Saturday, December 03, 2016

Christmas Music

Every year I delete some pieces from my Spotify Christmas music playlist, and I add others. It gets longer every year. I like a variety of types of music, so my playlist is eclectic, but there are also many traditional tracks. You can listen to it here:

Friday, December 02, 2016

Scandal

Scandal is a 1950 Akira Kurosawa film starring ToshirĊ Mifune (one of our favorites) and Takashi Shimura (another of our favorites). Since the director and both lead actors are can't-miss attractions in my book, this movie is a must-see.

There is a scene that takes place during the Christmas season that includes a Christmas tree and a singing of Silent Night:



trailer:



I watched it when Hulu offered it free. They aren't that friendly anymore.

The New York Times concludes, "Like all Kurosawa films, ''Scandal'' is motivated by considerations of humanity and justice, but rarely has the director been so witty or even as subversive as the movie must have seemed to thinking Japanese in 1950." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 83%.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Now the first of December was covered with snow

Sweet Baby James:



by James Taylor

Lyrics excerpt:
Now the First of December was covered with snow
And so was the Turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston
Lord, the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frostin'
With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Easiest (for me) Houseplants

I don't like babying and pampering plants only to have them die on me. I'm willing to try a plant 2 or 3 times, but if it continues to die I don't get more of them. Jade plants, for example, always die at my hands. I've had several over a span of decades, and they always die. I've been told how easy they are. I've been shown fine specimens that have survived abuse at the hands of others. I'm done. Truly. I'll give my love to plants that seem to appreciate it.

These are the plants that seem to most appreciate what I'm able to provide:



Pothos is generally considered one of the easiest. I have several, including the mother plant that came from my great aunt's house by way of my mother. There are care tips at HealthyHouseplants.com, BalconyContainerGardening.com, OurHouseplants.com, and WikiHow.



The Peace Lily is another plant universally acclaimed as being easy as pie. I'm telling you, I just don't mess with delicate flowers that languish. Like with pothos, I have several of these, as I separate them and plant them in smaller pots. Large pots are just too difficult for me to manage as I move them onto my patio during the warmer weather. Southern Living Magazine calls it the perfect house plant. See care instructions at HealthyHouseplants.com, BalconyContainerGardening.com, OurHouseplants.com, and WikiHow.

Sansevieria (mother-in-law tongue or snake plant):


The start of this plant came in a dish garden that was sent to my daddy's funeral. One by one, all the other plants died, but my mother kept re-potting this into bigger pots as it grew and grew. She eventually divided it, and my sister and I each got a huge plant. I have several of these, too. It will bloom, which surprises people who keep them in dark corners. These websites (and many others, of course) provide information on caring for these plants: HealthyHouseplants.com, OurHouseplants.com, and WikiHow.

Rubber Tree:


My rubber tree is entirely too big, multi-branched and in a pot that's awkward and takes up too much space inside. Every year I take cuttings and pot them in small pots and vow to get rid of the big plant. Every year it somehow ends up back inside for the winter. Maybe this year.... Care instructions can be found at OurHousePlants.com and WikiHow, among other places.

Dracaena Marginata:


Here's another one I have several of. When my original plant got too tall, I cut off the top and stuck it down in the pot. The one end sprouted new growth, and the other rooted. I was amazed. You can find care instructions online, including at OurHousePlants.com and WikiHow

There are several other kinds of houseplants I have, but I haven't had them long enough to know if they'll thrive where I am. I'm pretty sure my one attempt at an orchid is a failure, as it was in bloom when I got it but now -3 years later- it hasn't bloomed again. The verdict's still out on my asparagus fern and my parlor palm, though I have high hopes for them. Succulents don't do well for me, and neither do Norfolk Island Pines. Both of these have been popular at various times, and I've tried to grow them but failed each time.

I'm always looking for suggestions for easy-to-grow houseplants that would be happy on the patio during the warmer weather.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Coffee with James Baldwin


James Baldwin was an American author, who moved to France when he was 24 and lived there much of the rest of his life. He found the prejudice in the USA against African Americans and homosexuals frustrating and sought a more congenial environment. He died of cancer on December 1, 1987, when he was 63 years old. The photo above was taken in France.

from his 1956 novel Giovanni's Room:
Sometimes, in the days which are coming -God grant me the grace to live them- in the glare of the grey morning, sour-mouthed, eyelids raw and red, hair tangled and damp from my stormy sleep, facing, over coffee and cigarette smoke, last night's impenetrable, meaningless boy who will shortly rise and vanish like the smoke, I will see Giovanni again, as he was that night, so vivid, so winning, all of the light of that gloomy tunnel trapped around his head.
from "A Negro Assays on the Negro Mood," The New York Times, 12 March 1961:
At the rate things are going here, all of Africa will be free before we can get a lousy cup of coffee.
I think the coffee maker in the photo here is of an espresso maker. One of these days, I think I'd enjoy having an espresso machine to play with. I don't want to spend money on an expensive electric contraption, and the only stovetop units I've seen work better on a gas stove. I've quit actively searching for one, but perhaps I'll come across something someday.

Please join the T Tuesday gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth and share your beverage of choice with us.

When Harry Met Sally

When Harry Met Sally 1989 Rob Reiner comedy starring Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, and Carrie Fisher. The Husband and I both enjoyed this one. It's a really sweet -but not too sweet- romantic comedy. I chose it because part of it takes place during the fall of the year. There are also a couple of Christmas and New Year's Eve scenes, so this would make a good change from the usual holiday mainstays.

trailer:


The Guardian has a positive review. Rolling Stone calls it "a ravishing, romantic lark brimming over with style, intelligence and flashing wit."

