Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Forgotten TV

(from the archives)
I shouldn't have loved Leave It to Beaver as much as I did because it was routinely pointed out to me by my grandmother that I didn't measure up to Wally and the Beaver. I didn't use Sir and M'am nearly enough. My table manners were not as good at theirs. I wasn't always washing my hands (they spent an inordinate amount of time in that bathroom off their bedroom). I wasn't nearly as tidy in my dress. Having so many scenes in a bathroom seems unusual.

But her words didn't have much of an impact (grandmothers did a lot of scolding in those days). I liked the show then and still do now. Leave it to Beaver ran from 1957 to 1963 and was written by Bob Mosher and Joe Connelly, who'd earlier written the Amos and Andy radio show and would later write The Munsters. It starred Hugh Beaumont as Ward Cleaver, Barbara Billingsley as June, Tony Dow as Wally and Jerry Mathers as the Beaver. Why "the" in front of Beaver, I don't know, but it was used quite a lot.

Set in the town of Mayfield, Anywhere, the Cleavers were an upper middle class suburban family that probably mirrored very few of the lives of its viewers. Their life was a bit too easy financially, a bit too neat and tidy. The infamous pearls and dresses June wore were unfamiliar to most of us although I remember my mother getting dressed for dinner in the fifties.

What made it special was that so much of LITB was from the POV of the boys. The writers were on their side and seldom let them behave unrealistically, never let them flounder too much in their stunts. They assumed as we did that their motives were good and age-appropriate. It was easy to imagine myself in such a jam. (Although I would never climbed up into that cup on a billboard or let a homeless guy into the house).

The Cleaver parents were also subjected to the writers' microscope and made their share of parenting mistakes. They worried about such things routinely, re-thought poor decisions they had made, and corrected them. June always reminded Ward that boys today were different from those in his rural youth. Ward reminded June that boarding school was different from Mayfield Public High.

The show hummed due to its writing and it holds up very well today because it was never overly sanctimonious or too sure-footed in its view of the world. The writers were not afraid to make each Cleaver and his friends and neighbors look fairly ridiculous from time to time. If Eddie Haskell has endured as the case study of "bad influence" the Cleavers assumed they had raised a son smart enough to shake it off. How progressive was that!

I was exactly Beaver's age and had a mad crush on Wally, as did every girl I knew. An autographed picture of Wally hung on my wall. "Find a boy like Wally Cleever," must have been uttered more than once over those years and reportedly, he is as nice in person as on the show. No one offered the same advice about Beaver, who was much more like the rest of us.

I watched an early episode last week: Wally comes home from the barbershop with a ridiculous haircut, which all the boys have. June cannot let go of this and even sees the principal about it. (Something that would soon play out in many homes across the country). The show cleverly played a bit of rock music every time Wally or other boys with this haircut entered the room. In this show, June was allowed to be imperfect. How can you not like a show where everyone is allowed such a thing. It was the conforming fifties, but the Cleavers (or their writers) managed to sneak in a little bit more. Never sanctimonious, never out of touch, it plays w

Monday, July 30, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Once again thanks to the friends that took me shopping, to the movies, out to lunch, out to dinner this week . Boy, am I lucky. See not driving has its benefits.

Another hard week. Less than three weeks to go though. Phil's been in pain for five weeks now, I don't know how he does it. And why nothing seems to cure it. It's like a constant barrage of kidney stones making their way out.

Saw EIGHTH GRADE, which was one of the most realistic looks at being a thirteen year old girl I have seen. Such a great Dad too. That is the second film this year that has portrayed a father so lovingly. (CALL MY NAME)

So much fun looking at the story boards and tryout tapes Megan has been sending me. Of course, they need real cheerleaders to do the cheers because actresses would break their lovely necks.

How about you guys? 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, July 27, 2018

DARE ME, Megan Abbott
Now that it is going to have a pilot, I decided to reread this from 2012.
Addy and Beth are best friends and head the cheerleading squad at their high school. When a new coach comes along, one with ambitions for the squad and herself, a chasm opens between the girls. This sounds like a YA book but it really isn't and lots of teens were probably puzzled by the deeper themes in the book. This book is about power, ambition, friendship, love. I thought it was an even richer book eight years later. This is partly because I have watched these themes play out in three substituent novels. I think YOU WILL KNOW ME is my favorite of Megan's novels, but this is right up there. Oh, let's face it. They are all my favorite.

