Friday, February 24, 2017

King Solomon's Mines (1937)

King Solomon's Mines is a 1937 adaptation of the H. Rider Haggard book. This is a lost world story, with adventure and elements of the supernatural. The book can be read online. The film begins with the writing of these words in our hero's journal:
Every word of this story is true, stamped on my memory for ever.

I see once more every detail of our terrible journey through the land of the Kukuanas. And -that you may better believe me, here is the chart- made by a hand long dead -
The prologue continues as voice-over.

via Youtube:

The New York Times concludes, "...the credit for the good things—and there are many of them—in this film should go to the cameramen, the beaters, and countless unnamed African natives and animals." Weird Wild Realm says, "Good special effects for the day & pleasing black & white cinematography, this was the first truly significant filming of any work of Haggard's classic". Wikipedia notes, "... this film offering is considered to be the most faithful to the book".

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 100%.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian

Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian is a 2009 fantasy adventure film, a sequel and not as good as the original. I can't recommend it; watch the original again instead.


Roger Ebert gives it 1 1/2 out of 4 stars and hates it. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 44%.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a book I picked up on spec at my local bookseller. It's a 2011 dystopian novel, right down my alley. I thoroughly enjoyed it; the characters are well fleshed-out, the world-building is completely believable, and I want to plug in already! This is an engrossing read, a real page-turner.

Wikipedia says, "A film adaptation, directed by Steven Spielberg, is currently in production, and slated to premiere in spring 2018." I'll definitely want to see that.

from the back of the book:
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within the world's digital confines -puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades pat and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself best by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win -and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
The New York Times says, " writer John Scalzi, who has aptly referred to “Ready Player One” as a “nerdgasm.” There can be no better one-word description of this ardent fantasy artifact about fantasy culture." Kirkus Reviews is not a fan.

io9 calls it "as addictive as a great game". SF Site concludes, "At its best, Ready Player One turns its characters' inner fears and innate geekiness into their greatest strength and virtues, no small accomplishment for a novel, or game, of any kind."

BoingBoing opens with this:
It seems like every decade or so a science fiction novel comes along that sends a lightning bolt through my nervous system: Philip Jose Farmer’s To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971). William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984). Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (1992). Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (2003). And I recently discovered what my mind-blowing novel for the 2010s is: Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.
EW says, "If the many pop references don’t mean anything to you, then Ready Player One probably won’t either. But give Cline credit for crafting a fresh and imaginative world from our old toy box, and finding significance in there among the collectibles."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Coffee and Cigarettes

Coffee and Cigarettes:

released on 2/25/2011 by Jimmy Eat World.

lyric excerpt:
Coffee and cigarettes
As simple as it gets
Of all the things I think I'll miss
There's staying up with you
Coffee and cigarettes, coffee and cigarettes
please join the T party, a weekly blog gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Ghost of Oiwa

Ghost of Oiwa is a 1961 Japanese ghost story, another of many films based on the old tale. This is available online divided into sections and with English subtitles at this website. I can't find even so much as a trailer to embed here. I like Asian ghost stories, and this is a good one.

Weird Wild Realm covers a bunch of these films and calls it "one of the most vile brutish evocations of Iyemon's character."

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Periodical 42

I saw this but was driving, so my younger son took the picture.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Monsieur Pamplemousse on Probation

Monsieur Pamplemousse on Probation is one in a series of mystery comic novels by Michael Bond. The Husband gave me several of these for Christmas, knowing how much I enjoy them. This one is the 12th and was published in 2000. It takes place over Valentine's Day, though that's incidental and not a key element. I enjoyed a passing reference to Django Reinhardt's Douce Ambience, which you can listen to here:

from the book:
He'd grown up with the music of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, and the music you grew up with stayed with you for the rest of your life, dating you as surely as any birth certificate. It was a sadness that he'd never had the chance to share his pleasure with Doucette [his wife]. In 1953, at the ridiculously early age of forty-three, Reinhardt had died of a stroke.

These can be read in any order.

from the back of the book:
The esteemed creator of Paddington Bear
devises another delicious escapade for
Monsieur Pamplemousse and Pommes Frites

Monsieur Pamplemousse finds himself in deep water when an unfortunate collision with a Mother Superior is caught on camera by the French tabloids. To avoid media attention, he is sent to report on chef Andre Dulac, currently in line for Le Guide's top award of the Golden Stock Pot Lid.

