Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Party (Nero Wolfe)

Christmas Party is an episode of a tv series starring Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe. Timothy Hutton is Archie Goodwin. This story is based on a novella -The Christmas-Party Murder- that originally appeared in Colliers Magazine. It's part of a series of books featuring Nero Wolfe written by Rex Stout.

Goodwin sets off the events by pretending he's getting married to do a favor for a dancing partner. He leads Wolfe into thinking his marriage plans are real.
"Confound it! Marry, and be damned!" -Wolfe, congratulating Goodwin
Goodwin is surprised but pleased to see Wolfe make a rare foray out of his apartment, shocked when someone is murdered at a party where he is a guest, and quite amused to find out the true identity of Santa. And Goodwin gets to "dally".

We enjoyed this series and were disappointed when it ended, but we do have both seasons on DVD. It's all great fun. They make use of an ensemble cast, with actors appearing in different roles through the seasons.

short clip:

Bird Song by the Wailin' Jennys

Bird Song:

by the Wailin' Jennys, heard on the radio recently, but I can't remember where. Lyrics:
I hear a bird chirping up in the sky,
I'd like to be free like that, spread my wings so high.
I see the river flowing, water running by,
I'd like to be that river, see what I might find.
I feel the wind a-blowing, slowly changing time,
I'd like to be that wind, I'd swirl and shape the sky.
I smell the flowers blooming, opening for spring,
I'd like to be those flowers, open to everything.

I feel the seasons change: the leaves, the snow and sun.
I'd like to be those seasons, made up and undone.
I taste the living earth, the seeds that grow within,
I'd like to be that earth, a home where life begins.
I see the moon a-rising, reaching into night,
I'd like to be that moon, a knowing, glowing light.
I know the silence as the world begins to wake,
I'd like to be that silence as the morning breaks.

I hear a bird chirping up in the sky,
I'd like to be free like that, spread my wings so high.
I see the river flowing, water running by,
I'd like to be that river, see what I might find.
I feel the wind a-blowing, slowly changing time,
I'd like to be that wind, I'd swirl and shape the sky.
I smell the flowers blooming, opening for spring,
I'd like to be those flowers, open to everything.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Elf is a 2003 Will Ferrell film, likable even if you aren't a Will Ferrell fan. I oughta know. This is a sweet family film. It's great fun -a human Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We think it's perfect. It could have so easily been dreadful, but everything that could have been done right was done right. Mistakes were not made. Elf is an annual holiday tradition at our house.

The movie is directed by Jon Favreau and stars Will Ferrell as the human brought up as an elf, James Caan as Buddy's biological father, Mary Steenburgen as Buddy's step-mom, Zooey Deschanel as Buddy's love interest Jovie, Bob Newhart as Buddy's adoptive elf papa and has Ed Asner as Santa.


Slate calls it "a heartwarming homage to Christmas movies past". says it's an "irresistibly goofy Christmas comedy" and that the director "gets the mood and tone and look of “Elf” just right". The New York Times calls it a "charming" success. Roger Ebert says,
This is one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece.
Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 84%.

Borkmann's Point

Some time ago I was in the market for a new mystery to read -several, actually, since I like having more than one on hand. I'd worked from lists of award winners and "best mystery" lists the last several times I shopped, and I decided to use a different strategy this time. I went to my favorite local book store, looked through their mystery section, and picked some likely looking candidates. 2 books in the Nesser Inspector Van Veeteren series were part of my haul that day.

Borkmann's Point is the first in this series by Hakan Nesser to be published in the U.S. Published in Sweden in 1994, it came to America in 2006. This is interesting and readable, does a good job of integrating character development with the plot, and moves along nicely. I enjoyed this one well enough and look forward to the other one I bought. After that I doubt I'll seek out more with this main character. I'm not as interested in Van Veeteren as I have been in other mystery series lead characters, and the book doesn't give me other reasons to look for more from him (at $15 a piece) rather than keep sampling from other authors.

On the more positive side, Basque separatists figure briefly in the plot, and that was unexpected.

from the back of the book:
Internationally bestselling author Hakan Nesser makes his U.S. debut with this riveting tale of murder and suspense that reveals the deep humanity of the characters portrayed even as it sends chills up the spine.

Chief Inspector Van Veeteren is called to the sleepy coastal town of Kalbringen to assist the local police in the investigation of two recent ax murders. Soon the case turns from bad to worse when another body turns up and one of Van Veeteren's colleagues, a young female detective, disappears without a trace. Now Van Veeteren must find the killer, and, he hopes, his colleague, before anyone else comes to harm. Riveting and intellectually satisfying, Borkmann's Point unfolds like a chess match where each move could prove deadly.
I am not impressed that the word "riveting" appears twice in this blurb. I join a growing company of the "not impressed":

The book won the award for Best Swedish Crime Novel. Euro Crime has several reviews. Reviewing The Evidence says the book shows its age.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Bishop's Wife

"Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries; we celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, the sound of bells and with gifts. But especially with gifts. You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer, and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. We forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled - all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It's his birthday we are celebrating. Don't ever let us forget that. Let us ask ourselves what he would wish for most, and then let each put in his share. Loving kindness, warm hearts and the stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth." -from the bishop's sermon

The Bishop's Wife is a 1947 romantic comedy starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven. Elsa Lanchester (Bride of Frankenstein, Bell, Book and Candle, Mary Poppins) is the maid. Karolyn Grimes, who played the youngest Bailey child Zuzu in It's a Wonderful Life, plays the daughter in this.

Cary Grant is an angel sent in answer to prayer to help the bishop (David Niven), who is neglecting his wife and child to court the wealthy in order to get the new cathedral built.


