Sure, I eat collard greens

“Collard greens are a staple vegetable in Southern U.S. cuisine. They are often prepared with other similar green leaf vegetables, such as spinach, kale, turnip greens, and mustard greens in the dish called “mixed greens”. Typically used in combination with collard greens are smoked and salted meats (ham hocks, smoked turkey drumsticks, smoked turkey necks, pork neckbones, fatback or other fatty meat), diced onions, vinegar, salt, and black pepper, white pepper, or crushed red pepper, and some cooks add a small amount of sugar. Traditionally, collards are eaten on New Year’s Day, along with black-eyed peas or field peas and cornbread, to ensure wealth in the coming year. Cornbread is used to soak up the “pot liquor”, a nutrient-rich collard broth. Collard greens may also be thinly sliced and fermented to make a collard sauerkraut that is often cooked with flat dumplings.” Wikipedia 

If you grow up in the South, sooner or later you’ taste collard greens. I love them, just as I also love spinach and mustard greens. My mother never cooked them because she grew up in the midwest and was familiar with midwestern foods. I always wanted to try new things and was the first (and only) person in the family to become addicted to boiled peanuts and stalks of sugar cane we chewed while walking down the street.

My wife who, unlike me, was born in the South, doesn’t like collard greens. So I buy mine at the store in cans. Dump the stuff out of a can, heat them on the stovetop, and they’re ready to eat. The same does for Hoppin John which, you guessed it, my wife doesn’t like either. It’s a nice mix of black-eyed peas, pork, and onions.

I like most Southern goods except for crawfish.

A lot of people make fun of Southern food, especially grits. I don’t understand that and figure most of the people making fun of grits have never shrimp and grits, a great low country dish. That goes well with a side of collards.

Plus, no matter what people say, the best fried chicken comes from the South.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series set in the Florida Panhandle of the 1950s.

Friday the Thirteenth: What Can Possibly Go Wrong?

Actually, nothing. . . unless you want it to. It’s a day of spiritual feminine energy that men took over and turned into a day of ominous superstitions.

A bit of online research brings you information such as this:

“Before patriarchal times, Friday the 13th was considered the day of the Goddess. It was considered a day to honor the Divine Feminine that lives in us all and to honor the cycles of creation and death and rebirth.

“Friday the 13th was considered a very powerful day to manifest, honor creativity, and to celebrate beauty, wisdom, and nourishment of the soul.” – “The Spiritual Significance of Friday the 13th”

And this: “Friday is also named after Freya, the goddess, and is represented by Venus. Venus is the epitome of feminine energy. Her energy joins us as we approach the weekend to remind us that it is important to rest, relax and play.” – “Friday 13th – A Powerfully Feminine Energy Day”

And yet, most people appear to accept the fact that there’s something “wrong” with Friday the Thirteenth.” The darned movie strengthened people’s fears but didn’t cause them. The movie’s plot reads like the scary stories we used to tell around the campfire on Boy Scout camping trips. The movie, I think, is best viewed on a dark and stormy Friday the Thirteenth when, if the force is against you, the power will go off and you’ll hear the serial killer in the basement waking up from his/her nap.

Apparently, “13” as an unlucky number comes out of a Norse myth and continues on via the number of people at The Last Supper. We compound the nonsense by having no floor 13 in high-rise buildings, and similar “precautions.”  Wikipedia informs us that “According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17–21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history. Some people are so paralyzed by fear that they avoid their normal routines in doing business, taking flights or even getting out of bed.”

Those who know me (poor dears) know that I believe we create our own reality. So, if you don’t want anything “bad” to happen, then it won’t. Others who know me do not like my “number’s up theory,” which is that if your number isn’t up, nothing untimely will happen on the 13th. If it is up, well, you’re not safe in your own house.

I think that’s a bunch of hooey (more or less), though I stayed in my house today because on the 13th a lot of people drive drunk in hopes that zoning out will save them. Or maybe, somebody left the door open at the asylum.

I’d much rather celebrate this day for its pre-patriarchy meanings. I’m pretty sure my opinion isn’t influenced by the fact my granddaughter is named “Freya.” 

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the four books in the Florida Folk Magic Series that begins with “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

 

 

‘Rick O’Shay’: blast from the past

When I was working on yesterday’s post about author/historian Robert Utley–which came to mind when I read some tribute articles about him in “Montana, The Magazine of Western History”–I couldn’t help but notice the picture on the magazine’s cover was the character Hipshot Percussion from the comic strip Rick O’Shay that was syndicated from 1958 to 1981. I wonder how many readers recognized the guy before they read the “on the cover” blurb on the contents page.

