Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read." Sam'l Clemens, 1835-1910

So, we got a tiny sifting of snow today. And, if yesterday was a stellar deathday, what extraordinary souls came into the world through the door marked 30 November.... Still, it was on this day, 110 years ago, that Oscar Wilde passed away. A very sad story, in the end. Seven years, as of today, since Gertrude Ederle died, at a most advanced age, when who remembered what she did when she was young? Too few, I bet, but I'm a melancholy sort. I had the privilege of writing about her, if only briefly, and painting her, some years back when I was working on my book, Remember the Ladies.
Had there been room in that book, I'd have included Lucy Maud Montgomery. At nights, when I can't sleep, I listen to her words. (That link should take you to where you might purchase an audio version of L.M.M.'s lovely Anne of Green Gables. I got into the habit of audio books when I was working at Hallmark & Current. Many an artist listened as she painted.) What a splendid writer Ms. M. was! If she hadn't croaked years ago, she'd be celebrating her 136th birthday today along with another, though very different writer, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill. along with yet another, exceedingly different writer, who'd have turned 175 years old today and much to say about our world and its politics, were Sam'l Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain still alive. Man oh man, I'd buy a ticket to that.. Hmmm.... I wrote & illustrated a book about Mr. Twain & his river. I loved that book. I was in love when I did it, like a blockhead. It's out of print now, the world being rotten & unfair.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Far away in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty." Louisa May Alcott, b. 29 Nov. 1832

"Our ideals are our better selves." Amos Bronson Alcott, teacher, philosopher, improvident father to Louisa & her sisters, b. 29 Nov, 1799, on Gaetano Donizetti's 2nd birthday. Listen to what he'd grow up to write!

Do, if you have not, see or see again this splendid documentary about that invincible Louisa. Though I must say that my happiest associations with Miss Alcott are the movies made from her Little Women, particularly the most recent. I went to see it with my sister and my 4-year-old niece (soon to turn 20), who wore a red velvet party dress for the occasion and her white tights, black shiny shoes.
So, sure, it was on this day in 1922, when my dad was a baby, that Howard Carter & Co. entered the boy king's tomb. And today's the birthday of the great C. S. Lewis (1898) www.cslewis.com And Billy Strayhorn (1915), but man oh man oh man, what a grievous deathday this is. It's been 14 years now, since Cary Grant died, 19 since his very best co-star, Ralph Bellamy, passed away, and 29 since Natalie Wood drowned.
And, it was on this day in the deadly year, 1864, when Ms. Alcott turned 32, when President Lincoln had not 5 months to live that U.S. soldiers killed some 150 Cheyenne at Sand Creek, out in the Colorado Territory. As it happens, I wrote about the missionaries, Narcissa Whitman and her husband Marcus, those early travelers on the great Oregon Trail. Some years after they got to the end of it, their long culture clash came to an end, when they died on the foggy 29 Nov. 1847. It happened at their Mission. They were among those whom were killed by their Cayuse neighbors, who'd never seen the need for the Whitmans' professed faith, who were aghast at the white settlers pouring into their lands, at the deaths, day after day, from measles...
"....A rifle shot! Angry voices!
'Oh, the Indians!' Narcissa screamed, 'the Indians!' as the warriors ran outside..."
ah well. To paraphrase C.S.Lewis, birthday guy, history is not a tame lion.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

“If we have not quiet in our minds, outward comfort will do no more for us than a golden slipper on a gouty foot.” Rev. John Bunyan, born this day in 1628.

