Monday, June 30, 2008


The Younger Son and I decided Mongol would be worth seeing on a theater screen if it played here, and lo and behold it did. We were surprised The Husband wanted to come along -it is, after all, a foreign-language film with subtitles- but he came with us. And did not like it at all. No surprise there. The Younger Son and I both liked it. I don't know how it did on opening weekend, but there were eight or so of us, I think, in the theater for this Monday matinee showing. I'm continuing to struggle with the price: $7 each for a weekday matinee!

I do wonder why it received an R rating. I don't remember the LOTR films having less gruesome scenes. Ratings seems inconsistent.

The Christian Science Monitor says:
Actually, as revisionist epics go, "Mongol" is often startlingly good. It has epic power and plenty of big battles, but director Sergei Bodrov also has a feeling for the small, intimate moments in the life of Genghis Khan

I was struck by these "small, intimate moments" and felt a connection with the characters. It was as much about the personal relationships as it was about epic battle scenes.

The Cinematical reviewer didn't like it:
Mongol does a lot of "sweeping." It moves from sweeping vistas to sweeping battles and when it stops sweeping, it really has no idea what to do; it merely waits for the next opportunity to sweep.

The New York Times describes it as
a big, ponderous epic, its beautifully composed landscape shots punctuated by thundering hooves and bloody, slow-motion battle sequences.
and says,
While it takes a sympathetic view of young Genghis Khan — whose name, in the West, is a synonym for rapacity — it does not force him into conformity with modern sensibilities. His world feels authentically raw and refreshingly archaic, and also strangely beautiful.

TimesOnline reviews it here. Slate wonders how such a nice man can become Khan. Roger Ebert didn't like it.


The picture at the top of the post is of the Ridgeway Four, the theater where we saw the movie, and is from Wikipedia.

Positive Liberty has review.

Robert McCloskey

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2003 of Robert McCloskey, author of Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal. These were 2 of our favorite books when the kids were little.

There is a short biography here. The photo above is from the Library of Congress "Living Legends" page.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Since today was Sunday I thought Monty Python and the Holy Grail would be the most appropriate movie from the political satire list to watch for our fun Family Film Festival. Except The Younger Son has seen it before and didn't stay past the first scene, thinking playing Morrowind would be more fun. And I fell asleep. So riveting entertainment it isn't for some of us. But it is political satire, we're agreed on that.

The Black Knight scene and a Star Trek mash-up are embedded here. Slant Magazine reviews it here.


Paul Klee

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1940 of artist Paul Klee. There is a short biography and pictures of some of his work here and here. has a website devoted to him. MoMA has information on him here.

The picture above is of his Head of a Man. The picture below is of Twittering Machine.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 13

1 How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?

2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me?

3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;

4 Lest mine enemy say, I have prevailed against him; and those that trouble me rejoice when I am moved.

5 But I have trusted in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.

6 I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

The Younger Son selected Dr. Strangelove to be tonight's Family Film Festival movie. We've seen it before -several times. There's a trailer here.

The film is on Roger Ebert's list of Great Films, and he reviews it here and here, saying that "Kubrick made what is arguably the best political satire of the century, a film that pulled the rug out from under the Cold War by arguing that if a ``nuclear deterrent'' destroys all life on Earth, it is hard to say exactly what it has deterred." calls it "Timely and timeless satire".

Cancer Survivors Park Labyrinth

Our church had a prayer retreat today at the Cancer Survivors Park. There was a short introduction to the origin of the labyrinth and its use in Christian devotional practice before we walked the labyrinth. Then we gathered again for a time of sharing of our experience. It seemed to be a meaningful time for everyone.

One of our members is a horticulturist and was involved in the creation of the park and its mural. It was interesting to have him there today to share some behind-the-scenes aspects of the park. There is some discussion of the plants and sculptures here. There is a photo tour here.

There are online labyrinths here and here. You can "walk" the labyrinth with your finger here and here or buy a wooden "finger labyrinth" here. There is a Labyrinth Society.

Mother and I walked this labyrinth about a week ago, and the experience was a bit freer with her, as there were just the two of us with no worry about getting in each other's way. We also talked a bit during our walk while the members of the church group maintained a silence throughout. I imagine the walk is different each time depending on the circumstances.

