Friday, May 27, 2016

Authorial News and Such

As the release date for Five Magic Spindles nears, I've been busy making sure I have a presence online where readers can find out more about me and my writing.


First and foremost, I've created RachelKovaciny.com.  It's a little bare-bones right now, but my sister-in-law is creating some personalized artwork for it, and I'm sure that I'll do more with it eventually than I am right now.

I've got an official author page on Facebook now, which you can check out here.  And I have a GoodReads page now too, which is here.  Just so you know!


Next month, I'm going to do a series of interviews with my fellow Five Magic Spindles contest winners here on this blog, and something cool on my book blog later in the month too.  (Besides the Jane Eyre read-along that starts Sunday, I mean.)

And shhhh, don't tell anyone, but I've just begun writing a new western.  Not sure yet if it'll stay a short story or morph into a novella -- we shall see!  The working title is "In Russet Mantle Clad," but that's probably going to change.  One thing about it that won't change, though, is that this fella plays a key role:


Thursday, May 26, 2016

"Angel and the Badman" (1947)

Happy birthday to my absolute favorite actor, John Wayne!


To celebrate the third May birthday boy from my blog header, I'm reviewing one of Duke's more unusual westerns, Angel and the Badman (1947).  It's easily one of the most romantic westerns I've ever seen, with a love story so central to the plot that the title itself refers to the pairing.



Angel and the Badman (1947) begins with a wounded stranger (John Wayne) falling off his horse and into the lives of the Worth family, peaceful Quakers who believe it is their duty and privilege to help anyone and everyone who needs them.


This stranger insists on sending an urgent telegram, so Mr. Worth (John Halloran) and his daughter, Penny (Gail Russell), drive him into town.  Once there, he sends a telegram stating he's filing a claim on a specific piece of land.  His signature reveals that he is Quirt Evans, once Wyatt Earp's deputy and now a man with a reputation for using his gun.  He then collapses in Penny's arms.


Before he loses consciousness, he startles her with a reflexive, passionate kiss.  Penny is astonished, but not angry.  Still, we get the feeling this is the first time she has been kissed by anyone, much less a handsome and infamous gunman.


Once back at the Worth farm, a doctor tries to tend to Quirt Evans' wounds.  He's been shot in the abdomen, and also has an injured leg.  But although the doctor gives Quirt as much laudanum as he dares administer, the gunman clings to semi-consciousness.


He tosses back and forth, hands reaching, grasping for something he can't find.


Mr. Worth fetches Evans' pistol, which they'd left outside the house since Quakers don't believe in violence.


After prudently unloading it, he places the pistol in Quirt's outstretched hand.


Immediately, Quirt stops thrashing and slips into a passive sleep.


I first saw this movie when I was a young teen, probably only 14 or so.  I remember this scene so vividly -- that wounded man unable to rest unless he has his weapon.  His instincts so strong they overrode a powerful sedative, like an addict who doesn't just crave his drug of choice, he's entirely in its thrall.  I didn't see this movie again for twenty years, but I always remembered it as the movie where "John Wayne is wounded and can't sleep without his gun."  In fact, I used that idea in at least two stories as a teen, and it pops up in some C! fanfic too, where Caje takes to sleeping with a knife in his hand.

Penny and her family nurse Quirt Evans back to health.  When he finally regains consciousness, Quirt flirts expertly with Penny, who has begun to fall in love with him, and rather a lot of this sort of thing goes on all through the rest of the film.


Quirt is taken aback by Penny's very sincere affection for him.  At first, he finds it flattering, but just as he finds himself beginning to return her feelings, plot rears its ugly head to interrupt them.


You see, those bullets he had in him when he arrived came from a guy named Laredo Stevens (Bruce Cabot) and his cohorts, all of whom Quirt blames for his foster father's death.  Quirt beat them to staking a claim on some land they want, and now they're after him to get the deed.


And before long, a nosy US Marshal called Wistful McLintock (Harry Carey) comes around too, checking on Quirt to see if he was involved in some mischief, which reminds Quirt and Penny of just what sort of a man he was before he came to the Worth farm.