I guess it's a bit obsessive and silly, this bit of daily trolling for commemorations, birthdays & such, but if I hadn't formed this habit I'd never have come across Rev. Bunyan's words, so beautifully expressed. For that matter, I wouldn't have known that today's the 115th anniversary of America's first automobile race. And you may not know that the event was rather wonderfully portrayed [here I am, mastering my native tendency to jealousy & insecurity, the wishing that I'd done this book and weren't such a sadsack piece of doomed flotsam...ooh wait. I'd better give Rev. Bunyan's words more thought. this pilgrim is in sore need of progress...] in Michael Dooling's historical picture book, The Great Horse-less Carriage Race.
Oh my goodness - I scrolled down wikipedia's list of today's deathdays and, along w/all else that's slipped my mind, today's the anniversary of the day that Washington Irving kicked the bucket. Why would I ever have known that? Because 1. I'm something of a weirdo and 2. I wrote & illustrated a fine, pretty much ignored book about this charming folklorist, travel-writer, biographer, diplomat, and amateur architect. I loved working on that book.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

So, as of today. 32 times around the sun we've gone since Harvey Milk was murdered, left the world through the slot marked Nov. 27. It was through that door, 201 years ago, that the beautiful actress, unhappy wife, passionate writer and abolitionist Fanny Kemble came into the world, this vale of tears & wonder, to live with us for a while. (if you go to that wiki link, you'll see the glorious, luscious, and romantic portrait that the great Thomas Sully painted of Ms. Fanny...Thos. was a summer baby, born in England in 1783. His deathday was earlier this month.) This past week, you may know that John F. Kennedy, Jr. would have marked his 50th birthday. His big sister turns 53 today. Those pretty little children of my shabby, dreamy little childhood.


Friday, November 26, 2010

So, those of you who know me and my books know that my first historical book had to do with those long gone seafaring pioneers who came over on the Mayflower. (if you clicked on the Mayflower link, you'll come to Caleb Johnson's far out website, well worth a look.)It may well be that many an American dinner table and elementary school bulletin board was graced with images of white capped ladies and gents with buckled hats. Oh yes, and a few of their neighbors decked with feathers. Perhaps a turkey, its outlines helped along by drawing around one's hand. I happened to do the book Three Young Pilgrims because earlier, I'd done a book jacket painting for a new paperback edition of Patricia Clapp's splendid historical novel, Constance, about colonist Constance Hopkins Snow. (1606-1677) In reading it I was so taken with the colonists' courage. It led me to doing a book, a picture book of my own, one of my all time favorites and in all the book, my favorite spread is that of a cutaway of the vessel, loaded with little labels. If you know my books, you know how I adore little labels. Just for you to know, the title refers to the three young children of Isaac and Mary Allerton. I hope that somewhere off in the Blue Beyond the colonists know we remember them.

Oh, and by the way, in was on this day in 1912 that Eric Sevareid was born, much admired by me and looked forward to, whenever his commentaries were featured on Walter Cronkite's Evening News, back in the day.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

50 Years Ago

Well, 227 years ago today, in 1783, the British had gotten word of the finalized peace and trade treaties, signed over in Paris, thanks to the efforts of John Adams, John Jay, and Benjamin Franklin. So then, at long last, the British left, sailed away, decided not to stay where they weren't wanted and left New York City. 147 years ago today, General U. S. Grant and his troops defeated Confederate forces at Missionary Ridge, in Tennessee. And 90 years ago today, Noel Neill was born, on Joe DiMaggio's 6th birthday. She would grow up to be an actress who'd be signed to play Lois Lane opposite Geo. Reeves' Clark Kent on the TV show, the Adventures of Superman. It went off the air in 1958, when I was in the second grade. George Reeves went off the air in 1959 and in 1960, fifty years ago today, a son was born to the newly-elected President of the United States and his wife, Jacqueline. They named him John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr.

"The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!"

-Henry Ward Beecher

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

‎"The dangers of a concentration of all power in the general government of a confederacy so vast as ours are too obvious to be disregarded."

So said Franklin "Handsome Frank" Pierce of New Hampshire, 14th President of the United States, born on the 23rd of November, 1804. So he'd be 53 when he was elected to the presidency in 1852, one of many, many perilous times in the history of the republic. I seem to remember that he and his delicate wife, Jane, had already lost two of their three sons, when they were babies. So it was particularly tragic when their remaining child, 11-year-old Benny, was killed in an awful train accident, in January, 1853. Sad, sad, sad.

On the other hand, I'm just back from speaking to a genial group of Rotarians, here in Independence. I love it when I get to gas away to a bunch of people. I just love it.

