Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Dining Room

The Dining Room (1886-1887):

by Paul Signac, who died from septicemia on August 15, 1935, at 71 years of age. I would love to have coffee out of one of those lovely cups and sit by the light of that window. I'd be uncomfortable having a servant like that. I've never been part of a family -or even visited one- that had someone who served at meals.

You can see more of his work here, and his work is worth any time you spend looking at it.

I'm linking this post at Bleubeard and Elizabeth's weekly blogger gathering, where all you need is a drink reference to participate.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Two Eyes, Twelve Hands

Two Eyes, Twelve Hands is a 1957 award-winning Hindi film about a prison guard who takes six murderers from the prison where he works and attempts to rehabilitate them. His superior has agreed to the experiment, but if he fails everything he has will be forfeit to the state. This is an inspiring story of faith in human nature, and it's worth watching if just for the music.

You can watch it online with English subtitles at this link. I can't find clips or a trailer to embed.

The Hindustan Times calls it "An inspirational film endorsing prison reform and propounding the philosophy that even the most hardened, seemingly soul dead criminal can be softened, rectified, amended, and thus rehabilitated." Prison Movies calls it "a blithely optimistic film".

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Our Fledgling Finch

I've started getting spam. 
This has never been a problem before,
but now when I check my "dashboard" for comments
I'm seeing spam comments by the dozens
on posts I've made throughout the history of my blog.
For the time being I've changed my comment setting to be moderated.

We keep society fiches as pets, and in the Spring, Summer, and Fall we keep them on the patio. We had thought all our finches were male, having lost our two females to death some years back, but we were wrong. Their first attempt to raise babies failed, I believe because we didn't realize we had a female so hadn't provided nesting material and the nest bottom had a big gap in it. Once we realized what was going on, we replaced the nest and put some nesting material in the cage. Now we have two babies, one of which has been in and out of the nest several times. They look just like their mother. Sweet things.

The patio is looking bedraggled, more like September than summertime. This is my lavender behind my woodpile:

You can see our new dogwood tree in the back left of that photo. The rue is to the left of the lavender. Here are some more photos:

And here's a visitor that came yesterday afternoon:

Friday, August 10, 2018

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman vs. Superman is a 2016 superhero movie. I wasn't interested and passed on the chance to see it in the theater. When The Husband picked up a used copy cheap I sat down to watch it with him. I'm not a big fan of the concept of the superheroes fighting each other, and that's the whole idea here according to the title. I don't regret having seen it, but I won't sit through it again. So many movies, so little time. Wikipedia says it's "the first live-action film to feature Batman and Superman together, as well as the first live-action cinematic portrayal of Wonder Woman."


The Atlantic concludes,
the central flaw of Batman v Superman is [director] Snyder’s trademark tone, which alternates between angry and maudlin with little in between. Almost the entire film seems to be set at night, as if it were taking place in Mordor, or perhaps Anchorage in December. And Hans Zimmer’s clamorous, punishing score was still reverberating in my fillings for hours after the movie was over. In the end, Batman v Superman is a tiresome, ill-tempered film, and one too lazy even to earn its dismal outlook.

Empire Online closes by saying, "There are moments that make the whole enterprise worthwhile". Roger Ebert's site has a mixed review, praising the acting and mourning lost opportunities. It has an average critics score of 27% at Rotten Tomatoes, but audience ratings are much higher at 67%.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

First World Problems

We're having to cut back -way, way back- but we're not homeless or hungry or lacking in anything really. We just have less than we're used to. Perspective is important.

Regarding cable: As we decided to drop the $20 a month cable package that gave us better access to world soccer games, we realized that we were able to keep some cable channels so we could better follow news, election coverage, and sports. Then we realized that we don't actually need cable for news and election coverage because we get BBC, Google News, and other alerts on our phones that keep us updated. We'll miss the sports on cable, but them's the breaks. We have decided to cut that cord completely, though right now we've just cut back to basic cable since they were going to charge us more for internet access alone than for this package. Isn't that nuts? Right now we're researching our internet options. This just shouldn't be so complicated.

