Friday, January 31, 2014

Etoile

Étoile is a 1989 Italian film about a new ballerina student who becomes possessed by the spirit of the ballerina who haunts the school. It stars Jennifer Connelly and Charles Durning. I like Charles Durning, and this is a beautiful and interesting movie. It gets quite bizarre towards the end.

via youtube:



TCM has an overview. Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have a critics score but has an audience rating of 80%.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Friend from England


A Friend from England is a 1987 novel by Booker prize-winner Anita Brookner. She published her first novel when she was 53 years old. I love the way she writes and pick up everything I see by her. Her main characters tend to be intellectual women, and the books explore their lives and emotions. It's not that there isn't plenty going on in this book, but most of the movement seems to me to be going on inside the main character.

Here's a sample of descriptive writing from the middle of the book:
I realized to my surprise that the year had turned. One always expects the summer to last for much longer than it does: one forgets the very sensation of being cold. Yet the people that I passed no longer had that expansive air that goes with the summer season; their heads were lowered, their walk purposeful. Shorter days and longer nights were upon us.
I found this quote interesting:
I could think of no more gross behavior to a woman than this indifference, this coarse bungling of her emotions. Whatever women put up with from men, they should never countenance indifference.
from the back of the book:
Part-owner of a London bookshop and thirty-two years old, Rachel Kennedy is self-sufficient and somewhat chilly. No one knows much of the affairs of her heart. But when Oscar Livingstone asks her to be his daughter's mentor as his daughter emerges into womanhood, Rachel finds herself caught up in Heather's romances in ways she hadn't anticipated. In the end she measures her own unencumbered, carefully gauged liberty against what she sees as Heather's irresponsible abandon, and takes it upon herself as a duty to force an unforgettable confrontation. From London to Venice this elegant, revealing, beautifully controlled study builds to a startling unmasking of its protagonists and their motives.
Kirkus Reviews closes with this: "The vulgarity of the world pains the Brookner protagonist no end -and the result, especially here, is pure starch." The Independent's review says, "Anita Brookner is a novelist of astonishing technical skill, and A Friend from England is a very good book."

The LA Times says, "What we are reading is not a social comedy or novel of sensibility, but an allegorical debate between a false life of repression and a true life of risks and engagements." The London Review of Books ends its review by saying, "Rachel’s progressive discovery of Heather’s true calibre and the finally devastating effect of that on her own sense of self provides the novel’s momentum. The story develops into a kind of contest between them."

The Paris Review has an interview with Brookner in which she describes A Friend from England as "a very old-fashioned moral tale".

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Nevadan

The Nevadan is a 1950 Randolph Scott Western. Gordon Douglas directs.

cue Blazing Saddles:



The Nevadan also stars Dorothy Malone and Forrest Tucker. I prefer my Westerns without romance, but that element doesn't drag down the action in this movie. I always like Forrest Tucker. In the saloon the pianist plays Sweet Betsy From Pike in the background, which is always fun to hear.

via youtube:



TCM has an article that says,
Far from being just another by-the-numbers Western, The Nevadan brings enough twists and variations to a familiar genre that it received a favorable review from the New York Times. In a way such success shouldn't have been entirely unexpected since in addition to acting Randolph Scott also co-produced with Harry Joe Brown. This was one of fourteen films they did together, all intelligent and above-average Westerns starring Scott.
Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have a critics score, but the audience rating is 83%.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Coffee and Swedish Cookies


The Daughter had brought me a package of these Ballerina cookies (they call them biscuits over there) from her trip to Sweden, and I had been doing the "save them for nice" "thing". I finally decided "nice" had come! The Daughter came over and joined me for coffee and cookies. Google translates the company's description this way:
Since 1963, Ballerina merry Swedes with its unique smooth and creamy nougat and its characteristic appearance. Ballerina is Sweden's most beloved biscuit and Göteborgs Kex's largest brand. Every tenth packet of biscuits sold in Sweden is a Ballerina package and every second eats an average of six people a Oreos.
Ya gotta love it. My mind is picturing 6 merry Swedes being eaten by Oreos. No, really, I do understand what it means, I think, but it's still funny.

The cookies are very good, not too sweet.

The cup is one of the few I've come across that have snowmen on them without being Christmas-y.

Join Bleubeard and Elizabeth for T Tuesday, a weekly party.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hakuho Wins in Playoff

Here's the final bout:



Asia and Japan Watch opens their report with this:
Yokozuna Hakuho won his 28th career title on Jan. 26 after Mongolian compatriot Kakuryu forced a tie-breaker in an exciting finish to the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
The Japan Times says,
Hakuho suffered his first setback with a defeat at the hands of ozeki Kakuryu in the final bout of regulation, but bounced back to claim the Emperor’s Cup with an impregnable display in the playoff, moving him within four titles of matching legendary yokozuna Taiho’s all-time record of 32 championships.
Sometimes the winner is known early, but this tournament wasn't decided until the final match on the final day.