From then on out, it's all about Quirt needing to chose between going back to his old ways of relying on his gun and violence to get him out of trouble, or giving them up to be with Penny.  I'm not going to dig deeply into that here because I'll have a whole article on that subject in the next issue of Femnista.

If you're scratching your head and saying, "Hang on, John Wayne as a romantic lead?  John Wayne?  Really?" then you need to watch more of his movies, because honey, he will smolder your socks off.


You can currently watch this entire movie for free here on YouTube with very good picture and sound quality, thanks to the Paramount Vault.  It's actually in the public domain as well, so there are a lot of inexpensive DVD versions out there, but not all of them are very good quality, and some of them are missing several minutes of the movie!  If you find it on DVD, make sure it has 100 minutes of movie on it so you get to see the whole film.  I have one put out by Olive Films that is very nice.


Angel and the Badman is the first film John Wayne ever produced, and I can see why he chose it.  It's an ambitious movie trying to stay more than just "good triumphs over evil."  That theme is there as well, but this focuses mostly on how a person's choices affect themselves as well as those around them.

There's a bit of embroidery hanging near the bed where Quirt convalesces, and he discusses it with Penny at one point.


Penny and her family believe this to be true.  Quirt begins the story by insisting he's been hurt by others, not by himself.  Laredo Stevens and his buddies hurt Quirt by killing his foster father.  They hurt him by shooting him.  But Penny gently brings him around to seeing that it's his vengeful grudge against Laredo that is hurting Quirt more than anything else.  And that their killing and shooting has hurt them morally more than it has hurt Quirt physically.

Penny herself makes some decisions that could hurt herself, but also many that preserve her moral integrity.  She unabashedly declares her love for Quirt, and says she would leave her family to be with him.  Had she blindly ridden away with him, unmarried... there's a world of hurt to be had down that road.  Later, she chooses not to lie for him.  And later still, she chooses to risk her life to save Quirt.

By the end of the film, both Quirt and Penny have matured.  Both have willingly sacrificed something they previously held dear in order to help the other, and against great odds, their ending is a happy one.


This is my 12th movie watched and reviewed for the Period Drama Challenge!  And that doesn't end until July 2, so I may get a few more in yet.  I was aiming for the 12-15 movie level, so yay!  I'm afraid I didn't take any extra shots of just costumes for this movie, sorry.  I think you can get a good feel for them with what I've shared, though.

Is this movie family friendly?  I think it's fine for older children, say age 8 on up.  There's some western violence involving guns and fists, including a raucous barroom brawl, and a somewhat scary/tense scene where a wagon goes over a cliff.  There's also a little bit of somewhat suggestive dialog where a delirious Quirt calls a woman he's remembering a "hussy."  Later, he gets drunk with a woman after she dances and sings in the saloon to attract his attention.  It's implied that he and she are planning to spend the evening together in her room, but they don't.  It's strongly suggested that Quirt was a "ladies' man" before he met Penny.

Monday, May 23, 2016

2016 Container Garden

It has rained nearly every day for over a month.  We've had a few moments of actual sunshine lately, though, so I seized the opportunity to take some photos of this year's container flower garden on my deck.  Here it is!


Also, down to the left we have my two bigger pots that used to have my lavender plants in them.  I got those in the ground at last (we'll see if they manage to grow or not), so now we have blueberry bushes in these pots, since those didn't do well in our clay-y ground.  So left-to-right here, we have blueberry bush, blueberry bush, a few lilies-of-the-valley left over from when I divided the patch of those out front, and some magenta petunias that Tootie chose at the store.


Moving on up, we've got these two lovely double-layered pots.  I planted purslane in the top of both of them, and then it never came up, and it never came up, and I gave up on it and bought some pretty purple lantanas for the tops... and when I planted those, I discovered the purslane is coming up at last.  So left that plenty of room in both pots.  I planted marigold seeds in the bottom of the left pot, and bachelor buttons in the right one, but the buttons never came up, so I put in some petunias that Sarah (yellow) and Sam (purple) chose instead.


My three biggest pots are a delight this year.