Regarding utilities: We have a two-story townhouse with a single central unit for heating and cooling, which makes it hard to set the thermostat so that it's comfortable both upstairs and down. We're testing how warm we can keep the house so we save money but can still sleep, and we're using 72 as our night setting and 78 during the day. So far, so good. It's amazing how much difference a box fan makes.

Eating out: We're cutting back eating out to once a month, but that still means we're able to eat out once a month. Our July restaurant was the Route 64 Diner in Bolivar, TN. This month is my baptismal anniversary, and I'm still deciding where I want to go for that. It'll probably be one of the local pizza places we've been meaning to try.

The concept of frugality means we have enough so that cutting back is an option.

from The Atlantic:
Frugality is about appreciating simple pleasures and generally easing up in a society that encourages materialism and competitiveness.

...individuals’ frugality at the margins -one fewer latte here or there- matters less as the basic costs of living march ever higher. With that in mind, Ben Franklin comes off as a little naive when he wrote, “Beware of little expenses; A small leak will sink a great ship.” Small costs do add up, but they rarely amount to anything close to the big ones.

A lot also depends on the economic conditions people find themselves in. The U.S.’s median household income has been stagnant -even a recent uptick couldn’t bring the figure up to where it was back in 1999, after adjusting for inflation. And even moving up the earnings spectrum, families are feeling squeezed as they pour their time and money into housing and education -their best shot at providing their children with long-term financial security in an economy that can be cruel to the less-educated. In other words, pinching pennies is of limited value when there aren’t enough pennies to pinch in the first place.

Living a pared-down lifestyle necessarily means having a lifestyle to pare down.
I guess in trying to cut back because we have to unless we want to live on borrowed money we're not really living frugally in the sense some people mean it.

U.S. News and World Report illustrates this when they say,
Being frugal actually allows consumers to spend money on what they truly value while saving on the things they don't.
We're cutting back on things we want because we just don't have the money any more. There's a difference between that and getting rid of expenses so you can afford other things you'd rather have. We're cutting back to avoid debt. That article assumes you have the money but have decided to re-allocate it. That's not what's going on with us.

The Simple Dollar talks about frugality being motivated by choice or necessity:
sometimes frugality is a choice and sometimes it isn’t, but knowing how to do it well is helpful in both situations.

All I can say is this: a lot of the best strategies I’ve used to help myself stay afloat and get ahead in life worked (in some form) whether I was dirt poor or doing well. The big difference was in the results – sometimes it was needed to keep us afloat; other times it was useful to help us get ahead.

The core skillset and mindset of getting the most bang for the buck for everything and knowing how to cut corners has been helpful whether or not we were struggling to survive until the next paycheck or we were trying to stretch a moderate income to cover a lot of bills or we were trying to overcome a big pile of debt on a decent income or we were leveraging ourselves toward complete financial independence and early income on a debt-free life with a solid income. The same strategies worked.

I’m not going to pretend that frugal tactics are a magical wand that fixes all financial problems in individual lives or in society. It’s not.

Instead, think of frugality as a basic tool. It’s a claw hammer or a flat screwdriver. It’s something that can be used in a lot of different situations. Sure, some people will have much better tools for some jobs, but the reality is that frugality is an effective tool in a lot of situations. Like a flat-head screwdriver can open a bucket of paint or repair a bike or install a thermostat, frugality can step up whether you’re struggling to afford a basic grocery list or you’re just trying to figure out how to take the edge off of your $200,000 a year lifestyle.