In the Spring there were tulips. Now there are native wildflowers:

Friday, June 27, 2008

Brazil, the "Love Conquers All" version

Brazil is on the yahoo list of political satire movies we're considering for our fun Family Film Festival. We watched the full-length version back in September and have been meaning to watch it again. It's one of those movies that seems to require more than one viewing. For tonight, though, we decided to go with the shorter version not approved by the director -the version with the happy ending. The only problem is that this version makes no sense at all. It's like excerpts from the longer version with some happy parts added, but if we hadn't seen the longer version we wouldn't have been able to make any sense at all of this one. The Husband said, "It reminds me of Brazil," and that's about the most we can say for it.

The New York Times has a review of Brazil here. Slashdot's review is here. Roger Ebert reviews it here. These are not specifically reviews of this shorter version.

The Criterion Contraption's review says,
In Brazil, Terry Gilliam asks the audience to imagine a world where the government wages a never-ending war with shadowy terrorists, a world where civil liberties are being destroyed in the name of security, a world where torture becomes official state policy in order to conduct more efficient interrogations of suspected terrorists. What's more, in Gilliam's fictional world, the central government is not just secretive but incompetent. Mistakes are made, leading to the imprisonment and torture of innocents.
Despite the description, Brazil is not a documentary.

Senses of Cinema has a page on director Terry Gilliam.

Edwin of the Iron Shoes

I read Edwin of the Iron Shoes by Marcia Muller because it is the first in a long-running series by an award-winning author. I've read somewhere that this book featuring Sharon McCone is the first literary example of a female private investigator. It surprises me that a book published in 1977 would be the first example of a woman P.I., and it's an important milestone.

from the back of the book:
Private eye Sharon McCone's first case opens when a small-time antique shop owner is found murdered-stabbed with a bone-handled dagger from one of her own display cases. The wirnesses aren't talking, for they are the mute inhabitants of the shop: Clothilde, a headless dressmaker's dummy; Bruno, the stuffed German Shepherd; and Edwin, the little boy mannequin with ornate iron shoes.

Among the suspects are Cara Ingalls, a socialite business tycoon; Charlie the junkman, who had once been the victim's lover...and a group of high-powered real estate speculators, each with his own reason for closing down the curio shops of San Francisco's Salem Street, and each seemingly willing to twist and break the law to get what he wants.

Patronized and discouraged by the homicide lieutenant in charge of the case, Sharon is determined to find the facts behind the death of the shopkeeper, her employers' client. And she is to discover that neither antiques nor people are exactly what they seem.

Bookpage interviewed Muller here.

Tove Jansson

Today is the anniversary of the death in 2001 of Tove Jansson, creator of the Moomins, those delights of fine literature. We treasure her memory.

The picture above is from styleserver's Flickr page.

Happy Anniversary, Dark Shadows

On this date in 1966 Dark Shadows premiered. Although it was a while before Jonathan Frid made his first appearance as vampire Barnabas Collins, it was Barnabas I watched it for. Every afternoon I made sure I was parked right in front of the TV, even in the summer when the back yard wading pool was a major attraction. Dark Shadows lasted about 5 years. There were some plots I liked better than others, but Barnabas was there through it all.

There are a couple of video clips here. There has been talk of a remake with Johnny Depp in the role Frid created.

The picture above is from the Barnabas Collins page at CollinWiki.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Duck Soup

We've seen Duck Soup a number of times before but are always happy to see it again. When The Husband saw it mentioned on the yahoo political satire list he thought that was the perfect excuse to get out the DVD.

Duck Soup is a 1933 Marx Brothers political farce. "This means war!" It has the famous mirror scene that was imitated in I Love Lucy:

The laws of the Rufus T. Firefly administration in song:

The last segment of the war with Firefly's constant un-noted uniform changes is hysterical. The movie is #85 on the 1998 edition of the AFI top 100 films list. On the 2007 update of the list it has moved up to #60.


Senses of Cinema has a page on this film which begins, "Duck Soup is indisputably the Marx Brothers' greatest film." Empire Online closes with this: "The Marx brothers on top form with their quickfire comedy and banter."

Roger Ebert considers it a Great Movie saying, "The Marx Brothers created a body of work in which individual films are like slices from the whole, but "Duck Soup" (1933) is probably the best." Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 94%.

