Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tea for Health


Very Well says that "regularly drinking tea has been associated with a lower risk of stroke" and suggests 3 cups of green tea a day. And here I am without any green tea at all. I have several kinds of black tea and one herbal tea. I guess I should put green tea on the shopping list.

In the meantime, I'll drink the tea I have with some coffee-chocolate brittle. This started out to be chocolate covered coffee beans, but I got lazy and decided not to dip each coffee bean separately. This is what I ended up with:


This is the recipe I used:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup coffee beans

Melt chocolate.
Mix coffee beans into the chocolate until coated.
Spread mixture out on pan and refrigerate until cooled (about 30 minute).
Break up into pieces.
Next time I'll try dipping. If I could figure how to make this without too much fuss and bother, it'd be a good Christmas present for a couple of people I know.

Please join the weekly T Tuesday party at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog, where you'll find a warm welcome.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Ghost in the Well

Ghost in the Well is a 1957 Japanese horror short film. A ghost story, it's based on an old folk tale. This one is more romance/drama and less horror. I liked it, and it's just 45 minutes long. I think it'd be suitable as an introduction to this sub-genre even for younger people for whom the gore in more modern films might be inappropriate.

via Youtube:



Weird Wild Realm says "[leading lady] Hibari never fails to provide more than ample entertainment; it's really a very pleasant small film."

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Memphis from Space

image from Twitter

from the twitter account of Shane Kimbrough. He has a Wikipedia page here, where it says he is
a retired United States Army officer and a NASA astronaut. He was part of the first group of candidates selected for NASA astronaut training following the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. He is the current commander of the International Space Station.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War is a 2016 superhero film. It is what you'd expect, so if you like that kind of thing you'll like this. I like that kind of thing.

trailer:


The NYT calls it a "very crowded, reasonably enjoyable installment in the Avengers cycle" and says, "“Captain America: Civil War” does not in any way transcend the conventions of the genre. On the contrary: It succeeds because it doesn’t really try." Slash Film says it's "a sharp, astounding, action-packed summer blockbuster that’s the kind of superhero movie you’ve been waiting to see your whole life."

Roger Ebert's site gives it 3 out of 4 stars and says, "this is a satisfying film that takes its characters but not itself seriously, and mixes sequences of wonder, visual wit and pathos in with the world-building and dramatic housekeeping." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 90%.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Conjure-Man Dies


The Conjure-Man Dies
is a 1932 mystery novel by Rudolph Fisher. Fisher was an African-American author, musician, physician, and radiologist, and was involved in the Harlem Renaissance. He died on December 26 in 1934 at age 37 from intestinal cancer, leaving a wife and three children. Short biographies here, here, here, and here fill out his life and accomplishments.

This book was the first novel with a black detective and the first detective novel with only black characters. It's a fascinating look at an earlier time and a different culture. It's not a curiosity, though, but a good story in its own right, with appealing characters and an intriguing plot.

from the back of the book:
Originally published in 1932, The Conjure-Man Dies is the first known mystery novel written by an African-American. Rudolph Fisher, one of the principal writers on the Harlem Renaissance, weaves an intricate story of a native African king, who, after receiving a degree from Harvard University, settles into Harlem in the 1930s. He becomes a "conjure-man," a fortune teller, a mysterious figure who remains shrouded in darkness while his clients sit directly across from him, singly bathed in light. It is this configuration that one of these seekers of the revelation of fate discovers he is speaking to a dead man. Thus a complex mystery begins, involving suspects and characters who are vividly and richly portrayed, and who dramatically illuminate for the reader a time, a place, and a people that have been sadly neglected in American literature.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Strange to Meet You

Strange to Meet You:



is the original 1986 short sketch that became part of the Coffee and Cigarettes anthology film directed by Jim Jarmusch, who celebrated a birthday day before yesterday.

Please share a drink with the folks at the weekly T Tuesday blog party hosted at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's place.



Monday, January 23, 2017

Empire of Passion

Empire of Passion is a 1978 Japanese-language film directed by Nagisa Oshima. A traditional Japanese ghost story, this features a wife who yields to a much younger ex-soldier. I love Japanese horror, especially the ghost stories, and was happy to find this available.

I watched it at Hulu with commercial interruptions, but it was free so I'm not complaining. Of course, Hulu doesn't allow free viewing at all anymore. As I understand it, now you have to pay for a subscription to watch it with commercials. LOL! No, thanks.

trailer:



Moria gives it a positive review. Slant Magazine calls it "provocative". DVD Talk says, "It's a traditional Japanese ghost story through and through, with regret and temerity as the essentials intermingled within the compartmentalized narrative."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Troy

Troy is a 2004 film based on characters in the Iliad. It's not an adaptation or a re-telling. There are characters with the same names, and some of them do things that might remind you of things they do in the Iliad, but that's as close as you get.

That said, it's a fun adventure movie, and we enjoyed it. It has a great cast, including Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger, Peter O'Toole, Brendan Gleeson, Sean Bean, and Julie Christie.

trailer:



The New York Times says, "But for what it is -a big, expensive, occasionally campy action movie full of well-known actors speaking in well-rounded accents- "Troy" is not bad." Empire Online concludes, "Bruising battles and some stirring performances make Troy enjoyable, if rather long. But if audiences can forgive the camp, they’'ll still struggle to empathise with the characters."

Roger Ebert gives it 2 out of 4 stars and says, "Homer's estate should sue." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 54% but an audience score that's higher at 73%.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Interstate 60

Interstate 60 is a 2002 fantasy road film, the story of an aspiring artist whose father wants him to follow in his own lawyerly footsteps. He is granted one wish at his birthday party, and the wish being fulfilled is the subject of the rest of the movie. James Marsden is the budding artist, Gary Oldman grants wishes, and Amy Smart is the dream girl. Christopher Lloyd, Chris Cooper, Kurt Russell, Michael J. Fox, and Ann-Margret are also here. Bob Gale directs. This is a delightful movie. I had never heard of it before The Younger Son introduced it to me a few days ago. It's a definite conversation-starter, and I could easily watch it again.

trailer:



Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 80%.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Park Bridge 42


This one is in Audubon Park. We saw it quite some time ago while on a picnic.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Dark Forest


The Dark Forest (English translation, 2015) is the second book in a trilogy that began with The Three-Body Problem. I find these books long, too long to be honest, although after I've finished reading them they stick with me. I'm not sure why they feel over-long as I'm reading them. Odd.

The books must be read in order.

from the back of the book:
The Three-Body Problem gave English-speaking readers their first taste of China's most beloved science fiction author, Cixin Liu, quickly gathering as much acclaim in the United States as it had in China. The Three-Body Trilogy continues with the near-future speculative fiction masterpiece The Dark Forest.

Earth is reeling from the revelation of a coming alien invasion -in four centuries' time. The Trisolarans' human collaborators have been defeated, but the aliens have seeded the earth with sophons, subatomic particles that allow them instant access to all human information, so Eaarth's defenses are totally exposed to the enemy. Only the human mind remains opaque.

This is the motivation for the Wallfacer Project, a daring plan that grants four people enormous resources to design secret strategies, hidden through deceit and misdirection from Earth and Trisolaris alike. Three of the Wallfacers are influential statesmen and scientists, but the fourth is a total unknown. Luo Ji, an unambitious Chinese astronomer and sociologist, is baffled by his new status. All he knows is that he's the one Wallfacer that Trisolaris wants dead.
The LA Review of Books says, "Cixin Liu’s The Dark Forest takes up the Fermi Paradox as one of its central narrative and thematic problems," and concludes their positive review with this: "Why is the universe so uncannily, so eerily, so terribly quiet? Because in the dark forest, anything that makes a sound gets eaten."

Strange Horizons calls it "even better than the first book". Kirkus Reviews says it's "a highly impressive must-read." SF Signal: "BOTTOM LINE: If you enjoyed The Three-Body Problem, read The Dark Forest. If you’ve ever thought about whether or not there’s life and intelligence on other planets, read The Dark Forest. Basically, if you’re a thoughtful human being interested in the universe outside of your own mind, read The Dark Forest.