I do wish they'd been able to find an ice-skating double that at least vaguely resembled Cary Grant. The difference is jarring. Otherwise, it's delightful, a charming Christmas film worthy of annual viewing.

The New York Times review says "it comes very close to being the most enchanting picture of the year" and calls it a "warm and winning fable". Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 79%.

The Booksellers Bistro

To celebrate a recent birthday, The Daughter and I had breakfast at The Booksellers Bistro. It's hard for us to call this book store by its new name, and we often end up using constructions like "The Bookstore Formerly Known as David-Kidd". (I always did like Prince.) Other than the name, I think the little dining area feels a lot like it used to. I can say the quiche is just as good now as it was when I had it before and that the little bowl of fruit on the side is just as boring.

We chose the veggie quiche of the day, which was red and green pepper. It was delicious. Our server was attentive but not annoying. We had a wonderful time sitting at a table beside windows, visiting and people-watching.

It's pricey for me -the quiche was $9.75 and the coffee was over $2, so with tax and tip it's much more than I normally spend. When I think how many used books that much money would buy.... but it's better if I don't go down that path. I'm trying to pare down my books. Quiche it is!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Scrooge (Albert Finney, 1970)

Scrooge is the 1970 Albert Finney version of A Christmas Carol. Finney plays Scrooge both as a young man and as the old man, and he is wonderful in both parts. Perfectly believable. The first time I saw it I didn't realize the parts were played by the same actor. He is in The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Legacy and Skyfall. We love Albert Finney. We're especially fond of him in Big Fish.

Alec Guinness plays Marley. Also in this one are Edith Evans (The Nun's Story) as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Michael Medwin (The Longest Day) as Scrooge's confusingly-named nephew Fred or Harry, Gordon Jackson (the butler in Upstairs, Downstairs), Anton Rodgers (Number Two in one of the Prisoner episodes) as the Hot Soup Man, Laurence Naismith (the 1963 Jason and the Argonauts, Diamonds Are Forever, Camelot, The Man Who Never Was) and Roy Kinnear (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Help!, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Bed Sitting Room).

It's The Daughter's favorite of the Christmas Carol movies, so we watched it one night when she was here. We all like this version.

DVD Talk says, "Of the more than two dozen filmed adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the 1970 musical Scrooge is one of the best." DVD Journal calls it "the perfect family holiday film" and says,
Aside from the Golden Globe-winning performance by Finney, one of the key things that separates Scrooge from the countless other versions of A Christmas Carol is the music by Leslie Bricusse.
Roger Ebert closes with this:
Alec Guinness contributes a Marley wrapped in chains; the Christmas turkey weighs at least 40 pounds; Tiny Tim is appropriately tiny, and Scrooge reforms himself with style. What more could you want? No songs, I'd say.
Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 75%.

Slate-colored Junco

We identified the Slate-colored Junco in my back yard while I was growing up. We call them "snow birds". They look striking against the snow with their dark backs and heads and their light bellies. We don't see them in the Summer but have been seeing them on the patio since October hopping and skittering about. They seem especially interested in the coleus seeds.

Tennessee's Watchable Wildlife has information, including a range map. The photo at the top of the post is in the public domain and was found at Wikipedia.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a novel by Haruki Murakami. I've never read anything else by this author and can't now remember what prompted me to seek this one out. The "plot summary" at Wikipedia:
The novel is about a low-key unemployed man, Toru Okada, whose cat runs away. A chain of events follow that prove that his seemingly mundane life is much more complicated than it appears.
illustrates how difficult it is to say what this book is about. I prefer books with a consistent, fairly straight-forward narrative thread. That said, I didn't have any trouble keeping up with the characters and events. I was never tempted to put it down and found it a fascinating read. I had some trouble reading it, because a lost cat figures prominently in the narrative and our cat is still missing.

from the back of the book:
Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

Gripping, prophetic, suffused with comedy and menace, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a tour de force equal in scope to the masterpieces of Mishima and Pynchon.
Kirkus Reviews concludes, "this is a fully mature, engrossing tale of individual and national destinies entwined. It will be hard to surpass." EW gives it an A- and says, "at heart this is an old-fashioned story of emotional growth covered with a veneer of surrealism." Danny Yee has a mixed review that seems to forgive the narrative problems because Murakami's writing is good. The NYT review has a header that says, "In Haruki Murakami's latest novel, postwar Japan is adrift, eating fast food and wearing Van Halen T-shirts" and describes the book as "a bold and generous book" and as
a hallucinatory vortex revolving around several loosely connected searches carried out in suburban Tokyo by the protagonist-narrator, Toru Okada, a lost man-boy in his early 30's who has no job, no ambition and a failing marriage.
Stephen Wu opens by calling it "a mess, but a glorious, addictive, compulsively readable mess" and concludes:
If there's any unity to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, it's not narrative, but thematic. Although it's hard to articulate, there are definitely underlying currents tying together the disparate pieces of Murakami's book; the book has a clear emotional story arc, even though the narrative story arc is scattered and sometimes distracted. And it is this torrent of emotions, dispensed in all-too-brief nuggets of intense story-telling, that stays with you long after this brilliant muddle of a book finally ends.

A Cat in Paris

A Cat in Paris is a 2010 animated French film. The Younger Son gave this to me for my birthday, and we watched the one dubbed in English with The Husband recently. We all enjoyed this one. Rated PG, it has some violence and action, but we think it would be suitable for all ages.

A little girl's cat goes out into the Paris streets each night to follow a cat-burglar on his rounds. There are many complications, including trying to catch the man responsible for the death of the child's father. Anjelica Huston voices the nanny in the English-language version.


Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 81%.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hakuho Wins Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament

Asia and Japan Watch reports:
Hakuho closed out the year with a big win over new rival Harumafuji at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Nov. 25 that wraps up his 23rd Emperor's Cup title.
The Japan Times quotes the winning wrestler:
"These days I have been introducing myself as 'Hakuho, the guy that hasn't won the championship for a while.' Now I can say 'Hakuho, the guy that just won the title,' " said a grinning Hakuho.
Here's the final bout, brought to you with clear explanations and commentary by the JasonsInJapan youtube channel:

The photo at the top of the page is from Hakuho's Wikipedia entry.

Princess from the Moon

Princess from the Moon is a 1987 Japanese Toho Studios film based on an old folktale. It's directed by Kon Ichikawa, who also directed The Burmese Harp. This is a beautiful fairy tale.

The story is of a bamboo-ware maker and his cloth-maker wife whose 5 year old daughter -their only child, conceived late in their lives- has recently been sick and has died. They are devastated, knowing their poverty kept them from hiring a doctor.

When they see a bright light in the distance, they fear for the safety of the bamboo and their daughter's grave. He goes to investigate and finds a baby. He assumes she's been abandoned and starts to take her back to his home, saying he'll take her to the village elder the next day. On the way home she grows to the size and into the appearance of their daughter except for having bright blue eyes. He tries to make his wife understand that it can't really be their daughter. She finally agrees, suggesting they adopt her and raise her as their own.

Guess where she's from?

I found it free at Hulu, but that may be temporary. Sometimes I'm not sure whether a film is temporarily or permanently free. One of these days I'm going to have to spring for a Hulu membership. It's just a matter of time. And money.

It is not a widely reviewed film.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Earnestine and Hazel's Soul Burger

Last month I took The Kids downtown to Earnestine and Hazel's, a former brothel and black music headquarters and current hotspot. The burgers got top marks from our in-house experts.

Our server/chef/host was great, enlightening us about the history of the place. He talked about changes in the downtown area through time, the history of Earnestine and Hazel's, what the place is like now... He showed us photos of famous people who've been there. He showed us a tempting menu for the "intimate" restaurant in the back where the atmosphere is quieter and the food more varied. We heard him talking to other people about the Ghost Tours.

It consistently scores in the top 3 in the Memphis Flyer's best burger category. NoRococo says, "Now that I know they are open for lunch, I can enjoy the soul burger without fighting the bar crowd." Since that review, the burgers have gone up to $6 and the bar takes plastic. Best Memphis Burger blog says, "You really can’t get a true feeling for the atmosphere of Earnestine & Hazel’s until you go there" and says this of the burger:
This was a real treat. One of my top choices. I give the Earnestine & Hazel’s Soul Burger 4 out of 5 stars.
Esquire Magazine has a colorful review. There are almost universally positive reviews at Yelp and Urban Spoon. Lonely Planet describes it as "One of the great dive bars" and calls the Soul Burger "the stuff of legend".

Eating their soul burger is #86 on the I Love Memphis blog list of 365 things to do in Memphis.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Christmas in Connecticut

Christmas in Connecticut is a 1945 film starring Barbara Stanwyck (Stella Dallas, Double Indemnity, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Sorry, Wrong Number, The Big Valley tv series, The Thorn Birds miniseries), Sydney Greenstreet (The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca), S.Z. Sakall (Casablanca), Una O'Connor (The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Bells of St. Mary's), Robert Shayne ( Police Inspector Bill Henderson in Adventures of Superman tv show), Joyce Compton (The Best Years of Our Lives) and Dick Elliott (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life, Mayor Pike in The Andy Griffith Show, 3 different characters in episodes of The Adventures of Superman)).

Stanwyck is a lifestyle writer for a magazine, describing her imagined Connecticut farm scenery while looking over drying laundry out of her big city apartment window, mentioning how companionable her non-existent 8-month old baby is, and detailing the delights of kitchen and table while sampling Uncle Felix the chef's culinary inspirations. It's his recipes she publishes; she doesn't cook. All goes well until Greenstreet, the head of the publishing company, insists she take in a wounded sailor for Christmas. She adopts her persistent suitor's Connecticut farm, adopts the suitor as a new fiancee with plans to marry before the guests arrive, temporarily adopts the baby whom the housekeeper babysits to stand-in for the baby her readers think she has, and then -when all seems to ok- begins to fall in love with the sailor. Classic screw-ball comedy.

This is one of The Daughter's favorites, and she came over this morning to watch it and have cherry pie for a late breakfast.


DVD Verdict says, "contemporary viewers must swallow a lot of preposterous plotting, even for a screwball comedy". Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 88%.

Oak Leaf Drifts

I love walking on the sidewalk in the Fall before they set the leaf-blowers loose.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Blue Angel

The Blue Angel is a 1930 German film starring Marlene Dietrich in her breakthrough (and sometimes parodied) role. It's a tragic story.

Youtube has it in German with English subtitles and with embedding disabled. Internet Archive has the English version (which was filmed at the same time):

There's still a lot of German, even in the English-language version.

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die calls it "a tale of decline". says,
The film was a landmark for German film in the new medium of sound pictures and marked the beginning of a lasting professional relationship between the director and actress.
Roger Ebert says it "is intriguing for its glimpses of backstage life in shabby German postwar vaudeville, and for Dietrich's performance". It has a score of 94% at Rotten Tomatoes.

Sappy Happy Attitude of Being Grateful for Stuff

I feel like a grinch saying so, but these 30-days-of-gratitude articles annoy me. It's like quantifying gratitude by listing a bunch of things you are glad you have. As if making a list of things you're grateful for shows you are grateful, because what... you have stuff, and you like it.

