Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Challenge

The Challenge is a 1938 film telling the story of the two climbing teams competing to be the first to reach the top of the Matterhorn. A story of persistence in the face of hardship, a story of bravery and of tragedy.

via Youtube:


TCM has an overview. Rotten Tomatoes has no critics rating but a 100% audience score.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Elephant Boy

Elephant Boy is a 1937 film based on Toomai of the Elephants from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. The story can be read online here. The movie stars Sabu in his film debut. It won the Best Director Award at the Venice Film Festival. This has wonderful scenes of colonial-era India and was fun to watch.

via Youtube:


DVD Talk calls it "an appealing colonial adventure with elements of both documentary and fantasy" and says it "enchants audiences from the moment Sabu scrambles atop his beloved friend's enormous head". TCM has an overview. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Quartet in Autumn


Quartet in Autumn is a 1977 novel by Barbara Pym. A perfectly ordinary story about perfectly ordinary people. Wouldn't you think it might be a bit boring? But no, it's not at all. It's fascinating, and I'll keep this one on the shelf for re-reading later on.

from the back of the book:
Quartet in Autumn is the first of Barbara Pym's later novels and is considered by many to be her masterpiece. It was written during a time when the author had lost hope of ever being published again, and is drawn from Pym's own confrontation with mortality, but is leavened by her dry wit. This softly compelling story of human dignity in the midst of hopelessness presents s with four elderly single people who work in the same office. When the two women retire, this act threatens the lives of all four. Out of tragicomic themes of old age, Barbara Pym has written a tale of almost musical perfection.
Kirkus Reviews closes by saying, "Pym never loses respect for these put-upon people--more unlucky than unhappy--and, as a result, neither do we. Terribly brisk, but very affecting."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Inspector Imanishi Investigates


Inspector Imanishi Investigates is a 1961 mystery novel by Seicho Matsumoto. It's a Japanese police procedural. The story is told from the point of view of the main investigator, and you are privy to his thought process as he teases out the clues and follows leads. I enjoyed going on this journey and found the book -characters and plot and setting- interesting.

It was adapted for film in 1974 as Castle of Sand.

from the back of the book:
Inspector Imanishi ... Haiku poet, gardener, and the most dogged homicide detective on the Tokyo police force.
The Practical Theorist says, "It’s so intensely atmospheric you really don’t want the book to end." The LA Times says, "In addition to being a good whodunit, "Inspector" offers a vivid portrait of the confused Japanese culture of the early '60s". AustCrimeFiction calls it "incredibly engaging".

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sexy Coffee Pot

Sexy Coffee Pot:



a 1969 song by Tony Alvon and the Belairs. Here's a lively tune to get you jump-started on a cold morning. Between this and the caffeine jolt you ought to be ready for the day! I'm not a morning person, and I need all the help I can get.

Please join the folks at Bluebeard and Elizabeth's link party for T(ea) Tuesday.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache

Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache:



by Warren Smith, who died 1/30/1980 of a heart attack at age 47.

lyrics:
Who you been lovin' since I been gone
A long tall man with a red coat on
Good-for-nothing-baby you've been doing me wrong
Who you been lovin' since I been gone
Who you been lovin' since I been gone

Who's been playing around with you
A real cool cat with eyes of blue
Triflin' baby are you being true
Who's been foiling around with you
Who's been fooling around with you

Somebody saw you at the break of day
Dining and a-dancing in the cabaret
He was long and tall, he had plenty of cash
He had a red cadillac and a black moustache
He held your hand and he sang you a song
Who you been lovin' since I been gone
Who you been lovin' since I been gone

SOLO

Somebody saw you at the break of day
Dining and a-dancing in the cabaret
He was long and tall, he had plenty of cash
He had a red cadillac and a black moustache
He held your hand and he sang you a song
Who you been lovin' since I been gone
Who you been lovin' since I been gone

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Brain Damage

Brain Damage is a 1988 comedy horror film about a strange parasite named Aylmer that leaves the elderly couple it has been living with to establish itself in the life of our poor young hero. The creature provides an infusion of addictive hallucinogens in exchange for human brains to eat. This is a tragic story, a hard movie to watch.

via Youtube:



HorrorNews.net concludes:
“Brain Damage” will entertain you immensely but if you know someone who has a monkey on his/her back that they cannot shake, it will both bother & entertain you in equal amounts, because it will give you a sense of what this person is going through. Either way, you will never forget it. I know I never will for reasons I pray none of you will ever have to experience in your lifetime.
Moria gives it 4 out of 5 stars and calls it "a searing metaphor for drug addiction". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 70%.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Proud and the Damned

The Proud and the Damned is a 1972 Western starring Chuck Connors and Cesar Romero. Chuck Connors' tv series The Rifleman was a great favorite of my mother, although I was just a tyke while it was on and didn't ever watch it. There's a summary for this movie at Imdb:
A group of five Confederate mercenaries led by Sergeant Will Hansen must choose sides carefully in a small village where they find themselves trapped in the middle of a rebellion. The group is torn as to whether they should honor the powerful military dictator who forces them to spy for him or help the local village fight for its independence. Follow Sergeant Hansen and his men as they make a decision that could cost them their lives. -Written by Michaelj@new.rr.com
I watched it free at Hulu, but it's also at youtube:



Reviews are hard to come by. I find it a bit slow getting started. And then I kept finding it slow. It's filled with corny romance subplots. I just never got interested in it, and I eventually just kept it on in the background while I did other stuff.




Friday, January 23, 2015

The Earth Dies Screaming

The Earth Dies Screaming is a 1964 science fiction film. It's directed by Terence Fisher, who did a lot of work for Hammer Films. This is an alien invasion film, short at just over an hour, where scattered human survivors gather in a small town. There are the squabbles you would expect as they try to find weapons and come up with a strategy to fight the aliens. It's not bad at all, especially if you're not already over-familiar with alien invasion or post-apocalyptic films.



Reviews are scarce. TCM has an overview.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fountain and Tomb


Having read and loved The Cairo Trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz, I couldn't pass up Fountain and Tomb (1988) by the same author when I saw it at the book shop. Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1988, the only Arab writer to have won it. He died in 2006 at 94 years of age. The book is almost a collage of 1920s Cairo, a vision shown in parts. He writes beautifully!

from the back of the book:
"I enjoy playing in the small square between the archway and the takiya [monastery] where the Sufis live. Like all the other children, I admire the mulberry trees in the takiya garden, the only bit of green in the whole neighborhood. Our tender hearts yearn for their dark berries. But it stands like a fortress, this takiya, circled by its garden wall. Its stern gate is broken and always, like the windows, shut. Aloof isolation drenches the whole compound. Our hands stretch towards this wall -reaching for the moon."
So begins Naguib Mahfouz's Fountain and Tomb, a kaleidoscopic novel set in Cairo in the 1920s. The narrator -now child, now adult reliving his childhood- tells tales of the street, of separated lovers, childhood games, workers, neighbors, loneliness. In his alley, his small slice of Egypt, he is presented with life's polarities; the excitement and harshness of Cairo at the one end, and the withdrawn but beautiful world of the sanctuary of the other.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Enigma of Arrival


The Enigma of Arrival is a 1987 autobiographical novel by V. S. Naipaul. This book takes place mostly in the English countryside. Naipaul won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2001. I have read a couple of his other novels and enjoy his writing. I feel surrounded by the world he creates, as if I'm a part of it. You can read an excerpt of this book at the Nobel Prize site.

from the back of the book:
The story of a writer's singular journey -from one place to another, from the British colony of Trinidad to the ancient countryside of England, and from one state of mind to another- this is perhaps Naipaul's most autobiographical work. Yet it is also woven through with remarkable invention to make it a rich and complex novel.
favorite quotes:
How quickly his time had passed! How quickly a man's time passed! So quickly, in fact, that it was possible within a normal span to witness, to comprehend, two or three active life cycles in succession.
....
In that unlikely setting, in the ancient heart of England, a place where I was truly an alien, I found I was given a second chance, a new life, richer and fuller than any I had had elsewhere. And in that place, where at the beginning I had looked only for remoteness and a place to hide, I did some of my best work. I traveled, I wrote, I ventured out, brought back experiences to my cottage, and wrote. The years passed. I healed. The life around me changed. I changed.
The book's title comes from this painting by Giorgio de Chirico:


The Guardian calls it "a sad pastoral" and closes with this: "There is one word I can find nowhere in the text of The Enigma of Arrival. That word is 'love', and a life without love, or one in which love has been buried so deep that it can't come out, is very much what this book is about and what makes it so very, very sad." The New York Times has a qualified positive review.

