22 December 2012

Falcons!

During the winter, Matt and I often eat lunch in our backyard. We see lots of birds in the trees, but Friday we saw something neither of us had ever seen: Peregrine falcons -- a pair of them. You can see a photograph I took of one of them. I was surprised how small they are. Is this normal size or maybe they were youngsters. We have seen red hawks, and several years ago we saw an eagle atop our telephone pole; but this is a first.

20 December 2012

How Will the World End?


So, it's already tomorrow in places like Australia; but it's still 20 December here in Arizona. Does this mean the world is ending in Australia, but we still have 15 hours? Or, will the world end when it's 21 December here, giving Australia an additional 15 hours (which I think's pretty unfair). I'm confused.

16 December 2012

14 December 2012

Guns Don't Kill People

With the recent shootings at a Portland mall, and now school kids dead in Connecticut, I wonder how many people these crazed gunmen or gunwomen would have been able to kill if they did not have such easy access to guns -- and had only, say, a knife. Really? Guns don't kill people? Really?

07 December 2012

Remembering Pearl Harbor

It was 71 years ago today that the attack on Pearl Harbor began at 7:48 a.m. local time. More than 2,400 people lost their lives that day. It was the beginning of the end of World War Two.

The world has changed since the events that led to the attack and those subsequent to it. But it's important that we never forget the futility of war.

I did a radio documentary in observance of the 50th anniversary of the attack. I was fortunate to interview a man who had been on a ship that was attacked and survived. The story of his experience that day was chilling and made we wish (then and now) that no person ever experiences anything like it again.

The attack on Hawaii figures prominently in much of my writing for reasons I can't explain. I had relatives who fought in the war, but none were on the islands on that day. And, although the attack occurs several years before the story I tell in my novel "News on the Home Front," the ramifications of it figure prominently.

So, why does Pearl Harbor come up in my writing so often? Maybe to make sure we never forget it happened. I don't want anyone to wonder -- as some did in relation to the movie "Titanic" -- whether it was a real event. It was real. Real people died. Real lives were forever altered. The memories should be just as real.

(The photograph is of a 1942 ceremony honoring those who died in the attack.)

06 December 2012

05 December 2012

Oh, What a Beautiful (cough!) Morning!

It's finally happened, but it's not like we didn't expect it. With winter in the "Valley of the Sun" comes pollution -- wretched, deathly pollution made up of car exhaust and fireplace residue and dust and probably some insect parts. Usually, we get brief respites from the pollution when we get rain -- but we've not had any rain since 10 September (and October is supposedly our wettest month). The pollution has been increasing without let up.

Today, for the first time this season, our particulate matter has reached the "unhealthy" level (see image) which means the air is unsafe to breathe. People will get the sniffles, will cough, will have all kinds of problems but just assume it's a seasonal cold. Why? Because it seems no one ever wants to mention our air pollution -- bad for the "snowbird" industry (people vacationing in Phoenix away from snowy climates).

We went to an outdoor festival last weekend. One of the vendors was commenting on the "perfect" weather (near-record-breaking high temperatures and, yes, bad pollution) and said "We have nothing to complain about." My reply: "Nothing except all the air pollution." The vendor shrugged her shoulders. So, warm polluted weather is better than snow. Whatever.

Although it doesn't seem to make the local television news, our daily newspaper did a multi-part story on our air pollution earlier this year. I suggest you read this before coming to visit the metro Phoenix area this winter.

30 November 2012

Eames and "Mama Cat"

Back in 2006, our wonderful cat, Eames, died of kidney failure from diabetes. He was really the sweetest and smartest cat I had ever known. We were, of course, devastated by his loss; but we decided to turn something sad into something less sad. As you know, Eames was the star of the first book Matt and I did together back in 2003. It's called "Mama Cat" and it's a story of what happens to cats after they die. I wrote it and Matt did the illustrations.

The year after Eames died, we made a substantial donation to the Arizona Humane Society by purchasing two trees for their Pulliam campus. The trees came with dedication plaques. We decided to do the plaque in the name of the book that featured our cat, and used one of the illustrations from the book.

As long-time members of the Arizona Humane Society, we receive their quarterly publication "Paw Prints." The winter edition has a little blurb about the value of gifts to the society. The blurb includes a photo of one of the plaques we did for one of our trees (see photograph). We were both quite surprised and pleased to see them use our plaque in their publication, and in being able to remember our wonderful cat, Eames. A few years ago we purchased two more trees, each with plaques for our current dog Aalto, and our current cat Eero (herself, a humane society rescue).