The Works of Megan Abbott
The Street is Mine (non-fiction)

Die a Little (2006)
The Song is You (2008)
Queenpin (2008)
Bury Me Deep(2009)
The End of Everything (2011)
Dare Me (2012)
The Fever (2014)
You Will Know Me (2016)
Give Me Your Hand (2018)

Normandy Gold (with Alison Gaylin) a graphic novel (2018)

Yvette Banek, DEATH IN HIGH  PROVENCE, Geroge Bellairs
Brian Busby, BLENCARROW, Isabel MacKay
Martin Edwards, Elizabeth X, Vera Caspary
Curt Evans, DEATH'S OLD SWEET SONG, Jonathan Stagge
Richard Horton, THE HAWKS OF ARCTURUS, Cecil Snyder III
Margot Kinberg, THE BOOK OF MEMORY, Patinah Gappah
Kate Laity, RIPLEY UNDER WATER, Patricia Highsmith
B.V. Lawson, THE SINGING SPIDER, Angus MacVicar
Evan Lewis, HANGROPE TOWN, Harry Whittington
Steve Lewis, DEATH NOTICE, M.S. Karl
J.F. Norris, THE LITTLE LIE, Jean Potts
Matt Paust, POLAR STAR, Martin Cruz Smith
Richard Robinson, CRIME THROUGH TIME, Monfredo and Newman
Kevin Tipple/Barry Ergang, BRASS KNUCKLES, Stories by Frank Gruber
TomCat, THE OTHER BULLET, Nancy Barr Mavity

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Opening Titles

 LOLITA-Stanely Kubrick

One of my favorites. Captures the film so eerily. 

What's your favorite? 

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

At Book People in Austin

Forgotten Movies: BLOWOUT

John Travolta is truly the best thing about this film because he acts with some belief in his role. Everyone else seems to be doing their own thing: Nancy Allen is channeling Marilyn Monroe, Dennis Frantz gives a lazy performance, John Lithgow is your run of the mill psycho. There is far too little emphasis put explaining the conspiracy and too much on watching Nancy Allen chase around.  It seems like at least three different movies are going on.

When a sound engineer captures a gunshot fired before an accident, he pursues the truth in what happened. De Palma is just not my kind of director. He wants you to notice his directorial choices too much. There was a good movie here but he buried it in excess. It should have been tight and instead it was sloppy. I know there are a lot of De Palma fans out there but I am not one.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Thnings That Are Making Me Happy (well, some at least)

Another difficult week. Until we can get this fistula repaired, we have constant pain. Nothing has helped. Also our garage door came down on the car, damaging both. Ugh.
But going on to brighter things.

Bright red hibiscus and pink lilies look great together. 

Reading EILEEN by Ottessa Moshfegh, which is as dark at pitch but well done.

Watching DOCTOR FOSTER on Netflix. Like to find series that aren't crime now and then. Although I think someone is going down soon. The two actresses are in Scott and Bailey and Killing Eve. Sometimes I think there are only a dozen actors in the UK because the same ones turn up over and over.

Got to have dinner with my son and his family twice this week Good to get out of the house. 

I am glad I live in an age when you can go to the grocery store and find good, healthy prepared food. Just can't manage real cooking every night on top of the rest. 

Get this though, I have found a doctor who came to our house and calls me to see how Phil is doing. He also called all of Phil's specialists to see if we can move the surgery up. There are still doctors who care about their patients. And we are new ones. Hard to stay off the subject of health right now. 

Once again, thank God for the people who helped me this week. Saints all. 

What about you?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


No one is ever going to say that this doc was predictable. Every time you think you see the thesis, it changes in weird and wondrous ways. Trips separated at birth find each other at age nineteen. And their similarities is just the jumping off point. Nature v. nurture and so much more.

What documentaries have you enjoyed?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Cried my way through WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR (Film about Mr. Rogers) . I am wondering if the fictional version with Tom Hanks can possibly do more justice to him than the doc. Kindness is what he was teaching.

