Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Venice in the Age of Canaletto

The Daughter and I took some time this afternoon to go to the Venice in the Age of Canaletto exhibit at the Brooks Museum. We enjoyed the time there. The Brooks is another attraction I remember from my childhood and that the kids grew up going to. It's also another one that has changed a lot through the years and looks nothing like it did when I was little. It opened as the Brooks Memorial Art Gallery in 1916. It was enlarged in 1955 to house the Kress collection and enlarged again in 1973. The most recent addition was completed in 1989. Although I remember the old building fondly, I like the way it is now, too, and this is the only way the kids have ever known it.

The exhibit had a video of a tour down the Grand Canal, a large map of Venice, some decorative objects and some furniture in addition to the paintings. We didn't have any particular favorites from this exhibit, which is actually rather unusual for us. The evaluation forms and guest books were on a stand set up in front of (and blocking) a door labeled "Fire Extinguisher". The daughter and I got a big kick out of that.

The photo at the top of the post was made during another visit.

This picture was added by popular request:

4/29/2010: The Memphis Flyer has a review.

The Iron Horse (1924)

The Iron Horse is a 1924 silent Western film directed by John Ford.

You can watch it online tinted and with a new score:

Slant Magazine calls it "John Ford's first official epic, as well as his breakthrough hit." Variety says, "John Ford, who directs, puts his story over on the screen with a lot of punch." Images Journal lists it as one of the 30 Best Westerns and notes that
The Iron Horse contains many of the themes that Ford would explore in his sound-era Westerns. One of the main themes centers upon the men who sacrificed their lives in order to help bring civilization to the wilderness.

MSN has an overview. It gets an 83% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Lichterman Nature Center

The Daughter and I took a picnic lunch and spent the afternoon on this beautiful Spring day at the Lichterman Nature Center. It'd been years since The Daughter had been there, and she was sorely disappointed. We started going in the early years when there were few improvements, few structures and much more of a wild feel. Now the buildings are large and many, and you can see adjacent office buildings or retail establishments and clearly hear traffic from almost everywhere. One bridge on the forest trail was down completely, closing that section of the trail "for maintenance" that looks like it's been pending for some time. It wasn't the only part of a trail that was closed. I'd rather they had used the money they spent on scattering "teaching pavilions" all over the grounds for a fund to ensure upkeep of the grounds. I'm glad we can remember what it was like before.

There are also way too many geese.

We walked the trails and saw birds and wasps, one lone dragonfly (we used to see bunches of them when the lake was full of water lilies), lots of turtles (there are some in the photo above) and little fish, and a fox. The fox caught what may have been a rat and scurried off from the meadow to the woods with it.

We had an enjoyable afternoon, but as The Younger Son says, "There's really no need to go back." It does bring back fond memories, and I think the kids are building a nice collection of when-i-was-a-child talking points. They agree with me that "improvements" often don't actually improve anything.

From Hell It Came

I saw From Hell It Came (1957) for the first time as part of the Sivads of March film festival this past Sunday afternoon. As the final event of the 4-day festival, it was a priceless example of some of the hokey horror featured in Fantastic Features. Lots of fun was had by all, and there were plenty in attendance even for this last film. This is another in a long line of seriously sexist horror films -I'm still surprised when I hear people wax eloquent over how wonderful the 50's were. I couldn't believe the clothes the female scientist brought to wear on this primitive assignment! The monster reminded me a bit of the talking trees in the Wizard of Oz movie, except that somehow, though this monster could walk, it didn't have nearly the sense of movement that Dorothy's trees did. Director Dan Milner also directed The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues.

trailer, with commentary:

view the entire film:

Stomp Tokyo calls it "goddamned wretched" and says,
From Hell It Came is viciously slow going, with long chunks of uninteresting dialogue, uninteresting characters, a romantic subplot that borders uncomfortably on harassment, and worst of all, a strolling monster.

DVDTalk says it "is a competently directed but absolutely hilarious horror romp known as one of the silliest of 50s monster movies" and rates it "Awful and Very Entertaining". WTF Film criticizes the racism, the sexism, the propaganda, the acting and the production and warns, "this one is definitely better left as a fond memory of days long since passed," though they like one scene: "the image of it [the monster] rising from the depths of a fire pit is a welcome exception, and as iconic as anything in cult cinema history." The New York Times is reported to have offered this review: "To Hell it can go."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hakuho Wins

Hakuho has won yet again.

