Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Holiday

Christmas Holiday is a 1944 film noir starring Gene Kelley against type as the bad guy and Deanna Durbin as his wronged wife. Robert Siodmak directs. The movie's title might fool you into thinking there's some hint of happiness here. Don't let it.

via Internet Archive:


TCM has an overview. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Movies


I love a good movie. I even love some bad movies. We spend many a happy hour here with a hot cup of tea or coffee in front of a DVD, and there are more Christmas movies than you might think. I have a list which includes more than 80 dating as early as 1898, many of which are available to watch online. Please check out my list and let me know if I missed any. Also, if you come across a video that doesn't work or a dead link, I'd appreciate a heads up either here or in a comment to the relevant film's post so I can fix it. Thanks!

The link to the list is here. I add to it as I watch more, and I'm always surprised that there are always more!

There are a couple of perennial favorites I can't stand: 1) Holiday Inn; 2) It's a Wonderful Life. I know everybody loves them, but I never have. There are plenty of others, though, so I don't feel deprived.

The cup at the top of the post is one of our Christmas cups. I'm not sure why we have fewer specifically Christmas cups and mugs than we have for other times of the year, but that is the case. We have a lot more for Autumn and Winter. This one was Mother's, and it's a treat to get it out.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth have a weekly gathering of T(ea) related links, and I'll be visiting over there a while. Join me?

Monday, December 29, 2014

You and Your Sister

You and Your Sister:



by Chris Bell, who died 36 years ago (on the 27th). He was born here in Memphis and is buried in Bartlett, a Memphis suburb. His death at the age of 27 is seen as significant by some. He died in a car wreck on his way home from a band rehearsal.

lyrics:
They say my love for you ain't real
But you don't know how real it feels
All I want to do is to spend some time with you
So I can hold you, hold you

Your sister says that I'm no good
I'd reassure her if I could
All I want to do is to spend some time with you
So I can hold you, hold you

Plans fail every day
I want to hear you say
Your love won't be leaving
(Run run, run run)
Your eyes ain't deceiving
(Run run, run run)

Fears will soon fade away
Smile now, don't be afraid
All I want to do is to spend some time with you
So I can hold you, hold you

And let me whisper in your ear
Don't you worry, they can't hear
All I want to do is to spend some time with you
So I can hold you

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Rendezvous


Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous restaurant has a long and storied past and is a Memphis mainstay. We are spoiled for choice where BBQ is concerned, and neither of us had been here in decades. The Husband and I decided it was time to go back. It's located in an alley across the street from The Peabody Hotel. We parked at Parking Can Be Fun and walked a couple of blocks east to get to the restaurant.


We each had the large order of ribs, slaw, beans and a drink:


We ate the ribs dry, of course, and they were delicious. We didn't need a to-go box. The photo is fuzzy, but I hope you can still tell how good they look. The total was under $20 each not including tax and tip. Atmosphere is half the fun here, and even though these may not be the #1 best ribs in town they are close enough; and you get to eat at the Rendezvous.

Yelp has a 3.5 out of 5 stars rating with 961 reviews. Trip Advisor gives it 4 out of 5 stars with 1,916 reviews. Urban Spoon has a score of 76%.

I think it's probably one of the BBQ restaurants that should be tried during any trip here.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Alias Boston Blackie

Alias Boston Blackie is a 1942 film about a wrongly convicted prisoner who escapes on Christmas eve. Paul Fix has a part in this. There's not much to it at just over an hour long, but the characters and plot are interesting.



TCM and MSN have overviews. Rotten Tomatoes has a 67% audience rating.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime!

Oh, how I've loved this since it first came out back in 2006 (I think):



The joy never gets old for me with this one, and the rest of the family does tire of my glee (or perhaps of the constant re-playing of this video).

Lyrics:
This year has been a little crazy for the Andersons.
You may recall we had some trouble last year.
The robot council had us banished to an asteroid.
That hasn't undermined our holiday cheer.
And we know it's almost Christmas by the marks we make on the wall.
That's our favorite time of year.

Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime,
Where we're working in a mine for our robot overlords.
Did I say overlords? I meant protectors.
Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime.

On every corner there's a giant metal Santa Claus, who watches over us with glowing red eyes.
They carry weapons and they know if you've been bad or good.
Not everybody's good but everyone tries.
And the rocks outside the airlock exude ammonia-scented snow.
It's like a Winter Wonderland.

Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime,
Where we're working in a mine for our robot overlords.
Did I say overlords? I meant protectors.
Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime.

That's all the family news that we're allowed to talk about.
We really hope you'll come and visit us soon.
I mean we're literally begging you to visit us.
And make it quick before they [MESSAGE REDACTED].
Now it's time for Christmas dinner - I think the robots sent us a pie!
You know I love my soylent green.

Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime,
Where we're working in a mine for our robot overlords.
Did I say overlords? I meant protectors.
Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Story of the Birth of Jesus


according to the book of Luke, chapter 2 (RSV):
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Old Christmas


Old Christmas by Washington Irving is a collection of five writings on Christmas gone by, the quaint traditions of English celebration as seen by an American eye. It can be read online here and other sites online. You can listen to it here at Librovox.

from the first chapter:
The English, from the great prevalence of rural habits throughout every class of society, have always been fond of those festivals and holidays which agreeably interrupt the stillness of country life; and they were, in former days, particularly observant of the religious and social rites of Christmas. It is inspiring to read even the dry details which some antiquarians have given of the quaint humours, the burlesque pageants, the complete abandonment to mirth and good-fellowship with which this festival was celebrated. It seemed to throw open every door, and unlock every heart. It brought the peasant and the peer together, and blended all ranks in one warm generous flow of joy and kindness. The old halls of castles and manor-houses resounded with the harp and the Christmas carol, and their ample boards groaned under the weight of hospitality. Even the poorest cottage welcomed the festive season with green decorations of bay and holly--the cheerful fire glanced its rays through the lattice, inviting the passenger to raise the latch, and join the gossip knot huddled around the hearth, beguiling the long evening with legendary jokes and oft-told Christmas tales.