I am reading DARE ME again. I think Megan has changed it a lot for the pilot. Certainly she has  added more adults and more boys. She said a lot of old Mad Men actors are auditioning. I guess we have seen a lot of Jon Hamm in the three years since but not many of the others. So odd to hear about her hiring a musical supervisor, a lighting guy, etc. How mind-boggling it must all be. And, of course, she starts her book tour tomorrow at BOOK ARE MAGIC in Brooklyn so her co showrunner, Gina Fattore, is handling a lot of it in Toronto.When did the term showrunner get started?

It was certainly nice to hear her on NPR Sunday morning.

Grateful for the friends who are getting me out to movies and lunches and such.

LEAVE NO TRACE was a very good movie. Good acting, directing, sets. There were no villains-people were doing their best...except for what war does to the men and women who fight it. And the families they bring their PTSD home to.

I hold in my hand, my "perhaps" father's service registration card from 1940. At that time, he worked for Yarnall-Waring Co. in Philly. He lived in North Hills, Pa, which was very near where I grew up. So odd. If it is him, he was so close and yet so far. 

What about you?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, July 13, 2018

Chris Knopf, Dead Anyway (2012), (review from the archives by Jeff Meyerson)

People always ask (I know, I ask too) how you decide what to read next.  Might as well ask, how do you decide what to read, period?  I have a list of favorite authors whose books I read when they come out but for newer writers or ones I don't know I tend to lean on recommendations from friends, reviews here or on other blogs, plus newspaper and magazine reviews.  If they sound interesting to me, I'll check them out.
Chris Knopf had two earlier series set in the Hamptons but this is the first in a new series.  
Apparently Bill Crider reviewed it when it came out last year but somehow his review did not make enough of an impression on my brain until I read his review of the sequel a few weeks ago, linking back to his Dead Anyway review.  Then I thought, this sounds good. And it is.
How's this for starting with a bang?  Arthur Cathcart, an overweight 40ish guy working at home doing market research and other high end computer research, married to a gorgeous woman who owns a real estate firm near their home in Connecticut, comes home from a walk to find his wife sitting on the couch and a man holding a gun on her.  The man insists she answers five questions written on a paper, and to emphasize his seriousness, he shoots her husband in the thigh.  She answers the questions only to have the man, clearly a hired killer, shoot her in the head and kill her.  Then he shoots Cathcart, who somehow doesn't die.
Now you may be able to resist seeing what happens next, but I sure couldn't. Cathcart is gravely injured and decides (with the help of his physician sister) to stay dead and use his computer skills to discover who killed his wife and why, not easy in the post-9/11 world.  But first he has to recover enough physically and mentally to be able to act.  Along the way he gets some help from a woman named Natsumi Fitzgerald, who throws her lot in with his.
I really enjoyed this one and will be reading the sequel as soon as it comes in to the library.  Definitely recommended.

Les Blatt, MY KINGDOM FOR A HORSE, Craig Rice
Brian Busby, ROUGHING IT IN THE BUSH, Susannah Moody
CrossExaminingCrime,  The Family Affair (1980) and Breakaway: The Local Affair (1980) by Francis Durbridge 
Martin Edwards, LAURA, Vera Caspary
Curt Evans, DEATH GOES TO SCHOOL, Q. Patrick
Richard Horton,  The 13th Immortal, by Robert Silverberg/This Fortress World, by James E. Gunn
Jerry House, THE PLAGUE OF SILENCE, John Creasey
Margot Kinberg, DEATH ON DEMAND, Carolyn Hart
George Kelley,  YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES: 1954 Edited by Everette F. Bleiler T. E. Dikty
Rob Kitchin, STRAIGHT MAN, Richard Russo
B.V. Lawson, AN AMIABLE CHARLATAN, E. Phillips Oppenheim
Evan Lewis, YOU  ONLY LIVE TWICE, Ian Fleming
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, AH TREACHERY, Ross Thomas
Todd Mason,  THE BEST FROM FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION 11th Series edited by Robert P. Mills; THE GHOUL KEEPERS edited by Leo Margulies
J.F. Norris, THE DEVIL AND Ben Franklin, Theodore Mathiessen
Matt Paust, GORKY PARK, Martin Cruz Smith
James Reasoner, THE BRONZE AXE, Jeffrey Lord
Richard Robinson, WEST OF GUAM: THE COMPLETE CASES OF JO GAR, Raoul Whitfield 
Gerard Saylor, THE 57 BUS, Dashka Slater
Kevin Tipple, Barry Ergang, POLITICALLY CORRECT BEDTIME STORIES, James Finn Garner
TomCat, FOUR CORNERS, Theodore Roscoe
TracyK, THEY DO IT WITH MIRRORS, Agatha Christie

