Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Halloween 1943

My mom, Polly (left) and her sister, Janice.

Monday, October 26, 2009


Katherine met her future husband, J.B. Akin, on August 20, 1929 and they were married exactly two years later in 1931. Ten years married, she is shown here with her two daughters, Janice and Polly. The photo is marked Thanksgiving 1941; Katherine is 31 years old, a young woman still, but at this point in her life she had already experienced a great deal of personal loss.

My grandmother's older sister, Mattie Grace, died when Katherine was only four years old and then when she was six, her mother gave birth to a baby that did not survive more than a few days. At age 15, Katherine's father Samuel Nathan Thomas Beckett died, most likely leaving the family with limited funds and hardship. I wonder now how these events might have affected her outlook on life.

Katherine's most painful loss, however, might have been the death of her cousin Lucile when they were only 28 years old. Born in the same year, and raised together, the two girls were close friends. I have Lucile's letters to my grandmother but since I don't have the replies, I learn very little about Katherine as a young woman. We often think about our grandparents in an abstract way, as caretakers, supporters, and gift givers, but never do we really know who they are as people.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

James Boyd (Akin)

Jay or J.B. to his friends. Moredaddy to us, the Atticus Finch of our family.

Jay was a college educated man who found it necessary to give up his job as a science teacher when his father died of heart trouble in 1934. This photo was taken in 1938. My grandfather's family owned 35 acres of land in Burwood, Tennessee where they farmed tobacco. Jay would get up at 4am to milk the cows and then go into town to help his Uncle Vance with the Akin Brothers General Merchandise Store.*

Times were tough as the depression continued and the store did not do well for them. My grandmother tells me they had to mend their shoes with scrap and had a hard time eating. Circumstances improved though. They sold the farm in 1943 and Jay returned to teaching, eventually becoming headmaster for the well-known Battle Ground Academy.

Photo: Jay with his daughter Janice (my aunt) and a horse-drawn plow.

*The General Merchandise Store was opened by M.F. Akin in 1883 who then took on his brother Vance as a partner in 1888. They outgrew their original store and constructed a larger building in 1911. They owned and operated the store for 53 years. It was subsequently owned and operated by Robert Huff and his son Kenneth. In 1988, it was added to National Register of Historic Places.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

To Kill a Mockingbird

Considered by many to be America's greatest novel, To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. The corresponding movie was released a year later, winning several academy awards to include one for Gregory Peck's performance as Atticus Finch. I've read the book and seen the movie several times and have a lot to say about the story but this blog entry is about one small part of the movie, one scene in particular.

When Atticus Finch leaves the court room after losing Tom Robinson's case, everyone in the balcony section stands up in a show of respect as he walks out. Atticus Finch lives by a code of humanity, not by a code of law even though he's a lawyer. He doesn't accept the racist sentiment of his small town even when his legal support of a black man causes potential harm against his family. This story is about standing up, not with fists, but with heart, and doing what's right.

For an in-depth critical analysis, go here. And to all of my graphic designer friends out there, what do you think about the Hollywood poster? Does it work for you?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America

Beautiful, controversial, and blog worthy because it's different. Two vikings, presumed dead, are left behind after a bloody massacre. With no hope of a rescue, they are faced with the basic need to survive in the North American wilderness during the year 1007. Volnard and Orn (played by the director himself) come into contact with Celtic monks, Abenaki Indians, and wild animals. One of the men experiences a Christian conversion and begins to develop a conscious while the other goes deeper into his primal nature.

Tony Stone gives us a highly visual film and tells his story with a minimum of dialogue (translated humorously into our modern vernacular via subtitles). The action is gritty and the use of black metal as the musical score is appropriate and surprisingly never abrasive. This is in effect a silent film.

On the negative side, the responsible treatment of animals is questionable and one of the scenes, described as raw at best, was completely unnecessary. But, all in all, this is a true Indie film, not simply something lower budget marketed as such. Severed Ways is definitely worth watching and thinking about.

See the New York Times review here; read an interview with the director here (scroll down to the October 12 entry); and learn more about discovery here.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


The best part of the performance today was the earth-tone costumes by Mireille Vachon. Primarily red and and brown with some neutrals and white, they were a little Mad Max and a lot Spanish Arabia.

Easy access to the show via the Pentagon City Metro. Photos from the Chicago Tribune and the Northern Virginia Magazine.