Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Businessman and the Daffodils


This sculpture -The Businessman, by Lon Anthony ca. 1975- is new in the Memphis Botanic Gardens sculpture garden. At least I don't remember seeing it before. Anthony also did the sculptures in front of Theatre Memphis.

This one is also one I didn't remember seeing before:


We walked around the building and past these flowers:


on our way to see the daffodils:



And here's a picture The Daughter took of me taking the daffodil photos:


We saw these on the way back to the building:


It was such a beautiful, sunny Spring day with a high in the lower 70sF; and it's a joy to welcome the change in the season! After we got home we had a treat on the patio:


These cookies are nothing special -just cheap grocery store items- and the tea is Bigelow Lemon Lift. I can't tell you how happy I am to finally be able to sit outside, enjoy the sunshine, and not shiver with the cold.

You can see what other folks are sharing on this T(ea) Tuesday at the link gathering at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog.

Monday, March 30, 2015

It's a Good Day

It's a Good Day:



by Kay Starr, who lived for a while in Memphis during her early career. The second song in the video is Wheel of Fortune, which was her biggest hit. The video is from 1952.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Stromboli

Stromboli is a 1950 joint Italian/American neo-realist film directed by Roberto Rossellini and starring Ingrid Bergman and Mario Vitale. I could feel the pain of this woman's isolation, but I could also feel the pain of the husband.

I watched it at Hulu with commercials, but it's no longer available free online. Here's one scene:



FilmReference.com says, "Stromboli is very much "about" Karin and the development of her consciousness. ... we come to understand the central character largely through the ways in which she is placed in and reacts to the landscape. However, the spectator looks at Karin rather than with her, and we come to understand rather than empathise with her" and discusses the production conditions:
It had always been agreed to release an Italian and an English language version of the film, both of which were to be edited by Rossellini. However, as a result of rows about the budget RKO edited the English version itself, which differs considerably from the Italian one (which Rossellini himself edited) and was disowned by the director.
DVD Talk describes the film:
In Stromboli, the story takes place post WWII. Bergman performs the role of a Lithuanian refugee who ends up becoming married to a local fisherman, and leaving a prisoner of war camp to go back to the village where the fisherman lives. In this story, Bergman's character must face her emotional connection to the war in a world that becomes more and more disheartening to her at every turn. This new location, the village that our central protagonist goes to, is on a small-population island with a volcano: it becomes a cold, isolating, and overwhelming location for her as she faces the emotional turmoil of challenging post-war issues and the cold distance between her and the fisherman she is married to, ... This is a story of one individual responding to the environment and the surrounding world post-war and it crescendos to a conclusion worthy of great analytical consideration.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 80% and an audience rating of 85%. TCM has an overview.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Marienbad Elegy


The Marienbad Elegy is a poem written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe after the refusal of his proposal of marriage. He was 72; she was 17. He was devastated. She never married. You can read it online here. It closes with this:
Leave me here now, my life's companions true!
Leave me alone on rock, in moor and heath;
But courage! open lies the world to you,
The glorious heavens above, the earth beneath;
Observe, investigate, with searching eyes,
And nature will disclose her mysteries.

To me is all, I to myself am lost,
Who the immortals' favourite erst was thought;
They, tempting, sent Pandoras to my cost,
So rich in wealth, with danger far more fraught;
They urged me to those lips, with rapture crowned,
Deserted me, and hurled me to the ground.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Donnie Darko

Donnie Darko is a 2001 supernatural thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross, and Patrick Swayze.

I had never seen it before and knew nothing about it except that there was a big rabbit named Frank. I was completely unprepared for the effect this tragic story would have on me. I'll definitely watch this one again.

trailer:


Salon says, "“Donnie Darko” is a stunning technical accomplishment that virtually bursts with noise, ideas and references, but it’s fundamentally a gracefully crafted movie that’s about human beings and not images." Slant Magazine closes by saying, "Donnie Darko is a blazingly original evocation of better-place-than-here hopefulness, an affront to '80s naivete that is mindful of strange events that seemingly happen for a reason though not always for the better good." Moria gives it 2 stars and finds it confusing. Empire Online calls it "a mini-masterpiece". LocusMag.com says,
Despite the flaws, the portions that do work are fiercely ambitious, nearly perfect and deeply compelling. As King Crimson once put it, "The more I look at it, the more I like it." Kelly may have missed the final pitch, but he went down swinging for the fences. Nor am I alone in my esteem. Donnie Darko seems to have become that rarest of creatures, a cult film entirely free of camp.
Roger Ebert has a mixed review. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 85%.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Red Sorghum


Red Sorghum is a 1986 novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Mo Yan. This is a violent story, with all the violence beautifully and very clearly described. I found it hard to read and didn't finish it, and leaving a book unfinished isn't something I often do, though as I've gotten older I'm less willing to finish each book no matter what. I have a lot of books on my to-be-read shelf, and I've committed to clearing them out one way or the other. Life's too short to finish every book, and space is too limited to keep them all hoping I'll finish them eventually.

from the back of the book:
Spanning three generations, this novel of family and myth is told through a series of flashbacks that depict events of staggering horror set against a landscape of gem-like beauty, as the Chinese battle both Japanese invaders and each other in the turbulent 1930s.

