Friday, February 29, 2008

Blind Willie McTell

It's Friday. Feel like listening to an 80 year old piece of magic?

Amazing no? Why, that sounds so "Dylanesque" you say. Tee Hee. That's "Statesboro Blues" by Blues master Blind Willie McTell recorded in 1928 ( 13 years before Dylan was born). That click will lead you to the article which explains what a genius he was and how he was so influential for many of today's musicians.

Here's Blind Willie himself with his wife Kate.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wonderful memory, revisited

My insomnia has been acting up again. At least, I’ll assume that’s what it is. I don’t actually have trouble falling asleep, I have trouble staying asleep. Is that insomnia? I’m not sure. In any case, I woke this morning at 4:00 AM and have been up since. These aren't slowly roll out of bed awakenings with stretches and coos, these are bolt up from your pillow, open eyed, "what's next on my agenda" types of entrances into the dawn. Though, even when I'm not having trouble staying asleep, I pretty much wake up in that manner on a usual basis.

There wasn’t much to do at 4:00 AM except to make coffee, sit quietly in my favorite chair, pick up my laptop, check my email and wait for the sun to rise.

While blinking back the last remnants of sleep and slowly bringing my mind back to morning consciousness, I discovered this little treasure in my in-box sent to me by my brother Nicholas...

Mother with sisters & friends...

This is a wonderful photograph of my mother with one, possibly two, of her sisters and a group of neighborhood friends on the beach. I have no idea who took the photograph, or when exactly, it was taken. I'm guessing though that my mother ( second in from the left with the dark wavy hair) is anywhere between the age of 10 to 12 here, which would date the photo to have been made anywhere between 1946 - '48. I know for a fact that the girl in the back on the far right is my Aunt Anne. I'm almost convinced that the girl in the middle back ( with the sunglasses?) is my aunt Geri though I don't know that to be a fact. In some whimsical corner of my mind, I like to think that perhaps my Aunt Pauline ( my mother's oldest sister who died in the early 1950s at a young age) is the one taking this photo - again, I have no idea who is behind the camera.

My mother was the youngest of all of her 7 siblings ( 8 actually if you count my grandparents second child who died as an infant right after WWI) . She died in 1989, though the two older sisters in this photograph are still living, as are two of her older brothers.

I have always loved this photograph and, oddly enough, it haunted me for several days last week. That's why receiving it in my in-box this morning was such a treat, and rather uncanny treat at that. Obviously, anyone who knows me or reads this blog is aware of my admiration for vintage photographs. I own many. That is to say, I own many vintage photographs of other people and their families. I actually have very few from my own.

You see, after my last remaining parent died (my father, in 2001) , it was up to my two brothers, my sister, and myself to deal with the house that we grew up in and all of its many belongings. Its "things", if you will. Emptying, and let me stress that word emptying, out a house - the house - that you are raised in is no easy task. Suddenly, everything your eye lands upon has sentimental value and you find yourself in overload very quickly. As a coping mechanism, you find yourself making snap decisions about things because you usually haven't the time, or emotional energy, to spend on these items. Because of that, things have a way of simply disappearing. I believe that that is how it was with many of the family photographs.

What I've noticed however, after the dust clears, perhaps, as in my case, years later, some of these things begin to haunt you. Some stray thought will trigger something and you find yourself focused on some little item that seemed tiny, unimportant, innocuous, and certainly taken for granted back then, now beaming in your mind's eye like a sun-struck treasure washed up on shore. You start to wonder about it. Where did it go? What ever could have happened to it? You ponder it for a moment or two as it haunts, but then, reluctantly, you open your hand and release it back into the void with a little sigh, accepting the fact that it is no longer a part of your world.

That's how it was with this photograph. As I wrote earlier, it had been haunting me for some reason most of last week. I could still see it as clear as day in my mind. But, I had taken for granted that it was gone, or at least, floating somewhere amongst the personal items of one of my siblings. But, we each lead our own rather busy lives, even if I were to find out that they did have this photo, did they have time to locate it and get a copy made and sent to me? Would it even be fair to ask? Would I have time to do the same if asked of me? Eventually, I let the ghost of the photograph go and moved onto to other things.

And then, lo and behold, here it is in my in-box. Mind you, I never mentioned my thoughts about the image to any of my siblings. In his email, my brother states that he has a handful of photos and that he plans to scan them all and email them to us like he did with the beach photo. It strikes me as wonderfully synchronistic that out of this handful of images, he happened to select as his first scan the one image that was haunting my thoughts for the last several days.

