Digging in Upstate New York

Digging things up was a minor trend in upstate New York back in the 1800s.

Joseph Smith Jr started it in 1823, when he dug up a buried book written on golden plates near Palmyra, New York. This discovery led to the establishment of the Mormon religion. 

Throughout the summers of my youth, local TV stations ran a Public Service Announcement for the Hill Cumorah Pageant, a reenactment of Smith’s adventures on the hill. Once, at a writing conference, an editor said to me, “Oh, I’m from upstate New York, too, a small town outside of Rochester you’ve probably never heard of. Palmyra.” I responded “Hill Cumorah Pageant.” “That’s the one,” she replied.

Twenty or so years after Joseph Smith did his thing, George Hull and his cousin Stubbs Newell decided to play a hoax on the American public. Hull commissioned some folks in Iowa to create a “petrified giant”, which he then buried on his cousin’s farm in Cardiff, New York.  A year or so later, his cousin commissioned a couple of people to dig a well on the spot where he’d buried the petrified giant.  And thus one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American public came into being: The Cardiff Giant.  PT Barnum, when he couldn’t buy the original, commissioned his own and made a fortune off it.

The Cardiff Giant isn’t nearly as well known as Mormonism–but it does have a niche following, and people tend to co-op the name on a regular basis. There’s a baseball team in Cooperstown, NY (where the real giant currently resides, a folk-rock band out of Indiana, a wrestler, a winery, and a bar in Brooklyn.

Yet the place where he was disinterred barely rates a roadside marker, unlike Hill Cumorah.

I know, because I grew up next door to the farm where the giant was unearthed.

 

MJ Monday: Movie-THE REWRITE

The first time I saw THE REWRITE was with my husband who thought I’d like it because it was about a writer. He wanted to see it because it takes place at SUNY Binghamton, where he went to college. Starring Hugh Grant (eh) and Marisa Tomei (I’m a fan), I was surprised I hadn’t heard of the movie. We watched it. I recognized other actors–Allison Janney, JK Simmons, Chris Elliott. I thought, Oh, this is a cute movie.

Fast forward a year or so, and one of my critique partners found the DVD in the library and brought it on our semi-annual writing retreat. I didn’t hate the idea of watching it again; indeed, I enjoyed it more the second time around (but that may be because of a more sympathetic audience).

Hugh Grant plays a washed-up screen writer whose sole success was 15 years earlier. The only gig his agent can find for him is Writer-in-Residence at Binghamton University in upstate New York. The plot is predictable. He’s resentful, sullen, and selfish until the eternal optimism of an older single mother with two children who happens to be taking his class turns him around.

Three stars–Janney and Tomei are worth the watch.

Book Review: Linda Howard-Open Season

Image credit: tieury / 123RF Stock Photo

Linda Howard is one of my favorite authors of all time. I love a great romantic suspense story. This year, I’m going to review my top six favorites Linda Howard novels, starting with OPEN SEASON.

The main character, Daisy, wakes up on her birthday and decides her life is boring and it’s up to her to make the changes. She starts with a makeover. I love makeover stories. Not only does she change her looks, but also her habits, and attracts the attention of the new-in-town chief of police. That’s the romance, and it’s a great one.

The suspense comes in when ditzy Daisy, the town librarian, witnesses a murder. She doesn’t realize what she’s seen. There are plenty of twists and layers to the suspense plot, including crooked politicians, date rape drugs, international sex trafficking, and spousal abuse.

One of the things Howard does so well is show us the inner workings of her character’s minds. Daisy may come off as scatterbrained, but her once the reader follows how her thought process works, everything makes sense. Naive doesn’t mean stupid.

Howard also has a great sense of humor that doesn’t always show up in her books, but there are a couple of laugh-out-loud moments in OPEN SEASON.

I highly recommend this book.

 

MJ Monday-Meals: Produce

No recipe this month, but rather, an observation about food.

My local supermarket has a program where they’ll shop for you and deliver to your house. My main concern with concept has always been produce. I like to pick out my own.

I like fruits and most vegetables. However, I find vegetables a pain in the butt to cook. And fancying them all up with sauces and cheese and whatever tends to render the healthy aspect of eating them pointless.

But my biggest issue with produce is it’s propensity to go bad.

I food shop once a week. Maybe if I shopped daily, spoilage wouldn’t be an issue. When the children were small, my weekly menu was pretty much set in stone, with only a little room for deviation. Rotting food wasn’t a problem. Now that there are only the two of us living here and our lives are more flexible, me cooking a weeknight meal with the two of us sitting down together is a rare occurrence. So even though I know we should eat more fresh vegetables, I hesitate because I so often have to throw them away before I get an opportunity to cook them.

Yes, I know “they” are doing amazing things with frozen veggies these days, and yes, they are convenient. But some veggies simple don’t freeze well, no matter how amazing they are treated. Winter squashes come to mind. Greens are another.

I’m lucky. My supermarket sells fresh veggies that have been prepped: precut butternut squash, shredded Brussels spouts, chopped Asian “salad” (which is wonderful stir-fried). Doing the prep makes incorporating fresh vegetables into our diet easier.

Now if there was some way they’d stay fresh in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

Self Help Review: Made for More? Nope.

I’m switching things up a bit this year, trying to keep the blog fresh. I will review a self-help book, or in the case of January, a self-help movie, the first Thursday of every month. I’ve certainly read my share.

One thing you’re going to learn about me is my skepticism. You may think I am a negative person, but I’m really not. Positivity is my number four strength, according to the Clifton Stengthsfinder assessment. But I’m skeptical. Or maybe I should say I’m wary of being conned.

My then-manager showed the Rachel Hollis documentary Made for More to us as a team building exercise. Rachel Hollis, in case you didn’t know (and I didn’t), is a guru of self-help for women. Her book Girl, Wash your Face was a best seller. A friend recently told me there have been accusations of plagiarism, but I don’t really know enough about it to comment. What I do know is the first half of the movie. (I declined to watch the second half, which was shown in another team meeting).

The first thing that struck me about this movie was while Rachel was discussing how her organization is all about empowering women, the video showed her husband driving the family van with the caption: CEO of her company (The Hollis Company).  I thought an empowered woman would be empower other women. Making your husband CEO of your company seems contradictory.

Further into the movie Rachel tells us about her boob job. How she hated her breasts because after nursing four children they were like yogurt, so she decided to get a boob job to increase her self-esteem/body image/whatever.

After she has justified why she wanted a boob job, she went to a scene from one of her RISE sessions (3-day personal growth conferences) where she asked the attendees how they felt about their bodies. Everyone was in tears, because everyone hated something about their bodies. It was very moving. She went on and on about how awful it was that these women hated their bodies.

I had a problem with this–not with her having a boob job–but the mixed message (and her tears) she sent to that conference of crying women with body image issues. If I had been in the audience that day, I would have felt used.

In about 40 minutes of documentary, the woman managed to turn me off. Not every “method” of self-help works for every person. Rachel Hollis is not my guru.