Film With An Odd Name– MANDORLA

Review #1 of  MANDORLA

I learned to enjoy film critiques by completing a filmmaking master’s degree program.  Here is a review of a wonderful film refreshing and peculiar for its out-of-the-mainstream flavor.  A friend in my favorite international organization, L’Alliance Francaise (de Memphis), asked me to review it:  MANDORLA (2016, Roberto Miller, Writer/Dir. and Liz Holdship, Producer ).  “Mandorla” is a word in the dictionary.  In a nutshell, it is “almond;” all kidding aside, a mandorla is “a pointed oval shape used in medieval Christian art as an aureole to surround a sacred figure (see vesica piscis);” in painting, sculpture, and other, it is an almond-shaped area of light, usually surrounding the resurrected Christ or the Virgin at the Assumption.  One way of describing the film is to say it deals with the definition of vesica piscis— a pointed shape formed by the intersection of the circumference of one circle with the center of another circle with an equal radius.  The two circles would be Ernesto’s ordinary reality and his imaginative reality.  The phrase vesica piscis is not Italian, as is “mandorla,” but rather Latin:  bladder = vesica fish = piscis (from the resemblance in shape).  To read the sample of the use of the word mandorla is to understand that the eponymous film deals with the soul’s longing for wholeness and full expression.  The power comes to a person following the light, in a religious way of thinking.

Here is a dictionary sample from use in a periodical:  “During a recent struggle with a misdiagnosis of terminal illness . . . she took off her vesica piscis of rayos and bade me pass through her fiery corona, burning away my terror and grief time and again.”

The film perhaps, and definitely this excerpt from Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book about La Madre Grande, richly bring to mind the Blessed Mother Mary as the utmost feminine power who leaves no one stranded, bringing the “aerial viewpoint” for seeing the greater soul-picture in everything around us.  Pinkola Estes believes Holy Mary to be a force of Nature inlaid with the profound creativity of sheltering, showing, and other attributes of mothering.

MANDORLA’s creative team told their story with a feminine-empowerment approach, casting a beautiful woman of long dark hair in a yellow field, a spirit in the protagonist’s imagination.  A second powerful lady met him on a bridge in Lyon, France by serendipity, a stroke of perfect good luck in Ernesto’s time of need.  She was a member of the everyday, ordinary reality.  The stunning beauty in the sunny field was from the glowing circle of dreams, the circle intersecting the protagonist’s normal circle from time to time.  Ernesto bravely struggled for change.


REVIEW #2:  Guest reviewer Jim Eubanks writes about the film MANDORLA by first choosing a Fairyland concept for the out-of-the-ordinary imaginative place that Ernesto takes himself to, Ernesto being seduced there by his soul’s longing to live creatively.  Does he have a choice?  Visions have power.  I have not thought much about “Faery,” the word for the enchanted realm of fairies, although once I directed middle-school students putting on Act V of A Midsummer Night’s Dream wherein we meet the mischievous sprite Puck. Because I have an inkling for gardening, I kind of like gnomes, defined as legendary creatures resembling tiny old men, living in the depths of the earth.  Jim’s way of reviewing the fresh, possibly ahead of its time, and memorable film MANDORLA [2016, producer Liz Holdship, writer/director Roberto Miller] took a different turn from my approach.  In fact, my perception does not follow Jim’s last line.  I believe Ernesto did indeed abandon his office job for self-regulated work in an imaginative realm.  Can he still pay the mortgage?  He was brave to connect with fearsome shadows.  He embraced dreams reaching out to him.  Jim Eubanks tells much about the unusual places to which brave Ernesto allowed himself to travel on . . .

A Perilous Quest, a review of the film MANDORLA by Jim Eubanks

In the old faery lore, it was at the borders that faerie enchantment was found— the border between light and dark, life and death, land and water, evening and day, field and forest. There is a small gap there, which most people do not see, and which is a place of magic. But that magic can be deadly. An encounter with the faeries or their enchantment can lead to inspiration, or madness. It was much like our modern stories of alien abductions. Some people who have been abducted (whatever the reality of it is) describe great joy; most are left feeling desperate and with a feeling of cosmic loneliness.