Monday, July 09, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Another week that it is hard to come up with much. Phil's UTI has not gone away and may not as long as a fistula (sp?) continues to pump bacteria into his bladder. Between the antibiotic, the UTI and recovering from the chemo, he is so darned tired. Now is when I wish we lived in an apartment because darn we have a lot of outside maintenance even though we do have the lawn mowed. I should not have let him plant so many pots because all 45 of them must be watered ever day. Also two trees look ailing and I am waiting for a tree guy to come. Lots of these chores were things Phil did once and I am playing catch up with learning how to do them. I oversaw the rescreening and painting  of our porch this week. Luckily that went well.They picked four hot days to do it though.

Enjoyed the absurdity of the local Fourth parade. The entire city lines the streets to watch the worst parade I have ever seen. They do have a few marching bands but it is mostly elected officials riding in their cars. No floats. And many people have picnics along the way. The big treat is for the kids having candy tossed at their heads.

Enjoying RAIN DOGS by Adrian McKinty. I loved his Sean Duffy series. This is the book that beat out SHOT IN DETROIT for an Edgar and it is easy to see why. It is a classic locked room and a classic police procedural. And the writing is superb. If you really need to relax, (I almost go into a zen state listening), try SEINCAST, which looks at every Seinfeld episode for about 90 minutes. I only listen to podcasts when I walk but I walk for about an hour most days so this works out well.

Just started DCI BANKS on Amazon Prime and watched the first episode of  THE TUNNEL, VENGEANCE. Phil is enjoying SILENT CITY on Netflix and we are looking forward to SHARP OBJECTS on HBO tonight.

What about you?

Sunday, July 08, 2018


My brother is responsible for what I have found out from my DNA testing. The tests, introductory ones only, showed me where my ancestors came from. And that, of course, was our first inkling that something was amiss. Although Ancestry.com and Family Finder differed somewhat, both showed my father's DNA was mostly from the UK and Ireland. My brother's paternal DNA was Western European, or in his case, Germany. For most people, this is enough unless they are looking for lost parents or children or genetic diseases.

The rub beyond this is that you will only find cousins among those people who are registered on each site. Mostly people who have bought their tests. There was no close cousins on the paternal side at all on Family Finder. Just a big fat zero. Whereas my brother was linked to the entire Nase family.

More possibilities showed up on ancestry.com but if they choose not to answer your query, that is that. And so far only the second cousin wrote back. And what I learned from her was basically information Jeff had already found. He has invested in access to information beyond what I get for my hundred bucks.

So there are three families linked by a turn of the century link to Scranton, PA. They came from Cheshire and Staffordshire all about that time. I need the men to turn up in Philly around 1947. One is a certainty, the other two a little more tenuous. I may have reached the end of the road. I can live with that. More to say about my mother later.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Friday's Forgotten Books, July 6, 2018

 THE BLONDE ON THE STREET CORNER, David Goodis (reviewed by Mike Dennis-from the archives)

Ralph stood on the corner, leaning against the brick wall of Silver's candy store, telling himself to go home and get some sleep."

That's the opening line of The Blonde On The Street Corner, a 1954 novel written by David Goodis. Of course, Ralph doesn't go home. Instead, he spots a blonde across the dark street and gawks at her. She eventually calls him over to light her cigarette, which he does.

Now, at this point, one might expect that Ralph would be irresistibly lured into a tight web spun by this dazzling femme fatale, resulting in his eventual moral destruction, if not death. But Goodis doesn't write that way. In fact, the blonde is fat, sharp-tongued, and lives in the neighborhood. Ralph knows her, and knows that she's married. She propositions him right on the corner, but he rejects her. "I don't mess around with married women," he tells her. Then he goes home.

