A Story Published or My Fictional Side

Unbeknownst to most readers of this blog, and certainly to the 30 or so Spaniards who read my appreciation of their compatriots’ sketching book in March, I write short stories and novels as well.

Liberty Island Magazine, an online journal, has just had the good taste to publish my story, “Looking for Karen.” I’m honored to appear on their pages, proud to have been selected for publication, and you can find the story at the following link: https://libertyislandmag.com/2018/04/03/looking-for-karen/ My daughter calls it (using a French accent for the word “homage”), my “homage to Denver” and it certainly is that, at least to the old Denver before the developers ruined it. I also like to think of it as the first entry in my modern rival to Joyce’s Dubliners, my Denverites, so to speak. It is the story of an old man, a resident, or as he would have it, inmate, at the Mullen Home for the Aged, and the young woman he persuades to tote him around. (By the way, the picture Liberty Island used with the story is a photo taken by my son Donal of the Mullen Home.)

I have several other stories submitted for publication to various places, so hopefully you will be seeing more of them.


Movie Review: Every Girl Should be Married

Every Girl Should Be Married

Director, Don Hartman, Starring Cary Grant and Betsy Drake


Anabel Sims, a twenty-year-old department store clerk believes strongly in the title’s sentiment and a chance encounter with pediatrician Madison Brown at a drugstore strongly convinces her that he is the husband meant for her. She then embarks on a scheme that takes her the rest of the movie to convince him that she is the wife for him. Her best friend Julie, wary but helpful, isn’t so sure.

Anabel is devoted to the idea of marriage, children and the small honeymoon cottage with the crotchet chair next to the fireplace. And this vision is the, to say reluctant would be putting it mildly, Dr. Brown. She engages in what out time would be called stalking, Continue reading

The Movie, Three Men in a Boat

A very slapstick version of a novel by Jerome K. Jerome.  [Although the novel itself is pretty funny, it is not as funny as this movie.] A clever and lighthearted play on the themes of male camaraderie, the desire to mess about with boats, poking fun at what happens to men who believe they have impeccable outdoor skills and really do not, and the tension for men with what to do when you are bound to one woman and another very intriguing one comes along.  Don’t worry, it is all very innocent, and everyone behaves themselves in the end.  If you are the type of man or woman with the whole, “Wouldn’t it be great to take a trip down a river with a boat and camp on the shore each night?” dream, you will love the movie, even if it might dampen, and I mean that literally, that dream.  Continue reading

Art Book Appreciation: The Urban Sketchbook: Get Out, Walk, Observe, Draw, Lose Yourself, Create

A great book for anyone interested in sketching the world around them.

This book was translated from the Spanish and caused me to ponder how many art instruction books I have seen, and own, that are by contemporary Spanish artists of a realist bent, and of how good those books are. They are straightforward, fairly complete, and give easy to follow explanations of what they set out to teach.

I’m not sure why this is. I’ve seen few similar French books, though there are some beautiful travel sketchbooks by a French woman. British art instruction books are uneven, some of them very good, some of them mediocre or ugly. Our own American books vary, though we are blessed to have the Watson-Guptill and North Light imprints.

This book is again of the, “Here, let’s give you plenty of examples, some inspiration, and a little advice, and then it’s up to you,” variety, Continue reading

The Movie, The Maggie

This is a great, small movie which until now had passed me by despite my affection for British Ealing Studios’ 1950’s black and white comedies.


The plot involves the captain of a small, steam transport ship outsmarting a wealthy American businessman. The ship is of a class that was rapidly going out of use at that time, called “Puffers” by an affectionate public. As you may have gathered by now, I love both the David versus Goliath and tradition versus progress themes in literature and movies, but only if, unlike real life, David and tradition win. In general, these black and white comedies seem to share that vision.

