Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Artist in Her Studio

Artist in Her Studio (1905):

by Charles Camoin, associated with Fauvism, who died on May 20, 1965. When this artist is ready for a break, she can take the bottle on the table in the photo above over to this table:

Still Life with the Window of the Workshop Open to the Port of Saint Tropez

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Dinner

The Dinner is a 2009 book by Dutch author Herman Koch, translated into English and published in the U.S.A. in 2013. It's been adapted for film, but I haven't seen the movie. The book takes place in the summer. There are no likable characters here, from children to adults. They are ugly, self-centered, vile, and dangerous people. And that's during dinner at a fancy restaurant. I found it fascinating, a look at what people are willing to do to protect the lives they think they are living.

from the back of the book:
It's a summer's evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act -an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children, and as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

Skewering everything from parenting values to pretentious menus to political convictions, this novel reveals the dark side of genteel society and asks what each of us would do in the face of unimaginable tragedy.
The New York Times says, "The success of “The Dinner” depends, in part, on the carefully calibrated revelations of its unreliable and increasingly unsettling narrator, Paul Lohman. Whatever else he may be, likable he is not" and calls it "absorbing and highly readable". The Guardian says it's "a well-paced and entertaining novel". NPR concludes, "The best part about The Dinner was this tension taking place above the plates. As the meal wore on, I realized I couldn't get up from the table."

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Tarzan and the Golden Lion

Tarzan and the Golden Lion is the 1927 film adaptation of the 1922 Edgar Rice Burroughs novel with the same title. The film stars James Pierce as Tarzan and features Boris Karloff as a tribal villain.

via Youtube:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Friday, May 18, 2018

Midshipman's Hope

Midshipman's Hope is the first book in the Seafort Saga by David Feintuch. I don't care for coming-of-age stories or books with adolescent protagonists, but that's exactly what this is and I like it fine.

from the back of the book:
A hideous accident kills the senior officers of the UNS Hibernia -leaving a terrified young officer to save three hundred colonists and crew aboard a damaged ship, on a seventeen-month gauntlet to reach the colony of Hope Nation. With no chance of rescue or reinforcement, Nicholas Seafort must overcome despair, exhaustion, guilt; he must conquer malfunctions, mutiny, and an alien horror beyond human understanding.

He must save lives. And he must take them, in the name of duty...

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Manitou

The Manitou is a 1978 horror film starring Tony Curtis, Michael Ansara, Susan Strasberg, Stella Stevens, Jon Cedar, Ann Sothern, and Burgess Meredith. This is the story of a woman who has a tumor in her neck that contains a human fetus that turns out to be old Native American shaman being reborn to seek vengeance. The cast sounds wonderful, doesn't it? The music is dreadful and dreadfully intrusive.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Moria gives it 3.5 stars and calls it this director's finest moment, saying, "The Manitou contains a particularly strong building atmosphere of eldritch eeriness. The film could almost be an H.P. Lovecraft story". Horror News thinks it's fun. Roger Ebert gives it 1 star and calls it "easily the least plausible thriller since, oh, “Infra-Man.”" Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 49%.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Jazz "Hot"

Jazz "Hot":

is a 1938 short film on jazz featuring Django Reinhardt, who died on this date in 1953 of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 43.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018



by Edward Hopper who died at the age of 84 on this date in 1967. The painting has inspired writers and musicians including Tom Waits' Nighthawks at the Diner (1975):

and has been used in culture and political memes:

"This place is packed!"

Pull up to the counter, and join me for a cuppa joe. I take mine black. You?

Monday, May 14, 2018

A View from a Hill

A View from a Hill is a 1925 ghost story by M.R. James. It begins,
How pleasant it can be, alone in a first-class railway carriage, on the first day of a holiday that is to be fairly long, to dawdle through a bit of English country that is unfamiliar, stopping at every station. You have a map open on your knee, and you pick out the villages that lie to right and left by their church towers. You marvel at the complete stillness that attends your stoppage at the stations, broken only by a footstep crunching the gravel. Yet perhaps that is best experienced after sundown, and the traveler I have in mind was making his leisurely progress on a sunny afternoon in the latter half of June.

He was in the depths of the country. I need not particularise further than to say that if you divided the map of England into four quarters, he would have been found in the south-western of them.

He was a man of academic pursuits, and his term was just over. He was on his way to meet a new friend, older than himself. The two of them had met first on an official inquiry in town, had found that they had many tastes and habits in common, liked each other, and the result was an invitation from Squire Richards to Mr. Fanshawe which was now taking effect.

The journey ended about five o’clock. Fanshawe was told by a cheerful country porter that the car from the Hall had been up to the station and left a message that something had to be fetched from half a mile farther on, and would the gentleman please to wait a few minutes till it came back? ‘But I see,’ continued the porter, ‘as you’ve got your bystile, and very like you’d find it pleasanter to ride up to the ‘all yourself. Straight up the road ‘ere, and then first turn to the left — it ain’t above two mile — and I’ll see as your things is put in the car for
You’ll excuse me mentioning it, only I though it were a nice evening for a ride. Yes, sir, very seasonable weather for the haymakers: met me see, I have your bike ticket. Thank you, sir; much obliged: you can’t miss your road, etc., etc.’