Much to the reader's surprise, this encounter does not trigger the plot of the novel. In fact, it would be right to say that the novel has no plot, in the usual sense. Ralph returns to his impoverished Philadelphia home, where he lives with his parents, and spends the rest of the book wallowing in misery with his friends, all of whom are in the same boat as he: in their thirties, usually unemployed, and filled with unrealistic dreams. One of his friends says he is a "songwriter", but no one has ever recorded any of his songs. Another wants to be a big-league baseball player, but lasted only a week on a class D minor league team. They spend most of their time leaning up against buildings, wearing only thin coats against the bitter Philadelphia winter, and wishing they had more money. They talk a good deal about going to Florida, where they can get jobs as bellmen in a "big-time hotel", convinced this would jump-start their desperate lives.

The book goes on like this pretty much all the way through, with no moving story line, but it's Goodis' prose that keeps you riveted to the page. No one can paint a picture of a hopeless world better than he can. For Goodis, Philadelphia is a desolate place, whose bleak streets offer little in the way of promise. Many of his novels were set there, and they all shared that common trait. Life in that city is, for him and his characters, usually an exercise in futility. These are people who walk around with twenty or thirty cents in their pockets, who cold-call girls out of the phone book asking for dates, and for whom escape to Florida is always right around the corner. The finale provides the mortal body blow to Ralph, stripping him of the last shred of his dignity.

The Blonde On The Street Corner is a potent novel, filled with the passions and despair of its characters. All through this book, you find yourself longing to run into characters whose lives mean something. Then, you realize there aren't any.

Yvette Banek, BEHOLD, HERE'S POISON, Georgette Heyer
Les Blatt, THE LINKING RINGS, John Gaspard
Brian Busby, STRANGE DESIRES, Alan Malston
CrossExaminingCrime, PAUL TEMPLE AND THE KELBY AFFAIR, Francis Durbridge
Martin Edwards, GAME FOR THREE LOSERS, Edgar Lustgarten
Richard Horton, WARLOCK, Jim Harrison
Jerry House, A DARKNESS IN MY SOUL, Dean R. Koontz
Margot Kinberg, INVOLUNTARY WITNESS, Gianrico Carofiglia
Rob Kitchin, BETWEEN GIANTS, Prit Buttar
B.V. Lawson, SIDEWINDER, Ed McBain
Evan Lewis, BRAIN BATS OF VENUS, Basil Wolverton
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, CONCRETE HERO, Rob Kantner
Todd Mason,  MEFISTO IN ONYX by Harlan Ellison); HARLAN ELLISON'S WATCHING (Underwood-Miller 1989)
J.F. Norris, DEATH WISHES, Philip Loraine
Matt Paust, The Case of the Marvelous Mason Machine, Erle Stanley Gardner
James Reasoner, SIDEWINDER, Jack Slade
Richard Robinson,  Worldmakers: SF Adventures in Terraforming, ed. Gardner Dozois               Gerard Saylor, THE BRIDGE OF SIGHS, Olen Steinhaue; YOU WILL KNOW ME, Megan Abbott Kevin Tipple, THE DARK ANGEL, Elly Griffiths TomCat, BROUGHT TO LIGHT, E. R. Punshon
TracyK, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, Patricia Highsmith

Thursday, July 05, 2018


So Janet Grieb married Ralph Nase in 1941. He was drafted and other than a trip to his basic training camp in South Carolina, Janet didn't see him again until 1945, During those four years, she got her own apartment, much to her parent's concern, and got a job as a secretary in Philadelphia. She grew up. Ralph was in Ireland, at the beaches of Normandy, in Luxembourg, and in Germany. He never saw action, serving instead as a sergeant in Staff Headquarters. Keeping the books as he would do for the rest of his life.
When he came home something had changed. No one ever discussed it but about twenty-five years ago, my brother saw that the beneficiary on Dad's life insurance had changed in 1946 from Janet to his brother, Nick. Jeff asked them about it and they admitted they had trouble resuming married life and were separated for a while. My mother shared this information with me but left no room for any questions by telling me when my father got up to go the men's room at a restaurant.Clearly she was uneasy with even the few sentences she said. She seldom discussed her childhood, her early married years. Neither did my Dad.
There is a second clue but again it was so slight I never gave it much thought. And it was over blood type. She told me they were both positive (I can't remember whether it was O or A). I am A negative. But when I questioned how two positives produced a negative child, she called back later to say she had got it wrong and that my father was negative. I was 21 at the time. I never gave it more than a few moment's thought. Lots of people get their blood type wrong.
So because of these two very slight incidents when my brother did his DNA test, I decided to do mine too, never thinking mine would return so different from his. (to be continued)

