Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Body's a Zombie For You

My Body's a Zombie For You is a Dead Man's Bones song. They have a myspace page where you can listen to the album.



HT: NPR, who titles their article "Halloween Arrives Early".

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Polanski comment

Of all the comments I've seen on the current Polanski situation, this one from The Kind of Face You Hate struck me most:
no amount of commentary will convince anyone that if Polanski wasn't an acclaimed film director... but rather, say, a priest, no one in Hollywood would be lining up to sign petitions demanding his release.

The Boston Globe makes the same point, asking, "What if Polanski were an abusive priest?" and quoting several ministers and other commentators who feel the same way.

And Salon.com says, "Drugging and raping a child, then leaving the country before you can be sentenced for it, is behavior our society should not tolerate, no matter how famous, wealthy or well-connected you are," and asks this:
Roman Polanski raped a child. Let's just start right there, because that's the detail that tends to get neglected when we start discussing whether it was fair for the bail-jumping director to be arrested at age 76, after 32 years in "exile" (which in this case means owning multiple homes in Europe, continuing to work as a director, marrying and fathering two children, even winning an Oscar, but never -- poor baby -- being able to return to the U.S.). Let's keep in mind that Roman Polanski gave a 13-year-old girl a Quaalude and champagne, then raped her,
...
Can we do that? Can we take a moment to think about all that, and about the fact that Polanski pled guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, before we start talking about what a victim he is?

The LA Times writer has this:
...a petition calling for Polanski to be freed immediately.

What, because he won an Oscar? Would they speak up for a sex offender who hadn't?

To hear these people tell it, you'd think Polanski was the victim rather than the teenager.

And then there's Woody Allen, who has signed the petition too.

Woody Allen?

10/6/2009: /film has a link to a NYTimes overview.

11/2/2009: Bright Lights Film Journal asks, "What's on trial?"

Happy Birthday, Phantom Tollbooth!

The Britannica Blog, who says the book was "first published in September 1961," reports:
Juster taught his young readers to question authority, to question generally, to read and inquire, and certainly to leave a kindly mark on the world.
...
Not quite half a century old and showing no signs of age, The Phantom Tollbooth well deserves its status as a literary classic. It’s not bad reading for kids, either.

I've loved Norton Juster's book The Phantom Tollbooth since I first discovered it all those decades ago, and a hardback copy holds a permanent place on my bookshelves. You can read excerpts here. It's been made into a film, which is not available on DVD, is online at youtube in 14 parts. part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12, part 13, part 14

Moria gives the film 4 stars and closes by saying, "The film was unfortunately not a success and was little seen in its time. It has however slowly developed a reputation through tv release." The Guardian puts the book #1 in its "book lover's guide to building a brilliant children's library". Another Guardian reviewer says, "The Phantom Tollbooth is a spry allegory and a call to attention. It lodged in my imagination from the first childhood reading; returning to it now ... I find it oddly inspiring." Steven Wu says it's a dazzling book for children, "But adults who have had the misfortune of never reading The Phantom Tollbooth will likely find it a charming tale--but nothing more."

Favorite 1920's Horror Films

The Vault of Horror lists their top 10:
1. Nosferatu (1922)
2. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1920)
3. The Golem (1920)
4. The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
5. Faust (1926)
6. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
7. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
8. Haxan (1922)
9. Dr. Mabuse (1922)
10. The Man Who Laughs (1928)

I've linked to my own posts if I have them.

I like this list. I'd love to see the last 2 but just haven't gotten to them yet.

Monday, September 28, 2009

All the Single Ladies video fun

a baby gets in on the fun:



Before that there was Joe Jonas' lame attempt:


and the hysterical SNL skit with Justin Timberlake:
Justin/Beyonce single ladies


and the original, which prompted so much creative play:

American Girl

American Girl is a 1977 song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers:



This song is on the list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Asashoryu wins Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament


The Japan Times reports he "pulled off the improbable to claim his 24th Emperor's Cup at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday."

Here is a video report, including Asashoryu's victory on Day 15, the final day of the tournament:

Their Eyes Were Watching God

I looked over my shelves in search of a book from the banned classics list that I hadn't already read, and all I could find were Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and Ulysses by James Joyce. I picked the Hurston book to read in observance of Banned Books Week.

from Wikipedia:
Their Eyes Were Watching God is a 1937 novel and the best-known work by African American writer Zora Neale Hurston. Set in central and southern Florida in the early 20th century, the novel garnered attention and controversy at the time of its publication, and has come to be regarded as a seminal work in both African American literature and women's literature. Time included the novel in its TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.

There are several reviews from the time of the book's publication here.

