Monday, May 31, 2010

William Castle

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1977 of film director William Castle. He's best known for his "gimmicky" promotions, for example, taking out insurance policies against the possibility of someone dying of fright during his film Macabre. He has a Facebook page. The Guardian calls him "the godfather of interactive cinema." The only one of his films that I have a blog post on is Mr. Sardonicus. I haven't seen any of his other works, but I'm sure I'll get around to them.

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

I'm not sure how, but I completely skipped the 9th book in this series. I'll rectify that soon. Tea Time for the Traditionally Built is the 10th book in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. I have read books from some of the other series by this author and have not liked them at all, but I get a big kick out of these.

from the back of the book:
In this latest installment in the endlessly entertaining series, Precious Ramotswe faces problems both personal and professional.

The first is the potential demise of an old friend, her tiny white van. Recently, it has developed a rather troubling knock, but she dare not consult the estimable Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni for fear he may condemn the vehicle. Meanwhile, her talented assistant Mma Makutsi is plagued by the reappearance of her nemesis, Violet Sephotho, who has taken a job at the Double Comfort Furniture store whose proprietor is none other than Phuti Radiphuti, Mma Makutsi’s fiancé. Finally, the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has been hired to explain the unexpected losing streak of a local football club, the Kalahari Swoopers. But with Mma Ramotswe on the case, it seems certain that everything will be resolved satisfactorily

I've read these others from this series:

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Kalahari Typing School for Men
The Full Cupboard of Life
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Blue Shoes and Happiness
The Good Husband from Zebra Drive

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Breathdeath is a 1963 Stan VanDerBeek short film:

You can watch it online at ubuweb or here:

The Underground Film Guide describes it as "A surrealistic fantasy based on the 15th century woodcuts of the dance of the dead." HT: Cartoon Brew

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Tribble of Your Very Own has easy illustrated instructions for making your little playmate, but they exclude that prolific procreative ability.

I'm hesitant to make one, because my bookshelves are already crowded with little items that go with the books and I don't have DVD shelving yet. They are cute, though.

HT: SciFi Squad

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

Friday, May 28, 2010

Iron Man 2

We watched this movie last night at the Paradiso theater, and I started to title this post The Paradiso Stinks but changed my mind. I'll be watching my movies in other theaters from now on, though.

Iron Man 2 (2010), obviously, is the sequel to Iron Man. This one substitutes Don Cheadle for Terrence Howard (I'd love to know the story behind that bit of weirdness) in that role and gives us Mickey Rourke as this film's villain. It was just the same as Iron Man, only less so. It was fun to watch but not as much fun as the first one.


Roger Ebert likes it and says, "You want a sequel, you got a sequel. "Iron Man 2," directed like the first one by Jon Favreau, gets the job done." Variety says, "isn't as much fun as its predecessor, but by the time the smoke clears, it'll do." Slant Magazine opens with this: "Upgraded with the latest CGI hardware but also more shoddy screenwriting software than its system can withstand, Iron Man 2 is an example of subtraction by addition." The New York Times says it "fulfills the basic requirements of the genre, which can be summed up as more of the same, with emphasis on more."

Thursday, May 27, 2010


These daylilies came from the backyard of the house where I grew up and bring back such happy memories when I see them in bloom on my patio now.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is a 2009 film directed by Terry Gilliam. It stars Christopher Plummer (Star Trek), Heath Ledger, Verne Troyer, Lily Cole, Andrew Garfield and Tom Waits and features Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. We started watching too late last night for The Husband to participate, but the rest of us enjoyed it.


Moria gives it 4 stars and much praise. Roger Ebert wants to like it, saying, "The best approach is to sit there and let it happen to you; see it in the moment..." Slant Magazine calls it "a galumphing bacchanal of illusionist clutter that's frequently unwieldy but rarely less than deeply felt." The Guardian says it's for Gilliam fans only and adds, "Despite the brilliant moments, there is a fundamental lack of dramatic traction here and the surrealism creates an inert flabbiness in its already chaotic story." The New York Times review talks a lot about Heath Ledger. NPR says it "isn't easy to follow, but it's fun to look at." Variety says Gilliam "has made a pretty good thing out of a very bad situation". Wired says the film "wobbles beneath the weight of its own shaggy-dog fairy tale." BBC reports, "The critics at Cannes loved it, but most cinema-goers would need to see it more than once to start untangling the multiple themes."