What can this mean? Could it be that this is some wonderful spirit message from my mother from beyond to her children? Could it mean that my brother is psychic and picked up on my vibe? Could it be that I'm telekinetic and mentally sent my brother my vibe? Could it mean all of those things or, on the other hand, could it mean absolutely nothing and just be a fluke? I have some very close friends who would agree to that ( hello Michael and Tony). But, I have more by far that would assign meaning to it. I fall in that category too of course. I'm just not sure what it means yet. In any event, all I know is that receiving it at 4:00 AM in my in-box made one artist who regularly gets up way too early very happy. Very happy indeed.

Thanks Nicholas!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

TCM Investigates Pre-Code Hollywood...

If you're a classic film buff like myself, you'll be excited to learn about the upcoming documentary appearing on Turner Classic Movies this coming Monday evening ( March 4th) entitled Thou Shalt Not Sin. Prior to the enforcement of the Hays Code, movie studios tried rather successfully to get away with as much as possible in their productions in order to entice depression era audiences. Think of them as a 1930's combination of "Girls Gone Wild" and "Desperate Housewives" with a touch of "Scarface" in the mix.
I've seen several of the films mentioned in the mix including the odd "Night Nurse" where the young stars Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell spend a good bit of screen time undressing themselves and each other, then flit about giggling and discovering things like skeletons in the sheets...

I've not seen "Three on a Match" - featuring Bette Davis, Joan Blondell ( again) and Ann Dvorak - but after reading this little nugget of a description, I can't wait - "For a change, Joan Blondell doesn't sit on the edge of the bed, in her slip, rolling on a pair of stockings. Bette Davis does. By the way, this is the only picture I have ever seen where Bette Davis shamelessly displays her legs. And a fine set of legs at that. Look for the scene I just described as well as a scene at the beach. In another scene that would never have made it past the Hayes Office, Ann Dvorak comes out of the bedroom rubbing her nose when she realizes her son was kidnapped. Humphrey Bogart glances knowingly at the boys, rubs his nose, and sarcastically winks. A DOPE FIEND! There is a scene where she is passed out on the double bed. There is booze, cigarettes and ashtray on the bed, and a couple of cigars on the nightstand. In another scene she is splayed out on the couch with a drink in her hand, booze bottles all over the apartment when her little boy walks into the room. His face and clothes are filthy and he says he is hungry. She glances over at him, points to a tray of half eaten o'rdoevres, and says "eat that"."
Now, I ask you, where else but a film from the 1930's can you find an addicted, boozy, bimbo offering her hungry child a tray of half eaten party treats for dinner?

Well, besides that...

I'm pretty sure that the hays code keep a strong grip over Hollywood for a good 30 years, at least, until this amazing film came about, one of my all time faves I must admit....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

"Uncle Henry"

"Uncle Henry", originally uploaded by sprouseart.

I know that today is "Self-Portrait Tuesday" and that Tuesday is almost over, but I wanted to post something anyway - even if it isn't a self-portrait. I felt like posting a scan of a particular Cabinet Card that I've had for many years. I've always been taken with the look of it. All that is written on the back in pencil are the words "Uncle Henry".

I don't know exactly when it was made, but I do know, based upon on old article in the Photographic Journal of America that the founder of the Bachrach studios began to use the name "Bachrach & Bros" in 1875 and did so until 1910. That fellow was David Bachrach ( at the age of 18, he was hired by Harper's Bazaar to cover Lincoln's address at Gettysburg. Thusly, he took the only known and confirmed photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg).

Cabinet Cards were at their most popular from the late 1860's until the 1890's. The sepia tone of this card would make it an albumen print, which the majority of Cabinets were until the 1890's when "neutral image tone" cabinet cards became the norm. Based upon all of that info, I'm dating "Uncle Henry" anywhere from between 1875 and 1890.

The possibility that this image that I hold inb my hand today may have been taken by the man who took the only known photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg really blows my mind.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Three Family Members

Three family members, originally uploaded by sprouseart.

I picked this up many years ago on Ebay. It was one of those images that I just felt drawn to without a particular reason. Perhaps it was the expressions on the faces of the girl and the young man that made me choose it. Or maybe it is just the underlying immediateness of the image. I wasn't sure then and I still don’t know what it is exactly about the image that intrigues me. I do know that when I come across it in my collection, I always find myself lingering on it a bit longer than many of the others.

There is good balance to the composition of the photo even though the young male figure rises above the other two to the left. It flows well and is easy on the eye. I get the feeling based upon the body language and the posturing, that the young male has perhaps taken on a more important role in the family dynamic. All three, particularly the girl, gaze rather intently into the camera. These people all seem quite aware of themselves and their place in the world.

I have also always been intrigued by the fact that even though (through my own assumption) that these people are related in some way, there is no maternal figure represented. At first I thought that perhaps the mother or grandmother was behind the camera. But after studying the image more carefully, I changed my mind. They seem too arranged for that casual of a shot, plus, they are definitely posed before a large canvas backdrop. Also, they are dressed very smartly in clean, pressed clothing. This makes me think that they went somewhere to have this image made, or they were somewhere where proper attire was required ( perhaps a wedding or social function) where a photographer had set up outside. The boy and girl may be the older fellow’s children, his grandchildren, or even nephew and niece. I get the feeling though that they are motherless. Of course, I may be trying to impose too much of my own personal history on the photo.

