Thursday, April 30, 2015

Probability Moon


Probability Moon is a 2000 science fiction novel, first of the Probability series by Nancy Kress. I've had the third book in this trilogy for years but had never had the first two until I got them this past Christmas. This first one is a good read, alternating points of view between the military team on the orbiting ship and the scientists on the planet. Sometimes I find alternating povs awkward and choppy, but it's smoothly done and well-integrated here. Not every book can be an instant classic or stand up with the great works of all time, and there's plenty of room on my shelf for readable and re-readable books that are good. This will definitely stay on my shelf for a future re-read. This is an award-winning author.

I read plenty of science fiction, but I'll count this book towards the 2015 Read Harder challenge as "A sci-fi novel".

from the back of the book:
A Desperate Bid to Save Humanity

Humankind has expanded out into interstellar apace using star gates -technological remnants left behind by an ancient, long-vanished race. But the technology comes with a price. Among the stars, humanity encountered the Fallers, a strange alien race bent on nothing short of genocide. It's all-out war, and humanity is losing.

In this fragile situation, a new planet is discovered, inhabited by a pre-industrial race who experience "shared reality" -they're literally compelled to share the same worldview. A team of human scientists is dispatched -but what they don't know is that their mission of first contact is actually a covert military operation.

For one of the planet's moons is really a huge, mysterious artifact of the same origin as the star gates ... and it just may be the key to winning the war.
SF Site concludes,
Probability Moon is a deftly written novel with believable characters who make mistakes and learn to live with the consequences. The prose is straightforward and never gets in the way of the story that Nancy Kress has to tell. It's a story that readers of science fiction should find to be engaging, thoughtful, and a pleasure to read.
The Hard SF reviewer "enjoyed the anthropological and mystery aspects of the book." Publishers Weekly says, "This is solid SF, but Kress has written better." Kirkus Reviews closes with this: "Twisty and compelling, brimful of ideas, with Kress’s usual life-sized characters: top-notch work from a major talent".

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken


The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken is a 2012 novel, the 3rd in the Vish Puri, Most Private Investigator series by Tarquin Hall. I am enjoying these books and will buy more as I see them. NPR has an excerpt from the first chapter here. This book includes recipes -including a non-deadly version of the Butter Chicken- if you want to get a better "taste" of India.

from the back of the book:
When an elderly Pakistani visiting India dies frothing at the mouth during a banquet, it's not a simple case of Delhi Belly. His butter chicken has been poisoned. To solve the case, India's "Most Private Investigator," Vish Puri, must infiltrate the dangerous world of illegal gambling, following a trail that leads deep into Pakistan--the country in which many members of the investigator's family were massacred during the 1947 partition of India. The last piece of the puzzle, however, turns up closer to home when Puri learns of the one person who can identify the killer. Unfortunately it is the one person in the world with whom he has sworn never to work: his Mummy-ji.
Eurocrime calls it "a wonderful find. Very funny" and says,
One of the many things I enjoy about these books is that all the characters, even the very minor ones, are drawn with such loving detail. The author reminds me very much of P G Wodehouse in his ability to poke gentle fun at people's foibles in such a way that we can recognise ourselves in them and end up laughing at ourselves as well as with the characters.
Kirkus Reviews calls this a "lively franchise". The Huffington Post reviewer highly recommends them and closes by saying, "Gently amusing and with a real feel for Delhi, this is a charming series. Each new novel has raised the stakes subtly and Hall has grown more confident with each outing. It's quite possible that what has begun as a fun series will become a genuinely great one."

The Washington Times says,
This isn’t so much a mystery as an Indian romp... However, it has to be kept in mind that despite all the fun and ribaldry, Tarquin Hall is as much historian as humorist and he evokes the India where he lives and which he obviously loves, presenting it as a vivid world of color and savory fragrances with traditions still linked to the years of British colonization.
Crime Review says, "This book is written with a wry sense of humour and a light touch. ... Beyond the humour, however, the book deals with some serious issues." Publishers Weekly says, "Well-drawn colorful characters bolster a whodunit sure to appeal to those who enjoy a dash of humor with their crime."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

You've Got Mail

The entire plot of this movie revolves around a woman who loses her small independent family business because a big chain moves in.


