Monthly Archives: March 2013

Vintage Brass Inkwell

InkwellI like to write, and I’m a fan of old fashioned ink fountain pens. I passed on an opportunity to purchase an inkwell a few years ago and never forgave myself. When I saw this one, I knew I had to have it. I love the details of the design and the space to put pens/letter opener, etc. I have used it, but since the lid just closes and does not seal, and since I don’t write with ink regularly, I pour the ink back into its glass jar every time I’m done using it. It wastes a little ink, but hey, it allows me to use this beautiful piece.

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Posted by on March 31, 2013 in Vintage Beauties


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There Is No Me Without You: One Woman’s Odyssey to Rescue Her Country’s Children by Melissa Fay Greene

The A.I.D.S. epidemic has hit Africa very hard. Connected in the public’s mind with deviant and homosexual sex and prostitution, it has been treated as a shameful disease that only affects those who deserve it by their own bad deeds (much as it once was in the U.S.) Sadly, the orphans of A.I.D.S. parents have also been treated as impure, just as their numbers began to skyrocket on the continent.

There Is No Me Without You is the fawning biography of one woman in Ethiopia, Haregewoih Teferra, who uses her own resources to run a small orphanage. Ostracized by most of her neighbors because of the stigma A.I.D.S. carries, she valiantly continues to take in children, many of whom are simply dropped outside the gate to her home. She provides the children with the basics they need, food, shelter, and clothing. As time goes on, Teferra becomes more overwhelmed and seems to take in the children not out of love for them, but out of a feeling of obligation (they have nowhere else to go) and an inability to say “no”.

Eventually, she receives recognition from the United States and is granted money to aid in her work. She uses this money to purchase a larger property for a new, bigger orphanage for the children who test negative for H.I.V., retaining her original property as an orphanage for those who test positive. Complaints about her mount, some understandable but unfair (poor neighbors upset she doesn’t give them money) and some rather shocking and sad. A few boys at the orphanage accused a male worker of sodomizing them. True or not, Teferra refused to report the incidents, choosing to hide the possibility of abuse, rather than risk her name. Unfortunately, her cover-up led to the boys hating her, all but obliterated the possibility of a proper investigation, and brought to light the hubris that had crept into Teferra’s mission over the years.

The final chapters present the period of tribulation after the allegations came to light. The author does her best to present the situation as a great unknown, an example of no one being perfect. This seems disingenuous on Greene’s part as she spent the major portion of the book putting Teferra on a pedestal, downplaying signs of ill temper or a less than loving attitude as merely cultural differences. It seems clear that the majority of the book was written as an ode to a saint (starting with the subtitle), and the allegations are difficult for the author to reconcile, so she simply tacks them on with a lot of caveats. It would have been better to take a more balanced, even critical look at this “savior” from the start because, after all, no one is perfect.

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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Book Reviews


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The Orchard: A Memoir

The Great Depression yielded so many stories of the will of the human spirit to triumph over the adversities of the era. Brave men and women, struggling just to make it through the day. One such woman, Adele Crockett Robertson, kept a diary of her attempts to keep her family’s orchard going after the sudden death of her father. Triumphs, tragedies, and lessons learned fill this slight volume with laughter, tears, and awe. A beautiful, quick read, it unfortunately closes with an abrupt end to the narrative…like so many personal journals I (and I’m sure others) have started and unceremoniously abandoned. There is a lackluster epilogue tacked on to the end of the story, written after Ms. Robertson’s death by her daughter. If I were to share this book with someone (which I am likely to do since I somehow acquired two copies), I would recommend that the reader skip the epilogue all together and simply accept that, as a diary, the story ends the last time Ms.Robertson  wrote an entry.

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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Book Reviews


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Little Children (2006)

Adapted by Tom Perrotta and Todd Field from Perrota’s novel of the same name, Little Children, is a tale of the lengths two people will go through to escape the soul numbing nature of marriage in suburbia. Sarah (Kate Winslet) is a well-educated writer who is disturbed by the way her life has turned out…married to a distant man who is obsessed with a girl on the internet, with a stalled career, and a child she can’t begin to understand. Brad (Patrick Wilson) is a law school grad who can’t seem to pass the bar. Married to a successful documentary film maker (Jennifer Connelly) and raising their young son, he is depressed and underwhelmed with his role in life. A chance meeting at the local park, and later at the municipal pool, leads to an affair. Sarah feels alive as she finds a reason to see herself as a desirable woman again. They use their kids as cover for their frequent meetings and eventual sexual relationship. Plans to run away together leads them to one fateful night. A second story (too good to call a subplot), of a pedophile (Jackie Earle Haley) who has returned to live with his mother (Phyllis Somerville) and faces the shaming of the town and the particular vehemence of disgruntled former police officer Larry (Noah Emmerich), is compelling for its rawness and refusal to make either man all good or all bad. A complex exploration of modern angst with incredible characters richly brought to life, especially by Winslet and Haley, this is a film that will stay with me a long time. A brilliant piece of modern cinema.