Rick O’Shay was a small-town western sherrif whose best friend was the gunslinger Hipshot Percussion. I remember Stan Lynde’s comic strip since it appeared in our local paper. I was rather put off by the characters’ names which, as Wikipedia reminds us, “were gambler Deuces Wilde, dance hall owner Gaye Abandon, physician Dr. Basil Metabolism (and his nurse, Ophelia Pulse), gunsmith and Civil War veteran Cap’n Ball, banker Mort Gage and a boy named Quyat Burp. The neighboring Kyute Indian tribe includes Chief Horse’s Neck, his ugly but sweet daughter Moonglow and her persistent suitor Crazy Quilt.”

According to Wikipedia, “Hipshot is frequently referred to as an ‘outlaw,’ and in one strip he decided to regain his losses at poker by holding up the local bank. Sometimes in the Sunday strip he is shown alone, on horseback, in the Western background, speaking to his Maker, whom he addresses as ‘Boss.’ He does not attend church and prefers to recognize his God in a privately styled fashion.”

I think I read the comic strip last in the Sunday comics, preferring Dick Tracy, Blondie, and Beetle Bailey.

–Malcolm

P.S. My favorite comic strip of all time was Krazy Kat. It ran before I was around, but my father had the collected episodes in a book.

Remembering Author Robert M. Utley

“Robert Marshall Utley (October 31, 1929 – June 7, 2022) was an American author and historian who wrote sixteen books on the history of the American West. He was a chief historian for the National Park Service.

“Much of his writing deals with the United States Army in the West, especially in its confrontations with the Indian tribes. He wrote:

“‘the frontier army was a conventional military force trying to control, by conventional military methods, a people that did not behave like conventional enemies and, indeed, quite often were not enemies at all. This is the most difficult of all military assignments, whether in Africa, Asia, or the American West.’

“The Western History Association annually gives out the Robert M. Utley Book Award for the best book published on the military history of the frontier and western North America.” – Wikipedia

We lost another great author and historian last year when Utley died in June at 92. He wrote within the somewhat narrow niche of western history which explains why the national press and social media weren’t over the top in their coverage of his passing. He wrote about the Texas Rangers, Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Billy the Kid, Custer, the Apaches, and the Sioux with impeccable research and understanding that made its mark with western historians more than the general public.

Writing in “Montana, the Magazine of Western History,” Cary Collins said that Utley “achieved a rare status among historians: instantaneous name recognition: Robert M. Utley was a giant of Western history. Over an extraordinarily productive career that began in the 1940s. he remained at his desk until a week before his death.”

According to Collins, Utley was captured by the west after seeing the Errol Flynn movie “They Died With Their Boots On” when he was twelve years old.

For those who can find a copy of the magazine, you’ll be rewarded with a series of articles about Utley. However, you’ll gain a lot more by reading his work. The new edition (2004) of The Last Days of the Sioux Nation might be a good place to start.

–Malcolm

I was captured by the West after seeing the Howard Hawks adaptation of A.B. Guthrie’s novel “The Big Sky” starring Kirk Douglas.

Potpourri for January 10th

  • How the hell did it happen. Joan Baez, whom I had a school-boy crush on years ago, is now 82. I approved of her songs, and her anti-war stance, but not her relationship with Bob Dylan. While she can’t hit the high notes the way she did when she was young, I will like to hear her sing.
  • Somehow, being too lazy to change the channel, we ended up watching the Georgia-TCU game on TV last night as the Dawgs won 65-7. I’m not really a fan of the Dawgs because I’m an Atlantic Coast Conference person and really think the SEC is trailer trash. But the Dawgs did everything right and the Horned Frogs basically didn’t do anything. The game would have been more interesting if it had been a close one.
  • I enjoyed Lydia Sherrer’s Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus. I left a four-star review on Amazon here. This book is the first in a series of seven and really seemed more like two short stories than a novel. While the novel has been advertised as the new Harry Potter, it doesn’t have the strong plot of the Potter series.
  • I’m a bit frightened of the controls in our 2019 Honda HRV because the dashboard has buttons for stuff I’ve never heard of. This is the first car we’ve owned where we had to keep looking stuff up in the manual. I don’t care for the setting that tells me whether I’m centered in the lane or the warning buzzers that remind me to shift into Park when I turn off the engine or to fasten my seatbelt. I try to avoid pushing most of the buttons.
  • My brother Barry sent me a three-novel Mickey Spillane book for Christmas. I’ve been aware of Mike Hammer, but never got around to reading “One Lonely Night,” “The Big Kill,” or “Kiss Me, Deadly.” Good noir stuff.
  • I think that whatever the hell’s inside a toilet tank is made in hell because it randomly breaks for no apparent reason, forcing one to buy a new one (also made in hell) and install it with the worse curses on the planet. At least our secondary bathroom is functional again, though we probably won’t trust it for a while. While looking at the problem, it appeared that the water was going into the closet in the next room rather than the septic tank. It wasn’t, but emptying out an entire closet was the last thing we needed in the middle of the night. Maybe this will make a good short story, “Hell’s Toilet.”
  • I continue to be addicted to Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan series, enabled by family members who gave me some new novels for Christmas. Just finished two more and need a pickup truck filled with new books.