We are very proud of our continuing involvement with an organization that helps animals. Matt and I hope you will consider contributing to your own local animal organization this year.

There is a famous old saying that I love that says a society is defined by how it helps those who cannot help themselves. I like to think our society is defined by all those wonderful people who help animals either in a company way or a personal way. Animals enrich our lives. I can't imagine mine without them.

25 November 2012

Just in Time for the Holidays

Your letter to Santa is being delivered. You'll find this new original screenprint in blue or green at LitKids!

22 November 2012

Anniversary Present

For our 18th anniversary, Matt got me this super swell limited edition Adam Juresko giclee print for one of my favorite films! This rocks!

21 November 2012

Now It's 18!

And now for something a little different: Tomorrow is the 18th anniversary of when Matt and I met and started dating. We often get asked how we met, so Matt did this little drawing. Happy 18th, HBSP!

17 November 2012

A Lick of Paint, Indeed

Let me start out by saying I have no affiliation with Walgreens -- your neighborhood drug store -- other than shopping there on occasion.

Today we dropped in to the store near our house and what we found was a remodeled interior that blew my mind. We were only there for a few minutes but I kept saying "Wow! Look at what they've done!" The store went from stodgy old and dank to sparkling new and very 21st century. We didn't have our camera with us so I didn't get pictures, but I did find a photograph online that shows some of the changes. They have these gorgeous blue walls with white lettering, white walls with blue lettering, beige wood panels around the pharmacy, and these totally wicked hanging light fixtures. Wow! I was very impressed. (And Matt will tell you I'm not often or easily impressed.)

I couldn't find any details online about how many or which stores are being remodeled; but I certainly hope the store near you gets a facelift as great as this one!

10 November 2012

Killer Fish

Beware the giant killer fish at the Japanese Friendship Garden in downtown Phoenix. I barely escaped with my life! (You can just call me "Lefty" now...)

05 November 2012

Paperback Book Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Sarah & Gerald by Christopher Geoffrey McPherson

Sarah & Gerald

by Christopher Geoffrey McPherson

Giveaway ends November 30, 2012.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

29 October 2012

What Would Sarah Wear?

One of the things I enjoyed most about writing my novel "Sarah & Gerald" was the research into 1920s fashions. I already knew a lot about those fashions having written about them several times for various newspapers; however, it's a different story when writing about real(ish) people who wore real clothes decades before I was even born.

Early on, my research took me to Los Angeles and the 2012 exhibition of costumes from Academy Award-nominated films (including the 1920s-set "The Artist"). I wrote about that exhibition here.

Matt and I recently took in a marvelous fashion exhibition called "Modern Spirit: Fashion of the 1920s" at the Phoenix Art Museum. It features more than 40 ensembles and accessories by more than a dozen iconic fashion designers including Gabrielle Chanel (pictured, top), Jean Patou (center) and Madeleine Vionnet (bottom). While it was neat seeing the fashions up close, it was even neater knowing that these are the very outfits that would have been worn by my characters. On several occasions I pointed out something to Matt and said "I describe a dress just like this for Sarah in one scene." It was an eerie occurrence of life imitating art.

The Phoenix Art Museum has a very long tradition of interest in fashion, with a collection that was founded in 1966. It comprises more than 5,000 objects of American and European clothing and accessories dating from the late 17th century to the present. I strongly urge you to check out this exceptional exhibition if you live in the Phoenix Metro area, or plan on being in town before the exhibition closes in February 2013. You can find out more about the exhibition at the Museum's website.  

All photographs by Ken Howie. Copyright and courtesy of The Phoenix Art Museum.

24 October 2012

15 October 2012

"Sarah & Gerald" Cover Wins Award

I'm very happy to let you know Matt's cover design for my book "Sarah & Gerald" a novel of Paris in the 1920s, won this month's e-book cover design award for fiction! How cool is that? You can read more about the awards and other winners here.

12 October 2012

10 October 2012

Icky Origins

Of course, no really good music has come out since the war -- World War Two, that is. With the exception of Gloria Estefan and a few keen dance pieces of the 1990s, the world of music has been nothing but a vast wasteland.

Before the war, there was a kind of dance music called "swing" that bred a style of dancing called "the jitterbug" danced by people who spoke a language known as "jive." Jive contained words like "cat," "licks," "on the cob" (as in corny) and the really great word "icky" which referred to sentimental music -- the kind that was preferred by the parents of jitterbuggers.