In both cases, the principle is the same.
TreeHugger agrees with The Simple Dollar:
regardless of where you're at financially, frugal strategies always have a place.
The reason for the frugality isn't as important as the commitment to it. I'm grateful I've never been used to fine dining, designer clothes, and expensive vacations. I'm grateful that, though I'm missing some things, I'm enjoying what I have. I'm grateful we are debt free and have simple tastes. I can laugh at my first world problems, knowing how much worse off I could be. We have enough so that cutting back solves our financial issue without causing actual deprivation, and that's a blessing.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Black Noon

Black Noon is a 1971 made-for-tv horror western movie starring Roy Thinnes, Yvette Mimieux, Ray Milland, Gloria Grahame, and Leif Garrett. Slow. Very slow. But oh, that cast!

via Youtube:

Moria gives it 2 out of 5 stars. TCM has information.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Still Life with Yellow Tulips

Still Life with Yellow Tulips (1912):

by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, who died on August 10 in 1976. The work is at the Albertina museum in Vienna, Austria. You can see more of his work here. I'm joining the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering with the cups in this painting.

I'm no judge, but those don't look like either yellow or tulips to me. This one, now this is a painting with yellow tulips:

Charles Kay Robertson, Still Life of Tulips (or Spring Tulips) 1897

Monday, August 06, 2018

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage starring Vin Diesel is the third in the xXx franchise. I'll watch Vin Diesel in anything, but I probably won't watch this one again. It does work fine as a stand-alone, so don't feel like you must see the earlier films first.


Rolling Stone gives it one out of 4 stars calls it the "cinematic equivalent of drool". Hollywood Reporter says, "the beefy Diesel makes xXx: Return of Xander Cage a reasonably entertaining popcorn movie experience". Entertainment Weekly calls it "a rollicking shot of adrenaline".

Roger Ebert's site concludes, "And of course the whole thing ends with a setup for a sequel, which I hope gets to screens before Vin Diesel is about to hit sixty, although seeing him on a skateboard at that age might be pretty diverting." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics average rating of 45%.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Cleopatra's Sister

Cleopatra's Sister is a 1993 novel by Penelope Lively. I pick up this author's work whenever I come across it, and I love this book. It's a love story but not in any sense a romance. Delightful!

from the back of the book:
A paleontologist by choice -and perhaps also due to the accidental discovery of a fossil fragment on Blue Anchor Beach on the north Somerset coast when he was six years old- Howard Beamish is flying to Nairobi on a professional mission when his plane is forced to land in Callimbia. On assignment to write a travel piece for a Sunday magazine, journalist Lucy Faulkner is embarked on the same flight. What happens to Howard and Lucy in Callimbia is one of those accidents that determine fate, that bring love and can take away joy, that reveal to us the precariousness of our existence and the trajectory of our lives.

The imaginary country of Callimbia, which lies between Egypt and Libya on the Mediterranean Sea, has its own history whose narrative unfolds alongside those of Howard and Lucy in the first half of Penelope Lively's new novel. Callimbia's existence depends on an alternative account of ancient history in which the charismatic Berenice, sister of Cleopatra, flees Egypt to escape execution and eventually takes over the throne of neighboring Callimbia. Berenice's subsequent adventure with Antony, her sister's lover, and indeed the history of Callimbia down through the ages are no less real, perhaps, than the stories representing Howard's and Lucy's respective pasts in our own era.

All three narratives converge in the second half of Cleopatra's Sister, which takes place in Marsopolis, the capital of Callimbia. The suspenseful tale of what happens to the British passengers of Capricorn Flight 500, at the mercy of a capricious new ruler in violence-torn Callimbia, illustrates yet again the randomness of events that make up both history and a human being's life.

That Howard and Lucy find each other in Marsopolis is more or less fateful than Howard's finding that piece of ammonite on Blue Anchor Beach many years earlier. Indeed, one event would never have happened without the other.

While the past has always seemed to haunt the present in Penelope Lively's novels -from the Booker Prize-winning Moon Tiger to the more recent City of the Mind- her newest book explores the role of choice and contingency in human life and in the stories we construct about our lives and the world. With the intelligence, gracefulness, and gentle irony we have come to expect of Penelope Lively's fiction, Cleopatra's Sister illuminates the age-old dance of myth and reality in a novel that sparkles with wit, humor, and keen insight into the storytelling faculty of the human mind.
Favorite quote:

it is always perceived as offensive to prefer to read a book than to talk to someone.