The London Review of Books says, "Naipaul’s ample unfolding book is of great beauty, delicacy and courage." The Telegraph calls Naipaul "an English prose stylist of the old school."

Kirkus Reviews calls it "unique among literary memoirs" and says,
Dense, often slow, it's a book of enormous subtle accretion but also of stripping away of self-pretense. It also offers a different, deeper sense of Naipaul's sensibility than has been seen: plugged as it is into cycles of ruin that are poetic, viscerally sad, yet ultimately beautiful, Naipaul's precious discomfort--that of the dis-cultured--has never seemed more palpable and moving.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Chocolate Girl


The Chocolate Girl is one of the most famous paintings by Swiss artist Jean-√Čtienne Liotard (1702-1789). BostonHistory.org says, "Liotard was traveling through the city drawing portraits of Austrian royalty when [Prince] Dietrichstein asked him to capture Anna’s likeness as a wedding gift." This blog post at The Curator's Choice has a fairy tale-like story about how server-then-princess Anna became the model for the painting.

I'm good getting my own chocolate, thanks, and I don't imagine I would ever have transformed into a very convincing princess. I'll just have a cozy drink on a winter morning and enjoy the story. Join me? I'll be at Bluebeard and Elizabeth's T(ea) Tuesday gathering.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Cremation of Sam McGee

The Cremation of Sam McGee:



a poem by Robert Service, read by Johnny Cash.

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the cursèd cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead—it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows— O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May."
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; ... then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Green Mile

The Green Mile is a 1999 film. Horror? Fantasy? Drama? Prison film? All I know is that this is one of my favorite movies. I'm not even sure why. I find something new everytime I watch it.

It's based on a Stephen King book and is directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Majestic, season 1 of The Walking Dead). Tom Hanks stars with David Morse, Bonnie Hunt, Michael Clarke Duncan (who died in 2012 of a heart attack at age 54, brilliant in this break-out role), James Cromwell (who had a Star Trek role as Zephram Cochrane), Michael Jeter (The Fisher King, Waterworld), Sam Rockwell (Moon), Jeffrey DeMunn (who is Dale in The Walking Dead), Harry Dean Stanton (active in film, including in Escape from New York, and on TV since 1956), Dabbs Greer, Gary Sinise, William Sadler (who has a Star Trek DS9 connection), and Paula Malcomson (who has a Star Trek: Enterprise connection).

trailer:



Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars and says,
The Green Mile is about as accomplished a piece of storytelling as you'll come by. Morse, Clarke Duncan, Bonnie Hunt as Edgecomb's wife and, especially, Hutchison weave their own acting magic. Hanks everyman routine may have become so ingrained it virtually doesn't register, but you can't imagine the movie without him. And Darabont, the real star, is a director in a classic-tradition. Give him a story and he delivers a real movie.
DVD Talk says, "Our buttons are being pushed, but The Green Mile is such a well-done film that we shouldn't mind" and says the film "holds up well and should continue to do so." EW gives it a B grade and says, "In its own old-fashioned way, Darabont's style of picture making is well matched to King-size yarn spinning. The director isn't afraid to let big emotions and grand gestures linger". Roger Ebert gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars and closes with this: "As Darabont directs it, it tells a story with beginning, middle, end, vivid characters, humor, outrage and emotional release. Dickensian." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 80% and an audience score of 94%.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Glen and Randa

Glen and Randa is a 1971 post-apocalyptic film, rated X back then because of some incidental full nudity. The movie is almost scary in its portrayal of a culture brought low, where knowledge has to be achieved starting from the basics. The main character, on seeing a car up in a tree in the first scene, says, "You ever been looking down on a leaf and all of a sudden a butterfly came flying out of it? Well, maybe it's the same way with cars. Maybe cars become trees the same way leaves become butterflies." So sad. "What are we gonna eat when the cans run out?" An excellent question.

