Happy Birthday Edna Ferber

Today is the 129th birthday of Edna Ferber.  If you see one film of hers, see “Giant.”  Everyone is beautiful and the film is perfection.

NAME: Edna Ferber
BIRTH DATE: August 15, 1885
DEATH DATE: April 16, 1968
PLACE OF BIRTH: Kalamazoo, Michigan
PLACE OF DEATH: New York, New York

BEST KNOWN FOR: Pulitzer Prize–winning author Edna Ferber wrote books and plays that became movies like Show Boat, Giant, and Stage Door.

American novelist and short-story writer who wrote with compassion and curiosity about Midwestern American life.
Ferber grew up mostly in her native Kalamazoo, Michigan, and in Appleton, Wisconsin (in between her family moved to several Midwestern towns). Her father, born in Hungary, was a merchant. She began her career at age 17 as a reporter in Appleton, later working for the Milwaukee Journal. Her early stories introduced a traveling petticoat saleswoman named Emma McChesney, whose adventures are collected in several books, including Emma McChesney & Co. (1915). Emma was the first of Ferber’s strong, enterprising women characters. Ferber’s characters are firmly tied to the land, and they experience conflicts between their traditions and new, more dynamic trends. Although her books are somewhat superficial in their careful attention to exterior detail at the expense of profound ideas, they do offer an accurate, lively portrait of middle-class Midwestern experience in 1920s and ’30s America.

So Big (1924)—about a woman truck gardener who provides for her son by her enterprise in managing the unsuccessful farm her husband left her—won a Pulitzer Prize. Show Boat (1926), the tale of a showboat trouper who is deserted by her husband and in the interests of survival becomes a successful singer, was made into a popular musical play by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein. Critics hailed Ferber as the greatest woman novelist of the period. Her novels Cimarron (1930), Saratoga Trunk (1941), Giant (1952), and Ice Palace (1958) were all made into motion pictures. Her autobiographies, A Peculiar Treasure (1939), which focuses in part on Ferber’s pride in her Jewish heritage, and A Kind of Magic (1963), evince her genuine and encompassing love for America.

She was associated with the Algonquin Round Table of literary wits, and she collaborated with George S. Kaufman on a number of plays, including Dinner at Eight (1932) and Stage Door (1936).

Happy Birthday Dick Proenneke

Tomorrow is the 98th birthday of Dick Proenneke.  Who doesn’t love a recluse?  Especially one that is not writing a manifesto and sending letter bombs, but is simply building a log cabin in the Alaska wilderness and talking to himself.  A lot.  I will watch this series on PBS whenever it is on, it is my “Law and Order,” so to speak.  The take away from Dick’s story is that he did all this after he retired, so it is never too late to follow your dreams.

Born: May 4, 1916 Primrose, Harrison Township, Lee County, Iowa
Died: April 20, 2003 (aged 86) Hemet, Riverside County, California, USA
Residence: Twin Lakes, Alaska
Occupation: naturalist, carpenter, mechanic
Awards: 1999 National Outdoor Book Award

Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke (born May 4, 1916 – April 20, 2003) was an American naturalist, who lived alone in the high mountains of Alaska at a place called Twin Lakes. Living in a log cabin he constructed by hand, Proenneke made valuable recordings of both meteorological and natural data.

On May 21, 1968, Proenneke arrived at his new place of retirement at Twin Lakes. Before arriving at the lakes, he made arrangements to use a cabin on the upper lake of Twin Lakes owned by a retired Navy captain, Spike Carrithers, and his wife Hope from Kodiak, (in whose care he had left his camper). This cabin was well situated on the lake and close to the site which Proenneke chose for the construction of his own cabin. Proenneke’s bush pilot friend, Babe Alsworth, returned occasionally to bring food and orders that Proenneke placed through him to Sears.