The Independent says, "even if it fails to be one of Penelope Lively's most resonant books, Cleopatra's Sister still figures emphatically as one of her most engaging." The LA Times closes with this: "Although Lively's light touch enhances the situation, she doesn't attempt to neutralize it. We're amused and entertained, but our delight is tinged with an increasing frisson of discomfort, a dimension that makes "Cleopatra's Sister" a special sort of diversion."

Publishers Weekly opens with this:
Surely this authoritatively controlled, highly accomplished novel, British author Lively's 10th (her Moon Tiger won the Booker), will increase her audience of discriminating readers here. Written with grace and clarity, and luminous with insights about the human condition, it is as timely as the evening news and as eternal as the most classic love story.
Kirkus Reviews concludes, "This is amusing in the urbane British way, satiric without ever testing the limits of credibility, larkish but not fluffy--in short, more of the Lively right stuff."

I have blog posts on these other of her books:
1989 Passing On
1991 City of the Mind
2003 The Photograph
2007 Consequences

Saturday, August 04, 2018

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

The Magnificent Seven is a 2016 remake of the 1960 classic. It stars Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D'Onofrio. It's fun enough, I guess, but just watch the original. Or the movie The Seven Samurai on which the original is based. They are each much better, and are acknowledged classics.


Variety concludes that it "would have been more aptly called “The Adequate Seven.”" Rolling Stone says, "The new Seven isn’t aiming for cinema immortality. It’s two hours of hardcore, shoot-em-up pow and it’s entertaining as hell."

Roger Ebert's site opens a 2-star review with this: "Rarely have so many charismatic actors been used in a film that feels quite as soulless as Antoine Fuqua’s update of “The Magnificent Seven.”" Rotten Tomatoes has an audience score of 72%.

Friday, August 03, 2018

The Memphis Botanic Gardens Delta Heritage Garden

The Delta Heritage Garden is a relatively recent addition to the Botanic Gardens and seems to be getting regular attention and improvement.

Here's a close-up of the interpretive sign:

It's not a large area, but it has pathways you can walk along. This is the view from the shelter:

There are signs throughout the space:

It's a good reminder to those of us who remember what gardening used to be like and an education of what gardening could be like again for those who don't remember.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

The Complex

The Complex is a 2013 Japanese ghost story horror film directed by Hideo Nakata. This is a slow-moving, steadily building story. If you like ghost stories, which I do, this one is worth trying.

You can watch it via Youtube here, but embedding is disabled. here's a trailer:

Variety says it "looks cheap and lifeless". The Japan Times says it "feels formulaic" and that "Nakata is not striking out for new territory, but rather returning to all-too familiar ground, where surface modernity masks a traditional belief structure that has proven remarkably durable." HorrorNews.net says, "Overall, The Complex is a serviceable movie that’s overshadowed by much greater, and better attempts."

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Doctored Evidence

Doctored Evidence is the 13th book in the Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series by Donna Leon. I'm enjoying working my way through these books as I come across them. The setting is Venice, and I feel like I'm actually there. The detective is a joy, a family man whose private life and thoughts fill out the story and add to the plot. You can't go wrong here.

from the dust jacket:
The New York Times Book Review has raved that Donna Leon's evocative, riveting crime novels "shimmer in the grace of their setting and are warmed by the charm of their characters." Her highly anticipated new novel once again follows Commissario Guido Brunetti through the winding streets of contemporary Venice as he throws open the doors to a case his fellow policemen would rather leave closed.

After the body of a wealthy elderly woman is found brutally murdered in her Venetian apartment, the police suspect her maid, who has disappeared and is heading for her native Romania. When the woman is approached by the border police as her train is leaving Italy, she makes a run for it and is killed as she crosses the tracks. She has a considerable sum of money on her and her papers are obvious forgeries. Case closed.

But when the old woman's neighbor returns from a business in London, it becomes clear that the maid could not have had time to kill the old woman before catching her train and that the money on her was not stolen. Commissario Guido Brunetti decides -unofficially- to take on the case himself.