Ernesto, the main character of MANDORLA finds himself at the border of his outer world of high-stakes commercial advertising and his inner world of artistic spiritual vision. There is a gap at that border, a gap between being a successful practical person and being a person who acts on his inner spiritual vision. Ernesto becomes aware of this gap, this place between two different vibrations, and is drawn into a place of perilous magic.

It is the faerie encounter; it is the Grail Quest, in modern terms. This quest can lead to madness, despair, ensorcellement (ed. under a spell), ruination— after all, only one knight found the Grail, and even then at great cost. But the knights had no other choice than to find the Grail in order to heal the king.

This well-done, entrancing film tells the story of Ernesto’s quest. This is not something someone made up— it is based on actual events, many of which are quite intense. The last scene, in which Ernesto, in medieval garb, walks across a field of golden grain to see a splendorous castle on a lake in the distance is very beautiful, and seems to me to sum up the theme of the movie:  Ernesto might like the convenience of computers and jet flights to Lyon, but he still wants his world to have enchantment, romance and even magic, and he does not think that one excludes the other.

Reflections of a Group Tour of Memphis’s NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM

IMG_5379MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr., Strategizing With The President

This president seemed to be both adversary and strategist to MLKJr. in the fight for equal rights for all citizens of this country.

This president seemed to be both adversary and strategist to Martin Luther King, Jr. in the fight for equal rights for all citizens of this country.

Thanks to friend Meg for her suggestion to write this post.  Meg is one of about a dozen of us UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER folks who toured the world-renown, one-of-a-kind museum, THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.  What follows is  a brief sketch of our experience.  For readers in far-away places who may not be familiar with Memphis, Tennessee history, we are the place in which the gifted and unrelenting  leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought bravely, risking his life time after time to gain equal rights under the law for all races, was assassinated.  In about 1968, Martin led a march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge of Selma, Alabama for the right to vote.  He won that fight when President Lyndon Johnson signed into law an assurance that no potential voter could be hindered from registering.  This was a breakthrough, long-overdue, for Blacks who indeed registered and voted out of office White oppressor officials of Selma, and against Alabama Governor George Wallace, who maintained that the status quo was the way folks preferred things to be.  Martin fought further for the dignity of being human and the equality of all people under the Constitution of the United States.  Sadly, his work was divisive, disruptive; James Earl Ray assassinated Martin in Memphis April 4, 1968.  Martin stepped out onto the balcony of the downtown Lorraine Motel and took a bullet that detonated inside him.  Martin and entourage at the Lorraine were lodging at Mulberry and Huling Streets, perhaps the only hotel admitting Blacks at that time.  The Lorraine is now the site of the world-renown museum, having received millions of dollars from local corporations, after languishing for many years.

The Lorraine Motel is the Site of THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.

The Lorraine Motel of Downtown Memphis, Tennessee is the Site of THE NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM.

Our tour guide was knowledgeable and exuberant.  He was an older African American whose passionate storytelling pulled us into the fray, starting with life-size models of chained slaves brought to the Americas to increase wealth of plantation owners and continuing to the centuries-later burned-out Greyhound Freedom Riders bus.  After touring the room with exhibits about the Civil Rights Movement gaining footing, a footing that was a nonviolent strategy rooted in Mahatma Gandhi’s success in gaining India’s independence from England, we visitors had our attention drawn to Malcolm X, a leader planting the seed of Black entrepreneurial necessity, turning from White institutions, a “Black Power” strategy that did not embrace nonviolence.

Malcolm X Embraced A Different Approach From MLKJr.

Malcolm X Embraced a Different Approach Toward Advancing Blacks That Countered the Nonviolent Peaceful Demonstrations Led By Martin Luther King, Jr.