trailer:



Moria says it "is actually very good science-fiction in that it is about viewing the everyday and familiar through eyes to whom it is alien." DVD Talk says, "The movie attracted plenty of positive reviews, yet it has remained relatively obscure." The NYTimes says, ""Glen and Randa" is neither a successful nor an entertaining movie, but it is sober, and what mind it has is high." The Village Voice says, "The vision of a post-apocalyptic America is all the more poignant in that the on-the-road counterculture that created it is long, long gone."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Soulful Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt


Soulful Creatures: Animal Mummies in Ancient Egypt is a current exhibit at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. It would've been more appropriate, I think, to have seen this back when it opened in October, but I'm just now getting around to it. The Brooks' web site says the exhibit is
the first major exhibition to focus on this fascinating and mysterious aspect of ancient Egyptian culture and religion. Drawn from the renowned collection of the Brooklyn Museum, the exhibition features 69 works of Egyptian art related to the ceremonial use of animal mummification and 30 animal mummies.
The mummies are varied animals, including ibis, cat, crocodile, shrew, hawk, snake... The mummies are examined using x-rays and CT scans so the wrappings aren't damaged during the process. It was interesting to read about the scans that showed no animal inside -just feathers, or dirt and stone- leading to speculation that some fraud was involved since these mummies were most often bought and offered as votive offerings to the gods. Wikipedia says:
The vast majority of Egyptian animal mummies were religious offerings. If an Egyptian sought a favor from a god, he would purchase or make an offering and place it at the appropriate temple of the god he wished to please. Before animal mummification became common, these offerings were usually bronze statues depicting the animals. However, eventually a cheaper alternative to bronze statues —animal mummies— became the most popular form of offering. ... The animals were raised on temple grounds, and then sold to pilgrims or regular citizens. The animals’ necks were often broken, an indication that their sole purpose in life was to be sacrificed as offerings. When visiting the temples, Egyptians of the general public would purchase these pre-mummified animals and offer them to the gods.
Trending News has information on the process of examining these mummies and has some photos, including this one of a snake coffin:

photo from Trending News

It's a fascinating look at this practice, and The Daughter and I enjoyed it.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing


The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall is the 2nd in a series of books about Vish Puri Most Private Investigator. I read the first one here. I just happened to come across these in a used book store, but I like them a lot and will actively seek out the others. The characters are fun and enjoyable to get to know, the plots are interesting; and I feel like I'm getting a taste of what some parts of India are really like. You can read the first chapter of this book here.

from the back of the book:
Early one morning, on the lawn of a grand boulevard in central Delhi, the Hindu goddess Kali appears and plunges a sword into the chest of a prominent Indian scientist, who dies in a fit of giggles. Vish Puri, India’s Most Private Investigator, master of disguise and lover of all things fried and spicy, doesn’t believe the murder is a supernatural occurrence and sets out to prove who really killed Dr. Suresh Jha. To get at the truth, he and his team of undercover operatives -Facecream, Tubelight, and Flush- travel from the slum where India’s hereditary magicians must be persuaded to reveal their secrets to the holy city of Haridwar on the Ganges. Stopping only to indulge his ample Punjabi appetite, Puri uncovers a network of spirituality, science, and sin unique in the annals of crime and soon finds that solving the case will require all of his earthly faculties.
Kirkus Reviews calls it "As tasty as Puri’s favorite aloo parantha." Euro Crime says, "The heat, colours, noise and also the humanity of a modern Indian city comes through very clearly." TarquinHall.com quotes several reviews, including this from the Daily Mail:
So brilliantly does Tarquin Hall capture the sights, smells, sounds and foibles of modern India, not to mention the nuances of English-Indian speech, that it is hard to believe he is not himself Indian. He also serves up fabulous descriptions of the Indian cuisine much favoured by Puri, a sort of Indian Poirot whose lunch will always come before his crime-solving.
NPR reports,
Tarquin Hall has hurled himself into the maw of India with the same gumption that drove him to Afghanistan in his teens. The measure of his literary success here could be the Indian woman who overheard us discussing his who dunnits. She couldn't wait to tell him that he nailed the life and lingo of Northern India.
The Smithsonian APA Center says,
Vish Puri –“India’s Most Private Investigator”– is, for all his quirky habits (sneaking food when the wife’s not looking, spouting centuries-old history, nicknaming his most trusted colleagues, his occasional clashes with his Mummy), quite the entertaining star of his own series. Don’t ever compare him to Sherlock Holmes, but his eccentricities do make me think of the portly, equally idiosyncratic Hercules Poirot …

