and eases the flow of nasal secretions.  It also inhibits white blood cells that trigger the inflammatory response, causing sore throats and the production of phlegm.

Chicken contains cysteine (an amino acid that's released when you make soup) and this thins mucus in the lungs which aids in the healing process.

When combined with nutrient rich vegetables, homemade chicken soup definitely helps heal those suffering from colds and flu!

Today I'm sharing my all time favorite chicken soup recipe, adapted from one in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Unfortunately, lots of cutting and chopping is involved, but you can always use frozen pre-chopped onions and pre-shredded carrots to save a little time. Listen to an audio book to keep yourself entertained, and consider this a labor of love since it's so healthy (and tasty) for your family!

Chicken Soup

1 whole fryer chicken, wrapped in cheesecloth
3-4 quarts chicken broth
3 carrots, peeled and chopped roughly
3 celery ribs, chopped roughly
3 onions, chopped roughly
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped roughly
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped roughly
1 t salt
1 t pepper
2 t garlic powder
2 t onion powder
1 1/2 t dried dill

Place chicken in a very large pot.  Cover with broth.  Bring to  boil and skim off any scum that rises to the surface.  Add seasonings and chopped vegetables.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove chicken and vegetables from soup.  Puree vegetables and return to soup (or leave veggies in soup and puree with immersion blender).  Remove skin and bones from chicken and chop. Return chicken to soup. Makes 8 servings.

Does your family have a chicken soup recipe that's been past down from generation to generation? Thanks for stopping by and have a great week!

Monday, March 23, 2020

28 Days Later

Last week I mentioned some films about viruses that I'd never seen. Over the weekend, my kids mentioned 28 Days Later. I actually did see that one and really enjoyed it. Can't say I'd enjoy it now, but when all this COVID-19 hysteria ends, I might give it another look. Here's a synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes:

After breaking into a primate research facility, a group of animal rights activists discover caged chimps chained up before banks of screens displaying horrifying, violent images. Ignoring the warnings of the terrified researcher who maintains that the chimps are infected, they begin to free the animals and are immediately subjected to a bloody attack from the enraged creatures.

Twenty-eight days later, Cycle courier Jim awakes from a coma in the deserted intensive care unit of a London hospital. He wanders out into a church where he finds dead bodies piled in heaps on the chapel floor. A sudden explosion from a makeshift bomb heralds the arrival of fellow "survivors" Selina and Mark. They take Jim to safety and explain to him that this infection is transmitted by blood and overwhelms the infected victim with a murderous rage within seconds. 

Britain has been overrun, and they have no way of knowing if it has spread worldwide. Their only hope of survival may lie in the hands of a Manchester group of soldiers, as they claim to have the "answer" to infection and invite any survivors to join them at their blockade. Faced with no practical alternative, the group sets out northwards, unaware that the worst is yet to come.
This was quite a suspenseful movie that kept me on the edge of my seat! I'll watch it again...one of these days. Have you seen 28 Days Later?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Carona Craziness

The Coronavirus has taken over the news and our lives. People are hoarding groceries, toilet paper, and anything that says antibacterial. Schools, restaurants, and bars are closed in some states, theme parks are closing, and large events are being canceled or postponed.
In addition, movie attendance dropped over the weekend. Speaking of which, there are several films that depict outbreaks, and they're likely to send shivers down one's spine. Here are six featured at Cinemablend:

1, Contagion
2. Outbreak
3. Children of Men
4. It Comes at Night
5. Flu
6. Virus
I realized I hadn't seen any of these movies, possibly because the subject matter is a little too depressing for me. And with all that's going on today, I certainly won't be watching any of them now!

Are you taking precautions, stocked up, and ready to deal with Carona Craziness?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, March 9, 2020

Eugene Jacques Bullard: Black Swallow of Death

Re-publishing this post about a fascinating historical figure that learned of recently. This article is from Blackpast.org.

Eugene James (Jacques) Bullard, the first African American combat aviator, was known as the “black swallow of death” for his courage during missions. He led a colorful life, much of it in Europe. 

Bullard was born in Columbus, Georgia, on October 9, 1895, the seventh child of Josephine Thomas and William O. Bullard. Eugene received a minimal education but learned to read, a key to his later successes. After witnessing the near-lynching of his own father and other racial violence, Bullard ran away from home in 1906. 

