Celebrating The Freshman at 90

If you’re observing Yom Kippur, may you have an easy and meaningful fast!


This handsome, talented gentleman is Harold Lloyd (20 April 1893–8 March 1971), the third great comedian of the silent era. Besides being a brilliant actor and comedian, he also seemed like a really nice, genuine person, and managed his money very well. On a personal level, other reasons I’m such a big fan are because he was a fellow lefty and burn survivor. I’ve also always loved the name Harold.

Harold wasn’t, to anyone’s knowledge, born left-handed, but after a near-fatal accident in August 1919, his right thumb and forefinger had to be amputated, and he had to learn another handedness. It really makes me happy when I see him doing something left-handed in his films, knowing what social and cultural attitudes towards left-handedness were at that time.

Even if you’ve never seen one of Harold’s films or don’t know his name, you’ve probably seen this most iconic image of him:


I actually gasped out loud many times when I first watched Safety Last! (1923), even knowing he wasn’t going to fall to his death while climbing that building over city traffic. Though he did use a double for some long shots, Harold, like Buster Keaton, did all his stunts himself. It’s even more amazing to think about how he did that with only three fingers on his right hand. He wore a prosthetic glove onscreen, but that doesn’t change the real state of his hand.


The Freshman, released 20 September 1925, was Harold’s most successful film of the silent era, and created a trend for college-themed films. College life was already very fashionable, something to aspire to, but this film just made it even hotter.

Harold Lamb is on his way to Tate University when he meets Peggy (Jobyna Ralston, Harold’s leading lady from 1923–28) on the train. Naturally, they fall in instalove.


Harold feels the best way into popularity will be to copy The College Hero, a movie idol of his. This copycatting includes doing a funny jig when meeting someone, and taking the nickname Speedy. Since Harold is such a nice, innocent guy, he doesn’t realize people are making fun of him and his mannerisms. He’s even deceived into believing he’s popular, when in reality everyone is laughing at him behind his trusting back. Peggy, however, is a good egg, and proves to be Harold’s only real friend.

The freshman

Harold fails when he tries out for the football team, and is used as the practice tackle dummy because he damaged the real one. In spite of being tackled over and over, Harold’s desire to play football is undeterred. The coach is impressed by his enthusiasm, but still doesn’t want him on the team. Another cruel trick is played on Harold when Chet Trask, the team’s captain and hero, suggests the coach use him as a water boy while letting him think he’s a real part of the team.


Harold is compelled into hosting the Fall Frolic dance, but there’s a slight problem—his tailor hasn’t finished his suit yet. Ever the optimist, Harold puts on a suit barely held together with basting stitches. All through the party, the tailor tries his best to keep the suit together, but his clothes eventually give way. Harold then sees the College Cad not behaving so appropriately with Peggy, and knocks him down.


The Cad is furious, and finally informs Harold just what everyone thinks of him. Peggy meanwhile tells Harold to just be himself, and stop pretending to be someone he’s not. Still undeterred, Harold determines to make himself a hero through the next big football game.

The opposing team is so brutal, many of Tate’s players are taken out due to injuries and the substitutes run out. With little choice, the coach finally lets Harold play, and the underdog emerges as a hero.


WeWriWa—A slight smile

This week, I’ll be better about making visits on Sunday instead of a day or so later! Last Sunday was Tisha B’Av, the most difficult fast day on the calendar. Being without food or water for 24 hours in the heat of summer makes many people feel miserable, particularly since there’s no all-day service to keep oneself distracted as there is on Yom Kippur.

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes a few lines after last week’s, as Aleksey has insisted, over Arkadiya’s protests, that her room is being upgraded and her entire stay at the hotel will be free of charge. He then tells her to write down her contact information and the details of her petition, and he’ll take care of paying for her stay and upgrading her room while she’s writing.


Arkadiya sighed and went to a nearby desk to write.  As she was dragging her hand through the fresh ink, her arm at a crooked angle, she noticed the Tsar looking over at her.  Probably just curious to see how someone writing left-handed looked like, but he seemed to have a slight smile upon his face.  She chose to shrug it off as the normal smile of a nice person, and didn’t look in his direction again until after she’d finished writing.

“Very good, Princess.  I’ll look this over at length tomorrow, and see what I can do about granting both these noble requests.  It was very nice to meet a resident of the city where I almost lost my life.”

“May I shake your hand, Your Majesty?”

“Only very gently.  I don’t like very firm, tight handshakes.”


