Friday, May 06, 2016

The Rider on the White Horse

The Rider on the White Horse is the 1888 novella and best-known work of German author Theodor Storm, pictured above. It was his last work and was completed in the year he died. It could be described as weird fiction. It's in the public domain and can be read online. I read it here. You can listen to it here or here.

It begins:
WHAT I am about to tell I learned nearly half a century ago in the house of my great-grand-mother, old Madame Fedderson, widow of the senator, while I was sitting beside her armchair, busy reading a magazine bound in blue pasteboard-I don't remember whether it was a copy of the "Leipzig" or of "Pappes Hamburger Lesefruchte." I still remember with a shudder how meanwhile the light hand of the past eighty-year-old woman glided tenderly over the hair of her great-grandson. She herself and her time are buried long ago. In vain have I searched for that magazine, and therefore I am even less able to vouch for the truth of the statements in it than I am to defend them if anyone should question them; but of so much I can assure anyone, that since that time they have never been forgotten, even though no outer incident has revived them in my memory.

It was in the third decade of our century, on an October afternoon-thus began the story-teller of that time-that I rode through a mighty storm along a North Frisian dike. For over an hour I had on my left the dreary marshland, already deserted by all the cattle; on my right, unpleasantly near me, the swamping waters of the North Sea. I saw nothing, however, but the yellowish-grey waves that beat against the dike unceasingly, as if they were roaring with rage, and that now and then bespattered me and my horse with dirty foam; behind them I could see only chaotic dusk which did not let me tell sky and earth apart, for even the half moon which now stood in the sky was most of the time covered by wandering clouds. It was ice cold; my clammy hands could scarcely hold the reins, and I did not wonder that the croaking and cackling crows and gulls were always letting themselves be swept inland by the storm. Nightfall had begun, and already I could no longer discern the hoof of my horse with any certainty. I had met no human soul, heard nothing but the screaming of the birds when they almost grazed me and my faithful mare with their long wings, and the raging of the wind and water. I cannot deny that now and then I wished that I were in safe quarters.

It was the third day that this weather had lasted, and I had already allowed an especially dear relative to keep me longer than I should have done on his estate in one of the more northern districts. But to-day I could not stay longer. I had business in the city which was even now a few hours' ride to the south, and in spite of all the persuasions of my cousin and his kind wife, in spite of the Perinette and Grand Richard apples still to be tried, I had ridden away.

"Wait till you get to the sea," he had called after me from his house door. "You will turn back. Your room shall be kept for you."

And really, for a moment, when a black layer of clouds spread pitch-darkness round me and at the same time the howling squalls were trying to force me and my horse down from the dike, the thought shot through my head: "Don't be a fool! Turn back and stay with your friends in their warm nest."
The New Yorker calls it "long on atmosphere". The Washington Post calls it "a disturbing prose-poem". Kirkus Reviews concludes "There is nothing better in German fiction prior to the work of Thomas Mann."

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Gun Crazy

Gun Crazy is a 1950 film noir starring Peggy Cummins (who was in Night of the Demon with Dana Andrews), John Dall (Rope, Spartacus), and Russ Tamblyn (Gideon, the youngest brother in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers; Riff, the leader of the Jets in West Side Story; The Haunting; Babylon 5).

I found this a bit heavy-handed, even preachy, but the critics love it.


Images Journal closes its review with this:
Gun Crazy is one of the great American movies, a giddily romantic story of two people who thrive off of each other and only completely come to life when in each other's presence. Some people might call Citizen Kane the great American movie. I might just opt for Gun Crazy instead.

Slant Magazine gives it 3 out of 4 stars and talks about Freud and phallic symbolism. says, "the forerunner of director Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967), is considered by many to be the ultimate B-movie - with film noirish elements." DVD Talk says, "It's one of the most popular films noir because, like Kiss Me Deadly, it's just so much fun."

It's listed in the book 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. TCM has information. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 97%.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Java Jive

Java Jive:

by The Ink Spots from 1940.