I wish I knew more about this image, but I simply do not. I do know that it is a dived back photo postcard which would date it anywhere from March 1907 until about 1915. Though the printing on the back of the card is in English, this photo could have been made anywhere in the United States. The postcard is unused so I have no way of knowing where in the states it came from.

80th Annual Academy Awards

I spent the majority of the evening last night watching the 80th annual Academy Awards presentation. Wow. What a bore. I have seen, with perhaps the exception of possibly 3 productions, every Academy Award presentation since 1975 and I really found last night's to have been one of the most fizzless that I can recall.

Jon Stewart's hosting performance, which I always enjoyed thoroughly on the previous times that he hosted, seemed very low-key with one-liners that barely rose above forced giggle level. The presenters were low-energy as were most of the acceptance speeches. The performances for the Oscar nominated songs were forgettable with the exception of two, those being the performance of "Raise It Up" (music and lyric by Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas for the film August Rush) and "Falling Slowly" ( music and lyric by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova). Even though the performance of "Raise It Up" was somewhat compelling, it wasn't enough so in my opinion to "raise it up" over the now, in my opinion, increasingly tiresome cliches of the inner-city African American church choir belting out a song in that neo-gospel-American Idol style about the joys of using inner-strength to overcome hard times in the hood. Most of the dynamism from the performance came from the 11 year old Jamia Nash. Clearly, the girl is talented, but not unlike every other child belting out melismatic drivel with the hopes of becoming the next Mariah Carey.

The song "Falling Slowly" however, really rose above the fray. I was first turned onto this haunting ballad of hope months before I ever discovered that it was an Oscar nominee. I heard it streamed on some online indie-music station, fell in love with it, purchased it from I-Tunes for all of 99 cents, and have enjoyed it ever since. The two singer/songwriters, who also star in the film, were the highlight of the Awards. That and the unexpected win by Marion Cotillard for her spellbinding performance in the role of Edith Piaf in the film "La Vie En Rose". That was the other highlight of the Awards.

I first wrote about the amazing performance here last January
and it pleased me greatly that she won. Though, I must admit, part of me was hoping that Julie Christy, who was favored to win, would take away the Oscar. I think that I just liked the idea that the first (and so far the last) Oscar that she won was for her performance in the film "Darling" which was released the year I was born! I really like the idea that a performer can be so talented and still respected in the film industry that they can still be nominated for a best acting Oscar 43 years after their first win! This isn't easy in a industry that seems to value youth and looks over ability almost every time, particularly for a woman.

I hope that this means that the tides are beginning to turn a bit. The Oscar's hit 80 years old last night. Based upon last night's presentation, they showed every single year.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pink Champagne Diet

Pink Champagne, originally uploaded by sprouseart.

Hmmm. Now this is an intriguing diet. Loose 40 pounds in 4 weeks drinking nothing but Pink Champagne eh? Well, chances are that she or he did loose 40 pounds - along with some other things, like their job, their significant others, their liver functionality, perhaps even their self-respect as they fell dazed and half dressed out of the back of a customized van in the parking lot of a Wall Mart in Topeka Kansas amid the hungover headache splitting sounds of empty Pink Champagne bottles clanking together and breaking into a million little shards of dark green glass atop the pavement.
But, I must admit, the idea of losing 40 pounds of bulging fat while partying for 4 weeks straight does sound tempting. In fact, I think this diet maybe more popular than you may think...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sibs & Shamrocks

Sibs & Shamrocks, originally uploaded by sprouseart.

This photo was one in a box of about 200 hundred that was given to me by a friend who found them abandoned in a home that was being gutted. It was an amazing treasure trove of images that run anywhere from the 1860's to the late 1950's. This particular image is on a rough edged hand cut piece of photographic paper that seems to have missed being adhered to cardboard somehow. I'm guessing this to be anywhere from around 1885 to 1900. I love her shamrocks.

We had a giant box of photos in the house that I grew up in as well. But, even by today's standards, the photo's weren't that old. I'm guessing that the oldest of the photos in that giant box were taken in the mid-50's with the exception of less than 10 that were from my mother's childhood in the late 1940's. I'm not sure what became of those photos now that I think about it. I have some, very few, maybe 5. I think, and hope, that my other siblings may have the rest, perhaps in big boxes of their own.

But this box that was given to me by friend has images that appear to date back to the 1860s easily. It really is amazing. I'll scan and post them here periodically.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wistful Wednesday...