So tell me why she gets her coffee from Starbucks? Are there no independent locally-owned coffee shops she could give her business to? Starbucks? Really?


You've Got Mail is a sweet 1998 romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. I'm not a big fan of romantic comedies, but I like this one. Except every time I think of the woman saddened by the loss of her business while she's drinking Starbucks coffee, my brain breaks just a bit more.

trailer:



The New York Times has a positive review. Entertainment Weekly gives it a B and calls it a "valentine to modern love in New York". CNN says,
This crisp romantic comedy hits all the right keys. And it lovingly portrays Manhattan's Upper West side to perfection, and made me very homesick for my old neighborhood. Actually the West Side is almost a character in this film in the same way that Woody Allen uses his beloved city in most of his films.

Time Out calls it "manipulative". Empire Online gives it 3 out of 5 stars and concludes, "Hanks and Ryan are masters at making this kind of slight rom- com work, but even they run out of steam before the end." Rolling Stone gives it a place on its "most egregious product placement" list and names it one of the 10 best romantic comedies.

DVD Talk says, "Ultimately the film is an enjoyably lighthearted romantic comedy. I wouldn't call this the best example of the genre, but it's right up there and totally worth checking out." Roger Ebert opens with this: "The appeal of "You've Got Mail" is as old as love and as new as the Web. It stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as immensely lovable people whose purpose it is to display their lovability for two hours, while we desperately yearn for them to solve their problems". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 69%.

Please link your drink-related thoughts over at the link party at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog for T(ea) Tuesday.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Trouble in Paradise

Trouble in Paradise is a 1932 romantic comedy directed by Ernst Lubitsch. It stars Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Herbert Marshall, Charles Ruggles, Edward Everett Horton, C. Aubrey Smith, Robert Greig, and Leonid Kinskey. This is delightful and laugh-out-loud funny. An amoral comedy with a light touch.

via Daily Motion:



Senses of Cinema calls it "a little gem of a movie" and says, "one of the great delights of Trouble in Paradise is the plethora of droll banter is has to offer". FilmSite.org says it's "generally considered producer/director Ernst Lubitsch's greatest film -and his own personal favorite of all his works." FilmReference.com has a positive article and says, "The film scored a triumphant success with public and critics alike." DVD Talk says, "Trouble in Paradise is liberated from notions of sin and moral retribution, but has a sweet and thoughtful disposition for human feelings. It's also uproariously funny from the first frame forward." Roger Ebert considers it a "Great Movie". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 91%.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Devi (The Goddess)

Devi (The Goddess) is a 1960 Indian film directed by Satyajit Ray. I have enjoyed every film I've seen by this director. I watch them online when I find them and pick up DVDs when the local store has them. They are without exception beautiful films.

Embedding is disabled at youtube, but you can watch it there. Here's a clip from the beginning to whet your appetite:


TimeOut says, "it manages to mount a lucid, finally very moving argument against the destructive nature of fanaticism and superstition... Without a doubt, it is impressive film making". The Guardian gives it 4 out of 5 stars and says it "boasts all the strengths of a consistent career" and "is a fine example of Ray's work and well worth seeing". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

I have seen these others by Satyajit Ray:

Charulata, or The Lonely Wife (1964)
Mahanagar (The Big City) (1963)
Kanchenjungha (1962)
The Apu Trilogy:
Pather Panchali (1955)
Aparajito (1956)
Apur Sansar (1959)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Memphis Botanic Garden Azaleas


The azaleas aren't yet at their height, but they looked good to me when I saw them at the Memphis Botanic Garden a couple of days ago.


There are white azaleas flanking the entrance to the Japanese Garden:


There are azaleas throughout the entire garden.


