Honey talks about Helen Jackson’s Ramona

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September 30, 2014 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comment 

Honey

NOTES FROM ABOVE GROUND

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)

In a voiceover to Billy Wilder’s noir film classic Double Indemnity (1944), adapted by Raymond Chandler from a James M. Cain novel, insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) describes the house where psychopathic killer Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) lives as: “It was one of those California Spanish houses everyone was nuts about 10 or 15 years ago. This one must have cost someone about 30,000 bucks – that is, if he ever finished paying for it.”

Cain’s joke or note in his book was that architect Wallace Neff designed a great many of Southern California’s “Spanish” houses, drawing on styles that evoked the Spanish missions.

Art historian Rexford Newcomb described the genesis of then- contemporary (1937) Spanish architecture:

“….Spanish blood, Spanish institutions and consequently Spanish architecture was of necessity cosmopolitan. But the primitive Iberians were not great architects; therefore the real beginnings of architecture in Spain may be said to date from the period of Roman domination. The Moors contributed a certain oriental quality, many effects of which are to be detected in the provincial expressions of Texas, Arizona and California.” Read more

Helen Hunt’s visit to Northern California

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September 1, 2014 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comment 

 

Honey

 

 

 

 

 

NOTES FROM ABOVE GROUND

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)

“… the river is everywhere at once, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the rapids, in the sea, in the mountains, everywhere at once, and that there is only the present time for it, not the shadow of the past, not the shadow of the future.” – Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha (1922)

Helen Hunt Jackson’s life spanned the years between 1830 and 1885. She first visited California in 1872, twenty-six years after the entrapment of the Donner Party in a pass near Truckee. Samuel Clemens (1835-1910) spent a few years, off and on, in the 1860s in California. He wrote about his expedition with his older brother to Lake Tahoe, also near Truckee. Clemens and Hunt did not meet, of course, because their visits were a decade apart.   Jackson did not meet Jack London (1876-1916. He was not to be born until four years after her first visit. When he was a teenager, Jack London rode on the top of the train to Truckee.

The study of history may sometimes seem to be a series of static photographs of great and small events. There was no photography before the nineteenth century. So before photography – paintings, myths, handprints on cave walls.

History is more like a movie of a voyage on a boat on a river. The river moves, the boat moves along the surface of the river. Insect life begins and ends and begins and ends.   Riverine life beneath the boat changes, the water fills with debris from logging, mining and industrial pollutants, the landscape on the shore changes – the riparian forest thins, the native American villages vanish, churches, temples, houses and stores appear, disappear, new trees are planted, new buildings go up. Irish and Chinese workers cut through the mountains to lay track for the train that unites California with the rest of the United States. The seasons bring blizzards, wind soughing in pines, wild flowers first yellow bloomed, then red, then purple, the California Redbud bursts into raspberry color, and the spring submerges into green summer days, then tawny. The sycamore and oak leaves rust. The California Buckeye – that in early spring looks as if set with flowering candles – drops all of its leaves. Migrating birds move above the boat. Egrets stand in the water with their long necks and small heads. The many personal human stories the boat passengers tell each other or write in letters home or in books reflect moments in the journey through time. Read more

Honey begins a three-part series on Helen Hunt Jackson

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August 1, 2014 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comment 

 

 

NOTES FROM ABOVE GROUND

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)

 During the Victorian era on the east coast of the United States, the terrible voluminous roar of skirts worn over stockings, drawers, chemises, corsets strengthened with steel or whalebone, over as well the flexible cages of steel that supported the skirts and the layers of petticoats filled the rooms of houses.

The “angel in the house” ideal for Victorian women represented the ideology of gender: men dominated work outside the home and owned the political and legal system.  Women were to raise virtuous children.  Women were to be pure.

East coast privileged girls learned reading, writing and arithmetic but most people believed “important subjects” such as Latin, Greek or higher mathematics overtaxed women whose reasoning powers were too defective for such “masculine mysteries.”