I've decided to start something new here on my blog. I'm calling it "Wistful Wednesday" and I'll use it as the day that I post one of my vintage and retro photographs with a bit of a story or hypothesis behind it. Of course, this may only last a week or two, who knows. I'll run with it in the interim.

Found boy in suit

Here is the first image which I scanned this morning. I picked this up at a roadside antique store a zillion years ago in the hills of Virginia not far from the West Virginia border. I'm not sure why I chose this image. I think it may have belonged to a larger group of images that entered my collection that day.

I'm guessing it to have been taken anywhere from between 1885 and 1900 based upon the fact that the boy is wearing a rather scaled down version of the "Little Lord Fauntleroy Suit". They were wildly popular in the States and England between 1885 and the turn of the century. This looks a bit more subdued than most, but that could because the boy appears to anywhere from 10 to 14. He would look really ridiculous if his hair was fashioned with the long sausage curls that the younger boys wore with this look.

The back of the image identifies the photographer as Richter & Co. of the North Corner of 8th and Passyunk in Philadelphia. When I purchased this photo from the mountains of Virginia, I was living in Washington, DC. Never in a million years would I have thought that one day I would be blogging about the image from my home just outside of the same city where the photo was taken some 120 years or so ago. I find that thought very intriguing.

Though I take the train into Philadelphia much more frequently now than ever before, I still don't know my way around the city very well. I may ask my friend Jerry about the address, and if it's an area worth walking around in, I may go check it out. Perhaps I'll bring the photo along in my pocket just to go full circle. Who knows, maybe a time portal will open up right there on the corner of 8th and Passyunk! If so, I'll push Jerry through and he can tell me what it was like when he and I run into each other again in about 50 years. If he's not too upset.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Self-Portrait Tuesday - 2.19.2008

I almost missed SPT today. Today is also the b-day of one of my dearest friends. Happy Birthday John Eric! Our lives have been intertwined since we met on a playground back in 1970! Yikes!
Peace, Love and Light

Monday, February 18, 2008

Found Family 2 at Cromer

Found family 2 atCromer, originally uploaded by lovedaylemon.

I ran across this image on flickr ( part of a collection of fantastic found photos posted by flickr member lovelydaylemon) over the weekend and it had been haunting me a bit ever since.

One first glance, it’s nothing more than a visual documentation of a sweet memory of a sun drenched afternoon spent on the beach. I’m guessing it was probably taken in the mid to late 1930’s or early 1940’s. There is definitely an air of spontaneity to the photo like most fun filled afternoons on the shore. The image is sweet and innocent enough on its own accord.

But in the back of my mind, there was something more to it, something that negated the initial cheeriness of the scene and revealed it in a light a bit more macabre. It wasn’t necessarily from anything in the photo itself, but more so from something it was reminding me of. I just couldn’t get it to come into focus.

So, I started to visually break down the components of the image to see if that would trigger the hidden connection. I do that often when looking at vintage photography to see if there are other aspects to the image which add to its narrative. If you’ve never done that before, you can be surprised at times at what you find.

First, we see two figures – a female adult and a male child. Perhaps they are a mother and child, sister and baby brother, aunt and nephew, or more. That didn’t really help. Her two piece black bathing suit (a bit more revealing than most women’s swim wear of that time) starkly contrasts against the sea and sand, creating somewhat of a yin/yang look and feel. I thought perhaps that may have been it, being that I’ve been in one of my I Ching moods as of late and have spent a great deal of time with the wonderful tool. But, that idea didn’t satisfy either.

I then started to pay attention to their positions and body stances. It looked as if the child may have been running by the woman as she quickly stopped him with her hands to be part of the photo. His little body still shows a bit of forward momentum and he has a funny “where am I supposed to be looking” expression on his face. She is also still showing movement and her face is slightly blurred by the sudden backward movement of her head as she – and that was it. I realized that the image was suddenly connecting to another image in my visual memory banks - a photograph far more famous and much more tragic in nature.

That image would be famed photographer Robert Capa’s renown and controversial photograph entitled “Death of a Loyalist Soldier” from the Spanish Civil War taken in 1936. Capa was an amazing man with an even more amazing life. He died doing what he loved, making photographic art, after stepping on a land mine in Japan in 1954 at the age of 40.

It was the out of focus face with that back swing of the head that made the connection. His was caught on film during the moment that his life was taken away by a bullet, and hers while whisking back her wind tossed bangs on a sunny beach. Frankly, that is very Yin/Ying in and ot itself.

Quite possibly, these photographs may have been taken in the same year, and may even in some weird synchronistic universe, maybe even at the same moment. Now, wouldn't that be just a kick in the head? No pun intended of course.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kolynos 1933

Kolynos 1933, originally uploaded by Lisanne!.

Eeek! This is the stuff of nightmares. I'm not sure that I'd want to take any tip from a disembodied, levitating head with glistening "my soul is no longer my own" eyes and a set of choppers like that.