This sculpture is Artifact, a 1989 bronze located in the sculpture garden. The artist is Carroll Todd:


I also saw a bottle tree, close to the butterfly garden:


The day I was there the weather was cloudy and breezy and about 70F. A beautiful afternoon and perfect for time outside.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Secret History


The Secret History is the 1992 first novel by Donna Tartt, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize.

from the back of the book:
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality they slip gradually from obsession to corruption and betrayal, and at last -inexorably- into evil.
It begins with this:
The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation. He'd been dead for ten days before they found him, you know. It was one of the biggest manhunts in Vermont history – state troopers, the FBI, even an army helicopter; the college closed, the dye factory in Hampden shut down, people coming from New Hampshire, upstate New York, as far away as Boston.

It is difficult to believe that Henry's modest plan could have worked so well despite these unforeseen events. We hadn't intended to hide the body where it couldn't be found. In fact, we hadn't hidden it at all but had simply left it where it fell in hopes that some luckless passer-by would stumble over it before anyone even noticed he was missing. This was a tale that told itself simply and well: the loose rocks, the body at the bottom of the ravine with a clean break in the neck, and the muddy skidmarks of dug-in heels pointing the way down; a hiking accident, no more, no less, and it might have been left at that, at quiet tears and a small funeral, had it not been for the snow that fell that night; it covered him without a trace, and ten days later, when the thaw finally came, the state troopers and the FBI and the searchers from the town all saw that they had been walking back and forth over his body until the snow above it was packed down like ice.
___

It is difficult to believe that such an uproar took place over an act for which I was partially responsible, even more difficult to believe I could have walked through it – the cameras, the uniforms, the black crowds sprinkled over Mount Cataract like ants in a sugar bowl – without incurring a blink of suspicion. But walking through it all was one thing; walking away, unfortunately, has proved to be quite another, and though once I thought I had left that ravine forever on an April afternoon long ago, now I am not so sure.

This books gets positive reviews from people who know what they are talking about. I like the book for the most part. The plot is intriguing, and all the characters are equally unlikeable but interesting. The writing drives me nuts for two main reasons:
1) There seem to be more commas and semicolons and dashes in this book than I'm used to noticing, and I'd rather not find myself being conscious of the punctuation while I'm reading. This is fairly representative:
I met her my first year of college, and was initially attracted to her because she seemed an intelligent, brooding malcontent like myself; but after about a month, during which time she'd firmly glued herself to me, I began to realize, with some little horror, that she was nothing more than a lowbrow, pop-psychology version of Sylvia Plath. It lasted forever, like some weepy and endless made-for-tv movie -all the clinging, all the complaints, all the parking-lot confessions of "inadequacy" and "poor self-image," all those banal sorrows. She was one of the main reasons I was in such an agony to leave home; she was also one of the reasons I was so wary of the bright, apparently innocuous flock of new girls I had met my first weeks of school.
2) There are also more similes than I really like to see. My experience with Clive Cussler's Sahara overdosed me on the simile, and I now notice them when they show up too often. Here are a few from The Secret History:
"like a farm boy flustered by a bevy of prostitutes" (p. 25)
"tiny paintings like jewels" (p. 26)
"...like some gabby old codger who would sit next to you on a bus and try to show you bits of paper he kept folded in his wallet" (p. 42)
"...like a robot" (p. 57
"like a detective cruising a hotel lobby" (p. 59)
"like the white crescent of a thumbnail" (p. 64)
"...sit up in bed like a thunderbolt..." (p. 88)
"the sky was like lead." (p. 93)
"like skeleton fingers." (p. 93)
"like a thread of crimson smoke" (p. 97)
"like a painting too vivid to be real" (p. 98)
"like a professional golfer" (p. 100)
I just don't like noticing these things, but when there's so much of it....

