Friday, November 30, 2007

St. Andrew

Today is the feast day of St. Andrew the Apostle. The wikipedia article on him is here.

Ernst Lubitsch

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1947 of Ernst Lubitsch, film director. There is background information on him here at

Carmen (1918) was released as "Gypsy Blood" in the U.S. in 1921 and is available in 8 parts at googlevideo. Part 1 is here:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8

The Eyes of the Mummy, a 1918 silent, is available in parts at dailymotion. The first part is below, and the others parts are here.

The Marriage Circle (1924 silent):

He directed Design for Living, a 1933 comedy starring Gary Cooper and Frederick March, in 1933:

A Royal Scandal (1945) is divided into parts at youtube, Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10

City of Bones

City of Bones by Michael Connelly is the 8th in the "Harry" Bosch series. This book won the 2003 Anthony Award.

from the back of the book:

On New Year's Day, a dog finds a bone in the Hollywood Hills - and unearths a murder committed more than twenty years earlier. It's a cold case, but for Detective Harry Bosch, it stirs up memories of his childhood as an orphan. He can't let it go. As the investigation takes Bosch deeper into the past, a beautiful rookie cop brings him alive in the present. No official warning can break them apart - or prepare Bosch for the explosions when the case takes a few hard turns. Suddenly all of L.A. is in an uproar, and Bosch, fighting to keep control, is driven to the brink of an unimaginable decision.

There is a lot of music mentioned throughout this book, as there was in the last mystery I read. Was this a fad in the early 2000's? The main character likes jazz and plays Clifford Brown and Miles Davis on the stereo. Here's "So What" from the "Kind of Blue" album:

I liked the book and could do worse than pick up others in the series just to have around. I've read Blood Work and The Poet by this author, but this is my first Detective Bosch book.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Lot in Sodom

Lot in Sodom (1933) is an experimental American film short by Watson and Webber, who made The Fall Of The House Of Usher. There is some nudity in this one.

It's interesting how well the story is told without words, with only music and the rare bit of intertitle Bible quote to add to the images.

Olivier's Hamlet

Laurence Olivier's Hamlet was cut from the Shakespeare play, leaving out several characters and some soliloquys. We enjoyed the film, but we were quite annoyed by a couple of things about the video. First was the announcement at the beginning informing us what the play was about. Humph! Like we couldn't figure that out on our own? The other was the complete and total lack of special features. There were chapter divisions. That's it. No interviews, no filmographies of the players. Nothing!

This version was quite different from Mel Gibson's Hamlet, which we saw recently. Olivier was much more restrained, as was Jean Simmons as Ophelia.

Criterion Collection has a wonderful review.

Landsat Image Mosaic of Antartica

Discover Antarctica.

The New York Times has an article on the new map:
A new map of Antarctica displayed last week at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., combines 1,100 digital satellite images into a mosaic with the most geologically accurate, true-color, high-resolution views of the frozen continent now possible.

The map, with a resolution 10 times greater than before, shows features half the size of a basketball court clearly, and is not pure white. It captures the textures and color variations of mountains, valleys and ice rivers and is available to researchers and the public online.

Ain’t Too Proud To Beg

Ain’t Too Proud To Beg (1966) by The Temptations:

The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Piotr Kamler

I saw Piotr Kamler's Chronopolis back in August and enjoyed it immensely. Once again, I am inspired by the Short Film Blogathon to look into more of his work. Here's what I was able to find online:

Coeur de Secours

Une Mission Ephemere

Le Labyrinthe can be viewed online here.

Of these 4 films I much prefer Chronopolis.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Michael Dudok de Wit

I got such a kick out of The Monk and the Fish, and the upcoming Short Film Blogathon got me to wondering what else Michael Dudok de Wit (b. 1953) had done. Here's what I was able to locate online:

Tom Sweep:

What a treat!

Father and Daughter

More on this sad film here.

The Aroma of Tea:

so named because it is drawn completely with tea!

In a Dry Season

In a Dry Season, a British mystery/police procedural by Peter Robinson, won the Anthony Award in 2000.

from the back of the book:

In a blistering, dry summer, the waters of Thornfield Reservior have been depleted, revealing the ruins of the small Yorkshire village that lay at its bottom, bringing with it the unidentified bones of a brutally murdered young woman. Detective Chief Inspector Banks faces a daunting challenge: he must unmask a killer who has escaped detection for half a century. Because the dark secrets of Hobb's End continue to haunt the dedicated policeman even though the town that bred then has died-and long after its former residents have been scattered to far places....or themselves to the grave.

I enjoyed this one, my first Peter Robinson book. His style reminds me of another mystery author I've read, but I can't place it. Mentions of musical pieces are scattered through the book, mentions of what people were listening to or dancing to or being reminded of at various times through the history of the narrative. The point of view alters even within the chapters, but it's easy to follow. One thread follows the memory of the time during WW2 before the village was flooded, and that's interspersed through the detective's personal and professional trials and tribulations.

There's a Methodist connection. On page 85 in a section that happens during WW2:

"You don't have a wireless?" I couldn't believe it. We might have been short of food, but surely everyone had a wireless?

"Mr. Kilnsey won't have one in the house. He's rather a strict sort of Methodist, you know. Thinks they're the devil's loudspeaker."