Or I could make some stupid list of all the things I'm grateful for... let's see, I'm grateful for food/water/oxygen, people who devote their lives to helping others, corgi puppies, science fiction, our house, finches, plants, electricity, eyesight, hearing, a table and chairs, a TV and DVDs to watch, healthy kids, a working computer, chipmunks on the patio, soap, toothbrushes, squirrels outside where they belong instead of in the attic, music, parks within walking distance, orangutans, food bought for Thanksgiving the Tuesday before, potholders, no close relatives or friends in prison, a once-leaky but now properly caulked window, indoor plumbing that works, a good knife, a central unit that may can be repaired, blankets, health that could be worse, cake mix in a box, 2 cars that are both running right now, The Husband still being here, a variety of cups to drink coffee from, coffee, WEVL radio, cinnamon, yellow flowers, being able to afford recommended medicine/supplements/medical procedures, wooden spoons, towels and bath mats, quartz counter tops, baby ducks, sliced bread, shampoo, those little plastic mesh tuffies for dish-washing, a comfortable mattress, Constant Comment tea, appliances that work, seasons, the sky, clothing that fits, cheap cutting boards, a bathroom small enough to be easily heated, coasters, art...

I'm not good at this, because I'm grateful for everything, which makes that whole thing where you list stuff you're grateful for pointless. I'm not grateful for stuff; I'm just grateful.

6 seconds worth of Corgi puppies:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Marquette Park in the Fall

Walking in the Fall is such a pleasure!

Marquette Park isn't very wooded, being primarily open field, but there are enough trees around the playground area and around the track to make for beautiful color.

There aren't many people there lately. This park gets much more use in the late Spring and Summer. Today, though, there was a man with a small child on a trike, a woman with an older child with a basketball, a group of parents with small children, a man with a backpack sitting on a picnic table with his back to the walking trail talking on the phone, a woman walking on the track in the opposite direction from me, and a man taking a nap in the sunshine on a picnic table bench. Variety is the spice of life.

7 Grandmasters

7 Grandmasters is a 1978 Taiwanese Kung Fu movie. I find this a bit tedious, and the lauded fight scenes aren't enough to make this worthwhile for me. The music is overbearing and intrusive in a cheerfully Western way. It heavily covers some scenes to the point I had trouble attending to anything else, only to disappear completely for the next scene. I feel like I need relief from the comic relief.

via youtube, dubbed in English:

HK Film concludes that it
might not be a true classic of the genre, but it does feature some very solid fight sequences, and the rest of the movie won't want to make you hit the fast-forward button. If you're a fan of old school kung fu movies and are looking for something new to check out, you could do a whole lot worse than this.
Rotten Tomatoes doesn't have a critics score, but the audience score is 83%.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blood Creek

Nazis make such excellent horror movie villains. And Nazis who live forever? Now that's horrifying! Blood Creek is a 2009 horror film we had never heard of. The Younger Son came across it cheap at Target, and who can resist a horror movie in which a Nazi who lives forever is the evil force? Joel Schumacher directs. Michael Fassbender plays the villain. We got a kick out of it, because, well, Nazi evil!


Moria hates the director but says he "manages to do a halfway reasonable job of making [this film] work". Dread Central says it's worth watching but that "The script in this one (which was rewritten by Schumacher) cripples what would otherwise be an effective, nasty little horror film." DVD Talk has a negative review, saying, "Not a complete wash-out, "Blood Creek" has a few motivated moments of viciousness". Quiet Earth says,
It's all very silly to be sure, but Michael Fassbender, Dominic Purcell and Henry Cavill elevate this small, locked-in-a-farmhouse vampire yarn with some great performances, while Joel "nipple suit" Schumacher is actually in fine form, delivering what is probably his tightest direction since Tigerland. The film is also surprisingly cinematic. ... Unfortunately David Kajganich's script killed the rating on this one.
Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 33%.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Loving and Hating the Memphis Botanic Garden

I have a conflicted love-hate relationship with the Memphis Botanic Garden. I remember many a happy hour spent in the Japanese Garden as a child. I remember taking my own children on the weekly free day. Now there is no free day, and the cheapest membership available is $75 a year -unless you are 62+, and then it's $60. Regular adult admission for one is $8. *sadness*

The Cactus Garden was always a regular stop for us, and I admit I was disappointed when I found out they had removed it from the garden proper and placed it in a parking lot median. It seemed to me to be a marginalization of the cacti. If it were inside the gardens now, though, I'd never get to see it. It is worth seeing.

It's surprising how often I used to stop by the Botanic Gardens by myself on my way home just to spend 30 minutes or so. It's hard for me to imagine paying $75 a year or $8 each visit to do this. You see what I mean about my relationship with the Garden?

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hostess Cupcakes

Hostess has given up. I wish they could've kept working with the union, but they will not go on. We have a plant here that has about 250 employees. The timing on this is horrible. I know others will buy pieces of them and the Hostess cupcake will continue to be available, but I've known other brands that were bought out and never tasted the same afterwards.

This basket is for me and The Younger Son to hold a wake for Hostess. R.I.P.

This picture of the Memphis Wonder Bread Bakery is from the I Love Memphis blog.


Kongo is a 1932 movie. It's often classified as a horror film, though it's more horrible than horror. It stars Walter Huston (from Treasure of the Sierra Madre), Virginia Bruce (Jane Eyre in the 1934 film by that name), Lupe Vélez, Mitchell Lewis (who played the head of the Winkie Guard in Wizard of Oz) and Forrester Harvey (who was Twiddle in the 1941 Wolf Man, Fezziwigg in the 1938 Reginald Owen Christmas Carol and who had an uncredited part in the 1944 Merle Oberon/George Sanders/Laird Cregar Lodger).