It took a lot of effort to force myself past my pet peeves, but I'm glad I did, As I started the book I couldn't imagine how the book could take up so many pages, but it never felt padded or labored. I'm glad I was able to make myself focus so that I could finish it, but I won't read it again. I guess I'm conflicted about this book. I would hesitate to buy anything else by her.

favorite quotes:
It's funny, but thinking back on it now, I realize that this particular point in time, as I stood there blinking in the deserted hall, was the one point at which I might have chosen to do something very different from what I actually did. But of course I didn't see this crucial moment then for what it was; I suppose we never do.
....
Any action, in the fullness of time, sinks to nothingness.
The Guardian lists 10 reasons to love it. Publishers Weekly praises it but adds, "the plot's many inconsistencies, the self-indulgent, high-flown references to classic literature and the reliance on melodrama make one wish this had been a tauter, more focused novel." This Independent reviewer says, "it was everything that I had hoped." Another reviewer from The Independent is less enthusiastic, saying, "Throughout, one is uncomfortably aware that Tartt's talents are not quite up to her intended effects."

The Awl opens with this: "Oh. Oh. WHAT could be more delightful? You’ve read it, of course. It’s… oh, I can’t even describe it. It’s a delight. A melodramatic, delightful delight." Kirkus Reviews opens by saying, "The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale." The New Canon concludes, "...new millennium readers will do well to acquaint themselves with this large talent with the small oeuvre, who would deserve a place in the contemporary canon if only on the basis of this gripping novel."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Run


Run is a 2007 novel by Ann Patchett. I loved Bel Canto, and now I pick up her novels when I come across them. State of Wonder is on my tbr shelf.

I found the plot annoying in its unlikelihood. I don't require realism in fiction, but the plot in this one seemed all but impossible. Every time I saw a new revelation, I saw it as taking me further away from any possible realistic future for these characters. In the end, I didn't believe any of them.

from the dust jacket:
Since their mother's death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving, possessive, and ambitious father. As the former mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared. But when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard Doyle cares about is his ability to keep his children —all his children— safe.

Set over a period of twenty-four hours, Run takes us from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard to a home for retired Catholic priests in downtown Boston. It shows us how worlds of privilege and poverty can coexist only blocks apart from each other, and how family can include people you've never even met. As in her bestselling novel Bel Canto, Ann Patchett illustrates the humanity that connects disparate lives, weaving several stories into one surprising and endlessly moving narrative. Suspenseful and stunningly executed, Run is ultimately a novel about secrets, duty, responsibility, and the lengths we will go to protect our children.
The New Yorker describes it as a "stylized fable of families, of parenting and vocations and race" and says, "...perhaps Ann Patchett in her own niceness gives us the world as it should be, rather than as the dirty, abrasive place it is. As realism, her novel is pale; but as a metaphoric representation of growth it transcends its sentimentality." NPR compares in unfavorably to her earlier work, saying, "Run isn't exactly a stumble, but Patchett's fifth novel hasn't provoked quite the same level of breathless critical or popular adoration." The Guardian praises the writing and says, "This is above all a book about good people who try to do their best by each other. Patchett's great strength is to accomplish this without sentiment or stupidity."

January Magazine says, "It is testimony to her talent that Patchett can take what often feels like an unwieldy or unworkable plot and render it seamless" and, "If Run is not one of Patchett’s best works, it must be said she is following a tough act -- herself. Though the book lacks the depth and detail of Magician or Bel Canto, it has all the smooth sentences and singing narrative skill that made Patchett’s earlier works so enjoyable." Kirkus Reviews concludes, "Compelling story but thematically heavy-handed."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Summer Interlude

Two of the several coffee scenes from the film Summer Interlude:



Summer Interlude is a 1951 Ingmar Bergman film about the emotional struggle experienced by a ballerina as she is forced to confront events from her past. The plot and characters are engaging, and the film itself is beautiful. I love Bergman's films, so your mileage may vary; but oh! this is lovely!

trailer:



quotes:

"I love you in spite of everything."
...
"Days like pearls: round and lustrous, threaded on a golden string. Days filled with fun and caresses. Nights of waking dreams. When did we sleep? We had no time for sleep."
...

Slant Magazine calls it Bergman's "first great film". Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars and concludes, "Complex and beguiling this is the first foothold on Bergman's climb to brilliance." DVD Talk highly recommends it. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

I always drink coffee or hot tea while I'm watching movies, so when the characters in the films drink coffee or hot tea I somehow feel a connection. Please get your drink of choice, pull up a comfortable seat, and join the folks and make a connection over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's T(ea) Tuesday linkup.

