Thursday, July 20, 2017

Critical Thinking

Today is International Chess Day. Chess is a game that requires the ability to think critically and logically.

Today is also the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The connection between these two things may not be obvious, but in these days of wild-eyed conspiracy theorists who spread crazy tales folks just believe because they "trust the source"... Well, I'd just like to say that yes, people have landed on the moon. I understand confirmation bias and realize that the more evidence that's provided the more people cling to their tin foil hat opinions, but I do wish our culture was more supportive of critical thinking and less willing to accept whatever we're being fed by the talking heads and the raving talk radio loons.

There are free resources online that are useful in learning about logic and critical thinking and in developing skills in those areas., the University of Michigan, and Wikipedia have good overviews and are good places to start.

Wikihow has some clear steps to take to develop your critical thinking skills:

Method 1 Honing Your Questioning Skills
1 Question your assumptions.
2 Don't take information on authority until you've investigated it yourself.
3 Question things.

Method 2 Adjusting Your Perspective
1 Understand your own biases.
2 Think several moves ahead.
3 Read great books.
4 Put yourself in other peoples' shoes.
5 Set aside at least 30 minutes a day to improve your brain function.

Method 3 Putting It All Together
1 Understand all your options.
2 Surround yourself with people smarter than you.
3 Fail until you succeed. offers a "cheat sheet" of questions to ask to evaluate information:

I'm tired of hearing, "I don't have time to research this, but I trust the source and I do have time to spread it all over Facebook," and "Where there's smoke there's fire," and "Many people say this is true." Think, people! Think!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Nightmare on Elm Street

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a 1984 horror film, first in a long-running franchise. I had never seen it before, and I've never seen any of the sequels. Freddy Krueger, with his knife-like fingers, comes in your dreams. There's no escape. It is directed by Wes Craven and stars John Saxon and Robert Englund. This was Johnny Depp's screen debut. He has a major role as the boyfriend of our heroine. A good movie with an interesting ending, this is definitely worth watching for several reasons.

The NYT has a review from the time of the film's release that says, "puts more emphasis on bizarre special effects, which aren't at all bad." Moria gives it 4 out of 5 stars and says, "Wes Craven evinces a genuine wildness to the visions he unleashes". 1000 Misspent Hoursalso gives it 4 out of 5 stars and has a detailed plot description. has some screen shots.

Empire Online says,
Craven based the whole thing on a true story. The film stemmed from a series of articles in an LA paper about a group of Southeast Asian kids, all from the same neighbourhood, who died mysteriously in their sleep after a string of vivid nightmares. They probably weren't massacred by a stiletto-fingered sicko in a rugby shirt. But even so,
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 94%.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reading Sailor

Reading Sailor (1980):

by Yannis Tsarouchis, a Greek painter who died on July 20, 1989, at age 79.

I won't be around for the T Stands for Tuesday blog gathering today, but I am scheduling a drink-related post in case anybody happens by.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Redbreast

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo is the 3rd book in the Harry Hole detective series. I'll pick up more as I come across them. I'm enjoying the characters and writing so far.

from the back of the book:
Detective Harry Hole embarrassed the force, and for his sins he's been reassigned to mundane surveillance tasks. But while monitoring neo-Nazi activities in Oslo, Hole is inadvertantly drawn into a mystery with deep roots in Norway's dark past -when members of the nation's government willingly collaborated with Nazi Germany. More than sixty years later, this black mark won't wash away,
and disgraced old soldiers who once survived a brutal Russian winter are being murdered, one by one. Now, with only a stained and guilty conscience to guide him, an angry, alcoholic, error-prone policeman must make his way safely past the traps and mirrors of a twisted criminal mind.
For a hideous conspiracy is rapidly taking shape around Hole -and Norway's darkest hour may still be to come.
The Washington Post calls it
a fine novel, ambitious in concept, skillful in execution and grown-up in its view of people and events. In important ways it's also a political novel, one concerned with the threat of fascism, in Norway and by implication everywhere. All in all, "The Redbreast" certainly ranks with the best of current American crime fiction.
The New York Times describes it as "an elegant and complex thriller".