Out of this white upper class female domestic milieu stepped a fleshy, very short upper middle class white woman writer with an unusually assured and balanced expression born Helen Maria Fiske in 1830 in Massachusetts. Read more

Honey Receives A Copy Of Dear Mad’m

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June 1, 2014 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comment 

 

 

NOTES FROM ABOVE GROUND

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)

A package arrived in the mail with my cousin Little Barbara’s address in the top left hand corner.   I found a note inside the book in the package.  Little Barbara wrote she and her sister Daina thought I would enjoy reading a book about an eighty-year old woman who begins a new chapter in her life in the mountains of Trinity County, near where our Aunt Big Barbara taught in Blanchard Flat School in Hoosimbim Mountain during the Great Depression. 

I’m approaching seventy, and my cousins approach eighty.  This book seemed like it would be just the ticket to a new way to look at growing old.

What reading the book — and then following up with some research —  turned out to be was the revelation of a life that vividly soared without a safety net over a ranch in Stockton, literary San Francisco and a remote cabin near Happy Camp in Trinity County.   The author was not an eighty-year old; she was close to ninety when she finished writing it. Read more

Honey Tracks Down Ina Coolbrith’s One True Love

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May 1, 2014 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comment 

 

NOTES FROM ABOVE GROUND

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)

The life of a forgotten poet reveals a pageant of changes in California consciousness, about the place of women in society, about forbidden love, about the emergence of California literature, and about the transition from the Mexican era in Los Angeles.  

Ben Tarnoff’s The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature (2014) describes the contributions of four iconoclastic writers set against the background of bohemian San Francisco, an era that began with their work for the Golden Era in the last years of the American Civil War, and which continued with their creation of the Overland Monthly.

Nigey Lennon in The Sagebrush Bohemian (1990) conjectures there was a romantic relationship between Twain and Coolbrith and Harte and Coolbrith. If there had been such a three-way relationship, gossip about it would have knocked San Francisco society off its heels.

Brett Harte, one of the four, referred to Ina in 1870 as a “dark-eyed Sapphic divinity.”  Coolbrith’s good friend John Muir attempted to introduce her to eligible men.  The circle of writers, poets and artists she influenced called her the Virgin Poetess. Read more

Honey takes the train to Los Angeles

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April 1, 2014 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · 1 Comment 

 

NOTES FROM ABOVE GROUND

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)

 In the first car of the train from Martinez light comes through the window in front as well as through the windows on the sides.  If I stand, I see the landscape rushing towards us.

The daylight is watery — as I imagine light is in the Netherlands.  The land is flat around the Delta and in the Central Valley. There is so much sky and so little land seen from the train windows that it seems we must be traveling underwater.  Clouds are bruised from their weight of water, and the wind pushes them into changing shapes. One is a polar Teddy bear, and he occupies most of my window.

A man I haven’t met sends me a poem, which I read on my tablet.  He once wrote that he was a lesbian and in a relationship with another woman, but he is a man married to a woman.  His name is Ed Underhill.  I have never heard anyone call him “Ed.” Perhaps because “Ed” is too short although Americans always shorten names even the names of foreigners, but if his name is too short, he could be Edward.   He writes: Read more

Honey Reveals The Truth About Jack London

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March 1, 2014 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comment 

 

NOTES FROM ABOVE GROUND

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)

 Some of those fascinated by Jack London seem to see aspects of themselves in him.

Most of his readers think of his having an adventurous life, and he did.  One of his adventures started with the great earthquake of 1906, begging rather in his own backyard when he and his second wife Charmian Kittererdge London rode their horses to the top of Mt. Sonoma and looked down at the destruction in San Francisco and in Santa Rosa.  This is the journey Charmian was to call “Jack London’s magic trail,” but it was actually a trip to visit old friends, bathe in hot springs and enjoy riding through  the redwoods to the Pacific Coast.  The Londons were to follow much of the same journey in 1911, which he  described in “Four Horses and a Sailor.”