This looks like a cross between a cafeteria lunch lady and the type of creature that hovers over people's beds at night, waking them with gravelly voiced warnings of some impending doom.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mt. Tom Motel Matchcover

Whew! Check out the illustration on this tripped out matchbook cover! I love this and it fills my mind with all kinds of thoughts.

I would have loved to have been in the room when the person (perhaps Tom himself, the Tom of no other than "Mt.Tom") responsible for the final say on the art work for his motel met with the graphic artist responsible for this masterpiece...

TOM: "It's perfect! I love this look. You are a genius!"
ARTIST: "Well, Mr. Tom, I appreciate that. I really feel that this is some of my strongest work to date."
TOM: "I just can't get over how you took my color demands - Polythene Acid Green, Anti-Freeze Popsicle Blue, Three Mile Island Purple, and Sea Monkey Flesh Pink - and combined them into this treasure trove of beauty! Plus, what a doll you picked for the foreground!"
ARTIST: " Oh yes. You mean my rendering of Miss Promintine Hodgeswaller, winner of last year's Mt. Tom Glamour Gal trophy. When you told me that you wanted a dame who looked like she could break your heart one minute and then break a five pound amber-glass ashtray over your head the next, I knew just who to look for."
TOM: "Yes. Again, it's perfect. You'll go far in this business my young talented friend."

OK, so, I've let my imagination run wild once again. But it's a cold, Saturday morning in the middle of February, and, frankly, what else are matchbook covers like this for?

Friday, February 15, 2008

X-Ray Specs and more...

When I saw this online, I was brought far away in the way back machine. This same ad was found in the back of several of the comic books that I read when I was a child.

The X-Ray specs in particular were quite compelling to a 9 year old boy in the mid-seventies trudging through a surreal childhood in South-Central Kentucky. Of course, I was only interested in the idea of seeing my bones through my hand like the fellow in the advertisement. I remember thinking how powerful he looked, like a nemesis of Superman or some other superhero. I wanted them so badly and even think that the idea of owning them may have entered into a dream or two. I remember thinking that if I owned such amazing glasses that I would become wildly popular, make friends quickly, and not be considered such an outcast. Fortunately, I over came my weirdness around 1976 and actually made some friends without the need for X-ray specs. Some of these people I still communicate with to this day amazingly enough.

Before that however, I was sure that I needed the glasses. Eventually, some adult somewhere convinced me that the glasses were bogus and I eventually lost interest. To this day I can't recall who enlightened me, though I do remember the words, "if they were real X-ray Specs, they wouldn't be selling them in the back of a comic book". Though I'm sure it wasn't their intention, that one sentence rang with such clarity in my mind that I snapped out of the childish fog that I had been in and began seeing things with a different mindset. There were pros and cons to that of course, the pro's being that I wasn't too quick to believe every gimmick that fell before me.

The cons being that I lost a little, perhaps quite a bit, of childhood innocence. The type that makes a kid believe in things like X-ray specs and Sea Monkey wonderlands purchased from the back of a comic book.

One last funny bit about the X-Ray specs, look at the fine print underneath the image. It says "look at your friend. Is that really his body you "see" underneath his clothes?" Well, of course, if they were real X-ray specs it would really be your friend's body. Unless of course, your friend was the busty blonde in the image. Then you would need to determine, with the help of the specs no doubt, whether your "friend" was secretly a transgender.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Valentine's Day

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Whacky Digital Collage

Tsk..tsk. Look what happens when I find myself bored on a cold, icy, wet February morning and open my beloved Photoshop.

Water Hose

It some twisted way, creating these hyper-bizarre images makes me feel better. I'm sure it's my Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) kicking in. All I need is a little of this.

Oh man, did I love being there. I can't beleive that that was almost 2 years ago. Yes, a little more of this

and I'll be just fine. Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Mmmmmm

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tea and Diamonds

Tea Party

Flickr Short Story © M. Sprouse

Susan thought she heard the child's voice lifting with the gentle breeze as it meandered through the ancient pines that separated the cottages. She couldn't make out the words, but she was almost certain that she had heard a child's soft voice coming from the circular clearing in the thick woods.

The clearing had been created eons ago by people now long forgotten. No one was really certain why it had been made though several different ideas had been bounced around by locals and visitors alike for as long as Susan could remember. Old Mr. Gasper was certain that it was a prehistoric "burial arena". Professor Paterson suggested, on more than one occasion, that it may have been used for some sort of pagan ritual. Some even mentioned the word "sacrifice" but they were all very careful not to use the terms loosely around the children. For whatever it had been then, it was now the perfect play circle and the children cherished it.

