Wednesday, July 31, 2013

More Problems with the Janie

Those Who Care are finding more and more that’s wrong with the proposed Jane Austen ten-pound note.   The praiseworthy sentiment quoted below the portrait happens to be spoken by an unworthy character who doesn’t really think that way at all.  And at least two more things are wrong with this banknote.
The face is based on a Victorian engraving that was a prettied-up version of the only authentic portrait we have.
 If we had more than head and shoulders on the banknote, you'd see the wedding ring that was added by that engraver, more than half a century after the famously unwed author's death.
The original -- unfinished -- little watercolor was done by Jane's sister Cassandra, who may have shared the fictional Emma Woodhouse's difficulty with drawing faces.
  And the mansion shown in the background, possibly chosen as a nod to Downton Abbey, was not Jane’s home at all.  Godmersham Park belonged to Jane’s brother Edward, the adopted heir of some wealthy cousins.  Jane herself was lucky, in her 30s -- the last decade of her life --  to find a permanent home in a simple cottage that is now visited by thousands of pilgrims every year. 

My bet is that we haven’t heard the last of this.

Monday, July 29, 2013

More Tree

As a P. S. to that last post -- here's the tree in the 1960s. 
Sounds of Summer.

Like that Grandfather's Clock

Can't remember if I posted the second time a limb of the willow came down,
last week.  If I waited long enough I wouldn’t have to pay to have that tree removed – it’d do the job all by itself.  Meanwhile, the tree people have been waiting for the back yard to dry up so they can get their Bobcat (?) in.  And this morning they’re busy at it. 

8 years old in 1962
It’s pretty silly to feel sentimental about a tree, but it’s been my companion for 58 years and in its mature decline I’ve sort of identified with it. 
And it’s not going completely—they’re going to leave the bottom trunk, high enough so that from my desk here -- where, for instance, I took the picture of this wild turkey through the window -- I won’t even see what’s missing. 
That won’t save the tree, but it’ll be there for the birds to enjoy for a few more years. 

Me too. 



Friday, July 26, 2013

Problem with the Janie

My email account is crammed with excitement since the announcement that Jane Austen is to appear on the British 10-pound note, already referred to as the Janie.  And a protest is already being organized about the quotation scheduled to appear below her portrait.  Yes, it’s a fine sentiment.  Yes, Our Author did write it.  BUT –
It’s the same problem I faced as I began to gather material for my little Austen gift book.
There’s no point in quoting Jane Austen unless the reader is alerted about who spoke those words -- a deceiver, a heroine, a rattlebrain, or perhaps the narrator herself – and even then, her tongue is often quietly in cheek. I ended up writing a short note for almost every quotation. With "It is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life” 
I felt the need to explain that it came from
Charlotte, seriously unmarried at twenty-seven, who later accepted – and nicely managed -- the odious Mr. Collins.” And the banknote? The quotation reads:
"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!" Yes, it comes from Pride and Prejudice. Where it is spoken by two-faced Caroline Bingley, who obviously cares nothing for reading and is simply angling for attention from aloof millionaire Fitzwilliam Darcy.
I could have warned the Bank of England.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

You never know who's listening

    So this happened more than 20 years ago, but the subject came up again this morning while I was getting a haircut.

    When I was 55, I started having the hairdresser color my hair --that term sounds so much better than dying it.  Then on my 65th birthday, I decided enough was enough.  It helped that by then First Lady Barbara Bush, who was about my age, was running around with that spectacular white hair --you can’t tell me she didn’t get some chemical help with that too.  

    So I started letting my hair grow out, with a kind of messy tweedy look for a few months.  And lo and behold, I noticed that the Queen of England, who is indeed my age, had evidently reached the same conclusion at the same time, and and had a kind of messy tweedy look, letting HER hair grow out.

    Now in those days I used to record weekly segments about real estate, for a program on our public radio station.  So down I went with a month’s worth of discussions all printed out, and sat down in the recording booth with my good friend the show’s host.  And he must have made some comment about my changing appearance, or how did we get to chatting about it?
I said I’d decided enough was enough. 
He said his hair had turned grey while he was still in his 20s. 
I said it matched his youthful face.
He said his mother had white hair while still young. 
I mentioned the Queen.
 We kicked it around some more.
Finally he said okay, let’s record some real estate.
    And a few weeks later, I met a woman in the supermarket who said “I heard you and Simon on the radio this morning, talking about hair for ten minutes.”

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Maybe I've Been Had

You may recall that last week I ran across a quotation attributed to Albert Einstein, never heard it before, laughed out loud, felt apologetic because I wasn't interested in probing the deep existential or scientific implications -- and then shared it with you, even finding a photo of The Genius looking quizzical to post with it. 
So okay -- had never run into that sentence in all of 87 years.  Then two days ago, out in a Chinese restaurant with a friend (excellent egg foo yong, enough take-home for the next morning's breakfast) and behold --!

