Saturday, April 30, 2022

HBO's Julia, Episode 7 Foie Gras

I've remarked before how much I'm enjoying this program.  This week's episode is especially good.  

If you enjoyed the banter of David Hyde Pierce and Bebe Neuwirth on "Fraiser" you'll find this episode a treat.  Later in the episode, Julia encounters Betty Freidan, author of "The Feminine Mystique", a foundational book involving the burgeoning feminist movement, for a powerful tet-a-tet about Julia's program and its influence on the role of American Women.

Toward the end of the episode, Julia has a moving encounter with someone most of you will recognize.  I have no idea if it's based on a real-life encounter, but I'd like to think so.

HBO hasn't yet decided about a season two of "Julia".  Let's hope they pick it up.  

Flowers In The Ponder Heart

If you ever visited Eudora Welty's home, you'll know she loved gardening and flowers, so it's not surprising she often mentions them in her books.  

In her 1953 novella, The Ponder Heart, she mentions several varieties of flowers and plants well-known to Southern Gardners, including: 

  • Railroad lilies (orange daylilies) (Hemerocallis fulva)
  • Narcissus Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus)
  • Red Nasturtium (Tropaeolum minus)
  • Verbina (Verbena officinalis)
  • Chinaberries (Melia azedarach)
  • Althea (Hibiscus syriacus)
  • Salvia (Salvia officinalis)
  • Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora)
  • Etoile Rose (Etoile de Hollande)
  • Fig Tree (Ficus carica 'Celeste')

These little touches really help create a mental image of the scenes she describes if you're from the South.  As I re-read her other works, I might make similar posts about them.  I suspect this aspect of her work has been covered many times before, but it will still be fun.   

Miss Eudora Tending Her Garden (1940s)

Friday, April 29, 2022

The Offer Episode One


I watched the first episode of "The Offer" on Paramount Plus, and here's the review I promised.

It begins in the late sixties, an exciting time in the American movie business, on the rubicon of the early seventies, one of the greatest eras for Cinema.  It's a show made by Paramount, about a Paramount picture, with many scenes in the famous Gower Street Paramount studios, telling the story of how "The Godfather" came to be.  

Many people, myself included, consider "The Godfather" one of the greatest films ever made.  With all this rich material, the show is off to a good start.  First episodes are always awkward because you have to fit in a lot of basic character introductions and exposition. 

I felt the writers were struggling to fit it all in here.  They have to introduce the producers, Albert Ruddy and Robert Evans, the writers Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, and real-life gangster Joe Columbo and set up the story's basic premise.  That's a lot to accomplish in an hour.  

The cast so far is competent but not bowling me over. It's too early to tell, though.  I did find Matthew Goode, playing Robert Evans, a bit annoying, but let's see how it goes.  The sets and costumes are also competent, and the cinematography is very good.

There are dozens of easter eggs strewn throughout this episode, both to movie fans of the era and Coppola fans.  One I enjoyed was seeing Coppola handling his wind-up 16mm camera.  His "home movies" shot on set are pretty well known to Godfather fans.

So far, I'm definitely in for another episode.  The show moves along pretty quickly and does not pull punches on some of the known issues associated with "The Godfather," like how Frank Sinatra reacted to the book.

The series is ten episodes, released every Thursday night on Paramount Plus.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Mississippi Mummy

In the 1920s, the Mississippi Department of Archives and History purchased an extensive collection of Native American artifacts from Colonel Brevoort Butler.

Included in these artifacts was one item that was clearly not of Native origin, an Egyptian mummy said to be a princess.

For decades the mummy was displayed in the Old State Capitol Building, becoming a much-loved attraction and source of local pride that Mississippi should have such an exotic item.

In 1969, Gentry Yeatman, a local medical student interested in archeology, asked the museum for the "human remains" to study for evidence of disease.

Permission was granted to remove the mummy and send it to the University of Mississippi Medical Center for an autopsy, where radiological examination showed quite a surprise!  

Inside the mummy were a few animal ribs and several square nails holding together a wooden frame. He discovered the "mummy" primarily consisted of paper-mâché, including German newsprint and pages from an 1898 issue of the Milwaukee Journal.  Our prized artifact was a forgery!