Turkish Star Wars

Turkish Star Wars is the commonly used way of referring to the 1982 Turkish film Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam (The Man Who Saves the World). I didn't make it through the entire film.

GoogleVideo has it online:


Rotten Tomatoes has links to only 2 reviews. The film is just as bad as you may have heard it is. The subtitles are bizarre:
And with all their power they initiated relentless struggle and effort to find immortality and sustain continuous life. In this era earth nations, civilizations, races and religions ceased to be separate nations and did become one entity. Only one earthly life form and tribe consisted the humans of the earth in galaxy age. Earth was facing the danger of extinction as a result of a crazy nuclear armament. Earth had avoided such dangers a couple of times before; not single force had been able to destroy the earth. However, in some cases earth had been disintegrated into parts. Parts which fragmented off from the earth had become meteor rocks in space. On some planets life was still going on.

The mind boggles.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Mind to Murder

A Mind to Murder is the 2nd novel in the Adam Dalgliesh mystery series by P.D. James. I have several more of these in my tbr stack.

from the back of the book:
When the administrative head of the Steen Psychiatric Clinic is found dead with a chisel in her heart, Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. Dalgliesh must analyze the deep-seated anxieties and thwarted desires of patients and staff alike to determine which of their unresolved conflicts resulted in murder.

With "discernment, depth, and craftsmanship," wrote the Chicago Daily News, A Mind to Murder "is a superbly satisfying mystery."

I've also read these other books from the series:

#1 Cover Her Face
#5 The Black Tower
#7 A Taste for Death
#10 A Certain Justice
#11 Death in Holy Orders

Friday, September 25, 2009

Buried Deep

Buried Deep is 4th in the Retrieval Artist series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I read the third in this series recently and enjoyed it so much I jumped straight into the only other one I had here. I was not disappointed. I guess I'll have to order the first 2 used online, since they seem to be out of print and I can't find them used locally.

The game of Go is mentioned on page 302: ""Go was a game of strategy. It suited the devious mind."

from the back of the book:
Forensic anthropologist Aisha Costard has been summoned to Mars to examine skeletal remains recently discovered beneath a building erected by the Disty aliens. The bones belong to a human woman who vanished thirty years ago with her children. She is believed to have been one of the Disappeared, outlaws wanted for crimes against alien civilizations.

To investigate the mystery of the skeleton, Aisha turns to Retrieval Artist Miles Flint. Following the trail back three decades and seeking the whereabouts of the victim's missing children, Miles discovers a deadly secret that could threaten the stability of the entire solar system...


SFRevu closes their review with this: "Buried Deep is an exciting, intricately plotted, fast-paced novel. You'll find it difficult to put down. Highly recommended for both fans of the Retrieval Artist series and newcomers."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Black Is the Color of My True Love's Heart

Black Is the Color of My True Love's Heart is the sixth in the Inspector Felse mysteries and the fifth that I have read. The author has written under several names and uses Ellis Peters for this series. I continue to enjoy the books in the series and like them better as time passes.

from the back of the book:
The brilliantly talented singer Liri Palmer is obviously sending a message to someone in the audience. Various musicians and students are gathered for a folk music seminar at the fantastic neo-Gothic country mansion called Follymead. Most come only to sing or to listen, but one or two have non musical scores to settle. Passions run high; there is trouble brewing at Follymead.

Among the music students are Tossa Barber and her boyfriend, Dominic Felse. When tragedy strikes, Dominic privately enlists the aid of his father, Detective Inspector George Felse, to piece together a broken tune of murder.

I have also read these others in the series:

1. Fallen Into the Pit
2. Death and the Joyful Woman
3. Flight of a Witch
4. A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Consequences

Consequences is one of the books in the Retrieval Artist series by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It's 3rd in the series but the 1st I've read. I liked this a lot and went to Borders to see if I could find any more of them, having picked up the 2 I have at a used book store. Nothing by this author was on the shelf. I looked her up on Amazon.com, and it seems the first and second books in the series are out of print. What a shame. Amazon does have copies listed from other vendors.

from the back of the book:
Officer Noelle DeRicci is investigating a murder in the domed colony of Armstrong on the Moon. The victim was one of the Disappeared - outlaws in hiding who are wanted for crimes against alien civilizations - whose family had her brought home, believing she was no longer in danger.

Retrieval Artist Miles Flint is responsible for putting the dead woman in harm's way. He may be the only one with the information needed to solve the case. Now, with DeRicci pressing him for answers he's not ready to give, he must relive the events that led up to his client's death, including her role in a war between humans and a mysterious alien race. And that ongoing war continues to escalate - and threatens to consume the entire solar system...