And here I got all excited last week.  I'll bet it isn't even Einstein at all.  Had you heard it before?  I suspect  I've been had.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


I intend to post every other day--interesting things do keep happening -- but my computer needed to go to the hospital and was released only a few hours ago.  Don't go way!  Don't touch that dial! Stay tuned.  I promise, we'll be back in a moment with something fascinating.

Ever notice, btw, that when the TV screen says "We'll be back in a moment" -- they won't be?  That phrase is code for "You're about to get five minutes of commercials." 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Entomological Mystery

      When these minute black specks started showing up on the rim of my bathtub, I figured something was slowly disintegrating up on the ceiling and dropping dust.  If I Kleenex-ed it away, it reappeared the very next day. I didn’t make the connection with insect life until one day as I was reading the morning paper, and a minute bit of print started scurrying across the page.  I automatically squashed it with a finger, and so the day started with a death.  A very small death.
     I can’t find the right words to tell you how tiny these things are, whatever they are.  For their size – for their non-size – they cover ground remarkably fast.  One just hurried across the screen as I’m writing to you.  They don't jump at all, just walk or run.  The house seems full of them.  Those moribund bathtub ones must have drowned in the moisture.  And I am sure that in 87 years I’ve never seen them before.
     I post this in hopes that someone out there has some information.  I can’t even Google these bits of creatures – can’t find the right search words.
     But at any rate,  I didn’t have to go to the trouble of looking up the word entomology – it seems it’s perfectly proper to say insectology. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ebay Entertainment

               A hobby that doesn’t involve walking around is just right for an old lady who's trying to place her books in loving homes.  So for some books I'll never read again here's what I do -- take a look:
These Ebay ventures help make life interesting, and sometimes they lead to emailing with bibliophiles.  When I decided to see who’d be interested in Katherine Mansfield’s copy of Pride and Prejudice, it was bought not by an Austen fan, but by a guy who emailed me that he specializes in Mansfield, and he recognized my photo of her flyleaf signature as authentic.  I heard from someone who was searching for just the third Mercy Warren volume no one in my family wanted.  I even found someone who collects – wait for it – Calvin Coolidge.
               I started with Ebay years ago when I was even less computer wise than I am now, so I’m in a position to assure you that it is VERY USER-FRIENDLY.  Go ahead -- if I did it, you can.  You'll have fun.
               And next time, if you’re good little children, I’ll tell you the  Ebay story of the saxophone and the one about the Crown Royal.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Deep Thought

Saw this as an e-mail tag on someone's email this morning.   I'm pretty lazy about Deep Thinking, so I don't know -- does it have deep significance, or is it just funny?

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." – Einstein

Monday, July 8, 2013

Laughing Out Loud

Just took another look at yesterday's youtube clip, wondering how many of the hundred people who viewed it in the last 24 hours did so because of this site, and for the first time started reading the comments.
It's impressive how many claim it's the most romantic (some say "erotic") moment ever in the history of cinema -- "I still cry every time I watch that film" --  how many mention Max Steiner's music, what a lot of praise there is for the rest of the movie (I didn't realize you can watch the whole of it on youtube) -- and at least  one fan who went and found the book. 
One woman writes that she was 12 years old when she first realized the symbolic meaning of that transferred cigarette gesture (oh dear, even at 87 I've never put quite that interpretation on it) -- and then I found myself laughing out loud, all alone here, when I came upon one of the rare criticisms.  Tina is Henreid's young daughter, who will be brought up by wealthy Charlotte because his unpleasant wife doesn't really like the child ...and here's the comment that set me off :

This is dreadful! Poor little Tina needs to be removed from that house before all that second-hand smoke kills her!


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Those Were the Days

On the Fourth, Turner Classic Movies showed an appropriate classic – “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, with James Cagney as George M. Cohan.  All the song and dance was so enjoyable that I was unable to tear up properly at the deathbed scene of Cohan’s father.  The doctor has just promised that he will remain at the bedside all night, so Cagney says “Cigarette, Doc?” and as I automatically think “Don’t do it!” the kindly old doctor responds “Yes, I will.”
Ah, those were the days.
The most famous movie cigarette, of course, was actually two cigarettes.  As a teenager I had enjoyed Olive Higgins Prouty’s novel “Now, Voyager,” and the movie is just as good, maybe even better.  In the famous final scene, Bette Davis and Paul Henreid gaze fixedly into each others’ eyes, and their romantic music begins as he says solemnly, with that sexy accent “Shall we just have a cigarette on it?”
She chokes out an eager “yes” and steps closer, offering the cigarette box that happens to be handy.  It’s been established earlier in the movie that this is Their Ritual, and now it will take the place of the wedding ceremony they can’t have.

Without breaking eye contact, he lights two cigarettes and hands her one.  Gazing into each other’s eyes, they blow smoke at each other.  Trust me, there’s not a dry eye in the theatre.