Political Satire Family Film Festival

The Husband found a list of political satire movies at yahoo, and we decided to have our own private blogathon of sorts with a focus on political satire and questioning authority. We're inspired by these movies and will watch some of them and others that seem to fit a celebration of the revolutionary July 4th.

The yahoo list:

Duck Soup
Dr. Strangelove
The Rules of the Game
Putney Swope
The Road Warrior
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Our additions:

The President's Analyst
The Mouse That Roared

The photo at the top of the post is from uhuru1701's Flickr page.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Warhol at the Brooks

We went to the Memphis Brooks Memorial Art Gallery today to see the Warhol exhibit. We hadn't been there long when a tour started, so we tagged along behind them. The tour guide was great, adding lots of historical information and explaining how some of the art was created. The Younger Son's favorite pictures from this exhibit were Red Lenin (which was a much brighter red than is shown in the linked picture) and Ingrid Bergman (the one of her in the hat from Casablanca).

We went through the "Pop" exhibit of works from the permanent collection that had been selected to complement Warhol. I was thrilled to see my favorite piece on display: The Family by Marisol, pictured here: This work was commissioned for the Brooks, and I remember when it was first installed. It isn't often on display, so I was so excited to be able to sit with it a while.

We also looked through the permanent exhibit, or the small portion of the permanent exhibit that is currently on display. It has been a long time since we last did this. The Younger Son had a couple of particular favorites here, too: Sir Henry Raeburn's Portrait of Charles Gordon, Fourth Earl of Aboyne (c. 1785) and Joseph Pennell's Sunset from Williamsburg Bridge (1915). I can't find the first of these online anywhere, but here's the Pennell:

They had an 11 minute 1920 video named Manhatta running in the exhibit hall. I didn't watch it there, but I'm guessing this is the film:

If the car hadn't overheated on the way home the trip would have been perfect.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

R.I.P. Tasha Tudor

I am just seeing the news of Tasha Tudor's recent death. She died on June 18. I have fond memories of reading her books to my children. One of my favorites is A is for Annabelle. The Daughter and I enjoyed going through the alphabet with "Annabelle, Grandmother's doll." This picture of Annabelle is from Tasha Tudor and Family. We have lots of books written and illustrated by her. We eventually got rid of a lot of children's books through the years, but hers were ones we always kept.

Her death saddens me, but I'm grateful for her life.

The Tasha Tudor Museum has a website. They are raising money and hope to open the museum by 2010.

I saw the news in The Independent, which begins:
Tasha Tudor was the illustrator of nearly 100 children's books. The rural settings of the past were a constant inspiration in her artistic work and eventually led to her living the life of a 19th-century farmer herself. When not writing or painting, she spun and wove flax into cloth, sewed her own long dresses, milked her Nubian goats and worked barefoot in her teeming vegetable and flower gardens. In time this well-publicised lifestyle turned her into something of an icon of alternative living.

other obits:
Tasha Tudor Legacy
Los Angeles Times
Vermont Public Radio
International Herald Tribune
Concord Monitor
Brattleboro Reformer

Nativity of St. John the Baptist

Today is the celebration of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist.

Luke 1:5-25,57-80

THERE was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.

And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.

And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.


Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.

And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.

And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.

The picture at the top of the post is The Birth of John the Baptist by Tintoretto.

Monday, June 23, 2008

R.I.P. George Carlin

George Carlin died yesterday of heart failure.


Commercial Appeal:
LOS ANGELES -- Acerbic standup comedian and satirist George Carlin, whose staunch defense of free speech in his most famous routine "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television" led to a key Supreme Court ruling on obscenity, has died. Carlin, who had a history of heart trouble, went into St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica on Sunday afternoon complaining of chest pain and died later that evening, said his publicist, Jeff Abraham. He had performed as recently as last weekend at the Orleans Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas. He was 71.

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Irreverent US comedian George Carlin, who became known as a voice of the 1970s counterculture and was one of the country's best known funny men, died on Sunday aged 71, US media reported.

Wired News:
Despite his bad-boy reputation, the stand-up comic hosted Saturday Night Live and made more than 100 appearances on The Tonight Show. His counterculture take on the world's sorry state of affairs filled 23 comedy albums, 14 HBO specials and three books. Carlin won four Grammy Awards for best spoken comedy album, and it was announced Tuesday that he would be awarded the 11th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

He had been the victim of several heart attacks and had a history of heart disease, "ET" online reported.