The Box Man

This short animated film is directed by Nirvan Mullick and is based on the novel The Box Man by Kobo Abe. I found the film quite disturbing:

HT: 366 Weird Movies

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Towel Day

Don't panic! Today is Towel Day, a day set aside in memory of Douglas Adams. I'd have carried my towel with me, but I had a medical procedure done and I didn't think my towel would be welcome. I had it close at hand for the rest of the day. There's a Facebook event.

from Adams' work The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as quoted at the Wikipedia Towel Day site:
A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very, very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Get Paid to Read

Peter Riley can't get his book published and is hoping the buzz from this contest will attract a publisher's interest. The book Universes can be read online for free. Starting in July, the author will award money to folks who correctly answer questions about it.

I've looked at the page he has set up for reader reviews, and he sounds a bit delicate to me. Now, I can be a bit delicate myself, so I'm not faulting him for that, but I wonder at the wisdom of providing open space on his site for reviews of his book if he's gonna critique the critiques. At one point, he criticizes the grammar and word choice of one the reviewers. He has what he calls a "rant" posted and offers this:
Just tone it down, folks. Write with an air of civility. Don’t give unsolicited advice, which is worth the money I didn’t pay for it. Try to be clearer in making your points, please.

These are the posting guidelines from the top of that page:
This is a place where you can express your views of the novel, Universes, or the novelette, 2084. Please read a substantial amount before contributing here, telling how much you have read. Please be careful to avoid "spoilers" that give away too much about the story. You can write up to 10,000 characters, or about 1,200 words. Literary controversy is fine, but please keep the discussion polite and intelligent.

He also says,
And no, thanks all the same, but I did not, and would not, ask for the evaluations of a group of other strivers. What are their qualifications? I didn’t ask my Aunt Harriet either. I didn’t discuss the work with friends, wanting no ill-informed, unqualified advice that might skew my labours.
I believe it is an excellent book, and this opinion, my own, in the end is the one that matters to me, as should be the case with every serious writer.

I wonder why, then, he solicits opinions.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Beat It

Beat It is a 1982 Michael Jackson song:

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

We like the Weird Al Eat It version even better than the original:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Project Puffin

Project Puffin brought the puffins back to Maine. According to a Smithsonian article:
Though puffins endured elsewhere in their historic range—the North Atlantic coasts of Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Britain—by the 1960s the puffin was all but forgotten in Maine.
“After 100 years of absence and nine years of working toward this goal,” Kress wrote in the [1981] island logbook that evening, “puffins are again nesting at Eastern Egg Rock—a Fourth of July celebration I’ll never forget.”

Project Puffin has a web page here, which includes information on the 5/28 Birdathon.


Excession is one of the novels from the Culture series by Iain M. Banks. I like these books and look forward to reading the rest of them. This is not my favorite from this series, though, and I even had some trouble keeping the characters straight. I have also read Consider Phlebas, The Player of Games, Use of Weapons and Look to Windward.

from the back of the book:
Diplomat Byr Genar-Hofoen has been selected by the Culture to undertake a delicate and dangerous mission. The Department of Special Circumstances - the Culture's espionage and dirty tricks section - has sent him off to investigate a 2,500-year-old mystery: the sudden disappearance of a star fifty times older than the universe itself. But in seeking the secret of the lost sun, Byr risks losing himself. There is only one way to break the silence of millennia: steal the soul of the long-dead starship captain who first encountered the star, and convince her to be reborn. And in accepting this mission, Byr will be swept into a vast conspiracy that could lead the universe into an age of peace... or to the brink of annihilation.

SFSite says it's "the most enjoyable Culture novel since Player of Games."

Azureus Rising

Azureus Rising is a 2010 science fiction short film directed by David Weinstein. It is
the proof of concept for an all new feature film trilogy. Azureus is the story of a young man who after escaping death and enduring a life changing journey - matures into a heroic freedom fighter.
Azureus Rising is an epic tale of self discovery, obligation and love against all odds.

Quiet Earth says it's "cliched but well done". SciFiSquad says it "is not a real film, but after watching this proof of concept footage, you will wish that it were."