You can watch this online at this link. Here's a trailer:

DVD Talk praises the acting but warns: "Even for a Pre-Code feature Kongo is a catalog of perversions not seen again until the 1970s" and says,
They don't make them like Kongo any more. Today's perverse torture porn may have the edge in realistic effects and outright violence, but it can't match the psychological malice of The Bad Old Days.
10K Bullets says,
If you seek the most perverse and sordid pre-code melodrama ever made, look no further than MGM’s Kongo. It’s a quaint tale of adultery, alcoholism, forced drug dependency and prostitution, voodoo, human sacrifice, sadism, rape, madness, murder and revenge.
TCM has has an overview and a succinct plot description: "A crippled madman seeks revenge on the daughter of the man who betrayed him."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Leaf Pin

I've never been much into "style" or "fashion". I wore those plaid wool pants from the 70s (remember them?) until the late 80s. I was wearing double knit pant suits long after everybody else had left them behind. Well, they were still good, weren't they? They still fit, didn't they? They were comfortable, yes?

But somehow I stumbled across a huge blogging community focused on what older women are wearing. And it looked like they were having such fun! And I've always been a sucker for hats.

One of the women (Une femme d'un certain age) blogged about brooches. I have several pins, some from when I was in high school or earlier and some from family members who don't "do" jewelry. I tend to pin them to a jacket and just leave them there. The sweater I had on today had a pin on it, so I thought I'd take a picture and post it.

This particular pin came from The Grandmother, who had it in her jewelry box. When I said I liked it she gave it to me, saying she didn't wear jewelry. I've had it for ages now and have always liked it, especially in the Fall when I pay more attention to leaves in nature. I don't know where she got it -it was probably a gift- but it has a Sarah Coventry mark on the back of the stem.

I found some pins just like this online, and it looks like it's from 1968, which is a powerful year. This piece even has a name: the Whispering Leaf Brooch.

You can see everybody else's brooches at Une Femme's post here.

Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger

Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger, is a 1953 collection. Most of these stories were originally published in The New Yorker. Many reviews claim the stories are metaphorically rich, require careful reading, have complex use of symbolism, etc. I'm not interested in deep analysis of the stories at this point in my reading life. I find some of the stories thought-provoking, and I enjoy coming back to think about them; but let's not try to make reading these sound difficult. That's fine fun for those who want to play at the deep end, but I'm just splashing around in the kiddie pool. They are enjoyable enough even at this level.

The book contains these:
"A Perfect Day for Bananafish"
"Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut"
"Just Before the War with the Eskimos"
"The Laughing Man"
"Down at the Dinghy"
"For Esmé – with Love and Squalor"
"Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes"
"De Daumier-Smith's Blue Period"
Some of these can be read online, including Teddy. I had to finish it online, because the book The Younger Son loaned me was missing its last couple of pages.

Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut (online here) has a few references to Akim Tamirof. One of the characters describes him this way: "He's in the movies. He always says, "You make beeg joke -hah?" I love him..."

As I expected, there are connections to the Ghost in the Shell Laughing Man.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gingko Trees

I was so pleased there was a Gingko Tree on the property when we bought here. I've loved them since I was a little girl but had never lived anywhere where there was one on the lot. Except for college; I'd forgotten there was one on the campus. They are beautiful, especially in the Fall. I haven't noticed an abundance of them here in Memphis, but there are some. I know there is one on the University of Memphis campus, I think there is one at the Dixon arboretum, there is one at Overton Park somewhere, one at Elmwood Cemetery, seems like I remember one at Memphis Memorial Park Cemetery, surely there's one at the Botanic Gardens/Audubon Park... I don't have much luck finding arboretum brochures online.

Their leaves have an unusual shape. When they turn their stunning yellow in the Fall they make such a bright splash of color.

from the Wikipedia entry:
The ginkgo is classified in its own division, the Ginkgophyta, comprising the single class Ginkgoopsida, order Ginkgoales, family Ginkgoaceae, genus Ginkgo and is the only extant species within this group. It is one of the best-known examples of a living fossil, because Ginkgoales other than G. biloba are not known from the fossil record after the Pliocene.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow

Dark Night of the Scarecrow is a 1981 made-for-tv horror movie about a mentally handicapped young man who is wrongly accused of all manner of evil against a child. It stars Larry Drake (who has a ST:Voyager connection and who played a Nero Wolfe look-a-like in an episode of the tv series), Lane Smith (who was born in Memphis), John Steadman (Fred in The Hills Have Eyes), Ivy Bethune (who has a ST:TNG connection) and Charles Durning as the bad guy.

This film isn't gory at all but has a looming sense of creeping danger that doesn't let go, an impressive level of sustained tension and suspense. And then there's that scarecrow. Well worth watching if only for the historical value of seeing the beginning of the scarecrow as a horror figure in film. But it's well worth watching on its own merits.

You can watch it online at this link. Here's a trailer:

Fangoria says, "absolutely worthy of its classic status, having aged beautifully and surviving as a highly effective and spooky pioneer," adding,
Otis Hazelrigg is one of the most despicable, monstrous and blatantly evil men ever put to celluloid, and Durning is terrific in the role, instilling intensity, deception and an astounding creepiness behind Hazelrigg’s eyes.
DVD Talk calls it "one of the best horror films of all time" and says,
everything about Scarecrow--the structure, the pace, the performances, the cinematography, the music, the editing, the scares--holds up. If anything, this gets even better with age.
Slant Magazine calls it "the cult-horror equivalent of buried treasure".

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The McFarland Bell Tower

The 1930 McFarland Bell/Clock Tower is near the Memphis College of Art in Overton Park. The plaque reads:

A Gift To
The People Of Memphis
Judge Louis Burchette Mcfarland
First Chairman Of Park Commission
Founded In 1898

Judge Louis Burchette McFarland was a self-avowed "great believer in the aesthetic as applied to cities." Jimmy Ogle talks about the influence McFarland had over the city's early park system in an article titled "Park Place: Establishing Recreation System Was Linchpin of Improving Memphis".