Harry Everett Smith

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1991 of Harry Everett Smith. Most famous as the compiler of the Anthology of American Folk Music, he was also an experimental film maker.

Early Abstractions is considered "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the Library of Congress. has some information. Here are Early Abstractions videos from youtube:





"No. 11: Mirror Animations" is only online is an edited form. This clip includes the first 2/3 of the film:

Senses of Cinema has an article. has an overview of his life and work. There is an article on the Harry Smith Archives here. A video on the restoration and reformatting of "Mahagonny" can be viewed here. His films are relatively inaccessible, not being widely available on DVD.

Ain't That a Shame

Ain't That a Shame (1955) by Fats Domino:

The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet is a 1968 version of Shakespeare's play. The several departures from the play are detailed in the wikipedia entry on the film, but the film is faithful for the most part.

Other Zeffirelli films we have seen:
Brother Sun, Sister Moon

Oldest Sumo Wrestler Retires

from Yomiuri:

Grand sumo's oldest active wrestler, Ichinoya, retired Saturday after his 1,002nd career bout at the age of 46.

His Wikipedia entry is here.

Carcinoma Angels

I remember the first time I read this story. I still remember how it affected me. After that, I read everything I could get my hands on by Norman Spinrad. Carcinoma Angels is online here and just shouldn't be missed.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dziga Vertov, director

I was able to find several of this Russian director's films online. There is some information on his life and career at and here.

Dziga Vertov directed Soviet Toys in 1924:

Cinema Eye is also from 1924. This is a documentary and promotes the joys of life in Soviet Russia:

Man with a Movie Camera (1929) is a Russian experimental documentary:

There is a review here. There are some stills from the film and some study questions and information on Vertov's ideology and technique here and some background information here. I saw this one back in September.

Enthusiasm: Symphony of the Donbass (1931) focuses on the struggles of Soviet miners:

Information on the film here is helpful in viewing the film in context.

Three Songs About Lenin (1934) celebrates Lenin and his role in shaping the USSR:

I'm surprised more of his earlier work is not available online.

After Midnight

After Midnight by Eric Clapton:

The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Christ the King

Today is the Feast of Christ the King.
Hail to the Lord's Annointed

Hail to the Lord's Anointed,
great David's greater Son!
Hail in the time appointed,
his reign on earth begun!
He comes to break oppression,
to set the captive free;
to take away transgression,
and rule in equity.

He comes with succor speedy
to those who suffer wrong;
to help the poor and needy,
and bid the weak be strong;
to give them songs for sighing,
their darkness turn to light,
whose souls, condemned and dying,
are precious in his sight.

He shall come down like showers
upon the fruitful earth;
love, joy, and hope, like flowers,
spring in his path to birth.
Before him on the mountains,
shall peace, the herald, go,
and righteousness, in fountains,
from hill to valley flow.

To him shall prayer unceasing
and daily vows ascend;
his kingdom still increasing,
a kingdom without end.
The tide of time shall never
his covenant remove;
his name shall stand forever;
that name to us is love.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 46

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;

3 Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.
4 There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.

7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.

9 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.

10 Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

There Will Come Soft Rains

An animated Russian adaptation of the Ray Bradbury short story by the same name, the story was earlier adapted as a radio play. Read the story here, then go right out and buy The Martian Chronicles if you don't already own it. I still have the edition I bought back in the 60's. It was my favorite book for a while, and I'm still a fan.

The Sara Teasdale poem:

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pool singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

HT: SciFiScanner

Give Me Warmth

You say my Christmas list needs more additions? Give me warmth for Christmas. I could be warmer, greener and save money all at the same time. What's not to like!

HT: Tree Hugger

Rescued from an Eagle's Nest

Rescued from an Eagle's Nest (1908) is a silent short directed by J. Searle Dawley, who also directed Frankenstein (1910) and Snow White (1916).

We ditched the silly musical score and watched it, well, silently. I thought this little film was very sweet. And I mean that in a good way.

Snow White

Snow White is a 1916 silent film directed by J. Searle Dawley, who also directed the 1910 Edison Frankenstein.

This version has a couple of plot elements from the Cinderella story early on that let Snow White get to know, fall in love with and become engaged to her prince before the Wicked Queen starts trying to kill her.

The fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm can be read online here.

Make me a Lady

Well, so you asked what I wanted for Christmas... Make me a Lady:

Yes - you can now become an official Lord, Lady, Baron or Baroness of Sealand.

Our special pack entitles you to become a Lord, Lady, Baron or Baroness which will give your social status a bit of clout.

The title is not like the classic cliché, "buy Scottish land and get a fake title", these are bona fide titles from a sovereign principality, recognised by the Government of the Principality of Sealand , so you ‘really’ will be a Lord, Lady, Baron or Baroness!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Storm Track

Storm Track, 7th in the Judge Deborah Knott series by Margaret Maron, won the Agatha Award in 2000. The only other books I've read by this author are Bootlegger's Daughter and Up Jumps the Devil. An easy read, I finished this book in a day. It is as interesting as Bootlegger's Daughter, but I think there are too many named characters one runs across occasionally. It's hard for me to keep all those brothers and cousins straight.

from the back of the book:

Violent storms often hit Colleton County, North Carolina, but when a local attorney's promiscuous wife is killed, the murder blows the lids off more homes than last year's hurricane. As the victim's numerous lovers-including a handsome cousin of Judge Deborah Knott-scurry for cover stories, the judge begins her own investigation. What she finds is a tangled web of extramarital affairs and secrets linking half the county ... while a massive hurricane rages up the Carolina coast, and a very real human killer prepares to strike again.