Monday, November 22, 2010


"Humans are amphibians - half spirit and half animal: As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time." C. S. Lewis

So, into our world, in 1819, came Mary Ann Evans, through the door marked 22 November. To the extent that she's still known it is as George Eliot, her nom de wordspinner, for her books, Middlemarch & Silas Marner. And on that day, 80 years later, Hoagy Carmichael was born. But really, this date is generally draped in black, given the notable souls whose tickets were punched on the 22nd of November. .Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the fearsome pirate, was killed on this date in 1718. Robert Clive, the baron/poobah of the East India Co. ended his celebrated life on 22 Nov, 1774. Happy Deathday, composer Arthur S. Sullivan, 110 years ago today. Sixteen years later Jack London's hard-knockabout author's life came to an end.
Golly...I find that .that horrible "Stooge" Shemp Howard, Moe's brother, I think, died 22 Nov. 1955, when I was 4 years old.... the brilliant bizarre Mae West died on 22 Nov. 1980, when she was 87 and wonderful character actor, Sterling Holloway, who was so terrific in the small part he played in Meet John Doe, died in 1992. . Lorenz Hart, a most marvelous poet of a lyricist and a trouble-tormented fellow passed away on this date in 1943 (I think the link might take you to Doris Day singing "My Romance"... the tune's by Richard Rodgers).
But it's this day, 20 years later, that's the most grievous of all. C.S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley died that day. And of course, Death was waiting for JFK in Dallas.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

So, the third week of this particular November is pretty much gone forever. 'Tis the weekend before our American food fest. For those long-gone holiday/sea-faring pioneers, their harvest get-together, what we call the 1st Thanksgiving, was already over, by this section of November. Their Wampanoag neighbors, represented by their leader, Massasoit, & colleagues had returned to their homes. Right around this time of year, 1621, the Plimoth colonists saw a sensational sight on their horizon: sails, belonging to the good ship Fortune, w/ a boatload of hungry new colonists. Hard times awaited them all. Still, these were as nothing compared to the hungry times that confronted a boatload of Nantucket whalers, almost exactly 200 years later. This week in 1820 found a bunch hard luck sailors no longer aboard the Essex, now that she'd been rammed and sunk by an 80-ton whale.
Right around this time o' year in 1776 General Washington and his troops had put the mighty Hudson between themselves & the isle of Manhattan, over which they'd been fighting & fleeing & trying to hang on a little longer. This week in 1783 found Parisians, those who had the leisure to do so, still pondering w/ delight the ne'er-before-seen sight and the flight of a silken balloon filled w/ hot air, sent floating into the air.
.Ah well, horrors & delights. Cheers to you, birthday folks, long-gone bad man Tom Horn and tightwad Hetty Green. Happy deathday (1916, just when things were particularly hellish throughout his part of the world) Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria. I'm going to go bake a pie and count some blessings.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there." Indira Gandhi (1917 ~ 1984)
Oh baybee, what a bittersweet & poignant day of anniversaries this is.... Of course it was on this day in 1863 – what? seven score & seven years ago? – when exhausted President Lincoln strode to the battleground/graveyard pulpit to read out the lines of his Gettysburg Address. But I didn't know until I checked a little bit ago that Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow committed their first robbery 80 years ago today on the anniversary of the day that Franz Schubert died (1828) and that Joe Hill was lawfully shot to death in 1915, having been railroaded, convicted, & sentenced to be executed as a murderer. It's likely that his real crime was his being a "Wobblie," an active member of the International Workers of the World (IWW.. some said the initials stood for I Won't Work),"One Big Union." What a fierce time that was - violent uprisings, put-downs, labor v. capital head-knocking/strike-breaking, women's last hard push to the Vote, suffragists jailed & tortured... the Great War broken out in the trenches of western Europe.... the period looks rather quaint from afar...
And explorer Wm.'s brother, Geo.Rogers Clark was born on this day in 1752. I had the chance to learn more about him when I was writing my Dan'l Boone book: "He and less than 200 half-starved frontier soldiers survived a 180-mile winter march, [in 1779] sometimes in chest-deep icy water. Out in what is now Illinois and Indiana, they captured one British outpost after another." Gen. Clark shares a birthday w/ Tommy Dorsey, the bandleader (1905), Indira Gandhi, once the Prime Minister of India, Billy Sunday, the old evangelist (1862), baseball player Roy Campanella (1921), and actors Clifton Webb (1889) & beautiful Gene Tierney (1920), who were so sly & silky together in Laura....
Now work waits the doing. I could leave it to the elves, but they are about worthless.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"You can't sweep other people off their feet, if you can't be swept off your own. " Clarence Day, b. 18 Nov. 1874... he'd end up writing a memoir about his childhood in NYC, which would end up being made into Life With Father, a fabulously technicolored movie w/ wonderful, brilliant Wm. Powell [hair dyed red!] & Irene Dunne [oh my gosh, their duet together is a pure delight] .... young Elizabeth Taylor, too...
So guess what? Apart from the happy fact that I had a laughter-filled dinner last night with book-friends, incl. swell YA novelist Vicki Grove & swell illustrator Henry Cole, according to the wikibots it was on this very day in the year 1307 - isn't it remarkable that folks kept track? and that it'd end up being the same day, 602 years later, on which Johnny Mercer, one of the best composers ever, was born, and anyway, in was on 18 Nov 1307 that Wm Tell shot an apple off his son's head, neither of them ever to know that there'd be an opera about their harrowing experience . Wouldn't they have gotten a large bang out of Rossini's overture to the Lone Ranger? Oh baybee...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

