Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson
Image via Wikipedia

Eli Wallach just walked onstage.

When I saw him, I googled Anne Jackson. They used to appear together on afternoon TV–Password, I think–when I was a kid.

I’m happy to report that Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach have been married for over sixty-two years.

They should get an Oscar for that.

Jeff Bridges is now introducing nominees for Best Actress. I’ve somehow missed out on his career.

But I remember his father, Lloyd Bridges, in Sea Hunt.

Or I remember one episode. Mike Nelson was lying on the ocean floor. Something, maybe a torpedo, was lying across his legs, pinning him down. His oxygen was running out.

That’s all I remember. I was very young at the time, and very nearsighted.

I planned to post only the photograph of Jackson and Wallach. But Colin Firth won the Oscar for Best Actor, so I’ve posted a picture of him, too.

Actor Colin Firth attends the Closing Ceremony...
Image via Wikipedia

It couldn’t hurt.

This is the first presentation of the Academy Awards I’ve watched in years. I’d forgotten it was airing tonight. I watched Any Human Heart and when that was over, David switched channels.

The King’s Speech or Black Swan? I had to see which won.

I almost didn’t watch Any Human Heart. I haven’t read the book, and at the end of the first episode I had the idea that the rest of the series would find a shallow Logan Mountstuart having serial affairs and running into famous people, and that would be that.

But I gave it another chance, and I’m glad I did, not least for the experience of seeing  Matthew Macfadyen morphing into Jim Broadbent.

It’s a difficult story. On the one hand, Logan Mountstuart didn’t exactly pull himself up by his bootstraps. On the other, he got a few body blows along the way. I wished he could have had everything he lacked, including sixty-two years with Freya.

It’s all luck, his father said. Logan Mountstuart was an unlucky, lucky man.

There are a lot of lucky people tonight, and more unlucky ones. Which are which remains to be seen.


Image of Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson by Greg Hernandez (TCM Classic Film Festival) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Image of Colin Firth by nicolas genin from Paris, France (66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra)) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons



The footfall of a spider in Ramona’s room had not been light enough to escape the ear of that watching lover outside. Again Alessandro’s tall figure arose from the floor, turning towards Ramona’s window; and now the darkness was so far softened to dusk, that the outline of his form could be seen. Ramona felt it rather than saw it, and stopped praying. Alessandro was sure he had heard her voice.

“Did the Senorita speak?” he whispered, his face close at the curtain. Ramona, startled, stopped her rosary, which rattled as it fell on the wooden floor.

“No, no, Alessandro,” she said, “I did not speak.” And she trembled, she knew not why. The sound of the beads on the floor explained to Alessandro what had been the whispered words he heard.

“She was at her prayers,” he thought, ashamed and sorry. “Forgive me,” he whispered, “I thought you called;” and he stepped back to the outer edge of the veranda, and seated himself on the railing. He would lie down no more. Ramona remained on her knees, gazing at the window. Through the transparent muslin curtain the dawning light came slowly, steadily, till at last she could see Alessandro distinctly. Forgetful of all else, she knelt gazing at him. The rosary lay on the floor, forgotten. Ramona would not finish that prayer, that day. But her heart was full of thanksgiving and gratitude, and the Madonna had a better prayer than any in the book.

~ Helen Hunt Jackson, Ramona


Image of rosary by miqul via Flickr. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.


How It Ends

Chicken Korma
Image by TheCulinaryGeek via Flickr

I am not devastated.

Season 8 of MI5 just ended. Nuclear war between India and Pakistan was averted.

The team, however, did not come out unscathed. Something bad happened to one of the characters.

This time last year, I would have been in tears. But I’m calm. I have discovered the way to peaceful acceptance of the demands of the script:


When I discovered Wikipedia carries a plot summary of each season of the series, I read to the very end. I knew how X would leave the show, and then Y, and now Z.

And I’m okay. I’ve had time to reconcile myself to loss. It’s easier this way.

That’s only for television.

About books, I’m more particular.

A couple of months ago, I started a novel but couldn’t get into it. I passed it to Friend #1, who read it, said she loved it, and passed it to Friend #2.

Last week, at a Proxy Valentine dinner, Friend #2 returned the book. Handing it to me, she said, “I loved it. All but the way it ended…I didn’t want the little girl to die.”

I refrained from fainting dead away and falling into the chicken korma.

I assured Friend #2 she hadn’t spoiled the book for me. It’s quirky. I knew anything could happen.

And it might be best this way. This time. For this book.

But I see no trend developing.

When Wikipedia adds Season 9, I’ll read ahead.

Otherwise, the book report rule stands: Don’t tell me how it ends.