One of the least pleasing effects of modern refinement is the havoc it has made among the hearty old holiday customs. It has completely taken off the sharp touchings and spirited reliefs of these embellishments of life, and has worn down society into a more smooth and polished, but certainly a less characteristic surface. Many of the games and ceremonials of Christmas have entirely disappeared, and like the sherris sack of old Falstaff, are become matters of speculation and dispute among commentators. They flourished in times full of spirit and lustihood, when men enjoyed life roughly, but heartily and vigorously; times wild and picturesque, which have furnished poetry with its richest materials, and the drama with its most attractive variety of characters and manners. The world has become more worldly. There is more of dissipation, and less of enjoyment. Pleasure has expanded into a broader, but a shallower stream, and has forsaken many of those deep and quiet channels where it flowed sweetly through the calm bosom of domestic life. Society has acquired a more enlightened and elegant tone; but it has lost many of its strong local peculiarities, its homebred feelings, its honest fireside delights.
The story illustrations are by Randolph Caldecott, and I have included a few in this post.


The chapters are titled Christmas, The Stage-coach, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and The Christmas Dinner.


"Never did Christmas board display a more goodly and gracious assemblage of countenances."

Irving closes his book with this:
What, after all, is the mite of wisdom that I could throw into the mass of knowledge? or how am I sure that my sagest deductions may be safe guides for the opinions of others? But in writing to amuse, if I fail, the only evil is my own disappointment. If, however, I can by any lucky chance, in these days of evil, rub out one wrinkle from the brow of care, or beguile the heavy heart of one moment of sorrow; if I can now and then penetrate through the gathering film of misanthropy, prompt a benevolent view of human nature, and make my reader more in[159] good humour with his fellow-beings and himself, surely, surely, I shall not then have written entirely in vain.
There's a short video from Today.com here at their site that talks about the influence of Washington Irving on the celebration of Christmas here in the U.S. His work was an influence on Dickens, and he was one of the "inventors" of Santa Claus. The New York Times writes,
Washington Irving profoundly influenced the American Christmas. His melding of jolly St. Nick and an English commemoration of old into a wintry celebration of nostalgia attests to the rich cultural legacy bequeathed to us by this native New Yorker. Within a decade of the publication of Irving's "Sketch Book," New Yorkers were greeting each other with Christmas wishes, and stores on Broadway extended their hours to accommodate shoppers.
I love reading stories of older, more "traditional" holiday celebrations. They feel cozy to me. I enjoy the way our family celebrates Christmas, but I've always been interested in how things used to be done and how they are done by different people now.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Breakfast Casserole


We have a practice of tradition-accumulation. We do something, like it, then declare it a "new tradition". One that's continuing to go over well is Breakfast Casserole on Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings then delaying the lunch feast until 3 or so in the afternoon. The casserole works well when cooked the night before, refrigerated, then heated for serving in the morning. To be honest, I have trouble keeping up with this recipe, so I thought I'd share it here where I'll know right where it is:

Breakfast Casserole

1 1/2 pounds hot ground pork sausage
1 (8 ounce) package refrigerated crescent roll dough
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste

Brown sausage. Drain, crumble and set aside. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking pan. Lay crescent rolls flat in the bottom of the pan. Mix beaten eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Spread cooked sausage over crescent roll dough. Cover sausage with cheese. Pour eggs/milk mixture over the top. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, until bubbly and rolls are baked.
This is what mine looks like:


Perfect with coffee and pears for Thanksgiving and with coffee and orange wedges for Christmas. The cup on the left at the top of the post was a present to The Husband from The Kids when they were little. We picked up the mug on the right many years later because we thought they would go together nicely.

Check out Bleubeard and Elizabeth's T(ea) Tuesday post to see what the others are sharing today.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Born Under a Bad Sign

Born Under a Bad Sign:



as performed by by Albert King in 1981. King died 22 years ago yesterday of a heart attack. He had moved to Memphis in 1966 and was signed with Stax until their end. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

lyrics:
Born under a bad sign
Been down since I began to crawl
If it wasn't for bad luck
You know, I wouldn't have no luck at all

Hard luck and trouble
Been my only friend
I've been on my own
Ever since I was ten

Born under a bad sign
Been down since I began to crawl
If it wasn't for bad luck
You know, I wouldn't have no luck at all

I can't read
I didn't know how to write
My whole life has been
One big fight

Born under a bad sign
I've been down since I began to crawl
If it wasn't for bad luck
I say, I wouldn't have no luck at all
That ain't lie, ah, oh

You know, if it wasn't for bad luck
I wouldn't have no kinda luck
If it wasn't for real bad luck
I wouldn't have no luck at all

You know wine
And women is all I crave
A big legged woman
Gonna carry me to my grave

Born under a bad sign
I been down since I began to crawl
If it wasn't for bad luck
I tell ya, I wouldn't have no luck at all

Yeah, I'm a bad luck boy
Been havin' bad luck all of my days, yes

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Murder for Christmas


Murder for Christmas is a 1982 book of 26 short story mysteries edited by Thomas Godfrey and illustrated by Gahan Wilson. There's a wide variety here, something for everyone, quick and easy additions to holiday reading.

from the cover:
Here is a perfect Christmas gift for the person who has everything -and plans to leave it to you. Murder for Christmas contains twenty-six tales of seasonal malice to keep you in the Christmas spirit all year round.

It has been said that Christmas brings out the best in everyone, and this has been especially true of mystery writers who seem to have been inspired to their best work by the holiday season.

So come to a unique yuletide celebration and rub elbows with such greats as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dame Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, and Ellery Queen, while Georges Simenon and Dame Ngaio Marsh drop a few hot coals into your stocking. Master of suspense John Collier and Stanley Elkin will be on hand with a few terrifying tales to send shivers up your spine. Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, and Baroness Orczy also will be present with some surprise contributions. There will be a few laughs, too, with Damon Runyon, Wyndham Lewis, and Woody Allen, as well as visits with old and new masters of the genre such as Margery Allingham, Dorothy L. Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, Edward D. Hoch, and H.R.F Keating. John Dickson Carr will favor us with a locked room story, while O. Henry contributes some Christmas criminality from the Old West. We'll even go Christmas shopping with Robert Louis Stevenson.

Best of all will be the presence of the great detectives of literature -Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe, Lord Peter Whimsey, Albert Campion, Jules Maigret, Father Brown, Roderick Alleyn, and Bombay's Ganesh Ghote -all tacking the kinds of cases that made them famous.

Murder for Christmas contains something for every taste -lying, cheating, shoplifting, stealing, spying kidnapping, and murder- in short, everything to make the holidays bright.