A legend in China, where it won major literary awards and inspired an Oscar-nominated film, Red Sorghum is a book in which fable and history collide to produce fiction that is entirely new -and unforgettable.
The Independent says,
We are quickly alerted to Yan's exquisite and irritating style - on page two he characterises the place of the narrative, Northeast Gaomi Township, as 'easily the most beautiful and most repulsive, most unusual and most common, most sacred and most corrupt, most heroic and most bastardly, hardest-drinking and hardest-loving place in the world'. Grandiose contradictions are Yan's stock in trade, especially in the gleaming, vicious scenes of war that dominate the book.
Kirkus Reviews closes by saying, "Graphic scenes of violence become numbingly repetitive, but Mo Yan tempers his brutal tale with a powerfully evocative lyricism. A notable new arrival." Publishers Weekly calls it "A memorable achievement" and says, "In the way that Chinese landscape painting reshapes the viewer's perspective by offering not one but many focal points, this singularly forceful contemporary Chinese novel reinvents the notion of chronology."

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Debut


The Debut (originally published as A Start in Life) is the U.S. title of the 1981 novel by Anita Brookner. This was her first novel, though she had written some non-fiction before. I've read several books by her (including Hotel Du Lac (1984), The Misalliance (1986), A Friend From England (1987), Brief Lives (1990), and Fraud (1992)) and have others on my TBR shelf. I pick her work up whenever I find it, and I always enjoy them.

I am tempted by this book: Understanding Anita Brookner (from the Understanding Contemporary British Literature series) by Cheryl Alexander Malcolm. It's $30, though, so I'm sure I won't be yielding to that temptation. Reading more about Brookner would be fun, I think, but I guess I'll just focus on books she herself has written.

from the back of the book:
Since childhood Ruth Weiss has been escaping from life into books, and from the hothouse attentions of her tyrannical and eccentric parents into the gentler warmth of lovers and friends. Now Dr. Weiss, at forty, a quiet scholar devoted to Balzac, is convinced that her life has been ruined by literature, and that once again she must make a new start in life.
first sentence:
Dr. Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.
another selected quote:
Ruth woke, as was her wont, at six and wondered how she was going to fill the day. With anticipation, of course. That is how most women in love spend their day. Frequently the event anticipated turns out to be quite dull compared with the mood that preceded it. The onus for redeeming the situation rests on the other person, who is, of course, in no position to know of the preceding mood. Thus both fail and both are disappointed.
Kirkus Reviews says, "Brookner writes with a fine, lean edge, and the pathos of the stunted middle-aged personalities here comes across with a dark, deadpan irony reminiscent of Bernice Rubens."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Amaryllis Exhibition


The Dixon Gallery and Gardens held the amaryllis exhibition over much longer than they had originally planned, because the flowers are doing so well. Aren't they beautiful!






While I was there I went inside the Dixon Residence area to look at some of the permanent collection. I thought I'd share this with the T(ea) Tuesday gathering at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog:


It is Woman in a Cafe, by Jean-Louis Forain and was painted in about 1885. She looks like she's waiting for someone.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A 42 Conspiracy


Along the sidewalks I see them, these not quite 42s. Some look old and faded


and some look freshly painted


I know they are part of some infrastructure project, because there are other numbers and some words


and some markers for gas and water.


I know they want you to believe it's just government-as-usual work on the street.

But what if it's not? What if it's all part of a government conspiracy to co-opt the 42. To take over 42 for their own nefarious purposes?

Well, it makes as much sense as some of the other conspiracy theories I hear.


Questions indeed. Yes, I do have questions.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Hail Britannia!


Hail, Britannia! Six Centuries of British Art from the Berger Collection is the current major exhibition at the Dixon Gallery. From the Dixon web site:
Hail, Britannia! Six Centuries of British Art from the Berger Collection—a rich survey of British art punctuated by masterworks from every period in British history! The Berger Collection is one of the most impressive collections of British art in America, providing audiences the rare opportunity to view portraits, landscapes, sporting subjects, history paintings, and more by Britain’s great masters within a vast chronological range.