Going Bananas

A bunch of Bananas.
Image via Wikipedia

A while back, WordPress posted a video to explain why some blogs aren’t successful. The video consisted of one word over and over: ME ME ME.

Thinking back over my posts for the past year, I thought, Uh-oh.

I’ve been working under the assumption that I should write what I know, which happens to be me.

WordPress has also been posting ideas for topics, one a day. So I checked those out.

They include the following:

  • Describe the worst teacher you ever had.
  • Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
  • What is your favorite sound?
  • How do you define a friend?
  • How do you stay focused?
  • Describe the most trouble you’ve been in.
  • What part of life confuses you the most?

Those are ME topics.

Although I appreciate WP’s  assistance, they’re also not ones I want to tackle.

I did the friend one in eighth grade (UIL ready-writing contest at the school in Martindale).

I’m a pessimist, I don’t stay focused, and I’m confused by many things simultaneously.

I don’t have a worst teacher (except the one who was too busy leering to teach).

I don’t have a favorite sound (Scott Joplin’s “Bethena,” Chopin’s “Valse in C-sharp minor” from Les Sylphides, and Kiri Te Kanawa singing “O Mio Babbino Caro” are tied right now).

And I do not intend to tell anyone about the worst trouble I’ve been in.

But I will tell about a time I was in trouble. I was four years old, and my friend Helen Ruth and I were going somewhere with my mother. Mother was dressed up so our destination must have been of some consequence. We were probably in a hurry.

We drove downtown and stopped at the store. Mother was standing at the counter, talking to Rob and Nell (the owner-proprietors, as well as my second set of parents), when Helen Ruth and I yielded to impulse and began a wild rumpus.

(It must have been a very tiny wild rumpus or I wouldn’t have lived to the age of five.)

Anyway, we made a lap around the store and ended up in produce, right at the stalk of bananas that hung from the ceiling. Without a word, not a hint of conspiracy, each of us took hold of a low-hanging banana and pulled it from the stalk.

I still marvel at the precision of our timing.

Mother said what mothers say under such circumstances and opened her purse to pay for the bananas. Rob said, No, no, those girls can have the bananas.

We might have had time to say Thank you before Mother hustled us out.

All this happened a long time ago. Helen Ruth has probably forgotten it by now.

If I hadn’t been born feeling guilty, I’d have forgotten it by now.

There is no point to the story.

I’m watching Seinfeld as I write, and it occurs to me that if he can write about nothing, so can I.


Image of bananas by Mschel (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


The Key Word Is Love

Bradbury receiving the National Medal of Arts ...
Image via Wikipedia

“Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”

~ Ray Bradbury


Photograph of Ray Bradbury receiving the National Medal of Arts Award in 2004, with President George W. Bush and Laura Bush, by Susan Sterner in the White House. Public domain.

Teaser Tuesday 1

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along. Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (Make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title and author too, so other TT participants can add the book to their TBR lists if they like your teasers.

My teasers:

“Here she was in broad daylight, searching for a dead stranger’s little toe in the bottom of her purse. But after a minute, she found it and handed it to Brenda.”

~ p. 193, I Still Dream About You, Fannie Flagg

The Formula

Elizabeth tells her father that Darcy was resp...
Image via Wikipedia

Should I or shouldn’t I?

Tell, that is.

Experts advise against it. When you tell people you’re writing a novel, they reply.

“You still haven’t finished that thing?”

“Why is it taking so long?”

“How much longer are you going to have to work on it?”

“You need to just get busy and write it.”

The questions above fall into the category called Irritating. But the questioners don’t know any better. They’re not familiar with the writing process, they don’t know the difficulties of getting an agent, they don’t know how competitive the market is, especially as we transition into the digital age.

There’s another category of questions that, while unsettling, might be classified as Helpful.

For example, when a writer friend told an acquaintance she was working on a mystery, the acquaintance said, “Well, there’s a formula for that, isn’t there?”

Yes, there is a formula. No, you don’t just make up some new characters and fill in the blanks. No, it doesn’t make the writing any easier.

No–and here’s the answer to the real question–a formula doesn’t make the writing any less worthy of respect.

On the topic of the formula, please take note of the following:

Shakespeare wrote his tragedies according to a formula: five acts, technical climax at the midpoint of Act III, dramatic climax at end of Act V, protagonist with tragic flaw that causes his undoing, etc., etc., etc. He used similar formulas for comedies and histories. His sonnets comprised fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, rime scheme (ababcdcdefef), tied up with a couplet (gg) at the end.