Table of Contents:
Back for Christmas -John Collier
Mr. Big -Woody Allen
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle -Arthur Conan Doyle
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding -Agatha Christie
Dancing Dan’s Christmas -Damon Runyon
Cambric Tea -Marjorie Bowen
Death on Christmas Eve -Stanley Ellin
A Christmas Tragedy -Baroness Orczy
Silent Night -Baynard Kendrick
The Stolen Christmas Box -Lillian de la Torre
A Chaparral Christmas Gift -O. Henry
Death on the Air -Ngaio Marsh
Inspector Ghote and the Miracle Baby -H.R.F. Keating
Maigret’s Christmas -Georges Simenon
To Be Taken with a Grain of Salt -Charles Dickens
The Adventure of the Dauphin’s Doll -Ellery Queen
Markheim -Robert Louis Stevenson
The Necklace of Pearls -Dorothy L. Sayers
Blind Man’s Hood -Carter Dickson
Christmas is for Cops -Edward D. Hoch
The Thieves Who Couldn’t Help Sneezing -Thomas Hardy
The Case is Altered -Margery Allingham
Christmas Party -Rex Stout
The Flying Stars -G.K. Chesterton
Mother’s Milk -James Mines
Ring Out, Wild Bells -D.B. Wyndham Lewis
I had no luck finding reviews online, and the book seems to be out of print. That's a shame, as the collection of themed seasonal stories sounds like a real winner. I know I enjoyed it, and I don't usually read short stories.

Links to the individual stories that I was able to find online:

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle -Arthur Conan Doyle
A Christmas Tragedy -Baroness Orczy
A Chaparral Christmas Gift -O. Henry
Markheim -Robert Louis Stevenson
The Thieves Who Couldn’t Help Sneezing -Thomas Hardy
The Flying Stars -G.K. Chesterton





Saturday, December 20, 2014

I, the Jury

I, the Jury is a 1953 film based on a Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer book. It's the first filmed adaptation of a Hammer novel. Biff Elliot (who has a Star Trek: The Original Series connection) is Hammer. Elisha Cook, Jr. (who also has a ST:TOS connection) has an uncredited role. I think Hammer is played as well here as anywhere else I've seen him. It takes place over the Christmas holiday season and is a fun change from the usual holiday fare.

via Youtube:



There's not much in the way of reviews online.


Friday, December 19, 2014

A Dixon Christmas


Isn't the main entrance to The Dixon gallery festive?


Coming up towards the entrance are several signs of holiday cheer.


The interior is also beautifully decorated, but I didn't even ask if photos were permitted; I always assume they aren't. I did find two photos at the Dixon website, though. This one of the living room:


and this one of the dining room:


They've done such a wonderful job of bringing the season to the space!

I also saw the Rodin exhibit -Rodin: The Human Experience- while I was there. The Dixon site says,
Auguste Rodin (1840–1917) was arguably the most celebrated sculptor of the nineteenth century, and was regarded as the greatest sculptor since Michelangelo. The remarkable works of Rodin will make their triumphant return to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens with Rodin: The Human Experience, an exhibition of fifty-one works in bronze.

Rodin: The Human Experience examines the artist’s multi-faceted explorations of the human figure in bronze, ranging from small scale sketches to the artist’s well-known monumental works. Alongside commissioned works of specific individuals will be Rodin’s sculptural experiments with the human figure, ranging in style from the classically-inspired to the gothic. Visitors to the exhibition will be greeted in Garrott Court by the monumental sculpture, The Three Shades, Rodin’s interpretation of the souls of the damned who stand at the entrance to hell in Dante’s Inferno.
I remember the last Rodin exhibit the Dixon hosted back in 1988 -The Passion of Rodin-, and his sculptures make a striking display. The staff has gotten less cranky over the years, which makes visits much more enjoyable now than they used to be. The Dixon is a great way to spend a few hours, whether you like art, or flowers and gardens, or both. I feel so fortunate that Memphis has this.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Man with the Load of Mischief


The Man with the Load of Mischief is a 1981 detective novel by Martha Grimes and is first in the Richard Jury series, which is ongoing and currently at 23 titles. I saved this book to read this month because it takes place over the Christmas holiday season and begins on December 19. It was a quick, enjoyable read, and I think I'll look for the rest. I've been advised to read them in order.

teaser from the book:
Long Piddleton had always been wary of newcomers, but the quiet town was stunned when the first stranger was found dead, upended in a butt of ale in the cellar of The Man with a load of Mischief. Then the second body appeared, swinging in place of the mechanical man above the door of the Jack and Hammer.

Suddenly, Long Piddleton had good reason to be wary of everyone! Its cozy pubs and inns with their polished pewter and blazing hearths had become the scenes of the most bizarre crimes. Who were the victims? And who was the murderer? A maniac? A stranger? Or the disarmingly friendly man next door?

quotes:
The English inn stands permanently planted at the confluence of the roads of history, memory, and romance. Who has not, in his imagination leaned from its timbered galleries over the cobbled courtyard to watch the coaches pull in, the horses' breath fogging the air as they stamp on dark winter evenings? Who has not read of these long, squat buildings with mullioned windows; sunken, uneven floors; massive beams and walls hung round with copper; kitchens where joints once turned on spits and hams hung from ceilings. There by the fireplace the travelers of lesser quality might sit on wood stools or settles with cups of ale. There the bustling landlady sent the housemaids scurrying like mice to their duties. Battalions of chambermaids with lavendered sheets, scullions, footmen, drawers, stage-coachmen, and that Jack-of-all-trades called Boots waited to assist the travelers to and from the heavy oaken doors. Often he could not be sure whether the floor would be covered with hay, or what bodies might have to be stepped over or crept past on his way to breakfast, if he slept in an inner room. But the breakfast more than made up for the discomfort of the night, with kidney pies and pigeon pies, hot mutton pasties, tankards of ale, and muffins and tea, poached eggs and thick rashers of bacon.
....
The Man with the Load of Mischief was no exception -a half-timbered, sixteenth-century coaching inn through the archway of which Melrose Plant now drove his Bentley, parking it in the unused stableyard.
....
They stood now in the low, dimly lit hall, hung about with sporting prints and stuffed birds, his aunt and Simon Matchett making small talk smaller.
Kirkus Reviews says, "Grimes is working in the grand old English-village style--successfully recalling (without lapsing into parody) the humor of Marsh and Allingham, the red-herring smorgasbord of Christie, and some of the richer textures of Sayers."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Man Who Came to Dinner

The Man Who Came to Dinner is a 1942 film, directed by William Keighley. Monty Woolley (who was the professor in The Bishop's Wife) stars as the celebrity who falls on the icy front steps of the home where he's been invited for dinner. He's confined to a wheelchair and proceeds to take over the house. A more unpleasant guest one could never hope to host. And to top it off, he sues them! Bette Davis is his secretary. Billie Burke is the distraught lady of the house. Ann Sheridan is also in this. The movie takes place during the Christmas holiday season, and will make a fun addition to holiday-themed movie watching around here. I'd never seen it before watching it at the Internet Archive, but I've already picked up the DVD for annual viewing.

trailer:



DVD Beaver calls it a "delightful, lightning-paced farce". DVD Talk says, "It's dated but still mostly funny". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 80%.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Christmas Bowl of Smoking Bishop


This is the part of Dickens' A Christmas Carol after Scrooge's conversion when he's trying to make amends. He tells his employee Bob Cratchit what he's planned and says,
...we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!
A perfect way to work out relationship problems, make restitution for past mistakes, and start a better way forward with someone, I think. Yes! Invite them to share a seasonal hot beverage.