HT: SFSignal

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Joe Kidd

We decided to add a second feature to our movie night last night. Joe Kidd is a 1972 Clint Eastwood Western directed by John Sturges. Robert Duvall, John Saxon, Gregory Walcott and Dick Van Patton are also here. Elmore Leonard wrote it. The music is by Lalo Schifrin.

Here's the first couple of minutes of it, since I can't find an embeddable trailer:

Roger Ebert gives it 2 stars. Variety says, "John Sturges' direction is sufficiently compelling to keep guns popping and bodies falling." The New York Times says it's "modestly decent ... almost until the climax".

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sukiyaki Western Django

Sukiyaki Western Django is a 2007 Japanese film done in the style of a Spaghetti Western. The Younger Son suggested it. I had never heard of it before. This has lots of blood, which The Husband was not happy with.


Slant Magazine says it's "it's nothing more than an occasionally clever bit of dispensable pastiche." Variety doesn't sound too favorably impressed. says it
is good fun, but constantly veering from violent melodrama to parody and back, the movie eventually becomes too much of a macaroni-pizza-pasta-spaghetti-chambara dish, too much at the same time to be anything in particular.

The New York Times calls it "a feast for genre fetishists, a loving and lurid pastiche of the spaghetti westerns that were themselves lurid pastiches of classic Hollywood cowboy pictures."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Island of Lost Souls

The Daughter sweetly agreed to come with me to the Brooks Art Museum's Reel To Real film series presentation of Island of Lost Souls. It had been a very long time since I'd seen this. According to host John Beifus, the film is not available on DVD and hasn't been shown much on TV through the years. His introduction was informative. [The film has since become available from Criterion.]

The Island of Lost Souls is a 1932 pre-code horror film starring Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi. It's based on The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, which can be read online here, among other places.

The Bloodshot Eye has some pictures and an article. Images Journal calls it "a masterpiece of '30s horror," says, "Laughton's performance is one of the great performances in the history of screen horror" and praises the "marvelous cinematography of Karl Struss" and "a wonderfully campy performance by Bela Lugosi". Brights Lights Film begs for a DVD release. Moria gives it 4 stars, praising the direction by Erle C. Kenton and discusses the sexual themes. 1000 Misspent Hours closes by praising Laughton, saying
Laughton seems to understand Moreau perfectly, and he plays him as a competent, sensible, clear-thinking man who just happens to have spent his life doing what the rest of the world would consider appalling and unspeakable things for absolutely no practical purpose. It’s an unsettling characterization, and it elevates Island of Lost Souls to a plateau that it might not otherwise have reached.

The New York Times review from the film's release says, "Although the attempt to horrify is not accomplished with any marked degree of subtlety, there is no denying that some of the scenes are ingenously fashioned and are, therefore, interesting."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day

May 20 is Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. Apparently, it's shocking and forbidden to depict Mohammed, except that the Muslims themselves have been doing it since at least the 1300s.

There's a Face book page in favor and another opposed. Actually there are scads of pages on both sides of this controversy. Pharyngula encourages participation. Exploring Our Matrix encourages respect.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Books to the ceiling...

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them. (by Arnold Lobel)

HT: The Website of Unknowing

Monday, May 17, 2010

Still Alice

Still Alice is the debut novel of Lisa Genova. I chose this book to read with a friend who has a particular interest in debut novels. It is currently popular with book clubs, so I thought it might lend itself well to discussion.

from the back cover:
Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life —and her relationship with her family and the world— forever.

AARP Magazine has a spoiler-filled summary and review. The Internet Review of Books says,
Lisa Genova’s debut novel, Still Alice, is both frightening and poignant. ... It isn’t a happy book, but in Genova’s capable hands it is a beautiful, often hopeful, one.

There's a Reading Group Guide here.

Sixteen Tons

I heard an interesting cover of Sixteen Tons on WEVL on The 1st Church of Rock show yesterday afternoon but didn't hear who the artist was. Here's the Eric Burdon version:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Another SFF Book Series List

Geeks Are Sexy (via SF Signal) has a list of 5 Epic Science Fiction Book Series to Read This Summer:
Saga of the Skolian Empire, by Catherine Asaro
The Night’s Dawn Trilogy, by Peter F. Hamilton
The Ender’s Game Series, by Orson Scott Card
The Dune Novels, by Frank Herbert (and progeny)
The Time Quartet, by Madeline L’Engle

Ones I've read some/most/all of are in bold print. Since that's all but one of these, this list doesn't help me much for the summer. My list of SF series book for the summer follows:
Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks. I picked up Excession the other day. I still need Inversions and Matter.