The ones on the left and right have yellow pansies and purple johnny-jump-ups that are from last year!!!  They stayed alive over the winter and started blooming in March again.  They're huge and bushy and great.  I stuck some pale-ish blue lobelia in those pots too because they each had an empty spot where something last year died.


The center pot is all new stuff.  I stuck a "bandana" lantana in the very back, flanked by a yellow dahlia on the right and a "starsisters" dahlia on the left that had a gorgeous two-color bloom on it when I bought it, which promptly snapped off in the car on the way home -- but it has lots of buds, so I'm hopeful.  Anyway, directly in front of the lantana are 4 celosia, one of which has already died off.  I tried them a few years ago and was disappointed by them, but my dad grew them really well in his container garden, so I thought I'd try them again.  We'll see what happens.  Then in front of those is a yellow "sunsatia" with delicate flowers I love.  Flanking that are two "Aloha Kona" calibrachoas, which should get drape-y and awesome like the ones I've had previous years.


Finally, to the right of that trio is another double-decker pot with a purple lantana and some tiny purslane shoots on top, and more marigolds coming up in the bottom.  The yellow pot in the foreground has another lantana (I got a little nutty with those this year -- usually I just have one or two, but now I have five).

And the three on the stand belong to Sam, Sarah, and Tootie, arranged according to their age, with Sam's on top, full of bachelor buttons we planted as seeds.  Sarah's middle pot mostly has these succulents called portulaca that seem to have reseeded themselves from last year.  She planted a few marigolds in with them, though, because Sam and Tootie were getting to plant seeds.  The bottom one is Tootie's, with different bachelor buttons from seeds.


Now I'll share a few close-ups just because I love taking pictures of flowers :-)  Here are the johnny-jump-ups:


The lobelia:


The sunsatia:


The calibrachoa:


The dahlia (and yes, I totally chose these because of the Alan Ladd movie The Blue Dahlia):


The "bandanna" lantana:


And here are a few of the johnny-jump-ups and some roses from the bush by my front door, which I stuck together in a jug to decorate our table when we had some company over for supper last week:


I don't know much of anything about arranging flowers, but a bunch of fresh blooms stuffed in a little jug almost always turn out pretty, I think.  We were celebrating my mother-in-law's birthday, so I wanted to dress the table up a bit.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Happy 80th Birthday, Bobby Darin!

Happy birthday, dearest Bobby.  How I wish you were still with us to celebrate this big day yourself.

Bobby Darin
May 14, 1936 to Dec. 20, 1973

I mentioned at the beginning of the week that I've loved Bobby Darin and his music since I was seventeen.  I dug out my journal from that era, and I thought I'd share the first three places that I mentioned him.

Friday, 5-30-97
Tonight we watched a great movie called Gunfight in Abilene.  You know, not only was Bobby Darin a good singer, but he was also a good actor.  Made a great gunfighter.
Monday, 7-7-07
After breakfast Mom, John, and I took the trash to the dump.  On the way we heard Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife" on the radio!
Tuesday, 7-8-97
I got a Bobby Darin tape at Media Play.  "Mack the Knife" is soooo awesome!  It's a live recording from a concert, and is way kool.  The rest of the songs are good too.

Nine sentences.  No idea that, nineteen years later, I'd own nearly forty CDs of his music, not to mention quite a few of his movies, and be dedicating my blog to him for a whole week.  (Blogs didn't exist back then, anyway, but whatever.)

I salute my seventeen-year-old self, who may have had odd hair and a lot of questions about where life would take me, but who definitely knew a good thing when I saw and heard it.

Me at 17

I hope you've enjoyed this week of Bobby Darin wonderfulness.  There's so much more that I could share, but for now, I'll leave you with the song he often used to close his live performances.

Friday, May 13, 2016

"Captain Newman, M.D." (1963)

To celebrate Bobby Darin Week, today I'm doing a more in-depth review of Captain Newman, M.D. (1963), the movie that earned Bobby a Best Supporting Actor nod from the Academy.  He lost, but the nod itself is pretty phenomenal considering he's only in maybe twenty minutes of the film.  He did win the French Film Critics award for best actor at Cannes, so that's very cool, huh?