Smoking Bishop is described by Wikipedia as "a type of mulled wine, punch or wassail". The Husband is a teetotaler, so we drink mulled cider instead. Here's our recipe:

Mulled Cider

1 gallon apple cider
4 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon whole cloves
Slices of an orange, as many as will attractively fit
Slices of a lemon, as many as will attractively fit

In a large pot, heat the cider with cinnamon sticks, allspice, cloves, orange slices, and lemon slices just to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30-45 minutes.

We leave it on the stove, leave the spices and fruit in it, and ladle directly from the pot. We are a very informal family though, and you can strain it into a punch bowl and add fresh fruit -as we have done in the past- for a prettier service for a party. Serve with a cinnamon stick in each cup for extra flair.

Please join the T(ea) Tuesday festivities over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Respect Yourself

Respect Yourself:



by "Pops" Staples, who died 14 years ago this coming Friday 9 days before what would have been his 86th birthday, with The Staples Singers on Soul Train.

lyrics:
If you disrespect anybody
That you run in to
How in the world do you think
Anybody's s'posed to respect you

If you don't give a heck 'bout the man
With the Bible in his hand
Just get out the way
And let the gentleman do his thing

You the kind of gentleman
That want everything your way
Take the sheet off your face, boy
It's a brand new day

Respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don't respect yourself
Ain't nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
Respect yourself, respect yourself

If you're walking 'round
Think'n that the world
Owes you something
'Cause you're here

You goin' out
The world backwards
Like you did
When you first come here

Keep talkin' 'bout the president
Won't stop air pollution
Put your hand on your mouth
When you cough, that'll help the solution

Oh, you cuss around women
And you don't even know their names
And you dumb enough to think
That'll make you a big ol man

Respect yourself, respect yourself
If you don't respect yourself
Ain't nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
Respect yourself, respect yourself
Respect yourself, respect yourself

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Christmas Accident

A Christmas Accident is a 1912 silent short. Sweet. Filled with the spirit of the season.

via Youtube:

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I'll Be Seeing You (1944)

I'll Be Seeing You is a 1944 film that takes place during the Christmas holidays. It's directed by William Dieterle and stars Joseph Cotton, Ginger Rogers, Spring Byington and Shirley Temple. Ginger Rogers is on a special furlough from prison where she's serving a term for accidental manslaughter. Joseph Cotton is on leave from a military hospital where he's being treated for shell shock. They meet on the train, but hide the truth from each other. I really enjoyed this. The actors are very good, and the story is such a sweet one.

via Youtube:


DVD Verdict calls it, "a sweet story, nicely acted by its experienced cast" and recommends it "In the spirit of compassion and goodwill". Rotten Tomatoes has a 72% audience score.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Enchanted Forest


The Daughter and I recently went to the Pink Palace Museum to go through the Enchanted Forest. When I was a child back in the 1960s, this was located in the Goldsmith's department store downtown. A winter wonderland with animatronic woodland creatures and penguins and elves that was a must-see for kids every year.


Eventually, Goldsmith's closed their downtown store, and the exhibit took a hiatus and then was moved out to the Agricenter. It's been at the Pink Palace for over a decade.

Here's a video walk-through from 2010:



It brings back delightful childhood memories to see it again.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mr. Ives' Christmas


Mr. Ives' Christmas is a 1995 novel by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Oscar Hijuelos, who is better known for his 1989 The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Hijuelos died late last year of a heart attack at 62 years of age. He was a New Yorker, born and bred, of Cuban immigrant parents.

This book is the story of Edward Ives, a foundling adopted and raised in a loving home, and of his life through the years. Not a cheerful book, I find it filled with a deep sadness, though beautifully written.

favorite quote:
The fact was that Ives, uncertain of many things, could at that time of year sit rather effortlessly within the incense and candle-wax-scented confines of a church, like Saint Patrick's, thinking about the images, ever present and timeless, that seemed to speak especially to him. Not about the cheery wreaths, the boughs of pine branches, the decorative ivy and flowers set out here and there, but rather about the Christ child, whose meaning evoked for him a feeling for "the beginning of things," a feeling that time and all its sufferings had fallen away.
Ray Suarez at NPR describes it as "a Holiday hymn to New York" and says, "It is the story of Edward Ives, an adopted boy of uncertain ancestry raised by a loving father in Brooklyn, who grows to middle age in mid-century New York." Kirkus Reviews says the book "sails close to the shoals of sentiment but remains an honest, moving account of a man, his family, and the changing city they live in."

The New York Times has a review and offers this plot description:
Ives, in the Gospel phrase, hungers and thirsts after righteousness, but in spite of the Gospel promise he is not satisfied. Mr. Hijuelos shows us what Ives's lifelong hunger costs him and what it costs his wife, Annie, an artist turned English teacher, yet he makes us love the two of them...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Adventure of the Wrong Santa Claus

The Adventure of the Wrong Santa Claus is a 1914 silent short about a burglar who dresses as Santa to steal the presents and the detective -who was supposed to "play" Santa for his friends- determined to catch him. This is a delightful and unusual little film.

via Youtube:

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Cigarettes and Coffee

Cigarettes and Coffee:



such a sweet love song sung by Otis Redding, who died in a plane crash at age 26. His untimely death on December 10, 1967, along with most of the members of Bar-Kay, was hard on Memphis recording studio Stax Records. Now you can tour a museum on the site that is a replica of the original building.

lyrics:
It's early in the morning
About a quarter till three
I'm sitting' here talkin' with my baby
Over cigarettes and coffee, now

And to tell you that
Darling, I've been so satisfied
Honey, since I met you
Baby, since I met you, oh

All the places that I've been around
And all the good looking girls I've met
They just don't seem to fit in
Knowing this particularly sad, yeah