Besides the fact that the Bolsheviks destroyed probably thousands of the Imperial Family’s copious collection of photographs, there also aren’t very many known photographs of Aleksey smiling a real smile because he was a bit self-conscious of the gap between his front teeth. For obvious reasons, corrective dental work was out of the question. He did see a dentist, but anything beyond basic dental care was too dangerous to risk.

A primer on Slovenian names

Though I’m first and foremost a Russophile down to the very core of my soul, I’m also, more generally, a Slavophile. In no particular order, the other Slavic peoples I feel the greatest love and passion for are the Czechs, my own Slovakians of course, the Bulgarians, the Serbians (whom I may possibly share ancestry with), and the Slovenians. As I’ve posted about before, I love the Slovenian national anthem, and my old “Super-Speical” box came from a wine distributor in Ljubljana.

One of the midwives in Little Ragdoll, Radana Zupan, is Slovenian–American, and the progressive, left-handed tutor in my second and third Russian historicals, Božidar Brinarsky, is half-Slovenian, half-Slovakian. Mr. Brinarsky was a schoolteacher in Slovenia for 15 years, and taught in various Manhattan schools after immigrating in 1913. His father is Slovakian, and his mother is Slovenian. Not only does he tutor Fedya after he’s pulled out of school due to horrific abuse from an anti-left-handed kindergarten teacher, but he also teaches Fedya and Ivan proper left-handed handwriting, so they don’t slant or smudge anymore. He also tutors the left-handed Dmitriy, Anastasiya’s son, as well as later teaching left-handed writing to Violetta, whose right arm and hand were paralyzed too badly to recover when she had polio.

Slovenian alphabet:

Slovenian uses the Roman alphabet, though like the other Western and Southern Slavic languages, it features a few letters which may be unfamiliar to the average English-speaker. Č is CH, Š is SH, and Ž is ZH.  J is of course pronounced like a Y, and C is TS. A few words and names of foreign origin use non-Slovenian letters such as Ö, Ü, Ć, and Đ.

Slovenian surnames:

Because Slovenian doesn’t natively use the soft Serbian letter Ć, surnames may use both Ć and Č on legal documents, so many people technically have two legal surnames. For example, Božić and Božič. However, in contrast to other languages, Slovenian surnames ending in -ič don’t necessarily take a patronymical origin. Most Slovenian surnames differ by geographical origin; e.g., the Slovene Littoral region has many -čič names, such as Miklavčič and Gregorčič. Besides -ič and -čič, many surnames also end in -nik, -lj, and -lin. Origins include patronymics, animals, geography, employer (e.g., Kralj [King] for peasants working on a king’s estate), ethnicity, and Medieval settlement patterns. Surnames ending in -ski and -ov are usually of foreign origin.

Women’s surnames don’t take feminine suffixes on legal documents, though in everyday speech and writing, feminine suffixes are regularly used. For example, Kralj becomes Kraljeva and Novak becomes Novakova.

Common Slovenian names and their nickname forms:


Adrijana, Jadranka
Aleksandra (Saša)
Ana (Anica, Anika, Anita, Anja)
Anastazija (Nastja)
Antonija (Tonka)
Apolonija (Polona)
Bojana (Battle)
Božena (Divine)
Branislava (Slava)
Cecilija (Cila, Cilka)
Cvetka (Flower)
Damijana, Damjana
Darija, Darja (Darinka)
Doroteja (Teja, Tea)
Draga, Dragica
Dunja (Quince)
Dušanka (Soul)
Elizabeta (Špela)
Frančiška (Francka)
Gaja, Kaja
Helena, Elena, Jelena (Alena, Alenka, Jelka)
Iva (Willow tree)
Ivana (Ivanka)
Jasna (Sharp; Clear)
Jerneja (Neja) (Bartolomea)
Jožefa, Jožica (Pepca)
Julija, Julijana
Katarina (Katica, Katja)
Klavdija (Claudia)
Ksenija (Xenia)
Ljerka (Lily)
Ljuba (Ljubica) (Love)
Magdalena (Alena, Alenka, Majda)
Margareta, Marjeta
Marija (Maja, Marica, Mojca)
Marina (Marinka)
Mateja, Matija (feminine form of Matthew)
Milena (Milka)
Milica (Milka)
Mirjam, Mirjana
Miroslava (Slava)
Nada (Nadja) (Hope)
Natalija (Nataša)
Neža (Agnes)
Pavla, Pavlina
Radana (Happy)
Rozalija (Zala)
Silvija (Silva)
Slavica, Slavka (Glory)
Stanislava (Slava)
Tatjana (Tjaša)
Uršula (Urška)
Vera (Faith)
Vesna (Spring)
Zdenka (Create)
Zdravka (Healthy)
Željka (Desire)
Živa (Alive)
Zlata (Gold)
Zora (Zorka, Zorica) (Dawn)
Zvezdana (Star)