Monday, April 20, 2015

When I Cross the Mississippi

When I Cross the Mississippi:



by Tommy Castro and the Painkillers

"When I cross the Mississippi I feel like I'm goin' home."

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men is a 2014 film produced and directed by and starring George Clooney. It also stars Matt Damon, Bill Murray, and John Goodman. It's based on a non-fiction book that tells about the WW2 soldiers who rescued works of art stolen by the Nazis. This was a nice enough film, enjoyable and well worth watching. Once. I can't imagine I'll ever watch it again, but I'm glad to have seen it.

As many of the reviews point out, this movie is based on a true story. I don't understand people who mistake films that have a basis in fact for true representations of historical fact, but apparently such people exist. Just know that there were soldiers whose job it was to preserve cultural artifacts during WW2 and enjoy the movie as the entertainment it is. Want to know the real story? Talk to some of the people who were actually there while you still can, or read some history books.

trailer:


Slate critiques the movie's accuracy. Rolling Stone has a positive review. EW gives it a C-. NPR concludes, "There's lots of information, some nice images, plenty of earnest sermonizing about culture and almost no suspense, or tension, or character development, or structure. Or, well, art."

Roger Ebert's site says, ""The Monuments Men" tests the proposition that an appealing cast can put almost any script across. ... heart alone does not a good film make." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 31%, though the audience score is higher.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Beale Street 42


The Daughter and I saw this 42 on a post on Beale Street one day.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Monster That Challenged the World

The Monster That Challenged the World is a 1957 monster movie directed by Arnold Laven, and starring Tim Holt (who was in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) and Audrey Dalton (who is 80 now and has been retired since 1978. She was in Mr. Sardonicus, the 1953 Titanic, and did a lot of TV through the years).

This also has Hans Conried (who did work in both film and TV, including a lot of voice acting, such as Snidely Whiplash from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, and King Azaz the Mathemagician from The Phantom Tollbooth film); Max Showalter (uncredited in Elmer Gantry and The Music Man and who was in TV from 1948-1983); Mimi Gibson (a child actor, long since retired and happily raising llamas according to Wikipedia); and Charles Herbert (another long-retired child actor, perhaps best known as the son in the The Fly, who seems to be active in science fiction conventions).

The voiceover at the beginning (I do hate those) sets it up:
This is the Salton Sea in Southern California, a strange phenomena in which Nature has placed 400 square miles of salt water in the middle of an arid desert. In the desert close to the shore of the sea the government has established one of its most important naval research bases. In the laboratory on the secluded south tip of the base top secret atomic experiments are carried out under rigid security controls. While at the airfield, planes working under the direction of the parachute test unit, leave on daily missions for the jump area over the Salton Sea, where Navy personnel hit the silk in the government's continuous researching of parachutes to meet the ever-increasing demand of modern flight. On May 17, in the early afternoon, an earthquake occurred in the desert area. Its force was strong enough to be felt at the research base, even though its epicenter was 10 miles away in the wild rock formations 350 feet deep below the surface of the Salton Sea. However, less than 2 hours after the earthquake, the base was back to normal operating procedure. Lt. Hollister of the parachute test unit was preparing to make the last scheduled jump of the day. Hollister was a veteran of over 300 test flights, and -for him- this was to be one more routine jump.

Meanwhile, on the Salton Sea, crewmen Johnson and Sanders were headed out to meet Lt. Hollister. And for them this was to be one more routine pick-up.
favorite quote: "No, I haven't seen any creature. Just plain foolishness."

I actually like this one. There's a nice mix of character development and personal relationship sub-plots in with the mystery and terror of the monster. It also avoids most of the sexist pitfalls that bother me.

via Daily Motion:



Moria gives it 2 out of 5 stars and says, "It competently, if unremarkably, shuffles the basic tropes". 1000 Misspent Hours calls it original, but says, "The Monster that Challenged the World, huh? The Monster that Challenged My Patience is more like it! The atomic snails are some incredibly cool critters, but this movie’s biggest weakness is that they’re hardly ever onscreen."