In Atlanta, he joined a group of gypsies and traveled with them, tending and learning to race their horses. In 1912 as a teen, Bullard stowed away on German merchant ship bound for Aberdeen, Scotland. For the next two years, he performed in a vaudeville troupe and supported himself as a prizefighter in Great Britain and elsewhere in Europe. He first appeared in Paris, his long-time destination, at a boxing match in November 1913. 

Bullard was nineteen years old when World War I broke out. He joined the French Foreign Legion, serving the Moroccan Division of the 170th Infantry Regiment. He was seriously wounded twice and pulled out of action. France awarded him the Croix de Guerre and Medaille Militaire for his bravery at the Battle of Verdun. In 1916 he joined the French air service, first training as a gunner but later as a pilot. Bullard quickly became known for flying into dangerous situations often with a pet monkey.  He amassed a distinguished record, flying twenty combat missions and downing at least one German plane. 

When the United States entered the war, Bullard, and other American expatriates, applied for transfers to U.S. forces.  Despite Bullard’s flight experience, his application was denied, and the United States military pressured France to ground Bullard permanently to uphold the U.S. policy against black pilots. France succumbed and removed Bullard from aviation duty. After the war, Bullard discovered jazz and eventually owning two nightclubs, including “L’Escadrille,” in the Montmartre section of Paris. 

Bullard married Marcelle Straumann in 1923 and had two daughters, Jacqueline and Lolita, but the marriage ended in divorce in 1931. Bullard later joined a French counterintelligence network in the early years of World War II, spying on Germans in Occupied Paris. His nightclubs were popular with German officers, who had no clue that Bullard, fluent in German, was indeed a spy. 

By the end World War II, although a national hero in France, Bullard and his daughters moved to New York City, New York. He established a new life, working odd jobs selling perfume and operating the elevator of the RCA building, home to The Today Show. In 1954 Bullard was interviewed for the show. 

In 1959 the French government named Bullard a national chevalier, or knight. The following year, French President Charles DeGaulle visited the United States. He traveled to New York City to meet Bullard personally. Eugene Jacques Bullard died in Harlem on October 12, 1961 at the age of 66.  In 1994 he was honored posthumously by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. 

Were you familiar with The Black Swallow of Death? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, March 2, 2020

It's All in What You Say: Writing Dialogue



"A dialogue is more than two monologues." Max Kampelman

My favorite part of fiction writing is dialogue. It serves many purposes. And so much can be revealed about a character through his thoughts, actions and especially words he says or doesn't say. Each word clues the reader in to that particular character's identity.

I love old movies and Casablanca is one of my all time favorites! William Bayer, in his book The Great Movies, classifies it as one of the 60 greatest motion pictures of all time. Bayer says it is one of the few adventure films where the adventure takes place indoors. There are no fights or outdoor adventures. "There are, instead, adventures of verbal jousting, of dialogue and innuendo, and they are dominated, in fact ruled, by a supreme adventurer, Rick."

What makes us know Rick is an adventurer is his dialogue. Bayer outlines several snatches of it that reveal glimpses into Rick's character:

His Irony
When asked to explain why he came to Casablanca, Rick says,"I came to Casablanca for the waters."
"What waters? We're in the desert."
"I was misinformed."

His Sex Life in Casablanca:
As seen with a girl in a brief exchange. She asks,"Where were you last night?"
"That's so long ago I don't remember."
"Will I see you tonight?"
"I never make plans so far in advance."

His Bitterness:
When he accuses Ingrid Bergman of having had other lovers: "Were there others in between? Or aren't you the kind that kisses and tells?"

His Urbanity:
"What is your nationality?" Major Strasser asks.
"I'm a drunkard," says Rick.

His Mystique (my favorite quote):
Claude Raines explains to Ingrid Bergman: "Rick is the kind of man that if I were a woman, I would be in love with Rick."

Besides revealing insight into your characters, dialogue moves your story along by providing important information. That's why the lines are there in the first place, and that's what keeps the reader reading!

Keep your dialogue natural sounding. Reading it out loud is a good test to hear if it sounds like a real conversation. As far as dialect, a little goes a long way. It makes your reader work too hard by having to intepret what you've written. Just throw in a few words, then leave the rest to the reader's imagination. They'll get the message regarding the character's speech pattern.

Hope this insight into dialogue has been helpful! If you haven't seen Casablanca, rent it this weekend! It's worth it!