SFRevu likes the book and closes with this:
Readers who enjoyed the previous books in the series will definitely want to read this one as well, and new readers should not be put off by the fact that it is the third in the series, since it works equally well as a stand-alone novel.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Concourse

Concourse is another in the Bill Smith/Lydia Chin mystery series by S.J. Rozan. I'm surprised to see there is still no Wikipedia article on this author. These books and characters have grown on me as I read more of them. Bill Smith is the main character in this one, though Lydia Chin is prominently featured. The author has an excerpt here. She also quotes from a few reviews.

from the back of the book:
It flows through the Bronx like a river between banks of faded elegance. And at the end of the avenue called the Grand Concourse is the place people go to die, the Bronx Home for the Aged. The only trouble is the people dying there are going before their time.

Bill Smith has been hired by an old friend to investigate the brutal killing of a young security guard on the Bronx Home grounds. Going undercover, Smith wades out into a sea of violence and lies washing up against the old brick building. When a second murder is committed, Smith knows that there's a method to the madness. With the help of bright, young Chinese-American investigator Lydia Chin, Smith uncovers a web of corruption that's found a home in the Bronx. Now he has to figure out who will die next.

Bill Smith plays the piano, and it's interesting to note what he's working on during the book and what he comments on in regards to music.

Others I've read from this series:

Reflecting the Sky
No Colder Place
Winter and Night

Monday, September 21, 2009

International Day of Peace

Today is the International Day of Peace, a day set aside by the United Nations to observe peace and nonviolence.

Pledge to spend one minute at noon today in prayer for peace:


There's a Facebook event. A schedule of local events for the month is here. Some local churches are involved. There is a World Peace Flame monument here. There will be a Peace Conference here next month.

All the Young Dudes

All the Young Dudes is a song written by David Bowie and performed by Mott the Hoople (1972):



This song is on the list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fire in the Sky

Fire in the Sky is a 1993 science fiction movie about an alien abduction. James Garner is in this one. Noble Willingham, who is in the Star Trek: TNG episode The Royale, is also in it. I didn't get very far with this one. Maybe some other time...

GoogleVideo has it online:


Variety calls it "unappealing". The New York Times says the film treats the supposedly true story on which it is based "with cautious, unimaginative, quite boring politeness." Roger Ebert doesn't completely pan it and gives it 2 1/2 stars.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Ahoy there, matey! Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day! There's a lot of information here. Mashable has extensive resources. NPR, I notice, has several related stories.

Alestorm has a song (via NPR) nicely suited for the day:

Keelhaul that filthy landlubber, send him down to the depths below!
Make that bastard walk the plank, with a bottle of rum and a yo-ho-ho!

You can get your very own pirate name here. Here's mine:

Iron Bess Bonney

A pirate's life isn't easy; it takes a tough person. That's okay with you, though, since you a tough person. You can be a little bit unpredictable, but a pirate's life is far from full of certainties, so that fits in pretty well. Arr!

Don't know how to talk like a pirate? Avast, me hearty, there's hope! There is an instructional wiki, or here's an instructional video that can help you get into the spirit of the day:


Another way to get into the proper spirit is to read books with pirates in them. Treasure Island is online, as are Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates and The Pirates Own Book by Charles Ellms.

AllRecipes.com has pirate recipes. Wired has directions for making a pirate map from a paper sack.

Or you could watch the Mary Martin "Peter Pan":
part 1

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12, part 13, part 14, part 15

There is a Facebook event page and several groups. This link is to the largest of the Facebook groups. For Pastafarians this is an important holiday.

Remember George Harrison? He could talk like a pirate before there was a holiday to celebrate it:

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind is a 1984 Hayao Miyazaki Japanese anime film. There are no worthwhile special features on our dvd. We watched the English dub, which features the voices of Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman, Chris Sarandon, Edward James Olmos, Shia LeBoeuf and Mark Hamill. This is not among my favorites of Miyazaki's work. It is slow moving, and Miyazaki does tend to fiddle on one string.

GoogleVideo has it online:


DVDTalk describes it as "epic adventure that can grab the attention of every age group." StompTokyo says,
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was Hayao Miyazaki's first chance to direct a film featuring his own characters, and he used that chance to fashion a fantasy world so complex and believable that it could be compared easily to the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien and George Lucas.

11/25/2009: FilmStudiesForFree has links to resources on Hayao Miyazaki.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Little Brother


Little Brother is a 2008 science fiction novel by Cory Doctorow. The author has made it freely available using a Creative Commons license. Here is the link to download it for free. It's available in many different formats, all hosted at that site. For example, the link to the pdf file is here.

I've seen talk of this bunches of places and can't remember now where I first heard that it was available for free online, but it was some time ago and may well have been from SFSignal.

