Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Rowan Tree

image from

Several people have suggested options for free books online, and I'm exploring what seems to me to be a wealth of choices. The Rowan Tree, by Robert W. Fuller, is available free for now on Google Play, and I'm reading it on my computer. You can read it here while it's free. I found it searching for free books in the literary fiction category at BookBub.

Rowan Ellway is a young college president; Easter Blue, an impassioned student leader. Upon graduation, she takes a fellowship to Africa, and they lose touch. When, decades later, they meet again, they discover that their prior bond was but a rehearsal for the world stage.

The Rowan Tree reaches from the tumultuous 1960s into humanity’s future, encompassing the worlds of politics, sport, ballet, presidential leadership, and world governance. An international cast of characters personifies the catalytic role of love in political change.

Replete with illicit loves, quixotic quests, and inextinguishable hope, The Rowan Tree foretells a dignitarian world much as the story of King Arthur and the round table sowed the seeds of democracy.
It's quite the romantic, illicit affair-driven narrative and not my cup of tea. I won't seek out more by this author.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Still Life

A silver bowl, a lemon, a knife, a bottle and a glass on a salver on a draped marble ledge:

by Louise De Hem, who died on November 22, 1922, at the age of 55. How did she make that lemon look like a real lemon? It looks more "real" than some photos I've taken. The skill and eye of artists are awe-inspiring as I look at paintings I come across.

Please join me in a cuppa

while I admire the art in this painting and in the posts of folks participating in the weekly T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering.

Some of you were kind enough to suggest sources for free books online, and I'd like to share one of my favorites: the University of Adelaide online books library. I also find good things at Online Literature, at the Internet Archive and at Project Gutenberg.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Proud Rebel

The Proud Rebel is a 1958 western directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Alan Ladd and Olivia de Havilland. John Carradine, Dean Jagger, Cecil Kellaway, and Harry Dean Stanton co-star.

Variety says, "Warmth of a father's love and faith, and the devotion of a boy for his dog, are the stand- out ingredients of this suspenseful and fast-action post-Civil War yarn." TCM has information.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Roman Hat Mystery

The Roman Hat Mystery is the first of the Ellery Queen detective/mystery series. This writer knows his stuff. It was written in 1928 but is still easy and interesting to read. The book was a birthday present.

from the Wikipedia article:
The novel deals with the poisoning of a disreputable lawyer named Monte Field in the Roman Theater in New York City during a performance of a play called "Gunplay!" Although the play is a sold-out hit, the corpse is discovered seated surrounded by empty seats. A number of suspects whose pasts had made them potentially susceptible to blackmail are in the theater at the time, some connected with the Roman Theater and some audience members.

The case is investigated by Inspector Richard Queen of the Homicide Squad with the assistance of his son Ellery, a bibliophile and author. The principal clue in the mystery is the disappearance of the victim's top hat, and it is suspected that the hat may have contained papers with which the victim was blackmailing the murderer. A number of suspects are considered, but nothing can be proved until Ellery performs an extended piece of logical deduction based on the missing hat and thus identifies the murderer.
You can read it online here.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Thieves' Highway

Thieves' Highway is a 1949 film noir directed by Jules Dassin and starring Richard Conte, Valentina Cortese, Lee J. Cobb, and Barbara Lawrence.

part 1:

part 2:

Slant Magazine says "Jules Dassin’s 1949 melodrama about long-haul truckers —the director’s final (and finest) film made in America before the House Un-American Committee exiled him to Europe— is ... a bleak portrait of post-WWII despair, corrupt capitalism, and idealistic disillusionment." The New York Times review from the time calls it "One of Best Melodramas of the Year". DVD Talk says it "bares some honest truths about making a living at the lower end of the entrepreneurial scale. Firebrand writer A.I. Bezzerides all but indicts the American system of business".

Rotten Tomatoes has a critics rating of 100%.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Extended Advent

I'm trying a new-to-me thing this year. One of the earliest of Advent traditions has the observance beginning on the Feast of St. Martin, which is November 11, and there was no determined, consistent practice of shortening it to four weeks until much later and never in the Orthodox tradition. I'm observing Advent beginning with the second week in November, so this past Sunday was the first week in Advent in this practice. I'll be following what this United Methodist Church page calls Restorationist Advent. Their page says, "Advent used to be a season of seven Sundays until Pope Gregory VI shortened it to four in the eleventh century."

