Golden Flicks: Reel #1

Hello, Movie Lovers!

One of my favorite pastimes is watching movies from and studying the history and bios of The Golden Age of Hollywood. As you might guess, I have a book collection to nurture my hobby.

There is something timeless and enchanting for me about Hollywood movies from the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. Many have earned the designation “classics” because the age of the films and the viewers doesn’t seem to matter. My five-year-old granddaughter is currently enamored with Abbott and Costello and The Three Stooges movies. I have been watching “old movies” since I was a kid, enjoying Universal Studios’ 1950s and ’60s revival of its ’30s and ’40s monster classics, namely, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, etc. I still watch them repeatedly–and not just at Halloween. That began what developed into a lifelong passion. Yay for TCM–Turner Classic Movies.

Some dismiss the “old” black-and-white movies as dated. But I think there is much to be learned from them. For example, many special effects, camera angles, and lighting techniques we marvel at in movies and video games today came from those intrepid directors and cinematographers back in the day who were willing to experiment. Animator Willis O’Brien (1886 – 1962) produced the special effects for King Kong (1933). Think, King Kong battling aircraft as he clung to the Empire State Building. Then came O’Brien’s student, Ray Harryhausen (1920 – 2013), who refined the art of stop-motion animation and other visual effects to bring us the fighting skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), the enraged Cyclops in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958), and the freaky Medusa in his last film The Clash of the Titans (1981). 

Want to see those battling skeletons while admiring Harryhausen’s genius? Click HERE. (From YouTube, MadmanFX68 Collection, 2010. Photo of Ray Harryhausen and some of his creatures from the-artifice.com)

Another time, I will tell you about one of my favorite movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Stay tuned.

So, get a clue, Movie Buffs. Butter up that popcorn, cozy down with your best bud, and let the magic roll.

 

 

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Here’s the Scoop!

Dear Kids and All Readers,

For many, summertime is ICE CREAM time. But did you know that the frozen treat has an interesting history?

Kathleen Kalb from Facebook’s Cozy Mystery Village (of which I’m a villager) posted some fun historical facts about how ice cream came to be. She got the information from #goodreads in its #ThrowbackThursday column. You can read all about it HERE.

Basically, here are the facts:

Ice cream was invented in New York City in 1714 by a British confectioner who also sold jams and sugarplums. Ice cream flavors of the day included oyster (yes, oyster!), parmesan cheese, and tea. The treat became popular with the upper class. George and Martha Washington loved it and reportedly spent upwards of $700 for it one summer while they were living in New York–even though Mrs. Washington complained that it tasted rancid. That’s a lot of ice cream money! (Further research reveals that ice cream made from milk and rice was created in China in 200 BCE,)

By 1820, the first ice cream cart vendors were selling ice cream to everyone in New York City parks. Those carts are still rolling everywhere to this day!

By 1850, ice cream parlors became popular destinations for the masses and appeared in many neighborhoods.

By 1900, soda fountains sprang up serving ice cream sundaes, sodas, and floats in flavors we would recognize today. Soda fountains became popular date-night destinations.

Chunky Monkey, PhishFood, and Cherry Garcia were a few more decades away.

So, get a clue, Readers. Oyster-, rose-, or violet-flavored ice cream may not be your first choice, but nowadays, we can pretty much pick our pleasure for a delirious ice cream brain freeze. Make mine chocolate!

Vintage print by Frederic Florian from Wikimedia Commons.

 

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I’m Not Lion

Dear Kids and All Readers,

Somewhere, in nearly every work of fiction, you’ll find a little piece of the author’s life–added with tongue in cheek or, possibly, to cement the object or idea in immortality.

This addition could be something significant like a character’s name, personality trait, or journey, mirroring the author’s. But it could be something obscure like a song, a poem, or an object referenced that has hidden meaning for the writer.

In my Book 2, Eucalyptus Street: Green Curse, there is a remnant from my childhood that remains a part of my life, namely, lions. So, it’s little wonder that lions “prowl” the de Cordoba mansion and grounds, as you know if you’ve read the book. Some artists’ creations are from scratch, but lions “came naturally” to me as I wrote my story. Why?