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cargo

Cargo is a touching zombie movie. I'm serious. There's such a sweet story here of paternal care and love:


It's directed by Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Elvis Presley's Graceland

photo from Wikipedia

I was born here in Memphis and have spent most of my life here, but I had never been to Graceland. To be honest, I still thought of it as Elvis' house and didn't have any desire to tour it. His daughter Lisa Marie still owns it after all, and it seemed a bit intrusive to me to wander through. The Daughter is enthusiastic about doing all the tourist attractions here, though, and I'm glad I went with her when she went while it was decorated for the Christmas holidays. Elvis sang Christmas songs over the sound system as we waited our turn to get on the shuttle bus to cross the street from the parking/ticketing/exhibit complex to the mansion property, and there were lit decorations scattered around. No flash photography is allowed, and The Daughter agreed to let me use her photos. I don't trust my camera not to flash even after I've told it not to.

Here's the drive leading up to the house:


Christmas decorations on the lawn:



The Living Room and Dining Room:


Elvis' mother's bedroom and the foyer staircase leading up to the 2nd floor:


The Jungle Room and the Pool Room:


The TV Room:


A display room for some of his awards:


Lisa Marie's swing set:


The Racketball building:


from the Automobile Museum:




A video tour of the car museum:



The Lisa Marie:



A video tour of the planes, which are being sold:



Here's my late lunch at the on-site Rockabilly's Burger Shop:



(I'm sharing that Coke with the folks at the Tuesday link gathering at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog.)

The Meditation Garden:


Elvis' grave:


This is a video tour in 2 parts led by a Graceland archivist, who describes how Elvis came to buy and decorate the home:

part 1:



part 2:



Here's a video via youtube of the Christmas lights and decorations inside and out:



I would recommend this tour to anyone visiting Memphis. I'd say it's a must-see if you have any interest at all in music history or pop culture. We only allowed half a day. I'd suggest getting there when they open at 9 and planning to make a whole day of it.

Graceland is a shrine to Elvis' music. There was little in-depth exploration of his life in the $42 Platinum+ tour we took and barely a mention of his death and the cult that has grown up around him. Elvis lived in Memphis, but there's not much about Memphis in the exhibits. Were I to add anything, I'd add

  • a room on his death: his health issues, photos of the vigil crowds at the time, copies of newspapers with relevant headlines, information on the extent of the gathering (for example, the day after he died there wasn't an available hotel room within a 6-hour drive of Memphis), coverage of the phenomenon of the annual Death Week gatherings, photos of the original gravesite before his body was moved to Graceland....
  • a display on Memphis during the period Elvis lived here: photos of Elvis at businesses he frequented; photos of places he rented for private use, such as movie theaters and the fairgrounds; demographic information; photos of other places where he lived here in town;
  • some information on planned changes both on the grounds and in the neighborhood.
  • As time passes, I'd expect to see more information on Elvis' personal life, such as his relationship with Priscilla and their meeting, marriage and divorce. While affected family members are still alive I don't imagine that's appropriate, but eventually I'd think such information would be included.
It's a great attraction as it is, of course. The Daughter and I will have to go back sometime to take in the things we missed this time. Maybe next time we'll go during Death Week.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cry Like Memphis

Cry Like Memphis:



by Tamara Walker

Lyrics:
Home of the blues is where I live
Trapped inside these lonely walls that won't forgive
Surrounded by memories
His goodbye haunts me like a Beale Street melody
And I've done everything but get down on my knees
If my tears will set this ghost inside me free

I'm gonna cry like Memphis
I'm going three times under
Gonna drown my sorrows
In tears that roll like thunder
Till I can find the strength
Till I can carry on
Im gonna cry like Memphis
When they heard the King was gone