The clearing was about 20 feet in circumference and it was situated directly in the middle of a thick circular wave of stoic pines which stretched around it for roughly 40 feet. The woods were so protectively thickly walled around the clearing that one had to practically walk into it before actually seeing the circle itself. Once within the clearing, it seemed always to be filled with warm sunshine and the seasonal scent of wildflowers which, curiously, grew only around the border of the clearing - never inside.

Susan heard the voice again. It was mixed with the delicate sound of tiny china tea cups clinking together and gentle giggles. This time, she was certain that the voice was that of the mysterious little girl whom she had seen before, but only from a distance. Someone had told her that the girl was staying with her aunt for the summer in the Pemberton cottage which was located not far from hers.

The girl seemed petite and fragile somehow. Susan had only seen the girl as she was running through the woods, usually laughing or chasing some sort of butterfly. As she ran through the woods, the child's face would bounce in and out of bright spots of golden sunshine which had been split into fractured beams by the long limbs of the trees. It reminded Susan of the flickering of the old family home movies that she had watched as a child. On summer nights, with the aide of an ocean of thick, sparking extension cords, her father would proudly project the aging films onto the side of the cabin. Sitting under a blanket of stars, she was entranced with the imagery as it flowed in silent sepia hued waves across the weathered clapboard siding of the summer cottage. She and her sister Kate loved watching those films.

Kate. Susan winced. She had tried to think as little about Kate as possible. She simply found it too painful still. For a brief moment, she became angry at herself for letting the memory slip in under the gate. It seemed to be happening more and more now and these moments always took Susan for a surprise. Mostly, Susan was surprised at how emotional she would still become when she thought of Kate, even after five years. It had been five years hadn't it, Susan thought to herself. Five years had passed since her beloved Kate drowned to death in Paterson's pond not two miles from where she stood straining to hear the little girl's voice. Once, when Susan had driven into town for a few items, she had overheard two townswomen at the local general store speaking about the death.
"Folks say that once you stop struggling, drowning is supposed to be the most peaceful way to go" one of them said.
"Well, how on earth would they be able to determine a thing like that?" asked the other woman somewhat impudently.
Susan quickly left the store without her items. She was haunted by the vision of Kate gently smiling as she drifted down into the black murkiness of the icy pond for weeks.

Again she heard the girl. Instinctively, she moved towards the direction of the child's lilting voice - towards the clearing. Within minutes, Susan was at the outer parameters of the circle of thick trees. She realized suddenly that she hadn't been her since Kate's death. In fact, she had vowed never to enter into the circle again. It seemed so distant now, those endless summer days spent playing with Kate in the clearing, like an old relic long sunken to the bottom of the sea. She had convinced herself then that it was best to forget about the clearing and Kate. These weren't memories that she wanted to hide somewhere inside only to have them resurface like an old love letter that wafts unexpectedly out from between the pages of an old discovered book. She wanted to eradicate them forever.

Whack. The branch seemed to come out of nowhere as it whisked across her face, snapping her out of her memory fog and back into the moment. She could hear the child's voice growing stronger and, as if compelled against her will, her feet pulled her deeper into the tree ring and closer to the clearing. Susan could sense the deep, mossy green hued darkness now to her right, left and behind her as she moved, almost trancelike, closer to the direction of the voice.

She still couldn't quite make out the girls words. The voice now seemed to be coming from every direction and it reminded Susan of the excited breathy voices of children trying to observe something fascinating while not being discovered. How many times had Kate whispered silliness into her ear in that very same manner? Finally, she could make out brief glints of light coming from the clearing ahead. One time, Kate had discovered a bed of tiny quartz crystals twinkling in the sun as they shimmered underneath the icy waters of small stream which flowed through the woods. "Look Susan! Diamonds!" Kate had shrilled. The light coming from the clearing had that same sparkling quality. Susan felt her eyes fill with warm tears.

She now stood at the edge of the clearing with nothing but a thick growth of tall reeds separating her and the mystery girl. Though she could not make out the girl's face, she could see the child through the reeds. In the middle of the clearing sat a little white-washed table with four tiny chairs, two of which were taken by different, yet oddly familiar, looking dolls. Susan stood silently at the edge of the reeds for what seemed like an eternity watching the girl whirl about the table from doll to doll pouring imaginary tea from a tiny pitcher into each cup and giggling. Susan's hands began to tremble as she prepared to part the reeds and enter the clearing.

Susan stood wide-eyed and stunned, unable to move as the curtain of reeds now gently closed behind her. The girl was now, almost magically it seemed, instantaneously seated and staring into Susan's eyes with a wistful and knowing look as if she had been in that same spot all afternoon, all week, all of the last five years. Could it be? Susan felt no longer part of herself. It was as if she had walked into child's watercolor painting tacked onto an old plaster wall. The child, the mystery girl, she looks so much like... it isn't possible. It can't...