#1 The Three-Body Problem

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Frankenweenie (2012)

Frankenweenie is the 2012 remake of the 1984 short film by the same name. Tim Burton directs. This is good, especially if you're looking for a horror film but don't want anything gory or scary.

trailer:



The New York Times describes it as an "Homage to Horror Classics". Time Out gives it 3 out of 5 stars.

Horror News says,
If you’re a lover of the classic monsters then you can’t go wrong with shelling out a few bucks to see “Frankenweenie” ... It touches upon all of the hallmarks that made those films so memorable to this day and entertains those that might not be familiar with those classics of the 30’s at the same time.
Roger Ebert says, "This isn't one of Burton's best, but it has zealous energy." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 87%.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Black Tea Pot

The Black Tea Pot:


is a painting by Jonas Lie, who died on January 18 in 1940. He was born in Norway but moved to New York City via Paris when he was 13. The Black Teapot is currently on exhibit at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse. The museum site says, "The canvas was painted in 1911 and acquired by the museum in 1913 soon after the work had hung at the now famous Armory Show. Held in New York City earlier that same year, the Armory Show constituted America's first large-scale exposure to the work of the European avant-garde."

Wikipedia says, "He is best known for colorful paintings of coastlines of New England and city scenes New York City," but I also like this autumnal still life.

There is a short biography here and another here. You can see more of his work here.

Please join the weekly T Tuesday gathering at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's Altered Book Lover blog.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Back Exercises

These are some exercises that are supposed to help strengthen the spine. There are illustrated guides online to exercises if you prefer them to videos. There are 4 back strengthening exercises here at RealSimple.com. KnowYourBack.org, the Mayfield Clinic, and How Stuff Works all have suggestions. WikiHow has several articles, including ones here and here and here. There's a pdf here that contains a series of 11 daily exercises intended to strengthen and condition the spine. There aren't many I can use as-is, and I don't mind adapting to suit me. Please be careful to adapt resources to suit you.

The DoYogaWithMe Youtube channel has a one-hour video on spinal care. It is here at this link. For some reason they have disabled the embedding function.

This physical therapy Youtube channel provides a daily video covering a wide range of subjects with adaptations for fitness/ability level. Here's a recent one with great options for back and core strengthening:



Michele Kenway is a physiotherapist who focuses her suggestions on exercises that are safe for women with pelvic floor issues. They are effective for anybody, though. She has 3 videos that target the back, and they are not difficult at all:







This 14-minute video from The Training Toole Youtube channel is directly focused on osteoporosis exercises for the back:



And there's a video from the Healthy Focus LLC Youtube channel:



that links to an article that provides written instructions for the exercises.

The following 2 videos from the Jessica Valant Pilates Youtube channel are (as is the one directly above) targeted to people who have scoliosis (or a curvature of the spine), although I don't do any of the activities that involve spinal flexion:





The Five Parks Yoga Youtube channel has some videos that I like (though I don't do the cat cow or other poses that require spinal flexion, I don't do shoulder stands, and I modify some of the poses):





Margaret Martin's Youtube channel offers videos demonstrating exercises, and I love this one for back-strengthening specifically for people with osteoporosis:



I do some kind of spine strengthening exercise daily.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a 2015 sequel to the 2012 movie. We liked that first one so much we went out the next day and bought this. We were doubtful it could live up to that initial experience, and it wasn't as good as the original; but we enjoyed it and would definitely watch another episode in this tale of elderly and financially-pressed Brits retiring to India.

trailer:



The NYT likes the cast, but doesn't have much good to say otherwise. Rolling Stone gives it 2.5 out of 4 stars and calls it "basically the same movie as the 2012 original without the novelty."

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 63%. Roger Ebert's site gives it 1.5 out of 4 stars, calling it "listless".

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Blackhouse


The Blackhouse, an award-winner, is book #1 in the Lewis trilogy of mystery novels by Scottish author Peter May. I liked this one. His writing style appeals to me, and the way he develops the characters is amazing in how much you realize he had revealed all along once you've finished the book. I'll be buying the next 2 in this series as soon as I can go to my local book store.