If you ever wanted to learn this obscure language, you can get a good start listening to this very rare circa-1933 excerpt of a radio program called "Inside Story" that attempted, in this episode, to help its audience understand just what their children were saying and doing.

So, all you hep cats and gators get ready to learn some jive!

05 October 2012

Geese!

It's migration time in America for birds that fly south for the winter. Arizona seems to be along the migration route for many birds -- including starlings and Canada geese (shown). This morning while Matt and I were playing tennis, we were greeted with two flyovers of Canada geese. We always hear them, but rarely see them flying close by. It was really neat!

01 October 2012

I Wonder....

Did the male dog that played the female Lassie have gender identity issues?

30 September 2012

The Day the Spoken Word Died

Fifty years ago tonight, the world changed forever: On this date came the end of the last two radio shows we in America consider part of the "Golden Age" of vintage radio drama and comedy. Just like vaudeville before it and silent film before that, the world saw the end of one extremely popular form of entertainment as it was replaced by another (in this case, television).

While radio broadcasts had been around for several years, commercial broadcasting did not begin until 1920. The few stations that existed during that time had little idea of what to broadcast -- music being one of the first ideas. Stations began experimenting with other subjects, broadcasting radio versions of popular plays, then original plays, finally coming up with the concept of the variety show (some music, some spoken works). Programming continued erratically for most of the decade.

With the advent of the 1930s (and the conveniently timed Depression), radio content exploded. Families unable to afford other forms of entertainment saved their scarce money and purchased a radio -- the source of otherwise free entertainment as well as much-needed news and contact with the rest of the country.

The period from roughly 1930 to roughly 1955 is considered radio's Golden Age. Literally thousands of actors from vaudeville began appearing on radio, with a not-insignificant number becoming huge stars, helping to redefine the idea of "entertainment." The power of radio was unquestionably understood the night of 30 October 1938 with the airing of the innocent (but quickly infamous) dramatization of H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" by the then-scarcely-known (but quickly infamous) Orson Welles.

By then, radio was certainly ubiquitous: news, sports, weather, farm reports, music -- as well as the more famous comedies and dramas -- were everywhere. Newspapers feared for their survival owing to the reductions in revenue as advertisers moved their money to the juggernaut that was radio.

(Other countries, as well, hopped on the radio bandwagon with productions in England, France, Germany, Australia and many others.)

Radio grew up with the advent of war (Edward R. Murrow's broadcasts from war-torn Britain). Radio played two major roles in the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor: the Japanese bombers pinpointed Hawaii from far out in the ocean by latching onto the broadcasts of a Hawaii radio station; and radio brought the first news of the attack to America and the world.

Inevitably, television became the dominant entertainment medium in the home, and radio slowly faded away -- although quite a number of early television programs were versions of popular radio shows. For example, the most popular comedy on television ever, "I Love Lucy," was a variant of Lucille Ball's popular radio program "My Favorite Husband."

After the end of the Golden Age, there were attempts to bring back radio drama in America including the unsuccessful Theater Five (1964–1965), and the highly successful CBS Radio Mystery Theater (1974–1982).

While such a wealth of radio drama and comedy will never be prominent in America again, we can still enjoy the richness of radio owing to transcription disks capturing performances (to be broadcast at "this more convenient time"); and many groups and clubs that occasionally produce live-versions of vintage radio or even new scripts.

For your enjoyment, here are the final episodes of "Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar" and "Suspense" that aired 50 years ago tonight:


20 September 2012

Happy Birthday, Maggie Cheung!

Birthday greetings go out to the most beautiful woman in the world (pictured).

15 September 2012

A Bit of Orson Welles

For many years, I've had a saying that goes something like this: "It's one thing to think you know everything, it's quite another when you actually do." I use this when referring to people who present themselves as larger-than-life know-it-alls (actors, writers, other people with talent) who come off as pompous but who really are as good as they think they are.

Probably the first time I used this phrase was in referring to the "boy wonder" of radio, theater and cinema: Orson Welles (pictured) -- one of the very few creative talents of the 1930s and 1940s who was all those things he said about himself and so much more.

It's hard to argue the perfection of his first film "Citizen Kane" (1941) -- especially once you become familiar with the history of the period, the story behind the movie (William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies) and the fury this film caused in Hollywood. You don't piss off that many people with a single movie unless you've done something pretty amazing with it. (It has since come to be considered the most perfect example of filmmaking in the 20th century.) In his later years, he began to believe too much of his own blustery puffery and started down a long path toward creative oblivion; but there was a window when he was brilliant and we are lucky so much of his creative output from that time survives.

As you know, I'm a huge fan of vintage radio comedy and drama (especially from the 1930s and 1940s); one of my favorites being (arguably the best of the lot) "The Jack Benny Show." Recently, I've been listening to a group of episodes from March and April 1943 -- a period of weeks when Benny did not appear owing to his severe illness. (On the show they refer to the illness as a cold, but it seems he actually got a very bad case of pneumonia from touring the military camps with his show.)

Welles was asked to appear on the show in place of Benny in what became one of the greatest examples of radio work in all the annals of broadcasting. In these four consecutive episodes, Welles is presented as a character who is all the things people said about him derisively: vain, perfect, multi-talented, perfectionist, know it all. I doubt Welles was really like this (just as Benny himself wasn't a penny pincher in real life); but the Welles character created in these episodes is brilliantly funny. (And all the other regulars in the cast rise to the occasion and are fantastic.)

Here are links to all four of these episodes so you can hear how the character is introduced and then how his pomposity builds and builds. It's a tribute to the talented writers (Ed Beloin and Bill Morrow, in their last year with Benny) who were able to take his temporary loss and create some fantastic episodes of comedy.




13 September 2012

Color Film -- in 1901?

Any fan of early cinema will remember that there were many instances of color on film. It was a common practice to hand tint film stock to achieve the appearance of flame or a night sky. What few people know, however is that actual real-life color images had been put on film as early as 1901 or 1902, thanks to the pioneering work of Britisher Edward Turner. Film shot by Turner languished after his death in 1903, eventually being donated to the London Science Museum in 1937, where it remained in storage until a few years ago. Then, the National Media Museum got hold of the film, digitized it and made it available to be seen by the public.

The process used by Turner was clunky and unreliable, but provided vivid images of true-color life, as demonstrated by the image of the scarlet macaw, shown.

You can read more about this early work in color film here.

12 September 2012

And Now, a Word from the Designer

The very talented young man who designs the super covers to my books is featured in an online interview that you can read here. His name is Matt Hinrichs and, yes, we're married. Does that make me biased in any way? Nope. He really is that talented.

05 September 2012

"Sarah & Gerald"

Hey! Just wanted to let you know my newest novel just published! It's called "Sarah & Gerald" and is something of a love story about two Americans in Paris after the first world war. You can read more about it here.

P.S. I'm just diggin' the great cover done by my spouse Matt.

01 September 2012

OMG!

We just got our advance copy of 2 Broke Girls: The Complete First Season on DVD so Matt can write a review of it. I'm stoked!

21 August 2012

Other Things That Don't Happen

According to at least one politician, a woman who is raped does not (or rarely does) get pregnant. Using that logic, here is a list of other things that don't happen:
  • Sexual activity in a public bathroom between a heterosexual married man and another man does not mean the first man is homosexual
  • Raising taxes on those who earn the least amount of money does not make them poorer
  • Photographing himself in his tightey-whitey underwear, sharing the photo with others via email and then lying about it does not make a politician a douche bag
  • Sending jobs to other countries from America does not mean Americans lose jobs
  • Smoking does not cause cancer
  • Making enormous profits by buying stock based on insider information does not make a politician a criminal
  • An annual increase of the average daytime temperature in America does not mean global warming exists
  • Hunting with an automatic weapon, like an AK47, does not provide an unfair advantage
  • Teaching a child the arts -- like music, painting, dance and theater -- does not have any value
  • Cutting funding for education does not mean teachers are underpaid
  • Lying about which country started which war does not create an ethical or moral problem
  • Denying a child medical coverage does not contribute to lifelong medical problems
  • Spraying secret chemicals on areas where soldiers are working does not cause them any medical problems
  • Voting against legislation to grant equal rights to gays and lesbians by secretly-gay politicians does not make them hypocrites

20 August 2012

The Seahorse Hotel - Galveston

I was flipping channels this a.m. and stopped on a 1963 episode of "Route 66" -- not necessarily because the show is interesting; rather it featured the ever-gorgeous Glenn Corbett, which was reason enough to stay tuned. Part of the story took place at the Seahorse Hotel, built in 1956 and torn down in 2005. The hotel's sign (see picture) is totally cool and I sure hope someone thought to preserve it. From what I can tell watching the episode and doing a little online research, the Seahorse Hotel was a large crescent shape, with the concave section facing the ocean. It looked like a cool place to stay. Too bad it's gone.

06 August 2012

What to Write About

I've been having a hard time today trying to pick just one thing to write about on my blog. What would be the best topic?

How about the fact that we awoke to a pigeon trapped in our fireplace and we rescued it and set it free and I wrenched my left knee in the process? Or perhaps that today is the 67th anniversary of the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima? Or maybe how we humans landed yet another rover on Mars? I dunno. They all seem pretty interesting.

01 August 2012

On Tour with "News on the Home Front"


The good folks at Charisma Media are hosting a nine-day blog book tour for my novel "News on the Home Front" featuring excerpts from the novel, reviews, an interview with me, and a guest post about the role of women in the workplace during World War Two. Oh, and giveaways -- lots of giveaways! Won't you stop by and join me on my first ever book tour? Just push the magic green button below, and scroll down for the schedule!
Photobucket

30 July 2012

Tony Martin RIP


My lunch with Tony Martin (1913 - 2012): In March 1991, I was in Los Angeles visiting with my great friend Shirley Wilson who loves little more than taking me to cool "old Hollywood" hangouts -- knowing, as she does, my great love of all things "old Hollywood." On this trip, after a tour of an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, she took me for lunch to the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Very few things in Hollywood say "old Hollywood" in quite the same way as the Polo Lounge. We sit there, among the banana-leaf wallpaper dining on something scrumptious when Shirley points out to me a man sitting by himself at a table across the aisle from me. She gives me a hint as to his identity but, alas, I have no idea.  Turns out it was singer Tony Martin (see photograph, next to a swatch of the wallpaper)! Embarrassingly, I still had no idea who he was. But, there he sat, by himself, eating lunch.

27 July 2012

How I Spent Today



Today is my birthday (thank you). My wonderful spouse and I did a whole slew of really fun things -- and I thought it would be neat to share with you how I spent today. (Click photograph to enlarge.)

1: First we went to a dollar store to pick up a few supplies. (To some that might sound like an odd way to start a birthday. Personally, picking up supplies is really keen and I feel better knowing we are well stocked in whatever it is we needed.)

2: ICE SKATING! That's right, we went ice skating.  I used to figure skate competitively when I was a teen and it's been many years since I strapped on the blades. But, I wanted to see what I could remember after all these years (and no, it's not like riding a bicycle: it doesn't all come back to you). But it was fun. Plus, there was a really cute young gay couple there skating and that made my day.

3: To a nearby pet store for cat food (see explanation on item 1).

4: Hardware store to pick up more supplies (see item 1).

5: Discount store for more supplies (blah-blah-blah).

6: Thrift store to look for various and sundry (didn't find anything, hence the lack of a smile).

7: Phoenix Indian School. This site has a special place in my history, as it's the school my grandfather attended. That's right, I'm part North American Indian (despite how white I am). The school opened in 1895 and my grandfather (Jose Martinez) attended from 1910 until about 1917 when he and a lot of other boys left the school early to enlist in the army during World War One. I'm standing at the monument dedicated to the boys from the school who fought (it includes the name of my grandfather). The school closed in 1990 and was converted to a park in 2001. You can read more about the Indian School here.

8: Post office (so Matt could mail some packages).

9: Finally, lunch!  We went to one of our favorite Asian buffet restaurants and had a wonderful meal that included a custom-made tuna roll (sushi) that we loved!

I hope you had a fun day, too!

24 July 2012

Why Amelia?


There are lots of unsolved mysteries in the world, yet one of the most enduring is whatever happened to Amelia Earhart -- born this day in 1897.

With so many fascinating mysteries, why are so many people focused on Amelia?

She made her breakthrough flight (solo across the Atlantic) in 1928 and established her worldwide fame during the worst years of the Depression; a diversion to some, a hero to many. She fiercely promoted an interest in aviation, was a feminist before many even heard of the word (she refused to adopt her husband's surname, for example), and she had no problem working a job and earning her own money.

Then came the around-the-world flight attempt that changed history. After completing 22,000 miles of the journey, she took off for the next leg on the morning of 02 July 1937 and was, as they say, never seen again. Her disappearance was both a surprise and a shock -- and it remains as such 75 years later.

Did her plane ditch in the sea where she drowned along with her navigator? Did she land on an uninhabited island and die? Did she make it to a British-owned island and live a long, secret life? Was she spying for the government? Were they captured and executed by the Japanese? With so many unanswered questions, there is little wonder her life and disappearance still elicit so much interest.

As a journalist, I don't much like unsolved mysteries. Every mystery has a resolution, it's just up to someone to find it. Personally, I hope the Earhart mystery is never solved. There are just some things that are more interesting as mysteries.

You can read more about why the mystery endures here, and more about the woman herself here.