The two miles to the Hall were just what was needed, after the day in the train, to dispel somnolence and impart a wish for tea. The Hall, when sighted, also promised just what was needed in the way of a quiet resting-place after days of sitting on committees and college-meetings. It was neither excitingly old nor depressingly new. Plastered walls, sash-windows, old trees, smooth lawns, were the features which Fanshawe noticed as he came up the drive. Squire Richards, a burly man of sixty odd, was awaiting him in the porch with evident pleasure ‘Tea first,’ he said, ‘or would you like a longer drink? No? All right, tea’s ready in the garden. Come along, they’ll put your machine away. I always have tea under the lime-tree by the stream on a day like this.’ Nor could you ask for a better place. Midsummer afternoon, shade and scent of a vast lime-tree, cool, swirling water within five yards. It was long before either of them suggested a move. But about six, Mr. Richards sat up, knocked out his pipe, and said: ‘Look here, it’s cool enough now to think of a stroll, if you’re inclined? All right: then what I suggest is that we walk up the park and get on to the hill-side, where we can look over the country. We’ll have a map, and I’ll show you where things are; and you can go off on your machine, or we can take the car, according as you want exercise or not. If you’re ready, we can start now and be back well before eight, taking it very easy.’

‘I’m ready. I should like my stick, though, and have you got any field-glasses? I lent mine to a man a week ago, and he’s gone off Lord knows where and taken them with him.’

Mr. Richards pondered. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I have, but they’re not things I use myself, and I don’t know whether the ones I have will suit you. They’re old-fashioned, and about twice as heavy as they make ‘em now. You’re welcome to have them, but I won’t carry them. By the way, what do you want to drink after dinner?’
You can read it online here. It was adapted for television in 2005:

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice

The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice is a 1952 Japanese film about the change in people's lives as post-war Japan becomes more westernized. It's directed by Yasujirō Ozu. I'm glad my marriage is a happy one, unlike the couple in this film. This couple comes to a better understanding in their middle years than they ever had as young people, though, and it's lovely to see them better realize the virtue of their marriage. This is a beautiful story.

via Youtube:

The New York Times says,
What we see of Japan in 1951 and 1952 defines the time in a fashion I am not sure I would have been as aware of had I seen the film in 1952. It is a world only seven years removed from Hiroshima. Nobody in an Ozu film, seems directly affected by the American occupation, but the American influence is everywhere, in second-hand clothes, in cigarettes, in the liberation of women.

The Chicago Reader says, "Ozu's delicate melodramas ... avoid any sense of cliche in their restrained, sometimes painfully subtle study of family relationships." Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of 87%.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Book of Strange New Things

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber is a 2014 science fiction book. I was enthralled through the entire book and then was disappointed by the ending.

from the back of the book:
Called to a mission of a lifetime, Peter travels light-years from his wife, Bea, to an astonishing new environment. He's to preach to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter's teachings. But when Bea's letters from home become increasingly desperate -natural disasters are rampant and governments are crumbling- her faith begins to falter. Peter, rattled and heartsick, is forced to choose: historic humanitarian work, or the love of his life.

Replete with emotional complexity and bravura storytelling, The Book of Strange New Things is a powerful and haunting meditation on faith, love, and devotion.
The New York Times concludes,
Defiantly unclassifiable, “The Book of Strange New Things” is, among other things, a rebuke to the credo of literary seriousness for which there is no higher art than a Norwegian man taking pains to describe his breakfast cereal. As well as the literature of authenticity, Faber reminds us, there is a literature of enchantment, which invites the reader to participate in the not-real in order to wake from a dream of reality to the ineffability, strangeness and brevity of life on Earth.
NPR calls it "a remarkable work of imagination and genius." io9 says, "this really is a great book about religious faith, and what it means to people, and how it can be both an enormous source of strength and insight, and at the same time a set of blinders". The Independent says, "The Book of Strange New Things offers no easy interpretations. It is at once rather blank and simple, Faber not being given to directing the reader in what he or she should think, and richly suggestive."

Friday, May 11, 2018

Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan of the Apes is the first film adaptation of the Tarzan novel written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The novel can be read online here or here. You can listen to it here. This film celebrates its centennial this year. Elmo Lincoln plays the adult Tarzan.

The New York Times has a positive review from the time of the film's release that says, "The picture as a whole, in addition to being interesting, also has a touch of educational value. An actor named Elmo Lincoln meets the difficult requirements of the hero satisfactorily."

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Happy Birthday, Donovan!

Donovan was a priceless part of my childhood, and his music is as much a part of my memories of the 60s as anything else I can think of. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014. He is still active.

Catch the Wind was released in 1965 and was Donovan's first big hit. It has had numerous covers.