Things You Can't Say While Following Jesus


Well, you can say these things -many people do- but you can't claim you're doing it because you are following Jesus. So, here's Sojourner's list:
1) There are no atheists in a foxhole.
2) Have you heard about Jesus?
3) Because the Bible tells me so (or “it’s in the Bible”).
4) It's okay to judge.
5) Love the sinner, hate the sin.
6) I must be living right.
7) But for the grace of God, there go I.
8) God never gives us more than we can handle.
9) God needed another angel.
10) Everything happens for a reason.
Their annotations explain why these are all bad things to say.

I kinda like this list. I have to admit I've said, "I must be living right" when I've found a great parking spot, but it was a joke. I had no idea people said that and meant it.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

getting it done


I have always liked Chesterton's quote, “if a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly,” which appeals to me. It means I don't have to agonize over whether or not I'll be good enough before I start.

Now I've heard, "getting it right is better than getting it done." I think I like Chesterton's take on it better. If I wait until I'm sure I'll get it right before I do it, I'll never start!

The Chesterton quote isn't an excuse for doing it badly, but it certainly removes an excuse to procrastinate. I think it assumes you'll do your best, and if that's bad, well -if the thing was worthy of doing at all- at least you tried your best.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Beyond

Beyond is a 2013 science fiction film short directed by Raphael Rogers. from the vimeo site:
Arya is the last remaining member of her family, a lineage with a unique genetic code that grants the ability to survive the folding of temporal and spatial boundaries... In short, she can teleport. Tasked with exploring new planets, she is in search of something that will explain who exactly she is and where she comes from.
I don't seem able to embed the video here. Quiet Earth managed it somehow, so you can watch it there. It's interesting and worth clicking through to watch. It's only 8 minutes long. Watch through to the very end, past the closing credits, to see it all.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The January Dancer


The Husband gave me a knee-high stack of books for Christmas, and this is one of them. The January Dancer, by Michael Flynn, is the first in the Spiral Arm series. I'm impressed. It's a fun read. I enjoyed it tremendously and am looking forward to the others.

from the back of the book:
Hugo Award finalist and Robert A. Heinlein Award-winning SF writer Michael Flynn now turns to space opera in The January Dancer, with stunningly successful results. Full of rich echoes of the space opera classics from Doc Smith to Cordwainer Smith, it tells the fateful story of an ancient pre-human artifact of great power, and the people who seek it. Starting with Captain Amos January, who quickly loses it, and then the others who fight, scheme, and kill to get it, we travel around the complex, decadent, brawling, mongrelized interstellar human civilization it might save or destroy, following the searchers for it. Collectors want the Dancer; pirates take it; rulers crave it, and they’ll all kill if necessary to get it.

This is as thrilling a yarn as any ever in the whole history of SF. This is a story of love, revolution, music, and mystery, and ends, as all great stories do, with shock and a beginning.
SF Signal didn't like it, giving it 1 1/2 out of 5 stars, but they faulted the political back story, which I liked. They praised the prose, while calling the book a "chore" to read. I agree with them about the prose: "On the bright side, Flynn’s prose is well structured —some might say poetic— and sometimes humorous".

Kirkus Reviews says, "Flynn ably tracks the intersecting orbits of his assassins, pirates and would-be kings, constructing a plot with the human density of a Brazilian favela". The SF Site review calls it "first and foremost, an entertaining Science Fiction novel of the old sort" and "a fine space opera with a quite satisfying central mystery, and with a setting that could be reused for further worthwhile novels". SF Revu closes with this:
My complaints of a large cast aside, The January Dancer offers a full and detailed story arc, a fabulous future galaxy to play in, and a race of humans who are are trying to save what they can remember of ancient earth. If you enjoy space operas told from many points of view, you might get a kick out Michael Flynn's The January Dancer.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Deserter

The Deserter is a 1971 Spaghetti Western directed by Burt Kennedy. Appearing in this are John Huston, Richard Crenna, Chuck Connors, Ricardo Montalban (Star Trek connection), Slim Pickens and Woody Strode. Great cast. The plot is a revenge story about a soldier who quits to hunt down the Indians who killed his wife. The fort had made no attempt to protect the nearby settlement where she lived. I like this one.

via youtube:



Spaghetti-Western.net calls it "entertaining throughout." TCM has an overview.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Scream


There are days when we just feel like screaming. I think it's best to embrace the urge and, well, maybe not actually scream (though maybe...), but do something to express the feeling. Sometimes I choose a cup that screams for me. I keep this mug with my winter cups, since it's in the dark part of the year it appeals to me more.