‎"Of all the passions of mankind, the love of novelty most rules the mind. In search of this, from realm to realm we roam. Our fleets come loaded with every folly home." Shelby Foote, 17 Nov. 1916 ~ 27 June. 2005

If you're reading this or if you've chanced upon my Facebook profile, you know my fondness for quotations and this one is handsome indeed, no? I'll be copying it down in my little spiral bound book, sort of a mini-scrapbook I carry about. It's about 3 by 4 inches in which I paste little pictures. Originally I was going to use the little book to record that which I was putting in my mouth, contributing to my soft, thick, squashiness. I pasted in a glimpse of tight, slim torso encased in magenta silk from which I'd clipped Sara Jessica Parker's head. I ended up writing across it a line of Thos. Carlyle:
"Let me have my own way exactly in everything and a sunnier and pleasanter creature does not exist."
Again, if you're reading this, you may well be a fan as I am of Ken Burns' series of documentaries about the great and terrible Civil War and you remember how movingly Shelby Foote spoke of those long gone people and events. And if you know me, you may or may not know how many times I've moved - never longer than 5 years at one address until I was 35 - exceedingly seldom longer than one year with one fellow, back when I was still engaged in that particular pursuit of happiness.... anyway, a most appropriate quotation. God rest you Mr. Foote, and all the souls you chronicled.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"A fool & his money is soon elected." Will Rogers

Okay, well, good luck to all of the incoming Congressfolks. They'll settle themselves in at desks once occupied by their storied predecessors and maybe catch their breaths after all of the BSification and gasbaggy stemwinding & podium-pounding. It takes a lot of energy pretending to mean so much blather.
And guess what, it was on this day in history that a notorious burglar met his ultimate fate when he was 22, at the end of a noose in 1724. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Sheppard What a story! Who needs fiction? Well... I do, but you know what I mean.

Monday, November 15, 2010

So, here we are at the middle of November and a gaggle of newly elected representatives are settling themselves into their lame duck session. Okay. I'm too depressed to write any more.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