The image at the top of the post is from the author's website.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

R.I.P. Mary Travers


Mary Travers has died of leukemia at the age of 72.

And When I Die:


obits:
New York Times
Rolling Stone
BBC
Huffington Post
Silence Isn't Golden
Positive Liberty
TPM
LeftWingCracker
NPR
Jesus Creed
News Hour
Tennessee Democratic Party

HT: Barb

The picture at the top of the post is of Peter, Paul and Mary in 2006 and is from Wikipedia Commons.

Letters from a Dead Man

Letters from a Dead Man (or Dead Man's Letters) is a 1986 Russian post-apocalyptic science fiction film directed by Konstantin Lopushansky, who also directed Ugly Swans. This reminds me a bit of Threads. I learned about this movie from the list I mentioned yesterday.

Youtube has it online in 8 pieces. part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8

Moria says, "Despite the bleakness of the subject, Letters from a Dead Man manages to be an extraordinarily optimistic film."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Before you watch The Road

Suite101.com offers a list of 7 apocalyptic films to watch first:
1. Ugly Swans (Gadkie lebedi)
2. Visitor of a Museum (Posetitel muzeya)
3. Letters from a Dead Man (Pisma myortvogo cheloveka)
4. The Final Combat (La [sic] Dernier Combat)
5. The Lathe of Heaven
6. Threads
7. O-Bi, O-Ba - The End of Civilization (O-bi, O-ba - Koniec cywilizacji)

I guess it's a good thing they've postponed release of The Road until Thanksgiving, so I can make time to watch the 4 of these 7 I haven't seen yet. I'll link to my posts as I see the films.

Monday, September 14, 2009

We're Number 37!

the #1 health care system in the world is in...

what?

France?



This article by T.R. Reid likens our current system to health care systems around the world:
In many ways, foreign health-care models are not really "foreign" to America, because our crazy-quilt health-care system uses elements of all of them. For Native Americans or veterans, we're Britain: The government provides health care, funding it through general taxes, and patients get no bills. For people who get insurance through their jobs, we're Germany: Premiums are split between workers and employers, and private insurance plans pay private doctors and hospitals. For people over 65, we're Canada: Everyone pays premiums for an insurance plan run by the government, and the public plan pays private doctors and hospitals according to a set fee schedule. And for the tens of millions without insurance coverage, we're Burundi or Burma: In the world's poor nations, sick people pay out of pocket for medical care; those who can't pay stay sick or die.

Video via LeftWingCracker

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Captain Kirk is Climbing a Mountain

and William Shatner is talking about it:



Here's the context:


I think I like the musical version better. Less wordy, more sex.

HT: Newscoma

Captain EO

Captain EO is a 1986 science fiction short film starring Michael Jackson and Anjelica Huston and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. George Lucas is the executive producer.

Daily Motion has it online:


There's a Facebook page. This reviewer says, "All right, so the plot is goofy, but it does have some very satisfying elements."

HT: /film

Saturday, September 12, 2009

John Brown

On my way to have coffee with a friend this afternoon I heard Maria Muldaur's version of John Brown on WEVL. I can't find a video of that one online anywhere, but here's Bob Dylan performing it live in 1995:


or in an earlier 1962 rendition here:


You can read the lyrics here.

Making The Shining

/film is full of good stuff this morning. Here is the documentary Making The Shining, made by Kubrick's daughter Vivian during actual filming:


Salon.com says, "it's worthwhile if only to see the legendary recluse as a working artist". Kamera has a review that says,
while unparalleled in its visual access to her late father's working methods, proves as frustrating for what is left unexplored as it is fascinating for its moments of revelation.

Judge me by my size, do you?

/film highlights this really cool environment in which to raise frogs:

They say, "I would have loved this when I was younger." Are they kidding? I'd love it now.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Kiki's Delivery Service

The Daughter picked this for tonight's movie. Kiki's Delivery Service is a 1989 Japanese anime film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. We watched the version dubbed in English, but I disliked the cat's voice so much I went back afterwards and watched some parts in Japanese. I much prefer the cat's Japanese voice.