Roger Ebert says, "what makes it special, apart from the Ephron screenplay, is the chemistry between Crystal and Ryan." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 89%.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Christmas Movies


As you start getting in the mood for Christmas and are looking for something to watch, I'd like to invite you to check out a list of holiday fare here. They are in order by year, oldest listed first, and many are available to watch online. You can find everything from live action and cartoon shorts dating from the early days of film to names of current TV show episodes.

May I ask a favor? Two favors, actually:
  1. If you see any links that aren't working I'd appreciate a heads up in the comment section of the defective post; and
  2. Please pass along any suggestions for seasonal shows I've missed.
Thanks!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Day the Rabbi Resigned


The Day the Rabbi Resigned by Harry Kemelman is the 11th in the 12 Rabbi Small mystery series. I like these books. I enjoy the Rabbi and his wife Miriam, and I've learned a lot about Jewish religious life from them. I pick these books up whenever I come across them.

from the dust jacket:
So he's back. Rabbi David Small, that is. The best-loved and most unorthodox rabbi ever seen in or out of temple. Part Talmudic scholar, part Sherlock Holmes, Rabbi Small has been delighting mystery fans for twenty-five years. The New Yorker calls Harry Kemelman's Rabbi Small books "first rate" and The Cleveland Plain Dealer says they are "delightfully different." The Houston Chronicle declares him "America's favorite kosher detective."

Now the bad news. The rabbi wants to leave. Although his years at Barnard's Crossing have never been dull, Rabbi Small is bored with clerical duties and wants to teach. But before he can say alma mater, the rabbi is enlisted by Police Chief Hugh Lanigan, his partner in crime-solving, to set his scholar's mind to a drunk driving accident that looks like murder.

Victor Joyce, a local college professor who'd do anything for tenure, was known around the quad as much for his extracurricular activities as for his classroom demeanor. Joyce had been drinking heavily the night his car was stopped by a massive tree trunk on the side of a dark road. But when Dr. Abner Gorfinkle passed by the wreck, the victim was definitely not dead, just unconscious -which makes Rabbi Small consider the victim's demise a suspicious turn of events indeed.

Chief Lanigan and the wise rabbi discover that there were quite a number of "innocent" citizens driving down the seldom-used road on that rainy Saturday night. And any one of them could have had it in for the not-so-revered-professor. But it is Rabbi Small, combining the wisdom of Solomon with an analyst's understanding of his fellow man (and woman), who ingeniously lays out all the answers like a delicious holiday feast.
The New York Times says, "Very smooth, this, and wonderfully sly." Publishers Weekly closes by saying, "Lively dialogue, dry wit and wonderfully authentic detail make this a sure winner." Kirkus Reviews has a short review.

I've read these:
#1 Friday the Rabbi Slept Late (1964) (read in January, 2006)
#3 Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home
#6 Wednesday the Rabbi Got Wet
#7 Thursday the Rabbi Walked Out
#10 One Fine Day the Rabbi Bought a Cross (1987) (read in March, 2006)



Friday, November 25, 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Blue Calhoun

photo from Amazon.com

Blue Calhoun is a 1992 novel by Reynolds Price. from the back of the book:
"This starts with the happiest I ever was, though it brought down suffering on everybody near me. Short as it lasted and long ago, I've never laid it all out yet, not start to finish. But if I try and half succeed, you may wind up understanding things, choosing a better road for yourself and maybe not blaming the dead past but living for the here and now, each day a clean page."

April 28, 1956, was the day Blue Calhoun met a sixteen-year-old girl named Luna. And for the next three decades, their love has borne consequences of the most shattering -- and ultimately, perhaps healing -- kind for everyone they know. As Blue recounts the years and their events for us -- fervently, tenderly, knowing full well his own deep responsibility -- we are made witnesses to a story of classic dimensions, a story of love and suffering, family and friendship, death and redemption.
I started this book, having read and enjoyed novels by this author before, but I didn't finish it. I'll just say I agreed with these reviewers and let it go at that:

The New York Times closes with this: "Reynolds Price is too good a novelist to continue in this vein very long. I would like to think that something more characteristic of his strengths is already in the works." Kirkus Reviews calls it a melodrama and concludes, "The characters speak to each other in conspicuously sad/wise parables; themes are paired too smoothly; and a certain gooey smugness -in the classical self-condemnatory/self-congratulatory mode- lurks everywhere."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hour of the Wolf

Hour of the Wolf is a 1968 Ingmar Bergman psychological/horror film starring Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann. I am alone in my family for liking Bergman's films, but I always seem to get into them.

You can watch it online at Veoh.com. or via Youtube:



Empire Online concludes, "A must for fans of horror and of Bergman. So good it makes you wish he had dabbled in the genre that bit more often." Bright Lights Film Journal has an article. Moria gives it 4 out of 5 stars. DVD Talk gives it a positive review.

HorrorNews.net says,
Explained in the film’s tagline, “The hour of the wolf is the hour between night and dawn. It is the hour when most people die, when sleep is deepest, when nightmares are most real. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their deepest fear, when ghosts and demons are most powerful. It is also the hour when most children are born.” And so the audience must decipher whether these fears and demons are physical or psychological.

The New York Times says, "it is unthinkable for anyone seriously interested in movies not to see it." Time Out calls it "A brilliant Gothic fantasy".

Roger Ebert says, "if we allow the images to slip past the gates of logic and enter the deeper levels of our mind, and if we accept Bergman's horror story instead of questioning it, "Hour of the Wolf" works magnificently." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 88%.