So, some years ago, it must have been in Washington, D.C. at an exhibit of the glorious work of Jean-Antoine Houdon (20 March 1741 ~ 15 July 1828) http://www.artcyclopedia.com/feature-2003-06.html I saw his bust of Robert Fulton. If you click on this link, you can see it, too. http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.lib-art.com/imgpainting/5/0/3605-robert-fulton-jean-antoine-houdon.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.lib-art.com/art-prints/hubert-robert.html&usg=__2djzigJLg-3qU10dPVbgSIcXmP4=&h=1276&w=900&sz=106&hl=en&start=0&zoom=1&tbnid=ai9kcpU1d1rtMM:&tbnh=138&tbnw=80&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dhoudon%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dsafari%26sa%3DX%26rls%3Den%26biw%3D1303%26bih%3D614%26tbs%3Disch:1&um=1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=740&vpy=79&dur=4492&hovh=267&hovw=188&tx=98&ty=125&ei=TBbgTO-8NIK8lQfpoZyXDQ&oei=TBbgTO-8NIK8lQfpoZyXDQ&esq=1&page=1&ndsp=29&ved=1t:429,r:6,s:0
Being a fan of early 19th century costume & aving been a sometime sculptor myself, I was knocked out by the intricacies of collar & cravat & lapels, the strength and delicacy of Fulton's features. Having written and illustrated The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal, I knew of Fulton's successful experiment with steam navigation on the Hudson River, in the summer of 1807. http://www.kiacusa.com/clermont.html But I hadn't known that Robt. Fulton was, in addition to being an inventor, a civil and mechanical engineer, he had been an apprentice in the studio of the painter Benjamin West (10 October 1738 ~ 11 March 1820) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_West (10 October 1738 ~ 11 March 1820). He supported himself in his studies by painting many a portrait, many a landscape. Oh yes, and it was on this day that this remarkable American was born, in 1765, in Pennsylvania.
According to the wikibots, "Quicksilver Bob" Fulton (not the niftyest nickname I've ever heard, but pretty fine) shares a birthday with another artist, the great, glad-eyed, light-loving, nimble-fingered Claude Monet (1840), Felix's sister & fellow composer Fanny Mendelssohn (1805), Charles, Prince of Wales, King-in-Waiting (1948), and Mamie Geneva Doud Eisenhower (1896). If you happen to go to Ike's Presidential Museum in Abilene, Kansas, you might well see exhibited a tiny, lacy dress that she once wore...

Saturday, November 13, 2010


So, I got caught up in other things such as gazing at the window and admiring the autumn trees hereabouts as seen through mists & sprinkles. Driving through those sprinkles & fog, settling ever thicker, down to Grandview, MO, where Harry Truman's grandfathers established their farms back in the 1840s, I believe. I was to talk to a gaggle of ladies, old friends of one another, about my books. Mimi waited in the car. One of the ladies remembered visiting w/ Harry's mother, Mattie, and his sister, Mary Jane. I experienced one of those quiet thrills you get when you brush up against history.
Hurrying home by way of the store for a bottle of white wine, by way of the graveyard so Mimi & I could walk 'round the damp stones & Mimi could sniff at the grass, to get dinner on the table for the best sort of company: an old friend of my own. so all in all, I neglected to write a lick yesterday about it's being the 195th anniversary of the birth of women's rights activist & devoted mom & friend to Susan B., her forger of thunderbolts, in fact Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in Johnstown, New York. And oh didn't Judge Cady wish that his pretty daughter, the 8th of his 11 children, had only been a boy... " I thought that the chief thing to be done in order to equal boys was to be learned and courageous," LIzzie would write later on. "So I decided to study Greek and learn to manage a horse." and that was only the beginning.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man." Fyodor Doestoevsky (1821~1881)

Thus making veterans of us all. I came across this quotation in the course of my daily birthday check. It turns out that Fyodor Doestoevsky came into the world exactly ten years before Nat Turner left it by way of a noose provided by a bunch of furious white folks, terrified of what could happen should all of the enslaved rise up. Doestoevsky was born on what would have been Abigail Smith Adams' 77th birthday. John's 'dearest friend' [a valiant, gallant pair of veterans they were. don't need to put on a uniform after all to give your life to a nation] had left the building, had her ticket punched, back in 1818, about a 100 years before all the guns fell silent, all along the wretched, muddy, miserable & murderous Western Front, at the 11th hour, the 11th day, the 11th month. Geo. S. Patton, who turned 33 that day, who'd be no stranger to suffering in battle, would write that "it is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."

I say it'd be foolish & wrong not to try to do both, not to remember.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations."

"Success consists of getting up just one more time than you fall."
Oliver Goldsmith, b. 10 November, 1730 I have a feeling that I was way too young to appreciate this fellow when I was introduced to his writing, The Vicar of Wakefield, in high school.

"Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail. " Martin Luther, b. 10 November, 1483

So, according to the wiki-bots, it was on this day, 29 Brumaire, 1793, that the French Revolutionaries proclaimed a "Goddess of Reason" of truth and liberty. Me, I'm celebrating the anniversary by continuing to work on a middle grade novel, trying to build up my nano-wordcount. 11,047 as of now. this means I'm way behind, but I like how the story's going. That's the main thing, no? www.nanowrimo.org

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid."
Hedy Lamarr, actress, inventor, glamour girl, born 9 November, 1913, in Vienna, Austria, in the last days of old Europe. apres le deluge, as it were. According to the wikibots, her parents named her Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler. By the time she died @ age 86, 19 Jan. [Gen. Robt. E. Lee's birthday, just for you to know] 2000, ponder on all the changes she witnessed.

So, happy birthday Hedy Lamarr (apparently as smart as she was lovely to look at. if so she'd be like a genius) & to you, long-gone minister and newspaperman Elijah Parish Lovejoy of Alton, Illinois, whose printing press was dumped into the Father of Waters by pro-slavery activists (strict constructionists of the U.S. Constitution they might have styled themselves. a barbarian by any other name...). One of them shot & killed him, 2 days before his 35th birthday. I seem to remember that pioneer missionaries Narcissa Whitman and her new husband (also doomed to violent death, both of them, in a future November) met Mr. Lovejoy on their way west in 1836. And that it was a few weeks after Lovejoy's death, in 1837, that a tall, muscular, wisecracking, introspective, ambitious & brilliant backwoods Illinois legislator (ditto), met smart, pretty, vivacious Mary Todd, just up from Lexington, Kentucky...
Anyway, exactly 101 years after Mr. Lovejoy was killed, a similarly violent bunch of yokels, convinced of their righteousness, launched "Kristallnacht" upon their fellow Germans & Austrians. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/kristallnacht.html
Lest you be thinking that YOU'RE having a bad day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

8th of November

Miss Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta was not the most brilliant writer in the world, but readers seldom realized it once caught by the charm, dash, & drama of Gone With the Wind. She was born 110 years ago today in the still-recovering, not-so-very-damned Sunny South. I seem to remember (from that that swell TNT documentary) that she was known as Peggy to her friends. She shared a birthday with Bram Stoker (b. 1847) of Ireland, another popular author, just for you to know; and Jack Kilby, b. this day in 1923. To my knowledge, I'd never heard of J.K. until I was working on my book about the artist/teacher/agriculturist/self-styled 'kitchen chemist' Geo. Washington Carver (far & away more than some peanut butter enthusiast trotted out once a year for Black History Month), but Kilby invented the 'integrated circuit' (as well as the sort of calculator one could actually hold in one's very own hand),w/o which I'd not be sitting here typing this on this device, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics.

It's Patti Page's birthday, too, b. on Peggy Mitchell's 27th birthday (She'd already begun writing her masterpiece.) Patti Page's folks named her Clara Ann Fowler. Anyway, when I was in kindergarten, she was my very favorite singer. I remember thinking that her voice wasn't all breathy and "powdery" like other singers.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

By the way, did any of you, if there's anybody out there reading this, happen to hear this story on National Public Radio's All Thing's Considered on Friday afternoon? About a recipe for a baked pumpkin "stuffed with everything good?" I must try this very, very soon.... Here's the link:

"Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas." Marie Curie

"Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide."
So said Tecumseh, the Shawnee orator, leader, the "Shooting Star." I simply must do a book about him if only to learn more about this compelling person. 'Twas on this day 199 years ago, in what was then the Indiana Territory, that his fellow warriors clashed with U.S. forces led by future President Wm. Henry Harrison at the awful Battle of Tippecanoe. Want to learn more about this truly significant, albeit harsh and grievous deal - gee, why wouldn't you? go to:

In any event, 56 years later, the curious, investigative physicist & chemist, Marie Sklodowska Curie, was born in Poland. I sort of wondered if her soul had its song prepared prior to her departure from the Blue Beyond to enter her earthly life thru the door marked 7 Nov 1867.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"The office of President is a great one; to every true American it seems the greatest on earth. And to me, as I was engaged in weaving a background of music for the pageantry of it, there came a deeper realization of the effect of that office on the man."