Universal Soldier was also a hit in 1965:

My favorite of his songs is Mellow Yellow, which was a hit in 1966:

Listening to it still brings back fond memories of elementary school. I also loved Hurdy Gurdy Man from 1968:

He just brings the 60s back, doesn't he! I wish him a very happy birthday and many more.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Top Hat

Top Hat is a 1935 musical comedy starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Also in this are Edward Everett Horton and Lucille Ball. Exactly what you'd expect, and a treasure.


Cheek to Cheek:

The New York Times has a positive review from the time of the film's release. Variety says it "can't miss".

FilmReference.com has an article and resources. Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars and says, "If you want only one Astaire-Rogers musical, Top Hat is obligatory". Roger Ebert has it on his list of Great Movies. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 100%.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Quit Drinking from Those Plastic Water Bottles!

The World Health Organization is going to research the potential risks of plastic in drinking water. According to the BBC, "It comes after journalism organisation Orb Media found plastic particles in many major brands of bottled water." The BBC also reports that "Tests on major brands of bottled water have found that nearly all of them contained tiny particles of plastic."

Get a good water filter if you need one, and drink water from the tap. Maybe add a bit of lemon.

Please join the weekly blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth, where I feel certain nobody else will fuss at you ;) It's just that plastic water bottles are a pet peeve of mine. But I'll stop now, honest. I'll even add a treat with coffee to make up for it:

Happy T Stands for Tuesday!

Monday, May 07, 2018

Sinking of the Lusitania

The RMS Lusitania was sunk on May 7, 1915, during WW1. It was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sank in 18 minutes. 1,198 died, leaving 761 survivors. It was one of the factors that turned American opinion towards their eventual entry into the war. This website provides background material and an in-depth account. There is some film footage here.

The Sinking of the Lusitania is a 1918 short film by master animator Winsor McCay:

Sunday, May 06, 2018


Whirlpool is a 1949 film noir directed by Otto Preminger and starring Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, and José Ferrer. Jose Ferrer is a hypnotist who helps Gene Tierney overcome her kleptomania. But what is he really up to, and can we trust her devoted psychoanalyst husband to get to the bottom of it?

via Youtube:

The New York Times has a negative review but praises Ferrer and Tierney. Variety says it's "a highly entertaining, exciting melodrama that combines the authentic features of hypnosis."

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 90%. TCM has an overview.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Med Ship Man

Med Ship is a novelization of a series of stories by award-winning author Murray Leinster. I read the first of them, Med Ship Man. You can read it online here as it appeared in Galaxy Magazine in 1963, or you can listen to it read to you here. An interesting story, I'd have loved it when I was younger and less experienced with science fiction. I'd have recommended it to my kids back in the day, or to adults new to science fiction as an easy toe-in-the-water introduction, but not so much for adults familiar with the genre. There is a tribute site here.

from the back of the book:

Scattered through the galaxy are thousands of worlds colonized by humans. Many have native microbes dangerous to the human immigrants. Others have diseases brought to them accidentally -or on purpose- by visiting ships. When millions of lives are threatened, it's a job for the Interstellar Medical Service, and a Med Ship is sent to solve the problem.

Calhoun is the best the Med Service has, and hard experience has taught him that often the major obstacle to curing the sick is ... the sick. And removing that kind of obstacle may take very strong medicine. To find a cure for a disease, Calhoun has the help of his small animal companion Murgatroyd, a tormal -a species with the most powerful immune system in the galaxy. But to find a cure for hysteria, prejudice, crime, and even war is much more complicated, requiring considerable ingenuity. Fortunately, ingenuity is something that Calhoun has in good supply...

Friday, May 04, 2018

Ghost in the Shell

Ghost in the Shell is the 2017 live action adaptation based on the Japanese manga of the same name. Scarlett Johansson stars. I'm not sure how much sense this would make if you're not familiar with the characters and story.


Ghost in the Shell doesn't have "ghosts" as we think of them. The word refers to the living spirit of the person that is maintained throughout the process of increasing mechanical augmentation. The 2017 movie is rated PG-13, but not all the shows are suitable for children.

Try the 1995 film (a $1.99 rental) first:

and then the first few of the Stand Alone Complex:

Once you've seen these, though, you won't wanna quit there. We are fans and have them all on DVD.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

City of the Mind

City of the Mind is a 1991 novel by Penelope Lively . Lively is one of those authors whose name is enough to get me to read a book. This book begins in May. You can read an excerpt here.

from the dust jacket:
City of the Mind is at once a poignant love story and a meditation on the city of London, which has seen destruction, loss, and quest over several centuries . The protagonist is an architect, intimately involved with the new face of the city while haunted by earlier times in its history.

Matthew Halland, divorced and lonely at the beginning of the novel, has a rich and moving relationship with his young daughter Jane, whom he sees as often as his visiting privileges permit. She offers a fresh perspective on love, loss, and even the city of London as she and her father visit its different neighborhoods.

As Matthew's prize new building in the Docklands area of London goes up, a ray of hope enters his life in the form of Sarah Bridges, an editor at a magazine for connoisseurs and collectors of furniture and objets d'art. This love story, so movingly portrayed, becomes the emotional core of the novel.