Proenneke remained at Twin Lakes for the next 16 months, when he left to go home for a time to visit relatives and secure more supplies. He returned to the lakes in the following spring and remained there for most of the next 30 years, going to the lower 48 only occasionally to be with his family. He made a film record of his solitary life, which was later recut and made into a documentary, entitled Alone in the Wilderness. It has aired on PBS numerous times. In 2011, a sequel was produced after it was revealed Proenneke had shot enough footage for at least two more programs. Alone in the Wilderness: Part 2 premiered for the first time on December 2, 2011. A premiere date for Part 3 has yet to be announced.

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What Was Saved

Yesterday, I re-posted an entry about a book called “The Burning House: What Would You Take?” by Foster Huntington:

Your house is burning. You have to get out fast. Suddenly you are forced to prioritize, editing down a lifetime of possessions to a mere handful. Now you must decide: Of all the things you own, what is most important to you?

  • The practical? Your laptop, your smartphone, what you need to keep working and stay in touch?
  • The valuable? Your money, your jewelry, the limited edition signed poster in the living room?
  • The sentimental? The watch your late grandfather gave you, the diary you kept as a teenager?
What you choose to bring with you speaks volumes about who you are and what you believe in—your interests, your background, your view of life.With contributions from all over the world, The Burning House is an eye-opening pictorial meditation on materialism; an in-depth, intensely personal interview contained in a single question; a revealing window into the human heart.I put forth a challenge to everyone to try and do it themselves, grab everything you think you would grab when your place is burning down and photograph it.
I recreated that night tonight and grabbed all the stuff below.

Clockwise from upper left: my great-grandmother’s small wooden box sitting on my grandfather’s wooden box, an old whale vertebrae, two Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera with sonar focus, reading glasses, passport, MacBook Pro, red scorpion paper weight, photo booth picture of Rick and me drinking beers, external hard drive, iPhone, wallets, two white ceramic artichokes made by Rick, small metal frame and art made by artist and friend David Hamlin.

I guess I am going to put all that stuff in the wooden boxes?  To be honest, the whale vertebrae and ceramic artichokes were already sitting on the table and I found the Polaroid cameras when I was searching for my passport.  I know that if I had a bag and five minutes, I would probably not stop until that bag was full and the time had run out.  I mean, how could I forget external rechargeable speakers, iPod, and more books that I could even count.  Then, there is that pair of elephants my sister gave me and that elf head cookie jar I bought at the junk store in Navy Yard City.

I made a photo slide show of items I would try to save from the lake house if it was burning, here it is (naturally, I used a LOMO filter on all of them):

Rick created his own collection of things he would save from a fire, between the two of us, the only thing we would be prepared for is international travel if our place burned down.  Here are his:

Dogs, Pia and Bear, passport, assorted love letters, photo album, Gucci sunglasses, running shoes, and ceramic artichoke (made by Rick).

I am not sure how he managed to get the dogs to sit still on the table.

Fall Back Tonight

Unless you happen to glance at the clock on your oven first before any other clock, you may just feel a bit more rested tomorrow morning.  Daylight Saving Time is pretty much non-news now, with phones and computers automatically correcting the time.  Unless that is, you utilized the extra “fall-back” hour for and extra couple rounds before last call tonight, and if you do, well played, well played, indeed.

Brief History:

Benjamin Franklin has been credited with the idea of Daylight Saving Time, but Britain and Germany began using the concept in World War I to conserve energy, the Washington Post observes. The U.S. used Daylight Saving Time for a brief time during the war, but it didn’t become widely accepted in the States until after the second World War.

In 1966, the Uniform Time Act outlined that clocks should be set forward on the last Sunday in April and set back the last Sunday in October.

That law was amended in 1986 to start daylight saving time on the first Sunday in April, though the new system wasn’t implemented until 1987. The end date was not changed, however, and remained the last Sunday in October until 2006

Today, Daylight Saving Time begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November. The time change will precede the first day of spring and the vernal equinox, which is set to take place at 1:14 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, March 20.

Not a fan of Daylight Saving Time? Don’t worry: You can resume your normal schedule on Nov. 4.