At home, Brunetti's loving wife, Paola, reads the chapter in her daughter's religious instruction book about the Seven Deadly Sins. As he investigates the case, Brunetti realizes that this is probably not a crime motivated by Greed, rather that the motive may have more to do with the temptations of Lust. But perhaps Brunetti is following a false trail and thinking of the wrong sin altogether.

Doctored Evidence is an impeccable novel of suspense that once more finds Commissario Brunetti and his indispensable aid, Signorina Elettra, navigating the murky backwaters of Venetian society. Donna Leon brilliantly recreates contemporary Venice, showing why she has been praised around the world as a masterful storyteller.
I have also read these:
#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

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Harry Potter's Answer

I've read all of the Harry Potter books, but only once. I've seen all of the Harry Potter Movies, but only once.

Please share a drink with us at the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by the Altered Book Lover blog.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Jungle Jim

Jungle Jim (1948) is the first film in a series starring Johnny Weissmuller about an African adventurer. These are wonderful! And a perfect vehicle for a slightly older Weismuller who had acted his way beyond the near-naked Tarzan films. George Reeves is the bad guy in this one. I was a serious fan of these films and the TV series based on the same character when I was in elementary school and could watch them on television.

TCM has information.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Dream a Little Dream

Dream a Little Dream:

sung by Cass Elliot, who died on this date in 1974 at the age of 32 of a heart attack. She was my favorite from the Mamas and the Papas.

Here's an interview from two weeks before her death:

Here's a Johnny Carson interview with her from the May before she died:

The American Bandstand interview from 1969:

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Memphis Botanic Gardens Rose Garden

The Rose Garden has changed a great deal since I was young and is now more suited as a wedding or reception venue with all that concrete, but there are still some roses. I've done my best to show views without the large concrete plaza in sight.

The sights and smells of roses are sweet, and I haven't lived in a home with roses in decades. It's wonderful to have the Memphis Botanic Gardens here.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Tarzan and the Lost Safari

Tarzan and the Lost Safari is a 1957 Gordon Scott Tarzan movie. It was the first color Tarzan film and is of significance because of that. I'm a huge Johnny Weissmuller fan, and Scott leaves me cold.


Variety says, "Gordon Scott has the physique for the title role and does acceptably by it."

DVD Talk calls it an "entertaining Gordon Scott jungle romp" and says,
The movie is short on action and plays like a stage-bound television show, augmented by some beautiful African scenery and the expected cutaways to animal stock shots. The talented cast does what it can with a script with more unintentional comedy than usual.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Black Velvet

Black Velvet:

sung by Alannah Myles and released on this date in 1989.

lyrics excerpt:
Up in Memphis the music's like a heat wave
White Lightnin' bound to drive you wild
Mama's baby's in the heart of ev'ry school girl
"Love Me Tender" leaves 'em cryin' in the aisle
The way he moved, it was a sin, so sweet and true
Always wanting more, he'd leave you longing for

Black velvet and that little boy smile
Black velvet and that slow southern style
A new religion that'll bring you to your knees
Black velvet if you please

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Upstream Color

Upstream Color is a 2013 Shane Carruth science fiction film about people whose behavior is altered and controlled by a parasite. The plot sounds to me like a horror movie, and I'm not at all sure it isn't. It's an interesting exploration of influence and connection. If you need a clear, linear plot, skip this.

via Youtube:

The New York Times opens by saying it's
a deeply sincere, elliptical movie about being and nature, men and women, self and other, worms and pigs" and concludes with this: "With its fragmentation and mysteries, “Upstream Color” offers itself up as a puzzle as well as a philosophical toy that you can spin and spin until the cafe closes and kicks you into the night.
The Guardian calls it "invigoratingly freaky and strange, with a Death-Valley-dry sense of humour somewhere underneath". Slate offers a FAQ.