It's online:
Kiki's Delivery service


Moria gives this one 5 stars. Variety calls it "breathtaking" and "top-drawer kiddie fare for both fans of the exotic and mainstream family auds." DecentFilms.com has a strange review, praising the movie for lacking "pagan themes" and, despite having a witch, being completely different from Rowling's Harry Potter stories. Stomp Tokyo defends the American cat's voice and says it's "excellent movie experience -- by any standard." Anime World closes its review with this:
Kiki's Delivery Service manages to be fun, fanciful, and thoroughly enjoyable without being the slightest bit inane. Any kid should love it, but don't dismiss it as a children's movie just because it's suitable for them; nearly anyone will find themselves so drawn into it that they're unable to stop watching, regardless of age. Most highly recommended to absolutely anyone with anything even resembling an inner child, Kiki's Delivery Service is the sort of movie with a subtle richness and sense of wonder that must be seen to be truly appreciated.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Freiheit by George Lucas

Freiheit (Freedom) is a 2 1/2 minute short film from George Lucas' student days back in 1966. It stars fellow student Randal Kleiser, who is also a director now.

It's newly online at youtube:


HT: Quiet Earth

The Telling

The Telling is a science fiction novel by Ursula Le Guin, part of her Hainish Cycle. It won the 2001 Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. There's an excerpt here. It came across as preachy to me.

from the book jacket:
In the latest novel in the Hainish cycle...

Sutty, an Observer for the interstellar Ekumen, has been assigned to Aka, a world in the grip of a materialistic government. The monolithic Corporation State of Aka has outlawed all old customs and beliefs. Sutty herself, an Earthwoman, has fled from a similar monolithic state - but one controlled by religious fundamentalists.

Unexpectedly she receives permission to leave the modern city where her movements were closely monitored. She travels up the river into the countryside, going from howling loudspeakers to bleating cattle, to seek the remnants of the banned culture of Aka. As she comes to know and love the people she lives with, she begins to learn their unique religion - the Telling. Finally joining them on a trek into the high mountains to one of the last sacred places, she glimpses hope for the reconciliation of the warring ideologies that have filled their lives, and her own, with grief.

The Telling is a reflection on the conflict of politics and religion in our modern world, and the story of a spiritual journey through a landscape that is at once very strange and very familiar.

SFSite says, "The Telling is a magnificently unveiled lesson that is vital to all of us." Strange Horizons says, "The biggest challenge that Le Guin faces in The Telling is polemic writing."

My Neighbor Totoro

The Younger Son and I watched My Neighbor Totoro this afternoon during lunch. It's a 1988 Miyazaki anime film. We watched the English dubbed Disney version. It's amusing. We want a Totoro to live here, and now we understand why The Cat is such a sullen cranky beast at times -she's a failed bus. It's sad to think that she aimed so high and fell so low, but we have more sympathy for her now that we've seen what she wanted to be.

trailer:

You can watch the entire film online if you're willing to download veoh's player. Not me. Never again.

Roger Ebert includes it on his list of "Great Movies" and has a lot of praise for it, including this: "The new Anime Encyclopedia calls it the best Japanese animated film ever made. Whenever I watch it, I smile, and smile, and smile." Moria gives it high marks and calls it "one of Hayao Miyazaki’s best films." The New York Times has a mixed review. Variety doesn't care for it. DecentFilms.com calls it "among the gentlest and most enchanting family films ever made" and says it's
like how childhood memories feel, if you had a happy childhood — wide-eyed and blissful, matter-of-factly magical and entrancingly prosaic, a world with discovery lurking around every corner and an inexhaustible universe in one’s backyard.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Top 10 60's Horror Films

The Vault of Horror lists their top 10 horror movies from the 1960's:
1. Psycho (1960)
2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
3. The Haunting (1963)
4. Rosemary's Baby (1968)
5. Repulsion (1965)
6. The Last Man on Earth (1964)
7. Kaidan (1964)
8. The Masque of the Red Death (1964)
9. The Brides of Dracula (1960)
10. The Birds (1963)

Ones I've seen are in bold print, and I've linked to a post if I've written one.

I'd include Carnival of Souls in place of Brides of Dracula on a top-10 list. Not having seen some of them, I don't know if I'd make other substitutions.

Top 10 Animated Science Fiction

WeAreMovieGeeks.com (via SFSignal) has their pick of the top 10 animated science fiction:
1. WALL-E
2. Wizards
3. Ghost in the Shell
4. Iron Giant
5. Heavy Metal
6. A Scanner Darkly
7. Akira
8. Lilo & Stitch
9. Monsters vs. Aliens
10. Fantastic Planet

I've used bold print for the ones I've seen and have linked to a blog post if I've written one.