Lonesome George, famed Galapagos tortoise, dies

I met Lonesome George about ten years ago when I was on the Galapagos Islands.  He was inside the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island.  It is sad to think that he was the last of his kind and now he is gone.

QUITO, Ecuador— The giant tortoise Lonesome George, whose failed efforts to produce offspring made him a symbol of disappearing species, was found dead on Sunday, officials at the Galapagos National Park announced.

Lonesome George was believed to be the last living member of the Pinta island subspecies and had become an ambassador of sorts for the islands off Ecuador‘s coast whose unique flora and fauna helped inspire Charles Darwin’s ideas on evolution.

The tortoise’s age was not known but scientists believed he was about 100, not especially old for giant tortoises, who can live well over a century. Scientists had expected him to live another few decades at least.

Various mates had been provided for Lonesome George after he was found in 1972 in what proved unsuccessful attempts to keep his subspecies alive.

He lived at a tortoise breeding center on the archipelago’s island of Santa Cruz. He was found Sunday morning in his pen by his longtime keeper, Fausto Llerena, the park said in a statement.

The park said the cause of his death would be investigated.

The Galapagos’ giant tortoise population was decimated after the arrival of humans but a recovery program run by the park and the Charles Darwin Foundation has increased the overall population from 3,000 in 1974 to 20,000 today.

via Lonesome George, famed Galapagos tortoise, dies – latimes.com.

Shirley MacLaine on ‘Bernie,’ ‘Downton Abbey,’ and Her Lifetime Achievements

Shirley MacLaine on ‘Bernie,’ ‘Downton Abbey,’ and Her Lifetime Achievments – The Daily Beast.

At 78, MacLaine costars in the new movie ‘Bernie’ and will have an upcoming turn on ‘Downton Abbey.’ Lorenza Muñoz talked to her about her work ethic and why America is a disaster.

by Lorenza Muñoz

Shirley MacLaine had a few facts to go on when she accepted the part of Marjorie Nugent in Richard Linklater’s latest film, Bernie: It is based on a true story. Nugent was mean and nasty. She was a widow hated by most of the town of Carthage, Texas. She was rich and stingy.  She was murdered by her friend, the town mortician named Bernie Tiede.

Everything else was up to MacLaine to figure out. At first she said she hoped Linklater would give her more clues. But he was “ambiguous.”

“The first meeting was strange because he didn’t answer any of my questions,” said the 78-year-old Oscar winning actress. “I said, ‘Do you want me to look like her? What is the wardrobe like? Do I speak in that accent?’ I had to find my own way about everything. All of us were operating on our own.”

Linklater says he offered some advice and had many conversations with her. But knew he could give someone like MacLaine a lot of freedom. Besides, MacLaine was in communication with both main characters, Tiede from prison and Nugent from the great beyond.

“I am always trying to involve the actor in the creation of the character but everyone is different at how they arrive at that,” said Linklater, noting that MacLaine was the first person he thought of for the role in 1998 when he first read the story in Texas Monthly magazine. But she was too young at the time. “The key to Shirley is that she likes playing that side where people think she is a crazy old bitch. But then during the honeymoon period in the story, Shirley still has that twinkle in her eye and she is still very sexy.”

MacLaine also realized that uncertainty was a major theme in the dark comedy. Telling too much or delving too deep, would turn it into a drama.

“I realized he was making a picture about ambiguity,” she said. “Is Bernie guilty? Is he a murderer? Is he adorable? The whole secret of the comedy is not to go too far. If you go too far you don’t have ‘Springtime for Hitler.’ ”

As she speaks, her light blue eyes shoot out intelligence. Her finely penciled lips are a coppery brown, playing off her salmon-colored suit and her reddish hair. Her jewelry sparkles with diamonds and tanzanite, the color of the vision chakra, part red, part blue. When frustrated by a question, her lips purse, her eyes narrow in a flash of Aurora Greenway, her character for which she won her first and only Oscar in Terms of Endearment.

MacLaine, avid spiritualist and searcher, is comfortable with the unanswerable.

“I think you can have a work ethic about doing nothing,” she said.