I've also read the first 2 books in this series:
The Bat

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a 2008 romantic comedy based on a book I enjoyed. Oddly enough, I like this movie even better. It stars Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Ciarán Hinds, and Lee Pace.


The New York Times calls it "an example of how a little nothing of a story can be inflated into a little something of a movie with perfect casting, dexterous tonal manipulation and an astute eye and ear for detail." The Chicago Tribune opens a positive review with this: "bright, frothy slice of comic delight in the old-school style, "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" proves that they can make them like they used to, if only they try." Empire Online gives it 4 out of 5 stars and says it's "A charming 1930s Cinderella meets Sex And The City, only faster, funnier and male-friendly, with some depths in its subtler observations of morality."

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 77%.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Orphan Master's Son

The Orphan Master's Son is a 2012 novel by Adam Johnson. It's an interesting view of North Korea for me. I don't recall ever having read a novel that took place there, and all I know of the country is what I see in the news. This adds a more personal perspective.

from the back of the book:
Pak Jun Do is the haunted son of a lost mother -a singer "stolen" to Pyongyang- and an influential father who runs a work camp for orphans. Superiors in the North Korean state soon recognize the boy's loyalty and keen instincts. Considering himself "a humble citizen of the greatest nation in the world," Jun Do rises in the ranks. He becomes a professional kidnapper who must navigate the shifting rules, arbitrary violence, and baffling demands of his overlords in order to stay alive. Driven to the absolute limit of what any human being could endure, he boldly takes on the treacherous role of rival to Kim Jun Il in an attempt to save the woman he loves, Sun Moon, a legendary actress "so pure, she didn't know what starving people looked like."

In this epic, critically acclaimed tour de force, Adam Johnson provides a riveting portrait of a world rife with hunger, corruption, and casual cruelty but also camaraderie, stolen moments of beauty, and love.
There's a 42 in this book, though it's not the answer to anything:
We were finalizing a month-long interrogation of a professor from Kaesong when a rumor spread through the building that Commander Ga had been apprehended and was here, in custody, in our own Division 42.
It would've been easy to get the professor to confess, but that's not us, we don't work that way. You see, Division 42 is really two divisions.
In this book Division 42 is a place for torture. No useful answers at all come from such a place.

This meets one of my reading challenges, as it won a fairly recent Pulitzer Prize. Reviews are positive.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Links to Exercise Plans

Exercise With Dumbbells Symbol clip art

I'm continuing to gather resources, although I find myself remembering enough exercises to make up a routine without using any of them as I exercise. I continue to do yoga every day and weight training 3 days a week. I wish I could afford a personal trainer, but I'm grateful for the information freely available online. has an illustrated list of 10 that provide a whole body workout (though I don't do the last one at all) that is very doable and includes instructions for increasing the difficulty level as you are able. They also have a 30-minute whole body exercise plan. It's 16 steps, and I don't do #s 14 or 15. has an exercise plan that's easy to do and helpful in strengthening the whole body. There are 15 exercises in the series, and they include some old favorites like the bridge and the pelvic tilt and squats and some I'd never done before. has lists of appropriate exercises for people with osteoporosis. They are divided into ability levels and most -but not all- have links to instructions. There are numerous videos demonstrating the exercises she recommends at her Youtube channel.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Streets of Crocodiles

Streets of Crocodiles is a 1986 stop motion animation (mixed with live action) short film directed by the Brothers Quay and based on a short story written by Bruno Schultz. Heavily metaphorical, Wikipedia describes the plot this way:
A man closes up a lecture hall; he reaches into a box and snips the string holding a gaunt puppet. Released, the puppet warily explores the darkened rooms about him. The desolate ambience and haunting musical score are meant to convey a sense of isolation and futility. As the short continues, the mute protagonist explores a realm of what are described by the director as "mechanical realities and manufactured pleasures". As the protagonist chooses to join this world, the camera slowly reveals how unfulfilling the surroundings actually are.

via Youtube:

Senses of Cinema says,
The Street of Crocodiles both recovers and mocks childhood, and our adult memories of childhood, in a grotesque, fetishistic manner, raising questions about the relationship between animation, modernity and the child’s place within this inanimate, inhuman world of technological progress. These processes of the organic and non-organic object relate directly to the technicality of the animated form within cinema and film theory’s often blind refusal to recognise that animation, in its broadest sense, captures not only the essence of the uncanny in film but the essence of the cinematic apparatus. ... The fragmentary nature of The Street of Crocodiles inevitably causes some difficulty in adequately describing its intertwining æsthetic and formal aspects. Yet it is the fragmentary nature of human development, memory and language that reflects the fragmentary world. ...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak is a 2015 Gothic romance directed by Guillermo del Toro. This won some awards, and I'm glad I saw it. That said, there are so many brilliant films out there and this isn't one of them. I'm thinking this is one of those fun flights that don't become staples in my library.


The New York Times says, "If you know what you’re getting into and you’re in the mood for blood, velvet and a director’s sincere commitment to excess, then this might be just the ticket." Rolling Stone gives it 2.5 out of 4 stars and says the director's "visionary style is again readily apparent in Crimson Peak, a ghost story in which superior camerawork, costumes and production design work together to put the audience in a trance." The Atlantic says, "its swooning emotion is consistent if nothing else, and builds to a marvelous crescendo with the final showdown, both in terms of thrills and pathos."

Roger Ebert's site gives it 4 out of 4 stars and says
He creates intricate worlds, overwhelming viewers with detail and drowning them with symbolism. The fact that most of what is onscreen is physical, rather than computer-generated, helps. "Crimson Peak's" atmosphere crackles with sexual passion and dark secrets. There are a couple of monsters (supernatural and human), but the gigantic emotions are the most terrifying thing onscreen.
Rotten Tomatoes gives it a critics' rating of 71%.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tea Time

Tea Time:

is a painting by painter/sculptor Louise Abbéma (10/30/1853-7/10/1927). You can see more of her work online at The Athenaeum web site. The glbtq arts web site says she was "one of the most successful women artists of her day". ArtsExperts says, "She was a regular exhibitor at the Paris Salon and the State recognized her artistic talent by awarding her the Legion of Honor in 1906. She also exhibited in Chicago in 1893." ArtNet says she "achieved her first great success as a young painter in 1876, when she exhibited a portrait of her friend, the actress Sarah Bernhardt."

This woman looks quite prim and proper to me, but I think she would give the dog a treat.

Please join the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth. We share a beverage of some sort, and you'll be warmly welcomed.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monsieur Pamplemousse on Vacation

Monsieur Pamplemousse on Vacation, is by the sadly now deceased (6/27 at age 91) Michael Bond, who also wrote the Paddington Bear series for children. The Monsieur Pamplemousse books are a series for adults about a former detective with the Surete, who took early retirement under somewhat of a cloud and who now -with his trusty bloodhound Pommes Frites- travels around writing restaurant reviews for French gastronomic publication Le Guide and getting into all kinds of comic difficulties. This book is #13. I'm going to read them all, but not necessarily in order.

from the back of the book:
Monsieur Pamplemousse is looking forward to a well-earned break in the South of France courtesy of his employer -all he has to do is collect a piece of artwork for Le Guide's Director. But when his contact fails to show and a dismembered body is washed up outside the hotel, the holiday mood evaporates.

As Pamplemousse struggles with the case (and with modern technology) his ever-faithful bloodhound Pommes Frites is on hand offering proof why, during his time with the Paris Surete, he was one of their top sniffer dogs.

I have also read the following others from this series:

#2 Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Secret Mission
#6 Monsieur Pamplemousse Investigates
#8 Monsieur Pamplemousse Stands Firm
#11 Monsieur Pamplemousse Afloat
#12 Monsieur Pamplemousse on Probation
#14 Monsieur Pamplemousse Hits the Headlines

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Requiem for a Dream

Requiem for a Dream is a 2000 Darren Aronofsky psychological drama starring Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, and Jennifer Connelly. This is a depressing film. Addiction's a bitch, folks.


The New York Times has a positive review and says, "People may find it infuriating precisely because it's so intimidating, and it may leave you shaken. Be warned: it's a downer, and a knockout." Rolling Stone gives it 4 out of 4 stars and says, "no one interested in the power and magic of movies should miss it." EW gave it an "A" and says it "may be one of the most disturbing movies ever made".