The fake mummy is 
The Mummy and the X-Ray
more famous now than ever and considered a prized possession as an artifact of Mississippi Folklore.  The Old Capitol Museum often displays the Dummy Mummy around Halloween.


Monkey Island Jackson Zoo

 The Jackson Zoo opened on a 79-acre tract of land purchased by the city from Samuel Livingston in 1921.  In the 1930s, the city began constructing a series of exhibits, including a Sealion pool, Aligator Pond, Monkey Island, and two Duck Ponds.  Water flowed from the Sealion pond downhill through each of the other exhibits and overflowed into the sewer from the second Duck Pond.

All of the exhibits had sandstone walls quarried here in Mississippi.  The Monkey Island pond featured an island in the center where they constructed a red limestone castle quarried near Raymond Ms.

The exhibit housed around a dozen macaque monkeys.  There were cages inside the castle structure where the monkeys slept, and keepers could feed and care for them.  Keepers used a tunnel from the down-hill duckpond under the ramada and the Monkey Island pond and came up inside the castle.  Around the castle were wood and concrete Christmas Village houses crafted by Jackson Firemen a decade before when the zoo was at the Central Fire Station.

By the 1980s, shifting soil made the access tunnel unsafe, so the exhibit was switched from monkeys to flamingos.  Stories floated around that the switch was due to tuberculosis, but that was incorrect.

Today the exhibit holds the zoo's alligator collection
but remains a picturesque and popular spot in the zoo.

Color Postcard From the 1940s

Monkey Island In the Snow

Friday, April 22, 2022

The Real Carfax Abbey

 In Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula, we are told that Harker procures a Carfax Abbey in Whitby, London, England, for his client, Count Dracula, to reside.  Carfax Abby is an imaginary creation of Stoker but based on Whitby Abbey, an actual structure in the same location.

The initial construction of Whitby Abbey began in the 7th century.  It housed Benedictine monks until it was confiscated at the orders of Henry VIII in his battles with Rome in his efforts toward the dissolution of the monasteries (1536-1541).  It was abandoned after this and remains a ruin to this day.   

Stoker visited Whitby in 1890 and found the gothic ruins the perfect setting for a story. 

Henry Irving
At the time, Stoker worked as an agent for Henry Irving, the actor.  His first thought was to make his vampire story a play for Irving, but when Irving decided he had no interest in the part, Stoker used Irving's likeness and personality to create his vampire, Dracula.
There are other real-life locations used in the novel, but I thought you might enjoy a photograph as this one was so remarkable visually.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Empathic Life

I'm not psychic by any means, but I am empathetic. It's not that I can always tell what other people feel, but I almost always feel what they feel to some level. I think we're all born with this ability, but learn to tune it out as we get older. If you watch small children, they laugh when other children laugh and they cry when other children cry, even if they don't know what they're laughing at or crying about. As we get older, these empathetic feelings get in the way of whatever we're trying to do or whatever we're trying to feel so we learn to block them out. They're still there though, always there. The problem is that most of the time other people feel angry or annoyed or frightened or distracted and almost always lonely. Feeling those emotions of your own is bad enough, but when you share them from the people you encounter, it can become quite a burden. It can be such a burden, that sometimes I prefer not to be around anyone at all. Feeling nothing but my own thoughts and my own emotions, although quite lonesome at times, is often better than sharing the suffering from the rest of the world. A friend once suggested that I surround myself with happy, successful people and then I wouldn't mind sharing their empathetic experience. There problem there is that most happy, successful people don't usually feel that way, and if they do, they're often almost completely empty inside. There is a payoff though. People do sometimes feel joy, love, laughter and beauty. Sharing these emotions with them can be a privilege. These things are valuable though because they're rare, and sometimes it can be a long dry patch between bright moments. Sometimes I meet people whose need to share what they're experiencing is so great, that being around them almost crushes me. I let them do it though because I can feel how badly they need to share their experience, but it's pretty draining, and afterward I usually need sometime alone to recharge. John Donne said "No man is an island", but he's wrong. All men are an island. We're close enough to signal each other and exchange goods, but ultimately we have to isolate ourselves to keep any identity at all.

Official Ted Lasso