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, boy

I love java, sweet and hot
Whoops, Mr. Moto, I'm a coffee pot
Shoot me the pot and I'll pour me a shot
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup

Oh, slip me a slug from the wonderful mug
I'll cut a rug till I'm snug in a jug
A slice of onion and a raw one, draw one
Waiter, waiter, percolator

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup

Ooh, Boston beans, soy beans
Green beans, cabbage and greens
I'm not keen of buying a bean
Unless it is a cheery, cheery bean boy

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, yeah

I love java, sweet and hot
Whoops, Mr. Moto, I'm a coffee pot
Shoot me the pot and I'll pour me a shot
A cup, a cup, a cup, yeah

Oh, trow me that slug from the wonderful mug
And I'll cut a rug till I'm snug in a jug
Drop a nickel in my pot, Joe, a take 'em slow
Waiter, waiter, percolator

I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me, yeah
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, bong
Check out the Tuesday gathering at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog, where we share beverage-related posts once a week.

This post has been scheduled in advance. I have a bad cough, congestion and achiness -seems to be a virus that's going around- and I feel terrible. Chances are I'm drinking hot, sweet tea (my beverage of choice when I'm puny). I'm probably piled up in bed or on the couch in front of a movie, and I won't be able to visit folks. Stay well, and I'll visit next week.

Monday, May 02, 2016

The Touch

The Touch is a 1971 Ingmar Bergman film starring Elliott Gould, Bibi Andersson and Max von Sydow. Opinions on Bergman differ in our house. I like his work and have yet to see one of his films I wouldn't watch again. The Younger Son won't watch anything else by him, having not liked what he's seen so far. The Husband is indifferent. This is far from Bergman's best film and certainly not one to watch if you haven't already seen movies by this director. That said, I found it an interesting look at a marriage and the affair that made everything worse.

from the IMDb:
A seemingly happy Swedish housewife and mother begins an adulterous affair with a foreign archaeologist who is working near her home. But he is an emotionally scarred man, a Jewish survivor from a concentration camp who found refuge in the U.S.,and, consequently, their relationship will be painfully difficult. -Written by h9g
via Youtube:

Senses of Cinema calls it a disaster. Roger Ebert doesn't like it, calling it "not only a disappointment but an unexpected failure of tone from a director to whom tone has usually been second nature." It has a 50% critics score at Rotten Tomatoes.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

On May 1, 1990, something changed inside me

May 1, 1990:

by Adrian Belew

Lyrics excerpt:
I lived inside a tear
Time magnified my fear
That the world around me
Was only getting more severe

On May 1, 1990
Something changed inside me
And I, I saw the stars align
And I knew that it was meant to be

I didn't know at the time
My heart was on the line
But the world was turning
And suddenly the sun was shining

On May 1, 1990
Something changed inside me
And I, I saw the stars align
And I knew that it was meant to be

In a city by the sun
A city by the sun
In a city by the sun

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Where Is the Friend's House?

Where Is the Friend's House? is an Iranian film written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami. It follows a boy as he searches for the house of a friend so he can return a lost school book. Their school work must be done in the composition book, and this book belongs to a child in another village who has already gotten in trouble 3 times for not having his book. The child's teacher has threatened him with expulsion if it happens again. This is an engrossing movie. I feel like I now know these people better than they know each other.

I watched it online with English subtitles, but now I can't even find a subtitled trailer. Very frustrating.

DVD Beaver calls it "a film of classic depth". Cinema of the World and Time Out have positive articles. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Beyond the Law

Ah, Lee Van Cleef! We love you so! Beyond the Law is a 1968 spaghetti western. I swear I don't know why Lee Van Cleef is not more universally acknowledged as the treasure he is. In this he plays an outlaw determined to turn over a new leaf.

A Fistful of Pasta says, "Van Cleef actually breaks out of the steely-eyed persona we're accustomed to and does some pretty decent acting, but his character is so wishy-washy, he can't save it." DVD Talk says,
This is a fun film that has developed a bad reputation amongst genre fans over the years. That bad reputation was largely due to the film's shocking presentation on home video. Poor quality pan and scan presentations that were indiscriminately edited to shorten the film's running time made the show look like a real mess. Add to this some fans' reluctance to accept Lee Van Cleef in such a different role and you have a film that became unjustly neglected.
10K Bullets calls it "above average" and says, "Lee Van Cleef really steals the show as Billy Joe Cudlip as he evolves from cold hearted bad guy into an honorable man."