HT: Need Coffee

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Cold Day in Paradise


A Cold Day in Paradise is the 1998 mystery novel by Steve Hamilton. It won both the Edgar and the Shamus awards for best first novel. It is the first in the Alex McKnight series, which is up to 11 novels now. I enjoyed this, and I'm glad I found this series. It'll be fun catching up.

from the back of the book:
Other than the bullet lodged less than a centimeter from his heart, former Detroit police officer Alex McKnight thought he had put the nightmare of his partner’s death and his own near-fatal injury behind him. After all, Maximilian Rose, convicted of the crimes has been locked in the state pen for years. But in the small town of Paradise, Michigan, where McKnight has traded his badge for a cozy cabin in the woods, a murderer with Rose’s unmistakable trademarks appears to be back to his killing ways. With Rose locked away, McKnight can’t understand who else would know the intimate details of the old murders—not to mention the signature blood-red rose left on his doorstep. And it seems like it’ll be a frozen day in Hell before McKnight can unravel the cold truth from a deadly deception in a town that’s anything but paradise.
Teaser from the flyleaf:
Blood is always the same. I tried not to think. It didn't happen. It was a bad dream. Uttley thanking me. Telling me to go home and get some sleep. Edwin standing there with that lost look on his face. For once all the money in the world wasn't going to make a problem go away. Chief Maven, playing his little hard-ass games with us. I had known so many cops just like him.

Way back when, Alex. Back in Detroit.

Stop right there. Don’t think about anything else. You didn't really go into that motel room. You didn't really see it. The red, the red, all that red.

I tried to stop the next image from coming into my mind, but I could not. I saw the blood again. A vast shivering red lake of blood.

That day in Detroit. I am there again. The blood, just like tonight. The same color. The same quality. Blood is always the same.
Kirkus Reviews has a positive review. Crime Fiction Lover notes "the author’s wonderful sense of time and place" and says, "The author’s attention to detail is impeccable, and I found Alex McKnight to be a capable hero, but he’s certainly not without his flaws, and it’s that humanity that makes him so appealing."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Authority


Authority is the 2nd book in Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy. I'm enjoying these books. They are strongly character-driven, and active plot developments aren't really what's happening. The characters and atmosphere are the primary draw, while the plot does move forward but slowly.

from the back of the book:
After thirty years, the only human engagement with Area X -a seemingly malevolent landscape surrounded by an invisible border and mysteriously wiped clean of all signs of civilization- has been a series of expeditions overseen by a government agency so secret it has almost been forgotten: the Southern Reach. Following the tumultuous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the agency is in complete disarray.

John Rodriguez (aka "Control) is the Southern Reach's newly appointed head. Working with a distrustful but desperate team, a series of frustrating interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, Control begins to penetrate the secrets of Area X. But with each discovery he must confront disturbing truths about himself and the agency he's pledged to serve.

In Authority the second volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, Area X's most disturbing questions are answered... but the answers are far from reassuring.
favorite quote:
A circle looks at a square and sees a badly made circle.
Strange Horizons says it "is about the Southern Reach organization itself. The book is mostly concerned with the byzantine in-group political struggles and ultimate impotence of the organization's new leader, "Control." We get some more detail about Area X." Kirkus Reviews, like the Strange Horizons reviewer, liked the first book better. Tor's interview with the author quotes Vandermeer as saying these books are his "most overtly autobiographical novels in terms of the landscapes they inhabit—there are very few details of description that are things I haven’t observed or experienced personally in one form or another."

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Small Treats


Ain't it the truth! Have a small treat and look into Iris Murdoch, whose life and works are well worth your time. I've read several books by her, including The Black Prince, The Good Apprentice, and A Fairly Honorable Defeat. I have several on my TBR shelf waiting their turn.