Matthew is also entangled with an array of fascinating characters through his work, from a corrupt real estate developer named Rutter to a child-survivor of the Holocaust who fashions the engraving that will adorn Matthews Frobisher House in the Docklands.

Matthew's relationships with Sarah and Jane anchor him firmly in the present, allowing his mind to rove freely over his own past as well as that of the city of London. While he builds a new life on the ashes of a failed marriage, he moves through a city where past, present, and even future interweave.

Some of Penelope Lively's earlier novels -including both the Booker Prize-winning Moon Tiger and Passing On- have explored the ways in which the past affects the present. Now, in her most ambitious novel, Lively has created a wonderfully rich and audacious confrontation with the mystery of London, with the buried lives that make us what we are, and with a contemporary cast of characters as varied as any she has written about before.
Publishers Weekly concludes,
The narrative becomes a meditation on time: historical time, time as perceived by children, as altered by crisis, or love, or memory. In chronicling Halland's passage from desolation to re-engagement, Lively affirms that our existences have meaning, even as we are succeeded by others in the dance of life.
Kirkus Reviews describes it as "a serious, self-involved meditation on transience and immutability, with a map of London -present and past- laid on top."

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War is a 2018 superhero movie, part of the Marvel universe. We saw the regular 2D version in the theater a couple of days ago. If you haven't seen the movies leading up to this, don't start here; go back and see the others first. If you are a fan of the series, this one's a must-see. The Wakanda sequences are my least favorite parts, as Wakanda is my least favorite of the movies.


The Guardian calls it "magic" for fans. The Atlantic says, "Infinity War -the title is almost too apt- is a narrative juggling act the likes of which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before.... it is probably close to the best movie it could have been."

Rotten Tomatoes has an audience rating of 92%.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Still Life with Glass of Red Wine

Still Life with Glass of Red Wine (1921):

by Amédée Ozenfant, who was a Cubist painter and co-founder of the Purist movement. He died on May 4th in 1966 at 80 years of age. The Guggenheim has a short bio, as do Britannica and The Met Museum. The Tate has some information on Purism. WikiArt has photos of 16 of his works.

Please share a drink-related post in the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Muddy Waters

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1983 of Muddy Waters at the age of 70. In declining health, he died of heart failure in his sleep at his home. He was born near Clarksdale, Mississippi, which is about 1 1/2 hours southwest of Memphis.

Hoochie Coochie Man:

I Just Want to Make Love to You:

I'm Ready:

Forty Days and Forty Nights:

Trouble No More:

Got My Mojo Working:

You can listen to him on Spotify:

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Captain Blood

Captain Blood is a 1935 adventure film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and Basil Rathbone. Flynn is a wrongly convicted and enslaved doctor who escapes to become a pirate. The Husband loves the swashbuckler movies, and this is a classic example.


Sometimes you can find it online, such as here:

The New York Times has a positive review from the time of the film's release. Slant Magazine gives it 3 out of 4 stars, particularly praising "Flynn’s wicked, wicked charm". Variety has a positive review.

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%.

Saturday, April 28, 2018


Latecomers is a 1989 novel by Anita Brookner, one of my favorite authors. This is the story of two men, refugees from Nazi Germany, and their lives and relationships and families through the years. They are life-long friends and professional partners into old age but couldn't be more different in how they deal with the past.

quotes from the book:
There are many children who have been told, "Never mind. You are the clever one", and who have never got over it.
Ah, he thought, the truth bursting on him suddenly, nobody grows up. Everyone carries around all the selves that they have ever been, intact, waiting to be reactivated in moments of pain, of fear, of danger. Everything is retrievable, every shock, every hurt. But perhaps it becomes a duty to abandon the stock of time that one carries within oneself, to discard it in favour of the present, so that one’s embrace may be turned outwards to the world in which one has made one’s home.

The New York Times has a positive review. The Guardian names it as one of Brookner's five best novels.

The LA Times closes with this:
With unruffled serenity, as if she had all the time in the world and no fear of losing the reader's attention, Brookner carefully, lingeringly, and searchingly explores the becalmed, cushioned, melancholy world of these two well-off bourgeois families. Yet here is wonderful economy in her leisureliness: Within a mere 248 pages, she has compressed a lifetime of subtle changes, four lifetimes, really, from dimly remembered childhood to encroaching old age.

Kirkus Reviews concludes, "As elaborately layered as a German torte, but reassuring as an English tea biscuit, devoid of any indigestible surprises -one, no doubt, to be gobbled up by the Brookner faithful." Publishers Weekly says it "shows [Brookner] at the peak of her form" and concludes, "In this tender study, Brookner has produced a quiet little masterpiece."

I have read a number of books by this author since I began blogging:

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Thin Man

The Thin Man is a 1934 comedy/mystery movie based on the Dashiell Hammett novel. William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Maureen O'Sullivan star. There are 5 sequels. This is a much-loved film, but I'm not a huge fan -just not really to my taste, I guess, though I'm hard-pressed to explain why. The characters are delightful.


via Archive.org:

The New York Times has a positive review from the time of the film's release. The Atlantic says, "As Nick and Nora, Powell and Loy subverted the classic detective film with comic aplomb and presented an impressively modern vision of marriage as an association of equals."

Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars and concludes, "Tense and slick, this early thriller remains a true masterpiece." Roger Ebert has it on his list of Great Movies. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 97%.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A Beam of Light

A Beam of Light is #19 in the Inspector Montalbano mystery series by Andrea Camilleri. I'm reading these in order, as the relationships develop over time. This is one of my favorite mystery series. The setting immerses you in the atmosphere and culture and food (oh, the food!) of Sicily, and the characters are well-developed and balanced nicely against the plot lines.

from the back of the book:
When Inspector Montalbano falls for the charms of beautiful gallery owner Marian, his long-time relationship with Livia comes under threat. Meanwhile, he is also troubled by a strange dream as three crimes demand his attention: the assault and robbery of a wealthy merchant's young wife, shady art deals, and a search for arms traffickers that leads him deep into the countryside, where the investigation takes a tragic turn.
Kirkus Reviews says this one "has a more melancholy tone than his previous cases ... but also boasts a nifty, twisty mystery at its core." Publishers Weekly concludes a positive review with this: "Fueled by frequent infusions of food, Montalbano comes up with clever solutions to the strange goings-on, even as he’s less than adept at dealing with the women in his life."

I've also read these:
1. The Shape of Water
2. The Terra-Cotta Dog
3. The Snack Thief
4. Voice of the Violin
5. Excursion to Tindari
6. The Smell of Night
7. Rounding the Mark
8. The Patience of the Spider
9. The Paper Moon
10. August Heat
11. The Wings of the Sphinx
12. The Track of Sand
13. The Potter's Field
14. The Age of Doubt
15. Dance of the Seagull
16. Treasure Hunt
17. Angelica's Smile
18. A Game of Mirrors

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The General

The General is a 1926 Buster Keaton film. We're huge Buster Keaton fans here, and this is a classic. The film takes place in Tennessee during the Civil War.

via Youtube:

The New York Times has a review from the time of the film's release. Slate Magazine says, "Yeah, it's silent. So what? You'll barely notice. It's that good." Senses of Cinema has an article. Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars and describes it as a "glorious action-comedy".

It's on Roger Ebert's Great Movies list. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 93%.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Newspaper

The Newspaper (1960):

by Paul Wonner, who died on April 23, 2008, the day before what would have been his 88th birthday. The Smithsonian has a page with a short biography and some examples of his work. Artnet has some photos of his work, including nudes and still-life paintings.

I don't read a paper copy of a newspaper any more. The state of our local paper is a sad, sad tale, so I get my local news from other sources online and in print. The morning newspaper of my childhood seems to have been replaced by my morning internet perusal. I still drink coffee with it, though, so some things never change.

Join me at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering, and we can ignore each while we drink our coffee and pore over our phones. Wait, no, that's not what I meant. I meant join us while we share what we're up to over a social cuppa. Yes, that's it!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Adventures of Don Quixote

Adventures of Don Quixote:

is a 1933 film adaptation, the first sound film version, of the book by Miguel de Cervantes. Cervantes died on this date in 1616. This adaptation makes many changes, and you are well-advised to read the book here first or here if you haven't already. Or have it read to you compliments of Librivox:

volume 1:

volume 2:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation was released in 1915 and is a notorious silent film, a racist re-imagining of history that glorifies members of the KKK as heroic figures who protect the white women from freed slaves.

Shocking to watch, it's even more shocking to see these sentiments proudly expressed on Facebook pages. "The South Shall Rise Again" and denials that slavery had any part in secession are common claims. I swear I'd never have expected statues of Confederate military leaders to engender such devotion, but there are some people who seem to believe in the Confederacy as a noble cause. As a life-long Southerner, my idea of Southern Heritage is drinking iced tea, saying "ma'am" and "y'all" and being able to talk with a Southern drawl, eating Southern food, not wearing white after Labor Day, appreciating Southern literature, Blues and Bluegrass music.... It has nothing to do with honoring men who took up arms against the USA. Here in Tennessee the state government is punishing Memphis financially for taking down our statues:

The film The Birth of a Nation, directed by D. W. Griffith and starring Lillian Gish, was controversial from the beginning. It is credited with a revival of the Klan and is said to have been used as a recruitment tool.

Here's an early scene, showing how happy and well-treated the plantation field slaves were:

Here's a scene showing innocent Flora fleeing the unwanted attentions of the freed slave who has been influenced for ill by carpetbaggers:

Klansmen as noble rescuers of their women and other besieged white folk:


The first 8 minutes:

You can watch the entire film online, including here via Youtube:

The New Yorker says,
The worst thing about “Birth of a Nation” is how good it is. The merits of its grand and enduring aesthetic make it impossible to ignore and, despite its disgusting content, also make it hard not to love. And it’s that very conflict that renders the film all the more despicable, the experience of the film more of a torment—together with the acknowledgment that Griffith, whose short films for Biograph were already among the treasures of world cinema, yoked his mighty talent to the cause of hatred (which, still worse, he sincerely depicted as virtuous).
The New York Post says it's "still the most racist movie ever". Filmsite.org has information explaining the importance of the film and also a detailed plot description. NPR explores the movie's legacy.