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lazarus, by Leonid Andreyev

Lazarus is 1906 short story by Leonid Andreyev. It is available to read online. The story is a speculation about the life of the Biblical Lazarus after Jesus brings him out of the tomb.

Eugene O'Neill wrote a play on this subject titled Lazarus Laughed. It goes in a completely different direction, as one might expect. You can read it online here.

The picture of Andreyev at the top of the page is from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

10 Classic Hard Science Fiction Novels featuring Physics and Astronomy

SFWA has a list of 10 Classic Hard Science Fiction Novels featuring Physics and Astronomy:
1. Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
2. The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
3. Ringworld by Larry Niven
4. Dragon’s Egg by Robert Forward
5. Timescape by Gregory Benford
6. The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle
7. Tau Zero by Poul Anderson
8. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
9. Contact by the astronomer Carl Sagan
10. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

Ones I've read are in bold print. I don't know enough science to critique those aspects, and because of that, it might as well be magic as far as I'm concerned. I think there are very few science errors I would catch if an author decided to write something that claimed to be all science-y but was nonsense instead.

HT: SF Signal

Bloodbuzz Ohio

Heard recently on NPR's Marketplace:

Bloodbuzz Ohio is a 2010 song by The National.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Shadow of the Vampire

Shadow of the Vampire, starring John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe, tells a fictionalized account of the making of Murnau's film Nosferatu. Max Schreck was a real vampire. Who knew? We believe it and will definitely watch this one again.


Moria says, "The sense of verisimilitude achieved is strikingly well done." doesn't like it, saying "When “Shadow of the Vampire” is enjoyable, it’s largely thanks to Malkovich". 1000 Misspent Hours says,
Shadow of the Vampire is nothing if not top-heavy with talent. Not only does it have the celebrated Malkovich and Dafoe in the key roles, but even the supporting cast features a number of respected players.
Roger Ebert says,
The supporting cast is a curiously, intriguingly mixed bag: Cary Elwes as Murnau's cinematographer Fritz Wagner (not the one who is eaten), Eddie Izzard as one of the actors, the legendary Udo Kier as the producer.
and says of Willem Dafoe:
He embodies the Schreck of "Nosferatu" so uncannily that when real scenes from the silent classic are slipped into the frame, we don't notice a difference.
Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 81%.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ikon, by Ted Rust

The sculpture above is named Ikon and was installed in 2001 in honor of the 100th anniversary of Overton Park. Ted Rust, the sculptor who created the piece, was director of the Memphis College of Art (in the background above) from 1949 to 1975.

Rust died in 2010 at the age of 99. WKNO FM has an obituary that mentions his successful integration of the school and his relocation of it to its current place in Overton Park. The Commercial Appeal obit notes that the school became accredited under his leadership and says, "Rust said he named the piece Ikon because it's a symbol of his love for Memphis, the park and the college - 'everything that has meant the most to me in the last half of my life.'".

This smaller, untitled piece is also on the MCA grounds.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Jazz Singer (1927)

The Jazz Singer, the 1927 Al Jolson classic, is the first feature-length synchronized sound film with dialog. Only some of the dialog is heard; much of it is silent and interpreted through intertitles. It's definitely a hybrid. I thought I had seen this before, but I must have only seen clips because much of it was unfamiliar.

It's too sappy/sweet for my taste. The moral seems to be that you can actually have everything and please everybody in the end. Yeah, right. Not in my experience.

via youtube: ends its article with this:
There have been many remakes of the story on-screen and onstage, Jolson’s performance in blackface has long been studied for what it says about stereotypes and the problems of assimilation often encountered by ethnic groups. closes by saying,
Perhaps the one irony is that despite its place in the history of the sound film, the sound system utilized for The Jazz Singer —Vitaphone—was not the system that ultimately became standard in the industry. Vitaphone utilized sound on disc, and the future of the industry lay with sound on film.
EW gives a grade of "C", horrified by the blackface, and says,
Watching Jolson treat Jewish ritual as just another form of "showmanship," thereby equating blackface with cantorial melodies as an expression of a mournful history, remains a remarkable act of ethnic drag.
DVD Talk calls it "less a fossil from the dawn of sound than a fully realized star-vehicle musical that uses its talkie sequences to wow the audience." The book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die says it's an "example of Jewish transformation in U.S. society". has a 3-page article, consisting mainly of an extensive summary and says, "The commercialization of sound-on-film, and the transformation of the industry from silent films to talkies became a reality with the success of this film." It gets a score of 76% from Rotten Tomatoes critics.

Friday, November 09, 2012


GoldenEye is the first of the Brosnan James Bond movies. Sean Bean has a prominent role. Judi Dench is M. Robbie Coltrane, ya gotta love him, is a Russian gangster. Also in this are Michael Kitchen, Simon Kunz and Famke Janssen (who has a ST:TNG connection). I have my preferences, of course, but all the Bond films are fun. This is no exception. And the cast is great.


I agree with Roger Ebert when he says, "Brosnan was quite adequate, although all of the later Bonds suffer from the reality that no one else will ever really replace Sean Connery." Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 82%.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

For the Blood Is the Life

For the Blood Is the Life is a 1905 (or 1911, according to some sites) short story by Francis Marion Crawford. It can be read online.

The Literary Gothic says,
This is a popular and much-anthologized tale of Crawford's, probably owing to the fact it's a "vampire" tale, but that's a shame; it's hardly Crawford's best work
AmericanaEJournal says,
vampire fiction at the turn of the century was obviously conservative; it represented a moral lesson and showed a yearning towards the stability of gender roles with the figure of the vampire as a threat to the existing order. In these narratives the conformist, subordinate women were put on pedestal whilst non-conformist women were destroyed.