I hate to see Cowboy Bebop left out.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Loyal Character Dancer

Some time ago I came across 2 books in this series by Qiu Xiaolong at my local used book store. I read the first one of them a few months ago. A Loyal Character Dancer is the 2nd in the series. I enjoyed this one more than the first, perhaps because I have more appreciation now for the writing style. January Magazine profiles the author.

from the publisher:
Inspector Chen''s mentor in the Shanghai Police Bureau has assigned him to escort U.S. Marshal Catherine Rohn. Her mission is to bring Wen, the wife of a witness in an important criminal trial, to the United States. Inspector Rohn is already en route when Chen learns that Wen has unaccountably vanished from her village in Fujian. Or is this just what he is supposed to believe? Chen resents his role; he would rather investigate the triad killing in Shanghai''s beauteous Bund Park. But his boss insists that saving face with Inspector Rohn has priority. So Chen Cao, the ambitious son of a father who imbued him with Confucian precepts, must tread warily as he tries once again to be a good cop, a good man, and also a loyal Party member.

The Asian Review of Books has some criticism but says that "the novel's final pages suggest a serious talent mining a major theme." The Independent says that "while there are infelicities, this is a luminescent synthesis of the thriller and literary novel."

Monday, September 07, 2009

Remembering the Tasmanian Tiger

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1936 of the last known thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian Tiger, killed by neglect in captivity.

Here's video from 1933:


There's a recent article here that looks at some of what led to the extinction. There is a Thylacine Museum, "an online educational guide to the thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger. Here you will find information on virtually all aspects of the natural history of this unique Australian marsupial." There's a free e-book from a site that holds there's hope some may still survive.

All Right Now

All Right Now is a 1970 song by Free.


from youtube:


This song is on the list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Starfish

Starfish, by Peter Watts, is the first book in the Rifters trilogy. I like this book and will buy the others new if they aren't available at my local used book store the next time I go in. The book is available online, so you can get a taste of it before you buy a copy. The author has information on Starfish here.

from the back of the book:
A huge international corporation has developed a facility along the Juan de Fuca Ridge at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to exploit geothermal power. They send a bio-engineered crew - people who have been altered to withstand the pressure and breathe the seawater - down to live and work in this weird, fertile undersea darkness.

Unfortunately the only people suitable for long-term employment in these experimental power stations are crazy, some of them in unpleasant ways. How many of them can survive, or will be allowed to survive, while worldwide disaster approaches from below?

SF Crowsnest has a review. Strange Horizons calls it
an impressive debut from a Canadian scientist/writer who seems to enjoy tackling big topics like corporate greed and mismanagement, the resilience of the human spirit, and the wealth of things humans still don't know about Earth's deep ocean environments -- or each other.
SFReviews.net says,
Its grimness will not appeal to everyone, but if you like your fiction both edgy and dark in roughly equal measure, this unsettling trek into both the depths of the ocean and of the human psyche will leave you uneasy for days.

The author suggests Sarah MacLachlan's "Possession" as a mood-setting theme song for the book:

He lifts up the music of Jethro Tull as having "provided ongoing inspiration". Here's Aqualung:

Heavy Metal


Heavy Metal is a 1981 animated science fiction/fantasy anthology film from Canada. Some of the music is fun. The women are totally uninhibited, while the men are interestingly shy. Looks like it was written specifically for adolescent males.

Crackle has it online, although I don't see a way to embed it here. The Crackle FAQ says there's a video menu with an embed option, but I don't see it on this film.

The New York Times has a mixed review but thinks that "for anyone who doesn't think an hour and a half is a long time to spend with a comic book, ''Heavy Metal'' is impressive." Moria says,
the film seems to embody far too much of what was criticized about the Robert E. Howard school of barbarian sword-and-sorcery – of being little more than a teenage empowerment fantasy of brawn and strength, available curvaceous women who disrobe at the drop of a hat and softcore bondage.

The picture at the top of the post is from Wikipedia.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

August Derleth Awards

The following books have won the August Derleth Award:

2011 Demon Dance, Sam Stone
2010 One, Conrad Williams
2009 Memoirs of a Master Forger, by William Heaney, aka Graham Joyce
2008 The Grin of the Dark, Ramsey Campbell
2007 Dusk, Tim Lebbon
2006 Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
2005 The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower, Stephen King
2004 Full Dark House, Christopher Fowler
2003 The Scar, China Mi‚ville
2002 The Night of the Triffids, Simon Clark
2001 Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
2000 Indigo, Graham Joyce
1999 Bag of Bones, Stephen King
1998 Light Errant, Chaz Brenchley
1997 The Tooth Fairy, Graham Joyce
1996 Requiem, Graham Joyce
1995 Only Forward, Michael Marshall Smith
1994 The Long Lost, Ramsey Campbell
1993 Dark Sister, Graham Joyce
1992 Outside the Dog Museum, Jonathan Carroll
1991 Midnight Sun, Ramsey Campbell
1990 Carrion Comfort, Dan Simmons
1989 The Influence, Ramsey Campbell
1988 The Hungry Moon, Ramsey Campbell
1987 It, Stephen King
1986 The Ceremonies, T. E. D. Klein
1985 Incarnate, Ramsey Campbell
1984 Floating Dragon, Peter Straub
1983 The Sword of the Lictor, Gene Wolfe
1982 Cujo, Stephen King
1981 To Wake the Dead, Ramsey Campbell
1980 Death's Master, Tanith Lee
1979 The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson
1978 A Spell for Chameleon, Piers Anthony
1977 The Dragon and the George, Gordon R. Dickson
1976 The Hollow Lands, Michael Moorcock
1975 The Sword and the Stallion, Michael Moorcock
1974 Hrolf Kraki's Saga, Poul Anderson
1973 The King of the Swords, Michael Moorcock
1972 The Knight of the Swords, Michael Moorcock