Roger Ebert gives it 3.5 out of 4 stars. Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 93%.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Minnie Ripperton

Minnie Ripperton died on June 12, 1979, at the age of 31 from breast cancer. Listen to what we lost.

Lovin' You:

She had a coloratura soprano vocal range, spanning five octaves.

Inside My Love:

Come to My Garden:


You Take My Breath Away:

Listening to her still makes me cry. What a tragic loss!

Friday, July 07, 2017

The Tomb (1986)

The Tomb is a low-budget film about the curse of a desecrated tomb, starring John Carradine and long-time favorite Cameron Mitchell. It's loosely based on a Bram Stoker novel. I think there's quite a bit of charm here, but that might just be me liking anything Cameron Mitchell appears in.

via Youtube:

Reviewers are not kind.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

The Naming of the Dead

The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin is 16th in the Inspector Rebus book series. I'm reading these as I come across them, not making any effort to read them in order. I enjoy the characters and the writing. This book takes place over the course of a week's time in early July. Basque Separatists get a mention early on, and I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the Basque Separatists.

from the back of the book:
When an international conference delegate falls to his death during a dinner at Edinburgh Castle, Inspector John Rebus is given what looks like a simple suicide to write up. But even as he keeps it out of the headlines, Rebus probes where no probing is wanted -and doesn't appreciate the side steps and power plays his questions engender. Edinburgh is a dangerous place to be this week. Rebus is also investigating the death of a recently paroled rapist, murdered in a particularly grisly fashion.

A state-of-the-world novel peopled by real characters, The Naming of the Dead is Rebus' most challenging case yet and Edgar Award winner Ian Rankin at his very best.
The New York Times opens by saying,
Anyone who turns to genre fiction for escapist reading is well advised to stay clear of Ian Rankin’s hard-boiled procedurals featuring Inspector John Rebus of the Edinburgh police force. Like George Pelecanos, the American crime novelist he most resembles, Rankin is a flinty realist with little use for the romantic heroics that allow series detectives to operate above the fray of real life lived in real time.
The Guardian opens a positive review with this:
Ian Rankin's 16th Inspector Rebus novel is a big, sometimes elegiac, read set against the backdrop of one of the most tumultuous weeks in recent Scottish history: the G8 summit meeting in Edinburgh in July 2005. But this is no disguised political tract; instead, Rankin digs deeper into Rebus's psyche and continues to explore themes of justice and retribution, impermanence, loss and regret.

Rebus is the same truculent character he has always been and impending old age - his 60th birthday and consequent retirement - is preying on his mind.
Eurocrime says, "Ian Rankin is one of the world's most respected authors and THE NAMING OF THE DEAD is another example of why. A complex plot with multiple threads and consistently believable, multi-layered characters all combine to make a totally absorbing read." The Independent says, "The Naming of the Dead is classic Rankin, and if you're in love with the unchangeable Rebus, you'll relish it."

I have also read the following from this series:
#1 Knots and Crosses
#3 Tooth and Nail
#13 Resurrection Men

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula

Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula is a 1979 disco/comedy/vampire film, scattered throughout with the occasional nude bathing and sex scenes, very much a product of its time. I laughed all the way though this one. It was John Carradine's last time to play the Count, who has been forced to turn his castle into a hotel to pay the taxes. Yvonne De Carlo plays Dracula's old lover Jugulia Vein.

via Youtube:

Time Out concludes with this: "It's all terrible, but there's no indication that it's meant to be anything else. Only see it when you feel very, very silly."

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

The Waitress

The Waitress:

by Isaac Soyer, a Russian-born American WPA artist, who focused on the New York working class in his work. He died on July 8, 1981.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Mourn the Great Auk

The last pair of Great Auks was killed on this date in 1844. There was a single sighting of a lone bird after that, but they are extinct now.

Which animal will be next?

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Being John Malkovich

Being John Malkovich is a 1999 film. It's hard to categorize it. It has elements of various genres. Directed by Spike Jonze, it stars John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, Orson Bean, Mary Kay Place, and of course John Malkovich.