Night Creatures

Night Creatures (original British title: Captain Clegg) is a 1962 Hammer film starring Peter Cushing, Derek Francis (who had a part in the 1970 Albert Finney Scrooge and whose last role -before his death at age 60 that same year- was in the 1984 George C. Scott A Christmas Carol) and Gordon Rollings (who was in The Bed-Sitting Room and A Hard Days Night). It is fairly faithfully based on the Dr. Syn novels and predates the Disney series The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, which came out the following year.

It may be a Hammer film, but it's not horror. It's the story of pirates, smugglers and an upright member of the community who is not who he seems to be. It's adventure and crime we're talking about here, and not horror or anything supernatural. This is a well-done and entertaining tale. I wonder that it's so little known.

via Youtube: calls this film "a Hammer Studios film on par with their well-known masterpieces." TCM and MSN have overviews. Reviews are not abundant.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

42 Again

I keep finding them. Ya gotta love it that the answer to everything is so readily available to all.

Patriot Games

Patriot Games is a 1992 sequel to The Hunt for Red October, though Harrison Ford plays the lead in this one. Sean Bean plays the villain. Richard Harris is also in this. This is a fun action film, and I'm glad I've seen it. It's a shame Baldwin didn't reprise the part to give more consistency to the character, but I like Harrison Ford just fine. The Younger Son has the following sequel ready for me to watch. That'll happen soon.


DVD Talk says it's "a pretty good thriller, though not exceptional". EW gives it a C+ and calls it "a generic international thriller". Roger Ebert gives it 2 1/2 stars and a mixed review. It has a 73% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Sophie G. Friedman

I saw the plaque pictured above at Overton Park near the Memphis College of Art and was fascinated. It reads:

Memphis Chapter Of
American War Mothers

A Tribute To
Sophie G. Friedman

For The Activities In Having
Had Enacted First Marriage Law
In Tennessee General Assembly
Abolishing Child Marriage
Sponsored By
Tennessee League Of Women Voters

Finding information on her online wasn't easy, but it seems Ms. Friedman, according to this site, "graduated Memphis (Tennessee) University of Law, 1922 and became the first woman to practice law in Natchez, Mississippi." She seems to have been active in issues concerning women and children, including the women's suffrage movement.

Go Vote!

I had people tell me during the last presidential election that there wouldn't be a United States of America in 4 years if Obama was elected. I was told this country would be in flames, "they" would be running everything, no babies would be brought to term, God would be very angry with us... Yeah. We see how the Republican thinking goes. I have more faith in my country than they do.

I voted early. Easy call.

Monday, November 05, 2012

You Don't Own Me

You Don't Own Me by Lesley Gore:

from Youtube:
Women constitute more than half of the population. In 2008, 60% of voters were women. It is estimated that 10 million more women than men will vote in this election. ... Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are determined to overturn Roe V. Wade. Romney has not supported equal pay for women (The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act). Romney has vowed to defund Planned Parenthood. Romney has vowed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Romney doesn't want health care to cover birth control. Romney says same sex marriage should be banned with a Constitutional Amendment.

Women, let's rise up. Our vote alone can win this election. A vote for Obama is a vote for your health and your right to choose. It is a vote for equal pay and equal rights. A vote for Obama is a vote for our families. It is a vote to marry who you choose. It's a vote to start a family when you choose. A vote for Obama says that we won't stand for violence against women and that rape is rape. Our vote ensures that our daughters will grow up with the same rights that we've had. A vote for Obama sends a message: This war on women must end. We will not go backwards.

This election is shockingly close. Our safety is at stake....
HT: Lazy Mazei

The Hunt for Red October

The Hunt for Red October is a 1990 political thriller based on a Tom Clancy novel. The film stars Sean Connery, a very young-looking Alec Baldwin, Tim Curry, James Earl Jones, Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, Joss Ackland, Peter Firth, Stellan Skarsgard, Jeffrey Jones, Fred Thompson, Daniel Davis (who was Moriarty in ST: TNG), Sven-Ole Thorsen, Gates McFadden (from ST: TNG), Ned Vaughn (who was in a ST: TNG episode) and many others. I've seen this film several times, and it always holds my interest. I love the actors, and I relish Tim Curry in his small part. This is one of The Younger Son's favorite movies.



Rolling Stone doesn't like it, saying, "If the plodding exposition doesn't get you first, the propaganda will." DVD Talk says it "is practically perfect, dated only in some of its Cold War ideology." Roger Ebert calls it "a skillful, efficient film". Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 95%.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Demon Seed

My October focus on horror movies is over, but there are still so many I haven't seen. I'll keep watching them but not as often.

Demon Seed is a 1977 science fiction/horror film starring Julie Christie, Fritz Weaver (who has a ST:DS9 connection), Gerrit Graham (who has ST:DS9 and ST:Voyager connections and a Babylon 5 connection), Felix Silla (who has a ST:TOS connection and was Cousin Itt in The Addams Family TV series), Michael Dorn (Worf in Star Trek) and Robert Vaughn (who voices the evil computer). Jerry Fielding (who has a ST:TOS connection) did the music. It's based on a Dean Koontz novel.

The evil computer wants to father a child and has picked Julie Christie, the wife of his developer, as the mother. The section that tries to be like 2001 has such a been-there-done-that feel and goes on far too long. I find it slow, but I find the story creepy. Child of rape as the next evolutionary step? Yuck.