 The walls of the museum presented us with the rise of and demand for Black arts and literature, termed “Black Is Beautiful.”  This visual art was so engaging that it was easy for me to fall behind the tour group.  Thus I had both a group and a single experience.  The advantages of group touring are obvious: one gains so many details from the storyteller and energy for extensive exhibits requiring hours. Going singly would have the advantage of focusing on a particular slice of the history of African-Americans, from the beginning of slavery in 1691 through the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to the present.

In Selma, Alabama, Applicants Attempting To Register To Vote Were Humiliated.

Young Protestors Coming Of Age To Vote




Coretta Scott King, Widow  of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She died January 30, 2006.

Coretta Scott King, Widow of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She died January 30, 2006.



Seventeen or more sponsors made this incredible weekend for writers, wherein noteworthy big-house published writers showed us the ropes.

Seventeen or more sponsors made this incredible weekend for writers, wherein noteworthy big-house published writers showed us the ropes.

In my own hometown of my small city by the majestic Mississippi, those of us who write, collect books, know publishing, and otherwise have a passion for literacy experienced an opportunity of a lifetime.  We met Newberry-winning author Vance Vawter (Paperboy, Random House), author Amber McCree Turner (Sway, cover designed by SHREK artist of Dreamworks, + Circa Now, both by Disney Hyperion), and Barry Wolverton (Neversink, Harper Collins imprint).  They told me things I wondered about:  getting lucky with finding an agent after perusing Children’s Writers Market, that editors think globally and thus ask for removal of words and phrases easily misunderstood, and wait patiently for six months after submitting pages of a finished manuscript.  The three panelists, together with moderator Julie Lester, agreed that big-house publishing is a strange business.  Authors submit to guidelines precisely.  Authors must realize the agents talk among themselves (this is scary)!  In addition, a good tip came:  a would-be agent who asks author for up-front payment is not “real”– an author’s agent payment comes through the publishing house when author’s first installment is paid.

McCree Turner’s chosen genre of “magical realism,” defined by her as the fine line between fake magic and “this side of heaven” magic, segways the thoughts in this essay to Daniel Wallace’s hour-and-a-half talk.  In his easy demeanor with us listening, he chose to deal with an author’s ability to follow what comes unconsciously, what continues to interest, what keeps on continuing (obsessively).  For example, Wallace discovered a passion in himself for glass eyes.  He noticed more interest in these than any other thread possibility for his novel, except for perhaps his relationship with his father.  He has collected 75 of them, and passed one around in our session.  The obsession with glass eyes appealed to filmmaker Tim Burton, who cast Albert Finney as amazingly big-imagining storyteller, mixing things magic with things real. Jessica Lange  was cast as his wife, together with Ewan McGregor and Billy Crudup, popular actors of many known roles. I watched BIG FISH The Movie (2003, Columbia, rt 2 h 6 min) on Amazon, and am beginning to understand more from Daniel Wallace.  It will be fun to scan through the book in my hand.  What do you think . . .  Is it true?  Some say, “The book is always better than the movie.”


PROPERTY MAINTENANCE: Ninety-foot Trees Artfully Trimmed

Caring for outdoor property can be richly rewarding.  Our summer of 2011 investment in the artfulness and health of our tall trees proved to be a memorable spectator experience, almost like watching performance art.  For three days, we observed a skilled Tree Crew work to beautify old oak trees of almost a hundred feet in height. The climber deftly pruned the small limbs and foliage, as though the trees were sculptures, and then his ground crew, with ropes and chain saws, gently swung any big limbs he cut onto the ground, sawed them small for carrying, and rid the yard of all debris efficiently.  My husband and I photographed the crew extensively.  I post a couple of photos for your enjoyment.

Pablo, preparing to go up 75 feet in the bucket, then walk out, spikes on soles

PABLO, Tree Worker, Climber

Four men on the ground watch the climber.

"Out On A Limb," but with harnesses, spikes, & manlifts, the meaning changes.