Arbogast on Film
Dispatches from the Culture Wars
Positive Liberty

The photo above is by Bonnie and is from Wikipedia.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Longest Day of the Year


It was as close as we could get this year, so The Husband, The Younger Son and I took donuts down to Tom Lee Park and watched the sun set over the Mississippi River tonight. We went here last year, too. It is a perfect spot for watching a sunset. Here's a picture of the bridge and the pyramid taken at the same time as the sunset picture above:

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 86

1 Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.

2 Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.

3 Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.

4 Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

5 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.

6 Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications.

7 In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.

8 Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.

9 All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.

10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.

11 Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

12 I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.

13 For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.

14 O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them.

15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

16 O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.

17 Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Incredible Hulk

The Elder Son treated The Husband to this movie as a Father's Day present, and we all went along. The Incredible Hulk has a few cameo appearances that made the film worthwhile to me, but I still can't get used to movie prices. We paid $7 each for matinee tickets. I was never a comic book fan, but I'm getting to be a big fan of comic book movies. These are lots of fun.


Oggs Movie Thoughts has a review. He much preferred the 2003 version.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Big Sleep

I bought The Big Sleep used at a local GameStop for 5 bucks. We weren't far into the side of the DVD containing the theatrical release when it became clear there was a serious problem with the disc. We couldn't fix it, so we watched the pre-release version. It had some minor glitches but not too many. The film is based on a book by the same name by Raymond Chandler. It is directed by Howard Hawks and stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Also in this movie are Dorothy Malone, Elisha Cook, Jr. and Ben Weldon. The Husband picked this film, and we all enjoyed it. After the movie was over we watched the "special feature" documentary on the differences between this version and the theatrical release. That was interesting.

Images Journal has a review, as do Reel Classics, Senses of Cinema, the New York Times and Roger Ebert considers it a "Great Movie".


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lotte Reiniger

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1981 of film director Lotte Reiniger. Her animated shorts use enchanting silhouettes. There is an article here. has a page devoted to her.

Cinderella (1954):

The Frog Prince (1954):

The Little Chimney Sweep (1954):

Jack and the Beanstalk (1955):

Hansel and Gretel (1955):

A short documentary:

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive

I decided to buy The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith in a new paperback rather than wait to find one in the used book store. That's proof I really like this series. This is #8 in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series. #9 is out in hardback. I'm trying to resist.

from the back of the book:
There is rarely a dull moment in the life of Precious Ramotswe, and on Zebra Drive and Tlokweng Road many changes are afoot. Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni wants be put in charge of a case involving an errant husband, and Mma Makutsi is considering leaving the agency, taking her near perfect score on the Botswana Secretarial College typing exam with her. Meanwhile, Mma Ramotswe has been asked to investigate a series of unexpected deaths at the hospital in Mochudi. Along the way, she encounters other tricky mysteries, and once again displays her undying love for Botswana, a country of which she is justly proud.

I've read the others:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pete Seeger

I watched the PBS American Masters Pete Seeger program tonight. I was particularly struck by the timeliness of Bring 'Em Home:


There's one thing I must confess,
Bring them home, bring them home.
I'm not really a pacifist,
Bring them home, bring them home.

If an army invaded this land of mine,
Bring them home, bring them home.
You'd find me out on the firing line,
Bring them home, bring them home.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

R.I.P. Cyd Charisse

Cyd Charisse has died. I heard it on the TV news tonight.

from Singin' in the Rain:


Entertainment Weekly
The House Next Door
Arbogast on Film
Ferdy on Films
Edward Copeland on Film
Another Old Movie Blog links to this video:

Theatre Memphis' West Side Story

I'm a recent convert, but I've come to see the value of seeing the stage versions of these big musicals that I fell in love with on film. Chorus Line taught me a valuable lesson. Tonight we saw West Side Story at Theatre Memphis. My one complaint was the orchestra, which overshadowed the singers. We had trouble hearing some of the singers' words. The instrumentalists could back off some without losing anything, and the singers wouldn't get lost behind them.