Galactic Center Saga, by Gregory Benford. I've read the first 4 of this 6-book series, but just never made it back around to finishing. I have the last 2 books, but now I'm wondering if I'll need to re-read the others or if I'll be able to jump back into it.

Takeshi Kovacs Series, by Richard Morgan. I don't have any of this trilogy yet -though I could've sworn I had Altered Carbon around here somewhere- so I'll just have to see how this goes.

I plan to begin the WWW series by Robert Sawyer. I have the first book in this trilogy, but the 2nd is only now out in hardback.

I'm not reading any of them now. Right now I'm reading a Walker Percy novel with Still Alice by Lisa Genova being up next. So many books...

The Adventures of Prince Achmed

The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a 1926 animated feature film by Lotte Reiniger. It features silhouette animation. Wikipedia says it's "the oldest surviving animated feature film". I think it's a joy to watch. I like her other work, also.

Watch it online at youtube without English subtitles, but it's an easy story to understand:

The Dancing Image has an article. Weird Wild Realm calls it "Truly a superb piece of animation".

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Prisoner

We finished The Prisoner tv series tonight. It stars Patrick McGoohan. Two of the 3 other actors that appear multiple times are Angelo Muscat, who plays The Butler and is in 14 episodes, and Leo McKern, who plays Number Two in 3 episodes. McKern is a particular favorite around here.

AMCTV has them online here. The first episode is here:

There is an official appreciation society here.

The Moviegoer

The Moviegoer is the first novel written by Southern author Walker Percy. It won the 1962 National Book Award. Time lists it as one of the all time great novels.

from the back of the book:
Binx Bolling is a small-time stockbroker who lives quietly in suburban New Orleans, pursuing an interest in the movies, affairs with his secretaries, and living out his days. But soon he finds himself on a "search" for something more important, something that will measure and mark and hold his life forever against the passage of time. And one fateful Mardi Gras week, he finds it in a way, and with a woman, he would never have expected....

The Southern Literary Review has an article. closes its review by saying,
The Moviegoer deserves its status as a modern classic because Percy does not spare “modernity.” Nearly fifty years after the publication of this book, the names of the movies and movie stars have changed, but Binx Bolling’s spiritual despair is all too familiar.

The New York Times says,
Nothing is stated; everything is implied. The reader gets fragments of meaning and occasional glimpses of deep-rooted causes. Yet so expertly are these fragments fitted together and these glimpses sustained that Binx and Kate grow steadily in character throughout the book.

Len Lye

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1980 of Len Lye. I discovered this artist when I participated in the Short Film Blogathon. has an article on Len Lye. ScreenOnline has a short bio and wonderful short studies of individual films. The Australian Center for the Moving Image has an online tour of their exhibition.

There is an overview of his film work at Senses of Cinema, which ends with this:
A cultural outsider with the determination, intuition and insight to move within several artistic and industrial circles simultaneously, Lye's films opened up space for an art of documentary and, alternately, the possibility of an accessible avant-garde. By inventing new ways of making films without a camera, expert knowledge or extensive equipment, he initiated a field of artisanal, self-sufficient screen practice that continues to grow and thrive. Importantly, his innovative modernist films reveal that experimental cinema can be a fun, ecstatic and pleasurable experience, self-rendering a cinema of limited means that is no less valuable.

Senses of Cinema also has an article on a talk Lye gave called The Absolute Truth of the Happiness Acid:
Happiness was important for Lye – he was essentially a happy person, and he worried that personal and international problems prevented others from sharing his attitude. When he developed his political/philosophical concept of 'Individual Happiness Now' in 1941 at the height of the war, he was hopeful that he could share 'the best in human experience' with others.

The New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre has numerous resources, including stills from his films, written works -both prose and poetry, and links. Art New Zealand has a series of articles here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here and a print interview here.

Lye also created kinetic sculptures and other works of art, some of which are pictured at The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, which "is home to the archives and studio collection of the Len Lye Foundation". Here is a photo of the Wind Wand taken from Get Down's Flickr page:

This is an excerpt from a documentary:

It includes Len Lye discussing and demonstrating his kinetic scultures.