I have a habit of searching through a book I’ve had for forty years, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, for a poetic turn of phrase.  For this post in, I read a dozen or so quotes listed in the index under the word “trees.”   Nothing interested me much except these sentences by a Japanese writer, Matsuo Basho (1644-1694).  He lived a short life, a fact making these lines meaningful:

“My body, now close to fifty years of age, has become an old tree that bears bitter peaches,

a snail which has lost its shell,

a bagworm separated from its bag;

it drifts with the winds and clouds that know no destination.”

in Anthology of Japanese Literature, edited by Donald Keene (1955)



I DEDICATE this gardening/yardwork post to my late cousin Sue who kept an immaculate home and patio with flower garden in the Dallas, Texas area.  The loving gardening and yardwork effort was rewarded with the community honor of Yard of the Month.  Needless to say, her hospitality was sublime.  Sue was so pretty, with an alluring humble nature, and a voice that engaged your interest.  She will be greatly missed by her husband, caregivers, and three daughters.  She was adored by her granddaughters, and a help to those coming her way.


Mildred "Sue," Daughter of My Mother's Brother & Wife, Euell & Blanche

In a later post, you may see a couple of attractive young women’s faces from the forties, as were Sue, her sister Lavona, my mother Louise, her sisters Inez and Eunice.  Others of that era were named Dorothy, Tressie, and Blanche.  I enjoy the sound of those names.

1940s People: Ervin & Tressie, Louise & Glenn

Well-tended Side Yard In Hillsboro, Texas, Long Ago

My maternal grandmother loved flowers! This family line enjoys gardening.



 In the family portrait below, one I have enjoyed viewing through the decades, Sue is the little girl on the right. Her parents Euell and Blanche stand behind her.  Louise and Glenn anchor the other side.

Ervin & Tressie, Glenn & Louise are also in this shot.

Beulah & Clarence's Family Portrait


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Gardening Equipment:  Waterproof Gloves and Ice Water, Covered

Pleasant colors that attract you and good quality in tools, such as pruning shears, help create enjoyment in gardening and yardwork.  Care of property is a good thing.

Consider these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“When I go into the garden with a spade, and I dig a bed,

I feel such an exhilaration and health that I discover

That I have been defrauding myself all this time

In letting others do for me what I should have done with my own hands.”


Shovel and Dirt


“Garden” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), American, Harvard graduate, authored a book NATURE and other books, sermons and addresses, poems, and more.  An essay “Self-Reliance” is reputed to have once been the most often quoted essay in American literature.  Hmmm . . . does that put him up there at the level of Abraham Lincoln?


Many things the garden shows,

And pleased I stray

From tree to tree

Watching the white pear-bloom,

Bee-infested quince or plum.

I could walk days, years, away

Till the slow ripening, secular tree

Had reached its fruiting-time,

Nor think it long.

Solar insect on the wing

In the garden murmuring,

Soothing with thy summer horn

Swains by winter pinched and worn.

[The end]


O N   T H E   S U B J E C T   O F   G O O D N E S S  .  .  .

I have in my blog a desire to express interest in the goodness of the individuals in my family.  Being older and in the memoir stage of life, I see the gentleness of the matrix in which I was fortunate to be reared, so long ago, when the times were slower, more deliberate.


Researching Francis Bacon (1561-1626), scholar in philosophy and scientific method, I found a statement that said he considered his essay writing a kind of gentleman’s hobby.   This English major was reminded (assuming that I learned it in college originally) that Bacon wrote during the Tudor period (1484-1603) and beyond to the changeful Stuart England (1603-1700).  I have enjoyed, through the years, studying the Stuart monarchs, because of our ancestor coming through Edward Hyde, 1st Earl of Clarendon, involved in Charles I’s court.  My reason for including this old essay by Bacon is that it talks of a character trait not much mentioned in this day and time—goodness.  Over the recent years, emphasis on goodness seems to have become supplanted by emphasis on lies, crassness and insults, and violence.  Perhaps there is a strange wake-up call, or skin-thickening hidden benefit, difficult to find.  My first memoir, Beulah, Zelma, Patricia, Ann, came out of a desire to counter this seeming cultural trend and present goodness in family life.  The strain of goodness through one-hundred-sixteen years in four women got a grip on my writerly, reflective self.  Retired from public school teaching, I wanted to be with this material, and the desire has held over several years.