One of the episodes in the book takes place on Guy Fawkes Night.

from the back of the book:
When a grisly murder occurs on the Isle of Lewis that bears similarities to a brutal killing on the mainland, Edinburgh detective and native islander Fin Macleod is dispatched to the Outer Hebrides to investigate, embarking at the same time on a voyage into his own troubled past.

As Fin reconnects with the people and places of his tortured childhood, the desolate but beautiful island and its ancient customs once again begin to assert their grip on his psyche. Every step toward solving the case beings Fin closer to a dangerous confrontation with the dark events of the past that shaped -and nearly destroyed- his life.
quotes from the book that struck me as I read:
Long stretches of empty road linked bleak and exposed settlements huddled around churches of various denominations. The Church of Scotland. The United Free Church of Scotland. The Free Church of Scotland. The Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) -the Wee Frees, as the free churches were universally known. Each one was a division of the one before. Each one a testimony to the inability of man to agree with man. Each one a rallying point of hatred and distrust of the other.
*******
It's odd how people can get locked in a kind of time warp. There's a time in their lives that defines them, and they hang onto it for all the subsequent decades; the same hair, the same style of clothes, the same music, even though the world around them has changed beyond recognition.
*******
Life went past you in a flash, like a bus on a rainy night in Ness. You had to be sure it saw you and stopped to let you on, otherwise it was gone without you, and you would be left with a miserable walk home in the wind and the wet.
*******

The New York Times
opens with this: "Peter May is a writer I’d follow to the ends of the earth — which is where he takes us in THE BLACKHOUSE". The Scotsman says, "Award-winning Glasgow-born author Peter May is no stranger to the Isle of Lewis, and it shows in every thrilling chapter of this bleak, wild, atmospheric novel." Eurocrime opens its review by exclaiming, "What a truly fantastic book this is!"

Friday, January 13, 2017

King Arthur (film)

King Arthur is a 2004 film starring Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffudd, Stephen Dillane, Stellan Skarsgård, and Ray Winstone. It's an interesting re-telling, but throughout the movie I kept thinking if King Arthur is going to come back at our time of greatest need shouldn't we be expecting him any day now? Oh, wait.... that's only for Britain. Nooooooo!

The story bears no resemblance to any of the stories I've read. Definitely non-traditional.

trailer:



The NYT says,
It is a blunt, glowering B picture, shot in murky fog and battlefield smoke, full of silly-sounding pomposity and swollen music ... The combat scenes, though boisterous and brutal, are no more coherent than the story... Luckily there is an element of broad, brawny camp that prevents "King Arthur" from being a complete drag.
Empire Online concludes, "Although paved with good intentions, it's a grim, at times interminable, journey hobbled by miscasting and a lack of conviction; the killjoy in King Arthur's court." The Guardian gives it 3 out of 5 stars. Roger Ebert has a positive review and says, "That the movie works is because of the considerable production qualities and the charisma of the actors". Rotten Tomatoes has a 31% critics rating.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Rogue One


We saw the new movie in the theater before the tragedies of the deaths happened. I loved the movie and am very happy with the direction the new films are taking. If you liked the original trilogy, my guess is you'll like this. That said, I'm still not over the deaths. So, yes, I loved the new movie, but I can't write about it yet.



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Consequences


Consequences is a 2007 novel by Penelope Lively, who is one of my favorite authors. I wish there was some way to convey how truly wonderful this book is. It's a multi-generationl novel, but not in that epic, expansive way I expect from stories of that sort. No this is an intimate, personal family story. I hardly ever cry over books, and yet this one brought me to tears several different times. I found this book inspiring and touching and thought-provoking and immensely enjoyable. I liked getting to know the people (note: they weren't book characters to me but people) and celebrated the happy moments and seriously mourned our losses. I'm sad right now that I've finished it.