The play was long, lasting 2 1/2 hours with a short intermission, but we enjoyed every minute. The sets were striking. The Husband and I each commented on that. Not much had to be moved on and off the stage, so there was no distraction from the actors, yet each scene was distinctive. We liked the way the windows were done.

I had wondered how they would cast it, and they cast it with lighter-skinned actors in one gang and darker skinned actors in the other. I heard they had trouble finding enough people (Chris Blank, linked below, notes it), but I wouldn't have known that just from watching and listening. The leads are strong. I'm not sure why the Jets wannabe Anybodys especially caught my eye, but she did. The Husband particularly liked Doc.

Chris Blank of the Commercial Appeal has an article but no review yet. ArtsMemphis has 2 photos. If I find reviews I'll add them.

The photo above is their publicity poster.

6/18/2008: The Memphis Flyer has a review. Chris Davis says, "There's not a harder working cast in Memphis at the moment." On the lighting:
Matthew Strampe's lighting is like a kiss that forgives a multitude of sins. It meshes with the more theatrical elements of McCollum's sets and makes this West Side Story's best moments, such as fight choreographer Pam Hurley's rhythmic rumbles, seem magical.

6/20/2008: Christopher Blank has a review in the Commercial Appeal which mentions the 2 characters we were so impressed with:
Leighann Colin is precious as the scampering pipsqueak tomboy Anybodys. Kudos to the marvelous Barry Fuller as Doc, who in the final scene holds the entire weight of the musical on his slumped shoulders.
and notes
an effective set by Christopher McCollum and gorgeous lighting by Matthew Strampe
. He has a link to his video review.

Monday, June 16, 2008

How to be Financially Successful

"If you keep doing what you've been doing you'll keep getting what you've been getting."

5 minutes of advice from Dave Ramsey:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow

Doctor Syn, Alias the Scarecrow was a favorite of The Husband when he was a child, and he was able to order a copy of the videotape to share with us. This video is a re-edited version of the original 3-part Disney presentation that Disney released in 1964. The VHS we have is a former rental copy and has seen better days, but it's quite watchable. We were interested to see George Cole, who played young Scrooge in the film by that name, in this. It was like running into an old friend.

It's funny, but the Dads in Media Blogathon has me thinking of everything in terms of dads, and there are several in this film. First is Dr. Syn himself as played by Patrick McGoohan, vicar to the area and spiritual father to them all. His calling includes caring for their physical as well as their spiritual needs. Like most fathers he leads both a public and a private life and is willing to sacrifice for his children, but his position is not one born of legal kinship or blood relationship.

Michael Hordern, known fondly to us in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, plays Squire Thomas Banks, widowed father of 3:

His oldest is much mourned, as the family has given him up for dead after he was press-ganged into His Majesty's service several years prior to the events in the movie. Watching this man awake to the fact that the son who has come back from the dead is a wanted man -a criminal for fleeing his slavery- is to watch a transformation. It takes him no time at all to choose between his duty to the crown and his love of his son.

The middle child is a daughter in love with a disowned soldier with few prospects. Dad has warned the soldier off a suit of marriage, suspicious that the young man is more in love with the daughter's fortune than the daughter. It's obvious that the father has already checked into the man's family background with an eye towards looking after his daughter's best interests. At the end of the movie, though, he is converted by the soldier's conduct and encouraged by the vicar to bless the young couple.

The younger son is, unbeknownst to the father, a close ally and helper of The Scarecrow, a local Robin Hood type currently scandalizing the gentry but protected by the poor. Dad does not approve of The Scarecrow's law-breaking habits and flouting of the law and would be horrified to realize a member of his family was an active member of the band of so-called "gentlemen".

Joseph Ransley is the bad father of the piece, "dad" to two long-suffering sons and step-son to a woman who suffers much abuse from him. "None too kindly" is, I think, how one character describes how Ransley treats his father's widow. A coward and traitor, tortured with fear, he is willing to sacrifice anything necessary to save, not his family, but himself. He'll do anything to save his own life and so, as the vicar might well point out, he loses the life he has.

Interestingly enough, there are no moms in this movie. Wait, I take that back. There is one mom, and she's never on screen. Her husband runs to get help for her after she goes into labor. When he is caught by the authorities it ruins the town's plan for dealing with the press gang. The complete absence of moms to go with any of these dads is notable. I might even call it disturbing. I have issues with female characters in the Disney films, and this is a fine example of a particular problem: a lack of meaningful female characters. Ah, well, that's a topic/rant for another time.