Ones I've read are in bold print and, when I get around to it, will be linked to a blog post if I've written one. I haven't read many of these.

SFSite has information and links to some reviews. The award is granted by the British Fantasy Society.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is the 2nd film, a 2004 sequel. We picked this up for $3 at the closing sale at Blockbuster. It's the version that has the weird subtitled explanations of the sounds, as if we wouldn't recognize the sound of footsteps or a helicopter. There's no choice for an English dub, so we had to use the subtitles. Strange, though...

trailer:


Veoh has it online, but you have to download their player. Yuck.

Moria likes it and says,
In all of Mamoru Oshii’s films there lies a fascination with philosophical questions.... Innocence comes with a series of beautifully melancholic reflections on the nature of humanity and its simulacra.

Anime World opens with this:
Methodical, deeply philosophical, cerebral, pretentious, and visually stunning, Ghost in the Shell 2 is a movie to behold, but its unwavering focus makes it very much a love it or hate it piece of art.

The Hindenburg

The Hindenburg is a 1975 film directed by Robert Wise and starring George C. Scott and Anne Bancroft. Also in this one are Rene Auberjonois (who has a Star Trek connection), Alan Oppenheimer (also with a Star Trek connection), Burgess Meredith and Charles Durning.

Youtube has it online in 13 parts. Embedding is disabled, but the film should autoplay from this link.

The AFI says, "THE HINDENBURG, which depicted the 1937 ill-fated trip of the German blimp, was a great achievement of Wise's technical mastery." MSN has an overview. Roger Ebert gives it 1 star and says,
The movie's so bad I've made a little list. You just can't dismiss it; you linger over it. People stand in the lobby afterward like the survivors of a traffic accident. There was this that went wrong, and that, and . . .

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Body Snatcher

The Body Snatcher is a 1945 horror movie I decided to go ahead and look at because of the Robert Wise Blogathon. It'll be one less to choose from during October. I think I have a million or so put aside for October, so one less is a good thing.

This film is directed by Robert Wise in his first solo job as director, and stars Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Henry Daniell. The music is by Roy Webb. It's based on a story with the same name by Robert Louis Stevenson, and you can read the story online here. This has a similar theme to The Flesh and the Fiend in having to do with surgeons who aren't too particular about how their subjects for dissection are obtained.

Youtube has to online in 8 parts, which should autoplay from here:


Moria gives this film high praise. 1000 Misspent Hours calls it "quite a good film" and says that "with his performance here, Boris Karloff created what may well be the greatest screen villain of his time." Variety calls the film "a winner". The New York Times says it "has enough suspense and atmospheric terror to make it one of the better of its genre."

11/5/2009: The Vault of Horror has a review.

Lost Horizon

I remember the first time I saw Lost Horizon. It was on tv, and I loved it. Based on a James Hilton book, the 1937 film is directed by Frank Capra and stars Ronald Coleman, Jane Wyatt, Sam Jaffe and Edward Everett Horton. The film has its own Facebook page.

The movie can be watched online, thanks to GoogleVideo:


Moria calls it "most certainly an overrated classic." In a review released at the time, the New York Times says it's "a grand adventure film, magnificently staged, beautifully photographed, and capitally played." Variety praises it.

12/30/2009: Shooting Down Pictures has a thorough article, including videos and lengthy excerpts from other sites.

Frank Capra


Today is the anniversary of the death in 1991 of Frank Capra. FilmReference.com says, "...many of Capra's most famous films can be read as excessively sentimental and politically naive. These readings, however, tend to neglect the bases for Capra's success." The AFI awarded him a Life Achievement Award, saying, "Frank Capra has ennobled his audience as he has entertained them. His work has brought the meaning of the American dream alive for generations of moviegoers past and present".