I found some of his films available online.

Tusalava (1929):

A Colour Box (1935):

Rainbow Dance (1936):

Trade Tatoo (1937):

Colour Flight (1937):

N or NW (1938):

Swinging the Lambeth Walk (1940):

Rhythm (1957):

Free Radicals (1958):

Friday, May 14, 2010

High Plains Drifter

The Younger Son selected this one. High Plains Drifter is a 1973 Clint Eastwood Western. Also starring are Mitchell Ryan (who has a Star Trek: TNG connection), Stefan Gerasch (who also has a Star Trek: TNG connection), Billy Curtis and Anthony James (another Star Trek: TNG connection).


Variety calls it "a nervously-humorous, self-conscious near satire on the prototype Clint Eastwood formula of the avenging mysterious stranger." Time Magazine does not like it. The New York Times gives it a positive review, describing it as "quite entertaining in a way that may make you wonder if you have lost your good sense". Images Journal names it one of 30 great westerns. It gets a rating of 96% at

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Supper at Mosa

The Daughter and I had supper on the patio of Mosa Asian Bistro. Though I took my camera and planned to take a picture, I forgot. The only other time I'd been here was for lunch before they had a patio, and The Daughter had never been. The patio had several tables, some with umbrellas, and was a pleasant place to eat.

The food was good. The Daughter ordered the white rice with green beans and mild seasoning, and that's what she got. I ordered the brown Hunan rice with medium seasoning and got white rice mild. It was good, just not what I ordered. We thought the waiter might be new.

The photo above is from the Mosa Facebook page and was taken before they added the patio, which is now to the right as you look at the restaurant.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Backwards is a 2009 short film that won Best in Show at the ASIFA-East Animation Festival and other awards. It's directed by Aaron Hughes. I got a kick out of this and thought it quite clever.

HT: Cartoon Brew

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lester Flatt

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1979 of Lester Flatt, half of Flatt and Scruggs, and known to me from seeing them on the Grand Ole Opry on tv when I was little.

Here's Foggy Mountain Breakdown:

The Basque History of the World

The Basque History of the World is not so much a Basque history of the world as a history of the Basques from a Basque perspective. I've been interested in the Basque people since I first learned about their history, and this sympathetic book by Mark Kurlansky is fascinating.

from the back of the book:
Straddling a small corner of Spain and France in a land that is marked on no maps except their own, the Basques are a puzzling contradiction-they are Europe's oldest nation without ever having been a country. No one has ever been able to determine their origins, and even the Basques' language, Euskera-the most ancient in Europe-is related to none other on earth. For centuries, their influence has been felt in nearly every realm, from religion to sports to commerce. Even today, the Basques are enjoying what may be the most important cultural renaissance in their long existence.

Mark Kurlansky's passion for the Basque people and his exuberant eye for detail shine throughout this fascinating book. Like Cod, The Basque History of the World blends human stories with economic, political, literary, and culinary history into a rich and heroic tale.

The Smithsonian Magazine doesn't so much review the book as review the Basques. The New York Times calls the book "entertaining and instructive" but also spends most of its time reviewing Basque history rather than the book at hand. The Independent has an excerpt.

Blithe Spirit

Blithe Spirit is a 1945 ghost story/comedy directed by David Lean and starring Rex Harrison, Constance Cumings, Margaret Rutherford, Hugh Wakefield and Marie Ault. It's not as readily available singly. They seem to want you to spend $50+ to get it along with several other David Lean films in a box set I don't want.

Some of it is available online. part 1:

Blithe Spirit (Part 01) Meowsjr =^.^=

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 (deleted)

Moria gives it 3 stars and says, "the film is fairly much stolen by that grand old dame of the British theatre, Margaret Rutherford, who sweeps the whole show up with her daffy presence in the role of the medium." Variety praises the acting and the camera work.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Heartless: The Story of the Tinman

Heartless: The Story of the Tinman is a 2010 short film based on the character from The Wizard of Oz. Brandon McCormick directs. Music is by Nicholas Kirk.

Heartless: The Story of the Tinman from Brandon McCormick on Vimeo.

from Milk and Cookies

R.I.P. Frank Frazetta

Frank Frazetta has died. His paintings are what shaped my view of what fantasy should look like. I saw the first report at SandBoxWorld, but it looks like there are lots of reports. I'll post links to obits as I see them.