New York Times has a positive review. Rolling Stone closes their positive review with this: "Jonze is a true Puck for the new millennium: He's given us a movie to dream on." Empire Online concludes, "Chances are you'll never see another movie like Being John Malkovich, so make sure you don't miss out."

Roger Ebert opens a 4 out of 4 star review by exclaiming, "What an endlessly inventive movie this is!" Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 93%.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Eugene Onegin

Eugene Onegin as imagined by Alexander Pushkin, 1830

Eugene Onegin is a novel in verse form by Alexander Pushkin. You can understanding how translating Russian verse into English so as to maintain any sense of the original poses serious problems. A 1935 translation preserved the stanza form. The 1963 Walter W. Arndt translation kept the strict rhyme scheme. Vladimir Nabokov published his own translation in 1964, criticizing the earlier translation's sacrifice of exactness in the service of form. In 1977, Charles Johnston published a translation that tried to preserve the stanza. That translation is available online here. There have been numerous other translations, most of which try to maintain the stanza form while also trying to adhere to Pushkin's spirit and meaning.

There are filmed adaptations, none of which I've seen.

This is the beginning of Chapter 8 in the Charles H. Johnston translation
Chapter Eight

Fare thee well, and if for ever,
Still for ever, fare thee well.

Days when I came to flower serenely
in Lycée gardens long ago,
and read my Apuleius keenly,
but spared no glance for Cicero;
yes, in that spring-time, in low-lying
secluded vales, where swans were crying,
by waters that were still and clear,
for the first time the Muse came near.
And suddenly her radiance lighted
my student cell: she opened up
the joys of youth, that festal cup,
she sang of childhood's fun, indited
Russia's old glories and their gleams,
the heart and all its fragile dreams.


And with a smile the world caressed us:
what wings our first successes gave!
aged Derzhávin1 saw and blessed us
as he descended to the grave.
... ...


The arbitrary rules of passion
were all the law that I would use;
sharing her in promiscuous fashion,
I introduced my saucy Muse
to roar of banquets, din of brawling,
when night patrol's a perilous calling;
to each and every raving feast
she brought her talents, never ceased,
Bacchante-like, her flighty prancing;
sang for the guests above the wine;
the youth of those past days in line
behind her followed wildly dancing;
among my friends, in all that crowd
my giddy mistress made me proud.


When I defected from their union
and ran far off... the Muse came too.
How often, with her sweet communion,
she'd cheer my wordless way, and do
her secret work of magic suasion!
How often on the steep Caucasian
ranges, Lenora2-like, she'd ride
breakneck by moonlight at my side!
How oft she'd lead me, by the Tauric
seacoast, to hear in dark of night
the murmuring Nereids recite,
and the deep-throated billows' choric
hymnal as, endlessly unfurled,
they praise the Father of the world.


But then, oblivious of the city,
its glaring feasts, and shrill events,
in far Moldavia, fit for pity,
she visited the humble tents
of wandering tribesmen; while the ravage
of their society turned her savage,
she lost the language of the gods
for the bleak tongue of boorish clods --
she loved the steppe-land and its singing,
then quickly something changed all this:
look here, as a provincial miss
she's turned up in my garden, bringing
sad meditations in her look,
and, in her hand, a small French book.


Now for the first time she's escorted
into the social whirlabout;
jealously, shyly, I've imported
her steppeland charms into a rout.3
Through the tight ranks -- aristocratic,
military-foppish, diplomatic --
past the grand ladies, see her glide;
she sits down calmly on one side,
admires the tumult and the pressing,
the flickering tones of dress and speech,
the young hostess, towards whom each
new guest is gradually progressing,
while men, all sombre, all the same,
set off the ladies like a frame.


She enjoys the stately orchestration
of oligarchical converse,
pride's icy calm, the combination
of ranks and ages so diverse.
But who stands there, in this selected
assembly, silent and dejected?
All who behold him find him strange.
Faces before him flash and change
like irksome phantoms, null as zero.
Is spleen his trouble, or the dumb
torment of pride? And why's he come?
Who on earth is he? not... our hero?
No doubt about it, it's Eugene.
``How long has he been on the scene?
As a comparison, check out chapter 8 in this 2009 translation by A. S. Kline

This completes my Russia book challenge.