I haven't marked where there's spoilage, but there isn't a ton of it -- I don't tell you what happens to any of the main patients, whether Captain Newman is able to heal them or not.  You will still have plenty of interesting things to learn if you watch the movie after reading this.

I'd wanted to see this for many years, but I was out of college before I finally located a copy.  I've probably watched it ten times in the past dozen years.  It's quite dear to my heart, even though it's kind of a zigzag of a film, emotionally.  It goes from funny to serious to sad to funny to serious to sad to tragic to funny, often within the same scene or sequence.  Which I guess is probably pretty accurate to how it would be to treat mental patients a lot of the time.

The movie takes place at Colfax Army Air Field in 1944, a fictional base in Arizona, where the titular Captain Newman is an Army Medical Corps psychiatrist.  The movie begins by following one Lt. Barney Alderson (Dick Sargent -- yeah, the guy from Bewitched) as he kills some time waiting for a superior officer.  He's here to sort of inspect the hospital and see if money they've asked for would be used wisely there.  While he waits, he's invited to look around the hospital, and I'm not sure if he thought he'd wind up at the nurses quarters or what, but he follows this sign and wanders into Ward 7, the mental ward.


He finds himself in the office of Captain Newman (Gregory Peck), who greets him rather oddly.  Kindly, but oddly.


Barney soon realizes the captain thought he was a new patient!  Once they get that straightened out, Captain Newman asks if he would like to come along on his rounds.


This lets us, the audience, have someone equally unused to a 1940s military mental ward get a little explanatory tour along with Barney.  The men of Ward 7 greet Captain Newman affectionately, and we right away know that here's a doctor who cares about his patients.  And his patients know it, too


I'm going to mention two patients solely because the actors playing them later popped up in one of the best Combat! episodes, "Hills are for Heroes."  One, played by Paul Carr, still has a long way to go before his mind is healed.


The other, played by Joseph Walsh, has been healed enough that he's being sent back to the war.  I just think it's neat that the guys who played Kleinschmidt and Einstein in "Hills are for Heroes" are both in this too, though they don't share any scenes or anything.


Anyway, Barney leaves, but we get to stay in Ward 7 and see what happens next.  And what happens next is the arrive of Cpl. Leibowitz (Tony Curtis), an orderly who does not want to work on a mental ward, and who wasn't supposed to get here at all, only one of Captain Newman's other orderlies shanghaied him when he arrived on base because Ward 7 is short-handed.


Captain Newman sweet-talks him into staying.  They're getting more and more cases of men with "battle fatigue" and "shell shock" (what they called PTSD back then), and Newman knows his ward will soon be more than he and three orderlies can handle.


He also meets up with Lt. Francie Corum, a nurse in a different part of the hospital.  She knows he stole Liebowitz from the ward where he should have ended up, and she gives Newman a pretty hard time about it.


Which leads to Newman making annoyed and repentant faces while she's looking, and then being all scheming when she's not.  He wants her to come work for his ward too.  Also, he liiiiiikes her.


And with Liebowitz convincing himself he's got all kinds of mental disorders one minute, then deciding he can cure the patients himself the next, Newman definitely needs more help!


Newman tries to charm Francie into transferring to Ward 7.  She gets really mad about that, because she thought he was romancing her instead.  Oops.


Enter Col. Bliss (Eddie Albert), an irate Air Force officer that Newman has to try to calm down.


Francie sees Newman in action, sees the sort of people he's trying to help, and next thing you know, she's working in Ward 7.


Soon we meet up with another new patient, Capt. Paul Winston (Robert Duvall).  He's not exactly catatonic, but he hasn't spoken since being rescued from a cellar where he hid for many months in a Nazi-occupied town after his plane went down.


He won't even feed himself, and when Captain Newman tries to talk to him, he simply goes to sleep.


And then, finally and at long last, we meet up with Cpl. Jim Tompkins (Bobby Darin).  He's not in the mental ward, he's a patient in the regular wards.  But he's been getting drunk every night and generally being an obnoxious nuisance.


Francie goes to talk to him, kind of see if maybe Captain Newman could help him.  He tells her all he needs is some better booze and some juicier broads, and generally thinks he's pretty cute.  Francie describes him as "a stinker," and that sums him up real well.