Taiwan News reports:
Mongolian Hakuho has defeated compatriot Harumafuji to win his 13th Emperor's Cup at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

The Japan Times reports:
Hakuho was widely expected to win the championship here in the absence of former yokozuna Asashoryu, who recently retired amid claims he assaulted a man during a alcohol-fueled rampage in Tokyo in January.

The Jakarta Globe also has a report.

hpeterswald has posted videos, including this one from the final day:

The photo at the top of the post is from Wikipedia.

Suggested Reading for Protestant Mysticism and Contemplative Spirituality

The Website of Unknowing has a short list they describe as "several books to read with an eye to how Christians from the Anglican and Reformed traditions have explored the call to go deeper into the Christian spiritual life.":
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis
Practical Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill
Mystical Hope by Cynthia Bourgeault
Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Hind’s Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard

Ones I've read are in bold print. The one I haven't read is the only one with an author still living.

Back in Black

Back in Black is a 1980 song by rock band AC/DC:

AC/DC - Back In Black
Uploaded by hushhush112. Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

This song is on the list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann

Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann, which I have never heard of before, is a 1982 science fiction film. It's a time travel film, which may be my least favorite sub-genre. It has Ed Lauter (Star Trek: TNG).

You can watch it via Hulu:

I haven't been able to make it through this one.

Moria says, "Timerider is a slight time travel affair. It’s not particularly great or even what one might call good, but it has a certain amiability." Other reviews are hard to come by.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Li'l Film Fest 13: Beware the Sivads of March

This edition of the Li'l Film Fest has been themed to be part of the Sivad festival at the Brooks Museum. Que Sera, Sivad, directed by GB Shannon, won both the Jury award and the Audience Choice Award. It was one of my two favorites and I did end up voting for it, but I had another favorite in Dead End, directed by Dennis Pullen.

The banner at the top of the post comes from

There's a recap of the entire festival here, where John Beifuss says:
People keep asking: Will we do it again? Can my nerves take it? As I said, semi-jokingly: "Thirty years as a newsman, perfect health; three months of Sivad planning, bleeding ulcers..."
I hope they do it again.

I Was a Teenage Werewolf

I saw I Was a Teenage Werewolf as part of the Sivads of March film festival at the Brooks Museum. I hadn't seen it before. It's a 1957 horror film starring Michael Landon (not a big draw for me) and Whit Bissell (who was a Time Tunnel regular; was in The Time Machine, Soylent Green, The Magnificent Seven, The Caine Mutiny, The Lost Continent; and has an original series Star Trek connection). Whit Bissell I like.

"Help me, doctor, please!"


1,000 Misspent Hours says it "hasn’t aged particularly well," which is an understatement, and concludes,
Were it not for Dr. Brandon, a far more active agent of evil, the movie would have had nothing at all to threaten its characters with. The mistakes aren’t severe enough to be lethal, but they still take an awful lot out of the film.
Moria doesn't seem to want to recognize how bad this movie is, giving it 3 stars while saying,
I Was a Teenage Werewolf is not particularly great or even that good a film, but it does carry a good deal of anger. The title concept makes for an amazingly powerful metaphor and that alone carries the film.

The Men Who Stare at Goats

I watched The Men Who Stare at Goats with a group of young adults last night. I thought it was funny and laughed throughout, but I was one of the few who got caught up in it. It's a 2009 film starring George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges and Kevin Spacey. As I think back I'm having trouble recalling a single woman with a speaking part.


Roger Ebert says it's funny and gives it 3 1/2 stars. Moria says, "It’s not an unenjoyable and unfunny film by any means; it’s just one feels that it could have been more." Rolling Stone gives it 3 out of 4 stars. The New York Times calls it a "likable, lightweight, absurdist comedy". Variety says, "this is upscale liberal movie-making with a populist touch, in Coen brothers style." It gets a 53% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ludwig van Beethoven

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1827 of Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the first composers I learned about. The cause of his death remains in dispute. I had a doll named Ludwig van Beethoven. I was a strange child.