Empire Online concludes,
How to sum up? You have to make synapse-spark connections, interpret events to your own satisfaction, pick up visual cues (a long stretch of the film is dialogue-free) and be happy with not knowing all the answers (you know, like in life — but not in most motion pictures). A perfectly judged, strikingly beautiful film, but also a lunatic enterprise which invites — even welcomes — befuddlement as much as wonder. A true original.
Roger Ebert's site says it "might be described as an oblique romantic science-fiction mystery thriller" and that it "one of those movies that you either give yourself over to or resolutely resist. If not understanding something annoys you, you will struggle against it or simply disengage." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 86%.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Still Life with a Plate of Onions

Still Life with a Plate of Onions:

is an 1889 painting by Vincent van Gogh, who died at the age of 37 on July 29, 1890. See that wine bottle? That's my connection with a beverage as I join the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.

Van Gogh lived a tragic life but left behind a body of work that delights and inspires each new generation. My favorite modern reflection on his life is actually a Doctor Who episode. It captures both the troubled state of his mind and the joy he has brought to the ages. Here's a short clip of the Doctor bringing van Gogh to a modern day gallery exhibition of his work:

It's silly, I guess, but this episode always makes me cry.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Mutiny on the Bounty

Mutiny on the Bounty is a 1935 film starring Charles Laughton as William Bligh and Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian. It's an entertaining adventure story, but is based on a novel and should in no way be confused with historically accurate information.


The New York Times has a positive review from the time of the film's release. DVD Talk has a positive review. Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 94%.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Golden Spiders

The Golden Spiders is a 1953 Nero Wolfe mystery novel by Rex Stout. I'm working my way through this entire (and entirely enjoyable) series.

from the back of the book:
Nero Wolfe was almost as famous for his wealthy clients and extravagant fees as for his genius at detection. So why has he accepted a case for $4.30? And why have the last two people to hire him been ruthlessly murdered? Wolfe suspects the answers may lie in the story of a twelve-year-old boy who turns up at the door of his West Thirty-fifth Street brownstone. In short order, Wolfe finds himself confronted by one of his most perplexing and pressing cases, involving a curious set of earrings shaped like spiders dipped in gold. The case is all boiling down to a strange taste of greed -and a grumpy gourmand's unappeasable appetite for truth.
It was adapted as part of the television mystery series that starred Maury Chaykin as Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin. You can see it here:

I do wish that television series, with its perfect casting, had gotten more seasons.

Another adaptation of this book in a 1981 series starred William Conrad as Wolfe. It can be seen here:

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Rancho Deluxe

Rancho Deluxe is a 1975 modern comedy western starring Jeff Bridges, Sam Waterston, Slim Pickens, Elizabeth Ashley, and Clifton James. Yeah. Not impressed. At all. I found it so tedious I didn't finish it.

via Youtube:

Time Magazine says, "It is so cool it is barely alive. First-rate ingredients and a finesse in assembling them do not quite make either a movie or a cake. At some point it is necessary to light the oven." Time Out says it "operates most noticeably, and in the main successfully, as a slickly packaged youth movie."

Roger Ebert gives it 1 1/2 stars and says poses this question: "whether Perry intended his film to be a comedy. The ads suggest that he did, and yet Tom McGuane's screenplay just doesn't have any laughs in it." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 69% and an audience score of 38%.

Friday, July 20, 2018

World Jump Day

Today is World Jump Day. First held in 2006, the idea was to combat global warming by getting enough people positioned so that when they all jumped simultaneously the Earth's orbit would change. There were, of course, those who wanted to counter the project with a Contra Jump.

For those without a sense of humor, there were actually sites debunking it as if people would've thought it was a serious endeavor.

Sadly, this event seems to have passed into forgotten history. I may jump anyway.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Memphis Botanic Gardens Butterfly Garden

It had been a while since I had been to the Botanic Gardens, so I picked a recent Sunday morning and went to see how the butterfly garden was doing.

It's a gravel path, and there's plenty of seating available.

There weren't many butterflies, but the day was not sunny so that might explain it. I went to check out the Magnolia Trail:

but that season has come and gone. The entrance to the Iris Garden was also lovely:

but again the season is past to see the irises in bloom. The roses were lovely, though, and I'll post those photos soon.