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon (2013) is the 14th book in the Alexander McCall Smith The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. If you want a traditional mystery or detective story you won't find it here, but these books are wonderful explorations of character and scenery. There's even a little mystery included. These must be read in order to understand and appreciate what's going on. I love this series and look forward to many more to come.

from the back of the book:
Precious Ramotswe has her hands full with two puzzling cases. The first concerns a young man hoping to claim his inheritance at his uncle’s farm. The farmer’s lawyer fears that this self-professed nephew may be falsely impersonating the real heir, and asks Mma Ramotswe to look into his identity. The second involves the just-opened Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon, which has been shadowed by misfortune, from bad omens in the mail to swirling rumors that its products are dangerous. The salon’s proprietor fears that someone is trying to put her out of business —but who? Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe has come to suspect that her intrepid associate Grace Makutsi is pregnant —though Mma Makutsi has mentioned nothing.

With genuine warmth, sympathy, and wit, Alexander McCall Smith explores marriage, parenthood, and the importance of the traditions that shape and guide our lives.
favorite quotes:
And with that, she felt that most exquisite, and regrettably rare, of pleasures -that of welcoming back one who has left your life. e cannot do that with late people, Mma Ramotswe thought, much as we would love to be able to do so, but we can do it with the living.
She looked out of the window. Sometimes it was important simply to get out. It did not matter where you went, as long as you got out of the office, or the kitchen, or any other place where duty required you to be, and went to some other place that you did not have to be. So she did not have to be in Mochudi, or in her garden, or on the verandah of the President Hotel. If she were in any of these places, it would be because she had chosen to be standing at the top of the hill in Mochudi looking down over the village and hearing the sound of the cattle bells; or tending a plant that needed moving from one spot to another so as to get the beneft of a patch of shade; or simply drinking tea in the presence of others who were doing the same thing.
It was an exchange they had had countless times before -one of those rituals between friends that never change very much yet never seem to grow stale.

The Washington Times has a positive review. The Boston Globe concludes a positive review with this: "Precious Ramotswe’s adventures, as inconsequential as they may seem, do not so much offer an escape from life’s woes as a suggestion for how to make the whole deal more palatable -fragility, fruit cake, and all." Publishers Weekly says that "the book’s appeal lies less in deduction than irrepressible characters, intriguing local lore, and bone-deep love of Africa."

The CS Monitor calls it "a particularly endearing entry in the long-running series, which has lost none of its gentleness or its love for Botswana, of which McCall Smith clearly has fond memories." Kirkus Reviews closes by saying, "A little slower-moving and more diffuse than many of the 13 preceding volumes in this celebrated series ..., but it’s no more than you’d expect from a heroine whose fleetness has never been as big a draw as her wisdom."

I've read these others from this series:

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Kalahari Typing School for Men
The Full Cupboard of Life
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Blue Shoes and Happiness
The Good Husband from Zebra Drive
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built
The Miracle at Speedy Motors
The Double Comfort Safari Club
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


L'Eclisse is a 1962 Italian film directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and starring Alain Delon. More character- than plot-driven, the movie centers on a young woman who leaves one lover and finds another. It won the Special Jury Prize at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival. I'm still struck by the experience of watching it; it's astonishing.


I watched it free with commercials at Hulu, where it's currently behind a paywall.

Senses of Cinema calls it " a remarkable work". Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 5 stars. The NYT concludes, "The virtual orchestration of graphic detail that Antonioni has managed here, the interesting blend of the human idea with pictorial chic, is affectingly complemented by an excellent musical score."

BFI calls it "one of the most disturbing films about life and relationships in the mid-20th century". Empire Online says, "Michelangelo Antonioni has managed to make a film about the humdrum and make it simultaneously tedious and wonderful." It's included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 92%.