Moonlight Sonata:

Ninth Symphony in 2 parts:
part 1

part 2

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Conversion

I heard about indie Memphis film The Conversion recently, and I enjoyed yesterday's outing so much I decided to do a repeat to see it. The Conversion is a 2009 science fiction film. The team that made it has a web site. I noticed Helen Bowman in the film I saw yesterday, and seeing her again here -even though it's a much smaller role- was a treat. Donald Meyers also repeats from that film. The film has a Facebook page. There are clips on their youtube channel, including this teaser:
The Revolution will NOT be televised.

When the television switchover goes horribly awry, the nation plunges into digital darkness.
and this preview: tells some history of the film:
Last night, a funny thing happened. Corduroy Wednesday won the 2009 Best Hometowner Feature at this years festival. This makes their feature film, "The Conversion", award winning. Why is that funny? Well, cause it wasn't supposed to happen. "The Conversion" was just to follow the growing trend in Memphis and just be a web series.

Go Memphis says, "The satirical Philip K. Dick-esque plot involves government dupes, "cyber-terrorists" and "digital anarchists."" The Memphis Flyer reports that
Phillips and collaborators Erik Morrison and Benjamin Rednour financed The Conversion via a lucrative win (roughly $1,500) for their short film CottonBallLand at a recent installment of Live From Memphis' L'il Film Fest, a quarterly contest and showcase that has returned from hiatus to inspire and help develop local filmmakers. "That's what keeps us in practice," Phillips says of the L'il Film Fest, especially when we aren't working on a huge project."

Tolkien Reading Day

Today is Tolkien Reading Day. The Tolkien Society explains that the date was chosen because 3/25 is the anniversary of the fall of Sauron. The theme for this year is Tolkien's Seafarers -not one of the major themes I think of when I think of Tolkien, but then I've only read The Hobbit,The Trilogy and Tom Bombadil and a couple of shorter works, having mired up in The Silmarillion and never struggled all the way through.

Here's the last stanza from The Last Ship, the last poem in Tolkien's The Adventures of Tom Bombadil:
Year still after year flows
+++down the Seven Rivers;
cloud passes, sunlight glows,
+++reed and willow quivers
at morn and eve, but never more
+++westward ships have waded
in mortal waters as before,
+++and their song has faded.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cigarette Girl

I had heard a bit of local buzz about indie Memphis film Cigarette Girl and wanted to see it. I couldn't find anybody free to go when I was, so I went by myself this afternoon. It's playing for one week at Studio on the Square. Cigarette Girl is a 2009 science fiction film directed by Mike McCarthy. D'Army Baily is in this. There's a Facebook page.

The trailer does not do it justice:

A short interview with the director:

Variety says, "noir pastiche "Cigarette Girl" is a hot low-budget mess, but fun" and "Pic could smoke out slots at edgier fests." The Daily Docket is a fan. The Commercial Appeal says it's "the first feature film in almost a decade from Mike McCarthy, Memphis' most tireless, distinctive and committed filmmaker." Go Memphis says, ""Cigarette Girl" seems poised to be the director's most disciplined and accessible project to date." The Memphis Flyer opens with a Jean-Luc Godard quote and says, "Cigarette Girl is a different kind of film for Mississippi native McCarthy, a comic book artist turned filmmaker who built a worldwide underground reputation in the '90s as a purveyor of '50s- and '60s-style "exploitation cinema"...". The Brooks Museum review says,
McCarthy has been making underground films since the early 90’s, but says, “After years of being underground or independent or whatever you call it, I think it’s important that more people see this film than any of my other movies.”

6/27/2010: Quiet Earth has a review. They didn't like it.

Death Rides a Horse

Death Rides a Horse is a 1967 spaghetti western (released in the US in 1969) starring Lee Van Cleef, John Phillip Law, Mario Brega, Luigi Pistilli and Anthony Dawson. The music is by Ennio Morricone. I'd rather have subtitles; the dubbing is clumsy. Lee Van Cleef is a treasure, as always.

via Youtube:

DVD Talk says, "Death Rides a Horse is one of the genre's most highly regarded films." Fistful of Pasta says, "this is a great spaghetti westerns. Don't miss it." Roger Ebert gives it one lone star but opens his review with this: "It's hard to explain the fun to be found in seeing the right kind of bad movie." has an extensive summary and advice on choosing a DVD release to buy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Chinese Oxymoron

The Chinese Oxymoron is a mystery novel by Veronica S. Pierce. It was passed on to me by a friend who liked it, and I also liked it. A quick read, it was fun with a variety of characters. The author was born in Memphis, TN, according to the dust jacket. A cursory online search didn't gain me much about this mystery series, the author or this particular book.