But it seemed so natural, darling
That you and I are here
Just talking over cigarettes
And drinking coffee, oh

And whole my heart cries out
Love at last I've found you
And honey, won't you let me
Just be my whole life around you

And while I complete, I complete my whole life would be, yeah
If you would take things under consideration
And walk down this hour with me
I would love it, yeah

People I say it's so early in the morning
Ooh, it's a quarter till three
We're sittin' here talkin'
Over cigarettes and drinkin' coffee, now, Lord

And I'll like to show you, well
I've known nothing but good old joy
Since I met you, darling
Honey, since I've met you, baby yeah

I would love to have another drink of coffee now
And please, darling, help me smoke this one more cigarette now
I don't want no cream and sugar
'Cause I've got you, now darling

But just let me enjoy
Help me to enjoy
This good time that we'll have, baby
It's so early, so early in the morning

So early, so early in the morning
And I've got you and you've got me
And we'll have each other
And we don't, we don't want nothing but joy

Please join the T(ea) Tuesday party over at Bluebeard and Elizabeth's blog.

Monday, December 08, 2014

One Special Night

One Special Night is a 1999 made-for-tv Christmas movie starring James Garner and Julie Andrews as opposites who attract during the holidays. The movie begins on Thanksgiving Day. Very sweet, a fun holiday movie.

via Youtube:


Rotten Tomatoes has no critics score but has an audience rating of 84%.



Sunday, December 07, 2014

Vincent Price Narrates A Christmas Carol

Dickens' A Christmas Carol:



narrated by Vincent Price. Even though severely abridged into a 25-minute live action film adapted in 1949 for television, this version still manages to make the point. Vincent Price is a delight. Jill St. John plays one of the Cratchit children, and Taylor Holmes is Scrooge.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Books That Take Place During the Christmas Season

Specifically fiction books for adults that I have read (or plan on reading) that take place during the Christmas season:

written in the 1300s:

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight


written in the 1600s:

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare (online here)


written in the 1800s:

The Night Before Christmas (1832 short story) by Nikolai Gogol
A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens
The Last Dream of Old Oak (1858 short story) by Hans Christian Andersen (online here)
Framley Parsonage (1861) by Anthony Trollope (online here)
The Mistletoe Bough (1864) by Anthony Trollope (online here)
Christmas Day at Kirkby Cottage (1870) by Anthony Trollope
Little Women (1880) by Louisa May Alcott (online here)
Christmas at Thompson Hall (1894) by Anthony Trollope (online here)
The Other Wise Man (1895) by Henry van Dyke (online here)


written in the 1900s:

The Gift of the Magi (1905 short story) by O. Henry (online here)
The Wind in the Willows (1908) by Kenneth Grahame (online here)
The Flying Stars (1911) a Father Brown mystery by G.K. Chesterton (online here)
The Dead (1914) by James Joyce (online here)

written during the 1930s:

The Thin Man (1934) by Dashiell Hammett
Hercule Poirot's Christmas (1938) by Agatha Christie
Christmas Holiday (1939) by W. Somerset Maugham
The Sister of the Angels (1939) by Elizabeth Goudge


written during the 1940s:

Calamity Town (1942) by Ellery Queen

1950s:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) by C.S. Lewis
Maigret's Christmas: Nine Stories (1950) by Georges Simenon
A Child's Christmas in Wales (1955) by Dylan Thomas
A Christmas Memory (1956 short story) by Truman Capote
The Finishing Stroke (1958) by Ellery Queen

1960s:

A Long and Happy Life (1962) by Reynolds Price

1970s:

A Clubbable Woman (1970) by Reginald Hill
Red Christmas (1972) by Patrick Ruell (aka Reginald Hill)
Gravity's Rainbow (1973) by Thomas Pynchon
Rest You Merry (1979) by Charlotte MacLeod

written during the 1980s:

Jerusalem Inn (1984) by Martha Grimes
A Raven in the Foregate (1986) by Ellis Peters
A Rare Benedictine (1988) by Ellis Peters


written in the 1990s:

Not a Creature Was Stirring (1990) by Jane Haddam
A Season for Murder (1991) by Ann Granger
Doomsday Book (1992) by Connie Willis
A Stillness in Bethlehem (1993) by Jane Haddam
Morality Play (1995) by Barry Unsworth
The Last Resort (1998) by Alison Lurie


written during the 2000s:

The Sibyl in Her Grave (2000) by Sarah Caudwell
Skipping Christmas (2001) by John Grisham
Say When (2003) by Elizabeth Berg
December Heat (2004) by Luiz Alfredo Garcia Roza

written during the 2010s:

The Holiday Murders (2013) by Robert Gott
The Mistletoe Murder (2014, posthumous short stories) by P.D. James

*******

There is another list of stories and books suitable for the season here.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Santa Claus (1959 film)

Santa Claus is a 1959 Mexican film. From his home in outer space Santa Claus battles Lucifer's demons to make sure Christmas hope and joy prevail. A fun enough movie and very sweet, as long as you're not expecting anything like great cinema.

via Youtube:


DVD Verdict calls it "jaw-droppingly weird" and says, "Santa Claus isn't just a bad movie, it's a deeply bizarre one. With its images of the underworld—which includes "devils" in red body suits and pantaloons doing Jerome Robbins-style dance numbers—and creepy vision of Santa's home/office set up, it almost works as a Christmas horror fable." TCM has some information.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Thin Man (book)


I thought I'd try to find some books to read that take place during the Christmas season. The first sentence in this book:
I was leaning against the bar in a speakeasy on Fifty-second Street, waiting for Nora to finish her Christmas shopping, when a girl got up from the table where she had been sitting with three other people and came over to me.
There! A Christmas book!