Before posting Bacon’s essay on goodness, which I located online, I got rid of a couple of dozen meaningless commas.  I do not know why so many commas were stuck in.  They hampered the clarity of the sentences.  Also, to help blog readers who may tend to jump up for the dictionary, I suggested a couple of substitute words, and they are in parentheses.  All the italics are mine.  This essay goes on longer than many readers would care about, and thus I have broken it in about two halves, posting the first.

Francis Bacon’s essay:  Of Goodness And Goodness Of Nature

I TAKE GOODNESS in this sense, the affecting of the weal (public good) of men, which is that the Grecians call philanthropia; and the word humanity as it is used is a little too light to express it.  Goodness I call the habit, and goodness of nature, the inclination.  This of all virtues, and dignities of the mind, is the greatest; being the character of the Deity: and without it, man is a busy, mischievous, wretched thing; no better than a kind of vermin.

Goodness answers to the theological virtue charity (substitute “love”), and admits no excess, but (does admit) error.*  The desire of power in excess caused the angels to fall; the desire of knowledge in excess caused man to fall:  but in charity (aka love) there is no excess; neither can angel, nor man, come in danger by it.  The inclination to goodness is imprinted deeply in the nature of man; insomuch, that if it issue not towards men, it will take (go out) unto other living creatures; as it is seen in the Turks, (by past reputation) a cruel people, who nevertheless are kind to beasts, and give alms to dogs and birds; insomuch, as Busbechius reporteth, a Christian boy, in Constantinople, had like to have been stoned for gagging in a waggishness a long-billed fowl.  *Errors indeed in this virtue of goodness, or charity, may be committed.  The Italians have an ungracious proverb, Tanto buon che val niente:  so good, that he is good for nothing.  And one of the doctors of Italy, Nicholas Machiavel, had the confidence to put in writing, almost in plain terms, that the Christian faith had given up good men in prey to those that are tyrannical and unjust.  Which he spake (this) because indeed there was never law, or sect, or opinion did so much magnify goodness as the Christian religion doth.  Therefore, to avoid the scandal and the danger both, it is good to take knowledge of the errors of an habit so excellent.

Seek the good of other men, but be not in bondage to their faces or fancies; for that is but facility, or softness; which taketh an honest mind prisoner.  Neither give thou AEsop’s cock (rooster) a gem, who would be better pleased, and happier, if he had had a barley-corn.

[First Half Installment of Francis Bacon’s perspective on concept of goodness]



Texas Cacti Planted in Tennessee


Have you driven up Interstate Highway 35, traveling east between San Antonio and the remaining ninety miles of the State of Texas before reaching Arkansas?  If you like a road trip of many hours, say ten, then read on, you may have fun.  Frequently, as native Texans with interesting relatives who still live there, we head to Texas via I30W out of Memphis, take the 440 Loop around Little Rock, Arkansas, pass through Texarkana, stop for a barbeque lunch at Ramage Farms in Hooks, Texas, and before you know it, have spent seven hours and arrive in the Dallas area.  We recently went on to Fort Worth, instead of stopping in Dallas, for a change.  We spent a couple of nights, and then headed via I35 to San Antonio, and ultimately Boerne, a country-living small place in the Texas Hill Country.  A neat bumper sticker for sale at the Flagpost Cafe reads “Life is too short NOT to live in Boerne.”  Returning home to Memphis after a few days, I jotted some notes of what my eyes took in on I35E on that familiar Texas highway.  I hope readers enjoy imagining a road trip in Texas, headed east from the San Antonio area.

If you left the Boerne Hill Country/San Antonio Urban area before 10:00 AM, you exit toward Austin by 10:15 AM.  That is your first segment, allowing for a good bit of traffic, which is common.  You may desire a coffee break just past the billboard advertising Gruene, a historic town geared for tourist activity, and past New Braunfels’ Rueckle Road Exit.  New Braunfels is an old German city, larger than the old German town of Boerne.  For the tasty java from the approaching Starbucks, take the Niederwald Exit.  Time will be about 10:55, or less than an hour from departure.  That particular Starbucks has the biggest round logo sign you have ever seen.