Jane Austen used a formula: Darcy’s first proposal (and subsequent withdrawal of proposal) comes at the exact midpoint of Pride and Prejudice. Open the book to the proposal, and you get half the pages on the left and the other half on the right. It marks the point at which Elizabeth both realizes her folly and loses control of the action.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote according to formula and also wrote an essay explaining the formula.

Aristotle mentioned something about a formula. Writers check out his rules to make certain they have all their bases covered.

From the uninitiated, a formula may elicit sneers.

But Writers, even the Great Unpublished, are proud of the formula, and proud of the company we keep.

Bambi’s Mom

Screenshot of Bambi and Faline from the traile...
Image via Wikipedia

My niece posted on Facebook that for family night, they watched Bambi. She said she cried.

She didn’t say what the children did. The son is twelve and the daughter is only two, so I imagine Mom shed most of the tears.

How Dad fared, I don’t know. I remember that, as a nine-year-old, he wept into a dishtowel at the end of a non-Disney Sleeping Beauty. But that was back when I was in college. He might react differently now.

The mention of Bambi reminded me of the first time I saw it. That was 1988, a year before it was released on video. I was staying in Austin while my mother was in the hospital there. She was scheduled for radiology all afternoon, so I headed out for the movie.

This hospitalization had been unexpected, and it came at the end of two difficult years. Fifteen years before, she had made a remarkable recovery from a near-fatal heart attack, but lately her condition had deteriorated. She was unable to walk unassisted, and she had no energy for even conversation. Over the past months, she had become less and less communicative.

When at a regular appointment I told her cardiologist she had no short-term memory, he called for a phlebotomist, got a blood sugar reading of over 500, and told me to drive her to the hospital. Before we left, he explained that, because of his own failing health, he had dropped his hospital practice. One of his colleagues, Dr. M., would be in charge of her case.

Dr. M. made rounds that evening, handled the immediate problem, drug-induced diabetes, then proceeded to take Mother off all her usual meds and start anew.

I liked the doctor. Mother, however, in her foggy mental state, decided he had done away with her cardiologist. I couldn’t convince her otherwise. She spent the next two weeks being rude to Dr. M. As her mental condition improved, so did her talent for being snippy.

I spent the next two weeks apologizing for her and trying to make him understand that the person lying in that bed being snippy was not my mother.

Under other conditions, I would have thought it was funny. With diagnosis and prognosis uncertain, and Mother oblivious to everything except a doctor she suspected of kidnapping, I was miserable.

So I headed off to a matinee.

It was late August, and hot. The audience comprised a few dozen grandmothers with tots in tow, and me.

I sat near the back. The movie was beautiful, as the old Disney animations always are.

Then we got to the part about the fire. Bambi couldn’t find his mother. He called for her.

And out of the darkness came a little voice: “Where’s his mother?”

Then, from the other side of the room: “He can’t find her.”

One after another, the voices continued.

“Where is she?”

“Where did she go?”

“He wants his mother.”

That’s when I lost it.

I wanted my mother, too.

My story had a happier ending. Under the new regime, Mother improved. She returned home. A month later, she announced she would take over the kitchen again.

Six months later, I finally got her to understand that Dr. M. wasn’t a kidnapper. I also told her she’d been a stinker. We had a good laugh about it.

About Bambi, I don’t laugh. I remember the fawn looking for his mother, and the voices of children, who understood better than anyone else what the movie is about.

Screenshot from Bambi, by Walt Disney (Original Trailer (1942)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mercury Poisoning

 A Facebook friend posted a quotation concerning Congressional action on budget cuts from the Seattle Times.
When I read the article from which the quote was taken, my eye fell on the following:

“[___] led the way on a 250-177 vote to stop the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing limits on mercury pollution from cement factories. Supporters said the new rules would send American jobs overseas, where air quality standards are more lax or non-existent.”

I’ve omitted the first word. Who led the way isn’t of concern at the moment. This isn’t a political blog, and politics isn’t the issue.

Mercury causes nerve damage.

That’s the issue.

It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact.

It’s science.

“The EPA estimates that one in six women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her bloodstream to put her child at risk for health problems.” (“Why Mercury Is a Problem,” link below; also cited in other of the articles linked below.)

That has is present tense. With continuing exposure, the problem will get worse.

Brain damage, lower IQs, learning disabilities; numbness and mobility problems; contaminated land, water, air; contaminated food supply.

That’s it for tonight.

I don’t have what it takes to continue with this, much less to write the post I’d planned.

I’ll try again tomorrow.

But at My Back I Always Hear…

The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

~ Robert Burns, “To a Mouse”

I was poised to write a meditation on best-laid schemes going agley, and why Ogden Nash’s verse disappeared from the Valentine’s Day post, when two lines of Burn’s “To a Mouse” caught my eye and insisted on a comment.