At the end I had more questions about the crime than answers. We are told who-dunnit, but there are lots of loose ends.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 2nd in the trilogy, is definitely the weak link in the series. Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Harrison Ford and thousands of total unknowns, I find the kid annoying and don't get the woman and the love interest at all. I think she's miscast at best and think the whole character out of place and unsalvageable at worst. Indiana Jones at his worst, though, still makes for a fun movie. The Daughter was thrilled that it didn't have subtitles. What is this thing about subtitles?



ABC (1970) by the Jackson 5:

The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Blood Work

Blood Work, the first in the Terry McCaleb series by Michael Connelly, won the 1999 Anthony Award. The only other book I've read by Connelly is The Poet.

from the back of the book:

When Graciella Rivers steps onto his boat, ex-FBI agent Terrell McCaleb has no idea he's about to come out of retirement. He's recuperating from a heart transplant and avoiding anything stressful. But when Graciella tells him the way her sister Gloria was murdered it leaves Terry no choice. Now the man with the new heart vows to take down a predator without a soul. For Gloria's killer shatters every rule that McCaleb ever learned in his years with the Bureau-as McCaleb gets no more second chances at life...and just one shot at the truth.

I enjoyed reading this one. There are only 3 books in this series, and I'm planning on reading the others to finish the man's story. There is a perfect balance between personal and professional lives. The author describes events in the past in such a way that I get the full impression of them. I assumed, for example, that this was not the first book about McCaleb and that there was a previous book about his time at the FBI working on the Code Killer case. There is information provided without the feeling that I'm being fed hints throughout the book. The characters are well-formed multi-dimensional people. This is an author I will read more of.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Magnificent Seven

Today is the last day of the Kurosawa 11/15-11/22 Blogathon. This is our 9th film.

The Magnificent Seven was directly based on Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and follows it fairly closely. It stars Yul Brynner, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson. Eli Wallach plays the bad guy.


We had seen it before but wanted another look at it after watching its inspiration. This week with Kurosawa has been an eye-opener, as we were aware only that he directed the movie that inspired The Magnificent Seven. Now that we have been exposed to several of his movies we are more aware of his importance.

The Magnificent Seven is listed as one of the 30 great westerns at Images Journal.

St. Cecilia

Today is the Feast of Saint Cecilia, patron saint of church music.

Hymn to St. Cecilia, by Benjamin Britten:

Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen

a story by O Henry

There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Bless the day. President Roosevelt gives it to us. We hear some talk of the Puritans, but don't just remember who they were. Bet we can lick 'em, anyhow, if they try to land again. Plymouth Rocks? Well, that sounds more familiar. Lots of us have had to come down to hens since the Turkey Trust got its work in. But somebody in Washington is leaking out advance information to 'em about these Thanksgiving proclamations.

The big city east of the cranberry bogs has made Thanksgiving Day an institution. The last Thursday in November is the only day in the year on which it recognizes the part of America lying across the ferries. It is the one day that is purely American. Yes, a day of celebration, exclusively American.

And now for the story which is to prove to you that we have traditions on this side of the ocean that are becoming older at a much rapider rate than those of England are--thanks to our git-up and enterprise.

Stuffy Pete took his seat on the third bench to the right as you enter Union Square from the east, at the walk opposite the fountain. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years he had taken his seat there promptly at 1 o'clock. For every time he had done so things had happened to him--Charles Dickensy things that swelled his waistcoat above his heart, and equally on the other side.

But to-day Stuffy Pete's appearance at the annual trysting place seemed to have been rather the result of habit than of the yearly hunger which, as the philanthropists seem to think, afflicts the poor at such extended intervals.

Certainly Pete was not hungry. He had just come from a feast that had left him of his powers barely those of respiration and locomotion. His eyes were like two pale gooseberries firmly imbedded in a swollen and gravy-smeared mask of putty. His breath came in short wheezes; a senatorial roll of adipose tissue denied a fashionable set to his upturned coat collar. Buttons that had been sewed upon his clothes by kind Salvation fingers a week before flew like popcorn, strewing the earth around him. Ragged he was, with a split shirt front open to the wishbone; but the November breeze, carrying fine snowflakes, brought him only a grateful coolness. For Stuffy Pete was overcharged with the caloric produced by a super-bountiful dinner, beginning with oysters and ending with plum pudding, and including (it seemed to him) all the roast turkey and baked potatoes and chicken salad and squash pie and ice cream in the world. Wherefore he sat, gorged, and gazed upon the world with after-dinner contempt.

