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!

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

California Tamale Pie


Monday seems to have come and gone this week and I forgot to post something. I spent yesterday driving from one appointment to another, a bit overcome with distraction. By the time I got home,  I had to fix dinner. Then the rest of the day seemed to fly by. I woke up this morning remembering that I hadn't posted anything on my blog.

So for the frazzled among us, here's an easy recipe for the crock pot that's really tasty! Serve with salad and you have a complete meal. Enjoy!

California Tamale Pie

3/4 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup milk
1 egg slightly beaten
1 lb lean ground beef
1 t chili powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1 t seasoned salt
1 (14 oz.) can chunky salsa
1 (16 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 (2.25 oz.) can sliced ripe olives, drained
1 cup cheddar cheese

In a large bowl, mix cornmeal, milk and egg.  Stir in meat, chili powder, cumin, salt, salsa, corn and olives.  Pour mixture into slow cooker.  Cover and cook on HIGH 3 to 4 hours.  Sprinkle cheese over top; cover and cook another 5 minutes.  Makes 6-8 servings.

Have you ever had California Tamale Pie? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Interracial Love Gone Wrong

I'm a big fan of interracial love stories. But as with all love stories, sometimes things go wrong, as in the case of Alice Jones and Kip Rhinelander.

Here's a brief overview of the story, courtesy of Wikipedia:

In 1921, Leonard Kip Rhinelander, a member of a socially prominent wealthy New York family, began a romance with Alice Beatrice Jones, a domestic. The two met during Rhinelander's stay at the Orchard School in Stamford, Connecticut, an inpatient clinic where he was seeking treatment for extreme shyness and stuttering. 

They had a three-year romance before marrying at the New Rochelle, New York courthouse in October of 1924, not long after Rhinelander turned 21. The couple moved in with Jones' parents in Pelham Manor. Although Rhinelander didn't tell his family about the marriage, he continued to work at Rhinelander Real Estate Company.

The couple tried to keep their marriage secret, but news of it was soon announced by the press. Because of the Rhinelanders' wealth and social position, New Rochelle reporters wanted to learn about Jones' background. After they began investigating, reporters discovered that Jones was the daughter of English immigrants and her father, George, was a "colored man". 

At first, Rhinelander stood by his wife during the scathing national coverage of their marriage. But after two weeks, he gave in to his family's demands to leave Jones.  He signed an annulment complaint that his father's lawyers had prepared. The document claimed that Jones had deceived Rhinelander by hiding her true race and passing herself off as a white woman. Jones denied this stating that her race was obvious. Rhinelander later said that Jones hadn't deceived him outright but did so by letting him believe she was white.

Sad story, and it only gets worse.  To see how it ends, check out the article by Theodore Johnson III,
When One Of New York's Glitterati Married A 'Quadroon'.

I'd read about this case before, had you ever heard about it?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!