The Advent Project is "committed to working ecumenically to restore Advent from four (4) to seven (7) weeks". They have some resources, including O Antiphons for seven weeks and candle-lighting devotions for home use. There's another service for home use here.

Yes, this made my Advent wreath useless, but I've made one with more candles, pictured above, that will serve. The color of the candles is irrelevant, except the Christ candle in the center -which I haven't added yet- should be white.

I have never found the time of preparation for Christmas to be stressful as some seem to, and I've always enjoyed a bit of the hustle and bustle that goes with this season, so my reasons for joining this movement have nothing to do with a reaction to commercialization or secular concerns. I'm interested in exploring this older tradition of a longer Advent as an end in itself, as a way of deepening my experience of Advent.

You can read another person's reasoning for this practice in this article from last year in The Atlantic. It begins, "Reclaiming the Calm of Christmas by Expanding Advent, By celebrating for nearly two months, one family basks in the season’s peacefulness, rather than its frenzy," and goes on to explain,
For the last two years my family has been observing Advent, the season when Christians celebrate Jesus’s birth and await his second coming, for three additional Sundays; instead of starting in December, we start in early November. This puts our family’s emphasis on the sense of expectation that defines Advent, and less so on the letters to Santa and mountains of presents that attend Christmas.
I'm finding an expanded Advent to be helpful in my personal devotions.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Little Prince

The Little Prince is a 1943 book, which I read in French back in the days when I knew some French. I have read it several times in the English translation. This book is a treasure, and I'd recommend it to anyone of any age. You can read it online here.

I've seen two of the many adaptations. The 1974 version is a musical starring Gene Wilder as the Fox. I saw it when it was first released to theaters and love it dearly even now.

Here's a trailer:

I recently watched the 2015 adaptation on Netflix. It's quite different, being an animation, but every bit as delightful.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Tempest (1960)

The Tempest is a 1960 television adaptation of the Shakespeare play. Directed by George Schaefer, it stars Maurice Evans as Prospero, Richard Burton as Caliban, Lee Remick as Miranda, Roddy McDowall as Ariel, and Tom Poston as Trinculo. Edited for time, this is still the best adaptation I've found.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Ether Breather

Ether Breather (1939) is the first published science fiction story of Theodore Sturgeon. You can read it online here or here. It begins,
It was "The Seashell." It would have to be "The Seashell." I wrote it first as a short story, and it was turned down. Then I made a novelette nut of if and then a novel. Then a short short. Then a three-line gag. And it still wouldn't sell. It got to be a fetish with me, rewriting that "Seashell." After a while editors got so used to it that they turned it down on sight. I had enough rejection slips from that number alone to paper every room in the house of tomorrow. So when it sold -well, it was like the death of a friend. It hit me. I hated to see it go.

It was a play by that time, but I hadn't changed it much. Still the same pastel, froo-froo old "Seashell" story, about two children who grew up and met each other only three times as the years went on, and a little seashell that changed hands each time they met. The plot, if any, doesn't matter. The dialogue was -well, pastel. Naive. Unsophisticated. Very pretty, and practically salesproof. But it just happened to ring the bell with an earnest, young reader for Associated Television, Inc., who was looking for something about that length that could be dubbed "artistic"; something that would not require too much cerebration on the part of an audience, so that said audience could relax and appreciate the new polychrome technique of television transmission. You know; pastel.

As I leaned back in my old relic of an armchair that night, and watched the streamlined version of my slow-moving brainchild, I had to admire the way they put it over. In spots it was almost good, that "Seashell." Well suited for the occasion, too. It was a full-hour program given free to a perfume house by Associated, to try out the new color transmission as an advertising medium. I liked the first two acts, if I do say so as shouldn't. It was at the half-hour mark that I got my first kick on the chin. It was a two-minute skit for the advertising plug.

A tall and elegant couple were seen standing on marble steps in an elaborate theater lobby. Says she to he:

"And how do you like the play, Mr. Robinson?"

Says he to she: "It stinks."

Just like that. Like any radio-television listener, I was used to paying little, if any, attention to a plug. That certainly snapped me up in my chair. After all, it was my play, even if it was "The Seashell." They couldn't do that to me.

I've been enjoying looking for short stories to read online as I try to spend less money on books, and I always have a cup of coffee in hand:

as I sit with my patio view, raining here:

and do my googling.

Please join me as I visit the folks who participate in the T Stands for Tuesday blogger gathering hosted by Bleubeard and Elizabeth.