The Thin Man is a 1934 mystery novel by Dashiell Hammett. This is the last novel he finished. It's the basis for the William Powell/Myrna Loy film series. The book is an easy breazy read, although some of the social conventions of the day are disturbing in retrospect.

from the back of the book:
Nick and Nora Charles are Dashiell Hammett's most enchanting creations, a rich, glamorous couple who solve homicides in between wisecracks and martinis. At once knowing and unabashedly romantic, The Thin Man is a murder mystery that doubles as a sophisticated comedy of manners.
The Wall Street Journal says, "a careful reading of this novel ... reveals a still-sparkling comedy of manners within which lurks a vision of human affairs as grim as any social realist's." The Crime Segments says, "The core mystery is entertaining, and despite the twists and turns in the story, Hammett's writing is direct, witty and to the point" and concludes with this: "Highly and definitely recommended." GreatDetectives.net says, "it's amusing mix that features Dashiell Hammett's talents at his peak" but seems to like the movie better. MysteryFile.com says,
It would have been nice to come back to this fresh, not knowing the ending, just to see how well Hammett constructed this tricky mystery, a tale so well put together that one scarcely knows where to look among a cast of cleverly conceived (and, for the most part, sympathetically observed) suspects — or just what it is we’re looking for.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas is a 1905 silent short film which fairly closely follows the Clement Clarke Moore poem. This is the poem's first film adaptation. Watch this! It's only 11 minutes long, and you get to see Santa feed live reindeer and watch the adorable children have a pillow fight while they're supposedly "nestled all snug in their beds".

via Youtube:

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Love Actually


How cozy! Watching a Christmas movie while drinking a hot cuppa. Just when I think I've seen all the Christmas movies evah, I get introduced to one I've never seen. The Husband loves funny movies with happy endings, and The Daughter told me to get Love Actually for him. I find some of the plot-lines depressing and others beyond unbelievable. The Rickman/Thompson marriage was incredibly sad.

It has a large cast of well-known actors: Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Keira Knightley, Martine McCutcheon, Bill Nighy, and Rowan Atkinson.

trailer:



and if you don't mind spoilers, the Honest Trailer people sum it up pretty fairly:



I do realize most folks love this movie and think it's cute, but it's not making it onto my Actually Love holiday watch list.

The Telegraph gives it 1 out of 5 stars and opens with this: "Love? Actually, no. More like disappointment, and, at times, hatred." Salon.com calls it "the worst Christmas movie ever". Rolling Stone gives it 2 out of 4 stars, but I'm not sure what the 2 stars are for as there's precious little positive in the review. The Atlantic calls it "the least romantic film of all time". Roger Ebert gave it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 63% and an audience rating of 73%.

Please share your T(ea) thoughts over on Bluebeard and Elizabeth's blog, where the weekly tea gatherings often focus on artistic endeavors and where our hosts are making tea-stained watercolor paper.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Christmas in Memphis

Christmas in Memphis:


a 1985 song that has been quite popular here as you might well imagine.

lyrics excerpt:
Once Again It Didn't Snow
And I Turn on My Radio And "Blue Christmas" Plays.
When the Clock Rolls Past the Twelve
We Put Time Up On a Shelf Just For a Day.

Chorus:
It's Not The Presents Or The Lights Up On The Tree
It's Not The Santas Ringing Bells Out In The Streets
It's That I'm Home and There's No Place I'd Rather Be
Because It's Christmas in Memphis
Christmas in Memphis
Christmas in Memphis, Tennessee

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Muddy's Grindhouse


Muddy's Grindhouse is fairly new, another location for the people who own the Muddy's Bake Shop I've written about before. This location in the Cooper-Young area of Midtown has more food and coffee options. Here's the entrance:


Isn't that cheerful? The Daughter had the pumpkin pie and Earl Grey cookies, and I had zucchini bread:


We each had coffee. Everything was wonderful. You order at the counter and take your food to a table after paying at the register, just like the other location. There's a patio you can see on the left side of the photo at the top of the post. The prices were average for coffee shops in the city, and the staff is more than pleasant. There was steady traffic while we were there. We enjoyed this very much.

Here's a photo of one of their wall decorations:


We did some Christmas shopping afterwards. 'Tis the season.

Yelp gives it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. Choose 901 has several photos of the interior.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Shanghai Express

Shanghai Express is a 1932 film directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Marlene Dietrich and Anna May Wong. It also stars Clive Brook, Warner Oland (best known for playing Charlie Chan in numerous films), and Eugene Pallette (best known for his roles as Friar Tuck in the Errol Flynn Robin Hood movie and Father Felipe in the Tyrone Power Mark of Zorro). It's based on a book which, in turn, is based on the true story of the capture of a train by a Chinese warlord and the holding for ransom of the occupants. The film was nominated for 3 Academy Awards and won for cinematography. This is wonderful! It's held up well and remains enjoyable.

via Daily Motion:



Senses of Cinema says, "It’s a riotous exercise in excess in every area; the visuals are overpowering and sumptuous; the costumes ornate and extravagant; the sets a riot of fabrics, light and space; and all of it captured in the most delectable black-and-white cinematography that one can find anywhere". TCM and MSN have overviews. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Oft, in the Stilly Night


In memory of my mother, who died on this date on Thanksgiving Day a year ago. At 95, she was the last of her generation in her family, and much was lost at her passing.

Oft, in the Stilly Night

By Thomas Moore

Oft, in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Fond memory brings the light
Of other days around me;
The smiles, the tears,
Of boyhood’s years,
The words of love then spoken;
The eyes that shone,
Now dimm’d and gone,
The cheerful hearts now broken!
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain hath bound me,
Sad memory brings the light
Of other days around me.

When I remember all
The friends, so link’d together,
I’ve seen around me fall,
Like leaves in wintry weather;
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed!
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere slumber’s chain has bound me,
Sad memory brings the light
Of other days around me.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Extremes: A Retrieval Artist Novel.


Extremes is #2 in the Retrieval Artist series of science fiction detective novels by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. I pick these up when I find them, but that's turned out to be a slow process. I like the concept. In this book, the point of view shifts from chapter to chapter, and the transitions are well done. The story itself is interesting. The characters are described well enough so it makes it easy to remember who's who, but not well enough so that I cared much about them as people. The plot moves along at a steady and then gradually increasing rate, and then there's an exciting conclusion. You don't have to enjoy science fiction to enjoy this book; just picture it happening in the Antarctic, and it makes just as much sense. It's a fun, quick read.

from the back of the book:
His name: Miles Flint.
His occupation: Retrieval Artist
His job: Find the Disappeared - outlaws on the run, wanted for crimes against alien cultures.
The catch: Flint isn't working on the side of the law anymore.
One simple mistake and a Disappeared could end up dead. But this time, the death of an ailing Retrieval Artist has caught Flint's attention. He suspects it was foul play, not a viral infection. Equally suspicious is a young woman's sudden demise during the Moon's prestigious Extreme Marathon. As Flint investigates, he finds an ominous connection. Both deaths lead back to a scientist. A scientist who is now one of the Disappeared.
The review at SFF.net concludes, "Read the book quickly without thinking much and I think you'll be entertained -- but pull on any of the dangling threads and the whole thing collapses." SF Revu hopes the series gets better after this 2nd addition.