The meal had been an unexpected one. He was passing a red brick mansion near the beginning of Fifth avenue, in which lived two old ladies of ancient family and a reverence for traditions. They even denied the existence of New York, and believed that Thanksgiving Day was declared solely for Washington Square. One of their traditional habits was to station a servant at the postern gate with orders to admit the first hungry wayfarer that came along after the hour of noon had struck, and banquet him to a finish. Stuffy Pete happened to pass by on his way to the park, and the seneschals gathered him in and upheld the custom of the castle.

After Stuffy Pete had gazed straight before him for ten minutes he was conscious of a desire for a more varied field of vision. With a tremendous effort he moved his head slowly to the left. And then his eyes bulged out fearfully, and his breath ceased, and the rough-shod ends of his short legs wriggled and rustled on the gravel.

For the Old Gentleman was coming across Fourth avenue toward his bench.

Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years the Old Gentleman had come there and found Stuffy Pete on his bench. That was a thing that the Old Gentleman was trying to make a tradition of. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years he had found Stuffy there, and had led him to a restaurant and watched him eat a big dinner. They do those things in England unconsciously. But this is a young country, and nine years is not so bad. The Old Gentleman was a staunch American patriot, and considered himself a pioneer in American tradition. In order to become picturesque we must keep on doing one thing for a long time without ever letting it get away from us. Something like collecting
the weekly dimes in industrial insurance. Or cleaning the streets.

The Old Gentleman moved, straight and stately, toward the Institution that he was rearing. Truly, the annual feeding of Stuffy Pete was nothing national in its character, such as the Magna Charta or jam for breakfast was in England. But it was a step. It was almost feudal. It showed, at least, that a Custom was not impossible to New Y--ahem!--America.

The Old Gentleman was thin and tall and sixty. He was dressed all in black, and wore the old-fashioned kind of glasses that won't stay on your nose. His hair was whiter and thinner than it had been last year, and he seemed to make more use of his big, knobby cane with the crooked handle.

As his established benefactor came up Stuffy wheezed and shuddered like some woman's over-fat pug when a street dog bristles up at him. He would have flown, but all the skill of Santos-Dumont could not have separated him from his bench. Well had the myrmidons of the two old ladies done their work.

"Good morning," said the Old Gentleman. "I am glad to perceive that the vicissitudes of another year have spared you to move in health about the beautiful world. For that blessing alone this day of thanksgiving is well proclaimed to each of us. If you will come with me, my man, I will provide you with a dinner that should make your physical being accord with the mental."

That is what the old Gentleman said every time. Every Thanksgiving Day for nine years. The words themselves almost formed an Institution. Nothing could be compared with them except the Declaration of Independence. Always before they had been music in Stuffy's ears. But now he looked up at the Old Gentleman's face with tearful agony in his own. The fine snow almost sizzled when it fell upon his perspiring brow. But the Old Gentleman shivered a little and turned his back to the wind.

Stuffy had always wondered why the Old Gentleman spoke his speech rather sadly. He did not know that it was because he was wishing every time that he had a son to succeed him. A son who would come there after he was gone--a son who would stand proud and strong before some subsequent Stuffy, and say: "In memory of my father." Then it would be an Institution.

But the Old Gentleman had no relatives. He lived in rented rooms in one of the decayed old family brownstone mansions in one of the quiet streets east of the park. In the winter he raised fuchsias in a little conservatory the size of a steamer trunk. In the spring he walked in the Easter parade. In the summer he lived at a farmhouse in the New Jersey hills, and sat in a wicker armchair, speaking of a butterfly, the ornithoptera amphrisius, that he hoped to find some day. In the autumn he fed Stuffy a dinner. These were the Old Gentleman's occupations.

Stuffy Pete looked up at him for a half minute, stewing and helpless in his own self-pity. The Old Gentleman's eyes were bright with the giving-pleasure. His face was getting more lined each year, but his little black necktie was in as jaunty a bow as ever, and the linen was beautiful and white, and his gray mustache was curled carefully at the ends. And then Stuffy made a noise that sounded like peas bubbling in a pot. Speech was intended; and as the Old Gentleman had heard the sounds nine times before, he rightly construed them into Stuffy's old formula of acceptance.

"Thankee, sir. I'll go with ye, and much obliged. I'm very hungry, sir."

The coma of repletion had not prevented from entering Stuffy's mind the conviction that he was the basis of an Institution. His Thanksgiving appetite was not his own; it belonged by all the sacred rights of established custom, if not, by the actual Statute of Limitations, to this kind old gentleman who bad preempted it. True, America is free; but in order to establish tradition some one must be a repetend--a repeating decimal. The heroes are not all heroes of steel and gold. See one here that wielded only weapons of iron, badly silvered, and tin.

The Old Gentleman led his annual protege southward to the restaurant, and to the table where the feast had always occurred. They were recognized.

"Here comes de old guy," said a waiter, "dat blows dat same bum to a meal every Thanksgiving."

The Old Gentleman sat across the table glowing like a smoked pearl at his corner-stone of future ancient Tradition. The waiters heaped the table with holiday food--and Stuffy, with a sigh that was mistaken for hunger's expression, raised knife and fork and carved for himself a crown of imperishable bay.