The painting highlighted in the promotional material is Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VI), c. 1538, by Hans Holbein the Younger and studio (1497/8 - 1543):


There were many other portraits, including this one of Henry VIII from circa 1513:


and Miss Craigie, 1741, by Allan Ramsay:


There were landscapes, too, including A Coastal Landscape by Thomas Gainsborough:


A Pastoral Landscape with Shepherds and Their Flocks (1744) by George Lambert:


and View of Powerscourt Demesne, ca. 1789, by William Ashford:


One of the rooms displayed five paintings of horses, including The Start of a Horse Race (1952) by Sir Alfred J. Munnings:


My favorite painting at this exhibition was The Crucifixion (c. 1395):


You can read more about the collection at its web site.

I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibit. There was such a variety covering such a long period of time.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Marquette Park Bottle Tree


I saw this lovely bottle tree in a yard adjoining a local park. Bottle trees aren't part of my family heritage, but the last few years I've been seeing more of them. You can read an interesting history and see photos at Felder Rushing's site.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Vacuum Diagrams


Vacuum Diagrams is a 1997 book in the XeeLee Sequence by Stephen Baxter. More like linked short stories than a novel, this would be a great introduction to this universe. It's a well-respected series of books, and this particular one won the Philip K. Dick Award. I would enjoy this more, I know, if I had a clearer understanding of the science. But I don't, sadly, making some of it hard to picture in my mind. I enjoyed it anyway. Sometimes you just have to treat science beyond your understanding as magic and let your imagination do the best it can.

Some people don't care for science fiction because of the alien environment; but I find science fiction settings not really any more alien than an aboriginal village in Australia, or a community of tidal houseboats, or a light house, or the Arctic, or the ancient Middle East, or a tropical island un-touched by modern discovery, or any other environment foreign to my experience. The stories are human stories, dealing with human issues, and I wish people wouldn't judge before they make a fair trial of the genre. For some reason, people see a space ship on the cover and freak out. That said, this book wouldn't be a good one for someone new to the genre.

from the back of the book:

"And everywhere the Humans went, they found life..."

This dazzling future history, winner of the 2000 Philip K. Dick
Award, is the most ambitious and exciting since Asimov's
classic Foundation saga. It tells the story of humankind -all
the way to the end of the universe itself.

Here, in luminous and vivid narratives spanning five
million years, are the first Poole wormholes spanning the
solar system, the conquest of Human planets by Squeem,
GUTships that outrace light, the back-time invasion of the
Qax, the mystery and legacy of the Xeelee, and their artifacts
as large as small galaxies; photino birds and Dark Matter;
and the Ring, where Ghost, Human, and Xeelee contemplate
the awesome end of Time.

Stephen Baxter is the most acclaimed and accomplished
of a brilliant new generation of authors who are expanding
the vision of science fiction and taking it
to a new golden age.
SF Site has a positive review. Ansible calls it a "fine, if uneven, collection" and says it "contains something to amaze everybody."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Eighth Day


The Eighth Day is the 1967 National Book Award-winning novel by Thornton Wilder. I've had this book on my shelf for ages. I read it now, thinking it'd be suitable for the 2015 Read Harder challenge as "A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ" only to discover that there's some question about Wilder's sexual orientation. *sigh* I honestly thought he was gay, and some folks claim he was; but it's not a settled thing. The book itself was a disappointment, so I lost out all the way around. I thought the book was a classic, and some folks claim it is; but that's not a settled thing either. Hmmm...

I've decided the one settled thing about this is that I won't be finishing the book. I've reached a point in my life where I no longer hope to live long enough to read all the good books. I'm not persisting with this one.

from the back of the book:
In the early summer of 1902, scandal strikes a small mining town in Illinois. A respected family man, John Ashley, stands trial for the cold-blooded murder of His best friend, Breckenridge Lansing. Speculations race through the town about the relationship Between the dead man and the alleged murderer's wife. Ashley is quickly sentenced to death but escapes When six mysterious men overwhelm the guards on the railroad car and start the doomed man on his miraculous escape.