also from the dust jacket:
For the reader who loves puzzles, word games, and high-speed chases, suspense, intrigue and never-say-die heroines:

The tall Miss Minikin Small has just inherited a townhouse in Manhattan when a man is murdered in her foyer. Suddenly she's plunged into the middle of an international intrigue that has her dashing through the streets of New York, carrying a priceless del Gesu violin and pursued by hit men and foreign spies. The traditional dilemma of sorting out the good guys and the bad guys becomes a choice between the "bad good guys" and the "good bad guys" in this lighthearted encounter with the forces of darkness.

Veronica S. Pierce writes with flair and a dash of humor to prove her thesis that "things are best perceived by contrast." The contrast is inherent in the oxymoron, and in human character as well.

The photo at the top of the post is from


In honor of William Shatner's birthday yesterday:

Incubus is a 1965 black and white horror film directed by Leslie Stevens (creator of The Outer Limits) and starring Shatner and Milos Milos (The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming). It is the second of only two movies ever filmed in Esperanto and is the first film to be released with subtitles in the language of its country of origin.

Part 1:

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

Moria calls it "a rather terrible and dull film" and says, "the representation of evil is rather laughably banal". DVDTalk begins by saying, "Everything about this picture is haunted and strange, from the way it was shot to the fates of its actors." Images Journal has some positive things to say:
Darkly powerful images run throughout the film, no small thanks to the stunning camera work by ... award-winning cinematographers.
Several of the performers shine despite the language barrier. ... However Shatner comes off as the most accomplished performer. He inhabits Marc with an easy grace, capturing both his light heart and nobility with a subtle performance...
but also notes:
Any discussion of Incubus would be incomplete without touching upon some of the bad luck (some would say the "curse") that has plagued the film for over thirty years.

It gets a 63% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Shatner and Kirk

William Shatner and James Kirk share a birthday! I think Shatner should get 2 cakes today.

The pictures are from Wikipedia.

The Letter

The Letter is a 1967 song by The Box Tops, a Memphis rock band. Alex Chilton, lead singer, died last week.

This song is on the list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Alex Chilton obits:
The Commercial Appeal
NPR here and here and here
Wall Street Journal
Vanity Fair
BBC News here and here
The Atlantic
USA Today
The Guardian
Rolling Stone
Huffington Post
The Mirror
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art
I Love Memphis
Memphis Flyer here and here
Daily Helmsman
The Memphis Flyer describes how much Chilton hated Memphis and describes a man who doesn't seem at all a nice person -talented, even visionary perhaps, but rude. But then, I don't much care about the private lives and personal characteristics of famous or notorious people. They also have a link to information on a memorial to be held Tuesday, March 30th.
Steve Cohen:

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Connected is a 2009 post-apocalyptic short film directed by Jens Raunkjær Christensen and Jonas Drotner Mouritsen. There is a Facebook group, which describes the short as "a sci-fi western".

from the directors' web sites:
Set in the distant future, Connected is a story about survival and greed with a post apocalyptic wasteland as its backdrop. Survivors of an unknown disaster shuffle through a desolated landscape, as it quickly becomes clear that not everybody has the strength to survive.

Quiet Earth calls it "stunning". /film says it "makes the most of what I assume to be a fairly low budget."

HT: The Zeray Gazette

World Poetry Day

In honor of World Poetry Day I offer a composition -in the Harry Graham Little Willie tradition- from my youth:
Willie, who had naught to lose,
Threw away his brand new shoes.
Mother, who was not all sweet,
Nailed his next ones to his feet.

Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, a collection by Graham:

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Daffodils at the Botanic Gardens

I spent the afternoon with The Husband at the Botanic Gardens, and, although we walked over most of the garden, we focused on the Daffodils. The weather was beautiful, with a few clouds and temps in the upper 60's.

What American Accent Do You Have?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Northeast

Judging by how you talk you are probably from north Jersey, New York City, Connecticut or Rhode Island. Chances are, if you are from New York City (and not those other places) people would probably be able to tell if they actually heard you speak.

The Inland North
The Midland
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

But, but, but... I'm a Southern girl, born and bred! I can see I need to practice my magnolia drip a bit, so as not to embarrass folks in public soundin' like a furriner.