Love me Tender cuts through the dark
Coming from an open window of a passing car
And in that moment I believe
That I can almost feel your body next to me
But one heart beating slowly brings me back around
I know youre gone, and I know Im breaking down

When I break down

I'm gonna cry like Memphis
I'm going three times under
Gonna drown my sorrows
With tears that roll like thunder
Till I can find the strength
Till I can carry on
Im gonna cry like Memphis
When they heard the King was gone

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Kes

Kes is a 1969 award-winning British film about a 15 year old boy, bullied in school and in constant trouble, who develops a relationship with a kestrel and an interest in kestrels and their training. A sad film. I'm glad I've seen it, but I don't tend to watch sad films more than once.

via Youtube:


BFI Screen Online says,
The dominant theme of Kes is the way in which the education system stifles the talents of many young working-class children, offering them little choice but to follow the narrow path laid out for them by an industrial capitalist society which sees them as fit only for unskilled manual or office work.
Criterion says, "Named one of the ten best British films of the century by the British Film Institute, Ken Loach’s Kes, is cinema’s quintessential portrait of working-class Northern England." Slant Magazine gives it 4 out of 5 stars, says, "If the concept of art for the masses means anything, it finds a masterpiece in Kes" and closes with this: "An axiom of unsentimental storytelling, Ken Loach's masterful second feature represents a critical turn away from the popularized kitchen-sink realism of the 1950s and '60s and toward a more improvised and unpredictable narrative style."

Bright Lights film journal says,
It’s mature not only in its objective and unsentimental treatment of a flawed boy and his hostile environment, but also in its general cinematic form, with multiple asides and deviations from the primary narrative. The film frequently follows characters other than Billy for a considerable time, but never too much, just enough for Loach to establish Billy’s world and to tell us a little about this region and where these people are coming from. In the end, though, what truly matters are Billy and Kes, this boy and his bird.
TCM has an overview. Roger Ebert gives it 4 out of 4 stars and says, "The film has a heartbreaking humanity." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Butterfly and Sword

Butterfly and Sword is a a 1993 Hong Kong martial arts film. Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh star. The Imdb synopsis describes it this way: "Dynamo Michelle Khan stars as a loyalist who attempts to keep the King's empire from being overthrown by a revolutionary group." There's a lot of flying action in this one. There's too much campy humor and silliness here to suit me, though.

via Youtube:



Moria gives it 4 out of 5 stars and opens its review with this praise: "Of all the Wu Xia Pan (fantastical flying swordsman) films that began with Swordsman (1990), Butterfly & Sword is one of the finest of the genre." Weird Wild Realm calls it an "appalling bore". Hong Kong Cinema calls it "unremarkable" and says,
The only reason people will watch this movie to the end will be to see if there is a sweet fight scene to follow all the distracting filler. You will not give a damn about the characters, or have any real concern for the plight of the warring clans. There are so many plot threads that are either forgotten or ignored during the movie. This is just plain lazy. The only saving grace for Butterfly and Sword is the action...
DVD Talk says, "despite a confusing plot, mishandled action sequences, and its tendency to make me want to yell "what?!" in disbelief at some mind-boggling directorial decision, Butterfly and Sword is pretty entertaining, intentionally or unintentionally."

Friday, January 09, 2015

Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait

Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait is a 2007 Korean horror film. It has a ghost/possession/revenge plot. I like this. I find it relentless, with a lot of atmosphere.

via Youtube:


KoreanMovieReviews.com says, "it delivers the horror – through atmosphere, suspense, visuals, and jump-scares". KoreanFilm.org says, "Muoi is a serviceable horror film with two or three effective jolts, but the real reason for any viewer to watch it to the finish is to gawk at its two incredibly beautiful lead actresses."

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Atrocity Archives


The Atrocity Archives contains The Atrocity Archive and The Concrete Jungle, 2 short novels by Charles Stross. I had heard much good about this book, but found myself reading rather impatiently and not particularly enjoying the experience. They are a type of spy/thriller mixed with horror/science fiction, so I expected to love this. I was disappointed.

Stross' site describes the series (this is the 1st book of the series) this way:
Good news: magic is real. Bad news: it's a branch of mathematics—prove the right theorems, and entities in other dimensions may hear and, sometimes, do what you tell them to do. Worse news: this means that magic is best practiced by computer geeks—"applied computational demonologist" is a job description. Worst news: the extradimensional entities are the horrors that haunted the dreams of H. P. Lovecraft, and the Stars are Coming Right ...