But Pamplemousse's stay at the Hotel Dulac is far from uneventful. His encounters with mysterious bloodstains, a strangely vibrating girl and a secret family legacy open a can of worms which threatens the very sanctity of France's prmier gastronomic bible...

favorite quote:
How did the old saying go? "When one door shuts another opens." Part of the fun in life was not knowing where the next one would lead to.

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
#14 Monsieur Pamplemousse Hits the Headlines

Friday, February 17, 2017

47 Ronin

47 Ronin is a 2013 movie inspired by a true story from 18th century Japan. Keanu Reeves stars. We enjoyed this. It has action, adventure, touches of fantasy, classical romance... The reviews aren't great, but sometimes reviewers seem to think every movie has to be Citizen Kane. They are wrong.


I'm not even linking to reviews on this movie. Honestly, just watch the movie and judge for yourself.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Spot of Bother

A Spot of Bother is the second novel for adults by Mark Haddon, whose first was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I bought this book because I liked that first one so much, and I was not disappointed.

from the back of the book:
A Spot of Bother is Mark Haddon's unforgettable follow-up to the internationally beloved bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

At sixty-one, George Hall is settling down to a comfortable retirement. When his tempestuous daughter, Katie, announces that she is getting married to the deeply inappropriate Ray, the Hall family is thrown into a tizzy. Unnoticed in the uproar, George discovers a sinister lesion on his hip and quietly begins to lose his mind.

As parents and children fall apart and come together, Haddon paints a disturbing yet amusing portrait of a dignified man trying to go insane politely.
A couple of quotes that struck me:
Obviously it would be nice to go quietly in one's sleep. But going quietly in one's sleep was an idea cooked up by parents to make the deaths of grandparents and hamsters less traumatic. And doubtless some people did go quietly in their sleep but most did so only after many wounding rounds with the grim reaper.

His own preferred exits were rapid and decisive. Others might want time to bury the hatchet with estranged children and tell their wives where the stopcock was. Personally, he wanted the lights to go out with no warning and the minimum attendant mess. Dying was bad enough without having to make it easier for everyone else.
What they failed to teach you at school was that the whole business of being human just got messier and more complicated as you got older.

You could tell the truth, be polite, take everyone's feelings into consideration and still have to deal with other people's shit. At nine or ninety.

The NYT says the book "serves as a fine example of why novels exist." The Independent says, "Haddon has filled 390 pages with sharp and witty observations about family and daily life." Kirkus Reviews says, "Haddon is a clever writer with an eye and ear for the absurdities of everyday life," but doesn't like this book, thinking it "too slight" and shallow.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Cruel Ghost Legend

Cruel Ghost Legend is a 1968 Japanese horror film. This is a revenge tale involving a blood curse. This is a good movie, but it moves a little more slowly than I'd like.

via Youtube:

Reviews are all but non-existent. Weird Wild Realm has a plot synopsis.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Tai Chi videos

I love Tai Chi and have an on-again, off-again relationship with a class here in town. When I don't have a class I do some Tai Chi at home, using some of the short videos available on youtube or either of the two DVDs I have.

Below are some of the shorter offerings.

There's a 9-minute video featuring Don Fiore with embedding disabled, but you can watch it here. He has a 5-minute exercise session here:

This 15-minute video provides instruction in Tai Chi walking:

The embedding feature has been disabled, but you can see (and work with) a woman practicing the 24 form in this 9-minute video at youtube.

This video emphasizes Tai Chi as an aid to stronger bones:

There are a number of videos that I use part of, skipping the introductory material at the beginning once I've watched the complete video once. These are by Dr. Paul Lam:
I liked these 2 men's presentation so much I bought a DVD of each of them.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Mascot

The Mascot is a 1933 pioneering animated Ladislas Starevich film. It's a sweet, sad, heartwarming story that mixes stop motion animation with live action.

Senses of Cinema says,
Considering its strong correspondences to more recent films such as The Nightmare Before Christmas and Toy Story, it is not surprising that The Mascot has been one of Starewicz’s most widely seen and distributed films (particularly in the United States). Nevertheless, Starewicz is generally an under-appreciated figure in film, and more specifically, animation history. Until the early 1990s his films were very hard to see (despite early 1980s retrospectives at places like the Edinburgh Film Festival), many of them, including his opus The Tale of the Fox, long thought to be lost forever. In light of the subsequent new Golden Era of feature-film animation, and the critical reappraisal of so much American animation from Warners to Disney (not that far to travel really), it seems time for Starewicz’s work to be more widely appraised
Wild Realm calls it "simply a joy".