Cartoon Brew
SciFi Wire
The Vault of Horror
The Auteurs
Scared Silly

The Murder Room

The Murder Room is the 12th book in the P.D. James Adam Dalgliesh mystery series. This is a series I have enjoyed. I still think of Roy Marsden as I read, but that's ok.

from the dust jacket:
The Dupayne, a small private museum in London devoted to the interwar years 1919-1939, is in turmoil. The trustees -the three children of the museum founder, old Max Dupayne- are bitterly at odds over whether it should be closed. Then one of them is brutally murdered, and what seemed to be no more than a family dispute erupts into horror. For even as Commander Dalgliesh and his team investigate the first killing, a second corpse is discovered. Clearly, someone in the Dupayne is prepared to kill and kill again.

The case is fraught with danger and complications from the outset, not least because of the range of possible suspects -and victims. And still more sinister, the murders appear to echo the notorious crimes of the past featured in one of the musem's most popular galleries, the Murder Room.

For Dalgliesh, P.D. James's formidable detective, the search for the murderer poses an unexpected complication. After years of bachelorhood, he has embarked on a promising new relationship with Emma Lavenham -first introduced in Death in Holy Orders- which is at a critical stage. Yet his struggle to solve the Dupayne murders faces him with a frustrating dilemma: each new development distances him further from commitment to the woman he loves.

The Guardian has a review, as does The Independent. There is a reader guide here.

I have blog posts on these:

#2 A Mind to Murder
#5 The Black Tower
#7 A Taste for Death
#9 Original Sin

and An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, which features an appearance by Dalgliesh.

Short People and God's Song

I heard this on the radio this past week-end. Short People is a Randy Newman song:

He also did God's Song:

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Armadillos & Old Lace

A while back I came across 3 Kinky Friedman books in my favorite used book store, bought them all and read Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola. I liked that one but somehow am just now getting around to the next one. Armadillos & Old Lace, like the first one, features a character named Kinky Friedman. Also like the first one, this book just cries to be read aloud. I follow family members around quoting extensive passages, while they say, "Oh, yes, I remember the last time you read something by him." I laugh aloud while I'm reading and then hope someone comments on my laughter to give me an excuse to read that section to them. Delightful books, that's what they are. If you're not as lucky at the used book stores as I am, there's always, where this book is readily available.

from the back of the book:
Kinky Friedman is living proof that you can be a Texan, a New Yorker, a Jewish country and western singer and an amateur detective at the same time. But when New York City gets a little too full of murder and mayhem to suit him, Kinky heads for the fresh air of the Lone Star State - filtered of course, through his ever-present cigar. But something is rotten in the state of Texas too, and Kerrville's justice of the peace asks the Kinkster for his help. Four old ladies have died in the past few months, and though there's no apparent link, Judge Pat Knox is sure there's a connection. Before the case ends, Kinky will meet up with a rose growing survivalist, a swarm of angry bees, a swarm of eight year old buckaroos at his father's ranch and summer camp and, if he's not careful he may just meet up with his own untimely end.

The Los Angeles Times says,
what's best about "Armadillos" is Friedman's own struggle to make sense of the world around him, an effort that is sometimes boisterous and buffoonish, sometimes poignant and endearing. He's a cross between Holden Caulfield and Woody Allen, a Southern-fried Jew with an identity crisis as big as Texas and a heart to match.

Friedman has an online a cigar store and an associated official web site.

When It Will Be Silent

When It Will Be Silent is a science fiction short film written and directed by Don Sachar.

You can watch it at the film's site or here:

When it Will Be Silent (כשיהיה דומם) from Dan Sachar on Vimeo.

The Internet Movie Data Base page describes it as "The last day of a love tale in a morbid post apocalyptic world." Twitchfilm says, "it was shot in the no-man's land between Israel and Jordan, and it uses the barren region as an incredibly effective setting". There's a Facebook page. Quiet Earth calls it a "beautifully shot little story".

HT: The Zeray Gazette

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Buried Treasure SF Films

This list from the Classic Sci-Fi Movies blog is of 10 films, all but 1 from the '50's:
1. Red Planet Mars ('52)
2. It Came From Outer Space ('53)
3. Not of this earth ('57)
4. Kronos ('57)
5. X: The Unknown ('57)
6. Incredible Shrinking Man ('57)
7. Colossus of New York ('58)
8. The Mysterians ('59)
9. The 4D Man ('59)
10. Creation of the Humanoids ('62)

I've linked to my blog posts where I have them. I'll be looking for the others.