John Philip Sousa, composer, leader of the greatest band (1854~1932)

So, happy deathday, Catherine, the "Great" Empress of all the Russias. Her remarkable life ended, this day in 1796, the last year of Geo. Washington's Presidency. when she was 67.
Happy birthday John Philip Sousa,, who turned six years old on the day that Mr. Lincoln of Illinois was elected to the U.S. Presidency, 150 years ago today. Isn't that remarkable? If you ever, ever get the chance [maybe you could find it at the library] track down the American Experience documentary, If You Knew Sousa.

I'm just back from a 4-hr drive across the handsome land of the Show Me, from St. Peters, Missouri, from a get-together of the MO Assoc. of School Librarians. http://www.maslonline.org/ Let us give thanks for lovers of books.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fawkesy Dude!

"Sacredness of human life! The world has never believed it! It has been with life that we settled our quarrels, won wives, gold & land, defended ideas, imposed religions. We have held that a death toll was a necessary part of every human achievement, whether sport, war, or industry. A moment's rage over the horror of it, and we have sunk into indifference." Ida Tarbell, progressive journalist and teacher, 5 Nov. 1857 ~ 6 Jan. 1944

Miss Tarbell was born in one of many perilous times in American history, on Guy Fawkes Day when many a crowd has gathered 'round bonfires to commemorate the autumn day in London, in 1605, when Fawkes was discovered w/a cache of explosives w/ which he'd hoped to blow up the House of Lords. All part of a plan it was, to plant a Catholic on the throne of England. After all, said Mr. Fawkes, "A desperate disease requires a dangerous remedy." The Britannic authorities could not have agreed more. Further illuminating Ida's declaration, they captured and tortured Fawkes, thus foiling the "Gunpowder Plot," then they hanged him. Oh - and, this appears to be the anniversary of the day in 1831 when magistrates of the Old Dominion sentenced Nat Turner to death for having raised a deadly rebellion of those trapped in servitude. (Hmmm... according to the wikibots, today marks 4 years since Saddam Hussein was sentenced to the noose & the world was relieved of his company, if not the affects of his time here.)
On an ever so much nicer note, three performers, who gave boatloads of pleasure to this unfair, wicked old world, share a birthday with the courageous, stubborn, indefatigable Ida Tarbell: Joel McCrae (1905)... do see him, if you haven't, in Sullivan's Travels. or see it again if you have. oh baybee.... Roy Rogers (1911), and Vivien Leigh (1913).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Okay, no easy thing choosing ONE nifty thing said by the man who was born on this day, 4 Nov. (my niece Kate Harness's 21st birthday), down in the "Indian Territory" [known as Oklahoma for some time now], back in 1879, when Laura Ingalls was 12, when President Rutherford B. & 1st Lady Lucretia 'Lemonade Lucy' Hayes were in the White House & Mr. Woolworth opened his first 5¢ store. But here you go and didn't the multitudes wish that he'd never gotten on that plane back in the summer of '35. God bless today's birthday dude, the smart-aleck who said:

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."