As a child, I would hurry off to play at my friend Mary’s house many blocks away. The most direct route would take me past a pair of identical stone lions. Beginning in the late 1950s, to replace some crumbling lampposts, they came to majestically flank the walkway leading to a tall wrought iron gate and the steps to the front porch of a pretty Spanish stucco house. I remember stopping occasionally to admire the full-maned animal twins, even patting them on their heads. Was the attraction because I, too, am a twin? Perhaps.

Years later, in the 1980s, I would walk my then little daughter past the same male lions. Despite their obvious gender, she named them “Cindy” and “Linda,” and that’s how she would greet them whenever we passed. The previous owners attached a historic designation plaque by the front door that says “The Lion House, 1920,” and named the pair “Max” and “Scotty.” But to my now-adult daughter, they’ll always be “Cindy” and “Linda”!

The current residents have maintained the proud pair perfectly and even “dress” the lions to match the holidays–Game of Thrones costumes for Halloween, masks for the pandemic, and patriotic bunting for the Fourth of July! What a privilege that  I still get to enjoy them on my walking route. One glimpse and I’m transported back to my childhood and to my early parenthood. I hope to share them with my grandchildren when they visit.

So, get a clue, Readers. What are some significant objects in your lives? Like me, do you still get pleasure from them? I hope you’ll create a work of art to anchor them to your history.

 

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When Poetry and Power Meet

Dear Readers,

I had the privilege of watching a thought-provoking Zoom symposium today, sponsored in part by the San Diego Public Library Foundation and the Robert Frost Society.

It was entitled A Symposium on Poetry and Power: An Online Screening of the Documentary Film, JFK: The Last Speech.

Featured were President John F. Kennedy giving what would be his last public speech at Amherst College on October 26,1963–some say the best speech of his administration; clips of the president and poet Robert Frost’s relationship early in the Kennedy Administration; and, Amherst alumni sharing how the speech energized their lives and, in many cases, altered their career plans.

It was followed by a panel discussion about the intersection of poetry and politics that included alumni from the Amherst Class of 1964 that witnessed the speech, Frost biographers, and literature professors and poets from various universities.

In his speech in 1963 just four weeks before his assassination, Kennedy discussed the importance of a liberal arts education–for which Amherst College is noted–so American citizens could better prepare for a life of social service that fostered social justice. As he said, “The artist . . . becomes the last champion of the individual mind.” Poetry, as part of a liberal arts education, can help plant the seeds of social awareness and raise calls to action via its words and images. How? By providing doors to art for all, not just the elite; mirrors where readers, listeners, and would-be poets can find themselves and others; and, windows for changing, even improving, our perspectives on the world.

So, get a clue, Readers. Think about it: poetry and politics have certainly amplified each other throughout American history, whether it was Robert Frost reading his poem “The Gift Outright” at JFK’s inauguration, or Amanda Gorman reciting her masterpiece “The Hill We Climb” at Joe Biden’s. But this integration isn’t limited to inaugurations. Poetry can help us imagine possibilities for a better world, especially when bolstered by effective political activism by citizens. If you’d like to see and hear JFK’s famous Amherst speech on YouTube, click HERE. It runs for 14:32 minutes.

 

 

 

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Coloring It

Dear Kids and All Readers,

I just approved the final color version for the cover of Walnut Street: Phantom Rider, Book 3 in my Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series, launching November 9. I must say that it’s stunning!

The cover is being finalized by Dane, designer from eBook Launch, who has done the covers for my other two books. Dane captured the essence of Walnut Street  with eye-catching and intriguing details that include the Phantom Rider and horse. That’s all I’ll say accept . . .  I think it will absolutely appeal to you, too!

So, get a clue, Readers. Please mark your calendars for September 9, 2021. On that day, you can judge my book by its colorful cover at its big Cover Reveal. Until then, Happy Summer Reading with the Botanic Hill Detectives!

 

 

 

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Covering It

Dear Kids and All Readers,

Today, I approved the sketch for the cover of my next book, Walnut Street: Phantom Rider, Book 3 in The Botanic Hill Detectives Mysteries series.

Next step: The designer will color it in and present it to me for the thumbs up or thumbs down.

Just from the sketch, I can tell it’s a winner. It has the drama and dynamism I was after. More important, I believe you will be intrigued by it enough to want to open and read the book.

So, get a clue, Readers. People do judge a book by its cover. May you like it enough to explore inside when the cover is revealed on September 9. Stay tuned!

 

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