The puffer’s captain has finagled a contract to carry the businessman’s goods for £300, the amount he needs to keep the puffer afloat. The businessman, discovering this, is appalled and is desperately trying to get the goods off of the puffer and on to a reliable ship. Continue reading

On Three Essays and a Bit of a Fourth

On Three Essays and a Bit of a Fourth


To keep my mind active, I read some journals. Recent editions of The Hedgehog Review out of the University of Virginia’s Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture, and Modern Age, published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute have essays on our post-modern dilemma.  I should say that I’m seldom satisfied with essays in The Hedgehog Review. The essays will often describe appalling conditions in modern culture, yearn for a more cohesive and unified culture, hint that solutions, if there are any, are to be found in more traditional mores and beliefs, such as found in religion, and then pull their punches, retreat to a boring, academic standoffishness. I find Modern Age more straightforward and honest.

However, along with a Modern Age essay in the Winter 2017 issue, “Pascal in the Post Christian World,” by Ann Hartle, I was intrigued by two Hedgehog Review essays (Spring 2017), “The Walking Wounded,” by Ann Townsend, and “Lessons of Mother Love,” by Regina Mara Schwarz. But I’ll start with some comments inspired by an essay more typical of Hedgehog Review, “The New Old Ways of Self Help,” by Elizabeth Lasch-Quinn.

The Lasch-Quinn essay covers how every topic (from history to mathematics and everything in between) is now approached as a self-help topic and looked upon as a guide for living, how these guides are not ultimately helpful, and where, in her opinion, Ancient Greece and Rome, we should look for other guides. Which brings me to diversions and how men and women use them as a source for meaning. Continue reading

The Movie, I Know Where I’m Going

I Know Where I’m Going

Another of the wonderful Archers films.  The character Joan Webster, intent on marrying an older, wealthy businessman, in large part because he is wealthy, tries unsuccessfully to reach the island in the Hebrides where their marriage is to take place.  She is unable to reach the island as there is a major storm battering the area.    Along the way, she keeps running into, and depending on, the local laird, Torquil MacNeil of Kiloran. 

It is funny how many old films and plays depend on the encounter of the urban sophisticate with the natives of a more rural, traditional area, where generally the sophisticate learns something essential about life to their own benefit.  “I Know Where I’m Going,” fits into this mold. 

The title, “I Know Where I’m Going,” comes from a folk song with the refrain, “I know where I’m going, and I know who’s going with me, I know who I love, but the day knows who I’ll marry,” a variation on the “Man proposes, but God disposes,” theme, which gets played out in the movie. Continue reading

On Exhibition Catalogues or Great British Drawings: Art Book Appreciation

An exhibition catalogue is a generally large book with notes and pictures of the paintings, drawings or other works of art exhibited at a particular show at a museum.

The notes, what do we want in the notes? A description of the subject matter of each of the works of art? A bit of the biography of the artist or artists? A description of how the art was created and what materials were used? An idea of where the artist was at geographically, professionally, chronologically, emotionally and spiritually when he or she created the art? In a perfect world, all of the above and possibly more.

Much of this may be found in Great British Drawings, the catalogue of an exhibit held at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum in 2015. The book presents a number of the Ashmolean’s own drawings from 1650 to modern times. Along with the extensive notes on each drawing, there are very good introductory essays on the history of British drawing schools and British watercolors (or “watercolours”). The only negative I saw was that the Ashmolean’s definition of drawing is broad, including what I would describe more as watercolor paintings. Though I am a great fan of watercolor, I would have preferred to see more works strictly in charcoal, graphite and pen and ink. Continue reading

Art Book Appreciation: Watercolors by Winslow Homer: The Color of Light

This is my second favorite non-fiction book of any sort, coming after Beautiful Swimmers, a book about Maryland blue crabs.

This book was an exhibition catalogue issued in connection with an exhibition held at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2008. However, the text is far more detailed than you usually find in such books.

It provides a biography of Homer, a very private person of whom little of his interior life is known. Thankfully it does not engage in any unfounded speculation on such matters, only discussing what is known.

The Art Institute has an extensive collection of Homer’s watercolors and as far as I can tell, they are all included in large, beautifully rendered reproductions. These include his early works in New England after the Civil War, his work in the fishing village of Cullercoats in England, his work back in New England at Prouts Neck, Maine, his hunting and fishing pictures, and his tropical watercolors from the Caribbean and Florida. The works and Homer’s relations to these locations are fully discussed in very clear, flowing prose. Continue reading