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

Art Show: The Christos Collective, “Current”

My daughter, a devout Catholic and an uberfan of the contemporary music scene, was teased with the statement that she goes, “moshing for Jesus.” Shortly after I learned this, I was sitting in a cafe [a great place, “The Noshery,” across from Regis University], and saw two young men speaking with great passion about their faith life and the nine holes they had played that morning—they belonged to a Christian campus fellowship that combines golf with religion, so “golfing for Jesus.” I teased my daughter that this seems a much healthier approach. She countered that she is no longer in college, so wouldn’t be eligible.

In a roundabout way, and I hope if they read this, they will be amused by the intro, this brings me to the Christos Collective, or “painting for Jesus.” The collective has a show presently at Artwork Network, a gallery at the corner of 8th Avenue and Santa Fe Drive in Denver. The artists, very different in styles, are held together by their common Christian faith and their desire to share that faith through art. Continue reading

Art Books I Have Known and Loved or Some Elements of Sketching

I do volunteer work with the Art Students’ League of Denver and my present duties involve helping them catalogue their small library. Subsequently I have seen a lot of art books. Other local libraries and my own collection have supplied even more. I’d like to share my thoughts on some of the better books I’ve seen: “how-to” books and books on individual artists, styles, and types of art. To start with, I’ll write about a rather beat up book on sketching I discovered at the Denver Central Library.

Some Elements of Sketching by Geoffrey Fletcher

Although one of my drawing teachers told me there are at least fourteen methods of drawing the human figure, I have generally seen two basic approaches, both for figures and other subjects. One could be called the organic approach, “start from the top, draw what you see, don’t stop until you reach the bottom, and make corrections as you go along.” The second is more step by step, “measure carefully, first make these kinds of lines, then this sort, then follow up with shading in the following manner.” Of course there is a lot of overlap, and both methods are capable of producing beautiful art and competent creative artists. One or the other method may be better at different stages of our learning. I’ve found the step by step approach worked best when I knew nothing and now that I am becoming more competent, it is easier, albeit still painfully slow, to “draw what I see.”

Which brings me to the book; Some Elements of Sketching, by an admitted admirer of Ruskin, is definitely in the organic mode.  The author sees himself as more of a giver of advice on how to approach drawing than a writer of a how-to manual. Continue reading