HT: Alpha Patriot

Friday, March 19, 2010

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines came out in 2003 and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger. The Younger Son narrowed the choices down to 2, and The Husband picked this one. It's surprising how little happens considering how busy it is.


Moria gives it 1 star and says, " One strains to think of even a single thing about it that does work." Roger Ebert says it "abandons its own tradition to provide wall-to-wall action in what is essentially one long chase and fight, punctuated by comic, campy or simplistic dialogue" and "is dumbed down for the multiplex hordes." Variety likes it:
"T3" delivers the goods. A hard-hitting, straight-ahead sci-fi actioner
this long-awaited return of Arnold Schwarzenegger's most famous character serves up nothing more and, crucially, nothing less than it intends to.

Rolling Stone calls it "a potent popcorn movie that digs in its hooks and doesn't let go until an ending that ODs on apocalyptic hoo-ha." The New York Times says, "''Terminator 3'' is essentially a B movie, content to be loud, dumb and obvious, and to leave the Great Ideas to bona fide public intellectuals like Keanu Reeves and the Hulk." It's got a 70% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Monet to Matisse

A friend and I went to see the Monet to Matisse exhibit at the Dixon this afternoon. The site says:
re-discover the Dixon's outstanding permanent collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century French paintings. ... Monet to Matisse takes a closer look at some of the Dixon's most beloved paintings and their provenance.

It was good to see some of the paintings I hadn't seen in a while. We also went through the conservatory.

The photo of Dancer Adjusting Her Slipper by Degas at the top of the post is from and is one of my friend's favorites in this exhibit.

R.I.P. Fess Parker

Fess Parker has died. He was 85. I was a huge fan of Daniel Boone when I was little. I've seen him in Them!, which can be viewed online.

SFScope: "His genre roles include: Harvey (1950), Them! (1954), and a cameo audio appearance (he's heard in the background, singing the Davy Crockett theme "King of the Wild Frontier") in Back to the Future..."
CNN: "Parker is survived by his wife of 50 years, Marcella, their son and daughter, 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild who "spent a great deal of time with Fess in his final months and weeks," the statement said."
MSNBC: "His death comes on the 84th birthday of his wife of 50 years, Marcella. “She’s a wreck,” Anash said, adding Parker was coherent and speaking with family just minutes before his death."
USA Today
Monkey Mind

There's an interview covering his life online at youtube in 7 parts. part 1:

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

Theme song to the Davy Crockett show:


Glasshouse is a 2006 science fiction novel by Charles Stross.

There are cultural references I liked. For example: 1) there is a vorpal blade; 2) They say, "Be seeing you," several times, and there's a sign that says, "Welcome to the Village"; 3) The Hitler quote, rendered "Who now remembers the Armenians?" and "Who still talks nowadays about the Armenians?" appears. There are several more.

from the dust jacket:
When Robin wakes up in a clinic with most of his memories missing, it doesn't take him long to discover that someone's trying to kill him. It's the twenty-seventh century, when interstellar travel is by teleport gate and conflicts are fought by network worms that censor refugees' personalities and target historians.

On the run from a ruthless pursuer and searching for a place to hide, he volunteers to participate in a unique experimental polity, the Glasshouse, constructed to simulate a preaccelerated culture. Participants are assigned anonymized identities: it looks like the ideal hiding place for a posthuman on the run. But in this escape-proof environment, Robin will undergo an even more radical change, placing him at the mercy of the experimenters - and at the mercy of his own unbalanced psyche.

SFSignal calls it "a very fine science fiction novel" and says it "is one of the best books I've read this year." SFReviews describes it as "a cracking thriller with a fine satirical edge that slices into the concept of paranoid surveillance societies". The late Emerald City has points to make about the way gender issues are handled. Strange Horizons, where spoilers abound, has a mixed review and much to say on the gender issues, closing with this:
The novel's physical world-building is fun, and for those looking for that kind of fun, Glasshouse will be a pleasure to read. But for those who want a narrative with a well thought-out world exploring interesting questions about gender-socialization, identity, and memory, Glasshouse will be a frustrating read occasionally relieved by the momentary play of ingenious SFnal devices.

I have also read his Accelerando, which takes place in the same universe.