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Have a Happy Fourth

The Day I Became the Subject of a Lifetime Movie

Is Lifetime the darker one? Hallmark is light, right?
This is Ralph Nase. Probably about 35 here. Soon after my birth.
At age 70, (just a few weeks ago) I learned he is not my biological father. Two DNA tests have confirmed it. My brother is listed as my half-sibling. The paternity portion is blank.

Not so with my brother's. His is filled with Nases going back many generations. So far, I have come up with three men who may be my father. There is one who is the most likely. Frank Yarnall. A man whose name I have never heard before a few weeks ago. A man who died in 1977. But his sister, Mae, my aunt, is the grandmother of what the DNA tells me is my second cousin: Anita Peterson. Instead of being mostly German (because the Nases are pure German) I turn out to be English and Irish. A bit of German only from my mother's father. 
My mother married Ralph Nase two months out of high school. She was eighteen; he was twenty-seven. Janet Grieb was a shy, bespeckled, slightly overweight girl. Her parents belonged to a country club with an office manager that was good-looking and caught her eye. Eighteen year olds are easily swept away. He danced, had a nice car and what looked like a good job. So they married. On the day of their modest marriage, he got his draft notice and was swept away almost at once. They had known each other less than a year. (More to come)

Forgotten Movies: SUMMER OF '42


Three teenagers haunt the beaches of Nantucket, looking to find girls for a summer romance. Hermie is tapped by a slightly older, married woman for help with chores around the house. He is immediately smitten and gets more than he hoped for when a tragedy befalls her.

Beautiful scenery and music don't compensate for a dull lead in Gary Grimes and a plot with too little forward movement. There must have been a better young actor than he in 1972. O'Neill is okay but on the whole, it felt flat and the scene with the boy buying a condom seemed to last half an hour.

It was better forty plus years ago. Or maybe I was close enough to their age not to notice the flaws.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Things That Are Making Me Happy

Enjoying THERE, THERE by Tommy Orange. It is the story of twelve characters (each gets their own chapter so far) who are coming to a Pow Wow in Oakland, CA. Hard to believe it is a first novel.

Saw FIRST REFORMED again with a friend and liked it just as much as the first time. I can really relate to despair, grief, a sense that all is lost. And also that love or joy can remedy it if only for a moment.

Hugh Grant was downright terrific in A VERY BRITISH SCANDAL on Amazon. He has cast aside the reliance on his looks and tics and become a great character actor.

Thankful for our sprinkler system with the heat this week. As I have taken over many of these chores, I need help where I can get it.

Megan has had herself quite a week with articles about or by her in EW, VANITY FAIR, SEWANEE REVIEW, PUNCH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE and on lots of websites.

Josh and his family are in Montreal and Quebec City. Sadly the heat is there too. Hope there Air BNB has air.

I am so thankful for the friends who have taken my out to lunch, dinner, grocery shopping, etc. 
Phil had a clean scan but the chemo drugs made a hole (fistula) between his colon and bladder that requires surgery. He has to wait a month or so for the drugs to be out of his system. In the meantime, he is exhausted and still nauseated.

What about you?

Sunday, July 01, 2018

At The Moment

At the moment
when it seemed like
things couldn't grow worse
When lying became commonplace
and name-calling was passed down
like Grandmother's china
At the moment
when the cancer returned
well before the medications
stacked like spices on a shelf expired
At that moment
he called to say the tests
proved I was his half-sibling
That the big family in Pennsylvania
was not mine at all
 that I'd been stealing stories
from strangers