Here's an interview with her from 1990:



They discuss her childhood, her university years, her civil service work during WW2, the offer of a fellowship in America which was lost because of the McCarron Act, her studies in Ethics and Philosophy, and much more.

She is a fascinating person.

Please check out the T Tuesday link gathering at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog, where Elizabeth is highlighting Spring tulips.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sunday, April 12, 2015

In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love. This makes it onto my Saddest Movies Ever list. Nobody is happy, nobody gets anything they want, no good comes of it, sadness prevails. This is a beautiful film, but be careful when you choose to watch it. It's deeply moving.

via Youtube:


This Guardian reviewer declares it his favorite film and says, "There are many reasons to adore the film, most obviously its almost unworldly, dream-like beauty." DVD Talk calls it "a phenomenal picture; a marvelously acted tale of longing that is moving and often stunning in appearance. It's definitely a must-see."

Senses of Cinema has a lengthy article that says,
Wong’s key elements –what older critics might call “atmosphere” and “characterizations”– are thus grounded in abstraction rather than plot, and it’s hard to think of a recent movie that offers just such abstract ingredients that are by themselves sufficient reasons to see the picture. But it is precisely this quality of aesthetic abstraction that makes up an ideal dreamtime of Hong Kong, which is Wong’s ode to the territory.
Roger Ebert calls it "a lush story of unrequited love that looks the way its songs sound." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 90%.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Silent City

The Silent City is a 2006 science fiction short film written and directed by RuairĂ­ Robinson. Cillian Murphy is in it. Slice of SciFi says the film is "about three soldiers struggling for survival on a dust-laden, war-torn planet that may or may not be Earth".


Someone's bound to come along indeed.

Weird Wild Realm says, "Superbly done visual effects & well acted". Quiet Earth likes the humor and the effects. Cinema Blend calls it "highly recommended".

Friday, April 10, 2015

150,000 Tulips


Yes, you read that right: 150,000 tulips!


The Dixon Gallery and Gardens has had quite the exhibition in their garden this Spring.


The weather has been cooperative so far, and there haven't been wind storms or tornadoes to tear them up. I saw them day before yesterday, when there was sunshine and 80F degree weather with a nice breeze. There were a lot of people who had the same idea I had, and I saw people from babies in strollers to elders using walkers enjoying themselves. I visited with some tourists, which is always fun.


The display is stunning! There are tulips throughout the gardens. I saw tulip arrangements inside the gallery, but I don't take pictures inside. I took so many photos outside, though, it's been hard to pick which ones to share.


This sweet thing was tucked away along a path:


The tulips won't last much past the end of April, but we'll start seeing azaleas in full bloom by then. Spring and Summer are months I could live in the Dixon gardens.


The tulips were different sizes, heights, and colors. The woman staffing the entrance handed out a guide, but I couldn't keep track of all the different kinds of tulips. I just soaked up the beauty instead. I'm always happy to see warmer weather in the Spring, and these flowers made for a lovely afternoon outside!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Riders


The Riders is a 1994 novel by Tim Winton. This was a can't-put-it-down book for me. It has such a desperate feel to it, and I just had to keep moving through this story. Now that I'm done, I look back over the experience and liken it to being swept out to sea on a ship with a blind captain. I kept saying, "No, don't do that, do this instead," and, "Just call the authorities for help." But, no, nobody ever listens to me. Honestly, I can't imagine anybody in real life actually behaving the way Scully does in this book.

from the back of the book:
Fred Scully eagerly waits in an Irish airport for the arrival of his wife and seven-year-old daughter. He envisions a new life ahead of them, a fresh start in an old farmhouse that he's been renovating during the weeks they have spent apart. But something goes catastrophically wrong. His daughter emerges inexplicably alone through the airplane terminal's glass doors, and Scully's life goes down in flames.

