Thursday, April 24, 2014

Middle Age: A Romance

Middle Age: A Romance is a 2001 Joyce Carol Oates book, her 29th novel.

Do all books center on death and loss, or does it just feel that way to me these days? In this book, members of this man's social circle react differently to his death.

from the back of the book:
In Salthill-on-Hudson, a half-hour train ride from Manhattan, everyone is rich, beautiful, and -though they look much younger- middle-aged. But when Adam Berendt, a charismatic, mysterious sculptor, dies suddenly in a brash act of heroism, shock waves rock the town. But who was Adam Berendt? Was he in fact a hero, or someone more flawed and human?
favorite quotes:
The philosopher is one who practices dying, practices death, continuously, but no one sees it.
It is trifles that constitute our lives. It is trifles that kill us.
...questions involving the obvious are the hardest to answer.
Books that are mentioned as having been read by the main character: Lucretius' On the Nature of Things, Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Whitman's Leaves of Grass

Kirkus Reviews says, "Middle Age has its moments, but it’s basically redundant and shapeless". The Guardian calls Oates "a massive literary heavyweight". The Christian Science Monitor describes the book this way: ""Middle Age" isn't a romance in the sense of a love story [I find it sad that a reviewer has to actually say this]. What Oates romanticizes -to an absurd degree- is her deceased hero, Adam Berendt, a reclusive, one-eyed sculptor and disciple of Socrates who lived for Art and Beauty and questioned everything else." The Barcelona Review says,
We may laugh at some of the characters in their misguided search for love and self-knowledge - and laugh we do - but Oates makes us care about them, too. The novel succeeds in giving us a memorable cast of "youthful" middle-aged characters from upper-class suburbia doing the best they can.
There is a reading group guide here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gunfight at Red Sands

Gunfight at Red Sands is a 1963 Spaghetti Western starring Richard Harrison. The brilliant Ennio Morricone (who still performs at age 85) did the music. Although Morricone was given an honorary career achievement Academy Award, he has strangely not won an Academy Award for any of his film scores. This is a good spaghetti western. In this one the foolish younger brother indiscreetly shows off the family's gold to the evil gringo card cheats. The sister is angry. The elder brother is the hero of the piece.

from the theme song:
"Keep your hand on your gun.
You can't trust anyone."

via youtube: says it's "a simple film, but possibly the best of the European pre-Fistful westerns." Images Journal calls it a "notable film" of the period.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Whimsy Cookies

There's no place to sit down in the Whimsy Cookie Company, but doesn't this place look cute! I think they need a couple or 3 little tables with chairs in front of the windows. We bought our cookies and brought them back here to have with coffee:

Oh, these cookies are sooo good! Beautiful, too, but we ate them anyway. They are $3 a piece. We will definitely go back there! I'm always pleased when a new business, especially one as fun as this one, opens up near me.

Memphis Magazine covers their move into Memphis from Germantown (a Memphis suburb). Yelp gives it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars with 3 reviews.

This post is part of the weekly T Tuesday festivities over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog. Make yourself at home with the Mr. Linky on the post there.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Feather's Not A Bird

A Feather's Not A Bird:

by Rosanne Cash.

I'm going down to Florence, gonna wear a pretty dress
I'll sit atop the magic wall with the voices in my head
Then we'll drive on through to Memphis, past the strongest shoals
Then on to Arkansas just to touch the gumbo soul

A feather's not a bird
The rain is not the sea
A stone is not a mountain
But a river runs through me

There's never any highway when you're looking for the past
The land becomes a memory and it happens way too fast
The money's all in Nashville but the light's inside my head
So I'm going down to Florence just to learn to love the thread

A feather's not a bird
The rain is not the sea
A stone is not a mountain
But a river runs through me

I burned up seven lives and I used up all my charms
I took the long way home just to end up in your arms
That's why I'm going down to Florence, now I got my pretty dress
I'm gonna let the magic wall put the voices in my head

A feather's not a bird
The rain is not the sea
A stone is not a mountain
But a river runs through me

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Death Race 2

Death Race: 2 is a prequel film to Death Race. This will be the shortest post ever: Don't bother. Even though it has Sean Bean, this movie is not worth seeing. It's slow, boring, and it has more of nothing and less of anything than I've ever seen.


It's badness has inspired The Younger Son and me to put it at the top of a list of post-1990 films that are bad but not bad in a way that makes you want to say, "This is horrible! You hafta see this!"

The list so far:
Death Race 2
In the Name of the King 2
Green Lantern
Hulk movies

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 17%.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Escape from New York

Escape from New York is one of those movies I'll watch anytime. The last time I saw it was a little over a year ago while I was at Mother's. She wasn't doing well, so I stayed. I found this movie on one of her cable channels, so I watched it while she was abed. This time, The Younger Son put it in to watch while he ate lunch.