It's been decades since I've seen this video, but I don't think I'd have paid so much attention to the "dads" in it if I hadn't been reading the posts at the blogathon that ends today. This movie has 3 definitely distinct types of dad: the spiritual father, the more traditional caring family man and the self-centered dad unconcerned about how his actions affect the family. I'll probably continue to notice the dads in films I watch for a while to come.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 116

1 I love the LORD, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.

2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.

4 Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.

6 The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

7 Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.

8 For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.

9 I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.

10 I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted:

11 I said in my haste, All men are liars.

12 What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?

13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.

14 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

16 O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.

17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.

18 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.

19 In the courts of the LORD's house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Princess Bride

The dad in The Princess Bride isn't even in the film, but I think the movie fits the Dads in Media Blogathon theme anyway, because the dad drives the major subplot.

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." Ever since he was scarred for life at the age of 11 trying to kill the 6-fingered man who had just murdered his father, he has sought the man. His thirst for revenge has driven him for 20 years. The scene in which he comes face to face with the killer has the killer begging for mercy, offering Inigo anything he wants. Inigo responds with this cry: "I want my father back." Some things can't be replaced.

Here's that part:

We had seen the play in a children's community theater performance years ago but had not seen the movie until tonight. It was fun.

Roger Ebert
New York Times

Friday, June 13, 2008

Foyle's War: The German Woman

Yes, it's foreign, but it's English language and so doesn't need subtitles.

Our exploration today of Dads in Media, a blogathon hosted by Strange Culture, took the form of wondering about those Mystery! detectives' families. Not many of them seem to be fathers, do they? Sherlock Holmes as a dad? I don't think so. Poirot? Inspector Morse? All of these seem more suited to the child-free bachelor life. Brother Cadfael is a brother but not a father. (No spoilers here.) Miss Marple? Well, never mind that one. A couple of them may have families in the wings to serve as useful subplots. For example, Rumpole shares his life with She Who Must Be Obeyed and has a son who lives in America, but Rumpole's function as a dad is minor.

Foyle is the only one I can think of in which the main character is a dad and where that is integral to the story. The German Woman is the first episode in the series. It introduces us to Foyle as he tries his best to get a transfer from the police services to more active war-related work and as he discovers his son has been called up for active duty. The interactions of father and son are priceless. Foyle is reticent and neither is demonstrative or overtly emotional, but their love for each other and Foyle's concern for his son shine clearly. More is said through their facial expressions and their body language than is often expressed by more talkative but less emotionally honest folk. With these 2 men it's as if each knows how the other feels and so not as much needs to be spoken aloud. Perhaps part of the reason for this closeness and how well they read each other is that Foyle is a long-time widow, so the pair have spent much time alone together, and yet I can picture the family together with Foyle smiling as he watches his wife put their young son to bed or sitting with his head bent close to his son's while working on some project.

Their relationship is touching -an obvious yet unspoken devotion. Sometimes actions do speak louder than words.

The dihydrogen monoxide scare is back!

I remember this one from way back and loved it at the time. The kids got a big kick out of it. And people would fall for it. It was amazing. I think this site is where we first came across this dangerous substance.

HT: E-merging in Indiana

R.I.P. Tim Russert

Sunday mornings just won't be the same. Tim Russert has died suddenly of an apparent heart attack.


Host of the program since 1991, Russert was known as the hardest-working journalist in Washington. He collapsed Friday at the office, while preparing for the next show, and efforts to revive him at the hospital failed, his internist said.

Tim Russert was the giant of political journalism.

He made Meet the Press the gold standard of the Sunday talk shows, indeed of any serious television interviewing. He was the model for how to prepare for an interview and how to conduct it on air:

He wrote memorably about his Buffalo upbringing and his father's influence on him in his memoir Big Russ and Me. As one of his NBC colleagues, Lisa Myers, once said of him, "Buffalo is a critical secret to understanding him," and he himself cited his Jesuit education as critically formative.