"Welcome Susan," spoke the child calmly and easily. "It's been such a long time. Won't you join us? We've been expecting you." Susan was still unable to move as a windstorm of thoughts and remembrances made it's way across her mind. As Susan watched, the child now slowly lifted her arm and gently opened her outstretched hand.

"Look, Susan," the girl spoke. "Diamonds".

Monday, February 11, 2008

In Memoriam...

Roy Scheider

Roy Scheider
Nov. 10, 1932 - Feb. 10, 2008.

I was always a fan of Roy Scheider's on screen performances. His characterizations were clean, concise and pure with an underlying edginess that kept you engrossed in his scenes because you never quite knew what he was going to do next. A two time Oscar nominee, he either starred in, or was featured in, some of my favorite films including Jaws (ranked as the 56th greatest film of all time according to the AFI), The French Connection, Marathon Man, Klute (which I rarely pass up an opportunity to see), All That Jazz, and much more.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What shall I cook today?

I found this old advertisment for Spry shortening from the 1930's on and just couldn't resist the urge to spice it up a bit with a "desperate housewives" story line. All due to the wonders of Photoshop and my wicked sense of humor. Read on...

Dinner party gone awry.

Here's the original -

Friday, February 08, 2008


pipe-and-wagon-wheel, originally uploaded by jimlux28.

Flickr Short Story © M. Sprouse

Pa sensed it first.

"Trouble," he said matter-of-a-factly. His voice was knowing and prophetic in tone.

Neither man moved. Father and son, as if sculpted from the earth itself and rooted as pine, remained motionless save only their eyes which they had instinctively squinted into concentration towards the valley below. The dust cloud kicked up by the thunderous hoofs of the approaching horses on the sun-baked clay wafted its way up the trail like a serpentine cloud of sicknesses from an old bible story.

"Trouble indeed," uttered Eugene breaking the spell as his teeth clamped down tighter on his well-worn pipe. "Twenty minutes I reckon Pa. We'n beat 'em to the house, but we's gots to leave right now."

"Right boy. Move," said Pa with a snap of his head towards his eldest son.

Leaving their gear behind, they leapt into the wagon and began their descent. Silently, with righteous determination and gravity on their side, they sped their way down the steep hill like rain on glass into the valley below.

The valley below. Their valley. Their sweat and blood, birthing and dying valley.

"Ain't nothin' and nobody gonna take our land away from us," Eugene thought to himself, his words swarming madly about his brain like swallows from a fireplace."Least of all no goddamned Joseph Briggs with his fancy suits, lawyer-smart papers n' numbers and his big city whore of a wife. Lest of all him. I don't care how many goddamned sheriffs he brings. Bring em all on, the sons-of-bitches! Bring em all on"

He bit down hard on his pipe. So hard that he could taste blood in his mouth.

"Trouble indeed".

Thursday, February 07, 2008

"New Reality"

untitled on train, originally uploaded by ©®.

Flickr Short Story © M. Sprouse

The empty fields whizzed by empty, sun beaten and hazed.

Carol depseratley needed to see something, anything, that would ground her. Ground her here in this "new reality". 

Her "new reality". That was Joe's term not her's, though she pretended to like the sound of it. The words flowed from his mouth like melted honey each time he spoke them making it much easier for her to flash a brief and forced smile across her face as he tried to convince her that she had made the right decision.

The blur of the window offered only atrophied barns, lonely rusted silos, and acres and acres of sun scorched crops. Her head began to spin from the sight of it. She thought for a moment that she may become physcially ill. It was all she could do to keep the lukewarm cola down.

"What the hell was keeping Joe so long?" she asked herself. "I can't do this without him right here next to me. Right now! Jesus, please come back soon."

She knew that within the hour her husband would wake, or at least be awakened, by Andrew and Sis. They were always so loud in the morning. So shrill. So demanding with the sun. Sometimes, it was almost unbearable.

He would find her note. He would find the note and he would know.

But that was her old reality.

"Oh God. What have I done?"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Blood-making nourishment (1914)

Ick. This vintage advertisement is the stuff of nightmares. The idea of being forced to consume "cream-like" Cod Liver Oil by an insistent and over-zealous parent sounds hideous. Fortunately, by the time I was child I believe that such over the counter remedies for "delicate, puny" children were no longer in vogue. Though, according to, Cod liver oil does have its benefits. That is if you can deal with the " intense and obnoxious odor of rotten fish and rancid oil" of lesser quality oils and avoid hypervitaminosis A.

I love the expression on the poorly rendered little girl's face. This looks like the face of a young psychotic pushed to the brink by nightly doses of cream-like, rancid smelling, fish oil paste. I can see the razor shop edge of the butcher knife that she cleverly conceals behind her back as it catches the rays of the setting sun in the impeccably clean Edwardian kitchen. Her mother wavers the bottle of Scott's Emulsion ( still available today mind you if you happen to live in one of these exotic locales - Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, Hong Kong, Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, Asia and South America) in front of her face for the absolute last time.