The Scream is an Edvard Munch creation that seems to reach a certain place inside most people. Yale Press has an excerpt from a book that says,
What is certain is that as a symbol it generously fulfils Munch’s requirement, if not the requirement of the Symbolisits: it is capable of manifold, almost infinite interpretations. The last words can be left to him: "And for several years I was almost mad—that was the time when the terror of insanity reared up its twisted head. You know my picture, The Scream? I was being stretched to the limit—nature was screaming in my blood—I was at breaking point . . . You know my pictures, you know it all—you know I felt it all."
Slate.com says it, "represents the apogee of anxiety, the soul's final breaking point." EdvardMunch.org says, "Essentially this famous picture is autobiographical, an expressionistic construction based on Munch's actual experience of a scream piercing through nature while on a walk, after his two companions, seen in the background, had left him."

Bleubeard and Elizabeth host a T(ea) Party at their place every Tuesday where folks can share their drinks, crafts, joys, frustrations, and maybe even their screams.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Kick the Wall

Kick the Wall:



by Jimmy Davis and Junction.

Lyrics:
Sometimes she's undecided
Sometimes she just don't care
She thinks so one sided
She thinks looks are fair
Kick the wall

You try but can't quit her
What she wants God only knows
This love it doesn't fit her
She doesn't keep what she outgrows
Kick the wall

You dreamed that she loved you
You couldn't keep her away
When it seemed that she wanted you
But she can't make you stay

(Kick the wall)
If it makes you feel better
Makes you feel like a man
(Kick the wall)
If you can't get her
At least you'll know you can
Kick the wall

You're saying all the things that she wants to hear
All the things that you thought that would make it clear
She's holding out for someone else
And you know that you're still loving by yourself
You take it out on her or something else

(Kick the wall)
If it makes you feel better
Makes you feel like a man
(Kick the wall)
Yeah, if you can't get her
At least you'll know you can
Kick the wall
(If it makes you feel better)
Makes you feel like a man
(Kick the wall)
Yeah...if you can't get her
At least you'll know you can
Kick the wall

(Kick the wall)
If it makes you feel better
Makes you feel like a man
(Kick the wall)
Yeah, if you can't get her
At least you'll know you can
Kick the wall
(Kick the wall)
Whoa...it makes you feel better
Makes you feel like a man
(Kick the wall)
Yeah...if you can't get her
At least you'll know you can
Kick the wall

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day

The Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day is a 2009 film, the direct if not quick sequel to the original Boondock Saints movie from 1999. I like the concept and think these films are fun. I'll watch the 3rd installment if it gets made.

trailer:



Slant Magazine gives it 1 out of 4 stars, opening its review with this: "In cinema as in life, the devotion inspired by cults can—like the Jonestown thirst for Kool-Aid—border on lunacy." Roger Ebert givs it 1 out of 4 stars and opens by saying it "is an idiotic ode to macho horseshite (to employ an ancient Irish word). It is however distinguished by superb cinematography." DVD Talk includes this in its "final thoughts":
The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day is not a particularly good film, but it is an entertaining tribute to the fans who made the first a cult hit. Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus return as Irish vigilantes the McManus brothers after they are framed for the murder of a priest. There is plenty of action and humor to be found

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 is the 2013 entry in the franchise. I'm the only one in the family who hadn't seen it (the rest saw it in the theater), and The Husband picked up the DVD so I could share the fun. And it is fun. I like all of these, along with the Captain America/Thor/Avengers films. What's not to like?

When you watch it, make sure you watch through the end credits.

trailer:



Slant Magazine gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars and says,
The series that Favreau began and Black has now brilliantly reconfigured has served to help resurrect the superhero genre in the wake of twin catastrophes Spider-Man 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand, resurrect Downey, an actor of tremendous seduction and force, as a natural leading man, and now resurrect Black as one of Hollywood's most assured and clever hit makers. And yet, the most appealing thing about Iron Man 3 is its ambitions to not merely resurrect, but reinvent the nature of such elementally safe entertainments.
Salon.com says,
The third and purportedly last of Robert Downey Jr.’s adventures as the armor-clad but increasingly vulnerable Tony Stark features one of Downey’s most nuanced performances, arguably a lot better than the movie around him, and keeps him separated from the physical and emotional protection of the Iron Man suit for extended periods.
Moria didn't much care for it, pointing out the betrayal of comic book canon. Slate says, "Iron Man 3 has jettisoned both thoughtfulness and credibility to fulfill its contractual quota of kabooms." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 78%.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a fantasy/drama movie from 2012. Hard to summarize, the film is about a little southern Louisiana girl called "Hushpuppy" who lives in an isolated island community with her father, who is ill. The Younger Son didn't stay through our viewing, and The Husband was distinctly unimpressed. I found it intriguing. I'd recommend it for anybody who enjoys a touch of magical realism.

trailer:



It won the Camera d'Or at Cannes. Slant Magazine gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars and says, "Hushpuppy's struggle to determine her place in the world, to understand the repercussions of her words and actions, to distinguish between the real and the fantasy, drives the film and propels it toward ecstasy." Rolling Stone gives it 4 out of 4 stars and says "it creates a world to get lost in, a world of beauty, terror and mythic wonder." EW says it's "a thing of beauty and originality — and for that, sustained huzzahs are in order" and gives it a grade of A.