No more valiant hero ever fought his way through the ranks of an enemy. Turkey, chops, soups, vegetables, pies, disappeared before him as fast as they could be served. Gorged nearly to the uttermost when he entered the restaurant, the smell of food had almost caused him to lose his honor as a gentleman, but he rallied like a true knight. He saw the look of beneficent happiness on the Old Gentleman's face--a happier look than even the fuchsias and the ornithoptera amphrisius had ever brought to it--and he had not the heart to see it wane.

In an hour Stuffy leaned back with a battle won. "Thankee kindly, sir," he puffed like a leaky steam pipe; "thankee kindly for a hearty meal." Then he arose heavily with glazed eyes and started toward the kitchen. A waiter turned him about like a top, and pointed him toward the door. The Old Gentleman carefully counted out $1.30 in silver change, leaving three nickels for the waiter.

They parted as they did each year at the door, the Old Gentleman going south, Stuffy north.

Around the first corner Stuffy turned, and stood for one minute. Then he seemed to puff out his rags as an owl puffs out his feathers, and fell to the sidewalk like a sunstricken horse.

When the ambulance came the young surgeon and the driver cursed softly at his weight. There was no smell of whiskey to justify a transfer to the patrol wagon, so Stuffy and his two dinners went to the hospital. There they stretched him on a bed and began to test him for strange diseases, with the hope of getting a chance at some problem with the bare steel.

And lo! an hour later another ambulance brought the Old Gentleman. And they laid him on another bed and spoke of appendicitis, for he looked good for the bill.

But pretty soon one of the young doctors met one of the young nurses whose eyes he liked, and stopped to chat with her about the cases.

"That nice old gentleman over there, now," he said, "you wouldn't think that was a case of almost starvation. Proud old family, I guess. He told me he hadn't eaten a thing for three days."

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Pumpkin

by John Greenleaf Whittier

Oh, greenly and fair in the lands of the sun,
The vines of the gourd and the rich melon run,
And the rock and the tree and the cottage enfold,
With broad leaves all greenness and blossoms all gold,
Like that which o'er Nineveh's prophet once grew,
While he waited to know that his warning was true,
And longed for the storm-cloud, and listened in vain
For the rush of the whirlwind and red fire-rain.

On the banks of the Xenil the dark Spanish maiden
Comes up with the fruit of the tangled vine laden;
And the Creole of Cuba laughs out to behold
Through orange-leaves shining the broad spheres of gold;
Yet with dearer delight from his home in the North,
On the fields of his harvest the Yankee looks forth,
Where crook-necks are coiling and yellow fruit shines,
And the sun of September melts down on his vines.

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored;
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before;
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

Oh, fruit loved of boyhood! the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces we carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!
When we laughed round the corn-heap, with hearts all in tune,
Our chair a broad pumpkin, -- our lantern the moon,
Telling tales of the fairy who travelled like steam
In a pumpkin-shell coach, with two rats for her team!

Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better
E'er smoked from an oven or circled a platter!
Fairer hands never wrought at a pastry more fine,
Brighter eyes never watched o'er its baking, than thine!
And the prayer, which my mouth is too full to express,
Swells my heart that thy shadow may never be less,
That the days of thy lot may be lengthened below,
And the fame of thy worth like a pumpkin-vine grow,
And thy life be as sweet, and its last sunset sky
Golden-tinted and fair as thy own Pumpkin pie!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Today is day 7 of the Kurosawa Blogathon hosted by filmsquish. This is our 8th film.

Akira Kurosawa's Ran ("Chaos" in English) is, in part, a retelling or recasting of Shakespeare's King Lear, which can be read online here. There is an overview comparing the 2 here.


This is not our favorite of Kurosawa's films by a long shot. We much prefer Ikiru and then either Seven Samurai (The Younger Son) or Yojimbo (me).

Blogathon reviews of Ran are here:

Roger Ebert's review is here. Film Reference has an article. Ran is listed as an "essential film" at the PBS Great Performances site.

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

WKRP in Cincinnati

HT: O'DonnellWeb


SFScope reports the death of Bill Dial and has a link to the entire WKRP episode online.

Prophetic Reincarnation

The Dalai Lama has responded to China's announcement that he can't reincarnate without their permission with word that he may choose his own successor.

"If the Tibetan people want to keep the Dalai Lama system, one of the possibilities I have been considering with my aides is to select the next Dalai Lama while I'm alive," he told Japan's Sankei Shimbun in an interview published Tuesday.

The Dalai Lama has said the Tibetan people will not accept a successor chosen by the Chinese government. The BBC has the story and some background information. The Associated Press has also written the story.

A Whiter Shade Of Pale

A Whiter Shade Of Pale (1967) by Procol Harum:

The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Hidden Fortress

Today is day 6 of the Kurosawa Blogathon. This is our 7th film.

The Hidden Fortress, a 1958 Akira Kurosawa movie, stars Toshiro Mifune, whom we've seen in Rashomon, Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. The reason we selected this particular Kurosawa film to watch as part of the blogathon is that we'd heard it was an inspiration for George Lucas' Star Wars, which I've loved since it debuted in theaters. It was fun to watch it with that in mind. We have the Criterion edition of The Hidden Fortress, but there aren't many special features. There is, though, an interview with Lucas on Kurosawa.


Senses of Cinema has a review.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Fistful of Dollars

Today is the 5th day of the Kurosawa Blogathon at filmsquish. This is our 6th movie.