PBS notes that
In December 1999, the Directors Guild of America announces that D.W. Griffith will be retired as the namesake of its prestigious award for career achievement in moviemaking because he helped promote what they call "intolerable racial stereotypes." Although Guild members acknowledge his achievements, the vote to rename the award is unanimous.
The Washington Post says, "“The Birth of a Nation” takes its place alongside the Nazis’ “Triumph of the Will” and “Jew Suss” as among the most despicable propaganda pictures of all time. Its stereotypes have reverberated for a century." Time calls it "still great, still shameful". Historynet tells something of Griffiths' background and how he came to make the film.

Bright Lights Film Journal says, "Birth of a Nation has never ceased being the most reviled film in the history of cinema, with Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935) running a close second" and concludes,
Birth is too alive to be shunted aside as a relic or as a reminder of how little (or how much) we’ve accomplished in race relations. It can be both these things, but Griffith, a complex, creative, and intensely motivated man, was much more than a regionalist hate monger. The full, diverse range of his films proves this, as does the diversity of intent and expression in The Birth of a Nation itself.

If you want to see a parody of the racist ideas supported by and embedded in this film, just watch this excerpt from Blazing Saddles:

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Jackie Robinson Day 42s

I get Jackie Robinson Day, really I do (and you can read an explanation here if you're not familiar with this), and yet how many repetitions of the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything do you need?

I mean, with no names and everybody sporting 42:

Jackie Robinson Day
Source: Keith Allison Flikr

it's hard for me to know who's who. The Husband doesn't have any trouble, being a baseball fan from way back, and he keeps me informed.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Apollo 13

Apollo 13 is a 1995 film about the 1970 Apollo 13 lunar mission. Directed by Ron Howard, it stars Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, and Kathleen Quinlan. Jim Lovell (who turned 90 last month) and his wife appear in the movie. I saw this film ages ago, but when I came across the DVD on the shelf realized I had never written a blog post about it. I remember this mission well, and I'd recommend the movie both for folks who do and for those whose memories don't go back that far. Just note that there are some -not many- inaccuracies; it's a fictionalized account, after all.


The New York Times praises it and says, "You can know every glitch that made this such a dangerous mission, and "Apollo 13" will still have you by the throat." Rolling Stone says, "It all adds up to a triumph of stirring storytelling and heart-stopping suspense." The BBC gives it 4 out of 5 stars and calls it "A definite feel-good movie."

Roger Ebert gives it 4 out of 4 stars and says,
Ron Howard's film of this mission is directed with a single-mindedness and attention to detail that makes it riveting. He doesn't make the mistake of adding cornball little subplots to popularize the material; he knows he has a great story, and he tells it in a docudrama that feels like it was filmed on location in outer space.
Empire Online gives it 5 out of 5 stars and calls it "a blast". Rotten Tomatoes has a 95% critics score.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Beastly Things

Beastly Things is the 21st Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery novel by Donna Leon. This one takes place in the Spring. I am enjoying this series, reading them as I come across them in no particular order. The characters are wonderful and the atmosphere of Venice always makes these books a nice place to visit.

from the dust jacket:
When a body is found floating in a canal, strangely disfigured and with multiple stab wounds, Commissario Brunetti is called to investigate and is convinced he recognizes the man from somewhere. However, with no identification except for the distinctive shoes the man was wearing, and no reports of people missing from the Venice area, the case cannot progress.

Brunetti soon realizes why he remembers the dead man, and asks Signorina Elettra if she can help him find footage of a farmers' protest the previous autumn. But what was his involvement with the protest, and what does it have to do with his murder? Acting on the fragile lead,
Brunetti and Inspector Vianello set out to uncover the man's identity. Their investigation eventually takes them to a slaughterhouse on the mainland, where they discover the origin of the crime, and the world of blackmail and corruption that surrounds it.
The Guardian says, "The 21st Commissario Brunetti mystery finds the series' characters and setting as vital as ever." The New York Journal of Books points out the social commentary. Kirkus Reviews has a positive review.

I've also read these from this series:
#1 Death at La Fenice (1992)
#2 Death in a Strange Country (1993)
#3 Dressed for Death (1994)
#4 Death and Judgment (1995)
#18 About Face (2009)
#19 A Question of Belief
#20 Drawing Conclusions

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

They Call Me Hallelujah

They Call Me Hallelujah is a 1971 spaghetti western directed by Giuliano Carnimeo and starring George Hilton. The comedy western isn't my favorite sub-genre, but this one's fun enough.

via Youtube:

Spaghetti-Western.net closes with this:
A good comedy western that is always fun and never boring. Uses a lot of the best Spaghetti Western cliches which never tire in the capable hands of George Hilton and Giuliano Carnimeo. Funny, violent, strong plot, great characters, and rather well made. A Spaghetti classic that is not to be missed.
Fistful of Pasta isn't a fan of comedy westerns but says, "if you're looking for an hour and a half of watchable silliness, it's not a bad one". DVD Talk concludes, "This is a good effort that fans of Carnimeo and Hilton will appreciate."