Back on the highway again with your Grande bold and vanilla scone, you are not far from Austin, a popular large city, next in size to Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio.  Occasionally, traffic on I35 through Austin is horrific!  I take care to have a pit stop before entering greater Austin.  You can choose the high road or the low road, as both are I35 straight through.  Either way, you see some of The University of Texas campus, some skyscrapers, and the dome of the Capitol Building.  The capital city of Texas is a residence desired by many Southerners, Midwesterners, and others who think of Austin as rather freewheeling.  After all, this is Tour de France Seven-time Champion Lance Armstrong’s home town and home of The University of Texas, which has over fifty thousand students.  It goes without saying that big universities impact an environment.  Even small ones do.  Austin bears the claim to fame of “Live Music Capital of the Country,” not to be confused with Nashville’s distinction as “Country Music Capital.”

Leaving Austin headed toward Waco, home of Baylor University, traffic thins out.  I saw a billboard stating that I need the info to be found at  The billboard surprised me by promoting the light rail concept.  Good for Texas!  I did not know Governor Rick Perry was interested in the “separate country” of Texas adding light rail transport (jus’ kidding).  Coming toward the cities of Belton and Temple, I notice that a town named Moody, and one named Lorena are in McClennan County.  I am familiar with the neighboring Hill County, where my maternal grandparents settled.  My paternal grandparents lived in McClennan County.  In that stretch of road, at a seventy mile-per hour drive-by, I noticed some giant concrete statues– a pig painted pink and a rooster.  These were huge; you could not miss them.  There were many other shapes, but I was past them in a high-speed flash.  I also noticed the trees became bright green and thick in foliage coverage, so thick it reminded me of the “Music Highway” between Memphis and Nashville, very green, claustrophobically lush for me, a lover of the Texas scrub landscape.  The live oaks and cedars with their scrappy, worn-out trunks, look like antiques, some close to death and discarding, eaten up by moss balls.  A billboard lettered with stately block style reads “BAYLOR + WACO = PROUD PARTNERS.”

As driver-passenger team, we tend to take note of road construction.  Living away from Texas, our birth state, we go gaga at the forty- or fifty-feet-high overpasses engineered by Texans.  Rumor has it that the Texas government has run out of funds for highway construction.  Those funds lasted a long, long time.  If you haven’t seen such unspeakable tons of concrete, the Texas overpasses will amaze you.  On down the road a bit, I see three more billboards.  I am not sure I believe the message on one of them:  “Great things are happening in Texas Public Schools;” “Fossil Rim Wildlife Center;” and “Taqueria Arrandes.”  We sometimes stop in Waco and eat at Taco Cabana for a TexMex flavor treat:  tacos with picadillo, frijoles refritos, rice, chalupa with guacamole, or fajitas, chicken or beef.  The price of Exxon gas in Waco was $3.59, same if bought from Valero, and the Brazos River looked high.  A most interesting fact about the unusual part of Texas that is Waco is this– a miniature Brooklyn Bridge exists there, as a historic landmark.

Driving on, a billboard advertising a Texas fruitcake tradition originating in Corsicana reminds you:  mail order plenty of Christmas fruitcakes to friends and family from Collin Street Bakery.  I have tried to like them, through the years, but . . .  Next site popping up is LoneStar Windmills, wherein dozens of faux windmills are for sale, some as tall as twenty feet or so.  Next, I notice Superstar Fireworks as we head into West, a Czech town near Hillsboro, a larger town.  Do you like Czech pastries called “kolaches?”  Pull into the Czech Inn, the Czech Stop Bakery & Deli, the Czech American Restaurant, or the Village Bakery (Their claim:  since 1952– “The original Czech pastries”), all conveniently accessed from I35E.

(More to come.)