Saturday, February 11, 2017


Railsea is a 2012 young adult novel written and with several illustrations by China Mieville. I tend to avoid young adult novels, but this was available used and I like Mieville's writing, so.... I liked this book, as I tend to enjoy Mieville's work, and -though it's not my favorite- I do like it better than Embassytown. I'm hard-pressed to decide why it's labeled a "young adult" book, unless having a young protagonist is enough. I think they should eliminate the "young adult" label entirely. I would think actual "young adults" could just read fiction, for pity's sake.

from the dust jacket:
On board the moletrain Medes, Sham Yes ap Soorap watches in awe as he witnesses his first moldywarpe hunt: the giant mole bursting from the earth, the harpoonists targeting their prey, the battle resulting in one's death and the other's glory. But no matter how spectacular it is, Sham can't shake the sense that there is more to life than traveling the endless rails of the railsea -even if his captain can think only of the hunt for the ivory-colored mole she's been chasing since it took her arm all those years ago. When they come across a wrecked train, at first it's a welcome distraction. But what Sham finds in the derelict -a kind of treasure map indicating a mythical place untouched by iron rails- leads to considerably more than he'd bargained for. Soon he's hunted on all sides, by pirates, trainsfolk, monsters, & salvage-scrabblers. & it might not be just Sham's life that's about to change. It could be the whole of the railsea.

Here is a novel for readers of all ages, a gripping & brilliantly imagined take on Herman Melville's Moby-Dick that confirms China Mieville's status as "the most original & talented voice to appear in several years" (Science Fiction Chronicle)
NPR has a positive review. The Guardian says, "the book's chief glory is its prose." Kirkus Reviews calls it "Another astonishing blend of cyberpunk, steampunk, fantasy and science fiction, from the hugely talented author".

SF Site concludes a mixed review with this: "He has, in short, done everything with this novel. Item by item, he hasn't done any of it particularly badly; but there's too much to allow it all to be done particularly well." io9 describes it as "quite literary but playful".

This counts towards my TBR book challenge.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dead in Tombstone

Dead in Tombstone is a 2013 western featuring Mickey Rourke as Lucifer and Danny Trejo as our betrayed outlaw anti-hero. This was great fun -a sort of loose re-make of Pale Rider or High Plains Drifter.
trailer: says, "it delivers everything it should". HorrorFreakNews says, "the film works on a number of levels. Above and beyond all else, it’s fun."

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Paris 2054: Renaissance

Paris 2054: Renaissance is a French noir science fiction film. A 2006 animated movie, it is directed by Christian Volckman with English voice talent that includes Ian Holm and Daniel Craig. This is interesting, very different visually in its stark blacks and whites.


The New York Times opens its review with this:
If the grim, dystopian world evoked by the French film “Renaissance” is a Gallic pastiche of “Blade Runner,” “Sin City,” “Minority Report” and “Gattaca,” the movie’s stark visual style is strikingly original. There are no grays, only jagged blacks and whites in a film that draws the worlds of animation and live action closer together with a variation on the techniques used by Richard Linklater in “Waking Life” and “A Scanner Darkly.”
The Guardian gives it 2 out of 5 stars and says, "stunning visuals are put to work in the service of a stultifying plot". The BBC gives it 3 out of 5 stars and says, " There's little in the content to match director Christian Volckman's dazzling visuals."

Moria calls it "fascinating" and says, "There is a dazzling architectural beauty to the film". Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 49% but a higher audience rating of 60%.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

The High Window

The High Window by Raymond Chandler is a 1942 detective novel featuring Philip Marlowe. This book is the 3rd in a long-running series. It's not nearly as dated as you might expect given the publication date, and is easily readable as a modern story. Tips of a dime and the presence of elevator operators are fun elements, and the plot and characters have modern sensibilities. You can read it online here, and can certainly read enough there to give you a taste of the writing style. I got a big kick out of this book.

from the back of the book:
Raymond Chandler's third novel is set in the California underworld, where Philip Marlowe searches for a priceless gold coin and finds himself deep in the tangled affairs of a dead coin collector.
Kirkus Reviews opens by calling it a "Tight, bright tale" and closes with this: "... tough, tense, and fine fare."