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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Movie Reviews


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A few of my Favorite Things

These are a few of my favorite things…

One) I heart! It’s a great site that gathers the best of historical and contemporary non-fiction (and recently, fiction) in magazines, newspapers, and websites. I usually set aside a good chunk of Sunday to read articles that strike me that have been posted over the week. I prefer to read non-fiction, and I love how they curate all these sources (many of them that you’d have to subscribe to ordinarily).


Two) The local “Friends of the Library” group receives donations of used books from the public and books culled from the library’s own stacks throughout the year. A few times a year, they host book sales in the different branches, proceeds benefiting the library. Once a year, in October, they host “THAT Big Book Sale”. Thousands upon thousands of volumes for sale. This is Heaven for me. I hit the Art, Dance, Theatre, Non-fiction, Foreign Languages, and (especially) Biography sections…HARD! For example, last Fall, I cleaned up. I acquired around 125 volumes for less than $200. After cataloging and shelving them, I’m quite content that I have enough reading material to last me the year. In fact, 99.9% of the books I’m reviewing for my blog come from this sale. 🙂

If you don’t know if your Library has a similar group, I highly recommend checking it out!

Three) IMDb (or the Internet Movie Database) is THE best resource for information on movies, especially American movies. They give synopses, cast lists, photos, information about productions, alternate titles…heck, there’s even an area where they point out goofs and bloopers. I particularly like looking up old movies and finding out about the careers of supporting actors, you know, those people who you recognize by sight but not by name. All my links on American movies are to their IMDb page, that’s how much I love them!

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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Favorite Things


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Sunrise (1927)

As silent films gave way to talkies, this little gem transcended the “limitations” of silent film by sheer force of inventiveness. The story-line is of but marginal importance; a married country man (George O’Brien) is seduced by a vacationing city woman (Margaret Livingston), leaving his sweet wife (Janet Gaynor) and child to worry as he hocks the livestock to spend money on his mistress. One night, as they kiss under the moon, she suggests that he run away with her back to the city. He is indignant, what about his wife? Her answer, “what if she got drowned?” He fools his wife into sailing with him on their boat, where he intends to get her overboard to drown, capsize the boat, and float home on bulrushes. At the crucial moment, he has a change of heart. They have a day on the town, at first he’s just trying to get her not to be afraid of him, then it turns into something of a second honeymoon. On the way home, a storm rises and the boat is capsized. He manages to get to shore, but she is lost and presumed drowned. In the end, she is found alive, he is happy, and the city woman slinks back home. Morals triumph, hooray!

The incredible things about this movie are all the visual effect. Double exposures abound, communicating the hustle and bustle of the city. The light is so beautiful. It has such an important role to play in the storytelling. The scenes with the mistress are moonlit and exquisite. Leading lady Gaynor seems to radiate light from within, her skin an alabaster canvas. Instead of placards in neat typed text on black, as in most silent films, the text is written in a font that looks like paint strokes. It dissolves in at crucial moments (the suggestion from the mistress) and sits over the image, pregnant with meaning and holding the tension of the moment that white on black just can’t match.

A feast for the eyes. This is a film I’d love to see again, on a big screen next time.

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Posted by on March 10, 2013 in Movie Reviews


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Palmer Method of Handwriting

Running out-into framePalmer Method CursiveThey don’t teach cursive in school anymore. The kids have too much material to cram in their little brains to regurgitate on the standardized tests, no time to waste on archaic skills like penmanship. I think it’s a shame. I know these kids have to know how to type, and most of them do without sitting through the old, odious, typing tests…jjjkjjjkjjjkj Learning cursive, though, is important for improving general handwriting, even if you never use it as an adult (although I do).

The thing is, there’s this idea that we will move to a paperless world by the time these kids are grown, so they have no need to know how to write in cursive, or even legible block printing. The problem with that is that we’ve been promised this “paperless” world for a long time, it won’t happen for many many generations.

Anyway, off my soapbox. This is a photograph I found at my favorite antiques store (Terrace Oaks Antiques). It’s not much in the way of an interesting visual image, until you look at the back. Here, the man in the photograph wrote; “I was running toward the camera to get out of this picture when he took it. Cris”. I found it amusing that he was running toward the camera to get out of the way. What really drew me, though, is the style of cursive he used. It’s called the Palmer Method of Business Writing.

The Palmer Method was developed at the beginning of the last century in order to allow those manually transcribing conversations in a business environment to do so quickly, accurately, and with a minimum of effort. As you can see from the example above, shortcuts such as secondary “t’s” not being crossed, aid the writer to move from word to  word quickly, without pausing or going back for unnecessary details. I think it’s fabulous. It’s beautiful and simple, and must have been a very important development, as there were several different methods designed to accomplish the same thing.

As someone who loves all things antique, who often makes props that are supposed to come from times past, and someone who likes doing historical and genealogical research, it’s really important for me to be able to decipher and replicate these old writing styles. The single greatest resource I have found is the website of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engravers, & Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH). This site is brilliant and sucks me in for hours at a time. I’d love to go to the convention in July, but Albuquerque in July sounds a little hot! Maybe next year’s convention will be easier for us East Coasters to get to!

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Posted by on March 4, 2013 in Vintage Beauties


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