Slate doesn't care for it, saying, "It’s nothing if not original. But that doesn’t mean it’s good." NPR has a mixed review.

Roger Ebert gives it 4 out of 4 stars and says, "Sometimes miraculous films come into being, made by people you've never heard of, starring unknown faces, blindsiding you with creative genius. "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is one of the year's best films." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 86%.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Case of the Missing Servant


The Case of the Missing Servant is a mystery by Tarquin Hall, the first book in the Vish Puri series. I enjoyed this one and am glad I picked up the 2nd in the series at the same time.

There are several passing mentions I find interesting:
In Puri's office there's "a likeness of Puri's guru, the philosopher-statesman, Chanakya, who lived three hundred years before Christ and founded the arts of espionage and investigation."
There's a sign in his club's library "appealing for funds to replace the club's copy of the collected works of Rabindranath Tagore, which had "most unfortunately and due to unforeseen and regrettable circumstances" been "totally destroyed" by rats."
And a few quotes:
"The similarities between the Indian legal system and the Court of Chancery as described in Dickens' Bleak House were startling."
We're all one breath from this life to the next, only."
"More and more, people's moral compass is turning 180 degrees. So you must be vigilant. Remember what Krishna told Arjuna at the battle of Kurukshetra. "The discharge of one's moral duty supercedes all other pursuits, whether spiritual or material.""
Several times it's pointed out that Sherlock Holmes was a johnny-come-lately to some of the investigative breakthroughs ascribed to him.

from the back of the book:
Meet Vish Puri, India's most private investigator. Portly, persistent, and unmistably Punjabi, he cuts a determined swath through modern India's swindlers, cheats, and murderers.

In hot and dusty Delhi, where call centers and malls are changing the ancient fabric of Indian life, Puri's main work comes from screening prospective marriage partners, a job once the preserve of aunties and family priests. But when an honest public litigator is accused of murdering his maidservant, it takes all of Puri's resources to investigate. With his team of undercover operatives - Tubelight, Flush, and Facecream - Puri combines modern techniques with principles of detection established in India more than two thousand years ago and reveals modern India in all its seething complexity.
Savidge Reads says, "One of the things that I most admired about ‘The Case of the Missing Servant’ was how Hall created a genuinely intriguing mystery that managed to really look at Indian society and how it treats the classes/caste system in many ways." EW gives it an A- and says, "India, captured in all its pungent, vivid glory, fascinates almost as much as the crime itself." NPR opens its review with this:
For an introduction to India's cultural and culinary delights, you might hop a flight to Delhi or book a trip to Mumbai. But to meet the country sans passport free of airport indignities, you could just curl up with the crime novels of Tarquin Hall.

Vish Puri, Hall's opinionated private investigator, is a 50-something Punjabi super sleuth with a fondness for family and food. The mustachioed detective cracks open India's underbelly with a caseload that delves into forbidden love, corruption in Indian cricket and the deadly clash between science and superstition.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sundowners

The Sundowners is a 1950 Western film starring Robert Preston. I think this one's a bit slow. The new cattle rancher in town isn't welcomed with open arms. People die. Threats are made. Men talk a lot. There's a woman in the kitchen. It's no worse than many, but it's no better either.

via youtube:



TCM has an overview. It doesn't have a critics rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tea Cup Memories


The other day, I drank Constant Comment tea in one of Mother's cups. These are the cups we always used at her place when we would drink tea or coffee. For years I'd go over to her apartment every Friday morning. We'd have a muffin she had made, drink a cup of Constant Comment tea in one of these cups, and then we'd go to the grocery store together. She got to where she cut back on her muffin eating. I would eat two or three, and she would eat one. Then she would cut them in half and eat one-half. Then she wouldn't finish the half. That is a scary trend and doesn't lead to a happy place.

The pattern is Octagon White Ironstone and seems to have come from Sears, although I don't remember where they got it. So long ago. Many fond memories involving these cups.

Please join the T-Tuesday Parties over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's place.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Memphis Pride

Memphis Pride:



by Al Kapone, Memphis musician. Not really my thing but an interesting history.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Rolando

Rolando:



by Roland Janes, Memphis musician who died 10/13/2013. He was active as a session musician through 1998.