Aleksander (Saša, Sašo, Aleks, Aleš, Sandi)
Aleksej (Aleks, Aljoša, Aleš)
Alojz, Alojzij (Lojze) (Aloysius)
Andraž, Andrej
Anej, Enej (Aeneas)
Anton (Tone)
Avgust, Avguštin
Blaž (Blaise)
Bogdan (Boško)
Bojan (Battle)
Boris (Bor, Borut)
Borislav (Bor, Slava)
Božidar (Boško) (Divine gift)
Branimir (Branko) (Peaceful protection)
Branislav (Branko, Slava)
Črtomir (Črt)
Cvetko (Flower)
Damijan, Damjan
Danijel, Danilo
Darko (Gift)
Dimitrij (Mitja)
Domen (Dominic)
Dragan, Drago, Dragutin (Precious)
Dragomir, Dragoslav (Slava, Mirko, Miro)
Dušan (Soul)
Edvard (Edi)
Gašper (Jasper)
Goran (Mountain man)
Grega, Gregor
Ignac, Ignacij, Nace
Jadran, Jadranko (Adrian)
Jakob (Jaka, Jaša)
Janez, Anže (Johannes)
Javor (Maple tree)
Jernej (Nejc) (Bartholomew)
Josip, Jožef (Jože)
Julij (Julian)
Jure, Jurij (Jurica) (George)
Karel, Karol (Charles)
Kristijan, Kristjan
Lenart (Leonard)
Lovrenc (Lovro)
Ludvik (Louis)
Marijan, Marjan
Martin (Tine, Tinek)
Matej, Matevž, Matic, Matija, Matjaž (Tjaž) (Matthew)
Mihael (Miha)
Miklavž, Nikola, Nikolaj (Niko, Nik)
Milivoj (Gracious soldier)
Miran (World; Peace)
Miroslav (Miro, Mirko, Slava)
Ožbalt, Ožbej
Pavel (Paul)
Sebastijan, Sebastjan (Boštjan)
Slavko (Glory)
Srečko (Luck)
Stanislav (Slava, Stane)
Stojan (To stand)
Tadej (Thaddeus)
Valentin (Tinek, Tine)
Viljem (Vili, Vilko) (William)
Vincenc (Vinko)
Vitomir (Master of the world; Master of peace)
Vladimir (Vlado)
Vladislav (Vlado)
Zdenko (To create)
Zdravko (Healthy)
Željko (Desire)
Žiga (Sigmund)
Zlatan (Zlatko) (Golden)
Zoran (Dawn)

WeWriWa—A stubborn suitor


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP.  I’m now sharing from the opening of my first Russian historical, You Cannot Kill a Swan: The Love Story of Lyuba and Ivan (available for sale here). So I don’t give too much away, and since I’m eager to start sharing from my old/new WIP, I’m going to end my snippets here.

After gymnasium (i.e., high school) lets out, Ivan always goes over to his best friend and neighbor Lyuba’s house, along with their other best friend Boris (eventually to be their ex-best friend). This afternoon is particularly hard for Ivan, since he’s expected to pretend everything is normal and Lyuba didn’t just jilt him. When Lyuba’s mother and aunt come home, they discover gluttony, uncouth, clumsy Boris has broken a bowl. Lyuba’s mother demands money to pay for a new bowl, and Boris is only too happy to fork over the requested sum.


“Unlike Kónev, at least I have a ready supply of money.”

“Yes, money is a very important asset in a husband,” Mrs. Zhúkova nods, fixing Iván with a meaningful look. “My daughter needs a husband who can provide for her and any future children, not someone full of idealistic, romantic promises about sailing to America, farms in the Midwest, and love being the only thing a couple needs to get through tough times.”

Iván stalks over to his house next door, cursing himself for being such a passive excuse of a man he just rolled over and took no for an answer when he put his heart on the line and proposed.  Well, if Lyuba thinks he’s going to give up on her this easily, she’s got another think coming.  He’s the only left-handed student in the entire gymnasium because he always withstood the efforts of his teachers, ever since first grade, to try to make him write right-handed, even when they hit him on the hand with rulers and straps, thumped him on the head with heavy books, and threatened to beat him.  He believes God made him left-handed for a reason, the same way he believes he and Lyuba were destined to be husband and wife.  And if he could stay true to his left-handedness under such intense attempts to switch him, then he can be just as committed to staying the course until Lyuba gives into her heart.