One question she has been asking herself lately is why she and so many millions are fanatically gripped by the Masterpiece drama, Downton Abbey, in which she was recently cast. The publicity generated by her hiring prompted the producers of Downton to call her agent, ICM’s Jack Gilardi, to thank him.

“She is so professional and very creative,” said Gilardi, who has represented her for 20 years. “She has a great gift understanding people. She knows how to make you tingle.”

She had never seen the series—but after watching the first two seasons, she was hooked. Now, she is muzzled by creator Julian Fellowes’s edict that no one from the cast can talk about Season 3: MacLaine, who will play Martha Levinson, Lady Cora Crawley’s mother, could not offer much insight.

“Why is this a hit? I haven’t come up with the answer,” she said. “I think Maggie Smith is one answer. I liked Upstairs Downstairs, but not like this. It is really worth an examination.”

She is fond of pondering, and began asking deep questions like “What is this all about?’ ‘What is God?’ ‘Are we alone?’ ” at the age of 10.

Her father, an intellectual with a background in psychology and philosophy, engaged her questions by asking more questions, such as, if there is a God, then we must ask what it means.

And so she is perplexed by folks, like the people of Carthage, Texas, who don’t ask questions and are certain of the unknowable. The residents of the town would not believe that their beloved Bernie confessed to shooting Marge Nugent in the back four times in 1996 and then stuck her in a refrigerated cooler face down below the chicken pot pies.

“The townspeople of East Texas are like the Greek chorus in the movie,” said MacLaine. “The most interesting thing is that they refused to believe the truth. It is, I think, a sociologically important statement on East Texas. It is kind of like another country.”

For MacLaine, there is no border dividing show business and life. In life, we are our own costume designer, our own actor, distributor, producer, director, and writer, she says. During her current one-woman show, she compiles clips from her acting, dancing, and singing life together with her thoughts on meditation, reincarnation, UFOs, and chakras. At the end of the show there is a question-and-answer session and rarely do people ask about Hollywood.

“The questions are never about showbiz. They are about my books,” she said. “They get the compilation that life is show business. They understand that we are just actors strutting up on the stage, as the great man said.”

Perhaps because of her belief in life as show business, her holistic approach about her mind, body, and soul has spared her the fate of many of her contemporaries. She has avoided the pitfalls of fame, money, prescription pills, or drugs or alcohol that brought down many actresses of her generation. Since she believes in the laws of cause and effect, there are no accidents. She has outlived nearly all of her contemporaries.

In June, the American Film Institute will present her with a lifetime achievement award. It is an understatement to say she has achieved much. She has made more than 50 feature films, hung out with Frank, Dino, and Sammy; worked with directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Hal Ashby, and James L. Brooks; costarred with luminaries like Jack Lemmon, Jack Nicholson, and Peter Sellers; received six Oscar nominations, with one win in 1983 for Terms of Endearment, and seven Golden Globes, including the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. She’s written several bestselling books, including her spicy tell all, I’m All Over That—and Other Confessions, last year. It will be challenging to fit her ceremony into two hours, said Bob Gazzale, chief executive of AFI.

“Perhaps more than any other recipient, with Shirley I would underline the word life,” he said. “It’s so much more than just movies. It’s been an epic journey and she has invited all of us to come along for the ride.”

Part of her journey at one time included politics. She was eager and fresh faced in 1972 when she traversed the country pumping up enthusiasm for George McGovern, along with her brother, Warren Beatty. Since then she has only backed one candidate, Ohio’s Dennis Kucinich. She is disillusioned by politics and dismisses the system as so corrupt it cannot be saved. She views America’s materialistic ways as a disaster, in the literal sense of Greek etymology: dis—meaning torn away from, and aster, the stars. Or, the separation from the spiritual.

Although she is highly disciplined, she says she is trying to stop being so goal oriented. It was a lesson she learned when she made her pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the route through Spain said to be taken by St. James in the ninth century. Instead of taking in the stars at night and relaxing through the voyage, she rushed through it to reach the end by a deadline.