It's a 1981 John Carpenter science fiction film, starring Kurt Russell as Snake Plisskin, Lee Van Cleef (one of my favorite actors), Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbeau. A remake is being contemplated, but as long as this one is so watchable I don't know why they'd bother.


Moria praises the cast, especially Kurt Russell, saying of him that "his best work was always with John Carpenter and the finest of all his performances was here as Snake Plissken." Slant Magazine gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars. Empire Online says, "Boasting one of the most iconic characters ever in Plissken, and an effective sci-fi set-up, this is entertainment of the highest order." Time Out gives it 4 out of 5 stars. DVD Talk says,
there's something about Escape From New York now, even after the many "guy movies" that have been released since, which keeps it head and shoulders above the rest. ... whatever the reason, it has a devoted core audience that puts it at the top of a short list of cult films to watch on a Saturday night.
Roger Ebert doesn't appreciate this gem, and says, "Everything is here, and it all works fairly well, but it never quite comes together into an involving story or an overpowering adventure." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 83%.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto

Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto is the first film in the Samurai trilogy, directed by Hiroshi Inagaki and starring the great Toshiro Mifune. This is #14 in the Criterion film collection. It won best foreign film in the 1955 Academy Awards. This is an action-filled character study. Excellent story based on a historical figure.

fan trailer:

Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have a critics score, but the audience score is 84%. TCM has an overview.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Child in Time

The Child in Time is a 1987 Whitbread Prize-winning novel by Ian McEwan. It takes place in a near-future dystopia and deals with the relativity of time and the effect of deep personal loss on life and relationships. This has been a difficult read, dealing with loss as it does.

description from
Stephen Lewis, a successful writer of children's books, is confronted with the unthinkable: his only child, three-year-old Kate, is snatched from him in a supermarket. In one horrifying moment that replays itself over the years that follow, Stephen realizes his daughter is gone.With extraordinary tenderness and insight, Booker Prize–winning author Ian McEwan takes us into the dark territory of a marriage devastated by the loss of a child. Kate's absence sets Stephen and his wife, Julie, on diverging paths as they each struggle with a grief that only seems to intensify with the passage of time. Eloquent and passionate, the novel concludes in a triumphant scene of love and hope that gives full rein to the author's remarkable gifts. The winner of the Whitbread Prize, The Child in Time is an astonishing novel by one of the finest writers of his generation.
my favorite quotes:
Thre was no single action for which Stephen could generate a motive. He saw no point in being warm, or in having socks or teeth. He could carry out simple commands so long as he did not have to reflect on their rationale.
The constant urban rumble could not mitigate the burdensome silence that emanated from the carpet's deep pile, the fleecy towels on the wooden stand, the granite folds of the velvet curtain. Still dressed, he lay on his back on the bed. He was waiting for the pictures, the ones he could only dispel by jerking his head.
... however familiar, parents are also strangers to their children.
If he could live in the present he might breathe freely. But I don't like the present, he thought, and picked up his things.
He mentions the books of his adolescence, naming Hemingway, Chandler and Kerouac.

Several pieces of music are mentioned, including "a Bach partita". This is Bach Partita #1:

He also mentions the Schubert C major quintet, particularly the Adagio:

Kirkus Reviews calls this book "a work of remarkable intellectual and political sophistication--his most expansive and passionate fiction to date."

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Winterhawk is a 1975 Western starring Leif Erickson (I know him best as Big John Cannon in the TV series The High Chaparral), Woody Strode, Denver Pyle, L.Q. Jones, Michael Dante, Elisha Cook, Jr (who was in an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series), Dawn Wells (better known as Mary Ann on the Gilligan's Island TV series) and Dennis Fimple.

This is a beautiful movie to watch. The plot is straightforward and interesting. The acting is good. The characterizations of both native tribespeoples and white traders and settlers avoid racist over-generalizations. Not that you should expect historical accuracy, mind you, and I found the soundtrack annoying; but it's an enjoyable modern Western.

Youtube has it with embedding disabled here.

trailer (in Italian?):

Roger Ebert likes it, saying, ""Winterhawk" is a traditional Western, simply and well told, almost old-fashioned in the clarity of its narrative." Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have any critics reviews but has an audience score of 60%. TCM has an overview and this synopsis:
The members of the Blackfoot tribe are dying from a smallpox epidemic, so their Chief Winterhawk goes off in search of a cure. On the way he is ambushed and in retaliation he later kidnaps two white men. The men come to respect Winterhawk, but a search party is hunthing for them and there is no telling what the outcome of the dangerous situation will be.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

T.S. Eliot began writing The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock in February of 1910 and first published it over 5 years later. You can read an annotated edition online here. Poor J. Alfred Prufrock longs to express his love, yet he does not dare.

This is one of those famous literary works that offers tea, including in this section:
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

And in short, I was afraid.
How sad: the risk not taken, eternal regret.

Listen to Eliot reading it:

"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons."

Bleubeard and Elizabeth offer a way to connect with others on Tuesdays at this link at their blog.