Wikipedia, my source for the lines quoted above, displays parallel versions of the poem, Burns’ original on the left and the “standard English translation” on the right.

In stanza one, the poet addresses the mouse whose nest he has plowed  up, saying it needn’t run from him. The original reads thus:

Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!

The corresponding lines translated into standard English read this way:

You need not start away so hasty
With argumentative chatter!

That is just sad.

I checked the thesaurus for bickering. Alternatives include quarreling, fussing, quibbling, squabbling, and sassing.

Any one of those, I contend, would be superior to argumentative as an adjective describing chatter.

You need not start away so hasty
With quibbling chatter.

Quibbling’s near alliteration both mirrors that of the original (bickering brattle) and scans better.

I don’t know who came up with argumentative, but the scoundrel had a tin ear.

Now that matters of poetry have been taken care of, I turn to the reason the mouse is here at all–the idea that plans can fall through, and one of mine did, but after the fact.

On Valentine’s Day, I posted a three-line verse by Ogden Nash. Yesterday, for no apparent reason, the little word copyright floated through my head. And then the term fair use, and a question as to when Nash died, and then words such as infringement and cease and desist. And what are the rules about using contemporary poems in their entirety, and what is the status of this blog regarding fair use?

I’ve been hypersensitive about copyright since my library days. I went to conferences and heard stories about a certain mammoth entity that sent cease-and-desist letters to mothers who showed videos at five-year-olds’ birthday parties. The zinger was that if my school district ever received such a letter, it would be addressed to me.

I didn’t want one.

But instead of panicking at my poetic predicament, I decided my best course would be to remove the Nash poem pending the time I clear the cobwebs and get all the issues straight in my head. I used to know copyright for educators. The one thing this blog is not is educational.

I don’t think Ogden Nash would mind my using his little verse. I believe he would pronounce it just dandy that I put him on the web. Furthermore, I doubt his publisher or his estate or anyone else would come after me, my pockets being so shallow they’re almost dried up.

But there’s a moral issue. It’s Ogden Nash’s poem, and if I’m not supposed to use it, I’m not supposed to use it.

I wouldn’t want anyone using my words without permission either.

So I took the poem off and replaced it with one by Sir Philip Sidney, who has been dead for several hundred years, and about whom there should be no question.

Hurrah for the public domain.

What I really wanted to do, however, was to replace Nash with a verse by Robert Herrick: “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.” I love that poem.

Somehow, though, it didn’t seem quite the thing for Valentine’s Day.

The day after Valentine’s, pushed to the brink by those lovely paintings, I cratered. That’s how that happened.

Thirty-two years ago–wow!–I complained to my seniors that when they walked out the door of the classroom, they left literature behind. I said they should take it with them, think about it, talk about it.

I must have been feeling very sorry for myself that day.

Anyway, the girls spoke up and said they did talk about what they’d read. Just the other day, in fact, while they were in the locker room, getting dressed after P.E., they had told the freshman girls about “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time.”

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may…

“Why,” I said, “did you tell the freshmen about that one?”

Another scheme gone agley.

The Class of ’79. That’s what my wow was about. That was thirty-two years ago.

Those kids are getting old.

They’re almost as old as I am.

But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near…

Thank you, Andrew Marvell.

Measured against the deserts of vast eternity, their transgression seems small.

Carpe diem.


Image of field mouse by jason bolonski, via flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Gather Ye Rosebuds…

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

“Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May” (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Oil on canvas, John William Waterhouse




Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.






“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Oil on canvas, John William Waterhouse


That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst

Times still succeed the former.








Circa 1908 Study for next painting
Circa 1908 Study for next painting (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Oil on canvas, John William Waterhouse




Then be not coy, but use your time;
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine's Day and All My Love to My De...
Image by faith goble via Flickr

My true-love hath  my heart and I have his,
By just exchange one for the other given:
I hold his dear and mine he cannot miss;
There never was a better bargain driven.
His heart in me keeps him and me in one:
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides;
He loves my heart for once it was his own,
I cherish his because in me it bides.
His heart his wound received from my sight;
My heart was wounded with his wounded heart;
For as from me on him his hurt did light,
So still methought in me his hurt did smart:
Both equal hurt, in this change sought our bliss,
My true love hath my heart and I have his.

~ Sir Philip Sidney

Image by Faith Goble via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

More Than Birds and Sunsets

The photograph of Emily Dickinson’s handwritten manuscript displayed in yesterday’s post was illegible, so I offer a transcription.


Dickinson's handwritten manuscript of her poem...
Image via Wikipedia

Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!