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

National Tea Day

National Tea Day is celebrated each year on 4/21, which is this coming Saturday. That should give you plenty of time to plan some little observance. Perhaps just you and a friend, as in Henry Salem Hubbell's Ladies Having Tea:

or his Study for the Orange Robe:

Or perhaps you'd like some time alone, as in A Cup of Tea by Lilla Cabot Perry:

or Drinking Tea by Christian von Schneidau:

I'll be having an informal little tea myself, and in the spirit of most of the ladies I see in these paintings, I'll definitely be wearing a hat!

Please join the T party that happens every Tuesday over at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's blog.

The picture at the top of the post is of The Tea (1890-1893) by Frederico Zandomeneghi

Monday, April 16, 2018

Happy Birthday, Bobby Vinton

Bobby Vinton is 83 years old today. Listen to him singing his #1 hit Blue Velvet from 1964:

Here's the top-20 1972 song Sealed with a Kiss:

In 1971 he was in the John Wayne western Big Jake with Richard Boone, Maureen O'Hara, Bruce Cabot, John Agar, and Harry Carey Jr.:

In 1973 he was in another John Wayne western, The Train Robbers, with Ann-Margret, Rod Taylor, Ben Johnson, and Ricardo Montalban. Here's the original trailer:

Wikipedia says Vinton and his wife were married in 1962, have five children, and live in Florida. He retired from live performing and recording in 2015. May his birthday be happy!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is a 2017 superhero origin story. I passed on seeing this in the theater; and now -having seen it- I'm not regretting that decision. It's pretty and fun enough but slow. Most reviewers liked it, though, so I'm the outlier here.


Variety has a positive review, as do Vanity Fair and The Hollywood Reporter. The Guardian reviewer was disappointed. The New York Times says "It cleverly combines genre elements into something reasonably fresh, touching and fun."

Roger Ebert's site concludes,
Despite its flaws, “Wonder Woman” is beautiful, kindhearted, and buoyant in ways that make me eager to see it again. Jenkins and her collaborators have done what I thought was previously impossible: created a Wonder Woman film that is inspiring, blistering, and compassionate, in ways that honor what has made this character an icon.
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 92%.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman

Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman is a 2007 Japanese horror film based on a ghost story from the Edo period that had a revival in the 1970s where there were sightings of the woman. This movie has a strong element of depictions of physical abuse of children by their mothers.

via Youtube:

HorrorNews.net has screen shots, a plot summary, and concludes, "A top contender for becoming a classic, Carved is a story that adds a new mythos into the horror arena. Creepy and smart, Carved is a winner!" Bloody Good Horror calls it "a surprisingly competent flick."

Friday, April 13, 2018

Dixon Gallery Exhibits

It took me long enough -that rain lasted so long, and I just didn't want to go out- but I did manage to see the exhibitions before they closed. The Real Beauty: The Artistic World of Eugenia Errázuriz offered so many beautiful works in several rooms in addition to a helpful timeline that covered an entire wall. The Dixon website describes it:
The Real Beauty: The Artistic World of Eugenia Errázuriz, organized by The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, is the first American museum exhibition centered on the life of this remarkable figure in the history of modern art and design. Addressing the larger subject of the role of South Americans in turn-of-the-century Europe, the exhibition will feature works of art centered around Eugenia's relatives and friends, especially the Subercaseaux, who shared her passion for the arts. In the early 1800s, Eugenia Huici Arguedas de Errázuriz arrived in Europe with her husband, amateur painter José Tomás Errázuriz. Very quickly, the newlywed Errázurizes began making their rounds across Europe, becoming, along with their relatives Amalia and Ramón Subercaseaux, favorites among the cosmopolitan group of artists in turn-of-the-century Europe.
Here's a one-minute preview from a Dixon gallery curator:

Here's a Dixon video on her influence in the field of design:

My favorite from this was Portrait of Madame Errasuriz:

by Ambrose McEvoy

Another exhibition on view when I went was Dixon Dialect, which the website describes:
In the fall of 2017, Susan and John Horseman generously donated twenty-eight works of art by twenty-five American and European artists to the Dixon Gallery and Gardens permanent collection. Dixon Board Chair C. Penn Owen III notes, “The Horseman Gift stands among the most important and impressive acts of collection building in our history.”


Julie Pierotti, the Dixon’s Martha R. Robinson Curator, states, “Susan and John Horseman have made a truly transformative gift to the Dixon. This extraordinary collection adds an important perspective and depth to our existing collection—it doubles the number of works by American artists in the Dixon collection; and it more than doubles our collection of works by women artists, allowing us to tell more complete stories about the art of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. We couldn’t be more grateful to the Horsemans for this generous gift.”
Here's a video highlighting one of the paintings:

I was particularly struck on this day by Woman in a Green Dress:

by Richard E. Miller. This was the only image I could find of this, but as I'm only using it as an illustration of my viewing of the exhibit I'm considering it fair use. It's a shame I couldn't find a better quality picture.