London inherited the travel story as a vehicle for making a little money from Charmian’s Aunt Netta, a travel writer.   Background for reading both Charmian’s and Jack’s writing about the magic trail is enhanced by getting to know a little about them.   Jack’s life was his greatest literary inventive contribution to California, and Charmian was his hardest working assistant. Read more

Honey Sees From the Sky Descends an Angel

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February 1, 2014 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comment 

 

NOTES FROM ABOVE GROUND

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)

 

Old people comprised most of the audience when I saw Saving Mr. Banks. They sat through the film without moving their white heads and stayed to the end of the subtitles. They were entranced. They could have read the Mary Poppins series, which began in 1934, as children. They could have read the books to their children. Everyone knows Walt Disney. His Steamboat Willy came out in 1928. Each of the old people in the audience grew up with Disney animations and with Walt on television. Disneyland in Anaheim is 58 years old. I was one of the children who went to it soon after it opened.

There were no parking structures but asphalt lots. Women wore high heels, and they got stuck in the asphalt. Real leeches floated in big clear glass containers set on the counter of the Main Street pharmacy.

Both the P.L. Travers book series and Walt Disney affected the way a lot of people saw the world when they were children. The time we spent as children seems like a very long time. The beginning of summer vacation seems like the beginning of forever with adventures still unaccomplished ahead like a vista without a horizon. The older we get, the faster life goes by, and so childhood seems to us to have been a longer period than it was, and what happens in childhood is important. Read more

Honey’s Writing From The Second Gold Mountain

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January 1, 2014 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comment 

 

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)

No one knows when people began to talk.  One theory is that a genetic mutation in a gene such as FOXP2 allowed people to speak.  It is almost impossible to imagine that one day a human baby born with the mutated gene was able to talk but his family could not.  Babies learn language so there had to have been more than one baby but Noam Chomsky proposed that a single chance mutation occurred in one individual about 100,000 years ago, so Chomsky could imagine what I almost cannot.

A friend of mine today told me that alien intervention explains everything.  Aliens mutated the gene.  “So why,” I asked, “did a four legged mammal who walked the earth mutate into the whale?  Why would aliens care?”

Other scholars place the beginning of speech as about 200,000 years ago.  Neanderthal man in Europe and central Asia had the larynx, cranial capacity and the FOXP2 gene for speech and archeological evidence indicates they could talk.   Neanderthal is our closest extinct relative and probably interbred with modern humans when we arrived in Europe and central Asia. Read more

Honeyed Frankenstein

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December 1, 2013 · Posted in Notes from Above Ground · Comment 

 

By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste)

Eighteen-sixteen was “the year without a summer.” An historic low in solar activity combined with a volcanic winter event caused by a succession of major volcanic eruptions capped by the 1815 eruption of MountTambora in Indonesia caused severe climate abnormalities. Average global temperatures decreased by 0.7-1.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the wet miserable summer, nineteen year-old Mary Godwin Shelly, Percy Bysshe Shelly, aged twenty-six, Lord Byron, also twenty-six, and John William Polidori, twenty-one – Polidori was to write the 1819 short story, The Vampyre, one of the first vampire stories in English – stayed in a rented villa on the shores of Lake Geneva. Mary and Percy had lost their first child, born prematurely. He had left his wife for her, and his wife committed suicide.

Forced to remain indoors by the weather, they read horror stories from the book Fantasmagoriana. (1813) The group also discussed experiments by Erasmus Darwin (Charles Darwin’s grandfather) with galvanism, the contraction of muscles stimulated by electricity.

The poets proposed a contest between all of them to write horror stories.

The framing of Frankenstein’s in the artic, its many water passages, its sense of disassociation of people from the environment, may have been drawn as some writers believe from Shelly’s fascination with indigenous people but can also be because that year’s extreme cold, and because the villa was on Lake Geneva. Read more

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