Thus begins The Riders, a dark and powerful journey into the obsessive psyche of a man in search of a woman vanished. It is a tale of the ghosts that plague relationships; of revelation sought in places and people; and of redemption found in the deyermined will to carry on. Epic in its sweep yet gripping in its details, The Riders is storytelling at its most haunting.
quote:
There's things that have no finish, Scully, no endin to speak of. There's no justice to it, but that's the God's truth. The only end some things have is the end you give em.
Kirkus Reviews concludes, "Emotions, character, and intellect so perfectly calibrated that a modest story of love betrayed becomes, in Winton's hands, a minor masterpiece." Publishers Weekly says, "His terse, lyrical descriptions, the throbbing energy of his prose, can illuminate a scene like a lightning bolt, cut like a knife or wring the heart."

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Wasp Factory


The Wasp Factory (be warned: that link is to a spoiler-filled Wkipedia entry) is Iain Banks' 1984 debut novel. I had been looking for this book for years but had never seen it on a bookstore shelf until I found it in the used section of my local bookseller. I wanted to read it because it was the first novel by the author of the much-beloved Culture science fiction series. Banks wrote science fiction using the name Iain M. Banks and used the name Iain Banks for his more mainstream works. This isn't science fiction. It is a bizarre tale of a very disturbed family. I'm glad I finally got hold of it.

from the back of the book:
"Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different reasons than I'd disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda more or less on a whim. That's my score to date. Three. I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again. It was just a stage I was going through."

Enter -if you can bear it- the extraordinary world of Frank, just sixteen, and unconventional, to say the least.
from Banks' preface:
I was also trying to make the point that childhood innocence isn't -and wasn't- as most people seem to imagine it; children probably harbour quite as many violent thoughts as adults, they just don't usually possess a sophisticated moral framework within which to place them.

Not, come to think of it, that all adults do, either.
I got a big kick out of this quote, though it's not at all representative of the rest of the book:
"No. Will you tell me where you are? I want to know."
"I'll tell you where I am if you'll tell me what your lucky number is."
"My lucky number is e."
"That's not a number. That's a letter."
"It is a number. It's a transcendental number: 2.718-"
"That's cheating. I meant an integer."
""You should have been more specific."
I also liked this:
It has always seemed to me that people vote in a new government not because they actually agree with their politics but just because they want a change. Somehow they think that things will be better under the new lot. Well, people are stupid, but it all seems to have more to do with mood, caprice and atmosphere than carefully thought-out arguments.
Horror Novel Reviews concludes, "Frank is not a scion from which lessons can be learned and that leaves only the madness. Enjoy the journey." Kirkus Reviews says, "In sum: a nastily striking, somewhat uneven debut--at its dreadful best when not straining for symbolic shockers or cosmic resonance."

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Tea at the Peabody Hotel


The Peabody Hotel offers drinks in their lobby, and The Daughter and I went downtown recently, got a table next to the fountain (see the ducks swimming in the photo above?), and had Earl Grey tea:


The people-watching is wonderful! It's always fun to see the tourists get excited about the ducks. It has been said that the Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel. What a treat!

Join the T Tuesday link gathering at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Crosscut Saw

Crosscut Saw (1967):



by Albert King. He was born in 1923 on a cotton plantation in Mississippi about 2 1/2 hours south of Memphis. He died in 1992 of a heart attack at his home in Memphis.

Lyrics:
I'm a cross cut saw, just drag me 'cross your log
I'm a cross cut saw, just drag me across your log
I cut your wood so easy for you, you can't help but say 'Hot dog!'

Some call me wood-choppin' Sam. Some call me wood-cuttin' Ben
Last girl I cut the wood for, want me back again

I'm a cross cut saw, just drag me 'cross your log
I'm a cross cut saw, just drag me across your log
I cut your wood so easy for you, you can't help but say 'Hot dog!'

I've got a double-bladed axe, that really cuts good
I'm a cross cut saw, just bury me in your wood

I'm a cross cut saw, just drag me 'cross your log
I cut your wood so easy for you, woman, you can't help but say 'Hot dog!'

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Cherry Road Cherry Trees


Japanese Cherry Trees line Cherry Road between the Audubon Park golf course and the Memphis Botanic Gardens.


This time of year, we are blessed with this gorgeous display.


It doesn't last long because of the inevitable Spring storms, but oh! while it lasts!