What's some of the best dialogue you've seen or read lately?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Lazy 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. To make it really super simple and fast,  I use jarred pasta sauce and precooked Italian meatballs that I run through the food processor. I love shortcuts! Enjoy!

Lazy (No Boil) Lasagna

2 26 oz jars pasta sauce
12 oz. lasagna noodles, unboiled
1 12 oz. 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, February 17, 2020

Twelve Years A Slave

This is an article I wrote back in 2013. Since it's Black History Month, I thought I'd post it again. I did eventually see the movie Twelve Years a Slave, and even ordered a copy for myself. However, I haven't had the courage to watch it again. Excellent movie, but quite painful to watch.

When I started writing The Unchained Trilogy, I read several slave narratives to help me with my research. I had not read Twelve Years a Slave, and wasn't even familiar with it.  But now I have the opportunity to read the book--and see the movie.
Solomon Northup
If you're like me, and unfamiliar with the real Solomon Northup, here's some information, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Solomon Northup (July 1808 – after 1857) was a free-born African American from Saratoga Springs, New York. He is noted for having been kidnapped in 1841 when enticed with a job offer. When he accompanied his supposed employers to Washington, DC, they drugged him and sold him into slavery. From Washington, DC, he was transported to New Orleans where he was sold to a plantation owner from Rapides Parish, Louisiana. After 12 years in bondage, he regained his freedom in January 1853; he was one of very few to do so in such cases. Held in the Red River region of Louisiana by several different owners, he got news to his family, who contacted friends and enlisted the Governor of New York, Washington Hunt in his cause. New York state had passed a law in 1840 to recover African-American residents who had been kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Slave narratives are fascinating, but very sad and truly difficult to read.  Although reading Solomon Northup's story will be heart wrenching, watching the movie will be even more tortuous.
Scene from Twelve Years a Slave
According to The Boston Globe:
Hollywood’s portrayals of American slavery have run the gamut — from all but romanticizing it in “Gone with the Wind” to riffing ironically on it in Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” A new film, “12 Years a Slave,” offers something different: a faithful, unvarnished depiction of everyday life as a slave, and of all the horrors that went with it. Based on the 1841 kidnapping into slavery of Solomon Northrup, a free black man from Saratoga, N.Y., the film is told from a  slave’s point of view, with Northrup’s agony eloquently portrayed by Chiwetel Ejiofor. One thing that comes through is the arbitrariness of the institution; slaves deemed unsatisfactory or rebellious were whipped, or strung up, in a blind rage by their owners. Other owners harbored moral conflicts about the “peculiar institution,” but nevertheless allowed slaves’ families to be broken up.   
I want to say I'm looking forward to seeing the movie--and I am--but it'll be hard. I'll be sure to have tissues handy.

Is Twelve Years A Slave on your "To See" or "To Read" list?  If you've had a chance to read it, or a seen the movie, what did you think?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, February 10, 2020

The First Academy Awards

Douglas Fairbanks presents Janet Gaynor with
the Best Actress Award at the 1st  Oscar Ceremony 
Last night the 92th Academy Awards Show was televised live! The stars, the crowds, the clothes, the jewels! Nowadays the Oscars are quite the spectacle, but how did it all begin? Here's a little information from Wikipedia:

In 1927, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) was established by Louis B. Mayer, originator of Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation, which then would be joined into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Mayer's purpose in creating the award was to unite the five branches of the film industry, including actors, directors, producers, technicians, and writers. Mayer commented on the creation of the awards "I found that the best way to handle [filmmakers] was to hang medals all over them ... If I got them cups and awards they'd kill them to produce what I wanted. That's why the Academy Award was created". Mayer asked Cedric Gibbonsart director of MGM, to design an Academy Award trophy. Nominees were notified through a telegram in February 1928. In August 1928, Mayer contacted the Academy Central Board of Judges to decide winners. However, according to the American director King Vidor, the voting for the Academy Award for Best Picture was in the hands of the AMPAS founders Douglas FairbanksSid Grauman, Mayer, Mary Pickford and Joseph Schenck.

The 1st Academy Awards ceremony, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored the best films of 1927 and 1928 and took place on May 16, 1929, at a private dinner held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in Los AngelesCalifornia. AMPAS president Douglas Fairbanks hosted the show. Tickets cost $5 (which would be $69 in 2016 considering inflation), 270 people attended the event and the presentation ceremony lasted fifteen minutes. Awards were created by Louis B. Mayer, founder of Louis B. Mayer Pictures Corporation (at present merged into Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer). It is the only Academy Awards ceremony not to be broadcast either on radio or television.