But, please, you must pardon my dark sense of humor. Of course, I grew up in the age of campy horror flicks where the antagonists were usually evil children with an axe to grind..."Rosemary's Baby", "The Omen", "The Exorcist", "Carrie", "Them", "The Changeling", "Halloween", "It's Alive", "Full Circle" and more. It seemed the popular horror theme in the 60's and 70's.

Alas, now the genre seems soaked with alien invasions or, most disturbingly, adult psychotics intent on torturing their victims. Frankly, I find that sick and twisted. Though, to be fair, I caught "Full Circle" on cable the other night expecting it to be as frightening as it was when I first saw it.

It was as engrossing as an egg timer.

Alas indeed.

Monday, February 04, 2008


I came across this story online over the weekend and was completely fascinated by it...

Clues from an old snapshot solve drowning mystery

Of course as anyone who knows me well will attest, I have a weakness for vintage photography. My studio is filled with them and I use them frequently as inspiration for my art. The portraiture that I'm most associated with are all modeled after faces I choose from these treasures and I've recently begun to incorporate the photos into the works themselves.

That's one of the reasons that I was so taken with the story. The only clue to the identity of the mysterious dead man was an old photograph that "had been found intact in a glass frame and close to his heart under layers of winter clothing". I can see this man in my mind like scenes from a film....

It's a hot July afternoon. His room is spotless and sparsely furnished, more like that of an old whisper of a man rather than that of a young chap of 31. He sits, nude and alone, atop his meticulously made bed. In his hands, he holds a delicate glass frame which he uses to protect an old fading paper photograph. The sepia toned image is that of a mature distinguished looking suited man holding a very young boy in his arms.

All is silent in the room save the stolid ticking emanating from the belly of an antique mantle clock. He wondered for a moment just how many times had he stood in the same spot in his room just listening to the sound of that clock. Sometimes, he remembered, hours would pass by as he did this without anyone, anyone in the world, noticing.

The treasured clock was the only physical item still in existence, besides himself, that was once held in the hands of the older gentleman in the photograph - his beloved grandfather. How sweetly appropriate, he thinks for a moment, that the ever reliable ticking of that clock would be his final companion as he dresses himself for the last time.


Misty eyed, he presses the framed photograph gently over his heart. The glass of the frame is cooling against his hairless chest now dewy with a fine misting of sweat. He holds the photo in place with one hand as he somewhat clumsily pulls a tight fitting thermal long sleeve t-shirt over his head. It will be the first layer of many that he now covers himself with. Though he never enjoyed the feel of wool against his sensitive skin, he now needs the weight of the clothing, when wet, to keep him down in the water.

A faint smile creases across his mouth as he lifts the cumbersome backpack which he had filled with heavy stones over the weekend. These will be the only tools he needs to make the reunion complete.

Now fully dressed in his heavy winter clothes, he stares out the open window of his room which overlooks the old church auditorium for the last time. The breeze whisks across his face as his slowly lifts his finger in attention to a solitary drip of sweat, or perhaps a tear, that glistens from the corner of his eye as it runs down to the end of his dimpled chin like a silent undiscovered forest stream.


Well, clearly I became carried away there, but, that's the wonderful beauty of vintage photography. There's always a story...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Dream team? Groundhog??

2 Winners

Ah. What a lovely debate last night between two desirable Presidential hopefuls. Frankly, I would be overwhelmed with joy to have either of them as my President, but my heart still belongs to Hillary.

There was mention last night of a dream team...

I have actually mentioned that before and frankly love the idea, but I truly believe that it should be Clinton/Obama. In my opinion, he needs the time (oh, let's say 8 years) to build up his Presidential knowledge base, then he can take charge of the ship for the 8 years following that, and so on, and so on, and so on.

Yes. Love that idea. In the interim, I'm very pleased that Hillary did so well last night. Clearly, I'm not the only one who thinks so...

And what a line - "It took a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush and it might take another Clinton to clean up after this Bush". A standing ovation line I might add. Yes. I was pleased with last night's debate greatly.

But, let me be perfectly clear about this, I am not anti-Obama and I will support him to the fullest if he becomes my party's candidate. I just instinctively feel that he is still too green around the ears as they say. It's a gut feeling, and frankly, after watching the way Hillary answered her questions smoothly and concisely last night as opposed to Obama's obvious uneasiness and his somewhat jittery disconnected reposes, I still feel that way. I think others do as well.

Hey, guess what. It's Groundhog's Day! January is gone and we are one month closer to Spring (only 49 more days to be exact). One day, I'm going to go to that crazy let's ask the Groundhog event in Punxsutawney and party down.