I've read a short story by this author in addition to the following books from the Retrieval Artist series:

#3 Consequences
#4 Buried Deep

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Portrait of Jennie

Portrait of Jennie is a 1948 fantasy drama film based on a short novel by Robert Nathan. It stars Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotton, Ethyl Barrymore, Lilian Gish, and Cecil Kellaway. William Dieterle directs. This is a beautiful film! Haunting and romantic. Joseph Cotton plays a struggling artist, and Jennifer Jones is the mysterious girl who inspires him.

via Youtube:


Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 4 stars and says, "Portrait of Jennie is a haunting evocation of one man's pained artistic process, and the genius of the film is how Dieterle delicately equates the creative impulse to an ever-evolving spiritual crisis." DVD Talk calls it "one of David O. Selznick's better films" and says, "The movie is a visual marvel, and Jones and Cotten are a sublimely attractive couple". Moria calls it a classic. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 91%.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving (early)


I'm having Suisse Mocha this morning in a cup that I only use during the Autumn. I like the changing of the season from Summer to Autumn, the growing crispness in the air, the colors of the leaves. The end of November brings all that to a close and brings in the bareness of Winter. While the Fall season lasts, though, I'll enjoy it. This coming Thursday is our Thanksgiving celebration. Mother always did the cooking, and I don't have the heart to do it now; so we're buying dishes ready-made. It'll be fine. We'll have turkey breast (I'll cook that), a small boneless sliced ham, cornbread dressing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, fruit salad, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, rolls, and desserts.

We have a children's book that illustrates the poem "Over the River and Through the Woods", and I remember singing the words as we were on our way to Mother's when the kids were little:



As to the cup and saucer, there's no marking on the bottoms, but I've discovered it's a transferware ironstone pattern called Memory Lane (Pink) by Royal (USA). I bought this in a local antique mall. The pattern isn't rare or expensive, even though it's '60s-era and long discontinued. You can buy your own online for $7.99 at Replacements.com.

Join the party at Bluebeard and Elizabeth's blog. I'm headed over there to see what the others are up to this week.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Give Me Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis:



written and originally performed by Chuck Berry, I know the Johnny Rivers version embedded above better. Rivers had his 72nd birthday earlier this month.

Lyrics:
Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee
Help me find the party trying to get in touch with me
She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call
'Cause my uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall

Help me, information, get in touch with my Marie
She's the only one who'd phone me here from Memphis Tennessee
Her home is on the south side, high up on a ridge
Just a half a mile from the Mississippi Bridge

Help me, information, more than that I cannot add
Only that I miss her and all the fun we had
But we were pulled apart because her mom did not agree
And tore apart our happy home in Memphis Tennessee

Last time I saw Marie she's waving me good-bye
With hurry home drops on her cheek that trickled from her eye
Marie is only six years old, information please
Try to put me through to her in Memphis Tennessee

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ronia the Robber's Daughter

Ronia the Robber's Daughter is a 1984 Swedish film based on the book by Astrid Lindgrin. This is a fun story and a lovely movie.

via Youtube:


Reviews online are oddly scarce, but DVD Talk calls it "innocent fun".


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) is a thriller/crime/action film directed by John Carpenter. By turns too slow and too violent, I didn't care for this at all. In the end I didn't finish it. It has a cult following, though, and is well-respected in some circles. The Imdb has this plot synopsis: "The lone inhabitants of an abandoned police station are under attack by the overwhelming numbers of a seemingly unstoppable street gang."

via youtube:


Moria gives it 4 out of 5 stars and calls it "A strong and disturbing film." Slant Magazine calls it "among one of the most remarkably composed films of all time". DVD Talk says, "A violent retelling of Rio Bravo, but with street gangs that behave like zombies from Night of the Living Dead, this is A+ exploitation material circa 1976." The BBC gives it 5 out of 5 stars and concludes, "in essence the core reason this film works so well is that it is so unpredictable, ruthless and without reason." Time Out calls it "sheer delight from beginning to end." DVD Verdict says it's "a simple, but effective, siege film only John Carpenter could nail on $100k. Check it out." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 97%.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Annihilation


Annihilation is book 1 in the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer. Here's an example of a page-turner where I got so involved in the book I forgot everything else. Fascinating world-building and involving characters... I already have the other 2 and almost hate to start them, because I will hate to finish them.

from the back of the book:
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In Annihilation, the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.

The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers -but it's the surprises that come across the border with them and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another that change everything.
favorite quote:
some questions will ruin you if you are denied the answer long enough.
Strange Horizons says,
I have sought to avoid plot summaries or spoilers, because the manner in which VanderMeer builds his tale is of real importance to its effect and achievement; but I hope that in my quotations I've emphasized something of the supple, allusive elegance of his prose here. Annihilation is a large work which looks slight and reads swift. That, too, is the sign of a writer in complete command of his material.
io9 closes by saying,
Action-packed and mind-bending, this is a novel that will leave you pondering, but not because the mystery remains unsolved. Instead, it's because the mysteries of Area X raise all kinds of questions about what passes for "normal" in our own lives, from the bizarre ways we try to draw boundaries across ecosystems, to the kinds of broken organizations we task with making new discoveries about the world.
Kirkus Reviews calls it "Speculative fiction at its most transfixing." The Guardian and NPR and The Telegraph have positive reviews. EW calls it one of the "great weird books". Salon.com calls it "striking".

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Bridge of Sighs


The Bridge of Sighs (2003) is the first in the 5-book Yalta Boulevard sequence by Olen Steinhauer. I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. I have the 2nd in the series and will seek out the rest. Devotion is a theme. It has an authentic feel to it to me.

from the back of the book:
In this auspicious literary crime debut by Olen Steinhauer, an inexperienced homicide detective struggles amidst the lawlessness of a post-WWII Eastern European city. It's 1948, three years after the Russians "liberated" the nation from German occupation. But the ideals of the Revolution are but memories. Twenty-two-year-old Detective Emil Brod is finally getting his chance to serve his country, investigating murder for the People's Militia.