A Fistful of Dollars, directed by Sergio Leone, was based on Yojimbo, which we saw last night. A Fistful of Dollars was the film debut of Clint Eastwood, was the first in a string of Spaghetti Westerns and was the first film in the Man With No Name trilogy. We have a cheap low-frills box set of the trilogy. There is a comparison of the 2 movies here.


While we were watching Yojimbo last night I kept thinking the movie didn't need to be remade as a western, because Yojimbo already is a western. Honestly, it looks like a western, sounds like a western and, yes, it even has a horse. A Fistful of Dollars is a remake, that is true, but both films are westerns in spirit. I prefer Yojimbo as it seems to me to have fuller characterizations and a slightly more complex plot.

There is a review here at the Leone tribute site.

Mariner's Compass

Mariner's Compass, the 6th book in the Benni Harper mystery series by Earlene Fowler, won the Agatha Award in 1999.

from the back of the book:

When Jacob Chandler died, he left his home in Morro Bay and all its contents to Benni Harper - the only stipulation being that she had to stay in the house, alone, for two weeks before the inheritance became hers. But Benni has never even heard of Jacob Chandler. Now she has two weeks to follow his scavenger-hunt set of clues to discover whether he is her guardian angel or personal demon. And soon she finds herself setting a course to a time and a place in her own past - a place Benni Harper and Jacob Chandler both knew as home...

I enjoyed reading this one. It was funny is spots, there was no gore at all, and maybe there wasn't even a murder. I found the plot interesting, though, and I liked the characters.

A Well Respected Man

A Well Respected Man (1965) by The Kinks:

The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Today is the 4th day of the Kurosawa Blogathon at filmsquish. This is our 5th film.

Yojimbo is one we discovered long after we found out the The Magnificent Seven had been inspired by a Kurosawa movie. We only recently found out the The Man With No Name was inspired by another Kurosawa movie. The Younger Son was interested in seeing another Clint Eastwood film and the blogathon tie-in proved irresistible, so we chose Yojimbo on one of our buying trips. We're glad we did. This movie was so funny! We didn't expect it to be funny, but there you go. We bought the Criterion edition, again for the reason that a cheaper more low-frills version was unavailable. (sigh) This was letter-boxed with the subtitles conveniently placed in the black strip at the bottom.

This movie stars Toshiro Mifune, who is also in Rashomon and Seven Samurai. It does not include our friend Takashi Shimura, who has been in all the other Kurosawa movies we've seen. I missed him.

part 1:

part 2:

Roger Ebert's review is here. The essay included in the Criterion release is here. The Criterion Contraption has a review. Yojimbo is on Time's list of 100 best films. It's listed as an "essential film" on the PBS Great Performances site. Critic After Dark reviews Yojimbo as part of the blogathon.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 98

1 O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.

2 The LORD hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen.

3 He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

4 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

5 Sing unto the LORD with the harp; with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.

6 With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.

7 Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.

8 Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together

9 Before the LORD; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Seven Samurai

Today is Day 3 of the filmsquish Kurosawa Blogathon. This is our 4th film.

Seven Samurai (1954) trailer:

I see that the film is available online with commercials here:

LikeTelevision Embed Movies and TV Shows

This is a movie we have wanted to see for some time because it is the inspiration for The Magnificent Seven. That one makes a hit every time we show it, and we have been curious about the samurai film it is based on. This blogathon provides just the extra motivation to go ahead and watch it. We have the Criterion edition of Seven Samurai. We wish cheaper editions of these movies were available because we're just not that interested in all the special features, but it seems like once Criterion puts out their version other versions disappear.

There is some background historical information here. has an article on "How 'Seven Samurai' was saved". Roger Ebert has a review here. has an article here that focuses on the audio commentary on the Criterion release. The Criterion Contraption reviews it here.

It was a joy and a surprise to see Takashi Shimura again. We hadn't realized he was in this as well as Ikiru, Sanshiro Sugata and Rashomon. To be honest, I hadn't realized he was in all of these until I recognized him in Seven Samurai. Turns out he was also in Godzilla, Mothra and Ghidorah.

1001 Flicks has a review.

Sumo Art

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts is having an exhibition called Sumo: Japan's Big Sport, described as featuring

not only portraits of famous wrestlers and scenes of their greatest bouts, but also views of wrestlers as celebrities in everyday life, legends and Kabuki plays featuring wrestlers as heroes, and fantasies in which animals or supernatural beings enjoy wrestling just as humans do.

There is an online tour here. The tour contains photos, information about the art, historical information and an option to send pictures as e-cards or to print them on your own printer. Here is the 2nd picture on the tour:

A Teenager in Love

A Teenager in Love (1959) by Dion and the Belmonts:

The list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll comes from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Full Cupboard of Life

The 5th book in Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, The Full Cupboard of Life does not disappoint. The mainstay characters continue to develop and the happenings in their community are varied and interesting. I find myself laughing out loud as I read these books.

I have a special appreciation for books that I, as a woman in middle-age, can enjoy reading and know that my mother and child will enjoy when I finish. I appreciate shared experiences and books held in common. I appreciate enjoyable experiences that can be shared across generations.

from the back of the book:

In the fifth book in the series, traditionally built, eminently sensible Precious Ramotswe continues her enterprise at the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana, a country that is indeed fortunate.