William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers (1879-1935)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

“Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile.” so wrote the poet, William Cullen Bryant, born in Massachusetts on the 3rd of November, 1794, the year of the so-called Whiskey Rebellion. man oh man, we Americans have always gotten our knickers twisted over taxes, never liked paying the club dues. John Trumbull painted his grand and famous [grandly, famously crowded] painting, commemorating the signing of the Dec. of Ind. that year....As to Wm. C. B.'s notion of smiling nature, I reckon I'd counter w/ a white December morning. Here's a link to Wm.'s Thanatopsis:


Me, I'll read it later. That's one long-ass 'pome'

It's the birthday, too, of Anastasia's big sister Olga, the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanov, one of Czar Nicky's lovely, photogenic, doomed daughters, who no more asked to be born into their coddled lives [or did they? guess we'll find out on the other side] than did their stubborn, shy parents and all the infants of the masses. Olga, I find, was born when my grandmother, Eulah Brown of Cameron, MO, was two years old. ...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

“All you need for happiness is a good gun, a good horse, and a good wife” Daniel Boone, born on the 2nd of November, according to the old calendar, in 1734... Duchess Maria Antonia was born on Dan'l's 21st birthday over in Austria, unaware, of course, that she'd be known in France as Marie Antoinette, doomed queen, having been dispatched into political wedlock. Long many a year was born on Dan'l's 21st birthday, swell author Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, b. 2 Nov, quite a few years after that... http://www.kinsey-warnock.com/

Here, here's a bit o' me Dan'l Boone book in honor of the old Pathfinder:

AS LONG AS PEOPLE HAVE HAD EYES & MINDS, they've used them to gaze & wonder what they might see if they ventured out beyond the edge of town. But not everybody had the gumption or, in some cases, the misfortune to leave the familiar and chance the mysterious. Off they'd go, all sorts of hardy folks, into the woods, on rivers, across deserts, and over the seas. Thanks to them, we have stories, and one of the best is that of trailblazer Daniel Boone. He tramped many a mile, gathering up knowledge about young America's frontier, storing all that he learned behind his keen blue eyes.
We Americans are, on the whole, a restless bunch, descended from travelers. When ancestors of the folks Daniel Boone knew as "Indians" came east from Asia to North America, they might well have found paths made by who knows who or what. Over the ages, descendants of these prehistoric pioneers and newcomers from across the Atlantic Ocean crisscrossed the continent, tracing new trails. Old roads morphed and networked into canals, railroad tracks, city streets, and multi-lane highways where, nowadays, cars and trucks zip along at 70 MPH. We speed through the clouds in jets, thousands of feet above where beasts and people trudged through the wilds, following in the footsteps of Daniel Boone. We still do.

introduction to The Trailblazing Life of DANIEL BOONE & How Early Americans Took to the Road [National Geographic, 2007]

Monday, November 1, 2010


"On Saturday afternoon, November 1, 1800, four horses pulled a coach along mud-rutted, stump-stubbled Pennsylvania Avenue and up to an unfinished sandstone mansion, the biggest house in America. Sixty-five-year-old John Adams stepped out and gazed up at his new home, which would be forever known as the White House. His wife and granddaughter, 4-year-old Susanna, arrived two weeks later, having gotten lost in the 'Forest and woods' on the way.
In their new home, they kept close to the fireplaces. The lofty, hardly finished rooms smelled of smoke, damp plaster, sawdust, and paint. Abigail, who didn't want citizens gawking at the First Family's linen drying in the yard, would have laughed to know that her East Room clothesline would become a White House legend.'

I wrote and more than once rewrote this passage for p. 32 of my book The Revolutionary John Adams, published in 2003 (a very different time, publishing-wise) by the National Geographic. Man oh man, I loved working on this book about one of the most fascinating American families, pondering John and Abigail's partnership, their valiant efforts and separations and prickly personalities. I don't at all mean to be turning this here blog into some infomercial, but oh well...
210 years ago today. Golly, imagine settling into that cold barn down in Washington City.

Just imagine - that's what I always do and lemme tell you, it sure as heck makes the reading of history a damned sight more interesting than one might think. And researching? Oh baybee -- do check out http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/history/ and treat yourself to reading William Seale's splendid [two volumes!] history of The President's House

And just imagine - apart from managing the complex affairs of state, mourning the loss of their son Charles, John and Abigail doing their best to settle into that cold barn [the power was out & wouldn't be on for another 80 years or so] down in the hardscrabble beginnings of 'Washington City ' 210 years ago today. Me, I'm going to put on another sweater. Long live the Republic. Vote tomorrow.