The Jesuits are inextricably linked to questioning, and so was Russert. Meet the Press was an institution long before he came to it in 1991, but he made it his own by becoming known for aggressively questioning his Washington guests. In his trademark prosecutorial style — he earned a law degree before going to work as a political aide for New York Senator Patrick Moynihan in the 1970s — he held his guests to account for inconsistent past statements and doggedly followed up on evasions.


Get Religion here and here

Jim Wallis

Thursday, June 12, 2008


The Monkees made this wonderful movie:

There a some fun actors in Head: Victor Mature, Jack Nicholson, Annette Funicello, Teri Garr, Frank Zappa, Sonny Liston, Dennis Hopper

The wikipedia article says,
The film eventually found a cult following, although even fans tend to disagree whether the film is a landmark of surreal, innovative filmmaking or simply a fascinating mess.

Life is Beautiful

We watched Life is Beautiful as part of the Dads in Media Blogathon being hosted at Strange Culture. I chose it because of the key role played by the dad and because it has been on the Arts & Faith list of Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films, though I don't see it on their current list. All I knew about the film was that the dad succeeded in keeping his son alive and in good spirits in a WW2 Nazi concentration camp -no mean feat. It turned out to be everything The Husband dislikes in a film, so the dad in our house wasn't overly thrilled with this choice: not only was it a foreign (Italian) film with subtitles, it had much sadness. It had much laughter, too, but sadness was preponderant in the second half.


The BBC review points out some problems:
It may have been showered with awards (including three Oscars) and struck box-office gold around the world, but "La Vita è Bella" remains a deeply problematic contribution to the growing body of films about the Holocaust.

The Guardian's review shares the discomfort:
He's managed to make his film without offending the world. La Vita è Bella has broken Italian box-office, and been hugely acclaimed in the US. The Pope has given it at least implicit blessing by having it privately screened, and it's been given a special award by the State of Israel. But I can't help feeling we've turned a corner in the way we think about the Holocaust when a film this naively blundering can pass without question.

The Observer agrees:
Benigni's affirmation has been bought at far too high a price and has a hollow, dispiriting ring.

EW didn't approve either.

Roger Ebert had some positive words:
``Life Is Beautiful'' is not about Nazis and Fascists, but about the human spirit. It is about rescuing whatever is good and hopeful from the wreckage of dreams. About hope for the future.

As I read the reviews I remembered the complaints that Hogan's Heroes made the Germans look stupid and made it look like a lark to be in a concentration camp. But those complaints, like the complaints the reviewers shared about Life is Beautiful, miss the point, in my mind. The dad here is the hero and the focus of the film. His world is his family, and that's what's important to him: he places the well-being of his family, both their physical and emotional well-being, above everything else. I think of a quote from the Monkees movie Head about the human mind being unable to distinguish between reality and the vividly imagined experience. This dad turns a living hell into a livable experience for his son.

Dads in Media Blogathon

Today is the first day of the Dads in Media Blogathon hosted by Strange Culture, who hosted last year's Film + Faith Blogathon. I've been gathering together some movies to watch to celebrate the theme of this blogathon and am looking forward to reading the posts.

Here are the films we watched during the 4-day event:

Life is Beautiful
Foyle's War: The German Woman
The Princess Bride
Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow

I do so enjoy it when folks host these blogathons. I learn to see things I've never noticed before and watch films I've never heard of or made time for.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Robert E. Howard

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1936 of Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian. Many of Howard's works are available online, being in the public domain. Conan has been adapted for film with Arnold Schwarzenegger as Conan. The short story Casonetto's Last Song was adapted by Brenda Dau and Derek M. Koch as a short film which premiered at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Indestructible Man

Indestructible Man is a 1956 film starring Lon Chaney, Jr.

Chaney doesn't speak at all after the first few minutes, but you do get lots of close-ups of his eyes doing a weird twitchy thing. The detective's narration (Max Showalter) overlays the whole movie.

HT: Video WatchBlog via GreenCine

Sigrid Undset

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1949 of Norwegian author Sigrid Undset. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928.

I discovered Kristin Lavransdatter in young adulthood and loved it. I have a 3-volume hardback edition of the Charles Archer translation, but I'd love to get the new (2005) translation by Tiina Nunnally someday. I discovered The Master of Hestviken later, and I have a one-volume hardback edition of the Arthur G. Chater translation.

There are short biographies here and here. A picture of the stamp bearing her portrait is here.