Before solving the murder, Wilder transports us (as only he can) back into history and forward to two world wars, over the country and around the planet in a generational struggle for redemption. In this novel, which was a Number One Bestseller and a Book-of-the-month Club selection, Wilder blends together a poignant love story, a mystery thriller and nicely peopled family saga. It is an epic 20th century novel.
Kirkus Reviews closes by saying, "Poignancy is here, aphoristic charm, pleasant stretches of unabashed story-telling, and incidental riches. Unfortunately, the Christian humanism, the provincial earnestness on which everything rests seems both too decent and distant for our age." The New Republic closes by saying,
There is no question of sellout; Wilder is as sincere and enthusiastic as ever. But the art of the man who was once scolded for being too much of an artist has become simultaneously shriveled and bloated. The sad result is that, toward the end of his career, we have--from a man who has always meant well--a book that means nothing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Have a Cuppa Tea

Have a Cuppa Tea:



a 1971 song written by Ray Davies and sung by The Kinks.

Lyrics excerpt:
Chorus:
Have a cuppa tea, have a cuppa tea,
Have a cuppa tea, have a cuppa tea,
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, Rosie Lea
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, Rosie Lea.

Whatever the situation, whatever the race or creed,
Tea knows no segregation, no class or pedigree
It knows no motivations, no sect or organisation,
It knows no one religion,
Nor political belief.
[Chorus]

Please join the gathering over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog, where they'll be sharing something T(ea) or drink related.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Duel in the Sun

Duel in the Sun is a 1946 Western film directed by King Vidor. It's written and produced by David O. Selznick. The cast includes Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, Gregory Peck, Lionel Barrymore, Lilian Gish, Walter Huston, Harry Carey, Butterfly McQueen, Herbert Marshall, Charles Bickford, Sidney Blackmer, Otto Kruger, Joan Tetzel

As I was reading about the people involved in the making of the film I was struck by Tilly Losch, who plays Jennifer Jones' mother in this film. Losch was born in 1903 and was a ballet dancer with the Vienna Opera, studied modern dance and was a choreographer and stage actor. She worked in London and New York after she left Vienna in 1927.

Her first husband was a wealthy patron of the arts and founded a ballet company for her. This ballet company gave her the opportunity to work with George Balanchine and dance roles choreographed by him.

Dance of Her Hands (1930-1933) was her own conception:



This marriage ended in divorce in 1934. I got a kick out of this story from Wikipedia about her first husband:
A permanent reminder of Tilly Losch could be seen at Edward James' former home at Monkton, on his West Dean estate. Her "wet" footprints were woven into the carpet on the spiral staircase. As Tilly emerged from the bath, leaving behind a trail of wet footprints as she ascended the spiral stairs, Edward subsequently commissioned the carpet with the motif woven into it as a token of his love for her. After their divorce Edward moved the carpet to West Dean House (now West Dean College, where it can still be seen) replacing it at Monkton with a similar carpet made with his dog's footprint.
Her first film was in 1936, but she was not offered leading roles and so she decided to focus on dancing, the stage, and on choreography.

She suffered a depression, gave up dancing, and entered a Swiss sanitorium. She met and married Henry Herbert, 6th Earl of Carnarvon in 1939 and took up painting in water colors and then oils.

Here's a photo of Losch holding one of her self-portraits:


She had her first art exhibition in New York in 1944.

The marriage ended in divorce in 1947, but the divorce was amicable. They remained friends, and neither re-married.

She died at 71 of cancer.

Back to Duel in the Sun, Orson Welles narrates:
Duel in the Sun, two years in the making is a saga of Texas in the 1880s when primitive passions rode the wild frontier of an expanding nation. Here the forces of evil were in constant conflict with the deeper morality of the hardy pioneers; and here, as in the story we tell, a grim fate lay waiting for the transgressor upon the laws of God and Man. The characters in Duel in the Sun are built out of the legends of a colorful era when a million acres were one man's estate and another man's life was held as lightly as a woman's virtue. The character of the sinkiller is based upon those bogus, unordained evangelists who preyed upon the hungry need for spiritual guidance and who are recognized as charlatans by the intelligent and god-fearing.

Duel in the Sun.

Deep among the lonely sun-baked hills of Texas, the great and weather-beaten stone still stands. The comanches called it Squaw's Head Rock. Time cannot change its impassive face nor dim the legend of the wild young lovers who found Heaven and Hell in the shadows of the rock. For when the sun is low and the cold wind blows across the desert, there are those of indian blood who still speak of Pearl Chavez, the half-breed girl from down along the border, and of the laughing outlaw with whom she here kept a final rendezvous, never to be seen again. And this is what the legend says: A flower, known nowhere else, grows from out of the desperate crags where Pearl vanished -Pearl, who was herself a wild flower, sprung from the hard clay, quick to blossom and early to die.

via Youtube:


It's on Martin Scorsese's list of films you need to see to know anything about film. DVD Talk calls it "a hugely enjoyable movie." Time Out calls it "a soaring extravaganza" and says it "has an absurdist magnificence that defies criticism." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 87%.