How times have changed! I used to watch the Oscars every year, at least until 11:00, however, I haven't watched in years. But how about you? Did you watch the awards ceremony last night? And if so, did you stay up for whole thing?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Insight From Frederick Douglass

At the start of Black History Month, I'm sharing this article about Frederick Douglass form PBS.org:

"Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference," wrote Frederick Douglass, a leading American abolitionist and former slave. Douglass rejected all biblical justifications of slavery after living under the cruel institution himself. Born in Maryland in 1818, his master's wife taught Douglass to read at a young age, and Douglass shared this knowledge with other slaves, encouraging them to read the New Testament and interpret Jesus Christ's message of equality. But Douglass rejected all Biblical justifications of slavery.

After escaping slavery, Douglass settled in New Bedford, Mass., and joined an integrated Methodist church where he attended anti-slavery meetings and befriended fellow abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison encouraged the young Douglass to become an anti-slavery lecturer, and in 1845, Douglass published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. The book quickly became a best seller, reprinted nine times and translated into French and Dutch.

Douglass started a weekly journal, The North Star, where he challenged his readers to question the contradiction between America's Christianity and the institution of slavery. Speaking before packed houses in Great Britain and America, Douglass attacked Christianity for not only permitting the continuation of slavery but also encouraging its expansion: "The church and the slave prison stand next to each other. ... [T]he church-going bell and the auctioneer's bell chime in with each other; the pulpit and the auctioneer's block stand in the same neighborhood."

Though Douglass was initially disappointed that Abraham Lincoln did not advocate for an end to slavery at the beginning of the Civil War, he was overjoyed when the president issued the Emancipation Proclamation. After Lincoln's Second Inaugural the president welcomed Douglass into the White House and was pleased to learn that Douglass approved of his speech.

After Lincoln's assassination, Douglass said of the late president: "Can any colored man, or any white man friendly to the freedom of all men, ever forget the night which followed the first day of January 1863, when the world was to see if Abraham Lincoln would prove to be as good as his word?"

Both of my kids have read the Narrative of the Life of  Frederick Douglass for their English classes, but I'm ashamed to admit I haven't, but it is on my to read list! Have you read it?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Kobe Bryant: Say It Ain't So

I don't follow any sport, and am by no means a sports enthusiast. But I know who Kobe Bryant was, may he rest in peace.

Since I'm ignorant of anything sports related, my husband broke the news of his death to me yesterday, by prefacing it with, "Do you know Kobe Bryant?"  "Yes, the basketball player," I immediately replied, remembering his charismatic presence. Then it was a devastating blow to hear of the helicopter crash that took his life, as well as his 13-year-old daughter's life, and the lives seven other people.

Not only was Kobe Bryant one of the best in his game and a true sports legend, he was also an Academy Award winner for the best short animated film of 2017.

This was certainly news to me, so today I viewed Dear Basketball, a wonderful film and love story. It's only about six minutes long, so if you've never watched it, it's worth seeing. I'd advise to you to
have tissue handy. Watch Dear Basketball here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9saQ-4_8Csk.

Did you know Kobe Bryant won an Academy Award? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, January 20, 2020

I Have a Dream

I did some research on Dr.Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech" and learned some interesting facts about it from Wikipedia

Although it is one of the most memorable and powerful speeches ever made, on the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 27, twelve hours before the March on Washington where it was to be presented, Dr. King still didn't know what he was going to say.

The speech has been shown to have had several versions, written at several different times. It has no single version draft, but is an amalgamation of several drafts, and was originally called "Normalcy, Never Again."

When Dr. King did give his speech, toward the end, noted African American gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted to King from the crowd, "Tell them about the dream, Martin." King stopped delivering his prepared speech, and started "preaching," punctuating his points with "I have a dream."

As King waved goodbye to the audience, he handed George Raveling the original typewritten "I Have a Dream" speech. Raveling, an all-American basketball player from Villanova, had volunteered as a security guard for the event and was on the podium with King at that moment. Raveling still has custody of the original copy and has been offered as high as $3,000,000 for it, but claims to have no intention of selling it, with plans on leaving it to his children instead.

Have you ever read Dr. King's "I Have  Dream Speech" in its its entirety? If not, check it out here.

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!