But don't worry. Her Majesty's Government has a secret agency tasked with defending the realm from the scum of the multiverse. It's nick-named the Laundry by those hapless civil servants and computer geeks who work there, such as Bob Howard, who was drafted after his MSc project nearly landscaped Wolverhampton by accident. And they probably will save the universe ... if they can find their way out of committee hell first, and account for all the paperclips they're missing.
SF Signal calls it "very fun". SFReviews.net says, "Fiendishly clever and as bristling with deliciously subversive ideas as anything else he's written, this early work of Stross's shows it was no secret the man was going places." SF Site calls it "a very breezy, fun, and imaginative novel" and recommends it. Eyrie says, "...if the humor clicks for you, it's a thoroughly enjoyable tale."

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Dead Man's Bounty (Summer Love)

Dead Man's Bounty (Summer Love) is a 2006 Polish western starring Val Kilmer as the dead man. This is my 2nd viewing. The Younger Son has seen it several times. The Husband and The Daughter hate and despise this film, saying it is too gory. Too gory? This condemnation from people who give every appearance of enjoying Game of Thrones episodes? Really? The Husband spent the entire film with his hand shielding his face, and The Daughter questions her ability to sleep after seeing it. *sigh*

The film is about a small town (a tiny town -3 buildings) where all hell breaks loose when a stranger comes to claim the $500 bounty on the dead man he has in tow. The Younger Son and I think it qualifies as a comedy with a happy ending, but your mileage may vary.

trailer:


DVD Verdict calls it "the product of a gifted visual filmmaker," says, "I don't think I've seen such a consistently acted genre picture in a while" and concludes, "any fan of Westerns since The Wild Bunch should probably see this picture." Westerns All Italiana has a plot description. Rotten Tomatoes has a 38% critics rating, which just goes to show how clueless critics can be.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Epiphany


We celebrate Epiphany, the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, at our house. I used to decorate as much for this holiday (using stars and Wise Men figures) as I did for Christmas. I don't decorate as much for anything now as I did when The Kids were little, but we do still observe it. Here's the story as found in Matthew 2: 1-12:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet:
‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will govern my people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared; and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. (RSV)
And, of course, there's We Three Kings:



We always include a breakfast with our celebrations, including coffee. Here's my new fancy coffee cup:


We'll be putting away the Christmas decorations now and getting out some snowman-themed things. Placemats will be black for a while, and most of the winter cups are black as well. The dark and cold days of Winter are here, but Spring will come in its own good time.

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

The picture at the top of the post is of the Adoration of the Magi (1423) by Gentile da Fabriano. The work is now in the Uffizi in Italy.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Barbarella

Barbarella is a 1968 science fiction farce starring Jane Fonda. I guess it was fun enough back in the day, and it seems to get reviewer appreciation even now; but I find it tedious.

via Vimeo:


Moria gives it 4 out of 5 stars and says, "The entire film is so deliriously capricious it is like eating candyfloss. It is to no particular surprise that Barbarella has become a cult classic." Slant Magazine gives it 3 out of 5 stars and says, "Barbarella delivers about equal doses calculated camp comedy and unintentional hilarity: wink-wink double entendres, deliberately cheeseball effects, and saccharine songs and musical cues." Empire Online gives it 3 out of 5 stars and calls it "Cheerful, kitsch and camp." DVD Talk recommends it. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 73%.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Sun Valley Serenade

Sun Valley Serenade is a 1941 musical that takes place over the Christmas holidays. It stars Sonja Henie, John Payne, Glenn Miller, Milton Berle, and Lynn Bari and features the Glenn Miller orchestra. Songs include Chattanooga Choo Choo, Moonlight Serenade, and In the Mood. It got 3 Academy Award nominations. Great fun! Of course, I say that trusting you'll be able to put up with sexist fluff. It is a 1941 musical comedy, after all.

via Youtube:



Time Out says to watch it not for the plot but for "the band playing 'Chattanooga Choo-Choo' ... 'In the Mood' and other evergreens, and a marvellous bit of Hermes Pan choreography performed by skater Henie on black ice." TCM has an overview and offers this synopsis: "A Norwegian war orphan adopted by a pianist as a publicity stunt turns out to be a beautiful young woman". Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 83%.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Best SFF Novels Ever

The Telegraph has a list of the best sci-fi and fantasy novels of all time:
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (1865)
The War of the Worlds, H G Wells (1898)
Dracula, Bram Stoker (1897)
Titus Groan, Mervyn Peake (1946)
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1932)
1984, George Orwell (1948)
I, Robot, Isaac Asimov (1950)
The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham (1951)
Lord of the Flies, William Golding (1954)
Dune, Frank Herbert (1965)
High-Rise, J G Ballard (1975)
The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett (1983)
Nights at The Circus, Angela Carter (1984)
The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1985)
Mother London, Michael Moorcock (1988)
American Gods, Neil Gaiman (2001)
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
Darkmans, Nicola Barker (2007)

THE BEST OF THE REST

Utopia, Thomas More (1516)
Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift (1726)
The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allan Poe (1840)
Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, Lewis Carroll (1871)
The Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse (1943)
Animal Farm, George Orwell (1945)
Childhood’s End, Arthur C Clarke (1953)
The Man in the High Castle, Philip K Dick (1962)
Contact, Carl Sagan (1985)
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson (1992)
The Scar, China Mieville (2002)
The Road, Cormac McCarthy (2006)
The Lord of the Rings, J R R Tolkien (1954-55)
The Time Machine, H G Wells (1895)
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde (1890)
I've read the ones in bold print. I've tried several times but failed to finish Dick's The Man in the High Castle.

Friday, January 02, 2015

RunAway

RunAway is a 1984 science fiction film about robots gone amok. Tom Selleck, Gene Simmons, Cynthia Rhodes, and Kirstie Alley (who has a Star Trek connection) are in it. Jerry Goldsmith does the music. Michael Crichton directs.

trailer:



Moria says, "Runaway manages a competent bevy of ideas but does seem a little pat at times." DVD Talk calls it "blunder of a Sci-Fi epic masquerading as decent cinema" and concludes, "This is really an awful film from start to finish. Not one moment of redemptive viewing. Save yourself from the horror! Oh the pain, the pain. (Thank you Dr. Smith)." Mutant Reviewers concludes, "It’s not that there’s no value here, it’s just that Runaway was already dated in 1984, and no amount of lip fuzz can overcome that fact." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 47% and an audience score of 33%.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

The Twelve Deaths of Christmas


The Twelve Deaths of Christmas is a 1979 mystery novel by Marian Babson. To be honest, I only bought this because I was looking for Christmas-related mysteries. I'd never heard of the author, and I didn't expect much from the book. I am so pleasantly surprised. Nicely written, there are well-developed characters, a setting you can envision easily from the descriptions, and a plot that brings you right into things. I'm going to be making an effort to find more by Babson. I say "making an effort" because my local bookstore has nothing by her on the shelf. I'll be looking online to see what's in print.

from the back of the book:
A string of grisly holiday murders had London terrorized. The police knew that the homicidal maniac was probably a perfectly respectable resident of a perfectly ordinary rooming house. But only when all the guests were gathered for Christmas dinner did Detective Superintendent Knowles realize that the killer planned to carve more than turkey... and that the last death of Christmas was about to take place right before his eyes!
teaser from inside:
'TIS THE SEASON TO BE DEADLY....

"It's a nightmare come true." Knowles faced his men. "A homicidal maniac stumbling on the perfect formula for murder: kill a stranger. Use whatever means comes to hand. Turn the most innocent objects into deadly weapons."

The detective shuddered. Nothing in the world was completely harmless. Everything could be turned to lethal use by a distorted mind bent on destruction.

"He's walking around, the same as anyone else. Except he's a maniac with a hair-trigger temper. No one knows what's likely to set him off. We've got to find him before he strikes again."

Kirkus Reviews says, " In Babson's skilled hands, the old which-one's-the-homicidal-maniac? chestnut flies again--for a fast-moving, one-sitting treat...". Cozy-Mystery.com has a list of recommended Christmas mysteries that includes this book.