A bit more dialog, and then she delivers the line I’ve remembered for maybe 70 years – “Jerry, let’s not ask for the moon......we have the stars.”
The stills don’t do this justice.  You need the swelling music.  If you have a minute and 47seconds to spare, try Youtube:
Pull it up right now, and you’ll be viewer number 145,724.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Comment Frustration

             Maybe someone out there can help me?  It’s about comments for this blog.  First off, some of you have emailed ( that you can’t seem to post comments at all.  And then comments don’t seem to show when one pulls up the blog, which is a shame.  They’re the most interesting part.  Take these two just in about coal deliveries:
             My guess is that the Brighton kids’ failure to recognize coal was more about place than era.  Coal was very much in use in the 50s in Peoria…my grandparents’ furnace used coal, as did our next door neighbors’ furnace.  The neighbor used to save the coal scatter tags (see Ebay “coal scatter tags”) for me to use as play money.  Just like “Christmas Story”, the roaring blazes in those furnaces scared me to death. Dannette
And then the very next comment, which also mentions the ‘50s:
             By coincidence I was researching anthracite coal not too long ago.  I was born in the 1950s.  I have no experience with coal trucks.  Surely they were long gone by then?  That was a very evocative post though.  I am very conscious of morning sounds too.  Stacy
Wouldn’t Stacy (whom I don’t know) have liked to read my daughter-in-law Dannie’s comments?  Wouldn’t you have liked to read them both?   
So of course I researched coal scatter tags, which I’d never heard of.  They were small disks  thrown in with the coal by delivery companies to build customer loyalty, and yes, of course they’re traded by collectors these days.  A discussion group recommends searching along railroad tracks or in old barns. 
            Meanwhile, I got to remembering one more morning sound from the 1930s – the way the whole house rumbled when my father was down in the basement “shaking out the clinkers”.  And I suddenly recalled a niche built into the furnace wall, just  to the left of the door, on which my mother placed her bean pot, to bake overnight while the fire was “banked down.”
             And for more Depression bits-- at the worst of it, when I assume the coal supply was ending  before the winter did, I remember my mother heating the house by throwing cardboard boxes into the furnace just before we were due home from school. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Street Noises

Woke early this morning and listened to the suburban silence.  Part of that may be because I don’t wear the hearing aids at night, and the birds are long past their springtime courtship showing off.  But I was remembering being wakened early on Fourth of July, back when I was a kid in Boston.  Boys were running down the middle of the street, shooting off firecrackers at the crack of dawn.
With the Great Depression in full swing, few boys in our neighborhood could afford to set off a whole chunk of braided-together firecrackers at once in a machine-gun volley.  Instead they carefully separated the wicks, even with the cheapest tiny ones,  pulled them out of the pack and lit them one by one, throwing as far as possible when a wick started to smolder. Few matches were involved – with your purchase at the corner store you received a couple of sticks of free punk.  Punk didn’t burn hot enough to light sparklers, of course, but sparklers were expensive, and they were for after dark anyhow.
            I got to remembering other street noises.  In bed early mornings, I’d hear a neighbor’s car – sharing his anxiety at the first two or three rattles of the starter, spaced apart so as not to “flood the engine”, then relief as the motor caught, and the rising pitch as he drove down the street, with an abrupt silence each time he changed gears.
         Or, early afternoons with an enforced nap, I’d lie there hearing the rattle
of a coal delivery truck.  Sometimes the metal chutes could be set up right from the little hatch that opened in the back of the dump truck.  Other times the deliveryman would have to hoist sacks,  or maneuver a wheelbarrow, back to the open basement window where a shorter chute rattled down to the coal bin.  Once, in the 1950s, I came across a gleaming chuck of anthracite – one of my sons took it to school for Show and Tell, and reported that most of the kids didn’t know what it was.
              And yes, I remember hearing the rattle of horse-drawn milk wagons.  But this post’s getting too long.  You’ll have to wait for another day to hear the nostalgia riff on delivery trucks.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Flunked My Exam

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll run out things to tell you about, but fortunately, interesting stuff keeps happening.  This morning, for instance, I was unable to pull up my stock account on the Internet because the service took it into its head to go back and ask me four security questions -- and I flunked out.  Three of the questions I probably got right – what city was your wedding reception held in?  what is your least favorite food? and that old standbye, name of your pet?  The one I couldn’t get – and they gave me three tries – was
             When you were a child, what was your favorite tv show? 
What on earth could I have set up as the answer to that one?  Because I was married and had children before I ever saw live television.  We’re talking maybe 1950 here, and I remember the moment perfectly:  Norm and I are standing with some friends on a sidewalk on Monroe Avenue in front of Harry Malley’s appliance store.  Harry has set up a television set facing out to the street and people are crowding around to look at some dancing cigarette packs.  It was thrilling to think that at the very moment we were watching, two girls in white go-go boots were dancing down in New York city.  In real time!  Not on movie film!  We were seeing them as it happened.  It's the kind of thrilling moment one never forgets.

Boy, you can find just about anything on the Internet.