For anyone wondering, Mrs. Zhukova is tagged as Mrs. Lebedeva in my metadata since that’s the name she appeared under when I shared excerpts with her during the old Sweet Saturday Samples hop. She’s been a Lebedeva far longer than she’s been a Zhukova.

Next week I’ll start sharing from my alternative history, which opens in 1918. It’s my way of giving a well-deserved happy ending and long life to a beautiful young man who was denied both of those things in real life.

What’s Up Wednesday—Happy International Left-Handedness Awareness Day!


What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly hop/meme with four simple headings. Anyone can write a post and add the link to Jaime’s blog or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

I finished Yoko Kawashima Watkins’s My Brother, My Sister, and I, about the struggles she and her siblings went through in the early postwar years in Japan, after they got out of Korea. It’s the sequel to So Far from the Bamboo Grove. They didn’t have much, but they had one another, and they always found a way to get food, money, and shelter. In both books, I loved the secondary character Mr. Naido, who worked in the furnace room of Yoko’s school and gave her all the usable paper from the trash. He was her only friend and advocate at school, while all the other girls treated her horribly for not being as moneyed as they were.

What I’m Writing

Up to Chapter 88 of my WIP, 669,500 words. I’d actually started what I thought was Chapter 88, which opens with the citizenship ceremony of Inessa’s family on 11 August 1945. But then I realised I’d totally skipped over the kind of really important historical events of a few days earlier! So I changed Chapter 88 to 89 and put it on hold, then started the real Chapter 88, “A Happy Ending…or Not?”

For many years now, it’s been my firm belief that we should never have bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not only because it was unethical and immoral, but also because Japan was well on its way to surrendering anyway. Even General Eisenhower didn’t agree with it and thought it was cruel and pointless. Obviously, radical Katrin is going to have quite a lot to say about the bombs. She’s been writing for numerous left-wing newspapers, in at least 10 languages, ever since she came to America in 1921. I actually just thought of a great storyline for my fourth Russian novel (1948-52), Katrin falling under suspicion during the McCarthyist witch hunts due to her loud, proud Socialist convictions.

What Inspires Me

It’s International Left-Handedness Awareness Day! It’s so so special how we’ve got our own holiday now, after how brutally lefties were treated for so much of human history. Sadly, many cultures still shame and bully little lefties out of their natural inclination, and have an almost fetishistic worship of the right side of the body. It makes me so sad to read about how so many teachers and parents used to smack children’s hands, tie their hands down with rope or weights, tie their hands behind their backs, removed utensils and pens from the left hand and shoved them into the right hand, gave lefties failing marks in handwriting because of their ignorance of proper left-handed writing methods, beat them, the list goes on and on.

When you’re left-handed, you have left-dar and immediately notice other lefties, whereas right-handed folks don’t pay attention to what hand someone writes or eats with. Some right-handed people even express surprise when finding out a friend is a lefty, like they never noticed that pretty important detail in so much time.

I love being a positive ambassador for sinistrality, and finding little lefties. I got such a thrill when I discovered some of my campers over the last three years were lefties, particularly two in the nursery bunk. I was in the closet about the true extent of my left-handedness till three years ago, and now I’m out and proud. Handedness, like sexual orientation, exists along a continuum.  Very few people are 100% one or the other. I see myself as having the best of best worlds, since I’m still able to eat and write right-handed after so many years of doing it. I just do most of my eating and writing with my left hand now.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

I finally got a new computer, though I’ve still got the old one around to transfer files and for backup. It’s so nice to not have to run a fan right behind my computer and hear that painful, scary death rattle from the left fan. I’ve got a lot of readjusting to do, since I was using a 2007 computer. Hopefully I’ll figure out a way to open my old Power PC applications on the new machine. Right now, it’s refusing to open Word 2004 and Ideal Solitaire. In the meantime, Pages is easy enough to navigate, though I miss some of the features Word had.

I also finally had two feet of hair taken off after Tisha B’Av. It’s so nice to have short hair again! I think it even helped the pain from the chickenpox scars under my hair. They were hurting me a lot in recent months, but now there’s so much less hair weighing them down. (I missed the vaccine by just one year, and I never found out who gave them to me at age fourteen.)