The picture at the top of the post is from Amazon.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Murray Hill, Inc. for Congress

Yes, it's for real:
“Until now,” Murray Hill Inc. said in a statement, “corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence peddling to achieve their goals in Washington. But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves.”
“We want to get in on the ground floor of the democracy market before the whole store is bought by China.”

from the campaign site:
Until now, corporations only influenced politics with high-paid lobbyists and backroom deals. But today, thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, corporations now have all the rights the founding fathers meant for us. It was their dream to build the best democracy money can buy.

There is a Facebook page. They sell related materials with the "Corporations are people, too. -SCOTUS" slogan. Franchise opportunities are available:
“Our goal is to create a truly national movement to call attention to the Supreme Court's ruling establishing the rights of corporate persons and what that means for everyone in our country,” Murray Hill Inc. said in a statement.

The Orange Juice Party

Scared of the Tea Party? Bored with the Coffee Party? Join the Orange Juice Party!
The rhetoric we are going to spew is fresher and has more pulp than those nut jobs in the Tea and Coffee parties

HT: The Husband

Wagons East

Wagons East is a 1994 Western/comedy starring John Candy, who died during filming.

Hulu has it online:

Roger Ebert says it may be Candy's worst film and says it's "one of the least amusing comedies I've ever seen". Variety calls it a "woeful outing". The New York Times calls it "a dimwitted comedy that ... takes all the wrong turns." Entertainment Weekly pans it. Time Out describes it as a "no-brains comedy" that is able to "hit the mark once or twice". Rotten Tomatoes doesn't record a single positive review, giving it a 0% rating.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Without Warning

Without Warning is a 1980 science fiction/horror film starring Jack Palance, Martin Landau and David Caruso. Cameron Mitchell is in this, too, and I have a soft spot in my heart for him because I loved his character on The High Chaparral. It also has Larry Storch (from F Troop).

DVD Talk says,
Without Warning may not be a lost masterpiece but it is a really entertaining low budget horror picture that makes the most of its effects set pieces and a few notable cast members. If it takes a little while to get going, the last half makes up for that calls it "a decent film worth really checking out". Moria says that it's "the top-billed Jack Palance and especially Martin Landau who give Without Warning its watchable life".

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beware the Ides of March!

Beware the Ides of March, particularly if you're Caesar.

from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene II:
Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music,
Cry 'Caesar!' Speak; Caesar is turn'd to hear.

Beware the ides of March.

What man is that?

A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Set him before me; let me see his face.

Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.

What say'st thou to me now? speak once again.

Beware the ides of March.

He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.

The picture at the top of the post is of Cesar sa mort by Vincenzo Camuccini.

Baby Please Don't Go

Big Joe Williams recorded Baby Please Don't Go in 1935. I don't know when the video is from:

Williams died in 1982 at 79 years old. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame 10 years later. This song is on the list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. I'm more familiar with later versions.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

R.I.P. Peter Graves

Peter Graves, age 83, has died. I have blog posts on these 3 of his Science Fiction appearances:

Red Planet Mars (1952)
Killers from Space (1954)
It Conquered the World (1956)

HT: SciFiWire: "Peter Graves, best known as Jim Phelps on the television program Mission: Impossible, was found dead Sunday."

New York Times: "He died of a heart attack at his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., said Fred Barman, his business manager."

CNN: "Graves had been in good health and was celebrating 60 years of marriage and 60 years in the entertainment business. He was still pursuing work when he died, the publicist said."

EW: "He appeared in golden-age Hollywood classics like 1953’s Stalag 17 and 1955’s Night of the Hunter as well as a host of genre movies through the years, lending an air of seriousness to even the most trivial roles."

Variety: "Born Peter Aurness in Minneapolis, Graves entered showbiz at an early age -- he was a radio announcer at age 16."

BBC: ""He had this statesmanlike quality," publicist Brokaw told AP news agency. "People were always encouraging him to run for office. But he said: 'I like acting. I like being around actors."'"

Edward Copeland on Film, who notes that "Among his survivors is his older brother, actor James Arness."

E Online
Fore Left!
Banana Winds
WTF Film
Emulsion Compulsion

"To Hell with all the bloggers."

That's a direct quote from our former mayor and current candidate for Congress as quoted in the Commercial Appeal:
"To Hell with all the bloggers."
All the bloggers? Everywhere? How sad. But, from the look of the blogosphere, I'll have plenty of company in Hell.