–Malcolm

Messing with people’s minds

I guess I’m sadistic because I love messing with people’s minds by saying the last thing they expect to hear. This began as a nasty habit: if you’re somewhat psychic, you can “read” a person who’s been surprised by an unsuspected comment, including my favourite of twisting a common cliché into something that either makes no sense or means something quite different than the original version. Now I do it for fun.

For example, “balls to the wall” becomes “balls to the grindstone.”

“Barking up the wrong tree” becomes “barking down the wrong hole.”

“Bated breath” becomes “baited breath.” (Not as good as it could be since a lot of people don’t know the difference.)

The thing is, you can’t smile when you say such things in conversation or write”LOL” after them in print. That ruins the impact. You have to sound sincere as though you don’t know you’re saying something illogical or socially incorrect. But, continuing on with more examples you can use without charge:

“Been there, done that” becomes “never been there, never done that” whether or not you got the tee shirt.

“Better safe than sorry” becomes “better sorry than safe.”

You get the idea, right. If you do, people will consider you either flat stupid or a trickster. I prefer being seen as a trickster because, without shame, that’s my approach to life.

“Cut the mustard” becomes “cut the horseradish.”

“Davy Jones locket” becomes “Davy Jones outhouse.”

“Different kettle of fish” becomes a kettle of something off the wall like a kettle or okra.

Of course, twisting things up like this is dangerous because cops, thugs, and professors just don’t like it. Their brains get out of joint.

–Malcolm

Briefly Noted: ‘Hell With the Lid Off, Butte Montana’

I changed planes several times in Butte. Unfortunately, all the old-time fun portrayed by Horace Smith in this on-the-scene 1890s book was long gone.

From the Publisher

Hell With the Lid Off: Butte, Montana is the lost manuscript of Horace ‘Bert’ Smith, who arrived in the West as a teetotaling 21-year-old adventure-seeking reporter. He later went on to publishing successes in New York as part of a salon that included Zane Grey and Upton Sinclair. With his reporter’s eye and access to characters on both sides of the law, Smith chronicles wild times, terrible tragedies and sudden millionaires on ‘the richest hill on earth’. His granddaughter, Melissa Smith FitzGerald, discovered the manuscript that Smith was finishing and trying to sell to Hollywood when he died suddenly in 1936.

Reviewer’s Comment

“Horace Herbert Smith takes you to Butte, Montana, in its copper-mining heyday to experience that brawling, big-hearted time. In a series of vivid snapshots Smith, a Butte newspaperman, describes the 1890s when, as he writes, life there “was fast and fun.” Smith died before he could publish his absorbing and entertaining memoir detailing daytime gun battles and a sermonizing standoff, the high life and labor strife, scoundrels and bullwhackers and still-breathing corpses, with a cast of real-life characters so colorful as to make fiction writers despair. Fortunately for the reader, Smith’s manuscript is finally seeing print. It’s a rare treat.” – Gwen Florio

Looks like a winner for fans of the old west. The catchy title gives you an apt clue about the town in those days.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the contemporary fantasy “The Sun Singer” set in Montana’s mountains.

The Biggest Mistake Even Expert Writers Make 

“Robert McKee talks in his amazing book Story (which I highly recommend) about the Principle of Antagonism. He says: “A Protagonist and his story can only be as intellectually fascinating and emotionally compelling as the forces of antagonism make them.” That’s a pretty wild statement! Especially since many of us writers have been taught for years that character development trumps everything else. Heck, there are entire websites dedicated to helping writers develop realistic characters! We make notes of what they eat, what they’re scared of, who their parents were, even when they go to sleep every night.”