from the dust jacket:
"...and thus it was that on an exquisite June morning Lorna sat weeping on a bench in St. James's Park,with the willows cascading into the lake, and a cohort of bright-feathered ducks eddying about at her feet. She became aware that she was not alone on this seat, looked sideways, stopped crying, and the rest of her life began."
London, 1935: A chance meeting on a park bench on the eve of World War II sets in motion a love affair that reverberates through three generations. Matt and Lorna are deeply, defiantly, in love; they marry, and Lorna is pregnant when Matt is called for duty. But the war means Matt's death in action; it cuts short his artist's career and changes the course of Lorna's life. The war means that Lorna will marry again, and that Molly, their daughter, will grow up in a blasted landscape of bomb-sites and boarded windows, of households reconfigured by loss. But a chance look at a forgotten newspaper on the London tube leads Molly into her first job -and into the life of James Portland, a wealthy man she cannot love; and the postwar period gives way to a new era. Thirty years later, Ruth, Molly's own daughter, leaves her marriage for a journey that takes her back to 1941, to a new resolution of her own history and that of her family.

Told in Lively's incomparable prose, Consequences is a powerful story of growth, death, and renewal, and a study of the previous century -its major and minor events, the shaping of consciousness and lives, and a reaffirmation of the force of connection between generations.
quotes from the book:
"I want a sudden quick glimpse into the future."
"I don't."
"Why not?"
"It would be appalling to know the future. You couldn't live, knowing the future."
*******
Youth was gone, then, which was occasionally dismaying but a truth that could be confronted, and faced down. More provacative was the erratic process whereby you went in one direction rather than another, did this, not that, lived here, not there, found yourself with this person and not someone else quite unknown, quite inconceivable. How did this come about? Oh, you made choices, but in a way that was sometimes almost subliminal, at others so confused that, in recollection, the area of choice is obscured entirely: what was it that was not chosen? And, sometimes, choice is not an option.
*******
When Ruth became a mother she had the universal, unexceptional, hackneyed revelation -she perceived her own mother differently. She also stared backward and saw that almost mythical figure, her grandmother. This experience of her own had been theirs, but it had been otherwise, because springing from different circumstances.
*******

The NYT concludes a positive review with this: "“Consequences,” despite its shadows, is also a joyous ever-widening dance. At its center shimmers the idea of resiliency, of the continuity of humankind as embodied in one family, shattered and reconstituted, fragile, stubborn, enduring." Book Page calls Lively "a heartbreakingly human and elegant writer." The Spectator opens a positive review by saying, "The most difficult task for a novelist is to engage the reader in an account of happiness. In Consequences, Penelope Lively manages to pull this off." Kirkus Reviews says, "Moving at a cracking pace, Lively never strays too far from her themes of love and literature, words and pictures, lighting up the narrative with flashes of historical detail."

This counts towards my TBR book challenge.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Tea Time

Tea Time:


by Henry Salem Hubbell, an American artist who was born in 1870 and who died on January 9 in 1949. You can read more about his life here, and you can see more of his works here.

Join the T Tuesday gathering over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog. Pull up a chair and share a drink with us.



The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a 2012 film starring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Tom Wilkinson, and Maggie Smith. It's about a group of unconnected seniors who end up retiring to the same hotel in India. What a delightful film! The day after we watched it we went to the local music/video store and bought the sequel. We loved this one!

trailer:


The New York Times concludes with this: "Besides its sterling cast, its ace in the hole is its pungent depiction of Jaipur’s teeming streets, which give an otherwise well-mannered movie a blinding splash of color." The Telegraph calls it "sweet-natured, good-hearted and decent."

Roger Ebert gives it 3 1/2 out of 4 stars. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 78%.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Monsieur Verdoux

Monsieur Verdoux is a 1947 dark comedy film about a man (played by Charlie Chaplin) who makes a living marrying wealthy widows and killing them for their money to support his own wife and child. It's told in an extended flashback by the killer. Martha Raye, William Frawley, and Marilyn Nash also star. This was well worth watching. I liked everything about it. I watched it on Hulu with commercials back when that was an option, but Hulu has eliminated all their free options.

via Youtube:



Bright Lights Film Journal has a lengthy plot description and this: "The premiere of Monsieur Verdoux was naturally awaited with a great deal of anticipation. When Monsieur Verdoux was released, not everyone hated it." Slant Magazine gives it 4 and a half out of 5 stars and concludes, "Monsieur Verdoux is Chaplin's masterpiece, a lark both charming and subtly complex." The New Yorker has a positive review.