Special Bulletin

Special Bulletin is a 1983 made-for-tv mockumentary film about nuclear terrorism. I think of it as a science fiction film, but that's arguable. I remember this from when it first aired, and I was not nearly as impressed with it as I was Threads, though it was better received by others.

Googlevideo has it online:

DVDTalk calls it "One of the best and most unique television dramas of the 1980s". AMC and MSN have overviews.

Pi Day

Today (3.14) is Pi Day. 1:59 will be Pi Minute, making it 3.14159. Pi Second will be 3/14,1:59:26. Don't worry if you missed it; you can always observe Pi Approximation Day on July 22. Pi Day has an official site. Last year there was a Facebook event, but I don't see such a thing for this year's observance. There's a Facebook group. The Exploratorium is having its 22nd annual celebration of the day. They have a link to a celebration in Second Life. There are some suitable song lyrics here. You might want to tell some jokes, like
  • Question: What do you get when you take the sun and divide its circumference by its diameter?

  • Answer: Pi in the sky by and by.
Congress even took some time away from its busy schedule to declare it officially:
Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) supports the designation of a `Pi Day' and its celebration around the world;

(2) recognizes the continuing importance of National Science Foundation's math and science education programs; and

(3) encourages schools and educators to observe the day with appropriate activities that teach students about Pi and engage them about the study of mathematics.

But let's not talk about the Bible saying that pi=3, ok?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Coffee Party

All I'm gonna say is that, if that's your idea of a party, I'm sure not interested in a more solemn event. Whew! Such long, serious faces. But, then, we were just curious and couldn't get close enough to hear, so there may well have been sad news to share or grim tidings to deal with. If there had been chairs to sit in... but they seemed to all be taken. Or if we could have stood close enough to hear... but the speakers seemed to be talking to specific people in conversation and were certainly not speaking in a way that we could make out what was being said. I guess they wanted a smaller, perhaps more intimate, group for serious discussion and not a larger forum. At any rate, Otherlands is our usual meeting place for Saturday coffee, so we enjoyed ourselves even though we're no clearer now than we were this morning on what the local "Coffee Party" folks have in mind.

We got to Otherlands about 2:30 and were still there when the Coffee Party broke up about 4:15.

3/18/2010: The Flyer has video of part of it and a report announcing the next meeting.

general Facebook page
Tennessee's Facebook page
Memphis Facebook Event page

The picture at the top of the post is the one I see on the CoffeePartyUSA web site, and I got it from the Tennessee Facebook page linked above.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Wild Bunch

The Wild Bunch is a 1969 Sam Peckinpah Western starring William Holden and Ernest Borgnine. Also starring are Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Strother Martin and L.Q. Jones. We found it a bit long but enjoyed it despite that.


Senses of Cinema says, "The Wild Bunch still remains unsurpassed as one of the great Westerns of the last century." Roger Ebert considers it one of his "great movies". Variety has a review that calls it "overlong". In a review from the time of its release the New York Times calls it "very beautiful and the first truly interesting American-made Western in years." Images Journal lists is as one of the 30 Great Westerns and says
Though many other Westerns have sided with "noble" outlaws, this film totally defies any typical definition of the genre, giving us outlaws and lawmen alike who demonstrate only casual awareness of any "Code of the West." starts its article with a discussion of the violence: an age inured to graphic screen violence and gore, the violence of The Wild Bunch is still remarkably provocative and disturbing. This is partially because the violence is not gratuitous, as some have claimed, but central to the film's vision of human experience: it posits a world in which degrees of violence provide the only standards, and violent death the only liberation. If it is a world not predicated entirely on human evil, it is one at least in which there is very little good or hope for change. It seems clear today that what many people object to in Peckinpah's extravagant depiction of violence in The Wild Bunch is actually his dark view of human nature.

It has a rating of 97% at Rotten Tomatoes.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Use of Weapons

Use of Weapons is the third novel in the Culture series by Iain M. Banks. I'm grateful there are so many of these books. I am so enjoying getting to know them.

from the back of the book:
Cheradenine Zakalwe is an agent of Special Circumstances, the elite weapon of the Culture's policy of moral espionage. Zazkalwe has meddled in the destinies of countries, races, entire planets - with everything from military action to plain old dirty tricks.

Finally he's been thrust into the fray on the losing side one too many times, and he chooses early retirement. Yet when Special Circumstances suddenly decides that they want him back, they never anticipate that regaining the burned-out agent will all rest on the power to manipulate his one fatal flaw.

Steven Wu calls it "a compulsively readable book, and a great deal of fun." has a review describing it as "probably the consensus choice among Banks' readers as his best SF novel."

The picture at the top of the post is from

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Resistant Tasmanian Devils

Good news! It turns out there are regional genetic differences, and some Tasmanian Devils may be resistant to the devastating Devil Facial Tumour Disease.

from The Brisbane Times:
Some devils from the northwest of the state are genetically different from their peers and potentially resistant to cancer, the study has found.

from The Australian:
“If this proves to be correct, then genetic rescue programs are likely to be detrimental,” the scientists conclude. Instead, they say it may be better to focus on isolating and protecting the lucky 20% of devils in the northwest of Tasmania.

Sydney Morning Herald says,
The research opens the door to possibly breeding the more resistant devils in captivity before releasing them into the wild.

Tasmania Examiner:
University of Sydney Associate Professor Kathy Belov said the identification of a small number of genetically different devils in the North-West population opened exciting new research opportunities.

The image at the top of the post is from Wikipedia.

3/20/2010: Scientific American:
Nearly 70 percent of the world's Tasmanian devils ... have been killed in the past 10 years by an infectious cancer called devil facial tumor disease.... So far, no cure has been found, and the disease has spread to almost every corner of the remote island off the southeastern coast of Australia, the only place on Earth where they live in the wild. But now...

Randy Rides Alone

Randy Rides Alone is a 1934 Western starring John Wayne, Alberta Vaughn, Gabby Hayes, Yakima Canutt, Earl Dwire and Artie Ortega. Harry L. Fraser directs. It's less than an hour long. John Wayne is Randy riding alone at first, but he's Randy getting the girl at last.

The Internet Archive has this online:

TCM has an overview.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead is George Romero's 1978 sequel to his classic zombie movie Night of the Living Dead.

Roger Ebert gives it 4 stars and says, ""Dawn of the Dead" is one of the best horror films ever made -- and, as an inescapable result, one of the most horrifying." 1000 Misspent Hours praises it but finds fault with the zombies: "Because it’s next to impossible to fear something and pity it at the same time, these zombies can’t pack the same punch as the ones in Night of the Living Dead." Moria says,
Dawn of the Dead is about questioning the values that the survivors are trying to fight for. And as such Romero has construed Dawn of the Dead as a remarkable metaphor for the numbing effects of materialism and the complacency of consumer society.
Slant Magazine closes with this:
As countless undergrad thesis papers have already delved into in far greater detail, the cumulative effect of these thematic reversals points to Romero's big message: that if the often bleak '60s of Night were defined by their radical political activism, then the insipidly optimistic '70s of Dawn are a testament to the politics of retrenchment, consumerist balm and self-immobilization..... but Dawn's most unsettling aspect is in how it shows us how little we've changed as a culture.
The New York Times reviewer left after 15 minutes, because he has a problem with zombies: "I have a pet peeve about flesh-eating zombies who never stop snacking. Accordingly, I was able to sit through only the first fifteen minutes..." Sheesh. Variety pans it.

Monday, March 08, 2010

August Heat

August Heat is 10th in Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Montalbano mystery series. I am so glad I came across these. I have enjoyed each one so far.

from the back of the book:
When a colleague extends his summer vacation, Inspector Salvo Montalbano is forced to stay in Vigàta and endure the August heat. Montalbano's long-suffering girlfriend, Livia, joins him with a friend —husband and young son in tow— to keep her company during these dog days of summer. But when the boy suddenly disappears into a narrow shaft hidden under the family's beach rental, Montalbano, in pursuit of the child, uncovers something terribly sinister. As the inspector spends the summer trying to solve this perplexing case, Livia refuses to answer his calls, leaving Montalbano to take a plunge that will affect the rest of his life.

Fans of the Sicilian inspector as well as readers new to this increasingly popular series will enjoy following the melancholy but unflinchingly moral Montalbano as he undertakes one of the most shocking investigations of his career.

I've read these:

1. The Shape of Water
2. The Terra-Cotta Dog
5. Excursion to Tindari
6. The Smell of Night
9. The Paper Moon

The picture at the top of the post came from