I have blog posts on the following of his films:

It Happened One Night (1934)
Lost Horizon (1937)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Meet John Doe (1941)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Haunting (1963)

I'm motivated to watch The Haunting because of the Robert Wise Blogathon. It's a film I've never seen. I had thought I'd watch it during October but am moving it up on the calendar. It's not like I don't already have too many movies lined up for October.

The Haunting is a 1963 horror film directed by Robert Wise and starring Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Lois Maxwell, Fay Compton and Valentine Dyall.

This is online at youtube in 11 pieces, which should autoplay from here:


This is definitely a creepy movie.

Moria says, "The shocks that Robert Wise crafts in The Haunting are some of the most sophisticated and finely constructed ever placed on film." 1000 Misspent Hours calls it "unquestionably among the grandest and most glorious achievements of the old school" and "perhaps the most frightening film ever made." Images Journal uses it in its discussion of the newer version. AFI's article says, "This film, Wise's last in black-and-white, showcased his brilliant mastery of black-and-white techniques." The New York Times review summary describes it as "One of the most highly regarded haunted house films ever produced".

Happy Birthday, Sealand!


On this date in 1967 the Principality of Sealand was founded, or the land was first occupied or the permanent residency of its future ruler began or however you want to characterize it. Their official website has a history page that reports part of the micro-nation's history:
After WWII ended, the troops were withdrawn from all bases by the British Admiralty. None of them was ever used by the United Kingdom again, leaving the forts deserted and abandoned. Except for the aforementioned fortress, the bases were subsequently pulled down. This resulted in the portentous uniqueness of the fortress. Fort Roughs Tower, situated at the high seas, had been deserted and abandoned, res derelicta and terra nullius. From a legal point of view, it therefore constituted extra-national territory.

The Birth of Sealand

This paved the way for occupation. On 2 September 1967, former English major Paddy Roy Bates formally occupied the island and settled there with his family. After intensive discussions with skillful English lawyers, Roy Bates proclaimed the island his own state. Claiming jus gentium, he bestowed upon himself the title of Prince and the title of Princess to his wife and subsequently made the state the Principality of Sealand. Roy Bates, henceforth Roy of Sealand, exerted state authority on the island and thus was an absolute sovereign. The royal family and other persons that have declared loyalty to Sealand have occupied Sealand ever since.

About.com's Geography page claims The Principality of Sealand does not qualify as a legitimate country. Spoilsports! There's an interview with the Prince of Sealand on youtube:

It includes some video of the island itself.

Recent news includes the sad decision that Sealand will not be hosting the World Cup because of concern about losing things (like balls. and players.) over the side during matches, despite Sealand's assurances that helicopters stand at the ready to perform speedy rescue operations. Sealand is for sale; interested? Sealand has a Facebook page that appears to be updated with some regularity.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Night and Fog


The Younger Son is taking an Intro to Film class this semester, and they watched Night and Fog (1955) during the first class. He had seen it before, so it must be around here somewhere, but I found it online at GoogleVideo here: and here and at youtube in 8 sections here. [All of these videos have been removed.]

Vimeo has it here.

Sadly, I can't even find a trailer online.
We pretend it all happened only once, at a given time and place. We turn a blind eye to what surrounds us and a deaf ear to humanity's never-ending cry.
It's a French documentary short film directed by Alain Resnais about life in the Auschwitz and Majdanek prison camps. TCM and MSN have overviews. FilmReference.com is dissatisfied with the way the difficult material was addressed and, in some cases, not addressed. Senses of Cinema says,
Commentators have generally agreed that it is precisely Resnais' obsession with and mastery of form that gives Nuit et brouillard an emotional power unequalled by any fictional reconstruction of the Holocaust.


The picture at the top of the post is one I saw uncredited on several web sites.

10/11/2009: Film of the Year has an article that concludes, "For realizing the unexpected potential of a performative historical documentary in the short subject format through 1955 Night and Fog is about as accomplished a film as we can hope to find."

Robert Wise Blog-a-thon


Today begins the Robert Wise Blogathon hosted by Octopus Cinema. They have a list for pre-reading and are adding posts as writers submit them. It looks great already. I just love blogathons. They give me an excuse to watch movies I might otherwise not see.

The wikipedia article on Robert Wise is here. FilmReference.com says, "Through the wide range of his work, Wise proved himself to be a highly versatile director." The American Film Institute has information on him. Bright Lights Film Journal has an interview. Memory Alpha's page is here.

I'll add links here as I see more movies by him:

The Body Snatcher (1945)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
The Haunting (1963)
The Andromeda Strain (1971)

I saw more of his movies before I started blogging than I've seen since. It may be time to re-visit some of them. I don't have any of his films in the stack to be watched.

Now, on to the pre-reading!

The picture at the top of the post came from Octopus Cinema.