Still engaged to the estimable Mr J.L.B. Matekoni, Mma Ramotswe understands that he has other concerns, especially a hair-raising request from the ever persuasive Mma Potokwane, matron of the orphan farm. Besides Mma Ramotswe herself has weighty matters on her mind. She has been approached by a wealthy lady to check up on the intentions of several suitors. This may be a difficult case, but it's just the kind of problem Mma Ramotswe likes and she is, as we know, a very intuitive lady.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Man Who Would Be King

The Younger Son had seen this 1975 movie numerous times but the rest of us had not, so he chose it for tonight. The Man Who Would Be King starred Michael Caine and Sean Connery and was directed by John Huston, so it had to be good and so it was. The film is based on a Rudyard Kipling short story which can be read online here.
The Son of God goes forth to war,
A kingly crown to gain;
His blood red banner streams afar:
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink his cup of woe,
Triumphant over pain,
Who patient bears his cross below,
He follows in His train.

Roger Ebert calls the film "swashbuckling adventure, pure and simple, and in the hands of a master." MSN has an overview.


Today is Day 2 of the week-long Kurosawa Blogathon. This is our 3rd film.

Ikiru is, like Rashomon and Sanshiro Sugata, available online. Like Sanshiro Sugata, it has been removed from Why is that?

This is a beautiful and inspiring movie, one I can completely understand earning a place on the list of 100 most spiritually significant films. The Younger Son likes this film, and I do have to admit he hasn't been thrilled with others from the list.

We find out that Watanabe is dying of stomach cancer in the first scene of the film, so no spoilers there. The film is the story of how he comes to terms with the news and how he decides "to live" (the English translation of "ikiru") the time remaining to him. Much of the second 1/2 of the movie is told in flashbacks showing Watanabe's focus in his last months. The question is, "How would you change your life if you knew you had less than a year to live?" This film is Watanabe's answer, and I found his answer an inspiration. Every time the camera looked at Watanabe's picture I smiled. He's my new hero.

We have the Criterion edition of this film and are wondering why it is full screen -if it were letter-boxed the subtitles would be easier to read. We haven't watched any of the special features yet, but I'm particularly interested in the Kurosawa interview.

Ikiru is on Time's list of top 100 films.

Roger Ebert has a review online here. He closes his comments with this:
I saw "Ikiru" first in 1960 or 1961. I went to the movie because it was playing in a campus film series and only cost a quarter. I sat enveloped in the story of Watanabe for 2 1/2 hours, and wrote about it in a class where the essay topic was Socrates' statement, "the unexamined life is not worth living."' Over the years I have seen "Ikiru" every five years or so, and each time it has moved me, and made me think. And the older I get, the less Watanabe seems like a pathetic old man, and the more he seems like every one of us.

Christianity Today has a review here. Only the Cinema reviewed the film for the blogathon.

1001 Flicks has a review.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Top 10 Science Fiction Novels

BlueSunCorp (how can you not love a site named Blue Sun Corp?) has a list of their top 10 science fiction novels based on ideas, strong characterisation and good writing -all 3 elements must be present.

I like the way these people think!

Here's their list with the ones I've read bolded:

Dune, by Frank Herbert
The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin
Helliconia Spring, by Brian Aldiss
Tschai, by Jack Vance
Neuromancer, by William Gibson
Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson
The Man In The High Castle, by Philip K. Dick
The Book of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
Pavane, by Keith Roberts
The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

The site has detailed descriptions of each book, describing how each meets the criteria set out.

I haven't read Dick's The Man In The High Castle because I do not like alternative history novels at all.

I have never even heard of the Tschai series, though I've read several books by Jack Vance. I'm putting that one on my list and will pick it up soon.

HT: SFSignal

No Colder Place

I read Reflecting the Sky, another in this series, about a year ago. No Colder Place by S.J. Rozan is one of the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith mysteries. It won the Anthony Award in 1998.

from the back of the book:
Bill Smith is going undercover again as a favor to an old friend who wants him to investigate thievery on the 40-story Manhattan site of Crowell Construction's latest project. His bricklaying is a little rusty, but passable as he checks out the foreman who's under suspicion. A crane operator has disappeared--along with some heavy machinery. But when a well-orchestrated riot causes the foreman's “accidental” death, Smith plunges into a morass of bribery, blackmail and blood looking for answers. With the help of his Chinese-American partner Lydia Chin, he follows a trail of twisted loyalties, old-fashioned greed and organized crime to its heart-stopping conclusion. Murder - with no end in sight.

The writing in this one pulled me in from the beginning. Here's the first bit:

There's no place colder than a construction site.

An ironworker told me why once, explained the chill that pulls the warmth from your bones while you're working, the wind that blows through steel and concrete carrying the ancient dampness of echoing caves.

He was a welder, used to working the high steel--two hundred feet up and nothing between him and the air above the city but the girder he was on and the harness that, half the time, he didn't wear. He had a leather face and scarred, thick hands. We were sitting over a beer at Shorty's one evening in that time of year when the end of the workday and the start of the night push on each other, when everything feels like it's already too late.