There is a review of Kristin Lavransdatter here and a reading guide here. The work was adapted for film in 1995.

Monday, June 09, 2008

R.I.P. Algis Budrys

SFSignal reports the death of science fiction author Algis Budrys. SFScope has an obituary.


Ed Gorman
Sweet Freedom
The Independent
SFSignal links to a post by William Shunn.

The image is from Levar's Flickr page.

The Democratic Race in Eight Minutes

This is a great overview of how we've gotten where we are today:

HT: Art Butcher

Collectivism and Science Fiction Syllabus

Positive Liberty has posted a syllabus for an up-coming blog class. I've never heard of a blog class. The course is divided into several sections, and each section has both fiction and non-fiction readings. These are the fiction readings:
Cordwainer Smith, “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard”

Isaac Asimov, Foundation

Stanislaw Lem, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub

Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We

Katharine Burdekin, Swastika Night

Gene Wolfe - sections on the Ascians from The Book of the New Sun; especially “Loyal to the Group of Seventeen’s Story,” included in this work.

Philip K. Dick, “The Faith of Our Fathers,” in The Eye of the Sibyl

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing

Charles Stross, Accelerando

There are three films, all of which I've seen.

The non-fiction reading is heavy on philosophy books I don't have and haven't read, and I probably won't make much of a financial investment in this study. It will be interesting to keep up with the related posts, though, and read along as I can.

The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers are Going Broke

The video embedded below is an hour-long interview with author Elizabeth Warren. I've seen her in other presentations.

USA Today has an excerpt from the book. has a print interview. Business Week's review is here. PBS has a page on her that includes links to 2 videos. NPR has an audio interview. Mother Jones Magazine interviews co-author Amelia Tyagi.

The Harvard Journal of Law and Gender has a review that discusses the issue and the remedies proposed in the book:
Their solutions include a voucher system for public schools, an expansion of public schooling to include prekindergarten education, a tuition freeze on state universities, a reinstatement of usury laws, a tax incentive program for family savings, a commitment to the preservation of bankruptcy protection, and an expansion of state-funded dis-ability coverage. Of particular interest is the discussion of tax-funded daycare programs. Warren and Tyagi argue against such programs, at least in their simplest form:

[S]uch subsidies would make financial life more difficult for these families [with stay-at-home mothers], because they would create yet another comparative disadvantage for single-income families trying to compete in the marketplace. Every dollar spent to subsidize the price of day care frees up a dollar for the two-income family to spend in the bidding wars for housing, tuition, and everything else that families are competing for . . . . In effect, government-subsidized day care would add one more indirect pressure on mothers to join the workforce.

This last point is a novel idea in the daycare discourse. A typical argument for such programs is that they provide mothers the option of working, but, in reality, they provide no option at all, compelling some mothers to enter the workplace despite their own preferences to the contrary.

The list of policy solutions offered by the authors is not groundbreaking, but its application towards the newly identified problem of the “two-income trap” is innovative and useful. For example, to the list of other potential benefits, proponents of school voucher programs can add the partial alleviation of the problem of middle-class bankruptcy. Thus, old ideas, pressed into service by Warren and Tyagi, are given new life in the political arena.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Gospel of John on Film

This filmed presentation of the Gospel of John was a 2003 movie directed by Philip Saville.

from Wikipedia:
It is a motion picture that has been adapted for the screen on a word-for-word basis from the American Bible Society's Good News Translation Bible. This three-hour epic feature film follows John's Gospel precisely, without additions to the story from other Gospels, nor omission of complex passages.

part 1:

Links to the rest of the film are here:
part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11, part 12, part 13, part 14, part 15, part 16, part 17, part 18 and part 19.

Sunday Psalm

Psalm 33

1 Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.

2 Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.

3 Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.

4 For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.

5 He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.

6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: he layeth up the depth in storehouses.

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

9 For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.

10 The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.

11 The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.

12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.

13 The LORD looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men.

14 From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.

15 He fashioneth their hearts alike; he considereth all their works.

16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.

17 An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;

19 To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.

21 For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name.

22 Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Don't Trust Obama?

Check out what you've heard -the gossip may not be true. Click here for one site that addresses some of the false information that seems to abound. It will be updated throughout the election season.

Preferring one candidate over another is The American Way, but we should get our facts straight.