He IS pretty cute, though :-)


He's also holding in a whole lot of guilt and self-hatred.  Captain Newman prescribes a sodium pentothal treatment for him.  Yeah, that's truth serum.


The scene where they administer it is hard to watch.  Jim relives his plane crashing and the death of the rest of his crewmates vividly.  He's still terrified, months later, and full of guilt for surviving.


It's a very hard scene for me to watch, and I usually end up feeling like Francie looks during it.  So sad for this broken boy.


Captain Newman stays by Jim's side, stern and solid and reassuring.


They wind up with Jim clinging to him in despair.  Please don't step on the little bits of my heart scattered all over the floor.


Captain Newman goes to the window and stares out.  I love this shot for how it outlines how alone he is.  He's behind the wire fence like the rest of Ward 7, a prisoner with his patients.  But he's also stuck behind glass, observing their heartaches and troubles, but unable to partake in them.  He has to stay detached to help them, but that leaves him bearing the knowledge of their burdens alone.  Poor man.  He's helping so many people, but who's there to help him?


(Actually, Francie does help him a lot by letting him cry on her shoulder a few times.)

Now that he knows what's eating at Jim, Captain Newman is able to start helping him with private counseling sessions in his office.


Captain Winston's wife (Bethel Leslie) shows up at Captain Newman's request.  He hopes she'll be able to reach her husband where everyone else has failed.


And just when things are going pretty well for the patients we've met, and thus for Captain Newman too, he gets stuck with a whole bunch of Italian POWs because his is the only ward with bars and locks.


Next thing you know, it's Christmas.  Liebowitz fixes up a tree for the ward, which he acquired with his typical unusual procuring skills.  Throughout the movie, he's been able to find, get, or create just about anything needed, with hilarious results.  "Since Liebowitz came to Ward 7" becomes a standard explanation for how or why something has happened.


Captain Newman gets some sad news during the Christmas party, and he and Francie comfort each other.


And then all of a sudden, it's the end!  It's an oddly paced movie, I have to admit -- it bounces from happy to sad to happy really quickly, as I mentioned earlier.  The first time I watched it, I felt like I had emotional whiplash, though I'm used to it now.


This is my 11th movie watched and reviewed for the Period Drama Challenge!


As is my wont when it comes to movies I'm reviewing for the PDC, I will now spend just a little time talking about costumes.  You've seen what most of them are like -- military uniforms.  Here's Angie Dickinson in a pretty nurse's cape that I didn't show earlier:


The only civilian clothes we get to see are on Mrs. Winston.  She arrives wearing this smart travelling ensemble:


Later, we see her in this much prettier dress:


Those are about the only interesting costumes.  The eye candy here is all about guys and girls in uniforms.

Is this movie family friendly?  Somewhat.  There are a handful of cuss words.  Also, when Jim Tompkins is undergoing his sodium pentothal treatment, he calls out to God and Jesus for help, but I don't consider those instances as taking the Lord's name in vain, because he seems to be imploring them for help in his distress.  Some people may disagree with me, though.

There's also an attitude toward Lt. Francie Corum that I know will bother some modern audiences -- Captain Newman straight out tells her that his patients will be attracted to her, and he wants her to use that to get them to cooperate.  There's another instance of a soldier whistling at her and falling off his bed holding his arms out to her and saying something along the lines of "Darling!"  None of this comes across to ME as degrading, but actually rather celebratory and appreciative of her appearance, but I'm pretty sure a lot of people today would be shrieking, "Sexist!" over it.  So your mileage may vary.  Jim Tompkins definitely meant to be less than gentlemanly with his "juicier broads" remarks to her, but he's shown as misbehaving there.  Everyone else treats her with appreciative respect.

There's also some alcohol use and LOTS of cigarette smoking.  Also, Mrs. Winston accuses Captain Newman as being one of those psychiatrists who read sex into everything, and she uses the word 'prostitute' too.

So it's not a movie for little kids.  I'd say mid-teens and up.


You can buy this on DVD for around $10, and if you're interested in WWII, Gregory Peck, movies about doctors, or any of the other fine actors in this film, I really do recommend it.