“One reason I live in New Mexico is that there is no goal-oriented work ethic. I think you can have a work ethic about doing nothing,” she said. “In Santiago de Compostela, I learned we only need a pair of shoes, water, and a good hat. That is all you need in life.”

Walter V McDonald – Damn Fine Run.


I am sorry to learn of your dad’s passing. Even though I had never met him, I have so many great stories about him from you. I think that is probably the best legacy a person could leave, to have people remember them fondly and tell stories about them and have people they never met mourn their loss.

You were so lucky to know him for so much of your life and to have so many great memories of him and your mother. Such larger than life characters remind us to value our time here and with each other. And hopefully, with a little luck and a lot of bravery, we can create stories that will be told by future generations. To become family lore. To be toasted when two or more people that knew us gather.

Please let us know if there is anything the Anderson side can do for you, Brian, or Amy. You all mean the world to us.

Feel free to visit his online memorial and sign the guestbook here:  Obituary For: Walter V McDonald | Norvel Owens Mortuary.

Walter V McDonald 
(November 5, 1920 – April 16, 2012) 

Walter Vincent McDonald, of Flagstaff, AZ passed away on April 16th, 2012. He was a beloved father, grandfather, great grandfather, and friend to many. Walt was born on November 5th, 1920 in Lowellville, OH and was raised during the depression era. He was a standout athlete at Struthers High School (where he is a member of the hall of fame) balancing academics, sports, and working at the local steel mill. Walt then attended Tulane University on athletics scholarship for both football and basketball. While maintaining grades that kept him on the Dean’s List, Walt excelled in football where he was named to the All Southeastern Conference for two years, Honorable Mention College All-American, and played in the Blue/Grey college football all-star game. By the end of his career at Tulane he held the record for most receptions in a game and a season, which stood for 10 years. It was at Tulane University where he met Marjorie Siler, from Cottonwood, AZ, and they married on November 2nd, 1943.

After graduation Walt was drafted by the Washington Redskins, but chose to volunteer for the Navy where he served in the Pacific Theatre of WWII as a Lt JG and Commander of a PT boat. While serving he was missing in action in New Guinea. After the war Walt relocated to Flagstaff, AZ to be with his wife Marjorie. He then returned to his career in professional football joining the AAFC/NFL playing for the Miami Seahawks, Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Chicago Hornets where he was one of the last players to go both ways as a blocking back and linebacker. Highlights of his career included playing in the first televised professional football game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Yankees, as well as being 2nd overall in Brooklyn Dodgers franchise history for interceptions. After the 1949 season Walt was offered a large contract with the Redskins but decided to retire from football and returned to Flagstaff. Walt continued to receive an NFL pension check until his death.

Walt made his mark in Flagstaff being the first professional football player and a successful businessman. His business endeavors included developing, owning and operating Starlite Lanes bowling alley, as well as owning Club 66, the Pine Hotel, and the Museum Club. Walt was inducted into the Arizona Bowling Hall of Fame and later into the Flagstaff Sports Hall of Fame. He enjoyed spending time with friends and family boating at Lake Powell, fishing, and taking trips with his wife in their motor home.

Walt was preceded in death by his loving wife Marjorie McDonald and son-in-law Aldo Anderson. He is survived by his five children: Susie Anderson Sedona, Choo Choo Walter McDonald Jr Flagstaff, Debbie Mews (Randy) Flagstaff, Dennis McDonald (Susie) Camp Verde, and Randy McDonald (Dana) Tucson, 16 grandchildren, and 10 great grandchildren. Services will be held at Nativity Catholic Church on Thursday, April 19th at 10 A.M. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Hozhoni Foundation, Inc. 2133 N. Walgreen St. Flagstaff, AZ 86004 or Flagstaff Sports Foundation, 114 N. San Francisco St. Suite 17, Flagstaff, AZ 86001. With special thanks and gratitude to the staff and caregivers at The Peaks Senior Living, Heritage Assisted Living, and Hospice Compassus.