Stomp Tokyo says, "Thank goodness Star Wars came along and proved that sci-fi could be fun again." The Spinning Image says it's "a true unappreciated science fiction and horror classic. It is involving, intelligent, prophetic, and very scary." DVD Talk calls it "a definite mixed bag". Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 62%. DVD Verdict says,
Demon Seed stands alone as one of the most imaginative and contemplative science-fiction films of the 1970s. Had Stanley Kubrick and David Cronenberg collaborated on a film, Demon Seed might well have been the end result.
Moria gives it a single star, saying, "for anybody who has watched more than a handful of science-fiction films it is like sitting through Science-Fiction Remedial Cliche Class #101" but adds,
As science-fiction, it clearly fails by a wide margin but as horror it is occasionally more effective – working on the level of a bondage/rape/horror of impregnation nightmare a la Rosemary’s Baby (1968).
and offers this word of praise in closing:
One thing that certainly has to be complemented about Demon Seed is the considerable tastefulness with which such a premise is relayed. Considering the themes – imprisonment, rape, forced impregnation by a computer – the desire not to go the exploitation route, a line that Dean R. Koontz frequently crossed over in the book, which is often outrightly pornographic, is marked.

Big Star

Big Star was a rock band formed right here in Memphis, TN in 1971. Wikipedia reports they were active from 1971-74 and 1993-2010. It was in 2010 that Alex Chilton, lead singer and one of the founding members, died of a heart attack. Other founders were Chris Bell (who died in a car wreck in 1978), Jody Stevens (who is the only surviving original member), and Andy Hummel (who died 3 months after Chilton).

Thirteen (live in Memphis, 1973):

Thank You Friends ("1971 Big Star footage by Chris Bell and Andy Hummel"):

September Gurls:

O Dana:

The Ballad of El Goodo (live in Brooklyn, NY, 2009):

Listening to Big Star is #197 on the I Love Memphis blog list of 365 things to do in Memphis. The 5 tracks embedded above are the ones she lists as "required".

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Territorial Mockingbirds

These Mockingbirds are having quite the time of it, dancing around our patio. I know they are extremely territorial, but I had no idea Autumn was a prime time for new birds to try to muscle in to carve out territories for themselves. Live and learn.

The turf battle has raged on for days and continues.

The Husband says, "We're a regular game preserve, aren't we?" And we are! But a safer, quieter, smaller type of game preserve.

Funeral Music

I remember long years ago The Grandmother told me she wanted When the Roll is Called Up Yonder and When the Saints Go Marching In at her funeral. She said she wished people could walk behind the hearse like they used to instead of ride in cars like is done now.

Sometimes I get sudden flashes of understanding of just how long ago she was born.

During that time during which she was born, Woodrow Wilson was president and became the 1st to travel outside the U.S. while in office, the Sedition Act of 1918 had been passed, the entire Romanov family had been executed, the Spanish flu pandemic was at its height, they were still fighting WW1 with the Ottoman Empire still around to take an active part, the Red Baron was killed, Sergeant York was newly a hero, women couldn't vote, Claude Debussy died, Max Planck won the Nobel Prize for physics, Mississippi was the 1st state to ratify prohibition, the Stars & Stripes was first published, the last Carolina parakeet died in a zoo, congress authorized time zones, Charlie Chaplin got married, women had begun wearing skirts above the ankle, she had one grandparent who was a Civil War spy and other grandparents who were born during that war...

That, folks, is a long time ago. Yet here she is, still with her mental faculties intact, still able to enjoy and appreciate little things like going out to look at the leaves changing colors and little kids trick-or-treating in her building, and still wondering what to wear and fussing a bit over her latest haircut.

An ability to appreciate little joys can add spark to life at any age.

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Room in the Tower

The Room in the Tower is a 1912 horror short story by E.F. Benson. It can be read online. The room in the tower appears first in a nightmare but then in waking life. says that Benson
was a prolific writer –as were his brothers Arthur and Robert– writing over 100 books, including novels, biographies and books on different subjects such as sport, politics, war and archaeology. He published his first novel Dodo in 1893, but today he is best known for his tales of the supernatural and for the six "Mapp and Lucia" books...

Thursday, November 01, 2012

What to Wear

"What should I wear to my Dr. appointment?" asked The Grandmother. Difficult question to answer.

The Grandmother had gotten pickier and pickier about clothes over the years. It became particularly noticeable to me about 10 years ago when she gave up her car (at her own initiative, for which I was very proud of her). I started being her transportation and would take her shopping. She had given up heels by then and wouldn't wear skirts or dresses with flat shoes. That left pants only, which is still a broad playing field because she's not picky about pants.

But then I took her shopping and heard her requirements for shirts:
  • long sleeves with button cuffs,
  • straight hems so she could wear them outside her pants to cover her stomach (because a shirt-tail has to be tucked in),
  • long enough to completely cover her stomach,
  • no darts,
  • must button all the way to the neck and have a collar,
  • inexpensive (definitely under $40 even if I was buying it for her as a present)
  • and must be tried on in the store (because if I bought it for her when she wasn't with me she would refuse to try it on at all). Actually, she's gotten to where she'll try things on if I bring them to her apartment, so that's great.
I hit the jackpot one year when we found a series of Leslie Fay blouses that met all of her requirements. We bought as many as I could talk her into. And then styles changed and all we've found in that brand since have had 3/4 sleeves and open necks.

So when she asks me what she should wear, it's a bit complicated, and she's not really asking my advice or opinion. I listened while she worked out what would be best. She chose this:

And I wore this:

We were color-coordinated and each wore tan corduroy pants. It's very creepy when people do this on purpose, but we were totally innocent of any wardrobe collusion. Tan corduroy pants were perfect for the day, and we both knew it. I've never been style-conscious, but that discussion will have to wait.