The first victim is a state songwriter, but the facts point to a political motive. Emil wants to investigate further, but his new colleagues in Homicide are suspicious and remain silent. He is on his own in this new, dangerous world. The Bridge of Sighs launches a unique series of crime novels featuring an ever-evolving landscape, the politically volatile terrain of Eastern Europe in the second half of the twentieth century.

favorite quote:
"One man has only so much loyalty. Figure out where yours lies."
The book is on a list of most-awarded mysteries and received 5 award nominations. Kirkus Reviews says, "Time, place, and cast are all richly evoked in a well-written, often gripping debut." Publishers Weekly concludes, "Fans of J. Robert Janes (who provides a blurb) in particular and of mysteries with totalitarian regime backgrounds in general should appreciate the authenticity the author brings from his experience as a Fulbright Fellow in Romania."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Hills Run Red (1966)

The Hills Run Red is a 1966 spaghetti western starring Henry Silva and Dan Duryea. Ennio Morricone does the music. Carlo Lizzani, who died this past October committing suicide at the age of 91, directs. This is a revenge story, worth seeing.

via youtube:


Fistful of Pasta recommends it. Spaghetti-Western.net praises the acting, the music, the plot, the dialog... and calls it "a must buy for any fan of the genre".

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fraud


Fraud is a 1992 novel by Anita Brookner. I love this author and am quite pleased that she is not only prolific but is still alive. She was born in 1928. This book deals a lot with identity, sacrifice, aging, and mourning, and so there were sad moments for me; but it is an uplifting book -even inspiring.

from the back of the book:
At the heart of Anita Brookner's new novel lies a double mystery: What happened to Anna Durrant, a solitary woman of a certain age who has disappeared from her London flat? And why has it taken four months for anyone to notice?

As Brookner reconstructs Ana's life and character through the eyes of her acquaintances, she gives us a witty yet ultimately devastating study of self-annihilating virtue while exposing the social, fiscal, and moral frauds that are the underpinnings of terrifying rectitude.

There is tea throughout this book. And coffee. It's a thread than wanders from beginning to the very end, so I've decided to enter the book into the T(ea) Tuesday festivities at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog. Here's my favorite tea quote:
I am homesick, she thought with surprise. Homesick for that dark flat, which I have never much liked, homesick for my own chair and my footstool, for that brown kitchen teapot which I bought from Pelham Street (Beatrice swore that it made the best tea, and she was right: I often enjoyed a cup in the basement with her), homesick above all for my bedroom, so gloomy in daytime, so comfortingly womblike at night.

There are a couple of artworks mentioned. Degas's Jeunes Spartiates s'exerçant à la guerre is mentioned, as is Titian's Sacred and Profane Love:


There's a reference to a remark by Baudelaire "that he found it difficult to breathe when faced with a portrait by Ingres." There's a piece of a poem in French, which I had to google to translate; but it seems to be Paul Valéry's The Graveyard By The Sea:
After such arrogance, after so much strange
Idleness -strange, yet full of potency-
favorite non-tea-related quotes:
But there was too little to do when one was old, and feeling one's age, reluctant to venture further than the shops and the library, and then faced with a long afternoon at home. If she was at all nostalgic it was for her earlier vigour, when she had thought nothing of being out all day. She did not mind the silence, for she had come to cherish it, but there was a certain lack of human nourishment about her days that distressed her. Not excessively, for she was not an excessive woman, and not at all given to unnecessary regrets. She simply wished for the occasional conversation, the occasional stimulus of another personality. She was careful not to brood on this deficiency, but rather to face it squarely. She was, she knew, fortunate: she was not in need, did not depend on her children, had suffered no serious illnesses. Nevertheless she felt she was preparing mentally for her own death....
Those who love us are the most difficult to withstand.
The Independent has a spoiler-filled review and says, "Fraud, her 12th novel in 12 years, apparently conforms to everything that one has learnt to expect". The LA Times closes its review with this:
Fraud and denial, often yoked together, are indeed everywhere in life, and it takes a novel like this to show just how pervasive they are. "Fraud" sneaks up on you, delivering less than it promises in terms of mystery but more in terms of insight.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Feelin' Good

Feelin' Good:



by Junior Parker, who died 43 years ago tomorrow at the age of 39 during surgery for a brain tumor. This was recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis in 1953. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Alice (1988)

Alice is a 1988 claymation adaptation of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It's a very loose adaptation directed by Jan Švankmajer. I like this director's work, and this film is a treat. I will admit that, by the end, the "said the White Rabbit" narration by Alice was irritating me.

via Vimeo:


Moria gives it 5 out of 5 stars, calling it a "work of bizarre genius". io9 calls it "The weirdest Alice in Wonderland movie ever made" and says, "It's an interesting experience for anyone familiar with the novel, but I certainly would not recommend it as an introduction to the story." The Telegraph says, "This Alice's glorious proliferation of magical transformations works like a charm on anyone who values the imagination". DVD Beaver says, "What the Czech animator Jan Svankmajer does in "Alice" seems more akin to alchemy than moviemaking. His is an art of dark conjuring, brought to life more by the wave of a wand than the slap of a clapper board." It has a critics score of 100% at Rotten Tomatoes.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dressed for Death


Dressed for Death (or The Anonymous Venetian) (1994) is the 3rd book in the Commissario Guido Brunetti series by Donna Leon. I picked up a couple from this series when I came across them in the used book section of my local book store. I enjoyed this one and will buy more as I find them.

from the back of the book:
Commissario Guido Brunetti's hopes for a refreshing family holiday in the mountains are once again dashed when a gruesome discovery is made in Marghera -a body so badly beaten the face is completely unrecognizable. Brunetti searches Venice for someone who can identify the corpse but is met with a wall of silence. Then he receives a telephone call from a contact who promises some tantalizing information. And before the night is out Brunetti is confronting yet another appalling, and apparently senseless, death.
favorite quotes:
The city had grown old, but Brunetti loved the sorrows of her changing face.
...
One of the secrets Paola and Brunetti never revealed to anyone was their decades-long search for the ugliest Christ child in western art. At the moment, the title was held by a particularly bilious infant in room thirteen of the Pinacoteca di Siena. Although the baby in front of Brunetti was clearly no beauty, Siena's title was not at risk.
...
Beauty changed nothing, he knew, and perhaps the comfort it offered was no more than illusion, but still he welcomed that illusion.

Kirkus Reviews closes with this: "One of the most appealing of recent detectives, Brunetti stars in a case that brings out his canniness and his compassion--and shows his creator spreading her wings more powerfully than ever." Reviewing the Evidence says,
Guido Brunetti is a character who is always welcome at my reading table. He is a devoted family man. Unlike many cops, he is always civilized and has an intuitive sense of how to comfort or interrogate those he meets during his investigations. He is sensitive and serious but exhibits a fine sense of humor as well, especially when interacting with his wife, Paola.... Leon does an exceptional job of portraying Venice, its glory and its warts, as well as the complicated politics of the time.