National Train Day

Today is National Train Day, and there's no observance of it where I live. We have an Amtrak station here, but they're ignoring Memphis except for a stop here at 10 last night on the way to a celebration in Chicago today.

But there's a celebration hosted over at Another Old Movie Blog that looks promising: Trains in the Movies. I found these lists of trains in film: this one is from the South Coast Railroad Museum; Trains Magazine has a list; Amtrak has a list of Top Train Movies.

In the public domain photo above, the bridge on the right is the Harahan Bridge.

The Hollow Man

The Hollow Man is a 1992 novel by Dan Simmons. This is violent beyond anything I've read in a long time.

from the back of the book:
Jeremy Bremen has a secret. All his life he's been cursed with the ability to read minds. He knows the secret thoughts, fears, and desires of others as if they were his own. For years, his wife, Gail, has served as a shield between Jeremy and the burden of this terrible knowledge. But Gail is dying, her mind ebbing slowly away, leaving him vulnerable to the chaotic flood of thought that threatens to sweep away his sanity.

Now Jeremy is on the run--from his mind, from his past, from himself--hoping to find peace in isolation. Instead he witnesses an act of brutality that propels him on a treacherous trek across a dark and dangerous America. From a fantasy theme park to the lair of a killer to a sterile hospital room in St. Louis, he follows a voice that is calling him to witness the stunning mystery at the heart of mortality.

I like this much less than Simmons' Hyperion Cantos.

Friday, May 07, 2010

9 Dragons

"Happy is the man who finds refuge in himself."

9 Dragons is the 2nd of 2 Michael Connelly books given to me by a friend. This one is 15th in the Harry Bosch series, and is much like the others. I've already read Trunk Music (#5), City of Bones (#8) and The Overlook (#13). I like it when a series I enjoy is consistent in its writing and characterization. There are several jazz music mentions, but the only two I noted are
  1. the Seven Steps to Heaven track from the Dear Miles album by Ron Carter, whom he calls "one of the most important bassists of the last 5 decades".
  2. a cd by Tomasz Stanko

from the dust jacket:
Fortune Liquors is a small shop in a tough South L.A. neighborhood, a store Bosch has known for years. The murder of John Li, the store's owner, hits Bosch hard, and he promises Li's family that he'll find the killer.

The world Bosch steps into next is unknown territory. He brings in a detective from the Asian Gang Unit for help with translation - not just of languages but also of the cultural norms and expectations that guided Li's life. He uncovers a link to a Hong Kong triad, a lethal and far-reaching crime ring that follows many immigrants to their new lives in the U.S.

And instantly his world explodes. The one good thing in Bosch's life, the person he holds most dear, is taken from him and Bosch travels to Hong Kong in an all-or-nothing bid to regain what he's lost. In a place known as Nine Dragons, as the city's Hungry Ghosts festival burns around him, Bosch puts aside everything he knows and risks everything he has in a desperate bid to outmatch the triad's ferocity.

Michael Connelly has quotes from reviews at his web site.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Overlook

A friend gave me a couple of books from this series by Michael Connelly, and they have made it to the top of the pile. I've already read Trunk Music (#5) and City of Bones (#8) from this same series and enjoyed them, and I also enjoyed The Overlook. It's #13 in the Harry Bosch series, and I can definitely see there would be an advantage in reading them in order. The woman I last saw as his wife is his ex-wife here.

Jazz music gets at least one mention in each of these books I've read, and the ones I remember in this book are
  1. jazz saxophonist Frank Morgan in a live performance in New York; and
  2. a Japanese import cd from bassist Ron Carter.

from the back of the book:
A body has been found on the overlook near Mulholland Drive. The victim, identified as Dr. Stanley Kent, has two bullet holes in the back of his head from what looks like an execution-style shooting. LAPD detective Harry Bosch is called out to investigate. It is the case he has been waiting for, his first since being recruited to the city's Homicide Special squad.