A building going up doesn't live, he said. It grows, like that monster Frankenstein built--hammered, welded, bolted together out of things you bring from other places, things that had their own histories long before they were part of this. It looks like what you want it to be, but it's not. Not yet.

And while it grows, it pulls a little life from each of the men who work on it, making them leave something, something they are, behind.

Then one day, he said, when it's stolen enough life, stored up enough history, it starts to breathe. It begins to live, and living things are warm. You can feel that moment. The deep chill goes, replaced by a cold that's only temperature, no different from anywhere else. It's not a construction site after that. It's a building, the past of its bones and skin part of it, what they are making it what it is, old things in a new place. And the lives of the men who built it giving it life. ?

I don't know if he was right or not. I didn't know him well, and I didn't run across him again. He was getting old, and I was young then. I don't know how much longer he had, or wanted, working the high steel.

But I know there's a bone-chilling cold, and a sense of never being alone in an old and lonely place, on every building site I've ever been on.

This book is focused on the Bill Smith character, whereas Reflecting the Sky featured Lydia Chin. I find it interesting that the partners are developed through the series like that. One of the interesting personal elements is that Bill Smith has a piano and is learning Scriabin Etudes to relax. Here's Scriabin playing Etude Opus 8 No. 12 from a 1910 sound recording:

Sanshiro Sugata

Today is the first full day of the Kurosawa blogathon at filmsquish. There has already been one post, and I'm looking forward to reading what others have to say about this director. I have just recently started paying attention to directors, so this is all new to me.

After yesterday's look at Rashomon, I decided to see what other Kurosawa films might be in the public domain and available online.

Sanshiro Sugata (1943) was Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's first film. The version embedded below is from Internet Archive and has no English subtitles, though there is a separate subtitle text file at the site and a different translation altogether here. This makes it much more difficult for me to get into the film as much as if I had on-screen translation. Once I realized what I was up against I researched the plot and looked through the written translations of the dialog. There are long sections with no dialog and that helped. This movie has been removed from GoogleVideo, and I've been unable to find the film online except for the Internet Archive site. The wikipedia article linked above reports the Japanese decision to place this movie in the public domain, so I'm not sure why there is a problem with access. Maybe the subtitles are the copyright issue?

[this film is no longer available at internet archive]

edit 7/17/2018: I still can't find this online, but here's a trailer without subtitles:

The movie is listed at the PBS Great Performances site as an "essential film". Ferdy on Films focuses on the place of the film as Kurosawa's solo directorial debut.

Note to The Husband: I've found something you'll hate more than a foreign-language film with subtitles -a foreign-language film without subtitles!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Flimsquish is hosting a blogathon on the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. We've been buying his films one at a time since we heard about the event and saving them up to watch during this week.

We're going to try to watch several Kurosawa films during this "Kurosawathon". I'll add links to those posts as I write them:

Sanshiro Sugato (1943)
No Regrets for Our Youth (1946)
One Wonderful Sunday (1947)
Drunken Angel (1948)
Stray Dog (1949)
Rashomon (1950)
Scandal (1950)
Ikiru (1952)
Seven Samurai (1954)
I live in Fear (1955)
Throne of Blood (1957)
The Hidden Fortress (1958)
The Bad Sleep Well (1960)
Yojimbo (1961)
Kagemashu (1980)
Ran (1985)
Dreams (1990)

inspired by Kurosawa:

The Magnificent Seven (1960)
A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Seven Swords (2005)
Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)

As of 11/14/2007 the only film I have seen by this director is Rashomon, which I watched back in February.

I'm recopying that post (with a couple of edits. Well, more than a couple...) here to get a start on things:

This 1950 Japanese film tells the story of a crime from four different perspectives including those of the perpetrator and the victim. The film is available on DVD from Criterion and can also can be viewed online:

I wish these links were stable.

The wikipedia entry on this movie is here. Where is the truth in these stories?

There are more recent examples of how events are interpreted differently according to the perspective of those involved. A comedic example from All in the Family:

There was a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called "A Matter of Perspective" which dealt with this same issue.

I admit to seeing both the Archie Bunker and ST:TNG episodes on tv first-run, but I had no idea then that there was a name for what they were doing.

Cinemathematics offers the stories on which Rashomon was based here ("In a Grove" by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa) and here ("Rashomon" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa). The Listening Ear has a blogathon post on this movie. Movie Moxie also wrote about Rashomon for the blogathon.

The House Next Door has a review.

NPR reports that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
has launched a three-month tribute to the director, anchored by a restored version of Rashomon — Kurosawa's legendary study of truth, memory and perspective — along with rarely seen sketches in the director's own hand.
Criterion Confessions has a post of Kurosawa-related art. BFI has a centennial article online.

The Battle of San Pietro

The Battle of San Pietro is a 1945 John Huston documentary short (30+ minutes) about the WW2 battle.

You can watch it from Internet Archive:

There is some information on the film at this site.
1001 Flicks has a review. This NYT article says,
'The Battle of San Pietro'' stands alone in the history of documentary filmmaking. Presenting the battle in the Liri Valley as a costly continuing campaign rather than in retrospect as a strategic victory, it is the only complete record of an infantry battle.