DVD Talk says, "it plays as a grim social horror movie". Rotten Tomatoes has a 97% critics score.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Book Challenges


I didn't do any formal reading challenges last year, but this year I'm going to plan some of my reading around specific goals. I have three particular challenges in mind:
  1. I'll read twelve from my TBR shelves.
  2. I'll read six books by Russian authors or about Russian history or politics (because it seems Russia will be having an unprecedented influence on our country for a while.
  3. I'll read six books from the NPR best books list.
I'll continue to keep reading my favorite authors, books from series I like, and random books that leap off the bookstore shelves begging me to take them home.

1. TBR Challenge:

Consequences by Penelope Lively
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
The High Window by Raymond Chandler
Railsea by China Mieville
Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
Question of Belief by Donna Leon
The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine
The Lewis Man
Little Bee

2. Russian authors:
Fables, by Ivan Krylov
A Sportsman's Sketches by Ivan Turgenev
First Love by Ivan Turgenev
The Bronze Horseman by Alexander Pushkin
A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov
Eugene Onegin

3. NPR best books list

Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift
Hunters in the Dark by Lawrence Osborne
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vasquez
Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey
The Year of the Runaways

Friday, January 06, 2017

4 Dollars for Revenge

4 Dollars for Revenge is a 1966 Spanish-Italian spaghetti western starring Robert Woods. Woods is 80 years old and still active in his film career. I like spaghetti westerns, and you could do worse than this one.

via Youtube:



Spaghetti-Western.net concludes it's "Good looking, but too simple to be more than another early European western". Fistful of Pasta calls it "a pretty average, yet entertaining film".

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Probability Space


Probability Space is the final book in a science fiction series by Nancy Kress. This is an interesting series, easy to read but with truly alien concepts. This was by far my least favorite in the series. I preferred the exploration of life on the alien planet and the philosophical consideration of their evolution under the influence of the alien artifact in the earlier books to the squabbles of petty adults, growing sexual awareness of the fourteen-year-old girl, and the political intrigues present here. They must be read in order, as the situations in this book are wholly dependent on the previous books to be understandable.

from the back of the book:
Humanity is at war with the alien Fallers, and it is a war we are losing. Our implacable foes ignore all attempts at communication, and they take no prisoners. Our only hope lies with an unlikely group: Major Lyle Kaufman, retired warrior; Marbet Grant, the Sensitive who's involved with Kaufman; Amanda, a very confused fourteen-year-old girl; and Magdalena, one of the biggest power-brokers in all of human space.

As the action moves from Earth to Mars to the farthest reaches of the galaxy, with civil unrest back home and alien war deep in space, four humans -armed with little more than an unproven theory- try to enter the Fallers' home star system. It's a desperate gamble, and the fate of the entire universe may hang in the balance.
SF Site concludes by saying,
Probability Space is a well-written space-adventure, which, because it focuses more on story than character, should satisfy readers of the Probability series who want to know how the story ends, but may disappoint those who'd like to know more about the people in the story.
SF Revu closes with this: "This very smart book is not perfect, but it is challenging and satisfying." Kirkus Reviews has a negative review. Publishers Weekly has a positive review.

I have read the others in the series:
  1. Probability Moon
  2. Probability Sun

This counts towards my TBR book challenge.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Monsieur Pamplemousse Afloat



Monsieur Pamplemousse Afloat (1999) is one of the books in a mystery series for adults by Michael Bond, who is much better known as the author of the Paddington Bear books. Bond will turn 91 the 13th of this month and is still writing. I'm working my way through this series as I come across them, and I came across several under my Christmas tree. (Thank you to The Husband.) They are cozy mysteries, and the humor is light and fun and sometimes just a bit risqué. Delightful reading. This is #11.

from the back of the book:
When the Director of Le Guide offers up a holiday on the Canal de Bourgogne, Monsieur Pamplemousse is unaware that there are strings attached -several, in fact. Things are not quite as peaceful as they seem among the vineyards of Burgundy, and family rivalries and resentments from long-past culminate in a series of strange occurrences.