As soon as Bosch begins retracing Dr. Kent's steps, contradictions emerge. While Kent doesn't seem to have had ties to organized crime, he did have access to dangerous radioactive substances from just about every hospital in Los Angeles County. What begins as a routine homicide investigation opens up before Bosch into something much larger, more dangerous - and much more urgent.

Breaking in a new rookie partner and chasing his first fresh case in years, Bosch is soon in conflict not just with the LAPD brass but also with FBI hotshots who are convinced that the case is too important for the likes of the LAPD. Harry's onetime lover Rachel Walling is among the federal agents frantically working the case, making Bosch's job all the more complicated. Guarding one slim advantage, he relentlessly follows his own instincts, hoping they are still true enough to solve the crime - and to save all of Los Angeles from a deadly hazard.

There are some reviews re-printed at Michael Connelly's site.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Sparrow Serenade

They have a nest on the patio next door, and this sparrow makes noise from dawn 'til setting sun. I can't see the nest and don't know at what stage the eggs are, but I do know this bird keeps a close watch on us. That spot on the fence just under the downspout is his favorite perch.


Outliers is a 2010 short film. This site reports: "one of St. Ours' recent projects, a seven minute short called "Outliers," is an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival." They list Lucas Krost as the director. The 48 Hour Film Project has a web site that lists tour dates.


later: Quiet Earth says it "is a great short with darn effective use of editing. To boot, it’s a pretty nice looking short."

HT: The Litter Box

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Mr. Brooks

The Younger and Elder Sons were both home tonight, and The Elder Son picked a film he thought we might enjoy but that he knew The Husband and The Daughter would not like. Mr. Brooks is a 2007 psychological thriller starring Kevin Costner, William Hurt, Demi Moore and Dane Cook.


Variety calls it a "suspense thriller with a smirk". The New York Times calls it "A werewolf movie masquerading as a thriller" and says, "If it is not as sadistic as the “Saw” and “Hostel” movies, it is as malignant in its insistence on the omnipresence of evil." Of the director, the New Yorker says, "Evans will never be Hitchcock, but he produces enough pleasurable tension to send the plausibles into a frenzy of disapproval." DVDTalk concludes that it's
more about the psychology of a murderer - about a man with a healthy, well-balanced life who's quietly compelled to kill - rather than an excuse to string together a bunch of the usual thriller theatrics. Mr. Brooks isn't a great movie, no, but it's intriguing enough to be worth seeing at least once.
Slant Magazine gives it 1.5 stars and says,
Mr. Brooks is bad in countless fundamental ways—it's not thrilling, not incisive, not altogether coherent, and not particularly well shot—and yet there's nonetheless something cheesy-delicious about its lack of inhibition...

Look to Windward

Look to Windward is a book in the Culture series by Iain M. Banks. I do love this series, and I can't tell you how much I wish I had just bought the books as they came out instead of dilly-dallying around looking for them in local used book stores. That's all water under the bridge now -although another expression might be better considering the disaster Tennesseans are undergoing. I'll be buying them as they come out from now on. I have also read Consider Phlebas, The Player of Games and Use of Weapons.

from the back of the book:
Eight hundred years after the most horrific battle of the Idiran war, light from its catastrophic, worlds-destroying detonations is about to reach to Masaq' Orbital, home to the far-flung Culture's most adventurous and decadent souls. There it will fall upon Masaq's 50 billion inhabitants, gathered to commemorate the deaths of the innocent and to reflect, if only for a moment, on what some call the Culture's own complicity in the terrible event.

Also journeying to Masaq' is Major Quilan, an emissary from the war-ravaged world of Chel. In the aftermath of the conflict that split his world apart, most believe he has come to Masaq' to bring home Chel's most brilliant star, the self-exiled celebrity Composer Ziller.

Ziller suspects Quilan has come to murder him, but the major's true assignment will have far greater consequences than the death of a mere political dissident. He is part of a conspiracy more ambitious than he can know -- a mission his superiors have buried so deeply in his mind that even he cannot remember it.

SFSite says "it is one of Banks' finest novels, mature, considered, horrifying and hilarious by turns" and "one of the most significant SF novels of the year." Infinity Plus calls it "a satisfying read but at the same time, a deeply frustrating novel." The Guardian and the New York Times each has a review.

May the 4th Be With You!

Happy Star Wars Day.

The Smithsonian has an article on the celebration.

The picture comes from Sarah + Tim's blog.