Source: The Biggest Mistake Even Expert Writers Make | Jane Friedman

Friedman goes on to say, “think about antagonism as any force that pushes back against your hero. Anything that gets in your hero’s way—whether it’s external or internal—is an antagonist. Audiences don’t want their hero to spend six chapters relaxing. Audiences want their hero tested, prodded, hurt, damaged, frightened, confused, and—above all—struggling.”

If the protagonist isn’t variously perplexed, uncertain, challenged, injured, or off on the wrong tack, readers will get bored. In murder mysteries, the main character’s early assumptions often turn out to be wrong–or, at least, incomplete when new evidence or new murders come to light.

These roadblocks are what keep readers turning pages, while they also develop the character as we see how s/he copes with them. We might also say they add realism because mysteries are seldom solved the moment they’re discovered. As authors, we need to challenge our protagonists–but carefully so that readers won’t think we’re tossing in every negative thing that comes to mind.

Make the problems believable within the scope of the story.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” available on Nook, Kindle, paperback, audiobook, and hardcover. There are three more books in the series.

The bodies are stacked up like cordwood

That’s what happens when you read a Kathy Reichs novel, the current one from back in the 1990s, Death Du Jour. Reichs, of course, is a forensic anthropologist as well as the author of the well-received Tempe Brennan series, so when she gets up close and personal with the bones in the lab, she’s been there and one that in “real life.”

So, in many ways, reading these novels is like walking where Reichs has walked even though the books are fiction. They’re windows into another world and, while they make good reading, they look at a world that makes me doubt the sanity of the human race. As the bodies stack up like cordwood in these books, we see just how many horrific ways there are for killing another person–not counting war and so-called acts of God.

I think this snippet of dialogue from “Terminator 2” sums up my despair:

John Connor: We’re not gonna make it, are we? People, I mean.

The Terminator: It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves.

John Connor: Yeah. Major drag, huh?

I think the jury’s still out when it comes to deciding whether we’re going to destroy ourselves and our planet. My view of reality is fairly dark. Maybe that’s why I read books that make that view darker

What about you? When you read police thrillers, black ops, and other novels do you move on easily at the end of the book with the thought that the story was “just fiction” or do you worry about whether the story is telling us something about ourselves?

I worry about ourselves because the realistic stories in novels aren’t coming from some other world where trust and honesty and a long life expectancy don’t exist. I grew up in a place where the KKK was thicker than rattlesnakes, so that’s what I write about. Even though I’m writing about the 1950s, I wonder about the Jim Crow racism that’s still alive and “well” now.

The klan and its supporters knew how to stack up the dead. I want to turn my back on it, but I started the Florida Folk Magic Series and am not willing to move on to something that could air on the Hallmark Channel. I suspect Kathy Reichs couldn’t either. How she kept her sanity as a forensic anthropologist, we’ll never know. Perhaps, the novels are a good kind of therapy.

I’m not so sure. I wonder how many black stories one can view before one becomes immune to the horror of them. As long as we’re not immune, those of us who write and those of us who read, perhaps there’s still hope for people.

–Malcolm

State Government Passes New Law, Makes Georgia a ‘monsoon state.’

Why would they do that? There’s probably money to be made or political debts to pay off. Or, maybe it’s just the typical government insanity we’re seeing far too much of these days. The current RADAR includes hidden tornados. Great. Some clown thought this was a sure route to “all that lucrative FEMA money.”

When it comes to government, I agree with Groucho Marks’ statement that “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies.”

From what I read on the news, FEMA isn’t very speedy when it comes to dispensing FEMA money. You have to suffer first–for a while. And finish burying your neighbors and kin.

Our indoor/outdoor cat is outdoors, watching for tornados, I guess. Or enjoying the rhythm of the falling rain. . .as the Cascades sang back in 1962. I think that’s Georgia’s new state song, replacing Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia on my Mind” which the federal weather service said wasn’t aggressive enough for tornado chasers.

Normally, I’d FedEx this weather to California, but I think they’re getting more rain than they bargained for while hoping that FEMA covers their losses. Don’t hold your breath out there, guys.

Somebody should have told the legislature that monsoon season in the U.S. is a June-to-September event that occurs in the southwest. Perhaps when it’s time to look for those to blame, we’ll say “just more global warming” while the guilty enjoy their FEMA money.

Malcolm