This counts towards my TBR book challenge.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017



is a parody of the song Cocaine.

lyric excerpt:
If you wanna get up, you've gotta grab your mug.
If you wanna get down, pour water on coffee grounds.
Feel alive, feel alive, feel alive.
Enjoy your caffeine, and share a beverage with the people over at Bleubeard and Eizabeth's T Tuesday gathering.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Ghost of Chibusa Enoki

screenshot from

Ghost of Chibusa Enoki is a 1958 Japanese ghost story about a ruthless ronin who rapes a woman and murders her husband. He lives to regret it, as is so often the case in these stories.

I watched this film online, but now I can't even find a trailer. I can't find it for sale. That's a real shame.

Reviews are few and far between, but the film itself is only 45 minutes long, so it won't take long to check it out for yourself. If you can find it.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Epiphany Snow

I kept thinking we might get another snow -maybe a deeper one. The snow we got on Epiphany may be all we get this year. There wasn't much of it, but it was pretty while it lasted:

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Thoreau and Civil Disobedience

Open Culture has a post titled Henry David Thoreau on When Civil Disobedience Against Bad Governments Is Justified: An Animated Introduction. They conclude, "Politics, as history occasionally and forcefully reminds us, is negotiation without end, and sometimes negotiations have to get ugly." Watch this short 5 1/2 minute video explaining that we have a duty to protest:

Friday, February 03, 2017

The Day the Music Died

Today is the anniversary of the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. Enjoy the music.

Buddy Holly singing That'll Be the Day:

Ritchie Valens singing La Bamba:

The Big Bopper singing Chantilly Lace:

and the song they inspired:

American Pie by Don Mclean

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Books Recommended by Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson

Open Culture has two lists. The first is 8 books every intelligent person should read, suggested by Tyson. The second is Sagan's 40 Essential Texts for a Well-Rounded Thinker. I now feel seriously under-educated.

Tyson's list:
1.) The Bible
2.) The System of the World by Isaac Newton
3.) On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
4.) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
5.) The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
6.) The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (I've read excerpts)
7.) The Art of War by Sun Tsu
8.) The Prince by Machiavelli

Sagan's list isn't available in a format I can just copy and paste here, but it's mostly books I haven't read:
In fact, it's a list that I have no interest in tackling. I have read the Plato, Shakespeare, and the Bible.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

State of Wonder

State of Wonder is a 2011 novel by Ann Patchett, one of those authors who doesn't disappoint. This is another I can recommend without any reservation.

from the dust jacket:
Ann Patchett has dazzled readers with her award-winning books, including The Magician's Assistant and The New York Times bestselling Bel Canto. Now she raises the bar with State of Wonder, a provocative, ambitious, and thrilling novel set deep in the Amazon jungle.

Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota-based pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug. Nothing about the arrangement is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina's research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding Dr. Swenson as well as answers to troubling questions about her friend's death, the state of her company's future, and her own past.

Once found, Dr. Swenson, now in her sevenries, is as ruthless and uncompromising as she ever was back in the days of Grand Rounds at Johns Hopkins. With a combination of science and subterfuge, she dominates her research team and the natives she is studying with the force of an imperial ruler. But while she is as threatening as anything the jungle has to offer, the greatest sacrifices to be made are the ones Dr. Swenson asks of herself, and will ultimately ask of Marina.

In a narrative replete with poison arrows, devouring snakes, and a neighboring tribe of cannibals, State of Wonder is a world unto itself, where unlily beauty stands beside unimaginable loss. It is a tale that leads the reader into the very heart of darkness, and then shows us what lies on the other side.
The New York Times has a review. The Chicago Tribune concludes, "Part scientific thriller, part engaging personal odyssey, "State of Wonder" is a suspenseful jungle adventure with an unexpected ending and other assorted surprises." NPR has a positive review and an excerpt.

The Guardian calls it "her most mature work to date". Kirkus Reviews calls it a "spellbinder" and closes by saying, "Thrilling, disturbing and moving in equal measures—even better than Patchett’s breakthrough Bel Canto".

This counts towards my TBR book challenge.