Monsieur Pamplemousse , accompanied of course by his faithful bloodhound Pommes Frites, finds himself caught up in the trouble. Before the holiday is over the crime-solving duo will have to cope with the perils of portholes, a dead parrot, missing undergarments, the advances of a Marilyn Monroe look-alike and an assassin disguised as a nun...
Papa Noel makes an appearance, even though the book takes place in the summertime.

Eurocrime has a positive review.

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
#14 Monsieur Pamplemousse Hits the Headlines

Monday, January 02, 2017

More Grocery Wine

A while back I posted about the new Tennessee law allowing wine in grocery stores. I've been testing the waters in the wine aisles, and I had tried a few since I last posted on the topic and thought I'd update. I did a lot of research online, and Lula Harp recommended a phone app called Vivino. I drink maybe half a glass with supper many evenings, so it takes a while to go through each bottle. I have found several more I like. I know nothing about wine or wine reviewing, so really all I can say is, "I like this one. I wouldn't say "no" to more of it," or "Yuck."

The ones from the first post:


Of those, I liked the Liberty School Cabernet and Nobel Vines Merlot.

The ones I've tried since then are 14 Hands Merlot:


which I like but not as much as the Noble Vines,

and these 3:


Layer Cake Pinot Noir, which I don't like; Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc, which is fine but I'll keep looking; and Ravenswood Zinfandel, which I'm not going to drink more of.

Then there were these:


The Gascon Malbec, which was fine, but I'll try another Malbec next time; the Gerard Bertrand Languedoc Syrah, also perfectly drinkable, but which I won't buy again; and Dreaming Tree Cabernet Sauvignon, which I've already bought more of. I may even like that last one better than the Noble Vines Cabernet which had been my favorite to this point.

This is a fun little project. Who knows? I may become a regular wine drinker. Of course, I may go back to water and iced tea once the novelty wears off.

Please share your choice of beverage with the bloggers over at the T Tuesday gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth at the Altered Book Lover blog.

Chemical Wedding

Chemical Wedding (or Crowley) is a 2009 British horror film about the return of occultist Aleister Crowley. Dreadful, absolutely dreadful. I'll watch almost anything and yet didn't finish this one. It's hard to describe exactly where it goes wrong. The acting isn't bad, production values seem fine to me, the music is ok, but somewhere between the leering purple-suited professor complaining that the prostitute is obviously not a natural red-head and the scene where he's begging to be caned even harder while he ejaculates onto a piece of paper he'll send to the next red-head I just gave up trying to care.

trailer:



The Guardian says, "it's never boring." Quiet Earth calls it a cult masterpiece

Time Out gives it 2 out of 5 stars and says, "Written by Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson and directed by former ‘Monty Python’ collaborator Julian Doyle, ‘Chemical Wedding’ is an anomaly most notable for Callow’s off-the-rails performance. Unfortunately, most other elements just don’t cut it". Empire Online also has a 2 out of 5 star rating and calls it "often as silly as it is spooky".

HorrorNews.net has a glowing review that begins,
An incredible movie about none other than the infamous Aleister Crowley. A film that delves into deep places that really requires 2 viewing’s to get the sum of its whole
and closes with this:
Final word? – A wonderful film that I’ll re-watch many times! Deeply sustaining, and historically engaging! Brilliantly intelligent horror that comes from a darker place close to home and place in science that is just around the corner.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer (2014) is one of those movies that gets almost universally positive reviews but that I don't like. This is just a mess of slow, logic-deprived nonsense. I expected a lot considering the good things I had heard about it and cannot express how disappointed I was. The Younger Son and I spent a nice while after we finished it ripping it to shreds in every particular. To rehearse what we saw as its problems would take much longer than anyone would care to read, but I will say you couldn't pay me to watch this again.

It does include a celebration of their New Year, which is why I post this today.

trailer:


The NYT has a positive review, as do Salon.com and Slate. Roger Ebert's site gives it 3.5 out of 4 stars. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 95%.