The Mallory/Wurtzburger Galleries contained a fiber arts exhibit, the first major museum show of Memphis artist Paula Kovarik. She has a website here, where you can see her work. Just look at this one:

These are videos of the artist in her studio:

You really should go to her website and look at more of her art.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Daybreak (1939)

Daybreak is a 1939 French film directed by Marcel Carné and starring Jean Gabin. The main story is told as a flashback, as Gabin's character has barricaded himself in his apartment and is besieged by the police after he kills a man. His is a tragic tale as he looks back on how he came to such a pass.

English subtitles are available by clicking on CC in the film settings 
at the bottom right of the video above.

Slant Magazine considers it a "forerunner of film noir". Empire Online concludes, "Exciting, beautiful and tragic, this remains essential cinema, French or otherwise." Village Voice says it "is gorgeously melancholy, and not just because of its tragic love-triangle plot: Released less than three months before France and Britain declared war on Germany, it vibrates with unspoken foreboding and despair".

The Guardian calls it a "classic" and opens this review with,
One of the peaks of “poetic realism”, the 1930s film school known for its combination of leftwing attitudes, visual and verbal lyricism and a pessimistic view of lower-class characters snared by a cruel fate, Le jour se lève (Daybreak) qualifies as what the French call un film maudit, a movie with a curse upon it. It opened on the eve of the second world war, was banned during the occupation and remade in 1947 by RKO, who attempted to destroy all existing copies. In the 1950s the belligerent critics of Cahiers du cinéma, soon to be film-makers in the new wave, attempted to destroy the reputation of its director, Marcel Carné, accusing him of heavy-handedness and attributing all that is successful in Le jour se lève to his long-time collaborator, the poet Jacques Prévert. Fortunately they failed

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The Signal-Man

The Signal-Man is an 1866 ghost story by Charles Dickens. This is the story Doctor Who is talking about in this episode when the ninth Doctor meets Dickens.

It begins,
“Halloa! Below there!”

When he heard a voice thus calling to him, he was standing at the door of his box, with a flag in his hand, furled round its short pole. One would have thought, considering the nature of the ground, that he could not have doubted from what quarter the voice came; but instead of looking up to where I stood on the top of the steep cutting nearly over his head, he turned himself about, and looked down the Line. There was something remarkable in his manner of doing so, though I could not have said for my life what. But I know it was remarkable enough to attract my notice, even though his figure was foreshortened and shadowed, down in the deep trench, and mine was high above him, so steeped in the glow of an angry sunset, that I had shaded my eyes with my hand before I saw him at all.

“Halloa! Below!”

From looking down the Line, he turned himself about again, and, raising his eyes, saw my figure high above him.

“Is there any path by which I can come down and speak to you?”

He looked up at me without replying, and I looked down at him without pressing him too soon with a repetition of my idle question. Just then there came a vague vibration in the earth and air, quickly changing into a violent pulsation, and an oncoming rush that caused me to start back, as though it had force to draw me down. When such vapour as rose to my height from this rapid train had passed me, and was skimming away over the landscape, I looked down again, and saw him refurling the flag he had shown while the train went by.

I repeated my inquiry. After a pause, during which he seemed to regard me with fixed attention, he motioned with his rolled-up flag towards a point on my level, some two or three hundred yards distant. I called down to him, “All right!” and made for that point. There, by dint of looking closely about me, I found a rough zigzag descending path notched out, which I followed.

The cutting was extremely deep, and unusually precipitate. It was made through a clammy stone, that became oozier and wetter as I went down. For these reasons, I found the way long enough to give me time to recall a singular air of reluctance or compulsion with which he had pointed out the path.

When I came down low enough upon the zigzag descent to see him again, I saw that he was standing between the rails on the way by which the train had lately passed, in an attitude as if he were waiting for me to appear. He had his left hand at his chin, and that left elbow rested on his right hand, crossed over his breast. His attitude was one of such expectation and watchfulness that I stopped a moment, wondering at it.

I resumed my downward way, and stepping out upon the level of the railroad, and drawing nearer to him, saw that he was a dark sallow man, with a dark beard and rather heavy eyebrows. His post was in as solitary and dismal a place as ever I saw. On either side, a dripping-wet wall of jagged stone, excluding all view but a strip of sky; the perspective one way only a crooked prolongation of this great dungeon; the shorter perspective in the other direction terminating in a gloomy red light, and the gloomier entrance to a black tunnel, in whose massive architecture there was a barbarous, depressing, and forbidding air. So little sunlight ever found its way to this spot, that it had an earthy, deadly smell; and so much cold wind rushed through it, that it struck chill to me, as if I had left the natural world.
You can read it online here and listen to it here. It was adapted for television in 1976: