Friday, April 30, 2010

Must-See SF Films from the 50's

Classic Sci-Fi Movies has suggestions for must-see 50's science fiction films. I'll link to my posts if I have them:
1. When Worlds Collide ('51)
2. Day the Earth Stood Still ('51)
3. War of the Worlds ('53)
4. Creature from the Black Lagoon ('54)
5. Gojira (54)
6. Them! ('54)
7. Invasion of the Body Snatchers ('56)
8. Forbidden Planet ('56)
9. The Blob ('58)
10. Time Machine ('60)

10 Best SF Detective Novels

io9 has an annotated list of the "Top 10 Greatest Science Fiction Detective Novels Of All Time":
A Philosophical Investigation by Philip Kerr
The Retrieval Artist novels by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger
Tea From An Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan
The Automatic Detective by A. Lee Martinez
Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem
Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
The Caves Of Steel by Isaac Asimov

The only one of these I've read is in bold print. The author lists more in an "Other notable titles" section, but I've read none of those. Yet another sub-genre of which I'm woefully ignorant.

While you're over at io9, measure the speed of light using chocolate and a microwave oven and find the answer to the question "What's the expanding universe expanding into?"

The Anachronism

The Anachronism is a 2008 steampunk science fiction short film written and directed by Matthew Long. It won 7 Leo Awards. There is an official site. There is a Facebook page, which sets up the film this way: "On a sun-dappled summer day a science expedition propels two children towards an enigmatic encounter at the edge of their known world."

The Anachronism (Full Film) from Anachronism Pictures on Vimeo.

This film makes me ashamed of mothers everywhere.

HT: No Fat Clips

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Murder! is a 1930 Alfred Hitchcock film starring Herbert Marshall. Also in this are Donald Calthrop, who played Cratchett in the Seymour Hicks Scrooge, and Una O'Connor in her first film.

Watch it online:

Variety praises the writing and the acting. DVDTalk likes it and says, "The Hitchcock Touch is here in force, from humorous bits of business to clever play with technique." TCM has an overview. gives it a rating of 100%.

Blackmail (1929)

Blackmail is a 1929 Alfred Hitchcock film. says,
Hitchcock's last silent film, Blackmail was also his first sound effort—and one of the first British "talkies" as well. A resounding popular and critical success, Blackmail prefigures some of the director's most famous themes and demonstrates techniques for which he would be noted.

It started out as a silent film and was converted to sound during filming. Both silent and sound versions are available, the silent version being released because most British theaters at the time weren't equipped for sound. The Chief Inspector is played by a different actor in the sound version than in the silent. The sound version is embedded below::

Variety says it "is most draggy" and "has no speed or pace and very little suspense." The New York Times says in a review from the time of its release, "Altogether, one gathers the impression that "Blackmail" may possibly not make such a strong appeal to the general public as it deserves to because of its artistic qualities." TCM has an overview. The British Film Institute has an article on the silent/sound filming and an overview and some video clips. The BFI says,
Blackmail displays many of the stylistic elements and themes with which Hitchcock would come to be associated: particularly a fascination with male sexual aggression and female vulnerability.
Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 89%.

Alfred Hitchcock

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1980 of Alfred Hitchcock. The Museum of Modern Art has an exhibition which includes a lengthy 1963 interview with Hitchcock. Senses of Cinema has a long, foot-noted article. The BBC has excerpts from audio interviews. PBS devotes part of its American Masters site to him. Images Journal has several articles. Bright Lights Film Journal has photos highlighting Hitchcock's recurring themes. has an article and extensive resource lists. BFI has a print interview from 1967. takes a contrarian view, saying he "may be the prime example of a film legend whose reputation has come to overpower any realistic view of his work." There's a big Alfred Hitchcock Facebook page. There's a list of his cameo appearances in his films here.

FilmStudiesForFree has embedded a 1973 6-part video interview with Tom Snyder and Hitchcock. Hulu has full episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

I have blog posts on the following Hitchcock films, many of which are viewable online:

Blackmail (1929)
Murder! (1930)
Number Seventeen (1932)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
The 39 Steps (1935)
Secret Agent (1936)
Sabotage (1936)
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
Jamaica Inn (1939)
Rebecca (1940)
Shadow of a Doubt (1944)
Lifeboat (1944)
Notorious (1946)
Under Capricorn (1949)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Psycho (1960)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Who does this sound like?

If you guessed someone receiving the perfect back scratch, you guessed right!

It's Snuffles, the dog from the Quick Draw McGraw Show, just in case you happen not to recognize this particular relic from cartoon history. It was on tv in the early 1960's and in re-runs through the mid-60's.

Guards! Guards!

"There are many horrible sights in the multiverse. Somehow, though, to a soul attuned to the subtle rhythms of a library, there are few worse sights than a hole where a book ought to be." (p. 88)

This is the 2nd book in a row I've read that contains the word "widdershins". Now what are the odds of that, I wonder. Guards! Guards! is the 8th book in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Death makes a few appearances. This is one of my favorites so far.

from the back of the book:
Here there be dragons...and the denizens of Ankh-Morpork wish one huge firebreather would return from whence it came. Long believed extinct, a superb specimen of draco nobilis ("noble dragon" for those who don't understand italics) had appeared in Discworld's greatest city. Not only does unwelcome visitor have a nasty habit of charbroiling everything in its path, in rather short order it is crowned king (it's a noble dragon after all)

Meanwhile, back at Unseen University, an ancient and long-forgotten volume -The Summoning of Dragons- is missing from the library's shelves. To the rescue come Captain Vimes,Constable Carrot, and the rest of the Night Watch who, along with other brave citizens, risk everything, including a good roasting, to dethrone the flying monarch and restore order to Ankh-Morpork (before it's burned to a crisp). A rare tale, well done as only Terry Pratchett can. says it is "as enjoyable a Discworld opus as most any of the others, and an important volume in the series' evolution from "silly and diverting" to "silly, diverting, stone brilliant, and on everybody's reading list."" SFSignal suggests it as a good entry point for the series.

I have read these other books from this series:
The Color of Magic
The Light Fantastic
Equal Rites
Wyrd Sisters

Border Caballero

Border Caballero is a 1936 Western directed by Sam Newfield and starring Tim McCoy.

Internet Archive has it online:

TCM has an overview.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Alexander Scriabin

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1915 of composer Alexander Scriabin. There is a Scriabin Society of America and a Facebook page. ubuweb has audio for download and an interesting article that closes with this:
To today's listener, Scriabin still touches nerves of esthetic beauty. Both consciously and unconsciously he explored the furtherest reaches of musical possibility. He was one of the strangest phenomena that ever existed in music, and he returns to us again and again.

Ashkenazy plays the Black Mass Sonata:

Horowitz plays Sonata no. 10:

More here, including a 1910 recording of Scriabin playing his own Patetico Etude in D# minor.

The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy

The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy is a 1957 Mexican horror/sff movie. IMDB offers this: "See the relentless machine battle the gruesome corpse". K. Gordon Murray produced the English language version. The first 45 minutes or so is told as a flashback, narrated by the main character. The robot and the mummy don't meet until the final couple of minutes.

It opens with this:
How far can the human mind penetrate the mysteries of the great beyond? Who knows? This picture is based upon an extraordinary experiment carried out by Drs. Hughes and Tooney of the University of Los Angeles. There is no doubt as to its authenticity. Testimony of people participating in the experiment sworn to by notary public preclude the possibility of any fraud. This picture is a combination of factual data mixed with fiction.

TCM has an overview.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Earthquake Weather

Earthquake Weather is the 3rd book in the Fault Lines trilogy by Tim Powers. I had some trouble getting through this one. A lot of things seemed to happen for me to have found it so slow, but maybe it's because it seemed to me that there were a lot of the same kinds of things happening. I have read the other 2 in this series: Last Call and Expiration Date. This is by far my least favorite of the three.

from the back of the book:
A young woman possessed by a ghost has slain the Fisher King of the West, Scott Crane. Now, temporarily freed from that malevolent spirit, she seeks to restore the King to life.

But Crane's body has been taken to the magically protected home of Pete and Angelica Sullivan, and their adopted son, Koot Hoomie. Kootie is destined to be the next Fisher king, but he is only thirteen years old--too young, his mother thinks, to perform the rituals to assume the Kingship. But not too young, perhaps, to assist in reuniting Scott Crane's body and spirit, and restoring him to life.

Dave Langford's review says, "Once again I'm awed by Powers's ability to stitch together a syncretic modern myth from fragments old and new." SFSite says, "Earthquake Weather is full of the action, suspense, twists, supernatural and home-baked magic Powers fans crave. And it's got a climax that'll make your head spin."

Cthulhu Bobblehead

You, too, can have your very own:

Pre-order one now for $12.99 for delivery in September.
From the sunken city of R'lyeh to your home, the terrifying beast known as Cthulhu is one of the Great Old Ones...and he wants a place on your shelf! Stands approximately 6-inches tall. Order yours today!

I want to put him in my car where bobble heads belong.

HT: Horror Squad

Be My Baby

Be My Baby is a 1963 Ronettes song:

Phil Spector was one of the writers. 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, April 25, 2010

The Raven

The Raven is a science fiction short film directed by Ricardo de Montreuil. There's a Facebook page.

from their promotional material:
Chris Black possesses a power that could lead to the destruction of the current regime, and they will stop at nothing to destroy him. The chase is on as Chris runs for his life in this sci-fi thriller set in an alternate and futuristic Los Angeles.

SciFiWire says,
The movie, first posted by Latino Review, comes from Peruvian director Ricardo De Montreuil and had a budget of just $5,000. The website reports that studios have already inquired with Montreuil's representatives about expanding it into a feature film.

HT: /film


Fard is a 2009 French language science fiction short film from David Alapont and Luis Briceno. Understanding the French isn't necessary to an appreciation of the film.

You can watch it at vimeo or on youtube:

Cartoon Brew says, "If the new Heavy Metal feature contains material like this I’ll be very happy - but I won’t hold my breath." SandboxWorld says it "explores the future of fabricated lives and those entwined in that fantasy and the few rebelling against it."

HT: SFSignal

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Greatest SF Book Series

Popcrunch has an annotated list of "19 of the Greatest Science Fiction Book Series":
1. The Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov
2. Ringworld by Larry Niven
3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
4. Dune by Frank Herbert
5. Michael Moorecock’s Multiverse
6. The Sprawl Trilogy by William Gibson
7. The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
8. Riverworld by Philip José Farmer
9. The Culture Cycle by Iain M. Banks
10. Lensman by Edward Elmer “Doc” Smith
11. Seafort Saga by David Feintuch
12. Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons
13. The Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson (These are in my tbr stack.)
14. Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell
15. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (I've read the first one and have another in the tbr stack.)
16. Barsoom by Edgar Rice Burroughs
17. Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
18 Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
19. The Odyssey Series by Arthur C. Clarke

I've read more than one of the ones in bold print. I'd gladly read any of them again except for the Pern books. I loved them back in the day, but they ruined dragons for me. I can't bring myself to read a book now if it has a dragon on the cover.

Who has seen the wind?

Nobody, so it's hard to take a picture of it:

The sun is out and warm and the storms are over, but I don't recall a day this windy in a long time.

Hey There Cthulhu

HT: SFSignal

Friday, April 23, 2010


Every Friday night -well, most Friday nights- The Husband makes pizza for supper as he has done since the kids were little. He makes the crust from scratch, and he usually makes a beef or sausage pizza. The Daughter and I prefer veggie pizzas, so I often put veggie toppings on one of them. The pizza pictured above is from tonight and is 1/2 ground chuck with mozzarella and 1/2 fresh tomato and broccoli with feta.

How to Steal a Million

How to Steal a Million is a comedy with a happy ending which was given to The Husband, who loves such things, by The Younger Son. This 1966 film is directed by William Wyler and stars Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Eli Wallach, Hugh Griffith, Charles Boyer and Jacques Marin.

Here's the first part:

The New York Times praises it and says, "Cheers all around for everybody". EW has a mixed review, though they like the actual heist scene. DVDTalk says it "just misses, though not for lack of talent or effort" and says, "though it's no worse than painless, passable entertainment, it also leaves you wanting more." It get a 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Way Down East

Way Down East is a 1920 silent film directed by D.W. Griffith and starring Lilian Gish, Richard Barthelmess, Creighton Hale and Emily Fitzroy.

Just for some context, in 1920, my Mother turned 2 years old; Prohibition began; Joan of Arc was canonized; the 19th Amendment passed giving women the right to vote; Woodrow Wilson was president; WW1 had ended just 2 years before; the following books were published: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, Bridal Wreath -the first volume of Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavranstatter trilogy; Henri Matisse was 50 years old; Babe Ruth signed with the New York Yankees; the Black Sox Scandal; the Olympic flag was used for the first time; the Band-Aid was invented; the ACLU was founded; Polar explorer Robert E. Peary died at age 63; the first radio broadcasting station went on the air.

It's online at youtube in 15 parts. I can't imagine why I can't find this in one piece somewhere. It must be in the public domain. [moderating a spam comment led me back to this post, and as I did a quick google search I found the film online at youtube and am adding it below.]

Variety says, "D.W. has taken a simple, elemental, old-fashioned, bucolic melodrama and milked it for 12 reels of absorbing entertainment." Eyewitness History has information on the making of the film. Bright Lights has an article that says,
Way Down East is a supreme example of a film's "opening up" of a play, accomplished with uncommonly fluid results in its use of open air, rural settings. None of the outdoor work appears gratuitous or forced, as is so often the result, even today, of reimagining a play outside its proscenium-defined settings. What's more, in Griffith's bucolic epic the landscape, and how the director contextualizes the characters within it, becomes part and parcel of the drama itself. Schickel argues powerfully that the rural settings in Way Down East constitute an emotional landscape that completes "a dramatic and moral arc."

This film is listed in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Aldo Leopold

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1948 of ecologist Aldo Leopold. The Aldo Leopold Foundation offers a virtual tour of the Leopold Center. The Leopold Education Project (LEP) has as their mission "to create an ecologically literate citizenry so that each individual might develop a personal land ethic." Here's a video on the LEP:

He is perhaps best known now for A Sand County Almanac. The book was published posthumously. Eco Watch has a page on Leopold which includes some quotations from this book:
"The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals; or collectively: the land. ... In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it."

"Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land"

"Recreational development is a job not of building roads into lovely country, but of building receptivity into the still unlovely human mind."

The New York Times describes it as "still an innovative book, a mix of field notes, meditations and a naturalist’s credo." Yes Magazine has a review, which notes that
The book was little noticed until 20 years later, during the environmental awakening of the 1970s, when a paperback edition turned into a surprise bestseller. Now, 50 years later, the book is high on the most-beloved list of environmentalists...

Cripple Creek Bar-Room Scene

Cripple Creek Bar-Room Scene is an 1899 Edison short film. IMDB provides this description:
Shows the tap room of the "Miners' Arms," a stout lady at the bar, and three men playing cards. Old toper with a silk hat asleep by the stove. Rough miner enters, barmaid serves him with Red Eye Whiskey and he proceeds to clean out the place. Barmaid takes a hand with a siphon of vichy, and bounces the intruder, with the help of the card players, who line up before the bar and take numerous drinks on the house. Written by Edison Catalog

Wild West Web describes it as "the first "western"". Weird Wild Realm describes the set and says, "It's considered a historical moment for the nascent cinema, however, in establishing the western saloon setting for oh so many future westerns".

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

MoMA Paintings

All the paintings in the Museum of Modern Art on 4/10/2010 in a 2-minute slide show:

But it's actually painful to have them go by so fast! Like having lots of delicious dishes passed in front of you one at a time without being allowed to taste any of them.

HT: Progressive Involvement

Food Blogging

Food Blogging seems all the rage these days, and I see lots of blogs with great photos of exotic, tasty, pretty or regional must-try dishes. When I decided to pick up some fast food for The Younger Son (and me, too) as a quick supper break from his studies, I couldn't resist taking a picture:


Not exotic, not especially tasty, not pretty and certainly not regional. I feel so inadequate!!! I did suggest Chinese, but he wasn't having it.


Begotten is a 1991 horror film directed by E. Elias Merhige. This is not my thing at all. I'd suggest reading the plot summary at the Wikipedia entry and then deciding if you want to watch the experimentation for its own sake. That part was interesting -but like I said, not my thing. It's just over 80 minutes long.

The New York Times calls it "considerably less intoxicating in effect than it is in theory" and says, "The experience of watching "Begotten" can best be characterized as intense." The Spinning Image concludes, "You have to admire Merhige for sticking to his guns and giving up nothing that would be seen as accomodating, but my goodness, it's tedious." Rotten Tomatoes links to reviews both pro and con.

Weird Wild Realm has an article on one of Merhige's later films that says,
Director E. Elias Merhige's tedious experimental film Begotten (1991) has horrific images & some symbolic crap conveying the brutality of creation, in the main a very lame film with more pretentions than art, though it does show the extremes Merhige might be willing to go for imagery.
366 Weird Movies says,
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: A minimalist, mythic narrative of grotesque, ritualized suffering enshrouded in astonishing abstract avant-garde visuals and a hypnotic ambient soundtrack. Love it, hate it, or admire the technique while criticizing the intent—everyone admits there is nothing else quite like it in our cinematic universe.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Planet of the Apes

Planet of the Apes is a 1968 science fiction film starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, James Whitmore and James Daly (who has an original series Star Trek connection).

You can watch it online courtesy of The Cinemated Man:

Moria calls it "an extremely well made film" and says it "was one of the biggest science-fiction successes in the period before Star Wars". 1000 Misspent Hours gives it 3 stars. Roger Ebert says it "is much better than I expected it to be. It is quickly paced, completely entertaining, and its philosophical pretensions don't get in the way." Variety calls it "amazing". says it is
a dreadful film, a compendium of clumsy dialogue, one-dimensional characters, risible plot turns and long silences broken by incomprehensible meaningful looks. But it has stayed with us because in conception, if not execution, the film had something to say.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Cost of the Iraq War

The Cost of War tells how much we're paying:

HT: Bill Moyers Journal

Tulips at the Dixon

We realized we had waited too long to see the tulips in their full glory, but I had wanted to go anyway and The Daughter went with me this morning. The tulips were a bit sad, but some were still left. The Dixon planted 20,000 tulips for a special exhibition this year:
In addition to 35 varieties of hybrid tulips and 16 species tulips, which grow naturally in the wild, we have planted hundreds of camassia and allium bulbs. All 14 divisions, or types, of tulips will be represented

It was a pleasant day to walk through the garden, though cooler than it has been and cloudy. The Memphis Garden Club was having their big show, so there were lots of people there today.

The pictures I've seen have been beautiful. There are some at the Dixon's Facebook page. The Memphis Flyer has an article but no pictures. The Commercial Appeal has one photo and an article by the Dixon's director of horticulture.

William Hope Hodgson

Today is the approximate anniversary of the death at Ypres in WWI in 1918 of sff/horror author William Hope Hodgson. There are some links to information about his life and works here. Victorian Web has resources. There are links to his works online here.

His most famous work is the novel The House on the Borderland, published in 1908 and available online here and here. You can listen to it at Librivox. Clark Ashton Smith called it "probably the most sustained and least faulty of Hodgson's volumes" and said,
it would be impossible to withhold the rank of master from an author who has achieved so authoritatively, in volume after volume, a quality that one might term the realism of the unreal.

H.P. Lovecraft's essay on Supernatural Horror in Literature says,
Mr. Hodgson is perhaps second only to Algernon Blackwood in his serious treatment of unreality. Few can equal him in adumbrating the nearness of nameless forces and monstrous besieging entities through casual hints and insignificant details, or in conveying feelings of the spectral and the abnormal in connection with regions or buildings.

Hodgson was also a noted body builder and ran a school of "physical culture" when a young man. He appeared on stage with Houdini in response to Houdini's challenge to anyone who could bind him so he couldn't escape. PBS reports the event as part of their Houdini timeline at their American Experience site. Hodgson succeeded in the task but angered Houdini in the process.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dogwood Flower Rain

It's been raining Dogwood flowers on our patio:

and that added to the pleasure of a leisurely lunch out there this afternoon. The nesting sparrows next door are sweet, too. It's been such a lovely spring!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jean Genet

Today is the anniversary of the death in of Jean Genet. Wikipedia describes him as a "French novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and political activist." has a short biography.

He also directed one movie, the 1950 film short Un Chant d'Amour. has it online here. It contains full male nudity, just so you know.

Senses of Cinema says,
Apparently made for the private porn collections of wealthy French gays, and later disowned by an embarrassed Genet ... Un chant d'amour (1950) was banned from public exhibition in France upon its initial release, and has won only sporadic screenings since, often in censored form.
it holds its own today as one of the wisest and truest gay films: most others look stupid by comparison.

Slant Magazine says,
Genet's overpowering 1950 short is a milestone not just of gay rebellion but also of pure sensual expression in film, a polemical vision of desire forged with the provocateur's randy ardor and the artist's spiritual directness.
A revolutionary vision of emancipation through sensuality, Un Chant d'Amour is a song of love both universal and eternal.

DVDTalk describes it as "an effective film, albeit a tad clumsy and pretentious" and says it "a progressive and interesting experiment worth the time one is willing to put into it."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Bounty Man

The Bounty Man is a 1972 made-for-tv Western movie starring Clint Walker, Richard Basehart, John Ericson, Margot Kidder, Arthur Hunnicutt and Rex Holman (who has Star Trek connections, one of which was from the original series).

You can watch it via youtube:

Reviews are hard to find.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Violets on the Patio

I have always liked violets, so when one volunteered on the patio a couple of years ago I rejoiced. The violet likes it here and has made itself right at home, spreading all over the place. It's nice when something I like does so well.

Spider Baby

Spider Baby is a 1964 Lon Chaney black comedy/horror film I learned about from a post on Final Girl's blog. Jack Hill directed. Sid Haig (who has an original series Star Trek connection) and Beverly Washburn (who also has an original series Star Trek connection) also star.

Moria says, "the film is a whacked-out dive into dementia. It could be described as an Addams Family played seriously." 1000 Misspent Hours says,
What makes Jack Hill’s movies such a joy is that no matter how grim and horrid the subject matter becomes, he almost always retains a sense of warped humor about it, yet no matter how goofy and campy things get, he also invariably keeps his cutting edge. Spider Baby is among the blackest of black comedies...

Images Journal praises the acting and calls it "one of the great low-budget horror/comedies." Slant Magazine says, "it's unclassifiable, which has amplified its cult appeal." DVDTalk calls it "a creative and affectionate nod to chiller films, produced on a shoestring yet fashioned with care and imagination."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Top Ten Super-Solo-Unsequelled-Standalone Fantasy Novels

Tansyrr has a list of favorite stand-alone fantasy novels:
Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean
The Time of the Ghost, by Diana Wynne Jones
Shadows Fall, by Simon R Green
Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan
Deerskin, by Robin McKinley
Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Trash Sex Magic, by Jennifer Stevenson
Tooth and Claw, by Jo Walton
The Anvil of the World, by Kage Baker
Olympic Games, by Leslie What

Ones I've read are in bold print. Sad, huh. I know I don't read as much fantasy, but I haven't even heard of most of these.

Ball 'N' Chain

Ball 'N' Chain is a blues song by Big Mama Thornton, sung here in 1984 in her last concert:

She died of a heart attack in 1984, the same year was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, when she was 57 years old. 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, April 11, 2010

Dancing on the Moon

Dancing on the Moon is a 1935 Fleischer Studios Color Classics cartoon.

"Honeymoon Express to the Moon" rocket takes animal couples on the trip of a lifetime:
Dancing on the moon with you in my arms.
Far away from all the crowds, up above the silvery clouds.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Life With Father

Life With Father is a 1947 comedy directed by Michael Curtiz and starring William Powell, Irene Dunne, Elizabeth Taylor, Edmund Gwenn, ZaSu Pitts, Martin Milner, Monte Blue and Clara Blandick.

Watch it online from Internet Archive:

The New York Times opens with this: "A round-robin of praise is immediately in order for all those, and they were many indeed, who assisted in filming "Life With Father."" TCM has an overview.

The Kennel Murder Case

The Kennel Murder Case is a 1933 Michael Curtiz film based on the novel with the same name. It stars William Powell, Mary Astor, Eugene Pallette and Ralph Morgan.

The Internet Archive has this online:

at about 28 minutes in: "I'm a doctor, not a magician."

and then at about 28:55: "I'm a doctor, not a detective."

and at about 59:10 the doctor says, "I'm the city butcher, not a detective."

The New York Times has a positive review, as do Variety and Time Out. TCM has an overview.

Santa Fe Trail

Santa Fe Trail is a 1940 Michael Curtiz Western film starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Raymond Massey, Ronald Reagan, Alan Hale, Sr., Van Heflin and Gene Reynolds.

TimeOut London says it's "spectacular enough to warrant a look, if only to see Reagan playing Custer. Now that was inspired casting." Variety calls it "a thrilling saga of hard bitten US army officers' fight to wipe out John Brown's marauding crew". The New York Times says, "We aren't saying that it lacks what is known as mass appeal.... Yet for any one who has the slightest regard for the spirit—not to mention the facts—of American history, it will prove exceedingly annoying." TCM has an overview.

Michael Curtiz

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1962 of film director Michael Curtiz. His first film was in 1912 and his last in 1961. begins their overview of his career by saying, "The films of Michael Curtiz have come to symbolize Warner Brothers Studios of the 1930s and 1940s. Curtiz directed many favorites from that era..."

I have blog posts on the following of his films:

The Kennel Murder Case (1933)
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Santa Fe Trail (1940)
The Sea Hawk (1940)
Casablanca (1942)
Passage to Marseille (1944)
Life With Father (1947)
We're No Angels (1955)
King Creole (1958)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

It's not Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, but the new movie is a lot of fun. I saw it tonight with a group of young adults, and the ones who actually watched it enjoyed it. Directed by Guy Ritchie, it stars Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.


Variety opens with this:
If you can get over the idea of Sherlock Holmes as an action hero -and if, indeed, you want to- then there is something to enjoy about this flagrant makeover of fiction's first modern detective into a man of brawn as much as brain.

Roger Ebert gives it 3 stars and begins by saying, "The less I thought about Sherlock Holmes, the more I liked "Sherlock Holmes."" says it "is entertaining in a glossy, mindless way". The Guardian calls the film "high-end hack work" and "a hollow attempt at modernisation" that "quickly grows dull" and says,
Sherlock Holmes baffles in all the wrong ways. Is it a cool satire on Victorian seriousness? A thriller? A comedy? At least in the past Ritchie knew what he was making, even it wasn't always much good.

The New York Times says, "The new Holmes is rougher, more emotionally multilayered, more inclined to run with his clothing askew, covered in bruises and smudges of dirt and blood," although I have to wonder from their review here whether the reviewer has ever bothered actually reading any of the original stories.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Laura Nyro

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1997 of singer/songwriter/pianist Laura Nyro. I discovered her when I was in college in the mid-70's and spent many hours listening to LPs and cassette tapes of her wonderful voice. It was hard to lose her so young.

She has a Facebook page. Her official homepage has information about her life and work. Here's her American National Biography page. Salon's obituary calls her "this exotic, erratic, original talent." Rolling Stone has an obit that opens with this:
Laura Nyro, one of the most important female singer/songwriters of the '60s and '70s, died Tuesday at her Danbury, Conn., home at the age of 49 due to complications from ovarian cancer.

My Political Leanings

According to an internet quiz:

My Political Views
I am a far-left social libertarian
Left: 7.74, Libertarian: 4.27

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: -6.68

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Culture War Stance
Score: -7.69

Political Spectrum Quiz

HT: The Daily Docket

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


from Newsweek:
"I never considered myself a maverick," he told me.

from youtube comes a bit of contradictory evidence:

Not that it's anything to me whether you're a "maverick" or not, but were you lying then or is your memory shot now? Are there other options here I'm not seeing?

HT: Talking Points Memo

Broken Arrow

Broken Arrow is a 1950 Western film directed by Delmar Daves and starring Jimmy Stewart, Jeff Chandler, Debra Paget, Will Geer and Jay Silverheels (in an uncredited role).

You can watch it at youtube in parts that should autoplay from here:

The Western Review says it "has aged gracefully in its treatment of race relations where so many of its contemporaries appear (their other merits aside) offensively grizzled." Variety calls it "an appealing, sentimental Indian romance, with plenty of action." The New York Times has a review from 1950 that says, "one might wonder from this exhibit ... whether it isn't the white man, not the Indian, who should be regarded as "good" only when he is dead." TCM and MSN have overviews.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

R.I.P. Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller has died. I see the news at that "Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation, has died from pancreatic cancer at 64." I read her autobiography Mankiller: a Chief and Her People the year after it came out in 1999, and it is still on my book shelf.

CNN: "Mankiller served 10 years as principal chief of the Cherokee, the second-largest U.S. tribe, and became its first freely elected leader in 1987."
Cherokee Phoenix quotes Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation: "We are better people and a stronger tribal nation because her example of Cherokee leadership, statesmanship, humility, grace, determination and decisiveness."
Religion Dispatches

Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster

Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster is a 1964 film and 5th in the Toho Godzilla series. It was released in the US in 1965.

Moria calls it "the best of the 1960s Godzilla sequels." Slant Magazine says, "it's through this simple morality play that Ghidorah accrues much of its charm—not to mention its delirious wrestling match antics." 1,000 Misspent Hours opens with this:
It’s well known that Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster/... marks a major turning point in the history of the Godzilla series. This, after all, is the movie in which Godzilla first becomes a good guy. But Ghidrah marks the beginning of a new era in other ways, too. Most noticeably, it is here that we see the first appearance in the series of the sort of wildly imaginative monster designs for which the Japanese would later become famous.

Million Monkey Theater says,
There are two camps--those who find this film a true classic of the original Godzilla series, and those who absolutely loathe it as being the beginning of the end for the evil antagonistic Godzilla we had all come to know and love.

The New York Times closes by saying,
This fascination, on the part of contemporary Japanese film makers, with the destruction of their land by fantastic, prehistoric forces only 20 years after Hiroshima, might be of interest to social historians. The film, otherwise, is strictly for the comic book set.

WTF Film has a recent long post that concludes:
This is a Godzilla movie that’s got a little something for everybody. It’s a monster movie, it’s an action film, it’s an adventure film, it’s a spy film, it’s a movie about coming togetherness. And no matter how you like your Godzilla—mean and serious or funny and heroic—he’s here for you. If you haven’t seen this one, what are you doing reading this? Go out there and grab it!

Monday, April 05, 2010

10 Greatest Apocalyptic Novels Of All Time

Brainz claims these fit the bill:
World War Z
The Road
The Postman
Oryx and Crake
A Canticle for Leibowitz
Alas, Babylon
Lucifer's Hammer
Swan Song
On the Beach
Z for Zachariah
I Am Legend

He obviously can't count. I've read the ones in bold print.

HT: SFSignal

Best Science Fiction Series

Ian Sales has posted his list of the Best Science Fiction Series:
1 The Culture, Iain M Banks (I've read the first three.)
2 RGB Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson (I've only read the first one.)
3 Hainish Cycle, Ursula K Le Guin (I've read 3 of these.)
4 Dune, Frank Herbert (I've read the first 4 of them.)
5 Revelation Space, Alastair Reynolds (I still haven't made it through the first one.)
6 Eight Worlds, John Varley (I haven't read any from this series.)
7 The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe (I have read all of these.)
8 Jurisdiction universe, Susan R Matthews (I'd never heasrd of these before.)
9 Alliance-Union, CJ Cherryh (I've read several of these books.)
10 Dumarest Saga, EC Tubb (I don't think I've read any of these.)

His annotations defend his choices.

HT: SFSignal

You Can't Win For Losing

You Can't Win For Losing by West Tennessee-born Arthur Adams:

It's on his Stomp the Floor album. I heard it over the weekend on WEVL, "the Mid-South's only listener-supported, independent, volunteer radio station".

I learned the phrase "cain't win for losin'" at an early age.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Sunrise Service

I went to the Easter Sunrise Service at the Botanic Garden this morning. I had never been to one of the Easter sunrise services that are held at secular locations around town and didn't know what to expect, but it turned out to be a fairly typical Protestant sunrise service. It was hosted solely by Second Presbyterian Church, which surprised me, since their name was nowhere mentioned on the sign advertising the event. After all, if I'd wanted to go to 2nd Pres I would have.

It was quite crowded. I got there in what should have been plenty of time, only to find the line of cars waiting to get in stretched out of the gardens and onto the city street. There were way more people than chairs. I wonder how many of the people present were members of the host church. The members were encouraged to leave seats for guests and to allow guests to get to the food first (Family Hold Back, they were told), so, although I went to this because I didn't think I would feel like a visitor at someone else's church, I ended up feeling like a visitor anyway. We were invited several times to come to 2nd Presbyterian Church. It did feel to me like they were having their sunrise service at the Botanic Garden and welcoming the community members who joined them there. This is from their web site:
Easter Sunday at Second

He is risen, indeed! The Memphis Sunrise Service at Memphis Botanic Gardens begins at 6:30am. Services at Second Presbyterian will be held in the Sanctuary at 8am, 9:30am and 11:00am.

The hymns were "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High," "Up From the Grave He Arose" and "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today". Words were printed in the bulletin, but it was assumed we knew the melodies. There were 2 responsive readings, a Gospel reading, one prayer led by the man at the front (I couldn't see the speaker and couldn't tell if he was the same one who later preached), a greeting, a sermon and a benediction. There was a prelude and a postlude. All the worship leaders were male. No attempt was made to be gender neutral in the language.

All in all, this was no different and no more open than just visiting some random church's worship service, which really surprised me. And, to be honest, I didn't expect an event for the community held at a secular facility owned by the City of Memphis to be run by such a conservative group; or for such an event held in a facility that is a member of the American Public Gardens Association (which supports "education, research and plant conservation") to be run by anti-evolution creationists. But, like I say, I'd never been to any similar services so didn't know what to expect. The only other one I know of is at Memorial Park Cemetery, and, because they are a private company, I had thought they would tend to host a more conservative gathering. That would hardly have been possible.

Happy Easter!

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. (Luke 24: 1-12)

but the Easter lily is deadly to cats:
Easter lilies (Lilium Iongiflorum), other species of the genus Lilium (Tiger lily, rubrum lily, Japanese show lily, Asiatic hybrid lily), some species of daylilies (Hemerocallis spp), and possibly other species of the family Liliaceae are highly toxic to cats. Ingestion can lead to kidney damage. All parts of the plant are considered toxic, and intoxication can occur with ingestion of less than one leaf. To date, the toxic component has not been determined.